A/N: For wetrustno1. Please enjoy!
"Children are much more resilient than people give them credit for, John."
Sherlock knew he shouldn't have said it. Over time, he had developed something he called Jiminy John – a miniaturised version of John that resided in his head and tried very hard to warn him when he was doing or saying something a bit not good. Jiminy John was not nearly as effective or as quick as Real John, though, and so sometimes Sherlock's words got to his mouth before Jiminy John could stop them. In this instance, Jiminy John had seemed to have trouble finding his voice in time to warn Sherlock to shut up, so the words had escaped, and now Real John was looking at him like he was a strange new zoo animal.
Indeed, Real John even asked aloud, "Are you even human?"
Sherlock didn't bother dignifying the question with a response.
John didn't want one anyway. He held a hand up. "Nevermind. Don't answer. Let's go, before you offend someone else's mother."
"I don't understand what you're so – "
"It's a kidnapping, Sherlock," John said, all in a rush. The words tumbled out like urgent vomit, and even John seemed surprised at his own outburst. He glanced this way and that to see if anyone had noticed him snap at the detective, and lowered his voice slightly. "It's very serious. You can't treat it so casually, especially not in front of the victims' mothers."
In Sherlock's head, Jiminy John added that Sherlock was a daft git, just for good measure. Sherlock blinked. "Not... good?"
"Yes, it's bloody 'not good'!"
Somehow, Sherlock managed to refrain from congratulating John on his avoidance of the double negative.
That happened on June the second. On June the third, Sherlock began watching John very closely. By June the fourth, Sherlock had come to realise that there was no way he could melt the ice separating John from him since the incident, unless he was very, very crafty. John had apparently been very deeply offended by Sherlock's telling of the young women that their children would be fine, (quote) 'so long as the Yard doesn't botch everything up, in which situation the children would all end up dead' (unquote). Of course, he had thought it very obvious that he was being hyperbolic and that there was no way the Yard could truly mess things up that badly, but the mothers of the kidnapped children evidently didn't see it that way.
The rest is history, or so they say.
So, by June the fifth, Sherlock had made a decision, and that decision was that he must get back into John's good graces somehow, because he was becoming terribly bored of having no one breathe little 'oohs' and 'aahs' and 'brilliants' whenever he did something clever.
To this end, Sherlock turned to the one thing about John he had never taken particular note of.
Specifically, he was focussed on John's eating habits. Why? Well, because it seemed to be the only thing John continually turned to when irritated, annoyed, or otherwise upset. That wasn't to say that John was a stress-eater, per se, but rather that a stressed state didn't seem to prevent John eating. Being stressed did prevent John, at times, from doing other things: watching telly, reading a book, sleeping, et cetera. John was a problem solver, a critical thinker, a man of a very focussed mind. If there was a problem circling his brain, his thoughts were ever on solving it and on nothing else. Except, occasionally, food.
Sherlock began to make lists of his observations.
1. Takes tea with milk. Obviously.
2. Enjoys butter biscuits and Scottish shortbread. Detests lemon puffs. Seems to like Oreos, but takes them apart and discards the cream-less side.
3. Will accept and eat small snacks placed into palm or otherwise nearby, esp. during a particularly taxing bout of blog troubleshooting, seemingly without noticing.
4. Is hopelessly in love with Mrs. Hudson's chicken casserole.
5. Prefers Chinese to Indian.
6. Likes breakfast. A lot.
7. Cake: unclear.
8. Finds re-heated white truffle risotto more enjoyable than the original serving of the dish. Must research further.
9. Not one for fish. Bad food poisoning incident in childhood. Will occasionally enjoy a tuna sandwich.
10. Generally refuses dinner after ten pm; prefers to wait until morning rather than try to rouse himself to cook at that hour.
11. Beer: never before three, occasionally before four, with alacrity anytime after five. Probably irrelevant currently, but file for future use.
12. Appreciates a good lamb.
13. Mostly lives on pasta.
14. Go-to seems to be beans on toast. Curious.
"What are you doing?" John asked one day, as Sherlock was scribbling away at his very secret notebook.
"Taking notes," Sherlock replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
John frowned, wiping his face with a paper napkin, and studied Sherlock for some moments. "On?"
"Notes on the case?" John echoed, infuriatingly slow to keep up. His stare became even more intense, and he leaned forward in his chair, as though this might prompt Sherlock to get up from the dining table and submit himself for further scrutiny. "You never take notes. Are you alright?"
Jiminy John reminded Sherlock that Real John was not being annoying on purpose, and Sherlock let out a slow breath through his nose. "Yes, of course. Sometimes it helps to have the facts on paper." He mumbled something about visual memory in the hopes it would bore John into shutting up.
The experiments and the tea-making began around the same time. The records are hazy, but Sherlock would remember (correctly or incorrectly) that it was around June the eighth. In any case, the experiments had to be kept secret from John, and so Sherlock began making the tea to keep John out of the laboratory – in other words, the kitchen.
When Sherlock brought John his fifth cup in a day, John fixed him with a strange look and said, "You don't have to keep apologising, you know."
The words sparked a bit of hope in Sherlock, and for a moment he thought Oh good, I can bin the atrocious risotto I've been working on all morning, but then he realised it wasn't true, shrugged his shoulders, and went back to his risotto. He did have to do something to make John love and admire him again, because John hadn't called him 'amazing' in almost a week.
The experiments got off to a rough start, to say the least. In a stroke of pure brilliance, Sherlock thought to combine all of John's favourite foods into one mega-dish, and spent a very busy afternoon cooking everything – positively everything – while John was away at the surgery. But, in the end, when he was staring down at a platter of beans-on-toast-on-pasta-on-omelette with a side of au gratin potatoes and a curry sauce gravy, he realised that this was a very bad idea indeed. He concluded that he would have to settle on one dish, and it would have to be mind-blowing. So he binned the beans-on-egg-on-potatoes-or-whatever-it-should-be-called and clicked through television channels until he found one that was dedicated to cooking. He watched for three hours, took really detailed notes, and fell asleep during a late-night re-air of Ready Steady Cook.
John came home shortly thereafter, wrinkled his nose at the smell, pondered Sherlock asleep over six pages of studious cooking notes, and was utterly bewildered for a full four minutes. He then shut off the television and told himself he didn't want to know.
Jiminy John was sitting on the worktop, his miniature legs dangling over the side, feet just brushing the tea drawer. Sherlock found it very disconcerting, because if he looked past Jiminy John's sandy head, he could see Real John reflected in the glass pane of a cabinet door. He was certain that if Real John knew he were now hallucinating Jiminy John, he would insist upon an MRI of his skull. And Sherlock really didn't have time for that. There were lamb chops in the oven.
In any case, Jiminy John was looking at the oven with a very dubious expression on his face. "Are you sure you seasoned them correctly?"
"I don't know," Sherlock whispered, keeping his voice low to avoid the MRI situation.
"Does it pain you to say that?" Jiminy John asked.
Sherlock nodded mutely and knelt to peer in at the chops. "They look... correct. I believe."
"You should call Mrs. Hudson. She would know."
"No, no," Sherlock replied solemnly. "It has to be me, or it won't matter. John likes food. John will like me again if I make him food."
"Are you sure?"
And it was the first time that question had come up yet. Sherlock felt as if someone had slipped an ice cube down his shirt. He straightened abruptly, and looked out at Real John. "I... I hope so." He whirled and faced Jiminy John again. "Do you think there's a chance it won't work?"
Jiminy John shrugged.
Real John called, "Sherlock?"
Jiminy John disappeared.
"Mm?" Sherlock thrummed, placing himself in the threshold of the kitchen.
"Is something on fire in there?" John asked over the top edge of his laptop screen. His nose was twitching.
John nodded. "Are you doing something dangerous in there?"
Sherlock nearly replied Yes, because it was ironic and amusing and slightly true, but Jiminy John wrapped himself around Sherlock's frontal lobe and squeezed tightly. 'Dangerous' meant 'gointhereandlookwhatsgoingon rightnow' in John language, and so Sherlock instead said, "No. I am conducting an experiment on apholic mould seedlings," which was gibberish and made absolutely no sense but which sufficiently disinterested John. Sherlock then shut the sliding door.
It was another three hours before he emerged again. Really, it was a miracle John hadn't noticed his absence, but then Sherlock had made sure to put out a pot of tea and leave the telly on, so John was probably very distracted by reruns of Casualty. He did look up, though, when Sherlock emerged in a very dramatic outpouring of heat and steam from the kitchen, with his sleeves rolled up and sauce splattered across his shirtfront.
"What on earth...?" John began, but he did not get the chance to finish.
Sherlock was pulling John up out of his chair, grasping his elbow, pushing him toward the stairs with one hand in the small of his back. "Go upstairs and change, John. Put on a suit. Comb your hair. Wear the Italian wingtips I got you for Christmas last year."
"Where are we going?" John asked, pausing at the foot of the stairs with a deep frown of confusion.
"To a very nice dinner," Sherlock said, waving him away. When John didn't move, he enlarged the gesture and leaned his whole body into it. This seemed to prompt his flatmate, and he watched as John scuttled up the stairs.
With the pesky dinner guest temporarily indisposed, Sherlock set about doing something in regards to the ambiance. He knew his gesture might mean nothing if the food was awful – it very well might be – so setting a good atmosphere would at least show that he was trying. Sherlock had never done anything like this for anyone before, and did not intend to repeat the occasion: so he was going to do it right the first time and have done with it.
Jiminy John helped Sherlock as he feverishly went about the task of readying the dining area. The experiments (real ones) quickly disappeared, the papers got filed into a box for later sorting, and a candle was set out. Sherlock quickly remembered that John doesn't like candles, and switched them out for a decorative vase instead. The vase had no flowers, so Sherlock stuck a few coloured rocks (experiment-related) into the vase and it seemed to work alright. He then cleared the floorspace around the table, set out placemats, and scrubbed bloodstains and other unpleasantness off the chair legs.
Then it was off to the kitchen. Sherlock estimated he had approximately forty-seven seconds before John would be dressed and descending the stairs, so he worked quickly. All the food was already arranged on pretty china platters (Mrs. Hudson's), and all that needed doing was moving everything to the dining table.
The only problem was that Sherlock had forgotten how small the dining table was. Once the platters were laid – everything from crepes suzette to roast lamb – the smorgasbord covered the entire surface and left no room for actual eating. Working quickly – and now beginning to sweat – Sherlock moved the whole thing to the sideboard. He was just finishing when John appeared in the threshold.
"What on earth?" John said, dumbfounded, blinking in the low light of Sherlock's 'ambiance'.
"Dinner," Sherlock answered, somewhat breathlessly. "Please sit."
"Um. I will, but... tell me what this is about?"
"Kidnappings," Sherlock said shortly. He cast his eyes down briefly – that depicted guilt, right? - and lifted them in time to see John pity him.
"Sherlock..." John said on a sigh, and it was a lovely sound.
Sherlock pulled out a chair for John. Neither of them knew it at that moment, but this would be the first and only time Sherlock would ever do this for John.
They sat. Then Sherlock realised a key difficulty. "Everything's over there..." Then he stood, and John stood, and they served themselves from the sideboard. Once they each had a full plate, and John had a beer, they sat once more and stared at each other over the vase of coloured rocks.
"Did you cook all this?" John asked. "Is that what you were doing in there all day?"
"And you must've... I mean, everything here is... We've never talked about food, not really, but you've... Good lord, you made crepes."
"I did, and they are frightfully simple, John, you could do them if you tried."
"No – I mean – what I'm saying is, somehow, without saying a word, you've, um... You've kept track of everything I like."
Sherlock nodded again. "I had to take notes," he admitted. He sighed and looked down at his plate, watching the amber juices from the lamb chops seep into a dollop of oreo-custard crumble. After a moment's consideration of the sauce migration, he met John's eyes again and said two words he hated to say: "I'm sorry." Then he cleared his throat and added, "About the Pacard case."
John's mouth quirked up slightly at one corner in Sherlock's very favourite John Watson, slightly amused expression. "You are forgiven, Sherlock."
"But you haven't tried anything yet. It might be awful." Sherlock looked very concerned by this idea. He was very concerned.
John chuckled. "Have you ever heard the expression It's the thought that counts?"
"Yes," Sherlock said slowly. "Is it true?"
"In this case, yes. To me, yes."
Relief flowed through Sherlock like the very blood in his veins then. John liked him again. John thought he was brilliant again. John was looking at him with that barely-comprehending-your-greatness look again. All was as it should be. Together, they took up knife and fork and started in on the mismatched meal, both of them wondering, even as they took their first bites, how they were ever going to deal with the leftovers.