Author's note: I can't imagine there's anyone in this fandom who hasn't seen it, bu just in case, here there be spoilers for the third episode.
Additional warning: I'm not British. Also, I don't actually know what rugby is.
John Watson has always considered himself to be on the mundane side.
To begin with, he had an average, normal upbringing – especially when considering the trends nowadays, with dysfunctional families being not only accepted, but expected. He had (well, once upon a time) the usual number of friends, all of whom were good for a pint and a billiard game and a staunch sympathetic pat on the shoulder, albeit perhaps not so much for discussing Nietzsche or not laughing when he fell asleep in his own puke or not dying under his hands in the sands of Afghanistan. His qualities are average as well – his art had made his teachers weep back in grade school, and it's best not to speak of his music abilities (although he had been quite good at the spontaneous composition of dirty pub songs and limericks, back in the day). He does have a decent ear for languages, which comes in handy surprisingly often, and a fine rugby tackle, which served him well in rugby and… well, not much else.
Even all that aside, the truth is that John is simply not particularly brilliant, though admittedly he can be hardworking enough when the mood strikes him (usually the night before an exam or when things were particularly shoddy behind the front lines). He was a good doctor, though, and a good soldier – whether that last one's a plus or a minus, he still hasn't decided – but that in turn is mitigated by him being a pretty shoddy son and a pretty shoddy brother, so it all evens out in the end, really.
To reiterate: mundane.
John remembers when he was shot. The gunfire, the screeching of vultures, the sand in his mouth, the burst of white emanating from his shoulder… and Murphy, snapping her fingers in front of him, telling him to stay with her, come on, what about the folks back home, eh, what about the girls, what about England?
But there was no girl, and no one else for that matter, just Harry who he failed and First Officer Mary Murphy who is the first woman John ever really loved and who'd never know that, now, and so he'd just stared up at the cloudless sky, at the perfect strands of sweaty mahogany Murphy was tucking behind her ear while she tried valiantly to drag him away from the road and the gunfire, and instead of saying something important or something brilliant or what he'd always wanted to say, John had just sighed, thought I wonder if I remembered to put on sunscreen today, and then blacked out spectacularly when Murphy accidentally dropped him and caused his head to hit a rock.
Honestly, he was probably the most surprised out of all of them when he awoke a couple of days after in the hospital ward, a hole in his shoulder and a small bald patch in the back of his head.
…And of course, it turned out he did forget to put sunscreen on. Naturally.
He never saw Murphy again before he was sent back home to jolly old England. Sometime later he did receive a 'glad you didn't die!' card in the mail, and after reading the cheerful little message he'd stood there in his dreary, ordinary nothing of a room, heart quailing, longing, before he'd carefully put the card back in the envelope, placed it in between the pages of Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, which he'd started but couldn't quite bother to finish, and then went back to the business of figuring out whether two weeks past the sell-by date still rendered milk functional in the making of pancakes - it didn't smell, after all. Exactly.
(The answer to that, by the way, is no.)
Then he landed a flat with Sherlock Holmes, who was so much the antithesis of ordinary it was actually ridiculous. John might not be quite the most average bloke in existence, but compared to the world's only consulting detective, or at least someone who has to be reminded daily not to put police evidence in with the laundry or conduct chemical experiments with the tea kettle, there's really no contest. There's only one Sherlock Holmes after all, and the bloody git knows it.
To be fair, however, it is somewhat obvious. To everyone, not just John and Sherlock. He's seen the occasional bewildered looks from Lestrade and Donovan and Anderson (the arse), after all, the gradual transformation from the 'wait this bloke chooses to be with Holmes of his own free will' stares to the 'why on earth is he with him' and 'who the hell is this bloke in the first place' and 'why does Sherlock tolerate him of all people?'
John would be a liar if he didn't admit that he sort of wonders those things himself, every once in a while. And damn if he can fathom the workings of Sherlock Holmes, but at least to that last one John's come up with a satisfying answer, more or less, which is that somewhere deep, deep inside Sherlock is a modicum of practicality and self preservation. After all, Sherlock might be a brilliant genius, but he is somewhat rubbish at not getting into trouble, or figuring out he has a cold – let alone that something should be done about either – and as both an ex-soldier and a doctor, well, John's rather the ideal package.
And yes, it probably helps that they get along, or that John knows how to not burn ravioli. Not to mention that he foots half the bills - even if he does have the vague suspicion that Sherlock decided to procure a flatmate for domestic errands and as an experimental subject, rather than out of any monetary consideration. Which would explain the journal John once glimpsed on Sherlock's desk, entitled 'A Study In Flatmates.'
...It might have been a joke. John's an optimist.
In retrospect, what with fighting in Afghanistan and getting shot and having a, what was it, highly functioning sociopath for a flatmate, perhaps it's not so much that John's life is mundane, as much as that John just is mundane. Or focused on the mundane. Something like that.
After all, while Sherlock and Moriarty are having their nice little genius-a-genius confrontation, John is instead busy shaking his head to himself and wishing with all he has that he'd made it to Sarah's, or stayed at home watching telly, or even that he'd seen through Sherlock's outrageous lie and gone out and bought the blasted milk and beans himself.
And then, when Moriarty leaves and the danger is more or less done with and he doesn't have to hold still for fear of getting Sherlock shot – rather poor bodyguard and friend he'd make if that happened, right? – the first thing that goes through his head is: where the bloody hell is my coat?
The second thing is, I hope Sherlock remembered to lock when he left the flat.
The door shuts, and after a moment Sherlock turns to John suddenly, wild-eyed. "-All right," he says abruptly, and John has to blink, mystified, because for once it almost sounds like the brilliant mind has raced on ahead and left even its illustrious owner behind – not to mention John, or the beginning of the entire bloody sentence.
To be fair, however, it does seem like Sherlock is rather busy removing John's clothes.
"Are you all right?" Sherlock almost shouts at him, long musician fingers not quite shaking – not quite not shaking, either – as he pushes John back when the latter totters, steadying him, all while taking off the nicely toasty parka and its not so nicely associated explosives.
John looks down at the familiarly pale face, expressionless and yet somehow… almost tense, and he thinks with a dawning sense of comprehension, Ah.
"Y-yeah," he mutters, forcing himself to snap back to the moment. Kidnapping, explosives, right. "Yeah, I'm fine."
Flurry of movement.
"I'm fine," he repeats, numbly, and Sherlock's hands become nearly invisible as they speed up in a frenzy. "Sherlock. Sherlock!" he cries finally, exasperated and exhausted all at once, unable to do much more. Even the yell takes a lot out of him, far more than it should, and for an agonizing second he can't fill his lungs back again and his vision goes terrifyingly blank.
It clears slowly, in patches, just enough to tell he protested for nothing – Sherlock (being Sherlock) of course doesn't listen, can't seem to keep quite still; his fingers run until his legs join in, until the daft man finally vanishes somewhere out of John's sight, leaving John to blink at the blue waters of the pool and wonder with puzzlement where the lanky bastard's gone this time.
Probably off catching up with his runaway brain, John at last concludes to himself vaguely, as he in turn tries to catch his breath. It rankles him a bit when he considers that the idiot's probably having better luck with his hunt than John is, but then it only makes sense, considering John's only John, while Sherlock is who he is.
Bloody geniuses and their bloody brains.
Even with the snipers gone, for a couple of seconds John continues to simply stand there staring vacantly into nowhere. He would be perfectly content to do so for longer, actually, but it seems to take that couple of seconds for his body to notify him that it has had enough abuse and will not put up with any more ridiculous treatment, thank you very much John, whether from a lunatic or you or your dubiously functioning flatmate. The world proceeds then to shrink and expand in a sudden wave of vertigo, and his leg buckles under him in a familiar white burst of pain. He sits… well, more like crumbles, barely managing to prop himself against the wall.
He breathes. Or tries to, anyhow.
….On the bright side, John thinks optimistically, at least he's not dying this time around – there is an unforgivable dearth of pretty women in the area, and dying without a lovely girl to tether him to life would be rather disappointing, come to that. Also, and he nearly perks up at the thought, his limp will have a perfectly sound medical diagnosis after this, and not even unknown members of the Holmes family (he just knows there are more out there) coming out of the woodwork at the least convenient time possible (being Sherlock and Mycroft's relatives, they could do no less) will be able to diagnose it as psychosomatic. Mot to mention that if it's treated relatively soon it should even heal completely within a month or two, so there shouldn't be anything to seriously worry about, either way.
'Should,' of course, being the operative word.
In any case, patching up his leg can wait for some other time. Maybe when he feels like moving again. Whenever that might turn out to be.
His flatmate reappears as if by magic – though John, too tired to startle properly, is less bothered by that than by where he'd gone and when exactly the gun had disappeared from the floor, as well as whether the fact that he doesn't remember implies he has a concussion. John hasn't quite decided when he takes a look at Sherlock and forgets about the possible head injury – Sherlock's face is still cold, still deadly calm, but there's a peculiar twitchiness, a… jerkiness, to his actions, that is most emphatically not characteristic of the great sociopathic consulting detective John has come to know and sort of like most of the time.
"You okay?" he asks with a frown.
"Me? Yeah – fine – I'm fine, " Sherlock fires distractedly, rapidly, and John furrows his eyebrows, wonders bemusedly whether maybe Sherlock didn't have better luck after all and his brain is still missing somewhere.
If nothing else, Sherlock certainly paces the floor like he's trying to catch up with something. The pale eyes dart from pool to tile to stairs – well, all over the place, to put it succinctly – as if searching for assailants, holding the pistol (John's pistol, no less, the thief) in a grip that would have made Sergeant Fairview back in Basic fairly moan with disgust.
The thin mouth works soundlessly a bit, before he clears his throat, and begins.
"That, uh… thing," he mutters, eyes still bouncing away from John, and coughs, "...You know, that you, did, er – offered to do. That was, uh…" he pauses, as if searching for a word. John can only listen in fascination (though he should probably tell Sherlock to stop waving the pistol around, come to think of it) - this is undoubtedly the most uncomfortable he's ever seen the man.
Still, even if he has no idea what word his friend's exactly looking for, for once John thinks he more or less catches the drift.
"…Good," Sherlock concludes, awkwardly.
The word hangs there, echoing in the empty reaches of the massive pool, reminding John of a previous conversation.
'So why do you put up with him?'
'Because I'm desperate. Because Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and maybe… if we're very, very lucky… he might even be a good one.'
John shakes Lestrade out of his head, focuses on the mundane. He's good at mundane, not being a great man. "I'm glad no one saw that," he says wearily, once he's latched on to a stray thought.
"You, ripping my clothes off… in a darkened swimming pool…" he breathes slow. "People might talk."
"They do little else," Sherlock replies almost automatically, though still not quite quick enough to be normal Sherlock, John notes with a bit of fuzzy concern. The man pauses – as if only now actually processing John's words – and then it's like his mind is at last where it should be. Sherlock exhales, tension disappearing, and his eyes finally meet John's as he grins in relief, clear and blue.
John smiles in return – there, finally – then goes back to the business of getting out of this blasted place.
First step: getting up. Somehow.
Red. His eyes widen, and he hits the wall with the back of his head inconsolably. "Oh, no –"
"Sorry boys! I'm so changeable!"
If nothing else, Sherlock seems to have regained his errant brain, because he seems to have no problem snapping back at the lunatic with his usual genius faculties and remarkable, idiotic aplomb.
John, however, has no such luck. When Sherlock takes aim at the explosives, John sorely feels the cold of the pool, and is rather sorry for the loss of the parka.
The events that follow are rather blurry, what with the urgency underlying everything. When John attempts to recall it all later, the lines between thought and action and feeling and sight all smudge together, and it is only thanks to Sherlock that he obtains a full comprehensive understanding of what occurred.
To wit: Sherlock shoots. John tackles him to the pool, only very narrowly managing to avoid getting entirely caught up in the explosion himself.
Before his brain completely shuts down, he thinks, with unusual alacrity, thank heavens for rugby.
Awareness comes in stages. First is the overwhelming feeling of wet. It is decidedly uncomfortable, heightening the general sensation of having swam in the Thames in the middle of winter. Next is the stinging of his cheeks, as if all his exes had lined up and availed themselves of his face - also irritating, not to mention it brings up uncomfortable memories. Then there is the excruciating pain in his leg – no, head – no, back – all right, make that everywhere – which is, well, excruciating.
And then, lastly, is the sound of Sherlock nattering in his ear.
"-Fuck, fuck, how am I supposed to – John, you idiot, who the hell asked you to - to – damn it all you complete and utter buffoon, wake up, tell me what to do with all this – fuck – come on you… you utterly vacant and insignificant and, and exasperating excuse for a flatmate – wake up goddamn it, come on, there are, I don't know, butterflies and sunsets and serial killers to shoot – come back, John – "
He blinks an eye open – the other one refuses to, being glued shut with something sticky for some reason – and the tirade cuts off... just like that.
Handy, he thinks dimly. Then, ow.
His eye closes by itself. Not like he could see much anyway. "No," he groans. "You're not… even pretty."
"I fail to see how that has anything to do with the matter," the familiar voice snaps back sharply, sounding incredibly relieved. "You had better not be hallucinating, John, it would be entirely too tiresome for me to deal with right now."
"Like I'd… hallucinate… you," he replies wearily.
"Fair point," Sherlock concedes, and John can somehow hear the smile. "Now quickly, John, how would you treat what looks like a graze on your lower gastrocnemius? And can water with chlorine be of any use in treating burns? John? I expect the ambulance is not far off, but some sort of immediate first aid will most likely be helpful – John. John. Don't you dare slip away now, or I swear I will treat you to a recitation of my last thesis on the amplified decaying properties of scar tissue, best as I can recall it – not to mention you're two days behind on the rent, and I will only cover for you with Mrs. Hudson for so long, you know – "
As can only be expected, it's the last one – a total lie, by the by – that gets at him. John's eye flutters open, which once again somehow works to shut the idiot up. He takes a moment to breathe - the sensation heightens the feeling of general cold and misery, and John has to wonder vaguely how long it took Sherlock to get both of them out of the pool, and whether he should also be worried about hypothermia.
...Oh well, things to find out later. "You…" he rasps, with difficulty.
"Yes?" Sherlock answers gently.
"Still… owe me…" he gasps out, shutting his eyes, "fucking… milk and beans…"
There's a pause. John drifts away idly.
Finally, a low amused chuckle sounds in his ear. "My dear John. Has anyone ever told you that you are a most extraordinary person?"
"Shut... up," he sighs. "Not… not the genius."
"And yet. How long did you play rugby in uni, if you don't mind me asking?"
"…Ridiculous," he manages, and finally passes out properly.
He's not as surprised as he probably should be when he wakes up, a week or so later. He thinks it might be the repeated exposure to near-death experiences – desensitization or something of the sort – or else perhaps it's the hazy memory of Sherlock yelling at him in the ambulance. Whichever it is, he doesn't mull on it overmuch, preferring instead to focus on the sweet relief of morphine and the noise of Sherlock getting caught attempting to smuggle Chinese food into the ward.
And naturally, when John finally returns to the flat, cane in hand, and opens the fridge, there is no milk, let alone beans, let alone any kind of possibly edible food.
…There is, however, a rugby ball.
A/N: Can you tell I'm not British? If it makes it any better, I'm not American either, so. Um. Something.
I'm in love with this series. Brilliantly acted, brilliantly directed, I'd even go so far as to call it perfect were it not for the fact that it consists of only three freaking episodes. And did anyone else catch that blooper in that last scene, of Sherlock leaving the gun on the floor and the gun mysteriously relocating back to his hand? Not that it drew away from any of the brilliance, of course.
Anyway, as for this fic. I feel John has been historically neglected, and I'm glad this series is doing its part to remedy that. All that said, though, it's surprisingly hard to pinpoint just what it is about John that renders him such an excellent foil to our Sherlock.