brbsoulnomming: (sherlock - not quite hand holding)
Bri ([personal profile] brbsoulnomming) wrote2011-05-29 01:49 am

Parallel Part Seven



Part Six

---

Sherlock’s mind is clearer when he wakes up.

No, that’s not entirely true. There’s still the same confusing mix of thoughts he’d had three hours ago. But now they’re organized, safely compartmentalized into things that are important, that need to be dealt with now - all related to the case – those to be dealt with later, or possibly never at all, and those that have been dealt with and he will not be wasting any more time dwelling on – all related to the girls, John, and any unfortunate discoveries he’s made regarding the latter.

It’s a necessity for that last one, as his discovery is not so much unfortunate as it is potentially damaging to his current way of life – which, until recently, he’d been perfectly content with, possibly even happy.

But now? Now Sherlock is in love with John. There’s no point in denying it, much as he may wish it wasn’t true. Honestly, he’s a bit irritated with himself, both in how long it’d taken him to work it out – he still hasn’t worked it out, not entirely, but he gives himself a minor pass on that one because he’s never felt anything like what he suspects he feels for John – and in where he’d worked it out. It’s inexcusable for him to have lost that much focus while out working on a case, even if they had been heading home. Sherlock had gone against the one thing he’s always followed – do not act on anything he may have worked out until he’s gathered sufficient evidence.

And he very nearly hadn’t been able to stop himself from acting on his discovery with John. Which would have been disastrous, as when Sherlock had broached the topic the night before in order to gather said evidence, John had made it abundantly clear that he was absolutely not interested in Sherlock. Absolutely had been one of John’s exactly words, actually, along with “way off the mark.”

It’s better this way. Love is messy and complicated and Sherlock is horrible at it. Well. All evidence points to him being horrible at it. Perhaps he shouldn’t generalize; he is horrible at relationships. He might be quite good at love.

He hopes he is, actually, because for the time being, he’s stuck with it. But he can handle it. As long as John never finds out, it will be fine.

“What is it?” John asks.

Sherlock looks at him, briefly, illogically paranoid that John has somehow read his thoughts. He disregards it quickly, of course, and merely blinks at John. “What?”

“You’ve gone all scowly,” John says. “Is it the case?”

No, it’s not the case. It’s that John pays enough attention to him to notice when he’s scowling and ask him about it, and that Sherlock is still thinking about what he’s already considered dealt with.

“Yes, it’s the case,” Sherlock says.

“That bad?” John asks.

Sherlock mutters something noncommittal, because John will be expecting a response, but Sherlock’s mind is elsewhere. On the case, for once where it should be, as John is possibly right; it may be that bad.

Sherlock’s best lead is still the trainers. The few names he has now are, sadly, barely worth thinking about. All are popular, central members of their respective teams, and everything about their suspect says he’s on the outside, just enough part of their circle to know things about them, but he has few, if any, real friends among them. Possibly only their other suspect, given the killer’s level of devotion.

He’s sent the names to Lestrade anyway, with orders to compare their trainers to the prints left at the crime scene. He knows nothing will come of it, but someone has to rule them out. And it won’t be him; his focus has already moved on to other members of the teams. He’s considered looking up their hometowns and attempting to track down sales records of the shoes in all of them, but they haven’t got time for that. At this point it’d be faster to simply search all of their homes for the trainers.

Which isn’t a bad idea, actually. Lestrade likely won’t agree to it, but that isn’t a problem at all. Sherlock’s already distracted him.

That still leaves the matter of the person the killing is being done for. Theoretically, once they’ve got the killer, they’ll be able to get the second person. But Sherlock dislikes the idea of waiting until they’ve caught the killer to make any sort of headway on finding the accomplice. Well, perhaps accomplice is the wrong word, as Sherlock can’t be sure exactly how much involvement this person has in the crimes.

All he’s got to go on is the symbol, the endless knot. It has to mean something, beyond all the research he’s done on it, it has to have a personal significance to someone in that crowd. But he can’t just go around asking people if they recognize it; the murderer’s not likely to give himself away, and it would just warn him that they suspected the significance of the symbol. It wouldn’t even do to ask only the people unlikely to be the murderer – the more popular players, or the girls, for example – as word would likely spread quickly.

What he needed was a few members of the group that could be reliably persuaded not to tell anyone else about the symbol, but –

Oh. Oh, stupid; he has one, a mere text message away.

“John,” he says. “Have you heard from Sam?”

“No, not yet,” John replies. “But I figured I probably wouldn’t hear from them until late afternoon. Why?”

“Tell her to come over,” Sherlock says, rifling through the stacks of papers related to the case that he hadn’t put up on the wall.

“Say that again?” John requests.

Sherlock looks up, scowling at John.

“Yes, I know, you hate repeating yourself, but I think this merits it,” John says. “You actually want the girls to come over?”

“I need to speak with Sam,” Sherlock says, returning to the paper. “True, she was less than discrete about your prowess with a gun, but that seems to have been more about reassurance that we will soon solve the case and less about gossip. She has so far kept all of the details she knows about the case to herself, and she may be able to provide the information I need.”

“Right. And what would this information be?” John asks, even as he pulls out his phone, presumably to text Sam.

Sherlock finds what he’s looking for – a printout of the endless knot along with a description of what it is – and holds it up. “This. It’s possible its significance to the note recipient isn’t generally known – which in itself will be informative, as it means our murderer knows this person much better than he knew his victims – but if it is, then Sam may know who it is.”

“And if we find whoever he’s killing for, we might find the killer,” John says.

“Possibly,” Sherlock agrees, though he isn’t counting on it. But having the recipient in custody will likely provoke the murderer, upset him, cause him to be careless.

John’s phone beeps, and he checks it, then smiles. “They’re on their way here.”

Sherlock frowns. “They?”

“Yes, Fiona stayed the night at Sam’s, remember?” John says.

Sherlock scowls. “I did, thank you. Apparently asking specifically for one of them will result in getting both of them. How fortunate for us.”

“So is it just Fiona you don’t like having around, then?” John grins, then says teasingly, “If I point out that she is very clever, but you’re far more brilliant, will that make it better?”

Yes, actually, it does. And it also very much doesn’t, because it shouldn’t make it better, and the fact that it does can most likely be attributed to Sherlock being in love with John.

Which is also to blame for his displeasure at having them over. John is wrong; it isn’t that he so much dislikes having either of them around, it’s that he doesn’t want to have both of them there, especially not after last night. Sherlock isn’t particularly looking forward to being constantly reminded that they both have what he never will: an investigation partner who is a partner in every sense of the word. How fortunate for them, that the person they have feelings for – who also happens to be the same person who accompanies them in carrying out ideas that might be considered mad – returns their feelings. He’d say he hopes they appreciate it in a snide tone, but he’s never actually understood the point of that expression. How does them appreciating what they have make it any better for him?

Ah. Lovely. They’re not even here yet, and he’s already thinking about it to the point that he hasn’t answered John’s question yet.

“Your flippancy is irritating,” Sherlock snaps.

“I hope you’re politer to Sam, if you want her to answer any questions,” John says, irritatingly calm.

Sherlock ignores him.

“You haven’t touched your breakfast, Sherlock, at least eat some of it,” John says. “It’s not as though we’ve got anything better to do while we wait for them.”

Sherlock can think of several better things to do, but John is looking at him earnestly – and that doesn’t help at all, as some of those things had already involved John and now a few more do. That, more than anything, quells any protests, because Sherlock doesn’t want to be thinking of these things.

He picks up a piece of toast and crunches on it discontentedly, refusing to look at John. He knows John will be smiling at him for eating some of the breakfast he’s made, and Sherlock wants to stay irritated, which will be harder to do when faced with John’s smile.

Sherlock doesn’t manage to avoid looking at John during the entire time they’re waiting, but fortunately, by the time he looks over, John is preoccupied with reading the paper, and it isn’t long after that Sam and Fiona arrive.

When the knock comes at the door, Sherlock’s up and heading downstairs before John can even move. He needs this information now; he doesn’t have time to wait while John chats with them.

Sam’s arm is looped around Fiona’s when Sherlock opens the door, and he barely manages to resist scowling at them.

“Upstairs,” he tells them, standing aside so they can enter the hallway.

“We remember,” Fiona replies, then starts up the stairs without releasing Sam’s arm.

Sherlock frowns, closes the door, and bounds up the stairs after them, staying close on their heels.

John’s holding two mugs of tea when they walk into the living room, and he hands them to Fiona and Sam with a smile.

“Good morning,” he greets, then looks at Fiona. “How’re you feeling?”

“Fine, thank you,” Fiona says, returning his smile.

“She was a little dizzy last night, but that seems to have passed,” Sam adds.

“Glad to hear it,” John says. “Please, sit down.”


They move to the sofa that they’ve been occupying with some frequency in the past few days and take their seats as before. Except now they’re sitting extremely close, fingers of the hands that aren’t holding mugs laced together – which, as both of them are right-handed, means Sam is holding her tea in her non-dominant hand, and Sherlock can’t help but note that it wouldn’t be a problem for John and himself; John’s right hand, his left, and both of their dominant hands would be free – and Sam’s tucked her calf under Fiona’s, foot hooked around Fiona’s ankle.

Sherlock looks away, then irritably snatches the paper with the symbol on it and thrusts it at Sam. “Does this look familiar?” he asks. “Can you think of anyone for whom this may have some sort of significance?”

Sam leans forward, setting her mug down and taking the paper. She stares at it for a long moment, then looks up at him and asks, “Why?”

“Because it’s important to the case,” Sherlock snaps, annoyed.

Her eyes narrow at him. “Why?”

Sherlock starts to snap at her again, then stills. Her attitude suggests that she does indeed know someone for whom this symbol has meaning, and she doesn’t want to reveal it unless she knows what she’s revealing. Which means it’s someone she considers a friend. Interesting. He hadn’t considered that a possibility.

“This is what was written on the bodies,” Sherlock says.

Sam doesn’t react visibly, but Fiona leans forward, looking at Sam in concern, and Sherlock suspects Sam has just tightened her grip on Fiona’s hand.

“It has to be a coincidence,” Sam says.

“It’s likely not,” Sherlock replies, then softens his tone. “It is, however, very important.”

Sam looks back down at the paper. “Kayla has a pendant of this. She wears it all the time; it has something to do with feng shui and Buddhism.”

The girlfriend. Of course, obvious, and slightly disappointing, really. And yet – “What reason could she have for wanting all of them dead?” he wonders.

Sam drops the paper. “What?”

Sherlock gestures impatiently to the paper. “It’s a message. The murderer is killing these people for someone, someone who has reason to want them dead, so-”

“You think Kayla’s getting some kind of - hitman to kill people?” Sam demands.

Sherlock glares at her, irritated. He’s already explained this once, further explanations are a waste of his time. “No. The question is, why would she want them dead?”

“She doesn’t! Kayla has no reason to want any of them dead!” Sam stands up from the sofa, paces towards the kitchen, then turns back to them. “You don’t know her. You haven’t seen what Finn’s death is doing to her. You haven’t seen her go from happy, fun, always trying to get people to laugh, to angry, cold, hiding inside, crying all the time and waking up reaching for him, how that’s the only time she’s ever happy, in the moment between being asleep and being awake when she forgets he’s gone.” Her voice breaks, and she angrily pushes her hand through her hair. “But I have. I’ve dealt with his death and her grief and I’m not going to stand here and let you say she has anything to do with this.”

There’s silence for a moment. Then Fiona stands and moves to her side, reaching out almost hesitantly. Sam wraps her arms around Fiona’s waist and pulls her close, and Fiona hugs her back gently.

Sherlock glances over at John, who’s carefully averting his eyes. John catches him looking and raises his eyebrows questioningly. Sherlock sighs, then nods. Better to let John continue for the moment; they’re unlikely to get anything further from Sam if she’s upset. And Sherlock regrets causing such a strongly negative reaction; it hadn’t been his attention.

“We don’t think it’s a contract killer scenario,” John says gently. “The murderer has a much more personal motivation, like love.”

That isn’t exactly what Sherlock had said, but it will do. “It’s impossible to tell how much involvement she has based on our current information, though it is clear she is involved,” Sherlock says.

“She might not even know about it,” John adds. “Someone might be doing this and using her necklace to get her attention, to let her know it’s for her.”

Sherlock stares at him.

John shifts. “No?” he asks quietly.

Yes. It’s one of the possibilities Sherlock had been considering, actually. Sherlock loves it when John reminds him that he is quite intelligent – not as intelligent as Sherlock, obviously, but Sherlock won’t hold that against him, few are – but right now he’s realized that it may be one of the things he loves about John, and that’s quite inconvenient.

“It’s very possible,” Sherlock says finally. “Someone killing people for her, people he believes she wants dead. So the question is still: why would she want any of them dead?”

Sam pulls a bit away from Fiona, though she doesn’t let go of her. “I don’t know. Maybe – I know Professor Andrews failed her, and he picked on her a lot in class. She hated him. But other than that.” Sam shakes her head. “Nothing.”

“If it’s someone who’s in love with her, that could explain why he killed her boyfriend. Though that would be for him, not her,” John says.

“Maybe he managed to convince himself that it was for her,” Fiona says. “That she was better off without him.”

“We’ll know more when we’ve spoken to her,” Sherlock says.

Sam looks at him. “You want to talk to her?”

“Obviously,” Sherlock says. “Even if she has no knowledge of this, it’s possible she may know something that will give us a clue as to his identity. If it’s someone obsessed enough to kill for her, they must have had some significant interaction.”

Sam frowns, looking troubled, then nods. “If I’m there. And if you promise not to suggest that this is in any way her fault.”

“We promise,” John says, with a meaningful look at Sherlock.

Sam nods. “Let me check and see if she’s back at her flat. This won’t end very well if she’s still with Lacey and Anna.” She pulls out her phone and quickly texts something, then waits. After a moment, she gets a text back, and starts typing again. “She’s home. I’ll tell her I’m bringing you over.”

“Excellent,” Sherlock says, grabbing his coat. He doesn’t like the idea of having the two of them there while he questions Miller, but having Sam there is likely to make her more co-operative, so he’ll tolerate it. “Let’s go.”



---



It doesn’t take them long to find a cab once they leave Baker Street, and Sam gives the cabbie the address of Miller’s flat.

“She’s on the third floor,” Sam tells them when they arrive, heading into the building and leading them up to Miller’s flat. She knocks only briefly on the door, then cracks it open and calls, “It’s me, Kay, you home?”

“Yeah, come on in,” Miller calls back.

Miller’s sitting in the living room, but she stands when she sees them, looking somewhat apprehensive. “Can I get you anything?”

“We’re fine, thanks,” John says.

She nods, and gestures for them to sit down. Sam and Miller sit on the sofa, close together, with Miller’s arm linked through Sam’s. Fiona sits on the other side of Sam, though not as close, and John takes the chair nearest to the sofa. Sherlock doesn’t want to sit down; he’s far too wound up and just wants to get on with this.

“Sherlock,” John says softly.

Sherlock scowls, but sits in one of the remaining chairs. He pulls out the paper with the endless knot on it and hands it over to Miller. “Do you recognize this?”

Miller frowns at the paper. “It’s – the mystic knot. It symbolizes eternity, I’ve got a pendant of it.” She tugs gently on a chain around her neck, pulling the pendant out from under her shirt.

“It has a special meaning for you, then?” John asks.

Miller’s eyes brighten the tiniest bit. “Yes. It symbolizes a long and happy life, full of good fortune. In Buddhism, it’s one of the eight magical auspicious objects-”

She goes on, but all Sherlock had needed was the first word, and he finds himself impatiently waiting for her to finish so he can ask the next question. He glances over at John, who’s listening with all the appearance of interest. Some of it is genuine, Sherlock notes, but it’s mostly the careful attention John always pays to people they’re questioning about a case. Yet another reason Sherlock appreciates having John there, as John’s attention means Sherlock isn’t required to pretend to pay attention to the parts of the conversation that have no relevance. And are also growing exceedingly longer.

Fortunately, Miller cuts herself short, nervously tucking her hair behind her ear. “Sorry,” she says. “People tell me I go on about it too much, but I never can help myself.”

“It’s fine,” John tells her reassuringly.

“It’s nice to hear someone passionate about something,” Sherlock adds smoothly, flashing her a smile. “It’s something you talk about often, then?”

“Probably too often, if you ask some of my friends,” Miller says, hesitantly returning his smile.

“None of them are interested?” Sherlock asks, leaning forward slightly as he smiles ruefully. “Shame, it’s a fascinating subject.”

“I’ve had a few classmates who were,” she says. “But none of my friends, no.”

“You haven’t kept in touch with any of them?” he asks.

She considers that. “Not really, no. One girl and I still talk, but otherwise I suppose it was mostly idle conversation.”

“She was the only one with a real interest, then?” he says.

“Oh, no, I’m sure there was genuine interest. She was just the only one I – I dunno, connected enough with for us to both want to continue talking after the term was over,” she says.

“Can you remember who seemed to show the most interest?” he asks.

She shakes her head. “I don’t even remember most of their names. To be honest, I doubt I’d even recognize most of them. We talked occasionally in class, but that was it.”

“So none of them were people you knew outside of class, on one of the teams, perhaps?” he says.

“No, they were generally in classes that I didn’t know anyone in,” she replies. “Just people to make small talk with before and after class, you know, hobbies and music and all that.”

“You talked about music as well?” Sherlock asks. “What kind do you like, then?”

“Oh, all sorts. I’ve been big on The Clash, though,” Miller says. “But all of that was secondary. Mostly I was just glad to find someone to chat with in class, especially when they were interested in what I was.”

“Is it an interest you’ve had for awhile?” he asks, nodding towards the pendant.

“Yes, a long time,” she replies. “I’ve had this since secondary school.”

“Ah.” Unfortunate. If it had only been a short while, they could have looked at the roster for the classes she’d taken recently and examined any rugby and football players in them. They still can, of course, but it will be much more time consuming.

Miller frowns slightly. “This is nice, but I can’t imagine you’re actually all that interested in it. I thought Sam said you needed to talk to me about the case?”

Sherlock leans back. “I’ve been told that my explanation as to how this is relevant is unsatisfactory.”

John rolls his eyes. There’s a moment of silence, then John leans forward and says softly, “This symbol was found drawn on all of the victims.”

Miller reaches for her pendant, fingers tightening around it. “It has to be some kind of coincidence.”

“We don’t think it is,” John tells her gently. “It was put there as a message, to signal someone.”

“Who?” Miller asks quietly.

“We think he was trying to get your attention,” John says.

Miller laughs bitterly, with a slightly hysterical edge. “Well, he has it.”

Sam takes her hands, squeezing it, and Miller turns to look at her.

Why?” Miller asks.

Sam glances briefly at John, who nods.

“They think it might be someone who thinks he’s in love with you,” Sam says. “He’s killing people he thinks might’ve hurt you.”

“It’s likely he either doesn’t realize that you haven’t seen the symbol and is escalating because your lack of response is troubling him, or he has only just found out you haven’t seen it and is attempting to give you more opportunities to do so,” Sherlock says.

There’s a long silence, during which Miller’s grip on Sam’s hand is so hard her knuckles have gone white.

“Someone is killing people because he thinks I’d want to be rid of them,” Miller says finally, sounding almost numb.

“Yes,” Sherlock replies, pleased she’s caught on with minimal explanation.

“So, this – all of this – is my fault,” Miller says.

“No,” Sam says, just as John says, “Absolutely not.”

“But he’s doing it for me,” Miller says.

“He’s doing it for himself,” John tells her. “He’s managed to twist things inside his head to give him an excuse, but that’s all it is, an excuse. If it wasn’t you, he’d be doing it for someone else. He’s trying to make you a victim just as he’s made the others victims. Don’t blame yourself for his actions.”

“John’s right,” Sherlock says.

John gives him a bright, grateful smile. It’s enough to distract Sherlock. Only momentarily, and he doubts anyone else noticed, but it shouldn’t have happened at all, let alone in the middle of Sherlock explaining something.

“That is how these things usually end,” Sherlock continues, refusing to let it affect him. “Sooner or later, the object of the killer’s obsession will become one of his victims.” Sherlock frowns a bit. “I’m surprised he hasn’t attempted to do so yet. The killing of the boyfriend should have marked attempts to come into contact with you.”

There’s more silence, though this time it’s accompanied by everyone save Fiona staring at him.

“He couldn’t,” Sam says finally. “Kayla hasn’t been alone since Finn’s murder.”

“Ah,” Sherlock says. “Yes, that would frustrate him even more. Has anyone tried to contact you who normally doesn’t, or tried to contact you more than usual?”

“Yes,” Miller says. “But I don’t know who. People kept calling and texting and I – stopped wanting to hear people tell me how sorry they are.”

“Lacey and I have been answering things,” Sam tells him. “I could tell you who’s been calling the most.”

“No,” Sherlock says dismissively. “He wouldn’t want to go through an intermediary. He’ll wait until he can get you alone, and he’ll do his best to achieve that.”

And then Sherlock smiles, because yes, that’s it.

“What is it?” John asks.

Sherlock turns his smile on John, pleased at the reminder that John knows him well enough to know when he’s figured something out – and too focused on his plan to remember that he shouldn’t be pleased with that. “That’s how we’ll get him, John. He’s going to come after her, likely sooner rather than later, given that he’s already taken the step of eliminating the boyfriend, and when he does, we’ll have him.”

Sam stares at him, aghast. “You want to use her as bait?”

“That’s putting it very crudely, but I suppose so, yes,” Sherlock says.

“Are you serious?” Sam demands. “Don’t you think she’s been-”

“Sam,” Miller interrupts. “I want to do it.”

Sam turns to her. “What?”

“I want him caught,” Miller says. “If there’s something I can do, I’m going to do it. And don’t tell me it’s too dangerous. You’ve obviously been way more involved in this than any of us knew.”

Sam flushes, looking briefly guilty. “That was helping with the investigation. This is just – letting a killer come after you, encouraging a killer to come after you, and I-”

“I know, Sam,” Miller says, cutting her off again, but gently. “But this is my decision. I know-” She looks away, though she doesn’t let go of Sam’s arm or hand. “I know Finn and I were never going to be forever, but I’d have taken him for as long as he’d have me. It shouldn’t have ended like this. I loved him, and there’s nothing I won’t do to make sure the person who did this is caught.”

“You won’t be alone,” John tells her. “Obviously, the police will be waiting to catch him. We’ll make sure you aren’t in any real danger.”

Sherlock scowls. All right, yes, they will probably have to call Lestrade and get the police involved if they’re planning on laying a trap for the murderer, but John needn’t say it as though it’s a reassurance. “Yes,” Sherlock says. “I suppose you had better call Lestrade.”

“Why me?” John asks.

Sherlock just looks at him. “You know I prefer to text.” Really, Sherlock doesn’t want to deal with explaining this yet again. And he wants to discuss the plan with Miller before Lestrade comes in and takes over.

John rolls his eyes. “Fine,” he says, standing and walking a bit away to call.

Sherlock smiles briefly, then leans slightly towards Miller. “I assume everyone within your social circle knew you haven’t been alone?”

Miller looks confused, but nods. “Yes. Or at least, everyone who asked, and everyone they told.”

“So everyone,” Sam says.

“Excellent,” Sherlock says. “You need to make sure everyone knows that tonight will be your first night alone.”

“Lacey won’t like that,” Miller says.

Sherlock frowns. “And? Whether or not she ‘likes’ it doesn’t matter.”

“It will when Lacey insists on checking in,” Sam says. “We could tell her the truth. She won’t go spreading it around.”

“Definitely not,” Sherlock says.

“If we do, you know she’ll want to be here,” Miller says. “And the more people who are here, the more the chance the killer will see someone and spook.”

Sam sighs. “I know. Just hate keeping her out of this.”

“Lestrade’s almost here,” John says, coming back over to them. “He wants us to meet him outside, Sherlock.”

“Very well,” Sherlock says with a sigh, standing and heading for the door.

It takes only a few minutes to Lestrade and a handful of officers to arrive, but it’s a few minutes too long and has Sherlock scowling by the time Lestrade comes over to talk to them.

“How obvious do I need to be this time?” Sherlock asks. “Shall I tell you why we were looking at specific trainers and what the symbol is or may I move on to the parts that were actually somewhat challenging?”

“You don’t have to lower yourself to explain anything to us mere mortals, John already told us the situation,” Lestrade replies. “The killer’s obsessed with this girl and is murdering people to get to her. Though how he thought those messages were going to do it is a mystery.”

“It’s simple, actually,” Sherlock says. “The endless knot is something close to her; he knew her passion for it and used that to show her that it was for her, a secret message between them, something they shared. The main messages are similar – they’re lyrics, by the way, from Clash songs – less of a secret and more of a code he assumes only she will be able to decipher, after seeing the endless knot. Perhaps a taunt to us as well, he’s telling us exactly why he killed them in a manner he doesn’t believe we will understand.”

“But you do,” Lestrade says.

Sherlock smirks. “Of course. Martin Andrews humiliated her in class, failed her. ‘Teacher says we’re dumb’ is an obvious reference to that. Ashley Green got ‘cheat if you can’t win.’ Both Green and Miller are cheerleaders, the killer obviously believes Green cheated in order to obtain something that should have been Miller’s, most likely the captaincy. That’s why they killer takes what he takes as well; the necklace Green wore to commemorate her first win during the captaincy that rightfully belonged to Miller, the pocket watch Andrews would take out whenever he wanted to remind students that they were wasting his valuable time, and so on.” Sherlock waves his hand dismissively. “The most telling message is the boyfriend. ‘Move onwards and outwards towards love.’ He’s gotten rid of what was keeping her from him, and now they can be together.”

“That’s the reason you think he’ll be coming after her, then?” Lestrade asks.

“One of them. Difficult for her to move onwards to love if he can’t get at her.” Sherlock frowns. “Do you disagree?”

“No, unfortunately,” Lestrade says. “When a serial killer’s got an obsession, he’ll go after it. Poor girl. Better go talk to her, then.” He sighs, then glares at Sherlock. “You stay here.”

Ah, yes. Sherlock had been absolutely correct about Lestrade taking over.

“It’s our plan,” Sherlock mutters after Lestrade and one of the officers have gone inside.

“I suppose you want to be the one to hang out with her all night until he shows up?” John asks.

Sherlock frowns at him. “Of course. I have waited for a suspect under worse conditions.”

John shakes his head, grinning. “I’m glad you consider some of the places we’ve gone worse than waiting with a girl in a comfortable flat.”

Sherlock starts to tell him that that’s exactly what he’s just said, only rephrased in a way that makes it sound as though Sherlock’s being ridiculous, but changes his mind when he sees Sam and Fiona come out of the building.

“We were kicked out,” Sam says, looking displeased.

“They wished to discuss the plans for tonight alone,” Fiona adds.

“They are the ones with the most experience,” John offers.

Sherlock scoffs, but refrains from making a comment about what he thinks of their experience. The police do have their uses, and they are exceptionally good at the actual catching of the criminals, once Sherlock’s put them on the trail. It’s only bothering Sherlock because he doesn’t know exactly who they will be catching, and he’s still uncertain as to a few things in the explanations for the other murders. Sherlock would prefer to be the one to catch him, to get the chance to talk to him before the police have been at him, but he must admit that all of his questions are those he can likely get out of the killer after the police have caught him.

They aren’t waiting for very long when Lestrade comes back outside, looking frustrated.

“Things not going to your liking?” Sherlock asks.

Lestrade scowls at him. “She’s being unreasonable. She doesn’t want a cop in the flat with her, which isn’t unexpected, some people are uncomfortable with that, but she doesn’t even want them outside her door. Something about a lot of cheerleaders living in the building and if they see people hanging around outside, word’ll spread and the killer’ll spook.”

Sherlock smirks slightly. “These cheerleaders do seem to be quite the gossips.”

Lestrade’s scowl deepens. “I don’t care. We’re not doing this unless I know she’ll be protected, and that means having someone in that bloody building, and not just on the ground floor.” He looks at Sam. “You’re her friend, can you talk some sense into her?”

“I’ll do my best,” Sam says, heading inside.

“John and I would blend in much better,” Sherlock comments after a bit. “We don’t scream cops.”

Lestrade snorts. “I doubt she’ll be any keener on you two hanging about in the hallways.”

“If that’s your idea of being discrete, no wonder she didn’t want you there,” Sherlock says with a sneer.

Lestrade rolls his eyes. “I’m not letting you bait me like that today, Sherlock, so give it up.”

They wait for Sam to come back down in silence. She’s smiling when she eventually rejoins them.

“Well?” Lestrade asks.

“She hasn’t changed her mind about the cops,” Sam says. “But she’s fine with the four of us hiding in the flat with her.”

Lestrade groans. “Of course she is. Don’t smirk like that, Sherlock, I’ve half a mind to tell her we’re doing it my way or not at all.”

“But you won’t,” Sherlock says, sounding bored. “You can’t force her to co-operate under your terms, and if you don’t do it at all, not only will you not catch him, but she’ll be unprotected.”

Lestrade looks briefly like he’s contemplating strangling Sherlock. Sherlock isn’t intimidated; it’s a look he gets a lot.

“Fine,” Lestrade says with a sigh. “But only you two,” he says to Sherlock and John. “We don’t need any more civilians in this.”

“Kayla won’t do it without me,” Sam says immediately. “And I won’t do it without Fi.”

“I’ll vouch for them,” Sherlock says. He is more than willing to have Fiona and Sam there if it means he’ll have first access to the murderer. “Shall I repeat the reasons you’ll go along with Miller’s demands?”

Lestrade makes a noise that actually does have a remarkable resemblance to a growl. “Christ,” he mutters, then turns on Sam and Fiona. “You two are not to do anything, do you understand me? Should he arrive, if at all possible, get out of there. Absolutely do not engage.” He turns to Sherlock and John. “And you two: subdue only. I’ll give you radios, contact us as soon as you even think he might be in there. I don’t care what you think you need to know about him, none of this chatting at him until you think it’s time for us to come in. Protecting the girls is our first priority, catching the killer is our second, and satisfying your curiosity isn’t a priority at all.”

Sherlock bristles at the implication, even if there’s some truth in it.

“Absolutely, sir,” Sam tells Lestrade before Sherlock can say anything, looking at him with respect in her eyes. “We’ll be there for moral support only.”

“You can be certain our priorities are in order,” John says.

Sherlock sulks, and consoles himself with the fact that at least John isn’t gazing at Lestrade the way Sam is.

Lestrade sets most of it up, with Sherlock making a few corrections that should have been obvious. Sam and Kayla will spend the day with friends, where Kayla will let people know she’s decided she needs some time to herself in her own flat that night. Later in the day, before Kayla heads home, the police will position themselves unobtrusively around the building, and Sherlock, John, and Fiona will sneak in through the terrace, letting themselves in through the door with the key Kayla’s given them. Then, Sam will drop Kayla off, leave, and come back in through the terrace as well.

Sherlock knows Lestrade is hoping the police will catch anyone attempting to get into the building without them ever entering Kayla’s flat, and doesn’t mention that his own hopes are far in the opposite direction.

The first bit goes off without a hitch: the three of them get into the flat with no one the wiser. And then comes the unfortunate part of waiting, for Kayla to get back, for night to fall. Sherlock pokes around her flat, but John won’t let him investigate too much. He gets only a small amount of time in her bedroom and adjoining bathroom before John notices he’s stopped looking for possible entrances into the flat and has moved on to an examination of her things, and kicks him out.

Finally, finally, not long after it’s gotten dark, Kayla gets back, and soon after that, Sam arrives through the terrace. There’s still waiting, then, but it’s an exciting, anticipatory waiting. Kayla makes a frozen pizza, puts on a film, and they settle in the living room. Sherlock notices that John’s seated himself closest to the door to the terrace, which is where the killer will most likely enter if he manages to make it past the police. It’s possible that the killer may simply come to the front door under the guise of a friend wanting to check in on her, but Sherlock thinks it’s more likely he’ll simply enter the flat under his own devices, as though he has every right to do so.

A few minutes into the second film – Sherlock only knows it’s the second because Kayla had announced she was putting on another one; Sherlock has no idea what’d happened in the first – Kayla excuses herself to take a quick shower. While she’s gone, John stops all pretence of paying attention to anything other than the terrace and the front door.

Sherlock keeps an eye on the front door as well, though his attention is split when Fiona goes into the kitchen and Sam follows her. They’re behind him, but there’s a mirror above the television and Sherlock can see their reflections.

“You’ve been quiet today,” Sam says.

Fiona shrugs. “Haven’t had much to contribute, have I? Sherlock’s got everything pretty well handled.”

Sam smiles, stepping closer and reaching around to slip her hands into the back pockets of Fiona’s jeans. “Good thing he does, since that’s his job. Besides, you’ve always got way more to contribute than he does, just by being you.”

The corners of Fiona’s mouth tug up a bit. “Is that so?”

“Definitely,” Sam tells her solemnly, then grins. “Sherlock’s not the one who let me get all close on the side of the road because I needed a bit of comforting, is he?”

“He better not be,” Fiona replies.

They kiss briefly, and Sherlock is about to disregard them and look away when Sam pulls back and says, “That’s not really what’s bothering you, though.”

“No, it’s not,” Fiona admits.

“What is it, then?” Sam asks.

Fiona hesitates.

“Come on,” Sam presses.

“I don’t like this,” Fiona says finally. “I know she’s your friend, Sam, but everyone’s completely disregarded the possibility of her being the least bit involved in this without even questioning her. She’s genuinely grieving for Finn, I can see it, but people can still grieve for someone they’ve had a hand in killing. Maybe she never meant for it to get this far, maybe she started with the others and now it’s gotten out of hand and she can’t control him. There’s a dozen different ways she could be involved with this, and no one’s even considering it, despite that there’s no facts to counter the theories.”

Sam doesn’t blow up at her like she had when Sherlock first broached the subject. Instead she sighs, and pulls one hand out of Fiona’s pocket to tuck a strand of Fiona’s hair behind her ear. “She’s not behind it, Fi. I know you don’t want to just trust that, but will you at least trust me when I say I know she can’t be?”

“That’s it?” Kayla asks from behind them.

Sam and Fiona start, clearly surprised, though Sherlock isn’t, because he’d seen Kayla come out of her room.

“She accuses me of orchestrating the deaths of five people, some of our friends, and all you do is sigh sympathetically and ask her to trust you?” Kayla demands. “You get more angry when people call her weird then you do when she calls me a murderer?”

Sam looks slightly guilty. “You don’t understand-”

“You’re right,” Kayla interrupts. “I don’t. The Sam I know would never let anyone say things half as bad as that about her friends without a hell of a fight. Suppose that’s changed now that you’re dating someone you’ve known a week; we’re all going to come second to her.”

“You shouldn’t make accusations when you haven’t got all the facts,” Fiona snaps. “The only reason no one’s considering your involvement a possibility is because Sam defended you so well she convinced two detectives you were innocent.”

That’s far from the only reason, but Sherlock isn’t going to interrupt them to say so.

“Besides, this entire argument smacks of hypocrisy, unless you want to deny you ever accused me of being behind these deaths. Not such a fan when the situation’s reversed?” Fiona adds.

“You’re wrong,” Kayla says. “It’d be hypocritical if this argument was about me being angry at you for accusing me when I’d accused you. But it’s not, it’s about Sam not defending me when she defended you. Which I suppose makes you right after all; it is hypocritical.”

“And I suppose it makes you deaf as well, since you didn’t seem to have heard me when I said she did defend you,” Fiona says.

“Not to you, did she?” Kayla asks. “She’ll-”

“Stop arguing about me like I’m not here!” Sam snaps.

“Fine,” Kayla says, turning to her. “You’ll defend your girlfriend to your friends, but not your friends to your girlfriend? That’s lovely.”

“Perhaps she would if she had friends who didn’t jump all over her for not defending them without letting her explain herself,” Fiona says with a sneer. “Or ones who were so quick to accuse other people of murder with no evidence. Especially not when there’s no evidence they weren’t involved themselves.”

Kayla’s eyes narrow. “Suppose I’m going along with this for kicks, then?”

“Yes,” Fiona says. “To keep us distracted waiting for someone who’ll never come because you’ve warned him off.”

“Stop it,” Kayla says. “I don’t have anything to do with this.” Her voice trembles slightly, then grows angry. “For that matter, since you keep bringing it up, what evidence do we have that you aren’t involved in this? Maybe you’re the one wasting our time while your accomplice gets away. Or maybe there is no accomplice, maybe you did all that to cover for yourself. It isn’t as though you aren’t smart enough.”

“I have been working to get this solved!” Fiona says. “I’m here to help protect you, though I can’t remember why.”

“I don’t want protection from anyone who thinks I had anything to do with Finn being gone!” Kayla says, sounding close to tears.

“And I don’t want to protect anyone who treats my girlfriend and me like this!” Fiona snaps back.

“Then get out!” Kayla tells her.

“Fine!” Fiona replies.

They storm off in opposite directions; Kayla to her room and Fiona out the front door. Sam immediately takes a few steps after Fiona, then stops, looking stricken, as if she’s just proved Kayla right by instinctively going for Fiona first. She looks uncertain for a moment, until John stands and brushes past her.

“I’ll bring Fiona back. Take care of your friend,” John tells her. “Sherlock, watch the terrace for a moment?”

“What else would I have been doing?” Sherlock asks.

Sam gives John a grateful look as he exits the flat, then goes quickly into Kayla’s room. The door’s open a crack, and Sherlock can just barely hear them.

“Aren’t you going after your girlfriend?” Kayla asks.

“She’s being taken care of. It’s just you and me now, okay? So let’s talk,” Sam says.

Sherlock stops listening to them, focusing most of his attention on the terrace. He still maintains an awareness of their voices, though, so he’ll be able to tell if anything goes wrong.

He’s a bit surprised when it takes less than a few minutes for Sam to come back out. He raises an eyebrow.

“She was upset,” Sam says quietly. “She didn’t mean most of that. It didn’t take long after I apologized and explained a few things for her to apologize as well. It’s not solved, or anything, but now’s not the time to go into it. She’s said she’ll apologize to Fiona if Fi apologizes as well, and that’s enough for now.” She sighs. “She’s going to try and get some sleep; I said I was probably going after Fiona.”

She eyes the door, but Sherlock shakes his head.

“John’ll bring her back,” he says confidently.

She looks unconvinced. “I know. I just-”

“You love her,” Sherlock supplies.

“Not yet,” she says honestly. “I’m in love with her. I know it’s stupid, being in love with her so soon, but I am. I smile when she smiles, she makes my heart beat faster just by looking at me, I’d happily spend just about every minute with her. And I like her for who she is. Maybe when I get to know her better, I’ll love her for it, for all the little things that are just her. Maybe not. Maybe when the newness of being in love fades we’ll realize we’re better as friends, but I won’t know until it happens. Until then, I’ll enjoy being in love.”

“That’s – surprisingly wise,” Sherlock admits.

She grins. “No it’s not. I say that, but I don’t think it’ll happen. I’m twenty-one and she’s nineteen, and all I can think of is forever. I’m just afraid one day she’ll wake up and realize that I’m ordinary, and she’s bored.”

“That won’t happen,” he says.

“It won’t?” she asks.

“If she’s as smart as she claims, she’ll realize you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to her.” It still isn’t fair, Sherlock thinks, but he can’t dwell on that when he’s got a killer to catch.

“Thank you,” she says, an odd quality to her voice. “Sherlock-”

“Yes?” he prompts when she doesn’t finish.

“Nothing,” she replies. “I’m going to go back in with Kayla, I don’t like leaving her alone. Send Fi in when she gets back, will you?”

Sherlock frowns, watching her go. He gets up, pacing, keeping an eye on the front door and the terrace and mulling over their brief conversation, then freezes when he hears a muffled thud coming from the bedroom.

There’s been no sign of an intruder, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have gotten in somehow – from the ceiling, perhaps, though Sherlock had checked it – and Sherlock has to be prepared for the possibility. He doesn’t call any names for fear of alerting him, and instead cautiously creeps over to the bedroom door. Sherlock pauses at it, listening, but he can’t hear anything. He opens it quickly and quietly, going for the element of surprise, but there’s no one on either side of the door. Or in Sherlock’s view, though it’s not much of one, as the lights are off.

Sherlock steps just far enough into the room to reach for the light switch, listening hard for any sound of movement. He hears something before he can get the light on, but he doesn’t manage to locate the threat before it’s upon him and he’s tackled to the ground. A strong hand covers his mouth and nose, and Sherlock is extremely tired of criminals trying to suffocate him.

He struggles, but the man on top of him is strong, and by the time he gets a hand free to claw at the man’s arm, his movements are weak. His lungs are burning, and he tries to bite the man’s hand, but his teeth just skid across the skin of his palm.

Sherlock’s vision is sparking now, and he changes tactics, reaching for the radio to try and turn it on. But he doesn’t make it before even the sparks fade, and then everything goes black.

---

Part Eight

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