Friends are the family we choose
Without a bleeding doubt, Sherlock in full pique mode was always a delight to see. And not just to see. John also observed. The detective would be so proud if he knew how well John was learning that skill. These particular observations, of course, were best kept unacknowledged, except to himself. Or maybe that should have been especially to himself. Too late for that, however. Occasionally, well, often, oh hell, every damned day lately John wondered about his emotional health. Still, life was what it was.
It was only too bad that today John did not have the leisure to just relax in his chair and watch the whole show unfold. He wisely forebore pointing out that neither did Sherlock have time for the full three-act drama such a pique usually demanded. The detective was still only half-dressed, having donned a pair of extremely well-tailored black trousers, and one sock, but no shirt as of yet. John also sometimes [well, frequently, oh, hell, every bloody day] wondered if maybe he paid entirely too much attention to his flatmate’s sartorial choices. But, again, life was what it was.
“But, John,” said flatmate whined.
It was not a great leap to picture a six-year-old protesting his bedtime.
“Sherlock, I do not have time for this. I told you three weeks ago that today was Harry’s birthday---“
“I already knew that,” Sherlock muttered. “Of course I did.”
John ignored the interruption. “And I also told you that I would be taking her for lunch. I even, if you could be arsed to remember, invited you to come along.”
Sherlock snorted elegantly and John had to pause just briefly to admire a man who could do that. Then he collected his indignation and continued. “You declined the invitation. And not especially politely either, as I recall”
“It will be a disaster,” Sherlock proclaimed as grandly as a man wearing no shirt and only one sock could proclaim. His brows lowered and his gaze darkened until the expression was one that might turn up at the scene of a triple homicide. Unless, of course, it was Sherlock at the crime scene. Triple homicides were an occasion of unalloyed glee and, too often, bright grins for him. In fairness, John conceded, the other man was trying to moderate his overt enthusiasm lately, apparently out of concern for John’s sensibilities.
John found that almost…touching.
But Sherlock was not done proclaiming, it seemed. “She will drink too much. You will be stoic and reasonable. And it will all end in tears.” He paused and cocked his head, studying John thoughtfully. “From which of you the most tears will be flowing I cannot say.” Then he frowned. “But you will come home upset and that will interfere with my thinking, because your emotions are so loud.”
John was a little startled to realise that once upon a time he would have taken Sherlock’s words at face value. And probably been offended. But now he knew, without really understanding how he knew, that what Sherlock was actually saying was that he didn’t want John to be upset.
Again, rather touching.
Someday, he promised himself, I need to sit down and think about some stuff. Not now, though. The uneasy subject of his clamorous emotions would have to wait for another, more convenient time.
Right now, he was actually donning a tie. He hoped it would be appreciated that he was making an effort, although that seemed unlikely. No one---no one--- ever seemed to notice the efforts he made. For some reason, he thought back to his primary school reports, which frequently mentioned that “Johnny loves to be helpful.” Might as well have said that Johnny was a sap. He knotted the tie reasonably well and then turned to Sherlock with a barely-there smile. “Well, even if I am the one shedding tears, there will still be one consolation.”
Now the smile blossomed into a full and delighted grin. “That you will be having an even worse time at your annual brunch with Mycroft.”
At that, Sherlock groaned loudly and clutched the Union flag pillow to his bare chest.
//Lie back and think of England.//
Stop it, John told himself.
“Why do I do this to myself every year. Why?” It was a genuine wail of anguish. Or as genuine as Sherlock’s emotions ever were. So, not very.
John actually felt a little sorry for him. Harry always was certainly…difficult, but at least she had never kidnapped Sherlock off the street and demanded to know his intentions.
He couldn’t help smirking just a little at the word.
//Shit, I really need to have that sit down and think about things.//
John reached for his jacket. “Oh, come on, Sherlock, we both know why you do it. Until you get control of your trust fund back, the only way to keep your precious wardrobe up to the ridiculously high standard you demand is to have your brunch with Mycroft. Eat a little, ignore his conversation, and then he will hand you a lovely cheque. It will be worth it. Nobody wants to see your supply of ridiculously tight-fitting and sumptuous silk shirts reduced.”
Now that bordered on the inappropriate.
Sherlock just continued to glare at him over the pillow, although John almost thought he saw a flicker of amusement in the frosty eyes.
“I will see you later,” John said cheerfully, heading for the door.
The pillow crashed into his back and fell to the floor.
When John arrived right on time at the trendy West End café [Johnny is always punctual.], Harry was ostentatiously sipping a glass of tonic water with lime. He allowed himself to relax just a little. Perhaps this was going to go better than he had feared it would or than the resident smart arse had so smugly predicted.
Sadly, his sense of relief lasted only until the waitress appeared. Harry glanced at the wine list briefly and ordered a California red. She chose it so quickly that John knew she had actually decided on it before he’d even appeared. Obviously the tonic water had just been a diversion to throw him off. [According to those old school reports, he also liked to believe the best of people.]
He ordered a Belgian beer and sat back with a sigh. It was going to be a very long lunch. Despite the bright and cheerful dining room and a menu that promised a host of culinary delights, he felt his mood plummet. He’d rather be having Chinese right out of the carton, while sitting on the sofa listening to Sherlock expound about the effects of some obscure poison on the human liver.
Then, when Harry downed the first glass of wine in two swallows and immediately poured another, John decided that he’d rather be huddled in a stinking dark alley pressed shoulder to shoulder with the most annoying man in the universe while waiting for a madman to attack them with a dirty knife than sitting here with his soon-to-be drunk sister.
Sherlock had already devised seven ways of killing his brother. In at least four of them, no one would even know there had ever been a murder. [Well, he would know and if Mycroft were not dead, he could have figured it out, but the usual idiots would have no idea.]
And they were still on the first course.
He lifted the spoon and took in two very small sips of the soup. That was enough for show and he pushed the bowl aside.
Mycroft was enjoying his, of course.
Sherlock wondered how John was getting on with his sister. Not well, he was willing to bet.
“And how is the good doctor?” Mycroft said.
God, he was an annoying man.
“John is fine,” Sherlock said dismissively. “Why on earth wouldn’t he be?”
“Well, you do keep dragging him into rather dangerous situations,” his brother pointed out.
“I do not ‘drag’ him anywhere,” Sherlock said stiffly.
The soup bowls were cleared away and replaced by small soufflés.
Mycroft beamed at the plates. “That is true,” he said thoughtfully. “John plunges headlong most willingly into wherever you lead him.” He stuck his fork into the soufflé.
Sherlock ignored his, not considering puffs of air to be real food.
“I wonder, brother dear, if you ever stop to consider how lucky you are in that respect. How many people in the world would follow you that willingly, that cheerfully?”
Sherlock glared at him. “Irrelevant.”
“Yes, I suppose it is,” Mycroft said. “At least as long as you have John.”
It was then that Sherlock almost said to hell with it. He had plenty of clothes. Getting a few more shirts was not worth this torture. Not even if some people thought his shirts were “sumptuous. “ He stabbed the soufflé [now a stand-in for a fat government minion] with his butter knife and it collapsed. “John isn’t going anywhere,” he muttered.
“We can only hope.”
//Wrong button, brother dear.// Sherlock leaned across the table and stared at Mycroft. His voice when he spoke was low and dark and dangerous. “John. Is. Not. Going. Anywhere.”
Something unreadable crossed Mycroft’s face for one swift moment. Then he sighed lightly. “Dr. Watson is a very intelligent man, so I can only assume he knows how very dangerous it would be for him to try.”
After a moment, Sherlock dropped back in the chair. He gave what might have been called a chuckle except that the sharp edges of the sound were deadly. “You’re an idiot, Mycroft,” he said.
“Ahh, here comes the roast beef. The Yorkshire pudding is always exceptional.”
Sherlock knew that he wouldn’t enjoy this damned pudding as much as he had the one from Tesco that John had recently popped into the microwave and served with gravy from a tin. They’d eaten it sitting at the table, surrounded by experiments, at three in the morning, still occasionally giggling over the idiocy of Anderson.
He glanced at his watch and tried to think of soft sumptuous silk sliding over his skin.
John took a long walk after the disaster that had been the birthday lunch. He did not want to go straight home and infect Baker Street with the poisonous mood that had seized him. At the café, the wine had continued to flow and the conversation had taken a much-too-familiar turn.
//“Stop judging me, John.”
“I’m not judging, I’m just---”
“Oh, yes. Concerned. You’re just concerned.”
“You’re my sister, of course, I’m con---”
“Don’t even try to tell me that you give me a thought except when you have to. No, you’re much too busy living your damned Boy’s Own adventures with that arrogant bastard. You’ve changed since you met him.”
“Yes, I have. I’m happy now. “
“I liked you better before,” Harry slurred.
John tried to stay calm. “Oh, you liked me better when I was thinking every day of putting a gun in my mouth and pulling the trigger? Is that what you want?”
“I liked it better when you were just as miserable as me.”//
Not surprisingly, things didn’t get any better after that.
John walked for a long time through Regent’s Park. Eventually he realised that since he had hardly been able to eat any scarcely of the lunch that had cost him way too much, he was still hungry. Since he was pretty sure that Sherlock would have not have deigned to eat much at a meal with Mycroft either, John decided to stop for some Chinese to take home.
It was already getting dark by the time he wearily climbed the stairs to the flat. Sherlock hadn’t bothered to turn on any lights, so the only illumination came in through the window from the streetlamps. He could see his flatmate lying prone on the sofa, once more wearing his dressing gown, hands pyramided in front of his face.
“I brought Chinese,” John said, switching on a lamp.
“Good,” Sherlock answered, which was actually a surprise.
John dropped the food bag onto the table in front of the settee and went for forks. “I hope your day was not as miserable as mine,” he said.
He stood and waited until Sherlock scooted up a little and moved his legs so John could sit. Almost immediately those ridiculously long appendages were dropped back down, this time resting on John’s lap. When had his flatmate’s shins become acceptable as his dining table?
John picked up the General Tao’s chicken and started to eat. “Shall we see what’s on telly?”
Sherlock was slowly chewing the prawn-fried rice. He swallowed. “May I ask you something, John?”
“You’re not going anywhere, are you?”
“Didn’t I just suggest watching telly? I’m too tired to move.”
They switched containers and kept eating.
Sherlock continued to look at him. “I don’t mean now…tonight. I mean...ever.”
It took a moment for John to find his voice. He pretended to search for a prawn. “Where would I go?” he said, trying to speak lightly.
“Anywhere you wanted.”
Finally John lifted his gaze and met Sherlock’s eyes.. “Oh, I think that ship has pretty much sailed,” he said. Suddenly that didn’t seem to be enough. “There is no place else I want to be,” he added.
They both concentrated on the food for a moment.
“That’s…good,” Sherlock finally said, so softly that it could hardly be heard.