'So um ... this ... going out thing ... it involves ... dating and all, you know?'
'Mmm,' was Sherlock's simple response. John didn't know what else he'd been expecting seeing as he had interrupted Sherlock while in the middle of examining something underneath his darling microscope, really. Maybe he'd just done so somewhat in the hopes that Sherlock would ignore his inquiry so he wouldn't have to worry about it anymore.
'And uh ... maybe – if you like, of course – we could go out ... sometime ... like a lunch date or something ...'
'I thought we date all the time.'
'What?' John frowned at him, certain he had heard wrongly.
'Don't we go dating all the time?' Sherlock said again, hand moving to adjust the focus of his lens.
'You define dating as "when two people go out and do something fun"; isn't that what we do at crime scenes, during investigations, when we go to Angelo's or takeaway after a case?' he explained, eyes still focused on whatever it was he was examining today.
'Seriously, Sherlock?' said John incredulously. 'Are you trying to say we've been "dating" this whole time without me knowing it?'
'I once heard someone say "it's a date even when the other party doesn't know it",' he said, finally looking up at John with one of his rare, genuinely amused smiles.
'You are unbelievable,' John laughed.
'Thank you. Shall we?' Sherlock got up, picking up his coat from where it lay draped over a chair and making for the door.
John hardly knew whether to laugh or roll his eyes. He settled for running after Sherlock with an affectionate grin.
'Hello, freak,' said Donovan coldly when Sherlock came up to the yellow police tape surrounding the street. 'How long are you going to take to expose how you did this one today?'
'New deodorant, hope it's Anderson who changed and not you who's cheating on him,' Sherlock answered as unperturbed as if she had asked him the time, sweeping past her as if he hadn't said a word. John tried to pass her an apologetic look, but it was hard when she was glaring at them with such bitterness as to remind him of his own previous grudge against her.
'You'll like this one,' Lestrade announced when he saw them coming, straightening up from where he had been crouched over the body of the victim. 'Stabbed right in the middle of a crowd, no one saw the murder weapon or any sign of the killer.'
'That's – that's not possible is it, if it was in the middle of a crowd?' said John, glancing at the detective inspector.
'Of course not, that's why we called the both of you.'
'Right,' said Sherlock, crouching down. 'John?'
John complied, beginning to examine the body.
'Not been dead long apparently, cause of death obviously blood loss from a stab in the back – through a leather jacket. Victim in his mid-twenties ... there's a lot of blood.'
'Victim's twenty two, from Dublin, in London to visit a friend,' Sherlock piped up. 'He had an ear infection which he was taking medication for, and he had a cold earlier this morning although he was getting over it when he died. Had eggs for breakfast at some trashy cafe, got joined by a stranger, male, who he wanted to keep in touch with. The victim probably writes too, either as a hobby or is that what he's studying...?' He picked up the victim's hand, examining it more carefully. 'There, call Laurie, find out what they were talking about before the victim left.'
'How do you get that?' said Lestrade, bewildered as always, amused as usual.
'Student ID card of course, that much is obvious. His ear is scarred but there's traces of cream over it so he was taking medication. Tissues in his pocket, but they're drying up. Napkin in his pocket is low-quality with traces of egg and mayonnaise, the former being a sign of a trashy cafe. He's written all over his hand, something writers do. Did I mention he has low short-term memory? He wrote a to-do list on his wrist along with his new friend's number, call it.'
'Do you even need me?' John huffed as he and Sherlock stood up.
'Of course I do. You inspire me.' Sherlock smiled and gave John an unexpected, affectionate kiss on the cheek. Lestrade had opened his mouth to reply, and then left his jaw hanging without getting out a word.
After an awkward moment of silence, Lestrade cleared his throat and said 'Why would his new friend be a lead?'
'He was killed late morning, his new friend was probably the last person he spoke to,' said Sherlock exasperatedly. John suddenly realised that Sherlock had taken his hand and was in the process of intertwining their fingers.
'What ... are you doing?' he asked confusedly.
'I'm ... describing the victim, what does it look like?' said Sherlock, looking slightly puzzled himself.
The look of disbelief that etched itself onto John's face doing nothing to alleviate Sherlock's puzzlement, John gave up and said 'Never mind.' He smiled anyway when Sherlock squeezed his hand warmly.
'You've changed him, you know,' said Molly.
John looked up from the slides Sherlock had asked him to look at, surprised by her sudden statement. 'What do you mean?'
'He's been ... nicer now. I know you keep telling him to be nice, and whatever you tell him to do, he does it. He complains when you go away and forces himself to say "thanks" and "sorry" when he thinks he has to – he's become more like the person I always thought he was.'
'Well he ... always had it in him, just needed someone to bring it out,' answered John a little awkwardly. He wasn't sure what Molly was getting at, and discussing Sherlock wasn't really high on his priority list at the moment.
'That's exactly what I meant,' she went on, as if not noticing how uncomfortable he was getting. 'I'm not sure how you did it, but he'll do anything for you. When he disappeared –' John stiffened; it wasn't a subject he was relaxed about discussing yet, '- he never cried in front of me of course, but whenever he stayed over, he'd always make two cups of coffee, one for him and one for you. He never stopped doing that in three years even though he must have known what he was doing. He was just waiting to go back to you.'
'Right,' said John slowly, dragging out the single syllable. This was something Mycroft had already told him, and, again, not something he wanted to talk about. 'Um, thanks.'
'I shouldn't be, but I'm a little jealous,' Molly continued rambling and John really really wanted her to just stop because he didn't want to talk to a woman about her feelings for his boyfriend –
Then, much to his relief, Sherlock burst in, followed by Lestrade, Donovan, and Anderson. Sherlock strode in with purpose, the trio following behind him looking vaguely confused, although Lestrade was also confident.
'Ah John, thank you so much,' said Sherlock, going straight for him, taking his face in his hands and giving him a quick kiss. John could have shot himself in the face, and it didn't help when he turned around and Molly was staring at him with an open mouth and a wounded expression. 'I'm afraid I wasted your time with those samples though. No, this is what we need to look at.' And John found a packet of something he couldn't identify at first sight thrust into his chest.
Later when they were about to leave, John stepped behind to stop and talk to Molly. 'Uh, look, about –'
'No, it's fine,' she said brightly. 'I always knew – he liked you from the moment he saw you – it's different with me –'
'Really,' she insisted. 'I'm happy for the both of you.'
There were traces of tears sparkling in her eyes, but she also glowed with sincerity.
'Well um –'
'Besides,' she interrupted again with a teary but real giggle. 'You look really good together.'
'John!' Sherlock called out, loud and commanding.
Jesus, he wasn't like that at home.
'Thanks so much for bringing us breakfast, Mrs. Hudson,' beamed John as the woman lay the coffee table with pastries and tea, as the table by the window was covered in papers Sherlock had ordered them not to disturb. 'You can hardly believe what a hectic week it's been, I wake up late every day.'
'Just don't get used to it, I'm not your housekeeper,' said Mrs. Hudson, although kindly. 'Anyway, I don't blame you, people are dying to say sorry to Sherlock. And I understand you have to de-stress after a case, but maybe you should see to those bedsprings, it's not helping my beauty sleep either.'
The ex-army doctor blushed bright red, at a loss for words. It was all Sherlock's fault of course, he claimed that having been asexual all his life, the way John made him feel in bed was always overwhelming, thus the noise. It didn't help that Sherlock chose that moment to dance in from his room in a purple dressing gown and drop himself into John's lap either.
'Ouch – Sherlock!'
'What?' Sherlock said innocently as if he honestly didn't see anything wrong with sitting on his boyfriend's lap while their landlady was present and serving breakfast on the only clean surface in the room.
'Oh look at the two of you, acting all sweet and domestic,' Mrs. Hudson cried cheerfully – almost blissfully, John thought. 'This life suits you Sherlock. You used to look all pale and grey when you were in Florida, but now you're practically glowing with health.'
'That's what girlfriends do, right?' Sherlock said with a wide smile. Mocking me thought John. 'Fatten up their significant others, make sure they're always looking their best ...'
'I'm not your girlfriend!' John protested, highly objecting to being cast the female role in their relationship.
'No, but you're close enough,' said Sherlock, snuggling comfortably up to him. There was a self-satisfied smirk on his face that John wanted to wipe off. Perhaps roughly in a manner that involved making Sherlock shout out loud enough to be heard to Scotland Yard.
'I feel like such an intruder,' Mrs. Hudson sighed in a tone of voice that audibly indicated she wouldn't actually mind sticking around to see more. 'I'll be downstairs, tell me if you're going out.'
'Right you are, Mrs. Hudson,' Sherlock answered cheerfully.
When Mrs. Hudson left, John shoved Sherlock off his lap, causing him to fall to the floor. 'What the hell are you doing, you big baby?'
'I'm being "warm" and "loving",' Sherlock said, looking rather hurt as he picked himself up. 'Isn't that what people in relationships do?'
'Well – yes – but – being loving doesn't equal flaunting your relationship status to the world, Sherlock!'
'You're the one who said we should "tell all our friends",' Sherlock responded in an almost whiny voice.
'If we're casting gender roles, you are so the girl,' John mumbled as he reached forward for a croissant.
'Okay,' Sherlock said merrily, lying down on the sofa and resting his head on John's lap.
John was torn between continuing to scold him on all the ways he'd been doing 'loving' wrong and forgiving him for how adorably he was doing so.
Sherlock's 'loving' act that took the cake was undoubtedly his performance at Scotland Yard's annual Christmas dinner that Mycroft, Lestrade, and John bullied him into attending.
When John came back from work, Sherlock was nowhere in sight, and there was a crisp, pressed suit on John's bed. He stared at it for a few moments before he called out over his shoulder 'Sherlock?'
'What?' he yelled back.
'What's this suit doing on my bed?'
'It's for you to wear tonight.'
'I don't need – I already have a suit to wear!'
'It's fine, just wear that one.'
He briefly, very briefly, considered arguing, but decided it was a lost cause (like it usually was with Sherlock), and decided to put it on anyway. When he came back downstairs, straightening the lapels, he almost ran back up again.
'What's wrong?' said Sherlock without John having said anything.
'Why the hell are we wearing matching suits?'
'More romantic, isn't it?' Sherlock said with a sly smirk.
'You really are that much of a girl,' John said resignedly, unable to help his own answering smile. 'The reason you do this – it's because you've never had anyone before, isn't that right? So you want to show me off to prove that you're actually capable of caring.'
'Of course. Quite dangerous too, but you were in enough of that even as my friend. We might as well go all out.' With a fond smile, Sherlock bent down and kissed him. 'C'mon then.'
'Don't you two look a handsome pair!' trilled Mrs. Hudson, meeting them at the foot of the stairs. 'Why don't you wait a moment and I'll take a picture!'
'Save it for the wedding, Mrs. Hudson, we're in a bit of a hurry.' Sherlock swept off to the front door. Mrs. Hudson glanced at John with raised eyebrows to which John replied with a mystified shrug. He was probably joking after all. The thought of Sherlock Holmes standing still long enough to get married made the corner of his mouth twitch against his own will, forming a lopsided smile.
'Care to share the joke?' Sherlock asked when they were settled in a taxi.
'Nope,' said John plainly. It wasn't one Sherlock was likely to get anyway.
They sat side-by-side, their thighs brushing, silent at first except for the constant beep beep of Sherlock's phone as he tapped away on it.
'Even on Christmas?' John asked at last.
'No, it's Mycroft,' replied Sherlock with distaste. 'I'm telling him to get off my case for the week.'
'Is he bothering you?' said John with some surprise, a slight frown on his brow. It was hardly like Mycroft to bother either of them much unless it was important.
'Asking me if I'm going to Scotland Yard's dinner – why should it matter to him?' Sherlock shoved the phone into his breast pocket with a scowl.
'Never mind him,' John sighed, patting Sherlock's leg and trying to soothe him. 'Cheer up, it's Christmas. He's probably a bit lonely.'
'Oh no, he has a boyfriend now.' Sherlock put an arm around John, pulling him in closer. 'He's trying to hide it, but it's not working. There are all the obvious signs – and Mycroft's a girl when smitten.'
'Must run in the Holmes family.'
Sherlock looked down at John, almost as if surprised. 'Am I?'
'The PDA: holding my hand at crime scenes, kissing me at the morgue, sitting on my lap, and now matching suits ... If I didn't know better, I'd think you took advice from dating columns – um, you don't do you?' he added hastily when a blush began to colour Sherlock's pale cheeks.
'Don't be ridiculous, of course not,' Sherlock said quickly. Perhaps a little too quickly. John stared, then made a mental note to check the flat for trashy magazines when they came back.
'Merry Christmas,' greeted Lestrade when they came in and offered them drinks. 'Don't you two look ...' he gave them a once-over, apparently as bewildered by their matching suits as John had been originally. 'Is the word "cute" appropriate here?'
'You don't need to try so hard,' said Sherlock in what might be considered a hostile tone, but which John – and hopefully Lestrade – recognised as merely a guarded one. 'Who are you with today?'
'How did you know I'm with someone?' Lestrade was visibly taken aback.
'Please. I'm not explaining this one. Come on, John.' Without waiting for an answer, he took John by the arm and dragged him off the table. The doctor hurriedly attempted mouthing an apology to the detective inspector behind Sherlock's back.
'It's Christmas day, Sherlock, can't you try to act nice?'
'I was being nice – isn't that what it is when you ask after someone?' Sherlock looked sincerely curious about what he had done wrong. Knowing Lestrade, he'd probably forgiven him before he'd even said anything, so John let it slide. Like always.
Naturally, Sherlock didn't make much of an impression for the first half of the evening. He merely sat in his chair, looking over guests and shooting off observations until John was driven crazy by his third reveal of a private affair and decided to sail off to talk to people who wouldn't pull faces at him when he couldn't guess what someone had eaten for breakfast all while playing footsie with him under the table.
'Tired of your freak boyfriend already?' Donovan came up to John while he was talking to a couple of inspectors and lounged against the counter next to him.
John wasn't willing to admit anything to her, and besides, the answer was only partly a 'yes'. 'I'm mingling with the crowd for him,' he replied. 'Is there a problem?'
'No but he's beginning to look lonely and you know what he does when he's lonely.'
Looking over, John had to agree. Sherlock looked ready to begin announcing the three, possibly more, affairs he had discovered. 'He'll be fine for another half hour,' he mumbled into his drink.
There was silence for a short moment until Donovan said 'Did he bribe you?'
'Bribe me into what?' asked John, startled.
'Living with him and pretending to be his boyfriend. I know for a fact no one could handle his freakishness, not even a priest.'
'I'm not a priest, am I?' John said as patiently as he could. 'He's a pain to live with, but I wouldn't have it any other way. What makes you so much better than him if you're slandering him here anyway?'
'I did try warning you. If you're being honest, then why didn't you listen?'
'I found that he's a better man than most give him credit for.'
'Really?' said Donovan with a raised eyebrow, looking keenly interested. 'How so?'
'Why are you interested?'
'People like to know he's human.'
After a moment of eyeing her suspiciously, and with more than a touch of disdain, he began 'As soon as I looked at what was to be our flat for the first time, he was ... kind about arranging his mess to accommodate me.' That, of course, was no longer part of their arrangement, simply because the flat wasn't divided into 'John's mess' and 'Sherlock's mess' anymore, it was 'our mess'. 'Then he tricked me into quitting therapy by proving my limp was psy-'
'Sally, John!' Sherlock cried, sidling up to them. They were both taken aback by his sudden appearance. 'Enjoying ourselves, are we?' Sherlock offered Donovan a forced smile. 'The music's starting John, shall we dance?'
'Sorry, what?' John said, staring at his boyfriend as if he had asked him out to dinner with Mycroft.
'Dance, John, let's dance!' Without waiting for an answer, he took John by the wrist and dragged him onto the dance floor.
'I was boring you, wasn't I?' Sherlock said when they were standing in a dark corner of the floor, hardly even swaying to the music. 'With all my observations and everything – it was boring.'
'No, I just – needed a break, alright? It's Christmas, not everybody's brains are working three hundred and sixty-five days a year.'
'So you're tired?' He wrapped his arms around John, holding him possessively. 'Knew we shouldn't have come – you could have said so earlier. Of course, this was all your idea, but never mind –'
'Shut up, Sherlock,' John interrupted. 'You brought me out here to dance, let's dance.'
But it was clear that Sherlock didn't have dancing on his mind. His eyes were vacant, mind far away from Scotland Yard's Christmas dinner. John didn't mind though, he appreciated the short silence, his head resting on Sherlock's chest. Had they not been moving in small, rhythmic steps, he might have fallen asleep.
Suddenly, he pulled his head away and looked up at Sherlock with alarm. 'Sherlock, why is your heartbeat rate rising? Are you okay? Did you notice something bad? What did you eat just now?'
'Oh John, you worry so much and so needlessly,' said Sherlock dismissively, except that he was staring down at his cuffs and was beginning to blush. 'I was – well, um – ah ...' He coughed and cleared his throat, looking at anywhere except at the man in his arms, and John didn't know whether or not to laugh. The great Sherlock Holmes was stuttering – this was surely a first. Lestrade would love to hang it up on his wall of embarrassing Holmes moments.
For the second time in the space of sixty seconds, John was surprised. Sherlock pushed him to the middle of the dance floor, obnoxiously shoving several other dancing couples out of the way as he did so. John was a flurry of 'Sorry, sorry!'s to the pairs, and when Sherlock stopped pushing, he pulled away angrily.
'What the hell is this about?' he said in a fierce whisper.
Sherlock appeared to have not heard and was fumbling around in his pocket for something while John huffed and blushed at the people who were staring. 'Sherlock!' he hissed. 'If –'
He never finished that sentence, as Sherlock chose that moment to locate what it was he was looking for and go down on one knee, holding out a small velvet box to John.
In front of the entirety of Scotland Yard.
Clearing his throat, Sherlock began into the ghastly, awkward silence 'John, I know that in the sense of the word that society often uses, we've been dating for six months. But we have harboured feelings for each other for all of five years. Well ... I did,' he added with a mumble. He was reciting it as if it was a speech he had memorised. 'And I'd like to make sure that those feelings never dissipate, and the obvious solution to this is matrimony. John Hamish Watson, will you marry me?'
The room immediately erupted into 'Say yes!'s and 'Don't just stand there!'s and 'Awww's. Sherlock was looking hopefully up at John whose mind had drawn a blank.
'I mean,' Sherlock muttered, clearing his throat and looking away. 'I don't – I'm not pressuring you – if you don't want to – I'm doing it here because I want you to know that I – I'm serious about this – so –'
'Get up, you idiot,' John finally managed to say, hauling Sherlock up by the arm. When Sherlock complied, he went up on tip-toe and kissed him. The room exploded into louder cheers. John pulled away and breathed 'Of course I will. Now if you ever pull a stunt like this again, I won't make you tea for a week.'
'Oh no,' Sherlock said with mock horror. 'What will I do without John's super-special tea if I had to go without it for a week?' Then his eyes softened and for a moment he looked vulnerable. 'Thank you, John.'
'You don't have to say thank you for that,' John answered, wrapping his arms around Sherlock again.