John mentions it casually, over tea and toast on a Saturday morning. "Something something Harry something out of rehab something shouldn’t be alone something something two weeks something Sherlock did you even hear what I said?" Sherlock processes exactly nothing of this, but he nods and parrots back John’s words precisely and the subject is dropped.
All of a sudden it is a week or an hour or some amount of days later and Sherlock is for some reason standing on the pavement outside the flat and John has a cab waiting and his leather duffel slung over his shoulder and is saying things like “I’ll see you in two weeks” and “Don’t burn the flat down, yeah?”
Sherlock realises he has missed something rather relevant.
“You’re going away.”
John’s mouth drops open and he tips his head skyward in exasperation.
“Yes, Sherlock, I have to. We talked about this! It’s family. She needs someone to stay with her and there isn’t anyone else.”
Did they talk about this? Sherlock wants to say, ‘You hate your sister. You don’t want to fly to Newcastle. I hate when you leave. I don’t want you to fly to Newcastle.’
He says, “I won’t burn the flat down.”
The exasperation fades from John’s expression and is replaced by a smile that looks half-hearted.
“Right,” he says, hesitantly reaching out his left hand and clapping Sherlock gently on the shoulder. “I’ll see you soon, yeah?”
Sherlock watches him climb into the cab. When it’s gone, he goes back upstairs and sits down at his microscope and fiddles with pointless experiments until the sun comes back up again the next morning.
On the first day, he goes to bed at dawn and sleeps until the afternoon. He glides around the flat in his pyjama bottoms and dressing gown. He plays the violin as loudly as he pleases. He eschews real food and has several pots of tea and an entire box of Hob Nobs instead. He dissects a thumb from the refrigerator. He stays up all night again. It is lovely.
The second day goes very much like the first. He runs out of biscuits and eats nothing instead. His stomach protests. He ignores it. He stays up all night.
On the third day, he is forced to call on Mrs. Hudson and ask (demand) that she feed him. She gives him a pitying smile and tells him ‘Don’t you fret, dear, he’ll be home before you know it,’ and it rankles him so badly that he stalks out of her flat without his dinner. It appears on his kitchen table some hours later while he is absorbed in another thumb. He wants to sleep but he can’t. He stays up all night.
On the fourth day, he talks to John without realizing it while he drinks his tea. He deems this unacceptable. He plays the violin. It screeches so much that Mrs. Hudson raps the butt of a broom handle on her ceiling and shouts at him. He stops playing the violin. He checks his phone and there are no new texts. He starts typing. ‘Tired of your sister yet? -SH’ delete delete delete ‘Bored. -SH’ delete ‘I miss you. -SH’ delete ‘Did you arrive safely? We have a case when you return. I shall need you in one piece. -SH’ send. There is no case. There is no response from John. He stays up all night. He manages to fall asleep at sunrise.
On the fifth day, the green light indicating an unread message is blinking on his mobile when he wakes. ‘Made it in safely, thanks. What’s the case? Flat still standing?’ Sherlock punches out a response immediately. ‘Already solved the case, nevermind. Flat not burnt down. I told you it wouldn’t be. -SH’ His stomach feels a bit lighter. They text back and forth through most of the day. After it seems John has fallen asleep, Sherlock taps out one more message. ‘I miss you. Come back. -SH’ send. He goes to bed. He sleeps. He wakes up to the blinky green light again. ‘I miss you too. Be home soon. One more week.’
The next week feels like limbo. He texts John and John texts him back. Mrs. Hudson brings him food and dotes on him far more than is usual. He stops screeching his violin and he runs out of thumbs. He takes to staring out the front window. It is patently ridiculous, but he is watching for John. Just in case.
When the fourteenth day comes, he gets a cab to Heathrow.
The throng of people makes him dizzy, but he threads his way through the crowd anyway, wrapped in his Belstaff. There is a bookshop that is more like an overgrown newsstand, the shelves stuffed with Grisham paperbacks and comic books and Harlequin romances. Sherlock darts inside on a whim and locates the section for mysteries and detective novels. He leaves the shop a few moments later with a paperback about a detective who is also somehow a wizard and he thinks it will be right up John’s street.
He buys John a cup of over-brewed tea in a tall paper cup, because surely he’ll want tea, but when he tries to add the milk and sugar, he finds his hands are shaking furiously and he dumps in far too much of both. His hands are shaking, why are his hands shaking? He bins the first cup, throws a bit of an inner tantrum about it, and buys another, manages to get it right the second time around.
The book tucked into his coat pocket and the boiling hot tea burning his left hand a bit through the cup, he goes and stands outside of the security check, feeling rather foolish. It’s not just his hands shaking; he feels as though he might vibrate right out of his skin. Nerves, he thinks. It’s nerves because he misses John and because he told John he misses him and John had said he missed him back and something, maybe, has changed.
He keeps his eyes fixed on the steady flow of people filing through the security gates. Not you, not you, not you, not you, not you. And then.
Did he shout? He isn’t sure. Everything has gone a bit fuzzy and he feels terribly lightheaded. He is shaking and shaking and shaking, inside and out.
He watches John’s head dart around, searching, and sees the grin split his face when he sees Sherlock waiting for him. Sherlock watches him stride over on short legs, his bag over his shoulder. John’s brow is crinkled, as if he is confused, but he is smiling brightly nonetheless.
“You came to meet me?”
John sounds incredulous, and Sherlock wants to be offended. Is it really so far-fetched? He thrusts out the cup of tea, sloshing a bit on his fingers and wincing. “I brought you tea. I thought... well, I suppose it wasn’t a terribly long flight, and you probably could have had tea while you were flying, off the drinks trolley, if you had wanted tea, but I just thought you might want some now, as well. As it were.” He is no longer sure where his brain is going or what words are coming out of his mouth. The shaking has only gotten worse.
John laughs. Sherlock thinks he is laughing with him and not at him; John doesn’t laugh at him, normally. “Sherlock, it’s thoughtful. Really. Cheers.” He takes the cup from him and inhales the steam coming up through the hole in the lid. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Greeting people at the security gate seems a bit not your thing.”
“It could be my thing.” That was insipid. Why did he say that?
John laughs again.
“I missed you,” he says. “Newcastle was dreadful.”
Sherlock knew it would be.
“Harry and I fought, as usual.”
Sherlock knew they would do.
“And I bloody well missed you, you crazy sod.”
Sherlock hugs him. The tea probably spills again; he doesn’t care. John starts, and then hugs him back with his free arm, squeezing tight around his back and burying his face against Sherlock’s coat. Perfect, Sherlock thinks, this is perfect, perfect, perfect. He tucks his head into the crook of John’s neck and breathes deep.
“I missed you, too,” he murmurs.
“I’m bringing you with me, next time.”
“I don’t want to go to Newcastle, John, I hate Newcastle.”
John huffs a quiet laugh and squeezes him tighter. “Me too. Me too.”
They go back to Baker Street. They order take-away. John recounts his long and draining two weeks. Sherlock very deliberately doesn’t mention much of what he did. Somewhere in the shuffle, they end up stretched out on the sofa, exhausted, squashed together to keep either of them from falling off. It’s a bit like the hugging earlier, but lying down. It calms the shaking inside Sherlock. He falls asleep with John’s hair pressed against his nose and John’s laugh buzzing in his ears.
He sleeps through until morning.