A/N: This story alludes to my previous fic, "The Sensual Ace" and chronologically follows it.
More platonic romance, with Asexual!Sherlock/Straight!John.
I'm having such a wonderful time writing this stuff. :)
Love of the Extraordinary
John has never cared for a man this way before. He has had good friends, friends he loved, and he loved his father in his own complicated way. But as the months go by, after Moriarty's stunt in the pool, he realizes that what he feels for Sherlock Holmes is entirely new. He begins to seriously ponder it one morning as he lies awake in bed, Sherlock still asleep next to him with his back to John. Outsiders might respond to John's train of thought with a scoff of disbelief-you're lying in bed with him, for Christ's sake-but it really isn't that John is so obtuse. (And in his defense, the physical affection and the bed-sharing started out as a way to provide Sherlock with the physical comfort he has been so long starved for, never a shade of eroticism to it.) These feelings seem to have sneaked into John, while he was too busy riding on Sherlock's coat tails all over London to give them any proper attention. Maybe the fact that he and Sherlock seemed to make an instant connection soon after meeting and moving in together should have given John a clue-he can imagine Sherlock chiding him for being so thoughtless-but he still doesn't believe he ever could've predicted the way he feels now.
He still goes out on dates with women. Sarah's long gone but there have been a few since her. He likes them, his dates; they're a place of relief and calm in his life. He knows what to expect with them. He knows exactly where he stands.
But once he gets to thinking about it, it occurs to John that none of it is serious. Their company is pleasant, the sex is pretty good, but when he asks himself who was the last lady to stir him up in the heart, he has to really stop and think about it. It's been years, since before Afghanistan.
And even that doesn't quite compare to what he feels now.
The truth is, John Watson has never been a highly sexual man. He would classify his libido as "moderate." He doesn't shag every woman he dates and he doesn't shag a woman every single time he sees her. He isn't so carnal about women; he's attracted to the pleasantness of their company, first and foremost. Women have always been, in some ways, easier to interact with than men. He can be more open with them, emotionally, more personal.
War was another world. A man doesn't bond with other men in real life the way he does on the battlefield. But of course, many of his military friends are dead, and the ones who aren't have either gone back to their own normal lives or remain overseas. Either way, it just doesn't feel natural to John to carry on those relationships. At least, not now.
War also taught him to live without sex for long periods of time, let him know it isn't actually as important to him as he thought it was earlier in his life.
These are the thoughts that begin to swirl around in his head as he becomes conscious of the way he feels for Sherlock. Somehow, it seems like these facts are relevant, that they point him to an understanding of the relationship he's formed with his flatmate. But the explanation doesn't come to him right away. The feelings are clear-but their meaning murky.
On a Saturday morning, he gets out of bed earlier than Sherlock, which is typical. He sees only by the gray light coming through the window curtains in the living room, and he listens to the rain outside as he brews their morning pot of tea. He pours two mugs once the water's boiled and drops in bags of Earl Grey, sitting down in his chair at the table and leaving the other mug next to him. He sits quietly for a while, thinking as the tea cools. Sherlock always sleeps in on weekends, especially when he doesn't have a case; John doesn't mind it. Gives him some peace and quiet in the flat, time to be alone with his thoughts.
When Sherlock finally does appear, he smiles that smile, only the left side of his mouth, and says good morning as he squeezes John's shoulder in passing. He sticks some sliced bread in the toaster for the two of them, before taking his seat at the table, long hands curling around his mug and the warmth of it making him purr. He's been eating more recently, John's noticed. Not much more but still, it's an improvement. Like most things unrelated to work, they never actually discuss it. Sherlock simply changes a habit, John notices, and life continues on.
He's stopped doing coke too, as far as John can tell. He was hyper-aware about that for a while, after he caught Sherlock doing lines in the flat one day, but eventually, he relaxed again when no other sign appeared. Sherlock sleeps better now, more often and for longer periods. John watches him drink his tea, sees a peace in the other man's face that wasn't there when they first met. He's certainly no less manic when he's working, but he's healthier. John's aware that all of it coincides with him, with the turn their relationship has taken in the last few months; if you had asked him before today, he would've told you that the only difference is the touching. But now he's not so sure that's all.
The toaster ejects the bread with a pop! and Sherlock goes to get it, taking his tea with him. By now, he knows how John eats his, so he doesn't ask. They're silent together, which is actually how they spend a lot of their time at home; John's never known anyone before with whom silence was so comfortable.
The thing is, John isn't gay. He never has been and he's pretty sure he never will be. He knows himself; he knows the difference between what he feels when he looks at an attractive woman he's on a date with and what he feels when he's with Sherlock. He especially knows it after having spent the last few months touching Sherlock on a daily basis. He doesn't think he could ever comfortably and repeatedly share a bed with a woman unless they were having sex, and yet it's now routine of him to fall asleep spooned up behind Sherlock, without the faintest flush of desire. He experiences many responses to his friend and flatmate-awe, respect, frustration, amusement, protectiveness, affection, pride-but a stirring of the loins isn't one of them. The thought of even kissing Sherlock on the mouth makes his nose crinkle.
So how does he explain what's going on between them?
"We should get out for a bit," Sherlock says, munching on his toast.
"Not exactly the weather for it," says John.
"No matter. Umbrellas were invented for a reason. And if I stay in this flat all bloody weekend, I might go mad."
It's true, Sherlock is prone to stir craziness.
"We'll eat out for dinner then."
Sherlock sips on his tea in wordless satisfaction, blue eyes clear and bright even the dimness of the kitchen. John wonders what Sherlock has concluded about their relationship-God knows he probably has it all figured out, including what John feels-but he isn't sure how to broach the subject with him. He knows Sherlock is asexual, though that word has never been specifically used between them, but John's a fairly educated man. He's more than capable of putting two and two together. It's also obvious that Sherlock's developed an emotional attachment to him. It's the nature of that attachment John is unsure of.
Once there's only crumbs on his plate and a few drops left in his mug, Sherlock gets up from the table, sinks into his favorite armchair in the living room and begins to pluck at his violin. John decides to do some more thinking before bringing it up in conversation.
The thing is, John sees a side of Sherlock Holmes that no one else knows exists. To the world, Sherlock is nothing more than a brilliant phenomenon, a freak show, the isolated high-functioning sociopath that isn't on the job because anyone wants him there but because they need him. He's cold and cerebral and arrogant and in his blunt honesty, cruel when he doesn't have to be. He's only good for his work, to them. And at some point, John realizes Sherlock believes them.
But as the months go by of John living at 221B and as their relationship unfolds into whatever bizarre, intimate thing it is, John sees more. He sees the warmth in Sherlock when they look at each other in a moment of ease. He sees Sherlock's vulnerabilities: the way he gets so frustrated with himself when he can't think any further, when the answer to the problem eludes him. He sees the faint traces of what John can only call sadness when Sherlock mentions someone's low opinion of him as a person. He sees Sherlock looking at him sometimes, thoughtfully, without saying anything, and John doesn't know what to make of it, except for possible disbelief that John's still here.
And sometimes, when Sherlock's standing by one of the windows in the living room, looking out, or staring out his window in the back of a cab, John recognizes an expression that used to come up much more often when they first met. He can identify the loneliness in it now; he always feels so far away from Sherlock then. What are you thinking?, he wants to ask. I'm right here.
There are the black moods that come sometimes when Sherlock isn't working a case. He'll not change out of his robe for days, reject food, stalk around the flat when he's not lying curled up on the couch with his back to John. Sometimes, he disappears altogether, for hours, coming back wet with rain on more than one occasion. He doesn't answer his phone, not even texts. It drives John mad. He doesn't know if it's boredom or what, but Sherlock never talks about it.
And John wishes he would.
It makes him angry that people don't see what he sees in Sherlock. It makes him angry that they don't understand. He knows how difficult Sherlock can be, how aloof and effective at pushing people away. He's tried it on John more than once. And as much as John sometimes wants to throw up his hands and move out and say to hell with all this madness, he doesn't. He can't.
And he wants to tell everybody else who never bothered to get this close: you didn't try hard enough.
He's gotten used to people mistaking them for a couple. Most of the time, it doesn't bother him anymore; he chalks it up to people being idiots, as Sherlock would say. As long as it doesn't interfere with his periodic dates, it doesn't do John any harm anyway. What he does notice, once he gets to thinking about his feelings, is that Sherlock never once corrects people when they assume; he can't remember a single time Sherlock ever has. It was always John who insisted they weren't dating. He still cannot imagine why total strangers look at them and assume; it's not like they touch in public. That's one of their unspoken rules: intimacy is a private thing. And perhaps Sherlock's own sense of public identity motivates him to hide it too, John isn't sure. In any case, he begins to take into consideration this recurring assumption and possible reasons behind it and if there's any validity to them.
They're having dinner at a really excellent Thai place, yet another candle between them courtesy of their waitress who gave them thatsmile when she dropped it off, and Sherlock is laughing at something John said when John realizes that he only ever sees Sherlock laugh when they're alone together like this. Sherlock's eyes twinkle, creases winging up at the corners, white teeth spreading in an open mouth, and he looks so human, a man just like any other instead of The Great Sherlock Holmes. And John feels a warm gratification in his chest to know he's responsible for that.
What does that mean?
Sherlock thoughtlessly reaches out with his fork and steals a shrimp from John's plate. He's been doing that sort of thing for a little while now, but this time John really notices. He notices that he likes it when it happens too. He looks up, happens to catch his eye on the pale neck and V-section of chest exposed at the unbuttoned top of Sherlock's shirt, and on impulse, John tries to see if he feels anything, a spring of erotic wanting.
His eyes flutter back down to his food after a moment. Nothing. Right, then.
John was never much of a cuddler before meeting Sherlock, not even with women he shagged. But he comes to enjoy it. He starts because it's what Sherlock needs, yet with time, it becomes just as pleasant for John. It never strikes him as odd that they do this. Perhaps that's because as far as the odd features of life with Sherlock Holmes, cuddling is at the bottom of the list. Or perhaps it speaks to these mysterious feelings he has.
John lies awake in bed long after Sherlock's fallen asleep in his arms. He's got his face in the back of Sherlock's shoulder, and he can smell Sherlock's faded cologne and the stale laundry detergent on his pajamas. They're warm together, and John thinks how comforted he is in this moment, the two of them safe. It's silly-worrying so much about a grown man, a man who made it through several years of life without much of anyone looking after him. But John finds he can't help himself.
And it isn't just the perils of Sherlock's job. John worries about the other man's internal state of being, especially when he thinks in the middle of the night like this. Is Sherlock happy? Is he lonely? Is he missing something? John is arguably the person who knows Sherlock Holmes most intimately in the whole world and yet there is still so much he doesn't know. Maybe the past should be irrelevant, but can it be, when it makes up so much of who a person is? John wants to know. He wants to know in a way he's never wanted to know about anyone before. He wants to know every pain Sherlock's ever experienced. He wants to know the insecurities. He wants to know what Sherlock really thinks of himself. He wants to know what Sherlock desires, what burns in him, what makes him alive. He wants to understand.
He squeezes Sherlock a little tighter to him as he thinks he may never understand. He closes his eyes and feels Sherlock breathing against him. And somehow, despite how melodramatic of him it might be, John feels as if this is all there is: just he and Sherlock Holmes, alone, adrift in the world, beyond its comprehension. My God, John can't even comprehend this.
But he does know one thing: Sherlock was once here all by himself. And now he's not.
John's got him.
He isn't there when it happens. He's working at the clinic, and of course, Sherlock would go about his business as usual. He's not going to wait around for John to be free to work a case, however much he likes having John along with him. Lestrade calls him right away, literally seconds after getting the word, and it's just as John is checking out of the clinic to head home. There's been an incident, he says, Sherlock's been hurt.
It isn't the first time he's heard of Sherlock involved in some kind of physical endangerment-occupational hazard, after all-but this time, John is so terrified, it knocks the wind out of him. He hails a cab, clinging desperately to the door nearest him as he rides over to the intersection Lestrade referred him to. He can hear the police sirens as he gets closer, sees the ambulance lights already rotating at the scene and a disorganized group of people gathered. The cabbie has to stop him for the fare as he flings himself out the cab. John pushes his way through the people and sees Sherlock already strapped to a gurney being slowly wheeled toward the open doors at the back of an ambulance. One of the paramedics is holding a wad of gauze to Sherlock's right side, there's blood on the street, and when John reaches him, they make eye contact. Sherlock looks dazed, face grey and pale, but his hand lifts and catches John by the arm as he says his name.
"Sherlock, what happened? Where's he injured?" John says to one of the medics
"Gunshot wound to the lower abdomen. Are you Dr. Watson?"
"Would you like to ride in back with him? Detective Lestrade said to let you on."
"I'd be really grateful, thanks."
They lift the gurney into the ambulance, and John slides in, sitting at the edge of the bench seat to Sherlock's left. As they start to move, he takes Sherlock's hand, absolutely forgetting that there other people present to see, and the two men look at each other.
"You'll be all right," John says. "Don't worry."
Sherlock doesn't say anything, just looks at him with very grateful eyes, hand warm in John's, and that's when John thinks,
Jesus, this is the love of my bloody life.
It makes no sense at all. But he doesn't care.
Sherlock spends a few days in the hospital and is still fairly fragile when he comes home, using John's arm for support as they go up the stairs and into their flat. John situates him on the couch with pillows and a warm blanket. Sherlock's skinny abdomen is still wrapped in bandage, and the stitches won't come out for a while. He's on pain meds, but he's still sore when he moves. He's a little too pale and he hardly ate as much as he should in the hospital because the food was crap. John goes into the kitchen and starts some water boiling, thinks some pasta would make for a suitable meal, and Sherlock just lies still with his head tipped back and his eyes closed, listening.
He goes back into the living room, looks at Sherlock, and suddenly feels weak on his knees with the most overwhelming relief. He has to sit down on the foot rest in front of his armchair, as he shudders each breath and smiles and rests his shaking hand on his knee. Sherlock turns his head toward him and simply opens his eyes, watching him.
For the longest time, they remain that way, looking at each other from across the room. They don't say a word, and John trembles all over for a bit. At first, he thinks he might cry, but thank God, that doesn't happen. Sherlock's expression is unreadable, except for the slightest softness.
And John knows then that they don't have to talk about it. It's understood. He finally understands.
He is absolutely, ineffably in love with Sherlock Holmes.
And he never wants to shag him.
Which is fortunate-because Sherlock feels just the same.