“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; a small step in his direction, thinking the better of it, then stepping back. Worked up. Sherlock opened his eyes, 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. 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. Soft click of the door above him. Pacing footsteps. He'll be fine. Release the heavy, held breath. 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. Definitely worsened when he said, “can't come. Leg’s hurting again,” to an 8.7 case. Gave Sherlock enough evidence to deduce that something was a bit Not Good.
Couldn't put his finger on it, though. Tried 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.
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 can be ruled out in the first place; what is John thinking, doing; can the truth really be true; would he 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 and jumbled and swirled up 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 the 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; 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.
Head snapping to stare at John. See him recoil a little; delicious. Watch him quickly school his face into neutrality.
“Ah, 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 spoken deliberately, carefully. Genuine amusement. Shut the book with a quiet snap too loud for the room and place it on the small table beside him; fold his hands on his lap. 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 he’d half-risen off his chair, breathing heavily, hands pressed into the armrests, imprinting them; scanned John’s face, watched the faint emotions play out, dance around, flicker in his eyes: fear? anger? trace of sadness?
The growing realisation reaching its climax.
It’s… real. John’s real. It isn't a simulation. The emotions were too minute, too complex to simulate. He’d gone too far. Culverton. All over again. Oh God.
“You’re wrong, you know.” 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-” Stuck in his throat. “It’s not what you think it is-”
“What is it, then?” Sharp, violent, almost. “What is it that’s finally made you go insane, huh? Was Culverton not enough? Was Eurus not enough for you? 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. Tell me.” 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.” Rising from his seat, arms in the air. “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...” Voice cracking at the last word; he hated how he was just so weak, so vulnerable around the other man. Stand in front of the mirror, head bowed, unable to look at himself; stare 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; 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, too loud, and he was standing too; 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 turned to watch John leave the room, his limp almost as bad as the first time he saw the man; hand in his pocket, fiddling with his keys; clean, freshly pressed shirt; new shoes, branded-
Leaving. He was leaving. His own hands pressed to his mouth, his eyes widening as his doltish brain processed the new information. He needed to stop John. Now.
“John?” Called out as loud as he could at that moment. No response. Shit. Run to the door, hear John’s footsteps still thumping up the stairs, up, up, up; heavy, forceful. “John, wait, please.” Cling to the banister like a lifeline. The footsteps stopping.
“What is it?” The other’s voice low, faint, barely heard if not for the deafening silence that consumed the stairwell.
Swallow around the lump in his throat; exhale heavily, stare at the wall opposite him, “you’re not… you’re not going, are you?”
Then footsteps coming closer, getting louder, thump, thump, thump, and John in front of him.
Long fingers flexing uselessly by his sides. Feel choked up. Look at his own shoes.
“I’ll go if you want me to.” John’s tone too soft for the words that spilled out 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 shooting up to gape at John.
Mistook the pain for gentleness; John scrubbing at his eyes with his sleeve. Feel the panic welling up, the bile rising in his throat, force it down, suppress it; move towards John slowly. Watch the other slide down onto the steps, hand covering his face, body shuddering with sobs, wracking his whole frame. Sit down beside him, feel him flinch at the proximity before settling down, leaning into him; melting into him. Sling 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’m listening. I listen and remember every single word you say, because sometimes I always 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…” Trail off into companionable silence; secure, safe, tranquil. Sherlock’s racing mind finally slowing down to a measured, moderate pace to enjoy their time together; John’s crying slowly subsiding, his breathing smoothing out, 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 piercing the silence that they had to laugh, Sherlock letting out a snicker and John smiling up at him.
A pause. Let his far too slow mind process what John had just said.
“Wait, you… love me?” Turn slightly to face John, his voice hesitant.
A bit of thought.
“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.” Smile softly at him, resting his own head on John’s.
“I’m fucking starving, John. Can we get food? I haven’t eaten in two days.”
Dissolve into laughter again; help John stand up, take his hand. Watch him gaze down at their joined hands, “so is this a thing now? Who do we tell first? Anderson and Donovan? They’d probably have a seizure there and then.” More laughter while making their way into the sitting room and collapsing on the couch, shoulders touching.
“I’ll go order the food, you just stay there. Angelo’s?” John standing up, then being pulled back down to slot against Sherlock’s body. A perfect fit.
“Can we stay like this for a bit? Don't really feel like moving.” Murmur into his silvering hair, smile as the other adjusts his body to make himself more comfortable.
“Sure. Just a short nap, then we’ll eat.” A yawn and a wiggle of his body to burrow himself further into the larger man.
Curled up on the couch, soft breathing filling the air. Not too loud, not too quiet. Just right.