"You're not going," John said with a finality enough to interest Sherlock. He looked up, but did not stop gathering the things he would need.
"You know I won't get anywhere with this case unless I meet them in person, this is the best way to expedite things," he said, perfectly reasonable as ever.
"They why won't you let me go with you?"
"They want to meet me alone, your accompaniment would null our agreement."
"So you plan to meet a bunch of gangsters on your own? Tell me, where's the logic in going out to get shot?" John's anger was rolling off of him in waves. Sherlock gave him a critical look, easily picking up on all the tell-tale signs of anger, but also he saw anxiety; his hands, though clenched, where not fisted as one who was predominantly be angry would be.
"I'm hardly going to get shot, and if I do I'm sure you can tend to the wound," he said nonchalantly, not entirely sure if it was just John's usual misplaced worry for him that was in play here, the man was sending unusual signals, even if he didn't realise it himself. John took in a deep breath at that comment, incensed that Sherlock thought he could rely on John to stitch him up every time he went out and deliberately placed himself in danger; it was like a form of self-harm he could blame on others. He stomped over to the door where the stairs out where behind.
"You're not going," John growled. Sherlock's head snapped up; John had never spoken to him like this. It was the same kind of tone John used to tell people to back off or he was going to shoot them in between the eyes. The man's body was rigid, almost trembling with pent up energy that was currently being put to use in being angry. His eyes were dark and the usual characteristic kindness was completely absent from his face; it was a John that Sherlock did not particularly like.
"Why shouldn't I?" Sherlock challenged him, interested how this behaviour would play out and indignant that John was stopping him from doing something he wanted to do.
"I am not going to sit here and wait for you to come back here bleeding to death," was the response. Sherlock regularly put himself in danger of imminent bodily harm and John had never looked as ferocious as he did now, he wanted to know what had changed. "You go there and they are almost certainly going to kill you."
"You said 'almost', therefore there is a possibility I'll come out of the whole situation unharmed, which is my aim by the way," he said. The angry stance faltered a little before he put his arm out over the door frame.
"I'm not going to let you go out and do something so stupid. Call me selfish all you want, but I'm not letting you do it." ''Selfish'? Interesting lexical choice' Sherlock thought to himself.
"Why not?" Sherlock would ask this question all night if it meant he got a truthful and satisfactory answer from the army doctor, whose face was a little less rigid now.
"You mean too much to me for me to let you do this. Even if you're ok with the risk, I'm not," he said. The confession was almost apologetic - almost. He certainly looked as though he was prepared to use force if necessary.
"I've risked my life before."
"Not like this. This is like walking into a den of starving bears slathered in honey," he said and immediately regretted the analogy. He willed the heat in his cheeks not to be visible to his eagle-eyed friend.
"Interesting simile doctor," he said back, smirking a little to tease John. His interest in meeting the mob had significantly diminished in light of something far more interesting in front of him. John suddenly let out the violent breath he was holding in and he looked around a little awkwardly.
"Pick whichever simile you want, there is another way we can get to these people. I'd prefer not to have to write a eulogy at the end of the week," he said with more pain than he had wanted to let through. Sherlock's eyes darted over John's features: creased worry lines on his face, light perspiration of the anger before, fidgeting hands displaying anxiety, frequent shifting of weight telling of some kind of mental discomfort (it was not physical as he spent equal time on each leg and the change of weight was smooth). His eyes were still dark in the doorway, but when they looked away they looked less angry and more worried. About what, Sherlock couldn't be sure. Was it simply concern for his well-being? Concern for the other person paying rent for this flat? John was his friend and he did his best to reciprocate when he remembered so he was fairly confident the money wasn't a motivating factor. Was he planning to see another girlfriend tonight and didn't want Sherlock's possible-to-likely injuries spoil another date? This man threw up so many questions, the majority of which went unanswered and it not only infuriated Sherlock to a degree, but also kept his interest in his loyal comrade.
"Something else is going on, what is it John?" he asked directly. John looked a little afraid and very self-conscious, realising he had just turned the full beam of Sherlock's powers on himself. His heart began to thump so loudly in his chest he wondered if it would be audible by the fireplace where the detective stood. His hands felt cold as they became sweaty and clammy. He fought to retain control of himself. Sherlock walked towards him, no, stalkedtowards him, taking in every single piece of him and analysing it; he could almost see a whirr of thoughts above his friend's head.
"I said it before, I don't want you to go out and get killed," he said, now far more uncertain than he was before.
"What's going on? I want to know. I won't stop until I find the answer, John, you know me." Sherlock was predatory and right up close to his face now, his eyes not hiding their glances all over him. John knew he had cornered himself. Dammit! He cursed his protective nature. He knew he had to be honest, after all, Sherlock would instantly detect the moment he lied and then the spotlight would get brighter and hotter if possible. Right now he could feel Sherlock's steady breath on him as he was analysed.
"I don't think I could take it if you were seriously hurt, or even killed, as is likely in this case by the way, and I wasn't there to try and prevent something like that," he said, hoping that what he said was enough, though he could already see Sherlock meticulously going through everything John did not say in that instance.
"There's something you're not telling me, something that is important enough for you to consider using force to keep me in." Damn the man was persistent, couldn't he tell John didn't want to say anymore? Of course he could, he was just demanding an answer anyway.
"I care, Sherlock, I care a lot," he murmured and gave in. He touched Sherlock's close by hand with his own, his fingers just ghosting over those cold, long fingers and holding loosely his first two digits. Unsure, he looked up at Sherlock who leaned back, eyes wide and white, his eyebrows up into his hair. Without a word he turned heel sharply enough to whip John's leg with his coat and almost ran into his bedroom. John's whole figure sank as he heard the door shut assertively and the lock click across with a definite finality. There, Sherlock had, by the mere intensity of his stare, forced John to reveal his hand, or in this case, his heart. The feelings were still only in their infancy, he had only been aware of them for the past few weeks, but when he thought about it he knew they had stretched on back far more than just a few weeks. He realised it when he had last been contacted by Sarah for a date, with the promise of going back to hers for the night and he had found himself declining in favour of sitting reading in the living room while Sherlock was composing. He was so comfortable in his seat, in that situation with his friend that he didn't want to move for the world. He had met up with Sarah two weeks ago for lunch and called things off between them, and since they had not really had chance to get serious, she was good natured about it, if not disappointed and professional at the surgery.
His heart was still beating loudly, almost painfully. He decided he didn't want to be around in case Sherlock came out any time soon and so retreated into his own room upstairs, trying to read the last BMJ that he was halfway through. Predictably, he didn't get far and resorted to lying on his back in the increasing dark, the journal on his chest, open at the page he was on, his hands behind his head and staring at the artexing above him. He couldn't shake the feeling of sickness roiling in his stomach that seemed to infect his whole throat, and so, absorbed in his thoughts about what exactly he had just done, hours passed. It was late at night and the hunger had turned to light pain and John decided he wouldn't be a prisoner in his own home just for being honest about his own feelings, no matter how inconvenient they were. Surely Sherlock, with all the formidable mental powers at his disposal, would simply be able to act as though this never happened? He would either delete the scene from his 'hard-drive' or pigeon hole it as an aspect of John Watson not necessary for every-day recall, especially since John wasn't going to be pushy about it.
Feeling his limbs far too heavy for one so hungry, he trudged down the stairs, but lightened his step the closer he got to the landing, deciding that while he would not be a prisoner, he was not going to announce to Sherlock that he was on the other side of his door. He pulled a few things from the fridge to make a sandwich, feeling that's all he had the energy to make and that if he didn't eat soon his stomach would begin to eat him from the inside out.
Sherlock, possibly inevitably, did not emerge from his room that night. John considered knocking on the door to try and talk to him, but thought better of it. He did a little apologetic tidying in their living room, carefully restoring the violin and bow to its case and leaving it in Sherlock's chair. He went up to bed and hoped that somehow everything would be back to normal and Sherlock would have deleted the memory.
Of course not. John woke late in the morning, surprised to find no sign Sherlock had been up and around in the night as he usually was. The door through the kitchen remained shut. John frowned. This was a little ridiculous, there was no point Sherlock being angry about his confession. John briefly wondered if it has scared his friend off, but quickly thought better of it; Sherlock was more likely to sneer and rebuke him sharply before dashing off on his stupid suicide mission before that. He knocked on the door.
"Sherlock? Are you ok? Look, I'm sorry about what I said last night, I wasn't thinking straight. I know you probably don't want to talk about it, but could you at least stop hiding from me?" he said through the door. It wasn't as though John had propositioned him or anything. His companion was taking this far too far. Big surprise. No answer. John thought about knocking again, or banging harder, but felt he would resort to that later if the detective was still being silly. So the mundane day began, he washed, he dressed, he loaded the dishwasher. He dedicated his day to writing up the next chapter of his blog and was fast at work when a very dishevelled Sherlock emerged from his room and darted towards the bathroom before John could even say 'good morning, or afternoon now'. The pipes rattled in the walls as the boiler fired up and began pumping hot water through them towards the bathroom. John made a face in annoyance, he hated being ignored by a friend, especially as Sherlock was keeping away from him in case he might catch something. His fingers fell still. He was too distracted by the sudden continuation of his thoughts from last night to press the keys in some kind of order. He had not written another line by the time Sherlock had emerged from the bathroom, and he had time enough to see the lithe man rush across the hall, towelling his sodden hair and lock himself back in his room. John's hands fisted in annoyance. He really hoped Sherlock would grow up soon and talk to him, or at least break this silence. Sadness inevitably followed this anger and John slumped in his seat. Where his feelings really that unwelcome? So repulsive to the other man? If anything, he expected Sherlock to show a fleeting scientific interest in the notion of John's feelings, not this 'Johnny's got cooties' behaviour.
An hour later his temper, once again, got the better of him and he was determined to have this out one way or another with Sherlock. Dammit, he didn't want to be blanked out like he didn't exist, or avoided as though he carried Plague.
"Dammit, Sherlock!" he shouted, knocking on the door. "You can't just shut me out, for the love of...just come out and talk to me," he said. "Even if it's to tell me to get out," he added in a much quieter voice. He heard a shuffling of activity inside and the lock on the door clicked, the door opening abruptly. John blinked. Sherlock towered over him, the shower-fresh smell disorienting the smaller man for a moment and the fact that Sherlock was in his sharpest clothes, a black casual suit with a dark amethyst shirt. His hair was sleek and perfectly styled as though he had just emerged from a salon. Now it made sense when John thought he heard a hairdryer earlier. Was Sherlock going out or something?
"You're right, doctor, we have to talk right now," he said with energetic abruptness and quickly ushered the confused man to the front room and after moving his violin he all but jumped into his chair. He didn't appear to be in a bad mood then. Maybe he was excited at a chance to explore and document John's feelings out of scientific interest. That didn't explain the level of personal grooming and the suit that looked irrationally good on him. John hadn't really expected this from Sherlock and was at a loss to things to say, none of the discussions he had had in his head had ever taken this possibility into account. They mostly involved Sherlock distancing himself unbearably from John, telling him he should find somewhere else to live, or curtly reminding his was not interested in any kind of romantic relationship and carrying as normal because he wouldn't let something like that bother him.
"So?" he asked, thinking it might be best for Sherlock to take the lead in this. On second thoughts that was possibly a terrible idea, but the word had already escaped his mouth and Sherlock's cupid bow lips were moving before he had chance to try a different tactic.
"When did you discover this?" he asked, a little too eagerly for John's liking, he could imagine Sherlock logging it all away to write in one of the journals of his experiments. His stomach churned at the thought of being Sherlock's lab-rat he tried not to express it with a grimace.
"Probably a few weeks ago," he said. Honesty might have got him into this mess, but seeing as how Sherlock didn't actually seem to be in a bad mood he knew lying would get him into real trouble. Besides, the confession was out, what else did he have to lose at this point? It's not like Sherlock afforded him much in the way of personal dignity anyway.
"That's not an answer!" Sherlock snapped, but not in bad-temper. "Dates, times, precision, John; haven't I taught you anything about the need for accuracy?" he sighed dramatically, throwing his head back for good effect. John was fighting between being really annoyed at Sherlock's shameless analysis of some of his most precious emotions and being really distracted by the way the fabric of his clothes moved with him and the exposure of his white throat during his dramatic gesture.
"We...I...It's not just something you can put a date stamp on, feelings don't work like that," he said, uncomfortably.
"Then tell me how they do work." Sherlock was leaning forward again, practically inhaling the information as soon as it passed out of John's mouth.
"They build up over time so you don't really notice them at first until you just realise one day they're really strong and that's the way you feel," he explained, wondering where all this was going and when Sherlock was going to stop making him share. Sherlock nodded eagerly.
"And what was the trigger for you realisation in this instance? There had to be some sort of event that you realised your feelings were as powerful as they were." John scowled.
"When I said we had to talk, this isn't exactly what I had in mind," he said, refusing to let Sherlock bully in the data out of him with his staring, piercing eyes.
"What did you expect? That I would suddenly become all gooey and swoon into your arms?" he retaliated acerbically. A small part of him inside cringed, he did not mean to be so sharp; he was not used to having to temper his responses in respect to another person's unfathomable feelings.
"No!" John said, shaking his head in annoyance. "I suppose I largely expected you to tell me to either move out of Baker Street or that had no interest in such things and continue with your head in the fridge, or whatever you've got in there at the moment."
"What?" John asked, confused.
"There are eyes in the fridge at this moment, the head went some time ago."
"Right," he said, thinking he should say something to carry on their conversation, but nothing came to mind in that moment. There was a silent moment.
"So, what triggered this?" Sherlock tried again. John tried not to look too exasperated.
"What does it matter?"
"Indulge me." John fought for control of his reaction in that moment. If he didn't know better he could have sworn that Sherlock had deliberately asked him such a question in what could only be described as his sex voice. It made John have to concentrate to keep his breathing at a sensible and even pace. Judging by the smug look on Sherlock's face he haddone it deliberately. Bastard.
"I had an offer from Sarah a few weeks ago, she wanted to go out on another date and said we could go back to her place, but I realised that I'd rather stay here." There he said it, in as much a dignified and even voice as possible.
"Were we working on a case, because our adventures do seem to be far more interesting than your dates." John bit his tongue to stop the rebuke.
"No, I was reading and you were composing, in a particularly foul mood if I remember," he said. This answer seemed to have surprised Sherlock, because he leaned back in his seat, the purple shirt shimmering in the light over his skin and a curious expression of 'processing...processing...' on his face. John sat and waited for a response until after a couple of minutes there was none. "Right, I'll just go and make some tea, this is awkward enough," and made his way to the kitchen, careful not to trip on the wires from the mains socket to the table where an experiment was simmering. In his search for the milk, John spotted a sandwich box and immediately closed the door with his milk, knowing exactly what was in there, and it was not a mouldy BLT. Upon finishing he went to deliver Sherlock's tea to the table beside him, except his flatmate seemed to be eager for his next caffeine hit and took the mug straight out of John's hand, something he never did, and their fingers touched as he gripped the warm ceramic. John's heart skipped a beat, but continued to exercise his impressive self-control. He might have been able to conceal these things from anyone other than the hyper-observant man in the other chair and irrationally well-fitting suit. He sighed almost erotically as he sipped his tea and John didn't trust himself to drink without choking. He was caught staring and Sherlock smirked. The doctor was now very red in the face, feeling rather embarrassed, it felt as though Sherlock were trying to humiliate him. John was about to say something when the detective cut across him, again.
"John, I..." he trailed off, at a rare uncertainty.
"It's ok. I'm not expecting anything in return. I'll still be your friend and help you with your cases," John pre-empted him. Sherlock frowned.
"That's not it."
"What is it then?"
"No one has ever...made tea like you do," he said with some difficulty. John wasn't sure whether to laugh or scowl in confusion, so his expression was caught between the two.
"Well, I'm glad I make a good cuppa, I make mean coffee too," he said, choosing to make light. This conversation was awkward enough as it was.
"That's not what I meant," Sherlock replied, rather petulantly. All his confidence and exuberance from earlier was gone and John figured it was because the conversation had now turned its light on him and he found that intensely uncomfortable. "What I said at Angelo's was true, I have never been interested in that capacity in anyone. Those feelings," he spat feelings like it was a dirty word, "have never registered with me."
"Ok, what are you getting at?" Sherlock sipped more tea before replying. John had never seen the man so uncertain.
"You said that those feelings you have were only identifiable once they had built up to a sufficient degree?" John nodded. "And all it takes is a single event to push them into the conscious mind?" John nodded again. "Your describe something familiar I have found within myself. It has taken me eleven and a half hours to fathom what has suddenly displaced everything in my mind. It is a most unusual interruption, it has certainly been vastly irritating for my perfect order to have been disrupted, but I find the thought of purging myself of them to be repellent." John was unconsciously holding his breath. Sherlock sipped more tea. He decided to try the metaphor once more and hope John was not so dense as to miss it. "It is like I had never really tasted tea, and the cups you make have all the flavour of the world." John frowned, wondering what Sherlock's fixation with his tea was all of a sudden. Sherlock was giving him a meaningful stare and John wondered if he was trying to say something without wanting to actually say it. The doctor's eyes thinned as he wondered if the tea was a metaphor his effect on Sherlock and then widened at the implications of this.
"What are you saying? I need you to actually say it, or I'm going to get this horribly wrong," John said, refusing to let Sherlock run rings around the matter like this. His friend snarled in aggravation.
"Must I?" he complained.
"Yes you do, this isn't really something I want to muck up with bad communication, we do that regularly enough as it is."
"Very well," he cleared his throat and sat up, almost formally, setting his mug aside. "The gradual build-up of foreign sensations, as you described, has occurred within my mind also, and I attributed it to poor mental discipline on my part, after all, having a friend has been a highly distracting experience. I have enjoyed our companionship and therefore have not expunged it. But the trigger event, as you also described, for me was yesterday when you prevented me from going out. It has taken me, as I said before, eleven and a half hours to discover what this change was and it was a realisation that you have provoked emotions within me beyond our friendship. I decided I needed to test my hypothesis and determined to begin by testing the validity of your claims of...fondness for me. The results conclusively proved you were speaking the truth and now I find myself unsure how to proceed further." Sherlock, despite his strong stance, looked uncertain and a little vulnerable. To be even considering this as worthy of his time was a huge leap out of his usual comfort zone and to go boldly where he has never been before must have been rather frightening for him on some level.
John was now gripping his mug so hard it was shaking. Was Sherlock telling him he felt the same way? So what they had was true chemistry? Deciding now was a time to be bold with an uncertain Sherlock, he set his mug aside and leaned forward, offering his hand to the man. Sherlock looked at it. 'Couples express their feelings through physical contact' he said to himself to decipher John's movement. Steadily but slowly, he took it. The warmth was pleasing to his cold fingers and the light perspiration on the palm told him of anxiety and uncertainty during their conversation. John's fingers closed around his own gently, and he squeezed the hand lightly. Sherlock reciprocated and was inexplicably joyous when John's face split into a wide smile, one of happiness, but also one of relief. He couldn't help but smile back, his lips curving up a little.
"John, there is something you should be made aware of before we enter such a...relationship," he said. The doctor couldn't help but smile a little more at the word 'relationship'. He looked up expectantly. "I am completely inexperienced in any matter regarding a close relationship with another human being. Most of our friendship is a new experience for me, but this has been an unfathomable outcome for me until yesterday."
"It's ok. Experience isn't important to me. This is something we're both meant to enjoy so being uncomfortable at any point isn't a good thing. I'm happy to go at your pace, whatever makes you feel ok, we can do as much or as little as you want. I mean it." That was one confession of his feelings he was happy to make. Sherlock's happiness meant the most to him and he would see to that happiness as often as he could."
"So, if we never..."
"We don't have to do anything you don't want to," he reiterated firmly, but kindly. Sherlock breathed as though a weight had been lifted from him. John thought it was sad that Sherlock was reluctant to enter a relationship because of some ridiculous notion that sex was an obligatory part of it. Sex was good, but he also knew that these actual emotions were overwhelming enough to the other man without complicating them further. But he meant what he said, if they were happy together he would happily forgo sex; he had no doubt he would miss it, but he had coped for several lonely years with just his trusty right hand and was willing to do that again. Maybe Sherlock would want to experiment with sexuality one day; he hoped so, but that was a thought for the far future.
Sherlock wasn't sure why he felt so surprised at John's kindness towards him, perhaps because he had never been treated with such force of generosity before that it was new to him. No one had had that kind of patience with him, or ever promised to sacrifice something of great personal importance to them (sexual congress in this case) for the sake of him and his happiness. Yet, the force that was John Watson was sitting with a warm smile on his face, his equally warm hand pressed around Sherlock's own radiatingjoy like an excited atom. He was so lost in his thoughts that he barely noticed when John slowly let go of his hand and returned to his tea. Though Sherlock missed the warmth, he was glad to see John returning to normal, even if the forced even pace of his breathing told of otherwise well-concealed emotions; he wasn't about to gush emotion out at Sherlock - something he was grateful for.
They sat is happy silence for a long while, John picking up his book from the side table and re-immersing himself while Sherlock processed each and every one of his thoughts from the last hour. He was committing the sight of John's relief when he took his hand, the warm and texture of those hands when he idly looked at the clock.
"We're late!" he exclaimed, unexpectedly loudly. He leapt up out of the chair and seized his scarf and coat. John looked up confused.
"Late for what, exactly?" he asked, bewildered, marking his page and putting it back on the table, he knew they were going to be leaving very soon.
"Dinner!" Sherlock announced and bolted out the door before John had even got to his feet.