Title - Policy of Truth
Author - Kourion
Summary: When a relatively minor - yet rash - action on John's part begins to cause changes in Sherlock's demeanor, the ramifications will lead to a fact about John's life that he's always worked terribly hard to hide. Along with certain confusing feelings that not even the good doctor himself had analyzed up to that point./ Johnlock focused / *First Kiss*
Author's Note: I am terribly behind on updates, on my WIP's - on everything. Yes, I know. New job, then being sick, then losing my muse. I blame a combo of all three. But at least I know what I am behind in, and it's on my mind - and I will try to have updates for you all in the next few days. I appreciate everyone's support and understanding.
N.B: this is likely to be just a ficlet. I simply don't need another WIP at this time. However, please consider still leaving a brief review, below! I may return to certain subjects outlined in this story at a later time. :) Your feedback always helps me, and is always appreciated! (More than you guys probably know).
N.B 2: this is a JOHNLOCK story. (First time kiss within; for me, that's monumental. I've never written a kiss scene before). Like Sherlock, or similar to how Sherlock has often been portrayed or considered by the fan-base - I identify as asexual. Which really might not matter, but I've never been one for romantic kissing, so please don't be too harsh if John and Sherlock's first kiss isn't...'ideal' in your estimate! I tried my best - and feedback is always appreciated XD So please don't be shy about commenting). That said: this story is not intended to go along with my longer story, Shadow Child - unless your mind can work it into the timeline, somehow. (Notably after Sherlock is emotionally on the road to healing). But I am not writing this story with that WIP in mind. It's a stand alone ficlet, and I may add to it at a later date once my other WIP's are completed.
N.B. 3: I'm taking some liberties with the subject of dyslexia (and furthermore - being a doctor with dyslexia). I am making John's disability something that he was able to overcome, more or less, and dreaming up various aids for work situations and the like so he can conduct his job duties and fill out scripts, without issue. I know the real world probably doesn't work so seamlessly - so please take all the medical ''accommodations'' with a grain of salt (again, mild dyslexia, low self esteem, and an ability to overcome reversal errors = a bit part of John's character here). For the record, certain dyslexic traits such as letter or order reversals can sometimes be overcome by adult hood with a lot of work. I reversed letters well into fourth grade, and had minor traits associated with multiple learning disabilities...that really do not show up at all as an adult. I read a LOT, and I wrote - again - a lot. And I credit doing both these things to helping me, somewhat. I also found other ways to cope, and my condition was relatively mild. Today it doesn't show, unless extremely tired (one day I did famously speak an entire sentence *completely* backwards - which would be a cool party trick if I could do it at will! But I digress).
''Let me see you stripped down to the bone.'' - Depeche Mode, Stripped
In retrospect, it was uncharacteristic of me. My response. My level of reactivity. After being Sherlock's friend for so long - and his flat mate for over a year - I should have had a better grasp of my emotions.
I mean - it's Sherlock. I know what he's like. I know that half the stuff that comes out of his mouth is bullshit. Not the accuracy of his comments - but the tone, the irritation.
So, again - in retrospect - Sherlock's reaction to my reaction should have also not have come as a surprise. I knew, perhaps better than anyone else, that he didn't have many friends. But he had me. I was his friend. I was a person he had appointed as a ''friend,'' and sadly - I had already shot that title down once before with a quick ''colleague'' rebuttal - my fears about being viewed as a potential lover surging forward around Sherlock's University acquaintance.
And now I have done something worse.
A lot worse.
It doesn't sound like a lot. It doesn't sound like very much. Especially not with an apology. And a somewhat-explanation.
But that's not fixing anything right now.
God, Sherlock - come on.
Give me a break.
I'm only human.
Maybe in a year or so, I'll look back on this time and laugh.
I am, after all, feeling awfully stressed over Sherlock's recent soft spoken-ness. Our bantering has stopped, and he has altered his routine - almost as if to avoid me.
It should almost be funny.
Sherlock tip toeing around the house like a nervous mouse.
I didn't think he'd care so much about a 'friend label' on a bloody social network site; although the 'unfriending' must have seen a little harsh.
Had the situation been reversed, I'd likely be a bit stung. I admit it. But I didn't really think before I did it. I just wanted him to lay off his tirade, and his mock I'm-superior-than-you tone. In front of my previous peers from Uni.
I know it's all crap, anyway. A cover for some other issues. He certainly knows enough about human behaviour to understand that most people - most sane, normal (''boring'') people don't like to be looked at as inferior, or lacking, or just plain stupid. So it was with an understandable - if uncharacteristic - irritation that I began to feel my temper rising.
And Sherlock - being Sherlock - could see everything he needed to see about the situation, except what I'd do next.
I regretted it immediately afterwards, too.
I knock on his door softly. Try the handle.
It's locked. Surprise, surprise.
''Sherlock?,'' I try again. ''Please, I need to speak to you. It's important.''
''Damn it, Sherlock! I've apologized, already! I was in a bad mood.''
The lock pops, and the handle slowly turns.
''Can we talk?,'' I usher a little less forcefully. His hair is unbrushed and his eyes are cast in dark circles. He's also wearing goggles, and rubber kitchen gloves.
''I'm busy right now. Experiment,'' he responds gruffly - not meeting my eyes. It's his lack of eye contact that has me most concerned. Aspergerish tendencies aside, Sherlock is not autistic, and he's never had difficulty making eye contact before. The lack of eye contact screams timidity - which is another thing that doesn't fit with what I know about him. If he's hurt, fine. I get it. I'll talk to him (that's the plan), and we'll have a nice little chat about how I'm a boring, stupid human - and how maybe, just maybe he'd be best not to rile me up all the time, and-
''Maybe later,'' he says dully, and shuts the door on me before I can say anything else. The rudeness? That's Sherlock. The lack of eye contact, the dead sound in his voice - and his experimentation in his bedroom and not the kitchen (and I never thought I'd be complaining about this, particularity) - all of these things make me feel that something is really, really wrong.
Not Sherlock-doesn't-always-get-along-with-others wrong.
But maybe - permanently - wrong.
That's my biggest fear, now.
When I wander back to the living room, I let my eyes roam over the room. Everything looks - good. Decent.
We could have company over. That's how tidy everything is.
It's a little alarming.
Everything has been dusted, and I know better than to credit Mrs. Hudson with it.
Not only that - all the papers are tidied up. The kitchen is even better. There are absolutely no human (or animal) body parts in the fridge. There is also two extra cartons of milk, and a small jug of creamer - all purchased in the last day.
Sherlock's doing. And yet he's mad at me. He must be. He's not even talking to me. Not really. In bit form. A word here, a sullen ''I'm busy'' there. But discussions? Heck, I'd even take my flatmate at his most hypomanic best right now.
I'd take Sherlock begging for cigarettes and covered in pig's blood...right now.
I suddenly catch sight of Sherlock's Stradivarius (we won't talk about the insanity of how he keeps - or doesn't keep - his ungodly expensive bowed instrument in its case when not in use - another time). The lines of the violin, the richness of red - everything seems muted now.
He hasn't played in four days. And we are not on a case.
I feel incredibly sad. Guilty. Something else. Some twinge of anxiety I rarely feel, and haven't felt since my adolescence.
Maybe if he'd just play a bit of music...everything would be okay.
I make myself some tea, using the new creamer that Sherlock has purchased. I remove a yellow post it note from the desk drawer in the living room and scrawl a ''Thank you for the creamer! I really appreciate it! - John :)''
Yes, I'm using smiley faces with the man now.
Things really are that dire.
At 4:52 pm, an hour later and a half cup of brandy later - and almost five days after 'the Facebook Incident' - I pick up my phone and text out a brief, somewhat vague message. I stare at it for a few minutes, deciding if what I'm about to do is really the best way to proceed.
Or if I'm going to make him angrier. If he's even angry. Again, I don't know what's really going on; I'll see him at the Yard - working on a case - and he's just the same with Sally, with Anderson (which is borderline obnoxious). He's a little warmer to Molly, or maybe just a little less overtly snarky with her. But all in all? Sometimes it's like nothing has changed.
In public, very little has.
But it's at the flat that I feel the difference. It's not even a frostiness. It's an impending sense of something's going to break.
And nothing should be so critically wrong.
I didn't even do anything that bad.
This is ridiculous.
Sherlock insults me all the time.
I've forgiven him every time.
Every bloody time.
But I do one impulsive thing, and suddenly I'm the bad guy?
When he lives his life as Mr. Piss People Off, when he's not living his life as Mr. Impulsivity?
Why am I the bad person here?
And why do I feel so weirdly guilty?
And why are things so strained?
It's not like I haven't tried to apologize.
I've tried to talk to him repeatedly.
This is ridiculous.
He can hate me for all he cares.
I'm a minute away from yelling at him for acting like a petulant child anyway.
So it's this.
I hit send.
I do it as impulsively as my horrid, stupidly stupid beyond stupid unfriending of my best friend.
I'm sorry, Sherlock. You wouldn't talk to me.
Not really. So it's come to this.
Mycroft's reply takes ages.
In actuality, it takes 34 minutes. Which isn't awful for a person such as he; one whom occupies a ''minor position in the British government.''
Is he talking to you at all? - MH
I sigh, and type out a response.
Don't you want to know what happened? - John
I wait a bit, feeling nerves flutter in my belly.
I didn't do anything cruel to Sherlock. Not really.
But Sherlock's never really had friends. And I unfriended him.
And it was just the nanosecond click of a mouse. It was nothing.
But it may have not been nothing to him. It may have been everything to him. And that's all I care about right now.
Unnecessary - MH
Even Mycroft's responses to me seem terse. Irritated. Of course, that might just be my guilty conscience.
I have no way of knowing one way or the other if Mycroft is annoyed with me at all. I can't read him at the best of times.
And it should hardly matter. He's Sherlock's older brother. He should go to bat for his younger brother. He should be mad at me. But it still unnerves me. Heck, why do I feel this way? I feel like I backed over some kid's puppy with a car.
This is ridiculous.
I type out a new reply.
I've tried saying sorry - John
I wait, feeling the sense of 'wrongness' increase.
I'm sure you have - MH
And that message?
That message right there?
That could be the height of sarcasm, or utter sincerity.
I'm operating in the dark.
I type out my last message. I debate including the word 'best' next to friend. I don't want to seem needy, childish - desperate.
Then I think: fuck it. What do I have to lose, really? Mycroft's respect? What do I care about more, anyway?
How Mycroft sees me?
Or how Sherlock feels about me?
He's my best friend, and I know my actions hurt him. I just want to talk to him. Really talk to him. It's tense, and he's ignoring me and I don't even know if you'll make it better or worse. I care about him a lot.
I start to type out: I thought you'd know what to do.
I almost start to type out: I thought you'd know what to do to fix this.
But I don't.
I write: I don't want him to be hurt. And if he is, and I think he is - I feel awful that he's hurt. I would never want to hurt him.
I send it off anxiously.
It's the most I've ever said in one go to Mycroft Holmes.
The next response takes longer to come in. A lot longer.
Three or four minutes longer. And the response? It's short. Almost as if Mycroft didn't know what to say in response.
I'll see what I can do.
There is no MH following it.
I don't know if that means anything.
After so long of living with Sherlock, I'm looking for clues and information and patterns and MEANING in bloody everything.
The sun starts to set, and I get up at shortly after 7 pm to look out on the street. I must have fallen asleep on the sofa.
My neck has a crick in it from laying at an angle.
I see teenagers running around in tights. Black plastic capes. Devil horns.
Halloween. I had forgotten.
I feel my knee click and pop and stretch, as I make my way over to the kitchen - dumping my remnant tea into the sink. Stick the post it note on the fridge before I forget. Open the new - relatively clean - fridge.
Nothing looks appetizing. Even with the lack of human ears or pigs hearts or anything else that normally would kill an appetite. I shut the door and the kitchen goes back to resting in dark.
I check my cell. Nothing.
No responses from Mycroft. And even worse - nothing from Sherlock. I set the alarm on my phone. Set it for 6 am, retrieve a new glass from over the stove and fill it with a few ounces of brandy. Down it in one go.
Then I wash my face and floss and brush my teeth.
The alcohol helps me go to sleep.
I'm out by 7:35 pm.
The squawking shriek of my alarm wakes me at 6:00 am. I have an early morning shift and am moving like molasses, so I've forced myself to get up early.
Sherlock - who hates early morning anyways and always - is absent from the living room. Surprise, surprise.
I pack a lunch of grapes, crisps, a cheese stick in colourful packaging intended for kids (and which I thought Sherlock may nibble on. No luck), and a thermos of black coffee. With sugar. For energy.
I hate coffee with sugar.
My morning shift is hell. It goes by in minutes of two's and three's. Inching, edging along to an even longer and more drawn out afternoon.
At least I have the good manners to not look at the clock with a patient in the room.
Sarah raises a hand to me shortly after 1 pm.
I come over, feeling the need to be dutiful.
Feeling like I've had the stuffing kicked out of my doll-like insides.
The fluttering in my stomach has gone away. I feel like foam. Like empty, bloodless foam.
I'm being ridiculous.
This whole thing - this whole situation - is bleeding ridiculous.
I give Sarah what I hope is seen as a winsome smile. We're still on good terms, at least. I haven't isolated myself from all my friends.
Stop it John. You're being juvenile.
This will blow over. Sherlock's just stung.
I may not be boyfriend material. But at least I can keep acquaintances and work friends in my life.
''You okay there, John?,'' Sarah tries gently, her brown eyes warm and if not overtly concerned - at least kind.
''Ahh,'' I say lightly. Of course she can tell I'm off my game. I'm sure everyone can. ''Just fine,'' I quip, dumbly.
''Really?,'' she clarifies. ''You look a little distracted this morning. I mean, I know you - I know it's not impacting your work-''
I shake my head.
I'm not letting some stupid melodramatic Sherlock antic impact my job.
For chrissakes, this is ridiculous.
''Something to do with our mutual friend? How is Sherlock?''
I genuinely smile at her this time.
''You should let him know that,'' I say thickly. ''He doesn't hear it enough.''
Just close your mouth and stop screwing up with every breath you take.
I could kick myself.
''What's that?,'' and of course - Sarah looks confused.
I clear my throat.
''I don't think Sherlock knows that he matters to people.''
The honesty spills out of me, unconstrained.
I remind myself that brandy from over 17 hours ago is not still in my system.
I can't blame this on alcohol.
''What's prompted this?,'' Sarah tests cautiously. ''I mean, he knows he matters to you. You guys are like salt and pepper.''
Salt and pepper.
I'm not insulted. I'm not anything. I feel dull and empty.
I know - somewhere, my mind distantly tells me - that Sarah's telling me we're close, that it's obvious to others that we are close. And she's skipped any sexual laden innuendos - not as though Sarah would be one to use them anyway.
But I don't feel anything. My mind is blank.
I'm like a stupid, lobotomized ape. All over something so stupid.
''I think I may have...hurt him a bit.''
Sarah laughs. Not meanly. No twinge of cruelty or enjoyment. Her voice, her laugh, rings out like a bell. As if she finds my suggestion humorous.
''Come on John. You're flat mates, and Sherlock's Sherlock. So what did you do? Insult one of his experiments? Critique his social skills?''
Her eyes are still smiling, even when her mouth relaxes. She really has no idea the tension I've caused.
You sound like a melodramatic 12 year old with a crush.
Get a fucking grip, Watson.
''I, uhhh-,'' I clear my throat. ''I unfriend him. On a social networking site. It was impulsive,'' I add quickly. ''He was pushing my buttons - he may not have realized it, and-''
Sarah interrupts me. ''John, take a breath. Sherlock of all people? He'd know when he was pushing your buttons. And if you're this concerned about what happened, he's also going to know that you did what you did impulsively. It holds no weight - he knows his role. He's the most observant person I've ever met.''
Normally, I'd say - 'yes, you're right, Sarah.'
But his behaviour is off.
It doesn't make sense. A sulk for a few hours. Until such time as we were able to discuss matters? Yes, I'd understand it. But things are getting weirder as time goes on. Not better.
In some weird way that I can't readily identify...everything is getting worse.
And not. In some ways - things are running better. Smoother. He's picking up after himself, he's washing his dishes. He's gone to Tesco for milk and creamer. So in some ways things seem better.
''Look, John - if you want - I mean, after work we can get a drink and catch up?'
A tendril of something like newfound anxiety uncoils in my belly. I'm not dating Sarah anymore, and I don't want her to get the wrong idea. And yet males and females can be friends. They can hang out. I've always believed this. It shouldn't be this complicated.
My mouth pinches in of its own will. I bite my lip.
''Just as friends, of course,'' Sarah says strongly, with a smile - as if reading my thoughts.
''What?,'' I colour. I can feel it. The heat rush in. ''Oh, I wasn't-''
Sarah closes her eyes, makes a motion with her hands like ''time out'' - before proceeding.
''You need to stop overthinking everything. Stop...worrying what people are going to think and do. You're a good person, and you don't like hurting people and you probably very rarely do hurt anyone because you're so conscientious. You have to give yourself a bit of a break. Let yourself off the hook.''
I give Sarah an appraising look, before smiling.
''Have you ever considered becoming a psychologist?''
It's meant to be a compliment. But it comes out as moronic. Flat. A silly, not-funny, not-clever empty 'compliment.'
''You're doing it again, I can tell,'' Sarah tests softly.
I back away, a slight shuffle. Take a breath.
''You're way too hard on yourself, Watson. Has anyone ever told you that? Come on. Let's meet up. Get a drink. We can talk more, if you'd like?''
I let out an exhalation.
''Okay. That might be really...helpful. Thank you, Sarah.''
Her returning smile is lovely.
At 10:50 pm I finally get in, groaning at the lateness as I rush up the stairs two at a time.
The TV is on, and Sherlock is watching some sort of crap telly show.
He gives me an appraising look, his eyes roaming over my frame. I nervously adjust my jacket, before taking it off.
Like an idiot.
''Absinthe,'' he says evenly, not looking surprised in the least. He goes back to watching World's Worst Shark Attacks, but he seems distracted.
''I didn't know you liked sharks,'' I say dumbly.
Everything I say is dumb these days. Especially these last five days.
Sherlock quickly turns off the TV.
''John...I...I want to talk to you.''
''Oh, well that's news to me...''
''John - I think I've had some things...backwards.''
''Backwards?,'' I clarify.
He nods, his eyes suddenly serious. He swallows and I see his Adam's apple bob.
He suddenly seems nervous.
''What's wrong?,'' I try again.
''Mycroft called me. He was adamant he speak to me. You made quite an impression on him, apparently.''
He's wringing his hands back and forth. It looks like he's going to pace any minute.
I suddenly feel like giggling.
Mycroft? He detests Mycroft.
''Liquid courage,'' I supply. I had consumed a bit of brandy when I had texted him.
Sherlock suddenly gives me an appraising eye, the air rushing out of his lungs.
''Are you drunk?,'' Sherlock says simply. ''Or just tipsy?''
''What does that even matter? I'm allowed to have a glass of alcohol now and again!''
I'm not my sister.
I'm not an alcoholic.
Sherlock's eyes flicker a type of atypical anxiety, but even I can tell that he doesn't really care about the state of my inebriation.
Besides, I'm not drunk.
I never allow myself to get drunk. Especially not when I am upset. It's a rule borne of living with an alcoholic mother, and then becoming acquainted to alcoholism even more intensely through witnessing the growing up years of an alcoholic sister.
It's actually quite stupid for me to drink at all. Hence the rule: no drinking alone.
And no excessive drinking when upset.
''You're slipping,'' I retort. ''I'm not drunk,'' I stress. ''Try again.''
''Sarah has no idea, I realize. About your familial line. All the same John, it's not like you to drown your troubles in the bottle.''
His words strike something in my core. A flame of something angry and - yes - hurt.
Really hurt. Angry-hurt-furious-hurt.
And maybe I am a little bit drunk, because I feel tears prick my eyes.
I turn around, ready to leave the room.
''Wait,'' Sherlock commands. ''I need to talk to you. Mycroft told me how...how you felt.''
I turn back, not even caring if he sees. Not caring. Not caring. NOT BLOODY CARING.
''What are you talking about?,'' but my heart is pounding away like a jack hammer. ''I told Mycroft that...that-''
And I try to recall exactly what I said.
But I can't.
Damn fucking inebriation.
''What did Mycroft tell you?''
Sherlock swallows again, taking a tentative step forwards.
''He helped me put things in perspective. He helped me realize some things about you, and about me. Maybe more me than you, but maybe-''
He's rambling about Mycroft, and me, and feelings, and a growing, distant, fear-inducing sense of awareness and something else is clamouring for attention in my brain.
But right now? My brain is half turned off.
''Why are you crying?,'' and he genuinely sounds perplexed.
I wipe at my eyes feverishly, almost mad with my body for spilling forth tears.
''I'm not crying.''
''Maybe - maybe we should sit down? I'm not good at these sorts of talks.''
I feel an almost hysterical cry peel out of my throat.
It's anxiety or something else. Part relief, but definitely nerves.
''What sort of talks?''
Sherlock looks uncomfortable.
Serves him right. I've been upset for days.
Worried about the man's questionable mental health.
Over a stupid social network gesture. And he's fine?
And Mycroft goes and plays confidant - when Sherlock should be able to confide in me - and suddenly everything is okay?
''Please stop crying.''
But I feel something fearful lapping at my conscience.
I want to skip this step. Because I'm scared.
Some part of me is scared of something.
And only half of me is willing to consider the fear, the source - the reasons.
Willing to look Sherlock in the eyes. And see that intense - dare I say 'loving' look?
And I can't get my damn heart to slow down.
''John - everything's going to be okay.''
And the fact that it's Sherlock comforting me? Talking away my nerves? Or trying to?
It's actually making my nervousness worse. More palpable. Harder to dismiss as just being down to our recent awkwardness.
''What do you even CARE Sherlock? You haven't even wanted me in your presence this last week! What do you care if I'm upset?''
More juvenile words have never been spoken by me. Not as an adult, I don't think.
Sherlock gets up, comes close.
''Definitely absinthe. And something else. Brandy. And you've consumed some of the brandy in the house. I didn't even know we had any.''
His eyes suddenly look softer, and I want to strangle him.
I run my hands through my hair, exasperated.
''You are infuriating! I've been trying to talk to you for five days, and now you care?''
His brows furrow.
''You were mad at me,'' he says gently. ''I wanted to give you space. I don't - I don't want you to leave. I didn't want-''
He stops. His voice peters out.
''What?,'' I croak.
I'm not drunk, but I don't drink much and I probably drank more with Sarah there than I would have alone. That's the ironic bit.
''I didn't want it to be real.''
My knees feel weak. But I force myself to stay standing.
''What? What didn't you want to be real.''
I still feel like crying, but not as much. I mostly feel really tired. Slightly frustrated. And something else I can't readily identify.
''I didn't want you to...not want to be my friend.''
His voice sounds awkward. The parsing is strange - as if he's unsure what he's saying. Speaking in a foreign language, and testing out a sentence to see if it makes sense to a native speaker.
''Of course you're my friend,'' I breathe out quickly, relief flooding my veins.
You've always been my friend.
I was just mad. You just kept pushing my buttons - and I was mad - and I just wanted to get you to listen for once.
To stop treating me like I was stupid.
All of these things I think, but don't say.
''I'm not stupid,'' I say firmly, an edge of an old, tampered down sorrow edging out of my heart and into my throat.
Sherlock startles at that, taking a minute step back.
''I never said you were,'' he says unconvincingly, his voice wavering with something like nervousness.
I let out a bark of laughter. The absinthe has turned me into a saddening mass of need and tears and something hurting.
Damn you, Sherlock.
Why didn't you back, off?
''You say I'm an idiot all the time,'' I get out. My vision isn't spotty, but nothing is that stable. The floor is rippling under my feet. Like waves. ''I was having a bad day. You were making me seem like an idiot. In front of my old Uni friends, Sherlock. I just didn't want that. I didn't want to-''
He comes closer then, holds up a finger.
''You have a disability,'' and his voice holds an almost reverential tone.
Something quickens in my core.
''What the hell?! Here I've felt like crap for days, Sherlock! Days! And you keep poking at me with a stick! 'How much can I rile John up?' Is it an experiment?''
Sherlock is studying me. Not exactly like I'm a specimen.
''Dyslexia. Relatively mild. Relatively bad in early childhood. You didn't learn to read with the others.''
I feel something like shame wash over me. Me - John Watson - who could barely read a lick until the age of 9.
I step back, equal parts relieved that Sherlock is talking to me mixed with a sense of gutted apathy.
The game's over. It's all over.
The flat mate he simply thought was boring and typically stupid actually was - no, is - disabled.
I take a step towards the stairs, when Sherlock reaches his hand out to me - as if commanding me to stop, yet again.
The action burns me. It suddenly lights the emotional match which incenses me.
''So we're friends again, yeah?,'' I laugh out, much more upset with what has occurred than even I would have ever guessed.
''I - I,'' Sherlock takes a breath. ''Yes. Of course. You will always be my friend.''
And now our roles are reversed.
Now, suddenly - it's me whose not meeting his eyes.
Now, suddenly - it's me that wants to seclude myself in my room.
Close the door and lock it and just pretend it-
''How- how did you get through medical school? How-?''
And Sherlock looks so genuinely perplexed that the anger surges out in a bit down moan of anger.
''I'm not stupid, Sherlock! I'm not the idiot you think I am! I found ways around my disability, obviously!''
His face is blank now. He's clever, all-seeing, all-knowing face is blank.
''I know,'' he stammers out. ''Obviously. And you've obviously found ways to cope, and I find it just very, very-''
He doesn't know what he wants to say.
''What? What? Very amazing that a stupid, disabled man like me could finish elementary school, never mind finish University?''
The little voice in the back of my mind is telling me: this pain of yours is old, John.
It's telling me: this isn't about Sherlock anymore.
But I don't want to listen to reason anymore, either. To common sense.
''For five days I BEGGED you to talk to me! I felt wretched. And you had no idea how much it hurt! Every time you did that. But in front of my Uni friends? They knew, Sherlock! Some of them knew, and I know it doesn't matter to you one way or the other - but I didn't always think of myself as a 'genius', you know!''
The mocking, derisive tone is strong.
The message is this: I've never thought of myself as even half-way smart, never mind a genius.
Because I never did. Think of myself as smart, that is.
Only Harry called me smart. And usually that was veiled in kind words about my work ethic, more than any overt commentary on my intelligence.
''You've done so much. It's amazing, John.'' or ''No one would ever guess you had such difficulties learning things as a kid. You've come such a long way!''
But to me? It felt like they were proud that I was at the starting gate. Where everyone had always been, from day one. Except I'm coming in at the end of my race, tired - just to get where the majority always was.
Sherlock licks his lips.
''I didn't know. I had no idea, John,'' and this? This he says with a measure of awe. Almost reverence, again.
''I'm glad that I'm such a good liar to everyone that you can't discern my obvious inadequacies. That you find this so interesting,'' I retort, ''and I'm very glad there is no lasting hurt...on your part. That was my main concern.''
Was my main concern.
I make to leave the room.
''John. Wait,'' and this time Sherlock grasps my shoulder. His fingers feel extremely warm.
You wouldn't think such a slender man in such a cool house would be so warm to the touch. Even I feel cold. And I'm downright chubby next to Sherlock.
Of course, to be fair, Sherlock probably inherited a much faster metabolism - along with his vastly superior-to-mine intellect, free of all disabilities and traits that would prevent him from reversing basic words as a child. Or of even reading ''The Cat in the Hat'' until the third grade. Along with the other handicapped children.
''I'm-,'' and he closes his eyes for a bit. ''I don't know what to say. I knew I had upset you, and I didn't know why you were so angry, and I didn't observe. I saw, but I didn't observe...''
''Sherlock, let it go,'' I dismiss with false ease. It's true: I want him to let this go. But not for the reasons he thinks.
''We're friends, right?,'' and his voice trembles. It actually trembles. On 'friends.'
I turn back to him too quickly, and the room spins slightly.
''Yes, we're friends. By my estimate, you're my best friend. But I didn't-''
I shut up. I shut up, and his eyebrows raise almost to his hairline.
His breath is hot against my cheek.
''I didn't want you to know. I didn't want you to think less of me, okay?''
He exhales again. The same warmth against my skin. He smells like mint, and maybe cloves. Tea?
He smells really good, really clean and good and suave, and pulled together. Everything he does - it has style. Not awkwardness. Not disability. Not tripping-on-your-own feet stupidity.
The type of stupidity that I fought my whole life against.
''You're very smart,'' Sherlock tries - as if hearing my thoughts - and I know an appeasement when I hear one.
''Sherlock. Don't,'' and the Don't comes out as hard, almost cold.
''I mean it. I truly mean it. And I wouldn't normally say it, but I know I've-''
He takes a deep breath, and it rattles in his lungs, as if he's getting sick.
My cheeks flush at our proximity. Somehow, his hand has come to rest across the back of my shoulder blades. Almost like the start of a hug. Without the hugging. It's weird.
But it's not, at the same time.
I...like it. Part of me likes it.
The other part of me is scared.
I look at the floor.
''You won't understand this Sherlock,'' I get out, willing the clenching-unclenching-clenching in my belly to go away - or to unwind - or something. ''But I spent most of my youth, and a good portion of my adult life feeling...behind. In every way.''
Sherlock's breath hisses out.
''You're not behind in any way! You're so much ahead of me in social skills alone,'' he retorts, his mouth a near-grimace.
Affection, a little blossom of affection, swells and opens in my throat.
''Thank you,'' I get out, and the words sound like gravel. ''That is...''
All those words are ineffective.
I ignore the sentence. Try constructing a new one.
''It took a long time for that sense of being slow - stupid - to go away. And sometimes? Sometimes I don't think it really ever went away for good. Sometimes it comes back again.''
Sherlock takes a step closer to me. I hear, rather than see, him lick his lips. I think I can hear the fluttering of spidery, long eyelashes blink shut against his cheek. The whir and flutter of the pull back. I force myself to look at his eyes. The pupils are dark and demanding and real and his eyes are full and open.
I feel like he's really seeing me, and I'm really seeing him.
''I wouldn't change a thing about you, John. Not. one. thing.''
And I do blame this on the absinthe, because suddenly I'm hugging him, and breathing deeply into his lanky torso, and I feel so many things. So many things, and the feelings I don't like - the ones you'd call 'bad' - are quickly being replaced by a feeling of connection, and a feeling of safety. And something that feels a hell of a lot like love.
Not arousal. Something else. Something fuller than that.
Something that makes me want to grasp Sherlock's lapel and-
Sherlock's eyes are flickering back and forth. He gives me a shaky breath. A shaky smile.
''I care about you a great deal. I knew you were angry with me. I didn't know you were really hurt.''
His fingertips are against my hand, somehow, his index finger moving back and forth - almost melodically - like his playing a tune against my skin.
''I wasn't hurt,'' I get out, frowning.
Except he knows I'm lying.
''You were. All along. Maybe not by me. Maybe not intentionally by me. But I reminded you.''
''It's all fine now,'' I get out - not knowing if I want to break contact with him and run up the stairs, or if I want him to fully hug me again.
I'm confused. I've never felt confused like this before. My body doesn't know what it wants.
''Are we all fine?,'' Sherlock gets out, licking his bottom lip.
I nod in his direction.
''And we're friends?''
I nod again, my eyes dropping away. Looking at the bookshelf behind him.
''You're my best friend,'' I mumble.
Sherlock's answering smile is tremulous. He seems just as nervous as I do.
''You're my best friend, too, John.''
His baritone voice reverberates in my head. The pressure against my hand has increased. It's not painful, but it's firm.
I glance up quickly, and realize he's still studying me. He seems to be debating something. Sherlock's eyes drop to my hand, in his. His eyes come back up to my eyes. His left hand reaches for my cheek, and I take in a breath - surprised.
And suddenly his eyes are pricked by tears too. My own tears are departing, but his look oddly wet. And everything is okay. We covered this. That everything's okay. It's okay.
''It's okay, Sherlock. We're fine now, we are-,'' and my belly is jolting around and I feel tremulous and scared, but also - not.
''Is this fine, too?,'' Sherlock breathes out again, and his voice cracks. He looks nervous.
He never looks nervous. I look away to his shirt.
He's wearing his purple shirt.
''I-I...yes. We're fine. Everything is fine now. I told you, we're fine-''
''You know that's not what I mean, John.''
His hand is stroking my hand. His lips are mere inches from mine.
I feel scared and I feel happy and I feel confused. I'm never scared about things like this before. But there is no 'this' for me, either. No person whose ever meant to me what Sherlock means to me.
''Ma-maybe you should tell me what y-you mean,'' I stutter.
Sherlock smiles, slightly. Cocks his head.
''I know that's not necessary,'' Sherlock breathes out, his soft voice sounding almost amused.
Peppermint? No - wintermint.
''Is that gum?,'' I ask like a dolt, my heart pounding out more loudly than the volume of my words, I'm sure.
''I brushed my teeth before you came home, yes.''
The implications why hit me in the guts like a steamroller.
''Okay,'' I get out, my throat closing up in nerves. ''S-sorry. I'm nervous.''
Stupid, stupid John.
''Okay? It's really okay? I'm operating in the dark here. I don't want to make things worse,'' he clarifies.
My hand trembles in his own. I can feel it. I know he can feel it.
''You're doing much better than I am?,'' and it comes out as a question.
''And you're the one with the experience,'' he says easily, his voice less of a whisper; more stable now.
Like he finds this amusing.
''S-shut up, you bastard. I'm drunk, according to you.''
There is no bite in my voice. Just nerves. I look at my shoes.
Whaddja know? I still have my boots on.
''You're definitely not drunk. I wouldn't kiss you if you were drunk.''
My head spins.
Is that what we are going to do?
And why did he tell me?
Why didn't he just-
And there he is:
His lips are against mine, and they are soft - but neither completely wet or dry. They feel moisturized and I have the sudden urge to laugh against Sherlock's mouth. Because I don't usually think about things like lip wetness when someone is kissing me. And maybe it is just the alcohol, but-
Sherlock breaks the kiss, and it makes a quick smacking sound. Light. It sounds cute.
I look at him quickly, trying to gauge what has happened in the last 25 minutes. Or 15 minutes. Or 40.
My sense of time is off, and I take in a great intake of breath.
''Do you want to continue?,'' he asks, and he seems genuinely patient. I realize then that I don't know if this is Sherlock's first kiss, or his 100th. I don't know anything about the man, in this regard. I don't know if this is pure affection, how he views the act. How he thinks of touch, or sex, or if this is pure, deep affection. I don't know if what I feel for him is sexualized, or romantic.
Romantic, I think - but I don't know what else, if anything else - and he matters to me too much for-
''Stop thinking, John. You're going to give yourself an aneurysm.''
His right hand has come to cup the back of my neck.
''I-I-think I want to continue?''
Sherlock dips his head in, and closes his eyes.
The next kiss is longer and fuller. It's not quite as chaste, but it's also not racy. There is a definite romantic intensity, connection, feeling - that I haven't even felt with my sexual partners.
In fact, I don't know if I have ever felt this for any of my other partners.
''I may be new at this, but I think you're supposed to be thinking of me, not them,'' he attempts a mock tone of something skirting jealousy, but his happiness with what we are doing destroys his attempt at acting out any other emotion.
I stand up more fully to place a kiss against his lower chin, not quite meeting his lips. His mouth quirks underneath my own. I can sense his mirth, coursing through his being. The power of it. It runs hot and very strong. Frank and true.
Irrepressible. Like him.
''I was just thinking-''
''Thinking's good,'' he breathes. The line is hackneyed, but when he says it - his mouth is threatening to break into a full smile.
''After the last week? You're going to mock my ability to think?''
And I feel like adding 'buster' or something to the end of the sentence.
Something to - I don't know...make this seem less strange.
Of course - calling Sherlock anything other than Sherlock, might just make everything all the more surreal.
''If you don't kiss me back, I might just mock your ability to kiss instead,'' he supplies, and a chortle breaks through when I lightly shove him in the shoulder.
''Oi! You're incredible, you know that?''
''Yes - I know that,'' he gets out, but his eyes are alight with mischief. I suddenly feel like giggling.
He sneaks in another kiss, and I wonder - suddenly - if this is just his style. How he likes to kiss, if he's even kissed anyone before. Kissing as repartee. Kissing intermixed with conversation. Something equally playful, to match the feeling of sensuousness that his warmth and touch invoke. I suddenly realize that I wouldn't mind this if this were the only way he ever kissed me. The nervousness, of course, is still there.
But it's not necessarily as profound. I'm rapidly becoming acclimatized to the situation.
''Thank you for forgiving me, Sherlock. About, well... I am sorry. You will always, always be my friend.''
He breaks away, and his lips look slightly fuller than they usually do. Tinged with red. I feel something stir in my stomach again.
'''Best friend?','' he quips, and I realize he looks younger. ''Is that what they are calling it these days?''
''Best something,'' I mutter, ''Best pain in the ass, maybe.'' And this time he does laugh.
Just as I feel distantly aware that this is very, very right now - I'm also not sure how my brain is going to deal with what has sparked up between us after the absinthe wears off.
''You'll be fine,'' Sherlock provides calmly a few seconds later, further demonstrating his precognitive abilities.
''No mind reading. Not when we're-''
He nods, and cuts off my speaking with a gesture more powerful than words.
Neither of us holding back any longer.
A/N: if it sucks, please be nice about it. Ta! If you liked it, please review.