"That's your birthday gift for me?! What am I supposed to do with that trash?!"
Stefanie, thirty-one years old, primary school teacher, owner of a neurotic parakeet and enthusiastic about sappy romance novels. In one word, boring.
Sherlock rolled his eyes as he closed the front door behind him and listened to the raised voices, that echoed down the staircase. Really, John should have known better than to start dating a highly romantic woman, who started talking about a house in the countryside and - at least- half a dozen children on the first date. Not that John had told him, but... it was obvious.
Sherlock had given this newest paramour of John a couple of months maximum, before they would break up. It was inevitable, considering how often John had postponed a date with her, in order to follow Sherlock around London. Alright, maybe Sherlock had found more reasons to chase through London during the last couple of weeks than was normal - even by his standards - but it wasn't as if John was complaining. Sherlock allowed himself a grin as he glanced up the stairs to decide if it was going to speed up their breakup if he showed up now or if it was better to wait here a little longer.
"Do you think I'm some stupid teenage girl that will be bribed by such a thoughtless gift?!"
Sherlock chuckled and sat down at the bottom of the stairs. Obviously, it was Stefanie's birthday and John had even managed to remember it - Sherlock made a mental note to delete all birthday dates from John's phone in the future - and bought a gift. Probably an unimaginative gift like some sweet perfume or filled chocolates and flowers. No, not flowers, Sherlock would have noticed John buying something so pedestrian. Maybe, it was a DVD or a voucher for dinner. Actually, that was of no importance, since Stefanie appeared to hate John's gift -she had probably expected jewelry of some kind - and if John didn't say something to appease her then...
"I have had enough of you and your stupid flatmate! Why aren't you fucking him, when you already spend all your free time with him?!" The first intelligent thing Sherlock had heard from Stefanie. John and he would fit perfectly together and John only had to... forget that he was straight. He shook his head to chase away that depressing thought and rose to his feet, just in time for Stefanie to run down the stairs without tripping over him.
"Your flatmate is here and I'm sure he is more adventurous than I am," She screamed up the stairs, before she fled the house.
"She didn't like to try new sex positions," Sherlock announced as John pounded down the stairs after her.
"Oh shut up, Sherlock!"
Instead of a reply, Sherlock merely grinned at him, as John ran after his girlfriend - rather ex-girlfriend - and he was left alone in the entrance hall. At least for the next couple of hours, if Sherlock was correct in predicting how long it would take John and Stefanie to break up and John to calm down, after she had taken the chance to threw insults at him.
For a second he glanced at the door of 221A and considered paying Mrs. Hudson a visit, before dismissing the idea again. He liked their landlady a great deal, but Sherlock really wasn't in the mood to listen to her advices about how he had to finally confess his feelings to John, before he found himself a new girlfriend. Really, Sherlock wasn't a coward and if he thought that John was interested in men, he would have already told him... or at least made a move on him. But as things stood, such an action would only be met with confusion or - at worst - with disgust. Sherlock doubted the latter, since John had never shown any homophobic tendencies, but it would still complicate their relationship. Not worth the trouble, at least not as long as John wasn't seriously considering to settle down with some pretty and boring woman to raise children. And if he did then... Sherlock didn't know what to do. Confess his feelings to John or keep it to himself and play John's best man and - later - godfather for his children?
Sherlock waved the question aside as he opened the door to 221B and hung up his coat and scarf. It wasn't important for the time being and he still had an experiment to finish. As long as John wasn't home, no one would complain about samples of sliced human liver on their kitchen table. And when he came home, Sherlock would just bribe him with going out to a new Chinese restaurant, he had just found and they would spend a nice evening together and it would almost feel like...
He gritted his teeth as the forbidden thought surfaced in his mind and instead went into the living room to retrieve his laptop.
Big, shiny eyes stopped him in his track.
Golden-brown fur, about twenty centimeters tall, a smile on its face and adorned with a red bow... it was the most perfect teddy bear, Sherlock had ever laid eyes on. And he was lying on the floor, on his side, his look accusing as round, polished, shiny eyes met blue ones.
Sherlock revised his deductions about Stefanie. She wasn't only boring, but on top of that she was also stupid. It was obvious that John had given that teddy bear to her - a thoughtful and cute gift - and she had thrown it to the floor - No, slapped it from John's hand - as if it was rubbish. Really, Sherlock shook his head, still staring at the teddy, what could be more romantic than receiving a teddy from one's boyfriend? Not that Sherlock had any prior experiences in receiving thoughtful gifts from a significant other, but he knew that he would have been delighted if John had given the teddy to him. Of course, John would never even think of doing that, since he a) wasn't interested in Sherlock and b) would never guess how happy Sherlock would be about such a gift.
Sherlock snorted. Obviously, no one would think that the cold, aloof and brilliant genius would enjoy the idea of cuddling with a plush toy. The Yarders would... laugh at the mere idea of it. Yes and they would laugh even harder if they saw him now. An undeniable longing in his blue eyes and shaking with the effort not to bend over and pick the teddy up. He seemed so fluffy and soft and Sherlock knew that if he cuddled him against his chest, then... No, Sherlock huffed and went into the kitchen to make tea, since John wasn't there to fulfill his duty.
When the water boiled, Sherlock fixed his tea the way he liked it - two spoonfuls of sugar and a splash of milk - but he didn't take a sip from the mug. His thoughts were still on the teddy bear - lying helpless on the floor in the living - room - and Sherlock hated himself for it. The last time, he had had a teddy, Sherlock had been eight... and prepared to take him - Dr. Jekyll - to boarding school with him. The teddy had already been stuffed in his knapsack when Sherlock's mother had made it clear to him that it was inappropriate to take a child's toy with him to boarding school.
Sherlock put the cooling tea on the kitchen table and wandered back into the living-room. So many years ago, he had begged his mother to allow him to take his teddy with him. Needless to say that all his efforts - promises, pleas, tears and screams - had been in vain. Sherlock had gone away to boarding school without his only friend and when he had come back home during his first holidays... Dr. Jekyll had been donated to an orphanage. Since then, Sherlock hadn't owned a teddy - or any other plush toy. And what would have been the use of it?
He looked down at the teddy on the floor. A grown man didn't own such childish things and if Sherlock grabbed his pillow in the middle of the night - when he slept for once - in order to hold onto something, then that didn't mean anything. Truthfully, he wouldn't mind snuggling about to John in his sleep - and that wasn't a childish thought - but since that would never happen...
Sherlock sighed in defeat and picked up the teddy from the floor. His fur was thick and soft as Sherlock held him at arm's length to inspect him more closely. It wasn't even a cheap product from China. No, John had invested his money in a Steiff teddy, the button in his ear was proof of that. Stefanie was so stupid and - Sherlock brought the teddy to his face and sniffed at him - she truly hadn't touched him. The fur gave off a fresh scent, mixed with John's aftershave and Sherlock didn't want to let go of the teddy again... ever.
Humming to himself - he was alone in the flat after all - Sherlock laid down on the couch, his nose snuggled into the soft fur. Yes, he definitely smelled a little like John, not only like his aftershave, but also a little like his deodorant. Sherlock pictured John with the teddy under his arm, walking through London and using the tube and a smile spread over his face. Yes, that picture seemed right and Sherlock was sure that John had carried his gift with confidence without paying the looks of strangers any mind.
He brought his arms around the teddy and closed his eyes. The warm weight felt good, like holding a dear friend close to his chest and knowing that he was going to protect you. Sherlock didn't berate himself for that childish imagination. He was alone, there was no one to mock him for cuddling with a teddy and therefore there was nothing wrong with doing just that. Sherlock smiled against the fur of his newest protector.
Stefanie was a stupid cow!
John growled darkly as he climbed the stairs to 221B and didn't even try to censor his thoughts. Usually, he would never allow himself to think in such terms of one of his ex-girlfriends - Yes, they had broken it off - but this time it seemed justified. Not only had she rejected his gift - It had taken John hours to find that teddy - but she had also insulted Sherlock. John still fumed when he recalled how Stefanie had always referred to his best friend as his flatmate. It wasn't wrong - they lived together after all - but at the same time, it reduced Sherlock to someone with whom he was sharing the rent and didn't have anything else in common. That definitely wasn't true. They solved crimes together, went out to dinner, watched crap TV, bickered about the household chores - at the end, John always did them - and would even die to save each other, if a madman forced their hands. John pushed the thought of Moriarty away as he halted in front of the door to take a deep and calming breath. He didn't want to risk lashing out at Sherlock - who was certainly plastering the table with disgusting experiments - just because he was angry at someone else. It had happened before and John had felt terrible afterwards.
Of course, Sherlock had said that it hadn't been a big deal, but... John couldn't shake the thought that he had hurt his friend back then. Or was that only wishful thinking? Because he wanted Sherlock to take his words to heart? That John meant something to him - more than a friend and colleague?
John sighed and finally entered their flat. Sherlock and he lived together like a couple, but they weren't one and John doubted that they would ever get so close. Sherlock had made it perfectly clear that he wasn't interested in this kind of relationships. Sherlock... was sleeping on the couch with a teddy.
John blinked and pinched his arm. Pain shot through it, but the picture remained: Sherlock on the couch - sprawled on his back - hugging the teddy, John had bought for Stefanie, to his chest and smiling peacefully in his sleep.
A lump formed in John's throat as he swallowed heavily, without knowing why he felt like that all of a sudden. It shouldn't be touching to find your flatmate - not even if he was your best friend - on the couch with a teddy in his arms. John wasn't a man to laugh at someone for cuddling with a plush toy, no matter which gender said someone had, but... John also hadn't thought that he was a man to smile sappily at the picture of a sleeping Sherlock and his teddy.
John frowned slightly, but then nodded. Stefanie hadn't wanted his gift and although he could bring it back to the shop, John didn't find that thought appealing. Not after watching how Sherlock turned slightly to his side, the teddy still clutched against his chest and a content sigh leaving his lips. Nope, there was no chance that John would take the teddy away from Sherlock - or even made him pay for it. His friend had definitely claimed him as his and although John didn't know what had brought this on - Sherlock didn't appear to be the type to cuddle with plush toys - he rather liked how relaxed Sherlock looked in his sleep. The only drop of bitterness was that John would rather be snuggled up against Sherlock like this, instead of feeling slightly jealous of the teddy.
John shook his head at the thought. Instead of glaring at the plushy rival, John retrieved an afghan and covered Sherlock - and his new friend - with it. Allowing himself a last sappy smile, John retreated to the kitchen to make himself some tea, before he did something unforgivable - like joining Sherlock and the teddy on the couch.
He felt so warm. Sherlock sighed contently, his mind still foggy from sleep, as he pressed his nose into the soft fur of the teddy and drew the afghan closer around himself.
Adrenalin surged through him as he grabbed the woolen blanket - that covered him from the chest down - with one hand. Sherlock couldn't recall having placed it there. In fact, he couldn`t even remember falling asleep. At least, he hadn't had the intention of falling asleep, when he had laid down on the couch with the teddy... Dear God, with the teddy! Blue eyes snapped open, just as a small chuckle sounded through the room.
Sherlock was able to recognize every sound his friend had ever made. He had cataloged it in his Mind Palace and visited the room, whenever he wasn`t sure in what kind of mood John was. Right now, that was unnecessary, since Sherlock had heard enough amused chuckles from his friend to know by heart how they sounded. And of course, John was amused to find Sherlock asleep on the couch and cuddling... with a children's toy.
A faint blush spread over his cheeks as Sherlock lifted his head to look in the direction from which the sound had come. He didn't have to search long to find John perched in his favorite armchair with a book in his hands. A book, which had been abandoned in favor of watching Sherlock as he struggled to sit up, without getting tangled in the afghan. Somehow he managed it and leaned back against the cushions.
"How long did I sleep?" He could have easily deduced it himself, but Sherlock felt like he had to say something to fill the silence as John kept watching him. "A couple of hours." A small smile lit up John's face. "You slept as peacefully as a baby."
Usually, such a comment would have been met with a sneer or a slight pout - depending on his mood - but this time it only made Sherlock blush in mortification as he glanced down at the teddy, he still held loosely in his arms. Of course, John had to remark on the undignified act of Sherlock sleeping with a plush toy in his arms. There couldn't be anything more pathetic than a grown man, napping on the couch with a teddy. Sherlock wasn't sure how he should reply to that or if it was better to ignore John's remark, put the teddy aside and flee to his room. Unfortunately, John took that choice away from him. "At least you appreciate my gift." Smiling eyes flickered to the teddy and then back to Sherlock. "I would have never thought that you were the type to find comfort by cuddling with a teddy, but..."
"Don't mock me!" Sherlock gritted his teeth and glared down at the innocent plush toy in his arms. He should have never picked it up from the floor. Stupid to think that it was fine to give in to his longing, without having to face any consequences. John would never let him live down that shame. He would remind Sherlock of his childish behavior, whenever he wanted to keep him in line at a crime scene, from now on. Conversations would be spiked with mocking comments and John would delight in making Sherlock flustered.
Sherlock gripped the teddy harder and forced a deep breath past his tight throat. Hopefully, John wouldn't be as cruel about it as the children at the playground had been, when Sherlock had brought his little lion plush toy with him - he had been seven - and they had thrown it in a tree. Sherlock had never seen it again - his parents had refused to get it for him and Mycroft had been away at boarding school. Never seeing it again... One last time, Sherlock glanced down at the teddy and loosened his grip around it. He held him out to John and managed to interrupt him midsentence.
"I'm not mocking, you. I... What`s that?" Confusion was written all over John's features as he stared at the teddy, which was offered to him.
Sherlock growled. "Of course you are mocking me and you should know what it is." He pushed the teddy closer to John's face, sitting up straighter on the couch in order to have a wider reach. "You gave it to your girlfriend, who thought it to childish to keep."
John blinked slowly and then reached towards the plush toy. Sherlock schooled his expression into blankness as he prepared himself to be parted from yet another comforting presence in his life. Nevertheless, he wasn't able to keep the surprise from his face, when John merely stroked the soft head of the teddy and pushed him gently back to Sherlock. "You keep him and I'm still not mocking you."
Sherlock shook his head and kept his arm outstretched. Certainly, John would laugh at him, if he took the teddy back into his arms. First, laugh and then demand the plush toy back to watch Sherlock's reaction. At least, that was what had happened every other time, when Sherlock had revealed to someone that he liked something and they had the power to take it away from him. He swallowed and forced a sneer on his face. "Don't you want to try your luck with Stefanie again? She would certainly accept your gift if you put a necklace around the teddy. And what else than mockery should it be, if you point out to your flatmate how pathetic he behaved by cuddling with a... children's toy."
A frown appeared between John's eyes, but he still didn`t make a move to pluck the teddy from Sherlock's hand. "Firstly, Stefanie and I have broken it off. So, no, I will never gift her with anything again. Secondly, I'm not mocking you, because I don't see how it should be pathetic for you to cuddle with a teddy." There was a hint of true bewilderment in John`s voice, but when Sherlock would usually have taken a moment to analyze all the evidence, he felt much too defensive to let his guard down right now. "Lying now, John?!" Sherlock threw him a cold look. "I'm interested to see how you are going to convince me that it isn't pathetic for a grown man to behave like that!" He didn't even refer to the breakup with Stefanie, since he had known from the start that it wouldn't work out between John and her. Besides, it was unimportant right now, after John had seen him in such a humiliating situation.
"I really don't know how you got the idea that I would ever ridicule you for something like that, but... Wait a second. Stay right here!" Sherlock didn't even have time to blink, when John darted from the room and raced upstairs. For a second he contemplated escaping to his room - or better, leaving the flat for a few hours - but Sherlock dismissed the idea at once. If he ran away now, John would have even more reasons to mock him later, although he kept insisting that he wasn't mocking him. Sherlock frowned and brought the teddy back to sit in his lap, one hand resting on the furry head. It was true, none of John's remarks had been really biting or cruel at all, but still... it couldn't be acceptable to cuddle with a teddy, or... could it?
Big, shiny eyes looked up at him as if trying to say that he didn't care how old the person was, who pressed him against his chest and that everything was fine and Sherlock's frown deepened farther. Maybe, John meant it and... but no, that would be too good to be true and besides...
Sherlock wasn't able to go in circles about this problem again, since John chose that moment to stumble into the living-room, a big smile plastered on his face.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes when John moved towards him and drew his armchair closer to the couch, before sitting down. Their knees almost touched, when John propped his elbows on his thighs and leaned towards Sherlock, who tried hard not to show any sign of how much John's close proximity affected him. It was because of his efforts to not move his legs away - or even closer to John - that Sherlock only noticed that his friend was clutching something in his hands.
"That's Bunny." A slightly tatty, grey - formerly white - rabbit plush toy was held out to Sherlock. One of his ears was floppy, while the other stood at attention like it was listening to the world around him. It was created in a sitting position and one of his small legs hung a little loose and askew. A sure proof that it had been stitched back on, at one point.
Sherlock blinked and looked back up at John's face. A faint blush had crept into his cheeks, but he was returning Sherlock's gaze without flinching. "I have had Bunny since my tenth birthday - I got him from my grandmother - and I haven't parted with him since then. Well, obviously I didn't take him to school with me, but..."
"You took him to Afghanistan with you," Sherlock remarked, flabbergast. "The dust..."
John nodded, a grim smile on his face. "Yes, he fell out of my knapsack once and he lost a leg, because one of my comrades stepped on him, before he noticed him. I sewed it back on, but he never looked the same again." John shrugged. "Well, obviously I'm also not the same, I was before I signed up for the army, therefore it's rather fitting."
Sherlock nodded, still unable to formulate a reply. There was too much flying around in his mind to hold onto anything. Firstly, it was obvious that John was speaking the truth. The plush rabbit was quite old and from the locks in his fur and the staining on it, you could tell that it had been cuddled quite frequently... probably was still cuddled very often. Secondly - if that was true - then John had never really mocked him. At least, it would have been hypocritical of him to do so.
"You see, it's perfectly normal to own a plush toy and cuddle with it." A boyish grin lit up John's face as he nudged the nose of the rabbit against the snout of the teddy. "And I meant it, when I said that you can keep him."
Sherlock stared at the two plush toys that gave the impression of giving each other a light kiss and then looked back up at John. "How much... I mean, it's a Steiff and..."
"Oh, no, no! I don't want you to pay me for the teddy!"
Sherlock sighed at that and shook his head. "He was a gift to your ex-girlfriend, not to me. It only seems fair that you at least get your money..."
"I would have given him to you, right away, if I had known that you would have been happy about such a gift."
Sherlock blinked, processed the words in his mind, turned them around a few times and still didn't know how to react to such a statement. "It's not the usual gift for a male friend, John," Sherlock finally opted to say. "You only wanted to give it to Stefanie, because she was your... lover."
A sheepish grin spread over John's face as he leaned even closer, their knees brushing and their plush toys balanced on their laps between them. "So, you say that I have to become your lover, before I can present you with the teddy?!"
Sherlock shook his head, nodded and finally shrugged. All the while his heart was pounding away in his ribcage, chasing adrenaline through his veins and making his head dizzy. Or maybe it was John's closeness and how his eyes became even bigger, when he drew closer and closer and...
Soft lips pressed against his, lingering there and waiting for a response. Sherlock was frozen in place. That couldn't be happening, he had to be dreaming and if he was dreaming, then it would end now and...
"Sorry, I got carried away."
Sherlock peeked up at John. The kiss had ended, but his lips still tingled from the brief contact and John was still here, wearing a defeated look on his face and nagging on his lower lip. It hadn't been a dream, John had truly initiated a kiss between them and from all the evidence gathered, he was disappointed by Sherlock's lack of response.
"I should probably..." John gestured vaguely in the direction of the kitchen and made to get up, but Sherlock would have none of that. One arm shot out to grab John's wrist and drag him onto the couch, while the other hand caught Bunny and Frankenstein - a good name for the teddy - and prevented them from a tumble to the floor.
With a huff, John landed half on top of Sherlock, one knee on the couch and the other between Sherlock's legs. Before he had a chance to ask any questions, Sherlock closed the space between their mouths and kissed him. This time, it was John's turn to freeze, but not for long, before he melted against Sherlock and returned his affection in kind. They lingered like that for some time, their lips moving together, tasting and memorizing each other, until they broke apart with a little gasp.
John laughed quietly. "Can I give the teddy to you now?"
Sherlock seriously considered the question. "It depends... are we lovers now?"
Fingers ran through his curls, John's eyes bright with happiness as he nudged Sherlock with his nose. "We are so much more than just lovers, Sherlock."
A smile pulled at Sherlock`s lips as he glanced to the side, where a teddy and a rabbit were watching them with kind eyes. "I think they agree with you."
John followed his gaze and then nodded. "Yes, they do."
And then, there was no more room for words as their lips met in another kiss.