Getting to Know You
Given the choice, John would have gone with Sherlock. This time, however, he'd been scheduled to work all weekend and there was simply no one else available to cover the shifts. So Sherlock was off attending to family obligations on his own and John had the flat to himself.
There were times a quiet flat was welcome. As a respite after a hectic case, for example. Or simply as a chance for domestic downtime with his partner. Today was not one of those times.
He got off work at the clinic at half-past five and found the last thing he wanted to do was go home to a solo supper and an empty flat. He rode the tube towards Baker Street Station, all the while trying to think of anything else to do with his evening. He could go to the local for supper and a pint, maybe watch the football match. No. Sitting among friendly acquaintances watching a game he didn't really care about wasn't any more appealing than going home. In either case, he would feel alone.
A quick text to Greg found the DI was in Edinburgh until Sunday night. Good on you, thought John. At least someone was spending a pleasant weekend with his significant other.
Molly turned out to be working late, although she appreciated the invite for fish and chips.
Mike Stamford LOLed his reply and asked if John was scraping the bottom of the barrel by asking him. Not that it mattered as he had a dinner party he'd promised his wife he would go to.
The tube pulled into Baker Street and John nearly gave up and went home. Then an idea hit him. Molly was working late; therefore she wouldn't have a date with her boyfriend, Oscar. He was a good bloke, based on the few times John had hung out with him--all of which had been couples events at Lestrade's, oddly enough. Maybe Oscar would be up for a pint and a bite. Only John didn't have his mobile number to text and see.
John stood against one wall, out of the way of other commuters. He thought hard, trying to remember where Oscar's bakery was or what it was called so he could Google it on his phone. Where would he put a cupcake shop if he owned one? That was easy. Notting Hill. He pulled out his mobile and typed "cupcakes" and "notting hill" into the search engine on the off chance he was right.
Bingo! Vortex Fairy Cakes. That was the name. How had he forgotten something as random as that? And they were open until 6:00. He should just be able to make it. He didn't know if Oscar was there, but if nothing else it would kill some time and get him out of his own neighbourhood for something besides work or a case.
He crossed to where he could catch the Circle Line headed towards Notting Hill Gate. As he rode, he sent a quick text to Sherlock. Checking in. Seeing if Sherlock had died of boredom yet. That sort of thing.
The reply he received made him chuckle: Neither dead nor murderous yet, but the weekend is young. -SH
Stay out of jail. I don't have the cash to bail you out, and Lestrade would never let you live it down. -JW
He expected no response to that and so was surprised to get one.
Your presence would make this tolerable, although I wouldn't wish the tedium on you. Yours, SH
John smiled. That was about as sentimental as Sherlock ever got. He must be miserable indeed. Well, there was nothing to be done. Miss you, too. -JW
This time there was no further response from Sherlock and John's stop was up anyway. He checked the address of the bakery so he'd know which way to go once he was up on the street, and then pocketed the phone.
It was a short walk to the shop but he stepped quickly, wanting to be sure to get there before they closed. If Oscar wasn't there, perhaps he'd buy a cupcake anyway. Maybe even bring one back for Mrs. Hudson as a sort of pre-emptive apology for something Sherlock was bound to do to upset her.
He found the place and entered to the jingle of a bell. The young woman sweeping up in front of the counter looked at him and smiled. "Hi. We're about to close up, but if you're good at snap decisions I can get you something. There's not a lot left to choose from in any case. All of it half price."
"Thanks, but actually I was looking for Oscar, if he's around."
He turned to see a dark, familiar face grinning at him in surprise. "Oscar, hi."
"Fancy seeing you here. What can I do for you? Not a lot left, but everything's half off. I remember your fellow likes his sweets, eh?"
"Oh, uh, thanks but he's out of town for the weekend."
"So then what brings you to the neighbourhood?"
John let out an awkward chuckle and rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. He felt silly enough now that he was here, and the presence of a witness only made him feel that much sillier. "Everyone's busy and I didn't want to go home," he admitted. "I, uh, wondered if you might want to grab a pint. We've not gotten to know each other outside of group functions."
"You must've asked Molly first," Oscar said with a friendly laugh. "So you knew I was free, like."
"Sure! I'm up for a pint and how about dinner? You hungry?"
"Famished, actually. Long day."
"Cool. Let me just close up, okay? Take about twenty minutes. You can wait here if you like. Grab a seat. There's free Wi-Fi. The password's ZaphodBeeblebrox, all one word, upper-case Z and B."
"Ta." John sat at one of the little tables.
"Grab a cake to tide you over, too. On the house."
"No, do. Here." Oscar pulled one from the case and brought it to him. "New flavour. Tell me what you think. It's meant to taste like a Dutch stroopwafle. Life is short, right?"
"Eat dessert first. Thanks." John peeled off the paper and took a bite. His eyes widened.
"Cool." Oscar turned to his employee who'd finished sweeping. "Hey, Fiona, can you turn round the sign and lock the front door?"
"Done already," she said.
"Perfect. You want to box up the leftovers or do the till?"
"What do you think?" She went behind the counter and began boxing the remaining cakes.
"What's that for?" asked John. He assumed anything left would simply get thrown out.
"Local shelters. Whatever doesn't sell by closing time gets taken to someplace as can use them. It's the youth shelter on Fridays." Oscar closed out the till and removed the drawer. "Be right back."
It turned out to be less than twenty minutes later when Oscar returned. Fiona had already gone, leaving the boxed and bagged cupcakes on the counter. "There's a great pub not too far away, if that's cool with you."
"Pub sounds great."
"Just one quick stop on the way." Oscar collected up the sweets and they left the bakery.
The sidetrack to the youth shelter took only a few minutes. The woman at the front counter was clearly expecting Oscar, and just as clearly thrilled to see him. "Bless you, love. You're a saint, you are," she declared in a strong Geordie accent.
"See you next week, Meg," he said with a wave, and they were back out on the street.
"I had no idea you donated to charity like that. That's really great."
Oscar shrugged. "It's little enough, but sometimes it's the little things that make the difference, you know? Little luxuries, like."
"I know what you mean." He thought back to care packages from home when he'd been deployed in Afghanistan. He rarely got one himself, but his mates had been generous with theirs.
They reached the pub and it wasn't long before beers and burgers were set before them. It was just the sort of comfort food John wanted and he tucked in heartily.
"So," he began once the first pangs of hunger were assuaged. "Vortex Fairy Cakes?"
"Yeah. Don't you get the reference? I figured you would once you heard the Wi-Fi password. Or maybe I'm overestimating your geekiness. It's been known to happen."
"Sorry. My geekiness?"
"Yeah. I tend to assume everyone's as big a geek as me until I'm proved wrong. It's from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Well, technically it's from the radio version of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The Total Perspective Vortex, you know?"
Finally John understood. It had been years since he'd even thought about the Douglas Adams 'trilogy'. "Oh yeah! Something about extrapolating the universe from a fairy cake, right?"
"You got it!" Oscar grinned over his pint. He quoted: "An invisible dot on an invisible dot. Infinitely small."
"Wow. It's been ages."
"So come on then. Your turn."
"What's your geekdom? Mine is all things sci-fi, so what's yours. I mean beside dead bodies and criminal investigations."
It was not a question John had been asked before. He thought hard, trying to find an answer. Finally, it came to him. "Mystery Science Theatre 3000, I guess."
"Oh my god, I loved that show!" Oscar laughed. "The bots just slayed me!"
"You know they do this thing called RiffTrax now, right?"
"No, what? What's that?"
"Basically the same thing, only the actors as themselves and no silhouette of the bots or anything. You can buy them and download them to watch whenever you want."
"Oh. My. God. I am so doing that!"
The rest of the evening's conversation went much the same way. Sharing geekdoms, as Oscar put it. Swapping stories. Getting to know one another. A couple of mates hanging out.
When John eventually returned to Baker Street, it was with a smile on his face. He knew the flat was empty. He knew he wouldn't see Sherlock until after the weekend. He knew he had to be at work early in the morning. None of that bothered him nearly so much as it had earlier. He still wished Sherlock were there, but he would manage until Monday.
His phone chimed a text as he climbed the stairs. He didn't check it until he was inside with the door locked behind him, by which time it had chimed twice more.
I am one country parson away from homicide. -SH
Mummy says to tell you hello. -SH
Mycroft didn't show up. He is permanently on my shit list. -SH
One more text came in before he'd finished reading the first three.
Tell me something good about your day so I can imagine you're happy even while I am in the throes of mind-crushing boredom. -SH
Something good? John pondered the request. What could he say that would constitute "good" by Sherlock's rather skewed standards? What, in Sherlock's opinion, would be the highlight of the day John had had. Then it struck him.
I went to Oscar's bakery. Stroopwafle fairy cake. I'll treat you when you get home. -JW
There was a short pause and then the reply. John smiled as he read it.
Thank you, John. Yours, Sherlock
A/N2: RiffTrax is a thing. A thing of genius. Which is to be expected because, hello, it's the MST3K guys. www.rifftrax.com I recommend going there and giving them your money for their product. They deserve it. Also, John's been a fan of MST3K in my version of things since Sherlock dragged him into a marathon during A Misty London Sunday.