AN: Good morning/afternoon/whatever time of day it is for you all!
I'm already back with another fanfiction. It seems I'm really inexhaustible in writing Sherlock's fanfictions lately (not that I'm complaining at all, actually). Anyway, I cut it short: this will be an AU story about, well, John and Sherlock. It will be all from John's POV (which, to be honest, was a real challenge, since I'm not used to have a single POV in my stories), but I hope it will be enjoyable nevertheless.
The usual reminder is: I'm not Brit and English is not my native language, so be kind and forgive me in advance (or point it out) if there are any HORRIBLE mistakes in what I'm writing.
Second 'warning': for the first part of the story (it will sort of change later on) they will be in university. I have almost zero knowledge about how an English university works, so I had to use my knowledge about Italian university (but even then it's not completely accurate), so, please, bear up with me if there are things that really don't sound right. Just take it as a very AU part (it won't harm the story later, I promise).
And, as always, comments and reviews are warmly welcomed and throughout appreciated.
All the rights to BBC, all the 'fun' to me.
Professor John H. Watson.
John Watson read the name on the envelope one more time, smiling and frowning at the same time. A completely new experience for him. Professor Watson. That sounded overly weird in his ears, but he guessed he would eventually get used to it. Just not in that particular moment. In that particular moment the name "professor" sounded just weird. That was all. He placed the envelope in the outer pocket of his tatty brown leather briefcase, a relic of his old days as a student (not that old, actually, but it looked like centuries to him) and looked up to the sky.
It was a very gloomy London morning. The sky was totally covered by grey clouds, which seemed to wrap the city in an uncomfortable and cosy atmosphere nevertheless. Everything around him was grey. Grey was the paving of the road. Grey was the surface of the pond. Grey was the shape of the trees in the dim cold grey light of the day. Grey were the cars passing by the busy road. Grey were the buildings surrounding the park. Grey was his jacket, grey his trousers. Grey his state of mind. Everything so permeated with greyness that even the fiery red and yellow of the first autumn leaves had become a pale shadow.
The air was chilly. A cold, brisk wind made the same leaves twirling as they fell from the branches. It was bloody freezing for a mid-September morning. John Watson huffed, annoyed, and the cloud of hot vapour from his mouth immediately condensed in front of his eyes adding some other grey to the never-ending greyness.
From his park bench, where he had been sitting for the last thirty minutes, John could also clearly hear the ceaseless noise of the cars in the streets surrounding that corner of peace. It was a noise so constant, so perpetual that he should've been used to it. Nevertheless, after three years in Afghanistan, nothing in London, not even that noise, was familiar anymore.
An icy raindrop hit his nose all of a sudden. Three swans spread their wings and flew away from the pond, seeking refuge in the bushes nearby. Other raindrops followed the first, hitting John's hands, his hair, his face. They were as icy as the wind, as grey as the sky. He glanced at the watch. Seven thirty a.m. His first lesson started at ten, he knew that, but he had woken up at five, nervous. And he hadn't managed to go back to sleep. So he had gone out at six thirty and roamed around the city for a while before stopping on that bench. He was starting to feel cold and thus rubbed his palms against each other. After the tenth raindrop hit his neck, he decided that it was time to open his umbrella and finally move to the university.
He skimmed through his briefcase and took out his umbrella. He couldn't even remember for how much time he had got it. It was faded, a bit rugged, dirty and…grey. Like everything else around. Like him. Professor John Watson sighed and stood up, opened the umbrella and started to walk.
As soon as he did it, the raindrops transformed in proper rain, a falling cascade of water down on his umbrella, washing his mind away. The rain hit the pond's surface, rippling it. Some ducks dived underwater as they were trying to escape the cold shower by bathing in the warmer water of the pond. For it had to be warmer, John thought. Artificial ponds like that had always rather warm water at the end of the summer, as they preserved the memory of August's hot days in them; differently from the water pouring down from the sky, already an anticipation of a more than likely very cold autumn.
Three steps later a man overtook him, running as he was being chased by someone. Seconds later a tall, lean young man stumbled on him. He lost the grip of his umbrella, which fell on the road. But the young man didn't stop. John clearly heard him mutter a curse while he kept on running, as if he was really chasing the other man who had previously passed him. John turned to him as he picked up his umbrella and yelled, raising his fist in the air:
"At least you could have uttered an apology, vandal!"
But the young man didn't even bother to turn back.
John grunted and was starting to walk again, when another man run by him.
"Accept my apologies in his stead.", panted he, while keeping on running.
John Watson stared at the three figures fading in the distance, astonished. He didn't even notice that he wasn't holding his umbrella over his head, so that the rain was showering him from head to feet. He blinked twice, trying to understand what had just happened. He failed miserably. He had just to accept London's weirdness, he guessed.
Twenty minutes later he arrived at the university, still soaking wet due to the accidental rain shower. As he entered the room, where some other professors were sitting, he attracted everyone's attention. All eyes were fixed him as if he was some strange creature. Most of them had already met him before, but he guessed that a dry professor John Watson looked slightly better than the John Watson he was right in that moment. Even if he couldn't see his own face, he had the sensation he looked more like a beggar than a proper chemistry teacher. Then someone broke the embarrassing silence.
"Welcome, professor Watson.", the soft voice of a woman said behind his back.
He had already met her too. Miss Laura Collins, inorganic chemistry professor. She smiled.
"I think you've just had some problems with the weather in London."
"Yeah,", he smiled back "think so."
"Mind a cup of tea?", she asked politely.
"Not at all."
And he followed her through the corridors to the canteen. It was empty at that time of the day, except for a very young girl sitting at a table, eyes on an enormous volume of applied physics. She seemed so small compared to what she was reading. They sat at a table nearby, but distant enough to let the girl by herself and not interrupt her.
"So finally your first day has arrived…", she started.
"Panicking.", he smiled in a grimace.
"You'll be alright, don't worry."
"Hope so.", he answered, taking a sip of hot tea.
The sensation of the hot drink down to his stomach was the most welcomed feeling of the whole morning. The warmth spread throughout his whole body, heating up his dead cold fingers and feet, making him forget the rain on his clothes. God save the tea would have been an appropriate hymn for that moment, he thought.
"The main problem", he added "is that I'm not even a proper organic chemistry professor. I've got a degree in medicine, not in chemistry."
"But Mike said you were the best in organic chemistry during your medicine studies. You even attended a full course in organic chemistry. Even Mike had to come to you for some tutoring. He said you were so good that you could've easily graduated in chemistry with no problems at all."
John couldn't help but blushing a bit at the compliment.
"Mike's always too kind. He's the best in the subject. I hope I will meet his expectations. Everyone's expectations."
"I'm sure you will. Mike has chosen you for a reason to substitute him during this year, so I guess you won't disappoint us at all."
John smiled once again, taking another sip of tea.
"Well, it'll be nice working with you.", she continued.
Then she looked at the clock on the wall.
"Holy…! It's past eight thirty! I've got an appointment with a student for her degree!"
Then stood up and looked at John.
"Sorry! And see you later!"
John stared at her while she left the room. She seemed nice. It was nice to have a nice colleague, he thought, before realising the absurdity of the sentence and laughing at himself for having thought it.
He spent some more time in the canteen and then left to his office.
Before taking the job Mike had offered him, he had revised everything that was needed for that year. It was the second year of organic chemistry and, luckily, the programme consisted of his favourite topics. Plus (he smiled, proud of himself) Mike was right. He was overly good at it. So good that as soon as he had resumed his old studies, everything had come naturally to his mind. Nevertheless he was nervous. He had never taught before and he didn't have the slightest idea on how it worked. Mike had told him it was easy, but, considering it now, he would've gone back to Afghanistan in a matter of seconds instead than facing a horde of students.
Ten o'clock approached slowly. At half past nine he left the office and walked towards his classroom.
It was empty and its emptiness scared him. It looked like a silent monster, ready to devour him as soon as he placed a step into it. He thus stepped to and fro the corridor for some minutes before deciding it was time to face his fears. He entered the room and sat at his place, taking out his papers from the briefcase. After two hours he wasn't soaking wet anymore, just a bit damp, but his briefcase looked like it had taken a bath into the Thames. It smelled of wet leather, a rather unpleasant scent to John Watson, but the paper inside was dry, thank god.
A bell rang and students entered the classroom some minutes later. He waited for them all to sit down, then started. If there had existed a scale of nervousness, on a scale from one to ten, he was sure he would've been at least a twenty.
"Good morning.", he managed to say.
The class looked at him unenthusiastically. He cleared his throat.
"As you should know, I'm the substitute of professor Mike Stamford for this academic year. My name is…"
He paused two seconds, struggling to remember how the hell his parents had named him.
"John H. Watson" he eventually said "Professor John H. Watson."
Ice broken, he felt a little better and he started talking about the topics they were going to deal with during the second year.
"The first topic of this year will be…"
And he went on, looking at the students in front of him, who had already started taking notes of his words. It gave him a strange feeling of power. While he talked, he stared at their faces. There were three girls sitting in the front row: a redhead with pale white skin, freckles and telescopes on her nose; a short black haired one with auburn eyes; and a Chinese looking one with the longest braid John had ever seen. Behind them all the other students: some tall, some short. An exceptionally thin guy with prominent cheekbones and red glasses. Another young man with a scarf that covered half of his face. A girl with spiky purple hair. Another young woman with a chignon. He examined everyone until his eyes fell on a student sitting in the last row. No one sat near him. He was resting his head on the desk, eyes fixed on the window, looking like he was analysing every single drop of rain. Black curls around his pale white skin. He seemed totally unimpressed by the fact that everyone else was taking notes. Everyone. Except him.
Something snapped in doctor Watson's mind. Wasn't he the same young man who had stumbled on him that exact morning? He kept on talking, but his thoughts started to drift away, trying to remember the runner's details. At some point the pale guy turned his face to John and he finally had the proof that he was the running guy or, at least, his twin. The young man yawned twice and John couldn't help but being annoyed at the laziness he was showing. First lesson and he was already not following a single word. Awful student, was the subsequent thought.
Ten minutes later, when his eyes met him once again, John was sure he was snoring on his desk. He should've called him in his office and he should've lectured him about the appropriate behaviour to withhold in a classroom.
As the bell rang, two hours later, the whole class stood up, except the young man who kept on sleeping peacefully. When the class was finally empty, John noticed he was still there. He got up from his chair and walked to the last row. He cleared his throat and spoke:
"Ahem! I think it's time to wake up, boy!", John said mimicking his own military voice, not that roughly though.
The young man opened his eyes, aquamarine eyes, and looked at him.
"Hello, professor.", he simply said.
"Good morning, professor.", John grunted, amazed at the lack of formalism in the student's voice.
"I'm no professor.", smirked the other.
John rolled his eyes. Nothing good would come from that student.
"Just to clarify: I am your professor and you should show some form of respect towards me."
"Dull.", was his dry answer.
"Respect. Formalities. They're dee-u-el-el. Dull. Boring."
John gawked at him, astonished.
"Showing respect is not dull or boring at all. I'm here doing my job, teaching you. And you should do your job by listening to my lesson, for the heaven's sake! You slept the whole time!"
"It was boooooring. I can't stay here and listen to boring things. I get bored. Sleeping has proven more interesting than your lesson.", the student remarked.
John couldn't really believe his ears. He froze for a second, torn between slapping that insolence out of the young man or killing him bare handed. He exhaled slowly.
"Yes. Yes. Boring! So I guess you know everything about organic chemistry…", he teased.
The pale man looked at him in the eyes. Ice cold eyes meeting his.
"I'd sound pretentious admitting that in front of my organic chemistry professor", he stressed the word 'professor' purposely "even if you aren't one."
John almost fainted. Better: doctor John H. Watson, a grown up man, almost fainted.
"What? Of course I am your organic chemistry professor!"
"I know that."
"Then why have you just said…?"
"Because you aren't a professor at all! Is it that hard to understand what my voice says?"
John gawked at the student in front of him.
"Ok. Ok.", huffed the young man "I'll explain."
He stood up and stared at John from head to toes. He was taller than him and that gave John a rather unpleasant feeling of uneasiness.
"You are a doctor. Army doctor. Three years in…Afghanistan, I'd say. Could be Iraq, though. Nevertheless Afghanistan is probably more accurate. You have been shot, that's why you returned to London about three months ago. People who look at you would think the bullet hit your right leg, since you limp slightly. That's rather incorrect. Your leg is psychosomatic. Yet you've been shot. Left shoulder. You are not trained as a teacher either, so you're doing a favour to a friend or, maybe, a friend is doing a favour to you. Crystal clear?"
John thought that his jaw had just dropped on the floor, but managed to recompose himself in no time, pretending he didn't hear what he had just heard. He didn't want to give that disrespectful student any satisfaction.
"Well," he said, swallowing "that doesn't mean you can sleep in my class! You are here to learn, not to sleep!"
"Test me.", the young man said nonchalantly.
"Don't make me repeat the obvious every time. I said: test me. Ask me questions about your boring, dull, tedious lesson, if that's so important to you."
"Ahem…ok.", John managed to say "So…what does the Zaitsev's rule say?"
"The alkene formed in greatest amount is the one that corresponds to removal of the hydrogen from the β-carbon having the fewest hydrogen substituents. Zaitsev's rule predicts that in an elimination reaction, the most stable alkene – typically the most substituted one – will be the favored product. While effective at predicting the favored product for many elimination reactions, Zaitsev's rule is subject to many exceptions.", he replied in a single breath, apparently heavily annoyed.
John couldn't help but blinking twice. He was totally sure the young man had been sleeping while he was explaining it in details. He gawked at him.
John nodded, mouth dried.
In that exact moment the door opened.
"Oh, here you are finally!"
John turned to see who it was to notice it was the same man he had seen running after his student that morning. He was about to ask why he was looking for him, but his student spoke first.
So the man was looking for the pale young man, not for him.
"Triple. Waiting for you outside."
The man at the door left and the young man put his coat on, evidently content of something.
"Oh! It's Christmas!", he said smiling to John, before bolting off the classroom.
John was left alone in the classroom, thinking about that absurd student. How could he know chemistry that well without having listened to a single word? But more important: how could he know everything (or, at least, a good part of everything) about him? He had some question to ask.
AN pt.2: this story will be also simultaneously published on AO3. My pen-name there it's the same as here: Leoithne.
Thank you for reading this!