After Mycroft had released the news that John was no longer rich, things were good for a while. With the world believing he had given up his fortune to ransom Sherlock, things were simpler. He wasn’t being pestered by people begging for money, the demands from charities had died down, and with the exception of him having an excess of (now secret) spending money, things had gone back to normal.
Before long, though, the extra ‘rent’ money was piling up at the bank, and John didn’t know what to do with it. The fund Ian had set up for him left him a surplus of thousands of pounds each month, but nobody but Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft (and hence the British Government) knew about it. That made disposing of the extra challenging these days. He could only make so many anonymous donations, could only hand out so many tips to Sherlock’s homeless network. It turns out paying income tax on money you didn’t have the fun of spending was just depressing. Sometimes, though, circumstances worked in his favor.
He was reading in his chair at 221B when he heard the street door open.
“I don’t care what you say, Sherlock, this is your fault.” Greg’s voice rose up the stairwell as the two men climbed toward 221B and John put down his book with a wince. What had Sherlock done now, he wondered as he headed for the kitchen to start the kettle.
The door opened and Sherlock shrugged off his coat with a casual, “It’s not like you were using it at the time, Lestrade, and thank you so much for enquiring as to my health.”
“Your health?” Greg’s voice lifted in outrage.
“You did hit me with your car, Inspector. Isn’t it only polite to confirm that I am uninjured?”
“First, I did not hit you with the car. You ran OVER my car. My safely parked, completely stationary car. While driving a bloody tractor! I now own a car pancake, thanks to you. And where the hell did you learn to drive a tractor, anyway?”
Sherlock huffed. “I did have a childhood, Inspector.”
Teabags in hand, John blinked thoughtfully, glancing at the mugs he’d already laid out. With a nod, he turned and picked up the scotch and poured some into a glass. “Do you want tea with your scotch, Greg?” he called.
“Ta,” he said with a weary nod.
John leaned out of the kitchen. Greg was standing erect near the door while Sherlock casually sprawled in his chair, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. “So … do I want to know?” he asked finally.
Greg was just about to answer when his phone rang. He glanced at the ID and then hurried to answer it. “Lestrade. Yes, that’s right. A bloody tractor.” He glared at Sherlock for a moment, and then his eyes widened. “What do you mean, you can’t fix it? What am I supposed to do without a car? Yes, of course I have insurance, but … well, thanks for nothing, then, yeah?”
He looked like he wanted to throw the phone across the room, but instead satisfied himself by giving Sherlock another dirty look as he took the glass John silently handed him before returning to the kitchen. “Apparently, my car is beyond repair, thanks to you, Sherlock.”
“I don’t know what you’re so unhappy about,” Sherlock said with a shrug. “You lost it in the line of duty. I’m sure the Yard will replace it.”
“The Yard … That was my car, you idiot! My own, personal, actually paid-for CAR! Do you have any idea how hard that’s going to be to replace?”
Sherlock looked completely unconcerned and John frankly wondered how Greg had refrained from punching him in that careless face. “You said you had insurance, didn’t you? So there you go. It might be a minor inconvenience for a day or two, but I don’t see the problem. You caught the criminal, after all.”
John sighed. Sherlock’s cavalier relationship with money made it hard for him to understand the sheer effort most people had to make to be able to buy things like cars. He appreciated that Sherlock had grown up with Money-with-a-capital-M and that his budgeting instinct had accordingly been stunted as a child. It wasn’t his fault that he was simply used to money being there when he needed it, whether he worked for it or not. It was the fact that Sherlock never tried to understand the way money worked for normal people that made him want to strangle him.
John carried out the tea and handed out mugs before sitting down himself. “So … something about a tractor?” he asked with a hint of sympathy.
Greg nodded. “Yes. This …” he seemed to search for the right words, then finally just settled for “…Consulting detective apparently observed the criminal making his getaway, but somehow neglected to observe my BMW until he drove a tractor across the top of it. Lengthwise.” He looked solemnly into his glass. “A bloody tractor. It was like one of those American telly shows where they squash things with massive trucks, except it was my CAR.”
He almost looked like he was going to cry, and John couldn’t blame him. He chose not to drive himself, but he knew how much Greg loved his BMW. He had saved for years and John sometimes thought the only thing that prevented him from falling apart when he and his wife split was that that Greg got the car in the divorce settlement.
And now Sherlock had wrecked it? Carelessly, with nary a acknowledgment or an apology in sight? John tried to make up for it with his own sympathetic murmurs, but knew it wasn’t enough.
Later, after Greg had gone on his morose, car-less way, John said to Sherlock. “You know, he really loved that car.”
“Are we on that again, John? It’s just a car.”
“Like your violin is just a violin?” Ha, that got your attention, John thought as he saw Sherlock’s head come up. “Most of the time, yes, a car is just a car, but sometimes, it’s more. People express themselves in all sorts of ways, Sherlock, and it’s not like Greg has a whole lot of outlets. He works impossible hours. He lost his wife. He rents a shabby little flat while trying to meet the mortgage payments on a house he doesn’t even live in anymore. He puts up with you on a daily basis. All he had that made him feel good about himself was that car.”
“That’s ridiculous, John. It’s just a mode of transport. He’ll get a new one and will be ‘happy’ again,” Sherlock said with that snide inflection that only he could insert into the most innocuous words.
“He could, Sherlock, if he had anything like the disposable income he had when he bought that car three years ago.” John got up and went to the desk, opening his laptop. “Not everyone has a trust fund, you know.”
A careless sniff from the couch. “Might I remind you then, John, that I’m not the only one in this room with a trust fund these days?”
“Maybe not, but I’m not the one who destroyed the man’s car without even an apology.” He turned to his computer and started to open his blog, but another thought occurred. Bending to the keyboard, he began to type.
Half an hour later, he stood up. “Get your coat,” he told Sherlock. “We’re going out.”
“What? We are?” A wary expression crossed Sherlock’s face. “If you think I’m going to apologize…”
“Don’t be silly. I know you far too well for that,” John told him. “But we’re still going out. Come on. You can deduce it on the way.”
Several hours later, John signed the last piece of paper. “And this will be delivered tomorrow morning?”
“Yes, sir. Just as you requested. It will be our pleasure.” The salesman was practically drooling on the paperwork in his eagerness.
“Right. Good, then. It’s been a pleasure.” John stood and shook his hand. “Coming, Sherlock?”
As they left, Sherlock said, “I don’t see why you needed me to come along for this exercise in tedium, John.”
John just pursed his lips. “Of course you don’t, Sherlock. But now it’s your turn. I did my part in cleaning up your mess, now you’ve got to make sure all the rest of the pieces are in place—even if you need to call your brother to make it happen. This will be done for tomorrow morning. You owe him, and you’re simply not going to fail him on this. You didn’t even have to spend any money.”
He didn’t even try to hide his smile at the landed fish expression on Sherlock’s face. John had already alerted Mycroft to the need, and assumed that Mycroft had probably taken care of the necessary paperwork already, but that wasn’t the point. Sherlock was going to call and ask for his help. That, along with having to sit while John dealt with all the dealership’s paperwork, would be punishment enough.
The next morning went even better than John had hoped. He and Sherlock were at the Scotland Yard parking lot before Greg arrived with Sally. They had the perfect view of Greg’s parking spot—the spot that should have been empty, but which instead had a brand new, deep blue BMW in it.
They saw the anger on Greg’s face when he saw a car in his spot, followed by confusion when he got closer. There was a bow on the steering wheel and a large cardboard gift tag tucked under the windshield wiper.
“To DI Lestrade, in exchange for past services rendered. (This is NOT an apology.)”
Stunned, Greg opened the door and clumsily picked up the envelope from the front seat and looked at the paperwork, fumbling when the keys tumbled into his hand. John couldn’t help grinning as he saw him look at the papers. Everything was taken care of—the registration, the insurance—all of it arranged in record time, thanks to Mycroft. Nor was there any record of his or Sherlock’s name anywhere, not that that would matter.
Greg already thought Sherlock had money to burn, and he had a long acquaintance with the detective’s high-handed behavior. He would never suspect John’s involvement as anything other than a goad to Sherlock’s (not quite nonexistent) conscience.
John tried not to laugh as he watched Greg slide into the driver’s seat, face completely stunned, sliding his hands over the steering wheel in disbelief. He would probably try to refuse the gift—not that he had a choice—but you could see he was already in love.
Sherlock’s mobile beeped. Sally’s head turned their way at the sound as Sherlock snorted. “He wants to know if I stole it,” he said, stepping out of their hiding place just as she stormed over.
“Is this your idea of a joke?” she demanded, hair curling tighter in the heat of her anger. “He deserves better than that from you, with all the nonsense he puts up with, and after you wrecked his car.”
Sherlock simply raised an elegant eyebrow as he brushed past her, striding toward the car. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sally. Ah, Lestrade,” he said as he came abreast of the car. “Excellent. I see you’ve solved your transportation problems, and so quickly, too, when you were so worried.”
John stifled a laugh as Greg turned and put one foot on the ground, ready to climb out of the car. “Sherlock, I don’t know what you’ve done, but I can’t accept this.”
Sherlock just reached for the door and shut it, with Greg just getting his foot inside in time. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Inspector. I certainly hope you don’t think I bought you this car—where would I find the money?”
“You expect me to believe that?” Greg asked. “Who else would buy me a car after you wrecked… Christ, this isn’t from your brother is, it?”
“Heaven forbid, Inspector,” Sherlock told him as he walked around to the passenger side and got in. “If that were true, I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to touch the vehicle. Coming, John?”
John slid into the backseat, not even trying to hide his grin as Greg said, “Coming? Where are we going?”
“A case, Inspector. It’s some miles away, so it’s good you’ve replaced your car so efficiently. We’d best get going --we could be driving for hours. I hope that won’t be a problem?”
Greg sputtered for a moment, but somehow he was inserting the ignition key at the same time. “Driving for hours?” he asked, a grin starting to spread over his face, “I think we can manage that.” Easing the car into gear, he pulled out of his space, just missing Sally.
John leaned back in his seat and listened to Greg and Sherlock squabble over radio stations as Sherlock made up details to his non-existent case. He wasn’t sure how Greg would feel when he learned that it was just an excuse to get him behind the wheel of his new car … but he had a feeling that, once he’d had the pleasure of letting the engine roar up the motorway to wherever Sherlock was taking them, Greg would have forgiven them.
Really, it was a beautiful day for a drive.
( NOTE: I’m working on the assumption that Scotland Yard has something like a parking lot or garage of some kind for its employees, and that a Detective Inspector would rate an assigned parking spot. This could be completely wrong, but—hey, it worked for the story, so I’m going with it.)