If he could keep everything the same for the rest of his life, Sherlock Holmes believes he would be perfectly content. He'd keep 221B Baker Street until the day he died; surely Mrs. Hudson would leave it to him in her will. What use would it be to her in death? And he'd keep working cases for Lestrade, because where else would Lestrade be? And John. He'd keep John until one of them stopped breathing.

That is, if everything goes to plan and nothing changes.

Sherlock has always been one for leaving things be when they work. He's keen on fixing things that are broken and making things better, but why tinker with something if it's already perfect? And that's how he'd describe the situation he finds himself in with John. The doctor's hands don't shake anymore, Sherlock is getting at least two hours of sleep each night, and they're both comfortable, which is a new feeling for the consulting detective.

Maybe that's why he ensures he's awake and out of bed-working, thinking, experimenting-long before John wakes up each morning. They've been sharing a bed for four nights now, but it hasn't evolved and they haven't spoken about it, which is exactly how Sherlock prefers it.

Now that they have a routine, neither of them seem to feel the apprehension and hesitancy that had been present that first night. The evening is usually initiated by John with a glance across the room, and that's all it takes for Sherlock to know that it is time to go to sleep. And he does, actually: he sleeps.

And yes, his brain works better with three or four hours powered down each night, but then he's more sluggish in the morning because he actually has to fight himself out of the bed. It takes at least six minutes to force his arms away from John, and even longer to roll away from him and finally swing his legs over the side. It's not because John is holding onto him in a vice (that has only happened twice, and it takes about nine minutes on those mornings), but because he doesn't want to let go.

He isn't sure if he's ever experienced this feeling before, but he'd be hard-pressed to find a way to describe it that doesn't include the word "content."

It's also... mildly alarming.

Sherlock spends the morning doting over a blood spot on the kitchen counter. It's neither his nor John's-entirely likely that it's the blood of one of John's kidnappers, since he was sure the doctor had fought back. Sherlock, on the other hand, had gone willingly, as he tended to do in situations like that. They had known Moriarty was coming. He'd practically been planning on it, so why not entertain the psychopath for a bit?

If you asked him, Sherlock wouldn't have told you that the main reason he had gone was because he dared to hope (something he knew better than) that the kidnappers would ignore the fact that they'd missed half their target. Taking Sherlock in the street, alone, was better than taking both of them from home. At least, that's what Sherlock had thought at the time.

He'd thought John might be safe.

He scrubs at the spot with a wet rag until there isn't a single trace of red. Better to clean away any other evidence of those days from their lives. Most artifacts from their two days in captivity (hard to believe it was less than a week ago) had, of course, burned to the ground with the London warehouse where John had been held. Sherlock, on the other hand, had been across town, being hand-fed the information and carefully crafted proof that John had been murdered at Moriarty's hand.

It had been Mycroft-and Sherlock would certainly never admit this out loud-who had been responsible for pinpointing John's location and leading Sherlock to the burning warehouse.

Even now, Sherlock has a hard time believing that John is alive and well, sleeping mere yards away wrapped in blankets that smell equally of the pair of them.

I'll never give up on you again, Sherlock thinks as he tosses the rag into the sink.

Until the moment that he had believed John to be dead, Sherlock had never felt that there was more to life than his work. Back when Moriarty had first introduced himself to their lives-and at the same time nearly taken John from him for the first time-Sherlock had been sure that the tightness in his chest had been something due to the uncommon feeling of shock. But the second time-when Sherlock had seen the blood on the jumper, inspected it for any signs of tampering, and found none-he knew the sensation wasn't due to shock.

Sherlock can still feel it when he remembers the way Moriarty had informed him of his friend's demise. "We've taken every care to ensure he was quite warm as he died. Wouldn't want our dear John to get hypothermia."

He'd been able to smell it on Moriarty, the scent of smoke that can only come from a thick, fresh fire. He can still smell it now, but he prefers to push it to the back of his mind.

John is safe.

But this feeling isn't.

Sherlock opens the refrigerator. No milk, but there is an egg carton filled with two dozen toes that Sherlock has been trying to find a use for. They'd been a gift from Molly, who had clearly figured out that the way to his heart was literally through body parts. Unfortunately for her, Sherlock's heart is currently (and, if he's honest, which he wouldn't be if you asked, had been for quite some time) indebted to the doctor sleeping soundly in the next room.

How does one make that clear? He's never been one for talking about feelings (or talking about anything much more than the work, for that matter), and he doesn't want anything to change from the way it is now. It's comfortable now. Adding speculation about feelings can only make things more complicated than Sherlock wants-or is even prepared-to deal with.

But he knows John ended things with Sarah with the sort of finality that can only mean he feels the same way. Of course, John didn't mention this after he did it, but Sherlock knows. He always knows. John is too kind of a human being to keep any hurt hidden. Two nights after they'd slept together (in the sleeping sense, mind you), John had returned from work looking as though he'd just kicked a puppy. Knowing that John wasn't the type to kick puppies (much more Anderson's area), Sherlock could only assume that his friend had had an uncomfortable conversation with someone and it hadn't gone how he'd hoped.

Thus, Sherlock decided he doesn't want to say a word to John, because God knows any conversation Sherlock Holmes could possibly have about feelings would never work out the way either party wants it to.

So he doesn't say anything.

Three more days go by and their arrangement goes unspoken. Sherlock wakes in the morning, disentangles himself from John with aching slowness, and they go about their days. There are no lingering touches, no lustful glances over the morning paper, no indication that either of them want to make a single change to their current situation.

Until Sherlock realizes he does.

It's Thursday morning, just an hour or so before the sun will start to peek through the window of his bedroom. On previous mornings, he's awoken to find himself tangled with John and the majority of his limbs numb and slightly tingly from lack of proper blood circulation. This morning, he wakes to find John's head resting on his chest, rising up and down as he breathes. John's left hand has taken advantage of Sherlock's tee-shirt riding up a few inches and his warm fingers are practically burning an imprint on Sherlock's hip.

He's overcome with the terrible urge to roll John over and kiss him into the mattress. He wants to know where else John's hands can ignite fire under his skin. He wants. That's certainly new and noteworthy.

He documents the feeling and closes his eyes, focusing entirely on the way it feels to have John's chest moving against his side with each breath; the way John's left leg is tossed over his own.

It won't hurt anything if he goes back to sleep.

"I think I'm supposed to go to sleep," he says, rubbing one of his laugh-line wrinkled eyes with a closed fist. He's looked almost childlike for nearly an hour now, as if he's trying to keep himself awake for just a little while longer.

"You generally take a short nap around now, yes," his friend responds, tucking the ribbon into the journal. "We can pick up where we left off when you wake."

"Will you jump ahead again?"

"I don't think I should."

"Why not?"

"Because what happens next is probably the last thing you'd expect."

"So Sherlock is going to bring home roses and chocolates?" he jokes, leaning back against the pillows on his bed. His eyes are already drifting, heavy lids seeming weighed down by greying lashes. He breathes through his nose in sleep, the smallest smile lingering on his lips, as if he's going off into dreams where he can remember his former life.

"Not quite." Closing the book, he straightens out his legs, stretching, and remembers a time when he could have crawled into bed and been warmly accepted into willing arms under the covers. Now, he can only watch his lover sleep, hoping that when he wakes up, just a bit of him will have come back.

Do I love John Watson? Sherlock toys with the question in his mind whenever he gets too bored. Sometimes he even lets those five words slip into his analysis while working on a case. Sixteen dead cockroaches, an angry brother due to owed money but also because his brother-in-law slept with his wife last Christmas, an inch and a half of blood in the bathtub and do I love John Watson?

It's not something he's taking lightly. He doesn't know the answer, and he most certainly isn't going to rush into this the way he'd rush into an alleyway after the Golem. This is more dangerous. He's comfortable; can't risk comfort; never had it before, may never find it again. Death, dismemberment, bruises and internal bleeding are all perfectly acceptable risks, but certainly not comfort.

It all stems back to the morning he let himself fall back asleep. Three days ago. Three days pondering five words, sometimes three: A simple set of letters arranging themselves in something of a question. I love you? ringing in his ears every time he gets into bed, every time he wakes up with his arms full of John Watson.

Most inconvenient.

But that one morning-the only time he had allowed it to happen thus far-stands out. The way John had been (pleasantly?) surprised to find that the bed was still occupied. Sherlock had almost given in to the urge to stay in bed (forever) and just hold on to John as if he would float away into the dreaded solar system if he was forced to let him go.

Ask Sherlock Holmes what he hates above all else and he will most likely (certainly) tell you that he hates not knowing. It is his exact and precise line of work to know what is going on at all times; to know what everyone else around him is thinking, since odds are their brains are too small and under utilized to actually know in the first place. Yet he can't bring himself to look at John and deduce the answers to his own questions, because what if John doesn't feel the same way? It's torturous trying to decide whether he'd like to know and be disappointed or not know and be driven made with the desire to know.

Second in line on the list of Things Sherlock Holmes Doesn't Like is certainly having to hold back from saying things. He's never been good at keeping his mouth shut (just ask Mycroft, who blames his weight issues and oral fixation on Sherlock's constant verbal abuse as a child), and having to wait until he knows exactly where his (and John's) feelings are on that blurred line between friendship and something more feels entirely too juvenile for Sherlock.

Wait, reorder that list. Sherlock is sure it goes (1) Anderson, (2) Not Knowing, and (3) Biting His Tongue.

Accuracy is important, after all.

So Sherlock realizes he has to make some sort of declaration, but those-romantic or otherwise-have never exactly been his area. Tell him he needs to get two dozen fingers to match the toes in the fridge and he'll be perfectly adept with charming Molly into donating to his cause, but actually making his intentions clear with John is another story entirely.

And so it comes about that as he is heading home from a solitary walk about London, he realizes it. The biggest step he can take in showing John how he feels-or at least, how he thinks he feels right now, which is something unrecognizable but also what he defines as "the nagging in my chest that makes it hard to concentrate when you're around because I swear I can feel you breathing and do I love you?"

When he opens the door, John is two steps from the bottom of the stairs, pulling his coat on. His keys are in one hand, his wallet is in the other, and Sherlock has caught him with the ghost of a sigh on his lips. His friend stops and holds the railing with one hand before curiously descending the last two steps, eyeing Sherlock's unspoken offering with an almost childlike curiosity.

He licks his lips. "You, uh. You... got milk."

Sherlock acknowledges this brilliant deduction with a slow, deliberate blink of his eyes and the faintest nod of his head. I picked up the milk and I love you? I thought you might want tea before bed and I love you?

Always a question. Why is it always a question?

But then John's hands are taking the milk away from him and setting it on the small table Mrs. Hudson keeps in the entryway. Sherlock is about to ask what he's doing when John's hands cup his face and draw him down quickly, pausing just barely long enough for both of them to position their heads so their noses don't smash together. And John's lips are against his, but not for very long, because as soon as they touch, the both of them gasp quietly against the other, parting for the shortest breath before diving back in.

All he can think of is the warmth of the lips below his own, how pliant they are and how he's curious to see how they flush and swell as the kiss progresses. And also how he needs to get John a bit of lip balm, but he's not going to complain about that just now.

Sherlock has never kissed anyone as surely as he kisses John. Their mouths fit together and the height difference isn't terrible and John's hands are careful and seem to know exactly what amount of pressure to apply to Sherlock's hip and the back of his neck in order to be the one controlling the kiss. Sherlock is inclined to run his tongue along John's bottom lip, but something inside him tells him that that's just a bit too much for a first kiss-and considering they're still practically in the doorway to 221B Baker Street and Mrs. Hudson could come out at any moment, perhaps it's best to save that for later.

Later.

John draws away from him a moment later and Sherlock nearly follows that mouth backwards. He wants to kiss him again-practice makes perfect and he's always been one for perfecting studies-but it's probably best if they go upstairs.

But as John takes the milk in one hand and Sherlock's hand in the other, the world's only consulting detective realizes it's not a question anymore.

You kissed me. Everything changed. I hate change. Never change. You taste like cinnamon toothpaste and bergamot, and I love you.