The first time Sherlock met John, he had noticed his hairstyle, his posture, his injuries, and his career as an army doctor and promptly decided that out of all the potential candidates for a flatmate, John Watson was by far the most desirable.
John disagreed; he made as much clear to him, “Look. I told Mike, I’m really not flat mate material at the moment.” Internally, Sherlock dismisses this. This is the aneurysm speaking. He knew about the aneurysm (so obvious), but it didn’t bother him. He was disillusioned to the lie of life. Everyone had death waiting for them, it was inevitable, and he wasn’t planning on changing his choice of flatmate merely because John might drop dead anytime.
“I’m sorry.” John continues, “It’s a lovely place. I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding someone else.”
Sherlock voices his observations, leaving out the unnecessary, “You’re a doctor. An army doctor.”
“Yes, but I told you, I can’t -- I have to go.”
“Any good?” Sherlock wants to know, pretty sure of the answer already. A horrible army doctor would not have stayed so long in service. Factor in some addiction to danger and Sherlock knows that John would be willing to help him out with his work as a consulting detective. It would be nice to rely on someone other than the useless forensics team at Scotland Yard to provide medical information at crime scenes.
“Very good.” John says. Sherlock hears, ‘The best.’
“Seen a lot of injuries then. Violent deaths?” Again, a question he knows the answer to. As an army doctor, John would necessarily have seen these scenes. He would not be fazed by dead bodies, no matter what state they were in. But it’s necessary to ask, to hint at the inherent danger, to point out the similarities of his job with the war John has left behind. John falls for it.
It takes a bit longer to persuade John that dying doesn’t matter, because like every other person in the world, John has ideals about life. Sherlock cannot believe how unbelievably average John can be. John has qualms about hurting people in a way he cannot help, but desperately tries to prevent the pain anyway.
“I could die at any time.” He tries.
“That doesn’t bother you?”
“I almost died twice last week. If you’re alright with that, so am I.” Sherlock misunderstands on purpose, smiling. John doesn’t push.
Sherlock is not disappointed with his choice of a flatmate. The same day Sherlock convinces John to stay, John kills for him.
John proves to be quick, trustworthy and predictable. He loves the danger of the work and has an uncanny way of pushing Sherlock towards the right conclusions. He keeps records in his blog, is a bit of a romanticist, and understands Sherlock, perhaps more than anyone ever will. He is indispensable.
He also has a bleeding heart. Sherlock knows that John is frightened by the amount of people he would hurt when he eventually passed away. The nights Sherlock stays awake through the night, he often hears John pacing around in his room, worrying about other people, too keyed up for sleep. If he was worrying about Molly, he’d tap his foot between intervals of pacing. If he worried about Mrs. Hudson, he’d pace slowly, worried that she could hear him. If he worried about Mary, he’d pace quite quickly, like he was going to break out into a run. Lestrade and Mycroft got the same languid rhythm. But most often, he’d pace quietly and stop and start pacing again and stop.
Sherlock soon figured out that this was when John worried about him.
About two months after living together, Sherlock finds out that John has letters written to be read after his death, one for each of them in a file on his computer, explaining about the aneurysm and comforting them. The day Sherlock finds the letters, he is extremely tempted to grab John by the shoulders and shake some sense into his head. It doesn't matter that who would be hurt because everybody is going to die at some point, and it would have been a great privilege to have known John while he was alive.
Sherlock doesn’t tell him this, partly because he doesn’t want to distress John. Mainly because just thinking of the death of John is unbearable.
This is when he figures that he is in love.
It takes maybe a year of data monitoring his responses and John’s responses in each other’s presence and then another year of data when they are without each other, when Sherlock is ‘dead’. But when the compilation is complete, it only confirms what Sherlock already knows. He is in love with John and John might reciprocate.
This was not quite the way Sherlock expected true love to be like. He compares it to drugs; a mix of nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and morphine, with none of the physical side effects but all of the addiction. Sherlock knows himself. He is completely hooked on John. The problem was, unlike drugs, there is no way to get more of John if John left. So he decides to do what he did that time when he knew that Mycroft was coming up with a plan to get him sober. Take as much as he possibly can. This naturally means that he should confront John about his feelings.
This is a logical conclusion. He wants as much of John as possible and John might possibly reciprocate. If he confesses and John feels the same, it would be the greatest happiness for the greatest number of days. But John only might reciprocate. It is a big enough uncertainty that Sherlock dare not approach John about his feelings. After all, it is ridiculous. What is he supposed to do? He practices in front of the mirror sometimes when he is sure John is asleep.
“I’m in love with you.” Too straight forward, it calls for open rejection at the worst, and at the least worst, it will make things forever awkward.
“I know you are straight, but I have a proposition to make. You and I have been flat mates for a while. We should get married.” Too much of a leap in logic.
“You could die anytime and so could I, because I risk my life so often. We are clearly made for each other.” Too supposing.
He rubs his face in exasperation. Why is this so hellishly difficult? Perhaps he could just leave notes for John. That way, if John doesn’t feel the same, they can just pretend it never happened.
And if it John did love him back, John would probably be pissed first before happy, because the romantic would want a face to face confession. Sherlock can literally feel himself ooze fondness at an irate John, demanding to know why Sherlock would choose to convey such an important sentiment through a memo. He shakes himself mentally and is restless the whole day. John is none the wiser.
But for all his preparation, Sherlock needn’t have worried, because the fates are kind, sometimes. Ignore the fact that they matched Sherlock up with a man whose death is imminent at any given moment.
It starts off a horrible day. Lestrade is refusing to answer his phone, the case is that much closer to being solved and he has to be inconvenienced to great extents in order to get it settled. He groans loudly, contemplating throwing his phone when Lestrade doesn’t pick up for the 10th time. He goes up the stairs two at a time to find John. The man has had an unbelievably late morning today, and Sherlock needs him to follow him out.
“Lestrade isn’t answering his phone, we’ll have to go down to the Met, and I’m sure that’s what he wants --” He rambles, opening the door into John’s room, and sees the room emptied of things, the bed made neatly, too neat, and a suitcase on the floor. “What on earth are you doing?” He sputters, tirade cut short.
“I – you go ahead, Sherlock.” John says. He looks tired. Strained.
“You’re leaving. Why?” Sherlock’s voice sounds like steel, even to him. He tries not to think of all the things that he could have done wrong and instead starts deducing. There’s no way John managed to find another bedsit at such short notice. He’s only packed and leaving now and he has not packed absolutely everything, thank God for small miracles. That means he’s going somewhere nearby. Harry’s place then. He would never stay there for long; he hates to impose and he would only get angry at his sister for her alcoholism in a few days. His phone is in the front pocket, not the back. Recently used his phone then, most likely in order to book a bedsit, but it could be to call Harry. Sherlock thinks that he will go with booking a bedsit. Harry would let John stay whether he called or not.
“You’re busy. I’ll tell you later.” John avoids and Sherlock instantly knows what this is about. He feels beyond relieved, but he hides it by voicing his deductions. “You don’t have another place to live. You’re going to your sister’s. You’re arranging for another bedsit.”
John sighs, “You need to stop doing that.”
“This is nonsense.” Sherlock declares, “Leave your case, we’re going out.”
“Sherlock.” John says with an air of finality, looking up. Sherlock freezes on the inside. If John opens this can of worms now, Sherlock is not quite sure he can shoulder it. “There are things... There are things you don’t know about me. I can’t do this any longer.”
“There is nothing you could tell me that could make me want you to leave.” Sherlock decrees, relieved, but rapidly becoming angry that John is being so obtuse.
“Don’t make this difficult.”
“You don’t want to go.” Don’t go. Stay. I love you.
John doesn’t respond. Sherlock wants to shake him. “John.”
“I’m sorry.” And John bursts into motion. He takes his suitcase, pushes past Sherlock and begins to leave.
There’s a part of Sherlock that is screaming John’s name above the swirling panic in his brain. His feet pull him down the stairs after John as fast as he can. He grabs onto John’s shoulder. His bad shoulder, he realizes belatedly.
John turns around wearily, “There’s nothing you can do, Sherlock --” But Sherlock cuts him off with a kiss.
It takes a millisecond for Sherlock to realize what he’s done, but he doesn’t care enough to stop. His hands go instinctively to the back of John’s head, brushing against the short hairs at the back of his neat military haircut. He tries to pour as much feeling into the kiss as possible. Please don’t leave me. I know. I love you anyway. A loud thump and Sherlock’s brain dimly registers John’s suitcase hitting the bottom landing, then John begins to kiss back and Sherlock loses all coherent thought.
When they separate, Sherlock’s brain is a mess. His heart pounds harder and faster with every minute John stands there, pale, breathing fast, and quiet.
Then John smiles, weakly, “That works.”
Sherlock smiles back, tempted to give him a big hug.
After that, Sherlock’s life is perfect.
Nothing much changes. John still complains about the lack of milk in the fridge, and stares plaintively at the messy table. Sherlock still tosses insults like confetti, pulls John out with him for cases, and complains about lousy telly.
But now, when there is no milk, John comes over and tugs on Sherlock’s elbow, and he will go out with him for milk. When John stares at the table, Sherlock moves his things to one side. Sherlock’s insults for John have different tones now, ones that sound like dear, sweetheart, honey, and darling. Lousy telly is accompanying by cuddling. The bed upstairs is neglected because John moves his clothes and things downstairs. Sherlock goes to bed more often now because it means hugging his favorite person in the world close to him. Even if he doesn’t sleep, he discovers that there is nothing better than having his chin in the crook of John’s neck.
That particular night, Sherlock is not in bed with John, but rather walking with him in the city of London. The skies are clear and dark, and due to a small blackout that they are going to investigate, the stars are not overshadowed by bright lights. John cannot seem to tear his eyes away from the stars shining in the sky, and Sherlock cannot tear his eyes away from him.
His smile, his nose, his kind eyes with the crinkles and crowsfeet, his lips, wonderfully soft. Sherlock wonders, not for the first time, why random chance should land John Watson with an aneurysm. Even while he thinks it, he immediately feels a wave of gratefulness that he should be able to spend this precious time together with him. He has never been gladder to feel. Emotions cloud and blind what should be clear and logical, but John has done nothing but to clarify his view and help him focus. He is beyond blessed to have someone that complements him so well. He looks at John look at the sky and he looks at it too.
“Beautiful isn’t it.” He says, breathing in the cold air.
He feels rather than sees John stare at him, and he smiles at having surprised John.
There’s a sharp intake of breath before John says, “I love you.”
Sherlock almost forgets to keep walking. A warm feeling curls around his heart and it feels like a gentle hug, with careful butterfly kisses.
“Obviously.” He says. I love you, He means.
John chortles, and Sherlock is glad that he gets the meaning. “Am I that transparent?” John asks. Sherlock looks at him, taking in the amused glimmer in his eyes, the half-smile on his lips, his relaxed arms and back and suddenly wishes they were in bed so he can show John exactly how much he loves him too. “Yes.” He answers instead, and pulls John closer to him.
“How tedious for you.” John says, smiling.
“Not for a minute.”
There are times when John wakes them both with his nightmares. This is beyond terrifying, because there is nothing Sherlock can do. He can take down Moriarty. He can dismantle bombs. But he cannot kill the terrors lurking in John’s head.
John doesn’t want to speak about them most times. Sherlock just hugs him tight, an arm looping around his waist, lips pressed to his forehead, and legs tangled together. Sometimes John cries a few small tears into his shirt, other times, John goes back to sleep.
One such night, when John goes stiff and his breathing almost stills, Sherlock tentatively rubs John’s shoulder. “Breathe.” He admonishes gently.
“Breathing’s boring.” John replies weakly, eyes closed and eyebrows knitted together.
“Not with you.” Sherlock tells him, giving him a peck, before pulling him close. He feels John’s breath on his shoulder and rubs his back slowly and soothingly. His fingers trace the scar on John’s shoulder and he feels John stiffen against him. Before he can apologize, John says, “His name was Hope. Jefferson Hope.”
“What a stupid name.” Sherlock offers and smiles when he feels John’s huffing reluctant laugh against his neck.
“I took a bullet for him. He was a private. I don’t know why I did it.”
Sherlock knows why and moves his hand from John’s lower back to scratch at the short shaven hairs near the nape of John’s neck before answering. “Because you are a brave fool.” He says, fondling John’s ear. “The bravest, most heroic person in the world. You will try your hardest not to hurt anyone, even if it’s out of your control. You wish to spare anyone pain. Of course you would take a bullet for a stranger.”
John takes a deep breath by Sherlock’s ear, and Sherlock wonders if John is going to say something. But John is silent, so Sherlock leans forward a little and whispers into John’s ear. “I love you.”
John hugs Sherlock so tightly, Sherlock thinks that he can hear the guilt passing through John’s brain. He hugs back just as tight, wishing that this moment will last forever.
It happens when they are on a case and they are running after an escaping ex-convict, when suddenly John collapses on the cobblestones. Sherlock doesn’t waste even a single a second running back. He rolls John gently on his side and maneuvers him into the recovery position. John blinks at him blearily, and Sherlock presses a quick kiss to his forehead as he slides out his phone and dials emergency services.
“Don’t bother.” John says like a whisper, a weak hand coming to rest on Sherlock’s wrist. He doesn’t reply.
His heart is in his mouth it feels like, and with every beep of the dial tone Sherlock begs them to be faster. “Come now.” He says, the minute someone picks up and hangs up.
Sherlock holds John’s warm hand between his two and suddenly he is compelled with the urge to cry. But instead, he lies down on the cobblestones, nudges an arm under John’s heavy head, and pulls him in close, rubbing gently on his back. John smiles a little, just a small tiny one, and Sherlock feels like he is dying too. His heart is going to be in pieces too small to function if it breaks any further.
“I’ve got you.” He hears himself croak, throat scratchy from unshed tears. He tries to smile. He hopes he manages for John’s sake.
“It’s okay.” John whispers, and Sherlock disagrees fervently, “I’ve got you too.”
And then John begins to fade away in his arms. Sherlock hugs him tight, but not overly, trying not to sob. He tries not to think about how unfair it is that he has to continue to live in a world without John in it. He scratches the back of John’s neck like an afterthought and John hums a little against his collarbone.
John’s last breath is a small, tiny sigh, one of relief, love and satisfaction. His heart only beats for a few moments longer, and then his skin begins to become cold. His face is frozen into a look of peaceful slumber.
Sherlock begins to cry.