Three days. Three. Bloody. Days!
That's how long John and Sherlock had been living inside one another's bodies.
Day one, they had immediately returned to the site of the bizarre renaissance carnival hoping to find the woman who'd don this to them. The place was still there. (John had more than half expected it to have vanished overnight.) The booth where they'd encountered the witch Sherlock had so unwisely insulted, however, was gone. No one they asked seemed to know who they were talking about, and there was no evidence left behind that suggested she'd even existed.
Day two, Sherlock had reached the limits of his patience with the affair. Since then, he'd been dealing with the situation by trying to find a scientific explanation for what had happened and thereby a way to reverse it. He swore he didn't believe in alchemy, but from John's observations of his experiments, John had doubts on that point. Besides, how the hell else were they meant to get out of this? This wasn't Star Trek or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This sort of thing simply didn't happen in real life!
Day three, and John's patience was nearing its breaking point. It was the third day in a row that he'd had to call into the clinic pretending to be Sherlock phoning on John's behalf and claiming that John had severe laryngitis and couldn't speak and so would be useless in treating patients. There was no way in hell he was going to let Sherlock impersonate him at the clinic. There were so many reasons that would have been bad. Not that it mattered. Not even the lure of potential malpractice would lure Sherlock from his body-swap studies.
John was perfectly happy with that aspect of things. He wanted back in his own skin just as badly as his partner did. Plus, this was all Sherlock's fault, so it was only fair that Sherlock bloody well fix it.
The only genuinely enjoyable thing about their predicament was the sex. All right, answering Sherlock's detailed clinical questions afterwards was off-putting, but even John had to admit that the opportunity presented was invaluable. The things John had learned in the process would be put to excellent use once he and Sherlock were back where they belonged.
But they couldn't spend all their time that way, and John really did want to get back to normal. (He continued to believe they would resolve this. The alternative was unacceptable.)
He abruptly stopped pacing the sitting room. He'd been cooped up inside for too long with nothing to think about but how they were trapped and it was Sherlock's fault. He needed fresh air or he was going to go ballistic. He was sick of putting a calm face on the matter when inside he was seething.
"I'm going for a walk," he announced, not that he expected Sherlock to notice or respond, stooped as he was over another batch of test-tubes. (John could not get used to the site of the back of his own head.)
"I'll bring back lunch."
"I'm not hungry."
"It's my body and you'll bloody well feed it whether you think you're hungry or not!" snapped John. His sharp tone got him a brief look of irritation, which he answered with a glare of his own. "Do not push me. I'm this close to punching you in the face. Only the fact that it is in reality my face is keeping me from it. This is your fucking fault, Sherlock. Remember that."
"I haven't forgotten, and I am trying to rectify it." (John was also still not accustomed to hearing Sherlock's words come out in John's own voice.)
"Good." John didn't bother with a coat. It was plenty warm enough out with just one of Sherlock's impeccably tailored blazers. Shame he was in no mood to appreciate the garment or its fit.
He stomped down the stairs and out the front door.
John had no destination in mind and so simply strode angrily for several minutes before stopping and looking around. He was on the edge of Regent's Park. That was all right. He could do with a change of scenery, and green was a lovely colour. He slowed his steps at the same time he slowed his breathing. He had to calm down. His anger and frustration weren't doing him or Sherlock any good.
He continued at more of a stroll and soon arrived at the lake edge near the bandstand. An old woman was feeding the swans that glided up to her on the water. He smiled and wandered towards her. Not too close. He didn't want to disturb her. It was just such a lovely scene and reminded him of the better days of his childhood. The woman looked vaguely familiar, and he put it down to rose-coloured memories.
She didn't so much as glance at him, but when she spoke, he knew her words were meant for him.
"Your man needs to learn some manners." The sweet Welsh-accented voice was unmistakable despite her changed appearance.
He thought he ought to be surprised, but he wasn't. "Winnie."
She turned and smiled at him and suddenly she was no longer old, but the same ginger-haired, blue-eyed woman he'd met two years ago. "Hello, John."
"Well, you recognise me at least, despite all appearances." He tucked hands into pockets; he could think of neither as "his."
An unpleasant thought occurred to him. "Did you do this? Was that you in disguise the other night?"
"Certainly not," she replied sharply, uncharacteristically piqued.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly. "You're the only person I know who might have the power."
"Oh yes. Well, you're quite right there." Now she smiled at him again. "There's not many of us who could pull it off, and few of those who bother to visit your lot."
"So. Any chance you can...reverse it?"
"I'm afraid not."
John sighed. "I reckoned it was a long shot."
"I only stopped by to tell you how you can fix it yourselves."
That was better news than he'd any right to expect. "You're serious?"
"Then, please, tell me!"
"Oh, there's nothing you need to do, John. It's your man that needs to make amends."
John's heart sank. He could have guessed. "How?"
"He's got to apologise for the offense, naturally, and it had better be sincere. She's not one to suffer insults lightly, as you've both discovered, and if she feels he doesn't mean it, well..." Winnie let the sentence hang in the air and John could guess well enough where it would go: somewhere unpleasant.
"But he was the rude one. Why am I stuck with the aftermath?" he asked, his frustrating peeking through his patience once again.
"She's a queen of the fey. Do you think she has qualms about throwing an innocent under the bus?" She tossed more food to the swans, and John imagined the seeds as himself and Sherlock and the swans as the bus. It wasn't an accurate analogy, but he didn't care. It was how he felt.
"If she's a queen, what was she doing pretending to be a witch at a renaissance fair?"
"I suspect she was bored and went slumming."
Wasn't that just perfect? Sherlock had pissed off a fairy queen with a temper and nothing better to do than make life difficult for mere humans. He'd have laughed if he could have done it in his own body. "Great," he said flatly. "Can you tell me who she is? I mean, Sherlock needs to know who to apologise to, right?" Assuming John could convince him this was the only way, of course.
"I'm sorry, John. I can't help you there."
"But you do know who she is."
"Right. Perfect." He nodded slowly. "I'm gonna kill him, you know."
She smiled once more, amused and serene. "That won't solve your troubles, I'm afraid."
"I figured. Thanks for your help. Erm..." He hated to ask, but he had to. "Am I going to owe you for this?"
She shook her head and tossed more food to the swans. "Not this time. I've not done anything, really. Only told you what you already knew, or guessed."
"Well, thanks. Seriously. I know I sound sarcastic, but I do mean it."
"I know you do. Now make sure that she knows that he means it when he apologises."
"I'll do what I can."
Winnie turned back to her swans with a final smile, and John turned back towards home. And Sherlock. And a conversation he was not looking forward to having.