Despite Sherlock’s best efforts to distract John, they do end up visiting with Sam and Fiona, though fortunately only briefly. By the time John texts them, Sam has been released from the hospital and is being heavily guarded by friends from whom she can apparently only escape for an hour or so. They come over for tea, and John checks over Sam to ensure she’s all right, as though he isn’t sure the doctors did their job properly – which is fair enough, Sherlock can’t fault him for it.
The hour passes by largely uneventfully, except for a brief moment towards the end when Sam asks him, hypothetically, if she were to kill a few of her friends, would he help her cover it up? Unfortunately, that’s ruined as well, when Fiona tells him not to get his hopes up as Sam is only joking, in a tone that suggests she’d already made that mistake. It isn’t unpleasant, of course, and Sherlock would probably be almost enjoying himself if he hadn’t been constantly catching John’s eye and being reminded that, only hours before, John had been stretched out naked above him and Sherlock can likely get him to be so again if the girls would only leave.
But finally they do, and Sherlock does, and then he isn’t concerned with anything else for quite some time.
It’s over three weeks before Sherlock is dragged to see them again. In that time Sherlock and John solve three more cases, only one of which is technically criminal, and Sherlock has little time to think about university girls. It isn’t as though he forgets about them – that would be impossible, as John keeps in touch with them and informs Sherlock of this – but now that their case is finished, he puts them with Lestrade and the like; always there, but not particularly relevant until something happens to cause them to be such. They don’t, however, go amongst those tied only to a case and no longer to be thought of, which, according to John, is a step in the right direction.
Sherlock isn’t certain what direction John was talking about, but he hadn’t argued. Mostly because John had smiled at him while saying that, the smile that made Sherlock want to kiss him. And Sherlock had realized that now he could, and so he had.
Aside from this newfound ability to kiss whenever they like, of which Sherlock is very appreciative, not much has changed. They haven’t told anyone of the difference in their relationship, not because they’re hiding it – or at least, Sherlock’s intention isn’t to hide it, and nothing about John suggests that he desires to keep it a secret, though Sherlock hasn’t asked – but only because it hasn’t come up.
It doesn’t seem as though anyone has noticed, either. Sherlock wants to attribute that to the astounding inability to observe that everyone around him seems to possess, but he suspects it’s because, as he and John already behaved like a couple, there is very little difference to notice now that they actually are. It isn’t as though they hold hands, at least not more than they had before, or kiss at crime scenes, though that does sound quite a bit appealing.
But irrelevant at this moment, as Sherlock is currently in a cab on the way to watch Sam play football. Sherlock still isn’t quite certain how it had happened, though he supposes it has something to do with the fact that he seems to be a lot more agreeable to the things John suggests when he does so either before or after kissing him. Which is quite inconvenient, especially as – given John had waited to mention the match until after snogging him furiously for a few minutes – John seems to have figured that out. Sherlock will have to watch for that.
Or, better yet, use it against John himself. Sherlock has seen the contented, slightly dazed look in John’s eyes – not that Sherlock looks for it, of course, and when he does see it, he’s not at all reassured or pleased at having been the cause of it – which most certainly indicates that John will be much more susceptible to Sherlock’s requests.
“What’re you smiling for?” John asks, sounding slightly suspicious.
“Do I need a reason to smile?” Sherlock asks.
“For that smile, yes,” John says. “That smile says you’re up to something.”
Sherlock, absurdly, is a bit delighted. John knows his smiles just as he knows John’s. He wonders if John has a cataloguing system, how it differs from Sherlock’s own. “How do you know that?”
“I’ve seen it often enough,” John replies. “And don’t try to distract me. What’re you thinking?”
Sherlock smirks mischievously. He seldom feels playful, but John makes him – well. Makes him want to all but collapse from laughter after chasing criminals across rooftops, and make jokes at crime scenes because for the first time ever, Sherlock has someone who will giggle at them. It’s one of the things Sherlock loves about John.
“The way you look when I kiss you,” Sherlock says bluntly, easily hiding his eagerness to see John’s reaction.
It’s obviously not what John’s expecting. He coughs, blinking, though he doesn’t look away, and instead raises his eyebrows.
“And that’s deserving of your I’ve-got-a-plan smile?” John asks.
“Yes,” Sherlock answers simply, knowing it’ll make John speculate.
Sure enough, John eyes him for a moment, but doesn’t get the chance to question him further, as it’s then that they arrive. Sherlock jumps out, leaving John to pay the cabbie – this was his idea, after all – though he does wait for John. Mostly because he’s in no hurry to arrive at their destination.
The players are already out on the field when Sherlock and John arrive, and several small groups are gathered on the sidelines. Fiona is standing off by herself, all but hidden, likely gone unnoticed by anyone who doesn’t know to look for her there. Or who isn’t Sherlock.
“Do you see Fiona anywhere?” John asks.
Sherlock briefly considers lying, but just as quickly decides it won’t work. “There,” he says, nodding towards her.
John smiles, and they head over.
“Hello, Fiona,” John greets.
She smiles at him. “Sam’ll be pleased you came.”
“I didn’t figure you for the football type,” Sherlock says.
“I’m not,” Fiona replies, turning to look at him. “But Sam is. It may be dull, but it makes her happy.” She glances back out at the field. “And it is somewhat enjoyable, watching her play.”
John grins. “Good thing, that. Being a uni football player’s girlfriend, you’re basically required to go to all of the matches.”
Fiona wrinkles her nose. “So I’ve gathered. But she joins me in the chem lab after practice, so it’ll even out.” Then she looks curiously at John. “Did you play football in university, then?”
“Rugby,” John replies. “But the principle was the same.”
Fiona considers this, then asks, “Did you ever date anyone who wasn’t a cheerleader or someone already inclined to be at the matches?”
Sherlock finds himself both wanting and not wanting to know the answer with equal intensity, which he isn’t certain has ever happened before. He stares intently at John, waiting, but if John notices that Sherlock has a more than usual interest in his answer, he doesn’t show it.
“Some, yes,” John says with a laugh. “They all said they liked watching me play, even if they weren’t that interested in the sport. Might’ve just been them being nice, but I decided to believe they were being truthful.”
“They should have been, unless they were complete idiots,” Sherlock informs him. “Then again, your choice in dates isn’t always spectacular.”
John raises his eyebrows, looking amused. “Oh yeah? Would you come watch me play, then?”
“Depends,” Sherlock says. “What am I getting out of it?”
“Watching me run around in rugby kit and get covered in mud isn’t enough?” John asks.
Sherlock scoffs. He’s never found sports, or the men who play them, to be particularly appealing – though, perhaps with John – “What’s the appeal of you getting covered in mud?”
“The appeal is getting the mud off,” John tells him, voice low.
Ah. That – yes, that mental image is quite appealing.
“That explains it,” Fiona comments.
Judging by John’s light flush, Sherlock gathers John hadn’t remembered Fiona was there. Sherlock would call him on it, but he finds himself quite pleased at having held so much of John’s attention. That, and Sherlock had all but forgotten her himself.
“Explains what?” Sherlock says idly as he turns towards her. Fiona’s probably noticed the way John was looking at him – and the way Sherlock was likely looking at John in return – but it’s generally better to force someone to explain themselves than to provide an explanation for them.
“Why people come to these,” she replies, gesturing to the game going on.
Perhaps not, then. Sherlock really should stop over-estimating people’s observational skills, though Fiona has previously shown herself to be less of an idiot than most others. Then again, judging by the way Fiona’s eyes are tracking Sam across the field, Sherlock doubts there’s anything else on Fiona’s mind at the moment.
John chuckles. “I suspect a significant number of people come because they actually enjoy the game. I didn’t have that many there just for me.”
Fiona looks closely at him. “How long did they last?”
John’s brows furrow a bit in confusion. “What?”
“The ones that were just there for you, how long did you date them?” Fiona asks.
Sherlock might as well not be there, for all the attention Fiona is paying him. It would annoy him – and it does, a bit, not in the least because it means John’s attention has been taken from him – but he is curious as to John’s answers. At least Sherlock’s getting something out of it, until John realizes that Fiona is feeling insecure about her relationship with Sam and is attempting to gather information she can apply to it.
John shrugs. “About as long as any of the others, I suppose.”
“None of them were serious?” she asks.
John frowns at her. He suspects something now, Sherlock knows. He enjoys watching John figure something out.
“Serious enough, at the time,” John says.
“But they didn’t last,” Fiona says.
Understanding lights in John’s eyes, and yes, John’s got it now. Sherlock can’t help but smile.
“No, they didn’t,” John says gently. “But that doesn’t mean anything. I know lots that did.”
“John and I are hardly typical,” Sherlock says.
“No,” Fiona agrees. “But neither am I.”
“Exactly,” Sherlock says. “So you should hardly be attempting to compare yourself to anyone then, should you?”
“What brought this on?” John asks.
Fiona looks away. “I – we will have been together for a month tomorrow. It’s the longest I’ve ever –”
She cuts off, but it doesn’t matter. Sherlock is no longer listening to her, because he’s busy being a bit horrified. If their one month anniversary is tomorrow, that means Sherlock and John’s isn’t far off, and it hasn’t occurred to him until just now that yes, this is the kind of thing Sherlock is supposed to remember now. The kind of thing that Sherlock has never remembered, because there was always something more important going on than some arbitrary date – and it is arbitrary, which is one of the most irritating things about it. Sherlock could handle it if there was some sort of system about it, some logic, but no, it changes with every person. One considers it the first date, another the third, another the first time they have sex, or a dozen other different things. And none of them have the decency to tell Sherlock which date he is supposed to be remembering, they just assume he’ll somehow know what date they’d decided on.
It’s all part of why Sherlock is horrible at relationships, a fact he’d been reminding himself of when he’d thought one with John was impossible, but has conveniently forgotten since he’d discovered he was wrong. Stupid, stupid, no matter how much you may want your conclusion to be incorrect, you don’t disregard evidence. No matter how much he may want to be with John, wants it to work, every bit of evidence he’s ever gathered from previous relationships says it won’t.
John and Fiona are still talking, and Sherlock is certain that John is reassuring her. He’s equally certain that he cannot stand to listen to it. So Sherlock wanders off, as if the conversation is no longer of interest to him – it isn’t – and he’s found something of much more importance elsewhere – he hasn’t, but neither of them know that.
It’s something he’s done many times before, and he isn’t expecting either of them to take notice. So it comes as a surprise when, a few minutes later, John appears by his side.
There’s silence for a moment, then John asks mildly, “Why’d you leave?”
Sherlock sneers. “If I’d known I would be required to listen to your inane conversation in addition to being bored out of my mind here, I would have never come.” He regrets it as soon as he says it, but only briefly. Better to ruin things now, while it’s still early.
But John just nods calmly and says, “And what’s the real reason?”
Sherlock wonders, then, how far he will have to push John before John gives up, before he leaves. He wants to know, he needs to know, and before he’s realized it, he’s asked John.
John stares at him. “Sorry?”
“I want to know, John,” Sherlock says. “I deserve to know. If I know from the start, it won’t be a surprise when it happens. If I am expecting it –” it will hurt less when John stops smiling at him like he’s the most brilliant thing John has ever seen, when John finally walks out the door and never comes back. Well. No, it won’t, but Sherlock wants to know, anyway.
He hates this, hates the uncertainty, the confusion, everything. This is why he stays married to his work. His work is logical, solvable, he is confident and in control there. What’s between him and John, he can’t control, he can’t even explain properly.
“Sherlock,” John says quietly. “I told you I wouldn’t leave, didn’t I?”
Sherlock frowns. “What you say is of no consequence, John. You will leave. It’s only a matter of when.”
John goes still, expression unreadable. Sherlock hasn’t learned to decipher it entirely yet, but he suspects it means John is trying to decide whether or not he should be very, very angry.
“How’d you reach this conclusion, then?” John asks.
Sherlock scowls. “The same way I reach all of them. By collecting evidence. Every piece of evidence I have says I am horrible at relationships and you will leave.”
John stays silent for a moment, then tells him, “There’s a problem in your methodology.”
Sherlock is starting to become angry. John is just being wilfully obtuse, now. “There isn’t. You’re avoiding answering me.”
“No, I’m not. I already answered you, you just didn’t believe me,” John says. “And there is. You’re generalizing. None of those people you have evidence on are me.”
Sherlock pauses. “No. They’re not.”
“Then what does the evidence you have on me tell you?” John asks.
The evidence Sherlock has on John. That – is something that will take much longer to sort through than John seems to expect. Sherlock is constantly collecting evidence on John, ever since he met him. Since John shot a man to save Sherlock’s life, since John actually agreed to living with him, since John lasted longer than a week, a month, since John laid down rules for the flat and Sherlock obeyed them (mostly), since John conned Sherlock into eating and listened to his trains of thought as he sorted through cases and actually helped, since John whinged and moaned but went out with him every time Sherlock asked, excited, loving it, since John stopped limping and light showed up in his eyes and his shoulders straightened and his nightmares lessened and Sherlock realizes – John needs him.
“You won’t leave me,” Sherlock says. The words taste strange as he says them, possibly because it’s the first time he’s considered believing them.
“Figured that out all on your own, did you?” John asks.
Sherlock chooses to be magnanimous and overlook his sarcasm to assure him, “I won’t leave you, either.”
“Good, I appreciate that,” John says, but his voice isn’t steady and there’s obvious relief in his eyes. He was worried about it, too.
“I am still horrible at relationships, John,” Sherlock says, because he doesn’t think John believes him, but it’s true.
“Maybe you are,” John replies. “But we’ve already been in a relationship. We’ve been flatmates and colleagues and best friends, and we managed those.”
“This is different,” Sherlock says.
“I know,” John agrees quietly, then smiles almost hesitantly. “We’ll figure it out. It’s what you do.”
“No,” Sherlock says. “It’s what we do.” It isn’t entirely correct, but it feels like the right thing to say.
And it must be, because John smiles at him, bright and happy. “I love you, you mad idiot.”
Sherlock can’t help but smile in return, even when John says they should head back. John reaches for his hand as they walk, and Sherlock expects his fingers to close around his wrist, as they usually do when John reaches for him, but instead John actually takes his hand, lacing their fingers together. He lets go when they reach Fiona.
She doesn’t seem to notice, though she does occasionally eye them suspiciously while they watch the rest of the match.
John gets into it, cheering and booing along with the crowd, and even Fiona yells Sam’s name a few times. Sherlock still doesn’t particularly understand the allure, though he is willing to give it another try, should John decide to play.
Sam makes a bee-line for them when the game ends, her yellow and black football kit streaked a bit with mud. She pulls Fiona in for a kiss, then grins at Sherlock and John.
“Thanks for coming,” she says.
“Our pleasure,” John replies, grinning back. “It was excellent. Your team is quite good.”
“You were right,” Fiona tells Sam, wrinkling her nose a bit.
“Oh, good! That happens rarely enough. What was I right about?” Sam asks.
“The centimetres are gone,” Fiona says.
Sam looks briefly confused, then she smiles. “Oh! Oh. Really?”
“Yes, really. And you’re not nearly as covered in mud as I’d hoped,” Fiona adds with a slight pout.
“I can fix that,” a vaguely familiar female voice comments, and Sam is promptly tackled to the ground by a tall brunette girl wearing an outfit identical to Sam’s.
“Lacey!” Sam scolds, though she’s laughing.
Ah, yes. Sherlock recalls her from the first crime scene, hovering around protectively while her friends were questioned.
Lacey stands and pulls Sam to her feet. “’Lo, Fiona,” she greets with a pleasant enough smile, then turns towards Sherlock and John, looking curious. “You two must be Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Nothing bad, I hope?” John asks, flashing her a smile and offering her a hand to shake.
Lacey takes it, smiling back. “Oh, quite a bit bad, actually.”
“She’s lying,” Kayla says as she walks up with Sawyer, Danny, and Anna. “Unless Sam’s been slipping her bad information. It’s been all good from me.”
John smiles at her. “My reputation thanks you, though I wouldn’t have agreed when I was back in uni.”
“You wouldn’t?” Anna asks.
John turns his smile on her. “What rugby player wants to be known as all good?”
That provokes laughs from the group, and a giggle from Anna and Kayla.
Kayla and Anna are wearing cheerleading outfits in the same colours as Sam and Lacey’s football kits, Sherlock notices, and Sawyer and Danny are wearing Westminster Dragons tee-shirts. Colour-coded and matching, creating a sense of belonging for the group and a clear signal to identify any outsiders. Sherlock manages to resist the urge to sneer contemptuously.
John is still smiling, chatting casually with the group about football and rugby. He appears completely at ease, but Sherlock knows John too well to be fooled by appearances. There’s tension in his shoulders, a slight tightness to his eyes. John doesn’t think he belongs here. More than that: he likely did belong amongst a group such as this, once, and he remembers it. Sherlock wonders if that makes it easier or harder.
He glances over at Fiona, who, he notes, is both not wearing black or yellow and is staying out of the conversation as he is.
She notices him looking, and smirks. “Riveting conversation, isn’t it?”
“Best get used to it,” Sherlock says idly. “I imagine it’s something you’ll be subjected to quite often.”
“Did you get used to it?” Fiona asks.
“Didn’t have to,” he replies dismissively. “John goes to the pub if I’m in the middle of something delicate. Otherwise it’s quite entertaining watching him shout at the telly.” Sherlock finds himself smiling, suspects it’s fond, and schools his expression into something more neutral. “In any case, John will generally abandon either for a case.” Usually with only minimal complaining.
“Wish I had that excuse,” Fiona grumbles.
Sherlock raises an eyebrow. “You’re not going to continue to play at detective, then?”
She flicks her fingers dismissively at him. “Hardly. Oh, it was interesting, and I can see the draw, but there’s so much more to be curious about. Why did Howe do what he did, for example? What caused him to behave that way, when other members of the team were just as forgotten as he was, and yet had no inclination to kill? What’s the cause of anyone’s behaviour, the logic behind it?”
“There’s seldom anything resembling logic behind the behaviours of the general public,” he says dryly, despite knowing what she had meant.
She isn’t fooled. “Yes, yes. It’s not my logic, not true logic, but it’s logical to them, it must be. I merely don’t understand it, and I want to.” Then she smiles. “Or perhaps I’ll go into medicine. I could be a doctor, or a coroner. Or physical anthropology, there is something fascinating about bones.”
She sounds thrilled at the different possibilities, excitement shining in her eyes, and it looks – almost familiar. He remembers that feeling. Though Sherlock had been much younger when he realized those possibilities meant very little, and he would have to fight hard to get people to listen to him just because he saw things differently than they did.
Sherlock pulls out his phone, types out a quick message, and hits send. A moment later, Fiona’s phone beeps. She pulls it out, looks at it, then raises an eyebrow at him.
“My mobile number,” he tells her, though it’s likely not necessary.
“I had it already,” she informs him smugly.
He scowls, though he isn’t surprised. “Yes, well. Now you have permission to use it. Should you find need of my services.” He refuses to add ‘or if you want advice, to talk,’ and if she can’t figure that out on her own, then she doesn’t deserve it.
“Unlikely,” Fiona scoffs, putting her phone back in her pocket. Then, while she’s still looking down, says quietly, “Thank you.”
Sherlock doesn’t reply. He slips his own phone back into his coat pocket, then tells her, “You should speak with John. He watches these television shows and keeps comparing me to some of the characters: some medical drama, some nonsense about psychological profiling and forensic anthropology. I can’t speak for their accuracy, but you might like them, given your career interests.”
“Not the medical one, if it’s the one I’m thinking of,” Sam comments. “I may love the actor and the character may be a genius, but we so don’t need to encourage her by making her think doctors can act like that.”
Fiona frowns. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I feel as though I should be insulted.”
“Haven’t you been told it’s rude to listen in on other people’s conversations?” Sherlock tells her.
Sam grins at him. “Does it stop you?”
Sherlock isn’t going to dignify that with a response. So it’s lucky that Lacey calls everyone’s attention towards her by shouting, “Oi, Matt! Over here!”
She waves over a brunet young man – who isn’t dressed in the appropriate colours, Sherlock observes absently. Matt smiles shyly at the group as he joins them.
“You came,” Lacey says, looking pleased.
“You asked me to,” Matt replies, his smile turning less shy and more confident as it’s directed solely at her.
Sherlock’s phone rings, and he frowns before checking the screen. Lestrade. His frown fades as he walks away to answer it.
“I trust you have something actually difficult enough to be worth my time?” Sherlock asks by way of greeting, doing his best to sound suitably annoyed rather than hopeful.
“Would I resort to calling you if it wasn’t?” Lestrade retorts.
“Is that a rhetorical question?” Sherlock says.
Lestrade sighs. “There’s been three murders, Sherlock, will you just come?”
“Very well. Text me the address. Actually, next time just do that to start with so we can skip the conversation bit,” Sherlock tells him. He’s sounding too pleased, now, so he hangs up before Lestrade can answer.
Then he strides back over to the group. “Sorry to cut this short,” he lies easily. “John, that was Lestrade. We have a case.”
“That sounds so dramatic,” Anna says, sighing almost wistfully.
“I told you,” Kayla says.
“Hey, when you’ve got it solved, you should give us a call. We can head down to the pub to celebrate,” Danny says.
Sherlock is once again horrified. What has John be saying to them? “Come on, John,” he says before John can encourage them any more. “We have a limited amount of time before those incompetent imbeciles trod over everything of importance.”
“It was nice meeting you all,” John says. “Fiona, I’ll text you those shows later. And I meant it about the recommendation, Sam, when you decide on a program, let me know.”
They leave to a chorus of “goodbyes” and “laters.”
“Anything interesting?” John asks as they walk.
“It better be,” Sherlock says. Normally he would’ve done more to be sure that it was before agreeing to come, but he’s quite certain anything Lestrade has for him will be more interesting than remaining here. Of course, he might reconsider that once he actually sees what Lestrade has for him, but by that time, he’ll be free.
“Fiona says you’ve given her your number in case she needs you,” John comments idly.
Sherlock frowns. “Not entirely the way I put it, but yes. Not exactly relevant at the moment, however.”
“It is to me,” John says. “It’s one more piece of evidence.”
Sherlock stops. “You collect evidence on me?”
“You needn’t sound so surprised, I know you do it to me,” John says, stopping as well to frown at him.
“Surprise isn’t a bad thing, John,” Sherlock says quietly. Not when it so rarely happens to him, and it’s only John that seems to inspire surprises that are almost entirely pleasurable.
Such as the fact that John is suddenly kissing him, for example. After the first brief moment of surprise, Sherlock kisses him back, hungry and eager.
“What was that for?” Sherlock asks when they stop, though they don’t pull away from each other.
“Aside from the obvious?” John says. “Because I usually want to kiss you when you look at me like that. And now I can.”
Someone back in the group of students whistles, and another one gives off a catcall.
Sherlock scowls and pulls away. “Immature,” he says, though he doesn’t sound irritated at all. He clears his throat and tries again. “Are you going to be doing that at the crime scene?”
“Depends on how much you make me want to kiss you,” John says. “So, probably yes.”
Sherlock considers that for less than a second, then grabs John’s hand and pulls him forward.
“Suppose that means you’re not opposed to the idea?” John asks.
“I’m never opposed to you kissing me,” Sherlock replies. And if it happens because the way Sherlock acts at a crime scene makes John want to kiss him, right in front of everyone, well. Sherlock will manage to put up with it. “The idiots will have to find out sooner or later, considering neither of us are going anywhere.”
John squeezes his hand. “I’m holding you to that.”
“Of course, John,” Sherlock says. John’s lips are still a bit reddened from the kiss – Sherlock suspects his are as well – John’s hand is in his, and there’s murders to be solved. There’s nowhere else Sherlock would rather be. “Of course.”