The Antidote, part II
In the morning, Sherlock doesn't bother getting out of bed until after John has gone to work at the clinic. In fact, he doesn't bother getting out of bed at all. There's nothing to work on besides the John problem, and he can do that from where he is, so he lies there looking up at the ceiling and trying to work it out. He doesn't like interpersonal problems: they're so messy. The variables, being people - wretched ordinary people - refuse to act consistently. A saucer of bone marrow will always be a saucer of bone marrow, at least until it decomposes sufficiently and can be incorporated into Experiment #2399:21, but people decide one day that they feel one way and then change their minds the next for absolutely no reason at all and throw off all his calculations.
Sherlock doesn't actually realise that he's been in bed all day until it occurs to him that John has been standing in the door for at least fifteen minutes and he looks over at him finally.
"Have you eaten?"
"Why should I eat? I'm busy."
"You're just lying there."
"You know what? I'm going to do it your way. Here's why you should eat. When you lie there thinking, there's brain activity going on. Brain activity takes calories, and if you don't get the proper amount, as measured in intake through food, it'll shut down and you won't be able to think properly. How's that?"
Sherlock waves a hand at him. "You're standing in my thinking area. Move back. And shut the door."
John shakes his head and goes, but he doesn't shut the door.
It occurs to Sherlock in another hour or so that John hasn't brought him supper yet, and frankly that's unusual. So he finally gets out of bed, wrapping his bathrobe around him, and drags himself out into the kitchen, feeling quite ready to throw another tantrum.
John isn't in the kitchen. Nor is he anywhere else in the flat, and Sherlock snatches up his violin bow, tapping out an irritable staccato on the bookcase.
(He has a right to be bothered. John doesn't go places without telling him, other than work, and when Sherlock expects him to pick things up from the store, which John generally does reliably: he's getting better at anticipating what Sherlock's going to want, thank God. But when John gets back from work he always starts supper, unless he's going out with Sarah, in which case he brings takeaway home with him, and even then he informs Sherlock first, so Sherlock knows why to be annoyed when he puts out his hand for something and it doesn't immediately appear.
He has a perfect right to be bothered.)
(Experiment #2383:21: How much force must be applied to a book-binding with the bow of a violin before it bursts? Materials and methods: P&H 4/4 Size Premium Brazilwood violin bow, leather-bound copy of Forensic Entomology: Arthropods and Corpses, Vol. 2.
Results - )
Before the book-binding even begins to lighten in colour, Sherlock is interrupted by John opening the door to the flat.
"Where have you been?" Sherlock demands.
"It's none of your business," John says. He's using the piqued tone again, and Sherlock frowns at him.
"You didn't bring me supper."
"Oh, for God's sake, Sherlock. It's not my job to feed you."
"I didn't say it was. I said you didn't bring me my supper - that is an observation, entirely different. Why not?"
"Because I was out walking," John says, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
"Instead of making supper."
"Look, when I ran back here from Sarah's because I thought you'd been blown up, you didn't even care. Why does it suddenly matter where I was to-night?"
"You lectured me about eating and then didn't make supper."
"I suppose I thought you could make it yourself."
"No, you didn't. You know I don't like the stove."
John frowns. "I thought it was the Frigidaire - "
"It's both," Sherlock says shortly. John is being obtuse on purpose, he decides.
"How did you eat before I moved in?"
"Mrs. Hudson brought up a tray."
"That's ridiculous. Can you cook?"
"Of course I can, if I have a need."
"What have you ever actually cooked?"
Sherlock gives Forensic Entomology: Arthropods and Corpses, Vol. 2 a swift crack with the violin bow, which achieves the dual purpose of alleviating his annoyance to a minuscule degree and stalling for time. Sod all.
"Fish and chips," he says finally.
"You cook fish and chips," John says flatly.
"Yes. It's remarkably simple."
"Sherlock - "
"I don't need to cook!" Sherlock snaps. "You do it. Why should I? It doesn't make any sense to do things that someone else can do. It's my job to do the thinking, since you obviously don't devote any time to that. As long as you're here and you can do cooking sufficiently, why in heaven's name should I?"
"So I'm the live-in help?"
Sherlock snaps the violin bow against the book again. Experiment #2383:21 may come off after all.
(But what's wrong with being the live-in help, really? It's bad enough that he's admitted to himself that he needs John; is he going to have to tell John as well? The point is that John fulfils a need, and that should be good enough, frankly. The things John does bore Sherlock to death, and if he had to do them himself, the noise from the appliances would be beside the point, because the absolute banality of having to launder the sheets and sweep the floor and make sure the bath isn't growing any more interesting moulds would make him bore a hole into his head with the twenty-five bit drill he occasionally uses in cases. All those things have to be done, of course, but Sherlock also has to organise his collection of blood spills on different types of household fabric and carry out the Experiments and track the changes in the eyeballs in the microwave so he has an accurate record of how the human eye decomposes in water. He doesn't have time for the things John does.
Frankly John should be flattered that Sherlock trusts him not to make an absolute mess of all the things he does. Sherlock wouldn't trust just anyone. He didn't trust Mrs. Hudson to do a good number of the things he lets John do.
This whole situation is so stupid it makes his head hurt, in that small place behind his eye that occasionally twitches whenever Anderson opens his mouth, but in a moment of pure clarity Sherlock settles upon the one thing that is most necessary in the world.)
"Make tea," he says.
John turns away and stomps into the kitchen.
Tea is not, in and of itself, the solution to everything, but it is a reasonable substitute, and he knows putting the kettle on always calms John down, so it will certainly be a step in the right direction. Sherlock follows him, tapping the violin bow against his thigh thoughtfully.
He waits without saying anything while John puts on the kettle and gets out the mugs, milk and sugar. Finally, to his surprise, it's John who breaks the silence.
"I just wanted to get out and think. I called it off with Sarah to-day."
"You mean you didn't deduce that?" John measures out exactly 75 ml of milk to put in Sherlock's mug. "It's why I was late coming home from the clinic."
"You took her out for coffee," Sherlock says. "You bought two cups, but neither of you drank any. You told her you were calling it off and she said she thought that was all right. She's been attracted to someone else but she felt guilty letting you know, and she was afraid you'd take it badly, so this was a relief. You were also relieved, but you don't think you should be. You came home late, found me still in bed, were offended when we argued, and went out to sulk." He can feel the heady rush of delight in knowing exactly what John has been doing, and in being able to do so; at first he tries to keep his expression neutral, but a thin smile slips out in spite of him. "You want to say something pithy and kiss me, but you can't think of anything to say, and that's just as well, because you aren't as clever as you think you are and if you kiss me I shall be irritated, because you stopped at the pub while you were out and you'll taste of Guinness, and quite frankly I despise Guinness."
John has stopped doing anything with the tea things and is staring at him, half open-mouthed. "What - no, I don't! I mean, want to kiss you. Who'd want to kiss you? How the hell d'you know all this, anyway?"
"Sugar on your sweater, no coffee on your breath, your handkerchief hasn't been used so she didn't cry, you brought the bottlecap to your beer home with you and put it down on the counter with your change when you walked in, and you've wanted to kiss me since you came home and found me on the couch."
"...I need another Guinness."
"Oh, God, don't start that, as if you want to give yourself one of those sodding hangovers and have someone feed you raw eggs until your eyes cross." Sherlock sighs impatiently. He's annoyed with himself now, honestly, because John's called it off with Sarah, so the solution would have been straightforward enough - appreciate his luck and not bring up the distasteful question of shagging, and who wants to do it with whom. He's overplayed his hand in wanting to show off to John. He's going to pay for it, too. Especially the way John's looking at him now, an apology already on the tip of his tongue - of course it's an apology.
"Sherlock, I'm sorry - "
"Oh, come on! Do something I can't guess! Dance around the kitchen and put the salad bowl on your head, but don't say you're sorry!"
John covers his face with one hand, laughing.
"There you are, was that so difficult?" Sherlock says, unable to keep the sulky tone out of his voice.
"I'm sorry," John says, softly. "What makes you think it started since the night you were drunk?"
"Because - " Sherlock pauses. "How long?"
"Since I moved in."
"Why would you do that?"
"Well, I - "
"Boring." Sherlock looks at John in wonder. He can't help it, really. "It's all so dull and petty. Like, love, lust, it's all the same thing, it's careless and messy and distracts you from everything relevant. Why are you wasting your time?"
"Because you're worth it, I suppose." He finishes with Sherlock's tea and hands him the mug. "There you are."
Sherlock takes it, cupping it in both hands, and drinks it hot; he prefers it to scald his tongue. "I'm worth it."
"I think so, yes."
"Ordinarily I would deduce that a man who says something of that nature is hoping for sexual favours."
John looks down. "Yes, well. That might be your deduction - "
"But it's not your intent."
"Look, this isn't about sleeping with you," John says fiercely, looking up again. "I called it off with Sarah because it wasn't fair to her, and you're right, there was somebody else, and her heart wasn't broken, and I didn't mean as much to her as I supposed. And I do like you, but nothing's going to happen, is it? And that's fine, that's why I wasn't going to say anything about it until you started in with this 'I can tell you want to kiss me' business. I mean, if you wanted to, I'd want to do a lot more than kiss you, but you don't, you're Mr. Married to His Work and that's how it is. I should probably move out, but I don't want to, I don't like living by myself, and you make it impossible to get any real work done but that's all right with me. I can manage. Although I suppose it's a good thing I do fancy you so much, because otherwise I might have thrown it in with you, too, after you woke me up at four in the morning to fetch milk when I was on call for the clinic." He pauses for a breath, and Sherlock smiles, thin lips thinning out further.
"Oh, yes, that does bother you, doesn't it? The milk."
"This isn't about the milk!"
"So you're going to stay?"
John sighs and shrugs. "Yes, if you don't mind." Sherlock thinks he can detect a faint hint of 'your highness' in John's tone, but that hint is there a good eighty per cent of the time and he never pays much attention to it.
"Good. I want you to stay."
John smiles, but he doesn't seem happy, and he turns away and walks out of the kitchen. Sherlock frowns after him, leaning on the counter to finish his tea.
(This should be the end of it. Everything should be all right now. Sarah is gone, she isn't a threat to him any more, and John is planning to stay, so what on earth is the matter? Experiment concluded. But there's something out of place, and it bothers him, in the same way boredom bothers him, in a blunting, stupefying sort of way. His nose and mouth feel clogged with it. Something's wrong.
God, is he going to have to kiss John? He doesn't want to kiss John. It's all very well to know that it's what John wants, but when Sherlock tries to imagine himself kissing anyone, even John, who is so vital that Sherlock can't imagine living without him, all he really feels is an unpleasant combination of disinterest and revulsion. He knows about sex, of course. So much of crime hinges on issues of sex: a prime motivator. He's read manuals and been to shops and once, for the incredibly distasteful Experiment #3788:19, he watched a pornographic film, which involved a lot of moaning and writhing and proportions that looked highly unlikely. He assumes that John doesn't fit those proportions. Nevertheless, the idea of doing something like... putting his tongue in John's mouth, for example - )
He glares at his tea. It is a cup of tea, and yet it is failing to solve everything.
(Experiment #2384:21: find out what the hell is going on in this flat.)
Sherlock doesn't do things without purpose.
This is not a lie, even if this morning he knocks on John's door without having decided ahead of time what he is going to say, with a cup of tea as his only peace offering.
John looks at him blearily, wiping his eyes. "Sherlock? It's - it's five-thirty, what are you doing?"
"I brought you tea."
"I put sugar in it."
"All right, all right." John sits up, leaning over to turn on his bedside lamp. He sleeps in cotton pyjamas with vertical blue stripes and lapels, and invariably wears them to bed, no matter how little time he'll actually be wearing them - even on the nights when Sherlock keeps him up until five and he'll have to be awake at seven to get ready to go in to the clinic (Sherlock sleeps in his clothes half the time, although he cannot sleep without his bathrobe and never has been able). "Tea. Thanks." He reaches for it.
"I believe we had a misunderstanding last night."
John looks as if he's going to say something, but instead he blows on his tea a little and takes a small sip, watching Sherlock over the rim of the cup.
"I don't want to have sex with you."
John chokes on his tea. "Yeah, you said that when we met. I mean, not in so many words, but - "
Sherlock thins his lips. "But you are valuable to me, and I want you to stay here. Very much. So if there's no other alternative, if it's that important to you and if it doesn't take very long and you don't want to do it every bloody night-"
John is staring at him in something akin to horror mixed with a healthy dose of disbelief. His mouth is open. "Are you - are you serious?"
"Extraordinarily. I know the mechanics, and I would be willing to engage in coitus if it - close your mouth, I'm not going to put something in it right now."
John lets out a hysterical-sounding laugh. "Look, no, no, seriously. Oh, my God." He rubs his face with one hand. "God. It's five-thirty. Look, I do like you, I like you a lot more than I should if I were really sane. I'm not going to force you to have sex with me just to keep me here."
"You aren't forcing me to do anything," Sherlock says, irritated.
"No, right, of course not. Look - I don't need to be bribed, how's that? I mean, you're not really a thoughtful person, but I've done better since I moved in here." He looks down at his tea and then up again at Sherlock, a bit more seriously. "I really appreciate that. But I really, really don't want to have sex with you. Especially not when you talk about it that way."
"No. Look, can we talk about this in the morning?"
"Please go away. I've got two more hours of sleep left and a dreadful day coming up. We can talk about how we're not going to have sex when I get home from work."
"I suppose so." Sherlock frowns at him again, ignoring the sense of relief. It's all very well to tell John he's willing to shag him, but the idea of actually doing it gives him, as much as he refuses to admit it, gives him an uncomfortable hollow feeling at the bottom of his stomach similar to the sensation he gets after he takes a nicotine patch when he hasn't eaten for three days.
"OK. I'll finish my tea, then."
Sherlock gets halfway out the door before he pauses and looks back at John, his long fingers curled around the side, smiling his pale smile. "My work hasn't taken all my time lately. I wouldn't mind being married to you as well, if there won't be any copulation."
He leaves John coughing tea.
(Experiment #2384:21: Results: Communication with flatmate and concurrent nonverbal data reveal that flatmate is amenable to continued cohabitation sans shagging. He isn't leaving.)
(Sherlock sits on his bed with his fingers threaded, hands clasped between his knees. John isn't leaving. Neither the threat of Sarah nor the unpleasant question of sex has chased him off, which means that Sherlock can continue to drag him along to Scotland Yard, and John can continue to write sensational nonsense on his silly blog, and Sherlock and his thousands of Experiments won't be the sole occupants of the flat.
The queer, unsettling feeling that perhaps John is more than either flatmate or friend to him is lingering in the back of his mind, but he refuses to think about it. That bridge can be crossed when he comes to it.)
Suddenly his mobile chirps, and he grudgingly unfolds himself to look at it.
Have case for you. Bring disinfectant and Dr. Watson.
Sherlock gets to his feet, clasping his hands behind his back, and grins at nothing in particular. Even dream-Mycroft has been thwarted.