Exception to the Rule
Doctor Watson was at the end of his rope. His day was fraught with tired explanations and feeble attempts to regain what little reputation he had as a stereotypical medical man; for John found that once you get dragged from your office by the police, aged witnesses spontaneously develop hyperactive imaginations. Mrs. Ryan was under the impression that the good doctor was euthanizing the elderly like she read about in France; another was certain he was a fraud and cut out his credentials from an internet printout. Miss Wilshire swears she heard him screaming, "You won't take me alive!" to anyone who would listen as he was dragged kicking and screaming from the building by Donavan and company.
Needless to say Wilshire's physical that day was rather awkward on both parts.
Sarah wasn't anymore refreshing. She had found the whole situation understandable but infuriating considering John was attached at the hip to a detective who attracted all things dodgy and bizarre. She had ranted that It was only a matter of time before Sherlock would stick his nose in John's business and ruin it all - and to make matters worse, she used backwards reasoning so that John couldn't use it as fodder against the detective. After all, Sherlock locked him up for his own safety.
The relationship between the doctor and the detective was beyond complicated. Sarah didn't think she could keep up with every underlying emotion and peculiar bouts of tension that sprang between the two of them.
"It was inevitable John, you know that man better then I do and even I saw it coming. He's trying to sabotage your job."
John slowly crammed his personal medical tools into his briefcase and shut it heavily. There was an expression on his face that was a cross between amusement, exhaustion and annoyance. "I wouldn't go so far as to say 'sabotage…'"
"What would you call it then?"
The woman crossed her arms to prevent herself from making fists and leaned against the wall of John's temporary office. The word 'temporary' always felt right in Sarah's mind when she thought about the little room, since John never really attached himself to the place – or her for that matter. The bond between them was fragile; so much so that any girl in her right mind would see immediately the lost cause in their bizarre courtship. Sarah didn't want to get hurt. She was a rational, logical woman; but John was kind, and the way he looked at the world lured her like moth to flame. Internal conflict raged as her instincts told her to back off, but John's genuine good guy attitude made her want to take advantage. She could sense a lot of pain on both sides was forthcoming if she ever wanted to their relationship to be something more.
Then there was Sherlock. The detective definitely counted as a major pain.
John struggled to reply, "It's just another quirk about Sherlock - which has you giving me that face that tells me that this is going to end in another argument where I'm going to go home and be mad at my flat mate for no direct reason of his own making."
He watched as Sarah opened her mouth to continue the conversation, but he intervened by throwing up a hand of warning. Her lips pursed together in a way that both attracted and repelled the man.
"Don't start. He may be an absolute git and a terrible friend, but he can't help the way he is. His work could start wars, end marriages and save lives, yet he can't buy a pair of shoes without making an enemy out of the salesman. When I'm with him, I can at least apologize for him and give him a head start before the pitchforks come out."
"You're making excuses for him!"
"That's all I can do Sarah!" Something in his tone made the woman back down; all the exhaustion he was trying to hide leaked out in his tempered words, leaving Sarah feeling guilty for bringing the topic up. John was dead set against telling Sherlock off and it would be a relationship ender if she made him choose between them now.
"Right. Well…" There was no smooth way to end this conversation. Sarah struggled to find something neutral to say.
"I'll see you tomorrow I suppose."
The sudden tension in the office didn't suit John. Other people would have done the complicated verbal dances and left the emotional mess for another day, but the doctor knew this conversation would only fester if Sarah brooded on it over night.
"Sarah. You and Sherlock both mean a lot to me… and trying to balance a normal life and a sociopath is proving to be nearly impossible." He lifted his briefcase of the desk and walked up to his girlfriend with a very tired smile. "I'm glad that you've stuck by me through this mess. Chinese smugglers should have been your first red flag but you stayed with me anyway. I'm grateful, I really am."
John gave her a passing kiss. It melted the icy mood that had settled between them and made a very small smile crawl onto Sarah's expression; he echoed it wearily, "Just let me handle Sherlock my own way. He's my problem, all right?"
A warm look passed from John to Sarah, and with that he took his leave and waved goodbye to the receptionist on his way out.
Sherlock was staring at a beaker of something foul smelling when John entered the flat carrying his briefcase and a hardened expression. The detective's attention shifted millimeters to the left to allow his peripherals to sweep across the man and absorb his features. It was a habit, a ritual - maybe even a game, figuring out what had happened to John while he was away from his daily debris.
Peeking out from the lip of John's briefcase was the corner of the doctor's lab coat. This indicated that there was a distraction at work whilst John was packing up to go home. Probability favored Sarah being the cause of John's diverted attention since things between the two of them had "not been good" since the night at the pool – though recent events revolving around John's temporary incarceration had not improved the situation either.
Secondly, Sherlock picked up the crumbs of a fresh ginger snap on his flat mate's jumper. It was likely Mrs. Hudson's baking since the detective has smelt them earlier; though, at the time, he thought it might have been an interesting chemical reaction occurring during his experiment since he was playing with esters that morning and he wasn't keen on cleaning his Erlenmeyers to a laboratory standard. Anyway, the presence of the cookie boded ill, for one of two things had happened upon John entering the building. Either the woman had pestered John into tasting her ginger snaps when they bumped into each other on the stairwell, or the assumed conversation he had with Sarah poisoned John's mind against him, yet again, and the doctor went to Mrs. Hudson in an attempt to clear his head before exposing himself to whatever catastrophe his flat mate caused to pass the time that day. If the first scenario were true, then John would be have encountered their landlady in flight and would paused only for small talk in which Mrs. Hudson would have given the doctor a spare cookie destined for Sherlock . If the second were true… there would be no spare cookie because Mrs. Hudson would have thought less interaction with Sherlock to be healthy for John's state of mind, leading to the ex-soldier puttering around awkwardly for hours until Sherlock did said something true to his personality that would make the man snap and cut straight to the issue that was plaguing him – that issue being something Sarah brought up earlier in the conversation that would have started everything. Damn women sometimes.
"Did you get the bicarbonate of soda I asked for?" Sherlock tested, bored with the conclusions his mind had drawn. He instantly discarded the deductions and instead, focused back on his work. Black eyes held the bubbling beaker clattering away on a hot plate with unbridled interest. He wasn't certain vitriol was supposed to turn that color when exposed to pig fat…
John set the briefcase down and removed his coat. "Baking soda? No… when did you ask me?"
"I texted you. Over an hour ago."
The doctor rummaged around his folded jacket to fish his scarred phone out of the pocket. "Sorry, had my phone off. Sarah was complaining that it went chimed far too frequently to be professional." There was a jolt of tension in the room at the mention of the woman's name. John quickly distracted himself with a sudden urgency to be in the kitchen. He gave Sherlock's experiment a whimsical raise of one eyebrow as he passed to access the refrigerator.
He was so used to the strange contents stacked haphazardly within the fridge that he didn't bat an eye at what looked like a Tupperware container filled with flakes of dead skin. Casually, he withdrew a pitcher of some miscellaneous juice Mrs. Hudson left them last time she cleared out the icebox. He then turned and poured himself a glass of the red liquid before leaning against the counter to watch Sherlock work. John's attention was mainly focused on the tensor bandage that wound its way up Sherlock's still mending arm. It was just barely visible beneath the detective's dress shirt.
"What case are you on? The one from Sussex?"
"Something more interesting. I set the Sussex one aside for now." Sherlock started to rifle through various instruments on the table with his good hand.
"Anything I can do to help?" John asked, being surprisingly interactive after a hard day's work.
Sherlock grabbed a pair of tongs and went to remove his beaker from the hot plate with only one hand. "Yes actually, can you fetch me the cooling mat?"
John complied by grabbing a silicon coated ceramic grate from next to the sink. He quickly set it down on the table; however, he underestimated its mass and how much weight his hand could bear after being in a splint for weeks. The cooling mat hit the wood with a clatter jostled the table just enough so that Sherlock's grip on the tongs slipped only a fraction – but a fraction was enough. His experiment crashed to the table and it was as if the world slowed down.
Surprisingly the beaker did not shatter on impact, but at the angle the bottom of the container had hit the table, it sent the majority of the bubbling contents flying in John's direction.
Sherlock panicked as the substance made contact with John's jumper. Both flat mates were trained in a Laboratory setting and knew the sort of reversible damage that was about to happen if they didn't act immediately. Vitriol not only burned chemically; but when in contact with skin it did some extra damage thermally.
Together John and Sherlock removed the upper layers of the soiled clothing with impressive speed. Even with a freshly knitted arm, the detective managed to discard the jumper with one vicious arc of his wrist to the table where the acid concentration was highest. This was in order to douse the whole mess with a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide he had handy. Now that he had the acid neutralized, he growled at John to get moving towards the shower since there was no telling how much vitriol had soaked through his knit top and onto his skin.
The pair of them passed a rather frazzled Mrs. Hudson who was frozen in the doorway. She had passed their door at the exact moment Sherlock had lunged at John and started tearing all his clothes off like some sort of possessed animal. It didn't help that he was barking something about a much needed shower for the world to hear.
"Mrs. Hudson, if you're just going to stand around, make yourself useful and call an ambulance!"
"No Sherlock, I'm fine. Honest. I don't think it got through the jumper… seriously… this is unnecessary…" John was trying to say as he was being half dragged towards the bathroom. The sound of water being hastily turned on only gave the doctor a split second warning before he was practically thrown into a freezing shower.
"SHERLOCK!" Was all John managed to sputter before his body ceased up to conserve heat. The detective tried to orientate his friend into a position that allowed water access to as much skin as possible. The whole ordeal was cold as ice and John thought he was going to have goose bumps for life.
Mrs. Hudson came bounding up behind them both looking as if she were feeling the entire spectrum of human emotion at once. "Sherlock, what are you doing to him? Are you daft? If this is a domestic I won't stand for this behavior!"
Sherlock, who was busy trying to make sure that John's front was getting properly flushed with water gave a frustrated cry and turned to address the frantic landlady cluttering up the bathroom door. "Mrs. Hudson! Please refrain from your nattering for just five minutes!" His dark locks were soaking wet and plastered to his forehead. His dress shirt was completely drenched from leaning over the lip of the bathtub to direct John, who was now trying to curl into a ball towards the shower head.
"G-god…. It's ssssss… so c-cold!" John shouted over the sound of rushing water. His jeans were heavy with the run off from the shower, and all the noise coming from the squelching of his knees against the bathtub, Sherlock shouting, Mrs. Hudson worrying, the water tapping against everything, and his own chattering comments, made the whole experience very confusing.
Freezing, the doctor clung to whatever extremities his flat mate brought near to him just so that he could leech what meager warmth they offered from him. It got to the point where Mrs. Hudson was called over to turn off the taps after fifteen minutes since Sherlock's arms were being held in a vice grip.
"T-thank…. G-god. I didn't know… h-how much more of that I c-c-could take." John said, trying to force a smile, if only to stop Mrs. Hudson from looking like she was going to have a cry.
Sherlock gave a very small chuckle to elevate the tension in the room. "I'm going to need my arms back John… that's if you can get out of the bathtub yourself."
John echoed his friend's faint laugh and like a rusty automaton, he released Sherlock. "I swear I'm going to kill you one day Sherlock – that's if you don't kill me first."
Mrs. Hudson grabbed a towel and moved to throw it over Sherlock's head, but the man ducked out of the bathroom and headed back to the kitchen. He was leaving little puddles in his wake. "I'll make you some warm tea. Mrs. Hudson, please make sure he puts on some dry clothes as soon as possible..."
The landlady looked momentarily lost before she looked back to John who looked like a drowned rat trapped in a tub. "What was all that about?"
"Acid spill Mrs. Hudson… don't worry about it. Just a typical day at 221B." John sighed and leaned back in the bathtub. Sometimes living with Sherlock Holmes was too much for an ordinary man.
After a few minutes, during which John dried off and changed, Sherlock came back with a cup of hot tea and a blanket.
"I'm sorry." The words came out so quickly and awkwardly that John was dumbfounded.
"That's okay Sherlock. Accidents happen." John took the blanket from his flat mate and threw it over his shoulder so that he could wander into the living room and finish his tea. Though from that night on Mrs. Turner from next door never looked at John and Sherlock the same way. Apparently Mrs. Hudson's play-by-play wasn't quite as accurate as John would have liked it to be…
God this took far longer than I ever intended it too... and it wasn't even proof read properly (It's 3am and I'm way too tired...). Thank you all for reviewing! I'll probably be starting another fic once season two is done. Anyone else find the first episode... just... epic? I miss some old characters though. Sarah had her moments and I do like Sally and Anderson. Where for art thou? Hope you all have a good year!