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Author: [redacted]
Title: It always sounds better on paper
A gift for: probablywont
Characters/Pairing: Sherlock/John preslash; Greg Lestrade; Sherlock Holmes; John Watson
Category: Gen
Rating: Teen
Warnings: No warnings apply
Summary: They have two months to put together one of the largest and most ambitious grant proposals the Chemistry department has ever seen. What can possibly go wrong? Oh, let Greg count the ways— starting with him being strong-armed into letting Sherlock Holmes onto the research team.
Author's Notes: Special thanks to awesome betas and last-minute lifesavers: B and M. My own background is in basic social science research in the US. So apologies for any discrepancies between the US and UK, as well as between basic and applied research.

Ten minutes until Greg's next meeting and Mycroft Holmes just strolled into his office. Oh no. Greg internally cursed himself for leaving his office door open.

"Good afternoon, Gregory," Mycroft purred in greeting. Tall and thoroughly intimidating, the man settled primly into the chair facing Greg's desk, brushing an invisible piece of lint from his sleeve and twirling his ever-present brolly.

If Greg was a lesser man, he would have broken out in a cold sweat as soon as the "minor University of London administrator" darkened his doorway. Mycroft Holmes may not be provost or have some other fancy title, but he had the power to make or break entire departments as he deemed appropriate. Instead, Greg shook his head vehemently, gathered his laptop, and stood to leave. "No, Mycroft, absolutely not."

Mycroft frowned— a deliberate expression meant to gently chide Greg. And damn him if Greg wasn't starting to feel self-conscious. His resolve to deny Mycroft's request may already be crumbling. "Can't I visit an old friend and catch up?"

Greg snorted to himself. "Your office is across town. I mean it Mycroft, whatever it is that you're going to ask of me, my answer is still no."

"Oh, must you think so ill of me? I came here to warn you in person. I've heard through the grapevine that Jim Moriarty is putting together a team and submitting a proposal to the same programme you're aiming for."

"Shite!" Greg's knees buckled and he fell back hard onto his seat. For once! For once! Greg and his collaborators were uniquely poised to beat out the numerous applications that would no doubt come out of the Oxbridge colleges. And now Moriarty, the arrogant little pissant, was going to completely wreck their chances.

"Indeed," Mycroft agreed and wrinkled his nose slightly at Greg's coarse language. "He's already scooped you once this year."

"Twice," Greg corrected. A combined worth of three years' research now rotting away on his hard drive as he combed for a way to rescue his nearly finished manuscripts.

"Ah yes, I had forgotten about his protein folding article in last month’s Nature."

Greg very much doubted Mycroft forgot anything. He knew for a fact that the man had an eidetic memory. The other thing Mycroft always had was a plan, which Greg assumed was why he was really here. "What should I do then?"

Mycroft arched an elegant eyebrow. "Isn't it obvious? Ask Sherlock to join your team."

Greg should have seen it coming. He should have seen it coming from miles and miles away.

"How?" He paused to gather his thoughts. "How is that supposed to increase our chance of getting this grant? Sherlock doesn't exactly play nice with others. He hasn't even officially been a part of any research project since that one time when he was a post-doc."

On paper, Sherlock Holmes was part of the Chemistry department's teaching staff (although why anyone would let Sherlock near impressionable undergrads was beyond Greg's understanding). Sherlock once told him it was the lesser of two evils. Sherlock scorned the idea of being accountable to any agency, laughed at the idea of deliverables, and detested all the other red tape that often came hand-in-hand with academic research. It made him a terrible collaborator to work with. But even without his own equipment or money, Sherlock still managed to publish several seminal papers each year. As far as Greg could figure, Sherlock obtained what he needed for his own research by solving the problems, both personal and professional, of his colleagues.

"Sherlock has a review with the school board next semester. It would be in his best interest to pad his CV. But we both know he'll join for the chance to show up Jim Moriarty alone."

"I don't really have a choice then." Greg sighed.

"Oh, Gregory," Mycroft drawled with more than a hint of kindness. "You always have a choice."

Patently untrue, but he would take what he could get.


To say that Sherlock Holmes was the black sheep of the department was to put it lightly. There was no question that he was brilliant, but he was also rude, abrasive, and tactless. So when Sherlock skulked in five minutes late, it was no surprise when the room fell so silent you could hear a pin drop.

"What is he doing here?" Sally Donovan screeched after another beat.

Sherlock stalked down the length of the room before sinking into the chair at the other end of the conference table.

Greg glanced down at the meeting agenda and threw an accusing look down the table. "You timed it, didn't you?"

"You're that obvious, Lestrade," the younger professor sniffed with condescension.

Visions of decking both Holmes brothers were dancing in Greg's head now. A migraine was imminent and Greg knew then it was going to be the longest months of his life. And while would everyone eventually come around to the truth that they needed Sherlock if Moriarty was to be beat, no one would be particularly happy about their situation.

So that's how it came to pass that the two weeks were spent in a blur of fielding email complaints from his team members. Greg felt like he was babysitting a group of primary school children— certainly not leading a team of mature and intelligent scientists.

Then there was Sherlock himself, who had never written a proposal of any sort.

When Sherlock submitted his initial budget: "No agency is going to believe you'll do that amount of work with that small a budget."

After he revised it: "No, Sherlock, this is almost double the rest of us combined."

Greg ended up drawing up everyone’s budget from scratch afterwards. It was for the best in the end.

And he really didn't want to think about that whole mess with the Gantt schedules.

But Sherlock wasn't all trouble. There was no way Greg or any of the other collaborators would keep Sherlock on if he failed to contribute. Regardless of Mycroft’s threats, there was never enough time to deal with someone who wouldn’t pull their weight. Greg had classes to teach, papers to write, and a marriage whose fraying edges required constant maintenance (or at least the contemplation of such). But Sherlock knew how Moriarty's mind worked— he knew how Moriarty was likely to frame the research in his team's proposal. There were a few ideas that even Greg struggled with, ones that he hoped might make their proposal stand out. But they were all in their infancy and he had not even preliminary data to present to convince any review committee.

Greg didn't know how Sherlock had figured it out. One day, he was calming Sally after Sherlock absconded with one of her grad students. And just days later, Sherlock turned up at his office with an armful of data analyzed and written up by said previously missing student. That student was now writing her first manuscript, Greg had data to put in the proposal, and Sally didn't yell at Sherlock during the next meeting— just asked him to warn her if he planned on kidnapping anyone else in the future.

A month after their rocky start, Greg dared to hope the best for all of them.


Greg needed a medical consultant— an honest-to-God medical doctor. Where the hell was he going to find a qualified one for the team on such short notice? He was going to have to rework the budget projections to cut their medical consultant a piece of the pie. So no one was going to be happy, least of all Sherlock (not because of the money issue, but because he fancied himself qualified to stand in as a medical doctor).

That's how Greg found himself begging for a referral from Dr. Mike Stamford. Which was how he then found Dr. John H. Watson at Saint Barts.

Doctor Watson turned out to be everything Greg could ask for. Doctor Watson— “please call me John”— wasn't scheduled to teach any classes until the next academic year, and he seemed genuinely interested after hearing Greg's description of their proposal. The doctor seemed particularly keen on having a reason to get away from his office.

Greg recognized the signs of boredom well enough to know the man must be going out of his mind. So it came as no surprise to either of them when John enthusiastically accepted the invitation at the end of the meeting. He didn't know exactly why John's sabbatical had been cut short (he knew better than to ask about the cane and limp), but the addition of the doctor to the team would be to all their advantage.

Or it would have been if Greg hadn't forgotten about Sherlock until he and John ran into the man himself on a tour of Anderson's lab. The lab was empty except for Sherlock standing over one table at the far end of the room with his back to them. Greg was about to steer John right back out the door when Sherlock called, "Lestrade, aren't you going to introduce us?"

His shoulders slumped. So much for their new medical consultant. No, Greg was not going to lose John now. He opened his mouth to make an excuse for John and himself, when the doctor hobbled up to Sherlock without any fear.

"Doctor John Watson, pleased to meet you, professor?"

Still holding a pipette suspended in the air, Sherlock swept a piercing gaze up and down John's body and asked, "The Middle East or North Africa?"

"I'm sorry?" John said at the moment that Greg groaned, "Not now, Sherlock!"

Oh the poor sod was never going to know what hit him. Greg really should have warned him about Sherlock first.

Sherlock sighed, sounding more put-off than he honestly had any right to being. "Where did you recently return from? The Middle East or North Africa? Which was it?"

"The Middle East," John replied cautiously.

"You must be losing your touch, Sherlock, not down to the exact country?" Greg asked, hoping to take the wind out of Sherlock's sails long enough for him to rescue John. He should have known it would just encourage him instead.

"Médecins sans Frontières," and damn Sherlock for his perfect French accent, "Operates in more than sixty countries at present. It'd be impossible to narrow it down to just one locale, much less one country, without collecting a bit of data beforehand. But given that you were a trauma surgeon volunteering in the Middle East, the greatest possibilities are Iraq or Afghanistan."

"Did you tell him about me?" John directed his question to Greg with furrowed brows.

He held up his hands in capitulation. "This is all news to me."

"Your hands," Sherlock butt in.

"My hands?"

Greg let out a strangled sound when Sherlock suddenly laid down his pipette and grabbed John's free hand. Damn, the bastard moved like a striking snake. John, to his credit, didn't even flinch and remained frustratingly blank as the other professor turned his hand over in examination.

"The calluses on your hands says surgeon, not GP. Your face is tanned but no tan above the wrists."

He pushed back John's sleeves in demonstration. Greg's traitorous eyes flew to the stark tan lines highlighted by the lab's lighting.

Sherlock continued, "You’ve been abroad, but not sunbathing. Your limp’s really bad when you walk but you don’t ask for a chair when you stand, like you’ve forgotten about it, so it’s at least partly psychosomatic. That says the original circumstances of the injury were traumatic. Where does a surgeon get wounded in action abroad? You could be ex-military, but not the right body language, your posture's too relaxed. So humanitarian aid it is, thus MSF. People of your specific skill set would most likely end up in a war-torn region, namely either the Middle East or North Africa at present."

Complete silence followed in the wake of Sherlock's deductive rant— the two men's eyes and hands stayed locked together. As the seconds crawled by, Greg could only imagine worse and worse scenarios. Punching Sherlock in the face was probably par for the course in a situation like this. But there were also acids and other corrosive chemicals in the lab somewhere.

Greg cleared his throat and stared pointedly at where Sherlock's fingers still held John's wrist captive. The taller professor finally dropped John's hand and took a step back. Greg winced as John sucked in a long breath.

"That...was amazing!"

Greg's jaw dropped.

Sherlock looked dazed, as if someone had just bludgeon him with a blunt object. "Really?"

"Of course, it was extraordinary; it was quite extraordinary."

Sherlock looked inordinately pleased. Maybe they'd be able to keep this doctor after all.


Sherlock wasn't answering phone calls, texts, or emails. In fact, Greg hadn't seen Sherlock in the last four days since the incident at the lab with John. Normally, this didn't worry him. Much like an irritating haunting, Sherlock was never around when you needed him and otherwise popped up at the most inopportune time.

But he had gotten an email from Mike Stamford about how he had noticed Sherlock down at Barts over the last few days.

He tried Sherlock's office, but it was no surprise the man wasn't in. Sherlock only seemed to use the space to hoard his things. Come to think of it, he'd never even seen Sherlock hold office hours in there.

Down at the classroom where Sherlock's next lecture was due to start in about ten minutes, he found only Molly Hooper at the podium nervously shuffling a pile of papers.

"Molly," he groaned. "Please don't tell me he suckered you into covering his class again."

"Oh, it's no trouble at all," the post-doc ducked her head to hide a shy smile.

"Do you know where he skeeved off to then?"

"Have no idea, he came to me about an hour ago saying he needed to be somewhere important at this time and asked me to cover his lecture. He took off with some man after that."

"Was the other guy about yeh tall?" Greg approximated John's height. "Blond hair? Using a cane?"

Molly nodded.

He sighed, "Thanks, Molly. I'll see you at the group meeting later this week then."

Leaning against the wall outside the classroom, he tried to send one last text to the barmy bastard.

To: Sherlock
You know that you can't keep him, right?

He received a response this time— unexpected and maybe more than a bit worrying.

From: Sherlock
John appears to have no objections.


From: samuel.anderson@kcl.ac.uk
To: sally.donovan@kcl.ac.uk; gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk; molly.hooper@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: What’s up with Holmes and the doctor?

They seem awfully buddy-buddy. Holmes hasn’t shouted or insulted him (much) or anything else. Is this some kind of dare? Or is he trying to lull the chap into a false sense of security so he can dissect him later?

From: sally.donovan@kcl.ac.uk
To: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk; molly.hooper@kcl.ac.uk; samuel.anderson@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: What’s up with Holmes and the doctor?

I saw them laughing the other day. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. Hell must be freezing over right now.

Greg should probably discourage them from gossiping about their colleagues like this. But he was awfully curious himself. He had never never seen Sherlock so taken with another human being before. Lab equipment, sure— or even the occasional lab animal, and even then only for their value to answer interesting research questions. Counting backwards (God, he was getting old), he realized he had known Sherlock for almost eight years now.

From: molly.hooper@kcl.ac.uk
To: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk; sally.donovan@kcl.ac.uk; samuel.anderson@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: What’s up with Holmes and the doctor?

I think it’s really sweet that Sherlock and John have become such good friends. He smiles a lot more nowadays.

From: sally.donovan@kcl.ac.uk
To: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk; molly.hooper@kcl.ac.uk; samuel.anderson@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: RE: What’s up with Holmes and the doctor?

Friends, huh? You sure about that? Half the time, he looks like he’s ready to pounce the poor man. The good doctor gets all of my sympathies.

Okay, Greg should probably (definitely) step in here. Then he remembered how Sherlock had broken into his office yesterday, deduced his computer password, and left him a of “suggested edits” on his first draft.

(Sally was right. Sherlock did sometimes stand way too close to John to be socially or platonically acceptable. John either didn’t mind, or more likely, was oblivious to it.)

From: molly.hooper@kcl.ac.uk
To: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk; sally.donovan@kcl.ac.uk; samuel.anderson@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: What’s up with Holmes and the doctor?

You don’t mean...

Greg could picture Molly in her cubicle, blushing furiously.

From: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
To: molly.hooper@kcl.ac.uk; sally.donovan@kcl.ac.uk; samuel.anderson@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: What’s up with Holmes and the doctor?

Thank you Sally for that unnecessary mental image. Now if you lot have all this time to gossip about other people’s love lives or lack of one, that means I should be getting those pieces I need for each of you soon right?

Greg received no further messages after that. He suspected it was because they removed him from the email chain. At least Sally and Sam had stopped trying to convince him to pitch Sherlock— and by proxy, John too— off the team.


When Greg finally went to bed around 1AM, he did so alone. Janice, his wife, was visiting her sister in Birmingham again. He didn’t know if he believed her or not. Worse, he didn’t know if he actually cared one way or the other.

His dreams of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry were rudely interrupted by an impromptu rock concert. He blinked before realizing it was his mobile dancing across his nightstand to the tune of “Get It On.” Who could be calling so late? Turned out it was Sherlock. Greg considered ignoring the call as Marc Bolan belted out two more lines.

In the end, he answered.

“Lestrade?” Sherlock snapped— impatient and utterly awake.

“Christ, Sherlock,” he glanced at his alarm clock. “It’s almost 3AM. What couldn’t wait until this morning?”

“It is morning. I need you to come down to Scotland Yard and bail me out.”

God, was he still dreaming?

“You were...arrested?”

“Yes! Now come get John and me out.”

“Oh god, John is with you? John Watson?” Of course John would be with Sherlock, they were practically attached at the hip nowadays. “What the hell did you do?”

Sherlock’s sniff still sounded haughty and disdainful, despite the tinny quality it gained over the phone. “If you really must know, breaking and entering.”


“Are you coming or not?”

“Yeah, keep your pants on. I’m on my way.”

Greg hung up without giving Sherlock (the bastard) any further satisfaction, instead focusing on how he was going to smooth things over with John. While John appeared to have tolerated Sherlock’s eccentricities and company so far, Greg doubted the doctor regarded getting arrested favorably. He'd hate to lose John now.

At the desk down at Scotland Yard, a sergeant took Greg’s money and handed him a stack of forms to fill out. He was going to make Mycroft reimburse him for this— though knowing Sherlock’s omniscient brother, the check was probably already in the mail.

He almost joined the force some thirty years ago. He would have, had he not gotten that scholarship for university. Just as he started to wonder how different his life would have turned out had he chose to be a cop instead of a professor, Sherlock’s tall, lanky form made its way quickly toward him. Greg sighed. Whatever the alternative, he had the feeling he’d still be stuck with Sherlock Holmes in one form or another.

How many people had Greg viciously murdered in a previous life to accrue this sort of karma?

“Sherlock, what the hell were you—”

“Where’s John?” The younger man cut him off.

“I don’t know. Isn’t he supposed to be with you?”

“A detective inspector took him away about ten minutes before you got here. What took you so long, Lestrade?! I need to go find him.” Sherlock turned away, and Greg managed to catch his sleeve before he lost sight of him again.

“No, Sherlock, you’re going to stay here and sign these release forms. They just let you out; what makes you think they’re going to be okay with the idea of you tearing through the building?”

“But John—”

“Will be fine. I’m sure the nice DI just wanted to talk to him. Did you even try explaining yourself to the arresting officer and not just insult them?”

Sherlock snapped his mouth shut and glared. When he was finally given back his belongings, he ignored Greg in favor of furiously typing on his mobile. Five minutes later, Sherlock was bouncing back and forth on the heel of his shoes. Ten minutes later, Sherlock took to pacing the narrow corridor and Greg contemplated lying down on the desk for a kip. By the time John appeared fifteen minutes later, Sherlock looked ready to shake apart into pieces from the nervous energy reverberating through his body.

“John!” Sherlock exclaimed and bound up to the doctor. He threw an arm around John’s shoulder. “Are you okay? Are you hurt? Did he threaten you?”

“I’m fine, you idiot.” John didn’t even look angry, just mildly annoyed. A miracle given Sherlock Holmes’ effect on most of the populace. “I was explaining to DI Dimmock how we knew about the bomb.”

Sherlock reluctantly let go when John shrugged his arm off.

That jolted Greg to full alertness. “I’m sorry, did you say bomb?”

Sherlock refused to answer, instead focusing his laser-like gaze on the detective that had escorted John to them.

“Detective Inspector, recently promoted and largely untested. You’re looking to prove yourself, you want your department to take you more seriously than they presently do. John has managed to convince you of the severity of our situation. The suspect has hoarded enough stolen chemicals to make two explosive devices of similar strength. Since there the device was left unarmed in his flat and it appears he left in a hurry, it’s safe to say he’s gone into hiding with the other one and plans to plant he intended.”

“Sorry, he just does that. I can’t take him anywhere.” John joked.

Sherlock appeared to ignore John, but there was a brief wry smile that was gone as quickly as it appeared. “I have deductions about several locations he might be targeting, we need to move swiftly if you want to catch him before he arms the device.”

The detective inspector tried to leveling a stern glare at Sherlock. Everyone present could tell it fell short. Greg pitied the detective— most people were just not equipped to deal with Sherlock Holmes. Apparently, unless you were John Watson.

“Fine,” Dimmock snapped. “We’ll go up to my office and talk about this.”

“Time is of the essence, Inspector,” Sherlock insisted, and then added as almost an afterthought. “Lives are in danger.”

No one, least of all Greg, was surprised when Dimmock caved. “Fine, I’ll get my sergeant. You can explain your deductions on the drive over, but you and your friend are to stay in the car when we get there.”

Sherlock opened his mouth to protest, but shut it when John tugged on his sleeve and shook his head. The taller man followed quickly at the heel of the detective leading them away.

John hung back though and regarded Greg apologetically. “I’m so sorry, you had to come down here. Sherlock refused to call Mycroft and Harry... wouldn’t pick up. How much do I owe you for the bail?”

Honestly, the last thing Greg was concerned about at the moment was the bail money. “What were you two even doing?”

“It’s brilliant!” John’s face lit up like a lightbulb. “Sherlock figured out who’s been stealing from the chem labs in Hodgkin and then we—”

“John, sometime today!” Sherlock snapped from some length down the hall.

John smiled apologetically and said, “Sorry, I better go. Gotta keep an eye on him, someone has to.”

Greg watched them go with more than a bit of helplessness, before shouting, “Don’t get yourselves blown up before we submit the proposal!”

Sherlock waved a dismissive hand over his shoulder. Greg furrowed his eyebrows as he stared at John’s retreating back. There was something different about the doctor today, but Greg couldn’t put his finger on what exactly.

Greg stumbled into the conference room later that morning for their group meeting, having slept fitfully after leaving the police station. A weight lifted off his shoulders to see Sherlock and John’s heads bent together in conspiratorial intent. More gossip would come later, he was sure— the entire department (and probably the college) would be talking about the fact that the aspiring bomber was a Computer Science undergrad pilfering supplies from the chem labs.

Due to their part in the investigation, Sherlock and John were receiving some speculative and slightly awed looks from other faculty. John would manage to look a bit sheepish, while Sherlock's unapologetic smugness threatened to smother them all. Even then, Greg would still think the most incredible result to come out of their misadventure would be the sight of John, standing tall and sans walking cane.


Greg could have sworn he saw Sherlock’s dark curly head weaving through the small crowd, followed by John’s blond head bobbing behind him. He did a double take, and almost went after them. Last he’d heard, Sherlock hadn’t intended to attend the conference, and while John was not necessarily unwelcomed, this was a bit outside his field. But Greg needed to hurry to the room where his talk was scheduled to begin at any moment.

His talk went well— well-attended given the half-filled room and Greg fielded a number of interesting questions at the end, including one from a professor at the University of Brussels that wanted to work with him. That definitely counted as a success.

Until Jim Moriarty sauntered up just as Greg was packing up his laptop. When had the bastard slipped into the room?

"Impressive talk as always, Professor Lestrade," Moriarty drawled— seemingly harmless— before pulling out a shark's grin. "Tell me, have you ever considered your work's application to sequencing?"

Greg had. It was how he intended to frame the discussion in his manuscript-in-progress.

I'm going to scoop you again, said Moriarty's expression. There's no stopping me.

“I’ll take it under advisement.” Greg had never wanted to punch someone this badly before— not even Sherlock.

Thankfully, he didn’t stay long either. “See you around, Professor, ciao.”

Two hours later, Greg was searching for Molly at the poster session. He wanted to congratulate her for her first conference. After his earlier encounter with Moriarty, Greg was all out of surprise when he saw that Sherlock and John had beaten him there.

"The chair owes me a favor, so she waived our registration." Sherlock answered Greg's unspoken question without looking away from Molly’s poster. “Don’t worry, Molly, you’re sure to take ‘best poster.’ Everyone else’s here is mediocre at best.”

Molly beamed and Sherlock turned on the poor grad student set up next to her.

Greg sighed and turned to John. “So you got dragged here too?”

John shrugged, “It’s not like I have anything much better to do nowadays.” But he smiled with good humor now, instead of self-deprecation. “We went to a few interesting talks, some of the chemistry was a bit over my head, but it’s all rather brilliant.”

“Haven’t been thrown out of anyone’s talk yet? That’s a first for Sherlock.”

John laughed, “We came close at Professor Wilkes’, but I think Sherlock was just trying to wind him up.”

“Wilkes is a prat,” Greg agreed. A corporate selling-out prat. Then he thought back to his earlier encounter with Moriarty. “John, I should warn you, Jim Moriarty is also here. It’ll be for the best to keep them away from—”

Saying Moriarty’s name was a bit of a coin toss. Because if he was in the room, there was a very good chance he would appear as if summoned. Take this instance for example.

Sherlock pivoted sharply on his heels even before Moriarty even opened his mouth to speak. The two rivals stared at each other, until Sherlock was full-on glaring and Moriarty cracked a slow-spreading and slimy grin.

“Sherlock, darling, how good it is to see you again.”

Sherlock remained silent and icy.

“What? No hug for your old college buddy?” Moriarty threw his arms open as an offer. When he continued to get no response from Sherlock, Moriarty focused on John. “Is this your new doctor pet I’ve been hearing about?”

Greg winced.

John reeled back suddenly as if someone had slapped him. “What?”

“Sorry, allow me to introduce myself. Professor Jim Moriarty, hi!” The snake held out a hand.

“Doctor John Watson,” John muttered, furrowing his brows and reaching out to take Moriarty’s hand. Sherlock intercepted, grabbing John’s wrist and pulling his entire body back away from the other man.

“Don’t touch him,” Sherlock hissed. “He’s poison.”

“Tsk tsk, Sherlock, are you still holding a grudge over what happened years ago? You nearly OD’ed, who else was I going to call other than campus security? Isn’t it you took responsibility like an adult? There’s no shame in admitting a bit of weakness. Sobriety is so difficult to maintain, and you managed it with only two relapses. You have been staying clean, right? Good boy.”

Sherlock kept glancing in John’s direction, who became astonishingly hard to read. While Sherlock’s past battles with addiction were not necessarily a secret— it had been big news when it happened years ago, but it must be news to John now. No one except for Moriarty would deal a low blow by bringing it up after all this time.

Sherlock dropped John’s hand and stepped up until he was toe-to-toe with his enemy. “You drugged me the night before my defense and triggered a relapse. You bribed the dealer into saying I bought the cocaine on my own.”

“But you’ll never be able to prove it,” Moriarty purred.

John’s expression turned thunderous.

The urge to chin the slime returned. Greg almost missed it as he pondered lovingly over his previous thought. There was a snap and a crack and the blur of John’s fist withdrawing from Moriarty’s face and a gasp rippling through the other academics surrounding them. Moriarty stumbled back, looking stunned as he cradled what looked to be a broken nose.

Security was on them in seconds, grabbing John by the arms and hauling him back. John calmly allowed this to happen and then for security to escort him away. Sherlock followed without any further glances to spare Moriarty. His eyes, feverishly bright, were trained on John’s straight (proud) back, and he looked both pleased and impressed.

This, Greg thought, must be what a besotted Sherlock Holmes looked like.


From: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
To: sally.donovan@kcl.ac.uk; samuel.anderson@kcl.ac.uk; sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk; molly.hooper@kcl.ac.uk; john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
Subject: Full technical proposal
Okay everyone, here's the full technical proposal with all our parts. Please review and comment asap. The submission deadline is next Monday, so everything needs to be turned in to the Research Management Office by this Friday. If I don't hear from you before then, I'll assume you're good to go. -Greg

From: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
To: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk; john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
Subject: RE: Full technical proposal

I fixed it for you.

From: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
To: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: Full technical proposal

Sherlock, why did you restructure the entire document?

From: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
To: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: RE: Full technical proposal

Your formatting was inferior. I made it better. Starting with detailing the project tasks from most to least important.

From: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
To: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: Full technical proposal

It's not my formatting, it's what they want.

From: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
To: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: PS I excised Anderson's part entirely


From: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
To: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: PS I excised Anderson's part entirely

And you can't just cut it out Anderson's bit.

From: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
To: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: PS I excised Anderson's part entirely

You didn't even notice his name was missing from the cover page until I just told you.

Google Drive: Sorry, the page (or document) you have requested does not exist. Make sure that you have the correct URL and that the owner of the document hasn't deleted it.

From: john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
To: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: Full technical proposal

Hey Greg,

The link doesn't appear to work. Am I doing something wrong?


From: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
To: john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: Full technical proposal

Sorry about that. Had to delete it off Google docs because Sherlock was being an arse about it. I'll send out the word doc file instead in just a tic.



From: gregory.lestrade@kcl.ac.uk
To: sally.donovan@kcl.ac.uk; samuel.anderson@kcl.ac.uk; sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk; molly.hooper@kcl.ac.uk; john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
Subject: Let's try this again
Attached: MRC2012_LestradeAndersonDonovanHolmesWatson_full_v1.docx

Sorry about the mixup with the online version. There were some technical difficulties with it, so here's the word doc version instead. Once again, mail me any edits and comments before Friday.

Thanks for your patience,


From: john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
To: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: Oi, you wanker

Leave Greg alone. He has enough to do without having to babysit you.

From: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
To: john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
Subject: RE: Oi, you wanker

I believe they've decided that'll be your job from now on.

From: john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
To: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: Oi, you wanker

That's me, John Watson, minder of impossible deducing five-year olds. What has become of my life?

Drafts [1]
From: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
To: john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: RE: Oi, you wanker

I would think your life is much improved.

From: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
To: john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: RE: Oi, you wanker


From: john.watson@qmul.ac.uk
To: sherlock.holmes@kcl.ac.uk
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: Oi, you wanker

Sure, text me later. Let’s make sure I don’t get an ASBO this time.


Copper Binding by Prion Protein: Conformation and Consequence
Lestrade, Anderson, Donovan, Holmes, Watson

Lead RO: King's College, University of London

Anticipated Start Date: 1 May 2013
Duration: 3 years

Prof. Gregory W. Lestrade
Professor in Chemical Biology
Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics
King's College, University of London
Phone: +44 (0)207 848 8388

Dr. Samuel Anderson
Lecturer in Chemistry
King's College, University of London
Phone: +44 (0)207 848 1224

Dr. Sally M. Donovan
Senior Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry
Institute of Pharmaceutical Science
King's College, University of London
Phone: +44 (0)207 848 9247

Dr. Sherlock Holmes
Teaching Fellow in Chemistry
King's College, University of London
Phone: +44 (0)207 848 1895

Dr. John H. Watson
Lecturer in Medical Education
Queen Mary, University of London
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Phone: +44 (0)207 882 1895


Copper Binding by Prion Protein: Conformation and Consequence
Lestrade, Anderson, Donovan, Holmes, Watson


Prion diseases such as BSE of the cow and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease of the human remain an enigma. They are proposed to occur because of the generation of an aberrant form of a protein, the prion protein (PrP), that is a normal constituent of the brain and other tissues. Generation of the aberrant form of PrP is more likely if particular forms of the PrP gene are present in the host or if the host is inoculated with pre-existing disease tissue, for example by ingestion. Yet the disease form of PrP is identical in sequence to the normal cellular form and differences between the two therefore must occur when the PrP protein assumes its final three dimensional shape, a process of protein folding. Thus, PrP folding and the overall conformation of the molecule is crucially important for an understanding of how PrP can give rise to disease. In addition, if the key elements of the change can be understood it may be possible to develop sensitive tests which can distinguish one form of PrP from another and so offer rapid detection of the presence of infected material. This proposal concentrates on understanding the conformation of normal PrP protein and to what extent the shape of the protein can be influenced by copper and other metal ions, a recently discovered normal constituent of the protein. The work will contribute to the basic understanding of PrP and its associated diseases and may give rise to information or reagents that could benefit diagnosis or treatment. (1)


The final submission of their proposal called for drinks— lots and lots of drinks to make up for the headaches of the past week. Come early Friday evening, Greg met Sally, Sam, and Molly down at the local. Halfway through the first round, John dragged a harried Sherlock into the pub.

“John!” Sam, the ridiculous lightweight, greeted enthusiastically.

“John, Sherlock, good of you to join us. Wasn’t sure you got my message in time.” Greg pulled out the empty seat next to him.

John thanked him as he sat, “Yeah, sorry, I was trying to convince Sherlock to come along. But he refused to go before he finished his experiment first.”

Sherlock frowned at the only other empty chair that was between Sam and Molly before engaging Sally in a staring contest. Everyone at the table watched the two with bemusement— Sally coolly sipped her beer and arched an eyebrow while Sherlock maintained eye contact without blinking. Grown men had broken down under the force of Sherlock’s gaze alone, but Sally was made of sterner stuff. Sally smirked and Sherlock deepened his scowl.

It was a bit like the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

“Sherlock, what are you doing?” John’s voice was heavy with exasperation.

“I wish to sit in the seat Sally is currently occupying.”

“What’s wrong with the other chair?”

“Besides the fact that it’s next to Anderson?”

“Hey!” Sam protested, but even he didn’t sound like he was taking it to heart anymore.

Sherlock continued, “Sally’s has the best view of the pub. If I’m going to be stuck with you lot as you drink the last of your working brain cells into oblivion, I’d rather be able to entertain myself with deductions about the other patrons.”

As far as Greg could tell, there wasn’t any objective difference in the view from either seats in question. But while it was possible that he missed something (not being the certifiable genius in the group), it was likely that Sherlock wanted an excuse to sit next to John.

John sighed and pulled on a charming smile. “Sorry, Sally, do you mind letting Sherlock have your seat? I rather not have him looming over my shoulders like a bloody crow all night.”

“Okay, John, but only because you asked politely.” She took her pint in hand and moved around to the other side of the table.

Sherlock folded into the chair, still looking like an overgrown crane. When the taller professor said nothing further, John looked over at Sally and politely thanked her. Conversation steered back in its previous direction, namely about everyone’s plans for the Christmas and New Years holiday. Sherlock deduced that Janice’s parents were coming in for Christmas and that Greg was obviously dreading the fact. He might have said more, but John silenced him with a kick under the table.

Greg got the next round, including a bit of scotch for Sherlock, who didn’t ask for anything.

“I want to thank all of you for the work you’ve put into the proposal so far. Even if we don’t get funded, it’s been an experience.” Greg smiled wryly and lifted his glass in salute. “I’m also sick of each and every one of you for the rest of the year, so I better not see your mugs again until after January first!”

Sally cheered, “Hear hear! If I had to read anymore of Sherlock’s ‘revisions,’ I was going to murder someone.”

“They were perfectly valid additions,” Sherlock snapped.

“Mate, how in the world was a three-page tangent about current imaging technology relevant?” John laughed.

Sherlock huddled over his drink and sulked. “I still say we could have worked it in somehow.”

John reached over and patted his shoulder sympathetically.

Greg, on the other hand, lacked that sympathy. He was just too happy to be done and submitted on time. “Well, good thing there wasn’t enough time left to try,” he said cheerfully, feeling euphoric and tipsy.

“There was plenty of time!” Sherlock objected. “The final due date wasn’t until January 5th!”

“What are you talking about? It was due December 24 and the university’s closed that day, so it had to be in today.”

“Look at you lot, you’re all so vacant. Your precious grant agency pushed back the deadline weeks ago, to January 5th. Didn’t you read the email?”

All eyes turned to Greg. As the primary contact with the agency after submitting their white paper, this was the sort of thing Greg should have known. He should have gotten the email, not Sherlock. “Why didn’t you say something before?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “I thought you read the email.”

“What email?”

“The one that was in your inbox.”

“Sherlock,” Greg licked his lips before continuing. “Were you going through my email account again?”

“Obviously yes, Lestrade.”

“Did you, by any chance, also delete said email?”

Silence at their table, but a cheer from the telly in the corner showing highlights of Sunday’s football game.

“Hmm, perhaps.”

Greg’s head hit the table as the rest of the group tore into Sherlock. He was too fucking old for this.


Over the next three months, the submitted proposal faded into the background of Greg’s mind. Manuscripts needing review piled up alongside the half-written ones he needed to finish. Relief over the fact he wasn’t teaching this semester was overwhelming.

So Greg almost forgot about the proposal until Mycroft walked into his office again early March.

Greg really needed to stop leaving his door open in invitation.

“Mycroft,” he regarded the elder Holmes with caution. If Mycroft had another favor to ask, Greg was going to put his foot down and stand his ground this time. If it had something to do with Sherlock, Greg would merely direct him to John Watson, who held infinite more sway over the younger Holmes.

“You needn’t be so tense, Gregory. I wanted to come and offer my congratulations in person.” Mycroft always tried to affect benign, but Greg knew better.

“I’ve finally made chair then?” he joked.

“Perhaps in time, but no, you are about to receive every research scientist’s boon.”

Greg stared blankly. Was Mycroft trying to pull the long con on him?

Unless Sherlock, Mycroft’s “must you insist on being obtuse” sigh was more moderated in volume and less likely to inspire bloodlust. It didn’t make it any less obnoxious though. “The proposal your team submitted last December, I know with good authority that it has been approved for funding.”

Greg’s jaw dropped. “How could you possibly know that?! I don’t even know yet.”

"You should be getting an email today, most likely in the next few minutes now that the programme administrator has finished his morning break."

As if on cue, Greg's computer chimed. Now sitting at the top of his inbox was an email from the MRC (2). Mycroft hadn’t been lying. They got the money. They got the money! Sally was whooping, her joy echoed down the corridor from her office just doors away. The other Holmes brother and John burst into the room.

Sherlock glared at his brother briefly before ignoring him in favor of Greg. “Tell me you’ve read the email.”

Greg nodded, still muted and stunned. He couldn’t believe they actually got it.

Mycroft smiled. "Congratulations, Gregory, you deserve it. Do keep an eye on Sherlock for me."

Sherlock did not take kindly to his brother’s words. It wasn’t before long that the two Holmes began squabbling. Not like regular people though— but like the posh toffs they were with multisyllabic insults and vague allusions to the ever mysterious “Mummy.” Before long, Molly and the others were trying to crowd into his office as well.

That was when Greg realized it.

Putting together the proposal had been the easy part. The next three years were going to be... interesting.

(1) Title and abstract taken from a current project funded by the MRC (http://www.mrc.ac.uk/Ourresearch/Portfolios/TSE/TSEPortfolio/MRC003068): Copper binding by prion protein: conformation and consequence led by Professor Jones at the University of Reading
(2) MRC = Medical Research Council of the UK (http://www.mrc.ac.uk/index.htm)


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 29th, 2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
Oh my God. I don't even know what to say. THANK YOU, MYSTERY GIFTER, YOU ARE AMAZEBALLS!!!!!!! This was so, so good and everything I could have hoped for. The voices were pitch-perfect, the subject matter was glorious, and the email chains. Oh, the email chains.

The writing was just so much fun to read; I'd start quoting but then I'd be quoting the whole darned thing. I will say that I think I fell in love at:

"Oh, Gregory," Mycroft drawled with more than a hint of kindness. "You always have a choice."

Patently untrue, but he would take what he could get.

The hints of slash were super cute (and honestly, so close to the show's level that it sounded like the show...) and everyone's relationships, the fondness and frustration, were just lovely.

I can't imagine a better fill for my wishlist; this is everything I could have wanted and more. THANK YOU GIFTER!!!!!!

P.S. Also that title is super cute.
Jan. 6th, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
I'M SO GLAD YOU LIKED IT!!! And thank you for providing such fabulous prompts that gave birth to this fic.
Dec. 30th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
It is wonderful and entirely unsurprising that the squabbles and rivalries of Sherlock et al fit so well into an academic context, hahah. Lovely fic!
Jan. 6th, 2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the fic.
Jan. 2nd, 2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
I wish there were more faculty AUs like this! The batches of emails in particular were hilarious.
Jan. 6th, 2013 09:16 pm (UTC)
Indeed, I would be all over more faculty AUs in fandom. Academia is just so wacky sometimes.
Jan. 6th, 2013 01:40 am (UTC)
I totally forgot that I'd been meaning to read this one. I love it! I think I need more academia AUs in my life, along with a followup showing this preslash moving to slash. ;)
Jan. 6th, 2013 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! And don't tempt me about writing more, because it will most likely spawn a monster. As all my writing seems to. :P
Jan. 6th, 2013 05:58 am (UTC)
I loved this :D
Jan. 6th, 2013 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jan. 6th, 2013 09:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
Jan. 10th, 2013 01:38 pm (UTC)
Oh that was a wonderful piece of invention - I can truly see them as Professors and Scholars!!

Lovely, sneaky Sherlock saves the day!
Jan. 13th, 2013 11:17 am (UTC)
Fantastic! I adore this AU.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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