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Double or No Thing

By Emily Claus

Mystery / Humor

Chapter 1

The weeks following the latest devastating breakup dragged on slowly for the residents of 22b Baker Street. John Watson fell back into his regular day-to-day routine, but he did so without emotion and generally kept to himself. Each morning the man would make himself and Sherlock a cup of coffee, yet hardly speak two words to his uneasy flatmate whilst flipping through a newspaper.

John came to feel as if he were watching the world around him in black and white. Life went on without Lilith - Scotland Yard went back to what they did best, and Sherlock had his experiments to keep himself company - but John's wounds had gone deep and had yet to fully heal. Now everything looked a grayish color to him; even things that he used to particularly enjoy.

Finally Sherlock decided that he had had enough of this bullshittery. One morning he abruptly shattered the dull sameness of his companion's schedule by slapping a pair of plane tickets down upon the table in front of him. John looked up, blinking in surprise. "What's this?" he demanded.

"Must I spell it out for you?" Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Oh, all right. They're airfare tickets. To Aberdeen."

"Aberdeen? But that's at the other end of Britain! What's in Aberdeen?"

"Fresh air?"

John frowned. "Fresher than London's?"

"Arguably. I also happen to know a man who lives in Aberdeen, goes by the name of Archie Linderman. Owns a casino up there. I figured you might want to check it out, what with... well, everything that happened regarding the L-word." Sherlock leaned forward across the table, beaming. He'd known from experience that John was not an easy man to cheer up when he got like this, but after so much time he felt obligated to step in in any way that he could.

Chewing on the bottom of his lip, John fought back the urge to break down again at the mention of his ex-fiance. "So... let me get this straight: you want me to fly to Aberdeen with you... to visit a casino?"

"Not just any casino," Sherlock clarified. "Linderman's casino. We go way back. Plus, it's got drinks and bright lights and music that's so loud it makes your ears bleed and those skimpy girls wearing themed costumes that hardly cover up more than a Band-Aid would!" Noticing John was no longer making eye contact with him, Sherlock pulled away John's coffee mug to be sure that he was paying attention. "You're into that sort of thing, aren't you?"

"I don't know," John sighed.

"Not to mention it comes with a case - serial killer trying to ruin Linderman's business and we get to be the ones to stop it! 2-for-1 packaged deal!" Sherlock exclaimed enthusiastically, jumping up to bop John across the head with the tickets.

John folded his paper, smirking. "Knew there was something more to it."

"Hurry up and get your stuff packed," the detective called out from the other room, searching for his suitcase. "Our flight leaves at noon. Unless you'd prefer to rent a vehicle, of course, but the last thing I want right now is to be stuck in a car with you moping for nine hours!"

-x-

Sherlock and John had never flown together before that day, which turned out to be quite the experience. Getting past security proved to be challenging enough: Sherlock accidentally set off the metal detector and his smart mouthing the guards as they searched him hardly seemed to speed up the process. After what seemed like ages of standing through long lines, having their bags checked, and John being forced to throw out a container of his favorite Dual Action Deep-Root Shampoo and Conditioner, the pair ended up waiting in the airport for an additional hour before being allowed to board.

Fighting the other passengers for their seats, John claimed a spot by the window as Sherlock began shoving their luggage into the overhead compartment. Once that was taken care of they settled down and the seat belt light flickered on. The giant hunk of metal departed shortly after, unpleasantly bumpy at first, but quickly evening out as it took to the sky.

"Might either of you be interested in anything to drink?" a red-haired stewardess offered, her firetruck red lips pressed together. "We have a lovely wine list."

John looked as if he were going out of his way to avoid eye contact with the woman. He waved her away with his hand. "Um, no. Thanks. N-Nothing for us."

The stewardess nodded and moved along to the next row. Sherlock immediately smacked John's arm with the back of his hand. "What the hell was that? Lilith's gone! You can't feel bad about speaking with another girl, especially now!" He huffed, turning to face the aisle next to him. "If ever there were an appropriate time for some innocent flirting on your behalf, this is when it would be most welcomed."

"Are you seriously suggesting that I play the 'my serious girlfriend of six months just dumped me' card only two weeks after the fact?" John looked almost offended.

Sherlock shrugged, his back turned. A bing-bong rang out over the plane's intercom, announcing the start of the aircraft's most recent cinema feature. It was a romantic comedy that John had enjoyed on more than one occasion and which Sherlock had unsurprisingly never heard of.

"I have to use the loo," the army doctor announced after the first half hour of traveling. Sherlock acknowledged this by pressing legs up against his chest so that John could squeeze on by.

Some time passed and Sherlock couldn't help but grow increasingly worried the longer his friend took to return. At first he tried to pass the time by slipping quietly into his mind palace, his fingertips pressed against one another beneath his chin. Unable to concentrate for long, Sherlock eventually grew tired of twiddling his thumbs and set out towards the plane's rear in search of John.

Sherlock pulled back a curtain and immediately let out a yelp at what he'd walked in on. John stood directly in front of him, the red-haired and now only half-dressed stewardess leaning against the galley's wall for support. The woman shrieked and began fastening her blazer's buttons with shaking hands. She then adjusted her name tag and attempted to tame several loose strands of fiery hair. Cheeks flushed, she then slapped John across his face for extra measure and strut back into the passenger area.

Sherlock's mouth hung slightly ajar as he struggled for words. With a stern look, John stuck a threatening finger out at Sherlock. "Don't," he hissed.

"Three continents and the air," Sherlock couldn't help but mock. "You'll have to change your nickname if you keep this pace up."

-x-

The remainder of the flight was relatively uneventful. It was already dark by the time Sherlock and John landed in Aberdeen, where a cab took them to Linderman's casino, a towering display of neon lights and blaring music. An electronic billboard displaying the building's title hung just above a spinning glass door entrance.

"Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, I presume?" The tourists turned to spot a dark skinned man with a tough build. He had a black suit on and was wearing some sort of earpiece.

"Then you'd presume correctly," Sherlock answered.

"221," the bulky man said as he handed them each a hotel key, which they stashed away in their respective pockets. "Mr. Linderman does have a sense of humor. Ernesto will bring you up your things." As he said this, a smallish Mexican man rolling along a hotel trolley appeared from behind them and picked up their luggage bags, tossing them onto his cart before continuing inside. The dark-skinned man continued: "Mr. Linderman predicted that you would be tired after your flight. Rest now and Linderman will you see you first thing in the morning."

"Uh, where and when, exactly, should we expect to meet Mr. Linderman?" John called out to the man who was already following Ernesto indoors.

"You will know when the time comes."

John shot Sherlock a distrustful look. The detective shrugged and pushed past him, stepping inside the casino and heading straight for the elevators with John in tow.

When they got to room 221 Ernesto was nowhere in sight, but his trolley was parked against the carpeted hallway and still carrying their things. Sherlock slid his cardkey in the lock and it lit up green with a clicking noise. He pushed his way inside to reveal two twin beds, several pieces of matching wooden furniture, and an enormous light bulb-lined mirror taking up nearly half of the opposite wall.

John grabbed a heart-shaped chocolate from off of his pillow, unwrapped and popped it into his mouth, and then began unloading the contents of his leather bag into the nearby dresser. Sherlock threw himself down upon the other bed face-first and lay perfectly still for some time.

"Nice try," John mused, bopping Sherlock on the back of his head with a pillow. "I haven't put anything in me since we got to the airport. You're taking me to dinner first, then I'll consider letting you doze-"

The doctor had hardly finished his sentence when he was interrupted by a knocking on the door. He hesitated before pulling it open. Just outside was Ernesto, now wheeling a cart filled to the brim with food. "Compliments of Mr. Linderman," he explained, taking the array inside and then shutting the door behind himself.

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