Title: Resolving a cross ticking time bomb
Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: 855
Summary: Sherlock has been cross, tense and snappy and has been avoiding John for days, and John has no idea why. Will a text conversation finally reveal what the problem is?
Bickering, banter, text talk (that’s text talk! *shakes head at the pervy-minded readers*), romance.
A birthday fic for squire.
John, I need you to keep each text I send you from now on. SH
Oh, no particular reason.
What’s going on?
How have you come to the conclusion that something is ‘going on’?
Well, let’s face it – something usually IS going on with you. Are you in trouble?
No, I’m not, and I resent the implication.
So what are you up to?
I am busy.
That’s very informative, thanks. (P.S. That’s sarcasm.) What are you doing, and where?
Looking for some refuge where I won’t be bothered by annoying questions.
Only because it should be obvious that I would tell you where I am if I wanted you to know.
OK. So what’s the problem?
Vague questions like that only annoy me, John, you should know that. Be more specific.
Why have you been so secretive these last few days?
Everyone has ‘secrets,’ John. Am I not allowed to have any myself?
Of course you are, but it’s like you’ve been avoiding me, and even when we talk you look shifty.
You’re being ridiculous. And paranoid. And I’ve never looked ‘shifty’ in my life.
Ha! With your collar up and your eyes flitting everywhere, you can be the absolute eppitome of shifty! And don’t tell me I can’t spell eppitome – the spellcheck on this phone still doesn’t work.
Oh for God’s sake, I fixed that for you. How did you manage to switch it off AGAIN?
If I knew that, I wouldn’t have done it, would I?
Unbelievable. You’re hopeless.
Very probably. And you’re avoiding my question.
What’s that supposed to mean? Seriously, is there anything we ought to talk about?
Can’t you just work it out?
So there IS something. Just tell me, Sherlock. Assume that I’m an idiot, and just TELL me.
A man just walked past me with a ferret on a lead. It’s not something you see on the Strand every day.
I’ve seen them there before. And don’t change the subject.
No, I’m not changing the subject. Just passing the time in the hope that you’ll finally catch up.
I might catch up quicker without the insults.
You should be able to work it out yourself, John. I thought I taught you better than that.
You mean ‘taught’ as in “Oh for God’s sake, John, how can anyone be so stupid?” THAT sort of ‘taught’?
Oh, really, John. You are not stupid. I know that. And you’re right – we do have something we should discuss. I just find it difficult to talk about it.
OK. I understand that.
Unfortunately, I doubt that you do.
That’s because you assume that I don’t understand YOU. Some time very soon I’ll surprise you.
Exactly what does that mean? What is there about me which needs understanding? And you CONSTANTLY surprise me, John.
I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.
Very easily pleased, aren’t you?
Look, if anyone else said that, I’d be suspicious, but from you that was rather flattering.
Easily pleased, as I said, but I’m glad you took it in the sense it was meant.
Over the time we’ve shared the flat, I’ve learned a bit of Sherlock-speak.
Really? Is my language so very different from everyone else’s?
VERY different, occasionally, but I’m starting to understand what you really mean.
Living together for a period of time does make communication easier, I suppose.
Except we still struggle to tell each other the full truth sometimes, don’t we?
Only when it’s something very complicated which might potentially spoil our friendship.
You need to have more faith in me, Sherlock. I can’t imagine anything you could say which would make me stop being your friend.
Vicious motivators can be dangerous to any friendship.
Oh there you go again, being all cryptic, like you’re trying to distract me from the real topic.
Easier said than done, apparently.
Ultimately, you’re going to have to trust me, and tell me what you want me to know.
Maybe I already have done.
The thing is, Sherlock, that for once in my life I’m one step ahead of you.
Explain what you mean, please. I really do hope that you HAVE understood what I’m saying. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life.
Or you could stop assuming that I can’t see what’s happening right in front of my eyes.
Oh, you blithering idiot. Once we got past the ferret I realised what you were doing. Even I can do a downwards acrostic, Sherlock. Now look at the first letter in MY last 11 texts, including this one. And come home NOW.
P.S. Don’t be afraid. Just get back here, please.
Sherlock, answer me.
And don’t try and work out a code from these last few texts, because there isn’t one.
Don’t go quiet on me now, Sherlock. Trust me – everything’s going to be fine. Just answer me, please.
Sorry. I was saving this string of messages before I accidentally delete them. I’m in a cab – three minutes away.
I’m not afraid.
I’m never afraid when I’m with you.
I’m almost home.
Author’s Note: If you can’t be bothered to go back and work it out for yourself, Sherlock’s acrostic message – reading downwards, using the initial letter of each of his texts – is:
John I love you. Can you ever love me?
and John’s overlapping reply is:
I love you too
Oh, and by the way, the man with the ferret on a lead walked past me on the Strand one lunchtime while I was writing this! Like John, I’ve seen them before but it seemed appropriate to include them in this story while I was frantically scrabbling for sentences which started with the correct letter!
Let’s not talk about the bijillion times that I slowly and carefully looked down each set of texts (a) to make sure that I hadn’t mis-spelled either of the main messages and (b) to make even more sure that the texts which weren’t part of the messages didn’t inadvertently spell out something rude!
P.S. Did you see what I did with the story’s title?! “Resolving a cross ticking time bomb” = “Solving acrostic.” Oh, I crack myself up sometimes(!)
Happy birthday, Squire Danlef. I hope you have a lovely day and a fantastic year. I miss you so much, sweetie, and I really hope you can get to London some time this year. Love and affectionate cushion-thumps, Ari xx