At first, Sherlock thought that the strange, mishapen paper he found in his locker was just a piece of scrap. Only the fact that he had no remembrance of what the paper was for prompted him to unfold it to reveal its true nature.
Sherlock frowned and looked at it, turning it over.
Someone with messy handwriting had scrawled across it Thinking of you.
It was like no heart Sherlock had ever seen. Everyone knew that if you wanted to cut out a proper heart, then you folded a piece of paper in half and cut around the fold to make a heart with even proportions. He remembered back at Valentine's Day, there were many of these floating around. The girls put a lot of time and effort into making pretty little works of paper and glue before inscripting their message carefully in proper calligraphy ink.
Whoever had made this one had cut it out wholly and simply written on it in their usual untidy scrawl in blue ink from a ballpoint pen. It was crooked in all regards.
Surely this heart was not meant to be delivered to Sherlock?
Sherlock looked around, but no one nearby was watching him, not even covertly. Obviously, someone had gotten the wrong locker, and must think that a pretty girl was the recipient of their note and not Sherlock.
It couldn't be for Sherlock. No one liked Sherlock.
Sherlock didn't like anyone either, so it didn't matter at all. He was almost out of this dreary place anyway. Soon enough, he would be on his way to university. At sixteen, he still thought that was a better place for him than this place, where everyone was dull.
Well.... not everyone.
Sherlock checked his phone – it was time for rugby practice.
Not for Sherlock, of course. Sherlock always managed to avoid having to partake in sports activities like gym class, mostly because the teachers had all given up on Sherlock ever agreeing to do what they said. No, Sherlock wasn't going to rugby practice to actually get tackled and throw an oddly shaped ball around.
Sherlock was there for John Watson.
It irritated him to no end that the group of girls that liked to sit out on the grass by the pitch were also mostly there for John Watson. He sat as far away from them as he could, in the shade of the only tree on their school's campus. No one really noticed him there, pretending to read a book, and if they did, they ignored him.
Their eyes were all for the group of girls, mostly popular girls that a lot of people considered smart, but Sherlock thought they were all idiots. If they were really smart, why were they all pretending to be stupid, hanging out and giggling whenever the rugby captain opened his mouth?
It was frightfully dull, but Sherlock would endure, if only to watch John.
It was only after he'd left for the pitch that Sherlock realized that he'd pocketed the strange paper heart. He considered binning it, but it was a mystery, if a small one. It would probably get cleared up shortly when someone realized their mistake. But for now, he slipped it inside one of his textbooks and left it there.
John Watson in a rugby jersey was one of the most divine things that Sherlock had ever seen. He laughed and joked with the captain as they made their way to the field. Sherlock had no idea why, but the sight of John's calves in tall socks did funny things to his insides.
Sherlock had made a point of figuring out the basic rules of rugby, just so he would know exactly what John was doing. He didn't care about anyone else.
John was their number 8.
He even wore a number 8 jersey. When John was on the field, Sherlock always made sure to watch out for the white on red-and-black number flashing in and out of the other players. Sherlock sighed happily and watched him over the top of his book, flipping the page at exactly the sixty second mark every time to make it look as if he were actually studying.
Sherlock wasn't sure what it was about dirt and grass stains, but they were a good look on John Watson.
Rugby practice went on for a while, and then, just before it was over, he started to get up so that he could leave before all the players got off the pitch. The girls were getting up as well, but were heading on to the pitch to greet their favourite player.
As he was dusting the grass off his trousers, Sherlock suddenly realized that John was walking in his direction, by himself.
There was no one else over here. All the girls were on the pitch now, several of them shooting disappointed looks after John's retreating back.
He was walking in a direct line toward where Sherlock was.
Sherlock hurriedly tossed everything in his bag haphazardly and fled back toward the school, not daring to look back to see if John was still behind him.
John could never catch him at it. He was far too much of an outcast to ever get the attention of someone popular and nice like John. Not to mention, no one would approve of Sherlock's regard for their idol. They already disliked him, and it would be far worse if they knew he fancied John.
Fancied. What a stupid word.
Sherlock walked all the way home, heart still pounding at the memory.
The first time Sherlock had met John Watson, it had been when he had first transferred in to their school at the beginning of term. Sherlock had been carrying an entire stack of books, trying to hurry between his locker and the library. Of course, as expected, someone had knocked them out of his arms on purpose, and he'd been left to struggle with picking them up again in the middle of a crowded hall.
He'd looked up to try and find his last textbook and come face to face with John, who had stopped to help him.
"You shouldn't do that!" he'd hissed nervously, looking around. "They'll think we're mates!"
"So what if they do?" John had asked, handing him the textbook and smiling.
"Do you feel like being a social outcast?" Sherlock had said in exasperation. "I'm doing you a favour. Just don't come near me, and people will be sure to like you."
John had tried to say something, but Sherlock had escaped quickly.
John had tried to be his friend for a while, stopping to talk to him, or sitting next to him in class. Sherlock, uncomfortable with the attention and the glares of his fellow classmates, had ignored his attempts.
It's not as if John would be interested in what Sherlock liked to do anyway. Everyone else called him a freak, especially after that one time when he'd blown up the science lab by accident. Not to mention his interest in crime solving. He often had books filled with grisly crime scene photos, which made everyone laugh in disgust.
He examined the heart again, later that night, but it revealed no clues except the handwriting. The paper, the scissors, even the pen came from the school. Sherlock thought it looked like a boy's handwriting, but perhaps it was merely wishful thinking on his part.
It would be nice, he thought, to be wanted.
The next day, Sherlock forgot that he'd stored the stupid heart in his textbook. He'd meant to ask the people around him if they thought the heart might be for them, but had lost his nerve. Sally, his neighbour to the left, always called him freak, and Molly on his right seemed to fancy him, which was something that baffled him completely.
Maybe it had been Molly.
Anyhow, the heart had fallen out of his textbook and onto the floor, where one of his classmates picked it up before Sherlock could retrieve it.
"Is this yours, Holmes?" Anderson sneered, holding the heart with his fingertips gingerly.
Sherlock didn't say a word. It might not even be his, after all, so it would be stupid to defend it. How embarrassing it would be if he claimed it, and turned out to be wrong.
Anderson tossed it back onto his desk. "Who would even send you a love note anyway?"
Sherlock couldn't really say that anybody would, and ignored Anderson.
"Someone gave you a love note?" said a voice behind him, and Sherlock whirled around, heart suddenly pounding.
John was looking at him, where he had the heart on his desk.
"It was probably an accident," Sherlock said hurriedly, grabbing it and tucking it back in his book. "Wrong locker, or something. I'm trying to figure out who it's really for."
"Why don't you think it's for you?" John asked, shuffling his feet.
"No one would give me a love note," Sherlock said. "Didn't you hear Anderson? I bet it's for Sally or Molly. I think Lestrade likes one of them. Maybe it's from him."
Lestrade was the tight-head prop on the rugby team.
"You really don't think it's for you," John asked frankly.
"It's not like they put my name on it," Sherlock said and sighed.
John shuffled his feet again and then said, "Well, you never know!"
"I always know," Sherlock muttered as John went back to his seat.
Why couldn't Sherlock at least act like a normal person around the person he liked, even if he couldn't flirt to save his life? He always ended up saying nasty, blunt things to John. He wasn't nice, not even to the person he fancied. Why would anyone like him? Especially not John, who was nice to everyone.
Sherlock sulked all the way back to his locker.
When he opened the door, a bit of red paper fluttered to the floor, and Sherlock bent to pick it up, heart pounding.
I adore you, Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock blushed hotly, right to the tips of his ears, and hurriedly looked around. No one was watching him at all, giving no indication of who it might be.
Someone was leaving Sherlock love notes. Somebody liked... him. Fancied Sherlock.
Sherlock blinked down at the little paper heart and held it to his chest, feeling an odd fluttering feeling building in his stomach. It was stupid to feel this way, to get excited over the fact someone was sending him notes. It was probably just a prank, to make fun of him.
He could just hear it now, someone would ask, "Did you honestly thing someone actually liked you?"
And Sherlock would be humiliated, and have to say that yes, for one shining instant, he thought that someone might actually feel he was worth something.
He almost crumpled the damn thing up.
He didn't. He got his textbook out and put it inside, right next to the one that was already there. They were mismatched hearts, lopsided and uneven. Sherlock put the textbook in his bag to take home, and thought of a place where he might be able to put them, to keep them safe.
Even though he was certain he was about to get his feelings crushed, Sherlock's heart fluttered with hope.
The hearts continued, every single day. Each one was as lopsided as the last, with the same untidy handwriting. Sherlock tried to deduce who it could be, but there was absolutely nothing to go on. He needed more data.
You have a nice bum.
Sherlock blushed and turned slightly to look down at his rear, hoping that no one noticed that that's what he was doing. His trousers were on the tight side in that area, but with long, skinny legs, he had no choice but to force his arse into trousers that fit his other dimensions. Frowning, he looked around surrepticiously and then reached down to cup his hands over his own arse and squeezed experimentally. Was this one of the criteria for sexual desirability? A nice arse?
Sherlock snatched his hands off his bum and whirled around to find John behind him, grinning a bit, as he no doubt thought the position he found Sherlock in amusing. He could just imagine it. By tomorrow, everyone would be asking Sherlock if he was so hard-up he had to feel up his own arse.
"I'm going home!" Sherlock said, grabbing his bag and hurriedly rushing off in the opposite direction.
He needed to figure out who was writing him the notes.
You're a shooting star, darling. All my wishes are for you.
The problem was, that if Sherlock figured out who it was, then all this would stop.
Whoever it was, they probably weren't someone that Sherlock would find desireable. And once they got close to him, they would probably stop fancying him anyway. It was great if he never found out, because when this mystery person was unknown, Sherlock could pretend they were someone perfect.
If he found out who it was, he would find out that it wasn't John Watson sending him the notes.
Because it surely wasn't popular, nice, attractive John who was sending him the notes. In fact, it was probably someone like Molly, too shy to come up and talk to him. If there was something that John wasn't, it was shy. He talked to Sherlock even though Sherlock was awkward and said stupid things to him.
John was too nice for his own good. He gave silly people like Sherlock hope.
You have eyes like the Medusa Cascade.
Sherlock frowned down at the note in his hand and tried to figure out exactly what his admirer was comparing him to. It sounded vaguely familiar, but Sherlock was fairly certain that the Medusa Cascade, whatever it was, wasn't something real. A pop culture reference?
His list of clues were as follows:
Had a free period between lunch and the end of the school day.
Going by the handwriting, they were going to be a doctor one day.
Liked a particular show on television
What Sherlock really needed to do was break into the records room and find out who had a free period at that time. Sherlock was fairly sure that it wasn't just that they were fast enough to get there before him. He could be wrong, of course, but his locker was in the middle of the busiest hallway.
My heart can't take it when you look at me.
Oh, one more clue. They liked Sherlock.
That was the most baffling clue of all, because hardly anyone even wanted to come near him, never mind date him.
He started by breaking into the records office to find out if he could figure out who had a free period in the afternoon. All it took was a paperclip, a hairpin and a sense of determination, and he was into the school data logs.
It took Sherlock a few clicks of the keyboard to find the twenty or so names of people who had a free period at the correct time.
Sherlock valiantly tried to ignore the fact that John's name was on the list.
It couldn't be John. Sherlock wasn't good enough for someone like John.
He memorized the list and then decided that he had to go through each person and figure out whose handwriting matched his hearts. It should be easy enough. To make things fair, he would go in alphabetical order. Which meant 'Watson' was at the end of his list.
Sherlock had no idea why he was tormenting himself with this. He should just give up and let this go, because if it was anyone else besides John Watson, he wouldn't care anymore.
Sherlock took the hearts home with him every day in his textbook and stored them in a the hollowed out space of a book that he then hid on his bookshelf. Once he got home, he looked them over every day, carefully reading every single one. He couldn't help it. Just reading them made him feel like they were complimenting him all over again.
Sherlock was on his way to rugby practice, as usual, when a black car with shaded windows pulled up next to him. Sherlock rolled his eyes and turned to look as the back window rolled down, revealing Mycroft in the back seat.
"Already have enough heft to stalk the unsuspecting?" he sneered.
"Get in, Sherlock," Mycroft said, not even bothering to answer the jibe.
Sherlock hesitated. If he went with Mycroft now, he would miss rugby practice. He'd never missed rugby practice, not once since John joined the rugby team.
"I know what you're thinking. And I intend to discuss it."
So Mycroft had worked it out. Of course he had. He couldn't keep his fat nose out of other people's business, especially Sherlock's.
Sherlock got into the car, and as predicted, Mycroft went on at length about the disadvantages that came with emotional attachment. Sherlock ignored him. It didn't matter at all, because John would never like Sherlock like Sherlock liked John. Stupid Mycroft and his futile lecture.
Not only that, but Sherlock had missed watching John practice.
I wish I could give you the world.
This heart was written strangely. It took a while to figure out, but Sherlock eventually realized that whoever was writing the message was using their non-dominant hand. Sherlock frowned. It was too late to try and disguise their handwriting. The heart was a bit more lop-sided too, come to think of it. What was going on?
Sherlock had a few theories, and was working on eliminating them when he saw John in the hallway, talking to Lestrade and some other rugby player. For Sherlock, everything came to a sudden stop, as his heart stuttered and his breath caught.
It couldn't be. Impossible.
John's left arm was in a sling.
Sherlock found himself going closer, slowly walking up behind them so that he could overhear what they were saying.
"What did the doctor say?" Lestrade asked.
"Broken collarbone," John said ruefully.
"Bad luck," the other boy said.
"It's because his lucky star was missing yesterday," Lestrade said with a laugh.
"Shut it," John growled, elbowing him.
Sherlock quickly escaped down a nearby hallway, heart pounding. What were the odds that another left-handed person had been injured yesterday afternoon, in between giving Sherlock his heart before rugby practice and right now, when he'd received his latest heart?
It was driving Sherlock mad. Because he could quite discount the possibility that someone else had been injured. But it was easy enough to find out.
Sherlock spent the next few days checking on the other nineteen people on his list, and only one other person was left-handed. It was a girl, and when Sherlock checked her writing on the board later, it was loopy and curly. Not at all like the spiky chicken-scratch handwriting on Sherlock's hearts.
Could his mystery admirer actually be John?
Sherlock's stomach churned nervously as he tried to figure out what to do. If it wasn't John, then he would not only feel like an idiot, but his hopes would be dashed once and for all. If it was John, Sherlock had no idea what to do about it. Dating and romance were really not Sherlock's areas of expertise.
He'd come this far, though, and he couldn't just stop now.
The next day, when Sherlock checked his locker, there was no heart waiting for him.
Sherlock went through his entire locker, wondering if he'd missed it, but after tearing through the entire thing, he still couldn't find it. Which left his only conclusion – his admirer hadn't left him a heart today.
Sherlock briefly considered not going to rugby practice, but on the one day that Sherlock hadn't shown up, John had broken his collarbone. He couldn't miss two rugby practices in a row.
John might not even be there if he couldn't play, but Sherlock was going anyway.
If John really was the one leaving Sherlock hearts and he had missed today, then there had to be an explanation. Sherlock wouldn't figure it out by avoiding him.
John was there, talking and laughing with his team mates, although he was in his normal uniform and not his rugby jersey. When his team mates took the field, John stayed on the sidelines watching. Sherlock was too nervous to even pretend to be reading.
Because John was on the sidelines, the girls that usually sat and watched all perked up in interest, and several of them made their way across the field to where John was sitting. It was obvious, even from across the width of the field, that they were turning their full power of flirting on John. Sherlock glowered across the field, but of course, they didn't even notice him.
Sherlock was so invested in glaring that he didn't even notice practice ending.
John got up, put up a hand and walked through the group of girls and away from them. He didn't even turn around to look at them. Seeing him leaving, his rugby mates all turned to watch, as if there was something significant about John walking across the field.
John was almost across the field before Sherlock realized that John was coming toward him.
No one else was around. Just Sherlock.
Sherlock fought the rising urge to flee as he always did, standing to wait for John to reach him. He put his hands behind his back to hide the fact that they were shaking. As John got closer, he raised his eyes and smiled. Sherlock felt his stomach drop and his insides writhed, but on the surface he did his best to appear serene.
John stopped a couple of feet in front of him, and Sherlock held his breath as he waited for John to speak.
John didn't say a word. He put his hand in his pocket and drew a little piece of paper out, taking a deep breath and letting it out before presenting it to Sherlock. Sherlock bit his lip shyly and reached out with one trembling hand to take it.
It was a paper heart.
I love you quite desperately – John Watson
Sherlock made a small sound and clutched the heart to his chest, blinking at John helplessly. He wanted to say something, but the feeling he wanted to convey didn't have any words. This had to be a dream, because nothing this good ever happened to Sherlock.
Certainly not something as good as John Watson.
John seemed to understand, as he smiled gently at Sherlock and slowly raised a hand to his cheek, thumb caressing his jaw. He cupped the back of Sherlock's head with his other hand, twining his fingers into Sherlock's hair.
Sherlock's eyes slid shut as John raised himself up on his toes so that his lips could finally find Sherlock's. Sherlock made another soft sound, and the fingers of his free hand curled around the fabric of John's jumper.
John's mouth was soft and warm, and Sherlock melted into the kiss, hardly able to keep himself up. His knees shook like a newborn colt's, and John slid his hands down Sherlock's back, holding him steady and close.
When John drew back, Sherlock felt flustered and short of breath.
"How was that?" John asked, smiling.
"T-that was my..." Sherlock gulped and whispered. "My first kiss."
John full-on grinned and rubbed the tip of his nose against Sherlock's. "Was it an enjoyable first kiss, then?"
Sherlock nodded and blushed slightly.
"Will you let me give you another?"
Sherlock was leaning in when there was loud cheering from John's teammates as they came off the field.
"About time!" Lestrade said as he passed by.
John blushed and hid his face against Sherlock's collarbone. The rest of the team added in their agreement of this statement with raucous whistling. Sherlock blinked in surprise as several of John's teammates congratulated him as they left.
"What?" Sherlock finally asked, after they had all gone and John could emerge from hiding safely, even if he was still a bit pink-cheeked.
"I told them you were my lucky star," John said, looking embarrassed. "I might have talked about you to them... a lot. After I got injured, many non-believers definitely changed their tune."
"You talked about me?" Sherlock couldn't believe it. He could hardly believe any of this was real.
"Near constantly," John said, the corners of his mouth turning up.
Sherlock was so enamoured with that smile, that he had to kiss it, just to feel the shape of John's happiness against his mouth.
"You like me," Sherlock said in delight, whispering the words against John's mouth.
"I do," John said back, and held him tighter. "I do."
When the two of them left the pitch, they went hand-in-hand.