Unlocked Doors

Word Count: ~ 6.200

Summary: It was just a drunken mistake during the stag night, but it moved John to the bedroom of Sherlock's mind palace and now, Sherlock can't think … and John notices.

Characters: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson

Pairing: Sherlock/John (unrequited?), John/Mary, Sherlock/Irene Adler (past)

Rating: PG-13

Spoiler: The Reichenbach Fall, The Empty Hearse, The Sign Of Three, His Last Vow

Setting: during His Last Vow

Warnings: Partner betrayal

Contains: Slash, language

Beta: tardisjournal, who did a wonderful job!

Disclaimer: I'm not making money with this fanfic. The tv-show Sherlock and the characters appearing within it belong to their producers and creators. Any similarities to living or dead persons are purely coincidental and not intended.

xxx

It was annoying him.

Taunting him.

Sherlock glared at the door to the bedroom of his mind palace. Standing here – outside in the hallway with the wooden panelling and the plush red carpet – he was starting to feel like a fool. This was his place, his mind, his memory library, his, his, his … and it betrayed him. The door was supposed to be closed. He always kept all doors closed unless he needed to enter a room. It was tidy, it was neat, it was … perfect.

Usually.

Not today. Today, something was wrong. He knew exactly what it was, though, so that was a start. Now all he needed to do was figure out how to stop it or he wouldn't be able to focus on the real problem at hand, the reason he was consulting his extensive hard drive.

He looked down, at the floor. There, on the carpet, lay the reason for his distraction, the misbehaviour of his subconscious: A book; leather-bound, thick, well-read. He frowned at it, at the name burned into its cover: John Hamish Watson. It wasn't supposed to be here. It was supposed to be in the lounge with all the other books – every single person he'd ever met, shelved away and categorized. The book on John was supposed to be in the small shelf labelled Friends, nestled securely in between G... Lestrade and Molly Hooper. It being here on the carpet in front of the bedroom was downright offending.

Sherlock picked it up, running his fingers over the smooth leather, brushing over the name. "What are you doing?" he asked. "You're distracting me."

xxx

"Oh, sorry," John said, startling Sherlock out of his thoughts.

He found himself still on the couch in their ... in his, Sherlock corrected himself bitterly. In his sitting room. It had only temporarily become theirs again – only until John and Mary started seeing sense and John returned to the house they shared.

John had made himself comfortable in what used to be and would always remain his armchair, his laptop open on his thighs. He was giving Sherlock a sheepish smile. The sight caused Sherlock's stomach to clench painfully, just a little a bit. This was the kind of image he'd held on to while he'd been away, it had been the image he'd looked forward to when he'd learned he could return. Who'd have thought that it would take so much pain and confusion to see this again, to have John sleeping in his former room upstairs, to be flatmates like they used to be? And it irritated Sherlock that it was only temporary, only until John and Mary would have worked out their differences. Not that he didn't want them to. He wanted them to! It was just … hard to let go.

He turned his head away and stared at the ceiling, refusing to see John like this any longer. "Not you," he answered darkly. Stupid mind palace … now he even lacked the concentration to stay there as long as he desired.

"I'm the only one here," John replied pointedly.

Squeezing his eyes shut, Sherlock turned to face the back of the couch and wrapped his bathrobe tighter around him. He needed to go back and sort the mess out. He knew exactly why his mind palace was acting up, he just lacked a way to fix it … at least at the moment. If he could just get a bit of peace and quiet ...

"Are we doing that routine again?" John asked. "Really?" He gave a deep sigh. Sherlock hated that sigh. It told him he was being a prat and he thought that was very unfair, considering John was responsible for the chaos in his mind palace in the first place.

Sherlock refused to react, pressing is face into the backrest, breathing in the scent of leather and trying to go back in … but the tapping of John's fingers on his laptop kept distracting him. Sherlock curled up tighter, making himself smaller. He hated this. John never used to be this distracting back then when everything had still been good and perfect and just the two of them against the world. Before fiancées and weddings and pregnancies. He felt a slight stab of guilt for thinking that way ... he liked Mary, he really did, but that didn't change the fact that he'd wanted things to be the same he'd left them when he'd returned. It was so difficult to find his place in John's life now.

He listened to John's keystrokes for a while, subconsciously putting clues and his knowledge about John together to form a picture and when he could identify it, he couldn't stop himself from asking, "Are you writing to Harry then?"

There was a pause in the keystrokes, then an exasperated breath. "Okay, there is no way you could have identified that just by listening to me type."

Sherlock waved a dismissive hand in John's direction. "Sure there is. Hesitant, slow, long pauses in between sentences. You're thinking about what to write and how to phrase it. You only do that with Harry."

"I could be writing to Mary."

"You couldn't. You're not talking to her."

"How would you know?"

Sherlock opened his eyes, staring at the creases in the leather. "I talk to her."

John gave a short, angry chuckle. "'Course," he muttered. "She's your client now."

"You turned her down."

"So you're just doing the honourable thing?" John asked and Sherlock didn't need to see him to know that he was looking at him with raised eyebrows, a challenge in the set of his jaw and shoulders. "Fulfilling your vow?" It sounded scathing.

Sherlock bristled. "May I remind you that you asked for that vow? And Mary is my friend, too."

"You don't have friends," John replied and then, a second later, he coughed and said, "I'm sorry, that was … unnecessarily cruel."

Sherlock didn't acknowledge the apology, knowing it would serve to show John that the words had actually stung.

John gave another deep sigh, this time sad. "What a mess! Listen, I'm just … miserable, yeah? And hungry." He chuckled and it sounded like it hurt. "I'll go get something for dinner. Will give me time to catch some air and you to finish whatever you're doing in your mind palace."

There was the sound of fabric rustling when John got up and stepped closer, expecting an answer.

The silence between them stretched until John finally asked, "All right, Sherlock? Did you listen to me?"

"Call Mary," Sherlock answered. "She had an ultrasound today and she has pictures of the baby to show you." He'd seen them already, over coffee and cake. It looked like a glob, to be honest, but Mary had insisted that she could identify the head and the arms. Sherlock hadn't been able to. He had to admit, though, that it was the prettiest glob he'd ever seen and he'd seen many during his studies of the development of the human foetus. Maybe he was biased. Maybe that was what knowing the foetus did to someone: Made them think the glob of cells and unformed extremities was pretty.

"Dinner first, yeah?" John asked softly.

"You can't pretend it doesn't exist."

"I'm not … I'm …" John paused. "I'm just not sure what to do about it, yet." With that, he left.

xxx

It wasn't the first time this happened. There had been other times he'd lost control over his mind palace this way. The bedroom, though, rarely caused trouble. He painstakingly made sure of that because a bitter experience with another student in university had taught him that this room was by far the most distracting one if unlocked. The only other time it had happened since then had only proved that point to him …

'I'm not hungry. Let's have dinner,' Irene Adler's voice floated through the open door, accompanied by the faint sound of a violin.

He turned his head away, squeezing his eyes shut, and the violin piece faded, as did the smell of The Woman's perfume. Irene Adler had lived in the bedroom, constantly playing the song he'd composed for her, constantly looking at him, completely naked. Once he'd acknowledged her presence, he'd been fine with her living there for quite some time. She hadn't distracted him, hadn't left the door open, and he'd visited her frequently until one day, he'd entered and she'd been gone. Her book, though, the pages mostly empty, was still on the bedside table.

He took a deep breath, tucking the book about John under his arm determinedly and stepping closer to the door. Nobody was supposed to be in that room. This would end now. With an insistent pull at the knob, he slammed the door shut, ignoring the smell of tea wafting into the corridor as well as the sound of typing.

He turned the key and stepped back.

For a moment, he thought it had worked and he was just about to turn away and put the book back where it belonged when he heard the hinges of the door squeak and it opened slowly. Only a crack. Wide enough to taunt him.

Sherlock hated this. He'd been fine. Perfectly fine, even. He'd thought it would be alright, that he had a handle on this, but he'd been wrong, apparently. Stupid stag night, stupid alcohol … stupid John Watson moving back in with him.

He had a problem now.

xxx

John had brought take-out. The smell of Chinese food filtered through the kitchen doorway to the sitting room and the couch where Sherlock tried to ignore it.

"You coming?" John called from the kitchen.

Sherlock didn't answer, didn't move.

"You didn't have breakfast and lunch, Sherlock. Besides, you should eat before you take the pain meds."

Knowing there was no way John would give up nagging him, Sherlock got up and trudged into the kitchen, dropping into his chair reluctantly.

John put down a carton with take-away in front of him. "Don't make that face. You'll eat. You're not on a case."

"In fact, I am," Sherlock replied and poked at the carton. John patiently held out a fork until Sherlock took it grudgingly and took a peek at the food. "It hasn't got-"

"Yes, it does. Don't try to trick me, Sherlock. I ordered it exactly as you like it."

Sherlock huffed a breath and pulled the carton closer, giving in.

John cleared his throat and sat in his own chair, nudging aside a microscope to have space to eat. "So ... you've got a case, then? Give me the details."

After he'd taken the first bite, Sherlock's body seemed to realize that it was indeed quite hungry. His stomach started to growl and he quickly ate three more bites before he answered, "It's not interesting to you."

John got up and got two bottles of water from the fridge for them. "I won't know if you don't tell me."

"I don't need you on this," Sherlock said, quickly emptying the carton. Eating could be such a waste of time.

"Right," John said and sipped his water. "Okay."

Sherlock paused and studied him, noting the way John avoided his eyes – he was either hurt by Sherlock's answer or nervous about something else entirely. It was hard to say. Two years ago, it had been easier to read John. Sherlock felt he was out of practice. When John continued to pointedly stare at his meal, Sherlock settled on him being hurt because he felt he wasn't included in Sherlock's work anymore. It gave him a tiny thrill that John would care enough about this. The last few weeks of enforced distance had been harder on Sherlock than he wanted to admit. The fear of John enjoying domestic life too much to join in on cases had snuck up on him unexpectedly and hadn't left. It was too bad that especially John couldn't help him with his problem. "It's personal," he muttered.

John gifted him with a short smile. "Don't worry about it. Really." He rubbed his forehead, sipped his water and cleared his throat, shifting in his seat. Sherlock raised an eyebrow. Nervousness after all. Interesting. John met his eyes with sudden determination. "I need to speak to you about something else entirely, to be honest."

Sherlock gave a nod.

John put down his fork and cleared his throat again. "I don't know how the next few months will play out. For me and Mary, I mean."

"What do you mean?"

John stared at him as if he'd lost his mind. "Right now, it looks a bit bad for us."

Sherlock leaned back in his chair. "Not that bad. All you need to do is get over her lying to you."

"Right," John said with a nod. The accompanying smile was bitter. "Thanks for that advice." He reached into his jeans pocket and dropped the blister pack with Sherlock's pain medication on the table. "Easy for you to say, isn't it? You just got engaged to the PA of a psychopathic maniac to break into the maniac's office."

Sherlock swallowed his pill dutifully, watching John tuck the blister pack back into his jeans pocket while he answered, "What is the alternative? Divorce?"

John stilled and bit his lip.

Sherlock folded his hands on the table. "You're thinking about it."

"She lied to me!" John answered sharply. "From the start! Every time I asked her something about her past, she looked straight into my eyes and lied. And the worst part is that I ..." He swallowed. "I opened myself up to her, completely, about the war and Harry and ... you. That kind of stuff isn't easy for me, you know that better than anyone."

"Trust issues, yes," Sherlock replied. "Except that you trusted me from the moment you met me. And as you said, Mary and I are very similar."

"Shut up, Sherlock, that's not the same. Besides, I didn't tell you anything personal in the first few months. Can I help it that you just went and deduced it?"

Sherlock gave a sigh. "Easy to read."

John didn't even seem to hear that. "As if that wasn't reason enough, she shot you. She risked your life. You almost died."

Unconsciously, Sherlock's hand strayed to his chest to rub over the almost-healed wound the bullet had ripped into him. It smarted a bit at the contact but the worst of the pain had faded by now and the remainders were kept under control by the medication John handed out in regular intervals. "I didn't, though."

"You could have!"

"I didn't! Really, John, getting a divorce out of loyalty to me is unnecessary and overly dramatic!" The words had come out harsher than he'd intended but he had never been one to soften the blow, so he just bit his lip and held John's eyes.

"Right," John said slowly. It was hard to say what he thought about that. "Back to topic?" he finally asked.

Sherlock nodded in relief. "If you wish."

John shifted on his chair, sliding forward to sit closer to the table. "Let's say, theoretically ... Mary and I separate." He looked pained at the very thought, Sherlock noted, but he decided not to mention it. John faltered and then nodded to himself before he continued, "She has the baby. How problematic would it be for you to live with a part-time father and his child?"

Sherlock knew it would be a grave mistake to hesitate and he'd already anticipated the question and thought about the answer, so he immediately replied, "Not problematic at all."

John raised his eyebrows. "I'm going to have a baby, Sherlock. They cry and need attention and they need silence when they sleep, not some experiment in the microwave blowing up in your face."

Sherlock nodded. "Babies are the simplest of creatures, John. They only need their basic needs fulfilled."

John's lips twitched into a smile. "I'm talking to the bloke who showed a child pictures from crime scenes … don't pretend you didn't. There's no such place as Beheadings."

Sherlock leaned forward, scrutinizing John closely. "I get the feeling that you want me to say it's impossible for me to live with a baby, John, because that's what you think."

John closed his eyes. "You surprise me, is all." He sounded tired. When he looked at Sherlock again, he smiled warmly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound like I don't trust you with my child."

"Would you, though? Trust me with your child when you would need to rush to the clinic and Mary or Mrs. Hudson weren't available?" It seemed very important, suddenly, to know the answer to that question. Sherlock didn't like sounding like he was looking for some kind of approval ... then again, it had always been like this with them: John uncharacteristically trusting and open, Sherlock uncharacteristically attached and considerate.

John didn't even hesitate. "Yes," he said. "Of course, Sherlock, always."

The admission caused Sherlock's chest to tighten and his heart to skip a beat ... and that was just ridiculous. He broke eye contact. "Can I get back to work now?" Without waiting for an answer, he got up and turned back towards the sitting room.

"So you wouldn't mind us living here?" John asked.

Sherlock stopped, staring at John's reflection in the lounge window. "It won't come to that."

"You wouldn't, though?"

"John," Sherlock said, exasperated, "I don't make vows I can't keep." Only a second later, he wished he hadn't said that. A memory flashed into his mind, triggered by his own words ...

The darkened hallway of 221B, John pressed up against him, his hands buried in Sherlock's hair, his whispered words the only sound. "Promise me, Sherlock. Promise me."

Sherlock's own hands clinging to the awful jacket John was wearing, helping him to keep his balance on his tiptoes even though Sherlock himself didn't feel that steady. "I can't. I can't make a promise I can't keep."

"Okay," John said, pulling Sherlock back to their flat and Chinese take-out and everything that was precious to him. "Okay." John's chair scraped over the wooden floor when he got up with a deep sigh. "Tea?"

"Please," Sherlock answered.

xxx

Sherlock stared at the door to the bedroom. It was partly open, spilling light onto the carpet. He'd locked it three times with determination now but whenever he turned away to leave, it just opened again. He swallowed and looked down at the book in his hands.

John Hamish Watson

Sherlock sat on the carpet, cradling the book in his hands and staring at the door. He knew he could stop this being a distraction by openly acknowledging John's place in his mind palace. It was that easy ... in theory. He'd done so with Irene Adler when he'd written the text to her on New Year's Eve. But The Woman was different. She wasn't John, she wasn't as fundamental to his life as John was. There was a high chance that John would bolt if Sherlock ever told him ... and the structure he'd brought to Sherlock's life would tumble down in his wake.

It came down to this in the end, to the one decision Sherlock had always dreaded to be forced to make: To decide between work and a person.

Curiosity got the better of him. He wanted to take a peek at it, at John, at his representation in his own mind. Sherlock leaned forwards, his fingertips reaching the smoothly polished wood of the door just so, and he pushed it open a bit more.

John was sitting on the bed, cross-legged, his laptop open in front of him and a cup of tea in his hand. He looked up and smiled at Sherlock. "You coming in, then?" he asked.

"What?" Sherlock asked.

xxx

"I asked whether you're going to drink your tea at all," John answered.

Sherlock turned his head and looked at him. John had once again taken his seat in the armchair. Instead of the laptop, he was holding the newspaper.

"I wasn't actually talking to you, though," John continued. "Didn't think you'd hear me at all." A worried frown appeared on his forehead. "What's going on? You seem a bit off."

"I can't concentrate," Sherlock huffed and made sure the three nicotine patches he'd put on his arm a couple of hours ago were still there.

John sipped his tea. "Something distracting you?"

"You," Sherlock answered without thinking, preoccupied with the patterns the cars driving by painted on the ceiling.

"You want me to leave?" John asked and Sherlock turned his head to look at him. John's features were softened by the gentle lamps illuminating the sitting room. Still, Sherlock could see that he'd aged in the two years he'd been away. The lines of grief and sadness had deepened around his lips and eyes and the current sorrow in his marriage made him look tired. Sherlock wondered if they would be in the same situation today if he'd never left. If John and Mary would have dated. If they would have even met ... John cleared his throat. "You want me to go stay with Greg? Or I could ask Molly."

Sherlock pulled a face. "No."

"What's the matter then? This is really starting to worry me a bit. If you won't tell me what's wrong ..." His eyes widened and Sherlock could see that he connected all the right dots to draw the wrong conclusion. "It's about ... it's about the kiss, isn't it? It does bother you after all." He turned in his armchair to look at Sherlock head-on. He lowered his voice as if he was afraid to be overheard. "We were drunk. It didn't mean anything, Sherlock, it-"

"Be quiet," Sherlock said, mainly because he couldn't bear to hear John say that it didn't mean anything when it had this impact on Sherlock himself. "You're wrong." He gave a sigh and then slowly said, "I told you that I understand it didn't mean anything to you. Selective hearing on your part, quite typical."

John stared at him, took a breath. "Sherlock-"

"It was alright, though, until I found that you ... took over space ... in here in a way I can't control anymore." He gestured vaguely to his head.

John folded the newspaper, giving Sherlock his full attention. "Right."

Sherlock turned back on his back and closed his eyes.

"Promise me, Sherlock. Promise me."

"I can't. I can't make a promise I can't keep."

Sherlock rubbed his face, making a frustrated noise in the back of his throat. John was still looking at him and Sherlock shot him an annoyed glare. "It's nothing! I just need to get control again." He glanced towards the kitchen. "Another nicotine patch, maybe two."

"You have enough already," John replied. "It will only make you even more jittery. I think it would be better to talk about this properly."

"It will help me think," Sherlock answered. "And you don't want to talk about it, John, it's written all over your face. You don't even want to think about it, because you can't bear the idea that it actually happened ... and that you initiated it!" He walked over the coffee table and towards the kitchen, suddenly unable to stop the wave of irritation and anger sweeping over him. "You want to blame it on the alcohol and on me and be done with it, not have an earnest conversation about how much you wish you could but are unable to." He glared at John's stunned expression while walking by. "Please don't humour me, John, you know I hate it." With that, he slammed the kitchen cupboard open, rifling through it for his nicotine patches, trying to ignore the memories insistingly coming to the forefront of his mind.

John was pressed against him tight enough for Sherlock to feel his body heat through several layers of clothing. He was standing on his tiptoes, his breath brushing against Sherlock's lips, his fingers combing through Sherlock's hair, his voice barely above a whisper but clear to hear in the encompassing silence of 221B's hallway. "Promise me, Sherlock. Promise me."

Sherlock didn't quite know how this had happened. How they'd come from stumbling through the door, giggling hysterically, to this: Earnest, breathing heavily, Sherlock feeling choked, John's eyes shining with unshed tears and both of them clinging to each other. His own hands were fisted in the stiff cloth of the jacket John was wearing, holding on to him, staring down into his eyes. "I can't. I can't make a promise I can't keep."

John closed his eyes and fell into him a bit more.

Sherlock felt obliged to explain, to make it better, to make the pain go away. "I did it for you. I would do it again for the same reason."

"Don't!" John answered hoarsely. "'s not right."

Alcohol was slurring their speech a bit and lowering John's inhibitions, turning him into this needy person asking for a promise from someone who never promised anything. But alcohol also lowered Sherlock's inhibitions and turned him into someone who couldn't refuse John completely, compromising himself. "I'll think about it."

John rested his forehead against Sherlock's shoulder for a moment, recognizing that was all he was going to get. He was trembling, Sherlock could feel it and tightened his grip in response, sliding his hands around John's waist. The jacket's cloth made the skin of his palms prickle and he marvelled at the feeling for a moment, wondering if it was just alcohol making his nerve endings overly sensitive or whether it had to do with John's proximity ... and then he felt John's mouth press against his own hesitantly. John gasped against his lips, as if he was startled himself, and then made a soft noise in the back of his throat - terrified and sad. He remained like that for a moment and Sherlock tried to understand, but his thoughts felt sluggish. He didn't want to think, for once, he just wanted more of this.

He strengthened his hold around John, his tongue pressing against John's lips and deepening the kiss clumsily when they parted. They stumbled, their lips separating, and Sherlock fell back against the wall, steadying himself before he pulled John in to repeat the kiss. He chased the taste of beer and peanuts. John's fingers curled into his hair to tug and one of John's arms settled on Sherlock's shoulder to pull himself up and match Sherlock's height.

And then, suddenly, John stilled and pulled away – not far, just enough to break the kiss – and he stared into Sherlock's eyes. "I don't know why I ...," he whispered. "This is ..."

Not wanting to hear how inappropriate and impossible this was, Sherlock kissed him again, turning them around to pin John against the wall. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that this wasn't good. This wasn't supposed to happen, at least not like this. In a second, John would either push him away or punch him ... but he couldn't stop himself. This was so unique, so improbable ... and John didn't stop either, his hands cupping the back of Sherlock's head, his fingers combing through Sherlock's hair. The kiss was deep and passionate and messy, Sherlock panting against John's lips and swallowing John's moans, John still trembling and muttering in between the clash of their lips ... until it calmed down by itself, both of them still breathless, still light-headed, still flushed and huddled together and Sherlock didn't want it to end, wanted to keep gazing at John's features this close for a long time to come ...

John gave a start and, almost to himself, muttered, "I'm gettin' married." His eyes focussed on Sherlock and he looked like he had with a bomb strapped to his chest – scared but determined. "I ... swear to God I love her. I love her." He squeezed his eyes shut. "Sherlock." He took a shuddering breath. "Sherlock." He gulped in air. "What are we doing?" The grip of his hands around Sherlock's head strengthened. "What am I doing?"

There was no good answer to that, nothing Sherlock could say or do that would make this situation turn out well. All he could do was try and exert damage control. Which meant ending this and then getting John upstairs and fetching the sinfully expensive scotch he'd nicked from Mycroft and chase after the light-hearted drunkenness they had lost somewhere along the way. He knew that was what he should do … and he would. First, though … first, he would make the most of it, imprint this moment in his memory and lock it away in the bedroom of his mind palace because this would never, could never happen again. And if that made him selfish … well, John had said often enough that he was a selfish bastard.

So he cradled John's face between his hands and leaned in again to press their lips together, keeping it chaste for now, nothing more than a greeting between lovers. He felt John inhale, surprised, but when he did nothing to stop Sherlock, he tucked him as close as possible against his body, enfolding him completely … and deepened the kiss. It was careful and tender and perfect … and with a last peck to John's lips, Sherlock ended it. His hands smoothed down the lapels of John's jacket before he tucked them away into his own coat pockets.

John was looking at him sadly. "Christ, Sherlock ..."

"Don't," he replied softly. "Nothing of significance happened."

"Nothing of significance?" John echoed in disbelief. "Nobody … ever-"

Sherlock interrupted him quickly. "It's the alcohol, lowered inhibitions, you being happy I'm back, that's all. I understand it's not important to you." John looked at him and Sherlock gave a small smile, taking a step back. "You're getting married."

John leaned back against the wall and then slid down to sit on the steps leading up to their flat. "Lowered inhibitions," he muttered.

Sherlock sat next to him and confirmed, "Alcohol. Lots of it." He gave a sharp smile. "There's more upstairs."

"I might need it," John answered.

They didn't move for quite some time.

Sherlock brushed his thumb over the fifth nicotine patch on his arm and left the pack on the kitchen table.

"You might be wrong," John said into the silence of the flat. "I might actually want to talk about it."

Sherlock glanced at him, his eyes taking in John's face quickly, drawing conclusions. "Stop humouring me."

"Stop shutting me out. If there's something wrong with your mind palace or your ability to think because of … because of me, then I want you to talk about it. This has to stop."

Sherlock snorted. "As if that would change anything!"

"Maybe not change, but it could quite possibly accomplish something," John insisted. "You won't know until you try. So, please, before you overdose on nicotine patches ..."

Squaring his shoulders, Sherlock stared at him. "Fine," he answered tensely. John got up and put his hands on his hips, his chin tilted upwards slightly. Sherlock refused to point out that John looked ready for a fight ... or maybe flight. Nevertheless, in one thing, John was absolutely right: This had to stop. No distractions. Not anymore.

He stepped closer to John, let the silence hang for one more moment and then he said matter-of-factly, "You live in my bedroom."

John stared at him, blinked. "What do you mean?"

"You live in my bedroom and now the door won't close anymore. I don't like it. It's counter-productive and distracting."

John crossed his arms. "I live in your mind palace's bedroom?"

"I can't think and work if you keep the door open."

John blew out a breath. "Okay ... where do I usually live?"

"Nowhere. You're a book in the lounge, filed away under Friends. In between Lestrade and Molly. At least you were. Now you're in the bedroom, holding my mind palace hostage until I acknowledge you there. Which I've just done."

He turned to the couch but John grabbed his arm. "Okay, just wait a moment."

Sherlock pressed his lips together. "What for?"

"We need to talk about this."

"Why?"

John stared at him, struggling for an answer. "Because ... we have to."

Sherlock gave an impatient sigh and shook off John's hand. "Speak then."

John swallowed visibly, caught off guard. He cleared his throat. "The bedroom." He rubbed his forehead. "All right ... okay ..."

'Fight or flight?' Sherlock wondered. 'Fight or flight?'

John nodded and looked up at him again. "Okay ... Sherlock ... this is to do with the kiss, then?"

"We already established that."

"Good." John pulled a face. "Or ... I don't know. You need to ... I need to know what you keep in your bedroom."

Raising his eyebrows, Sherlock tucked his hands into the pockets of his bathrobe. "What do people keep in their bedroom?" he asked pointedly.

"Well, is it ..." John closed his eyes and then he opened them again, determination settling on his face. He stepped closer to Sherlock and asked, "Is it just lust or more than that?"

Sherlock narrowed his eyes, slightly annoyed. "I'm not prone to short-lived infatuations." And John should know that. He should. But maybe he felt just as out of his depth as Sherlock did sometimes these days.

"So this started before the kiss then?"

"It started the moment we chased after a cab."

A smile tugged at John's lips at the memory and Sherlock quirked a quick smile back. John continued, "And the kiss ..."

"Just hurried things along. You would have moved into that room sooner or later." It got easier to talk about this the longer Sherlock's initial fears didn't come true. Maybe he hadn't given John enough credit. After all, John's painstaking refusal of everything beyond friendship – beyond being straight – had always been directed at himself. Never Sherlock. Rolling his eyes, Sherlock added, "The fact that I seem to be unable to keep the door closed is a new development. Possibly because you returned to live here and we're in close proximity day and night. Quite inconvenient, that."

Silence enveloped them, calming the jittery nerves of the last few weeks and smoothing over the cracks their bond had started to show with the strain put upon John's marriage and Sherlock's loyalty to Mary.

Finally, John laughed. "I don't know what to say."

"Why would you say anything?"

John let out a breath. "I don't know. I guess it's just ... good manners to say something like 'I feel flattered'?"

"Since when do I care for good manners?"

John chuckled at that, then he became earnest again. "Are you alright, though?"

Sherlock sighed and returned to the couch, flopping back onto it in a sprawl with practised ease. He stretched his legs and folded his hands under his chin. "I can finally focus on Magnussen."

"Avoiding the question."

"John, my romantic feelings for you are of no consequence because you can't return them in kind. I can't blame you for that just like you can't blame me for harbouring them. You kissed me – probably in a misguided, alcohol-fuelled attempt to show me that you care – and I returned the kiss. You just went with the flow from that point onwards, a natural reaction between two friends as close as we are."

"You think?" John asked and the doubt was clearly heard in his voice.

Sherlock took care not to let his own doubt shine through that obviously in his answer, "I know."

"'Course."

"Can I get back to work now?"

"Sure."

Sherlock slowed his breathing and relaxed, starting to close himself off from the outside world to enter his mind palace … and was interrupted when a hand brushed through his hair and lips pressed against his forehead. He opened his eyes to look up at John in mild surprise.

John's fingers curled into his hair and tugged gently. "It's fine, you know. It's perfectly fine." He gave a sad smile. "And I'm sorry."

"No need to be," Sherlock replied. "As you said, it's fine."

John nodded once and then straightened and turned away, returning to his chair.

Sherlock watched him go.

xxx

The room wasn't big, but done up in warm colours, only seeming brighter in the sunlight streaming through the windows. John was still sitting on the bed and grinned at Sherlock as if he was proud of him. "Took you long enough."

Sherlock closed the bedroom door – from the inside. It stayed closed and he gave a smile at that before his gaze returned to John, still sitting up against the headrest with his laptop on his thighs and the mug of tea on the bedside table. He stepped closer and sat on the edge of the other side of the bed – his side. There was a book on his bedside table: Irene Adler. She'd stayed for months. She was still here, in some way. She probably always would be.

John closed the laptop with an audible snap. "I might stay for a while," he said.

Sherlock turned his head to look at him from over his shoulder. "I would like that very much." Tilting his head thoughtfully, he amended, "As long as you let me work."

John chuckled. "Don't I always?" His smile became gentle and warm, inviting. Sherlock turned, settling on his side facing John with his legs stretched out and his head resting on one of his arms. John laid down as well, mimicking Sherlock's position. "Don't you have work to do?" he asked very softly, almost a whisper, as if he didn't want to wake him.

Sherlock reached out a hand, tracing the laugh lines around John's eyes with his fingertips. He thought of Magnussen and Mary's secrets and John's heartbreak ... and decided he could leave it for one more day. "I might stay for a while."

END

02/14