"So, Sherlock, I meant to ask--"
"--Yes," Sherlock said, jumping to his feet and nearly tripping over his own legs. "My answer is definitely yes, John. I'm only surprised it took you so long to ask."
John Watson looked up from his book, blinking at the sight of Sherlock Holmes practically vibrating like a plucked violin string in front of him. "Really?"
"Of course, John. You're pathetically easy to read, as usual."
"I just didn't expect you to be willing--much less so eager--to take your turn shopping and grab us some milk."
"I--uh." It was Sherlock's turn to blink. But to admit he was expecting some other question would be to admit he was wrong, and that was certainly not something he was going to do. "That is, I was merely surprised that you hadn't noticed that we're also nearly out of toilet paper," Sherlock finished with a distinct sense of anticlimax.
"Are we? Well, then I suppose you should probably get some of that too," John said, and disappeared back into his book.
Walking back toward 221B Baker Street, the world's only consulting detective (carrying a bottle of 1% milk and a sixteen-pack of unscented unprinted double-ply toilet paper) went back over that conversation and attempted to figure out where it had gone awry. John was going to propose to him, he was certain of that. The small cut on the back of his hand, the smudge of mustard on his collar three days ago, the absence of jam at breakfast yesterday: it all pointed unerringly toward a marriage proposal. The question was merely when he would propose, and that Sherlock had found a bit more challenging to determine.
He also found himself oddly keyed-up about the event, which was quite unexpected. There was a heightened heart rate when he suspected John was going to ask, a distinct sense of irritation when John discussed other topics instead. It all felt remarkably like anticipation, a giddiness that generally only brilliant serial killers and truly fascinating corpses could evoke.
Sherlock would probably have been more disturbed by this, but he was too busy trying to calculate when John would finally just ask so he could accept.
He tossed the toilet paper at John, who caught it out of the air. "I'll let you do the actual replacing."
"Sherlock, you haven't replaced a roll of toilet paper in all the years we have lived together, why would I think you'd start now?" John got out of his chair, heading for the bathroom. "Is there something special about today?"
There damn well better be, Sherlock thought irritably, but busied himself with putting away the milk instead.
"Oh," said John from the bathroom, "That reminds me. Do you think--"
Sherlock nearly dropped the milk. "Yes, John! Of course!" He launched himself back into the living room to find John--not there. "Though it's generally considered more traditional to ask with both parties in the same room, I suppose."
John popped his head back into the room. "Traditional?"
"Yes, I did expect something a bit more intimate, but I appreciate a more pragmatic approach as well--"
"Intimate? Lestrade's birthday present?"
"Well, certainly," said Sherlock, deducing as fast as possible. "You're trying to decide between a gift certificate or an item of clothing--a tie or a sweater, I would guess. A gift certificate is always more practical, so I believe that is the better choice."
John shook his head. The adorable awed look on his face was rather less adorable when he was asking all the wrong questions, Sherlock thought. "I should be used to it by now, but it's amazing every time. It was a tie, actually. But you're right--"
"--of course I am--"
"--a gift certificate is best. I'll pick one up tomorrow." And John sat back down and hoisted his book again.
Sherlock paced around the room, waiting. Finally he threw himself on the sofa, in what he supposed might look like a fit of pique but was actually--something that was certainly not a fit of pique. "Bored," he muttered. There was little more boring than waiting for John to get to the point. He was going to get to the point, wasn't he?
John glanced at him over the top of his book, then glanced again. Then he put the book down, smiling slightly. "Actually," he said, "Maybe we could--"
"God, yes," Sherlock exclaimed, sitting up and beaming. "Yes, John, yes with no reservations or hesitation, yes, a thousand times, yes."
"Oh?" John stalked over to the sofa and straddled Sherlock, looking down with a grin. "God, you make me so hot when you can tell what I'm going to ask," he murmured, unbuttoning Sherlock's shirt. "When you know what I'm going to do."
Within minutes Sherlock Holmes found himself flat on his back on the sofa with an enthusiastic John Watson doing some distractingly inventive things to him, and he decided it wasn't such a drawback to jump to conclusions if it led to things like this.
But later, as they lay tangled up on the sofa, bickering complacently about whose limbs had precedence over whom's, Sherlock felt the first pangs of something he rarely experienced, something he disliked immensely.
Had he misread John entirely? Impossible. That proposal was imminent. Long overdue, in fact.
This necessitated some serious thought.
Going back over the last few weeks in his mind, sifting through every word or deed he had observed of John's and trying to ascertain if perhaps some other hypothesis might fit the facts, he hardly noticed when there was a knock at the door. Grumbling, John disentangled himself and threw on a robe, and was halfway to the door before turning around and saying "For God's sake, Sherlock," and returning to throw a blanket over him. Sherlock heard a voice in the hall, a low murmur, but he was busy wondering if perhaps the scratch on John's shirt button four days ago had meant something entirely different than what he had concluded. And that knot in his laces--could it be that it had actually meant--
"What?" Sherlock snapped.
John was standing by the sofa, looking aggrieved. "I've been talking to you for the last three minutes."
John scooped up Sherlock's pants from the floor and tossed them on his face. "Well, think with pants on, there's something I need to ask you." He stood with his arms crossed, waiting as Sherlock slowly pulled his pants on and wrapped the blanket around his torso, still going over Tube schedules and the exact amount of change in John's pockets at various times over the last week.
"Look," John said, "I'm sorry."
Sherlock frowned, his mind busy constructing a unified theory of jam consumption and its relationship to marriage proposals. "Why?"
"This isn't--I mean--" John took a deep breath. "Okay, I'm starting over. Sherlock--this is for you."
Sherlock blinked at the little black magnifying glass in John's hand. "I already have a magnifier. That exact make, as a matter of fact."
"This one is different," John said. He shifted his feet. "See?"
Turning it over, he showed Sherlock the inscription on the back: Sherlock Holmes, in neat simple script. "Open it," he said.
Sherlock took it from him and slid it open to reveal the glass inside. In tiny letters around the edge of the lens, he read: To my genius, from John Watson.
"Mrs. Hudson got it engraved for me," he said. "Took days. Was supposed to be here on Monday. She just dropped it off."
"Not very practical," Sherlock said.
"That's not--" John broke off and composed himself with an effort. "Sherlock, what I'm trying to say is--"
He went down on one knee before the sofa.
"--Sherlock Holmes, would you marry me?"
Sherlock blinked at him, and John started talking faster.
"I know you probably think it's a ridiculous thing, but I just...would like everyone to know that I'm ready to devote my life to you--I mean, I suppose everyone knows that already, I haven't exactly made a secret of it, but you know what I mean, and--"
"--yes, John," said Sherlock. He opened the magnifying glass again and peered at the edge of the blanket lying across his bare knees as though it were utterly fascinating.
John's face scrunched up. "Yes, everyone knows it already, or yes, I haven't made a secret of it, or yes, you know what I mean, or--"
"--yes, I'll marry you."
There was a brief silence in which Sherlock had time to contemplate the fact that even to him, his response lacked a certain something. But when he looked up again John was grinning. "Sherlock Holmes," said John, "I've surprised you, haven't I? " He stood up and crossed his arms, looking charmingly smug. "Admit it!"
Sherlock briefly considered denying it, but he supposed at a certain level John had managed to surprise him. In fact, his heartbeat was rather irregular and his eyes were stinging, and surprise seemed as good a word as any to describe it.
"--wish I'd gotten a picture of the look on your face to show Lestrade, he would have enjoyed it immensely. The great Sherlock Holmes, surprised by a wedding proposal! It's not often I manage--Sherlock? Are you okay?"
Sherlock looked away from the magnifying glass (my genius) and up at John's worried face. He cleared his throat a couple of times. "Don't--" He had to drop his eyes again before continuing, "--don't get too used to it."
John tossed himself down on the sofa beside him, chortling. "As if you'd let me," he said. "Just let me savor this moment, all right?"
Sherlock closed his eyes, feeling the little magnifier cool in his hands, feeling John's warmth beside him, feeling the blood in his veins coursing with life and possibility and yes. Fanciful thought. Ridiculous thought.
"Very well, John," he murmured. "Savor away."