"Why do you keep doing that?"
John lowered his paper and looked across at Sherlock, his stomach sinking as he realized the type of mood Sherlock was in. "Doing what?"
"Dating," Sherlock said as if it was most obvious thing in the world. "Do try to keep up, John."
John closed the paper, folding it as he set it aside. "Um, because I enjoy it?
"Don't be an idiot."
John rolled his eyes. "This coming from the person that always says I’m an idiot. Where is this coming from?"
"You're not happy."
"Yes, I am," John automatically replied, not understanding what Sherlock was getting at, not liking the direction this was going. Sherlock's fingers steepled against his lips, and John could see the gears turning.
"You really believe that," Sherlock said, clear disbelief in his voice.
John bristled at the suggestion that he wasn’t. "Of course. What are you implying?"
Hopping up onto his chair, Sherlock folded his legs under him. "Dating. It doesn't make you happy. You're miserable, and yet you keep doing it. The question is why."
John pursed his lips. Dating did not make him miserable. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Really, John, I thought you were above self-denial. You're not the type of man to lie to himself," Sherlock said, voice full of disappointment.
John rose to his feet, getting angry now, knowing the best choice at this point was just to leave, but he couldn't yet, not until he understood what Sherlock was getting at. "I really don't see how this is any of your business."
"Oh, John," Sherlock said, almost sorrowfully. "What have they done to you?"
"What has who done to me? What are you on about, Sherlock?" John's voice rose with frustration.
"You were happy, when you first moved in, when you were single. But now you chain date, one girlfriend after another. What are you trying to prove?"
Stomach clenching, John felt the flush of shame rise on his face. There was no way Sherlock could have known, not this. But the dawning realization on Sherlock's face had John turning, more than ready to make a retreat. Sherlock’s hand caught his arm before he got far, spinning him around. “Let go,” John hissed, tugging at his arm, but Sherlock’s fingers just curled tighter, his grip bruising.
“They’re wrong, you know. All of them.”
“The people that said you were wrong,” Sherlock said as thought it was obvious.
John tugged at his arm again and Sherlock finally let go. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” This time when John tried to flee, Sherlock let him go, but his words followed him.
“I think you do.”
And John did. Oh, did he know. Harry had been the bad child, the disappointment to their parents, and John couldn’t do that to them. He’d tried, but they’d seen how wrong he was, and made him see a therapist. A late bloomer, they’d said at first, nothing wrong with that. But as the years passed that had changed.
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder, they had said, seeking a biological reason for it when they ruled out the psychological (no, he hadn’t been abused; no, he hadn’t been traumatized by sex; no, there was no deep seated fear or disgust that needed to be addressed, he just didn’t see people like that), but finding none.
John had taken the drugs they gave him, despite how he hated what they did to him. And John had tried for his parents, tried to be the perfect child, tried to be normal for them when that’s all they’d wanted. It hadn’t worked, of course, the relationships never lasting. When they’d died in the car crash his second year at university, John should have stopped. But he couldn’t because he knew that he was wrong, and someday he’d find the right woman. Someday.
When John had joined the Army, it had almost been a relief, getting away from that kind of life. The general lack of women and the anti-fraternization rules had just been a good excuse. Convenient. And John had been content with that, with his friends, his fellow doctors and soldiers.
Until London. For a while John had put it off, but being back here had brought it all back to him, and John had to try again. Even if he didn’t really want to.
He knew, John knew now that it didn’t matter anymore, he shouldn’t care, but he did. And now Sherlock knew.
Hours passed without John realizing, lost in the past and his self-doubt, his fear and disgust at himself. John went back downstairs, knowing that despite the quiet, Sherlock was likely awake.
“We’re not so different, you and I.” Sherlock’s voice came from beneath the blanket on the couch as soon as John entered the room. He scrunched his knees up, leaving space for John to sit.
John took the offered spot, while shaking his head. “No, I suppose we aren’t. But there’s one thing that separates us.”
“Oh, what’s that?” Sherlock’s head appeared from beneath the blanket, no judgment on his face.
“You don’t care what other people think. I do,” John said with a sigh.
“Why do I care?” John asked.
Sherlock sat up, shoving the blanket down. “Precisely. Who are you trying to impress? Who is going to judge you? Who do you care about that would have any problem with any of it? Mike? Lestrade? Mrs. Hudson? Your sister? Me? None of us care. The rest of them don’t matter.”
John sighed again. “It’s not that easy.”
“Yes, it is. No more dates. No more drugs. The next time you feel the urge, I’ll be your date.” Sherlock clapped gleefully.
Choking at Sherlock’s words, John locked shocked eyes on Sherlock. “Date? But you don’t date.”
“And neither do you, any more. We’ll be dateless together. No one needs to know. Keep them guessing, keep them on their toes,” Sherlock said, mischief ripe in his voice.
John bit back a laugh. Leave it to Sherlock to make a game out of this. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Sherlock repeated.
“I had expected more of an argument.”
John suddenly yawned, realizing how late it was and knowing that he might regret this in the morning but right now he didn’t care. “I’m too tired to argue. Just… don’t expect me to always be okay. It’s not that easy to forget or accept.”
Something in Sherlock’s face softened, and he nodded. “You’re not wrong, not matter what they say,” Sherlock said, pressing against John’s side.
John froze, waiting for the normal revulsion that came with most touches, but as the seconds ticked by and none came, he finally let himself relax. Missing Sherlock’s triumphant smile, John thought that just maybe he could be okay, maybe he could believe Sherlock’s words. Eventually, given enough time, but this was as good a place to start as any.