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Analysis of Tobacco Ash

Title: Analysis of Tobacco Ash
Author: [info]themintytwins 
Rating: PG13
Pairing: None
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, but I sure wish I did.
Summary: John finds the remnants of Sherlock's Analysis of 243 Types of tobacco ash, because he didn't have the heart to dispose of all of his analyses.

The flat was a complete mess, and John had spent the latter half of the day cleaning it (with a majority of the former half dedicated to not only building up the courage to begin, but also to considering whether he should check that his life insurance was up to date. He’d tried to avoid Sherlock’s desk, not because he wasn’t intending to clean it, but more so he could steel himself for what he might find.

However once he’d begun John made quick work of it, and he found that his reluctance for the job had been well out of proportion (the fridge had been worse than this, and he’d managed to dispose of the assortment of body parts and Substance X containers without much more than a bit of queasy displeasure).

John was straightening a stack of books when his grip on one slipped; it slid across the floor, and when John stooped to pick it up, he grabbed the corner of the note cards protruding from where they’d been closed inside the cover.

He recognized them immediately as various analysis of tobacco ash. Sherlock had deleted his analysis of 243 types of tobacco ash from his laptop several weeks ago. John found it odd that Sherlock would keep any copies that weren’t electronic (except, perhaps, to spite him for saying that no one would bother to read his analysis on his blog).

John flipped through the cards, noting that they were numbered but didn’t seem to be in any particular order, as though they’d been pulled for a specific reason. He paused for a moment on the last card before glancing through the stack once more; the significance clicked. Then John slipped them back into the front cover book. He continued cleaning, a slight smile on his face.

And Sherlock claimed he didn’t understand sentiment.

127: Cavendish, Virginia blend

Ingredients 54% Tobacco, 22% water, 8% Alcohol, 16% Sugars/Flavoring

Texture coarse, long-cut

Heat (steam) fermentation indicative of cake tobacco

Sugar dipped for flavoring, resulting brittle texture

Flavor: Sweet, mild

Room note: Pleasant to tolerable

083: Honeydew Perique Tobacco

Highly aromatic with Honey, Vanilla infusion; fruity aroma

Pressure fermentation, resulting strong flavor

Flavor of infusions, mild

Often detected: rum or whisky from curing process

Often considered too strong to smoke pure, common 5:1 with lighter blend

Texture specific to blend ratio

Room note: Pleasant

202: Bird’s Eye Tobacco Blend

Flavoring: Mild, slightly woody

Air cured, low acidity

Strength, Mild

Aroma: Light walnut/rose, not easily detectable, no additional scent evident

Texture: Fine, grey ash, few impurities

Room note: Pleasant to Tolerable

014: Turkish Tobacco

Strongly aromatic with balsamic odor, slightly acrid odor

Sun cured, identifiably more acidic than smoke or air cured

Flavor: Mild (less carcinogens, less nicotine)

Texture is fine, consistent with small-leaved variety

Impurities indicate combination with robust tobacco

Room note: Tolerable

Cavendish, Virginia blend

Mrs. Hudson never smoked when she was young. Everyone smoked when she was a girl—they didn’t know the risks back then—but not her. She’d made it all the way to her marriage before ever trying a cigarette.

She lit up for the first time two weeks after her honeymoon. Her husband offered her one of his while they sat together on the porch of his parent’s home in Florida. Her nerves were so frayed from the constant nagging and criticisms shot at her from the moment she’d met her mother-in-law that she’d gladly accepted it without really thinking about it.

She wasn’t really sure what she was thinking when she married him. Not much, probably, beyond the fact that she was creeping up on that age where most people wanted to be married by. He was a charming and passionate American, and she’d let herself be swept away by him much faster than retrospect would have recommended.

It wasn’t long before she was having a cigarette on a regular basis, and soon she didn’t just want one—she needed one. She’d married him for… well, mostly for the sake of marrying.

It’s not that he wasn’t a good husband, at least not at first. He was a fine man when she first met him, but he had a temper and he let it get the best of him. He never hit her, but she was sure he wanted to, especially when they had a row (which was often) screaming abuse at each other and often leaving things broken and in a right mess. They just weren’t a good fit.

And then suddenly things got better, for a while. She was pregnant, and he was doting, and she quit smoking for the baby. He was beautiful, with soft, black curls and beautiful blue eyes, her husband’s eyes. They named him after her father.

He was a colicky thing, and they found it almost impossible to sleep most nights. She suffered through it, because it would get better (things would always get better), but her husband didn’t seem quite right, face twisting in irritation and something else when he heard the crying.

And then things got worse again.

She woke up one morning and realized she’d slept through the night, and panic rose in her throat as she rushed to the crib. Her boy, her beautiful, perfect little boy—

She screamed for her husband, and he rushed into the room. He looked at her, concerned, but one look at him, and she knew.

She called the police, rushed out onto the porch. She needed to get away. The smoke felt heavy in her lungs and when she tried to breathe it out she couldn’t. It weighed her down, desperate and so full of sorrow and god, why her?

 She couldn’t get back to London soon enough.

When she’d first met Sherlock Holmes, she was suddenly struck by the question (is this what he would have looked like when he grew up?). She took a deep breath and asked him for his help.

The day her husband smoked his last cigarette was the day she smoker her last, too.

Honeydew Perique Tobacco

Lestrade had laughed when Sherlock claimed that he could tell a man’s relationship status from the tobacco he smokes. But never one to disappoint, Sherlock was quick to prove his claim.

Married, your wife is obviously unhappy, though you want to make it work, and are making an effort to sway her to agree with you.

He’s expected he would be angry at the revelation, after all it was a rather personal issue and how the hell did Sherlock know anyway? But he wasn’t. He’s just sighed resignedly and shrugged his shoulders. He asked. He had to ask—what gave me away?

Sherlock responded with an analysis of the blend he was smoking (light, pleasant aroma, however at the expense of flavor, obviously made to be pleasant for those exposed to the smoke, in your case your wife, who is a non-smoker herself and dislikes the smell).

Lestrade hated the taste of these cigarettes, hated the smell. For all that he wanted to disagree, tell Sherlock that he was wrong and that he and his wife were perfectly happy, he couldn’t really argue with the deduction. Lestrade took one more drag, plucked the cigarette bud from his mouth and crushed it underfoot.

There were some things that were worth saving, sure, and worth trying to save. And then there were some things that just couldn’t be salvaged no matter how hard he tried.

If Sherlock noticed the nicotine patch he wore the next day (and Lestrade was sure he did), he didn’t mention it.

Bird’s Eye Tobacco Blend

Mycroft worried about his brother constantly. His penchant for neglecting his health was entirely worrisome, and sometimes (most times) he was downright reckless. As Mycroft let himself into his brother’s flat, he gave the room a quick once-over, noting with distain that it had barely been touched since the last time he’d left.

He immediately made his way to his brother’s bedroom, pausing outside the door to light a cigarette before trying the handle. It wasn’t locked, and though he opened the door he made no move to enter the room.

Sherlock sat with his back to him, arms dangling over the armrests of the chair and nearly touching the floor. He didn’t move an inch, and made no indication that he’d acknowledged his entry. Still, without turning, he said:

“Leave.” Mycroft sighed from the doorway before stepping slowly inside.

“Sherlock.” Mycroft said, his eyes darting to the table and noting the fait traces of white powder on the table. His hand twitched, and he moved to take another drag on the cigarette in his mouth, “This has to stop. It’s getting…problematic.”

Sherlock didn’t respond, didn’t move.

Mycroft circled around the sofa Sherlock sat in. His eyes were closed, though Mycroft knew better than to think he was asleep. He tried again, “Sherlock—”

“What!” Sherlock bit out, eyes snapping open and leveling a glare on Mycroft. They were silent for a moment before Sherlock schooled himself, “How hypocritical of you, Mycroft, smoking a cigarette while confronting an addict.”

Mycroft didn’t bother pretending he wasn’t pleased by Sherlock’s admission that he was an addict. Instead he smiled pleasantly, drawing the rest of the pack from his pocket. It was full, missing only one. He shook the pack in front of Sherlock before tossing it into the garbage, stubbing out his cigarette on the bottom of his shoe before tossing that as well.

Sherlock eyed him furtively before closing his eyes once again. There was another long bought of silence, and Sherlock huffed, irritated, through his nose.

“…Very well. I will…try.” Sherlock grit out, and Mycroft smiled.

Turkish Tobacco

John ran a hand over his face, taking a shaky breath. He’d never found the desert sun more offensive than it was right now. He couldn’t think. He’d dropped down next to the same wall that his company had used for cover not long ago, just breathing.

Still breathing.

His shoulder, fuck fuck his shoulder hurt. A small part of his brain decided to kick into gear, and he had the presence of mind to apply pressure to the wound. John considered calling for help, couldn’t remember what to say. He let out a low moan and mumbled weakly:

Please God, let me live.

Everything had moved so quickly—walking, clearing buildings and moving their way through the town. They’d just reached the middle of the town when they’d heard the telltale brrap of automatic gunfire. Someone up ahead of them dropped hard, and John could see from where he was that nothing beyond a miracle could help the man. So John dove for the closest cover he could reach instead, following close behind his squad leader and another soldier as he clung to the wall tightly, iron grip on his rifle.

The gunfire broke out all at once, and for a moment they were disoriented by the sheer amount of fire they were under. This mission was supposed to be easy, get in get out in time for dinner and a boring night. The bullets were pounding into the dilapidated walls they were using for cover, and as he watched stray bullets clipping the edges of the surfaces he knew there was nothing further from the truth.

They’d been given shit intel—it was the only explanation.

Somehow they managed to determine that there were two shooters hiding just up ahead—John didn’t bother to ask how, he’d seen enough of the war to know that he could trust his squad leader’s judgment. They had been separated from the majority of the patrol simply by luck, and of the two positions theirs had the obvious advantage for getting out of this mess—but they had to move.

His squad leader signaled for him to give cover fire, and he did as the two of them slipped out from behind cover and made a break for the next nearest wall to duck behind. John ducked back down and edged over as far as he could, so that he could still barely see the two creeping along the wall ahead without himself being visible by the shooters.

They disappeared out of sight, and Watson held his breath.

Bang. One shot, distinct from the automatic gunfire. Bang. Another, then silence. He waited a moment before he ventured a look around the cover. He spotted his Squad Leader edging his way back the way he’d come, and felt a sigh of relief building.

And then he saw him.

The man whipped around the corner, coming up behind the squad leader quickly, raising his gun—

This was idiotic, John knew that. He didn’t care, didn’t even hesitate as he stood fully, gun raised. He saw the man’s attention shift, saw him redirecting his aim to his new target as he realized the threat John posed, felt the man’s eyes lock onto his own.

BANG! He heard only one shot. From the back of his mind, he registered what happened as he watched the man stiffen and drop and felt the explosion of pain in his own shoulder. He was pushed back, twisting from the impact, and he tried and failed to catch his balance.

The ground was hard and he hit it with a solid thud.

He knew there could still be more men out there, waiting to pick him off. John knew this. But it was all he could do to push himself up to a relative sitting position (he wasn’t quite sure how he’d managed it, one moment he was on the ground and the next his back was to the wall again, one hand pressing hard over the wound.

Just the shoulder, could be worse. Could it be worse? He couldn’t remember that either, for a moment, before he took a long shuddering breath and remembered oh yes, I could have taken one in the lung.

Lucky him.

It was another couple of hours (or minutes or seconds, John was having trouble keeping track right now, and his brain supplied shock even as it asked what’s that again?) before he feels a hand on his shoulder, his neck, and he glances to the side to see his squad leader again. He wagers a reassuring smile, but his brain must not have done that right either, because the frown on his squad leader’s face only grows deeper.

He’s half scolding him for being reckless, half reassuring him he’ll be all right, and half thanking him and the math doesn’t work there, does it, but John is getting too tired to care, and his shoulder his still throbbing and the bullets still in there, God damn it.

“Just hang in there Watson, just a bit longer, okay? Come on, Captain, look at me.” He says and John shifts his gaze to see him pulls a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, “Here, you want one?” He offers.

Of course he doesn’t. Cigarettes will kill you.

John nods very slightly anyway and accepts when he offers him a light.

He’s never smoked before. But then, he’d never shot a man before, or been shot himself, either. John takes a drag and the smell is acrid and disgusting, and the smoke is hot, burns his lungs. He coughed slightly and it only jars his shoulder a little, and he’s grateful for the clarity of mind that the little jolt of pain gives him. Through his pain-addled instructions he directs his squad leader to finding the combat gauze in his pack, and John he prays for another opportunity to be offered a cigarette.

He’ll definitely turn it down.