"I don't understand what I'm even doing here - I only know two German phrases and it's not as if I could bring my gun. I'm not going to be any use to you at all."
Sherlock sighed as they walked through busy streets towards the day's first interview. John's perennial need to feel useful was really very... unfortunate.
"One never knows when directions to the nearest bar might come in handy," he noted, permitting himself a small smile at John's derisive snort.
"Never mind a bar - what I could really do with is a decent cup of tea. That swill in the hotel is just..." He shuddered.
"We are here to work, John," Sherlock reproved, making a small adjustment to their route. "Such trivia is irrelevant to the case."
John sighed resignedly and trudged on, his head down. He would have walked straight past the Starbucks had Sherlock not happened to bump into him.
"Sorry," John muttered automatically and Sherlock rolled his eyes, although the gesture went unnoticed as John finally managed to observe the large building in front of which he was standing. He glanced up hopefully.
"Oh, very well," Sherlock conceded, with a long-suffering sigh. "But it will have to be 'To Go'."
He waited outside, watching through the window as John bought a coffee in addition to his tea, then added some kind of cake to their order, which he would no doubt endeavour to share. He looked tired, and older than his years. Harry's increased efforts over Christmas to drink herself to death had inevitably drawn John into her ongoing crisis. Now, nearly three months later, she finally seemed more stable but the improvement was too late to prevent John's latest romantic attachment - a woman this time - from giving him the boot for being inattentive.
"He needs a break," Mrs Hudson had advised when Sherlock tentatively sought her opinion on how best to help. "A complete change of scene." The industrial espionage case for a firm in Germany had come in the very next day.
He frowned as John started chatting to a woman in the queue and quickly texted a 'hurry up' message. He'd only just got rid of the last imbecilic female. This was no time for John to be wheeling out his other German phrase.
"This case doesn't seem your usual cup of tea," John commented as they set out the following morning.
"Are you attempting subliminal messaging?" enquired Sherlock. "Don't worry, we have time to get your tea."
"Starbucks again?" John suggested hopefully. "That muffin was good."
"You complained that I ate most of it."
"Must have been very good then," John declared, and his smile was a fraction brighter than it had been of late.
Harriet Watson was not worthy of her brother, Sherlock brooded as they walked on together. It was hardly a new deduction, but he extended it now to consider how she would have coped if lumbered with Mycroft instead. A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. Now that was an entertaining notion. Those two really did deserve each other and such an arrangement would leave him and John free to... Sherlock frowned, his stride faltering. There was something in him which shied away from the thought of John in a fraternal role. He put the matter out of his mind as they reached their destination and pulled open the door, waiting for John to precede him.
"If I get you a muffin of your own today, will you eat it?" John asked, as they reached the head of the queue, but then immediately answered his own question. "No, of course you won't, what am I thinking? Just one, please." He held up a single finger to the barista as Sherlock handed over some Euros. The young man had been smiling pleasantly up to that point but his attention suddenly shifted and an entirely different smile spread over his face. Girlfriend's arrived, Sherlock deduced, waving the money under his nose impatiently.
"Entschuldigen Sie bitte," the barista apologised, a flush rising in his cheeks. He smiled politely again and sorted out their order, but his eyes kept flicking behind them until even John noticed and turned around.
"Oh, hello again!" he exclaimed, but Sherlock quickly swept him away towards a free table in the corner before the woman could do more than return his greeting. Trust John to find an English speaker; perhaps Germany had not been far enough.
"There must be other hotels we could try," John suggested, as he used a stirrer to divide the muffin in half. "They can't all be sold out because of this book fair thing, however big it is... somewhere there must be a place which has two free rooms instead of just the one."
Sherlock waved his hand impatiently. "I'm not wasting my time trailing around, or moving our things," he said firmly. "What does it matter? You were in the army, for heaven's sake; sharing a room should not cause such a fuss."
"It's not the room, it's the bed," John muttered under his breath.
Sherlock frowned. He had deliberately booked a double room in order to keep an eye on his friend, not wanting him to go off drowning his sorrows in the evenings and probably end up embroiled in some ill-advised affair. The fact that his stipulation for twin beds had been overlooked had come as something of a shock, but he had brazened it out rather than risk the alternative.
"Fine. I'll sleep in the chair if I'm so objectionable," he huffed, sitting back and folding his arms. "Really, John, I had no idea that you were so particular over your bedmates - the evidence thus far would suggest quite an opposite conclusion."
John sighed. "I am in no way as promiscuous as you seem to think," he stated, in a clearly ridiculous statement since Sherlock could easily list every sexual encounter he'd had in the last fourteen months. "But this isn't the same thing at all. Look, I know you're not interested in relationships and all that sort of thing..."
"Quite," John agreed. "But, believe me, it is a little strange to sleep with someone you're not actually sleeping with."
Sherlock snorted. "Surely you can distinguish between sharing a bed for the sake of expediency and sleeping together for the sake of dalliance?"
"Yes, I can. But I'm not sure that your body is always on the same wavelength as your brain." He shut his mouth abruptly and looked away, his eyes following the barista, who was gradually making his way around the room clearing tables.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Nothing." John shook his head. "Forget it. Or delete it. Whatever. I didn't mean anything. It doesn't mean anything."
John actually squirmed. "Look, you're not interested, so it doesn't matter. So what if you're a bit more... affectionate in your sleep - it doesn't mean anything. I know that."
"Affectionate?" Sherlock could hear the distaste in his tone and there was a sharp noise as John scraped his chair back abruptly and then got to his feet.
"Excuse me," he said stiffly, before heading in the direction of the toilets.
Sherlock watched him go then sat pondering his words for a few minutes, idly noting that the barista had halted his progress and was now talking to the woman who had caught John's eye. Not actually his girlfriend it would seem, although he clearly wanted her to be. Sherlock wished he'd get a move on and ask her out, before John beat him to it.
There were familiar footsteps behind him and he turned his head.
"Ready to go?"
"Why don't you just get your own muffin, instead of eating most of mine every morning?" John grumbled.
"If that was what you wanted, you would have purchased chocolate - you buy blueberry specifically because you know I like them." Sherlock frowned, surprised at himself. Normally he did not verbally acknowledge all the many ways in which John put him first.
John eyed his expression. "You're out of sorts because you're tired," he announced. "That's what you get for not sleeping all night... and don't pretend it was for the case because you seem barely interested, and certainly not challenged. I don't know why you accepted it at all."
"I often stay up all night," Sherlock defended. "And you're always saying it would be nice if I took something lucrative occasionally." He spread his arms wide. "Here we are."
John regarded him steadily, then leaned forward and rested his arms on the table. "Look, Sherlock, I..."
"Yes, I'm going to," John insisted. "Because we've been ignoring this for months, but that's not working too well any more, is it? You're uncomfortable and there's no need for you to be. I think it's time."
Sherlock turned to face the window. It had become increasingly difficult to ignore the constant jibes and remarks from those around them, all of whom seemed convinced that it was only a matter of time before he and John embarked on a romantic relationship... as if it were inevitable. If John said the same, Sherlock wasn't sure how he would deal with it.
"Your brother's an interfering sod, and Mrs Hudson's an incurable romantic, and Lestrade's hints get less subtle every time - and subtlety was never his strong suit to begin with," John started. "They're all trying to push you in a direction you don't want to go... and now you're staying awake all night because you're afraid I'll get the wrong idea if you happen to snuggle up to me while you're sleeping."
Sherlock's nose wrinkled at the word 'snuggle' and he flicked a glance across the table, but John was looking down, a pink tinge in his cheeks.
"It won't be helping that you're probably getting mixed signals from me." He rubbed a hand across his forehead. "The truth is... well, the truth is that I do think about you that way sometimes, I can't help it."
Sherlock could feel his heart thudding in his chest at this admission, even though he had deduced as much long since. To hear the words spoken and acknowledged was quite different, and it was difficult to block out considerations of exactly what 'way' John had in mind.
"But that doesn't mean that I'm unhappy or that I'll pressure you, because I never will," John continued quickly, raising his head now and holding Sherlock's gaze. "You're my friend, and that's the most important thing in the world to me. In terms of being anything more, you're like..." he paused, clearly searching for an analogy, "... like a Lamborghini!"
Sherlock's eyebrows rose and John smiled ruefully.
"Something gorgeous, which I can admire and OK, yes, sometimes lust after..." his flush became more pronounced, "...but which I know is out of my reach. Just another beautiful thing I can't have."
He shrugged. "But Sherlock, you've never led me on. You made your position clear right from the start and I completely accept how you feel - or don't feel. Go back to ignoring what everyone else thinks... please don't let pressure from people who should mind their own business spoil our friendship. I would never forgive them."
Sherlock waited for the wave of relief which should break over him at John's words but it was taking a while. He frowned. "You lust after cars?"
"Oh, God," John groaned. "It's just an expression. It doesn't mean I want to have sex with motor vehicles."
"But you do with..." Sherlock trailed off, feeling flustered.
"I'll get you a refill, shall I?" offered John, reaching for his cup without waiting for an answer and leaving Sherlock sitting there, his head feeling clogged up with odd thoughts and imaginings which he normally dismissed before they'd even surfaced.
His eyes wandered the room, narrowing as they settled on the same woman who had been there the past two days... didn't she have anywhere else to go? He followed the direction of her gaze, which was aimed straight at John, and immediately felt an urge to go over there and block her view.
He rubbed a hand over his face, then focused a little more clearly and recognised that she was not, in fact, looking at John at all, but rather watching the barista at work behind the counter.
Sherlock relaxed, but then he frowned, considering the young couple again. She was clearly attracted to him, just as he was to her, and yet they were not together.
He sighed. Relationships were nothing but trouble, he had known that all along and it was absolutely the last thing he wanted. The fact that John was content to be just his friend was excellent news. Now he could be confident that John wouldn't push, wouldn't snap, would never say "Enough!" and just manhandle him up against a wall... or a door... or a tree... or over the kitchen table... nothing like that.
Sherlock could stop worrying about such scenarios and put them out of his mind. No more time wasted thinking about what might happen if John did do... any of those things, because he never would. They could simply carry on as they were. It was the best possible outcome. Sherlock was relieved. He was happy. He was absolutely delighted.
It was a bright, cold morning as Sherlock strode along the now familiar route and stole a glance at John, who was almost trotting to keep up, the brisk pace adding colour to his cheeks. He looked happy, and more relaxed than he had been for a long while. Dragging out this tedious case had certainly been the best plan. John's eyes looked brighter this morning, bluer than usual somehow, more...
Sherlock cleared his mind abruptly. This was getting ridiculous. When they reached Starbucks, he stalked off to find seats, leaving John to sort out their order. The same barista was working again, clearing a just-vacated table, and Sherlock was suddenly curious as he commandeered it.
"Why do you not ask for what you want?" he asked in German.
The young man looked startled. "The girl," Sherlock explained impatiently. "You like her, she likes you, why do you do nothing?"
Sherlock decided he didn't want to know. Since when had he taken an interest in such matters anyway? He waved his arm dismissively. "Never mind."
He slumped down into his chair, frowning deeply. The place was crowded but no one attempted to join him until John arrived, balancing their drinks together with two muffins this time.
"I'm not hungry," Sherlock declared ungraciously.
"Well, I am." John plonked the blueberry muffin down in front of Sherlock together with the coffee, and kept the chocolate one for himself, setting the plate on the table as he stirred his tea and adopted his 'I am impervious to your bad mood' expression. He was wearing a less than usually hideous jumper this morning, in a deep shade of blue which really brought out... Sherlock scowled and looked away. He caught the barista watching curiously and scowled at him too.
Although he had pacified John by going to bed the night before, he had actually stayed awake, the fear of being 'affectionate' in his sleep keeping him on edge both figuratively and literally as he stayed as far from John's warmth as the mattress would allow. Now he was tired and all his beautiful clarity of thought was being threatened by the emotions which stubbornly refused to stay buried where they belonged, and seemed similarly impervious to all attempts to delete them. Perhaps he was sickening for something?
He reached for his cake and started picking at it absently. If he admitted to feeling off-colour, John would want to examine him and that seemed like a very bad idea at the moment, when he wasn't quite himself. Possibly being away from home was a factor. The so-called 'case' was hardly a distraction, and he had been very focused on John these last few months particularly, as was only natural when one had a friend who was experiencing a difficult time. At least, he supposed it was natural. It wasn't as if he had any other friendships with which to compare it.
"Not hungry, eh?"
John's words brought him round and he looked down, finding that the last piece of chocolate muffin was almost brushing his lips. He stared at the morsel in his hand, and then at John, and then back to the muffin, which had already deposited a smear of chocolate on the pad of his index finger.
Slowly, he stretched out his arm... taking the confection away from his own mouth and redirecting it towards John's, holding it out as John's lips parted and a flush began to rise up his neck. The tip of his tongue was just visible and Sherlock reached towards it with the sweet excuse held in his fingers, ready to push inside... wondering how it would feel to have the chocolate licked from his skin... but then John suddenly pulled away and sat back in his chair.
"You might as well finish it, now. You've had your hand all over it, anyway."
Sherlock dropped the cake onto the plate and tried not to register how fast his heart was beating, or that John's breathing would suggest that he had just run a hundred yards.
"I'll get you a replacement," he said abruptly, and was half way across the room by the time the "There's no need," reached his ears. He made his purchase in silence, his mind oddly blank, until a voice snapped him out of it.
"I work in a coffee house."
He looked up. This must surely be the most ubiquitous barista in history, unless he had deliberately opted to serve Sherlock, which hardly seemed likely. "Has stating the obvious been taken to a new level for my benefit, or is this a time-delayed response to my earlier question?"
The young man shrugged, apparently having exhausted his initiative for the day. Sherlock eyed him curiously.
"She's out of your league," he announced. "Or at least, you think she is." He thought back, picturing the woman who, for once, was not in residence. "University, post-graduate." That was easily inferred from her books. "Popular, has lots of friends." And was happy to make new ones judging by her striking up a conversation with John so quickly. "Attractive." He supposed... for a woman. He looked back at the barista, who shrugged again.
"A beautiful thing which you can't have," Sherlock murmured, almost to himself. His eyes narrowed. "You're afraid."
The young man straightened his shoulders. "I will, if you will," he said, with a pointed glance over Sherlock's shoulder, then he was gone, disappearing into the back as another barista emerged to take his place.
"What was that about?" John demanded. "You can't go around being rude in German and expect me not to notice just because I don't speak the lingo. The storming off kind of gives it away."
Sherlock slowly turned to face him. He had brought their drinks along and was clearly ready to leave - probably worried that Sherlock would get himself banned if left unattended for too long.
"It was nothing," he insisted firmly. "Nothing at all." Perhaps they should go home? They were booked to stay until Saturday, but this whole experience was proving much more challenging than anticipated. Clearly he was not suited for living in such enforced intimacy. It muddled his thinking.
He regarded John, who still looked more tired than he should, who still carried a trace of defeat in the set of his shoulders. A compromise, Sherlock decided. One more day. One more night in that double bed, not allowing himself to sleep, keeping these aberrant feelings tamped down.
Just one more night. He could do that...
John sighed and blew on his tea to cool it. "Sherlock, there's no need. As I said, it's perfectly normal."
Sherlock stabbed today's muffin viciously with his stirrer. "Not for me."
"I rather gathered that from your reaction at the time. I'd also gathered that we weren't going to mention it, based largely on the extensive non-mentioning that's gone on since you got up."
Sherlock winced at the phrase.
"Sorry. But seriously, don't worry about it. Probably my fault anyway for nicking the duvet - you must have got cold in the night."
"So, to warm up, my body tried to plug itself in to you? I'm not an appliance!"
John snorted tea down his nose and Sherlock sniffed.
"Transport. The brain is what matters - the rest of it is just..." he waved his arm around, "...a distraction."
"Well what goes on in your brain is a mystery to most of us. And to you too at times, it would seem." John frowned. "Sherlock, what is happening with you this week? I thought things would be easier once we'd cleared the air, because I've been worried for a while now that you would just get sick of your brother's jibes and all the rest of it and decide that life was simpler on your own."
"Are you mad?" Sherlock stared at him and John shrugged.
"Well, at first it just seemed to roll off you but these last few months you've been increasingly twitchy about it and you're not exactly forthcoming with how you feel. I didn't understand what had changed, and I still don't - I thought if I made it clear that I didn't expect anything, you might be happier..."
"So did I," muttered Sherlock.
"What?" John frowned in confusion, but then ploughed on. "And OK, what you do in your sleep probably means nothing - you could be dreaming about an unbreakable code for all I know - but then there was the muffin thing yesterday, what was that about? I don't understand..."
"Neither do I!"
John looked startled, and Sherlock turned his head away, his gaze wandering around the room full of normal, ordinary people, taking in the barista and his girl standing together near the milk bar, hardly a breath of air between them, their feelings so blindingly obvious to everyone but them... was this what people saw when they looked at him and John?
He tended to dismiss the hints and insinuations from Mycroft, Lestrade and the like, assuming they were some pathetic attempt at mockery, but if a young man who knew nothing about them came to the same conclusion, what did that say?
"I think you killed it."
Sherlock's head whipped back round to see John looking ruefully at the muffin, which was now little more than a sad cairn of crumbs on the plate. He threw the offending stirrer down.
"Do you have any idea how many times I have railed against romantic entanglements?" he demanded. "The weaknesses they expose, how ridiculous and vulnerable people make themselves... For me to fall victim to the same - the idea is ludicrous!"
John's eyes widened. "Sherlock, are you saying...?"
"I'm not saying anything."
"It kind of sounds like you are."
Sherlock pressed his lips together, his mouth a thin line. It had been so insidious, this feeling, creeping into and around his life without him noticing, twining itself through his system like bindweed.
"Perhaps it's just close friendship that you're feeling," John suggested tentatively. "Have you ever even had a romantic relationship?"
"Certainly not," Sherlock retorted, feeling vaguely nauseated when he considered approaches made to him in the past. But then he looked at John, and he didn't feel nauseous at all. Well... there was a certain unsettled feeling in his stomach, but it wasn't entirely unpleasant.
"When did you solve the case?" John asked suddenly, with one of his occasional insights.
Sherlock sighed. "Monday," he admitted. He shrugged. "It was pathetically obvious."
"So you've dragged it out all week just to... what? Give me a holiday? You must have been bored out of your mind!" John stared at him, an array of emotions crossing his face. "You really do care about me."
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Well of course I care about you," he retorted. "Idiot. That has never been in question." He looked away. "I just don't know..." He trailed off, then made himself meet John's gaze. "I'm not sure what is going on with my mind... perhaps I am 'out' of it, as you suggest, but I haven't been bored with you, John."
"Sherlock!" John's voice was hushed and he was silent for what seemed a long time.
"It would no doubt be best just to put all this behind us and return to London," suggested Sherlock eventually. "Things were much simpler at home, we can get back to normal."
"You are joking?"
Sherlock frowned. "I'm sorry, John, but I really cannot envisage myself in any kind of romantic relationship. You, of all people, know how difficult I am to live with. How much worse would I be if more were expected of me?"
"I don't find you difficult to live with."
Sherlock quirked a brow.
"No, I mean it. Certainly you can be difficult at times, but I wouldn't want to live with anybody else. I thought you realised that?"
"I realise that you are exceptionally tolerant."
"I'm really not. I'm just tolerant of you because of everything you give me in return." He smiled suddenly, and it was quite different from any smile he had aimed at Sherlock before. "Imagine how much more tolerant I might be if you were giving me..."
He grinned, but then his face grew serious. "You can't dangle the keys in front of my nose and then take them away," he objected.
"Are we back to the thing where I'm a car?"
"A Lamborghini is not just a car!" He frowned for a moment, then his expression cleared. "Test drive."
It was Sherlock's turn to frown. "I'm not sure that I want that one explaining."
John looked at him. "Are you attracted to me? Sexually attracted, I mean. To me?"
"I..." Sherlock was taken aback. "Yes," he admitted eventually. It felt unbelievably strange to acknowledge his feelings at last. "But I..."
John held up a hand and Sherlock subsided, rather to his own surprise.
"And what exactly does that entail in the Sherlock-verse?" John eyed him carefully. "Are we talking cuddles on the sofa... or do you picture me in your bed? Do you imagine me stripping you of your fine layers and exploring what's underneath? Do you think about us being naked together, skin against skin?" He leaned forward across the table, his voice low. "Do you want me to fuck you, Sherlock?"
His eyes raked over Sherlock's face, no doubt picking up on all the signs of arousal which Sherlock knew he was quite helplessly displaying. Was this John? His kind, considerate, caring John? He shifted in his seat.
"Don't bother to answer that," said John. He sat back and folded his arms. "Right. When were you planning that we leave here?"
"You mean Germany?" Sherlock felt disoriented.
"Well, I don't mean Starbucks. Yes, Germany. In fact, tell me your plans from this point on."
Sherlock tried to pull himself together, still reeling from the images John had so unexpectedly thrust into his brain. He drew a steadying breath. "Finish off the case - announce the culprit, tie up the loose ends - get back to the hotel late afternoon, check out early and go home."
"So the room is booked until tomorrow?"
"I think we should stay."
Sherlock started to object but John cut him off.
"One night, Sherlock. A 'time out' away from home. An experiment. Can't make a decision without all the facts, can you?" He reached out and gripped Sherlock's wrist, stroking a finger along the delicate veins on the underside, and then pushing up under the sleeve of his shirt and Sherlock stared down in disbelief. John was just touching his arm... his arm, yet Sherlock could feel that contact as he'd never felt anything before.
He looked up, and it was still John, but a new side of him. A side Sherlock had never seen, knew nothing about.
"One night, Sherlock. Tomorrow we'll go home and you can delete it if you choose. We can go back to the way we have always been - nothing has to change if you don't want it to. But tonight? I'd like to show you what you'll be missing."
His smile looked confident, but Sherlock could see the hope behind it.
It took Sherlock a long time to reply and the voice he found didn't sound like his own. "All right."
"John, we need to get up."
Sherlock looked down at the arm which was lying heavily across his chest, then turned his head to peer at what little of John's face he could see.
"We need to go out, John. You have to move."
John stretched, and slid his hand up to cup the back of Sherlock's neck, wriggling closer and throwing a thigh over Sherlock's own.
"Not what I meant," Sherlock observed, feeling completely pinned down. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling.
"Morning cuddles," John mumbled into his shoulder. "Very important."
"Is it a euphemism?" enquired Sherlock, not entirely disapprovingly.
Sherlock thought about that. Then he eased round onto his side. John immediately rearranged himself with his head tucked under Sherlock's chin, an arm wrapped around him, and a leg between his own, but not too close - they weren't completely pressed together, but they were certainly... well... together.
"Now what?" Sherlock asked.
"That's it," John told him. "Feel free to join in."
Sherlock let his hand settle on the warm skin of John's back. What was he supposed to do? He tried a gentle patting motion and the hand on his own back stroked up and down. That was nice. He imitated the movement and John hummed against his neck. Sherlock's arms tightened.
He found himself fascinated by these new aspects of John which he had never seen before. Their 'one night' had been startling in unexpected ways. Not just the physical sensations, which he might have anticipated would be overwhelming due to their novelty alone, but the way John had behaved. So assured, completely confident, often demanding, but still careful. Sherlock had felt safe and very, very wanted.
But now, John was curled up warm in his arms, totally trusting and vulnerable and Sherlock felt extremely protective of him as they lay there, cocooned together under the quilt, hanging on to their 'time out' and to each other.
"Have you decided, then?" asked John, eventually.
Sherlock put a finger under his chin and tipped his head up. "You must have drastically reduced your belief in my intelligence if you think I'm stupid enough to give this up."
"You mean sex?"
"I mean you." He stroked his hand round to the back of John's neck, then down the full length of his spine. "All of you."
John beamed at him and Sherlock would have followed that smile across continents. He wondered if it were acceptable to kiss prior to brushing one's teeth in a morning.
John reached up and answered his unspoken question, although Sherlock kept his mouth firmly closed to be on the safe side.
After a moment John pulled back, a frown on his face. "You did like the sex, though?"
"If you couldn't tell that, then you're not nearly as experienced as I thought you were."
"I don't want to assume with you. It's possible to like it with your body, but still find it distasteful with your mind."
"Well, I liked it completely," Sherlock promised. He rolled John onto his back, settling on top of him. "In fact, I think we should..." He stopped, noting the slight tension in the man beneath him. "What is it?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Whilst I cannot deny that you managed to shut off my brain last night, I can assure you there has been no lasting damage. There is still very little point attempting to lie to me."
"Didn't you say we had to get up?"
"My thoughts exactly," agreed Sherlock, with a smirk. "Just as soon as you tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing, really. Honestly. I'm just a bit overwhelmed, I guess. It's like winning the lottery - hard to take in at first."
"I think I'd rather be a car than a tax on people who don't understand probability," Sherlock replied. "But that's not it." He propped himself up on his elbows and took John's face in his hands, examining his expression carefully.
"Something to do with sex," he said, then his heart sank. "Oh! Was I not..."
"You can drop that one right there," promised John. "If you're reading anything remotely like that in my face, then we should book you in for a CT scan as soon as possible."
Sherlock smiled. "Then what? We do need to go out and you're cutting into our time."
"Where are we...?"
"All right, fine," John grumbled. "I just... it's stupid..."
Sherlock pinched his ear, none too gently.
"Ow! I would have liked to have taken my time with you, that's all," he blurted out. "I had to kind of... push you in at the deep end since I only had one night to convince you, and I would rather have taken things slowly - savoured it more." He blushed, which Sherlock found unfeasibly endearing. "I told you it was stupid."
"That would be nice. We can do that."
John looked up at him in surprise. "What... you can delete this?"
"Never," Sherlock reproved. What a ridiculous idea. "But I would not be averse to starting again, taking things slowly. If that's what you want, then we should definitely do it."
Sherlock gazed down at him and wondered how on earth he had managed to convince himself for so long that he was not in love with this man.
It was another half hour before they managed to force themselves out of bed, and forty minutes more before they were dressed, since the room wasn't overly large and they seemed unable to pass without touching... which inevitably led to kissing, followed swiftly by being wrapped around each other and pressed up against the nearest available surface. John tended to aim for the horizontal, but Sherlock was discovering a definite predilection for the vertical - he loved the feeling of John pushing him back against something. Still they did, eventually, manage to set off into another bright morning.
"So, where are we going?" asked John. "I thought the case was all settled."
"Oh, it is. We're going to Starbucks."
"Really?" John looked surprised. "OK."
Sherlock gained the impression that he could have said 'the sewage works' and got the same reaction. Perhaps there was something to be said for keeping John happy in this particular way, after all. It certainly warranted investigation.
John reached for the door handle when they arrived, but Sherlock caught his arm and pulled him to the side.
"Just a moment." Looking though the window, he could see the familiar barista standing nearby and talking, as usual, to the woman who always held his attention - although it looked as if she were packing up to leave.
He could sense John's confusion but ignored it, waiting until the man inside noticed him... which took a while since he couldn't seem to tear his gaze away from the girl. Sherlock was about to tap on the glass when at last he looked up. He gave a small smile of acknowledgement, and would have turned away had Sherlock not held up a finger in a clear demand for attention. Once he had it, he very deliberately took John's hand in his own and raised them together. John looked up at him in surprise and Sherlock shot him a quick smile before turning back to the barista and nodding at him. 'Your turn,' his actions said. He released John's hand and folded his arms, adopting an attitude of expectation.
The young man's eyes widened and he glanced at the girl, who was rooting in her bag, then back at Sherlock, shaking his head slightly. Sherlock frowned.
"Give him a hard stare, John," he murmured, without looking round. John didn't say anything but he must have complied as the man inside took a sudden step backwards, his face paling. He took several deep breaths, then stepped forward again, reaching out to gently touch the girl's arm. She dropped her bag on the table. He was clearly struggling, and glanced again at the window, and this time the girl noticed and looked round, her face confused. She seemed about to turn back when the barista leaned forward and kissed her cheek.
Her mouth fell open and she whipped her head back round, clearly asking a question, but the young man seemed incapable of speech by this point and just shrugged, his face bright red. For a moment, Sherlock feared the worst but fortunately the girl was made of sterner stuff and she kissed his cheek in return, taking her time about it. His hand rose to the spot as she pulled back and he managed a few words at last... and then she hugged him.
Sherlock's attention was drawn to the counter, where a party atmosphere seemed to have erupted among the other employees who were high-fiving each other enthusiastically. He spared a last glance for the couple - the word now definitely appropriate - getting a grateful smile from the young man as he raised his head from where it had been buried in his girlfriend's hair; then he turned away.
"All right?" he enquired blandly, at John's quizzical look.
"What just happened?"
Sherlock shrugged. "We had an agreement," he said. "Which I believe can best be summarised by the words 'I will, if you will'."
John shook his head. "Sometimes you take me by surprise."
It occurred to Sherlock that this was an idea with a lot of merit. "We have the hotel room for another two hours," he observed.
"Oh, really?" John nodded towards the door. "Don't you want to go in? What about your coffee?"
"Well, I was wondering when the 'taking things slowly' programme was due to commence?" Sherlock enquired, making no attempt to hide the gleam in his eye. "Would that be a London-based project?"
A slow grin spread over John's face.
There is more than one story behind this story, but I must credit my all time favourite Sherlock Fan Video by the amazing lotrfan2888, who kindly gave permission for me to add a link (it's on my profile page). The video is on YouTube and called: Sherlock Won't Say He's in Love. Whatever mood I'm in, I literally cannot watch this without smiling :)
Artwork / Podfic / Translations (Links on my profile page):
"I think you killed it" by khorazir
'Muffin Break' by RBaskin1963
Podfic recorded by Toviv
Translations available in: Chinese and Korean