Title: Domesticity, part 1/2
Pairing/Characters: asexual!Sherlock/John; Sally Donovan
Rating: PG-13 (short discussion of sex and asexuality)
Word Count: 2968 (of 6023)
Summary: From a long-since lost prompt on the kinkmeme (the fic's been mostly written since early January) - Donovan must spend a night at Baker Street, and is surprised at the domesticity and affection between Sherlock and John when they're not on the job.
Disclaimer: Holmes etc were created by Conan Doyle. Sherlock, John and Donovan et al belong to Moffat, Gatiss and the BBC.
The sun had just disappeared over the horizon on Friday evening when someone rang the doorbell for 221B. Sherlock, lounging on the sofa with his hands clasped beneath his chin, didn’t even open his eyes, so John just sighed and put aside his book, shaking his head as he descended the stairs. Their latest case had only ended that morning – a draining series of child abductions – and John had been looking forward to a quiet night in; if this was some client or other for Sherlock, he was half-inclined to turn them down on the front step. John was shocked, then, to open the door to a familiar face.
“Sergeant Donovan,” he said blankly in lieu of a greeting. “Not to be rude, but – what are you doing here?”
Donovan grimaced, lifting the overnight bag in her hand in response. “There’s a gas leak at my place,” she explained, “so I need a place to stay for the night. None of my family live anywhere near London, and all my friends are either overseas, busy or don’t have any room.” She smirked. “Trust me, John, you two are my last resort. I even tried Lestrade, but he’s got custody of his kids for the weekend.”
“What about Anderson?” John asked, raising an eyebrow. Donovan didn’t even flinch.
“His wife’s home,” she explained. “We haven’t slept together for weeks, but it still wouldn’t look good. And she might murder me in my sleep.”
“So might Sherlock,” John added lightly.
“So he might,” said Donovan. “But at least he’s got you to stop him.”
John smiled at this, standing aside and shutting the door after Donovan. “Sherlock!” he called as he led the way upstairs. “Were you listening?”
“Yes,” came the answer, flat and slightly muffled. “Are you sure it’s a gas leak and not a certain bomber?” he asked distractedly as John and Donovan entered the flat.
“Either way, she needs a place to stay,” said John, eliciting a twitch at the corner of Sherlock’s mouth. The doctor glanced at his watch and his eyebrows shot up. “It’s later than I thought,” he mumbled, turning toward the kitchen. “I hope you like red chicken curry, Sergeant,” he called over his shoulder, “because it’s what’s for dinner. One of those packet things.”
“Sounds fine,” Donovan replied, dropping her bag onto the chair by the sofa. “And please, call me Sally,” she added. “I’m off-duty, and I do have a first name.”
John huffed a small laugh as he cleared a space on the counter. “Alright,” he conceded. “Have you got something to do, or d’you want to help cook or…” He trailed off, peering at a discoloured patch of kitchen table before deciding it was harmless and heading for the fridge.
“Er, I’ve actually got some paperwork needs doing,” said Sally, still standing slightly awkwardly by the doorway.
“Excellent, don’t need to entertain you then,” said John brightly. “Sherlock, clear a space on the desk for her, will you?” For a moment, the only sound was the humming of the fridge and the crackle of plastic bags. Sally glanced tensely from the kitchen to the sofa where Sherlock was reclining, and John rolled his eyes as he pulled out a cutting board. “Sherlock,” he repeated sternly. He was met with an explosive sigh and the creaking of leather cushions as the detective swung himself off the sofa and over the coffee table to the desk, rifling through the piles of notes there and pushing aside John’s laptop, all the while muttering unhappily under his breath.
“Oh shut up, Sherlock,” John tutted. “You said you wanted to put together the file for the last case tonight, and I’ll be needing you in here soon, anyway. You’d have had to get up sometime.”
Sherlock responded by grabbing a pile of newspapers, photographs and notes from the desk and settling on the floor with them in the middle of the room. As he began his meticulous process of cutting, pasting and annotating, Sally pulled a folder from her bag and picked her way across to the cleared space on the desk to start working. She’d long ago stopped bothering to warn the good doctor against remaining around Sherlock Holmes, but that didn’t stop her wondering why he stayed, especially not when faced with this petulant, lazy, selfish version of the man. She could barely imagine how she was going to survive a single night in the same flat as him, let alone how it must be to endure his presence on a regular and permanent basis.
Relative silence reigned for a while. No one spoke, but the air was lightly cluttered by the scratch of pens and the rasp of turning papers. Over them called the sounds from the kitchen – pots and pans clattering, knives rapping against chopping boards and the kettle boiling – and through it all was John, shuffling between the counter, the stove and the table. Sally had made it through two reports and a single, excruciating form before someone talked, the sudden vocalisation making her jump just slightly as it broke her reverie.
“Sherlock, could you come and chop the carrots?” John called from the kitchen.
“I’m not eating,” said Sherlock, not looking up from his work, “therefore I shouldn’t have to help cook.”
“You are eating,” John replied firmly, “and there’s a little something called generosity that you should remember now and then.”
Sally snorted, wondering whether the freak even knew the meaning of generosity; but then Sherlock was unfolding himself from the floor and stepping over his half-finished work to join his flatmate in the kitchen. Sally stared after him, long enough to watch as John greeted him by reaching out with one hand and pressing it against Sherlock’s waist. Sherlock responded by brushing the backs of his knuckles over the rolled-up sleeve of John’s shirt, and Sally was suddenly struck with a sense of intrusion – of being audience to something intimate and personal – and she wondered whether the rumours around the Yard were true. A moment later, the two men had parted and turned to their jobs, and the moment of stillness felt like a hallucination.
“Not on the same board as the chicken,” John was instructing calmly, stirring the contents of the pot before him. Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Cross-contamination, Sherlock,” John sighed, exasperated. “You’ve got to know something about that.”
Expecting another of Sherlock’s usual vindictive remarks – a cutting snipe against John’s own knowledge of anything to do with contamination, or simply a defamation of his intelligence – Sally winced in pre-emptive sympathy for the doctor; but it seemed that she had reacted prematurely. Wordlessly, Sherlock shifted across to the other board, compliantly and surprisingly neatly cutting the carrots as John grabbed a pan and dropped it onto the stove, pouring on some oil and carrying across the board full of pieces of chicken. He continued stirring the pot as the pan heated up, and by the time the chicken was sizzling in the oil, the carrots were finished.
“Pot?” asked Sherlock simply. John nodded as he pushed the chicken haphazardly about the pan, and Sherlock let the carrots tumble into the large pot before taking over command of the wooden spoon, carefully stirring the mixture of vegetables and sachet curry mix.
“D’you think you –” John started, glancing up momentarily from the pan. He interrupted himself with a fond half-smile at the look of intense concentration on Sherlock’s face, as if he was absolutely determined to get the meal right. John turned to Sally, leaning back to talk around Sherlock. “Sally, d’you think you could clear a spot on the table for us?” he called. She shot a pointed look at the dubiously-safe clutter on the table, and John followed her gaze. “Oh, right.”
“She’s been to drugs busts, she knows what to expect,” said Sherlock flatly. “Come and help, Sergeant.”
“And could you heat up the leftover rice in the fridge?” John asked as she put down her pen and crossed the room, carefully picking her way through Sherlock’s mess.
“Will I find another jar of eyes in the microwave?” she asked as she made her way to the fridge.
“Yes,” said Sherlock spitefully. John glared at him, and he rolled his eyes. “No,” he amended with a sigh, and muttered something about ‘spoiling the burden’.
The smell of curry and frying chicken was beginning to fill the flat, and Sally sniffed happily at the mouth-watering scent even as she gingerly plucked Petri dishes and retort stands from the table and removed them to any other free surface. She was turning back to the table after moving a particularly stained sheaf of papers when she saw it.
John had moved to pour the chicken into the pot, bumping at Sherlock with his hip. The two men were pressed against each other, and as John carefully scraped the lumps of chicken from the pan, Sherlock’s arm whipped out to grasp around the shorter man’s shoulders, squeezing slightly. As he put aside the pan once more, John turned his head and smiled, leaning up to place a kiss on the corner of Sherlock’s mouth.
An instant later, the doctor had stepped away, dropping the pan into the sink. The only hint that anything had happened between the two men was the careful smile tugging at the corner of Sherlock’s mouth against which John’s lips had pressed, and Sally found herself wondering if she’d imagined it – then changing her mind and wondering how she’d missed this in the months of working with the infuriating consulting detective and his tagalong doctor. The hiss of running water joined the comfortable cacophony in the kitchen as John began to clean up, Sherlock interrupting his stirring of the pot to pass him the chopping boards and knives.
The microwave beeped harshly, shocking Sally out of her observations. She turned away, the kitchen fell back into relative order and, a few minutes later, dinner was served. Sherlock took a moment out of helping set the table to pull John’s hand away from the handle of the pot and wrap a towel around it, informing him that it was hot.
Sherlock and Sally pulled in their chairs at either end of the table, John seated slightly toward Sherlock’s end on one side. Sherlock served himself only a few bites of chicken and absolutely no vegetables, accompanied by a tiny lump of rice. John pursed his lips in annoyance, but said nothing as he piled food onto his own plate and handed the serving spoon to Sally. The meal began in silence, Sherlock’s plate emptying in a few fleeting moments, and though John made the occasional attempt at small talk, he had stopped by the time Sherlock began spearing pieces of broccoli from his plate. When she was halfway through her own serving, Sally decided to speak.
“So,” she said, determined not to sound awkward, “I didn’t know you two were shagging.”
To her surprise, John let out a snort of laughter. “I wish,” he mumbled through his food. Sally frowned.
“I’m asexual,” Sherlock said condescendingly between mouthfuls of John’s dinner.
“He doesn’t like sex,” John explained at the confused look on Sally’s face. “Or doesn’t want it, really. But in any case, he won’t give it.”
“But you are…” said Sally carefully.
“Together?” John offered brightly. “Yeah, we are.”
“Brilliant observation, Sergeant,” Sherlock offered scathingly, ignoring John’s answering scowl of reproach.
Sally’s mouth tightened, but she said nothing, keeping her attention on Doctor Watson. “How long?” she asked, still wondering how she’d missed this.
“Oh, about…” John started uncertainly. “Few months now? Sherlock?”
“Three months, eight days and twenty-two hours,” the detective supplied without hesitation. Sally raised her eyebrows at the accuracy, but John just smiled.
“Well that’s certainly an improvement,” he said happily, turning to Sally. “At least he’s not counting it to the minute any more. Maybe one day I’ll have you measuring it in nothing smaller than months,” he added to Sherlock.
The detective said nothing, just blinked at John, blank-faced. Sally couldn’t believe that John – ordinary, warm, comfortable John – could somehow love a man who was so obviously unemotional. And yet… the more Sally looked, the more she saw that there was something in the tilt of Sherlock’s head and the odd relaxation around his eyes that struck her as inexplicably fond.
“So John,” she asked, if only to break the tension, “are you allowed to go out and find other people for sex? Or does he not let you out of the house without him?”
John laughed again, in that almost-rueful way that expressed just how perplexed he was at his own actions – and how completely he accepted them. “Sherlock’s kind of possessive,” he said slowly. “Though you’ve probably noticed that by now. But now and then I get out for a one-night stand. Honestly, though, it’s no more than I’d be getting even if we weren’t together, not with our working hours.”
“Any luck with these… trysts?” said Sally playfully.
“Actually, I’ve been told I’m a pretty good shag,” John replied, completely straight-faced. “Along with being a complete charmer. So I’m pretty much guaranteed a place in someone’s bed.” Sherlock glared at his empty plate as if it had done him some personal injustice. “Not that I stay the night,” John continued. “But I’ve been told more than once that I’m wasted on Sherlock.”
At this, Sherlock’s head jerked up and he stared at the doctor with all the intensity he could muster. There was an odd combination of indignity, offence and, strangely enough, fear, trapped behind the tense line of his mouth. Sally had never seen anything resembling this amount of emotion on Sherlock’s face before, and she was quite certain that it was probably the most she’d ever see.
John, reading the expression perfectly, rolled his eyes and smiled, reaching out to squeeze Sherlock’s hand. “Not that I believe them,” he said, and Sherlock relaxed minutely.
They all returned to their food then (or rather, Sally turned to her food, and both John and Sherlock focused back on the doctor’s plate), and barely a word was exchanged until the dirty dishes had been stacked in the sink. John settled down across the desk from Sally with his laptop, evidently typing up another case for his blog, and Sherlock dropped back down to the floor with his cuttings and notes. Once again, relative silence fell, marred only by turning pages and the steady click-click-click of John’s typing.
Eventually, Sally finished with her work and glanced at her watch, surprised to find that it was already ten-thirty. She shuffled her papers for a moment, double-checking a few things before she finally closed her folder and clicked her pen shut.
“So,” she said quietly, pulling John out of his reverie. “Am I taking the sofa, or...”
“No, no,” said John, “you can have my room. There’s not much in there – just a few winter coats and some old junk of mine. But since I’ll be sleeping in Sherlock’s bed, there’s no need for you to be uncomfortable.”
“Oh –” Sally managed to bite out, finding herself weirdly shocked by the thought not only of the freak actually sleeping, but by his having a partner, as well. “Thanks.”
John showed her up, carrying her bag for her (which Sally thought was stupidly old-fashioned and chivalrous of him, but she wasn’t complaining). He pointed out the upstairs bathroom, apologised for the thin layer of dust on the meticulously-made bed and gave her strict orders not to open the shoebox at the bottom of the wardrobe, then left her to her own devices, closing the door behind him as he headed back downstairs.
After he’d left, the room seemed empty and quiet. Sally was just digging out her iPod to drown out the silence when she realised that she’d left her pen downstairs. Dropping her things on the bed, she crept to the door.
As John came back into the living room, Sherlock was packing away his work. The manila folder was slid into a box, and scraps of paper and scribbled-out notes were shoved aside under the coffee table for later consideration. The detective stood in one, smooth movement and approached John, gathering him up in a long-limbed hug, eyes shut and nose buried in the doctor’s short, mousy hair.
“John,” he breathed, his voice oddly reverent, as the smaller man wound his own arms around Sherlock’s waist and smiled.
“Contrary to popular belief,” said John, addressing Sherlock’s shoulder, “my name doesn’t count as your evening prayers.”
Sherlock snorted cynically, his breath causing a patch of John’s hair to puff up. “If, by some stroke of improbability, some deity is listening,” he said, “I’m sure they’ll accept your name as sufficient penitence for my sins.”
“Somehow, I doubt that.”
The two stood for a little while longer, holding each other in the middle of the sitting room. Eventually, Sherlock suggested they retire to bed, and John replied with a half-stifled yawn. They wandered off through the kitchen and disappeared into Sherlock’s room.
Not close enough to see them, but not far enough away to have missed their words, Sally stood frozen on the stairs.
No one had ever said anything as heartfelt as that to her.
Sherlock glanced up at the ceiling as he brushed his teeth, wondering how much Sally had heard and determining that it was most of the conversation. He found himself feeling oddly vindicated. When he joined John in their bed two point three minutes later, he was sure to wrap as much of himself around his doctor as he could, burying his face against John’s still-slightly-tanned shoulder in lieu of simply crawling inside him and revelling in the all-encompassing pounding of his stubborn little heart.