Saturday, April 20, 2013

John

John Watson gets into a taxi on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It's a quarter past one, according to the watch Sherlock gave him for Christmas last year. It is also 11 degrees Celsius, a new moon is due tonight, and if he felt so inclined he could calculate figures up to ten digits in length. He'd only been half-joking when he asked if the tiny machine could break open a safe, and chose to ignore the way Sherlock's lips quirked slyly at the corner in response.

Sherlock's lips. No. He is not going to think about that right now.

"221 Baker Street," he informs the cabbie, who nods and turns the key in the ignition.

"Rotten weather, innit?" the driver pipes up, rounding the corner. "For April. This time last year –"

"I'm getting married tomorrow," John blurts out involuntarily. The cabbie raises an eyebrow in the mirror. "Yeah," he continues, "she's a lovely girl. Really beautiful, intelligent. Met her during a tough time, you see, and my life hasn't been the same since."

The driver stops so that a group of children, headed by a frazzled looking young woman, can cross. They smile and wave balloons at him.

"Bit of a tricky situation, it was. My best friend – my best –" After all these years, he still gets choked up, talking about it.

For months, even after Sherlock's return, he'd been haunted by terrifying nightmares, each one centered around the man he loves most in the world and with whom, he can only hope, the feeling is mutual. They primarily comprised of hallucinations in which the detective died, and for stupid reasons at that – falling down the stairs, forgetting to unplug the toaster before prying the bread out with a fork, a freak car accident. John's therapist always asked why he told neither the subject of these terrible dreams nor his fiance about the situation, and he feebly explained that he wanted to keep it a secret. Didn't want them to worry. It would pass.

What he left out of these sessions, though – what wild horses could not drag out of him – was his worst nightmare, a ludicrous one in which he walked in on Sherlock and (he was a lunatic, absolutely mad; he knew it) James Moriarty. Kissing. Doing things. Conspiring with their masterminds, talking in terms that only they could comprehend. At the end of each excruciating episode, Sherlock glanced up, smirked, and turned his back, as John felt an inexplicable surge of remorse and bitter jealousy before coming to. Honestly, the only thing more ludicrous than the dream itself was how panicked and shaky he felt every time. How he was psychologically tormented, forced to suffer an aftermath far more agonizing than any night terrors about death.

"Watch it!" the cabbie cries out, slamming on the brakes as a lorry runs a stop sign. He apologizes to John, who slides back to his side of the car and clears his throat.

"Anyway. My best friend, Sherlock Holmes – yeah, the famous detective – he, er, pretended to be dead, you know, for two years. I thought he'd gone and offed himself, and I was about to propose to my fiance when he came barging into the restaurant, insulted my moustache, and failed to comprehend why I had any reason to be angry. My best friend! Ha!" John still gets indignant about this. Sherlock is so infuriating sometimes, ruining television shows with his stupidly accurate predictions and walking around in that goddamn wool coat like he rules the world – and the way he dresses, knotting a scarf or whipping a tie round his neck in such practiced, elegant motion – well, that's just obnoxious on a whole other level. Far worse is the man's lack of empathy. He can be so ignorant. What, does he think it's fine to go around faking deaths all over the place, when a simple heartfelt apology would suffice?

"Did you punch him?" the cabbie asks presently. He's a young bloke with freckles, and seems quite keen on the idea of John taking out the renowned Sherlock Holmes. "I'm Ollie, by the way."

"John Watson," John says distractedly, mind still on Sherlock. The arrogant manner in which the man strides into the room, the way he is such an insufferable smart ass sometimes, can never fully compensate for – or conceal – the rare moments of softness that John is privy to. Once or twice, he'd seen Sherlock's shoulders slump ever so slightly. He'd watched light dim the tiniest bit in his stormy verdigris eyes. That his best friend would hide any trace of unhappiness for his sake...

"So?" Ollie pressed eagerly. "Did you?"

"Hm? Did I – oh, did I punch him? Right. Erm, yes."

"Sounds like the chap deserved it. Me and my mum read about that whole business in the news. She always said he was out of line, playing tricks like that."

John chuckles. "Daft old sod. But he's my –" He clamps his mouth shut.

"What did you say, then?" the driver inquires, peering at him.

"Nothing."

"Oh."

John gazes out the window. The rain has subsided to a drizzle, which will hopefully disappear in time for the wedding. The wedding.

Mary is wonderful. She really is. So understanding, so kind, and her tolerance threshold when it came to Sherlock is off the charts. He could not have found a more perfect woman with which to spend the rest of his life.

For some odd reason, however, it doesn't feel right. He, of course, has had very limited experience in the ways of women, and absolutely none regarding marriage, but he's got an inkling that somehow the husband-to-be oughtn't have to constantly reassure himself that this is the right decision. And it's not so much the act of getting married that's eating at him. No, it's the person. Mary is flawless, he reminds himself. He loves her very much. And yet -

"Bloody hell!" Ollie cries suddenly, screeching to a halt. An expensive-looking limo has just cut them off. Horns begin beeping as two masked men come sprinting towards the taxi. "We're getting mugged!" wails the cabbie. Poor fellow. Bit wet behind the ears still. To be fair, Sherlock does not have a particularly good track record with cabs, and neither, by extension, does John. And though he has been exposed to a broad variety of villains – most of them sans masks – John can't help but get rather alarmed.

"What the -?" He unbuckles and leans forward. "What are they doing?" Before he can reach for his mobile to text Sherlock – before he has time to feel guilty that his first instinct is to reach out to the detective, as opposed to his bride – a sack is thrust over his head, his wrists bound together, and he is tossed roughly into the offending car as it speeds away. Stunned, and justifiably so, it takes him a moment to fully process the fact that he has just been effectively kidnapped and, based on the rate at which the vehicle is moving, probably already several miles away from the scene of the crime. "Don't panic, don't panic," he mutters, then inhales sharply, furiously, when an all too familiar voice drawls,

"Well done, boys. That was a very clean job."

Beyond enraged, John rips off the rope twisted clumsily around his arms and yanks the pillowcase off his head. "How dare you –" he starts.

"Hello," Sherlock says calmly. "Welcome to your bachelor party. Tea?"

–––––

Sherlock

Sherlock sits in a posh limo, holding out a cup of tea, and deduces that John is prepared to murder him. He places the mug to the side, raising an eyebrow keenly. "Ah. You're mad at me."

"No, I'm not mad at you, it's just that –" The man shakes his head, speechless.

Sherlock picks up the tea, shrugs, and takes a sip. Talking over the rim of the cup, he says dryly, "Speak up. I can't understand you when you mumble."

The frustration evident on John's face is inexplicably endearing. To be honest, sometimes Sherlock overdoes the smart-assery act just to relish the frazzled expression and indignant stuttering it provokes. This time, he may have gone a bit too far, a discernment that dawns on him all too late. Livid now, his best friend spits, "What the hell is wrong with you? This isn't how you do things!"

"I'm confused. Don't you want this?"

"What, a kidnapping? Where are we even going?" He shakes his head furiously before Sherlock can answer. "Why? Why? I was perfectly happy going over to the flat and having a friendly chat –"

Sherlock scoffs. "Oh, please. Isn't that dreadfully boring?" He rummages in the compartment next to him. "They ought to give this vehicle a proper cleaning before lending it out, the fingerprints are atrocious. Really." John looks on in disbelief as Sherlock leans closer, scrutinizing a square inch of black leather before rattling off, "Young couple, early twenties, drank a bit too much on their way to a party. Hm. Biscuit?"

John swats the cookie away angrily. Sherlock feels a twinge in his chest. Indigestion? He never gets sick. Moreover, it's highly unlikely, given his diet, height, weight, and family history, that he is suffering some sort of heart condition. He's been noticing such symptoms for awhile now, though. Curiously enough, the irregular heartbeat and chest pains seem to increase in frequency when he is in the company of his partner in crime.

"Sherlock?" John waves a hand in front of him.

"Sorry," Sherlock mutters. He feels very much like a nine-year-old boy who's just been scolded – except he never minded scoldings. No, he never cared what anybody thought. Until John.

The car takes a sharp left, and the men end up with their seatbelts tangled together. Flushing – is he coming down with a fever? – Sherlock rights himself, coughs, and adjusts his tie, desperately ignoring the fact that John just nearly landed in his lap.

"Go on," he says, picking at a miniscule speck of lint on the shoulder of his jacket and grimacing. He'd wanted to wear his nicest suit for this – not to impress John, of course – but it's still at the laundromat.

"Are you even listening?"

"Yes," Sherlock replies. "I'm sorry. I was under the impression that you didn't want some drab sit-at-home affair. We do that all the time." Part of him thought that mixing it up a bit (good god, what's gotten into him? Since when did foolish phrases like "mixing it up" enter his vernacular?) might change things. A different setting often evokes different feelings. He's not entirely sure – though in a much more real way, he knows that he is – what brand of emotions he hopes John will someday miraculously experience. He is, however, aware that his plan was formed in self-interest and rather deserving of its poor reception. Normally, this fact would not faze him; he has long accepted his status as rude, selfish, egotistical know-it-all. But he does not want John to think badly of him. Never has.

"Well, a 'drab sit-at-home affair'" – Sherlock glowers: mockery has always disgusted him – "would at least be expected! At some point, I swear to god, you're going to figure out that you can't go around faking deaths and pulling things like this!" John huffs and gazes hopelessly at Sherlock, who begins to feel uncomfortably guilty. Guilt is not an emotion to which he is accustomed. Come to that, he is far from an emotional person in general. Feelings are horrid, really. The tiny something he felt for Molly Hooper once, the way she entered his brain unsolicitedly, was a god awful experience. He can look past yellow tape and Lestrade's idiotic, meaningless opinions to solve a murder in its entirety, but looking past social situations and emotional reactions to parse together a conclusion is something decidedly beyond the realms of his mental capabilities.

Situation: John is constantly on his mind. Which is wholly normal, isn't it? Expected of two people working in close proximity. Sherlock can't recall a time when his partner was not the background of every thought. He simply ignores it until it cannot be ignored any longer. And then, when this is no longer a feasible technique, he presumes that he will compose some brilliant solution to the problem and all will be fine.

He recognizes that this is perhaps not a fruitful approach in this particular instance. Anyway.

Reaction: he dreams of white wedding dresses and a cold-eyed John. He's dreamt of his friend before, of course, but not this unpleasantly. All thoughts regarding John – some ghastly, some merely discomfiting – have intensified lately, leading to distinct uneasiness. This series of events, he reckons, must be typical of any sort of friendship – if that's what this is. He has a sneaking, strangely deflating suspicion sometimes that he and John are work partners, nothing more. Which is fine by him. Totally fine. It would be nice, of course, to discover that he actually means something to the man. Well, it is what it is.

Right?

"My apologies," he says crisply, realizing that it's his turn to speak. "I thought this might be enjoyable. Clearly it hasn't been." He leans forward. The chauffeur is some avid fan of no importance, as is his fellow kidnapper. They'd been bothersome for ages until Sherlock decided to put their blind obedience to good use. "You. Driver. No, I have no need to know your name. Take us back to Baker Street." He glances tentatively at John. Despite their quarrels, despite Sherlock's bitter lack of – well, of many things, such as the innate compassion and empathy which John's entire being encompasses, this man has stood by him, understanding people in a way that leaves Sherlock in reverence. Moriarty was wrong, so laughably wrong, when he called John "ordinary." Sherlock has known for quite some time that he is anything but. "I'll ring Ms. Hudson, have her put together a tea –"

"God dammit, Sherlock," John snaps.

"What did I do wrong?"

"You're so –"

"I know." Sherlock is feeling discouraged when he becomes aware that John is having an internal battle beside him. He knows the indicators like the back of his hand (silly saying, though accurate; he does indeed have the physical identifiers, including hands, of many people memorized): a subtle clearing of the throat three times in succession, shifting side to side, a loud sigh. Concealing a smirk, Sherlock waits for the inevitable.

"Fine," John says. "Let's go."

Sherlock acts surprised for his friend's sake. "What?" Oh, John. So frustrating, so open, wearing his heart blatantly on his sleeve. Hard to believe that he's pulled triggers before, when his touch is so soft, his disposition so kind.

"Let's go wherever you were planning to. Before I change my mind." He waits for Sherlock to respond, but the detective only gazes at him, transfixed. "Well? Are you just going to look at me?"

"What?" Sherlock feels his cheeks grow red again. It's not flu season, is it?

John sighs and takes the half-eaten biscuit from Sherlock's hand, fingers pressing down gently in a way that makes it difficult to breathe. Is it possible to contract asthmatic symptoms out of the blue? He should ask John, really, but the man is rambling, a frivolous habit which Sherlock has neither the heart nor desire to criticize. "For the record, it wasn't okay to kidnap me. But you're right. I could use a break."

A smile would give it all away. He's come close before – involuntary, vulnerable smiles when his friend says or does anything that remotely stirs up any sort of inconvenient affection. Smiles that are far more than a short, obligatory muscle movement to indicate a contentment that he generally does not experience. But with John... with John, things are different.

"You're a right pain in the ass sometimes," John concludes, and claps Sherlock on the back, gripping his shoulder for a millisecond too long.

Cue the heart palpitations.

This is actually a rather alarming situation. Sherlock pushes all concerns aside, making a mental note to call a (new) doctor as soon as the wedding is over. The prospect of being thoroughly examined by John is not one about which he wants to think overlong.