The banner outside the pub reads, “WELCOME JOHN WATSON.”
John walks in late -- because of Sherlock, of course. He has to pause a moment to mentally adjust to the scene in front of him. It’s like looking at a room full of mirrors -- some of them decidedly fun house mirrors, though. Hundreds of other John Watsons turn toward him as he enters. They lick their lips, smile, and wave. He licks his lips, smiles, and waves back.
“John! Come have a drink,” one of them waves from a table full of military AU Watsons. It’s the Watson from the Canadian Forces, John notes -- he hasn’t served in a number of years, but John isn’t surprised to see him still most at ease with the other military men. John hesitates for a moment, considering joining him. Then he sees that the fighter pilot Watson is also at the table. John really can’t take the attitude from that one right now -- fortunately, it looks like Watson the Marine captain is about to jump in and take him down a peg. John doesn’t feel like sticking around to watch; he smiles politely, says, “Later,” and heads for the bar.
He has to pass through the support group for Watsons who’ve lost their Sherlocks along the way -- there’s someone telling the most heartwrenching story about a brain tumor -- and now he really needs a drink. He orders a pint, and as he waits, he listens to the conversation of the Watsons on the stools nearby.
“Sherlock is just so... French, sometimes, you know?” says a frustrated Watson in tennis togs. The nearby Watsons -- one of whom John is surprised to see wearing a baseball uniform -- respond with quizzical looks, then shrug and nod sympathetically. “He’s certainly arrogant,” they agree.
On John’s other side, he suddenly hears a chorus of admiring noises, and he turns to see an array of Watsons grinning at one in their midst, who is blushing. “Wait, you had sex with two of him? At once? Tell us what that was like,” several Watsons demand, as they lean in to clap him on the shoulder.
John sighs. He has long ago come to accept that, for whatever reason, in most universes, he is having sex with Sherlock. He thanks the barkeep for his drink and wanders off. In the process, he passes some Watsons who were not so fortunate in their choice of threesomes -- the Watsons who had sex with both Holmes brothers at the same time are sitting by themselves, getting disgusted looks from the others. Only the Watsons who’ve had sex with Harry, or the ones who’ve purposefully had sex with Moriarty, are more outcast.
John walks on. He smiles as he waves to the parental Watsons -- many of them exchanging photos of a dark-haired boy named Hamish at varying ages, but others mentioning Genie, Ava, or other girls’ names -- but doesn’t have much to contribute to their proud, exhausted chatter. Instead, he stops briefly at a table where a herd of Watsons are clustered around one in a tux, shouting names.
“Daniel Craig!” one demands.
The Watson in a tux chuckles. “Sherlock doesn’t have to deduce anything about him. We’re friends.” There are oohs of envy. More celebrity names are called out, and the well-groomed Watson shares personal tidbits -- occasionally scandalous -- that his Sherlock has inferred about each.
After lingering for a few amusing bits of Hollywood gossip, John moves on to where most of the women are clustered. All the Joans and Janes and Johnnies are oddly fascinating -- softer versions of himself -- and he can’t decide whether it’s wrong that he finds most of them a bit attractive. Either way, he can’t help but flirt a little, though without any success. (It can’t be too weird, though, because he definitely saw a pair of male Watsons getting handsy with one another over in the corner.)
Close at hand, another Watson is playing a solo game of darts with impressive accuracy. (Right-handed? That’s a new one.) John considers joining him, but a conversation from a nearby table draws his attention.
“But... does he ever seem to know a bit too much about the criminal mind?” One Watson is asking worriedly.
“Sure,” the others nod.
“And is he good at manipulating people?”
“A master,” they agree.
“Are.. are you sure he’s not a serial killer?” the first Watson asks.
“Don’t be such a Donovan,” another says, dismissively.
“My Sherlock isn’t a serial killer,” a second says firmly. “But he is a monster. I mean, literally a monster.”
“Mine’s a machine,” a third chips in.
“Well, mine’s an angel," a final Watson remarks. "Again, literally. But not really as nice as you'd think, given that."
John, wandering further, finds himself on the periphery of a crowd of Watsons all vying for dominance, while other Watsons watch admiringly. Oh, God, the Omegaverse Watsons. John just does not understand them. He realizes that a couple of furrier folks on the edge of the crowd are actually werewolves -- one of them is asking an Omega Watson, “What, really? Pregnant? I mean, what I wouldn’t give for a self-lubricating arse... but yeah, I don’t think I’m up for that.”
John shudders and and turns away. Nor does he join the Watsons trading stories of vampires, or of zombies. Instead, he pauses for a few minutes to share a drink with a Watson in fancy breeches and a jacket from the early 1800’s and a couple Watsons in waistcoats from sometime around WWI and WWII, if he’s not mistaken. John is curious about the state of medical science in each of their time periods, but he doesn’t get a chance to ask, because the more recent Watsons are busy trying to help the Regency era Watson decide what to make of a marriage proposal. From Sherlock, of course. John sighs and moves on.
He pauses for a bit at the kids table. Several boys in red-and-yellow or black-and-yellow striped scarves are levitating their drinks, to the delight of the other youngsters. Nearby, a few Watsons in more mundane school clothes -- is that an Eton uniform on one of the boys? How unexpectedly posh -- are talking to a nerdy Watson with a leather jacket wrapped around his shoulders. (They seem to be discussing how the rules of rugby compare to those of American football, of all things.)
At an adjacent table, John spots a hedgehog sipping from a bowl of beer, shared by a small bat. Next to them sit a merman Watson in a bathtub, and -- is that a pinecone wearing his jumper? Several Watsons in more familiar forms are there, too, listening to one who is saying, “Well, yes, he’s a fish -- a big fish, though. You’d think he’d be kind of ineffectual, but actually, he’s rather brilliant.”
“Isn’t he always?” another agrees. “A fish sounds rather nice, actually. You have no idea how maddening it is to constantly have him sharpening his antlers on things around the cabin.”
“Hi,” John greets a far more nondescript Watson, who has just joined him. “And what do you do?” He listens politely as this Watson tries to tell him about something called ElJay and fandom wank -- which doesn’t seem to involve literal wanking so far as John can tell, but he’s not 100% sure -- but can’t really make heads or tails of it. Sherlock is apparently an artist of some sort, though, and Watson is some kind of online writer. John tries to discuss blogging with him for a bit before giving up on the universe as being too incomprehensibly different.
John eventually finds his way to a table of doctors and medical students, who are mostly from universes fairly similar to his own. They trade stories of Sherlock interrupting patients, and Sherlock as a patient, and Sherlock as a student. As one Watson regales the rest with tales of Sherlock auditing his medical courses and slowly seducing him, other Watsons grin knowingly. John just blushes. Soon, though, they’re back to a mixture of complaining about Sherlock admiringly, and admiring him complainingly, and John happily joins in for that.
Much later: “So, see you later this year at WatsCon?” one asks as they put on their coats.
John shrugs. “I don’t know. It’s so much bigger, with everyone there.” And John always feels such peer pressure to grow a mustache when hanging out with most of the other versions of the various Watsons, which he doesn’t really want to do.
“Yeah. But it’s gotten a lot better since the recent explosion of Joans.”
“True. Most of the new Joan Watsons are quite bad-ass,” he says. “I could learn things from them.”
“And they’re quite fit, too.”
He nods agreement; most of the recent of Joans at the all-Sherlockian WatsCon look very different from him, so he’s not too bothered that he thinks so. “Right, I’m in.” He smiles.
There are handshakes and claps on the shoulder all around, and reminders to take care of Sherlock until they meet again. John walks out ahead of most of the crowd, to find an embarrassment of Sherlocks texting impatiently or otherwise engaging with their phones (or with a fish, in the case of the blue-scarfed otter) and crossly ignoring one another. “Took you long enough,” his Sherlock says, stepping forward to meet him. “Come, John.” Sherlock takes the lead, and John, with a final fond glance back at the pub, follows, as always.