It should be amusing actually, John thinks to himself. Had he really just not let himself notice? He'd been living with a man who forced him to notice things, who got disappointed in John when he couldn't see something that to Sherlock was just so bloody obvious it didn't even need one whole brain cell to notice it, work out what it meant and file it away. He had a feeling that if Sherlock had even the first inkling of what John was thinking now he'd get that look on his face which Mrs Clarkson would get when he handed in an essay on Alexander Pope late, riddled with spelling mistakes. "Really, John you must try harder next time."
Sherlock has had a haircut. Brilliant deduction so far, Watson, keep going old boy. His hair is now just a shade from being the length of a military recruit, dark fuzz covering his head where once it was those minky curls that looked so thick and soft, like you could bury hands into and loose them... and this is what John can't believe he' s not let himself think before. He must have been aware of it on one level, that he was fond, perhaps a little bit too fond, of Sherlock's hair, that actually the last three women he's been on dates with have disturbingly similar hair to his flatmate, that he lingers in the shower to smell the Body Shop shampoo that Sherlock uses (Tea Tree but not overpowering, just clean and fresh) and oh Jesus. It's not just about Sherlock's hair is it?
Because alright, thinks John, as he watches Sherlock surreptitiously while pretending to be reading G2, with the hair gone Sherlock looks different... but not bad different just, 'this is going to take some getting used to different.' If anything it makes him look sharper, even more cat like and pointed, all angles with no curls to soften him. His cheekbones now resemble something you might have shaved with a hundred years ago, his chin is more prominent and his neck, which had always been long now looks endless. John's seen this haircut on himself and new recruits, usually the lads were just teenagers with pustules of yellow heads on the backs of their necks, the cut uneven at the back, their skulls too lumpy, making them look like potatoes that had been left in a cupboard for months. No wonder they were grateful for the beret.
Sherlock though, has a nice shaped skull, not too egg like, and graceful little ears (John isn't sure how ears can be graceful, but Sherlock's are and somehow that doesn't seem fair.) And of course now John can see Sherlock's grey eyes more clearly, the elegant arch of his eyebrows and more of his flatmate's creamy white skin. For some reason, the fact he can see Sherlock's forehead feels vaguely indecent, in the same way that sniffing Sherlock's shampoo does, and John isn't really sure why.
"You don't like it, do you?" asks Sherlock. He's sitting on the leather sofa, his long legs stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles, feet resting on the coffee table. He's giving the impression he's reading a book on the history of vivisection, but John can tell, somehow that Sherlock is actually surveying him and probably has been for quite some time.
"It's not that I don't like it, it'll just take some getting used to." John says before his internal 'Don't Say Vaguely Gay Things' sensor kicks in and catches it . Because really, why should it matter if your straight male, ex military heterosexual flatmate who dates women likes your buzz cut? Actually...
" Why do you care if I like it or not?" asks John, feeling slightly clever that he's exposed a tiny weakness of Sherlock's.
"I don't. I was simply pointing out the apparent fact that you do not like my haircut." Sherlock leans his head on the back of the low sofa, his neck on the cool leather, and regards John through half lidded eyes, like a great cat pretending not to be interested in the prey that's bumbling about beneath their tree.
"Well do you like your hair that short?"
Sherlock stretches, grins, "It was necessary. My fringe kept getting in my eyes and the summer is going to be hot. My hair as it was would be impractical."
Sherlock, a self confessed genius a severe lack in social skills who never seemed to sleep, left body parts all over their flat and who only ever seemed to wear immaculately tailored suits and bespoke shoes, even at crime scenes and on criminal hunts, seemed to think that having slightly unruly hair was the most impractical thing about him. Honestly.
"Well...make sure you put plenty of sun cream on the back of your neck. It's not nice having a burnt neck." John goes for his 'concerned medic' line.
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "Yes, mother."
A few more minutes of quiet reading pass .John is halfway through an interview with Wayne Hemingway about the economic downturn's affect on style when Sherlock pipes up again.
"Admit it though, you liked my hair the way it was." the deep, well rounded voice is insistent. Silence, John is perfectly aware, is the same as agreeing with Sherlock.
"It suited you." John says, carefully.
Sherlock chuckles, actually amused.
"Yes, it did. And you liked it."The enigmatic little half smile on Sherlock's lips is making John want to punch him.
John cracks his newspaper and attempts to read about buying Eames chairs cheaply on eBay, knowing that Sherlock is trying to get him to play his game.
"Alright fine, John stay quiet, I know anyway."
"You would." thinks John, feeling a flush crawling up his neck towards his cheeks, a little apprehensive about how much Sherlock has noticed.
"I mean, you seem to find ways to touch it, brushing it away from my face or my collar, and you're always looking at it. And those women you've been dating, all with dark, wavy hair, John, really? Did you expect me not to notice. Then there's you obsession with my shampoo. I mean, John, it'd be normal if you came out of the bathroom smelling like my shampoo because you'd actually used it, but when it's only on the thumb and fingers of your right hand it rather suggests to me that all you do is open the cap and smell it."
Sherlock's voice is the same drone he uses when he's dissecting a case, explaining the order in which events happened. John had always been impressed by this, but now he feels the full force of the damning evidence, the crushing blow that he's been found out, if the facts were ever actually hidden.
John feels humiliated, like Sherlock's just read out his diary in a crowded room, when it's really on the two of them there. Well three if you count the skull, which John has come to realise that Sherlock rather disturbingly, does.
John sets his jaw and drops the newspaper on the floor and reaches for his discarded coat. The satisfied look on Sherlock's face is fading into something else but John isn't looking at Sherlock so he doesn't see that brief look of complete insecurity.
"Where are you going?" Sherlock asks, sitting up.
"Why?" Sherlock's voice actually sounds slightly whiny.
"Because I don't really want to be here right now, if you don't mind." John says, mainly through his teeth. He's too embarrassed to even think about staying in with Captain Smug of Planet I Know that You Have Secret Gay Thoughts.
"So it was just about my hair then."Sherlock surmises and slumps back down on the sofa, his body going limp and oddly defeated. He rolls over and faces the back of the sofa, like a petulant child
Sherlock Holmes never looks defeated.
"What?"John asks, pausing as he's pulling on his coat. There's something he's not getting here and it's making him feel oddly hopeful.
"Nfghthing" Sherlock says into the back of the sofa.
"No. Sherlock, what's going on?"
"Just..," Sherlock rolls over, glances at John and then rolls back again, addressing the sofa cushions. "Was an experiment."
John puzzles over that. Sherlock's non sequiturs are usually vaguely disquieting but they usually get explained. And when they don't, John has learnt that it's easier to just let them go than lose (significant) nights of sleep over them. John's not going to let this one go though.
"What was an experiment?"
"The haircut John, don't be simple." the tone is scathing but John can detect something under there which he doesn't usually hear from Sherlock. Usually only after Sally has said something in his earshot about Sherlock which has made John wince. Hurt. He's hurt.
That doesn't make a lot of sense; surely John's the one who should be upset, being so fatally exposed. Hang on... how can a haircut be an experiment? The wheels are turning in John's mind. Scientists use experiments to test theories so... Sherlock knows John is fond of his hair, possibly even attracted to it, he's gathered the evidence...so... by removing the hair from the equation Sherlock is testing ...whether...
"Worked it out yet?"Sherlock asks sarcastically, pulling at a loose thread in the stitching of one of the cushions.
John sits down on the coffee table, stands up again quickly after brushing whatever that once was onto the floor, sits down for a second time then pokes Sherlock in the middle of the back, hard. If Sherlock can be childish, John can outdo him. The Christmas dinners may have been awkward in the Holmes Household but Mycroft has nothing on Harry in the irritating stakes, even with all his surveillance equipment and eerie omnipotence.
"Hey," another poke, "Turn over."
"No." the back of Sherlock's neck looks soft, so John reaches out and touches it, not poking this time and not quite stroking.
Sherlock startles, and John wonders about whether it's too much of intrusion when Sherlock rolls over, trapping John's hand between the sofa arm and his head, his hand cradling the base of Sherlock's skull, the short hair velvety beneath his palm.
John smiles, and Sherlock attempts one back, but he's nervous, for the first time since the pool Sherlock actually looks nervous.
"Wasn't just the hair."John says.
Sherlock blinks, and then nods, like his mind was somewhere else entirely. Then his tongue steals out of his mouth to wet his lips and John can't resist, closing the gap between them. It's soft and clingy and rather unexpected for the both of them. Still, it lasts long enough for them to enjoy it and when they break apart, Sherlock actually looks flushed, and rather pleased.
"So...good experiment?" asks John.
"Gratifying results, yes." Sherlock says back, with an actual smile this time.
"You know, you could've just asked, instead of going all Jarhead on me?"John lets his hand run across Sherlock's scalp, feeling the odd but rather pleasant sensation of the short bristles against his skin.
"It's not that short. And you have your methods and I have mine. And I still need to repeat the experiment...make sure I get the same results..."
John is still laughing at Sherlock's rubbish but oddly endearing attempt at making flirting scientific as their lips meet.