"We are bloody late."
"We wouldn't be, if you hadn't insisted upon going through my suitcase."
John huffed, glancing up at the back of the cabbie's head as they sped through London. "I insisted upon going through your suitcase because it was empty. We're going to be gone a week and you hadn't packed. So now you're stuck wearing what I've packed for you, and we're late."
"Pity," Sherlock replied, though it did not sound as though he felt it was.
"Yeah," John said, glaring now at Sherlock's pale profile from across the backseat. "You didn't really think that not packing would keep us from going?"
The detective snorted gently. "Please. Childish." But, in truth, that was exactly what Sherlock had thought. He was under the mistaken impression that having an empty suitcase, and forcing John to remedy the situation, would delay them enough to miss the ship's departure time. What he hadn't accounted for, however, was that John's years in the army had taught him a thing or two about packing in a hurry. So, Sherlock's clever ploy to miss the ship had actually only resulted in a twenty-minute delay in their schedule. And half of that was due to Sherlock taking forever to get his bloody coat on.
"Childish," John parroted back. "Right. That's not you at all. So, then, why weren't you packed?"
"I was focussed on other things. Namely - people being murdered by drug traffickers."
"Oh, so you were investigating, were you, while you were lying on the couch all of yesterday afternoon? Not watching Doctor Who and demanding that I fetch you tea and butter biscuits, surely."
"I'm exhausted, John, remember?"
Oh, for God's sake, John thought. "Now you're just being difficult." Then, another, more frightening idea occurred to him, and that was that he had not given this whole holiday thing a lot of forethought. He was agreeing - no, demanding - that Sherlock accompany him on a cruise for a week. Seven days. With no escape from each other. With no cases to distract the snappish detective. Most people would relish a chance at seven days with no more obligation than those presented by chlorinated swimming pools and round-the-clock bar service. But Sherlock? Sherlock needed work, craved intellectual stimulation at all times, and when he couldn't get it, he became insufferable.
Well, that's the point, isn't it? John reminded himself. To force him to quit seeking out mysteries to solve and relax for once. He imagined that detoxing Sherlock of the Work would be much like detoxing a drug addict of their poison of choice. He'd resist, at first; and then he'd be miserable; and then when that cleared up, he'd feel much better for it. At least, this was how John was telling himself it would be. And besides, it's for his health, he added.
Somehow, though, John was not confident that the process would be painless for all those involved.
"You're staring, John," Sherlock's voice cut in. He had one eyebrow lifted quizzically.
Forcefully shaking himself from his thoughts, John tore his eyes from where they had been fixed on the middle distance between himself and his flatmate, and let his gaze roam Sherlock's form instead. He frowned. "You needn't have brought the, uh... Belstaff."
Sherlock took one look down at his great woolen coat and glared at John as though he had just committed the highest of sins by suggesting he leave it at home.
Luckily, John's mobile rang then, distracting them both with a tinny version of Für Elise.
"It's Greg," John proclaimed apprehensively, accepting the call and lifting the phone to his ear with a warning glance at Sherlock. "Hi, yeah, we're - what? No, we're on our way now. Ten minutes or so, I think, why? Oh. Well, we wouldn't have done, if the World's Only Consulting Detective was capable of packing his own bloody suitcase! Yes, you heard me correctly. Who knows. Right, okay. Be there in a few." John disconnected the call and stuffed his phone into his pocket. "We've missed the safety briefing, apparently."
"Dull," retorted Sherlock flatly.
"You might change your mind when I throw you in the sea for making us miss the boat."
"Ship, John. It's a ship."
Greg Lestrade was appropriately dressed for a vacation at sea. He wore lightweight linen pants, leather flip-flops, and a breezy short-sleeve button-up. Needless to say, he was not appropriately dressed for the London chill. Gooseflesh stood out on his exposed forearms as he met John and Sherlock in the lounge of the Inspiration.
"Uh... you know it's not going to be terribly hot during this trip, right?" John asked as he herded Sherlock toward an open table.
"I'm on holiday," Greg pouted.
"We haven't even left port yet," John pointed out.
Greg shrugged and checked his watch. "Okay, I'm on holiday in three minutes." The DI sniffed, looking a bit put out, and turned his attention to Sherlock. "Oh - here... you'll be wanting one of these," he said, fishing in his pocket. He produced a small white disc and held it out to Sherlock. The detective hesitated, and Greg sighed impatiently. "Take it. I'm not gonna watch you puke your guts up all week."
"Mmh," was Sherlock's only reply, but he accepted the motion sickness patch anyway, peeling off the adhesive backing and sticking it behind his ear. When he noticed John looking at him, he glared in a Don't even bring it up sort of way.
For a moment, it looked like Greg might gloat, but he apparently decided against it. He held the packet of dramamine out to John and wiggled it. "Need any?"
"No, I'm fine, thanks." Somewhere above them, a bell chimed over the ship's intercom, and John glanced at his mates. "Shall we go up on deck for the launch?"
The ship itself was a marvel of modern maritime technology. It was impossibly tall, for starters. It was also equipped with two swimming pools, six restaurants, nine bars, and a theatre. The cabins were spacious and well-outfitted, and waitstaff meandered throughout the ship, ready to take drink orders or make spa reservations.
On the observation deck, Sherlock, Lestrade, and John stood breathing in the salty air, waiting for launch. A porter had taken Sherlock and John's bags to their stateroom, so that they weren't encumbered by their luggage as they gazed out at the sea.
"This is nice," Greg enthused, grinning widely. "This'll be fun. We could all use a little holiday, yeah?"
Sherlock eyed him dubiously. "You're shivering. This is hardly appropriate weather."
Leave it to Sherlock, thought John. He poked Sherlock's arm with his index finger, digging in to get his attention. "You," he drawled, "need to relax and try to enjoy yourself. For once."
The detective shrugged his great coat higher onto his shoulders. Already he was glancing over his shoulder, eyes scanning the crowd, no doubt reading every little fact that their expressions and their manner of dress could yield. "Can't turn it off like a tap," he murmured. It was a phrase he had used on Greg several times before.
John sighed. "I'm not asking you to, I'm simply - "
The long, deep blast of the ship's horn cut him off.
"We're moving!" Greg said, leaning over the safety guardrail to look down at the docks. The patrons of a waterfront restaurant were waving goodbye from their patio dining tables. A moment later, the people on the docks followed suit. A cruise ship in another berth answered the Inspiration's whistle with her own, in three short blasts, as her passengers waved jovially from the decks.
"Now you're on holiday," John said, patting Greg's shoulder and gently pulling him back on the correct side of the rail. Then it occurred to him he had never asked the most pertinent question about this cruise. "Where do we make landfall?"
Lestrade shuffled his feet, his fingers dancing a little on the deck rail. "I don't remember."
Sherlock turned, his expression something close to alarm, but bordering on suspicion. "You don't remember?"
"Vigo," he said quickly, snapping his fingers. "Spain. That was it. Then... Bilbao, and Paris, then home again."
"That sounds fun," John said cheerily. He grinned up at Sherlock. "Even you can't get into too much trouble in countries where you don't even speak the language."
Sherlock smirked, and Lestrade stared at his shoes.
"Oh God, don't tell me," groaned John, his gleeful expression melting into defeat.
"Just Spanish," Greg assured him, with a wink.
"A little French," Sherlock added.
Greg's prize tickets had gotten the boys a spacious stateroom on one of the outside corridors of the ship. It was lavishly decorated, and contained two double beds and a small living area with a television and a desk for Sherlock's laptop. Sliding doors led to a small veranda with a couple of lounge chairs facing the ocean.
At the moment, however, the room smelled faintly of sick and John was draped unceremoniously across the foot of one of the plush beds, facedown. Greg sat next to him, one hand rubbing circles in his back as he tried to look more sympathetic than amused.
Sherlock, for his part, was standing in the open doorway of the veranda, leaning on the threshold as he gazed out at the sea. He'd dressed down to a short-sleeved button-up and slacks, shirt untucked. The Belstaff lay discarded on a chair. "The view is rather spectacular," he said over his shoulder.
"That's just wonderful," John moaned into the duvet.
"I told you to take the dramamine," Lestrade pointed out.
"Well," sighed Greg, as he glanced at his watch. "Dinner's in ten minutes. I guess you're waiting it out here?"
"Ugh," was the sound John made without lifting his head. "Yes. And leave that dramamine behind before you go."
Lestrade stood and fished the medicine out of his pocket, tossing it onto the bed within arm's reach of his stricken friend. "Feel better, mate," he said, wincing at his own platitude. He beckoned Sherlock to follow, and the two of them headed off to dinner.
"So why a cruise?" Sherlock prompted as they sat down to menus and water at one of the ship's restaurants. "That's the only thing I can't work out."
Greg shrugged, trying and failing to appear nonchalant. "I had the tickets lying about, and no one to give them to. Why not?"
"Doesn't make much sense - trap a sociopath with two thousand other people in a confined space, something's bound to go wrong."
"Not if you don't go looking for trouble."
"I don't go looking for trouble," the detective pointed out, grey eyes ghosting over the menu with limited interest. "Trouble finds me."
At this, Greg couldn't help but snort. "Right."
A waiter appeared at their table then, each of his overwhitened teeth visible as he smiled down at them. "Drinks, gentlemen?"
Lestrade gave Sherlock a warning look, but the detective's eyes were focussed elsewhere - over Greg's shoulder, at the moment. Good. Maybe the waiter would get through dinner unscathed. He smiled. "Scotch, neat."
"Very good." The waiter turned to Sherlock, but the detective was ignoring him, his eyes still fixed on something over Greg's shoulder.
Greg tapped the table lightly. "Sherlock."
Minutely, Sherlock shook his head, now frowning at whatever had caught his attention on the other side of the room.
Lestrade turned to look over his shoulder, and saw what his friend had been staring at. The patrons seated closest to the doorway had all gotten up, and were milling excitedly around the threshold. "What d'you suppose that's about?" he wondered aloud.
But Sherlock had already stood up. He dropped his napkin onto the table and drifted toward the throng of people, looking perplexed.
"Wait, hang on," said Greg, getting to his feet as he apologised to the waiter for their rudeness. He wound his way around the other tables to catch up to his friend, drawing level with him as they reached the threshold. The knot of people had grown, and they were all murmuring to one another, some of them shaking their heads in bewilderment, others whispering animatedly with expressions of disbelief.
With his left hand, Greg reached out and took hold of Sherlock's arm. "Come on," he said, leading the way and pulling him toward the corridor, where the crowd was thickest. "This way." They pushed their way through, and Lestrade caught the eye of a middle-aged blond woman who was talking rapidly to her husband. "What's going on?" he asked.
"There's been an accident or something," the blond said, her eyes wide as she glanced between Greg and Sherlock. The crowd was pressing them together so that they stood shoulder-to-shoulder, and uncomfortably close to the woman. "I heard someone might be hurt."
"Really," Sherlock drawled, suddenly enthralled.
Greg nudged him in the ribs.
"Yeah!" the woman exclaimed, sharing in Sherlock's indecent excitement. "It's a zoo up on deck, I couldn't even get through. My sister's up there, somewhere," she added, seeming put out that she couldn't get to her, rather than worried for her well-being.
"Fascinating. Lestrade - come on."
Before the DI could protest, Sherlock was pushing through the crowd, sprinting down the corridor, and then taking the steps two at a time.
"Wait," Greg panted. "Where are we going?"
"Observation deck," Sherlock shot over his shoulder. He thrust a hand back for Lestrade. "Hurry up!"
The blond tourist was absolutely right. The observation deck was a madhouse. A thick crowd had gathered, the epicentre of which seemed to be on the starboard side. People craned their necks to see over others' heads, and many passengers asked the same question of one another: what was going on?
"Out of the way," Sherlock grunted at the other tourists as he shouldered through the crowd. "Security, coming through."
All of a sudden, Lestrade found that they had broken through. They had found themselves at the guardrail, where a man, a woman, and a security guard stood. The man and the woman appeared to be in some sort of row, and the security guard was planted firmly between them, apparently trying to prevent them lunging at each other.
"What's going on?" Sherlock asked, projecting his voice over the din of the crowd.
"Someone's fallen overboard," another passenger called out.
At the guardrail, the woman was shaking her head. "He didn't fall, he was pushed!" She stabbed an accusatory finger past the security guard, toward the man who stood scowling on the other side of him.
"What are you talking about?" the male passenger demanded, indignant. "I was just standing here!" He looked to the crowd. "Tell her!"
But if there were any witnesses to the man's activities (or lack thereof), they weren't speaking up.
"That's enough!" the security guard snapped. "Everybody just calm down, please!"
Sherlock separated himself from the crowd and stepped past the quarreling passengers to peer down into the sea below, ignoring the security guard's subsequent protests to step back. Greg followed, and the two of them looked down together. A few small boats had deployed from the cruise ship, and their pilots were searching the waters with the aid of a spotlight from one of the ship's mid-level decks. It appeared that there were rescue divers in the water, as well, but as yet no one had found the missing traveller.
The detective turned to the crowd, addressing them as a whole. "Did anyone see what happened? Anyone?"
"Hey, I know you," exclaimed an American near the front of the crowd. He was pointing. "You're that detective, Sherlock Holmes." He turned to his fellows. "Sherlock Holmes is on this ship! He can help us!"
More excited murmurs swept through the crowd, and Sherlock turned to look at Greg. "See," he said, eyes dancing with triumph. "Trouble finds me."