Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use.
Warnings: Rather explicit discussion of sex, genderbend
Five Times Sherlock's Gender Didn't Matter (And One time It Did)
The First Time:
Sherlock had contained herself at the scene but now, when John's at the sink, using a scour to remove the powder residue from the grooves of his fingerprints, she can't hold her irritation in any longer.
"Don't see why you felt the need to follow me in the first place," she mutters acidly.
"Turned out to be a good idea, didn't it?" John replies, voice calm and reasonable as though he isn't removing the evidence of murder from his hands.
"I don't need protecting!" Sherlock all-but snarls, feeling that they should get this clear right from the start.
Really, she's had enough of smothering male protection from Mycroft. And Lestrade in the beginning, before he realised how little tolerance she had for it. It's as though they somehow think she's more vulnerable or less capable just because she has breasts.
Literature and media might deluge them with the popular 'damsel in distress' image, but Sherlock refuses to fall into that trap.
John looks less-than impressed at her outburst. "Looked to me like you did."
"Just because I'm a woman-" Sherlock begins, and then stops because that's wrong.
Because John isn't looking self-righteously justified or chivalrously guilty, but honestly bewildered.
"You didn't come after me because I'm a woman," she realises, knowing she's right but not understanding why.
She looks for some kind of clue in John's face, but there's nothing – only the expression of someone who'd thought this was too obvious to actually discuss.
So eventually, she just asks. "So why did you think I needed rescuing, then?"
She makes sure to layer that hideous word with every drop of the disdain it deserves.
"Because you're an idiot," John says, repeating what he said at the crime scene with almost exactly the same tone of voice and inflection. "And very possibly insane – I mean seriously, Sherlock, what the hell motivated you to even try taking that pill?"
Sherlock doesn't reply. She's busy trying to determine the source of the grin that's currently making her cheeks ache.
John has just shot a man for her. John has, in essence, rescued her, but not because of what she is – John has protected her because of who she is.
Almost against her will, Sherlock finds herself charmed.
The Second Time:
Sebastian is unpleasant, (always thought himself irresistible to women, resented that Sherlock preferred her chemistry experiments over him, lost the bet to 'thaw the Ice Queen', never could seem to understand that sound carried across the dining hall) but that's to be expected.
She expects the way he glances between her and John, then comments snidely, "No one I thought less suited to being a wife."
What she isn't expecting is the fact that John laughs along with him.
For the rest of the visit, she is quietly fuming. The idea that women should be the ones to cook and clean has always infuriated her, as though she has nothing better to do with her time than cater to other people's needs (because they are other people's needs – she can go without food for days when working a case and she's never felt the need to keep any of her living spaces tidy).
And it seems John buys into the image of the house-bound female as well, judging by the laugh he shared with Sebastian. As though her lack of domestic skills is somehow unnatural and makes her lacking.
She makes her displeasure known in quiet, subtle ways, by keeping John out of the flats she's investigating and the like. If he thinks of her as such a freak, why does he bother coming along on her cases?
"Okay, Sherlock, what gives?" John asks at last. "You've been giving me the cold shoulder for a day now – was that mould in those cups actually a very delicate experiment?"
"You laughed," she hisses, hating how irrational and stupidly emotional she sounds. "Sebastian made that stupid, inane crack about me being a bad wife – just because he always thought a 'real woman' would be more interested in having sex with him than experimenting in the chemistry lab – and you laughed-"
She breaks off, furious with herself. She doesn't know why this has distressed her so much, doesn't know why John's valuation of her means more than anyone else's ever has; she's conscious only of the desire to impress him, to be seen as, as...
Sherlock doesn't know what she wants to be seen as, only that she wants John to see her.
"Is that what this is about?" John says, sounding bewildered.
Sherlock is bracing herself for the usual explanations – that it was only a joke, that she should lighten up, that it didn't mean anything, and is puzzled when John only sighs her name and scratches at one of his ears, looking almost...embarrassed?
"I just...I thought he meant me," John mutters, almost as though he doesn't want her to hear him.
"You?" Sherlock repeats, trying to make sense of this new information. "Why would he be referring to you?"
John sends her an exasperated look. "Sherlock, I'm the one who does the washing up, and I practically have to bully you into doing the drying. I do the cooking, and if anything gets tidied around here it's because I do it. And he was looking at you as he said it, and I figured he knew that if anyone's the stereotypical 'wife' here, it's me."
A slight scowl settles over his face. "I thought we were having a friendly laugh – it was only later I realised what a prick he is."
Sherlock thinks that's very typical of John – willing to think the best of even smarmy bankers until they conclusively prove him wrong.
The Third Time:
"Well, that was embarrassing," John sighs when the last nurse finally shuts the door.
"What was embarrassing?" Sherlock asks, allowed into John's hospital room by virtue of John's assurances that she'll be on her best behaviour, and his promise that if they lock her out she'll just scale the walls and come in through the window.
The fact that John knows her so well makes her smile.
"You had to rescue me, Sherlock," John sighs. "Not a very good showing, really."
He sounds strangely resigned, and Sherlock feels vaguely offended. John rescues her all the time – why is he so disappointed that she's been the one to save him, for once.
Unless it's one of those masculine self-image things and John doesn't want to be rescued by her because it somehow implies he's incompetent.
"I mean," John goes on. "I'm supposed to be the one with military training, and they got the drop on me so easily! As I said – embarrassing."
Oh, that's what this is about – John thinks he's somehow disgraced his training by being kidnapped. Well, Sherlock can't have that.
"First of all, you were expecting a delivery at the time, which was why you opened the door to them," she lectures. "Secondly, they hit you so hard several of the nurses insist it's pure chance you escaped a fractured skull. I think, under the circumstances, we can consider you severely impaired."
"Still, I should have realised something was wrong as soon as I realised they didn't have food," John mutters. "But I was more preoccupied with..."
"With Sarah," Sherlock finishes, disdain heavy in her voice.
John rolls his eyes, then winces as it undoubtedly aggravates his head injury. "I know you're above all those 'primitive urges' as you called them, but I like getting laid, thanks very much."
"There's prostitutes for that," Sherlock points out.
John grimaces. "I'm going to ignore that."
"Why? If you want to 'get off' with someone-"
"That's only part of it, Sherlock!" John snaps, looking irritated. "Look, I know you don't seem to 'get' this kind of thing, but if I just wanted an orgasm, I could take care of that on my own. It's the...connection that does it for me. Knowing that the other person is trying to give you pleasure because they care about you, and you doing the same for them."
Sherlock isn't sure how to respond to that, and John gentles his voice, "Look, I know you don't seem to like Sarah, but please – give her a chance?" He cracks a weak smile. "It's not pleasant when my girlfriend and my best friend are at odds."
Once, it would have warmed her to hear John call her his best friend. So why does she only feel...disappointed?
Perhaps because she's realised that's exactly how John sees her – as his friend. Though heterosexual friendships are often fraught with unwelcome sexual tension, to John she is just his friend, with her sex only an aside to what she means to him.
She remembers that one day a week ago when inspiration had struck her in the shower and she'd run out still wet and dripping to flick through the photos of the case. John had been in the living room at the time, and his only reaction had been to tell her to at least get a towel and dry herself before she got chilled.
Sherlock had been puzzled at the way he'd been completely unaffected.
"I went to medical school, Sherlock – you don't have anything I haven't see before, in all kinds of varieties."
She'd been curious and asked him how he could just turn off his arousal response like that. John's response had been that it was all about context – she wasn't getting naked for him, so it wasn't sexy.
She's his friend, so he in no way considers her a potential lover.
Sherlock should be happy – her gender doesn't matter to John, shouldn't that be cause to breathe a sigh of relief?
So why does she find herself wishing for the exact opposite?
The Fourth Time:
Once again, John is trying to protect her. This time, by sacrificing his life to ensure the man known as Moriarty won't get a chance to pursue her again.
John's arm is locked around the other man's neck, that awful jacket of explosives pressed up against Moriarty's back, the laser sight jogging around their bodies as the sniper tries for a shot that won't set the Semtex off. If she runs, John will likely be dead before she's even out the door.
Of course, this all hinges on Sherlock being willing to leave him, which was never on the table.
Moriarty sneers at John, as though his selfless act is something to be mocked, and Sherlock can pinpoint the exact moment the laser sight switches to her body by the way John stills.
He backs off in the next second, protecting her yet again.
By now, Sherlock knows that John's attempts to protect her aren't a disparagement on her gender – they never were. It's just what John is; protective. If he can spare someone he cares for pain or danger by shouldering it himself then he does so without a second thought.
At one point, she might have been tempted by Moriarty's offer – the lure of the chase, of the dance, of never being bored again – but now...now it just leaves her cold. Moriarty looks at John likes he's unimportant, like he's something to be disposed of, and Sherlock knows that as long as Moriarty is alive, John will never be safe.
So she does her best to ensure Moriarty is not left alive.
The Fifth Time:
Sherlock despises menstruation. The discomfort is minimal and can be managed with analgesics, but she hates the hormone surges that play havoc with her moods.
There's a reason she doesn't mind going without food for long periods, after all – one of the pleasant side-effects is a cease in menstruation. She's even considered permanently staying underweight, just to be rid of them, but it left her too weak to properly chase down criminals.
There's always the pill, but frankly, that's even worse.
So, Sherlock is blaming her unreasonable hormones on the absolute panic that consumed her when read the card that had been dropped through the mail slot.
How's the little pet doing? I've always wanted a dog of my own, you know.
She'd been convinced that was Moriarty's way of saying he'd taken John again, and when she'd phoned the clinic only to be told he'd gone out to lunch, she'd assumed the worst.
Which was why, as she was scrambling out of the cab that had taken her to the clinic (likely abducted on his break, she needed to make sure he wasn't being held nearby), she was brought up short in her tracks by the sight of John walking towards the clinic with the sated look that said he'd just eaten well.
It was the sudden shock of seeing John safe and sound when she believed him to be suffering at Moriarty's hands and the over-abundant hormones that made her fling her arms around John and embrace him.
John is about average height for a man and Sherlock is tall for a woman, which means they're almost exactly the same height. Sometimes Sherlock feels the urge to measure the exact differential and determine once and for all which side it's on, because it seems to vary with position and shoes, but right now all she can think is it puts her at the perfect angle to throw her arms around his shoulder and press her cheek against his.
John freezes for only a moment, before the tense line of his shoulder relaxes and his arms go around her in turn. He doesn't mouth platitudes or mumble reassurances – he just holds her.
Sherlock comes to the conclusion that caring is horrible. Now that she has proof that John is alive and unharmed in the form of the solid weight of his body against his and the smell of his hair, she feels embarrassed at how quickly she leapt to conclusions and how utterly useless the thought of John in danger made her.
"Apologies," she says stiffly, drawing back and dusting herself off to avoid meeting John's eyes. "There was a threat and...well, it was the hormones, that's all."
"Don't give me that, Sherlock," John says, in a such a gentle, understanding voice Sherlock wants to punch him.
She's aware she resents typical gender roles most of the time, but she's perfectly willing to use stereotypes when they benefit her.
"It's perfectly true, given that it's my 'time of the month', to use the colloquialism-"
Sherlock pauses. "I thought you were aware – I'm told I become more irritable."
John snorts. "Sherlock, you're irritable all the time."
His tone isn't criticising – on the contrary, it's as bald as if he's stating a simple fact, and wonderfully, horribly accepting.
"Look, Sherlock," John begins, scratching nervously at the back of his head. "You've been a bit rattled ever since the pool – and don't give me that look, you know it's true – and you said something about a threat, right? You were worried and you needed a hug – it's perfectly understandable."
He cracks a grin. "After all, if someone threatened you and I couldn't find you right away, I think I'd need a hug."
"But I doubt you would rush up and assault me in the middle of the street," Sherlock mutters, but is feeling better in spite of herself.
"You never know," is all John says.
The One Time It Did:
"Not an option!"
Sherlock scowls, and can't resist another dig. "If you'd taken a glance at the expiry date even once..."
"Sherlock, when I'm getting out a condom in preparation for having sex with you, I guarantee the expiry date is the last thing on my mind!" John snaps.
Just for a moment, Sherlock allows herself to bask in the unintentional praise. It's rather unfair John is so spectacular at sex, as she often thinks she makes a poor showing of it as a result – it's difficult to concentrate on technique when your partner seems determined to reduce you to a lower life form capable of only pleasure-stimulus responses.
She's never enjoyed sex so much, and she's not entirely sure if it's due to John's skill or her emotional attachment to him. It's the sort of question that begs for experimentation, but John had been very explicit about exclusiveness when they initiated this new aspect of their relationship. Too explicit, really, as though infidelity was a problem he'd had with someone in the past. Sometimes Sherlock wants to meet that person, as she's rather fascinated at how they go about breathing and walking when they are clearly so mentally deficient.
After all, what sane person would look for someone else when they had John Watson?
Sherlock is still angry at John's oversight though. The condoms were his – it was his responsibility to make sure they were managed properly! And now John is refusing to have sex with her without them.
"Why not?" she asks. "Neither of us are harbouring diseases-"
"Because you're not on the pill, and there's a risk of pregnancy," John says shortly.
Sherlock scowls again.
"Stop sulking," John chides, sliding close and kissing the corner of her jaw. "There are other options, you know. Good, old-fashioned cunnilingus, for one."
Sherlock secretly finds John's use of technical terms in bed rather endearing, and usually an offer like that would meet with her eager agreement. But not tonight.
"I want to be fucked," she says (says – she does not whine, whatever John might say).
Silence for a moment.
"Ever tried anal sex?" John enquires, and Sherlock rather loves that there's no hint of nervousness or hesitancy in him when he asks that.
"No," she replies. "You?"
"Bisexual, Sherlock, remember?"
"Giving or receiving?"
Interesting, and definitely something to explore later, but for now Sherlock has another question. "Do you think I'll enjoy it?"
John shrugs. "It's a personal preference thing, really – some people love it, some people hate it, you don't really know until you try."
"Then let's try."
"Brilliant, I'll get the lube."
AN: Thanks so much to my beta, ginbitch, who helped me tweak this into a better story!