Touch. Clasp. Squeeze. Release. Repeat.
John Watson shuffles along beside his parents as they lock fingers on the sidewalk outside the cinema. Mum swings Dad’s hand to and fro, peering up at him with stars in her eyes. John, in his ten years, has become mostly accustomed to this gesture on his parents’ parts. Mr. and Mrs. Watson are not showy people, but twelve years of marriage does occasionally merit moments like this.
Harry always rolls her eyes and mumbles, “Gross.” John isn’t disgusted so much as fascinated. He knows what it means to hold someone’s hand--he tried holding pretty Amanda Smith’s hand in fourth grade, but she just stuck her tongue out at him and ran away. And mostly, when he’d reached for Amanda’s hand, he just felt a combination of sweat and discomfort.
It isn’t the act itself that puzzles John. It’s what his mother always says about it:
“You see, love,” is her sing-song voice in the kitchen as she prepares dinner, hazel eyes glimmering in the reflection of the sunlight peeking through the window, “Your fingers--” She whirls around and holds out her hands to him. John raises an eyebrow, placing his hands in her worn, strong palms. “—are made for another’s to slide between them. For every person in the world, there’s another whose hand fits perfectly in theirs. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to have found that person in your lifetime. Just like I found your dad.”
John wrinkles his nose and says, “Sure, Mum.”
Because even at ten, John thinks that’s a load of bollocks.
Touch. Clasp. Intertwine? Wait.
John doesn’t consider himself an overly sentimental man. He’s caring, sure—considerate, funny, genuine—or so he’s been told by the women he’s dated.
Perfectly nice, decent women that John damn well knows he shouldn’t have let pass him by if he’d been in his right mind.
No, John Watson isn’t overly sentimental. But he can’t help but notice the way it feels to hold his girlfriend’s hand. And if it doesn’t feel right, well . . .
It’s a load of bollocks. It is. Except when it isn’t, and John’s fingers lace with another’s and he feels nothing. What should he be feeling? For some reason, he thinks it has to be something.
Jessica Stephens looks at him sheepishly, and John feels like a complete arse right about now. He squeezes her hand a little as they stand outside her flat. None of it’s right. And John thinks he’d be making a fool not only of himself, but of Jessica, should he pretend otherwise.
“Call me?” Jessica’s voice rings out after him.
John doesn’t, no matter how he wishes he could.
* * *
It’s not until he meets Sherlock Holmes that John Watson discovers just what on earth his mother was talking about.
“Take my hand.”
It’s a straightforward, simple command as Sherlock’s often are, and John obeys without thinking as he often does. Their hands are cuffed together, and they are off, escaping from Scotland Yard’s finest to get ahead of the great Jim Moriarty.
Touch. Clasp. Squeeze.
And it happens, just like that.
John is a doctor. He knows about the human pulse, to and from and how blood pumps through one’s veins. And clutching his flatmate’s hand, it’s as if John can feel every inch of his body flowing with some new electric energy. He can feel his own pulse in time with Sherlock’s, and he’s not sure if it’s imagined or not, but he doesn’t care.
It throws him off. It makes him stumble. He covers with, “Now people will definitely talk” (because people do little else). And he can’t help but observe the way Sherlock holds on too, as if connecting himself to John by some chain of body and mind that cannot be severed.
It’s only after, when they’re sitting side by side in Kitty Riley’s dark flat and breathing hard that John realizes Sherlock is the one to let go.
He looks at John quizzically (well, John can’t actually see Sherlock’s face in the dark but he can imagine his curious expression, familiar to John as his own reflection) and says, “Interesting.”
“What?” John replies warily.
“Well, we reached our destination approximately a minute and a half ago, at which point you could’ve released your grip on my hand.”
John is really bloody grateful for the pitch black surrounding them at this point, because he’s pretty sure his face is beet red as he replies, “Right. Y’know. Stress, and all. We are chasing down a consulting criminal after all.”
A pause. Then, “Indeed.”
John wants to vomit. His fingers still tingle.
Well. What do you know. Mother does know best.
* * *
It’s been three months, two days and nine hours since the return of Sherlock Holmes after his apparent death.
It’s been three months, two days and eight hours since John Watson has had a damn thing to say to the man besides something synonymous to “kindly fuck off.”
Three months added to three whole years and John is tired. He’s tired of not being all right and pretending he is. He’s tired of orbiting the obnoxious sun that is Sherlock Holmes. And he’s tired of letting this enigma of a man walk in and out of his life as if it’s nothing.
But most of all, John’s tired of being angry. Angry at a man who had made the most human decision anyone can make—risking your life for the truth, and for others.
Sherlock Holmes is a git, but John supposes in time he can forgive him for that.
The git in question is sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest in the living room, a familiar image. John stands before him with his arms crossed. A moment passes in which each proud man waits for the other to say something, until John’s patience, already stretched thin, gives way.
“You know,” he says slowly, staring intently at a tiny crack in the hardwood floor, “My mum used to say that each person’s got another person, one in the whole world, who’s meant to hold their hand.”
Sherlock says nothing, his crystal eyes searching and sifting through words he doesn’t fully understand. He gazes at John intently with a furrowed brow, as if to say, I require more information, and, hell, John’s amazed that all this time he can still read this man like an open book.
“It’s like, the way your life sort of overlaps or links with someone else’s, in a way that you can physically feel when you touch. It feels right, and irrevocable, and insane.” These are not the words of John’s mother. Now, they are John’s own.
Sherlock blinks and says matter-of-factly: “Sentiment.”
“Yes.” John steps forward. “Complete bollocks, isn’t it?”
He reaches out and grabs Sherlock’s hands, lacing the other man’s lanky fingers in his own. And there it is—electric heat, to a rhythm John hadn’t realized he’d been missing this long.
Sherlock does not pull away.
Touch. Clasp. Intertwine. Release?
John watches Sherlock’s expression falter, his usual stoic disposition giving in to a softness in the eyes that only John can decipher.
Release? John thinks. He helps pull Sherlock to his feet. Never.
Neither lets go. And neither seems to mind.