Sherlock glared at the dairy section of the Tesco. He was quickly growing frustrated by the ludicrous amount of milk.
It had taken three days before he even realized Mrs. Hudson had left Baker Street for her holiday. While she claimed to not be his housekeeper, Sherlock could usually count on her to make sure he ate and to keep the kitchen stocked. But when he had called for tea that morning, he discovered that she was gone. He was convinced the day was doomed when he saw that she had not, in fact, stocked the kitchen before leaving. And he couldn't very well have his tea without milk, so after much grumbling, he set off down the street to remedy his unfortunate circumstances.
It took precisely five minutes for him to regret it. The Tesco was full of people. They packed the aisles and got in his way as he attempted to navigate the store. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd set foot in a place like this. By the time he reached the dairy section, he was already annoyed with everyone and everything around him. And then he saw the hundreds of different types of milk available and wondered why people felt they had to needlessly complicate such a simple dietary staple.
A few feet away, Sherlock saw a man shake his head at the dairy, as if he were thinking the same thing.
Military, recently invalided home from the Middle East, alcoholic sibling, living in a hotel, psychosomatic limp, not readjusting to civilian life well at all.
The man could feel Sherlock's eyes on him, and glancing over at him, smiled and said, "I wasn't away all that long, but it looks like they managed to come up with even more types of milk since I've been gone. Ridiculous, isn't it?"
Disarming, good-natured, friendly.
"Quite." Sherlock heard the ping of an incoming text and paused to check it. I thought surely you could manage something as simple as buying milk. MH He scowled and slid his phone back into his pocket without replying. The man watched him curiously for a moment before making his selection. As he walked away, he paused by Sherlock and pointed to one of the endless cartons.
"I'd go with that one, if I were you."
Warm, pleasant, not a complete idiot, helpful. Atypical.
Sherlock looked the man in the eyes, almost confused at what he saw there. While he was openly affable, Sherlock could see past that into just how miserable he was. He was polite, but he was crumbling inside. Fascinating.
The two exchanged one more quick smirk with each other before the man walked away. Sherlock snatched up the suggested carton and quickly followed, carefully staying a safe distance behind the man. When he saw him choose a check-out line, Sherlock slipped in casually behind him. Without looking at him, Sherlock shrugged and said, "You would know better than I would," and set the carton down.
Later, Sherlock was sitting comfortably in his chair in Baker Street, cup of tea in hand and laptop humming in front of him. The man's choice had been perfect.
Sherlock thought it was irrational, and yet, he was doing it anyway. It was a few days later, and he had spent many hours loitering around the Tesco, on the off chance that he would run into the same man again. He just couldn't shake the feeling that something about him was important. That was irrational, too. After all, the man was not very tall or striking, walked with a cane, and wore the blandest clothing. And yet...
Finally, on the fourth day, the man appeared again. Sherlock "accidentally" went down the same aisle as him, and found him staring at the bread in the same way he'd stared at the dairy. There was no one else on the aisle, and it afforded Sherlock a glimpse of who he was when no one was watching. He looked tired, and there was a slight tremor in his hand.
"Finding the bread to be equally complicated?"
The man's head snapped up, looking terrified that he'd been seen for a split second before covering his face with his usual expression, a self-deprecating sort of smile. "Afraid so. Out of milk already?"
"Out of nearly everything," Sherlock said, "Although admittedly, little seems appealing anyway." He clasped his hands behind his back and pretended to scrutinize the loaves. "Afghanistan or Iraq?"
"You said you'd recently returned from somewhere, that you'd been gone awhile. You're clearly military."
The man paused for only a moment. "Afghanistan."
Difficult to shock.
"Not planning on staying in London long, are you?"
"No. How did you know?"
"Army pensions are deplorable, and London is exorbitantly expensive."
"True. It's a shame to leave, though. This Tesco your usual haunt?"
"I suppose." It wasn't technically a lie, just a recent development.
"In that case I'll probably see you in here again, until I leave London, that is." The man held out his hand. "John Watson."
Sherlock took it. "Sherlock Holmes."
While Sherlock sat alone in Baker Street that night, he found himself replaying the afternoon. John Watson, the army doctor. Sherlock couldn't picture someone like him on the battlefield. He was so unassuming. He would have been better suited to a homey kitchen or a pediatric clinic. Sherlock wondered about the tremor. It had disappeared when he'd shaken Sherlock's hand. What did that mean? Maybe it was the mundane, the everyday, that terrified this man, not the horrible memories of explosions and dead soldiers.
Misses the adrenaline rush. Lonely.
The next time the two "ran into" each other, they ended up in a coffee shop across the street after leaving the Tesco. Sherlock was surprised at himself. He enjoyed listening to John talk. It didn't even seem to matter what he said. It was just his voice. And, even more surprising, John didn't seem to mind him at all. Sherlock was so used to people calling him a freak, hating him, ignoring him, rolling their eyes when he spoke, that it took a while to get used to someone who seemed unfazed by his brusqueness and sarcasm.
A text came in. Oh, do quit dancing around it, will you? MH
"Bad news?" John gestured to the phone on the table, which Sherlock was still glaring at.
"Troublesome older sibling."
"I've been there."
"Of course you do." John smiled. He had already quit asking how Sherlock knew things. Unlike anyone else, he had made peace with the fact that Sherlock simply did know all about him. Things that had bothered hundreds of people about Sherlock didn't affect John in the slightest. Sherlock wondered if that was because he'd seen so many shocking things overseas, or if he was just naturally unflappable.
They stayed and talked for a few hours. Sherlock gave his best explanation of what he did for a living, and was pleased to see John impressed. Before he left, John traded phone numbers with him, saying, "While I'm still in London, we should do this again, assuming I don't run into you at Tesco again first." He chuckled.
"By all means." As Sherlock watched John head off down the street, he added another word into his mental catalog of John Watson:
It was on a whim that Sherlock sent the text. He hadn't really believed anything would come of it.
Crime scene in Brixton. You're welcome to come if it's a slow night on television. SH
Would that even be allowed?
For me it would be. I could use an assistant. No patience for the fool they have on forensics. SH
There was a delay. Sherlock could practically feel John weighing the pros and cons.
Meet me at 221B Baker Street. We'll catch a cab from there. SH
A grueling eighteen hours later, John and Sherlock were sitting in Baker Street's living room, laughing and exhausted. They hadn't slept or eaten, but they had caught a serial killer. Sherlock's earlier theories were confirmed. Five hours in, the cane had disappeared, as had the hand tremor. Seven hours in, John had realized this, and seemed confused but relieved.
Brave, good shot, nerves of steel.
It was decided that food was in order. They had thought of restaurants, but it was early in the day, and nothing sounded good. To be honest, Sherlock wasn't all that hungry. But John had gotten on to him about not eating, "Which is clearly an issue given by the state of your kitchen," he had joked.
"There's always Tesco."
John grinned. "Yes, there is."
They grabbed their coats and set off down the street. When they reached the store, John insisted that Sherlock actually get enough food to survive on for at least a few days. "I swear, I've seen third world nations with more food in their houses than you."
"Well, to be fair, the person who usually does the shopping is on holiday."
"Girlfriend?" Sherlock took note of the tone in John's voice. It was almost worried.
"Landlady, technically." Sherlock grabbed a few bags of crisps off the shelves.
John shook his head at him. "You really have no concept of nutrition, do you?"
"Nutrition's dull." They wandered through the aisles. "How much longer are you in London?"
John stopped walking. "Not long. Money's getting tight."
"You don't want to leave."
"No. I like London. And I must admit, catching serial killers is much more interesting than clinic work."
"You could always get a flat-share."
John laughed. "Come on. Who'd want me for a flatmate?"
Sherlock gave him a sly smile and said, "I may know someone. How do you feel about the violin?"
About time. MH
Sherlock watched as John sat in what was now his chair in Baker Street, going through a box of medical books, occasionally getting up to add one to the bookcase. Mrs. Hudson had finally returned, only to find a new tenant ready to move in. She'd made a remark about needing two bedrooms that neither of them had been sure how to reply to. John had turned an amusingly deep shade of pink.
What is John? Just a friend? Just a flatmate? No, but what?
It was wonderful having John in Baker Street. Sherlock always had someone to go with him to crime scenes, someone to handle the day to day things that he found so tedious, someone to laugh with, someone who called him "extraordinary" and "fantastic," but also someone who didn't fear criticizing him. All those years, people had told him that no one would ever want to spend time with someone as blunt and difficult as him, but here was living proof to the contrary.
John never needed the cane anymore, and his hand never shook. The longer he stayed in Baker Street, the fewer nightmares he had. Yes, Sherlock could be impossible and obsessive, but John was more content when he was around him.
Sherlock continued to build his mental catalog of John.
Happy, flattering, honest, relatively intelligent...
Sherlock spent many hours thinking it over before he finally came to the conclusion that had been hiding in the back of his mind since day one. He knew exactly what John Watson was.
The missing piece.
One day, John set down a cup of tea beside Sherlock, who sat sitting at the table in the living room, staring intently at something on his laptop. They had fallen into so many familiar little habits. John stood for a moment, reading over his shoulder. Sherlock took a long drink of the tea and smiled.
"Still have good taste where milk is concerned."
"Glad you like it," John murmured, distracted. He laid a hand on Sherlock's shoulder as he leaned closer to get a better look at the article Sherlock was reading. "I guess I was lucky Ms. Hudson was on holiday. Had she been here, you never would have been desperate enough to end up at Tesco. For a genius, you looked positively clueless that day."
"You just looked lost."
"I was. Luckily for me, you knew absolutely nothing about milk and badly needed a voice of reason in your life."
No one else had ever used the word "lucky" in speaking about Sherlock. It sounded strange even to himself. He was still getting used to being called something other than "freak."
"Well, if you believe in luck, then I suppose I was lucky we continued to run into each other."
"Oh, please," John laughed, "It wasn't luck so much as persistence. You were always at Tesco, but your house never had any more food in it. I'm not as unobservant as you think I am."
Sherlock froze. Suddenly John's hand felt like it could burn through his shoulder. John turned to look at him and saw the attempt at an indifferent stare and gave him a warm smile. Finally, Sherlock glanced back, and John kissed him and said, "Don't worry. I thought it was adorable." He picked up his own mug of tea and went off to read the paper.
Sherlock sat with his hands wrapped around his mug for a minute, a crooked smile on his face, and then he picked up his phone, typing out a text to his brother.
And to think, you laughed when I told you I had deleted the different types of milk. SH