HEY GUYS. So many people have requested an epilogue that I finally decided to write one. I hope you like it!
By the way, I have an announcement at the bottom, so scroll down if you're interested in that.
"You're getting love letters."
John shoves the note in his pocket so hard he nearly tears through the fabric of his jeans. "And you're getting a punch in the face for looking through my biology folder."
"So there is more than one, and that's where you've been storing them. Excellent." And before John can stop him, Sherlock has seized his bag, upending it on the floor and riffling through his biology folder until the notes fall onto his lap. "You really should learn to stop smiling like a fool at a piece of paper unless you want everyone nearby to know what it is."
It's been seven months since John had tricked Sherlock into coming out of hiding. Seven months since John had hugged him by a park bench on Halloween, gripping his shoulders to stop both of them from falling apart. Seven months since John had decided he never wanted to be somewhere that Sherlock Holmes wasn't.
A lot had happened in seven months.
Five months ago
"Calm down," John whispers as he rings the doorbell. "It's just my family."
Sherlock is standing to his left on the porch, holding the casserole. John had rather thought his strange best friend would be more palatable to his relatives, Aunt Linda especially, if he was holding some kind of baked dish.
"Childhood influences, primarily familial ones, are the number one determinant of who we're drawn to later in life. As you are drawn to me, John, I can only assume that your family is comprised of high-functioning, drug-addicted sociopaths."
John rings the doorbell again. "You're not addicted anymore, we agreed that you weren't. And who says I'm drawn to—"
"Jooohn!" Aunt Linda throws open the door, nearly crushing John's skull, and proceeds to crush the rest of him in a hug. Aunt Linda was poofy-haired, knitting-obsessed, and an ex-bodybuilder, a fact of which John is acutely aware as he strains to breathe.
"I'm Sherlock Holmes, John's friend from school," he hears Sherlock's voice come from behind him. They'd rehearsed that. Good. "I don't mean to criticize Watson family traditions, but I believe you may be slowly suffocating him to death."
They hadn't rehearsed that, but John is grateful anyway as Aunt Linda releases him, scrutinizing Sherlock. Sometimes John forgets how he appears to other people. His alien beauty, his crystal-clear eyes, his slightly alarming thinness—though it wasn't as bad as it had been seven months ago.
Aunt Linda, though, doesn't know that. "Good gracious, boy," she says, actually pinching Sherlock's upper arm. Good thing John had warned him about the pinching. "You're skin and bones. We'll have to feed you up. Our John's boyfriend deserves the biggest slice of pie."
"He's not my boyfriend," John says loudly as they follow her into the house filled with people and noise.
It doesn't go as badly as John feared it would. Even though Aunt Linda spreads the word quickly that Sherlock is John's boyfriend, and refuses to be dissuaded. Even though Sherlock immediately obliges when several of the little cousins ask him to define "decapitation." Even though Grandma Watson keeps making that clucking sound.
Sherlock is trying. John can tell. Every so often, he'll feel Sherlock's eyes on him, asking him for reassurance. John finds himself touching Sherlock's wrist under the table laden with ham and potatoes more than once. Just so he knows he's doing all right.
"That wasn't so bad, was it," says John, after the desserts, after the inevitable drunken a capella from the uncles, after Aunt Linda winks and tells him he's found a keeper.
"Surprisingly, it wasn't." Sherlock pulls his scarf higher on his neck as they walk down the porch steps together. "I've never had a family Christmas dinner before."
"Girl, a senior, blonde, left-handed. Dots her i's with hearts—boys don't dare do that. Handwriting very messy. Classic senioritis. And there's a blonde hair stuck to the tape used to attach it to the envelope. Additionally, she's riddled with venereal diseases and has a fetish for hot-dog costumes."
"You made that up." John snatches the letters back, gripping them tightly. There's only four of them, anyway. He hasn't even memorized the most recent one yet.
"Only the last thing."
"The last two things."
"You're getting better at noticing when I'm lying." Suddenly Sherlock vaults off the bed, and then he's very close to John, close enough that John can see every centimeter of the high-cheekboned face that had filled out a little over the past seven months, but still not enough. For a second, the stare burns him. Then Sherlock swears and turns away. "Flushed, dilated pupils, breathing fast. You can't fall in love with someone because they've handwritten you a few Hallmark clichés, John."
"I'm not in love with them! Or—her." John scoops up the letters and stuffs them in his bag as if he doesn't care if they get crumpled, but secretly he folds them against his biology textbook so they won't. "I don't even know her name. It's just a little exciting, you know? I've never gotten a love letter before."
"I've never gotten a love letter before and that doesn't mean I would turn into an idiot if I did." Sherlock tosses himself on the bed, slouching angrily on his side, and takes out a cigarette.
"That'd be an interesting experiment. Maybe I'll write you one and see whether or not you're right. Dear Sherl, your eyes are like the moonlit sea— are you an idiot yet?" John is laughing, but Sherlock, unusually, isn't laughing with him. He stops. "Are you okay?"
"Of course I'm okay. Why wouldn't I be okay?" he snaps, lighting two cigarettes and putting both between his lips.
John reaches over and confiscates them. "You seem pretty upset about this."
"I am naturally upset by the butchering of the English language. She spelled heart without an e. Clearly she hasn't actually given hers to you if she can't be bothered to spell it right."
John plops onto the bed beside Sherlock, causing enough of a dip in the mattress that the taller boy slides toward him a fraction. "You know what I think? I think you're jealous."
"You shouldn't think, John, it's dangerous for people who aren't me." Sherlock feels for his cigarette pack, finds it empty, and swears again.
Leaning over him, John pokes him once in the side and then in the forehead, smirking. "You're jealous that someone else wants a piece of the magnificent man-meat that is John Watson."
"Please don't describe yourself as man-meat unless you expect me to buy you in a deli." But Sherlock is smiling, albeit resentfully.
"You couldn't afford me anyway."
Five months ago
Of course Sherlock hadn't shoveled his steps.
John curses and kicks aside snow before shoving open the door, his cheeks red in a way that was only partially from the cold. "Drunk! Christmas morning and Harry's drunk. She can't even take one day off. And then she blew up at me, and then I blew up at Dad, and it's half an hour after we've opened presents and everything is ruined already—what are you doing?"
The kitchen is a disaster zone. It looks like a bomb filled with candied fruit, flour, and sugar had been dropped, coating the countertops and the floor and Sherlock Holmes, who is as frozen as if John had caught him naked.
"Cooking," he mutters, slamming the oven shut.
"Since when do you cook?" John completely forgets about Harry and sits at the counter, dipping a finger in a pool of batter and licking it. "Blech. I rephrase my question: who are you trying to poison?"
"You're welcome." Sherlock sweeps up the heaps of dishes and measuring cups, depositing them unceremoniously in the sink.
"You're trying to poison me?" And then it dawns on him. "Sherlock, were you making me a fruitcake?"
"I've never gotten anyone a Christmas present before, I don't know what I'm bloody well supposed to do. I watched a few movies and fruitcake appears to be a tradition."
He's snapping, so it takes John a second to figure it out: Sherlock is embarrassed. And he'd watched Christmas movies for present ideas. Which was basically adorable. "A Christmas Carol? Love Actually? Miracle on 34th Street? I need details."
John dips his finger again in the batter, forcing himself to suck it off. "I was kidding before. This is actually really good."
"Are you being serious?" Sherlock stops his half-hearted attempt at cleaning, scrutinizing John intensely.
"Yeah." John smiles. "Thanks, Sherlock."
Mary Morstan. SH
Yes, I listed out all the girls in school who fit the criteria and proceeded to narrow it down. Mary Morstan is your bad speller. SH
You mean love-note-writer. JW
No, I mean bad speller. SH
John is just stepping out his classroom, eyes glued to his phone, which is why he knocks into the nearest person in the hallway. "Oh, sorry, I was just—"
He glances up. And his heart stops. It's Mary Morstan. One of the few girls short enough to be shorter than John, Mary is cute, a grade above him, and eons out of his league. And, apparently, she'd been writing him love letters.
"John!" Mary grins and hooks her thumbs into the pockets of her oversized sweater. "I was hoping to run into you."
"And you did. Literally." That was almost suave. Is John being suave? Is his hair appropriately ruffled? Could he reach up and ruffle it without being obvious?
"I was actually wondering if you wanted to go to prom with me."
John freezes with his hand halfway to his hair. Prom. Prom is in three weeks. Prom is for people with dates. Someone is asking John to prom. "Just—just like that?"
She tilts her head to the side. She's so ridiculously cute. "Just like that."
Be suave. Be suave, you bloody sodding idiot. "Then I'll say yes. Just like that."
"Cool. I'll meet you there. Find me in the crowd." She winks at him, turns, and strides off. And suddenly, John has a prom date.
Sorry, Sherlock, our plans of watching crappy romance movies and making fun of love on prom night are canceled. JW
Four months ago
"Do you know what I think?" John drops himself onto Sherlock's couch, slinging his backpack onto the floor and stuffing his face into a pillow. "I think love is stupid, and pointless, and it's probably better to die alone, and anyway pink is gross, and hearts are gross, and I don't even like chocolate that much."
"Ah." Sherlock glances up idly from his microscope. "Is it Valentines' Day already?"
John sits up. "How hard is it to keep track of the days?"
"I do keep track of the days. You're my calendar. On Monday you complain about your weekend homework being due, and on Tuesday you complain about being in that class with the girl who smells like tomato sauce, and on Wednesday you complain that we don't have late-start Wednesdays anymore, and on Thursday—"
"Okay, okay, I get the point. I'm basically your sun dial." John leans down and peers at the microscope. Something that looks like a toenail clipping is on the tiny glass slide. "I just don't get why nobody left me a Valentine. I'm moderately to extremely attractive—"
"Mildly to moderately." Sherlock twiddles with a dial on the side of the microscope.
"Gee, thanks. Anyway, what I'm thinking is, statistically I should have received at least one Valentine. Aidan Baker got two and he has that mole issue. I have no mole issues, Sherlock. It's like they all think I'm taken or something."
"Maybe they do think you're taken." Sherlock takes the slide out from under the microscope. "Good news, John. You don't have a toenail fungus."
John stares. "Where did you get a piece of my toenail?"
Sherlock smiles and tosses a pair of clippers in the air. "You sleep with your feet out from under the blanket."
"…Ignoring that, I think the more important question is why would anyone think I'm taken? I must have yelled at half the people in the school by now that you're not my boyfriend."
"I think they've heard you over in Africa as well. You're certainly loud enough." Sherlock begins packing up his microscope.
"What I want to know is when are people going to start believing me."
But Sherlock doesn't respond. He just picks up his microscope and walks into the kitchen.
Sherlock is missing.
And John is panicking. He's checked all of Sherlock's usual places. Nothing. It's only been a day, he knows he should calm down, but all he can think about is the last time Sherlock went missing and how it nearly broke him. Nearly broke both of them. Sherlock must have taken one of his lungs with him. It's that hard to breathe.
He's about to call Mycroft when he figures it out.
He wraps up in his rattiest jacket and takes his dad's car. He remembers the way, even though it's been more than seven months since he was there. He parks a little ways away and has to walk to get there, the sun baking him. He doesn't need his jacket. Spring is here.
It's the abandoned parking garage where Sherlock had nearly been beaten to death. Just the sight of it makes John shudder. There's a notice on the front—it's being torn down—but people are still skateboarding inside.
John finds him exactly where he expects to.
"Get up." He kneels on the concrete and grabs Sherlock's shoulder, noting the marks on his arm, noting the other people lying around as if comatose. "Now."
"Ah. John." Sherlock sits up, blinking. John checks his eyes. They're nearly normal. It's almost worn off. "Was wondering when you'd show up."
"You promised." John wants to hit Sherlock, wants to shake him. Mostly he just wants to take him away from here. "If you felt like you needed to do this again, you could have called, you could have talked to me."
"That would have distracted you from your prom preparations. What's on the table now? Color of the corsage? I suggest you try a muddy unappetizing brown, it matches her eyes."
"That's what this is about?" John's fingers dig into Sherlock's shoulder. "Mary?"
"Your deductions are improving." Sherlock leans his head against the grimy, graffiti-splattered wall and closes his eyes.
"Wait." John hadn't expected to be right. "It really is about Mary?'
Sherlock's eyes snap open. "Didn't say that. You may want to get your ears checked out. As well as your taste in women."
"She has a secret, John. She's keeping something from you, it's obvious from her voice when she talks to you. And she has a unicorn on her backpack, that's really all that needs to be said—"
"Sherlock!" John is just as anxious as he is furious and it's a bad combination, it's making his voice sharper than it should be. "You can't do this. It's not fair. You've been acting like I'm—like I'm cheating on you and you made it clear, you've always made it clear, you made it really clear at that party, that you're not interested in that type of thing. I need to go out with other people, I can't always just—"
"Can't always just what?" Sherlock's eyes are completely clear.
John rubs his forehead hard. He's lost track of what he was saying. "Nothing. It's fine if you can't…I don't know. I accept you as you are. That's what I meant."
"And what am I?" Sherlock is watching him carefully, almost curiously.
"An idiot." John stands up, pulling Sherlock with him, ready to support him if he needs it, but he doesn't. "Let's get the hell out of here."
Two months ago
"Happy birthday!" John sets the overflowing tray of pancakes on Sherlock's bedside table, careful not to spill several beakers of suspicious-looking liquid, and whips the blankets off Sherlock's sleeping form.
"You're almost as annoying at the alarm clock." Sherlock opens his eyes sleepily. "I put the alarm clock in the oven. Count your blessings."
"You—you didn't tell me—" John hurls the blanket back at Sherlock, but it lands mostly on his head. He shuts his eyes. "Since when do you sleep naked?"
"I don't usually. But last night I burned a hole in my pajamas with diluted acid and my other pair was in the laundry. Really, this is your fault for doing my laundry." Sherlock pulls the blanket off his head and covers himself with it. "You made pancakes?"
John is bright red and spluttering. "I—I—yeah, I made pancakes."
John rubs his eyes like he can make himself quit picturing Sherlock naked. His torso is still exposed—the pale chest, the narrow shoulders that have gotten a little broader since John has met him. "It's your birthday."
"Then I suppose I'm dressed appropriately."
John gazes at him blankly.
"Birthday suit," Sherlock prompts.
"Oh. Oh, right. Good joke. Very good joke. Yes." John tries to pour out a little maple syrup, but his hands are unstable and he ends up dumping out nearly the whole bottle.
"What are you so flustered about? You have one too. Unless you covered your crotch with your binder on the way to the blackboard in math class last week for the sake of misdirection." Sherlock takes a bite that's mostly maple syrup. "Why would you make pancakes for my birthday?"
"For the same reason you made me a fruitcake on Christmas." John stands up, his face still flaming. "I'm going to go take a shower."
"I suggest a cold one," Sherlock calls out, smirking. "And you may need that binder again."
John slams the door.
Sherlock, would you come over? I'm panicking and I don't know if this tux fits right and my hair is doing something that should be illegal. JW
Why not? It's prom night, I know you haven't got a date. JW
As ever, you know very little. SH
Wait, you have a date? JW
Will I see you there? JW
No response. John tosses his phone on the bed and groans. Sherlock has to be kidding. Who would ask Sherlock Holmes to prom? More importantly, who would Sherlock Holmes say yes to?
He doesn't need this right now. What he needs is to calm the hell down. He flattens out his hair, adjusts the tux and stares at himself the mirror. It's Sherlock who would look good in a tux.
But Sherlock doesn't have a date. He couldn't.
Why does John feel so queasy? It must be nerves about Mary. But strangely, he hasn't been thinking about Mary much. He'd been hoping Sherlock would come over before he left.
He goes downstairs, warding off Harry's fervent attempts to photograph him, and takes his dad's car. Maybe after prom, he could stop by Sherlock's. They might have time for just one corny romance movie.
It isn't John's fault that Sherlock is alone on prom night. Sherlock could have gotten a date if he wanted. He's definitely attractive enough.
Fifteen minutes later, John parks next to the school and gets out. Prom's taking place in the gym. Their school isn't fancy enough to rent out a hotel ballroom. But they'd made an effort—there are balloons tied to the front doors, the music is spilling out into the night air, and at least one person had been cliché enough to rent a limo. He takes a deep breath and goes inside.
They'd gotten one of those machines that spills colored flashes of light on the walls and ceilings. Tablecloth-covered cafeteria tables are in one corner, laden with punch and appetizers. There are chairs against the wall for the lonely students. Most everyone else is dancing.
John is late. He maneuvers through the crowd, narrowly avoiding smashing into an obviously drunk couple. Mary had to be here somewhere. But he doesn't catch a glimpse of a short blonde girl with an interesting smile.
Instead, he catches a glimpse of his best friend.
"Sherlock! Sorry," John adds quickly to the two people he'd accidentally knocked into in his haste to reach the tall, dark-haired boy. Sherlock is wearing a sleek black tux that fits him perfectly. John has no idea where he got it. It's definitely not Mycroft's.
"Ah, John," says Sherlock as John finally catches up to him. Is it his imagination, or does Sherlock look nervous? He keeps adjusting the buttons on his cuff, the light playing over his face, highlighting his cheekbones. "I thought you'd be here before me."
"I didn't think you'd be here at all." John catches hold of him and pulls him to the side of the gym, away from all the dancers. He has to speak loudly to be heard over the music. He tries to hide his grin. He's so glad Sherlock won't be alone tonight. Less danger of him catching the stove on fire with some insane experiment. "Who's your date?"
Sherlock won't look at him. He keeps folding and unfolding the cuff of his sleeve. "You."
John can't have heard him right. It's the music, that's why. The music is too loud. "What?"
"I told you Mary was keeping something from you." Sherlock's speaking quickly, almost too quickly for John to follow. "I didn't know what she was planning until this afternoon, I promise. She and Molly Hooper showed up at my house and said if I didn't go along with it, you'd be alone tonight, so—"
"Wait." John rubs the back of his head unconsciously, ruining his carefully smoothed-back hair. "What you're telling me is—"
"Mary didn't actually want to go to prom with you. Apparently—and these are her words, not mine—everyone at school is sick of seeing us essentially dating without actually admitting it, so she concocted a plan to make sure we'd end up at prom together—"
John stares at him. A laugh bubbles out of his chest. "Oh."
"You're not angry?" Sherlock squints slightly as a slash of green light falls over him. "We can go home if you like. I told Mary you'd want to. It's the sensible thing to do, considering proms are a meaningless tradition adopted from the U.S in order to—"
"No, I don't want to go home." John isn't sure why he's not furious. Or disappointed. For some unnamable reason, he's relieved. Maybe it's just because he gets to see Sherlock in a tux. "I want to dance."
Just as he says it, the music changes from a quick pop song to a slow one. A waltz. Sherlock raises an eyebrow. "Do you still want to dance?"
It's prom night and John's date has stood him up and really, does it matter what he does? "Yeah. But I don't know how to dance fancy."
"I can show you how to 'dance fancy' as you so elegantly put it." And then Sherlock has his hand and he's leading him out onto the dance floor. Which is not something John ever thought would happen. "Although nearly anything we could do would be more impressive than the standard put-your-hands-on-each-others'-shoulders-and-sway."
"Since when do you know how to dance?" John asks to distract himself from the fact that Sherlock is putting a hand on his waist.
"Since I got bored and looked it up on YouTube."
John laughs, but then he has to stop because Sherlock is leading him, whispering to him gently where to put his feet. For a second he tenses, waiting for someone around them to start laughing, but then he remembers that the entire school had apparently been conspiring to get them together.
Sherlock is an excellent dancer. How has John never known that about him? He knows everything else, like how Mycroft had destroyed his earthworm collection when they were little, and that his favorite composer is Bach, and that he's never dated anyone before…
"All right?" Sherlock asks quietly. The waltz is soft enough so that John can hear him.
"Why are you doing this?" John asks as they rotate again to the music. "You hate this sort of thing."
"Maybe you don't know everything about me, John Watson."
"Of course I do." John adjusts his fingers within Sherlock's. Their hands are interlocked. "You're the only thing I'm an expert on."
"You're also an expert on being uniquely oblivious." Sherlock is so close, the warmth of him almost tangible.
John can't look away from his eyes. "And what the hell am I supposed to be uniquely oblivious to?"
"Oh, come on, John." Sherlock's grip tightens. "I would think the signs have been fairly obvious."
"You think everything's fairly obvious."
"That's because everything is. Especially this." Sherlock falls silent, his expression unreadable, though his hand is steady against John's skin.
And John understands. It hits him with the force of a gale of wind. He nearly falls over, except Sherlock's still leading him. "You don't mean—that you—but I always thought—you weren't into that sort of thing—"
"If you'd cared to pay attention, John, you'd have noticed that you were always the one barking 'not gay!' at everyone. Never me."
"But—I mean—I'm not—"
"I know." A sliver of pain enters Sherlock's voice. "That's why I knew this could never—anyway. I just wanted to tell you. There's only so long I can watch you blunder around, missing the obvious."
"What do you mean, this could never work?" John breaks free. There's an explosion inside him. "I kissed you, Sherlock! You hated it! I didn't want to do anything like that to you again."
A couple people are staring at them now. Sherlock clears his throat, his brow furrowed as if he's facing a puzzle. But he's only facing John. "I had the wrong idea then. I thought you were mocking me."
"I'd never mock you." The waltz is dying, fading out.
"So," says Sherlock slowly. "What you're saying…is that we both…"
"…Feel the same way?" John finishes. Suddenly he's blushing ferociously. Blushing. Like a cartoon character. God.
"Oh, just kiss already," someone says, and John realizes there's more than a
couple people watching them.
"Can't disobey a direct order," Sherlock murmurs, and suddenly he's inches away from John, his hand slipping around John's back.
"But you never do what people tell you do." John can't catch his breath. This isn't happening. Is it? He really hopes this is happening.
"I usually don't want to." And then Sherlock is kissing him. Sherlock. Kissing him. His lips are soft. Everything about him is soft and warm. The exact opposite of his personality. Or at least the personality that John had thought he'd understood.
There's a hunger in his kiss, something starving. It's almost desperate. John slips his hand around the back of his best friend's neck and holds them together, tightly, like they'll never break apart.
When they do, people are clapping.
And Sherlock Holmes is smiling.
Okay! Sorry about this epilogue coming so late. I just graduated university and that's been sucking up most of my time. But after series 3 of Sherlock, I just had to write it.
Thanks to everyone who's left reviews. I reread them sometimes when I get sad. :3
Oh, by the way, I'm self-publishing a book-length piece of Sherlock Holmes fanfiction on Amazon. It's another teen AU and it's got some similar elements to How We Navigate, so if you liked that, you'll probably like this.
It's called LOCKED and it's coming out on Feb 10th, 2014, and you can buy the ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords (search Locked by Eva Morgan). It'll cost $2.99, which is like the price of an ice cream cone.
I'm gonna post the blurb and a short excerpt here, but if you have questions or you just want to chat, find me on Tumblr. My url is 221b-tea-party.
Also, I'm having a huge giveaway of a lot of Sherlock merch on my blog until Feb 10th, so if you want to enter, hop on over!
Eighteen-year-old Irene Adler hasn't cared much for living since her sister died.
Until Sherlock Holmes moves in next door.
Sherlock is a conceited, sharp-cheekboned nightmare—and Irene's first real friend in ages. Within a day, he's partnered with her to solve their school's mysteries. Within a week, he's saved her life in more ways than one.
Within a month, the whole school thinks he's a murderer.
When Sherlock is found alone with a dead girl, he and Irene must crack the case under a hailstorm of hate—before the killer comes after the genius who gave Irene her life back.
There are over a hundred thousand diseases that affect humans. Over twenty-five pressure points on the human body that cause death if appropriately struck. Five vital organs that can withstand very little damage before they fail. Human skin is paper. Nearly every object that one could bother to name can be used to take a life.
It is distinctly irrational to entrust one's heart to something so fragile.
The turritopsis dohrnii, a species of jellyfish native to the Mediterranean, is effectively immortal. It is capable, through the process of transdifferentiation, to revert to its younger colonial stage after exhausting its body at the solitary stage. It regenerates.
It is far more rational to care about a turritopsis dohrnii than a human being.
Though it is doubtful that there is a turritopsis dohrnii who would buy coffee for me when everyone else thought I was a murderer, who would knock on my door to wake me up in the morning because she knows I hate the sound of the alarm, who would be so irrational as to care about someone belonging to such a breakable species as humanity.
Conclusion: This would be really be much easier if she were a jellyfish.