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"We're not a couple!"

"Yes you are."

"If anyone out there still cares, I'm not actually gay."

"Well, I am. Look at us both."

He'd heard it. He'd heard it all. Sherlock had been so close and he'd heard every word Irene Adler said to John. And now, months later, John couldn't get it out of his head.

What was the quote again, the one from Shakespeare? "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Not gay. But not exactly straight, either, especially when it came to his ethereally beautiful flatmate. Except he was married to his work and above all that.

Wasn't he?

John couldn't remember a time when he wasn't attracted to Sherlock in some way, deep down. Just as he couldn't remember a time when he didn't try to deny it.

But now... he couldn't take the sleepless nights, or all the times when Sherlock's face haunted his dreams. Couldn't take not knowing what Sherlock thought of it all. Whether somewhere in that icy exterior there were feelings that mirrored John's.

A bottle of wine. That should do it. Loosen them up, get things flowing. They'd talk - what's the harm in talking, after all? John wasn't good at this, but he couldn't go on like this any longer. Not knowing would drive him insane.

"Sherlock..."

The bottle of wine was a comforting weight in his hands. He could do this. It would be fine. He would tell Sherlock the truth and it would all be fine.

Only...

"We have a client."

It wasn't fine. The sight of Irene Adler in Sherlock's bed was enough to drive all thoughts of talking out of John's head. Instead it was the first time he felt the flames of jealousy lick up the sides of his belly, sending his mind reeling with all the would-haves and should-haves and could-haves.

Sherlock Holmes was fascinated by The Woman. That was all the answer John needed.

***

The drugs... how could he go back to drugs? John seethed, his insides tying themselves in knots. After so many close calls, after he'd finally had Sherlock back, whole, and the bastard would throw it all away? Why? What possible reason would he turn to drugs again?

Mary said Sherlock felt left behind. Surely that couldn't be it... it wasn't as though things had changed that much. Sure, he was married and he hadn't been on a case with Sherlock for... Christ, who knows how long? But that's what marriage does, isn't it?

Except John still dreamt of Sherlock and he still felt that tug of longing every time he spoke with him. It was why he'd avoided him after they came back from the honeymoon. Tried to focus on his wife and... his child.

But drugs? John couldn't let it go. He had to tell Sherlock how important he was. Even if it meant telling him the truth. All of it.

"And stay out of my bedroom."

He was gone too quickly for John to get a word in edgewise. And then the bedroom door opened and....

"Oh, John, hi."

Janine. Janine? Janine in... was that Sherlock's shirt? Janine, who knew where Sherlock kept the coffee; who called Mycroft "Mike"; who casually walked into the bathroom as though she'd done it a thousand times, making the flames of jealousy turn into a hot, molten rock in the pit of John's stomach. How often had he stood by that door, listening to running water, hands hovering over the doorknob?

"I'm the only one who really knows what you're like, remember?"

"Solve me a crime, Sherlock Holmes."

It was too late, then. Maybe it had always been too late and John was only kidding himself when he thought he saw a flash of something more. Best to push it all to the back of his mind. He was good at that, good at repressing everything he didn't want to acknowledge. It would be fine. He would be fine. With or without Sherlock Holmes.

***

What came after... Mary...the shooting, the flash drive, Magnussen, Appledore, almost losing Sherlock again, and then Moriarty and everything else beyond that. All of it served to stave off John's feelings. They were too busy saving the world - again - to talk about how they felt.

And now John was single again. No attachments. He'd moved back into 221B and it felt like he'd never left. Except that they tiptoed around each other more. They'd never been so careful before, never so keenly aware of the other's presence. John thought he might go mad if he didn't accidentally brush up against Sherlock, didn't feel his touch in some way. And then he thought he might go mad if he did. He was so angry. Angry at Mary, angry at Mycroft, angry at himself, and at Sherlock. Angry at life and circumstances and missed opportunities.

It was in a fit of anger that he thought of it. He'd tripped over a stack of books Sherlock left in the middle of the floor. Again. Cursing, John hefted the books and carried them to Sherlock's room, planning to dump them in the middle of his bed.

Sherlock's bed was unmade and rumpled, which stopped John in his tracks. The books fell, forgotten, to the floor. John sunk down on the bed, pressing the sheets against his face as he inhaled his flatmate's scent - the clean smell of his soap, tinged with the slightly acrid odor of scientific chemicals and just a hint of tobacco. I'll have to find his new stash of cigarettes, he thought idly.

Twice he'd found women in Sherlock's bed, but John wondered what Sherlock would do if he came in and found John in his bed?

Only one way to find out.

The anger made him brave. Or stupid. Maybe both. John shucked all his clothes, leaving them in a pile on the floor, with the books. He slipped beneath the sheets and, heart pounding, waited.

It didn't take long. John heard Sherlock's footsteps on the stairs, heard the door creak open. A pause - he expected to find John in the living room or the kitchen. Then the footsteps drew nearer.

"John?" The creaky floorboard in the hall signaled Sherlock's approach before he ever spoke. "John? Are you home?"

A pause again - was that a tiny sigh? Disappointment? Relief? John felt the stirrings of regret... was this a mistake?

Sherlock didn't see him at first. He breezed into the bedroom, kicking aside a stray book and muttering to himself. He hung his jacket on the wardrobe and began loosening his tie as he turned around and....

Whenever their eyes met, it had always been like an electric shock. This, though, was like a lightning strike. It shook John to his core as Sherlock's gaze connected with his, eyes widening and pupils dilating.

"J-John?" It came out hoarse, almost squeaky.

He hadn't thought of what to say. Why hadn't he thought of something suave? "Hey, sexy?" No, no... Moriarty used those words. What should he say?

"H-hi."

Yes, that was smooth. You dolt, John chided himself.

Sherlock seemed in a state of shock. He was frozen to the spot, loosened tie hanging from his collar, long fingers still clutching the ends.

"You're... in my bed." He said, slowly. "And you're not... you're...."

"You noticed."

"Rather hard not to."

"Right."

"Is there a reason you're in my bed?"

"Er... well...." This was the tough part. How to tell him? "I thought we could talk."

Sherlock lifted his chin a fraction. "Talk. I see. That's all you planned to do, then? Talk, while in my bed, naked?"

John's face warmed as a blush worked its way up his neck. "For a start."

Sherlock reached out, placed his hand on the bedpost to steady himself. "I see. John, have you been drinking?"

John laughed, a harsh bark that didn't sound like himself. He shook his head. "Nope. Completely sober. Possibly mad, but not drunk."

"Right. So.. . is there something you'd like to tell me?"

John sat up and the sheet fell to expose his chest. He noted that Sherlock's eyes followed the sheet before he gave a small shake of his head and refocused on John's face.

"Here's the thing," John began. "I can't get you out of my dreams."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me. You haunt them, Sherlock. Your face, your body... I've dreamt of you ever since we met. And I've thought about you and me... together. I've tried countless times to tell you, but every time it seems like something keeps me from telling you the truth."

"The...truth?"

John swallowed. Time to ante up. This could be the end... or the beginning of something new. "The truth is... I love you, Sherlock Holmes. I'm in love with you. I've been in love with you this whole time."

"John, I---"

John held up his hand. "No, let me finish. I know what you'll say - you don't feel things that way or you're married to your work. You've said it all before. I know that, but... tell me, Sherlock, don't you feel anything for me, anything at all?"

Sherlock held himself stiffly, his mouth pressed into a thin line. He had paled and now seemed to be thinking over John's question.

"I thought," Sherlock said, slowly, "you weren't gay?"

"Never said I was straight, either." John replied.

"Oh."

"And you're...?"

"Hmm?" Sherlock had that glazed look on his face, the one that usually meant he'd gone to his mind palace. "Oh. Well. I am gay, in fact."

John's heart leapt up, a small flicker of hope lighting itself. "You are?"

"It's never really mattered, but yes... I am."

"So all this time... Irene and Janine were just...."

Sherlock's eyes flickered. "Them? Why are you bringing them up? That was all for show, you know that. You were there."

"I didn't know if you felt something for either of them."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Do you feel something for... anyone?"

Sherlock focused once more on John's face and took a step closer. "I would hope you'd already know the answer to that."

John fixed his eyes on Sherlock's and licked his lips. "I couldn't be sure. Couldn't tell if it was blind hope or... or projecting my own feelings on you."

Sherlock lowered himself to sit on the edge of the bed. His hand hovered over John's leg, under the sheet, and then settled on his knee. John could feel Sherlock's cool touch beneath the sheet, felt the stirring even that light touch caused.

"I... would do anything for you, John." Sherlock's voice had grown deeper, quieter. "Anything to make you happy."

"W-why?" John needed to hear the words.

"Must I say it?"

"I think you should."

"It's sentiment," Sherlock spat, looking momentarily disgusted.

John covered Sherlock's hand at his knee with his own hand, lacing his fingers with Sherlock's and rubbing a thumb over his smooth skin. "I need sentiment."

Sherlock leaned in closer until his lips almost touched John's. John felt Sherlock's warm breath on his skin as he whispered his next words, barely audible. "I love you, John. I always have. I would do anything to make sure you were happy and safe, even if it meant never having your love given back to me."

John let out a sigh and a tiny "Oh." He raised his free hand to cup Sherlock's cheek and he closed the gap between them. Their lips met, stiff at first, and then softening into pliability. Sherlock's lips were warmer and gentler than John expected. He let out a low hum of satisfaction as he deepened the kiss, licking open Sherlock's mouth to dart his tongue inside. Sherlock mewled in response, his hand going to John's waist, only to recoil when he found bare skin. John caught Sherlock's hand in his and pressed it to his waist, pulling him in even closer. He broke the kiss only to draw in a breath, pressing his forehead to Sherlock's and letting out a shaky laugh.

"I've wanted to do that for so long," he breathed.

"Why didn't you?"

"It never seemed the right time."

"No, I suppose not." Sherlock turned his face, nuzzled his cheek against John's. "All that time... why didn't you say anything?"

"I tried to, a couple of times," John explained. "Thwarted at every single turn."

"And then you went off and married a woman."

John made a face. "Won't be making that mistake again."

Sherlock's turn to laugh this time. His hand still rested lightly at John's waist. He pulled back and looked at John. "What now?"

John thought about this. He knew what he wanted, what he'd always wanted.

"Well," he mused, "I suppose you could forget I said anything. I'll put on my clothes, we'll go on living as we always have, and we'll never speak of this again."

Sherlock looked pained, as though he'd been shot through the heart again, but John hurried to continue. "Or, alternatively, you could finish taking off your tie. Then you could take off the rest of your clothes and join me. In your bed. And we could see what happens."

John knew he could spend forever cataloging the different shades of blue he found in Sherlock's eyes, but his favorite would always be the dark, lusty blue they turned when Sherlock looked at him, this first time, with desire and complete, unadulterated longing.

"What do you say?" John asked, arching an eyebrow and smiling at Sherlock. "Ready for our next adventure?"

Sherlock stood, smiling back and fumbling at the buttons on his shirt. "I thought you'd never ask."