Twenty-eight days. That’s how long it had been since the doctor had been clean shaven. Twenty –eight long, breathless, mouth-drying days of John Hamish Watson strutting around 221 B Baker Street like the proud bantam rooster that he was, sporting his evermore luxuriant beard. Sherlock was in a tizzy. He had no idea that such a mundane thing could have such an effect on him. Each day that had passed had made the detective increasingly aware of just how manly and desirable John Watson was.
It had to stop.
Sherlock couldn’t think when John was around. It was beyond ridiculous. What could untended facial hair possibly do for someone, it was so primitive! Why in the world had John agreed to do this no-shave challenge anyway? “Explain to me again why you look like a caveman instead of an erudite man of words?” he asked, keeping his voice as cold and displeased as possible.
John was unfazed, “It’s no-shave November Sherlock. Surely you must have noticed how many gents have stopped shaving? It’s for charity.”
“Looking ridiculous for weeks is for charity? Pray explain John, in what way does that foolish looking thing provide assistance to charities?” Once again Sherlock’s obvious displeasure simply rolled off of John and puddled on the floor, completely disregarded.
“I can’t believe I have to explain how this works to you. People sponsor me to not shave. If I make it to Shave Day with a full beard my sponsors donate money to the cause of my choice, I’ve told you this a hundred times already.” Sherlock was already deleting the information. Again. It was completely puerile and irrelevant to everything important, namely the Work.
Sherlock stomped away in a huff. He was irritated, his nerves snapping and frayed. Why didn’t John just shave it off already? It was distracting, “How much have you been sponsored for? I am willing to pay you a matching amount to shave that…thing….off. Today. I will go to the banks right now if you agree.” Sherlock was so serious. John absolutely had to get rid of that beard.
“The point is to wait the whole month Sherlock! I’m not the only one doing it. It’s like a team effort except the team is huge and is filled with people who are doing it for more than the money!” Sherlock was ignoring John already. He hadn’t agreed therefore anything else he said wasn’t worth paying attention to.
Sherlock snatched up his violin, scratching out the notes desperately, clutching at the ephemeral music in an attempt to purge himself of the undeniable urge to just rub himself all over John so he could feel the scratch and brush of every last strand of that despicable mop of hair on every square inch of his sensitive skin.
It was intolerable. How dare his transport betray him like this? Had he not disciplined it for years to resist temptation? Had he not carefully trained it to go without such unnecessary biological interactions, to not require the hot, sweaty, smelly, sticky, frankly grotesque sex rituals necessary to produce what amounted to less than a minute’s worth of pleasure? How in the world could all the fuss be worth it if the payoff was so minimal? Sherlock growled even as he sawed on the strings, the notes not coming to him the way they should. This was John’s fault.
John was making it worse. He’d brought his tea with him and ensconced himself on his favorite chair, the paper in hand, clearly settling in to read and relax. It was Sunday so John hadn’t bothered dressing. He was still in his pajamas and robe, and the robe wasn’t even tied shut! It was obscene! John’s sweet soft tum was right there, laid out in the open, forcing Sherlock’s eyes to return again and again. John’s face was hidden as he read but Sherlock knew what he would look like as he took in every single word, even going over the advertisements and side articles with care. How did he do it? How did John just sit and breathe and be comfortable in the world?
Sherlock found himself relaxing slowly as he looked at John. He couldn’t see the dreadful beard and somehow that made everything better. His violin began to sing once again, the music soft and sweet, funneling all of Sherlock’s feeling away, clearing his head and calming him once again. John hummed appreciatively behind the paper and Sherlock’s songs grew sweeter still. John was a bastion of serenity. Sherlock was soothed by how easily the man sat, how unaffected he was by the maelstrom in front of him, how John of all the people Sherlock had met in the world was the one person for whom Sherlock’s overwhelming personality was never too much. By the time John finished his tea and put his paper down Sherlock was tranquil again, “Better?” asked the doctor with a soft smile.
“Yes.” Once again Sherlock was amazed at how John just understood him. John almost never took offense at the dramatic things Sherlock said when he was in a strop, not that he let Sherlock get away with being rude to him on purpose though. More than once it had come near to blows between them when Sherlock managed to uncork John’s well-bottled temper. Sherlock was a skilled fighter out of necessity but John had trained to kill people and when he was mad there was no stopping the tiny jumper-wearing juggernaut of rage. Mrs. Hudson had split the repair bill between them the one and only time Sherlock ever made John lose his temper entirely and Sherlock had learned not to push John too far ever again.
“No you’re not.” John didn’t seem put out.
“No I’m not.” John smiled a bit when Sherlock instantly confessed and for some reason that made Sherlock angry and happy at the same time.
“Thanks for trying though Sherlock, come on, you need food.” Just like that the latest storm was over and John simply soldiered on. Sherlock followed him to the kitchen as if tied to a string and sat quietly at the kitchen table while John put together a generous meal for both of them, “You haven’t eaten in two days, that’s not good for you.” Sherlock had drunk at least ten cups of tea with milk and sugar in them over the course of that time. Surely there was enough sustenance in that to… “Milky tea doesn’t count.” said John with barely a glance to Sherlock’s face.
Sherlock’s eyes latched onto John’s beard and he felt the flutter of discontent rise again. “I wasn’t hungry.”
“Liar. Mrs. Hudson came up to ask if we had some kind of machine up here, she could hear your belly rumbling downstairs.” Sherlock flushed. His transport had certainly made no such noise! His cheeks heated when a loud grumble occurred when John began to fry all the breakfast ingredients together in a hot buttery pan. Suddenly Sherlock was ravenous. John laughed, surprising Sherlock when he turned around and playfully poked his finger into Sherlock’s flat stomach, “See? Your transport is trying to tell you something.”
The little spot John had touched almost burned now. What was going on? Sherlock had a stern talk with his transport. Food was necessary, his transport was a living machine and needed fuel, but it did not need to shag John Watson on the kitchen table! There was no biological imperative that made that act necessary! None!
Sherlock glared down at his treacherous body. There was hunger, certainly, but not just from his stomach. He could feel the now familiar curl of heat begin to warm deeper inside, one that grew hotter when he took in the ever-at-ease form of John as he whisked together eggs for a quick omelette, his delightful behind shaking just a bit as his arm moved briskly. Oh dear lord, this was so unfair! How dare John flaunt his taut posterior and that ridiculous beard? It was so very completely unfairly fair that Sherlock raged once again at the unfairness of it all. No matter how he looked at John there was something distracting about him.
Lestrade texted him right after breakfast. It was a mercy. Watching John eat was pure torture. His beard moved, all the little hairs shifting against his skin. John was neat as well, he rarely got crumbs in and when he did he cleaned right up. Sherlock wondered what it would feel like to brush his lips over those soft hairs, to taste John’s mouth surrounded by the gentle prickling rasp of…
Sherlock nearly hissed in frustration at his transport! It clearly lacked exercise and stimulation of a not-beard related source! “Case John.” he snapped, pushing away from the table. He stormed off to his room to re-dress. It was chilly outside so with reluctance Sherlock stuffed a hat and knitted mittens into his coat pockets. John had given them to him so Sherlock had no excuse to forget them.
John was unfairly adorable in his little hat and scarf. It was brisk outside and his cheeks became ruddy quickly. Sherlock knew his face would be paler than ever except for two bright apples of red that would highlight his cheekbones so he looked like an over-grown child. Many times Sherlock had contemplated cosmetics to try and add some soberness to his appearance. It was aggravating, at least John had a decent amount of silver in his hair and gorgeous lines on his face that made all his expressions so….well….expressive. Sherlock’s face had wrinkles too but he felt they made him look more like a Chinese Shar Pei than a respectable and noteworthy figure of mental authority!
The case was at least diverting and it ate up the end of the month as Sherlock and John ran this way and that chasing after leads, finding more clues, searching, always searching until finally on November 30th they were done. John made them hurry back to 221 B where he hastily showered, wolfed down some toast to go with his tea and made to leave the flat, “Where are you going?”
“It’s shave day Sherlock. I’m meeting up with everyone in our group today. It’s over this afternoon.” Sherlock got right up and pulled on his coat. John looked surprised, “Sherlock, this isn’t for a case. There will be people there. They’ll want to talk to you.”
“Why?” Sherlock tied on his scarf.
“Well, because they’ll think you’re there as part of the overall event, so, they’ll try to socialize with you, it’s called being friendly.” A few well-placed glares would take care of that, Sherlock was positive.
“I don’t need to be friendly. I have a friend and I don’t need more. Come along John, the sooner we rid the universe of that atrocity the better.” it had to go. Even now Sherlock’s fingers were twitching to touch it, to run his fingers through it, to allow it to caress his lips. It had to go.
John had a small smile on his face when they got into the taxi and it stayed on his face the entire trip though he said not a word. They arrived at the VA, “Here?”
“Yes here. Why, where did you think we were going?”
“I don’t know, I supposed St. Bart’s with the rest of the doctors. I was going to go down to the morgue until you were decent again.”
John just laughed and pushed Sherlock out of the taxi as soon as they were parked, “No, it’s here. Stick close, it’s going to be crowded.”
It was. It seemed like hundreds of people had packed themselves into the large activity room where rows of chairs had been set up in front of bowls of steaming water, straight-razors, and shaving soap, “Manually John? You’re allowing some stranger near your throat with a razor?” Sherlock was horrified.
“Well the whiskers aren’t going to fall off by themselves with wishing Sherlock. They’ll need shaving and it’s easier if someone else does it. It’s all volunteer.” Sherlock looked everywhere. He didn’t see a steady hand on a single person yet they expected him to watch one of these trembling and ham-fisted incompetents peel the face off John Watson? Never!
“I will shave you John. I am very adept.” he was. Very often Sherlock had to shave corpses in order to reveal the secrets hidden on their skin and he was so deft at it that he could depilate a body entirely without damaging the epidermis at all. John didn’t need to know that though, it wasn’t likely to promote a sense of acceptance in the man.
“Seriously Sherlock? You want to help?”
“Not really John, I just want to ensure that you are recognizable at the end of the day and not minus a nose or part of your lips!” Sherlock was entirely irritated now. Everyone was smiling and being happy, it was nauseating! It took forever for everyone to get sorted too so it was well past their targeted start time before Sherlock was standing behind John, ready and waiting with everyone else to begin shaving.
Some men had long thick beards, others managed only their mustaches and some side-burns, a few men had barely anything at all but gamely sat in anyway. John’s beard was superior to any of the others. Sherlock examined all of them quickly. None of the others had the same sheen, nor were they wonderfully wavy yet not messy looking. Even John’s mustache was neat and accented his face pleasingly; all the edges even and not ragged looking. Everyone else looked ridiculous, like they had the sad remains of a woodland creature attached to their chins. Sherlock nearly snorted with contempt. John’s hand came up; reaching behind him and Sherlock grasped it, “Ready Holmes?”
“Ready Watson.” said Sherlock with determination. It began. Sherlock took the hot towels that were distributed and carefully wrapped John’s face. When enough time elapsed Sherlock removed the towel and brushed on the soap he had foamed up expertly. All around him were the sounds of people laughing and giggling but John just sat in front of him, relaxed and steady. He tilted his head whenever Sherlock urged him to until he was ready.
Sherlock lifted the blade and double checked its sharpness though he had whetted it himself. There was a strop available between every two chairs and Sherlock had ensured that his blade had the maximum amount of sharpness. John merely took a deep breath, exhaled and relaxed completely in front of the detective. Sherlock tilted John’s head slightly to the side and began.
It was clear that many of the volunteers had no idea what they were doing as evidenced by the plentiful nicks and cuts that appeared around them. Sherlock’s hand was precise and smooth, his downward sweeps removing one patch of hair after another in small clean sweeps. He cleaned his blade after every pass; touching John gently as he moved the soldier’s head this way and that to reach all the hard to get to places. When John’s beard was finally gone Sherlock wiped his face down, applied a second coat of cream and shaved John again on the cross-grain.
Sherlock found himself grow still and calm as he worked. The sounds and chatter around him faded away and there was only the two of them. John was placid and tranquil, quietly accepting Sherlock ministrations with a steady patience that Sherlock had always found entirely fascinating. John was able to just be quiet, to sit and allow time to pass, it was incredible. Sherlock had never had access to John like this before. He’d never been able to just touch John, to run the pads of his fingers over the curves and lines of John’s face, to watch his eyes close, to see his nostrils flare occasionally as he drew one long breath after another. The doctor’s pulse fluttered beneath Sherlock’s hands as he stroked the blade over John’s jaw and the top of his neck, erasing the beard’s existence down to the very last hair. Carefully Sherlock allowed his fingers to trail everywhere one last time, checking for any possible stubble until he was certain John was completely finished.
The doctor seem to come to life when Sherlock used another hot damp towel to wipe away the last of the shaving cream and any stray loose hairs that he could find, working every newly bared inch of John’s face with delicacy. John’s eyes fluttered shut again when Sherlock stroked the towel over his throat in short efficient moves. Sherlock admired the short thick lashes that now fanned out and was startled when John’s eyes suddenly opened, his pupils blown wide open, the blue of his eyes dark and almost stormy. Sherlock bit his lip and nearly dropped the razor. John blinked and the look vanished, he was just sitting there looking up at Sherlock with a soft smile, “All done?”
“I believe so.” why was his voice raspy and deep? Sherlock cleared his throat, “You finally look decent again.”
“Push off. Don’t be jealous because you can’t grow more than a tuft on your chin. My beard was amazing, admit it.”
“It’s amazing I didn’t tranquilize you and shave it off before this.” snapped Sherlock.
“You would have if you hadn’t promised not to drug me again.” said John calmly and Sherlock was astounded at how John trusted him. No one else would accept Sherlock’s word to not do something but John did. Sherlock suddenly felt humbled because John didn’t trust easily but he’d trusted Sherlock from day one, and apart from a few ill-considered slip-ups Sherlock had done his very best to not abuse that trust. He wasn’t used to being considerate of other people but right from the day they’d met Sherlock had made an effort, for John. John had forgiven Sherlock time and again, explaining his viewpoint until Sherlock understood why whatever he’d done was not good. It was a catch phrase between them, an inside understanding. John coached Sherlock constantly, giving the detective encouraging advice whenever he seemed to stumble, never haranguing Sherlock, simply nudging him gently back onto the right path whenever the detective wandered off of it.
“Count yourself unique John, you are the only person in the world to whom I have made such a promise.” snipped Sherlock. He didn’t know why he felt so ill-tempered now. The beard was gone. He should be happy, shouldn’t he? Instead he felt discontent and somewhat adrift. He didn’t understand it and it was making him increasingly frustrated with every passing second.
“I’m starving, let me take you out to dinner, my treat.” John was standing slowly, reaching above his head to stretch out. He’d been sitting for a while and Sherlock tried not to stare at the enticing curve of John’s back, how his waist narrowed to his perfectly shaped hips and…. “So?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Yes you are and I am too. Let me take you to dinner Sherlock, we’re all done here.” John just walked away and Sherlock found himself going after him, walking swiftly until he was at John’s back and threading their way through the laughing crowds of participants. When they got to the street John just said, “Get a taxi, alright?”
Sherlock’s arm was up and hailing a ride before he had a chance to respond. John just smiled that same small new smile and let Sherlock climb in first. Once they were on their way John made Sherlock pick out a restaurant neither of them had tried before and took him there. It was surprisingly entertaining. Sherlock was so relieved to see John eat without the distracting beard he couldn’t help but stare at the doctor to admire his newly clean-shaven visage. John told little jokes and small stories about his past that made Sherlock chuckle over and over again. The doctor really was a masterful storyteller and his self-deprecating japes were amusing. Their eyes met several times and often John wore that same small smile. Sherlock liked it, and began to respond to John’s anecdotes so he could see it again. When the meal was concluded John paid, and ushered Sherlock out to the street again where they strolled for a few blocks, “Let’s go out for drinks.” offered the detective as they approached a pub that seemed to have a lively crowd inside.
“Alright.” said John and allowed Sherlock to lead him inside. It was dim and crowded, they found themselves at a tiny table, crowded in at all sides by other customers. John’s small size was advantageous as he wove his way back and forth from the bar, setting Sherlock’s drink right in front of him before slipping into his seat, their knees knocking together companionably. It was quiz night so they joined in, John nearly cheering as Sherlock won match after match, John pitching in with sports or popular culture whenever necessary. Sherlock found he was enjoying himself greatly and John took many trips back and forth before they decided they were actually tipsy now. “Time to take you home.” decided the doctor and Sherlock nodded.
“Take me home John.” John gave him that same small smile, his eyes growing a little bit darker. Sherlock found himself smiling back, his eyes locked onto John’s. He felt a strange urge to reach out and take John’s hand.
“Off we go then.” said John lightly and led Sherlock out of the pub and once again back onto the street. Sherlock hailed a taxi and soon they were off back to Baker Street. On the ride there Sherlock finally really began to feel the effects of all the alcohol they’d consumed. He felt even more adrift than before and suddenly it seemed as if there were a great chasm all around him. He closed his eyes to stave off the dizziness and heard John’s concerned voice, “You alright?”
“A bit too much to drink I fear.” said Sherlock. It had to be the alcohol. John reached out and put his hand on Sherlock’s forearm and the world steadied again, “That helps.”
“I thought it might.” said John softly, his fingers flexing slowly, moving just a bit, each tiny stroke settling Sherlock down until he was at long last able to open his eyes. They were nearly home, “Better?”
“Yes John, thank you.” John didn’t remove his hand, even when they arrived in front of their door. For some reason Sherlock waited until John paid the driver before getting out, and waited for John to get out as well before letting them both into their building, and following John up to their flat.
“Tea?” offered the doctor.
“Please." said Sherlock gratefully. John went to the kitchen to make tea and Sherlock lay himself down on the sofa to rest his eyes. John came back a few minutes later and set Sherlock’s tea down on the coffee table. Sherlock smiled his thanks and sat up so John could sit beside him. As they sipped Sherlock’s thoughts wandered over the events of the day. He was still feeling a great deal of relief that the beard was gone that it was almost accidental when his thoughts assembled a curious notion. Tonight had been very like a date.
Sherlock blinked. John had very distinctly asked him out, he didn’t just say “It’s time to eat Sherlock” or simply order take-away which he often did when he decided Sherlock had gone long enough without some real food in him. Sherlock had then unconsciously reciprocated by taking John to the pub, something he never did! John had made no attempt to flirt with the many available women that had been there, though many had smiled flirtatiously his way, John simply didn’t seem to notice, keeping his eyes on Sherlock whenever they weren’t actively engaged in a match. Did Sherlock want to date John? His mind raced as he thought it over.
He and John were highly compatible as evidenced by their years of friendship.
He found John physically appealing and knew for a fact that John found him handsome as well.
John often said he was not gay but Sherlock had noticed he never once said he was straight.
John had in fact not been on a date with anyone for weeks, possibly months.
Dating would probably involve intercourse. Was Sherlock interested in a physical relationship? He was hardly innocent despite Mycroft’s jibes. Sherlock’s curiosity and teenage libido had taken care of his virginity years ago though Sherlock had lost interest in the act well before he even finished Uni. Sherlock never claimed to have a sexual orientation, he’d tried men and women, and found both equally boring so he hadn’t bothered for long. Would it be boring with John? He didn’t think so because Sherlock had romantic feelings for the good doctor.
Realization crashed through him. It hadn’t been the beard that had been troubling him all month, it had been John himself! The beard had only highlighted the thoughts and feelings that had clearly been developing all on their own for some time. Sherlock had feelings, lots of them, all kinds of feelings, and all of them were connected to John Hamish Watson! He blinked again. If this were a date, it must nearly be over. Would John try to kiss him goodnight? Was that why John sat beside him instead of on his chair? He turned a bit and looked at his best friend and flatmate. John had that smile on again, the one that Sherlock had grown so quickly to enjoy and encourage. He needed clarification so with his normal lack of subtlety Sherlock simply asked, “John was this a date?”
John’s smile grew a bit bigger, “What do you think?” he asked, his eyes so warm and bright they nearly twinkled.
Sherlock smiled back, John hadn’t said no, or shown any signs of being offended. “I think it was.”
“Well you’re not often wrong.” said John.
“Am I wrong now?” asked Sherlock, his voice a bit softer as his nerves finally decided to begin clamouring. Had he just asked an entirely embarrassing question? What if this had just been a normal meal out, like the thousand other meals they had previously shared?
John smiled back for a long moment before saying in an equally soft voice, “No.” He leaned in a tiny bit and smiled once again when Sherlock mirrored his action, “No you’re completely correct. This was a date, and I think it went rather well.”
Sherlock blushed. He couldn’t help himself. He’d just been courted and rather divinely. It had been a lovely evening, he had no complaints of any kind. John reached out his hand and helped Sherlock off the sofa. Sherlock’s blush didn’t cool at all as John walked him slowly to his bedroom door. The detective’s heart was thumping in his chest. This was too fast, he needed time to assimilate this momentous change in their lives! John stopped at the entrance and smiled that little smile once more, “I had a wonderful night Sherlock, I hope you’ll let me take you out again.”
Oh. John was such a gentleman! “That would be very agreeable John. Tonight has been … enlightening.” Sherlock’s cheeks heated once more but John just looked charmed and without thinking another thought Sherlock bent his head and pressed his mouth to John’s. The kiss was sweet and lingering but once it ended John stepped back, that same small smile on his face, “Goodnight John.”
“Goodnight Sherlock.” John let Sherlock shut himself away in his room. Leaning up against the door Sherlock struggled to keep his heart from racing so hard, his cheeks hot, and his stomach tense, his chest almost heaving with excitement. This was new and heady, Sherlock was positive this was the merest beginning of something monumental, even epic. He couldn’t wait for the next date, and the next, and all the other dates he planned to have with John. The future seemed bright, so with a smile Sherlock got ready for bed and spent the night dreaming about the feel of John’s character-filled face beneath his fingertips.