Title: Bagged & Tagged
Spoilers: Passing mention of The Great Game, none for series two.
Word count: ~3,340
Summary: A very inebriated John devises a clever means of proposing marriage to Sherlock. Unfortunately he's forgotten all about it by the next morning.
AN: See bottom for prompt. A bit crack but played straight.
Disclaimer: I am neither Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Steven Moffat, or Mark Gatiss. No copyright infringement intended.
In the laboratory of St. Bart's Hospital, John met the person he was going to spend his life with. He didn't know that then, didn't know that man; thought him odd-looking and just all-around odd, but he decided to give him a chance. Twenty-four hours and an awkward dinner conversation later, John knew that Sherlock Holmes was the one person of the three continents John knew so well that he would never leave. He supposed when he abandoned his cane he abandoned his heart as well, and Sherlock picked it up like so much trace evidence and whisked it away. It sat in a corner at Baker St., abandoned and dusty as hearts seemed to be where Sherlock was concerned. He had no use for human love when he had love of the chase. He had no use for humans at all except for where they aided in his game of life, his pursuit of knowledge at all costs.
John never intended to propose. Rather, he never intended for Sherlock to know he intended to propose, because he never intended to actually do it. It was a bit backwards, really. Put simply, one evening at the pub, marriage proposals came up. Don't ask him how, he wasn't nearly sober enough for memory to take root; only the idea remained. In any case, he found himself thinking, as he often did, of his flatmate, of the breathing Tin Man, who claimed to live without a heart. He wondered if Sherlock would know if he was loved, whether he would feel it when someone doted on him with absolute devotion. He'd thought it sad that Sherlock could walk the face of the Earth and never care that he was the sun of someone's personal solar system, that he was the center of their everything and they wouldn't have it any other way.
Like me, he'd thought, because Sherlock had become first on his list of priorities the day they met without that ever changing. In a way, Sherlock was his; his to care for and his to protect and entertain, his to tether to safe pursuits and away from things that would damn him. Sherlock was his and he would never know. He didn't think he could bear it. So, apparently, he'd stumbled home and put someone's idea of a good plan into action, because it was absolutely crucial that Sherlock know the truth.
By the next morning, he'd forgotten all about it.
John woke up on time with the mother of all hangovers. There was a couple of paracetamol and a glass of water on the nightstand, which he may or may not have set out for himself. Tequila is a hell of a drink. He only remembered that because of the taste wrapped about his uvula; it'd be half a bottle of mouth wash in fading, he was sure of it.
He took the aspirin and downed the water slowly, taking his time on getting to the bathroom. The world was still spinning a bit madly underfoot; he didn't see a need to test his challenged balance. He reached the door of his bedroom and stepped outside. There was a post-it note affixed just below eye-level on the banister of the stairs in front of the door. It read, yes. Small letters written in a familiar hand, but it felt—felt; Sherlock would be appalled—timid for a man who was no such thing. John frowned and stretched his senses to see if he could feel his flatmate in the area. 221b was eerily quiet for the hour; Sherlock should have been up for hours yet.
John abandoned his glass on the railing, treading carefully down the stairs and skipping the creaky step on the way down. On landing, he passed Sherlock's bedroom, where it was all quiet as well, another post-it waiting. Yes? it questioned, mimicking John's own thoughts perfectly. He passed into the sitting room to find it equally abandoned. Sherlock's coat was missing from where it usually laid. John took some comfort from that, assuming that Lestrade must have called Sherlock in. His relief only lasted until he saw a third neon post-it centered on the skull's frontal bone. Yes, it said without any hesitation in the script. His heart skipped a beat; he couldn't say why.
The irregular pattern continued with his sighting one—YES—on his chair and another—Oh, god, yes—on Sherlock's designated sofa. He found the refrigerator boasted another, steadier, yes. John traced the clear lettering thoughtfully, wondering what question it was that Sherlock had taken to answering so persistently. He hoped that yes wasn't a response they would both end up regretting. John knew he'd be at the man's side regardless; he was wired for devotion and Sherlock was the one to earn it. John never could leave a man behind.
Sherlock didn't return during breakfast and John left for work without seeing him, absently gathering the notes for later perusal on his way out the door. Evidence was evidence and John could use all the help he could get in their constant battle of wits. Or, as Sherlock might say, the one-sided slaughter of John's underdeveloped intellect.
Whatever his theories about Sherlock's latest idiosyncrasy, he forgot them as soon as he stepped into the clinic. The waiting room boasted a full complement of patients needing to be seen and there wasn't a moment to waste. His lost memories of the night before eluded him, yet every time his fingers brushed those post-its in his pocket, he had to wonder just where the madman in his life would lead him next.
The day seemed to have to lingered on for eons. He stumbled home off the bus with sleep in his eye though his head hadn't touched a pillow since well over a dozen hours before. He had been vomited on and sneezed on by toddlers, he'd caught a fainting nurse who hadn't known she was pregnant and a teenage girl who had, and he'd stubbed his bloody toe on the exam table no less than half a dozen times. He was limping and exhausted the gathering of cars outside Baker Street did not fill him with confidence that his night would be quieter. Nevertheless, he dug down deep and bounded upstairs to the flat. It appeared to be time for another 'routine drug bust.'
"Whatever you took, Sherlock, give it back," he opened with in lieu of a greeting. The sooner the Yard was out of his sitting room, the sooner he could watch crap telly and drink tea in relative peace.
"John!" Sherlock turned from where he was definitely obstructing Donovan and Lestrade from something to watch John enter. For once, he actually seemed surprised. "You're here."
John raised an eyebrow dubiously. Sherlock wasn't one to state the obvious, even in the name of enlightening the chronically unenlightened. "Clearly. What's going on, Lestrade? What's all this about?"
"One of my men spotted Sherlock placing an evidence bag into his coat. He refused to relinquish the item, so we had no choice but come and retrieve it ourselves."
John sighed. He really couldn't do much else. "All right, then. Just try not to destroy anything of mine this time. It took me forever to find another Union Jack pillow after Donovan took a knife to the last one. It has a zipper, you know!" Donovan had the grace to look apologetic. John had already forgiven her, but he wouldn't be forgetting.
"I can assure you there's nothing to find."
"So you deny you had an item marked as evidence in your possession?"
"I have had evidence in my possession. I don't now."
"Then, you shouldn't object to this search."
"Why shouldn't I object to a bunch of unobservant brutes turning my flat upside down, in addition to upsetting the highly-sensitive experiments I happen to be conducting? They'll be ruined." Sherlock distress was evident enough John felt he had to intervene.
"All right, all right. How about we compromise? Lestrade, if your people don't find what they're looking for in the next half hour you get them out of here. Sherlock, I'll go into the kitchen and keep an eye on things. Is that all right?" The consulting detective and the detective inspector looked at one another speculatively before nodding in agreement.
"Very well," Sherlock conceded. "But you aren't to touch anything either. You're just as likely to corrupt the experiments." John pretended not to hear the insult. It wasn't as though he was a doctor or anyone so well trained as that.
"Scout's honor," John tossed over his shoulder before heading into the kitchen to supervise. Sherlock's remark that he had never been a scout went completely ignored.
He growled immediately at the mess they'd made of an already terrible setup. The chemistry set had been disturbed, the flour rifled through, and the kettle overturned. They'd. Overturned. The Kettle. John tried and failed not to be pissed about that. So much for a spot of tea. He'd even been planning to share with the Yarders.
"Be careful with that," he snapped at the probie with the sugar canister. He was more than half certain there was a bovine pancreas pickling in there. He'd really rather not smell dill cow pancreas for the rest of the night. The probie set down the container carefully and backed away. Good. He was feeling decidedly less charitable toward his esteemed colleagues this evening.
Figuring that he could at least get a head start on sorting out dinner, John opened the fridge to see what they had that wasn't either human-derived or decomposing. He was not terribly surprised to find absolutely nothing. No, there was milk, spoilt milk, but milk. John nudged that aside to find a couple of Chinese takeout boxes. They hadn't had Chinese for at least a week and a half. He was almost positive the Moo Shoo Pork was setting up a rebellion and preparing to storm the human small intestine on the shelf above. "No human remains above the food, Sherlock. We've talked about this."
As though listening for John's grumbling, Sherlock remarked, "It's for science, John."
"Science, my arse," he didn't bother replying, delicately avoiding the drip of the intestines and the stained boxes to get at whatever else there may have been. Oddly enough—or not so oddly, all things considered—John caught sight of a slip of clear plastic. It might have been a storage bag, the Ziploc kind, if not for Sherlock using them all to prove a point about the clean and efficient transportation of bleeding appendages. John still believed the less he asked about that the better. Besides, it had been weeks since he'd used the bags even before Sherlock's experiment. Tupperware was far more reliable at keeping out things that needed keeping out. So, naturally, John tugged at the ribbed edge. Though wedged quite tightly behind a vat of—don't ask, don't ask, don't ask—it eventually came free.
It was an evidence bag. John was going to drown the man. Of course, that would have to wait until after Scotland Yard had vacated the premises. There was no sense in them both getting arrested for obstruction of justice and possession of stolen property. And, in any case, if he was going to get arrested for it, John decided he may as well know what Sherlock had taken. Maybe he could even understand why for a change. He ignored that Sherlockian voice inside him chiming in, Not likely.
Wary of anyone who may have been watching, John picked up the clear evidence bag Sherlock had been defending so vehemently. Oh. He frowned even as he paled. His dog tags? He didn't understand. It was only upon turning it over that the notes from this morning and his activities the night before began to make an awful kind of sense.
Subject: Marriage Proposal
Description of Evidence: Capt. (Dr.) John Watson's RAMC dog tags.
Offense type: Loyalty and companionship, for as long as we both shall live.
Location: 221b Baker Street, London
Remarks: You can't dissect my heart until I die, but it's yours already. Hope these will tide you over in the meantime.
CHAIN OF CUSTODY
From: John Watson
To: Sherlock Holmes
Date: 31 January 2011
The rest of the chart for recording custody had been crossed out. There would be no others. It was written in John's distinctive, if nearly incomprehensible, handwriting. He'd been a bit too drunk and entirely too honest the night before. Now, Sherlock knew. John's heart slammed into high gear, not unlike it had under enemy fire, but this wasn't fun. He wasn't thrilled. He was just short of mortified. Sherlock knew things John could hardly admit to himself lucid. His stomach pitched to and fro as though the hours since morning hadn't passed at all. John wished. This was a day that could only have been saved by refusing to get out of bed.
He gave a shudder. Sherlock knew. John looked back slowly to where Sherlock was braving a dressing down by Lestrade with ill grace. His lips were pursed and his arms were crossed, his toes tapping the floor as though in wait for the end of this tedium. John should know. But it was his eyes that gave him away completely. They never strayed from John for more than a second and he'd bet they hadn't since he located the bag. Of course Sherlock would know if he found it. It wasn't the lecture he was bothered by, it was John. John was baffled.
Sherlock Holmes didn't do fear. Fear was for idiots who failed to recognize their own limitations, something he'd told John on more than one occasion. Sherlock knew how far he could push before he was forced to concede and so he ceased his efforts well before that point. Not today, though. Today, Sherlock seemed to be pushing his own limits—and he was terrified.
Suddenly, John no longer was.
"Sherlock, what have I told you about spoilt milk?" Sherlock started, then scowled in unwelcome confusion. John brought out the bag just enough for his friend to see and the confusion lessened, only to be replaced by apprehension instead. "And I think I've found those 'fingers' you misplaced." That part was only half-diversion. John nudged them behind the disembodied head.
Sherlock visibly braced himself as he crossed into the kitchen, passing many an annoyed copper on the way. He leaned slightly toward John to whisper, "I'm not certain those were meant for me."
So, we're going for direct, then. John could do that, too. He pulled the milk forward as though showing Sherlock the expiration date printed on top. "Well, they do have your name on them."
"Bombs have had my name on them," he murmured ominously. Neither of them had to mention the perilous elephant in the room; he was with them every day.
"Something tells me this will hurt less."
Sherlock looked away. "I've yet to be convinced of that."
"I wasn't lying when I wrote this."
"Perhaps not, but you were intoxicated."
John was in the unenviable position of defending his drunkest of antics, and calling it sincere. No more tequila. "In vino veritas."
Sherlock snorted. "Hardly."
John reached into his pocket to find the notes he'd carried with him all day. "Then, why did you say 'yes' six times?" He affixed them to the bag in a neat stack, which was damning in its own way.
Sherlock looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Because I couldn't think of a convincing enough reason to refuse, despite considerable effort." John wondered how many notebooks he'd filled with pros and cons, how many people he'd surveyed before it occurred to him to ask if he himself felt the same way at all. He was just glad that none of the answers had been to never come back.
"Then, don't refuse." John should have been scared at this moment. This was a leap, a great drunken leap and he was taking it stone cold sober. He ought to have been scared. But his wires had been crossed at birth and his hand was still. If he had to, he would follow this man across the face of the earth. He'd already followed him to hell, what was a couple of blistered feet?
"You said I could dissect your heart."
"I did." He sent the man a shrewd look, reminding him of the in death caveat.
Sherlock smirked, subtly taking on more of his usual demeanor. "And, I suppose, the tags were a symbol of that promise." It wasn't a question.
"And of your promise not to leave?" John didn't miss the subtle up-tilt at the end, the doubt, the inquiry.
"I won't leave unless you ask me to."
"And loyalty." John wasn't sure what to say, but Sherlock seemed to expect that. As usual. "I'll only have one blogger, so I expect you to only have one consulting detective." As though John would be fool enough to cheat on the brother of the British Government. He was an adrenaline junkie, not actively suicidal. And he was devoted, couldn't forget that.
"You are the only one in the world."
Sherlock pressed his hands together; it was what prayer wished it looked like. "Shall I put them on, then?" Contrary to his own solid grasp, his flatmate's fingers trembled just so. He covered the taller man's hand with his own, heedless of what the ever-gossiping officers had to say. They were about to make a number of betting men very rich.
Despite being under the influence, John had been thorough. The sealing tape came away quietly though it took effort. He poured the tags into his hand before tucking the evidence bag back where he'd found it.
"It's not a ring," he remarked a touch contritely. His soused self hadn't paid that part any mind. Neither did Sherlock.
"Irrelevant." He ducked down to allow John to pull the ball-chain over his head and around his neck. The two glimmering circles of steel tapped strangely loud against the buttons of Sherlock's shirt. He captured them in his hand and began to read them softly to himself, "Watson, JH. RAMC." He rubbed the tags between his fingers like a talisman. "They're really yours, then."
"And you really want this? With me?" The fear Sherlock had shown before was nothing compared to the anxiety on his face now. John wanted to brush it away with his thumbs.
"When I said, 'you're the only one in the world,' that's what I meant."
"I'm not like other people, John. I'm never going to be like them."
"Sherlock, if I wanted boring, I could have married boring." He tugged ever so gently at the ball-chain which had followed him to the desert and back again. "I don't want to marry boring." He let go. "But I guess the question is whether you mind marrying an idiot."
"Most idiots, yes. But not you. You are less of an idiot than most people I've met." John was a bit touched by that, actually. He was well gone on this one, clearly. "Few people are capable of arranging a moderately elaborate marriage proposal while under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol. I'm impressed. I think I could spend years watching you be an idiot."
"Do you want to?" It was funny that John felt most uncertain once the answer was already known.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Don't be tedious, John. I've already said yes."
A beat passed. One impatient brow rose. "I believe you're supposed to kiss me now."
"Oh, am I?"
Sherlock glared. John caught him by his newly-minted engagement tags and pulled his head down for a kiss. Sherlock's lips went silent but not still, and the Yarders said not a word that John could hear. 221b Baker Street was truly quiet for the first time in months and nobody thought it was boring at all.
AN: Written for the BBC Sherlock kink meme prompt asking for John to propose with his dog tags.