Hot Seat

“We start in five minutes! Sit wherever you like! Enjoy the talk!”

Sherlock ignored the perky constable, took his seminar ticket, glanced at it. Homicide in the Capital: London as Battlefield was done up in a festive, gory red.

Sherlock pushed into the auditorium. Scowled. Humans milling everywhere. Almost every seat taken. And people were talking to each other.

Uncaring that the incoming crowd had to sluice around him, Sherlock Holmes stood in that doorway and flick-flick-flicked his gaze over the audience.

His foot hurts. He’s going to tell me about it.

She’s already chatting up the man two seats over.

He’s been stood up by his boyfriend again and wants a shoulder to cry on.

That cloud gaze scudded fast over faces, deducing, judging—too much, too much, too much…ah.


Compact. Arms and legs held close. Flyer folded neatly on his lap. Not fidgeting, not looking around, not doing anything but sitting quiet, focused, inward.

Pushing his bulky body—they’d tried to get him to check his coat—through the crowd, then past a dozen sets of knees, Sherlock at last arrived beside his seat mate.

And didn’t sit.

No, in that narrow aisle Sherlock did what Sherlock does: Exactly what he wanted. And what he wanted was to stare down at his sandy-haired seat mate and flick-flick-flick past the obvious—military, doctor, alone—to observe the less obvious: This small, silent man thrived under fire. Under metaphorical fire, under literal fire, under battlefield conditions that threatened soul and safety.

Oh how interesting.

With a dramatic coat-tail flourish, Sherlock sat beside the intriguing stranger and said, “Of course they think they know.”

John Watson heard but did not listen. He didn’t know a soul at this seminar. No one could possibly be talking to him.

“But they really don’t.”

John glanced at the big man next to him. Then at the man beside him. Nope, it didn’t look as if the big guy was talking to that guy. That guy was texting like a tweener.

Finally John looked up, into sort-of blue eyes. “Beg pardon?”

Sherlock sighed, as if at the end of an exhaustive lecture. “They put together profiles, perform case studies, but of course they don’t know because they don’t see.”

For some reason John checked that other guy again but he was still texting, so clearly this curly-headed stranger was addressing him. “I’m sorry, have we m—”

“See? There?” Sherlock pointed. “The lecturer. His posture, that chin-down gaze, the hands clenched tight behind his back? He’s recently entered into a sexually satisfying relationship. Finally getting all those submissive tendencies tended to. But he’s worried his ex-partner will find out…she’s the director over there, trying to figure out what’s different about him.”

John Watson glanced at the woman on his other side, crossed his legs, stared straight ahead.

“Pressure’s her thing. Dom, sub, oh that’s for confused children. But a deadline, a ticking clock, the need to hurry, to do it now or not do it? That’s what gets her going.”

John Watson stopped facing forward, looked at Mr. Chatterbox. “Why are you—”

“All of them, they look for clues where there are none, and so look right past the clues already there. No wonder they can’t catch criminals. Or have satisfactory sex.”

John leaned away, to make room for his incredulity, and said, “Who the hell are you?”

Sherlock grinned. “I’m Sherlock Holmes. I’m the man who’s about to make your life a lot more interesting.”

John Watson tilted his head. Then slowly tilted it in the other direction. He said precisely nothing. But his smile? Oh that said exactly this: I dare you.

Sherlock smiled right back. Accepting that wordless challenge, he stood, stepped up onto his own seat, then armrest-walked a dozen rows down, until he at last jumped onto the raised stage.

This behaviour of course drew most eyes. When Sherlock began shouting about evidence—the phrases diamond-embedded false eye, conjunctiva, and youthoughtnoonewouldnotice featured prominently—even the texting man looked up.

When Sherlock pointed right at John, intoning, “—and my colleague can prove it,” John almost turned in his seat to look behind him. Then, completely understanding that the parametres of his life had irrevocably changed, John Watson stood and, with nineteenth century manners, murmured his excuse mes all the way to the end of the aisle, then the good doctor joined Sherlock on the stage before he’d even asked himself why.

Three hours and four times that many giggling fits later, John said, “—and you’re just lucky I backed you up when it was the man’s other eye that popped out!”

Sherlock grinned down into his plum wine. He was pretty sure he adored plum wine. Plum wine intrigued him. Plum wine excited him. Plum wine was interesting and tiny and stroppy and made him want to…made him want to…made him want.

“I want some,” John Watson laughed low, holding Sherlock’s eye. Then, eventually, tilting toward him a tiny, empty glass.

Sherlock grinned wider. He poured his tablemate some very good plum wine. And flick-flick-flick, his gaze meeting the gaze of a man who reflected back to him brilliant, amazing…well Sherlock Holmes understood that everything? Everything had changed.


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After recently watching people file into a small theatre for a talk, I thought ‘Sherlock would probably hate this, trapped so close to someone who might yammer.’ And then I realised that of course it would be Sherlock who wouldn’t keep his mouth shut. Of course not. I’ve never, ever believed that silly BBC line, “Sometimes I don’t talk for days.” Liar.