Compromising Positions | Into the Black | Contact

Conversation in an Office

Notes: As always, thanks to emungere for the beta.

John is sitting at his desk finishing up his charting for the day when he hears the noise in the waiting room. He goes still, listening, and hears the quiet scuff of a footstep. Mentally sighing, he picks his up his phone, and says, “There are no drugs on the premises. If you leave right now, I won’t call the coppers on you.”

The only reply is more footsteps, bringing the intruder closer to the open doorway. John’s thumb is hovering over the 999 speed-dial when the intruder steps into the light. John drops the phone when he catches sight of the person now standing in his office.

Sherlock. Sherlock bloody Holmes. Supposedly dead these last three years. He’s thinner than ever before, his hair a wild, uncut tumble of curls, but he’s still immaculately dressed in a fitted designer suit. Before he’s even really consciously thought about it, John is moving across the room and enveloping Sherlock in a tight embrace. Shockingly, Sherlock hugs him back, just as tightly, burying his face in John’s neck.

He should be furious. Absolutely incandescent with rage, but he’s not. All John feels is giddy with disbelief. After he had given up any hope of ever seeing Sherlock alive again, the man appears in his waiting room. Miracles like this don’t happen in the real world, and yet, there he is, alive and well. Several questions go through John’s mind – ‘Where have you been?’ ‘How are you still alive?’ ‘Why didn’t you take me with you?’ – but if he’s honest with himself, John knows the answers to all of them, so he asks the one question he’s not certain of the answer.

“Is he dead?”

“Yes.” And then, after a brief pause, Sherlock says in a quiet voice, “I’m sorry.” His arms tighten around John.

John presses his cheek against Sherlock’s hair. “Wanker,” he says in reply. “I ought to kick your arse, for what you put me through. Let me get a look at you.” John holds Sherlock out at arm’s length so he can get a good look at him. Sherlock sways slightly and John tightens his grip on Sherlock’s arms to keep him steady.

“When was the last time you ate?” John asks.

There’s a pause and then Sherlock replies, “What day is it?”

John rolls his eyes and points to the examining table. “Up. Now. If you have to ask, it’s been too long.”

Almost meekly, Sherlock follows his orders. John goes to his desk and rummages in the drawer where he keeps his lunch and pulls out the second half of the sandwich he didn’t have time to eat at lunch.

“Here. Eat this,” he says, passing it to Sherlock, who looks at it and makes a face. “Oh, stop it, you spoiled child, it’s your favourite – marmite and banana. I still can’t believe you got me hooked on those damn things.”

John bustles about while Sherlock nibbles on the sandwich, taking longer than strictly necessary to gather up his stethoscope, and the other basic equipment required for a preliminary medical examination, to give Sherlock time to eat.

“Do you honestly think it’s necessary to examine me, John? I’m fine,” Sherlock says, as he finishes the sandwich.

“I don’t know, Sherlock, you did just almost pass out a few minutes ago.” John sees the widening of Sherlock’s eyes. “What? You didn’t think I’d noticed? Shame on you Sherlock, you may have been gone a while, but I haven’t forgotten everything you taught me about observation. Now, get that shirt off, so I can proceed. I’ll just do a basic examination, for now, but if I find anything serious, I’ll be checking you into hospital. Are we clear?”

Sherlock’s answer is an eye roll, but he shrugs out of his jacket and, after an almost imperceptible pause, starts to unbutton his shirt.

“Oh, oh, Sherlock,” John says, his voice breaking as Sherlock’s torso is revealed. The scars tell him all he needs to know – the stutter of a knife along Sherlock’s ribs until the point met soft flesh and dug into his abdomen, leaving behind a gnarled, badly healed scar that disappears into the waistband of his trousers, the thick path of a bullet graze on his right side, and the pinprick marks of shattered glass covering his left shoulder.

John reaches out, hand hovering, not sure where to touch, but certain he needs to, and Sherlock’s hand is there to meet his, and he presses John’s hand against his chest, over his beating heart. They stand like that for a long while and then John takes in a deep breath and lets it out. He continues his examination, finding nothing more than the usual signs of insomnia and under-nourishment that Sherlock typically suffers from.

“Tell me about her,” Sherlock says as he buttons up his shirt.

“Hmm?” John inquires as he puts away his equipment.

Sherlock nods towards John’s left hand – the one with the plain white gold band upon it. John looks down and smiles warmly.

“Her name is Mary and she’s wonderful,” John begins.

Sherlock shifts over on the examining table in an unspoken invitation, and John hops up beside him.

“She’s a teacher – gifted kids with emotional problems – so she’ll definitely know how to handle you.” That comment gets John an elbow in the ribs. He laughs and continues. “We’ve only been married six months, but it’s been lovely. We met not long after you di– I guess I should say ‘faked your own death’ instead of ‘died’, shouldn’t I? Anyway, we met shortly afterwards, and I was a right mess, Sherlock. Barely functional, to be honest. I’m quite certain the only way I made it through those first few weeks was Mrs. Hudson. She made sure I ate and made me plenty of tea, even if I barely touched any of it.”

At some point during John’s story, Sherlock’s hand has crept over to John’s. He entwines their fingers together. “I really am sorry, John,” Sherlock says softly. “I…” he stops and his face twists up as he tries to come up with the right words.

“Shhh. It’s okay, Sherlock. I understand. Truly I do. Don’t give yourself an aneurism trying to express your feelings. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that.”

John pats his pocket to find his phone before he remembers that it is on his desk. He gets it and returns to his former position next to Sherlock before showing him the wallpaper – an image of a smiling woman with bright blue eyes and long, curling ginger hair, with a slight smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose.

“There she is, my lovely Mary,” John says, smiling fondly. “Molly introduced us – they’re friends from uni. Mike had convinced me to leave the flat and come to lunch, and I popped ‘round the morgue to say hello to Molly, and there she was. We started dating not long after that.” John laughs quietly. “Seems like all of my significant relationships start at St. Bart’s.”

Sherlock doesn’t say a word, just takes the phone from John’s hand and starts flipping quickly through the images in the photos folder. He stops when he gets to the wedding picture. He spends several moments looking at it and his lips quirk slightly, as if he is about to speak.

“Oy! None of that!” John exclaims. “No deducing my wedding. I don’t want to know if she was having second thoughts, or which bridesmaids were shagging which groomsmen, or that the minister was really a serial killer, or whatever it is you are about to say.”

Sherlock gives him a haughty look. “What I was going to say, before you so rudely interrupted, was that you are both ridiculously happy. How such an archaic ceremony can induce such complete delirium in otherwise sane people is quite beyond me.”

John gives Sherlock a light shove. “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, Mr. Married to My Work. It was one of the best days of my life. The only thing missing was you being a complete prat about being the best man and refusing to throw me a proper stag do because it was so ‘pedestrian’. Fortunately for me, Greg was there to act in your stead.”

Sherlock frowns. “Greg?”

“Lestrade, you git. Do you honestly not know his first name? Or did you just delete it?”

Sherlock replies with a shrug. Suddenly, the phone buzzes in Sherlock’s hand. Before Sherlock can answer it, John tugs it from his fingers and answers it. “Hello, love.”

“John, Mycroft is here,” Mary says quietly. “I’ve never seen him like this. He’s extremely agitated, but he won’t tell me why. He just told me to call you.”

“Well, that answers that question,” John mutters. Sherlock raises an eyebrow. John puts his hand over the phone. “I’d wondered if Mycroft had my office bugged, now I know,” John replies.

“Mary, tell him we’ll be there shortly.”

“We?” Mary asks.

“Yes, we. Apparently, the dead do rise. Sherlock’s alive. Could you please make up the spare bed? We’re going to have a house guest.”

I will. See you soon.”

John rings off and taps Sherlock on the thigh. “Time to face big brother. I’m guessing he has a few choice words for you.”

John hops down and starts gathering up his personal belongings. Sherlock frowns as he stands. “John?”

“Hmm?” John answers, buttoning up his coat.

“You didn’t move.” It sounds like a statement, but it is really a question.

“No, Sherlock, I did not,” John replies, not even trying to figure out how Sherlock managed to deduce that particular fact. He smiles softly at Sherlock as he gathers up Sherlock’s jacket and hands it to him. “Now get a move on. It’s time to go home.”