Original Story Title: Not What Boys Do
Original Story Link: http://archiveofourown.org/works/226165
Original Story Pairings: Gen
Original Story Rating: General Audiences
Original Story Warnings: N/A
Remix Story Title: Not What Boys Do (The Confirmed Bachelor Remix)
Remix Author: krabapple
Remix Beta: rilkegal
Remix Britpicker: rilkegal
Remix Story Pairings: Sherlock Holmes/John Watson
Remix Story Rating: Teen
Remix Story Warnings: N/A
"Not What Boys Do (The Confirmed Bachelor Remix)"
John Watson has his first kiss when he is four years old. The boy's name is Henry, and he lives next door. He has brown hair and brown eyes and wears jerseys for the American kind of football because his family moved here from New York two weeks ago. He gave John a jersey too, and John likes it even though he doesn't understand the game. It is red, which is good, and it is from Henry, which is better. So John kisses Henry because Henry is excellent and it seems like the thing to do.
His mother watches from the window. John doesn’t notice her there, nor does he notice her small sigh of relief when he and Henry stop kissing and start pretending to shoot things in the backyard.
“John?” she says when he comes inside, and he stops in front of the sink, waiting. “Boys don't kiss boys, alright? Boys kiss girls. Do you understand?”
John nods and goes upstairs, relieved that his mum had not noticed the mud on his new trousers.
John has to call his dad at work on the hot summer day his mum locks herself in the bathroom. She’d gone in with a bottle of wine, a glass and some magazines, but that was six hours ago. John had been keeping track of how often he hears the tap run, his mum refilling the tub with hot water, but he’d gone out briefly to fetch some eggs, milk and bread from the shop, and when he gets back he doesn’t hear anything more from the bathroom. After two hours of silence he rings his dad’s office.
Mabel, his dad’s nurse, answers. “Dr. Watson’s office,” she says pleasantly.
“Hi, Mrs. Potter,” John says.
“John! How are you, lad?”
“I’m good, Mrs. Potter,” he says. “How are you?”
“I’m just fine, John. I’d pass you along to your father, but he’s with a patient.”
“Oh,” John says. “Can you ask him to ring home, please?”
“Of course. Is something wrong? Anything I can do?”
John swallows. “No, everything is fine. I just wanted to ask him a question.”
“All right then, John. I’ll tell him.”
John hangs up and bites his lip. It’s three. He missed lunch, but if he makes something now and his mum rouses herself and cooks dinner she’ll be angry if he doesn’t eat.
John risks it anyway, since he’s starving and the phone is in the kitchen anyway, so he’ll be able to hear it ring if his dad calls. Besides, the smell might bring his mum round if she’s hungry, too. He fries some eggs and makes some toast; he eats, sets the kettle for tea. His mum doesn’t emerge.
It’s almost six by the time his dad calls.
“Sorry, John, we had a busy afternoon. Do you need something?”
“Dad. Mum went to take a bath a while ago and hasn’t come out yet.”
“Hang on, John.” John can hear his dad close a door; probably the door to his office. “What do you mean she hasn’t come out?”
“I mean, she’s still in the bathroom. I haven’t heard the tap run in a long time.”
“Since she’s been in the bath or since I heard the tap?”
John’s dad sighs. “Since she’s been in the bath.”
John pauses, has to count. “Nine hours?”
“Christ.” John hears his dad moving around, can picture him ducking underneath the cord for his jacket. “She locked the door, yeah?”
John nods, but then remembers his dad can’t see him. He swallows. “Yeah.”
“I’m coming home right now, okay, John? John?”
“Yeah,” John says.
“John, just stay where you are. I’ll be right there.” His dad hangs up.
Twenty minutes later, John’s dad is opening the door and John meets him there. His dad puts a hand on John’s shoulder, leans down so he can look him in the eye.
“John, I just talked to Mrs. Simpson next door. She said it would be fine if you went over for dinner and then spent the night with Henry. Go upstairs, get your sleeping bag and some clothes. I’ll take you over there.”
John nods, runs up the stairs. He grabs his sleeping bag, his pajamas and a new shirt and pants for the morning. He needs his toothbrush, too, but maybe Henry will let John borrow his.
His dad’s already upstairs, pounding the door to the bathroom and calling his mum’s name. John darts past him and down the stairs with his stuff, calls out, “I’m leaving, Dad. I’ll go by myself, it’s okay,” and makes for the Simpson house as soon as he opens the door.
John doesn’t eat much dinner, but he tries to eat enough to be polite, and he and Henry promptly retire in front of the telly, watching a horrible movie until bedtime. Henry’s mum lets them stay up until ten, and after that they read comics with torches until they fall asleep.
John eats breakfast with Henry’s family the next morning (pancakes and bacon) and hangs out in Henry’s backyard for as long as possible, but eventually the Simpsons leave to do a bit of shopping and John is scooted back home by Mrs. Simpson.
John’s dad isn’t home, but his mum is in the kitchen, doing the washing up from the day before. She turns from the sink when John comes in, smiles at him.
John smiles back as much as he can.
“Letter from Harriet on the table for you,” she says, nodding in the direction of the kitchen table. Harriet had gone to camp the week before and John is getting twice-weekly updates on bug bites and swimming lessons.
John grabs the letter and is almost out the door when his mum says, “Wish you had done the washing up after you cooked, John. Would've helped me this morning.” She’s smiling still, but it makes John swallow. He nods, and goes up to his room.
John is fourteen when he has his first real girlfriend. Her name is Janie, she’s in his grade at school, and usually it’s John’s dad who chauffeurs and chaperones them around town. They go to the movies, the park, the mom and pop restaurant down the block where John always pulls Janie’s chair out for her and always pays.
They get some time alone when they spend time together at Janie’s house, watching the telly in the dark of the den. They kiss there, too, and sometimes John gets to put his hand under Janie’s shirt, cup the soft breasts there through her bra.
It ends when Janie goes to visit her grandmother for the summer; neither of them are invested enough for a long-term relationship.
John’s mum still asks if they need to get her a gift at Christmas. John says no, but he’s pretty sure his mum sends her a box of chocolates anyway.
Harry comes out to their parents when John is seventeen. She had told him, warned him, really, what she was going to do that morning; she’s home, working on her A-levels, and seeing some girl from London, taking the train nights, weekends, and generally any time she can get away from the house, which is pretty often since she claims she’s at the library. John has known about the sneaking around for months, and he’s pretty sure no good can come of Harry telling their parents about it. He doesn’t mind one way or another, either that Harry’s a lesbian or that she’s sneaking around. For one, John has an idea that this might be what the adults call “a phase,” calculated for maximum parental outrage; for another, she doesn’t ever ask him to lie for her, doesn’t have to, for all their parents pay attention, so he reckons what Harry wants to do with her own time is her own business.
John’s not there for what he and Harry will later term The Event, but he comes home not long after. Harry’s gone and so is their dad -- where either has gone, John can’t guess. Their mum is sitting in the living room, one lamp on, and the telly on, but the volume low. There’s a half-empty bottle of wine on the end table next to her.
“John?” his mum asks.
“Yes.” John comes into the room, sits down on the sofa next to her. Her eyes are red-rimmed and swollen, her voice thick.
“Where were you tonight, John?”
He wants to say out but what he does say is, “At the rugby game.”
“You didn’t have a match.”
John shrugs. “Some of the guys wanted to see next game’s competition.”
There’s a brief moment when John thinks that might be it, that he’ll be able to get up and go upstairs. The relief nearly makes him dizzy.
“Did you know?”
John wants to claim ignorance, he really does, but he can’t quite make it. “Er. Yeah.”
His mother looks at him sharply. “Did you talk to her about it?”
“Not really. No.”
His mum shakes her head. “I wish you had John.”
John blinks, startled. “What?”
“Because you, you know what’s right. You have some sense. Maybe you could have helped her.”
“Oh,” John says. He doesn’t know what else to say.
She sighs. “Go upstairs, John, I know you want to.”
“No, no.” John settles back on the sofa. “No. I. What are we watching?” he asks, turning the volume up.
John loses his virginity at 19 to Mary Morstan, his girlfriend of six months, whom he met at university in an English class. She loves Shakespeare and has the most beautiful eyes John has ever seen.
He enjoys it, but part of him doesn’t see what the fuss is all about.
He doesn’t tell that to Mary, or to anyone.
Besides, it gets better.
The crash happens just after John becomes a doctor. Both of his parents are killed at the scene. A drunk driver swerved into the wrong lane, hit them head on.
John briefly thinks it’s ironic, but the feeling doesn’t last for long.
“...and there's a second bedroom upstairs. If you'll be needing it, that is,” Mrs. Hudson says, smiling almost beatifically.
“Of course we'll be needing it,” John snaps, sounding harsher than he ought to have. Why anyone should think he's dating a man is beyond him.
When John corrects Sherlock in front of Sebastian, from friend to colleague, it’s not really a conscious thought. He had already decided he didn’t like Sebastian; John knew from the way Sebastian addressed Sherlock, the way he held himself, the way his smiled turned in at the corners, that he couldn’t be trusted.
John didn’t want to trust him with his friendship with Sherlock, either.
“Does that make me special?” Irene asks.
John mentally shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Are you jealous?”
“We’re not a couple.”
“Yes, you are. There.” She holds the screen up, even though John is too far away to read it. “I’m not dead, let’s have dinner.” She presses a button on her phone.
“Who . . . who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes, but -- for the record -- if anyone out there still cares, I’m not actually gay,” John says.
“Well, I am. Look at us both,” Irene says.
Harry comes by the night of the funeral, plonking a bottle of vodka and two glasses onto the coffee table.
John looks over from his chair. “Vodka?”
“Cleaner hangover than Tequila.”
“I thought you preferred wine,” John says.
“I do.” Harry pours two shots. “But this is better for getting totally trashed. Much faster.”
John heaves himself up, goes over to the sofa. Harry sits down next to him, hands him a glass. John looks down at it, then clinks glasses with Harry before downing the entire thing in one go.
They’re halfway into the bottle before Harry asks, “So did you?”
John’s sprawled on the sofa, leaning against the back cushions. “Did I what?” He blinks up at the ceiling.
“Shag him. Sherlock, I mean.”
“I know who you meant,” John says, sharp. Sharper than he feels.
Harry looks over. “That not an answer.” She grins.
John closes his eyes. “No.” When he opens his eyes and looks back at Harry, her gaze is much more focused than John had imagined. Then she sighs.
John turns his head away, swallows through the thickness in his throat.
“What?” John looks at her.
Harry’s mouth goes soft, smudged at the edges. “Did you love him?”
“He was my best friend,” John says.
She shakes her head. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” she says. Her fingertips touch John’s cheek. When John looks at her, the look in her eyes is subdued, indeed, sad. She doesn’t move her hand.
Finally, Harry takes John's tumbler from him and pours them each two fingers of vodka. She hands John's glass back to him, then raises her glass. "To Mum," she says.
"To Mum," John says, pouring the heat of the vodka down his still-too-tight throat.
When Lestrade calls, John answers on the second ring.
John can’t name the feeling that’s settling down his spine, but he says, “Give me the address.”
Lestrade does, and hangs up -- John’s already out the door, without a jacket even though it has been a chilly and rainy April. His mind runs through multiple scenarios: Mrs. Hudson?, visiting her sister in Cornwall; Molly, Mike. Harriet -- that’s the one that sticks behind his ribs, the one that seems inevitable, like it’s been coming for a long time, longer maybe than they have even been alive, passed on through genes and hair and blood, down, down, down.
The address is only six blocks from Baker Street, and John turns right, seeing the large perimeter, cordoned off by yellow tape. There’s an ambulance, but it’s quiet; John can’t see if someone is sitting on the edge or covered on a gurney inside since a couple of techs are standing in the way. He ducks under the tape and no one stops him. Lestrade starts to walk over to intercept him; John can see Lestrade in his peripheral vision, along with Donovan. There’s a body, covered in a white sheet already, and Donovan is taking a statement from a man, already handcuffed, but all John sees is the ambulance.
Still, when one of the paramedics finally steps aside after what feels like an eternity, John is in no way prepared to see Sherlock, shoulders covered in an orange blanket, looking up at the paramedic, surly and sorely put out.
John’s leg must go out from underneath him, because before he even realizes what has happened he’s sitting ass-first in the road, jeans already starting to get damp from the leftover rain of the night before. Lestrade gives a bit of a shout and picks up the pace toward John, but Sherlock, roused by the slight commotion, is faster. It seems like only an instant before he’s in front of John, settling into a crouch, his hand finding John’s shoulder and applying warm pressure. John shrugs the hand off without conscious thought.
John doesn’t even try to get up, can’t, thinks dumbly that he’s like Humpty Dumpty sitting there in the middle of the street. All the King’s Horses and all the King’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again. John shivers.
John doesn’t know what is showing on his face, but he does know that whatever it is causes Sherlock to rear back on his heels, mouth open and lower lip trembling slightly, Sherlock’s face cracked open, his expression for once completely without artifice or calculation.
John closes his eyes to that face, and hopes the world isn’t ending.
Three days later, Sherlock is propped up on the pillows on his bed on the far side, on top of the duvet, fully clothed except for shoes (his socks look like they cost more than the entire outfit John is wearing), reading a chemistry journal in French. John knocks on the open door and then comes inside. He stands next to the side of the bed Sherlock isn’t currently occupying. Sherlock looks up from his journal but doesn’t put it down.
“So,” John says.
“So.” No scathing comment on John’s conversational skills follows.
“First off: fuck you.”
Sherlock raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t say anything.
“Also.” John stops as his hands curl into fists. “I don’t know about you . . . where you stand on . . . things . . . but. Maybe direct is better.” He takes a breath, lets it out through his nose. He looks at the ceiling. “Maybe not.”
Sherlock is still silent. The fact that Sherlock is letting John babble on without cutting in, or cutting him off, or doing some babbling or showing off of his own is unnerving John badly.
John forces himself to look at Sherlock. “The thing is, my mother --”.
“Was a depressed, passive-aggressive alcoholic?” Sherlock supplies.
John blinks. He doesn’t even ask how Sherlock knows. “Yeah. Also artistic, and too damn smart to be stuck in a house as the town doctor’s wife, and she hated Audrey Hepburn, thought she was too fake.” John pauses. “And I loved her.”
Sherlock nods. “The maternal hold seems to be one none of us can ever quite shake.”
John nods, too. “She was my mother, and I loved her. And until the day she died, she called Harry a deviant.” He blows out a breath.
“But you’re not gay,” Sherlock says. His tone is icy, and maybe John deserves that.
John licks his lips. “So one might think.”
“One might, going by someone’s endless pronouncements and/or string of girlfriends.”
John wants to say that’s not fair, especially when Sherlock is “married to his work” and women aren’t his area. But he doesn’t argue, only knows what he saw three days prior on Sherlock’s face, the tilt of his mouth and the splotches on his cheekbones.
John sighs. “You’re not making this very easy.”
At that, Sherlock suddenly laughs. He tosses the journal down to the floor. “Because I am known for making things easy.”
Suddenly, John laughs, too. “You did go to Buckingham Palace in just a sheet.”
Sherlock scoots across the bed to land in front of where John is standing. “I also committed an act of theft, all for you.”
“All for me,” John repeats.
Sherlock rises up to his knees, until he is kneeling face to face where John is standing. “All for you,” Sherlock says, taking John’s face gently between his palms. He tilts John’s face down, and kisses him, slow and sure and steady.
If it makes John feel like he’s come home, he keeps it to himself, at least until the next time Sherlock whispers to him in the dark.
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