[identity profile] tartancravat.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] tartanfics
Title: The Quantum Mechanics of Lost Socks (and Other Unsolved Mysteries)
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Characters/Pairings: Sherlock&John
Rating: PG
Word count: 3,000
Disclaimer: This is a transformative work of the BBC’s Sherlock, which itself is a transformative work. For fun, not profit!
Warnings: None
Notes: This contains several images. They should work all right for screenreaders etc, but let me know if they don’t or if they aren’t displaying for some reason. If you find them hard to read just mouseover for text. Title inspired by Laundry: A Quantum Mechanical Approach, by Brian J. Reardon, which I don’t really understand but by which I am greatly amused. Beta by [livejournal.com profile] call_me_ishmael, thank you!
Summary: Sherlock loses his socks, takes a nap, eats some biscuits, and leaves a mystery unsolved.


He complains when John blogs about his unsolved cases, but in truth Sherlock keeps meticulous notes on all of them. There is no case that Sherlock doesn’t intend to solve eventually. John knows this, because sometimes when Sherlock has gone out or fallen asleep on the sofa, John indulges his tendency to be nosy. So John has seen the book where Sherlock started keeping case notes as a child, and he knows that Sherlock’s first unsolved case was what John privately thinks of as The Matter of the Missing Socks.

It’s easy to tell when Sherlock is fully asleep because his mouth falls open, and he takes deep snuffling breaths. That’s when John gets up from his chair and starts poking through desk drawers or bookshelves. He finds the notebook on the shelf next to the fireplace, and on the label inside the front cover, Sherlock has written, in a carefully perfect childish hand, his full name. It’s so long it doesn’t quite fit on the line.

This Book Belongs To Sherlock Fortinbras Roland Aloysius Holmes

John stares at it for a moment, looks at Sherlock on the sofa with his pyjama pants rucked up around his calves and his mouth open, looks back at the name, walks through the kitchen and into the bathroom, and laughs until he cries.

John considers waking Sherlock up, just to thank him. He would say, Thank you, Sherlock, for being a ridiculous person whose parents gave him a ridiculous name. I needed a good laugh. But Sherlock probably wouldn’t take that as it was meant, so John doesn’t.

He leans against the bathroom sink and thumbs through the notebook. The writing starts out in the same orderly handwriting as the nameplate, but later it gets increasingly messy until it’s barely legible, and then evens out again into the somewhat wild and spiky but readable print John is used to seeing on Sherlock’s notes.

Midway between the beginning and the illegible section, John finds:

Research question: Where do missing socks go?

John walks back into the living room and puts the notebook away, and sits down in his chair, trying to imagine Sherlock as a child.

He doesn’t feel guilty about snooping through Sherlock’s things, because he knows that Sherlock has no qualms about doing the same to him, and that Sherlock is perfectly aware that he does it. It’s not exactly because he feels he needs ammunition against Sherlock, for when Sherlock is being more of an idiot than usual (though it is that, a little), but more because he knows there are some things Sherlock will never be able to tell him. Sherlock doesn’t always know what’s important, can’t always slow down or loosen up or forget himself enough to say things like the fact that he has a ridiculous name and is self-conscious about the fact.

So yes, John does have every intention of calling Sherlock Fortinbras the next time he’s about to say something truly insensitive to someone, but he’s not going to tease him about it just for fun. It’s the cases he’s curious about, the unsolved ones that Sherlock has been holding onto for years, keeping in a room in his mind palace where they take up space and gather dust.

“Does it bother you, things like that?” John asks him when he wakes. It’s four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and Sherlock is blinking sleep out of his eyes, lying on the sofa with his feet propped up in the corner between the back and the arm.

It’s pouring rain outside, the light in the flat is grey, and this is one of the rare slow days where Sherlock is not on a case and not bored. Sherlock swings his feet off the sofa and sits up, leaning one elbow against the arm of the sofa and twining his fingers through his hair. “Does what bother me?”

Sherlock looks at John, appraising, and his eyes sweep around the room and John waits to answer the question, waiting to be told that he’s done so without saying a word.

“The unsolved cases,” Sherlock says flatly.

“Not just the unsolved ones. I mean the universal unsolved ones. Life’s great mysteries, you know.”

“Why I have so many mateless socks cluttering up my sock index is hardly one of ‘life’s great mysteries,’ John. It is a trivial annoyance.”

“Is that what the sock index is for?” John asks. “So you can keep better track of where all your socks go?”

“For all I care my missing socks were spirited away by little sock fairies,” Sherlock says, and gets up to stare balefully out the window at the rain.

“You cared when you were a kid.”

“I was seven.”

John mentally incorporates that into his mental picture of Sherlock as a child. His own handwriting at seven had been a horrible messy scrawl. He imagines Sherlock’s childhood bedroom. Everything in its place--his own preference, or his parents’, or (the parade of names suggests) the doing of some poor maid? Much like his bedroom now, really, and that’s a bit sad, somehow.

“When I was little,” John says, “I thought the missing socks were all together, you know, having a party or something. It made me sad to think about the poor socks just stuck down behind the washing machine.”

“This is a ridiculous conversation,” Sherlock says, and whirls around, stomping into the kitchen and opening the refrigerator. John, to his simultaneous dismay and satisfaction, spent his Saturday night binning the weeks old collection of hazardous waste that was in there and giving it a good scrub. Sherlock had been out at the time (John didn’t ask where), and when he came in carrying a Tesco’s bag containing a tin of beans, chocolate digestives, and a single lime, he had looked into the refrigerator and frowned. He hasn’t said anything yet.

Sherlock takes out the chocolate digestives (unaccountably in the refrigerator), and rips open the packet, dumping the biscuits into a bowl. John, twisted around in his chair, watches as Sherlock shoves several digestives into his mouth in rapid succession.

“Slow down, you’ll choke,” John says.

“Yes, Mummy,” Sherlock responds around a biscuit, surprisingly distinct.

John sits back in his chair and folds his hands over his stomach, tilting his head back and listening to the rain and the sound of Sherlock chewing. The seam at the neck of his shirt itches; he scratches at it. There’s nothing that needs doing today, but over the long months of unemployment and underemployment and hurry-up-and-wait employment, John has become expert at occupying himself.

Every space in the living room is Sherlock’s, but some are all Sherlock’s and some are a little bit John’s. The armchair and the side of the desk that faces towards the sofa--well, those are John’s, but they’re hardly inviolable the way Sherlock’s spaces are. They’re the spaces John is allowed to clean, is all.

He gets up and wanders over to the desk, considering the detritus strewn across it. Sherlock’s side is several layers taller, but John’s does have stacks of bills and piles of the little notebooks he keeps in his pockets to take case notes in. Sherlock’s notes and crime scene photos have spilled over as well, so only about a third of the table is really mostly John’s, and the rest is Sherlock’s.

John should mind, this, probably.

He shifts the notebooks over and finds, underneath, a page ripped out of one of them, with Sherlock’s writing on it.

John - Pick up dry-cleaning from Mr. Palmeridge. SH
John frowns, confused. “Sherlock?” he asks, still looking at the note.

He hears Sherlock crunch through another biscuit before the reply. “What?”

“When did you want me to pick up your dry-cleaning?”


John turns to look at Sherlock, standing in the middle of the kitchen in his pyjamas, bowl of digestives in hand. John frowns, tries to remember the last time he saw Sherlock actually dressed. “Is that why you haven’t got dressed in three days? Because I didn’t see the note telling me to get your dry-cleaning?”

Sherlock shrugs.

“Hang on, did you get the shopping in your pyjamas?”

“Of course not, John. I was downstairs. Mrs. Hudson got the shopping.”

John huffs out a long-suffering breath. “Why didn’t you complain about having no clothes to wear?”

“No reason to get dressed if there’s nowhere to go.”

John pulls up his desk chair and sits down. “Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that.” Sherlock rolls his eyes and stalks into the living room, throwing himself into his armchair, where he curls up sideways so that he can see John but John has to turn around to see him. “You solved the cheese shop murder case on Wednesday, I’d have expected you to be champing at the bit for another one by now.”

“I don’t ‘champ at the bit,’” Sherlock says, an offended expression on his face.

“Oh, yes you do. Usually you do.”

Sherlock doesn’t answer, shoving yet another biscuit into his mouth. “Do you want me to go pick up the dry-cleaning now?” John asks.

“Closed Sundays.”

“Fine. I’ll do it tomorrow, though I don’t know why you don’t just do it yourself.”

“I’m busy.”

John scoffs. “Lying around in your pyjamas? Doesn’t look like busy to me.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand the fine distinction between busy and not busy when it comes to brain work, John, not having a busy mind yourself.”

“Fuck off, Sherlock,” John says, probably not as heatedly as that deserves. “You just took a nap at four o’clock in the afternoon.” John turns and goes back to sorting through the mess on the table, making neat piles without really dealing with any of it. “Anyway, what’s keeping your brain so busy? I know you haven’t got a case.”

Sherlock sets his bowl down on the floor next to the chair, bending to do so in a way that defies all normal ways of moving. John can’t help watching, fascinated and horrified in equal measure. Sherlock sits up again and braces his bare feet against the arm of the chair, flexing his toes and clasping his hands over his knees.

“You’d probably call it one of ‘life’s great mysteries,’” he says. “It’s about as banal as missing socks, certainly.”

“Right. And?”

“That notebook underneath the ceremonial dagger,” Sherlock says, gesturing.

John carefully moves the dagger, which has been lying around for several days and already proven itself to be very sharp, to the detriment of John’s fingers. He drags the notebook towards himself, flipping it open. “What am I looking for?”

“Page 38.” All the pages have been carefully numbered, and John thinks, not for the first time, that for all the mess Sherlock is actually extremely organised. John turns to page 38.

Research question: To what extent are the distinctions between different forms of love false societal constructions, and to what extent are they functional differences?
John blinks down at the page. “Love? Really?”

“It has come to my attention that you love me. The research has been to determine whether the varying symptoms of love are more closely associated with romantic and sexual love or some other sort.”

Sherlock sounds so matter-of-fact. John opens his mouth, closes it again, mutters under his breath, “Symptoms?”

John does love Sherlock. He’s aware of that, resigned to it. It is, frankly, old news. He wasn’t aware he’s been exhibiting symptoms, though. “You could have just asked,” he points out.

Sherlock waves a dismissive hand. “Boring. Unreliable.”

“Right, of course. Anyway, I wouldn’t have been able to answer that. It’s like the missing socks, yeah? You don’t know where they go, and you’re always going to wonder, but the thing is it doesn’t actually matter.”

“I concede the socks are inconsequential, but I don’t see how it doesn’t matter to know what form you would like our relationship to take.”

John shuts the notebook. Sherlock hasn’t made any further notes on the topic. “Didn’t think you cared. I mean, I didn’t think you’d want anything other than what we do now. You solve crime and I pick up your dry-cleaning.”

Sherlock makes a frustrated noise. “But that isn’t sustainable, not if you want something different. And I don’t care about the dry-cleaning.”

“Yes you do, you hate running errands like that.” John takes a deep breath, and turns his chair around so he’s facing Sherlock properly. “I don’t want to have sex with you. And that isn’t love, anyway, that’s just lust. They might go hand-in-hand a lot, but you can have one without the other. Beyond that, romantic, platonic, whatever? It doesn’t matter, not really.”

Sherlock is still frowning. “I know you hate leaving a case open,” John continues. “But it’s like the socks, really. In twenty-five years it’ll seem just as trivial.”

“Why? Because in twenty-five years you’ll still be around, picking up my dry-cleaning?”

John grins. “I’m holding out hope I’ll have trained you into picking up your own damn dry-cleaning by then,” he says. “But yeah.”

Sherlock nods, a complicated expression on his face, and holds out a hand for the notebook. John passes it over, and watches as Sherlock pulls a pen out of his pocket, flips to page 38, and writes something down.

He hands the book back to John, held open so John can read what he’s written.

Conclusion: Sample size insufficient, research subject uncooperative, research question flawed, results inconclusive. Long-term research necessary.
John laughs. “That about sums it up.” He looks back up at Sherlock, who has his hands steepled against his chin.

“My research question is flawed,” Sherlock says. “What should I have asked?”

“You’re asking me?”

“You have more experience with love than I do, more knowledge of what people think and say about it.”

John sets the notebook down and looks out the window, watching the rain slide down the glass and considering the question. “I think it depends,” he begins slowly, “on whether you actually care about different kinds of love in general, or whether you really just wanted to know how I feel. Or how you feel.”

“I’m hardly interested in philosophy,” Sherlock snaps. “It’s a practical research inquiry. You’re the only one who matters.”

John turns back to Sherlock, whose eyes are fixed on the corner of the sofa, and smiles, fondness spreading down his arms and into the ends of his fingers. “The right question is not whether I love you or what kind of love it is,” he says slowly. “I think you should ask how you want me to do love. I mean, I’ve known people who hug their friends, cuddle with them, whatever, and I’ve known couples who I’ve barely ever seen touch each other at all. It’s all love, the only thing that really makes the difference is what you call each other or how other people see your relationship.”

“I don’t care what other people think.”

“Yes. I know. That’s the point.”

Sherlock fidgets, tugs at the hem of his pyjamas, and turns to John. He’s looking at John’s right ear. “So? Given the question, you--”

“What do I want to do?”


“Depends on you, a bit. What do you want?”

“I would like to avoid having this conversation ever again.”

“Oh, thank God.” John grins.

Sherlock looks at him finally, considering, and shrugs. “I--”

“We can leave this one unsolved, Sherlock,” John says hastily. Sherlock’s not the only one who is uncomfortable with this; John shifts in his chair and licks his lips. “We don’t have to sort it out today.”

“Oh. Good.”

John breathes out, and goes back to the mess on the table. He closes Sherlock’s notebook and sets it back on top of the pile on the other side of the table, and then he starts sorting through the bills, actually looking at them this time.

Eventually John is aware of Sherlock getting out of his chair, standing, pausing. John doesn’t look up, wanting to give them both some time to process, to adjust to what hasn’t changed. He is conscious--too conscious--of Sherlock stepping around the chair, and he just keeps himself from jumping when he feels Sherlock’s fingers against his shoulder. It’s just a brush, and then Sherlock taps two fingers against his back and moves away, flopping down on the couch.

John smiles to himself, keeps smiling as he sees Sherlock stare at the ceiling, as Sherlock’s breaths deepen and his mouth slowly slips just slightly open. A slow day indeed, one of the most relaxed, most comfortable, and least boring days John can remember.

Eventually John gives up on the bills, and goes into the kitchen to do a bit more tidying. The fridge is all right, but the rest of the kitchen is still a tip.

He opens a cupboard to put some of Sherlock’s glassware away. There, on the bottom shelf, is a single sock.

Date: 2012-06-14 06:32 pm (UTC)
swissmarg: Mrs Hudson (Default)
From: [personal profile] swissmarg
This is so touching. Really, I'm tearing up. I love the deep, wonderful friendship you have depicted here, and their love in whatever way they wish to express it. John is so wise here: “I think you should ask how you want me to do love." The humour is also great, with John laughing about Sherlock's name and planning to use it at a critical moment. The images with the handwriting are really fun too. :)

Date: 2012-06-14 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] call-me-ishmael.livejournal.com
You forgot to add a theme: socks tag. Very necessary. :D

Date: 2012-06-14 08:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mizuki1988.livejournal.com
Ohhhh, this was just lovely. The pace, the quiet, solid atmosphere, the hilarious little touches (I laughed so hard at John's reaction to Sherlock's name!), but especially, especially the way Sherlock awkwardly professed his own love. It was poetic ;_;

Date: 2012-06-14 10:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] witch-in-winter.livejournal.com
A great rainy afternoon fic. Sherlock's full name was so 'British', would love to read when John uses the full name. I too, have wondered about where the socks go...but I don't think we are meant to have that esoteric knowledge at this stage of our evolution.

Good fic, lots of humor and good conversation in it. Thanks for sharing.
Edited Date: 2012-06-14 10:13 pm (UTC)

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Date: 2012-06-14 11:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] livejournal.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] flawedamythyst referenced to your post from Thursday, June 14th, 2012 (http://holmesian-news.livejournal.com/214663.html) saying: [...] trade, Watson | PG-13 | BBC) The Quantum Mechanics of Lost Socks (and Other Unsolved Mysteries) [...]

Date: 2012-06-15 01:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dunejune.livejournal.com
The last sentence killed me!!! XDDDD!!!
Anyway, pleaaaase tell me there is more! It's just so fun, undearing, fluffy, etc etc! X))

Date: 2012-06-15 02:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] verucasalt123.livejournal.com
Gorgeous. Sherlock's handwriting is fucking fantastic.

Date: 2012-06-16 08:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sydneywi.livejournal.com
This. Is utterly wonderful. A very good read.

Date: 2012-06-17 07:40 pm (UTC)
innie_darling: (moves like a soldier)
From: [personal profile] innie_darling
I really enjoyed this.

Date: 2012-06-20 01:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laurab1.livejournal.com
Oh, lovely :)


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