A/N: I'm quick!
This is a companion piece to my story, "Love of the Extraordinary." It chronologically follows it, as well as my story, "The Sensual Ace."
Asexual!Sherlock/Straight!John, platonic romance and nonsexual soulmates.
The Might of Man is His Love
He's in love.
He's never been in love before.
He's fairly certain he'll never be again, with anyone else. He doubts someone like John Watson comes along more than once in a person's life.
Beyond that appallingly romantic sentiment, Sherlock doesn't think of his feelings in layman's terms, doesn't feel them the way the greater populace describes the experience in their ridiculous media. Of course, he doesn't. He's Sherlock Holmes, after all. This is a new experience for him, and as such, he finds it appropriate to look for the terms that feel suitable to him. Charting the course of his relationship with John up until this point seems as good a first step as any.
The feeling came over him rather quickly, all things considered. He liked John right away, which is highly peculiar in itself. Sherlock hardly likes anyone. At best, he tolerates people. But John Watson appeared in his life a stranger, seeing all of Sherlock's eccentricities, becoming victim to Sherlock's outrageous antics and demands before the poor man had even properly moved in, and instead of fleeing for his sanity, John stayed. That had immediately forced Sherlock to pause and think: Hmmmm, interesting. John complained but still followed, still showed up, still moved into the flat. Furthermore, when he wasn't complaining, John enthusiastically commented on Sherlock's brilliance without hesitation-which made Sherlock want to purr from the start, he isn't ashamed to say. Genius needs an audience, indeed.
By the time Moriarty brought the two of them to that pool and threatened to kill them both, it hit Sherlock with disturbing force just how much he already cared about John. He saw the explosives on John's body and felt something he had hardly felt before in all his life: a chilling, strangling terror. It took him a moment to identify the sensation, it was so unfamiliar. Sherlock is not a particularly emotional man, or rather, he lives disconnected from his emotions, elbow deep in his brain. He had been mostly out of touch with the emotional trajectory of his relationship with John until that night, and all of sudden, weeks worth of progress dropped onto him all at once and left him totally overwhelmed.
They could've died that night. Near death experiences are by no means new to Sherlock, but throwing John into the picture changed everything. He remembers the aftermath, when they sat side by side in the back of a parked ambulance, those damn orange blankets draped over their shoulders. Bloodied, bruised, and shaken but whole and alive. He was so quiet, the enormity of his feelings for John leaving him grasping for words that he couldn't find, and he wanted so much to take John in both his arms then and just hold on. But he didn't. They were some months away from the physical ease they now have with each other, but at least then, Sherlock knew. He finally had a real understanding of where he stood with John-and frankly, it scared the bloody hell out of him.
Even now, these feelings can leave Sherlock weary. He's so unused to having anything at stake, to caring about anyone else's life other than his own. Now, when he stares out windows with that faraway look, he imagines how it would feel to no longer have John at his side. He thinks of going back to being alone. Will John die, will he leave for some woman or will he grow tired of Sherlock's difficult personality. Could anyone ever really love Sherlock Holmes? Could Sherlock find his balance again if he lost John?
It is these thoughts which help Sherlock to know how serious his feelings have become. The idea of living alone in this world no longer feels comfortable. Let me die before I lose him, he thinks. Please grant me that small mercy.
And he knows John watches him in those moments, when they are at their most separate, and yearns to know what it is Sherlock's thinking. But how could Sherlock ever tell him that? He still cannot fathom his own vulnerability.
The first time he hugs John in their kitchen, the night he's caught snorting coke in the flat, Sherlock feels the bliss of love instead of its pathos. John accepts him. More than that, the man takes him upstairs to his bedroom and sleeps with an arm curled over Sherlock all night. It is the happiest Sherlock's been in years, for a reason other than work. Part of it is having the physical affection he has lived so long without. Part of it is knowing by it that John loves him somehow. And after that night, it doesn't stop. They touch until touching comes like breathing and they go to sleep in the same bed every night pressed together and Sherlock feels as if his soul has been brought up for air when all that time, he hadn't realized it was being held under water.
He worries at first that John will want something that he cannot give, that sex will destroy what they have, whether for the lack of it or John having it somewhere else. Sherlock's been asexual all his life, and he isn't going to change for anyone. He knows John knows, also knows that John is heterosexual anyway, but that doesn't immediately soothe his worries. John not wanting to shag him is a good thing-but Sherlock realizes it also means that John cannot possibly love him the way Sherlock loves John. The thought sends him into one of his black moods for almost 2 weeks, and he only drags himself out of it by taking a case when John starts to threaten forced hospitalization.
"Bleedin' Christ, Sherlock. What's got into you? Really. This has become absurd. I'm not going to sit around and let you carry on this way," John says when he comes home on the twelfth day to find Sherlock lying hopelessly on the sofa still. "Have you even lookedfor a new case? I don't think you have."
Sherlock wants to say that this isn't boredom, this is far worse than boredom. This is heartbreak and he has no experience with it and no way of coping. It isn't his fault that he was born the way he is. He didn't ask for any of this: the sociopathy and the asexuality and the genius and consequences resulting from it. He is at once torn between thinking, I swear I would be whatever you want me to be if I could and Why can't you love me anyway? He stares at John miserably, and John stares back, exasperated beyond words.
"All right. All right. You're going to have some tea and eat something and then you're going to find yourself some bloody work. You're not staying in this flat tomorrow. I don't care if I have to drag you to the clinic with me, I'll do it."
He goes into the kitchen to boil some water and Sherlock manages to moan out,
"John, can't you just sod off and mind your business? I can do what I please."
And John comes back into the living room to respond.
"No, you can't, Sherlock. You can't do this. You're wasting away on the fucking sofa and as far as I know, you don't even have a good reason for it."
Oh, Sherlock thinks. I have a fairly good reason.
Instead, he rolls onto his side, turns his back on John, a tear escaping out of one eye. What he doesn't expect is John to storm across the room and sit on the sofa next to him, pulling Sherlock by the shoulder.
"Tell me what's wrong," John says. But Sherlock can't. He shakes his head, and John doesn't push. He pulls Sherlock up into a sitting position and hugs him, one hand cradling Sherlock's curls, holds him there even once the teapot whines, and Sherlock sheds very discreet tears into John's shoulder. John rubs his back after a bit and tells him it's going to be all right, they'll find him a case and he'll feel better again.
John's right. Sherlock gets up the next day, showers, dresses, calls Lestrade, walks out into London and is once again The Invincible Sherlock Holmes.
But deep down, he's still lying on that sofa, grieving for a loss that hasn't actually come. Or maybe, for something that can never be.
One day, somebody shoots Sherlock in broad daylight at a busy intersection, as he's pursuing the suspect of his latest case. It takes him utterly by surprise. He lies there in the wet street, bleeding, dazed, and he thinks, Well, this is it. Someone's finally done it. And secretly, he's glad... because dying here means he will know, in the last moments of his existence, what it feels like to hope that the love of his life returns his feelings. He doesn't need proof anymore. Hope is enough. Hope will send him peacefully into oblivion. He lies there, staring into the vast gray sky, hand in his own hot blood, and he thinks: all he ever had was brilliance. But brilliance doesn't make a man lovable.
Sherlock doesn't die that day. The ambulance comes and the police come and John comes too. Sherlock didn't expect him, for some reason, but when John appears beside him, face frantic, his hand slipping into Sherlock's, it fills his whole body with warmth. Never mind the blood loss and the cold, blustery London day. They ride in the ambulance all the way to the hospital, John holding Sherlock's hand, telling him he's going to be all right, and Sherlock finally sees it. He sees it in John's eyes-recognizes his own feelings there. And he doesn't say anything at all, just stares up at John in silent relief.
So the good doctor loves him too. In precisely the same way.
Sherlock Holmes is, for once, unspeakably grateful he couldn't see this coming.
He finds his appetite picks up a bit. He begins to eat more: first because John worries but eventually because he does experience more hunger.
He throws away the last of his cocaine and discovers that quitting now is even easier than the last time he did it. After a week or two of John cuddling him every day, Sherlock can regard the drug as truly useless-which is amongst one of the many feelings he never thought he'd feel.
He sleeps more, which is at first annoying because it cuts into his work time, but on second thought, it does give him extra mental clarity when he's awake.
The black moods come less frequently, he notices. Especially after the shooting, when he and John come to some kind of silent understanding about what they have with each other.
He has slightly more patience with other people's stupidity. John doesn't seem to notice, the change is so slight, but Sherlock certainly does. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, he can't be sure. Either way, it's John's fault.
Sherlock notices that John's dates become less frequent and seem to happen with sex as John's primary goal. The type of woman John meets now-because of course, when Sherlock's got nothing better to do, he stalks them all-also happens to change. Younger than before, quite often, but if nearer to John's age, then the kind of woman Sherlock can only describe as noncommittal and loose. Certainly two of them are married, unbeknownst to John, and looking only for the excitement of a quick affair.
He teases John about the younger girls but otherwise keeps his observations to himself.
It occurs to Sherlock in the middle of one of his flows-maybe "mental rampage" is more accurate-that he's thinking better than he was several months ago. The connections are coming faster, easier, clearer. He didn't know that was even possible. (Humility is obviously not his strong suit.)
He's even more in love with John Watson for that than other people can comprehend.
Slowly, without much prodding from John, Sherlock becomes a more considerate flatmate. He's by no means normal, of course. He isn't going to stop doing experiments or playing the violin or putting his own interests before other people's definition of reason. But he starts to think of ways in which he can make the flat a little bit more comfortable for John. He buys a mini-fridge in which to keep his various oddities, so that they can leave the proper one in the kitchen for food. He doesn't play the violin when John's asleep. He tries to be slightly more organized with his work-related possessions and documents. He even works out a deal with Molly where he can keep his gruesome or potentially dangerous specimens at the lab instead of at home. He cooks sometimes, so that they don't have to eat out or so that John doesn't have to cook. Sherlock's actually quite a good cook, as it turns out, and he's encouraged by the fact that John compliments him.
One time, over a Sherlock dinner, John confesses he's something of a pianist.
Two mornings later, he wakes to find an upright in the corner of their living room.
John plays whenever Sherlock's bored.
One night, at a crime scene, Anderson calls Sherlock "the freak" again and John punches him in the face.
Sherlock laughs-outright laughs with glee, not really because of Anderson getting punched but because oh, John loves him so.
Lestrade doesn't even have John arrested for hitting a police officer. He actually smiles a bit, when only Sherlock can see.
Sherlock's just solved a case, they had a few bottles of wine with dinner to celebrate, and on a whim, he tunes the radio to his favorite classical station. He stands there, eyes shut briefly, listening as John watches him from where he sits on the sofa. Sherlock, full of boldness when drunk, says to him,
"Will you dance with me?"
John just smiles, brain hazy and body warm, and gets to his feet. Sherlock takes John's left hand in his right and circles his other arm around John's waist, while John rests his free hand on Sherlock's shoulder. They lean in close together for balance, Sherlock touching his forehead to John's, and together they sway. The music is slow.
"How Victorian of us," John mumbles.
Sherlock's smiling like it's the only thing he has to do.
They dance for several minutes, until the piece comes to an end.
Above all, John never asks Sherlock to be anyone other than Sherlock.
Sometimes Sherlock looks at couples and wonders, Do they have what I have?
They're sitting on the sofa in the living room, watching evening telly. Sherlock has his head on John's shoulder and his hand in John's hand, and they're quiet for a long time. It is one of those moments when Sherlock feels so utterly at peace, it leaves him boneless, mind at rest. He closes his eyes and doesn't think about the words before he says them.
"I love you," he whispers.
John says nothing. Doesn't even move for a few minutes. Sherlock almost wonders if he heard. But then, John turns his head a little and presses a kiss into Sherlock's curls, holding it there longer than he must. He squeezes Sherlock's hand, and Sherlock could say more, much more. Do you know how happy you've made me? I'm happy, John. Thank you. I don't know what you see in me to love, but... thank you. He refrains, however. Wiser to keep the brunt of his excessive emotions to himself.
He likes being happy. He won't put that to words either.
Moriarty was both right and wrong. Sherlock does have a heart. But it cannot be burned out of him.