A general consensus had been found about the fact that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were sleeping together. This was not exactly news. People looked at them and-- simply thought they knew what was going on between them.
John wasn’t a hundred percent sure why this was happening.
The thing was, people were right, of course. They hadn’t always been, but now they definitely were, and Sherlock and John dealt with it like British men of a certain age and with a healthy degree of emotional constipation tend to deal with situations that involve acknowledging romantic attachments in public: They just didn’t.
They were not a demonstrative couple, they didn’t address each other with ridiculous pet names and the most openly affectionate thing Sherlock had ever done for John was to warn him that a detached arm was inhabited by parasitic worms before throwing it in his direction. Their public image was well defined, and it didn't include any of this... sentimental rubbish. No kisses or affectionate touches in front of other people. Absolutely no room for innuendos. They weren’t randy teenagers. (Well. They weren't teenagers.)
John wasn't ashamed or anything. He simply didn't understand why everyone was so damn interested in his love life, now that it involved one Sherlock Holmes.
Leaving crime scenes together was the worst of all.
Police officers, forensics technicians, clients, all those people who barely knew them gave them suggestive looks and winks and this insufferable we-all-know-what's-going-to-happen-when-you-two-get-home expression. Sometimes there were catcalls, for God’s sakes. And whistling. It made John want to scream.
Alright, so people knew they were privately at it. John was okay with that. Perfectly okay. They'd been together for over twenty months. It wasn't a bloody secret.
Apparently people were also well-acquainted with the effect of adrenaline on the male libido and even your average idiot from across the street (God, now John was starting to think like Sherlock) could make a little deduction. John was alright with that, too. That was general knowledge.
What people didn’t know (Ha!) was that solving a case didn’t necessarily culminate in flying buttons and wild shagging. They thought adrenaline-fuelled sex was all there was to it. That was, at least partly, the reason why John found the assumptions so annoying. People thought they knew what happened inside 221B Baker Street after cases. But they bloody didn't.
What no one except John and Sherlock knew, was that there were in fact two types of post-case nights. Two significantly different types.
Type one post-case nights usually happened after short, easily-solvable cases. Those where Sherlock proved his cleverness by deducing a murderer out of a cigar box and successfully ruined the reputation of at least three innocent witnesses. Sometimes those cases came with a nice little chase through a park or a museum, and maybe someone got shot towards the end (mostly it was neither Sherlock nor John, which was a pleasant coincidence).
When they returned home after a case like that, a type one post-case night was due, which usually involved lots of frantic kissing and tearing at coats and jumpers. And gasps and sighs and shared breath, and half-clothed rutting against some very unfortunate piece of furniture en route between the stairs and the bedroom. In other words, about what you’d expect. It was adrenaline and glucocorticoids mingling with endorphines, and afterwards, it was like coming down from an altitude flight. It was frightening. Frighteningly glorious. John couldn't say he particularly minded type one post-case nights.
Type two post-case nights, however, involved nothing of the sort. Long, exhausting cases (non-boring locked room triple homicides, exhausting stake-outs and the like) usually prompted Sherlock to refuse food and sleep for days on end, while John was busy running after him and keeping him hydrated.
When a long, tiresome case was concluded and they were finally on their way home, neither of them was in a physical condition that would have made anything resembling sex remotely possible. That’s why type two post-case nights existed and tended to happen far more frequently than type one. Type two post-case nights entailed, above all, one activity: Sleeping.
Today was a typical type two post-case night-night.
Over the course of nearly three days, they had searched every inch of a biochemist’s laboratory, which had resulted in the securing of a prototypal bioweapon and a lot of trouble for the man who had built it.
Sherlock hadn’t slept in fifty-three hours. (John hadn’t slept in twenty-nine, which was more than long enough, thank you very much.) The state of Sherlock’s eyes had surpassed red and glassy and was now bordering bloodshot, and they had that vaguely manic glow to them that tended to unsettle people a bit.
When the Yard had finally arrested the biochemist and everyone was free to go home, both Sherlock and John were so bloody knackered that the adrenaline high was over before they’d even left the laboratory. John felt like he could fall asleep standing. Sherlock was alarmingly pale, swayed slightly back and forth and looked all around like he felt even worse.
Sherlock very nearly fell asleep in the back of their cab to Baker Street, huddled up to John, mumbling tiredly into his shoulder, and John barely managed to keep him awake long enough to drag him upstairs and into the bedroom. He actually got him out of his clothes somehow, and, even more unbelievably, into a pair of pyjama bottoms. Sherlock sat at the edge of the bed like a limp puppet the entire time and was really not helping. In fact, he was so incredibly passive that is seemed like he wasn’t entirely present. Already asleep maybe? Christ, it had never been this bad before. John couldn’t help but grin as he took Sherlock’s shoes off, lazily tugged at his socks and tossed them away.
When John was done, he gave Sherlock a gentle shove. Sherlock simply fell over sideways, landed elegantly on his pillow, gave a contented grunt and started to snore. John rearranged him a bit (couldn’t let him sleep with thirteen miles of lanky detective still hanging out of the bed). Sherlock grumbled at that without waking up.
When John had finally undressed and was ready to crawl into bed, Sherlock’s mouth had dropped open and he was nuzzling softly into his pillow. John brushed an errant curl away from his temple as he cuddled up to him, careful not to ruffle the bed sheets too much. John efficiently draped himself over Sherlock, as usual. (That was really the best way to describe their sleeping arrangement. – The one who fell asleep first usually ended up halfway underneath the other one. They awoke sweaty and hot and in a tangle of limbs, and neither of them minded.) Sleeping Sherlock seemed to approve of this, because he wiggled around contentedly until his face was pressed into John’s chest. Very agreeable.
Sleeping should have been the next item on John's agenda. Absolutely.
The thing was, Sherlock talked while falling asleep, and when he was asleep, he kept talking. He pretty much always did. John had never told him, despite the fact that they’d been sharing a bed for nearly two years now. It was annoying, at times, not being able to sleep at 3 am because Sherlock kept rambling about the epidemiology of chicken pox or started to recite poems in a language that may or may not have been French. John had become used to it, though. Most times, he didn’t even wake up.
Today, Sherlock was extremely excited about something in a corner. “Not… John, not in the co… co… corner,” he mumbled into John’s chest. His face was practically squashed into John’s thin white cotton t-shirt and he was drooling. John wiped a bit of spit away from his upper lip and cradled him even closer.
Sherlock made a slurping noise, wriggled a bit more and locked his arms around John’s waist. “It’th in the corner, John,” he said conspiratorially. “Promithe you won’t look in the corner, John. Dangerou…th. Danger…outh.” (Yes. When Sherlock talked in his sleep, the lisp was… a thing. John kind of liked it. A lot actually.)
John’s eyes slowly adjusted to the dark. Sherlock was definitely fast asleep. Completely caught up in a dream, too, as it seemed, judging by the twitching of his eyelids. REM-phase, right?
“Too many legth, John. Tho, thoooo many legth,” Sherlock mumbled excitedly. And frowned. A crinkle appeared between his eyebrows. “Loooong legth, tiny feet.” Sherlock pressed his nose more firmly into John’s chest.
John loved this ridiculous creature. So much. It was incredible.
And right there, with a sleeping and mumbling Sherlock cuddled up to him in their bed, it happened for the first time. That strange epiphany. The one where John kind of realised that he wanted Sherlock. In every way possible. In more ways than he already had him. (And he had him in almost every way possible, at that point.)
John was tired of pretending. Tired of letting people think that what they had was anything less than a lifelong arrangement. Tired of people assuming that their relationship served the sole purpose of having a mindless shag every other day, because their blood adrenaline levels demanded it.
For the very first time in his life, John didn't merely acknowledge that Sherlock was the single most important person in the world for him. He had accepted that years ago. For the first time, John wanted the world to know it.
He was so damn proud of loving Sherlock.
Anyway. This was a strange, sleepy train of thought to begin with, so naturally, John was a bit startled when suddenly the ultimate solution occurred to him. Marriage.
This was, of course, a bit of a fundamental problem rather than an actual solution. One didn't simply use the words “Sherlock” and “marriage” within the same sentence. Not even in a hypothetical context.
One didn’t bloody propose to Sherlock Holmes.
John knew he couldn’t ask Sherlock to marry him. He couldn’t make some romantic declaration, bend down on one knee and fish a ring out of his pocket. Seriously, this was just ludicrous.
He could picture how that would end. Sherlock would smile a little cruel smile, call him an idiot and go back to whatever bloody experiment he would currently be conducting. He would pass it off as a joke. He would probably delete it. Christ, John would end up looking like... like the complete idiot he was.
No, John didn’t doubt that there was some kind of “happily ever after” for the two of them. There were certain risks, like the possibility of Sherlock accidentally poisoning John. Or John accidentally strangling Sherlock. But all in all, John thought, they had better chances than most couples. Mostly because they loved each other silly and so unconditionally that it probably should have been somewhat frightening, and being apart would probably kill them both within a fortnight.
Anyway. Sherlock and marriage didn’t work together.
Sherlock would most probably cringe at the mere thought of being called someone’s husband.
John considered that, a few years ago, he would have cringed at the thought of calling someone his husband. (Even though he had happily called someone his wife, as the annoying voice in his head reminded him eloquently. He brushed the thought away.)
Sherlock was something else, though, wasn’t he? Sherlock Holmes wasn’t just unmarried. He was as unmarried as it gets. Unmarried on a higher level than your average unmarried person.
Sherlock found public display of emotional attachment useless and immature and laughable. He’d consider signing a piece of paper that would hypothetically bind him to another person for the rest of his life far beneath him. Apart from that, he was the most devout atheist imaginable and about as prone to attending social events as a grumpy Boa Constrictor.
So why on earth did the concept of getting married to the drooling, snoring, beautiful marvel that was Sherlock Bloody Holmes feel so frighteningly right all of a sudden?
At this point, Sherlock interrupted John’s ruminating by telling him “The corner, Ja… Jaw… John. Three legth already in Switzerland.” Then he grunted and shut up again. John kissed his temple.
This wasn’t actually the first time John pondered over the concept of marriage, of course. John had already been married. To a pretty woman with a lovely smile who had unintentionally ripped Sherlock’s heart out and then, very intentionally, put a bullet through it. John had, on all accounts, been very, very married. With a priest and a reception, with folded serviettes and a honeymoon and absolutely everything. And a nasty divorce.
Sherlock would loathe this. Not the shooting and the dying - that was pretty much everyday life (even though it was somewhat preferable not to have Sherlock on the receiving end). Not the divorce, either. The wedding stuff. Another ceremony. Speeches and vows and cake and tuxedos. He couldn’t make Sherlock go through this again, could he?
This was pointless. Sherlock wouldn’t say yes in the first place and if John ever did something completely insane, like proposing on the spot, he would definitely regret it. Better not waste another second of thought on it. John was absolutely knackered, anyway. He decided that it was about time to go to sleep.
John attempted to kiss Sherlock good night, missed his lips and accidentally kissed the tip of his nose instead. It twitched in response to this. Sherlock grumbled a bit, said, “not Munich. Copenhagen, Copenhagen,” with great sincerity, and went back to his snoring. And he kept snoring, after that. He had said everything of importance, as it seemed. He was done being chatty and slept like a baby and John wasn’t sure if he could actually stand how much he loved him.
“Good night,” John whispered, mere seconds before he fell asleep, and didn’t get a response from the slumbering man in his arms. Not even about long legs. Or tiny feet. Or Copenhagen.
The next morning, Sherlock blew up his breakfast egg (blasting agent in the salt shaker, accident) and told John that he had dreamed about chasing giant spiders through Europe.
Well, that made sense.
Sherlock then proceeded to pour fruit schnaps into a beer glass, added a few drops of stale milk, heated the diabolic mixture and dipped a human thumb into it. The resulting smell made John’s toes curl. Not in a pleasant way. Sherlock kept the bloody beer glass in place over his Bunsen burner, pretended to ignore the smell and turned slightly greener with every passing minute.
By the time John scraped exploded egg yolk off the ceiling while Sherlock was busy throwing up in the bathroom, John had almost forgotten that ten hours ago he’d kind of wanted to marry him.