The air that day was so latent with fog you could barely see through it, and the sky was orange, Sherlock remembers, but so faintly so, that you hardly knew whether or not it was an illusion.
There are two pivotal moments of his life; moments that change everything. The first one is the day with the orange sky; the last thing that Sherlock ever sees.
The second is the day he meets John.
It’s the first day after the summer holidays. Sherlock comes into the kitchen after taking a shower, and hears Irene talking to his dad already before he fully enters the room. This is a routine: Every first day of school for the last five years, regardless of how much they’ve communicated during the summer, she appears at his house and walks with him to school
This might be the last time it happens, though. They’re starting year 12. Next year she will be off to college in Manchester, and Sherlock will be – well, he doesn’t know for now.
“There’s toast,” his dad says. Irene, however, interrupts that thought:
“We need to get you dressed first, though. Big day today.”
Hearing both of their voices, means that Sherlock is able to situate them in the room. Irene is across from him at the table, and his dad is a little to her left; Sherlock’s right. He walks up to the table, and leans on it with his palms around the edge of it.
“Are you my babysitter?” he asks. Irene hums.
“I’m your fashion icon,” she says. Sherlock feels the need to scuff, and does.
“Your dad is rolling his eyes at me,” Irene continues. So, they both agree; she’s silly.
“As he should,” Sherlock says. He lets his hand travel along the table until it hits the edge of a plate, and finds a still warm piece of toast on it. He doesn’t need to ask if there’s butter on it, because he can smell the sweetness of it, as it must be melted down the bread. “Why is it a big day?”
“And new people,” Irene says. “And older versions of the same people. You never know what might happen.”
Inappropriate choice of topic, Sherlock thinks, with his dad in the room and all. Irene seems to care very little.
“I think you should stop talking,” he says. He wills the heat in his cheeks that might mean a blush to go away.
“I think you should surrender to my vision,” Irene retorts. She sure sounds chirpy. Sherlock supposes he doesn’t have much of a choice. Irene rarely has ideas that she doesn’t succeed in carrying out.
Shrugging, and knowing that Irene will interpret this correctly as a sign of him giving in, he allows her to have her way; it’s easier, at the very least.
Seconds later there’s a warm, slender hand around his upper arm, and he’s being pulled out of the kitchen. Gently, at first, but as he picks up his pace, she does too, and simply tugs him along up the stairs. She’s not guiding him; not in his own home. Probably she’s just making sure that he doesn’t run away.
As they make it into his room, he goes to sit on the bed. He listens to the sound of his closet door opening, followed by the gentle swoosh of fabric being thrown about, and the occasional clank of the hangers hitting each other.
“How was Paris?” he asks. The noises don’t stop, but are muffled behind the sound of Irene’s reply:
“Sweaty. Beautiful. Possessing an excessive amount of colourful handbags.”
“Hm,” he says. He tries to lie down on his bed, but as he does he is pulled back up by Irene’s hand to his wrist, and a pile of clothes is being pushed into his arms.
“Put this on,” Irene says. “How was Italy?”
She allows Sherlock to sort through the pile in his hands himself. He quickly finds a pair of trousers in there, and stands up to tug his sweats off and put those on. He isn’t shy in front of her; it’s nothing, as she says, she hasn’t seen before. And, besides, she’s rather uninterested in the whole aspect of his gender.
“Sweaty,” he says. It was; so damn hot all the time. Sherlock spent most of his time drinking water and borrowing restaurant bathrooms. “Black.”
Irene snorts and titters. Pulling his T-shirt off over his head, Sherlock smiles while it is hidden behind the fabric; he can say these things to her without her getting worried. He grabs his shirt from the pile, and feels from the buttons on it that it’s a button-up. Putting it on, he starts with them at the neck and works his way downwards.
“You now, you’re tan,” Irene says. Her voice arrives from Sherlock’s left, a little in front of him, so she is probably sitting on his desk chair. Or the desk; it would be just like her to do that, and mess up his papers to be annoying.
“Yes. Broader, too.” She sounds like she’s considering something.
“Broader?” Sherlock asks. “Are you saying I’m getting fat?” He’s halfway down his chest with the buttons, and struggles a little to find the one above his lower rib.
Irene’s chuckle is just a huff of breath, but her tone, when she speaks, is airy and light in the way tones get when people are smiling: “No. I’m saying you’re getting attractive.”
“Oh,” Sherlock says. He doesn’t feel embarrassed here; she’s stating it like fact. “Are you jealous?”
An actual laugh now. Sherlock smiles, too. He has missed her.
“I don’t need to be,” she says. “I’ll have you know that I am also, in fact, very attractive.”
“Are you now?” Sherlock says.
Finished with the buttons now, he turns around to fetch the last bit of clothes. Feeling that it’s a jacket, he decides to leave it be; they don’t need blazers on the first day, and he’s certainly not going to suffocate in the heat still oppressing them just for Irene’s sake. If she’s right, he doesn’t even need it.
“Yes.” Her voice comes from higher up, so she’s standing. Sherlock stands, too.
“Lucky us, then,” he says.
She snorts, and takes a hold of his arm. Like that, they walk downstairs.
The first day of school is always hectic. Old people are finding their way to their new classrooms, and new people are simply trying to find their way anywhere.
Sherlock is bumped into several times but, as is custom by now, Irene stays by his side and holds his arm, going as far as to follow him to his classroom. On a normal day he wouldn’t let her; he likes to be as independent as possible. First days are exceptions, though.
Irene leaves him eventually, in front of his room. Most of his classes he has with a group of other blind kids, but there are some subjects where he’s been allowed to sit in on the regular class. The fact that he can’t see the blackboard is entirely made up by his excellence – he’s not just flattering himself; he really is the cleverest person in the whole of the school.
“I’ll come get you for lunch, shall I?” Irene asks, before she goes.
“All right, mother.”
Irene snorts, and gives his cheek a pat in farewell, going with the joke. Sherlock pretends to push her away, but doesn’t actually care all that much.
Sighing, he listens to her footsteps receding, before he turns back to the classroom door. And so it begins, he thinks: another year. The wheels keep turning, and nothing is ever new under the sun.
Irene, as promised, does pick him up for lunch, and they go to sit at their usual cafeteria table, in the farthest left corner from the food. It’s true that the rest of Sherlock’s senses are heightened in his blindness, but also, he just has a good sense of smell; the assault on the sense can quickly get a little too much.
Sherlock puts on his darkly tinted glasses, to avoid scaring any of the newbies. Who ever said he wasn’t considerate? Irene’s body presses into his side, as they sit close on the table bench.
At first, when Greg appears at their table, Sherlock doesn’t realize that he isn’t alone. He simply grunts upwards around his food, when Greg pats his shoulder and settles down next to him.
“I have someone with me,” Greg says, then. For Sherlock’s benefit. Sherlock turns his head slightly in Greg’s direction, because whomever Greg has with him hasn’t spoken yet, so Sherlock doesn’t know where to look to pay them attention.
“New guy,” Irene says. She must be studying at him. Looking him up and down probably, if Sherlock knows her right.
“John,” the new guy – well, John – says. Sherlock startles just a little; he’s heard that voice before. It belonged to someone who bumped into him earlier. He recognises it from John’s hasty apology.
John. The word like the sound of gold. The shiny flare of it; Sherlock remembers. He doesn’t know why the name makes him feel like this; warm and buzzing. It’s a word that he wants to claim instantly, to hold, inside of his chest.
Irene’s body shifts away from Sherlock’s side, upwards. She probably raises herself to shake John’s hand.
“Irene,” she greets. “You’re attractive.” Sherlock smirks, but bites his lip to hide it; this is for his benefit, too.
“Oh,” John says. It’s taken aback, but when he speaks again it is more deliberate: “Oh.”
“Ha!” Irene says. “No. I’m gay.”
“Right.” Confused now, John seems to be. Sherlock blames him, but only a little; Irene can be a challenge.
“Yes.” Irene reappears against Sherlock’s side. “Anyway. This is Sherlock.” She pats her hand to Sherlock’s shoulder.
“Yes,” John says. Sherlock feels the intensity of eyes watching him; it’s a very distinct feeling that he’s grateful to be able to discern. “We’ve met.”
Sherlock turns his head in the direction of John’s voice, so it will appear like he’s looking at him. That’s always the best reaction, at first. It’s not always that he cares but, for some reason, he does right now. He wants to make a good impression.
Still, what he says in reply is, “Have we?”
“I bumped into you earlier?” Sherlock shrugs. “I could have sworn you looked straight at me. Or were you so far off in your own world you went momentarily blind?”
Greg stiffens a little against Sherlock’s side at the word. Irene, however, must be trying to stifle a chuckle, judging by the way her chest shakes against Sherlock’s upper arm. Sherlock doesn’t actually mind; in fact, he feels himself smirking.
“Mm,” he says, deliberately keeping it ambiguous. He makes sure to be looking in John’s direction, before he takes his glasses off, slowly. As soon as his eyes become visible, he hears the sound of John inhaling sharply.
“Oh, shit,” he says. Irene snorts, in amusement.
It doesn’t pass his notice how John doesn’t apologize immediately. Somehow, it makes his smile broaden; he’s used to being coddled, treated like his blindness is something people have to apologize about, and as quickly as possible, so they can cease being confronted with it.
“Startled?” he asks. There’s the sound of the bench’s legs scraping over the floor, and when John’s voice comes again, it’s lowered to Sherlock’s eye-height; he’s sitting.
“Surprised,” John corrects. “Unexpected.” Not actually a sentence, but for once Sherlock doesn’t feel the need to huff in dismay.
“You’re looking at my eyes now, to figure out if I really can’t see,” he says.
There’s a very distinct feeling to people who are either taken aback or lying: their body becomes taut, their muscles tense, and the air around them feels firmer, somehow. Usually they also hold their breath; only for a single second or so, but Sherlock is meticulous in his deductions.
“No,” John says, but there’s a challenge in there.
“You just lied,” Sherlock says. The firmness disappears. John sounds like he’s smiling, when he speaks:
“Yes,” he says. A bit hesitant but amused. “How did you know?”
“Your body tensed up and you stopped breathing,” Sherlock says. Rattles it off, really, like it’s a simple matter of fact. He’s acutely aware that he’s moving into the kind of territory that normally leaves people either freaked out or irritated. Somehow, he doesn’t want John, this new, unknown boy, to think ill of him.
John is quiet for a while. He’s probably looking at Irene or Greg. Irene has, previously, informed him that this is the usual reaction: uncomfortable disbelief, directed at someone else, like he needs them as translators or can’t be spoken to. He’s worried he’s messed this up, already.
Then John speaks:
“Brilliant,” he says, and Sherlock has his world turned upside down.
“Excuse me?” He couldn't have heard wrong but then maybe John didn't speak the truth.
"I said brilliant," John says, however, and disputes that idea. "Amazing. Do you always do that?"
Sherlock smiles, wide and big, without meaning to. He can't imagine how John's expression must look, but the air around them suddenly feels buzzing, loaded with energy.
"Have to do something, don't I?" he says. John chuckles then, far more jolly than the comment deserves, and the beauty of the sound almost startles Sherlock.
"It's good to meet you," John says. Shifts again, Sherlock feels.
John hasn't met anyone blind before, Sherlock can tell. Probably he's holding out his hand for Sherlock to shake. Sherlock takes a chance and raises himself so he can reach out for where it might be; his fingers hit warm flesh, and he smirks a little. John's hand curls around his, warm and firm.
"Impressive," he says. Sherlock feels giddy with it.
“John,” he says, in greeting, and the word melts on his tongue, sweet and warm. John chuckles again, just a single huff of breath. His hand hasn’t left Sherlock’s yet.
“And you?” he asks.
“Sherlock,” John repeats. In his voice, Sherlock thinks, it sounds like music.