A/N: Written for Let's Write Sherlock: Challenge 4. This idea came to me waaay after the deadline for this challenge had already passed. But, I wrote it anyway. The challenge was this: Write a fic that is exactly 1895 words long and ends with the word "obviously." I technically met the second criterion. Technically ;)
Thank you to prettybirdy979 for giving it a quick once-over for me.
According to people who know both Sherlock Holmes and John Watson intimately, Mike Stamford is a genius who doesn't get nearly enough credit. They say that there aren't two people in the entire universe more suited for each other. But when they say that, they aren't referring to the pair's complementary personalities, or to the fact that they apparently had an instant connection from the moment they met. Both of those things are true, but they don't tell the entire story.
You see, Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant, abrasive consulting detective who frequently finds himself in life-threatening situations - who happens to be mute. And John Watson is an ex-army doctor with strong protective instincts, invalided home from Afghanistan after being shot in the shoulder and losing the hearing in both his ears.
The two were practically made for each other.
John and Sherlock fall into both friendship and partnership seamlessly and effortlessly. Someone who never speaks is a perfect flatmate for someone who cannot hear. They are well-oiled cogs of the same machine, fitting and working together perfectly. Communication between the two of them is never a problem. Texting is second nature to both of them, given their respective limitations. Sherlock, of course, has been fluent in sign language his entire life, and by the time they meet John had become proficient enough to serve as a convenient interpreter of Sherlock's deductions. Sherlock had managed to communicate adequately with the police before, but it's much easier once John arrives. The ex-soldier has the patience of a saint, and yet won't put up with rude, inappropriate behaviour. It doesn't hurt that John looks at him in awe and verbally expresses his appreciation of his flatmate's brilliance every time Sherlock finishes explaining himself.
Their 'handicaps' at times protect themselves from each other. Sherlock is able to saw away at his violin in exasperation at all hours of the day and night without disturbing his flatmate's rest or sanity. If Sherlock is having a strop by shooting bullets into the wall or clanging loudly in the kitchen with an experiment, John isn't bothered because he can't hear it. Conversely, John lets out his frustration by yelling at Sherlock until it's out of his system, Sherlock being a captive audience unable to volley scathing insults back at him. It's a bizarre relationship, but it seems to work for the benefit of both.
Of course, there are times when John wishes more than anything that he could still hear. He imagines (because it's all he can do anymore) the sounds of a shared living space filtering into his awareness: the clinking of glassware as Sherlock runs an experiment, the clacking of computer keys as the annoying git hacks into his computer, the background hum of the telly. He gets especially nostalgic, for something he's never even experienced, whenever he catches sight of Sherlock framed against the window with the violin tucked under his chin and the bow moving smoothly over the strings. He violently berates himself when an explosion rocks the kitchen and he continues sitting in his chair for fifteen minutes after, unaware that his flatmate lies injured on the floor, unable to cry out. Those injuries end up being minor and easily treated, but the incident still leaves John shaken.
For his part, Sherlock rarely wishes for a voice. He's never had one, and he's always got along just fine without it - in fact, he's thrived. Unlike John, he's never had to adapt and change from one way of doing things to another. He's always had to communicate without the benefit of speech, and he is brilliant at it, as he is with anything. Why would one waste energy on hoping for something that was never going to happen?
But after living and working with John for a certain length of time - after getting to know him - Sherlock has to admit that there are two instances when he wishes one or both of them did not suffer the lack that they do.
The first is when he realises that the only method by which he can truly communicate how he feels about John is through a medium that John can never appreciate. He obviously cannot just open his mouth and tell the man. Even if he could talk, Sherlock is not the sort of person who would express these sorts of sentiments in words. Face-to-face communication of any kind would feel too raw and exposing. The written word would never be adequate. So when Sherlock takes up his instrument and serenades the man that he adores with exquisite melodies, the notes meant for John's ears alone never penetrate those useless, fleshy shells. But he plays regardless, because it is the only way he is able to say I love you.
The second happens during the middle of a heart-pounding chase on the tail of a serial killer, down the dark streets of London. Sherlock is behind John this time, following for once. Out of the shadows of an alley a figure rushes to intercept his flatmate. Sherlock opens his mouth to yell a warning - but of course no cry escapes him. He doesn't know why that instinctual response came over him when it never had before; John wouldn't be able to hear it anyway. Frustration and horror well up within him when he sees the knife slide into John's side. Sherlock is there in an instant, scarf pressed to the gushing wound as the perpetrator melts away into the gathering darkness. An accomplice, Sherlock's mind helpfully provides before shutting away everything not having to do with the friend bleeding out under his hands.
After that harrowing night, nothing much changes. They remain flatmates and friends, living and working together on a daily basis. The only shift that happens is now Sherlock and John spend their nights in the same bed, sharing each other's dreams and bodies. Sherlock finds another way to communicate as his fingers and lips say what his vocal cords cannot. He learns John's body like he learned the violin, stroking and coaxing until he gets the desired response. He silently asks, Are you listening, John? Do you hear what I'm trying to tell you? John replies with quiet sighs and gasps, with fingers tangled in and tugging silky curls, with shaky whispers of Yes, there, just there, please don't stop, with strangled cries of Sherlock's name at the moment of climax. Sherlock thinks his partner understands, that he gets it, and he tries to tell him without words that he would die a thousand deaths for John if given the opportunity.
As it turns out, he only has to do so once. Moriarty may be clever, but he isn't clever enough to harm John from beyond the grave.
The hiatus leaves neither of them unaffected. Both bear scars, physical and emotional. They fall away from each other for a time, but eventually come back together again. Together, they embody an unchangeable law of physics. John is the immovable object, steady and reliable, never leaving, always staying. Always waiting. Sherlock is the unstoppable force, a whirlwind of motion. Always returning, even from the dead. Never taking no for an answer.
And so it is that, six months after Sherlock's return, they are once again flatmates and more than friends. They don't start over with a clean slate, nor do they go back to the way they used to be. Rather, they move forward, building on the foundations of what they were to create what they will become. It's a slow process, but that doesn't matter. They have the rest of their lives, after all.
They fall into new patterns and new ways of doing things, all without discussion or negotiation. It just happens, naturally. John always makes sure to lag at least a step behind, available to shout out a warning if need be. Sherlock doesn't run off to meet danger on his own anymore; if John isn't around to provide backup, Sherlock waits until he is. Whenever Sherlock is running a particularly hazardous experiment, John keeps at least one eye on him until the crucial steps are complete. Compromises on both sides are made every day, with no one keeping score. It's how they tell each other I love you.
There comes a day when John puts into words how he feels about his partner. Sherlock appreciates it, but he can't reciprocate; not yet. He's thought of just mouthing the words, and let John read his lips, like he does with most other people. But that's not the way he wants to express himself. He wants something both intimate and private, something that just the two of them would understand and appreciate.
It's not until the tenth year of their acquaintance that the perfect mode occurs to Sherlock. He and John have communicated this particular way in the past, for a case, but while John is fluent, Sherlock is rusty. So he carves out time one afternoon while John is at work to practice until he's sure he can do it flawlessly. It's ludicrous, really - just three simple words. John has already said it to him. It shouldn't be difficult to lay himself bare before the one person he trusts more than himself. Even so, Sherlock finds himself trembling as he rehearses the words over and over again.
When John finally walks through the door that night (two hours later than expected), Sherlock has his favourite dinner prepared, accompanied by Angelo's most expensive wine. He listens attentively as John tells him about his day, an unusually grueling one even for flu season. When John asks him what he did all day, he just shrugs and flashes a brief, enigmatic smile as he hands him the dessert Mrs Hudson helped him bake. John gives him a suspicious look that is mitigated by his fond expression. "Alright, what are you up to?" he asks. Sherlock just signs "Later", and the rest of the meal is spent in anticipatory silence.
When the meal is finished, Sherlock stands up and extends his hand to John. John's eyebrows rise, but his expression is soft and his eyes are warm. He smiles as he accepts Sherlock's gesture and allows himself to be pulled up. Sherlock turns and leads him into their bedroom, where he proceeds to painstakingly take John apart and, just as carefully, put him back together again. He relishes the sounds he elicits from his partner as he draws out his pleasure, prolonging and teasing until John is begging for release. When he finally allows the doctor to tip over the edge, he is overwhelmed with feelings of love and adoration and belonging. The intensity of it all allows him to follow seconds later.
Sated and spent, Sherlock pulls John close so that his back is pressed against Sherlock's chest. Tenderness washes over him, and it's the easiest thing in the world, now, to express how he feels. He closes his eyes and buries his nose in John's hair, inhaling deeply. John's heart thuds steadily against his palm, his chest movements synchronised perfectly to Sherlock's breaths. Sherlock flexes his hand once, twice.
His finger taps out on John's chest:
.. .-.. - ...- . -.- - ..- 1
An endless moment passes before John taps out his response on Sherlock's forearm. Sherlock grins into John's neck, because of course. Of course John knows. He's always known.
- -... ...- .. - ..- ... .-.. -.- 2
1 - Morse code for "I love you"
2 - Morse code for "obviously"