Things had progressed so slowly that neither was quite sure when it had happened. Long lingering looks across the flat turned into casual touches and the occasional peck on the cheek. The first time their lips had met was a complete accident, John catching Sherlock as he slid down an icy staircase resulting in them being literally face-to-face. They could have pulled away, laughed it off, but it seemed an acknowledgement of what had be brewing for months. After that, kisses hello and goodbye were commonplace, along with hugs and hand holding.
Sharing a bed seemed the next step and John anticipated that it would be as uneventful as everything else in their newly unfolding relationship. One night following a particularly brutal case that saw them running across half of London, John's exhaustion was so deep that Sherlock practically carried him up the stairs. Entwining their hands, Sherlock led the way to his own bedroom where they undressed to their pants in silence before collapsing on the bed, hands once again joined.
Sunlight streaming in his face from an unusual angle awoke John from a pleasantly deep slumber. He opened his eyes to find Sherlock leaning over him, staring at the scar on his shoulder as if it were a particularly interesting puzzle. The few lovers he had since returning from the war had avoided looking at it too closely. Of course, Sherlock Holmes was never one to do what was expected, even if he could not be classified as John's lover, at least not yet.
Seeing John's eyes open, Sherlock took that as a cue to start talking. "Based on the angle of the wound and the size, you were kneeling down when you were shot." John nodded as his bedmate continued. "But as a medic that could be expected. The thing is, you were shot from behind. Kneeling down to save a fallen soldier who had little chance of survival anyway, considering it was an ongoing firefight, you turned your back on the enemy. Even someone with a limited intellect as yourself should have more self preservation than that. Stupid. I'm disappointed in you."
"Huh," John huffed out. "Right," he mumbled, sliding out of bed and leaving the room, scooping his clothes up on the way out. The look of utter devastation on his face shocked Sherlock into silence and he watched John leave his room, completely dumbstruck. He heard the door latch behind John on his way out of the flat.
Hours later, John returned to 221B, drenched to the bone and still looking completely miserable. He nodded at Sherlock on the couch on his way past the dimly lit living room to the bathroom upstairs. Discarding his sodden clothing on the floor, he climbed into a steaming shower in an attempt to relieve his body of the late fall London chill.
Within minutes, he was no longer alone as Sherlock joined him, blurring the undefined boundaries of their relationship once more. John turned to face the water, focusing on the sensation of warmth on his skin, and not the icy piercing in his heart.
"John," Sherlock started, his voiced strained with an emotion the doctor couldn't immediately identify.
"He was my best mate," John interrupted. "I had known him since I was 4. Lived next door to me growing up." He paused to compose himself. He had never explained what had happened on that distant, dusty battlefield to anyone. "When we enlisted, we were thrilled to be in the same company, figured it would be a great adventure. When he got shot, nothing else mattered. I had to save him. So yes, I dropped to my knees with combatants behind me. I thought maybe the red cross on my sleeve might save me. Obviously, it didn't." He took a deep breath to curb the anger rising in him. "I got shot and I lost my best friend in the same day. So, I'm sorry if I disappointed you. I guess caring really isn't an advantage."
All of this had been said without looking at the man behind him, but now he turned, hot tears pricking at his eyes. He was shocked to see the look of compassion and regret written all over Sherlock's face. Sherlock's hand came up, thumb brushing away the few tears that had fallen.
"John," he choked. Shaking his head, he started again, "John, what I said was unreasonable. I am sorry." John stared at him. Sherlock Holmes didn't apologize. Ever.
Sherlock must have seen his disbelief. "I should not have said what I did. You know me. I get caught up in the puzzles and the games and forget about the human cost. But you are not a puzzle or a game. You are the most important person in my life."
And, at that moment, John finally figured it out. John realized what Sherlock had been saying with all the looks, the touches, the kisses and the hugs. This wasn't something Sherlock did, but he did it with John. And John did it with Sherlock. Sherlock wanted to know everything about John, and did it in the only way he knew, through observation and deduction. But they were together and John would show him there was other ways of learning about people.
His arms wrapped around Sherlock's neck, pulling him down until their lips met. Their tongues slid together without any more prompting. Their bodies touched from chest to knee for the first time, but definitely not the last.
"Next time, love, just ask."