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Common Grounds

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Teen AU! It will be mostly John for the first couple chapters but have no fear! Sherlock won't be far off.


"John," His mother called softly. "It's time to get up."

John Watson curled more tightly into the wall next to his bed and tried to stifle his mother's voice. Normally, he loved hearing the happy cadence and love-infused voice flowing over him, but today he wanted none of it. He just wanted to fall back into himself and go numb.

"Come on, John." She said lightly. "It's been two weeks. You have to get back to school."

"But, Mum…" He grumbled still facing the wall.

"No buts, honey." She said, pulling the duvet off him and onto the floor. "You're the man of the house now. You have to be strong for your sister."

John pressed tighter against the wall and felt the subtle warmth of anger settle in his gut. He'd been feeling that more and more these days. He couldn't shake free from the emotions cloying at his mind. But, for his Mum, he would push it down, pack it away, and do as she asked. It wasn't her fault after all.

He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling as his mother leaned over him to place a soft kiss onto his temple. "That's my good man."

She exited the room quickly and John heaved himself off the bed to get ready for school. He wanted desperately to take a shower but time wouldn't allow for it, so he went to his bureau and picked out a pair of faded jeans that were too short even for his small stature and heavy jumper. Donning them quickly after taking care of his morning ablutions, he made his way slowly down the rickety staircase to the kitchen where his older sister, Harry, was just finishing up her breakfast.

"I don't want you even talking to me today." Harry said meanly.

"Harriet!" His Mum admonished to the back of his sister's head as she stalked out of the house and began walking the few short blocks leaving John behind. "I'm sorry, honey. You know how she is, though. She's just such a passionate person and this whole thing…well, she's sensitive."

"It's fine, Mum." John lied easily. "I better get going."

"Here," She said, handing him an apple. "Would you like me to drive you to school?"

"No." He said heavily. "I'll be fine."

"It'll be fine." She said holding the door open for him. "I bet everyone is looking forward to seeing you. All of your friends."

John smiled in response but felt something twist painfully around his heart. He left the house and made it to school just as the first bell rang. He maneuvered around the hordes of students surrounding him and kept his head down to avoid the stares from his classmates. He entered the school office quietly and collapsed onto a chair to wait to be called into the counselor's office.

"Hello, John." She said with a smile. "My name is Ella. Would you follow me, please?"

John heaved himself up slowly from the chair and trailed after her through a beehive of offices before being motioned into a brightly decorated office with prayer flags and robins covering every available space. He perched on the edge of a lumpy couch as Ella settled down in a chair across from him.

"Welcome back, John." Ella began.

John's only response was a tight-lipped smile and to let his eyes focus on anything other than that piteous look on the counselor's face.

"Tell me how you're feeling." She said after receiving no verbal prompt from the boy in front of her.

"I'm fine." He said quietly.

"John," She said. "I'm here to help you. It's not an easy transition and we want to help as much as we can, but if you won't be honest, we can't be effective."

"Just tell me what I'm supposed to say so I can get out of here." He said, his anger fraying his self-control for a second before subsiding. "Sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that. Sorry."

"John," She said. "It's okay to be angry. You and I have another fifty minutes in our session. Let's talk about it."

"I really would rather not." He said feeling a lump form in his throat.

"Tell me about your physical therapy." She said, switching topics. "Your limp doesn't seem so bad."

"Right." He says firmly before staggering to his feet and using his cane to limp quickly out the door. He hobbled back through the office and out the doors of the school. He began walking in the opposite direction of his house. He knew that the school would call his Mum and tell her that he was delinquent and he knew that she would worry, but he just needed air. He just needed more time. Just needed to be alone. He walked as far as he could until his leg began buckling beneath him.

He stumbled to the park across the road and collapsed onto a bench. He settled his wounded thigh on the bench next to him and fought back the rising panic attack that was beginning to cut off his oxygen supply. He reached into his bag and pulled out his bottle of pain pills and a bottle of water with shaking hands. Popping two pills into his mouth and chasing them down with the entire bottle of water, he tried to start the progressive relaxation technique his other therapist had taught him to fight against the anxiety that had been plaguing him since he woke up in the hospital. He let his eyes close as he began regulating his breathing and curling and uncurling his toes in his battered trainers. He worked slowly taking the time to work through each muscle group thoroughly. He was just about to start on his shoulders when he felt a cold nose against his ankle causing him to jerk in surprise and open his eyes.

"Sorry about him." An older woman said pulling the terrier back from John and clipping its leash back on. "He loves people and can't be bothered to come when he's called."

"That's alright." John said leaning over to scratch at the dog's ears. "What's his name?"

"I'm not even joking when I tell you, dearie, that his name is Metacarpal." She said with a cheeky grin and a roll of her eyes. "But I call him Met, for short."

"He's not yours, then?" John asks.

"Not really, no." She said with a smile before settling on the bench next to him. "I'm just his owner's housekeeper, but this little one demands a walk every day and I can't say that I blame him, not when the weather's this nice."

"It is rather nice today." He said searching for something else to say.

"Fancy a cuppa?" She asked with that grin again.

"Love to." He said feeling strangely happy at the thought.

"I'm Mrs. Hudson, dearie." She said holding out her hand.

"John Watson." He said taking it firmly and smiling in return.

"Shall we be off then?" She said rising slowly and placing a hand on her hip. "Sorry. I move a bit slowly. I have this blasted hip that keeps going out on me."

"That's fine." He said standing also. "I can't say that I move really quickly either."

"We're a pair, then." She answers before turning down a winding path away from the school. "Come along, John. There's a lovely little place just up the road."

They walked slowly and chatted animatedly for several minutes before coming to a little café two blocks from the park. Strangely enough, they had very similar taste in daytime television and spoke happily on that subject the entire, slow journey. Mrs. Hudson had John hold onto Met while she went and ordered some tea and biscuits for them inside and waved John's offer of a few quid away magnanimously before shuffling off. She returned soon after being followed by a young man bearing a tray with their order. They both tucked in and continued their conversation happily.

"So, what do you want to be when you grow up, John?" She asked sipping her tea and watching the clouds float by overhead.

"I can honestly say that I have no idea." He said sighing. "Why do people expect fifteen year olds to know the answer to that question?"

"I think the question is less about the answer and more about living vicariously through the young." She said with a smile. "We have such high expectations for you young things. We expect you to shine because we can see all the potential there and we miss it terribly."

"So, what is the proper response to that question then?" He asks curiously.

"I don't know if there is only one response, dearie." She said. "But I like to think the only true answer is 'everything'."

"Then that's my answer." He said taking another sip of his tea. "I want to experience everything."

They continued talking for another hour or so before John looked at the time, "Sorry. I didn't mean to keep you this long."

"Whatever do you mean?" She asked.

"Shouldn't you be at work?" He asked.

"Shouldn't you be at school?" She answered cheekily.

"Touche." He replied.

"My employers are quite the eccentric bunch." She explained away with a wave. "I do my job and that's that. They don't worry too much about proper hours and have actually shuffled me out of their house if they need 'room to think' or whatever that means. With an employer like that, I am free to schedule the housework around my life and not the other way round."

"That doesn't sound too bad." He answered thoughtfully.

"And the hazard pay is quite generous as well." She said cryptically. "And what about you? I'm very sure that schools are quite strict on start and stop times."

"Yeah." He said. "I just needed to get away for a bit."

"Well, don't tell any respectable adult I said this," She said with a grin. "But I'm glad you did. I never get this sort of amiable conversation on most days."

John smiled back openly and leaned back into the chair trying to ignore the ache in his leg.

"I do think you have a point though, dearie." She sighed. "I should get you back to school."

He groaned loudly and ran his hands roughly over his eyes. "Do I have to?"

"It's like ripping off a plaster." Mrs. Hudson said rising to her feet. "The quicker, the better. I have a car. Come along, John. I'll drive you."

John felt the weight that had disappeared during his morning with Mrs. Hudson settle firmly back onto his shoulders as he hobbled after the woman to her car. He was quiet the entire drive back. She pulled up about a block away and stopped him before he climbed out of the car, "I hope you're not too upset, but I took the liberty of calling ahead and letting them know that you were okay when I went to place our order."

"How could you possibly know the number of my school?" John asked curiously.

She chuckled softly before continuing, "I practically had them on speed dial. My employer's youngest son, same age as you dear but two grades ahead, was enrolled there for about two months before his parents placed him elsewhere. I used to get multiple calls a day about him. He's quite the handful."

"Sounds like it." He said impressed. "Thanks for this morning, Mrs. Hudson."

"Anytime, dearie." She said. "Except not when you're meant to be in class, I'll forgive you this once but you're too clever to not be getting good marks, John. I often walk Met on the weekends about the same time if you ever want to have tea again."

"Sounds lovely." He said with a grin. "Goodbye."

"Goodbye." She said.

He felt something warm settle against his skin as he realized that she was going to wait until he got into the building before pulling away. It was surprisingly touching.