Actions

Work Header

I Loved You First

Work Text:

There was a silence blanketing 221B Baker Street, as heavy and as dense as the rapidly darkening clouds above. Dusk was approaching, bringing with it surges of gusting wind and the promise of overnight rainfall. John Watson, having returned home from a shift at the clinic not even an hour ago, stood idly by his armchair, a rare bout of anxiety filling him as he observed his flatmate.

His hands were steepled in front of him, his eyes were closed gently and everything about his position on the couch screamed ‘don’t disturb me or else.’ John could no longer pretend to be busying himself around the sitting area however, and he was convinced that Sherlock hadn’t moved once during his shift; it was definitely for the better. 

Before he could clear his throat, Sherlock was speaking, remaining perfectly still as he did so. 

“Do ask me whatever it is you’ve been meaning to ask for the past half hour, John. I can feel your eyes burning into me and distractions aren’t conducive to my thinking.” 

John let out a great heaving sigh, unable to keep the faintest trace of a smile from forming on his lips. “Right. Okay.”

He squared his shoulders, and attempted for a moment to will the nerves that had been bubbling up to the surface right back down.

“I’ve noticed something over the past few months or so,” he began, aiming for casual, but falling drastically short. 

Sherlock gave a noncommittal hum. “That’s encouraging. There’s hope for your observation skills, yet.” 

John pressed on, not dignifying the remark with a response. “I didn’t think it was anything major at first; I thought it might just be how you are. But, erm, the pattern is becoming a bit hard to ignore. I guess I just...” 

God. Why was he doing this again? Did this even have to be a thing? 

His heart was pounding as though they’d just chased a murderer through London. 

“There is a point to this, correct?” 

He let out a huff. “Yes. There is. Just — give me a second, will you?” 

“If I recall correctly, you’re the one that approached me.” 

Another huff. Then a pause. Then—

“I think you’re jealous.” 

John’s voice was deceptively calm, but his hands were balled into fists, knuckles rapidly turning white. He released them again once a sharp pain began to register in the palms of his hands, knowing well that when Sherlock finally looked over at him it would become apparent just how nervous he was. 

His life had become one big blur of dangerous situations, all bleeding into one another, all accompanied by the same heart-pounding adrenaline that spiraled through his veins. This, surely, should not be warranting such an overt response from his body. He was safe for the time being, so long as some shadowy figure from one of their past cases didn’t darken their doorstep within the next few minutes. John’s smile verged slightly on hysterical at the thought. 

“Contrary to popular belief I am, in fact, not a mind reader, so you may have to elaborate.”

John blinked and took a seat on the edge of his chair, almost forgetting what he’d said. 

“Okay then. I think you’re jealous of the girls I go out on dates with.“

Sherlock lowered his hands down to his lap and John was met suddenly by a familiar pair of sharp grey eyes, calculating as they always were. He swung his body around too, clearly deeming the conversation worthy enough of his full attention now. 

“And what makes you say that?” 

John swallowed. Sherlock didn’t seem to be snapping at him; he could deal with this. 

“Wellll, I figured since you like numbers and all that so much, I’d lay it for you. Of the ten dates I’ve had over the past three months, you’ve directly interrupted 5 of them over cases you deemed less than a 4, 3 of them over cases you deemed less than a 6, and you texted me non-stop during the remaining two, for no reason other than to complain about how bored you were and how badly you wanted to set fire to the house and how you might die if I didn’t come home soon and—“ 

“Okay, I think you’ve made your point,” said Sherlock, sniffing derisively, “even if those were all very real threats.” 

John couldn’t help a snort. “Threats? Really? A bit of boredom won’t kill you.” 

“You’re right, it’ll only kill my brain cells one by one, until I’m nothing but a pitiful husk of a—“

“Okay, okay, I feel like we’re getting a bit off track here. The point is that you seem to have a thing against anyone that’s interested in me. It’s subtle sometimes, I’ll give you that, but I know you, Sherlock. I know how to read your...” John paused for a moment, waving his hands about, “facial expressions and stuff.”

Sherlock dropped his gaze to the floor for a moment, and John could practically see him turning the words over in his head. Then, he moved with a flourish, curling up on the couch with his back facing John. 

“I’m not jealous, it’s merely inconvenient to my process during cases when you’re absent, or otherwise occupied by someone’s attention.”

He couldn’t help but think that curling up had been a strategic move; John couldn’t see his face and it was hard to discern if Sherlock was lying through his teeth when he used that unwavering tone of indifference. He let out a long-suffering sigh, before getting up from his chair and heading towards the kitchen. Sherlock didn’t seem as though he wanted to talk further, and John wasn’t in the mood to push it, despite having a few more things he would’ve liked to say. 

He made tea for both of them out of habit, leaving one steaming mug by the couch. The wind had picked up again, rattling against the windows, and the fire was dwindling now, a chill setting in as the evening drew on. He considered letting Sherlock know that he probably shouldn’t sleep on the couch, but he ended up refraining, padding silently up to his room instead with tea and a novel in hand. 

When John returned downstairs later to wash his mug, he was more than pleased to see that Sherlock’s cup of tea had been drained.

 

~

 

A few days passed before John enacted a plan. 

It was another overcast afternoon — various shades of grey filled the sky, scarcely allowing rays of sunlight to beam through. The lighter clouds were rapidly taking on a graphite hue, and the air was humid with the promise of more rain. 

The murder-suicide case they’d been called in for was a ‘tediously simple one’, at least according to Sherlock. He swooped about the scene and examined the bodies closely, muttering to himself and occasionally jumping up to, rather unnecessarily, inquire John’s ‘medical opinion’ about something. When John noted from a recent photo on the supposed suicide victim’s wall that a calendar was missing from the scene, clearly depicting an upcoming holiday to Italy, Sherlock smiled so wide that Lestrade asked him if he was okay (“Brilliant, John! Why would a suicidal person schedule a holiday two days after they were planning on shooting another person and then themself?“) 

Privately, John couldn’t help but think that Sherlock had noticed signs that it had been a double-murder far, far before he had, but he allowed himself the tiniest of smiles anyway. 

The murderer was detained by nightfall, and John finally set his plan into motion at about 9 pm, when Sherlock had begun to settle down after flouncing about the living room, claiming to be bored after just having caught a murderer. 

It was simple enough, and yet his nerves felt as though they’d been set alight by the time he reached the bottom of the staircase, steps low and purposeful. Sherlock’s eyes swept over him, scrutinizing, turning him inside out, and despite being used to that burning gaze John found himself shifting anxiously from one foot to the other. 

“You have a date.” 

His shoulders relaxed fractionally. Sherlock had deduced exactly what he’d wanted him to. 

“Yes, I do,” he said, clearing his throat. “We’re going out for dinner.” 

Sherlock’s eyes narrowed, and a look crossed his face that was usually reserved for the most complex of puzzles. “Who is it? I can’t recall you meeting anyone as of late. You have no new colleagues at the clinic, and I witnessed you bin that girl’s number from the crime scene on Monday. I would’ve known if you’d met someone new, or someone from your past.” 

John smiled serenely. “Have you eliminated all the possibilities yet?” 

Sherlock brought his hands together in front of his face, index fingers resting gently against his bottom lip. “No. Did someone text you? An old friend? There’s nothing on your laptop that would indicate it, but it could’ve been on your phone. I know you wouldn’t stoop to the level of one of those vapid dating apps.” 

John made his way over to the door, lifting his coat from the coat rack and shrugging it on. He’d planned on maintaining at least some semblance of subtlety, but there was hurt beginning to show through the cracks of Sherlock’s careful mask of indifference, and it was beginning to break his heart a little. 

“Her name’s Megan. She’s nice,” he said vaguely, lingering by the door, “I’m not entirely sold though, if I’m being honest.”

His gaze fell to Sherlock, whose mind seemed to be racing. His eyes were still scanning rapidly, deducing, assessing the situation in the only way he knew how, and John remained perfectly still, allowing himself to be read like an open book. A minute or so of silence passed, save for the bustling of the street outside and the howling wind. This would usually be the part where Sherlock would make a string of deductions about the woman he was seeing, and how they absolutely wouldn’t be compatible for one another due to x y z. 

John let out the tiniest of sighs as he reached for the doorknob, which seemed to spur Sherlock into action because he finally spoke up, voice wavering with hesitation. 

“John?” 

He could barely contain a fond smile as he turned back toward the room. The sun had well and truly set by now, leaving darkness in its wake. The light in the apartment was warm,  dancing across Sherlock’s features and softening them slightly, casting an orange glow over his pale eyes. They were still sharp, but they now rested on John’s face. 

The response sounded breathless even to his own ears. 

“Yeah?”

Sherlock swallowed. “Cancel it. Don’t go.” 

John felt strangely as though a beaming ray of light had appeared in his chest, spreading warmth right down to his fingertips. He stepped away from the door, making no effort to fight back his smile now. 

“Okay. Only on one condition, though.” 

Momentary surprise flickered over Sherlock’s face. “And what would that be?” 

“We go out together instead.” 

The words lingered in the air for a moment, and John was on the verge of very hastily adding that it could be as friends if Sherlock wanted when the man in question jumped up from the couch and clapped his hands together, eyes alight with glee. 

“I knew it from the moment you came downstairs. There is no girl! You wanted to coax me into asking you to stay, into inadvertently admitting that you were right about my jealousy.”

John let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “From the moment I came downstairs, then? Are you sure you’re not just falling off your game?” he teased, to which Sherlock gave a very dramatic eye roll. 

“The uncertainties I had were hardly my fault; there were plenty of other more direct ways you could’ve gone about expressing your desire to take me out. For example — simply asking would’ve sufficed. Or perhaps—“ 

“Hey, Sherlock?” 

Sherlock seemed slightly miffed at having been interrupted, but he looked expectantly towards John regardless. 

“Yes?” 

“I’ve always wondered...how effective would kissing you be in shutting you up?” 

Sherlock froze, grey eyes wide with uncharacteristic shock. He simply looked at John for a moment, as though he was trying desperately to understand a foreign language. Then, something must’ve clicked into place, because he relaxed minutely, an amused smile beginning to twitch at the corner of his mouth.

“I...can’t say it’s been entirely effective in the past, but I’m willing to make an exception.” 

John’s smile widened then, and he knew it must’ve resembled a beam more than anything but he couldn’t help it. Just that word alone — exception — had him feeling giddy. From the moment they’d met at Bart’s that’s what John had become after all, an exception, someone who Sherlock had quickly befriended against all odds, someone who Sherlock was occasionally willing to express sentiment toward, although he absolutely wouldn’t admit to that. John still saw it, still noticed Sherlock’s care for him shine through in the smallest of ways, and he was still grateful for it. 

Sherlock was observing him silently now, uncertainty apparent in the sudden tension he was holding in his shoulders, and the difficulties maintaining eye contact. He was clearly attempting to interpret what his next move should be, if something was expected of him at that moment he hadn’t been made privy to. The vague thought occurred to John that Sherlock had stopped talking on his own accord so there wasn’t technically any need for kissing. 

But...just in case. 

(And because he couldn’t stand to see Sherlock looking so unsure of himself, endearing as it might be. That simply wouldn’t do.) 

He crossed the room and stopped in front of Sherlock, whose expression was tinged with a rare softness that had John’s heart swelling. It all seemed to happen automatically, John’s hands coming up to rest on Sherlock’s shoulders, Sherlock’s tentative hands winding around his waist, drawing him in. When their lips met John’s eyes slid shut, and a simmering feeling of warmth washed over him, just beneath the surface of his skin, spreading gradually from every point of contact between them. He gently guided Sherlock down towards him so that he could rock backwards off his tip-toes and plant his feet on the floor, musing for a moment over how significant their height difference seemed all of a sudden. 

He always has to be greater than everyone else, even in height, the stubborn bastard, a small part of him grumbled. The thought had him smiling uncontrollably into the kiss, no matter how much he tried to fight it. 

Sherlock pulled away, expression halfway between amusement and confusion. There was a tinge of something else there too — something awfully close to wonder. 

“What are you finding so amusing about kissing?” 

“Nothing,” assured John, but he was still smiling and Sherlock seemed even more bewildered. 

“Nothing?” he echoed, arching an eyebrow. 

“Just imagining what it would be like if I was the tall one.” 

At that, Sherlock snorted. “Imagining will get you nowhere, John, you know that. Besides...I quite enjoy my height advantage the way it is.” 

Privately, John couldn’t help but think he quite enjoyed it too. He’d never admit that aloud of course, even if Sherlock had somehow managed to deduce it from a subtle shift in his facial expression or something.

“I just think it’s unfair,” he said, as he reluctantly detached himself from Sherlock’s warmth and headed over towards the coat rack. “You’re already the genius, you don’t have to have me beat at everything.” 

Sherlock seemed smug for a moment as John approached again, Belstaff coat and scarf in hand. He gave him a playful swat once he’d handed them over. 

“Get that smile off your face, you git. You’re supposed to tell me that you don’t have me beat at everything.” 

At this, Sherlock only looked more smug. “Fishing for compliments already, John?” 

“‘Hey John, I’m not better than you at everything’ is hardly a compliment,” he argued, fondness tugging at his chest as he watched Sherlock shrug on his coat and tie his scarf around his neck. 

“There are numerous areas where your knowledge eclipses mine, I thought we’d established this already,” said Sherlock, and John couldn’t help his brief surprise. 

“...Numerous?” came the teasing response a few moments later, and Sherlock let out an annoyed huff, making his way over to the front door. 

“You know I loathe to repeat myself.” 

John just laughed however, ignoring the slight pout that was beginning to form on his friend’s face. “I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me!” 

“Yes, well, it’s merely a statement of fact,” mumbled Sherlock, before adding more clearly: “I suggest we go to Angelo’s for our...outing. Thoughts?” 

“Sounds good to me,” John said with a shrug, still smiling as he walked through the door. “I didn’t plan this far ahead if I’m honest.” 

Sherlock closed the door behind them with a gentle thud, a hand lingering by the small of John’s back as they made their way downstairs and into the brisk autumn air. 

The cab ride wasn’t that different to their normal cab rides, save for the additional lingering glances. Their hands slowly inched towards one another on the seat, until their fingers were intertwined and Sherlock was doing everything within his power to hide his smile in the collar of his coat. John noticed it anyway, of course — he always did.

The relentless drumming of Sherlock’s fingers against the hardwood of their table was the only indication of his trepidation as Angelo set down a candle, offering the pair of them a wink as he retreated to the kitchen. It was lovely inside, as it always was, their usual corner by the window bathed in a soft yellow glow and the murmured chatter from around them drowning out the storm brewing outside. 

John hesitated for just a moment before reaching across the table and taking Sherlock’s hand, preventing him from fidgeting. Sherlock’s gaze was drawn down to their hands, and that expression of wonder from earlier painted itself across his face momentarily. 

“There’s no need to be nervous,” assured John.

Sherlock looked up at him, affronted. “I’m not nervous.” 

“Really? Then how come you haven’t started spouting observations about how Angelo’s day was, or how the couple across the street are exactly one week from separating, or—“

“He had a good day,” Sherlock interrupted, clearly unable to help himself, “he had about eight hours of sleep, he picked up his clothes from the dry cleaners, he spent a while in the kitchen making his lunch, likely something with garlic.” 

John’s smile took on a soft edge. When Sherlock didn’t have a case to discuss, he would often fall back on observing whoever he could around them. If he was sulking, he wouldn’t say anything, and John would fill the silence between them with comments about how his day was, or various stories from the surgery. Sometimes it seemed as though it became white noise to the stubborn detective, but more often than not Sherlock would listen closely, even if he pretended to be utterly bored by it all to keep up appearances. 

“So you’re not nervous, then?” asked John, an eyebrow raised in disbelief. 

He could’ve sworn a light blush was beginning to bloom across Sherlock’s face. A long pause stretched out between them. 

“I don’t normally bother with romantic entanglements, John, you know that. Romance doesn’t tie into my work unless it’s a motive for murder, and as such, there isn’t much stored away in my mind palace that assists me in...situations...like these.” 

John nodded, unable to keep from smiling as he took Sherlock’s other hand in his own. “So...what you’re getting at is that you don’t really know what you’re doing?” 

Sherlock initially appeared scandalized at the notion that he wasn’t a total expert at something he was attempting to do, but this quickly gave way to resignation. 

“I suppose so, yes. All of this ridiculous etiquette and tradition surrounding dating is so unbearably tedious to keep up with. For example, did you know flowers are often customary on a first date? What, so people can sit there and watch them die after a week? Or that checking your phone too often — or at all — is a supposed ‘turn off’? I mean, what if Lestrade texts me?” 

John couldn’t help but laugh at Sherlock’s petulance, bringing one of his hands up to press a quick kiss to it. 

“Sherlock, you don’t have to worry about those things. and I don’t expect you to stop being, you know...you just because we’re dating. If Lestrade calls us in on some case while we’re out then of course we’ll go. That’s what we do.” 

Sherlock’s expression softened slightly at that, and he nodded. 

“...So no flowers?” 

John huffed an amused laugh. “I wouldn’t object, but erm...no. Flowers aren’t necessary. Nothing is, really, I just like being with you.” 

He winced as soon as the words had left his mouth; they were far too open, far too exposing, and he wasn’t exactly used to the whole ‘expressing his emotions’ thing yet. Especially not since moving in with Sherlock, who had a knack for deducing exactly what he was feeling at any given moment. It was nice, to have someone understand you so completely without even needing to voice anything, but he knew he couldn’t get away with that now. Not when Sherlock was out of his depth. 

He peered across at the man in question, who was staring back at him just as intently. His expression seemed to flit between various emotions, as though he wasn’t quite sure what to think. He was uncomfortable, John realized with a small pang of guilt, and he attempted to pull his hands away, but Sherlock just tightened his grip and intertwined their fingers. 

“Sorry. It’s just, um...” 

“Sentiment,” said John, nodding.

“Yes. It doesn’t exactly come naturally to me...though I suppose I haven’t let it for quite some time,” Sherlock paused for a moment, clearing his throat and focusing his gaze on a point beyond John’s shoulder, “I like being with you too, if that wasn’t obvious already.” 

Silence settled over them after that, and John wasn’t exactly sure who was the first to start giggling but soon enough they had let go of one another’s hands and they were laughing uncontrollable for reasons that escaped him.

“I just realized something!” John exclaimed suddenly, his light tone worlds away from what it had been minutes ago. 

“You realized something? Oh this should be good, please do enlighten me John.” 

He narrowed his eyes slightly at that, but continued on regardless. “You researched first dates and what normally happens on them before I asked you out, obviously, unless you pulled out your phone during the cab ride and I didn’t notice it. How could you have known that I was planning on asking you out?” 

A smirk was twitching on Sherlock’s face. “Elementary. In the days following your inquiry about my jealousy, your furtive glances in my direction increased by 35 per cent, and you were almost constantly lost in thought. Are you aware that your gaze drifts to me while you’re thinking? It’s quite fascinating. I knew you were planning something, and I knew it had to do with me. Taking into account our conversation on Friday, I came to the conclusion that you’d be asking me out soon so I thought I’d research what would be expected of me on a possible date. All of the advice I found was rubbish, obviously. The culture surrounding romance is rubbish as a whole, but I digress.” 

John barely had time to respond before bowls of pasta were being placed before them by Angelo, who offered them both a knowing smile. 

“Enjoy boys.” 

“Thank you, Angelo,” said Sherlock, smile widening slightly at the stunned look that was painted across John’s face. 

The Sherlock Holmes had deigned himself to research what went into a normal date, because he thought John was going to be asking him out. He let out a laugh that was caught between amusement and disbelief. 

“You knew I was planning on asking you out, and you didn’t say anything?” 

Sherlock just shrugged, twirling some pasta around his fork. “I quite enjoyed watching you plan. I’ll admit I was rather taken aback when you declared you were going on a date with someone else, but it quickly became obvious what you were attempting to do. It was a good plan overall by the way, well done.” 

Git,” said John, shaking his head as he gave Sherlock a playful swat on the head with his dessert menu. “You’re unbelievable sometimes.”

“But you like me anyway?” 

“You know I do.” 

“Of course, but it’s still nice to hear.” 

Sherlock’s smile was still tinged with smugness, but it was earnest too, lighting up his entire face and making his pale eyes appear brighter in the glow of the candlelight. 

How could John ever refuse him? 

“Yes, Sherlock. I like you anyway. You could bloody well murder someone and I’d probably still like you...not that that’s a theory worth testing by the way, before you start.” 

Sherlock’s expression seemed to brighten further, if that was even possible, and his contagious smile was quick to spread to John. 

It was when they were almost finished with their meals that the sounds of the raging thunderstorm outside began to seep in, cutting right through the peaceful atmosphere within the restaurant. Rain splashed down the window, and John watched in fascination as their view of the world outside was reduced down to various blotches of colour, all coming together to form one blurry picture. He tore his gaze away after a few moments, only to find that Sherlock had been watching him. He tipped his head slightly to the side, arching an eyebrow. 

“You like thunderstorms,” he observed, “you like the chaos of them.”

John laughed slightly. “How do you know it’s the chaos I like?” 

“The look in your eye, I’ve catalogued it rather extensively. It appears mostly when you’re in an adrenaline-inducing situation, and persists until we’ve reached 221B, where you know you’ll likely be safe. The only other time it reliably appears is when your full concentration is on observing a thunderstorm. It’s interesting.” 

John glanced down towards the table at that, smiling slightly. He wasn’t normally one to get embarrassed, but the thought of Sherlock cataloguing a particular look in his eye ‘extensively’ had him feeling rather bashful. 

“Oh, that’s a rare one. You’re feeling shy. But why?”

John forced himself to meet Sherlock’s gaze at that. “How much do you catalogue about me, exactly?” 

“Enough for me to be able to deduce you as required. Why? Not good?” 

“No! It’s...nice. I was just wondering is all.” 

Sherlock nodded, hesitating for a moment before adding in somewhat of a rush: “some of what I catalogue isn’t strictly related to being able to deduce you and your expressions. I just...like collecting data about you. It interests me.” 

“I interest you?” 

“Of course you do.” 

John could barely contain a grin. “Good. That’s...good.” 

The conversation lulled after that, but only for a minute or so before John was looking up from his food with a smile.

“I have an idea.” 

“Enlighten me.” 

“I’m going to try deduce some of the people in this restaurant — what their relationship is to the people they’re sitting with and what their job is. Then, if I’m wrong, you can correct me.” 

Sherlock sat up straighter in his seat and leaned forward on his elbows, eyes brimming with amusement. “Alright then. Let’s start with the corner table over there — the one with the two women.” 

John turned his head slightly, trying hard to ensure his staring was as subtle as it possibly could be. One of them was a brunette, and the other was a blonde, but her roots suggested that it was a dyed blonde. They were both natural brunettes, and they were both clearly comfortable with one another — close friends or even sisters, it was hard to tell. He continued to observe them both for a few lingering moments, before turning back to Sherlock and clapping his hands together. 

“Okay. I’m gonna say that they’ve been friends for a while — at least a few years. The one with the pink dress is a teacher and the one with the suit is a lawyer.” 

A smile began to tug at Sherlock’s lips. “Those are your final answers?” 

“Yes,” John said, narrowing his eyes slightly. “Why?” 

“No reason. You’re right — they are close friends, have been since high school by the looks of it, but they both like each other and they’ve been blurring the line between friends and girlfriends for quite some time now. The brunette with the pink dress is a paramedic and the blonde with the suit is a secretary.”

John sat in silence for a moment. 

“...You’re going to make me ask, aren’t you?” 

“No, I’ll explain my deductions at the end — I want to see if you can pick up on any clues upon a second examination. Next table!“ 

By the fourth drastically wrong guess John was beginning to regret having voiced his idea in the first place, but one glance at the excited smile spread across Sherlock’s face, and another one down at their intertwined fingers (when had that happened?) had him deciding that no, he didn’t regret it actually. It was hard to regret anything that made the impossible man sitting across from him smile like that. 

And really — there wasn’t much difference in the way they stumbled through the rain on the way to their cab, except now Sherlock was unashamedly holding John close to him, attempting to shield them both with his coat through laughter, and John felt lighter than air despite the rain that was weighing down his clothes, lighter than he had in a long, long time.