Summary: In which there is sexual tension of an unresolved sort but it's no big deal, and no one feels any need to change it anytime soon. Also, there are tribbles.
Warnings: Swearing, adult themes
Pairing: Sherlock Holmes/John Watson
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock. The contemporary versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's characters belong to Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, and their associates.
It's All Fine
It's not unresolved, or even unacknowledged, though nor is it. It can't be called unresolved, though, because that would imply that at some point one of the parties had dismayed over the fact that nothing had ever happened to resolve it. It's not unacknowledged because, although nothing has ever been said about it out loud, they are not men who believe silence is not communication. It is just there, hovering on the edge of subconscious and, for the moment, that's where it's going to stay.
Everyone knows that all relationships hold a certain amount of sexual tension. Oedipus and Electra complexes, though occurring so early in childhood that few people remember them by the time they become sexually active, shape the sexual behavior of an adult as much as any teenaged sexual experience. Siblings, our only confidants through much of our developmental years, are subject to an astronomical portion of our sexual dismay and, yes, are sometimes the subject of sexual envy, especially by younger siblings to older siblings. John remembers sitting in the living room while their parents were out and listening jealously while Harry and this-or-that girlfriend had sex upstairs, glaring at the wall while trying to subside his erection through sheer force of will.
Friends are not so different, and any man or woman confident in their sexuality should have no problem in admitting this. Any man (If you're not Sherlock Holmes) has memories of being a teenager, sneaking off to whatever friend's parents were out for the night, sitting on the floor watching crappy porn and uttering such obscenities as, "Oi, my dick could cut diamonds I'm so randy." Girls are the same, or so John's heard; Harry's friends used to sit in the basement and agonize over the fact that a certain actor, "Makes my pussy wet like you wouldn't believe."
Then again, John has always orbited in circles that are inherently progressive. Possibly the only time he didn't was when he was in the army, but those men are so desperate for a leg over they just stop caring after a while. There was almost a black market for it, although no one had any illusions they were hiding it from their superiors, or that their superiors were not doing the exact same things. John was lucky; he had a mate in the army, Bill Murray, and he operated on the same 'no strings attached' basis he did. They chuckled together about stupid shit as, below their waists, their hands moved at a counterpoint. Really, it wasn't so much about sex as human contact, which was not at a surplus in the army.
When John was shot, Bill was the first to visit, eyes bloodshot and undeniably handsome face drawn. The nurses thought he was John's boyfriend. John decided that the line between lovers and mates was quick to blur, and the roles were not as mutually exclusive as everyone seemed to think.
Sometimes, John wonders if he's sexually progressive. Other times, he just thinks people are utterly repressed.
The first time he is accused of being Sherlock Holmes' boyfriend, he acts contrary to his own it's all fine attitude and denies it, because he doesn't know how Sherlock will react if he just takes it in his stride. John had only known him for a day at that point, and he seemed a very chaste, if very odd, individual. This was followed by a pronouncement of married to my work and John isn't sure whether that's strange in itself, complete indifference to sex, or if it's just terribly prudish of him.
He thinks something breaks when he informs Sherlock of his intentions to get off with Sarah, although it's overshadowed by the embarrassment of Sarah being right there while he says it. Up until that point he'd been trying not to bring up things of a sexual nature at all, trying not to offend his new flatmate. Sherlock just rolls his eyes though, and it's all quickly forgotten when John is kidnapped by a crime syndicate and tied to a chair and almost killed. It's all terribly exciting, and he's not going to pretend that by the time they get home, despite the absurdly late hour, he's not thrumming with adrenaline and arousal because goddamn that was terrifying but I'm still alive holy shit.
In romantic dramas, it would be time for him to shove someone up against a wall, Sarah-Sherlock-someone, and have life-affirming sex. Instead, he goes up to his room and masturbates ferociously, sitting on his bed with one hand bracing him while the other works between his legs. He doesn't realize he's muttering to himself until Sherlock yells through the floor that some people on Baker Street are trying to sleep and the sounds of manual stimulation, while arousing, are not conductive to that. John shouts back to fuck off, and if he's so turned on maybe he should indulge as well.
Sherlock throws something at the ceiling. Maybe a book. John giggles his way through a slightly less-than-spectacular orgasm, secretly blaming Sherlock for ruining the build-up.
Things get a bit easier after that. Sherlock has proved himself perfectly progressive when it comes to sex, and that's great. It means John doesn't have to hide the fact that he's a not exactly a zero on the Kinsey, and he's not immune to Sherlock's charms. It means the tension between them is pleasant, not overbearing, because they know it's there and it's a completely optional part of their relationship. It remains, however, because The Work Comes First and John likes sex just a bit to much to wait around for Sherlock. It's better to find a girlfriend. Women are soft and pretty and smell nice and John is a wine and dine kind of person, a let's make love kind of person, and Sherlock is not. And that's okay; it's all fine.
But when girlfriend after girlfriend dumps him, sensing the tension his relationship with Sherlock holds and unable to realize that it's something they've actively chosen to ignore, he gets tired of all of it. He doesn't have it in him to be angry at Sherlock, because honestly it's not his fault. It's society's fault. Sexual tension is perfectly fine when it's a man and a woman, because everyone thinks they're shagging anyway, but when it's two men with the friendship, the we-may-be-a-little-too-close-but-who-cares relationship, there's something wrong about it, something unholy. It pisses him off. So he shoves women to the wayside. He and Sarah are still friends, and they have their own brand of sexual tension, but it's nowhere near as intense or comfortable as that which he has with Sherlock and mostly born from the fact that John's lifestyle excites her, but is just too crazy, and she wishes otherwise.
John calls everyone 'love.' It's something he got from his mother. He calls his sister 'love,' his sister-in-law 'love,' his cousins and their children, even the men and boys. Sherlock does not comment when John instinctively starts calling him 'love' because, really, it's all fine. Some people call their friends 'mate,' John calls them 'love.'
Life goes on for everyone, and Scotland Yard thinks they don't realize there's a pot betting on when they're going to jump into each other's pants. John doesn't pretend that it's not a possibility, but he still gives Donovan and Anderson a disapproving headshake when he sees them passing money between them and the other officers. They have the decency to look shameful, and he backs off.
Sherlock comes flying in the door one night with a man attached to his neck. John's only outraged because it's two o'clock in the morning, he's been worried sick, and they made a cacophonous bang when they hurdled into the flat. Personally, he thinks it's really good for Sherlock to finally get laid.
"John," Sherlock says, as if he hadn't seen him there, sitting in their living room where he always is. Then again, he was being snogged so thoroughly he may not have. "This is Victor. He's visiting from America. He's here until tomorrow morning, and uh, he's an old friend. Wanted to give him the best of British."
John can't help but giggle at the implication that the best of British is between Sherlock's legs. "Yeah, alright then. Hi, Victor."
They keep John up all night having what seems to be life-altering sex, and when John gets up in the morning, it's to see Sherlock leaning against the kitchen counter in his dressing gown, being kissed softly by Victor. In the daylight John sees he's an attractive man of about thirty-two, so Sherlock's age. His hair is brown, lighter than Sherlock's but far darker than John's.
The kiss is obviously one of goodbye.
"It was good to see you," Victor says. There's a lilt to his voice that says he may have at one point had an accent similar to Sherlock's. It's been dimmed by a decade or so in America, though. Then he says, "Are you sure? About what I said, I mean."
"Yes," Sherlock says. "It's been years since University, Victor, and I've moved on. You should too. Last night was…it was fun. But there's a reason we broke up." He doesn't say it unkindly, which in itself is odd for Sherlock, but this is hardly a typical conversation for the detective in the first place. "You should go. You've got a flight to catch." He smiles, and it's a bit melancholy. John can't see Victor's face, but they kiss again and then Sherlock sees Victor to the door.
"Alright?" John asks when Sherlock returns.
"Fine." Sherlock goes about the motions of making tea, seeming distracted. As the kettle is boiling, he says, "We were in University together. We dated for two years. I was happy." He glances at John, and before he can ask why did you break up Sherlock says, "He wanted to get married and go to America. I wanted to get my master's and stay in London. We parted on good terms, although I was…sad. I ran into him last night, literally. He was here for business; he's an advertising executive for some company now. He was trying to find me, though, because we ran into each other outside of Bart's and he had no reason to be there. I don't know what happened, we just…He asked me if I still loved him, and I said no. I said no because he was asking me because he's engaged, going to be married soon. He didn't tell me-I deduced it. I also knew if I had said yes, he would have insisted on pursuing something, breaking off his engagement, and it would have been the biggest mistake of his life. That's not what I want."
"But do you?" John asks, fully devoted to his current role of 'Compassionate best friend' and asking what he believes to be the right question. "Love him, I mean?"
Sherlock smiles. "I used to think about him a lot, because he treated me like a normal person while at the same time making me feel special. I'm only human, I can't help but like feeling special. I've spent the last eight years thinking I was in love with the one that got away. Recently, I've realized that's wrong. I was in love with the idea of a relationship I could never have." A pause, then: "Six months ago I would have said yes, just to have a friend."
John realizes that not everyone finds relationships as easy as he does.
Things are weird for a few days, but they go back to normal once John realizes Sherlock's life isn't nearly as disrupted by Victor's intrusion as he originally thought. Is forced back into normalcy, actually, because when Sherlock notices the lack of invasion of personal space and slightly-too-sexual dialogue, he kicks John in the ankle one day and tells him that just because Victor's daft doesn't mean Sherlock will be left pining after him for all eternity.
"Or are you uncomfortable because I cheated with an engaged man?"
John shrugs, utterly indifferent. "You weren't the engaged man."
Sherlock sighs, glances out the window, and mutters, "I need something stable, John."
The doctor smiles. "I can do that for you, love." Sherlock smiles and thanks him for being a friend, and some men would agonize over being continually 'friendzoned' but John doesn't care. If that's all he ever is to Sherlock, that's wonderful. As long as the man is in his life and John is in his. It's all fine.
From the outside, their relationship and its progression is seen as weird. For some reason, it makes people a lot more uncomfortable to see people who are known not to be sexually involved behaving intimately, than those that are. John thinks it has something to do with the fact that, for a couple you can simply say bugger off and find a room but with friends, no one is quite sure how to react. Why are they doing that; are they really not involved? Are they just really bad at hiding their relationship?
Sharing an umbrella is one thing, but sharing a coat is another, and John can see on Lestrade's face that he doesn't quite know how to react when he stumbles upon John, wrapped in Sherlock's coat with Sherlock still in it as they wait for a taxi in a downpour.
John can hear Harry's thoughts across their shaky Skype connection when they're talking one day (Harry has enrolled herself in a rehab in Florida, because Clara wanted her to get clean and Harry needed a drastic change of location to make that possible) and Sherlock sits down on John's knee, squinting at the screen until Harry comes into focus. Then he huffs, and mutters, "Thought it was someone interesting," before getting up and stomping off again. Outwardly, Harry raises an eyebrow and says, "He gets more and more charming every time I talk to him," but inwardly John can hear what he thinks must be maniacal laughter and shrieks of GOT YOU.
John goes to Dublin for a week. When he returns, obscenely early, and crawls straight into bed, he wakes up the following afternoon and realizes why he was having dreams about being suffocated by a tribble. Sherlock's dark hair seems to all be piled on his face. He blows it away, irritated, and nudges Sherlock until he rests on his side. They go back to sleep.
He's moved again when John wakes for a second time. He's shocked because they've slept almost the entire day. It's dinnertime. Sherlock's head is under his chin, but he can tell by the detective's breathing that he is no longer asleep. Quietly, he murmurs, "I missed you."
"You too," John whispers back, running a hand through Sherlock's hair.
"John," Sherlock says.
"What would you say if I told you I might be falling in love with you?"
It's half out of John's mouth to say something stupid, like I would ask you to get tested; since when do you say things like that? Then he realizes Sherlock is tense, and might be shaking a bit, so he rubs his back soothingly and says, "It's all fine." Because it really is all fine, and if that's how Sherlock feels, John can surely focus his efforts on falling for Sherlock, too.
Irene Adler traipses into their lives, and makes a mess out of them. John spends six months in fear; fear of losing Sherlock, fear that this woman has done something irreversible to his best friend and she doesn't even know it. It's the weakest, the least powerful John has ever felt. He wants to make it better, wants to make it all fine again, but he doesn't know how and he doesn't know why this is happening.
She comes back from the dead, and John is furious.
"Jealous?" she asks, and he's not, he's really not; he's absolutely seeing red, but he's not jealous. The only reason he wants to kill Irene Adler all over again is because she's turned his best friend into some kind of shell and he doesn't fucking know why.
"We're not a couple."
Irene Adler smirks. "Yes you are."
She makes him want to scream. Then again, that's her profession.
So she goes on to become Irene Adler, The Woman Who Almost Brought Britain to Its Knees. Life becomes normal again. John finds Sherlock sitting up one night, staring at the television but not watching it, and he looks up when John enters. "I'm sorry."
"What for?" John mutters. It's three o'clock in the morning, and all he came down for was a glass of water. He wasn't expecting to actually have to use his brain. I'm sorry is never good, though, and in his sleep-addled haze all John can think is, I hope he hasn't set something on fire even though he's pretty sure he would have realized it by now if something in the flat was smoking, and Sherlock most assuredly would not be sitting so casually were that the case.
"For worrying you. It wasn't my intention." Sherlock sighs and stares out the window. "I just…she was so…different. She was…challenging. I liked that too much." Sherlock is careful when it comes to people, but when it comes to games he is much too quick to jump in. It's the reason he's haunted and hunted by Moriarty; he's addicted to the game they play. Addicted to the thrill of it; the danger. John would be lying if he said he didn't like that aspect of it. But when he's reminded of its affects on Sherlock, he suddenly becomes much less willing to play the game.
"I know. And I forgive you, love. I forgave you a long time ago." He walks over, kisses Sherlock's forehead, and heads back upstairs. Wonders if there's such a thing as romantic tension, because that comfortable, warm weight between them cannot be called merely sexual anymore.
Sherlock takes a case in Dartmoor; Baskerville, to be exact, and secretly John thinks it's because they both needed a change in scenery after the Irene Adler Incident. They get a room at a B&B above a pub and the owners are eccentric but polite. One of them seems to take a liking to John, possibly because he thinks they are in the same boat; the quieter, smaller counterpart to a boisterous significant other. John smiles his way through, refusing to say we're not involved because that's not exactly true anymore. Then he heads out to Sherlock, and they have a total of half an hour of quiet before things go all to shite.
Two things he never wants to see again: one, Sherlock Holmes scared, looking helpless and shaken. Two, the look on Sherlock's face when he said I don't have friends.
Logic tells him that Sherlock isn't in his right mind; he's scared, and nervous, and John's honestly starting to think he's been drugged somehow. It still makes him angry, though; still hurts. Rather than get in an argument in the middle of the crowded pub, he gets up and heads off. Has an unpleasant run-in with an area that seems like the Baskerville equivalent of a make-out point, and forges back, only for his services to be requested once more by his ungrateful git of a flatmate (WHY SHOULD I?) in return for some mediocre flirting with a woman and borderline violation of his Hippocratic Oath.
He goes to bed angry, disappointed in more than one way and, he realizes after a while, sexually frustrated. Goddamn, it feels like it's been years since he was laid.
He dreams of tribbles. When he wakes up, he knows Sherlock has been there but he's gone, now, and he's forgotten all about it by the time Sherlock ambushes him in the late morning and I don't have friends I've only got one and conductor of light and John having to physically hold himself back from kissing him. Then things are blurry and don't make much sense and by the time John is fully aware, fully in charge of his own facilities, and has the chance to actually sit down and think for a moment, it's night and Sherlock is taking off his shirt and they're getting ready for bed.
Laying down, he stares at the ceiling. "I haven't had sex in months."
A pause. "Is that a proposition?"
John squeezes his eyes shut and shakes his head. "No, sorry. I don't know why I said that. I'm all jumbled, sorry. Can't think straight."
There is evermore silence. Either Sherlock is standing there, or moving around the room with the mindset of a ghost. John can't quite bring himself to take his eyes off the cracks in the ceiling, worried about what he will find standing there if he focuses on his peripheral vision. He's relieved when the lights go off, but it dissipates almost immediately because Sherlock crawls onto the bed. John can feel him straddling his thighs.
"Do you want me?" Sherlock says. John is looking at him, but his eyes haven't adjusted to the dark yet. All he can make out is the elegant slope of Sherlock's Roman nose and his eyes.
"God, yes. You know I do." It feels like he's wanted Sherlock his entire life.
Sherlock takes his hand, spreads his fingers, and places it over the front of his trousers. John sighs and shakes his head. He can make out Sherlock's features now, and his mouth is turned down in a frown. "What? Isn't this what you want?"
"Yes. Is it what you want?"
"Yes. I thought that was obvious."
"Well, that's great. But, uhm, I don't think we should do that tonight."
"Judging by the fact that your hands are shaking and I'm sweating, I think we're still a little bit drugged. If we do it now, we might forget about it in the morning. I'd rather not forget about it."
"Oh." Slowly, Sherlock drops his hand and sits back, on John's legs. John chuckles a bit and wraps his arms around Sherlock, pulling him onto the bed and wrapping the duvet around them. The bed is a bit too small for two grown men, especially one as tall as Sherlock, but they somehow manage by pressing close. John just hopes that if he gets used to sleeping with Sherlock, the tribble dreams will stop.
In the morning, he can't remember anything after Lestrade showing up at the moor, and Sherlock (Whom has a remarkably high tolerance due to his years as a junkie) has to give him a quick rundown of the night's events. He leaves out the encounter in the bedroom, only to tell John several years from then that No, love, the first time you propositioned me was during that case in Baskerville just for the shock value and to see John's face.
Then comes a period that John doesn't like to think about. The period after Moriarty and the roof of Bart's and watching his best-friend-and-something-more jump to his death, a marble headstone that just says Sherlock Holmes because they couldn't think of anything else to say. After I'm a fake and don't be dead, just don't be dead.
John does not like to think about those three months. Does not like to think about them because he does not remember them. He spent most of those months either sobbing or drunk or locked in his room in the dark hugging Sherlock's dressing gown, his face pressed to the pillow on his bed that was quickly becoming Sherlock's pillow. He knew it was unhealthy, and he didn't care. Something of him died with Sherlock. That warm presence that had been there since the beginning was a cold, vacant hole and it made him feel alone and terrified and heartbroken.
One night, he dreams of tribbles and forcefully jerks himself awake to make sure his mind isn't just playing tricks on him. But no, there's Sherlock Holmes, in his arms. It's not hard to recognize him, even though he's dyed his hair an alarming shade of orange-red for some reason.
"Oh my God," John whispers, springing out of bed and then immediately back on, like an indecisive housecat. Sherlock is sitting up, warily examining John as if awaiting rejection. His shirt, an overlarge jumper, hangs off one shoulder and he's gotten even thinner. He looks pale, tired, and hungry; like he could do with several days of sleep and a few hearty meals. But he is not dead, he's very much alive. John repeats, "Oh my God," then crawls into bed and cups Sherlock's face.
"I'm sorry," Sherlock says. "I had to, he was going to kill you, and I just…"
"Sh, sh, I know, love. Lestrade found the recording. Oh, Sherlock, oh sweetheart." The endearments flow like water from a tap, like the tears from John's eyes.
Then they're kissing and it's wonderful and bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter and they're both crying the way grown men never should but not one care is given because it's all fine. John wants to kiss him for hours, do more than kiss him, but that would be a bit not good. So he wipes Sherlock's tears and his own, fixes something quick and brings it to him to eat. He's going to feed him up, no matter what Sherlock says, but right now he needs the sleep more than the food; Christ, he doesn't look like he's had a full night's sleep since he jumped off the roof of Bart's.
Mrs. Hudson comes up a few days later, worried because she hasn't seen John in the last day or so and he's been put on what's more or less a suicide watch for the last three months. When she sees the redhead on the sofa, she stares for a moment, not sure who it is, before Sherlock moves and Mrs. Hudson screeches, leaving John in hysterics and Mrs. Hudson in tears, hugging Sherlock and slapping them both all at once.
It's a few weeks later that Sherlock is standing in front of the window. His hair is still red, though his roots are coming in. John begged him to keep it that way a little longer, just because it makes him look a bit less pale, a bit less severe. He doesn't want him to keep it that way forever, of course. Just a little while. Indulge me, he had said.
John comes behind him, wrapping Sherlock in his arms. He murmurs, "I love you."
"I love you too."
That's that. The long road was worth it, John thinks, and he doesn't at all regret how long they waited. Sexual tension is not a good foundation for a relationship, but there's no problem with enjoying it while it builds and morphs into something more, something altogether more enjoyable. There is nothing wrong with letting the sexual tension of best friends turn into the romantic tension of lovers.
In the morning, Sherlock finally says goodbye to it, the tension that was their friend for so long, by taking John's hands, placing them on him, whispering, "Touch me John, oh God touch me."
So he does.
Notes: Yay more stress-relief! Huzzah! I'm fully convinced that I failed every portion of the ACT, so I needed something to get my mind off that. I literally wrote this in three hours. Now I'm very tired, and I have more testing tomorrow. Huzzah...
I believe I started off this story with the goal of pontificating on the sexual tension between best friends. Somehow it turned into a courtship fic. I'm not exactly sure how that happened, but…I hope at least someone enjoyed this? It's kind of long and rambling. Mostly me getting my thoughts down. I'll probably clean it up later.
I'm honestly too lazy to beta right now, though. If you notice anything completely glaring, please let me know and I'll change it pronto.