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“The think… thinking… thing … is…”

Sherlock pulls the phone away from his ear and checks the name on the caller ID again. No, no mistake. He would not have picked up the call if it hadn’t been for John’s name – he prefers to text. 

“John? Are you alright?”

“Wha? Oh, yeah, yeah, I’m good thanks.” There’s a short pause. “How are you?”

“Fine.”

“Oh, that’s good then.”

“Was that all?” Sherlock eyes the liver slice that appears to be trying to ooze its way out of the dish and make a break for the toast rack. It’s a warm night and frankly the sooner Sherlock can complete this experiment, it and its corresponding aroma can go, and the happier all the residents of 221 Baker Street will be, himself included.

“Was what all? Wha’ was I saying?”

“I have no earthly idea. Perhaps you should…”

“Oh yeah!” John sounds pleased and Sherlock hears the sound of him swapping ears with his phone, getting comfortable.

“The thing is… there’s something I’ve been meanin’ to say. To you. F’r alongtime.”

Sherlock hums and uses a blunt probe to push the purpleish glob back across the dish where it came from.

“And I haven't told you for reasons which will become… transparent.”

John sniffs and clears his throat, and Sherlock hears rustling of fabric which is clearly John’s attempt to straighten himself up a bit, wherever he has slumped.

The corner of Sherlock’s mouth quirks up without his express permission. Transparent, indeed! John is a happy drunk on the whole; he doesn’t get stroppy or argumentative, he just gets a bit giggly and lets go of some of the ‘Captain Watson’ that he carries around in his daily life. Luckily Sherlock happens to enjoy the company of John Watson, regardless of his mood.

“Where are you?” Sherlock asks, quietly amused. “I thought you were meeting up with some old army friends.”

“I am. I did. We had drinkssss.” John burps quietly and begs Sherlock’s pardon.

“And where are these friends now?”

“What frien’s?”

“Your army colleagues, John. Try and focus, for goodness sake.”

“Oh!”

There’s a soft thud and everything goes muffled for a moment. And then there’s more fumbling and John’s voice is much quieter; Sherlock has to concentrate to hear him.

“I don’t know where they’ve gone, but that’s fine.”

Sherlock frowns and sighs. “You’ve got your phone upside down.”

“Sher-lock? Can you hear me?”

“Your phone is upside down!” he says as loudly as he dares - it’s pretty late and Mrs Hudson’s soothers are very soothing but even they won’t stop her from hearing him bellowing.

Thankfully, he doesn’t have to. There’s more rustling and then breathing.

“Sher-lock?”

“Hello.”

“Hi! I had my phone updownside… up… down… er.”

“Yes, fine, don’t hurt yourself. Are you on your way home now?”

“Umm, yes.” 

Sherlock can hear John nodding in the rhythmic friction of fabric on fabric. Idiot. Another of those unauthorised smiles sneaks across his face – it’s getting to be something of a habit around John.

“But first I have to tell you s’mething.”

“Go ahead.”

Sherlock tucks the phone between his shoulder and his ear and slides one side his forceps under the liver slice, grasping it as tightly as he can without damaging it any more than the deceased 59 year old female with cirrhosis has already. It’s been in the dish for some time though, and it’s getting slippery from the heat of the angle-poise light illuminating it. In an attempt to stabilise the specimen, he supports the other end with a scalpel, making a neat little meat bridge, and begins moving it carefully into the dissecting pan.

“Well, we were talking and Bill was telling me… do you know Bill? Never mind… he was sayin’ that the only thing worse than bein’ dejected… rejected by your crush… Do you know what that is? A crush? It’s when you love someone but they don’t know. It’s like a secret. Shhhhh!”

It all goes a bit quiet for a second, then there’s the sound of John giggling quietly.

“Thank you for the clarification. So what philosophical gem did Bill reveal?”

The liver slips further out of the forceps and Sherlock has to do a quick shuffle to keep it on his tools, holding it at an angle and trying not to breathe too deeply as the smell really is getting rather pungent.

“No philly-what-not gems. You’re not listening! Bill said they only thing worse than bein’… rejected by y’r crush, is never having found the balls to tell them in the firs’ place.”

“Why are you telling me this now? Just get a cab and come home. You can tell me when you get here.”

He’s ignored.

“So I said, wha’ if it's not a crash… crushhh? What if it’s the… loveofyer life?”

Eugh! Sherlock has wondered what men can find to talk about for hours while sucking down warm beer in sticky-carpeted, dingy public houses. There can’t be that much football in the world, surely? But no, it seems to be the equally tedious, completely stomach-churning discussion of women that makes up the gap in the male-bonding ritual. And now John has phoned to share his epiphany with him. What joy!

“Shall I come and find you?” Sherlock asks. At least if he’s out collecting John from wherever he has ended up, he can plausibly claim that there was patchy service on his phone. In Central London. Hmm. He might not get away with that one. Perhaps the liver fumes are getting to him.

“No! No no no. No!” John says quickly. “You need to be not here because the answer was… You have to not... not be lookin’ at me when I tell you. Bill says that the only thing worser… worse than being rejected is never lettin’ them know that you’re their… nope… they’re your bloody love of… your life. So wha’ do ya thingk of that?”

Sherlock sighs. He’s obviously been too distracted to notice that John is considering dating again. He stopped for a while and seemed content to be spending evenings at home, watching TV, eating takeaway or frequenting local restaurants with Sherlock - when there were no cases on, of course. And while John hasn’t been serious about any of the girlfriends he has had since Sherlock has known him, he clearly has very strong feelings about this new potential partner. And Sherlock hasn’t even met her so he can’t really engage in character assasination, at least not yet; he’s sure the lucky lady is tedious and bland, and the most exciting thing about her is her boyfriend. But John does, after all, deserve to be happy and banal women apparently please him. Sherlock cannot expect John to want to live with him in their cluttered flat forever, however perfect he happens to think their situation is. Of course not. 

This could potentially change everything, Sherlock realises and it feels awful, like… Why do people do this? Get attached to a specific other and come to rely on them for their happiness? It’s so pedestrian and predictable and it pains him that despite his formidable intellect he is as susceptible to this as any other poor sap on the street. It’s intolerable. 

“You must do whatever makes you happy, John,” Sherlock says quietly. He was expecting to feel better about himself for doing ‘ the right thing ’. 

He doesn’t. It’s hateful.

“If this person is that important to you then you owe it to yourself to find out if they feel the same way.” 

Where had he got that drivel from? Probably Lestrade or Molly. Or one of those dreadful daytime TV shows that Hudders watches? It’s utter rubbish anyway; John should be staying here with him, solving crimes and being his conductor of light, making him tea and forcing him to eat pea-heavy dinner dishes, giving him someone to play his violin for and laughing at his jokes.

“Right. Tha’s what I said. So…”

“So?” Sherlock repeats, having reached the end of his empathic responses to John’s Romeo delusions.

This liver really is becoming a problem. It flops obscenely over his implements and refuses to cease wobbling in a most alarming manner with the slightest movement.

“So do you feel the same way?”

“What?”

“What?”

What ?”

“Errr… I’ve forgo’en the question.”

“What do you mean?” Sherlock demands. 

“Ohhhh, yeah… Am I the love of y’r life?”

What? ” And this is stellar work, really, by Sherlock. Worth every penny his parents paid for him to attend (however reluctantly) the most expensive schools in the country. Debating team material, without doubt.

John sighs. “Look, I r’member what you said that night, that first night, and I r’spect that and if it’s no then it’s no, but there’s no one like you, and if you’re it for me, then if it’s not you, it’s no one. But I r’lly think... Where was I going with this?” 

The liver sees its opportunity and makes a frankly filthy squelch as it slaps down onto the kitchen table, quivering with delight at its newfound freedom.

Sherlock blinks and opens his mouth to speak, but no sound comes out so he closes it again.

“Right, yep, I r’member. I know we are very different people and I know that you don’t do relash… relashun… boyfrien’s, but I’m pretty sure you’re gay and I’m pretty sure I’m bi and... you’re pretty... I’m sure of that. And when you look at me, I feel like I can do anything. Never felt that b’fore. And you’re br’lliant and funny and I can’t believe no one else has seen that and… I dunno… married you already. And please don’t b’cause if you’re going to marry someone then it should be me b’cause I love you most.”

John clears his throat again.

“So,” he continues, then seems to lose the thread of his soliloquy once more before rallying. “Have I told you that you’re pretty? So pretty… no… handsome! Beautiful? Anyway, your eyes are… and your cheekbones should be illegal. And your hair, I want to touch it all the time, Sher-lock. All the time. Dig my fingers in it and… And your mouth… oh my god, your mouth. And even if you looked like the back end of a bus… which you don’t because of all the things on your face… even if you did, I would still love you ‘cause you’re the world’s only geniussss  cons’ltin’ detective but you still had no idea that I was in love with you this whole time.”

John yawns enormously and sniffs.

“And tha’s why… you are… the love’f my life. Now what?” John giggles softly. “Press one for ‘I love you too’. Press two for ‘I’m flattened by your interes’ but I consssss...ider myself married to my work. Press three to hear th’se options again.”

The line goes quiet and only John’s breathing lets Sherlock know that he hasn’t hung up.

His veins seem to be full of bubbles, numb and tingling at the same time. They start in the base of his skull and trill down his spine, and out to his fingers and toes. He has to keep reminding himself to breathe and isn’t quite sure where his stomach is currently, as it began tumbling when John said ‘because I love you most’, and hasn’t stopped yet. 

What the hell does he do now? Is anything that John is saying real, or are these the ramblings of a very drunk, very confused doctor who tends not to overindulge in alcohol – possibly for exactly this reason. Is it a joke of some sort? John has never been cruel before, it doesn’t fit his personality. So likely not a joke then. Does he admit that he has recognised some of the attraction that John has for him as it is a match for the attraction that he has for John? Does he laugh it off and hope John doesn’t remember a thing in the morning? Does he even permit himself to hope that this is something he is allowed to have? That John might care for him in a more than platonic manner?

Sherlock’s not sure if he wants to vomit or sing, suddenly. But that could also be the liver.

“Where are you?”

“Um…”

In the background Sherlock can hear the sound of a car horn, two short beeps as it pulls away. He sits up straighter when he realises he can hear the same noise coming from outside on the street.

A text alert startles him and he flicks it open, reluctant to take the phone away from his ear for more than a second.

Kindly collect your paramour from your threshold, dear brother. His inebriated state is about to come to the attention of the local constabulary and I should hate for your first night together to be ruined by inconvenient bail requirements. MH

Also, congratulations. MH

Sherlock peels off his gloves and leaves the liver where it is. Haste almost defeats him but he somehow stumbles down the stairs while texting his brother to ‘kindly piss off’. He opens the front door to find John sitting on the step, leaning heavily against the metal railings.

It takes John a couple of goes to find a way to turn his head without toppling over. He still has the phone pressed to his ear, and when he sees Sherlock a huge smile breaks across his face. 

“Hey! You found me!”

“Yes, well, I wouldn’t be much of a detective otherwise, would I?”

“Listen…”

“Up we get then,” Sherlock interrupts, having noticed the twitching curtains at Mrs Turner’s window, probably the source of the police’s information. Reaching down to hook an arm under John’s shoulder, he hauls him to his feet. John just stands and sways gently, beaming at him. 

“Are we going home now?” he slurs.

Sherlock can’t help it; he chuckles as he leads John up the two steps and through the front door. 

“Ta dah!” he mutters and smiles as John looks around, impressed.

“Pretty and clever,” John insists, watching as Sherlock closes and locks the front door. 

Under the yellow tinged light of the hallway, John looks flushed and a bit dishevelled, but happy. He’s not exactly steady on his feet and there’s a couple of hairy moments on the stairs when Sherlock thinks that they might both take a tumble, but eventually he has them both in the sitting room. John is fighting with his jacket and almost cracks Sherlock in the jaw with his wild thrashing when he steps in to help.

“For goodness sake, John! Hold still and let me get you out of that.” 

John is immediately still - or as still as John can currently be. His eyes are tired but shining and he watches closely as Sherlock untangles his arms from his sleeves and hangs up the offending rainwear. 

“Just the coat?” he says, eyebrows arched and an extraordinary expression on his face – humour and seduction and challenge and... Sherlock isn’t even going to try to decipher that.

“I meant it, you know,” John asserts as Sherlock steers him over to the sofa. “You think I’m drunk, but… well, I am drunk, ha ha! So ver’ drunk... but I also mean ev’ry word of what I said. I never told you – we don’t ever talk about stuff like that, but s’metimes I think, when you look at me, that maybe we should.”

“Sit down, John. I’ll fetch you some water. And a bucket.”

Showing a surprising amount of coordination, John grabs at Sherlock’s hand when he flumps back onto the poor, abused sofa. 

“Do you? Fall in love with people, I mean. I know you love serial killers an’ locked room murders an’ tea an’ eyes in jam jars an’ your micr’scope but do you love… people. Ever?”

Sherlock looks at John’s hopeful face, bites his lip and eventually nods. “It has been known, on rare occasions.”

“How rare?”

“Just once.”

John’s smile is ridiculous, but Sherlock can’t help but echo it. And really, it’s all getting much too saccharine in here, so Sherlock gently untangles their fingers and goes into the kitchen, ostensibly for water.

It takes him much longer than it should to recall the correct cupboard for glasses. He stares into several cabinets, unseeing before he happens upon the correct one.

Sherlock is attempting to rationalise the last ten minutes.

John says that he loves him. That’s good.

John is very, very inebriated. That’s funny usually, but bad in this case. 

John is not given to cruel jokes or deliberate lies. That’s promising.

John is the one person in the world that Sherlock might consider the possibility of being in love with. If pressed. That’s… surprising.

John might well regret having said the things he’s said in the harsh light of day. That’s an uncomfortable thought.

John might deny everything and claim he doesn’t remember any of it. That is a distinct possibility.

Sherlock realises he has been standing, staring at the tap for a stupid amount of time, and also that John, so garrulous up to now, has gone ominously silent. He quickly fills the glass and pulls out the plastic bucket that is stored beneath the sink, then detours to the bathroom for paracetamol. 

Returning to the sitting room with his haul, he finds his potential suitor keeled over on the sofa, snoring softly and drooling onto Sherlock’s favourite cushion.

“John? John!” Sherlock doesn’t want to shake him in case it precipitates nausea. “You really should try to drink some water before you…” He reaches out and squeezes John’s shoulder.

“Fuc’off,” John mumbles and bats at Sherlock’s hand before he catches sight of who he’s abusing and the besotted smile dawns across his face once more. “Hi! Hi! Sorry… what was I saying?”

“Hi,” Sherlock answers, a feeling of fondness lodging itself behind his ribs rather than being stuffed away in the deepest reaches of Sherlock’s mind palace (in the dark cellar, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door, saying ‘Beware of the Leopard,’ for some reason.)

“Was I? Oh… hi! Oh! Have you come to tell me about what I just said?”

Sherlock is very glad he’s a genius. John’s mangled ramblings this evening have taxed even his linguistic skills.

John yawns enormously and there’s a tricky moment when he burps to himself and looks a little green around the gills. 

“I think we should talk in the morning,” Sherlock offers.

John looks a little disappointed but rallies, “Well, at least I tol’ you. I have the… things… to tell you.” He looks a little constipated for a moment, then shouts, “Balls!” He smiles again, happy with his mental gymnastics. “I had the balls to tell you!”

Sherlock watches as John pulls Sherlock’s cushion further under his cheek and rolls onto his side, clearly settling to sleep.

“We should get you to bed, John.” Sherlock offers, but it’s obvious that John has come to the end of the active part of his inebriation and is entering the snoring and out-like-a-light stages.

Wriggling himself further into the sofa cushions, John sighs. “That Bill… he’s a… he’s a wise man,” he mutters.

Sherlock watches him for a few minutes, making sure he’s safe before wrestling his shoes off and pulling a throw from the back of the sofa over his body. John doesn’t so much as miss a breath, so Sherlock puts the bucket in the most strategic spot and puts the water and the paracetamol in his direct line of vision for his eventual awakening. 

He switches off all the lights on his way to his room, save only the one on the upper landing which gives enough illumination for night-time excursions without glaring in anyone's face. 

Not expecting to sleep, he settles himself on his bed and tries to ignore the predictions about the morning that his brain keeps unhelpfully supplying. Despite this, he’s asleep within twenty minutes and dreaming of best case scenarios.

>>>>><<<<<

Having taken a shower, dressed and put the kettle on, none of them done with quiet as a priority,  it isn’t until Sherlock begins stirring his tea that John walks carefully into the kitchen.

“Bill is an utter wanker,” is John’s opening thought for the day. He props himself against the fridge and does a good impression of being the same colour. His eyes are bloodshot and his hair is a disaster. There’s a crust of dried drool beside his mouth and Sherlock would feel sorry for him if he had any room left that hadn’t already been taken up with apprehension and anxiety. 

Sherlock passes him his tea and watches as John half sits, half falls into the closest kitchen chair. He takes a sip and makes a miserable face, choosing to place his mug on the table nearby.

“I owe you an apology. And I owe Bill a swift kick in the nuts. He always was a bastard - I have no idea why I said yes to meeting up with him,” John admits, then adds another, “Bastard,” for good measure.

This isn’t enough data for Sherlock to discern what it is John owes him an apology for. Rather than forge ahead with dismissive platitudes or blank incomprehension, he simply leans back against the kitchen counter and waits.

John rubs a hand over his face and contorts himself, plainly in an effort to work the soreness out of his back and shoulder. 

“He spiked your drinks?” Sherlock asks.

“Only in that he bought me vodka chasers for the beers I was drinking,” John admits, a little shamefaced.

“I could smell it on you, last night.”

For the first time today, John actually looks Sherlock in the eye. “Look…”

But Sherlock isn’t ready to hear the excuses and the reasons why John said what he did. He might only buy himself a few minutes of reprieve, but he spins on his heel and reaches up into the cupboard for bread.

“I suggest you try to eat something simple. Some people find it helps with the hangover symptoms.”

He saws off a slice of bread and stuffs it into the toaster, fighting with the mechanism which doesn’t respond well to harsh treatment.

“Sherlock…”

“I don’t think jam is wise, but a scrape of butter might be acceptable. Eggs are nutritionally well balanced, but the smell of them cooking can make people less likely to choose them in cases where nausea occurs, so perhaps…”

“Listen, Sherlock…”

The toast pops up and it’s barely warm and hardly toasted at all but Sherlock grabs it and drops it on a plate, finds a knife and starts hunting for butter.

There’s a gusted sigh from behind him and a small, unhappy voice asks, “Sherlock, please look at me.”

Sherlock stares resolutely at the kitchen cabinet in front of him for a count of ten before he carefully puts down the knife and turns slowly toward John, schooling his face into a mask of indifference. 

How ironic, he thinks, for all the times he thought that he’d driven John away for good with his oddities, his obsessive personality and his thoughtlessness, that it should be something that John has done that has finally brought this period of his life to an end. He’s an idiot for ever thinking that he could hold on to such happiness as he’s felt since John moved in. Of course it could never have been the permanent situation that Sherlock had wished for in his most private thoughts - that’s not for the likes of him. John deserves better than that. He’s remorseful and embarrassed this morning, but at the heart of it, he’s said those words and they cannot be unheard or unsaid. 

John is a proud man and a complicated one. He doesn’t see himself as attracted to other men (although Sherlock has his own theories about that), he courts the attention of women, and gets it often enough. He’s never downhearted for long though, when his advances are spurned, he just moves onto the next pretty face or impressive set of breasts that crosses his path. John chats up women all the time without recourse to navel-gazing or self-loathing when he is unsuccessful. So this isn’t about Sherlock, this morning. This crisis of the heart is John’s apparently flexible sexuality, a fact he seems to have been unaware of and that Sherlock has been the unwitting catalyst for. Unless his attraction to men is something he actively ignores due to his own self-perception or internalised homophobia Sherlock’s only crime is that he possesses the wrong set of genitalia for John to be able to brush off the soul-baring of last night’s conversation.  (So, how fine is “It’s all fine,” John?) 

In a flash of inspiration, Sherlock determines to give John an out – a clean slate, let him off the hook, bury the hatchet, turn a blind eye to, forgive and forget… oh dear god, he’s lost his ability to think in any form approaching rationality… look the other way, turn the other cheek, kiss and make up… ah! No, sadly the last one is unlikely.

“Well?” he asks, and at least his voice is admirably calm and dismissive, even if his mind is currently employed in an epic meltdown. He scratches the corner of his mouth with a thumb nail and blinks at John. “If you’re going to ask me about last night, I’m afraid I cannot help you. You were making absolutely no sense whatsoever. Really, John, you were lucky not to be picked up by the police.”

He spots the butter at the end of the table and grabs behind him for the knife, calmly spreading a cautious amount and putting it in front of John. 

“Mrs Turner was most perturbed by your incoherent rambling and clearly didn’t recognise you. Her eyesight isn’t what it was and you were in the shadows, but it must have been quite worrying for a…”

“Shut up!” John suggests, pushing a hand through his hair and giving it an ever more alarmed look to the ‘slept on the sofa’ style. This sounds like good advice, so Sherlock does. 

“I will go and apologise to Mrs Turner later. In the meantime I want to talk to you,” John says. “I have a horrific hangover this morning, but I also have enough recollection about last night to know that I was not completely unintelligible and that I have said something that has rattled you.”

“Really?” Sherlock asks coolly, “Deductions, John? So early in the day? And how did you work all that out?”

“Well, you won’t look me in the eye, you’re fidgeting with your fingernails, you’re rambling on and forgetting to breathe, and you’ve just given me a washing-up scourer for my breakfast.”

Sherlock blinks a few times, then looks down and, sure enough, he has presented John with a plate on which there is  a flat, green nylon pot scourer, carefully smeared with butter.

Sherlock nods. “If you would excuse me for a moment…”

“Nope,” John replies instantly. He pushes away the plate but swallows from his mug with evident relief. 

“But I…” Sherlock gestures towards his bedroom.

John shakes his head without pausing in his tea ingestion and holds up an imperious finger in a wait or stay gesture, then proceeds to drink half his mug, placing it with precision, back onto the table.

He wipes the corners of his mouth with that back of his wrist and crosses his arms over his chest. 

“I’m sorry,” he says finally. “I have made you feel uncomfortable and put something on you that you didn’t ask for. I should not have let myself get so pissed that I was unable to keep my big mouth shut and put you in the awkward position of having to hear that. It’s my issue, my fault, not yours.”

He sighs and wipes his face with his hand, then crosses his arms again. “I hope you can forgive me and for my part I can assure you that despite my… my disclosure, I have no expectations of you, you do not need to modify your behaviour around me or pay any attention at all to my… desires. I will sort it out and we can go on as we have been. If, however, I have made you feel unsafe or so uncomfortable that you no longer wish to live with me, I will, of course, find somewhere else to live. Either way, I am deeply, deeply sorry to have upset you, Sherlock.”

John seems exhausted by his speech, as pretty and succinct as it was. His elbow slides onto the table, as if even the effort of sitting upright is too much now. With his skin, grey and pallid and still wearing last night’s crumpled clothing, he is a picture of misery.

“So… s...sssso so you, uh, you meant it… what you said last night,” Sherlock clarifies, having to force his voice into a lower register when it emerges high pitched, panicked and ridiculous. “It’s not a joke or a delusional episode. You really meant… mean it?”

John just nods, pathetically. “I am sorry, Sherlock. I’ve been dealing with it; you never noticed, and I thought I could keep it from you indefinitely. That we could carry on as we are and you would never need to know. And then bloody Bill started on about… No, no excuses. I was an idiot – that’s all.”

“So… you…”

“Yeah.”

“And I’m…”

John nods along as Sherlock struggles with words.

“I’m… the…”

“Love of my life, yes.”

Sherlock’s brain meltdown seems to be complete. He stands and blinks at John until the other man starts to give him a wary look.

“Are you alright?” John asks quietly. “Don't tell me I’ve bloody broken you on top of everything else.”

Sherlock takes a deep breath and sits down in the chair next to John’s, who eyes him with ill-concealed concern.

“What does this entail? Being the love of someone’s life?”

“I told you -you don’t have to worry about it. It’s not your fault - you didn’t do anything that…”

“Yes, I understand,” Sherlock interrupts, impatient suddenly, “but hypothetically, how do you recognise the love of your life?”

“Sherlock, seriously? I’m too hungover to discuss this now.”

“Please, John. I need to understand.”

John swallows and nods, sitting up straighter and squaring his shoulders.

“Yes, of course, you do. Sorry. It’s a term for someone who is the most important person in your life. Someone who you have known for long enough to admire, respect and understand. Someone for whom you have the utmost regard and affection. Someone you would never want to be without.”

“And this is something that lots of people experience, is it?” Sherlock asks eagerly.

“If they’re lucky,” John answers. “It’s a term that gets bandied about a bit, but it shouldn’t be. It’s not just attraction or lust or whatever, it’s more than that. It’s certainty – that you feel there is no one else like this in your life and that you feel sure that there couldn’t be. It’s not something that should be said lightly, it’s not a passing fancy, it’s… deeper than that.”

John seems to realise who he’s talking to suddenly, and he looks embarrassed and guilty. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing. And even if things change or you move on, it doesn’t change how you feel about that person. You only get one, whether you end up spending your life with them or not.”

John looks moved, and Sherlock is surprised to realise that he feels the same; his throat strangely full and his eyes are slightly swimmy. 

“Thank you for explaining, John,” Sherlock husks, clears his throat and turns to face him more fully. “And does this love of your life status come with benefits?”

“How do you mean?” John asks, clearly trying to give Sherlock the information he craves when he’d rather be somewhere else… anywhere else. 

“Well, if the participants of the relationship are in accord, this status could confer certain rewards or privileges?”

“It depends on the relationship, I suppose,” John replies, obviously struggling. “And on what you consider a privilege. Sorry, I don’t really…”

“No, of course not. You’ve never had a love of your life before,” Sherlock allows. He thinks for a moment. “Have you?” he checks.

 John smiles weakly. “No, I haven’t.”

“Good. So, such benefits could be negotiated by the participants in the agreement, those that are mutually acceptable or welcomed.”

“I suppose so, but… Sherlock, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but these things are usually more… organic than that.”

“How do you mean?” 

“Well,” John begins and his face screws up quite charmingly as he considers, much as he did when trying to explain James Bond to him, or the point of the character known as Q. “While, it’s not impossible for the love of your life not to return the sentiment, and some people only realise that someone was the love of their life after the fact, it’s not often a negotiated kind of situation. It doesn’t depend on certain requirements or obligations… it just… is… errr…”

John tapers off and looks both thoughtful and faintly nauseated.

But he has heard enough. “I accept,” Sherlock declares. 

“Whah?” John grunts.

“The position… as the love of your life… I accept.” Sherlock smiles and watches for John’s understanding.

It isn’t immediately forthcoming. 

“Um… good?” John offers with an upward lilt to his tone. “So you don’t want me to… leave?”

“Well, of course not! You have become vital to my work and the smooth running of 221B. I have become accustomed to your personality quirks and we have found a mutually acceptable way to cohabit. It would be detrimental to practically all areas of my life should you leave.”

“Right, well, that’s…” Again John trails off - clearly his levels of inebriation last night have caused some significant damage to his mental faculties this morning and Sherlock can only hope that his recovery is as swift as it is complete. He wants to get to the most interesting aspects of this new arrangement as soon as possible and John’s current dullness at the moment could scupper his plans for experimentation today.

Resorting to more tea, John drains his mug and gazes mournfully into the empty vessel for a few seconds as if searching for answers, before replacing it.

“Right, well, thank you for being so understanding about this, Sherlock. And I assure you that I don’t expect anything to change between us…”

“Other than the sex of course,” Sherlock nods.

John sits for a few seconds, digesting that, then shakes his head sadly. “”Er, no, sorry, I’m not following you on… that… er…”

“Sex, John. Intercourse. That will be a new facet to our relationship. In that we haven’t yet…”

“No,” John says, reaching out a hand and gesturing between them, “Er… no… you’ve lost me again. I told you. You’re not obliged to… This is… Just because I… er… have feelings… for you… it doesn’t mean that you have to… I’m sure that I can learn to…”

“You don’t wish to engage in coitus with me?” Sherlock asks, slightly baffled and with a sinking feeling.

John opens his mouth, then shuts it again a couple of times. “What I wish… Well of course, I wish to… but… No, I don’t understand. What’s happening?”

Sherlock takes pity on the man and gets up to boil the kettle again. Maybe with the liberal application of English Breakfast, John will be in a fit state to begin the exploration of their new arrangement sooner. He makes more tea and even recovers the slightly warmed bread that was meant to have been toast and puts it on a clean plate for John, who thanks him distractedly when Sherlock retakes his seat. 

“You should try and eat something. I suspect you will feel better for it and then we can start with some kissing, as adventurous as you feel ready for, and see where we go from there. Do you think that fellatio might be on the table today or is that a step too far? Perhaps some mutual masturbation then.”

John’s face is an interesting combination of puce and pear as he stares at Sherlock. He puts down his tea and puts his head in his hands, elbows perched on the table.

“No, Sherlock. Just because I want to… be intimate with you, doesn’t mean that you have to… it doesn’t work like that…”

“But if you’re the love of my life, as I understand it, and I am the love of your life, then surely if we both want intimate relations, it should be simply a matter of discussing preferences and coming to a mutually agreed decision.”

John holds up his hand, his eyes very wide and his eyebrows no longer actually visible, so far have they travelled above his hairline. “Wait, wait! I’m the love of your life?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Since when?”

“Well, if you’d taken the time to explain the concept to me earlier than I would have understood. So, since about February perhaps?”

February? Six months, Sherlock?”

“Oh, no! February 2010,” he explains noting that John’s colour really is remarkable now – a violent fuchsia on the apple of his cheeks and an unpleasant olive around his mouth and eyes.

“Sherlock, why didn’t you… what… what…” His eyes stray to the table. “What the fuck is that?”

Sherlock turns, following the direction of John’s gaze and is a little chagrined to find that the liver slice that he forgot last night has, in fact, made it to the toast rack and is trying to ease itself over the lip even now, dried and rancid as it is. He’d assumed the smell was a byproduct of John’s excesses last night.

“Oh! Experiment. It was a meat bridge for a while, but when you told me you loved me, I dropped it.”

All of John’s interesting colours flee his face in an instant and his eyes go glassy. He is clearly distressed by this, despite being a medical man. “Sherlock,” he whispers, looking stricken.

“Does this mean no to the fellatio then?” Sherlock inquires sadly.

John moves very fast for a man whose blood alcohol level has recently been so high and who must have residual acetaldehyde toxicity symptoms and congeners like methanol still in the process of being metabolised. 

The bathroom door bangs shut and there is the unmistakable sound of someone being very poorly. Sherlock winces in sympathy and gathers kitchen paper and a bin bag, and proceeds to bag up the liver slice, gloves, the dissection pan and the stanchions of his meat bridge. He finds the anti-bacterial spray that John buys in bulk and cleans the table; deciding that the toast rack is collateral damage, he bags that too. And the washing-up scourer. And the butter.

Being the love of someone’s life is pretty time intensive, Sherlock thinks as he opens the kitchen window and drops the sack onto the bins below with a loud squelch and clatter.

He takes up position outside the bathroom door and makes sympathetic noises until John tells him to fuck off. 

“But what are you going to do now?” Sherlock asks. “I still have questions.”

“Brush my teeth. Have a shower,” John growls.

“Then sex?”

“Then sleep,” he clarifies, his voice somewhat strangled.

Sherlock sighs. “Then sex? Or kissing at least!”

“Then some food.”

“Then sex?” Sherlock asks, his hopes flickering more and more dimly when he calculates how many hours are left in today. 

There’s a sniff and a groan - John rising from kneeling beside the toilet, and the sound of the flush. 

Bathroom cabinet, toothbrush, toothpaste, water. Pause.

“You could… if you wanted… you could come and have a sleep with me.”

Sherlock beams.

If you remove that hell scene on the kitchen table.”

“Already done, John,” Sherlock assures him. 

The sound of aggressive tooth brushing begins and Sherlock hurries to fetch a jug of water, a glass, the packet of paracetamol and the ‘secret’ bottle of lubricant and box of condoms that John keeps in the back of his bottom drawer up in his bedroom. He brings them all into his room, then returns to lock the front door and switch both their mobiles to silent, with a last detour to the kitchen for digestive biscuits.

When the shower starts up, Sherlock waits until he hears the curtain close before he quietly opens the door between his room and the bathroom, and moves John’s bath towel to hang on the doorknob, leaving the door open and returning to bed to wait for him. 

When John is recovered sufficiently and they have both had several orgasms and some biscuits, he will steal John’s phone… ask for John’s phone and send fulsome thanks to Bill. John was right all along; he really is a very wise man.

 

Fin