Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Summary: Sherlock sets out to solve the case of his own emotions. It may be his greatest mystery to date. (WARNING: Spoilers for all three episodes.)
Author's Notes: Okay, the last of my distraction fics before I knuckle down and hammer out the rest of my Big Bang. This one was originally for lamardeuse on the occasion of turning 35-ish, but it took so long it also happened to be sonicbookmark's birthday too. I think there is enough fic to go around, though, yes? (Also, to various people I owe birthday fic to, yours is coming. One day. I swear. When you least expect it. This way I stand out from those boring people who get you birthday presents on your actual birthday, see?)I blame this being late on the fact that I went "you know what I never get to see? Sherlock falling in love fic, especially when he's characterized s so socially stunted. I THINK I SHOULD WRITE THAT." HERP DERP DERP. You know why no one writes that? BECAUSE IT'S FUCKING HARD TO DO.
Muchas gracias to ninja_orange, my fearless cheerleader, rayslady, who spent many an hour petting me and telling me yes, this was my stupidest idea to date, and then helping me do it anyway, and accioscar for being the first person to respond to my IM of "SO I HEAR YOU'RE BRITISH..." and Britpicking the last few paragraphs. You people all have the patience of saints.
Why John Watson stays with Sherlock Holmes is, to Sherock's mind, utterly explicable. John loves London and is miserable living anywhere else, he's said so himself, and he can't afford a flat, so obviously he's willing to put up with a lot to stay in the city. He's willing to put up with Sherlock because he has clear masochistic tendencies. He's willing to follow Sherlock around and be his friend (for lack of a better term) because he is a military man. This makes him a thrill-seeker. It also makes him disciplined (once he makes a choice, he counts them as orders and sticks to them) and patient (war is maddening, involves hurrying up to wait and senseless killing - patience is required to get through such an event).
Sherlock should not be surprised that John has insinuated himself in his life, despite John's whinging. There isn't a particular shortage of self-destructive idiots in London, so it was inevitable someone like John would find him soon enough. It's a logical conclusion. Elementary, even.
Except, for no reason he can explain, Sherlock finds John's eager tramping after him fascinating. Thrilling, even. Wonderful in a way he usually only finds unsolved serial murders, except rather nicer.
And that in itself is a mystery worth devoting time to.
Two weeks later, John's idiot therapist requests to meet with him. John insists he doesn't have to, he actually seems vaguely irritated by the whole idea, which, as far as Sherlock is concerned, is reason enough to tag along, if only for sheer entertainment value.
"She wants to study you," John warns while they sit in the waiting room. The tremor in his hand is back, Sherlock notes, but his leg is fine. Interesting. "It's like you're a new miracle pill. She wants to know your side effects."
"It's not the first time I've been psychologically examined," Sherlock replies blithely, looking around the nondescript waiting room. No one else is there to study, which makes it very boring. "You seem nervous. You didn't have to come, you know. Do you need a nicotine patch?"
John looks like he's about to snap something peevish, but before he can, John's therapist opens her door and beckons him in.
"Far be it from me to question what works and what doesn't," she says, "but I can't help but feel that you're not the first person I'd think John would finally deign to trust, and I admit I'm baffled as to why your tramping about London would cure his PTSD."
"It wouldn't," Sherlock agrees. "That is, if he had PTSD."
"You doubt my diagnosis?"
"Oh, it's not your fault," Sherlock says as kindly as he can, which John tells him sounds more like condescension than anything else. "I didn't expect you to be brilliant enough to diagnose him with something that doesn't technically have a name."
"And I imagine you've diagnosed it," she says. She's not even taking notes. Sherlock isn't sure if he's honored or insulted.
"Post Traumatic Stress Addiction," Sherlock proclaims. "John flourishes under stress. Needs it. He doesn't know how to live without having a struggle, anymore. If he doesn't have one, he'll create one."
"And you want to create a war so that he'll be happy?" Her eyebrows raise nearly to her hairline.
Sherlock shrugs. "No need. The world is at war. And I solve it. It's what I do. What we do, I suppose I should say."
She sits back in her chair, examining him. "You're a very intelligent man, Sherlock Holmes," she says finally. "What do you want with a man like John? Will you cast him aside once you grow bored with him?"
She's good, Holmes will admit. Not intelligent by his standards, but then, no one is. If she were intelligent by his standards, she wouldn't be able to be a therapist. She'd probably be killing her patients off one by one just to break up the endless monotony. But at least she's not utterly stupid, which is more than he can say for most people.
"I don't anticipate growing bored," he says finally. "John serves me by listening and appreciating my genius. I shall always be a genius. I would suggest the more pertinent question is - when will John grow bored of me?"
"When he stops enjoying walking, I suppose," she says.
Their flat is messy, to be charitable. To be frank, it is in a constant state of disarray that reflects Sherlock more than it reflects John. Sherlock has observed that John often tidies up, instinctively knowing where to place Sherlock's things so he can find them, and he only offers the expected ribbing about finding sheep's brains stuck to the hob again or having to scrape together for the third microwave in a month (the last one exploded quite spectacularly, the other just smelled offensive). He concludes, then, that John, as a military man, is naturally of an austere nature when it comes to his living conditions (supported by the fact that John could fit all of his belongings in two large cardboard boxes stored in the back of a cab when he moved in).
Since the flat shows remarkably little of John's character and quite a lot of Sherlock's, it is only natural Sherlock break into John's room to learn more about him. His search, however, yields nothing that Sherlock could not have gleaned from five minute's conversation with the man. John's clothing is nondescript, his personal belongings nearly nil and all utilitarian, his laptop squeaky-clean except for one or two visits to pornography sites featuring busty blonds gyrating in a calculated manner.
The romp into John's psyche leaves Sherlock feeling cold, unhappy. There are two logical options, both of which, Sherlock believes, are equally true. The first is that John is an unassuming man who bows to Sherlock's stronger whims, as is reflected in their flat's decor, and thus has kept any part of himself he thinks Sherlock would take exception to (the normal parts) hidden in his own room.
The other is that John unwilling to put down roots, to consider the idea of becoming attached to a place, always ready to move on to the next best thing. When he finds the next best thing from Sherlock (probably a calculated, blond woman who is brilliant and stimulating without the side-effect of misanthropy), he will leave, and the room will be just as empty, and Sherlock will probably have to start robbing banks very covertly to pay the rent.
For some reason, the idea of the rent isn't what bothers him the most, even though it should be.
Sherlock Holmes, in pursuit of a madman, was shot in the arm and bled out until he died.
At least, that's what Sherlock wishes was the story. The reality was that he bled out until he nearly died, only to be found by John who had followed him even though Sherlock had told him not to, because John had a cold that day and was sneezing and hacking everywhere. When Sherlock was trying to look for clues in an escaped prisoner's former camp-out to find where he might have gone next, the last thing he needed was John leaking everywhere and giving away the game.
It was perfectly safe, anyway, or it should have been, which is what Sherlock thinks as he's lying on the pavement bleeding out. He doesn't flash back through his life. He doesn't think of John or Mycroft or Mrs. Hudson will miss him, he just thinks, but who would be mad enough to return back to an encampment the police already found?
The answer is a schizophrenic whose symptoms went unnoticed while he was in jail. "It's a mistake anyone could have made, really," Lestrade says uncomfortably to John while they're in the hospital. Sherlock's pretending to be asleep, because everyone seems to think getting shot in the arm is the same as getting shot in the brain, and thus he can't be told anything remotely interesting. Fake-sleeping is the only way he gets any entertainment. He's already discovered that two of his nurses are having an affair with the same doctor, and one of them is pregnant. "He had real rage problems that landed him there in the first place, so he was on a cocktail of anti-psychotics. Kept him just sane enough so that any delusions just seemed, well, normal for someone locked up in jail. He breaks out, no pills, suddenly he goes mad."
"Well that explains why he was so erratic and difficult to chase, if he was paranoid," John says, tone clipped. He's been sounding very put out with everyone and everything since Sherlock got shot, as if he feels that Sherlock's inability to be scathing about the universe at large means that he must do it in his stead.
"Oh, don't act the wounded widow with me, Watson," Lestrade snaps. Sherlock wishes he could open his eyes because the expression on John's face is probably priceless. "He was mad. Madmen shoot people. That's what they do."
"What's your definition of 'mad'?" John asks. His voice is steely in a way Sherlock's never heard before. "Is it someone who needs treatment? Because I'm mad, in that case. I think we can all agree Sherlock's mad, and he doesn't gad about London shooting people."
"Yet," Lestrade mutters under his breath. "He doesn't go about shooting them yet." Sherlock doesn't have to open his eyes to know what John's face looks like - fierce and angry and protective, the way it always does when someone suggests that Sherlock is even half the sociopath he actually is.
The point is, Sherlock's been shot and John is fussing so much that he wishes it had been fatal. John hides away all of Sherlock's experiments before he takes him home from the hospital, and when he goes out he locks Sherlock in their rooms so he can't go searching for trouble. John knows very well Sherlock can't pick locks one-handed, and especially not with only his left hand. Not that John goes out very often, only for shopping or banking, really. Instead he hovers, Bringing Sherlock books and tea and the paper but never what he really wants, which is anything to stave off the mind-numbing boredom.
Sherlock decides to stave it off by studying John intensely. He had planned on doing so even before he got shot - it wouldn't do not to know his assistant nearly as well as he knew himself was foolishness itself - he had simply planned to do it more covertly and gradually. Now he does it openly, staring at John for hours on end, searching for any tiny clue in the way John takes his tea that he may have missed before. It has the added bonus of irritating John supremely. He had expected John to only be worthy entertainment for one afternoon, but John fascinates him long beyond that, which in turn is a fascinating phenomenon in and of itself.
Besides his penchant for masochism, John is almost too normal. His looks are certainly normal. He's not ugly, which is more than most people can say. His mouth has an odd downward tilt in one corner and his brow is permanently furrowed - Sherlock wonders if it was that way before Afghanistan as well. But the rest of him is normal. His hair is a normal dishwater color. His clothes are normal. He is plain and average, and yet Sherlock finds he can quite contentedly stare at John as a locus for his thoughts as he stares at a piece of artwork or a wallpaper pattern, only unlike those things the sight of John doing his normal John things... pleases him. Which is most decidedly strange.
John's personality and habits are similarly within the range of normal that they qualify as boring. The only thing to suggest that he may in any way prove to be useful to Sherlock is his slightly greater-than-average intellect, which does not make him intelligent so much as trainable. If Sherlock had simply needed someone to be un-repulsive, tolerable, and trainable, he would have gotten a dog years ago. No, there is something about John Watson that makes him special, and what it is haunts Sherlock long after his arm is removed from the sling and deemed fit for service and he and Watson are back crisscrossing London and turning every one of Lestrade's hairs a pure, frustrated white. It niggles at him like a loose tooth. It is Sherlock's one unsolvable mystery; what is it about John Watson that makes him feel... affection? (Friendship? Camaraderie? He doesn't know how to label this, as he has never experienced any of the previous emotions before.) It mocks him.
It would have been far simpler if he'd just bled out in that alley.
John continues to be beguiling, fascinating, and irritating. Sherlock has taken to using a thesaurus when he can't think up new words for John, because using "odd" over and over again lacked a certain precision. He'd grown irritated by that lack of precision during one of their movie nights where John took it upon himself to "educate" Sherlock on ridiculous cultural touchstones and Sherlock found himself far more riveted by how the telly light reflected in John's eyes or the precise point where his nose went from straight to rounded.
He likes the dictionaries and thesauruses, as they tend to clarify matters for him. They remain silent on his new-found preoccupation with John though, which is simply maddening. It leads to a greatly increased nicotine patch intake, which makes John natter after him like an aggrieved housewife. Strangely, Sherlock doesn't mind, and that only exacerbates the problem. Sherlock, upon further consideration, has not minded when John has done a great number of unforgivable things. He was quite willing to exile his skull to his own bedroom when John complained that it staring at him all day was unnecessarily disturbing. He swallows down John's attempts at forcing him to eat healthier meals with only cursory comments on the blandness of said fare. John had informed on him to Mycroft while he was laid up for grocery money and tried to lie about it (honestly, attempting to lie to him, Sherlock Holmes, is revoltingly insulting), and Sherlock let it be. He finds John's inability to keep pace with his deductions both flattering to his ego and useful for later articulating his superiority to the police in terms they are capable of understanding.
Instead of John, he has found a new quarter deserving of his ire - women. Not all women. Most women he is utterly indifferent too. Some he is even fond of. He quite likes Mrs. Hudson, for example, and his mother is an all-around admirable woman, if only for raising him and Mycroft without suffering a nervous breakdown. No, Sherlock hates a specific type of woman. Namely, the kinds that John likes - slightly curvy, wide-eyed, kind and earnest in the way that suggests that they were fat or spotty during their teenaged years and have yet to realize they'd become, at some point, moderately attractive. They're occasionally useful - John isn't the type to date anyone truly insipid. If Sherlock were at the same intellectual level as John, they would probably even appear quite clever. Sometimes they'll point out a clue, even. But more often than not they take up John's time, or distract him, or get kidnapped, and generally they are wildly inconvenient. The oddest part is that as quick as they come, they go, and John is always too willing to postpone a date in order to follow Sherlock at his (admittedly juvenile and petty) behest.
This ongoing maelstrom of...emotion surrounding John (and his women) is something Sherlock feels is something that requires four patches and a lot of thought.
So, the facts:
One - Sherlock finds John physically pleasing. Studying his features, as mundane as they are, is a pleasurable exercise for Sherlock.
Two - Sherlock has a greater patience for John than he does for anyone else, as evidenced by his ability to tolerate even the most infuriating of habits he cannot tolerate in another human being.
Three - Sherlock does not like it when John's attention deviates from him in the slightest. He is, for lack of a better term, jealous. Possessive.
(Four, now coming together - John Watson matters. John Watson has always mattered more to him than anyone. I'll burn your heart, Moriarty had said, standing right in front of him with John strapped to a bomb. It was escalation, he sees that now. Random women hadn't stirred him enough to put him off his game, nor men. An old woman had not provoked an emotional reaction, not even a child. No, Moriarty had known - kill John Watson, kill the only person whose death would hurt Sherlock more than his own.
He hates when people know things before he does.)
Conclusion - Sherlock obviously feels that John is something in his possession. That John is, in fact, his. (This is true, of course this is true, John is his assistant.) This is not a simple collegial or friendly sort of possessiveness (see: point one), but rather one that is far more... emotionally based. Sexually based, even. He is, in short, romantically inclined towards one John Watson, who is perhaps the most boring, plebeian sort of man one could possibly be romantically inclined toward. And yet there it is, the evidence is there clear as day.
Sherlock is not one to quibble with evidence.
As frankly genius as Sherlock's deductions are, they are only theories, not proven fact until the suspect is apprehended and confirms them. It doesn't bother Sherlock overly much - after all, relativity, evolution, and gravity are all theories, so he feels he's in quite good company. The scientific method, however, states that when one can prove a theory through experimentation, one should.
The scientific method had always been kind to Sherlock Holmes. Not following it now would only seem cowardly and ungrateful.
First he has to wait for John to break up with his latest dubious acquisition - an anthropologist named Bonnie who would be lovely if not for a highly grating nasal voice. John's sense of obligation to her will cloud any findings Sherlock attempts to gather readings on their relative romantic interest in each other. Once they break it off, as Sherlock knew they would, Sherlock must bide his time, but not for too long. John must become interested in pursuing a relationship again, but Sherlock cannot let him stew for so long that he finds another woman. And, naturally, they cannot be distracted by anything -no cases, no Mycroft, it must simply be them alone.
Just such a night occurs sixteen days after John and Bonnie break up. John keeps looking up from his laptop and sighing the way he does when he's feeling restless and trying to decide if the weather (a frigid and steady sleet tonight) is worth going out to a pub in. John must be kept from going out to a pub, because if he does he's more likely than not to meet someone. The game is on.
"John," he says imperiously, "John, will you come over here, I need your assistance in performing an experiment."
John rises reluctantly, shuffling an arm's length away from Sherlock, hands in his pockets. "This better be good," he says. "If it involves cadavers in any way, I'm leaving."
"No cadavers," Sherlock says, stepping closer so that they're toe to toe. John looks confused and makes as if he's going to step backwards, but Sherlock grabs his arm. "Stay close, John, it's necessary for the experiment."
"I'm not going like this experiment, am I?" John asks, voice rising in pitch.
"Perhaps, perhaps not," Sherlock says. "That is the point of the experiment, after all."
"What - " John begins, but before he can distract Sherlock any longer, Sherlock bends down and kisses John square on the mouth.
The sensation is... interesting. Certainly not unpleasant, but not nearly as romantic as fanciful descriptions or movie depictions would have you believe. It still greatly exceeds his previous experiences, because it's John he's kissing, and that makes his heart beat slightly faster, as he has observed being this close to John often does. John also has superior technique to all previous kissing partners, which may or may not be due to the fact that this is the first kiss Sherlock has willingly participated in. The incontestable fact, however, is that at the very least, though John may be just barely returning the kiss, he is not making use of his tongue in the terrible, canine fashion Sherlock has observed other people attempt, which makes the experience much drier, much chaster. Very quick, too, perhaps the kiss lasts only fifteen seconds before John pulls away.
"You kissed me," John finally says. His eyes are very wide. Sherlock had closed his eyes, but he would bet a great sum of money that since Sherlock kissed him John has hardly so much as blinked. Sherlock thinks that perhaps John is in shock, and therefore chastising him for being slow on the uptake would not do a great deal of good.
"I did," he says. "That was the experiment."
"But... but why?"
"I deduced that I had developed a romantic attachment to you," Sherlock says as matter-of-factly as he would point out postmortem bruising on a corpse. "This seemed the next logical course of action."
"You deduced." John is beginning to sound slightly hysterical, pacing around the living room.
"Yes, shall I take you through it? One," Sherlock holds up a finger, "I find you aesthetically pleasing in a way that is disproportionate to your relative attractiveness as it is judged by society as a whole. Two, you do not aggravate my tendency towards misanthropy. Quite the opposite, I find habits and failings on you endearing and forgivable, whereas on another person they would be utterly inexcusable. Three, I find myself very selfish in regards to your attention. I dislike when you turn your attentions to women, or indeed, admire anything that is not me or related to me. Now these would all be indicative of simply camaraderie and my extreme egotism were it not for the fourth clue."
John stops pacing where he started, in front of Sherlock. "And the fourth clue?" He asks. His voice sounds oddly hopeful, though what he wants from Sherlock, Sherlock doesn't know.
"You make me... emotional," Sherlock murmurs. "Irrational. Especially when you're in harm's way. I find it hard to think. I can only conclude that this indicates a deeper attachment than simple camaraderie."
"Yes," John says wonderingly. "Yes, I think it rather does."
"And you?" Sherlock asks. It was very difficult to be patient with John's slower method of arriving at conclusions when he was standing in front of Sherlock and gazing at him with large, wondering eyes.
"And I what?"
"Care, John," Sherlock bites out impatiently. "Do you care. For me. That was the point of this whole experiment, but my results are decidedly inconclusive."
"Your results are..." John breaks into utterly inexplicable laughter. "Sherlock, you idiot."
"That is entirely uncalled f-" Sherlock begins, but is cut off by John yanking his face down and kissing him quite passionately and...oh.
The English language, Sherlock often felt, was quite imprecise. The word "kiss", for example, could be used to describe many things - the wet, extremely uncomfortable lip-and-tongue mashings that made up his Uni sexual experimentation (failures, all), the precise, tentative kiss he and John had exchanged earlier, and then this. This is an entirely different experience that put his Uni experiences into context, this is what his partners must have been aiming for but fell woefully short of - John's hands clutching his hair as he drags Sherlock to a position where he's bent over nearly double, the reflexive groaning and gasping that made tongues not something that darted out and made Sherlock want to pull away and wipe his face off, but something natural because their mouths were open and they were tangled utterly in every possible way and oh, it felt nice. John was small but strong, and he couldn't decide where he wanted Sherlock. Eventually, Sherlock regained enough mental capacity to flop back on the sofa and pull John on top of him.
"That," Sherlock breathes, "was far more enjoyable than anticipated."
John laughs again. "It's supposed to be."
"Yes," Sherlock agrees, "but previous experience has lead me to believe that sexual practices of any sort are highly overrated."
"Sex is fantastic, when you do it right."
"Very well," Sherlock nods. "That is the logical next step in our experiment."
"It's just..." John ducks his head, as if embarrassed, pressing his hand against Sherlock's chest. "The kissing, that's fine, you don't kiss a man or a woman differently. But I've never... not with a man. I can't promise I'll be as... successful."
Sherlock considers this for a moment. "I believe," he says finally, "that some experiments fail. In fact, were the outcome a foregone conclusion, an experiment would be unnecessary." He holds up a finger when John opens his mouth as if to interrupt. "Consider the facts," Sherlock continues. "We both have strong emotions in regards to each other that are romantic in nature, as we have just proven. And I think we can agree that kissing has been a resounding success, despite our relative inexperience - you in kissing a man and me in kissing someone I had any emotional connection to. Therefore the only rational conclusion is that, despite our inexperience, that our sexual encounters should be similarly satisfying, if not, perhaps, performed expertly."
John stares at him for a few moments. "Did you just deduce that I should sleep with you?" He asks finally.
"Yes," Sherlock says. Really, John can be remarkably slow on the uptake. "Was my reasoning unsound?"
"Oh, no, no, of course not," John sounds like he's trying not to laugh. "I think we should test your deductions."
"Excellent! Glad to hear you agree." Sherlock says, waiting for Watson to get off of him before he stands snappily. "Now, my room or yours?"
It goes without saying that Sherlock's deductions were correct. The sex is fantastic - magnificent, even - no matter what variations they add into their experimentation. There are of course awkward moments where everything looks like it's all going to hell, but in the end Sherlock is quite certain that he and John are mutually extremely satisfied with the results.
Though the case of Sherlock's mysterious fascination with John is solved, it is by no means closed. John continues to surprise and delight him in a great number of ways that no physical evidence could ever have suggested. He is ticklish on the backs of his knees, for example, and he mumbles to himself in his sleep. He's quite a restless sleeper, but calms instantly if Sherlock joins him in bed and he can touch him lightly - a hand on Sherlock's arm or hip, a leg tangled between his - but he wakes up and struggles if Sherlock tries to hold him close so he'll just lie still for a little bit. John is easily aroused by innocuous things, such as Sherlock's hair and his hands, and much less adept at hiding it than Sherlock, and deliberately provoking him provides Sherlock with a great deal of entertainment when cases are scarce. (John does not appreciate this new form of entertainment.)
The relationship with John also proves helpful as far as Sherlock's work goes. Regular sexual activity is greatly beneficial to both his mood and state of mind. He shouldn't be surprised - sex is a basic human need, like food and water. Sherlock, of course, is able to resist the urge, unlike most people, but not resisting anymore is a great relief. Simply John's presence has become comforting and clarifying in a way he was unaware another person could be. Donovan's taken to calling John Sherlock's teddy, making snide comments like, "oh, I guess we can put this one to bed, Sherlock's come and brought his teddy, all ready to be tucked in," but Donovan is an imbecile who has no idea what she's talking about. John is special. His presence is illuminating. Donovan could never hope to understand. She's never experienced the clarity of mind that can only be achieved by John's hands in one's hair (not that Sherlock would allow her to experience such a thing). John is as good as a nicotine patch or two, and, John is wont to remind him, far better for his health.
"You know," Sherlock tells John lazily one night while John is stroking through his hair (not that Sherlock has a problem that needs solving, but he doesn't need to tell John that). "I do think you are my greatest case."
"Me?" John asks, looking away from the news on the telly.
"You. Me. Us." Sherlock waves a dismissive hand. "Figuring it out. My greatest case."
"Quite." John looks like he finds this amusing, for some reason. John often seems to be entertained by things Sherlock says that are in no way humorous. "Though if it's all the same to you, I don't think I'll be blogging about this one."
"Of course not," Sherlock scoffs. "It's not done yet, after all."