Characters: John, Sherlock, Gladstone
Rating: R (just for swearing)
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, panic attack, a bit of blood
Spoilers: The Reichenbach Fall
Pairings: Two flying references to John/Sarah
Word Count 1,628
Summary: Sherlock Holmes comes home. Neither John nor his dog are particularly welcoming.
Author's notes: I've always been reluctant to do my own version of the big Return, but at this point, I figured that I've AU'd myself so much I might as well go for it.
Follow-up to Strange Flatemates. Technically set in the Abby 'verse.
John unlocked the door of his flat, and knew instantly something was very wrong. Gladstone wasn't there to greet him, and he always was. It was part of the routine of the day, and Gladstone followed it religiously. John stepped cautiously in. The runner in the front hall was askew. There were little drops of blood on the floor in front of the kitchen. He could hear Gladstone's muffled bark coming from his bedroom.
He should have stepped out and called the police. He was too worried about his dog, though, and instead moved forward, searching for a weapon. The only thing he had was his stethoscope in his pocket. Having been hit with the bell by unruly patients before, he figured it would do as a sort of flail.
He made his way to the edge of the hallway, where it opened out into the living room, and peered around the corner. The lights were off and it got dark early these days, so he only had a dim view by the streetlamps coming through the windows. Gladstone's barks were more desperate, and, seeing nothing of danger, John skirted around and moved to open the bedroom door and let him out.
“Please do not release the hound,” Sherlock said. “We've already had one altercation, I don't fancy another.”
At first, John was simply annoyed that Sherlock had thought locking Gladstone away was the best way to deal with him. Then he realized how absolutely impossible it was that Sherlock was even there to be annoyed by. John hit the lights quickly and turned into the living room. What he'd mistaken for a shadow was Sherlock, sitting in a chair calmly, like he hadn't been dead for over two years.
John's mind turned into pure white noise, a loud whine as he struggled to comprehend what was happening. He took a step toward Sherlock, then another. Then he was on the ground, not so much a faint as much as his body making the logical decision to devote more energy to his brain than trying to keep him up. Sherlock came hurrying over, crouching down in front of him. He had bloodied bandage on his arm. The arm that was currently reaching out, and touching John's shoulder. A physical, tangible arm that John knew was real.
“That was not quite the reaction I was expecting,” Sherlock said, looking a bit concerned. “But I also wasn't expecting the dog. I think I might be a bit out of—”
He was cut off by John's fist hitting him squarely in the jaw, sending him sprawling out on the floor in front of him. He threw his arms over his face, expecting another blow, but John didn't have the energy for it. Sherlock lowered his arms, and nodded. “Yes, that was more the reaction I was expecting.”
For several moments, they sat on the floor staring at each other. Gladstone was still barking, but John couldn't deal with all of this at once.
“Did I break anything?” he asked.
“I don't believe so,” Sherlock said.
“I'll get you some ice.”
John got unsteadily to his feet and walked to the kitchen, his shoulder bouncing off a doorway he didn't quite clear. He grabbed a handful of ice cubes and stuck them in a clean sock from the laundry basket on the table. Sherlock had put himself back in the chair and John brought the ice pack to him.
“Show me,” John said, pointing to the bloodied arm.
Sherlock undid the bandage. It was superficial, but looked to have bled a lot. Teeth marks were very visible.
“Your dog is vicious,” Sherlock said, pouting.
“Maybe you shouldn't have broken into my flat,” John replied.
“I didn't have much of a choice,” Sherlock said.
“Did you hurt him?”
“No. I just put him in quarantine.”
John put the bandage back in place, satisfied that it didn't require stitches. He waited for his brain to acknowledge how absolutely impossible this all was. He recognized it academically, but he couldn't feel it yet. Sherlock's eyes darted all around him, looking like he was waiting for a reaction too.
“Vatican cameos,” John said.
Sherlock ducked, then gave him a confused look when nothing attacked him.
“Just checking,” John said.
“Sensible,” Sherlock agreed. “I'm me, though. No surgery.”
Ah, there it was. There was the reaction. John's heart started to race, and his chest burned, and he couldn't catch his breath. He paced around in front of Sherlock, not sure what to do, not sure how to deal with this. There was no frame of reference for this.
'I want to talk to Sarah,' was his first thought, which surprised him. They'd only been seeing each other again for a few weeks, but that's really who he wanted to have with him right now.
“I'm letting Gladstone out,” he said.
“Shut up, “ John cut him off.
Sherlock fell silent. John opened the door to his bedroom and slipped past, not letting Gladstone free yet. He sat down on his bed and Gladstone hopped up beside him. John tried to take some breaths in and out, calm down, think this through. Gladstone put his nose under John's arm and tried to lift it, trying to burrow underneath to get to him. John moved it and Gladstone got right up into his face and licked it, making concerned noises.
“I don't know,” John said. “I don't know what to do. What do I do?”
He blew out a long breath, and sucked another back in. All right. Panic was down to a minimum. He could deal with this. Could he deal with this? He'd have to deal with this.
“Okay,” he said. “Okay. Fuck. Okay.”
He kept hold of Gladstone's collar as they left the room, though the dog still made a lunge for Sherlock, who pulled himself into a ball at the sight of him. John would have found it funny if he wasn't so gobsmacked.
John sat down on the sofa, and put Gladstone next to him, still holding on to his collar. Gladstone let out a low rumble toward Sherlock.
“Okay,” John said. “Start talking.”
“Is your dog going to attack me?” Sherlock asked.
“Not unless I tell him to,” John said. “So fucking make your words count.”
It was a very odd sensation to be back in 221b. It was like nothing had changed, and everything had changed. John sat in his usual chair; Sherlock sat at the kitchen table with his head bent over the microscope. It was as though Sherlock had never died, had never disappeared for two and a half years and then performed the miracle John had so desperately wanted.
“I don't like it,” Sherlock said, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen over them.
John turned to see what had him upset. He was staring at Gladstone, who was staring back; sitting at the base of John's chair and guarding him.
“He's not an it, he's a he,” John said. “And too fucking bad. You wanted me back here, Gladstone stays.”
“It's—he's looking at me,” Sherlock complained.
“Ignore him,” John said.
“I'm trying,” Sherlock said.
“You need to bond with him,” John said. “Take him for a walk or feed him or something. Do something he likes, so he knows you're not the enemy.”
Sherlock sniffed indignantly. “This is my home, I am not going to be bossed around by an animal,” he said.
“It's his home too, now,” John said. “Deal with it.”
Similar conversations occurred over the next two weeks, and John admitted that, while he was starting to settle in, Gladstone was still openly wary of Sherlock. He imagined there was some disparity between what John's lips were saying ('it's okay') and what his body language was saying ('I'm not sure I trust him, either'). John contemplated sending him to Sarah, who had offered to take him. He still thought it could work, though, and he liked his dog. He didn't want to send him away. He'd rather send Sherlock away at this point.
“Okay,” he said, one night, during another stare-off between his flatmates.“You're taking him for a walk. This is ridiculous. He is a dog. You are a person. One of you has to take the high road, and it's not going to be him. Take him for a walk and show him you're a friend.”
Sherlock whinged and grumbled and complained, but eventually agreed to take Gladstone for a 'short' walk. Gladstone had clear approach-avoidance when Sherlock brought his lead, because on the one paw, 'walk!' and on the other paw, 'Sherlock'. Walk won out, and he lay down on his belly to get the lead attached. He and Sherlock disappeared out the front door.
After half an hour, John wondered if he should have gone with them, and desensitized Gladstone to the notion of Sherlock as a walk leader. After forty-five minutes, he was positive it had all gone horrible wrong. After fifty minutes, he rang Sherlock's mobile. There was no answer.
An hour and five minutes after they'd left, the door opened and Sherlock and Gladstone came running up to the first floor. Sherlock had a bloody nose, and his clothes were rumbled. Gladstone looked a little dirty, but unhurt.
“What the fuck happened?!” John said. He crouched down to examine Gladstone
“There was a bit of an incident with a former client,” Sherlock said, dismissively. “He wasn't pleased with the service I provided. Apparently he was extremely happy when I killed myself, and very vexed when I decided I wasn't dead anymore. It's fine, I've dealt with it. Lestrade has him in custody.”
John gaped after Sherlock as he went over to the sink to wash his face. “You didn't think to ring?” he said.
“Oh. No,” Sherlock said. “I'm a bit out of practice having a colleague.” He dried his face with a paper towel and tossed it into the bin. “I'm going to change my clothes. And John?”
“Yeah?” John said, still a bit bewildered. Was that cloth in Gladstone's teeth?
“The dog can stay.”