15 July 1999 - Cambridge
'I guess, the important thing is to leave a mark,' John took a lung-blackening drag of his cigarette. He glanced around, there was no ashtray so he let the ash fall into an empty tumbler on the bedside table.
'What do you mean, leave a mark?' Sherlock leaned on his elbow next to John on the narrow bed, one hand lightly resting on John's belly. They were both in their pants and T-shirts.
'Well, you know – save some lives – make a life-changing invention – win the Nobel Peace Prize. That sort of thing,' he took another drag of his cigarette. The way he narrowed his eyes was supposed to make him look mysterious and world-weary. Sherlock saw right trough this act, but didn't call his bluff, he liked him, somehow. He liked to listen to him boasting and that's why he urged him on.
'What will it be for you, then? A lifesaver or an inventor?' He was careful to keep the usual sarcasm out of his voice. Not for the life of him did he want to threaten this John away. It wasn't often that somebody would actually talk to him, let alone spend the night with him, sort of. And he found this John truly intriguing.
'I don't really know yet. I'm still torn between becoming a doctor or going to the army. My medical training is almost finished, but the army's still an option. I could have both really. My father's in the army, always seemed a decent thing to do.' He stubbed his cigarette out in the tumbler and slid down to lie next to Sherlock giving him the perfect opportunity to study his face.
'I really want to make an impact, leave a mark, change something. I don't know, that seems important to me –' he trailed off, apparently unable to find more ways to express his urge to be something special.
Sherlock drew a breath, 'You want to impress your father who was probably quite successful in the army. Some kind of war hero. The Falklands, I'd presume. He was away for long periods of time, leaving you to your mother who wasn't strict enough with the children according to his opinion. When he finally came home he reproached you for not being brave enough, urging you to be the fastest, the strongest, therefore installing in you the wish to prove yourself, to leave a mark, am I right?'
Sherlock had spoken quickly, almost rattling off these deductions and the longer he had spoken the more uneasy John had become. How on earth could he know all that?
John turned to face this extraordinary man, 'That was amazing. Outstanding and quite - amazing.'
Two ice blue and steely eyes looked back at him - Eyes which had the ability to see right through you. John had the distinct feeling that you couldn't lie when looking into those eyes. The rest of this face was equally remarkable. It was dominated by extraordinary cheekbones and a pronounced cupid's bow, edging plush and, very likely, kissable lips. He looked like a dark angel. This was accentuated by a mass of black curls, unruly and shiny which framed his pale face. John had to fight the urge to weave his fingers through them.
'That's not what people normally say,' Sherlock finally said - calm, holding his scrutinizing gaze.
'What do people normally say?'
John guffawed and doing so he moved closer to Sherlock. Since they were lying so close this meant their foreheads almost touched and those eyes in such close proximity did strange things to his hitherto strictly heterosexual psyche. He abruptly flipped back onto his back and stared at the ceiling trying to calm down his pounding heart.
Sherlock remained where he was staring down on John who was clearly upset. As clever as he was in deducing John's motives for becoming a mover and shaker as clueless he was now. Why is he upset? Did I say something wrong?
John grabbed the sheets and made to get up. Sherlock's heart clenched, instinctively he tightened his grip on John's T-shirt. John noticed and looked down on his hand, 'I'm just off to the loo. Where is it?'
Sherlock eased his grip, 'Down the hall, first door to the right.'
John climbed out of the bed, conscious of his half-naked array and of a certain arousal he couldn't for the life of him explain. I'm not into men, for God's sakes. I had three girlfriends in the last six months. What the heck? He carefully avoided turning around and made his way out of the room.
Sherlock stayed where he was.
They had met this evening. Sherlock's flatmates had dragged him along. Last night of term, last night of university life really. In the coming days all the flatmates, he wouldn't have called them friends, would leave and start their lives, their adult, serious lives. Playtime was over. At least for the others because Sherlock had never taken part in that four year-long party they had called studying.
These four years had nevertheless taught him a few things: He wasn't like the others, the others weren't like him, he didn't like other people, other people didn't like him. That's why John amazed him so much.
They had met in a pub. No, it was important to be precise here - John had met him in the pub because Sherlock had only been able to watch him for a while and it had been John who eventually had walked over to him and struck up a conversation. John who was a few years older and who had been in the company of a few students Sherlock didn't know. They had started to talk and John hadn't been put off by his cutting retorts and after a while he had lost the pleasure in riling him and had found that he could talk to him naturally, assuming an almost normal student persona. It had been a revelation. Later that night John had agreed to continue their conversation in his room and they had talked and laughed and somehow they had ended up on Sherlock's narrow bed in their pants and T-shirts.
There had been a lot of alcohol, more for John than for Sherlock who didn't like what alcohol did to his intellectual capacities. But should John have wished for an excuse why he was in Sherlock's bed, half-naked, he could have fooled himself. Mind you, it had all been very innocent so far. Sherlock wouldn't have known otherwise because at the age of twenty-three Sherlock had never been with anyone, he was still a virgin, had not even been kissed.
Strangely enough he didn't mind John being physically close to him, liked it even. He also liked to look at his face, into those dark blue eyes, liked to imagine the texture of the sandy hair. He liked his open face, the way he seemed to be settled and at ease with himself and the world. John's steady presence had a calming influence on his usually overactive mind. He wanted him to stay for the rest of the night, very much so. Whatever that might mean - he really had no idea.
He heard the flushing of the toilet and a few seconds later the door opened and John came back. He didn't slip back into the bed, 'Maybe I should be going now – um – it's late and I have to drive back with my friends tomorrow morning.' He glanced over at Sherlock who lay there in his bed and his heart skipped a beat. Quickly he averted his gaze and searched the room for his clothes.
'Can't you stay?' Sherlock's voice was soft and not much of the confidence of a few minutes ago left, 'I want you to stay.' He was blunt, he didn't know otherwise, didn't know the rules of dating, of courting. He only knew that he wanted John to stay with him.
'Oh - Oh right,' John wasn't sure why he said that when really he wanted to go and not be tempted by those amazing eyes and – my God – the rest of him. He padded over to the bed and slipped under the sheets next to Sherlock who quite naturally placed his head on John's chest and his hand on his belly.
John cleared his throat to chase away the awkwardness and after a moment he asked, 'What about you? What are your plans for the future?'
'I don't know yet. I will travel for a while, I guess. My brother organised something for me in India, a kind of teaching job. Mummy wants me to see the world.'
John's eyebrows shot up – Mummy? – That should have sounded strange out of the mouth of a grown man, but when Sherlock said it he found it whimsical, yet strangely endearing. Mummy wants him to travel! - Oh my! That also told him a lot about Sherlock's background because he really had a posh air about him, what with the expensive suit and shirt he wore or rather had been wearing. So at odds with John's sound middle-class T-shirt and jeans-origins.
'Oh, aye. Your brother? What's he doing?'
'Playing secret service and climbing the career ladder in the British Government or so he says –' there was a certain derisive undertone, John felt that this was a dead-end and changed track.
'India! Interesting country. How long will you be gone?'
'A year! That's a long time.' Why did I say that? I'm not planning on seeing him again, why would I care?
'Yes, it's quite long, isn't it.' Sherlock lifted his head and fixed his unnerving eyes on John. He would never see John again, but now, right now he wanted to be as close to him as possible. John held his gaze and felt his insides go all warm and without thinking he moved closer and pressed his lips on Sherlock's. When Sherlock didn't respond John blushed and cursed himself - Stupid me, but I was sure that's what he – and his thought was cut short by Sherlock who plunged towards him and clumsily answered John's kiss. It wasn't a good kiss and it made John realise something was at odds.
He drew back, 'Sherlock, are you okay with that? Have you ever - um -?' John squirmed a bit, it really was slightly embarrassing. Sherlock frowned and shook his head, his cheeks flushing slightly. 'Seriously. We don't have to – you know – we could just talk and – um – cuddle,' John winced inwardly. He, who was straight, had kissed a man - a startling man – a man who had never kissed before and now he suggested cuddling, for God's sakes.
Sherlock didn't answer, but leaned on his elbow and looked at John. He leaned down and softly, tentatively kissed him. And it was an innocent, a sweet kiss which John answered just as innocently and sweetly. After a moment Sherlock broke off and lay down next to John again, placing his head on John's chest right over his wildly pounding heart. He smiled.
'Thank you,' Sherlock whispered, his fingers playing with the fabric of John's T-shirt, creasing it with his long, slender fingers. John didn't answer, but planted a kiss on top of his head. They were comfortable and happy to stay like that and it felt right for both of them. After a while John dozed off, his arms wrapped around this amazing, fascinating and disconcerting young man.
When Sherlock woke up the next morning, John was gone. Startled he sat up in his bed and looked around. On the floor in front of his bed he found a paper torn out of a note book. In a curvy handwriting John had written:
thank you for this night. I had to leave early with my friends and I didn't want to wake you. Here's my address: John Watson, 43 Carson Road, SE21 8HT, London. Mobile: 0876534.
I'm waiting for news from India!