“Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently. A Tennyson garden, heavy with scent, languid; the return of the word swoon.”
~ Margaret Atwood
i) to become very excited about someone or something
John has yet another date. Sherlock knows this because John has mentioned it three times in the past hour. It’s the third date. With the same person. A female person. A woman, to be exact. Sherlock wonders at the significance of the number three but decides it’s irrelevant. For now. Sherlock watches him out of the corner of his eye while also attempting to place severed ears into a pot of boiling water. It’s tricky but he manages. John is nervous. He paces the same bit of floor three (!) times, passing by the small wall mirror and each time pausing to pat at his hair and straighten the plaid collar of his shirt.
Sherlock feels suddenly, slightly woozy. It could be the smell of boiling flesh but it’s most likely the fact that John is getting ready for another liaison with the same woman. Which most likely means he has Feelings for this woman. Which most likely means the woman, in return, has Feelings for John. Of course she does. How could she not? Sherlock feels nauseous. He considers the Feelings this woman might be experiencing: that telltale nervous/excited stomach swirling as if with blowflies at the sight of John, of wanting to lick the bottom of his chin and run trembling fingers through the hair at the base of his skull, to push at the sensitive skin on the backs of his knees to feel the slight pulsing there, to take him in his mouth and suck and suck and—
“Jesus, Sherlock!” John leaps across the room, gazelle-like, and catches Sherlock before he hits the floor. Together they sink slowly and awkwardly down, knees and elbows bumping. Sherlock slumps back against a cupboard door, eyes closed. John’s warm hand is on the back of his neck. Sherlock thinks he could stay like this forever.
“Maybe I shouldn’t go.” John’s voice is far away.
Yes. I mean no.
“Are you feeling ok? Have you…ingested anything I should know about? Have you ingested anything at all? When was the last time you ate?”
Sherlock moans noncommittally.
John checks his watch.
“I can still call and cancel.”
“Mrs. Hudson is home, I’m sure. I’ll ask her to check in on you.”
“Do you need me to stay here?”
Sherlock tries very hard to not laugh.
In the end John goes, of course, because sex, but not until he makes sure Sherlock is upright and stable once more, the stove turned off, the cooling ears bobbing gently in their bath.
“I’ll make you toast,” he says, and because Sherlock says nothing, he does. He even takes a perfunctory nibble to appease John before he waltzes out the door, plaid collar askew and hair sticking up in the back.
John says, “Call Mrs. Hudson if you need anything.”
Sherlock says, “I love you, John.” Three times. Quietly.
ii) a state of bewilderment or ecstasy
John is late, of course. Very late. So late that Sherlock wonders if he’s coming home at all.
He wanders about the flat, at loose ends, unable to find anything to keep him occupied for more than a few seconds. His skin itches. The back of his throat tastes like soap. He pulls at a hangnail so hard it bleeds. He sucks on the wound and the blood coats his tongue. Mrs. Hudson taps on the door twice and both times Sherlock yells that he’s fine and just wants to rest for god’s sake. For once she actually listens, but before clattering away orders him to let her know if he needs anything. Anything at all. Sherlock buries his head in his hands and moans.
At 1:34 a.m. he climbs out of bed again and circles the flat once more, considering John’s whiskey but realizing it will only make everything, everything worse. John’s bedroom, however, will make everything better. He falls onto the carefully made bed, which smells wonderfully awfully like John, and wonders what they’re doing right now. He turns onto his stomach and pictures John with his tufty hair and plaid collar and warm, dry hand on the back of his neck and his toast-making abilities and finds he’s slightly hard.
It’s something he rarely does because it’s boring and stupid and serves no purpose, for the most part, but tonight it is not only unavoidable, it is imperative. He’s quite sure he will literally lose his mind if he doesn’t do something aside from putting his head through a wall and he doesn’t fancy explaining anything like that to John in the morning. If John is even here in the morning. Or, ever again. His hand clutches his cock and his breath catches and his movements are immediately rough and jerky, painful almost, punishing, as image after image of John’s face and voice and laugh and hands and scent flit behind his tightly closed eyelids.
I’ll make you toast
White lights explode in his head and he comes with a muffled shout, one hand wrapped tight around his penis and the other fisted painfully in his mouth.
John, he thinks, as the waves of pleasure/pain wash over him. Then he passes out.
At least he thinks he passes out because the next thing he knows he’s being shaken by a slightly drunk John. Sherlock’s watch shows that four minutes have passed since he first grabbed himself and he is still sprawled on John’s bed, on his back, his limp penis lying in one open palm. John is swaying, open-mouthed, wide-eyed. Sherlock can see that even in the near-dark.
“Experiment?” John says.
“You smell like semen,” Sherlock says.
“Yeah? Well so do you.”
iii) a partial or total loss of consciousness
Sherlock deducts brilliantly for a full half-hour before he realizes John isn’t even listening. He knows John isn’t listening because he has only said “Brilliant” twice and not “Fantastic” or “Bloody Fantastic” even once. He stops moving and stops talking for several long seconds to look at John.
“What is it?” Lestrade says at last, startled. “You having a stroke?”
John snaps out of his torpor and looks at Sherlock looking at him.
Sherlock narrows his eyes. “Something.”
“What is it.”
“Nothing.” John sighs. “I need to talk to you.” Quiet. “Not here. Not now.”
“Yes here and yes now.” Sherlock’s voice is louder than he intends. His heart hammers in his chest. His face feels numb. He wonders if he is having a stroke. “Are you sick? Are you dying?” His voice breaks on the last word and John rolls his eyes.
“No, Sherlock. It’s nothing…it’s nothing bad.” He stops. “Well, I don’t consider it bad. I mean.” He stops again.
Lestrade claps his hands together. “Go on then,” he says. “We’re all friends here.”
“Look, Sherlock. I really didn’t intend to tell you this way, but I’m guessing there really is no good way—”
Sherlock’s hearing fades in and out for the next few minutes as John babbles on about the Something. And it’s almost worse than dying because the Something is exactly what he’s been dreading all along and that John has decided to move in with the female. He is leaving 221B Baker Street. They will no longer be cohabiting. Sherlock says nothing as John talks and talks. He only nods once with a jerky puppet head nod. Lestrade give John a big, hearty man slap on the back and says something congratulatory, something about getting drunk together, or shooting pistols at the sky to celebrate. He closes his eyes briefly, thinks about toast.
He awakes to a pale, worried John lightly slapping his cheeks. His trousers feel damp. He smells urine. He wonders if he’s pissed himself, then realizes it doesn’t matter because nothing matters.
Lestrade stands over his shoulder, grinning widely. “Well, this is all kinds of fucked up,” he says loudly.
Yes, it is.
iv) to suddenly become unconscious
“Sherlock we really need to talk about this.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been avoiding me for weeks.”
Which is true, but only because Sherlock cannot bear to be in the flat while John slowly moves his belongings out and away. He cannot bear to see the new holes and spaces where before there were things, John’s things. He takes every case he can find, inconsequential, utterly ridiculous, impossibly embarrassing. Doesn’t matter as long as he is busy busy and away from the ever-expanding spaces, the gaps and cavities, the gaping holes in things.
John sighs and puts his hands on his hips, cocks his head. “Look, this doesn’t have to be a horrible thing, right? I’m not that far away. We can still work together. As much as you need me.” He crosses his arms. “Mary has asked me to have you over to dinner next week, now that we’re a bit more settled—”
Sherlock jumps up from his chair which is a mistake because suddenly he can’t breathe properly and he’s on the floor, once again, with John, once again, bending over him with anxious face, hands touching his face, his neck, checking, Sherlock supposes, for heart rate, for blocked airways, whatever such things good doctors check for when someone keeps passing out in their presence.
“This is starting to worry me, Sherlock.”
John’s small, capable, slightly shaky hands skim over Sherlock’s waist and chest. Sherlock lies still, waiting, trying to catch his breath. The room spins. John spins. John loosens Sherlock’s buttons and his hands slow, slow, stop. He sits in silence, staring down.
“Are you…are you wearing a corset, Sherlock?”
More silence. John sits back on his knees. Sherlock doesn’t look at his face but he knows the expression: puzzled, questioning, surprised but not shocked. He’s seen that exact expression, before, many times.
If you were here, John, you’d know why. You’d know about the case and the reason why I’m wearing this corset and you probably would have helped me put it on instead of Mrs. Hudson whose fingers weren’t nearly strong enough but we managed somehow, without you. But you weren’t here and you’re not here, even when you’re here, and now I’m completely too knackered to even begin to explain why I’m wearing a medium blue poly mesh underbust design corset because it’s all so stupid and pointless because You’re. Not. Here.
He opens his eyes and John opens his mouth like he’s going to say something very important and meaningful like, That’s it. I’m going to move back in before you hurt yourself.
But all he says is, “Let’s check your blood pressure.”
v) a state of suspended animation
He actually does it successfully three times before he gets caught. He figures that’s a pretty good success rate, considering he’s a novice, really. A novice with excellent potential.
He stands over John’s sleeping form for half an hour, watching his chest rise and fall, watching his red cheeks and twitching hands. He can feel the heat radiating off him from where he stands and he knows John is sick with flu and fever because he followed him home from the pharmacy when he left two hours early, shivering and miserable.
John opens his eyes and doesn’t even look surprised. He closes his eyes and sighs.
“What…are you doing here?”
“Bringing you paracetamol and a pair of your warmest socks that I found under the couch. Our couch. Our old couch, I mean. I suppose I could have rung her, but her being three hours away is a bit of an inconvenience.”
“How did you know Mary was away?”
Sherlock stares at him.
“How did you know I was sick?”
Sherlock stares at him.
“How did you even get in?”
Sherlock stares at him.
“Did you break in to my flat?”
Sherlock stares at him. He starts to speak. John shakes his head.
“Forget it. Forget it. I don’t even want to—”
“Well really, John, the security around here is deplorable. I mean, when you were away last week in Dublin for two days, though I don’t know why you insist on going there you always complain about it when you get back, none of your neighbours even noticed the tall, dark-hair fellow shimmying open the window in broad daylight—”
John holds up a hand, his face both tense with fury and slack with shock at the same time. It is an admirable feat. He speaks slowly and very quietly. “Are you telling me you’ve been in here before?”
Sherlock sniffs. “Of course.”
“So, you refuse our numerous invitations to tea and dinner and telly night and yet sneak in when we’re not home?”
John’s voice is now barely contained fury. “Why?”
Sherlock has no acceptable answer for that. Well, the answer is obvious but not one he feels inclined to share at the moment.
“Next thing you’ll be telling me you watch Mary and I sleep.”
“Well, not her,, obviously. That would be improper.” Sherlock sighs. “I just wanted to make sure you were…fine. Being sick and…alone is also inconvenient.”
John shifts in the bed. “Mary’s away visiting an old friend. Who is dying.” John pauses. “Cancer.”
“I’m sorry,” Sherlock says, because he knows it’s right thing to say.
“Well, death is inevitable, John—”
John puts up a hand. “Forget it. I’d conveniently deleted your charming idea of bedside manner.”
“Well.” Sherlock casts about for words of comfort. “I mean, we all, any of us, could go at any time. I could get hit by a bus when I leave here, squashed flat.” He claps one hand down on the other.
“I could get shot, stabbed, poisoned by any number of assassins. Your flu could morph into pneumonia.”
“You could fall off a building.” John’s voice is quiet but it cuts through the air in the room like a knife.
After that there wasn’t really much to say at all.
Surprisingly, John doesn’t kick Sherlock out so Sherlock stays. He drags a too-small, antique-y looking chair from the corner to beside the bed and sits for awhile as John drifts in and out of sleep. When Sherlock gets restless he straightens the blankets on John’s bed (her bed, too, don’t forget, her bed, too) and pushes his slightly damp pillow into a more comfortable shape and rests his hand on John’s forehead. He can see John’s fever-addled eyes watching him in the dim, middle-of-the-night light.
“Does she do all these things for you?” Sherlock asks quietly.
“You know who.”
“Yes. I do. And I want you to say her name.”
“Pretending to not know her name doesn’t make her not exist.”
“I bet she doesn’t plump your pillows. Metaphorically or otherwise.”
John almost smiles. “You’re not competing with Mary,” he says.
Yes I am. Don’t you see, John? Don’t you see? I am competing. And I’ve already lost.
Sherlock lays his head on the bed next to sleeping John and John sneezes on him several times and rolls over but Sherlock doesn’t move. The snot and spit form a crust on his cheek and it’s beautiful.
“You may be contagious, after all,” Sherlock breathes with his head against John’s neck. “Everything inside me, all my bones, are breaking.”
When John’s fever finally ebbs and it is almost morning and John is asleep, Sherlock checks the mobile. Missed calls from Mary, texts from Mary. Sherlock stares at them. He scrolls through and reads the most recent.
So sorry you’re feeling poorly, love. I hope you’re managing to take care of yourself.
Sherlock pauses only for a moment.
Oh don’t worry about me, darling. I’ve hired a large-breasted blonde nurse to help out while you’re gone. She’s quite efficient with the bed pan but is rather absent-minded about her knickers. Love to you.
Seventeen seconds later she calls. Sherlock answers.
“Sherlock? What on earth?” She sighs. “How high is this fever anyway?”
John grabs the phone, scans the texts angrily.
“I may have been delirious,” John says to Mary. “I’m fine now. Perfect.”
“It was meant as a joke,” Sherlock says loudly.
“I didn’t find it very funny,” he hears her say.
“No. Neither did I.”
When John has calmed down, Sherlock brings him tea and toast and watches as he eats and sips. They watch telly for a bit but John gets tired. Sherlock paints his toenails while he’s asleep. Brushes his hair. Sherlock kneels beside the bed and holds John’s hand. He presses his lips to his palm, then the fine skin of his warm wrist. He shuffles closer and leans awkwardly across the bed and kisses John on the cheek, then the mouth. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t.
“What was that?” John pulls back just enough to speak. His fingers are digging painfully into Sherlock’s wrist. “Did you just kiss me?”
“Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.”
“Why do you keep asking me why I do the things I do?”
John stares at him then grips Sherlock’s cheek and pulls him forward, kissing him hard with dry lips. He bites Sherlock’s mouth, hard. Sherlock jumps but doesn’t pull away. He kisses John harder. John wraps his hand around Sherlock’s neck, fingers in his hair. It hurts. All of it hurts so very much. John pulls away at last. Sherlock is panting. His vision swims. He sways on his knees. John throws a trembling hand over his face and speaks to the room.
“You’re not going to pass out on me again, are you?”
v) a state of lowered physiological activity typically characterized by reduced metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature that occurs in varying degrees especially in hibernating and estivating animals
“I can’t…do this, Sherlock.”
Sherlock says nothing.
“I mean…you must see that. Even you. I can’t hurt her like that.” He laughs. “Not that it would even work. Between us. Right? How.” He shakes his head. “It wouldn’t work. You must understand that I can’t just.” He stops. “Even. Even if I want to.”
John finishes his little speech so quietly that Sherlock has to strain to hear.
Sherlock says at last, “I’ll wait.”
John bites his lip. “Sherlock. Please.” He shakes his head.
“Yes. I’ll wait. For you.”
“Sherlock. It wouldn’t work—”
But Sherlock isn’t even listening. He’s thinking. And planning. It’s a kind of hibernation, he sees. A retreat into a cave, a hole, a space where he could curl up and lick his wounds in the dark and quiet. He could do it, if it meant John might be his one day.
He could wait. He could wait.
He could wait.
vi) to enter a state of hysterical rapture or ecstasy
Sherlock wants to carry him over the threshold, thinks of asking, but with his bad knee and John’s bad back, he decides it’s not only risky but decidedly unromantic to drop one’s beloved and betrothed on their wedding night.
He kisses John, and again, and once more. He closes the bedroom door and turns off the bedside lamp. He wants John to look up without asking him to look up. John looks up. For a long moment he doesn’t say a word. Sherlock’s not even sure if he’s breathing.
“What have you done?”
“It’s the solar system.”
“I can see that.” John pauses.
“You made the solar system.”
“This and that. Paper. String. This and that. No human remains, I promise.”
“And you hung it from the ceiling of our bedroom.”
“And it all glows in the dark.”
“You don’t remember.”
“Oh, I do. But, you said you deleted it. You said it didn’t matter.”
“No. But it clearly mattered to you.”
Sherlock waits for John to say something. He waits some more. “Your eyes are wet,” he says. “And your throat is moving up and down, like you’re swallowing something, but you’re not. You’re either happy or sad and I can’t tell which until you say something, so if you could tell me—”
“I think,” says John, “that this is possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.”
“Aside from the waiting, you mean,” says Sherlock. “I waited for you a long time.”
John kisses him.
Later, when lights swirl behind Sherlock’s eyes, white and bright, electric pinpoints like an entire galaxy of stars and planets over his head and inside his brain and his whole body is a black hole enveloping John, all of John and all of the world inside him, stars and everything, before he falls asleep, or possibly swoons, Sherlock says, “I love you, John.” Three times. Quietly.