How to handle S. Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is lying on his sofa, analysing all the feelings that are new to him. Apparently it hurts when you reveal your love to someone and learn in return that he is going to marry someone else. Obviously a situation like that leaves you relatively hopeless.
On a certain level it is quite interesting how your hormones don't stop going wild when you are hopeless. All Sherlock has to do is think about John, and his feelings are doing handstands on high-rises, even though he knows it is futile.
Funny how you want to hide from the world when you have got a serious heartache. He refuses all offers brought to him by the Hudson housekeeping service, even when Mrs Hudson heinously includes Molly Hooper in her care-taking-for-poor-Sherlock-programme. He even turns down Mrs Hudson's offer of herbal soothers that she - of course - has only because of her bad health, you see, really. It is tempting, but Sherlock knows a danger month when he sees one.
Fascinating how you do not stop wondering how the husband-to-be is feeling now, even though he broke your heart utterly and completely only yesterday. Despite the many past cases that indicated something else, Sherlock feels no need to hit him back, to take revenge or to hurt him as deeply as he has hurt Sherlock.
Fourteen days later, Sherlock is still lying on that sofa, feeling lost. He considers howling heart-rendingly, but is too sad for that. What good is it to become the most human human being when all you get in return is pain?
John Watson in lying in his bed, his fiancée by his side, and he is wondering how he can feel homesick while being at home. Maybe home is really where your heart is. He presses closer against Mary, feeling the heat of her body, feeling her hand on his hip, but his mind does not stop spinning around Sherlock's "I love you".
He feels like all this is not fair, and really, really wishes it was not chiefly his own fault. He tries to blame it all on Sherlock, for a while. If he had only told John he was not dead but just on some weird kind of hiatus. If he had only told John about his feelings without hesitation before he faked his death. If he had only ... But for the better part of the night John is painfully aware that he caused most of the emotional havoc all by himself.
How do you remodel a friendship after destroying it by confessing your love after remodelling your friendship after destroying your best friend's soul by faking your death? Irritatingly enough, there is no hint to that anywhere on the internet. Neither on homosexual guides nor on heterosexual ones. Ridiculous. As if Sherlock were the first person with that kind of problem!
Looks like Sherlock has to make up the rules by himself. Once more. And he is no genius when it comes to love or friendship or both at the same time. Only that for one person it is only friendship and for the other it is love. But for John, he will do.
At first, he tries to take part in the wedding preparations, absolutely not because he read about that strategy in a magazine lying around at Molly's desk at the morgue. He suggests hor d'oeuvres for the reception, suggests serving hot honey wine after dinner. He suggests going to Hungary for honeymoon, doing some diving or probably horse-riding because, otherwise, John might get bored. But whenever Sherlock mentions anything that has to do with the wedding, John's face does unpleasant things, so Sherlock abolishes that strategy.
Then he tries to pick up their everyday life. But that is also a failure because even before Sherlock's clumsy declaration of love they were far away from having an everyday life. He invites John over to 221b, but what once was a heavenly little hideaway from the idiocy and the noise of the rest of the world, is now a place that makes John fidget.
But Sherlock is still even more headstrong than John, and he simply invites him again and again, until one day John finally stops fidgeting and feels comfortable again. Time might not heal all wounds, but it should heal some.
One evening, they sit together in renewed harmony, and are scanning the news for potential cases. Sherlock is not interested in hogging the headlines of London's press and so they search for a case in Scotland or Wales or wherever.
For some reason Sherlock's mind replays a line of a song he was forced to listen to when they renovated the flat. "I wanthim in my house, 'cause he's my home" his brain sings, and for a second Sherlock would be ready to admit that pop music does have a certain truth in it.
Sherlock is hungry for everything John's body would have to offer, or at least for a hug, but never mentions it. Their truce is still unstable, and for nothing in the world would he risk it again. He is still trying not to think about homo-eroticisms when John points out an article that could be a hoax or the most intriguing case in years. And it is in Edinburgh.
John agrees to coming along over the weekend, not with a heartfelt "Hell, yes!", but at least nearly without hesitation and without discussing it with Mary before agreeing. Sherlock's stomach does a funny little stunt. Might there still be hope?
The hotel Sherlock booked is expensive and elegant, and the hospitality of its employees is breathtaking. John has to remind himself that they are not there for a holiday. Well, only that somehow they are, for it is the first real case John helps Sherlock with after his return, and it does feel like holidays, even though it should be work.
He has to stop himself from smiling when they talk to the victim's sister-in-law slash potential murderer. The greenhouse they find her in is hot and humid, and the local police are all hush-hush about Sherlock's involvement but it is more fun than anything John has done in years. He did not know that he could still enjoy things that immensely.
They are hot on her heels later that day, running around Edinburgh, and John follows wherever Sherlock leads. He only declines when Sherlock suggests climbing onto the rooftop of a higher building to proof that mentioning St Giles' cathedral was a red herring.
Ever since Sherlock's fall John has no head for heights. He tries to keep his voice casual when confessing that one day he had been close to jumping off St Bart's too and silently curses himself when he sees Sherlock's face crumble with poorly hidden pain afterwards. John finds himself pulling him in for comfort for a moment and is not sure if he is comforting Sherlock or himself.
They work together harmoniously – well, Sherlock works, John follows and praises, but that is really done harmoniously – and for the first time in years John updates his blog. He thinks about tweeting the case as well, but Sherlock starts eyeing the hashtags John considers with scepticism, and soon they bicker over them so extendedly that John does not get topmost a tweet anyway.
The only pity is that, unlike before his hiatus, Sherlock has been considerate enough to book two single rooms. John wonders what it says about his engagement that he regrets not sharing a room with Sherlock. Nobody mistakes them for a couple or even husbands. Nothing an engaged man should be sorry about, right?
They inspect the hairy victim, and due to some blah blah deduction on the hair remover and the handcuffs hidden in the wife's dressing room and the size of her bike's handlebar the wife is found guilty.
After Sherlock heroically solves the case in less than 24 hours, they turn in at the homey house bar of the hotel, and John teaches Sherlock all he knows about whiskey. Which might be a bad idea, for after the first glass John is already having fantasies of Sherlock, giving him a hand job in a hot bath or in front of a hearth fire.
He drinks the second whiskey rather fast to make these thoughts go away and realises that Sherlock is still absolutely not used to drinking. His eyes are glassy and he is swaying a bit, even though they are sitting. He will have one hell of a hangover tomorrow, John is sure of that. It would be unfair if Sherlock were the only one suffering, so John glugs the third drink which is not healthy but appropriate to honour their renewed friend-, partner- or whatevership.
They have a fourth drink, which they dedicate to the benefits of knowledge about hair care and bicycles. After that Sherlock is so drunk that he tries to explain to John something about how Heavy Metal music influences the mating habits of hedgehogs but he keeps forgetting if it has positive effects or negative ones, and as he is too vain to admit that he simply changes his theory every second sentence. John cannot remember when he last had so much fun.
He has to guide Sherlock to bed, not an easy task, as John himself is not completely sober. A statement that holds a certain under-exaggeration. They sway up the stairs clinging to each other and Sherlock is dropped into bed rather unceremoniously. He falls asleep within seconds, mumbling something incomprehensible. Probably about Hobbits. The sight of Sherlock on a bed sobers John enough to contemplate his life.
Hmm, John thinks, bad idea. For no matter how hard he tries, he never stops regretting his engagement. This whole meandering thing has backfired on him legendarily. But he has made a promise. And when he is sober, the idea of being with Sherlock is insane, and being with Mary is not only reasonable but also nice and safe.
He only realises he has stretched out his hand to touch Sherlock's hair when it is already halfway there. He lets it hover there in mid-air and stares at Sherlock for a very, very long time before returning to his own room.
He feels like a hostage of his own life. How can a simple trip to Edinburgh be both heaven and hell at the same time?
Mary does not know about the declaration of love that happened some time ago and she does not know that John is experiencing hell on earth, torn between the promise he gave her and the love he still feels for Sherlock.
But she knows that John is even more thoughtful than usual when she holds his hand, that he barely looks at her before hugging her, that he sneaks into the bathroom early in the morning to get rid of his hard-on instead of sleeping with her. She knows that something is bound to go terribly wrong.
Hence, the email she receives from Sherlock Holmes hits her completely by surprise. She reads it once, thinks about it, reads it a second time. She has to admit that she has hardly ever got an email weirder than this one.
For a heartbeat, she thinks Sherlock is really trying to be helpful. Then her heart hardens and she reads it a third time. No, it is far from being helpful. Half of it is simply wrong, the rest is insulting or histrionic.
She prints it out anyway, then stores it in a safe hiding place, wondering what is going on in Sherlock's Holmes' weird mind.
John stumbles over the email accidentally. He is looking for Mary's copy of Harry Potter. Harriet asked for it some days ago, and as his fiancée keeps forgetting it, he decides to bring it along when visiting his sister tomorrow.
Mary has many wonderful habits, but keeping her study tidy is not one of them. John searches the piles of books, sheets of papers and letters, honestly wondering why it pleases him to know that his otherwise perfect fiancée has such an obvious character flaw. Then something catches his eye.
He has seen the words "Sherlock Holmes" somewhere. Intrigued, he looks at the pile once more hastily and quickly finds the print-out of an email, about one month old. He eyes the head of it curiously.
From: Sherlock Holmes
To: Mary Morstan
Re: How to handle John H. Watson
John reads the two pages of the email. Then he reads them again, this time with trembling hands. He had though that he has become somewhat hardy over the course of the last months, but now a lump forms in his throat.
The email contains a list of twenty points one apparently needs to take into consideration in order to provide happiness for John. Some of the points are hilarious, some are heart-warming, some are ridiculous. All of them prove how well Sherlock still knows John, no matter how much he has changed.
John sinks to the ground, reads the email one more time, thinking that this is the most selfless thing Sherlock has ever done. Even more selfless than jumping off St. Bart's. It pierces through his heart like a harpoon, leaves his head and heart swaying.
He sits on the carpet of Mary's study for hours, just feeling the emotional overflow he thought he was incapable of having any longer. When Mary comes in, her eyes fall onto the email in John's hand, and he can tell from the look in her eyes that she knows. She understands instantly that she has lost him.
"Point 20 says that you should have kept this email away from me," he says and her glance gets hostile. They fight for a while but they both know that it is their last stand anyway.
"Look at point 2, or 3. That's not you he is writing about! Does he even know you?" Mary shouts, and John thinks that Sherlock is not ranting about the man John has become, the one that meanders when things get rough, the one John hates from time-to-time. No, Sherlock has written the email about the man John used to be. The man Sherlock believes is still alive inside of new John, somewhere deep, deep inside. The man who stood beside Sherlock's bed in Edinburgh, hand outstretched.
"And what about point 7? Or 9? Those only show that he is not taking it serious at all," she continues, and John looks at points 7 and 9 again, even though he already knows them by heart. They still make him giggle, probably not the best thing to do while fighting with your soon-to-be ex-fiancé.
He feels the urge to say aloud that point 17 and 18 are absolutely true but refuses, mostly because they are quite insulting for Mary. Instead, he reads the end of the letter once more.
"As I am the one who broke him, it should be me attempting to do the mending, but he has made his decision on that topic clear. You are not perfect for the job, but then, neither am I. You will be unable to give him what he needs concerning points 3, 4, 8 and most likely 18. Do not be alarmed, I have failed at points 5, 9, 10 and12 on a regular basis and his feelings for me have never changed. It is only point 19 that will be unforgiven."
God, he loves Sherlock more deeply than he thought.
About two hours later, John hurries to Baker Street, hitch-hiking to Hanover Gate because finding a cab in this part of Kensington would take much too long, then running the rest of the way, feeling like he is taking part in a hurdle race. Hundreds of thoughts are running wildly inside his head. He pushes away pedestrians who are hindering him, runs up the stairs of 221b, taking two steps at the time – and finds the entire house empty.
Now that is anti-climatic. He fumbles for his mobile, and sends Sherlock a text, "Where are you?"
Only seconds pass, and the answer comes in, "Hampton Crescent, Gravesend, hunting criminals. Where are you?"
"At home," John writes, and adds, just to make sure Sherlock gets the point for he is not a genius when it comes to love, "or so I hope. 221b."
"Wait," Sherlock's next text reads. Then nothing. In his mind, John can see Sherlock frantically looking for a cab. He smiles, and starts searching the flat for a post-it and a pen.
Never before has it been so tempting to ask Mycroft for help. A helicopter would do, or road barriers to keep the direct route from Gravesend to Baker Street free of traffic. Or some hand grenades to handle the annoyingly slow commuters in front of the cab.
After thirty minutes Sherlock is close to hysteria. His heart is beating so hard Sherlock is sure it is hazardous to his health and they are still too far away from home. "Hang on," he tells himself, but knows that he will not listen. He plays with the wristbands of the hoodie he wears as a disguise, tearing the seam apart.
He reads John's text again and again, until he is no longer sure that he is not hallucinating or if it is really proof of John's homecoming. He huffs at the hateful traffic, but they do not go any faster.
When he finally reaches home, he is nearly hyperventilating, but is still not sure if with happiness or with fear. He jumps up the stairs, opens the door with shaking hands – and finds John sleeping on the sofa. His face is more relaxed than Sherlock has seen it in months, and he looks at least five years younger than only last week.
In front of him, on the coffee table, there is a two page print-out. Sherlock's email to Mary. Attached to his carefully collected list of twenty points to ensure John's happiness in the incapable hands of Mary Morstan there is a post-it. "How to handle S. Holmes" is written on top of it, and at the bottom it reads "Handle with care!", not in John's hardly legible doctor's handwriting but in his love letter and shopping list handwriting.
Sherlock's heart feels like it is having hiccups. The list of how to handle Sherlock includes only two points. It reads:
Behind each point, John has drawn a little box. Both boxes are ticked.
Sherlock stares down at the wonderful man who has forgiven him all the heinous deeds of the last two years and who loves him and who is sleeping on his sofa now. And he has absolutely no idea what to do, now that his highest hopes have been fulfilled.
He does not know what he should do, but he knows exactly what he wants to do. He sits down and reaches out to stroke John's hair. It looks so soft, but is wiry and strong. Just like John himself. John stirs and opens his eyes. And smiles.
"Hello," he says plainly, and Sherlock's hard-drive starts saving every detail on John's face and the look in his eyes and the curve of his mouth right now. How can someone not think that John is the most handsome being in the world? He feels like having hay fever and a heart attack at the same time. He still stares at John when he sits up.
"I don't know what to do with you," Sherlock confesses, and John's smile widens. Of course, John knows what to do, and so Sherlock generously lets him take the lead.
Sherlock closes his eyes when John reaches out to touch his face, for seeing him AND feeling him would be simply too much to handle. So he just feels, feels these soft fingers slowly caressing his face, floating from his forehead to his cheekbones to his ears before cupping his face. He feels John's thumb gliding over his upper lip, then over his lower lip, and it is the most erotic thing someone has ever done to his face.
Then there is a change in the light that hits his closed eyes, a shift of weight on the sofa. John is leaning closer, and Sherlock tries to brace himself for what is about to happen. John's healing hands slide to his neck, pulling him in, gently pressing their lips together, and the sexual hunger that suddenly rises inside of Sherlock surprises only himself.
He has spent hours thinking about that helpless kiss in the alleyway two months ago, and realises, only now, how poor it has been compared to this one. Heroin has never made him feel higher than this. John's lips are hot and strong and soft and completely incomprehensible, and he finds his own hand doing things to John's back that make John moan.
When they break the kiss after a long, long time, they are both gasping for air. Sherlock is so horny he would have sex in a haystack if nothing else would be available, and he is happy and fulfilled and content with life for the very first time and happy. John is his hero of the hour, and he himself is still completely lost regarding what to do next.
But John is not. John knows exactly what to do next, and he does. More than once that night.
Author's note: What, you really want to know about the content of that email? In that case I suggest you wait a little for the second part of the series to be written. Won't be long. :-)
Immense thanks to all those who have contributed the words for each chapter, and to all those of you who left reviews and kudos.
Special thanks to Davina for beta-ing all of it, sometmes twice, with endless patient, and to those I've already thanked personally for support, praise and encouragement!