"Never sleeps!" Doctor John Watson blurted out, already deep into his…well, he wasn't sure how many pints he'd had as he'd lost track a few hours previously. He was deep into a pint and had already warmed to his topic of choice, namely Sherlock Holmes, flatmate, colleague, world's only consulting detective, pain in the arse, insomniac extraordinaire, and constant subject of his thoughts and fantasies. If he were being honest with himself—which he was, since it was hard to argue with the booze—he might even go so far to say he'd developed certain ifeelings/i of the warm and fuzzy variety.
There was a commiserating groan from across the table. "Oh God, it's creepy, innit?"
John nodded emphatically in response and blearily glanced up at his drinking companion. The dim lighting over their table and his decidedly less than perfect vision caused her features to be slightly obscured. He could see her outline, though, and she was slumped over her pint, head perched precariously on her right hand and her face tilted in such a way that it appeared she expected an epiphany from the depths of her beer.
Martha, he recalled after a long pause. Doctor Martha Jones.
If he thought back (which he didn't, as he wasn't in any state to be thinking about much beyond the current subject of his discourse—and even that was tenuous at the moment), the chain of events that had led to this moment were somewhat hazy.
Sherlock had done something to anger him (he remembered that rather clearly). Again.
So he'd left, throwing some comment about going round to Sarah's over his shoulder on his way out of the door. He'd been tempted to not say anything at all, but the prospect of being pestered by petulant text messages every five minutes had allowed common sense to overcome his fury. He'd not had any acknowledgement from Sherlock, of course. In fact, as he headed out of the door he was accompanied by the torturous sound of the 'violin'—John privately likened it to a cat being tied down and dissected whilst still alive—as Sherlock apparently couldn't be bothered to respond. Which was typical, really.
He was halfway to Sarah's—adrenaline and anger quickening his step so that the full force of a bitter winter night couldn't touch him—before he recalled that she was currently in Bristol visiting her mother and wouldn't get back for another five days. When he'd recalled this, he'd stopped in his tracks and indecision warred with a sense that to return to the flat at this point would be akin to admitting defeat. This was an action he was in no mood to contemplate.
He'd briefly considered going over to Harry's, but her place was all the way over the other side of London and, moreover, he could use a drink. Or several. And whilst he was certain he could find enough booze at his sister's to open his own off-licence, it also meant drinking with her. At her best, she was a sloppy, loud drunk; at her worst, well. Aggressive at times, suicidal at others.
And besides, he wasn't speaking to her anyway.
That left Stamford's, although they weren't that close…
He'd ended up in a pub.
The place was thankfully not busy—no match on tonight and it was clear from the photos on the wall and assorted bric-a-brac that the place catered to a clientele interested in sport—and had a cooped, crowded feel that vaguely reminded John of the homely clutter of Baker Street without bearing too close a resemblance.
He'd been halfway through his first pint, still mentally listing all the ways in which Sherlock could be a complete arsehole (Reason Number 54: Never, ever asks to borrow or use things that aren't his, such as John's laptop, John's razors, the leftovers from John's Chinese takeaway, John's jumpers, ad nauseam—he simply takes), when she'd walked in.
At first, he didn't pay much attention; she wasn't really his type. He normally went for slender, light-haired women with an open face, the kind that radiated sweetness (See: Sawyer, Sarah). This woman clearly didn't, attested to by the grim set of her lips and her closed off body language. Moreover, she was at least a decade younger than him. As he watched her approach the bar and order a drink, though, he could see that she carried herself as if she'd spent time in the army. Back ramrod straight, chin up, eyes darting around clearly sizing the place and the people up.
And even though that was unexpected, he probably still wouldn't have approached her had it not been for the fact that he'd reached Reason Number 61 on his list, which was a repeat of Reason Numbers 1, 26, and 43: He was completely in love with his idiotic, brilliant, frustrating flatmate and not only was the man not interested, but he had a frustrating habit of sabotaging all of John's attempts to find relief elsewhere. Hence the disastrous date with Sarah (and any possibility of rekindling a non-existent flame), calmly explaining his latest experiment to Gwen (eyeballs—why must it ialways/i be eyeballs?), and spam texting him with misleading messages during his night out with Amelia (the 'danger' turning out to be nothing more than Sherlock needing him to get a chemical protective suit and industrial-strength cleaners in order to 'help with the clean up'—i.e. do all of it—of yet ianother/i experiment gone wrong).
He slowly became aware that his eyes kept wandering back to the woman. By this point she'd collected her beer and moved off to a corner of the pub, and he found himself thinking what the hell? She was pretty in a dark and mysterious sort of way—the kind of beauty that men more artistically inclined than himself might write sonnets about—and there was absolutely no way he was going to let Sherlock interfere this time. He resolutely turned his mobile to silent and kept his eyes open, waiting until she approached the barman for another beer before he sidled up and introduced himself.
He could tell almost from the beginning that it was a lost cause, so he decided on a different approach, skipped the small talk, and asked—with all politeness—how long she'd been in the army.
It was a shot in the dark, admittedly, but a good one (and he pushed that voice down, as it sounded uncomfortably similar to a person he was definitely not thinking about) and although he hadn't been exactly right—he'd never even heard of UNIT—he soon found himself sitting on the other side of a table from her, chatting amiably and drinking his pint.
One drink turned into two, turned into…many, and the conversation suddenly (and without warning) veered into territory he'd been desperately trying to avoid. They'd started discussing unrequited love, lust, and tension. From there, it had quickly come to light that they both fancied tall, skinny geniuses with a penchant for tight suits, dramatic jackets, and superiority complexes who couldn't be bothered with (or didn't understand) the feelings of those around them.
It had gone downhill from there, hence the current conversation.
"How does he manage to have so much energy when he never sleeps?" John asked after a moment. Or, at least, it's what he'd intended to ask. He wasn't absolutely certain that he'd actually managed to say what he'd meant to. His lips had gone numb ages ago.
But Martha was shaking her head knowingly because even if the words themselves bore only a passing resemblance to English, the shape of the sentiment was clear enough, a sort of aural equivalent to that misspelled words study he'd read about once. "It should be impossible," she answered with her own slur, still staring into her drink. "Medically," she added unnecessarily after a moment.
John nodded emphatically at this since he knew things about medicine. "And we are doctors. We should know," he said.
"He never appreciates my medical opinion," she replied, her fingers clumsily tracing the lip of the glass.
John fervently concurred with this and slammed his empty glass onto the table. "Yes," he hissed, probably louder than he'd intended, but he felt that the volume of his voice directly corresponded with the strength of his agreement.
Martha was clearly startled by his vehemence; she jerked and her head slid from its perch on her palm, nearly sending her crashing face first into the table. She pulled back at the last minute and sent him an unfocused and fuzzy grin. "What?"
"He treats me like I'm an idiot," he clarified.
"Oh God, yes," she nodded, her entire body drifting to her right in a clumsy attempt to regain her previous position. "He seems to think my medical opinion is as good as…as good as…" she trailed off with a frown and a hand wave. Then she wrinkled her nose and said, "He never listens to it. Me. He just likes the sound of his own voice. I might as well be a—"
"Skull," John interrupted with a groan, vividly recollecting many instances where Sherlock had—at a crime scene—asked him about a victim's cause of death, only to then discourse on why John was wrong and what he'd missed that made him wrong. In painstaking detail. He took a hearty swig of his pint.
She blinked in confusion but then her face cleared and she nodded decisively, having made her point in damning fashion. She leaned forward with the air of someone imparting a great secret. "He calls himself the Doctor," she whispered, her voice containing equal parts awe and contempt, "but he isn't even a proper doctor."
John snorted and shook his head, deploring the piss-poor state of the NHS if he could barely hold down a part-time job at his local surgery when some bogus 'Doctor'—and who used the definite article in front of their title as if they were the only one, anyway? Talk about an arrogant sod—clearly had no trouble.
He went to take another swig from his glass and was surprised to discover it empty. He glanced blearily up at the bars (there suddenly seemed to be two of them) and tried to judge if his admittedly shaky legs would make the trip there and back.
"Doormat," Martha announced indignantly, slapping her left palm on the table.
John blinked at her. "Sorry, what?"
"Doormat," she enunciated in the way that only the truly pissed could manage. "Walks all over me."
"Me, too. No better than an inanimate object." He blinked and scrunched his face up in thought. "Most times," he mused, glancing at the bar(s). It suddenly seemed a worthwhile trek, especially when he found himself muttering, "Damn skull," under his breath. He nodded towards the bar(s). "Another?"
"Yeah," she responded, and then downed the dregs of her beer like a pro.
One meandering trip to the bar(s) later (in which John had managed to navigate around two tables, three other customers, and a barstool—twice), he returned and, with exaggerated caution, placed her beer in front of her before flopping into his own seat. In the course of his journey to the bar(s), he'd recalled a very important point to raise.
"Arch enemies. Who has them?"
Martha shook her head mournfully, carefully hefting up her beer in order to not spill it. "I've met his. Completely mad."
"Completely," John echoed, taking a swig of his own beer. "Thinks murder and destruction are a game."
"Took over the world. The entire world," she said after a moment. "Didn't last, though, and no one remembered after, thank God," she finished and took a hearty chug from her beer.
A statement like that might have phased a normal, sane human being—or, even in the throes of drink, caused them to pause to work it out—but, quite frankly, John was not a normal, sane human being. Not in the way other people were, anyway. Due to this, he accepted the comment for what it was (he felt he'd heard much worse from Sherlock in the midst of his experiments) and, besides, it sounded like something Moriarty would do.
"He's an alien, you know," she said, looking at him closely, her voice lowered to almost a whisper.
John blinked at her, nonplussed. He didn't even bother to ask who. "Yeah? Where from?"
"Oh." John digested this information while taking another sip of beer. John wasn't prone to prejudice and he'd felt, at times, that Sherlock being an alien made quite a bit of sense. After all, no normal person could have the eating, sleeping, and energy habits Sherlock did. Alien was one of several almost reasonable sounding explanations.
But then the name meandered at a sedate pace through his thoughts and rang a distant bell and he turned his attention to that instead. "Isn't that in Turkey somewhere?" He was no history buff, but he knew something about wars and he could swear he'd heard of some really awful battle there. Something to do with Australians. He was pretty sure there'd been a film. "Big battle and loads of people died?"
Martha, who'd looked confused when he'd mentioned Turkey, nodded solemnly. "Big battle, loads of people died, yeah," she said.
Both of them examined their beers, lost in thoughts of battles, wars, and casualties.
"Well," John said after the moment had passed. He continued to stare into his beer. "He's not like anyone I've ever met before."
Martha made a sound in the back of her throat that John took as agreement. "Only one of his kind."
The two of them paused to sigh wistfully into their beers.
John nodded, feeling that Mycroft didn't count because he wasn't the same as Sherlock. Sober, he might have been able to list the (many) differences between the two brothers. Pissed, though, he simply knew that there was no one like Sherlock. The world couldn't have handled it if there were.
"He's still an idiot, though," he mumbled.
Martha smiled. "Arrogant."
They grinned at each other. "Vain," they said in unison, and then giggled into their beers.
"Christ, don't mention eyes. He keeps them in jars," John moaned, bringing his hands up to cover his face.
Martha giggled. "He wears glasses even though he doesn't need them. They make his eyes stand out."
John peeked out at her over his fingers then sniggered and uncovered his face. "He wears shirts with too many buttons undone so people can't help but stare at his chest. And his neck."
"Do you have a neck fetish, Doctor Watson?"
John grinned at her, not caring that she was laughing at him. "Do you have a glasses fetish, Doctor Jones?"
Martha nearly choked on her beer from laughter. "Caught me out," she finally managed once she'd calmed down.
"Hair," John declared once he'd finished laughing.
She rolled her eyes and huffed a laugh. "Hair," she agreed.
"He thinks I don't know he uses my shampoo," he confided, draining the last of his beer.
Martha snorted, finishing hers. "He uses hair gel but he won't admit it. Only way he can get it so big."
John stared at her for a minute and, in the tradition of twelve-year-old boys everywhere, broke down into hysterics. "It's so big, is it?" he asked weakly in between fits of helpless laughter.
She furrowed her brow in confusion, then her eyes widened and she burst into laughter, too, tears of mirth forming at the corners of her eyes. "And it's got spikes," she added, which served to set them both off laughing even harder.
"Spikes," John echoed feebly, wiping at his face after a few minutes.
Martha was studiously avoiding catching his eye, probably afraid she'd break into fresh giggles, but she couldn't resist adding, "Told you he was an alien."
It was too much, and John buried his face in his folded arms on the table and shook with the force of his laughter.
He shook his head, still giggling, and gasped, "Curly."
Her hands flew to cover her mouth, her shoulders shaking in hilarity.
It was several minutes and dirty looks from the other customers before they could bear to look at each other. John couldn't remember the last time he'd had such innocent fun (or, at least, fun that didn't involve chasing criminals) and his mood was so far improved that he was willing to be magnanimous and forgive Sherlock for pissing him off. Again.
Of course, the dark looks from the other customers weren't exactly going away. Also, as he glanced in the general direction of the bar(s), the barman was giving them a speculative and suspicious look that—to John's admittedly far-from-clear mind—suggested that requests for more booze would end with a negative response.
He leaned in closer to her and lowered his voice, "You want to get out of here?" And though he didn't put it into words, exactly (and the English still wasn't entirely clear), the shape of the sentiment was there: 'Want to meet him?'
There was a crease between her eyes for a second as she considered what he was really asking and then an amused and excited glint appeared in her eyes and she grinned broadly. "Yeah."
"Brilliant," he answered with a matching conspiratorial grin.
John carefully stood, then manoeuvred his way over to her side of the table and offered her his hand to help her stand. Once they were both more or less vertical, he slung a companionable arm around her shoulders and they staggered out of the pub and into the chilly London night.
It was nearly three quarters of an hour later that they were dropped off at 221B Baker Street, largely due to the fact that they'd spent fifteen minutes wandering in the wrong direction while looking for a cab.
As he was fumbling for the key to the flat, it suddenly occurred to him that he hadn't properly warned Martha what she was in for. Sure they'd spent the better part of…quite a bit of booze discussing his (and this Doctor bloke's) many and varied faults. But that was just barely scratching the surface where Sherlock was concerned. He turned to Martha and looked at her very seriously.
"He'll try to deduce you, you know?" he said, his tongue tripping drunkenly over the words. It shouldn't have been a surprise that she'd misheard him, but it was.
"Seduce me?" she asked with a vaguely bewildered look on her face.
John blinked uncomprehendingly then shook his head vigorously. "No, no," he said, almost laughing at the thought of Sherlock trying to seduce anyone, let alone a woman. "I mean…" he trailed off, waving a hand vaguely in her direction. "He'll look you over and tell you your life story. Try not to panic." With these words of advice, he began attempting to fit his key into the lock.
"Right," she answered.
"Oh, and another thing," he continued before she could say much else, "ignore the body parts. And the smell. He's running a couple of experiments right now, but I swear he's not a serial killer."
John could hear the raised eyebrow in her tone. With a quiet crow of triumph, he got the key in the lock and unsteadily opened the door. "I've learnt not to ask too many questions," he said by way of explanation. Once the door was open, he glanced over at her. She looked like she desperately wanted to grin but was holding it in check. He felt an answering tug at his lips. "Ready?"
"Yeah," she said assuredly, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze. He squeezed her hand in return then led her up the seventeen steps to the flat.
They'd barely made the landing when the door was wrenched open and, standing in the doorway, was his much-discussed flatmate. He was wearing the dressing gown and pyjamas he'd been wearing when John had left several hours before and his hair was even more riotously curly than it had been earlier. John took that to mean his flatmate had been having an almighty sulk on the sofa.
John felt more than saw Martha stiffen in surprise next to him.
"Ah, John," Sherlock began in an imperious tone. "Didn't make it to Sarah's after all. What did you do, fall into a keg of beer?" With that, he flounced (John would swear on everything he held sacred that Sherlock had definitely flounced) from the doorway and back to the sofa where he collapsed with all the grace of a late-Victorian heroine having a fainting spell.
John grinned at Martha, who'd raised both her eyebrows at this behavior, and then tugged gently at her hand to lead her into the flat.
"No," he answered—perhaps unnecessarily—to Sherlock's statement. "I-"
"You forgot that Sarah was out of town and ended up down the pub where you found yourself a new friend," Sherlock interrupted, watching the pair of them from his position on the sofa.
John blinked, though he wasn't at all surprised that Sherlock had deduced that much. That had been akin to stating the obvious, as far as his flatmate was concerned. As such, he didn't even bother confirming Sherlock's deduction.
"Martha, this is my flatmate, Sherlock Holmes," John said, remembering his manners. "Sherlock, this is Doctor Martha Jones."
Sherlock's icy blue eyes scanned Martha as she murmured a greeting to the man and John—despite blurry vision and the amount of alcohol in his system—could tell that he was reading her life story in the lines of her eyes and the way she held herself and the clothes she wore. The way Sherlock could read people never ceased to astound him, as if a person's history were tattooed across their face. And yet…the way he could be, well, spectacularly ignorant about other things. It was fascinating.
He glanced over at Martha to see how she was taking the scrutiny, but she seemed unbothered by it. He had to admire her for that, since he'd never seen anyone else—upon first meeting Sherlock—stand being subjected to that gaze without fidgeting or feeling the need to break the silence.
"Birds of a feather, John?" Sherlock asked quietly after a moment, raising an eyebrow in enquiry.
John rubbed his forehead, feeling tired, entirely too drunk, and distinctly put upon. "I'm sorry, what?"
Sherlock sighed in a way which John recognised as his why must everyone else be so tiresome? sigh. "Your new friend," and John blinked at the slight hint of disdain in the word friend, "is a military doctor. Not your common-or-garden military, though, because those boots aren't standard Army, Navy or RAF issue, so some sort of Special Forces then. She also has an elder sister she doesn't always get on with, though I dare say that their relationship is more amicable than the one you have with your sister. Unlike you, though, she was recently engaged, but she's single now. She ended it."
John glanced over at Martha to see how she was taking this, but her face was remarkably clear as though they'd been discussing the weather rather than potentially personal matters. He was more surprised by how calm she was than by Sherlock's insights.
But John…he'd never been able to leave well enough alone when it came to Sherlock and found himself irresistibly asking, "Wait, how did—"
"—I know that she had an older sister? Really, John, it's obvious, isn't it?" Clearly, the blank look on his face was all the answer Sherlock needed, because he sighed. "The make-up, John. Look at her make-up."
John blinked and glanced over at Martha, who was looking at him with a confused sort of look. She shrugged her shoulders.
He looked back at Sherlock. "It's very nice?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes in answer and huffed. "If you were paying the slightest attention, you'd be able to see that she's wearing Urban Decay eyeshadow, specifically Shag Deluxe eyeshadow. She clearly didn't buy it for herself, as the state of her clothing—low-key, nondescript and inexpensive—indicates that she has no interest in fashion. So it was a gift, then. Not from a mother or aunt, though, as that brand is geared towards younger women. Not a friend—that shadow's not cheap—so a sister or close cousin, more likely a sister. Older, though, because the color is appropriate for professional situations. Thus their relationship is closer than you have with yours, since Harry would never spend so much on you when she could spend it elsewhere."
"Uh, right," John finally said, thankful that Sherlock hadn't been more specific about what his sister was more likely to spend her money on. He chanced a glance over at Martha and saw that she had a sort of dazed expression on her face. Clearing his throat, he said, "We're just going to…" He was still slurring his words slightly, he could tell, so he trailed off and indicated the staircase to his room.
It was difficult to tell given everything impairing his system—dim lighting, blurry vision, too much booze, an oncoming headache, and a definite blind spot where Sherlock was concerned—but he could almost swear that Sherlock narrowed his eyes slightly at this. But before he could do much more than wonder if it'd been a trick of the light, Sherlock was gazing at them with a bored expression on his face. "Try not to be too loud," he answered indifferently.
John was sorely tempted to point out that Sherlock rarely extended him the same courtesy when it came to late-night 'violin' sessions, target practice, and experiments that involved explosive chemicals, but he decided that he didn't fancy having a domestic right at the moment. They'd already had an argument tonight and the booze—along with Martha's hand in his—was still somewhat insulating him from the anger he'd felt earlier. He wanted to keep it that way. So with a shake of his head, he tugged Martha's hand, pulling her in the direction of his bedroom. "Come on," he said. "I'm up here."
But contrary to his expectations, Martha didn't budge. Instead, she was seemingly staring at Sherlock on the couch, blinking in bemusement. While not the most violent or even the worst reaction to Sherlock he had ever seen—not by a long way—John still didn't know what to make of it. He didn't know why she was staring, couldn't gather what she was thinking at all. It was all the more baffling since it was clear from Sherlock's body language that he'd dismissed them from his awareness.
He squeezed her hand to get her attention and he saw her eyes clear slightly. In the next moment, she'd glanced over at him, amusement tugging at her lips. "Very curly," she said decisively, "and bigger than you let on."
John couldn't help it. He really, really couldn't. He burst into unrestrained laughter, leaning against her as he lost his composure. He was dimly aware that she was laughing right along with him and some sense—probably the one that was attuned to every move and look that Sherlock ever made—knew that he was glaring at them over his shoulder, but he simply couldn't stop.
He felt Martha half-drag, half-lead him to the stairway and he thought they must make quite a sight: drunk, giggling like school-children, stumbling their way up the stairs to John's room. The mental image made him laugh harder and so it took some minutes—much longer than it should have—before they collapsed together in John's bed, hands still clutched together.
He could hear her laughter start to trail off, dispersing into giggles, and he could feel the room gently spinning. It was only a matter of time before he passed out—and he was absolutely certain he'd pay for this night in the morning—but he couldn't be bothered right now. It felt good to be pleasantly drunk and have a pretty girl in his bed, even if they were only holding hands and giggling.
Squeezing her hand once more, he mumbled, "Very curly," to himself. Then unconsciousness claimed him.