A Misty London Sunday
It wasn't that John expected an effusive and warm welcome home upon his return to 221b. After all, he'd only been gone two nights to the wedding of an old med school chum -- an event that no amount of cajoling, promises, bribes, or harassment could convince Sherlock to attend. It was that what he found when he arrived was, if one could quantify such things, the one thing he most didn't expect.
Chaos would not have surprised him. Nor would have fresh bullet holes in the wall over the sofa. Nor an experiment bubbling away on the kitchen table. Conversely, an empty flat would not have been a-typical, although that would likely have been preceded by text messages from Sherlock requesting John's immediate return from Cardiff -- the location of the aforementioned wedding.
His cheerful hello died in his throat and he all but dropped his overnight case in shock. Time slowed. His mind felt sluggish as it tried to decipher the scene. Break it down, said a logical little voice in his head that sounded oddly like Lestrade. Assess the situation.
Sherlock. Folded and perched like an origami crane. In the sitting room arm chair. Bare feet pulled up to the seat. Wearing blue silk pyjama pants and John's cream-coloured jumper. Floor around him littered by wrappers from six different types of sweets generally found in vending machines, although occasionally hidden in Mrs. Hudson's highest kitchen cupboard. An empty jar of marshmallow fluff with a spoon on the floor by his chair.
Sherlock looked like he'd not moved, or at least not shaved, in thirty-six hours or more. And he was watching television. And he was...laughing?
A long-ago staged drugs bust rushed to mind and John's heart raced in sudden worry.
"Shhh!" Sherlock waved a hand in John's general direction, but didn't glance away from the screen. Strange singing emanated from the telly.
"Is that a madrigal?" Another sharp "shh!" was his only answer. Who sang madrigals on telly? And why would Sherlock watch it? Drugs still a concern in his mind, he came around to stand behind Sherlock, and looked at the screen.
A row of small, red plastic robots with what looked like gumball machines for heads were dressed for a renaissance fair and appeared, indeed, to be singing a madrigal. Too many questions raced through John's mind: who was the American bloke in the green jumpsuit? why were the toy robots now singing a bawdy song? and was that a giant dog bone on the wall behind them? were only three among hundreds.
What followed that bizarre musical interlude was one of the most fascinating and dreadful movies John could remember seeing. He'd clearly walked in half-way through, and yet he strongly suspected it didn't matter. The plot, such as it was, was so pointless and haphazard that knowing what had come before was irrelevant. In fact, the real entertainment came from the man and the two weird little robots seated next to him. Their banter and backtalk at the screen was sharp and witty, and more than once John found himself laughing out loud along with Sherlock. Soon, he and his flatmate were interjecting their own snarky comments whenever something caught their attention that didn't inspire the on-screen commentators.
Then, at last, the movie was over, but the programme wasn't.
"A pancake breakfast?"
Soon thereafter the show's credits rolled, accompanied by stentorious and yet somehow mocking instrumental music.
"Bridget Jones? Seriously?"
The credits scrolled to an end, there was an exceptionally random clip from the film, and Sherlock at last tore his eyes from the screen and looked at John.
John wiped tears of mirth from his cheeks, still inclined to chuckle over what he'd just witnessed. "What -- and I'm almost afraid to ask this -- was that?"
"Mystery Science Theatre 3000."
"It is quite probably the most brilliant thing to come out of America in the history of television."
"That's not such a long time."
John fell silent.
"We have less than seven minutes until the next one starts." Sherlock unfolded himself just as the front door buzzed. "Get that would you? It's Satish from Masal of India with dinner." He stepped over the strewn candy wrappers and vanished into the loo.
"Welcome home, John," John muttered to himself as he descended the stairs, digging his wallet from his back pocket as he went. "How was the wedding? How are your old mates? Did you have a good time?" His quiet whinging was only half-hearted, though. He was still too bemused to be upset. And he knew Sherlock too well to be genuinely hurt. Clearly, even in his telly-induced distraction, he'd still known when to expect John home, known that John would be hungry, and planned dinner accordingly.
He opened the door. "Hi, Satish."
"Hey, Doc! Welcome back." At least someone recognised that he'd been gone and had now returned. "The total's £38,50."
"Thirty-eight fifty? What did he order? Gold-plated chicken vindaloo?"
"Hah! Good one!" Satish grinned.
John handed over two £20 notes and took the large paper bag. "Keep the change."
"Thanks! See you."
"Yeah. See you."
John shut the door and went back upstairs. Whatever Sherlock had ordered, it smelled wonderful and John's stomach growled in anticipation. He almost didn't mind having to pay for it. He'd find a way to get a return on the investment out of Sherlock at some point.
"Hurry up, hurry up!" urged Sherlock, all but pushing John ahead of him into the kitchen. He dashed about, gathering plates and silverware while John unloaded take-away containers onto the table.
"You're actually eating with me?" said John, the full impact of Sherlock's frenetic activity sinking in. "When was the last time you ate? I mean something other than cheap chocolates and marshmallow fluff?" Damn it! He knew he oughtn't to have gone away overnight when Mrs Hudson was out of town! And why had he let Sherlock buy that damned fluff in the first place? That shit was like crack to a sweet-tooth like his! Between that and the candies he'd undoubtedly purloined from Mrs. Hudson's "secret" stash, it was a wonder he'd not made himself sick on it all. At least -- John took a surreptitious sniff. No, there was no aroma of vomit in the flat. The place smelled of the usual scents plus Indian food and unwashed Sherlock, but not of sick. Thank God.
"Friday afternoon? I've been busy, John!"
"Busy? It's Sunday evening, Sherlock! And it looks to me like you've been doing nothing but watching telly and eating sugar for two days."
"I have been! I was bored when you left. Bored, bored, bored! So bored that I turned on that thing--" He stabbed one long finger at the telly. "--and started flipping channels. That's when I found it! I haven't been so, so ... not bored in ages!"
John knew that to be an exaggeration. They'd completed a downright riveting case not ten hours before John had left for the weekend. But he couldn't bring himself to contradict his friend with the truth. Sherlock looked far too gleeful for John to want to spoil it. Plus, he was loading his plate with more food than he usually ate in three days, and John had no intention of stopping him with any sort of logic-based distraction.
"But all weekend? My God, why?"
Sherlock froze, his pale eyes ablaze with manic delight. "Why? You just saw why! It's, it's, it's--"
"It's a drug," said John.
"It's brilliant!" His plate loaded with Indian food, Sherlock all but bounded back out to the sitting room and folded himself once more into the arm chair. John followed at a more leisurely pace.
"Before you get wrapped up in another one of these -- I assume there's another coming?"
"In ninety-seven seconds, so be quick."
"I have a question."
"Yes? What is it?"
"Why are you wearing one of my jumpers?"
"Hm? Oh." Sherlock tried to look innocent and failed utterly. "It was handy."
"Bullshit. Your mobile phone in your own pocket isn't 'handy' enough for you, and I know for a fact that that jumper was lying on my bed when I left because I tossed it there myself last time I took it off Friday morning." He'd been wearing it all night, in fact, while they were on the case. The thing had been in need of a wash then. It must be in dire need of one now.
Knowing he was caught, Sherlock only smiled with a hint of shyness that he rarely expressed and which on each of those rare occasions had never failed to make John's toes curl in wiggly joy. This time was no exception. "Oh. Well. I missed you. That's all."
John smiled. "That's all, is it?"
"Yes. Now shut up. The show's starting again."
John pulled over the other chair and sat. "How long is this marathon session of bizarre American kitsch telly supposed to last?"
"I've no idea. I'm rather hoping forever."
John burst out laughing and the programme began.
Additional author's note: If you want to see and hear for yourself the madrigal that John walks in on, you can find it here: Air on a Delta Knight. Enjoy!