My first Sherlock fic and a Johnlock AU. And I'm American, so sorry if I butcher the fic with my lack of British-isms. I want to say I place their ages at 28-29ish, as it is an AU and that's a few years older than me, but it can be whatever your minds cook up.

WARNING: This is a slash story, as in male/male. If you're not into that, I suggest skipping this story, although this chapter is harmless.

Part 1 {A Study In Beginning}

"Oi! John!"

John stopped his stride on the pavement, pivoting slightly despite the dreary weather and his penchant for forgetting an umbrella when it was especially overcast, "Hm?"

"John Watson!"

"Oh, hello there," John said, smiling as he recognized the man chasing after him down the busy street. It had been a few years and some change since John had seen his best school mate, and he felt a sense of guilt wash over him at the eagerness in Mike's smiling face.

"John, it's been an age! How goes it?" Mike said, catching up to John's side and shaking his hand while pulling him into a hug, "Jet off to see the world and can't drop a bloke a call when you're back home?"

"It's been too long," John replied, smacking Mike on the shoulder as he pulled back from the hug, "Sorry, I've only just got back to London a few weeks ago."

Mike laughed, "Well then, back for good this time, yeah? Or are you taking off again?"

"No, I think I'm home," John said, hands stuffed into his pants pockets. Dropping out of medical school and deciding to pursue an artistic career hadn't really inspired his parents to cater to him once he'd finally decided it was time to take his talent home. Not that he'd wanted to live home again once he did return to Britain, but he didn't have much family or friends to lean on for support, and John was nothing if not self-sufficient and stubborn. Finding a place to stay in London wasn't easy or cheap, and John was desperate to find a decent place to set up as a temporary comfort home while he got things worked out at the shop he'd been hired into.

"So where've you been staying? Find a decent flat?"

"More like a closet. Trying to get myself settled before work begins."

"Ta. So that's what you've been up to, then? Saw the blog. Amazing work, mate. Truly spectacular."

"Thanks," John said, feeling a blush work down his neck. He'd started the blog about a year ago when he'd started taking on more clients, when it had seemed like a bogus dream to one day open his own tattoo shop. He wasn't famous, but he could be someday, maybe. In John's opinion, he had studied under some of the best in America and spent about six months in Japan, even doing a stint for a year in South America just to improve his color techniques, earning him the cheesy nickname from some colleagues, 'Three Continents Watson'. He wanted to be good at it all since his style wasn't constricted like most artists. He preferred to work in black and grey, but more and more clients were seeking color. Now that he'd been in the game almost ten years, he had the confidence to take his name and game home. He was eager to start in the prestigious shop, working with other artists who had the same passion as he did, working as an equal. He could pick and choose his clients, and when word finally got out, he anticipated waiting lists and clients giving him new and interesting pieces.

"And you look good. Haven't changed a bit while I'm turning into a whale from the wife's cooking," Mike said cheerfully, making John laugh, "Have to say, I'd never guess you were a tattoo artist unless I saw your talent for myself on that blog."

John smirked, knowing his long-sleeved jumpers and penchant for jeans and slacks hid all his ink on a daily basis. A lot of clients were skeptical upon a first impression, but when he rolled his sleeves up and snapped on the gloves, people changed their tune quite quickly.

"How's domestic life, then?"

Mike shook his head, "Not nearly as exciting, but I love her and I can stand the job, so there's that."

"At Bart's, then?"

"Yes, teaching the little bastards. Slipping away now for a coffee. Care to join?"

"Yeah, sure," John said, falling in step with Mike as he chatted on about his wife, their new dog, and how if John was looking for a flat-share he knew someone who could use a roommate.

"He's strange, for sure, but he's an alright bloke."

John looked up at the sign of the little coffee shop Mike was directing him into, a simple dark red plaque with bold gold lettering: CONSULTING COFFEE

Rain started pelting the windows as John studied the place, taking in the warmth and distinct smell of fresh coffee grinds. John was British, he loved his tea, but there was something about the smell of coffee that always made him warm and comfortable. The place looked cozy, intimate in a way few coffee shops or cafes were: wooden tables were placed at what appeared very random throughout the narrow space, but allowed for traffic to flow smoothly around the barista area and back out onto the London street. The chairs and benches had throw pillows and crooked bookshelves climbing up two walls of the shop, most of them looking medical or scientific in nature. The shop was rather small, maybe twenty people could sit in it comfortably without running over each other, which was surprising for how busy the line looked at the moment. The menu board was a mess of statistics, the prices not at all outrageous for notorious London. A simple deli case by the register area housed what looked like muffins, scones, and cupcakes.

John hadn't even ordered anything yet and he was already impressed.

"They have the best pastries in all of London, I swear to you," Mike muttered as the line moved with extreme efficiency, "and the frapeccinos, John. John, my firstborn child to the man who makes them, I swear."

"No firstborn necessary, however I will be needing use of your teaching lab in a few days when the spores have been given proper time to germinate on the pig eyes."

John looked over at the sound of the voice, processing the words second because good god, the man that voice belonged to was quite stunning.

The voice, a deep melodic drawl that had John vibrating in his skin, belonged to a tall, thin, pale man with the most gorgeous eyes John had ever seen. They were green, no, blue, no, grey? His black hair was curling over his forehead, his plush cupid's bow lips made even more prominent by the labret piercing nestled there. His ears were stretched, the plugs housing small scorpions cased in resin, which drew John's eyes to the lone bee tattooed on the side of his long neck.

The purple button-up shirt he was wearing was also quite distracting, just tight enough to be considered a play on John's dexterous sense of sexuality. The Shirt of Sex it would forever be from that moment forward.

"Again, Sherlock? You left it a mess the last time," Mike answered, pulling money out of his wallet, "I'll take – "

"A medium frappecinno, extra whip, and two raspberry tarts," he said boredly, plucking the money from Mike's hand and ringing it into the till.

"A regular, then," John said with a smile as the barista's eyes turned on John and scanned his face.

"I come here all the time. Sherlock always knows what I want, even before I say it," Mike answers, taking his change and waiting patiently for his order to be made as Sherlock turned his back and began to work his magic. John wasn't studying the way his long, pianist's fingers poured steaming milk and mixed the drink. He absolutely was not. Another employee dropped two tarts onto a little ceramic plate, a sneer in his voice as he told Sherlock to hurry up.

"Why I was desperate enough to hire you, Anderson, I will always regret. I must've been high," Sherlock retorted, placing the frappucinno mug in front of Mike and sliding a simple disposable green thermal cup in front of John and a heavenly-looking muffin.

"Um, what –"

"Earl Grey, spot of milk, no sugar. And a banana nut muffin. Simple, yet stocky."

"Um, how did you –"

"I told you," Mike said with a slap to John's shoulder, "he's scarily good at that."

"But how could you possibly know what –"

"You left London years ago, recently returned, still tan. You haven't had time to buy a practical coat despite knowledge of the weather this time of the year. Goosebumps on your neck; you're seeking warmth and comfort, not energy."

"But the muffin. How could you possibly know about the muffin?"

The barista shrugged with a smirk, "Shot in the dark, but a good one. Muffins are no-nonsense, aren't overly sweet, more practical for hunger than tarts or cookies. Besides, your eyes kept falling to the plate of them when you weren't studying me."

John felt a flush creep down his face and the back of his neck, cursing this overly-observant barista.

Then cursing the fact that the overly-observant barista could now deduce how embarrassed he was.

"John, this is Sherlock. Sherlock, this is my oldest mate, John."

God bless Mike.

"Nice to meet you," John said, offering his hand for a handshake.

Sherlock's eyes skimmed over his fingers, up his arm, to his face, "Artist with a military background. How original."

John's eyes widened as Sherlock finally lifted his own hand and met John's for a brief, yet firm, shake.

"John Watson."

"Sherlock Holmes."

Someone cleared their throat behind John.

Oh. Customers. Right.

"If you're quite done flirting, mind making two lattes and a large green tea, Sherly?" the rat-like employee drawled, staring at John accusingly as he collected money from another group of customers.

"Piss off, Anderson."

John and Mike took a table in a corner, chatting while the place emptied out and seemed to die. The rain definitely put a damper on the business for the afternoon, but the soft classical music and atmosphere as well as the friend kept John thoroughly distracted until Sherlock plopped in the seat next to him with a mug in the shape of a human skull.

"I play the violin when I'm thinking. Sometimes I don't talk for hours on end. Would that bother you?"


"Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other."

"Are you - ?" John looked at Mike, "You told him about me?"

Mike smirked, "Not a word."

Sherlock blinked at John, "Don't be dull. He just ran into you on the street; he's mentioned you a few times in idiotic small talk but never in a tangible way, therefore it's been at least a few years since the last he's seen or heard from you. I'm assuming you've been in his company since the encounter on the street, since you followed him here, how was he to tell me anything about you except for what would have been revealed in your very own company?"

Well, when put in that way, John felt quite stupid.

"Then how - ?"

"Told Mike a few days ago I must be a difficult man to find a flatmate for. Now here he is, just out to coffee with an old friend who has clearly just moved back and is getting their bearings. You need a decent flat before settling into work in the city, which I'm assuming is at a gallery of some sort. It wasn't much of a leap."

"But –"

"The address is 221B Baker Street," Sherlock said with another sip from his mug before scraping back his chair and standing.

"But wait, we – I barely know you. I can't just move in with you!"

"Why not?" Sherlock tilted his head slightly, "What could you possibly need to know about me for a cohesive living arrangement? I've told you the details that could become a problem for you in the future. I don't do drugs anymore, so that could hardly be relevant, although I do smoke on occasion. I own this business and have various investments, so my half of the rent won't be an issue-"

"How do you know I can afford the half? Starving artist and all that," John said, pointing at himself and maybe just teasing Sherlock's earlier artist deduction just a little bit.

"You're confident and talented or you wouldn't be back. I doubt income would be an issue for you. If it is, I could always commission you for some work and you can earn your keep in other ways. Actually, yes, it's decided. You can work for me part time and I can fire Anderson, very win-win."

"Hey! I heard that, you psychopath!" Anderson called from wiping down the top of the deli case.

Sherlock rolled his eyes as he turned towards Anderson, "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath, do your research."

John couldn't help letting out a bark of laughter, which made Sherlock turn back around and look at him. All that attention did strange things to John's insides.

"Uh, well, if it's not too far from work, then I suppose I could give it a look."

Sherlock sucked his bottom lip into his mouth before releasing it with a pop, "Well then, I'll tell Mrs. Hudson you're coming by tomorrow afternoon."

"Who's Mrs. Hudson?"

"His nanny!"

"What have I told you about speaking, Anderson? Every time you do, you lower the IQ of the entire street," Sherlock said casually, taking another sip of coffee from his unique skull mug, "Mrs. Hudson, our soon-to-be landlady. The tarts are actually one of her recipes; she receives royalties and has recently had a flat become available."

John wondered for a moment why a man who owned his own business couldn't simply live on his own, especially somebody who seemed so eccentric, but John felt a tug in his gut that the man wasn't a batshit insane killer or rapist (not to mention John truly was desperate for a decent flatshare) and he was due to start work in only three days' time or his chair could get bumped.




It was a whirlwind few days for John, trying to get set up at the shop, meeting his new work mates, trying not to piss off his new boss, and moving what little possessions he had into the extremely-cluttered 221B. When he'd gone to inspect it, he hadn't realized all the junk belonged to Sherlock. Mrs. Hudson had let him in, have a look around, and had basically charmed John into loving her for the rest of his life. A kind woman with a big heart, and John was the loyal type, after all.

But busy meant very little sleep, and little sleep meant he would need a caffeine bump soon, not that he had been back to Consulting Coffee since the fateful day Mike Stamford Changed The World (dramatic, maybe, but John felt indebted to his old school mate in many ways, one of which had nothing to do with his ridiculous attraction to a certain socially-retarded barista).

And over those few days, he had yet to see Sherlock in the flat, although there had been some evidence of him having passed through. John had woken the first morning to a variety of teas and coffees cluttered about the kitchen, beakers and other scientific equipment holding coffee beans and various-colored liquids. Despite the mess, it had smelled heavenly, but John had a strong sense of self-preservation, and had decided not to press his luck by ingesting any of the said-good-smelling beverages.

Then there had been…very interesting things in the fridge and freezer. Apparently his roommate was very serious about science, because in his attempt to find bread, he had come across three jars labeled very disturbing things involving body fluids.

Needless to say, it would be takeaway for the foreseeable future, stainless steel kitchen appliances be damned.

And Sherlock hadn't been kidding about the violin thing. John had been dead asleep one night to be woken up by what sounded like dying cats coming from the living room. John had turned over, too tired and annoyed to get up and actually try and communicate with the flat mate he'd had yet to see outside of the coffee house.

But anyways, now he was tired, in desperate need of caffeine, and his tattoo shop wasn't but a twenty minute's walk away now, so it wasn't like it was out of his way, not at all. And it wasn't like Sherlock was going to be there: he couldn't possibly be there every day of the week, especially in the evening fifteen minutes before closing.

John walked in, the space already feeling like home with the smells and atmosphere. He ordered a tea and scone from a smiling girl with a nametag that read Molly. He headed to the little counter where he could pour his own sugar, and a middle-aged blonde woman was there, stirring her own brew and John noticed her other hand was in a rather large split cast.

"Oh that looks dreadful. What happened?" John said, not able to help his curiosity.

The woman tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, smiling shyly, "Well, you see – "

"Automobile accident," a familiar deep voice intoned, clicking the 't'. John and the woman turned to stare at him, Sherlock's long legs splayed out in front of him as he leaned back against a plush pillow at the table in the window nook. John hadn't even seen him there when he'd come in for a cuppa.

"Why, yes, how did you – "

"Obvious. But a pity ploy, really? The cast is removable, suggesting tissue damage or a hairline fracture. Temporary pain, then. An orthopedic is going to milk the insurance for all it's worth, so of course they are going to insist. Healthy appetite suggests no heavy pain meds or muscle relaxers: pain is minimal, then. So minimal you move about as if the cast isn't there, subconsciously there is no pain to be found. If you were conscious of the pain, you wouldn't move it so much, try to lift things, or answer your mobile. It's not even your dominant hand: you're right handed, yet you continue to use your casted hand because you are not conscious of the pain. Leaves social, then: strangers give you a few minutes of their time to ask what happened and you get to interact and play the damsel in sweet distress. Single, then. No significant other to coddle you. I've never seen a cast used as a pickup line, then again, I'm not much in the way of the dating world."

The woman's face was flushed, "How dare you!"

"I don't dare, "Sherlock said, sipping from his large skull mug, "I observe."

"You're an arse hole. I hurt."

"Mmmm, no. But I'm sure you're not completely to blame: the settlement from the lawsuit will be MUCH higher if you show prolonged proof of pain and suffering. Therefore whenever you're in public, you're sure to wear the cast in case insurance comes snooping, so I'll blame the lawyer you hired instead."

"You're an arse!" the woman practically yelled, grabbing her purse and throwing it over her shoulder, "I've never met someone so rude in my life!"

Sherlock sipped from his mug again, perfectly content with whatever dark roast he was enjoying "That's enlightening. Feel free to remove yourself from my rude sight before I am forced to comment on that awful and fake designer handbag."

If possible, the woman was nearly purple when she stomped away with curses John hadn't heard since his elder sister got kicked out of the house for being drunk on Christmas.

John turned to look at the tall, pale barista, hiking an eyebrow, "A bit not good, mate."

"Most certainly not," Sherlock replied, the hint of a smirk curling his lip, "faux leather, broken zipper, mismatched side paneling: more than a bit not good."

John blinked, then burst into laughter, "That poor woman's face! I thought her head was going to explode!"

"Anger is a plebian defense mechanism," Sherlock shrugged, "if I was wrong, she wouldn't have been quite so colorful."

"Blimey, you really deduced all that from a hand cast?"

Sherlock added sugar to his coffee, eyes on the sugar crystals as if they were a critical element to an experiment, "Yes, although the appalling shade of green of that handbag is what drew me to deduce in the first place. It looked like dog sick."

John chuckled again, running a hand through his hair. "Fantastic. Bloody brilliant."

Sherlock blinked, "I thought we were in accord that the handbag was a crime against humanity."

John practically giggled as he took the empty seat across from the barista, his mouth set in a permanent smile, "not the bag, you idiot. I meant you. That was…well, just brilliant, all around."

Sherlock, who had been mid-sugar crystal-dump, looked up then, the poor sugar falling uselessly to the wooden table, missing the skull mug by a good inch and a half, "Really."

"Yah. Well, yes," John said, shrugging, "brilliant."

Sherlock didn't seem to know what to say to that, so he went back to his sugar adding, stirring a bit more before deciding it was perfect.

"Although maybe we can work on the social niceties a bit more, yeah? That lady took quite a beating."

"Not as much as that handbag."

"Oh will you come off the bloody handbag? What did it ever do to you?"

"It exists, therefore it offends."

"I'll burn them all, how's that?"

"Then it seems you will be quite busy for the foreseeable future."

The men chuckled, and that was the moment John realized that he'd settled quite comfortably into an acquaintanceship with the strange and unpredictable barista.

"Well, then, I should be off."

"Should you?" Sherlock countered, staring at John over the lip of his mug. Damn, but that struck a pretty picture with those cupid bow lips…

"Actually, yeah, I have an appointment, but feel free to deduce me," John said with a smile, standing from the table with his nearly –forgotten muffin. The shop was open late and his next appointment was a calf piece so he was looking at a solid four hours tonight at least, hence the caffeine boost.

Sherlock's eyes ran over him, no doubt cataloging a dozen things about him, but instead of fear, John felt amused. Sherlock's brows furrowed, "What I can't deduce is why you choose to wear such ill-fitting, unflattering jumpers. You're obviously physically fit. Militaristic stance and haircut, so your clothing should reflect basic necessity, not comfort."

"John grinned, "Obviously physically fit?"

John couldn't help but tease. Listening to Sherlock deduce was fascinating, yeah, but the fact that Sherlock revealed his own personal thoughts, well, that was a different high all on its own, "and maybe I just like jumpers."

"Fair enough," Sherlock consented, meeting Johns' eyes, "Military family. Statistics point to father, moved family around quite a bit. Air force, most likely."

"Flew helicopters," John said with a laugh, "Dad's an absolute nutter over them."

"Raised you military, all the moving gave you more social exposure, comfortable around people. You move with purpose, no action wasted, so disciplined. Military school?"

"Two years before uni, " John shrugged with a smirk, "but that was probably more from driving mum round the bend with my all nighters than trying to get me to follow in his footsteps."

Sherlock raised an eyebrow, "Rebellious youth. An older sibling, then."

John laughed, "Where are the statistics for that?"

Sherlock smirked, "Personal experience rather than scientific rubric."

John groaned, "Oh no, one of you is enough! You mean there's another genius running around?"

Sherlock nearly choked on his coffee as he snorted, "I doubt he could run. The thought amuses me more than it should. He would simply pay or order someone to do it for him."

"Is he smart like you?"

"He claims to be smarter."

John laughed, "Bloody hell, that's terrifying."

"Not nearly as terrifying as his appetite for cake."

John laughed, turning towards the door, "See you at home, then?"

Sherlock inclined his head, "I believe so. I'm closing up the shop, then have an appointment of my own. Late tonight, perhaps, if you're still up."

"I'm pretty nocturnal. I'll see you then."

"Goodbye, John."

John wouldn't admit he had a warm feeling in his stomach the whole way to work, and if he did, he would blame the exceptional tea he had just purchased.

John walked into The Yard, his new place of employment. The sound of tattoo guns was one of his favorite sounds in the entire world. It meant progress, art, and, of course, creativity. The sharp smell of antiseptic also soothed him in a way that was hard to explain as he made his way further into the shop, stopping to drop his bag in front of his work station. His new work mate and boss, Greg, was nearly finished with a very impressive dragon. It was huge, spanning the entire top of the pale man's back: if John had to guess, around twenty hours of needle and sitting time had been invested into the piece thus far.

It was gorgeous, and John couldn't help but watch his boss work for a few minutes before finally cleaning down his station to prepare for his first night appointment.

"How goes it, John?" Greg finally called over when he switched inks, "Look tired, mate."

"Yah. Been busy with the moving and such, but I'm alright. Gorgeous work," John said, unable to keep the awe out of his voice as Greg began to shade the outstretched claws of the blue Japanese dragon.

"Thanks. One of my favorite pieces I've ever had the pleasure of workin' on," Greg muttered, already getting back into his zone. John understood that, the zone thing: he was notorious for it, not able to talk to his clients for more than a few minutes before becoming so focused he didn't speak again until he was finished.

The shop manager, a sassy woman by the name of Sally ("call me Donovan, everybody does") informed John about half an hour later that his appointment still hadn't shown up.

John glanced down at his watch, surprised. Sometimes people skipped out, but with a 100 pound down payment for the piece, it was rare.

"Let's give him another twenty before I check the book. Any walk-ins?"

"A few. Of course they're gagging for Lestrade, but that's a cold chance in hell. Could always push one your way if this guy doesn't show up."

"Yah, of course."

Nearly half an hour later, when John was officially going to give up, the shop bell tinkled, announcing a new arrival.

"Oh, it's you, Freak."


John turned. There was no way!

But it was. There was Sherlock, striking quite the profile in a black coat and scarf, Sally glaring at him with a vehemence that didn't look healthy.

"You're not booked with Lestrade tonight. He's full up for the next three months."

"Lestrade told me to stop by any time with any new piece ideas. I have one I'm itching to get done. I need to think."

"Oh, stop the papers, the Freak needs to THINK."

"You would understand how important of a function it was if you were actually capable of it, Donovan."

"Well, as you can see, he's busy."

Sherlock huffed, "If you can't handle the healing pain that goes along with nipple piercings, Donovan, do the world a favor and don't get them."

Sally colored immediately, her hands crossing over her chest, only to wince at the movement over her breasts. Jesus. Sherlock really WAS brilliant.

"Go away, Freak. Can't you see he's busy?"

Sherlock approached Lestrade's work station, rolling his eyes, "Hardly. That back piece is nothing more than the world's most elaborate flirting device. My brother does love to play the masochist."

Wait…brother? John gaped at Sherlock as the man Lestrade was working on finally turned his head to stare at Sherlock, a thin smile on his lips as he stared Sherlock down, "Really, now, little brother, do shut up."

If John didn't know any better, he would think his boss was blushing…oh good lord, he WAS. John felt like he was watching a ridiculous tv drama.

"Sherlock?" John said dumbly, staring at his roommate.

"Hello, John. So good to see you," Sherlock said off-handedly, turning to look at John, running his eyes over the tattoo equipment and John's slouched form: he'd been relaxing in an office chair, waiting for his appointment, "and a pleasant surprise. Really. A tattoo artist. Damn, a tattoo artist."

"You're getting slow, Sherlock," the dragon man said, completely lax as Greg began to attack some shading in the scales running right beneath his neck at the beginning of the spine: the man clearly handled pain well, "and what a small world this is to run into your newest roommate on my downtime."

"Stop stalking me, Mycroft."

"Hardly. Or have you forgotten I'm the one paying the rent?"

"I don't need you to pay the rent."

"Of course you do: technically I own the coffee shop, and your sporadic work hours would never cover a flat that wonderful in central London. Besides, Mummy insisted."

"Tell Mummy she needs to get a hobby."

"Tell her yourself this weekend. It's her birthday, after all."

Sherlock pouted. Pouted. A grown man, pouting with his lip out like a five year old, "I don't have TIME to go visit, Myc. Besides you're the favorite!"

Mycroft scoffed, "Hardly. We both know perfectly well it isn't either of us."

Sherlock rolled his eyes, "But of the three of us I'M the least favorite. I shouldn't have to endure…whatever it is she has planned."

"Dear god, don't let it be a musical. I'll drink myself into an early grave."

"One can only hope."

"Of course, brother dear."

"If you two are quite done with your strange sibling rivalry ritual, can I please get back to work in peace?" Greg said, sighing like a babysitter that had just found their charges drawing all over the walls in crayon, "Really. You can bicker like ten year olds in the schoolyard later. Right now, we have work to do."

"Fine," Sherlock hissed, giving John the strangest feeling of the very dragon that Lestrade was tattooing, "John can just do the next one."

"What?" John said, coming back to life at the mention of his name.

Lestrade nodded, "He's good. Bloody fantastic, actually."

"He has to be good if he's already got a chair next to you."

John felt his ears heat up. Well shit.

Lestrade laughed, "He's got talent. I could hardly believe the blog when I was linked to it. You should check it out, have a consult with him. Guess it helps you both are roommates, dunnit?"

Sherlock whipped a laptop out of his messenger bag before John had a moment to reply.

"Fine then. John, let's get to work."


"The game is on, John."

/End Part 1