John's not entirely sure how Sherlock ever found the time to be acquainted with everyone in London. But somehow everywhere they go, someone knows him. Either in a way that provokes gratitude, handshakes and free food, or vitriol, insults and suspicion. John's doesn't have a clue how he's managed that level of fame, in-between all the crime-solving - or possibly while crime-solving. But everywhere they go people recognise Sherlock. They know Sherlock.
No, John's the one that seems to surprise them.
There's always that double-take. That brief, stunned moment of confusion. As if the thought of Sherlock showing up anywhere with someone, is in some way shocking. Currently the owner of the Italian restaurant they're in is giving them both the forced smile of someone desperately hoping they can finally marry off their awkward, eldest child. Sherlock's too busy making illegible notes on mould spores to notice that they are apparently going to be having a romantic candlelight dinner, again. Which makes it the third time this month - or possibly the fourth. John's losing count and that's definitely not a good sign.
"What do you want?" he asks. There's only so long you can look at a menu after all.
Sherlock's already somewhere else entirely - well his brain is anyway.
"Whatever you think best." Sherlock doesn't even bother to look up, or pause in his scribbling.
Fabulous, John's now apparently ordering for him as well. Sherlock doesn't even have to do anything to make this worse, it's no wonder he always gives John that blank look whenever he brings it up. He probably genuinely has no idea. He probably thinks all of this is perfectly normal. Which is ludicrous because at some point someone had to have told him that it wasn't. Surely someone had? Someone must have stuck around long enough to.
John orders him a salad. Because he's fairly certain that Sherlock's only contact with it will be to move it to one side, so it's not in the way of his stream of consciousness. Or possibly to drop his notebook in it, when he finds something that interests him and starts gesticulating wildly. John remembers the soup incident. Where he was the one who carefully laid the pages out on the radiator later to try and salvage something that was readable - only to find Sherlock making some sort of complicated origami with them two days later.
He honestly doesn't know why he bothers sometimes.
John moves the candle so Sherlock's shirt sleeve doesn't catch fire. Because he's not exactly sure whether that's important enough to be considered an acceptable reason to stop writing. Maybe he should just have waited until the inevitable occurred and thrown a glass of water on him. It probably wouldn't even have been the first glass of water he'd had thrown at him.
Sherlock stops writing briefly to look up. "I'll order next time if it bothers you. It's simply the quickest and most efficient method to have you do it, since you're rarely certain what you're having until the last minute and I rarely care what I'm having, and often don't eat it anyway."
"But I never know if you do want something." John frowns over the menu.
"If I want something, I shall say," Sherlock says, like it's obvious. He moves his notepad, briefly, so the waiter can put their food down. Though John knows Sherlock will most likely ignore it until they have to leave. "The ordering food portion of our relationship -"
"We don't have a relationship," John says, no matter what everyone in London seems to think.
"Yes, we do," Sherlock insists.
John rolls his eyes.
"Not 'that' kind of relationship."
"I'm assuming when you say 'that' kind of relationship with the forced emphasis you mean that we're not having sex. In which case, no, not that kind of a relationship. But a relationship nonetheless."
"A relationship where you ruthlessly take advantage of me while I flounder desperately to keep up with your leaps of deductive logic," John says and stabs wildly at his pasta with a fork.
"Us having sex would technically make no difference to that," Sherlock says, like that's perfectly logical.
John can't say anything to that because he's currently choking on his pasta. Sherlock raises an eyebrow at him, as if to politely inquire if he needs assistance. John manages to swallow and cough his way back to life.
"I think it would make a rather significant difference," he says firmly
Sherlock snorts. "Other than us relying on each other for sexual gratification."
John glares at the waiter who chooses that exact moment to walk past.
"Whatever happened to 'I'm not interested in that sort of thing,'" he says when the man has drifted off in a cloud of cheap aftershave and amusement.
Sherlock sighs, like the conversation is taking valuable time away from his mould spore analysis.
"I've discovered recently that trying to work around the needs of someone else isn't always distracting, time consuming and messy," he says eventually.
"Life is distracting, time consuming and messy," John points out.
Sherlock is suddenly far more focused on John than seems fair.
"True," he says eventually. Like John has unexpectedly won that argument.
John sighs and prods at what's left of his dinner.
"And you're less annoyed about the little things when you're in a relationship. You let the little things slide because you care about the other person. They don't bother you, you compromise, you're invested in each other's interests. Also, sex tends to make you less annoyed about things in general."
Sherlock stares at him, eyes pale and narrow and John can almost see his mind working behind them. Though what it's working on he couldn't say.
"Fine," Sherlock says simply, like he's cautiously agreeing to something. Then he edges his salad further to one side and goes back to his writing.
John stares at his fork.
He didn't mean -
That wasn't what he'd meant at all. He thinks he may have accidentally agreed to have a relationship with Sherlock over very nice pasta - or worse, that he might have just accidentally asked Sherlock out over very nice pasta?
Why isn't he sure about whether that happened or not?
There's a hysterical laugh bubbling somewhere in his chest.
Sherlock's ignoring him now in favour of adding notations to his mould graph.
John decides there's always an outside possibility that Sherlock didn't even notice, or that he'll completely forget about this whole conversation as soon as an interesting murder comes up.