When John Watson is a boy and answers to a different name, he nearly dies. Later, he remembers every bizarre detail- the rain and sleet, the icy path, the overwhelming feeling of despair when he realizes that he is going to die, he is going to die a cruel, fat, friendless virgin, and he is fifteen and no one has ever kissed him, no one has ever wanted to because he is a nasty, bullying coward with no redeeming qualities. He is going to die alone.
Of course, he isn't alone- Harry is there with him, and Harry saves his life. It isn't quite a turning point in their relationship, but it gets John to thinking.
~ ~ ~
John sometimes thinks that Sherlock is so used to seeing other people as beneath him that when he butts heads with someone he considers his intellectual equal- so, Mycroft or Moriarty, basically- he panicks just a little bit, has to reassure himself that he's clever by casually exposing some tidbit of information lesser mortals wouldn't pick up on. It is after a particularly nasty exchange with Mycroft that Sherlock throws himself onto the sofa next to John and glares darkly at the ceiling before speaking.
“You could offer him dietary tips,” he mutters, and John puts down his book with a suppressed little sigh.
“Pardon?” he asks, and Sherlock glances his way.
“To get him to lose weight, maybe some advice about exercise, you could even write about it on your blog. You used to be more of a fatty than-”
John gets up, tucking his book under his arm.
“Right, I'm going to bed,” he says firmly, and if he feels Sherlock's gaze on his back he pretends not to know.
~ ~ ~
During the first few weeks after moving into 221B, John considers, for a few days, the idea that Sherlock and Mycroft are like Harry.
Then he remembers Sherlock's reaction to the engraving on his mobile, and a part of John is intensely relieved.
At least, until he remembers that he still doesn't know about Mycroft, and then goes down a tangent where he imagines that Harry and Mycroft know each other quite well. It's good for a chuckle or two, and then one day Mycroft says or does something and John thinks immediately of Harry, of the way Harry used to set his teeth on edge.
~ ~ ~
The problem is that John lies, that first day and night in Sherlock's company. The man had been exactly right about Afganistan, about the therapist and the limp, and when he gets to the bit about Harry John panicks. He is simply too used to lying about Harry to people- lying about Harry's whereabouts, pretending that Harry doesn't exist-- and he is terrified of what Sherlock would uncover if he ever digs too deep.
When John finally gets in touch with Harry after that, he tells him everything, and Harry, of course, finds it utterly hilarious.
“So he thinks I'm your... sister,” he snorts, and it is strange to think that John really doesn't know much about Harry's laugh or his smile, you'd think that John would have seen it more than a handful of times in their childhood together. “Surely he'll find out one of these days that your sister is, in fact, your male cousin?”
“I don't see why he would, we're just flatmates,” John snaps, and Harry just gives him a weird little smile and a shrug, before asking how John's parents are doing.
“Haven't been to see them,” he says, and inquires, instead, after Harry's children.
~ ~ ~
It happens anyway, in the end, when Sherlock stays up all night playing his violin, making music to commit murder to. It's no use trying to sleep through it, and when John finally decides to leave his room to see if there's something, anything, he can do to make it stop it's well past three. When he enters the room Sherlock faces him with an actual grimace, and John doesn't know if Sherlock's features are so sharp as to utterly exaggerate the expression or if Sherlock's making it on purpose to look like a child's drawing, as if he learned to express his feelings from a children's book.
“So it's me you're angry at,” John says quietly, and has a seat, choking back sleep-deprived resentment. “Let's hear it, then, what's the lowly John Watson done to anger you?”
“Your name's not even John,” Sherlock hisses in that lovely voice, moving suddenly to cross the room, to get further from John. Times like this he reminds John of one of Harry's dragons, and even when he's angry at Sherlock he can't help feeling fond of him in these moments. John wants to tell Sherlock this, wants to tell him every stupid little observation he's kept to himself over the last year, wants to tell him all the wonderful ways Sherlock reminds him of the existence of adventure and bravery and danger and magic.
“It's John on my degree, it's John on my discharge papers... it's John to my friends,” he says instead, folding his hands. “It's John in every way that matters.”
“I don't speak to them,” John interrupts, and Sherlock knows him well enough, knows that his tone means don't and don't ask me why. He hesitates, and John knows that Sherlock can read it on him, abuse and guilt and regret as easy to see as the cut of his hair and the jumper over his shirt.
“You didn't tell me,” he says finally, and John tilts his head.
“You didn't need me to tell you for you to figure it out,” but Sherlock is back, leaning close to John now, and there's something in his eyes that reminds John of the night he almost died as a kid, of blackness and ice and Please God, let me live and the finality of knowing it was the end.
“I needed you to tell me,” Sherlock says, and John thinks it's the closest Sherlock's ever been to begging anyone for anything in his entire life.
“I'm sorry,” John says, and he means it. There is a moment where John thinks he is going to tell Sherlock everything- not just about his feelings, which are complicated and confusing at the best of times, but everything, about Harry, about his parents, everything dark and worthless about himself that he is terrified of Sherlock seeing in him.
The moment is broken when Lestrade bangs on the door, as haggard-looking as John feels, the details of a hopeless case in hand.