The Baker Street flat was empty when John arrived home from his date. The date had gone well, but it was only a first date and so he'd made it home relatively early in the night, instead of staying over somewhere else. Mrs. Hudson was away for the weekend to visit some friends and Sherlock was nowhere to be found. He'd left a rather unhelpful note on the mirror, which simply read 'Gone. - SH'. This was actually an improvement as when John had first met him, he would have left without leaving any note.
It was rare that John was alone in the building and he decided to enjoy it while it lasted. It was nice to have some peace and quiet where he could watch television without Sherlock snarking at it, or make tea without Sherlock demanding a cup. So he did both.
He had about an hour to enjoy himself before he was interrupted.
The doorbell rang. Then it rang again. Then it rang a third, fourth and fifth time in quick succession. Then the pattern started again. Then John made it to the door and opened it. Then Sherlock fell on him.
He reeked of alcohol.
“Hello!” Sherlock said to John, who was struggling to keep them both on their feet. “You opened the door. That is brilliant. The lock was proving faulty.” He waved the key around in the air.
“That's not the key to the door,” John said.
Sherlock looked at the key. “Huh,” he said, as though it were the most mystifying thing in the world.
John successfully righted Sherlock and let go. Sherlock sort of swayed in place, but stayed upright. “How pissed are you, Sherlock?”
“Very,” Sherlock said, matter-of-factly. “There is a lot of alcohol in pubs.”
“There's a clever deduction,” John said. He'd never seen Sherlock even remotely tipsy before. He was struggling between laughing and being concerned. He decided he could do both. “Why are you pissed?”
“Because I was drinking,” Sherlock said, managing to sound like his normal superior genius self, despite the slur to his speech. “Alcohol makes you intoxicated.”
“You should really be writing this down,” John said. “It's just one brilliant thought after another. Why were you drinking?”
Sherlock took his scarf off and looked for a spot to put it, finally settling on John's head. “I was drinking in the name of justice,” he declared. “I was investigating and it seemed prudent to drink to avoid sus...sus...” He frowned, concentrated hard and managed to get out “sus-pic-ion. I may have overdone it.”
John removed the scarf from his head. “What case were you working on? You should have called me.”
“Pet project, nothing official,” Sherlock said. “You were on a date. I could tell by your trousers when you left for work. Those are your date trousers. They are ridiculous. So is your shirt.”
“Thank you,” John said. “You've never hesitated to interrupt my dates before.”
“I didn't need you,” Sherlock said. “Your skills were not required.” He stumbled off toward the stairs. John followed behind.
“I wasn't aware I had skills,” John said.
“Yes, yes, you're very good at talking and doing that thing where people like you,” Sherlock said, waving a hand vaguely towards him. “You know what I mean.”
“Being polite?” John suggested.
“Yes! You're very good at that,” Sherlock said. He grabbed hold of the railing and hoisted himself up the first few steps. He was a bit unsteady, but otherwise managed them fine. “I played a drinking game. I've never done that before. I didn't like it. I wasn't good at it.”
“I don't think anyone is 'good' at drinking games, Sherlock, it's not a talent,” John said. He followed closely behind him on the stairs, ready to intervene if required. “What did you play?”
“Never Have I Ever,” Sherlock said. “It turns out, I have done a lot of things that other people haven't.” They made it to the landing and Sherlock looked confused for a moment. Then he noticed the second flight of stairs, smiled in triumph and started to climb them.
“What sort of things?” John asked.
“Stole a bus, stayed with Tibetan monks, ridden a camel,” Sherlock rattled off, swaying dangerously as he gestured. “Met the Queen, met the Queen twice.”
“You've met the Queen?” John said.
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “Twice.” John smirked. “After awhile I suspect they were just saying things specifically to get me to drink.”
They were at the second floor of the flat now.
“This is where I live,” Sherlock announced, throwing his arms wide. It wasn't a question, more of a satisfied statement.
He lurched into the living room and sat down on the coffee table. John tossed his scarf on the couch.
“Why didn't you lie and say you didn't do those things?” John asked.
“Because I'd already started,” Sherlock said. He turned to look at John, putting hand out to catch himself as he lost his balance. “And it would seem sus-...weird if I just stopped doing unusual things.”
John thought that Sherlock might be the only person in the world who could be that logical while completely pissed. “I'll get you some water. You need to hydrate. It'll help in the morning.”
“Okay,” Sherlock said. “But I'm not going to drink it.”
John got the water anyway. Sherlock was still sitting on the coffee table when he got back, trying to take off his coat, but failing due to the fact that he was sitting on the lower half of it. He couldn't seem to figure out why this was a problem.
“My coat is stuck,” he said.
“Stand up,” John said.
Sherlock did and his coat came off. “This is why you're good to have around, John,” he declared. “I will drink your water.”
John laughed. He traded the glass for Sherlock's coat and placed it with his scarf on the couch. Sherlock sipped at the water.
“I did try to call you,” he said, carrying on as though a whole other conversation hadn't occurred in the meantime. “But I called Lestrade instead.”
John cocked his head to one side. “How does that work?”
“Because you both have exclamation marks,” Sherlock said. He rummaged around in his pocket and pulled out his mobile. “See.” He brought up the contact list and shoved the screen in John's face. John moved Sherlock's hand back enough to focus on it. “You're at the top, because I thought that if I needed to dial quickly in an emergency, you'd be the two people I'd be trying to contact.”
“Makes sense,” John said.
“Yes, I know,” Sherlock said.
John took the phone from Sherlock, scrolling through the contact list with curiosity. It was all neatly organized. At the top was, indeed, !John and !Lestrade. Other entries included: 'Home (221b)', 'Hudson, Mrs', 'Hooper, Molly'; four entries for Mycroft which were parenthesized as 'home', 'mobile', 'work' and 'secret mobile'; two entries for 'Mummy' (home and mobile) and the descriptive 'Place Where John Works' and 'Pub Where John Drinks'.
“What did Lestrade say when you called him?” John asked.
“'I'm not John',” Sherlock said, doing a very good impression of Lestrade's slightly exasperated voice. “And then he told me to leave my keys at the pub and take a cab home because I was pissed and I said that I was going to take a cab home anyway because I don't even own a car and of course I was pissed and he said is John there and I said if he was I wouldn't be trying to call him and he said to stop drinking and go home. Oh, and to call him when I got there. I should call him. I am there, now.”
“I'll call him,” John said, holding the phone from Sherlock's reach. “Why don't you sit down and drink your water?”
Sherlock frowned. “No,” he said. Then he sat down and drank his water.
John shook his head. He selected !Lestrade from the contact list and pressed the button to dial the number.
“You make it home?” came the inspector's voice, a few rings later.
“It's John. He's here,” John said.
“Good. I was about to call and check up on him. I didn't want to think of what he might get up to being that pissed,” Lestrade said. “He's not sensible when sober.”
John laughed. “I think he's okay. He's going to feel like hell in the morning, but I don't think he's caused any damage.”
“Hello!” Sherlock yelled, waving at the phone.
“He says hi,” John added.
Lestrade was laughing. “Yes, I heard. Good luck, John.”
They said goodbye and hung up. “Why were you trying to call me?” John asked.
“I don't remember,” Sherlock said. He frowned. “I usually remember things. I must be very intoxicated.”
“Good diagnosis,” John said. “How are you going to remember what you learned from interviewing the suspects?”
“I e-mailed it to myself, on my mobile,” Sherlock said.
“Ah, good thinking,” John said.
“Yes. I know. I don't know why you keep telling me how brilliant I am,” Sherlock grumbled. “I am well aware of it. You don't need to keep stating it. I have finished my water.” He held out the glass like a proud child.
“Good for you,” John said. He took the glass and went to refill it. Sherlock followed him to the kitchen, flopping down in a chair by his microscope. “Drink this.”
“You're being very despotic,” Sherlock told him. “I want to look at slides instead.”
“You can do both,” John said.
Sherlock stuck out his tongue at him. John rolled his eyes, but couldn't help laughing. Sherlock smiled as though he were pleased with himself and put a slide into the microscope.
“Look!” he commanded.
John put his eyes to the lens and made a show of looking. “It's very nice, Sherlock,” he said.
Sherlock nodded. “That's algae from the Thames,” he said. “People look around and they say things are so beautiful, but they don't really see things, you know? They don't see what they can't see. That's beautiful, right there.” He tapped the microscope meaningfully.
“All right, you're getting a bit too philosophical,” John said, rather taken aback by Sherlock's waxing lyrical. He didn't often reveal his inner thoughts like that. As much as John would really like to know how Sherlock's mind worked, it felt a bit like a violation to take advantage of a loose tongue while he was under the influence. “I think you should probably go to bed.”
Sherlock threw what could only be described as a tantrum. He whined and refused to move and called John a variety of childish and very adult names, but finally John managed to corral him towards his bedroom.
Halfway down the hall, Sherlock lost his balance and crashed into the wall. Then he just burst out laughing. It was a weird sort of laugh, one John had never heard from him before. When Sherlock laughed, which he didn't do often, he always seemed to be holding back a little or going through the motions because he knew that's what was expected. Even when he seemed genuinely amused, there was something restrained about it. Now he laughed like a real human being, a sort of raucous, almost maniacal laugh that made John laugh with him.
They managed to make it to his room and Sherlock kicked his shoes off and hopped onto the bed like a child. John put the glass of water on his bedside table.
“I'm going to leave your mobile here,” he said, placing it next to the glass of water. “If you need anything, you can shout or phone me. Try not to call Lestrade.”
Sherlock got under the covers in the most complicated way possible and put his head on his pillow. “Bossy,” he murmured.
John smirked. “I was in the army,” he said. “You okay?”
“Yes, yes, go away,” Sherlock said. John turned to go. “Wait, wait!” He reached out and grabbed John's sleeve. “Don't tell Mycroft. I'm not supposed to get intoxicated.”
“Why not?” John asked.
“Apparently I have a tendency to stage coups in small African nations,” Sherlock said.
John gaped. “What?!”
But Sherlock had already fallen asleep. John rolled his eyes, moved the bin next to his bed for easy reach in the night and left the room.
The next morning, he came down to find Sherlock at the kitchen table, looking like hell itself. He was squinting at his mobile.
“How are you?” John asked.
“Shhh!” Sherlock said, wincing at the sound of his voice. “You don't need to shout, I'm right here.”
“I suppose that answers my question,” John said. He put the kettle on to boil and went about making breakfast.
Sherlock twitched at every sound he made and fairly howled at the ding of the toaster. “For the love of Christ, John!” he moaned.
“Sorry,” John said. He made tea for both himself and Sherlock. “Did you manage to get anything out of last night, other than a hangover?”
“My e-mails were quite useful,” Sherlock said. “Although I do confess they tend to get somewhat non-sensical toward the end. I seem to have written quite a bit about otters and I really don't have a clue what relevance they have.”
John placed the mug of tea on the table next to him. “You didn't mention any otters to me,” he said.
“Yes, what did I say last night?” Sherlock asked. “I don't remember all the details.”
“You told me my clothes were ridiculous, you didn't like drinking games, called me a neolithic troglodyte and a clotpole and then you passed out,” John summarized.
Sherlock nodded. “Nothing too bad then,” he said. “And all true.”
John purposely set down his mug with a clatter that made Sherlock wince.
“All right,” Sherlock said. “Don't be childish.” He took a long sip of his tea. “You better hurry up and consume what you need to. There was a murder this morning. Lestrade should be calling right about -” the mobile in his hand buzzed. John noted Sherlock had turned off the ringer. He put the phone to his ear. “Sherlock Holmes. Don't shout. Yes, I heard. No, I'm fine. Really. I am no longer intoxicated. No, I will not 'toss' on your crime scene. We'll be right there.”
John ate the rest of his toast in two large bites and set to work on his tea. Sherlock took his mug with him toward his bedroom, presumably to get dressed.
“Sherlock?” John said.
“Mmm?” Sherlock said, turning back.
“Never have I ever staged a coup in a small Africa nation,” John said.
Sherlock grinned, lifted his mug in a toast and took a drink.