1: The Kiss That Wasn’t Really a Kiss
Ten months had passed since he first moved into 221B and John’s life had settled into a comfortable routine. Well, not exactly settled because nothing was ever settled around Sherlock, and as to comfortable he frequently found himself distinctly uncomfortable in the name of ‘The Work’. None the less, he was happy with life at 221B. They would go on cases regularly, which John enjoyed just as much as Sherlock did, although he was better at hiding his joy when there had been another murder. John was constantly surprised by life with Sherlock. He liked that, it kept him on his toes.
Sherlock Holmes was an attractive man, John was able to appreciate this in his own head and occasionally, if he was sure no one would notice, he would let himself admire him. The only problem of doing this was the risk of someone catching him. The risk of someone knowing that he wasn’t entirely straight. It was surprising that Sherlock hadn’t deduced it yet, it was probably the only secret he had from the man.
They were having a rare quite evening that night. The TV showing some mindless program and takeaway on their laps (as if there would be space on any table for something as mundane as food). Sherlock would occasionally shout derisive comments at the screen causing John to snort with laughter. John liked evenings like this just as much as the ones filled with crime-solving. Just him and Sherlock. He could watch Sherlock without the fear of the someone pointing out how much like a couple they were. Without him having to defend his heterosexuality. He didn’t like lying about not being gay but ever since the incident he hadn’t the guts to come out to anyone.
Only last week they had turned up at a crime scene to have Sally welcome ‘the happy couple’. John had fixed her with a steely gaze.
“We’re not a couple, and you damn well know it.” He retorted. He had continued to walk towards the crime scene, completely missing the flicker of sadness across Sherlock’s face.
John was about half way through his tandoori chicken, when Sherlock’s phone pinged with a new message. His reached for his phone (for once not asking John to do it) then his face lit up as he read the message.
“There’s been another murder!”
It was definitely indecent to be smiling as much as he was whilst talking about murder, but John didn’t comment. In fact he smiled too. Sherlock smiling normally made him smile too, however inappropriate the situation was. He just stood up, grabbed his coat and was soon following Sherlock down the stairs shouting:
“Where abouts? Any details yet?”
They arrived at the crime scene to find the most recent victim in this serial killer case. It was a bare room (could have been a sitting room once) in an abandoned house. A single body lay on its back on the floor. This case had apparently been going on for a while at the Yard but Sherlock (and of course John with him) had only been brought onto it today. Sherlock flitted around the body taking in every tiny detail whilst John stayed at the side with Lestrade. Only once did he allow himself to look Sherlock’s bum as he bent down, reminding himself that no one must notice, no one must know. Anderson and Sally were also there, as usual, but they stayed the other side of the room.
“What do you know about the case so far?” John asked Lestrade.
“This is the third body, all killed the same way which is the only link we’ve found between them. Lacerated throat, as you can probably see for yourself.” Greg responded gravely.
John gestured towards the body with a tilt of his head and questioned:
Greg gave him the nod so he went over to Sherlock’s side to help examine the body.
“What have you got so far Sherlock?”
“Male, 30-35, married happily, currently redecorating a house, most likely his and his wife’s. Now as to how he was killed, it is definitely the wound on his throat, no other wounds to be seen. The cut is not clean, so it wasn’t a knife.”
John knelt down and examined the victim’s throat carefully. Blood had poured from the gash in his neck and down his front. The cut was ragged, about 3 inches long across his neck. There were smaller nicks going around his neck, all in line with the main injury.
Sherlock continued his deductions:
“He was killed standing up, as most of the blood has gone down his front, not drained backwards. The other cuts around his neck were made at around the same time as he was killed. I can’t yet think what weapon would leave a pattern like that though.”
John looked again and remembered seeing similar wounds in Afghanistan once. It was when one of the soldiers, who had been trying to infiltrate the enemy base, had ended up getting tangled up in… oh of course
“Barbed-wire.” John stated.
Sherlock looked shocked, not expecting John to supply an answer, and especially not so fast. He looked back at the cut on the man and realized excitedly that John had to be right. Identifying the murder weapon was the key to the case, now John had unlocked it he could solve it. Other people spotting something so crucial to a case excited Sherlock no end as it happened so rarely.
He spun round to face John, grabbed his face then kissed him on the lips with an exaggerated ‘mwah’ sound, before whirling round and continued deducing the corpse with a new vigor.
John just chuckled. Sure it was surprising for him, but Sherlock tended to get over excited when someone else was able help him. He had kissed Molly once for simply pointing out that a victim was bald. Then there was the time he had kissed Mrs. Hudson for saying that a painting in the background of a crime scene photo was ‘truly delightful’. Not that John remembered these because he was a tiny bit jealous or anything.
Sherlock was back into analysis mode after this new input from John.
“So barbed wire, a construction worke-” He was cut off by Sally’s squawking.
“Freak just kissed you.” It was clearly directed at John but Sherlock answered anyway.
“Ever the observant one Sally.” His voice dripped with sarcasm.
“I knew you two were together, pay up Philip.” She smirked “I believe you bet a twenty?”
“Hold on a minute!” John interrupted the proceedings. Fear built up in his stomach. They couldn’t think that. Them knowing I’m gay is dangerous. “We’re not a couple.”
“That would be much more convincing if you two hadn’t just kissed.” Sally stated, clearly feeling she had caught them out. “If you’re not a couple, why else would he kiss you.”
John had a steely look to his eye. Fear always turned to anger with him, it was his first defense mechanism.
“I don’t know why, ask him yourself.” He breathed heavily out through his nose. “We are not a couple and I am NOT GAY.”
John turned, nodded to Lestrade as a goodbye, then walked from the room. Great one soldier, running from the threat, he thought to himself, then he remembered the reason he wasn’t a soldier and decided leaving was perfectly acceptable.
“Sherlock, is it true?” Lestrade questioned. His voice was calm and placating, he clearly wasn’t going to be like Donovan about this.
“We’re not dating.” Sherlock shrugged. “He just identified the murder weapon and I was pleased.” He switched topics, clearly feeling the matter was closed. “Now we know the murderer had access to barbed wire, and could carry it around without looking suspicious, he works in the construction industry. I know he wasn’t killed here. He must have been moved after death and dumped here.”
“I don’t buy it.” Sally broke in again. “Don’t try to change the subject.”
Sherlock just scowled back at her. It was Lestade’s turn to weigh in again.
“For a man who spends a good proportion of his time denying being gay, he didn’t much mind being kissed by a bloke. A lot of straight men would have been angrier about that.”
“We are not dating and I have yet to figure out why he denies his sexuality so often. Anyway back to the point. Given the location of the bodies, your murderer works for Marlstone Building Supplies. This man went there to buy supplies for redecorating, but clearly never made it home.”
With that he left the crime scene and rushed back home. Would John be angry at him for kissing him and causing the ‘couple accusations’ to flow. He was worried. He hadn’t meant to restart the rumors, he hadn’t meant to make John angry, he had just done it. But surely John was over reacting anyway, why did it bother him so much when people thought he was interested in men? Was the idea of being with Sherlock really that repulsive?
2: A Near Fatal Kiss
(throw back to when John was in the army)
The army was wonderful in so many ways. He hadn’t expected to enjoy his time in Afghanistan this much. Days were full with adrenaline rushes, danger and excitement. Then the nights were even better. The nights were full of James. In the day he was Commanding Officer Sholto. But at night he was James, and Captain Doctor John Watson, was just John.
He had known he was bi since high-school but had never been with a man before. He had dated girls purely because the few guys he had found attractive didn’t seem interested in him. Most people therefore assumed he was straight, and he hadn’t bothered correcting them. James and he had shared smiles and friendship at first. Then, over time, figured out that they liked the other, and the feelings were returned.
Of course they weren’t together every night, that wasn’t possible given the circumstances and they could never spend the whole night together. John was happy nonetheless. His life was full and exciting and he felt he truly belonged there in the army, with his comrades, with James.
Some nights they would be in James’s tent, sometimes John’s. It depended which tent provided more secrecy that night. Then there were other times when they were on patrol together. When out on patrol they would never show any outward sign of affection, their relationship was of course as secret as it was forbidden, but John valued the time together all the same. They could just talk, look at the stars and enjoy each others’ company. Completely at one with each other.
It was just another night on patrol. Him and James walking the block in the dark. Their shift ended, the next pair began the following shift. Seeing that no one was around as they made their way back, James had pulled John towards the wall of an out building and kissed him. John was hesitant at first, they never did this outside. There was always the risk of being caught. After a quick glance to either side he returned the kiss. It had been a risk but as they both went their separate ways to their tents, John felt it had been worth it, they hadn’t been caught after all.
John was on duty two days later. Saving the wounded from the most recent disaster. He ran into the fray of battle, determined to get the wounded back to the hospital as quickly as possible. A soldier, Wilkes, lay bleeding heavily from his stomach. John knew it was touch and go whether he would survive. He would try all the same. He always tried. He scooped him up into a fire man’s lift, talking as he rushed back.
“Stay with me Wilkes, we’re going to sort you out back in the hospital, just hold on. I’ll take care of you.”
“I’m going to die.” Wilkes spoke from behind, whilst still being carried over John’s shoulder. His voice was weak, he had already lost a lot of blood. Probably too much. “We both know it. I’d rather die than be treated by a poof anyway.”
John almost dropped him from shock. He knew. Oh god. The punishment for being in a relationship with your CO was bound to be awful. Who else knew? He then did drop him as a gun shot sounded close by and a burning sensation went through his shoulder. He fell to the ground next to Wilkes and tried to keep a clear head. He had accepted that he could be killed in action a long time ago. A hero’s death, laying his life down for his country. What he had not expected was to be shot by a comrade he was trying to help, just because he was bi. At least this would appear a hero’s death. No one else would know who killed him, or why. They would assume it was the enemy who had pulled the trigger on him. Fate decided he was going to die for whom he choose to love, not his county after all. It wasn’t much longer before he blacked out.
3: The Revelations a Kiss can Cause
John was already at Baker’s Street, when Sherlock arrived home. He was sitting in his chair, staring into a cup of tea.
“You’re angry.” Sherlock didn’t usually state the obvious John thought.
John had been staring into the cuppa for a while, not drinking anything. He hated the whole situation. He had been fine with being bi before the incident. He knew it was different here to in the army. People were normally accepting of other peoples sexuality. Unfortunately rational thought didn’t do much for irrational fear. What if Wilkes was right? Maybe being bi meant he deserved to be shot. The problem was, being bi had ruined the best days of his life. If he hadn’t kissed James, he wouldn’t have been shot by Wilkes. He could still be there, having the time of his life. From that moment on, he hadn’t told a single person he was bi. His injury had been blamed on the enemy and he hadn’t corrected anyone. Wilkes had died a hero’s death and John never mentioned that he was a traitor. And now John had a scar on his shoulder, permanently reminding him, of his mistake. He was angry at himself for even considering James a mistake. One person discovering he was bi had lead him to being shot. Clearly he didn’t need anyone else to know, incase they reacted similarly. He was angry at himself for being to afraid to tell anyone now. He was angry at Donavan for keeping the rumors up. He was angry at Wilkes for making him scared to come out. John heaved a sigh.
“Not with you.” He paused “makes a change.” He tried a smile but his lips barely twitched.
“Why does it bother you so much when they suggest you’re gay?” Couldn’t anyone except anything these days. Couldn’t they leave him alone.
“BECAUSE I’M NOT” fear and anger flashed across John’s face. Then regret for yelling at Sherlock. It wasn’t Sherlock’s fault he felt afraid to come out. “Just can we ignore it and move on. The take away is still in the fridge if you want to finish that off.”
John didn’t want to start this conversation, Sherlock was too observant, he would figure it out. That thought terrified John. Why are you scared of Sherlock knowing, he wouldn’t mind. One part of John’s brain tried to reason. No one must know, he could react nearly as badly as Wilkes did, especially if he found out you like him. The other side of his brain helpfully supplied.
Sherlock ignored John’s attempt to change the subject.
“John, there’s no point in lying to me.” He ignored the deathly glare John was giving him. “You frequently check out other men. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice?”
“I said LEAVE IT ALONE SHERLOCK” John yelled. Panic was setting in, poorly disguised as rage. Sherlock must have figured it out. What would he do next? “I am not gay, can we just move on?”
“No, we can’t. You aren’t just angry, you’re also afraid…Why?”
“Leave it.” John’s anger flared, one final attempt to put Sherlock off.
“You know you’re gay or at least bi. But you don’t want anyone else to know. Its not because you’re homophobic, as you’re perfectly okay with Harry being gay.”
“Of course I’m not homophobic, but that DOESN’T MAKE ME GAY.” John wondered why Sherlock continued to question him if he knew he was afraid. He clearly didn’t mind hurting John emotionally, but John wondered if he would turn to physical pain if John admitted the truth. People knowing will lead to pain.
“No, it doesn’t make you gay; but you are. You want to keep it a secret though, scared of the truth coming out. Are you ashamed? That would explain why you try to hide it.” Sherlock pressed on, determined to understand.
“I’M NOT ASHAMED SHERLOCK.” John looked distressed, he was still yelling but fear was definitely winning over anger now. Sherlock knows. John knew rationally that Sherlock wouldn’t do anything. He was scared all the same. My secret is out.
“But you admit you are gay.”
“Fine Sherlock, as usual you’re right and I have no privacy at all. I’m bi. Happy now?” John was close to tears, he slumped in his chair, trying to make himself small. After anger, that was the next defense: curl up small.
“But why do you try to hide it?”
“You don’t mind?” John’s voice was impossibly quiet. Nothing like usual. “You’re not going to… do anything…hurt me or…?”
“Of course I don’t mind that you’re bi.” Sherlock looked genuinely confused “I’m gay myself. I just don’t get why you always deny it. You were worried I was going to hurt you though. That suggests bullied for it in the past. Interesting. I never thought you were the type to have been bullied in school with your rugby, intelligence, looks and general characteristics. ”
John felt such relief at his words. It’s all okay, Sherlock doesn’t mind. Secret is safe with him… or should be, best check. “You won’t tell anyone will you? You’re one of only two people who know. Its still a secret, even if you know it too.” The fact that Sherlock had complemented his looks did not fully sink in at this moment. He was still too worked up.
Sherlock thought of how scared John had been, how worried he was about him finding out. He decided that for now he could keep John’s secret without knowing the cause for that fear.
“Of course, I won’t tell a soul.” He tried to smile reassuringly, but wasn’t quite sure how to convey that on his face.
“Thanks.” John smiled and turned towards the stairs, to head to bed. A clear indication he didn’t want to talk about the subject anymore.
4: The First of Many Kisses
Life continued on as usual in 221B. So long as the usual covers heads in the fridge, eyeballs in the microwave, secretly fancying your flat-mate and frogspawn in the kettle. Much to John’s relief, Sherlock didn’t mention their conversation at all. Not once did he push for more information. He was being surprisingly unobtrusive on the matter. They had a few private cases so hadn’t had to go to the Yard since John’s walk out. John later wondered if Sherlock had turned down cases to avoid the embarrassment for John. Sherlock was definitely being surprisingly sensitive.
Either way, two weeks after ‘the walk out’, they found themselves at another crime scene with the Yarders. It was a murder of a 25 year old girl, body already identified, but no leads on who did it. It was just Lestrade, them and the body in the room. John was grateful for the absence of Donovan, and actually let out a sigh of relief when he realized she wasn’t there. Lestrade was sensible enough to ask nothing. John looked at the body to identify the cause of death, Sherlock was looking round the room, hunting for the smallest of clues.
“Suffocation, by the looks of it. Murderer had fairly large hands, going by the bruising.” John said after a short while of looking at the body. Sherlock hummed in agreement.
“No sign of struggle, so clearly a close relative or boyfriend.”
“How can you tell?” Lestrade asked.
“Who else would you let in the house and in your bedroom whilst wearing only pajamas? Question the parents and the boyfriend, two of them would have been out at the time of murder. Most likely to be the boyfriend, given the smell in the room. No grown man would wear aftershave that strong.” With that he strode towards the door. “Come along John.”
John nodded and said a hasty goodbye to Greg before he made to follow Sherlock through the door, where he had just disappeared. Sally’s voice reached him just before he stepped through the door.
“Where’s your boyfriend, freak?” He did step through the door then, but immediately wished he could go back inside. “Oh there he is, I wondered if you had scared him off. He’s clearly not a fan of PDAs.”
John was ready to shout, ready with his standard answer of ‘we’re not a couple’ and ‘I’m not gay’. Just because Sherlock knew the truth he wasn’t prepared for everyone to know. Sherlock, to his surprise, beat him to it.
“Honestly Donavan, we come hear to solve your crimes that you are too incompetent to solve, not to be on the receiving end of your snide comments. As John has informed you many times, quite correctly might I add, we are not a couple. Flat-mates, colleagues, friends, yes but in no way shape or form are we dating. We would both appreciate it if you stopped suggesting otherwise, we get enough trouble from the press.”
Sherlock turned on his heel and John followed, making their way towards the main road to get a cab. The cab journey passed in silence. John wanted to speak but not in front of the cabbie. In the end neither of them spoke until they reached the sitting room.
“Thank you” John said at last. A slight clench of his fist showed he was uncomfortable. “For saying that, I mean.”
“It’s okay, after I kissed you and set off the rumors it seemed like the least I could do. And um… I’m sorry for kissing you. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable it would make you.”
“You don’t need to apologize for that Sherlock, I um… didn’t mind. It was Sally who made things uncomfortable.”
John re-considered his statement. He shouldn’t have paused, Sherlock would realize his embarrassment at the admission. Sherlock would know that John didn’t just ‘not mind’ but actually wanted to be kissed.
“You ‘um … didn’t mind.’ Does that mean I can do it again?” John realized what Sherlock said, before he realized what it meant. Sherlock clearly knew that John wanted this. More surprisingly instead of pushing him away or making excuses he seemed to be sharing the sentiment. John smiled.
“Just not in front of them.” There it was in the open. John had admitted he wouldn’t mind being kissed, he also hoped it was clear that he wanted it because of what it was and not because of some lucky deduction of his. Sherlock smiled back at John and they made their way towards each other.
“What about here?” Sherlock queried. “There’s no one to see us here.” He started to smirk, but before it fully developed on his lips, John stopped it very effectively. With his own lips.
It was only a brief kiss, just a press of lips. John drew his face back to rest his head on Sherlock’s chest and hug him tight. Sherlock steered them to the sofa, never fully disentangling themselves. Sherlock sat on the end of the sofa, leaning against the arm of it as John leant on him, rested his head on his shoulder. He enjoyed the warmth of having Sherlock’s arm around him. Sherlock discovering I’m bi was definitely a good thing. John’s fear of sharing his sexuality was by no means gone. He was just happy he had found one person to share it with.
They sat in peaceful silence for a while, just enjoying each others presence, before Sherlock broke the quiet of the flat.
“Why don’t you want people to know? I don’t understand. I hate not understanding.”
John decided he could and would share his reasons with Sherlock. It would be hard for him to talk about the incident so he got up and walked into the kitchen with the intention of finding some alcohol.
“Where are you going?” Sherlock actually sounded worried. “I didn’t mean to be too nosy, you don’t have to tell me if you really don’t want.”
John reappeared with two glasses and the bottle of brandy. He poured himself a large measure before passing the bottle and remaining cup to Sherlock.
“Calm down, I was coming back. If I’m going to tell you this, and I think I want to, I’m going to need some alcohol in my system.”
John settled back down on the sofa, and took his first sip of brandy. Sherlock visibly relaxed.
“I’m not ashamed, as you suggested. I wasn’t bullied at school as you had also wondered. Its just my first relationship with a man didn’t exactly end well. Its left me nervous of what people might say or do if they found out I was bi.” John paused, and didn’t seem to know how to continue. Sherlock prompted him.
“So someone did something to you before, when they found out you were bi. Something traumatic.”
John let out a snort. A sort of sarcastic laugh with no humor to it. “You could call being shot traumatic, yeah.”
“What!” Sherlock looked taken aback, as if trying to rethink everything he knew about John and trying to make this new fact fit. “I thought you were shot in the war.”
John took another gulp of his brandy and proceeded to tell Sherlock everything. All about James, their relationship, how they had had to keep it secret, how someone must have seen them kiss that night. Finally he told Sherlock what had happened on the battle field the day he was shot, who shot him and why.
“You’re the only person who knows the real reason I was shot.” It was a relief to John to finally get it off his chest. For someone else to know what had actually happened. It was even more of a relief that Sherlock was on John’s side, not saying he deserved to be shot for sleeping with a man. As much as John had told himself that there was nothing wrong with being bi, it had still been a niggling doubt in the back of his mind that what Wilkes had done was justified. With Sherlock’s reaction the doubt was gone.
“You didn’t tell James the truth?”
“When he came to me in hospital, there were other people around. He was back to CO Sholto.” John looked sad at the admission. It had been a terrible time for him. His life had been altered completely, he had known he was going to be sent home and he hadn’t even been able to receive proper comfort from his closest companion.
“Are you still in contact with him?”
“We’ve emailed a couple of times since my return. He’s still out there. It made me jealous that he was still able to be there, leading a life of danger while I was stuck in my bedsit. I haven’t emailed since I moved here. Life is full again, I don’t need to live through him hearing what’s going on there in Afghanistan.”
“Did you love him?” Sherlock was being so thoughtful, it was so different from the emotionless front the man often had.
“I thought so, but looking back I don’t think I did. It was just nice to have someone you were close to. You need that out there, someone you can rely on, trust. But I don’t think it was love. It wasn’t anywhere near what I feel for you anyway.”
John belatedly noticed he had just, in a round about way, told Sherlock he loved him. It was probably a bit soon, given that they had only had their first kiss barely half an hour ago. John didn’t want to take it back though. It was true. Sherlock just looked at him for long time, a look of confusion on his face.
“I do, Sherlock. I do love you.” John tucked his head back onto Sherlock’s shoulder so the detective could have a moment to comprehend what John had said. After what felt like a long time, but was probably only half a minute, John felt the warm press of lips in his hair.
“John?” He hummed to show he was listening. “I love you too.”