After doing his A-levels, John gets into uni, and suddenly two years have passed and he’s living in a shabby London flat on his own. He's only barely scraping by with rent and bills, but he’s independent, and that’s all that matters.
He can’t lie though: it does sometimes get kind of lonely, when it’s 2 am, and he watches the brick wall that is his window view and debates if it’s worth the cost to crank up the heating. But he gets on with his studies and his work, and tries not to think too much too often.
Everything changes one Sunday afternoon, when a moving van arrives at their street, and John realises that he’s getting a new neighbour.
He doesn’t meet them for a long time, because apparently they either never go outside or never come home. After two months all he knows of the stranger living next door, is that they like to play the violin at 2 in the fucking morning, which is initially bloody annoying. John doesn’t usually have time for days of exhaustion because some moron decided to keep him up all night.
As time goes on however, so does John’s relationship with the night-time music. Eventually it becomes something he looks forward to; a way for him to calm down and get ready to sleep. On some nights there aren’t any music at all, and on those nights John tosses and turns for hours, and wonders whether the person usually playing him to sleep is okay.
One time the music is absent for an entire week.
Upon Saturday evening John is beginning to get concerned to the point of considering going knocking on the door of the neighbouring flat.
He never has the time though, before he is interrupted by thunder breaking, and suddenly everything is illuminated by lighting and filled with the sound of pounding rain. In true Brit fashion he leaves his work and goes to the window, watching the sky with a look of mild distaste on his features.
There’s a boom of lightning then, as it strikes scarily near to the window, and with a fizzle all of the lights disappear.
Really, all there is to do is sigh loudly, and John does just that, before he embarks on the quest of finding non-electrical sources of lighting.
Finding a flashlight in a drawer, John enters the hallway and goes to check on the old lady living to the right of him, seeing if she is okay, and when he exits a few minutes later it is with an armful of candles. He closes the door behind him, and upon turning around almost runs into the chest of another human.
It’s the violin player, John is sure of it. And what a magnificent time to meet him, in old sweatpants and a stained T-shirt, especially because, well… the guy is damn beautiful. And, by the looks of it, slightly annoyed.
“Oh,” John says, stupidly. “Hello. You must be the violin guy.”
The guy in question, for a moment, looks confused. “Sorry?”
“You play the violin? At night? Not that I... Anyway. Candle?” John offers up his pile of them.
“Can you make the actual light come back?” the guy asks. To be fair to John, this other man is also in sweatpants and a tee, but he makes the outfit look at lot more graceful than John could ever hope to attempt.
“Erhm. No?” John says.
“Right, well” the guy says, takes a candle, and turns on his heels to go back into his own flat, leaving John alone and confused.
“Right,” he mumbles to himself. Then he shrugs, and goes to light a candle.
The next morning when John wakes up, there’s a note on the floor in front of his door: “I’m Sherlock, by the way.”
It’s not much, but it’s a starting point, and during the next few months John gets to know Sherlock a little more with each accidental hallway or washing room meeting, and with each note pushed under a door at night.
He paints, reads a lot of nonfiction crime books that are left in his washing clothes basket for John to sneak on, and he is insanely intelligent. Almost from their first conversation he was able to figure things out about John simply from looking at him during the few seconds they spend together at a time.
He’s also insanely attractive. With John’s affinity for danger and bad decisions, it’s really no wonder that they end up in bed together only weeks after their first conversation.
There’s an excuse in there somewhere, to get Sherlock into his flat, and then there’s some light flirting to test out the waters. Sherlock’s trousers are high waisted and he’s wearing a crop top, and John feels the desire making his fingertips tingle.
“You shouldn’t read this crap,” Sherlock says, and discards the latest popular thriller on John’s bed. “It’s bad for your brain.”
“Hm,” John says, smiling. Already he’s used to this; and more than that, he quite likes it. He finds it cute. How nauseating, as Sherlock would probably say.
“This is pretty good though,” he continues, and points to John’s collected Walt Whitman. He has to have it, right? A good queer must. At this, John smiles even more.
“Easily written loose-finger’d chords –“ he recites. Sherlock freezes for a moment, but when he turns around he’s trying not to smile.
“I feel the thrum of your climax and close?” he continues, his tone of voice almost like the sound of rolling eyes. “Is this a pickup line?”
“Is it working?” John asks.
“Does it usually?”
“I only use it on public school boys, and we don’t get many of those around here.”
John smiles, especially because he can feel Sherlock warming up to the idea.
He doesn’t reply, but bites his lip in thought and takes a step into John’s personal space.
“This might be a bad idea,” he says, and his breath is warm on John’s cheek.
“Definitely,” John agrees, and reaches out to pop open the button on Sherlock’s trousers, making sure to get a small nod of permission before he unzips them as well. “But it would feel so good.”
Sherlock kisses him.
With his long fingers, plump lips, and agonizing sounds, John decides that this is worth a thousand mistakes two times over. They push and they pull, they tug at each other’s bodies, and burn like greedy flames. Afterwards, with their sweat and smells still mingling, they keep kissing.
“Bad idea?” John asks, lying with his head on Sherlock’s midriff, looking up at him.
“Worth it,” Sherlock says, so John kisses his stomach.
Some minutes later they do it again.
It becomes a regular occurrence. They quickly learn each other’s schedules, and John finds that most of his time not occupied by work, school or social responsibilities is spent between Sherlock’s legs or in the near vicinity.
With time it becomes more relaxed and almost languid, and John spends more time in the fuzzy state of arousal than he probably ever has before.
Sherlock is a sight when he’s being shagged. His chest flushes, and his hair curls tightly because of the humidity, sticking to his forehead. But best of all is his breathless laugh when John says something funny while on top of him, and their heavy breaths are interrupted by the sound of happy.
It’s not just sex though. Their time is spent together even when they aren’t on top of each other, and their possessions and physical space boundaries slowly mingle, so that Sherlock will spend a lot of time in John’s oversized jumpers, and John will sleep a lot in Sherlock’s bed, listening to him play the violin when the nights are restless.
When John does laundry it’s usually only half the clothes that are actually his, and suddenly his flat is full of nonfiction crime novels and plants.
John is aware, somewhere in the back of his mind, that he’s becoming dangerously attached, even just spatially, to someone who he doesn’t even talk about dating or romantic feelings with. But he also knows, that what is going on right now, feels more secure and more real than any of his agreed relationships ever has.
December rolls around it, and with it comes the cold, but also winter break.
They spend days in bed, Sherlock in sweaters, pants and knee-high socks, and nothing else, sometimes hidden under the covers and sleeping, sometimes sitting on top of John, moving lazily and telling him about the latest interesting crime of London. John should find it weird, or gross, but he does neither.
They warm their cold feet by tangling them with the other’s legs, draw patterns on each other’s backs and touch each others’ eyebrows and smile. They watch each other sleep with fondness growing in their eyes.
Sherlock draws John the way he looks just after sex, and John reads poetry to him with a soft voice at three am. They talk: About their childhoods, about their families, about their dreams. They never talk about them, the “us” of them, but John thinks about it.
So it’s Christmas, and they both go home to spend some time with their families.
When his parents ask him if he’s seeing anyone, John says no, but that night, when everyone has gone to sleep, he calls Sherlock and they talk for hours into the night. John is surprised by the ache of missing him that Sherlock's voice produces in him. He certainly didn’t plan for this.
John is home again before Sherlock, but on the night of the 28th he wakes to someone crawling under the covers next to him, putting their leg between his and their arm around his waist.
“Hey, you,” Sherlock whispers and kisses John’s neck, so John holds his hand.
“Hey,” he mumbles; it's sleepy and comfortable. Turning around, he feels the relief of finally holding Sherlock in his arms again, and presses his lips into Sherlock’s hair.
“I missed you,” he whispers. He’s moving into uncharted and potentially dangerous territory, but Sherlock just buries himself in John’s chest and mumbles, “Me, too,” so in the end it’s all okay.
“Don’t go,” Sherlock begs. “You don’t even like them.”
“They’re my friends, I do like them,” John argues. He’s buttoning up a shirt, but is looking at Sherlock in the mirror. It’s New Years Eve. They both have different plans, but John is the first one to leave for dinner with some uni mates.
“Do you like them more than sex?”
Sherlock spreads his legs demonstratively, and John can’t help but smile. He gives in – just for a moment, he tells himself – and crawls up the bed to sit astride Sherlock’s hips before bending down to kiss him.
“Mm,” he mumbles in between kisses. “You have to let me pretend that you don’t have complete control over me.”
“Hm, no,” Sherlock says, and smiles when John kisses him again, but then for some reason move his arms to hold John tight for a long few seconds. The mood changes to something more serious, more sombre. John doesn’t know why, or what just happened, but he hugs Sherlock back, because it’s all he knows how to do.
“Hey?” he asks. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Sherlock says, and doesn’t let go. “Just– Nothing. Sorry.” He pulls away to attempt a smile, but it falls flat on his face. “Go have fun.”
“No, I– Are you okay?” John moves to sit up, but Sherlock pulls his hand away when John tries to take it.
“I’m fine. You should go.”
“Please,” Sherlock whispers, and his voice is so small that John doesn’t see any other option than simply doing as asked. Still, it is with reluctance that he gets up from the bed.
At the door he pauses, and turns around to kiss Sherlock with as much desperation and fondness as he can muster, to convey how he feels without saying it.
“Please still be here when I come back,” he begs. Sherlock nods, his head between John’s two hands.
“Promise,” Sherlock says, so John lets himself be kicked out with heavy weight in his stomach. Closing the door behind him and leaving is one of the hardest things he’s ever done.
He comes back at four in the morning; he's trying to be quiet when he opens his front door and takes off his shoes.
Sherlock is in John’s bed sleeping. John takes a second to watch the peaceful, slow breathing of the man he’s grown so comfortable with, before he crawls in next to him, trying not to stir him awake.
He discovers that he’s been unsuccessful, when he feels Sherlock’s fingers intertwine with his own.
“Sorry for waking you,” he whispers, and kisses Sherlock's bare shoulder. Sherlock shrugs.
Enough time passes for John to almost be asleep against Sherlock’s back, with his arm around him, and their hands grasping at each other’s.
“I’m leaving,” Sherlock whispers into the darkness of the room then, and John is instantly awake, with his heart aching. This kind of conversation is exactly what he’d feared all night.
“I’ve been offered a place at a top university in Paris. I have to accept it.”
“You’re moving to France?”
“Yeah,” Sherlock says. John is silent, and tries to get his breathing under control.
“When?” he asks then.
“In three days,” Sherlock says, and all the air seems to leave John’s chest. He has to turn from Sherlock’s back to catch his breath, and his hand slips out of Sherlock’s.
“Oh my God,” he breathes, and places his hand over his eyes.
“Will you come back?” he asks. He feels Sherlock turning to his back beside him, too.
“In two years,” Sherlock admits quietly.
There are a million things John could say. About how he feels for Sherlock, about how they can keep in touch, about how relationships can survive long distances sometimes. He doesn’t say any of them. Instead there’s silence, and their hands touching.
So in the end, Sherlock leaves, and John isn’t even there to kiss him goodbye, because acknowledging what is happening is too hard for the both of them.
Instead John returns in the evening to a flat void of plants and clothes all over the floor, because Sherlock took all of the signs of life with him, too, when he left. A few days later a new tenant moves in next door, and he’s nice, but he doesn’t play the violin at night or keep John up with stories of historical serial killers.
Two months pass, and he gets a package from what must be Sherlock’s new address, but in it is only one of his old T-shirts and a note that says, “Sorry, accidentally packed this with me when I left. Hope you are well. – SH.”
So maybe John sleeps with the shirt, still smelling a little of Sherlock and what must be his cigarettes, next to him on the pillow that night. So maybe he cries a little.
So maybe he gets a little drunk.
John graduates and gets an internship at Bart’s hospital, and later a job, and Sherlock starts solving crime cases in Paris. Not that John keeps tabs. Or maybe that he does.
One year passes, and then one and a half, and along the lines John gets a girlfriend, and loses a girlfriend again, but at least he’s living.
His job is getting his finances into a better state, so one and a half years after Sherlock left, John moves to a bigger apartment, in a better neighbourhood, and is surprised when leaving the place of their memories still makes him ache a little inside.
Christmas hits him like a brick wall that year, because things are getting busy, and he’s expanding on his degree and going into working medicine.
He would be lying, however, if he said he wasn’t painfully aware of the fact that Sherlock, assuming he’d follow his schedule laid out two years before, would be back in London not long from now.
When it happens, it doesn’t happen in any way that John had thought it would. Neither him nor Sherlock show up at the other’s door or work place or school. It happens, kind of like their first time, as a coincidence.
John is grocery shopping at 1 am in an almost deserted 24-hour a few metres from his new flat, in his sweatpants and denim jacket, when he looks up from the milk and sees Sherlock, God, beautiful Sherlock, down by the bread a few isles down.
Almost like magnetics, Sherlock’s head lifts as well, and their eyes meet. The smile that makes it way onto John’s face is broader than it’s been for a while. Sherlock is in his pyjamas, too.
He raises his hand in greeting to Sherlock, who manages to save himself and pull his confused look together pretty quickly. Then he smiles as well, and it takes John’s breath away.
They meet in the middle.
“Hey, you,” John says. God, he sounds so fond, like he’s dripping with it. Maybe he practically is. “You’re back.”
Sherlock smiles in reply, and says, “And you look like you’re doing good.”
God, I’ve missed you, John thinks, when he hears Sherlock’s voice again. He’s more broad-shouldered, his face is even more defined, and he looks incredible. Older. Like he’s feeling great.
“How was France?” John asks.
“Good. Busy. Very fashionable and full of cheese.” John chuckles. “A bit lonely at times.”
“Oh,” John says.
Saying it is a risk, but so was getting Sherlock into his bed in the first place: “Did you miss me?” he asks.
Sherlock reaches out to remove some lint from John’s shoulder, and when he looks up and their eyes meet, his hands move to tug at the edges of John’s hair, and a melancholy smile spreads on his face. John’s breath seems to get stuck in his throat.
“Yes,” Sherlock says. The expression on his face seems so full of regret, maybe, John thinks, could it be, about their communication cut-off. Their being apart.
“You should have come seen me when you came back,” John says, and now his hand is twisted in Sherlock’s shirt over his chest.
“Yes,” Sherlock says. “I didn’t know if I was still welcome.”
John kisses him, because how could he express himself any clearer, really? This is all that’s ever mattered, the two of them just together, the “us”.
“You’re a silly man, Sherlock Holmes,” John says to Sherlock’s cheek when they pull apart. Sherlock turns his head to kiss him again.
“Only for you,” Sherlock says.
“Come home with me?” John asks.
The first time it’s rough and quick, but the second time they have all the time in the world, and John remembers what it’s like to hold someone’s hand and make them laugh and have them tell you about crimes, while you’re inside them.
“I might be in love with you,” John whispers when they lie together afterwards in the dark, drawing patterns on each other’s faces with their fingers of desire. He’s spent the last two years regretting that he never said it, so he’s not going to wait one moment longer.
Sherlock looks in shock for a good twenty seconds, but then a smile slowly dawns on him, and John touches it with his thumb.
“For real?” Sherlock asks.
“Me, too,” Sherlock says, then. “I think I might be in love with you, too.”
So if they cry together, it’s their own little secret, and if they laugh for hours, it’s only because it’s all true.
In the early hours of the morning, when John asks Sherlock to stay, it’s almost a given. It doesn’t take many weeks before Sherlock is back in his bed every night. Because now? He lives there.