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Sherlock frowned. “Yes.”

“Good. Good. So….”

“Just a little annoyed that I still haven’t figured out a case that, according to my dear brother, any idiot could solve.”

John still stood halfway between the door and his chair to which his gaze briefly drifted, but he did not sit down. “Care to tell me about it?”

“Hm, yes. Why not. Maybe you can make sense of it,” he replied with a smile, studying John’s features for a mirroring response to the teasing remark, but it was barely even there.

“Go on, then.”

“A young man, Timmy O’Connell, has a little party with two other friends while his mother is out of the house for the weekend. They drink, watch DVDs - all the usual, dull things young people do these days - when his friend, Steven, suggests they try a new drug another friend of his has created. It has some properties of Liquid Ecstasy, but supposedly with less of the numbing effects. Allegedly. Timmy takes the drug and goes to fetch something to drink from the garage. According to his friends, he storms into the living room and claims to have seen his dead father rummaging through some shelves in the garage. His friends ignore it since he’s obviously hallucinating the whole thing. The next day when Mrs O’Connell returns and her son has mostly recovered but also forgotten all events of the previous evening, a hidden cash box is missing from the garage, one which only Timmy and his mother knew about, allegedly. The house had an alarm system which would have needed to be disarmed from a control panel inside, which would make it impossible for a random burglar breaking into the house and the garage. Unless Timmy switched it off. Who stole the money?”

John looked at him for a few seconds, obviously pondering the question but also - there was something in his look that Sherlock couldn’t quite place. “How can you be sure he even hallucinated if he had no recollection of the night?”

Lie. He could just lie to John, come up with one of many different explanations. Mary was a liar, too.

“Because I took the drug myself to confirm the testimony.”

John let out a low chuckle, shook his head and lowered his gaze. His posture was tense, and he was obviously frustrated with Sherlock, but the expected shock was absent from his reaction.

“And how do you know you hallucinated anything if the other side-effect is memory loss?”

“Obvious. I wrote it down when it happened.”

This time, John looked back up at him, lips slightly parted. Surprise? Confusion?

“Sherlock. You…” He cleared his throat and looked back down again. “If you mean me then that was no hallucination. I… Mrs Hudson called me last night and I came here to check on you. So, unless the effects vary a lot I’d say Timmy’s friends made the hallucination part up. Because you didn’t seem like you were hallucinating anything at all.” Suppressed anger in the calm tone of his voice. But something else. What? Sherlock’s mind still didn’t function as swiftly and in the usual complexity. He more felt than thought: surprise, a vague sense of shame and also guilt. What had he done? Had he made a complete fool of himself being utterly convinced John was but a figment of his imagination?

But something else seemed to assemble like a puzzle in his mind, with one crucial piece previously missing. “John! You’re brilliant,” he exclaimed and got up from his armchair to walk towards his friend. “Mycroft was right, it was easy. So easy and obvious. Why didn’t I see it? Stupid! But you did, John! The friends did it!” It had happened almost automatically when Sherlock had walked up to John and laid both hands on his shoulders.

Unexpectedly, however, John almost recoiled from the touch, frozen for a moment, eyes wide and a breath caught in his throat. Why?

Look at the clues.

Dark shadows underneath his eyes - lack of sleep. Obvious. He was here last night to watch over me, possibly stayed until he was sure I was physically all right. His shoulders are tense - further sign of little and not sufficiently relaxing sleep. Still an obvious result from the previous night, so what was it? Bad breath? No, Sherlock had brushed his teeth after the first disgusting tasting sip of coffee. Fear? What would John be afraid of?Did I hit him??

“Sherlock?” John asked then, relaxing only a small bit as Sherlock let his arms slump. “You really don’t remember anything of last night?”

Frustration? Yes, about the drugs at least. Anger and hurt? No. Something else. Pupils dilated ever so slightly. Lips parted. A faint flush of pink on his cheeks and neck.

John cleared his throat and lowered his gaze as he took a step back and to the side.

No.

“Well, all for the best. You were quite an arse last night.” John chuckled placatingly. An obvious lie. “So, you’re feeling all right then?”

“Yes.” He wasn’t. “What precisely did I do?” Sherlock asked, curious of John’s (untruthful) reply and terrified of the truth that remained.

John hesitated for a moment, just a smile on his lips - the same one he often wore when either perplexed, angry or completely uncertain of what to say. “You… there was shouting. You threw a couple of books at me. That sort of thing.”

“Ah.” A little bit of truth to conceal the lie. Everyone was a liar, just that some people did it to protect themselves and others again to protect someone else. Which type applied here was easy to guess. If Sherlock had done something that explained John’s earlier reaction - and there weren’t that many possibilities - then the only reason for John to need to protect himself with a lie was if he had reciprocated or even initiated it - whatever precisely ‘it’ was; Sherlock refused to think of it too vividly just now. And John would not do that, firstly because he’d never take advantage of someone in an intoxicated state and secondly, more importantly, because he wasn’t even --

Pupils dilated. Lips parted.

Sherlock’s chest felt heavy, his legs shaky. He had to sit back down in his armchair, barely managing to make it look lazy and tired instead of -- whatever it was he felt. Stupid emotions, so unpredictable!

“Did you drink any more water? Have you eaten?” John quickly asked and came closer, kneeling down in front of Sherlock and reaching for his wrist to take his pulse.

“Yes, water. And coffee. Haven’t eaten,” Sherlock replied weakly, realising that John would find his pulse racing.

The doctor frowned. “Just coffee then, hm? I’ve brought you a few more vitamins. Take them today and drink at least two litres of water, okay?”

“Yes. All right.”

“And eat something. Do you have anything in or shall I go downstairs and get you a sandwich?”

“Bread, jam and some cheese,” Sherlock replied and once again watched John look at him with furrowed brow but a vague smirk on his lips.

“You’re being an uncharacteristically well-behaved patient, today. I’m starting to think I should get your head examined.”

Sherlock snorted. The nagging questions in his mind needed to wait being answered.

“Well then, I’ll get you something to eat and some herbal tea - no, not black. You’ve had enough caffeine today. Take it easy. And then I’ll be on my way.” John said as he walked over to the kitchen. He, too, was uncharacteristically calm and understanding - another consequence? Sherlock needed time and quiet to think, and mostly his brain to function on full capacity again.

He realised after John was gone that this could only be achieved after several hours of sleep - which luckily, blissfully came to him as soon as he had laid down.

- Chapter 3 -

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