Thank goodness for Psych 101 in college, John thinks as he tiptoes warily down the stairs. Now he can blame his obsession with jam on his mother. It really was all her fault. Any time anything bad happened, from a bad test grade in school to Harry and him getting into another knock-down, drag-out fight, his mother would solve the problem with jam. Lost an essay? "Let me get you some toast and jam, dear." Football team creamed in the finals? "Well, no worries, let's just go home and have some jam and tea." Broken heart? "Tea with jam and scones sounds lovely, doesn't it?" The night after his first date, he remembers his mother and him eating straight from the jar, swabbing squishy, goopy fingerfulls of jam in turn as he told her about every clichéd, disastrous moment of that horribly awkward experience. Each and every negative event in his life was smeared with a dab of that smushy, fruity deliciousness. He smuggled some into Afghanistan with him, but even jam wasn't enough to mend the psychological scarring. All condiments, including jam, have their limits. It's become a Pavlovian response by now, he thinks. Some people have soup, others chocolate. John is perfectly happy with his jam, thank you very much.
He reaches the kitchen entryway and peeks his head slowly in. Sherlock is nowhere to be seen. John isn't quite sure why he doesn't want to be seen eating jam at 3 a.m. by his roommate, who considers blowing up their apartment among the less amusing things on his "To-Do-When-Bored" list. Perhaps it has something to do with the openly mocking look Sherlock gets in his eyes whenever he finds John doing something he considers below even John's intelligence level… He shrugs off the thought and opens the refrigerator door. Avoiding the blank, staring eyes of the head (when is that experiment going to be over?), he reaches in and grabs the jar of jam, swinging the door shut. Success! John leans against the counter and closes his eyes in relief as the sweet taste of raspberry jam floods his mouth. He reaches in the jar for a second dab, and a third, and oh, one more wouldn't hurt, would it?
"That's extremely unhygienic, you know."A low, amused voice startles John out of his reverie as Sherlock Holmes materializes from the shadowy depths of the kitchen. John nearly drops the jar.
"Jesus, Sherlock! Don't do that to me!" he gasps, grabbing for the counter with a jam-covered hand.
"You were in the army, Doctor Watson. Shouldn't your training have prepared you for unwanted intruders?" One eyebrow arches, and a slight pull at one corner of his mouth hints at amusement.
"Yes, well, I left my gun upstairs."
"And of course, dropping your jam in order to defend yourself is unthinkable." John gives up on defending his actions, choosing instead to frown deeply at the consulting detective and clutch the jam jar protectively to his chest. Sherlock walks over to John, looking rather like a slightly shabby vulture in his worn dressing gown, and stands there, looking at him. "What happened?"
John blinks. "Sorry?"
"You're eating jam. You only do that when you're feeling frustrated or distressed, and typically you prefer to eat it with or on something, not straight out of the jar, which is, as I mentioned before, unhygienic." He tilts his head, studying him. "You went to see Harry today."
It's a statement, not a question, and Sherlock is right, as always. Well, almost always. John remembers the one time Sherlock got something wrong- "Harry is a girl? How could I have missed that?"- and smiles. "Yeah," he answers, staring blindly at the latest experiment on the table.
"It's just- she's so-" John cuts himself off, lost for words to describe the utter hopelessness of the situation. Finding Harry on the floor in a pool of her own vomit- again- only a month after she'd been released from rehab was not his idea of a fun night. He looks at Sherlock and gives what was supposed to be a chuckle but turns out sounding more like a sob, then covers his face with his hands. "Harry's going to die." He pauses, tastes the words hanging in the air, lets himself consider their meaning for the first time. "Harry's going to die," he repeats. "She's going to kill herself with this- this thing consuming her, and I can't do anything to stop it." John looks over at Sherlock, who leans against the counter, watching him. Observing the hurricane of emotions swirling around in the room, doing nothing to stop them, nothing to calm or soothe them. Merely being the eye of John's storm right now, as he pours out his heart in a twice-exploded kitchen to a consulting detective and a jar of jam. John leans his head back against the cabinets and sighs. "You wouldn't happen to know any facts or statistics that would prove me wrong, would you?"
Sherlock's head is spinning, swirling, all in a very methodical and precise order, but spinning nevertheless, facts and numbers and statistics blurring before his eyes. And not one of them, he knows, will bring any comfort to John. Somehow this one tiny, supposedly insignificant fact stands out among the others, separates itself from the mess, becomes more important to him. (When did he start to care?) The facts and numbers and statistics are all well and fine, good, solid data, of course, but John's emotional disturbance is now more important, somehow. John matters. The thought disturbs him, and he turns away. Heedless of his mental processes, John sighs.
"Yeah, I didn't think so." John looks at his jammy hand, then at Sherlock. The word unhygienic flits across his brain. He decides he doesn't care and swipes at the jam one final time. The jam reaches his mouth unhindered; John is half-surprised that Sherlock doesn't grab his hand and make him wash the jam off in the name of hygiene. He reaches for the lid and twists the jar shut, ready to head back upstairs. "Goodnight", he says, though he knows the gesture is wasted on Sherlock. His mother taught him manners, though, ingrained them into the back of his head, and if he doesn't say something in parting, he'll be up all night with the vague feeling that something is wrong.
He turns to leave, and is surprised at the feel of a hand on his shoulder. He turns his head to look at Sherlock questioningly. The consulting detective has his head down, face shadowy, but there is tension in the line of his body, building up to the hand grasping John's shoulder- an attempt at comfort, John realizes, and smiles. He places the un-jam-covered hand on top of Sherlock's and squeezes gently. "Thanks, Sherlock," he murmurs quietly.
Sherlock releases John, escaping to the living room and dismissing him with a wave of his elegant hand. John heads up the stairs as the violin starts to play, a soft, soothing lullaby that he sits in the stairway and listens to for a bit before turning the doorknob to his room. As the notes mellow him in their lazy dance, spinning from the sitting room downstairs up to him and out into the darkened streets of London, John smiles and thinks, just for a moment, that maybe everything will turn out alright after all.
A/N: Hope y'all enjoyed! Nothing is mine. Except possibly the jam. But that's a different story altogether. Thinking about a possible continuation, where Sherlock uses the same Pavlovian psychology theory to get John to associate jam with good things; what do you think?