John had always been patient- you needed to be, to be an army officer. You needed that eternal sense of control. He knew, that if he waited long enough, it would be his turn, and he would get what he deserved, because that was how life worked. Waiting was all part of the plan for John, and lord knows, he had a very definite plan set out for his life.
Age 14- kiss a girl. This had worked, because he had been so willing to endure. Gemma Thomas had wavy brown hair that reached her thighs, and she tied bows in it, a different colour every day. She smelt of a mixture of strawberries and powdery makeup, which she wore too much of. Because John had waited, and not pressured her, he had kissed her when he knew it was right, not too soon after she had broken up with her "true love" Brian. When he kissed her, he breathed her in, powdery makeup and all, and told himself not to let her go. They'd broken up a week later, because Gemma met a guy who had a pony tail and smoked. Still, it had been a nice week.
Age 17- lose his virginity. This had been very similar to the situation with Gemma- a female friend, freshly dumped, looking for sympathy. And though he knew he wanted to, he told her to wait, because she was messed up, and he didn't want to be her rebound fling. She got over her boyfriend, and she'd slept with John. It was awkward, occasionally painful and all too quick, but it had been an experience at least. This relationship too had been short lived, but he was a teenager. What did that matter?
Age 18- Attend St Bart's Medical School. He'd worked hard all those years, passed his exams, all to pass and get into his medical degree. He'd been an above average student, one of the best, and he made friends easily. He'd planned what he'd do from then- get a job in a local hospital, move up the hospital and eventually become Chief of Medicine. It all felt so doable, with time, and patience, and enough hard work. So he said no to a couple of parties, spent his time working, and became the best he could be. He was an achiever.
Except, some things could not be accounted for in John's plan. When he was twenty, he was cornered in an alleyway by a mugger. Some drunk, out of his skull, he could smell the alcohol on him a mile off. He had stood there, with a knife, waving it at him madly, slurring out threats.
And he didn't know why he did it, and he knew that he shouldn't have done it. You were supposed to give muggers your cash and let them go, whilst feeling glad you hadn't lost your life. But that was the problem. John did not want to feel helpless- and he knew that if he waited for just long enough, the correct situation would arrive.
John had reached for his wallet slowly, taking out and gradually crouching to place it on the ground. The screech of a police siren blared in a street nearby, and the mugger turned his head to look for it, which was when John found his moment. He grabbed the arm of the mugger which held the knife, gripping his wrist so he could not move to stab John. He had yelled out loudly, but John had twisted his arm behind his back and pinned him against the alley wall, smashing the bridge of his nose against the cold brickwork. The mugger had fallen to the floor, unconscious, and John had phoned the police.
He could not forget the rush of exhilaration he had felt as the mugger had fallen. The danger of the scenario, it consumed him. Excitement flowed through his veins like some delicious high, ripping through his body like a firework or a hurricane.
And though he had tried to return to his studies, he couldn't help but feel that he was missing something. Only when someone coded in front of him, or he saved the victim of a potential homicide, only then did he feel truly alive. He needed the adrenaline to keep him going- once you tried it, there was no going back.
So John had made a new plan. Age 21- join the army, as a medical officer. His dad had been so proud, and his mum had been so scared, but honestly, that didn't bother him at all. Perhaps it was selfish of him, but it hadn't felt so at the time. He'd met so many new people, and he'd trained for so long for his chance at the action.
Because there are things you can't plan for, and that's why John planned. So he'd be ready for the things he couldn't anticipate. He couldn't pretend that the mantra he lived by made sense to anyone but him, but to him it was enough.
So when he was thirty, in a sick kind of way, he was ready to see the planes that fell from the skies in New York. He'd seen the footage on the news, everyone had- they'd seen the way the buildings had burned, people falling from the planes, like comets crashing to earth. They'd hurtled like bombs towards the ground, and upon impact they'd created a war in a country thousands of miles away, and one that John would grow to despise. But he wasn't to know, and he loved the idea of fighting for his country. The adrenaline controlled him like an addiction.
There are no rules in war. So John's rigid set of regulations couldn't help him here, not when he saw the way youth seemed to ebb away in this place, evaporating like the water in sand, boys turned to men turned to ashes in a matter of moments, in the time it took to blink. Blink and a whole world could be changed. And all his good intentions mattered for nothing, what good were they in a place like this? War made him feel like an aberration- it distorted all he thought he knew, making the good things bad and the bad things even worse. Safety was a long forgotten memory, as it should be- he was a monster. Even before he was shot, he felt grotesquely abnormal.
War is, by its very definition, destructive. And it tore holes in his life plan and left him seeking, wandering and oh so alone. At least the army had given him direction, at least events had been beyond his control- now he was horribly in charge of his own destiny. It would be so much easier if someone could choose for him.
And along came Sherlock. That brilliant, fascinating bastard left him reeling, stunned by the mere sound of his voice or that arrogant little smirk. Oh, how that smirk made him feel, humiliated and angry and ever so alive. Sherlock gave John a purpose, to try and make Sherlock human enough to love- and hopefully, then he'd see what had been right in front of him for so long. John's adoration was obvious to everyone except the person who mattered.
They say patience is a virtue, but whoever 'they' are, they're wrong. Perhaps if John had not been so virtuous he would have given up on the man, realised that he would probably never return John's feelings. Maybe he wouldn't have wasted half his life away, chasing after Sherlock and his ridiculous cases, saying no to the rest of the world because he was with Sherlock now.
So in the blink of an eye, he grew old- girlfriends were rare, especially after his hair started greying and he put on some weight. The years passed, and still he tried to make Sherlock realise what they had, before it was too late to share it. Everything he'd ever known began to fade, and his remaining friends slipped away- Mrs Hudson had an aneurism, Lestrade had liver cancer, Mycroft had a stroke. And soon, Sherlock would begin to feel the strain.
On the day Sherlock Holmes died, John had been at his side. John was there at the hospital, every day- because what did he have to go home to? An empty flat, filled with the crippling memories of a man he was too cowardly to admit to loving. However horrific, perhaps it was fitting, the way that Sherlock died. The Alzheimer's had set in swiftly, stealing all Sherlock's essence, that lustre that made him who he was. His mind was his tool, and without that, he was just a man. A man that John loved. But by the end, Sherlock couldn't even recognise who John was.
Perhaps it was fitting, how Sherlock died. John walked with a cane now, as before, and was once again a stranger to Sherlock. Every day, John would greet him, and he would put up with all the abuse, all the rants about how he did not want him here, that he'd never met him before in his life. And every time, John would patiently tell him his name, and try to hold back the tears.
When Sherlock died, his heart too weak to hold for any longer, it was a Thursday. It was summer, and the window to his room was open, allowing the breeze to blow on his face. John was dozing in a chair nearby, when he heard it.
Sherlock hadn't been so clear in years. John, startled, whispered, "Yes?"
Ah yes, he thought. It was someone else.
"I knew a man called John once."
John frowned at this. "What was he like?"
It was only then that he realised that Sherlock was crying. "Yes. Oh, he was so good. So composed. He had dignity."
John swallowed hard. "Really."
"He was pure, and I wasted him. I never told him…"
John stood up. "Told him what?" he urged.
"What he meant."
His mouth was dry. "Oh."
"I suppose he knew. Do you think so?"
"Yes. Yes I think he did."
And it was enough to make it feel worthwhile, for both of them.