To the Rescue
It was a rotten week and Sherlock's latest bullshit behaviour had tipped it over the edge. Let the stroppy git have the flat to himself for a bit, since that was what he so obviously wanted. John grabbed his leather jacket and pounded down the stairs and out the door without so much as a see you later, which wouldn't have been acknowledged even had it been heard.
The relentless summer had given way to a grey and wet autumn that suited John nicely, thank you. It wasn't raining at that moment, but the drizzle of earlier would return soon no doubt, and that would be fine too. He needed to calm down, get his head together, and purge the irritation that had been building for several days. Regent's Park presented a lusciously cool, green place for just such an activity.
It had been ages since he'd been to the park. Absurd since it was so close to home. Last time had been the previous year after a bizarre incident with a renaissance fair witch who'd turned out to be rather more genuine than her surroundings suggested.*
He stood by the pond wishing for the same company he'd encountered that day. Looking around, he saw no one who might be her. He did see, crouched under a bench and looking as soggy and miserable as could be, a ginger and vanilla dog. A closer look showed it to be a Welsh corgi. He'd never seen one so skinny and pathetic before. He glanced about, but there was no one within a hundred yards. What would Her Majesty say? he thought wryly. They were, after all, her favourite breed.
He hunkered down and put out a hand. "Hey, pooch. What're you doing here? Are you lost?"
The dog raised its head slightly and sniffed the air. It cocked its head inquisitively.
"That's good. You've got the strength to be curious, at any rate. Not too bad off, then, eh? Come say hello?" He couldn't tell if the dog had a collar on or not. With luck, there'd be a tag with a name and phone number on it, if he could just get the pup to come out so he could take a look.
"I won't hurt you. I'll even take you home, if you can tell me where that is. Will you come out?" The rain began pissing down again, providing the pooch some incentive, perhaps, to accept help and shelter from a friendly stranger.
The dog seemed to consider for a moment, and then began to crawl forward, out from under the bench.
"That's it. Come on." John wished he had some food to lure it, but his pockets were empty. In the end, a kind word and a friendly hand were all it took. "There you are." He patted the dog, gently scratching its head, and got a hearty butt wiggle in response. "No tail, huh? Is that Cardigan or Pembroke? I can never remember. I guess it doesn't matter which, does it? Now, let's see if you've got a tag. Someone must be missing you." He felt through the wet, matted fur and found a worn leather collar and, Yes!, a tag.
"Well, hello--" He tried to puzzle out the letters that he presumed must be the dog's name, but came up with only "--dog." There wasn't a phone number, but there was an address. "How has no one found you and taken you home? Do you want me to take you home?"
More butt wiggling and a lick of his free hand seemed to be an affirmative.
"All right. Let's take you home, and if you don't like it when we get there, you let me know and we'll go away again, okay?"
Another butt wiggle and a bark this time.
"Okay." He used the belt from his jacket as a make-shift lead, tying it to the dog's collar. The address was half way across London, but that was fine by him. He was in no rush to get back to his petulant partner.
When he and the dog reached the place on the tag, John had a stunning feeling of déjà vu. Only last time he'd seen that particular store front, it had been mere steps from the door of 221 Baker Street. "As if she needs to stay in one place," he muttered and climbed the steps, certain now there was a purpose in his presence here. The dog trotted happily at his heels, not looking nearly so wet or skinny or mangy as she had back in the park. "I might've guessed."
The unlikely pair stepped through the door to the jingle of mystical bells. "Hello?" he called. "I have something I think belongs to you."
The woman who appeared around the curtain behind the counter smiled warmly. Her long red hair nearly matched the colour of the dog's fur. "Hello, John!"
"Hello, Winnie. I think this is yours? I ought to have guessed from the unpronounceable Welsh name on the tag, but I admit it took me seeing your front door to realise you'd sent her."
"Sent her?" Winnie's Welsh accent was as melodic as ever. She knelt and the corgi padded over to her, grinning. She rubbed the dog's ears fondly. "Creirwy has a mind of her own. She saw you feeling down and couldn't resist cheering you up."
"Cheering me up? I don't-- No. You're right." He smiled. There was something irresistibly adorable about a Welsh corgi. He sat down right there in the middle of Winnie's shop. Creirwy padded back to him and flopped into his lap, presenting her belly for a rub. John obliged, chuckling. "Good girl. Good girl!" He glanced up at Winnie. "When did you get a dog?"
"I didn't. That's my daughter."
His hand froze on her belly, not quite sure how to take this new information.
"Don't worry, dear. She won't change shapes on you. You give her belly a good rub. She'll know when you're cheered enough not to need her help."
"Your fellow giving you fits again, is he?"
"Yeah, well. What else is new?"
"You storming out. That's uncommon. He must be acting a right prick."
John sighed. "Not especially. He's no worse than usual. It's just his usual is more than I have patience for this week."
"And him not listening to you, and not seeming to care."
"Yeah. All that."
"Would you like me to toss a hex at him? Just for giggles?"
He looked up at her and couldn't decide if she was serious or joking. "No, thanks. I couldn't afford it right now anyway."
"You wouldn't have to pay now."
"I'm not sure I want to pay at all. Thank you, but no."
"Good for you, John." She smiled and he had the feeling her offer had been a test of some kind. He was glad he appeared to have passed.
He continued to rub the dog's belly, who was perfectly content to let him do so until his fingers fell off apparently.
"I'm not keeping you from anything, am I?" he asked.
"Not at all. I'm here because this is where I need to be."
They fell silent and he thought about his rough week at the clinic and Sherlock's obliviousness to his need for a bit of comfort. He sighed. He'd get over it. Sherlock was Sherlock, and while it wasn't an excuse for his recent behaviour, it was at least an explanation. When it came down to the big things, the truly important, potentially life-altering things, he knew Sherlock had his back. If he could just get the man out of the flat for a bit, maybe even for dinner... Okay, maybe a pint and chips at the pub, he thought more realistically. Then he'd be okay.
The dog Creirwy chose that moment to roll from her back to her feet and trot over to stand by Winnie's ankle.
"Looks like you're ready to go home," Winnie said with a gentle smile.
"Looks that way, yeah." John climbed to his feet. He first met Winnie's gaze and then the dog's. "Thank you. Thank you both. Do I, uh, owe either of you anything for the visit?" His previous encounters had taught him there was always a price to pay for all but the most benign assistance.
"Oh she'll let you know."
The dog grinned its corgi grin and John nodded. "I figured. Well, thanks anyway. Really." He retied the belt from his jacket back around his waist. "Good bye, ladies."
"Until next time, John."
"Yeah. Next time." He turned and exited the shop, the sound of the bells chiming behind him as the door closed. He looked around, ready for a slog back across the city, only to find he was just blocks away from Baker Street.
As he rounded the final corner, he glanced up and caught the unmistakeable silhouette of Sherlock in the window at 221B. John smiled, feeling better than he had in days. A pint and chips at the pub with his partner sounded good. Add a burger to the equation and it bordered on perfection.
He went inside and fairly bounded up the seventeen steps. Sherlock already had his coat on, almost as if he'd been expect John at that moment and was waiting for him.
"Pub?" Sherlock said.
It was the closest John would get to an acknowledgement of Sherlock's early stroppiness, and he wouldn't have it any other way. He grinned. "Pub. Your treat."
Sherlock made no objection.
Yes. That definitely equalled perfection.
*A/N2: See last July's A London Fairy Tale.