Day Nine: Where You Go, I Shall Follow
When John comes downstairs one morning between Christmas and New Year's, Sherlock is in his chair, curled so that his knees are almost at his ears and only his eyes are visible. It can't be good for his breathing, but John has long since stopped trying to convince Sherlock to sit in chairs like a normal person, and therefore ignores him as he grabs an apple out of the singular experimentless drawer in the fridge. Over his shoulder, he says, "I have to go to the store this morning. I'd prefer to get there before the rush starts." The entire last week of December was a mess at Tesco's, no matter what time you went but nine o'clock in the morning was about as tame as it got.
Sherlock doesn't reply, but John had half expected that, so doesn't try to persuade him into speech. He's probably stroppy this morning, or else lost in his own thoughts, and trying to bug him will do no one any good. So John leaves Sherlock to his own devices whilst he gathers his things up and starts for the door.
As he's grabbing his coat, a slender hand reaches out above his and grabs the great coat from the hook above where John's black jacket hangs. John looks behind, and sees Sherlock silently pulling on his coat. Only then does he realize that the other man not only looks like he hasn't slept, but also that he's wearing John's jumper—and a pair of loose jeans that John swears he hadn't been wearing five minutes ago—and has a slight tremor in his hand.
"You're coming, then?" John asks, in an attempt to be casual. He knows he's failed, but Sherlock nods all the same, and they progress out the door.
Tesco's, thankfully, is not too terribly busy yet, or else it would have been just as bad for Sherlock to be there as for him to be at their flat alone. John grabs a cart and Sherlock follows sluggishly at his side, glancing disinterestedly at the produce and watching as John palpates avocados.
"Do you want to go find some things?" John inquires, glancing over his shoulder. It's getting disconcerting to have Sherlock just standing there, staring at him.
"No," Sherlock mutters. His voice is raspy from disuse, and he crosses his arms and leans against the adjacent display. Under any other circumstances, John would grumble, but now he just nods and places the avocados in the cart, in the seat so they won't be squashed by anything else he puts in the cart, and they continue through the store.
Eventually, Sherlock straightens up and becomes a bit more animated. He goes round the corner into other aisles to retrieve things John's forgotten, or didn't think to get until after he was out of that aisle. It's a big help, although he tends to go away and bring back something they absolutely don't need, like three different types of beans, or a package of absolutely horrid cheese that John makes him take back at once. It's reminiscent of times before, when they had just started living together and Sherlock would follow John to the store as a chance to study him.
It had been disconcerting back then, too. But John finds that, as Sherlock relaxes, he doesn't really mind having him along. It's convenient, actually, because Sherlock can reach higher shelves, and push the cart when John needs to go ahead and get something so he doesn't forget.
He thinks he would even call it pleasant, if forced to qualify the experience, and he feels a strange sense of accomplishment when he finally checks off the last thing on the list. He turns to Sherlock, although he doesn't really need to because the other man is looking over his shoulder so close as to have his chin almost touching John. "Alright, that's it…oh, except, we need tea." They ran out that morning, and he hadn't thought to put it on the list he'd made last night.
"I'll get it," Sherlock says, and John lets him go, even though he's not sure Sherlock knows precisely which aisle the tea is in. John figured that he'd find it eventually, deductive skills and all. The thought makes him chuckle to himself as he leans against the cart and watching Sherlock walk down the aisle, hands shoved in his pockets and eyes directed towards the ceiling to read the aisle headers. Before Sherlock disappears around the corner, John calls, "You know which type it is we get, right?"
"It's in a red box," Sherlock replies, and even though there are several teas in red boxes, John doesn't comment. Sherlock will just come back with four different teas anyway.
John smiles indulgently to himself, once Sherlock is away and can't see him. He thinks maybe they should go out to lunch after they're done at the grocery, and begins taking a mental catalogue of the restaurants in the area open for lunch.
Having spent a lifetime with a common name, John doesn't immediately turn around when he hears his name. It's only when the same voice continues, "John Watson?" that he looks up and turns around, and finds a certain ex-girlfriend, Jeanine Mortimer, coming up the aisle pushing a cart of her own.
"Jeanine!" he says with surprise, eyebrows going up. She looks different from the last time he saw her—most notably because her dark hair is bobbed rather than over her shoulders. That, and her massively protruding belly betrays the fact that she's enormously pregnant. "Hello! I, uh…" What does one say to an ex-girlfriend in the middle of the canned goods aisle at Tesco's?
"Fancy seeing you here," Jeanine remarks, turning towards him, and John can't help but think that, at the size she's at, she should have given birth four months ago.
"It's, uh…Tesco's," John mutters, scratching the back of his neck, and they chuckle awkwardly. He looks up and adds, "So, uh…you're…"
"Pregnant," she says, smiling and nodding. "With twins."
"Oh!" That would explain her supreme roundness. "That's…that's great. Congratulations. I uh…well, I didn't even know you were married, to be honest."
"I'm, uh…not." It's Jeanine's turn to feel awkward, and she looks down and says, "But, you know, things happen."
"Ah." At this point, John is praying that Sherlock comes back around the corner with that tea so they can leave. He's never been good with talking with old flames—he's British, for God's sake. It's especially hard with Jeanine, considering that they had not exactly parted ways amicably; in essence, dumping him because he changed their plans to watch Sherlock and make sure he didn't relapse. She felt he spent too much time with Sherlock anyway, though, and had made no secret of it.
There had been no 'it's not you, it's me' that time but, in hindsight, some of what Jeanine had said may have been true.
Jeanine turns back to her cart, and John thinks that maybe he will be saved and she will simply walk away. She stops, though, and turns back and says, "John…I'm really sorry about everything. I know that I wasn't fair to you, and…" she sighs, and shrugs. "I was trying to be responsible for myself."
"I understand, really," John says, and reaches out to pat her shoulder.
"Really, I'd like to apologize," Jeanine says, but John can see in her eyes that 'apologizing' is not the only thing on her mind. "I…would you like to get coffee, or something?"
"You're not supposed to have coffee."
"I realize that," Jeanine sighs irritably, and then calms herself and says, "I…I keep thinking that, if I hadn't done what I did to you, I might not be in the situation I'm in right now. And I really, really regret what I said about…about him." John only knows who 'him' is, because during the time they had been dating, Sherlock had been referred to by her as nothing but the word 'him' with a certain inflection to it. Even now she can't bring herself to say his name.
Finally—finally —Sherlock comes round the corner, juggling three boxes of tea and muttering, "Is there a difference between 'strong' and 'robust'…?" When he looks up, he blinks for a moment and says, "Oh! Boring teacher."
To be honest, John is surprised that Sherlock even remembers her.
Dropping the tea in the cart, he adds, "You're…pregnant," and moves to stand next to John. He slips his hand next to John's, pushing gently on the cart to attempt to get him to move it, and John watches as Jeanine's face turns light pink.
"Well, John, do you still have my number?" she inquires, attempting to be casual, and Sherlock pushes harder on the cart. John, in annoyance, places his hand over Sherlock's and squeezes none-too-gently, and of course Jeanine takes notice. She does not, however, take the hint.
"Nope, lost it, I'm afraid," John mutters.
"Well, shall I write it down for you?"
"No." It's Sherlock that speaks. "No, he doesn't need your number."
Jeanine's face goes an even deeper shade of red. "Still letting him speak for you, I see."
"Well, Jeanine, I don't think you'd like it very much either if an ex-girlfriend was hitting on your boyfriend," John remarks, without even thinking, and Jeanine's mouths falls open a bit. Sherlock's does too, for that matter, but he's behind John, so he doesn't notice that as much. "So, you know…I think we'll be leaving now."
He turns the cart around and they start towards the check-out, and it's only once they have all of their groceries bagged and in the cab with them that Sherlock mutters, "Is that what you are? My boyfriend?"
"Well, I put it in terms that she could understand," John sighs, twists his fingers around each other. He doesn't quite know what he and Sherlock are; certainly nothing anyone else would understand, and certainly not Jeanine. "But…I don't think that's the term I'd use. And not just because it's a bit juvenile."
Sherlock looks down and smiles, just slightly, then says, "I agree."
There is silence, and then, snorting, John leans into Sherlock's ear and murmurs, "I'm sorry I outed us at Tesco's."
Then Sherlock breaks into a laugh, and his mood from that morning is completely gone. John finds that he can't regret what he did, if it helps Sherlock get through the day.
Hey guys! Wow, it's been awhile hasn't it? Heh…heh…
Well, I published Peril 9 between then and now, so hopefully you didn't miss me too much! And yeah, life's been hectic, so I'm sorry that I couldn't get around to writing, but it was on my mind, believe me. This chapter feels a bit rushed to me—perhaps to you, too—but I couldn't quite think of anything to do with it or to add to it, so I hope that's alright.
Thanks so much for reading!
Tomorrow's prompt: Hanging out with friends