"Who's 'Mary Morstan'?"
John blinked wearily up at Sherlock, brain foggy and still lingering to sleep. "Mhm?" he grunted, yawning. He rubbed the back of his neck, wincing.
Sherlock held up John's phone, and through his haze of sleepiness, John saw a green call button. "Mary Morstan," Sherlock repeated, looking back at John's phone. "Your girlfriend."
Girlfriend. Suddenly very awake, John reached out and snatched his phone out of Sherlock's hands. "Why do you have my phone?" he snapped, quickly exiting out of the dialer and locking his screen.
"It was on the floor outside my door." Sherlock's eyes were level. "Bad break-up, I see."
"None of your business," John grumbled, unfolding himself from the armchair and storming into the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee. Tea just wasn't going to cut it this morning. "Isn't anything private?" he muttered, filling his kettle with slightly shaking fingers.
John closed his eyes and sighed. "What?" he demanded, not turning around. A small voice inside his head pointed out that he was being too harsh on Sherlock—the problems in John's life were his alone, no fault of Sherlock's—but John ignored it.
This time, John did turn, barely disguising his surprise. Sherlock had his eyes cast away from John, his pale lips pressed tightly together. "What?" John said, not knowing what else to say.
Sherlock's eyes met John's, just for a moment, and for the first time since John had met Sherlock a little more than a week ago, the other boy's eyes portrayed an emotion other than disdain or morbid excitement—Sherlock actually looked sorry. Then, he swiveled and stalked back into the living room. "You'll be late for work," he said, words fading as he closed himself in his room again. The door slammed, jarring John's teeth, and after a moment of whiplash, John set the kettle on the stove and started the burner.
John stared at Sherlock's door, wondering what it looked like open, and then pulled out his phone to check the time.
"Hell," he cussed loudly, forgetting completely about his coffee as he bolted out of the kitchen, down the hall, and into his room. He grabbed the first clean-looking clothes off of the floor and quickly changed, grabbing his laptop bag and car keys before darting out of the flat.
John skidded into St. Bart's parking lot exactly two minutes before his shift. He burst in through the double-glass doors, chest heaving, and Molly glanced up from the reception desk in surprise. "John," she said, but he raced past her with a hurried, "Can't talk right now, Molly, sorry, I'm late."
"I can see that!" Molly called behind him as he rounded the corner, her words following him all the way to the room labeled Sarah Sawyer, M.D. He paused a moment to collect himself and then slipped into the office, where Dr. Sawyer sat behind a large wooden desk, filing paperwork. She looked up as the door swung shut behind John, smiling at the sight of him.
"Been running?" she asked, a bit of laughter entering her voice, and John's cheeks flushed more, a laugh of his own escaping him.
"You know," he joked, settling down in the chair across from her, "health benefits."
She chuckled, pushing back a piece of dirty-blonde hair that had spilled over her face. "Here," she said, passing John a manila folder. "Since you seem so set on exercise, run this over to the filing room and put it in the cabinet marked John Does."
John took the file. Then, even though he knew it really wasn't any of his business, he couldn't help but ask, "A new John Doe came in?"
Dr. Sawyer sighed, tapping the pen in her hand against the desk. "Just wrapping up something from a couple of weeks ago." She smiled at John again, but this one seemed forced. "When you're finished, come back into my office. You can help me with paperwork."
John paused a moment before nodding and exiting her office, navigating without too much trouble to the filing room. His apprenticeship consisted mainly of paperwork and the occasional observation session, but John tried to look past the initial boredom and see the positive side of this. He had a job in the hospital. He got to work with Molly and Dr. Sawyer, two people with whom he had begun to develop a sort of friendship with. Best of all, he'd done some digging, and St. Bart's offered a program where talented individuals could go through medical school under a scholarship through the hospital, as long as they returned to work at St. Bart's.
To think, John had the chance to be an actual doctor. He could put up with anything to have that chance, even if that thing did happen to be hours of filing paperwork.
John flipped on the light switch in the filing room, weaving through rows and columns of pale gray filing cabinets to the very back corner where the files on John and Jane Does were kept. He opened the correct cabinet, but instead of slipping the folder in among hundreds of others, he hesitated a moment. Then, even though he knew he could get fired, he flipped the file open and quickly scanned its contents.
Nothing. Just another body, another person whose family would never know of their demise because their own identities were unknown. John snapped the folder shut, slightly disgusted with himself, and hastily put it in with the others. Slamming the cabinet shut, he exited the filing room, his hands shaking at his sides.
What, exactly, had he expected to find? Another victim of Sherlock's murderer's game, miraculously placed right in John's hands? Shaking his head, John banged back into Dr. Sawyer's office, thumping back down in the chair.
Dr. Sawyer frowned at John. "Are you okay?"
John realized his hands were clenched in tight fists, and he willed them to loosen. "Yeah," he said, surprising himself at the calmness of his voice. "Just a bad night of sleep."
Dr. Sawyer studied John a moment more. Seemingly satisfied, she cleared her throat. "All right. I have two files here I need you to classify—make sure to include both the symptoms and the diagnosis…"
She continued to outline John's work for the day, and he half-listened, his mind drifting back to this morning and Sherlock and the case.
The case. John didn't want to think about it—some man was about to die, for Heaven's sake, and there was nothing he could do about it—but he couldn't help it. Sherlock was likely back at the flat, toiling away over files, looking for some pattern he could only see, and here John was, filing paperwork. His stomach turned, and it wasn't until Dr. Sawyer cleared her throat that John realized she'd stopped talking and now studied him, clearly waiting for him to respond.
"Um…" John said, his face beginning to burn again. "I'll get right on it."
Dr. Sawyer sighed. "I asked you if you were listening. I guess I have my answer."
John's embarrassment burned so hotly, he feared he would spontaneously combust. "I'm sorry," he apologized, fixing his eyes on one of Dr. Sawyer's Post-It notes stuck to the back of her computer screen so he wouldn't have to look her in the eyes. In her scrawling handwriting, it read, Pick up Harrison at 9:30 for Chess Battle. Scrambling for something else to say that might diffuse the situation, John pointed to the note. "You're leaving at 9:30?"
Dr. Sawyer picked up the Post-It, scanned it quickly, and then hit her forehead with the palm of her hand. "Crap," she muttered, glancing quickly at the clock behind her. "It's already 8:30." She stood quickly, collecting her coat with one hand and closing her laptop with the other.
John stood with her, curiosity getting the better of him. "What's Chess Battle?"
He thought Dr. Sawyer would brush him off, but instead she shook her head and let out a small laugh. "Some thing my son Harrison wanted to participate in today—that I agreed to pull him out of school for." She ran a hand over her face, pausing in her franticness for a moment. "Have you read Harry Potter?"
John blinked at her. "What?"
Dr. Sawyer continued on like she hadn't heard him. "Well, my son has, and he's obsessed. Apparently, in the first book, Harry and his friends go on this big quest to find some stone, and one of the challenges on the way is a life-sized chess game."
Dr. Sawyer pushed some papers around her desk before locating one and shoving it at John. He caught it against his chest, pulling it away to look at it. A large lightning bolt sliced across the flier, the words "LARGEST HARRY POTTER CONVENTION IN THE WORLD" pasted across it in bold letters. "How could I say no?" Dr. Sawyer shrugged. "He's never asked for anything else before."
John glanced up at Dr. Sawyer, who had pulled on a black pea coat and had her purse slung over one arm. Her mouth was curled up into a small smile, eyes soft and loving, and John's heart throbbed painfully in his chest. In this moment, she reminded him so much of his mother that it hurt. "I'll see you tomorrow, then," he said, and Dr. Sawyer's face lit up with gratefulness.
"Thank you so much for understanding, John," she gushed, like he actually would have prevented her from leaving. She took a step towards the door, and then paused with her hand on the doorknob. "Why don't you take the day off?" she suggested, looking back at John, who still had the Harry Potter flier clutched in his hands. "That paperwork isn't going anywhere." She smiled softly at him, turning the knob and leaving him standing speechless in the middle of her office.
It took him a good five minutes before he found the will to move again—before he found the strength to dig himself out of the wave of memories that had swept over him after Dr. Sawyer had departed. His mother would have taken him out of school to go to a convention in a heartbeat; his mother would have smiled gently at him and given him the day off; his mother would have done anything for him.
John realized he had crumpled the flier up in his fingers unintentionally, and after loosening his grip, he also left the office, his laptop bag slung crossways over his body. Molly glanced up from her computer as he whisked past her desk, her fingers stilling over the keyboard. "I just saw Dr. Sawyer leave," she called out, and John paused. "Is something wrong?"
He turned to face Molly, flashing her the best smile he could manage. "No. She just forgot she had to take her son to a Harry Potter convention today, so now I have the day off."
Wistfully, Molly said, "That sounds nice. I wish my boss gave me the day off because of a convention."
John leaned on her desk, placing his chin on his hands and looking up at her. "It's not like I'm planning on going," he said, adjusting his position and laying the flier flat in front of her. "I haven't even read the books."
Molly gasped, placing a hand over her heart dramatically. "You poor, sheltered boy!"
"I'm 18," John protested, equally as dramatic. "I think you mean 'stellar young man'."
Molly shook a finger at him. "Nope. You have to earn that title." She took the flier in her hand and read it aloud. "'Gather your wands, Harry Potter fans—the greatest Harry Potter convention in the world is coming to you in London. Test your wizarding skills at numerous challenges, listen in on interviews from the cast members, and join us for a special visit from J.K. Rowling herself!'" Molly sighed, and then stomped her foot. "Damn, I wish I could go."
"Why aren't you?" John asked, drumming his fingers on the desk.
"Because I'm here," Molly grumbled, tapping her computer screen with one finger. "Besides, the con has been sold out for weeks, and do you know how expensive tickets are?"
She sighed again, this time in exasperation, and handed the flier back to John. "She's so lucky that she gets to go."
"I think her son's more excited than her," John said, rolling the flier up and tucking it in the front pocket of his laptop bag. "He's participating in some life-sized chess game."
Molly squealed, clapping her hands together. "Like in the first book, when Ron sacrificed himself to save Harry?"
John shrugged, and Molly reached over and hit him on the shoulder. "Remind me to lend you the books, Watson."
"Okay, Hooper," John teased, and Molly pushed him away, giggling.
"Please," a tired voice commented from behind them, and John whipped around to see Sherlock standing in the lobby, a dark blue scarf wrapped once around his neck. Really, John thought, does he own any color other than blue? "Get a room."
The phrase would have sounded funny coming out of Sherlock's mouth had he not said it with such emotionlessness. As it was, John's neck began to burn, and behind him, Molly cleared her throat uncomfortably. "Hello, Sherlock," she said, her throat tight.
Sherlock nodded in acknowledgement. "Molly." He turned his attention to John, his eyes locking first on John's face and then his laptop bag. "What's in your bag, John?" he asked with the tone of someone who already knew something but asked anyway, just to see how the other person would respond.
"A flier," John said, reaching over and drawing the paper out of the bag. He handed it to Sherlock, who unrolled it deftly and scanned the words with swift eyes. During the short lapse in conversation, John felt Molly's discomfort like a tangible touch to his shoulder, and he glanced behind him for a brief moment to see her focused on her computer screen, deliberately not looking at the two of them.
"Good," Sherlock said, and John glanced back at the other boy. "You must have realized, too, then."
John shook his head in confusion. "Realized what?" he asked.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Really, John, it's spelled out so clearly."
"Realized. What." John had begun to tire of Sherlock's little games—besides, he felt sure this had something to do with the case, which just so happened to be on a strict timer at the moment. Neither of them had the time for this.
"The chess game," Sherlock explained, clearly exasperated with John's lack of cooperation. "Our 12 hours is coming to an end, John: I need you to understand."
Though this wasn't the place for a full-blown argument with his new flatmate, John couldn't help but say, "Why? You're the detective, Sherlock! Why do I have to understand?"
Sherlock blinked at John, his expression blank. "Why indeed." He spun on the balls of his feet and whisked out of the hospital, John's eyes remaining fixed on the empty spot the boy had just occupied.
"You know," Molly said quietly from behind him, "Sherlock's not mean. Not really."
John looked down at the ground, studying the paisley rug under his feet intently. Remorse crept in on light feet, and he let it.
"Actually, I think he likes you," Molly mused.
John bit his lip. "Not likely." Not after how John had been treating him.
One glass door whooshed open, letting in a gust of pressurized air. "Are you coming, John?" Sherlock asked, and John saw out of the corner of his eye one polished black shoe step partially through the doorway. "We really don't have much time." There was a pause. "Fifty-one minutes, to be exact."
John closed his eyes. Then: "Yeah. I'm coming." How could he say no?
The door swung closed again, and when John finally raised his eyes from the floor, he saw Sherlock standing just outside the door, his back to John, his dark curls whipping around in the wind.
"If he doesn't like you," Molly commented, her voice soft, "then why did he come back?"
John stared at Sherlock a moment longer. He had his hands tucked away in his coat pockets—that damn coat. It was the middle of June, for God's sake—and despite the strong morning wind, he remained motionless, a stone statue with the mind of a genius. "I don't know," John whispered, quietly enough that Molly couldn't hear. Then, he opened the hospital doors and met the windstorm head-on, moving forward to stand at Sherlock's side. He could feel Molly's eyes on him; the hairs on the back of his neck prickled.
"Come on," John said, starting forward. "We'll take my car."