Sherlock was carrying a folding hand truck slung across his back.
John didn't bother asking Sherlock where they were going any more. He just followed and trusted that they would go some place interesting. Besides, it was a nice warm day for a walk.
Sherlock stopped at a book shop off Russell Square, sandwiched between a wine bar and a defunct hairdresser. "Black Books?" John asked. "Looks like a dump."
"It is a dump," Sherlock said, but went in anyway.
The shop was a good size, but reeked horribly of cigarette smoke, wine, mould, and sick. "Are you sure you want to buy something here?" John asked.
"No, but I promised," Sherlock said. "You can sterilise it when we get home."
"Who did you promise? Ba'al?" John lifted his foot. The floor resisted with a squelching, toffee-like suction and a foetid smell.
"Oh." John looked around. He still couldn't find a shop attendant. There was a desk, at the back, with a cash register that was old without being cool--mid-80s, bad time for technology--a wired phone with the wire cut and patched back together, a green banker's lamp, and six empty bottles of cheap wine. A blackboard hung on the wall stated: "STRICTLY NO DOCTOR WHO."
Around them, shelves everywhere, a concrete bust of someone in a very large wig, what looked awfully like fossilised octopuses stuck to the pipes, and--ooh, Victorian medical texts. John pulled down a copy of Psychopathia Sexualis with teeth marks on the cover.
"Hm," Sherlock said. John looked over and found him examining a shelf filled with the complete 1989 edition Oxford English Dictionary.
"How are we meant to get that home?" John asked. "I'll tell you up front I can't carry that much up the stairs."
"Taxi. Pulley system. I'll figure it out," Sherlock said.
A scream sounded from the back room. John reached for his gun before he realized he wasn't carrying it. A man lurched into the shop from the curtained back room. "No! No! You can't! Vandals! Barbarians!" he shouted, falling over the desk chair. "Manny! Attack! We're under attack!"
John set down the book and walked around the desk carefully. The man--black haired, long black coat, decent suit, a similar style to Sherlock in fact--lay on the floor, batting at the desk leg. John checked his vitals.
A stout man with long blond hair and a Hawaiian shirt leaped through the curtain holding a mop. "Hyah!"
"Hiya," John said.
"Oh my god! Are you a customer?" The blond man dropped the mop. "Bernard! A customer! Bernard? Are you dead? Oh no!"
"No," John said. "I'm a doctor. I can verify he's just extremely drunk."
"Oh! That's all right, then."
"We'd like to buy some books. We'd like to pay you a lot of money," Sherlock said, staring fixedly at the ceiling. John looked up.
There was a viscous brown stain on the ceiling between the hanging lamp and the joist. John looked back at the drunken Bernard; when he looked back up, because Sherlock was still staring, the stain was located on the opposite side of the lamp.
John put Bernard in the recovery position. Bernard screamed and flailed upright, sending John jumping back. "No! Customers! No!"
"Bernard!" the blond man shouted. "We must sell books! We must!"
"I WOULD LIKE TO PAY YOU ONE THOUSAND POUNDS," Sherlock said loudly and clearly.
Bernard silenced. He sat in the desk chair. "Manny."
"Yes, Bernard?" said the blond man.
"I grant you permission to sell this man a book."
"I think he wants more than one, Bernard!"
"ONE BOOK!" Bernard screamed.
Manny petted his forehead soothingly. "Just close your eyes and it will soon be over. Hm hmmm hm hm hmmm," he hummed into Bernard's ear. Over Bernard's head, he jerked his chin at Sherlock frantically.
Sherlock opened up his hand truck and and piled the twenty volumes of the OED inside. Considerately, he topped the pile with the volume of Psychopathia Sexualis that John had been looking at. He dropped a folded pile of fifty-pound notes on the desk in front of Bernard.
Bernard fell on them like a starving dog. "Run!" Manny stage whispered. Sherlock was already hauling the truck outside. John followed, Manny backing up behind him, eyes on Bernard. Once John stepped outside the door, Manny slammed it shut and locked it.
A moment later, the money hit the glass window in the door, and Bernard followed, spitting and clawing at the glass. Manny tackled him; Bernard flung him off and grabbed the door handle again. The door rattled in the frame.
"TAXI," Sherlock called.
"Christ, it's like Dawn of the Dead," John said. He watched the men struggle. "Sherlock, why--?"
The taxi arrived. Sherlock shoved the books inside, then the hand truck, then himself, ushering John in as an afterthought. John ended up sitting on volumes X and XII. "Baker Street, please. He's my cousin," Sherlock said.
The door shattered and Bernard, bleeding, lurched into the street as the taxi pulled away. "Stop!" John yelled. "He's hurt!"
"No! Keep going! He has Manny, that's what he's for," Sherlock said, throwing a twenty-pound note over the seat at the cabbie, who duly continued driving.
John sighed. "Sherlock."
"Actually, I can see the resemblance," John said. Wild dark hair, good suit, mad as a spoon... with a live-in caretaker. John was suddenly suspicious of his place in Sherlock's life. "So your mother gave you money to go spend in your cousin's shop?"
"Yes, well deduced," Sherlock said sardonically.
"Because he doesn't get a lot of custom."
"Not much at all," Sherlock said.
"Because he's drunk and insane."
"Mummy's side of the family is all like that."
"Mm," John said.
Sherlock wrinkled his nose. "Not our side. I don't drink. It dulls the senses."
"Hey," the cabbie said. "That bloke's still chasing us." John looked over his shoulder to see Bernard, bloodied and furious, staggering down the street in their direction. Manny followed him, waving a bottle of wine.
"Step on it," Sherlock said, handing him another twenty.
"You know, that Manny fellow seems familiar. I think I treated him once." John tended to remember his patients, by their faces at least. "First case of Dave's Syndrome I ever saw."
"Yes, I saw the earlobes," Sherlock said.
"Dave's Syndrome?" the cabbie said nervously. "That bloke has Dave's Syndrome?"
"You'd better go, then, hadn't you? No, not left!" Sherlock said, but the cabbie had already turned left.
"No it's not! The light is seventeen seconds longer between 1600 and 1800, don't you know anything?"
Sherlock was right, of course. They were stuck for what seemed like an eternity, as John looked out the rear window with no little concern. He saw Bernard staggering along the pavement, but he couldn't see Manny. He hoped the man hadn't hurt himself or overheated.
A bottle of wine smashed across the windshield. The cabbie screamed.
Sherlock threw himself over the books. Manny pounded on the driver's window, hooting like a gibbon. The passenger door on John's side opened, he hadn't locked it, bugger!
"BOOKS!" Bernard moaned. "MY BOOKS!"
The cabbie wailed. "Aw, fuck! He's coming through the windshield! He's coming through the windshield!"
"Bernard!" Sherlock shouted. "Drink!"
Bernard's attention snapped from the books to Sherlock. Sherlock waved a flask in the air and Bernard's eyes followed it. He threw the flask over John's head. Bernard pushed away from the car.
Manny, though, was still slavering and pawing at the windshield. "Dave's Syndrome! He must have overheated as he ran!" John yelled at Sherlock. "He needs an ice pack and some chocolate!"
Sherlock shook his head. "I'm out of decoys! Just drive!"
"No way, man, if I run him over that's me up the stick!" the cabbie said.
Manny wrenched the driver's door open and hauled the cabbie screaming out into the street. John looked into his blood-shot eyes and felt true fear.
Manny drooled on the driver's seat. "YOU..."
John shoved Sherlock down. He was the soldier, after all. Maybe if he distracted Manny, Sherlock could get away.
"FORGOT... YOUR RECEIPT...." Manny breathed hoarsely. He dropped a yellow carbon copy paper over the seat and climbed back out.
"Your finger is in my ear," Sherlock said. John removed it. Then Manny, in the grips of Dave's Syndrome, flipped the taxi.
Sherlock took the full brunt of the OED. He started taping together the torn pages the moment he was released from hospital, his left hand splinted and his face swollen with purple bruises. John had, after all, carted the volumes upstairs himself. He was still icing his back.
John received a phone call. Lestrade, he thought, but no; Manny and Bernard were safely contained in hospital, detoxing, and for now it wasn't a police matter. No, it was Mycroft. "No," John answered. "We're not doing any errands for at least a week."
"I only called for information," Mycroft said. "How did you find Bernard?"
"Mad. Drunk. Raving."
"Also Irish. Don't tell me you're actually Irish."
"Uncle Black is."
"And you didn't warn us about the Dave's Syndrome!" John yelled.
"It was only 75 degrees. This couldn't have been foreseen," Mycroft said calmly. "Don't worry. Sherlock's turn won't come again for at least another year."
"So when Sherlock and I met, was that an accident? Because I'm seeing some similarities. I treated that fellow Manny. He was an accountant," John accused. "An accountant, for a failing book shop owner. Tell me, does your mother have a bosom companion who's a groom? Does your mad cousin Edward have a live-in policeman?"
"Mummy lives with her dear friend Olivia, who's a beekeeper," Sherlock said. "Mad cousin Edmund, actually, and he's a hairdresser in Cannes."
"He rooms with his colourist," Mycroft said.
"Christ, it's a conspiracy." John hung up without a farewell. He crossed his arms. "I don't want to be your nanny!"
"We didn't hijack you. You walked in."
"Did you know?" John demanded.
"No, not until I saw you."
"And as soon as you saw me, you thought oh, there's my new Jeeves! Brilliant! Wonder if he's armed!"
"No; I thought, there's the man my brother found, he's unexpectedly interesting, if Mycroft's right I'm going to be really irritated. Then he was right, you were the Butch to my Sundance, and that's why I'm so bloody annoyed with him all the time, because he's always right, do you get it now?" Sherlock said. "I... like you." He huffed out his breath and bent over his new books. "I like you a lot," he muttered.
"Oh, God," John said. He looked at the ceiling, at the stain from Sherlock's last experiment. "I like you too." He crossed the room and hugged Sherlock from behind.
"Ow! Ow, get off me!"
John kissed the top of his head.
"I'm hurt and you're touching me!" Sherlock complained.
"MANNY," Bernard wailed in his padded room.
"I MISS YOU! I LOVE YOU!"
"I NEED A FAG, MANNY!"
Mycroft sighed and turned off the surveillance monitor. Family. Such a chore.
"Dr. Watson is hugging Sherlock," his assistant reported.