At 9:00 one Saturday morning, Sherlock wandered into the kitchen wrapped in a sheet, grabbing the mug of tea that John pushed in his direction and carrying it to the table in the sitting room. He gave a semi-human grunt in response to John’s “good morning” and opened his laptop. John had just finished cooking, and sat down across from Sherlock with a plate of breakfast and an extra fork. Sherlock looked up to eye the fork, suspiciously, but left it where it lay in the middle of the table.
John cleared his throat. “So. Happy—you know. February 14th.”
Sherlock glanced down at the date in the corner of his desktop. Shit. It was his birthday. He looked up at John, who was calmly raising his mug to his mouth, his eyes wide and falsely innocent. There was tension in his forehead. Obviously he knew that it was Sherlock’s birthday, but didn’t want to approach the topic directly. Sherlock looked back down.
“Any plans for the day?” John asked over his mug.
Sherlock decided to downplay the importance of the date. He shrugged. “No.”
John smiled and took another bite of his toast. “Good,” he said softly. “Didn’t expect so, but good.” He pulled a newspaper from the other end of the table and set it in front of him. They sat quietly together until Sherlock was finished answering his e-mails. With nothing else to do, he leaned back in his chair and studied John, noting the way John pursed his lips the way he always did when he knew Sherlock was watching him.
“That colour looks good on you.”
John paused with a forkful of eggs halfway to his mouth. “What?”
Sherlock took the extra fork from the middle of the table and stole a few eggs from John’s plate. The corner of John’s mouth twitched upward in triumph.
“That colour,” Sherlock repeated. “It works well on you. Blue brings out your eyes and downplays the red in your complexion, avoiding the appearance of ruddy skin. It also highlights the combination of blond hair and blue eyes, which has been instilled in us as the height of beauty by magazines and television.”
John raised an amused eyebrow. “Someone’s been watching Connie Prince reruns with Mrs. Hudson. And did you just call me the height of beauty?”
“The blonde/blue combination, not you specifically. Keep up, John.” Sherlock looked back down at his laptop, scanning the subject headings in his inbox. John huffed a laugh. He looked down at his paper, but Sherlock could tell by the way his eyes moved that he had read over the same paragraph three times. Sherlock pretended not to notice.
“Solve any cases this morning via e-mail?” John asked.
“Two.” Sherlock looked up quickly to catch John’s reaction (a shake of the head and distant smile), then looked back down. “I’d explain them to you, but it might be a bit much for you to handle in the morning.”
John kicked at Sherlock’s leg under the table. Sherlock saw it coming, due to John’s obvious shift of weight and tensing of muscles. He caught John’s ankle between his shins and held it in place. John squirmed. Sherlock squeezed John’s ankle once, then let him go.
There were a few moments of silence, during which Sherlock noticed John shifting awkwardly in his seat. He refreshed his email just so it would look like he was doing something, and waited for John to speak.
“Sherlock, I’d like to ask you something.”
Sherlock looked at John quizzically, waiting.
“I just—it’s risky, but I need to take this chance. I feel like we’ve been moving in this direction for some time, but—I don’t want you to feel pressured to say yes, because I know—”
“Just spit it out, John.”
John sighed. “Well I was just wondering if, in honour of today, if you’d like to have dinner tonight. Just the two of us.”
Sherlock chewed at his lip and looked back up at John. The tips of his ears were turning pink. His tongue darted out to lick his lips. One hand repeatedly clenched and unclenched. He hadn't combed his hair properly after getting dressed. It was sticking out a bit over his ears, which was rather endearing.
"Where?" Sherlock asked.
John's shoulders lost a bit of tension when Sherlock didn't immediately say no. He smiled. "Well I was thinking we could try that new Italian place that opened up down the street. But really, if there's somewhere you want to go, it's your choice."
Sherlock nodded. "Alright."
John burst into a huge grin. "Really? Great. That's great." He turned his attention briefly to the last bit of tea in the bottom of his mug, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
“You’ve been acting strangely for a few days now,” said Sherlock. “I suspected you might ask to do something for the occasion.”
John chuckled. “Of course you’d have deduced it. I should have known.”
“It’s not exactly my greatest case. We go out to dinner all the time.”
“I know, but—” John paused a moment and looked up at Sherlock. “Uh, you know what today is, yeah? You know that I’m asking because it’s—”
"The fourteenth of February, yes I’m well aware of what today is."
John nodded, looking relieved. “I actually didn’t think you’d celebrate it.”
“I haven’t celebrated regularly for quite some time.”
“But you have before?”
“Of course. When I was young my parents would give me gifts. When I was a teenager I would invite my friend Victor for a sleepover.”
John’s eyes widened, his face turning pink. “A sleepover?”
“You’ve had sleepovers before then?”
“Yes. Why, did you want to have a sleepover tonight?”
John abruptly bit his lip and looked away. “Why don’t we see where the night goes.”
John spent most of the day nervously puttering around the flat and looking at Sherlock when he thought Sherlock wouldn’t notice. After catching him for the third time, Sherlock quickly scanned over John’s body, picking up signs of arousal that he hadn’t expected to find. John was sitting in his chair with his laptop. Sherlock could only assume that John was looking at porn. He rolled his eyes and sighed, exasperated.
John laughed. “Sorry,” he said. “Can’t help myself, with you lazing about on the sofa in only a sheet.”
Sherlock shook his head. Really. If the man was aroused merely by looking at a naked body in a rumpled sheet... He got up off the sofa and headed towards his bedroom to change. John’s eyes followed him out.
John must have had some residual sexual tension, because his face practically glowed as it got closer to dinnertime. He took a longer-than-usual shower, coming out of the bathroom with his cheeks flushed pink. When Sherlock peered at him, he quickly averted his gaze, looking vaguely guilty. Sherlock narrowed his eyes with suspicion. He sincerely hoped that there would be no public humiliation involved in the birthday festivities.
John changed into new clothes, sticking with a blue shirt, and choosing a complimentary cardigan that looked so tantalizingly soft, it made Sherlock want to stroke it. He suppressed this urge with some difficulty, but couldn’t resist rolling up his sleeve and reaching past John for something or other, allowing his bare forearm to stealthily rub up against John’s shoulder. The fabric was just as soft as he suspected, and warm, though most of the warmth seemed to be concentrating somewhere inside of his chest.
When they went to leave, John put a hand on Sherlock’s back to lead him out the door. Normally a hand on the back wouldn’t be unusual, but this time, it was placed considerably lower than Sherlock was used to—just over the waistline of his trousers. Not that Sherlock minded. In fact, he rather liked it. He found this discovery worthy of further investigation.
They arrived at the restaurant to find it unexpectedly busy. There was already a line of people waiting to be seated. Sherlock was unsure that they would be having dinner any time before midnight. He turned to John to suggest they go elsewhere, but found that John was speaking to someone about a reservation. They were led to a table shortly thereafter.
“You reserved a table for us?” Sherlock asked as they sat down.
John nodded. “Of course I did. It’s a very popular day to go out to dinner.”
Ah, yes. Saturday.
The menu was fancier than Angelo’s, and much lengthier. Sherlock was astounded by the sheer number of entree salads. He was trying to decide between one topped with prosciutto and one topped with locally made goat cheese when John nudged his ankle under the table to catch his attention. Sherlock looked up.
“Guess the candle is finally appropriate, huh?” John grinned.
Sherlock looked at the candle off to the side of the table. It was floating in a bowl of water and rose petals. It was a bit large, and would look a little out-of-place on top of a cake. He rolled his eyes and turned back to the menu.
When the waiter came to take their orders, John asked to see the wine menu. The waiter apologized profusely for not having it on the table before, explaining that it was only his second night on the job, and he was still learning. John smiled politely and assuaged his fears before the waiter scurried off like a timid mouse.
“You’re ordering wine?” Sherlock asked, looking over the top of his menu in a way that made him feel mysterious.
“Well I thought we could share a bottle. That’s a thing that people traditionally do on these types of occasions.”
Sherlock ignored the teasing tone in John’s voice. “Whatever you say, John.”
Besides the wine, and the fact that John seemed to be leaning into the table more than usual, the night was very similar to any other night they spent having dinner together. The food was good, albeit on the pricey side, and after John was so forgiving about the wine menu, the waiter seemed to take a liking to them. Sherlock looked him over as he explained a menu item to John. University student, in the arts. Gives piano lessons when he’s not in class or at the restaurant. Has a small terrier. Clearly gay. Sherlock heard his name and looked up to find both the waiter and John looking at him.
“What?” he asked, distracted.
“I asked if you wanted pudding. Robbie recommends the crème brûlée.”
“My boyfriend can’t get enough of it,” the waiter—Robbie—said, strongly emphasizing the “my.” He gave Sherlock a knowing smirk.
Sherlock waved his hand dismissively. “You get whatever you want.”
When the crème brûlée arrived, John allowed Sherlock the childish satisfaction of cracking the caramelized surface. “Robbie” had brought two spoons, and Sherlock tried hard to ignore his, but John kept looking at him with every satisfied bite. Sherlock gave in and ended up eating more than his fair share. John didn’t seem to mind.
When the bowl had been scraped clean and their coffee mugs had been drained, Sherlock stood up to pull on his coat. John left a few notes on the table to cover the bill and Robbie’s oversized tip, then followed Sherlock out the door. Sherlock started walking in the direction of 221b.
“Hey,” said John, stopping him with a hand on Sherlock’s elbow. “Do you want to go for a walk or something? In the park? I know nothing’s blooming, but...” he trailed off, not finishing his sentence. The weather was unseasonably warm, and the night air felt rather nice, so Sherlock nodded in agreement, and they headed toward Regent’s Park.
There seemed to be a lot of couples prowling about, both walking on the pathways and tangled close together in shadowy areas where they thought no one could see. John took Sherlock down one of the smaller paths that led towards the lake. He was unusually quiet, which Sherlock attributed to the wine. A pleasant amount of wine often made John a bit introspective.
The path John had chosen was relatively empty. They passed one couple on the way towards the lake: two middle-aged men, holding hands and walking close together. They smiled at Sherlock and John as they passed. John smiled back. Sherlock looked up at the trees overhead, distracted by the erratic flight pattern of a bat.
After they passed the couple, John began to show visible signs of nervousness. He flexed his fingers repeatedly, then took a quick breath and reached for Sherlock’s hand. Sherlock chose that very moment to pluck his phone from his pocket and check the weather. John’s hand returned to his side, and he bowed his head in silent defeat.
They came to a secluded spot by the edge of the lake. John kept looking at Sherlock out of the corner of his eye, turning his head marginally to the side every time he did. Sherlock looked down over the lake, where a cloud of insects floated over the surface of the water. John cleared his throat.
“Hey,” he said, tugging the sleeve of Sherlock’s coat to get his attention. “I had a good time tonight.”
Sherlock nodded at him, absently. John’s eyes were a very nice colour. Sherlock tried to remember if he had left his cow eyeballs in the microwave again.
John smiled. “I mean, there’s only one thing that would make this night pretty much ideal.” Sherlock looked down at him, expecting John to continue. What actually happened was very much unexpected. John took a step closer, brought a tentative hand to Sherlock’s cheek, tilted his head up, and kissed Sherlock, gently and chastely, on the lips. Sherlock’s eyes widened and he stood stock-still. For perhaps the first time in his life, his brain felt scrambled. John pulled back to look at him.
“Are you—was that okay?” he asked, signs of worry taking over his formerly blissful facial expression.
“What—what are you doing?” Sherlock stammered.
John took a step backward and looked at Sherlock with trepidation. “Um, kissing you. In my experience, that’s how one traditionally ends a good date.”
They looked at each other for a moment, and it became immediately clear that somewhere along the line, wires had been crossed.
“I was unaware that we were on a date,” Sherlock said carefully.
John’s face blanched. “Wait, what?”
“I was under the impression that this was just dinner. And a walk in the park.”
“Together? On Valentine’s Day?”
“On my birthday.”
They stared at each other in silence. John’s mouth opened and closed a few times before he finally got his words out.
“But your birthday—your birthday’s in January.”
Sherlock shook his head, slowly. “No, my birthday is the fourteenth of February. It always has been, and it always will be.”
John’s face quickly went from white to scarlet. “Oh my god, I’m a complete fool.” He ran a hand through his hair and took a few steps away from Sherlock. His eyes were distant as he went over the night’s events in his head.
“This actually explains a lot,” said Sherlock. “Like why you wanted to celebrate my birthday so early last month. You know, I always forget about Valentine’s Day. Pointless holiday, anyway. You know it’s all about consumerism?”
John looked up at Sherlock quickly, then back down at the ground. He looked like he was going to be sick. He turned abruptly on his heel and started to walk away.
Sherlock frowned. “John? John, where are you going?”
“Home. I’m going to lock myself in my room and bang my head against the wall until there’s enough brain damage that I won’t remember anything that happened tonight.”
“Why on earth would you do that? You’re overreacting. We had a perfectly good time.”
“During which I thought we were taking our relationship to the next level, and you thought we were celebrating the miraculous godsend that was your birth!”
They paused in the middle of the pathway. A young teenaged couple stared at them as they passed by.
“Why are you angry?” asked Sherlock.
John sighed. “I’m not angry, Sherlock. I’m just mortified.”
“Why are you mortified?”
“Why do you think?!” John hid his face in the palm of one hand, rubbing at his temples with middle finger and thumb.
Sherlock frowned. “That was hardly the first time you’ve kissed me,” he said.
“You’ve kissed me three times before.” When John didn’t say anything, and just stared at Sherlock blankly, Sherlock continued. “About six months after we met, you went to the pub with Lestrade for the first time. You drank too much because you were trying to fit in with his group of friends, and when you got back to the flat, you were inebriated. When I helped you up the stairs to your bedroom, you kissed me goodnight.”
“Of course you don’t remember, and I never told you about it. The second time was when we were undercover in Spain. You kissed me on both cheeks as a greeting, because you thought you were supposed to, despite the fact that men rarely greet each other that way.”
“Which you promptly informed me, and then I spend the rest of our time there kicking myself.”
“The third time was just a few weeks ago. I fell asleep on the sofa. You thought I was in a deeper sleep than I actually was. I woke up when you pulled the blanket down to cover my feet, but you didn’t notice, and I didn’t open my eyes. You watched me for a moment, probably debating with yourself. Then you kissed me on the forehead.”
John was quiet.
“So, you see? You’ve kissed me three times before. Four if you count Spain twice. After what happened tonight, that brings the grand total to either four or five, depending on how you deal with Spain.”
“And you remember all of those times?”
“Of course I do.”
Sherlock found he didn’t have an answer. He didn’t say anything.
“Would you be terribly opposed if we added one more?”
Sherlock shook his head. John took a few steps forward and put his hand back to Sherlock’s cheek. Their kiss was soft and careful, with only a tiny hint of John’s tongue against Sherlock’s lips. When they parted, Sherlock realized it wasn’t enough.
“Can we make it six?” he asked.
John smiled. “Are you saying we should count Spain twice, or are you asking me to kiss you again?”
“Both, actually. So seven.”
“Well in that case, I think we can officially call this a date.”
The seventh kiss was long and intimate. The eight was passionate. The ninth was playful and a little difficult to maintain, due to excessive grinning from both parties. Somewhere around kiss number ten or eleven, Sherlock stopped counting.