John watched as Sherlock heartily ate the bowl of stew. They’d completed the case an hour earlier and John had followed Sherlock straight from the Strong Room into the restaurant. They ate quietly, but John kept catching himself staring, the way that he always did when Sherlock finally sat down to eat.
It wasn’t healthy, Sherlock’s eating habits, but then what about Sherlock was healthy? He was obsessive, avoidant, anti-social, self-destructive, a self proclaimed sociopath. John smiled as Sherlock used a slice of bread to soak up the remainder of the stew.
It was only a matter of hours before Sherlock would be itching for another case, something new, a challenge, but until then Sherlock would remain content, pleased with himself. Satiated. Yes, satiated was exactly the word.
Sherlock finished his meal and sat back in his seat. It was only then that John realized he had hardly touched his own food. His fork hovered in mid air and he suddenly wondered how long he’d been frozen there.
“What?“ Sherlock asked suddenly, had probably been waiting this entire time for John to realize that he was being rude.
“Nothing,“ John said, and went back to eating his dinner. “I - never mind. It’s nothing.”
Sherlock watched him for a moment longer and then turned away. He stared out the window of the restaurant, once in a while glancing over to check John’s progress as John rushed to finish his meal.
Dinner over, they paid and exited out onto the pavement. Sherlock shoved his hands into his pockets, stared up at the night sky. He glanced over at John, ready to speak, John was sure of it, but then changed his mind and turned away again. Finally he came to some kind of decision.
“This way,” Sherlock said abruptly, and then, not waiting for John’s response, he disappeared into the alleyway beside the building.
John followed. He didn’t bother to question where Sherlock was leading him. Sherlock knew every alley in the city, had them all downloaded and labeled. John had no doubt that Sherlock knew exactly where he was going. John watched his feet, careful not to step through anything disagreeable in the dark passage.
“John,” Sherlock said, his voice deep with impatience. John looked up from his careful study of the pavement. Sherlock stood at the intersection of this alley and the next, waiting.
“Sorry,“ John said and rushed to catch up. He closed the distance between them quickly, and expected Sherlock to continue on their way, but Sherlock didn‘t move. John stopped as well and looked around. There was nothing remarkable about this spot. Nothing that stood out to John, in any case.
He looked back to Sherlock. Sherlock was watching him intently and John shrugged, pushed his hands into his own pockets and said, “Well? What are we doing here?”
Sherlock’s response couldn‘t have been more surprising. He didn’t respond. Didn’t say anything at all. In fact he huffed a little so that John assumed that he must be missing something glaringly obvious, something enormous. John looked around once more, but he still saw nothing, nothing of note at all. When he shook his head and turned back to Sherlock once more, Sherlock stepped in close, hands moving to grip John’s shoulders.
“What are you doing?” John asked and then Sherlock kissed him, clearly not interested in explaining further. John thought for a moment that he should push Sherlock away, but then who knew what would happen? Maybe this wouldn’t ever - it was better to see where this was headed.
The kiss ended and Sherlock pulled away, far enough to see John’s face. They stared at each other for a long moment, Sherlock studying in that academic way of his and John gaping back at Sherlock, mouth hanging open and fingers gripping tight at the sleeves of Sherlock‘s coat. John had been thinking about this. He’d been thinking about it a lot since he‘d arrived at the Strong Room that afternoon. He’d thought about it even before that, and here, finally, Sherlock was willing to give him answers. John couldn’t pass it up and he pulled Sherlock in and kissed him in return.
This time when Sherlock pulled away it was to say, “A ha,” as though he was the one who had just figured John out instead of the other way around. John didn’t have time to question though, not before Sherlock’s mouth was back, lips on John’s, kiss longer now, more involved. John gripped tighter at Sherlock’s coat, stumbled back when Sherlock pushed at him, felt his back hit the brick of the wall.
Sherlock didn’t do this often. John could tell. The rhythm of it was missing and John could feel the thought in each kiss. It was what he expected, exactly what he expected, and somehow it made everything feel just that much more real, more exciting. He took Sherlock’s face in his hands, guided the kiss, groaned a little at Sherlock’s long body pressed to his, at the push of the brick at his back.
John could feel Sherlock’s smugness. It radiated from him, from his hands pressed to the front of John’s trousers, from his lips that teased at John's mouth. Sherlock shook against him with the satisfaction of another case solved.
For a moment, just a split second, John wanted to protest, to pull away and announce that this time Sherlock had gotten it all wrong.
When Sherlock’s fingers began to fumble with the button to John’s trousers, John pushed the ridiculous thought away. He thought instead of how they must look, stumbling against each other in a dark alley, mouths sucking, hands stroking. How they must look, young and carefree and consumed. Teenage kids with slowly greying hair and increasingly aching joints.
Sherlock’s hand was hot on John, felt even less sure of what it was doing than Sherlock’s mouth. Sherlock need not worry. Everything, all of this, exactly how John imagined it would be. It all fit. All of it except the fact that John had been positive it could never happen at all.
It didn’t take long, only a few moments of Sherlock’s attention and John found his release, face pressed to the wool of Sherlock’s coat as he panted and his knees buckled.
Sherlock held him there, pressed him against the wall until John regained his footing. And when John reached for him again, hands moving to Sherlock's waist, his hips, Sherlock stepped away.
That too went exactly how John expected. He watched as Sherlock pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of his coat, used it to wipe his hand. Finished, he straightened his clothes, rolled his neck back and then regarded John, still standing there slumped against the wall with his trousers open.
“Another mystery solved,” Sherlock said. He smiled and it was surprisingly warm as he glanced at John. John felt suddenly self-conscious. A little embarrassed.
“What do you mean, another mystery solved?“ John asked, still a little shocked by the whole thing, even now that it was over and he was left panting and elated. He reached down, fumbled as he fastened his trousers again. “Why did you do that?”
“It was what you wanted, wasn’t it?” Sherlock asked.
John shook his head and then stopped at Sherlock’s look, knew he couldn’t convince him of the lie.
Resigned, John asked, “How did you know?”
Sherlock’s look told John that it had been obvious, that months of studying John had led to only one conclusion.
“There were clues,” Sherlock said, simply.
What clues could there possibly have been? John had been very guarded, very quiet about the whole thing. But of course. Of course he should have known that Sherlock would see it all.
“What clues?” John asked, still. He needed to know.
Sherlock cleared his throat and began.
John spent the afternoon running errands. He stopped at the bank, picked up his laundry, had a late lunch with his sister, and by the time he returned to Baker Street, the sun had just disappeared over the horizon.
Sherlock was sitting on the floor, his back against his favourite chair and his legs stretched out in front of him. The television was on, but based on the sounds emitting from it, it couldn’t be set to a programme that Sherlock was actually watching.
“You’re here,” Sherlock noted as John set down his laundry.
“Yes,” John agreed. “Yes, of course I’m here. Where else would I be?”
“You were here last night as well. And the Saturday before.”
“Yes, well, I live here,” John pointed out. “Why are you on the floor?”
Sherlock ignored John‘s question, instead asked, “Do you know where you were last month on this night?”
“No,” John said, though of course he did know. He picked up a pile of mail from the desk and sifted through. Junk, bills, rubbish. “Where was I?”
“Sarah’s,” Sherlock supplied. On the telly two women shouted at each other in French.
Ah, John thought. So it had taken two weeks for Sherlock to realise that he was no longer sharing John’s time. They’d been busy on two simultaneous cases, but things were quiet now. Sherlock had the time to work on the lesser mysteries. Or, John realised suddenly, more likely, Sherlock had worked out what had happened right away, had chosen to keep the knowledge to himself, to give John some distance until this moment when Sherlock felt the time was right.
“We’re no longer seeing each other, so - “ John shrugged. He sat on the couch and unfolded the newspaper.
He expected Sherlock to say something smart, something about how boring he’d always found Sarah, or how glad he was not to have to work around John’s tedious date nights any longer. Instead Sherlock turned, his arm coming up to rest on the chair‘s cushion as he frowned at John,
It was an odd question coming from Sherlock. Usually Sherlock preferred to work out the how’s and why’s on his own.
“It’s hard,” John admitted. “It’s hard leaving someone to worry after you when at any time you may end up strapped to a bomb or lying face down in a pool.” He held up the paper, a subject change. “There was a murder in Soho. Young man last seen at the Strong Room.”
“Jealous boyfriend,” Sherlock said immediately. “So faced with a choice, you chose the pool.”
John set the paper in his lap, leaned back.
“I suppose that I did, yes,” he concluded after a moment.
John and Sherlock left the narrow labyrinth of alleyways and emerged back onto a wider street. Sherlock waved down a cab and John climbed into the back beside him.
He remembered the exchange. They’d had the conversation a month ago, not long at all. It was six weeks since he broke things off with Sarah. He remembered his answer. He’d chosen the pool. God, what was wrong with him?
Yet sitting beside Sherlock now, his body still strumming, just a little, from the encounter in the alley, John knew he’d choose the same again and again. He shook his head.
“And so from this you concluded that the real reason I ended things with Sarah must be to pine after you instead.”
“No,” Sherlock said. He turned away from the window. “I‘m not finished. Second -”
When John stormed into the room, Sherlock was sitting at the desk, his laptop open.
“Haven’t you ever lived with anyone before?” John demanded.
“Hm? Yes,” Sherlock said. He didn’t even look up from the screen, which just worked to fuel John’s mounting frustration.
John threw up his hands and turned away, paced the room once then again. He was fed up, done, sick of dealing with Sherlock‘s eccentricities, with his morbid experiments.
“I’ve never lived with anyone who stayed,” Sherlock qualified carefully after John‘s third time across the room.
The admission knocked the wind from John’s anger sails (Anger sails? Lord.). He sighed, pushed his hair back from his forehead.
“I can’t imagine why they’d leave,” he said, and even to his own ears he sounded resigned, weary.
“Can’t you?” Sherlock asked and finally looked up from his computer.
John opened his mouth, then decided it wasn’t worth a response. “Are you trying to drive me away then? Is that what this is?”
“No,” Sherlock said, confusion showing on his face for a moment. “Am I driving you away?”
“No,” John admitted.
Sherlock’s mobile rang. When Sherlock made no move, John glanced about for the phone, picked it up from where it had been discarded on the table and glanced at the ID. He handed it to Sherlock.
“It’s your brother,” John said.
Sherlock took the phone from John and silenced it before setting it on the desk.
“I’ll take the bucket out of the bath,” Sherlock offered, though he didn’t move from his seat.
John raised his eyebrows, waited, and when Sherlock looked at him again, his face blank, John sighed and crossed the room a fourth time, this time to collapse into his chair.
“Thank you,” he said.
In the back of the cab, John raised his eyebrows and shrugged. He remembered this conversation as well, of course. Two weeks ago, maybe three. He certainly remembered his shock and disgust at discovering a bucket of entrails sitting in the bathtub, but there was really nothing all that remarkable about it. How was it any different than the head in the refrigerator or the eyeballs that sat in a jar on the counter for days.
“You’ve been testing me,” John concluded. “Leaving buckets of entrails in the bath on purpose.”
“No,” Sherlock said. “Of course not.” Then after a pause. “Every moment in life is a test, John.”
John sighed and rolled his eyes.
It barely seemed significant. At least not until one considered that anyone else probably would have left. Anyone else would have chosen a wonderful woman like Sarah over bombs, over entrails, and certainly over that pool.
Sherlock needed him, John reasoned, but what was the point now? What was the point of the lie? He stayed because he needed Sherlock too. He stayed because staying was what he wanted to do.
“Third,” Sherlock continued beside him.
Mycroft seemed to genuinely think there was something between them. At first John thought that the innuendos were in fun, poking at John, trying to ruffle his feathers, but more and more Mycroft had been coming to John without bothering to try Sherlock first.
“You have a way with him,” Mycroft reasoned, gesturing for John to sit beside him on the park bench.
“What way?” John asked, immediately defensive as he took a step back away from the bench. It worked, the feather ruffling. Most of the time, anyway.
“Oh, don’t do that,” Mycroft admonished, his hands moving to fold on his knee. “I’m glad you found each other. You’re good for him. My dear brother isn’t fond of many people.”
“Fond,” John repeated. Is that what this was? A fondness? Was he fond of Sherlock? They were friends, certainly. John was often stuck by the realisation that Sherlock was, for the most part, his only friend. Friendship implied fondness. The way Mycroft articulated it, though, it suggested more. Mycroft was always suggesting more when it came to John and Sherlock. If it was anyone else, if they were anyone else, John might assume he was trying to set them up.
“You must be fond of him to put up with it,” Mycroft concluded.
“No,” John said. “I mean, yes. Yes, I’m fond of him.”
Mycroft nodded, then returned to regard the silent Anthea, who was standing behind the bench at Mycroft’s shoulder looking bored. “Add John Watson to the list as my brother’s plus one.”
Anthea nodded, didn’t even bother to write it down. John shook his head and turned away, watched a woman walking a poodle down the path. When he turned back, Mycroft was standing, straightening his suit.
“I’ll see you both tonight then,” Mycroft said. He patted John’s shoulder and then he walked away. Anthea’s heels clicked on the path as she followed behind him.
“He told you that?” John asked. They’d arrived on Baker Street. John paid the cabbie and followed Sherlock back onto the pavement, waited as Sherlock unlocked the door.
“Of course he told me,” Sherlock said, turning the key. “Mycroft has a keen interest when it comes to meddling in my affairs.”
“Affairs,” John repeated. John was one of Sherlock’s affairs then.
“Not affairs,” Sherlock corrected as he started up the stairs.
“Fondness doesn’t mean - it doesn‘t mean that I was looking for a quick fuck in an alleyway,” John pointed out, his voice low though the words still sounded harsh and loud on his tongue. Mrs. Hudson didn‘t need to hear this.
“Of course it doesn’t,” Sherlock said, also making an effort to stay quiet.
They were upstairs now and John went straight to his chair, didn’t even bother to remove his coat. Sherlock paced the room as he continued, completely in the moment now, relishing in the reveal.
“But there was more. Shortly after Mycroft left you, you received my text. ‘Meet me at the Strong Room.‘ The location alone suggested the nature of the case. You remembered reading about the first murder in the newspaper. The case and the emphasis that Mycroft used on the word ‘fond’ started you thinking.”
The club was closed when John arrived. It was the middle of the afternoon and John looked at the black doors for a long moment before he knocked. A young bloke opened the door and greeted him. The man clearly worked there. He was fit, attractive, and he smiled warmly at John as he said, “We don’t open for a few hours, mate.” Australian.
“I’m looking for Sherlock Holmes,” John said, suddenly self conscious. He felt old, frumpy, out of his element.
The man didn’t seem to care, continued to smile and said, “The police are by the bar.”
“Thank you,” John said and slipped through the door that was held open for him.
Sherlock was pacing the main floor of the club. The room looked shabby and sad with the lights on, without its beautiful dancing crowd. John had never been there when it was open, but he could picture it well enough.
“Finally,” Sherlock sighed when he noticed John‘s arrival.
Lestrade was in the corner talking with a well groomed but portly man. The manager, or possibly the club’s owner, John guessed. It was later confirmed that the man, Stephen Smithson, did indeed own the Strong Room.
Sherlock relayed the specifics. Two young men murdered in the back room of one of London’s most frequented gay clubs. The men were in their 20’s, attractive. They were killed nearly a month apart, both strangled and left to be found by the club‘s employees at closing. Or in this case, the following afternoon.
“I was with your brother,” John explained. He looked at Sherlock now and all he could think of was Mycroft’s words, his emphasis on the fondness that John felt.
“Relevance?“ Sherlock asked. He held out gloves for John.
John took the gloves and then followed Sherlock through two doors, down a hallway, and finally into a storage room at the back. The body was there, slumped against a shelf that held jars of pickled condiments. Olives and onions and pickled cucumbers.
“This isn’t where they found the first victim,” John noted, remembering from the newspaper article he‘d read the month before.
“No,” Sherlock agreed. The first had been discovered in a bathroom stall.
John squatted down beside the body, touched the bruises on the neck carefully with his gloved finger. There was nothing for him to add. The man was obviously strangled.
“Mycroft wants you to come to dinner,” John said instead. “Tonight.”
“No,” Sherlock said, immediately. “We’re busy.”
John nodded. It was the response he’d expected.
“He’s making an effort,” John offered. “Perhaps he’d like to mend your relationship.”
Sherlock laughed. “Then why didn’t he ask me himself?”
Sherlock knew exactly why Mycroft didn’t ask him. Sherlock would have said no, wouldn’t have even considered it. Sherlock would still say no, but he would think about it first if John pressed.
“He thinks I have a way with you,” John admitted.
“A way with me?” Sherlock repeated, stopped scanning the room to look John up and down.
John shrugged. “No dinner then.”
There was something else that John was supposed to mention regarding dinner. Something that Mycroft had told him to make sure to remember. Some incentive. It hadn’t seemed relevant to John, had hardly seemed to matter at all, and now it had slipped his mind entirely.
“Do you think Moriarty is involved in this?” John asked, pushed at his knees and stood.
“Amateur,” Sherlock concluded. “Easy. Moriarty would be offended to be associated with such a bungled mess.”
“A bungled mess?” John asked. It’d been a month since the first killing and no one had been apprehended. The mess clearly hadn’t been that bungled.
“Here you are,” Lestrade said, choosing that moment to walk into the room, Smithson and the employee who’d greeted John trailing behind him. He gestured for the men to stay in the hallway and then handed the stack of papers to Sherlock. “The employee interrogations from the first murder.”
The two men in the hall were watching Sherlock closely, in a way that made it all too obvious that they were in awe, interested, a little seduced. Sherlock didn’t seem to notice, but John did.
“You should have called me in earlier,” Sherlock said.
“Yes,” Lestrade agreed. “Well.”
“Stupid to think you could handle a serial killer on your own,” Sherlock grumbled, began scanning through the accounts.
Lestrade cleared his throat.
From the hallway Smithson said, “Both victims were seen in the company of Lord Sunder.”
John stopped what he was doing. “Lord Sunder?”
“Yes,” Lestrade confirmed.
“Sherlock,” John said, and when Sherlock ignored him he repeated it. “Sherlock.”
“What?” Sherlock asked, finally. He looked up from his papers, exasperated.
“Your brother mentioned - one of his dinner guests. It’s Lord Sunder.”
Sherlock sighed and shoved the papers back at Lestrade. “It appears I’ll be having dinner with my brother tonight after all.”
“That’s nice,” Lestrade said conversationally.
“No,” Sherlock assured him. “It’s terrible.”
The dinner party was at the Mycroft‘s town home. Sherlock was quiet on the way there, clearly displeased to be making an appearance at all. John let him sulk all the way to Mycroft‘s door.
“Sherlock,” Mycroft said, greeting them amiably in the foyer. “What a surprise.”
“I’m not here for dinner,” Sherlock said immediately as he pulled off his gloves and looked past Mycroft to the gathering in the adjacent drawing room.
“I’m sorry to say you’ve missed lunch,” Mycroft bantered, his tone lighthearted.
Sherlock glanced at John. Torture, his eyes read.
“Has Lord Sunder arrived yet?” John asked.
“John,” Mycroft said in greeting. He smiled at John. He smiled in a way that that word, fondness, suddenly sprung back to mind. Even now Mycroft was playing with him. John took a step away from Sherlock.
“Lord and Lady Sunder will be arriving at any moment,” Mycroft said, and then smiled in a way that left no doubt that Mycroft knew exactly why John had asked.
Sherlock sighed. “Smashing. You’ve invited me to a dinner party to persuade me off one of your government co -”
“Don’t get sloppy just to spite me,” Mycroft hissed suddenly, leaning in toward Sherlock. “Surely you’ve figured out by now that Lord Sunder is being framed for these murders as we speak.”
Sherlock looked taken aback.
“Yes,” Mycroft said. “The Secretary of State for Defence frequents the Strong Room. It isn‘t a crime, surely.”
Sherlock glared at John, another look that John could clearly read. Of course Sherlock had not yet collected all of the necessary evidence. They’d been on the case mere hours. They only wished to speak with Sunder. The fact that Mycroft would assume that Sherlock had come to a premature conclusion flew in the face of Sherlock’s work. There was little that Mycroft could have said that Sherlock would have found more offensive.
“Minister,” Sherlock sneered.
“The Right Honourable Lord Sunder is the Minister of Defence.”
Mycroft shrugged. “For now.”
As if on cue, Lord Sunder chose that moment to arrive for dinner. He was an older gentlemen, distinguished, grey. He must have stuck out like a sore thumb at the Strong Room, regardless of Smithson’s insistence that they catered to men of all sorts. And then John noticed the detail that was more important than his attractively aging features. Lady Sunder was not at the her husband's side.
“Richard,” Mycroft greeted the older man warmly. “Is Beatrice under the weather?”
“You could say that, yes,” Sunder agreed sadly. They exchanged a few more pleasantries before Sherlock rudely cut in.
“I’m afraid we cannot stay,” he said, abrupt and pulling his gloves from his coat‘s pockets.
“Don’t be silly,” Mycroft dismissed. “You’ve only just arrived.” He gestured at Sherlock and John’s coats, still buttoned up.
“Yes,” Sherlock agreed. “Well, we have what we need. Thank you for a lovely evening, Mycroft. We must do it again sometime.”
At that Sherlock stormed out of his brother’s home. John stood there a moment longer, then shrugged apologetically at Mycroft and Lord Sunder before following Sherlock out.
“We have what we need?” John repeated. “Where are we going?”
“We’re going back to the Strong Room,” Sherlock said, impatient. He stopped then, clearly angry. “How dull. How pathetic and obvious. I should have realised it right away. Lestrade should have realised it.”
“What?” John asked as Sherlock resumed his rapid pace. “It wasn’t Lord Sunder?”
“Of course it wasn’t Sunder,” Sherlock said. “Who would have the time, what with my brother’s political aspirations for him and his marriage falling apart. Sunder was merely in the wrong place a the wrong time.”
“Who then?” John asked.
“All right,” John said from his chair by the fire. “All right.”
Sherlock stopped pacing the room and sat down opposite John.
“So dull,” he sighed again. “A pathetic waste of my time.”
“Uninspired,” John agreed. “But we needn’t replay the entire evening. After all, I was there.”
He’d been there as Sherlock stormed back to the Strong Room, calling Lestrade on the way. It was Smithson, the portly club owner, of course. Unable to handle the rejection of his young attractive patrons, Smithson took his violent jealous revenge, found an easy scapegoat in Lord Sunder; a man who would naturally be inclined to hide his extramarital activities from the world, perhaps going to great lengths in an attempt to do so. The evidence was all there and Sherlock laid it all out for them his rapid gunfire way, standing by the pickled olives at the Strong Room.
“Yes,” Sherlock said now. “You were there. You were there acting strangely enough to keep me distracted, to buy Smithson a few extra hours.”
“What do you mean?”
“As soon as you discovered the nature of this case, you began looking for evidence of your own.”
“No,” John countered. “I wasn’t - “
Sherlock raised his eyebrows and John looked away. There was some truth to the statement. A lot of truth. The truth was that Sherlock was right; ever since they’d had the conversation in the restaurant that first night of their strange partnership, John had wondered, just a little, at Sherlock’s non-answer. It wasn’t important, not really. It wasn’t that important at all, and it rarely occurred to John to think of the conversation, but once in a while something would happen and John would stare at Sherlock in silence as he tried to put together the pieces, tried to work out his own set of clues.
“You watch like you have a personal investment in the outcome,” Sherlock said.
John had watched. He’d watched the way that the Australian bartender, the way that Smithson had longingly eyed Sherlock. He’d watched Sherlock’s indifference later that evening, watched the busy club crowd surround him. Men’s compliments slid off of Sherlock and John watched him walk away, unaffected by their advances. All of Sherlock’s concentration was on the case, dull and predictable as it was.
John had naturally drawn his own conclusions.
“None of this, however, takes into account the strongest evidence,” Sherlock continued, interrupting John’s train of thought.
“Your pupils dilate when you look at me,” Sherlock said, simply.
“No, they don’t.”
Sherlock‘s face was sympathetic and slightly mocking. “Oh, just slightly. It’s hardly noticeable if you aren’t looking for it.”
John shook his head and looked away. He stared into the fire, its light sure to shrink his traitorous pupils back to size.
“Of course,” Sherlock finished, finally back to the events in the alley. “There was only one way to truly be sure.”
“Of course,” John repeated, distracted.
“You’re confused,” Sherlock said.
“Well, yes,” John admitted.
“I’ve just explained it all.”
“You’ve explained half of it,” John countered, turning back to Sherlock, his fingers pressed to the arms of his chair. “Yes, I’m attracted to you. Yes, I wanted what just happened. Of course, you’re right.”
“But you stepped away from me,” John pointed out. “You’re oblivious to the advances of women and, as confirmed this week, of men. What was it you told me? You’re married to your work.”
“Yes,” Sherlock agreed.
“So are you - “ John trailed off. He’d been unsure how to broach the subject again. Didn’t want to seem pushy, but was genuinely curious just the same. And now that this had happened, it seemed important. Now John did have a personal investment in the outcome.
“Am I what?” Sherlock asked, his voice defensive, guarded.
“I don’t know,” John said. “Asexual, maybe?”
It was the conclusion that John kept coming back to, over and over again.
Sherlock stared up at the ceiling and sighed.
“You’re not,” John tried to translate.
“I don’t have time or need of - It isn’t important to me. It’s never been important before.”
John took this as the only confirmation he was likely to get. He nodded, turned back to the fire. He felt cold suddenly, though he was still wearing his coat. He felt cold and just a little used.
“Was that - In the alley, was that it then? Point made, case closed?” John asked.
“Of course not,” Sherlock said, immediately. He leaned forward in his chair, his elbows set on his knees as he regarded John, tried to draw John‘s eyes back toward him.
John took the bait, turned back to Sherlock and shrugged. “What then? It isn’t important to you, so why did you do it? Why do it again?”
“It is important to me,” Sherlock countered.
“Why? You just said -”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Sherlock asked.
“Not to me, no,” John said.
Sherlock leaned back and frowned. “I thought Mycroft would have told you.”
“Told me what?” John asked.
It was Sherlock’s turn to look anywhere but at John now. He studied the mantle, stared at the door. John waited patiently and finally Sherlock made a decision, turned back to John, his gaze steady and warm.
“I’m very fond of you as well.”