Even though it's been several minutes, John is still warm from the run and Sherlock tries hard to ignore the fact that it would be so nice to be lifted up right now, to be able to take the pressure off of his ankle and tuck his head against John's shoulder where it's dark and safe and it smells so very John. He can't resist turning his head slightly as John helps him limp up the steps, nose just barely brushing against the scruff of John's blond hair. There's a lot more grey than there used to be, Sherlock notes absently, though it does not take away from John's appearance the way he knows that John thinks it does. It lends him an air of being distinguished, makes him look stern. Sexy.

"Did you just smell my hair?" John asks incredulously, stopping right in the middle of the staircase.

"No," Sherlock lies hastily, hastily pushing away any and all unbecoming thoughts about his flatmate. Now is not the time, he thinks. He avoids looking at John and leans more heavily against the rail, hopping up another step on his own. His ankle throbs and his shoulder aches, and he grits his teeth against the urge to just sit down right where he is and not move again.

"Right," John says after a long pause, sounding wholly unconvinced, and moves to help him again. Pushing the door of the flat open, he propels Sherlock inside and nods towards the couch. "Go ahead, sit down and let me see what you've done to yourself."

"I'm fine, John, really."

John stops and just looks at him, face twisted up into something that might be disappointment. "Really? After everything we've been through, you're still going to sit there and lie to me. Expect me to believe, after the fall you had today, that you're fine and don't need medical attention. Even though I can see from here that your ankle is swollen and you can barely move your arm."

"... I might be in a bit of pain," Sherlock mutters reluctantly, sitting down on the sofa. John seems to take it as the concession it is, not remarking but instead sitting and gently lifting Sherlock's ankle into his lap so that he can explore the injury with tender fingers. Sherlock is reminded all over again of falling and hurting his knee, and how natural it had felt to lift his arms up to John and cry for attention. And John had done it, too, scooping him up and tending to his injuries with all the fuss of a worried parent. Partner. Sherlock's eyes flutter shut, a soft sigh of contentment unwittingly escaping, and when he looks again John is watching him.

"I think you sprained it," he says quietly, and then, with a crooked smile, "Want me to kiss it better?"

Sherlock furrows his brow. "That's not scientifically possible."

John laughs a little, sliding his thumb across the top of Sherlock's foot. He keeps the pressure deliberately light, but the touch is soothing and Sherlock finds himself relaxing into it. He's missed this, he realizes, as John says, "I know that. It's just a thing my mum used to do when I was a kid. Whenever I hurt myself, she'd give me a kiss and say that would make it all better. I thought about doing that when you were a kid, but I thought - well, there were some lines I figured you wouldn't want me to cross."

Although John keeps his voice light-hearted, there is a notable tension evident in his shoulders. Sherlock eyes him curiously, sorting through what John said versus what he'd really meant. He finds he has to do that a lot, with John. Finally, he says cautiously, "I wouldn't mind."

"Yeah right," John says with a snort. "You were dead set against anyone treating you like you were a child, Sherlock. You didn't even want to stay away from crime scenes, even though going near one could've got us all arrested and made Lestrade lose his job. If I'd done something like that to you, you would've thrown a strop. And as much as I didn't mind you being a child, that's not something I want to live through."

"I said I wouldn't imind/I," Sherlock repeats, putting emphasis on the last word to make the tense really clear, and John's eyes go wide when he catches the hint.

"You wouldn't," he says, and it's a question.

"I wouldn't," Sherlock says. His mouth is dry and his heart is suddenly beating very fast, and he can't look away from John's face no matter how much he wants to. They've always lived on the brink of change, one step just to the side, and he feels like they're rapidly approaching the point of decision: have been since he returned, though god only knows how long it would've taken if Mummy hadn't decided to interfere. Perhaps there is something that he'll be able to thank her for after all. The thought makes him smirk even as he watches John closely, waiting for him to come to a decision.

John laughs. It's not what Sherlock is expecting and he stares at him, and John laughs again, the sound bitter. "Do you know how long I've waited for some hint you'd be okay with that?" he asks, his hand moving up to cup Sherlock's ankle. His fingers are warm and firm, but gentle. "I never thought - you always made it seem like you weren't... and then there was Irene."

"Irene was married to someone else, John."

"You cried the night she died."

Sherlock looks him in the eyes and confesses something he has never admitted to anyone else, something that no one - not even Mycroft - knows. "I cried on that rooftop, John, and nearly every night we were apart. When it got too hard... I couldn't stop myself from thinking about you. And it just. Happened." Because god knows he'd tried to fight against it, done everything he could to distract himself until finally - in fits of exhaustion - he'd give in and curl up on whatever was passing for his bed until he couldn't cry anymore.


"Irene was my friend. I don't have many."

"No, you don't." John's mouth tilts into a sad smile and he looks down at Sherlock's ankle again. "It's not just... because..."

He doesn't need to know how John would finish that sentence. "It's not," he says firmly. "You... took care of me when I was helpless, John. You've always done that. You always do. I was at a loss without my blogger."

Finally John's face softens, the suspicion disappearing to be replaced with hope. "You're sure?"

"Yes," Sherlock says impatiently, because talking about emotions have never been appealing and now that he knows he can have this he wants it even more, and John just gives him a fond grin.

"Alright. I'll get you some ice for your ankle and your shoulder."


"To keep the swelling down." John sets his ankle down gently and gets up, and Sherlock blinks at him because - has he missed the point entirely? Were they having two separate conversations?

John catches the look and stops. In a move so smooth that you'd swear he had practiced it a hundred times, he bends down and places a light kiss against Sherlock's mouth. Then he straightens up and walks casually into the kitchen. "How about some telly?" he calls out, opening the freezer. "I'll call for a takeaway if you like, you probably won't be going far tonight."

He thinks, briefly, about the experiments that have been waiting for him, about the cases that have likely been piling up in Lestrade's absence, and then remembers Mycroft's unusual admonishment about caring and advantages. He can fight this or he can give in, but it seems to be happening either way and if nothing else Mummy has taught him to pick battles carefully. Some are just not meant to be fought. Sherlock sighs and relaxes back against the sofa. "I want Chinese," he says.

For a moment, John looks startled. Then he grins, blue eyes bright, and nods. "Done," he says easily.

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