|DoS: Summer Edition #12 [Sherlock Request #6]
||[Aug. 10th, 2011|04:08 pm]
Title: Our Own Skin
Notes: This is in response to kim47's request: John and Sherlock find the house in Sussex where they'll grow old and grumpy and keep bees together. I daresay she knew exactly how to pigeonhole me into revisiting the universe so far consisting of You Can Get There From Here and How I Met Your Uncle. This piece falls somewhere between the previous two, chronologically speaking.
Summary: There's nothing like finding the place you belong.
Sherlock is silent for almost the entirety of the train ride, hunched down in his seat with his knees drawn up, peevishly responding to Mycroft's texts. John watches the bucolic landscape roll by, secure in the knowledge that, whatever they're in for on the other end, it will probably have been worth at least a look. Sherlock's requirements are picky in the extreme, whereas John just wants a roof that doesn't leak.
"Why doesn't he just call?" John asks, setting a hand on Sherlock's knee.
Sherlock doesn't dislodge it, which is reassuring. He's not as annoyed as he looks.
"The answer ought to be obvious," he says. "What do you know about last week?"
"Right," John sighs. "He was at the dentist then, so...meeting it is."
"I often wonder if his minions even notice that what he's tapping in on the screen has nothing to do with what they're talking about. Not that I care," Sherlock adds, sniffing as he slips the phone back into his pocket. He turns his head to look at John.
"What?" John prompts, giving Sherlock's knee a squeeze. "You were about to say?"
"I find Mycroft's determination quite troubling," replies Sherlock.
"Well, he does know what you like," John says. Although you'd never admit it.
"It's in the middle of nowhere!" Sherlock snaps. "Two hours by train from central London, and then a cab ride from the station besides. Exactly what part of this scenario counts as convenient to civilization?"
"Come off it," John sighs, shifting so that his arm's around Sherlock's shoulders. Sherlock doesn't lean into John's embrace, but he doesn't pull away, either, so it still counts as progress. "You know as well as I do that we need a change of scenery. London's too dangerous," he says, and lets his meaning hang unspoken between them.
Sherlock twitches, recovers himself, and huddles closer to John.
"We had a good run of it, didn't we," he murmurs. "While it lasted."
"Yeah," John agrees, resting his cheek against Sherlock's hair. "Yeah, we did."
They arrive at the station half an hour later, by which time Sherlock is stiff from having sat hunched the whole way. It's clear to John by the tightening lines at the corners of his eyes that the pain in his hip is especially severe today. Four screws and more bed rest than anyone could deem reasonable, even John: that's what the showdown had left him with, an injury far too cruel for a man still in his prime. The curve of his neck and the trail of his spine are still graceful, but there, too, he'd sustained unimaginable trauma. Of the two of them, John's actually in far better shape. His limp is long gone, and his shoulder has resigned itself to aching when the weather's damp or when he's done housework that involves too much arm activity.
As much as he'll miss Baker Street, he won't miss the intractability of those stairs.
"You shouldn't sit like that," John tells him, steering Sherlock into the taxi queue. It seems pointless to be so formal, as they're the only ones waiting for a ride.
"You shouldn't let me," Sherlock replies, scowling as the car pulls up.
"You know how funny that is, I hope," John says, opening the door for Sherlock. After a bit of wincing and maneuvering, they're both safely ensconced in the back seat and the driver is sympathetically peering at them in the rear-view mirror.
"Absolutely hilarious," says Sherlock, and then to the driver: "You know where to go?"
"Yes, sir," the man reassures him. "It's all sorted."
"The marvel of government resources expended on one's behalf," Sherlock mutters.
The drive is nothing if not scenic, and John would be lying if he claimed that he wasn't already in love with their surroundings. Sherlock seems fascinated by the narrow, winding roads lined with hedges and lindens and fields full of sheep. John wonders where the local surgery is: Mycroft had mentioned one, but they must have left it behind in the village proper. He also wonders if they're actually hiring, of if they've been given a considerable grant with non-negotiable encouragement to hire.
Either way, John's not above being grateful on behalf of both of them.
There's a long, sloping tree-lined drive and a wooden gate that needs opening before the car can proceed. Sherlock leans forward in his seat, anxiously peering through the windshield. The house comes into view, pristine and unassuming: its original owner had built it five years ago and promptly moved on to bigger and better things. How anything could be bigger and better than a three-bedroom cottage with enough space to carve out two offices and a laboratory to boot is beyond him.
"There's some property out back," says the driver. "Brambles and pear trees and such, all gone wild. You could keep chickens or goats if you liked."
Enough space for a garden, then, John thinks as he helps Sherlock out of the car.
"Too much fuss," Sherlock replies, wrinkling his nose as he straightens his coat and surveys the front of the house. John is afraid that the first word out of his mouth will be dull or hateful or something equally laden with disdain, but the truth of the matter is that Sherlock is blinking at the pale, cloudy backdrop of mist-laden sky and pretending not to chew on his lower lip. Pretending the gears aren't turning.
"Come on," John says, taking him by the elbow. "Let's have a look."
The driver gives them the front-door keys, but he doesn't follow them inside. John's glad of that, because instead of examining the place, Sherlock would've ended up torturing the poor fellow with questions designed to make him look even more stupid than he very likely is. At first glance, the house is empty and airy. The hardwood floor of the entryway is solid and sound beneath the soles of John's shoes.
"One office and all three bedrooms upstairs," Sherlock says, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Second office at the back, with sliding glass doors overlooking the garden. I don't doubt you'll want that one. Second-smallest bedroom: laboratory."
John just shakes his head, grinning. "I said let's have a look, not let's deduce it."
"Same thing," says Sherlock, shrugging. "Lead on."
They wander through the kitchen, idly regarding the fashionable appliances and marble work-top. John helps Sherlock up the stairs—twenty of them, there's not much for it—and they separate to poke into various corners on their own. John wonders what use Sherlock will have for an office and a laboratory, but then he remembers the fact that the both the kitchen and the sitting-room at Baker Street have been doing double duty for years, and the question subsides. The second-smallest bedroom has no windows, which is why Sherlock has designated it lab-worthy, and the smallest bedroom will be serviceable for guests, provided they haven't got more than one or two at a time. Harry will fill the white, empty closet with her expensive linens.
John finds Sherlock in the master bedroom, silhouetted dark and brooding against the half-moon bay window, his back turned. There's a stillness in him that John has never seen before, and Sherlock is motionless more often than most would believe.
"What would you say," Sherlock ventures, "if I were to take up beekeeping?"
John steps up beside him, considering this with his arms folded.
"Tricky. Less messy than goats or chickens, but they're a lot of fuss, I hear."
"That's why I'd like to keep them. Colony failure is one of the most persistent unsolved mysteries of our time, not to mention an overall decline in population."
"Isn't it a combination of things? Pesticides, varroa mites, human interference—"
"I'd have kept bees in London," Sherlock murmurs. "No, it's something more."
"And you're going to find out what it is," John says. "Solve it and put it to rest."
Sherlock inclines his head, finally meeting John's eyes. His own catch the falling sun, pool with light in the approaching dusk. The press of his lips is prelude to a promise.
"If it's the last thing we do," Sherlock replies, and John knows that they will.