[Fic] Why They Actually Do Get On: Chapter Three - The Clever Ones

Title: Why They Actually Do Get On
Chapter Title: The Clever Ones
Fandom: Sherlock
Word Count:3,400ish
Summary: The violin helps Sherlock think, and Donovan rather likes to read.
A/N: Apologies for the massive delay! :( Blame computer issues (my laptop died then I couldn't get my new computer hooked up to the internet, and all my fic is on Evernote), massive amounts of overtime, my company telling me to learn Chinese and take a proficiency test (whut), AND a busted right hand on top of all that. It's been an, uhh, interesting couple of months. Oh, and also researching for another fic that wants to be a series. Ahahaha, I need more hours in the day.

Anyway! Chapter-specific notes! Sherlock started out playing the ciaccona from Bach's Violin Partita #2 in D minor, then flipped over to Lutoslawski's partita for violin and orchestra, and finally John Adam's violin concerto, movement III: Toccare. And there's a nod to ACD canon in here in regards to Sherlock's violin. And I brought up Gaiman because, heh, "A Study in Emerald." XDDDDD

--

John put the pillow over his face in the futile hope that this time, it would block out the violin.

No such luck.

He looked at his clock and groaned once, fleetingly.

At least it was actual music this time, and not annoyed grinding at the strings. At 3 bloody am, he'd take what he could get. There were times, usually 3 am, when he really wanted to bash Sherlock face in with the violin, but it was amazing how remembering that it was a Stradivarius, and therefore worth more than he himself was, to keep him from it.

Sherlock had been almost gleeful when he told John how he'd found the thing for sale when he was sixteen at a pawn shop, and how neither the original owner or the pawnshop had any idea just what it was or how much it was actually worth. They'd only seen a beaten-up violin desperately in need of costly repairs; he'd seen an Amanti-style early Stradivarius thought lost well over a hundred years ago.

John didn't actually want to know why Sherlock had been in a pawn shop. Well, he had an idea, but really didn't want to think that Sherlock had been that young when he started drugs. He could all too easily imagine a teenage Sherlock going to a pawn shop to sell off something ridiculously expensive to feed a brand-new habit and instead walking out with a rare violin, hugging it to his chest with that grin of his on once he walked out the store and it was undeniably his. Could imagine a teenaged Sherlock, not quite as practiced at hiding things getting that wide-eyed look of discovery as he realized what it was; almost breathlessly asking how much it was and trying to give nothing away as the clerk did what he thought was fleecing the poncy public school kid by adding an extra hundred pounds onto the price he gave to bring it up to exactly what Sherlock had gotten for whatever he'd pawned, then Sherlock handing over the money with a manufactured look of irritation but without so much as a second thought, all the while scarcely able to breathe until he walked out of the store with what had become his most prized possession in that moment outside of the shop.

Five hundred pounds for a violin worth at least two million.

It really was rather amazing how "at least two million pounds, maybe closer to three, judging by the last auction of a Stradivarius. I've not had it professionally appraised. No point, not selling, the world thinks it lost anyway, and I'd rather not invite a tedious theft and risk making that loss true, thank you" was enough to stop John from ever breaking the violin in half whenever Sherlock was making it do its best "tortured cat" impression.

That, and Sherlock's "selling your organs on the black market wouldn't cover the cost of what restoring it had been."

The music stopped, and just when John was drifting back off to sleep, Sherlock started up again. John woke enough to listen, and he groaned again.

Now Sherlock was playing something dreadfully modern and dark and overwrought that made the hairs on John's arms stand up on end.

The case was not going well, then.

Sherlock had been trying to find a way to connect the dots between pig's blood and a spider in the girl's mouth ("Young woman, a spider, something to do with Ariadne, surely, look at how he stitched up her mouth, but the pig's blood, John! Why?"), and it looked like the frustration of missing something was getting to him.

John debated in his head what to do - stay in bed and listen to Sherlock caterwauling away on that creepy music John was going to very politely insist in the morning that he never play again, or get up, go downstairs, and hope Sherlock decided to think out loud at him instead (and also forcefully insist that Sherlock never play that creepy music again). Either way, he wasn't getting any sleep; it was a matter of if he wasn't getting any sleep in his nice, warm bed or the sofa. And how long he had to listen to what sounded like pained moans interspersed with the pain of a futile existence.

It was too much like the inside of his head had been some days.

Right, then.

"Sherlock. Sherlock!" John yelled. Sherlock ignored him and kept on playing, so John rolled out of bed and stumbled down the stairs, stomping through the living room until he was right in front of the other man. "Sherlock! Stop!

"What?!" Sherlock snapped, looking put-out that John was interrupting him. "I'm thinking! Go stomp about somewhere else."

John gritted his teeth and took a deep breath before speaking. "Sherlock. If you promise to never, ever play that again, or anything that sounds like that, at any hour of the night normally reserved for sleeping by most people, I promise to...I promise not to make you eat for two cases."

"Two for forever? Seriously now, John," Sherlock said, sounding insulted.

"Two and the forever is I never let slip on my website you play nightmarish noise at arse o'clock on a lost Stradivarius normally kept in a nondescript violin case in the living room."

Let it never be said that Sherlock Holmes was a stupid man. "...That, and five cases."

"Three."

"Four."

"Three, but you chose the cases."

"Deal, and make me tea," Sherlock said, and immediately raised his violin again and began playing something that didn't sound like it was inviting hell's minions up from the depths to sup on John's pain.

John felt a wave of irritation, but knew there was no point. Besides, he thought, doing something that was a simple diversion was a good thing sometimes, and there was nothing quite as soothing as focussing on making tea. Making tea actually required some level of skill; it was his job because he tended to be better at it than Sherlock.

Sherlock could be meticulous about many things, but he was impatient and hated anything he thought of as "tedious". Making tea was tedious but necessary, and those jobs - paying the bills, making tea, buying food - had slowly but surely been delegated to John. Sherlock was perfectly capable of such things, but getting him to do them was like pulling teeth. John had found things ran much smoother if he took care of the mundane things. Not only did they get done in a timely manner, but it meant he always had a calming, brainless out for when he was about ready to create a crime scene of his own in 221B.

So he made the tea, and it kept him from destroying a priceless instrument because his flatmate was an insufferable dick.

It wasn't until he tried to measure out the tea leaves that he realised his hand was shaking again. How long had--yeah, that explained why Sherlock had given in so easily, John thought with embarrassment. And what he was playing now - it was agitated, which clearly fit Sherlock's mood, but it was also that oddly repetitive music he would play when John seemed frayed. It usually worked, too, giving John something else to think about other than the shadows in his head.

He didn't want to go to bed right now - didn't even want to try. It wouldn't end well for him, and he'd have none of that, thanks. He'd had enough nightmares since Baskerville, which had seemed to bring far too many things screaming back. He was finally getting back to normal, but he knew when a strategic retreat was in order, and that meant staying up whilst his mad flatmate played his violin through his frustration rather than close his eyes and see another landmine-mangled body of someone he couldn't save being brought in.

He sat a tea cup down by Sherlock, then sat down in his chair, and listened to Sherlock play. Whatever it was had gone from agitated repetitive runs to bouncing with sharp pizzacatos in the midst of the bowing, Sherlock twisting as he had to go from bowing to plucking and back in only a moment's span, and back to agitated.

John kind of liked this one.

Sherlock suddenly stopped playing, and John looked at him in surprise. "John Adam's violin concerto, movement III, the toccare," Sherlock said, his foot tapping rhythmically. His head was also bobbing slightly in time with his foot, and John realised suddenly that Sherlock was counting in his head. Explained why he was talking to John - it was a long rest in the music. Normally, he knew Sherlock would just jump ahead if he came to a long rest, but talking also helped him when he was stuck, and it seemed like he was combining both things.

"--rather interesting, really, since he started using minimalism, but as a technique he called--" Sherlock stopped midword, his eyes going wide and his mouth falling open into a perfect circle. "Oh," he let out breathlessly, music forgotten - his foot stopped tapping out time and he'd gone still save for an excited quivering, as if his very skin had gone electric. "Oh!" His face lit up. "Trickster, John! Not Ariadne, Anansi! The trickster!"

He put the violin and bow down and grabbed John enthusiastically by the shoulders, pulling him out of his chair. "John, you are amazing!" he said, eyes alight with glee and John felt completely confused, as he normally did when Sherlock had one of his moments of insight, but he couldn't help the answering smile on his face to Sherlock's sheer joy even if he did have no idea what Sherlock was on about. Sherlock was instantly off, all but diving for his laptop, and thoughts streaming out of his mouth as he typed. "I would have gotten there eventually, of course, but if you hadn't been so insistent I not play anything like Lutoslawski it might have taken longer. Of course! The Trickster!"

"Yes, yes, all right. Sherlock," John finally said, moving Sherlock's mug of tea to the table, where it would be safe from the whirlwind, before sitting back down. "What are you on about? What have you figured out?"

"The spider!" Sherlock said. "And it explains the '1' he wrote; he's trying deliberately to mislead us! Don't you see?"

"It's 3 in morning and I don't follow you at all," John said blandly.

Sherlock got a familiar, exasperated look on his face before he finally explained. "Anansi. A spider trickster god. That was why he used a spider. Variations on a theme of tricksters. That's the pattern we have to look for, not messy crime scenes.

"I do so love the clever ones," Sherlock said, never looking away from his screen, and John felt the urge to throw something at the wall, because John remembered full well the last time they'd dealt with someone clever, and god save them from another one of those.

--

"All right, what have you got?" Lestrade said, his face tight but something relaxing around his eyes - John knew this case had been bothering him even more than the frustration of it had been getting to Sherlock. Normally, Sherlock would have texted information and badgered Lestrade through texts until the man was ready to snap or came over with whatever it was Sherlock needed, but the case had been itching at Sherlock for far too long now - he said they were going to the Yard so he could start pouring through the files there himself. His own impatience wouldn't let him just text, and John was glad for that, for all it meant he'd been dragged out of the flat first thing and commanded, bloody commanded, to skiv off work if he had it.

Sherlock had no idea how lucky he was that John had the day off.

"Tricksters!"
Lestrade got a long-suffering look on his face John could completely empathise with. "Yeah, you said that. In the text you sent me at 4 bloody AM. Want to explain what it meant? Because that's not even as helpful as 'wrong!', mate."

Sherlock was the one with a long-suffering look on his face that time.
"Sherlock," John said, before the other man could even open his mouth. "The only person living in your head is you, so none of us out here can hear your logic leaps. Walk everyone through it so we're all on the same page, yeah? This one took you until this morning to figure out; can't expect everyone else to be there just because you are."

Sherlock muttered something about "tiny little minds" and "tedious" that John and Lestrade elected to ignore, even though Donovan took the bait like always and started fuming quietly off the the side.

"The first one," Sherlock finally began, "was probably an accident. For the killer, a happy accident. Not so much for his victim. He's killed at least once or twice after that, perfecting his technique."

"We need to look for any cold cases with either homeless or prostitutes, where there was something odd or out of place at the scene - something like a rabbit foot or mistletoe or something related to a fox. He's referencing mythological tricksters. The spider was Anansi!"

Lestrade had a look on his face like Sherlock as speaking ancient Sumerian, but Donovan blinked, the fuming from a few minutes ago disappearing instantly as something clicked. "What, you mean like Mr. Nancy in Anansi Boys and American Gods?"

"Donovan, I do hope extended periods in Anderson's company haven't rendered you as big an idiot as he," Sherlock drawled.

Donovan bristled. "You're talking about Tricksters. So, you mean like Anansi or Loki - that's why the mistletoe, yeah?" she said, narrowing her eyes. "And the rabbit's foot, that's like the rabbit from that racist Disney movie, Brer Rabbit? Tar or briers would be better for him," she finished, words smug.

Sherlock blinked as much as Donovan had before. "Um. Yes."

She gave him another smug look, enjoying the fact she'd gotten one up on him. It didn't happen often, so she was clearly enjoying this, and John could honestly say he couldn't blame her for it one bit. "What I was saying, those are books. By a bloke named Neil Gaiman, and they were about old gods and new ones. He--"

"Where is he? Where is he now?" Sherlock said sharply.

"America."

Sherlock sighed an aggrieved sigh. "Well, he's out as a suspect. Don't waste my time more."

Donovan looked like she was about ready to punch Sherlock in the nose and John gave her an apologetic half-smile, even as he made a mental note to pick up the books she mentioned. It couldn't hurt, after all.

"So," Lestrade said, and grinned. Donovan instantly got a wary look on her face. "Since you seem to be the resident trickster expert, I'll leave you to digging through cold cases, yeah?" he said to her, and her face fell.

Sherlock grinned suddenly. "Yes, since you seem to know what you might be looking for...do let me know what you find," he said cheerfully. "Since I'm only a consultant and you're always so loathe to let me look through files unattended. John, let's go. We have our own research," he said, and Donovan looked like she couldn't decide which grinning face, Lestrade's or Sherlock's, that she wanted to hit more.

--

The next day, John was working a half-shift at the surgery, and he made a stop by the library on the way there. Sherlock was out doing only god or Mycroft knew what by the time he got home, so he settled down with one of his library books and a cup of tea.

Sherlock came in like a whirlwind a few hours later, spouting off about the NSY and how atrocious their filing system was when John was halfway through American Gods, and stopped in a huff when he saw what John was reading.

"Why are you reading that? Reading something Sally read is certain to make you lose brain cells," Sherlock said disdainfully.

John raised an eyebrow. "It had her on the same page as you on the tricksters, remember? Anansi and Loki. Maybe the killer read the same books. They seem fairly well-known."

Sherlock stopped short and blinked, then made an irritated face. "I'll leave you to it, then," he said. "Tell me if there seems to be any...relevant data," he spat out, looking like admitting even obliquely that the books could be of use was paining him, and John bit back a smile, then settled back to read.

So far American Gods really was pretty good, and Sherlock looked so irritated at the very existence of it and Anansi Boys in the flat John felt quite certain Sherlock would ignore them on principle, meaning for once, he wouldn't get the book spoiled by a bored or annoyed Sherlock before he reached chapter three.

And if that happened, he was definitely asking Sally for book recommendations. And in front of Sherlock every time.

--

Sally Donovan looked no happier to be standing in their doorway than Sherlock did to have her standing there, going by the aggrieved and exaggerated sigh he let out when John opened the door for her.

She nodded politely enough to John, then walked over to Sherlock with a clenched jaw. "Got one for you, Freak," she said, laying down a file. "Was going through files for four bloody days, but this came up. Mistletoe poisoning. No one thought anything of it, 'cause it was Christmas," she said, and John bit back a wince at the look on Sherlock's face.

"Mistletoe?" John asked, and Donovan nodded.

"Yeah. You heard of Loki, yeah? Killed his brother with a sprig of mistletoe. It was the only thing that could kill him."

"How do you know that?" Sherlock said, looking irritated.

John could almost swear that Donovan's eyelid was twitching. "I told you, Freak. I read. Read Sandman in uni and American Gods at least twice. Loki's all over those."

"Fine. Leave," Sherlock said dismissively as he picked up the file, and Donovan clenched her hands into fists before she took a deep breath through her nose and threw her shoulders back.

"I'll keep looking and see if I find anything," she said, every word clipped.

"Doubtless you'll miss everything," Sherlock drawled without looking up from the file. "Just bring the cold cases to me anyway."

"Tosser," she muttered under her breath, and stomped out of the flat before John could say anything.

"Sherlock," he began.

"Thinking!" Sherlock hissed back, and John just rubbed his temple and asked Sherlock to pass him the autopsy results.

Wonder of wonders, Sherlock held the results out to John between two fingers, without a word of insult or complaint, and not looking up from intently scanning the crime scene photos for evidence the police would have missed, and John settled down in his chair to read.

--

This body was completely different from the other, aside from youth - the girl before had been Afro-Caribbean, but this was a blond Caucasian kid, barely in his upper teens - and the fact that both had been living out on the streets.

There had been no signs of injury and no signs of post-mortem attack. Just a street kid with a bellyful of half-digested mistletoe berries.

John glanced over at the toxicology report and frowned. "Sherlock...Sally said he was poisoned with mistletoe, and there were berries in his stomach, but this toxicology report says he died from acute phoratoxin poisoning," he said. "Now, I'm not up on my toxins, but..."

Sherlock looked up, surprised. "Phoratoxin?" he said, cutting John off. "That's mistletoe, but that's...oh," he said, and his whole face lit up. He jumped to his feet and snatched the toxicolgy report out of John's hands. "Oh, clever. But not quite clever enough with this little game.

"Proratoxin comes from Phoradendron tomentosum. That's California mistletoe, not European mistletoe, which causes viscumin poisoning. And Anansi...he had a gender switch and became Aunt Nancy in the US. That's his pattern, John! He is a trickster! Clever, clever boy, and that's where they all trip themselves, needing to be so clever."

John had no idea what exactly Sherlock was talking about, but he knew what that look on Sherlock's face meant, and he grinned.

Whether their trickster killer knew it or not, they were moving into the endgame.

--
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