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My friend, John Watson

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“Pick up your phone, Sherlock!” John yelled, as the incessant ringing split the air in the kitchen for the third time.

“It’s just Lestrade.” Sherlock poked a cadaver’s toe with tweezers to peel off a piece of skin and put it on a clean slide, which he  then placed under the microscope, not holding much hope for anything he hadn't seen before.

“You were just complaining that you need a case,” John continued.

“Yes, but not one that’s just a four.”

“How would you know?”

“He texted me last night.” Lestrade had told him about the boring case the police were out of their depth trying to solve, but it was not worth putting his trousers on to go outside for. 

“You could at least pick it up and tell him you’re not interested.”

“Why? Not answering is an answer in itself.”

“That’s not the point! He’s your friend, and you shouldn’t treat him like that. While we’re at it,” John took a deep breath and Sherlock sighed readying himself for the rest of the scolding. “Molly mentioned that you never reply to her texts.”

“She doesn’t mind; she said so herself. Her texts consist mostly of cat memes.” 

“It’s still not good, Sherlock. She’s your friend as well, going so far as to provide you with nasty toes to play with on our kitchen table!” 

“Fine,” Sherlock grumbled, reaching for his phone just as the ringing stopped, while John disappeared into the bathroom. 

Sherlock moved to the sitting room to flop on the sofa and wriggle himself into a comfortable position. Ignoring the "six unanswered calls" notification, he opened the string of messages from Molly. As usual, they were comprised of cat memes, a pretty funny gallows humour joke – Molly was good at those- and a motivational meme that caught his attention. It had a cartoonish drawing of two men standing next to each other, smiling.

Casually tell your friends you love them, you cowards. It’s only weird at first and then it’s normal, so suck it up.

Sherlock read and reread the quote. Then he looked at the doodle and the round smiling faces portrayed there.

He was not a coward. 

John had just said that he should treat his friends better.

John was his best friend.

“I’m off to work. See you at five, Sherlock,” John said with his hand on the door handle, about to leave the flat.

“I love you, John.” Sherlock blurted out a second before the door closed behind John.

-

John stumbled on the landing, barely catching his balance and avoiding falling down the stairs.

Had he heard that correctly?

No, he was just imagining it. 

Although he was fairly certain that Sherlock Holmes had just declared that he loved him.

He had just casually dropped the L-bomb on him with no preamble. After years of living together under one roof, Sherlock chose the moment John was leaving for work to tell him that.

Should he go back into the flat?

John glanced at his watch. He was running late for work; he had to leave immediately, and there was no time right now to discuss in detail what had just happened.

Also, he needed to think about how to respond to that. He knew what he wanted to say, but they needed to talk rather than just blurt out words that held so much importance. As if in a daze, he took the tube to work without remembering the trip itself; his mind filled only with the image of his best friend casually sprawled on the living room sofa.   

John spent his whole day at work analysing that moment and the feelings called up by the words he’d heard leaving Sherlock’s lips.

-

Sherlock had taken John’s advice and had followed Molly’s meme-ish wisdom. Whether it had been a good idea or not, he would find out when he saw John again.

After John had left, it struck Sherlock that John hadn’t replied. Admittedly , he’d said the words when John had already been leaving, but still…

Did he do something wrong again? Something “not good”?

As he lay on the sofa, he wrapped his second best dressing gown around himself and ventured into his Mind Palace to perform further analysis. 

He walked through the main corridor and proceeded to the “John” wing where on the right, there were rooms dedicated to various random events connected with John, and on the left, events in chronological order. He conjured up the word “love” as a search phrase floating above him, and the doors to several rooms lit up. Sherlock opened them one by one, watching a memory of John texting his sister, John talking to Mrs Hudson, and John talking to him. The next several doors showed John making tea when Sherlock had the flu, putting a blanket over him when he was on the sofa, looking at Sherlock as if he had hung the moon and stars. 

John loved him. Whether he loved Sherlock as a friend or more remained to be seen, but the love was there. Sherlock’s heart ached, for he never knew how to reciprocate the gesture and show John how much he cared for him, too.

Stepping back to the corridor of the Mind Palace, he conjured up the phrase “I love you”. 

No doors lit up apart from the single moment Sherlock had uttered the phrase this morning. Clearly they had never uttered those words in each other's company.

Then he modified it to “I love her”.

Nothing.

“I love him”.

Nothing.

People assumed it was Sherlock who was the one not verbalising his emotional state, but John was just as helpless. 

A dreadful thought washed over Sherlock. What if what he had said this morning was exactly what John didn’t want to hear from him? What if John didn’t read it as the friendly “I love you, man” that it was supposed to be but as “I’m in love with you, John”?

If so, Sherlock had just outed himself to his best friend who insisted that he was definitely not gay. Because no matter how John would interpret the statement, it would be true. 

Sherlock had been in love with his best friend for years. 

During their lazy evenings at home, he imagined falling asleep on the sofa, sprawled on top of John. When they ran through the streets of London, he dreamed of taking John’s hand in his without any excuse other than that he just wanted to feel John’s fingers intertwined with his own. Waking up in the morning, he often wished John was behind him, his arm holding Sherlock close to his chest, his morning erection clear against Sherlock’s bare buttocks.

Now, he needed a solid plan to prevent him losing John. He didn’t want his inability to filter what came out of his mouth to cause John to leave him. Only, after he’d uttered the words, he felt such a profound relief, as if the burden of his secret had been lifted from him. Until now, he had been oblivious to how momentous saying those three words would be for him. There had been nothing casual about that phrase and John, being much more well-versed in matters of the emotional state, would recognize it as such.   

Sherlock would deal with Molly later. The little minx had helped to create quite a conundrum.

First and foremost, he had to get himself acquitted of the crime of foolhardy honesty.

Visiting John at the clinic or sending him a text while he was at work seemed like poor options, so he decided to wait for John to come back home. There remained several hours to prepare a plausible explanation for his behaviour, or to find a reasonably interesting case so he could sweep John out the door again the moment he entered the flat. That way, the whole debacle from the morning would be ignored and quickly forgotten.

The plan had weak spots, but he’d work on that.

Sherlock emerged from his Mind Palace and glanced at the closed door of the flat. It had felt so good to say the words that were, ultimately, the truth. Sherlock had been harbouring them inside himself since the moment John had barged into his life with his military haircut and a psychosomatic limp. 

-

John had to take several deep breaths before he opened the door to 221B. The stress of the day that had built as he kept analysing his feelings and his overdue confession was taking an emotional toll on him.

Sherlock was playing the violin, and his back was to John as he faced the window. His body swayed slightly as his graceful hands caressed the instrument lovingly.

John could watch the lithe, beautiful body of his flatmate bathed in the setting sun for hours on end. He had felt like that for a while now. He’d felt like that since he’d laid his eyes on Sherlock Holmes for the first time. He had forced himself to hide his feelings so as not to endanger their friendship. Balling his fists at his sides had always been the only option to prevent him from tucking in an errant curl that had fallen over Sherlock’s forehead. He had had to take a sip of his tea every time he wanted to yell how gorgeous Sherlock was, how he wanted to trace his cheekbones with his fingertips, kiss his long neck and clavicle...

Now, he was finally ready to admit it. Sherlock had made it easy since he’d said it first.

“Sherlock, we need to talk,” were the first words that he uttered as steadily as he was able.

Sherlock swirled around and, placing his violin in its case, straightened his back as if readying himself for a fight.  

“John, I-”

“No, let me finish,” John interrupted. “I need to say it.” Since you already did… “I was an idiot, as you keep telling me. I thought, I assumed - something you've always told me not to do without enough data - and yet I still did it and kept doing it contrary to the evidence that, I can see now, was there all along.” John sighed, before continuing with the rest of his tirade. “I spent every single spare moment at work today analysing you and me, us . I finally understood that I have been lying to myself thinking I could remain your friend without needing to become more. I was blind for a while, then I found my feelings for you but didn’t want to say anything and ruin our friendship. Because you didn’t feel that way, or so I thought until this morning. You opened my eyes with your words. I can’t believe you chose this day, February 14th , Valentine’s Day, to tell me this. I’m supposed to be the romantic one.” John shook his head, smiling. “All the days I spent looking at you and daydreaming of you looking back at me the same way. I didn’t know. I’m an idiot, and I’m sorry. I can’t believe I didn’t realise it sooner.” 

“John?” Sherlock’s voice was low and shaky, filled with emotion.

“Yeah?” John looked into the depths of the gorgeous eyes of his best friend.

Sherlock took John’s hand and placed it on his cheek. He inhaled slowly and seemed to want to say something. Instead, he closed his eyes and exhaled with contentment clear on his face.  

“I love you, Sherlock.” John whispered. “That’s what I wanted to say.”

John watched Sherlock’s expression slowly change from serious to a small smile that grew wider.

Sherlock leaned in to touch his forehead to John’s and his shoulders visibly relaxed.

“Say it again,” Sherlock breathed, his eyes fluttering closed. 

“I love you. I’ll say it to you every day from now on,” John vowed.

“Good. That's good…” Sherlock breathed, making John’s heart swell with deep feelings of love and happiness.  

John felt like there was nothing that could break them apart now.

 

 

Epilogue:

Sherlock reached for the phone in his pocket and sent a quick text to Lestrade. “Code red cancelled. Call off the helicopters. I’m fine. John is fine. SH”