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Once More, With Feeling

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"…and she's a vegetarian, which makes sense because, as I said, she's a veterinarian. She loves animals! Just adores them! And I remembered how much you loved dogs as a boy so I said to myself, Emma, I said, this girl would be perfect for John-"

John sighed and rubbed at his eyes. Back when he had first met Sherlock, the man had deduced that he was not close to his family. This was not altogether true. In fact, sometimes he was too close to his family. His mother, in particular, who could carry on lengthy conversations by herself. She was a sweet woman, but much like every other Watson, there were things she simply did in excess. For his father it had been smoking, for his sister drinking, for himself a spot of gambling (though it was only a spot, honest!) and for his mother it was talking.

And possibly meddling.

"-so is Friday, fine?"

John blinked, stunned, realizing that the diatribe had concluded and that there was now a question for him to answer, "Um, sorry?"

"For dinner! So you can meet Mary!"

John's head reared back and he was thankful she couldn't see his face, "Mary? Dinner?"

Mrs. Watson giggled, "Oh darling, it's as if you weren't even listening! I asked if you would like to come to dinner this Friday to meet Mary! Like I said, she's very attractive and sweet and as a matter of fact I think you knew her back when you two were in primary."

"What's her last name?"

"Morstan, dear. Mary Morstan."

"Mary Mud?" John asked but it was more a statement of abject horror. He remembered the girl now. Yes, he had indeed known her from when they were growing up. The nickname she had acquired had been fitting in oh so many ways, the main reason had been the fact that she had loved to play in the mud. She had also loved to eat it.

A tutting sound greeted his ears, "Now, John, that isn't very nice!"

"Mum, that's what we used to call her, she, she..."

"Yes, yes, I know. She mentioned it, matter of fact, but dear, that was so long ago! How would you like it if she brought up some of the silly things you used to do? Now, come on! Friday? Can you come?"

John decided that there was no 'possibly' about it - his mother was a meddler of the first order. He rubbed at his eyes again, "I don't think that would be a good idea."

"Why on earth not?"

"Mum…" John trailed off and a million responses popped into his head but none of them appropriate. Luckily, Mrs. Watson, as was her vice, did the talking for both of them, "I just want you to be happy, you know that, don't you? After all, Harriet is happy. Quite happy. She's been going to her therapy and staying away from the bottle - last I heard she was talking with Clara again! They're most likely going to reconcile and there you'll be, all alone, at their second civil ceremony! And a man of your advancing age-"

John nearly dropped the phone at this bit, stunned, mouth flapping silently - he wasn't that old!

"-having no one to take care of him and love him and it's just silly, because you're so sweet and dear and I truly think you won't be happy unless you have someone special and I want you to have someone special! Mary could be that someone special! I think the two of you would make a lovely pair and I-"

John put the phone down, knowing his mother would be fine without him for a while, so he could bury his face in his hands and muffle a scream. The woman was going to be the death of him. Then Sherlock walked into the room carrying two suspicious looking black bags and asked, "Have you seen my sulfuric acid?"

John looked up and let out groan. Oh. That's right. That job was taken.

Sherlock looked at the phone, then back at him, "Mother calling?"

"How-?" John shook his head and picked the phone back up, choosing the lesser of two evils, "Mum, sorry, may have missed the last bit. Sherlock walked in with a couple of questions."

Sherlock left and Mrs. Watson, who had apparently got herself worked into a proper fit, let out a sobbing sound, "Oh John, why can't you be happy?"

"I am happy, Mum."

"But you're not in love! You don't have someone! I'm going to die one day and no one will be there and I can't bear it!" Her voice had started squeaking and John rolled his eyes knowing he would have to assuage her and before he knew it the words were out of his mouth, "I do have someone, Mother."

She let out a watery sound, "You-you-you do?"

"Yes, Mum, don't forget, there's always Sherlock." He said this without thinking. It had been partially a joke, but his mother (being his mother) took it in an entirely different direction, "Sh-Sherlock? Sh…Oh. Oh! OH!"

The next sound she let out was an ear piercing squeal. John had to hold the phone away from his ear. When he brought it back her voice was high pitched with joy, "Darling! Why didn't you tell me! Of course, of course, of course! Sherlock! I knew you two were living together, but I didn't know - oh, how long have you been together, you know, officially?"

John, confused, replied, "Mum, you know it's been about over a year now, getting close to two…"

"You mean it was right away? I thought he was your flatmate first?"

"What?"

"I mean I don't care if it was right away! I'm not judging you! In fact, come to think of it, it makes perfect sense! You know you always were a head first kind of boy and when I read those blogs of yours aloud to your father he rather thought there was something there."

"What?" John repeated and suddenly he felt sick to his stomach, a hysteria starting to build.

"I bet he's a nice young man, hmm? He sounds awfully intelligent. He certainly wouldn't eat mud, so that's good - not that Mary does anymore, mind, but still, I can rather see why you've made your choice. And he's handsome, yes? And he takes care of you? I know you take care of him so he must, and, oh, I am so relieved. So happy! So now you and he must come to dinner this Friday! I want to see you both!"

John didn't know what was happening. Or, worse, he knew exactly what was happening. He started laughing weakly, "Mum, ah, no, no…you-you misunderstood me. Sherlock and I, we-we aren't…"

"Is it a secret? Is that it? Oh John, I don't care if you're involved with a man! Your father won't either! You know we both just want you to be happy! We were happy for Harriet, weren't we?"

"Mum…it's, Sherlock, it's…not-not like that…"

There was a terrible silence. Then, "John…do you…do you not want him to meet me?"

John deflated, "Oh Mum…"

"I would very much like to meet him. I promise I won't embarrass you. Your father won't either! I just…I worry about you so much and if I could see you with someone, see you happy and content and taken care of, I think I could die happy."

"Mum, you're not dying!"

"We're all dying, dear! Every day! And what's worse is, it could happen out of nowhere! I could go out to get some beans and the next thing you know..."

John couldn't believe what he practically shouted next, "Fine! Fine! Friday it is!"

Mrs. Watson gasped, "You mean it?"

"Yes, Mum, yes…we'll…we'll be there…"

"And you won't…you won't be embarrassed to introduce-"

"No, Mum. I won't be embarrassed by you," And then before she could, he added, "Or Dad."

"And you'll…you won't be shy, will you? Harriet was so terribly shy when she first brought Clara over-"

John gritted his teeth, "We'll be the happiest, most open couple you've ever seen."

Part of him hoped she would pick up on the thick sarcasm but instead she replied in the most sparkling of voices, "Wonderful, wonderful! Oh, I am so excited, John! So excited! I can't wait to meet your wonderful, wonderful man and put my mind at ease!"

"Me too." John managed to whisper and he wished the conversation could have ended there but, again, being her vice, Mrs. Watson now continued on an entirely new path of conversation, this one about the kind of dinner she would prepare for them. John looked at a nearby clock. It was around noon. She would most likely continue on this path for another half hour before she would finally stop.

He half listened, trying to think of how he had gotten himself into this situation and, moreover, how he was supposed to talk Sherlock into playing along this Friday. As far as he could tell he was well and properly fucked.

 

+

 

"No. Absolutely not."

"Sherlock, please. I'd consider it a personal favor."

"I have no interest in doing you favors. Hand me that pipette."

John automatically reached for the pipette then stopped himself, folding his arms and leaning back against the refrigerator, "No. I have no interest in doing you a personal favor."

Sherlock pulled away from his microscope and narrowed his eyes at John, "Childish."

"Fits."

Sherlock sighed and reached out to his left to retrieve the nearby pipette himself, "I am not being childish by refusing to go along with your charade. I simply have no desire to travel to your boyhood home and pretend that you and I are involved in an intimate relationship merely to appease your mother."

"Of who you thought I was not close to," John rubbed in, "You asked me if you got anything wrong that day and I let that slide. I pointed out the mistake about Harry because it was glaring but I let the other go to save your ego, so, the least you could do is-"

"There was no need." Sherlock interrupted, "I have no ego to bruise."

The disbelieving scoff John let out made Sherlock's eyes narrow. He returned his attention back to the microscope while John took a deep breath, trying to think of a way to convince Sherlock to help him. He had already had to suffer through several aborted attempts of asking Sherlock for this favor before he had finally managed to get the words out and now, with the situation finally fully explained (and in excruciating detail, no less), part of John had hoped that Sherlock, for once, would be a normal person and show some sympathy.

Really he should have known better.

"Look, Sherlock, this means a lot to her and I-"

"Wrong. You don't want your mother to know you lied to her. What's more, you don't want her to know that you are single and thus available for her to play matchmaker. This means far more to you than it does to her."

"Okay, alright, fine, it does mean a lot to me and as my friend-"

"Colleague."

"What?"

Sherlock didn't look up from the microscope but somehow John could sense that his eyes were becoming chilly, "After I introduced us as friends, you told Sebastian we were colleagues."

"Seba…that was ages ago!"

"I have an excellent memory."

"You can't even remember when it's your own birthday!"

"I have an excellent memory for important matters."

"That was an important matter?"

Sherlock did pull away from the microscope this time to look at John and yes, indeed, his eyes were chilly. John chewed on his bottom lip and scratched at the back of his neck, frustrated and at a loss for words before managing, "I'm sorry, alright? I'm sorry that ages ago I told Sebastian we were colleagues instead of friends. We are friends, okay?"

Sherlock's face didn't change but his eyes thawed considerably. Unfortunately for him, John caught this, "And as friends, it's not unreasonable for me to ask my friend for a favor. A huge favor, yes, but a favor nonetheless."

Sherlock crossed his own arms now, his eyes darting about, and John at last felt some hope, recognizing this as a sign that the consulting detective was now at least considering it. Finally he spoke, "It's so terribly pedestrian. Meeting the parents. So domestic. Ungodly in its insipidness."

"I'll make it up to you, I promise."

"That too, is a problem; you have nothing to offer me in return."

John grimaced, "I'm sure you'll think of something."

"You owing me a favor is a considerable boon, to be sure, but does it truly outweigh the negative consequences I would face in wasting an entire evening in the presence of your no doubt tedious relatives?"

Now it was John's turn to have chilly eyes, "My parents are many things but they are not tedious. I love them both and I don't-"

Sherlock waved him off, "Oh, stop it. The last thing I need is for you to become overly defensive. I am sure your sires have some intriguing qualities. They did produce you, after all, and you are not without your…charm."

The last was said in such a way that John couldn't decide whether or not to be offended, so instead, he offered, "Tell you what, you do this for me, you play along, and I'll let you do that one dreadful experiment you've been talking about for months."

"And which one would that be?"

John swallowed, blushing, "The one where you, um, a-attach the electrodes to, ah, parts of me. To-to measure…um…"

Sherlock raised an eyebrow at this, "When I first proposed that particular experiment you informed me that it was highly inappropriate for me to even suggest it aloud. You also said you would never take part in such a demeaning bit of research."

"Yes, well, I'm desperate!" John returned with quick flippancy then sobered, "Sherlock, please. Do this for me."

There was a long silence. Sherlock got to his feet, paced a few steps, fingers steepled together in thought. John did his best to be patient. Sherlock stopped pacing and reached into one of the top kitchen cupboards to draw out a strange looking container. He set it down next to his microscope and John's curiosity got the better of him. He looked inside and winced as he was greeted with the sight of several bugs crawling over one another, their tiny legs working fitfully as they tried to figure out how to escape their confinement.

John was about to ask what the nasty little blighters were for when Sherlock met his gaze dead on, "You'll perform the experiment without complaint?"

"Yes."

"And you'll fill out a questionnaire afterwards?"

"Of course."

"You will also allow me use of your laptop whenever I see fit for the next six months without one word." Sherlock did not even ask this as a question, instead stating it as demand.

"I…fine."

"And I will be allowed to request one additional favor from you in the future, one as yet unspecified, that you will have to fulfill no matter what the perceived cost."

"Sherlock, I'm asking you for one favor, not three…"

"Let's see, first, I must travel to your home. Second, I must ingratiate myself to your mother and father. Third, I must perform in a farce in which-"

"Alright, alright, alright! Yeah, fine, okay, whatever you want!" John huffed, hands gesticulating wildly. Sherlock smirked, "Very well. I believe we've struck an accord."

"Good, great, wonderful." John muttered unhappily. He stormed out of the kitchen and went up to his room. He threw himself on his bed and tried to ignore the fact that he was having the kind of proper sulk that was more befitting to someone in their formative years.

Staring at his ceiling he tried to picture the future. Friday in particular. He couldn't see how it wouldn't turn out to be a complete disaster. He knew he should call his mother - he knew he should come clean. But if he did, that meant going on a date with Mary Mud and whoever else his Mum managed to scrounge up.

He had only managed to avoid her this long due to her belief that he needed to 'recover' from his time in the Army. Now that she had deemed that that time was over she would be sending every eligible woman drawing breath his way. Unless…

John buried his face into his pillow. Maybe it wouldn't be that bad, pretending Sherlock was his, as his Mother had put it, someone special. Sherlock wasn't all that bad. Maybe…

Sherlock came into his room, "John, that container of dung beetles I was experimenting on has inadvertently upended. The insects are running rampant in the kitchen. I require your assistance in recapturing them."

John groaned loudly, the sound mostly muffled. There was no maybe about it; there was no need to try to picture his future. It was going to be far more than a complete disaster. It was going to be a colossal nightmare.

Chapter Text

"How would you describe our sex life?"

John pinched the bridge of his nose, "Sherlock, for the last time, my parents will not ask us about that."

"Are you quite sure?"

"Yes." John said the word with the kind of gravity that was reserved for the most vicious of curse words. Sherlock was undeterred, "I find it odd that they would not inquire about it."

John's response for several minutes was sputtered noises before he managed a meager, "Why?"

"Because my family would." This was said so matter-of-factly that John could only stare at him. But then, thinking of Mycroft, he found what was worse was the knowledge that he was not entirely surprised. Mycroft probably would inquire about their sex life. If they had one, which of course they didn't, and Christ, how on earth had he ended up in this predicament?

He decided to try and settle his mind on other affairs for the sake of his sanity but found that even when he attempted this, he somehow seemed to come back to the current state of affairs. He had spent most of the week prepping Sherlock to meet his parents - or, rather, it had been much the other way around.

The sex life question had merely been one in a long string as Sherlock groomed himself to play the part of the perfect partner. They had settled on the term 'partner' as it was the one that made John feel the least uncomfortable. The questions, however, made up for this. They ranged from the mundane ('where do you see our relationship going?') to the outlandish ('what, exactly, do your genitals look like?') and John began to wonder if it really would have been so awful to let his mother set him up with Mary Mud and any other girl she managed to drum up.

Not to mention there was the question of how the weather would hold out. John's parents lived out in the country and this was one of the many reasons that John had very little interaction with them. Traveling out to his old homestead was more than a bit inconvenient and the local weather forecast was dreadful. So bad that John knew if they didn't play their cards right his mother would force them to stay overnight, trapping them there.

The very idea flooded him with a kind of panic that he didn't think someone who had once been described as having 'nerves of steel' should suffer. Therefore he was eager to travel out there and get the whole sordid business over and done with as quickly as possible.

His advice to Sherlock had been simple - be yourself, but not yourself. In other words, he didn't want Sherlock to put on some big, theatrical number like he performed for suspects and witnesses when he wanted answers but he also didn't want Sherlock being rude, caustic, and possibly downright nasty to his parents.

When John had voiced this concern Sherlock had shot him the kind of glare that withered most people. Most people. John had merely held his ground, "Don't give me that look. You know you're not exactly warm and cuddly."

"Cuddly?" Sherlock repeated this as if it was an otherworldly concept and John couldn't help but laugh, "Now, see, there - that's the way you should be. Sort of…endearing."

"My finding you idiotic is endearing?"

"It is when you do it with that look on your face." John continued to chuckle, "Look, I know you can be charismatic, so, just…shoot for that. Or better yet, don't say much. In fact, the less you speak the better."

Part of John momentarily worried about hurting Sherlock's feelings with this remark but yet again Sherlock proved to be impervious. Still John heard himself add, "Besides, you won't even get the chance once you've met my mother she's…quite the chatterbox."

John wondered if Sherlock knew how much of an understatement this was. If not, he would find out soon enough. The pair traveled out early on Friday and as far as John could tell, everything was going according to plan. The sky did look threatening but nowhere near as ominous as had been reported and they were making exceedingly good time despite several initial start and stops - most of which had been caused by Sherlock. From making a quick stop at Bart's to remind Molly to keep a certain preserved gallbladder in proper storage to dashing into a Tesco's for some mysterious purpose he refused to reveal to John, Sherlock seemed almost intent on holding them up.

Yet for all this they found themselves reaching John's parent's home at a reasonable hour and it was John who approached the front door with heavy trepidation.

Sherlock, eyeing him, murmured softly, "Relax."

"Relax, yeah." John repeated under his breath, clearing his throat as he reached out a hand to knock on the door. His knuckles didn't even get within an inch of it before it flew open to reveal Emma Watson. She was a short, lively woman with eyes that matched John's and the moment she saw them both she let loose a peal of sound that could only be defined as overjoyed, "You're here! Both of you! At last, at last! Oh, waiting for this has been absolutely horrible! Oh John, my John, my baby - let me look at you!"

She cupped John's face in her hands before squeezing his arms and drawing him close, crushing him to her. She kissed the side of his face and drew back, sighing, "It's been forever! Last I saw you, you were heading off to god knows where and it was positively wretched for me! For your father! For both of us! We were so proud of you, yes, yes, and we're still proud, truly, but, oh, how I worried! And then you came back and we only ever had a chance to talk on the phone so seeing you now it's just, it's just, I'm so-"

Her words dissolved into choked sounds as she started fretting over him worse than ever. John knew for a fact that he was blushing from head to toe, his embarrassment beyond mortifying. He knew then that he would never hear the end of this from Sherlock and the night hadn't even started. He wished the earth would open up and swallow him whole. But knowing that this wish would go unanswered, he chose to do his best to pretend that Sherlock was not present.

Naturally his mother ruined this for him as she released him and turned her attention to the very person he was trying to overlook, "And you must be Sherlock!"

"Mrs. Watson." He returned with a slight nod.

"Oh, but just look at you! So tall! And you have such lovely bone structure and your eyes and your hair - all tousled, dark curls - and you're very handsome, you understand, terribly so. Like some Byronic hero! As a matter of fact I'm reading this novel right now, 'Ravishing of a Duchess' and the male character the author describes looks very much like-"

"Mum," John interrupted desperately, "Where's Dad?"

"Hmm? Your father? Imagine he's out back. Been mucking about in the garden shed for days on end now, always tinkering with something. If you ask me, I think he's out there smoking his pipe."

John frowned, "I thought he quit."

"He should quit, but you know how he is. Addictive personality. It's a Watson family trait. But what are we standing outside for? Come in, come in!" She started ushering them inside.

John couldn't help but feel the welcome pang of homesickness as he entered. Nothing had changed. The house still had the same lived-in charm - sunny yellow wallpaper in the sitting room, one of Gran's patchwork quilts flung over the back of the sofa, overstuffed bookshelves, the television crooning at a low volume and, as always, fresh cut flowers in a variety of vases dotted about here and there. A warm smell wafted from the kitchen - butter and something meaty and then the unmistakable scent of pipe tobacco that could only mean his father was around the corner. Mrs. Watson noticed the smell as well and started shaking her head, "Arthur! If you're done with that filthy habit of yours, you can come and see the boys!"

Arthur Watson came into view and once more it was easy to see how he was related to John - same ears, same nose - but when he spoke there was a gentle gruffness to it that belied his otherwise unassuming appearance, "Thank god you're here, son, you know you can't leave me alone with her. All she does is talk, talk, talk."

Mrs. Watson swatted at him, "Stop that! What will our guest think? He'll think we have an unhappy home, he'll think you don't love me, he'll think-"

"Lord help me, you know I love you, Emma." Mr. Watson rolled his eyes and then looked Sherlock up and down before saying to John, "So…this is your boyfriend?"

John almost swallowed his tongue at that word and started mumbling under his breath, "Ah, partner, yes…"

"He's a tall bloke. Taller than you. You like them tall?"

John answered with more mumbles; these ones completely inaudible, not that Mr. Watson was listening as he'd returned his attention to Sherlock, "Not a bad sight though - bit pretty."

"Arthur, he's not pretty! He's a man! He's handsome!" Mrs. Watson corrected and her husband shook his head, "Different words, same thing - blasted adjectives. That's why I taught chemistry," he spoke directly to Sherlock, "John says you've got a head for chemistry. Says you're a detective, which is good to hear - before you John was only attracted to idiots."

Mrs. Watson sucked in a loud breath and John's eyes narrowed. Sherlock's lips twitched and it became clear he was fighting off a smile, "Really?"

"Yes, don't remember any of their names, mind, but they were pretty much all the same make and model. Dumb. Not that I'm much better come to think of it, seeing as I didn't even offer a 'hello' and a handshake," he held out his hand, "Arthur Watson, John's father."

Sherlock took his hand and gave it a firm shake, "Sherlock Holmes."

"You like jokes, Sherlock?"

"Dad." John pleaded a hand going to his forehead, eyes closing because now it was starting - the unending nightmare.

"Come on, this is a good one. Promise."

"I'd very much like to hear your joke, Mr. Watson." Sherlock said with the kind of politeness that made John's eyes bug. Sherlock of all people asking to hear one of his father's lame jokes….unbelievable…

John could only excuse it with the knowledge that Sherlock didn't even know what he was getting himself into as Mr. Watson, puffing up proudly, asked, "Why do chemists call helium, curium and barium the medical elements?"

No one answered and Mr. Watson nudged John, "Come on - even you don't know? You're a doctor, after all."

John just shook his head and Mr. Watson chuckled, answering, "Because if you can't helium or curium, you barium!"

John wished he was dead.

Mr. and Mrs. Watson both chuckled and Sherlock's lips began twitching again as he replied smoothly, "Tell me, what is the dullest element?"

Mr. Watson's head tipped to one side thoughtfully, "I don't know."

"Bohrium." Sherlock dead panned and Mr. Watson started laughing again, patting him on the shoulder and John realized he had died - or at least stepped into another universe - because Sherlock had just made a joke. A chemistry joke. A lame chemistry joke just like his father who looked horribly pleased at this as he said, "That's good! I'll have to remember that one!"

Mrs. Watson shook her head, "I should go and check on dinner. I've made some nibbles for you to snack on in the meantime. Set them out on the table near the sofa. Just a few things - sticky squash with sesame seeds, cheese on toast, mango and prawn skewers, mini avocado tarts, rosemary-flavored olives, smoked salmon canapés…"

John looked at his mother incredulously, "A few things?"

She shrugged, "I wanted to offer a selection, that's all. For dinner I've made a lovely roast - which I see is rather a good thing. Your poor man is nothing but skin and bones! Honestly, John, don't you feed him up?"

"Mum-" John started to defend himself but his father cut in, grumbling, "She's been in that kitchen since the moment you said you were finally coming to visit. I told her not to make so much, but you know how she is. She can cook as much as she can talk, which is saying something. Hope you both brought your appetites with you."

Mrs. Watson turned, prepared to walk off towards the kitchen when Sherlock stopped her suddenly with a quick tap to one of her elbows. She looked at him as he reached into his voluminous coat and drew out a small package, "For you, Mrs. Watson."

She took it from him and, upon opening it, a warm smile blossomed on her face, "Oh my, how lovely! Arthur, look! Sherlock's brought us some wine to accompany dinner!"

John looked at Sherlock as if he'd grown another head. Sherlock bought his parent's a gift? Was the man ill? Possessed? The action seemed so totally out of character that John came to the conclusion that Sherlock must not have heeded his advice and had chosen to do some play acting for the evening after all.

As Mrs. Watson merrily announcing that she was going to go and chill the bottle and Mr. Watson went towards the food laid out on the table near the sofa, John drew Sherlock to one side, voice a low accusatory whisper, "Wine?"

Sherlock frowned, "Problem?"

"Yes!" John snapped, then relaxing slightly, sighed, "No. No, actually, no, not really, just…wasn't expecting that. When did you even-?" then John answered his own question, "That's what you went into Tesco's for?"

"John?" Mr. Watson spoke up and John turned to see his father motioning him over. John licked his lips; he wanted to talk to Sherlock more, find out what exactly he was up to, but he recognized that now wasn't the time. He joined his father on the sofa and the older Watson immediately started talking to his son about recent sports events followed by recent political events and before John knew it his mind was completely engaged on other matters.

Sherlock, for his part, was content to move about the house as a silent spectator. John caught sight of him now again - flipping through a book he had found or looking at a family photograph and while it was slightly distracting it didn't take too much of John's attention away from his father.

Truth be told, the more he talked to him, the more John realized how much he had missed him and, in essence, his family. While he had never gotten on particularly well with Harry he had had moments of familial closeness with both her and his parents. It had just been…intense at times. Despite the current appearances, they were by no means a perfect family. There had been squabbles and bitterness and unhappy times but then there had also been this - nice chats, good food, and gentle humor. Even if the humor sometimes came in the form of really bad chemistry jokes.

Mr. Watson cleared his throat, "I'm really glad you came to see us, John."

John ducked his head, "Ah, me too, Dad."

"And your man, he seems…good."

"Oh. Um. Yes. Well."

"Might be you two end up staying here tonight," Mr. Watson tugged at one ear absently, "They've been warning about flash floods and the like on the news; reporters are saying it's going to be close to calamitous."

"We'll be gone before then." John assured him, a prickle of sweat forming on the back of his neck at the very idea but his father looked thoughtful, "Well…if you have to stay, I'm just, it would be…" he cleared his throat again, avoiding John's eyes, "Your mother wouldn't mind is all."

John swallowed, not sure how to respond, when he suddenly noticed something quite distressing, "Where's Sherlock?"

Mr. Watson merely shrugged and John got to his feet. He walked into the kitchen to find Sherlock speaking with his mother. She had a hand to her mouth and was shaking and for a moment he feared the worst when suddenly she looked at him, eyes glassy, face red and he realized she was…laughing. Or more accurately, holding back an almost uncontrollable amount of laughter and when she saw him she started choking as she gave in, a strange mixture of nonsensical words and breathless giggles escaping her, "…criminals…explosives…biscuits…"

At the last word she truly lost control and was laughing so loud that she drew Mr. Watson into the kitchen. He couldn't help but chuckle at the sight of her, "What's so funny?"

"I don't know." John replied, eyes on Sherlock who, for his part, looked his normally stoic self.

Mrs. Watson waved a hand and tried to explain, but, again, could only manage snippets, "Sherlock…story…about criminals he caught and…explosive biscuits!" The last proved to be too much for her again and she had to hold on to one of the counters as she started wiping at her eyes, the near hysteric laughter bringing her to tears. When she finally managed to collect herself she took in a large gulp of air, sighing, "Oh my! That was good!" she turned her attention back to her cooking, waving a hand at them as she managed, "Dinner is ready. Best go have a seat…oh my, but I'm out of breath! Quite speechless!"

Mr. Watson raised an eyebrow, "Speechless?"

She could only manage a nod and Mr. Watson drew John close, whispering into his ear, "I take it back - your man isn't good, he's bloody brilliant. Rendering your mother speechless? I want him as my son-in-law!"

John's eyes widened at that suggestion as Mr. Watson patted his back smartly, "Come on then. Into the dining room."

John and Mr. Watson entered the dining room and as they took their seats at the table John became aware of the fact that Sherlock had not followed them. This was because he entered a moment later with Mrs. Watson, helping her carry in the food. Again John was completely gob smacked. What the bloody hell did Sherlock think he was doing?

Mrs. Watson, for her part, was nothing but glowing happiness as she beamed at Sherlock, "So nice of you to help me with this, dear!"

"It's no trouble." Sherlock assured her and John wanted to ask him how this was no trouble but apparently it was trouble for Sherlock to do something as simple as reach into his own coat pocket for his mobile phone. For god's sake, the man was being more helpful to John's mother than he had been to John in the entire time of their acquaintance!

But then this whole act was bizarre. Swapping jokes with his father and making his mother laugh to the point of tears? Yes, John had needed him to play the part of his partner but did he have to be so, well…perfect?

They were all finally seated and eating and it was surprisingly nice, the silence companionable until his mother (having finally caught her breath) spoiled it by not only speaking but by pointedly asking, "So, Sherlock…tell us a bit about yourself."

Chapter Text

Tell us a little about yourself. John couldn't believe his mother had asked Sherlock that and, what was worse, he had no idea how Sherlock would answer.

Sherlock, for his part, did not even seem slightly nonplused,"There's not much to tell. My Father died when I was young leaving my mother to raise both myself and my older brother, Mycroft. Our education was her highest priority and as such we were schooled in an endless array of topics - mathematics, chemistry, finance, British law, politics - though the last, I'll confess, was an area in which Mycroft excelled more than I. However, I outperformed in him in all other subjects, particularly musical skill of which she was quite fond."

"You play an instrument?"

Sherlock nodded once, "Yes, the violin."

"That's lovely! John played the clarinet for a time."

"You called that 'playing'?" Mr. Watson grumbled around a mouthful of roast, "I call it the unnatural torturing of an inanimate object."

"Arthur!"

"What? It squeaked and squawked worse than anything you've ever heard in your life! Always imagined it was what a dying bird would sound like."

Mrs. Watson scowled and waved a hand at her husband as if to shush him before turning her attention back to Sherlock, "Anything else, dear?"

"Not particularly. I've traveled extensively - Italy, Russia, France - my mother adores Paris and Marseille. In my adolescence I spent several summers there." Sherlock said all of this calmly, simply, despite the fact that John had been outright staring at him since the moment he had started talking.

He found he could no longer remain silent, "I didn't know any of this."

"You never asked." Sherlock returned smoothly as he took hold of the wine glass before him and took a sip. John rubbed at his face and started shaking his head. It had finally happened. He had finally snapped. That was the only explanation for everything that was happening to him this evening.

His mother, still focused on Sherlock, asked, "Can you speak French then?"

"Yes."

"Oh! Say something, will you? Something in French? Your voice is so deep and velvety and you should really think about doing audiobooks, you know, because I bet there are a dozen girls in my book club who would love to hear a voice like yours reading aloud to them and the idea of you doing so in French..." Mrs. Watson fanned herself, "So please, will you, please say something in French?"

Sherlock took another sip from his glass then said something and yes, John licked his lips, as even he had to admit it was certainly something to hear Sherlock's baritone voice speak French. His mother clapped enthusiastically, "What did you say?"

"I thanked you for this meal. I also said you have a very lovely home."

"Well, thank you, dear! My, but what a nice thing to say! I must admit, John had always given the impression that you are quite rude but as far as I can tell you're-" Mrs. Watson's words were cut off as thunder ominously rumbled outside. John cursed and restrained himself from leaving the table to look outside as his mother said, "There's that storm they've been calling for - supposed to be downright apocalyptic. You know John, if you need to stay-"

"No." John fairly shouted, then, wincing, tried again albeit this time more gently, "No, Mum, I don't think it will be necessary."

"Well, I made up your old room just in case and dug out some of your old clothes. Think they'll still fit even though you have gotten a bit soggy 'round the middle," John's eyes widened at this and he inspected his stomach before shooting his mother a look as she continued, "I also have one of Sherlock's suits here."

"Why do you have one of his suits?" John breathed, stunned.

"Why John, don't you remember? You sent it to me in the post to fix those torn seams - note attached said you'd faced off against some terrible suspect with a scimitar or some such thing and I fixed it right up for you."

Sherlock regarded John with some consternation, "I told you to have that sent to a tailor."

"I did." John muttered as he took ahold of his wine glass to take a large swig. Once swallowed, he eyed the glass, "This wine is…really good."

"Isn't it just? Look at this bottle! It's quite posh." Mrs. Watson pushed the wine bottle towards John. He inspected it with a frown - he had never seen a bottle of wine like this at a Tesco's. It looked far too expensive and as he turned it this way and that in his hands he found that a picture was starting to form in his mind - one so crazy that it couldn't possibly be true. He didn't have long to ponder it, however, as his mother proceeded to open her mouth and ask Sherlock something that made his brain grind to a halt, "Tell me Sherlock, when did you realize you had feelings for my son?"

John felt his face reddening as he put the bottle to one side, "Ah, Mum, there's-he-he doesn't need to answer that…"

Sherlock promptly replied, "I first suspected I had feelings for your son when he shot a cab driver to save my life. It was later confirmed when he tackled a psychopath whilst wearing a semtex covered vest."

John had no words. Absolutely none. He just pushed his plate away and let his head hit the dining room table.

Mrs. Watson's hands rose to her face, "My goodness!"

"You shot a cabbie?" Mr. Watson asked his son, then after a pause, "Did he overcharge you?"

John's head rose from the table so he could gape at his father, who merely shrugged, "Don't blame you if you did. They'll do that, you know. Or did he talk too much? That's another good reason. Hate when bloody cabbies yammer on - worse than your mother when they have a mind."

John let his head return to the table. Mrs. Watson let out a heavy breath, "Well, John, I knew from reading your blog that your life could be dangerous, not to mention the time you spent in Afghanistan, but honestly to hear it aloud! Semtex vest? That's just, it's so-"

Just as John was about to raise his head and try to reassure his no doubt soon to be hysterical mother, Sherlock spoke, "I assure you, Mrs. Watson, it is far more dangerous for me than for John. I take every care and precaution in assuring his safety."

John had never heard such a brazen lie in all of his life.

His mother, however, bought it completely, "I should hope so! I hate to think of my poor baby out there facing such awful, awful situations!"

John didn't understand how his mother could say that when, right at this moment, he was facing an awful, awful situation. She continued, "But then I told him when I spoke to him on the phone last, I said that I know he takes care of you so you must take care of him. But it's still good to hear it from you personally. And you do seem like such a sweet boy, so well-mannered and kind-"

"You are confusing me with your son." Sherlock interrupted and Mrs. Watson started remarking on how he was obviously modest as well but Sherlock shook his head, "No, I disagree, your son is by far the definition of these qualities. He acquired them from both you and Mr. Watson respectively and, for your part; I trust that they arose from your being raised as the youngest of five children."

"How did you know I-?"

"Your need to speak loudly and often would suggest a ravenous need for attention that stems from being raised in an environment in which you were but one voice amongst many. However, this is not the most interesting detail I have observed about you, no, rather instead your vast horticulture expertise, seeing as all the flowers and plants about your home are fresh and well cared for."

"How on earth-? Oh. Oh!" Mrs. Watson grew ecstatic, "You're doing that thing you do! John told me about how you can do that! How you can see someone and just know everything about them and that is so fascinating and you got everything right, you know, and I can't believe how smart you are! You're so intelligent and clever and brilliant and you should tell us all about Arthur next! Arthur, Arthur, let him have a good look at you so that had can tell us everything about you!"

Mr. Watson grumbled, "For god's sake, Emma, you already know everything about me. And he's not a monkey you throw coins at! Let the boy eat his food in peace!"

"But Arthur-!"

"Emma, what he does isn't a trick. It's important in his line of work. Don't have him trivialize it," Mr. Watson shot Sherlock an apologetic nod, "Forgive her. She gets carried away."

Mrs. Watson scowled, "I didn't say it was a trick. I think it's bloody marvelous!"

Mr. Watson patted her hand, "Shh, I know, sweetheart. But you do get carried away. You haven't even noticed that your son's been heads down this whole time."

"Oh dear! John, honey, are you feeling well?"

"Think I've fallen down the rabbit hole." John mumbled into the table. Mr. Watson, without any preamble, smacked the back of his son's head. John hissed and sat up, "Ow! What was that for?"

"I don't want your big ears denting the woodwork." His father chuckled.

John glared at him, "And where did I get my ears? Or have you not looked into a mirror lately?"

"He's got you there, Arthur! All the Watson men have those ears - like dinner plates! In fact I think it was those ears that gave me so much trouble when I gave birth to John. Oh, it was terrible! I was in labor for hours and hours and the pain was incredible! And he was such a big baby, too! You wouldn't believe how much he weighed and Lord help Harry if she and Clara decide to conceive and she's the one to give birth but then again maybe she won't face that problem because the child won't exactly be from a male Watson. No, it would probably be a problem a woman would face if she was to ever have a baby with John but now John's with you so I guess that solves the big ear dilemma because if you two ever decided to have a child…"

"Mum!" John cut in desperately, "Could you change the topic please?"

"Why?" Mrs. Watson asked with a kind of innocence that could only be innate. Mr. Watson, ever down to earth, remarked dryly, "It's a bit early to start talking about children, Emma. Talk about something else. The flower show, perhaps?"

"Oh! The flower show! John, I am so, so excited! Tomorrow we're holding a flower show down at the shop and some other local businesses are going to be in attendance as well. There are going to be stalls and booths and live music and dancing and…" Mrs. Watson started happily chattering about the show and John found himself blissfully tuning out, relaxing as everything began to slip back into a more normal setting.

He didn't really return to the conversation until his mother handed him a folded up newspaper, "…here we are in the local paper! The reporter, Edward Hoyt, was so sincere in his questions and you could tell he was really interested in the show which certainly made Mary and I happy because we've been working so hard on…"

John looked at the paper and saw a photo of his mother next to one of the most gorgeous women he had ever seen. He looked down to see the caption beneath read 'Emma Watson and Mary Morstan'. He felt as if someone was choking him, "That's Mary Mud?"

"John, I told you not to call her that! Mary is a lovely girl and she doesn't eat mud anymore! Anyway, she's been a godsend, helping me organize this flower show and she's even going to have her own stall - trying to raise money for poor abandoned animals, the dear. She's positively lovely! Hopefully the weather will clear up for tomorrow. They're calling for scattered showers but nothing like we're supposed to see tonight, thank heaven! Now, I think it's time for some dessert! I've made us some lovely chocolate tart. Arthur? Will you help me?"

Mr. and Mrs. Watson exited the room, which was excellent as far as John was concerned because the moment they were out of earshot he turned to Sherlock and announced, "We have to break up."

Sherlock cocked his head to one side, "Why?"

John showed him the paper, his finger tapping Mary's image, "Look at this girl."

"Your point?" Sherlock asked coolly and John could only gape at him, "What? I just made my point! She's gorgeous!"

"We are breaking up solely on the basis of appearances?"

"What?" John repeated, baffled as he set down the paper, "No! Sherlock, what does it matter? We're not even really-"

"It will upset your mother."

"Why do you care?" John growled and upon seeing Sherlock's face began to wonder when exactly he had crossed over into some mirror dimension. Perhaps when he had been sleeping last night Sherlock had performed some experiment that had caused them to switch demeanors. It would certainly explain a lot. Here was John, not caring one whit about his mother's feelings and there was Sherlock, his entire air that one of deep disapproval.

John took in a deep breath and tried again, "Look, we at least need to start laying the seeds of discourse. As of right now my parents have us married. And with children, no less. Just…stop pretending and start being yourself."

"Myself?" Sherlock questioned wryly.

"Yes. Mention how you don't care if people die as long as the mystery of their death is interesting, tell them how I should stop inflicting my opinions upon the world, talk about how your massive intellect is the most important thing to you, be cold and heartless and-" John suddenly heard what he was saying and stopped immediately. Good god, they really had switched.

Sherlock looked at him unblinkingly but his voice was unusually subdued, "So this is your opinion of me?"

"I," John swallowed then he breathed a soft 'no', followed by, "No. Sherlock, no, I'm…sorry, I…that was - I didn't mean…"

John's words ended as his parents returned to the room. His mother, oblivious to the tension, merely set down the tart, "I hope you both have a sweet tooth. Otherwise I might eat this whole thing myself!"

Mrs. Watson cut up the tart and gave each of them a piece. John took his and started nibbling at if only to keep his mother's suspicions at bay. But if she had any, she did not voice them, instead focused on her own piece. The companionable silence from earlier in the evening returned and with it John started to try and formulate plans on how to end his and Sherlock's fictitious relationship.

There must be a way to do it where he could spare his mother's feelings. Something easily fabricated yet organic. Something where no one was to blame. John was so absorbed in trying to find an answer that it came as a shock when his father smacked the back of his head again, "Ah! What now?"

"Your mother asked you a question."

John gave his mother a contrite look, "Sorry. What did you ask, Mum?"

"Oh, it was nothing! Arthur certainly didn't need to do that again. Apologize to your son, Arthur."

Mr. Watson grumbled an apology and Mrs. Watson beamed, "There, there, much better! Now, since everyone is paying attention, I will repeat myself. I was saying that here we've been almost this entire evening quizzing Sherlock about you and we have yet to get your input. So John, I was hoping to hear your half of the story!"

"Story?" John returned weakly.

"Yes! You know, when you knew you had feelings for him and such. In particular I would really like to know what you like about him. He's said such nice things about you tonight. Why, he even turned around my own compliments on him to you so you should tell us! Tell us why you love him!"

"Why I…" John could barely finish the words. He looked at Sherlock. It would have been a lot easier to think of something if Sherlock was not staring directly at him, his gaze almost challenging. John licked his lips and found he couldn't meet that piercing look head on. An army doctor who had been to Afghanistan and back again and he couldn't even look his flatmate in the eyes. But then, a rather heavy question had been introduced, so he imagined a little apprehension on his part was forgivable.

He cleared his throat, eyes darting from side to side as he thought, "Well, ah…he's intelligent. Obviously. A genius. I mean what he can do is…amazing. Without him a lot of crimes would go unsolved and…"

John stopped, looked at his mother, who had an expectant look on her face, his father who was watching him with an oddly unreadable expression, and then back to Sherlock. He did meet his eyes this time as the words started to flow almost effortlessly, "Sherlock has a lot of flaws. He can be callous and selfish and arrogant. I can list off about a dozen times that I've just wanted to wring his neck. He can be thoughtless and stubborn, a right proper sod. But then there's…"

John shook his head and it became clear that he was talking more to himself than to anyone in the room, "…there's these…good qualities. He can be…funny and insightful. Surprising. Oh yes, he can definitely be surprising. He is almost always honest; brutally so at times, but that's…okay. And life with him is adventurous, exciting…there's never a dull moment. There have been so many nights dashing about London, facing danger and intrigue, but then sometimes we just…we laugh…I don't think I've ever laughed with someone so much, so often, in my entire life."

He took in a deep breath, eyes closing as he started to struggle, the words suddenly harder because they held so much more meaning, "I wouldn't trade a second of it. Not for anything. My time with him, being with him, it's been…he's…when I came back from the war I was so…the world was so….blank and grey and lifeless; empty. I felt empty. Hollow. It was like…like I had died over there. And then I met him and…everything changed. The world exploded with life and color and light and I felt…he…he makes me feel alive."

John opened his eyes. He looked at his mother, who was using a napkin to dab at her eyes, then his father who was leaning back in his chair, eyebrows raised as he nodded to himself. Finally he looked at Sherlock, whose face was an indescribable mask and John desperately wished he knew exactly what the man was thinking.

The moment was broken as Mrs. Watson spoke, "John, dear, that was so sweet! Well, I mean not the first half where you said all the bad things but the second half was terribly romantic. I didn't know you had it in you!"

"I didn't know you could ramble on as bad as your mother." Mr. Watson offered and Mrs. Watson smacked his arm. Mr. Watson merely chuckled and kissed her cheek before adding, "But I'm not surprised you have a way with words. Aside from the big ears, you also got that from me."

Mrs. Watson rose to her feet, "I am so glad you both came down to visit and now I have just one tiny, little request. I'd like a picture!"

"Oh, Mum, no, come on…."

"Yes, John. Please? I don't have any recent pictures of you and I'd really like one of you with Sherlock." Mrs. Watson said this over her shoulder as she exited the room and when she returned she held a little camera aloft, "Now, let's see…Arthur, get up and move your chair over near John and Sherlock, you take that chair and yes, yes, that's right…John and Sherlock sitting next to one another at the table, that's good…"

John and Sherlock sat next to one another on one side of the table and Mr. and Mrs. Watson stood opposite them on the other side. Mrs. Watson continued directing, "Now John, turn yourself a little more towards Sherlock and Sherlock, you do the same and yes, yes, good, good, now get closer. Closer. Closer! Get closer! Why do you both look so uncomfortable?"

Mr. Watson smirked, "Maybe it's because you're shoving a goddamn camera in their faces."

"Arthur! Language!"

Mr. Watson shrugged and Mrs. Watson sighed, "I don't know why you both won't relax. Especially you, John. You're so tense! You promised me you wouldn't be bashful like Harriet was when she introduced us to Clara! Right now you look positively wretched - in fact, you look almost exactly like you did when you were about seventeen and I caught you tossing off in the bathroom to a picture of some bloke."

"Mum!" John cried, scandalized.

Mr. Watson frowned, "Emma, bit not good."

"What? It's perfectly natural! And it's not as if I didn't catch you with pictures of girls either. You always did like both. And the bloke in that particular picture was very handsome! Some actor…can't recall his name now…was he on EastEnders? John? Was he-"

"Emma," Mr. Watson tried again, "Please stop embarrassing your son and take the bloody picture."

Mrs. Watson scowled, looking lost for a moment and then suddenly she gasped, grinning, "Oh, I know! John, John, give him a kiss!"

John could only manage a blunt, "Huh?"

"Kiss him! Go on then! That'll make a fine picture!"

John's face contorted through a variety of reactions at this remark but he finally rubbed at his eyes, blinked a few times, and then shrugged, deciding there couldn't be any harm as he darted forward and pressed a quick kiss to Sherlock's cheek.

Sherlock turned and looked at him, expression still annoyingly ambiguous, as Mrs. Watson tutted, "John, what was that? I told you not to be bashful! Give him a proper kiss! Come on then, once more with feeling…"

"Mum," John answered with exasperation, "I'm not going to sit here, snogging Sherlock in front of you! That's just, it's just-"

John's words ended as Sherlock gently took John's face in his hands and kissed him.

It felt as if the entire world had gone blissfully still, everything melting away to a wall of white, silence settled over them, peaceful as snowfall.

There was nothing but this.

Just this.

Just them.

Soft. Sherlock's lips on his own were…soft. So soft. Petal soft and gentle. Full bottom lip, exquisitely curved top lip and it was a completely chaste kiss, a mere brushing of mouths, lightly moist, barest pressure but John felt a heated pulse blossoming within his chest, his heartbeat throbbing in his ears. He could feel Sherlock's long elegant fingers caressing his face, moving towards the nape of his neck, curling a little in his hair and just as John was about to card his own hands through Sherlock's curls, just as he started to angle his head to make the kiss deeper, Sherlock drew away.

John's lips tried to follow his but Sherlock pulled too far back and John was left to open his eyes (unaware he had even closed them) and blink owlishly, eyelids heavy. Mrs. Watson was glowing, "Oh, thank you! What a lovely picture! See, Arthur?"

Mrs. Watson handed the camera to Mr. Watson so he could look at it as she giggled, "John, my, but just look at you! You're blushing! Tips of your ears have gone all red and your cheeks all pink and look at him, Arthur! Look how love struck he is! You'd think this was their first kiss!"

Mr. Watson looked at the picture on the camera, then at John and Sherlock, thoughtfully quiet for a moment. When he spoke his voice held a trace of assessment, "Yes…you'd think."

He handed the camera back to Mrs. Watson and then cleared his throat; eyebrows knitted together, "Sherlock, how about you help me outside? Don't imagine the storm has gotten too bad yet - you can help me batten down the hatches. After all, Emma has had a chance to have some time alone with you. Explosive biscuits story and all. Should think it's my turn."

"That sounds like a splendid idea! John and I can watch telly!" Mrs. Watson said and she walked over to John, who sat in his chair, still looking wholly dazed. She took his hand, pulling him to his feet, and shoved him into the room with the sofa, planting him there before she took her own seat.

Chapter Text

John sat staring at the television, not watching, his mind trying to process what had happened but moments before.

Sherlock kissed him.

Sherlock kissed him.

Sherlock.

Kissed.

Him.

John pressed his fingers to his lips and they were warm. He licked his lips, memories flashing to a soft mouth against his own, before he rubbed at his neck. He could still feel the ghostly impression of Sherlock's fingers in his hair. He shivered and swallowed.

What. The Bloody. Fuck.

John slowly came back to reality, his mind filtering back to him in slow intervals and his heart…Christ, it had been racing but it returned to a normal speed as he started to finally tune into his mother's voice. She had been talking for several minutes, "…been watching a lot of 'QI' and I bet Sherlock likes that. I don't know if you boys watch much telly, but I could see him watching that. Or 'Doctor Who', I know you always liked that. And 'Come Dine with Me'! Do you still watch that? There was this one episode where-"

"Back." Mr. Watson announced and John's head reared back. His father had left? He turned and saw both his father and Sherlock emerge from the kitchen. John's eyes widened. Sherlock had been off with his father? When did that happen? How long had they been gone for?

Mrs. Watson, more up to date, merely smiled, "Did you get everything settled outside?"

"No, we never made it outside. The rain is like a waterfall out there. But we had a nice chat. Real mind to mind."

"You mean heart to heart, dear."

"That too." Mr. Watson smiled and patted Sherlock's shoulder roughly before turning to John, "You both will have to stay here tonight, John. The rain is bad, but the lightning, thunder, wind," he shook his head, "They're much, much worse."

Having finally returned to himself, John heard this news and immediately grew close to panicked, "No, no, it can't be that bad!"

He charged to his feet and went to the door. He opened it to look outside to see that, yes, it was that bad. The rain (if you could call it that) came down in thick, heavy sheets and as if to drive the point home, thunder crackled and boomed, the wind howling and John closed the door, resting his forehead against the wood. Lord. He was trapped here. With his parents.

And Sherlock.

And Sherlock had kissed him.

John's fingers went to his mouth again, mind flashing back to that moment, to soft lips against his own, and…

He closed his eyes, drew in a loud breath through his nose, then turned and looked at his parents and Sherlock, "It's…just a bit rubbish out there."

"More than rubbish! John, you and Sherlock can't go! It's far too dangerous! Sherlock, tell him!" Mrs. Watson pleaded.

"I did tell your mother your safety is my highest priority." Sherlock supplied and John glared at him before looking at his mother, "Even if we…stayed…my room has only one bed!"

"John," Mrs. Watson scoffed, "I'm not some priggish old woman! I am well aware that you both share a bed at home and that's how I want you to feel here, at home. Besides, one would hope that you will use the bed for sleeping. I trust you two can keep your hands off each other for one night! But then, I do know how passionate some couples can be. For example, your father and I-"

John cried out to stop her, face scrunched up in disgust, hands going to his ears, "I don't want to hear that!"

Mrs. Watson merely shrugged but she did wink at her husband, who looked absurdly pleased as he walked over to his wife, "Come on, then. How about you and I retire for the evening? Let the boys have some privacy?"

Mrs. Watson nodded and followed her husband upstairs, but not before shouting down to John, "You should find some old jimjams in your closet! Think there should be something in there for each of you! Your clothes for tomorrow are in there as well!"

"Thanks, Mum."

"Oh, oh!" she shouted down again, "And there are some fresh toiletries in the loo next to your bedroom! Top shelf of the cabinet nearest to the-"

"Yes, yes, thanks, Mum!" John returned and then looked at Sherlock.

Alone at last.

John scratched at the back of his head. Sherlock merely looked at him. John's eyes skittered back over to the television, "Do you want to-um?"

Sherlock inclined his head towards the sofa and John resumed his seat. Sherlock, however, did not immediately join him. Instead he walked over to the bookshelf and took one of John's father's chemistry books. He sat next to John and read silently while John watched television. And it was nice. Sort of. Not all that much different than what normally took place back at the flat, save for the fact that John felt…awkward.

He had a million questions running through his head. Why did you act the way you did tonight? Why did you say the things that you said? And why, oh why, did you kiss me?

The last one in particular rested uncomfortably on the tip of his tongue and for the life of him he could not bring himself to ask it. Every answer he imagined so far was too…weighty. And after everything that had taken place this evening, he didn't think he was up for it.

It hadn't just been Sherlock and his actions - his mother had certainly had her fair hand in everything. Almost every other word out of her mouth had been mortifyingly embarrassing. And then his father and his pointed comments and he loved his parents, he truly did, but an evening in their company reaffirmed why he had not chosen to move back in with them after returning home from the war.

Not to mention his love of London. He couldn't imagine living anywhere else. Not really. And staying there had certainly had its benefits…

His mind latched back on to what he had said about Sherlock and, oh, but that was just as profound as everything else that had taken place tonight. He still couldn't really believe everything he had said, but he knew one thing for sure. Everything he had said had been true. He really did feel that way…what did that say about him? About Sherlock? About-?

John yawned. Long, loud, and low and the wave of exhaustion that suddenly fell over him was almost unbearable. It was, however, understandable. It had been one bloody hell of an evening. He rose to his feet, "Think it's 'bout time I went to bed."

Sherlock did not respond and John went off towards his old room. He entered and nostalgia wracked him. His room looked exactly as he had left it when last he was in residence. A bit tidier, perhaps, but overall it hadn't changed a smidge.

He went to the closet and dug out a set of pyjamas for himself and found a pair for Sherlock as well - in his exact size - and John was yet again reminded that his mother was a terrible meddler. She had probably taken the measurements of Sherlock's suit and bought these. It was as if she had planned it all. John could even believe she had somehow manipulated the weather - that was how meddlesome she could be.

He became aware of the fact that he was not alone and turned to see that Sherlock had followed him. John suddenly felt breathless as his eyes immediately shot over to his bed. His small, small bed. They could both fit, sure, but it would be a tight fit…they'd be squeezed together…squeezed together on John's small, small bed and John wasn't sure if it was the mere exhaustion from earlier but he was now feeling close to faint.

Sherlock, for his part, seemed not at all disturbed. He was more focused on examining everything in the room and John somehow felt horribly exposed. Sherlock had certainly picked John apart before, but this somehow seemed more…intimate. This was the room he had grown up in, lived in, for a majority of his life and to have Sherlock in here, observing everything…

As Sherlock passed this or that John heard himself mumbling explanations for each item his gaze graced over, "That's my old rugby equipment…played a bit when I was, ah…and that's my clarinet…don't know why it's out, maybe Mum put it there I don't…that's a picture of Harry and I in Sussex when we were kids, family trip and…and…"

Sherlock was close to John now, practically on top of him, looking at the doorframe of the closet behind John and John turned his head slightly to see scribbles and notches in the wood behind him, "O-Oh, this, this was a height chart…used to mark it on my birthdays but I stopped after…"

John's words died off as Sherlock took gentle hold of John's arms and pushed him back against the doorframe. John stopped breathing. Sherlock reached into his coat and drew out a pen, "Stand up straight."

"I…" John shook his head and did as he asked and Sherlock marked a spot right above John's head on the wood. John struggled for something to say, "Between the wine bottle and the pen, your coat is proving to be a veritable Mary Poppins bag tonight."

"Mary Poppins is one of Mycroft's favourite films." Sherlock murmured, "He admires her efficiency."

John did not doubt this. Sherlock's hands suddenly went into the closet and when they drew back John saw that they held a familiar brown box. It took John a few moments to place it and when he did, he felt his cheeks heat slightly, "Ah, that…that's-that's my button collection."

They both looked inside to see that the box was almost filled to the brim with a variety of buttons, different colors, sizes, shapes, and John grew more and more hesitant, "Started when I was about five…easy hobby…inexpensive. Silly, really, but it was…can't remember how many are in there or when I stopped, but it was, um, sort of fun. If-if not a little…"

Sherlock put the box back and turned his attention to the pyjamas in John's hands. He then took a seat on the bed and while John found it was more than a little difficult to think when Sherlock was on his bed, he managed, "You…sure are quiet this evening."

"You said the less I spoke the better."

"You listened to me?" John asked doubtfully.

Sherlock shifted about the bed as he started to take his coat off, "It is rare, but I must admit, I was surprised to find that your parents are actually interesting. Your father, in particular."

John suddenly remembered that Sherlock and his father had disappeared for an undisclosed amount of time and he frowned, "What did you two talk about?"

Sherlock draped his coat over a nearby chair and continued to remove more clothing, John grew impatient, "I asked you a question."

"Yes and I chose not to answer it." Sherlock's fingers were working through the last buttons of his shirt before John became cognizant of the fact that the man before him was undressing, "What are you doing?"

Sherlock's fingers stopped working as he shot John the look that signaled that he was an imbecile, "I should think that fairly obvious."

"Not to me."

A weary sigh, "I am preparing myself for bed."

"B-b-," John couldn't even say the word, "You can't be serious!"

"John, please, I am rather tired and your idiocy is not helping."

"We can't sleep in the same bed!"

"Why ever not?"

"Why…" John couldn't believe Sherlock was even asking the question and it was now his turn to serve Sherlock the you're-an-imbecile look, "Sherlock, we can't possibly-"

"We're both grown adults, John. There is nothing unseemly about us sharing a bed for one night. I'll grant you it is a small bed but we should both fit and as I said, I am tired."

"What happened to 'sleep, sleep is boring'?"

"Under normal circumstances, yes, I would agree but, and I think you'll understand this, I have just finished spending an entire evening in the company of your parents. As such, even I require rest."

John couldn't argue that. After all, he was suffering under much the same. Yet, he eyed the bed and then the floor. He could sleep on the floor. Get some blankets, some pillows, and the floor could be…

Sherlock stripped off his shirt. John's eyes greedily roamed all over the nude pale skin and he felt his heart slam fitfully against his ribcage as he tossed Sherlock's pyjamas at him before he relatively fled the room.

As he prepared himself for bed in the bathroom he realized that he was being completely ridiculous. There was no sound reason why he and Sherlock couldn't share the bed. He had slept in much worse conditions in Afghanistan. So the bed was small. So what? And so Sherlock would be in bed with him. What did that matter? And yes Sherlock had kissed him. But-?

John groaned. There was no question for that. Sherlock had kissed him and that was what was holding him up. John should just ask him. He exited the room and found Sherlock, wearing his perfectly fitted pyjamas (yes, thanks for that, Mum) waiting patiently outside. John ignored him as they switched places and John went into his room. He climbed determinedly into his bed.

This was not an issue. This was nothing. He was going to go to sleep and that was that.

John fell back on his back, eyes closed tight, breathing normally and after a while he found himself genuinely relaxing. In fact he was hovering near the edge of sleep when Sherlock entered the room. The mattress dipped under his weight and John could feel the long, lean outline next to him. John took in a steadying breath as his thoughts whispered to him: sleep, sleep, sleep, just go to sleep.

And yet he found himself defying his thoughts as he asked quietly, "Sherlock?"

Sherlock answered with a questioning sound.

"Do…do you snore?"

There was a hot pocket of silence.

Just as John started to feel stupid for asking, he heard Sherlock reply, "No."

He didn't sound terribly sure.

John felt his lips twitch at that. Then Sherlock rolled over to one side and mumbled into his pillow, "I'll break up with you in the morning."

John's eyes snapped open and he stared into the darkness.

He had completely forgotten about Mary and the break up.

John opened his mouth to respond but could think of nothing and soon enough his eyes slipped closed as he fell into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

John woke up to a mouthful of black curls.

They had also invaded his nose and he came close to sneezing as he tried to reach up a hand to move them. Tried to reach, because he was currently pinned beneath a tangle of dangling, spindly limbs.

Apparently Sherlock was one of those blokes who took up the entire circumference of the bed, regardless of who was on it. John found himself completely blanketed by the other man, who, as fate would have it, was dead to the world.

John shifted this way and that, doing his best to wriggle out from beneath his consulting detective comforter. Sherlock made a few disgruntled noises, spidery fingers clutching ineffectually at John's arms and sides, trying to still his movements. Eventually John managed to find an opening and worked himself free, rising unsteadily to his feet.

Sherlock's arms latched on to both pillows, using them as a substitute for John's body and as he lay there, mouth hanging open slightly, it occurred to John that he should look absolutely ridiculous. And a bit unattractive. His mouth was open, after all. And yet John couldn't help but find him, well…cute.

God help him if Sherlock ever knew he had used that particular description in association with him but there it was. Sherlock Holmes, asleep and cute. And in his bed. John licked his lips and looked around the room and yes, yes, last night's memories returned to him rapid fire. He yawned and stretched before heading towards the kitchen and he had the vaguest sense that his hair was sticking up as he absently scratched at his back.

The smell of eggs and bacon greeted him and he couldn't help a sleepy smile as he entered the kitchen to find his mother cooking. And, as always, she cooked as if cooking for ten people as opposed to a group less than half that size. But the neighbors were always thankful for the abundant leftovers. She saw him enter and let out a happy greeting before informing him that she had already made him a cup of tea, just like he liked it, in the dining room.

He thanked her before drowsily floating into that room. He took a seat and sipped his drink, waking slowly but surely as his mother drifted in and began setting the table. Once it was covered with a plethora of victuals she sat down opposite from him and made her plate. He did the same and, as he was becoming more and more wakeful, he became aware of a disquieting feeling.

His mother was watching him. Watching him with that look. That one that signaled trouble. He did his best to ignore it and was but a few forkfuls into his breakfast when she let loose, "John, I want you to know that I really, really like Sherlock."

"Oh, um…good? I like him, too."

"I know you do, sweetheart and that's why, well…" she looked hesitant which, in John's vast experience, was always a bad thing, "It's just…I hope this relationship doesn't end as disastrously as your previous ones. Because John, I swear, if you break that poor boy's heart I don't know what I will do!"

John put his fork down and his head reared back as if she had slapped him, "His heart? Mum, I'm your son! Don't you think you should be worried about my heart?"

"Oh, dear, that will never happen! He's so terribly in love with you!"

John let out a snort of derision, "Mum…I think you're misreading things."

"I am not! You can tell by what he says and the way he looks at you that he loves you! Truly, madly, deeply loves you!"

"Mum, really, he-" John shook his head and tried to think of the best way to put it when his mother added, "Not to mention that kiss he gave you last night!"

Ah, yes. The kiss. John's mind flashed to it and seemed more than happy with the idea of replaying it over and over again when he forced himself to snap out of it. Last night, that kiss…it had all been some sort of…weird aberration in time. In fact, the whole evening had been off and John was resolved to seeing everything return to its natural, proper order.

They would be returning to London today and Sherlock's as-yet-to-be-explained behavior would be resolved. He would finally stop acting the part of John's perfect partner and start acting the part of himself. Things would return to normal.

Mrs. Watson, as was her way, had been talking unheard yet again, "…since you're here anyway and it could be for just a few minutes. Ten to fifteen at most!"

John blinked, "I'm sorry?"

"Honestly, John! You should get those ears checked! I said you and Sherlock should come with your father and I to the flower show today! The weather's cleared up now, save those scattered showers they've talked about but I don't think those'll give us any trouble and I'd like for you two to make a brief appearance, just before you go back to London."

"No. Mum, sorry, but really, we have to be getting back."

"I see. I understand." Mrs. Watson's voice was mournful, "I haven't seen you in forever and then you come here, have dinner, try to leave but get trapped thanks to a storm and now it's rushing out the door, no thanks, no love, no-"

"Mum, it's not that!" He tried to protest but she continued as if he hadn't spoken.

"-thought to me, your poor mother, who has missed you so much. Not to mention your father, who has probably missed you even more than I, even if he can't properly express it. All I wanted was for you to stop by, meet my friends, meet Mary…"

John's eyes widened, "Mary?"

"Yes, Mary, she's going to be there. I told you, she helped me organize everything! Granted, I initially wanted you to meet her because I thought there could be an opportunity there but that was before I knew about you and Sherlock so now I would just like you to meet her because, well, she's been so kind to me. Though come to think of it you two already know one another since you attended school together so I suppose it would be a re-meeting."

"I'll go." John said quickly and Mrs. Watson smiled, "Really?"

"Yes, yes, love to."

"Wonderful! I can't wait! You and Sherlock attending the flower show! I am so excited!"

"Wait! Ah, hang on, Sherlock…" John felt something inside him twist. He wasn't sure if it was his heart or his stomach or some combination but he chose to disregard all of it as he reminded himself that last night had merely been some bizarre anomaly. Sherlock kissing him - that was…he couldn't possibly be interested in John. He had been playing a part. He'd been acting. It had all been pretend. All part of the 'perfect' partner role. He certainly wasn't in love with John. Not like his mother claimed. That would be…crazy. Insane. Impossible.

No, no, no.

Now Mary, Mary made sense. Mary was gorgeous and his mother praised her as kind and certainly she was someone who he should pursue. John sighed, "Sherlock might not be able to attend. I…think he has some work waiting for him in London. He might have to go ahead on home and I'll meet him there. Probably-probably for the best we…you know, had a talk last night and it was…things between us are…"

John couldn't continue. His mother was starting to look so upset and he found he couldn't bring himself to lie to her. Well, at least not in this way. Even more so when she breathed, "Oh, John, are you…okay? You and Sherlock are you-?"

"We're fine." He reassured her with a tight lipped smile, "Better than fine. Just…dandy."

Mrs. Watson let out a sound of pure relief, one hand on her heart, "Well, that's good to hear. You gave me quite a fright! Well, I certainly hope Sherlock can postpone his business and join us! I'm going to go right upstairs and get ready!"

Mrs. Watson left and it wasn't until she was gone that John became aware of the fact that his father had appeared. He was eyeing John and stirring his tea. He took Mrs. Watson's now vacant seat and quietly sipped his cup, eyes still on John. John shifted uncomfortably in his own chair. It was almost as if his father was wordlessly cross-examining him.

"So," his father finally said, "I hear you're attending the flower show with us."

"Ah…yes. Yes."

"Hmm." Mr. Watson finished his cup and pushed it to one side, "Mary's going to be there."

"Is she?"

"Yes." He said, then leaned forward in his chair, hands clasped on the table in front of him, "Mary's a nice girl."

John frowned and supplied the word he was sure his father wanted, "But…?"

"But nothing. She's a perfectly nice girl. Smart, too. Not like those dumb girls you dated."

"Okay, who did I date that you thought was so dumb?" John asked with exasperation.

His father ignored the question, "John, have I ever told you why I like chemistry?"

John sighed, "No. No, I don't believe so."

His father hummed under his breath then said, "I like chemistry because it has the potential for so much change. Most people fear change, but I've always been excited by the possibility of it, the…danger of it. Unpredictability, that's the key word. Elements, chemicals - they can evolve and change due to a variety of variables - heat, the introduction of electricity, so on and so forth. But the most interesting thing is how sometimes some of these chemicals can, at one point, complement one another nicely and then, at others, no longer suit. Do you understand what I'm saying, son?"

"I…no?" John hated to sound completely flummoxed but he was. His father, however, did not look put out by this. Instead he merely chuckled and rose to his feet. He walked over and patted John's shoulder, "Well, you'll know soon enough. You're a bright lad…sort of…"

John grimaced at that and as his father left the revolving door of people in the house seemed to continue as Sherlock appeared. He now wore the suit his mother had repaired. All traces of the sleepy man that had been in his bed this morning were gone and for reasons John didn't want to examine he found that disappointing.

Instead he chose to go straight to the heart of the matter, "My mother has invited me to her flower show and I plan to attend."

"Naturally." Sherlock returned.

"Naturally?"

Sherlock nodded, "I will come with you."

John's eyes widened, "What? Why?"

"Why not?"

"Sherlock, you-you can't possibly want to go to a flower show of all things. You'll be bored out of your skull. Frankly, I would be as well if not for, ah…"

Sherlock's face was entirely impassive, "I am a man of my word. Today I will end our fabricated affair but, before I do so, it would be for the best if we kept up appearances. I can also easily distract your mother while you…'address' Mary."

John's eyebrows rose, "You're going to-?"

"Friends are expected to help one another, yes? And you recently did define us as friends."

"Yes. Okay, sure, but…" John eyed him suspiciously, "You must want something."

"Why?"

John slapped one of his hands down on the table with enough force to cause the dishware to clatter about, "Right! There's something…you've been…what exactly are you playing at?"

"John, I have no idea what you are talking about."

"This!" John gestured at Sherlock's entire length, "You! You're…ever since we've gotten here you've been so-so…" his words trailed off as he tried to think of the best way to put it. Finally he settled on, "Look, it's not that I don't appreciate the…sacrifices you've made to appear, um, plebeian but it's…not you."

"You are of course referring to your own definition of me?" Sherlock offered and John remembered his words last night with some chagrin, shaking his head, "No. Not…not exactly."

"You have no reason to apologize, John. Everything you said was completely sound." Sherlock replied smoothly, "And it has been well documented that the more time you spend in my company the easier you can begin to see and catalogue my faults. Your parents have simply not had the proper amount of time but, after today, I assure you they will. You need not worry about the dissolution of our relationship; I have the task well in hand."

John hated the fact that he felt a sudden swell of dissatisfaction at those words. He was being ridiculous. Was it odd that Sherlock was being helpful? Yes, but all things considered, he should be grateful for it. After all, at this point his parents were viewing them as some sort of super couple. And they were not a couple. John did not want them to be a couple. He did not want to be in a relationship - romantically - with Sherlock Holmes. The very idea of it was…it was…

John didn't know why his imagination started working so feverishly over it, but it did; conjuring up images of their normal, day to day lives, but now intermingled with the simple additions of them sitting closer on the sofa, holding hands, and kissing, kissing, kissing like last night and then those kisses growing deeper, hotter, hungrier…wet tongues meeting, hands roaming, shedding off clothing to reveal pale white skin, skin washed over soft pink with exertion and deep throated groans and pressing Sherlock down onto their shared mattress and-

"John?"

John resolutely refused to believe that he let out something akin to a squeak when he heard his mother, her voice cutting through his meandering mind like a bucket of ice water. Both she and his father had entered the room and now stood before him, each looking at him with bemusement. He hadn't even seen or heard them enter.

He swallowed and shifted in his seat, noting with some dismay the heavy pang of arousal working its way throughout his body as he cleared his throat, "Ah - yes?"

Mrs. Watson frowned, "My, but you were distracted! Said your name about five times, didn't I, Arthur?" Mr. Watson nodded as she continued, "Anyway, best you get changed and ready to go. I told Mary I'd be there in about an hour."

Mary. John blinked and scowled. Mary! Why couldn't it have been Mary that he'd been fantasize about? That would have been better. Much better. So much better. He set about drumming up images of her in his mind to think about, to dream about, as he set about getting himself ready to attend the show.

Chapter Text

Mrs. Watson had been over the moon when Sherlock informed her he would be attending the show as well. So much so that John felt second best in comparison. Mrs. Watson clung to Sherlock's arm and steered him about the show, chattering incessantly about every little detail. The show was taking place on a tiny, closed off side street in the heart of the town's little shopping district. The florist shop that John's mother worked at was on this road, as was a collection of other, more eclectic stores. Each of them had their doors propped wide open, booths out front proudly displaying their wares. There was a makeshift stage set to one end and now and again the sound of instruments being tuned could be heard as the musicians prepared to play live music.

The air was scented with fresh cut flowers, rain, and something warm and sweet that John was positive was wafting from the local bakery. The sky was relatively clear save for one or two dark, indigo clouds and the sun was doing its best to be present, shining down with an almost outlandish kind of beauty.

In short, everything was so horrendously picturesque that John could hardly believe it was real.

John's father had disappeared (most likely into the nearby Pub) which left John as something of a third wheel as he followed behind his mother and Sherlock. Mrs. Watson spotted a group of her friends and quickly ushered Sherlock towards them, "…and here are the girls. Girls! Girls - this is," she turned her head and forked a thumb over her shoulder, "my son, John, behind me here and this, this," she pushed Sherlock forward, "This is Sherlock. Sherlock, this is Olivia, Abigail, Mildred and Margaret."

The four women greeted them warmly and John did his best to return handshakes and pleasantries while Sherlock eyed each of them in turn and then, without any preamble, spoke smartly, "Olivia works with you, Mrs. Watson, but I would advise that from now on you do not let her handle the till, as she has a nasty habit of taking from it. Abigail, you are still struggling to lose the weight you gained from your pregnancy two years ago but you should be able to find advice from Mildred, seeing as she recently discovered herself pregnant but not from her current husband. No, in fact Mildred, you plan on divorcing him and you, Margaret…you are currently engaged in a heated affair with your local greengrocer."

Everyone went extremely stiff.

John waited for it. Waited for the screaming, the accusations, the anger…

Instead Mrs. Watson started excitedly bouncing up and down on her toes, "Oh! Oh! He's doing it again! He's doing it again! You're doing it again, aren't you? Oh, it's so brilliant! You got it all right, didn't you? Didn't he? Especially the bit about you, Margaret, you old tart!"

All the women started talking at once but, much to John's amazement, anger was not the primary emotion. Abigail seemed more embarrassed than anything, as did Olivia, who began profusely apologizing to his mother, swearing that she was going to pay back every cent. Mildred was muttering something about how the pregnancy and divorce were 'supposed to be a secret' but it was said in such a way that suggested that she was more relieved tan anything and Margaret looked extremely pleased as she boasted, "I may be a tart, but Henry's got amazingly strong hands."

Then the women turned to Sherlock with a surge of eager questions, wanting to know how he knew their secrets and when John's mother hurriedly explained his profession and how skilled he was at observation they became enamored with him, asking if there was anything else he could pick out about them based on sight alone.

And John, for his part, couldn't help but smirk because Sherlock - Sherlock who was normally so cool and collected and certainly never surprised - actually looked a little overwhelmed. John was just starting to think of the best way to swoop in and save him when his mother beat him to it, "Now, now - what he does isn't a trick, dears! It's a gift and we shouldn't have him trivialize it!"

John couldn't help but snort at that. His father would have loved to hear that. Mrs. Watson started patting at Sherlock's arm as she pointed out a woman who was approaching, "Look there! That's Victoria Klein! I can't believe she's here…she's unbearably posh. She and her husband have a small fortune - we rarely see her and when we do, ohhh…the things she says…" she shook her head and completely contradicted herself as she said, "You should really break her down, Sherlock. Pull skeletons out of her closet. It'd be nice to have some leverage over her, considering she's a complete bitc- Victoria!"

Mrs. Watson said the woman's name in an overly bright tone, recognizing that she had almost been caught disparaging her. Victoria, for her part, seemed none the wiser but did look down her nose at the group as she spoke, "Emma. My, but aren't we looking…spry today."

"Spry, Victoria?"

Victoria patted at her vibrant red hair self-consciously as she shifted her weight about on her overpriced six inch heels, "Hmm, yes, I was just remarking to my valet how dreadful putting all this together must have been for you, darling. After all, a woman of your years and…capabilities shouldn't have to push herself so hard."

"My-my capabilities…"

"No, no, don't get me wrong, Emma, sweetheart, you did the best you could with what was available to you. Now, mind you, had I been in charge of this fête I would have, perhaps, approached it in a wholly different manner but what you have managed is…quite quaint." Victoria licked her lips and adjusted her expensive looking suit jacket before seeing Sherlock and John, "And who do we have here?"

"Ah, this is my son, John and this is Sherlock."

"Sherlock," she purred, zeroing in on him, completely ignoring John's outstretched hand, "What a glorious name. It's such a pleasure to see a fresh face. My husband adores living here in the country but I long for the sophistication of the city. Everyone here is much of the same stock and while it has its…charms, it is refreshing to meet someone who is closer to my own ilk."

John lowered his hand and glowered at her while Sherlock replied evenly, "Mrs. Klein, you are vastly mistaken. You and I are nothing alike."

"Au contraire, Mr. Holmes. Everything about you - coloring, stance, dress - suggests that you are nothing like these simple, yet pleasant, country folk."

"True, but you are still laboring under the delusion that you and I share a connection, which we do not. In fact, you have far more in common with these 'country folk' than you would care to acknowledge as you grew up in this region and have spent an overly large portion of your adult life trying to deny this. You also would not have even been able to begin to approach this 'fête' as you put it as you've been spending the last few weeks dedicated to the vast variety of treatments you use to sustain your 'youthful' appearance - Botox injections, minor cosmetic surgeries - and you are a natural brunette or you were, seeing as your hair has started graying prematurely."

Victoria had been gasping with outrage fairly early on and looked close to livid as Sherlock edged closer to her, voice dangerously low, "In conclusion, you and I are not at all of the same 'ilk' and it would be wise of you to devoted yourself to approach Mrs. Watson and her friends with far more respect and sincerity in the future as I have not even begun to cover your dalliances with your notably underaged valet but, should you push the issue further…"

Victoria turned on her heels and stalked off. Sherlock turned back to the astonished group and blinked, "Not good?"

Mrs. Watson leapt forward, hugging him tightly. Sherlock's arms remained stiff at his sides but that didn't matter as she swung him back and forth, "You're such a good lad!"

"Good lad?" Amelia crowed, "He's incredible! He took the oh-so-pretentious Victoria Klein down a peg! She dyes her hair? She grew up near here? Priceless! He could fuel our gossip mill for years!"

All the women agreed on this and John merely shook his head, slightly dumbfounded. It occurred to him that if the people around here were this appreciative of Sherlock that perhaps he should consider retiring to the country someday. It would certainly be a good end. And John had always imagined himself returning to the area when he got too old to…

John froze as he realized that not only had his mind started impulsively planning his retirement but Sherlock's as well and it had been planning it as if they were together, as if they would be…

"What about the gossip mill, then?" A voice asked and John turned to see a young boy walk over. Mrs. Watson released Sherlock and turned to the boy, "Ah, Harold! Nothing, nothing - just a spot of bother with Victoria but Sherlock here took care of it."

"Sherlock?"

"Yes, dear, this is Sherlock. He's with my son, John. John, this is Harold, he helps about the shop now and again."

Harold looked John up and down then Sherlock and huffed a laugh, "First your daughter and now your son? That's something for the gossip mill, a'right! But then I could tell he was a poofter just by-"

Harold didn't get a chance to say another word before Mrs. Watson moved, fast as lightning, to grab a handful of his hair and when she spoke her voice was completely different from its usually warm tone, snapping sharply, "Harold Peter Bennett, I will rip out every strand of hair on your body from top to bottom right before I scratch your eyes out if you say so much as one more disparaging word about my children, is that understood?"

"Y-yes."

"Yes, what?"

"Yes, ma'am!"

"Now apologize."

"I-I'm sorry!"

She shook him roughly, "Sorry?"

"Sorry, John, Sherlock, ma'am!" he cried out and she released him, voice once more cheerful, "Good! Now run along!"

Harold bolted.

Mrs. Watson licked her lips and turned to the others, "Harold can be a handful at times. It's hard when you're that age, not even an adolescent…it's important to receive the proper guidance, hmm? Ah, but he'll learn. Oh! Look! Here comes, Mary! Mary! Mary!"

Mrs. Watson waved over Mary, who was just as gorgeous in person as she had been in the photograph. So much so that John felt his throat seize up. Tagging along beside her was a tall, handsome young man with blue eyes and tousled brown hair carrying a notepad and John eyed him worriedly, wondering if there was the possibility of some competition.

Mary hugged Mrs. Watson and grinned, "Hello! Can you believe how well the show is shaping up? Loads of people, fantastic displays! I've already had one massive donation! It's going swimmingly so far, wouldn't you agree?"

"Yes, yes, Mary - so far nothing short of a success and it's only bound to get better as the day marches on! And Mr. Hoyt! What a pleasure to see you again!" Mrs. Watson shook the hand of the man with Mary and he chuckled, "Well, the paper had me cover the preliminaries of the event, so why not the event itself, eh? Though on a day like today, there is no place I would rather be. You ladies have done a marvelous job!"

"Thank you, Mr. Hoyt!"

"Edward, please."

Mrs. Watson gave him a nod then took hold of John's arm and drew him forward, pushing him towards Mary, "Mary, you might not recognize him now, grown up and all, but this is my son, John."

"Ah, yes, John Jelly Babies." Mary giggled and John scratched at the back of his head, blushing lightly, "Oh. Yes, right, forgot. Had my own moniker in primary, didn't I?"

"Only because you ate those sweets every day. Surprised you have any teeth left!"

"Better than eating mud." John retorted then winced and started sputtering an apology but Mary waved him off, "Well, considering you ate everything else, what choice did I have, hmm? Besides, everyone's done something in their childhood to be ashamed of. Mine was eating mud, yours was not only eating those candies but occasionally shoving them up your-"

"You have a good memory!" John interrupted with desperation and she giggled again, swatting at his arm, "It's good to see you, John."

"You too." He answered truthfully and he found he enjoyed the sound of her laughter. He was close to feeling properly moonstruck when his mother said, "And this, Mary, is Sherlock. He's John's-"

"Flatmate!" John tossed out quickly, "Yes, yes. My-ah-flatmate, Sherlock. Sherlock, Mary. Mary, Sherlock. Introductions done, yeah?"

Sherlock inclined his head towards Mary in acknowledgement and she gave him a sunny grin and at first John couldn't believe how smoothly everything was progressing until Edward spoke, "Sherlock? As in…not the Sherlock Holmes?"

Sherlock regarded Edward warily as he continued, "'The Science of Deduction'? That's…are you that Sherlock Holmes? Is that your website?"

"Yes."

"Wow! Oh, wow this is-I love your site!" Edward enthused, "Everything there, everything you write is," he shook his head, his voice close to breathless now, "You're…flawless."

Sherlock's voice held an unprecedented note of approval, "Thank you. Mr. Hoyt, was it?"

"Oh, no! Please, please call me Edward." The reporter edged closer to him, "Your observational skills are unprecedented! That case with the ladder and…you're a genius! Your insight and level of intelligence is staggering! I envy the fellows who get to write about your cases!"

"One of those fellows is present. John is my blogger." Sherlock said and Edward gave John a quick once over, offering a blithe 'charmed', before returning his attention back to Sherlock, "You know, If you ever want someone to professionally cover your work I would be more than happy to offer my services. I would consider it an honor."

"Yes, well…"

"Could I possible persuade you to spend some time in my company? It would be a true treat! I have to do a quick pass by Royce Walter's honey stand, but after that…"

"Honey stand?"

"Yes. The man keeps several colonies of bees, you see, and my employer-"

"Bees?" Sherlock asked and his tone held an unmistakable note of interest.

"Yes."

"Lead the way."

"You-you…really? You mean it?"

"Edward." Sherlock gestured with a hand, indicating he should move and Edward, all smiles, started walking off. Sherlock followed after him and John watched them go with a mixture of emotions he refused to recognize.

Edward Hoyt. With his 'charmed' and his snide little comments about someone 'professionally' covering Sherlock's work and sure, he was taller than John and younger and some might consider him more handsome but he wasn't all that spectacular. As a matter of fact as far as John was concerned he was nothing more than a bloody…

"John?"

"Hmm?" John breathed, distracted from his thoughts to see that Mary was talking to him, "Are you alright?"

"Yes. Sorry."

Mary gave him a shy smile, "Seems like everyone's paired off. Your mother is with her friends. Your flatmate with Mr. Hoyt. Perhaps you'd like to spend some time with me? We can reminisce on old times."

"I…yes, yes, that'd be lovely." John said and he wished the words held more feeling. He also wished he'd stop staring off in the direction Sherlock had gone.

Chapter Text

As John sat with Mary at her booth, collecting donations and listening to her talk about herself and her life, he realized one and only one thing.

She was absolutely perfect.

As far as women go, she was probably the most perfect woman he had ever met. She was the very definition of all those words that people used when describing their ideal significant other: down to earth, intelligent, bubbly, good humored, attractive and her laugh! Oh, her laugh was warm and infectious. She was an absolute, utter joy. She was wonderful.

He had no idea how she had not been snatched up and married by now. As far as he could tell there was nothing wrong with her - granted, it took time to discover all the particular eccentricities in a person's character that made them less than impeccable, but as far as he could tell there was nothing, not one single thing, wrong with her.

He could very easily picture himself with her, content with her, happy with her…settled with her. And that was where the sinking feeling came from. That was where the imperfection reared its ugly head. She was a sound, sane choice. Reasonable, simple…safe. Safe and settled. If he pursued this; if he managed to win her over and they dated and things got serious they would be a well-rounded, quiet couple.

And considering how his life was - what with all the running and crime and danger that should have been great. That should have been what he wanted - no, it was what he wanted. Right? An uncomplicated, normal love life, an eye of calm in the center of a storm. Yet for some reason that sinking feeling rested in the center of him, cold and uncomfortable and utterly frustrating. He always thought he had known what he wanted and now that it was here, now that this exemplary woman was right before him, he found it sort of…lackluster.

And worse than that, he was continually distracted as he occasionally overheard snippets from Sherlock and Edward's conversation; the honey stand not but three booths away. It would have been easy to ignore them but Edward was loud. His voice cutting through everything like an overly large, boisterous knife of noise.

Though this was no big surprise - the man obviously took in far more air than was necessary, what with his huge nostrils and all. Oh yes, John had observed that well enough. He had leaned a little way out of his seat at the booth and seen the man standing next to Sherlock (incredibly closer than was necessary) and, at first, he had had to concede that he seemed relatively okay until he had noticed his nose and those enormous nostrils.

And then he offered to get Sherlock coffee and he had no idea how many sugars were needed and he would probably make it wrong anyway and John didn't understand why Sherlock was letting someone so terribly pedestrian follow him about. Sure, the reporter had certainly stroked the consulting detective's ego well enough but by now Sherlock should have torn him to shreds with observations and realized that Edward Hoyt was plain and dull and…

And John should really, really stop thinking this way. Who cared if Sherlock got on well with some other bloke? It would be good for Sherlock to make other friends. Even if those friends were young, stupid tossers with large nostrils.

"John?"

John turned to Mary and she giggled, shaking her head, "You alright?"

"Yes. Of course. Fine. Why do you ask?"

"You seem a little preoccupied with your flatmate."

"What?" John realized suddenly that he'd been leering at Sherlock and Edward for some time now, nearly falling out of his seat as he craned his neck in their direction. He readjusted himself and turned his full attentions back to her, "I, ah, no, no, no. Just…checking in. Sorry, that was rude."

"S' not a problem," she said shaking her head, "Amusing, actually. You two been together long?"

"Over a year now." He answered and she nodded, "That's nice. I was going to ask if there was a Mrs. Watson in your life but now I know better."

John frowned, "What do you mean?"

"Well, it was presumptuous of me," she replied, "I forgot that you…I mean, my friend Shelia told me about you and Frederick seeing one another in secondary, so I should have thought to ask if there was a Mr. Watson."

"Freddie?" John's mind flashed back in time to a gangly boy with a mop of ginger hair and far too many freckles, "No, Freddie and I were just…okay, maybe one time we," he shook his head repeatedly, "Why am I-? What do you mean Mr. Watson?"

"You and Sherlock." She said as if this was obvious, "Don't blame you for the jealousy. Hoyt is laying it on rather thick."

"Sherlock and I? What? No!" John scoffed but Mary cut him off before he could continue, "John, its okay, don't be embarrassed. You two make a very handsome couple."

"Mary…" John tried to think of the best way to tell her she was crazy. To tell her that what she was thinking was wrong. It should have been easy enough to correct. But the words wouldn't come. They sat, lodged in his mouth, making his tongue thick and she shook her head at him, patting his arm, "Ah, John Jelly Babies…you are too sweet."

John sighed, "No, Mary…you're sweet. Really, really sweet. I wish I had been lucky enough to…"

He ruefully trailed off as realization flooded him, "Old bastard…now I know what he was talking about."

"Who?"

John huffed a laugh, "My Dad. He told me this thing about…" John licked his lips and got to his feet, "Ah, it…doesn't matter. 'S nothing, really. Nothing important. Just…I want you to know that," he shrugged, "If things were…different, if I was different, if we'd met at another time…I think you and I could have really been something."

Mary chuckled, "Oh John, don't be silly! We already are something."

"Oh?"

She took his hand and squeezed it, "Yeah. Good friends."

He squeezed her hand back and then released it, letting out another breath, "Mary, you are a fantastic."

"Mmm, I believe it was the mud." She laughed and patted his arm again, "Now go on…best go find your man before our dear Mr. Hoyt tries anything funny."

John walked away from Mary, sincerely wondering what on earth he thought he was doing.

Or worse, he knew exactly what he was doing.

John searched for Sherlock and found that he was no longer in the company of Edward Hoyt but instead was standing next to his mother at her booth. She was showing him a small white plant and as John drew closer he could hear her more clearly," …they also call it Queen Anne's lace and it resembles hemlock, which I thought you in particular might like, seeing as you're a detective and detectives have to deal with poison or at least I imagine they would as poison is just one in a million ways to murder someone and I know detective have to deal with murders, so-"

"Hey, Mum."

"There you are! Sherlock's been so kind to sit here and talk to me and I was hoping to get a chance to see you two together again! It warms my heart, you know, seeing you two together and happy."

John scratched at the back of his neck and avoided Sherlock's eyes as he cleared his throat, "Yes, um, well, 'bout that…Sherlock, was wondering if I could have a word?"

Sherlock opened his mouth to answer when suddenly a wave of music swelled as the band at the far end of the street on stage finally started playing. Mrs. Watson clapped excitedly, "Oh! Oh! The music's started at last! John, you should go out there and dance with Sherlock!"

John blushed, "Mum, I-I don't think…he doesn't…we shouldn't…"

"Now, see, John! There, right there, that's your problem! You do think and you think too much; now get out there and make some memories!"

"Mum, we can't dance together! It wouldn't work. How would it work? Who would lead and…" John's words ended abruptly as Sherlock took one of his hands and, without any discernable effort, managed to draw him out into the first open available space near the stage so that they could begin dancing together.

The music was soft, perfect for leisurely movements and as Sherlock drew him close, John felt the next words leave him in a bewildered rush, "Oh my god, you're leading."

Sherlock's head titled to one side, "Would you like to lead?"

John shook his head, "No, this is…fine. All fine. It's just…we must look pretty silly."

"You care a lot about how things look, don't you?"

"No," John snapped waspishly, "If I did, I would stop, wouldn't I?"

Still, John felt as if his face was glowing bright red and he had yet to meet Sherlock's eyes when Sherlock spoke, "How did you fare with Miss Morstan?"

"Um…good, good. She was…good."

"Shall I release you then? She has not seen us yet and if you wish to dance with her-"

"No." John interjected quickly, "She…ah, it…we're not…'s not going to work out."

"Oh?"

John sighed, "She's a lovely girl. Think we could be great friends but we're just…we don't…complement one another. Least, not now…might've at one point, but now…"

Sherlock made a sound of assent then asked, "So it would be best if we continued with our charade, then?"

"Our…?"

"Do you still wish for me to break up with you?"

John's throat seemed dry as he breathed, "No."

John suddenly felt as if the space between him and Sherlock was growing smaller and it took him a few moments to realize it was because the other man had drawn him imperceptibly closer, so close that John could rest his face against Sherlock's shoulder…not that he would do that…not that he wanted to do that…

John tried to focus on drawing air in and out of his lungs, "What happened to Hoyt?"

"Edward."

"Whatever."

"He was less than pleased when I turned by observational skills on his person."

"Really? That's terrible." John failed at keeping a tremendously pleased smirk off his face.

"He also informed me that he found it disturbing that you kept leering at him and his nose."

"Not his nose. His nostrils."

Sherlock nodded, "Indeed. They were rather distracting. Like two black holes."

A surprised laugh escaped John, "That's not nice."

"I thought you would appreciate the astronomical reference."

"It's an inaccurate reference." John said, then unable to help himself, "They were more like pits on his face. Big, long black pits, sucking up all the oxygen…"

"The air did seem a bit thinner in his presence." Sherlock offered and John couldn't help chuckling as they continued to dance slowly and it occurred to John that they were actually moving rather well together, their dancing well paced, measured, effortless…

"You wanted a word."

"Hmm?" John blinked, taken out of his thoughts.

"You said-"

"Oh," John swallowed and finally risked looking at Sherlock only to see intent blue eyes that made him look away again, "Yes. Um. Well, see…the-the thing is…"

"You're nervous."

"No." Followed by, "Okay, yes, okay, I'm…I'm nervous. Listen, Sherlock, I've been…you've been…the dinner with my parents and this today, it's all been…unexpectedly nice. And, I've been meaning to ask you, that is, I think maybe-"

John's words cut off sharply as did the music as the heavens opened up, fat raindrops suddenly splattering down. The predicted scattered showers suddenly letting loose, pelting the unsuspecting people below, some of who cried out as they scattered, trying to escape the rainfall.

"Come on." Sherlock said, taking one of John's hands and the duo did their best to dash out of the torrential downpour, failing for the most part as they both got liberally soaked before finally managing to duck down a small alley between two buildings that provided some cover.

John wiped water out of his eyes, "Lord, I'm drenched. You?"

Sherlock didn't answer, instead brushing wet curls from his forehead when suddenly he looked past John, "Your mother."

"What?" The question has barely left him before Sherlock's mouth covered his own.

This kiss was a complete opposite of the last.

That kiss had been soft, gentle, sweet - this kiss was rough, devouring, feverish. Sherlock's tongue parting his lips to delve deep inside, tasting him, exploring him, tracing his teeth, running along the roof of his mouth before lighting over his own tongue which lay motionless until something in John's mind snapped or clicked or did whatever minds did when they finally, finally caught up with what was happening.

John's hands carded through Sherlock's damp, dark curls, drawing him closer, bodies locking together as he angled his head and kissed him back, just as hungry, just as eager. Sherlock let out a deep, rumbling groan, a sound that bordered on triumphant as he forcibly pushed John back against one of the buildings, his own hands clutching first at his sides, then his arms before swooping up to the back of his neck.

One kiss melted into another and another and John dimly became aware of the fact that the exchange was slowly starting to spiral out of control. They were in public, for god's sake! And Sherlock said he had seen John's mother and here they were, kissing one another senseless. Yet he didn't want to stop. John had to force himself to open his eyes, had to force himself to try to draw away, recognizing now that he was breathless, panting, and ridiculously dizzy. Dizzy. Christ, of all things…

John felt laughter, giddy and stupid, building up inside him and he started to question his sanity as he extricated himself from Sherlock and looked around for his mother. He saw no one. Frowning, he continued his search only to see that the woman who must have passed them looked absolutely nothing like his mother. For one thing, she was several pounds lighter. For another, she was an entirely different ethnicity.

He looked at Sherlock to see that he was watching him intently. John licked his lips, swallowed, "That's not my mother."

Sherlock let out a huff of breath, "I must have been mistaken."

With that he turned, as if prepared to walk off but John stopped him, caught him by the elbow and tugged, lightly, but enough to get across the message that he should turn and face him. Sherlock followed the nonverbal cue and John shook his head, "No, no…you're not…you don't make mistakes. Not like that."

Sherlock merely blinked at him, hands going into his pockets, saying nothing.

John's head cocked to one side thoughtfully, "You know, this whole time I thought I was going mad. Honest. I thought I was a complete nutter. The way you were acting and all, I thought we had switched roles somehow or you had chosen to play a part or there was some deep, complex reason behind everything but now…now I know better. Now I know everything and it's so simple, so uncomplicated that it's really quite sad I didn't piece it all together sooner."

Sherlock didn't respond, still looking at him, waiting and John smiled sheepishly, "You…everything you said to my parents…about when you started having feelings for me, that-that was…true. All of it. It was the truth. And when I asked you to-to pose as my-my boyfriend or partner or…whatever, I thought, at the time I thought, momentarily, that it was almost too easy. That you cooperated without much force, that I didn't have to bully you much. Mean, I did have to agree to give you free reign of my laptop and agree to the experiment and the favor but that's…for you, that's…pretty mild compensation."

Sherlock looked away, for the first time not meeting John's eyes and John felt a sense of accomplishment at the action, "And when we had dinner, that wine you brought that was…nice. Far too nice a bottle to have come from Tesco's. We went there as a blind, you wanted to throw me off. You bought that wine ahead of time and the way you acted, joking around with my dad and humoring my mother…you did that, all of that, because you wanted them to like you, to-to approve of you. You wanted to ingratiate yourself to them because, because you…you…"

Sherlock finally looked back at him and then, without a word, he drew his hands out of his pockets. His right hand reached out and took hold of one of John's wrists. He turned it gently, moving John's hand until his palm faced upward and then, with his left hand, Sherlock placed something there before drawing away again.

John looked down into the palm of his hand to see a button rested there. He looked up at Sherlock and noticed that the button was an exact match for the ones on his coat. Sherlock gave him a tiny smile, "For your collection."

John looked at the button, then back at Sherlock, then at the button again. He shook his head, pocketing the button before asking, "So, I was right then? No pretending? You…want to be my, um…you and I…we are…"

"If you would like to be."

John felt dizzy again. He kissed Sherlock quickly and then took his hand, "Um, yes. Actually. I would very much like to be…what my parents already think we are."

"Just your parents?"

"Yeah. Right. Don't gloat." John mumbled and Sherlock's tiny smile from earlier returned, growing bigger, "Your father assured me you would catch up eventually."

"Okay, yes, that reminds me. What did you two talk about?"

"That's between your father and I."

"Sherlock…"

Sherlock conceded a little, "He told me I had chosen an interesting venue for our first date. I will also say his matchmaking skills far outweigh your mother's."

John blinked rapidly, licked his lips, and decided he actually didn't want to know what his father and Sherlock had talked about. As they started walking, Sherlock cleared his throat, "Now that we've settled our affairs, I think it would be best to let you know that I plan on requesting my one additional favor from you this following Saturday."

"Oh?"

"Yes. And, as you recall, it must be fulfilled no matter what the perceived cost."

"Yes, yes. I remember." John winced, "So…how bad is it?"

"Not bad at all considering, as I've said, we've settled our affairs."

"Okay. Right, well then…what is it?"

"We must go and visit my mother." Sherlock returned easily, "You see, she believes we have been engaged for several months now."

John stopped walking and turned to Sherlock. Stunned. Sherlock merely grinned and kissed him again.