Chapter 1: I Want To See A Little Face Light Up With Delight
In which John reveals a secret and Sherlock likes it.
Finally, Sherlock couldn't take it anymore. "Cheer up," he demanded. "This is the fourth day of silence and it just won't do. You aren't any different now than you were last week."
John paused, chewing on a piece of toast. He was sitting cross-legged on the sofa, laptop on his thighs and dressing gown loosely tied around his pajamas. His unwashed hair was messy, his cheeks finely mottled with stubble. He looked up at his flat mate, sitting across from him on the arm chair. "Hm?"
In contrast, Sherlock was sharply dressed and freshly showered, which meant he had a case on the brain. He leaned forward a bit, resting his elbows on his knees. "Look," he said in a serious voice, though his flexing jaw hinted at his unease at having to speak openly about such a topic. "I've suffered mood swings my whole life. So, I sympathize. I know what it feels like to not want to talk for days on end, to struggle with…depression." His said the last word bitterly. It was clinical, it hinted of weakness and weak was not how Sherlock would describe his feelings when he was depressed, his brain all wound up, his thoughts racing and insatiable, overwhelming his whole body so that he could literally do nothing but lay there and despair in utter silence, unable to articulate. "Many people get depressed when they pass a major milestone in their lives," Sherlock went on awkwardly. "It's very common...so…don't…feel bad. Nonetheless..."
John just blinked at Sherlock, toast still clamped between his teeth.
Sherlock finished, "...I have to continue working so I need you out of this fog. So. Buck up." With that, he nodded stiffly. It was as encouraging as a pep-talk as he could manage.
"I…" John sat up a bit, withdrawing his toast and depositing it on a napkin folded on the table. "Well, I…"
Sherlock's face fell. Oh, goddamnit, he was going to share. Sherlock mentally prepared himself. This isn't what he wanted, but he knew it was a possibility and had accepted the risk before he opened his mouth.
"I…don't feel depressed about turning forty," John said.
Sherlock cocked his head slightly, brows furrowed. "I don't understand. You haven't said a word since your birthday. Naturally, I assumed you were unhappy about entering mid-life."
"Well, I'm not excited about it, no," John admitted, scratching his unshaven chin. "Have I really been that quiet? I didn't realize."
Sherlock smiled. "Good. I'm glad we were able to talk about this." He made to stand up.
John said, reflectively, "I guess…I can't help but be a little disappointed in myself. I wanted to accomplish more with my life by this point."
Sherlock's face fell. He settled back down in his chair. Here it comes.
But John didn't continue. He just sighed, then turned his attention back to his laptop, continued to scroll.
Sherlock frowned. He waited, but John didn't volunteer.John finished his toast, oblivious.
Sherlock drummed his fingers on his knee. "Like what?" he prodded.
John looked up again and asked, "What? You don't actually want to hear about it?"
Sherlock opened his mouth, then closed it. He reflected. No, he really didn't. But he did want John to be himself again and talking through problems was what 'normal' people did. "It doesn't require much effort on my part to lend an ear," Sherlock offered. Shut up, he thought. Shut up. Shut up.
"Are you kidding?" John laughed and said, "I can't think of anything more difficult for you; keeping your attention on something that disinterests you."
"I am interested." Shut up! Don't encourage this!
John said, "Nope. I don't want to start sharing my most personal feelings if you're going to dismiss them with an abrupt 'Boring!' three minutes from now. Yes, I'm feeling a little down. I'm sure you can infer a dozen or so reasons why, and most of them will be right and I can still spare you all the tedious little details."
"Ahh. Alright." Sherlock laced his fingers together while steepling his index fingers and pressing them against his lips, as he liked to do when considering an especially trying puzzle. "You're frustrated that you aren't married. You were hoping to be a high ranking military officer by now and being invalidated from Afghanistan ruined your career…"
"I wasn't inviting you to deduce it," John interrupted sharply, no longer amused.
Sherlock objected, "But you said…"
"In your head, Sherlock," John said, aggravated. "You don't have to announce what you infer. God." He ruffled his hair. "Yes. You git. It doesn't need to be all picket fences and a house in the suburbs. But yes, I wish I was married and starting a family by now. I'd like…a couple of little ones crawling around..."
The hair on Sherlock's arms rose. Little ones?
"…but you know me," John continued, "I'm just garbage with women. It's like…they can sense just how desperate I am."
"Desperate?" Immediately, Sherlock thought John was referring to sex and relaxed. John's never ending quest for sex was a familiar challenge, one that amused Sherlock. Poor, pathetic, rutting John. Ordinary in his desires, ruled by instincts. He pitied his flat mate and his consuming libido. How horrible it must be.
John said, "If I had a child today, that means he or she would be turning ten years old when I'm turning fifty. You know how willful and mouthy children are at ten? Just when my bones are going stiff and I start to look like an old man, their hormones will start raging." John shook his head. "And I'm not having a baby today. I don't even have a girlfriend." John smiled bitterly. "It's just one of those things that's just outside my reach and I don't think I'm ever going to have it. And my situation with women is just growing more and more toxic with every failed relationship, and the rush to have a family is just ruining everything. I have this expectation that I can…God, I really don't want to talk about this." John waved Sherlock off. "Just, never mind."
Sherlock just sat in stunned silence for a moment. Little ones.
John settled back down into the couch, pulling his knees up to his chest and propping his laptop on his knees, hiding his face behind it.
Finally, Sherlock hissed "Children? You want children?" He scowled. "This isn't about women? This is about children…?"
John peered over his screen and snarled, "See? See? I'm not going to talk to you about this." He went back to his computer, typing away. "Don't you have any pressing cases to busy yourself with?"
Sherlock face lit up. He leapt to his feet, buttoning his jacket, eyes already on his coat on the hook by the door. "See now? That's the spirit! In fact, there's a charming little murder-suicide I read about this morning that doesn't sit right with me. I thought I'd phone Lestrade and see what details he was keeping out the papers…"
"Enjoy," John said, disinterested.
Sherlock waited expectantly, ready to burst with excitement. "Come on, now. Get up. Get showered. The Game awaits."
John didn't respond.
"Up, up," Sherlock insisted pleasantly. "I need my medical examiner."
"I'm going to stay in," John said, engrossed in a website. "Think I'll put coffee on and watch the news."
Sherlock snorted. "Give that here." He plucked John's laptop from his grasp.
John swiped madly for it, furious. "Hey!" he barked. "Give that back now!"
Sherlock turned the screen around and waltzed away into the kitchen. "What is so interesting? You chatting someone up?"
John launched himself off the sofa in pursuit of Sherlock. "Goddamn it!"
Sherlock's merry strides came to a halt as he skimmed over the website John had been looking at. "What is this? A dating website? No. Is this…?" He frowned. It was a commercial surrogacy website, matching infertile couples and gay couples with available women for artificial insemination. Sherlock's mouth fell open. "John, what is this?
John caught up to Sherlock then, wrenching his laptop out of his flat mate's grasp. "None of your damn business, that's what." He slammed the laptop shut, his face and ears cherry red.
"This isn't some fleeting impulse, then," Sherlock said, horrified. "You've thought about this at length."
John turned around and marched down the hall. "I'm going to take a shower and then we'll see about that murder. Whatever you want. Just. Just…let it drop."
Sherlock stood in confusion, blinking, a thousand threads of thought streaming through his consciousness at once. John was considering…paying a woman to be inseminated? And then raising a baby alone?
Slowly, dream-slow, Sherlock turned and watched John go into the bathroom and stand in front of the mirror, examining his reflection. John sighed and turned on the faucet in the sink and grabbed his toothbrush. Sherlock stared as John began his morning routine.
With hesitation, Sherlock began to walk towards the bathroom.
As John started brushing his teeth, he saw Sherlock approach. John he reached for the door and tried to slam it closed. But Sherlock reached the bathroom just at that moment and caught the door with his arm and kept it open.
"Can I have privacy?" John asked. "I'm doing what you asked…"
"I had no idea you felt that way," Sherlock interrupted gravely. "You've never spoken of children before."
"Yeah, well," John dismissed, "Why would I? You don't like children. It's not something I expect you could relate to."
"I like children fine," Sherlock lied reflexively. Why are you lying? Stop saying things you don't mean to spare his feelings. Once you start lying to please people, it will never end.
John snorted. "You hate children."
Sherlock ignored the comment. "I find it interesting that you're not focused on marriage as strongly as I suspected you would, but on having a baby. Is it the traditional family unit that you're attracted to? Or…just…passing on your genetic material?"
John's face wrinkled up. "What the bloody hell?" He pushed on the door again, trying to close it though Sherlock still rested his arm on it. "How can I communicate with you more clearly that I don't want to discuss this with you?"
"It's a valid desire either way," Sherlock assured John. "To reproduce and procreate…."
"Don't want to discuss it," John said firmly.
"An instinctual compulsion…"
"You're an idiot!" John snapped. "Stop talking now. Don't try and sound like an authority on a subject you know nothing about, and this is really outside your expertise."
Sherlock was quiet for a few seconds. It was outside his expertise. The whole subject was utterly foreign to him. He didn't know what to say.
John's shoulders began to relax, feeling like he'd finally gotten his point across. He resumed brushing his teeth.
"John," Sherlock said cautiously, "I only asked because…"
John's head dropped and he muttered, "God give me strength," under his breath.
Sherlock said, "…because I was wondering if you had considered adoption or not."
"Adoption?" John echoed, looking at his friend bewildered.
"There are more valuable things to pass on to children than just you genes," Sherlock pointed out. "I have a particular lullaby I'd like to pass on, for instance, and as I don't imagine myself ever having offspring of my own, I'd be just satisfied giving it to your children." Sherlock thought a moment. "I know a trick to making perfect Easter eggs. Adults wouldn't find it appealing, but as a boy I was delighted when nana taught it to me. And I know a handful of good bed-time stories to quiet any needy child. I know. I was quite needy. All valuable experiences. All contributed in some way to the adult that I am, all passed down from my mum and dad from their mums and dads, just as intricate and unique as DNA. I'd much rather see my values and my personal culture passed on than my complexion or bone structure." Sherlock cocked his head. "But I'm odd. Not everyone feels that way."
John stood quietly, toothbrush still in his mouth. "Uh. I dunno. Hadn't thought about it."
Sherlock turned, resting his back against the door jam. His eyes skimmed over the flat uneasily. Nothing, nothing from the chemistry set in the kitchen to the evidence bags collecting on every flat surface, nothing was child-safe. "Hmm," Sherlock mused. "John Watson wants to be a father..." Sherlock bean to float away in a trance. John Watson wants to be a father.
"I wouldn't get worked up over it," John cautioned. "I'm just thinking about it."
Sherlock turned back around to look at his friend. There was a spark in his eyes. "We're going to need a bigger flat, John."
"We?" John repeated.
Sherlock sighed. "I mean, we could make do for a while. The most logical place for a nursery is my bedroom because it's the larger bedroom, so it can accommodate a crib and toys and a changing station and a stroller and a car seat and just the mounds and mounds of stuff that babies need. I could sleep on the couch, or, if you're comfortable, we could put another bed in your room and we could share. Of course, maybe your bedroom is more logical, because it separates a wailing infant from perspective clients–no, no, no, that wouldn't do, stairs, there are stairs that a small child could fall down." Sherlock pressed his index fingers to his lips again, thinking. "It's madness to think the consulting business can thrive if there's an infant around, crying and being needy, so a sitter or some form of daycare will be necessary. Maybe Mrs. Hudson would be willing to….oh, who am I kidding, we're going to need a larger flat, a much larger flat! We're going to have to move! And what about schools?" Sherlock walked slowly down the hall, rotating in circles, eyes shut. "We'll need to find a neighborhood with a very good school. And a playground. University. John." Sherlock's eyes popped open. "John, we'll have to save for university!"
John withdrew his toothbrush from his mouth. "Sherlock," he said, again tensely. "What do you mean, 'we'?"
Sherlock paused, looking back at John. "You and I." There was excitement in Sherlock's face, smiling like he did whenever something truly unexpected and delightful and grisly turned up in a case. Except that Sherlock wasn't thinking about corpses and blood spatters.
"You mean as….parents." John's face was incredulous. "Like. Co-parents."
"Obviously." Sherlock's mind was already a million miles ahead, thinking about the nanny screening process and braces and names. Oh my God. Names. Sherlock stopped dead.
John stared. "Um. No. I'm not….interested. In that. I mean. I didn't imagine it that way."
Sherlock asked sharply, "Why not?"
"Because," John balked.
"Because…why? Because I'm unsuitable somehow?" Sherlock strutted back towards John, turning his body around like a preening peacock. "Men and women far more unsavory and boring than I have become parents and are legally entrusted to raise innocent children by the mere coincidence of being biologically related. I think as far as individuals go, I'm extraordinary. I can contribute!"
"The point of my…," John struggled to say what he was thinking, mostly because he was frustrated he needed to articulate it at all.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Look, I'm not suggesting you couldn't raise a healthy, well-balanced child in a single-parent home. Successful, happy children emerge from all kinds of environments. But statistics prove again and again that children are happiest in two-parent homes regardless of whether the parents are a mother and father or two mothers or two fathers, so long as the parents are in a stable, healthy relationship. Why would you intentionally give yourself an unnecessary handicap when I am a perfectly capable adult, able to assist in child-rearing duties?"
"Two fathers?" John cried. "I want to be the father, the only father, and I'm not interested in having another father around to compete with…and….and confuse my child," John said.
Sherlock planted his hands on his hips indignantly. "I was just….volunteering my help. I wasn't…suggesting…being a second father."
John said accusingly, "You were. You just said it!"
Sherlock crossed his arms over his chest and tapped his foot. "Well, I didn't mean for it to come out like that then, if that's how it sounded."
"Well, what did you mean, then? It's not like I can picture you…changing diapers or fixing supper. I certainly can't see you getting up for midnight feedings. Exactly how do you think you can contribute, if not to lord over me and do all the fun stuff…and…and just eclipse me like you do now?"
Sherlock looked momentarily hurt.
John caught it and stopped talking.
Sherlock composed himself, turning his nose up. "I can do all those things and more." He gestured flippantly, as if indicating some separation between the two of them. "But, this is your vision for your family. I understand I don't enter into the equation. I understand that I'm…." he struggled for words a moment, "…you know. Not invited in your family."
John balked. "Not…not invited?"
Sherlock said, "That's what you just said!"
John blinked. "Well. Wait. Wait a minute."
"Wait what-a-minute?" Sherlock snapped.
John put up his hands, shouting over Sherlock, "I said HANG ON!"
Sherlock glared at John.
John kept his hands in the air. "What the hell are we fighting about?" he asked, tone lowered.
Sherlock continued to glare at John. "I'm not sure," he answered, still angry.
John lowered his hands. "We need to cool down."
Sherlock shrugged his shoulders, adjusting his jacket. He nudged his collar a bit, breathing deeply.
John rinsed his toothbrush and put it away.
Sherlock jammed his hands in his pockets, toeing the floor. "John? Does this mean you're going to move out and be a single dad?"
"Sherlock, I'm just…," John paused to massage his temples with his finger tips. "Listen. I'm not planning anything. I'm just…talking. I'm just telling you how I feel, which was a damn mistake, I knew it was a mistake, but you kept prodding."
Sherlock nodded. "I'll phone Lestrade while you have your shower." He turned and went back into the living room. Now, however, he wasn't brimming with excitement. There was no spring in his step.
John watched Sherlock go, feeling a bit guilty. He shut the bathroom door and resumed getting ready for the day. As he showered, as he lathered his hair and felt water sluicing over his shoulders, he closed his eyes. He remembered his father bathing him when he was a little boy. He remembered a brown plastic tug boat he'd splash in the water. He remembered the phrases Play Bath and Business Bath–and a play bath was just how it sounded, with floaty toys and bath chalk, while a business bath meant shampoo and soap.
Soon, his shower was done and John stepped out and toweled himself off. He dressed himself and combed his hair and, finding himself marginally acceptable, he padding out into the flat in his slippers. Sherlock wasn't in the living room or the kitchen. "You still here?" John called, wandering towards Sherlock's bedroom. He peered inside and there was the consulting detective, laying on his back in the middle of the bed, staring up at the ceiling, phone tucked under his chin, forgotten. "What did Lestrade have to say?" John asked.
Sherlock blinked from his stupor. "What? Oh. You're done?"
"You didn't call him, did you?"
"I got distracted by…something," Sherlock muttered.
John shook his head. He was about to walk away, but something about Sherlock's wistful expression captured John's interest. "What are you thinking about?"
"Nana's kitchen," Sherlock said, eyes unfocused. "It was cobalt blue. The tiles had Dutch patterns. It had a distinct smell. She lived by the ocean, you see. Even though she died in 1989 and my parents sold her house, I still remember the smell of her kitchen, salty and decaying house plants, earthy….and sometimes I smell that smell in a parking lot or…really, places where it doesn't belong and there's no reason why I should smell that smell twenty years later but I do sometimes and it instantly transports me back to my childhood when I ran up and down her stairs and her big old house was a mystery and it took my whole hand just to wrap around one of her fingers. And soon you'll be clutching the hand of your own toddler and one day you will be the scent on the wind filling her lungs and isn't that just fantastic?" He blinked rapidly, coming to. "I think I'm jealous of your aspiration, John. It's lovely."
John laughed. "I just…Jesus, Sherlock. I can't believe how quick you got excited." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I feel a bit bad now. You were really keen on it, and I shot you down."
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "I wasn't excited."
John said, "You went from….you know, Eeew, children? to We need to move closer to schools! in ten seconds." He was smiling now. "You acted like I announced I was pregnant or something."
Sherlock shrugged. "I just…I was just acclimating myself to what you wanted…"
"Shut up," John mocked. "You got all worked up. I saw you. You were glowing."
Sherlock sat up, scowling, face growing red. "I was not!"
"Were too!" Now it was John's turn to glow. "You lit up like Christmas!" He sat on the edge of the bed. "I think you were tickled by the idea." He looked knowingly at Sherlock. "Bet you still are."
"Hmph!" Sherlock rolled off the bed, straightening his jacket.
John flopped down on his back and watched Sherlock march away. "I want…to be barefoot in the grass, nudging a football to a boy, or heft a sweet little girl against my hip. I want to see a little face light up with delight after the first bite into a juicy watermelon in summer. I don't think hair color and eye color enters into it, but I was rather hoping to pass those down too, if I can help it. But I guess…I wouldn't rule out adoption. I just hadn't thought about it. Do you understand?"
Sherlock looked out the window. Below, London bustled. "I understand," he said, not certain he did, but it sounded…appealing…in an illogical, human way.
"The adoption process is messy these days. And expensive." John sighed. "But surrogacy is far more expensive. It's a small fortune. It's all pie in the sky. I couldn't afford any of it, even during our most lucrative cases. I'm just day-dreaming."
"I could ask Mycroft for a favor," Sherlock offered without looking at John.
John laughed. "For what? An express adoption?"
"Why not?" Sherlock said.
John lay still. "You're serious."
"I'm not promising he can do anything, but the offer stands that I'd ask for a favor. All he can do is say no."
John said, "You'd do that? For me?"
John asked, "You wouldn't mind a little thing crawling around, making a racket?"
Sherlock stood absolutely still, his breath caught in his throat. "You'd stay? You wouldn't move out?"
John thought a moment. "Well," he said finally. "We could get a bigger place."
Sherlock was glad he had his back to John, because the smile that spread across his face was big and uncontrollable and it made his face tickle. "We, huh?" He didn't think he could suppress it. "Mrs. Hudson will have a fit."
"Yeah," John laughed. "It'd be like….we robbed her of her grandkid or something."
Sherlock tried to control his smile. He swallowed, pursed his lips. "Why don't we talk about it some more later?"
"Yeah." John sat up eagerly, clearing his throat. "I mean. This is the first we've talked about it. I don't want to rush into anything. There's a lot to think about." He stood up and went for the door.
"Agreed," Sherlock said, flipping open his phone and dialing Lestrade, lazily following John.
John paused at the door before looking over his shoulder at Sherlock. "Hey. Um. Sorry for what I said."
"For what?" Sherlock asked, texting.
"For…ruling you out so abruptly," John said. "You know the real reason why, right?"
"The gay thing," Sherlock said immediately without looking up.
"Um. Yeah," John muttered, feeling a little stunned by Sherlock's directness. "The…uh, the gay thing."
"You're afraid it will cement the rumors about us," Sherlock concluded, breezing past John.
John said sheepishly, "Yeah. You and me, adopting a baby. It's just not something two men typically do."
"Not only is it embarrassing for you," Sherlock said, "but you're worried it will prevent you from dating and finding a suitable girlfriend in the future, should a desirable woman present herself. And you're right. Compounded by the fact that having a child may be upsetting to a woman who, potentially, would like to have a baby of her own someday, or a turn-off to a woman who not only isn't interested in having a baby of her own and wouldn't be interested in getting roped into becoming a caregiver to another woman's baby." Sherlock sent his text and pocketed his phone. "It's not an unfounded fear. You'll have to think very carefully about what you want to do."
John said shakily, "Yeah. That really hits the nail on the head."
"Or," Sherlock said dismissively as he opened their flat door, "you can just surrender to fate and be my boyfriend like you know you want to."
As he slipped on his coat, Sherlock looked back at John, face blank. "Kidding, John. Ha-ha?"
John swallowed. "Cute." He didn't move. "You know. Sometimes, I can't tell with you."
Sherlock just shook his head at John and went out the door.
"See?" John pointed out. "That was an open opportunity for you to clarify. And you deliberately ignored it."
"I did, didn't I?" Sherlock huffed impatiently, going down the stairs.
To be continued.
Chapter 2: The Things That Are Important to Me
In which Sherlock and John have dinner and negotiations begin.
A sudden thunderstorm broke the oppressive heat wave.
The rain was welcome. It came straight down, pounding the pavement, fog rising from the ground. Street lights glowed fuzzy halos in the fading dusk and deep, rumbling thunder muttered in the distance as the storm front lazily tumbled by.
All the windows were cracked, letting the flat fill with cool, damp air.
John dished out another helping of cavatellis and red sauce onto his plate.
With one cheek puffed out from a mouthful of food, Sherlock lifted and waggled his empty plate mutely.
John smiled. He scooped into the platter and, reaching across their breakfast table in their sitting room, deposited more cavatellis onto Sherlock's plate as well. When Sherlock continued to hold his plate up, John gave him another generous spoonful and then Sherlock took the plate back with a grateful grunt, plucking up another roll from the basket as he did.
"Slow down there," John cautioned with the greatest possible affection, secretly thrilled to be watching Sherlock stuff his gob.
"Mmhmm," Sherlock acknowledged, his mouth full.
Outside, the thunder garbled in a pleasant, neighborly way.
John set down the platter and settled to continue his meal.
This was the best time, the lull between cases when Sherlock was still flush from victory but boredom hadn't started itching at him yet. It was nice to reclaim the kitchen from experiments and evidence. And what a spread tonight: salad, pasta in red sauce, warm dinner rolls. When properly motivated (and sufficiently funded) apparently the consulting detective was capable of an actual dinner. The salad had been pre-mixed, the pasta had come in a frozen bag and the rolls took ten minutes in the oven. But it wasn't take-out. It wasn't beans or microwave rice.
As John finished his second helping, he wiped his mouth and sat back with a contented sigh. "My compliments to the chef."
Sherlock nodded off-hand, chewing loudly.
"It was a good case," John contemplated. "I'll really enjoy writing this one up."
"It was alright,” Sherlock said dismissively, patting his chin with a napkin.
"Come on, I thought it was a fantastic murder."
Sherlock glanced up at John in surprise.
A mischievous smile spread across Sherlock's face.
John cleared his throat. "The cover up. The cover up was…clever. And the way you….you know how you…I didn't mean….the murder wasn't fantastic. That's not what I meant. The case was.”
Sherlock said, "John, you devil. You're developing an appreciation."
"No. I deny it. I deny all allegations of corruption."
Sherlock looked deeply pleased.
John relented and let himself have a good chuckle. Then he sighed and looked longing at the empty third chair at the end of their table. "Look," John said, nodding at the empty chair.
Sherlock looked at the chair curiously.
"Can you imagine," John said dreamily, "One day. There's going to be a little toddler in a high seat, right there. His whole face covered in tomato sauce, swiping his hands through a mess, spilling pasta on the floor." He added reproachfully, "And we better not be talking about murders over supper when he's there."
Sherlock regarded John was a curious expression. "Are you suggesting we conceal the nature of our professions?"
John said, "I mean, we solve crimes. That's okay to know. In fact, I'm proud of what we do. I wouldn't mind that just…all those grisly little details can wait, you know? 'Til he's older, anyhow."
"Eh," Sherlock sighed. "I can’t put a muzzle on myself for years at a time.”
“I’ll try, John.”
"Do you want a boy?" Sherlock asked off-hand. "You keep saying 'him' all the time."
John pursed his lips. "Hmm. That's not the kind of thing you get to decide. What’s that they say? You just hope for ten fingers and toes."
"Well," Sherlock said, "we can state our preferences, if we have any."
John hesitated. "In an adoption, yes. But I haven't ruled out surrogacy yet. I have an appointment tomorrow to test my sperm count."
Sherlock was quiet. He stared at John a moment.
John's smile drooped. He felt like he was missing something.
Sherlock mopped up the sauce on his plate with his roll, popped it in his mouth. All while quite purposely staring at John.
"Sherlock?" John prodded.
The flat's lights flickered as a distant bolt of lightning crossed the sky. The thunderclap that followed was loud and sharp.
Sherlock swallowed. He put down his fork, propped his elbows on the table and laced his fingers together and looked straight at John. "John, my preference is we adopt."
John stared back at Sherlock. He suspected "preference" didn't really mean "preference," it meant something else, but Sherlock was being deliberately careful to test John's temperature. John put his own elbows on the table, mirroring Sherlock, made a fist in one hand and covered that fist with the other, and pressed both tight hands against his lips. Calmly, he stated, "Okay. My preference is surrogacy."
"I know," Sherlock replied, equally calm, twice as calculating. "Let's discuss our reasons."
John shoulder's sank. So this was how it was going to be. He scowled. "Oh, come on. Don't do this to me."
Sherlock frowned. "Don't do what to you?"
"This is…," John waved his hand back and forth between them. "This is how you treat suspects and witnesses. When you're trying to coax a confession or bleed information. I know you. I'm not your enemy, I'm not your opponent. I don't want to play games."
Sherlock said defensively, "I'm not treating you with aggression or hostility…"
"No, you're being patient and polite," John sulked, "Which isn't how you are. So you're trying to manipulate me. And then you'll pounce."
"Can't I just have a conversation with you?" Sherlock asked.
“I don’t know. Can you?” John said, "I'm sure you have a long list of compelling facts to support your opinion. I don't. I just have one reason. And that one reason is really important to me, regardless of whatever logical argument you can make."
Sherlock took a moment to reflect on that. "Okay." He thought a moment more. "I…apologize for treating you with dignity and respect. I won't do it in the future."
John said impatiently, "Can't I please just have something the way that I want without having to beg you for your cooperation or approval?"
"No," Sherlock said, matter-of-fact. "We're agreeing to make a life-long commitment. This isn't the sort of thing we should blindly jump into without thoroughly discussing…”
John interrupted, "And why do I need to negotiate with you? This was my idea and you're just coming along for the ride. I agreed to let you in but I objected at first because I didn't want you taking over, and here you are trying to tell me what to do and we haven't even moved past the fantasizing stage. I'm not going to be your assistant in everything we do. I'm not going to defer to your judgment, not in my personal life Sherlock, I can't…"
Sherlock said bluntly, "John, it's illegal."
John quieted. His jaw flexed in his cheek.
Sherlock said, "You've been surfing websites for commercial surrogates, women who will agree to carry your baby, or anyone's baby, in exchange for money, which is illegal."
Another very loud thunderclap roared around the flat.
The windows rattled. The floor shook.
The lights flickered. Then the lights went out.
Sherlock and John sat in the dark a moment. Outside, the street lamps were dark as well. The flat was pitch black. The subtle hum of electricity and distant window fans was suddenly absent and everything was unnaturally, eerily quiet and still.
John stood up warily and blindly, holding onto the table as he rose and pushed his chair out from under his bottom with his thighs. "In the UK."
Sherlock said, "John."
"It's supposed to be 'voluntary and altruistic' in America, too, but it's not nearly as closely regulated. The women are only supposed to be reimbursed for their medical costs and 'travel expenses'. But. You know. Who needs one hundred thousand dollars in travel expenses?"
Sherlock folded his arms in the dark. "John."
John padded blindly towards the kitchen. He felt his way with his feet. "You break laws all the time!"
"I break stupid laws," Sherlock hissed. "And the others I observe because they are right, not because they are punitive."
"Laws are laws!"
"Everything I do, I do in the spirit of…"
"The Game," John finished, "The Work, I know."
"…justice," Sherlock finished. "I do it in the spirit of justice, John."
"You call what you do justice?" John asked. "You aren't interested in helping victims. You solve crimes to please yourself." He managed to cross the sitting room without tripping over anything.
Sherlock answered sharply from the sitting room, "I think it's safe to assume that I have at least a rudimentary moral system, even if you refuse to understand it. I also think it's safe to assume I oppose all forms of slavery and human trafficking no matter what 'personal freedom' argument it may cloak itself in. You can't rent a vagina to ejaculate into, I don't see why you should be able to rent a uterus either, or buy an 'x' chromosome. We don't buy, sell, rent or trade human beings, period."
John huffed, "Sherlock, for God's sake. I'm not…kidnapping someone."
"If I were desperate for money," Sherlock said, "I'd be tempted to pawn a lung or a kidney if there were a ready buyer. Once you start thinking about your body, or other people's bodies, as 'goods', it's only a matter of time before you start selling your children to feed yourself. Obviously there's a willing woman in America who thought of it before you."
John stood in silent frustration for a moment. Then he made his way to the counter, felt his way to the second drawer and opened the utility cupboard and felt around. "Where's the torch?" he asked.
"I had to use it. There should be some candles in there."
Use it. Probably melted it. John found the candles. They were long tapers. He felt around some more and found two holders and set them on the counter. "Matches? Tell me we have those?"
Sherlock stood up. "Here, I have a lighter in my pocket." He made his way across the sitting room.
"I thought you got rid of…Have you been smoking, again?" John asked accusingly.
"Yes," Sherlock admitted.
"After I sat with you through all those cold sweats and bought you all those nicotine patches? And listened to your incessant bitching and suffered your violent mood swings and…?"
"I'm sorry," Sherlock said.
"You can't smoke if we have a baby."
"And I don't just mean in the flat," John said firmly. "I don't want it stinking up your clothes, nicotine stains on your fingers…"
"I won't smoke anymore," Sherlock vowed, coming into the kitchen. He felt his way. He reached out and found John's shoulder. "Keep the lighter."
John turned to Sherlock in the pitch blackness. Blindly, he swiped at nothing until he found Sherlock's wrist. They clasped hands and Sherlock placed the lighter in John's palm.
"Is that the only reason?" John asked. He flicked the lighter on and a flame sputtered to life.
"No," Sherlock said, his face appearing in the dim glow. "I also object because surrogacy contracts are unenforceable in the UK. The law favors the mother. You would just be considered a sperm donor until the surrogate mother surrendered full legal rights to you, and she could change her mind at any time and you'd have absolutely no recourse. In fact, the law so favors the surrogate mother that even in cases when another woman's egg is used to conceive, the baby's legal mother still remains the surrogate. And, by the way, if the surrogate is married, her husband is the baby's legal father and it’s his name that appears on the birth certificate.”
John's face was drooping. "You've been reading up on this." He took up another candle and lit it. Then he shut the lighter and pocketed it.
"Think about it," Sherlock cautioned. "If a woman in America is desperate enough to let you pay her to use her egg and her womb to conceive a child, doesn't it stand to chance that she may be also desperate enough to scam you? To refuse to give up custody of her child to you and instead rope you into child support so you can pay her for the next eighteen years? You could end up paying one hundred thousand dollars for her medical care, and pay child support and never have custody of your own son or daughter and you'd never have any legal recourse to either recover your money or see your child."
John rubbed the back of his neck. "Couldn't…I dunno."
"I mean. Yes," John admitted. "I didn't think about all of that. And that might be true of other people. But with us…couldn’t…couldn't you just ask your brother to take care of it for us?"
Sherlock looked at John blankly.
"Why not?" John asked impatiently. "How come you can sneak onto a military base and have free bail for life, but I can't make a custody battle disappear?"
Sherlock asked, "Would you do that, if it came to it? Use my brother's influence to manipulate the courts and the police?"
"Why not? She'd deserve it!"
Sherlock nodded. "Okay. Imagine you went through with it. Imagine you contacted a surrogate, arranged for payment, went through all the medical procedures and followed along anxiously for nine months, just to have her change her mind at the last minute because of greed or nagging guilt or budding attachment to her unborn child and then she refuses to give her baby up to you, a stranger."
"Okay," John said. "What are you getting at?"
Sherlock said, "If it was just you and her in a room, alone, would you take her baby away? By physical force?”
John just stared at Sherlock. "But it wouldn't be like that."
“I’m asking; would you take it?”
“Fight her, you mean? Fight a woman?”
“Fight a woman to take her baby, yes. Using your fists and your feet and your teeth and your nails and anything you could reach. Would you take it, by any means necessary?”
John looked aghast. “Why are you asking me this?”
Sherlock answered, “Because when you decide to take her baby away, you won’t be doing it in private. You would be doing it in public, in a court room, with spectators. Trying to wrestle her baby away, proclaiming you had more right to it than she did because you had more money." He snorted. "You won't win, John. And you might hate yourself when it’s over." He shifted his weight. "Or. Or, I could lie to my brother. I could say…she was deranged and try to convince him to intervene on our behalf. Either we could systematically close off all her legal resources, smear her reputation, rifle through her personal life for any usable dirt, get her fired from her job and otherwise destroy her life. Or, some dozen secret agents could break into her home in the dead of night to assault her, tie her up, and just take her baby away. Because that's kinder to do it all in one go rather than let it drag on for months or years."
Both men were quiet. There was no light in the flat except the candle between them, held delicately in Sherlock's fingers.
John said quietly, "I don't…like it when you do that."
"Do what?" Sherlock asked.
"When you just…obliterate me."
"John, I’m just trying to alert you to the potential…”
John rubbed his temples. "You can't just be gentle, can you? You have to go in for the kill. Everything is cranked up to eleven with you. You can't be a little right. You have to be completely right, and I have to be completely wrong, and an asshole, too."
"I don't think you're…"
"Whatever, Sherlock, okay? You win. I lose." John walked past Sherlock. "Forget the whole thing."
"Hey." Sherlock reached out and grabbed John by the wrist. "Don't."
"Let go," John said threateningly.
"You can't just quit every time we have a disagreement!" Sherlock said. “We wouldn’t get through breakfast.”
Reluctantly, Sherlock let go of John's wrist. John glared at Sherlock a moment more. Then he turned away stiffly and made his way out of the kitchen and towards the stairs.
"John," Sherlock beckoned reluctantly. "There's another reason I haven’t mentioned."
John laughed bitterly, but didn't stop. He went out the front door and started up the stairs.
Sherlock said, "If you're related to the baby and I'm not, you might feel that you'll have more right to the baby than me because it's 'yours' and not 'ours'."
The sound of John's footsteps abruptly stopped.
There was silence on the stair well.
The footsteps reversed course and John appeared at the doorway again, looking…bemused. In the dim candle light, with the deep shadows hugging his face, his expression was exaggerated. "Sherlock. When did it become 'our' baby again? I thought I made it clear that I want to be the father. The only father."
Sherlock stared straight at John. As he inhaled his next breath, his chest puffed up and he rose his chin up. “Ah. Yes. I forgot.” His jaw flexed. “Please, conceive your child with whatever ethically compromised method you see fit.”
John said, "Can I hazard a guess? Was it when you offered to ask Mycroft for a favor in expediting an adoption?"
“I thought you were being rhetorical,” Sherlock snorted bitterly. "John, that is not the reason. Commercial surrogacy…"
John made a motion with his hand, gesturing at himself and Sherlock. "That's how you worked your way in. You were going to help me have a baby by using your personal resources and your family influence, and that's how you planned to make yourself the father, too, by making me dependent on you for the adoption."
Sherlock turned away and went into the kitchen. “Don’t be absurd. I was only offering my help and trying to help you avoid a major catastrophe, not trying to…” He threw up one of his hands. “…whatever you’re suggesting.” He put his candle on the counter and made a frustrated sound, planted his hands on his hips, his head lowered and shook his head. “You’re impossible, John.”
John thought a moment more and said, "No, I’m right. If I have a baby with a surrogate's help rather than yours, it's a threat to your…" He shrugged, at loss for a moment. "This is going to be the wrong word but…it's a threat to your claim."
Sherlock muttered unintelligibly to himself. But, facing away, he nodded twice. John wasn’t sure if it was an affirmation or if Sherlock was gathering his thoughts. He was being so jerky and agitated, it was hard to tell.
John said, being bold, "You really, really want it, don't you?"
Sherlock was just standing with his back to John, looking at the floor, head lowered and hands on his hips, deep in thought.
John asked, "Have you ever had a girl?”
“What?” Sherlock snapped.
“Ever been in love? Ever imagine having a child of your own?”
Sherlock rolled his eyes and turned away again, laughing humorlessly. “You’re insufferable. I’m going to bed.”
John swirled his tongue against his cheek. “Have you ever imagined having a normal life? A normal life with a wife and kids and a house? Vacations and family reunions and Christmas mornings and showing people the pictures in your wallet?”
“Nope,” Sherlock responded, leaving his candle behind and walking down the hallway towards his bedroom, disappearing in the dark. “Not once.”
John stopped before the butcher block and blew out the candle Sherlock left behind and then continued on after Sherlock. “Then why do you want…?”
“Good night, John.”
“Is having a baby with me the only scenario you can possibly see yourself becoming a parent?”
“I said good night, John,”
John stopped at the end of the hallway, cradling his candle. “Sherlock?”
Sherlock didn’t answer.
John just stood there without following. “You jumped at that chance the very moment you sensed an opportunity.”
“I’m tired and I don’t want to talk.” Sherlock called.
“I’m trying to give you a chance to explain yourself,” John said.
Sherlock appeared at the doorway. He was half-looking out of it, his body illuminated by the head-lights of passing cars. “John, I really am tired.”
John nodded. “Okay.”
Sherlock drifted away from the door.
John was about to walk away, but he hesitated. He looked back at Sherlock’s door. “Hey, before you turn in.”
Sherlock didn’t respond.
John said, “I’m open to talking about it in the morning if you are. Maybe I just need some time to think over what you’ve said.”
Again, there was no answer.
“Sherlock?” John called.
“Okay, John. We’ll talk in the morning.”
John said, “Good night then.”
“Good night, John.”
To be continued…
Chapter 3: The temptation to burn the flat down
In which Sherlock and John's little domestic turns into a fist fight
The following morning, Sherlock was the most petulant and childish John had ever seen.
“Sherlock? You said you’d clear the dishes in the morning…what’s that smell?” John sniffed the air. He had a doctor's appointment this morning, so he was showered and dressed already, his hair slightly damp, wearing a rust-colored cardigan and a warm cream button down, the collar peaking out. They were a bit nicer and newer than his usual jumpers. He was sitting in his favorite arm chair with his coffee and his paper. "Sherlock? Are you…?" He sniffed again. "…smoking?"
Sherlock came out of his bedroom, hair limp and tousled, his dressing gown hanging open. He had a lit cigarette in his mouth.
John just stared.
Sherlock waltzed by without so much as a “good morning.” He gathered up their abandoned plates from last night, the silverware, the glasses. He didn’t move towards the kitchen. Instead, he went to the waste bin next to the writing desk and dramatically dumped it all in the garbage. The glasses shattered. At least one plate broke in half. “Dishes are done,” Sherlock said simply, marching back in the direction he’d come.
John jumped up in a huff. “Oh, that’s ridiculous! Sherlock, come back here and clean that up!”
“Do it yourself if you don’t want my help,” Sherlock dismissed, not stopping. He took a deep drag of his cigarette.
John stood rigid, fists tight at his sides. “Sherlock!” he shouted. “I said, come back and clean this mess up!”
Sherlock exhaled, a cloud hanging over his head. “Or what?”
John bristled. “I've had enough! You're a snob and a slob at the same time and I'm not picking up after you like a servant anymore. Come back in here and clean this up or I’m going to break your nose.”
Sherlock suddenly appeared in the kitchen, facing John. He folded his arms expectantly, looked disinterested.
John threatened, “Sherlock, now."
Sherlock taunted, “Come on then. I’m waiting.” He took his cigarette out of his mouth and tapped it, letting the ash drop on the floor.
John stood taut for a moment. Then he threw down his paper on the floor and made a bee-line right for Sherlock.
Sherlock looked momentarily panicked, but he immediately squared himself and waited for John to close the distance between them, which happened in less than three seconds. The detective narrowly dodged John’s first swing. He wasn’t expecting the second.
Mrs. Hudson was resetting her kitchen clock when she heard a terrible “thud” directly above her head. The impact was so forceful that her china rattled. She looked up apprehensively, closing in on herself, waiting for the ceiling to cave in. When it didn’t, she scowled. “Boys!” she shouted angrily at the ceiling. “Stop experimenting up there!”
When Mrs. Hudson started ramming a broom handle against their floor and threatened to kick them out, Sherlock and John went still.
Sherlock was on his back on the kitchen floor, his bottom lip busted and bloody, looking stunned. His left fist was twisted in John’s ripped cardigan, the other was covering John’s trembling, bleeding fist. Sherlock’s cigarette had rolled away and was still smoking somewhere under the butcher block.
John was on top of Sherlock, one knee planted in Sherlock’s groin. It was a dirty but effective pin. John’s hair was wildly mussed now, a spectacular bruise forming around his right cheek. The knuckles on both hands were split.
They didn’t let go of one another, but they didn’t continue fighting either. They breathed raggedly until they were calm. Neither made a move to get up.
“This is going to make me late to my appointment,” John admonished. "I have to change."
“I didn’t pick a fight with you,” Sherlock spat.
“You did. You provoked me on purpose!” John said angrily. “I’m not going to let you passive aggressively punish me because I didn’t let you have your way! Like you always get your way! You can’t have a temper tantrum when you don’t get what you want!”
Sherlock’s grip tightened on John’s shirt and fist. “I don’t have to compromise with you! We don’t have a relationship, we just live together. If you don’t like how I conduct myself, there’s the door! Find another flat, find another job. I don't care.”
In turn, John ground his knee into Sherlock’s stomach sharply. “Oh, so, we’re not friends anymore now? Because of the adoption thing?!”
Sherlock squirmed and pushed. “I forgot all about that already! My world doesn’t revolve around your sentimental whims!”
In a moment, they were clawing and struggling again. “I can’t fucking believe you! You’re completely hung up on this! Why do you have to take over every part of my life?! Why can't I just have something for myself?"
“I am not!” Sherlock roared, fighting to sit up, to get purchase so he could swing his arms. “I don’t care what you do! Just don’t involve me! Don’t ask for my help when it all blows up in your face!”
John was practical and experienced and he’d been trained to fight for his life, and he didn’t give Sherlock any room to budge. "You've sabotaged every relationship I've tried to have since I moved in!" John hissed. "You don't even like it when I visit my sister, or Mike Stamford, or Lestrade! You text me or spy on me or follow me. You're more controlling than your brother!"
"You're delirious! And paranoid!" Sherlock shot back, wrenching and thrashing. "I don't do any of that. And I don't care what you do. Do you understand? I don't care!"
"And now this!" John exclaimed. "You don't even like children. You hate children. You think they're obnoxious and helpless and stupid and fragile but you won't let me have one unless it's your way, on your terms." John suddenly let go of Sherlock and pushed him away, standing up with a snort. "Maybe I will move out. I will find another flat, find another job. And I'll live my life without you." He turned around and stormed away, going out the front door. "Enough of this crap. I'm not a pet."
Sherlock sat up furiously. His face had blood smeared across it. He made an inhuman noise that sounded remarkably like a snarl. "You can't go! I won't let you!" He tried to gather his long legs under him, but he was dizzy and he reached up to grasp the butcher's block for support. "John! Don't you dare go out that door!" He touched his bottom lip softly and when he pulled his hand away, he was livid to find it bloody. "JOHN!" As he tried to lift himself up, the butcher's block tumbled over and he fell back down on his behind. The microscope and chemistry tray toppled over, as well as a wooden block filled with cutlery. Glass shattered around Sherlock, and he quickly covered his face and head with his hands. He heard the metal knives clatter around him, one just barely grazing him as it fell. He opened his eyes and looked around as the spectacular mess he had made.
John shouted from upstairs, "What the hell was that?!"
Sherlock blinked, panting. He had narrowly escaped being stabbed by any of the falling knives. He looked at them scattered around him.
John shouted again, "Sherlock? Are you alright?"
Sherlock stilled. He looked down at a serrated knife laying next to his thigh, with its sharp, sharp tip that could very easily have been lodged in his body somewhere. He picked it up gingerly and looked at it.
John's hurried footsteps came rushing down the second floor.
I could stab myself in the leg and let John rush me to the hospital, Sherlock thought, and then he won't go.
I could slice a shallow cut across my palm, enough for stitches, and let John sew me up. I could tell him how sorry I am and he'll forgive me and maybe we'll be fine.
But John was standing in front of Sherlock already. He was looking down at Sherlock, confused and cautious. "Sherlock? Are you alright?"
Sherlock looked up at John in bewilderment, still holding the knife in his hand. "I fell," he said simply, dumbly. "It almost cut me."
John shook his head, irritated but relieved. "Jesus. What the hell did you do?" He stepped carefully over the broken glass. "Don't get up or you'll cut your feet. Where are your slippers?"
Sherlock pressed the pad of his thumb against the blade of the knife he held. "I don't hate children," he muttered.
"Uh-huh." Behind him, John took the broom from the corner of the kitchen and began to sweep.
Sherlock said, "They're just difficult. And other people's children are horrible because they take such offense for how you speak to their child and how you treat their child. Like, God forbid they should ever be exposed to anything. I would like your child, I think. I wouldn't mind. In fact, I think I would like it very much--helping a little thing become an actual worth-while adult."
John was gathering the sharp shards of glass and moving them away from Sherlock.
Sherlock looked up. "John."
"It's because of this!" John snapped suddenly, gesturing to the mess that surrounded them. "It's because of all of this, this disaster that is our daily life. Forget the cases and the criminals and the murders. This is what I can't stand about you. Your mood swings and your general disregard for tidiness and hygiene and your inability to understand why body parts shouldn't share the same shelf space as the food we eat, your inability to compromise, your entitled attitude, your laziness. You're not a good man and you don't what it takes to be a good father or a good role model, so, no, I don't want you." He stared angrily at Sherlock. "I don't want you. So stop acting like I owe…this to you. I don't owe anything to you, you're not entitled to be part of my life." He breathed. "Not only do I not want you to be a co-parent with me…I don't want you…to be around a baby. I think you'd be a negative influence."
Sherlock said, "You aren't serious."
"I am," John declared. "If I go through with this, I'm moving out."
"Oh." Sherlock deflated.
John nodded stiffly and finished sweeping. He used a dust bin to gather the glass shards and deposited them in the garbage. Then he put the broom back in the corner and went out of the kitchen. "I'm off to my appointment. Try not to burn the place down before I get back."
The temptation to burn the flat down was irresistible.
He had two cigarettes in his mouth simultaneously. He sucked on them like he needed them to breathe.
Sherlock sat Indian-style on the sitting room floor with a box of matches, lighting them one at a time and throwing them to the floor, letting them be snuffed out by the air as they fell. He wasn't deliberately letting them land on anything combustible, but the carpet smelled a bit, so it was anyone's guess at this point if what had once spilled there was flammable or not.
"Goddamn it," he huffed. "Goddamn it." He dropped a match and it didn't smolder out immediately. He watched with interest as the flame lazily burned the wood. Then it fizzled and died and Sherlock curled his lip in disgust. "Goddamn it, John Watson. Fuck you. Fuck you." He lit another match and dropped it with the rest. Then he took both cigarettes out of his mouth and crushed them in the pile on the floor and stood up, kicking the pile of ash with his bare foot and watching it scatter in every direction. He shouted angrily at the empty sitting room, "I wouldn't stab myself for you over anything, you ungrateful prick!" He saw the skull on the mantel. Savagely, he lunged for it and picked it up like a bowling ball, his fingers curling into the eye sockets, and he turned in one swift motion and hurled it at one of the windows. The skull shattered the glass easily and went flying and disappeared. Outside, he heard the loud "crunch" of the impact on the street and a car horn and screeching tires.
Sherlock spun around, shaking, running his hands through his messy hair. His thoughts were racing out of control and he couldn't isolate a single idea long enough to hold on. He caught his own wild reflection in the mirror. "I wouldn't!" he shouted accusingly at himself. "I wouldn't ever…! Well, how do you explain it then, hm?! All these… these…primal…instinctive urges…this desire to procreate…all being tickled and gratified by this artificial stimulus? You find a way to turn it off!" He went to their kitchen table and picked up one of the chair and flung it at the mirror in a rage. The chair didn't quite make it to the fire place and it landed in the middle of the sitting room. "It wasn't my idea in the first place!"
All the shouting and throwing eventually drained Sherlock completely down to the point where he just sank to the floor. He lay there miserable for a few minutes before he rolled over onto his belly and pushed himself onto his hands and knees and finally up into a sitting position. He looked around the destroyed flat. "Goddamn it." He got up and went about cleaning his mess.
He put the furniture back, gathered up the papers, swept the floor. Then he tutted at the broken window and just lowered the blinds to hide it.
With a sigh and slumped shoulders, Sherlock headed for the wash room to take a shower, muttering "Goddamn it, goddamn it," the whole way.
To be continued…
Chapter 4: The Perfect Male Speciman
In which John's manhood is brought into question and Sherlock proves his own.
Sherlock thought there might be something to John’s accusation about mood swings.
He stood naked in the shower, letting the hot, hot water sluice down his body. He teetered between despair, rage and giddy excitement.
Can I hazard a guess? Was it when you offered to ask Mycroft for a favor in expediting an adoption? That's how you were planning to work your way in. You were going to help me have a baby by using your personal resources and your family influence, and that's how you planned to make yourself the father, too, by making me dependent on you for the adoption. If I have a baby with a surrogate's help rather than yours, it's a threat to your…This is going to be the wrong word but…it's a threat to your claim .
Sherlock was exacerbated. The most infuriating part was that all of that would have been terribly clever if he’d done any of it intentionally. But he hadn’t. He’d been in auto-pilot ever since John uttered the words ‘little ones’. And it all might have worked out beautifully if Sherlock had bothered to put any actual thought into it. It could have been elegant. Seamless! And they could be bringing home a baby tomorrow if Sherlock hadn’t utterly cocked it up! Leave it to Sherlock Holmes to imagine a completely brilliant, flawless plot unconsciously and try to execute it without exercising a single brain cell.
Sherlock wanted to rip his hair out.
“Goddamn it, John.” He soaped up his chest, his armpits, agitated, muttering to himself. “Your baby. Our baby. My baby. Jesus.” His soaping slowed. He stopped. He just stood silently under the water.
His soapy arm darted out of the shower and he scooped up his mobile from the sink basin. His fingers soaking, water dribbling across the screen, he quickly dialed and sent; I’m sorry. Call me. Then he tossed his phone into his pile of clothes and quickly resumed his shower.
When his skin was sufficiently pink, he rinsed the soap away and came out of the shower, his hair wet and dripping and flat against his scalp. He reached out blindly for a towel, not checking if it was his or John’s. John might complain later if Sherlock chose the wrong one, but Sherlock didn’t care. Towels were towels and he didn’t see what was so revoltingly unhygienic about sharing. The idea about bathing is that you were supposed to be clean afterwards. So what was a little water on fabric? In the meantime, John frequently picked off Sherlock’s plate, even things that Sherlock had half-eaten, and it made Sherlock want to run screaming for the hills.
With John’s towel wrapped around his narrow waist, Sherlock checked his mobile on the sink basin. Still no answer from John. Where are you? Sherlock texted again. Bring back coffee.
Then Sherlock shaved. He barely needed it, so he made quick work of it. He combed his hair, patted it dry, tossing his head dramatically until his curls began to fall in a way that pleased him. He crouched under the sink and pulled out a bottle of fine hair gel, spritzed his comb and ran it through his hair again, parting it the way he preferred. From here, his locks would take care of themselves. He liked looking attractive and it pleased him that his routine was relatively effortless.
He checked the phone again. Nothing. He dialed John again: Forget the coffee. Come home and we’ll get breakfast. Anywhere you want to go. Pancakes. Bacon. Come home right now.
Sherlock then returned to his bedroom and found a reliable suit, put it on and looked at himself in the mirror, nodding with approval. He felt fresh and clean and smart and ready.
Any other day, this would mean he had a case on the brain. But he didn’t.
He had John Watson on the brain.
Infuriating, uncompromising, idiotic, ridiculous John Watson and his stupid sperm and his stupid babies, chubby, fat, stinking, noisy, horrible, perfect babies.
John Watson, becoming a father for the first time. Thinking he was completely prepared to do it by himself, do it without Sherlock. Until the first wailing, sleepless night. Until he tried to put together a crib on his own. Until he had to warm a bottle, only half-awake. Until he needed someone else and found himself horribly, horribly alone. But then Sherlock would be there. For first steps and first words, Sherlock would be there. For first homework assignments and science projects and research papers, Sherlock would be there. For skinned knees and school yard bullies, for everything.
Sherlock’s whole being sang: Mine, mine, mine!
He was giddy with filthy and forbidden implications of it all.
If he was so inclined, he could probably map out all the physiological and psychological sweet spots this artificial situation was tickling in himself, all those procreation instincts being triggered and gratified, and all without the involvement of sex. Sherlock didn’t need to pass down his own genetic material. He was going to use John’s. John Watson was going to have a baby, and Sherlock was determined to arm that baby with his own wit and intellect and all the advantages of a Holmes. Maybe he could convince John to let them hyphenate the baby’s last name. Holmes-Watson. Watson-Holmes.
He flopped down on his own un-made bed and dialed his phone again: Come home and we’ll talk about surrogacy. Come home. I’m sorry.
It was starting to worry him that John hadn’t answered a text in over an hour.
“Joooohhhhn,” Sherlock groaned out loud to nothing. He looked over at the skull to complain, then realized he’d hurled it out the window. He bristled. He’d had that skull for years. “Goddamn it, John. Look what you made me do.”
Sherlock busied himself him flat hunting on-line. “Three bedrooms. Three bedrooms.” He gave up quickly, shutting his laptop in disgust. He’d become too accustomed to Mrs. Hudson’s generous deal. He couldn’t believe the cost of a three bedroom flat in London!
He flopped down on the sofa dejectedly, steepeling his fingers against his mouth, deep in thought.
What were the odds of convincing Mycroft to surrender their parents country estate? After all, Mycroft had a flat in the city and only went to the old house in the summer and sometimes on the holidays.
Sherlock rolled over with a groan, smothering his face with the union jack pillow. No. He hated that house. He refused to live there.
He imagined Mycroft’s face when Sherlock finally told him that he was going to be a father. Mycroft’s horrified face.
Sherlock’s toes curled. He squeezed the union jack pillow against his face and stifled his own keen. “Oh yes,” he purred to himself, “Yes, of course, our child is brilliant. He is our child, after all.” He tossed the pillow aside and rocked up into a sitting position, jumped up front he couch and sauntered across the sitting room. He was feeling so good, he thought he might even procure his own coffee. Maybe he would even get coffee…for John. Ah, yes. He would provide for John. And receive praise for his efforts. He could see how fatherhood could coax out his inner Neanderthal. He’d already started cooking to prove his measure, and he’d done so automatically, without thinking. Before long, he imagined he’d be building stuff in a manly fashion. He started laughing, imagining himself dragging lumber to the roof, both John and Mrs. Hudson looking on in horror.
Sherlock floated out the front door and went down the stairs, skipped out the front door. He twirled and went into Speedy’s, swinging open the door dramatically and letting it shut behind him like he was bursting into the opening of a musical. “Ah, Mr. Chatterjee,” Sherlock greeted with a smile when he saw the portly, greasy shop keeper.
“You!” Chatterjee thundered from the kitchen, darting up to the counter. “How could you show your scheming face down here again?!”
Sherlock draped himself over the counter. “Coffee, please,” he asked pleasantly. “Two coffees, actually.”
Chatterjee waggled his crooked, fat finger threateningly in Sherlock’s face. “Martha is threatening to revoke my lease at the end of the year! Because of your meddling! How did you find out about my wife?! And what business is it of yours?”
“Oh, hush,” Sherlock soothed. “Mrs. Hudson will have a new boyfriend by the end of the year, and by that time she’ll forget all about kicking you out.” Sherlock hooked his pinky playfully around Chatterjee’s accusing finger. “But I’ll tell you what: you let me talk to her. I bet I can smooth it all over.”
Chatterjee blinked. “What?”
Sherlock squeezed Chatterjee’s finger and wiggled. “Pinky swear.” He stood up smiling. “How about that coffee?”
Chatterjee smoothed his plump hands down his stained apron and snorted suspiciously. “You’re in a good mood. What’s wrong with you?”
“Wrong? I am at the top of my game in the prime of my life, about to have the best cup of coffee in the best city in the world,” Sherlock declared. “The only thing that can make my day better is a murder. Two sugars in the first coffee, and the other is black. Thank you.”
Later, as Sherlock went back in the front door, he met Mrs. Hudson at the foot of the stairs. “Oh, Sherlock,” she said in the most despondent way.
But she was always fretting about something and Sherlock hardly took notice. He went right up to Mrs. Hudson, two coffees in his hands, and leaned in to plant a loud kiss right on Mrs. Hudson’s hairline. “Mrs. Hudson,” he implored lovingly, “How could you think of kicking Mr. Chatterjee out? He’s a miserable curmudgeon of a human being who, due to his cirrhosis, probably only has five years left to live, at best. Why don’t you let him stay? The stress of moving out will probably kill him and just think of the insurance claims and paperwork that will make for you! Let him deteriorate naturally. We can dance on his grave once he’s gone. What do you say?”
Mrs. Hudson said seriously, “Sherlock, John’s upstairs and he’s in a bad way.”
Sherlock’s smile drooped immediately. “What happened?”
Mrs. Hudson placed her hand gingerly on Sherlock’s arm, her mouth trembling. “Sherlock, have you been keeping something from me?”
Sherlock did a quick mental catalogue. Yes, many things. “Like what?”
“John said he’d been at the hospital. He said…and…oh, Sherlock, is John dying?”
Sherlock said earnestly, “Dying? John’s not dying. Why do you think that?”
“He said he’d been to the hospital to have tests run and he’d gotten some bad news,” Mrs. Hudson whimpered. “He was white as a sheet. He looked…”
Sherlock’s shoulders sank. Sperm count. Right. Genius detective, John told you last night he was getting tested. This Neanderthal preoccupation is no good, its interfering with your basic memory and reasoning. “Mrs. Hudson, I don’t think it’s anything as serious as you think. But I better go check on John.”
Mrs. Hudson patted Sherlock’s arm. “If I can do anything…”
As Sherlock climbed up the stairs, “Just a little privacy for now.” He crested the landing, feeling a little numb. He saw their door was ajar. He nudged it open with his elbow, careful not the spill the coffee. “John?” he called cautiously “John?”
John’s green rain coat wasn’t on the hook.
Sherlock went inside. He took a few steps into the sitting room and then saw John curled up on the couch, laying on his side, looking blankly ahead. He still had his parka on, despite the heat that had already flooded the flat.
Sherlock cocked his head, taking in John’s body language. Not good.
He went into the sitting room and stood before John, who didn’t acknowledge him. “John,” Sherlock said. He held out his coffee cups. “I got coffee. For you.”
John didn’t answer.
“No sugar, no cream, just how you like it. And I didn’t poison or drug it.” Sherlock sat down on the coffee table, right in John’s line of sight. He put the coffees down beside himself and leaned down until he was almost nose-to-nose with John. “It’s hot, John, and the rain stopped hours ago. You don’t need that coat.”
“You’re dressed and showered already. Tell me you have a case?” John asked quietly.
“Anything. Fraud. Kidnapping. Arson.”
“John, what happened at the hospital? Are you sterile?”
“A murder would be nice,” John said absently. His eyes were rimmed red. He’d been crying somewhere. Probably why he’d taken his time coming back. He’d tried to get it all out of his system at once so he could manage the ride back home without embarrassing himself by crying on the tube or in a cab. Now that he was home, his defenses were shutting down.
Sherlock said kindly, “John. John, I’m sorry. Are they sure? Many causes of male sterility can be reversed by simple behavioral modifications or surgery…”
“Let’s call Lestrade. Let’s call Gregson,” John mumbled. “I need something to do.”
Sherlock sat up, feeling determined. “You should seek a second opinion. And a third and a fourth and truly exhaust all avenues. And then, if all else fails, we can adopt. You aren’t so against adoption, are you?”
“Sherlock. Help me.”
Sherlock grew still.
John looked completely crushed.
Sherlock felt his chest tighten. John was in pain. And Sherlock, as the provider, had a duty to fix it. But he had no idea how. Nonetheless, the obligation remained. And it wasn’t like any other obligation Sherlock had ever been given. No one had forced this responsibility on Sherlock. It was simply his.
Sherlock leapt up and paced around the room in a panic.
Mine, mine, mine.
He dug his phone out of his pocket and dialed Lestrade’s number.
“Lestrade,” came the rushed answer.
“I need a case right away, it’s an emergency,” Sherlock whispered, looking over his shoulder at John.
Lestrade hesitated on the phone. “Sherlock? Is that you?”
“Anything,” Sherlock plead.
“Sherlock, I’m not a travel agent. I can’t book you a crime.”
Sherlock groaned, ducking into the kitchen. “Come on. Tell me that London chose this day of all days to be perfectly civilized.”
“Despite the rumors about the London crime rate, a murder isn’t committed everyday. I got nothing on.”
Sherlock walked in circles around the butcher block. “What about crimes that aren’t murders?”
“Sherlock, I’m kinda busy.”
Sherlock’s face lit up. “With what? With what?”
“With a staff meeting, you twit.” The phone grew muffled for a moment. “Everybody say ‘hi’ to Sherlock.” Lestrade was followed by a chorus of familiar voices from the homicide team: “Piss off.” “Fuck you, freak.” “We’re trying to work!”
Sherlock shut his phone indignantly. “Goddamn it.” He folded his arms over his head. He paced and thought. He spotted John’s laptop on the leather arm chair. Sherlock practically dove for it. He opened it and powered it on, coaxing it anxiously, “Come on, come on.” In a few minutes, he had loaded The Science of Deduction and he eagerly scrolled his private messages for potential clients.
“Here’s one,” Sherlock announced immediately. “Cheating spouse.”
John ever-so-weakly lifted his head off the sofa. “I thought you didn’t do domestic cases. Too boring.”
“Today, I’ll make an exception,” Sherlock said. He went to John and held out his hand. “Up, up! We have work to do. Let’s go ruin some marriages.”
Sherlock’s most frequent request from clients were cheating spouse inquiries. As a rule, Sherlock never took these cases. One, because adultery wasn’t a crime so there was never a resolution. Also, because it was always so obvious. And it was so common that nobody cared about it except the involved parties. And it was thankless, miserable work. If Sherlock solved the “mystery” it generally left his clients disappointed and heartbroken. Nobody won. And people were really reluctant to pay to have their lives destroyed, no matter how anxious they seemed to want the truth in the beginning.
Sherlock, with John at his side, solved six such cases that afternoon.
He made it a game to keep John occupied. Sherlock made all the observations and then, ignoring the complaining wife or husband, tried to wheedle John into making the deductions. Sherlock tried to make it obvious and straight forward, but he wanted John engaged, he wanted John focused on anything but himself.
John obediently played along, but he looked just as depressed after six cases as he had before they’d started. It didn’t help that in four of the six homes they had visited, there had been children in the family. In some cases, very young children. When the adults started screaming, the children would begin wailing. Sherlock knew his plan had back fired. John had started looking at those wailing little babies like he was ready to kidnap them and take them away to better lives. Finally, Sherlock gave up.
At the end of the day, hot, exhausted and irritable, Sherlock and John found themselves in a deli, standing in a line to buy cold cuts and cheese. It was too hot to cook. So they would have sandwiches tonight. If they were feeling really ambitious, they would have a side of crisps. The line was long. Apparently, most of the neighborhood had similar ideas for dinner. But John and Sherlock got in line anyway, too tired to think of an alternative. Besides, the shop was air conditioned. They stood in line, eyes closed, basking in the cool air.
But two customers ahead of them was a girl wearing sparkly denim shorts with a child in tow, a small toddler, and the toddler suddenly started throwing a loud temper tantrum. Within minutes, his little pink face was swollen and wet. He hung from the girl’s wrist, wrenching his arm back and forth. The girl pointedly ignored him, and carried on with her order, like she had no idea what her child was doing, even as the other patrons suffered through the ear-splitting crying. Eventually, the child managed to escape the girl’s grasp and threw himself on the floor, kicking and screaming. The girl stepped over her son, picked up her order calmly. Almost as an afterthought, she bent down and yanked him back up by his upper arm, eliciting a shock yelp form the child, who’s crying now ratcheted into panicked shrieking. She dragged him out of the deli and once the door shut behind her, the store fell into an eerie silence and everyone looked relieved.
Sherlock and John had watched without comment.
They placed an orders and left with bread, peppercorn turkey, smoked ham and swiss cheese and two bags of crisps. As they walked side by side in the fading dusk with grumbling stomachs, John finally said, “Do you suppose she was his mother?”
“Likely,” Sherlock answered. He knew she was, from a hundred little observations and deductions, but this conversation was going to be rhetorical, so he suspected.
“She didn’t look a day over sixteen,” John muttered.
“It’s not uncommon anymore, John.”
John said, “It’s not fair.”
Sherlock didn’t know how to respond to that. He felt the same way.
“It’s not fair,” John said, “that there are so many people in the whole who have children who….shouldn’t even be trusted with taking care of animals.” He shook his head. “Like all those couples today. Selfish, self-centered brats. Adults who never grew up, adults who never grasped concepts like responsibility. Cheating on each other like it’s nothing, and they have children all mixed up in it. None of those kids have any chance. Now I know why the world is filled with idiots. It’s generational.”
Sherlock said, “John, it’s a drama as old as human kind. If you spend your days lamenting the stupidity of human kind, you’ll end up like me. Let it go. You’ll have your opportunity.”
John grew quiet again.
They turned onto Baker Street. The air was damp and Sherlock knew it was probably going to thunderstorm again tonight. For the moment, though, the dark clouds were far in the distance.
“Are you going to be okay?” Sherlock asked.
“You know that thing you do?” John said. “The one where you know what’s wrong by deducing it? Do that. Do that and don’t make me say it all out loud or I’ll throw up.”
Sherlock nodded mutely and looked straight ahead.
Despite himself, John started talking again, “I can’t do what a man’s supposed to do. Before I was just unhappy that I didn’t have any kids. Now I’ll never have any. Guess it’s good I don’t have a wife, right? I don’t have anyone to break the bad news to.”
“John,” Sherlock sighed. “You are a perfect male specimen. This isn’t a reflection of your manhood.”
“Perfect, Sherlock? Really? Right.”
“Well, let’s just put aside the sterility for a moment. Remember, I’m a half-foot shorter than most adults on the planet.”
“Which will probably give you some sort of advantage in the coming Apocalypse,” Sherlock quipped. “John, you are everything a man should be. You are strong, determined, reliable and clever, all traits that I admire. What’s more, you’re a patriot, a veteran. You should be very proud. I know I am.”
John snorted, “Sherlock, you don’t care about any of that.”
Sherlock said defensively, “You worked very hard to become a doctor and rather than start a practice here at home, you went to war and exposed yourself to danger for no other reason than to support your country. It’s nothing I ever would have done myself. Your courage is startling and your selflessness remarkable. You’re taller than me by miles. I’m a much smaller man by comparison.”
John was completely shocked. His face was pink. “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me. And you managed it without working in a single insult.” He paused. “You don’t really mean it, do you?”
Sherlock frowned. Mine, mine, mine. “I absolutely mean it.”
“You went to the desert and fought in a war most people don’t care about or even think about. And I’ve never thanked you. I bet most people haven’t. And you just take it as a matter of course. And all you get in return is a little pension from the military and with that, you are satisfied. You don’t expect anything, not even recognition, for what you’ve done. And here you are now, saying that you aren’t a man because of some little test in a doctor’s office, and all the while you are the best man I know.”
They walked a little farther. John said quietly, “You’re welcome.”
“Yes,” Sherlock said genuinely. “Thank you. Thank you.”
They got to the front door of 221b and Sherlock went up the stairs first, digging in his pockets for his keys. As he turned the lock, John’s nudged Sherlock’s elbow. Sherlock looked over his shoulder at John. “What?”
John was looking pointedly at the ground. “Thank you for giving a damn about me.”
Sherlock smiled. “Thank you for giving a damn about me.” He patted John’s arm.
John unexpectedly leaned into Sherlock’s arm and pressed his forehead against Sherlock’s shoulder, hooking an arm around Sherlock’s waist and giving a soft squeeze.
Sherlock wasn’t expecting to be hugged. Reflexively, own arm encircled John’s shoulder. He wasn’t sure what to do after that. John had given him a squeeze, so Sherlock gave John a squeeze back. Then he waited to be released.
But John didn’t. He just continued to hang on limply.
How long was this supposed to go on? Sherlock swallowed, not wanting to do the wrong thing, either socially or for the psyche of his mourning flat mate. He wanted it to be over immediately. But he felt like before there could be denouement, there ought to be a proper climax. Maybe that would signify the end. So Sherlock put both arms around John and squeezed firmly, tucking John’s face into his throat. It was both revolting and…strangely…wonderful. It pleased Sherlock that the crown of John’s head fit nicely below his chin. John was the perfect height. He didn’t know what to do with his hands. As his palms smoothed over John’s back, he felt like he was feeling too much of John. Like all that touching should be wrong. It wasn’t just fabric under his skin, it was John. John’s flesh and John’s muscles and John’s tendons and cartilage and bone, he was feeling it all, shoulder blades and vertebrae. Yet, he couldn’t help but making circles against John’s back. John was warm.
But then John hiccupped. Sherlock knew immediately what that meant. Before he could self-censor, he started thinking out loud, “No, don’t start crying here on the stoop. All I did was tell you I like you, which you knew before. All I want is for you to feel better. I like you. I like you. Stop that.” Then Sherlock immediately quieted, realizing he’d said all that out loud.
Then John was laughing and he pulled back and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. “I’m sorry.”
Ever the provider now, Sherlock dug in his pockets for a napkin from the deli and handed it to John, who took it sheepishly and blew his nose on it before he became too unsightly.
“Come inside, John,” Sherlock beckoned, nudging open their front door.
To be continued…
Chapter 5: Circles Are Better
In which Sherlock succumbs to instinct and logic is ignored.
This took me four months to write and I struggled with every word. I worked on this every weekend, every night after work, and was never, ever satisfied. Even now, I'm not entirely satisfied, but I must move on.
The next day, late in the afternoon, John’s mobile rang somewhere in the flat.
Sherlock was in the kitchen at that moment. He was wearing an apron, rubber gloves up to the elbow and a pair of welding goggles.
He had just taken a boiling experiment out of the oven which he gripped carefully between two oven mitts, slowly standing, watching the contents intently, not wanting to spill any of the contents.
But when John’s phone rang, Sherlock immediately dropped everything, literally. He stood up too fast in surprise, lost his grip on the oven mitts, and in turn, the kettle.
He was standing in front of the kitchen table at that exact moment, luckily, and the boiling pot landed on it rather than on Sherlock’s foot. The boiling, rank, oily–yellow experiment splattered all over Sherlock’s face.
“S-shit!” Sherlock sputtered, feeling his skin burning where oil clung to his flesh. He peeled off his gloves, his goggles, and threw them both to the floor. For a moment, he was in so much pain, he couldn’t think or move.
Suddenly, John’s bedroom door opened upstairs. “You okay? Sherlock? What’s wrong?”
“F-fine! Everything’s fine!” Sherlock called back.
The table was smoking from the hot kettle sitting on the bare bamboo surface. Sherlock’s face was burning. He twirled back and forth, unsure of which to tend to first.
The phone rang again.
Sherlock left the pot on the block, sizzling and smoking and hissing away, and he scrambled to the sink, yanked the faucet handle on full force, grabbed the spray nozzle and pointed it at his face. It splashed water on his face, cooling his burns and rinsing away the oil. “God,” he whimpered. He generously soaked himself. Once the cold water soothed him, he slinked away from the sink, dripping. He blinked in awe of his own stupidity, at his mess.
The phone rang again.
The water had poured down his neck, down his chest, into his purple shirt (the nice one, damn) which now pooched above his belt, seeping and dribbling through the fabric, soaking his apron, trousers and pants, all the way down to his socks.
He looked over his shoulder and saw how much the table was smoking. There was so much white smoke curling around the bottom of the pot, he thought it might ignite at any second.
“No, no, no!” He quickly tried to pick up the pot, forgetting the oven mitts. Sherlock’s fingers began curling around the metal pot handles and then he suddenly felt the intense breath of heat lick his bare skin. He flinched and backed away sharply before he gripped any tighter. “Jesus Christ, what is wrong with me?” Cursing, he grabbed the oven mitts from the counter, picked up the kettle and moved it to the stove top with a hiss. He winced at the black ring in the wood. Yeah, he was definitely buying a new one.
The phone rang again.
The experiment was ruined, the table was ruined, his shirt was ruined. His face was ruined. Sherlock touched his painful burns with his fingertips. There were pronounced dimples in his skin. He imagined he looked like quite the idiot and would look that way for quite some time. Fun. He wondered how it went with the bruise on his cheek and the scab on his bottom lip from where John punched him.
The phone rang again. Again.
Sherlock’s temper erupted furiously. “John, you could help by getting your goddamn phone!?”
Sherlock’s thunderous voice had made things rattle on the tabletops. In its wake, the flat felt eerily silent between rings. His anger immediately snuffed itself out and he was acutely embarrassed for shouting like a child.
The phone rang again.
The pattering of feet descending the stairs; John emerged from the hallway. He didn’t look at Sherlock. His jaw was set, his eyes glaring. His eyelids were rimmed red. Ah. That was what he’d been doing alone upstairs.
John walked across the sitting room and disappeared from Sherlock’s line of sight.
“John,” Sherlock called regretfully. He was ignored.
The phone stopped ringing. “This is John Watson.” Pause. “Yes. You can tell me this way, I prefer it.” Then he was quiet for a long time.
With a sigh, Sherlock went to the threshold of the kitchen and waited glumly, feeling boorish. As he walked, water ‘squished’ in his socks.
John was sitting at the sofa, looking lost and alone. “No. That’s not necessary. I…I decline any further examinations. Thank you.” Then John closed his phone with finality.
Sherlock said, “John? John, I’m sorry for yelling. I...did something stupid and my experiment…and I’m sorry.”
John placed his phone on the coffee table. “Actually, I wasn’t thinking about you at all just now.” He looked at Sherlock curiously. He frowned. “What happened to you?”
“Oh. Um.” He took a step into the sitting room. “Little…explosion. Nothing life threatening.” He turned left and right to show John, hoping to elicit a laugh or a smile. “How bad is it?”
John cautioned seriously, “You’re…spotty. You have spots. You should put ice on your face.”
Sherlock sighed. Even his own untimely humiliation couldn’t lift John’s spirits. If it would cheer John up just a little, Sherlock would shave his head bald. “So. Um. Your phone call. Did they determine the cause of…?”
“Non-obstructive azoospermia,” John said simply, emotionlessly.
“Forgive me. Which means…?”
John’s jaw tensed. “Um. It’s…there’s no blockage. There’s no problem with semen production but there’s zero sperm count. It’s a genetic abnormality.”
“Can they do anything for it? Surgery or…?”
Sherlock leaned against the door jam, arms folded. “Zero sperm?”
“Yes. Zero, Sherlock,” John said, looking smacked for having to spell it all out. “The only thing they’re unsure of is whether it’s partial or total testicular failure. Nonetheless, even if there was trace amounts of sperm, it’s not enough to….um, the result is the same. It’s not enough to fertilize an egg.” John swung his legs over the couch and stood up. “So. That’s that.”
“What do you want to do now?”
“Ummm,” John said lightly, bitterly, swinging his arms in agitation, like punching something or someone wasn’t out of the question. “Uh. Nothing.” He smiled at Sherlock, an empty, hostile smile. “I don’t think I want to do anything.” With that, he breezed by.
Sherlock stepped aside to give John room.
John went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door and crouched, looking inside, and when he emerged he had a beer bottle in his hand. He unscrewed the cap, tossed it across the room. It 'plinked!' in the sink and John took a hearty drink. After that, he gestured at Sherlock with the open bottle. “And I’ll let you know when I’m done with nothing. Until then, your live-in PA, blogger, marketer, public relations manager, medical examiner and maid is on leave. That okay with you?”
Sherlock frowned. He wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of John adding alcohol to his black mood. And alcoholism ran in John’s family, not that Sherlock had ever observed any addictive tendencies in John, but best to stop problems before they started. “I understand you’re upset. But don’t you think that having something to do will help you move past it?” He gestured back to the oven. “I’m working on this experiment. If it pans out the way I think it will, we might have a tidy investigation on our hands, if a bit belated. It’s not grade-A, premeditated murder I’m afraid. Smacks of failed corporate oversight, but it’s something.”
John took another drink. “Not ready to move past it right this minute. Besides,” and then he waggled his bottle, “I have something to do, thank you.” He sat down at the kitchen table. He looked down and scowled at the scorch mark. “Did you burn this table just now?” He looked up at Sherlock. “Did you just..?”
Sherlock said awkwardly, “Um. Yeah. The experiment.”
John shrugged in defeat. “Eh. Goes with the rest of this hole. There isn’t a piece of furniture or a wall in the whole flat you haven’t shot or otherwise ruined or...oh, which reminds me…” He took another drink then gestured towards the sitting room. “I see you broke a window, too."
Sherlock opened his mouth with the intent on defending himself, but in retrospect, there wasn’t anything defensible about chucking the skull through the window. He was even angry at himself for doing it. He continued to deflate. “Yes. Sorry.” He wasn’t sure why he was apologizing. Half the flat was his, technically, and he ought to be able to do what he liked with his portion and there was another whole window untouched next to it. But he wilted under John’s heated anger. “I’m sorry,” he said again, feeling, for once, genuinely chastised. All he wanted was for John to feel better and here he was, making things worse.
“I’m used to it,” John grunted petulantly. “Get it replaced before the weather turns cold?”
Sherlock nodded mutely.
John took another drink. He gulped loudly.
Sherlock hated the look of John drinking alone. It was miserable. His angry, hate-filled expression aged him ten years. And Sherlock had the sudden sense if did nothing to intervene now, right now, this would be John in ten years; drunk and alone and aching from regret, feeling cheated by life.
So Sherlock turned off the oven, slipped out of his apron and went to the fridge and opened the door and crouched down. When he emerged, he had a beer of his own.
John cocked his head curiously.
Sherlock unscrewed the cap of his bottle and took a sip. He winced. He looked over his shoulder at John for approval.
“What are you doing?” John asked, suspicious and accusing.
Sherlock struggled to swallow. “Drinking with you."
John just looked blank a moment. "Why? You don’t even like beer."
Sherlock rushed to take another gulp. “It's what mates do."
John blinked. Then he shook his head and pulled the stool out beside him and patted the seat, rewarding Sherlock with a half-smile. “Yeah, okay. Sit. Mate.”
Sherlock took the seat and held up his bottle to his friend. John ‘clinked’ his bottle with Sherlock. “To you, John Watson.”
John chuckled. “Good impression, Sherlock. Good impression of a normal person.” He smiled warmly.
Sherlock immediately decided he liked John drinking with a mate and looking happy infinitely more than seeing John drinking alone. And so, they both drank. John drank generously and Sherlock sipped conservatively.
After a few minutes, John looked at Sherlock wryly. “Shit!” he exclaimed.
“Do you know how much money I could have saved on condoms?”
Sherlock was stunned. Then he started laughing. “Jesus Christ. Jesus, John.”
John laughed with him. Their laughter grew out of control, bubbling up from nowhere until they sputtered into grieved silence again. After that, John looked just as crushed as he had before, as if he had burned through all his brave faces with one good laugh.
Sherlock didn’t want to complicate the situation with any unnecessary sentiment, but John’s face was just too grim. Sherlock hesitantly put a hand on John’s shoulder.
John didn’t lean towards or away from Sherlock. He just bowed his head and cupped his hand over his eyes. He said nothing.
Sherlock began rubbing circles into John’s back. After a moment, he paused.
Rubbing circles against a back for comfort. That’s what mum and dad used to do, Sherlock thought. He did it just as automatically as a bird gathering twine for a nest. He didn’t have to think about it. He’d been taught it since birth. And even though he had never been touched that way his entire adult life, not in at least fifteen or twenty years, it was permanently ingrained in his subconscious and he mimicked the motion instinctively.
His chest tightened.
It was all instinct, all of it, and Sherlock ought to feel repulsed. Human behavior was riddled with unconscious motivation, sub-conscious longings, flight-or-fight-or-fuck impulses left over from their inferior monkey ancestors. He’d learned over time that all human grief was the result of those feelings, the result of weak brains, undisciplined minds, unwilling to suppress what evolution had not yet eliminated from their imperfect bodies. Murder, rape, theft, kidnapping, fighting, war, hate…all of it was emotional, none of it logical, and that’s what made most criminals hopelessly beneath him. Even the master criminal class had their weaknesses, their cravings for glory, for attention. Even Sherlock felt the ache sometimes. No one was spared.
The key to John’s relief was simply to bring him around to the understanding that, whatever his emotional state, his impotency was largely irrelevant. Adoption was the logical solution. It made absolutely no difference if John passed down his DNA or not. The only thing that mattered was the mind, and they could pass down their passion for intelligence, their personal culture and habits and morals to any child. There was no reason for this depression.
But Sherlock said nothing.
He resumed rubbing circles against John’s back.
Against all reason and logic, with his mind screaming endlessly all the reasons why it was unhealthy to continue encouraging sentiment like this, Sherlock simply decided, Circles are better.
After several minutes, John turned a bit and slumped. His forehead came to rest on Sherlock’s collarbone and the rest of his body settled nicely against Sherlock’s side. He molded against his friend perfectly and comfortably. “I’ve been upstairs all day,” John said. “Do you know what I was doing?”
“No,” Sherlock said, resting his chin on the crown of John’s head, practically purring in contentment. “What were you doing?”
“I was reading. About adoption.”
“That’s good!” Sherlock said encouragingly, feeling his spirits lift. Obviously, with some support, John was able to come to this conclusion on his own without them having to fight about it.
But John didn’t sound happy. “And about how much it’s changed in the past thirty years. It’s not what you think, Sherlock. We aren’t going to an orphanage somewhere and pick out the cutest baby.”
Sherlock looked down. “What do you mean?”
“It’s…it’s just staggering, the statistics of disabled and mentally handicapped children. Children within the spectrum of autism languishing in the adoption and foster care system for years and years.”
“Oh.” Sherlock grimaced.
John added, “Not to mention the number of perfectly healthy minority children waiting endlessly for available homes. All the while, pictures of helpless and lost looking children look back at me. Deformed bodies, cleft palates, expressions dimmed from fetal alcohol syndrome. Faces twisted in some cruel defect or another, all there…to…to induce guilt and shame. Pick me, pick me! Help! It’s awful. I suppose with Mycroft’s help, I’m sure we could have our pick of any healthy, Caucasian infant. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.”
Sherlock said, “John, just because your sterility has made you feel inadequate doesn’t mean you should devote your life to the care of a disabled child. If you feel ethically compromised by taking advantage of my brother’s help, we can go on a waiting list.” He perked up, leaning back so he could look John in the face. “It will give us time to get the house in order. I’ve been meaning to ask you if you were interested in taking parenting classes. I don’t know the first thing about warming bottles or changing diapers…what?”
John was giving Sherlock a disapproving look.
Sherlock put his arms down uncomfortably. He already knew where this conversation was headed and he didn’t like it one bit.
John said, sitting up straight, “So you think of a handicapped child as an inferior child?”
“No. That’s not what I said. I specifically said you shouldn’t feel like you should devote your life to the care of a disabled child because of your sterility. You are not ‘damaged goods,’ you are not ‘inferior,’ however your feelings of inadequacy might make you identify with a disabled child, but that’s not a good reason to want to adopt one.”
“What is a good reason to adopt a disabled child, then?”
“I can’t think of a good one.”
John looked horrified.
Sherlock winced, realizing what he’d said. “What I mean is…you should have a genuine interest…not a…um…”
John asked directly, “Could you love a handicapped child? A mentally handicapped child?”
“I…,” Sherlock faltered.
“A baby with Down syndrome?” John postulated. “Cerebral Palsy? Autism?"
“John, I…I honestly hadn’t considered…”
John said glumly, “Your intellectual superiority would never allow that, would it? You wouldn't be able to tolerate it. It would drive you around the bend."
Sherlock didn’t say anything. What could he say? It was true.
“What if…I could father my own baby,” John asked, “and it came out with a disability? Would you still want to be part of its life?”
The question stung unexpectedly and Sherlock recoiled. The question itself was an abomination. “John, I could never feel anything but love for your baby, no matter what!”
“Then why not an adopted baby?” John asked pointedly. “If it’s all the same to you.”
“John, if it’s yours, then of course I’d love it. But why would you want to intentionally invite…that…into our lives?” Sherlock asked forlornly.
“Invite what into our lives?” John asked.
Sherlock said, “You know what.”
“No, I don’t know. What?”
Sherlock turned up his nose and jutted out his chin. “I have no desire to intentionally bring that kind of heartache and sadness and….hopelessness into my own daily life.”
"Hopelessness?” John repeated. “Why should it be hopeless? I would think it would be the opposite. Giving someone a second chance who might never have had one at all."
"What kind of future could we possibly provide a child with a disability?"
"A better future?” John offered. "And who better than us? I’m a medical doctor and you’re the smartest man I know. We could give a disadvantaged child all the advantages in the world.”
Sherlock rocked uneasily, feeling trapped.
John looked hurt. "See? You don't think about it in those terms, do you? You know that you're supposed to provide for the child, right? Not the other way around? A child is not a vehicle to…please you. To make you proud. It's not a little John Watson, seeing to your whims."
Sherlock blinked at that.
John continued pointedly, "Children don't exist to fawn over their parents and obey their every command and turn out how you expect them to. They're their own little souls and you are supposed to make sure they survive to adulthood. And if you're really, really lucky…after all the money and the time and the skinned knees and broken fingers and bicycle accidents and the report cards and school plays and the fighting and the growth spurts and the sports and the graduations…maybe they'll even turn out decent. You know? Maybe they won't be rapists and serial killers and bigots. Maybe, they'll even be kind. Maybe they'll be able to fend for themselves and not have road rage and not skip out on the bill. Maybe they'll tip alright and be able to stand in line patiently at the bank. Maybe they'll do something nice for a stranger. That's all you can ask. Because the hardest thing about kids is seeing that they grow up to be just decent. That's the hardest thing. There's so many ways a person can go wrong. And if they're decent, you're a saint for bringing them into the world. You blessed the whole human race. If I could have a kid and have him or her grow up into a respectable human being, I'd be over the moon. If they were a little slow…if they were a lot slow…I think it would be okay."
Sherlock asked, "What are you getting at? What are you saying? That…no disabled child could live up to my expectations?”
"I don't know if any child could meet your expectations. That’s just it, Sherlock. That’s why I don’t want to adopt. You said to me that your preference was for us to adopt because if I was the only one biologically related to the baby, I’d think of it as ‘mine’ and not ‘ours’ and that I’d think I’d have more right to the baby than you. But if I’m not related to the baby and you’re not related to the baby either, you’ll think of it as ‘ours’…until it disappoints you. Or you get bored.”
Sherlock went completely still.
John rolled his beer bottle between his hands. “Sherlock. I love you like a brother. But you’re just….you’re not… Unless our baby is as brilliant as you, unless it's in some way extraordinary, you’re going to lose interest. And I just can’t let you crush a little child like that, the way you crush fully-formed adults.” He looked at Sherlock sadly. “If you want to help me, fine, good. If you want to be the cool uncle or something, do that. I'm sure you'll be adored. But being a father…Sherlock, are you sure it’s for you?”
Sherlock couldn’t catalogue his emotions. He just sat, stunned.
John went back to guzzling his beer. He tipped it back father and drank faster and faster, like he was putting miles between himself and Sherlock with each gulp. In a minute, he emptied it. Then John said, “And besides, every time I say ‘our baby,’ I get the heebie-jeebies, like we jammed our sperm together and made a baby in a lab and it’s incubating in a test tube somewhere.”
Sherlock didn’t smile.
John’s smile drooped.
Sherlock took a steadying breath. “You want another beer?”
Sherlock finished his bottle and opened one more. John emptied his and had another three, and when Sherlock didn’t finish his second bottle, John took it and finished it for him. When that wasn’t enough, John went up to his bedroom and came down with a small hip flask. It was metal with cheap imitation leather and a buckle that read “Clara & Harriet – July 1st 2008.” John poured himself and Sherlock two glasses of something dark amber. Sherlock didn’t ask what it was and John ended up drinking both.
After that, Sherlock helped John into the sitting room and settled him down in the upholstered arm chair.
“Thanks,” John muttered, closing his eyes.
Sherlock knelt down and slipped off John’s shoes. John didn’t seem to notice, his eyes stayed shut. Then Sherlock took the tartan throw off the couch and covered John from knee to neck, tucking the edges under John’s body. This time John did react, snuggling into the fabric, turning his head to the side with a muffled, contented noise. “Drowsy,” John mumbled. “Nap.”
“Alright,” Sherlock said. “Goodnight.”
Sherlock sat down across from John in his leather armchair and pressed his fingers together.
He sat quiet for a time. Staring at John’s mobile phone sitting on the coffee table.
He leaned forward and picked up the phone and scrolled until he found Harry Watson’s phone number. When he found it, he stared at her name.
He looked up at John.
He looked back down at the phone. He pressed the call button and waited, holding his breath.
To be continued…
Chapter 6: Fuck 'em all and wish them well
In which Sherlock is introduced to a new life philosophy.
"Maybe you liked his wife. Maybe you didn't like his drinking."
After much internal deliberation, Sherlock settled on a silk, green-and-black shirt. It enhanced the subtle red tinges in his hair, warmed his skin tone and paired nicely with his most flattering suit. He usually preferred a monochrome palette (the unsettling affects of his stark pallor on clients and criminals wasn’t lost on him and, indeed, if they saw him as inhuman, he welcomed their trepidation), but today he wanted to be as appealing and non-threatening as possible.
He was going to meet with John’s sister, Harry Watson, and convince her that his genes were worthy of hers, negotiate the use of her reproductive organs, produce offspring, then part on amicable terms.
So, a date then.
Preoccupied with the task ahead of him, it took Sherlock twice as long to shave that morning. And his black curls didn’t fall into place as effortlessly as they usually did. He kept running his hands through them, anxious, wondering if he ought to use more gel, but he didn’t dare. He didn’t want to risk leaving it stiff or unnatural looking. Maybe he was over-due for a trim?
Sherlock turned his face left and right, studying his reflection in the mirror over the sink. God. He still had spots. His skin was dappled in little faint burns. His bottom lip was blistered and purple. He grimaced. There was nothing he could do for it now.
“It’s the heat,” Sherlock complained. “Supposedly, the heat wave is going to end tomorrow.” He looked glumly over his shoulder at John. “How do I look?”
John lifted his head from the toilet, his pajama shirt drenched in sweat. “Please go away.”
“I needed to have a shower and a shave.” Sherlock turned in a circle. “I’m meeting someone for lunch. Is this alright? I think I’ve gain some weight since I last wore this shirt.”
“I don’t care what you’re doing or how you look.” John settled his sweaty forehead on the unsanitary toilet seat rim. He drew his knees up to his chest and shivered miserably.
Sherlock said disapprovingly, “You shouldn’t have had so much on an empty stomach.” He raised an eyebrow. “I thought you would have had a higher tolerance, besides.”
“I don’t exactly go carousing every night like some kid,” John muttered, not even opening his eyes.
“You go to the pub.”
“Sometimes. With Stamford. Who can nurse on two beers all night….” John’s eyes popped open. He stopped speaking suddenly and began rocking back and forth. “Get out. Right now. Go away.”
Angelo’s air conditioning unit rattled above the door, but it was a welcoming sound. When Sherlock stepped inside, he felt like he was stepping into a refrigerator. He paused at the threshold, surprised, savoring the blast of cool air. His eyes fluttered closed. It was heavenly.
“Candle for the table?”
Sherlock opened his eyes and saw a familiar face. “John’s not joining me, no. I will have some coffee while I wait.”
Billy smiled warmly at Sherlock and gestured to an open table. Sherlock saw his usual booth was occupied. Actually, most of the tables were occupied. The tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant was unusually busy.
“What’s going on?” Sherlock asked, quickly taking the one remaining available table before someone else did.
“The electric grid is over-burdened,” Billy said, handing Sherlock a menu. “There’s scattered power outages all over the city. People are taking shelter from the heat where they can.”
“Two menus, please, Billy.”
“Expecting someone else Mr. Holmes?”
“Yes. A woman.”
“Client?” he asked eagerly. “For a case?”
Sherlock sighed. Everybody read John’s blog. Before, Sherlock just knew Billy as the head waiter, and probably the young man knew Sherlock as a regular customer. Chances were, now, that Billy knew about everything about his life from The Woman to Jim Moriarty. It was unsettling, being an accidental celebrity. “No, Billy. Just personal.”
“A woman, huh?”
Sherlock noticed the twinge of interest in Billy’s eyes, but the young waiter was off and gone before Sherlock could defend himself. Not that Sherlock needed to defend anything, but he was fully aware of the assumptions and rumors about John and himself. For the most part, Sherlock didn’t care what people thought. It was irritating enough to correct the whole of Scotland Yard on a regular basis. If he spent his days correcting people he met in everyday life, he’d never get farther than the front door. However, since Sherlock considered infidelity one of the lowest and most vulgar expressions of human weakness (lower and more vulgar than murder even, which he could begrudgingly understand) he utterly bristled at the idea that someone, anyone, thought he would ever, ever cheat.
Sherlock’s coffee came quickly and he was pleased to have it. His hands went cold quickly and now he wrapped them around the warm mug. He brought it to his lips and sipped.
The blog. Sherlock had not read John’s blog lately. Had John posted anything about his desire to be a father? Could he expect that John might, in the future, blog about the kids? What would become of them? Would strangers take photos? Would they be followed? Their youthful exploits…exploited?
Sherlock grimaced. He sipped his coffee and looked up.
Harry Watson was standing just outside Angelo’s, right in front of the window, looking down at her phone, and then looking up again. Using a GPS on her phone for directions. An iPhone 5, newer than Sherlock’s.
Sherlock quickly set down his coffee and straightened his jacket. He’d never met Harry Watson before, but there was one faded photograph in John’s wallet, several years old, taken long before Afghanistan, and it was the same woman.
Harry stepped into Angelo’s, looking around. She spotted Sherlock right away. Sherlock rose fluidly from his seat to acknowledge her. She nodded and quietly snaked her way between the tables.
“Harriet Watson, I’m Sherlock Holmes.” He extended his hand.
Harry took his hand and shook firmly. “How do you do?” Harry, Sherlock noted with surprise, was taller than John. Yet, he concluded she was younger. Well-off, steadily employed, a professional job. Her hair was a predictable, instantly forgettable bob, colored ginger with bold with gold highlights. Fake hair color. Naturally, she was a dirty blond, like John. Her right-off-the-rack department store pant-suit oozed non-threatening, corporate career woman. She was average in every way. Like John.
“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me,” Sherlock said, settling down.
Harry took the other seat across from him. She was smiling. Her smile wasn’t real. It was polite. She was used to being friendly as a requirement of her job. This ‘friendly-customer-service’ face was second nature to her. “I’m glad to finally meet you. The famous detective.” She folded her hands on the table, studying Sherlock carefully as he was studying her. “You and John have lived together for almost two years and…I’ve never seen you. Except your picture in the papers.” There was an accusation hidden in her words.
Sherlock deflected immediately; “Don’t…ask about the hat. Please.” He pitched his voice to sound a little exasperated, a little pathetic.
“John mentioned about that hat, how much you hate it.” Harry paused. “I didn’t…realize we were meeting alone. I expected that John would be here, too.”
“John doesn’t know that I’ve contacted you,” he told her. “It’s John I want to talk to you about.”
“Why?” Her smile became momentarily real. “Oh. Oh.” Her face lit up like she’d found a winning lottery ticket.
Sherlock blinked. “What? What is it?” Had she figured it all out, just sitting there?
“That’s so adorable. Dad died years ago so you’re asking me. Of course you have my permission. Oh, I’m so happy for you both.” Her smile had become a snicker.
Sherlock felt a jolt of irritation, both at her presumption and her insincerity. He took a deep breath to remain calm. “No, I’m not asking permission to marry John. We aren’t lovers.”
The real smile faltered. “Oh.” She sounded disappointed. “But he’s crazy about you! He goes on and on about you!”
Sherlock sighed, “Yes, I know. I’ve read the blog. And I, likewise, am very fond of him. Nonetheless, he is firmly heterosexual.”
“And you, too?”
Sherlock’s gaze narrowed. Oh, that was far too direct. Far too personal for a first meeting, the first few minutes of knowing someone. No, she came here with an agenda of her own. A fact-finding mission. He drummed his fingers impatiently on the table. Well. This was doomed to failure. “I see,” he said evenly.
Harry cocked her head. “You see what?”
“Everything.” He laced his fingers together and sank into his mind, all pre-tense incinerating like it had drifted into the orbit of the sun. “Your clothes are nice. Brand new, going by the factory creases. A bit overdressed for a late breakfast on your day off, no? And in this heat wave? You were expecting John, and you know how he hurts for money, ever since he was invalidated and his promising career destroyed. You know it because he had such trouble finding a place to stay when he came back. He obviously needed help. But he wouldn’t accept it from you because he knew you would lord it over him. He only accepted your used mobile phone, the expensive one that was nearly brand-new, the one you didn’t want anymore because it was a gift from your soon-to-be ex-wife. I suppose you like rubbing your success in John’s face especially since he was probably the favorite child, the older child, the son. The straight one. The one who went to medical school and did mum and dad proud then took it a step further and went into the army, became a patriot and a war hero. I suppose you blame him for your disappointing life. Maybe if he hadn’t been such a model young man, your parents wouldn’t have been so outraged when you came out as a lesbian. It’s possible they cut you off from financial support. And I suppose your drinking and failed marriage is John’s doing, somehow, too. Along with your boring, corporate job you secretly hate.” He inched forward. “After a life-time of feeling victimized and ostracized, you were really looking forward to John introducing you to me, his boyfriend, so you could finally feel vindicated, knowing you at least lived openly as a lesbian while he denied being gay over and over again. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you.”
Harry didn’t flinch, her customer-service smile staying right where it was. “You’re projecting.”
“Apology accepted.” She casually picked up her menu and began to look it over. “I think I’ll have pancakes.”
Sherlock sat stiffly. I think I’ll have pancakes. That’s not what people usually say.
She added casually, “What you described sounds more like your relationship with Mycroft than my relationship with John. Banana and walnut pancakes. Doesn’t that sound good?” Harry closed her menu and set it down. “Living in the shadow of a perfect older brother, the favorite child, the straight one, the one who did mum and dad proud. The patriot with the important government job. I suppose you don’t take personal responsibility for your hard life or your drug addiction, either, and still resent your brother for cutting you off.”
Sherlock breathed, feeling his ears burn. Goddamn it, John. “Oh. Good. Yes, you did say…”
“John goes on and on about you,” Harry finished.
“And on and on, apparently.” Sherlock felt naked and betrayed. He felt a flush creeping up his neck.
“We’re making an effort to repair our relationship,” Harry said. “Now that mum and dad are dead, we don’t have the excuse of Christmas dinners to stay in touch anymore. We either have to work it out or drift apart. Thankfully, John has a lot to vent about. And I’m pretty good at maintaining eye contact and nodding.”
“Soyou’re reaching out to him? Lending a sympathetic ear?” Sherlock asked dubiously. “I thought you two didn’t get on.”
“He’s got his issues. We all do. I have more to be angry about than him, but I believe in forgiving and letting go.”
“How noble of you,” Sherlock complimented dryly.
“I think so,” Harry agreed. “But I’m not angry at John for the reasons you think. Yes, my coming out as a lesbian wasn’t welcome news to our ultra conservative parents. But John was always supportive in that regard. He was…unusually…sexually liberated. Kind of had a wild side there, even from a young age. A sexual opportunist. A real dog. Couldn’t stay in a relationship long term. He always said ‘the heart wants what the heart wants’ and crap like that. I don’t think he has any clue what love is. But he didn’t begrudge me having relationships with women. Not at all. In fact, he was very fond of my ex-wife.”
Sherlock’s smile faded.
Harry, true to her word about maintaining eye contact, stared right at Sherlock.
Sherlock felt his stomach sink down to the floor. He glanced away, licking his lips pensively. Shit. Major miscalculation. Major miscalculation. There was no way to back-pedal. He had deduced himself into a corner. Idiot. Idiot. Theorizing ahead of data. Sentiment clouding his judgment, his personal affection for John…stupid, stupid, stupid!
Harry waited patiently. Her fake-smile was becoming unnervingly serial killer-like.
Sherlock said carefully, “When John came home from Afghanistan and he couldn’t find a place to live, it wasn’t that he refused your help. You never offered it. Because you were still angry with him. Angry for breaking up your marriage…by having an affair with your ex-wife Clara.” He hesitated. “Probably during a leave between deployments.”
Harry said bitterly, “There’s this video on YouTube. Have you ever seen it? It’s a clip of an American soldier coming home from Iraq. There’s lots of them, but this one is particularly...well. The front door opens, and this little yellow dog comes rushing out and falls at this soldier’s feet, whimpering and squealing and kicking up a huge fuss, falling all over itself in excitement, scrambling to get into this guy’s lap. And he kneels down to pet her, going, ‘Dada’s home! Did you miss me?’ All the while, the wife is video taping it, crying.”
“No, I’ve never seen it,” Sherlock said.
“John’s seen it, like…a couple hundred times. He had this friend, an army buddy, who’d send John these over-the-top military family reunion videos every time they had a leave. I don’t think he sent it to John specifically, I think he emailed this things to everyone in his unit, with a message like, ‘Wishing everyone a happy homecoming!’ or something like that.”
Harry paused when Billy returned to the table with a pad and pen. “Sorry it took me so long to get over here,” he apologized. “It’s so busy. What can I get for you two?”
“Oh, it’s fine, honey,” Harry purred. “I’ve been a server, too. I know what it’s like. Pancakes, please. Banana walnut with butter and syrup.”
Billy scribbled. “And you, Mr. Holmes?”
“Nothing for me, thanks,” Sherlock said coldly.
“Ignore that,” Harry snapped. “Get him some pancakes, too. That man needs pancakes.”
Sherlock said, “I don’t want pancakes.”
“Everybody wants pancakes,” Harry said. “Besides, the bill is on me. I’ll eat what you don’t.”
“Please don’t eat from my plate. That’s disgusting,” Sherlock said.
Billy looked back and forth between Harry and Sherlock.
Harry looked up at Billy sweetly and said, “Two plates of pancakes, please. And milk for me, when you get a chance, dear, and a refill of coffee for my new friend.” She beamed at Sherlock.
Billy smiled and nodded and rushed away again.
Harry turned her attention back to Sherlock. “Anyway. Where was I? Right. The video.”
Sherlock said, “The video.”
Harry said, “So. I’m away on business a lot. I wasn’t always in London when John came home for leave. So, there was no one to greet him at the airport that time. No one to give him a place to stay. And that was typical. He’s never made a big deal about it. So, he took a cab to a hotel and once he was settled in, he gets this email from his army friend and it’s the video of the dog. And John starts crying. Because nobody is, or has ever been, as excited to see him come home as this dog is for the solider in the video. No one’s called him. He’s got no friends here, no girlfriend. Mum and dad are dead. I’m away.”
Sherlock said, “So…he called your home, looking for you? And he got Clara instead?”
Harry shrugged. “I’ve heard…a lot of different versions in the past two years. Clara can’t keep a story straight. She’s said…he called, she went to his hotel to keep him company and what started out as a little friendly-family affection got out of hand. She’s also told me she took him out to a pub to cheer him up and they started drinking and she doesn’t remember what happened. Unlikely. I bet you anything she went over there, decked out in a teddy and thigh highs and she couldn’t wait to give him some comfort.”
“And what version does John give?”
Harry snorted. “Oh, John’s a spineless little shit. He’s never acknowledged what he did.”
Sherlock put his hands in his lap, where they curled into white-knuckled fists. He was livid. He was angry at John and for John. He was angry at everything. He was angry he was sitting here, taking the brunt of Harry’s well-justified hatred. He was angry that John betrayed his confidence and vented about him to Harry, telling her details of his life that wasn’t his business to spread around. He didn’t know where to start. He cleared his throat with effort, trying to get back on track. “And you’ve never confronted him?”
Harry smiled in rich satisfaction. “No. But when he was invalidated and he found out Clara and I were divorcing, he had this look on his face. He knows I know.”
Sherlock said, “And he came to you, looking for lodging, and you gave him your phone instead. To rub it in.”
“Three kisses. Kiss. Kiss. Kiss. I hope they were worth it.”
Sherlock picked up a napkin and patted the corner of his mouth. “Harry. It was a pleasure to meet you.”
Billy returned to the table with a coffee pot and a glass of milk for Harry. He was about to pour Sherlock a second cup of coffee when Sherlock put his hand up. “No thank you, Billy. I’m done here. And please give me the bill.”
“Oh. Yes sir.”
“You haven’t had your breakfast!” Harry cried.
“Thank you for meeting me on such short notice,” Sherlock said, rising from his seat. “It was…insightful.”
“But you haven’t asked me about surrogacy yet.”
Harry took a drink of milk. “I’m assuming that’s what this is all about, right? John called yesterday to tell me all about how he’s sterile. You think I can’t put two and two together? Sit down. Sit down and have breakfast.”
As Billy left, Sherlock cautiously settled back down. He was dumbstruck. “Why?”
“Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day and quite frankly, you look underfed.”
“If you hate your brother so much, why would you ever consider being his surrogate?”
Harry said, “Who says I hate John?”
“I do,” Sherlock said. “You just called him a spineless little shit. You’re accusing him of having an affair with your ex-wife. If it’s true, not only would I expect you to hate him, I would say you’re feelings are justified.” He was bewildered. “I don’t even know how you can manage to keep up the appearance of civility!”
Harry said kindly, “You’ve never called John ‘stupid’ out of affection?”
Sherlock shifted uncomfortably. “I’ve called John ‘stupid’ out of frustration. And I don’t believe you’d call John a ‘spineless shit’ out of affection.”
“I can be angry with John and still love him.”
Sherlock was quiet.
Sherlock said, “I don’t believe that.”
“Because you two aren’t quibbling over petty nonsense, John broke up your marriage.”
Harry sighed. “If it wasn’t John, it would have been someone else. Some other woman, some other man. Clara wasn’t happy. She wasn’t happy with me, she wasn’t happy with my job, she wasn’t happy with my drinking, she wasn’t happy with my friends. But, yes. It was John. And I’ll never forget it. It was my own brother. He’s an asshole. A prick. A selfish, self-centered, skirt-chasing, misogynistic asshole.” Harry sighed. “One that I’m ready to forgive once and for all and move on with my life.”
“You still sound pretty angry.”
“I am angry,” Harry said defensively. “And I have every right to be angry. I have every right to be angry until the end of time. For the rest of my life and beyond my death, for the remainder of the human race, when the sun expands and burns up the earth and collapses into a white dwarf and the solar system gets sucked into a black hole and the universe collapses and time itself ceases to be, I have the right to be angry until the very end of time.”
Sherlock was silent.
Harry took a deep-breath. “But do you think I want to be? Do you think I want to be angry forever? Bitter? Unhappy? Cheated by life, unwilling to find any redeeming happiness, content to be miserable until I’m an old woman? Do you think I want John to be unhappy? Do you think I want Clara to be unhappy?” Harry closed her eyes. “Fuck ‘em all. Fuck everyone.”
Sherlock didn’t know what to say.
Harry said, “Fuck ‘em all. And I wish them well. I’m not going to be held hostage because other people are selfish. I wish everyone well, including myself. I wish everyone had the capacity to forgive, even if they don’t deserve it, because I’m sure I’ve fucked someone over at some point, too, and I hope they forgive me. I hope I’ve never casually ruined someone else’s life because I was stupid or thoughtless.”
Sherlock said, “That’s…an interesting life philosophy: Fuck ‘em all and wish them well.”
“It’s served me well.”
Sherlock muttered, “Um. Alright.” He’d never felt so out of depth in his life. He had been certain there was nothing left on heaven or earth that could surprise him. And he felt so shaken up that he needed a Dramamine and a long nap.
“Go ahead.” Harry gestured. “Go.”
Sherlock took a deep breath. “Harry. Your brother John and I want to have a baby. Would you please be our surrogate mother?”
Harry cocked her head expectantly. “And what can I expect in exchange for using my eggs, subjecting me to day after day of morning sickness, ruining my figure, gaining a ton of weight, stretching my skin, constant back aches, swollen feet, painful breasts, fatigue, violent mood swings, sleepless nights, all culminating to the most painful experience a human being can go through short of death, labor, the ripping and tearing of my vagina…and then, you would like me to surrender the resulting baby, the product of my pain and suffering and my DNA and all my motherly instincts...you’d like me to hand over the baby to you so you and my brother can go home to your cute little nursery and your happy life while I can go home to my empty house with my ruined body so I can sleep in my bed, all by myself, hugging my now-empty belly?”
Sherlock held his head high, even though his will and dignity were in a puddle at his feet. “I can offer my life-long gratitude and nothing else.”
“I’ll think about it.”
Billy returned with two large, steaming plates of pancakes. He set them down in front of Harry and Sherlock. They were steeped high with obscenely large pancakes, dripping with syrup and butter.
“Oh dear,” Sherlock croaked.
Harry beamed. “Oh yes.”
“Enjoy,” Billy said, stepping away.
“People don’t really eat this…?” Sherlock hissed, curling his lip. A droplet of sticky-sweet syrup rolled off a pancake that was hanging off the plate and dripped onto the table.
Harry was already shoveling a fork-full into her mouth. “Shut up and eat. Before you is ambrosia: the food of the gods.”
Sherlock pushed his plate away.
Harry pushed the plate back.
“No,” Sherlock said.
“Yesss,” Harry insisted.
“That plate is laden with calories, fat, diabetes and heart disease!”
Harry cried, “Calories, fat, diabetes and heart disease is what Jesus died for, it’s god-given and holy. Now eat some damn breakfast, you tiny little man. Eat. Dear God.”
To be continued…
Chapter 7: It Doesn't Exclude You From Being Worthless
In which the parents-to-be experience a sexual crisis.
Missed you at breakfast. Had a lovely time with Sherlock. He’s a total scream! So happy for both of you. Will give surrogacy SERIOUS consideration. Let’s talk. Miss you big brother. Stop being a stranger, k? Xoxo!!!
The walk back to 221b was long and miserable. The street was swarming with people who didn’t know whether to flee the suffocating heat of their flats or take shelter inside in the shade.
As he shouldered his way through the crowd, Sherlock passed street vendors with newspaper headlines that decried global warming and the deaths of elderly citizens who lacked air conditioning, hospitals clogged with people suffering from heat exhaustion.
Sherlock couldn’t wave down a taxi, so he walked slowly, his jacket hanging from his arm. His head hung. He sweated and his hair was damp, his curls hanging limply and unattractively.
Vision swimming, head pounding, Sherlock tried to order his thoughts.
He wanted to think about Harry. He wanted to carefully reflect upon their encounter.
But his thoughts were languid. Every idea limped. Crawled. His mind couldn’t connect the dots. Information writhed, wasted.
Sans conclusions, he was merely left with a sense of deep dissatisfaction and the feeling of impending doom. Although he was not used to ‘going with his gut,’ he was quite confident that the morning, best case scenario, was a waste. Worst case scenario…he’d dug his own grave by meeting with Harry Watson.
But…he was too hot, too slow to understand why.
He wanted to consider that if he and John…accepted this route, it wouldn’t be the two of them anymore, Harry would be there, too. Even if she surrendered the baby fully to their custody after the pregnancy, she would always be part of their lives. Unlike a commercial surrogate they could thank and part ways with permanently, Harry wouldn’t just vanish. She would always be there…at every holiday, every birthday, even if she was playing the part of the Aunt, everyone would really understand who and what she was. And unable to sever the connection between mother and child, Sherlock and John would have a home divided. What started out in Sherlock’s imagination as something between him and John would become a group affair, something he’d have to share with a third party.
It seemed…invasive. It seemed like a broken family.
So, they had two options:
1) Either Sherlock and John could choose to have an open relationship with Harry, or
2) They could keep Harry’s motherhood a secret from the baby (and everyone) else to preserve John and Sherlock’s roles as the only parents.
Yeah, Harry probably wouldn’t like that. And wouldn’t blame her. Sherlock suspected she’d probably had enough of being disposable. Knowing her history, he couldn’t in good conscious ask her to submit to it voluntarily.
Obviously, he and John were going to have a lot to discuss. And this was all assuming John wasn’t going to horribly murder him for approaching Harry without his knowledge or permission. Also, assuming that John would even be interested in allowing his sister to function as his surrogate in this way.
Also, assuming this wasn’t an elaborate plot by Harry to somehow get back at her brother.
Really, Sherlock knew he’d cocked everything up before he’d even started. God, this was a recipe for disaster. Before this was all over, everyone was going to be mad at him, he could tell, and all he wanted to do was make...John happy.
He turned the corner. Baker Street was in sight. He drew closer as the red Speedy’s awning was in sight.
What was that you thought the very first day? With John? Stop lying to make people happy because it will never end? And here you are. Is this even what you want? Or, more accurately, have you stopped to consider this is everything you always said you didn’t want? You didn’t want a boring, typical life. Filled with boring, typical tragedies.
John, you idiot, you moron, why? Why Clara, your sister’s wife?
Sherlock was poised to cross the street, his leg already extended mid-step, but he spun in the other direction with a violent twist, fists clenching angrily. “God fucking damn it!” he shouted at nothing and nobody, though two middle-aged women strolling by paused to gape at him before hurrying along. Sherlock stomped off directionlessly before whirling to glare back at 221 Baker Street.
His anger was ignited anew, thinking about it. That hypocrite! All that moaning about how ‘other people’ were undeserving of having kids. About how ‘other people’ devalued relationships, cheated on each other and were generally worthless.
Sherlock had felt for John, experienced his frustration! Because that’s exactly how Sherlock felt! He’d never wanted this…normalcy, this domesticity…because he’d never believed the lie of the ‘happy family.’ It wasn’t real, it didn’t exist. Spouses cheated. Children were ungrateful. The elderly were forgotten, left to languish and then they died. No one cared about each other. Families sucked. Sherlock never wanted a family.
Until now. Until John. John…Sherlock thought he was better somehow. He thought John was the exception. And without sex muddling it up, their family was going to be…pure. Purer than other families. Built on a foundation of genuine, selfless love and not the writhing of flesh against flesh or the stinking emission of fluids or the release of oxycodin and dopamine.
But here John was, caught wrecking a marriage. His own sister’s marriage!
Looking hatefully at Baker Street, Sherlock snarled involuntarily, “Everyone in the whole wretched word is stupid and selfish and you’re no exception! My fondness for you doesn’t excuse you, it doesn’t it exclude you from being a worthless idiot like all the rest! It just makes your worthlessness and stupidity ALL THAT MUCH MORE INFURIATING!” Shouting made Sherlock feel better, so he shouted more. Now people were openly staring at him, even the ones at a distance. One teenage girl standing on the corner was taking video with her phone, looking amused. “It didn’t have to be you, you know!” Sherlock ranted on, expelling all his anger. “I could have just as easily moved in with any stranger Mike Stamford introduced me to on that day!” Then Sherlock noticed everyone looking at him. He scowled. He’d really attracted a crowd. He lowered his gaze and went across the street, ignoring the people staring after him. He felt the tips of his ears burning.
Really. John wasn’t to blame.
Sherlock knew he could only blame himself. For daring to expect more. For daring to expect better.
When John heard the front door unlocking, he leapt up from his chair. He crossed the sitting room in three swift strides and practically snaked his hand through the door before Sherlock had even stepped through the threshold, greeting a little too cheerily; “Hey!” while yanking the door open all the way, making Sherlock jump back in surprise and suspicion. But Sherlock couldn’t go far. John had already grabbed his wrist and was pulling him inside.
“Oh!” Sherlock gasped involuntarily, nearly colliding face-first with the door as John seized him and dragged him in. “Feeling better?”
“Much!” John said, smiling. He was showered and dressed. He’d shaved. But he wasn’t wearing shoes or socks. It drew Sherlock’s attention immediately. John nearly always wore shoes, even indoors, even in the heat. John asked, “Did you have a good breakfast?”
Sherlock knew he’d been caught. “John, listen. There’s no reason to be upset. I was going to tell you about Harry right away. I wasn’t intentionally keeping it from you.”
John didn’t appear to be listening. He just happily guided Sherlock into the sitting room.
Sherlock stammered on, “Just…before I suggested it to you and get your hopes up, I wanted to test her temperature about it.” Sherlock tried to wrench away from John and spun around to look at him. “Um. I guess you’re pretty mad. I mean…surrogacy with your sister…that’s a really personal thing and…I didn’t ask your permission or anything…”
But John was positively beaming. “I’m not mad. I’m…I’m happy!” He put his hands on Sherlock’s shoulders and pushed him down onto the couch.
Sherlock blinked, sinking down into his seat. “Ah.” He rocked back and forth, daring to let himself smile in relief and pride. “Really?”
John laughed, sitting down beside him. “You’re a genius! You’re brilliant! I’ll be related to my own baby! I won’t have to resort to a commercial surrogate! This…this is perfect! In every way.”
Sherlock tossed his head dramatically, letting his curls bounce. He puffed out his chest. “Ah, yes. I thought…I thought it was clever. I really hoped you’d like it.”
“Like it?” John gushed, gathering his legs under him so he was curled up. “Sherlock. Sherlock. I can’t…put it into words. You ‘solved’ my problem as effortlessly as a case. I should have known. I never should have let myself despair. When have you ever let me down?”
Heat rose to Sherlock’s cheeks and excitement roiled in his belly. His whole body buzzed in pleasure. “Well. I thought you might object to…oh, well. I guess it….well. Good. Good! If you have no objections, then I don’t see why I should.”
“Objections? What could I possibly object to?” John asked, putting a hand on Sherlock’s upper arm.
“Um. Well,” Sherlock began cautiously. “There’s a certain…implication. After all, if you aren’t the biological father, then someone has to be. And…well…I…”
“Well, obviously it has to be you!” John purred.
Sherlock blinked in surprise. “Oh! I’m glad you feel the same way.” He hesitated. “I…I was convinced you wouldn’t be happy. I thought for sure you’d be insulted.” He felt uncomfortable. It couldn’t really be this easy. “If you had any objection about me…donating my sperm…I would understand. Don’t feel pressured to let me…function…as the…um…biological father…just because I thought of it. You don’t have to. We could easily allow another man, an anonymous donor for instance, if you really felt strongly. And I would be okay with that. Really, I would. I, um. I actually wanted to ask you much more delicately than this, but I wasn’t expecting you to figure it out already, I apologize…”
“Oh, God, Sherlock. I don’t want any other man. I just want you.”
Sherlock could think of no reply. He thought he might die from happiness. His face hurt. He realized he was smiling a huge, goofy grin and he couldn’t stop. He licked his lips, but immediately his mouth pulled back in the involuntary smile. He flexed his mouth, opened his mouth wide and tried to pop his jaw, but as his mouth closed, he was smiling again. Oh God, this happiness was really quite something else. He laughed nervously. Oh. Oh, that felt nice. Oooh. He laughed again, like an edgy hiccup. Suddenly, he was giggling in the most irritating way, but now he had no control, and it kept bubbling up from his chest. He sounded like an asylum patient. “Please, excuse me,” he begged John between bouts. “Oh. Oh, dear God. I don’t know where this is coming from.” He’d never felt elation like this before! He was going to be a dad. John was going to be a dad. They were going to be dads together. No one was mad. Everything was going to work out. What had started off as John ‘sharing his most personal feelings’ was going to result in a whole new life for them both.
Mycroft could go suck it.
Sherlock couldn’t wait to call him and gloat. To think, Mycroft had gotten a bigger share of the inheritance because his parents had naturally assumed Mycroft would settle down and get married first. Sherlock decided he was owed some heirlooms…
Sherlock was so preoccupied with thinking about all the different ways he could throw this in Mycroft’s face, he hadn’t noticed that John had leaned forward, right into Sherlock’s personal space. “I just…wow,” John breathed warmly, and he was so close that Sherlock could feel the heat of John’s words brushing his cheek. “I can’t believe you. We’re really going to do this. And it’s going to be ours. I mean, really, really ours.”
The closeness, the intimacy of having John so close…it felt right.
Even though this was a violation of his space, it felt okay right now. This was a special moment. And no one else would know. So Sherlock leaned forward too and gently nudged John’s forehead with his own. He hoped John wouldn’t find that too threatening. He paused just as he did it. He studied John’s reaction. There barely was one. Other than John’s smile became bigger, against the laws of nature and physics, so Sherlock relaxed against him and allowed himself this moment. “John, you are really precious. But, God, yes. I’m happy, too.” He sighed. “I…I’ve never felt like this before.”
John’s eyes drifted down, his lashes resting on his cheeks in a come-hither sort of way. “Sherlock. I never thought…when I met you at Bart’s…that you’d change my life this way.”
“I do what I can.”
“No,” John said earnestly. “You’ve changed my life. I…I was so alone before. I was so unhappy. You can’t ever know.”
I do know, Sherlock thought suddenly. Weeping at videos of dog reunions, alone in your bedsit, wishing anyone loved you, that anything loved you. A lump formed in Sherlock’s throat. John, we have to talk. We have to talk about Harry and Clara.
“My career was ruined. My future was in the toilet. I had no sense of self. I didn’t know who I was or what I’d do. I was just this useless cripple with a pension until you swept in and gave my life meaning and purpose.” Then John’s mouth was on Sherlock’s mouth, gently pressing, gently sucking his bottom lip.
The illusion of intimacy was shattered instantly. “Woah!” Sherlock drew back violently, wide-eyed. He scrambled off the couch and banged his knee against the coffee table, sending papers and books toppling over, but Sherlock continued to limp away in a panic until he had fled halfway across the room. “What are you doing?!” he demanded.
John just sat on the couch, his head cocked, studying Sherlock’s reaction. He looked thoughtful, undisturbed, like perhaps he didn’t realize what he’d done.
Sherlock looked at John side-ways, his brows furrowed. “John? Are you…okay?
Calmly and silently, John stood from the couch and walked towards Sherlock. He went slowly, but with purpose.
Sherlock panicked. Surely, John wasn’t going to…? He firmly squared himself, stiffening his back, thrusting out his chest, closing his fists and lowering his head to look menacing and ready for a fight. “No,” Sherlock said firmly and loudly.
John hesitated just as he reached Sherlock. He looked him over curiously, confused.
“No,” Sherlock said again, clear and fierce. Inside, he mind was screaming, Don’t. Please don’t.
John took a cautious step forward and reached out tentatively and placed his hand on Sherlock’s elbow. His expression was perplexed and sad.
Sherlock stiffened up immediately and took a step back.
John followed anyhow, followed despite clearly not being wanted. His fingers curled around Sherlock’s sleeve.
“John, no.” Sherlock wrapped both his hands around John’s wrists. “Do you understand? No.”
John continued to slink closer. Sherlock ended up backed up into the door, cornered with no escape, nose-to-nose with John. Sherlock was about to resolve to fight to restrain John, even if it meant hurting him, when John whimpered, “You want to have a baby with me.”
“Yes,” Sherlock croaked. “But…that’s all. I’m not inviting anything else!”
John said, “That’s not how it works.”
“What?!” Sherlock’s knees felt alarmingly weak. “John, absolutely not.” His pulse was hammering in his ears.
“I want it,” John plead, smoothing his hands up Sherlock’s neck suggestively. “Jesus Christ, I’ll do anything.”
It felt like fire against Sherlock’s skin. Sherlock dug his thumbnails into John’s wrists to stop him. “Stop it right now! Stop it!!”
John was instantly on his tip-toes, keening in desperation, “I swear to God, anything.”
Sherlock knew immediately what was coming and turned his head to the side to dodge John’s kiss. His lips met Sherlock’s cheek instead. Undeterred, he kissed what he could reach. He planted warm, wet kisses down Sherlock’s throat and collar bone. “Isn’t this what it’s all been about?” John begged, his choked voice confused and desperate. “You wanted me to be dependent on you and now I am!” He reached up to kiss Sherlock’s mouth again and missed again. “You wanted your…your claim…and now…it can’t be disputed…” He kissed Sherlock’s jaw. His ear.
Sherlock writhed, trying to squirm away. “You think I’m gay, is that it? And that I’ve been trying to use this situation to entrap you in a relationship?”
John backed up only a hair. “Of course you’re gay,” he said matter-of-factly. “You never wanted kids until I said something.”
Sherlock was horrified.
But it clicked. It all clicked.
Sherlock said, “You refused to accept my help because you thought…and you knew you couldn’t reciprocate. And that you’d feel pressured to try even though it was a threat to your sexual identity, your mental health and your physical discomfort. And you would try eventually, given your hero-worship of me and your general nature to want to please me, but despite your healthy curiosity, you are firmly heterosexual and I recognize that, but despite it...you know that about yourself, that you’re easily subject to manipulation and you think, eventually, if we took that route of parenting together…we’d…oh.” He went still. “Oh.” His grip relaxed on John’s wrists as his mind came to grips with this new information. “Jesus Christ, what the hell do you think of me, John?”
John, sensing his opportunity, lunged at Sherlock, pushing his lips against Sherlock’s.
Startled, Sherlock felt himself pinned. He didn’t know what to do. John’s mouth was persistent. His kiss was close-mouthed, but very aggressive. Bruising. He wanted it to stop. He hated it. Sherlock was uncomfortable and miserable, and he was also aware he was going to remember this forever, and what a horrible, embarrassing thing to have to carry for the rest of his life. He was angry at John and also sad for him.
John suddenly broke it off. He said breathlessly, “You’re the only one who wants me. You’re the only one who cares about me at all and what woman would want me now anyhow? Besides, I’m not any sort of man so I can learn, right?” And then John’s eyes were wet and red and sad again and he pushed forward for another kiss.
Sherlock felt his insides wilt, crumble, disintegrate. “Learn what?” he spat. “To please me and my insatiable libido? Get off me. You’re being stupid…” Yes, of course John, with his conservative upbringing and traditional views, would believe some kind of sick nonsense like he deserved be gay as a punishment for not being enough of a man to make his own sperm and father his own children. It was insulting and heartbreaking. And also John thought Sherlock was some kind of opportunistic, merciless predator that would bully his vulnerable, straight friend into a nonconsensual gay relationship.
And not only was that what John was thinking now, apparently it was what John had been thinking all along.
“Sherlock…” John whimpered.
“I mean it, get off!” Sherlock shouted, angry and hurt. “You aren’t gay and this isn’t going to turn out the way you want. Stop it, now, or I’m leaving and I’m not coming back!”
Finally, John slumped and backed away. He looked around wildly, completely adrift.
Sherlock reached out a steadying hand. He felt terrible. “Now, John. John, I want you to calm down and think about what you’ve been doing. You’re being irrational and...I understand, I really do…but you have to calm down and…and think for a minute. You’ve been through a shock and this might sound like the best news you’ve ever heard, my silly little idea, but that’s all it is, John, a silly little idea. Any harbor in a storm, right? We’ll think of something better. Okay? Okay? John?”
But John was disoriented and not paying any attention. He wandered off in one direction, then lost interest and started drifting in another. Then he turned around and looked at Sherlock angrily before spinning off in another direction and stumbling away.
Sherlock straightened his wrinkled shirt. He realized he was shaking. “Ella,” he blurted, looking around for his jacket. It had his phone inside the breast pocket. “I’ll…I’ll call your therapist. Get you into an emergency session. Obviously, you’ve been through a traumatizing ordeal. I didn’t realize…I had no idea how deeply your sterility had affected you.” He looked around anxiously. Where was his fucking jacket?! He’d dropped it somewhere.
“It’s not fair,” John said, raw and disgusted.
“I know,” Sherlock said absently, searching around.
John suddenly spun around. “Why are you healthy while I’m sick?! You don’t even want to be with anybody!”
Sherlock just put his hands out defensively and took a few cautionary steps backward. “John? John, I know you’re upset…and…this isn’t….John?”
John didn’t seem to realize he'd actually said anything. He paced back and forth in front of Sherlock, rambling to himself. “I had to...I had to…and look at you! Not a care in the world. You don’t worry about starving to death, about your loans and your debt coming to get you. Oh, fucking hell. You could literally do whatever you want and either your trust fund or your brother would come and save you. I couldn’t spend my twenties snorting up my university money. I worked hard all my life and what has it gotten me?! I got shot! My life was over! Limping around the city like a fucking cripple, no friends, no family, no girl.”
Sherlock pled, “John, stop.”
John's voice grew louder and louder. “And here you are, a selfish bastard, and everyone worships you. Nothing bad ever happens to you, your nonsense never catches up to you. And here I am with a defective prick and all I can do is beg for you let me suck your dick and you won’t even let me do that because I’m nothing…!” And suddenly, John was in front of the broken window, putting his fist through it. The glass shattered all around him.
John eyed the breakfast table, seeing his laptop and a pile of papers and two abandoned coffee mugs and other assorted clutter. He fixated on it, breathing deeply through flared nostrils. He lunged for it.
Sherlock stepped in John’s path, grabbing him. “No! No! Stop it!” He wrestled with John a moment, John squirming in Sherlock’s arms. After just a few seconds, John’s attention was diverted again, and he backed up, drifting aimlessly. He took a few dizzy steps and then slipped on the glass on the floor, landing on his knees. On the floor, John just slumped over, muttering incoherently.
Sherlock took John in his arms and tried to pick John up off the floor. John just hugged himself, trying to curl up. “Stop it! Stop it!” Sherlock begged. “Oh my God, stop talking! Shut up. Shut up, don’t ever talk again. Oh my God. John, I’ll be your boyfriend. I’ll have your babies, whatever the hell you want, anything you want, just don’t ever talk like that again. Pretend the last minute didn’t happen. Kiss me again. I’ll let you. Anything you want. Jesus. Don’t talk. Look. See?” And Sherlock peppered John’s forehead with kisses, even though he had no idea what he was doing and he desperately hoped John wouldn’t ask anything sexual of him. “See? I like you fine. You can be gay if you want. Or not. Whatever you want, I’ll go with it.”
John looked weakly up at Sherlock.
John wrapped his arms around Sherlock’s neck and wept.
“It’s fine, just please don’t ever do that again.” Sherlock stroked John’s back. “I mean, if you really have any genuine suspicions that you’re gay, we can talk about it.” He paused. “Not. Kissing. Not. Not negotiating sexual…I mean, just that, we can talk about it. Not… Let me try again. Not that we can talk about kissing. We can talk about…your feelings. And then we can talk about kissing. Maybe. I’m not a big fan of kissing. I’m very fond of you though. I would kiss you if you really wanted it.”
“I’ll fix the flat,” Sherlock promised. “The window. I’ll do anything.”
Sherlock realized he was. He nervously wiped his eyes. “It’s…it’s nothing.”
John slowly tried to untangle himself from Sherlock. He sat up on his knees and looked blankly ahead. “Sherlock,” he said, emotionless again. “I think…I’m…I just want to lay down.”
“Okay,” Sherlock agreed readily, nodding.
“I just want time.” John picked himself up slowly, brushing glass shards from his pants. “I don’t want to do anything for a while. I don’t want to think.”
“That’s fine, that’s fine,” Sherlock assured John, standing up slowly as well, watching John carefully.
John hobbled away. His left foot left red prints on the carpet.
Sherlock stood alone in the middle of the sitting room, surrounded by broken glass.
To be continued…