Sherlock’s wings are grey. This is a matter of fact as much as that there are one hundred and seventeen elements on the periodic table, that there are seven colours in the rainbow, that there are sixty seconds in a minute. They are grey and he has had them since he was three years old, or at least, that’s the first time he can remember being conscious of them.
He couldn’t say for certain that he knows what love is.
His best guess: Dopamine: addiction, endorphins, euphoria. Phenylethylamine: mood, attachment. Oxytocin: touch, sensitivity.
What he knows is this:
John smiles and really looks at him one morning over tea and toast and the newspapers and Sherlock feels a great rush of something in his chest, his heart races, his hands clam up, and he feels his back stretch.
He doesn’t know.
He doesn’t want to speculate.
But this might be what love is.
The great rush of something grows into a dull ache that sits inside his ribcage. It is always there, there because he knows he wants something he can never, ever have. Something that is far too good for him.
His wings still grow. Inch by inch by inch, his wings still grow.
Sherlock is unsure whether he can fly.
Sherlock’s wings are grey. They are grey, and big, now, but they are thin, and they fold into the contours of his body and pass unnoticed. They are more like the wings of a butterfly than of a bird, but not particularly like either of these things. If Sherlock looks closely enough, neck twisted to look over his shoulder, his back almost pressing against the cool glass of his mirror, he is able to see where his veins run underneath the thin layer of skin.
He fancies if he listens hard enough, he is able to hear his blood pulsing through his wings, able to hear how alive he is, how very, very alive.
John caught and held his wrist last night.
Sherlock leant down and closed his eyes and tilted his head to the side and felt John’s warm breath on his lips.
‘John,’ Sherlock whispered, and it took the by now familiar stretch and pull of his wings for him to come to his senses and pull away before he could do any damage to something that good. To someone as good as John.
He went to his room and hid until morning, remembering John’s smell, the feel of his skin.
His wings grew another four inches.
Time passes. The dull ache returns. They do not discuss what almost happened in the kitchen. Sherlock’s wings do not grow.
That is, they do not grow until early one morning, when Sherlock is sitting next to the window in the living room, hand pressed to the glass as he watches the sun rise. His wings, still larger than they have ever been even with their lack of growth in recent weeks, are folded into his body, curled around his skin, hidden away underneath his grey shirt, almost the exact same grey as his wings.
He hears John descend the stairs.
‘Sherlock,’ he murmurs.
Sherlock wishes himself smaller. The fingers of his hands curl in on themselves.
‘Sherlock,’ John says again, and three purposeful strides and John’s mouth is on his and he’s being pulled to his feet and his heart aches and his wings pull and stretch and push and tear through his shirt and open, expand, out and out and out and...
It transpires that Sherlock can fly.