John knows that when Sherlock gets that mulish look on his face he has to do something, and fast. Recently, he’s found something that actually captures the detective’s attention for more than an hour. He gets the man’s coat and scarf and dangles it in front of him; in the few seconds it takes for the genius to reclaim his perspective in reality he just looks at him. When Sherlock blinks, his eyes slightly wild and pinpricked with the sudden influence of light he looks up at John and then his coat and scarf and bounds of the sofa with the limitless energy that only sometimes can be contained in the human body. John only ever sees Sherlock like this for two things- the most intricate and difficult of cases and when John says the four words he’s going to say the moment Sherlock comes back down from his bedroom dressed and alive.
He hands him his coat and scarf and takes money from the pot ladled ‘For the Direst emergencies ONLY’. Sherlock says he’s over exaggerating, but John doesn’t think so. Then he says “Show me someplace new.”
It is something that John realises only a few days after meeting the Detective. Sherlock knows London. He knows the little intricacies that no one else pays attention to or you only know if you’ve lived in that area for your entire life. And consequently London knows Sherlock back. Its life blood, the people that flow up and down with the arteries and veins of the city all seem to owe the man something and give him something back in return. Be it clean laundry or a hot meal or someplace unknown to stay at night on cases, the city and its people protect Sherlock to the best of their ability.
So Sherlock knows all the little places, and the big places and the point of this exercise is to try and show John as many little and big places as possible.
So far they’ve looked around the forbidden bits of the tower of London and the forbidden bits of the back streets of many other parts of the city. The latter lead to bruised knuckles for them both and a desperate flow of adrenalin, the former a Sherlock whispering all the security faults to John and the surrounding guards. This sends them a cheque that quite happily covers the rent for the next few months, never mind that they don’t need it. £30,000 for nailing a plank of wood across a window. It’s almost criminal what they get away with.
Actually, the majority of what they get up to on these little jaunts is illegal.
“Are we allowed to be doing this?” John asks as they clamber onto the small roof of one of the highest buildings in central London.
“Not at all. Isn’t it marvellous” Sherlock clasps his gloved hands together, wind making his coat billow dramatically. “Look up.”
John does so. Above most of the lights on one of the few clear nights the sunset and rising stars are magnificent. He has not seen their equal since the harsh desert. London is lighting up stories beneath their feet. They lie back on the roof, hands tucked under their heads for a good half an hour, until all the stars are out and all the sun is gone. John has never seen Sherlock look so peaceful and removed, above all the noise that usually plagued him.
Just before they leave, when they have unfolded themselves from the cold concrete, Sherlock says “look down.” They do so, looking over the edge of the building. The stars above are mirrored below in the streets, sodium constellations glittering at them, the northern lights shimmer in waves of white and red through the streets. It takes his breath away, like the Milky Way used to.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. For the first time John thinks this is true.
“I’m glad I can see you like this” John tells Sherlock later that night, while sitting in a laughing hole-in-the-wall that sells the best Middle Eastern food since Kabul. He understands the menu mostly and orders in Dari, immediately making them the toast of the restaurant and making Sherlock look at him like a new type of Rubik’s puzzle designed especially for him.
“Like what?” Sherlock asks around his miscellaneous curry, wonderfully hot and spicy. Almost too spicy for Sherlock, but John eats like an Afghani.
“Happy, content.” John wipes his mouth with a napkin that’s seen better days, nodding slightly, definitely. “All relaxed”. He gestures at Sherlock in his shirtsleeves with a piece of his flat bread and then uses it to take a mouthful that makes Sherlock wince in sympathy for the heat in that one large scoop. “Not bored”. The walls of this place, those areas that aren’t covered by large swathes of orange and green material are white and peeling. But it is energetic and the owners keep on making silly jokes with the regulars and John keeps on laughing and once, telling what sounds like a joke back. Sherlock can pick out the verbs and nouns in the clipped flowing speech (isn’t that a contradiction) but not the silly nuances like John can.
“How could I possibly be bored, my Dear John, when I have the whole of this frankly magnificent city to share with you.” Sherlock looks at him, eye smiling in that way of his, fondness dancing at the back of his eyes. They both feel buoyant on the scented smoke that is drifting around. This place has never heard of the smoking ban and the scent of oranges and cloves drifts.
“I’ll remind you of that” John promises. “The next time you’re in a mood, I’ll remind you.”
“Please do” Sherlock says quietly, using the flat bread stolen off John to swipe up the last of his sauce. John knows that even if he upholds his promise in this, it probably won’t be enough. Sometimes everything is just too much and too little for Sherlock. He knows what some of its like, but not enough to understand fully. However, he does understand the terror of his own mind turning against him, remembers being locked in fever dreams for two weeks while infection ate his body, so when Sherlock turns up silently, standing in his doorway, his own mind, his greatest asset turned against him, he holds back the bedcovers in equally silent invitation, in the understanding that Sherlock will keep watch over John’s dreams if he does the same. John’s madness was almost enough to kill him. He hopes to prevent the same happening to Sherlock.
One of the other illegal illicit pleasures that John has been introduced to is the art of Mycroft Bothering. This consists of list hidden in one of John’s old medical textbooks, the ones that now have both their annotations stuck in on fading post it notes, and spare ideas flung with the rest of Sherlock’s notes around the window table and corner. The List is usually added to when they come in past midnight from a case of a chase and indulge in some of the very good whisky that they use to unwind when a case has gone so well they’re both flying. Not quite drunk and definitely not sober on the case and the alcohol they come up with ever more ridiculous ideas to annoy Mycroft. These include:
- Spamming his email and posts with invites from slightly fictional people for very expensive dinners at very good restaurants. This leads to Mycroft showing up. Only once, but it was funny enough that it lasts, and Sherlock and John, sitting in the window seat disguised as a men with a small goatee, Sherlock, and a funny caterpillar of a moustache, John , have to fight to keep from laughing as Mycroft’s car idles for five minutes and then drives away smoothly.
- Stealing the umbrella and leaving it in increasingly illogical places around the city (top of Nelson’s Column, hung on the railings of Buckingham Palace etc), and on one occasion, when they have been obviously trailed by Mycroft’s men for two days, and blending in at St Pancreas station, using the umbrella as an actual weather proof implement, because the weather was demanding it, in Paris, as high as they can actually go on the Eiffel Tower, amongst all the umbrellas being sold as souvenirs at the gift shop.
- Ordering catering large numbers of ridiculously good deserts to show up at most of his offices and his Hyde Park side town house. Ensure that they have to be signed for so that he has to open them.
- Using the network to arrange for many small accidents to happen at inconsequential times. The most satisfying of these was seeing the man literally drenched in splash water after a van sped past him on the corner.
It is decided after the last one that they should hold off on these, keeping them in revenge for kidnapping detail. It works surprisingly well. For someone who prefers to talk rather than text it seems to take Mycroft a rather long time to learn how to politely hold a phone conversation.
Fighting in practically all its forms works well. Whether it is fencing under the vaulted ceiling of the club he keeps a membership open just for, or the far more dirty kind that takes place in the dingy back street gyms that hold both good and bad memories for Sherlock. John is improving in the first, though Sherlock usually goes there while John is at work, and very good at the second. Only once does John ever fight against him in the ring, and it is a long bought, Sherlock’s flexibility and youth against John’s strength and training. John is magnificent and Sherlock is defiantly not bored. He tries to pin John once, and the doctor quickly turns the tables, flipping him and pinning him in return.
They are both a sight to look at, barefoot, stripped to the waist, sweat gleaming and them both panting with feral grins as they dodge, feint and connect. John’s bullet wound is white and red against tan skin and he has a tattoo, a rod of Asclepius on his upper right arm, in arduis fidelis underneath. John is solid, and has kept himself almost unexpectedly fit for a man, who only months ago, couldn’t run and was recovering from a fever that nearly took his life. Sherlock is almost his opposite. Still clothed in the black trousers as opposed to the khaki pair John is wearing, he is a study in monochrome and pitted scars and whipcord strength where John is gold. Their fight is the fiercest of the evening, and they both come away with injuries and exultant grins.
Music, too, works wonders on Sherlock. The man will spend hours, in the right mood, just playing and John will happily spend hours just watching him and listening to the blue and gold wrapping itself around both their souls.
It is a blessing when he finds out about the series of concerts. He’s always liked music, studied it himself as a child, and the army had been full of music, a battered guitar around a fire, makeshift drums, voices, always voices. One of the fifth had brought his fiddle with him and every night reels and jigs danced their way light footed around the camp, infectious giggling into his poorly equipped hospital tent.
They are small, just a collection of string quartets and scratch bands and once a ten piece orchestra in a series of concerts in the church nearby. At six pounds a ticket, and a different group each week for six weeks, it’s the best seventy two pounds he’s ever spent.
Sherlock nearly transforms, and in a different way for each of the concerts. For the classical ones, he nearly sprawls loose limbed in his chair, buzzing with the glow that music gives him. He changes emotion with each of the corresponding pieces, and John doesn’t think that he’s ever seen him so emotive.
The two Jazz scratch bands vary between music low and sultry and fast and bright. One has a woman singer and the other a man, and John finds that Sherlock knows all the words to Fly Me to the Moon. “Mummy’s favourite” he explains after. “She adores Jazz. I learnt the theme tune to Jeeves and Wooster for her fifty fifth birthday. She much preferred that to Mycroft’s silly Murano glass vase.”
The Big Band, basically every instrument you could fit into the chancel made Sherlock grin, openly. They had invited Mrs Hudson along for that one, and she was glowing with the music. Sherlock’s face relaxed and his feet tapped along to the beat of the Hawii-5-0 theme and all the other massive music that came at them like a storm of notes in ordered flurries, the brass forming the booming base, the strings skating along the top and the woodwind darting like it’s name suggested. At the end of the concert, both of them high on the infectiousness of the music they had practically bounced back to Baker Street, Sherlock turning every few metres to say “come on Mrs Hudson.”
“Oh boys” Mrs Hudson said at the door to 221A. “Thank you so much for a wonderful evening. It was like being twenty one again. I’ll give you copies of the photos when they develop shall I?” Mrs Hudson was a menace with the camera, an old disposable thing that she found far easier to operate than a digital one.
“It was our pleasure Mrs Hudson” John says. “I would love a copy of the photos.”
“Yes” Sherlock says. “I would like copies as well.” Sherlock was unexpectedly camera shy at the start of the evening, but had warmed up as the evening went on, mainly because Mrs Hudson was good at the sneak camera attack. “Goodnight Mrs Hudson.”
As she bestowed hugs and kisses on the cheek and chivvied them upstairs with a final reminder of “No explosions past midnight!” Sherlock’s laugh is a rare and beautiful thing to hear.