Title: There’ll be people
Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: 2436
Summary: There’s a reason why Sherlock doesn’t travel on the Underground, and it’s not because he’s a snob. John learns the reason the hard way. Although, given the conclusion, maybe this one Tube ride wasn’t such a bad idea.
Bickering, banter, a bit of angst, fluff, friendship, first kiss. And Chocolamousse’s optional epilogue™.
A birthday fic for chocolamousse.
Inspired by Sherlock’s line in Many Happy Returns: “Of course I’m going to miss dinner – there’ll be people.”
(This story takes place on Monday 5 January.)
“... and if you had any decent professional staff working for you, you wouldn’t have to keep calling me out for cases that simply aren’t worth my time,” Sherlock said loudly to Lestrade as they walked out of the house.
“And a Happy New Year to you too,” Lestrade replied sarcastically. “I’m so glad your New Year resolution was to be more tolerant of other people.”
“People,” Sherlock said, spitting out the word. “My life would be so much better without people.”
“Thanks,” John said, exchanging a sympathetic look with Greg.
“This was a complete waste of my time,” Sherlock told Lestrade. “And don’t think I haven’t realised that you made it sound more interesting on the phone than it actually was, just to get me here. It wasn’t even a three!”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Lestrade said tetchily. “I needed your help; I asked you to come. I’m sorry it was so dull for you, but a man was dead and I needed to know how, and if possible who’d done it. Solving Mr Ramsey’s murder was more important than your bloody numbering system!”
Sherlock straightened up a couple of inches and drew in a breath but John stepped in front of him and pointed in the general direction of away. “Home, now,” he said sternly.
Sherlock glowered at him but spun on his heel and headed up the garden path. John threw a shrug and an apologetic smile towards Greg before following his friend.
“I mean it, Sherlock!” the inspector yelled from the doorway. “If you carry on like this, I’ll uninvite you from your birthday drinks tomorrow night!”
“I’m not coming anyway!” Sherlock called over his shoulder.
“Well, that’ll make it a nicer evening for the rest of us!” Lestrade shouted.
John stopped halfway down the path and turned partway around so that he could address both men simultaneously. “I swear to God, girls, I will knock your heads together if you carry on like this,” he informed them. “And at least one of you – possibly both – is going to end up sitting on the Naughty Step for the rest of the day.”
Sherlock waved a dismissive hand in John’s direction but didn’t even slow down. Greg grinned at John before saying loudly, “Might be worth it,” in Sherlock’s direction. John smiled back at him and then hurried after his flatmate, catching up to him just as he stopped at the kerb and began to look impatiently up and down the road.
“No,” John told him. “We are not getting a taxi. We can’t afford it. Piccadilly Circus is just down the road – we’re getting the Tube.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Sherlock snapped.
“Oh, stop being such a bloody snob,” John said, by now totally exasperated with his colleague. “We haven’t had a paying job for weeks because everything you were offered was too boring for you. When you did take on Miss Collins’ case last week you took her cheque and then secretly let her Irish setter chew it up before we even left the house – and by the way, for the umpteenth time, What The Hell was that all about? But anyway, we are now officially skint. We’ll have to grovel to Mrs Hudson to make up for not paying the rent on time, and we definitely can’t afford taxis.” He pointed down the road. “Tube.”
“I hate today,” Sherlock grumbled, starting to walk towards the nearest Underground station.
“You always hate the beginning of January,” John told him, “and we all know why. It’s not my fault or anyone else’s that your birthday’s coming up, so I don’t know why you always take it out on everyone around you.”
Sherlock fell silent, irritation radiating out of him as they continued along the road and made their way down into the Tube station. The platform was busier than John had thought it would be, but a train arrived almost immediately and they got on board. Again John was surprised at how unusually crowded it was for two o’clock in the afternoon. Not only were there no empty seats but many people were standing. Sherlock walked over to the door on the other side, turned and leaned his back against it and hunched over miserably, too tall to stand up straight against the curved walls of the carriage. John stood just in front of him, took off his gloves and put them in his jacket pockets.
“You know, considering how rotten you are to everyone at Scotland Yard, it’s pretty decent of Greg to organise a drinks do for you in the first place,” he said, staring blankly out of the window as the train pulled away from the station. “He likes you enough to want to celebrate your birthday and he’s invited any member of Scotland Yard who can still tolerate you.” He grimaced. “So it probably won’t be a very big gathering, and you are going to go, and you are going to be polite.”
He turned towards his friend to see whether he was even paying attention, but was shocked at the sight of Sherlock’s face. His eyes were wide and glazed and he looked terrified. His stance suggested that it wasn’t just the curved wall which was making him bend forward – he seemed to be cowering from the many strangers near him, and every time the train rattled over points or connections he winced at the loud noises coming through the open window on the door to the next carriage.
John cursed inwardly. They were on the sodding Bakerloo line. He had travelled on the line enough times – he knew how noisy the tracks were in comparison to some of the other lines. He couldn’t have imagined that the train would be this crowded, but clearly the combination of the noise and the people was sending Sherlock into a panic attack.
Instantly John reached into his jacket pockets, pulled out his gloves and folded each one over double before reaching forward to press them against Sherlock’s ears. Sherlock stared at him and John smiled back reassuringly, mouthing the words, “It’s okay.” Tilting his wrists so that his arms blocked Sherlock’s peripheral vision, he held his friend’s head and tried to hold his gaze.
It wasn’t enough. Sherlock’s eyes were still wide and terrified, flickering rapidly from side to side despite John’s attempts to blinker him. John slowly pulled Sherlock’s head closer.
“Focus on me,” John told him firmly. He shook Sherlock’s head gently and pulled it even nearer to his own. “Sherlock. Focus on me.”
Sherlock took a shuddering breath and the movement of his eyes slowed until he was staring steadily at John. The dread and anxiety in them tore at John’s heart and he wanted nothing more than to put his arms around his friend and try to console him, but his priority right now was to keep out as much of the noise and visual input as possible.
“Just concentrate on me,” he told him. “Ignore everything else.”
He was so focussed on Sherlock that he didn’t notice that the train was slowing, and only realised that it had pulled into the next station when it jolted to a halt. He thought quickly, wondering whether Sherlock would be in any fit state to get through the crowd to the door, or whether it would be best to stay on until their destination and continue to try to calm his friend. Before he’d had time to decide, the doors on the other side of the carriage opened and an absolute horde of people began shoving their way onto the train. Still holding Sherlock’s head steady, John allowed himself a quick glance over his shoulder and noticed that many of the passengers were carrying several large shopping bags.
Oh God. The January sales. London was heaving with people seeking out bargains and John hadn’t considered how this would affect the number of passengers on the Underground. Sherlock let out a brief anguished sound as the crush got worse, people cramming into every available space. It was now too late to try and get off the train at this station and John renewed his efforts to distract his friend.
“Mind Palace,” he told him as the train set off again and the horrendous noise from the tracks resumed. “Go to your Mind Palace – look for something complicated. Close your eyes and concentrate on finding it.”
“Can’t ...” Sherlock said frantically. “I can’t ...” His eyes began to flicker again. Pressing his gloves more firmly against Sherlock’s ears, John gently shook his head again to bring his gaze back to his own eyes, but he could feel that he was losing the battle to keep Sherlock’s attention on him.
Just then, a woman sitting nearby let out a raucous cackle of laughter in response to something her companion had said. Sherlock’s eyes widened and began to glaze again.
“Oh, sod this,” John said, and kissed him.
Sherlock’s entire body jolted and he gasped, his lips parting slightly. Keeping his eyes partially open, John deepened the kiss and after a couple of seconds Sherlock relaxed a little and his eyes drifted closed. He wasn’t exactly returning the kiss but neither did he pull away, and shortly afterwards his hands came up and took hold of John’s waist. John concentrated on not having a nervous breakdown. This wasn’t at all how he had fantasised their first kiss – if indeed there was ever going to be one – and he definitely hadn’t planned it only happening in a medical emergency. Still, Sherlock’s lips were as soft as John had imagined, and the feel of his breath on John’s cheek was not only pleasant but was comforting in that his breathing was gradually slowing down. Reassured that he was indeed distracting him from his distress, John closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy what would most likely be the only opportunity he would ever have to kiss Sherlock Holmes.
When the train pulled up at the next stop, the doors opened on their side of the carriage. Sherlock pulled away from John and bolted, roughly pushing his way through the waiting passengers on the platform, ignoring their protests, and then hurrying through the station and out into the air. John caught up with him a few hundred yards along the road, not daring to say anything and uncertain whether he was welcome. Sherlock glanced round briefly, acknowledging his presence, and John was relieved that he didn’t tell him to leave him alone. He fell into step beside Sherlock and relied on him to lead them through the back streets and avoid the throng of people on the main roads.
When they reached home, Sherlock opened the front door and walked briskly down the hall before suddenly stopping dead at the bottom of the stairs. John slowed down behind him, wondering whether to say anything or to wait for Sherlock to speak first. The door to 221A was open and at least two female voices could be heard giggling – Mrs Hudson apparently had company. Sherlock seemed to stare in that direction for a few moments, then he shook his head and headed up the stairs.
In the living room he took off his coat and threw it onto the sofa before starting to pace back and forth across the room, his hands in their familiar prayer position in front of his mouth. John considering going upstairs to give Sherlock space but eventually wandered into the kitchen to switch on the kettle. He stood leaning against the work surface, keeping a wary eye on the pacing detective and after a few minutes Sherlock stopped and turned towards him.
“You kissed me,” he announced.
“I know,” John replied. “I was there.”
“You kissed me,” Sherlock stated.
“Again, I was there.”
“Why did you do that?” Sherlock asked.
“I would have thought it was obvious,” John said, trying to keep his voice calm. “You were distressed by the noise and the crowd; you couldn’t filter it out; you needed a distraction. It was the only thing I could think of at the time.”
Sherlock stared at him. “So it was just a method of distraction?”
“Uh, yeah,” John said awkwardly.
“Oh. Good. Well done.” Sherlock looked away.
The kettle clicked off and John turned around to prepare a couple of mugs of tea. When he glanced into the living room, Sherlock had walked over to the window and was standing with his back to the room. John looked at him wistfully for a few moments. From his reaction, it seemed that Sherlock now thought of the experience as nothing other than an inspired reaction by his flatmate, and certainly not something that he might want to repeat. John sighed. It looked like he’d been right: that was the only time he would ever get to kiss the man he was slowly falling in love with.
He took the teabags out of the mugs and dumped them into the bin. As he straightened up, he jumped when he realised that Sherlock was now standing right beside him.
“Dammit, Sherlock,” he spluttered. “I thought we’d talked about you creeping up on me ...”
He stopped when he saw the intense look in Sherlock’s eyes.
“What?” he asked a little nervously.
Sherlock continued to stare at him, his eyes flickering minutely from side to side while he appeared to be working something out. John tried to hold his gaze, a combination of fear and a tiny bit of hope making his stomach clench.
An hour seemed to pass, although it was probably only a few seconds. Then Sherlock slowly reached towards John’s jacket, which he hadn’t yet taken off, and pushed his hands into his pockets. Taking out John’s gloves, he looked down at them while he folded each one in half. Raising his eyes, he took a step closer.
“Mrs Hudson has got her sister and Mrs Turner visiting downstairs,” he announced, seemingly à propos of nothing.
John tilted his head in confusion. Straining his ears, he could just about hear the women’s voices talking and laughing downstairs.
“So?” he asked.
Sherlock reached down and took John’s hands, pushing the folded gloves into them and then lifting John’s hands up to the sides of his own head and pressing the gloves against his ears. Holding his own hands over John’s he gazed down into his eyes.
“They’re talking very loudly,” he said. “All those people – it’s very distressing.”
He lowered his head downwards.
“I need you to distract me, John,” he requested softly.
John was only too happy to oblige.
And, of course, because this fic is for Chocolamousse, her Optional Epilogue™: And then they dun sex.
The Bakerloo line is a horribly noisy Tube line. Thankfully I don’t have to use the Underground regularly for work but in September my department had an awayday which required me to take the Bakerloo line to get there. When the train was in motion, the noise from the tracks – especially with the windows open on the connecting doors between the carriages – was horrendous and I already had the idea for this story by the time I got to my destination (and it’s quite possible that I wasn’t fully paying attention to what happened during the meeting!). Travelling back afterwards on an equally noisy train, I jotted some thoughts in my notebook but it has taken me this long to get them out of the book and onto the screen. I realise that I ought to have written it in early January to coincide with Sherlock’s birthday, but hopefully it still works. And anyway, Chocolamousse’s birthday is far more important than Sherlock’s!
Happy birthday, Choco. I hope you have a lovely day.
Edit: Um, tomorrow. I hope you have a lovely birthday tomorrow.
*coughs* Of course, I knew your birthday is tomorrow. I just posted this a day early because
I am clearly going senile I wanted to make sure you got it in time. *nods* Yes, that was the reason.
*frantically cancels the postings to AO3 and FF.net until tomorrow.*
Blame it on the fact that I have a cold.
Or the fact that I am going senile.