It had been a dreadful night.
Well, a dreadful week, thought John, as he yawned his way through his morning tea and toast. Five days (and nights) chasing the latest serial killer on nothing but stolen moments for a bite and a half of food or fifteen minutes of sleep. Chases through the streets. Countless cab rides (though that number paled in comparison to the record held by insults traded between Sherlock and the NSY).
All that, in the worst weather London could find to blow, rain, sleet, and drop on them.
So it just figured that, this morning, the day the case was finally finished and life could go back to normal (for them), that he would be called for locum work at the surgery for the first time in weeks.
He wanted to say no. His bones, his muscles, his blood, his very hair were all exhausted, and he was really in no fit state to be making medical decisions for a hamster, much less real, live patients. Except…
“John! I’m bored!” Sherlock’s voice came slamming into the kitchen, hurried by a series of screeches from his violin.
John just buried his head in his arms. How was this even possible? The man had been running at full tilt for five days and had had approximately three hours of sleep since they had stumbled in at some godawful hour very, very late (early?) this morning. How was Sherlock even awake, much less bored already?
If he didn’t want to kill him so badly, John would be impressed with his stamina.
But no, actually, mostly, at this moment, he just wanted to kill him and go back to bed. Except Mycroft probably had about a dozen cameras in the flat and would have him arrested before his head hit the pillow. He would probably keep him awake on purpose, just to make him suffer for a while before he disappeared forever. (Though, then again, Mycroft would totally understand how he would have been driven to it by Sherlock himself—he was his brother after all—and would possibly kill John kindly. An overdose of sleeping pills sounded heavenly.)
Another piercing squeal of anguish from the violin tore through the John’s eardrums and he swallowed the last mouthful of tea and practically sprinted for the door, snatching his coat as he went. He’d rather risk the malpractice suits than face a day of Sherlock being bored. Not on this little sleep, at least.
It was only once he was out the door that he realized what a beautiful day it was—and not just because of the total lack of things like mad serial killers and possibly-more-mad consulting detectives chivvying him to move faster, think faster, shoot faster, like a coach for an insane Olympic crime-fighting event.
No, it was actually a perfect, beautiful, Spring day. After the week of cold, wet, miserable weather (and John had been outside for most of it), this was heaven.
It just figured, too. Because on a day like this, his second choice of activity (after sleeping in, followed by a late morning nap, with an afternoon snooze on the schedule for after lunch), would be to just enjoy the weather. Days like this—in England—in April, for god’s sake—were gifts, and he was going to waste it, checking toddlers for colds.
Sometimes, he hated his life.
He was on the Tube, though, like the good, disgustingly responsible adult he was, when he asked himself why?
Why? Didn’t he deserve a day to himself for a change? A day to do what he wanted? A few hours without being chided and bossed and ordered about by his brilliant but annoying flatmate? With no sniffling children or worried mothers? No police lights or crime scene tape? No chaos? Just … sunshine and a chance to relax for a change?
He looked around at the other poor drudges, heading for their 9-to-5 jobs. Sure, they might get regular, predictable hours and a full night’s sleep, but he wasn’t really one of them, was he? Wasn’t the point of doing locum work to be flexible? Sure, that was mostly to leave him available for Sherlock’s more insane adventures, but why shouldn’t he benefit for a change?
He stood there, crowded in on all sides by other commuters and then remembered playing hooky with his dad once, when he was about seven. Struggling to keep his balance (he really was more tired than he liked to admit), he found himself staring at the Tube map in the car. All he’d need to do would be to make one train change at Hammersmith. It would be a beautiful day for it, after all.
Decided, he edged toward the door.
It wasn’t until he got off the train at Heathrow that John realized he’d left his phone behind. His wallet, too. Luckily, his Oyster card was in his pocket, and … a roll of notes? Where had that come from? He wasn’t Sherlock, who always seemed to have plenty of cash on hand. (Why the man had needed a flatshare in the first place would always be a mystery to John.) But, wait … last night. Sherlock had blindly pushed some cash in his hand for the cabbie, but the driver—a saint, obviously—had been so sympathetic after Sherlock harangued John for the entire drive, had refused to accept John’s money. He had been so tired, he hadn’t even looked at the denominations.
Well, that would come in handy, he thought, as the train sped along. It’s not like he needed his phone, after all. In fact, it would be better this way—Sherlock couldn’t pester him if he didn’t have it.
Today was looking better and better.
He did need to call the clinic, though, to tell them he couldn’t make it after all. They would probably write him off altogether after this, but damn it, he needed this break. He deserved it. And it would be irresponsible of him to try to treat the ill and infirm when he couldn’t keep his own eyes open, right?
This was the argument he made to the receptionist, when he found a pay phone and dredged up some change from the bottom of one of his inside pockets. They weren’t happy, but had to agree that a grand total of five hours of sleep in the last 48 hours was not exactly ideal for a practicing healthcare professional.
So, John checked the surgery off his list of things to do today and just smiled, relishing the fact that this meant his to-do list had one and only one item on it.
1. Play Hooky.
With a surprisingly light step for a man with next to no sleep, he walked out of the station, smiling like an idiot.
John spent some of his unexpected windfall on a decadent cup of cappuccino and a truly huge cinnamon roll. Who cared about nutrition? He was going to enjoy himself today.
He strolled along the concourse, munching on his bun, feeling only sympathy for the poor sods he passed who were stuck on business trips. You’d think they’d relish the chance to travel, but all of them looked tired and frazzled—some of them worse than he felt. And they were stuck wearing suits, poor sods.
When was the last time he’d been to Heathrow, anyway? That flight to France with Sherlock two months ago, he thought. (He had felt useless with his student-level French from twenty years ago.) He hadn’t exactly had the chance to look around then, though. He was too busy being hurried along by an impatient Sherlock Holmes. It was a treat to be able to take his time. Sure, the airport was chock-full of tourists, but it was also interesting (especially when you weren’t there to catch a plane yourself). He was no Sherlock Holmes, but John had always enjoyed watching people. Oh, his emphasis had always been more for picking out health problems than looking for marital affairs and potential crimes and such, but Sherlock wasn’t the only one who could spot details about passersby.
But more than that, Heathrow had planes. He had long since gotten over the supposed glamour of flying—a glamour which the airlines had killed, butchered, stomped on, and then scattered in highly expensive pieces to the winds, so far as John was concerned. Unless you were being cossetted on a private plane (not that that had ever happened to him), flying was one of the least glamorous things to do he could imagine. (Well, okay, there was that skip-diving he’d done with Sherlock three or four cases ago, but he was thinking about travel.)
But still … actually flying in a cramped commercial jet may no longer be exciting or magical, but flight itself? He’d been one of the boys constantly building model planes, and his dad had been as enthusiastic as John was. It had been one of the few things they could talk about, other than football, and one of John’s fondest childhood memories had been that day when he was seven when his Dad brought him here to watch the planes take off.
How often does anybody do this, anymore, John wondered. We’re all always in such a rush to get from point A to point B, we don’t take time to relish the pure miracle of the fact that we’re flying.
And so he sat and drank his expensive coffee and ate his cinnamon roll and leaned back and watched.
After an hour, John noticed airport security passing by more often, watching him with sideways glances. Huh. This hadn’t been a problem when he was seven, he thought, but still, he was sitting alone in an airport, without luggage, and without anxiously watching the arrivals boards. He was actually relaxed. Of course he was drawing attention. With a sigh for a paranoid, terrorist-infected world, he picked up his trash and headed for the exit.
He was only partway there when he saw a man—well, kid really—sidle up to the businessman ahead of him and, with a bump and an apology, lift his wallet.
John’s eyes narrowed. Now, that wasn’t right.
He sighed again to himself. He really hadn’t wanted to work today, and while stopping crimes might not be his actual job, it was closer than he’d wanted to come. This was all Sherlock’s fault, he thought. Before he’d met the man, he probably would never have even noticed a team of pickpockets.
But, well, he had, and he did, and that really left him with no choice.
And so, he took three, firm steps to the left and stopped in front of the kid. “Give it back,” he told him quietly.
John just watched him, all calm eye contact and firm voice, but with no threat, no intimidation. “Give the man back his wallet.”
A flash of scorn on the other’s face as he glanced at John’s unassuming appearance. “Don’t push your nose where it doesn’t belong, Pop. This is none of your business.”
“I think you’ll find that it is,” John said with a small smile that he didn’t allow to reach his eyes.
“You a cop?” Now there was the tiniest bit of concern in the kid’s eyes, but not enough to balance the scorn.
“Not exactly, but the man standing behind you is the next best thing.”
Another sneer. “Like I’m going to fall for that old trick.” He started to back away, daring John to stop him, then his eyes widened as his exit was blocked.
“What’s going on here, gentlemen?” The security guard who’d been watching John was like an unmovable wall.
Before John could say anything, the kid spoke up. “Nothing. I was just, er, asking directions.”
John lifted an eyebrow. “And lifting that man’s wallet,” he said pointing to the businessman who was getting further away all the time.
“What?” The guard stepped forward, suspicious, but not sure who to believe.
“This boy stole that man’s wallet,” John told him calmly. “I saw him do it, and was telling him to give it back.”
“You saw him?” the guard asked skeptically, just as the kid said, “Nah. You couldn’t have!”
“Look, I’m not trying to cause trouble,” John said, trying to look as innocent and calm as he could. “I was just trying to prevent that poor bloke from getting on his plane without his wallet. All I want to do is get the next train back to Hammersmith.”
The guard looked at him and then down at the kid, who was starting to fidget. He’s going to run any second now, John thought, and the guard is going to hold me responsible somehow. Despite the caffeine and sugar running through his veins, he really was too tired to chase anyone today. So, assuming his doctor-face, he held out his hand and said matter-of-factly. “Just hand it over. Believe me, it’s less painful this way. You’re better off if you do it willingly, and if you force the guards to chase you through the concourse, they’re just likely to get angry.”
“What the hell business is it of yours?” burst out the kid. “Who the hell are you and why do you care?”
“Dr. John Watson, and I don’t really, except that what you’re doing is wrong and you lifted the wallet right in front of me.”
He hadn’t expected to see recognition on both faces.
“The one that runs around with Sherlock Holmes?”
John sighed. It wasn’t really all that long ago that he’d had a reputation of his own, but it had long-since been lost, burned away in the brilliance that surrounded Sherlock Holmes. “Yes, that’s me. Now just hand over the wallet so I can be on my way?”
But nobody moved. The two of them—the guard and the pickpocket—just stared at him with something akin to awe on their faces. John just blinked. This was not the reaction he was used to getting. Then both of them asked “Is he here?” and John tried not to roll his eyes. He should have known the shell-shocked, star-struck looks weren’t meant for him. Even on his day off, he couldn’t get away from Sherlock.
Bored, Sherlock all but threw his violin bow down on the table. It had been hours since he’d had a case. It was unbearable.
To make it worse, John wasn’t here. He’d gone off to that boring job of his that he claimed was so necessary for paying the bills, which was ridiculous. Now that Mycroft had succumbed to the inevitable and released it, Sherlock’s trust fund was more than sufficient for the two of them. Not that John would accept that. He kept insisting he needed to earn his own way. It was most frustrating. They’d finished their case. John should be here right now, sleeping, no doubt.
Sherlock was well aware that John needed more sleep than he did. He had already accepted that today would be a day of (boring) rest, just so that John could recover properly. Hadn’t he waited until 7:00 before he’d come out to the sitting room to play the violin? He hadn’t even started any experiments in the kitchen before John’s breakfast so his he could eat his (boring) toast and drink his (boring) tea in peace. Sherlock had really been very considerate.
Which is why it rankled, the way John had stormed out of the flat with half his toast left on the plate. It wasn’t like him to waste food (or, not without a case forcing him to). Nor had he been running late for his (boring) job. Was it something he had read in the paper? Sherlock took a moment to glance at the open page. No, nothing of note.
No, the signs (red face, hurried exit) suggested John had been annoyed with Sherlock upon his departure, and really, Sherlock could not think why.
Picking up his phone, he sent a friendly text.
--I’m bored. How is your day going?
Seconds later, he heard a chime from the desk. Turning his head, he sighed. John had left his phone. Why had he left it? That was so unlike him. He was never in such a hurry that he left his phone and … Sherlock blinked. His wallet. John had left his wallet and his phone? This was unprecedented.
He thought for a moment. Suppose that John had, in fact, been annoyed with him when he left, and that he had been so annoyed he’d accidentally left behind his phone and wallet. Would he appreciate having said items returned to him? Perhaps brought to the surgery? That could be seen as a gesture of good-will, which could be useful, assuming that annoyance had been a factor in his abrupt departure. It would be thoughtful, as well, because without his wallet, he would not be able to access his bank account to pay for his lunch. Since he had had to force himself to go to work today, after a strenuous week that had even left Sherlock feeling a bit tired, proper nutrition was important.
Nodding to himself, Sherlock hurried to his bedroom to get dressed. John would be so pleased to see him, he might actually gain Good Flatmate points for being considerate.
Minutes later, he was out the door and hailing a cab.