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Finding John

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Sherlock Holmes has met exactly twenty-four Johns in his life. He could list all of them, organized by last name, middle name, and order in which he met them. All of them were the wrong John, of course, but that didn’t stop Sherlock from carefully recording all he knew about them because, at least at one point, they could have been. Until that moment when he realized that they were showing too little interest in him for his own name to be imprinted on the inside of their right ring finger.

His mother has always dismayed the terribly common name on Sherlock’s finger. One meets a John practically every day, she says, and the toll of so many disappointments weighs heavily on her son, she knows. When she thinks about it, she twists the ring covering what Sherlock knows to be his father’s name on the inside of her left ring finger. Sometimes, she still takes off the ring and stares mournfully at the tiny, blue lettering that reads Percival. She showed it to Sherlock once, when he was very small, but hasn’t since. It’s a deeply private thing, someone’s Soul Bond Inscription, (SBI for short, where it appears on forms such as census surveys, birth certificates, and passports) and it’s a social taboo for anyone but parents and one’s own Soul Mate to see it.

When a baby is born, the name is too small to be seen by the naked eye, and so doctors use a magnifying glass to see the name for recording purposes. When a child reaches the age of four or five, they get their first ring. Children’s rings are usually plastic and any number of colors. Should two Soul Mates meet when they are small children, which is extremely rare but does happen, they will still wear children’s rings until their sixteenth birthdays, at which point they wear the golden rings of bonded pairs. However, at age sixteen most people start wearing the silver rings that signify their unbonded, but searching status.

In the sad event that a woman or man is widowed, they will wear a black ring.

The whole SBI thing is so private that even siblings aren’t usually privy to the information, except in the case of much older siblings. Sherlock never even knew the name of Myrcoft’s Soul Mate until he met him, quite on accident one day and thanks entirely to Sherlock.

When Sherlock was sixteen, he spent an entire summer sending letter after letter to Scotland Yard about crimes he’d deduced, and pissing off every correspondent by calling the entire police force a bunch of raving buffoons. One day, one of the Detective Inspectors got fed up and sent one of their subordinates to have a chat with Sherlock. Greg Lestrade was a Detective Sergeant then and, just having reached that rank, was the unlucky man stuck with the job.

Mycroft answered the door. Sherlock screamed Mycroft’s name down the hall, and that was the end of that because, honestly, how many people are named Mycroft? Surely not many, and when that Mycroft has your name inscribed into his left ring finger that just seals the deal. They shoed Sherlock out of the hall so they could reveal their SBI’s to each other, ensuring they were the same color (They were; a canary yellow color.) and once it was confirmed, spent nearly four hours walking around the grounds of Holmes Manor, talking incessantly.

Greg never does give Sherlock that reprimand.

Sherlock spends two years jealously watching from the sidelines as Mycroft is courted and wooed by Greg (Whom as a favor to Mycroft, helps Sherlock get into crime scenes to investigate) which all culminates in a summer wedding the year Sherlock turns eighteen. He’s spent three years in university by then, advanced as he is in academics, and has spent every night since he turned sixteen staring at that name on his ring finger, that one word in faint orange lettering, and wondering when his John would find him and prove he was loveable, or at least even likeable.

He’s getting desperate. Eighteen is young to meet your Soul Mate, but at this point Sherlock is starting to doubt that he will ever meet his John. Not when he’s met ten of them in his three years at university and tediously tried to get close to each of them before realizing they weren’t his John. Not when the name Sherlock doesn’t prompt their eyes to blow wide and their lips to curl into a reflexive smile, the way Sherlock can’t help but react every time he meets a new John.

Right after Mycroft and Greg’s wedding, Sherlock meets a man named John Wilkes whom prefers to go by his middle name, Sebastian. Seb is charming and tall and funny and smart, and all the things Sherlock ever imagined his Soul Mate to be. He never confirms to Sherlock that his name is the one written on his finger, covered by an overly ornate silver ring that Sherlock deduces immediately is a family heirloom, much like the one Mycroft wore before he got married, which is the one Sherlock now wears. Sherlock thinks it’s implied, though, because Seb takes him on dates and introduces him to his friends, and smiles at him. Sherlock floats in heady bliss for all of three weeks, until one night Seb tries to takes his virginity.

Thankfully, Sherlock wises up before Seb actually has a chance, and demands Seb take off his ring before they have sex. One simply does not have sex with someone that isn’t their Soul Mate. Sometimes, they don’t have sex before they’re married, although that’s quickly becoming an archaic practice, only implemented by the deeply spiritual or traditionalist. Sherlock knows for a fact that Mycroft and Greg hadn’t waited.

When Sherlock yanks off the ring to see the name Lisa there in midnight blue, where Seb’s ring finger becomes his palm, he throws the bastard’s fancy ring out the window, so he has to do the walk of shame out of the dormitory, SBI on full display and head hung low with a nasty, Sherlock-Holmes-sized handprint on his right cheek. Sherlock, meanwhile, curls onto his side, hugging his pillow to him and trying to ignore the pang in his chest.

He spends a sleepless night trying to delete John Sebastian Wilkes from his memory. It doesn’t work.

It’s around this point that he starts to wonder whether his John is actually out there, or if his John is already dead, leaving Sherlock with no Soul Mate. He convinces himself that London isn’t that big, and surely someone with such a strange name as Sherlock inscribed on their finger would have found him by now if they tried hard enough. There are entire websites devoted to finding one’s Soul Mate. Maybe, just maybe, his John doesn’t want to find him.

He falls into depression. Cocaine, he finds, makes him forget. So he pumps as much of it into his body as possible. He starts wearing a black ring to convince himself that he has no Soul Mate. Tells himself the John he spent so many years looking for was stillborn. Never even knew he had the name Sherlock inscribed on his finger.

The last straw, apparently, is when he starts showing up to crime scenes high. Greg tells him to go home and not come back until he’s sober. Then, a few weeks later, he wakes up in the hospital and Mycroft is staring at him so angry. He yells at him. Tells him he’s stupid, he’s only twenty-two and he’s going to kill himself, think of Mummy, think of me, think of your poor Soul Mate. And why, pray tell, are you wearing a black ring?

“My Soul Mate,” he says, “Is dead to me.” Then he rolls over and refuses to have any more visitors. When he finds out one of the nurses treating him is named John, he demands he be switched out for a different one, even though the nurse clearly wears a gold ring and, from a very brief glimpse he got when the ring slipped while the nurse was adjusting his IV, he’s fairly certain the name on the nurse’s finger is Deborah, or at least something that begins with a D.

He detoxes. Then relapses. Then detoxes again after another overdose. He goes through the same cycle three times before, one day, Greg comes to visit him at his flat toting a baby girl on his hip. Sherlock stares at her for a moment, before muttering, “What’s that?”

“This is a baby,” Greg says, in a terribly familiar tone. It’s the tone Sherlock gets when talking to other members of the human race. You’re so terribly stupid so I’ll say this slowly. It pisses him off that Greg’s taking the tone with him, but he can’t say anything because Greg continues, “Her name is Caroline.”

“And?”

“She’s your niece.”

 

Sherlock’s eyes widen. “What? When did that happen?”

“Mmm…about twenty months ago.” Greg hikes her up further on his hip, and her eyes are eerily wide and grey, staring about the room with too much intelligence. Sherlock abruptly realizes that the baby has Holmes eyes, which could only mean Mycroft fathered the child.

“Who’s the mother?”

“My cousin.” That would explain why she looks so much like Greg in the face.

“Why did you bring her?” Sherlock asks, listless. He hadn’t even known his own brother had a daughter.

“Two reasons. Mycroft is in Zimbabwe and the baby sitter’s ill, and to show you the kinds of things you miss when you’re high as a kite.” Greg stares at him for a moment before adding, “She’s almost two, Sherlock, and she hasn’t even met her uncle yet.”

“What makes you think this will in any way convince me to stop using?” Sherlock demands. “If you think this is going to result in a rush of sentimentality and regret so strong I’ll turn my entire life around, you’re sorely mistaken.”

“How many times have you seen me these last two years, Sherlock?” Greg asks. Sherlock only shrugs. “Dozens, right? If your brain was working how it usually does, you would have been able to tell what was going on with me just by looking at me. That I’d been staying up all night with the baby, when she’d spit up on me in the mornings and when she was starting to teethe so she figured biting my fingers was the thing to do. When Mycroft and I had sleep-deprived fights. But you didn’t notice any of it. You tell yourself the cocaine helps you think. Caroline is proof that it doesn’t.”

“It helps me forget,” Sherlock defends.

Greg rolls his eyes. “Forget what? Honestly, Sherlock. You’re only twenty-five years old. You have your whole life ahead of you. Stop thinking about those bastards in university and start thinking about yourself. You’ll be dead before you’re thirty, Sherlock. From an overdose or not taking care of yourself or a fight with your dealer or something. Please don’t make me be the one that has to tell Mycroft you’re dead. Please.”

“Does she talk?” Sherlock mumbles, instead of replying to anything Greg’s said.

“Caroline? Yeah, she does.” Greg bounces her and says, “Say hello, Car.”

She mutters something that may have been hello, or maybe just a noise.

“That’s not a word.”

“Oh shut up.” Greg scowls with the wrath of an angry parent behind his eyes. “She’s scared, alright? She doesn’t know who you are—And you look a right fright, by the way, clean yourself up for God’s sake—and she’s in this pigsty of a flat. And she’s not that good at talking yet. Of course she’s not going to be coherent. Cor blimey.” There’s no real fight in him, though, and he adds, “She’s smart. She’s really, really smart. She’s a true Holmes if I ever did see one.”

Sherlock looks down at the floor, then back up at his niece. It’s weird seeing his eyes on another person. “Can I…hold her?”

“No. Absolutely not.” Greg cradles her closer, and takes a step back for good measure. “I’m not letting a junkie hold my daughter.” Then he glances at the time on his watch. “I have to go, anyway. I’m dropping her off at my mum’s at nine.”

“Fine. Go.”

He starts towards the door, then stops. Without turning around, he says, “Get yourself cleaned up, Sherlock. I don’t want her only memory of you to be some half-formed image of a sad man sitting on a filthy sofa. She deserves to know how brilliant her uncle is. And by the way, your brother wants you to stop wearing that ring. Your Soul Mate is alive, apparently. Running around in Afghanistan somewhere with RAMC, but alive.”

“Bite your tongue,” Sherlock snaps, because he was quite happy thinking there was no John running around with Sherlock on his finger. Now that he knows there is, he doesn’t know what to think.

He gets clean in increments, a process that takes almost a year and a half and encompasses more nights spent on the Lestrade-Holmes sofa than he cares to think about. Greg, despite not being the one related to him, is more openly supportive than Mycroft. Patting him on the back, telling him he’s making the right decision, that his life will be better now. Brings home pamphlets from the station, group therapy and Addict’s Anonymous meetings. Sherlock ignores all of them, but he can’t deny that he appreciates the thought.

Mycroft, though, is supportive in his own, quiet way. When Sherlock was going through the big, horrible detox that made him roll around on the living room floor, vomit, sob, and quake, Mycroft sat up for three nights straight and watched him. Made sure he didn’t hurt himself, relieved his pain with over-the-counter drugs when he felt Sherlock was just in too much pain. Held his hair, which was longer then and reached almost to his shoulders, as he threw up into trash cans and buckets and once into the kitchen sink. The bathrooms are both upstairs and Sherlock doesn’t have the power to climb them until several weeks into withdrawal. Mycroft and Greg take turns carrying him up there so he can shower and relieve himself.

It’s all terribly humiliating and he says so, but neither man has much sympathy for him. Mycroft blankly ignores him, hardly glancing at him before turning back to whatever he was doing, whether it was something on his laptop, paper work, or feeding the baby. Greg informs him it’s his own fault.

Then there’s the baby. She has her second birthday while Sherlock is detoxing so he doesn’t really notice the event, but sometimes she sits there with her too-big eyes trained upon him and he wonders if this is what it’s like to be stared at by himself.

He’s been staying with his brother for three months when Caroline finally speaks to him. Greg had walked out of the room for a short second, leaving Caroline, Sherlock, and a pile of blocks alone. Caroline stretches out, holding out a block with a C on it, and the word CAT on the other side. He examines it carefully, then says, “Thank you.”

“Welcome.”

Sherlock’s eyes flick up, meeting hers. “Why don’t you ever talk?”

She shrugs. “Why don’t you?”

“Because no one talks to me.” It’s true. Mycroft walks around him as if trying to ignore his existence and Greg only directs words at him when he’s being particularly insufferable, or to ask questions like ‘Are you alright?’ and ‘Where does it hurt?’

“I’ll talk to you.” She’s too intelligent for the average two-and-a-half-year-old, that’s for sure. Complete sentences and contractions are ridiculously advanced for someone who hasn’t even set foot in a school yet.

“Okay. Fine.” Sherlock’s eyes widen at her, as he leans over the edge of the sofa and closer to her. “Talk.”

She frowns, giving him a disapproving look that’s way too much like Mycroft’s for his taste. Eventually, she says, “Why do you look sad all the time? Is it because you’re sick?”

“Partially, yes.”

“Is it because your hand-person is dead?” She points to the black ring he still wears, despite Mycroft’s wishes, and he spends a second trying to figure out what she means by hand-person before he realizes she’s referring to his SBI. He twists the ring on his finger and shrugs. He doesn’t really know how she knows Ring Etiquette yet, especially since she’s not yet at the age where she even wears one, but he won’t question it. It’s Mycroft’s child, after all.

“He’s not dead.” He lifts the ring, staring at that name. That hated name. “I’ve just given up trying to find him. He has a very common name and it would be impossible to find him.”

“Well that’s not fair.”

Sherlock frowns. “What’s yours then, hmm?”

“I don’t know,” she says pointedly. “It’s too small.”

Sherlock frowns and gets up, going to his bag which lives slumped against the foyer wall and coming back with his compact magnifying glass. He sits down next to her, the coffee table digging unpleasantly into his shoulder blades, and holds out his hand for hers. “May I?”

She hesitantly extends her arm and rests it in his palm. Sherlock directs her to spread her fingers, then carefully examines the green letters. They’re faint, because SBI gets darker with age, but he can just barely make out the name.

John.

“Oh,” he says, quietly.

“What is it?” she asks, trying to see.

“It’s…too small. I can’t read it.” He folds his magnifying glass and slips it into his pocket. Then he leans back against the coffee table and rubs his eyes. He spends a few minutes watching Caroline, as she stacks blocks and hums, then mutters, “So why is it unfair? To stop looking for my hand-person?”

“Because,” she murmurs.

“That’s not an answer.”

“I wasn’t finished!” she insists, reaching out to slap her tiny hand over his mouth. He glares at her, but she just ignores him in favor of saying, “Because even if there are lots of people that have the same name as my hand-person, there’s only one hand-person that’s mine. And they need me and much as I need them.” Then she uncovers his mouth and turns back to her blocks. She’s selecting some of them and putting them on the table. Sherlock doesn’t take notice of what she’s doing until she mutters, almost conversationally, “I’m not stupid, you know.”

“I never said you were—“ Sherlock grumbles, irritated. He stops, though, because Caroline has spelled John on the table and he abruptly realizes he’s been tricked by an overly clever two-year-old.

“Forty in one-thousand men are named John,” Caroline says. “That’s what Papa told me.” His brother is ‘Papa’. Sherlock knows that much.

“What else has your papa told you?”

She frowns. As if quoting something, she says, “That you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Do you know how hard it is to find one Greg in all of England?” Then she shrugs, and sweeps her blocks onto the floor. “Daddy’s name is Greg.” As if he didn’t know that.

Sherlock rubs his face, then rests his arms on his drawn-up knees and stares forward. He wonders how long his John has been in Afghanistan. If that’s why Sherlock has been so unsuccessful in finding him. He wonders, for the first time, if there is a man out there, who lays on a sandy cot in Kandahar or Kabul and dreams of someone who will soothe their pain. Someone who is just as desperate for love and acceptance as he is, who has all but lost hope because he’s never met anyone with the name Sherlock.

It’s like the difference between too much information and not enough. Both equally as detrimental to a resolution.

He spends a further three months with his brother, both to convince himself, once and for all, that he’s not going to relapse, and because Mycroft wants to keep him under his eye for the same reason. He stays around long enough to find a better flat on Montague Street, and to round off half a year of withdrawal before moving out. Then he moves to Montague Street, settles in, and sets up practice as a Consulting Detective.

He keeps wearing the black ring, mostly because he doesn’t want any interest turned his way. His John is still in Afghanistan, Mycroft is careful to tell him monthly, so it really wouldn’t do to get caught up in sticky relationship business. It keeps him from having to be nice and social if he wears the black ring, because everybody will blame it on his bereavement. It’s not uncommon to fall into depression when your Soul Mate dies, especially if you both are young when it happens. Sherlock knows he looks younger than he actually is. People think they’re looking at a twenty-three-year-old widower when, in reality, they’re looking at a twenty-nine-year-old circumstantial aromantic.

In any case, it gets people to leave him well enough alone, although he could do without their pitying tsks and remarks.

He’s just turned thirty when, on a certain January 29th, two things happen. One in the morning, before he even wakes up. Mycroft sends him a text that reads: For the love of GOD Sherlock, stop wearing that ring now. Sherlock doesn’t know why he listens to his brother on that particular day, especially after years of the two of them going in circles over the same conversation, but he does. He fishes out his old silver one, the one he wore before Seb, and slides it on. It still fits well.

The second: After lunch, Mike Stamford trudges his way into the lab Sherlock has commandeered as his own over the years (It’s actually Doctor Hooper’s, but Molly doesn’t mind if he uses it) with a shorter, stocky man in toe. Blonde hair that’s starting to turn grey, cane, limp, tan, tan lines, blue eyes, he looks tired, worn-out, not work-worn-out, sick-worn-out, the kind Sherlock is very familiar with.

Mike introduces him as an old friend. John Watson.

John.

“Mike, can I borrow your phone? Mine has no service.” Wrong. The service down here is fine, and Mike doesn’t have his mobile anyway because he has the worst habit of forgetting he even owns one and always keeps it in his coat, if he ever remembers to bring it to work in the first place. But this stranger has one—Sherlock can see it in pressing against the fabric of his jeans. Too tight in the thighs too loose in the waist, meaning muscle not weight gain. Physical activity and lots of it for long periods of time followed by a long bought of malnutrition. Supports the sickness theory. Also supports the military theory.

“What’s wrong with the landline?” Mike demands. Pesky, overly suspicious man. Sherlock’s never liked him much.

“I prefer to text.” Not a lie.

“Uh, here. Use mine.”

“Oh. Thank you.” Sherlock has to hide his immediate pleasure that his plan had gone perfectly accordingly. He steps forward, grabs the phone, and asks, “Afghanistan or Iraq?” as he’s flipping it open.

John blinks and mutters, “Sorry?” quietly, in a tone of voice that’s supposed to imply don’t tread here, but Sherlock does it anyway. He’s a Holmes. Treading where they’re not supposed to is what most of them do for a living. So he looks up, makes eye contact. This man has the clearest blue eyes Sherlock has ever seen.

“Afghanistan,” he says slowly, almost intimately. Oh, how he wishes Stamford would go away. “Or Iraq?”

“Afghanistan,” John reveals, finally, but Sherlock’s aha moment is shattered quickly when Molly trundles in the door, carrying with her the painful air of hero worship, and hands him his coffee. Molly is sweet, and far too obsessed with him seeing as her SBI is James. At first, he tried to ease her into a different direction entirely, but has since given up and taken to treating her like a vaguely annoying younger sibling. It’s the only thing he can do, really.

Molly leaves as quickly as she came, after a quick exchange about make-up that has the underlying affect of, “It looked good on you, but please stop trying to impress me.” Molly, however meekly, seems to understand his hidden meaning and slips away, either to reapply the lipstick or putter about the mortuary sadly. Sherlock knows well the pain of reaching your late twenties, and not having met your Soul Mate yet.

Sipping his coffee, he wanders back over to his computer, sets down the mug, and asks, “How do you feel about violin?”

“Sorry, what?”

Sherlock glances up, slightly amused, and continues, “I play the violin when I’m thinking.”

Outside, he is calm, cool, collected. Inside, he is screaming. John. John, just returned from Afghanistan. John, who’s wearing a silver ring on his finger. John, who looks so lonely and all alone in the world, hollowness in his eyes that Sherlock knows well.

“Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end. Will that bother you? Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other.” He smiles, slightly awkwardly and slightly forced. Mummy always did say he had a way of talking too much when he was nervous.

“You told him about me?” A furrow of eyebrows directed at Stamford.

“Not a word.” Stamford shrugs and looks so terribly amused. Sherlock can’t help but frown, because he knows what the man is up to. Come look at the weirdo. He can tell you what you ate last night by looking at your fingers.

“Then who said anything about flatmates?”

“I did,” Sherlock replies, turning around to get his coat on. He wants to get away from Stamford, can’t think in the presence of someone that annoys him so much, but at the same time he doesn’t have nearly enough information about John. God, he hopes John comes and looks at the Baker Street flat with him. Then he can introduce himself without the prying eye of Stamford. Gauge John’s reaction. If Sherlock’s name is, indeed, written on his finger, the reaction will be immediate and obvious. John can’t have met too many Sherlocks in his life, and he hasn’t had the kind of time to learn how to school his expression neutral like Sherlock has.

“Told Mike this morning that I must be a difficult man to find a flatmate for,” he muses as he ties his scarf about his neck. “And now here he is, just after lunch, with an old friend clearly just home from military service in Afghanistan. Wasn’t a difficult leap.”

“How did you know about Afghanistan?” demands John, narrowing his eyes as Sherlock comes near. Sherlock supposes the suspicion is the closest he’ll get to intrigue, so leaves it at that. After all, he wants John to have as many questions as possible when they part ways. It may just increase the chances of John taking him up on his offer.

“I’ve got my eye on a nice little place in Central London. Together we should he able to afford it. We meet there tomorrow evening, seven o’clock.” He smiles, forgetting, in his nervous chatter, to give John an address which is, ultimately, how he ends up having to reveal everything in front of Mike Stamford. “Sorry, gotta dash, I think I left my riding crop in the mortuary.”

“So that’s it?” John says as he’s heading out the door.

“Is that what?” He lets go of the door, backtracks, hands in pockets. Stares at John and raises an eyebrow.

“We’ve just met and we’re going to go look at a flat?”

“Problem?” He’s confused. He’s given John all the information he needs, sans a name, which he would really prefer to reveal when they’re alone.

John gives a derisive snort and gives a put-upon little shake of his head. “We don’t know a thing about each other. I don’t know where we’re meeting, I don’t even know your name.”

For a moment, Sherlock just stares at him. He wonders why John won’t let it go and just take his oddities at face value like anyone else would. It’s interesting, though, more than anyone else has ever done. Suddenly, he feels compelled to give John a demonstration.

“I know you’re an army doctor invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you’ve got a brother who’s worried about you but you won’t go to him for help because you don’t approve of him. Possibly because he’s an alcoholic, more likely because he recently walked out on his wife. And I know that your therapist thinks your limp is psychosomatic, quite correctly I’m afraid.” Rolls his eyes around, looking for anything he may have forgotten to mention. But no, that’s all he got from the phone and John’s overall appearance and the few minutes he’s spent in his company. “That’s…enough to be going on, don’t you think?”

John looks completely dumbfounded. He expects a ‘Piss off’ or ‘How dare’ or possibly even a ‘What a freak.’ But none of them come. John just continues standing there, looking stupefied and vaguely impressed.

It’s then that Sherlock realizes John isn’t going to let him go without a name. He steps towards the door, hoping to escape before John processes all of what he’s about to say, and adds, “The name’s Sherlock Holmes and the address is Two-Two-One-Bee Baker Street.”

“Sherlock?” John asks, before he has a chance to move a muscle. He blurts it right over the last syllable of ‘Baker Street’, and Sherlock lets the door go. No time like the present.

“Yes.” Don’t get your hopes up. Sherlock is a strange name, there were plenty of Johns in Afghanistan. He could just be questioning the oddity of the whole thing.

Oh, who’s he kidding? His hopes are already somewhere in the stratosphere, no point in trying to ground them now.

“Ess-Atch-Eee-Are-Elle-Oh-See-Kay?” John spells out.

“That’s how you spell it, yes.” Sherlock’s eyes widen and he lets out a slightly breathless, “Why?”

“What’s your SBI?”

“John,” Sherlock says, oh-so-quietly. “My SBI is John. And yours?”

“Sherlock.”

“I’ll show you mine,” he all but whispers, the words he’d never thought he’d utter but which he’s seen on so many romantic comedies and movies and even in real life, in coffee shops and on the streets. People meet their Soul Mates every day and it always starts with these nine words. “If you show me yours.” Stamford is inching out of the room, realizing that this is private and his presence is no longer needed or appreciated. Sherlock barely notices, however, because he’s watching as John is removing his ring, while at the same time removing his own. He doesn’t have to look up to know that John’s eyes are just as trained on his fingers as his are on John’s.

And there it is. Sherlock, his name, spelled out in orange lettering. His face must do something funny, because John reaches out his other hand and lays it on his shoulder. “Are you okay? Do you need to sit down?” Meeting one’s Soul Mate can be a shocking experience, for some. It’s more than common for a person to pass out.

“I, uhm, I don’t think—“

“Yes. Yes, I think you do. Come on, down you go.” John eases him onto the floor. Sherlock wonders if he realizes his cane is leaning against a table four feet away. Evidently not, because he seems perfectly steady as he crouches down and checks Sherlock’s pulse, then takes a good look at his eyes.

“Deeps breaths.”

“This isn’t like me,” Sherlock quickly cautions, shaking his head. “I’m not usually this…weak.”

“It’s okay,” John assures, smiling. “Believe me, it’s okay…” As if to prove his point, he holds out his hand, which is shaking. “This is normal.”

Sherlock nods and stares ahead for a second, before chancing another glance at John. He’s not what Sherlock ever expected, but he’s good. He’s very, very good.

John holds up a hand. “May I?”

Sherlock has no idea what he intends to do with that hand, but he doesn’t care at this point. He nods. John’s hand presses against his cheek, very gently, and then moves up slightly to touch his hair. He’s observing, cataloguing, memorizing. It’s beautiful.

“So,” John murmurs. “I think you’re my Soul Mate.”

Sherlock chuckles. “And I think you’re mine.”

“It’s…really good to meet you, Sherlock,” John says.

“You, too. John.”

John, John, John.