So, what would you say if I said Sherlock Holmes, Supermodel? Because that's the premise with which this story started (even before I saw this inspiring post by sonicbookmark). Despite that and my previous foray into this fandom, I swear I am not a clotheshorse; in fact, I can barely dress myself, as anyone who's met me in real life can attest. Anyway. This is far less crack-ish than it sounds. It's set immediately after "A Study in Pink," and is a companion piece of sorts to "Sheep's Clothing," this time John's thoughts on his new flatmate.
And let me just take a minute to brag about my beta, oxoniensis. She does such lovely work, Britpicking and also offering kind and incisive comments, and yet, when I tried to thank her, she brushed it aside, complimented me, and bought me a gift. Because that's just how she rolls. She is ridiculously wonderful.
So, with her help, I present Sherlock Holmes, Supermodel. 4,439 words, John POV, gen.
John was running on about three hours of sleep, too tired even to lift a pint, when he came back to the dark flat and fell in love with the couch. It was blessedly empty of an overgrown flatmate and right there, and after the seventeen steps he'd already climbed, another flight loomed as pure horror in his mind. He pitched forward onto it without a second thought, managing to wrestle halfway out of his jacket as he fell.
He only registered that the bony hardness under his hip was the remote control when the television suddenly came to life, just loud enough to be intrusive. He cracked one disgruntled eye open, blearily recognising the news broadcast, and rolled his hips optimistically, hoping that the movement would hit just the right button on the remote to leave the flat to darkness, to silence, and to him.
No such luck, of course. The telly blared on and on, and John closed his eye and could feel himself relaxing as the narrative of the failure of the world's banks stretched out. Then, abruptly, the music changed and a new story started. "Death of a supermodel," the newscaster began, tone shading from brisk to mournful. John sighed and fumbled for the remote control with his eyes half-open, shifting awkwardly to pull his weight off his hips without straining his shoulder. The bright light from the telly made the shadows sharper and somehow unreal, and John found himself unable to look away from the screen.
They were showing a snap of the supermodel. Pretty girl. Very pretty girl, obviously. Tall and ridiculously thin with long, straight, white-blonde hair. Harry's hair had been just that colour when they were kids; his had too. He wondered if the model - he peered at the screen to read the name Hester Newington - had dyed it. The snap faded away as they started showing video, evidently of her last big show, some fancy to-do in Milan, where she was walking the runway in a - dress and frock were the wrong words, something more like get-up was better - in an ensemble that seemed to be floaty pieces of silk partially stitched together and meant to resemble a flower. An iris, possibly. She walked down the runway, flashing violet and blue silk and glimpses of creamy pink skin, loops of shimmering green beads falling down her chest, and yet all John could see was one figure in the shining crowd on the runway behind her, tall and impossibly graceful and sharply drawn.
He'd recognise his flatmate anywhere.
"What the bloody hell -" he breathed out loud, the sound of his own voice startling in the empty flat. He scrambled to sit up, stumbling off the couch in his haste to get his face as close to the screen as possible. Yes, that was Sherlock, in a tight-fitted suit in a metallic teal hue that had to be seen to be believed.
Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective and Fashion Model his inner voice - never very charitable - crowed gleefully. Then he remembered that a girl was dead, and he rubbed a hand over his face, turned the telly off, and hauled himself to bed.
He could feel his heart thumping like a thrashing bird and his mouth was clicking it was so dry.
He counted slowly off to three, willing himself to settle back against his rather flat pillow and breathe through the aftershocks of the nightmare. One, two, three. Again. One, two, three.
The witching hour was appropriately hushed, like the world, or maybe just his senses, had been draped in velvet. All was still, except for his hands. They were trembling slightly, such minute shudders that he wouldn't even count them as a symptom in anyone else.
He looked down at them, saw nothing in the darkness of the room, and stroked a finger across the opposite palm without any hesitation. The touch stilled his hands completely; the powder burns sparkled like nerves snapping to life as his fingertip dragged across them. Whatever else he might begrudge in his life, he'd take steady hands as fair payment for a damaged psyche.
Add in that he'd apparently found someone worth keeping safe from all comers, and he might even have come out on top. John straightened out his tangled shirt, dragged the blanket up over his head, breathed in his own humid breath, and fell back asleep.
By the time he stumbled down to the kitchen, Sherlock had evidently come home and gone back out again, pausing only long enough to deposit something absolutely revolting in the kitchen sink in the last of their coffee filters. Damn and blast the man.
John settled for a teabag in tepid water, sorely missing the spicy chai he’d grown accustomed to during his Afghanistan tour, and puttered over to the table. Flipping open his laptop and booting it up, he took a sip of the dreary drink, then tried to remember what was appropriate for a CV. Schools and degrees, yes; frequent unavailability due to temperamental flatmate, no. Areas of expertise, yes; ability (and indecent willingness) to kill under ludicrously difficult circumstances, no. He sighed and tried to think of a filename boring or innocuous enough that Sherlock would leave it alone next time he hacked into the laptop. Come to think of it, he really ought to change the password as well, maybe to Clara’s birthday or something a sufficient degree of separation away from his normal thought processes.
It would do no good. Sherlock Holmes was like a bloody wizard, all pale, unsmiling face and laser eyes and dark clothes - hang on. Apparently when the mood struck him, Sherlock was capable of swanning around in fluorescents just like anyone else whose formative years included the 1980s. Grinning to himself, he offered brief and hasty thanks to the gods of Google and started his search.
Sherlock Holmes AND fashion yielded no hits. Sherlock Holmes AND Milan was equally fruitless. He drummed his fingers impatiently on his thigh. What else could he search by? Hester Newington AND Milan got thousands of hits and John slumped in his chair and finished the last of his lukewarm tea. He considered the heavy, hand-painted mug in his hand, worked with a design of small flowers. It could be Mrs. Hudson’s, but he rather thought she had enough sense to keep her crockery as far away from Sherlock’s exotic messes as she could. No, he would lay money that this was a Dr. Molly Hooper special, each petal carefully considered and sighed over only to be completely ignored by Sherlock. He set it gently down, flexed his hands, and typed in Hester Newington AND iris and got a page of hits, among them a YouTube link to the runway show they’d excerpted on the news.
It was the full show, and John found himself holding his breath as Sherlock walked the runway for the first time. His hair was both lighter and far shorter than John had ever seen it, and tousled to within an inch of its life. He was kitted out in a slim-fitted shirt in a dark jewel red, half-tucked to show off the waistband of his tight trousers that shone dully like the best silk, and black boots that were polished to a mirror brightness. John's fingers reached out involuntarily when he saw that Sherlock was carrying a familiar-looking riding crop as well, but they fell when he took in the panther-like stride that was carrying his flatmate down the runway and back again, suggestive of limitless power coiled and held in check.
The clip was a home video, so the background noise, rising above even the pounding music to which the models were walking, was the chatter of the fashion show attendees, mostly in Italian. Why had he never learned Italian? No, he could muddle through some basic German, and he had a hands-on familiarity with Dari, but not even his years of Latin helped in deciphering conversational Italian, slippery with slang, from the mouths of fashionistas who sounded blitzed out of their minds. There was a smattering of English in there too, in broad American accents, saying such helpful things as, "He's fucking hot," and "He could take me to his dungeon any day," and John rolled his eyes at the ignorance that would transfer what was evidently an equestrian outfit to the space of an S&M club.
He sat through a few more vacant-looking models tripping down the runway in heels so spiked that he mentally congratulated their podiatrists on doubling their income, and then, without warning, Sherlock turned up again. As before, he was wearing a rather glacial version of his usual poker face. What made this round different was that he was wearing a skirt.
No, not a skirt, really, because it was clearly just a length of cloth tied in some fancy knot at his waist - a sarong, like the kind that women wore for sunbathing. His chest and feet were bare, and several slim gold chains were wound sinuously around his throat and chest. That mole just to the right of his Adam's apple was not the only one dotting his skin, apparently, unless what John was seeing were simply shadows from the light glinting off the gold. He looked like a sultan just about to take a dip in the pool. The hem of the sarong brushed his ankles with each confident step, long toes leading the eye up the line of the long, pale leg that was revealed by the parting of the material. The audience seemed to have been struck dumb, though there was a buzz that John could hear, even as he assessed the musculature that was on display, the length of thigh and the definition of the torso, the shine of clavicles.
The chime of a new email notification startled him, made him snatch his hand back from the laptop like he'd been doing something prurient. He clicked over, saw that it was a piece of spam offering him a penis enlargement, and deleted it, getting back to the video just in time for what was evidently the big finish - Hester Newington dressed as a six-foot iris, all the rest of them in greens and blues and violets like they'd been planted in the same corner of his mother's garden. Sherlock was wearing that metallic teal suit, a silver fedora making his eyes nearly colourless and emphasizing the strong, unbroken diagonal lines made by his cheekbones and defining his slanted, white-fire eyes. He paused at the end of the runway, still as a statue for just a fraction of a second, gaze locked firmly inward as if he believed himself, against all possible evidence, to be invisible.
Even when the show had ended with the designer coming out, surrounded by all of the models, every one of them dressed in unrelieved black, Sherlock cultivated that air of a man apart, not bothering to applaud or wave to the audience or cheer as the designer took his bows. Sherlock's silver snakeskin shoes were, John supposed, a final thumbing of his nose to the rules for the "ordinary" people. And then he disappeared behind a velvet curtain and the video came to an end.
John stared dumbly at the Replay? screen for long moments before he scrolled down to read the comments that had been left. The original poster's description listed all of the models by name and outfit, which might have been helpful had John known what a placket or a shawl lapel were. He skimmed the list of names anyway, frowning when he didn't see Sherlock's name. He searched again, this time looking for "sarong," fist-pumped victoriously when he found it, and saw that the name of the model was listed as Winston Churchill.
John laughed out loud at this latest proof of Sherlock's eccentricity, his fascination sated, then proofread his CV and formatted it so that it all fit on a single page. Twenty minutes later, he closed the laptop and thought of popping round the corner for a sandwich and a pint.
"Jesus!" John screamed when he pushed open the bathroom door to find Sherlock viciously gutting a pumpkin in the sink. Had he been in the flat the whole time, just skulking about in his room, one ear pressed to the door to hear what John thought of his adventures in modelling? He'd swiped Clara's old "Kiss the Cook en français" apron, wearing it over his dark suit and crisp white shirt, and he had three more knives of varying sizes laid out and shining on top of the toilet.
Of course, of course Sherlock Bloody Holmes didn't flinch when caught in the act of murdering an innocent gourd. "John," he said, deep voice already taken on that commanding edge, as if he didn't want to deal with any pedestrian overreactions, "you're blocking the light."
John moved aside automatically, watching Sherlock's wide, slim wrist flex with each downward thrust. "How did the pumpkin offend?" he asked dryly, seeing one corner of Sherlock's mouth curl in a semblance of amusement even while his eyes remained locked on his work. There were times when he thought Sherlock might actually have a functional sense of humour and not just wit that drew blood.
"Body temp could not have fallen to such a degree so quickly, the killer would have had to use whatever blade was at hand, and the three closest newsagents do not routinely stock French newspapers."
John supposed that the clipped explanation should have meant something to him, but it was the implacable determination in Sherlock's eyes, and the vertical line developing between his eyebrows, that told him the real story. "Q.E.D., Anderson's even more of an idiot than he is a bastard?" he hazarded, and Sherlock, flushed with exertion and triumph, abandoned his frankly worrying stabbing and laughed aloud.
"You do absorb my methods, John," he said, already pulling his phone out of his pocket, and leaving the bathroom sink full of pumpkin puree.
"John! Are you coming?" Sherlock called, just as John had lifted the toilet seat to take a piss. Five minutes later, they were in a cab on the way to the Yard.
"Does this have anything to do -" John started as he watched Sherlock's fingers fly over the keys of his mobile; the smirk on Sherlock's face could only mean that he'd got a good one off at some Yarder's expense, most likely that git Anderson.
Lestrade cut him off by pulling open the cab door before they'd even stopped. "Best behaviour, Sherlock. Chief Inspector's due round at any moment."
"And you're willing to let me near her?" Sherlock asked, voice rich with amusement and incredulity.
"I don't have any choice, do I?" Lestrade answered, nodding at John like they were old friends, or at least allies in the struggle to get Sherlock to act in ways that his enormous intellect blew right past. John only wished he had the necessary ammunition.
Sherlock strode along, the collar of his topcoat turned up, sharp eyes taking in a multitude of details on their way to the crime scene. John followed, walking through clouds of his own breath as the cold sank into his bones, and watched Sherlock prowl his way to where the body - what various bits there were - lay, the absolute ease with which he held himself in his posh clothes granting him access to even the Chief Inspector's own crime scenes. It struck him that Sherlock's expensive clothes were a form of armour, deflecting attention away from the workings of the man's mind, and asserting his right to be anywhere he damn well pleased.
Though all the well-cut cloth in the world couldn't keep Sherlock from tumbling from grace because of his mouth. "Tedious," he sighed as he looked down at the mangled remains. "John?"
John still had yet to figure out why Sherlock used him as a mouthpiece at times like this; there was no rhyme or reason to it. But he fought against the anger already churning his stomach and looked obligingly down at what had once been a human being - "Hang on. This is more than one person," he said, startled out of his morbid reminiscences of war-zone realities and even bitterer musings of what Sherlock should have faced before being so terribly cavalier. "There are three fibulae."
"Which means we've got another victim we haven't found yet," Lestrade said, looking grim, and John nodded gravely, wondering who was going to be assigned the unenviable task of sorting the flesh and bones into two separate trays.
"No," Sherlock snapped, "it means that the killer here is the same one who disposed of that inattentive waitress whose mangled partial corpse you found last week, and he was trying to confuse you by mingling the remains." Sherlock looked around, apparently waiting for adulation, and John disliked him intensely in that moment. He entertained the savage thought that Sherlock would need all the armour he could lay his hands on if he kept fucking baiting people like that. The man was warmed only by his own monstrous self-regard, and John had no business following a recovering addict in a thousand-quid coat around like only he knew the true meaning of life.
"Fat lot of good that does us," Anderson was bold enough to say, and Sherlock whirled to face him, coat striking a curve against the air like a dancer's skirt.
"Idiot," Sherlock pronounced crisply, then turned to Lestrade, demanding, "Did you not get my text? I solved that case three days ago!"
"What? The text that said 'wrong mushrooms' was supposed to tell me the name of the murderer and not just that you were upset that your takeaway didn't meet your standards?" Lestrade asked, not without merit.
"Do try to keep up," Sherlock sniped, turned on his heel, and stalked off. John felt that already familiar weight of resentful glares on his bowed head; after a minute, he followed, short jacket not doing much to block the cold that made his breath catch and his leg ache. He didn't try very hard to catch up.
In the chill air of the taxi, Sherlock's gloved hands pulled at his collar, bringing it up against cheeks stung pink by the cold. His gaze ticked sideways to where John was waiting. That sidelong glance over the cloth was already familiar too; John had no doubt Sherlock pictured himself as Batman wrapped in his cape, eyes ferreting out evil even in the darkest nights, but the effect was as much that of a child trying to hide behind his accustomed blanket.
It was a difficult image to banish - a small, friendless boy who had only one weapon to bring to any fight, relying on his sharp wits to see him through. Sherlock apparently read the pity on his face, because he turned away, lips tightening furiously, and gave the cabbie a new address in York Street.
Within ten minutes, they were in front of a dry cleaners, small but bright with new paint, and Sherlock was stripping off his elegant coat with the sort of dramatics that came with unmasking the Phantom of the Opera. This, John realised, was meant to be proof to him that whatever his tiny brain thought about Sherlock hiding behind his coat was simply untrue. The angry set of Sherlock's shoulders didn't relax when a young woman, visibly pregnant, came out from behind the counter to kiss his cheek, but he did bow low enough for her lips to reach his face.
"This man," she said, turning to John, apparently ready to launch into the tale of how Sherlock had done the impossible - looked at the length of her fringe and absolved her of being involved in an kidnapping ring, perhaps - but Sherlock cut her off with what no doubt looked to her like modesty, but John knew was simply a disinclination to allow anything to break the frostiness between them.
This was what Sherlock did - he sulked like a petulant five-year-old, he solved cases out of sheer bloody boredom and got willing slaves for life. John was certain that Sherlock's prodigious dry-cleaning bills never reached him; he lived off favours, sucking everyone around him dry week by week. John shook his head, but then took another look at the shining eyes the girl had turned on Sherlock. Whatever his motive had been, he'd helped this girl when no one else could, or would. Sherlock might have the impulse control of a small child, but for brains and maybe even for aid to humanity, it was hard to touch him.
And how could you repay someone for saving your life, anyway? John knew very well from personal experience: no other single action could match it. Maybe Sherlock's willingness to accept these favours was itself a sign of generosity, indicated an understanding that these small tokens were all these people had to offer in return.
John had always found himself quite persuasive. It was a question of how much he wanted to believe.
"I was undercover," Sherlock said as John was rummaging through his chest of drawers for a clean shirt. John very carefully didn't let himself flinch at the unexpected intrusion, kept searching, and bet himself a pack of digestives that when he turned around, he'd find Sherlock's gaze locked on his ruined shoulder.
Then he wondered, if he'd been the one to barge into Sherlock's room when the man was fresh from a shower, wearing nothing but pants and stray drops of water, if he'd be able to see the marks of his past - an arm darkened with pinpricks, the memory of blood bubbling bright against the silver shine of the needle. Anything could be covered by the suit he always wore.
When he turned around, he found he'd been only half-wrong, pretty good marks for someone living with Sherlock Holmes. The man was staring fixedly at John's sunburst of a shoulder, but was wearing nothing like his usual posh suit. John blinked at the sight of Sherlock in soft-looking cotton pyjamas with a silk dressing-gown knotted loosely over them. "What?" he asked, needing an explanation for all of it, but Sherlock chose to answer as if John simply hadn't heard.
"I was undercover," Sherlock repeated. "That's why I was dressed as an idiotic fashion model for that show in Milan that you apparently watched from beginning to end in a fit of masochism, curiosity, or inebriation. You really should learn to delete search terms when you clear your browsing history if you want to preserve some aura of mystery."
"What were you undercover for?" John asked, crossing his arms over his chest like it mattered not one whit that Sherlock apparently knew Clara's birthday and most likely every other piece of information rattling around in his brain in the file once marked "miscellaneous"; he was never going to have a trustworthy password again. And he still hadn't worked out if Sherlock's attire was an extended version of the fuck off he'd had thrown at him back at the dry cleaners, or if Sherlock really did simply wind down like a regular human being every once in a while and loll around in his jimjams. Or maybe it was a sign that he'd passed some sort of test, got to see the man without his easiest line of defence.
Sherlock continued before John could work out which explanation seemed most likely, though he knew very well which one he favoured. "International organ-smuggling ring, with models passing codes in public. They'd worked out a system - with glacial speed, no doubt - whereby the number of steps it took for the model to reach the end of the runway, and the angle at which he cocked his hips once there, indicated certain drop-off and pick-up points."
John took his cue from Sherlock and skipped ahead three steps. "And the designer pays you back in clothes." He pulled on his jeans.
"Indeed. Each season a new wardrobe arrives." Sherlock smiled smugly; the lines of his face gave away how familiar an expression this was for him to adopt.
"But it's not a perennial problem for him," John pointed out. "Surely once would have been enough? Even that coat of yours should have been adequate payment?"
Sherlock's eyes narrowed and he snapped out, "No proper payment could ever be rendered for the excruciating boredom I endured among those walking contraptions of hair and teeth, being called my darling by all comers and having to pretend to be one of them. I'd prefer to converse solely with Mycroft for the rest of my days than associate with any of them ever again."
No one sane would take that for a declaration of fraternal affection, yet Sherlock's face tightened as if he'd revealed too much. John grabbed a jumper and followed him out to the living room, watching clipped movements lengthen and smooth out into Sherlock's more customary grace. Violin held aloft at the usual arrogant angle, Sherlock swam through his dexterity exercises, watching his own fingers like a hawk, keen to detect errors. By the time the notes had changed from their orderly march into a melody, Sherlock had let his lids drop and the soft swaying of his body become liquid, and John could do nothing but take him in.
Under the rumpled softness of his pyjamas, his bare feet were long and pale, toes curling with delight as he made his violin sing. It was as if his whole life had been devoted solely to this culminating moment, the creation of this music, and John finally saw him clearly. This was Sherlock at his most dangerous, without the posh clothes and accent and mannerisms, stripped of his armour; that armour was less to guard a man from the outside world and more to lock something terrible - something that could turn its hand to anything, an instant master - in. It was brazen, and seductive, and John would follow it to the ends of the earth.
John's hands had clenched into fists at some point as Sherlock wove the music around him, around them both, his opened eyes gone faraway and remote and untouchably vulnerable. John eased his fists open and looked down at them. There were indentations from his fingernails, but they were finally free of gunshot residue.
He wondered how long his clean hands would last.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.