Author's Note: Okay, so this is the 'pre-Goodnight (My John)' fic. I wrote it to help describe what was going on between the boys before that night, so that you might have insight to why they didn't really question their moment together. If you haven't already read it, once you finish, go check out Goodnight (My John)! Thanks so much for reading!
Disclaimer: I do not own the Sherlock franchise, nor do I wish to infringe on any copyright.
Inspiration song: Fidelity by Regina Spektor
A Change Indeed
Sherlock Holmes had taken the notion at a very young age that he would never, ever fall in love. Love was a sticky emotion, at best. It caused people to go against logic, make rash and unreasonable decisions, for heavens sake people died for it. Love infected everything, it clouded all of one's senses, and in Sherlock's honest opinion, turned its victims into complete ninnies. Sherlock wanted absolutely nothing to do with the institution. He was married to his work, affairs with his cases, dates with experiments; his brain was his lover. Emotional attachment was so very boring, so very predictable. When you loved someone, that means only one of two things. Number one, they love you back, and then you're forever tied to them and you start celebrating anniversaries and birthdays and you buy a home and have children and you settle down. Settle. What a detestable word-one that Sherlock hated-to define your life with another. Then there is option number two: they do not love you back. Then you are saddled with not only a love that burden's your being, but also a sadness and an anger that weighs you down. Regret and self-doubt accompanying a longing, making everything seem dull compared to that one person. So many peoples' lives are ruined over what was, essentially, a chemical reaction of the brain. This was Sherlock's opinion, and there was nothing that you could tell him to make him believe otherwise.
Then he met one ex-Army doctor by the name of John H. Watson.
John Watson, to the untrained eye, is the epitome of steady. From the wool and worn jumpers he so loves, to the copious amounts of tea that he consumes, to his clean-cut hair and well shaven face, John Watson, was average. What most people do not know about Dr. Watson, is that he is anything but average. John, always the good doctor at heart, had known from the time he was in primary that he would be a doctor someday. That he would heal people, save people. He'd fix those bumps and bruises, cure diseases, make life possible. When the opportunity to enlist for the Army came about, John jumped on it-as he was an adventurer at heart-and joined the ranks of field medics. John doesn't like to talk about Afghanistan, most people think it's about how he doesn't want to remember how he got shot, how he almost died, the death and the anguish that he saw. John just lets them assume that, when the problem really is that he misses it. He misses the adrenaline, the quick-pace, the live-or-die attitude; he missed the brotherhood, the feeling of saving a man's life on the battlefield. He misses the risk, the desert, the open air, the heat, the blazing sun, the sweat. He'd never tell you that, you'd probably look at him like he's just grown another head. John Watson is an attractive man. While he is short in stature, his smile and good-natured laugh always catches someone's eye. John hadn't ever really pegged down what his taste was for relationships, he sometimes wondered if it was okay to bat for both teams, but he quickly would brush that thought off chalking it up to too much time around too much testosterone. As far as love goes, though, the ladies sure seemed to love Dr. Watson. He hadn't found that love yet. The desert sand was his love, the feel of his gun in his hand, the sun beating down on his neck, a strong cup of tea, and a good science fiction book. That's what John loved.
John didn't leave Afghanistan, not really. His body came back, but his soul, his passion, his will, that stayed behind on the battle field. His mind was split half and half between flashbacks of war and his present state-limping with a cane and a twinge in his shoulder. Bloody bullet, he'll say, but he thinks about he'd never felt more alive in that moment when the white-hot pain zinged through his back, and he'd never told anyone that. Life back in London, while John still adored it, there was a certain bleakness to everything.
Meeting Sherlock Holmes, the world's only consulting detective, John felt a splash of cold water to his face. It was like he woke up. Running through the streets of London, uninhibited by that damn psychosomatic limp, hands steady for the first time in months, heart pumping, lungs working, brain flying, John was on an adrenaline high he'd never thought he'd feel again. When John first saw Sherlock, his thick mop of curls, sharp cheekbones, and long limbs, he felt a spark of something, he attributed it to excitement and slight hesitation of such a strange new flatmate at the time, and that only grew. Sherlock insisted that he was married to his work, that it wasn't really his area. John didn't know what had compelled him to ask, or where his strange insistence on it all being fine came from, but he just pushed it to the back of his mind.
Sherlock felt betrayed the first time that he met John Watson. Betrayed by his body. He saw that man walk in the room, and he didn't even bother to run the full minute dissecting every single detail about him and deducing with the most impressive skill he could. He'd tried to impress the doctor, tried to distract himself from the way his heart picked up a little, his stomach flipping, and the hitch in his breath. It had been a long time since Sherlock had ever given himself over to any kind of emotional response, but seeing the way the good doctor stood, the steadiness and seriousness of his shoulders, the focused and sharp gaze that he held. He seemed so open, so...Sherlock still doesn't have a word for it, but he liked it. It wasn't until after the two had spent an evening chasing a murderer that Sherlock noticed something was wrong. At first he had thought that he was sick, the way he was shaking, how his stomach was in knots, and at the sight of John's laughter, from the moment he said, "Oh God, yes," Sherlock felt a stirring. In the beginning, Sherlock wholeheartedly rejected these stirrings-because they were most certainly not feelings, the nasty beasts.
John can't tell you when it happened, but he can tell you when he noticed it. When he looked through the windows, shouting Sherlock's name, and saw him there, with the killer, holding a bottle of poison. He felt a panic rise up in his chest and squeeze tight, his heart felt like it had stopped. He didn't think about it, really, pulling his gun out, and aiming, right and true. He pulled the trigger, and just like that, Sherlock was safe. John stared across the way between the buildings at the detective and suddenly, he knew. He knew that this man, this crazy, odd, etherial man, was special. John had been bewitched, by those cheekbones, and that brain, and he was completely dumbfounded. After that conversation in Angelo's, John thought it would be better to just forget these feelings, to keep them far away, locked up and out of mind. Sherlock was married to his work, even so, it was John, how could he ever have any sort of feeling for a boring ex-Army doctor. For a great long while, John fought the idea that he had feelings for his flatmate, his male flatmate. He wasn't gay, he couldn't be. Sure, he'd find a bloke here or there mildly attractive, and yeah, he experimented a little in secondary, but after Harry came out, he thought that it would be best not to rock the boat again. After the incident in the Pool, John knew it for sure. When he knew that he would be willing to let that Semtex vest blow himself and Moriarty to bits, if it saved Sherlock, he would do it, he knew. After a long night of tossing, turning, five cups of tea, a stubbed toe, and a lot of swearing, he let himself admit it. He loved this man. He loved how brilliant Sherlock was, how good he could be, if he really tried. How he never walked around furniture, but over it, and how he acted as if he expected John to come along, like they were a team. John hadn't ever laughed so much, but there he was giggling at crime scenes with this brilliant man.
Though, as to not disturb his close friendship with the detective, the good doctor continually denied his being a couple with Sherlock, he denied his attraction to men at all. Irene Adler saw right through that, though. It's the only moment John didn't disagree, letting himself have a moment of truth with The Woman. Admittedly, he had been insanely jealous of Adler. He saw how she captivated Sherlock, and he tried to rein in the anger that he felt towards her, the twist of his stomach, the aching wish that Sherlock would look at him like that. After the Hounds of Baskerville case, Sherlock telling him that he only had one friend, John noticed a small rise in affections from Sherlock, but he didn't dare question it. Perhaps Sherlock was merely becoming more comfortable with John, maybe this is how he was when people got close to him...if people got close to him. Their hugs lasted just a fraction of a second longer, touches to arms, hands, knees that weren't exactly necessary, brushing eyelashes off cheeks, picking a speck of lint from blazers and jumpers. He sat perceptively closer on the couch, nudged him for his attention rather than shout his name. There was something different, and that fact scared the hell out of John.
Sherlock thought long and hard about that night in the Pool. About Jim Moriarty threatening to burn the heart out of him. He had told him he didn't have a heart, but Moriarty knew. How he did Sherlock will never know, but he did. Could he hear Sherlock's heart beating rapidly in his chest, could he smell the fear that came off of him at the sight of John with a bomb strapped about him? Did he hear that small intake of breath when John grabbed Moriarty, the desperation that he felt wishing that it were him and not the good doctor in the gravest danger? It was that night, that night when Sherlock realized that for once in his life, he had something that was important to him, something that he needed, something-someone-that was now a part of his life. After that night, Sherlock slowly let himself become used to this strange weight that he had developed in his chest. Each day it became heavier, when John laughed, when he touched Sherlock, made his coffee just the way he likes it, badgered him about eating. He adjusted to the knot that formed in his stomach when John went out with whatever-her-name-is-this-time, when he told people that they weren't a couple (they weren't, Sherlock knew that, but he wished they were), when he was cross with Sherlock. Sherlock learned what it meant to fear the loss of someone, to worry that one day you would wake up and they would be gone. He gravitated towards John, found reasons to brush his hand along John, bring himself closer to the good doctor. Throughout his flirtation with The Woman, he noticed a sort of...agitation...from John. He wasn't sure how to decipher this, since his hard drive was terribly lacking in information of this particular area. Sherlock thought he might actually be sick when he heard John tell Irene that he wasn't gay. The feeling kind of took him off his feet, after all, he'd never experienced that strange hollow feeling in his middle, the aching weight of his heart in his chest, this...this...sadness.
In the days leading to Sherlock's absence from Baker Street, the two gravitated towards one another with a greater magnetism. John had managed to tame Sherlock's silver tongue-in public (for the most part) at least. He was slowly learning that when someone presents you with diamond cufflinks or a perfectly lovely tie pin, it's best to just smile and thank them instead of reminding them that their gifts are the product of generic assumption. Neither acknowledged this change, in fact they determinedly did not discuss it. There was this tether between them, an unconscious need to absorb all the time that they had left together, to make it worth it. John knew something was wrong, he caught Sherlock's stares into the distance, his moments of melancholy, those faces brushed with emotion that were gone as soon as they came. He thought the stress of the Moriarty case was becoming too much for the world's only consulting detective. Some days he could also feel that there was something more between them, that maybe Sherlock felt something stronger than just friendship-those days were always followed by days of disappointment.
Each night Sherlock curled in on himself in his bed, his too cold, too hard, too empty bed. He shoved and tucked and pressed down the increasing panic he felt in those moments when he had nothing to distract him. When the dark stared him down, wrapped around him, and chilled his bones, he bit down on his lip and tried to calm his body's shaking. His chest was so heavy, so full, so weighed down by the pounding of his heart, the damned thing. He was in uncharted waters with these emotions. Before he wouldn't have thought twice about what he had to do, about leaving, about hurting a few to win the game that would benefit the greater good; that was before John. He wondered what life would be like after John. Withe a deep pang to his chest he realized he'd never get to experience during John, though. Not in this life. For all his greatness and might of brain, he could not figure out John H. Watson. Couldn't decipher those fleeting looks, those brushes of fingers to skin, those words that seem to have more weight to them than others. With his own feelings fogging his mind, it was difficult to figure out if he was seeing what he wanted to see or if he was seeing what was really there; it didn't matter, though, he'd never jeopardize pushing John too far away, ruining what little blessed companionship he had. So each night he laid there, dying a little bit inside. Sleep evaded him more and more, nightmares taking form, and eventually he gave up on the entire institution, taking to roaming the halls, pacing the sitting room, circling the kitchen. Sometimes he would sit outside John's door and listen to the good doctor sleep; even his even breathing and occasional snores were beautiful to Sherlock. He would swipe a renegade tear from his eye, finding bemusement at the fact that he'd produced a tear for the first time in nearly two decades.
John would hear Sherlock padding quietly through their flat; he'd count the times the consulting detective passed his bedroom before he finally sat down and leaned against the door frame. John thought many times about letting Sherlock know that he was awake, that he waited to fall asleep until he felt his flatmate's presence, that he was there. He thought about inviting him in, about prodding a bit for details as to what was plaguing him so deeply, telling him that he could trust John, that he would help the detective in anyway that was within his power; that he would protect him. He'd let his mind wander off, dreaming that the detective would slide under the covers and nestle himself into the good doctor's arms, that he would kiss the top of those dark curls, trace his fingers along those sharp cheekbones, and whisper I love you softly into the darkness. Some nights he would have the sweetest, most wonderful dreams about Sherlock that he would awake with a small whimper when he realized that he was alone in his bed, again.
There was something different, yes indeed. The boys knew it. They were scared, though. Scared that the other would not reciprocate, that the other would not understand; that the other would leave, which would be a far, far greater punishment than unrequited hoped that maybe once they had put the Moriarty case to rest, when Sherlock could recover from this trauma, when things returned to the tentative state that they called 'normal,' that maybe he could take the consulting detective on a date. We could be happy together, John thought to himself, smiling a bit.
The night before Sherlock knew he would disappear, the two flatmates made it back to 221b for some much needed sleep. They had some work that needed to be done, tests to be checked at St. Bart's the following morning, so they both retired to their respective bedrooms. Sherlock dressed himself in his pajamas and sat on the edge of his bed and stared out the window, deep in thought. His heart was so heavy tonight, he was aching for John. He knew what was to happen, and the thought of hurting John, of losing him, of leaving him was almost too much for Sherlock. He wanted nothing more than to run to his flatmate's room, bang on the door and tell him everything. He nearly had three times in the last week, but he refrained. He must keep his doctor safe. He tucked those I love you's, those Please forgive me's, those I'll come back for you's deep down in his chest and locked them away. He had never loved anyone before, and he knew that he would never love anyone else. If it were up to him, he would never have an After John stage, it would always just be John. He tried to lay down, tried to sleep, but it was hours before he finally gave up on sleeping. He left his room to wander the flat. As he passed John's room he noticed that the door was open a bit, however subtle a change, it was a change indeed. He briefly paused in front of the doctor's door, listening for any signs of stirring. After a few minutes of John's even breathing, Sherlock pushed lightly on the wood and slipped into his flatmate's room.
So, how did you like it? I was worried that it got a little too icky-sticky-sappy, but I feel like to Sherlock, these feelings are icky-sticky-sappy, they're too bright and too loud, and he's kind of overwhelmed by all of these strange, new, warm-bellied sensations. If you have read Goodnight (My John), I hope you noticed that the last line of this fic is the first line of Goodnight; if you haven't read Goodnight (My John), I suggest you head on over for a bit of fluff and angst. I'm working on something new, but I would love recommendations and suggestions for future stories! Happy reading, loves. Cheers xx