“Bored,” Sherlock drawled from across the room, as usual taking up the entire sofa. John sighed and looked up from the book he was reading.
“Bored,” Sherlock repeated, more insistently. It could be worse, thought John; at least he wasn’t shooting holes in the walls today. Mrs Hudson would be pleased.
“Watch TV. Read a book. Honestly, you’re like a child sometimes, Sherlock.”
Sherlock huffed, sliding further down the sofa and swinging his legs over the top of it so that he was half upside-down. It had been a week and a half since their last case had ended, and since then he’d been growing steadily intolerable, to the point where John almost looked forward to going to work just so that he could get out of the house.
“Entertain me,” demanded Sherlock. John chuckled softly.
“Entertain yourself. I doubt that anything I could do would be of much interest to you.”
Sherlock jerked his head around to look at John, his face looking even more angular and strange from his upside-down position.
“You’re quite wrong.”
John laughed and shook his head. He had no idea what Sherlock had in mind, but he was quite happy here with a good book and a mug of tea, and he’d decided not to move for the rest of the night. Besides, whatever it was, he wasn’t a performing monkey. Although occasionally, it did feel as though they were all just actors on Sherlock’s stage.
“This wouldn’t be a problem if Lestrade hadn’t taken all away my drugs,” moaned Sherlock, staring up at the ceiling. John frowned and lowered his book; he knew Sherlock had a history of addiction but they’d never really spoken on the subject, not since that first week when they’d come home to find the police conducting a drugs bust of their rooms.
“What was it, anyway?” he asked, curiously. Sherlock glanced at him sharply, then shrugged.
“Cocaine, mostly. Not for a while now; Lestrade refused to work with me unless I kicked the habit. I chose the work, of course.”
“I’d sort of assumed heroin,” said John, although he wasn’t sure quite why – perhaps Sherlock’s slight frame and intense eyes just had the look of a junkie about them. Sherlock shook his head.
“Tried it. Slowed me down. I don’t want to go slower, John; this world already crawls along at a mind-numbing pace. I don’t know how you people can bear it. I need stimulation,” he said emphatically, gesturing at the ceiling with the last word. John rolled his eyes.
“Why can’t you just… I don’t know, drink some Red Bull like a normal person?!” he said.
Sherlock turned and regarded him with interest.
They were words that John would come to regret.
The next day found John flicking through a pile of patient notes in his office, trying to catch up on his paper work and definitely not thinking about what havoc one very bored consulting detective might be wreaking upon their flat. He hadn’t heard from Sherlock at all today, and he wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or a very, very bad thing.
“Everything ok?” asked Sarah, poking her head round the door. Since their first few disastrous dates they’d managed to settle down into an easy friendship; Sarah had drawn the line when their third date had ended up, not back at hers in bed as John been expecting, but stuck on the side of a building in one of those pulley carts used for high-rise window-cleaning. He didn’t really see what the problem was – it wasn’t as though Sherlock hadn’t saved them – but he supposed he couldn’t blame her.
He sighed, rubbing at his eyes.
“Fine, thanks, yeah. I was just worrying about Sherlock-”
Sarah winced slightly, and then rearranged her features into what she clearly thought was a politely curious expression.
“You do little else. What’s he doing now?” she asked.
“I don’t know, that’s what’s so worrying,” said John, shaking his head and then looking at her significantly, “He’s bored.”
Sarah swallowed nervously, and glanced out of the window behind John as though expecting to see the detective swooping past as they stood there.
“Ah. And the last time he was bored-”
“He filled the bath with dead birds, yes. I think he was measuring the rate of decomposition.”
“And the time before-“
“He shot a hole in the wall.”
Sarah stared back at him, looking as alarmed as he felt. John sighed, dreading going home and the sights that might be awaiting him there. As if on cue, his phone bleeped in his pocket.
WHAT IS MAXIMUM SAFE CONSUMPTION LEVEL FOR TAURINE/ CAFFEINE? MEDICAL OPINION REQUIRED. SH
John gulped a little, remembering his comment about the Red Bull last night. He turned back to Sarah.
“Do you know off-hand what the maximum safe consumption levels for Taurine and Caffeine are?” he asked. She shook her head, wildly.
“Is that Sherlock? Is he drinking – do you think that’s a good idea?”
“I don’t, and unfortunately I think it was mine. I never thought he’d actually do it…” said John, pushing buttons on his phone frantically.
NOT SURE. WILL FIND OUT– DON’T DO ANYTHING IN THE MEANTIME. J
He’d barely sent the message when his phone bleeped again in reply.
NEVER MIND, I’LL EXPERIMENT. SH
John groaned and dropped his head into his hands, looking at Sarah through the gaps in his fingers.
“Can I stay at your house tonight?” he asked, not caring for a moment that they weren’t seeing each other anymore and that it wasn’t quite appropriate for him to ask. Sarah obviously did though, and gave him a frown which answered the question without words.
“If you gave him the idea, you’ll have to deal with him,” she said sternly, then pointed at the huge pile of paperwork, “You’d better get a move on with that, Mrs Richards is due for her appointment soon.”
She walked back out of the room, shutting the door firmly behind her, so John sighed and turned back to his files. At least dealing with the minutae of his patients’ problems would take his mind off his flat-mate and what on earth he was getting up to.
For several hours, John managed not to think about it at all; the never-ending kaleidoscope of people and illnesses through his office kept him more than occupied, and if his gaze snuck to his phone sometimes, well, it was only because he was awaiting a call from the hospital regarding a rather tricky case.
It was mid-afternoon when there was a sudden bang and the door to his office was thrown back against the wall. John looked up, started at the sudden intrusion.
Sherlock Holmes was stood in the doorway, his hair in total disarray around his face and his eyes wide and staring. He had his scarf on backwards.
John gulped, and stared up at his friend anxiously. He seemed to be vibrating a little.
“Sherlock… what are you d-”
“I have come to assist you,” announced Sherlock grandiosely, sweeping into the room and marching straight up to John’s desk, where he loomed over him, his eyes boring into him.
“Sherlock, how much Red Bull have you had?” John asked, dreading the answer. Sherlock waved his hand dismissively, and began stalking up and down the small office.
“Immaterial. Some. Too much, I suspect. Not enough. Who’s your next patient? Read me their case-notes,” he said, all in a rush so that John could hardly pick out the individual words.
“I can’t, they’re confidential – why do you want my patient’s case-notes?”
“I told you, I’ve come to assist you. It’s the only solution to a problem that’s been on my mind for some time now; you are fatigued when you come home from work, and incapable of mustering the energy or enthusiasm to entertain me. My mind rebels at stagnation, John, I must be entertained. This Red Bull idea was a fine one, I congratulate you, but preliminary tests suggest that I won’t be able to maintain this lifestyle for longer than the duration of one week without risking tachycardia; an alternative route must be found, then. If I assist you, you can complete your work in half the time – possibly even faster. Additionally, you’ll be much more alert whenever we do have a case, as I’ve noticed you nodding off on several occasions. Your unconsciousness might have a detrimental effect on the outcome of a case, which would reflect badly on the both of us. Conclusion, you require my assistance.”
He stopped to draw breath.
“I don’t, Sherlock, I really don’t, and you can’t help me, it’s illegal. Even if it weren’t, you’re in no state. Go home and wait for the Red Bull to wear off,” he said, as firmly as he could muster.
“I can’t, I’ll be bored,” said Sherlock, suddenly pausing in his pacing to slam his hands down on John’s desk. He stared over it, wild-eyed, “Besides, I still have several crates to get through back at the flat. This was an excellent idea, John, I can see everything very clearly now. Everything looks very…zingy.”
He straightened up suddenly and whipped his coat off, chucking it over a filing cabinet and throwing himself onto the examination bed. He sat on the edge of it, full of nervous energy, his legs swinging backwards and forwards.
John decided to try a new tack, and ignored him, going back to the chart he’d been filling in. Sherlock was silent, as though he were waiting for something, but the room was full of the sounds of his agitated movement: tapping his fingers on the side of the bed, fiddling with a stray thread on his trousers, scuffing his feet on the floor. John gritted his teeth.
“You have a very strong jawline,” Sherlock said suddenly, “So like a soldier. I wonder, are those with stronger jaws naturally more predisposed to become soldiers, or does the jawline develop during the time spent soldiering? I could do a study on the subject, a paper. A monograph on your jaw! Have you read my monograph on ciphers, John? Well, I doubt you’d follow it. You follow me, though, don’t you John. Moriarty doesn’t have a… that’s why he– of course. Still, perhaps I was ill-advised to let this happen, it only creates weakness. When is your next patient due, John? John?”
John frowned, not even trying to follow Sherlock’s thought processes, which were severely lacking in his usual coherency and sparkle. A symptom of caffeine intoxication, he thought: rambling thought and speech patterns. Oh dear.
“Erm. Let me just take your pulse, to be on the safe side. Sit still,” he said, maneuvering round himself round the desk and checking his friend over. Sherlock didn’t look at him, but continued to dart glances around the room, his eyes lightning fast.
“You have no personal effects in your office, nothing to remind you of home or family. Family I can understand; embarrassment, then, or shame. One hardly wants to keep a photograph of one’s alcoholic sister on the desk in a GP surgery, a constant reminder that though you can help your patients you can’t always help those closest to you. Why nothing of Baker Street, though? Not even a mug, and none of the scrawled notes pertaining to our cases that you leave all over the living room. Why?”
Sherlock was silent for a moment. John ignored him and shone a light into his eyes, continuing with his check-up. Pulse was rapid but not arrhythmic; skin slightly flushed, pupils dilated. Nothing much to be worried about, but he made up his mind to keep a close eye on his friend for the duration of this ‘experiment’.
“You’ll do,” he said, “Make sure you stay hydrated. Drink lots of water.”
“Of course,” breathed Sherlock, ignoring him entirely, “Sarah. You don’t want to remind her of your other life, the one she so disapproves of. Is that for her own comfort, or yours? Or are you still harbouring hopes of a reconciliation?”
“Perhaps I just want to keep my work life and my personal life separate, Sherlock. Many people do.”
“You don’t have a personal life!”
Sherlock looked a little taken aback, and opened his mouth to reply, but didn’t get very far; there was a knock at the door – his 3pm appointment, thought John. Mr Turner.
“Come in,” he called, thinking it was too much to ask that his patient wouldn’t notice Sherlock’s presence. You couldn’t really not notice Sherlock. He looked like an enormous raven, perched on the edge of the bed.
A large man in a t-shirt and shorts puffed his way into the room, a pained expression on his face.
“Take a seat, please,” said John, gesturing toward the chair opposite his desk. The man did so, then glanced across at Sherlock.
“This is my colleague,” John continued swiftly, “He’s, erm. Well, he’s a consultant, actually. He’s a… diagnostician.”
Sherlock was staring at the man intently, saying nothing. His eyes looked slightly too big for his face.
“Is he… ok?” asked the man. John nodded vaguely in an attempt to reassure his patient, then pulled up Mr Turner’s medical records on-screen to begin the examination. If he acted as though his madman of a flatmate weren’t here, perhaps everything would be fine.
“Intermittent claudication,” announced Sherlock to the room, smiling triumphantly, “You’re having trouble walking, aren’t you, Mr Turner. Cramp in the calf after a certain distance, but resolving after rest? Skin changes in the lower leg? Venous in origin, I’d say.”
The man blinked, and turned to John in surprise.
“Well, he’s very good,” he said mildly. John groaned. Leave it to Sherlock to be better at his job than he was. He wasn’t even sure how he’d managed to work out the man’s name; he was sure he hadn’t mentioned it.
“You’re also cheating on your wife – and with someone you work with. I can see the paler band of skin where you’ve removed your wedding ring. At work today then, but in casual clothes; however, your sizeable build, along with the venous problem, suggests you don’t move much in your job. There is a slight stain of oil on your shirt, so I’m going to say driver, probably lorry driver judging by the consistency of the oil. A largely solitary role, then, other than when you meet up with drivers, ergo you are most likely cheating on your wife with another lorry driver. Am I close?”
The man’s face twisted angrily and he glared at Sherlock and then at John, opening his mouth to demand an explanation. John shook his head resignedly.
“You’d better run me through your symptoms in full, Mr Turner, just to be sure,” he said, wearily.
It was going to be a long day.
TO: G LESTRADE
HAVE YOU SEEN SHERLOCK?? COULDN’T FIND HIM THIS MORNING. J
HE’S HERE. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH HIM?? GREG
TO: G LESTRADE
THANK GOD. CAN YOU KEEP AN EYE ON HIM? J
DONOVAN FOUND HIM SITTING ON THE KERB OUTSIDE. NO IDEA HOW LONG HE’D BEEN THERE. EXPLAIN. GREG
TO: G LESTRADE
HE’S FINE, HE’S JUST A LITTLE OUT OF SORTS. J
HE’S ON SOMETHING. I THOUGHT HE WAS CLEAN?! GREG
TO: G LESTRADE
HE’S CLEAN. J
HE’S TAKEN ALL THE A1 PAPER FROM OUR STATIONERY CUPBOARD AND IS DRAWING THE LONDON A-Z ONTO IT FROM MEMORY. BOLLOCKS IS HE CLEAN. GREG
TO: G LESTRADE
IT’S JUST RED BULL. IT’S AN “EXPERIMENT”, APPARENTLY. J
RED BULL?! GREG
TO: G LESTRADE
A LOT OF RED BULL. MAKE SURE HE DRINKS WATER OR HE’LL DEHYDRATE. J
OH, BLOODY HELL.
CAN YOU GET DOWN HERE & CONTROL THE FREAK?! HE’S PUTTING ME OFF MY COFFEE. SAL X
GET OVER HERE, WATSON. LESTRADE’S MAKING US BABYSIT WHILST HE HIDES IN THE CELLS. ANDERSON
IF HE INSULTS MY FACE ONE MORE TIME I’M GOING TO PUNCH HIM IN HIS. I’M NOT THE ONE HERE WHO LOOKS LIKE A HORSE IN A MAN SUIT. ANDERSON
STOP PESTERING THE POLICE, SHERLOCK. J
DO YOU NEED HELP AGAIN TODAY I COULD HELP. SH
IT IS THE FASTEST WAY TO ACHIEVE OUR MUTUAL GOALS. SH
LET ME KNOW IF YOU NEED HELP. I DON’T KNOW WHY THAT WOMAN SLAPPED ME YESTERDAY, BUT I PROMISE IT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN. SH
I AM WILLING TO ASSIST IF YOU REFRAIN FROM CALLING SECURITY THIS TIME. SH
NO NO, IT’S OK. STAY AT THE POLICE STATION. LESTRADE NEEDS YOU. HE’S DOWN IN THE CELLS. J
DID YOU TELL HIM WHERE I WAS?! GREG
I HATE YOU. GREG
TO: SARAH S
CAN I STAY AT YOUR HOUSE? J
ARE YOU TEXTING ME FROM THE NEXT ROOM?! ALSO, NO.
John awoke to silence, for the second day in a row. He listened carefully, trying to pick up any clues as to whether his flatmate was in and, if so, what he was doing.
He had come home from work last night to find Sherlock surrounded by empty drinks cans and trying to convince Lestrade and Donovan (who appeared to have brought him home in a police car, against his wishes) to play Twister. Apparently, a Sherlock that was high on caffeine was far more tactile and frivolous than his usual cold, aloof self. John spent a while chatting with the Yarders over a cup of tea (decaff) whilst Sherlock bounced from one room to the next, jabbering away nineteen-to-the-dozen and occasionally interrupting them with ridiculous suggestions. Sometimes he would wander over to John and grab him on either side of his face, staring at him keenly and muttering under his breath in an almost trance-like state that no amount of questioning from John could snap him out of. Eventually Lestrade got fed up of Sherlock’s restlessness and handcuffed him to the arm of a chair, which he’d spent a while trying to force his way out of with the aid of a teaspoon – the only thing to hand – before being overcome by a sudden caffeine crash and passing out face-down on the floor.
According to Lestrade, there really were no cases for Sherlock to take at the moment – even minor ones – so they had nothing else to distract him with. It looked like they’d just have to wait for him to get bored of this particular experiment, although they’d removed the remainder of the energy drinks from the house whilst he was asleep on the floor. John didn’t suppose it would do any good; they couldn’t exactly stop him from just going out and buying more.
At least he seemed to be enjoying himself, he thought.
John dressed and made his way cautiously down the stairs. The living room looked like a bomb had hit it; it was covered in ripped up pieces of paper, empty cups and what looked suspiciously like sheep’s wool. It looked like Sherlock had run out of paper in the end and then started writing on the section of wall nearest his door. John groaned, and picked up one of the empty cups, giving it a cautious sniff. Coffee. Sherlock must have discovered his Red Bull missing and gone for the next best thing.
He wandered into the kitchen with trepidation. The coffee pot was empty, though (he was thankful to see) Sherlock hadn’t actually ingested all of it, as half the floor seemed to be covered in coffee grounds.
He gave a long-suffering sigh and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He had 37 missed calls, all from Sherlock.
WHERE ARE YOU? J
TO: G LESTRADE
HAVE YOU SEEN HIM? J
Gathering up all of the bits of paper and empty cups, he attempted to make the room a little more presentable. He’d have to deal with the spilt coffee grounds and writing on the wall later; Mrs Hudson wouldn’t be very pleased.
NO. IS HE NOT HOME? GREG
TO: G LESTRADE
NO, AND IT LOOKS LIKE HE FOUND THE COFFEE.
OH GOD. HOW CAN YOU BE SURE?
TO: G LESTRADE
LET’S JUST SAY I DEDUCED IT.
Taking one last look at the wreckage that was his home, John pulled on his coat and headed to work, a prickling feeling of unease making its way up his back. Sherlock was at large in an unexpecting world, and he had no idea where.
The morning passed slowly, and when it reached lunchtime and John still hadn’t heard from Sherlock, he was beginning to get worried. He pulled out his phone again and stared at the 37 missed calls, wondering if there wasn’t perhaps something more sinister to them; after all, Sherlock rarely rang, preferring to text unless it was an emergency. What if it had been an emergency? He dialed his number, feeling his heart stop in his chest when it went straight to answer-phone. His friend never went out without his phone charged.
After checking in with Lestrade and the rest of the yarders that they’d still seen no sign of Sherlock, John decided there was only one person who could help him. What he really needed, in this sort of situation was a Holmes. And if Sherlock wasn’t available, well then there was still one option open to exploration.
TO: MYCROFT HOLMES
URGENT. PLEASE HELP. J WATSON
His phone rang immediately, with a number he didn’t recognise.
“Dr Watson. How may I be of assistance?” came Mycroft’s silken tones, each word layered with calm power and self-assurance. John felt himself relax slightly at the sound of his voice.
“It’s Sherlock,” he began, suddenly aware that practically every phone conversation he had with the elder Holmes brother started with those two words.
“And how long has he been missing?” said Mycroft, with his uncanny gift at predicting what John was about to say.
“How did you- no, never mind,” said John, deciding the explanation could wait until later, “I haven’t seen him since last night, I assume he went out some time early this morning. He’s not replying to any of my texts, and his phone goes straight to voice-mail…”
“That’s not long ago, Dr Watson, so you must have some other reason to be fearful for his safety. Am I correct? What was he doing when you saw him last?”
“He was handcuffed to the armchair in the living room, then he fell asleep there,” said John, wondering vaguely how on earth Sherlock had managed to get the cuffs off. Then again, there were a lot of things Sherlock did that John couldn’t work out. There was a dry chuckle at the other end of the phone.
“Please, do spare me further details,” Mycroft said, making John wince when he realized exactly how what he’d just said had sounded.
“No, I don’t mean – no, not like-”
“Of course, for one who relies so much on his authority and self-control, it’s hardly surprising that Sherlock would seek to be dominated within a more private setting; I could easily have deduced as much – still, I’d rather not pursue this line of enquiry,” Mycroft continued, a note of distaste in his voice. John shook his head frantically at the phone, aware that Mycroft couldn’t see him but feeling the need to do so anyway.
“No, Mycroft, no, not like that – Lestrade cuffed him anyway, not me-”
“Is that D.I. Lestrade?” came Mycroft’s voice, sounding a little shocked this time, “Gosh, you do surprise me, Dr Watson. I wasn’t aware that the two of you saw him outside of a professional setting.”
“Outside of a…?”
John flailed for a moment, opening and closing his mouth like a fish, then reminded himself what he’d made this phone call for in the first place.
“No, listen,” he said firmly, “Lestrade cuffed him because it was the only way to get him to keep still. He’s high as a bloody kite and now he’s run off somewhere and isn’t answering his phone, so if you could just-”
“Oh, dear, is he using again?” drawled Mycroft, sounding bored, “Mummy will be so disappointed. We had really hoped that he was past that. What is it this time?”
There was a pause on the other end of the phone line.
“Red Bull. And a lot of it.”
“Look, if you could just keep an eye out for him – let me know if he turns up?” John asked, all too aware that it sounded as though he was pleading.
“Of course,” said Mycroft, sounding a little anxious now, “I’ll have my PA check the surveillance cameras to see if we can ascertain his whereabouts. Do keep me updated as to developments at your end.”
“Ok. Thanks. Uhh… tell your PA I said hi,” said John, thinking of the attractive woman he’d only met on a couple of occasions. He still thought of her as ‘Anthea’, though he knew that wasn’t her real name.
“Of course,” Mycroft
“You’re not going to, are you?”
“No. Goodbye, Dr Watson.”
And he hung up.
John sighed in relief, feeling better just for knowing that Mycroft – and all his hundreds of cameras – were on the look out for Sherlock too. With the vast resources of the British Government at his beck and call, it surely wouldn’t be too long before they’d managed to track Sherlock down and he was safe back home in Baker Street.
He spent the rest of his working day convincing himself of this, to the point where he actually expected Sherlock to be there by the time he got home. He wasn’t.
He spent the rest of the evening on tenterhooks, waiting for a knock on the door or a ring of the phone that never came, expecting him to walk in at any moment. He didn’t.
Mycroft rang back on the dot of midnight.
“I can’t find any signs of foul play, and I’ve got several unconfirmed sightings of him around the city today, but nothing concrete. If we can’t find him, Dr Watson, then I’m afraid it would appear that he doesn’t want to be found. I’ll keep you updated.”
He went to bed unsettled and on-edge, trying to work out where Sherlock could be and wondering at what point his life had begun to revolve around this ridiculous man. He felt all off-kilter, not knowing where he was, as though he was still in orbit around something that was no longer there – as though Sherlock were the Sun, he thought; or something more singular perhaps, more likely a black hole.
He fell asleep thinking vaguely of the solar system, and of Sherlock’s complete lack of knowledge of it. He would buy him a book, he decided, assuming that he came back and that nothing untoward had happened to him today. Yes, a book on the solar system. Perhaps for Christmas.
It took until 11am the next morning for Sherlock to finally resurface. John had been multitasking all morning: keeping half an eye on the patient in front of him, and with the rest of his attention obsessively surfing news reports to see if he could get a lead on where Sherlock had gone. There was nothing, and no update on his blog, either. He had just refreshed it for around the fifth time, when there was a welcome beep from his phone.
HE’S JUST TURNED UP ON MY DOORSTEP. M
TO: MYCROFT HOLMES
THANK GOD. IS HE OK? JW
STILL BUZZING LIKE THE PROVERBIAL VUVUZELA. NOTHING I CAN’T HANDLE, I ASSURE YOU. M
TO: MYCROFT HOLMES
GREAT. TELL HIM HE’S IN TROUBLE FOR DISAPPEARING! JW (PS GOOD LUCK)
John sat back in his chair and grinned, half out of relief and half out of amusement at the thought of Mycroft having to deal with Sherlock in his caffeinated state. On the other hand, if Mycroft was everything that Sherlock said he was – the British Government, and the British Secret Service, and the CIA – he was sure that he could cope with his younger brother and a simple excess of Red Bull.
He made it about half an hour before his phone rang.
John glanced at his current patient apologetically across his desk, looked down at his mobile and raised an eyebrow at the caller ID.
INCOMING: MYCROFT HOLMES
He cancelled the call, deciding that whatever it was could wait for ten minutes until he’d finish his review of this patient; he always felt it was bad form to ignore people in proximity in favour of answering a ringing phone; particularly hated it when he was in a queue and the shop assistant picked up the phone instead of serving. He’d call Mycroft back in a moment, he thought, picking up his pen and beginning to jot down symptoms on the pad in front of him.
Every phone in the surgery started ringing simultaneously.
John stared at the landline on his desk, aghast at the cacophony of different rings drifting in from every direction. His patient – Mrs Higgins, and she was a lovely old dear and didn’t deserve this type of disruption – stared about herself, uneasy. He’d just reached out a hand to pick the phone up when they all stopped abruptly, and about 30 seconds later Sarah burst in through the door.
“John, you’ve got to go,” she said urgently, adding a quick, “Very sorry, Mrs Higgins,” when she noticed he was with a patient.
“What is it?”
“That was a Mr Mycroft Holmes,” she said, arching her eyebrow at him, “Friend of yours? He says you have to go to his house immediately, by order of the British Government.”
“Oh, he’s got to be kidding-” John started.
“I thought so too, at first, but he’s faxed over all the relevant documentation,” she said, looking unnerved, “To every fax machine in the place, in fact. It’s definitely official. John, who is this guy?”
Poor Mrs Higgins was looking terrified. John rubbed at his eyes, tiredly.
“Sherlock’s brother, he’s – well. A pain in the arse, to be honest, but it does seem to run in the family.”
Sarah smiled slightly, still looking a little worried. John slammed his fist down on the desk, suddenly feeling angry.
“Dammit, Sarah, I’m at work, I can’t just go running off whenever one of the Brothers Holmes says so.”
“It doesn’t sound as though you have a choice…” she said, doubtfully.
“You can’t run the surgery a doctor down! I can’t just leave everyone in the lurch, it’s ridiculous. I’ll phone him and let him know I’m not coming, and-”
The door suddenly opened and a man in a suit glided in, briefcase in hand. John and Sarah both spun around to look at him, and he gave them both an appraising glance.
“Dr Watson,” he said, consulting a small notepad in his hand, “And Dr Sawyer.”
He turned to look at the elderly lady seated across the desk from John, and consulted his pad once more.
“Mrs Emelia Higgins, born 1934, 47 Lower Inhedge, widowed. One cat, Bess.”
“Who the hell are you?” he asked, half-dreading the answer. The man smiled suddenly.
“Your replacement, Dr Watson,” he said, holding his hand out to Sarah, “Dr Mark Dryer, Emergency GP. I’m to help you out for the remainder of surgery today whilst Dr Watson here is occupied with… state business.”
“State business!” John burst out, standing up from his seat, “It’s just Sherlock being a bloody idiot as usual and Mycroft can’t be bothered to-”
“Careful,” said the man, narrowing his eyes. John stopped, and took a deep breath. Sarah was regarding him doubtfully. He knew when he’d been outmaneuvered.
“Ok, ok,” he said, holding his hands up in resignation, “I’m going. I presume there’s a horribly sinister car waiting for me just outside?”
The man gave what looked like a trace of a smirk, and gestured towards the door, dismissing John from his own office. He sighed, making his way out of the surgery – colleagues and patients alike staring at him curiously – to where the inevitable black limo sat smugly outside the door.
The drive didn’t take too long; Mycroft’s house was in Central London, somewhere close to the Embankment, although he didn’t notice the name of the street. Just a stone’s-throw from Westminster, he guessed, so that he could be in the middle of things. It was a stately but compact house - John remembered Sherlock mentioning that Mycroft had residences both in and out of town – with a tidy front lawn. John noticed that a couple of small trees on the drive had been uprooted, almost as though a minor whirlwind had passed through the area. He suspected that wasn’t too far from the truth.
The elder Holmes brother greeted him at the front door, grasping a cup of tea in both hands with a shell-shocked expression on his face.
“Dr Watson,” he purred, “Do come in. Thank you for coming at such short notice.”
“I didn’t exactly have a choice,” John grumbled, taking off his coat, “I do have a job you know. I do actually have duties.”
“Ah, but your primary duty is to your country, of course,” said Mycroft, “As a military man, I’m sure you understand.”
“I’m not sure that this is really-”
“It is,” said Mycroft firmly, leading John through a spacious hallway, “The country needs me, and I need – well, what I certainly don’t need, Dr Watson, is this.”
He swung the door to the room in front of them open. John blinked. It seemed to be an office, he thought, except that offices weren’t usually completely covered in crisscrossing lengths of wool. There was a strange scuffling sound coming from inside the room, too, and John stepped forward to cautiously poke his head around the door.
The entire room was rigged up with some sort of twine, stretching across the room like a ginormous spider web and looping round every bit of furniture you could see: chair legs, desk lamps, window latches. In the middle of it all was Sherlock, who was pirouetting strangely and twisting between the strings, making his way across the room. John coughed gently and Sherlock froze mid-limbo, spotting him.
“John!” he said, his voice too loud for the sombre dressings of the room he was in, “Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, so many doctors, just one John, I’ve been thinking - do come in.”
Sherlock’s eyes were dark and he looked perpetually-startled, as though everything in the room was throwing itself at him all at once. He continued moving between strings, his movements graceful but frenzied, more coordinated than anyone had any right to be on that much Red Bull and that little sleep. John turned helplessly back to Mycroft, who shook his head.
“He’s been like this since he got here, I’m afraid. And I’ve no idea when he’s been, he just said he’d been ‘thinking’ when I asked. I’m not convinced he knows, himself. Dr Watson, I really do need my office back.”
John nodded, steeling himself and stepping a little inside the room, bending to avoid a string.
“What’re you doing, Sherlock?” he asked, some trepidation in his voice.
“Practising. Lasers,” Sherlock said, “Just in case. You ought to practise, too, I expect that you will be there.”
“I’ll be there – sorry, when will I be there?”
Sherlock spun, narrowly avoiding wrapping his legs together, and stared at John.
“Always, John, obviously, and especially if there are lasers. It will be particularly dangerous, which we both know you enjoy. You didn’t sleep well, why is that? I could postulate, but I fear my conclusions would be erroneous; a lot of my thought patterns seem a little… convoluted, at the moment, they lack elegance. As do you – is that yesterday’s shirt?”
“How do you know th- I never even saw you yesterday, Sherlock,” John said, frowning.
Sherlock let out a low chuckle.
“Blind as a beetle, and your deductions are no better. Why do you assume that simply because you didn’t see someone, that they did not see you?”
John opened his mouth, then the meaning of Sherlock’s words hit him, as did quite a large amount of anger.
“You saw me yesterday?! Sherlock, I was worried about you, you’d disappeared! Your phone was dead! You could at least have bloody let me know you were ok if you saw me, what the hell were you-”
“No, no no, it would have negated the entire experiment to let you know; as it was it was rather successful, although ambiguous in some areas; damn. No control group, you see, no control, oh, no control at all, I fear,” he paused to chuckle manically, running a hand through his wiry hair, “You didn’t sleep, why didn’t you sleep?”
“Look, come over here so I can check your pulse,” John said, in the firmest voice he could muster, “I was going to check you every day of this stupid bloody experiment, you had to go gallivanting off – come here.”
Sherlock glared at him for a moment, then made a series of sudden bending, leaping and twisting movements, somehow avoiding all of the string and landing in front of John.
“Here I am, John. John. Hello,” he said, looming over him with even less regard for personal space than usual. There were bags under his eyes, which were themselves glittering strangely, and although his body seemed to be thrumming with energy John could tell he wouldn’t last long until he crashed again.
“Erm, yes. Hello.”
He started checking over his friends vitals again, which seemed much the same as last time, although it was possible his pupils seemed even darker and more dilated, his breathing a little faster. They conducted some kind of very strange mutual examination, stood there in the doorway to Mycroft’s office; Sherlock’s eyes roving across him and cataloguing every change since the last time he’d seen him, muttering under his breath throughout. John pressed his fingers to Sherlock’s neck, checking his pulse, and was surprised when he hissed a little and pulled back.
“Sorry,” said John automatically, “Sorry, I – you’re probably feeling on a bit of a sensory overload at the moment, I expect?
Sherlock just stared at him oddly, narrowing his eyes. He cocked his head to the side.
“Is this normal?”
“It’s fine,” said John, reassuringly, whilst reminding himself that neither of them really knew what ‘normal’ was anymore, “You just need to calm down and then let yourself rest. Come on, we’ll go back to Baker Street, have a nice cup of – well, maybe just milk for you.”
Sherlock nodded, and flew past him suddenly into the hall, where Mycroft was still standing and watching them carefully.
“John’s taking me home now, Mycroft,” he said, his voice laced with the heavy sarcasm that was apparent whenever the brothers saw each other, “Do say hello to Mummy for me, when you see her.”
“I shall,” said Mycroft, examining his fingernails, “She’ll be so glad to hear that you finally have a minder.”
Sherlock glared at him.
“He’s not my minder, he…” he began, before trailing off as tried the front door to leave and found it locked. He stared at it furiously, and then started scrabbling frantically at various bolts and keyholes on the door in a vain attempt to get them open. He turned to John, his face aghast.
“John, there is a problem with this door.”
He turned to Mycroft then, suspiciously.
“What have you done to it?”
Mycroft stepped forward and slid back one bolt, smoothly, then pulled the door open with ease. Sherlock stared at it, looking utterly confounded.
“A clever trick!” he announced, then swooped out of the house and down the steps, John hurrying after him. He caught up with him at the garden gate, though only because Sherlock stopped abruptly and turned to face him.
“Where are we going?” he said, his face bewildered.
“Home, Sherlock. Remember?”
John spun his friend around and pushed him out through the gate, towards where the enormous car was still waiting to take them back to Baker Street. They got a couple of metres before Sherlock stopped again.
“What now?” demanded John. Sherlock looked at him curiously, as though only just noticing he was there.
“Where have I been?”
John groaned and pushed him into the car, wondering whether memory loss was a normal side-effect of excess Red Bull intake, or just a Sherlockian one, and whether he’d ever find out exactly where it was that his flat-mate had been for the past couple of days.
“Just sit still, Sherlock. You’ll have plenty of time to deduce wherever it is that you’ve been for the past 48 hours after you’ve had a good, long sleep. And a lot of water. And absolutely no stimulation whatsoever, of any variety.”
“Yes, well, some of us like a little tedium in our lives actually, some of us don’t like to have to handcuff our flatmate to a chair just to get him to sit still – I’m not going to ask how you escaped that, by the way – some of us want to be able to get through just one day of work without having to spend half the day fretting or leaving in the middle, some of us like to have living rooms that aren’t covered in coffee grounds and board games and sheep’s wool – which you are so tidying up tomorrow, by the way, Sherlock are you listeni-”
He twisted in the car to look at his friend, who was spread-eagled across the other side of the seat, as usual looking as though he’d purposefully arranged himself in the most dramatic pose possible.
Sherlock was fast asleep, dribbling softly onto his scarf.
John awoke to silence, and immediately panicked that Sherlock had run off somewhere again. He had left him passed out on the sofa last night, after struggling up the stairs with his unconscious body; his friend had looked a wreck, he thought, with exhausted rings under his eyes and a greyish tint to his skin. He had managed to wake him for long enough to force some water down him, then had dragged the quilt from Sherlock’s room and tucked him up in it on the sofa.
He seemed perfectly stable, and he’d been sure that he just needed to sleep it off, but still John felt a little guilty about going upstairs to his own room to sleep; even contemplated tucking himself up top-to-tail on the sofa alongside Sherlock, just so he could keep an eye on him over the night. In the end, though, the comfort of his own bed beckoned and he’d made his way wearily up the stairs, never quite so glad that it was the weekend tomorrow.
Now, he dragged himself back out of said bed and cast a glance at the alarm clock on his bedside table. It was gone midday, he saw with surprise; normally he’d have been woken hours before this by the screeching of Sherlock’s violin, or the sound of some unidentifiable explosion. To be fair, he’d normally wake earlier than this himself, but it’d been an exhausting week.
He crept down the stairs, worried as to what he might find. Had he remembered to hide the remainder of the coffee? He was pretty sure Sherlock was at the end of his experiment, but perhaps he’d just hoped as much.
Sherlock was exactly where he’d left him, stretched out asleep on the sofa. John let out a sigh of relief, and dropped into the chair opposite him.
Sherlock opened one eye.
“Already? You’ve only just woken up! How can you possibly be bored?”
Sherlock smiled, and tipped himself into his favourite half-upside-down position. John felt an odd sense of déjà-vu.
“I had some very peculiar dreams, you know,” Sherlock said, twisting to look at him, “You were there. It was...interesting.”
John nodded vaguely at his flat-mate and flicked on the telly.
“I take it that’s the end of that experiment, then?” he asked casually.
“Which one?” Sherlock asked lazily, pulling his violin onto his lap and plucking at the strings without looking.
“Well, the one with the – the one with the Red Bull, Sherlock, is there more than one experiment?!”
Sherlock shrugged, and spun himself upright in the sofa.
“Always, John,” he murmured, fixing him with that intently curious gaze that John always found both infuriating and thrilling, “I need something to occupy my time with, after all.”
John sighed, and switched television channel. He hated Saturday afternoon telly.
“Why can’t you just occupy your time like a normal person,” he grumbled.
Sherlock tilted his head to one side and drew out a long note from the violin.
“And what do normal people do?”
“Normal things,” said John, shrugging, “I don’t know. Jogging. Knitting. Baking.”
Sherlock glanced up at the last, interest sparking somewhere in the back of his eyes.
“Ah, baking,” he said, rolling the word around his mouth curiously, “That is interesting.”
He leapt up out of his chair suddenly and threw on his coat, wrapping the scarf around him as he made for the door.
“I’m going to the shop, do you want anything?”
“Milk. Cornettos. Wait, you’re going to the shop?! You never go to the shop, what’re you going to the shop for?”
Sherlock flung open the door and gave John a wide and frightening grin.
“Ingredients,” he said, and disappeared down the stairs.
John felt his stomach clench up with nervousness.
He was going to regret this.