Sherlock put his current predicament down to bad luck, rather than admitting he’d allowed himself to fall into a false sense of security.
He’d been living a rather private life inside the walls of 221B Baker street for almost three years now, and though it had been much less interesting than his previous lodgings (The hospital had afforded him so many wonderful distractions) it was at least safe, and allowed him time to work on whatever took his fancy. These days, now he’d been forced to leave St. Barts and all the lab equipment he couldn’t carry (which was most of it) he whiled away the dull hours by stealing Mrs. Hudson’s newspapers and solving the crimes therein. Granted, usually after borrowing the landlady’s computer to do more research while she was out.
It did occasionally infuriate him when the police couldn’t deduce what he’d already figured out during his morning thimble of tea (again, courtesy of his unwitting landlady). If only he were a human, he could set them straight, visit the crime scene himself and point out the obvious clues they were missing! But he knew it would never happen.
No human would ever take him seriously, no matter how much more intelligent he was. He was only four and a half inches tall after all.
But this annoyance was neither here nor there. Right now, he had a much bigger problem.
After three undisturbed years, he’d come to consider the flat proper to be his, and was therefore immensely put out when one uneventful Tuesday two humans, Mrs. Hudson and an unfamiliar man who could only be a prospective tenant, had walked in while he was in the process of dissecting a beetle he’d found in the wall. He’d been forced to abandon his work and take cover behind the old microwave.
Yes, this was most inconvenient indeed.
John was very pleased to have found the flat. To be honest, he had been beginning to despair of ever finding an apartment in London affordable enough for his army pension; and if he failed at that, who knows what would have to be done. Asking Harry was certainly out of the question. Still, the landlady seemed nice, and the flat was livable. "I'll take it," he said, turning to give the landlady a strained smile. Not once did he glance to the kitchen.
Three words. It had only taken three words to turn his quite comfortable living conditions completely upside down. Sherlock might have cursed, if there hadn't been two troublesome humans standing within ear shot.
He needed time. Time to remove the news paper clippings he'd laid out on the bedroom floor, covered in notes and highlights. Time to remove his experiments, all of which would have surely raised the eyebrow of any thinking human. Time to clear all trace of himself from the flat, before the man got curious and started poking around where he was not wanted.
What a bother.
Still, not nearly as bothersome as moving his home, which was nothing like as easy for him as it apparently was for his new flatmate.
Sherlock sighed, resisting the urge to kick at the microwave in frustration. But only just.
John rubbed the back of his neck anxiously. It wasn't the landlady making him uncomfortable; it was the flat. The whole space had the air of... observation. Still, at such a deal he could hardly turn it down. "I'll, erm, move in tonight then?" he asked Mrs. Hudson. She walked him out the door as he made plans to pack up the few things he had and come back. It shouldn't take too long- barely an hour, he was sure of it. John Watson was moving in.
It was only after the door was closed and the two humans had walked down the narrow steps that Sherlock dared to react. Tonight, tonight! He'd have two or three hours at most. He made a mental checklist of what needed doing.
First, since he was here, dispose of the beetle. A dead insect found in the drain was common enough not to trigger interest in most humans. An insect carefully dissected and laid out on the counter was a rather forward invitation to curiosity, which he was keen to discourage.
Secondly, the papers. Possibly the longest, but most important task. They included notes he'd made on various cases. Connections, observations, conclusions. If the man found them Sherlock might as well donate himself to the national science association.
Thirdly, remove all of the ropes, ladders and bridges he'd constructed out of cobbled together rubbish.
He broke into a sprint. Hopefully his new Flatmate would take his time packing.
John sighed as he unlocked the door to the room he had been staying in temporarily. He rather liked the new flat, and was excited to finally have a place to call his own- though he did hope it ended up feeling a bit more inviting. Perhaps if he could get a job he could afford some comfortable furniture to put in it. A desk for his laptop, maybe a squashy armchair… yes, that did sound good.
Quickly and efficiently John packed up his sparse belongings. In truth they only consisted of a small suitcase of clothing, his laptop, cane, army mug, and revolver. His time in service had left him possession next to nothing but not needing much more than that either.
Taking one last look at the bare room he had called home the last week or so John smiled tightly. He was finally moving on with his life! Turning off the lights and shutting the door he moved back out to the street. Hailing a cab he threw his suitcase in the backseat and slid in next to it.
“Where to?" the cabbie asked, pulling away from the curb.
“Baker Street," John Watson replied. “221B Baker Street."
Sherlock had been right on schedule. It was the human who was early. Air hissed between his teeth when he heard the heavy, limping gait on the wooden stairs.
This wouldn’t do. It wouldn’t do at all. He’d managed to remove several of the newspaper clippings, but there were still many left. They were cumbersome to roll up and near impossible to stuff into the disguised hole he used for easy access to the flat.
He’d briefly debated the wisdom of opening the window and simply shoving the masses of paper outside. It was a windy night, and once out of the flat the scribbled notes could have been written by anyone. But he decided against it, on the principle that time was short and it always took too long to grapple with the heavy frame. He almost wished he’d followed through now.
He heard the key turn in the lock, heard the human enter his home. Heard the limping steps getting closer and closer.
There was nothing for it. Sherlock abandoned the last scraps of his hobby and made a break for the hole. Though he hated to admit it, the situation was out of his hands for now.
John set his laptop on the kitchen table and put his gun behind some flowers on the mantle, where it would be out of the way and safe. Grunting with the exertion, and relying heavily on his cane, John picked up his suitcase and lugged it to the bedroom in the back of the flat. As he set it down it made a slight crackling sound unheard of in carpet, and he crouched down to investigate. There was a piece of paper stuck under the suitcase wheel. Tugging it free the man gazed at it in confusion. It was a newspaper clipping, crudely torn, of a murder that occurred less than a week ago. John remembered hearing about it on the telly. But what on earth was it doing in his new bedroom.
Glancing about John noticed that little bits of paper seemed to be flung about all across the bedroom floor. Deciding the last tenant of Mrs. Hudson’s must have been decidedly eccentric, John picked up the lot and walked to the kitchen to chuck them in the bin. Hopefully the last person living there hadn’t left something more bizarre behind when they left.
They must have left in a hurry, John thought, because the place needed quite a bit of cleaning up. Oh, Mrs. Hudson had tidied things alright to sell it out, but it was the little things. Like bits of what seemed to be a beetle in the sink, the inexplicable notches on edges of almost every surface, and the general air that, until very recently, somebody else had called the flat home.
It hadn’t taken the man long to notice that something was amiss in 221b. Sherlock observed him as he collected the papers, wincing as he knelt, and left with barely a glance, looking for all intense and purpose like he might just throw the lot in the nearest bin. It was both encouraging and vaguely insulting. His thought process was mapped out on each page, and it was a bit of a blow watching a man throw them away as if they were last weeks fliers. On the other hand, it meant his new flat mate was astonishingly obtuse, which meant perhaps he would brush off the other odd tells he’d left about the place. Once the man had gone to sleep, Sherlock would be free to remove the rest of the evidence.
In the mean time, he took a moment to catalog what he’d noticed about this new tenant.
Name, John Watson, judging from the tag on his heavy looking luggage. Recently returned from the Middle East, Iraq to be more specific (again courtesy of the luggage’s airport check in tag). Leg injury, possibly a bullet, not recent, cane a psychological crutch rather than necessary healing aid, considering he’d forgotten to use it on his exit of the bedroom-
John opened up the cupboards in the kitchen while he was there, and was displeased but not at all surprised to find them completely empty. “Groceries," he mumbled to himself, and sitting down at the table set about writing a list. There were lots of tiny bits of graphite broken off in the drawer of writing utensils, almost as if someone had crushed the tip of a pencil. Ignoring the matter entirely John chose a pen and scribbled a few items down in the scrawling, almost illegible handwriting so characteristic of doctors.
Folding the list up and sticking it in his pocket he pushed his chair back with a squeak, standing up and grabbing his jacket from the coat tree. After informing the landlady that he was leaving briefly to go to the store John walked out into the rainy London evening.
Ah, perfect. The man was leaving again, this time to procure groceries. The nearest grocery shop was about five blocks away. If the man walked it would probably take him about fifteen minutes both ways. If he stuck with buying a few light essentials then the actual shopping would not take long at all. Maybe ten minutes. If he decided to purchase groceries for the week, he may take longer, but would be more likely to call a cab than carry the heavy load home with his bad leg.
Half an hour was a safe estimate. He’d have half an hour to do more clearing up before being forced to take cover again.
Fortunately John had done him the favor of disposing of the most incriminating evidence of his residency, but there were still the ropes and homemade ladders to take care of.
Once he heard the man exit the building, Sherlock dashed out of hiding. His goal, the living area.
John had hardly reached the nearest intersection before he noticed; his wallet was still packed in amongst his things. Patting down his empty jacket to make sure he swore quietly under his breath, turning around and heading back to the flat. At this point it wasn’t worth trying to do anything; he would just order some Chinese delivery for the night and call it a day.
As he made his way up the stairs he heard a light rustling coming from the flat. Mice? he wondered to himself. But no, Mrs. Hudson had promised the whole building was free of pests. So what then?
Quickly and quietly he made his way up the rest of the stairs, opening the door with care. He was going to catch whatever it was and deal with it himself.
Another thing he envied humans for was their ability to cross a large room in a only a few steps. His small stature made running back and forth about the flat quite the exercise regimen, to say nothing of the climbing, jumping and carrying.
He'd only managed to gather three ropes, all slung heavily over his shoulder, when he heard the first floor door open.
Mrs. Hudson hadn't left the building, and when he heard the heavy limping, much softer but every bit as noticeable to his small ears, he knew that the tenant had returned.
He'd been working to remove a paperclip ladder he'd connected to the windowsill, and was very much exposed.
Steeling himself, Sherlock let go of the interlocking chain and dropped to the floor. He could easily survive a fall from this height, being such a small creature. He landed with a quiet thump, and only just managed to dive behind the old heater as the door opened, the paperclip ladder left swaying quite noticeably.
John entered the room cautiously and took a glance around. Nothing seemed different… until a piece of movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Turning his head he walked to the windowsill curiously. Something was hanging from it, swaying slightly as if it had pushed by a breeze. Except there was no breeze, none at all.
He picked up the strange object with a hand and surveyed it. It was an interlocking chain, a small thin one, like the kind used to make lady’s bracelets. It was hanging from a bent paperclip, which was stuck rather firmly into the windowsill.
Well, now he knew what had created all the notches around the countertops.
Still, who could possibly have put it there? Glancing about with a frown John noticed that there were similar contraptions littered around the rest of the flat, all leading to countertops, tables, even the mantle of the fireplace. This place kept getting more and more bizarre.
This was not a good place to hide. The heater was old, slatted, and easily moved. If the human (John he remembered) decided to check behind it, he would find himself in an extremely vulnerable position. And vulnerability was NOT a feeling he enjoyed experiencing.
If seen, he would have to simply make a run for it. No doubt John would be surprised, and Sherlock could make use of that to get a head start on the man. but then, well, he would have no option but to abandon this flat entirely and look for some new lodgings. It wouldn’t do for some lumbering human to become curious about him. Down that road lay traps and poisons, cameras and tiresome chases, all of which would certainly distract from or even put a stop to his scientific and deductive hobbies.
What an incredible nuisance this Mr. Watson was turning out to be!
Shaking his head, John stood up and detached the paperclip from its lodging in the windowsill. Deciding the fine links had been left by the previous tenant as well, and the rustling he had heard was most likely caused by their movement in a draught (the old heater stood right next to it, after all, and nothing else could possibly have made the chain swing) he gathered them up and tossed them in the bin as well. With any luck they would be the last remnants of the previous lodger he would have to deal with.
Putting them completely out of his mind after that, or at least attempting to, John found a restaurant suitably close by and called in an order. With that done he made himself comfortable at the kitchen table, where he had a good view of the living room and suitable hearing range for the front door. It seemed he had a bit of a wait before dinner arrived.
What a rollercoaster his luck was turning out to be today. Watson had not decided to pursue the matter of the swinging chain, and had instead opted to continue his evening, ordering Chinese for dinner and sitting in the kitchen. Sherlock relaxed slightly, his life not in immediate danger. Though he had to admit, for the first time in years, he wasn’t bored.
Or at least, he hadn’t been. Now he could see he’d be stuck behind this heater for quite some time, and should he move much, the man across the room would be sure to hear it. He let his back rest against the wall, settling in for the long wait. It was only then he espied the rat.
He stiffened in alarm. It wasn’t large as rats went, but it didn’t need to be. It was a fairly common shade of brown, and was skirting along the wall, far too close for comfort.
Usually Sherlock set up his own traps in the tunnels, it being in his best interest to keep the creatures out of his flat, but this one must have got through somehow.
It sniffed the air, and to the tiny man’s dismay, caught his scent, venturing cautiously behind the heating vent.
It didn’t take a mind like Sherlock’s to tell the rat was hunting. Slowly, he reached for the closest weapon to hand, a pin he’d used to secure one of the ropes, now discarded beside him.
The rat was wary of him, but also very hungry, judging by the malnourished look of the thing. Eventually, the need to feed would override its caution.
It only took about six seconds for this to happen. The rat leapt.
There was a loud squeak and a bump from behind the old heater. “What the..?" John muttered to himself, pushing back his chair and going to investigate. There were more squeaks as he approached and he scowled. Of course Mrs. Hudson hadn’t been entirely truthful when she said there were no pests. With her hip she probably hadn’t even been able to set traps properly.
The old heater complained as it moved, but John was able to shift it enough to look behind it. A small rat took one glance at him and fled, scurrying back to the small hole in the wall from whence it had come. “Go on, shoo!" John sent it off irritably. Then he looked back at the floor behind the machine, and could hardly believe his eyes.
The rat had been lying on top of something else. That something looked like a small man, no more than five inches high. A discarded pin and some more of the chains lay beside it. Impossibly, it seemed the man was alive; he was breathing, and more over, he was bleeding.
It landed on him, using its weight to bare him to the ground. Sherlock shouted in pain as its teeth sunk deep into the flesh of his leg. Even while he stabbed back at the creature with the pin, his mind calmly calculated the extent of his injury.
Muscles torn, main arteries seemed to be intact, but the depth of the wound suggested he’d still bleed out before the night was through, assuming the rat did not finish him off. If he managed to survive, he would still not have full use of his left leg for several months, making the climbing which was part of his everyday life a virtual impossibility. He would likely starve to death, being unable to procure food from Mrs. Hudson’s pantry. Pity.
Suddenly, there was a heavy scraping sound, and the heater was moved away from the wall.
“Go on, Shoo!” He heard from somewhere far above. Ah yes, somehow, in the face of his impending death, he’d forgotten about Mister Watson.
The rat jumped off of him and scurried away, leaving a great many tooth and claw marks on its recent victim.
Finally, the man gasped, and blurry though his pain addled vision was, Sherlock could see the look of shock on the humans face.
There was nothing he could do. Running would do no good, if he could even manage to stand. He lay there, bleeding, his life now in the hands of a human of all things.
He did not expect his last few hours of life would be pleasant.
A stern look of concentration slowly overtook the one of shock on John’s face. His instincts as a Doctor were quickly kicking in. Yes, the thing or man or whatever it was on the floor could not exist, not really, but without medical attention it/he was going to bleed out and die.
Quickly groping in his pocket for a handkerchief John pulled one out and used it to gently pick up the tiny man. He fit in the palm of his hand and could have used the handkerchief as a blanket, but John had no time to marvel. The strange thing’s breaths were getting more shallow, and blood continued to pour from the ghastly wound on its leg.
John quickly spirited it to the kitchen table, where he laid it down delicately. His mind racing through the procedures he should take he strode to his bedroom, to fetch the first aid kit he carried with him unfailingly.
Sherlock could not suppress the grunt of pain as the human lifted him from the ground, jostling his wounds no matter how gently.
Sherlock had /never/ enjoyed being picked up by humans. It was horrendously intimidating, and he hated the thought of being helpless. Control was invaluable to him, but it was all too easily taken away, when his kind were seen.
It was a bit of a surprise that Mr. Watson had forgone the customary disbelieving triad on how he must have been dreaming, or how impossible Sherlock’s existence was.
Instead, without a word, the human carried him into the kitchen, lay him gently on the table, and headed off to his room to fetch something.
Sherlock, through immense effort, managed to push himself into a sitting position. If he could only get down from this table, there was an entrance to the wall tunnels just behind the fridge. Perhaps he could make it before Mr. Watson returned, most likely with a dissecting trey, if his blithe acceptance of the smaller mans existence was any indication.
Painfully, he began to stagger towards the edge of the table.
John returned to find the small man up and struggling to get to the edge of the table. “Whoa there!" he cried, running over and blocking his way with a hand. Setting the first aid kit down within reach he attempted to gently, if firmly, get the creature to lay down again. “Don’t move, you’ll kill yourself at that rate!" he warned. Keeping a hand cautiously in front of the man he used the other one to open the first aid kit. “Just let me get that would taken care of or you’ll bleed to death."
Sherlock startled slightly when the hand swooped down in front of him.
“You’ll kill yourself at that rate!” John continued, and much to Sherlock’s surprise and distaste, gently pushed him back down, his weakened body giving in all to easily to the giants demands.
“Just let me get that would taken care of or you’ll bleed to death."
The man rummaged around in what looked like a rather more professional first aid kit than the one Mrs. Hudson owned. The one he’d pilfered from often for experiments or other projects.
He tried to take his mind off of the involuntary terror that wracked his body by observing the human. Filing facts and deductions away into carefully organized lines.
It was most likely the blood loss that lead him to murmur them out loud.
“You’re a Doctor, professionally. Recently spent time in Iraq with the armed forces, see tan, army doctor I would imagine. You were honorably discharged after receiving your leg injury and have only returned to London recently and have yet to find a job. You crave a sense of independence but your army pension is laughable, well, they all are, and so you’ve chosen this flat based on its price rather than desirability, seeing as you barely glanced at it when Mrs. Hudson let you in...” He trailed off, mind fuzzy and wounds screaming.
John glanced down at the man in surprise, only just refraining from jumping in shock after hearing him speak. Sure, he had been prattling to the strange being, but never once had he contemplated that it might speak back…
“How…?" John started, confused as to the true stream of facts coming from the small man. He shook his head determinedly and continued unrolling a length of bandage, carefully but quickly cutting it into smaller strips. Taking out the bottle of antiseptic he poured a bit on a cotton swab and prepared to clean the man’s leg. Looking him straight in the eyes, and wondering at the intensity with which they stared back, John warned, “Get ready. This is going to sting."
Sherlock grunted loudly, his hands fisting and unfisting as fire seemed to consume his body. But to his credit he stayed as still as he could so as not to hinder the man in his attempts to save him.
Whatever else he thought about the man, he had an astonishing practicality. It was really quite impressive to see in a human. Perhaps it was born of his time in the Middle East. An army doctor had to be practical and focused while the world went to hell around them, otherwise their patients died.
“I d-don’t suppose you have any morphine in that pack.” He joked grimly through his clenched teeth.
John smiled grimly at the remark, tossing the bloodied cotton swab into the bin beside him. “No morphine, but once you’re bandaged I can get you some aspirin," he promised. Really, the small man was doing fantastically well for the amount of pain he must be feeling. Most men would have passed out already.
John took a closer look at the injury, carefully cutting away the ragged cloth around it. It was serious, all right; on a normal sized man he would have sewn it up, but since that was impossible under these circumstances he settled for a bit of antibiotic gel and a lot of luck. Once that was applied he wrapped the bandages, lifting the man’s leg up at gently as he could to wrap them around. Once every part of the tear was covered in sterile cloth he fastened it with a small piece of tape, though that piece still took up most of the man’s thigh. Once this was all over John was going to have a lot of questions for him- starting with just what, exactly, he was.
“There we are," John said, removing his hands with a breath of relief. “It’ll be nasty for a while, but at least the bleeding will stop and it will heal."
He wished that he could say he felt much better, but he didn’t. He knew his body would not be up to his normal standards for quite some time, but he could at least take a small bit of comfort in knowing that Mister Watson was finished prodding and probing his open gashes.
“Thank you,” he croaked, his voice ragged due to immense strain his body had just been under.
“You’re welcome," John replied, and began to pack everything back up. He could tell that the man was still in quite a bit of pain, and probably wouldn’t appreciate John asking questions. So instead he took out a pill of aspirin and crushed it with a knife, leaving a powder behind that was fine enough for the man to swallow. Glancing about John spied an empty bottle cap left by the recycling, and after rinsing it out he filled it with cool water from the tap and set it down next to the powder.
“There you are," he said, just a mite proud of himself for thinking it all through so nicely. “Don’t take more than a handful, but that should help with the pain."
Sherlock forced his tired muscles into action, sitting up painfully as Doctor Watson set the finely crushed aspirin and a cap full of water within easy reach.
“A handful would be far too much in my current state,” he muttered, again speaking when he’d have normally kept quiet, still quite delirious, for him at least, from the blood loss.
He leaned forward, taking a small and careful pinch of the white powder between his fingers, swallowing it quickly with just the smallest sip of water from the cap. He would have preferred something much stronger, but that was an area where humans won over him yet again.
He slumped back down, exhausted, but wide awake.
John tried not to frown at the muttered words. Of course it would be too much if the proportions were equal, but how was he to know?
He pulled up a chair and sat down, looking at the figure sprawled out on the kitchen table. It was impossible, yet, here it was; John had touched him, felt the blood and the warmth coursing through him. No doubts about it, the man was undeniably real.
“What… are you?" he quietly asked. He couldn’t hold back his questions anymore, at least not this one. The rest were arbitrary compared to the need for a name.
He chuckled quietly, the soft sound turning into a painful cough in his battered chest. He swallowed heavily, trying to regain his voice.
“I have... Have to say, you’ve lasted an impressively long time without asking.” He said. His eyes closed, too dry and tired to stay open, despite his abused body’s natural instinct to run and hide.
He was silent for a while, gathering what strength he had. “I am exactly what I appear to be, physically at any rate. A man, like you, if rather shorter.” His lips curled in a small, wry sort of smile. He opened his eyes, looking the larger man in his own.
“My name is Sherlock Holmes.”
"John Watson," John replied, a bit automatically. He had many more questions, to be sure, but the man - Sherlock, he reminded himself - looked absolutely exhausted. What he needed was rest, and a lot of it.
“You need to get some rest," he announced firmly. Easier said than done, he supposed; he had no idea where Sherlock lived, and at any rate he shouldn’t be moved. “Anything I can do to make you more comfortable?" the doctor asked, if a bit awkwardly. After all, it wasn’t everyday one found oneself playing host to a five-inch tall man.
“Yes.” He answered without hesitation. “If you could help me down from this table and leave I would be most grateful.” Right now all Sherlock wanted was to crawl back to his own little flat in the wall and sleep in his own, seldom used bed. He doubted Mister Watson would make it quite that easy for him, of course. But it was worth the asking.
John shook his head. “I can’t do that. Your leg is in pretty bad shape right now, if I move you we risk misalignment of any ligaments, muscles, or bones that could be offset." He held his breath and waited for Sherlock to respond. From what he had seen the man could be stubborn to the point of ridiculous- when he came back from getting the kit the man had been trying to jump off the table with a shredded leg. And if he went back to wherever he stayed now, the likelihood was that he would never come back to get the bandages changed or his wound checked. No, John wasn’t letting him out of his sight; for more than one reason.
Sherlock growled in frustration. Partly because he knew he wasn’t getting out of this so easily, but mostly because he realized that Mr. Watson had a very valid point. “In that case I will need some form of protection, should the rat follow the smell of blood and finish the job it started. A box no smaller than six inches by four, weighted but with enough ventilation to keep breathing comfortable. A large pin for protection, and a handkerchief, to serve as a blanket. I’ve lost a lot of blood and expect I’ll continue to be quite cold tonight.”
John sighed; at least Sherlock had agreed to stay, if only for the night. “I’ll see what I can do," he breathed, standing up and giving Sherlock a wary look. “Don’t try to move, alright?" he cautioned him once more. With the way things had been progressing he would return and find Sherlock on the floor in a bloody mess.
He left the kitchen and headed to the bedroom, thinking through the items Sherlock had requested. The box may be hard to find, but the pin and handkerchief easy… perhaps he should ask Mrs. Hudson for a bit of rat poison to spread about. He didn’t at all like the idea of his patient trying to fight off something else in his condition, and he was sure Sherlock found the notion even less pleasant.