A/n: Have to admit there is a LOT of sweary bits in this, no porn (shocking for me, I know) , but lots of bad language - I think because it's not really from John's POV but it's meant to be in his frame of mind.
The thing about Sherlock Holmes is that yes, he is a genius and yes he probably knows a damn sight more than you do, but he does a lot of things he doesn't quite understand. He's prone to sentimentality despite saying he abhors it, he can actually be quite civil if the situation calls for it, even though he's mentally cooking up a list of the individual's weaknesses so he can tear them a new one if and when it comes to it. Just because he does these things doesn't mean he has a proper understanding of them. The thing that Sherlock does most that he doesn't quite grasp the concept of is sarcasm, oh he can dole it out like the best of them but when it's aimed at him he rarely processes it. If it happens in public, that he is thrown a statement which may or may not be sincere, he usually just brushes it off with a scathing comment, if it happens in the company of someone he knows and trusts (those people are few and far between) like John or Mrs Hudson or even Lestrade, he will quite simply ask
"Sarcasm?" And usually receives a curt nod for his troubles. (Or a "Fuck off Sherlock." Depending on what mood the sarcastic party is in... usually John, he's has a tendency of getting a bit sweary when Sherlock's on his last good nerve)
It was Sherlock's not-quite-grasp on sarcasm that changed the entire game. Late in April, under a brief torrential downpour ("April Showers my arse!" - aforementioned sweary John Watson) gathered around a dead body in an alleyway were Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Greg Lestrade, Sally Donovan and Doesn't-Even-Deserve-A-First-Name Anderson. The latter two were huddled in a corner under a fire escape trying to stay dry, Sherlock cast them a dirty look, though whether this was because they were drier than himself or because he just did not like them very much was uncertain. He crouched over the body, getting far too close for comfort, inspecting the dead woman's teeth, the contents of her handbag, and her obviously bleached hair.
"No sign of injury," John concluded, having surveyed the body at a slightly more respectful distance.
"We're thinking poison." Lestrade replied.
"Wrong." Sherlock muttered darkly, flipping out a small magnifying glass and closer inspecting the blonde's bad dye job.
"What do you mean 'wrong'?" Lestrade asked haughtily.
"I mean you are incorrect. That's the usual definition of the word 'wrong'." The detective spoke stiffly. He summoned John to examine whatever he'd found and John leaned in over the other side of the victim, the top of his head practically touching Sherlock's.
"I don't... I don't see it?" John said squinting at what Sherlock's gloved finger was exposing. Sherlock sighed dramatically.
"Head wound, old, scarred at the time. It's healed over but her hair never quite grew back correctly, hence the rather ostentatious hair do and the dye job – what young woman wants a bald spot? The wound is wide and shallow, most likely blunt force trauma, but it occurred many years ago. Caused a blood clot, a ticking time bomb. Death by aneurysm." He concluded. Lestrade blinked.
"So... not murder then?"
"Not murder, no." Sherlock's tone was dry, he was obviously bored.
"Why didn't you spot that?" Lestrade asked John almost jokingly, because truthfully it probably would have come out in the poste-mortem examination, but nobody other than Sherlock bloody Holmes could determine the cause of death by a glance at the victim's hair.
"Because John is an idiot." Sherlock cut in calmly. John rolled his eyes and responded without thinking.
"Gee thanks, I love you too." Sarcastically. It was sarcastic. It was meant to be sarcastic. Lestrade saw it for what it was, playful banter, and laughed it off before approaching Anderson and Donovan to inform them there was no murderer that needed to be caught. Sherlock however failed to see the obvious insincerity. He froze in his position of examining the victim's fingernails (not for case related details, it was just interesting). His eyes raised to John's searching him and John knew instantly what he'd done wrong. He was about to put it right, correct himself when Sherlock straightened up and whispered in an oddly clandestine manner
"We'll... discuss this when we get home." Before sweeping off to berate Lestrade for getting him out of the flat for something lower than a seven.
Left standing alone John panicked. Fuck - he hadn't meant it like that! His mind was racing a mile a minute 'We'll discuss this when we get home' what the hell was that supposed to mean? Oh shit, John had really done it now. Fuck. The sensible thing to do would be to gently explain that he had been attempting sarcastic dry wit and had failed miserably, but the thing was Sherlock could see through lies in an instant, and just because John hadn't meant it like that, didn't mean he hadn't actually meant it.
He could not outright deny it to Sherlock, because Sherlock was a goddamn mind reader. John rubbed the bridge of his noise, he was (for lack of a better word) screwed. His mouth felt oddly dry and although he was fairly certain he hadn't genuinely eaten sand it felt very similar, when Sherlock approached him to flag a cab down, he opened his mouth to say something, anything to nip this in the bud but before he could think of words (words, those things people use for... language...conversing, why did they seem so fucking difficult right now?) Sherlock held up his gloved hand to silence him.
"When we get home." He repeated, working his magic and managing to locate a cab almost instantaneously. One day, one day when he was not so blatantly and utterly screwed, John was going to ask him how he did that, but it could wait. He slipped into the cab beside his flatmate and friend.
Sherlock was normally the observer, the man who scrutinized every miniscule movement, today it was John. John who could not take his eyes off of Sherlock, trying to deduce the reaction he was going to get when they got home. Sherlock's gaze was averted, staring absently out of the window and though he said nothing, John could clearly see he was thinking very hard, John shuddered to think about what... was Sherlock going to throw him out? No, Sherlock may be an absolute arse but even he wouldn't be that cruel, not deliberately. John tried to calm himself down as he posited the most likely scenario – Sherlock was going to give him the speech about being married to his work again. John nodded slightly to himself, yes, that was what was going to happen, it was not something he was looking forward to but with a bit of hope and a lot of luck it was something he could handle. Maybe he could laugh it all off?
John mentally cursed himself (using lots of F and S words) for slipping up, he was usually quite good at keeping those sort of thoughts to himself – or at least he believed himself to be. The look of shock on Sherlock's face told him he must have been, because Sherlock Holmes, the man who saw through everything and everyone hadn't known until John opened his big mouth. John tore his gaze from the very damp Sherlock (did that little curl on his forehead have to drip so distractingly?) and glanced out the window of the cab, the wet grey blur that was London seemed to speed up before his very eyes, the cab seemed to be travelling unnaturally quickly, time is funny like that, when you're looking forward to something it slows to a crawl, when you're dreading something it rushes towards you. Even though Sherlock had not spared John a single cursory look, he knew that John was wringing his hands in his lap, and worrying his bottom lip.
In what seemed like no time at all, to John at least, they arrived at their flat. Sherlock didn't say a word as they climbed the stairs and let themselves in, John was marginally grateful for the fact they hadn't run into Mrs Hudson and been accosted with offers of tea and cakes because quite frankly that would probably have quashed any amount of courage John had managed to bolster in the cab ride home. Honestly, he wanted to run a mile rather than face this but goddamnit he was a soldier not some lovestruck teenager (though, sometimes it didn't feel that way) and if he could face death without blinking, he could face rejection.
"Tea?" John asked, finding his voice as Sherlock shed his trademark scarf and coat, he remained unnaturally dry underneath all that wrapping, whereas John felt soaked to the bone. He did not give a response, so John went to the kettle. Making two cups of tea took a very slightly longer time than making one, so regardless of whether Sherlock wanted one, he was getting one. John returned to the sitting room to find Sherlock perchedon a chair. Yes perched, not sat or curled up, reclining or relaxing, he was perched, knees tucked up to where his fingers were steepled under his chin. John showed no hesitation in sitting across from him, on the sofa, he placed one mug in front of Sherlock and kept the other close to him. Sherlock was staring at John with his deducing eyes, and it made John feel, if possible, more uncomfortable.
It was Sherlock who spoke.
"How long?" He asked, breaking the awkward silence. John cocked an eyebrow in response and Sherlock elaborated. "How long have you had romantic feelings towards me?" And there it was, a direct question.
'Do or Die time John, you either lie like hell and know he won't buy a word of it, or you man up and tell the truth' John thought, sipping his tea. It didn't take him long to decide. They were here now – what the hell, they might as well.
"Probably since the swimming pool..." He answered, sounding a bit more confident than he felt with Sherlock surveying him like a hawk about to eat a mouse. John lowered his gaze. No. He would not make this harder by watching Sherlock's deductive process as he shot him down. No. Definitely not.
"That was over a year ago!" Sherlock said incredulously. Well, that went out the window quickly, John found he couldn't NOT look at Sherlock and what he saw slightly surprised him. Sherlock looked... overly gleeful. "How did you do it?" Sherlock asked.
"How did I do what?" John asked, incredibly confused by Sherlock's sudden about turn. He'd seen that look somewhere before.
"Hide something like that from me." Sherlock whispered in awe, and suddenly John knew where he'd seen that look before. It was that 'Oh this is clever!' look he sometimes got when he finally pieced together a particularly taxing puzzle. In that moment, John understood - he'd impressed Sherlock. Not for the right reasons mind, but he'd done the impossible, he had lied to Sherlock Holmes for over a year and Sherlock hadn't known. John sighed heavily, he wanted to be angry with Sherlock for this but he could not be – this was just the way Sherlock's mind worked, and in his brilliant, warped little head Sherlock saw John as fascinating, another puzzle to solve.
"I don't really know..." John answered honestly, and he saw Sherlock's face fall in disappointment. "I just sort of kept my head down, you tend not to notice the emotional stuff." He didn't mean it as an insult in any way and thankfully Sherlock didn't take it as one, he just nodded and looked quietly perplexed. John could practically see the gears whirring in his head as he analyzed every interaction he and John had shared since the swimming pool incident. Twice Sherlock opened his mouth as though he was going to say something, or ask a question, and twice he closed it again almost insantly, then he nodded rather decisively. Questions. He had questions.
"How does it feel?" He asked, and John felt himself squirm uncomfortably.
"It's..." He sighed, this was probably his only chance to say it so he might as well. "It's a good feeling, mostly."
"Mostly?" Sherlock cut in. John felt he'd betrayed every rule of being a British bloke in saying it, men didn't do the whole touchy feely thing, they weren't exactly well known for it but fuck it:
"Yeah... like... there are sometimes when I just want to punch you," He explained, because that was easier to define than love. "But most of the time it's a good feeling. You sort of..." John was really struggling with this one. "Make me feel like I'm a better person?" He settled on, and god that sounded soppy and romantic and cliché as hell but it was also true, John hadn't valued himself very much since being invalided home from Afghanistan and then there was Sherlock who just swept into his life and turned it all upside down in a brilliant, fantastic way. Sherlock seemed to be debating this answer before giving his friend and flatmate a curt nod.
"Bloody hell you're not going to make this easy for me are you?" John sighed and sipped once more at his tea.
"Alright..." He continued as instructed. "Basically, I realized the day with the cabbie that I was willing to kill for you but I didn't realise until the swimming pool thing that I was willing to die for you... and it sort of... it sort of hit me that suddenly I had something worth dying for, hell something worth living for." John murmured. Sherlock nodded as though he understood that bit and decided that was a full enough answer for the question poised, he wasn't done. He asked another.
"You said you weren't gay?" He queried. John ran his hand through his hair.
"I'm not." He said awkwardly.
"I'm male." Sherlock said in a dead-pan manner.
"Yes, thank you, I had noticed." John bit back before sighing, this was not Sherlock's fault and he couldn't sulk as Sherlock appeared to be making a genuine effort here. "I'm not gay... not as a general rule I mean... I don't look at men the same way I look at women." It was the first time John had really vocalized this, and it wasn't really coming out the way he intended.
"I don't check out guys in the queue at tesco's, I don't honestly find men attractive – as a general rule... and then there's you." John waved one hand vaguely at Sherlock, gesturing to all of him. He looked over at Sherlock, who still looked tentative, curious and genuinely interested in John's answers. "A completely straight bloke could tell you you're good looking." It was Sherlock's turn to shift slightly in his seat, apparently unused to the compliment. "It's not just about the looks though," John added, to clarify.
"Oh?" Sherlock asked.
"Yes, I find you physically attractive." John said in one breath, clutching his mug rather awkwardly. "But like I said I could be completely straight and still think that. It's little things, even the annoying things that I'd find irritating as hell if it were anyone else but because it's you I still find endearing..." Sherlock looked confused, John had evidently lost him.
"The look on your face when you're working things out, the way the minute a case is over you go to your pocket for a cigarette out of habit, even though you don't smoke much anymore, how you know everything about everybody at first glance and yet I still have to explain basic common sense to you at times and if that's not enough of an answer then tough because I'm done stroking your ego." John mumbled the last part and Sherlock seemed to decide he'd exhausted that answer and moved on.
"Hypothetically speaking..." Sherlock began and John internally groaned, because really he had let himself in for this, Sherlock may act like a cat in nearly every aspect of his life but with certain things he was like a dog with a bone, he wasn't about to let this drop and ignore it. "What would a romantic relationship with you entail?" John nearly choked on his tea.
"Excuse me?" He asked, certain he'd misheard the detective.
"How would it differ from our current relationship?" Sherlock asked, and goddamn him he looked so bloody innocent, so utterly clueless. John set down his cup and pinched the bridge of his nose, Sherlock could not see that this wasn't something John was comfortable discussing but so help him, John had (albeit accidentally) opened up this can of worms and he might as well see it through to it's bitter end, if not for his own sake then for the poor soul who may eventually get through to the well defended heart of the stupid genius.
"Hand holding." He said simply. Obviously that was not all but it was a bloody start.
"We've done that..." Sherlock replied bluntly.
"Not while handcuffed together and on the run." John said exasperatedly. "Like just holding hands because we want to... because it feels good." He sighed once more, trust Sherlock to not get this. "Cuddling." He added. "Again not pressed against each other hiding in a cupboard from a mad-man with a gun, not locked together because we're staging a fight so some nutter thinks we're part of a gang, hugging for no other reason than that it's a nice thing, it's what couples do." He explained. The actual reality that he was seriously discussing this with Sherlock did not sit quite right with John, because he couldn't stop picturing a night in after a long case curling up on the sofa with Sherlock in a loving embrace and those were thoughts he could not have the luxury of clinging to, so he shook them off for now. "And kissing." He concluded, because he didn't feel it necessary to define kissing.
"Good enough answer?" He asked when Sherlock remained quiet.
"To be honest..." Sherlock said in his usual no-nonsense tone, John braced himself, because if Sherlock started a sentence with those words the line usually ended with some scathing cutting remark. "The thought of engaging in those activities seems tedious and rather abhorrent." There it was John sighed and sat back, glad it was over.
"Right, thought you might say something like that, it's settled then." He reached for his mug once more.
"Let. Me. Finish." Sherlock said pointedly. "The thought of engaging in those activities with anyone is not a comfortable one." Sherlock said, his tone honest and true. "However, the thought of engaging in those activities with you, I find is..." He paused wondering how to phrase this. "Tolerable." He finished lamely. John very nearly laughed, and Sherlock realised that was not the word he wanted. "Pleasant even..." He admitted. It was John's turn to look a little confused but before he could query this, Sherlock chimed in again.
"What about sexual intercourse?" He asked with no airs and graces, he did not tiptoe about the subject. John blinked.
"What about sexual intercourse?" John repeated incredulously.
"I suppose it would be a deal breaker?" Sherlock asked – he sounded hesitant, slightly disappointed, startling John – who suddenly became aware that Sherlock was no longer speaking hypothetically.
"It's uh... it's not something I've really thought about..." John said awkwardly because he was not entirely certain what he thought about the fact Sherlock was seriously considering a relationship with him.
"You're lying," Sherlock said in a slightly accusatory tone. John frowned, once again almost positive that Sherlock could read minds – the prat.
"Okay yeah, I'm lying." John saw no sense in outright denying it. "Sex is kind of a big deal... to be totally honest it's a key part in most adult relationships." If Sherlock had been disappointed before, he seemed well and truly depressed now, scowling slightly at his knees. "But..." John said seriously. "It's not the be all and end all of it." He told Sherlock in his most brutally honest tone.
"It's not something I feel comfortable with." Sherlock said, he had put his deducing eyes back in and was not so much looking at John as looking through him. "It's not something I'm sure I'd ever feel comfortable with." He admitted his gaze never waivering. "Would you consider a relationship with me knowing that it may never result in sexual gratification? Would you be tempted to seek it elsewhere?"
"Those are two very different questions... I wouldn't cheat on you if that's what you're implying?" Sherlock seemed hesitant, before nodding carefully. "No. Definitely not. I've never been unfaithful and it's not something I'm planning on." He considered the first question once more. "And... as for being in a relationship that may or may not ever lead to sex..." Sherlock seemed to literally hold his breath awaiting John's answer. "Honestly?" He didn't really ask it, flowed straight from the end of the word into his next sentence. "If it didn't result in sex then I'd be a bit disappointed yeah." Sherlock visibly deflated slightly. "Not for me, hell I've been single long enough to know how going without feels, but for you." John continued. "I don't think it's something you should ever say 'never' to, it's an experience and truthfully I think if done right... properly... in a loving and caring environment I think it could be something you'd enjoy..."
Sherlock did not look convinced, he glanced to his left for a distraction.
"That being said... if we DID decide to get together and you DID decide you never ever wanted to have sex then..." John had put a fair bit of thought into his answer, he wanted to be as truthful as he could without hurting or offending Sherlock. "I could live with that." He told the lanky man bent into an impossible position in his seat. "It would be a compromise definitely, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't... but I could do it. If it meant I got to do the other relationship stuff, the hugging and handholding and kissing stuff then yeah... yeah I could do it." Sherlock's gaze was scrutinizing, John knew he was trying to detect a lie if there was one. Their eyes met and locked, and Sherlock gave a minute nod.
"If you're sure..." It was John's turn to nod. "Then I think..." His words were unsteady, uncertain and unsure – not traits Sherlock was known for but he spoke them anyway. "That I would like to embark on this endeavour." There was a little more decisiveness in that statement.
"Sherlock... you can't just... just be in a relationship because you think it's something you'd like to try out... there has to be certain... feelings." John frowned slightly, because he knew he was only talking himself out of the only possible chance he had, but it wouldn't be fair to start off on those terms, not for either of them.
"Oh... I thought you already knew that?" Sherlock said slightly surprised, he did not always remember that John did not figure things out quite as quickly as him. "You said 'I love you, too' implying that you already knew my inclinations?"
"So you..." John started but he trailed off, because to think Sherlock wanted to be in a relationship with him was one thing, to be told Sherlock actually felt the same was entirely different.
"Yes." John almost dared to ask the same grilling questions Sherlock had done, instead he said:
"Right..." It was murmured awkwardly and he finished the last of his tea, not breaking the eye-contact.
"Shall we begin?" Sherlock asked, and unfurled himself in one rather grand motion in the armchair, offering John his hand. John once again found himself close to laughter at the absurdity of the situation. Honestly – what the hell had happened to today? It had started off fairly normally in comparison.
"I'm not holding your hand from over there you prat." He chuckled lowly. "Come sit over here." He nodded at the spare space on the sofa beside him. Sherlock appeared to debate it, before standing rather elegantly and winding his way between the coffee table and the sofa, sitting himself next to John. Sherlock was as graceful as ever, yet he was somehow managing to be both graceful and so painfully stilted, he stuck his hand out once more and John knew they had a long way to go before this would actually work seamlessly. He took hold of Sherlock's hand, entwining their fingers gently.
"Is this okay?"
"Tolerable." Sherlock murmured, avoiding eye contact. He hesitated before admitting. "Quite pleasant, actually." John nodded and settled back into a more comfortable position on the sofa, before flicking on the telly with his free hand on the remote.
"Remind me to teach you the meaning of sarcasm." John muttered under his breath, giving Sherlock's hand a gentle, very much welcomed squeeze.
A/n: Not entirely sure how I feel about this one... I think it was better in my head... thoughts?