Author's Note: Just a little AU answer to a question that's been bouncing about in my noggin for a while. Remember reviews are love, so let me know if you like this and my one-shots in general. Thanks, Catslyn.
It's For You…
When the fourth phone he'd walked by began to ring, John decided that there was no such thing as coincidence. When the mobile phones of the people he passed began to ring as well, only to be answered with startled and puzzled queries of, "I'm sorry, John who?" he began to feel liked he'd stepped into some bizarre episode of Doctor Who. He wouldn't mind so much if Rose or Sarah Jane Smith would come running up, grab him by the arm and lead him off on some grand adventure, but no beautiful women paid him the slightest attention. No one even noticed him at all.
Well, that wasn't entirely true. His fellow pedestrians noticed him sufficiently to step out of his path, the well-heeled British being inclined both to step aside for the handicapped and to avoid meeting their eyes at all costs. John's hand tightened on the grip of his cane and damned his own self-pity. It wasn't the fault of London's evening saunterers that he couldn't walk. It wasn't even the fault of the Afghani sniper who'd shot him. It was the fault of his twisted, pathetic mind. The same mind that seemed to be trying to convince him that the ringing of the phones and the complete refusal of every cab within sight to stop was all part of some vast conspiracy to make him limp all the way back to his cold, bland bedsit.
He hadn't minded it so much before. He'd always liked things to be tidy and neat, one of the reasons he supposed he'd taken so readily to military life. But after visiting 221b Baker St. that afternoon, after seeing Sherlock there amidst all the accumulated trappings of his life, all the mad bric-a-brac – even a ruddy skull – his own bedsit seemed unbearably empty by comparison. Sterile, he thought. The word was sterile. That five minutes in Baker St. he'd felt more at home, more comfortable than he'd felt in five months at his own doss. Probably, he realized, because that was all it was... a doss, a place to sleep, not a place to live. He hadn't really lived since he'd been invalided home. Not for one moment. Not until today. Ella had seemed to think he was evading, avoiding and generally dismissing her request that he keep a blog. But the trouble was, he'd had nothing write about, nothing to blog. He'd been telling her the complete and utter truth when he that nothing ever happened to him. Nothing, that is, until today. Even if he never saw Sherlock again, for once, John had something to write about.
That was assuming, of course, that he actually made it back to the bedsit. The streets were dark, the phones kept ringing, the crowd was growing thinner and thinner the farther he walked, and no cab would stop for him. John was in poor condition to defend himself hand-to-hand, and he didn't have his sidearm with him. He wasn't barmy enough to carry a loaded weapon about the streets of London even if he had been barmy enough to sneak it back into the country in the first place. Keeping it had seemed perfectly rational at the time. After more than a decade in the RAMC, going about unarmed made the skin between his shoulder blades itch. He'd been shot, shot at, knifed and generally attacked too often to feel safe even in his homeland. Maybe especially in his homeland. That Sig was a part of him now, and if lying about having it didn't fit John's honest, by the book reputation in the corps, well, that wasn't the only thing about him that had changed. He'd been a people person once. He'd smiled and partied and joked. He'd lived a dangerous and wild life, and he'd had fun doing it. Now getting out of bed in the morning hardly seemed worth the effort.
John knew he was ill. He knew had PTSD, but that didn't change how pointless everything felt, how hopeless. Until today. If wasn't for the damned cane, he might just have gone chasing after Sherlock instead of trundling along to bed. Sherlock… boring wasn't a word anyone could use to describe that man. John had gone from alone and miserable to accompanying a perfect stranger to a crime scene, examining a corpse, and irritating legitimate law enforcement personnel by his very presence… and it felt amazing. If only the bloody phones would stop ringing, maybe he could actually enjoy the sensation of having done something with his day.
But the phones just kept right on ringing. After he passed his seventh, "Sorry, wrong number," John was ready to call 999. This was ridiculous. It was like something out of a bloody horror film. It definitely wasn't the sort of thing that happened to retired linseed lancers. Nor was the Bentley that pulled alongside the kerb directly ahead of John. Nor was the bint that stepped out of it and stopped on the pavement before him, eyes glued to the smartphone in her left hand while she held another phone out to him with her right.
"It's for you," she said without once looking at him.
"I don't think so," John said, shaking his head as he moved to walk around her. He'd hobbled no more than a yard when another car pulled literally onto the pavement, completely blocking his way forward. A tall, muscular man in a nondescript black suit stepped out of it and regarded him somberly. He was wearing an earpiece, like the kind the secret service wore. John held the man's gaze for a time, just long enough to certain that the fellow was more than he could possibly take on in his current condition, then turned and started back the way he'd come. He wasn't even surprised when a third car cut off his retreat.
"It's for you, Dr. Watson," the woman said, still more focused on her smartphone than on him. She seemed to be typing a text message with her thumb while holding it one-handed.
John swallowed. "How do you know my name?" he demanded, keeping a wary eye on the bully boy who'd begun to slowly close the distance between them.
"Please take the phone," she said with a sigh, sounding thoroughly bored with the whole thing.
John took the phone and raised it to his ear. Before he'd even drawn in the necessary breath to speak, a plummy voice beat him to it. "Dr. Watson, there is a CCTV camera mounted on the building immediately to your left. Do you see it?" Narrowing his eyes, John looked up at the camera. As he watched, it turned on its base, pointing away from the street and him. What in fiddler's fuck? Before he could question this, the voice spoke again. "Another camera is to your and slightly behind. Do you see it?" Again John looked up. The moment he spotted it, the camera began to move, turning a blind digital eye to the happenings in the street below. Twice more they went through this routine, and John's breathing quickened. Who could do something like this? Why would anyone do something like this?
"What do you want?" John demanded of the faceless voice, an edge of anger creeping into his own tones.
"Get in the car, Dr. Watson."
"No." John narrowed his eyes as the man with the earbud started toward him, clearly acting on some sort of instructions. He fixed the man with a look of such venom that the goon actually stopped in his tracks, eyeing John assessingly. Wonder, John thought with bitter satisfaction. Wonder just how much I can still hurt you with this cane.
"Really, Dr. Watson. Do let's be civil about this," the posh voice said in his ear. "Get in the car like a good chap and everything will be explained to you."
John contemplated the car, sanity warring with curiosity. Damn him, John thought. Damn me! Shoving the phone back at the brunette, who took it without looking up from her own phone, John got into the car. She joined him an instant later, and the Bentley began moving as soon as the door was closed. "So, where are we going then?" John asked. She ignored him utterly. Stung by this continuing invisibility, he tried again. "Do you have a name?"
The bint thought for a moment, then said, "Anthea."
The End… of the AU Beginning