The road is dark. Dark enough that the headlights of the classic Mercedes 300 SL Sherlock is driving don’t seem to illuminate much more than a few feet ahead of him. He barely notices, taking an elegant drag of the rolled spliff between his long, slender fingers and holding it in his chest. He exhales, shutting his eyes and blowing the smoke into the night sky. The wind is whipping through his dark curls, the top down in lieu of a particularly warm summer night. The stars are fairly visible that evening, just outside the city limits.
His brain is buzzing, but not in the usual sense. Not quite. It’s a quick, organized kind of buzz, one where every folder, every piece of information is sliding out of its cabinet and being reviewed. His mind is re-evaluating any and all things inside itself, keeping what it deems necessary (synthesis reactions, coagulation rate of blood, Elvis Presley, the dealer with the best gear) and dumping that which has no use (solar system, little Angela Cormonsmith from primary school, algebraic equations).
He is flying down the road, his foot a lead brick against the accelerator, Bach pulsing from the speakers in the car. He feels infinite and finite in the same instance. He could live forever or die at any moment. He sniffs, taking in the dirty London evening and holding it in his lungs. His hands leave the wheel momentarily, conducting the imaginary orchestra before him in large, sweeping gestures. He considers pulling over, for just another line or two, to keep him on the up-and-up, but he can see London's tall buildings coming into view. He pushes forward.
He doesn't look at the pavement as he hits the city limit. He knows the roads thoroughly. He knows every street by name and width and direction. He knows the alleyways large enough for a car to slide through, and the ones barely large enough for a body to slip into. He knows the sidewalks, knows the way pedestrian traffic seems to flow down each. He also knows that by two in the morning on a Tuesday, the streets are very nearly empty.
He is easily too confident of his knowledge and he knows this, knows he's being reckless and ridiculous, but it doesn't stop him from tearing through the small, familiar streets dangerously.
He takes his hand off the wheel, back to conducting the orchestra playing for him, waving his arm dramatically up and over and around the car. He slips the slowly-dying spliff between his lips in a grand motion. He is humming along with the viola contained in the piece. He knows it well. He's played it many times by then.
His eyes slip closed for just a moment.
It is in that moment that the music―Mussorgsky's “Night on Bald Mountain”--swells through his speakers. It is that moment when Sherlock, young and floating and buzzing and reckless, takes his hands from the wheel once again, conducting dramatically. He can feel the vibration of the music coursing through him, beautifully dissonant, outrageous and trembling.
It is in that moment when the light changes from green to red, and Sherlock takes no notice.
It is in that moment that John Watson, dizzy with terminology and lack of sleep, makes to cross the road without checking. He should be able to hear the orchestra coming for him, should be able to see the headlights racing right into his path, but he doesn't. He heaves his legs onto the crosswalk and begins walking.
It isn't until he is but twenty-five feet away from sleepy, dragging John Watson that Sherlock Holmes finally open his eyes.
It isn't until John can hear the squealing of tyres against the concrete that he lifts his head.
He stares only momentarily, dumbfounded, alarmed, confused, angered by the sight of the car barreling toward him. His body reacts faster than his mind. Just as the driver is pressing hard against the brakes, just as the horn is billowing noisily, he dashes away, practically leaping just in time for the car to careen past him. He's flat on his belly, breathing in the smell of oil and dirt and pavement, his breath laborious. He's certain he's just seen his life flash before his eyes, but he can hear the car's tyres still squealing against the pavement. He turns up quickly, flipping just enough to watch as the luxury car spins in the middle of the intersection.
Its turned one-hundred and eighty degrees, now facing John once again, but it has stopped. Smoke is curling up from the burned rubber of the tyres. The driver hasn't moved.
John is suddenly feeling nothing but rage. He jumps up, grabbing up his bag, and stalks toward the car. “Jesus Christ, what in the fuck were you thinking?” he yells. He's making his way very quickly.
Sherlock is motionless. His hands are gripping the steering wheel. His heart is thumping harder and faster than it had been before. He is staring straight ahead, breathing hard. His mind has seemingly ceased to function. His eyes flicker to the man coming toward him, and it kick starts his brain quickly.
Shorter than me, though sturdier. Book bag slung over his arm―student. This late at night? Uni. This close into town? The closest thing about is Bart's. Medical student. Late night studying for an exam scheduled the following day. Terminology?―everyone's sore spot. Everyone crams for terminology.
His head swivels to meet the man. His eyes are dark blue. His hair is sandy and blond. Sherlock can see this from the street lamps. He's yelling. Sherlock, he's yelling. Listen.
“Do you even have a permit? Are you supposed to be driving Daddy's car about this late? Christ, you almost... Oi!” he shouts, snapping his fingers in front of Sherlock's face. Sherlock jumps, realizing quite suddenly that the spliff he'd been smoking was now somewhere on the floor beneath his feet. He blinks rapidly, brow creasing in concern as he slumps forward.
“Are you even listening, mate? You nearly killed me, just now.” John says.
Sherlock sits up, extinguished joint in hand, and looks back to him. John eyes the small, burned up piece between Sherlock's fingers and emits a sharp, unamused laugh. “You're joking.” he says with a sigh. He looks back to Sherlock's face. “Two in the mornin', drivin' about with a bit of smoke, not payin' attention...”
“The weed kept me level.” Sherlock says finally, his throat dry. He could use a gallon of water suddenly, or perhaps the rest of the cocaine stashed in the glove compartment. His heart is still racing, but it's no longer pleasant, and definitely not welcome. John stares incredulously. His mouth is gaping. “Level from what? You 'bout near did me in just then.” he says.
“Never you mind.” Sherlock grumbles as he finally punches the music off. He reaches for the door handle, shoving it open against John's legs. John is staring at him, wide eyed and slack-jawed, backing away and watching as Sherlock crouches down beside the tyres. “Are you even going to apologize for nearly running me down?” John asks incredulously.
Sherlock turns his head, glancing at John over his shoulder. He smirks. “My apologies for nearly running you down. Now please, feel free to move on. You'll need all the sleep you can get if you're to remember the difference between Keratoconjunctivitis and Keratoconjunctivitis sicca.”
John's eyebrows furrow. “Have we met?” he asks.
Sherlock shakes his head, half crawling toward the next tyre.
“How did you--”
Sherlock stands, sighing as he places his hands on his narrow hips. He looks at John. “How did I know you've got a terminology exam tomorrow? It's obvious.” he says. John simply stares. Sherlock sighs exasperatedly. He swallows, attempting to wet his throat, then points to John. “You're, what... early twenties, yeah? My guess is twenty-three or so. You're young but not too young to be out at this time.” he starts. John continues to stare, his face growing more and more confused. “You've got a book bag slung over your shoulder. It's pretty full up as well. So you're a student. Twenty-three year old student means you're in Uni.” Sherlock turns away, heading toward the back of his car. “It's two in the morning, you've got your book bag slung over your shoulders. Could say you've been working, but no one around here is open. Not on a Tuesday night. So, obviously, your school is close by. Closest thing to these parts is Bart's. So, medical student.” He squats down to investigate, sighing at the over-whelming smell of burned rubber.
“How did you know about the exam?” John asks lamely after a moment of silence, having followed him to each tyre.
Sherlock stands once again, turning to John with his hands in his pockets. “That was a guess. Sort of.” he says simply. He makes another round about the car as he explains. “Medical student who just left the school at two in the morning? He's been studying. Cramming, more like, for a difficult exam in the morning. Two subjects always flub up med students.” He turns, holding up a single finger. “Anatomy,” He holds up a second, “And terminology. Newer students, ones who would be taking an anatomy course, wouldn't look to use the library until two in the morning. Libraries generally shut down well before then. Older students tend to lurk about longer because staff know their habits.” He says all of this offhandedly, as though mumbling about the weather as he kicks the back left tyre.
“Therefore... terminology.” John mutters.
“Precisely. You catch on quickly.” Sherlock looks to John once, and despite himself, he flashes him a half smile.
John can't help a small smile either. “How do you know all that?” he asks. He hasn't forgotten that he was almost beneath the tyres Sherlock kicks at, but somehow he has let it sit on the back of his mind. He's fascinated, more or less, by the tall, lean, mop-topped gentleman before him.
Sherlock licks his lips, sighing. His heart is finally becoming normal. He's coming down quick, and though it grates his nerves, he acknowledges John's question. “I don't know. I see. I observe.” he replies.
“You just... look at someone and get all that?” John inquires skeptically.
“Brilliant.” John laughs.
Sherlock looks back to him, smile back on his face. “You think?”
John shakes his head, still laughing. “I don't think, I know. Can you do that with anyone? Well, you have to, don't you? Didn't even know me and you could tell all that...” He's completely baffled by it. Sherlock can see this in his face. He can also see the pure exhaustion in his cheeks and in the small bags beneath his eyes. He glances over John entirely once before coming back to his eyes. “People aren't usually so... understanding about it.” he states, shoving his hands into his pockets.
John looks genuinely confused. “What? How do you mean?”
“People generally don't regard my observations as brilliant, is what I mean.”
“How do they generally regard them? You?”
Sherlock lets a small laugh escape him. “More or less, with a death glare and a nice, enunciated fuck off.”
John hasn't been unobservant of the strange man. He too has been looking. He knows that the man is obviously intoxicated―the spliff he pulled from under the seat said that―but there's something else. Something he's not showing, not telling. John knows he should call the police, because he's almost been killed just now. But somehow, this bizarre man, without saying a word in his own defense, has convinced him not to. Instead, he finally holds out his hand, “John, by the way. In case you were wondering. John Watson.”
Sherlock glances from John's hand to John's face a few times before presenting his own hand. He settles it firmly into John's. “Sherlock Holmes.”
“Nice to meet you. Even though, rightfully, it shouldn't be.” John says. He looks to the car, then his eyes quickly move around the area. They're still in the middle of the intersection. Strangely, no other cars have come by. He looks back to Sherlock, who is staring at him. “I mean, you did try and kill me just now.” John replies to the stern look on Sherlock's face.
“I wasn't attempting to kill you.” he replies, “You happened to step out in front of my car.”
“Bollocks. It was my go, you were supposed to stop.”
“That doesn't give you the right to walk into the street without checking for cross traffic.”
“Are you trying to blame me for you nearly hitting me?”
They stare at one another, Sherlock's face serene, John's face scrunched in confusion.
Sherlock sighs, shaking his head. His brain seems to be biting at itself, already begging for a distraction, something, anything. He considers saying his farewells, slamming himself into his car, and huffing a few lines off the dashboard, but John is watching him. He's waiting for something. A response. “I suppose it was, in fact, my wrong-doing.” Sherlock says finally. “I... wasn't paying attention.”
“Too right. But I'm a forgiving person, if nothing else. So... it's strangely okay.” John replies. “However, I recommend looking at the road when you drive. Next person may not be so gentle. ”
Sherlock huffs a small laugh, one that comes from his gut. “Or quick, for that matter.” he adds.
“Next time, you'll be picking bits of human flesh off the grill.” John smirks.
“That would be a treat, wouldn't it?”
John stares, his mouth half cocked into a smile. “Would it?” he asks, his eyebrow lifting.
Sherlock narrows his eyes in amused suspicion. “The truth may surprise you.”
“Something tells me it wouldn't.”
Sherlock is a little thrown by John. He isn't sure what to make of him, not quite. There's something friendly about him, even at two in the morning, even in the middle of an intersection. He hasn't called the police, though he'd have every right to. He hasn't done much more arguing, even though he'd also be entitled to do so. He isn't sure why, but he swallows as he asks. “Fancy a cup of coffee, by chance? May need it. “ Sherlock almost instantly regrets the question, but he doesn't allow himself to show it.
John is hesitant. Sherlock is strangely charming. He's unsure of why he finds him to be so, but he does, and that makes him want to accept. But Sherlock nearly just hit him with a car. At a very quick speed, as it happens. So he wants to—logically--tell him to sod off. But he's intrigued, and he feels like if he doesn't take the opportunity right then, and tell Sherlock yes, that he may never get the opportunity again. “Ah... Is there anywhere open for coffee at this time? It's a bit late. Or early, depending.” he says instead. It gives him a small window, one that he can leap from if he needs to. Sherlock nods, “I know of one. Not too far from here.”
“No? Which direction?”
Sherlock gestures with his head, “North.”
“Bit out of the way for me. Flat's south.” He regrets the words the moment they slip from his mouth.
Sherlock's eyebrow quirks, and his features become supercilious. “A simple 'no' would've sufficed.” he says. He makes his way back to the drivers side of the car and flings the door open. John stares. “What?” he asks.
“If you're uninterested in a cup of coffee, you need not beat around the bush.” Sherlock goes on, sliding himself into the seat. He buckles his seat belt as John comes around to meet him. “But I-”
“There's also no need to save face.” Sherlock cuts him off, turning the key in the ignition. “It was merely a suggestion. Albeit, one I wouldn't normally have made, but you piqued my interest for a moment and I thought I'd give it a go.” His head turns to face John, who has his hands clasped on the door. “I hadn't meant to-”
“You did nothing wrong. You went with a gut impulse, one that told you that trusting a man who nearly ran you down moments ago was a bad idea.” Sherlock replies as he adjusts the volume of the music coming from the speakers. “You reacted as any other person would. And so, Mr. Watson, I apologize once again for nearly hitting you. Do, however, attempt to look both ways before crossing a road. And good luck with your exam in the morning, I fear you'll need it.” Sherlock says this quickly, his voice razor sharp and cold as ice.
It causes John to step back. He's unsure why he's hurt by a strangers words, but he is and he has to pull himself together to watch Sherlock reverse and turn back into the direction he was heading. There are no final exchanges, no backward glances between them, and John doesn't say a word as Sherlock and his car disappear into the English night.
John doesn't expect to still be thinking about Sherlock once he pushes the door of his flat open. Not in the way he is, anyway. He expects to recall being nearly flattened by him. He expects to think about the eerie way he could read John. He doesn't expect to think about the small, obviously rare smiles Sherlock gave him, or how light his eyes were, or how cold his voice became upon rejection. He doesn't expect to feel a heavy sadness in his chest at the thought, but he feels it and it makes him uncomfortable. His flat mate is parked in front of the telly, spread on the couch, eyes only half open.
“Oi.” he mutters from the couch. John looks down at him.
“Thought you could sneak in, eh? C'mon mate.”
“Ta Pete, but I've got an exam and I need sleep.” John replies.
Pete shakes his head. He's drunk, John suspects. “C'mon mate. Take a load off, have a beer.”
“I should really--”
“John, ain't no way I'm lettin' ya, so just come and sit.”
John sighs as he slips his bag off his shoulder. He wants some peace and quiet. He wants, despite his best wishes, to think of the strange man called Sherlock. But not in the way Pete is about to tear from him. He flops down on the dingy couch and grabs the freshly-opened bottle Pete hands him. Pete claps him on the back. “Studying all night, look at ya. You're one of them good students.” He says.
“Because I care about the material? Heaven forbid.” John throws a side glance at him while putting the bottle to his lips.
“Did I miss anything exciting?” Pete asks sarcastically, flopping his back against the couch. John sighs, and his brain conjures up the vision of Sherlock. Something is still amiss, something vital to that moment is missing, but he can't pinpoint it. “Nearly got run over.” John says simply.
This peaks Pete's interest. “Fuck sake!”
John nods. “Yep, by some bloke in a Mercedes.”
“Ah, figures. Posh-o, then.”
John furrows his eyebrow. “A bit, I suppose.”
“Did you give him a talkin' to? I'd have kicked his arse had it been me.” Pete is shaking his head, his eyebrows furrowed slightly. John laughs, inhaling deeply as he rests against the back of the couch as well. “Nah. He was alright.”
He notices when Pete turns to look at him. He does so slowly. “He was alright? Bloke nearly runs you down in the street and he's alright?” Pete shakes his head, scoffing. “Nah mate, that ain't alright. That's grounds for a proper doin' in, if you ask me.”
“Good thing I didn't then.” John mutters. He takes another sip of his beer. He knows he has no right to be upset that Pete is considering violence against Sherlock, but it doesn't settle well in his stomach. Something is upsetting and he doesn't understand it, but he thinks of Sherlock's sharp features and cold voice. “So then, what did happen?” Pete asks suddenly.
“Hmm?” John asks.
“If you didn't deck him, what happened?”
John sighs, settling the bottle between his legs. “Well... I started to shout a bit.”
“Noticed he had a spliff.”
“Ah, he was high?” Pete shakes his head disapprovingly.
“Then he got out of the car and... well, I don't know what really happened then.”
Pete looks at him once again, but he doesn't return the gaze. “I asked him if he was going to apologize, and he sort of did. And then he told me to go away, because I needed sleep if I was gonna do alright on my exam.”
“He told you to get sleep for your exam?” Pete asks.
John nods. “Exact words were--” He can hear them in his head as he says them, “You'll need all the sleep you can get if you're to remember the difference between Keratoconjunctivitis and Keratoconjunctivitis sicca.”
Pete looks perplexed. He is still staring at John, and now his eyebrows are furrowed and his chin is pulled inward. “Those words?”
“Those words exactly.”
“Do you know him?”
John shakes his head. “Never seen him in my life.”
“Then how'd he--”
“He just knew.” John says simply. “He knew my age, knew I was a med student, knew I was at Bart's, knew about the exam. He just looked at me and knew.” John is still just as perplexed, but he doesn't share the skeptical feeling that Pete is obviously harboring. He looks at Pete finally. “You sure you've never seen him, mate? Could be one of those weird-o stalker types.” Pete says. He sounds serious. John can't help the laugh that escapes him. It confuses Pete even further.
“No. He's not... he's not that.” John replies. He takes the bottle from between his thighs and takes another sip. He could be. John realizes this. But nothing about Sherlock read stalker. Not to him anyway. Then again, it was practically impossible to read Sherlock. Sherlock had the ability to read whoever he liked at any given moment. Apparently, it seemed, to John anyway, that the trick was not reversible. He sighs into his bottle, taking a long swig. “So then what.” Pete prompts once again.
John shrugs. “Nothing. Not really. A bit of a chit-chat. Told him my name--”
“Bet he's a stalker.”
“--He told me his.”
“Bet it's a weird-o name. What's his name?”
It is a bit of a weird-o name. John notes this when he says it out loud. “Sherlock Holmes.”
Pete bursts into a fit of giggles. Once again, John feels himself getting strangely defensive over Sherlock. Sherlock, the man who he literally knew less than half an hour. The one who read him without even knowing his name. The one who offered coffee and the one who almost seemed upset that John hadn't immediately said yes. “Sherlock Holmes?” Pete repeats, and John nods stiffly. “I think he gave you a fake name. Bit of a weird one too. Who would name a kid Sherlock? That's just child abuse.” Pete is going on, giggling into his beer bottle. John clears his throat, his lips pursing as he focuses on the screen. He doesn't like how defensive he's feeling. He hates that Pete is mocking Sherlock. Neither of these things seem to register properly.
“Did you at least bring round the coppers? Might have done him a favor, taught him a lesson.”
John shook his head. “Thought about it. Decided against it.”
“Wha-? Why would you think about callin' the police and then decide against it?”
John swipes his tongue over his teeth thoughtfully. “He apologized. I'm not hurt. What's the point?”
“That a loony named Sherlock tried to run you down?”
“He didn't try and run me down. It was an accident.”
“Should've been watchin' where he was going.”
“I wasn't looking either, Pete.” John says, his voice low.
“Yeah, but he's the one in the car. He should've been lookin' out for people like you.”
“It goes both ways. He should've looked, and I should've looked. We were both at fault.” John can hear the edge coming into his voice and he can't seem to control it. He hopes that Pete doesn't hear it, but he has a feeling he might have when he glances at him. John turns back toward the television, swallowing and taking another sip. “Point is... I don't know. It was weird, but it was alright.”
“Right.” Pete replies shortly.
“I survived. And maybe I'm better for it.”
“So... I'm just going to go ahead and go to bed.” John says with finality. He sets his half-drunk beer on the coffee table and stands, grabbing up his bag. Pete doesn't say anything else, and John is both thankful and regretful of that. He knows that Pete is mulling over the words he used. He's thinking about the edge in his voice and wondering just why John is getting uppity over some bloke called Sherlock Holmes. John can't answer that, so he leaves the room before Pete gets the gall to ask.
John spends the rest of his evening in bed. Though he fitfully attempts to sleep, he only gets half sleeps that don't quite rest him. When his alarm sounds, however, he has made a decision. If he comes across Sherlock Holmes again, he will invite him for coffee. He has decided that he wants to know Sherlock Holmes, though for what reason, he hasn't exactly worked out.
He showers as normal, allowing the temperature to scald him just slightly. He dresses for the day and creeps around the kitchen, knowing Pete is sleeping on the couch. He makes himself a cup of tea, a strong cup, and leans against the counter while he drinks it. His brain is rehashing the terms he's learned. He remembers the difference between Keratoconjunctivitis and Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. He remembers Sherlock explaining John. He remembers Sherlock saying he'd need rest.
Toast pops up from the toaster and he grabs it, buttering it quickly. He'll eat on the run. The sooner he takes the exam, the sooner his day ends. He glances at Pete before he leaves, ensuring that he hasn't roused him. Pete is sprawled out on the couch, leg hanging off, mouth wide and possibly drooling. John shuts the door behind him quietly and heads toward Bart's.
The air is brisk in the morning. It wakes up him properly, which he needs, as the lecture hall will surely be stuffy and warm. It takes him twenty minutes to walk, and within ten of arriving in the hospital, he's seated in the hall and awaiting the beginning of the exam.