Summary: John attempts to explain to Sherlock the finer points of acceptable versus unacceptable social interaction amongst friends, particularly amongst male friends. Sherlock resists and instead poses a challenge the doctor cannot refuse.
"Sherlock, we need to talk." John was trying to keep the impatience out of his voice. Really, he was trying. He stood in front of his friend, left foot tapping the ground faster and faster as he waited for the irritatingly delayed response to his request.
Long legs stretched across the couch, slim fingers plucking at the rather pesky, in John's opinion, violin. Finally a bored voice remembered to respond.
"Sherlock!" John took a moment to ruffle – or rather yank at – his own hair. Then he counted to three. Then to six. "We are going to have a conversation. You and I. And you are going to focus. Understood?"
Sherlock only smirked, no doubt finding his flatmate's rattled state mildly entertaining. He lifted his legs in an invitation for John to sit down. And stretched them back out at first chance, now across John's lap.
"Wait, hang on -" John spluttered, his attempt at standing back up foiled by those limbs forcefully pressing down against him, keeping in place. "For God's sake! This is precisely the type of behavior we need to discuss."
Twang, went the violin.
"It's called space," John soldiered on, albeit to something akin to a brick wall. "Personal space. Personal – put that blasted thing down for one minute!"
Wide-eyed, Sherlock obliged. He set the instrument down on the coffee table beside him, folded his arms in front of him, and stared straight at John.
After a moment John had to look away. Those eyes were too... blue.
"You seem rattled," the detective calmly observed.
"Really?" Count to three, John. "Pray tell – by what means have you... deduced... that?" Count again.
"Why not spit it out, John," Sherlock recommended. "I hardly think theatrics are your strong suit."
"Why are you making this so difficult-"
"-I'm not, I'm being perfectly amicable-"
"-I'm trying to talk to you about personal space, Sherlock," John rambled out while he could still get a word in. "We need boundaries. I need boundaries. And some of your quirks, as of late, have been overstepping my boundaries-"
Sherlock looked toward the ceiling and let out an exaggerated sigh by way of interruption.
"Are you, in a round-about way, attempting to complain about something I've done?" Sherlock clicked his tongue. "Get to the point, please. I'm a busy man."
Again those blue eyes bore down on him. John cleared his throat.
"That time you slept in my bed."
"What of it?" Sherlock demanded.
"I had to sleep on the couch! People don't just sleep in other people's beds."
"Mine was not available that night – it was still partially on fire from my latest experiment, I thought I had made that clear. You slept on the couch of your own volition, it seemed."
"But, Sherlock," John persisted, though he wondered if in the end his efforts to make his friend understand the intricacies of acceptable social behavior would be in vain. "Two men do not normally sleep in the same bed together."
Sherlock huffed. "I hardly care where other men do or do not sleep, John, surely that's not news to you."
"Yes but – it made me uncomfortable, hence the couch."
"Why did it make you uncomfortable?" Sherlock demanded innocently, even with a tinge of hurt in his voice.
John blinked. "Well, I don't mean – it's just that – that sort of thing is reserved for people who, you know, like each other."
"But I like you."
Aww. John nearly smiled at the blunt sentiment. And then he frowned. This was not going well.
"Let's move on," he decided. "What about that time you held my hand at the movie theatre?"
"What of it?"
"Holding hands is an intimate thing, Sherlock. Too intimate for two friends to be doing. And I know you couldn't have possibly had an experiment-gone-wrong excuse for that."
"John," Sherlock began in a tone as if he were speaking to a child, "by what means have you concluded that it is 'too intimate' for friends to hold hands?"
"Um." Oddly John felt his face drain of color, then flushed. "Well, other people..."
"You disappoint me, doctor," Sherlock said. "I had hoped you'd rise above taking advice on right and wrong from awful literature, insufferable movies, pointless magazines, and those gangly apes that have regrettably populated this otherwise vaguely tolerable planet. They go around with their funny little heads, living their silly little lives, and you value their opinions on human interaction over mine?" He paused to shake his head before adding, "Count your lucky stars I put up with you, John."
"Okay," John conceded after a moment. "Perfectly valid points. But does it not at all matter that I, as an individual, honestly feel uncomfortable at certain levels of proximity with another man?"
"I know for a fact that that's not true," Sherlock rebutted.
"Really. Enlighten me."
"My legs are resting on your lap," he observed.
"Yes, that's brilliant." John pursed his lips in annoyance. "Allow me to point to the fact that you placed them there of your own accord, without my permission."
"And your hands are resting on top of them, rather comfortably I might add, I assume of their own accord also." Sherlock smirked. "In fact the fingers of your right hand are positively wrapped around my ankle."
John looked down and to his horror realized the man was right. He stiffly removed his hands and crossed his arms high at his chest, trying to take his mind off the notion that perhaps his cheeks might turn a permanent red.
Sherlock giggled. John bristled.
"Look," Sherlock suddenly appealed, swinging his legs off the couch and rearranging himself in a kneeling position on the floor in front of John. "I'm beginning to understand the origin of your sub-par intellectual abilities," he continued, moving his hands to punctuate his words. "You're so busy attempting to conform yourself into some small box that the Great Ape has enforced upon you, that there's no room in that brain for anything halfway useful. Am I right?"
John sighed. He looked almost like a puppy, there on the floor. An irritatingly scintillating puppy.
"Sherlock, a lesser man would have taken offense to what you've just said to me."
"Which is why I felt perfectly free to say it to you."
"And your verbal filter is pristine in all other situations, right," John mumbled sarcastically. "This conversation is getting us nowhere," he added, slumping forward in defeat and painfully colliding his forehead with the other man's. "Ow."
"You're upset because this isn't progressing how you'd expected," Sherlock stated.
"No, I -what the-"
Sherlock abruptly rose to his feet and towered over John to such an extreme that the smaller man briefly considered crawling into a hole and weeping.
"I have a proposition," Sherlock declared.
"Do it my way, for one week." His voice was soft, now.
"I have been tolerating 'your way'," John pointed out.
"I'm not interested in your 'tolerance.' I mean really commit, to my way of expression, for one week."
John's neck was beginning to cramp, staring up at the other man. He rose to his feet.
"And then?" he demanded.
"And then if you're still set in your dire ways, then I will concede to your wishes." Sherlock held out his hand. "Deal?"
The doctor sighed. If he played along for one week, then maybe his friend would stick to his promise of leaving him alone afterward.
"Deal." John reached and shook the outstretched hand.
Surely it couldn't be that difficult to resist Sherlock for one little week.
A/N: Let me know if you're interested in more, and I might write 7 additional chapters (one chapter per "day" in Sherlock and John's world). I haven't written a multi-chapter fic in ages, could be fun. :)