Title: The One Where John Goes On Conference

Author: starjenni

Disclaimer: Not mine!

Pairings: Sherlock/John friendship, or could be read as pre-slash.

Warnings: Pining! Texts! Chemicals! Abandoning women in restaurants!

Rating: K+

Spoilers: The usual.

Summary: John goes on conference to get away from Sherlock, but that's never going to be easy now, is it?

AN: I am well aware that I have yet to post another chapter of 'Burn the Heart Out Of You' - for this I apologise, I can only say that Real Life has decided to sneak back up on me…I will crack on with it soon, I assure you - I haven't abandoned it!

John Watson isn't exactly sure why he agrees to do it. Maybe it has something to do with being sick to death of finding body parts in various areas in the flat (he never did discover why there was a half-frozen pancreas sitting on his towel in the linen closet, and he doesn't really want to know either). Or maybe it's the allure of being able to sleep a full night without getting woken by either the screech of the violin, the crashing of glass, or a Sherlock high on adventure (or all three). But perhaps it is none of these, perhaps he is feeling guilty because instead of working in a hospital, where his talents would be fully needed and used, he is hanging around in a small surgery by day and running around after Sherlock by night. Perhaps he just feels rusty.

Whatever the reason, when Stamford suggests a trip to a medical conference in Munich, Germany, John agrees to accompany him straightaway.

Sherlock throws a tantrum Sherlock-style when he hears, which means more snide comments and glowering looks than John can shake a stick at and just further serves to reinforce John's belief that he is probably leaving to get away from Sherlock after all. Their combined bad moods are not improved by a particularly difficult case that pops up, forcing them to work closely together, and, by the time the conference rolls around, John is more than happy to pack his case and get a train to Gatwick.

He does not say goodbye to Sherlock and Sherlock does not say goodbye to him, and Mrs Hudson gives him a worried look when he leaves.

The conference is a large, important one, full of experts in their field, and for the first few days John is too busy panicking and feebly attempting to keep up to notice anything except his own incompetence. But then it peters out, and he starts noticing different things, like his inability to sleep properly at night (it's so quiet, it's far too quiet, and he's no longer used to that apparently), and the shy smiles that one of the women in the classes flashes at him occasionally, and the fact that his phone remains resolutely silent.

A week rolls around, and his phone doesn't move from his pocket once, and he eventually asks the woman if she would like to go for a drink, because she's very pleasant and very pretty and far cleverer than him and she smiles nicely when he asks her.

They go to a restaurant instead of a pub, because those don't exist in Munich unless all you want to drink are litres of beer, and that's fine and nice with friends, but not really on a date. The woman - Mandy - has red hair that glows charmingly in the candlelight, and John thoroughly enjoys himself until about half an hour into the main course, when his phone vibrates.

He doesn't want to look at it, but he has never been very good at curbing his own curiosity.

John, help. - SH

He makes a face at the phone. If Sherlock was in real danger, he would ring rather than text, which makes this a call for attention, a childish call, which makes this pathetic.

"Something wrong?" says pretty red-haired Mandy at the face he pulls. He smiles at her and pockets the phone without answering the text.


His phone goes off again five minutes later.

Now, please. - SH

"Just my idiotic flatmate," he says to Mandy, with an emphasis on the idiotic, and he deletes the message and they go back to discussing the day's courses.

He gets all the way to dessert before his phone goes off, and properly this time - Sherlock is ringing him.

He can't resist it, a spike of worry strikes him and his thumb hovers over the answer button for far too long. Sherlock doesn't ring unless its truly important, and John can't just ignore it…

"You can answer, I don't mind," says Mandy, and smiles warmly, glowing in the candlelight, so he does, giving her an apologetic answering smile as he does so.

"What?" he all but snarls into the phone.

Sherlock's voice sounds very faraway, as if it is from another world, and damn it, but John can't help being glad to hear it. "John! Finally. I need help."

"Yeah, I'm busy Sherlock." He briefly touches Mandy's hand with his own.

"It's important," Sherlock's disembodied voice insists, and John doesn't know why he does it, he never does, not when it comes to Sherlock, but he falls for it yet again, and says to Mandy "I'll be right back" and goes outside into the cold town square, where it is just beginning to properly snow.

The square is almost empty, and the illuminated gothic structure of the town hall glows through the flakes. It's bloody freezing, and John's fingers almost immediately go numb, but he's out now, so he merely tucks his hand under his armpit and snaps, "All right, what is it?"

"I can't work the toaster," says Sherlock.

At some point on this trip, John forgot that Sherlock was an arsehole.

"Not really important, is it, Sherlock?" he snaps, and walks up and down a bit to keep warm.

"It is," Sherlock maintains, "Because I can't get anything else to work either and I'm hungry."

John doesn't have time for this. "So go out."

Sherlock snorts. "People."

So Sherlock is in one of his sulky moods. John rubs his face tiredly. "You don't even like toast."

"Then teach me how to work the oven," Sherlock counters.

John closes his eyes. But he is a patient man, he has to have been to have stayed with Sherlock this long. "Okay, what are you cooking?"

"Uh." He hears the fridge door open and briefly reflects on how pathetic it is that the sound of a fridge can make him nostalgic. "Eggs and half a melon?" Sherlock finally suggests weakly. John grins before he can stop himself, and listens to Sherlock rustling through the rest of the kitchen. "Fingers?" he announces a little more hopefully.

John frowns. "Fish fingers?"

"Oh no, human," Sherlock corrects cheerfully, and John closes his eyes because sometimes he forgets that he's talking to a sociopath.

"No, Sherlock," he says. "No fingers."

"But they could be - "

"No, Sherlock."

"Fine." Good God, he actually sounds put out. "Then I'll have to go shopping."

John switches his phone to his other hand and tucks his cold one under the other armpit. "Good, you do that and I'll go back into the warm."

"You can't do that," Sherlock protests. "I need your help!"

"What, with the shopping? For gods sake Sherlock!"

"Yes," Sherlock demands. "Anyway, that red-haired girl you were with has probably got sick of you by now."

And once again he is hooked, and once again John can't get away. "How could you possibly know her hair colour?"

He can hear the smug smile on Sherlock's face when he answers. "Stay on the line and I'll tell you."

He does. It is pathetic, but he does, he stays out in the cold, his extremities like ice, for hours while Sherlock goes to the store, comes back and cooks for himself. John guides him through the whole thing (although he is sure that Sherlock isn't that incompetent at figuring out everyday trials), and interspersed between the running disasters and questions ("what do you do if you've just burnt yourself?" "why is this carrot white?") they manage to have a halfway decent conversation - and make a good meal as well.

It is two hours later when Sherlock finally finishes shopping and cooking, and John hangs up, feeling guilty about leaving Mandy for so long and wondering where the time went. It is so cold that he can barely move, and when he goes back into the restaurant, Mandy is gone, like he half expected.

He had not seen her leave. He had been too busy talking to Sherlock.

He lies in bed, and it is silent, but tonight the silence is deafening. He would give anything for the sound of a few voices, or footsteps outside, or a violin…yes, even played despicably as Sherlock loves to do.

It takes him a long time to fall asleep.

The next day, John is too tired to concentrate on his lectures and gets called out by a particularly nasty lecturer. He tries to glance at Mandy's notes, but she has put her arm over them and is avoiding his eyes, so he attempts to struggle out an answer without help and gets it diabolically wrong.

He hates Sherlock.

At least he does, until 2am that morning, when he is still lying in his cold, unfamiliar hotel bed, still unable to sleep, still depressed by the silence, and his phone rings again.

"I didn't die from food poisoning," Sherlock announces when John picks up, as if he deserves a medal.

John closes his eyes. "Glad to hear it. It's two in the morning, Sherlock."

"I know." Sherlock's voice sounds closer when John has his eyes shut, and for a moment he can forget about the 500 miles that separate them. "I just…forgot to say something yesterday."

It's so ridiculous, but just the low timbre of Sherlock's voice is enough to make John sleepy. He falls back into the pillows, for once feeling as though everything is on the right tracks again, as if he has been somehow derailed for the last week or so. "Yes?" he says tiredly.

Sherlock's voice is muffled when he says, "Good night."

John feels his face break into a smile, and he leans over and, without looking, switches off his bedside lamp.

"Night, Sherlock."

He wakes up the next morning with his cheek pressed against his phone, and from that moment on, throughout the next three weeks, he and Sherlock text constantly. It starts off sensibly, with Sherlock informing John on the status of several cases he has been on, but within a week it descends into strange, small, specific things, like what's your favourite colour? and if you had to take three things onto a desert island…Neither of them ever enquires on why the other one comes up with the questions, but they always give their answer.

It feels like he is on an overly extended, extremely odd date.

Mandy shoots him venomous glares throughout the weeks, and he becomes too busy texting to pay attention to his lectures, but that doesn't seem to matter anymore.

Any success with Harrison case? - JW

Got perpetrator. Also got slapped. - SH

You probably deserved it. - JW

Neither here nor there. She SLAPPED me. Me! - SH

Definitely deserved it. - JW

What's your most hated soup? - SH

Mushroom. - JW

I like mushroom. - SH

I'm allergic. - JW

I didn't know that. Any others? - SH

Cats. Ones with hair. You? - JW

Lion urine. - SH

How the hell could you possibly know that? - JW

You really don't want to know. - SH

Can't sleep. - JW

Me neither. - SH

Play violin? - JW

Mrs Hudson stole it. Tried to get Lestrade on her for theft, but he laughed. - SH

She's probably hidden it with your skull. Try cupboard under stairs, second door on the left. - JW

You are a genius. - SH

DON'T play it loudly or I'll get in trouble with her too. - JW

Too late. She says you can stay in Munich permanently for all she cares. - SH

Plead my case? - JW

Already have. - SH

When do you come back? - SH

Wednesday. - JW

Why? - JW

Sherlock? - JW

When he gets back to Baker Street, John hovers outside the door for a while, searching for his keys, and is momentarily struck by a barrage of noises and sights that he never really paid attention to before. Like the sound of the traffic, both on this street and on others, or the glow of the streetlight on the letters 221B. It is all familiar, it has all been there before, but he never noticed it, not truly, until now, when he has come back after so long away.

He instinctively glances up at the windows of 221b, but the curtains are drawn, although the lights are on.

He unlocks the door and steps into the hall, and Mrs Hudson is there in a twinkling, before he has even removed his coat.

She flings her arms around him with a cry of "Thank God!" as if he is a prophet come to deliver her from a life of slavery, and while he is still staggering and smiling, she launches into a full list of complaints concerning Sherlock and his antics while John has been away. It's all such a rush that John only understands a few sentences, such as "and then I looked on the ceiling and it was there" and "so he told me he had used chilli powder", but he gets the general gist, and decides that Sherlock can wait a moment while he defuses this particular bomb, and they go to Mrs Hudson's kitchen to have tea.

He attempts to tell her about his conference, but for some reason he can't really remember all that much of it - he must have learnt something, because he has notes, but all his mind can rest on are the random text conversations he has had with Sherlock for the past few weeks. He keeps mentioning them in the discussion, saying things like "oh yes, Sherlock told me that", and it could be a trick of the light, but Mrs Hudson seems to get a strange glint in her eye every time he says it.

Finally she says, quite straightforwardly, "He's been pining, you know."

John sips his tea. "Who?"

"Him upstairs." She jabs her thumb up at the ceiling, to indicate 221b. "Pining like a lost puppy."

John stares. "Er. Why?"

Mrs Hudson smiles kindly and picks up their empty mugs. "Oh, now come on, Doctor, you can't be that ignorant."

And suddenly all the texts make sense.

When he is halfway up the stairs to 221b, he hears a loud scuffling and clanging, as if a certain someone has just thrown themselves off the sofa and into something else in an attempt to look suddenly busy, but when he opens the door, Sherlock is apparently engrossed in a difficult and delicate chemical procedure, and doesn't look around. Funny that he appears to be breathing a bit heavily though.

"Hello," John says, putting his bag by the sofa. The room looks like it has always looked, and he feels something in his heart settle, which he hadn't realised had been out of place until now. He breathes a silent sigh of relief, then glances over at Sherlock, who hasn't spoken and is still bent over his chemicals.

John approaches the table warily, because if he has learnt one thing in living with Sherlock, it is that chemicals are highly volatile, explosive things.

"What are you doing?" he ventures, when he is close enough to peek over Sherlock's shoulder but still far enough away to dive for cover if necessary.

Sherlock doesn't reply to his question, he merely says, "Hold this," and, without looking at him, hands John a beaker of bubbling brown fluid, which instantly starts emitting a noxious gas. John holds it as far away from himself as possible and repeats, more exasperatedly this time,

"What are you doing?"

"See here," Sherlock says, and finally he looks up, and they lock eyes briefly, too briefly, because then Sherlock looks away and points. John looks to where he is pointing at a scrap of white fabric sellotaped onto the table. "Now," continues Sherlock, brandishing a pipette of blue fluid, "See what happens if I put a drop onto the fabric." He squeezes the pipette onto the fabric and inspects it carefully. "If it turns red," he says distractedly, "We have ourselves a murderer."

Intrigued, John watches the fabric. It turns red.

"Yes!" Sherlock immediately leaps up from the chair, almost careering into John and his beaker of brown muck, and runs for his coat. "Come on," he orders.

John carefully puts the brown muck on the table. "Where?" he asks.

Sherlock is winding his scarf around his neck. "Scotland Yard," he says. "I've finally found the Exposition Street murderer. Oh, Anderson is going to be furious, he's been after that one for years, but all he needed to do was find the alkali, that's the problem with him, with them all really, they don't think - well? Are you coming?"

John realises that he's standing in the middle of the room, silent, with a stupid smile on his face.

Sherlock gives him a narrow look. "Why are you smiling?" he asks suspiciously.

John thinks he should probably wipe the smile off his face before he looks any more stupid, but instead it rebelliously forms into a fully fledged grin. "No reason," he tries innocently, but he's unable to keep his mouth shut, and he blurts, "I'm just…glad to be back."

Sherlock, who has been heading for the door, freezes for a split second, and John thinks oh god, but then Sherlock glances back over his shoulder, and he beams so broadly that it quite puts John's grin to shame. "Me too," he says. It's the nicest thing he's ever said, and for a moment they just stand there, grinning like fools and John thinks, in a jumble, it's nice to be home and he's not that bad really and god, have I missed you.

And then Sherlock is rushing down the stairs, seizing his gloves on the way, and is shouting "John, come on" and John unfreezes himself and gets his own coat, because there is a mystery to solve, and Sherlock is calling for him, and once more, always once more, the game is on.

I hope you enjoyed! Please review!