Five Times Sherlock or John Used Endearments With Each Other
by Amy L. Hull
221 words each (by the count in Word)
With thanks to Solea for the idea and first exchange for the third one, and to her and Blue Morpho for their generous beta- and proof-reading skills.
The music reverberated in John's chest from outside, and he winced when Sherlock flung open the door.
"Won't be long," Sherlock shouted, lips nearly touching John's ear. "Just questioning that waiter," he pointed to a muscular young man wearing only a bow-tie and tight pants.
They manoeuvred through the sweat- and cologne-scented crowd. Tight-shirted bodies undulated with the bass.
A man stroked John's arm and Sherlock was suddenly between them. "He's with me." Sherlock draped his arm casually across John's shoulders, tugging him toward the bar.
Sherlock waved bow-tie man over. "Sex on the Beach for my pudding here. And scotch, neat."
John forced a smile and, as Sherlock leaned into him, did not roll his eyes.
Bow-tie poured drinks. "Just together, are you?"
Sherlock patted John's chest. "Two months now. Isn't that right, poppet?"
"This man," Sherlock showed his phone, "Did you hear his conversation last night?"
"Oi, he was a loud one. Said he was off to Croydon for...sommat."
"Excellent." Sherlock spun, striding for the door.
"Rubbish boyfriend you've got."
John forced a brief smile, grimaced at the sugary drink, and downed the scotch.
Bow-tie wrote a number on John's hand. "In case you want someone who actually fancies you."
John dropped a twenty with a sigh.
Sherlock was impossibly audible above the music, "Come along, my petal."
"Sherlock, I cannot just book off every time you have a lead!" John folded his left hand into a fist and squeezed.
Patients started at the sound, then smiled or scowled at Sherlock, who curled his lip and slammed the little glass partition closed. "But the game-"
"I have seven more patients," he leaned in and lowered his voice, "and they're already waiting."
Sherlock stood perfectly still, eyes boring into John's. John stood his ground, and Sherlock spun to leave.
John had flipped open the next chart when the door popped back open.
Sherlock poked his head in, smiled broadly, then blew a kiss. "See you back at the flat then, lover."
Several patients tittered.
John narrowed his eyes. Two could play at this game. "All right, sweetheart. Kiss kiss!" He waved with just his fingers.
Sherlock's imperious glare returned for an instant before he slammed the door behind him.
"Ah, Mrs Wilkerson?"
Hand to heart, the woman cooed at him. "Your husband is just gorgeous, Dr. Watson. Or boyfriend? If you're not married yet, my daughter makes the most beautiful cakes..."
John tightened his fist again. He knew he'd have to enter the flat with extra caution after this brush-off. Time to set another snare to be sure that Sherlock remembered "his blogger" was not someone to trifle with.
John questioned a tenth pensioner. Sherlock was, of course, too busy examining "proper evidence, John!" (which did not include the wallpaper pattern...this time).
"Inseparable, aren't the two of you? My Owen and me, we were like that."
John bit back his usual, futile protest in favour of payback. "Sherlock, darling, Mrs Maddox has something to tell you."
Sherlock spun, frowning.
John used his best flirty smile, pulling Sherlock's hand. "Come on, sweets, you can't keep a lady waiting."
Sherlock listened to Mrs. Maddox, questioned her suspicions.
John squeezed Sherlock's shoulder and let his thumb stroke the sharp collarbone beneath that perfectly-tailored jacket. That earned him a satisfying twitch and a suspicious glance.
Mrs. Maddox interrupted her own account to lean toward Sherlock. "You boys are so lucky. It's clear you dote on each other." She patted Sherlock's knee. "Don't you let this one get away, young man."
John swallowed a smirk as the muscles in Sherlock's shoulder tensed.
"Yes, ah, I'll keep that in mind. If you think of anything else, please call John here." Sherlock practically fled.
John scribbled down the number. "Thank you so very much, Mrs. Maddox. You've been a great help. We'll be in touch." He kissed her cheek.
Might be a few weeks before Sherlock underestimated him again.
John grinned. "On my way, dear!"
"Why bother? There's no need."
"Sherlock, you're rubbish at it. Everyone assumes...but when we have to...like at that bar...when you're acting, you come off ridiculous."
Sherlock leaned back from his telescope. "You correct every assumption we are a couple, but you want to practice?"
"Just some scripted-"
"If we must," he sighed, rolling his eyes. "Telophase."
"What, like in mitosis?"
"You're are a doctor, yes? The point at which two cells are fully formed yet still integrally connected."
"So you're suggesting, 'my little telophase'?"
"I admit the analogy lacks a certain…this is really not my area, John. Your turn."
Sherlock's left eyebrow twitched. "Having never been certain if that applies to gluteal or buccal cheeks-"
Sherlock grimaced. "The fixation on confections when-"
John smiled as he looked away. "Would you prefer 'my little ATP-factory'?"
"Ah, mitochondrial energy source, the foundation of all life. Very good, John, that will do."
"You. Are. Impossible."
"Not at all. I am quite possible, simply utterly unique." Sherlock grinned. "But if you insist on banal endearments for public consumption, would you prefer 'my precious'?"
"You are not going to reference Lord of the Rings, you tosser!"
"Now, John, that would imply a lovers' spat, not fondness, my pet."
"I give up." John picked up his newspaper then muttered, "Singularity!"
Sussex's choir of birdsong woke John every daybreak.
Every joint creaked when he rose. John allowed himself only a deep "Hmmm" at the pain.
Sherlock moaned and whined about every twinge and ache, about the silver streaking his hair, about needing glasses.
He poured his frustration with his ageing body and slowing reflexes into work: studying slides, watching his bees, reading (and deriding) scientific articles, and writing monographs. His bees remained the best-producing in the county, and his work on colony collapse brought a steady stream of letters from grateful apiarists in the mail John collected.
Sherlock would not abide the term "beekeeper." "Bees 'keep' their own hives and colonies in order, John," he'd said the one time John slipped.
Through danger, divorce, despair, discovery, delight, and death, these thirty-four years-and more, health willing-encompassed the longest relationship of John's life.
The kettle boiled, and tea steamed orange in his grandmother's teacups. Some mornings he used Sherlock's mother's china. After tea came John's morning constitutional to combat his stomach's tendency to paunch. Sometimes Sherlock, slower but still lean and angular, joined him.
Sherlock was peering at magnified pollens when John set the saucer down, barely brushing Sherlock's knuckles. "Morning tea, love."
Sherlock caught John's index finger with his and rumbled rare words, reserved for those dearest to him, "Thank you."