"Sherlock, you've put 'Not Attending'," said John, tapping away at his laptop and frowning over at his friend, "Why have you put 'Not Attending'?"
As usual, Sherlock was spread-eagled across the sofa in a way designed to convey as much drama as possible with the least amount of effort. His violin was lying across his chest, one hand plucking lazily at the strings.
"Mm?" he said, his expression showing that he was aware his flatmate had spoken but not of what he'd actually said.
"You've put 'Not Attending'," repeated John, "On Facebook. Why?"
There was a pause, and John still wasn't sure that Sherlock had heard what he said, until he sat up suddenly and twisted around on the sofa to face him. He pulled his legs underneath him and narrowed his eyes, gazing at John intently.
"I don't intend," said Sherlock, his voice dripping with scorn, "to attend."
John scowled, and scrolled down the Event page. Harry, Clara, Lestrade, Mike….hell, even Anderson had put a 'Maybe'.
"Everyone else is coming," he said, trying not to make his voice sound too whiney. Sherlock raised his eyebrows incredulously.
"All the more reason for me not to," he said, rising from the sofa suddenly and striding into the kitchen. John wasn't sure how he managed to look so haughty even when he was wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown. He got up and followed his friend into the other room.
"But Sherlock, it's my birthday! You have to come!" he said, unable to keep the petulant tone out of his words. Sherlock appeared to be attempting to make tea, in the usual haphazard manner that he applied to anything outside the realms of crime. Though, to be fair, Sherlock's tea was a crime in itself. John suspected he was only doing it to try and avoid the conversation.
"There is no logical reason to celebrate the simple fact that you've been alive for another 365 days," Sherlock said, spooning sugar – John hoped it was sugar – into mugs, and all over the worktop at the same time, "It's completely arbitrary."
"Some of us like arbitrary," he said, budging Sherlock out of the way and taking over the tea-making before he made too much of a mess, "Some of us enjoy it. Besides, the amount of times you've almost got me killed this year, you'd think you'd want to celebrate the fact that you haven't managed it yet."
Sherlock cast him a dark look.
"I do, John," he said, an unidentifiable note in his voice, "Every day."
John glanced up at him in surprise, then grinned.
"Well! I didn't realise you cared…" he said teasingly, his eyes crinkling at the corners. Sherlock glared down at him, then tossed his head in annoyance and marched back towards the living.
"Yes, well," he called back over his shoulder, "I don't need to go down to the pub with a load of tedious, chattering dullards in order to show it. Can't you just stay in?"
John picked up the two steaming mugs and followed him, sending a silent thanks to whoever it was that had invented the teabag. He was fairly certain that Sherlock would be impossible to live with without a nice, soothing cup of tea every – oh, every hour or so. Every half an hour, on a particularly bad day.
"Those 'tedious chattering dullards' happen to be my friends. Birthdays are a time to spend with friends," he said grumpily, setting the mugs down on the table and throwing himself into his armchair. He wasn't sure at what stage it had been decided that Sherlock would get free reign of the entire sofa and he would be relegated to the threadbare, shapeless chair; probably around the same stage that it had been decided that Sherlock would get free reign in all other aspects of his life, he supposed. Including his romantic life, he thought, glowering; he was certain it was his housemate's fault that Sarah had suddenly lost interest and started dating that annoying paediatrician with the stupid beard.
"Oh, John," Sherlock said. John couldn't see his face but he could almost hear the roll of his eyes, "Your friends? Half the employees of Scotland Yard, your estranged sister, her ex-girlfriend, your ex-girlfriend and a few medical colleagues? Please."
John shifted angrily in his seat, the words hitting him harder than he expected. It was true, he thought; it had been a long time since he'd had anything that could be traditionally classed as a "friend". He had had plenty, he thought, before Iraq. He had tried to get in touch with them afterwards, but couldn't bear just sitting and making small-talk as though any of that matteredanymore.
Sherlock looked over at him sharply when he didn't reply.
"I've upset you," he said, his brow furrowing a little.
"Yeah, funny that," snapped John, "Maybe some people like being told that they don't have any friends, Sherlock, but I don't. I know you love pretending you're above all of that, but some of us actually need…"
"You have me," Sherlock interrupted, "I'm your friend."
John opened his mouth to argue, but stopped because his housemate was staring at him with such an oddly earnest expression on his face. It looked strange, almost childlike, on his usually impassive face. John gave a half laugh.
"I don't know whatyouare, Sherlock Holmes," he sighed, taking a sip of his tea and feeling the soothing warmth all the way through his body, "You're not like any friend I've ever had before."
"But I am your friend?"
John rolled his eyes.
"Yes, obviously, yes. Yes, you're my friend," he said, "though God knows why I put up with you sometimes."
Sherlock smiled in satisfaction and sat back on the sofa, pulling John's laptop on his knee. John scowled, but couldn't be bothered to tell him to get his own from his bedroom; he'd given up that particular fight a long time ago.
It was almost dark by the time John managed to regain control of his computer, and then it was only because Sherlock suddenly swanned out of the room and down the stairs without an explanation. He didn't mind, he thought; he knew they didn't have a case at the moment and Sherlock was probably just collecting supplies for some ridiculous experiment or other. The less he knew about it, the better, he figured.
He clicked onto his Facebook to check whether Sarah had replied to his birthday event yet, and found to his surprise that he'd been invited to something himself. Unusual, he thought, opening it up in mild excitement.
It was from Sherlock.
Location:221b Baker Street, City of Westminster, London
Created by:Sherlock Holmes
More Info:I am very glad that you have not died for a whole year. Please stay in with me to celebrate your birthday instead of going to the dreadful pub. BIRTHDAYS ARE A TIME TO SPEND WITH FRIENDS, JOHN.
There were only two people on the guest list; John himself, and Sherlock. The latter had already clicked 'Attending'.
John rolled his eyes, and clicked 'Not Attending' with some force. Honestly, this was almost as ridiculous as the time that Sherlock had created a separate profile page for his skull. He clicked onto it on a whim, to see whether his housemate was still bothering to maintain the page.
Its status had been updated two hours ago to "…watching John eat toast. Honestly, live humans are so disgusting. Could someone turn me to face the wall, please?"
Sherlock had 'liked' it, John noticed, scowling to himself.
Just then, his phone bleeped in his pocket.
WHY HAVE YOU PUT 'NOT ATTENDING'? SH
He glanced around the room nervously, still slightly freaked out by the detective's uncanny ability to know things immediately.
HOW DID YOU KNOW?
FACEBOOK APP, JOHN, I KNOW YOU ONLY HAVE THAT RUBBISH PHONE BUT SOME OF US DO ACTUALLY KEEP UP WITH TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS. SH
YOU MEAN, SOME OF US DO ACTUALLY HAVE ELDER BROTHERS WITH MORE CASH THAN SENSE?
PLEASE, DR WATSON, DON'T BRING ME INTO THIS. I HAVE EQUAL AMOUNTS CASH AND SENSE. MH
TO: MYCROFT HOLMES
WHAT THE HELL – MYCROFT, ARE YOU KEEPING TABS ON MY COMMS?
DO NOT TEXT MYCROFT BACK. WHY HAVE YOU PUT 'NOT ATTENDING'? SH
I HAVE PLANS ALREADY THAT NIGHT, FUNNILY ENOUGH!
CHANGE THEM. SH
TO: MYCROFT HOLMES
YOU DON'T NORMALLY MIND ALTERING YOUR PLANS FOR ME. SH
I DO, ACTUALLY, BUT NORMALLY SOMEONE'S LIFE IS AT STAKE.
THAT CAN BE ARRANGED. SH
SHERLOCK! JUST COME TO THE PUB.
NO. BAKER ST, FRIDAY, 8PM. SH
And that's how John Watson ended up sitting in the pub on his birthday, surrounded by people chattering and laughing, ostensibly having a brilliant time and yet nothing feeling quite right just because Sherlock bloody Holmes wasn't there.
"Dammit," he muttered, after a couple of hours had passed and he was still feeling awkward and on edge. Sally Donovan looked up at him questioningly. She and Anderson had both come along, after being assured that their least favourite consulting detective would not be present. Harry and Clara were both there too, but seated at opposite ends of the table and avoiding each other's eyes.
"He manages to ruin things even when he's not here!" he said, waving one hand expansively and almost upending Lestrade's pint. Sally smirked understandingly.
"Yeah… weird that…" she said, "Look, this is your night. I told you before, Sherlock Holmes doesn't have friends. He uses you when he needs you but God forbid he ever return the favour."
Anderson sniggered at her shoulder. John made a note to ask Sherlock why exactly it was that Sally hated him with such a fiery passion, though he was almost certain he wouldn't tell him.
As if on cue, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He knew who it would be; Sherlock always seemed to know when his thoughts had turned to him and to text him at that exact moment. Either that, or his thoughts were just on him a lot of the time, and he wasn't sure he wanted to pursue that line of enquiry right now.
WHY HAVE YOU GONE OUT? COME HOME. SH
NO. COME TO THE PUB.
He glared at the phone in his hand and shoved it back into the pocket of his jeans.
"Drink?" said Clara, rising from the table, "It's my round."
John nodded gratefully, and went up to the bar with her to help carry the glasses. It was a Friday night, and the room was as packed as you'd expect from any central London pub on a weekend. He was pleased to see Clara; after all, she'd been his friend before she and Harry ever met, and now that they'd broken up he never got to see her anymore.
"You okay?" he said into her ear, over the sound of the crowd. She leant on the edge of the bar and ran her hand through her dark red hair, looking a little fraught.
"Yeah, sure…" she said, then glanced back at the table they'd left behind them, "It's just… it's funny, being here with Harry in the same room, but not talking to her. The worst of it is, I expected her to be a wreck, but she looks… she looks well. Is she well? How has she been?"
John shrugged, all too aware that he hadn't really seen as much of his sister lately as any responsible big brother would.
"I think she's doing better," he said, carefully, "And – well. She's only on the orange juice tonight, that's a good sign."
Clara nodded, and gave him a tight smile.
"It's not that I'm not having a good time, though, John. Sally seems great fun, and that D.I. – Greg, is his name? Greg. Well, I'd not say no, if you catch my drift," she said, winking at him conspiratorially. Glancing back at Lestrade on the table, whose eyes kept flitting towards them at the bar, John rather suspected that he wouldn't say no either.
"But it's… oh, I don't know," she went on, "You know when you're surrounded by people, all around you, but there's only one that you can think about?"
John nodded, commiserating. He suspected he knew exactly what she meant.
"I know exactly what you mean," he said. Clara narrowed her eyes at him, shrewdly, and was about to say something when the bartender came over to take their order and they ended up staggering back towards the table, laden down with pints upon pints.
Just before Clara slid back into her seat, John caught her arm, and murmured into her ear.
"Why don't you just talk to her, then?"
Clara regarded him levelly.
"Why don't you just talk to him?" she asked, raising her eyebrow.
John blinked, staring back at her, then felt his phone vibrate again in his pocket. He knew exactly who it was, and found himself grinning suddenly at Clara.
"I will if you will," he said, and turned away from his own birthday party to sprint out of the door.
He had just made it to the top of the stairs in 221 Baker Street when the door to the flat swung open in front of him, and he crashed straight into Sherlock. Who was wearing his greatcoat and scarf, and seemed to be covered in a light dusting of an unidentifiable white powder.
"Ah," he said. On a case then, or working on some ridiculous experiment. "Are you going out?"
Sherlock blinked at him, looking slightly bewildered.
"That depends," he said, "Are you coming in?"
"Err. Yes, yes, that was the idea, but if you're on your way somew-"
"No no no, it's quite alright," said Sherlock, ushering him in through the door and pulling off his coat, "I was just on my way to – er – but there's no point anymore, so…"
John stopped midway through unbuttoning his jacket and looked at his housemate curiously.
"Sherlock, are you – I mean, were you – were you on your way to the pub?"
Sherlock loomed over him, his nostrils flaring slightly.
"I had expected you to come home sooner after I made it clear that I required your presence," he said, "But it soon became apparent that you actually were planning to stay with your… friends, instead of coming home to me, so I thought…"
He faltered, looking a little pained.
"John, why did you put 'Not Attending'?"
John laughed, and shook his head in disbelief. Sometimes he genuinely couldn't understand his housemate's thought processes. Well, ok, quite a lot of the time.
"I didn't realise there was anything to actually 'attend'. I don't normally make a Facebook event for every time I'm just going to sit in my own living room watching the telly…"
Sherlock stared at him, his eyes wide and full of confusion.
"I said I wanted to celebrate your birthday, not sit around watching… X Factor, or whatever it is you normally occupy your Friday nights with," he said, spitting the name of the TV programme with disgust.
"Well, I'm here now," said John, "What's the plan?"
Sherlock beamed suddenly, with that rather disconcerting smile he saved for behind closed doors. It was a good job he did, thought John; it was certainly well-intentioned, but the effect was a little unsettling.
"Yes, you are here, aren't you!"
Sherlock grabbed John's arm and pulled him through into the living room, which was shrouded in darkness.
"I've been doing some research…" came Sherlock's voice from out of the dark, and John could just about see his silhouette crossing the room to locate the lampshade.
"…and although there are many cultural specificities, I managed to make a decision about the most integral factors…"
There was a pause, and then the lamp clicked on, revealing Sherlock standing next to it like an enormous overgrown bat, and a room full of…
"Balloons?" exclaimed John, staring at the multicoloured balls bobbing about on the ceiling. There must have been about 50 of them.
Sherlock's face fell.
"Is this incorrect?" he said.
John took one look at the Great Sherlock Holmes, stood looking like a forlorn little child in the middle of a room full of party balloons, and burst out into helpless laughter. He laughed and laughed until his sides hurt, half-wishing he had his camera so that he could send photos of this to the Yarders and – perhaps – to Mycroft, and then he collapsed against the wall as his giggles slowly abated.
Sherlock was still watching him with concern.
"Balloons are correct," he said finally, grinning up at him, "Very good. Well done."
Sherlock looked very pleased with himself, and grabbed the string of one of the balloons from the ceiling – they were a little too high for John to reach, he realised, embarrassingly. Crossing the room, he handed it to John.
"Thank you," he said, and then, on a whim, he reached up and rubbed the balloon on the top of Sherlock's head. The detective stared down at him, frowning in bemusement.
"Is this a birthday tradition?" he asked, "What are you doing?"
"I'm making your hairs stand on end," explained John, continuing to rub the balloon backwards and forwards. Sherlock narrowed his eyes slightly, and gave John an uncharacteristically intense look.
"Ah. Electricity," he murmured.
John smiled and stepped backwards, lifting the balloon slightly away from Sherlock's head and chuckling as the hairs stood on end on his scalp and pulled after the balloon, grasping blindly towards it.
"It's quite good, look," said John, steering him towards the mirror. Sherlock glanced at his hair, and gave one of his small huffs of amusement.
"And I made you a cake," he announced suddenly, turning towards him, and suddenly John realised what the fine white dust on Sherlock's clothes was. He swallowed anxiously.
Sherlock rolled his eyes.
"I am capable, John. Baking is just science for hungry people."
He grabbed John's hand and led him through into the kitchen, which looked as though a bomb had hit it. A bomb made out of eggs, butter and flour. John winced a little, very aware that it would probably be him that ended up cleaning all of this up.
"Besides," Sherlock went on, "Mrs Hudson was there in a pinch."
He opened the fridge and pulled out a large jam sponge, which had been placed on the second shelf next to the bag of severed ears. He placed it proudly, almost reverently, on the kitchen table.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN,was iced onto the top of it in large, shaky letters.
John grinned, and prodded it gently. It certainly seemed like cake, in terms of consistency.
"Well, I'm very impressed," he said, "Is it edible?"
Sherlock scoffed, and began getting plates and cutlery out of the cupboards. John sat himself down at the table, staring at the enormous cake in front of him.
"Of course it's edible. I may have tampered with the recipe slightly, but only to seal in the moisture. Mrs Hudson's sponge is always a little dry."
"Don't let her hear you saying that!"
Sherlock took out a large knife and cut two slices from the cake, which John was about to bite into when his phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out, glancing at the text.
"Ah," he said, "It's Harry. They're wondering where I've gone. I did kind of just… run off. A bit."
Sherlock quirked an eyebrow at him.
"You ran off?"
"Yes, I… well, I decided I'd rather be with you, actually," he explained, "Even if it meant I couldn't be with them."
Sherlock looked a little startled, then beamed at him, and he wondered how exactly to word this. He'd promised Clara, when he'd left the pub, that he'd talk to his housemate, and now he had no idea what to say.
"But you'd rather be with all of us at once…?" Sherlock asked, interrupting his thoughts. John nodded, slowly.
"Yes, I mean… for my birthday, yes. And Harry's dying to meet you."
Sherlock was silent for a moment, then rolled his eyes in affectionate exasperation.
"Oh go on then, invite them round," he said, "We've got plenty of balloons."
John grinned happily, and tapped out a speedy reply to Harry telling them all to come round to 221b – even Donovan and Anderson, if they could stomach it. He'd go downstairs and knock up Mrs Hudson, to see whether she wanted to come upstairs to join them. Perhaps they could even get in touch with Mycroft? Though that might be pushing things a little, he considered. He supposed Clara was going to kill him for not really having spoken to Sherlock properly yet, but that could wait until later. There was plenty of time for that.
For now, he was going to have his cake and eat it.