A/N: Yeah something's bugging me about this one, but I can't for the life of me fathom what. I'm just sick of staring at it all like 'something is wrong with this but I don't know what - all I know is that something is but I don't know omg wtf' so I decided to give up and just post it. Hope you like it anyway, and review to tell me what you think (even if you didn't heh). I'm sorry about any mistakes in advance, but I'd greatly appreciate it if you pointed them out! And remember, I reply to every single review. (Unless you post as a guest, obviously.)
And also, just letting you know that I'm all bogged down by school work and writer's block in terms of my 'Bane of Existence' series, so be patient, I will get there! (Eventually.)
Like with all of my fics, this is also available on AO3 and the link's in my profile. :)
"We're lost, aren't we?" John said, not so much asking as stating a fact.
"Don't be stupid, of course we're not. I know exactly where we are," Sherlock scoffed, even as he frowned slightly, his eyes darting around.
John sighed heavily and stopped walking. Sherlock continued on, hands in the pockets of his great coat, the ends flapping with the drama of some novel vigilante.
John rubbed his bare hands together before blowing into them. It was bloody cold, and they had been walking around for over an hour - lost, despite what Sherlock said. And John had (stupidly) forgotten his gloves in their rush to leave the motel.
They were in a countryside town, about an hour out of London. Sherlock had received a very interesting request for assistance from a client apparently, and so they had hopped on the train that very night. After checking into a motel, Sherlock had insisted they leave immediately for the scene of the crime.
"We can't have anyone contaminating the evidence further, John. We need to leave now," he had said, but John knew that wasn't the whole truth. Sherlock was just impatient to get started.
They had decided to walk to the house, seeing as it was only a couple of kilometres away and calling a taxi or waiting for the bus would have taken longer anyway.
But now, after taking God knows how many turns and backstreets and alleyways, they were stuck in the middle of nowhere, apparently with no idea how to get back.
And it was cold and John was tired.
He pulled out his phone and the 'no signal' icon taunted him. Damn it all. He would have knocked on someone's door but at this ungodly hour, he doubted anyone would be willing to leave their lovely warm beds to help them. Not to mention how hurt he knew Sherlock's pride would be if they stooped to such a low as asking for directions.
"Sherlock, come on, just bloody admit it. We're lost," John frowned up at the starless sky.
Clouds, John thought, that can't be a good sign.
As if hearing John's thoughts, Sherlock turned and said calmly, "It won't snow tonight."
John snorted, "And you know that because you check the weather yourself every morning, do you?"
Sherlock glared at him with his how-do-you-dress-yourself-in-the-morning-without-miaming-yourself face before turning around and walking off again.
John sighed again, trudging along glumly after his friend.
"You're lying to yourself, you know. You don't have a clue where we are," John said wearily once he'd caught up.
Sherlock shot him an offended, irritated look, "I do so."
John glanced at him, mildly amused, "Right, so where exactly are we then?"
Sherlock's jaw visibly tightened, and he said nothing.
John smirked, "Yeah, that's what I thought."
"Shut up, it's not like you know any better," Sherlock said shortly.
"True," John conceded, "but I'm not a world-class genius."
Sherlock threw him one of those vague, searching looks - one that said he wasn't sure if he had understood John correctly, because he wasn't at all used to the meaning behind the words being directed at him. He'd never received honest compliments for the sake of it in his entire life. Not until John, anyway.
And John loved those looks, because it wasn't often one got to see the great Sherlock Holmes utterly baffled.
It wasn't often one got to see the great Sherlock Holmes lost, either.
"It's a shame we're missing out on all the action for once," John mused wryly. He frowned down at the way his boots seemed to sink deeper into the snow here.
Sherlock made a small sound of agreement but otherwise didn't respond, apparently lost in thought.
They walked for some time, the sound of their shoes crunching in the snow filling the silence. It was a lovely night, really. Apart from John's hands and nose freezing off, that is. The snow glittered as street-lamps cast warm yellow light at intervals along the street, and if not for the clouds blocking the stars, John might have called it a night out of a work of classic children's fiction.
The funny thing was, John wouldn't have even noticed if they hadn't been walking like this, somewhat un-rushed, just wandering. Had they found their way, they would have been running from crime scene to suspect to culprit without pause for breath, not taking such a lovely slow lane. John smiled a little. Maybe getting lost wasn't such a bad thing after all.
"Your maudlin thoughts are awfully distracting, John. Do shut up," Sherlock said condescendingly, cutting John's light mood into smithereens.
On second thought, maybe not.
"Your superiority complex is grating on my nerves, Sherlock. Do shut up," John mimicked, somewhat indignant. Just because someone had gotten them lost didn't mean John couldn't enjoy the mild winter night.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes, "Very mature."
John glared and shot right back, "Well, I'm not the one insisting we're not lost when clearly we are."
"We're not lost John, how many times must I say it? I know exactly where we are. We can't be lost if I know where we are."
"No, actually, you don't know where we are -"
"We're in Preston, Kent."
"To paraphrase, obviously, but that doesn't change the fact that we're lost!"
"I know where we are, therefore we're not lost. At least try to keep up."
"But you don't know where we're going."
"We're going to our client's residence. For the last time, we're not lost, so shut up."
John flung his hands in the air, because seriously?
He stalked off ahead, leaving his soon-to-be-disowned friend and flatmate behind him to follow.
"Couldn't even grab a bloody tourist map … " John muttered under his breath.
Stupid, childish, infuriating …
"How did we get so completely lost anyway? Weren't you memorising a map of the area on the train?" John flung the words over his shoulder.
Sherlock shrugged uncomfortably, "Yes, I was."
When John abruptly turned around and stopped, Sherlock almost crashed right into him.
They stared at each other for a moment, assessing each other. Something seemed to shift between them, but neither of them seemed to take any notice.
"So what then? Did you not get to the smaller streets or something?" John asked, still annoyed, but most of the anger was gone.
Sherlock glanced about him, tapping his foot, shifting a bit, before meeting John's eyes again with a heavy exhale.
"Look, I didn't have time to memorise and overlay multiple maps of the whole area with complete accuracy. I must have unknowingly taken a wrong turn somewhere, and now we seem to be in a part of town I didn't deem important enough to familiarise myself with," Sherlock mumbled, almost embarrassed.
John shook his head in amusement, grinning toothily, "Good to know even the great Sherlock Holmes gets things terribly wrong sometimes."
Sherlock scowled at him, "How could that possibly be a good thing?"
"You're not a machine, Sherlock. Making mistakes is just a part of being human," it was John's turn to roll his eyes.
For some unfathomable reason, Sherlock looked as if John had just force-fed him lemons before bodily throwing him out a window.
John frowned at him in consternation. The detective looked like he was in pain, as John had never seen before. His face was all scrunched up as if he was being forced to swallow a concoction of foul-tasting medicine.
"What's the matter with you?" John asked bluntly.
Sherlock tried to regain his composure and said, forcefully calm, "Nothing, nothing. Don't ask stupid questions."
John just stared at him, "No … there's definitely something up with you," he replied slowly.
Sherlock's face took on a more characteristic, notably acidic glare, "We should be trying to find a way out of this godforsaken place, not standing around quarrelling here like old ladies."
Sherlock made to walk past John, but John reached out and grabbed him by the arm before he could stride away in a huff. He forced Sherlock to face him again.
Sherlock raised a cocky eyebrow at him, but John chose to ignore Sherlock's impassive expression.
"Sherlock," John's tone was authoritative.
Sherlock's face had assumed a carefully blank look, which made John all the more wary. Even more so because he now recognised that this wasn't new at all - he'd seen this look before, more and more often over the past couple of weeks.
He had no idea what it meant or what was going on but it was clearly troubling Sherlock. John resolved to find out just what exactly was happening with his friend, and find out now. He assumed a stronger, more solid stance, crossing his arms and pushing his shoulders back.
"Right, spit it out then. What's this all about?" John's steely tone brooked no argument.
Sherlock sighed heavily again, but this time it was out of irritation rather than embarrassment.
"Don't be dull, John. It doesn't suit you," Sherlock wasn't even looking him in the eye but past him, with such an expression of disinterest on his face that alarm bells started going off in John's head.
John stared at him for a moment, while Sherlock stared off into the middle distance.
"Everyone's inside, all warm and cosy and asleep, and we're stuck out here until we find our way back to the motel or the client's house, so we may as well pass the time one way or another," John reasoned carefully.
Sherlock gaze flicked to him for a moment, "Excellent idea. How about we pass the time by trying to find a way out of -"
"There's another reason you've gotten us lost, isn't there," John blurted, cutting him off.
Sherlock blinked at him. John squinted up at him, trying to look for tells.
Sure, John wasn't the best observer in the world, but he had played plenty of poker when he was younger. And despite the fact that he would (probably) never in this reality admit it to anyone, there was no one more attuned to Sherlock and his moods than John was.
Under John's relentless stare, Sherlock found himself shifting and growing increasingly uncomfortable. Does he know? No, of course not. I've revealed nothing, Sherlock thought.
"Yes, that's definitely it," John murmured, almost to himself, his gaze flicking between both of Sherlock's eyes, "But the question is why?"
Irrationally, Sherlock felt pinned like a butterfly on a board by the intensity of John's focus. For a brief, absurd moment, he almost felt as if he was a corpse and John was him: taking in information, deducing, solving the puzzle. It was so absurd that Sherlock almost snorted.
"You've been different for weeks. I hadn't noticed 'til now, but you have. Preoccupied with something. Distracted. I'd even go as far as saying you've been distant. So whatever this is, it's serious. And unprecedented, or else you would know how to deal with it. How am I doing so far?"
Sherlock would have been proud of John, but the fact of the matter remained that John was trying to unearth something Sherlock had burned and buried long ago. And so far, the stubborn little man was on the right track.
Especially considering Sherlock had been so careful.
"I didn't really acknowledge it all before, but you've been playing sad music for weeks, and you haven't eaten a proper meal in ages, have you? You've picked at your food, but you haven't eaten properly in a long time and you usually do when you haven't got a case. I had put all of it down to your moods but … there's something else, isn't there?" John dark blue eyes were wide and serious and Sherlock resisted the urge to make contact and just drink them in.
John sighed softly, patiently, as Sherlock remained as still and as lifeless as a statue.
"Sherlock, come on. I'm your mate. Tell me what's bothering you."
He wanted to, he really did. But he didn't know how to say it, how to do any of it. This wasn't his area, for God's sake. He felt as if he was floundering around in the dark, drowning under the sensations whirling around in his gut and clouding his brain.
Sherlock took one look at John's face - so caring and concerned and clueless - and chickened out.
He gathered himself before saying forcefully, "It's not important."
John's eyes narrowed at him.
"If it's bothering you this much, then I'm afraid it is," John said dryly.
Sherlock wasn't used to the sick feeling of desperation he felt. He didn't like it at all.
"This doesn't concern you, John," Sherlock hissed sharply, his unease making his tone harsh.
John bristled at Sherlock's words, eyebrows drawing together in bewilderment.
"Really? Why not?" John shot back, smarting a bit.
Sherlock gave one of his trademark eye-rolls before he turned, flouncing away. John pursed his lips, frown deepening, as he followed. He was missing something obvious, he knew it. If their positions were reversed, John knew that Sherlock would have this figured out in a matter of minutes, tops. He also knew that he had no hope of finding an answer using Sherlock's methods.
So John decided to take a different approach.
"Alright. Fine. Will you tell me why?" John asked, catching up and scrutinizing the taller man's profile, as he refused to turn to John.
"Why what?" Sherlock replied exasperatedly.
"Why you can't, or won't, tell me what's going on."
Sherlock didn't respond.
John sighed, "How the hell am I supposed to help you if you don't tell me what the problem is?"
Sherlock stared ahead of him, as if the empty, snow-blanketed street held the answers to the universe. "Has it occurred to that pitifully substandard intellect of yours that maybe I don't want your help?"
Normally, such harsh words would have rankled John. But after witnessing his friend's uncharacteristic, clearly emotional display just before, John could easily tell that this whole routine was for show. The shields going up; this was Sherlock retreating behind a wall of chilling, ice-cold indifference to protect himself.
So John refused to let himself be baited.
"That may be so," John replied coolly, "But maybe you need it anyway."
Something small - barely there, even - flickered across Sherlock's demeanour that had John's internal danger meters reading red.
Anyone else wouldn't have seen anything of significance in Sherlock's expression, but John watched Sherlock more than anyone else ever had the opportunity to, or wanted to for that matter. He knew when something was up, and something serious was definitely up.
"Right, that's it," John said resolutely.
And with that, Sherlock found himself being tackled face-first into the snow.
John flipped him over, pinning his arms down at his sides. Sherlock wore such an expression of outraged, wounded dignity that John felt a sudden urge to burst into giggles, but he held it in. There was a time and a place for such things.
"Just what exactly," Sherlock began, his voice low, threatening, and furious, "do you think you're doing?"
John glared hard at him, "It's called an intervention, mate."
Sherlock groaned, throwing his head back in contemptuous aggravation. "I don't believe this," he muttered.
"You're staying like this, immobilized, until you bloody well bare your soul to me, Sherlock," John emphasised, all soldier and no mercy.
Sherlock's eyes took on a murderous glint, "You wouldn't dare."
John remained completely stoic, "You better believe I would."
"I can throw you off easily."
"Yeah? Try me."
Try him Sherlock did, and to no avail. Not for the first time, John marvelled at his ingenious decision to join the Army and thus undergo Army training.
Sherlock stopped struggling, and he drew in a deep breath before exhaling quickly as if to calm himself.
"John," he said shortly, "Get off me."
Sherlock pouted slightly, petulantly, "Please."
"No, Sherlock," John remained as stubborn as a mule.
The mask of a wounded child fell away, although the childish petulance and imminent threat of a tantrum remained. John tilted his head down at the detective, his mouth tugging up into a small smile.
"This is absurd. Pinning me won't make me talk, John."
John nodded slightly in acknowledgement, "Looks like we'll be here a while then."
Engaged in the most heated, intense staring match of the century, they remained at an impasse. There was a long moment where their foggy breaths mingled.
Indeed, the only sound either of them could hear was the other's breathing.
Sherlock suddenly became aware of what a dangerous position he was in. With John straddling him, so warm and close and yet still so unattainable, with those caring, solid, kind dark blue eyes staring down at him … God, how many times had he dreamt of a moment like this?
This was bad. In fact, this was two leaps and a long, long drive away from good.
But Sherlock wasn't the only one whose thoughts were taking a deviant route.
John didn't know what was different, exactly, about Sherlock in this moment. It certainly wasn't the first time he'd pinned his intransigent flatmate, but right now something just felt … changed. New. Like how lovely Sherlock's cheeks looked flushed from the cold, pale skin showing some colour for once. And how his curly hair contrasted starkly with the snow, looking all the more softer for it. And how even in the dim light his eyes were luminescent. John only just realised that he could never quite put a name to the colour of them. They were singular in their beauty.
Sherlock was singular in his beauty.
And that conscious thought was new, too. Oh he'd looked at Sherlock that way a scarce few times, but he'd never let any actual thoughts surface, no way. He'd repressed them for all he was worth, because John knew that if he let himself feel that way, their whole dynamic would have crashed and burned. Sherlock's friendship meant too much to him to risk it.
When he looked back at Sherlock again, there was such emotion lurking beneath the surface. Emotion John had never seen directed at him before - from anyone.
John's stomach clenched, heart kicking into overdrive.
His gaze flicked down to Sherlock's lips. They were so close - tantalizingly so. All he had to do was lean down and ...
Okay, then. In for a penny, in for a pound.
So he leant down, and softly pressed his lips to Sherlock's.
Sherlock had seen it coming, of course: the way John's eyes seemed to darken, his breath shortening, licking his lips as he glanced at Sherlock's. But his mind had stalled at the sudden sensations drowning out all rational thought. Those lips, that taste, that warmth.
How could this be real when -
John was straight. He'd said so on countless occasions, and was almost obsessive in his compulsion to date bland, boring women. All evidence pointed to him being straight - which was why Sherlock didn't understand what was happening.
John kissed him softly, tenderly. Chastely, for now. Sherlock was too shocked to reciprocate, not quite believing how this seemed to be turning out.
Soon, way too soon, John pulled back slightly and opened his eyes to assess how Sherlock felt about this.
Sherlock openly goggled at him with his mouth hanging open, the very picture of stupefaction.
And just like that, John's resolve dissipated. He felt a horrible dread descend and settle sickeningly in his stomach. Shit, what have I done …
"Oh God. Sherlock, I'm so sorr -" John began in a strangled voice.
Sherlock cut him off by grabbing his head in his gloved hands and smashing their lips together again.
There was nothing chaste about their second kiss. It was all heat and desire and passion. Sherlock kissed John with all the frustration and desperation that had built up beneath the surface these past few weeks. He kissed him with all he had, because never in a million years had he thought what he wanted could be a possibility.
Then John broke away roughly, and Sherlock felt his blood run cold.
"Sherlock, wait. Is this … is this what you've been all angsty about?" John asked uncertainly.
Sherlock decided to ignore the flood of relief he felt at John's words. He also decided to ignore the way his heart then felt like it was about to thunder out of his chest.
"I do not angst, John," Sherlock ground out.
John was unimpressed.
"Alright, yes, you're right," Sherlock huffed.
John raised his eyebrows and blinked at him, "Why the hell didn't you say anything?"
Sherlock snorted with incredulity, "'I'm not gay,' you said. 'We're not a couple,' you said. Your constant denials gave a clear impression that you weren't interested."
"Hey, no, I was just setting the record straight! It was you that said you weren't interested in anything further!"
Sherlock sighed, "I didn't say that."
John stared down at him in disbelief. "Yeah, actually, you're right. I believe your exact words were 'I consider myself married to my work.'"
Sherlock winced, shifting uncomfortably, "Well, I was. Still am. But I didn't know, alright?"
"Know what?" John burst out incredulously.
"That someone I would want a relationship with would turn up. That I would grow to want you," Sherlock said simply, eyes blazing in their intensity.
John was absolutely dumbstruck. His heart stuttered as all the implications of that set in.
In fact, all he could manage in his traumatized state was a breathless, "Marriage not working out then?"
Sherlock snorted in amusement, "She's always been a fickle mistress. Either way, you're a part of my work now."
"So … we're married," John was still grasping for a hold of something solid.
Sherlock gave a rumbling laugh, his eyes dancing with amusement. John softened as he felt it warm him down to his very toes.
"You know, for a genius, you can be pretty dense," he said fondly.
"And you seem quite excited for someone who vehemently claims to be anything but gay," Sherlock countered mischievously, quirking an eyebrow in the direction of their nether regions.
"Noticed that, did you? Well I am a healthy bisexual, after all," John grinned.
Sherlock blinked in surprise, then scrunched up his nose, "I know."
John chuckled quietly at the (adorable) indignant look on Sherlock's face, "If you say so."
"What?" Sherlock said impudently.
John's eyes twinkled happily as he inched closer once again.
"Oh, nothing," he whispered against Sherlock's lips, before sealing them together.
And Sherlock couldn't help but melt into John's embrace. He smiled into the sweet dance of their warm tongues, savouring the intoxicating taste of John's mouth. Both of them couldn't help thinking that maybe this trip really wasn't such a waste after all…
Neither of them noticed, wrapped up in each other as they were, when it began to snow lightly. The white flakes drifted down as buoyant as a wish, as soft as a long-awaited first kiss, as sweet as a whispered promise.