Why on earth did I decide that driving this piece-of-junk vehicle down the middle of campus … at mid-day … during class change … was a good idea? John Watson was at the moment internally kicking himself at his poor planning as he looked out across the sea of people on the campus green, especially the ones distractedly swiping their mobiles and making his journey a slow one. John, who was a second-year pre-med major and rugby player, had needed to move his car temporarily from the assigned car park that was on the other side of campus to a spot near the rugby practice pitch and this was the only available time slot today that worked with his schedule. Being a second-year student, one would think John would have known the ropes by now.
As the poor little car sputtered and choked, John silently hoped the rear bumper wasn’t in jeopardy of falling off. He had, as recently as the day before, secured it with a piece of old rope he had found in a bin by his hall of residence. Coming from a lower-class background definitely made one resourceful.
Luckily, John wasn’t in a mad rush and it was a rare sunny-blue-sky day so he had rolled down the car window and decided to rest his arm on the frame and enjoy the mild autumn temperatures before the inevitable blast of winter cold eventually invaded the city.
They look a little like a swarm of bees, John mused, absently tapping his fingers and taking in the students all around him as he made his way at a snail’s pace down the tiny drive finally coming to a complete stop as throngs of students passed in front of his vehicle.
Suddenly, catcalls startled him out of his complacency as his car was actually swarmed, not by bees, but by several of his friends, teasing him and making general nuisances of themselves.
“John!” yelled Bill Murray, a lanky lad with fringe in his face, who opened the back door of the car and hopped inside.
“Bill, what the hell—?” John asked incredulously, craning his neck around toward the back seat.
“Yo, Watson!” Mike Stamford heartily called as he approached the car, braced both hands on the window frame and peered inside. Mike, a portly, good-natured fellow, was a second-year med student, like John, and the two of them felt fortunate to have been teamed up as roommates this year, becoming fast friends in a matter of weeks.
“John, you crazy bastard. Driving though campus now? You’ll be late for Organic Chem. What’ll I tell Professor Lann?” said Mike.
“Tell her I got sidetracked by a bunch of wankers who held my car hostage,” John quipped.
“Whoa there, Watson! Are you really able to pull girls with this thing?” joked Greg Lestrade, a third-year criminal justice major and greying captain of the rugby team, who had sidled up next to Mike.
“And apparently guys, too,” John laughed as he nodded toward the front of the car where, a good-looking, strawberry-blonde young man named James Sholto had made himself comfortable on the car’s bonnet, smiling coyly at its occupant.
Suddenly, Bill poked his head out the window and with a mischievous grin, yelled, “Home Watson,” as John and the others cracked up laughing.
In that moment, John felt very fortunate to have such a large group of guys who he could call his friends. Although John had been what most would consider socially “popular” and well-liked growing up, he never felt close to anyone, always feeling a bit … different … from his peers. The four guys currently annoying the hell out of him were the closest he’d come to having any type of friendships.
“Alright you guys, get the hell outta here so I can get to class” John scolded as he swatted at Greg.
“Just don’t be late for practice,” Greg yelled, as he stepped back sharply and turned to walk away. “ Or else I’ll make you run extra laps. I can do that since I’m the captain!”
Mike caught up with Greg and the pair made their way around the front of the vehicle just as John tapped the accelerator, sliding James off his perch. “Easy, Johnny!” he yelled, giving the bonnet one last thump with his hand and making his way over to the window. “You got any money you can spot me for lunch?”
John was never one to refuse a friend in-need. So, he rifled through his wallet and pulled out a 10-pound note and held it up for James to grab.
“And don’t worry about paying me back,” murmured John.
James’ wide, radiant smile could be seen from Cardiff. “Thanks, mate! Mike, Greg, wait up!” he shouted before jogging to catch up with the other two, who were already a few meters away.
Mike looked back at the vehicle and yelled, “Bill, come on! We’ll be late! See you back at the room tonight, John, and we’ll go get dinner!”
John gave Mike a wave while Bill scurried from the vehicle and ran to catch up, but not without launching a parting insult. “You might want to move that piece of shit before you get a ticket, Johnny!”
John gave Bill a one-fingered salute as the four friends laughed and sauntered away, leaving John with a smirk on his face.
As the sea of students had finally thinned out and John “cruised” down the pathway, he decided to re-adjust his rearview mirror, when suddenly he noticed something, or rather someone in the distance behind him, seated against a majestic oak tree. The person had an indecipherable look on his face, as his eyes intently studied the retreating vehicle. John had to be careful that he didn’t drive his car into the grass, distractedly shifting his eyes back and forth between his destination and the figure who was becoming smaller and smaller in the distance. He knew very well who owned that penetrative gaze, because it wasn’t the first time that he had noticed this person—an enigma known around campus as Sherlock Holmes.
Yes, John had noticed Sherlock several weeks earlier …
… when John and Mike were eating lunch at The Commons, a popular place in the center of campus where students could buy food and hang out. John was just about to scoop a heaping mound of macaroni and cheese into his mouth when he laid eyes on the most incredible person he’d ever seen.
In John’s mind, every time he recalled that moment, it played out like The Matrix. Time suddenly shifted into slow motion as Sherlock swept through the eatery—dark, tousled curls framing his chiseled face; the finest linens wrapping the lean lines of his body; long legs carrying his strong, purposeful stride; a coat (more like a cape) billowing behind him; and feet gliding like some ethereal being riding on a cloud. John was as still as a statue, except for his neck which pivoted with every step Sherlock took.
Finally, Sherlock and the companion he was with (a petite, determined-looking brunette in heels) charged out through the double doors, and Mike (who had been calling John’s name, to no avail) swiped John’s arm. The dazed rugby player blinked and awoke from his trance, only to feel the gooey and uncomfortable sensation of macaroni and cheese in his lap and his spoon still hovering centimeters from his now-dry mouth.
“Woah, ho, Johnny,” Mike chuckled. “Looks like a certain dark-haired siren has you a bit thrown.”
“Shit!” John angrily gasped as he looked at his lap, grabbed his napkin and began the clean-up.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” John spouted.
“Aww, come on,” Mike joked. “Your eyes were practically bugging out of your head.”
John was thankful that he was able to keep his head down while scraping the remnants of the offending cheese off his trousers. Hopefully, from that angle Mike wouldn’t be able to detect any type of blush that might be threatening to grace John’s neck.
Jesus, what is happening to me?
“I can’t blame you though,” Mike continued. “She is quite a looker.”
She? Who did Mike think … Oh.
“Yeah, she definitely was a hot one. Smokin’ hot!” John agreed, a little too enthusiastically.
John and Mike had only met a few weeks prior when they were paired up as roommates, and through all the standard getting-to-know-you conversations regarding parents, siblings, schools and majors, the subject of sexual identity hadn’t been a topic that came up in conversation. And now, sitting with congealed cheese on his trousers, John didn’t feel it was the ideal time to have that discussion.
“Well, don’t get your hopes up,” Mike stated in a low tone as if he was revealing state secrets. “Irene Adler is a whirlwind from what I’ve heard. Beautiful. Intelligent. But hard as nails. A real ball buster.”
John reactively flinched, “Well, I’ll … keep that in mind. Although I’m sure the guy she was with doesn’t think so.” He hoped he sounded more nonchalant than what he was feeling at the moment.
“Oh, that’s Sherlock Holmes,” Mike announced. “I’ve got class with him.”
Mike then proceeded to regale John with tales of the brilliant undergrad—how Sherlock had corrected their biology professor on a regular basis, almost blown up the chemistry lab and generally intimidated most of the people in his hall of residence.
John left The Commons that day feeling disconcerted. He couldn’t understand why this Sherlock Holmes fellow, whom he didn’t even know, had caused such an extreme reaction in him. It wasn’t as if John was due for a sexual identity crisis. He’d already figured out that he was bisexual. However, even after coming to that realization, he’d never dated a bloke. He had had an unrequited crush on a boy named Matthew for one summer when he was 16, but the boy moved away and took John’s attraction with him. Sure there’d been a couple of guys who hinted around at their interest after that, but John didn’t feel the same, always kindly making sure that they were aware of his clearly platonic feelings. He’d also had two brief relationships with young women over the last year and a quarter at uni, but nothing substantial. And although he found both women and men attractive, the truth was, he hadn’t found any guy interesting enough to warrant further pursuit. Which is why this reaction to this man, and a stranger no less, was so startling to him.
To make matters worse, in the weeks that followed the “sighting” at The Commons, Mike felt some sort of obligation to relay to John every time the brilliant Sherlock Holmes did something, well … brilliant. Mike also filled him in on Sherlock’s reputation for not only being a genius, but a bit of an anti-social odd duck as well. This only served to irritate John, for reasons he couldn’t determine.
John’s schedule was such that he only briefly saw Sherlock Holmes around campus a couple of times after the first “sighting.” And both times, Sherlock was at a distance, purposely striding forward with his face buried in his phone. This relieved John because he was absolutely intimidated to his core whenever he caught a glimpse of the tall, dark mysterious young man.
Like at present, as John steered his little car through the middle of the campus green. …
… Holy shit, that’s Sherlock Holmes sitting by that tree back there! And he looks like he’s staring at me. Well, not me. He can’t see me. Can he? No. It’s my vehicle he’s staring at. Oh, God. He’s staring at this piece of shit. I’m so embarrassed. He probably thinks I’m some poor twat … and he’s … he’s this posh … Wait, he doesn’t know I’m the one driving the car. He can’t see my face. For all he knows it’s just some faceless person driving a piece of junk car. … Oh wait, what if he overheard Bill and Mike and … He was sitting right there, and those tossers were so fucking loud. He had to have heard them say my name. … Oh, Christ, this is a disaster. … Wait, why do I care what Sherlock Holmes thinks of me? It doesn’t matter. Jesus, Watson, pull it together!
John finally turned a corner and pulled into a parking spot near the practice pitch. He let out an exasperated breath, tipping his forehead so it rested between his knuckle-white hands, still gripping the steering wheel. He finally calmed himself and exited the little car. Although, as he hustled to class, he couldn’t seem to shake the odd feeling he was having … like something had shifted. Once seated inside the large lecture hall, John gave in to his frenzied thoughts.
What the hell was that all about? Sherlock Holmes is just a bloke … like me. He just happens to be a genius. … No big deal. … There’s probably a lot of geniuses walking around campus. … So, I think he’s attractive. So what? It doesn’t mean I want to date him. I mean, I don’t even know him! … Besides, he’s obviously with that Irene Adler person. They’re both intelligent. … and attractive. …They’re perfect for each other. … Anyway, … yeah, … he’s just a guy. … No big deal.
John blew out a breath, catching the attention of a couple of young women seated diagonally to him. The pair caught his eye, giggling and whispering to each other, before turning back around to face the professor at the front of the classroom. John eyed the two young women and set his mind to focus on their soft skin and curves, but eventually his mind wandered to sharp cheekbones, dark curls, and a long, lithe body. A body that he would love to explore with his hands and …
John brushed a sweaty palm over his face.
Sherlock Holmes, what are you doing to me?
In the next few chapters, John decides to come out to his friends. I know that in real life, sometimes that is a positive experience and sometimes it's not. For this particular story, I wanted to give John a safe and positive space to come out. So, I have tried to write virtually no angst surrounding these situations, except for John's own thoughts and nervousness.
In the two weeks that had passed since the fateful day when John drove his car through campus and the “incident on the green,” (as he was mentally calling it) the young doctor-in-training had been busier than a barista during the morning rush. His organic chemistry course was kicking his arse (but in a good way), the work required in his other classes had seemingly doubled overnight, and it was all he could do to keep up, what with rugby practices every afternoon and matches every weekend.
But John, who was by nature a hard worker, loved it. He liked stretching his brain and he never backed down from a challenge. And besides, he wasn’t alone. Mike was in the same boat academically and the two spent many an evening studying, or rather commiserating, over shared pizzas and even a few contraband pints from time to time.
And for all the stress that John built up over the course of a week, he was able to release one hundred percent of it on the weekends when he ran, sweat and dove all over the rugby pitch. For as mild mannered and as kind as he was the majority of the time, John Watson was force to be reckoned with when it came to match time, not afraid to throw a few assertive elbows or yell some choice words, especially if he felt the other team was playing dirty. And truthfully, John loved practice as much as the games, and many times, he got to the pitch earlier than his teammates.
Which is why he was currently questioning his choice of cutting through The Commons on his way to practice. Because everyone seemed to know John and those same people wanted him to stop and talk with them. So he snaked his way through the tables and chairs giving a wave and a head nod to some of his acquaintances and stopping for a brief courtesy chat with others.
After about the fifth brief chat, John turned his head and saw that the door to the outside was getting nearer, although there was one more obstacle before he could make his escape. He noticed a young, blonde woman by the name of Mary Morstan, who was in one of his classes, seated at a table that stood between him and freedom. John had talked to Mary a few times, mostly pleasantries and generalities. Still, Mary was eyeing John (although trying to be sly about it) and it would be rude of him not to at least stop and exchange a word about the weather. John noticed that she was sitting with a couple of people he didn’t recognize at a glance. But what he did notice, if only briefly, was that one of the people with their back turned had the most incredible, curly, dark hair. John felt that there was something about this person’s hair—the color, the texture—that was intriguing and familiar.
As John neared the table, the two dark haired individuals ducked under it, which John thought was a bit odd, but he and Mary had already made eye contact so there was nothing left to do but to stop and greet the young woman.
“Hey, Mary,” John greeted warmly. “How are you?”
“I—I’m good,” Mary stammered. “How’s rugby going?”
“Yeah, good. Good.” John replied. “Just on my way to practice actually.”
“Do you have practice every day?” Mary inquired, trying to draw out the interaction.
“Yep,” John answered. “We need all the practice we can get, and luckily today is a nice day weather-wise.”
Mary chuckled and nodded, unsuccessfully quelling the blush rising up her neck.
“Sooo,” John chuckled, “Not to pry, but why exactly are your friends on their hands and knees under the table?”
“Oh, Irene lost a contact and Sherlock is helping her look for it,” Mary commented.
John could literally feel his heart skip a beat. Suddenly he knew exactly where he had seen Mary’s friends, and specifically that gorgeous head of dark curls.
“Sherlock? Sherlock Holmes?” he inquired.
Mary’s answered naively, “Yes, do you know him?”
“I’ve … noticed him,” John spoke, then cleared his throat, “er—around campus, I mean. My roommate Mike has biology with him. I heard he’s brilliant.”
John’s voice broke off. He heard Mary start talking about the recent assignment in their shared class, but it was all John could do to balance the part of his brain that was listening to Mary and the other part that was processing Sherlock Holmes thoughts in overdrive at the moment.
Jesus, I’m standing less than a meter from Sherlock Holmes! He is under this table. I could kick him if I wanted to. Not that I want to. … I—I just … Christ … And of course that was Irene Adler sitting next to Mary. So Sherlock and Irene must be together. They’re always together. … I wonder if Mike knows if they’re dating … Wait, why the hell do I even care? It doesn’t matter if Sherlock Holmes is dating Irene Adler. He could be dating the prime minister. I don’t give a fu—
John sobered up just in time to catch the last part of Mary’s sentence, “… if you ever want to study sometime.”
“Uh, thanks, I’ll, uh … yeah, keep it in mind,” John replied, earning him a smile from the blonde woman. “I’d better be off to practice. Good to talk to you.”
John graciously made his exit, his legs, in his opinion, not able to carry him fast enough through the remaining part of The Commons, giving brief, self-conscious waves to a few more tables before he put his head down and broke through the doors and into the crisp, autumn afternoon. He practically gulped the fresh air like a fish deprived of water for too long, as he scurried across campus; his thoughts swirling like a pile of crunchy brown leaves caught in a breeze.
What is happening to me? Every time I hear about Sherlock Holmes, or I’m near Sherlock Holmes, my mind either turns into a volcanic spew of nonsense or a puddle of nervous hormones! … Jesus! … This is ridiculous. … HE’S! JUST! A! GUY!
John’s mental rant was actually helping him to calm down as he neared the practice pitch.
He’s just a random bloke. … Granted an incredibly brilliant, gorgeous one … with soft, black curls. God, I got to see them up close and they look so smooth. … What I wouldn’t give to run my hands through them, … give them a little tug. …Ugh! Stop! … Do you realize what you’re saying? As if that posh bloke would even give you the time of day. … Besides, he obviously has a girlfriend. He’s probably not interested in guys. Plus, you heard what Mike told you. Sherlock berated their professor in front of the whole class. He’d probably think you’re a moron. …
John was so caught up in his thoughts that he practically ran over Greg Lestrade as he turned the corner and entered the field.
“Jesus, Johnny,” Greg huffed. “You damn near plowed me over!”
“Oh, uh, sorry mate,” John apologized as he tried to get his bearings. “Yeah, sorry.”
The two walked over toward where the others were warming up.
Greg chuckled, “It’s all right. What’s got you so distracted?”
“What, oh, nothing. It’s nothing,” John tried to blow it off.
“Didn’t seem like nothing,” Greg replied as the two started their warm-up exercises. “The only time I’ve seen guys in that deep of thought it’s usually because of one of two reasons,” Greg grinned.
John looked at him, and after several seconds of a dramatic pause, quirked an eyebrow.
“Either they owe someone money,” Greg announced smugly. “Or, they’re in love.”
John barked a laugh. “Well, sorry to disappoint you, mate, but neither of those apply to me.”
Greg continued, determined to wheedle the truth out of his friend as they stood awkwardly and stretched their quad muscles, “You sure about that?”
“Sure about what?” came an inquiry to the left of both lads. Bill Murray had decided to join the conversation.
“Johnny, here either owes someone money or is in love,” Greg smirked. “I’m thinking it’s the second one.” And John wondered in that moment if it was feasible to ninja kick Greg into silence. After all, his muscles were pretty well stretched out by now.
“Love? Who’s in love?” The voice of James Sholto joined the fray.
Son of a bitch.
“Johnny is,” Bill answered James, then turned toward John. “Who is it?”
Greg chimed in, “Is she hot?”
“Do they live on campus?” James asked hesitantly.
“Does she have big tits?” Bill added, complete with hand gestures.
“Will you shut the fuck up! I’m not in love!” John roared. Although his statement would have probably been taken more seriously if his face and neck weren’t flushed such an alarming shade of pink.
Just then, one of the coaches blew his whistle—a sound that John had never been so relieved to hear in his life. He sprinted toward the center of the field, and after that, all discussion of women’s breasts and his love life were over because for the two hours, play after play and drill after drill was run. The team worked harder than they’d ever worked before.
Finally, they were dismissed by a very satisfied coaching staff and John practically sprinted off the field so as to avoid the others. That type of practice was just what he needed to clear his head and he really didn’t want to revert back to the pre-practice conversation he’d been having.
He just wasn’t in the mood.
“Watson!” A familiar voice shouted from behind him. “Johnny, wait up!”
John knew he could outrun Greg, but it would only put off the inevitable. So, stony faced and breathing hard, he turned to face the captain, with his hands gripping his own hips in a defensive stance.
“John,” Greg, panting a little, finally caught up to him. “Hey, you know the guys and I were just joking around, right?”
“Yeah,” grumbled John as he turned and resumed walking toward the main part of campus; Greg keeping stride with the determined boy.
“Listen, I’m sorry,” Greg tried. “I didn’t realize that it would bother you that much.”
The pair continued in silence, Greg sneaking concerned glances at his friend from time to time.
“John,” Greg started. “If there’s something that’s bothering you and you want to tell me … anything … you know you can, right? … I mean, we’re friends. Whatever it is, it’s okay, mate. You can trust me.”
John knew he was right. Greg had proven to be a loyal and trustworthy friend from the first day of rugby camp the summer before his first year at uni. If he couldn’t trust Greg with the truth, then who could he trust? John slowed his pace and turned toward a small bench that had materialized out of nowhere. He planted himself on the end of it, elbows on his knees, staring at his feet. Greg cautiously took his place on the opposite end of the bench staring at his friend in silence.
“I’m not in love,” John began calmly. “I’m infatuated. … I’m in lust. … I’m in agony. … I have a massive, stupid crush on someone and I’ve never had such intense feelings before. It doesn’t make any sense.”
John finally looked up at Greg, who gave him a small, tight, understanding smile.
“Why doesn’t it make sense?” Greg asked.
“Because I don’t know this person,” John started. “They’re a complete stranger. I’ve never even talked to them. But I hear stories about them and I see them from afar and I’ve built up this incredible, mythical being and—”
“And you’re arse-over-tits already before you’ve even said ‘boo,’” Greg finished the sentence, knowingly nodding his head.
John huffed a laugh, “Yeah, something like that.”
Greg smiled, and the two of them sat in silence for a few moments, John feeling a bit of relief for finally telling someone about his crush. However, Greg’s curiosity finally got the best of him.
“Well, why don’t you just trying talking to her?” he asked expectantly.
John found himself at the familiar fork in the road—do I tell or don’t I? John was, by nature, a very private person, not one to share confidences with others. He’d come out before to friends and family members. Sometimes it went well. Other times, it didn’t. And it hurt deeply when it didn’t. However, this time there was no doubt. He believed Greg to be a true and loyal friend and John decided it was time to tell him.
“I’m not sure I’m physically capable of talking to … him … without making an arse of myself,” John slowly spoke, looking directly at his friend and hoping that all of his instincts were right.
Greg looked at John puzzled at first, then after a few moments, a look of understanding took over his features. “Oh. … Him.” Greg nodded, then stared at the sidewalk for a few moments. John, with nerves on high alert, could tell his friend was processing this new information.
Suddenly, Greg burst into laughter.
John’s fists clenched and he found himself looking incredulously at the rugby captain, a war of emotions battling within him.
“Kind of makes Bill’s comments about her big tits a bit more funny now, doesn’t it?” Greg said with amusement.
John was taken aback and suddenly found himself unclenching his fists and laughing along with his friend—partly out of relief and partly because it was, in fact, funny in light of the truth.
When the two of them had settled down, Greg broke the silence once more.
“So, I don’t get it. I’ve only seen you go out with women,” Greg stated with confusion.
“I’m bisexual … actually,” John replied.
To which Greg burst out laughing. John once again found himself puzzled with the man’s reaction.
“Jesus, Johnny,” Greg laughed. “Bad enough you can have any girl on campus, now you’re telling me that you can have any bloke, too? Greedy bastard!”
John joined Greg’s laughter and playfully shoved the captain so hard he almost fell off the end of the bench.
“Shut up,” John laughed. “What do you care? You’ve got Molly.”
“True,” Greg answered. “Still … if she ever gets tired of me I’d like to know that there’s still some available girls out there who haven’t been charmed by John Watson,” he joked.
John smiled and shook his head. “I can’t get anyone I want. Especially this bloke. He’s on a totally different plane than the rest of us. He’s intelligent and gorgeous and he’s so far out of my league.”
Greg stood up and looked thoughtfully at his friend. “You have no idea do you, Johnny?”
John cocked his head and viewed him curiously.
“Well, the John Watson I know never backs down from a challenge,” Greg added with a wink.
John stood up and huffed a laugh, then ducked his head as the two began walking again toward the residence halls.
“Thanks, Greg,” John spoke in earnest.
“No problem, mate,” Greg replied quietly.
“You know … you’re the only person who knows,” John said. “About … him.” Hoping that Greg understood the subtext.
Greg looked at his friend and clapped his shoulder, firm and comforting. “You can trust me, John.”
The pair smiled at each other as they approached a literal fork in the road, breaking apart with John taking one path toward his hall and Greg taking the other toward his flat. With every step, John felt lighter … happier … hopeful. Life was good. He had a good friend in Greg. And at that moment, no matter what happened, there wasn’t anything that could break the spell.
I’ll go back. Take a shower. … Get some food. … Probably let myself mentally lust over soft, dark curls for a few moments and—
“Hey,” Greg cupped his hands by his mouth and yelled from a distance. “Don’t forget we have mandatory study group at the library in 10 minutes.”
John’s rugby coaches took academics very seriously. After all, they couldn’t have their players declared ineligible to play due to poor grades. Hence, the reason why John Watson was practically tripping over himself at the moment to get to the study area of the library, where his team and coaches had congregated for their weekly study time.
After he and Greg had parted after practice, John had just enough time to sprint to his room, change into some jeans that had been laying on the floor; swap his sweaty jersey for a clean but raggedy t-shirt; grab his bag, his jacket and a granola bar; and high-tail it to the library. He hadn’t had time to shower so his sweaty hair had dried at odd angles, giving him the slight appearance of “bed head,” and his five-o-clock shadow was starting to make an appearance.
He was just sitting down at the corner table and catching his breath when Greg came in huffing and puffing and plopped himself across from him.
“Jesus,” the rugby captain grumbled as he pulled his tablet and books from his bag. “They should just make that one of our workouts. I didn’t even have time to eat.”
Greg looked miserably up at John, who had just stuck most of his granola bar into his mouth. John, with a look of guilt on his face, slowly bit off half of the bar, pulled the rest from his mouth, then silently held out his hand, offering the remaining half of the bar to Greg.
The captain grimaced, “Thanks. No.”
John shrugged and popped the rest of the bar into his mouth and chewed happily while Greg continued grumbling.
The two of them were the last to arrive so they had the table to themselves, and John was glad for it. He didn’t want to have to re-visit, with any of his teammates, the awkward conversation about his love life that had begun earlier that day on the pitch. So he settled in to begin writing a research paper on the biology of disease that was due the following week.
About a half hour into the project, John decided to take a break and go check out some reference books from an area of the library referred to as “the stacks.” He stopped by the help desk, where a stern-looking woman named Mrs. Jensen peered over her reading glasses at him.
“Excuse me,” John spoke hesitantly, holding out a tattered piece of paper with some book titles hastily written in his own chicken scratch handwriting. “I was wondering if you could help me locate these books.”
“I am currently helping another student,” the woman replied sharply.
“Oh, … sure,” John said apologetically. “No problem.”
“What’s your name?” the woman asked.
“John Watson,” he replied.
“It’ll be several minutes, Mr. Watson,” the reference librarian added as she took the piece of paper from John and turned back to her computer screen. “Feel free to peruse the shelves yourself in the meantime,” she added dismissively.
As he wandered down the one aisle way between some book shelves, John thought he heard talking, which was odd, because it was such an out-of-the-way spot.
As he drew closer, the one voice was becoming clearer. It sounded like Molly Hooper, Greg’s girlfriend …
“Well, I’d better be going. I need to grab those articles. See you Sunday, Sherlock!”
OhmyGodohmyGod! It is Molly and she’s talking to Sherlock Holmes! Shit! Shit! Shit! What do I do? … Do I stand here and hope they go away? … Do I cough so they know someone is here? … No! Don’t cough. Don’t move. Don’t breathe!
Fortunately, for John, he could hear Molly’s footsteps fading into the distance. But that still left the unknown whereabouts of one tall, dark and handsome stranger.
John felt like a fugitive. He wanted to run but if Sherlock was somewhere in the stacks then he’d risk being seen. And right now, John really, really didn’t want that to happen.
This is not how I planned this in my head. We can’t meet like this! Look at what I’m wearing for Christ’s sake! I look like a beggar from a Dickens novel. And he … he … God, he’s so gorgeous. Those dark curls … Ugh! Why is this happening to me? My clothes! My scruff!
John, in despair, placed his hand on his head, which shot off another round of self-loathing as he tried to smooth his hair, to no avail.
Not to mention my hair! Ugh! I look like I just crawled out of bed. … And I probably still stink from practice. This is a disaster!
Then John heard a sound that shot fear through him like an electric bolt from his head to his feet. Footsteps coming down the aisle way on the opposite side of the bookshelf to his right.
John shuffled a couple of steps and turned his head to peer through the books. The footsteps stopped. There was movement. A rustling. Then … a pair of the most dazzling eyes John had ever seen peered back at him. And for John, time stopped.
Eyes … his eyes … light … and dark … grey … and blue? … beautiful …
John’s breath hitched and, if his ears weren’t mistaken, there had been breath hitch on the opposite side of the bookshelf as well.
Then, as the universe continued to conspire against John, the click-clack of Mrs. Jensen’s approaching heels shattered the moment.
“Excuse me, Mr. Watson,” the crusty librarian spoke as John straightened up to face her. “I’ve only found the one book you inquired about. You may request to be placed on the waiting list for the other two.”
For a few moments, John’s mind fought to drag itself back to reality.
“Oh, I—I … yes … er, I would like to, um, be placed on the waiting list,” John managed.
“All right then,” said the librarian. “Come with me and I’ll show you how to use the electronic system to place your name on the list.”
As the librarian huffed back down the aisle way, John began to follow her, then paused. Should I take one last peek?
He decided to leave fate alone, letting out a small breath of disappointment, then turning and making his way back to the help desk.
Later that evening, as John returned to his room and flopped down dramatically on his bed, he couldn’t help but think about what had transpired at the library.
I was so close to him. … His eyes, they were … beautiful. Like two, bluish-grey orbs … almost mystical. God, when did I turn into such a romantic? … Still, there was something about them. I felt hypnotized. … They were so—so piercing. … Like he was looking right through me. … I can’t go on like this. I have to do something. Anything! Maybe I should just talk to him. … Oh, yeah, right. And what would you say, John? Huh? Hi, I’m John Watson will you be my boyfriend? Oh, that’s right. You have a girlfriend. Sorry, my mistake. Excuse me now while she kicks my arse. Ugh! Why can’t I get this guy out of my head?
“What guy?” said Mike as he burst into their shared living space holding a pizza.
Jesus, how much of that last part did I say out loud?
“Uh, no one,” John fumbled. “It’s no one.”
“You seem a little frazzled there, Johnny,” Mike frowned, setting down the pizza. John immediately sat up and launched himself at the box, suddenly remembering the unsatisfying granola bar he’d eaten earlier.
“I—it’s—I’m … okay,” John spoke, although he knew the slight falter wasn’t going to help shut down the conversation.
“Someone bothering you? One of your teammates? A professor?” Mike looked genuinely concerned. “Because if someone’s giving you trouble, you know there are people who can help.”
John was touched by his roommate’s sudden advocacy.
“Nah, it’s nothing like that,” John reassured him with a smile and a mouthful of crust and cheese. “I’m just being stupid.”
Mike looked a bit relieved as he grabbed a slice of pizza and settled into a chair.
“Okay, in that case, come on. Tell your buddy Mikey what’s up,” he teased with a grin.
John laughed and looked fondly at his roommate (who had in a very short amount of time become a good friend), and suddenly, he was compelled to reveal, for the second time that day, something he felt was extremely personal. Maybe it was the positive response he received from Greg earlier in the day. Maybe it was Mike’s easy-going personality and demeanor. Whatever it was, John felt a new-found confidence and decided it was time to tell Mike the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
“It’s just this silly crush I have,” John spoke, looking down at his pizza as if it was on a slide under a microscope, counting the seconds until Mike put two and two together.
“Ohhh! I seeeee,” Mike smirked between bites. “What’s her na—”
John watched with fascination as a series of facial expressions washed over Mike’s face as the puzzle pieces from the entire conversation slotted into place. Mike’s expression finally circled back to a slight frown.
“John? … Are you gay?” he asked cautiously.
“Bisexual … actually,” John answered for the second time that day. And even though he was reasonably confident that Mike would take things in stride, his heartbeat increased a little, waiting for his friend to process the information and form a response.
“Huh,” Mike said thoughtfully, “How long have you known? And, why didn’t you say something before?” There was no accusation, just a genuine curiosity in Mike’s tone.
John was a bit surprised at first, but eventually, Mike’s response made sense. Mike was a deep thinker and he genuinely was curious about John and his story.
“I was a teenager when I figured it out,” John spoke. “And, I didn’t tell you because, well … it didn’t really come up in conversation. I had planned to tell you, but … it never seemed like the right time."
Mike nodded then proceeded to ask a litany of questions, all of which John answered openly and honestly. Mike’s facial expression never wavered, his eyes intent as he mulled over everything John shared.
“Well, I’m glad you finally said something,” Mike said.
John smiled, “Yeah, me too.” There was a beat of silence then John continued.
“So, that’s enough about me,” he spoke. “What about you? Anything personal you care to share since we’re bearing our souls tonight?” he nervously joked.
To John’s surprise and relief, Mike began talking about his own life. He spoke about growing up in a small town and how he was bullied mercilessly in primary school. He also talked about his dysfunctional family as John listened attentively, interjecting comments and asking questions when appropriate.
And over the course of finishing off an extra large pizza, a couple of bags of crisps, a tin of biscuits that John found jammed in his desk drawer, and a few-too-many sodas, the two roommates had made great headway in developing a true and lasting friendship.
As they finally settled down into their beds around 2 a.m. to try to get some sleep, Mike turned toward John and stage-whispered in a groggy voice across the room, “You never did tell me who this bloke is that you have a crush on.”
John, who was just starting to drift off into that netherworld between wakefulness and sleep, hummed, “Too tired. Maybe (yawn) another time.”
“Hmm, ‘kay,” Mike responded, entering into his own dreamworld. “Sweet dreams, lover boy.”
John chuckled softly into the darkness of the room, letting his mind finally settle. Thoughts began to form of piercing, deep blue-grey eyes; eyes that stared into his soul, and John let out a soft breath.
Sweet dreams, indeed.
It was as if John had walked straight into a wall. The swath of odor that greeted him when the door to Greg’s flat opened was unlike anything he’d ever smelled—a mixture of sweat and beer, tinged with an aroma of staleness and a hint of offensive cologne, which was emanating from the flat’s occupant currently holding the door open.
“It’s about damn time you got here, Johnny!” Greg grinned.
John scrunched his nose and waved his hand back and forth in front of it a few times. “Jesus, mate,” John groused as he stepped inside. “What the hell did you guys get up to in here last night?”
“What?” Greg shook his head and looked confusedly at John. “You think it smells in here?”
“You don’t?” John asked incredulously.
“Smells like it always does,” Greg stated.
John’s eyebrows hit his fringe as he shook his head and took a seat on an old, worn chair in the sitting room, which was filled with take away boxes and dirty clothing among other things.
He’d been to Greg’s place only a couple of times before, but that was only when Greg and his roommates threw a party, so John thought that the stench he’d experienced previously was just a consequence of that. He was now realizing that the odor was just part of the flat and that his good friend was actually quite a slob.
Greg picked up some papers from the sofa and threw them on the floor so he could make a space to sit down.
“You wanna beer?” Greg asked in order to be a good host.
“Nah, I’m good,” John replied. “So what’s this emergency plumbing situation you can’t handle?” he smirked.
“Well,” Greg began. “Seems like a few of the lads thought it would be funny to see if they could jam a golf ball down the drain and see if it would be flushed out to sea.” (Greg did air quotes around “flushed out to sea.”)
John just shook his head and smirked. “And how much alcohol had been consumed before this little experiment?”
“A lot,” replied the rugby captain with an exasperated expression on his face.
John giggled, “You know if it was any of the rugby team you can get your revenge at practice.”
Greg shook his head. “No, unfortunately, it was some of Peter’s buddies from the football team. I was out with Molls at the time.”
Peter, who was one of four (including Greg) who shared the flat, was the most wild of the bunch, and it wasn’t the first time that John had been called to “fix” something that Peter and his friends had broken. One time after the football team had won the league title, and Peter had hosted the after-party, John had to help Greg install a patch of new lino in the kitchen where some of the drunken lads had thought it fun to start a campfire and roast marshmallows.
John had grown up in a house with a single mother, so he was expected to help out when it came to household chores and fixing things. In addition, they were always strapped for money, his mother working two jobs at times. So, John and his sister had learned to be frugal, wearing clothing and shoes even though they had long-outlived their style and usefulness, and learning how to fix things rather than “buy new.” As a result, John was pretty handy when it came to do-it-yourself projects, much to Greg’s benefit throughout the past year-and-a-half.
“So I thought Mike was coming with you tonight,” said Greg as he and John made their way down the hallway to the kitchen.
“Tonight?” John inquired.
“Yeah, Molly’s having her study group meet over here. Mike’s in the group,” Greg mentioned.
“Oh, yeah,” John responded. “I forgot about that. He said something about it this morning, but he’s been gone to the lab all day, so I think he’s probably coming straight from there. Are there quite a people few coming over?”
Greg bit his lip in thought, “I don’t know. … Maybe five or so?”
John nodded, as he approached the antiquated toolbox that was setting on the table in the middle of the kitchen, and started going through the contents.
“You’re gonna need to go shut off the water,” John said.
“Way ahead of you,” Greg responded proudly.
“If you were that far ahead you would have hidden the golf balls, now, wouldn’t you?” John quipped.
Greg glared at the young man. “Spare me the snark and just fix the damn sink, would ya’?”
John chuckled, “I expect some decent financial compensation for my time and talents.”
Greg smirked, “How about if I don’t tell Sean that you were the one who put the live mouse in his travel bag that last overnight match we had.”
“Hey, I don’t know anything about that,” John pleaded, but with a devious smile on his face.
“Sure you don’t,” Greg smiled and winked.
Then the two of them burst into giggles.
“What are you two giggling about?” Molly interrupted as she walked in on the pair. Neither one had heard her enter the flat.
Greg put an arm around her shoulders and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Aww, nothing. Just some rugby secrets.” John let out a huff of laughter and continued sifting through the toolbox.
Molly smiled and shook her head as she leaned into her boyfriend. “Oh, I saw Mike a couple of blocks away. I bet he’s on his way up by now.” She dashed off down the hallway toward the front door.
“You need anything else, Johnny?” Greg asked.
“No, I think I can handle this,” John replied.
“All right, then I’m gonna go hit the books for awhile,” Greg added as he walked toward the doorway of the kitchen. “Molls and her group’ll be in the sitting room, I imagine. Just yell if you need any help.”
“Will do,” John answered distractedly.
“John,” Greg stopped and turned. John looked up momentarily.
“I really do appreciate your help,” Greg smiled sincerely.
“No problem, mate,” John smiled in return. Then Greg retreated and John was left with a job to do. He vaguely could hear some mumbling down the hall and figured Molly’s group was convening. So he got to work, nearly stuffing half of his body into the cabinet underneath the sink. Luckily, as soon as he unscrewed the fitting that was holding the two pipes together, the golf ball popped out leaving John with the task of just reattaching the pipes, which would have been easy if it wasn’t for the fact that the pipes were so rusted that John wasn’t sure they’d fit back together properly. Add to that the fact that the wrench he’d used had fallen apart as soon as he used it and he was in a bit of a conundrum. Luckily he had seen a second wrench in the toolbox earlier.
“Hey, can someone hand me the wrench that’s in the toolbox on the table? I’m afraid to let go of this pipe,” he yelled.
John knew if he let go he’d have a devil of a time trying to get the old, rusty pipes to reconnect. He thought maybe if he yelled a little louder and put a little anguish into his voice, someone would have mercy on him.
“Someone? Anyone? Wrench please?” he called. Then out of sheer desperation, as he continued to stay stuffed under the sink, and holding the pipe with his right hand, he stuck his left hand out of the cabinet, attempting to reach for the toolbox. His arm flailed helplessly, not even close to reaching its target.
Suddenly, the cool, rough metal of a wrench hit his palm.
Thank God. Greg must have heard me.
“Thanks, mate,” John stated.
“You’re welcome,” came a low, deep disembodied voice.
Jesus, who is that?
“Whoa, you’re not Greg,” John spoke as he continued working on the pipes, face hidden from view.
“No, um no, I’m just visiting,” the voice replied a bit tentatively.
John was becoming a bit mesmerized by the tone and timbre of the voice. He tried to engage the stranger.
“Oh, you must be in Molly and Mike’s study group. I’m John,” he rambled as he twisted and turned the fitting that connected the two pipes, while rust continued to flake off here and there. The small exertion this DIY project was taking was causing John to sweat a little and he regretted not removing his rugby zip-up.
“Nice to meet you,” the polite stranger replied. “Well, I’d better get back to the group.” The smooth voice filtered downward as if on a wave.
In addition to enjoying the pleasantness of the stranger’s voice, John was so close to finishing the project he thought he’d take advantage of the stranger’s kindness one last time. “Wait, before you go, could you pass me that sealant on the table, please?” John asked, his voice still a bit muffled from within the inner cabinet.
And just like the wrench had appeared previously, the bottle of sealant found its way into John’s left hand as he held the pipe fitting with the wrench in his right. He was really quite grateful to this stranger with the smooth and sultry voice.
“Thanks, um, I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name,” John said inquisitively.
All of sudden, Molly’s voice shot down the hallway from the sitting room.“Sherlock? What are you doing in there? We’re ready to start with chapter 5.”
John’s breath caught in his throat and he abruptly dropped the wrench, which hit the bottom of the cabinet, making a clattering sound that echoed throughout the kitchen.
Sherlock Holmes! The voice … that voice … his voice!
Suddenly, John was aware of footsteps fleeing down the hall. He tried to hastily back out from underneath the cabinet, but unfortunately he momentarily forgot his space limitations and hit his head on one of the pipes.
“Shit!” he cried, his hand immediately going to rub his crown. He heard a door slam as he ran down the hallway to the sitting room where Molly and Mike were staring at each other in confusion.
“What’s all the racket?” Greg asked puzzledly as he entered the room, taking in Molly and Mike’s expressions and watching John rub his head.
“I have no idea,” Molly started. “One minute Sherlock was in the kitchen supposedly getting sodas and the next minute he was grabbing his coat and bag and sprinting out of here.”
“So that was Sher—Sherlock Holmes?” John asked. “In—in the kitchen? … Just now?”
“Yeah,” Mike answered. “Were you in there? Did he say something to you?”
John plopped down onto an empty chair. “Yeah,” he stated, staring out into space.
Greg sat down next to Molly, who was seated on the sofa.
“Well, what did he say?” Greg inquired, a look of concern on his face.
John blinked, realizing Greg had spoken and all three of them were watching him with concerned looks on their faces.
“Nothing,” John started. “I mean it— it wasn’t anything of consequence. I was stuffed under the sink and I needed a wrench so he handed it to me, then I rambled about something or other—“
“You do tend to ramble,” Mike interjected.
“Thanks,” John deadpanned. Mike smiled and nodded his head while Greg frowned at Mike and turned back to face John.
“Anyway,” John continued. “I introduced myself—“
“While you were still under the sink?” Molly asked.
“Yeah,” John answered her. “And then we heard your voice call from the sitting room and that’s when he took off.”
“So you never actually saw each other face-to-face?” Greg asked, as if he were a detective.
John shook his head, “No. … but that voice … his voice was so … so distinctive … so mesmerizing. …” John started to get that faraway look in his eye again. “It suits him … perfectly.”
Suddenly, a look of understanding washed over Mike’s face, as he continued studying John. Greg caught Mike’s expression then shifted his eyes to John, coming to the same realization.
John came back to reality and looked up at Mike and Greg, opening his mouth slightly, as if to say something.
“John,” Mike said measuredly.
John shifted his eyes between Mike and Greg, realizing that both of them had pieced together the puzzle almost simultaneously. Molly, with a confused expression on her face, was eyeing all three of them.
John clasped his hands in front of him and let out a breath as he dropped his face to stare at the floor. “Yes,” John conceded. “I have an enormous, ridiculous crush on Sherlock Holmes.”
There was a moment of complete stunned silence, then Molly yelped and leapt to her feet, throwing her arms around John and hugging him with ferocity. “Oh, that’s sooooo adorable … and romantic! I’m so happy for you!” John managed a smile, while simultaneously trying to breathe, Molly’s body crushing his throat. He noticed that Greg and Mike were both chuckling. Molly finally let go and sat back down and John went from rubbing the crown of his head to rubbing his neck.
“Jesus, mate,” Greg said. “Sherlock Holmes?”
To which John nodded and smiled warily.
“Well, you bring a whole new meaning to the saying ‘go big or go home.’” Greg added with a smirk, shaking his head.
This prompted hearty laughs from the entire group.
“You should have told me, Johnny,” Mike said, his giggles subsiding. “I could have said something to him; introduced the two of you.”
“No!” John’s smile quickly left his face. “Please, Mike, don’t say a word. He has no idea I have a crush on him.” John pleaded as he looked around at each of them. “Please, I’m begging you guys. Don’t say anything to anyone else, and especially him.” John took a couple of breaths.
The three friends promised John that they wouldn’t tell his secret. Phrases like “No worries there, mate” and “Promise, John” and “Doesn’t leave this room” were thrown around.
“All right,” Mike said. “But when the time is right, just let me know and I’ll make introductions.”
John smiled, “Thanks, mate. But I’m not sure if the time’ll ever be right. He doesn’t know who I am and I’m not sure I have the courage to even talk to him.” John finished, “Plus, I think he’s dating Irene Adler.”
“Irene Adler?” Mike guffawed. “I don’t think so.”
The other three looked questioningly at him.
“Let’s just say, I’m almost confident that they’re just friends. She’s not actually his type,” Mike continued. “And, in the dating department, Johnny, well … you and Sherlock would be quite compatible,” Mike finished smugly.
John knew that for some reason Mike was the keeper of campus information. He wasn’t a gossip. He just knew stuff. And nine times out of ten, Mike was correct. So, if Mike was implying that Sherlock was gay, then John believed him. And suddenly, John felt a sense of hope that he logically knew he didn’t have any business having.
The four friends conversed a little longer, eventually chalking off Sherlock’s abrupt departure to his quirkiness. When Greg’s yawns became more frequent, they decided to call it a night, Mike taking off, leaving John to finish up the plumbing project in a matter of minutes.
John finally said good night to Greg and Molly, then proceeded to walk across campus back to his residence hall, replaying the evening’s events over and over in his mind—coming out to Molly (who wasn’t phased in the slightest), revealing his crush and hearing that voice …
His voice. … God, I could listen to it on a loop forever. … He could recite the phone book and I’d listen to it. … I’ll never be able to hear the words “you’re welcome” again without thinking of that hypnotic voice. … So deep. … So raw. … I practically felt it vibrate in my chest. … It was like I could almost taste it. …
John pulled himself out of his hazy thoughts. A cold breeze was whistling between the buildings on campus and, as John walked, he felt like he could almost hear the voice of Sherlock Holmes whispering in the wind. He huffed a laugh and shook his head.
It had been almost a week since John’s last encounter with Sherlock at Greg’s flat. And during that week, John had slowly but surely (thanks to hours of positive self-talk and perhaps some prodding from Mike and Greg) made his way to a place, mentally, where he was as close to having the courage to introduce himself to Sherlock as he could get. He no longer felt like some minion that Sherlock would dismiss. Afterall, John thought, as he looked at himself in the mirror of his room …
I keep myself fit … and I’m athletic. … I’m well-liked. … Oh, and I’m a nice person. And, I have a lot of friends. Yeah, people like me. … Plus, I’m intelligent. And, I care about people. Afterall, that’s why I want to be a doctor. … And, I’m fairly good looking. I mean I’m not gorgeous, like Sherlock, but I think I have a pleasant face to look at. … Yeah, I would say I’m good looking actually. … I have a lot going for me. … I have a lot to offer to a potential date … or potential … boyfriend …
At that last thought, John let out a small giggle and shook his head at his reflection, as if it were an amusing friend. He then proceeded to get himself ready for an evening of rowdiness with his rugby mates at a little, old pub called The Wicked Brew. The decor hadn’t changed in 30 years and it smelled like beer and grease, but John loved it. It was the perfect place to kick back, relax, throw back a couple of pints, maybe play some darts and just be stupid for a night.
So, once he felt appropriately clothed and coiffed, John made his way across campus to pick up Greg at his flat so they could walk to the pub together. As the two of them trekked in the darkness of an impending winter evening, shoulders hunched against the cold, they talked about rugby, upcoming finals, Greg’s options for Molly’s Christmas gift and other items of interest, including John’s love life.
“So,” Greg began. “What’s your plan for talking to Sherlock Holmes, huh?”
“You just won’t leave that alone, will ya’ mate?” John replied in amusement.
“Nope,” Greg smiled. “Besides, Molly’s been nagging the hell out of me for information, … which I don’t have, by the way, because you’re still dragging your arse around trying to grow a pair so you can talk to him.”
John looked at him incredulously.
“Excuse me,” he stated boldly. “I don’t need to ‘grow a pair’ as you so eloquently put it. I’m just waiting for the right time. You know, timing is everything.”
Greg rolled his eyes. “Yeah, and your timing is usually shit.”
“Which is exactly why I don’t want to rush this,” said John. “I want it to be perfect.”
“There ain’t no such thing, mate,” Greg smirked. “If I waited for the perfect time to get together with Molly, we’d still be making gooey eyes at each other from across the room.”
“Well, I’m not even sure when I might see him again,” he spoke. “We don’t actually run in the same circles and I don’t just want to show up at his residence hall door and ask him if he wants to go for coffee. That’s a little, I don’t know… stalkerish.”
“I don’t know,” Greg said thoughtfully. “That might be kind of romantic.”
John’s raised his eyebrows and glanced at his friend, “Mate, you gotta stop letting Molly talk you into watching those romance films. You’re scaring me a bit, here.”
Greg shook his head and grumbled, “Shut it, Watson.” Much to John’s amusement.
As they approached and stepped inside the pub, Greg turned to John. “By the way, have we decided? Are we getting pissed tonight, or just slightly tipsy?”
John snorted. “Well, I’d like to keep my wits about me. And I don’t want to be the one dragging your sorry arse back to your flat if you decide to get wasted .”
“Pissed it is!” howled Greg, loud enough for some of their teammates to howl back and pump their fists in the air.
John shook his head and laughed, and the pair of them joined the large group of rugby lads, who had already seemed to have gotten a head start.
About an hour into the festivities, as John and Greg were putting the finishing touches on their team dart championship, John excused himself to use the loo. The pub was now filling in with people and John was having to zig zag among the crowd to get to his destination. As he was shimmying around a table of flirty young women, he happened to glance toward a table in one of the corners, and what he saw almost made him face plant in front of the bar area.
Sherlock Holmes was there. In a grungy pub. Sitting at a table. With another man.
John felt like he’d stepped into some sort of strange parallel universe. He didn’t have long to process everything though, because he was getting jostled toward the toilets, as a mass of people started approaching the bartender and spouting their drink orders.
John finally managed to break free, ducking down a hallway but stopping to peer around a corner stealing a peek at Sherlock and his “friend.” John’s eyes narrowed slightly as he observed the pair. He was just about to unleash his illogical jealous streak, when something captured his attention—Sherlock’s facial expression. He looked completely and utterly … bored.
John was no expert on reading emotions, but there was something inside his brain that told him Sherlock wasn’t exactly pleased to be sitting with this mystery man.
Eyes are a bit narrowed. … Cheek bones, geez, they’re still amazing. … But mouth is tight … and chin is … slightly raised? … eyes practically glaring at the man.
A man who wore a three-piece suit … to a dilapidated, old pub. A man who had brought an umbrella with him … when it wasn’t even raining. A man whose sharp facial features and indifferent facial expression were practically mirroring Sherlock’s. In fact, John noticed there seemed to be a slight resemblance between the men …
Could that possibly be Sherlock’s bro—
John’s thoughts were abruptly cut off by a young woman crashing into him as she drunkenly made her way to the women’s toilet. And suddenly he remembered that he’d better make his way to the gents so as to avoid a possible embarrassing situation.
Once inside, John took care of business and was finishing up washing his hands, when he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He stopped and stared at the young man looking back at him.
John Watson … … … what are you doing?
John let out a heavy breath as he continued to observe the mirrored image.
You’ve been pining most of the semester over Sherlock Holmes. You thought he had a girlfriend. … That turned out to be untrue. … You thought you weren’t good enough. … And, damn it … that turned out to be untrue, too. Because you are good enough. You’re an intelligent, likable, good-looking human being.
John’s confidence was building.
You care about people … and people care about you. You couldn’t ask for better friends than Greg and Mike and Molly. … And, you’re going to be a doctor. … You’re going to make a difference in this world. A real difference.
He could feel the crescendo.
You are worth it, John Watson! … You are worth every bit of it! … And, Sherlock Holmes would feel lucky to have someone like you admiring him. … So, go out there! Right now! … And … and …
John’s mind stuttered.
Holy Shit. Am I—am I really gonna do this?
He took one last look at the man in the mirror and gave him a commanding look and a quick nod.
Go. Get. Your. Man.
John spun around and charged out the door, filled with confidence and ready to walk up to Sherlock, turn on the charm and see where the evening took them.
Unfortunately, the best laid plans …
The rugby lads were now gathered around the bar and were mostly blocking his path to the corner table. John suddenly found himself grabbed and thrust into the middle of the mob, with a pint slapped into his hand as the group began singing a raucous rendition of one of their favorite Max Boyce songs. John knew that trying to escape was futile, so he resigned himself to a pint and a brief sing-along, which actually helped him release some of his nervous energy. As the lads finished with catcalls, scattered laughter and howling, John plopped his glass down on the bar and spun around, ready to face the real music.
And as he did, his eyes landed on the man in the three-piece suit sitting at the corner table. Alone.
John quickly scanned the pub and caught a glimpse of a coattail flying out the front door. A coattail he knew all too well.
The balloon of hope and energy John had been riding had burst. And he found himself sliding into disappointment.
Sherlock was gone.
And, John had missed his chance.
He turned back toward the bar and gestured for the bartender to pour him a shot. He knew he shouldn’t mix his drinks, but at that point, he didn’t give a shit.
Suddenly, a large hand clasped him on the back.
“Hey, Johnny, you and the lads celebrating tonight?” Mike asked as he brushed a few snowflakes off his jacket, obviously just coming inside from the cold.
“Yeah, well, we were, but …” John trailed off, his mouth almost forming a pout.
Mike looked a bit confused.
“You don’t look very celebrationy,” he half chuckled. “What’s up, mate?”
John bit his lip in frustration and shook his head. Partially because of the Sherlock situation, partially because the bartender was being awfully slow with his shot.
“I was ready, Mike!” John blurted with exasperation. “I was all ready to do the deed.”
“What are you talking about?” Mike asked.
“Sherlock Holmes,” John continued. “He was here. Tonight. I saw him and … and I knew. Tonight was the night I would talk to him. And then, the tossers on my team grabbed me and before I knew it I was holding a pint up in the air and singing and when I turned around, Sherlock was gone. … Just … gone.”
John looked away, feeling foolish for acting like a petulant school boy.
Mike’s mouth formed a tight smile and he nodded.
“Come on,” he grabbed the rugby player by the bicep and started to lead them both toward the door.
“What? What are you doing?” John asked, planting his feet in firm refusal.
“Something I should have done long ago,” Mike replied and grabbed John by the arm, starting to lead him away from the bar. “Get your coat. I know exactly what you need.”
John grabbed his coat from the pile that was strewn on one of the tables, made sure Greg could get home all right, and set out into the cold night air with his roommate.
“If you’re taking me to a strip club,” John spoke cynically, “It’s not going to work. Nothing’s going to make me feel better right now.”
“Nice attitude,” Mike quipped. “We’re not going to a strip club. Just don’t ask questions and trust me on this one, okay?”
John shrugged, still following Mike’s lead as they began to trek across campus.
Where in the world is Mike taking me?
The pair finally ended up at the science building, which was pretty much dark and deserted except for some utility lights that were illuminating the hallways here and there and a lone janitor mopping the floor in an adjacent hallway.
“How can you even get into this place at this time of night?” John asked with genuine curiosity.
“Dr. Gregory gave me a spare keycard so I could work on my one experiment,” Mike answered calmly as he approached the door to one of the labs. There looked to be a light on inside.
As they stepped inside the room, John looked at his roommate, who was sporting the widest grin his face could hold. The rugby player furrowed his brow and was about to question Mike’s sanity, when the mischievous-looking young man gave a head nod toward his right and shifted his eyes to look at something in the room. John followed Mike’s line of sight, and in that instant, saliva, along with all rational thought, became endangered. Because standing less about two meters away was Sherlock Bloody Holmes!
John was thankful that Sherlock’s back was turned toward them because the rugby player couldn’t actually help his gaping mouth, wide eyes and suspended breath.
“Good evening, Mike,” said the young man in that low baritone that made John’s knees turn to jelly.
How in the world did he know it was Mike? John thought. He hasn’t even turned around yet. He really is brilliant.
“Hey, Sherlock,” Mike replied.
There were a couple more seconds of silence during which John’s mind clicked into inspirational self-talk mode.
You can do this. Remember the mirror.
John was roused out of his thoughts by Mike’s voice. “Sherlock, there’s—there’s someone I’d like you to meet. … It’s an old friend of mine.”
As Sherlock slowly turned around, Mike smiled and waved a hand toward the young man next to him, “John Watson.”
And for all of the pining and whinging that John had done over the semester, none of it seemed to matter. Because in that moment, as he looked at the young man who had plagued his thoughts and unknowingly toyed with his emotions for months, John didn’t see an unattainable god. A person made of glass. No. The only thing John saw was a bloke with his safety goggles perched on top of his head, his curls in disarray, his mouth slightly gaping, and his wide blue-grey eyes looking at John with the same timidity that John himself was feeling. It turned out that Sherlock Holmes was a human being. Flesh and blood human being. And John couldn’t help the shy smile that took over his face as his thoughts funneled down to one …
Sherlock Holmes is here. … I am walking next to Sherlock Holmes. … And we’re on our way to a coffee shop. … For a date. … I am on a date with Sherlock Holmes!
John could hardly believe the good turn his life had taken within the last few hours. After a wild rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout the evening, it was nice to have settled down to the smoldering embers of excitement that now burned within him.
After Mike had not-so-slyly left the lab after introductions had been made, Sherlock and John had exchanged a few words that had led to Sherlock shutting down his experiment for the night and the pair making their way to an all-night coffee shop close to campus. John was surprised at how receptive Sherlock had been to agreeing to coffee … and so soon after meeting him, too!
Another thing that John found surprising was how easy it was to have a conversation with Sherlock. He was a bit brash, could deduce your entire life in about ten seconds, and was completely honest, but John found it refreshing.
“So, why chemistry?” John asked as they nursed their beverages at a small cafe table near the window.
Sherlock shrugged, “I enjoy it and I’m good at it.”
John took a sip of his coffee, while Sherlock continued. “Plus, I needed something somewhat mentally stimulating to do for the next few years until I can be out on my own and do what I really want.”
“And what’s that?” John asked.
“Detective work,” Sherlock spoke, almost conspiratorially.
John unconsciously leaned in, his attention riveted by this fascinating young man.
“I plan to be a consulting detective,” Sherlock continued. “Help out the police when they need assistance. I’ve already helped solve a few criminal cases already.”
“What?! How?” John gasped.
“Well, it wasn’t anything that exciting,” Sherlock answered. “There was an incident near the village I grew up in. The banker was committing fraud. I just helped out the local police.”
John looked at him in wonder. “How long ago was that?”
“Oh, I was about … I don’t know, eight years old, maybe?” Sherlock thoughtfully replied.
“Eight?!” John yelped. “That’s brilliant!”
The young men stared at each other with expressions of wonder, but for completely different reasons.
“I—I also helped with a robbery case,” Sherlock spoke tentatively as John continued to stare in awe. “That one was a little easier. Just took a few quick deductions and the police followed the leads right to him. Got a confession and everything.”
John shook his head in amazement. “That’s fantastic,” he spoke. “Absolutely fantastic! Although, I’m not surprised. Given the deductions you made about me, my family, my childhood and my career on the way here tonight, I bet you’d be a brilliant detective.”
John noticed that Sherlock had taken a sudden interest in the table top, eyes averted with a soft pink blush tinging his cheeks.
He is absolutely adorable! … It’s like he’s not used to receiving compliments. … How can that be though? His mind is extraordinary. … He’s handsome. … Easy to talk with. … How is it no one has snatched him up?
“As you can imagine, John, not everyone thinks that my deductions are brilliant,” Sherlock regained his composure. “Especially when the information I’m sharing would be considered embarrassing or inappropriate. In fact, I’ve been on the receiving end of quite a few black eyes and bloody lips because of my non-existent filters.”
John laughed, “Yes, I suppose not everyone appreciates having the dirty bits of their lives aired in front of them. Kind of like true confessions.”
As John looked at Sherlock, sitting across from him, sipping his coffee, with a content expression on his face, John replayed the last two words that came out of his mouth.
Suddenly, the rugby player wanted to tell Sherlock everything. John wanted to tell him how he’d seen him that day in The Commons and felt something so strong that it haunted him for months. How he’d been pining over Sherlock for an entire semester and only recently had mustered the courage to even attempt to approach him. How John thought Sherlock was the most handsome, most fascinating person he’d ever met.
What John ended up blurting out was …
“You know, I thought you were dating Irene Adler.”
Unfortunately, Sherlock had just taken a sip of coffee, which he sprayed all over the table.
“Wha—what?” he choked.
“Jesus, are you okay?” John asked with concern, as he began blotting the table with a napkin.
Sherlock began to laugh and John found the deep rumble just one more thing that he was beginning to love about this man.
“Irene!” Sherlock yelped. “How ridiculous!”
“Well, you were always together! What was I supposed to think?!” John tried to act offended, but ended up giggling, along with his companion. “And, what was that whole thing with you two under the table in The Commons that one day, huh? Something about a contact lens?”
Sherlock stopped giggling abruptly and the blush began to appear on his cheeks again. “Yes, well, Irene had this brilliant idea that maybe you and her friend should be together. So she forced me under the table to give you two some privacy.” Sherlock rolled his eyes.
Now it was John who started laughing. “Mary?” he spoke. “No way. I mean, she’s a nice girl and all, but I don’t feel that way about her.”
John noticed Sherlock relax a bit. Was Sherlock worried?
“Besides, she really didn’t stand a chance,” John courageously, yet hesitantly, continued. “I’m afraid I was already falling for someone else at that point.” John slowly moved his hand forward and lightly brushed his finger tip along the fingers of Sherlock’s left hand, which was setting on top of the table.
He watched as Sherlock’s eyes went wide shifting between their barely-brushing fingers and John’s face. John smiled a soft, warm smile, hoping Sherlock would understand what he was trying to say, But, John was quickly finding out that nuance wasn’t the budding detective’s forte. Sherlock’s facial expression was a cross between confusion, dejection and fright.
If Sherlock can be brutally honest, then so can I.
“It’s you, Sherlock,” John announced softly. “I was falling for you.”
John saw Sherlock’s mouth form a small “O,” and then a shy smile took its place.
With new-found confidence, John went on. “In fact, I’ve been pretty much pining for you all semester,” he said with a chuckle.
Sherlock looked momentarily frozen.
Shit, I’ve scared him. I went too far.
“Sherlock?” John nervously prodded.
The young man blinked and regained his composure.
“You … were—were pining … for … me?” Sherlock asked, looking quite puzzled.
“Mhmm,” John smiled in relief and nodded his head.
A few moments went by in silence.
“Well,” Sherlock shook his head in amusement. “That’s … that’s … John, I feel I need to be honest. … I was pining for you!”
“What?!” John asked in astonishment.
“I kept seeing parts of you, all semester,” Sherlock replied. “I noticed your arm resting on the frame of your car window—“
“That day on the Campus Green!” John interrupted. “I knew it!”
Sherlock continued, “And then, your legs, while I was under the table. And—and then your eyes—“
“The library,” John chimed in.
“Yes,” Sherlock spoke. “But the thing is, I could never see you in your entirety. It was always parts. Very nice parts, I might add …”
“Oh, Jesus,” John huffed with embarrassment and put his face in his hands. “You saw my bum sticking out of that cabinet in Greg’s kitchen, didn’t you?!”
Then John lifted his head and looked at Sherlock whose blush had bypassed pink and gone straight to red.
“Wait … a … minute,” John spoke slowly and evenly. “You were staring at my bum that night, weren’t you?! Sherlock Holmes was ogling me!” He began to laugh, which made Sherlock fold his arms and contemplate a full-blown pout.
But John would have none of it. He took his foot underneath the table and briefly stroked Sherlock’s calf and gave the future detective one of his charming Watson smiles.
“Come on, Sherlock,” John purred. “It’s okay. I like the thought of you ogling me.”
Sherlock’s facial expression and entire body turned decidedly more relaxed and he even managed a small concessionary smile and a fond eye roll.
“As I was saying,” Sherlock explained. “I became so frustrated because I couldn’t see you. All of you. You became a puzzle, John. … The most interesting puzzle I’d ever faced. … A puzzle that I yearned to see and to know.”
John couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He and Sherlock had been circling each other all semester, each of them noticing the other, pining for each other, and neither of them had known it.
“Well, I’m glad we’ve finally reached this place. And I would like to get to know you, too, Sherlock,” John spoke with fondness and a little heat. “Very much.”
The smile that Sherlock gave John nearly caused the rugby player to sign up his stomach for the gymnastics team.
Jesus, that smile. That face. He’s so beautiful. He could have anyone he wanted.
John tried, he really did, but he just couldn’t let go of that little bit of self-doubt and lingering tinge of jealousy that he’d experienced earlier in the evening.
“So in the interest of getting to know each other,” he started. “Who was the man you were with at the pub earlier this evening?”
He tried to seem nonchalant, but he should have known better.
“Jealous, were you?” Sherlock smirked.
“No,” John answered way too quickly. “Well … maybe a little at first.”
Luckily any embarrassment that John started to feel was cut off by a truly epic eye roll by Sherlock.
“Well, there’s no need. That was my meddlesome older brother, Mycroft,” the young man scoffed. “He likes to stick his fat nose where it doesn’t belong. By the way, fair warning. He knows about you. Don’t be surprised if he kidnaps you and tries to intimidate you.”
John wasn’t sure whether to feel flattered or frightened.
“Well, I’ll try to make a good impression,” he stated.
“Oh, don’t worry. You already have,” Sherlock spoke matter-of-factly. “If you hadn’t, he would have made sure this date would never have happened.”
John swallowed hard. Jesus, what am I getting myself into?
The two of them continued to sit and talk until the early hours of the morning when the adrenaline of the prior evening finally wore off and they both shared a yawn.
After leaving the coffee shop, John walked Sherlock back to his residence hall and after a bit of feet shuffling they both reluctantly said their good-byes.
But John’s anxiety crept back in and he just had to know if Sherlock would perhaps agree to a second date.
“Sherlock, I … would it be okay if I—”
“Kissed me?” blurted Sherlock excitedly.
John giggled, “Actually, I was going to ask if it would be okay if I texted you to see about another date. But, kissing you would actually be brilliant.”
And as they moved toward each other and eventually ended up in a warm and perfect embrace, their lips met, softly at first, each exploring and savoring that wonderful moment of a first kiss.
I hope he doesn’t mind my chapped lips. … God, his lips are so soft and full. … I feel lightheaded, it’s so perfect. … I could kiss him forever.
After the initial give-and-take and realizing that both of them were definitely on the same page in regard to the experience, John got a little bolder.
I wonder what he’d do if I tried a little tongue— … Ahhhh, yes, Sherlock. … That’s it. Let me taste you. … Jesus, that’s soooo good. … But, I need to breathe …
John broke away but not far, leaning his forehead against Sherlock’s; his panting echoed by his partner’s; their hot breaths mingling in the cold night air.
“I really like you, Sherlock,” John whispered, hoping his words would fill Sherlock’s senses and not scare him away. “I like you so much. I know that sounds crazy—“
“It’s not crazy, John. … I—I like you, too,” the younger man breathed, and John let the warmth of the sentiment wash over him.
The pair stood there for a few more minutes, just holding one another, sharing a brief kiss here and there, and just enjoying the warmth of their new connection.
Finally, John let his hands slowly run down Sherlock’s arms and grasped the younger man’s hands in a final show of fondness. John then tried to step away but Sherlock kept a tight hold of his hands, as if John might disappear if he let go.
“Sherlock,” John chuckled softly. “Believe me, I don’t want to, but I really do have to go. And you’re going to have to let go of my hands now.”
John squeezed Sherlock’s hands lightly and the future detective finally let go. John started to walk backwards a few steps, feeling like he was floating, and not wanting to miss one second of looking at this beautiful man.
“Can I call you … later today?” John asked with a sudden shyness. “Maybe we could meet up for … coffee? … or … you know, dinner?”
Sherlock’s smile went from ear to ear as he nodded his head. “Dinner,” he answered assuredly. “Definitely dinner.”
John’s smile broadened, if that was possible, and he turned and walked to the end of the pathway, ready to disappear around the building and head back to his residence hall. However, before he turned the corner of the building, he stopped, gave a short wave, then placed a kiss on the fingers of his left hand and held it up, willing the kiss to travel across the airwaves and land on Sherlock’s lips. Then he ducked out of sight feeling loopy and giddy and as cheesy and gooey as the macaroni and cheese he had dropped on his trousers the minute he had laid eyes on Sherlock that first time in The Commons many months ago.
As John walked across campus back to his residence hall, he thought about the incredible, handsome and brilliant young man he had met. He thought about everything that had led to tonight—pining over Sherlock; coming out to his friends; gathering his courage; encouraging himself; meeting Sherlock for the first time; going on their first date; and finally, best of all, kissing Sherlock. John’s heart was bursting and he began mentally planning their second date, wondering if Sherlock liked Italian food or not. Perhaps on their third date, they would do something fun like—
John halted that train of thought.
Would Sherlock want a third date? A fourth? … A forever?
John could only hope. And as he stood in the middle of campus, smiling like a loon and biting his lip, trying to quell the excitement that often times comes from hoping, John couldn’t help but break the silence that the lightly-falling snow was creating around him. So, he leapt into the air releasing a hearty and satisfied yelp and landed in the soft, wet snow. He then started moving his arms and legs back and forth, making the perfect snow angel.
When he was finished, John just lay there, peacefully staring up at the deep and never-ending dark sky. He watched the snowflakes uncontrollably and helplessly falling, and he appreciated their plight. Because John knew exactly what that felt like.
John closed his eyes and sighed; his lips forming a wistful smile.
Sherlock Holmes, what have you done to me?