John's lying in bed on his belly and starting to wake up when all of a sudden, a warm and heavy weight settles on top of him, distributed carefully enough to let him breathe. John lets out a huff and smiles into his pillow.
"What time is it?"
"Half past nine," says Sherlock.
John groans lazily. Sherlock has his face nuzzled into the back of John's neck, soft breaths puffing against his skin and hair.
"I read your blog," he says, one arm shoved under John's shoulder.
"Mmm," says John. "You liked it?"
"I love you."
John grins with his eyes closed, the weight of Sherlock's lean body warm and comfortable against him. He can feel Sherlock breathing with him. Sherlock pushes his other hand beneath John's chest, palm up against his heart. He's covering John's back completely, his long legs against the sides of John's.
"Any comments?" He posted late last night and doesn't expect many people to be up and internet browsing this early on a Saturday, but he's asking just in case.
"Mary says you are the most wonderful man she's ever known and wishes us lifelong togetherness."
"Mmmm, bless her."
"Mycroft sent a text: Do continue to treat him well, Sherlock, you'd never find a replacement."
John chuckles at the unmistakable disdain and mockery in Sherlock's voice when he imitates his brother.
"Neither would I," he says.
If Sherlock attempted to summarize, in words, his relationship with John and his own personal feelings on the subject, he would inevitably fail. That was his conclusion, upon reading John's blog entry. It isn't that Sherlock lacks the vocabulary, the introspection, or the comprehension of their relationship. His inability to mimic John's writing of it is based on the fact that Sherlock cannot separate John out from all the years of life he lived before him, not the way John seemingly can. For John, there was life before Sherlock and now life with him, the two lives distinct from each other as much as the man himself in each scenario.
For Sherlock, life with John will always be inextricably woven into life without John, their relationship like a multi-layered cocoon closing over the past, over the bitter core of who Sherlock was before they met. He hasn't shared that core with John much. They have left each other's past alone. Sherlock never asked about Afghanistan in great detail, believing the details mostly irrelevant, and John either doesn't care about Sherlock's past or knows not to prod. John has always been too distracted by Sherlock's brilliance to look past it, the good man.
Sherlock himself hasn't opened those files in a long time. He never deleted the past, not completely. He stored it away in neat, organized compartments and designated all the personal details negligible but potentially useful enough to hold onto them.
Perhaps it is time to remember—not for the sake of petty nostalgia but to complete the equation of his relationship with John in his own head.
Sherlock never had friends in childhood, unless he counts his brother who was always away at school. He was the most intelligent child in his class, every single year from about age seven. His deductive reasoning skills came later, in his teen years; as a young boy, he was simply smart and studious. He lacked natural social grace, but he was quiet enough not to make a fool of himself. He never attempted to approach other children he didn't know, and usually, they left him alone, believing him to prefer solitude or maybe harboring a quiet arrogance because of his superior mind and marks.
Sherlock learned in those early years to focus doggedly on his work and his own mental inquiries. He read books and did his schoolwork and watched the bees buzzing around in the yard or in the flowers on the side of the road. He never had an imaginary friend—he was too sensible for that—but he did have a stuffed rabbit he always toted around in his coat pocket or his book bag. He didn't talk to it but he pushed his hand into his pocket often, gripping the rabbit as if to seek its encouragement or simply to be sure it was still there.
When he was ten, some of the other boys started teasing him about the rabbit. Sherlock would only stare at them with large, disdainful blue eyes; he had no intention of giving the rabbit up, no matter how much they teased him.
One day, they ganged up on him at recess. Sherlock struck the leader of the group in the face when the other boy shoved him, and the rabbit fell out of his coat when he wasn't looking. The boys passed it around, holding the toy high above their heads out of Sherlock's reach, calling him a baby and a girl. When the bell finally rang to call the children back inside, they threw the rabbit down onto the ground and ran away laughing.
The rabbit was covered in dirt, and Sherlock clutched it with tears in his eyes, unsure whether they came from fear or frustration.
Sherlock was severely depressed throughout his adolescence, but he knew how to keep it quiet and controlled. His mother never suspected anything beyond the typical teenage moodiness. His performance in school was unfailingly excellent, and he never got into any trouble. She left him in peace. Mycroft, by then, was out of university and making his first professional forays. He phoned their mother once a week and visited once a month. Sherlock did his best to avoid Mycroft, who could already tell far too much about a person with a lingering look.
The year Sherlock was fourteen, he noticed something about himself: while everyone around him started to flirt and pair off in couples and gossip about who they fancied, he remained utterly uninterested in the whole business. Naturally, he knew which boys and girls were the most attractive based on cultural standards of beauty but he didn't give a toss about beauty. What was so special about a beautiful person who was unbearably dull and stupid?
Kids would hold hands around school for a week or two before breaking it off and every time he passed the girl's loo, he could hear somebody crying in there. Girls giggled in groups and kept magazine cut outs of their favorite male celebrities and boys started wearing foul, cheap cologne and looking at dirty magazines together in the alley a block away from school. Sherlock thought they were all so stupid. What a bloody waste of time!
He attempted to study the mating habits of various insect, bird, and mammal species but could find no explanation for humans acting so unbelievably ridiculous about the matter.
When he was fifteen and started rapidly gaining height, a few of the girls started giggling and whispering about him. He hated it. He made a point to glare at them with all the meanness he could muster, but it didn't seem to deter them for long.
All of these couples cooing over each other and snogging didn't make him feel left out the way he had in primary school, when he was the only one without a friend. He absolutely could not see the appeal in what other teens were doing with each other. He never spent any time asking himself whether he fancied girls or boys or both because he never seemed to actually fancy anyone. Whatever "fancying" someone meant.
His biology textbook gave him a clue. No surprise there, science always had the answer. Amoebas were asexual, which meant that they could reproduce by splitting themselves in two but also meant they never engaged in sexual intercourse. They had no need. Sherlock contemplated this for a few days. On the one hand, amoebas didn't have sex organs the way humans and mammals and birds and even insects did. Thus, it was difficult to make a fair comparison between an amoeba and himself. On the other hand, he found the word "asexual" rather useful. It seemed a logical fit for someone who did not feel sexually attracted to others, from a purely linguistic stand point.
He didn't tell anyone about the word and his own adoption of it. It was his personal business. But once he decided the word suited him, he became firmly asexual in his mind and spent no more time puzzling over the rest of humanity's absurd mating behaviors.
He was at peace with this view of himself for about a year.
One afternoon, over summer holiday, he was sitting in a London café by himself, reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee. Two women who met for lunch were sitting at the table behind him chatting, already finished with their food but not with their conversation. The woman with the higher-pitched voice was engaged to be married, the wedding just two weeks away; her friend was already married. They gossiped about Sally the bridesmaid who was twenty-eight and single and desperate for a husband, though she wouldn't openly admit it. Poor thing, they said, going to all these weddings and being the only single bridesmaid.
"I hope she finds someone soon," said the bride. "I mean, what will happen if she never does? Can you imagine?"
"Horrible," said the other woman. "God, always alone, what a bloody awful life. Who's to look after you when you're old and all that?"
They didn't notice Sherlock, sitting rigidly straight in his seat, whole body suddenly tense and the expression on his face one of earth-shattering epiphany. Not the good kind. This was an answer, a solution, he didn't want to face. He had forgotten to even ask the question.
He never thought he needed relationships of any kind. He was so accustomed to being alone and absorbed in his schoolwork, to knowing love only through his mummy, and perhaps he had unconsciously held out hope that one day, he would make a friend somewhere. He could find someone at uni. He didn't realize he'd been hoping for it. He was depressed but he never blamed it on loneliness. He never admitted to himself that he was lonely. Loneliness was stupid. Most people were stupid. Why would he want to deal with them anyway?
But as he sat there in the café and lost touch with the sound of the women's conversation, it became acutely clear to him that there was more to it than making a friend.
He was sixteen years old, friendless, asexual, and utterly disinterested in dating. He was staring down an entire lifetime of being alone. Even if he made a friend or two at uni, they would leave him eventually—grow up and get married and have kids because that's what boring, ordinary people do. He would never fit into that world. He hated it. He didn't understand it. He didn't want to be a part of it.
But who was going to stay out with him?
Sherlock is seventeen the first time he tries to kill himself.
He always thought suicide was stupid in most cases, simply because people usually do it for stupid reasons. He didn't find it immoral or offensive. Rather, he was torn between knowing it to be a contradiction of biological imperative yet a logical answer to valid existentialist philosophy.
It takes him two weeks to convince himself that he's one of those special cases, someone who is perfectly justified in committing suicide. He's bored, so fucking bored, and he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. Everyone tells him he's a prodigy and a genius but what does that matter when he's got nothing to use his brain for? He has no passion, no direction; he just does his schoolwork like a good little boy and waits for uni like every other dull bugger his age. It's intolerable.
He's depressed. He's been depressed for a long time and he doesn't know why. He's tried to deduce the reason on many occasions but all he can come up with is he's feeling sorry for himself in the most ordinary human kind of way. He hates being so absurd. He has very little to complain about in his life and even if he did have a legitimate complaint, walking around having a stereotypical juvenile mood is the weak way of processing it.
Ever since he had that epiphany about the implications of being asexual and total rubbish with people, it's weighed heavy in the depths of his mind. There's no solution. He is what he is, and that means there isn't any hope. There's not a pill he can take or a therapy he can endure or a person he can shag that will transform him into one more mindless meat sack of social conformity and lust.
No one even knows he's different. What would his mother say? What would Mycroft say?
He knows what his classmates would do. They'd add it to the list of reasons why he's a freak and an outcast. They already suspect there's something off about him, the way he doesn't speak to anyone and never tries to chat up girls, even the ones crazy enough to fancy him.
The macho bully in his year once attacked him after school. He and his mates were going to beat Sherlock within an inch of his life for being a fucking fairy. They didn't know Sherlock had secretly been taking boxing lessons for the last several months. All he had to do was make the bully's nose bleed, and the rest scattered, more out of surprise than intimidation.
It isn't going to get better. He knows that. He wasn't made for this world, and the longer he lives in it, the more obvious it'll become how abnormal he is. All he sees in his future is blank, empty nothing.
He makes friends with an upscale drug dealer in the neighborhood and buys enough Darvon, Darmicum, and Valium for the infamous Darvon Cocktail. He waits until his mother leaves home for the weekend. Once alone in the house, he takes Compazine to prevent vomiting before ingesting the cocktail and chasing the pills with whiskey.
He sits on the leather sofa in the sitting room and waits for something to happen. He doesn't cry or panic or regret his decision. He just stares into space, waiting, thinking about how no one will care that he did this except his mother. What a pointless life.
He doesn't remember passing out. Mycroft finds him. He wakes up in the hospital, and his mother looks disappointed for the first time in Sherlock's life.
His second year at university, Sherlock discovers cocaine.
The first time he snorts it, he feels like he's found another radical answer. For twenty whole minutes, he feels better than he's ever felt in his life. His mind is sharp enough to cut through anything, stainless steel clarity and power. He's never been able to think like this, process thoughts like this. He feels invincible. He feels like the smartest human being on the face of the planet. He feels alive.
When he crashes, it's like one of the two hundred fifty pound rugby players on the school team slammed into him and knocked everything out.
He starts using on a regular basis, paying for it with the money his parents accumulated in his savings account since he was born and with the monthly allowance Mycroft sends him.
He inhales the powder for a year and a half, dazzling his professors with magnificent papers and chemistry projects and feeling like he has a future for the first time. He loses weight and puts off visiting his mother or accepting a visit from Mycroft because he knows they'll notice.
He stops caring that everybody hates him.
His last year at uni, Sherlock survives his first attempted sexual assault.
He's sitting at his desk on a Friday night, working on his maths homework, when someone starts pounding on his door. He attempts to ignore it, but after a few minutes, the noise hasn't stopped. There's a group of people on the other side, yelling for him to open up, and he's annoyed because they're clearly all smashed and probably have no idea it's his room they've descended upon.
When he opens up to tell them to sod off, they charge him: two hulking young men in his year who are big enough to restrain him. They drag him inside his room, and two more boys grab his legs as he kicks wildly at them. The four of them pin him down to his bed and he watches as four more guys follow into the room and finally, three girls. He can smell the cigarettes and alcohol on their breath, some marijuana too. A few of them still have bottles and cans in hand.
The man at Sherlock's left shoulder calls to one of the girls, named Rosemary. She's the one with the bleached blonde hair and the black raccoon rings of eye makeup. She hands off her beer to one of the guys and climbs on top of Sherlock. She stares down at him with dark, bloodshot eyes and leans down to kiss his face, tries to kiss his mouth but he squirms and moves his head to the side. She's heavy on top of his stomach, thighs against his sides. She nibbles at his neck and starts grinding her crotch against him.
One of the guys starts chanting "Fuck the Virgin!" and soon, the whole room's chanting it loudly, egging on Rosemary who backs up and unbuttons his trousers, pulls down the zipper. Sherlock's screaming: stop, let me go, fuck you, I'll go to the coppers, I swear to Christ I will, I know all of you! But they don't hear him over their yelling and laughter, and Rosemary sticks her hand in his trousers and starts fondling him and his whole body is rushed with adrenaline and he starts panicking, seriously panicking. His face is red and his breathing's fast and he tries to struggle but the guys are holding him down with all their strength and Rosemary's sitting on his knees and giving him a saucy look as she rubs his penis and he starts to get hard but he doesn't want to get hard and he doesn't understand why it's happening, it shouldn't be happening, he doesn't even know what he's screaming now, all he can hear is "Fuck the Virgin! Fuck the Virgin!" and everybody laughing, laughing at him.
Rosemary lets go and starts taking off her top and the guys all shout louder in delight because now all she's wearing above the waist is a bra. She tells him she's not wearing any panties under her skirt, and she says it as if it's supposed to excite him. She slides up his thighs and now he looks at her directly and says only loud enough for her to hear,
Please, don't. Please.
Don't worry, love, she says, taking him in her hand again. I'm going to make you feel real nice.
She's about to guide him inside her, when a man's voice roars over the noise and everyone stops and quiets down. A stern campus security officer's standing in the doorway, saying he's received a noise complaint and they need to leave immediately or be charged with every offense he can possibly accuse them of, including hazing if that's what they're in the middle of doing.
The group files out of the room one by one as the officer watches from inside the room. Rosemary slips Sherlock's dick back in his trousers and climbs off of him, picking up her blouse on her way out.
Sherlock lies motionless on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, as if he's forgotten the security officer completely. He's crying, he realizes, his face wet and his pillow too. The officer asks him if he's all right, but Sherlock doesn't answer. Eventually, the officer leaves, shutting the door behind him.
Sherlock begins to shake, his whole body trembling beyond his control. It's like nothing he's ever experienced. His heart clenches in his chest and he begins to cry deeply, feeling like he can't catch his breath. He rolls onto his side and closes his eyes, and his brain is completely empty of thought.
He forces himself onto his feet and locks his door. His trousers are still unbuttoned.
He never tells anyone.
After that, Sherlock spends the rest of the school year doing so much coke that three weeks before he's meant to graduate, Mycroft shows up in his room and says he's sending Sherlock to rehab. He'll wait until after the end of semester, but the minute Sherlock's accepted his diploma, a car will be waiting to pick him up and take him to the best center for addiction in London.
Sherlock tells him to sod off, and Mycroft merely looks at him with pity and assures him he has no choice in the matter.
"Mummy doesn't know," he says. "And I won't have you upsetting her."
Six months after leaving rehab, when Sherlock is almost twenty-three, he shoots up cocaine for the first time.
He will never snort it again.
The pleasure is almost more than he can handle. One syringe whites out his brain completely for a few minutes, bliss so irresistible that he can't imagine ever living without it now that he knows what it's like.
He's bored and unemployed and he still has so much money left in his bank account and Mycroft gave him back his allowance after three months sober out of rehab. He starts shooting up every weekend, every other day, every day.
Soon, all he lives for is the drug: the sweet, explosive euphoria. Unparalleled clarity, power, immortality, mental acuity beyond imagination. His mind on coke makes him feel superhuman. He's a genius, a god. He's the best, better than everyone in every way. And he can prove it!
Everything is set right when he's high. His past and his future don't matter. He doesn't care anymore about being alone. The fog of boredom dissipates. He's happy. He's entertained.
Weeks pass into months. All he does is go out to score and locks himself up in his flat, getting high.
He does this for four months before his bank account freezes and Mycroft stops giving him money.
He takes his first case on a whim because even when he's sober and in excruciating withdrawal, he can still think better than most human beings. When he solves the case, his client pays him a small sum.
He pays the rent and spends the rest on coke.
Sherlock sells everything in his flat for drug money.
Mycroft picks him up five months after his twenty-fourth birthday and sends him back to rehab.
Sherlock stays clean for three years and builds up his career. He lists himself as a private detective in an online London directory but most of the cases that come his way are boring. Soon, he becomes picky about which ones he takes. His reputation develops by word of mouth.
He continues to live alone and he sees his brother infrequently when Mycroft decides to drop in and make sure he's still clean. His relationship with his mother is strained enough that they don't talk much anymore. He's too ashamed to face her and he doesn't know if she's forgiven him for the drugs. He decides not to ask.
He's twenty-eight when he goes back to shooting cocaine. He starts up again during a long stretch in between cases, when he's so bored and lonely, he can't stand it.
It's just as good as he remembered.
He's twenty-nine when he meets Lestrade.
The cases get better. Everything gets better.
He hides his drug habit.
Sherlock is thirty-one when he kills himself.
Ironically, it's completely unintentional.
He was getting frustrated by his coke habit. It was too risky to use much while working a case for Lestrade, so he did his best not to, saving up for those boring in-between periods. But it was getting harder and harder to do: even with his brain distracted by work, he started having stronger cravings, until the itch for another hit wouldn't leave him alone long enough for him to focus properly on the case at hand.
He formulates a theory: maybe if takes a bigger hit than usual, something really overwhelming, he can satiate his need long enough to tide him over through the next case. He asks his dealer for suggestions.
On a Saturday night, Sherlock goes home and speedballs.
For that unknown amount of time before he passes out, he is so gloriously high, it renders him speechless and thoughtless and incapable of even moving. Those orgasms he used to have when he masturbated as a teenager? Absolutely incomparable. The difference between that pleasure and this one is the difference between a raindrop and a tsunami. His whole body is no more than a chorus of Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!
Quickly, so quickly that he won't remember it later, in some circuit of his brain where the electrical current of pleasure zips through, he thinks:
This is what love feels like.
It kills him.
When Sherlock wakes up, he feels the unmistakable pang of disappointment.
Lestrade tells him they don't know how long he was dead. It couldn't have been more than a minute or two, prior to the medics restarting his heart, but no one can know for sure.
"How could someone so brilliant be so bloody stupid?" the detective inspector asks him.
If only this were about stupidity.
He goes to rehab a third time.
It's a short stay. He understands now that he must choose between cocaine and work.
He chooses the work. But it's a hard choice.
When he doesn't have any work to do, all he thinks about is using.
The depression comes back. He almost laughs when he thinks to himself that maybe he never stopped being depressed; maybe he's just spent so much of the last twelve years high out of his mind, he didn't notice he was.
Sherlock gives new meaning to the term "workaholic." After two years clean, he begins to suspect he's replaced his old addiction with a new one, to crime solving.
In the dark silence of his flat when he's got nothing to do, he sometimes thinks about eating a bullet, just so the boredom will stop.
He long ago deleted the concept of loneliness.
He's thirty-four when he meets John.
Snorting coke again for old time's sake turns out to be the turning point in their relationship.
The first time he and John cuddle, Sherlock lies awake in the dark and tries to remember how it felt to speedball. He decides what he feels in response to John holding him is better.
Also, less fatal.
John doesn't care that he's asexual. John doesn't want to fuck him. In fact, John even knows that Sherlock is asexual and he accepts it without being asked, without any explanation from Sherlock whatsoever. John forgives him when Sherlock's insensitive, difficult, selfish, even disrespectful. John complains about Sherlock's absurd habits but he doesn't move out. John hugs him and holds his hand and kisses his face and wraps warm arms around him every night. John wipes away Sherlock's tears until his hands are salty with them. John proposes. John gives Sherlock his heart.
Sherlock doesn't know what to do with it, so he grips it with all his might.
John tells him he's brilliant. John saves his life. John offers to die for him. John kills a lot of people to keep Sherlock safe. John yells at him for risking his life. John leaves but always comes back. John isn't ashamed of loving Sherlock; he isn't ashamed of being married to him. John announces it to the whole world.
John doesn't run away from Sherlock. He doesn't ask Sherlock to change.
Sherlock changes anyway, into something and someone better.
That's why Sherlock can't explain to other people what John means to him.
He would have to start from the beginning. He would have to tell them all about the past that John Watson unknowingly conquered.
Sherlock moves his head against John's shoulder and opens his eyes. They've been lying in bed for a long time, like this. John might be asleep again. Sherlock pulls his arms out from underneath John's body, and they tingle as the numbness begins to wear off. He rolls away and sits up, but John doesn't move.
Sherlock stares at him for a minute. Then, he says, "Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me," says John. "All I did was tell the truth."
Sherlock smiles at the back of his head.