On the 29th of January, one year and a half after Sherlock's fall, John realised Sherlock was in love with him all along.
To cope with Sherlock's disappearance (he refused to call it his death), John had started his own practice. The thought occurred to him as he was staying late one night (there were more nights where he stayed late than nights he didn't) doing paperwork. It didn't fall heavily on him as he might have expected. It barely surprised him.
The revelation fell like snow on his head and shoulders. One by one, he recollected every moment together and every time Sherlock's feelings had manifested in his words and actions dawned on him, soft and gentle.
Sherlock never denied being in a relationship with John. ('There's another bedroom upstairs, if you'll be needing another bedroom.' 'Anything on the house, for you and your date.' 'Opposites attract, I suppose.' 'And somebody loves you...' 'He's a snorer. Is yours a snorer?' 'Confirmed bachelor John Watson?')
Sherlock never disobeyed John. ('Sherlock, do you wanna take us through it?' 'He means thank you; just say it.' 'Just get it over with.')
Sherlock directly insulted everyone except John. ('Because you're an idiot. No, no, don't be like that, practically everyone is.' 'Well, John. Really well. I mean you missed almost everything of importance, but, you know...' 'Where do you get that idea?' 'I knew what effect it had on a superior mind so I had to try it on an average one – you know what I mean.')
Sherlock somehow saw an equal in John. (All those looks, asking for John's opinion, expecting John to always be on the same step as him during his thought processes. 'You're doing a "we both know what's really going on here" face.' 'We do!' )
Sherlock's top priority was always John.
It was getting very late, but it was not as if John had anyone waiting for him at home. Nobody would be interested in his discovery (except maybe to say 'How are you only realising this now?', or even worse 'Wait, you mean you weren't involved all along?'), and in his opinion, Sherlock's grave always looked lonely.
Sherlock never was the type for flowers, so John usually simply brought him something he picked from the sidewalks like a daffodil or a crocus; Sherlock would hate something overly sentimental, and something from the sidewalk could either mean 'I couldn't bother enough to get you anything special' or 'I think of you even when I'm walking down the street', which was just right. Today it was a sprig of lavender he put on Sherlock's grave before sitting down cross-legged (grass stains had long since ceased to matter).
'Hey Sherlock,' he began. It was a clear night and the moon shone; the graveyard looked like a horror movie waiting to happen. But the last year of John's life had been depressing enough even without being a horror movie, and the atmosphere didn't bother him. 'Yeah, I'm visiting late again. Happy anniversary, sort of. We met today, three years ago, remember? I thought - I still think - that you were mad then, but you were so fascinating. I'm really glad we met then. I owe Mike a lot.' A lopsided smile appeared on his face at the thought. 'Anyway, I just thought of something while I was at the practice and I came to tell you.'
He let out a puff of breath that was close to a laugh. How pitiful was it that even now, the only person he could talk to was a gravestone? Sherlock would sneer at him. Or maybe not. Maybe he would just look at John, and they would lock eyes for moments before Sherlock would just turn around and talk about something else.
'You were in love with me the whole bloody time, weren't you? The whole thing with Moriarty wanting to burn your heart – that was me, wasn't it? I mean, I always knew, but I never realised what that meant. I know we – we work together, you and I, but that you...' John's voice was beginning to catch in his throat. He rubbed the back of his neck, looking up for a moment at the sky.
'Do you think I would have minded? It doesn't matter to me, you know. We could have gone anywhere – if you wanted us to be just friends, or if you wanted us to be more ... it'd be just fine. Even platonically – I love you, and if you wanted that to take a romantic direction, I'd go with you.'
John glanced around in an almost leisurely manner, thinking about what to say next.
'When you come back, you just have to ask,' he said finally.
'Good to have you back, Sherlock,' Lestrade grinned as his men dragged away Colonel Sebastian Moran. 'I already have a few cases that I need you to look at.'
'It'll be my pleasure, Detective Inspector, but for now I have three years to catch up to,' Sherlock glanced over at John, and even in the darkness of the empty house, he could see John's warm, answering smile. 'Call me in next week.'
'I'll call the two of you over for a pint tomorrow night.' Lestrade clapped Sherlock's hand with his own, nodded at John, and left. Sherlock and John watched him walk away, and at Moran who had decided to shut up and was sulking spectacularly.
John didn't turn around to look at Sherlock until they were completely alone in the dark, dusty house. When he did, Sherlock found he didn't quite know how to say what he meant to say just yet. Sherlock looked down at his hands, where he had taken off his gloves and was now unconsciously wringing them. He forced himself to stop, but then his hands began twitching uncontrollably and he allowed them to continue.
'So, Chinese, or will we go to Angelo's?' John asked.
'Angelo's, but – John –' Sherlock began haltingly, looking back at John. He had so much to say, but the speech he had painstakingly written just an hour before he had gone out to meet John seemed pathetic and inappropriate in light of seeing John standing in front of him, asking about dinner as if Sherlock had never been gone.
'No Sherlock, it's fine,' John cut across him, strong and reassuring and suitably nonchalant as he always had been. 'I know I was angry at you earlier, but I think knew you had a reason all along. It doesn't exactly excuse you leaving me alone for three years, but it makes it better. I always trusted you, and nothing has to change between us now.'
And that was exactly why John was always John, Sherlock's friend and the hand he never knew he needed until he had it. People had always expected Sherlock to explain himself, but John made that unnecessary.
'Right. I – thank you.' But John hadn't said everything. There was still one more thing, perhaps the hardest part. 'But when Mycroft and I had Moran cornered, before he would let me go to you, he made me promise something.' Sherlock wrinkled his nose in disgust. 'Made' was a modest word for how Mycroft had tied his younger brother to a chair until he had given his word. 'If I caught Moran, there was something I would have to tell you.'
'Okay, tell away.' John smiled, but Sherlock could tell he was eagerly curious.
So Sherlock opened his mouth to continue. Then he closed it again. He frowned and tried again. The words refused to come out. He shook his head and opened his mouth once more, aware that he looked like a fool, but the words of his speech were bumping against each other in his brain, muddling up until he couldn't find a coherent one.
A smile was beginning to make its way onto John's face, damn him. Sherlock scowled.
'What I mean to tell you –' Sherlock compelled the few words out just to stop John from laughing because if John laughed he would ruin everything; Sherlock would feel inclined to laugh too and then nothing would ever be said and Mycroft would force him to attend some social event involving the actual queen. 'About my feelings – because I've felt, since I met you, since that day when you shot the cabbie for me –'
There. A giggle had escaped John's lips. John clasped a hand over his mouth, trying to stifle the sound, but it didn't change the fact that it had come out a moment ago.
'I feel very strongly for you,' Sherlock continued a little louder than he intended, but John was ruining his very serious moment of confession! 'I've been attracted to people before, but you're more than that – John!'
'I'm sorry!' John burst out, giving in to uncontrollable giggles. 'You just look so –' He giggled again, and Sherlock in his frustration all but shouted 'John, shut up so I can kiss you!'
To his dismay, this didn't help. John only laughed even harder.
'You know, traditionally, people kiss to shut them up, not ask them to shut up for a kiss.'
'Fine,' Sherlock said with what was not a pout, thank you very much, Mycroft, get out of my head. 'I'm going to kiss you now.'
'If you dare,' said John with a fresh round of sniggers.
Throwing away all inhibition, Sherlock took John by the shoulders, bent forward and pressed their lips together. He could still feel John's smile, but it didn't quite matter anymore because John was kissing back, his hands coming around Sherlock's neck and pulling him in closer. It was hardly a passionate kiss, or even a very affectionate one. It was clumsy and messy but it was Sherlock's first kiss, so he should be excused.
When they pulled away, Sherlock was pink and rather glad that the house was dark, and John was breathless from laughing and kissing. John was smiling though, and Sherlock finally allowed himself to smile back.
'I know, you know,' John said, hands still around Sherlock's scarf. 'I figured out. A year and a half after you'd been gone. It was so obvious; I don't know how I missed it. And what I wanted to tell you was that it's all fine. I don't mind. We could stay as friends or we could become – boyfriends or lovers or whatever. I don't mind. Because I'd figured pretty early on that I'd do anything for you and getting into a romantic relationship with you seemed like small potatoes compared to saving your arse numerous times like I've had to do.'
'Oh,' Sherlock said. He was feeling foolish again. 'Am I ... obvious?'
'Yeah. I wish I'd asked more from you earlier on. You never directly disobey me, do you?' John gave him a cheeky smile. Sherlock smiled back.
'Angelo's, was it?'
John stepped back and Sherlock straightened up. 'Is it a date?'
'My dear John, they were always dates.'
'Oh right. Well at least that means there's only three years to catch up on and not four, right?'
They didn't hold hands as they walked out, nor did they sit closer together in the taxi than they usually did. And the candle on their table in Angelo's ... well John had given up on protesting that ages ago. But that was all not because of any awkwardness or embarrassment between them; simply because there wasn't really anything that had changed between them after all.
Author's Note: I was listening to music when Tim Myers' Brand New Day ft. Lindsey Ray came on and it put me in the mood to write some fluff, and so I wrote the second part under 40 minutes with the song on repeat. It was meant to stand alone, but then I had some extra time and an extra idea I'd been meaning to write, so then I wrote the first part. I hope the disconnection doesn't show. As ever, reviews and comments are highly appreciated.