“Merlin’s tits- Watson!”
John apparates into Speedy’s Cafe and turns to see Irene Adler glowering at him, the fragments of a ceramic plate at her feet.
“Oops! Sorry, I’ll just-“ John raises his wand, ready to execute a quick Reparo charm, when Irene clutches his wrist in a vice. She glances furtively past his shoulder and out the shop window.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She growls. “This is a Muggle coffee shop in the middle of Muggle London. Are you trying to get arrested your first day on the job?”
“The shop isn’t even open yet, there’s no one here!” John tries unsuccessfully to free his arm from her grasp.
“Doesn’t matter. Tomorrow morning, you’re taking the Tube in with me- But hold that thought for a second, Watson…” Irene steps back and rakes her eyes over him critically. “…and tell me what on Morgana’s sweet Earth you are wearing.”
John grins and flexes the black fingerless gloves he’d transfigured for himself out of an old pair of socks. “It’s what Judd Nelson wore in The Breakfast Club,” he tells her proudly. “Do you know that one? It’s a Muggle film.”
Oddly, Irene pinches the bridge of her nose and heaves a pained sigh. “Yes, darling, it is. But that movie was made in the 1980s. Nobody dresses like that anymore.” John frowns as he looks down at the red plaid shirt, denim jacket and work boots. Without another word, Irene starts pulling off his layers until John’s left in a long-sleeved white tee-shirt and dark jeans. He makes a discontented noise when she takes his gloves as well. “…Besides, if you’re anyone in that film, you’re the Jock.”
“But the jock character is an idiot.” Irene pauses styling his hair to give him a Look. John huffs a breath but says nothing as Irene finishes her impromptu makeover by draping a maroon apron over his head. It’s even got his name already etched on a little gold plaque.
“You should feel lucky I’m not making you wear a hairnet,” she threatens. John tugs protectively on his long blond ponytail in response. Irene continues, “I’ll take you shopping soon for some Muggle clothes.”
“I dunno, Adler. Between Healing tuition, loans, and next month’s rent, I don’t have two galleons to rub together.”
“Don’t worry. There’s a shop girl down the road who always gives me a terrific discount.” Her smile is sharper than a Doxy’s and John knows better than to ask for the salacious details.
Next, Irene gives him a whirlwind crash course in operating the cash register and the various coffee-making machines, and they prepare the shop for the day ahead. John has just finished taking down the chairs when a few patrons begin to trickle in, looking haggard and desperately in need of caffeine. No matter what odd fashion choices these Muggles are making, John discovers that, blue hair and bits of metal through the nose notwithstanding, I need coffee is a universal expression.
John works well with the customers. He finds that a self-deprecating grin and a shrug is enough to make up for the times when he botches drink orders the first go-round. It’s gratifying to know that Muggles find his smile as charming as most witches and wizards do.
So, no, the customers, no matter how foreign their culture seems, aren’t a problem. It’s the dastardly complicated machinery and Muggle ephemera that have him stymied.
John is staring hard down at the drawer full of Muggle currency, a crinkled orange paper with the face of some Muggle lady clutched in one hand. He’s trying hard to remember which coins are worth how much so that he can give the right amount of change to the sweet-faced blonde woman across the counter from him. He glances to Irene beside him, who looks up from where she’s preparing the woman’s drink to take in the panic that must be in his eyes.
“Helpless wizard boy,” she curses under her breath, manhandling him out of the way of the cash register and sending him stumbling towards the electric kettle. “She wants tea. All you have to do is boil the water.” Irene turns to the blonde and sends her an apologetic smile. “Sorry about him, Tess, it’s his first day. And apparently he was raised without any real-world skills.” John opts not to remind her that she technically spent most of her childhood living in the dungeons of a magical castle.
Irene shoots John a contemptuous look that he’s quite familiar with. He’s seen it from her, from Mike, and from nearly every other muggle-born he’s befriended at one time or another. It says, are you daft and you can’t be serious and I’m honestly a bit offended by your obliviousness all at the same time.
The blonde lady on the other side of the counter doesn’t seem to mind, though. She smiles shyly at John when he glances towards her. When he thinks Irene isn’t looking, John boils the water with magic and passes the woman her tea across the counter. “Thank you, um, John?” she glances down at his name tag. “I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it soon.” She smiles meaningfully at him as she drops something in the tip jar and takes her leave.
Irene puts her hands on her hips and marches towards John so he can hear her hushed words. “Don’t think I didn’t see that, John. You said you did well in Muggle Studies! And you can’t boil water or make change?”
“I did fine in Muggle Studies,” he insists. “Only, they didn’t cover evil monster beverage robots.” He eyes the brassy espresso-maker suspiciously.
“Not totally, I shouldn’t think.”
"No?" Irene raises a doubtful eyebrow, so John dips his hand into the tip jar and pulls out the slip of paper that Tess had left behind. He at the very least did well enough in Muggle Studies to recognize a mobile telephone number when he gets one.
“Bill and I watch trash telly when you aren’t around to judge us,” John tells Irene. “Did you know that the acquisition of the mobile phone number is essential to the modern Muggle romance?”
“Oh, come on,” Irene gapes, snatching the paper from his hand. “You’ve been working here an hour and you’ve already got her number? I’ve been hitting on Tess for weeks.”
“Bad luck, Irene.” John claps a hand on her back, feeling smug. “Think of it this way. Between us, we have all our bases covered. You handle the lesbians, and I’ll take…everyone else.”
She shakes off his grip, but looks amused nonetheless. “What about bi girls? Do we flip a knut?”
“Bi girls?” John asks innocently. “I thought those were a myth. Ouch!” he yelps as Irene punches his shoulder, hard. “I was joking!”
“’A myth,’” Irene scoffs. “Says the bisexual wizard-boy working in a coffee shop.”
John rubs at the spot she punched, looking concernedly down at it. He hopes they’re going to cover bruising in his Healing course soon. Working with Irene, he suspects it’ll come in handy more than once. “That really hurt, you know.”
“Good,” she sniffs. Probably more resentful about Tess than she’s letting on. She can have the number as far as John is concerned. It’s not as if he has a mobile phone (or knows how to use one). The bell above the door jingles, and John steps away from Irene. Time to get back to work.
He turns his head to greet whoever’s entered the café.
John’s jaw drops.
It’s a bloke. A tall, beautiful bloke, unlike anyone John has ever seen in two decades spent admiring the human form. The man is tall and slender and graceful as he struts confidently through the shop towards the counter, a long dark coat flapping behind him.
The electric kettle whistles.
John doesn’t care. He can’t tear his gaze away from the gorgeous bloke in the long coat, and just stares dumbly. The man reaches the counter, sends Irene an absent smile and barely flickers his gaze in John’s direction.
“Your usual?” Irene asks him.
“Yes. To go,” he confirms, handing over a plastic card then pulling out his mobile phone to tap away at it. Sweet Merlin, his voice is dark and smooth. Like a long, long drink of nettle wine.
“John!” Irene calls, sounding like she may have had to repeat it a few times. John shakes his head and rips his gaze away from the dark-haired man, whose gaze still doesn't leave his phone. “Large coffee. Black, two sugars.” John jerks his head in acknowledgment and turns around to pour the man’s coffee (thankfully already brewed) into a paper cup. He takes the private moment to pull himself together with a deep breath.
He just has to turn on the Watson Charm, that’s all. It’s never failed him before.
When John turns back around, he’s ready with an inviting smile as he spoons sugar into the man’s drink.
“You’re a regular, then?” he asks lightly. The man hums, but doesn’t comment otherwise. Or look up from his screen. John wants desperately to hear the man’s voice again, especially now that it’s being denied. “I’m John,” he tries.
“Yes,” the man replies, tossing a lazy half-glance at John’s apron. “So your name badge says.”
John slips a lid onto the drink and slides it across the counter. The man reaches to take it, but John doesn’t withdraw his hold on the cup. At last, the man tears his attention away from his mobile and directs a critical gaze toward John. Victory! For a moment they are locked together, John very reluctant to let go of the drink if it makes this intriguing (beautiful) man walk out of the shop so quickly.
“Can I at least get your name? You’re a regular customer but we don’t know a thing about each other.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” A sly expression flits across the man’s face as he looks John over once again. It would almost look flirtatious, if it weren’t for the careful, calculating power behind his gaze as it flicks over different parts of John’s body. John takes a small step backwards in response to the intensity of the man’s attention.
“Just from looking at you, at your clothes, at your body language, I know immediately that you’re a medical student with a scholarship that isn’t covering all your bills. I know you went to school with Irene and she’s the one who got you this job. I know you have a dog, and that you’re something of a technophobe. And I know…” Sherlock’s expression turns bemused.
He gently takes the hand that John has resting on the coffee cup and turns it over to better inspect the calluses on John’s palms. John can’t help but feel a thrill as the stranger’s elegant hands envelope John’s. “…and you make frequent use of… a quill and ink?” he sounds truly flummoxed.
“Are you a wizard?” John asks, hushed.
The man lets out a laugh, more disbelieving than amused, as John blinks up at him. “That’s not the reaction I usually get.”
No? How could he not be a wizard? That was extraordinary. The man smiles slightly as he lifts his now-freed drink to his lips to take a sip, making no move to leave his spot at the counter just yet. “Does that mean I was right about everything?”
John tries again to summon a charming grin as he plants his elbows on the counter and leans forward. He looks at the man from under his fluttering eyelashes in a way that an ex of his once described as ‘devastatingly coy’. “You got almost everything right. Except… I don’t have a dog.”
“Sure you do,” Sherlock tells him dismissively. “German Shepherd. You’re covered in its hair.”
John stiffens, standing straight as he begins to stammer, “Oh! Right! That’s…um, that’s Irene’s dog! Because we’re flatmates. Right, Adler?” John turns to see that Irene has propped herself up on one hand down the other end of the counter, all the better to watch him flirt unsuccessfully with the handsome Muggle customer.
She looks amused. “Of course, how could I forget, my dog.” Irene looks to the man at the other side of the counter. “Have I never told you about my dog? His name is John.”
John widens his eyes and clenches his jaw at Irene, trying to telegraph the words Shut up now please and hoping the beautiful mystery man who notices so much, doesn’t notice.
Irene ignores this as she stalks towards John and reaches an arm around him to squeeze his shoulders. “You should come over to meet him sometime. John - my dog, John – is very friendly. A bit slow, and terrifically stubborn, but quite cute despite himself. I think you two would get along.”
John forces out an awkward laugh as the Muggle man looks between them with confused suspicion on his face. "If you say so." The bell above Speedy’s door rings again as another customer exits, and he starts to step back uncertainly.
“...Well, thanks for the coffee.” His hand is on the door when John calls out.
“Wait! You never told me your name!”
The man smirks as he nudges the door open with his shoulder. There’s the smallest curl around his (soft, kissable) lips that makes John’s heart thud like maybe he has a chance.
“The name’s Sherlock Holmes. See you tomorrow.” With a wink and a raise of his cup towards them, Sherlock Holmes – and what a name that is – pushes out of the shop and strides off down the street.
John wheels around to face Irene, hand clutched theatrically at his chest and eyes wide. “Who was that?”
Irene smirks. “That was Sherlock Holmes. And you, my dear Watson, are in big trouble.”
John collapses against the counter, utterly stunned by the hurricane of a man. “He’s really a Muggle?” he asks, thinking of all the things Sherlock had known about him after a mere instant’s inspection.
“Yes indeed. He lives next door, one of Mrs. Hudson’s tenants,” she says, referring to the witch who was proprietor of Speedy’s and the building above it, as well as John and Irene’s former Herbology Master.
Irene’s words catch up to John. It’s like his brain is struggling to come back into focus after that stunning, dizzying, too-short conversation. “What did you mean when you said, ‘I’m in trouble’? Is he already seeing someone?”
“Oh God,” John groans. “He’s straight?”
Irene laughs merrily. “Oh no, Sherlock is gayer than a Billywig. But he hasn’t dated anyone since I first met him three years ago. Not since his childhood sweetheart broke his heart.” There’s a sad smile on Irene’s face.
“You two are friends, then?” John ventures.
“He doesn’t have ‘friends’ in the traditional sense. But, every once in a while, he can be persuaded into staying after hours for an Irish coffee. He’ll be in here tomorrow at the same time, for the same drink, if you’d like to get to know him a bit better. I can tell you do, from the way you were looking at him.”
John taps his fingers on the counter, staring into space as he contemplates just how true that is.
“But Watson. Do me a favor and don’t treat him like the rest of your ‘dates.’”
“What is that supposed to mean?” He bristles.
Irene rolls her eyes. “We share a flat, John. Mike, Bill and I have discussed installing a revolving door on your room for all the witches and wizards you bring home then never see again.”
John crosses his arms defensively, knowing that she’s possibly a bit right. He hasn’t had a relationship that lasted longer than a weekend or two in…more than a year, he thinks. He tells himself it’s because he’s busy with his Healing rotations, although he knows his exes would insist he’s just emotionally constipated.
No matter what Irene said, John can’t help but think about it for the rest of his shift, whenever he catches a minute to himself. The mad Muggle who made his blood sing.
It seems like an impossible match: Sherlock doesn’t date and John doesn’t do serious relationships. Not easily, in any case.
But how can John ignore the thrill that went through him when his eyes locked on Sherlock? It was like a flame licking down his spine. Like a spark of magic flashing behind his eyes. Doesn’t that have to mean something?
Maybe it was a sign. That with Sherlock he could be different. It’s silly, and he’s way ahead of himself considering he failed Divination in school, but he still feels a twinge of excitement at the thought. John licks his lips, and wonders how he might persuade Sherlock into giving him a try. No matter what happens, John has a feeling this is going to be exciting.
After all, he’s never seduced a Muggle before.