sorry sorry everyone, I know it's a bit later than planned, but hopefully the length and content make up for my tardiness. Here it is, chapter 20, the end, in which John uses reverse psychology once more ; )

Spring fell upon Great Britain in a splash of colour and light. Things in the Holmes-Watson flat continued along the same routine that they'd developed that first week back. John gave up regular surgery hours to work as a consultant, which left him more time to work with Sherlock on their cases. Sherlock continued to be himself- sometimes he was insufferable, sometimes he was moody, sometimes if a case frustrated him he would stand by the window and play his violin for hours on end, even into the night. He was generally tactless, usually incapable of empathy, wholly antisocial, and the absolute light of John's life. John hadn't expected Sherlock to suddenly change everything about himself once they became a couple. After all, it was the surly, prickly, abrasive genius that he first fell in love with.

What did change, though, was the tone of their relationship. They still had the same dynamic, but it was now combined with passion and love. Their nights were spent in each other's arms, their evenings filled with intimate talk and touches. When one of them wanted affection in public, they clasped forearms, pressing their wrists together in their unique kiss.

Another thing that changed was Anderson and Donovan's treatment of the couple. After seeing for the first time just what kind of wrath lived in Sherlock, the duo was reluctant to talk to Sherlock and John at all, let alone insult them. If he was being honest, John almost missed the combative banter. He thought perhaps Sherlock did as well, but neither of them tried to engage the officers. Of course, Lestrade noticed the change and demanded to know what Sherlock had done to his subordinates. Sherlock merely shrugged and said quite honestly that all he'd said was that Donovan should watch her tongue. The Detective Inspector had narrowed his eyes in disbelief, but John backed up Sherlock's story. When Lestrade discovered the new extent of John and Sherlock's relationship, he could guess what Sally and Mark had done to deserve Sherlock's ire and couldn't fault him for it. Personally, he was damn grateful that Sherlock had finally found domestic bliss. Because the prediction he'd made to John years before had finally come true. Sherlock Holmes was no longer just a great man. He was a good one, as well.

After solving a particularly difficult case, John insisted that he and Sherlock have dinner at Angelo's. Sherlock was fine with the choice, but John figured the sentiment of it would be completely lost to him. John elected not to try and explain. Instead, he claimed he simply had a craving for Angelo's food and Sherlock accepted that.

In the cab on the way over, John mulled over the thought that had been brewing in his mind. It was a small, little thing, something he'd missed entirely when he'd first heard it. But somehow, it had come back to him and had been eating at him for some time. He wanted to ask Sherlock for clarification, but wasn't qutie sure how to bring it up. As they entered the restaurant, he resolved to discuss it with Sherlock before the night was out, come hell or high water.

"Boys!" Angelo greeted them at the door. "How's my favourite couple in all of London?"

Sherlock flashed Angelo a smile and nodded in greeting. "Hello Angelo. Do you have a table for us?"

"For you, Sherlock, I've always got a table." He ushered them to the same window side table they'd first eaten at. "You know the rules, lovebirds, anything on the menu, its yours."

"Thank you, Angelo." Sherlock didn't take the proffered menu, but at a stern look from John he at least ordered. In the time since his return, he'd put on more weight than he ever had in his life. His body was still lean and slim, but perhaps for the first time he was no longer gaunt. Despite the inconvenience of eating, Sherlock had to admit that the muscle mass he'd gained had proven useful in many cases.

When Angelo left to make their food, Sherlock studied the road and remembered the first time he'd ever brought John to the restaurant. John didn't think Sherlock understood sentiment, and he certainly wasn't an expert in it by any means, but he'd have had to have been utterly dense not to realize the significance of this place for them. And considering the setting, he had an announcement he wanted to make. Before he could broach the subject, though, he realized John had something on his mind as well. That little line between his eyes that only appeared when he was thinking hard could be seen prominently on his brow.

"You might as well just say what it is you're thinking, John. You'll give yourself a stroke if you keep thinking about it so hard."

"This coming from the man who thinks more than anyone else in the whole world."

"Yes, but my mind is accustomed to that kind of strenuous use."

John smothered his smile at Sherlock's innocently insulting comment. If it had come from anyone else, he'd have taken offence. But with Sherlock, it was just a simple truth. He shook his head, took a deep breath, and decided to wing it.

"There's something I've been wondering about for a while now," he started. "Its something that came up a while ago, and I never really got the clarification I wanted on it. I thought I knew all the facts, but I think that maybe I was misled- maybe inadvertently."

"I don't lie to you." Sherlock managed to look mildly offended.

"Not unless you're trying to protect me from something."

Sherlock's face scrunched up. "Listen, I wasn't deceiving you when I said I enjoyed playing out that fantasy of yours. I wasn't disinterested, I was just trying to play the part accurately-"

John sputtered, nearly spewing tea all over Sherlock's very serious face. He coughed to clear his airways and shook his head adamantly. "That's not what I was talking about!"

"Oh." Sherlock sat back, a little relieved. "Alright then." John caught his breath again and fought the wave of colour that threatened to rise into his cheeks.

"I meant when we were talking about...about what happened to you."

"Oh." This time, Sherlock's tone was dark.

"There was something you said, something that's bothered me. You said, "I thought I knew all the risks going in."" Sherlock nodded, recalling the conversation perfectly. "What I can't figure out is how, if you were captured, you'd have known all the risks going in."

Sherlock blinked at him. Suddenly, his throat felt tight. He'd thought, since Mycroft had told John about his reasons for faking his death, that he'd have also told John the circumstances surrounding his capture. Now, all this time later, Sherlock didn't want to add that burden to John's shoulders. What purpose could it serve? John would only feel more guilt, guilt that wasn't his to bear. He opened his mouth to spout some nonsense that he could pass off as an excuse for the words.

"The truth, Sherlock. I don't need protection from you. I can handle it." He met Sherlock's eyes. "Please."

What was he supposed to say to that? He still wanted to protect his partner, but John deserved honesty from Sherlock. He swallowed past the tightness in his throat and looked away, out the widow. "I apologize, John. I thought you knew. I'd assumed- well it doesn't really matter. The truth is that yes, I was captured, but it was by my own choice."

"What?"

"The leader of that gang was the last man that I needed to deal with before I could come home to you. He was careful, and he was very clever. He never came out of hiding, never gave me a chance to get at him. It was the only way I could reach him. So I made the decision to let his men capture me so that they would take me to the caves."

"You...you let them? You got yourself captured on purpose?" John could hardly believe what he was hearing. "Sherlock they could have killed you! They...they tortured you! Why would you do that?"

"I told you, it was the only way to get at him. I'd tried every other way. And I'd waited long enough. I wanted home. I wanted you. I calculated all the risks involved and made a choice."

"You knew what they were going to do to you?" John's voice had gone from loud and angry to low and thready.

"I-" Sherlock stopped, unwilling to go into his miscalculations on handling the torment his captors dealt. "Yes. I was aware."

"And you did it anyways. To protect me. To come home to me."

"John, don't." Sherlock laid a hand on John's shoulder and shook him slightly. "I made the decision. I'm responsible for its consequences."

"Because of me!" John put his head in his hands. It was exactly what he'd been afraid of. "I don't even know how to handle this knowledge."

"The same way you handle knowledge of any sort that no longer affects you, bears no fault of yours, and can't be changed. Ignore it. Forget it. Lay it to rest."

"Forget it?" John shook his head. "How am I supposed to just forget something like that?"

"John." Sherlock waited until John looked up at him. He took both John's hands in his and held them tightly, a rare display for them. "I'm right here. I'm home. I'm safe. I'm just fine. We're together. Nothing else matters. I understand how this bothers you, but please believe me when I say that you should feel no guilt or remorse for what happened. I don't regret it. I never will."

"But Sherlock-"

"No buts. I am happy, John. Maybe truly for the first time in my life. I'd have gone through that cave a thousand times if it brought me here. It happened, and now its done. Lets put it behind us."

"I...I'll try. But it might take some time."

"Whatever you need," Sherlock promised. He thought about what it was he'd been planning to say. The general mood of the night had taken a much darker turn than he'd expected, but he decided maybe this would be just the way to lighten it again. "When you get time tomorrow, you'll need to go down to the bank."

"What? Whatever for?"

"Papers they need you to sign."

John's forehead creased. "Why'd they call you then? I've got a perfectly good mobile."

"They didn't call me. I called them."

"Why?"

"Because I'm closing your account."

"Wh-what?" John's jaw dropped. Sherlock hid his smirk.

"Do you need me to repeat myself, John?"

"No I don't need you to bloody repeat yourself! What the hell do you mean, closing my account?"

"I'd have thought the meaning was fairly obvious."

"You know exactly what I'm getting at. Don't sit there and be all literal. Why would you tell them to close my account?"

"Because you've been added to mine. There's no reason for two accounts. Bit redundant, I'd think."

"You did what?"

"Really, John, either you've got to get your ears checked or your mental faculties have deserted you tonight."

"Oh shut it! Why am I on your account?"

"Shall I list the reasons?"

"Yes!" John's obvious frustration started to confuse Sherlock. It had seemed like a simple enough decision to him. Perhaps this was one of those situations that involved hidden feelings that Sherlock simply didn't understand.

"Alright, first off, we live together and pay all of our bills together anyways. Secondly, on the times I am gifted some recompense for solving a case, the assets are almost always in my name which I find discriminatory as you are an intrigal part of my process. Third, it is an archaic notion that one of us should be buying dinners for the other, but an unnecessary inconvenience to separate the tabs. Fourth-"

"Ok, that's enough, I don't need you to list all the reasons." John ran a hand through his hair and found himself, not for the first time that day, praying for patience. "What brought this on?"

"It was simply a matter that came to my attention and I decided to fix it. I fail to see what you're so agitated over this for."

"Usually people don't just go round closing other people's bank accounts, Sherlock."

"Is there a reason you'd rather we didn't have the same account?"

"Well...no. Its just that that's a kind of big decision. A sort of...couple decision."

"We live together, work together, are romantically involved and are committed to each other. What else needs to be taken into consideration?"

"I'm not saying that its a bad idea. It's just a milestone, you know? A kind of cementing of a relationship."

"Are you equating a shared bank account to marriage?" Sherlock studied John carefully, trying to read exactly what the doctor was thinking.

"What? No! Well, sort of."

"You think marriage should have come before the joint account?"

"NO! That's not what I-"

"If you're attempting to use that ridiculous reverse psychology trick, you needn't waste your time." He shrugged casually. "If you want me to propose you've only to ask. Though I don't necessarily think that it matters which of us makes the proposition."

"You- what? Wait a minute! Did you just ask me to marry you?"

"See? There you go with that reverse psychology again. I really fail to see the point. You're perfectly welcome to do the propositioning yourself."

"Wait, no, stop. Hold on just one bloody minute." John held his hands up. Sherlock waited obediently. "Lets just rewind for a minute before I even try to process this most recent development. The bank accounts."

"Yes. I've added you to mine and cancelled yours. You need only to go down and sign the papers."

"Which you've done because..."

"Convenience, mostly, though as you've pointed out to me, it does also have romantic significance as well." Sherlock paused a moment. "Is it a problem?"

John took a deep breath. "No. Its fine. As always, your reasoning is perfectly sound. I'll go in and sign the papers tomorrow."

"Good." Sherlock nodded, then casually continued to eat his meal. John wanted to laugh out loud. Only Sherlock could bring up marriage and then go right on with his dinner as if it was an every day occurrence.

"So now that we've got that out of the way, lets go back to the whole marriage thing."

"Yes?"

"You've never mentioned marriage before."

"Nor have you. Before tonight, that is."

"I didn't-" John stopped, knowing there was no point trying to argue. "Fine. Yes. Neither of us has brought it up."

"And?"

"Well I don't even know how you feel about the subject."

"On marriage as an institution, marriage of same sex couples, or marriage for us specifically?"

"Well, all three I guess."

Sherlock put his fork down and studied John, trying to read him. He could tell that John had used half an ounce too much butter on his toast that morning. He could tell that John's pillow was two days overdue for its washing. He could tell that John had used an electric razor instead of a blade when shaving. But he absolutely could not see into the man's head. He couldn't deduce what answers John wanted.

"On marriage as an institution, I am not necessarily opposed. I can accept and understand its significance for couples as well as its necessity in society. While I find the concept a little outdated and often over used, I think in general its effects are more positive than negative. As for same sex marriage, I feel that if couples were to be denied simply because of their gender, then the whole institution ought to be revoked. Same sex couples certainly aren't making any more a mockery of marriage than those idiots who divorce within days or months of entering into the contract. In my opinion, those that oppose it tend to be bigoted, misinformed, or zealots."

John might have been shocked at the depth of Sherlock's conviction on the matter if he hadn't expressed similar opinions when they'd discussed same sex relationships in general.

"And my thoughts about marriage for us specifically are a bit apathetic to be honest."

"Meaning?"

"I don't think it is strictly necessary, but neither am I against it."

"So you don't care."

"That's not what I said," Sherlock spoke carefully. "The matter is of great importance for every couple. What I mean is that we are already committed in every way I find necessary for my own comfort. If, however, it is a step you wish to take in order to make those commitments public and legal, I would be very honoured to enter into that arrangement with you."

John studied Sherlock. Somehow, that hadn't been the answer he'd been expecting. Perhaps something about archaic, pointless rituals, unnecessary or outdated ideas about monogamy...something. But for him to say that he'd be "honoured" to be married to John... It left him with a curiously warm feeling in his chest.

"Rather than simply stare at me with that enigmatic look on your face, I think now might be an appropriate time for you to explain your own feelings on the subject." Sherlock shifted a little and John realized the detective was uncomfortable! Was he nervous about what John would say? What he would think?

"Well, I agree with all that. I mean about marriage in general and same sex couples."

"And us specifically?"

John couldn't help a little grin. Sherlock was nervous. It was a novel experience. "As for us specifically, I'd say I guess I'm...for it."

Sherlock let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Then he scolded himself for letting his emotions get so wrapped up in such an unimportant thing. He'd already said he was perfectly content with their relationship exactly the way it was. He didn't need any further promises or vows from his partner. But even still, the fact that John wanted it was comforting.

"So. Are you proposing marriage then?"

"Ah, no. I think you already did." John smirked.

"What? I believe I'd have remembered that, John." Sherlock glared at him with mock indignancy.

"You said it! You said that if I wanted to, you'd be honoured to marry me. That's a proposal if I've ever heard one."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "You and your bloody reverse psychology."

"Not a very romantic proposal, though, was it? No, I don't think it was your best work," John teased.

"Not my best-" Sherlock growled under his breath and grit his teeth. Damned if he was going to be accused of slacking in the romance department when it came to John. He rose and stalked away from the table. John stared after him, a little worried he'd pushed the joke too far. He started to go after Sherlock when he saw him stop and speak rapidly to Angelo in a low tone. Angelo grinned, then the two of them went into the back room together. John had no idea what Sherlock was planning, but he assumed it would be merciless payback for his teasing. Sherlock didn't often bother with such things, but when he was roused, the man could be positively devious.

A few minutes later, Sherlock came back out with Angelo close behind. They arrived at the table wordlessly and Angelo set down a lit candle then gave John a thumbs up. Sherlock stood a little stiffly, not saying anything still. Just when John was about to ask him what was going on, Sherlock went down on one knee and pulled a small black box from inside his pocket.

"Sherlock-"

"You've been my companion for years," Sherlock began gravely. "And it has been my great privilage to share my life with you thus far. I can't think of a man more lucky than I to have you for a partner, in all ways. You're aware of my affections and my singular devotion to you. But now I wish to make that devotion known to the world. John Hamish Watson, would you do me the honour of marrying me?" He opened the box and inside was a small circle of silver. He waited, face carefully composed, while John stared first at Sherlock, then at the make-shift ring. A stab of unease went through him. John had said before that the proposal wasn't romantic enough. But was this too much? "Did I do it wrong?" he whispered.

John blinked back tears and laughed. "No, Sherlock. You did it exactly right." He grinned widely. "Yes, I'll marry you, you idiot." Sherlock found himself grinning as well. John pulled Sherlock forward and hugged him tightly. When they finally sat back and Sherlock took his chair, they realized people in the restaurant were cheering and clapping. Sherlock cleared his throat and looked around.

"Its just come to my attention that I've just committed a very public display of affection, John."

"Yes, yes I'd say you did."

"I apologize if that makes you uncomfortable in any way."

"Sod the crowd. And sod our usual feelings about PDAs." He pulled Sherlock forward by his lapels and planted a deep, searing kiss on Sherlock's lips. The detective stayed perfectly still for a moment, stunned. Then he melted into the kiss, threading his fingers through John's hair and pulling him closer still. When they broke apart, they were breathless and nearly panting with desire. "Do..." John tried to catch his breath. "Do you fancy dessert?"

In response, Sherlock lifted John's hand, turned it palm up and placed a very slow, very deliberate kiss on his wrist. John's reaction was instantaneous. His eyes hooded, pulse kicked up, skin flushed.

"Best skip the dessert, then," he said faintly. "I think we ought to get back to the flat. Tonight's going to be a special night."

"With you, my dear Dr Watson, how could it be anything less?"

Eeeeek! Did you just love it?! *sigh* I love happy endings. Well that's it, folks. Thanks so much for reading and an extra extra thank you to my reviewers. I'm thinking of maybe adding a few lines that are just little follow up tidbits, but we'll see. Anyhow, hope you enjoyed it!