Sherlock Holmes was born on a Wednesday. Despite the child's expectations, there was no fanfare and no ceremony to his birth. He was delivered safely at home, with his father out of town on business, and his mother noted that he was far scrawnier than his older brother before she picked up her copy of New Scientist and promptly lost interest in him until he beat her at Scrabble for the first time aged four.
He didn't cry. For a horrible second, the midwife thought she might have delivered a deaf child, but there was nothing wrong with his hearing. It was simply that from the very first moment of his life, the baby was observing his world and finding it wanting.
John discovered the day of his flatmate's birth by accident, working on a case which involved a savant little girl whose autism gave her mathematic abilities to rival even Sherlock's. One of her skills was to determine the day of the week of any date in history.
Sherlock had very little patience for children, but he had disappeared with Mallory for a good hour, and when he had returned she was beaming and he was holding from his little finger, as though he'd forgotten about it, a doll's teacup.
They'd gotten it home without him noticing, the taxi ride mostly taken up with Sherlock animatedly discussing Mallory's abilities.
'She hasn't even heard of Esher, so I don't really see how she could have been involved with the theft, but they made have used her for code breaking. Honestly, I have no idea what they're doing with her, she could have so much potential with the right tutelage.'
'Are you honestly bragging because you're more knowlegable than a six year old girl?'
Sherlock had shot him a filthy look, although there was a small smile behind it John didn't miss. He'd liked Mallory, and something in John's chest tightened at the thought of a six-year-old Sherlock, isolated and cripplingly intelligent in a cold country home.
'She's not boring, I'll give her that. Although she does have a strange obsession with fiction, much like you. She shares your inordinate interest in Jules Verne.' Sherlock snorted and gestured expansively with the hand still sporting a teacup ring. 'The man had no knowledge of even basic astrophysics.'
'That's not the point, and you know it,' John said with a smile, knowing that his partner was just trying to get a rise out of him. Sherlock found John's love of sci-fi intruiging, mostly because it gave him something to argue about in bouts of boredom. 'Was the whole days-of-the-week thing at all useful?'
'Don't be ridiculous, it was completely pointless. A parlour trick. However, she did give me some ideas to work with. Seven ideas.' He thought for a moment. 'Six. And she informed me that I was born on a Wednesday. You, aparently, were born on a Friday. I asked.'
John was surprised. 'You remembered my birthday? This year you broke my laptop and bought me a coffee in Speedy's when my girlfriend came over with a cake. Not exactly your finest moment as a friend.'
'Precisely, which is why I now remember, because you pouted for a full week and called me... what was it? A self-possessed, weapons-grade wanker? Despite your ire, John, I'm willing to bet you my violin that you can't remember the name of that dullard girl you insisted on boring me with over Tesco sponge cake. I would have prefered it if you'd just hit me, like you did when I returned from destroying Moriarty's empire.'
John opened his mouth to protest, but after a panicked ten second interval of thinking, Suzanne? Sally? Sarah? He gave up and glowered at Sherlock. 'Why does it matter what day of the week I was born?'
Sherlock's smile was sweet and bright, one of his rare smiles which was neither condescending or vaguely rabid with excitement. 'Friday's child is loving and giving, John.'
John grinned, despite himself. 'And Wednesday?'
There was a pause, brief as a heartbeat, but a thousand thoughts could cross Sherlock's mind in that time. 'Wednesday's child is full of woe. Old wives' tales, nothing in them. I tested a few when I was a child. Attempted to disprove my nanny's idiotic flawed reasoning behind forcing me to eat my vegetables.'
'She said they make hair curl. I already had curly hair, so I stopped eating vegetables in an attempt to straighten them, and the results were inconclusive.'
'So what, exactly, did you gain from refusing to listen to her?'
Sherlock looked over at him and that smile, the one John spent half his life trying to inspire, ghosted his lips. 'Scurvy.'
John laughed so loudly the taxi driver swerved. 'You did not honestly get a disease generally unique to pirates.'
'No, Mycroft stepped in before it got to that stage. If it weren't for me, he'd never do anything interesting. But it did appeal to me at the time. I was quite fond of pirates.'
'If it weren't for him, you'd be dead. And I thought he basically ran the British government. Which begs the question: what's so much more interesting than running the country?'
Sherlock gave him a look of utter contempt and idly played with the teacup, spinning it around his finger. 'Oh, John. Most everything is more interesting than that. Except for spinach.'
The tea cup had sat on their mantle, next to the skull, for weeks before Sherlock had melted it in an experiment. John came home from the surgery, stinking of disinfectant and exhausted from a day of giving flu jabs to the elderly, and as he'd done for the past few weeks, he went straight to the matle, dumping his backpack and coat on the sofa on his way.
He didn't miss the endless adrenaline of being a frontline medic, or the toll it took on his body; he got that rush from his work with Sherlock. But he wasn't used to the boredom of seeing the same illnesses and injuries over and over again, and it took it out of him. His shoulder ached, and his head was killing him, and for some reason it always made him feel better to see that small teacup and remember the expression on Sherlock's face when Mallory – whose condition meant she didn't like to be touched – had given him a quick, ferocious hug.
The way Sherlock had held himself awkwardly, before the tall man had bent his willowy form and had touched the palm of his hand to the little girl's head, holding her to him and looking for all the world as if he'd just been struck by lightning.
John knew better than anyone that Sherlock was antisocial, difficult and introverted, but he saw a side to the younger man no one else was permitted to see. He couldn't remember at what point Sherlock had ceased to guard his emotions around him, but each time he caught another glimpse of a facet of the consulting detective he became more committed.
But the bastard had taken away John's teacup, his new coping mechanism for what had become an increasingly stressful life where toes occupied the vegetable crisper and his socks set off a Geiger counter. He had spent a year of his life mourning, after Reichenbach, and the only way he could cope with anymore was to pretend as if it had never happened. As if everything was fine, and he hadn't had his heart completely broken and then re-assembled in the most half-arsed way.
Sherlock had had reasons, ones so good and so logical that John couldn't debate them. But the betrayal refused to die, even now, three awkward-as-hell months later with the two of them dancing around each other. John wanted to yell, wanted to tell him that it wasn't alright, but he'd done that already, and he couldn't bear the brief but unbearable moment of weakness on Sherlock's face when the younger man had believed that he'd done something unforgivable.
He knew what that felt like; he knew the dawning realisation that you had lost something which could never be replaced.
And, damn it, he needed that teacup. He needed to be reminded of why he stayed.
Something snapped in him and he roared, turned on his heel and stormed up the stairs.
'Sherlock Bloody Holmes, where the hell are you?'
Some muffled reply came from the depths of Sherlock's room, but John didn't hear what it was.
'I don't ask for much,' John continued, enjoying the theraputic sound of his own yelling. 'A bit of toast, jam that isn't being used to grow fungal spores, and some tea, sometimes. A little privacy, maybe? But all in all, I put up with a hell of a lot.'
He burst into Sherlock's room, and spotted the detective huddled in the corner, crouched on the floor.
'You know that I like that teacup. You don't miss anything! So where is it, Sherlock? What have you done with it?'
Sherlock looked up, something John had only seen once before in his expression. In Baskerville, when he had been doubting his own sanity, when he hadn't been sure. Surety was the foundation of the fragile, exquisitely wrought structure that was Sherlock Holmes, and without it, he looked... lost.
Instantly, John's rage ebbed, and he settled down on the floor beside his friend, reaching for his hands. 'What's happened? Are you alright? Hurt?'
'I know you like it,' he murmured, and held up sticky hands, obviously scalded. 'I was trying to make tea in it, but it melted.'
John noted the mess of plastic and tea on the floor.
'You tried to make tea?' Normally, John's habit of parroting things back that didn't make immediate sense annoyed the detective, but now, a red flush of what might have been embarassment rose up that ridiculous column of a neck.
'Tuesday. You always come home, twenty-five minutes past five on a Tuesday; you stop for a Twix on your way home, and then you make me tea.' He waved the hand which wasn't being examined by his live-in physician expressively. 'I was bored. No case, nothing to do but wait for you to get home and make things not boring. You always go to the teacup – I thought there could be tea in it.'
John considered this, for a moment too long, very well aware that his friend's clear, intense gaze was levelled at his own forehead. He could almost feel those pale lazer-beams burning obscure mathematical symbols into his skin.
'The last time you made me a hot beverage, you were trying to drug me.'
'I am, at Mrs Hudson's request, trying to be nicer.'
'There wouldn't have been more than a mouthful of tea in there. And why in your bedroom?'
'I was working on an experiment in here, you couldn't very well expect me to focus all my attentions on tea.'
'If you had, you might have considered the fact that it would melt when filled with boiling water.' John looked around at the normally neat room and spotted a weird arrangement of petri dishes containing... 'is that blood agar?'
'Hmmm? Yes, it is. Are you going to do medical things to that hand?'
He'd been holding it for quite a long time, and, grabbing a bit of Sherlock's arm which wasn't burnt, he hauled the taller man to his feet. Sherlock swayed a little, his gaze still completely focused on watching – and attempting to read – the play of emotions across John's face.
'Come on.' John led him to the bathroom, where the medical kit was already open on the windowsill, waiting for the moment when either of the inhabitants of 221B did themselves a dramatic, bloody mischief. 'Whose blood is it?'
'Mine, and Mycroft's.'
'It has to be illegal to draw blood from the queen...' This earned him a quick, flashing smile, and John took the momentary distraction as an opportunity to spray disinfectant on the wound, making Sherlock hiss. He could be suprisingly infantile as a patient. 'I know I'm going to regret asking, but why are you doing this?'
'I wanted empirical proof that Mycroft is a better host for parasites and fungi.'
'You're the only person I've ever met who does elabourate and extensive scientific research just to annoy someone.'
'Oh, he does it to. When I was little, he conducted polymerase chain reactions to prove that we were, in fact, related. It was a deliberately mean thing to do – he knew I'd been conducting my own research in an attempt to prove he was an alien.'
'I have trouble, sometimes, imagining you Mallory's age. You must have been a terror.'
'Not really.' John raised an eyebrow, and Sherlock looked away. 'I didn't really get along with people.'
'What do you mean?'
'Let's just say that Sally Donovan's labelling me freak wasn't exactly original work.'
'Children can be little bastards,' John murmured, beginning to bandage the hand. The back of Sherlock's hand, uninjured, was smooth and strong, and had it always been so big? That might explain why his mother had suggested he take up the violin. 'They used to call me Hedgehog.'
'Because you resemble one?' Sherlock asked, eyes wide with feigned innocence.
'I do not! I was a little chubby, and always the shortest one in the form, and I had unfortunate hair. It was not used endearingly... I think on some level I did the whole frontline doctor thing just to get rid of hedgehog comparisons.'
'I can't speak for everyone else, but I will continue to make them.'
'Well, that's not fair.' John's thumb ran over the soft skin at Sherlock's wrist, where the pale skin was transluscent and he could see blue veins. Stopitstopitstopit just because you have a reason to touch him doesn't mean it's stopped being a bad idea.. 'I'm never going to call you a freak, never going to believe it or let anyone else say it. So I'd expect a little more chivalry from you, protecting me from being likened to woodland creatures.'
They were too close. Sherlock, despite looking perpetually as if he was carved from cold alabaster, was radiating a lot of heat, and he smelt like gunpowder, latex – from gloves, please let it just be gloves and not some bizarre condom experiment – and Pear's soap.
He noticed, feeling a little blurry – hadn't he been angry, at some point? - that Sherlock was wearing John's favourite of his shirts, a deep purple thing at least a size too small, and the buttons were straining. He'd never understood that. A man so obsessed with tailoring should be able to afford shirts that fit, but Sherlock seemed devoted to his brave, industrial-strength buttons.
A thought occurred, flirting with the edge of his mind, attempting to get back all of the years of issues, repression, neuroses and a heavily padlocked file labelled Sherlock issues.
Sherlock had to know John liked that shirt. He never missed anything.
And he'd been trying to make tea. In Mallory's teacup.
Those were too things John liked very much, too.
What, exactly was going on?
Interestingly, during this whole long pause in their lives when normally a million and one thoughts could flit through the great Holmes mind, the only thing which Sherlock was thinking was this:
this is going well, I think.