All of this was improved by the existence of Shaindy, my beta, who beat the rules of commas and speech marks into me with a sharp stick.
Three weeks after the death of Sherlock Holmes, after that impossible man threw himself off a roof, (why? Why did he do that?) Doctor John Watson moves into fifteen Montague Street. It's small, a shotgun house where you could stand with the front and back doors open and the bullet would fly straight into the alley and create shrapnel of the aging wall bricks. There is barely enough room for his things let alone any of the items Sherlock's left him (everything; as the man's will had said: aside from the few items of familial importance I have outlined below, to Dr John Watson, I leave everything I own. EVERYTHING. Take care of my city John.). He sorts through Sherlock's belongings and takes several of the more memorable items and all the man's books and notes, before locking the black door behind him for the last time and opening a new one.
The John Watson who moves into Montague Street is more like a war veteran than the one who moved into Baker Street. He's wearing his old combat boots, the sandy worn comfortable ones that he wore in Afghanistan. To be fair, it's only because one pair of shoes have Sherlock's blood all over them and the other pair have Harry's sick. But once he's cleaned the sick ones and thrown out the blood ones he still wears his boots. They make him stand straighter.
The practice he starts working at is in a pokey part of London, near the British Museum. It's in a shambles. The doctor he's replacing worked there for two months, getting away as fast as possible after too many drunks and too many fights and dog bites and too much real world. The doctor he's sharing with and technically working under is nearing retirement and almost permenantly half-drunk with blood shot eyes and a red nose and a bottle of brandy hidden in a side draw. The place suits him down to the ground. 'Take care of my city John' Sherlock said. He's going to start here.
The first thing, the very first thing he does, because he is a damn good doctor, is spend three days going through patient records. They are disorganised but digitalised, and thankfully all uploaded to the NHS mainframe, which means that he can work from his new house. He uses Sherlock's laptop. He's always preferred the macs, it's what they used at medical school, and anyway, Sherlock's is faster and has a much better battery life. What he sees makes him cringe, and dread the kind of clearing up he will have to do. That's okay though. He needs a project. Something to get everything else off his waking mind.
The place is busy, the only surgery aside from the hospitals that scatter themselves around for a ways in all directions, and the hospitals are not for general practice anyway. He makes up a list of patients he needs to see immediately based on what Dr Fryer had written or not written or in several cased possibly misdiagnosed or mis-prescribed and gives it to the receptionist.
The receptionist is a young woman named Mira, the daughter of Afghan immigrants whose mother calls each day at 1:30 during the lunch break to check on her. She speaks Dari fluently and John starts speaking it to her, to her surprise and once she gets over how his syllables stutter slightly as he gets his brain back on the right lingual track, long conversation breaks out over the country that language is from. He gets a dinner invitation for that Sunday at her family's flat above the Londis shop on the corner and accepts.
Over the rest of the first week he speaks to all the people he needs to and re-prescribes several. One man he sends to hospital due to pneumonia. That Sunday is the first time he's spoken Dari and Pashto in several weeks. It was something he and Sherlock had done when bored, he speaking Dari or Pashto but mostly the eclectic mix of both that he had come away with and Sherlock speaking which ever language he wanted to practice until it didn't matter which language each man was speaking because they knew the other so well that words were superfluous. They were so used to doing it that it became the natural thing to do inside the flat when they wanted a private conversation what with their door sometimes appearing to resemble a revolving one. On several occasions they fell into the habit outside the flat until Lestrade had said "What are you saying?" to the back forth that had been going on over the corpse of a lorry driver in a back alley. They'd looked up from either side of the body, smirked at each other and picked up the conversation in English. John finds it comforting to speak the language he associated with some of the best times in his life.
Three weeks into his life at Montague Street, three weeks of looking over his shoulder and sleepless nights and too much caffeine and a new found hatred of music that is not played by Sherlock, he breaks up a turf war among the two local gangs. Stopping the turf war is accidental. All he wants to do is stop the fight that breaks out ten metres from his house at ten that night. He ends up, two nights later, the acknowledge peace keeper in the neighbourhood.
There is a rapid accumulation of people, young people, around fifteen in all. They don't know he lives in this house and he doubts they would care if they knew. He watches the posturing and bagging and the shouting and swearing about "this is our block!" and "we were here first you bastards…" and the actual fight breaks out at just past ten. He sighs and put his boots back on and thinks of his gun, illegal and safe in his strongbox in the bottom of his chest of draws and doesn't tuck it in his waist band at his back and picks up his bag. He keeps to the shadows and examines the situation. There are two fighters and they have knives. Both have managed to injure in the other, one in the arm, one in the cheek- he was lucky his eye hadn't been damaged. Definitely one battered set of ribs going by the way they are moving, possibly two.
He gives himself a one, two, three before launching himself into the fray, disarming both young men within four seconds. He puts on his best Captain Watson voice, the one that made Mycroft and his goons and his old commanding officer flinch and listen goddamnit to what he had to say. Because John Watson is usually right.
"That is enough," he says, very deliberately enunciating each word.
They all stop. And stare. He's not surprised. He knows he's a short man and that his shirt is un-tucked and his sleeves are rolled up from doing the washing up, but he makes it abundantly clear who is in charge through his posture and expression. He starts employing every trick he's ever learned to make himself the most important person in the space. It all works a treat.
"Everybody sit down." Most of them do, only three don't, less than he expected. He recognises one; he came in to the surgery two days ago with a desperate need for allergy medicine. "Andy McIntosh, sit down." Andy McIntosh sits down. "Nice to see the anti-histamines are working," John adds lightly, because he knows that will throw them off track. He looks at the two fighters and sits them down away from each other, ignoring the glares being given as he carefully removes jackets. He ties a quick pad around the slashed arm to stop the bleeding and leaves it to deal with the cheek. The cut is shallow and only needs sterile strips and a bit of glue. Having to do this by street light doesn't bother him. He's done this by moonlight, starlight and in no light.
"Right, whoever has spray paint get the brightest colour you have and spray a line across the road thirty meters from here in both directions. Then come back." A boy of no more than thirteen, Christ, does so, running to do both lines. That happens in the corner of his eye. He's mainly focused on the young man with the sliced triceps. "Name?" John barks out as he cleanly glides scissors up the arm of his shirt.
"Jordan," says the fighter. "And watch the shirt," he grinds out.
"I don't care about the shirt." John says as he cleans the area around the wound and gives the local a few seconds to start working. He's not cruel. "I do care if you never get to use your arm again because this wasn't stitched properly. Right." He says again and pokes the area. When Jordan doesn't react he starts sewing, using tweezers to pull the needle through. "You all see those lines; they mean no fighting in between them. I don't care what about. No fighting." He ties off the thread and starts wrapping the arm with gauze.
"Jordan, you come to the surgery in five days to get those taken out. In the meantime, we're going to sort out this like I did in Northern Ireland. All of you lot," he looks at the group all wearing some green, somewhere, "are going to bring a few packets of chicken breast to the community centre at five o'clock on Thursday. They're three for a tenner in Tesco's. All of you lot." John looks over at those who wear black and white and feels exhausted all of a sudden. He's not used to this. "Bring whatever vegetables you think are appropriate for a curry. You are all expected to show up or you won't get a say in the marking of the boundaries. We're going to sit down and eat like civilised people, not the cavemen you seem to think you are." He's learnt a lot about expressing scorn just by watching Sherlock talk to the police. He uses it all to express just what he thinks of that idea.
"Doc," says Andy and it reminds him of being Captain Watson and men screaming 'Doc, we need you!' "What do you mean like in Northern Ireland?"
"Thursday," is all he says and waits for them all to scarper before he methodically packs up his kit and goes back himself.
Thursday comes fast. Sherlock has left him what amounts to a small fortune so he has no worries about putting in a mass order for Naan bread from the take-away two streets away. They show up in unsure dribs and drabs, those bringing ingredients arriving first and staying in the kitchen to help him cook, adding spices and herbs at his say so to the big pot. It's an Afghan recipe, which basically means chuck it in the pot and it will come out good but he's substituting goat with chicken.
It's nearly six by the time everybody is served and eating on wobbly folding tables off plastic plates. More than the original fifteen have turned up, and they seem to be relaxing with food. When all the plates have been put in the trash he stands up and puts a large A3 street map on the table. They look at him in confusion, but some seem to get it.
"I want two people from each lot of you who you trust to tell the truth of the matter from your side." Four people are pushed forward. "Names," John says.
They introduce themselves; three boys and a girl with motor oiled fingers (Jordan-stiches holding everything together nicely and his opponent Frenchie, Dawson, a soft spoken hulk and the girl just introduces herself as Sugar 'because I give an engine the sweetest tune up you've ever seen'. He makes the four shake hands, which they do with more grace than he expected. He gives Dawson a green pencil and Frenchie a black one and gets them to draw the current boundaries on the map. They cross. The disputed territory extends from the play park to his house. Then he gets out a yellow the same colour as smiley faces and the colour of the spray paint lines on the road.
"I'm marking neutral areas," he says. "I don't care who you run with. Where there's yellow on the map it doesn't matter". He colours the area around his house and the surgery and the schools and the play parks. "Yellow is mine," he says, ignoring the fact that all the spreading graffiti (I BELIEVE IN SHERLOCK HOLMES) screams at passersby in the same bright colour. He knows who's responsible. Only one other person knew the significance of that colour. John is expecting him through the surgery door any day now. But by claiming the yellow as his own it feels a bit like claiming Sherlock.
It takes them three hours to draw out boundaries that they all agree on. John keeps the final neat copy and dates it. Any future disputes are to come through him first before descending into violence.
Within a month he's effectively running the surgery. His two nurses are good, competent and compassionate, and slowly they're cutting Dr Fryer's hours and making small comments about retirement. So far, it seems to be working. He's coming in less drunk and is thinking about retiring in the New Year.
John sees the spreading graffiti and contributes in small ways, like giving Andy and Raz, who has finally showed up, just once, a tenner each and telling them to by more yellow. They understand and two nights later yellow messages stain the street. But mostly he just lets them be. Let others (Mycroft) work on defending Sherlock's name. He's continuing the Work and he knows what would be more important to Sherlock.
He starts making more food than necessary (the spice of the large curries is comforting, adding some much needed heat in his life )at dinner and invites anybody who would care to join him. Some of the homeless network seems to have accepted him as their new person to talk to, so they come a few at a time and local families as well (some of the poverty here isn't much better than the Middle East) everyone brings around a pound each time, or some ingredient. He doesn't mind them contributing but them paying him is a bit much; he has more than enough money now.
He doesn't mind the company at all though, the company is relief, and enjoys the varied conversation and encourages everyone to speak as many languages as they can. So dinner is served in Dari and English and Punjabi and French and Spanish and Gaelic and Polish. Mrs Hudson joins them once and is soon a regular fixture at his small table once a week. His life is slotting back together again. He still misses Sherlock (Jesus Christ does he miss Sherlock), but it's like living without his right arm. He can still function and if he works hard, can function well.
In late July his house is broken into while he's at morning surgery. They take the television and the DVD player and the shortbread tin he'd left on the coffee table the night before, struck by the urge for tangible memories. The tin is the reason he goes back at lunch. It contains everything precious and he should have put it away before going to bed.
The place is a mess, the door left open, but the tin and the telly are the only things gone. He doesn't care about the TV. He tidies up and looks everywhere for the box. By the end of lunch he has to admit defeat.
John doesn't go to the police. The locals are nice, headed up by a cop called Mary Morstan who fancies him. She's asked him out on two dates so far and he's said no each time. He goes back to the surgery and tells Mira who texts her family who spread the message on. By three the thief is being frog marched between Andy, who's responsible for many of the yellow murals that are spreading in the area and Tobi, who is the young talented mechanic at the garage. Sugar, who works for him is trailing behind, looking on with interest.
"I've already sold the TV," the boy says, and god, he is a boy, can't be more than sixteen. "But I still have your box."
"I thought you would," says John. "You would have rather a lot of trouble selling it. Everything here is either priceless or not worth very much at all," he adds dryly, accepting the tin from the boy who stands awkwardly between Andy and Toby. He puts the box on Mira's desk to check everything is as it should be. All his medical certificates are there, he puts them beside the box along with all the paperwork for his medals. Sherlock had said he was ridiculously decorated and he is inclined to agree.
Still, he checks his George Cross, for the time when he and half his patrol had been trapped in an outhouse with an expectant father and labouring mother and had gone to the door and stopped the fire fight going on by shouting out, "I'm trying to deliver a baby here!" and then delivering a healthy child that the mother named HANA after Hannah, his mother, and the other various mad medical miracles he'd managed to pull off in heat and dust and just maybe the open clinic he established just outside the camp had helped too and there was the incident with... well that was a rather classified incident. It was for his work saving legs and lives and the hearts that hoped and prayed from halfway across the world. He checks the Military Cross, for being one of the officers to organise the defence and do the actual defending, while patching up all the wounded during a twelve hour siege. Practically everyone had lived. There are several other smaller awards he has the ribbons for and the dispatches he's mentioned in for calmness and a steady hand and bravery and quick thinking under fire and the general service medals and the blood honour and the campaign colours and notes of thanks from those many, many lives he has saved, and mementos of the ones he hadn't managed to.
"Are they your Da's?" the boy asks and John once again thinks sixteen, he really should be in school.
"No," John says and carefully folds the GC in the cloth it came in.
"That was a George Cross, wasn't it," says Mr Dillhew, who is seventy six and diabetic and somehow still going strong. "And one of those Conspicuous Gallantry ones. Brave soul, whoever they belong to. I salute them."
John has to bite back a smile and feels suddenly grateful for this run down corner of London. "They're mine," he says calmly. "Before I was invalided back to here I was in the army. These are from my service there." It's a rather neat explanation that cuts out the two years he spent running around with a madman, but still an accurate one.
He takes the last item out of the tin and ignores the mutters growing around him. It is undoubtedly the most precious item (aside from Sherlock's Stradivarius which is hidden in the back of his closet) he has for purely sentimental reasons. It's a pocket watch, battered and brass with the initials SH on the front. It had been his Great-Grandfathers and then his Grandfathers; the first, Solomon Hartford and the second, Samuel Hartford who had given it with careful age spotted knurled hands to his inquisitive grandson. John had kept it, and on finding out the date of Sherlock's birthday, had had a new chain added and had a message engraved inside the casing, something Harry had once said about Sherlock and him that had made them all laugh and Sherlock give one of his rare shy smiles.
'To my Partner in Crime– J' the message read. He'd given it to Sherlock that January and the detective had scarce been seen without it since. It had been found after he'd died, in the lab at Bart's with a note tucked inside. 'You were loved by me, as much as I could.' And on the reverse, almost an afterthought- 'No tragedy there'. Which is ridiculous, because the thought of Sherlock writing that after John had stormed out of the lab is one of the most tragic that he can think of.
"So, who paid you?" John asks conversationally as he puts it all away and closes the lid with a metallic clink. "And congratulations on the professional job on the door, barely a mark. Far better than I'd have done." He smiles ruefully, picks up the tin and considers his options.
"Okay, this is how it's going to go. Tomorrow night you're going to bring your family to dinner at mine, shall we say around seven. Right now, however, you're going to answer two yes or no questions. Did the man who paid you have an umbrella?"
The boy shakes his head.
"Was it a frankly gorgeous woman who was always texting with a sleek black car and a scary driver?"
The boy nods.
"Right, thank you for returning this. It was a sensible decision." Something in John's tone makes it abundantly clear that if he had not the consequences would have been unpleasant in a rather unconventional way. "You can go now." The lad scarpers.
"Thanks for bringing him here boys," he says and rubs a hand over his face and considers his options. "Now a couple of odd questions. Mr Dillhew, can I borrow your umbrella, and the nearest CCTV camera, it's the one just over the road?" The old man hand the item in question over and John exchanges it for his tin, which the old man promises to guard with his life.
"Showed up about a week after you did," says Andy, who would know the location of every camera in the area due to his small quest to brighten up the streets.
"Of course it did." John goes very still and anyone from New Scotland Yard would have recognise that stillness from when he did something like subdue two suspects singlehandedly during a chase or dress down Anderson and Donovan for being petty. "Lead the way."
John stares at the camera in question for two minutes before it swivels to look at him.
"That's creepy," Toby says and glares at it suspiciously.
"Not as creepy as the man controlling it, I assure you," John says.
"You know Big Brother?" Toby looks at him, incredulous and John grimaces and chokes back a suffocating laugh.
"Unfortunately." John holds up the umbrella so like Big Brother's own and starts tapping on the ground.
-. . -/- ... ./ -... ..- -. ... /- ..- -/ - ..-./ - -.- /... - ..- ... . Get the bugs out of my house he spells out. -.- - ..- /... .- ...- . /..- -. - .. .-.. /../ -. . -/ -... .- -.-. -.- you have until I get back. He pauses before starting on a longer sentence, and it feels good to say. .. ..-. / - ... . .- .-. ./ -. - -/ -. - -. . / -… .-/- … ./- .. - ./ ../ -. . -/ -… .- -.-. -.-/ .- . .-.. .-../ -.- - ..-/ -.. -/ .-. . .-.-.. .. … ./... …. . .-. .-.. - -.-. -.-/.-.. . ..-. -/ - ./ . …- . .-. -.- - …. .. -. -./ ../ -.-. .- -./-… . -.-. - - ./ .-/ - .. -. - .-./ .- -. -. - -.- .- -. -.-. ./ - -/-.- - ..-/ .- .. - …./ …- . .-. -.-/ .-.. .. - - .-.. ./ . ..-. ..-. - .-. -/ If they're not gone by the time I get back, well you do realise Sherlock left me everything. I can become a minor annoyance to you with very little effort.
He leaves it at that.
His phone dings. The removal crew is on its way. MH.
John turns back to the camera. - .- -.- ./ … ..- .-. ./ - …. . -.-/ .-.. - -.-. -.-/ - … ./ -.. - - .-./ -… . …. .. -. -../ - …. . - Make sure they lock the door behind them.
He turns away, twirling the umbrella much like Mycroft had the first time they'd met. He knows the reference will b understood and his message received.
Leave me alone.
Irritating Big Brother dealt with, he settles back into afternoon surgery, treating simple small problems that didn't hold the risk of international incidents. Though, he thinks as his leg twinges and he uses his right hand to lock up that evening, that might be the problem.