Freshers’ Week: as much an idiotic-bordering-delusional social ritual as Mycroft had always informed him it would be. Dumb teenagers coming to a strange place, meeting strange people - then getting fuckfaced whilst simultaneously fucking each other’s faces with no end in sight for the next seven days. Really, had Homo sapiens evolved over hundreds of thousands of years for this?
Sherlock squeezed past two sweaty, intoxicated bodies moving against each other in the dark, crowded corridor - hopefully innocently dancing, though Sherlock had to deliberately suppress every deduction that said otherwise to maintain this fiction of comfort. His hips reluctantly got caught in their movements as he passed, and he fought the urge to violently gag. A great deal more successfully, he supposed, than one of his many new flatmates, whose retching could be heard from the other end of their dingy university accommodation. Sherlock was never one to be paranoid or believe in a higher power, but on this night he couldn’t help thinking that, somehow, this entire experience had been pulled straight out of his nightmares and given corporeal form just to throw him for a loop before his degree started.
In total juxtaposition to his current situation, the summer before starting university had been wonderfully calm and so deliciously intellectual. Days spent lounging in the garden at his parents’ cottage, bees buzzing and pollen tickling his nose that was, as always, buried deep in his textbooks and tomes. He’d been studiously reading up on several unsolved cases from the sixties over those two months and was sure he could have some vital input on the linked resolution to all of them - if only Scotland Yard would listen to him one of these days. Several emails had only gotten him as far as the reception desk at the police station, and the one and only time he had felt confident enough to call them, they had plaintively told him to ‘let the adults do their work’ and asked what school he attended. As soon as Sherlock had noted the condescending tone of the receptionist, he’d slammed the receiver down with a humiliated heat burning his face.
Of course, Sherlock was reluctantly aware that he was unqualified and inexperienced in the technical sense to be making these enquiries (or rather claims of superior knowledge) but he knew with absolute certainty that he was more suited to the task of solving these murders than any other man or woman on the force. It was the message he sent that stated as such that got his email address permanently banned from Scotland Yard’s contact services. Sherlock could only hope that, now that he was attending a highly acclaimed Russell Group university, his deductions might be taken with a bit more consideration and respect. Still, the cases were decades old and served no threat to public health in the current time, so he supposed it could wait a few weeks. Maybe his voice would break just that bit more in that time, too.
By any means, he was at university now, ready to get stuck in some serious, gruelling studying - and yet here he was, fighting his way through clumps of drunkards just to get a glass of water to take some paracetamol because the noise and laser lights and the damned fog machine were killing his head. Since when was suffocating on nitrogen-borne-glycol a fashionable party accompaniment?
Though he could understand most every other complexity of human nature, Sherlock could comfortably admit that this recreational brain-damaging ritual would always be beyond his comprehension. Joining in was irrefutably out of the question. He would prefer to just brave through it for the next few nights until everyone inevitably forgot all interactions that went on in this hazy period, and he could finally start to concentrate on his higher education without those horrible bass vibrations rattling the test tubes in his room.
The kitchen was barely visible through the fog, and there was an awful stench of marijuana that made Sherlock queasy - at least it was useful to know that the fire alarms weren’t so sensitive in the building. Perhaps he wouldn’t even need to break into the third year laboratories for his experiments - something that filled Sherlock with a faint glimmer of excitement for the coming days.
But just as this iota of positivity passed through Sherlock’s head, something hard and warm bashed into his side and within milliseconds his entire back and chest were covered in an ice-cold fizzling liquid. Sherlock squealed and arched his back against the disturbing sensation, eyes falling shut in shock and near-pain.
A raucous symphony of laughter and boyish shouts of amusement filled Sherlock’s ears and he cursed himself for not just guzzling water from the faucet in his bathroom. God, the sensation was truly awful. He could feel each bubble bursting on his sensitive skin, sending painful shills down his spine.
Amongst the discordant chuckling and chatter came a voice, far softer and more genuine than any of the other dozens of people invading Sherlock’s ears.
“Oh, shit, man. I’m sorry. Ah, all down your… Is this silk?”
Sherlock whipped around so fast it felt as if his head kept spinning past his body, though it could just have likely been for the claustrophobia and panic in his chest. He snatched his arm away from the young man who was drunkenly caressing the fabric of his pyjama sleeve.
“No, it is not silk,” it was satin weave cashmere thank you very much, “and get your grubby hands off of me!”
“Woah,” the boy - blond, short, though broad in stature - held up his hands in surrender, stumbling slightly with the action. “I said ‘m sorry, mate. No need to get all… touchy.”
Sherlock gritted his teeth so hard he could hear them grinding above the obnoxious stereo system. He hated that phrase. People always used it to criticise his hypersensitivity - and by people he obviously meant Mycroft. Mummy’s stern glances at the older sibling were never enough to fend off Sherlock’s distress at being attacked on something entirely out of his control.
Needless to say, Sherlock launched into defence mode immediately, rattling off a harsh insult before he could suppress the urge: “I take it clumsiness runs in the family, given their long-held history of alcoholism. Or is it just you who presents such fantastic imbecility?”
The other boy paused - seeming to somehow sober up within seconds. His eyes were only just beginning to focus on Sherlock’s face, and there was a moment of quiet contemplation and thinly-veiled hurt in his deep blue eyes. Sherlock felt an absolute arse. His first interaction with someone at university and he’d already doomed himself to being a hated outcast. If the other was only drunk enough, perhaps Sherlock could reverse it…
“I - I mean--”
“That was fucking mental.”
Sherlock gulped, eyes squeezed shut, steeling himself for the inevitable namecalling and readying his stone-faced mask to hide how they hurt - how they always hurt.
Seconds passed with nothing, and Sherlock allowed himself to open his eyes - but there was no vitriol or violence to greet him, just a bright beaming smile, a little too red around the cheeks to hold up to the aforementioned ‘sobering up’.
“That was - You’re amazing!” was just about discernible over the horrible dance music pounding through the floor.
Sherlock’s cheeks burned, his heart skipping several beats. Was this… appreciation? For such a personal insult? Had Sherlock finally happened upon a genuinely insane person?
Sherlock had lost near all physical awareness in his shock until he was nudged gently on the chest and looked down to see the other boy’s hand held open to him.
“I’m John,” the warm hand sought out and clasped onto Sherlock’s own hand tightly, shaking it with fervour. “Nice to meet you!”
Sherlock swallowed down a bubble of anxiety and put on a confident, professional tone. “Sherlock. Uh… Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Hmm, Sh’rlock,” John tasted the name on his tongue, still shaking Sherlock’s hand - quite redundant now. Finally, he declared with a sense of finality: “Posh name.”
Sherlock huffed out a sharp breath in half-amusement, half-indignation. He parried the comment with a parroting-tone, “Hm, John. Banal name.”
John chuckled and finally released Sherlock’s hand - why hadn’t he just pulled his hand away himself, Sherlock wondered.
“Alright, touché. Listen, I’m sorry about the -” he gestured mildly to Sherlock’s sodden shirt, bringing both boys to a sudden realisation that Sherlock’s nipples - erect from the cold of the spillage - were fully discernible beneath the thin, now see-through material of his pyjama top. He might as well have been walking around wet and topless.
“Oh,” was all Sherlock heard uttered from John’s lips before he rushed out of the room, making a beeline straight back to the sanctuary of his own bedroom. As soon as he was in safety he slammed his door closed with his back and leaned against it, hands pulled over his red face.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” The last curse was emphasised with Sherlock kicking behind him at the door - to which there was a muffled “Hey!” from the other side. Sherlock grumbled and flicked the lock without a moment’s hesitation. Only the first night and he had already ruined, then saved, then ruined a potential acquaintanceship.
He hurriedly shed the offending garment that started it all, pouting as he noticed the bright pink stains seeping into the beautiful cream fabric. What on earth was that boy drinking, anyway? He resolutely chucked it in his new washing basket - the first of many garments he would have to wash on his own. A small pang shot through his chest that felt suspiciously like home-sickness, but he was sure it was just the calling card of adult responsibility that made his stomach knot and shallowed his breathing. Surely.
Throwing on his ear defenders, Sherlock punched the light switch off and collapsed into bed, hoping desperately that the boy - John - would forget all about their disastrous encounter, or even that he lived in a different block in their accommodation and that Sherlock wouldn’t have to face him again, at least for a good while.
After several minutes of painful rumination under the duvet and some highly systematic stimming, Sherlock was finally calmed down enough to fall into an uncharacteristically restful sleep, filled with images of honeycombs, dog-eared books, and deep blue irises.