Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock.

AN: After multiple requests for a sequel, multiple failed attempts and a decision to give up, you can thank Martin Freeman's stint as host of Never Mind the Buzzcocks for my finally getting the inspiration for this (me and my friend spent the whole time laughing hysterically, then this came to me). It is completed (minor edits pending) and I hope to upload one chapter per week.

Regarding the name: I was struggling with it, but had decided on something along the lines of a 'storm' to fit in with the 'ice' last time...then I discovered the "Young Sherlock Holmes" books by Andrew Lane, the latest of which is called "Black Ice"! The next is apparently "Fire Storm" – I decided to take the hint. XP

Dedicated to PrincessNala and prettybirdy979, without whom this would have been impossible – thank you so much!

There is a moment, when you have finished laughing, that the endorphins wear off and the humour is gone. Your mood sinks back, not to its normal level but below, a strange lull in which you cannot remember what you found amusing in the first place; a unique kind of sadness settles over you. Perhaps it is that you miss the laughter, perhaps in its absence your ordinary mood simply seems low, or it could be the return to thought, because when you laugh, really laugh, reality floats away for a while and its return is almost always unwelcome.

And yet – John feels none of that now.

No. Now he feels content. There is no other word for this warmth and comfort, this pleasure at just being, just sitting, not thinking and worrying and working – just existing in a happy limbo between sleeping and waking where nothing much matters but the soft, warm cushions and the slow, deep sound of Sherlock's breathing beside him. Nothing exists beyond this bubble, or at least none of it is important.

It started with him shifting position; knelt in front of Sherlock, who was sat on the sofa some hours ago now, somehow having gone from fixing dressings to the detective's cheek to kissing him, John's knees had very inconveniently decided to protest at the awkward position and he had begun to feel his leg muscles cramping painfully.

He tried to move into a more agreeable position carefully, subtly, without shifting his upper body very much and just rearranging his legs and feet beneath him – all without breaking the kiss, not wanting to give his brain a chance to catch up and think better of his actions.

He promptly got his ankles tangled in the attempt and toppled over backwards ridiculously, sending the first aid kit flying and laying sprawled on the floor for several long seconds while Sherlock stared and his face grew hot and red.

And then he laughed.

He saw the slight quirk of Sherlock's lips, that smirk, almost a smile, that made his eyes dance in a way that is exquisitely Sherlock, not completely open but not completely hidden either; a rare, split second glimpse into his mind, and John laughed. He laughed because he was happy. He laughed at the absurdity of the situation. He laughed to shake off his embarrassment at the fall, he laughed simply to feel the sheer joy of laughing itself. Then Sherlock joined in, his face breaking into a radiant grin only slightly hampered by a wince of pain, soon forgotten, and then they were both grinning and giggling and gasping between fits of breathless amusement at nothing at all, and everything in the world.

It seemed a long time before they stopped, neither knowing what had really made them start in the first place, but it might only have been a few minutes after all. However long it was, or wasn't, John found himself, still smiling though his cheeks ached and his lungs were tired from the effort, pulling himself to his feet only to collapse with a sigh onto the sofa beside Sherlock.

Several moments of easy silence passed before John reached for the TV remote as though it was the most natural thing in the world and settled himself into the welcoming cushions, not really paying attention to whatever programme he had turned on.

And soon he found himself that bit closer to Sherlock, without having any conscious memory of either of them moving. Not long after that, they were closer still, and Sherlock's eyelids were drooping with tiredness; John fought the urge to prod him awake, reasoning that at least there was a doctor on hand should anything happen.

But his own eyelids were heavy and felt like sandpaper, his muscles were weary from the chase through the streets and the fit of laughter seemed to have drained the last of his energy...

Now, he wakes in darkness; the television is still on, some American medical drama John remembers seeing at some point before, though the fact registers without a great deal of interest. He lets it play on because he doesn't want to move to reach for the remote, which has fallen to the floor.

At some point, his head has found its way onto Sherlock's chest, and Sherlock's arm is thrown carelessly over John's shoulder, fingers curled loosely where they hang in front of him. John's whole body is moved gently by the steady rise and fall of the sleeping detective's ribcage; one of his legs is sprawled across the sofa, the other is dangling to the floor, while Sherlock's are neatly stretched out and crossed at the ankles, right over left to avoid aggravating his injuries.

John looks down and realises, with a not too unpleasant start, that the fingers of Sherlock's other hand are entwined with his own. The sight makes him smile, and without actually deciding to do it, he is tightening his grip. Sherlock stirs but does not wake – if anything, John thinks Sherlock's hold on his hand has become stronger.

He feels sleep beckoning him once more and does nothing to stop it; he has no desire to move from this spot at any point in the foreseeable future. He allows his eyes to close and his head to drop back again to its resting place directly above Sherlock's heart, letting the soft beat sooth him like a lullaby until he falls sharply and startles himself back to sudden wakefulness – Sherlock, too, blinks and shifts groggily.

For a split second, everything is as if this arrangement were perfectly normal; the only thing which registers in John's sluggish mind is that it is a rare thing to see Sherlock with that same slow, early morning look which every other human being on the planet exhibits as a matter of course on opening their eyes for the first time.

Then it seems to hit him as if he is only just realising.

He is laid across Sherlock's chest.

He is practically wrapped in Sherlock's arms.

He is holding Sherlock's hand.

He tries to pull himself away, sit himself up – maybe if he manages to detangle himself from the detective's long limbs he will be able to think clearly and come up with an acceptable explanation for this...but Sherlock has not let go of him. He has stiffened, and stopped John from moving, muttering something like 'irrational'.

What is irrational John doesn't know, but he freezes – doesn't move away or relax, not sure which would be worse right now. Sherlock – Sherlock pulls him back.

'What's irrational?' Is all John can manage to make himself say, though his mouth seems to have difficulty forming the words and it comes out as little more than a croak. It's as though a strange mist has lifted, and now, seeing what he has done...he wants to say he regrets it. He wants to say that he has never thought about finding himself in this position, never wondered idly what it might be like. He wants to say any number of things which refuse to occur to him right now because all reasonable thought flew out of the window as soon as he felt Sherlock's words rumbling through his chest, which he is still laid on – not entirely reluctantly.


'Right...why is moving irrational?' He clears his throat, hoping it will encourage his voice to return to normal.

'This is comfortable,' Sherlock offers as explanation.

John almost laughs again. Almost – his eyes do crease at the corners and his lips do twitch slightly, but that's as far as his expression goes. Of course this is simple to Sherlock – he has decided not to bother himself with the social ramifications of kissing his best friend, but to accept its occurrence as natural, because what reason could there be not to? It entertains him, therefore Sherlock will do it, and damn the consequences. John wishes he could be so dismissive.

Sherlock does not have a girlfriend to worry about.

Oh, God. Sarah. What on Earth is he supposed to say?

Is there anything to say?

Of course there is.

But...but if it didn't happen again – if he can put it down to Sherlock's head injury –

And what is his own excuse?

But this isn't real, it can't be real, it just – this is Sherlock, this is impossible...he knows it is impossible – it has to be.

'Stop torturing yourself John,' a pause, which hums loudly between them for two seconds that last an eternity, 'do you regret it?'

If John hadn't known better, he would say there was some doubt behind Sherlock's otherwise imperious tone. He replies before he has had a chance to process the question, let alone formulate an acceptable response.

'No,' he says – and means it. Sherlock smiles, just a little; John can't see it, but he feels the ever so slight relaxation of muscles beneath him.

'Neither do I,' something in the statement makes John feel...warm. It is stated as simple fact, in the same tone Sherlock might use to inform John of one of his most basic deductions or John might announce a shortage of milk, but all the same John finds he knows what it means and he...he sighs. Like a teenage girl, he berates himself, like a stupid, clumsy, ditzy teenage girl. Sherlock chuckles softly; John can feel the vibrations in the detective's chest where he lays, and makes another, gentler, attempt to sit up.

'I still need to clean your wounds,' he says, for all the world as though nothing has happened. Sherlock, grudgingly, allows the doctor to stand and watches curiously as he gathers the scattered remains of the first aid supplies from where they have fallen to the floor.

The whys and the hows of these strange new – or – well, are they new? – feelings Sherlock is having can wait – currently it is enough to know that they exist, and acting on them is not boring, and so they are acceptable – no further examination is really needed. After all, he's married to his work, but John is rather a part of his work now isn't he?

He sits through John's treatment of his cuts in relative cooperation, making only a few snide comments and once – purely out of curiosity to see what reaction it will elicit – while John is placing a dressing on his leg, Sherlock leans down and kisses the top of the doctor's head. It is a nice feeling, and John's hair tickles his nose. Though he only receives a grunt in reply, he sees the change in John's expression as the colour rises on the doctor's face, and decides that this is definitely a worthwhile experiment after all.

Once Sherlock's injuries are cleaned and dressed, John demands that he change his clothes, for which Sherlock throws him a reproachful look.

'They're dirty, ripped, and probably still wet, Sherlock, go take them off,' he instructs firmly, pointing towards Sherlock's room.

He is sure – and it does not make him happy, it does not amuse him in the slightest, of course it doesn't – that as Sherlock lets the bedroom door swing shut behind him, he winks.

John shakes his head as he turns away, running his hand through his hair. He isn't certain what's happening here, but finds that so long as he doesn't think about it too much, it won't bother him. As with everything else with Sherlock, it seems best to just let things happen.

Of course, the rest of the world might have other ideas and Sarah chooses this moment to text him. He stands for a moment, hovering in indecision, before he closes it without replying.

What is he supposed to say?

'That depends,' says Sherlock; John jumps as his flatmate walks into the room, still buttoning his shirt up.

'I'm sorry – what?'

'Sarah – I'm assuming the text was from her – you don't talk to many people and if it were Mycroft or Lestrade you would have told me. If I was Harry you would probably either reply straight away or just ignore it, but you stood there, you couldn't decide – like you wanted to reply but couldn't think what to say. Given the current situation it seems a fairly plausible assumption that it's from Sarah. Was I right?' He asks coolly.

'Yes,' John replies shortly, 'but that's not what I was asking.'

'What were you asking then? Try to be more specific John; it will save an awful lot of time,' he sounds the same as ever, as though this is nothing to him, and John feels suddenly angry at this – at the fact that the detective can behave as though nothing has happened, nothing has changed, while John is stuck feeling so confused. It's not, he admits, like he has never thought about this – wished for it, even, on worse days, in the past...but now that it's happened, and all the complications that have come with it...

'I meant, depends on what?' John clarifies carefully; Sherlock raises his eyebrows, and then looks at John with that disapproving frown he dons when the police have missed something he deems obvious at a crime scene.

'It depends on whether you intend it to happen again.'

John is disappointed by the indifference in Sherlock's voice, and this in itself is enough of an answer to him, but he won't say it. He won't.

'I have to tell her either way,' he argues,

'Why? If it never happens again it won't affect her, I don't see why she needs to know,'

'I'd be lying to her – it's not fair, it's...I just can't.'

'You wouldn't be lying, you would be omitting the truth, there is a difference. What's the problem? People do it all the time.' He sounds genuinely bemused by the issue – as far as he is concerned, it seems to John, there is no issue.

Sherlock is, not for the first time, exceedingly glad of his acting abilities – glad that John cannot see that he is practically holding his breath waiting for a reply, and though he is loathed to admit it even to himself something like fear is making his heart beat irritatingly quickly, as though determined to give him away. He feels a rush of anger towards Sarah, but stifles it quickly before it can show on his face. He is not jealous. Not in the slightest – he is merely impatient, and wishes John would just answer already.

'Sherlock – you really don't have a clue do you? It's just...she has a right,' he tries to keep the exasperation out of his voice, he really does, but he hears it leaking in all the same.

'You haven't answered my question,'

'I just did,'

'Not that one.'

'I wasn't aware you had asked another one. What were you saying about saving time?' John has his hands on his hips now, but out-staring Sherlock is proving to be an impossible task and he knows – of course he knows – what Sherlock is referring to – but he is hoping to put off the moment when he has to form a reply.

'Touché,' Sherlock says, deliberately forcing himself to speak slowly so as not to give away his – not nerves, he does not get nervous, but...he cannot think of a word to adequately describe this feeling. It is new, and unwelcome. 'Do you intend it to happen again?'

'That's not exactly solely my choice is it?' John counters quickly,

'Do stop answering my questions with your own. What if I were to say it was your decision?' Sherlock asks irritably,

'Hang on – are you – this is a valid question!' John snaps in response to Sherlock's raised eyebrows, 'are you saying you want it to?'

Sherlock is silent for a long time and when he speaks, he addresses the floor, quietly, petulantly, as though it has been forced from him.


Pause. Sherlock's heart hammers. He wonders if the expression on his face, despite his best efforts, mirrors that on John's, of guarded anticipation and barely suppressed hope.

'You – what – really?' John is shocked, not only by Sherlock's answer, but by the wave of relief it causes when he hears it...oh yes, he thinks ruefully, he is most definitely, completely, royally screwed. He swallows as he waits for Sherlock's reply. This can't be real. It's not – he's – it can't be, after forcing himself never to think, never to look too closely at the little flutters in his stomach, never to inspect with too much scrutiny why he finds Sherlock's smile so alluring, or why he sometimes catches himself staring...he is almost shaking with feelings ignored, feeling suppressed, for far too long.

'Yes, John, yes, you know perfectly well what I said!' Sherlock hisses, suddenly loud as he turns and storms towards the kitchen to avoid looking at the doctor. 'I have to admit, it was not entirely dull, and you seemed to enjoy it, so –'

'You don't have to explain yourself,' John interrupts, barely stifling his laugh, which bubbles forth with a swell of lightheaded disbelief and tentative, shaky delight.

'I was under the impression that –' Sherlock begins,

'My answer is yes, too, by the way.'

'Oh,' Sherlock pauses again, '...good.'

Then they are looking at each other and the bubble is back and nothing else exists and John rolls his eyes, curses himself for making stupid, stupid decisions, then makes one anyway. Closing the gap between himself and Sherlock, he kisses him frantically. Sherlock responds just as enthusiastically; John's hands are pressed against Sherlock chest, the purple shirt still only half buttoned. He snakes one under the fabric so his palm is pressed against Sherlock's skin, feeling its warmth tingling against his fingers and almost stumbling with the overwhelming rush of emotions.

Sherlock has one hand in John's hair and the other on the small of his back – nothing, nothing else matters – the feel of John's tongue against his is intriguing, surprisingly desirable, and this, this is what he wants. He doesn't know what it means or why or whether he can stop it or whether he wants to stop it, but everything right now, everything is John –

John breaks away, gasping, and Sherlock continues to kiss him, 'breathing, Sherlock!' John reminds him; he feels Sherlock's smile more than sees it.

'Breathing's boring,' he reiterates; John has to agree that it certainly seems that way next to this alternative, but he laughs and pushes gently against Sherlock, leaning back without stepping away, feeling quite dizzy. He can still taste Sherlock's lips. This is real.

John decides now that everyone – everyone in the world – has the worst timing possibly imaginable, because both his and Sherlock's phones sound at almost the exact same moment. It is almost worth it to see the look of something like disappointment on Sherlock's face.

'Sarah,' says John, resignedly,

'Lestrade,' says Sherlock – their culprit has escaped. Of course Lestrade was unable to catch him...how had he ever been convinced otherwise? He should never have allowed John to bring him back here after the fall...but then, if he hadn't...

To his surprise, he is actually torn between leaving to resume the chase and staying here.

John sighs, and between them there passes one of those looks in which an entire conversation can be had without speaking a word.

'Meet you at Angelo's – two hours?' Sherlock asks as John steps away; John nods and nothing more need be said.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.

John is in a taxi. Travelling towards Sarah...travelling away from Sherlock.

It is telling enough that he wishes he were facing the other way, that he wants nothing more than to turn, to hide, to run, to do anything other than face the woman who is supposed to be his girlfriend. He had chosen to ignore these feelings, to move on – they were pointless, they would fade, it wasn't like Sherlock would ever be interested anyway – not like John wanted to be interested in the first place.

War does not frighten him – guns do not frighten him, Mycroft Holmes does not frighten him. Not really.

Moriarty scares him. A little. A lot. Whatever. It's a reasonable thing to feel, he thinks defensively – he would be truly insane, if his other actions do not already make him so, to not be afraid of Jim Moriarty.

But this...this terrifies him. The thought of saying this, of telling her – what the Hell is he going to tell her?

Sherlock Holmes is not an emotional man by any stretch of the imagination – emotions, as a rule, are irrelevant, unimportant hindrances which serve only to slow him down and distract him from far more pressing matters, taking concentration and energy from the workings of his brilliant mind and stopping his brain functioning to its highest, most efficient capacity; unnecessary software he has long since deleted.

As a rule.

But then, what interest does conformity hold to him? It's the anomalies, the mistakes, the differences that are always much more fascinating, much more fun to work out – puzzles are his element, and this is certainly a puzzle.

There are a few people – a very few people – who can be said to receive at least some level of what is almost affection from Sherlock. Occasionally there are those for whom Sherlock holds rather dubious levels of respect, though this often doesn't last long and of course he would never admit to it. There are those who fascinate him, but these usually tend towards the kind of people John would deem not good.

There is Mrs Hudson, though; she is sweet and mothering, she scolds Sherlock, she insists she is not his housekeeper but still pops over once in a while to check both he and John are taking care of themselves properly, she hugs him and he permits her to – he even hugs her sometimes, she gets annoyed with him, yet she never stays so for very long. In short, she humours him, and he appreciates this.

There is Lestrade, if he really pushes the limits of the definition...certainly he tolerates the man, because he needs him in order to be allowed onto the really interesting cases, and once or twice – no more – Lestrade has even managed to earn grudging, always silent, approval from Sherlock.

Yes. There are some who Sherlock regards in a less than entirely deprecating manner.

And yes, there are some who manage to put up with Sherlock on at least a semi-regular basis without resorting to the usual childish jibes or petty grudges for whatever social grace he has bypassed most recently.

There is Molly, whose infatuation is with a man who doesn't exist. She admires Sherlock, she may even have convinced herself she loves him. But she sees what she wants and closes her eyes to the rest, filling in the blanks with what she wishes were there. She convinces herself that he is someone he is not, nor will he ever be. Her feelings are for a figment of her own imagination.

Lestrade, and perhaps a select few of the rest of the police force, put up with him because they need him. They need his expertise, they are desperate, and they turn to Sherlock because they have no other choice.

Angelo's warmth is from gratitude and some misplaced belief that he owes Sherlock; Mycroft's imitation of caring is somewhere between the dutiful older brother and the infuriating busybody.

None of this bothers Sherlock in the slightest; to be honest he couldn't care less either way what they think of him, good or bad; such minor concerns have long ago been consigned to an area of his mind he never looks in any more.

But then, there is John Watson.

John Watson is the exception to the rule – to every rule – he is fascinating, he is unpredictable in his own way, he praises Sherlock in the same breath as telling him off, he gets angry and frustrated but no matter what Sherlock says or does, he never leaves. He is just...John, and that is the only way to describe him. Sherlock cares what John thinks, he cares what John regards as good or not good. He...cares.

John Watson, who owes Sherlock nothing and to whom Sherlock owes everything, who is loyal beyond rationality, who looks at Sherlock and sees what there is. He does not try and kid himself into thinking there is any more or less than what is plainly in front of him, he doesn't gloss over what he doesn't like or invent excuses for his flatmate's behaviour...he is regularly infuriated to within an inch of walking out, but he never does – he shouts and storms away, but he always comes back.

He is possibly the only person who sees both the good and the bad in Sherlock, and does not place one above the other merely to better fit whatever image it suits him to create. He sees Sherlock, and he accepts it. And that is different. And different is interesting.

Sherlock is not blind, he has known this for a long time that there is something quite unique about John, something altogether captivating in a way no one else ever has been. He has recognised it, of course, he knows that it's there, but even now he can't really say that he knows what it means. Which is of course part of the intrigue.

He knows that he can read John in a different way to how he reads other people – it's not all deduction, it's...familiarity, it's something he can't quite put a name to. This frustrates him, this gap in his knowledge, but it is one he thinks, with a smile, that John will soon fill. He would not have anyone else do so.

He knows that he had not really registered the depth of whatever it is until he saw that bomb...until for a split second he was completely helpless to protect John, and all the oxygen in the room seemed to have vanished. He quite literally couldn't breathe – it had actually physically hurt. He had never experienced anything quite like that before.

He remembers that the weeks – the weeks, not the days, of being in hospital, of waiting those long, long hours for his body to repair itself and for John to recover – were unbearable. He remembers every second of it, he remembers the single, dreadful moment of waking up alone in the sterile room, when his brain had fed him information but not enough, when he had thought that John was dead.

He has tried to delete the memories, but they will not go away.

He will never forget the crushing knowledge that came to light then, that he is not, in fact, in control of his emotions, at least not as much as he would like to be.

He had hated that knowledge. He hated the vulnerability that came with it, he hated not being a machine, a brain on its own, he hated having to have a heart and having to feel. He wanted nothing more than to banish those terrible emotions forevermore.

He never imagined they could make him feel so...so...he doesn't even know how to describe it.

He doesn't pretend to understand what is happening – but he doesn't pretend to resent it quite so much anymore, if only because he is no longer bored.

Truth be told, regardless of this unusual...connection? Something of the sort anyway – he had never actually considered a physical relationship with John. It had never interested him.

Since the pool, things have changed, yes – he has had to adjust to the realisation of the depth of these emotions, had to get over the resentment they initially caused. But it had been quite a novel sensation to discover himself wondering, while John treated his wounds, what the doctor's lips might taste like, what they would feel like against his own...still stranger to find that, when John pulled away and his lips curved into that tiny smile, his insides had seemed to sort of...turn over, though not unpleasantly. He had not expected that the pressure of John's hand on his cheek was not only welcome, but wanted, or that waking up with John draped over his chest would be quite so comfortable.

It certainly demands further experimentation, at any rate – which Sherlock eagerly anticipates.

I was hoping you wouldn't realise.

Why is it that Sarah's understanding, her almost complete lack of resentment, makes John feel even more guilty? He feels sick with it, he hates himself for what he has done to her, and yet all she did was smile and kiss his cheek and tell him she saw it coming long before he did. How, he can't imagine – how could she have seen what he himself had not realised – or accepted at least, until...well, until now? And why is he so ready to end things with her when he has absolutely zero guarantee of...of anything, with Sherlock or anyone else? Even though the words were so difficult to bring forth, why is the emotional parting so...easy?

Of course, he hadn't actually said anything much at all, he realises, as he walks away from her house with immense relief. He had arrived, she had let him in – he apologised for ending their date prematurely and she smiled, a little sadly.

It's fine, I know this detective thing you have with Sherlock is important...

Was it wrong that he had felt just a tiny bit irritated when she referred to it as a 'detective thing', like it was some sort of child's playground entertainment?

He couldn't bring himself to say it properly; he likes Sarah, he does, but just...it's somehow not as strong for her. Somehow different. Maybe it's the danger, the excitement, the distinctiveness that simply is Sherlock. Maybe it is something else but much as he hasn't any idea what he does actually want, or what this means, he knows that his uncertainty means it cannot be Sarah. To pretend it could be would not be fair.

Sarah is pretty. Beautiful. She is smart, brave, fun...her company is...it's...fine. That word for when you don't want to talk about it, that it could be worse, that acceptable, that bland, ordinary word that is...well, it's fine. Nothing special, but nothing to complain about...yes. Sarah is fine. Great, perhaps. In another time, he really thinks he could be happy with her.

But Sherlock is not fine. Sherlock...Sherlock leaves him speechless. He is almost as far from perfection as it is possible to come. Sherlock is flawed, and dangerous, and John should be running as fast as he can in the opposite direction, but...he needs him.

John and Sherlock are in many ways complete opposites, but only in so far as two jigsaw pieces are opposites, their differences the entire reason they fit together. Sherlock is the reason John is alive again after being sent home from Afghanistan, the reason he is living again, not just existing.

Sherlock, who owes John nothing, and to whom John owes everything.

Sarah, who is fine.

It's not that.

There had been a long pause after he had said that. Sarah was the one to break the silence.

I get it.

She was clearly angry, clearly annoyed with him or with Sherlock or with herself, clearly she resented one or even all three of them, but the fact that she had been so very patient and kind, controlled...it only made John feel worse for what he had done.

See you at work, then.

Her parting comment. So normal. So offhand. He knows it will not last, he knows there will be awkward moments and guilty glances, sadness and anger, arguments...but much as the guilt is crippling, the relief is even more stimulating, and he walks with a lighter step than before as he heads towards Angelo's, feeling...relaxed.

Sherlock is...things will not be normal...but John has never liked normal anyway.

John arrives at Angelo's ten minutes late; Sherlock doesn't turn up until almost a quarter of an hour after that and the only thing even remotely out of the ordinary is that, even though John's cheeks redden when Angelo puts it down, neither of them object to the candle this time.

Sherlock, John realises, never has.

There isn't really much to 'small talk' where Sherlock is concerned; the detective wastes no time in denouncing it as boring and pointless, with which John has to agree, so there are no awkward moments of asking questions neither wants to hear or giving answers neither cares to think about. Instead, Sherlock instantly deduces the life stories of their fellow diners and John listens to his animated explanations, littered with a great deal of 'obviously's and 'of course anyone can see's.

Which, John reminds him, they can't – Sherlock scoffs at this, John rolls his eyes, Angelo grins and offers free desert, which John demands that Sherlock eat, and all in all very little seems to be any different than every other meal at this restaurant or any other.

John isn't sure if this should unnerve him or reassure him – how easy it seems already, how natural...how little has changed, really, when so much should have. It does both, and he ends up feeling slightly giddy from happy confusion.

Sherlock maybe smiles more than usual, but he is still abrasive and John has to remind him several times of those things which are not good to say. John doesn't try and stop himself from watching the way the candle lights Sherlock's face and makes the tips of his dark hair shine orange. They might, as they leave, be walking slightly closer than they would have before, but John only notices because Sherlock's fingers are brushing his as they do; Sherlock has warm hands, John thinks, and resists the urge to take one in his own. Sherlock smirks. John tries to hate him, and fails.

They climb into the taxi. John decides not to spend too much time wondering why something he is almost sure was a date with Sherlock, was so very similar to any number of times when it most certainly was not. It's easier, he thinks, to accept 'it' for whatever it might be, and never mind struggling with labels. He informs Sherlock that when they get back to Baker Street, they are watching a film, and Sherlock is forbidden to guess the ending – or at the very least, forbidden to voice his suspicions.

But they never make it back to the flat.