“Oh my god. Sherlock.” John called, closing the fridge door and turning around, hands hanging loose by his sides, seemingly not knowing what to do. “What's in the fridge?” He asked, taking a small step in his direction, thinking the better of it, then stepping back. He was worked up. Sherlock opened his eyes and wiggled a little in the small space of his chair.
“I thought you’d have learnt to observe a little better after all this time spent with me, John.” He replied, glancing at the smaller man staring at him from the kitchen. He steepled his fingers under his chin and closed his eyes again after the lack of a reply. Two seconds too long. He could hear John thinking, mustn't be too hard on him; he's sensitive.
“So, you've never heard of cross-contamination, then? Because apparently severed heads can do that when they're on the same shelf as the chicken we're having for dinner.” John’s voice had a funny tone to it, couldn't quite place it- ah, sarcasm. Sherlock was quiet. It wasn’t as important as the case, he’d handle it later.
Silence. An incredulous huff.
Then footsteps leaving, walking out of the room and up, up, up the stairs. The soft click of the door above him followed by pacing footsteps. He'll be fine. He slowly released a heavy breath he didn't even know he was holding. They'll be fine.
John kept to himself the next couple days; reserved, closed off, uncommunicative. Only smiling at Mrs Hudson then staring at Sherlock stone-faced. Curt replies. Definitely in a Bad Mood. It'd probably worsened when he said, “can't come. Leg’s hurting again,” to an 8.7 case, which gave Sherlock enough evidence to deduce that something was a bit Not Good.
He couldn't put his finger on it, though. He used 5 patches, tried talking to the skull again, did a long overdue cleanup of his mind palace for more space to think. Even bothered to pick up his phone to call Molly, and then promptly hung up after the first ring. Not her problem. His. He'll solve it himself just fine on his own.
He consulted the Internet: he’s cheating on you, he’s hiding something from you, he wants to break up with you, you're being too aggressive, he thinks you're not into him-
Too much. And yet not enough information.
Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
Too obscure; ambiguous.
What are the factors; what could be ruled out in the first place; what is John thinking, doing; will the truth really be true; would he even be able to accept it?
Sitting in his chair; thinking, watching, observing, analysing. Definitely more than a 9. He hated emotions. Difficult, impossible to dig deep enough to analyse a singular one at any time. All mixed up and jumbled and swirled together, a melting pot of multiple huge messes to begin with. God.
Talked to Greg: “Just ask him what's wrong. I don't see what's so hard about that. Maybe it's something you did? Just say you're sorry. He’ll forgive you easily enough. But you know him best, so do it in your own time.” A pat on the shoulder.
Talked to Mrs Hudson: “Give him a bit of time, dear. Who knows what you've gone and done this time.” A roll of her eyes.
Talked to Molly: “I-I don't know. It's probably something you said or did to him. You ought to apologise… Why are you asking me anyway?” A concerned look.
3 people, 1 common factor. But it wasn't actually him, was it? He’d realise it far quicker than anyone else; it was him after all, Sherlock Holmes, and he knew himself better than everyone. And apologise? Outrageous; he had no reason to. John would tell him if he was in the wrong, he'd fix him up, send him back into the world better, brighter, smarter than ever. Mycroft would think otherwise but he always was a dumb sod so who cared about him. He never cared about anyone anyway-
Emotion. He was letting emotion cloud his judgement. Yes. If he just plucked it out and hid it away from his reasoning, he would be able to reach the answer. Easy enough. Camp out in the living room, run through the scenarios that might have made John suddenly like this.
Easier said than done.
“Can't do it.” A bang of the head against the back of his chair. “Can't do it.”
John looked up from his book, “can't do what?”
Curious. Of course. Because ignoring him all week would definitely not have driven Sherlock up the wall trying to figure out what’s going on with the man in front of him.
His head snapped to John to see him recoil a little; delicious. Silently watched him quickly school his face into neutrality.
“He finally speaks.” Sherlock sneered and reclined in his chair once again, closed his eyes; this was getting tiring, exhausting, taking too much of a toll on him. The simulations were just getting worse and worse, and now they were being sprung on him without him even having to initiate it. Less of a help to him now anyway; just an outlet for him to vent. Must be the lack of food.
“No, really. I want to know what's gotten Sherlock Holmes’ knickers all in a twist. Tell me.” Each word was spoken deliberately, carefully; barely hiding the genuine amusement in his eyes. John shut the book with a quiet snap too loud for the room and placed it on the small table beside him, folding his hands on his lap with an expectant look, a small smile playing on his lips.
“Oh, so now I’ve finally got your attention? After every single sodding case that I’ve brought you, and after everything that I’ve tried to talk to you about for the past 2 days, from cases to furniture - do you know how absolutely plebeian that is, by the way? - furniture, John. I’ve tried to talk to you about furniture and you’ve ignored every. single. word. Why? I cannot even begin to fathom the reason why you’ve been so… so utterly ignorant to my attempts at a normal conversation.” By this time Sherlock had half-risen off his chair, breathing heavily. His hands pressed into the armrests, imprinting them. He scanned John’s face, watching the faint emotions play out, dance around, the faint flickers in his eyes: fear? anger? a trace of disappointment?
The growing realisation reaching its climax.
It was… real. John was real. It wasn't a simulation. The emotions were too minute, too complex to simulate. He’d gone too far. It was Culverton all over again. Oh God.
“You’re wrong, you know.” The voice was quiet, soft, barely heard. But still too loud to Sherlock despite the ringing in his ears. “I've been ignoring you?” A short, cut-off laugh. A shake of the other’s head. “I haven't even been in Baker Street for the past 2 days, Sherlock. But of course you don't notice these things. It's just your nature, isn't it? I bet you’ve been talking to the wall again, haven’t you?” A little gesture to the smiley face. “I bet you never even realised that I left and came back from Harry’s.”
“Wait, no, I-” The words were stuck in his throat. “It’s not what you think it is-”
“What is it, then?” Sharp, violent, almost. Sherlock flinched. “What is it that’s finally made you go insane, huh? Was Moriarty not enough? Was Eurus not enough for you? Huh? What’s it going to take to finally satisfy you, Sherlock? You practically go crazy trying to find a good case, and when one does pop up, you dismiss it like it’s not going to be worth your time. So I wonder what’s got you so riled up that you’re talking to me as if I’m the one who’s wronged you so badly.” A scoff. “But it's not like I’d understand anyway. I’m just a plebeian, aren't I-”
“It’s you! Oh my god, it’s you.” He rose from his seat abruptly, the chair being pushed backwards with the force of it and making John wince slightly with the shrill, loud noise it made against the floor. “I can’t figure you out. Everytime I think I’ve got the answer, you suddenly change everything up and I have to start all over again. I just want to know, John, why you’ve ignored me those few days. What happened? Why were you so cold? I can’t figure it out.” His voice cracked at the last word; he hated how he was just so weak, so vulnerable around the other man. He moved to stand in front of the mirror, head bowed, unable to look at himself. He stared at the empty fireplace, the buzzing in his head rising to a crescendo.
He could imagine the slightly surprised look John was giving him and then the way his face would steel into a mask of indifference and hardness.
“You could never figure it out because you never seemed to consider for just one second that it could be you, Sherlock. It was always about you, every single case, but then something goes wrong and you just completely remove yourself from the situation; never stop to think that, ‘maybe I could be a factor in this. Maybe I could’ve caused this.’ I try to tell you these things, try to make you just a little better, maybe make you more aware of whatever social norms I know about, try to help you fit in more, but you just don’t listen. And look, even now, Jesus Christ, you’re not paying attention! Will you just pay attention for once in your sodding life and not be so bloody stuck up all the time?” John’s voice had risen as well – too loud – and he was standing too; Sherlock could feel his presence behind him, his piercing gaze penetrating him, pinning him down, bearing down on him like a heavy weight.
His hand dropped from the knife on the mantle. John sighed.
“Now listen. I am going to go upstairs to cool down, and you will not follow me. I was only pissed for those two days because you didn’t take whatever I said into consideration, but after going to Harry’s and coming back, I was completely ready to reconcile with you. Was. I was genuinely interested and wanted to know what you were fussing over this time, and maybe offer a second opinion, but now I’m pissed again, and I need time alone. Again. So don’t say anything, don’t try anything funny, just let me go, and I’ll be out of your hair for however long you want.” He looked at the mirror to watch John leave the room, his limp almost as bad as the first time he saw the man. John's hand was in his pocket the whole time too, probably fiddling with his keys. And he was wearing a clean, freshly pressed shirt, with new shoes: branded-
Leaving. He was leaving. Sherlock's hands pressed to his mouth, his eyes widening as his doltish brain processed the new information. He needed to stop John. Now.
“John?” He called out as loud as he could at that moment. No response. Shit. He ran to the door and heard John’s footsteps still thumping up the stairs, up, up, up; heavy, forceful. “John, wait, please.” He clung to the banister like a lifeline, listening with bated breath as the footsteps stopped.
“What is it?” The other’s voice was low, faint, barely heard if not for the deafening silence that consumed the stairwell.
He swallowed around the lump in his throat and exhaled heavily, staring at the wall opposite him, “you’re not… you’re not going, are you?”
Then the footsteps were coming closer, getting louder, thump, thump, thump, and John, perfect John was in front of him.
His long fingers flexed uselessly by his sides. He felt choked up, and he could do nothing but look at his own shoes.
“I’ll go if you want me to.” John’s tone was too soft for the words that left his mouth. “I’ll just... re-pack my things, and I’ll be gone before you know it. I’ll be out of your life, you out of mine, and we’ll… we’ll go along our own separate paths. It’s simple, isn’t it?” A chuckle, a long sniffle, and Sherlock’s head shot up to gape at John.
He must have mistook the pain for gentleness, with John scrubbing at his eyes with his sleeve a telltale sign of the man's misery at the situation. He felt the panic welling up, the bile rising in his throat, but he forced it down; suppressed it. He watched helplessly as the other slid down onto the steps, a hand covering his face, his body shuddering with sobs, wracking his whole frame. Slowly sitting down beside him, he felt John flinch away at the proximity before eventually settling down and leaning into him; melting into him. Sherlock slung an arm around his body, pulling him closer.
“I’m sorry.” A soft whisper into John’s ear. “If I knew how much I was hurting you, I would’ve paid more attention. But I do listen, John. Even when you think I’m not, I listen and remember every single word you say, because sometimes I get so obsessed with a case that I physically cannot give you the proper attention you deserve, and it hurts me too. It hurts me to see you so stressed about your job and you trying so hard to help me pay the rent, and I know you want to help me, and I really, really appreciate it. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and I want to apologise for all the times I’ve been such an arsehole to you. It’s not that I don’t like you, John. It’s quite the opposite. Very much the opposite…” He trailed off into silence, but it was a secure, safe and tranquil one. Sherlock’s racing mind finally slowed down to a measured, moderate pace to the beating of his heart; John’s crying slowly subsiding, his breathing smoothing out and face still buried in Sherlock’s chest.
“I really love you when you’re like this, you know? All sentimental and sappy.” John’s voice so abruptly pierced the silence that they had to laugh, Sherlock letting out a snicker and John smiling up at him like nothing else in the whole world mattered.
A pause. A couple seconds to allow his far too slow mind process what John had just said.
“Wait, you… love me?” He turned ever so slightly to face John, his voice hesitant.
A bit of thought on John's part.
“Well, yes. I suppose I have for quite a bit. I just never knew how to tell you.” John replied, biting his lip, looking at Sherlock’s hand around his shoulder.
“If… If it makes you feel any better, I do too.” He smiled softly at him, resting his chin on the top of John’s head and barely restraining himself from pressing a kiss to the other's hair.
Then a loud growl from Sherlock's stomach. He let out an exaggerated, pained groan.
“God, I’m fucking starving, John. Can we get food? I haven’t eaten in two days.”
He recieved a horrified look from John just before he pulled away, and he helped John stand up, taking his hand in his own. He smiled at John gazing down at their joined hands.
“So is this a thing now? Who do we tell first? Anderson or Donovan? Both would probably have a seizure on the spot anyway.” Their combined laughter echoed throughout the flat as they made their way into the sitting room and collapsed onto the couch, shoulders just brushing against the other's.
“I’ll go order the food, you just stay there. You alright with Angelo’s?” John stood up, then giggled as he was being pulled back down to lie on top of Sherlock’s body, a perfect fit, almost as if they were moulded for one another.
“Can we stay like this for a bit? Don't really feel like moving at the moment.” Sherlock murmured into John's silvering hair, smiling as the other tossed the cushions already on the couch onto the floor to make them feel more comfortable, the already limited space doing nothing to help the fact that they were two grown men who could barely fit there without the other having to squeeze in as well.
“Alright. Just a short nap, and then we’ll eat.” John let out a yawn and wiggled his body in an attempt to somehow burrow himself further into Sherlock, pulling a chuckle from the larger man below him.
Curled up on the couch, their soft breathing filled the air with the sounds of London melting away to focus on just them and their adoration for each other.