Pairing: Sherlock/John (pre-slash)
Notes/Warnings: None, to speak of, other than that this is my first fic in quite a while, and certainly my first with these characters, so hello! Whilst I'm happily very familiar with Sherlock, in this latest adaptation, I haven't read any of the original books since I was roughly 9, and as such there's a little over a decade fogging my mind. So if there are inaccuracies in that respect, I can only apologise, and assure you that I will be re-reading them ASAP. I'm enjoying this fandom so much, it's so nice to witness the start of something emerging! And finally, this is unbeta'd, so mistakes are all mine.
Disclaimer: Not my characters, yada yada. Props to Moffat and Gatiss, and doffed caps to Doyle and to TS Eliot, from whom I stole various lines, all from the poem Prufrock's Pervigilium, which is a section later cut from the better known Love Song. It reminds me of Cumberbatch's Holmes, for reasons I've yet to really think about. Anyway, on with it:
A few weeks into his tenancy, after much time has been devoted to unravelling quite what sort of mess he's got himself into, John discovers that the best way to deal with his new and alarmingly coercive flatmate is to treat his quite unpredictable extremes of mood as being those of two separate people. At work, he is resolutely Holmes: Our fearless leader, the deductive hero, the one who can tell your mother's shoe size from the way you carry your shoulders, the employer of such a peculiarly dazzling branch of empiricism as to be wholly impenetrable, so long as it isn't you he's unravelling. John marvels at Holmes, as most do, but he can't help feeling that the man is a lot easier to handle when you're aware of the fact that at home, when cases are finished and evidence is reluctantly filed away, he's capable of being someone else entirely. John visits the police station with Holmes, bright-eyed and sure, but mentally at least, he shares his address with Sherlock.
Holmes is roughly 10 years older than Sherlock, in both appearance and action. He is cocksure where Sherlock is merely curious – for all his brilliance, the man is not particularly intuitive, distrusting such an imprecise science; his public assertions are based on meticulous private observation rather than obscure mental leaps, his logic derived from experience rather than any superhuman emotional nous. John likes to think that this is the one area that he has over the man – it is, he surmises, the reason he is kept around.
And so it is that John finds himself summoned – Quickly, John, I need you. Come home. SH - to their flat, the text speaking so overwhelmingly of Sherlock as to worry him, urgency not being a quality he has observed of the man he so frequently finds languid and despairing on their sofa.
It is a very languid Sherlock that greets an out of breath John at the door. Nicotine patches speckle his forearms in a pattern recognisable as being of acupuncture – the man is ever so fond of the Orient – and from his outstretched fingers dangles a solitary slice of charred bread.
'I need to check something with you. It's really quite urgent.'
John knows better than to gawp by now. A few weeks ago he'd have had questions to ask, but all notion of surreality had drained from his life some time hence, and after a quiet pause and a nudge to Sherlock's arm he steps over the pile of takeaway flyers accumulating at the bottom of their staircase and follows him to the kitchen.
John is used to his kitchen not being particularly savoury. He has learnt to open cupboards gingerly, and never to assume that that puddle on the counter is merely water. Some things are easy to deduce – what is red and sticky is generally blood, and what is soft and fleshy is best left unquestioned – but others have not yet ceased to baffle him, and he's not sure that a decade of manic cohabitation would've prepared him for the sight that affronted him as Sherlock finally stepped aside and waved his arm at their dining table. Their clean, pleasantly dressed dining table. It was quietly, privately terrifying.
'I understand that at this stage I am to take your coat, and that you should sit furthest from the hob.'
'Sherlock, I -'
He leant forward to light the tapers that formed a modest centrepiece.
'Stop pretending that you don't recognise this scenario and sit down. I am only willing to do this once and I don't wish to have my time wasted.'
It occurs to John that Sherlock is the only person he's ever met in whom efficiency is to be treated with caution. He does what he is told, and is rewarded with a plate of toast slightly less charred than that proffered on the threshold, followed swiftly by a small pot of apricot jam and a spatula.
Noting John's nonplussed expression, Sherlock removes the slightly smug look from his face and replaces it with one of reluctant contrition.
'Yes, well. I had to improvise. I couldn't leave the eyeballs unattended.'
He coughs quietly and sits opposite, his own plate conspicuously empty.
Sherlock rests his chin on steepled fingers and fixes his gaze at some point in the middle distance. John eats his haphazard meal in silence.
An hour or so later, after Sherlock had insisted on cleaning up the plates and shooed John into the living room to allow him to do so in peace, it occurred to John that actually, he had every right to ask what was going on. The rest of his meal had been remarkably pleasant, given the circumstances and the chef – a simple but well-cooked stir fry that Sherlock reached past the candles to pick at dispassionately, a bowlful of ice cream carefully formed into neat spheres with tinned tangerine ceremoniously heaped in the centre, a few hunks of cheese that wouldn't have smelled out of place amongst Sherlock's less edible experiments, handed to him on a dish that also held a stack of tessellated crackers and 6 halved grapes. He had, John had suspected, gone to rather a lot of effort, by Sherlock's standards. These were admittedly low, but still. Answers were in order.
John yelled through to him in the kitchen. He put his head around the glass partition, arms raised as if scrubbed for surgery.
'What are you doing?"
Sherlock glanced over his shoulder, to check that he hadn't been imagining things. "Washing up. I know, I don't do it often – I assure you, I really don't think it's anything to worry about. My chemicals are quite safe, and most of them will probably kill anything especially murderous."
"No, Sherlock. The meal. What was that for?"
"Oh. Well," he turned back to his dishes, a droop in his shoulders detectable to John but probably to few else, "if you have to ask then clearly I didn't do it correctly. Or perhaps I over-estimated your intelligence. I know which I think is more likely."
"Sherlock," John began, standing and weighing up whether or not getting any closer was the best option available, "if it was anyone but you, I would say you were attempting to... woo me."
'Ha! That is patently ridiculous," Sherlock said slightly too loudly, and busied himself with scouring the wok. John's wok, he noticed, idly. Non-stick, once. Inevitable.
"Is it, though? Sherlock?" John stepped forward, and cleared his throat.
Sherlock dropped his chin to his chest, stripped the rubber gloves from his hands with gratuitous theatrics, and turned on his heel.
"Mrs Hudson suggested it would be a nice gesture, and I had no evidence to the contrary."
"But why? What's the occasion? Are you wooing me? Did you ask your work's permission?"
"You've been here a month now. It is something of a record, for me. And I'd like to think that you're rather part of my work, now."
Sherlock shifted uncomfortably, and threw John a pointed look.
"And frankly, I'd hoped you'd be a little more grateful."
John stared. He couldn't help it. He'd thought he'd become accustomed to surprise, if such a thing is possible, and yet here he is again, mouth open wide and confused beyond comprehension for only the third time that day.
He tilted his head back at an angle approaching discomfort, then levelled it again. He pursed his lips and clicked his tongue. His hand spasmed involuntarily.
"Sherlock. My gratitude knows no bounds, I assure you. It just isn't sure why it's being offered up in the first place. Is this our anniversary? And if I'm part of your work... Sherlock, do you think I'm your boyfriend?"
With this last piece of incredulity, Sherlock's face fell nearly imperceptibly. It was the subtlety of it that worried John; when Sherlock wanted you to know something he generally didn't mince his words, let alone hide it in gesture.
"Of course not. Don't be stupid. People are so obtuse." Sherlock was close to yelling at this stage, and he moved to lean out of the window. His torso was bent at such an angle so as to worry John that he might be trying to throw himself off the sill, but he straightened quickly enough, having produced a box of cigarettes and a lighter from a nook in the exterior masonry.
"Sherlock. Put them down. I didn't mean to be mean, I'm just trying to understand. It was a lovely meal. Thank you for cooking. I'll remember that you're capable of it next time you're pestering me for a takeaway." With each phrase he took a step closer to the man hunched over the wooden frame, moving as slowly as if trying not to disturb a sleeping animal, his landmine training flooding to the fore before being pushed to the back of his mind.
Dealing with Sherlock was truly like military work, sometimes. When he was being Holmes he was nigh-on untouchable. You could call him whatever name you fancied – and many had been tried, over the years – and his resolve would not shake, but catch him in vulnerable mode, catch him as Sherlock, and you'd be wise to tread carefully. Luckily, John had background in that.
Sherlock was muttering to himself. Poetry, John thought; he recognised snatches from 6th form, though couldn't place the origin. Unsurprising. He'd had other things on his mind for the best part of two decades. Sherlock, it seemed, just had an awful lot more mind to use up.
"I fumbled to the window to experience the world
And to hear my Madness singing, sitting on the kerbstone
[A blind old drunken man who sings and mutters,
With broken boot heels stained in many gutters]
And as he sang the world began to fall apart..."
"Sherlock, seriously, put that out and come back inside. Let me explain myself. I know you think you know what I'm thinking, but I don't think you do, this time."
"I should have been a pair of ragged claws, John." Sherlock twisted his torso to allow a view over his shoulder of his flatmate. He narrowed his eyes and without looking stubbed the cigarette out on the bricks. It hissed slightly, and left a patch of dryness on the otherwise damp wall.
"I don't know what you mean by that, Sherlock." John leant back against the table, satisfied that Sherlock is now following one of Mrs Hudson's more sensible rules. He'd have to speak with her about this latest idea of hers.
"Prufrock. Eliot, you do know him, yes? Anyway. It doesn't matter. It was fanciful of me. I'm not sure why I allowed myself to do it," he hugged his elbows to his chest and raised his chin. "No hard feelings, yes? Good. Forget it happened. Have you seen my phone?"
John caught Sherlock's arm as he launched himself off the window-ledge and began rifling through the displaced junk of the table.
"Not so fast. Please. I just want you to know that despite how it might have seemed at first – and while we're at it, stop taking your first impression as the correct one, you really need to start factoring in that quite a vast proportion of your species tends to act first and think later – I... I do appreciate it," he gestured to the washing up in the sink and the smouldering remains of the last candle. "If this is what being your boyfriend is like, I would be okay with that. Besides," he said, letting go of Sherlock and fondly brushing a speck of quite invisible dust from his cheek, before picking up the missing phone from on top of the fridge and gesturing towards his room, "I'm not sure many else would notice the difference. I'll be upstairs if you need me."
Sherlock watched him leave, with particular attention on the mobile John had slipped into the back pocket of his jeans.