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the Mark Left Behind

Originally posted by kikislasha at the Mark Left Behind
Title: The Mark Left Behind
fandom: BBC Sherlock
pairing: Sherlock/John
rating: whatever you'd consider the show, I guess PG-13...? Nothing strays beyond fluffy.
length: 4,100 words
case-fic, pre-Johnlock, post Reichenbach, fluffish, cross-posted

Inspired by tan lines and porn, though I apologize for lack of porn in this. Layouts of hotels, parliamentary ridings, and the ability f\to fool key-card locks are all taken advantage of in this story.

Synopsis: John starts to notice things about Sherlock after he returns from his death. Mycroft is in a giving mood and antique phones are sometimes...well, phony.



John noticed Sherlock had gotten a tan.

Three years had etched new lines on his skin and the easiest to see were the fades of dark to light, the lines of socks in sun, a watch line that was now missing a watch, a stripe across the back of his neck where a rounded collar had been worn in hot sun.

They didn’t talk about it. Sherlock didn’t because Sherlock probably didn’t think he needed to, and John didn’t because he didn’t know how to bring it up without the awkwardness of having to admit he noticed things about Sherlock when he was dressed in only sheets and towels.

Then Sherlock caught John. He was wrapped in his sheet on the couch, John’s laptop balanced on his knees as he searched furiously; clearly having had a revelation that had disturbed him early in the morning when clothes would have only slowed him down. John had come downstairs, intent on tea and perhaps a crumpet for breakfast, but had diverted, leaning on the sitting room doorframe simply watching Sherlock’s hands as he typed. The stripes across his skin were evident at his wrists, his shoulders and in a deep curve along his chest. John had started picturing what clothes could have possibly given him those tan lines, especially since he’d only ever seen him in button-down shirts in public, and then pajamas and housecoat at home. But his arms were bronze, exposed to the sun for long periods of time and allowed to take on lines of definition he hadn’t had before.

Then John realized Sherlock was watching him.

He didn’t bolt, but their gazes met, and for a moment, John felt like screaming at him. Tell me what happened. Tell me why you’re here again. Tell me how you did it and how the fuck you thought it was okay to put me through you dying. 

He didn’t scream though, and Sherlock didn’t tell.

So John eventually pushed himself off the doorframe and continued towards tea and breakfast, but there was now a new knot of emotion in his gut that couldn’t be named that didn’t sit altogether well with crumpets and jam. 

The sitting room was empty when he came back in, his laptop closed up on the coffee table and Sherlock and his sheet had retreated back to his room. John finished his tea and waited but could only sit still for so long without feeling like some sort of doting fool, and muttered to himself as he grabbed his jacket and headed out the door so that he could do something worthwhile with his time instead of waiting around for Sherlock all the time.

He shut the door a little harder than he needed to.

He stopped by the clinic, picked up an “important” parcel Harry had had sent to him due to her poor planning of vacations and then tried to waste as much time as possible at the shops before turning back towards 221b Baker Street.

The black sedan on the corner four blocks from home was almost a welcome distraction.

He’d gotten texts from Mycroft since Sherlock’s return, but this was the first official visit since Sherlock had walked back through the door of John’s flat (not 221b, but Sherlock had quickly explained how he had secured it and how they could return to their previous arrangement) nearly a month and a half ago. John had been expecting some sort of explanation--from anyone, really, in that time and had gotten nothing. 

Sometimes, when Sherlock didn’t think he could see him, Sherlock’s expression was tight, anxious and a little...sad. But it would only be a fleeting moment of it before the neutral mask was back in place, and John couldn’t bring himself to ask. Sherlock would tell him in time.

The window of the sedan rolled down and John found Mycroft himself in the backseat. Foreboding, John observed silently. He lifted an eyebrow, opened the door and let himself in. He didn’t make eye contact. The anger had faded over three years--throughout the anger, the money had still shown up like clockwork in John’s account--but John was still far from friendly with the older Holmes brother.

“Has he told you anything yet?” The tone was cordial, conversational, but John knew there was more than that behind it.

“About what?” He feigned, and was given an admonishing look. Mycroft knew he knew. John sighed. “No.”

“And that doesn’t worry you?”

“Should it?” John challenged, trying to find a crack in the mask of Mycroft’s face. “What do you know then?”

Mycroft’s lips tightened as he breathed in.

“There are things which I am not at liberty to say...”

John rolled his eyes, and he swore under his breath. He didn’t speak, for though he didn’t have much patience with Mycroft, he had practice. He knew he wasn’t done.

“So I’ll give you this instead.” Mycroft passed a thin folder to John, along with a sealed bag with a cell phone in it. No, John realized. Not just a cell phone. Sherlock’s cell phone. From three years ago. “The files are what has been declassified from the transcripts of my brother’s account. It is not much, but it may give you a good start to understanding what had transpired. And that...well, I’m sure you know what that is, John.”

John nodded, not trusting his voice.

“Now you’re wondering why I’m giving you this. Not only why, but why today, I’m sure.” Mycroft looked out his window, appearing bored with the proceedings. “I have told you before John, I have a great interest in my brother’s well being. Especially since he has one again.” He paused, as if for effect. “I do not know why he chooses to keep you in the dark about his movements for the last three years, though I can assure you it was not for lack of...caring.” Mycroft’s jaw tightened at the word. “My brother is uncommonly stubborn--”

John let out a snort.

“--As I’m sure you’ve noticed. But for some reason he seems to be as attached to you as you to he. So do what you will with this John, as it is in mine and my brother’s best interest to keep you around, and I do not believe my brother can fully comprehend your needs in this.”

John was still trying to figure out what that last bit meant when the car pulled over to the curb. This was his sign to get out. He was still two blocks away from home, only now the other direction.

“Should any questions regarding what I’ve given you arise...”

John opened his mouth to say that he would most certainly not be calling Mycroft.

“I suggest you confront my brother with them. He’s gotten rather evasive as of late. Good day, John.” The door closed and the car pulled away. John watched it from the curb, going over the hundreds of witty retorts (or at least insults) that he wished he could have said to Mycroft as the last word for once. He gripped the file and the bag in his hands and wondered why it felt like a betrayal that he had them.

He rolled the file up without looking at it and tucked it into his carrier bag. It really was a thin file--and by the way Mycroft had said it, Sherlock’s activities over the last three years were likely quite illegal. He would look at them later.

The cell phone’s weight was like a brick in his hand though, and he couldn’t even bear to peel it from the sealed bag. He stood looking at it for about a minute longer than any normal person ought to before shoving it into his other pocket and striding off towards home.

He would have gone and made a cup of tea and watched a couple of hours of telly before finally deciding to read what Mycroft had given him if he had not been confronted by a delighted and determined looking Sherlock wrapping his scarf around his neck as he approached the front door. It wasn’t a hard deduction to make.

“Case?”

“Yes. Finally. It appears my name has been sufficiently cleared for London police to be permitted to admit their shortcomings again.” His impish grin beamed a little less for a moment as he paused, “Coming?”

The shopping, Harry’s parcel and the file were abandoned on the kitchen floor as John followed Sherlock out of the flat.

And then John didn’t think of the meeting in the car with Mycroft, didn’t think of trying to get Sherlock to tell him about what happened after the fall, didn’t think about the lines of white and bronze that streaked his flatmate’s skin.

Because Sherlock was alive, and here with him, and really, that was what really mattered to John.

That night, a mother and father had gone out, leaving a sitter and two young children at home. That same night, there had been a break-in at the house, and the sitter had called the police in a panic when she was unable to get in touch with parents. Sherlock had shown no interest in the break in or the children, instead heading out immediately to the couple’s supposed whereabouts: a small theatre on the other side of town, only to find the tickets for the performance had been unclaimed at the box office. Dinner reservations had been made after the show, and the couple had shown up early for those, only to have been interrupted, it seemed, and they had left after drinks and appetizers. The waitress was an attractive woman who seemed more than happy to tell John about the couple. It may have been John’s imagination, but that too seemed to darken Sherlock’s mood.

But they had overtipped--left in a hurry--and what would cause any parents to panic on a night out?

It led back inevitably to the children, which of course did not make anything better. Not only was Sherlock angry for missing the chance to interview and investigate earlier, but he hated dealing with children.

The cab ride was filled with a tense silence, Sherlock staring straight ahead, his fingers drumming on his thigh and John looking between him and the streets outside his window. Sherlock released a huff as he thought, and John glanced back over watching the distaste play across Sherlock’s face. He had once told John that it helped him to think aloud, and that it was good to gain another person’s perspective in case he missed any connection.

“So,” He broke the silence. “The parents, in a state of panic, rush out of the restaurant after receiving a phone call.” He watched Sherlock’s fingers still. “Why don’t they call the police right away if it’s a threat...?”

“Because only one of them knows it is.” Sherlock replied, more to himself than to John.

“So it’s a secret then...that one of them is keeping.”

Sherlock’s eyes narrowed minutely at that.

“Lestrade said that the mother, Marjorie Brown, has been gearing up to run in the mayoral election and making some pretty big waves up against the Labour candidate...” John continued, trying to keep talking. Sherlock looked less frustrated at least. “Oh, what’s his name...” He shifted, trying to dip into his pockets for his notebook, “Do you think it might be something political?”

Sherlock sat up straighter, something lit up behind his eyes.

“Possibly. But I don’t think it has to do with the children.” Sherlock leaned forward, his hand gripping the back of the passenger seat. “Take us instead to Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel.”

“It’s a bit aways...” The cabbie warned lightly, not wanting to talk himself out of a fare.

“Precisely.” Sherlock leaned back, his hand retreating from the passenger seat to rest by his bottom lip as he thought. “Precisely John.” He muttered, the edge of his lip curling upwards as he settled back into his seat.

John had frozen beside him though, his hand clutching the old cell phone in his pocket like a vice. He had forgotten about that, and an uncomfortable feeling bubbled up as as he realized he was hiding Sherlock’s phone in his pocket. Beside Sherlock. 

He nodded, pressed his lips together in a smile and turned to watch the street outside his window as they drove hoping that Sherlock would just think about the case and not notice. He folded his hands in his lap and could almost hear cogs turning as Sherlock’s mind worked. 

This.

This was what he had missed.

He faced the front of the cab, and thought about smiling until they pulled up at the hotel’s front doors.

Sherlock’s attention snapped with the brakes, and he thrust the payment at the driver as he launched from the car. John took the change for the obscenely large bill--even after a tip--and jogged to catch up as Sherlock strode into the lobby.

“Excuse me, can you call up to Mr Kurtz’ room please? Room 205.” Sherlock tapped the desk with smile. The girl smiled back and turned to her keyboard.

“Oh...I’m sorry there isn’t a Mr. Kurtz in room 205 Sir.”

“Oh...I was sure that...” Sherlock frowned, lifted his phone and tried different ways to turn it on in between glancing winningly at her. “The text...I just need to tell him that I’m here.” He laughed, pointed vaguely towards the parking lot.

“There is a Mr. Kurtz...” The girl tapped her keyboard, “In room 520 though. Could that have been it?” She smiled shyly at him. Sherlock paused, looking at her, evaluating. 

“Most likely. Could you call him up and tell him Sam is here? I will be waiting for him in the restaurant.” He turned briskly, leaving the girl at the desk a little bewildered. 

John tilted his head instead of asking “so what was that then?” and followed Sherlock towards the hotel’s restaurant. He didn’t get a chance to ask it out loud as Sherlock promptly swiped a purse from a waiting room chair and turned towards the elevators. 

He procured a card, and left the purse on the next chair down the hall.

“Slowly.” He instructed as they turned a corner, his gait immediately changing to a slow saunter. The elevator attendant lifted his eyebrows and Sherlock flashed the card before it went back into his pocket. A gesture of boredom and routine. John put his hands behind his back and tucked his chin.

“Floor sir?”

“Fifth.” 

The doors dinged behind them and they waited in silence for the fifth floor.

“‘Night.” Sherlock threw over his shoulder as they exited, and the doors closed behind them without a fuss. 

Sherlock strode off towards 520 and John followed wordlessly, wishing he had a gun.

John watched as Sherlock slid the card into the lock, then at a timed precision only Sherlock had, torque the card and apply pressure to the door. The handle dropped and Sherlock shot him a glance before pushing the door open.

Marjorie Brown sat on the chesterfield, in her blouse and pencil skirt, disheveled and hands over her face.

Her husband lay on the bed on top of another woman, whose skirt rode up on one side exposing her thigh. They were both unconscious. If not dead.

The beautiful antique phone was on the floor in front of Marjorie, a corner broken off jaggedly and a couple of drops of red surrounding it and staining the expensive carpet.

“I think I killed them.” She said, her voice shaky.

John swept over to the bed, to be sure. There wasn’t a lot of blood, he noticed.

Sherlock stood infront of her.

“Not likely Mrs. Brown, as I don’t believe that’s an authentic marble piece. The tip would not have chipped off on a mere skull if it were.”

She looked up then, her face aghast.

“You aren’t police. You’re not press...are you? That would just be my luck.” Her eyes hardened.

“Not very popular in the polls lately, not when the five star hotel bills come up on your expenses, hmm? That doesn’t sound very good for someone who helps out the ‘Community of People,’ I imagine. But it wasn’t you. And for every time they accused you, you had to stand by him, your husband, who was booking hotels under a ‘Mr. Kurtz’--your maiden name--when you fought and threatened to leave you. So you took the brunt of it. But you hated it, and you hired someone to look into it. And you got the call tonight, didn’t you. That his mistress:” Sherlock gestured towards the bed, and saw immediately from John’s expression that both were still alive, “Was staying here while you, you tried so desperately to make things work because you needed a husband and your image of family. You had to look like someone who scammed and cheated while he was doing that to you. So you came here to confront her, and you fought.” Sherlock gestured towards the wall beside the bureau which had held the phone. “You were pushed into the wall--there, you grabbed the receiver to call the front desk, she grabbed your arm, cut you with her nails--the marks are quite deep, and you swung the base around to get her off. Caught her shoulder mostly, but nicked the side of her head. He moved in from behind her to try to stop you, you pushed him back, the corner of the base catching his jaw and his momentum carried them both there. So not only are they not dead, but the evidence here should save you from facing any serious charges..”

Mrs. Brown stared at him, as if she couldn’t keep up.

“Arguable as self defense, especially under an equal protection clause, based on mental abuse and destruction of career. You’ll likely win. You won’t work in politics ever again, however.” Sherlock breathed in a quick breath. “Oh, and your house was broken into tonight. John. Send a text to Lestrade. He should deal with this now.” And then he swept out of the room, having found the conclusion he needed. “Get him to send over someone locally. She’ll go without a fight.”

John thought he should call, actually.

He caught up with Sherlock at the taxi stand, just barely. He could hear sirens approaching already. That was swift.

“You’re not going to wait for them to get here?” He asked, panting slightly.

“No point. She won’t be going anywhere.” Sherlock swung open the door. John had no time to hesitate, because Sherlock would leave him here, and he wasn’t sure if he would rather stay and wait for Lestrade or leave with Sherlock right now.

So, he erred on the side of caution and left with Sherlock.

He shook his head as the cab pulled ahead, settling into his seat.

“Unbelievable. Still.” He laughed slightly. Sherlock tucked his chin to hide a smile. John folded his hands between his knees. “I mean. I don’t know how you do that.” His voice flattened a little, and Sherlock tensed. The city hummed by for a long moment, and Sherlock’s attention was sharp against John’s senses.

John cursed that this was the moment that he got to talk about this. In the back of a cab. But he would take it, because he needed to. 

“I mean, if it means I have to have this unfaltering faith in you, that I have to believe that you’re some sort of mystical being or some bollocks so that you--so that you’ll be able to always do that. That you can just know things. Everything.” He paused for a breath, but it took longer than that. Sherlock hadn’t moved.

“It does not make you right. You understand?” He managed after a moment, his fingers tight against one another. “But if it means I have to, so that you’ll come back...” He shook his head, unsatisfied with how meager his explanation was. He looked out the window. “I will. You understand? Against all sense, you idiot.”

Sherlock had breathed out, so the silence that followed was not altogether a worrying one.

221b Baker Street welcomed them back home, and John padded into the kitchen to put on a kettle. The cups clinked as he brought two down and he went through his regular motions for tea as Sherlock took over the sitting room. He could hear furniture being moved around and vaguely worried that Mrs. Hudson would hear it and feel the need to come reprimand. He opened the fridge, there was a takeaway box from two night’s ago in the forefront, and everything behind it was older.

John picked up the phone and rung for Thai.

He hung up the phone just at the kettle started to whine. He filled the pot, set the tray and headed back out of the kitchen with it. Sherlock had wasted no time getting into his housecoat and pajamas, which surprised John, since he assumed he had slept the night before.

Hence the sheet that morning.

Sherlock flicked on the television, and sat cross legged on the chesterfield. Surprising again since he had left room for John. John sat down beside him and placed the tray on the table. 

Though the late night talk show droned quietly, it hadn’t yet captured Sherlock’s attention. 

“I wanted to wait for you to ask. I thought you would. I will tell you everything.” Sherlock said, his deep voice even, even though John thought he saw something like fear pass through his eyes. John considered that. “You don’t make sense.” Sherlock said abruptly to fend off John’s silence. “But I don’t hate that.”

John couldn’t look at Sherlock because he didn’t think he’s be able to deal with any expression that made Sherlock’s voice twist his guts like that. He stared the corner of the coffee table.

Then he laughed, because that was the strangest way to tell someone that they liked them.

“Sherlock,” he said when the laugh faded, then he paused, listening to the echoing laughter from the television. “Your brother picked me up today after I went round the shops and he gave me a declassified file and this.” He dug the bagged phone out of his pocket, offered it out for inspection, “Your phone. From the rooftop. You must have thrown it...I can’t really remember.” His voice caught a moment, but Sherlock didn’t draw any attention to it, and John kept looking forward. “But he had it, didn’t he? All that time. Did he know...”

“No.” Sherlock opposed. “He did not. It was, however left in his discretion to return to you, ultimately. For that...it seems he was not suited.”

“What’s on it?”

Sherlock paused. Of course, the bag was still sealed.

“A mark.”

John's turn to pause.

“Would it have told me that you were alive?”

“No.”

“Would it have told me you were lying when you said you were a fraud?”

“No.”

John fell silent. The tinned audience laughed. The phone was still suspended between them, sealed in it’s capsule.

“You’ll tell me whatever I ask?”

Sherlock nodded, even though John was still not looking at him. John considered and Sherlock waited, watching his expression carefully.

“...Were you honestly wearing a v-neck?”

Not what Sherlock had been expecting. It clearly showed.

“Your tan lines.” John explained. “On your chest. I can’t imagine you in a v-neck. I mean, at all.” John laughed and sat straight, finally looking up at Sherlock. His smile relaxed away. He held the phone out.

“I don’t need to see this--”

“I want you to.” Sherlock countered quickly, making no move towards the phone. “I mean. I meant you to. Then.”

John suddenly realized what he has in his hand.

He couldn’t--

“Please.” Sherlock asks, and John has never heard him ask before.

He would stall; ask why, but the fear is still swimming around Sherlock’s eyes.

The bloody thing is charged, and the cheerful tones of the startup jingle are heard. Thought to be lost three years ago.

There are no icons, only text over a black background.

Doctor

John 

Hamish 

Watson,

Thank you. 

I’m sorry. 

Believe me.

love

SH

John stares at it for a moment. Sherlock stares straight ahead. The television announces a celebrity.

“Sherlock,”

Sherlock looks.

“I don’t know your middle name, Holmes,”

Sherlock looks confused.

“Consulting detective,” John continues. Sherlock finds the pattern. “You’re welcome.” John pauses, finding the next one a little harder to say, “I will forgive you.” He smirks a little in apology, “And I believe. I love you. Too.”

They continued to sit, staring ahead at the telly. But they had both breathed out, so the silence and the occasional rolling laugh from the audience was not uncomfortable.

The doorbell rang.

The takeaway was here. 

This.

This was what had been missed.