The bus was crowded. It was crowded and noisy and he had forgotten his book. Hopeful, he took his iPod from his pocket. Damn, the battery was dead. Had he forgotten to plug it in last night? No, he hadn't forgotten, but Sherlock was using his laptop and he had been too tired to fight him for it.
He was bone tired tonight, too, and feeling more than a bit stroppy because of it. There was a particularly virulent upper respiratory bug making the rounds and it had managed to cut the surgery's staff by a third over the last few days, leading John to step in and pick up extra shifts. Good for the paycheck, bad for getting enough rest, and he was feeling a bit rough in the chest himself, meaning it was probably his turn for the funk. Damnit.
Now there was nothing to be done then but sit and wait, it wasn't a long ride from the surgery to Baker Street, after all. Still, he was in the middle of Guns, Germs and Steel and it would have gone a long way towards distracting him from the fact that the man sitting next to him had ordered mustard and extra onions on his sandwich at lunch, and his breath hadn't mellowed a bit in the intervening 4 hours.
Or it might have taken his mind off the rabid, too loud chattering of the two twenty-something girls sitting directly across from him, one of whom was bragging, and in great detail, about an unimportant fling with a young man in the mailroom at work. Never minding the wedding ring on her finger, or the fact that her companion, (BFF, matching tattoos on the inside of their right ankles), winced very gently as her friend talked on, as she obviously fancied the boy herself, and hadn't had as much luck.
Standing in front of him, unmistakable in the stiff and gamey uniform of the Gutter Punk, stood the Throw Away Kid. Dirty face, dirtier hand grasping the bar, highway department orange hair stiff and gummy looking, and a dog of indeterminate breed on a tattered leash. Over the pong of a rarely washed body was a very faint whiff of spray paint propellant, and John found himself wondering, tagger or huffer? Mouth slightly open, body struggling for oxygen it couldn't get enough of, pulse beating fast at his throat, eyes flat and distant, like holes in snow. Huffer then.
Behind the grimy punk stood his polar opposite, an art student, as if the large black portfolio tucked under his arm wasn't enough to point that out, John had only to see the charcoal fingertips and paint spattered clothes. The portfolio bulged at the seams with sketches, as his head almost visibly bulged with ideas, dreamy eyes fixed on nothing in the middle distance. From expensive, slightly battered sound mixing headphones wafted the faint sweet strains of violin music and John wondered what it was, then he smiled to himself, thinking Sherlock would know.
The woman sitting directly to the left of the driver, first seat just inside the door, was blind. She had been there when John boarded the bus, and there was no guide dog or stick, but her head had not turned once in 10 minutes of travel. While she stared straight ahead without variance, John could almost feel her listening, every so often pricking her ears when the bus pulled in to the curb, to hear what stop the driver announced, or as he suspected, to glean whatever information she could from listening to the street sounds when the door opened. When her stop came, she stood, reached into her bag and pulled out a folding cane, snapping it together with a few neat little clicks.
He wondered what the world sounded like to her, and if the world sounded that way to Sherlock, who seemed to miss nothing. Could her hearing, heightened due to her blindness, be as all-encompassing as Sherlock's vision seemed to be?
Taking her place was one of the many mentally ill people John often saw on the bus. He was disappointed to see this man was young, barely into his twenties. Not that it being an older person made it any more or less sad to see; perhaps it was just that this young man hadn't had so long a road to travel into instability. Like the reeking punker, he was dirty, but not quite so fragrant, thank God, and his clothes were in decidedly better shape. His hands, red, swollen and nails chewed to the quick, moved constantly as he muttered, a constant stream of angry profanity and vitriolic complaint, which John couldn't help but over hear.
"This is a bullshit waste of time, I already had to take one drug test, what the fuck do they want from me anyway? I just want to go to work and work, why do I have to do this?" This isn't fair, what about my rights, on and on, etcetera.
He was making everyone around him obviously uncomfortable, at least, everyone who didn't have the means to tune him out, be it a book, a companion or some sort of personal media player. That was it, he would wrest his laptop from Sherlock tonight if it took a pry bar.
He could see the relief visible on several faces when the young man left the bus shortly thereafter, and John could see the sign for a clinic specializing in pre-employment drug screening. If the agitated and rambling paranoia hadn't been enough, the pupils so small as to be nonexistent told John his second trip would be a waste of everyone's time as well.
He sighed quietly. Two more turns and he would be off, and the flat and a nice cup of tea would be half way down the block. Bliss. Then he wondered what Sherlock was up to. Jesus, there was no telling. Tonight, just for tonight, let it be just one quiet night of crap telly and a nice take away. Let there be no dashing off into the cold to investigate any mysterious murders, no toxic and foul smelling experiments, no miscellaneous body parts chilling in the fridge next to the milk, no Wagnerian sulks. Just a bit of peace, was that too much to ask?
He opened the door of 221B at last and walked into a solid wall of sensation. It was deliciously warm, the tantalizing scent of a very spicy curry, garlic naan, and saffron rice perfumed the air, mingling with the smell of tea and fresh biscuits from Mrs. Hudson's flat, and the soft cry of Sherlock's violin hung over it all, tremulous and sad. It was all beyond wonderful and it sucked him right in where he stood.
Oh God, he thought, foul mood forgotten and mouth flooding in anticipation, I have died and gone to Heaven.
It seemed he listened for a long while, the strains of Bach, (Sarabande, after three months in the flat he knew it for one of Sherlock's favorites), washing away the days woes, and just as he began, finally, to mount the seventeen steps, the music stopped and the door opened above him.
"John?" Sherlock's voice floated down to him, and was that tone of impatience flavored with a hint of concern?
"Yes, yes, I'm coming," he said, but he was smiling.
Standing in the doorway, his plans for tea and crap telly forgotten, John wondered if he were in the wrong flat. It was tidy, first of all, and the table by the windows was set, meaning all the myriad debris so necessary to Sherlock's thought processes normally littering said table had been cleared away, and a dazzling array of takeaway boxes from John's favorite Indian restaurant had taken their place. Sherlock snapped the clasps on his violin case shut and proceeded the strip John, slack jawed and silent, of his jacket. He hung it up with his on the back of the door and put his hands on John's shoulders, herding him toward the table.
Plunked into a waiting chair, John finally found his voice.
"Has Mrs. Hudson been here?"
"No," Sherlock said, spooning a generous helping of fragrant golden rice onto John's plate.
"You tidied up the flat-"
"Yes," topping the rice with Mutter Paneer and Murgh Musallam.
"-and you called for a takeaway?"
"Yes," he held out a piece of naan, from which John tore a chunk, dipped it in the mutter paneer and took a bite out of it. His sigh of pleasure as the spice filled his head was not lost on Sherlock, who had, through the duration of his very brief interrogation, begun to look a bit put out.
"What's the occasion?" John couldn't help ribbing him.
Sherlock ignored him, helping himself to small servings of everything. Christ, he was even going to eat! The light dawned.
"You solved the case."
"Of course," he waved a careless hand, "but that's not important."
"No?" John looked truly lost, but he had an idea. "So, what, you did all this for me?"
Sherlock sighed, wasn't that obvious?
"You've worked late four nights this week because Simmons and Rogers are down with the flu that's going around. You're tired, working 16 hour days and coming down with that same flu yourself if your tossing and turning, the sour mood you've been in and low grade fever you were running this morning was any indication. I know the bus at this time of the evening is no picnic. So crowded, I don't know why you didn't just take a cab," here he shuddered. "I ordered the curry slightly hotter than usual because I know you love it, and because it will help you sweat it out. Oh, and yes, I solved the case early."
Still John blinked at him owlishly, but his eyes were shining, a crooked little smile was spreading across his face and his cheeks were pink.
Sherlock huffed, but he was smiling now too.
"Really, John, you act like I don't pay attention!"