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Burn it Down: Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim Started by: LondonHolmes on Mar 11, '19 09:33

They were fighting.

It had begun when Elliot found out that the Consulting Criminal had not only found a check from his father, addressed to Elliot, he took said check and several more he had found, also in Elliot's name worth one thousand pounds each and burned them right in front of his father.

Carlton was not amused and what followed was an hour of the father and son arguing. Their voices echoing off the walls of Carlton's office and quite possibly the entire building but neither Holmes cared.

Elliot had been tired, hungry and annoyed, which quickly had made the whole situation worse. Whereas London apparently couldn't understand why it infuriated Elliot. 

And so, the Consulting Criminal had found himself in another fight.

London leaned against the kitchen table with his arms crossed over his chest.


"Better yet, Elliot, why didn't you tell me about all the other checks my father has been sending you for the past bloody year?! Hmm?"

Elliot scowled and paced back and forth in the room. He knew exactly what London was talking about. Carlton had been sending Elliot checks, had been doing since he not long after he moved in with the Consulting Criminal, one thousand pounds every month, with a promise of nothing sinister behind it, just a father wanting to make sure his wayward child was well looked after. Elliot mostly ignored the checks and thought he had kept hidden them and his frequently increasing dealings with Carlton from the Consulting Criminal but he should have known better.

"One thousand pounds every month, for the past fourteen months. Did you really think I wouldn't find out? How ridiculous can you really be?" London spat.

"Don't you call me ridiculous. You are the one acting like a prat!" Elliot replied.

"Why did you take them to begin with? Why did you hide them? I am not a child. I do not require a babysitter or things being hidden from me."

"You sure about that? I should not have to remind your genius self that we need a constant steady income to get by, especially when Cruz is not knocking on our door or you are not out satisfying your criminal side and getting money that way. Or when you blow through the monthly allowance Alexander gives you. We need extra help every now and then. So if I must add another role to the list I already have because of you, I will play the role of as you called it of 'babysitter' who has to hide things from an unruly child, because that's what you currently are acting like, THEN SO BE IT!"

Elliot roared as he marched to the wall to use it as an outlet for his rage. The punch bruised his knuckles and as he winced, London's indifferent voice pointed out, "That isn't going to work. You'll end up with aching hands and remain angry. People usually believe a pristine action can reduce their own feelings but they are wrong. Just like you are."

There was no return now.

Elliot swirled around and lashed out once more
, "Shut up! Stop deducing me! You wonder why no-one else likes you? This. This is why, Holmes! God! Would it really kill you to act like a normal human being just for once?"

A line had most certainly just been crossed. The Consulting Criminal stalked towards him and ended up looming over Elliot. 

The fight grew even more dirty as both of them threw insults dripping with venom at each other. They uttered mean, cruel things to each other, irrelevant of the initial topic with Carlton's monthly checks and Elliot hiding them. That had simply been the catalyst and had driven them to the point where they revealed every bothersome thing that made them resent each other.

"I thought you understood what it would mean to associate with me. If you've found out just now, after fourteen months, that you hate it, you are denser than I thought and I have wasted many a breath defending you to everyone else!" London retorted with a humorless grin and before he caught up with what he was doing, Elliot grabbed him by the jacket, turned them around, and slammed the Consulting Criminal into the wall, pinning his right arm painfully half way up his back. A flick of Elliot's wrist and London's arm would be broken. A thud, followed by pain and a surprised exhalation upon impact with the wall were heard in the now very quiet room. Elliot released the hold on London's arm and his suit but didn't back off as he hissed to the taller man's ear, "Never fucking call me dense, Holmes."

London stared at him, clearly astonished by his unexpected move. A red color had crept up the his pale cheeks as the fight progressed and now he only took shallow, quick breaths as his eyes practically scanned Elliot. And by habit, Elliot let London deduce him without interrupting. He patiently waited for the Consulting Criminal to decide what reaction he would have.

"I see you've reached the point when you've emptied your vocabulary and take to use violence instead. Very impressive. Pleasant change to see the soldier making an appearance because he felt threatened." London said in a hushed tone and lifted one eyebrow.

"Fuck off," Elliot said and retreated one step.

"Fine!" London snapped and pushed himself from the wall. Without looking at Elliot, he stalked to the door and disappeared through it. Elliot could hear the angry, heavy steps on the stairs as London went downstairs and at last past the front door. When the door slammed shut, Elliot released a breath he unknowingly had held and rubbed his forehead.

"God dammit."

Immediately he regretted the things he had said when he was well aware that London could hold a grudge for a long time. Had the Consulting Criminal been too wounded by Elliot's insults this time to forgive him? But then again, Elliot had managed to get along with London for over a year now and although they occasionally got vexed with each other they always somehow overcome every clash.

Seemingly up until now.

Elliot's eyes swept over the messy room and his shoulder slumped miserably. One thing was sure, though. Wherever London had gone to sulk, he was surely not going to find out in the next few hours, or perhaps even days. 

He had to simply wait him out and hope he didn't fall back into old habits in his anger.

Without London to distract him, he suddenly realized how awake yet tired he had grown. With a tired sigh, he walked to the bathroom and began to brush his teeth when he in a flash of genius came up with a solution. In the open cabinet before his eyes stood a white bottle with the sleeping pills he had been recommended for his traumatic dreams of Afghanistan. Along with the cane, he had not used the pills after his first day with the Consulting Criminal. 

The bottle gave a rattle as Elliot wrapped his hand around it.

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London dug his hands into the deep pockets of his coat as he stomped his way through the dark and cold streets.

He was confused by the way Elliot had acted this evening. And apart from his brilliant deducting skills, London had trouble reading Elliot's emotions. He was a genius but that didn't mean he could prevent people from getting under his skin.

London sighed and watched white smoke appear before him before he raised his head and looked at the starlit sky. There was the regularity he needed right now. He turned into a deserted alley and walked briskly to keep warm.

His pride had been wounded by Elliot's accusations, no matter how true they were. So why did it feel like this night's ugly fight was far worse than the ones before? Like both of them had gone too far with their insults?

London ruffled his dark curls as if demanding his mind to understand. Had his brutal honesty at last gotten to Elliot and demolished the base on which London's only friend stood? Was it London who had done wrong, in the first place by searching through Elliot's things and burning all the checks and then describe Elliot as dense? And to say the least, London had been quite caught off-guard by Elliot's move when the ex-soldier had pushed him against the wall and nearly broke his arm. If he hadn't for an embarrassing moment been subjected to the human feeling of shock, he would have been able to stop Elliot. 

At least he told himself so.

London reminisced how he instead had sneered at the shorter but enraged man and further insulted him. That was when Elliot once again confused him and acted like no-one else would. London had always been fascinated by how Elliot's behavior stood out from other people. But to see Elliot give up on him and tell him to leave was an experience London found hurtful.

So he had done what Elliot asked of him; gotten the hell out of the apartment and now wondered in a silent and dark alley with rubbish on either side of him.

'Dull,' he thought solemnly as he kicked away at a tin that had found itself in his way. Suddenly he stopped the mundane task when heard sirens in the distance and something inside him told him exactly where they were headed. He had turned around and hurried back through the alley with his heart pumping adrenaline and fear into his blood. He reached the road and considered stopping a cab but couldn't spot one. He swore loudly and relied on his ability to run instead. The wind played with his hair and the hem of his coat became smudged when London climbed over a small brick wall and used every shortcut he knew to get back to the apartment and Elliot.

As he turned around the last corner, completely out of breath and with a lump of worry in his throat, he was appalled by the sight that met him. The whole apartment was in flames and the windows crushed from the heat inside. Fire trucks were parked nearby and men with helmets scurried here and there. Apparently they had given up on putting out the fire in London's apartment and only concentrated on saving the houses beside it. A police car stood beside one of the red trucks and London discovered that Mrs. Hanson sat in the back seat and talked to a sergeant.

Without minding the gathered curious crowd, he nudged them out of his way and hurried to the car. Mrs. Hanson was dressed in a nightgown and covered by a blanket which she clung to as she sniffed in distress. Upon seeing London, she gave a cry and was about to say something when the Consulting Criminal interrupted her.

"Where's Elliot?"

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The old lady's expression froze and she stared at him with revelation in her damp eyes.

"I saw you leave. But I thought Elliot came after you. He is always with you," she let out with a whimper.

Not this time.

Cold dread crashed into London as he turned to the burning building. This one time, Elliot hadn't followed him. And as a window in the attic exploded and the crowd cried out and backed away while the firefighters became more frantic, London decided to breach the guarded house.

One thought flashed through his mind though; why wasn't Elliot outside and in safety?

The Consulting Criminal leapt between the trucks and was about to open the door when a body tackled him and threw him back to the street. London turned to look at the dimwit and saw that it was Cruz. Of course. Only he would have predicted London's intentions and now he secured a firm grip around London to efficiently hold him back.

"You can't save your things! The roof is about to collapse!" the Inspector shouted into his ear to make himself audible over the roaring fire and the loud creaks from the giving building.

"Elliot is still inside you idiot! Let me go!" London screamed and saw how Cruz's face grew grey.

"But we were told the house was empty!"

And then the fire fighters urged everybody away to a safe distance as the roof caved in and waves of heat rolled of the open holes in the façade. Everything went silent. London stood still, completely numb and with a surreal ringing in his ears. Everything moved in sickening slow-motion and the world began to spin before his eyes. Black shapes ran past him, illuminated by the orange light of death behind.

'No.'

Elliot wasn't dead. He couldn't be dead.

The arms around him let go but London didn't care. It was his fault. Because if he hadn't left Elliot, he would have stood beside him now. 

And he wasn't.

Unable to look away from the flames, London realized that together, Elliot and he had meant life. But before he met Elliot, the ex-soldier who had survived a bullet hadn't been alive. And London hadn't been either, no matter how many morbid cases he had solved alone. But together they had nurtured each other's vitality and shared countless of laughs. That was all gone now.

Unaware that he was swaying on the spot, London was about to succumb to the threatening emotional darkness when suddenly a booming voice traveled across the commotion and he immediately listened to it.

"Bring the ambulance here! We've got a wounded man! He's jumped!

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London ceased to care about other people for the moment. With frightening determination, he made it to the other side of the still burning building, no matter who he pushed out of his way.

But upon discovering the gathering of firefighters and ambulance personnel in the grass-covered backyard, he hesitated. Then he pulled himself together for the next trial on this awful day and approached the group. Commands were shouted and several men and women from the ambulance knelt and commented the state of the man lying on his stomach on the ground.

London swallowed dryly and cautiously drew nearer Elliot to examine him from afar with sharp, merciless precision. Sometimes he really hated his fast mind and knowledge of wounds.

Elliot was unconscious, not strange after a fall that high. He was dressed in his usual nightwear; white shorts and a blue t-shirt. But this night the entire back of the t-shirt was blackened by soot and clung to Elliot's skin in an odd way. London felt a shiver run down his spine as he put two and two together when he registered cuts on Elliot's arms which bled profoundly.

Elliot must have smashed the window in his bedroom with something nearby, perhaps his night table. But the immediate intake of air probably made the fire inside much worse which must have caused his back to get licked by the flames. From the cuts, London concluded that Elliot had not had time to clear the window of all shards before he squeezed through it.

London would have found more facts if not the ambulance had arrived at that moment and made the whole gathering turn their heads towards the moving vehicle, and the panicked Consulting Criminal standing in its way. Everything happened so quickly after that. Elliot was moved onto a stretcher and London heard a faint groan slip from the wounded man's lips before he was ushered to the side by a stern nurse.

The thing was, London had seen hope and he would not let go of it now. Elliot was alive and being rolled into the ambulance and London knew by instinct that Elliot needed a friend near. Or well, London needed Elliot too; to take in the living, breathing human and assure himself that this was not a dream brought on by the previous downright nightmare.

"Excuse me! It's my friend. I want to go with you," London called out in a desperate and very humane voice to a nurse inside the vehicle who was about to close the rear doors.

"Well, come on then, sir!" she replied and made a motion at him to hurry.

London had to endure a scarce space for his long legs, and bend slightly forward due to the concave side of the ambulance but he didn't complain. Not when Elliot was half-dead before his eyes. The vehicle took off and the nurse on the other side put an oxygen mask on Elliot's face. He looked so fragile as the nurse tended to him and yet somehow had time to throw a shock blanket to London and order him to wrap it around his shoulders.

London studied every feature in Elliot with concern. Tears managed to trickle from his closed lids which were red and irritated, a present from the blasted smoke. London rested his elbows on his knees as he let the fingertips touch the opposite ones.

'A person who inhales smokes for a long time will most likely be subjected to coughing, irritated eyes, headache and poisoned lungs.'

He recited the facts to himself with faltering spirit as Elliot finally began to regain consciousness.

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Elliot opened his eyes only to shut them again when bright light brutally pierced them and caused a throbbing pain in his head. But the eyes stung too and with that, he remembered the fire, the challenge to get out of a smoke-filled and partly burning room with sleeping pills in his system and then jump from a daunting height with only a patch of grass to ease his fall.

The fear returned and his whole body hurt almost the opposite way to when he had been shot in Afghanistan. His body was not cold, but uncomfortably warm, especially his back. His mouth was parched and his throat itched. He coughed feebly into the mask which was placed above his mouth when a hand moved it. Human curiosity made him try once more to open his eyes and see the person. A woman in a nurse outfit frowned as she adjusted the thing that would help him breathe.

"Calm down. Just breathe calmly," she lectured him and Elliot became pretty put off by her unkind attitude. As if it was his fault his lungs wanted to be coughed up through an airway drier than a martini in a desert. So he turned his head the other way and caught look of a very still friend.

He observed the beads of sweat and the flushed cheeks on the usually immaculate, pale man and when he reached London's eyes he saw that the Consulting Criminal was watching the nurse across with a hateful glare. This amused Elliot a little; that they despite the fight still could agree that a nurse was impolite. But then Elliot began to wheeze out air and felt his throat constrict as the itch grew worse. His chest hurt and he had trouble breathing even with an adjusted oxygen mask.

He closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing despite it felt like his lungs refused the air he needed. But in the midst of his torture, Elliot saw through his lids a dark shape lean over him and heard that familiar and deep voice, steady as ever.

"I'm here. Open your eyes. Look at me."

Elliot obeyed and his watering eyes fluttered open. He astonished himself with the complete trust he had for London when it really mattered. His breaths became less labored. He managed a small smile inside the transparent mask and wanted to say something back but only a severe hoarseness came out. Somehow it reminded Elliot of the way London had sounded when the Chinese man had tried to strangle him in the case about the blind banker. Suddenly a warm, naked hand enclosed his own and squeezed it comfortingly.

"It's alright. Don't' strain yourself. We're almost at the hospital."

Again, London had that unwavering tone, only it was spiced with something close to…

Softness.

Elliot wanted to ask what injuries he had, how London was, and tell him that he wasn't mad at him anymore. But the energy level was low and the momentary adrenaline gone. Elliot didn't want to retract his hand from London's. It felt nice and comforting. He relaxed his body and took regular, although shallow, breaths as the ambulance went on. And throughout the rest of the ride, his eyes were fixed on London.

Once they reached the hospital, Elliot was being rolled to a secluded room to get examined. The personnel kindly explained that London shouldn't be there and disturb the whole process. Elliot saw how the Consulting Criminal clenched his fists before he snorted and bent down to Elliot's level.

"They can't keep me out of here for long. I don't care about visiting hours," he drawled silently into Elliot's ear and his discontent was clear. But to the nurses and the doctor's relief, London left the room and made it possible for them to start tending to Elliot.

Half an hour later it was decided that Elliot should at least stay the night at the hospital, mainly because of the damage to his lungs. Furthermore, he had a sprained left ankle after the fall, a bruised shoulder which had hit the ground in an unfortunate way and some stitches were required to patch up the cuts on his arms. When they had removed the t-shirt from his back, Elliot had stifled a groan as the burnt skin caught in the fabric. Something cool had been smeared on the place and a bandage was wrapped around his torso to protect the back.

Still, he considered himself extremely lucky for having survived the fire and his fall at all.

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The personnel carefully dressed him in a clean hospital gown and Elliot reminded himself to never mock patients or London himself again whenever they complained about the silly clothing. Then he was taken to an empty room and put to bed as the nurse working night shift explained all the things he already knew; where the emergency button was, how he could lift or lower the upper half of the bed with a handy remote and that if he wanted to call someone and inform them of his state he could do so.

Elliot squirmed on the sheet and growled. His body might have been taken care of, but it protested whenever he moved and when he didn't. The back hurt like hell and it felt like the flesh was painfully dripping off him and soaking the bandage, but Elliot knew he was imagining it. He had been given some painkillers but they hardly seemed to work. He coughed and turned to his side to breathe easier as well as to relieve his back of some weight.

The door behind him creaked suddenly and a cone of light painted the walls yellow for a moment before the darkness settled in the room again. Elliot didn't turn around but waited and soon a tall figure strode towards one of the two chairs and brought it to Elliot's bedside with fluent ease.

He propped down onto the hard chair and looked quite pleased with himself.

"Took you long enough to weasel your way in," Elliot commented with a raspy but happy voice.

London shrugged and retorted, "Hardly. There are only two nurses guarding this area at night. I checked the hospital's routines while you were examined."

Elliot laughed but only a horrible croak echoed in the room and London tensed. "How are you," he asked seriously and Elliot knew he wasn't aiming at the obvious injuries. It was the internal state the Consulting Criminal was unable to deduce.

"I've been better. It hurts when I breathe and all I can taste is smoke. I can't smell anything and I'm getting a massive headache as we speak. And I suspect the doctor slipped either glowing charcoal or acid inside the bandage because my back feels bloody awful."

Elliot paused before he continued with a deadpan tone, "So that settles it. I'm never taking sleeping pills again."

London smirked at his joke and replied, "So that was why you didn't get out earlier. I've busied myself with that particular mystery for quite some time now." Then the man began to study his hands with seemingly great interest. "And I'm sorry for the things I said to you before."

Elliot was sure his eyes would have widened if they hadn't been affected by smoke, because he had rarely seen London act so…vulnerable. And then he completely understood the man's terror.

He knew the sudden onslaught of strong and basic emotions would have startled London immensely.

"Forget about the fight. And we are both fine, so shut up now and let me sleep," Elliot said with a hint of a smile before he yawned, righteously exhausted. He closed his eyes and felt himself drift off into the mist of dreams, only occasionally disturbed by coughs.

"Can I stay?" the deep voice inquired and he mumbled back, "If you can endure a hard chair and nothing to keep you from boredom, be my guest."

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The next morning, Elliot felt much better after sleeping with the oxygen mask on. His lungs didn't hurt so much anymore and the medical goo beneath the bandage on his burned back seemed to have reduced the throbbing pain.

He put the mask away and turned his head to look at London. He was not on his chair which troubled him a little.

After a while a new male nurse entered the room and promptly set to push the curtains away from the window and open it so fresh air could fill the area. Elliot welcomed the cool air as it easily went down through his airway, but at the same time he found himself wondering if the room had held the scent of sleep and London. Sadly, his own sense of smell was still not working and he confided this to the nurse who smilingly informed him that within a week, his nostrils should have recovered.

After the nurse had changed his bandage, raised the bed, helped him to the bathroom and presented breakfast and painkillers to him, he left Elliot with the promise to come back after half an hour to retrieve the leftovers. Elliot reached for a glass of water to swallow his pills and groaned in pleasure as the cool liquid ran down his parched throat and eased the itch.

"That good, huh? Maybe I should switch from nicotine patches to analgesics," London commented as he strode into the room but went rigid and turned his attention to the open window. "This hospital is beyond idiotic," he whispered with amaze bordering on disdain, before he marched towards the window and shut it.

"Hey, they said it was good for me," Elliot protested after he had finished chewing his toast.

"People who suffer from smoke inhalation need clean air, yes. Not polluted air from the area with the highest levels of car exhaust." Elliot rolled his eyes at London's unrelenting attitude and took a sip of tea.

"Well, thanks for saving my life again, then." London didn't answer. Instead he approached the bed and removed his coat which he placed on the chair. After the eventful yesterday, Elliot finally had time to study his friend. He had learned one thing or two from the Consulting Criminal.

The shoes and the edge of the trousers were smeared with mud and the coat was tainted by streaks of dirt which stood out from the fabric. The inside of London's white collar carried a faintly tinge of yellow and the front of the shirt which peeked out from under the jacket was wrinkled and his tie was loosened and crooked. Rare were the moments when he had seen the Consulting Criminal with unkempt clothes.

"You wonder why I'm not untarnished," London stated, having deduced Elliot in the meantime. Elliot nodded and London simply said, "I wouldn't waste time on myself if it meant I would have to leave you alone with imbeciles." Elliot knew it would be pointless to defend the hospital's employees when London had his own opinion of them.

The painkillers began to kick in and Elliot leaned back against the bed. He recalled one time in the field in Afghanistan when he was busy wrapping a compression bandage around a corporal's bleeding thigh to save his leg from amputation when another wounded soldier started to wheeze out air with difficulty. 'Shell-shock,' Elliot had thought and yelled to a private nearby to help his mate out by breathing calmly into his mouth.

The standing soldier had watched Elliot with skepticism, muttered something about homosexuality and hadn't moved. He had been forced to run back and forth between the wounded men to save both of them. Afterwards, the unharmed soldier had been ordered to attend a lecture about life-saving and ethics. '

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The Consulting Criminal had begun to pace back and forth in the room with his hands on the small of his back. "Holmes, what happens to our place? Have you contacted the insurance company yet? Are all our things gone? More importantly, have you told your father?" Not that Elliot cared that much about his belongings; his life was far more important and the rest could always be fixed. He was worried about Carlton and his reactions. 

London smirked but kept walking.

"From what I saw yesterday, I wouldn't hold my breath for Baker Street, if I were you. The building is probably only a ruin by now. And I talked to the insurance company this morning before you woke up. Everything seems to work out fine. My father also knows what happened and has offered to have our residence rebuilt if we choose. However…" London trailed off as he sometimes did when he rather used his quick mind than his a bit slower voice to complete his musings. Elliot waited awkwardly for half a minute until he exclaimed, "Yes, what are you thinking about?"

London shook his head so the black curls swayed and fixed his ice blue irises on Elliot. They carried an excited gleam which Elliot genuinely preferred over the devastated and worried look he had seen the night before.

"I haven't been able to get the details yet, but there's always a possibility that the fire was a crime. A crime! I got a call from Cruz who said that his team is about to inspect the scene now."

London almost bounced up and down with glee and Elliot pointed out with pretend hurt, "So you would rather investigate a ruin than keep a watchful eye on me?" At that, London stopped jumping and stared at him with a solemn expression.

"No. I've learned my priorities now. A friend comes first, then gruesome crimes." And then he hid away his excitement and asked slowly, "Do you want me to stay here and keep you company? It wouldn't be a problem at all."

Elliot felt confused. London had hardly ever been concerned about people around him and now he was offering to endure hours with close to nothing to keep his mind occupied with. 

And all for Elliot's sake?

Perhaps London had listened to some things Elliot had said whenever they fought. Elliot was unsure if he should take this as a good or a bad thing, but what he was certain of, was that London deserved some normal amusement after his terrible night of fear.

"No, you go and see what can be found over there. I'm not going anywhere."

London picked up his dirty coat and threw it over his shoulders. "No need to fret. I've got everything under control. Well, except maybe a horrendous crime," he replied brightly and winked before he made it out of Elliot's room with such grace that the male nurse almost didn't see him when he too went through the doorway.

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When London sat in the cab on his way to Baker Street, he didn't think about Elliot once.

Elliot was finally not in immediate danger and would without doubt benefit from the prison-like establishment that was the hospital, just like any other ordinary human usually did. London himself abhorred the very idea of getting locked-up without being able to work and have to endure tasteless food if he even would consider eating.

But he knew Elliot wouldn't find anything to complain about the care and he had taken the time to research the nurses who had been appointed to tend to Elliot. Neither George Boyle nor Anna Richardson had any dirty secrets in their records so London allowed himself to dive in to the prospect of a crime, perhaps even a personal one.

The cab came to a halt and London climbed out. The house was beyond rescue it seemed, what with the black bricks, the destroyed interior which was visible from the gaping holes where windows had been, and the collapsed roof that had left the attic in open air.

As London wasn't particularly emotionally attached to the apartment, he let his eyes sweep over the front with a registering gaze which gathered possibly useful information for later.

He strolled forward and ignored the bright yellow plastic band that surrounded the ruin and made it clear that Cruz's goon squad was there already. London put together his most sociopathic and haughty frown and marched through the open front door. He momentarily inspected Mrs. Hanson's hall as he passed it but saw no-one there. With slight disapproval and in his nose a pungent smell of smoke which apparently had settled in the walls, he jogged up the stairs and entered what hours before had been his and Elliot's apartment.

Officers with white masks over their mouths and noses and dressed in white or blue overalls swarmed the area which was covered in black soot and ashes. They took pictures, crouched by the skeleton of the deceased couch or chatted with each other. Basically their efforts for the investigation were superfluous and hardly indispensable.

"Holmes! You made it," Cruz shouted from the kitchen and London could barely believe he had witnessed the able Inspector pale with horror the night before. But he supposed the experienced man had a way of moving forward when one problem was solved.

London walked over and on purpose got in the way of an eager assistant.

"Found anything useful yet?"

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Cruz lifted his arm and removed the mask. A speck of lather still clung to his shaved chin and beads of swear gathered along his hairline.

"Well, we've interrogated the lady who lives downstairs and we didn't found anything interesting in her rooms. So we're doing yours now but it's difficult when so much is gone."

London sneered and turned around to open the tattered cupboards above the sink. All his experiments had perished and vital studies of bacterial culture were interrupted. He would have to charm Molly in order to get new samples.

"Sir! There's an actual thumb in here!" Someone cried out and everyone stopped moving.

London rolled his eyes.

"It's not the thumb of a criminal or a warning from one. It's from one of my experiments. Do go on." He could tell the people glared at him with loathing in their eyes but he turned his attention to Cruz again. What was wrong with studying how small a dead thumb would be after a certain number of days?

"How's Elliot?" the Inspector asked with honest concern but London had since long learned the tricks.

"He's conscious and recovering. I'm sure you can get his statement this afternoon," he said briskly and Cruz lowered his brows.

"Don't be like that. I actually worried about the man. We made mistake yesterday when we thought Elliot was outside, too," he mumbled silently.

"Good for you that Elliot is not one for retaliation. He could have sued both the London fire brigade and the police and been given enough money to buy one half of Buckingham Palace," London replied sharply and watched Cruz go pale. "So, when are you done here so I can work?" He continued in an impatient tone as he observed one man thoroughly inspect the completely innocent mantle.

"Now, Holmes, I'm doing this as a favor for you. Unless we find something related to the source of the fire in the next five minutes and if you behave, you can be alone here while we move up to the attic," Cruz reasoned as he pulled up his mask again and left London to tap his gloved fingers against the counter.

He thought about the fireproof vault he had kept hidden beneath the floor in his bedroom. All important documents and items would be saved from the fire, and that included the things dull people and authorities valued, and the very interesting things that only mattered to the Consulting Criminal. He guessed Cruz's group of cretins hadn't and would never discover it.

Quite suddenly the excitement for his own search for signs of a crime plummeted even more when Anderson showed his snarky face in the doorway to Elliot's room.

"Such irony, freak. Something dangerous happens in your residence, yet we find no proof that a crime has occurred."

London thought about ignoring the comment but decided to use Anderson, who pulled off his white gloves, to vent his frustration. "That doesn't say much, Anderson, since the faint marks on either side of your nose suggest you have recently begun to use reading glasses. Was it hard to find a pair that suited your face?" he drawled back and several officers looked at Anderson with surprise.

Anderson, however pulled himself up indignantly and retorted, "Look what I found. According to this, your friend's blood type is B+. That could cause trouble someday, so if I were him, I'd stay as far away from you as possible."

London's scowl fell but not because of the thing Anderson said, but what dangled from his raised hand. He stared at the black and silver thing and his feet moved of their own accord towards the arrogant forensics technician.

It was Elliot's dog tags from his time in Afghanistan. On a small but strong chain were Elliot's unique information, engraved in stainless steel and had survived the fire. London had seen it occasionally when he ventured into Elliot's room for various reasons. But this time the army necklace gave him no peace whatsoever.

He snatched the chain from Anderson's triumphant fingers, desperate to know if he had made a mistake; perhaps his eyes had deceived him when he was so far away from the object. But of course he had been right.

"Give it back! It's not yours to take!" Anderson barked but London only chuckled bitterly before he said, "What will Cruz say when I tell him you've been tampering with evidence?"

Anderson sputtered and waved his hands in confusion. "What? How do you…? Evidence?"

"Yes," London said but felt no glee at all, only unpleasant unease, "You see, you touched this with your bare hand without realizing the fact that there's only one tag on this chain. The other one is gone."

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"How intriguing."

The smooth, aristocratic voice gave the visitor away immediately but as he entered, Elliot was once again wondering how a well-tailored grey suit, a ruby tie made of silk, purposeful strides, a proud posture and a hearty smile could impress and intimidate him at the same time.

"What are you doing here, Carlton?" he asked slowly and felt utterly exposed to the ever observant eyes of London's father and source of their fight. Evidently Carlton had already bugged Elliot's telephone and Elliot chose to not bring it up. Carlton strolled over to the window and peered through the dirty glass.

"London was never good at being still and patient. He's even incapable of sitting by his only, wounded at that, friend's bed and accompany him. And that makes me worried even more about the imminent future for you especially."

Elliot threw him a questioning look and cleared his throat. "I'm…I'm fine. And just so you know, he was here the entire night. I sent him away, so he didn't leave me," he said. In the end, Elliot was fairly certain he would always side with London against his father.

Carlton swirled around and gave a laugh suited for an evil mastermind.

"Besides keeping watch over you for one night, what else has my son done for you, hm? Has he informed you when he would be back? Has he booked a meeting with the insurance company, or begun to reconsider my offer to have your residence rebuilt? Did he talk to your lovely landlady to see how she is after the fire? No, because he is occupied with a new case, so I'm here to set everything straight."

Elliot didn't return the smile, nor did he reveal the fact that London had been frightened almost beyond recognition yesterday. But he couldn't silence one part of him that thought Carlton had a point. The Consulting Criminal was an eccentric force of nature who rarely bothered with practical things. That was usually left for Elliot to deal with which was why he had started taking the checks which caused the fight in the first place. Now, he had nothing against the duties of adulthood, but he was injured and exhausted.

He needed help which London couldn't offer. 

His father however could.

"What do you have in mind?" Elliot asked with reluctance for it felt like he betrayed London's trust once by engaging with Carlton. On the other hand, his mind argued, London had one time showed an interest to let Carlton pay the rent in exchange for Elliot acting as Carlton's personal spy. Surely London wouldn't care if Elliot allowed his father to handle the future tasks, especially now, if it meant the Consulting Criminal could spend every moment he had on The Work for however long it took to complete.

Carlton tapped his foot which resided in Italian, obscenely shiny, leather and his eyes became slits of shrewdness and eagerness.

"Well, for starters, with such a short notice I'm afraid I can only present to you a humble abode in a tower block. The upside is that there are no stairs and you will find a functioning lift in the house. Your sprained ankle and the damaged back should be spared from stepping between levels. You will owe me nothing and I'll take care of the rent."

Elliot fiddled with the blanket over his legs until he became self-conscious under the man's stare and stopped fidgeting. He raised his brown eyes and spoke with suspicion, "What do you want in return?"

Again, Carlton leaned backwards and laughed warmly. "Such accusation in your weak voice. Always a clever soldier after all, right? That's what I like about you. All I ask of you is to, how should I phrase it, let me survey my son. I know he will hate the idea but Elliot, I'm not an enemy. Would you try to convince him of that for me?"

"But you're already watching him anyway, through Alexander and everyone else," Elliot pointed out but Carlton tsked in irritation.

"My son likes to exaggerate, too. His childish paranoia about me is highly unnecessary. It always has been. I'm simply a parent who worries constantly about their child. You have my word, I assure you there is no spy equipment in the place I've got for you two."

Elliot felt calmed but knew there was no way he would get London to change his attitude to his father. And had he had a normal friend he would have discussed the matter before a decision. The thing was, the Consulting Criminal either was busy with something else or simply didn't care about the obligations of everyday life.

"Fine, we'll give it a try." Elliot yielded with a warning which Carlton seemed to accept when he clasped his hands together.

"Marvelous! I'll have everything prepared when you're getting released tomorrow. Unfortunately I shall not give you a tour myself, since I'm wanted elsewhere but if it is anything at all, just give me a call," Carlton smirked and placed a business card, with elegant golden garlands around the edges, on Elliot's small table and flashed him a broad grin before he sauntered out of the room.

The bewildered Elliot glanced at the card and reminded himself to hide it before and if London came back. 

He had just struck a deal with the devil.

Again.

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"Holmes! Stop it. Give the dog tag to me," Cruz said and quickly directed one man to guard the doorway that led out of the apartment.

London however had no intention to surrender the evidence, and Elliot's property at that, so easily. Half a dozen officers had turned hostile when he had openly refused to show the dog tag to Cruz. And now they were slowly approaching the Consulting Criminal who currently had retreated to the back of the couch turned skeleton.

"Sure, so your competent colleagues can destroy the rest of the fingerprints and other substances that still might be on the dog tag or the chain? Or perhaps you will only misplace it this time and never find it?" London hissed with sarcasm and watched how two particularly large officers approached him on both sides of the furniture.

"Has it occurred to you that maybe the tag isn't proof of anything? Why don't you relax a bit and call Elliot to ask him about the item?" Cruz tried with a more kind tone and London considered for a split second to toss the necklace out the open window which no-one had considered, but decided against it since vital data could be lost.

He sighed dramatically and handed the dog tag to the man on his left who thankfully had a glove on his hand. The people in the room warmed up immediately and shook their head at London's antics, or in Anderson's case; muttered with a whiny voice.

"Well, Jones, can you take this to the lab, please?" Cruz asked a man when he had studied the dog tag and put it in a plastic bag. Then the Inspector turned to London with a stern expression. "Happy now?" he said evenly but London climbed over his temporary stronghold with dignity and snorted.

"Will you let me work now?"

Cruz seemed appalled as if his request was outrageous, before he bowed his head. "We need more to go on than that tag to deem this place a crime scene. I'll tell you what, my group move up to search the attic and then you can do your thing here. Though, you really should call Elliot and ask him if there's a logical reason why one of his tags is MIA. Otherwise a poor man in the lab has to run tests on a useless metal piece."

London didn't answer but his hand was already making his way to his bedroom and hoping his phone survived enough so he could call Elliot's hospital phone. He stared brutally at Cruz until he caught on and spun around.

"Alright, guys, let's go. We're going upstairs now."

Only a couple officers returned their boss' smile and the rest shuffled towards the entrance door. Cruz followed them out and did a gesture at London that he was welcome to knock himself out.

"Should you find something, tell me before you dash off to God knows where, okay?" Cruz added and closed the door.

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As soon as the footsteps had died, London closed his bedroom door and scanned his room. By some miracle the phone on the bedside table had survived. He let out a breath and lifted the phone to his ear, dialed the required number and waited for Elliot to pick up.

"Hello? Elliot, here," a hoarse voice said into London's ear.

"Yes I figured as much. Unless you're too tired, write down the names of all the soldiers you served with in Afghanistan and add people from other companies or countries as well. I'll explain later."

London heard Elliot inhale and waited impatiently for the questions that would come.

"What happens over there? And you know this from experience, that is classified information. I can't hand out identities of soldiers just like that without knowing what you'll use them for."

London ran a frustrated hand through his dark curls and said grimly, "We need to find those who for some reason could be enemies to you. I found something that could imply so."

"What? But..." Finally a sigh of surrender. "So, what did you find?"

'Now we're getting somewhere,' London thought.

"Your dog tags are now singular. One of them is missing and I'm certain it wasn't two days ago since I last saw it. Someone has cut it off and we need to know who. Think; when has the apartment been unguarded these last days?"

"Ehm, well you were throwing a tantrum with your father yesterday morning, that would mean for at least one hour when only Mrs. Hanson would be around. And then last night when I had taken the sleeping pills. Only the fire was able to wake me up then, so that leaves half an hour for someone to enter the apartment, find my dog tags and start a fire."

Elliot's voice sounded more and more unsettled as the conversation progressed. London understood perfectly. To have a stranger wander into your home while you're asleep was a worrying thought. With his shoulder, London squashed the phone to his ear and suddenly had two hands to lift the small vault from under the floor boards.

"Holmes, I would say that scenario would be more believable if the suspect observed us in the apartment. How else would he know I was sleeping with drugs in my system?" Elliot reflected and London nodded despite Elliot could not see him.

"You're with me so far. Excellent. And add the possibility that someone could have entered and found your dog tags yesterday and fiddled with them all day until last night when he returned and set the place on fire after he had placed the necklace in your room. That means this someone has planned the operation for quite some time and knew he had to be quick in case I came back. No-one can predict how I move and I think that was why the fire broke out less than twenty minutes after I had left."

London hoisted the vault up on his hip and took the phone with his free hand as he pushed the floor board back in place with his foot.

"Does Cruz know any of this? You know he must be informed." Was that a lecturing tone in Elliot's voice?

"He already knows too much for my taste. He took the dog tag and the chain and sent it to the lab. You may never see it again, so all we have to go on are hopefully the clues here or in the attic where Anderson and the other morons are currently running freely."

London revealed his annoyance which made Elliot chuckle on the other end. "Don't be so hard on Scotland Yard. They're doing their best and have a useful lab which helps you." Elliot paused to clear his throat.

"Fine, I'll ask for a pen and notepad and start on the list. Are you coming here soon?"

At the last sentence, Elliot's voice carried a hint of hesitation. London detected the change immediately and stopped sniffing for gasoline or other flammable liquids in some spared spots in the corners. "What's wrong?" he asked briskly.

"There's something I need to tell you soon. I'd rather do it here than over the phone."

"Dear me, the dull 'we need to talk' conversation, is it? Can't it wait?"

"I'm serious. Get back here as soon as you can," Elliot burst out and London stared longingly at the destroyed chest of drawers.

"Give me ten minutes and then I'll take a cab. But it better be a good reason for trying to distract me from a case," he replied sternly and hung up.

Time to fling himself into a real challenge for once; to deduct from a scorched room and find anything that could prove the fire wasn't an accident and that Elliot's dog tags had something to do with it.

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Elliot wasn't bored anymore. Not that he was cheerful or calm, but at least he had something to do while London deducted in their apartment.

The news London had told him had worried him since he rarely got in the way of criminals. That was the Consulting Criminal's thing, not Elliot who often found himself saving London from further harm. But Elliot didn't socialize with villains if he could help it.

Elliot couldn't believe what London had hinted at; that someone had been willing to become an arsonist to kill him in cold blood and only leave one dog tag as a macabre statement. Elliot worried his bottom lip as he wrote down the names of three other American soldiers he had encountered several times in a mess tent.

The other idea about the dog tag was that maybe the culprit hadn't intended to murder Elliot, only frighten or wound him. In that case, the single dog tag could be seen as an omen, a terrible warning.

Elliot grew more confident he had made the right choice concerning Carlton's offer. Surely no-one would be able to trace London and Elliot to a place administered by the British government.

"Dammit," he mumbled and relaxed his firm grip on the pen as the stitches on his arm began to prickle. He leaned back against the raised mattress and studied his long list. After having trouble thinking of soldiers who might have a grudge against him, Elliot had decided to rather put down every name he knew than do the mistake of excluding a possible criminal.

At that moment, London came into the room like a tempest crackling with untamed energy and practically threw Elliot off his track completely when he breathed out an apology. "Sorry I'm late. I had to drop off something at King's Cross station." Then he suddenly spun around to face Elliot and wrinkled his nose in distaste.

"I know that cologne. Tell me he didn't… Tell me you didn't..." London breathed out and Elliot forced himself to gather his courage.

"Yes, that's what I wanted to talk about. Your father paid me a visit to see how I was doing. And to tell me that he fixed us a place which will be ready when I get out of here tomorrow. I thought it would be wise to accept his offer."

Elliot looked at London's stormy eyes which flashed with emotions, thoughts and deductions. The Consulting Criminal finally plopped down on the hard chair but kept his back rigid and tense.

"And you believed him? What did he say? What was his exact phrasing? I have to prevent this if I can."

Again, the youngest Holmes' antagonism towards his father both amused and bothered Elliot.

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"Are you sure this is what you want to waste time on? What does it matter if your father has a secret motive? The important thing is that we now have a new and temporary home. So, you don't have to think about these trivial obligations anymore and I can recover somewhere accommodated for my needs at the present. Everything works out just fine," Elliot explained while he carefully searched London's face for the signs of fury or sulk.

However, London surprised him again when he exhaled loudly and dropped his shoulders. "I… suppose.. while I'm on this case. I understand why you made the decision." London gave him a quick, but reassuring nonetheless, smile before he leaned forward and eagerly began to read Elliot's list which was upside-down for the Consulting Criminal.

Wanting to spare London's eyes, Elliot turned the notepad around and silence filled the room while London's piercing gaze scanned the paper.

"You've divided the men into categories." It wasn't a question, just familiar observation. 

Elliot nodded.

"Yeah, I figured it would make things easier. First comes the troop I was in, after that; other British companies we met in camps or traveled with to other destinations. Then I wrote down the few soldiers from other countries and at last the men I trained with before I went into service. Though, I can't remember the names of those I treated during combat but if you want, I can get in touch with my old commander and see if he can hand me the records. It will be hard but I can try."

London only hummed distantly and swept a finger back and forth over his lips as his brain worked and cataloged the names. Elliot kept quiet and became mesmerized by London's intense concentration. He knew that whenever London turned on that stare, the thing he looked at, whether it was an object or a person, would eventually reveal its secret other humans failed to see. And that was one of those things Elliot admired when it came to the Consulting Criminal.

Finally London tossed the notepad at Elliot's blanket and directed all his attention on him.

"Cruz will be here soon."

"Okay."

"Don't say more to him than you have to. Your voice is barely managing as it is and you're useless to me without it. So please keep that in mind."

London removed his black gloves and put them in his pocket. Ever with his still irritated eyes, Elliot saw the very white nuance on the skin that contrasted against the muddy coat.

"Have you eaten anything since the fire?"

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Elliot consciously used a slightly concerned tone which served its purpose. London jerked his head and his lips were set in a thin line. "Adrenaline and fear is underrated as recreational substances. I feel fine compared to you."

"Holmes!" Elliot commented to make sure London was aware of the gravity of the situation, "You may have been able to keep yourself awake last night but if you don't eat something your mind will soon be affected. I certainly don't fancy having a listless genius by my side in this case when it seems I'm the target! Go and fetch something. Now!"

London rolled his eyes but Elliot wasn't buying his dramatic display and wouldn't ignore what he had demanded of the Consulting Criminal. He grimaced and frowned for a while. But to Elliot's relief and surprise, he got up and slowly, with frustratingly tedious steps, moved towards the door but turned his head to Elliot.

"I'll have you know I refuse to tell you what Cruz discovered in the attic."

Of course London would have to behave like a child and come up with something in retaliation.

"Is that so? Then I won't ask the colonel for the list of my patients in Afghanistan." Elliot answered and watched two red spots appear on London's cheeks. The Consulting Criminal really must be tired if he couldn't even win a discussion. It was odd to not have London one step ahead of him. Elliot would remedy that on the spot.

"And wash your face while you're gone," he added.

London blinked and retorted dryly, "Approximately fifteen more words and then your voice is gone. I suggest you keep quiet from now on."

Then he left but Elliot grinned from ear to ear, partly because London wasn't angry with him for accepting Carlton's invitation and partly because no matter what insults London threw at him now, the stubborn genius was on his way to get nourishment.

Elliot had taken care of the basic needs from a hospital bed; food and a home. Now both he and London could concentrate on the new mystery.

A new game was afoot.

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The next day Elliot woke up with a grin on his face because of many reasons.

For one, Cruz had gotten his testimony the day before and while both of them knew it was unavoidable procedure and that Elliot hadn't got a clue how the fire started, it turned out London had been bluffing about the secret progress, because Cruz's technicians hadn't found anything suspicious in the ruined attic.

According to the Inspector, the time was running out for him to establish that a crime had been committed if they didn't find any proof soon. Apparently, the fire brigade's own explanation was vague but deemed the fire as an accident. Elliot had interjected that perhaps someone had used gasoline which quickly would have perished once the fire started. Cruz had promised to look into it by returning one more time to Baker Street and then left Elliot with a wish that he would recover fast.

The next thing that made Elliot smile in the bed even though his muscles ached when he stretched them was the phone call from Mrs. Hanson around 5 p.m. yesterday. London had found her current position and distributed Elliot's temporary phone number to the little lady.

Mrs. Hanson had told Elliot she was fine but more worried about his health.

He had calmed her down and asked what she was planning on doing for now. She had answered with a hearty chuckle he needn't worry about her. Right now she was staying with a dear lady friend until everything had been straightened out.

A quick knock on the door made Elliot sit up as nurse Boyle entered to help him get to the bathroom and deliver the breakfast.

"Morning, Elliot. Excited to get out of here today?" he greeted and held out his hand to Elliot.

"Yeah; not that my staying here has been bad but two days in a bed is almost more than I can stand. It will be nice when things go back to normal," he explained as he tried to put some weight on his leg with the sprained ankle and found that he could manage to hobble to the bathroom on his own.

"Well done! Just remember to exercise every day but not to the point of straining. And I guess I won't have to remind a doctor like you to take care of your back so it can heal properly."

"Well, I have treated burns before," Elliot let out and closed the door behind him.

A couple of hours later London arrived and proudly declared he had spent the night sleeping in the Yard's lab in order to be the first person in the morning to examine the results from the examination of the single dog tag and the chain.

"The lab was rather vigorous. When the tags where examined, one of the cretins spent the whole day removing every sign of fingerprints and DNA with various detergents. So thanks to their lapses of judgement, I'm afraid we've currently hit a dead end." London sighed sadly but then concentrated on supporting Elliot by offering an arm when Elliot was ready to stand and check himself out.

He gladly accepted it and struggled for a moment to zip up his new jacket London had bought together with a pair of trousers, a t-shirt and a jumper from a clothing store where most clothes resembled Elliot's old ones. "We need to buy ourselves some more clothes," he reminded London with a frown.

He hated spending hours in warm stores while trying on hundreds of outfits that didn't fit in one way or another.

London drawled back, "The same goes for the furnishing, I'm afraid. I refuse to live with anything my father personally picked out for us."

And while London escorted Elliot out to a waiting cab, he muttered under his breath, "Whoever started the fire will pay for destroying my experiments, the skull and my gun." Elliot rolled his eyes but was amused by London's priorities that remarkably differed from those of normal people.

Once London had seated himself in the cab and told the driver their new destination, Elliot interrupted the conversation. "Actually, can we first make a stop at a pharmacy? I have to pick up some drugs and bandages." The cabbie nodded and started the engine.

The house was enormous as it towered over the surrounding buildings but Elliot was glad it was not so far from Central London and there was an underground station one block away. Elliot staggered out from the car and clutched his plastic bag from the drug store while reminding himself to take some painkillers soon since his back had begun to throb after the unavoidably bumpy ride.

"Do you need some help?" London asked briefly and once again Elliot gripped the thick, black material around the Consulting Criminal's arm. He would rather stand the humiliation of being observed holding onto London by Carlton's goon nearby than take to use a cane again.

With a well-timed movement, London opened the door for him after he had pressed the right code slowly so Elliot could see it too. It came as no surprise Carlton had already given his son the necessary information about the temporary home. They took the lift up to the seventh floor and found the right door. Here, however, London scowled and pressed the doorbell too hard and too many times.

Some seconds later someone unlocked the door and it swung open to reveal Anthea. 

"Hello. Carlton said you are welcome to keep the furniture but if you don't approve of them, please leave them here when you move out and don't ruin them. We have to remember the importance of recycling these days," she spoke as if she had learnt the words by heart and tapped her fingers restlessly against her suit-pant clad thigh when London on purpose took his time to come up with a response.

"Fine. This seems…adequate. Thank you, Anthea, Helena, Venus or whatever."

"Neptune now, actually. A bit trickier," the woman sarcastically retorted before she tossed a set of keys to London as she brushed past them and left them alone.

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"Well, I suppose we'll have to be our own guides," Elliot joked and braced himself against the faintly yellow wall in the hallway. Almost immediately to the left he could see the kitchen with neither ancient nor highly modern kitchen equipment and a solid table big enough for both Elliot and London and items such as books or experiments used during cases.

He continued forward and opened a door out of curiosity.

A perfectly shining bathroom met him and looked like something taken from a home journal. Dusty black bricks covered the floor whereas light grey tiles on the walls made the room look masculine and soothing for tired minds. And that wasn't all. A large white tub with taps and a round shower nozzle would make it possible to both shower and soak oneself. Elliot felt London's presence behind and knew his friend was looking for something to complain about, which would undoubtedly happen.

"Come on, admit it, this is nice," Elliot commented but London snorted so a few strands on Elliot's head waved.

"How is this nice? He's placed a bloody rubber duck on the sink!"

"It's not yours is it?" Elliot asked brightly and closed the door to stop London from continuing the scrutiny or responding. He reached the end of the corridor where the way split in three. In the middle an arch in the ceiling posed as the natural beginning of the spacious living room which had everything they could possibly want; armchairs, a couch, bookcases with copies of books on criminology, art, history and chemistry, a desk and even some plants here and there.

It appeared that Carlton was at least making an effort to keep his son somewhat occupied so he wouldn't shoot the walls and ceiling.

But what really struck him was the incredible light. Baker Street had always been a bit gloomy but here the walls were invitingly white, a beige carpet lay in the middle of the room and the three windows were huge. He was drawn into the living room and saw that he and London now had a balcony instead of a fire place. And the height of the apartment provided a spectacular view over the busy streets, which the Consulting Criminal would use to his advantage.

Elliot was quite content.

The Consulting Criminal was not.

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London observed how Elliot slumped his shoulders and understood he was overruled. He enjoyed the idea of living here.

Now, London on the other hand was harder to please since he also imagined the disadvantages of staying here. He knew his father would be breathing down his neck if he even for a bored moment considered shooting at the wall. Furthermore, he despised the thought of having families with uncontrolled children crowding the stairs or the lift which would force him to behave like a normal neighbor. One mistake and the whole gossiping building would hate him and Elliot.

God, why were people so adamant when it came to social norms?

"Now this, this I can live with," Elliot said quietly, clearly more to himself than to London who looked up at the ceiling and stated, "If you're so sure, there's only one thing left to do. Bring me a chair."

Naturally, Elliot whipped around and blinked.

"A chair, Elliot. There's one right beside you," London repeated impatiently and heard the small exhale of resignation before he grabbed one of the chairs by the desk and moved it to London's side. The Consulting Criminal narrowed his eyes upon seeing Elliot favoring his unharmed leg but hoped the reason was tiredness and not the beginning of another limp.

After he had checked the stability of the chair, London easily jumped up on it and reached up to the ceiling. The bright convex lamp made of blurry glass was his goal. He began to carefully trace the inside of the lamp with his hand until he found the spy equipment against his fingertips.

He took it, stepped down, and showed the object to Elliot.

"A refined bugging device. I admit I'm a bit disappointed," he addressed the black box with animosity and Elliot's eyes widened.

"But…but he said he wouldn't supervise us here," he exclaimed indignantly but London tilted his head.

Elliot closed his mouth. London strolled to the balcony door, opened it and tossed the devious box as far away as he could.

"I expected him to have done something more than decorating but I never thought he would try to get away with such a poor hiding place. You see, Elliot, my father attempted to use reverse psychology, meaning he was sure I would search for his device but of course only look in inventive locations, thus forgetting the simplest of hiding places. He underestimated the workings of my hard drive. Again."

London retreated inside, shrugged off his coat, and carelessly dropped it on the couch.

"Aren't we going to inspect the bedrooms?" Elliot uttered as he as well took off his jacket.

"He would not bug those rooms. He's aware that it's in the living room I usually make progress with my cases. Northern room." London replied and Elliot made a gesture London interpreted as compliance.

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"I'm sorry for interrupting you but we'll need to buy groceries eventually," Elliot said after a while and London glanced at the clock on the wall before he turned his head. Elliot's breath was labored and he leaned heavily against the wall. Without being aware of it, London had been absorbed by the work for an hour and Elliot had left the room at some point and had just now returned.

"Okay" The Consulting Criminal answered and then pulled out the unoccupied chair beside him.

London saw Elliot grimace but then he seemed to steel himself when he realized what was silently being asked of him, so he slowly made his way over to the Consulting Criminal and lowered himself onto the chair.

"I've been making a chart of all the comrades-in-arms you've listed. However you know better where I should look, given the fact that you're familiar with military workings more so than I am."

Elliot brightened and his breathing evened out. That was good. The Consulting Criminal was still allowing him to help. "First of all I think we could send a letter to the colonel and ask for phone numbers and the names of my patients. He trusts me but he needs to know the reason behind my request, or else he'll refuse," he told London.

London nodded and pushed over a piece of blank paper so Elliot could reach it and write whatever he saw fit. Elliot lifted his arms but hissed and his face became contorted by pain. He dropped one of his arms and massaged it with the other hand and then he addressed London with a depressed tone, "Well, if I only have one hand to use on the paper I might as well not bother for now. Otherwise we'll have to wait until midnight for me to finish writing."

"The swelling in the muscle will wane each day that passes. You just have to give it time to heal," London said as comfort and then moved his chair closer to Elliot's. "Until that time arrives, you can dictate and I shall write. It's the least I can do."

Elliot nodded his acceptance and with an expression of genuine interest, leaned forward so a whiff of his scent hit London's sensitive nostrils. The smell of new clothes, simple soap from the hospital and something else but he didn't have very long to dwell.

The Consulting Criminal was pulled from his musings when Elliot suddenly started his dictation.

And in the middle of writing the letter, London secretly felt at home despite Carlton's choice of decoration and motivation. 

But he would never admit that to his pompous, overbearing, manipulative father.

After they had finished the letter to Elliot's former Commander-in-Chief and the Consulting Criminal convinced Elliot to rest, he himself took the time to venture into his bedroom.

It was considerably darker in there, especially since the walls were painted in a rich burgundy nuance which appealed to London and he was impressed that his father at least had gotten something right. Heavy curtains hung over the window and a large wardrobe with dark brown varnish took up quite a bit of space. He opened one door and saw clean, accurate in size, suit with three crisp, white shirts on some hangers. Now this was a benefit; he wouldn't have to waste time on buying clothes for a few days and he assumed Elliot would find something similar in his wardrobe.

London swung around to face the bed which probably had cost a fortune. While the duvet seemed soft and nice, it was the bed-frame that annoyed London. It looked like an old-fashioned tester bed, thankfully without a roof or ridiculous hangings but with one offensive, ornamented pole in each corner. He clenched his fists and shook from contained rage.

If Elliot hadn't already gone to bed, London would have dragged the man with him and stormed out in protest against Carlton, but as it was, London had to endure the hideous bed-frame until he could find time to change it. So he found himself marching out of the room and heading for the bathroom. A warm shower would relieve him of some frustration and he would finally be clean again.

He locked the door silently to not rouse Elliot and glared at the smiling rubber duck.

"You'll never replace my skull, you PVC-filled abomination. If it was up to me, I would set you on fire." he growled at the duck but reluctantly left it on the sink upon remembering how Elliot had shaken with mirth when they had first discovered the bathroom and the smug duck.

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