Author: Ariane DeVere. Story Consultant: Verity Burns
Word count: 697
Disclaimer: Sherlock belongs to way more powerful and wealthy people than me.
“Next, please.” John released the intercom and sat back in his chair while he waited for the receptionist to send in his next patient. Despite his attempts to concentrate on his work, his mind began to wander, as it so frequently did even after all this time.
Sometimes there was a day when he didn’t think of him. Just occasionally John would go an entire day without thinking about the man who had given him a purpose in life. And he would wake the next morning and realise, and would ache with the pain ... but the pain was real and necessary, and he would be tempted to carve Sherlock’s name on his arm to make the pain even more real so he would never forget again.
A persistent tickly cough, and advice that over-the-counter medicine would actually be cheaper than if John wrote a prescription. The patient seemed indignant at being offered the less expensive option, certain that prescription medicine must by its very nature be more powerful. A tired explanation that ‘expensive’ didn’t mean ‘better’, and a disgruntled departure full of mumbling that next time she would go and see Doctor Sawyer instead.
Sometimes there was a day when he schemed: John had no idea whether there was an afterlife but if he and Sherlock eventually met in such a circumstance, he planned out in great detail what he would say to his former flatmate, and it wouldn’t be pleasant. He had so many things to tell him about his rage at being left behind with no rational explanation, his confusion at Sherlock’s obviously false admission of being a fake, his sense of betrayal that Sherlock apparently hadn’t been able to trust him ... and his grief at losing his only real friend. If there was a rule against punching spirits in the afterlife, John was very likely to be booted out and would spend the rest of eternity in a much darker place. It might just be worth it.
A lump under the skin of the man’s arm which had only appeared during the last couple of weeks. A recommendation to keep monitoring it and to come back if it got any larger. An addition to the patient’s notes to put a flag on the computer to phone the patient and check that all was well if he hadn’t come back within two months.
Sometimes there was a day when he wrote a long blog entry about the pain, or about the words he intended to say. He would pour out all his anguish, his rage, his guilt ... and then delete the draft. Not even Ella knew about it – despite his therapist’s encouragement that he should write down his feelings, he could never bring himself to tell her what he was doing. There didn’t seem any point: his outpourings of emotion never made him feel any better afterwards.
A request for a repeat prescription of anti-depressants from a mother of two youngsters who wasn’t coping well with parenthood. A long conversation allowing her to pour out her woes, a suggestion that she seek counselling as a better alternative to help her with her troubles, a list of telephone numbers to call ... and a momentary temptation after the patient had left to write out the ’scrip anyway and fill it for himself.
And sometimes – just sometimes – there was a day when he was so busy working in the surgery that he didn’t have time to think about the pain, or the words he might say, or what he might write in his blog. Today was not such a day. The patients’ ailments were fairly mundane and predictable and not enough to distract him in between appointments. John hoped that his next patient might be someone more interesting, someone who would take his mind off his continuing anguish for just a few precious minutes.
“So, what can I do for you, Mr. ...” John looked at the name on the card on his desk “... Sigerson?”
What happened next, after the man in the hooded jacket finally raised his head and met his eyes, would never appear on John’s blog.
Author’s Note: It takes more than a few thousand miles of distance to keep a Verity Burns down, and I couldn’t have done this without her help. This story was trying to be a 221B but even I knew that it didn’t feel right and so sent it to my other plotbunny, verityburns, despite her being on holiday with her family in America. In what was apparently a blessed break from running around theme parks, she took a look at it and agreed that it wasn’t working and then tossed in a few ideas about how it might improve, though she was aware that it might mess up the word count.
I promptly mis-read part of her email and took off in an even more different direction, but both of us agreed that it felt better regardless of the fact that my little 221B grew to almost 700 words. But at least the now almost-obligatory final ‘b’ word stayed put.
Couldn’t have done it without you, Vez. How you do it with nothing but not-salt-and-vinegar