Chapter 1: Prelude to a Cow Trip
19 days prior
John Watson learns a valuable lesson about promising to take Sherlock Holmes to see cows. It is not something one should do flippantly, nor should one expect to go long periods of time without being reminded of said promise. Or short periods of time, really.
18 days prior
For his part, Sherlock has been very careful not to get himself killed before the trip takes place. This involves avoiding a hastily-constructed death maze that he probably could have made it through with his eyes closed, not jumping off a bridge after a human trafficker, and turning down a game of Russian Roulette with a German skinhead who was too clever for his own good. That last one still keeps Sherlock up at night, rerunning the entire event in his brain; he is sure he would have won. All this for the chance to go on a special trip, just him and John. Today Sherlock deigns to wear safety goggles even though he has to get up off his stool and walk halfway across the room to reach them.
15 days prior
John chooses a random day on the calendar and marks it with a yellow post-it note. John feels a month and a half seems like a good amount of time between trips. Sherlock disagrees.
13 days prior
The post-it note reading “cows” moves up a week. John does not notice.
12 days prior
The post-it note reading “cows” moves up a week. John does not notice.
11 days prior
The post-it note reading “cows” moves up a week. John notices.
The post-it note reading “cows” moves down a month. Sherlock notices.
10 days prior
The post-it note reading “cows” moves up to the current day. John notices because he has specifically checked the wall calendar to see where the note has moved. Sherlock finds “cows” stuck on December 31st. He adds an exclamation point and moves it back to the current day after John goes to bed.
9 days prior
There are bits of torn up yellow paper on the table. If one were careful to reconstruct it, they would find it read “cows!”
8 days prior
John finds a yellow post-it note reading “cows!” stuck in his shoe in the morning.
7 days prior
John finds a yellow post-it note reading “cows!” in his locked desk drawer.
6 days prior
John finds a yellow post-it note reading “cows!” in his medicine cabinet. It has been laminated and is floating in the rubbing alcohol.
5 days prior
John finds a yellow post-it note reading “cows!” stuck to the ceiling above his bed. It actually takes him until bedtime to notice it.
4 days prior
John finds a yellow post-it note at the bottom of his mug of tea. It might have read “cows!” but it is hard to read a note that has been submerged in tea for any length of time. Oddly enough, before John notices the note, he is thinking about how great the tea tastes this morning.
3 days prior
John finds a yellow post-it note reading “cows!” between two slices of bread while making toast. After Sherlock has passed out on the sofa, John gathers up all writing instruments and post-it notes he can unearth. He discovers a large cache of them in Sherlock’s room stuffed in a sock under the bed. He also takes the jumper he found under there, just on principle and because it belongs to him.
2 days prior
No notes are found.
1 day prior
No notes are found. Had John been more perceptive, he would have noticed the shower door had the faint tracing of “COWS!” left unfogged on the glass. He did not notice.
4 hours and 22 minutes prior
John wakes up and finds no notes. He checks the entire flat and turns up nothing. After three days of not finding any notes, John is starting to feel paranoid. While brushing his teeth, John happens to glace up and finds that “COWS!” has been written across his face in marker.
4 hours and 21 minutes prior
While scrubbing marker from his face, John notices that the word was written backward so it could be clearly read in a mirror. He mentally gives Sherlock an extra point for his attention to detail.
3 hours and 57 minutes prior
Sherlock is sprawled across the coffee table when John comes in and tells him it is finally the day of the cow trip. Both men are aware the actual chosen date is still a month off, but neither point that out. Sherlock rolls off the table and makes it to his room in a single fluid motion that could likely only be duplicated by an Olympian athlete.
3 hours and 56 minutes prior
John’s phone goes off in his room, but by the time he gets to it, the phone has just pinged to notify of a new voicemail.
3 hours and 55 minutes prior
John is so embarrassed he is rendered temporarily unable to leave his room. The voicemail from Mycroft congratulated John on his and Sherlock’s first trip together and informed him a car with a large back seat and no driver would be parked outside in 20 minutes time. He deletes the message immediately and calms himself with thoughts of keying the car. He takes a moment to wonder what makes everyone assume he and Sherlock are dating and how he can put an end to it.
3 hours and 52 minutes prior
Sherlock is waiting by the door.
3 hours and 50 minutes prior
Sherlock is still waiting by the door. John is in the kitchen making tea.
3 hours and 48 minutes prior
Sherlock is lying across the floor dramatically. John is casually adding milk to his tea.
3 hours and 47 minutes prior
Sherlock is sighing dramatically and, if possible, taking up even more room on the floor. John is sipping his tea.
3 hours and 32 minutes prior
The floor is Sherlock-free. The coffee table is Sherlock-free. The sofa is Sherlock-free. There are the occasional thump or muffled crash coming from Sherlock’s bedroom. John had patiently ignored the Sherlock-sized tantrum Sherlock seemed to think will hurry things along. After he finished his tea, John had informed Sherlock that they were leaving at noon and not a minute earlier. Sherlock was not pleased.
1 hour and 7 minutes prior
John heads up to his room to pack. It is going to be a day trip, but when you are with Sherlock it is always best to be prepared. He grabs a change of clothes and a toothbrush.
1 hour and 6 minutes prior
As an afterthought, he grabs a towel, too.
49 minutes prior
Sherlock is standing by the door holding a large duffel bag and looking rather lumpy. John is frowning.
36 minutes prior
John has just finished going through Sherlock’s bag. John vetoes the scalpel and hack saw, but after a moment’s thought, allows the syringes and heavy rope. John stands and moves to give Sherlock a pat-down. Sherlock jumps back and dashes off to his room a bit unbalanced by whatever he is hiding. At this point, John does not even want to know, but he could not help noticing one of the shapes looks like a large mallet and another one looks like his gun. No idea what the round puffy bit on the left side is, but John would be willing to wager it isn’t a pillow.
34 minutes prior
Sherlock emerges from his room moments later looking significantly less lumpy. John moves to frisk him and again Sherlock dashes back into his room. Apparently he had not expected John to actually give him a pat down.
33 minutes prior
It takes Sherlock only a moment to remove whatever he was hiding, and this time he willingly submits to a thorough search.
30 minutes prior
After John decides Sherlock is contraband-free, they head down to the street. Sherlock’s annoyance at being searched is softened by the knowledge that they are leaving a whole 30 minutes before John said they would.
29 minutes prior
Sherlock freezes when he sees the long black car. He has his chin down and is pouting slightly as he looks at it, mad at Mycroft’s intrusion into their trip. John give an impressed whistle and receives a Sherlock glare in return.
9 minutes prior
John has finally talked Sherlock into the car; Sherlock finally deciding that he had not skipped playing Russian roulette just to not go on this trip.
6 minutes prior
John is happy about not having to rent a car until he opens the back seat to throw his and Sherlock’s bag in. The back seat contains some painfully embarrassing items, inluding but not limited to three bottles of wine, a box of condoms, and a large quantity of rose petals. John decides that he will not be thanking Mycroft for the use of his car after all. And perhaps make sure the car returns with a lot of scratches and dents.
1 minutes prior
The keys take a few minutes to find. Mostly because John refuses to ask Sherlock until he’s looked properly. Once asked, Sherlock gets the keys out of the glove box straight away and the trip can begin. To Sherlock’s disappointment, it is exactly noon.
Chapter 2: The Trip Begins
They are finally on the road and get their first close encounter of the bovine kind.
Sherlock is thinking about cows and how odd they are. John is wondering if he should have done any sort of planning for the trip beyond “get in car, drive until there are cows, look at them” but decides it is too late now.
Their thoughts have strayed to each other. Both men stare out of the windshield, their minds simultaneously a million miles away and an arm’s length. John finds Sherlock’s occasional child-like innocence endearing and he marvels at the wave of protectiveness he feels. Sherlock’s thoughts on John more closely resemble a nebulous cloud of feelings with the occasional word thrown in. Some of the words that solidify toward the surface of the thought-cloud are like, hug, smell, rumpled, and cocoon.
It is currently 20 degrees Celsius outside and there is a light breeze. All of the windows are down and Sherlock’s bare feet are resting on the dashboard, toes pressed to the windshield. John leaves his jumper on and Sherlock is still in his suit jacket, so the wind feels nice.
It seems odd to John to not have his attention split between Sherlock and Greg. Relaxing, almost. John allows Sherlock to choose the music, which pleases Sherlock and makes John feel like a really great guy. He would not be feeling quite so generous if he had not recently discovered all the music on his MP3 player had been switched back to normal. John has yet to discover the addition of fourteen covers of Across the Universe that appeared on his MP3 player but Sherlock can be patient when he knows it will pay off.
As soon as they are far enough out of the city, Sherlock suggests they play the Roadkill Game as an excuse to hear John recite the Latin names of all the animals they pass, since Lestrade had made John stop on the last trip.
Sherlock neither corrects John’s pronunciation, nor tries to name any before John. The Roadkill Game is no longer about winning, it is instead a game of letting John show off his intelligence. Sherlock wonders what he could learn that would be the equivalent. He could recite all the bones in the body, but it seems unfair not to learn something he does not already know in return.
After a few moments, Sherlock remembers something from their first week as flatmates. It will seem heavy-handed to just start reciting planets, so instead he pulls up a star map on his phone and starts memorizing.
Sherlock sees cows and smiles.
John has been heading roughly southwest and has been passing the occasional cow pasture for some time now. He finally decides to pull over when he spots a few cows close to the fence in one field.
Sherlock jumps the fence easily. John decides to climb under it instead, avoiding the barbs, most of which are covered in tufts of hair, seemingly from cows getting too close.
A big black cow is currently investigating Sherlock with mild interest. Sherlock is currently investigating the cow with significantly more interest. Some of the other cows in the general area are lumbering over.
The other cows are starting to crowd in quite close. Moos in the distance can be heard and more cows are making their way over at more of a trot.
The thing about cows, John discovers, is that they are much more intimidating close up. They also don’t seem to have much concept of personal space or of their own strength. John is feeling quite short next to the cow currently inches from him. This does happen to be the tallest cow of the herd that is currently mulling about, but most of the others are only a few inches shorter. John has an excellent view of the cow's gaping maw at his height. This one is brown and has an excessive amount of drool dripping from its quite large mouth and other liquid dripping from the flared nostrils. Overall, John was expecting more of a calmly grazing gentle creature and less of a giant slimy man-eating monster.
The large brown cow yells in John’s face, extremely loud and breath rank. The sound, to John, was a lot more like a dinosaur from a film than what you typically think of when you think of a cow moo. He immediately backs up into another cow. Sherlock is still poking and prodding at the face and neck of the black cow.
The cows see people. People bring food. It is feeding time to the cows and none of them want to miss out. It is time for the cows to fight their way in toward the food.
John has just become aware of their current situation.
John pulls on Sherlock’s sleeve a few times to get his attention and it’s only then that Sherlock looks up and realizes they are completely surrounded by large wild animals. They cannot get out of the crush of bodies because the herd is constantly shifting and continuously blocks them.
The cows at the front are being pushed into John and Sherlock by the cows at the back, who think they are missing out on food. One cow in the front turns and knocks John in the process. His cheek hits into the big brown cow’s face and he comes away with a grotesque amount of thick drool on himself.
With all the activity, the flies are buzzing around like crazy and the sound is adding to the feeling that Sherlock and John have landed in a horror film.
The cows closest in the circle have started to realize there is no food, so they are all turning around and not being very careful about it, while the cows farther out are still eagerly pushing forward. It is a mad jumble. Sherlock gets hit with a hoof on the ankle, but resists the urge to lean down, he does not want to get kicked again.
Sherlock and John are hanging onto each other as cows bump into them none too gently from all different angles and Sherlock is frantically trying to think of a way out faster than waiting for the cows to lose interest. He is currently painfully aware of the distinct possibility that they might end up accidentally trampled.
His plans are cut off when a loud gunshot sounds from a ways off. The cows immediately start to scatter, and Sherlock is knocked down, already unbalanced due to his ankle being hurt. John crowds over him to protect Sherlock from the hooves.
The big brown cow yells in John’s face again and its hoof shifts dangerously close to Sherlock, still on the ground clutching his ankle. John reacts. Before he realizes what he is doing, he has punched the cow in the nose. It backs up and turns around and there is another gunshot, this time closer. John yanks Sherlock up, slips under his arm to help support his weight, and they are off. Neither are sure if whoever is firing the gun is friend or foe, but neither really wants to find out.
John practically pulls Sherlock over the fence and shoves him in the back of the car. John is speeding off before he’s even got the door fully closed. Sherlock is trying to think of a less ridiculous wording for “thank you for punching a cow for me.”
Chapter 3: A Second Encounter
After collecting themselves, Sherlock and John try again.
The end is nigh. The next chapter is actually the final chapter, but I am adding in an extra "chapter" of odds and ends that never really made it into the story but that I still think are good or worth mentioning.
After putting some distance between themselves and the cow pasture, John pulls over again and they take inventory. John examines Sherlock’s ankle. It is not actually sprained, but it is swollen and very bruised and John predicts that it will probably take weeks to look normal again. They are otherwise unharmed, though both are a bit slobbery, John more so, and John has a bit of cow pat on his shoe.
John is busy cleaning off his shoe with a stick. Sherlock is scraping off some of the foamy drool into little bags to test later. He laments not even getting a blood sample. He tosses a small bag to John for a sample from his shoe.
Sherlock takes a step on his hurt ankle and issues a series of curses and threats toward the bovine responsible. John asks for clarification on how it is possible to find the “melting point of a cow” instead of just cooking it or lighting it on fire. Sherlock tells him a story he heard as a child about a steam-based submarine accident. His eyes light up with interest while relating the story which makes John reassess how he imagined Sherlock as a child.
The debate ends with Sherlock pointing out that it was John that asked for clarification and John pointing out that everyone has regrets in life.
They formulate a new plan which involves going into the nearest town and buying a bag of feed.
It turns out to be a more expensive venture than anticipated. A local shopkeeper is delighted when two young city boys wander into her shop in search of cow feed. It is quite obvious that they have no concept of what feed costs. The tall one hands over a card without even questioning the total.
After the city boys leave, Mattie, the shopkeeper, wonders what they are doing with feed and what kind of a name is Mycroft anyway?
Since it is not too far from their current location, John heads toward New Forest National Park. He suspects Sherlock will be just as thrilled to examine the wild ponies and pigs as he is with the cows. He parks on a hill near the road so the car will be easier to find.
They see a wild pony, but it runs off.
Sherlock sees some wild donkeys, but they run off.
John thinks he sees a deer far off in the brush, but it runs off. It was actually another donkey.
After wandering around for over forty minutes, Sherlock and John have managed to spot many wild animals, but none that did not run off at their approach. John is starting to think about giving up. Sherlock is thinking about the rope in his bag in the car.
They find a small herd of cattle grazing in a grassy patch. Sherlock makes John go get the feed from the car, giving himself the task of making sure the herd does not get away.
John makes it back, lugging the heavy bag of feed behind him. Sherlock tears open the top and upends it with little trouble.
A cow, even a wild cow, instinctively recognizes the sound of an easy meal as it is poured onto the ground. Soon there is a group of five heifers and one calf surrounding a mountain of various grains. They are focused on devouring the unexpected manna and barely even register various pokes and prods. Sherlock very happily collects his blood samples.
Sherlock orders John to go get the rope.
Without the heavy bag to carry, John is not gone long. Sherlock is examining the cow’s back leg. The cow must have run out of patience, because suddenly the leg is pulled up to level a kick. John sees it as if in slow motion, but he is still too far away and does not even have time to yell out a warning. Sherlock is already acutely aware of what is happening.
Sherlock does not get a hoof to the head thanks to his quick reaction time, but he hits the ground hard when he rolls to avoid the kick. John has dropped the rope and is sprinting over to where Sherlock lies on the ground.
Sherlock assures John he is fine, but wishes he could say the same for his clothes. John looks confused until Sherlock struggles to his feet looking a bit unhappy. He had landed on, and rolled in, a cow pat when he dodged the hoof. Sherlock’s suit, nice if not impractical, is covered in very fresh fertilizer.
John looks like he is in extreme pain.
To get it over with, and because John looks about to explode, Sherlock gives John permission to laugh. Only after getting Sherlock’s consent does John let out the high giggle-laugh Sherlock thinks is completely charming. It cheers Sherlock up quite a bit. He finds a stick and starts scraping off as much muck as he can manage.
John is still laughing. Sherlock wishes he had a clean hand so he could record the sound with his mobile to use as a ringtone.
John is still laughing. Since he’s covered in it, Sherlock scoops a sample into a bag to test later. This has John rolling in the grass with renewed laughter. The clean grass, of course.
The cows have finished all the food and are wandering off. Sherlock feels he is done with observation and would rather move on to dissection if he ever gets the opportunity. He decides not to mention this to John. He also decides to buy a leather jacket or two when he gets home, just on principle.
They have walked over to the car and Sherlock has just begun removing his filthy clothes. As each garment is removed, he tosses it into the brush. John tells him off for throwing out perfectly salvageable clothing.
Sherlock orders John to pass him John’s spare clothes. John moves to obey before he realizes, then freezes, hand in his bag.
John is now undressing and tossing his drool-coated clothing toward Sherlock. When he complains, John points out that drooled on clothing is still an upgrade for him at this point. John notices a bruise forming where Sherlock landed to avoid the kick.
There have been no other cars on this road for the past 45 minutes, yet the moment both John and Sherlock are wearing nothing but pants, a car full of teenagers drives by. Let it be known that fate does exist, and she has a sense of humor and some wicked timing.
The teenagers scream and cat-call and and one of the boys tries to throw a full drink at them. It misses and hits Mycroft’s car, spraying them with coke.
John grabs his towel and dries off, then hands it to Sherlock to do the same. John is glad he thought to bring one.
They dress quickly, as it is a bit chilly to be nearly naked and slightly wet. Sherlock pulls a face while sliding on John’s jumper. The drool is no longer wet. This is due to it having become encrusted with dirt.
Sherlock looks ridiculous. John’s clothing emphasizes just how odd Sherlock’s proportions are. John’s clothes are too wide and far too short, except for the shoulders, which are too narrow. John had never noticed Sherlock’s broad shoulders before, and it is at this moment that he realizes just why men get suits custom tailored. Sherlock is standing with his head held high, but only by sheer force of will. Realizing that he is seeing his friend uncharacteristically self conscious, John keeps his mouth shut and does not laugh.
They are in the car with the heating turned up to the highest setting to counteract the chill of having been nearly naked outside. The sky is a purplish blue, which reminds John to check on Sherlock’s ankle and shoulder. Both are extremely tender and are both turning very interesting shades: the shoulder purple, and the ankle a sort of greenish yellow.
Some ponies wander past. They glance at the car, unimpressed, and keep moving.
A hare runs past. It does not notice the car.
A hawk dives past. It only notices the hare.
All things come to an end, as their tank of petrol has just demonstrated. It never occurred to John to check the fuel gauge, not having driven in quite some time. It never occurred to Sherlock to check the fuel gauge because petrol is something that other people deal with.
Sherlock’s phone is out of battery and John’s phone does not have a media plan, thus they have no GPS. With a search of the glove box they are able to locate a map. Well, John is able to locate a map. Sherlock is satisfied to sit back and watch the proceedings with detached interest.
Fate, you will remember, has quite a sense of humor. This is, of course, why John finds that the closest area likely to have a petrol station is roughly an hour’s walk from their current location.
After some debate, they decide to spend the night in their current location so that they don’t wander off, lose their way in the dark, and get eaten by various wildlife. Sherlock sulks at the implication.
A careful search of the car turned up a packet of crisps in the boot and some chocolates in the mini fridge, as well as the wine. John makes sure to throw the box of condoms out of the back window as far as he can. They will be found in three days time by a stray dog who will eat two of them and chew the rest up because it enjoys the rubbery texture.
Both Sherlock and John are in the large back seat laughing and eating their rations: a half of a packet of crisps, 8 chocolates, and a bottle and a half of wine each. John finds it oddly interesting that Sherlock does not hesitate to drink; John’s never seen Sherlock drink alcohol before. It is dark enough in the car that he is barely able to see it this time. Sherlock is using one of the wine glasses from on top of the mini fridge. Unlike Sherlock, John is swigging directly from the bottle.
Sherlock finishes his first glass and takes the next sip directly from the bottle.
Sherlock eats the last of his chocolates and then lets his half-empty bottle drop to the floor of the car, burgundy wine pouring out onto the floor of the car and leaving a dark stain on the carpet. In response to John’s indignant look, Sherlock points out that John was already planning on trashing Mycroft’s car anyways.
John has gotten a bit more than halfway through his bottle before letting it drop to the floor of the car.
Sherlock suggests a bit of star gazing.
Chapter 4: The End of a Journey
The trip has come to an end.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They walk through some brush to a field Sherlock noticed earlier while looking for animals and end up lying on their backs in the middle of the field looking up at the night sky. It is a fairly clear night with very little cloud cover and it is dark enough to see a decent number of stars.
Sherlock points above him at the sky and starts naming constellations and tracing their shape. John provides commentary.
John wants to know how that is a bear. He personally feels there is nothing Ursine about those five stars.
Sherlock points out the serpent, Draco. John makes him retrace it five times before declaring it to be made up of leftover stars that just did not fit into any other constellations.
Sherlock points out Mercury close to the horizon. John has him point it out again, then shifts closer to try to see from the same eye line as Sherlock. He does not say it out loud, but John thinks Mercury looks like just a plain star. He does not say it out loud, but Sherlock thinks John smells more like grass than the grass does.
John is impressed by Sherlock’s sudden knowledge of the night sky, and tells him so. Sherlock mentions that it was worth his phone running out of battery just to hear this, and John is floored by the discovery that Sherlock learned all of the constellations in a few hours just for him.
Sherlock, in a moment of humility, points out that John learned the genus and species of local animals just for him, so it was only fair. John dismisses this by saying he just did it so that Sherlock could not cheat again. This is only partially true.
Sherlock suggests they play Name The Constellations. John calls him an idiot and asks him to point out Saturn again.
They continue looking up at the stars, lying side by side, shoulders touching and heads right next to each other. Sherlock cannot stop thinking that if he turns his head toward John and John turns his head toward Sherlock, they would be almost kissing. Sherlock thinks he would very much like kissing. And hugging. If it were with John, that is.
He even thinks he would enjoy giving John pleasure even though he has no real interest or inclination toward sex himself. I would do it for John, he thinks. I would do anything John wanted me to. John breaks his thoughts with a comment about how beautiful the stars are.
And this is when it happens.
Sherlock turns his head toward John. John turns his head toward Sherlock, and, with a smile on his face, remarks that he’ll have to take a date out here sometime. John turns his eyes back to the stars, nose still an inch from Sherlock’s, and points out how it is almost romantic, even just with Sherlock.
It becomes extremely hard for Sherlock to breathe. He feels the entire world he has constructed in his head shatter into a million sharp fragments. Outwardly, he is trying to keep his face neutral even though it is so dark they can barely see each other. When John jokes that he’d rather skip the cow attack and rather Sherlock not tag along for that one, something in Sherlock snaps. He finds himself laughing hysterically. Had Sherlock not laughed at this, he would have cried, and Sherlock Holmes prides himself on not crying. John joins in the laughter with his giggle, which makes Sherlock laugh harder. He is laughing at the horrible irony of it all, at the cruelty of fate, and at how pathetic he has let himself become. Here he is, pining after a straight man, creating his own fictional fantasy that he would be an exception, that John might be inexplicably attracted to Sherlock, as if Sherlock could just sneak in under the radar, so to speak. He forces himself to stop laughing before it has gone on questionably long, because if John asks him what’s wrong with him, Sherlock will probably break.
They lie quietly next to each other, once again a million miles apart. Sherlock turns his face away.
Sherlock sniffles quietly, trying to hold back the tears that are threatening to escape and John asks if Sherlock has allergies. Sherlock replies that he is fine in a raspy whisper, trying to keep all emotion out of his voice.
John has fallen asleep, his breath low and even in the quiet night. Sherlock crawls a distance away, misery overwhelming him, and he finally allows himself to cry for the first time since he was eight. He cries for John and he cries for himself and he cries at how lost and hopeless and alone he feels. He does not know how he can possibly hurt so much or how he can possibly ever stop hurting so much ever again.
The tears have ended and the self disgust has begun. The one person in the world he has ever wanted, cared about, loved, has no idea and would have no interest even if he did know.
Sherlock finally admits to himself that he has been projecting his feelings onto John. When people assume John and Sherlock are dating, John is always quick to correct them. And John always adamantly denies it to Lestrade. It is clear that Sherlock has been a blind fool. He hates himself for being willingly obtuse and he hates John for not loving him and he hates that he still loves John. He hates that John does not does not even realize Sherlock loves him. Sherlock’s feelings must be so obvious if everyone they meet picks up on it, and yet John is completely oblivious to how Sherlock feels about him.
Sherlock hates the world because he did not realize he wanted to love someone and be loved in return until the world had given him John Watson, who will never want him. Now he understands the phrase “ignorance is bliss.” He is not sure how to get over this; knowing the one person meant for him will never feel the same.
Sherlock has calmed down. He crawls back over closer to where John sleeps, being careful to be quiet even though John can sleep through nearly deafening noise. He tries to position himself so that it does not look like Sherlock moved at all, but so that he and John are not touching at all.
There have not been any more tears in hours, but to Sherlock it still feels like he is crying even as he drifts off into a light sleep. For the first time in years, every little noise wakes him. The night seems cold and unending.
In the morning, John takes one look at Sherlock’s red eyes and frets about how he must be allergic to something in the field and he apologizes profusely for not being more considerate last night when he heard Sherlock start to sniffle. When John mentions his guilt at “lying there all happy and you next to me suffering,” Sherlock lets out a genuine huff of laughter. He hopes John will never know how spot on that statement was.
Sherlock feels embarrassed because John keeps looking over at him with concern. This would be a horrible time for John to finally realize Sherlock's feelings, so Sherlock works to keep a carefully neutral face. He wishes John would stop looking at him and being so nice. If John were not so nice or so caring, then Sherlock could hate him, which would be much easier than loving him.
They set off in search of a gas station.
Sherlock is too busy thinking to notice John is also lost in thought. John has no idea what has gotten into him, perhaps the thrill of an adventure, but he is feeling quite sentimental toward Sherlock. John tries to make his voice sound more casual than he feels as he speaks.
The phrase, “I love you, Sherlock,” freezes Sherlock in his tracks. When John continues, telling Sherlock he is John’s best friend even if Sherlock does not consider John his best friend in return, Sherlock lets out a breath he did not realize he was holding.
John labours on awkwardly, determined to finish, by reiterating that John loves Sherlock even though he’s a total prat sometimes and even though friends don’t usually say it out loud. He shifts nervously because Sherlock has been staring blankly at him. Then Sherlock laughs. This is not a laugh to cover pain, this laugh feels like it is cleaning some of Sherlock’s emotional wounds. Only time will heal them, and Sherlock is sure they will never completely go away, but realizing that John cares, in his own way, helps. Something in Sherlock’s chest loosens.
Sherlock grabs him into a tight hug, even daring to press a kiss to John’s forehead. John joins in, laughing, and hugging back tightly. Sherlock tells John he feels the same, but is careful to avoid saying the phrase “I love you” for fear that John might hear his true feelings behind it, but Sherlock decides that he will say it as soon as he is capable of controlling his emotions. Not today, but hopefully soon.
The hug continues for almost a minute, then John pulls away, only a little embarrassed. John admits he hasn’t had a friend he could just hug like that since early childhood and that he hopes Sherlock did not mind too much. John thinks that Sherlock probably does not hug anyone because he does not have anyone to hug.
They continue walking. John tells Sherlock that he thinks a lot of people mistreat Sherlock, only calling him up when he is needed and insulting him even though he does nothing but help, and that that makes John want to protect him. Sherlock finds this charming and thoughtful and earth-shatteringly touching. It helps more than Sherlock would have suspected.
Sherlock realizes that he was devaluing their friendship by thinking it could only be meaningful if they were romantically involved. He was doing exactly what so many people have done to him in the past, and it makes him cringe to think what would have happened if he had not realized this. Friendship was just as important as a romantic relationship. If John is willing to hug and is okay with openly admitting they love each other, then perhaps it is even better than a romantic relationship. Sherlock still thinks he would have liked knowing he gave John pleasure, but he can’t help but feel slightly relieved he will not have to endure having a sex life. He could probably put up with it a few times, but thinking about having sex regularly for a large portion of the rest of his life just seems tedious. But now all that is out of the equation and there is no need to keep fretting about it. It isn’t just friends, it’s friends.
They have spotted a petrol station.
The station has not opened yet.
The laid-back attendant has finally shown up to find two men sitting on his stoop. The men are shoeless and appear to be in the middle of a leg war. A truce is called, shoes are put on, and they mull about the door until the man lets them in. The attendant, Charles, considers not allowing the tall filthy one in, but money is money.
John has filled up a fuel can and Sherlock has gathered junk food John likes, knowing John will probably be hungry, and Charles has located the magazine he’d been reading the previous evening. They meet at the counter and Sherlock pays with Mycroft’s card.
John and Sherlock head back to the car, taking turns trying to throw popcorn into each other’s mouths.
Sherlock’s kernels keep hitting John’s upper lip and nose; he blames it on John’s height. John’s aim had been perfect every time until the short joke, now John’s kernels start to hit Sherlock in the eyes and the forehead. They laugh some more as Sherlock wipes the powder from the popcorn off his face. He carries the heavy petrol can the whole way back.
Sherlock realizes he had not thought anything sad the entire walk back. As soon as he notices, the feeling of loss returns, though it is nowhere near as strong as last night. He wonders how long he will have to deal with waves of emotion and thinks perhaps fate was saving him from an emotional burden that would ultimately compromise his work. Perhaps, perhaps not.
They set off for London. Sherlock suggests John choose the music for this drive, he is not sure he wants to listen to moody music right now.
Sherlock sees cows.
They both feel much calmer being back in the city.
They arrive at Baker Street. John parks and leaves the keys in the car. By the time they are upstairs, the car is gone.
Sherlock pauses in the doorway to his room. He wants to hug John again but he is not sure if that would be weird. He needs to collect his thoughts and let his mind organize everything that has happened before he can handle testing John’s hug threshold.
John thinks about how significant this trip felt as he watches Sherlock’s door close.
The next day
Two more covers of Across the Universe end up on John’s MP3 player.
Next chapter is bonus material and some extended author's notes.
Chapter 5: Bonus material
This is just extended author's notes and little bits that didn't ever make it into the fic but that I thought were worth sharing.
So this is not really a chapter, more like extended author’s notes and bonus material I was not able to work into The Cow Trip itself. So, please excuse any typos in here.
First of all, I would like to apologize for the Trojan Horse of angst. Ever since I started writing the very first roadtrip fic just as a small kinkmeme fill, I had John and Sherlock’s relationship dynamic planned out. I had decided that for this fic John was Kinsey scale zero (aka as straight as you can get) and completely oblivious to Sherlock’s feelings for him, and Sherlock was homoromantic asexual (aka interested in a romantic relationship with another man but uninterested in sex acts) and pining for John. l decide relationships even if it never comes up because it still influences how characters interact. After I had John promise to take Sherlock on the cow trip, I knew the scene would happen and it was the first part of The Cow Trip that I wrote.
You can pretend it ended differently, I don’t mind. You could even write your own alternative ending, I give full permission to write works based off this (my beta has told me multiple times she’s going to write an alternative ending where they have lots of sex and live happily ever after).
This trip was less about the driving and more about the emotional adventure. There is more to life than romantic relationships. Friends are important and should never be discounted or overlooked. There are many forms of love and many ways to care about someone. Sherlock’s life is not over because he cannot be with John romantically, and he still has John as a companion. It sucks that he loves someone who he’ll never be with, but sometimes life just sucks for a while. It gets better with time, Sherlock will be okay. And it’s not like John does not love him.
As for the close ups with cows, I drew inspiration from meeting and feeding some wild cows. I found them to be taller, faster, and much more intense than I’d originally thought them to be. I did not get trampled because luckily I was safely seated in the back of a truck (which put me at eye level with the taller cows jaws) and I did not punch any of them, either, but I did get rather slimy.
Originally, I stated writing The Cow Trip as a narrative with dialogue before I decided to keep it the same as all the other stores in the series. I was very sad that some of the dialogue just would not translate to the new format. So I will share some of my favorite bits here. I hope you enjoy.
Bonus dialogue bits:
“My ankle better heal or else I am going to track down that cow and find its exact melting point,” Sherlock mutters, rubbing his bruise gingerly.
John cannot help but ask for clarification. “The melting point? Of a cow?”
“Yes. Everything has a melting point.”
“...Wait, wouldn’t it just cook?”
“Not if I start out with a high enough temperature.”
“Or burst into flame?”
“When I was a kid we went and toured a World War two submarine and they told this story about how there had been an accident and unbelievably hot steam had hit some of the crew and their skin melted. I’ve always wanted to try that.”
“Sherlock... I am not too fond of that cow myself, but if you ever mention that again I am going to have to report you and and they’ll put you in a padded room.”
“You asked,” Sherlock points out.
“We all have regrets in life,” John laments.
“We need to find a hose or something, you can’t get in the car like that.”
“It did not seep through my clothing, John. Let me have your change of clothes.”
John moved to blindly obey again, but then froze, clean clothes in hand.
“No. I am going to wear my clean clothes and you can wear the clothes I’m wearing now.”
“But those have cow drool all over them.”
“Which would still be an upgrade for you at this point,” John pointed out. “It is your own fault for not bringing a change of clothes.”
They end up lying on their backs in the middle of the field looking up at the stars. Sherlock points above him and starts naming each constellation as his finger traces its shape. John supplies the commentary this time.
“How is that a bear? There is nothing Ursine about those five stars. What bear has a tail?”
Then Sherlock points out Draco. John makes him point it out multiple times before commenting.
“Now that is just cheating. They probably had a bunch of stars left over and just said ‘yeah, it’s a serpent’ which, frankly, is a bit lazy if you ask me.”
“You can just see Mercury if you look closer to the horizon.”
“Where?” John shifts over right up next to Sherlock to try to get the same angle.
“Hmm, just looks like another star. But I am impressed at your sudden knowledge of the night sky.”
“You’d better be, I wasted my phone battery for this.”
John sounds surprised and more than a little pleased as he clarifies, “You learned constellations on the way up here so you could point them out tonight?”
“You learned the genus and species of local animals just so you could point them out.”
“No, I did that so you could not cheat the game,” John chided, though it was more teasing than annoyed.
“We could play Name The Constellation,” Sherlock suggested.
“I think you’ve already won that one. Show me where Saturn is.”
Warning: angsty bits
They continue to look up at the stars lying side by side, shoulders touching, heads next to each other. Sherlock cannot stop thinking that if he turns his head toward John and John turns his head toward Sherlock, they would be almost kissing. Sherlock thinks he would very much like kissing. And hugging. He even thinks he would enjoy giving John pleasure even though he has no real interest or inclination toward sex himself. I would do it for John, he thinks. I would do anything John wanted me to.
“They really are beautiful.” John marvels.
“Yes,” Sherlock replies.
And this is when it happens. Sherlock turns his head toward John. John turns his head toward Sherlock, and, with a smile on his face, says, “I’ll have to bring a date out here.” John turns his eyes back to the stars, face still inches from Sherlock’s. “It’s almost romantic, even just with you here, so imagine it with someone you are interested in.”
In the morning, John takes one look at Sherlock and cringes.
“Christ, Sherlock, look at how red and puffy your eyes are! I am so sorry, I had no idea you had allergies. Oh, I feel like shite now. Me lying there all happy and you next to me suffering! You should have said something.”
Sherlock can’t stop a genuine huff of laughter. If only John knew just how spot on he was, Sherlock thought.
End of angsty bits
They set off in search of a gas station. Sherlock is too busy thinking to notice John is also lost in thought. John has no idea what has gotten into him, perhaps the thrill of an adventure, but he tries to make his voice sound more casual than he feels as he speaks.
"I know this is going to sound really awkward, but I ... I love you, Sherlock.”
“You are my best friend and I know you probably do not care, but, er, in case I die at some point, on a case or something, just know I consider you my best friend, even if you don't feel the same. I just thought you should know. And I know it sounds weird, but I really do love you, even though you’re a prat sometimes." John finished, sounding more than a little awkward, but determined to finish.
Sherlock lets out the breath he had not realized he was holding and laughs. This is not a laugh to cover pain, this laugh feels like medicine, like it is stitching up some of Sherlock’s emotional wounds. Sherlock grabs him into a tight hug, even daring to press a kiss to John’s forehead. John joins in, laughing, and hugs back.
“I, yes, what you said,” was all Sherlock manages. He is afraid that if he says ‘I love you’ that John will hear his true feelings behind it, but Sherlock decides that he will say it as soon as he is capable of controlling his emotions. Not today, but hopefully soon. The hug continues for almost a minute, then John pulls away, only a little embarrassed.
“Not bad.” John finished for him. “Honestly, I have not had a friend I could hug like that since childhood. Thanks. Sorry if that is not really your thing, I just figured maybe you don’t hug anyone because you don’t have anyone to hug.”
John is quiet for a moment, but starts walking again.
“I think a lot of people mistreat you; they are rude to you, even though you do nothing but help out the world. You catch criminals and save lives, even if that part is just a side effect to you, and Anderson and Donovan sneer at you and call you names. You don’t have any friends that just phone you or come hang out. It pisses me off and it also makes me want to protect you, as silly as that sounds.”
That should not have helped at all. It was charming and thoughtful and earth-shatteringly touching.
But it did help.
The day John found no Cows! notes, Sherlock had renamed all of the files in John’s computer to include “COWS” but John did not notice because he never really notices file names.
The items concealed under Sherlock’s clothing before the trip began include (but are not limited to): A wooden mallet, some wooden tent stakes, John’s handgun, a tarp, several Exacto-knives, fishing twine, several vials containing mild poisons that only cause severe discomfort in humans, some small weights, and a bit of thread used for stitches. He did not expect to complete all of his experiments, but was hoping to at least get one in if he could distract John long enough.
The second smuggle attempt only contained two of the poison vials and a syringe.
The shotgun they heard in the first field was fired with the intent of scaring them off. They would not have received a very pleasant greeting had they stuck around.
And last but not least, before I added in some more lighthearted moments at the end, the original last line of the fic was “Sherlock sees cows” but I decided that was a bit grim after his healing moments.
Thanks for reading, commenting, kudos-ing, and putting up with the long hiatus. I have some more fics in the works and I promise most of them will have happy slashy silliness. If you’d like to ask me any questions, feel free to do so either in the comments here or in my ask box on my super secret tumblr stupid-drawings.tumblr.com (I have one I use more, but there are some IRL people watching it and though they know I write fanfic, I’d rather not hand them a link to it.)