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The Oolong Disaster

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Sherlock blames the goat intestines. And also Glasgow.

Damned Glasgow, stealing John Watson away for two whole weeks. Damned goat intestines, distracting Sherlock Holmes for seventy-two hours—long enough for those two John-less weeks to gain a few days.

Sherlock doesn’t know what to do. He is being presented with a set of data that makes no sense, and he has so so so many questions that he simply can’t ask. He missed John coming home, he missed John so much , he got distracted by goat intestines and John went and did something so strange—so phenomenal—so potentially sexy— that Sherlock’s brain is bleeding.

John Watson is growing a beard.

And Sherlock doesn't hate it.

It's barely anything; just a light dusting of stubble along John's cheeks, his chin, his jaw, just a suggestion of change, but that's all that Sherlock needs, really. He's a consulting detective, for God's sake. He can tell when the man he stares at constantly (when he isn't staring at intestines) is doing something as utterly unprecedented as growing a beard.

He very nearly bolts across the room and takes John's face in his hands, very nearly runs his fingers along the smooth skin there, and feels the fine prickle of hair like wire; as it is, he leaps from his chair fast enough to send it clattering backwards onto the kitchen lino, pushing his goggles up onto his forehead with his wrists (because he doesn't want to get intestine in his hair, he has places to be tonight) and, well, goggles.

JOHN .” Sherlock very nearly bellows. He’s experiencing the conflicting desires to collapse on top of John where he sits on the sofa, and run and hide in his bedroom until John shaves that… that thing off.

John acknowledges Sherlock's outburst with nothing more than a quick glance and a distracted smile, and then goes back to the pile of bills he's sorting through at the coffee table. Sherlock cannot move.

“I see you've decided to join the rest of us out here in the land of the living,” John says in a gently mocking tone. His eyes don't leave the envelope that he's methodically opening with his steady hands, his doctor hands. Sherlock is at once relieved, and jealous of an envelope.

“Intestines,” blurts Sherlock, his voice scratchy and hoarse from disuse. Distractedly he notes that this is the first time he's spoken aloud for two days, which explains why he hasn't looked at John in even longer than that, and why why why what is happening—

John does look at him now, and it’s a look with staying power. The hand holding the envelope drifts, until finally it drops to the coffee table. “Right,” says John. He doesn’t look the least bit confused, which just goes to show that really Sherlock isn’t the only strange one living in this flat. “So I’m sure you haven’t eaten while playing with those intestines, have you? Probably not much while I was away, either. Silly man.”

Sherlock makes a distressed noise that’s half sigh, half helpless laugh. God. What is John Watson doing to him?

“Okay,” says John, and touches Sherlock’s elbow absently as he passes by him into the kitchen. Sherlock’s knees almost give out.

This is a disaster.

***

Three days later, and still John hasn’t shaved. What was merely a suggestion of stubble when first Sherlock noticed is now undeniably something beard-shaped, spreading like a dark, scruffy shadow across John’s cheeks and chin and jaw.

John wanders around his life like he always does. As if he hasn’t shaken up everything Sherlock has ever known about him.

Sherlock has spent the last three days alternating between adding massive amounts of confusing and mystifying John-data to the John-wing of his Mind Palace and trying not to throw himself at John and never, never, ever let him go.

The John-data is this.

John looks like walking sex.

And John isn’t supposed to look like walking sex. John is supposed to look tidy and clean-shaven and collected.

Sherlock is used to being in love with John Watson; that emotion he’s almost learned to cope with over the years. But this fierce, fervid attraction, simmering hot and low in his stomach, is altogether an entirely different beast.

And he has no idea what to do about it.

Other people look at John differently now; and faster than Sherlock can think, that attraction sours, sharpens, morphs into a spike of possessive envy that almost knocks him backwards.

John notices. “Alright?” he asks mildly in concern, looking away from Molly (Molly, who is looking at John with blatant admiration in her gaze, and smiling at him in exactly the same besotted way that she smiles at Sherlock, the tart) and up at Sherlock with bemusement. Sherlock realizes that he’s clutching John’s arm with both hands, fingers worrying at the sleeve of John’s black jacket. He touches one leather elbow patch fondly—John’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline—before pulling back like he’s been burned.

“Oh,” he says stupidly. He feels numb and like he can’t move and… and sort of like he’s being burned to death from the inside out with the heat of a thousand supernovas.

John scratches absently at the brown-grey across his jawline. The sound is loud in the utter silence of the morgue.

“Um,” says Molly, tone nervous and shrill. “So—”

Sherlock gasps in a breath of air as he snaps to action, whirling around on his heel and snatching up the bag of left pinky toes that Molly procured for him from the counter as he breezes out of the room.

“Hello, good to see you, got to run, goodbye,” he calls over his shoulder as he kicks the door open with the tip of his shoe and tucks the toes into his coat pocket.

He hears John’s hurried apology as he trots down the hallway, and then the muffled thud of John’s footsteps as he catches up to Sherlock’s side.

“Sherlock,” he says, and Sherlock immediately knows that he is in trouble. There are numerous variants to the way John says Sherlock’s name, each with a different meaning. This one means: You have the social skills of a very horrible child.

Sherlock doesn’t answer. The toes in his pocket squelch. The heart in his chest beats.

There is a John-sigh. Then a John-sentence.

“Do you want to tell me what just happened back there?”

What just happened back there? What just happened back there? What just happened back there, John, Sherlock wants to say, is that I realized that my worst fear in the world is not having you, every last bit of you, completely to myself. I want you more than I have ever wanted anything. I want you more than the air I breathe. I want you more than goat intestines, or this bag of toes in my pocket, and I am terrified.

“People are stupid,” he snaps instead, and doesn’t look at John the whole way home.

***

Sherlock knows that something must be done when he misses the oolong tea.

The case is really great; two corpses, unrelated, stretched prone of the floor of a very expensive flat in Kensington, both missing their eyes and dressed in bathing suits—at least a seven, which is better than he’s gotten in weeks . Sally is there but she’s being rather more tolerable than usual, and Lestrade has given Sherlock twenty whole minutes on the scene, which is unnecessary of course, but appreciated nonetheless.

Altogether, it had been shaping up to be one of the better Thursdays Sherlock’s had in a while.

But.

But John.

With his face and... things.

John stands easily in the center of the room, and the world revolves around his friendly smile. His shoulders are relaxed—more relaxed than they’d been before the corpses, which is probably a bit not good, but Sherlock wouldn’t change that for the world—left hand cupped loosely around a paper cup of coffee that one of Lestrade’s brainless, infatuated minions had fetched for him the moment Sherlock and John had stepped onto the scene. He’s chatting amicably with Lestrade. He is dazzling.

Sherlock. Cannot. Think.

“Deduced it yet, freak?” Sally barks at him, pulling Sherlock’s attention away from John and back towards the corpses. “We haven’t got all day.”

Sherlock’s brain feels like someone has taken an enormous spoon and stirred generously, until his thoughts are mixed up and running in every direction but the one he needs.  Even though he isn’t looking at John anymore, he now feels John looking at him , and a flush spreads itself across his cheeks.

Stop.

Observe.

Deduce.

“The English professor,” he says, doing his best not to seek out John’s gaze across the room, “payed his nephew to do it. You can tell by the particular brand of Earl Grey on the counter.” Warming up to his deduction a bit, Sherlock allows his spine to unfurl, his chin to lift just a notch. John’s eyes on him feel like a spotlight. “The nephew—”

“Sherlock.”

Sherlock breaks off abruptly, turning to look at John in surprise. John has never interrupted one of his deductions before, not for anything other than a word of praise. And yet John looks almost hesitant to speak, brow furrowed.

The room falls silent as every pair of eyes in the room turns to Sherlock.

John steps close, leaning in and lowering his voice even though everyone’s attention is on them anyway. “Sherlock,” he says again, and Sherlock finds himself watching the way John’s lips move to form the word. He wants to trace the edge of those pink lips with one finger tip, feel the smoothness… “That’s not Earl Grey. It’s oolong.”

The world goes spinny.

Heart in his throat, Sherlock pushes past John to check the box of tea on the counter—

WHAT. THE. HELL.

John is right. It’s quite plainly oolong sitting there, which means it can’t have been the English professor, it would’ve had to have been the florist down the road, and—and—

“Woah, easy.”

John’s arm slides around Sherlock’s waist as his knees go weak, propping him up sturdily. Sherlock slumps against him, his mouth hanging open. Dimly, he registers the babble of shocked conversation that explodes around him: Lestrade asking after his well-being, Donovan sniggering behind her hand.

Only one voice stands out from the tangle of voices, warm and low and concerned, and Sherlock follows that sound with his eyes until he meets John’s gaze.

“Do you feel alright?” John asks him, still clutching a fistful of Sherlock’s coat in one hand, his elbow with the other.

No ,” says Sherlock miserably. It’s the truth. He feels bloody terrible. He feels like his mind is failing him. He feels like kissing John.

John frowns at him, and one of his small, perfect hands comes up to rest against Sherlock’s forehead. “You don’t feel warm,” he says, but he doesn’t look encouraged. Especially when Sherlock nuzzles his temple against John’s palm like a cat, soaking up every bit of John-warmth that he can.

“I’d better take you home,” John says at last. He begins to walk Sherlock to the door, ignoring everybody else around them in a way that Sherlock admires. “You aren’t well.”

No. No, Sherlock is not well. Sherlock is going brain-dead, and it’s all John’s fault, and there’s an awful sort of despair that’s eating away at Sherlock’s insides and leaving him hollowed out and stupid. He lets himself lean more fully against John, because he knows where to snatch up an opportunity when one is presented, and hopes that everyone just thinks that he’s ill and not the most idiotic human being in all of England.

Oolong.

Something must be done.

***

John takes him home.

He hustles Sherlock off to bed, making him change into his softest pyjamas and plying him with cups of tea and promises of extra room for spleens in the fridge if he’ll just sleep tonight.

“You don’t sleep enough,” John says as he leans across Sherlock, tucking his blankets in along his legs and cocooning him in warmth. His soft jumper brushes against Sherlock’s chin while he does this, and Sherlock almost reaches up and grabs John and pulls him down and buries his face in that place where his neck meets his shoulder and—

“I worry about you, you know.”

John is standing now, leaning one hip against the side of Sherlock’s mattress. He looks down at Sherlock with an inarguably fond expression on his face, and he smiles.

Sherlock’s throat feels dry. He wants to drink his tea, but he can’t make himself sit up and reach for it. “I know,” he says finally, his voice like gravel under tyres. He plays with the edge of the comforter that John has drawn up to Sherlock’s collar bones, and watches John with big eyes. “I worry about me, too.”

He didn’t say it to be funny; he does worry about himself, more than he ever has before. He worries about himself constantly. Is he becoming dull, and dim, and slow just like every other horrible little person on this earth except, miraculously, the man that’s having this effect on him? Is John turning Sherlock into the most average bloke in the world, controlled by baser emotions like jealousy and lust and love ?

Does Sherlock even care?

But John laughs, anyway, and even though Sherlock isn’t amused—he is, in fact, rather devastated—he almost smiles.

“Go to sleep, Sherlock,” John says as he gradually stops giggling. A smile stays there on his pink lips, and his bearded face is lovely at this angle, all shadows and highlights and planes and valleys. He reaches down and smooths a few of Sherlock’s unruly curls away from his brow.

Sherlock lays, still, as John draws away from him. John leaves, turning the light off and closing the door behind him.

“Goodnight, John,” Sherlock whispers into the darkness.

***

Sherlock doesn’t sleep.

He lays flat on his back for hours, staring at the ceiling and listening to the sounds of John’s nightly routine gradually get fewer, softer, and then fade away altogether. And then, Sherlock does what Sherlock does best: he thinks.

Unfortunately, his thinking process still seems inhibited, because every single time he reaches the crest of a fully formed plan, an image of John’s face invades his mind—bright, open, happy, sexy —and completely derails him, making his heart thump painfully, his pulse thunder deafeningly in his ears.

Finally, by 2 a.m., he is desperate enough to do anything , and so he springs out of bed with his mind running feverishly fast, running to the bathroom without bothering to turn on any lights and fumbling around blindly until he finds one of John’s razors and a bottle of shaving cream.

His ascent towards John’s bedroom, however, is a cautious one. Sherlock creeps carefully up the edges up the steps, avoiding the squeaky middles and bypassing the fifth step—it’d never been quite the same after that time with the nitroglycerin—entirely. If John wakes up, then all is certainly lost.

Sherlock pauses just outside John’s bedroom door, his thin hand grasping the knob tightly. He’s feeling conflicted. If the beard leaves, then so will (some of) Sherlock’s distraction (probably). However, then John’s beard will be gone . And that’s… rather sad.

But then Sherlock remembers the oolong. He remembers Molly, looking at John like she wanted to eat him, and he remembers all of bloody Scotland Yard staring and staring and staring at John, and he remembers the envy and the fear and he remembers that John is his and he pushes open the door, stumbling over his feet in a hurry to enter the room.

John is sleeping on his back, the blankets spread smooth and taut beneath his body. Military-neat. John-neat.

It isn’t a difficult thing to simply sit on top of him.

Now. In hindsight— which is something that Sherlock doesn’t usually feel the need to employ, but— in hindsight, he can see how his actions were not well thought out. For John is a soldier; and his soldierly instincts have not dulled since his discharge from Afghanistan. Rather, they’ve sharpened, which is why Sherlock now finds himself grabbed, flipped, and sat upon, wrists pinned above his head, shaving cream and razor flying, before he can even take a breath.

John blinks down at him. He doesn’t look confused. He looks momentarily quite terrifying, actually (which sends a thrill through Sherlock’s limbs) and then simply resigned.

“Sherlock,” he says calmly. Sherlock’s heart pounds. “What the fuck.”

Sherlock opens his mouth. No sound comes out.

John’s John-weight feels marrrrrvellous on top of Sherlock’s hips.

John does a double take as he glances to the side, furrowing his brow as he looks at something that’s illuminated by a patch of moonlight on his floor. “Why did you have shaving cream and a razor?” he asks, his words coming out on a sigh. Sherlock is at once very glad and very annoyed that John has a hold of his wrists so tightly, because otherwise he would probably be touching John’s face right now, and unsolicited face touching is apparently a bit not good.

“There is no other way,” Sherlock says. His voice is shaky and about three octaves lower than usual, and John’s gaze immediately snaps to Sherlock’s, bringing with it a rush of warmth so big that Sherlock’s chest feels like it might explode.

“No other way to what? I swear to god, Sherlock, I’ll let you get away with just about anything, because apparently I’m the biggest idiot to ever have walked this earth, but I do draw the line at experimenting on me while I’m asleep—“

“I have to shave your beard because you are far too attractive with it and other dull people are only seeing that now and they’re going to take you away from me and that can’t happen because you are mine.”

Sherlock realises he’s said too much when John’s dark blue eyes grow wide, when his lovely mouth falls open a bit. He’s miserable again. He’s miserable and he’s terrified and he hates himself, because now John is going to leave and it’s completely all Sherlock’s fault—

John begins to laugh.

He throws his head back and squeezes his eyes shut and laughs, a full-bodied thing that shakes both of them on the bed. “Oh, Sherlock,” he giggles, looking back down at Sherlock in a way that makes his heart feel like someone’s picked it up and twisted. “You enormously stupid man.”

And Sherlock can’t help but smile, just a very very tiny bit, despite John’s words. When John laughs like that, everything seems right in the world. Sherlock’s stolen ashtrays for that laugh.

John’s mirth at last fades away, and they are left simply looking at each other, a vast unbreachable silence between them.

“Is that really what you think?” John murmurs softly. He strokes the insides of Sherlock’s wrists very slightly with his thumbs, head tilted to the side. Sherlock shivers.

“Yes,” he says simply, his voice a whisper. Yes, it’s what he thinks. It’s what he knows. “I’ve always known you were too good to be true,” he continues in a rasping tone, because apparently he just can’t shut up this evening. “But I’m a selfish man, John. And I intend to delay the inevitable for as long as I possibly can.”

John watches him for a moment, his eyes shining like two phosphorescent orbs in the darkness. And then he leans down slowly, running the flats of his palms down the tender insides of Sherlock’s arms and cupping Sherlock’s face in his gentle hands.

“You don’t have to,” John murmurs. He’s smiling, only it’s a very different smile than anything else Sherlock’s seen him wear. This one is raw and quiet and full of an unnamed emotion that radiates off of John like a furnace, enveloping Sherlock in its heat; it’s a secret, Sherlock can tell. One that’s meant just for the two of them. “There’s nothing to delay, you brilliant, beautiful,  idiotic genius.”

Sherlock’s heart is beating so quickly that he’s afraid it might be bruising the inside of his ribs, cracking them with thousands of hairline fractures until they turn to powdery dust. John must be able to feel that. How can John not feel that? It’s the biggest sound, the biggest motion in the universe—

John is kissing him.

Sherlock’s brain shatters.

He cannot process the sensation that is flooding through him, he cannot make head nor tail of this John-data, he can’t categorise the soft (like silk) (like cashmere) brush of dry, warm lips against his, or the pleasant (amazing) (brilliant) (wonderful) burn of facial hair on his sensitive skin; he can’t understand why John is caressing Sherlock’s temples with the tips of his fingers, and pressing short, sweet, yearning kisses to every inch of Sherlock’s mouth. All he can do is cling tightly to John’s wrists as John’s lips move against his, and hope like hell that he isn’t dreaming.

John pulls away a little bit, and Sherlock realises that they’re both gasping for breath despite not really having done anything.

“Alright?” John asks him breathlessly.

Sherlock can’t speak. He opens his mouth, and all that comes out is a pathetic, desperate little mewling noise, but he can’t even be arsed to care because John Watson, the love of his life , has just kissed him , and—and—

Knitting his fingers together behind John’s neck, Sherlock yanks John back down and mashes their mouths inexpertly but enthusiastically together, parting his lips on instinct and feeling a current of electricity zap straight down his spine when John does, too.

John moves without breaking the kiss, shifting so that he’s laying full out on top of Sherlock, their legs tangled together and his elbows braced on either side of Sherlock’s neck for an easier angle. He slides his fingers into Sherlock’s hair as the kiss turns into something that’s hot and wet and delicious, the burn of John’s beard and the warm-soft-thrilling slide of John’s tongue and the almost agonisingly pleasurable feel of John’s fingers on Sherlock’s scalp.

"John,” Sherlock moans, and John bites teasingly at Sherlock’s bottom lip, and then “John,” again, but this time it’s barely any voice, barely anything more than a huff of air, and John makes a noise that sounds like “ Oh ” against Sherlock’s mouth, and he turns the kiss into something that’s so gentle that Sherlock aches with it, body and soul and mind and heart.

This last kiss lingers; when they pull away, Sherlock feels the heat of John’s lips on his for a long, long time, ghosting just a breath away from his skin. He opens his eyes slowly, and meets John’s gaze, and what little breath he’d managed to catch back is instantly sucked away again.

Sherlock smiles. “John,” he says.

John laughs a little bit, a shaky, breathy-sounding thing. He traces the curve of Sherlock’s ear lightly, and then presses his palm to Sherlock’s cheek, nudging his head to the side a bit so he can kiss him softly on the temple. Sherlock hums happily, wrapping both of his arms tightly around John’s waist and leaning into his touch.

“So you don’t have to worry, ok?” John murmurs, smoothing Sherlock’s hair back from his forehead and brushing a series of feather-light kisses there. “I’m not going to… I’m not too good to be true. Nobody is ever ever going to take me away from you, and I will never leave. I…” he trails off, seemingly at a loss for words, and Sherlock lifts his head up off the pillow to kiss him quickly. John smiles at him. “You’re my person,” he says at last.

Sherlock feels like he’s swallowed a balloon; like he might just float up and away if not for the steady weight of John on top of him. He’s smiling back, smiling like a fool.

You, John, Sherlock thinks, are the person. The only person. The John-person. Mine.

Kiss me again,” he demands in a voice that barely sounds like his own. He feels like laughing, or maybe, bizarrely, crying, and John laughs with him, and complies.

***

John keeps his beard, to Sherlock’s utter delight. And Sherlock finds that he doesn’t mind half so much if people stare at John now; not when Sherlock can slip his hand into John’s in the middle of a crime scene, or drag him off to an empty closet somewhere for a snog.

His brain begins working again almost immediately, which is stupendous. He feels faster and brighter and smarter and prettier than he ever has, standing by a dead body while John watches him with glittering eyes and that secret John-smile, and when John goes to Glasgow two months later, Sherlock comes with him.