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the art of getting by (isn't really so artsy at all)

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Whilst everyone else twitters about how fit John Duncan is, or about that girl who carries condoms around in her wallet, Sherlock Holmes fluctuates between ignoring all of the bloody chatter and getting frustrated every time someone giggles at what he thinks is a simple question.

“Yes,” he says slowly, patiently, to the girl everyone calls the hottest in his form. “But why would one want to insert their tongue into another’s mouth?”

Her blond hair is slightly aesthetically pleasing, he admits. It shines, practically glowing in the sun, and flows over her shoulder like a waterfall. But her top is simply distracting; especially since every time she gets chilled, the skin above her breasts prickles into goose bumps, which just ruins the smoothness of her skin, and draws Sherlock's eyes away from her glittering blue eyes and blond hair.

He's well aware that most blokes find her apparel, or lack thereof, her best feature but Sherlock's decided that he's simply not a breast man. Or an arse man. Or an anything else man, for that matter.

Mycroft calls him a late bloomer, which isn't a scientific deduction in the least, but he supposes that he'll let it slide, considering that men are supposed to continue maturing until 25.

He's only 17.

She giggles, Sherlock hates gigglers, and looks up at him with her mirthful eyes. “We shan't have that, shan't we?”

“Pardon?” he demands. “Your grammar is atrocious, what with your double negatives—”

Then she stands up on tippy toes, clasps a hand around his neck to force him to bend down (he is rather tall) then attempts to suck his face off.

It's revolting.

But he lets it continue for a few moments, for the sake of scientific experiment, no matter how many hairs all over his body he can feel standing up. Her lip gloss tastes like glue, which makes him wonder whether the main ingredient is also horse hooves, and why in the world would she apply horse hooves to her lips, and her tongue jabs at his lips persistently, like it's trying to get him to see a point.

Oh. He has to open his mouth.

Reluctantly, he parts his lips just the slightest bit, and she dives in. He can hear her mates cheering her on and singing ridiculous schoolyard songs (whoever came up with the k-i-s-s-i-n-g one should be shot. Sherlock suspects he or she was American) but he's to distracted by her inspection of his teeth. His teeth, for God's sake. Is she mentally challenged?

That question well and truly derails him, so he drags his head back. “Are you mentally challenged?” he demands breathlessly. “For I can't think of anyone who wasn't who would like to taste my teeth.”

She boggles at him, then smiles in a way he supposes embodies what everyone refers to as sultry. Or lascivious. Whatever it is, it looks slightly predatory and all it makes Sherlock feel is his stomach dropping in despair.

“Hard to get, are you?”

Then she yanks him down and mashes their faces together. His nose is bent, squished more like, it will never be the same, and whatever she had for lunch yesterday was quite unfortunate. Her lips are soft, pliable, delicate, whatever you'd like to call them, but they don't feel nice in the least. Well, they feel nice. But the tongue just feels nasty and invasive, so he firmly clicks his teeth together, plants her a closed lip smack, and smiles dismissively.

“Well, my tentative conclusion is that I decisively dislike 'tonguing,' as you immaturely put it. I'd say more results were necessary, but I believe that you've thoroughly put me off of the whole business.”

She smiles, lip gloss smeared, and pats him on the cheek. “You just don't like my style, mate. You'll find the perfect girl somewhere.” Here she smirks. “Unless you like blokes, then you're barking up the wrong tree!”

Sherlock grimaces at the idea of anyone's tongue entering his mouth ever again, and decidedly does not watch her sashay back to her friends. On the other hand, it's apparently bragging material among the boys of his form that he's snogged the “hottest chick” in his form. So he supposes that counts for something.

He's just not sure what.

“Oh bother,” he frowns at his hand after he readjusts his shirt collar. “She got that awful shade of pink all over me. How atrocious.”


Sherlock doesn't grow his hair out because he wishes to be a girl, or because he believes he is one. Sherlock just does it because he can. Most people probably have their own suppositions about the matter, but the first to bring it up happens to be extremely sloshed.

“Are you a pansy, mate?”

Sherlock leans away from the student gasping lager fumes in his face and scowls, his nose twitching in annoyance.

“Why must every drunk proceed to breathe whatever they've drunk onto whomever they come across?” Sherlock demands, peering at the boy's lapels as though they'll give him his answers.

The drunk's face is half in shadows half lit every other second by a flashing strobe light that Sherlock imagines would be an excellent trigger for anyone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the war.

He makes a mental note to conduct an experiment on that at a later date.

When he isn't at a party.

With an overly friendly college student clasping his arm and gazing deeply into his eyes like they are in a cheesy romantic movie.

“Did ya hear me, mate? Asked if yer a pansy. Yer hair's long enough for it.”

“It's the nineties,” Sherlock replies dryly. “I can't possibly be the only university student with a penchant for long hair. Frankly, I think my curls suit it very well.”

“You talk posh,” the boy observes, now hanging off of Sherlock's arm.

Sherlock glares at the clammy hands fingering his shirt sleeve. He liked this shirt, now he'll have to chuck it. Shame.

“Will you kiss me?”

Sherlock opens his mouth to object and the determined drunk pulls himself closer and dives right in. Once again, Sherlock is struck by just how disgusting tongues are to him. The slime of saliva doesn't mix well with the bitter tang of the lager the boy had imbibed; actually, the weakness suggests beer. Sherlock darts his tongue out to take a quick taste which confirms this theory.

The boy moans at this, and snogs Sherlock even more enthusiastically.

Sherlock finds that fascinating, and tries it again with the same results. Unlike the girl last spring in the upper form, this boy holds no interest in slurping at his teeth and gums. Instead, he focuses mostly on his lips. He chews at them gently, and not gently, licking and nuzzling with his lips. Sherlock can almost get on board with this nearly closed mouth kissing, and returns some of the nose brushes.

The peach fuzz sends a shoot of...something...tingling down his spine, but he's felt arousal before and this isn't quite it. He puts up with the sour but almost sweet kisses for several minutes before a hand sneaks up into his hair, yanking and making him wince, and another starts to creep down towards his arse.

Sherlock steps back and grips the boys wrists firmly, holding him away from his body.

“That's enough,” he says firmly.

“But—” the boy whines, protesting and weakly trying to escape Sherlock's grip. “We could go find a room somewhere, mate!”

Sherlock pauses, allowing his brain to think that over and his body answers for him by shuddering, and not in a good way. “I should think not. Do you live in the dormitory?”

The boy responds petulantly, pouting. “Yes.”

“Did you arrive at the party with anyone?” Sherlock is grateful that he chose a relatively quiet corner to observe the party he had somehow been invited too.

“Yeah, my roommate.”

“Is he still here?”

“Jack!”

Sherlock lets his hands slip free as the drunken student turns to the voice shouting his name. “That's him,” the boy says in resignation.

“Wonderful.” Sherlock plucks at his shirtsleeves then smoothes down his hemline. “I'll leave you to his perfectly capable hands.” He starts to stride off, and then turns back to the boy waiting for his friend to reach him. “If you want someone to snog who will actually enjoy it, I suggest trying him. He's been in love with you for ages, from what I can tell. Cheerio.”

The only thing Sherlock is glad about from this encounter is that he does not have to duck into a bathroom to wash lippy from his collar again. That shade of pink just wasn't his color.


“Have you got a girlfriend?”

Sherlock lets his gaze slide away from John—his new flatmate, it seems—and sighs. “Not my...area.”

“Oh,” John pauses, Sherlock can see his brain stutter from the corner of his eye as he mulls over the consulting detective's response. “Okay.” He takes a swig of wine before continuing. “Got a boyfriend, then?”

Deciding that the situation needs his attention before it completely spirals out of control, Sherlock locks eyes with John and succinctly answers, “No.”

“Oh, well,” John fiddles with his food. “It's fine, you know.”

“I know that,” Sherlock snaps, hoping that he isn't being flirted with by the interesting army doctor with a psychosomatic limp that he is hoping to recruit as his guinea pig—flatmate. “John, while I'm flattered, I feel it's my duty to inform you that I'm married to my work.”

“Oh, uhm, no. That's—just no. I'm just saying that it's fine.” He clears his throat and drops his eyes. “It's all fine.” He lifts his eyes again and awkwardly stares earnestly at Sherlock.

Sherlock feels an odd warmth flutter up the base of his spine and nods sharply.

It feels odd to know that someone accepts him as he is, even if they don't have any real idea of what that is, and he hopes that this John Watson decides to stick around for a while. It's not often that he finds someone who can surprise him. Somehow, he knows that the former army doctor will continue to surprise him and knows that he looks forward to it.


“Sherlock!” John grabs Sherlock's arm and tugs him out of the bar, dragging him around the corner to the back alley. A cat startles from where it's digging in a pile of scraps next to the skip and takes off down the round, but John doesn't pay attention. “Were you just shamming being gay?”

Sherlock blinks. “Pardon?”

“In there,” John says, face lined with frustration and irritation. “With that guy and your fake smile and, and, flirting. Were you shamming gay?”

“Hm,” Sherlock answers noncommittally. “You're lucky that I was finished gathering information. If I wasn't, it would have been quite awkward to go back in there after our precipitous exit.”

“Are you even listening to me?” John demands. “You were leading that man on!”

“I've seen you do the same with women for the sake of a case, John,” Sherlock says, finally deigning to pay attention to the topic at hand. “How is this any different?”

“I was only feigning interest in her; you were pretending to be gay!”

Sherlock tilts his head and contemplates the grip his flatmate has on his arm. He estimates that he'll have fingerprint bruises on his skin within the hour, but says nothing because he's rather interested in what sort of pattern they will leave on his pale skin. “And this is bad?”

“I know that you're asexual—or something. It's just not right that you let him think you were interested in anyone, let alone him.”

Sherlock's thought processes come to a complete halt for the first time in his entire life as he looks at John as though he has sprouted horns from his head and started reciting Shakespeare—in Latin.

“That I'm what?” he repeats, mouth feeling disconnected from his brain and his words strangely inelegant.

“Asexual,” John says forthrightly. “You know, not interested in sex with anyone.” He peers at Sherlock and loosens his grip, running his fingers soothingly up and down Sherlock's arm. He seems to be comforting the detective through touch without even consciously thinking about it, and Sherlock has the odd feeling that he would let John do that sort of thing for however long he wishes.

“You,” Sherlock says, staring at John in a whole new light, “Are the most brilliant man I've ever met.”

John's eyebrows scrunch together and his mouth twists into a perplexed frown. “Sorry? Did I miss something?”

But, as per usual, the facts click together in Sherlock’s mind at the worst moment for John. The detective lights up and pulls his arm from John's loose grip to dart out of the alley. “No time! The game is on!”


Sherlock spends the next several days observing John. He doesn't normally focus his attentions on a single person for very long at a time because that always leads to misconceptions and awkward suppositions about his nonexistent sexuality, but the doctor seems oddly immune to Sherlock's strange habits and doesn't appear to notice the detective staring at him anymore than he usually does. The tall man can't figure his flatmate out. John does all the same normal things he always does—he makes tea, reads the paper, frowns over the bills, rummages around in the kitchen when he's feeling tense and anxious, ignores his phone whenever his sister Harry calls—but something just seems...different.

“Tea?” John asks.

“How did you know that I was asexual?” Sherlock replies, looking up from where he was brooding on the sofa to John standing hesitantly in the doorway to the kitchen.

“Uhm, you told me.”

“No I didn't, I said that people weren't my area.”

“If you're not interested in men or women, what are you interested in—farm animals? It's okay if you are. If you're asexual I mean, not the farm animals. I meant what I said—it's all fine.”

“I know it's all fine,” Sherlock snaps, clapping his hands together and holding them in front of his face to disguise his frown. “I wasn't asking if it was fine, I was asking you how you knew.”

John blinks and smiles, a perplexing reaction that only shoots up Sherlock's general frustration with the world. “I'm a doctor. I'm not completely stupid. Milk or Honey?”

Sherlock only scowls in response and notes that John is a much more stubborn person than he had originally noted.

“You can stop watching me like I might do a circus trick, now. I'm not that unusual.”

Sherlock doesn't agree, but he dutifully hid his attentions a little more slyly than he had been. He suspects that he isn't doing all that brilliant a job when he later catches John smiling secretively in his direction, but is much too preoccupied with thinking to dwell on it.


“So, are you aromantic as well?”

Just when Sherlock thinks that John isn't going to say anything to catch him off-guard again, he says something like that. If Sherlock were a little more dramatic he would spit out his tea. But not only is he not quite that dramatic, he’s not actually drinking any tea to spit.

“John, when have I ever been all that sympathetic towards romance or silly things like emotions?” He's aware that he's evading, and by the smile on John's face his flatmate is aware as well.

“That doesn't mean that you are incapable of caring for someone,” John points out pragmatically. “I've never quite believed that you are a sociopath, I hope you know. A sociopath wouldn't make me tea because I was too sick to stop sneezing long enough to turn on the hob.”

Sherlock had been, at one point, well acquainted with a sociopath who would have done just that. But he elects not to bring that gentleman up as said man would have used the tea-making as an excuse to slip his flatmate a lethal poison. “Is that your only example? One cannot prove an hypothesis without proof.”

“Oh, stuff it, Sherlock. Just answer the question.”

“Well,” he turns away and adds a chemical to a beaker which contains something he knows will not react well and waits for the explosion. “I haven't exactly had the chance to find out. Fending off sexual advances tends to distract me from other things.”

“What?”

His experiment takes that perfect chance to go up in smoke—which turns out to be noxious—and in the following dash to air out the flat and vacate the premises John is unable to follow-up his question. Nonetheless, Sherlock's internal hard drive hums in the background of all the frantic chaos mulling over the idea of it. But no matter how he looks at it, he can't come up with any answer but one: John was right and he isn't incapable of caring for someone.

The proof resides in the upper room of 221B Baker street.


In the aftermath of The Pool Incident (as Sherlock will forever refer to it within his hard drive), when Sherlock and John are standing in the rubble, the detective can feel the remnants of panic bubbling in his chest. John could have died. Moriarty had John and he could have died. Seeing him with that Semtex strapped to his chest made every alarm bell that he possessed go off with a clamor causing him to be unable to think. Unable to act, to save John, to kill Moriarty. It wasn't a game anymore. The evil mastermind had gone after his heart and tried to rip it out, and had almost succeeded.

He had had John.

Moriarty had snatched up John from the street and carried him away. He had covered him with explosives and threatened to rip Sherlock's heart out of his chest. He had threatened to kill John.

That's what it added up to. Even in his state of emotional compromise Sherlock was well aware that somehow John had become important to him. He had become so important that he couldn't possibly imagine living without him, couldn't think of living in the flat alone without his blogger nagging him about heads in the fridge and eyeballs in the microwave.

Sherlock turns to John and wonders if he has a concussion, because the building seems to be swaying in an alarming fashion. Well, what's left of the building, anyways. Dust from the cement clogs the air and makes his eyes water, but he wonder if they water for another reason as well. John seems to be speaking to him, but he can't hear over the ringing in his ears.

John. John. He's alive. He almost wasn't. But he is. He's there, he's right there in front of Sherlock and he is alive.

John is starting to look alarmed and Sherlock is suddenly aware that his hands are trembling. They are shaking and he is shaking and the building is moving but John is alive.

“You're my heart, John.” Sherlock rasps. He knows he does because the grit scrapes at his throat like it's actually gravel and strips it raw. “My heart. I have one and it's you.”

John is right in front of him. He's so close that Sherlock can feel the doctor's breath on his face. He's so close that they could touch. They are touching. John grabs at his upper arms to balance him—why is the building rocking so much?—and Sherlock clutches back at him. He's warm, so warm, and he wishes he could hear what John is saying but he know he has to get this out because his vision is dimming and he's not sure if he can stay up any longer.

“You're my heart, John.”

Yes, yes, yes, he can see John's lips saying. It's all right, I'm here. You're here and I'm here.

Sherlock clutches at his flatmate as he goes down like a battleship struck and spits out one last desperate statement.

“But I won't have sex with you.”


Sherlock has never liked the hospital. There is just far too much going on inside of the white and ludicrously sanitized building. Nurses bustle back and forth, doctors give diagnoses to patients who don't respond well and relatives stand weeping in the halls. Trolleys roll by and the traffic outside blares through the insufficiently insulated windows. In sum, Sherlock hates the hospital.

He comes to consciousness slowly. Everything seems fuzzy and insubstantial—even from under his eyelids—but seems even worse when he finally manages to flutter open a single eyelid. The light is white and too bright so he lets the heavy appendage fall shut again. His thoughts are slow and Sherlock recognizes the effects of the heavy drugs.

“Sherlock?”

His hands are heavy, they won't lift. So he gives up and tries opening his eyelids again. They flutter against drowsiness and the light and eventually fall shut.

“I can read the machines; I know you're waking up.”

It's true. Sherlock can hear the beeping of the machines at the head of his bed. Yet another reason why he hates hospitals: they contribute to the noise. Sherlock's glad that he's in a drug induced haze otherwise it would all be serving to drive him crazy. He's not already crazy, of course, no matter what Donovan and Anderson say. He's just smarter than they are (not that that's saying much).

“John.”

A warm hand settles over one of his. “Sherlock,” John says warmly. “Welcome back.”

Sherlock twitches his fingers under John's hand in an effort to clasp back, but he doesn't quite have the necessary dexterity.

“Stay?”

“Always,” John replies.


After their stay in the hospital, John and Sherlock return to their Baker Street flat—just like normal.

But it's not normal. Sherlock knows it's not normal. He buries himself in his work, of course, even though John insists that he not leave the flat until he's recovered from the multiple blows to his head and his fractured bones. But it's a quiet diligence that is so far removed from his usual manic tendencies that even Sherlock is bothered by the change. But John doesn't seem to notice. Or, if he does, he's just happy that Sherlock has acquiesced to his wishes and hasn't yet tried to fly out of the flat on some sort of dangerous adventure.

Sherlock is perpetually aware of John. He knows when he's there, when he's not, where he's at in the flat. He has always noticed these things, of course, but now they matter. He studies blood spatters on carpet and wood and wallpaper but the whole time he listens to the sound of John breathing from where he naps on the couch. He experiments with feathers and corrosive acids but half of his brain monitors John puttering around in the kitchen cleaning up various experiments that have gone off.

It's astounding that so much of his brain is devoted to a person who is always there and is always doing the same things.

But on the other hand: John has changed too.

He touches Sherlock, now. Oh, nothing invasive. Sherlock would be the first one to get up in arms if his flatmate encroached on his personal space in a way that made him uncomfortable. It's also not like he's never touched Sherlock before. But, now it's deliberate and often. Sherlock will be hunched over the kitchen table dropping acid onto something and John will walk behind him to the counter, dragging his fingertips delicately along Sherlock's shoulders.

“Would you like some tea?” he'll ask, as though whatever he is doing is perfectly normal.

When Sherlock is in one of his fugues and is curled up sulkily on the sofa, John will sometimes briefly perch on the sofa and rest a calloused hand in Sherlock's hair. He doesn't stroke or let his thick fingers get caught in the wild black ringlets—he just lets it sit atop Sherlock's head, a warm and heavy presence, before he slips away back to whatever he was doing.

When Sherlock is madly pacing through the flat muttering nonsense and occasionally raising his voice into a shout, John will walk by him, casually as though it's done entirely by accident, and let one of his hands brush against Sherlock's trouser leg, or his hand if it's not flailing about in the air.

It's slowly driving the consulting detective mad.

On the one hand, Sherlock is more grateful than he would like to admit that John hasn't tried anything else. On the other, he wonders why John hasn't. He's not a very patient man, at least, when it comes to things that he wants to know right now, so he is constantly waiting for John to try something, anything.

But he doesn't.

So Sherlock acts.


It's after ten at night when John returns from the pub. Sherlock knows that he went to the pub because rather than wearing the ghastly knitted white sweater from his sister that he prefers to wear on visits with her, he wore a striped button up shirt under his leather jacket. The button up meant that John wanted to look good and not like a cuddly sweetheart and the leather jacket meant he was going out with the boys and wanted something he could take off once he got too hot inside the pub. Ten isn't that late, considering that Sherlock made sure that John had a few tenners in his wallet for this particular get-together, so he hopes that John is buzzed enough not to raise a fuss when he finds Sherlock in his bed.

It would have been ideal if Sherlock had managed to fall asleep, but he hadn't, so he merely pretends to be when John stumbles into his attic room and flips on the light switch.

He has the window cracked, it had been a muggy and hot summer day and despite the darkness the weather has stayed much the same, but no breeze stirs the attic. As a result, Sherlock can hear John's heavy breathing as he stares at Sherlock curled under the covers. He's wearing pyjama trousers and his dressing gown, but he knows that his pale neck is peeping out from underneath the blanket thanks to his fetal position.

“Sherlock,” John says in a hushed voice, toeing off his shoes clumsily. “Are you awake?”

Sherlock doesn't even snuffle. The best way to hide is to not over-do it, after all.

John doesn't sigh or make any noises a put-upon man would. He merely slides out of his clothes, drops them in his laundry hamper, and slides under the covers to join Sherlock. Very briefly, the pads of the fingers on his left had (Sherlock can feel the gun calluses) brush against the sensitive hairs on the back of his neck.

“Good night, Sherlock,” John says.

A few minutes later, his flatmate's breaths even out and he slips into sleep. Long after he does, Sherlock's neck still tingles from the all-too-brief touch John gave him and his mind buzzes anxiously deep into the night.

He doesn't know what to think of the fact that John didn't begrudge him a place in his bed.


When Sherlock wakes in the morning, he finds, to his surprise, that he has actually slept in. He's groggy enough from the ridiculous amount of sleep he had taken in that he isn't positive of the time, but knows that it is late because John isn't there.

Sherlock is in John's bed. He slept next to John. John is no longer in his bed. Likely, he had been so intoxicated the night before that he either didn't realize that Sherlock in his bed was not a hallucination, or when he woke up this morning he didn't remember climbing in bed with his flatmate. Either way, his precipitous departure from their shared bed without waking Sherlock tells the detective that John is determined to avoid the whole situation if at all possible.

He feels oddly like a drunken partner who is currently being avoided so as not to have an awkward morning after with.

“Sherlock?” he hears John call up the stairs. “Would you like some tea?”

With that, all of Sherlock's misconceptions burst like a bubble and he can almost feel laughter burbling up in his throat. Good old John.

“Sherlock? Up you get, lazy bum,” John says as he ascends the stairs. “I'll bring you your tea just this once, but I'm—”

“Not my housekeeper,” Sherlock drawls as John enters his room.

Sherlock is sprawled on the bed, but leans up on his elbows to see John come through the doorway. The doctor doesn't pause at the sight of Sherlock and proceeds without hesitation. His hair has been combed and he has gotten dressed—Sherlock must have been sleeping deeply—but he hasn't yet taken the time for a shower. In his hands John has a tray that not only has a mug, but also has a pot of tea and some biscuits—likely from Mrs. Hudson. He sets it down on his bedside table and shoves Sherlock's leg to the side so that he may sit beside him on the bed. Sherlock scoots up to the wall to sit up and give John plenty of room, but his flatmate keeps a hand on Sherlock's ankle anyways. Despite being under the covers, Sherlock likes to think he can feel the heat of John's hand soaking through the fabric and warming his skin.

It feels pleasant and sends a flush to the back of his neck.

John doesn't look like a person who is embarrassed or upset. He looks into Sherlock's eyes as if nothing holds him back and smiles his same warm and wry smile as always. “It's late,” is all he says. “I'm going to work. Try not to blow anything up while I'm gone, will you?” His gestures are the same, one hand rests on Sherlock's ankle while the other drifts about in the air as he speaks, he looks directly at Sherlock while talking and there is no nervous sheen of sweat on his skin. His words are normal too, he hasn't trusted Sherlock not to blow anything up since the bomb from next door—which was patently not Sherlock's fault. He's the same old John as always.

Then he does something that isn't the same.

“See you tonight?”

“Chinese?” Sherlock asks, the word jumping out of his mouth without permission.

But John only nods and ducks closer. “It's a date.” Swiftly, he drops a kiss on Sherlock's forehead beneath his curls.

By the time Sherlock recovers, John is gone.

“It's a date,” he murmurs under his breath. Boneless, he slumps to the side in a dramatic sprawl over John's musky pillow. “See you tonight, it's a date.” A nervous giggle escapes him. “It's a date!”

Then he groans.


“You're my only hope,” Sherlock declares, pacing in a controlled fashion with his hands clasped behind his back. “No, I'm not over-exaggerating. I have nowhere else to turn.” He spins on his heel and paces in the other direction. The parlor is exactly six meters across, which only takes him a few strides to pace. Each time he turns and paces back, he feels his agitation ratcheting up higher. It doesn't help that he knows that Mycroft calls him a stork when he gets like this. “This is one of those moments where I should say, ‘Obi-wan, you're our only hope,’ as John tells me. Only, you're not Obi-wan, whoever he is, and I'm the only one with a problem.”

Sherlock stops abruptly and glares at the mantelpiece. “Of course I'm sure I'm the only one with a problem! He's just taking it so—so—I don't know!” He throws his arms up in the air wildly then drops them to fist his hands into his curly black hair. “He's treating things like they're normal! Things are not normal.” Sherlock drags his hands from his mussed up hair and covers his face. “You aren't helping much,” he mumbles into his palms. “I hope you know that.”

The skull only grins from his perch and says not a word.

“Really, you're supposed to do more than just—sit there.”

“Sherlock! I'm home!” The lower door slams shut behind John, a breeze—most likely, John is more polite than that, normally.

“Welcome home, Dr. Watson,” Mrs. Hudson's voice creeps up the stairs. “Did you have a nice day at work?”

“Lovely, Mrs. Hudson, just lovely.”

John's shoes start to ring on the staircase and Sherlock leaps for the mantle. “Not a word,” he hisses at the skull before turning him to face the wall.

“Sherlock? Did you want to order in? I'm a bit bushed, you see.”

“Hello, John,” Sherlock says lowly, nervous prickles of anxiety trickling up the back of his neck as he lets his hand drop from the skull and turns to face John in the doorway.

His flatmate’s face is red. Sherlock would cite the weather, but for a day in London in April the weather had actually been rather warm. Warm enough that John had worn his leather jacket over his shirt rather than a jumper, he notices as John hangs it up.

John smiles. “Hi,” he says back. “Do anything interesting?”

“No,” Sherlock says shortly. “Not really.” He doesn’t think that this is the normal thing for dates. What is the normal thing for dates? He hasn’t clue, really. John is the only one in this house (except perhaps Mrs. Hudson. He should have asked her) who has any experience with dating. John should know that he has no clue what to do. If he had known, he wouldn’t have put Sherlock in the awkward position of standing here like an idiot while John smiles at him.

“I had quite a few sniffles today. Odd part of the year for it, really.” John toes his shoes off and moves for the kitchen. “I’ll make some tea. Want to order the Chinese? You can guess what I’d like to have,” he teases.

God, he’s teasing me, Sherlock thinks. What next. But he still replies derisively, “I never guess, John. You should know that.”

John moves away into the kitchen as Sherlock taps his fingers against his lips thoughtfully. The doctor’s gait is stiff—either from exhaustion or boredom, he thinks both, perhaps—and his shoulders slump in a way that backs up John’s assertion that he’s not up for going out.

“Lo mein,” Sherlock says. “That’s something you enjoy and it’s relatively easy to eat. Soft on the palate and you like to have it with those crunchy little water chestnuts.”

“Sounds fantastic,” John calls back. “Now you have to order it.”

Sherlock does, if only because he actually is a tad hungry and because he needs something to do to distract himself—not just because John is tired and hungry. Although that does factor in.

It’s only when they are sitting on the sofa side by side with mugs of tea, Chinese, and crap telly buzzing in the background that Sherlock remembers that they are supposed to be having a date. He tenses for a moment, wondering if his nervousness (ridiculous, Sherlock Holmes, nervous?) is going to return, before he throws all caution to the wind and demands, “Explain what’s going on, if you please. You have been distracting me for weeks and I haven’t a bloody clue and you let me sleep in your bed and called this a date but nothing is happening and I had assumed that things were supposed to happen when—” Sherlock cuts off because he notices that John is smiling at him fondly with a warm look in his eyes and John smiling means that Sherlock is missing something entirely. “What?”

“I love you,” John says.

The entire world tilts.

It must do. That’s the only explanation. Everything is whirling around and nothing seems quite right. He’s looking at the ceiling and he doesn’t remember looking at the ceiling and John seems to be hovering over him and is he slimy with Chinese food? That can’t be right.

“Sherlock? Sherlock, you bloody git. You didn’t actually faint on me, did you? I’ve been telling you that you need to eat more often, you booby.”

“I’m all right,” Sherlock says.

“Yeah. Right,” John replies.

“You just triggered the apocalypse, is all,” Sherlock carries on. “Nothing important.” He flaps a flippant hand. “Carry on, and all that. That seems to be your forte, after all. Let’s just drop an atomic bomb in Sherlock’s lap then keep right on doing whatever we’re doing. Let’s blow up the one and only consulting detective’s world just to see how he handles it. It’s all right, he’s only a bit singed, he can be left be.”

John’s face scrunches up into an expression that seems to be a combination between perplexity and laughter before he says again, “You git, I have no idea why I care for you so much.”

Dazedly, Sherlock replies, “Neither do I.”

Now John affects a look of shock. “You, the great consulting detective, have no idea? Goodness, it really must be the apocalypse if I’ve managed that.”

“I—well, perhaps,” Sherlock closes his eyes. “If you’ll recall The Pool Incident you’ll know that…” He clears his throat. “That well. Yes.”

“I’m not stupid,” John says fondly, a smile in his voice, and carefully touches the pads of two fingers to Sherlock’s forehead. “Not as stupid as you think I am, anyways.”

“Oh.” Sherlock says stupidly.

“And about things happening—you don’t want them to, so they won’t. Simple as that.”

“Oh,” Sherlock says again.

“Although I wouldn’t mind if you slept in my bed again.”

“I rather think that I’ll never want to leave,” Sherlock says weakly.

John cups a warm hand to Sherlock’s cheek and brushes a thumb against his cheekbone. “I would like that.”

“Good. I mean. I would too.”

“Git,” John says fondly. “Now up,” he commands, patting Sherlock’s cheek lightly. “Let’s get you out of your mussed up clothes so we can watch the telly. I wouldn’t mind a spot of cuddling if you’re up for that.”

Sherlock opens his eyes and takes in John’s warm and open face, light blue eyes glittering with some emotion that Sherlock has never seen directed at him before. “Perhaps,” he says noncommittally, beginning to push himself up from the floor. “Not more relationship negotiations?”

John grins and it doesn’t look like a baring of his teeth at all. “Eh, we already know everything about each other, don’t we? No skeletons in our closets?”

Sherlock studies his flatmate anew with an appraising eye. “It’s becoming quite evident that I know nothing about you at all. But I’d quite like to.”

“That’s a start,” John says, and leans foreword to press a kiss to Sherlock’s forehead, a smattering of curls caught between his lips and Sherlock’s skin. “That’s an excellent start.”

“Quite. Might take years, that.”

“Brilliant.”

Sherlock smiles. “Quite.”