The world seemed to be in the regular habit of testing John's patience. Often to the very limits of it, trying the prim lines until they gave away, and there was nothing left but to do something.
Listening to Sherlock talk was one thing, but watching him talk was quite another. Every lip-bite, every flicker of tongue licking away coffee was another push, another poke, and the buckram of longanimity started to fringe rapidly, irreversibly, the unravelling creating another force altogether.
It was as if time itself had enough respect towards the last frail threads holding John together, since apparently it had slowed down to treasure the moment; Sherlock's puzzled glance seemed to be hanging tangible in the air, the movement of his hand grabbing his mug leaving a wispy path through the ether, the sound of Sherlock swallowing ringing not unlike church bells in John's ears, all in preparation for the unavoidable finale.
The tip of Sherlock's tongue appeared to one corner of his mouth. The eons between the beats of John's heart measured the while it took for it to slide over the upper lip and disappear again, only to be followed by the enticing act of sucking the lower lip, letting it go again slowly, in deep thought. Moist and more tantalizing than anything had any right to be.
Then it was Sherlock frowning at John questioningly.
A snapping sound confirmed that the final filament of patience was coiling over itself somewhere far from John's reach, soon accompanied by the familiar feeling of imprudence sharply settling where there once used to be reason.
There he was, at that exact point right beyond not caring what was going to happen, just so long as something did.
It was then that John got up and deftly walked over to the other side of the table, paused and closed his eyes briefly, before taking Sherlock's hand. "Sherlock, there's something I need to know, and I'm sorry, but I don't know how to ask."
Pliable, Sherlock went along with John's insistent pull and was instantly on his feet, towering over John.
More like a thought than a whisper, a "What?" echoed through the last second of uncertainty before John reached up, hand to the back of Sherlock's head to lean him down to meet in a soft, lingering kiss, Sherlock eagerly tasting John when the tips of their tongues met. Warm and chaste, the men lost themselves into the slowly undulating sea of each other.
In that fleeting moment, two minds got their suspicions cleared, one soaring with joy, while the other sank in morbid desperation.
'Yes, yes it was everything he'd imagined, only…so much more.' John stood with his mouth still open, his breath short and uneven.
'No, no, NO! Not again!' Sherlock stared terrified at his friend, his colleague, his flat mate, his…dream.
Upon finding sheer dread on Sherlock's features, abashed and ashamed, flushed, all fit to slither down the crack in the floor and stay there, John stepped back and arranged a steely expression on his face in an attempt to cover his foolishness.
Determined to take what was coming for him, his heart twinging painfully at the loss of a beloved friend being the cost of his ridiculous whim, John raised his head to look Sherlock in the eye.
The twinge of his heart turned from loss into worry at the sight of Sherlock standing stiffly at place, pressing his hands into tight fists, scrunching his eyes closed, his mouth pinch shut to a tight white line.
Another blink, and John was sure Sherlock wasn't breathing.
"Sherlock?" John tried quietly, cringing at the wince it caused in Sherlock.
Sherlock let out a huff of air, replaced it with a fresh lungful, and unclenched his fists, one finger at a time as if reassuring they were still there.
His lips quirked into a sad travesty of a smile, his features softening when he opened bleary eyes, eyes that only stared through John.
The hurt on Sherlock's face made John's already sore heart plummet, thoughts feverishly searching for words to express at length how incredibly sorry he was, and how anything like that would never happen again, but he could barely get his mouth open before even the mites of dust seemed to halt to listen to the raw, weary voice rasping from Sherlock's throat.
"I just…thought." He shrugged one shoulder, a gesture defining the utter, pointless uselessness of thinking altogether. A gesture which caused John to draw pale in horror.
After it became obvious Sherlock wasn't going to continue, John carefully ventured into prompting the rest of the sentence out; "Though what?"
An anxious confusion passed over Sherlock at John's words, his eyes shifting to look John in the face, then promptly returned into seeing nothing.
"I thought that maybe, this time, it wasn't a dream." The last word was treated like it was a festering wound - too tender to touch, yet too dangerous to leave untouched. A wound in need of a doctor's care.
Backing up to his seat, Sherlock slumped down and started to count a list, ticking each point off with a tap on the table; "You sound right. You look right. You even smell right, and God help me, you feel right."
Sighing wearily, Sherlock smiled and swept away every allusion of reality with a languid hand. "But then you had to come over and kiss me, didn't you?"
"Sherlock… That really happened."
"Well, yes, it always does." Giving John a look that told exactly what he thought of John's intellectual capabilities, Sherlock explained further in a tired, monotone voice. "It used to get much further than that, before I got tired of waking up and finding I was only dreaming. I started to will myself awake before it got there…" Sherlock frowned, looking around the kitchen and testing the firmness of his coffee mug, before finding John's worried eyes again. "But why am I still here, why aren't I awake?"
"Because this is real, Sherlock, this is really happening." The option that Sherlock was suffering from the side effects of his latest experiment crossed John's mind, but was quickly replaced by a memory of the time Sherlock had cooked a splendid dish of posset while fast asleep, even topped it with ambergris. Where he'd gotten the sugar while the cupboard was bare, however, would probably forever remain a mystery.
Through the overwhelming mist of disquietude John was in the middle of, there was something he had obviously missed, something that flitted evasively in the crevices of his brain. Something of grave importance.
"Sherlock," John whispered, taking a step forth as his ataxic thoughts formed a reasonable conclusion.
"Sherlock," he said louder, cupping Sherlock's hand in his palm, his heart joyous as the response was Sherlock's fingers pressing over John's. "This is real. And I'm going to prove it to you."
This time it was John's turn to lean down, as he brushed his nose to the side of Sherlock's, his breath hot on Sherlock's lips, right before John straddled Sherlock's lap and wrapped his arms around his neck.
"Can you hear me?" John murmured into Sherlock's lips.
"Yes," came the gasp as Sherlock dared to breathe again, holding John tightly to himself.
"Can you feel me?" Pressing his mouth gently against Sherlock's at first, John sucked Sherlock's lip between his teeth, giving it a nip.
"Yes," Sherlock chuckled, his relief and gratification painting John's whole world bright.
"Do you believe me now?"
"No. I don't think there are enough facts to safely establish the reality of the situation. We must investigate further, get down and dirty and perform experiments. You know my methods."
Grinning, John pulled back and regarded Sherlock with feigned coyness. "I love it when you talk dirty."