John made his move, casually draping his arm around the back of the sofa.
"You sure this programme's okay with you?" He motioned to the TV which was playing some sort of singing competition.
Jennie smiled rakishly. "We're not actually going to watch it, are we?"
John grinned like an idiot. He felt a hot rush of anticipation. "Well, I'm sure we could think of something better to—"
Jennie's eyes suddenly fixed on the couch behind him and went wide. She screamed like a banshee and scrambled up.
"What?" John whirled around in time to see a tarantula – a good 6 incher – crawling into the place where his arm had just been. "Sherlock!" He breathed.
"Just a minute," he told Jennie, putting out his hands in a calming gesture. "I'll handle it. Just let me get a towel."
He raced into the kitchen – which he had carefully cleaned of body parts earlier that day. But as he fumbled for a towel and bowl of some kind he heard a blood-curdling scream from the living room.
"Oh, god," he muttered. He ran back into the other room.
Jennie was backing away from the swivel chair, which she had apparently turned to face her whilst backing away from the giant arachnid. In the seat was a severed head. It was Algernon, which had been in the freezer for as long as John had lived here. But now he was on the seat of the swivel chair.
"Gah, gah, gah." Jennie had her hand over her mouth. She looked at John with sheer, accusatory horror.
"It's not what you think," John began, though he knew it was useless. "It's my flatmate. He's got a sick sense of humor."
Yup, it was useless. Jennie grabbed her purse, shot one last laser-death look at John, and fled the flat.
"Oh, God," John sank down on the floor, head in his hand. "Ooooh, god."
"Sherlock," he said, very loudly, "You are a dead man."
There was a clatter of heavy boots on the stairs, the stairs going up to his bedroom, and Sherlock bounced into the room. He looked very pleased with himself.
"That was fun," he said cheerfully. He picked up Algernon and made a face. "He is a bit melty though. I thought the tarantula would move faster."
"You are supposed. To be. In Cardiff." John said, very carefully.
"What, and leave you all alone? That would be insensitive of me."
Sherlock held Algernon by a lock of hair and took him into the other room. John heard the freezer door open and shut.
John clenched his fists. Sherlock had no idea how furious he was. He had not been kidding when he's said Sherlock was a dead man. At the moment he was contemplating the best method. Fireplace poker? No, too messy. Gun? It was up in his room. But he didn't think he could wait that long to murder his flatmate.
Sherlock bounced back into the room. He flung himself into a chair with a sigh of satisfaction, his long limbs everywhere at once.
"John, don't thank me. It was the least I could do."
"Right, then." John said succinctly. "What I'd love best in all the world right now is to strangle you. But since that's not rational, I'll settle for moving out."
Sherlock's head whipped around to look at him. His eyes narrowed. "You don't mean that."
"Yes, Sherlock, I absolutely mean it. You've driven me to it. What choice do I have?"
"Stay here, obviously." Sherlock rolled his eyes at John as if he was a dolt.
John rose to his feet and stared at Sherlock as he might a deranged child. "No, you've cancelled out that option. You're going to insist on making it impossible for me to date women. And that is not acceptable."
Sherlock snorted in distain. He stared at the fireplace. "You only date women because you think you should."
John sputtered in disbelief. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
Sherlock didn't answer.
"No, let me guess. It's the flicker of panic on my face when a woman comes round that gave me away?" John asked sarcastically. His voice was escalating. "Or maybe the timidity I've shown around the subject since we met? How I never approach a woman in a bar? How I never look at them, talk about them? Have I been too bloody subtle for the master observer?"
"Don't be ridiculous." Sherlock snapped.
Now John was shouting. "No, you're ridiculous. I pursue women because I bloody well want to find a woman! It's not a game, Sherlock. It means a lot to me. Are you so incredibly selfish that you can't see that?"
Sherlock looked at him, confounded. "But John, we have a good… thing, don't we?"
"Thing? A friendship, Sherlock? Is that what you're trying to say?"
Sherlock frowned, his fingers playing restlessly on the arm of his chair. "Yes, John, you're my friend."
"That doesn't give you the right to interfere with my sex life."
Sherlock pursed his lips into a painful line. "Don't leave. I'm sorry about Debbie. It was a joke."
"I'm sorry about Jennie."
"And Sandra and Margaret," John said bitterly.
Sherlock snorted. "Margaret had a hairy lip and Sandra tittered precisely like a sandpiper."
"Weren't you… apologizing just now? You were, I think."
"Truly, I don't understand what you see in them. I guess it's not in me to see it."
Sherlock sounded thoughtful. It was the closest they'd ever come to actually talking about this, and John was a bit surprised. "Go on. Why should you have to see the attraction? Can't you just accept that I am attracted to them?"
Sherlock said nothing. He drummed his fingers on his chin, as if lost in thought.
"Sherlock? Either talk about this, or I'm moving out. Tomorrow."
"John," Sherlock growled in frustration. "Can't you see that I need you available for me? When I need you?" It came out very petulant and needy, like the whine of a 12-year-old boy.
"I see. I don't get t haev a life of my own. I exist to be at your beck and call - til I'm old and gray, I suppose."
Sherlock looked bewildered by the mockery in his voice. "But you love it, too. What we do. Who we are."
John squeezed the bridge of his nose with one hand. He had to remember that emotionally, Sherlock was a child. He didn't get normal human relationships. And anyway, he was right. John did love who they were. Most of his anger melted away into resigned frustration. How was he to deal with this overbearing, overgrown, obnoxiously brilliant baby?
John fell onto the couch. He shook his head but didn't say anything.
Sherlock pressed. "John, we'll go on as before. It's… perfect."
John gave him an incredulous look from under his brow. "With all your illustrious powers of observation, you really can't see that it may be perfect for you, but it isn't perfect for me?"
Sherlock shifted uneasily. He didn't like to have his powers of observation called into question. He went into analytic mode.
"But it is perfect for you. On our very first case, you lost your limp and your tremor. You need the danger, as I do. When we're on a case, you're animated. Your eyes sparkle. You laugh. You get a high from it. You like writing your blog. You pour over it at night with the teensiest smile on your lips and this gleam of satisfaction in your eyes." Sherlock waved his fingers, gleamingly. "You become utterly absorbed when you write about our cases. You pour over every word. You pretend to be annoyed with the fan mail, but in a day when there is none, you're out of sorts, like a child deprived of its blankie."
John snorted, but he blushed, too.
"It strokes your ego that we've gained a big following. You like being recognized in the streets. And you don't even mind living with me. You like me. You admire me greatly, in fact, enough to put up with body parts in the fridge and my rages. You… take care of me. When I'm injured you sew up my wounds. You make me eat."
John conceded with a tilt of his head. "Yes, all that is true."
"Don't you see? No one else has ever…"
Surprisingly, Sherlock's voice cracked and he stopped talking. John blinked, surprised. He'd never seen Sherlock have an emotion. To cover it, Sherlock looked utterly bored. He stood up. "Where's my violin?"
"It's out being repaired. Remember?"
Sherlock looked astonished. "Is it? Who allowed that?"
"You did. Three broken strings and you couldn't be bothered to fix them."
Sherlock paced the room twice and then flounced back into the chair. "I don't know why the bloody hell I did that," he muttered petulantly. His arse hit the cushion and his heels hit the ottoman simultaneously in a maneuver than never ceased to amaze.
John sighed. He wasn't about to be distracted and forget what Sherlock had almost admitted. "Look, Sherlock. Everything that you said is true. I do highly, highly value our friendship. I do."
Sherlock didn't look at him. His face was closed. "Well then? If you meet a woman, and fall in love, you'll marry and move out."
John nodded. "Yes, that's possible."
Sherlock whipped his head to glare at him accusatorily. "You don't see any contradiction there? Either you like our life together or you want a new one. You can't have both."
"Sherlock, even if I married, we'd remain friends."
"Oh, yes, I see. You'd pop round on the odd month for a pint, send postcards from your honeymoon, a fruitcake at bloody fucking Christmas?"
The bitterness of Sherlock's voice surprised John. Not that he hadn't heard Sherlock be bitter before. It was second nature. But this felt deeper somehow, more personal.
Suddenly John realized that he was treading on thin ice. It struck him what Sherlock was revealing. Sherlock didn't have friends. He had no one. And now he had John. Somehow he'd become a colleague, surrogate nursemaid and best friend all in one. Sherlock wasn't going to let that go easily. He was being possessive. He was jealous of the women, any woman, and he'd use his clever mind and his reprehensibly selfish lack of empathy to get his own way – indefinitely – if John let him.
As much as that angered and frustrated John, the doctor in him also understood that Sherlock simply wasn't capable of seeing what was wrong with what he was doing. And that was pitiable.
John pulled patience up from his deepest cells and took a deep breath. He sat forward, elbows on his knees and his hands neatly folded. He sucked in his lower lip and gave Sherlock his sternest 'now listen' look. He started to talk several times and failed. Finally he began.
"Sherlock. You fail to understand how important it is for me to have a relationship with a woman."
Sherlock shrugged. "Because it isn't important."
"No, listen to what I'm saying. Is it. It's very, very important to me." John sought for words. "There are things that our friendship can't give me. Things I need, Sherlock."
Sherlock looked bored. "Sex, I suppose."
"Yes, sex. I'm a man who likes sex. Quite a lot, actually."
Sherlock looked away, eyes narrowing. "There are arrangements that could be made. Women you could pay. They don't have to mean anything."
Bloody hell. John tried to stay patient. "But I don't want to have casual sex with a prostitute. I want a real, normal woman, an attractive woman, someone who finds me attractive, someone who'll be there night after night."
The frown was back between Sherlock's brow. "But why, John?"
John knew that Sherlock was really, truly asking. And it was an unusual show of vulnerability. Normally, Sherlock would bluster on as if he knew all about 'emotions' and 'sex' and relations between men and women, as if he saw them as he might see a frog's innards whilst dissecting it. But this time, he was admitting that he really didn't know.
John struggled for a way to explain it to a man who obviously felt no carnal needs at all. "It's like… eating. Or sleeping. I need it."
Sherlock tilted his chin away but kept his eyes on John, giving him a classic 'you're putting me on' look. "Eating and sleeping? Don't exaggerate. You've be dead if you didn't eat or sleep. I've never found a corpse dead of coitus denial. Most people go through life perfectly fine without it."
"Not most people, Sherlock. You. You go through life perfectly fine without it. But I'm not like you."
Sherlock still looked unconvinced. "On a scale from one to—"
Sherlock huffed a derisive laugh. "Nine!"
"Yes, nine. If eating and sleeping are ten on the must-have scale, sex is a nine. Maybe an eight in my worst hour, like when I was severely wounded in hospital. Definitely a nine right now."
"But that's…." Sherlock truly looked bewildered.
"Yes. It is. So you see how incredibly homicidal I will get if you continue to do everything in your power to deny me it. You've heard about cornered rats? Think about it."
Sherlock frowned. He was silent for a long moment. "I'm sorry, John. I…"
He didn't finish. I didn't know. No, he had no clue. John stared at him in wonderment. Not for the first time, he tried to fathom how a man like Sherlock – a man tall and well-formed, good-looking, and so fucking brilliant... in other words, a human with so many physical gifts, could have ended up so utterly and completely damaged. But then, if he weren't like that, Sherlock would not be Sherlock, and he would not be so utterly fascinating.
John pushed on. "It's not just the sex, Sherlock. It's affection. Love, for god's sake. The way a couple is with one another. Snuggling on the couch, rubbing each other's feet, a kiss in the morning whilst being handed a glass of juice, being there when the other person is sick, knowing that person will always be there, because they love you unconditionally. I don't want to grow old without that."
"I'm there when you're sick," Sherlock said quietly.
Trust him to pick the one thing out of the list that he could relate to and dismiss the rest. John thought about the times Sherlock had come into his room to waken him from the nightmares, just sitting on the bed til John regained sanity.
"Sometimes, yes, I'll grant you that one. But… it's just not enough for me. I know you don't understand those needs… the needs I have for intimacy with another human being. But this life… this 'bachelor friendship' is simply not enough. It's not."
He looked straight into Sherlock's eyes as he said it. He didn't want to be cruel, but he had to bloody well make it clear. He was tired of the constant interference. He had to make Sherlock understand that it really was a deal-killer.
Sherlock had his head turned, staring out the window. His face was impassive but his hands were clenched. It seems he'd finally heard it. John felt a pang of regret. Sherlock was his best friend. He didn't want to make him feel rejected. He relented, a bit.
"Sherlock, I love our friendship, and I plan to have it always, no matter what. But I need to have a woman in my life. And that's the end of it."
John got up and started to leave the room. He was stopped by the deep, gravely sound of Sherlock's voice. It was soft but utterly compelling. "What are we then, John? If sex is a nine…"
John leaned against the doorway and thought about it. "Eight," he said with some surprise.
He did love it. He did. And he seriously hoped he could make Sherlock see reason; that he would not be forced to choose.