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Fortunately the Milk

Chapter Text

“I fully intend to do so,” replied Sherlock. Leaning back in his chair comfortably, he fiddled a bit with the lapels of his jacket. John immediately recognised it as the attempt at delay that it was. So Sherlock was playing the suspense game, too. He raised his eyebrows. Sherlock drew a breath, sighed theatrically and began:

“Nothing of import happened on my way to Tesco, apart from one of Mrs. Turner’s married ones wishing me a good morning while he put out the litter.”

“Hope you replied in kind,” fell in John. “Did you know they’ve invited us for dinner next weekend?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “With some luck another case will have come up by then, meaning we won’t have to go.”

“You know, it wouldn’t do you any harm to be a bit more sociable. They’re nice fellows, Rob and Thomas.”

“They’re boring. Do you want to hear my story or not? It’s much more interesting than Rob and Thomas, so much is certain.”

“Of course I want to hear it.”

“Then stop interrupting. Kettle’s boiling, by the way.”

John sighed again and poured the water.

“As I was saying,” commenced Sherlock, nodding a thanks when a steaming cup of tea was placed in front of him, “I reached the shop without anything extraordinary happening, although before I entered I noticed something large and metallic reflect the sunlight down at Madame Tussaud’s. It made a dull, throbbing noise, like a low base drum. I took it for another one of these super modern tourist busses and paid it no further heed. At the shop there was the usual crowd of ill-prepared shoppers—”

“Wait a moment, how on earth do you know what the usual crowd at any supermarket looks like? You never do the shopping.”

“John, really! I did buy bread and beans last week, and broccoli before that. So, morons everywhere, phoning up their girlfriends about what kind of meat they were supposed to get and what wine goes with what fish because it’s so difficult to remember that for ten minutes. There was even the odd child lost amongst the aisles, despite the relatively small size of the shop. Why don’t parents just keep them on a leash? Despite all these idiots milling about, I found the milk without ado and after deducing the woman at the cashier which, however, she took in good humour and told me to apply to Britain’s Got Talent with my act – what? Careful with the milk!”

John had opened the milk and had been in the process of pouring some into both their teacups at Sherlock’s latest statement. The image of Sherlock competing in the show had caused a bark of laughter to shake his entire body, resulting in him spilling milk on the table.

Sherlock looked affronted. “I don’t understand what’s so funny about it.”

“No,” agreed John, mopping up the milk with a tissue, “I don’t think you do." He dropped the soaked tissue in the bin and sat down opposite Sherlock. "So, what happened after you’d successfully acquired the milk without pissing off half of London? Were you abducted on your way home, long distance that it is from the shop?”

Sherlock sniffed haughtily before taking on a mysterious expression. “Kind of,” he said in a low and ominous voice that made John sit up straighter. Sherlock took a measured sip of his tea, watching John over the rim of the cup to ensure his full attention, before setting it down and continuing.

“When I stepped out of the shop, I was accosted by four pirates.”

John’s eyebrows shot up. “Pirates? It’s not Halloween.”

“No, it isn’t. They were pirates nonetheless, resplendent in authentic late 17th century attire, even down to the weapons even though as you know it’s illegal to carry flintlock pistols and cutlasses openly on the streets.”

John scratched his nose. “They were some of those cosplayers, then? Didn’t know that Pirates of the Caribbean was still that popular with the kids. But then I guess Captain Jack Sparrow’s yet to go out of fashion.”

“They actual prefer the term ‘reenactors’, I gathered,” offered Sherlock. “They were very keen on authenticity, or so they claimed. As for their particular streak of piracy, they were apparently friends of former clients of ours. You remember those fellows with the comics that turned real?”

“‘The Geek Interpreter’?” asked John, causing Sherlock to roll his eyes.

“Yes, those. Internet piracy is my estimate. Also, the leader of the pirates was the ex-girlfriend of one of those guys.”

“What did they want from you, then? And how did they know you were at Tesco’s, this being a one off occurrence and everything?”

“Hey, didn’t you listen when I said I went shopping last week? I’m truly insulted now, John.”

John sighed. “Okay, sorry. Forgot about the broccoli. Carry on.”

“Only when you stop making fun of me.”

“I did apologise, didn’t I. I really do want to hear your story, Sherlock, and I promise not to interrupt or criticise you again. Deal?”

“Deal,” grumbled Sherlock, looking pleased all the same, as if the banter had been a planned part of his performance all along. “The pirates found me at Tesco’s because they had been on their way to our flat but had spotted me on the road and waited for me outside the shop. They claimed they desperately needed my held. They did look pretty desperate to me, not only for reasons involving their costumes. I told them I was busy, though. They, however, had the cheek to dispute that. The girl in charge insisted I absolutely had to come with them. Fortunately, I had the milk with me, which I presented to them. I informed them that I really had to return home as quickly as possible to bring you your milk because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to have a proper cup of tea nor anything healthy for breakfast and were going to be grumpy for the rest of the day.

“They weren’t even a tiny bit sympathetic, unfortunately. Obviously they’ve never experienced you in grumpy mode. Instead, they had a quick glance around, and reassuring themselves that there were no passers by nor CCTV cameras in the vicinity, two of them lifted their tricorne hats to withdraw the very un-authentic tasers they had hidden underneath. Pointing those right in my face, they told me to get into the van they had parked nearby. I briefly considered using the milk as a weapon to get rid of them, but unfortunately it was only a two pint container which wouldn’t have had much effect, the container being to soft and not heavy enough for a good swing. So reluctantly, I got into the old VW van that they’d painted like a wooden ship, resplendent with a mermaid for a figurehead on the bonnet. It had curtained windows, but even without being able to gaze out I knew we were heading south.”

John shook his head. “Sorry, I know I promised but I have to insert a comment here. This sounds even crazier than your usual accounts, Sherlock. Why didn’t you, don’t know, reach into your pocket to get your phone and call for help? I know you’ve managed that feat in even more difficult situations, for example with your hands tied up and you hanging upside down.”

“Tasers, John. The two guys were sitting to either side of me, pressing the things into my sides. And I needed one hand to hold on to the milk, obviously.”

He took another sip of his tea. “As I said, we were headed south. Traffic was relatively light, it being Sunday and fairly early, too, and they were avoiding the main roads, passing through Hyde Park to then continue into Exhibition Road. I strongly suspected we were going to one of the museums, and I wasn’t disappointed. We stopped at some distance from the V&A and the Natural History Museum and the pirate captain who’d been riding in the front seat next to her helmsman turned to me. ‘I know that you are friends with the curator of the Natural History Museum. That’s why we invited you to join us.’ I was about to strongly question her choice of terminology and her definition of ‘invitation’ when she continued, ‘We need you to get her to lend us the stuffed dodo they have in their display.’”

“What?” exclaimed John.

“Yes,” nodded Sherlock with a dry smile, “those were my sentiments precisely. I told them that I really had no time for their little games, what with having to get home with the milk and all, but the two underlings brandished their tasers and growled somewhat menacingly and so I shut up. Thanks for not commenting on that, by the way.”

John swallowed the comment sitting on the tip of his tongue. It was extremely unusual for Sherlock to shut up on his own accord in any scenario. “What on earth did they want the dodo for?”

“Don’t ask me. I thought it wiser not to humour them with displaying too much interest in their schemes. From their remarks and general attire I however gathered that they were on their way to some major naval reenactment event down at Greenwich. Apparently they had some grand spectacle or display planned there and required the dodo to complete their design to most accurately portray the period their costumes resembled, dodos being extinct only after the 1690s. As for me, knowing that out in the museum with visitors and security personnel milling about I stood a greater chance of getting rid of them, I finally agreed to help. They handed me a phone and told me to call Dr. Steg the curator. Which I did. Sunday is her day off work meaning she wasn’t at the museum which, however, the pirates didn’t know. Dr. Steg played along admirably after I’d explained to her the phone was on loudspeaker, you know that I needed a dodo feather for one of my experiments. She knew something was uncanny about my request but said she’d meet us in extinct animals section of the museum. I’m sure she informed security right after I’d ended the call to await us there. Still, our act was convincing enough for the pirates to believe that the dodo deal was a go.

“We got out of the van and entered the museum by the side entrance on Exhibition Road. There was a considerable queue of people having their bags checked. Those with large bags were asked to leave them in the lockers or the cloakroom. Apparently security had been increased for the new dinosaur exhibition due to the troubles they’d had with people trying to nick small pieces of the exhibits as souvenirs. In view of the security people the pirates had to hide their tasers. Their other weapons they’d left in the car. The two brutes stood very close around me with forbidding expressions, daring me to make trouble. Because they looked more than a bit suspicious, the security guards eyed all the pirates closely, but since they only carried one empty cloth bag with them for storing the dodo in but which the captain had wisely hidden away in the folds of her justaucorps, they let them pass. Then it was my turn.

“Fortunately, I had the milk with me. Apparently one is not allowed to take a two pint container of semi-skimmed milk into the Natural History Museum. I don’t quite understand why, particularly if they let in people carrying all kinds of stuff in their handbags or under their hats. But in my particular situation the regulations proved helpful. The security guards detained me, luckily just when all the pirates had already passed through with the queue behind them forcing them to move further on into the museum proper. That dinosaur exhibition does seem to be popular. The guards told me I had to leave the milk at the desk and sign for it to retrieve it after my visit. I assured them it wouldn’t be necessary since I had to return home and bring you the milk anyway and would be happy to go and see the dinosaurs another time. So before the pirates could get back at me through the throng of people – I may have been mistaken, but I think I saw Anderson in the queue –, I’d briskly walked out of the museum.”

John shook his head with a fond smile before frowning slightly. “What happened to the pirates? Did they get their dodo in the end?”

Sherlock shrugged. “I don’t know, and I don’t care. I was glad to be rid of them. But my adventure didn’t end there. Because just as I was crossing Exhibition Road looking out for a taxi that would take me back to Baker Street, someone bumped into me, so forcefully that I stumbled and almost fell, and worse, lost my grip on the milk. It tumbled to the ground but fortunately didn’t burst open. My assailant, too, lost hold of what he’d been carrying, namely a large, hard-edged thing partly wrapped in a scarf. It was rather heavy, too, which I know because he dropped right on my foot. I righted myself and gazed down, and there on the tarmac a large emerald lay glinting in the sunlight, just next to my milk.”

“You’re not about to tell me that someone tried to steal that huge Peruvian emerald from that new Inca exhibition at the V&A the press has been on about for days now,” exclaimed John, his eyes wide in astonishment and a good measure of disbelief. “They said security is extra high, with only a small number of people allowed in at a time, and no bags and stuff whatsoever.”

“Well, they didn’t try, they did manage to steal it,” replied Sherlock dryly, taking another measured sip of his tea. “Don’t ask me how they got past security or how many people were involved. I just encountered one, and he didn’t look very sophisticated. The thief, dressed like an ordinary tourist in all their tasteless glory, had stumbled at the impact with me and my milk and hit the ground next to his treasure. Right behind him I could see security personnel stream out of the side entrance of the V&A, while behind me the two pirate underlings who’d been in charge of me had managed to struggle out of the Natural History Museum, their faces betraying their clear intention of recapturing me. I can only assume that their captain had already proceeded inside and was attempting to locate the dodo.

“Now things turned a bit confusing. The thief, panicking, grabbed the scarf and wrapped it around the closest object in his reach, his eyes glued on the security guards who apparently hadn’t gotten a clear enough image of him inside and had halted in front of the entrance, scanning the surroundings. There were quite a lot of people about and thus we were partly screened from their direct view.”

“Don’t tell me he grabbed the milk instead of the emerald.”

Sherlock growled lowly. “Of course he did, the idiot. Grabbed my milk without looking, hid it in the scarf and pushing himself up against me, dashed off with it. I sprang after him in hot pursuit, it being my milk and all, but then recalled that it might not be a good idea to leave the emerald lying on the road with the pirates on their way towards it. They were pirates, after all. So I scooped it up and ran after the thief. He was bloody fast, regular runner by his speed and endurance, and he knew his way around the place, dashing off into the a side street at the first opportunity. But I was close behind, and knowing the vicinity even better than he, I managed to gain on him steadily. In the distance I could hear sirens. Police had been called, and over the sound of our heavy breathing and quick footsteps there was the roar of motorcycles and, surprisingly, the clatter of hooves. Apparently a mounted patrol had been called down from Hyde Park. They were approaching from the very direction we were running into to cut off our way. So when two mounted police officers appeared right in front of us blocking our progress, their horses snorting and one even rearing slightly, the thief grew desperate. Looking about in a panic, he scrambled to the left to try and scale a wall between two houses. I halted, took aim with the emerald, and threw it at his back. He dropped down the wall on the hither side. The officers spurred on their steeds to crowd him against the wall and hinder his escape while behind us the motorcycles arrived.

“They made quick work of him, and he was in no condition to resist or attempt to escape. He hadn’t hurt himself in the fall, but he was still completely winded and a little dazed. And unfortunately, he had dropped the milk right on the other side of the wall.

“Now, while the mounted police was dealing with the miscreant, the motorcyclists were approaching me. They’d seen my action with the precious stone, but their delight was more than contained, it being a priceless exhibit and highly insured. I tried to argue and explain that I was no accomplice of the thief but was actually aiding the Met more often than not on cases, and that moreover the thief had not only stolen the museum’s precious emerald but also my milk which I absolutely needed to bring to you so you could have your breakfast tea and cereal. They didn’t believe me, however, because they couldn’t see the milk. I told them to look on the other side of the wall, but they told me not to move or they’d handcuff me right next to the thief.

“Fortunately, the milk had survived its tumble from the thief’s hands. It had hit the head of an elderly gentleman who’d been meticulously trimming the lawn borders in his garden with a tiny pair of scissors – some people really do have too much time on their hands. He suddenly burst from a small gate to one side of the wall to complain loudly about that dratted milk container that not only had hit his head and dented his hat, but worse, had then fallen onto his priced araucaria and broken off a branch. ‘That’s not something I’m going to to suffer lightly,’ he groused.

“When he noticed that police was already busy accosting the ‘dangerous criminal’ who had dropped milk on his head and his araucaria, he subsided somewhat. Fortunately, during his accusing rant he’d been waving the milk container angrily, almost denting his own hat a second time. The officers enquired whether this was my milk, which I confirmed. They asked for further proof, and I produced the receipt that luckily I was still carrying in my wallet. The old gardener demanded the milk to be confiscated for evidence (and, although he didn’t quite say so, in compensation for his damaged araucaria), but I managed to entreat the officer to return the milk to me, its rightful owner. After a look at my driver’s licence and the name thereon he recognised me as the real Sherlock Holmes. I had to promise to come round the Yard for questioning should that be required to convict the jewel thief – who, in all honesty, seemed ready to convict himself, as spent and miserable as he looked.”

“So they returned the milk just so, because you told them to? What about paperwork?” John asked incredulously.

“I didn’t tell them to, I asked them nicely,” returned Sherlock.

John raised an eyebrow. “Nicely? You asked nicely? You, who caused the Chief Super to almost cry last time you talked to him?”

Sherlock sniffed. “He deserved a cry. After all, he tried to get you into trouble again for chinning him. I can be nice when I have to be,” he declared with a measure of injured pride. “When I want to be,” he then amended with a sly glint in his eyes. “After all, I went through all this trouble just to get you your milk.”

“You went to get the milk because I forced you to do so. Because you had used up all the milk that I had bought yesterday and couldn’t be arsed to come up with the idea to go and fetch it yourself. Moreover, the way I’ve interpreted your story so far, you’ve thoroughly been enjoying yourself. Pirates, jewels thieves, dodos and dinosaurs, even fucking ponies.”

“They were horses,” corrected Sherlock indignantly. “Mounted officers don’t play polo on the streets, you know.”

“Horses, fine,” amended John. “Still, you were having fun, running after criminals and showing off your brilliance, like usual. Admit it.”

“What’s the matter, John?” asked Sherlock shrewdly. “It almost seems to me that you are jealous because I didn’t include you in this adventure.”

John folded his arms in front of him and scowled, first at the milk and then at Sherlock. “Yeah, well, while were running around with pirates and thieves and po— horses, I was stuck here waiting for you, waiting for a proper cuppa with a grumbling stomach, for over three hours. A short text wouldn’t have gone amiss, you know, once you had your hands free of milk and were unthreatened by tasers.”

“You fell asleep, John. You wouldn’t have heard the text signal anyway. You’d only read the message after my return.”

“I always hear the text signal, even in the middle of the night.”

“Fine. Fact is, I didn’t have time to text.”

“Why? What happened next? Were you abducted by aliens?”

Sherlock gave a nonchalant shrug and a small but smug smile. “About right.”

“What?”

“Your remark about the aliens. Fact is, when I was finally on my way with the milk, heading towards Hyde Park and looking out for a taxi, I suddenly became aware of something following me. Gazing cautiously over my shoulder, I spotted the strange, glinting car thing I had seen earlier near Madame Tussaud’s but dismissed as unimportant. Now that I could see it from closer up it turned out to be not a tourist coach but one of those posh limousines."

“Like your brother likes to abduct me in?” asked John.

“No. His cars, posh and expensive though they be, are functional vehicles, built to exude an air of exclusivity, elegance and understated upper class and to intimidate his unfortunate victims, of course. This car, if it can be called a car, seated about sixteen people plus driver, was nothing of the kind. It was frightening, but in a completely different way. So large and unwieldy that wouldn’t have been able to enter most of London’s narrower alleyways due to its length and width, it moreover, despite its basic white finish, was decorated all over with strass diamonds and chrome and gilt, sparkling and glittering like a disco ball. I’m sure people so inclined might be tempted to confuse it with a UFO.”

“I think I’ve seen of those things on Picadilly,” nodded John, torn between fascination and horror at the memory. “Really over the top. They usually come out on Saturday nights filled to the brim with rich clubbers. But the windows were all tinted, you couldn’t see anything going on inside, nor any of the passengers.” He licked his lips thoughtfully. “Well, maybe that was for the best. So, did you get to see who was in the car that was trailing you?”

Sherlock nodded darkly. “Aliens, like I said. From Essex. When I realised that the car was indeed trailing me I began to walk more quickly, until I was almost running again. I was trying to cross Kensington Gore to get into the park because they wouldn’t have been able to follow me in there with their vehicle, but there was too much traffic, an entire gaggle of people trying to ride Boris bikes and failing abysmally, and I couldn’t get across. And then the limousine accelerated, overtook me, and just as I was about to turn round and dash off in the other direction, it stopped and out poured a swarm of eye-wateringly dressed people with horribly fake white teeth that glinted in the sun, even more fake tans, not one sporting their natural hair-colour or nose or breasts (men and women), all of them wearing more face paint than the make up department at the National Theatre uses in a year. Worse still, those people seemed to know me and were generally excited about seeing me. They didn’t appear to be interested in doing me or my milk harm, although I couldn’t be sure about their definition of ‘harm’ judging from the way they treated their own exteriors, good taste obviously a concept they’d never heard about.”

“Yeah, from what I understand it’s not much known down in Essex if you want to believe certain TV shows,” agreed John darkly.

“Anyway, they latched onto me, Mr. Holmes here and Sherlock there and whether I wanted to join them which I didn’t, and whether I wanted some champagne which I didn’t either. You know I abhor the stuff. The tried to force some caviar and other fancy food into me as well, despite my assurances that I was still quite full due to drinking so much milk the previous night. They said they’d seen me earlier on Baker Street and since one of their friends needed my help because of some matter down at Southend, they said I simply had to come and help them. They’d pay me handsomely, they said. I could get anything I needed or wanted, they assured me. I told them, firmly, that I was not interested because I had to get home and bring you the milk, and that moreover everything I needed or wanted was back at Baker Street, too, but they said it’d be interesting, a most fascinating case, a case worthy of my intellect. I have to admit to being the slightest bit intrigued, and since there still wasn’t any cab in sight and I didn’t fancy to either walk all the way through Hyde Park or worse, take the Bus home, I made a deal with them. They were to give a lift home, during which I would listen to that case proposal of theirs.”

John gave him a beady gaze over the rim of his teacup. “So you rode a fucking posh limousine up to Baker Street, eh, and you want me to believe you hated it? What was that case?”

“There wasn’t any case,” whined Sherlock with a trace of desperation, pulling his hair. “It was all a sham to get me inside and take lots and lots of photos of me with their glittering, strass-studded phones and their pads. I’m sure the pictures are all over Twitter and Facebook now. They’d simply wanted someone with the faintest trace of celebrity status clinging to him to latch onto. They wanted to present themselves with a famous person. They were worse than the most intrusive paparazzi because at least they, the paparazzi, have so far refrained from jumping on our laps. God, John, you should have seen the interior of the car. There was more glitter than even on the outside. It had pink and leopard patterned seats, and fluffy, furry cushions that look like these white fluffy cats and make your hair stand on end because they’re all electrostatic. Come to think of it, perhaps they were cats. One made a noise when I attempted to sit on it. There were golden door-handles with Svarovski crystals all over them. There was a bar that can’t be called ‘mini’ filled to the brim with champagne and other unsavoury stuff, and they were having strawberries and cream at this time of the year.

“They had a jacuzzi in there, John,” he moaned, wringing his hands. “You’re a doctor, you should check my eyes, see whether they’ve suffered any lasting damage from the absolute lack of style they had to witness today. It was horrible in that car, it really really was.”

He cringed, and so did John in sympathy. People seeing their flat for the first time would occasionally state that some of the decorations, the eccentric wallpapers foremost, didn’t exactly advertise good taste – although they were in fact Mrs. Hudson’s choice not theirs, despite both having grown very fond of them over the years –, but John knew that Sherlock did in fact value aesthetics, beginning with his impeccable style of dress and ending with his quiet pleasure in simple natural beauty like the starry sky, the patterns of plants and flowers, the intricate whorls of a snail, or the look of his beloved London on those days when the sun would break free of dark rain-clouds and illuminate the dome of St. Paul’s with a single golden ray of light.

John, too, appreciated those things (and yes, Sherlock’s sense of dress not the least of them – the man did look rather stunning in clean cut Spencer Hart and his majestic Belstaff). He could only attempt to imagine what horrors Sherlock had witnessed in the back of that car.

“So they just wanted to be seen hanging out with internet phenomenon Sherlock Holmes?” he asked, trying to keep his voice free of teasing.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “So it seems. I struggled to reach the door, but they had crowded all around me and there was a steady flicker of camera flashes going off, blinding me. I did try to free myself of them, but in the resulting scuffle I dropped the milk. Fortunately, it just rolled under one of the leopard patterned, chintzy seats and didn’t fall into the jacuzzi because then it would have been ruined, the water being over thirty degrees. The Essex Aliens were all over me, crooning to me what they were going to do to me to make me ‘stylish and beautiful’. Then they described their plans concerning those London houses they were preparing to acquire with their newly acquired wealth and how they were going to decorate them. They were talking about a new TV ‘reality’ show, a 24/7 broadcast of their lives running on all channels simultaneously. In fact, they were planning to take over in any field imaginable, from fashion to entertainment to politics. A nightmare, truly, John. I’m going to tell Mycroft to put a stop to them first thing tomorrow.”

“How did you manage to escape?” asked John sympathetically, being both genuinely horrified and intrigued.

Sherlock couldn’t help looking smug. “Well, their own attire and lack of fashion sense proved to be their downfall. Wriggling around trying to free myself from their clutches – the fingernails on some of them, John, I wonder how they can operate with those at all –, I grabbed one of their fake jewel encrusted phones and threw it over my shoulder into the jacuzzi. The owner squealed and dived after it, taking with her two or three of her companions. The others brandished their own mobiles and pads to capture the battle in the bath with their devices, leaving me free to dive under the seat and retrieve the milk. Then I fought my way towards the door, helped by the fact that my coat and trousers are made of wool, not polyester as their clothes. Because when I reached for the door handle, I didn’t receive an electric charge. I yanked open the door and more fell than stepped out.

“Fortunately, the car was just then halting at a red light, and moreover I had the milk in that hand which met the ground, saving me from scratching my skin. The Aliens, those that weren’t filming whatever party had developed in the jacuzzi, were trying to follow me, but as soon as they touched the metal they received an electric jolt and were dismayed for a moment. I firmly shut the door in their fake visages, and luckily the light turned green just then and the driver accelerated, and I was left in the middle of the road, more lying than standing. Fortunately, I had the milk with me which I waved in the air. It saved me from being run over by the Number 38 Bus following the limousine, and it also caused a taxi on the opposite lane to stop.

“I scrambled up and got in. We were somewhere on Picadilly, and cradling the milk and trying to compose myself after the harrowing experience, I told the driver to take me back home to Baker Street as quickly as possible. ‘Because,’ I said, ‘I have the milk here for my best and only friend who needs it for his tea and his breakfast cereal and has been waiting for some time now.’

“The cabbie was very sympathetic. She nodded towards the foot-room of the passenger seat where two Tesco plastic bags were sitting, a packet of Smacks peeping out of one. ‘After this tour I have to get home and bring breakfast to my children, too,’ she said. ‘You can’t imagine what a night I had, and what I went through to return home to them to bring them their breakfast in time.’

“I assured her that yes, I could imagine that very well. I tipped her generously and told her to avoid pirates and aliens upon which she only nodded sagely and said ‘I know, I know, and dinosaurs and ponies.’ I didn’t enquire further because here we were at Baker Street. I’m sure her account would have made an interesting story, though. But I got out of the cab quickly and here I am. That’s why it took me so long to fetch the milk.”

He took a long draught of his now lukewarm tea and gazed at John benevolently after he’d set down his cup again. “Well? Was the account worth the wait?”

For a moment John wondered whether Sherlock really thought him to be so stupid as to believe all he had told him. The story was completely ludicrous even by Sherlock’s standards. But giving his friend a quick but thorough glance, he understood that actually Sherlock didn’t seem to consider him stupid at all, despite his remarks now and then. Oh no, Sherlock knew John, better than anybody else in the world, the same way that John knew Sherlock.

Still, that story ... John wasn’t sure he’d ever heard anything so ... weird? Fantastical? Made up? Over the top? Entertaining? Heart-warming, in the way Sherlock had continuously pointed out that bringing John, his ‘best and only friend’, his milk was the most important task whatsoever. John cast a glance round the kitchen and took in what he could see of the living room, too. On the counter sat a stack of newspapers and a few leaflets – some, John noticed, were of London’s museums and their current exhibitions. Right on top of the pile lay one of the V&A’s Inca exhibition. John smiled. He knew that on the desk in the living room was a large print of one of Stubbs’ anatomical horse studies that Sherlock had needed for one of their recent cases. There was also the Jurassic Park DVD they’d watched two days ago – well, John had watched, Sherlock had spent most the film spewing forth comments about its improbability, and a book on extinct species with the drawing of a dodo on the cover. Billy the skull up on the mantelpiece was still adorned with the tricorne hat John had worn for Mike’s costume party last weekend, the one Sherlock claimed he should have worn a naval uniform for instead of a pirate costume, but had refused to explain why.

Returning his gaze to Sherlock who lounged in his chair, watching John closely with a guarded expression which nevertheless looked like he was trying hard not to smile, John took in the crumbs on Sherlock’s shirt which suspiciously looked like those of scones or some similar piece of pastry. There was even a smear that looked like jam, but could of course have been fancy red caviar, too. John was sure that if he were to switch on the telly and search through the ITV channels, there’d be a repeat of The Only Way is Essex or some other awful ‘scripted reality’ thing about people with too much money and too few brains to spend it wisely.

Leaning forward in his seat with his elbows propped up on the table, he cocked his head. “You do understand that I don’t believe a word of your story,” he said sternly, but with a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Oh, you impossible, ridiculous, beautiful man, he thought fondly. Only you would have made up this cock and bull story just to entertain me – and yourself, of course. Well, at least you spent the time down at Mrs. Hudson’s creatively, thinking up a story to entertain me. Or was your delay caused by the fact that you, too, fell asleep, most likely in front of her telly?

Sherlock leaned forward as well, his eyes bent on John’s. “I can prove it,” he said, his voice low and steady, his eyebrow cocked in challenge.

John frowned, but decided to play along. This was going to be interesting. “How?”

Leaning back in his chair again, his face splitting into a wide grin, Sherlock made a grand gesture towards the plastic container between them on the table. “Well, I got the milk.”

 

-< end >-