It's in the middle of night when Sherlock suddenly appears in John's room, cracking the door open just a bit before sliding inside, more graceful than anyone the doctor has ever known. He blinks and when he sees the surprise in the other's face, wants to laugh in joy because for once he has done something the greatest detective of all hasn't seen coming. He doesn't, though, because Sherlock's face is serious, too serious for three o' clock in the morning, or rather, too serious at all.
'I've been thinking', Sherlock says, voice raspy, and John wants to laugh again because this is hardly a surprise at all. He's always thinking, every single moment since they've met all those months ago.
'Yes?', he asks instead, surprise at how sleepy he sounds. Somehow, being the flatmate of an insomniac has made him think of sleep as a mere luxury and nothing more.
'I've been thinking', Sherlock repeats and the doctor can hear that the other is nervous. He doesn't like it one bit, 'John, how do you feel about me?'
There's a moment in which John thinks he's going to die. Just cease, here in his bed, at three in the morning, because he can't. He can't answer this question. Not now, not ever.
But then he learns how to breathe again, finds that he has a voice and miraculously can form words and sentences and wills his heart down to the point where he can actually hear something else than the ever quickening beat in his ears and asks, as innocently as he possibly can, 'What do you mean?'
Anyone else might have picked up on the hints saying how there was nothing in the world which John wanted less than discussing this right now, but this is Sherlock, and he should have known because the detective never lets anything go just because of convenience.
'I thought it was a simple enough question. How do you feel about me, exactly?'
This time, his breathing doesn't stop and neither does his vision blur, but there still is a noticeable tremor in his voice when he answers (because he just can't not answer either. It's Sherlock and he'd do anything for that man), 'I suppose you could say I'm rather infatuated with you.'
John can't think of any sentence which has every sounded so wrong and so right at the same time.
There's silence surrounding them, and he's not sure if it's a good thing (because Sherlock hasn't hurriedly left the room to pack his things and never return) or a bad thing (because Sherlock might just be thinking about a relatively nice way to let John down) until the other speaks again, twisting the hem of his pyjamas with long, pale fingers, 'I thought you were. It is good to see that my deductions were correct.' And with that, he turns around, leaving the doctor with his mouth hanging open and his chest contracting in the worst possible way imaginable. John wants to cry out, wants to grab his sleeves and force him to stay, wants to demand a real answer about what Sherlock is going to do with this knowledge, but then the other turn around again, beautiful with his dark curls and porcelain skin, and says, 'Also, I think I might be rather infatuated with you, too.'
And he leaves, without turning back, John staring after him with mouth hanging open.
They don't talk about it the next morning, just sit in their usual chairs in awkward silence, because what do you talk about when you've already spilt your deepest secrets? John wishes he knew, wishes Sherlock never came to his room, never asked, never told, wishes for everything but this. Because although he hasn't slept a minute after the other had left again the night before, thinking until his head hurt and the edges of his vision went fuzzy and unfocused, he still can't wrap his head around the concept that maybe, just maybe Sherlock meant what he said. Meant when he said he loved John back. For, even if John is a decent guy and not bad looking at all, this is Sherlock. And Sherlock's beautiful, magnificent, fantastic, inspiring, brilliant and every other positive word he can think of, but there's another thing he is and that's unreachable. It's nothing John ever questioned and so there were no fantasies about a shared life, about lazy kisses in the mornings and double beds, only about chase and killers and crimes. But the thing is, it was enough, and now that there is the possibility of anything more, John's unable to cope.
Even Mrs. Hudson notices when she makes them tea, telling them once more Just this time, I'm not your housekeeper, but although she smiles like always the doctor can feel her worried stares burning right through him. He wonders if Sherlock feels the same.
The day goes by without a new case and without an old one, and since John doesn't feel like he can already cope with the world outside (with so much rushing through his head, he can barley manoeuvre through the kitchen, let alone London traffic) he's stuck in his room the whole day, not daring to set foot in the living room in case Sherlock's there. He wonders if it's always going to be like this now, not seeing the other because he's to scared that he reciprocates his feelings and he hates the thought.
After a while he hears familiar shots and cracks and thumps and crashes and relaxes slightly. At least Sherlock's still alive.
Time drags on and suddenly one week has passed and John has only seen his flatmate four times. He's spent half of the time in his room, typing away at his blog, which had needed updating anyway, secretly hoping that Sherlock is reading whatever he's writing, telling his corrections and revisions to his skull which he has taken to his room by now. It's strange, but John can't remember the last time he felt so jealous, and what he's jealous of is an inanimate object. Still, jealousy is good because it keeps his thoughts off the dull ache which has declared his chest its new home since the shock has faded. The mere absence of Sherlock hurts by now, just like getting shot again and again and again and there's nothing he can do about it because every single thing around him reminds him of the detective again; and if he's outside in a part of town he has never visited before, it hurts because there is nothing which could remind him.
It's the eight day after the confession and Mrs. Hudson's fault that he finally sees Sherlock again for more than five minutes because she invited them both for tea (separately, because she has, of course, noticed and is determined to fix whatever is broken between her boys) so there's no place for either of them to run. Sherlock's lost weight, the doctor thinks as soon as he sees him, and it's obviously he had barely slept, dark rings under his brilliant, pale eyes and skin as white as paper. John himself doesn't look any better.
They see it all through, two hours or more, but the chatter of their landlady and John's occasional remarks are merely excuses to drink in each other's company because even if they don't exchange a single word it's better than nothing. They've both missed this, terribly so, and the other's presence feels like an icepack on a third degree burn.
It ends all too soon and not fast enough and when they walk back upstairs they share a smile. Mrs. Hudson smiles as well as soon as her boys have turned their backs, because she knows now that whatever has gone wrong between them, they're going to fix it for they still look at each other like the other's the only thing that matters when they think no one's watching.
Two days pass and one morning John finds that he can stand staying in the same room as Sherlock again. It's ten in the morning and he's just showered, trotting into the kitchen leaving behind a trail of water to make tea when he finds his flatmate sitting on one of the counters.
For a moment he freezes, breath getting stuck in his throat when he stares at Sherlock who stares back at him, wide eyed and just as surprised. Then, as if on cue, they turn away, both blushing. The detective busies himself with scratching marks into the wood while John struggles to compose himself until he manages to ask what sounds most fitting at the moment: 'You want some tea?'
Sherlock freezes for a second before turning back to face his flatmate, and then (and John wants to pounce on him because he has longed to hear his voice for so long) answers, 'Sure.'
And John's happy he's got a reason to turn away because there's no way he can keep the grin off his face for a moment longer.
They drink their tea in silence, but to John's surprise it's not an uncomfortable one. He even starts to relax a little, letting his gaze wander across the room before settling on the detective. It feels good, just sitting with him here, better than he had ever though something so banal and uneventful could feel. And when he catches Sherlock looking at him over the rim of his cup for a second, he asks himself if maybe the other thinks the same.
They fall into a strange routine over time, both tentative and tense, and John who has learned to live with the constant ache of unrequited love so long ago thinks that maybe he'll be able to settle with life as it is at the moment. In the mornings they often drink their tea together, spend more time than usual in the living room reading, watching telly or, in Sherlock's case, conducting experiments without exchanging more than two, three words at a time, and still solve cases together. That is what makes John think he might be okay with how things are, because when on a case, it's almost like it was before That Night, before everything has somehow become complicated and confusing.
But then, some nights when John is lying in his bed, unable to sleep because the void Sherlock has left is aching exceptionally bad, he thinks about that maybe if he was able to gather the strength to talk to Sherlock about the mess they're in (or just kiss him senseless like he wanted to since seemingly forever) they could somehow make it work. It's those thoughts which leave him shaken and raw with need because he wants so much and there's still a chance and in the night when there's only the moon and the streetlights painting shadows across his walls it feels as if the only thing he has to do is get up and walk to Sherlock's room. However, as soon as he reaches the door, he turns around and heads back, shoulders slumping because suddenly it feels as if the weight of the whole world was dropped onto them.
It's those nights in which he doesn't sleep at all.
Somehow it makes sense that when it happens, it's in the middle of the night again. It's one of those nights again and John's mind is full of kisses and embraces and warm and fuzzy feelings while his chest still aches, but tonight the moon is hidden behind heaps and heaps of clouds and the streetlights alone turn the walls a sickening yellow. It's half past two when John decides he cannot stand it for one more minute and leaves. He heads for the living room because going outside never sounded like a good idea past midnight and sighs in relieve, not quite sure why being in the living room feels so much better. That is, until he looks up and there's Sherlock sitting on the chair John has claimed in the past months, head awkwardly twisted to greet the intruder. There's a moment in which John contemplates leaving, but then Sherlock talks, voice smooth and deep and perfect.
The doctor shakes his head mutely, not able to do anything else, but he doesn't have to because the other continues, 'Sit.'
Although actually an order, the words sound more like a question to John' ears, uncertain and a little bit hopeful and if there's something he cannot stand it's an unsure Sherlock. It simply doesn't fit. And so he complies, tentatively sitting down in the detective's chair. It's a strange feeling, having their positions reversed, but somehow it fits now that they are not so sure in their roles anymore.
'Can't sleep either?', John asks, more interested in keeping the detective talking than the actual answer.
'No. I haven't been sleeping very well since...' Sherlock's voice trails off; finishing the sentence is hardly necessary when the doctor knows what he is talking about anyway.
And then, suddenly there is a question burning on John's tongue which he can't hold back, afraid it might scorch his mouth and throat if he does, 'Did you mean it? What you said, I mean, that night.'
There's surprise written all across Sherlock's features, even a hint of shock, but there's just as much relief, and John figures that this might be a good sign.
'I did. It appears that I am quite inexplicably drawn to you, no matter what I try to stop it.'
And then there's a short silence as John analyzes the words so that there is no possible way he is misinterpreting them. 'Then it might interest you that I meant it, too. Every word of it.'
The detective draw in a sharp breath which he supposes is a good sign, too.
Sherlock starts twisting the hem of his pyjamas again and John asks, 'Where does that leave us now?'
There's nothing, at first and John wants to hit himself over the head with something very large and very heavy but then the other male replies, words soft and barely audible, 'Where do you want it to leave us?'
All of a sudden the world stops around them and there is something in Sherlock's eyes which he has never seen before but still cannot quite place. It's intriguing and it's beautiful and the doctor cannot bear to look away.
'I don't know', he answers, not once taking his eyes off the other man, 'But I'd like to find it out. If that is alright with you.'
At first, there's no answer, but just as John starts thinking about hard and heavy things to hit himself with again, Sherlock's lips curl into the tiniest smile and he knows that he's said the right thing.
It's hard to stand up again since the world has decided to start spinning again in that exact moment, but somehow the doctor manages to cross the distance between the two of them, crouching down in front of the other man. He takes a second to study the Sherlock's face, searching for any traces of doubt, but when he finds none he gathers up all the courage he's got and does something he's wanted for a long time. Softly he moves his hand to the side of the other's face, still only a ghost of a touch for every point where their skin makes contact sends tingles up John's spine. At the back of his mind, he suddenly notices that Sherlock must have stopped breathing for at this distance, he should feel every single breath on his lips. His second hand reaches up to steady himself on the detective's knee and he can feel how the other shivers at the touch.
'Can I…?' His voice trails off and there's a smile tugging at Sherlock's lips although he tries to sound exasperated when he curses under his breath, For Christ's sake, John before he closes the gap and kisses him.
Sherlock's lips are soft against his and when he finally comprehends what is happening, the detective is already pulling back again, leaving John to feel all empty and cold. Only for a moment, though, because with his hand still fitted around the other's jaw he pulls him close again until their lips meet in the middle, messy and raw this time, and still perfect.
There's a thread of saliva hanging between their lips when they part, connecting them just like John's hands are, just like their mixed breaths, just like their hearts. For he can feel Sherlock's pulse underneath the pale skin and he's almost certain that their heartbeats match because otherwise it shouldn't feel so familiar already.
The detective's gasps are hot against his skin and he cannot understand how has managed to believe he could ever live without this. His second hand sneaks up, up, up, across Sherlock's leg and the flat planes of his stomach, his collarbone and long, white throat until it reaches the other side of his roommate's face, fitting almost frighteningly perfect against the defined jaw and perfect cheek bones. John takes a moment to marvel at the sharp contrast between the tones of their skin before he leans his forehead against Sherlock's.
'This is…' he mutters under his breath, but he cannot find the right word to end the sentence, for not one of them feels right to describe what this situation is doing to him. Half expecting the detective to finish it for him, he closes his eyes and just feels. But instead of giving him a word, a sentence, Sherlock merely hums in approval and John smiles.
He's left the other speechless and this is definitely a good sign.
There's a shiver running through him, from his toes to his spine to his fingertips when Sherlock's hands travel across his own body, as if searching but never finding what they're looking for and John somehow knows that the detective is trying to memorize every inch of him, just like he wants to do with the other. He kisses him again, for good measure and because he finds that the feeling of the soft, cupid-bow lips is insanely addicting, before pulling away and taking a second to just look. It has to be windy outside because the clouds have been blown away, parted and there's moonlight filling the room, just like the night where everything started.
But Sherlock's not beautiful anymore, not even stunning, because the light bounces off him, illuminating his eyes and bathing his skin in a way which makes him glow and gleam and glisten like John has never seen before. Sherlock's not beautiful anymore because beautiful is not strong enough a word to describe what unfolds in front of the doctor's eyes, for the other's lips are tinted red so he can make out every kiss they have shared that night and there's a smile stretching those lips and John doesn't know this smile. It's a special one, and he knows that Sherlock has kept it hidden, safe, for him all this time.
But in the end, it's the detective's hands which tell him that Sherlock's feelings are just the same as his own, because they are still clutched into his worn-out shirt, holding him both steady and keeping him from moving away too far. They tell him I love you and John smiles and says it back with a kiss.