Chapter One: Doubts
John sighed and looked down at Sherlock's bare back. He ached to run his hands across it. Even more, he wanted to curl around Sherlock and hold him close. Only his knowledge of Sherlock's reaction stopped him…stopped him almost every time. Sherlock's muscles would tense up and he'd shrug John off, claiming he couldn't sleep like that. Then Sherlock would get up and putter around with his experiments…
John turned his face away from Sherlock and stared morosely at the wall. You would think that he'd be happy. Sherlock was his lover and boyfriend of many years now—took them long enough to get together in the first place. It was almost ten years since they first met and five of them had been spent together as a couple.
John heaved himself out of their bed, his cold feet stealing as silently as they could across the floor. He made himself tea in practiced silence. The last thing he wanted to do now was wake Sherlock up. Lord knows he didn't get enough sleep as is. John wrapped his cold fingers around the steaming mug as the tea brewed. He really should have toast or something, but he couldn't muster the appetite. That had been the norm lately. Even Lestrade had commented that John was looking a bit thin.
John lifted the teabag out of the mug when it was time and took a long sip. He closed his eyes as he did so, just focusing on the warmth. How did they end up like this? They had been so happy when they started out.
It had all started when Sherlock returned from the dead. There had been some tense conversations and John had wanted to hit him, but this all came after John had nearly tackled Sherlock to the ground in a hug/kiss. He hadn't been able to help himself. After some discussion…and other things, they had resumed their partnership as lovers instead of friends.
Sherlock had still been Sherlock, he always would be, but that was fine. John loved the chase and the game every bit as much as Sherlock. Only now when they finished a case there was more to look forward to back at the flat.
John smiled to himself remembering Sherlock kissing him breathless. John's smile fell as he thought about their present. Sherlock didn't kiss him anymore, at least not properly. They shared a dozen quick pecs in a day, but they never shared intimate kisses anymore. And what little other physical affection they'd engaged in outside of sex had also faded away. Sherlock was never very affectionate, and that was fine, but never was a bit hard on John.
John had asked Sherlock why, once, and Sherlock had given his patent reply. "Boring." Kissing and cuddling with John was boring. That had stung. John understood Sherlock would be Sherlock, but he couldn't even compromise a little?
For a long time John had satisfied himself on the little ways Sherlock showed he cared. The sometimes contained experiments, the knowing looks, and the occasional brush of Sherlock's hand on John's shoulder.
They still had sex, but it was perfunctory and quick. Sherlock was a considerate lover in that, when they did have sex, he made sure John enjoyed himself, but still… John felt a bit like a girl for thinking this but it just wasn't as enjoyable without that added intimacy.
John trailed his fingers around the rim of his mug, thinking. Sherlock and he had talked about having an open relationship from the beginning. John wasn't sure how he felt about it. Sherlock had insisted in his 'know it all' way that, "Monogamy is a romantic delusion. Mankind was not built for it no matter what people would like to imagine."
They had talked about it on and off and John had come to realize that if either of them took advantage of that part of their relationship it would probably be him. Sherlock had said on numerous occasions that John was the only human partner he'd ever had an interest in, although he had experimented with toys before John and so, had not exactly been a virgin the first time they slept together.
Sherlock wouldn't even let John kiss him or be overly affectionate towards him.
John would be lying if he said he hadn't considered their agreement on an open relationship a few times…more than a few times. He kept coming back to the fact that it was Sherlock he really wanted. And he still wasn't sure how he felt about an open relationship.
'Right' he thought to himself, 'Now you're just wasting time Watson.' In army fashion he gathered himself together, mentally, and prepared for his day.
John had his jacket on and his bag over his shoulder before he heard the floor creak behind him. He couldn't help but smile. There was Sherlock with mussed hair and a white sheet wrapped around himself. "Good morning Jawn," Sherlock yawned into his hand.
John smiled, "Morning Sherlock. I'll be at the surgery today."
Sherlock nodded and leaned forward, giving John a quick pec on the lips. "Have a good day."
John was still smiling, but not as widely. "You too," he murmured, "Don't' blow up the flat."
Sherlock scoffed and waved him out of the flat. John went, his fingers brushing over his own lips as he went. He was probably being silly anyway. He shouldn't want more from his partner than they were willing to give…
John groaned as he shuffled into the break room, one hand massaging his neck. It had been a high energy day and as much as he loved his work it was good to have a few minutes to breath. Of course that also meant his mind was quite enough to return to thoughts of Sherlock. He picked at his food unhappily while he reviewed his texts. He didn't want them to make him smile but they did. Sherlock was always full of surprises. How could you love someone and resent them at the same time?
Small sniffling sounds coming from the staff bathroom caught his attention. John looked up, brows furrowed in concern. After a minute or two the bathroom door slowly opened and Troy, one of the new surgery doctors shuffled out.
Troy had been working for the surgery for a few months. He was a great doctor but he was shy, so he kept mostly to himself. He had impossibly thick brown hair that was about two inches long so short but still long enough to run your fingers through. He was about the same height as John, with an athletic build. Probably from chasing his dogs around, John knew enough about Troy to know he wasn't one for sports…or to be upset easily.
"Are you okay?" John asked and Troy jumped. His eye red rimmed and wide. Troy had beautiful eyes when he wasn't crying. They were a soft blue, darker than Sherlock's, with little green patches around his pupils that made his eyes look like stars.
Troy sniffled and visibly pulled himself together. "Oh, John, I'm fine." He smiled and it was almost convincing. "Just these damn spring allergies."
John arched a knowing eyebrow. "Troy your allergies only affect your eyes," he accused, "Maybe you'll get a rash if it's bad." All these years with Sherlock had taught John to pay attention, so he knew that much, even about someone shy like Troy. They'd gone out for drinks a few times with others from the surgery and John had paid attention.
Troy looked away guiltily. John stood and took a few steps closer to his college. "It's probably none of my business, but if you want to talk, I'd be happy to listen."
Troy took a few deep breaths and glanced furtively at John.
"I mean it," John encouraged, "If you want to talk I'm here." John glanced at the empty tables in the break room and sighed. "It'd be nice to think about other people's problems for a change."
Troy's face softened and he shifted to face John properly. "What's bothering you?" He asked, concerned.
John huffed another quick sigh and glanced at Troy. "Tell you what," he said straightening up, "Let's sit down to lunch and we can trade problems."
Troy let out a strangled chuckle and moved to sit. "I'm not sure I'm that hungry," he confessed.
John shrugged and sat across from Troy. "Join the club."
They sat in silence for a moment before John spoke again. "So, what's got you so upset?"
Troy sighed and stared at the table. "It's going to sound so stupid."
"Try me," John prompted.
Troy looked up into John's warm gaze for a moment before relenting. "My cousin is getting married in a week."
"And?" John asked, his eyebrows crinkling in confusion.
Troy chuckled despondently. "They expect me to bring a date!" he said exasperated. "I really don't want to sit through an evening of lectures and well meant advice."
John nodded knowingly. He'd experienced how family could get an idea in their heads and torment you with it.
"I mean I was dating someone before, Adam, but it ended. Which is fine, by the way. I just haven't found anyone new and I don't feel the need to rush it. But—"
"But they think they know better," John cut in.
"Exactly!" Troy burst out, exasperated. There was a long pause before he looked up to meet John's eyes again. "What about you?"
"I spilled my guts," Troy began, "Now it's your turn."
"Oh." John looked down at the table, suddenly embarrassed. He didn't normally talk about his private life…but at the same time it would be nice to have someone else know…it would be nice not to feel so alone.
"Hey," Troy's soft voice broke John out of his thoughts. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want too.."
John felt guilty now. Troy had opened up… "It's just Sherlock," John began, uncertain.
Troy nodded, leaning forward slightly. "He's your boyfriend right?"
John nodded and looked back down at his hands. "I just feel like…we want very different things sometimes."
"I'm sorry," Troy murmured. John started a little when he felt a warm hand settle on top of his. "That can be really hard."
That was it. No solutions offered, no long pouring over the facts. Just two difficult situations and some sympathy. And yet that made a powerful impact on John. He could feel himself flushing slightly and a warm tingly feeling flutter in his chest. It had been a long time since he felt just listened to. It felt…nice.
Troy seemed to realize where his hand was and pulled it back with an embarrassed. "I'm sorry." Troy stood and made his way towards the door, pausing just for a moment before pushing it open. "I hope you feel better, Dr. Watson."
And then he was gone. "You too Troy," John murmured, watching the door close behind the younger doctor. John was smiling despite himself. Troy's sudden shyness was…cute. So much different than Sherlock's brash, know it all, burst right in demeanor.
Right, it was time to get back to work. John shook his head
Before he knew it, the end of the day was here. John had finished his paperwork—on time for once—and he was nibbling at the leftovers of his lunch in the break room. He had a bit more of an appetite now. He'd been thinking on and off about Troy since lunch. In part because Troy had been a good coworker and acquaintance, so he wanted to help, and in part because it was less painful and confusing than thinking about Sherlock. How many hours had he wasted doing that lately?
He heard the door open and looked up. Troy spotted him and smiled. "You're just like me." He chuckled to himself as he walked to the fridge.
"Pardon?" John asked around a mouthful of sandwich.
I can never eat right when I'm upset, and that always leaves me hungry later," Troy explained. Suddenly he looked shy again. "Do you mind if I sit here?"
John shook his head and gestured for Troy to sit. "I would appreciate the company. Your dogs won't miss you?"
Troy shook his head and he unpacked his salad. "No, my sister is visiting for the week so she's spoiling them as we speak, I guarantee you."
John took the time to chew and swallow before he asked, "What kind of dogs do you have again?"
"Black labs, littermates, one boy, one girl," Troy smiled and John couldn't help but think it looked better on him than the frown he'd worn earlier that day.
They ate in companionable silence for a moment. "Troy," John began, "I've been thinking about earlier…"
"Yes?" Troy asked, looking a bit shy again. John had to fight not to smile.
"What if you took a friend to pose as your boyfriend?"
Troy flushed and looked down briefly. "I wouldn't mind that, but I don't have a friend who would this. They're all taken or think I should just be honest."
John thought back to all of Sherlock's disguises. "Sometimes a small lie can make things much more manageable."
Troy nodded and took a bite of his salad.
"I could go with you," John offered.
Troy nearly choked on his salad. "What?" he swallowed hard and took a drink. "But you have Sherlock?"
John flushed and looked down. "Well, it would be a disguise right? And even if it wasn't…Sherlock and I have an open relationship."
"Is that a problem?" John asked.
Troy shook his head vigorously. "No, not at all. Everyone has the right to decide the rules of their own relationship. I'm just surprised… are you sure?"
John allowed the smile that had been threatening to settle itself on his face. "I'm sure," he replied. He wasn't half bad at disguises himself after all this time with Sherlock, and he'd be lying if he said Troy wasn't good looking with an appealing shyness about him. It would be a fake date, of course, but John had the feeling it would be a pleasurable evening, all the same.
"Thank you Dr. Watson," Troy murmured, looking flushed.
"John, please," John prompted.
Troy smiled at him. "John," he repeated, "Thank you."
They smiled at each other for a moment before turning back to their long forgotten lunches (more like light suppers at this hour).
"You said the wedding is in a week?" John asked.
Troy nodded. "On May 7th," he murmured between bites. "We should probably hang out once before then to compare notes…" he trailed off, a bit uncertain.
John nodded. "Absolutely. That was we can look convincing. How about Friday after work? That's just two days from now."
"That works," Troy agreed. "Thank you."
John grinned. "You're welcome. It's been too long since I got into a bit of trouble." Troy shared his grin.
They finished their (very) late lunches in companionable conversation. Almost too soon they were putting on coats and heading for the door.
"Thanks again, John," Troy said as they stepped onto the street. "This was fun."
John nodded. "Likewise. See you tomorrow.
"See you tomorrow, and after work on Friday."
John nodded and he was off to 221B Baker Street. This was an exciting little distraction he could look forward to and thoughts of his plans kept him entertained all the way home.
He bounded the steps and strode right over to his computer, typing away with a contented smile on his face.
Eventually he felt a small kiss being pressed into his hair. John looked up and received another brief kiss from Sherlock. "You're in a good mood," Sherlock observed.
John nodded, his smile widening a bit. "It was a good day," he replied, going back to his typing.
Sherlock made a small noise of recognition before returning to is experiment on the kitchen table. He probably knew exactly why John was in a good mood. He was still Sherlock, after all. And John hadn't been this happy in… well… a while.
Sherlock didn't say anything as he worked and John was in too good a mood to ask Sherlock if he was upset. Let him be a little upset if he was. John had spent too much of his own time being a little upset lately.
For once, he wanted to enjoy the moment. It was all harmless, just a little game.