Just getting into the cab makes him nervous. It's January, snowing, and ever since that cabby nearly killed Sherlock, cabs made John slightly nervous. No matter what fateful life the universe throws at John Watson, traveling with Sherlock is always remains the same. Always above ground, sheltered perhaps, and always a whirlwind dervish of an adventure. And always not noticing how a simple drive in a cab could change their lives. This Sherlock ignored him and his nervous tics.
The problem with time travel is it ruins any fun in operating a vehicle or riding an animal. You never know when the timer would ding and you would get thrown into another life, another moment. Sometimes it would be a few seconds, a minute and he'd be back into the fray, hopefully with enough adrenaline in his veins to kill a cow, but enough sense to diverge his swerving car from any buildings or tanks or exploding grenades. However, after those three minutes on a camel in the Afghanistan (first one, 20th century, had a nice tan thank you very much) he never got behind the wheel of anything again.
It wasn't difficult. He always found a way to avoid driving or riding. A shrug, a tilt of the head, a frown, always put people off somehow. And that was just as well with Sherlock, who never learned drive, at least not in this life. It was a useless skill to obtain when there were perfectly competent drivers in the world, and surrounding London to drive them from crime scenes to another pastry shop to the Chinese restaurant. And then, there was running, (there would always be running) and walking when they had a chance and were low on cash.
Today is a drudge, John thinks, a slow relentless grind. Sherlock is just walking through the motions of dissecting a crime scene and he hates it. He wants more. He needs a challenge and John's nervousness and shivering (Sherlock had pulled him out of bed and then didn't give him time grab his coat) is irritating him. Neither of them have had tea, and John thinks he craves it in the morning now, which is different. He always had preferred coffee in other lives. Good strong coffee.
John smells gunfire and the relentless metallic tang of blood in the air. This war is awful, bloody, drenched in bone-chilling cold in a wilderness that is more unforgiving as the Sahara or India.
They call themselves Americans; patriots, crusaders for truth and justice against taxes and internal problems that the Crown can no longer handle on its own without their own tea thrown into some river. And right now they were chasing Sherlock. Again. John curses the fates when they dump him the middle of a technological wasteland after being introduced to cell phones and the internet only weeks before. The 90's had been nice. Quiet. Unassuming. He had been enjoying medical school again, without the unsanitary conditions of the 19th century and bodies brought in from the morgue, freshly dug up out of their graves outside Edinburgh. He had enjoying writing things down on a word processor instead by hand most of all, he thought. That was nice, but a walkie-talkie or radio would be nice about now, for Sherlock is yards ahead of him and barely recognizable against the grey trunks of the trees, except for the red coat.
He can hear the rebels behind him now. Close. Too close. He wishes he could yell at Sherlock for being so stupid as to give their captain a deduction of biblical proportions that somehow gives him the bright idea that they are spies, and Sherlock and John were on the run, again. This time he would not be able to stop them if they get too close. He does not have the upper hand here. These older guns, older technology baffles him, and he can't get his head around how to load his musket. It does not even aim right. Sherlock is a better shot but he doesn't know it. John's little speech about technology, one that referred to phones and carriages without horses, had surprised the genius enough to make him think John knew how to fire his gun properly. Silly, stupid bastard.
Now they were on the run from rebels far better equipped and able to seek them out in a patch of woods a squirrel would not be able to hide in. But they ran away. It was the noose, or this. He gasps as he runs now, the air too cold and fiery in his lungs. He ducks behind a tree, low and guerrilla like, a move he learned in the 90's. Or perhaps the 1890's. He isn't sure anymore. Time is all in flux and he just has to flow with it, holding on to Sherlock for dear life, reincarnate in the most pompous forms the universe could conceive of. The rebels run after Sherlock's trial, missing John by inches, too intent on the larger prey and that stupid red coat.
And then he shifts, just for a few seconds. He screams. It bloody hurts, and he just wants to curl up into a fetal position and sob. He doesn't know why it hurts this time. His college roommate, number 3# from looks of him, halfway out of bed, trying to detach himself from the covers, asks him if he's okay, is he alright? John looks around. Yeah, he's fine. He's in the 90's again. Wonderful. Maybe he can give Sherlock a call. Call the patriots off him in those woods.
Then he shifts again and he's back in the 1770's. He nearly can't believe it.
The sky has changed. Dusky purple to brilliant dawn orange. Dawn. He's missed a whole night here.
He can only pray Sherlock is alright. That he got away.
He gets up, stiffly, because his body can't take this shifting from century to century like it used to. He makes to move in the direction Sherlock had been running in, and stops dead . A small boy with a musket is standing not three yards from him, watching him curiously. Of course they put a sentry, a young boy, in the barest military regalia to look for the spy's accomplice in the woods. Of course.
John can't help but laugh a little when they throw him into the cell of the jail where Sherlock already is.
"Of course," Sherlock says, bitterly, knowing exactly what had transpired without John having to say a word, and leans back against the hard cold jail wall. He had hoped John had got away. Saved himself from a traitor's lowly end. He tries to hide his disappointment under a bitter sarcastic tone as they casually discuss the way in which they will die in a few hours time, at noon. They can hear the gallows being tested now. John can see the way Sherlock does not really look at him, does not really want to, ashamed. It's a usual Sherlock tic, the brush off.
"Why are you always so stupid, Watson?" he asks, and John doesn't feel like trying to answer him.
They sit in silence and watch the sun's shadows cross the floor of the cell, both too ashamed to speak. They've let down their company, their country, and most of all themselves. They needed information, and it would have been all to easy to get it, but they were going to die now, and that horrified them both. They would have liked to die alone. Dying together meant hearing each other's last breaths, last dance of their feet, last sobs. Neither of them was ready for that. They still wanted a bit of dignity in death.
The sun pours into the room at last, and they are led out into the warmer weather and are taken up to the gallows without any delay. John doesn't even feel the noose tighten. All he feels is the air kicked up around him by Sherlock's wild death dance and he hates himself for it. He feels himself trying to spasm and kick but he fights it, and wills himself to be still as the noose chokes him and he finally succumbs to the darkness.
John doesn't remember waking up. He never can remember that part. He just remembers seeing Sherlock on the gallows, gallantly, martyr-like taking the rope around his neck like it was a medal of honor and wishing he could have saved it from that death, and wishing he could erase the shame of losing Sherlock again to the universe. Fate was always cruel, however, and never let John Watson rest.
So now on that January morning when the case finally gets interesting, John is introduced to an American client of Sherlock. An older case, but one with a good paycheck. John feels the need to squeeze the man's hand a little tighter. He knows this man doesn't have any idea what his ancestors did, not really, but he squeeze his hand enough to send a message and make the man wince. Sherlock berates him on that later in the cab home, and John can't tell him really why he doesn't like Americans, for obvious reasons. This Sherlock still doesn't remember him yet. Doesn't remember dying yet.
It's just silly thing, he says to Sherlock, who is still unconvinced, but he sighs and turns back towards the window. And John thinks there would be no gallows this lifetime around. He hopes. He turns towards his own window as a craving for tea creep into his mouth, and he wishes the cab traveled faster.