John has been gone two whole weeks before he decides to text Sherlock. He's thought about doing it before, but guys don't really sit around messaging each other for no good reason. He's thought about calling, too, but what would he say? Nothing, because Sherlock wouldn't answer. He never answered unless there was something he wanted, and right now John is in Ireland and can't do him much good.
But on a rainy evening a few days before he can leave the medical conference, John finally gets bored enough to go ahead and check in, even if it's going to make him look like girl and/or be ignored. Besides which, if he's honest, niggling worries have been hanging around his brain since the end of the first week. It's been months since Sherlock's miraculous return from the dead, and John's pretty much forgiven him. Still, the worry has yet to entirely vanish. Every so often he finds himself storming up to Sherlock's room to scold him about something dead in the fridge - not because he's actually upset, but because he hasn't seen Sherlock for a day and wants to make sure he's still in one piece.
So he hits send, not really expecting a reply.
8.30 PM: How's it going? Taking Anderson on cases yet?
John jumps when he hears the incoming text beep.
8:50 PM: I see your wit has not improved in your absence. When are you back? SH
8:55 PM: Wednesday
8:57 PM: That's three days from now. SH
8:59 PM: Thank God you're the world's only consulting detective; might not have been able to figure that one out otherwise.
9:00 PM: Hysterical. You must be bored. SH
9:03 PM: I am. I'm in the piss end of nowhere and the only pub in town is closed with a water leak.
9:04 PM: That's what you get for leaving me to Anderson's tender clutches. SH
9:05 PM: Oh God, did you get into it with him again? I hope Lestrade puts you both in time out. With dunce caps. Now that would be hysterical.
9:10 PM: I did not. I merely pointed out a few salient facts. SH
9:15 PM: So, yes, you did. You are terrible at excuses. By the way, why do you keep signing your name? I know who I'm talking to.
9:16 PM: I have an annoying inability to observe what's happening around me and I write the literary equivalent of bodice-ripping romance novels. JW
9:18 PM: You are also terrible at trash talking. But be nice, or I won't bring you your present.
9:19 PM: Mycroft. SH
9:21 PM: He might have mentioned it, yeah.
John waits awhile, but Sherlock doesn't respond. The whole thing was probably the longest conversation they've ever had about nothing at all. So when Sherlock doesn't reply, John isn't very surprised. He watches an hour of extremely boring TV and goes to bed.
The next morning when his phone beeps, he pulls it out of his pocket and tries to think who could be texting. Not Lestrade - even if Sherlock doesn't remember that John's out of town, Lestrade will. Not Harry - she's still not speaking to him after the last fight. Not Rachel - they're over. Unless she's changed her mind.
10:01 AM: The present. Is it a metaphorical or literal present? SH
10:03 AM: It's the kind of present that comes in wrapping paper, if I can remember to buy the stuff. There may be a singing card involved.
10:04 AM: What is it? SH
10:05 AM: You do know how presents work, right?
10:05 AM: Wait. Don't tell me. I need to figure this out on my own. SH
10:08 AM: Oh God. Please don't tell me that you're making this into a case.
10:09 AM: You should give me some sort of timeline. Right now I have almost no data. SH
10:10 AM: Absolutely not. The point of a birthday present is to be a surprise.
10:11 AM: Birthdays are stupid. My birth is no more meaningful on its anniversary than on any other day.
10:12 AM: So you don't want it then?
Seven hours later, the lecturer is droning on and John's only listening to her with one ear. This conference - if you can even call it that, it's tiny - is shaping up to be less fun than the last hostage situation he was involved in (discounting the one with Mycroft, since that usually at least involved tea and biscuits). At least when he was a hostage, he wasn't bored.
Oh thank God.
5:35 PM: If Lestrade doesn't stop calling me in for obvious homocides, I'm going to frame him for murder. SH
5:36 PM: Might as well claim me as the victim them. I'm so bored I think I might literally die.
5:37 PM: Oh and also you might not want to put that in writing.
5:39 PM: You are vastly overestimating the police's ability to get any information I don't expressly wish them to have. SH
5:42 PM: You're putting a disturbing amount of thought into this.
5:45 PM: I suppose that lack of thought is so preferable that you simply decided to employ it in all areas of your life. SH
John frowns at his phone. Sherlock was curt and sarcastic approximately 115% of the time, but he usually steered clear of outright nastiness. This is really pushing it. He puts his phone down and tries to focus on the lecture.
John stares at the phone. Drums his fingers on the desk. Looks back at the lecturer.
John really stares at the phone this time. Sherlock apologizing? Repeating it? Because no matter what he says now, it's an apology.
6:03 PM: It would behoove you to have your self esteem rely on something other than my approval. SH
6:13 PM: Your favorite jumper burned up. SH
6:15 PM: How do you know what my favorite jumper is?
Silence, for a little while. John doesn't know whether to laugh, be worried about the flat burning down, or flattered that Sherlock hasn't deleted the observation from his memory. Assuming he's telling the truth.
The lecture ends - finally. He heads home and sits in the hotel room. There's a Dan Brown novel in his lap, but he discovers after 20 minutes that it's upside down. Possibly his attention was distracted by checking his phone every 30 seconds. His phone never goes off, though, and John can't think of anything to say. So he goes to bed.