|Sherlock Fic: "Profit and Loss," Part 1/3 - John/Sherlock, Ensemble Cast - R
||[Aug. 31st, 2010|08:58 pm]
(she lives between pages)
Title: Profit and Loss (Part 1/3)
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC 1)
Pairing/Characters: John/Sherlock, Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, Donovan, Anderson
Notes: Follows Drowning Man and Harbor. This is Part 1 of what will be, I think, a three-part story; I've never much liked making people wait if I know something's gunning for great length, so here: something to tide you over. Also, I'm trying to recover from severe sunburn and jet-lag, and I really will need the whole weekend to sort out the next part. If you're curious about the title, it's a banal reference to part of a text previously quoted (go fish).
Summary: Wherein complications arise and Mycroft proves to be a prodigious texter.
Sherlock wakes to find the world changed.
That's not to say that he doesn't remember the day before: far from it. As he blinks at the ceiling, slowly taking in the familiar details around him—cracked plaster, the scent of dust, Westminster stirring beyond the curtains—those other details, too, are filtered from his subconscious and into the foreground. The sink-edge slick beneath his already damp palms. John's scent. The illogical softness of his hair. Sheer want.
Sherlock curls nearer, closing his eyes. They'd spent the remainder of the day in Sherlock's bed, texting and bickering. Had take-away curry, scattered poppadom and pilau rice all through the sheets. Made love again. Checked their wounds. Slept.
The ease with which Sherlock had accepted this was unsettling.
He'd had a few run-ins at university. Sufficient to convince him that sex was messy and irrational, best left alone. He'd at least discovered that he had no interest in women. As for men, his life had allotted no space for such distractions.
Until he'd met John, apparently, whom he craved as unreservedly as air.
Sherlock rolls over so that he's half on top of John, snaking one leg across his hips. He thrusts lazily against him, pressing his parted lips to John's neck.
John wakes with a shiver, arms tightening around Sherlock's waist. He turns his head to kiss Sherlock's temple, curiously tender in spite of the urgency with which the rest of his body responds. "Read my mind," he murmurs, already breathless. "Again."
Sherlock hums, biting John's neck just hard enough to leave a mark.
* * *
"Hungry," says Sherlock, after, climbing over John and out of bed. "Are you coming?"
Sherlock had awakened not only with an interest in sex, but with the apparently urgent desire to eat. It might be the best morning of John's life. His mobile goes off.
"Who's texting you this early?" Sherlock asks, already halfway into his dressing-gown without John's assistance. "No one is allowed to text you this early but me."
"Let's find out," John says, opening the message.
Congratulations on having
achieved the impossible.
Immediately, his paranoia seizes on the M, and his heart splits in half at the prospect of the bastard having got his hands on their mobile numbers. Before his brain has time to sort out what the H means, Sherlock grabs the phone off of him and fires back a distinctly annoyed reply. Oh. Of course. M, in this case, is for Mycroft.
"Congratulations on having acquired the world's nosiest brother-in-law," Sherlock tells him, handing the phone back. As if he's only just noticed John's residual distress, he collapses back down on the mattress, wincing with the impact. From that point forward, it's debatable as to who's more concerned about whom, but John wins out with a thorough examination of Sherlock's dressings. No fresh blood for once.
Sherlock swats his hand away and rearranges his dressing-gown. "If you're trying to seduce me again, that's definitely not the way to go about it. You might try beans on toast with a side of bacon. Or eggs. And orange juice. I love orange juice."
"Sherlock," John says, somewhat disturbed that the text's implications seem to have caught up with him first, "does that mean while we were gone he—"
Sherlock's already on the rampage, tearing his way through the kitchen. John dashes to catch up, shouts, hobbles back to fetch his cane. So much for a good morning.
"That's exactly what it means," Sherlock mutters, busy tearing the light bulbs out of their lamps one by one. He finds nothing when he smashes them on the kitchen table and sifts through the fine scattering of glass. He storms back into the bedroom, and John's stomach lurches at the sound of the mattress being lifted from the bedsprings. So much for Sherlock's healing progress. There's a sickening rip.
"We'll need a new mattress," he announces.
"We've got mine," John reminds him, collapsing into one of the kitchen chairs, struggling for breath. Bugged. Enemy intelligence. It's the kind of thing you worry about in the barracks, sure, but not in your own goddamned flat. No matter how much Mycroft has done for them and will doubtless continue to do for them, he can't seem to stop thinking of the man as just what he first claimed to be: Sherlock's nemesis.
"Oh!" exclaims Sherlock, abruptly, striding out of the bedroom, past John, and back into the living room. "You clever fucking bastard, I know exactly—"
John rises cautiously and makes his way to the doorway to find out what, exactly, Sherlock knows. He's tapping the skull at intervals, shaking it occasionally to listen for errant rattles. He finally settles for prising the spring-hinged jaw wide and yanking out one of the bottom back molars. "Gotcha," he says, brandishing the tooth vindictively.
"Next time we're in hospital, I'm going to tell Mrs. Hudson to hire a security guard," John sighs, slumping against the wall. "Sherlock, breakfast. Much though I appreciate the importance of this exercise, the toast won't make itself."
"Yes, breakfast would be lovely," Sherlock says, tucking the tooth in his dressing-gown pocket. As an afterthought, he opens his pocket and loudly confides, "Speaking of which, I'd keep an eye out. That new intern has been spitting in your coffee."
"You had best get rid of that," John points out, ushering Sherlock back into the kitchen. "Flush it down the toilet. Toss it in the Thames. I don't care, just bin it."
"I was thinking I might plant it on Lestrade next time we're unfortunate enough to see him," Sherlock whispers conspiratorially, forcing John back down into his chair. "I hope you enjoy your bacon thoroughly burnt. I can't cook worth a damn."
As Sherlock rummages in their sparsely stocked refrigerator, John can't help but grin.
"What did you text back?" he asks.
"A reminder," Sherlock says, speaking directly into his pocket, "that he now owes me five hundred quid. What the hell, let's make it a thousand. That wasn't a cheap mattress, and it's not even ours. Just look at how Mrs. Hudson reacted to the wall."
John sets his chin in his palm, resigned, and watches Sherlock crack eggs.
* * *
Two hours and discovering precisely how difficult it is to share their small shower later, Sherlock and John are sitting in Lestrade's office. John's posture alone is enough to suggest that he's not pleased that Sherlock's first outing in a week isn't a leisurely stroll through St. James's Park, but he's tactful enough to sit quietly in his chair, especially since Donovan is perched on the edge of Lestrade's desk with her arms tightly folded, waiting to pounce. Sherlock flashes her a taut smile.
"It was good of you to come," Lestrade says. "I would've taken your statements sooner, but that brother of yours put a lot of pressure on us where waiting till you were fully recovered was concerned." He pauses. "You—are fully recovered?"
"Of course," replies Sherlock, in the precise instant that John says, "No."
Donovan shakes her head smugly. "Saw that one coming."
"You," Lestrade says, tapping her shoulder with somebody's file. "Off the desk."
Sherlock carefully masks the pleasure he takes in watching her sulk to one side.
Tactfully, John clears his throat. "Have we given you enough?"
"Christ," Lestrade says, covering his eyes with one hand. "Not nearly. The man is a ghost. He didn't leave a damned thing behind. And as for those snipers your brother's men so efficiently sorted out, the survivors have as little to say as the deceased."
"Survivors?" John asks, as if it hadn't occurred to him there had even been casualties.
Unthinking, Sherlock bridges the gap between the arms of their chairs and sets his hand on John's arm. "Creatures like Moriarty command unflinching loyalty."
Donovan scoffs. "You would know, wouldn't you?"
"If you can't keep your insights to yourself," Lestrade tells her, "feel free to leave."
"Wouldn't miss this for the world," she responds, drawing thumb and index finger across her lips. And just then—Sherlock catches the very instant, watches the slow, inexorable, fascinated horror rise in her glance—she notices Sherlock's hand.
John freezes slightly. "The explosives would've been a big help, I'm sure."
"Yes, but your testimony is an even bigger help, so it's a good job you're intact."
Sherlock is grateful for that. Lestrade may be sentimental, but right now, it's forgivable. In the instance of John's survival, it is absolutely forgivable.
"Nothing else to add, Sherlock?" Lestrade prompts, as if he's waiting for the reveal.
"I'm afraid not," says Sherlock, shrugging. He lets his fingers curl around John's wrist ever so slightly, and the apoplectic widening of Sally's eyes is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. "It would seem I've met my match."
Sally starts coughing and has to turn around, mouth covered. She's a terrible actress.
"Excuse me," Lestrade says, rising. "Coffee for me, water for her. Gentlemen?"
"No thanks," says Sherlock, brightly.
"I'm dying for a cup of tea," says John, like he means it.
Sally unfolds as the office door slams shut in Lestrade's wake, coughing fit gone as quickly as it had come. She stares at Sherlock first, then at John, back-and-forth-back-and-forth until Sherlock is certain she'll keel over from sheer dizziness. John is giving him that what-are-you-doing? warning look, but Sherlock ignores it.
"You're having me on, aren't you?" says Sally, finally. "Both of you."
John frowns. "I'm sure I don't follow."
Sherlock leans in so close that his lips brush John's earlobe, leaving no room for any doubt as he murmurs, "Of course you do." As if on cue, John turns faintly pink.
"Oh God," Donovan shouts, covering her eyes. "Not what I had in mind when I suggested you take up a new hobby! Just, no. Fishing, John. Fishing."
"Now you know how I felt at the mere thought of you and Anderson. Ugly, isn't it?"
John's resting his head on his free hand, staring at the floor. Sherlock frowns.
"Augh!" Sally stumbles towards the door just as Lestrade returns with drinks. "The freak-show's all yours," she tells him, pushing past. "All yours."
"Dare I ask?" Lestrade ventures, but it isn't two seconds before an odd look crosses his features. "No, wait, never mind. Forget I said that. Are you absolutely certain there isn't anything you're neglecting to tell me? Because, if there is, you had better hope that all I find in your flat are prescription painkillers."
John's hand beneath Sherlock's clenches and unclenches in frustration.
"Absolutely," Sherlock says, just as his mobile beeps. He fumbles in his pocket.
Much though I'm certain you've
missed your little chats with the DI,
I'd appreciate it if you came home.
"That'll be Himself himself," John says, disentangling his hand from Sherlock's, rising. "Thank you for your time," he says to Lestrade with a tight nod, limping resolutely forward. He glances back over his shoulder at Sherlock, partly relieved and partly broadcasting deep, unrelenting disgruntlement. "Are you coming?"
"Yes," Sherlock says, absently, rushing ahead to get the door.
"You know where to find us," Lestrade says, but they're already gone.
"What is it this time?" he demands, disliking the arrogant set of John's chin. "Oh, I see. Disappointment. You don't appreciate the fact I couldn't keep from rising to the occasion. Well, let me tell you something: I've been wanting to get back at her for cluttering my head with unwanted images for months. Forgive me. I couldn't—"
"Next time, reconsider," John snaps, irritated that Sherlock's hit the lift button for him.
"I'm sorry," Sherlock grits out, resenting each syllable, taking John by the shoulders as soon as the lift door is shut. Pain flares in his chest, too fierce to ignore. He reels with it, with the lift's sickening lurch downward, and John steadies him.
"Just...slowly, please," he says, touching Sherlock's cheek. "That's all I'm asking."
Sherlock nods, recovering himself. "Right," he says. "Fine."
The lift grinds to a halt and the door opens. Awful and familiar, the astonished stutter that meets them. The entire lobby suffers for its utterance. John winces.
"Anderson," Sherlock sighs, struggling to keep his voice cordial. "Good morning."
"Not a good time," John says, hustling Sherlock past before Anderson can respond.
Air and sunlight, blinding blue. Too much. His knees give.
Somehow—with Anderson's help, fuck—John gets him into the waiting car.
* * *
Both Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft are waiting outside the flat when they arrive.
"Easy," John murmurs, helping Sherlock out of the car. No sooner had they pulled away from the Yard than John had forced a few Co-codamol tablets on him.
"Oh, Sherlock," fusses Mrs. Hudson, rushing to flank him on the opposite side. "I knew you weren't up to leaving the house just yet. Why won't you listen?"
"Our testimony was at least two weeks overdue, if not more," Sherlock grouses, avoiding his brother's chiding gaze. They all file into the flat, Mrs. Hudson leading the way up the stairs, followed by John, aiding Sherlock as best he can given he's still using the cane, followed by Mycroft, who up until now has not said a word.
"You do, at least, seem genuinely concerned for the public in this case," he offers, hovering in the doorway as Mrs. Hudson helps John peel Sherlock out of his coat and settle him on the sofa. "I believe John's been a good influence on you."
"Oh, piss off," Sherlock sighs, his face gone alarmingly pale. "I want some tea."
"Of course," John says, but Mrs. Hudson lays a hand on his shoulder.
"I'll see to it, dear. You sit down with Sherlock and rest."
Mycroft takes his customary place in the chair to their right, peeling off his gloves.
"I do hope you realize the severity of this situation," he says.
"Which part of it?" Sherlock asks. "That there's a well-dressed, mentally unstable criminal mastermind on the loose, or the fact that I've ripped out all of your precious little surveillance...things. Bugs. Those," he says, dismissively, waving his hand. John realizes that the painkillers are beginning to kick in with a vengeance.
"Actually, yes," John says. "I do."
"Now that the two of you are—" Mycroft inclines his head meaningfully, as if mindful of Mrs. Hudson pottering around the kitchen "—Moriarty will redouble his efforts."
Sherlock's eyes, slightly hazy, flare with anger.
"But he'll make it more complicated," John says. "He won't go the obvious route of strapping a bomb to me this time. That would be an insult to Sherlock's intelligence."
"Never mind that it would add insult to injury," says Sherlock, sounding as close to miserable as John's ever heard him. "He'd probably enjoy that, so let's not rule it out."
Instinctively, John takes his hand. When Sherlock flinches, he experiences a fleeting moment of remorse: yes, this is how he'd felt when Sherlock had done the very same thing under Donovan's scrutiny. Mycroft, however, doesn't seem to notice.
"I'm sending you out of the country," he says without preamble. "Not that I'm foolish enough to think that it will keep Moriarty off your trail for long, but it might at least throw him off balance. He'll be in hiding for a bit longer, riding out Lestrade's investigation, which will fail, and regrouping his resources, which are legion."
"How comforting you are," says Sherlock, acidly, slumping against John's shoulder.
"Tea's ready, loves," says Mrs. Hudson, bearing in a tray. She sets it on the coffee table in front of John and Sherlock. "I'll just leave you boys to it, then."
"Thank you," says Mycroft, helping himself to a mug.
"Best lay off the sugar," Sherlock says derisively. "The milk, too. It's not skimmed."
"For how long?" John asks, busy preparing Sherlock's tea. Black, three sugars. He likes it sweeter than he takes his coffee. He wraps Sherlock's hand around the mug, letting their thumbs brush as he lets go. Sherlock gives him a grateful look.
"Until I tell you to come back," Mycroft says, expression neutral as he watches them.
"Charming," Sherlock says, taking an unsteady sip of his tea. "Where?"
Mycroft withdraws a set of plane tickets from his coat. "These are your plane tickets to Spain. You won't be using them. Nonetheless, seventy-two hours from now, you will check into a bed and breakfast in an obscure Catalonian village."
"That's one expensive red herring," John says, pouring himself some tea. "Much appreciated. Now, where are we actually going?"
Sherlock remains silent, staring into his mug, as if he's working on a problem.
Mycroft hands John a leather portfolio. Inside, he finds two fake passports—the faces are right, but the names are wrong—and a set of ferry tickets in the same names.
"You have forty-eight hours in which to rest, pack, and get on your way."
"From Hell, Hull, and Halifax, good Lord deliver us," Sherlock murmurs vaguely.
John blinks at him. He's never met anyone outside the military who knows the adage.
"Have you ever been to Hull?" asks Sherlock. "It's wretched. We'll die of boredom."
"Don't be ridiculous," says Mycroft, distinctly insulted. "I'm sending you from Dover."
"Hull would have been less conspicuous. We had better be headed for Amsterdam."
"Ah, no," John says, squinting at the tickets. "Zeebrugge. Belgium."
"You're sending us on a honeymoon to Bruges?" Sherlock bursts out, splashing a bit of tea down the side of his mug. "Charming, Mycroft. Assuming Moriarty's not a fan of black-comedy Existentialist cinema, he'll never see that one coming!"
John stares at him, impressed. "I didn't know you knew—"
"Just because I don't tend to watch films doesn't mean I don't keep up."
Mycroft is grinning, as if they've completely missed the joke.
"You're thinking Vicky Cristina Barcelona is more his speed," John says, grinning back.
"You are both insufferable idiots," Sherlock says, over-enunciating his speech. "Go away. But not you," he adds, grabbing hold of John's hand as if he's afraid he might fall off the couch. His grip on the mug is perilously loose.
"I suggest you put him to bed," Mycroft tells John, rising. "I'll see myself out."
"Yeah, that's probably for the best," John says. "Thanks."
"Out!" yells Sherlock, a mocking echo of his brother's last word.
They run into Mrs. Hudson briefly in the hallway. As John meets her eyes, she bites her lip, hurrying off to clean up the remnants of their tea. There's a light sheen of sweat on Sherlock's forehead by the time they reach John's bedroom.
"Shit," John says, stripping Sherlock out of his shirt and pressing him to sit down on the mattress. "I gave you too much. Two would've been enough," he says, reaching for Sherlock's waistband. His hand's smacked away with so much force that his knuckles sting with reddened fury. "Sherlock, you're overheating—"
"Slowly? Slowly? You were the one who kissed me right out in the open where Saleema could see! No wonder Molly and the rest of Bart's knew inside a week."
John feels his chest cave in on itself. "I just...look, when I said that earlier, I meant it might not have been wise to do what you did in front of somebody whose chief hobby is antagonizing us. That's what I'm saying."
"Oh. So, by your logic and example, displays of affection, whether conscious or unconscious, are only acceptable in front of total strangers?"
"Saleema's not a stranger!" John shouts, resisting the urge to tear his hair out.
"She was to you at the time," says Sherlock, venomously, removing his trousers with difficulty. He tosses them at John. "What if I'd minded? For all you knew, I did."
John doesn't have an answer to that.
"I'm sorry," he says, finally, after a long moment of silence. "I shouldn't have been so careless. Shouldn't have taken advantage of the situation. I should've asked."
Sherlock sighs and shakes his head. "The drugs had me thinking anything that crossed my mind was a good idea, even convincing Saleema to go buy me that book."
Hesitantly, John props his cane against the night-stand and lowers himself onto the mattress beside Sherlock. "Are you glad you did?" he asks, settling closer to Sherlock when he realizes he's not about to be knocked to the floor.
Sherlock's head is tilted back against the wall, his eyes shut. "Of course."
"And, ah...that I kissed you?"
"Does Earth orbit the sun?"
"Is that a trick question?"
"No," Sherlock says, insinuating himself under John's arm, folding up against his side with as much ease as he'd folded himself into one corner of the sofa during their argument over Mr. Turville's head all those weeks ago. "And yes."
When John kisses him on the mouth, apologetic, Sherlock doesn't resist. He doesn't respond, either, but lets his jaw go slightly slack as John deepens the kiss—which John finds more disturbing than Sherlock's ambiguous answer.
"I'm tired," he says, pushing John away at length.
John rises, numbly. "That'll be the codeine. I'll let you sleep."
* * *
When Sherlock wakes, it's the middle of the night—midnight, perhaps, or he judges by a glance at the blinds—and he isn't alone. John has placed a chair at the foot of the bed and has fallen asleep in it, his head lolling precariously to one side.
Sherlock's throat tightens. It's a sensation to which he's distinctly unaccustomed.
"Hey," John whispers, snapping awake. Light sleeper, of course. "Do you need—"
"Yes," Sherlock says, crawling to the foot of the bed, reaching out to grab his arm.
"Wait—what are you—oof."
It isn't the most graceful thing Sherlock's ever done, but John ends up sprawled on top of him, his leg seemingly unaffected. Sherlock reaches down and runs his fingertips from John's ankle up to his knee, from there to the back of his thigh, teasing. John catches Sherlock's hand and holds it still, although his grasp lacks resolve.
"Sleep," John reminds him. "We've got a long couple of days ahead of us."
"You're no fun," Sherlock sighs, letting his head hit the pillow. "And I still think this room would make a better laboratory. Slightly more space, a better view—"
"Since when do you care what's out the window? By the way, you're getting an entirely separate refrigerator to put in your room once the lab conversion's complete. I won't stand for any more body parts mingling with my supper."
"Unexpected," Sherlock said, wrapping his arms around John's waist. "That's partly why I wasn't averse to the prospect of sharing a flat with you."
John pauses in the midst of pressing a kiss to Sherlock's forehead.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You were a soldier. You should be used to it."
John peers at him curiously. "Used to what?"
"Random bits of anatomy lying about," Sherlock says, shrugging. Idly, he realizes they've only ever lain side-to-side for fear of aggravating Sherlock's injury. John is pleasantly heavy, one of his thighs resting between Sherlock's legs.
"Soldier doesn't equal machine," says John, gravely. "Those were people."
"So were the men you shot."
"Yeah, in self-defense." John closes his eyes, breathes out. "Usually."
Sherlock considers this. "Usually."
Just then, the pillow vibrates with alarming force. John groans and fishes around under it until he's located his mobile. "Why can't you just use your own like a normal person?" he asks, opening the text message. He grimaces at it. Sherlock takes the mobile off of him and squints at the screen. Predictable.
I hate to be the bringer of bad
news, but you missed one.
Sherlock tosses the phone on the floor. Of course. John's room. He hadn't thought to search it. If he'd only previously suspected that this attachment might become a weakness, he now knows that it's too late. And that he doesn't care.
"Careful," John says, slumping against him. "You'll miss that if it breaks."
"We've got to go," Sherlock murmurs. "Haven't we? No choice in the matter."
"Yes, but not right now. Your brother's advice wouldn't go amiss."
"Can't," Sherlock says. "The codeine's worn off."
"Then I'll fetch you some more."
"No, you won't. You're too comfortable where you are, and also, you've latched onto the possibility that this careless intimacy means I've forgiven you."
John sighs, burying his face against Sherlock's neck. "Have you?"
"More or less," Sherlock replies, running his fingers through John's hair. He wonders if it's as oddly soothing for John as it is for him. "Are you still disappointed in me?"
"In retrospect, not really," John says, and Sherlock can feel John's smile against his skin. "That look on Donovan's face was priceless."
"Which one?" Sherlock muses. "There were so many to choose from."
"The first one," John replies. "True, though, they were all ace. Sherlock, I will go and fetch your painkillers if you don't shut up and go back to sleep."
John rolls off of him and to one side, tugging Sherlock's arm along. Odd, how satisfying it is to spoon up behind him, tug him in close, and simply breathe.
When Sherlock wakes, it's just after dawn, and John is still with him.
* * *
"This is a bad idea," John sighs, staring at the departures board. They're standing in St. Pancras, and it's half an hour until their Brussels-bound Eurostar leaves. Sherlock had booked the tickets in their fake-passport names and paid entirely in cash.
"On the contrary, crossing Mycroft is a fantastic idea. His irritation amuses me."
"With any luck, he won't know we're here. Yet."
"I don't know about that," Sherlock says. "We'll have been followed."
"Cracking," John sighs, casting about them for a place to sit down. Sherlock, already a step ahead of him, takes him by the arm and leads him over to a row of chairs.
"Stay here," Sherlock says, handing over both his mobile phone and John's.
"Where are you going?" John demands.
"Coffee. It's too early for me to consider doing this uncaffeinated."
"I don't think we should split up," John says, grabbing his wrist. "Coffee can wait."
Sherlock considers this, unblinking, and sits down beside him. "So it can."
Just as John hands Sherlock back his mobile, it vibrates.
I should hope John is still
Someone is trailing you.
"Shit," John mutters, but Sherlock is smiling.
"Spectacular! At least we'll have something to keep us occupied."
John feels compelled to point out that he's actually begun to look forward to spending some time alone with Sherlock in a place that isn't London. Their boarding announcement echoes through the almost deserted station. He holds his tongue.
Thanks to some passable tea and Sherlock's painkillers (his leg isn't holding up), John sleeps for most of the journey. Beneath the haze, he's aware of the train's unbelievable speed, of his bony pillow (Sherlock's unaffected shoulder), of Sherlock's steady breath, which smells of coffee and hastily consumed biscuits. He wakes briefly to realize that Sherlock's arm is around him. He can hear the soft click of mobile keys: Sherlock texting one-handed. John hopes Mycroft's giving him an eyeful.
They grab a quick bite to eat in Brussels station, earning a few spiteful looks in spite of Sherlock's flawless French. Language is a sensitive subject here, and Sherlock probably doesn't speak Flemish. That theory gets blown out of the water when Sherlock stops a train guard and fires off a string of halting, if competent syllables. He listens to the man's response, nods, and leads them in the opposite direction.
"As I suspected, there's been a track change."
"I won't ask, really," John replies. "But how'd you know he doesn't speak French?"
"Oh, he does," Sherlock says. "Nearly everyone here is trilingual, you'll find. That man, however, prefers not to. His distaste for those chattering French tourists just ahead of us was all the evidence I needed. I can't say as I blame him."
"Where'd you learn Flemish?"
"I Googled some basic phrases en route. Where else?"
John takes a deep breath. "Any sign of our stalker?"
"Stalkers," Sherlock corrects him. "We mustn't forget Mycroft. No, nothing so far."
Then and there, John decides that Sherlock owes him something worth considerably more than the five hundred pounds he'd won from Mycroft (strange, to imagine that spook losing a bet) as soon as they're settled in at a decent hotel. At least John hopes that Sherlock has a decent hotel in mind. For all he knows, Sherlock has an unsavory Belgian friend with a rat-trap of an establishment who owes him a few favors.
Sherlock's gloved fingers encircle his wrist as a train blows by them.
"Of course I'll make it up to you," he says, slyly and sidelong. "There are quite a few things we haven't tried, and I've been contemplating one of them in particular."
John locks onto Sherlock's wrist in kind, leans heavily on his cane.
Their train can't arrive soon enough.
- Continue: Profit and Loss, Part 2 -