Sally Donovan had told him that Sherlock didn't have friends. Mycroft Holmes had told him that Sherlock didn't have friends. Sherlock, himself, had told him that he didn't have friends. It hadn't been something he was about to dispute – of all the things people had told him about Sherlock, a lack of social relationships was one of the easiest to accept as fact.
It had taken a few minutes in his company before he'd become a colleague. A convenience. Someone to pay the rent. Someone who could pass him the phone, do the shopping and send texts to murderers when the need arose.
He hadn't really considered that he could ever be more than that. As far as John was concerned, Sherlock simply needed someone who could put up with him and John was happy to fulfil the role. As damn frustrating and irritating as the man was, there was something slightly magnetic in his mannerisms and his view on life that John found... interesting.
And then, there it was.
"This is my friend, John Watson."
The man in front of him had questioned the choice of word. Sherlock, as always, had told John nothing – just assuming that he'd fall into place behind him, acting as a fleshy and more portable version of his damn skull. This man appeared to know something of Sherlock, however, because the slight sparkle in his eye at the suggestion of Sherlock having a friend seemed to imply some inside knowledge.
"Colleague." John corrected.
The moment followed him around all day.
It was at the beginning of the next case when John brought it up.
"Sherlock referred to me as his friend, the other day." John ventured to Lestrade, glancing at him hoping for some sort of assurance that this wasn't too far out of the realms of the normal.
The raise of the eyebrows didn't ease the guilt in his stomach.
John could feel the moment of awkwardness. He was no Sherlock Holmes, no genius observer, but even he saw the all too amused smile from Sebastian and for a second, he felt a thread of connection between the two of them. He was too used to the slight shakes of the head from Lestrade, Mrs Hudson's exasperation, Donovan's mouth words forming the words 'freak's here.'
He hadn't meant to contradict Sherlock, exactly. He hadn't anticipated the word friend to slip out there. It had never occurred to him that he could actually mean something to Sherlock.
It didn't seem so funny anymore, with Sebastian's disdainful voice talking directly at him. It wasn't like at the police station, or at Baker Street, where the Sherlock-induced reactions seemed to be fuelled by a degree of a humour: there was more of a sense of look what he's done now. Typical Sherlock.
"We hated him." Sebastian said. Sherlock looked away slightly. The movement was surprisingly human and unexpected.
Later, John ran this over in his mind. Sherlock, who did everything deliberately, had introduced him as a friend. It occurred to him that it was down to something as simple as Sherlock wanting to show someone who used to despise him that he could be normal and John had ruined it.
He could feel the joyful venom in Sebastian's voice.
"Who did Sherlock share a flat with before?"
"No one," Anderson had replied, breaking into the conversation as he crossed the crime scene, "who'd want to?"
Lestrade shrugged, arms folded as he watched Sherlock pacing up and down the downstairs corridor before heading back towards the stairs.
"He never mentioned anyone."
Sherlock hadn't moved for over an hour. John was not quite accustomed to some of his more particular quirks yet and he wasn't sure that he'd ever become used to thing likes finding actual fingers in the butter (some experiment, apparently, into how butter at different temperatures took fingerprints), but the silence was easy enough to deal with.
Except, once again, John had found his mind replaying the my friend moment over and over in his head.
Sherlock looked up, raising his eyebrows at John and seeming expectant.
"You were staring," Sherlock said impatiently, fixing John with his own stare, "so, the question?"
"You went to university with Sebastian."
"Not a question, but yes, obviously."
What John wanted to ask was 'why do you care what he thinks?' but he didn't. He nodded once and took up his laptop – conceivably trying to imagine an almost teenage Sherlock amongst people like Sebastian, who hated him.
He couldn't really imagine Sherlock in any context but the one they existed in – with Mrs Hudson, Lestrade and him.
"Did you... like university?" John asked, knowing that Sherlock could see beyond the subtleties and probably knew exactly what he was thinking about.
"It was dull."
John could feel Sherlock's gaze on his skin and returned to focusing on his laptop screen to avoid the sort of gaze that made him feel transparent. He'd never considered how it must have felt for Sherlock to be so universally hated, but now he was beginning to think of complimenting Sherlock's deduction in that back of the taxi, how surprised he'd seemed to be...
Somewhere in the middle of John's thoughts, Sherlock had started composing again.
"How did it even start... a consulting detective?"
"Trade off," Lestrade had replied, "to get him off the cocaine. Just figured if we gave him something to do..."
"He wouldn't be so bored." John finished.
The first time John really saw Sherlock deal with the boredom he was quite terrified. He had seen the man go without food for several days, not sleep for perverse amounts of time and see a million things in less than a second – but nothing was quite as alarming as bored Sherlock.
He hadn't changed out of his dressing gown and instead paced across the room at alarming intervals, occasionally spewing lengthy rants about what had been moved and what that meant (skull moved half a center meter to the left, dusted but placed back in the same spot – as if I wouldn't notice – smudge on the mirror. Thumbprint. Mrs Hudson checked her reflection, then. So, dusted when we were out. Trying to be inconspicuous. Doesn't want us to know that, yes, she's been doing the dusting. Has happened before. Conclusion: she is in fact our housekeeper...). Slightly more alarming (John was well past the point when he could block out Sherlock's rants now) were the sudden erratic bursts of the violin, which were just as sporadic and likely to end mid-note for him to walk across the apartment and forcefully refresh the internet, as though if Sherlock clicked extra hard something would suddenly blow up and he'd have something to do.
"Tea?" John suggested, slightly fearful of what the response would be.
Sherlock threw himself onto the sofa, pulled his knees up to his chest and went completely silent.
John switched on the television.
"Turn that off." Sherlock demanded from the sofa.
"I thought you were bored."
"Right," John said, shaking his head slightly and ignoring the request, "the TV's annoying," Sherlock sat up slowly, turning his blue-green eyes on John's direction, "I'm just saying, Sherlock, that you're who's been having an on off relationship with your violin all night, who's been pacing the apartment and muttering for hours about dusting and spider webs, and apparently I'm the one being annoying."
"You don't understand!" Sherlock said. "You don't think, John, you don't see anything. You just wonder along existing, barely using your brain if you're bored, well, by all means just put on the telly and sit around ignoring the fact that her skirt just changed lengths between shots, the extra's have completely swapped positions and I very much doubt that that evidence would hold up in court as it's entirely circumstantial and -"
"-you don't have to look for continuity errors."
"I'm not looking for anything!" Sherlock said wildly. "I don't look for it John! Oh, look, you shaved this morning –got nothing to do today, sitting around watching television – had pizza for lunch, turned down the garlic bread; date tonight, then. Except you're not really sure or you'd have planned ahead, shaved later. But, oh, she seemed a nice girl when you met in the queue for the supermarket and she seemed interested, so you might as well. Don't worry; she wasn't that keen either judging by the fact that she nearly gave you a fake number – nearly writing a nine as the last digit before she changed it to a six. Or maybe she just made a mistake? No, a girl who'll happily give her number out at a supermarket is probably quite likely to remember it accurately, particularly as she carries around a pen just in case she falls in love down the vegetable isle. Do you think I care, John? Do you think it really matters to me that your favourite socks are in the wash or that you've been pretending not be following this TV show for two weeks? Am I looking for it? Am I actively delving into people's personal lives?"
"-Sherlock." John began.
"I want to look clever? That's your theory. Excellent, John. I spend hours devoting my brain to studying how to tell which brand of cigarettes someone's been smoking by looking at their knuckles because it's a neat little party trick. A great way to start a conversation on a tube! Did you know the fact that you roll your socks combined with how you've plucked your eyebrows probably means that you're an x-factor fan? Did you realise the reason your daughter is wearing her cardigan even though it's hot is because she's hiding the fact that she self harms? Did you know that your alcohol addiction really isn't as secret as your first thought? No, John: I'm not looking to see anything, I can't help the fact that I'm not some blind, mindless idiot any more than you can help being spectacularly ignorant."
"As long as you admit I can't help it." John said, turning back to the television and hearing Sherlock wilt beside him.
"The step daughter did it," Sherlock added, pulling one of the cushions over his ears and curling into something that looked a little like the foetal position, "the television guide you were reading tried to allude to it."
John switched off the television.
"Cluedo," John said, "ever played it?"
"No." Sherlock answered, pealing himself off the sofa and giving John a strangely grateful look.
When John returned to Baker Street thirty minutes later with a brand new Cluedo board, he'd readjusted some things in his mind. It wasn't as much as Sherlock getting off on his consulting criminal stuff but more that it fed the addiction. After merely listening to Sherlock for twenty minutes he usually found he had a headache, so God only knew what it was like to be Sherlock. If solving murders helped to regulate his brainwork, then it was probably for the best that they lived in London where murders weren't exactly uncommon.
In fact, John found himself half hoping that something that appealed to the man's strange sense of intrigue came up soon, because he wasn't sure the Cluedo would quite cut it.
"God, sorry," Lestrade said, "should have known he'd get bored."
"Well," John returned, "it's not like you really have that much control over the psychopaths of London."
"Still, bit bloody insensitive of them to keep him waiting a whole week." Lestrade and John exchanged a look, a smile, a sense of understanding.
John called out some kind of greeting on automatic, not expecting any response due to the fact that Sherlock was knee deep in some complicated case that apparently called for lots of experiments to be done on their kitchen table. The microscope was out, there were probably some body parts scattered around (although it was agreed anything bigger than fingers had to stay in the morgue, but John was sure that Sherlock could have easily deleted the hours they'd spent compromising from his memory if the case required anything larger) and John half expected him to be sat in the kitchen with his coat and scarf on, to complete the usual look.
"Got the shopping." John continued, dumping the bags on the single counter not reserved for creating minor explosions.
Sherlock was sat back in his chair, hands locked in front of his face, eyes strangely unfocused.
"All going okay?" John continued. "Found the answer in the victim's dandruff? The father was never actually dead?"
"John." Sherlock said. John turned back around to face him. Sherlock was always pale, but there was something shaky and very human in his voice that stopped him in his tracks – he just sounded so weak. Nothing like the usual, deep, authorative voice of his god-damned mutterings and his elusive remarks.
"Are you okay?" John asked, pausing slightly at leaning on the kitchen table.
Clearly not, as 'disturbing the working environment' was usually treated as a near-capital offence when Sherlock was in the middle of a case. John sighed, pulling up a chair and trying to asses him.
"Are you ill?"
"Well, obviously not Sherlock. You look like you're about to pass out," John said distractedly, fetching a glass of water and pushing it towards him. He didn't move, "have you had breakfast this morning?"
"I don't eat whilst I'm working."
John began tracing back the past couple of days: him grabbing something to eat at St Bart's whilst Sherlock finished off with some tests in the lab, a take away here, Sherlock running off on some mad errand and returning with growing evidence whilst John was eating lunch... he'd been working since John had woken up this morning, doubtlessly hadn't slept...
"Have you not eaten at all for the past three days, Sherlock?"
"Digestion slows me down."
"I don't think you could be going much slower." John commented, feeling his forehead fold into a frown. He'd know from the off that Sherlock's eating habits were as strange as the rest of him, but he hadn't quite anticipated the fact that he could quite literally be starving himself to make his brain work faster. He'd assumed that Sherlock had snuck away and eaten when no one was looking, perhaps. Anything, really. It hadn't crossed his mind that the extent to which Sherlock literally cared about nothing but the pieces of the puzzle in front of him could lead him to seriously damaging himself. "You need to eat."
"-and don't say you're fine."
"-not hungry," Sherlock finished pointedly, "I simply wanted to know if you could pass me a pen."
"Not unless you eat," John said, pulling a loaf of bread out of the bags of shopping and taking a precautionary glance inside the toaster for fingers – they were clear, this time, so John went ahead and dropped the slices of bread in anyway. "Two slices of toast, one pen."
"Do you realise how important this is?" Sherlock asked, fixing John with his usually icy stare.
"Evidentially not important enough for you to fetch your own pen," John said, putting the kettle on, "anyway, he can wait – he's already dead. You're not. Shall we keep it that way?"
"Dull." Sherlock said derisively.
"Eat your toast." John said, shoving the plate towards him and watching as he consumed several bites before going to find the bloody pen.
John was glad to be out of his sight for a few minutes, because he knew that Sherlock would be able to read the questions in his face: who stopped you from starving yourself before? Who used to fetch your pens? Who didn't want you to cast life off as boring? John was met with a fleeting vision of Mycroft, leaning on his umbrella with his usual expression of finding something not quite to his taste – their bizarre sibling rivalry.
It was then that John began to realise how important he was. The friend definition floated around with caretaker and bloody minder, but the fact was that he was the only person who really cared about Sherlock.
"You mean he literally doesn't eat?" Lestrade asked, in one of those what-is-he-like conversations they had whilst Sherlock flapped around with his usual dramatic air, until they were told off for talking or required to listen.
"Nothing, as far as I can work out."
"No wonder he's in such a bloody hurry to get the case cracked." Lestrade muttered, cocking his head to the side slightly as they watched him.
"I thought we agreed you weren't going to use my laptop." John muttered, sitting down in his usual chair and glancing at Sherlock – once again donned in his dressing gown and staring at the screen of John's laptop rather resolutely.
"I believe so."
"Hmm. You're probably just wrong." Sherlock said evenly.
"I think I remember a conversation about not invading people's privacy, actually. And if you do have it stored somewhere in that mind palace of yours, you might want to think about reiterating it to your brother."
"Yes," Sherlock said, "what did my brother want to talk to you about yesterday?"
John was half torn between asking Sherlock how the hell he'd known and not wanting him to give another opportunity to show off – the case they'd just finished had given him ample opportunity to fire insults at everyone around him, talk fast and turn up his collar, so John decided against it.
"Even the illusion of privacy would work, you know."
"There is nothing on your laptop that is remotely interesting or unpredictable, John. Quite frankly, reading your emails is, at best, incredibly boring and considering we live together I very much doubt there's anything that you could have hidden for this long."
"Let's move this away from the laptop for a minute. What about other people and their privacy?"
"What about it?"
"Clue's in the name, Sherlock. Okay, just... maybe don't do the whole, all canons firing, I know your second cousins sleeping with your wife and your best friend at the same time, thing."
Sherlock paused at the laptop and turned to face him.
"If your sister had increased her drinking habits again, surely you'd want to know?"
"You..." John frowned, feeling a headache coming again, "okay, why don't we talk about timings?"
"I don't think he particularly meant to offend her." John said quietly, watching as the hysterical woman wept into her husband's shoulder.
"Freak." Sally Donovan muttered fiercely.
John wanted to yell it at her and tell her shut up.
John never claimed to be an observant person, but he was taken by surprise by the fact he barely noticed the introduction 'this is my friend, Sherlock Holmes' falling off the tongue. He stopped mid sentence, choking on the word, probably reasserting the fact they were in some strange gay relationship due to the alarmed expression on his face; because the words felt familiar my friend, Sherlock Holmes and he was suddenly taken aback by the number of times he'd uttered them – to Sarah, definitely, to a few people at the private practice, to his sister...
And yet never in front of Sherlock. Yet never to Sherlock. Yet, when Sherlock had used the word first, he rejected it. Corrected it.
He thought about friendship.
He thought about running around London with a forgotten-limp, stopping, breathless laughter shared – Sherlock's deep laugher (he wasn't sure he'd ever seen him laugh in front of anyone but him) and enigmatic smiles that meant he'd figured something out. He thought about warning him, about Sherlock looking to him for advice, and leads, and prompts. He thought about Sherlock curing his limp. Sherlock seeing straight through him. John making sure he ate. John making sure he slept. Endless conversations in 221B Baker Street : from 'depressants aren't really my thing' to 'why is it that ordinary people are so perversely obsessed with idle gossip?' he couldn't think of many topics they hadn't broached, at one point or another... and endless cab journeys, leading to endless horrific things.
It seemed a strange place to start a friendship; over a dead body, a morgue, a place of such destruction. But it was there, somehow, at some point, Sherlock had become his friend. The definitions were blurred slightly – care taker, quasi-father figure, minder, tamer, flatmate, colleague, friend.
Sherlock couldn't have really needed a flatmate. Financially, it seemed Sherlock had never given a though to paying the rent, or bills, or buying food. John had borrowed his card. He assumed, these days, that Mycroft must have ensured Sherlock's continuous existence in terms of money, food, heating, because he couldn't imagine Sherlock ever filling in his tax returns and making sure the phone didn't get cut off. The image of him living amongst his homeless network, high, addicted seemed more likely. Still, there had to have been some time in between. Sherlock hadn't just appeared in his lifetime, with a half-empty flat (well, a supposedly half-empty flat; Sherlock had always taken up more than his allotted space) and the need for a blogger.
Sherlock, with his unflappable arrogance, with his mood swings, need for danger. He was so human. Need to prove himself, over and over, need to prove that he was more than ordinary. And maybe John needed that too. A taste of the extraordinary.
And he was remarkable too, all things considered: remarkably, he could iron out some of the edges of Sherlock's sharp exterior. Not change him. The idea of Sherlock becoming less himself was something that John abhorred, but having less of that what-a-freak reaction from strangers could only be a good thing (Sebastian's greasy voice ran over itself in his mind 'we hated him') and if Sherlock didn't collapse from not eating so much (he'd finally managed to get Sherlock admit to this having happened on several occasions) and if he slept more, then that was a result. It was good for Sherlock. Good for his happiness.
And that was good for John.
Because John Watson cared about Sherlock Holmes.
"He's certainly not a boring flatmate."
Lestrade shook his head slightly, bemused as always.
Sherlock was listening. John knew that. He seemed to have a sixth sense (John called it his arrogance sense) for when he was being discussed. Meaning he had a few seconds to say the F-word before he was eloquently told to shut up.
"An interesting friend to have around." John finished, his eyes fixed squarely on the back of Sherlock's coat. There was no reaction. No nothing. He'd thought the Sherlock who studied him so resolutely would have noticed the subtle shift in definition.
The usual shutupeveryoneyou'restupidandI'mtryingtothink was delivered without the usual decadence. John rather thought Sherlock caught his eye.
He saw right through him. Obviously.
Hey everyone! I had a lot of fun writing this story, I actually did. I feel like I'm getting a grip on writing for this shiny new fandom now, although I think that I'll probably all be best at writing HP stuff. Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed it! There are two lines from this which are the Blind Banker and aren't mine. Please review! :)