|Sherlock Fic: "Only Human" - John/Sherlock - NC17
||[Aug. 6th, 2010|08:56 pm]
(lives between pages)
Title: Only Human
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC 1)
Pairing/Characters: John/Sherlock, Donovan; mentions of Lestrade & Mrs. Hudson
Notes: So, the idea is that I want to see what Sherlock looks like when he finally finds it necessary to cave under the weight of certain simple human needs: hunger, exhaustion, illness, etc. It doesn't stop at those, though, or at least that's my aim.
Summary: John knows he's going to witness Sherlock's weaknesses soon enough.
***Now available as podfic here, read by speccygeekgrrl.***
It began as an idle conversation roughly a week after they had agreed over excellent dim sum, of which Sherlock had not partaken, that it was best not to discuss the whole incident with the cab driver, lest Lestrade decide to pursue the shooter after all. They'd failed, of course, because Sherlock couldn't keep his trap shut for five seconds.
It was from that starting point that John realized he hadn't actually seen Sherlock eat.
"What do you live on, besides tea and nicotine?"
"Where tea fails, coffee will do the trick," said Sherlock, eyes still closed, thumbs poised at his lips. When he was like that, he reminded John of a marble tomb effigy.
"Liquids don't count," John cautioned, continuing his circumspect tidying of the room. Under a fifteen year-old issue of National Geographic, he found a plate with what looked like either toast or biscuit crumbs on it. Possibly a smear of jam. He was unwilling to stoop to Sherlock's level, which would involve sniffing and/or tasting it.
"Doubtless you'll have found evidence to suggest that I do, in fact, need sustenance."
"Biscuits don't count, either," said John, sternly. "Neither does toast. I assume that you highly recommend the restaurants we've been to because you have, in fact, tasted what they have to offer at some point in time."
"Naturally," Sherlock said. "Usually as reheated take-away at two in the morning."
John stared at him for a few seconds, then put the plate back down on the table and went over to sit on the arm of the couch. His thigh almost brushed the untidy waves of Sherlock's hair. John resisted the urge to smooth and tuck them down behind his ear.
"And what do you do with the milk, anyway? I've never seen you put it in your tea."
"Well spotted," said Sherlock, in a tone that suggested John was beginning to try his patience. "That's because I don't. If you must know, I've been running some experiments that require it as a neutralizer."
"Right. I suppose you haven't even got time to think about food, so I'll just—"
"Stay," said Sherlock, unexpectedly reaching up and snagging the hem of John's jumper with impossibly strong fingers. "Just...change the subject. I find our present conversation impossibly dull and beyond irrelevant. I need some ideas."
"Here's one," John replied, shaking Sherlock's hand by the wrist until he let go. "Help me clean the kitchen. Stuff's growing on the dishes, and I don't think milk will help."
"Piss off. But don't go anywhere."
John didn't. Sherlock eventually sat up and let John share the couch with him.
It wasn't until later that evening, after John had done the dishes and promised Mrs. Hudson that he'd hoover, too, that John walked in on Sherlock watching the news on telly whilst single-mindedly devouring what looked like the remaining half of a frozen pizza. Ham and pineapple, huh. He'd have pegged Sherlock for a mushroom guy, given his unaccountable fondness for experiments resulting in fungus growth.
Grinning, John turned and left before Sherlock, apparently too hungry to focus on anything but his supper and the latest local doom-and-gloom, could take notice.
Sleep was something that Sherlock Holmes didn't appear to believe in. He also didn't appear to believe that others needed it, either. Two aborted jobs and three failed date-attempts (all of which Sherlock had found some excuse to invite himself along for) later, John had resigned himself to the fact that his fate as a bachelor and kept madman's assistant was probably sealed. At least until Sherlock got bored with him.
Strangely, the latter thought scared him far more than the former ever could.
Approximately one month, three weeks, and ten hours after John had first set foot in Baker Street, he finally saw Sherlock collapse in an exhausted heap. He fell sideways on the couch, not even bothering to kick off his shoes or shrug out of his coat. It would have been comical, if not for the fact that Sherlock was clearly knackered past the point of meltdown. Dangling awkwardly, his pale hand twitched.
John felt an inexplicable swell of fondness and walked over to kneel beside him. Experimentally, he reached out and loosened Sherlock's scarf. The detective didn't budge. John moved on to his coat buttons, telling himself that it was purely a precaution against overheating. It could do no one as slight as Sherlock any good. John forced himself to stop at removing Sherlock's shoes, reviewing the ridiculousness of the situation. Sherlock hadn't needed a flatmate. He'd needed a nanny.
Even stranger still, John didn't mind the unexpected twist his career had taken.
After a while, the signs of Sherlock's exhaustion were unmistakable. Enhanced irritability. Snappishness on the scene that extended beyond Lestrade and company to John's own person. Refusal to drink, let alone eat. More than three patches to a problem. There was nothing for it, usually, except to wait for the inevitable crash. Sometimes John was there for it, and sometimes he wasn't. He always tried to be.
Somewhere around the fifth or sixth time it happened, Sherlock stirred in the midst of being unbuttoned. John hastily withdrew his hand. "I was just—well, your coat."
Sherlock raised his eyebrows, yawning.
"It won't kill me, you know. I sleep fully clothed more often than not."
"Yes, but I don't need you succumbing to heat-stroke," said John, resuming.
Sherlock spent a few hazy seconds watching before drifting back to sleep.
This time, John didn't resist the urge to tuck Sherlock's hair behind his ear.
Four straight days of frantic chases on foot through relentless, bone-drenching rain. What had Sherlock expected would happen, beyond the mud-stains on his trousers and his beloved coat? John set a hand to his shoulder and shoved him back against the pillows. This time, Sherlock didn't fight it. He folded in on himself, shivering.
"My immune system is normally up to the challenge," he muttered.
"Three months spent in non-stop pursuit of murderers and other assorted hooligans is not normal, Sherlock," John told him, pressing the backs of his fingers to Sherlock's temple. Light sheen of sweat, curls damp. John brushed them back and let his hand drift to Sherlock's forehead. Sherlock was on fire. Did they even have a thermometer?
"Bathroom cupboard. Still in the packaging."
John retrieved the instrument, grateful that Sherlock at least had something resembling a sense of self-preservation, and made short work of punching in the start-up settings. Sherlock let John shove it into his mouth without so much as an ounce of protest. Not good, John thought, watching the digits soar. Not good at all.
"Am I dead?" asked Sherlock, wryly, his glazed eyes fixed on John's frown.
"No, but you've got one bastard of a fever," said John, severely, removing the thermometer from where it now just barely dangled from Sherlock's lips. They were full, flushed, unnaturally bright. John looked away, struggling to collect himself. "You're not leaving this bed until I say you can, do you understand me?"
"Yes, Doctor," said Sherlock, rolling onto his back. He regarded the ceiling thoughtfully with fever-fierce eyes, then turned his head and said, "My books are on the coffee table. So are my laptop and your mobile. I'll be needing them."
"You'll be needing rest," John corrected him, mentally making a list of sedatives.
"You know where to find my patches," Sherlock continued, his eyelids drooping a little.
"You're not allowed those, either," John sighed. It was going to be a long week.
Fortunately, Sherlock, still shivering, looked near enough to sleep that John had no compunctions about pulling the covers up to his chin. And if John's knuckles brushed Sherlock's hair while he was at it, lingering briefly—well, what of it?
Occasionally, when John accompanied Sherlock to a crime scene—which, by then, was almost almost always—the others, Sherlock included, seemed to forget that he was there. Perhaps it's that they never took him all that seriously to begin with, or perhaps they simply didn't think he posed any kind of genuine threat. John was busy looking up the dead man's nose with a flashlight when he heard Donovan's voice.
"So, do you get off on the war hero sucking your cock, too? And here I'd mistaken you for a pacifist. A sick and twisted one, I'll grant you, but a pacifist nonetheless."
John was too stunned to do anything but freeze and await Sherlock's response.
"Wouldn't you like to know. Next question. Do try to make it relevant."
He would have smiled at Sherlock's elegant sarcasm, except there was some underlying dimension to his tone that had never been there before. Something strained and quiet. Weary. As if she'd touched on some old scar he'd never admit.
"He's too good for you," said Donovan, lowering her voice. "Following you all over hell and creation just so you can get your rocks off proving how clever you are to everybody else, including him! How long do you think he'll stand for it?"
"Let me explain something to you, since you're clearly too dim to see it," Sherlock said, matching her pitch for pitch. "By my observations, John Watson is only ever where he is because he wants to be. Do you understand?"
John closed his eyes and let his breath escape his nostrils in a hiss. Oh, that Sherlock should have to endure this. All because Donovan couldn't cope with who he was. Was John really the only person, aside from perhaps Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft, who could?
"You're a lonely man, Sherlock Holmes. For your sake, I hope he is, too."
The trouble was, John knew that what Donovan was saying was true.
They rode home in silence, which wasn't necessarily unusual, except that Sherlock usually had a lot of data to verbally process in the wake of visiting a crime scene. John let his eyes trace the taut line of Sherlock's jaw and read frustration there. Indignation. Distress. John stared out his own window, fists clenched at his sides.
His restraint lasted only as long as it took them to clear their front door and pacify Mrs. Hudson for the evening with an exchange of terse pleasantries. Sherlock had scarcely hung his coat when John blurted, in the midst of removing his own, "Why do you insist on helping them when they all they give you in return is abuse?"
Sherlock sighed and gave John a deadpan look, unexpectedly taking over the coat removal process by tugging the garment down and off John's shoulders. "You know full well why. It keeps me sane, and it sometimes leads to a paycheck. John, really, don't look so shocked. You've only done me the favor more than a dozen times by now. If not for you, my coat would have permanent sleep-induced wrinkles."
John nodded, offering him a half-smile. "You could at least ask Lestrade to keep Donovan out of there while you work. You never need more than ten minutes as it is."
Sherlock frowned at the coat as he placed it carefully on the peg next to his own.
"There's a difference between needing and wanting," he said ruefully.
"To be honest with you," said John, "I don't care if you get off on it, or whatever she insists on calling it. You should bloody well get as much time as you want or need."
"That's kind of you, John. But, seeing as you apparently overheard the entire conversation, have you given any thought to where you fit in?"
John ignored the knot of anticipation in his gut, the familiar thrill of fight-or-flight, and said, as calmly as he could, "It's as you say. I'm only ever where I am because I want to be. I enlisted of my own free will. Similarly, you don't force me to follow you."
"No, John, I don't," said Sherlock, giving him a small, sad smile. The repetition of his name made John shiver, just a little. "Which is almost as bad, don't you think?"
"Now I don't follow."
"You could have a life," Sherlock said, as if he hated the taste of every word. "One that's better for you. Better than one of starvation and sleep-deprivation, at least."
"Sod it all, I know what's best for me, goddamn it!" said John, clapping a hand over his mouth when he realized how much he'd raised his voice. He hoped Mrs. Hudson hadn't heard. Next time he saw Donovan, if he wasn't careful, he'd slap her.
And then he realized what Sherlock had said, and gave it a moment's thought.
"So could you. Or at least one that contains a bit less of those things."
"Could I?" Sherlock asked, looking so unexpectedly lost that John's throat tightened.
"Yeah," he said, reaching to brush the residual raindrops from Sherlock's forehead without a second thought. "I think you could." His hand was steady, certain.
Sherlock caught John's wrist and studied it, his thumb ghosting across the remnant of his tan-line. Without warning, he drew it down to his lips, flushed now with something entirely different to fever. John shivered at the contact, reaching with his right hand to touch Sherlock's hair. His fingers slid, tangled, were lost. How long had he wanted—
"Are you a lonely man, too, John Watson?" asked Sherlock, his lips still brushing John's left wrist. He took hold of John's right hand, too, with startling possessiveness, pressing it to where it rested now at his nape, entwining their fingers.
"Yes," John managed, surprised at the emotion in his own voice. "God, yes."
John insisted on his own room, because Sherlock's was not only too lately illness-infested, but was also, simply put, an utter tip. Sherlock's laughter as John undressed him was unexpected, composed half of genuine amusement and half of abject terror. John knew the sound when he heard it; something similar had cropped up all too frequently in his patients. The difference in height was somewhat awkward.
Sherlock's eyes followed the movement of John's hands down the pale stretch of his exposed torso, simultaneously curious and longing. John urged him down for another kiss, guiding Sherlock's hands to his own shirt buttons. Sherlock fumbled with them, unexpectedly clumsy. He tugged John to him with a low groan before he'd even managed to finish the job. John's head spun. Sherlock was hard, pressed up between them, already damp. He let his palms skim down the backs of Sherlock's thighs, disbelieving. Why hadn't he bothered to look sooner? He'd never known—
"As shocking as this revelation may be," Sherlock mumbled against John's mouth, "don't you think the most logical course would be to finish taking off your clothes?"
Two things became clear with painful swiftness: for John, it had been far too long, and for Sherlock, it was far too new. They fell to the mattress with less grace than Sherlock on two hours of sleep in forty-eight. They were starved, both of them, even worse than Sherlock at his most food-deprived. John lost track of the metaphors when Sherlock slid one thigh up between his own and started to thrust against John's hip.
It was over for Sherlock quicker than a punch to the gut, his taut moan muffled against John's scarred shoulder. He pressed a kiss to the spot when he could breathe again. John followed him with a shout, wrapping his fingers around Sherlock's, easing them off his over-sensitized flesh. In spite of the mess, Sherlock squeezed his hand.
John kissed Sherlock's sweat-slicked temple. They didn't need words, not now.
Tube delays, will be late getting home.
What do you want for dinner?
Although there had been some tube delays earlier that day, the truth of the matter was that John had stopped off at a pub to watch a few minutes of football on the telly. And when one was in a pub, it was only natural that one should also have a pint. John had downed it quickly, guiltily. His mobile had been vibrating off the hook for at least ten minutes, no doubt with texts from Sherlock demanding to know his whereabouts.
Not really hungry. Pick up what you like.
John stomped his way up the stairs and into daylight, glad to be clear of the tube's summer stuffiness. Sherlock had been particularly infuriating during the course of their most recent case, subsisting primarily on Hob Nobs and whole-wheat toast with Marmite. John had considered the whole-wheat toast a major victory.
Thankfully, regular sleep had been less of a difficulty. Who could have guessed that a willing bedfellow would solve the problem of Sherlock's unwillingness to switch off? Certainly not John. He wondered sometimes if he ought to send Donovan flowers with a cryptic thank-you note attached. If she'd noticed the change in their relationship, she'd certainly kept it to herself. In fact, she'd been more generally cordial over the past few months than John had thought possible. As a result, Sherlock had been less on-edge. He'd even taken to smiling when she remembered to call him freak.
John stopped off at the Tesco Express one block from the flat and picked up milk, a frozen curry, and some chocolate Hob Nobs. Sherlock seemed to prefer the plain ones, but then, John wasn't sure Sherlock realized the chocolate ones even existed. He tended to make a bee-line for his usual in the biscuit aisle, never bothering to investigate the wealth of variety at his disposal. John found the habit curiously endearing. Human. Which, in a man like Sherlock, was nothing short of reassuring.
"What on earth is this?" Sherlock asked, rummaging in the Tesco bag as John toed out of his shoes. "I haven't needed milk in months."
"Dinner," John said, folding his arms across his chest. "If you want. Or we can wait till two and have dim sum. But I'm warning you: if we go out, you had better eat."
Sherlock studied the Hob Nobs with faint amusement before dropping them back in the bag and leaning to give John a kiss. He paused a little in the midst of it, tilting John's chin up and delving deeper. Sherlock finally drew back, licking his lips.
"You taste like beer. Disgusting. I love you."
Grinning wordlessly, John took Sherlock's hand and followed him up the stairs.