In many ways, it's easier to say what John Watson's looks aren't than what they are. He doesn't have sticking-out ears, or a bald patch, or a broken nose or any of the other commonplace aesthetic disadvantages of men. There's nothing obviously off or comic about the proportions of his face.
On the other hand, he hasn't got cheekbones or hair or eyes or lips. Well, obviously he has - almost everyone does - but not in the memorable way that some people do. He doesn't have Sherlock's perfect bone structure, that makes him seem carved out of marble. There's a softness to John's face, a roundness even; he's been accused of being chiselled out of plasticine. But if you want a face to touch, there's no comparison. Run your hand down the side of Sherlock's face and at best you'd be chilled to the bone; at worst you'd cut your fingers to ribbons. But John's face would be warm and comforting to your touch.
John's hair is similarly soothing. It's a nondescript light brown, normally cut short in a way that reveals the masculinity simplicity of his neck and skull when you see him from behind; a touch of the soldier still. But now John's somewhere with a regular water supply and a place to buy hair product, his hair is better cared for. Dense and strokeable, like a short-haired cat. Occasionally, when the sunlight catches it just so, a few of the strands have the golden fluffiness of a kitten. A highly trained combat kitten, of course.
John's eyes are not strange, mysterious, shape-shifting pools, but just eyes. Grey eyes that have seen a lot of things, judging by the crease lines round them. Experienced eyes, maybe even wise. As for his mouth, it doesn't have the perfect, almost feminine pout of Sherlock's lips. But then John isn't really the pouting sort. His mouth is usually either set in the firm, determined lines of someone who's seen a lot of trouble and knows there's more just round the corner, or grinning infectiously.
Sherlock's beauty needs a protective force-field. No, it is a protective force-field in itself. The stark message of hands off, of look, but don't touch. John's ordinary attractiveness seems designed for other people to touch, to hold. Sherlock belongs in an art gallery; John you can take home and keep for everyday use.
It's the same with their bodies. Sherlock looks down on people; John's lack of inches means most of the time he literally can't. Sherlock's body is perpetually on display: coats, shirts, trousers all primed to say: Notice how superior I am to you. The man can wear a scarf arrogantly. John wears clothes he likes, that say: I'm safe. Stay with me and I'll protect you.
Yet there's also a mysteriousness about John's body, something of the same reticence there is in his speech. You can't be sure what is beneath the obscuring coats and jumpers. Whether there's still the sturdy musculature of a soldier, or a body that's now softer, but whose gentle curves would be comforting to pillow one's head against. Whether he's below average in size in other ways, or if lurking in John's trousers there's something worthy of a porn star.
Well, some people can't be sure. Sherlock, of course, has already made a detailed investigation of his own armour-plated teddy bear, the very ordinary, gorgeous, John Watson.
Note: the 'chiselled from plasticine' line is nicked directly from MF's own commentary on TGG (the scene when Mycroft comes to 221B).
Rating: 12 (slash, painful writing, plagiarism)
Summary: Sherlock is still attempting to write fanfic about himself, to show us how to do it.
With special thanks to warriorbot for betaing, and to et_cetera55 for allowing Sherlock to critique her fic and then plagarise from it.
( Fanfic didn't actually need dramatic action, Sherlock told himself when he returned to his writing project next day. )
Rating 12 (angst, slash, not-good Sherlock)
Spoilers: book canon only
Summary: a sequel to Tastes and Holmes comforts. Sherlock has realised Mycroft and John are together and he isn't happy...
( Mycroft had told John that Sherlock wasn't good at sharing, but he knew that John thought this was just Mycroft's prejudices showing. Because his training of Sherlock had been so thorough over the years that almost everybody was fooled. )
He'd realised that Sherlock's self-centredness was abnormal when he'd spent an afternoon playing German whist with a not very well seven-year old Sherlock. They'd played fourteen games, because that was what Sherlock wanted, and fourteen times Sherlock had come up with a different justification for why he got to play first. It had been that that had alarmed Mycroft, even more than that reason number twelve had been "Because otherwise I'll tell Mummy that you fancy Tom Barford".
So he took his usual systematic approach to modifying Sherlock's behaviour: check he understood the intellectual concept of sharing and fairness properly, and then apply it in a concrete situation. Hence the five biscuits test. Put five biscuits on a plate, tell Sherlock they were going to share them, and then ask him how many Sherlock should take first.
Do it on paper and Sherlock could get the calculations right up to at least 500 biscuits. Do it in real life, and Mycroft went biscuit-less time after time. Until the day when he'd thought he'd finally cracked it, because Sherlock had spent such a long time considering the plate. Only to announce: "I'm fed up with biscuits. You can have them all, Mycroft, stuff your face like usual."
Mycroft was a patient teenager, turning into an incredibly patient man. He varied the training over the years, with the meticulous, systematic thoroughness that made his tutors think he should become a researcher, as if he had time for anything more than his eternal PhD in Sherlock Studies. If Sherlock could not be generous or fair by instinct, he could become so by habit. Most of the time now, you could hardly tell the difference between Sherlock and someone normal, but it was a different matter if the five biscuits were something that Sherlock really cared about. You might get four to one, or in exceptional moments three to two. You could never expect Sherlock to go fifty-fifty.
Of course, sharing John was a rather different matter from biscuits. It was inappropriate to claim that Mycroft possessed John in the first place, even though he couldn't help going round saying to himself, My true love hath my heart and I have his. Sherlock could have no interest in John's heart, and it wasn't as if John was the kind of man who could only love, give attention to, one person. And Mycroft carefully, deliberately, restricted his claims on John's time and energy. Because even if he wasn't married to his own work, it still required the kind of open-ended commitment normally restricted to parents of small children. Besides, John was far more helpful to Sherlock's activities than his own, and enjoyed them far more. They'd quickly come to an understanding that John would be staying at 221B and visiting Richmond, rather than the other way around. John was, deep down, happier living somewhere with unexpected entrails, and there were times when Mycroft desperately needed a entirely solitary bolthole. In terms of time, you had to say it was still four biscuits to Sherlock.
Which left only John's body. To Mycroft it was now inconceivable that anyone could not desire John. He half expected bands of adoring men and women following him down the streets of London whenever he went out, helplessly drawn to him. But apparently some people found John resistible. And Sherlock was not interested in sex.
Except Sherlock had not been interested in the solar system before John had taught him about it. Or watching daytime television. Or eating salad. Somewhere deep under sheets and sheets of ice, Mycroft suspected there was a core of sensuality in Sherlock. And he worried that proximity to John was somehow going to melt that ice.
John had told him not to worry. That he suspected Sherlock had quite a bit more sexual experience than Mycroft realised, but had learnt to control his own impulses. Mycroft admitted he might be wrong about Sherlock's private life, and carefully didn't add that he knew only too well that Sherlock's impulse control was sketchy.
But it was easy for Mycroft to forget his fears for a while, because it was spring, and the sun was shining pleasantly, not yet the heavy London heat waves that brought rivers of sweat pouring off Mycroft – John's internal thermostat, of course, could cope with any climate. And now there was no need for secrecy, they could spend time together out of doors, not always be hiding away. On the computer in the locked room in Richmond, Mycroft now had an incongruous screensaver: the surveillance shots he'd begged from the Chinese of John and him in April on the Millennium Bridge, a sequence of tighter and tighter close ups, till all you could see was the cameraman's incredulous zoom-in on the fact that John and Mycroft were holding hands. Because this was the twenty-first century, and John was registered as his interest, and he didn't care who knew it now.
And then John turned up at Richmond one evening with a bite mark on his neck.
Training Sherlock to share had had only partial success; so had training himself not to be jealous of Sherlock. Mycroft forced himself to remember that he had no evidence that John liked to be bitten. And then, after greeting John, politely enquired about the mark, because he'd decided that the diplomatic corps approach to John was not very effective.
"Vampires," said John, rolling his eyes."Well, not actually vampires, hypothetical vampires."
"Even in London, getting bitten by hypothetical vampires is unusual."
"It's Sussex," said John. "I don't know what it is about Sussex. Sherlock has a case there about a woman who may have attacked her own baby, and he wanted to check whether a bite mark alone looked different from a bite mark superimposed on some other form of wound. He pointed out that he could hardly practice on his own neck. And I suspect if I hadn't agreed he's have tried to persuade Molly to volunteer, or to let him loose in the morgue, and that would be really bad news. I thought it would be safer if I did it, and no, I didn't enjoy it, not at all."
"It doesn't matter, it's fine," said Mycroft. "Come and have some food, we'll have to eat quickly if we're going to make it to the concert."
There had been another Uighur crisis, so Mycroft's only time with John for the next week was a hurried lunch in his office, which despite what everyone in the building probably believed, was spent almost entirely talking, with only occasional kissing. Mycroft carefully didn't mention what had been happening in 221B for the last few days, but fortunately John hadn 't had Foreign Office training either.
"I presume you know about Sherlock deciding shirtlessness is a good look around the flat," he said.
"Several of the surveillance team are doing unpaid overtime, but we did have to lock down their access to YouTube. I hope you're coping with it," said Mycroft, trying to make it sound like a minor difficulty with the plumbing.
"I told Sherlock if he was really worried about vitamin D deficiency, he needed to go outside while topless," John replied. "I'm ex-army, Mycroft, I'm used to men going around with not many clothes on. And-"
John's phone started ringing. He read the text, and then sighed: "He's an idiot sometimes. " He handed the phone to Mycroft, who read: Return immediately, am conducting drip pattern analysis of showering while partially clothed. Need you to write notes, since very wet all over. SH
"I don't know how he thinks of these, I just don't," said John. "I've got a diabetic clinic at two. Do you think you could reply? Because if I use any more swear words in my messages, the predictive text function is going to get completely screwed up. "
Mycroft read out the message as he slowly typed it: "Dear Sherlock, John is tied up – is that OK, John? - until 6 p.m. Suggest you end your experiment. Pneumonia, as you will remember, is not sexy. MH".
He sent the message and handed the phone back to John, John's fingerprints overlaying his, overlaying John's.
"It'll be OK," said John, "I can handle Sherlock."
John's voice was suspiciously calm when he called on the private line a couple of days later.
"You may be getting reports from your surveillance team shortly about Sherlock sustaining facial injuries," he said.
"I've had them already. There were suggestions that he'd run into a door, I believe."
"The side of the bath. He jumped me when I was in it. You know I react badly when I'm approached suddenly. Can't help it, reflexes just kick in."
"I know you're quite safe around baths, John. I've checked that extensively."
"Sherlock doesn't know. It was that or having him arrested for sexual harassment, and I think the direct approach is the best for him. The direct approach with a certain amount of gratuitous violence. I think Sherlock's lost his appetite for games, Mycroft."
Sherlock's persistence had always been remarkable, but so was his tactical flexibility. So the next things was pictures, targeting Mycroft this time. Every website he looked at, every e-mail he received from anyone, seemed to include one. Nothing remotely indecent, Sherlock couldn't be pinned down like that. Just photo after photo of Sherlock and Mycroft – he had no idea there were so many of them, how many relatives' photo albums had Sherlock raided? From Sherlock aged three and Mycroft ten, up to last Christmas and that unfortunate photo that Mummy had insisted on, with the matching ties. All with the silent, irrefutable message: I am better looking than you, more poised, more attractive. I always have been, I always will be.
And then the pictures of Mycroft stopped appearing and there was something new. Pictures from the aftermath of the Tilly Briggs case, with Sherlock sopping wet in his shirt, and John beside him. (Sherlock had photoshopped Lestrade out, which Mycroft supposed was something). There were a couple of the photos that Mycroft had never seen before, with John gazing up at Sherlock intently, holding his wrists...
"I was trying to work out if he was concussed," said John, when he arrived at Mycroft's house that evening, "and whether what I needed to do first was get him out of his wet clothes, or get his hands patched up before they got infected. And whether he'd swallowed any river water, and the probable onset time of severe gastroenteritis symptoms. Terribly romantic, wasn't it?"
"You got him out of his wet clothes later, did you?" said Mycroft.
"Yes, because I'm a doctor, and his hands were bandaged. If you're going to be jealous of every man I've ever dressed and undressed, we're going to have problems, Mycroft."
"It's not all the others," said Mycroft. "It's him." He gestured at the Annigoni portrait of himself and Sherlock on the wall of the entrance hall, the one thing in the house that wasn't there by his choice. His mother had insisted on him having it, because she said it was safer there. Not safe from Sherlock, of course, who'd broken in to photograph it, after years of indifference. The image was now plastered across half of Flickr. Or half-plastered, because a lot of re-use tended to chop Mycroft out of the scene. Annigoni had made the ten year old Sherlock look unearthly, radiant, but he hadn't managed that with the seventeen year old Mycroft.
"He does look unreal in that, doesn't he?" said John gazing up thoughtfully, "I mean even more alien than normal."
"You mean an impossibly beautiful creature from another realm?"
"No, I meant more sort of weird space-thingy. You must have noticed it, he does look a bit like someone designed him to look attractive and then thought, hey, why not take this further? Why not more cheekbones, wilder hair, tweak the eye slant parameter a bit? There are times I look at him and expect him to rip off the front of his skull, and there'll be a tiny green man hidden inside his brain."
"You've been watching Men in Black, haven't you?"
"While slightly drunk, yes."
"Not a good move, John. And you find Sherlock's body just as alien as his face, do you?" said Mycroft, trying to sound amused, and knowing he was failing.
John sighed. "Can we go and sit down, please," he said, "I think we need to clear a few things up."
Once John was installed in the rocking-chair, he gazed across at Mycroft, trying and failing to relax on the sofa, and said: "I am not going to discuss Sherlock's body with you, Mycroft. What I am going to do is ask you whether you would sleep with Brad Pitt for ten million dollars?"
"Well it was one million to sleep with Robert Redford, but that was a while ago. So if it's a choice between Brad Pitt and lots of dosh or me, who would it be?"
Mycroft forgot sometimes that he wasn't the only practical man in this relationship.
"I am not interested in money," he replied haughtily, "and while Mr Pitt may have many admirable qualities, I'm not convinced he would be much use if one had the winter vomiting bug."
"Point taken?" John said, staring coolly at him.
"Point taken, It's just-"
"It's just you think no-one else in the world can control themselves, only you," John burst in, "but Mycroft, the most intense desire I have ever felt, far more than any sexual feelings, was in my first battle. The urge to run away from that and never go back again. And I didn't do it, however much I wanted to. And it's not just me. Ordinary people, lots of ordinary people, control themselves. They see someone they fancy, work with someone they fancy, share a flat with someone they fancy, but they don't do anything about it, because they have made commitments already. Like we have. I am your interest, half the world's governments probably know that by now. And if anybody bothered to keep a list of who ex-army officers were committed to, you'd be on it. I've got you as my next of kin on every bloody form I can as it is."
Mycroft had accepted that John was never going to be any good at words about their relationship, that was his department. He'd forgotten that John's preference was for concrete action.
"Would you, could you consider...," he half-breathed, and then his courage ran out, and all he could say was: "There would be paperwork advantages to a civil partnership."
"If you say so, " John replied, slightly shakily. "I'm game. Who do we need to tell first?"Part 2