Sometimes I wonder if Sherlock just says he’s a sociopath so he doesn’t have to deal with the messiness of feelings. He certainly understands emotion well enough in other people; I’ve seen him play violin enough to know he feels the emotion of what he’s playing, even if it’s torture to the ear-drums. It’s not that Sherlock doesn’t have feelings, he’s just really bad at expressing them.
Take, for example, the night we were at the pool with Moriarty. After we were safe, Sherlock couldn’t articulate his thanks to me because he was so over-whelmed with relief and gratitude. Sherlock knows how to cry on command, but I don't think he would know what to do if his tears were ever real. I’ve ridden in cabs with him so silent and so wrought with tension you can barely breathe because he'd rather stew over some insult Anderson spat at him than talk about it. He is always questioning everything, and it's impossible to imagine him ever doing something spontaneously. I shouldn’t be surprised, then, that my sudden declaration of my love for my flat-mate has been met with nothing but a calculating stare.
I’m not entirely sure why I felt compelled to blurt it out. There was no place in our conversation for me to interject with my feelings. Reviewing a cold case is not the time to reveal something so personal; Sherlock clearly wasn’t expecting it... At least we can share the shocked silence.
I have been thinking about my feelings towards my flat-mate for some time now, so perhaps it isn’t too surprising that I said something. Sherlock is rude and cruel and has the emotional understanding of a four-year-old, but he is brilliant and mad, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him. Not that he needs to know all of that right now, but apparently my brain has different ideas of appropriate timing for confessions of love. Shocking my flat-mate into awkward silence more painful than one of those cab rides was clearly the perfect way to express myself.
So here I am, stuck in a glass elevator with a mime. Again. I swear, if Sherlock doesn’t say something soon, I’m going to flee down the stairs and keep walking until 221B and the world’s only consulting detective are just a distant memory. The tension between us is palpable, and I can’t decide if I want to cross my arms or fold my hands in my lap. My palms are sweating and I can feel my shoulder starting to twitch with stress.
Finally, he opens his mouth. “John,” he starts, decidedly not looking at me. “John, about what you just said…”
I lick my lips, trying to ignore the hesitance in his voice and how nauseous I suddenly feel. If Sherlock Holmes, the man known for revealing people’s darkest secrets without blinking, is having trouble saying something…
“I hope you understand; this isn’t easy for me. I am not used to such… declarations.”
I want to snap 'no shit, Sherlock,' but I hold my tongue. There’s a possibility that if I open my mouth now, I’ll vomit all over the rug, and I don’t think adding a puking ex-army doctor to the situation will help make it less awkward.
Sherlock’s fingers are dancing in his lap. “I… I appreciate your words, but I am unsure if I can… reciprocate. Emotions are… complicated, and while I am able to understand them as motives for certain crimes, I am not entirely clear on how to act on them myself.” He turns and leans forward, grey eyes suddenly fixed on my face. “I certainly care for you, John, and I know that I would be unhappy if we were ever to part ways... but is that ‘love’?”
My chest tightens, and I have to fight to keep myself from leaping out of my chair. “Sherlock –”
“You are my friend, John, and I regard you with more affection than I have for my brother, but this ‘love’ you are referring to? I do not think I am capable of experiencing such a thing.”
A huff of laughter escapes my throat before I can stop it. “Sherlock, you are capable of many things, and I don't doubt experiencing love is one of them." I lean forward and meet his gaze, smiling gently. "Do you know what I mean when I say I love you, Sherlock? I would risk my life to save yours, and I will always put your happiness before my own. I have been doing that since the day we met, and I have loved you since that first case... Love is more than what they talk about on telly or define in books, more than affection and secrets and shared smiles; it is commitment and compromise and the willingness to put the other person first. I ignore the body parts in the fridge and tolerate the dangerous experiments because I know how important they are to you. I join you on cases and willingly break the law with you because I know how much your work means to you. I make you eat and sleep because I want you to be healthy, even if you don't. And I will follow you to the ends of the earth because I love you, you brilliant idiot. Love is complicated and intense and can be confusing, yes, but I know you are capable of feeling it too.”
I stare at him, trying to read his reaction in his expression, but his face stays frustratingly blank. He gives me a calculating look and stays quiet. I fidget in my chair. Sherlock blinks. The silence stretches on. I’m about to apologize and retreat to my room when he speaks again.
“If what you just described is love, then it is possible that is how I feel about you,” he admits slowly, watching me carefully. “I know that I want to impress you... I want to show you everything I can do and hear your praises, but it’s more than that. I want to make you smile, John. I want to be the only one who can truly make you smile. I want to do all the pointless things you ask of me because I like the way you look at me when I've done something right; that fondness in your eyes, like I'm the only person in the world. I want to make you proud of me, not just because I'm brilliant, but because I listen to you. I want you to teach me how to be a better person, John, and I have never wanted anything like that from anyone before. Your opinion and approval matter more to me than even my own." His eyes soften, and I am overcome with the urge to wrap my arms around him and just hold him. I shift in my chair as he continues. "I want to protect you, even as you are protecting me, shielding me from the stupidity of others. At times you consume my thoughts; you have taken over my mind palace. I cannot look at you without my mind racing. I want to compose whole symphonies based solely on the way you smile at me, and it frightens me, John. I have never felt this way before."
Before I know it, I am across the room, hugging Sherlock to my chest. "There is nothing wrong with being frightened, Sherlock. If I'm entirely honest, it frightens me too sometimes. I never thought I would feel this way about a man, never mind my flat-mate and best friend. But I do, and there is nothing I can do to change it. I wouldn't want to change it if I could."
"I don't want to change it either, John," he whispers, face pressed into my neck.
"I'm glad," I mutter wryly into his curls, holding him close. "I love you, Sherlock Holmes."
He doesn't respond, but his arms tighten around my waist, and that's answer enough.