Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are the property of Mr Conan Doyle. The modern adaptation belongs to Messrs Moffat and Gatiss. I own nothing.
Summary: Written in response to a prompt at sherlockbbc_fic. In short: John is arrested and serves time for shooting the cabbie. A guilt-ridden Sherlock visits John to keep his spirits up throughout his prison term and they still become best friends (or maybe even fall in love).
Additional disclaimer: I have taken some liberties with the judicial system here. Apologies if this annoys anyone!
They finally make their way out of the Chinese restaurant some time just after closing and Sherlock runs a hand contentedly over his stomach as he glances at the man next to him. He has been surprised by this seemingly unassuming man no less than three times during dinner alone and it’s novel, meeting someone he can’t figure out within five minutes. Oh, he could figure out the basics about John Watson easily enough, but there is so much more. So many layers. It’s thrilling and Sherlock is not unaware of the physical reaction John Watson is also causing. It’s been a while, but Sherlock knows that feeling well. He still can’t gauge whether John’s awkward questioning at Angelo’s was intended as a come-on or simply out of curiosity, but it won’t take long to figure that out. Not if he’ll be living with the man.
They come to a halt at the door of 221b and John hesitates, hands in his pockets, glancing off down the street.
“I suppose I should be getting back to my place.”
“Stay,” Sherlock says. His voice comes out much lower, sultrier, than intended and he clears his throat before continuing. “You can fetch your things tomorrow.”
“I don’t remember actually agreeing to move in,” John says, but he’s smiling.
“But you will.”
“I don’t seem to have much of a choice.”
Sherlock smiles, enjoying the little shiver of something that slides down his spine as John holds his gaze for several long moments before looking away.
When they reach the main room, Sherlock comes to an abrupt halt as his eyes flit over the unexpected visitors. He takes in Lestrade’s carefully neutral expression and the two uniformed officers standing to one side.
“Two fake drug busts in one night, Lestrade, really?!”
“I’m not here for you.”
Sherlock frowns as Lestrade nods and then the two officers move forward, one of them taking John by the arms and pulling them behind his back, cuffing him.
“John Watson, I’m arresting you on suspicion of murder and possession of an illegal firearm,” Lestrade says in that practiced monologue every police officer has ingrained on their tongue, “You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
“Lestrade!” Sherlock gets out in shock, his eyes briefly meeting John’s wide ones, “This is ridiculous.”
Lestrade says nothing but nods towards John once more and after a quick pat-down, the second officer - the one not holding his arms - retrieves the gun tucked into the waistband of John’s jeans.
“Take him to the car,” Lestrade orders and the officers guide John to the door. John holds Sherlock’s gaze for a split second, and then he is forced to turn and move out into the corridor.
“Lestrade!” Sherlock repeats as Lestrade moves to follow them, “You can’t do this.”
“I’m doing my job, Sherlock,” he explains in a low voice, “It’s bad enough when I have you help me, but I can’t have random civilians taking the law into their own hands.”
“He saved my life!” Sherlock exclaims.
“If you hadn’t put yourself in that position, he wouldn’t have had to,” Lestrade says calmly, “Maybe you should think about that next time you decide to go off with a serial killer on your own. There’s a reason we have rules and procedures, Sherlock.”
“He’ll be out by the morning,” Sherlock says in warning, already wondering just how badly it will hurt his pride to call Mycroft.
“I hope so. And I hope you can find him a bloody good lawyer. You know they’re really cracking down on gun crime now.”
Lestrade pauses, runs a hand over his weary-looking face.
“I had no choice, Sherlock. Not in this.”
Sherlock remains silent. He’s had enough of the Inspector and is already planning exactly what needs to be done. Lestrade leaves without another word and Sherlock throws himself down on the sofa. He presses his palms together and holds his hands to his lips, running everything over in his mind, and a moment later, he pulls his phone from his pocket and dials a familiar - but rarely used - number.
When the judge announces the sentence - three years for possession of a firearm, another three for manslaughter - Sherlock feels physically sick. He stumbles out into the corridor as soon as he can, John’s stoic expression etched into his mind. The useless lawyer is trying to reason with him, reminding him that it could have been so much worse, but Sherlock shoos him away and the man finally gives up when Mycroft approaches and gives him a single nod.
“This isn’t right,” Sherlock says. He’s pacing back and forth, hands waving wildly.
“The judicial system has many faults, Sherlock, but sometimes they are simply forced to make unpleasant decisions.”
“He saved my life!” Sherlock blurted, not for the first time in this ridiculous scenario, “He saved my life and now he’s going to rot in some poorly-maintained prison.”
“He’ll be out on parole in three years.”
Several people turn to look at them at Sherlock’s outburst and Sherlock glares at each and every one of them in turn until they turn away again in embarrassment.
“He was lucky to get so few years anyway,” Mycroft reasons, “The character references and his history as a doctor and a soldier helped, of course.”
“I thought that was supposed to be the best lawyer in England? You said -”
“It was, Sherlock, but there was nothing to be done.”
Sherlock lets out a huff of frustration and leans against the wall, his head coming to rest on the cool surface.
“This isn’t right.”
“No, it’s not. But Doctor Watson has accepted his fate. Maybe you should too.”
“This would never have happened if he hadn’t met me,” Sherlock muses, barely listening to his brother, “I’ve ruined his life.”
“Let’s hope that, one day, you can make amends.”
Sherlock doesn't really know if a visit from him would be welcome, given the circumstances, so he forces Mycroft to get him into the prison on visiting day without John knowing. It's only been a week since John was sent down to this godforsaken place - HMP Belmarsh - but Sherlock can't help himself. He's barely slept since this whole thing began - whenever he lays his exhausted body down, he can never rest. Guilt claws at him until he gives up and tries to bring himself some solace with the violin. It has always worked in the past, but even that, now, fails to subdue the queasiness in his stomach and the tightness in his chest whenever he thinks of John.
Sherlock hangs back at the edge of the room, out of sight, watching as John talks to a blonde woman. The conversation seems awkward and after barely fifteen minutes, the woman rises to leave. She and John share a hesitant hug, and then she turns and leaves. Sherlock takes in every detail as she walks past him and smiles in comprehension.
John is about to leave the visiting room when Sherlock forces himself forward, hovering hesitantly at John’s table.
John looks up, startled.
There is a pause and Sherlock shuffles uncomfortably. He can’t get a good read on John at all, can’t tell what he’s feeling about Sherlock being here.
Sherlock lowers himself into the plastic chair opposite John and another moment of awkward silence passes.
“So,” Sherlock starts, “That was the one and only Harry Watson?”
John laughs, nods, and launches into an account of his rather awkward meeting with his sister. Sherlock finds himself listening intently, laughing, and then tells John about one or two notable incidents with his own brother. They come to the mutual conclusion that Mycroft is a creepy man.
Before it can really register, their time is up and Sherlock rises hesitantly, loathe to walk away just yet.
“Do you... do you mind if I visit you again?”
John gives him a pleased smile that somehow makes the tightness in Sherlock’s chest worse.
Sherlock smiles and is just turning to leave when John’s low voice stops him.
“I don’t blame you, you know.”
Sherlock turns back to look at him, forehead drawn into a frown.
“I made a choice. Not a very good one, but it was my choice. I didn’t have to follow you. I didn’t have to shoot that cabbie.”
“But I reckon I’d do it again. In a heartbeat.”
They share a long, intense gaze but the moment is broken as the prison officers start herding out the last of the visitors. Sherlock goes reluctantly, but he pauses on the threshold and holds John’s gaze for several long seconds, before an officer ushers him through and the door shuts behind him.
Sherlock returns the next week, and the one after that, and on his fourth visit, he is there early. He sits in the visiting room, waiting for John, and when he sees him, he rises to his feet. John notices him immediately and he dips his head in something like embarrassment as Sherlock’s eyes flick over the cane he has taken to using again. Sherlock hadn’t noticed it on his previous visits and he frowns just slightly, but manages to smooth his expression out by the time John reaches him. He can see John waiting for him to comment but he says nothing and slides into his chair once more.
They pass the visit talking of Sherlock’s search for a flatmate (so far unsuccessful, no thanks to Mycroft’s meddling) and John’s incredibly boring ‘job’ in the prison library. Sherlock can see this place eating away at the other man, and it makes him feel ill. The lack of activity, stimulation, isn’t exactly helping the psychosomatic limp which has crept back and he can see an edge in John’s expression, one that seems to be getting worse with every passing week.
Just before the end of visit, John finally gets up the courage to say what Sherlock suspects he has been waiting all along to say.
“You don’t have to come every week, you know.”
“Or... at all. You don’t owe me anything.”
Sherlock regards the other man for a long time before replying.
“It’s the least I can do,” he murmurs quietly, and then holds John’s gaze, “And I enjoy your company.”
“You do?” John retorts in pleased surprise.
“Do you honestly think I am the kind of man to waste my time with people I have no regard for?”
John considers that for a moment and then smiles, shyly, his eyes dropping to the table between them and then returning to Sherlock’s.
“I suppose not.”
There is an almost awkward pause and Sherlock has to repress the flutter of something John’s shy smile sends through him.
“Well, err, likewise,” John finally gets out.
Sherlock smiles warmly in reply and John blushes just the tiniest bit, which is suddenly one of the most fascinating things Sherlock has ever seen. He wasn’t lying - he does enjoy John’s company, his stories, his sense of humour. And he is, despite himself, constantly fascinated by this man.
“How’s the flatmate?” John asks during one visit.
Sherlock groans and rolls his eyes.
“She had to go.”
John laughs, sitting forward and leaning his elbows on the table.
“She developed a rather unreasonable obsession with my person,” Sherlock explains tightly, hands stuffed in his pockets.
John considers that and smiles.
“She fancied you, you mean?”
“If you want to put it that way.”
“And you weren’t interested?” John asks curiously. Sherlock gives him a sour look and suddenly, John is backtracking, “Ah, I forgot, girlfriends - not your area.”
Neither of them says anything about boyfriends and Sherlock wonders if John has figured it out yet. Sherlock hadn’t genuinely meant to be so evasive in that conversation with John, but he had been distracted by the case and, if he was honest with himself, a little flustered by the idea of John being interested.
“I think I’ll just have Mycroft pay half the rent,” Sherlock muses after a pause.
“Really?” John asks with a laugh, “I’d like to see those negotiations.”
“It seems like the only reasonable plan. Mycroft won’t care about the money - he’s always trying to force his charity on me anyway - and as the only decent flatmate I’ve found won’t be able to move in for... a few years... Yes, this seems like the only logical plan.”
John stares at him for a long time and Sherlock wonders if this is what other people feel when he studies them so thoroughly.
“You -” John starts, cuts himself off, clears his throat and starts again, “You still want me to move in with you?”
“Where else will you go?” Sherlock counters, “I can’t imagine you wanting to stay with Harry.”
John frowns in displeasure and shakes his head.
“Exactly. And your wider family weren’t much help when you were a returned war hero, I doubt they’ll be jumping to help after a stay at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.”
John just stares at him for a very long time, then - as if suddenly realising - shakes his head and looks away with an embarrassed cough.
“Well, I’ll... maybe I’ll remind you of this conversation in a few years’ time.”
“Do,” Sherlock says insistently, drawing John’s attention back to him, “I won’t have forgotten.”
Even injury will not keep Sherlock away and the day after a run-in with a Russian Mafia gang which leaves him with a fractured collarbone and numerous other cuts and bruises, he makes his way to the prison, arm in a sling. As soon as John spots him, he limps across the room as quickly as he can, coming to a startled stop in front of Sherlock. John’s worried eyes flick over him and his hand rises to touch one particularly nasty bruise on his jaw, but he stops himself short and Sherlock is admittedly disappointed. He can easily imagine - in another time and place - John sitting him down in the bathroom at 221b Baker Street and tending to his injuries. It’s a warm, comforting sort of feeling. He can imagine those capable doctor’s hands cleaning away blood and grime, gentle touches and a soft brush of skin on skin.
He blinks, bringing his attention back to John.
“What the bloody hell happened to you?”
“Russian drug-runners,” Sherlock says with a one-shouldered shrug.
John is still watching him worriedly, cataloguing injuries.
“When did this happen?”
“You should be in the hospital! What are you doing here?”
“I’m perfectly fine,” Sherlock reassures him with a slight smile, “This is nothing, really. You should have seen the time I had a run-in with the Golem.”
Sherlock launches into a somewhat over-dramatic account of that particular account. He’d almost been strangled to death in that dangerous grip. That definitely felt a lot worse than this. John listens with varying expressions of surprise, amusement and, if he isn’t mistaken, anger.
“You certainly lead an interesting life,” John finally says, when Sherlock’s finished.
“It has its moments,” Sherlock says with another one-shouldered shrug, but he is unable to restrain his smile as John looks at him with a familiar fond-but-bemused smile.
“What’s this?” John asks, eyeing the box with suspicion.
“Cake. I’ve been reliably informed it’s traditional to have cake on one’s birthday.”
John looks up at him in surprise, a pleased smile tugging at the side of his mouth.
“How did you know?”
“I have my sources,” Sherlock answers cryptically.
“Your nosey older brother, you mean?” John asks with a smile, and brings the box to him, opening it up with a bright smile.
“Mrs. Hudson made it,” Sherlock informs him.
“Well, say ‘thanks’ from me.”
“She sends her greetings.”
John smiles at him warmly and he looks just the tiniest bit misty-eyed.
“I had thought to see your sister here,” Sherlock says carefully and regrets it when John’s expression turns sour.
“She’s busy,” he says tightly, “I’m sure she’ll have a few drinks on my behalf.”
The bitterness in John’s tone is unmistakable and Sherlock quickly searches for a distraction.
“You know, I once did an experiment involving birthday cake.”
John’s expression softens, just slightly, and he tilts his head in interest, waiting for Sherlock to continue.
“A woman’s alibi hung on the fact that she had eaten so much birthday cake she could barely move.”
“Ate a whole cake to myself. Taking into account her age, weight and metabolism, it soon became clear that she would have had to have eaten even more than that to stop her from coming downstairs and killing her husband.”
John laughs and Sherlock smiles at the sound, pleased to have been able to amuse his friend and distract him from more troubling thoughts, even just for a few minutes.
“We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to make our move,” Lestrade says, pacing in front of his desk, “We don’t want to scare them away. We can’t risk them moving the stash before we get there.”
“I’d recommend just after dawn,” Sherlock says, “They’ll barely be awake. They certainly won’t be ready for a raid.”
“Great. Right, Sherlock, if you come with me, Donovan you -”
“I won’t be coming,” Sherlock interrupts.
“Why not?” Lestrade asks, with a look of confusion.
“Sherlock, you’ve been tracking these guys down for the last three weeks. Are you seriously telling me you won’t be coming to bust them? Are you taking the piss?”
“He’s got a date,” Donovan speaks up from the corner, a smirk on her face. Sherlock glares at her but she just smiles wider. “My sister works at Belmarsh. Tells me a certain Sherlock Holmes comes every week, without fail, to visit his boyfriend.”
“He’s not my -” Sherlock forces himself to a stop, takes a deep breath through his nose. “Shouldn’t you be more worried about your boyfriend. Don’t you wonder that he spends so much time down the gym?” he snarls and Donovan gives him a bewildered look before gearing up for a retort.
“Shut up, both of you,” Lestrade snaps and they both fall silent reluctantly, “Sherlock, you...”
When Sherlock turns back to Lestrade, he can clearly see the man is struggling between shock and amusement.
“You visit someone in prison every week?”
Sherlock narrows his eyes as he meets the Inspector’s gaze.
“Yes. His name’s John. You might remember him. He got six years for saving my life while your incompetent staff were still running about London panicking.”
He sees the exact moment when Lestrade remembers and he feels a smug satisfaction at the slight look of distress that crosses the DI’s face. He takes his leave not long after, ignoring Donovan’s smug smile.
John has a bruise under one eye and is walking somewhat more stiffly than usual. Sherlock has to try hard to remain seated at the table, to restrain himself from going to him and demanding to know who did this. John sits down opposite him and meets his eyes for a long moment, before looking away in embarrassment.
“What happened?” Sherlock asks quietly - he simply can’t stop himself.
“You’ve been punched in the face. And from the way you’re sitting, I would say you’ve got bruised ribs. From someone kicking you when you were already down, I’d imagine.”
John meets his gaze again, a slight hint of amazement at Sherlock’s deductions.
“Well, there you are, you already know the details.”
“But I don’t know why.”
“It happens around here, from time to time,” John answers evasively, “They soon get bored and move onto the next, don’t worry.”
Sherlock studies him hard for a long time, as if he can pull the answers from John’s mind. It seems to work, only because John grows uncomfortable under his scrutiny.
“It’s nothing,” John repeats hesitantly, “Honestly. Just a little round of, err, Beat The Poof.”
Sherlock must have visibly flinched because John hurries on.
“It’s fine, really. You’d be surprised how high your pain threshold is after getting shot by the Taliban.”
Sherlock doesn’t know what to say, so he just continues to study John, even though he can tell the other man is uncomfortable.
“You know, it was almost flattering,” John jokes weakly, “They, err, they thought you were my boyfriend.”
Sherlock’s eyes widen just a touch but John must spot it because he clears his throat awkwardly.
“Which is ridiculous. Obviously.”
“Is it?” Sherlock asks.
“Well, I -” John cuts himself off, his gaze holding Sherlock’s. He is apparently at a loss for words. There is something intense about this shared look, Sherlock can feel it in the pit of his stomach, but then John looks away.
“Anyway, I’ll - I’ll be fine in a few days. No serious damage.”
Sherlock forces himself out of his stare and somehow, the conversation moves onto lighter topics.
On to part two