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I've seen Sherlock Holmes in a manic frenzy before, loads of times. Never so...adorably, though.

He was practically darting from place to place, drawing my attention to yet more "features of interest" aka cute things the penguins were doing. Not that he used the word cute, but that's really all it was. Sherlock couched it in terms of data but what it boiled down to was this. Sherlock Holmes loves penguins.

And I love Sherlock. I love Sherlock Holmes. I love Sherlock Holmes. 

Stupid as it may seem after all these years, I've only just discovered it. Like, literally today, just now. I really am a bit of an idiot, he got that right. But in my defense I've never been in love with a man before. Took me a while to recognize it for what it was. Not just really, really good friendship. Silly, heart-pounding love. 

So I just stood there like a not very bright lump and watched my best friend and the love of my life watch the penguins with bright, excited eyes and I fell more in love. "John look!" he called brightly, "they've come out!"

"Who's that then?" I asked him as normally as I could manage under the circumstances, joining him. I followed his pointing arm and saw a pair of penguins (as alike as any of the others, to my eyes) come waddle-walking out of the shelter into the enclosure.

"Oscar and Arthur," Sherlock explained, "Surely you've read about them in the news? They're a couple."

"Oh?" My heart beat stupidly fast at his nearness. I was a bit lightheaded with excitement and love. Seriously, how had I not noticed it before? "Yeah, think I've done."

"They adopted an orphaned young penguin named Bixby," Sherlock informed me, glancing at my face, "The are not the first pair of male penguins to have formed a bond like this. It's extraordinary." His enraptured tone made me fall in love all over again. I suspected I'd keep falling in love with him  over and over, for the rest of our lives. 

"Extraordinary," I murmured, pulse racing. "How do they know they're not just really good friends?"

"They've been witnessed performing mating rituals, though not actually mating," Sherlock said, plunging his hands in his coat pockets.

"Pebbles or something?" I hazarded, having a vague memory of seeing something online at some point.

I was treated to an enthusiastic recital of the mating rituals of penguins, which did not heavily feature rocks. Apparently there was some truth to it but they didn't hold universal appeal, or even particular importance. 

"Suppose it's people's way of trying to humanize them," I mused, unable to tear my eyes away from his face. Surely he would notice soon; he was the most observant man in London for Christ's sake.

"It's rather a nice idea, I suppose," he agreed surprisingly. His tone was hard to read. Almost...wistful? "Its all anyone wants, in the end, to belong."

You belong to me, I wanted to say. I stifled the urge and stuck my thumbs firmly into my back pockets. I held the pose for the rest of our visit, kicking myself for my cowardice and my inability to express any feeling other than anger or annoyance.

But who even knew if it would be welcome?

Eventually my stomach grumbled loudly and Sherlock, standing next to me at the moment, glanced at me and then his phone. "John, it's after two, you must be starved." Putting away his phone he glanced at me with a half-smile, "Chips and then home?"

"Chips and then home," I agreed, following him as I always do, as I always will. 

Striding along side by side, he automatically adjusted his pace to mine. As we emerged into the early summer sunshine my heart lifted, and a sudden surge of optimism filled me with buoyancy. Where there's life there's hope. Somebody a lot wiser than me probably said that.

As we exited the Zoo proper and approached the street, Sherlock raised one long arm to hail a cab. While his attention was off me, I bent over quickly; he turned as a cab idled to a pause at the kerb. I followed him into the backseat and we rode in peaceful quiet to our neighborhood, getting out to walk a few blocks to our favourite chippy. Two double orders of chips, a basket of fried cod and two ice creams.

I carried the food while Sherlock sauntered at my side, poking chips greedily in his mouth. "Starting without me as usual, I see," I joked mildly. In answer he shoved a chip in my mouth. Tasting salt and Sherlock, I ate my chip and followed him through our front door and up the stairs. My heart was doing double-time and my face kept threatening to break out into a huge grin. Simultaneously I felt vaguely sweaty with nerves. 

"Tea?"

"Lager."

"Even better." He fetched the bottles while I ducked into the loo to use the sink. 

Seated on the sofa we placed our drinks in front of us and I efficiently unpacked the food. "Here's your plate," I nudged Sherlock's elbow and he stopped flicking through our Netflix queue and reached for it. Only to stop and stare at it in puzzlement. "John," he began slowly, "there's a rock on my plate."

"Some might call it a pebble," I said hoarsely. My fingers were clenched so hard on my plate that my fingertips hurt. 

He continued to stare at it, not speaking. I'd never been so nervous in my entire life and was rapidly regretting ever picking up the damned pebble. What had made me think this was a good idea?

"John?" His voice was small and confused. It broke my heart. Damn my own fears, I didn't want him sounding like that. Sherlock always sounded sure of himself.

Setting down my plate, I gathered my courage, "I want to mate for life," I blurted, face going instantly red-hot, "With you." 

"...mate?“ Still, he hadn't looked at me. 

"Not mate," I said hastily, thinking of my near certainty that he was asexual. "There doesn't have to be actual mating. Just...I want to be yours."

He did look at me then, and the blaze of love in his eyes made my breath stop. "Oh John," he said softly, taking the rock in one hand and mine in the other, "I've always been yours."

As our lips met in a soft, hesitant kiss, I knew that he was right.