It had been a tiring day, no doubt about that. Which is why, when Sherlock and John returned home, John wished the still-excited detective a good night, brushed his teeth, undressed himself, slipped into his bed and was asleep the moment his head hit the pillow.
At first Sherlock hadn’t even registered the fact that John wishing him a good night meant that the doctor was actually going to sleep, so for the next twenty minutes he kept on pacing around the room, recapping their entire day as if the good doctor hadn’t been by his side every step of the way. Only when the tall detective asked John about his thoughts on a certain detail of the day – it still puzzled him why Lestrade had given both of them a curious look when they’d burst out laughing the moment Greg had mentioned ‘both of them would never see the queen’ if they kept behaving like that – and didn’t receive an answer, did Sherlock realize John had really meant to go to sleep after wishing him a good night. This stopped him dead in his tracks, because, now that he was actively thinking about John, another question, a question of a very different nature that had been plaguing him for over a week, suddenly popped into Sherlock’s head. And, being who he was, this question needed to be answered right now.
John was half-way into his first dream of the night when Sherlock walked into his room, grabbed the desk chair, sat on it and waited. Waited for John to wake up, so he could ask his question. For someone with such a massive intellect Sherlock still didn’t grasp a lot of the most basic human interactions. Which is why he didn’t think it was strange at all to expect John to wake up merely because he wanted him to. Of course that didn’t happen. John was blissfully unaware of the fact he was being watched, dreaming of being back in high school and seeing friends whose faces he couldn’t even remember.
Sherlock watched and waited. Watched. Waited. Until another twenty minutes had passed and he’d had enough. His right hand reached for the sleeping doctor, poked him gently in the shoulder and he said, in a clear voice:
The poke did nothing to disturb John’s dreams, but the voice, however, did. This was the first clue the world’s greatest detective overlooked completely. John stirred and his breathing quickened, but he didn’t wake up yet. Sherlock waited for a moment, then repeated the poke and said, in a slightly louder voice:
Again, it wasn’t the poke, but the voice and, more to the point, what that voice said and how it said it, which made John stir. He groaned, pulled the sheet tighter around his shoulders, but in spite of this he was already on his way to waking up. Again Sherlock waited, a bit longer this time, but when he heard John’s breathing steadying once more, he poked, harder and said, with a little bit of a whine in his voice:
That got the more-or-less sleeping again doctor’s attention. He began to stir in earnest and eventually opened his eyes and glared, yes, glared at Sherlock.
“What is it now?”
John’s mumbled question was barely audible, but Sherlock heard it any way. He stood up, pulled the chair closer and sat down again.
“What do you feel when you… like someone?”
That certainly wasn’t a question John had expected to hear, especially not at this ungodly time of night, and he blinked once, twice, three times, before he sat up, scratched his head and took a long look at Sherlock. He knew better than to answer right away, so instead he asked the great detective a question of his own.
“What do you mean when you say like someone?”
That question took Sherlock by surprise. He hadn’t expected John to ask him to clarify this unfamiliar feeling, especially since he’d been trying to avoid analyzing this alien emotion with a mind that was unaccustomed to thinking about such ordinary issues. But, because it was John who asked the question, Sherlock felt he was obliged to at least try to put into words what had prompted him to come to John with this particular subject at this particular time of night.
“Well… It’s like…”
A myriad of possible explanations bloomed in Sherlock’s overactive mind. He flipped through them, like normal people would flip through a magazine in search for just the right article to read, until he came across what he thought to be an accurate enough description of his current predicament.
“I like my violin. I’d be upset if something were to happen to it. In fact, I’ve been, in the past. Upset. When Mycroft had inadvertently damaged it and had subsequently sent it off to be repaired. I felt… lost. I wanted to compose, or to play music, and I couldn’t and I felt frustrated, restricted, just… unhinged. And, and it’s the same with this person. When, when eh, that person’s gone, I feel… There’s a hole my stomach, well, not a real one, that would be impossible, ‘cause then I’d be dead and clearly I’m not so what I’m trying to say is-“
John held up his hand as he hid his grin by pretending to stifle a yawn with his other hand.
“Alright, that’s enough. I get the picture. That sounds an awful lot like liking someone to me. Are you actually telling me, in your own, slightly excentric way, that before you met this person you’ve never felt like this about anyone else before? In your entire life?”
The slight tone of disbelief in John’s voice confused Sherlock. Never before had he thought about this specific aspect of the social conventions the society around him was based on. His entire family had never been overly explicit in expressing their feelings towards each other. It wasn’t until Sherlock had actually seen Mycroft go out with a woman that he’d realized his family could harbour emotions for persons other than family, and that these feelings differed from the carefully cultivated emotional detachment the Holmes family seemed to excel at. It wasn’t that any of the relationships he’d observed, both from watching Mycroft and other members of his family, had ever lasted for more than two years, but still, they’d been clear evidence of the theory Sherlock had been constructing over the years that he was, indeed, the odd one out. He’d been the one person in their family who had never even felt remotely attracted to, or even interested in, anyone else but himself and his family. In that order. After that he’d accepted the simple fact that in a group of people with a distinctly different outlook on life from the majority of humanity, bound together by blood, he’d been the exception to the rule. Which was the sole reason, pure and simple, for him to completely ignore this particular aspect of human interaction in regards to himself.
And now the good doctor, a man Sherlock had only known for less than a year, gave him food for thought, merely by being quite genuinely puzzled at this revelation. Right then and there Sherlock decided it would take far too long to explain why this question had taken him by surprise, if John had even noticed this, instead opting for acknowledging John’s inadvertently, but quite astute, placed proverbial finger on the proverbial sore spot.
“Yes. I believe I am.”
“Sherlock… Really? Not once? No secret crushes, no unrequited loves? Not ever?”
For some inexplicable reason that Sherlock couldn’t fathom John’s lips had curved into the faintest of smiles after the detective’s admission of this fact. Also, the disbelief had been replaced with something that, to Sherlock, was remotely akin to amusement. However, he wasn’t sure, due to another very simple and well-hidden fact. Because, quite simply put, there were certain things in life he would never admit to. Being unable to ‘read’ John as accurately and easily as he could every other person – except for maybe Mycroft, but in that case his blurred vision could be attributed to them being related – was one of those things. Being wrong, of course, was another. Disliking pets in general was a third and why was his mind going off on another tangent in the middle of what he perceived to be a very important conversation?
Again Sherlock thought about adding an explanation, but, like he’d done before, decided against it. John stayed silent after this crystal clear negation on Sherlock’s behalf. His faint smile, however, didn’t fade. If anything it became a bit more pronounced, which was the second clue that the man who considered himself to have one of the greatest minds ever known to man – if not the greatest mind, he wasn’t exactly known for his modesty – missed in less than an hour’s time.
“Right. Well, then I can imagine this must all be a bit… confusing for you. Truth be told, I’d sort of assumed you were not interested in those kinds of things at all. That you were, as they call it, asexual. Can’t blame a guy for thinking that, can you?”
Of course Sherlock couldn’t blame John for thinking that. In fact, Sherlock could or would never blame John for thinking anything about anything in regards to Sherlock, unless it would involve certain things that the lanky detective had been wondering about for the past few weeks. So he shook his head and tried to figure out if John’s question was a rhetorical one which merited no answer on his part or if it was a question that required him to open his mouth and actually reply. Luckily, the ex-army doctor was as well-versed in ‘reading’ Sherlock as Sherlock wasn’t in ‘reading’ John and thus saved the slightly confused and supposedly superior human specimen the embarrassment of trying to figure this out.
“That’s what I thought. Does this answer your question or will you insist on keeping me awake for at least another hour while we discuss the finer points of ‘liking’ someone, which will inevitably lead to me falling asleep at work, probably with my face on my keyboard, which in turn will cause me to go home after another unproductive day with a row of squares etched on my forehead?”
John’s lips curved into a distinct smile as he said this, a sign that even Sherlock, who’d been completely ignorant of any other signs that John had displayed earlier that night, couldn’t miss and which told him that John was teasing him. Well, at least as far as the truth can be used to tease someone, because Sherlock knew for a fact that this scenario had taken place at least three times in the previous month. Oh yes, our precious detective knew and felt quite guilty about him being the cause of John’s sleep-related problems at work.
“No, I’ll… I’ll leave you to it. It being, well, you sleeping and being all awake tomorrow, and… Thanks. Thank you, John. Good night.”
Sherlock stood up and returned the chair to its original place, but not before John, with the keen eyes of a battlefield surgeon, trained to see details even under conditions that would make regular surgeons balk at the idea of even attempting to cut open a wounded person, saw a faint blush on his flat mate’s features as the light of the lantern outside his window fell across Sherlock’s face for barely a moment. As the older man rested his head on his pillow once more and pulled his sheets around him, the smile never left his face, not even when he fell sound asleep.