It took until 11am the next morning for Sherlock to finally resurface. John had been multitasking all morning: keeping half an eye on the patient in front of him, and with the rest of his attention obsessively surfing news reports to see if he could get a lead on where Sherlock had gone. There was nothing, and no update on his blog, either. He had just refreshed it for around the fifth time, when there was a welcome beep from his phone.
HE'S JUST TURNED UP ON MY DOORSTEP. M
TO: MYCROFT HOLMES
THANK GOD. IS HE OK? JW
STILL BUZZING LIKE THE PROVERBIAL VUVUZELA. NOTHING I CAN'T HANDLE, I ASSURE YOU. M
TO: MYCROFT HOLMES
GREAT. TELL HIM HE'S IN TROUBLE FOR DISAPPEARING! JW (PS GOOD LUCK)
John sat back in his chair and grinned, half out of relief and half out of amusement at the thought of Mycroft having to deal with Sherlock in his caffeinated state. On the other hand, if Mycroft was everything that Sherlock said he was – the British Government, and the British Secret Service, and the CIA – he was sure that he could cope with his younger brother and a simple excess of Red Bull.
He made it about half an hour before his phone rang.
John glanced at his current patient apologetically across his desk, looked down at his mobile and raised an eyebrow at the caller ID.
INCOMING: MYCROFT HOLMES
He cancelled the call, deciding that whatever it was could wait for ten minutes until he'd finish his review of this patient; he always felt it was bad form to ignore people in proximity in favour of answering a ringing phone; particularly hated it when he was in a queue and the shop assistant picked up the phone instead of serving. He'd call Mycroft back in a moment, he thought, picking up his pen and beginning to jot down symptoms on the pad in front of him.
Every phone in the surgery started ringing simultaneously.
John stared at the landline on his desk, aghast at the cacophony of different rings drifting in from every direction. His patient – Mrs Higgins, and she was a lovely old dear and didn't deserve this type of disruption – stared about herself, uneasy. He'd just reached out a hand to pick the phone up when they all stopped abruptly, and about 30 seconds later Sarah burst in through the door.
"John, you've got to go," she said urgently, adding a quick, "Very sorry, Mrs Higgins," when she noticed he was with a patient.
"What is it?"
"That was a Mr Mycroft Holmes," she said, arching her eyebrow at him, "Friend of yours? He says you have to go to his house immediately, by order of the British Government."
"Oh, he's got to be kidding-" John started.
"I thought so too, at first, but he's faxed over all the relevant documentation," she said, looking unnerved, "To every fax machine in the place, in fact. It's definitely official. John, who is this guy?"
Poor Mrs Higgins was looking terrified. John rubbed at his eyes, tiredly.
"Sherlock's brother, he's – well. A pain in the arse, to be honest, but it does seem to run in the family."
Sarah smiled slightly, still looking a little worried. John slammed his fist down on the desk, suddenly feeling angry.
"Dammit, Sarah, I'm at work, I can't just go running off whenever one of the Brothers Holmes says so."
"It doesn't sound as though you have a choice…" she said, doubtfully.
"You can't run the surgery a doctor down! I can't just leave everyone in the lurch, it's ridiculous. I'll phone him and let him know I'm not coming, and-"
The door suddenly opened and a man in a suit glided in, briefcase in hand. John and Sarah both spun around to look at him, and he gave them both an appraising glance.
"Dr Watson," he said, consulting a small notepad in his hand, "And Dr Sawyer."
He turned to look at the elderly lady seated across the desk from John, and consulted his pad once more.
"Mrs Emelia Higgins, born 1934, 47 Lower Inhedge, widowed. One cat, Bess."
"Who the hell are you?" he asked, half-dreading the answer. The man smiled suddenly.
"Your replacement, Dr Watson," he said, holding his hand out to Sarah, "Dr Mark Dryer, Emergency GP. I'm to help you out for the remainder of surgery today whilst Dr Watson here is occupied with… state business."
"State business!" John burst out, standing up from his seat, "It's just Sherlock being a bloody idiot as usual and Mycroft can't be bothered to-"
"Careful," said the man, narrowing his eyes. John stopped, and took a deep breath. Sarah was regarding him doubtfully. He knew when he'd been outmaneuvered.
"Ok, ok," he said, holding his hands up in resignation, "I'm going. I presume there's a horribly sinister car waiting for me just outside?"
The man gave what looked like a trace of a smirk, and gestured towards the door, dismissing John from his own office. He sighed, making his way out of the surgery – colleagues and patients alike staring at him curiously – to where the inevitable black limo sat smugly outside the door.
The drive didn't take too long; Mycroft's house was in Central London, somewhere close to the Embankment, although he didn't notice the name of the street. Just a stone's-throw from Westminster, he guessed, so that he could be in the middle of things. It was a stately but compact house - John remembered Sherlock mentioning that Mycroft had residences both in and out of town – with a tidy front lawn. John noticed that a couple of small trees on the drive had been uprooted, almost as though a minor whirlwind had passed through the area. He suspected that wasn't too far from the truth.
The elder Holmes brother greeted him at the front door, grasping a cup of tea in both hands with a shell-shocked expression on his face.
"Dr Watson," he purred, "Do come in. Thank you for coming at such short notice."
"I didn't exactly have a choice," John grumbled, taking off his coat, "I do have a job you know. I do actually have duties."
"Ah, but your primary duty is to your country, of course," said Mycroft, "As a military man, I'm sure you understand."
"I'm not sure that this is really-"
"It is," said Mycroft firmly, leading John through a spacious hallway, "The country needs me, and I need – well, what I certainly don't need, Dr Watson, is this."
He swung the door to the room in front of them open. John blinked. It seemed to be an office, he thought, except that offices weren't usually completely covered in crisscrossing lengths of wool. There was a strange scuffling sound coming from inside the room, too, and John stepped forward to cautiously poke his head around the door.
The entire room was rigged up with some sort of twine, stretching across the room like a ginormous spider web and looping round every bit of furniture you could see: chair legs, desk lamps, window latches. In the middle of it all was Sherlock, who was pirouetting strangely and twisting between the strings, making his way across the room. John coughed gently and Sherlock froze mid-limbo, spotting him.
"John!" he said, his voice too loud for the sombre dressings of the room he was in, "Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, so many doctors, just one John, I've been thinking - do come in."
Sherlock's eyes were dark and he looked perpetually-startled, as though everything in the room was throwing itself at him all at once. He continued moving between strings, his movements graceful but frenzied, more coordinated than anyone had any right to be on that much Red Bull and that little sleep. John turned helplessly back to Mycroft, who shook his head.
"He's been like this since he got here, I'm afraid. And I've no idea when he's been, he just said he'd been 'thinking' when I asked. I'm not convinced he knows, himself. Dr Watson, I really do need my office back."
John nodded, steeling himself and stepping a little inside the room, bending to avoid a string.
"What're you doing, Sherlock?" he asked, some trepidation in his voice.
"Practising. Lasers," Sherlock said, "Just in case. You ought to practise, too, I expect that you will be there."
"I'll be there – sorry, when will I be there?"
Sherlock spun, narrowly avoiding wrapping his legs together, and stared at John.
"Always, John, obviously, and especially if there are lasers. It will be particularly dangerous, which we both know you enjoy. You didn't sleep well, why is that? I could postulate, but I fear my conclusions would be erroneous; a lot of my thought patterns seem a little… convoluted, at the moment, they lack elegance. As do you – is that yesterday's shirt?"
"How do you know th- I never even saw you yesterday, Sherlock," John said, frowning.
Sherlock let out a low chuckle.
"Blind as a beetle, and your deductions are no better. Why do you assume that simply because you didn't see someone, that they did not see you?"
John opened his mouth, then the meaning of Sherlock's words hit him, as did quite a large amount of anger.
"You saw me yesterday? Sherlock, I was worried about you, you'd disappeared! Your phone was dead! You could at least have bloody let me know you were ok if you saw me, what the hell were you-"
"No, no no, it would have negated the entire experiment to let you know; as it was it was rather successful, although ambiguous in some areas; damn. No control group, you see, no control, oh, no control at all, I fear," he paused to chuckle manically, running a hand through his wiry hair, "You didn't sleep, why didn't you sleep?"
"Look, come over here so I can check your pulse," John said, in the firmest voice he could muster, "I was going to check you every day of this stupid bloody experiment, you had to go gallivanting off – come here."
Sherlock glared at him for a moment, then made a series of sudden bending, leaping and twisting movements, somehow avoiding all of the string and landing in front of John.
"Here I am, John. John. Hello," he said, looming over him with even less regard for personal space than usual. There were bags under his eyes, which were themselves glittering strangely, and although his body seemed to be thrumming with energy John could tell he wouldn't last long until he crashed again.
"Erm, yes. Hello."
He started checking over his friends vitals again, which seemed much the same as last time, although it was possible his pupils seemed even darker and more dilated, his breathing a little faster. They conducted some kind of very strange mutual examination, stood there in the doorway to Mycroft's office; Sherlock's eyes roving across him and cataloguing every change since the last time he'd seen him, muttering under his breath throughout. John pressed his fingers to Sherlock's neck, checking his pulse, and was surprised when he hissed a little and pulled back.
"Sorry," said John automatically, "Sorry, I – you're probably feeling on a bit of a sensory overload at the moment, I expect?
Sherlock just stared at him oddly, narrowing his eyes. He cocked his head to the side.
"Is this normal?"
"It's fine," said John, reassuringly, whilst reminding himself that neither of them really knew what 'normal' was anymore, "You just need to calm down and then let yourself rest. Come on, we'll go back to Baker Street, have a nice cup of – well, maybe just milk for you."
Sherlock nodded, and flew past him suddenly into the hall, where Mycroft was still standing and watching them carefully.
"John's taking me home now, Mycroft," he said, his voice laced with the heavy sarcasm that was apparently whenever the brothers saw each other, "Do say hello to Mummy for me, when you see her."
"I shall," said Mycroft, examining his fingernails, "She'll be so glad to hear that you finally have a minder."
Sherlock glared at him.
"He's not my minder, he's…" he began, before trailing off as tried the front door to leave and found it locked. He stared at it furiously, and then started scrabbling frantically at various bolts and keyholes on the door in a vain attempt to get them open. He turned to John, his face aghast.
"John, there is a problem with this door."
He turned to Mycroft then, suspiciously.
"What have you done to it?"
Mycroft stepped forward and slid back one bolt, smoothly, then pulled the door open with ease. Sherlock stared at it, looking utterly confounded.
"A clever trick!" he announced, then swooped out of the house and down the steps, John hurrying after him. He caught up with him at the garden gate, though only because Sherlock stopped abruptly and turned to face him.
"Where are we going?" he said, his face bewildered.
"Home, Sherlock. Remember?"
John spun his friend around and pushed him out through the gate, towards where the enormous car was still waiting to take them back to Baker Street. They got a couple of metres before Sherlock stopped again.
"What now?" demanded John. Sherlock looked at him curiously, as though only just noticing he was there.
"Where have I been?"
John groaned and pushed him into the car, wondering whether memory loss was a normal side-effect of excess Red Bull intake, or just a Sherlockian one, and whether he'd ever find out exactly where it was that his flat-mate had been for the past couple of days.
"Just sit still, Sherlock. You'll have plenty of time to deduce wherever it is that you've been for the past 48 hours after you've had a good, long sleep. And a lot of water. And absolutely no stimulation whatsoever, of any variety."
"Yes, well, some of us like a little tedium in our lives actually, some of us don't like to have to handcuff our flatmate to a chair just to get him to sit still – I'm not going to ask how you did that, by the way – some of us want to be able to get through just one day of work without having to spend half the day fretting or leaving in the middle, some of us like to have living rooms that aren't covered in coffee grounds and board games and sheep's wool – which you are so tidying up tomorrow, by the way, Sherlock are you listeni-"
He twisted in the car to look at his friend, who was spread-eagled across the other side of the seat, as usual looking as though he'd purposefully arranged himself in the most dramatic pose possible.
Sherlock was fast asleep, dribbling softly onto his scarf.
John awoke to silence, and immediately panicked that Sherlock had run off somewhere again. He had left him passed out on the sofa last night, after struggling up the stairs with his unconscious body; his friend had looked a wreck, he thought, with exhausted rings under his eyes and a greyish tint to his skin. He had managed to wake him for long enough to force some water down him, then had dragged the quilt from Sherlock's room and tucked him up in it on the sofa.
He seemed perfectly stable, and he'd been sure that he just needed to sleep it off, but still John felt a little guilty about going upstairs to his own room to sleep; even contemplated tucking himself up top-to-tail on the sofa alongside Sherlock, just so he could keep an eye on him over the night. In the end, though, the comfort of his own bed beckoned and he'd made his way wearily up the stairs, never quite so glad that it was the weekend tomorrow.
Now, he dragged himself back out of said bed and cast a glance at the alarm clock on his bedside table. It was gone midday, he saw with surprise; normally he'd have been woken hours before this by the screeching of Sherlock's violin, or the sound of some unidentifiable explosion. To be fair, he'd normally wake earlier than this himself, but it'd been an exhausting week.
He crept down the stairs, worried as to what he might find. Had he remembered to hide the remainder of the coffee? He was pretty sure Sherlock was at the end of his experiment, but perhaps he'd just hoped as much.
Sherlock was exactly where he'd left him, stretched out asleep on the sofa. John let out a sigh of relief, and dropped into the chair opposite him.
Sherlock opened one eye.
"Already? You've only just woken up! How can you possibly be bored?"
Sherlock smiled, and tipped himself into his favourite half-upside-down position. John felt an odd sense of déjà-vu.
"I had some very peculiar dreams, you know," Sherlock said, twisting to look at him, "About you. They were very…interesting."
John nodded vaguely at his flat-mate and flicked on the telly.
"I take it that's the end of that experiment, then?" he asked casually.
"Which one?" Sherlock asked lazily, pulling his violin onto his lap and plucking at the strings without looking.
"Well, the one with the – the one with the Red Bull, Sherlock, is there more than one experiment?"
Sherlock shrugged, and spun himself upright in the sofa.
"Always, John," he murmured, fixing him with that intently curious gaze that John always found both infuriating and thrilling, "I need something to occupy my time with, after all."
John sighed, and switched television channel. He hated Saturday afternoon telly.
"Why can't you just occupy your time like a normal person," he grumbled.
Sherlock tilted his head to one side and drew out a long note from the violin.
"And what do normal people do?"
"Normal things," said John, shrugging, "I don't know. Jogging. Knitting. Baking."
Sherlock glanced up at the last, interest sparking somewhere in the back of his eyes.
"Ah, baking," he said, rolling the word around his mouth curiously, "That is interesting."
He leapt up out of his chair suddenly and threw on his coat, wrapping the scarf around him as he made for the door.
"I'm going to the shop, do you want anything?"
"Milk. Cornettos. Wait, you're going to the shop? You never go to the shop, what're you going to the shop for?"
Sherlock flung open the door and gave John a wide and frightening grin.
"Ingredients," he said, and disappeared down the stairs.
John felt his stomach clench up with nervousness.
He was going to regret this.