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The Perfect Stranger

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Well, this is inconvenient, he thinks. He’s been through failed relationships, some early-in-life sexual attraction and activity, drug use that sometimes got a bit out of control. He’s in control of those urges now, and has rarely felt the siren song of syringes or shagging in years. Then a handsome army doctor hands over his phone and in his eyes, Sherlock sees a flicker of something he would confirm the next day.

John Watson is a brave and dangerous warrior in a cable knit jumper.

By the time Sherlock asked, “Dinner?” and John’s perfect answer was, “Starving,” it was over. He was completely besotted, obsessed, consumed with thoughts of John.

Sherlock’s feelings were inconvenient, because the gorgeous perfect army doctor? Well, he was not gay.

It’s okay, he told himself. Just having John around, in my life, my work, as my most trusted friend is enough. This he told himself every day, and he was thankful. He hadn’t had a friend besides Lestrade in a long time, and Lestrade was more like a colleague. No, John was different. Sherlock loved him, was fascinated by him. He needed to keep John close, so he buried the attraction and the affection, and only let some amusement and camaraderie show through his mask. John seemed to respond beautifully. He appeared to genuinely like and respect Sherlock, and was sometimes in awe. He said, “Amazing” and “Brilliant”. It was enough. It had to be.

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Fuck me, he thought. What the bloody hell was that? Mike said, “Yeah. He’s always like that.” John looked back at Mike but didn’t really see his face. Sherlock Holmes had seen right through him, knew so much about him with only one look. And was that a wink there at the end? What the hell?

He and Mike walked up the stairs and out of the building, exchanged numbers and said their goodbyes, promising to keep in touch. John limped his way back to his studio flat, his temporary accommodations. A quick search for “Sherlock Holmes” turned up his website. It was very detailed and he could imagine Sherlock’s rapid-fire voice (that voice!) delivering the slightly boring information. He remembers thinking that he must be round the bend to consider living with the madman. The interesting, mysterious, strangely gorgeous lunatic.

Thinking of living with a man like Sherlock Holmes made him twitchy and his stomach flipped dangerously. He’d never ever had such a strong initial reaction (attraction) to anyone. He had to see it through. So he met him at the flat and got defensive when the landlady suggested they might be sharing a bedroom. Protesting a bit too much, he hoped his true feelings wouldn’t be revealed to the world’s most observant man.

He couldn’t help his impressed outbursts at that first crime scene, but tried to keep his staring at a minimum during the stakeout dinner. He didn’t succeed, and Sherlock knew what he was doing, and rebuffed John’s slightly awkward personal inquiry. Disappointment weighed heavy on his shoulders. He wasn’t going to get to touch the sexy madman.

John’s feelings were inconvenient, because the stunning consulting genius? He was married to his work.

By the end of the second night, his feelings were stronger, but he didn’t care as much about being shot down as a romantic partner. He cared that the one-of-a-kind genius didn’t do something ridiculously stupid to get himself killed. The world was better with Sherlock Holmes in it. John learned to look away when Sherlock’s shirt buttons strained, which was often. He fell in love with Sherlock, but respected him as a man and a friend. He would never do anything to ever jeopardize the trust and friendship Sherlock had gifted him. Never.

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The problem was that they spent so much time together. When he was awake and aware (and not in his mind palace) he was watching John either outright or surreptitiously. Lying on the couch sulking, or pretending to sulk harder than he actually was, Sherlock stared off in the direction of their chairs. It was cold in 221B and John was building a fire. Sherlock made a habit of staring towards John, but not directly at him unless he absolutely knew John wouldn’t catch him. This made it difficult to stare at his face. He had to constantly be vigilant for John’s eyes, which may flicker to his without warning. He was much better able to study John’s face in profile. Sherlock had perfected his middle-distance stare. Now though, he could look his fill, because John had his back to him. Sherlock could just barely see his ear, lower jaw, and cheekbone when John reached for the poker or a new piece of wood. He didn’t have much time to ogle the man, the fire was glowing nicely already.

He stared at John’s back. His shoulders were broader than Sherlock’s but his waist was not as narrow. It gave him a lower center of gravity and a compact form that Sherlock wanted to wrap his body around. His hands wanted to squeeze both deltoids, one in each hand. He wanted drape his taller form over John’s back trapping his hands between them. He wanted to use his fingertips, eyes closed, and catalogue the scar he knew was on his left shoulder. The scar that allowed him to return to London. To find him. To save him, really.

He stared at John’s thighs. John was not a tall man, but his body was strong. His thigh muscles bulged through his jeans, and Sherlock imagined being able to let his finger trace up the outside of his quadriceps femoris, from knee to hip, then dip down, and trace it from groin to knee again. John squatted while he worked, building and stoking the fire with one hand using the heavy poker, the other hand resting on his knee as he sat on his heels.

He stared at John’s arse. Bent over, almost anyone’s arse looked enticing. But Sherlock thought John’s arse was the most perfect one he’d ever seen. Clothed, of course, because he knew not of it otherwise. Pity. His hamstring muscles were tight all the way up to the curve of his gluteus. That muscle was small and tight, but there was a softness just above, like a slight swell behind each hip. Sherlock thought the word “love handles” was used to refer to this part of John. Love handles. He could imagine his large thumbs squeezing both hips while all four fingers gripped that slight softness at his back. He could imagine…no…don’t imagine it...bare. Sherlock let out a soft moan. John turned slightly, and said “All right?”

“Yes, John.”

He went back to working the fire, which was burning well. Sherlock knew he would turn around and sit back in his chair, or head to the kitchen, very soon. He looked away.

The urge to touch John after he’d stared for a while was overwhelming. He physically turned, facing towards the back of the couch, and clasped his hands between his knees. He needed to stop indulging this unhelpful obsession of staring at John’s body parts. The poor man had no idea he was being so keenly observed. The way Sherlock inspected him was like an invasion of privacy, and wasn’t that some kind of breach of trust? Sherlock wasn’t sure, but he told himself he would try to do better - to leave John alone, or at least to tell his eyes to leave John alone.

There must be some solution, a way to alleviate the desire, the hungry want, for John Watson.

Sherlock pondered this puzzle. He loved puzzles, but he only loved them for their solutions. The way he saw it, there were three possible ways to solve his problem. He could deeply suppress his urges, using discipline and the power of his vast intellect, so he could look at John feel only neutral fondness and friendship. The problem was that he had tried this for months and was failing spectacularly. He could be honest with John, tell him how he felt and see if John could possibly feel the same way. This action was very high cost with little chance of reward. There was no way a straight man could love him, and knowing how Sherlock felt, there was no way John could stay living with him. John would feel terribly guilty because he couldn’t return his sentiment. He also wouldn’t feel comfortable continuing his quest for a romantic relationship with a woman in front of his pining flatmate. No, Sherlock couldn’t be honest with John. He would lose his only friend and the person he desperately loved. Lastly, he could find someone else to act as sort of a surrogate for his sexual urges. There would never be another John, but maybe there would be someone out there with graying blonde hair and a compact body who would arouse Sherlock enough to satisfy his cravings. He had doubts that this solution would actually solve his problem but he was willing to give it a try on the off chance that it would help a little.

It might even be fun. Sherlock hadn’t been with anyone for a long time, but he never had trouble attracting attention. At one time, he had enjoyed the sweaty rough abandonment of control that came from mutual sexual gratification. Yes, maybe he would try it out. But how to go about it. A long time ago, he would go to a club. But he had heard about dating apps for mobile and thought it might be nice to sort of “shop” for a potential partner and talk to them via text before indulging. It seemed easier to negotiate terms somehow. He pulled out his phone. After a quick search, he decided on Grindr, and downloaded the app onto his iPhone.

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The problem was that they spent so much time together. He wanted to be in a romantic relationship, preferably with Sherlock, but since that was never going to happen, he tried for a while to meet someone else. John was always on the pull, actually, but it hadn’t worked out too well lately. When he finally got a job, he asked out his boss, but their first date was basically a disaster. Why she wanted to try a second date was puzzling, but she did. Maybe she was just like everybody else, trying to make a connection, trying to get close enough to someone to share her body. John couldn’t make it work, though they stayed friends and colleagues, he just didn’t think she would fit into their life. Really there was no place for anyone else in their lives. Because that’s what John’s life was, it was shared with Sherlock Holmes, and he didn’t want that to change.

John built a fire while Sherlock lazed on the couch. John waited for the inevitable whine of boredom that usually came post-case. It had been two days, John had been bracing for it and wondered if he could coax Sherlock to play something for him. Behind him he heard a small sigh and groan.

“All right?”

“Yes, John.”

John would never know what went on in his head and stopped trying to figure it out a long time ago. If he needed John to know something, he would tell him. He heard Sherlock twisting himself around on the couch, his back would be facing the room now. If this was the beginning of the tantrum then John would need to be prepared. He stood up, walked into the kitchen to put on the kettle. If Sherlock was about to start insulting him, or shoot up the walls, or whatever else he did when he was bored, then he would need tea. He switched on the kettle, peeked around the corner and said, “Sherlock? Tea?”

“Hmm,” came the non-answer.

It sounded affirmative to John, so he pulled two mugs from the sink, rinsed them, and added bags to each. He poured the hot water over the bags, let them steep a few minutes, pulled them out, added milk to both, and sugar to Sherlock’s. Quietly, he stepped towards the couch and placed the mug on the coffee table. He knew Sherlock knew it was there and did not expect an acknowledgement.

“Thank you.”

It was very soft, so soft that John might have almost missed it. But he didn’t. Sherlock definitely thanked him. So rare was this declaration that John paused for a few seconds out of something like shock. Yet another thing John didn’t understand, but he needed to acknowledge, in a positive way, hopefully to motivate him to say it more often.

“You’re welcome, Sherlock,” he returned, just as quietly.

John padded back over to his chair, checked on the fire and saw that it was still burning nicely, sat down with his tea, and picked up his book. He read the words but didn’t really take them in. He was distracted by Sherlock’s nearly still form, breathing slowly on the couch, tucked into the fetal position. Sherlock wore the tartan dressing gown, which looked warm and was slightly large on him. It was longer than his other gowns so it was tucked all the way around the bottoms of his feet. John stared at his head of curly dark hair. He let his eyes sweep down to the nape of Sherlock’s neck, which was obscured by his collar, but John knew that his hair looked softest just there.

He stared at Sherlock’s shoulders. They were not as broad as his own, but they were strong. John imagined hugging him, wrapping his arms around his shoulders, dragging his hands up and down his back, caressing Sherlock’s shoulder blades. He imagined letting his hands move down to the lean waist. John was always trying to get Sherlock to eat a little more, so he hated to admit how much he admired his slim torso. He slid his eyes down a bit more.

He stared at Sherlock’s arse. The rest of Sherlock was long lines, slim elegant features, but his arse? That was something different. John thought of a peach when he looked at his arse. A plush, ripe, soft peach. He thought that his hands would fit perfectly over each cheek and if he squeezed, he could imagine Sherlock’s surprised gasp. He wanted to swallow that gasp away with his own breath. He imagined he wouldn’t have anything more than some soft sparse hair. John ached to be able to softly trace his fingertips over each swell, down his sides to his hips, and back around again. He longed to squeeze and caress and allow his thumbs to press into the crease, just between, where he could imagine exploring Sherlock intimately with his fingers, and tongue, and...oh my god I’m sitting here with an erection.

He needed to stop this right now. Sherlock didn’t feel things that way. Sherlock couldn’t help it if he was devastatingly drop-dead gorgeous, but didn’t know it. He couldn't help it if the way he moved his body was unmistakably sexual, even though, to John’s knowledge, he didn’t have sexual urges. Or at least didn’t act on them with another person. John had never known Sherlock to date anyone, and after that first dinner, they never discussed it. No, John didn’t stand a chance, and as much as he wanted a romantic relationship with Sherlock, he had to accept that he never would. He loved Sherlock. He was in love with Sherlock. But he loved their life together. Sherlock saved his life, literally, and if John ruined their friendship because of unwanted feelings he would lose everything. He’d be dead again.

He sipped his tea and noted that Sherlock was on his phone. John’s train of thought had taken his attention away from Sherlock’s anatomy. He went back to his book and was grateful that his trousers felt a bit less tight. He subtly adjusted himself and the warmth of his hand threatened to arouse him again. He really needed to do something about this. Being so close to Sherlock all of the time was going to drive him crazy. Was he emitting pheromones or something? John had never felt this way about anyone, but it shouldn’t be that surprising, there was no one else like Sherlock Holmes. And John had never been as close to anyone in his life.

Trying to suppress his desire was not working. He was more attracted to Sherlock than ever. The more he got to know him, the more fascinated he was, the more he admired his heart and bravery, and of course, his brilliant mind. The way John saw it he had two options. He could tell Sherlock how he felt. This was a really terrible option. Sherlock, I think I’m in love with you and I’d like to be your boyfriend and kiss you and fuck you and I want you to be mine forever. He imagined him blinking a few times, totally ignoring what was said, then saying something like “You know I don’t feel things that way, John” with a smirk, and treating John like the idiot that he was. John would be humiliated.

His only other option was to find someone else. He had already tried that, it wasn’t going to work either. Maybe he’d been going about finding a date all wrong. He had a relationship with Sherlock, but he just didn’t have the sex. So he needed to find just sex, just fucking. He’d heard that it was easier these days because of dating apps for mobile. He put down his book and picked up his phone. A quick search and he was browsing through the reviews for Tinder. But something was nagging at the back of his mind. If he downloaded this app, he’d start chatting with some nearby women and probably be able to meet and have sex pretty easily. The problem was that he didn’t want women right now, he wanted Sherlock. Dead sexy, very male, Sherlock. He started scrolling through the gay dating apps. He wasn’t gay, he’d said it often enough. But he wasn’t straight either. He didn’t have much sexual experience with men besides a few mutual handjobs with a good friend in high school. He had really loved Tom, but when they graduated, Tom went to a different university and they lost touch. Then there was James. Their relationship hadn't gone beyond flirting, lingering touches, and long looks, for obvious chain-of-command reasons. He hadn’t felt attracted to any other man until Sherlock. John thought if he found someone tall with curly dark hair, maybe he could fantasize about Sherlock, which wouldn’t be fair to whoever he was with, but as long as everybody got off, what was the harm in a little fantasy? John found a well-reviewed app called Grindr and downloaded it.