John was on the verge of panicking as he cleaned up the flat to look as though Sherlock hadn’t been conducting a marathon of experiments. There were enough discarded body parts and organs in the kitchen to make people think they were running a butcher’s shop while the living room still had the lingering smell of lilacs and bile, a combination that John had been trying to combat with all the air fresheners they could afford for the past day to no avail.
Setting up everything he might need for tea, he cast a weary glance at the fridge. Takeaway would definitely be on the menu for the evening given the fact that he couldn’t actually open the fridge without exposing Sherlock’s collection of insanity. No, if he had any chance of things continuing to go well, he would have to make his life seem a normal as possible.
“You know you’re being ridiculous. It isn’t as though any of your girlfriend’s last long, regardless of what you do,” Sherlock called out from where he was using John’s computer in the living room.
Standing in the doorway of the kitchen, John closed his eyes as he took a deep breath in an effort to steady his nerves. “Sherlock, this is important to me.”
“Yes, I know. Behave, don’t show off. Honestly, I’m not a child,” Sherlock said with a roll of his eyes.
“And this isn’t some girl either,” John warned.
He could practically feel his stomach clench up when Sherlock looked at him in that way that meant he was processing. After so much time living with the other man, he knew when Sherlock discarded the idea that John was rather serious about his new girlfriend in favour of the more rational choice that John’s girlfriend was a guy. Not that John was ashamed of such a fact, it was just that, after their first awkward talk about sexuality when they met, he didn’t want Sherlock over generalizing and thinking that he had a thing for him when he didn’t. Sherlock was a nice enough guy, but John knew nothing was ever likely to happen between them.
Sitting up, Sherlock slowly raised his eyebrows in shock before nodding. “Well, either way, people you date don’t last long and I doubt he’ll be any different.”
“Thank you. Now, no talking of cases or dead bodies or experiments. And please, for the love of God, don’t be an arse. I like him and I don’t want you ruining this.”
“Does he have a name?”
“Ford. And that’s him,” John said rushing off the moment he heard the door.
Standing in front of the door, he took a deep breath and fixed his hair as best he could. Everything was going to go great, he was certain of that much. Shaking out his arms nervously, he nodded to himself before opening the door.
“Oh... It’s just you.”
“Pleasure to see you as well, Doctor Watson,” Mycroft said, flashing that polite smile before walking in. Looking around, he seemed to focus in on John for a moment before giving him a look of sympathy. “Having him meet Sherlock? Dreadfully sorry.”
Staring in shock, John shook his head, deciding that the last thing he needed to do was question how Mycroft managed to figure out that he was going out with a bloke. Instead he merely pointed up toward the flat. “He’s in the living, messing about on my laptop.”
“Thank you,” Mycroft said before heading up.
Leaning against the door, John groaned at his bad luck since he knew that no good would come from Mycroft popping in. Mostly because the man didn’t pop in unless he had something he wanted Sherlock to take care of, which often meant that they would be working a case, much to John’s annoyance. Because, even if Sherlock waited until Mycroft left, he was likely to start in on things rather quickly simply because of the fact that John had a date and the Holmes family had unconsciously mastered the art of cock-blocking.
But there was no point sulking by the door, so with a heavy sigh, John made his way up the stairs, unfazed by the sight of Mycroft and Sherlock staring each other down as usual. Going into the kitchen, he started the kettle, pulling out a box of Earl Grey.
“I don’t care, Mycroft. I’m not doing it,” Sherlock snapped, playing uninterested as usual.
Giving his brother a rather disappointed glared, Mycroft said, “It’s important to mummy.”
Which was so not what John was expecting. Leaning against the doorway, he decided to take the risk of interrupting their conversation. “Mummy? You’re here about your mum?”
“She wants us, both of us, to visit,” Mycroft said, stressing the fact that Sherlock was expected to go along.
“I’ve better things to do than listen to her talk about how she misses us while you try not to stuff your face on the cook’s food. Plus you just know he’ll be there.”
“That’s your reason for avoiding this? Him?” Mycroft asked, rolling his eyes at the thought.
“Don’t make it seem as though you don’t do the same.”
“No, you go and then hide in the study while mummy spends all her time fawning over him,” Sherlock said, disdain dripping from every word out of his mouth.
“Unlike you, avoiding the entire family out of fear that someone else might get all your attention,” Mycroft mocked bitterly.
John was about ready to accept their bickering as his only entertainment for the evening when he heard the door again. Bolting up, he rushed over to the two brothers, standing between them to prevent either from focusing on anyone but him.
“Alright. That should be him this time. First guy I’ve brought here and I’ve already told Sherlock to behave and, while I know I probably don’t have to tell you this, behave, Mycroft. Don’t embarrass me, don’t observe anything and don’t be smug. That goes for both of you and, please, I’m begging you don’t—“
“John, this one’s here for you. Quite the looker he is too,” Mrs. Hudson said from the door, giving him a wink before walking off.
Paling as his new boyfriend walked into the room, John walked over to him, trying to keep his face from going red as a tomato. As though the smell of bile in a flowery field wasn’t bad enough, he was certain both Holmes brothers were watching as he greeted the brunette. Probably deducing everything possible from his stubble and dark coat. That he was in need of a hair cut from the way his dark brown hair was beginning to curl. Hell, they were probably even working out if he was merely a proxy for Sherlock based on the purple scarf around his neck, even if the man was shorter.
It was a million and one things that John didn’t actually care about the moment that his date leaned in and kissed him, completely oblivious to the other people in the room. Cupping that stubbled jaw, John tried to forget them as well until the other man pulled away with a smile.
“Sorry I’m late.”
“It’s fine, Ford.”
Smile never fading, his date looked up at the two brothers, instantly reminding John that he had to make introductions. Or rather, he should’ve, if not for the way that his date walked over to the two taller men, hands clasped behind his back.
“Pleasure to see you boys. Although, I must admit, I wasn’t expecting you here, My.”
“You know them?” John asked, the shock in his voice only matched by the sheer fear of how the man might know them. If the guy turned out to be another Moriarty, he was certain he was never going to bother dating again.
“Oh, yes.” Scratching at his jaw, the man looked at John with furrowed brows, as though he was trying to figure out a puzzle. “This is going to sound so terrible, John. And I am very sorry for not mentioning it, but... Well, they’re my younger brothers.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
Mycroft chuckled as he shook his head. “I’ve been an idiot. You coming to town, relaying messages from mummy, staying overnight in a hotel. Blonde hair on your shoulder. You were dating John and didn’t want little ‘lock to know because—“
“Well, he does, doesn’t he? You just thought I was taking up with some random bloke. Honestly, My, I did make it obvious for you.”
“Let’s focus on me,” John said as he walked over to his date. “Ford, you’re their brother?”
“Yes. I told you my name was Ford Holmes. That was... a small lie.”
“Omission,” Mycroft offered with a chuckle.
“Mycroft, no interruptions,” the shorter man demanded, raising one finger up in warning. “Ford is short for Sherrinford. Are you upset?”
“I am,” Sherlock said, finally finding his voice. Standing up, he moved to stand in from to his older brother, staring down at him angrily. “You’re sleeping with my blogger and you knew from the start he was mine.”
“Sherly, don’t be territorial.”
“Don’t call me that, Sherrin!”
“Boys,” John barked. Satisfied when the both look at him, obviously cowed by the tone of his voice, he rubbed at his eyes. “Right, first off, I’m not some toy to be fought over. Now, all of you, sit on the sofa.”
Mycroft scoffed. “I understand you’re... coping, but I don’t see why—“
“I said sit,” he commanded, using a tone that had once been reserved for wayward troops.
Without so much as a peep, all three Holmes brother, and dear God there were three of them, sat down on the sofa. Mycroft immediately took the spot between Sherrinford and Sherlock, the former looking apologetic while Sherlock simply settled for sulking like the baby of the family he apparently was.
Taking a deep breath, John shook his head as he looked toward the ceiling for some kind of guidance or reason for the complexities that riddled his life as far as this one family was concerned. Pulling up his chair before tem, he sat down and looked them over.
“God, you do look like them,” he muttered sadly, hating himself for missing something so obvious.
“Yes, well, more Sherlock than Mycroft. He looks like father, though, I suppose we both have father’s nose,” Sherrinford said, obviously trying to alleviate some of the tension in the air.
“That and Sherrinford never actually grew,” Sherlock sniped. “What kind of an older brother is the shorter than his younger brothers?”
“You’re older than Mycroft?” John asked, ignoring Sherlock, for the most part.
Looking toward the man at his left, Sherrinford sighed. “Yes. Three years older making me... a good decade older than Sherlock.”
“And you knew who I was when we met?”
“No. I figured it out later.”
“When? Minutes later? Hours? Days?”
“When I was chatting you up at that pub the night we met. You mentioned having an impossible flatmate when explaining why you were there with... Stamford. Final piece falling into place, so to speak.”
“But you don’t... You’re not...”
“Don’t be daft, John,” Sherlock scoffed. “He’s better at observation than me or Mycroft. Although, where Mycroft decided to use his powers for boring things like running the country, Sherrinford never left mummy’s fond embrace.”
“Yes, Sherlock, I have an Oedipus complex. I secretly want to fill father’s place in her life, except for te part where I have no interest in women. I suppose that would make it more a Norman Bates complex.”
“You know he doesn’t understand that reference, Ford,” Mycroft chastised.
“I wouldn’t mind explaining, but he’ll simply delete it because I said it.”
“Hey,” John interrupted, not wanting to have to put up with three of them being snide and childish. “So you knew all along that I was living with Sherlock. Why not tell me?”
Sherrinford laughed at that. “Oh yes. John, I know we’ve just started dating, but I felt I should tell you that the man child you live with is my baby brother, who despises me because of some childish feud.”
“That’s pretty much how Mycroft introduced himself.”
“He would still be upset over that,” Sherrinford said, glancing fondly at Sherlock, who simply glared back. Looking back at John, he shrugged. “But, for the most part, I fail to see how any of this is relevant or important. We’ve been happy together for four months now and I enjoy you. I enjoy going out, staying in, having sex.”
“Disgusting,” Sherlock complained.
“And if you no longer share that feeling, that would be fine. I know the loyalty my brothers tend to inspire in others.”
“Mostly because of that drunken night you ‘accidentally’ shagged Mycroft’s boyfriend,” Sherlock pointed out in that cocksure way of his.
Rising to his feet, Mycroft dusted himself off before nodding to John. “On that note, I think I’ll leave before my life can be brought any further into this. Sherrinford, Sherlock.”
Watching in shock as the man left, John glanced between Sherlock, who suddenly seemed a lot more interested in the conversation and the mix of amusement and guilt on Sherinford’s.
“He knew. He’s known for awhile about that...”
“Accident?” Sherlock offered helpfully. “Where you just slipped and fell into that poor bloke repeatedly.”
“Sherlock, does the idea of sex still make you this uncomfortable?”
“I am not afraid of sex.”
“And I am not afraid of lions, but theories are so very different from practise, wouldn’t you agree?”
“John, be sure to call me back in when you break up with him,” Sherlock said before leaving the room as well.
Sighing, John got up from his seat and sat down next to Sherrinford. He was still more than a bit upset that the guy hadn’t even told him that he had all but planned for his flat becoming the battlegrounds for whatever World War it was that the Holmes boys had managed to work up to, but when Sherrinford wrapped his arms around his waist, kissing the top of his head, John found some of that anger fading.
“You knew all along and didn’t tell me. Didn’t even hint at it,” he pointed out, more to remind himself than anything else.
Nodding in agreement, though, Sherrinford smiled against his head. “I thought you might want to break up for Sherlock’s sake. Didn’t actually want that. Didn’t want you hiding this from him either.”
“I’m shagging his brother.”
“Could’ve been worse. Could’ve been Mycroft.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say,” John said, resisting the urge to laugh.
“I meant that in the sense that Sherlock would’ve been more wounded about that. Not in the sense that Mycroft has put on half a stone after rapidly losing two since I last saw him,” Sherrinford corrected him, looking almost offended that John would think that he would insult his younger brother.
“What other horrible secrets am I bound to learn about you?” John asked, feeling that it was a fair question given the bombshell that had just been dropped on him hat evening.
“Depends on how long you stick around,” Sherrinford said with a shrug. “Odds are, they’ll be a lot worse than this. Of course, you’ve killed a man to keep my brother from killing himself, so... You can’t really judge.”
“How do you know that?” John asked, sitting up to look him in the eyes.
“I’m cleverer than Sherlock and Mycroft. Do you really care for me to explain?”
“No. God no. I’m just going to get a takeaway menu. Thai food alright?”
“Of course. And John?” Sherrinford asked, finally settling in as he took off his coat and scarf.
“How would you like to spend a week at the Holmes household?”
“You mean when Sherlock and Mycroft are there because your mum misses them?” He questioned nervously.
It was the same sort of ‘would you like to meet my family’ question John had been pondering for awhile himself. After all, they’d been together for awhile and things were a lot more serious than John would’ve ever imagined. Except, where John would be introducing Sherrinford to his too loving family and drunken sister, John got the vague feeling he would be stripped and put back together more times than he could count with all the Holmes boys watching over. He didn’t even want to think of how their mother would treat him.
“Takeaway. Gotta order that now,” he said, rushing off to the kitchen.
“So, should I pretend you said yes since you will over the next 102 hours or wait?”
“Uh... Waiting sounds good,” John said, far too flustered by the entire situation. “And can you go back to being less Holmes like?”
“Of course. And order dumplings. I do so love Thai dumplings,” Sherrinford called out.
John nodded to himself as he looked over the menu for dumplings. Sure, Sherrinford was right about him giving in, although the fact that the man worked it down to the hours worried John about as much as the fact that he couldn’t stop his mind from thinking about the fact that Sherrinford was just another Holmes or that he looked suspiciously like an older version of Sherlock to some degree. Although, Sherrinford wasn’t currently acting like a child who’s toy was being taken away. Not that he had to since John was dating him.
Clenching his eyes shut, he banged his head against the fridge repeatedly, cursing everything and everyone for the Holmes family and their stupid need to ruin his life. It was times like this that made him wish that Moriarty would’ve just killed him. At least then he wouldn’t have to mentally prepare for what he was certain would be the hardest week of his life.