Sherlock Holmes has been told the principle behind finding one’s person and, in the process, unlocking the full potential of one’s natural talent, many times. That doesn’t mean that he’s stopped worrying about what those things might mean for him. Even at seven years old, he’s not entirely convinced that he’d like to rely on anyone else to make the best of himself. “Does it mean that I can’t be smart until I find them?”
“Absolutely not, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” Mummy says sternly. She’s propped against the pillows of Sherlock’s narrow bed, carding her fingers through his curls where his head rests against her chest. Her breaths feel like waves surging and receding as he floats there in her arms. “Before meeting your father, I was a very capable mathematician, though I will admit that my treatise on the binomial theorem was not fully formed until after—”
Sherlock knows without asking that whatever the binomial theorem is, it’s dead boring, and now would be a good time to interrupt. “So why does it matter to find your person if you’re okay without them?”
“Because”—Mummy sighs, and perhaps sounds the littlest bit sad—“you are perfectly okay without them, but that doesn’t change that you’ll always be better with them.”
John Watson is calm under pressure. As natural gifts go, it doesn’t seem to be the most useful one, but it’s perfect for John’s interests. He wants to save people, to stand in the middle of chaos and create order around him. John has capable hands—small and strong, dexterous fingers. They’re surgeon’s hands. Should be surgeon’s hands.
The RAMC has no use for surgical specialisation cadets who have not met their mate and are therefore not performing at the maximum of their capabilities. It’s never explicitly stated during the selection process, but it would take willful ignorance not to notice that everyone who snags one of the coveted positions shares the mark of B (for Bonded) on their record.
John spends his A-level years, then the first two years at Bart’s hoping he’ll feel the moment he meets his person—it’s like an electric jolt when you see her, Johnny, you’ll just know, Harry had told him, after running into Clara on a crowded train—but it never comes. He’s not surprised when he’s assigned GP training, and he tells himself that at least he’s not leaving anyone behind to pine away for him for six years or more like those poor sods in surgery.
Sherlock’s gift is obviously his intelligence. It’s a different sort than Mummy’s, with her affinity for numbers and ability to understand complex theorems as easily as most people handle basic addition. Mycroft’s gift of intelligence is different as well, for all that he attempts to teach Sherlock his methods—he looks at things and sees possibilities, the malleable outcomes of different choices and strategies. Mycroft’s gift points towards what can be, whilst Sherlock’s own focuses on what is and how it became that way. They share a need for understanding similar sets data, despite their different uses of it.
“We’ll manage our gifts perfectly fine without the need for the company of some sort of mythically fated other person. Soulmates are the excuse of the lazy.” Mycroft, at sixteen, is certain of everything. Especially of the fact that other people—present company of his little brother excepted—are far too tedious to ever care for.
“What if you find that person, though? And you’re supposed to love them?”
“Some people care too much. I think that’s called love.”
Sherlock stares hard at Mycroft for a moment, until he remembers why exactly that sounds so familiar. “That’s from Winnie the Pooh, Mycroft. You read it to me when I was five.”
“The sentiment is still applicable, no matter the source,” Mycroft says with a sniff.
Sherlock may pretend otherwise, but he does believe just about everything that Mycroft tells him. If Mycroft says that caring is not an advantage, it must be true.
John stays with Harry during R&R because none of his mates really want to have him crashing on their sofa for two weeks. It’s understandable, considering that most of them are busy—even all those complete wankers he met playing rugby for Blackheath have found their someones. He’s happy for them, even if it reminds him of what he’s missing.
“You’re never going to meet anyone out in the middle of the desert,” Harry says smugly. As if she’s telling John anything he doesn’t know, hasn’t thought himself in a moment of self-loathing. As if she’s not squandering away her own talent (those sculptures she makes—even John, with no real eye for art, finds himself amazed when faced with some of the pieces she’s crafted since meeting Clara) and love at the bottom of a bottle.
He’s doing good out there, bonded or not. The men of his regiment feel... if not precisely at ease, then reassured, by having a competent medical officer like at their backs when they go on patrol. Christ, just a couple of days before he got shipped back to London, John had been wrists deep in a soldier’s abdominal cavity after a routine patrol went completely to shit and he saved him right then and there, stopped his blood pooling on the sand with his own two capable hands. He’s doing good.
Which is why he spends every night he’s in London betting on card games and starting fights in the pub that have him going back to Afghanistan with a split lip and empty pockets, high on an adrenaline rush that makes him forget what he’s missing.
Even unbonded, Sherlock is still the best detective in London. It feels like either proof of the fallacy of gifts being entwined with meeting some certain person, or a sad reflection on the state of the city’s Criminal Investigations Department. He would be able to place more faith on the latter theory, were it not for the fact that his very own brother is a traitor to all of their shared ideals on the subject.
Mycroft had been doing perfectly fine without having met his soulmate. In his early thirties he already exercised a great deal of behind-the-scenes control over certain aspects of the British Government—so much control that it allowed him to expertly meddle in the affairs of his brother as he felt it necessary. It was such meddling that led him to cross paths with Detective Inspector Lestrade.
Since finding him and discovering that the two of them were meant to be, well, Mycroft’s gifts grew so that these days he practically is the British Government.
“It would do you well,” Mycroft says. “Possibly allow you to exert some control and make your little gift for... puzzle solving”—He says the words as though they are distasteful—“into something useful.”
“It’s already useful—just ask James Armitage,” Sherlock snaps. “Besides, Lestrade has hardly improved in his police work since meeting you. I find it hard to believe that this bonding nonsense is effective for everyone”
Mycroft laughs. “Gregory’s gift is actually patience, and he is deeply thankful for the circumstances that led him to having found me just as you entered his life and began trying his patience for all that you’re worth.”
Sherlock scowls and saws at the strings of his violin—an especially atonal rendition of Schoenberg sure to send Mycroft hurrying out onto Montague Street and out of Sherlock’s flat.
Three continents and one gunshot wound later, John’s invalided home with an intermittent tremor that underscores the fact that he’ll never be able to make the most of himself.
He can’t understand it. By all accounts, John is a good man, and he wants to be in love, wants to find the other person who will make him feel complete. Instead he’s wasted his time dating women with whom he never felt any sort of spark—when he had time to date at all—both of them hoping something better would come along.
And now—who would even want him now?
Sherlock does not feel anything when he meets John Watson. Because that would be unacceptable, to be brought low by feelings now, when he’s spent thirty-three years doing just fine on his own.
If John does or does not feel that same thing, that sensation of rightness deep in his gut, he doesn’t mention it. But every time he says, “Brilliant!” Sherlock thinks that he feels that little frisson of pleasure from the first moment he laid eyes on John run through him again.
John’s wielded his gun before, in defense of himself and his fellow soldiers. Shot at men a few times and, as best as anyone can tell with multiple men shooting simultaneously, has killed some of them.
His hands have never been so deadly still as they were when he fired through two panes of glass to kill the man who was threatening Sherlock Holmes.
And, God, he’s been oblivious for the past twenty-four hours, hasn’t he? It’s funny, that he’s been expecting a woman all this time, but he meant it when he said, “It’s all fine.” That feeling hits him again when he hurries out of the building and sees Sherlock sitting safe in the back of the ambulance—underneath the relief bubbling up inside him is a sensation like his insides are swirling and settling into rightness. He couldn’t put a name to it, but he knows what it means. They’ve found each other.
“You were going to take that damned pill, weren’t you?”
“‘Course I wasn’t. Biding my time. Knew you’d turn up.”
“That’s what your talent is, isn’t it? Risking your life to prove you’re clever.” John grins at him as he says it, and Sherlock wonders how he ever thought he might live without that.
“Seems like it. Ought to be especially good at it now that you’re here, don’t you think?”
“Mmm,” John agrees. “Lucky for you, looks like mine is meant to be saving your life.”
Sherlock cannot bring himself to care about the fact that Mycroft is sitting scant feet away in his car (smiling smugly to himself more than like, the pompous git), or that half of Scotland Yard is still nearby, because John is standing here understanding him like no one else ever has—like you were made for each other, his brain supplies—and he just can’t keep it contained. He slides a hand into John’s hair, places the other on his hip, and when their faces are close enough to nearly touch, he asks, “Okay?”
John nods, and Sherlock pulls him into a kiss. It’s soft, just a press of lips and sharing of breath, and Sherlock feels John smile against his mouth, There’s a burst of giddy laughter, from both of them, and then John’s mouth is on his again, deepening the kiss with a swipe of tongue against his lips.