Sherlock was never one to keep to so-called normal hours, and so he thought nothing of waking John at roughly half-past two a.m.
"Sherlock, what is it?" John went from asleep to alert in the blink of Sherlock's eyes. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Get up and dress."
"Wear a coat. It's stopped raining for the moment, but it's still cold. You'll want a hat." It was all Sherlock would say in regard to John's appalling haircut. It was all the comment the hairy debacle deserved. "Be quick."
John muttered something under his breath, which Sherlock chose to ignore.
Less than four minutes later, John emerged from his bedroom, fully dressed save for the recommended coat and hat. He donned those as he and Sherlock descended to the street.
Sherlock walked swiftly. He knew the route without having to think about it. This was Sherlock's favourite time of night. The wee small hours. The darkness near as absolute as it ever could be in a metropolis the size of London. He didn't bother to glance over his shoulder. He knew without looking that John was there, a bit confused, a bit out of sorts, but steadfastly willing to make this unexpected trek without question.
They walked in silence for some time. Occasionally a car would pass them. Occasionally they would pass another pedestrian. Always, Sherlock ignored the distraction.
"You know, Sherlock, I had a shitty day today--"
"Yesterday. It's Friday now."
"Yes, well, if you want to argue semantics at---" John glanced at his watch, but Sherlock filled in the blank.
"Ten past three."
"Thank you." The sarcasm was lost on Sherlock. He heard it, of course. He registered it. And then he deleted it. John went on. "Ten past three in the morning."
"We're nearly there."
All right. So, not entirely without question. Sherlock didn't answer and John didn't ask again.
A few wordless minutes later, they turned a final corner and Sherlock's pace slowed, his greatcoat ceasing its billowing and settling around his long legs. He crossed the all but deserted street to stand on the edge of the little park. He inhaled the scent of rain-washed pavement and wet earth.
The ticket booth was, of course, closed. The windows of every shop, restaurant, and theatre were dark. Even the great electronic billboard was black.
John fell silent. He listened.
A rat scrabbling in a rubbish bin. A homeless man shifting in his sleep against the side of a building. The ruffle of the breeze in the rain-wet leaves that still clung to the few trees. A cab slowly circling, look for a fare, and driving off. The distant noise of London's ever-present traffic.
This was as still as London got. And yet its night was alive in a way that was completely different from the daily bustle of this city of nearly eight million people. Theatre-goers and party-goers were all off to home or already tucked up in bed. It would be hours before trucks came to sweep the streets and pick up the municipal trash.
It was quiet.
"Now look up."
John looked up.
Sherlock looked up.
Stars and planets. Not many, but the few that were visible were bright. The clouds had blown off, clearing the moonless night sky. There was just enough space here to look directly upwards and see the sky without a power line or a roofline crowding one's eyes. The ambient light of the city was unavoidable, but here was one place, on open place where Sherlock could see the stars.
Sherlock turned to look at John who was still staring at the night sky. After a while, as though he sensed eyes on him, John lowered his gaze and met Sherlock's.
"You'd had a rotten day." Sherlock's voice was low, barely a breath on the damp breeze. "This is my favourite part of London."
Slowly, comprehension dawning, John smiled. "Thanks."