- Action Adventure
Sherlock Holmes listened to John Watson make a plea at his fake graveside with a tinge of regret.
“Don’t be dead.” The swallow. “Stop this. Stop this now.”
The simple plea told him, better than anything else, that John truly questioned whether Sherlock had hit the pavement when he jumped off St. Bart’s. The illusion worked, but John, well. John knew how Sherlock worked. Better than anyone, really.
John could be trusted. Sherlock knew that.
Sherlock observed the rigidity of his friend’s stance from a distance, and he knew that within a fortnight John’s psychosomatic symptoms would be back. John would grieve, deeply. He would tear himself into a morass of traumatic stress symptoms and fall apart where no one could see, growing ever more cold.
He might claw his way back to more positive health.
The watchers had to believe that John believed Sherlock was dead.
For the first time since implementing his course of action, Sherlock questioned whether leaving John out of the loop would be truly ideal.
Deep in thought, he slipped out of the graveyard and headed to his safehouse.
Calculated risk, Sherlock thought as he pulled out the burner phone. He’d toss it into the Thames later. Calculated, because John was dead if his watchers figured out that he knew Sherlock was alive.
John Watson moved slowly toward the train station, walking slowly to accommodate the increased ache in the leg that shouldn’t hurt, trying to think past his grief.
“Just a magic trick.”
If only that were true, John thought. If only that were completely, totally, and utterly true.
And it very well might be.
He’d had Sherlock’s back now for almost two years. Despite his friend’s assertion that he was a high-functioning sociopath, John had his doubts. As a physician, John had enough training to know where to look to confirm or refute a diagnosis, and sociopath didn’t fit. Sherlock cared. He had difficulty showing it, and serious problems with social convention, but he cared deeply about his clients. His family.
Which is why John was having a hard time believing Sherlock was dead, even if all the evidence suggested it. Why he felt such terrible guilt at his parting shot at Sherlock when he left Bart’s (“You machine!”) before realizing that Sherlock, was, in fact, protecting all of his friends in some way. That he was, in effect, protecting John by sending him on his way.
Christ. There had to be more to it. John would bet money that Sherlock was not suicidal in the slightest.
He trudged slowly along his path back to the car, and Mrs. Hudson, his leg starting to ache in the way John bloody knew was psychosomatic, even though it hurt like the devil.
His phone pinged, and he pulled it from his pocket to look.
Four words from an unknown number: Magic Trick. Vatican cameos.
John pressed his lips together, and responded with two words of his own: Prove it.
Unknown: Can’t. Dangerous.
Unknown: Watch your back, John.
Well, that’s not ominous, John thought, picking up his pace slightly. He otherwise made no indication anything was wrong. But the use of the code word alongside Sherlock’s last words to John told him what he needed to know. It lessened the guilt only slightly, but his private hopes had been confirmed.
Sherlock was alive.
Knowing that Sherlock was alive answered many questions for John Watson as the next year unfolded. Why his rent had been paid through to the end of the following year, for example. He returned to the flat a week after visiting the grave, giving the appearance of one reluctant to return but without the means to change his circumstances.
He kept his own counsel. But as Sherlock no doubt guessed, inducing John’s hypervigilance by telling him to watch his back actually made the appearance of grieving and struggling much easier to maintain.
He rebooked appointments with Ella. Took more shifts at the surgery. Utterly ignored Mycroft. Occasionally worked with Greg, though he didn’t have half of Sherlock’s observable insights.
John rather thought Greg was making the effort to keep him in the loop to help stem the tide of depression that could follow with grief.
From the outside, it would appear that John missed his partner, deeply. And, frankly, it wasn’t far from the truth.
On his birthday, John got another text from an unknown number.
Unknown: Happy Birthday, John.
John: Thank you.
John: Are you well?
Unknown: Surrounded by morons, but alive.
John: You’ll stay that way, please.
And that was that.
Life went on. John flirted with a few women here and there, but discovered he really didn’t want to bring them back to Baker Street. It seemed disrespectful, suddenly, to bring a stranger–a woman at that–back into his shared space with Sherlock. Which made him wonder when that started to be a consideration for him.
When he was in the mood for sex, he went back to hers for the night. He started thinking about his assertions that he “wasn’t gay” and realized it was a bit more nuanced than that.
Three-Continents Watson had a reputation, after all.
What had disturbed him about the assumptions that Sherlock and John were a couple?
Primarily the fact that they weren’t a couple. And John thought, maybe, they could be.
If John were capable of monogamy, that is, and he wasn’t at all certain that was the case.
As for Sherlock, in all the time he and John lived together, he’d never seen Sherlock even look at another person in a way that hinted of romantic or sexual attraction. Other than the Woman, that is, and John still wasn’t sure whether was just abject fascination with someone who could keep up.
Asexual, then, maybe?
Married to his work, Sherlock would say.
The body is just transport, Sherlock had said. Many, many times.
Still, the musings over Sherlock’s sexual and romantic identities continued as John built a life for himself without Sherlock in it.
It was fine. It was all fine.
Which is what John had told Sherlock on their first meeting, when he’d pondered whether Sherlock was actively hitting on him and Sherlock had sort of awkwardly shut him down.
Asexual would fit.
What could that mean for them as a couple? Because John realized, now, that he did want that connection with Sherlock.
Was he even interested in him that way? John pondered as he yet again deftly avoided Mycroft’s kidnapping attempt. (The third in as many weeks; did Mycroft really think John was that daft?)
UN: Case’s daughter thinks we’re engaged. How did that happen?
John nearly laughed out loud.
John: Any physical contact?
John: Any cultural imperatives you might have missed?
A long pause.
UN: This is why I need you.
John: You have me.
UN: Do I?
John. Of course.
A long silence fell, during which John made tea, opened his laptop, and began working on a set of case files from before Sherlock’s fall. He’d just revised and rounded off the story about the dead yoga instructor when his phone pinged again.
UN: Made it clear that I was taken.
UN: By you. In case that wasn’t obvious.
UN: Unless I mistake your intention?
UN: Because that’s very possible.
UN: Right, then.
John snorted, texting quickly.
John: Never thought I’d see the day you were uncertain of anything.
John: But yes, I’m yours. For the record.
John: Whatever that looks like.
More silence. John sipped his tea, smiling a little.
UN: I have rarely felt attraction. But I feel it for you. Is that…
John’s smile took over his face.