There are times – rare, yes, but striking – when John's face blanks out completely. His posture reverts to on-duty and his shoulders tense and he looks very serious, and Sherlock cannot read him at all.

These moments are rare. Certainly, they don't happen often, but they are endlessly fascinating nonetheless. In certain situations, John becomes entirely opaque, and the best Sherlock can do is guess. He would feel quite pitiful, if he weren't more intrigued.

Typically, John only gets this way in clutch situations – life or death. And at those times, Sherlock is not able to tell, precisely, what he will do, but his guesses take into account John's morals, history, personal values and habits and that single, careful bullet in the cabbie's brain – and he tends to be right. John tends to get this way only when bullets are involved.

There are no bullets involved right now. John has just arrived home, but clearly nothing unusual has happened at work, his slacks make that much obvious. He's received no important phone calls. And Sherlock certainly hasn't done anything all day, besides microwaving eyeballs, but that wouldn't bother his flatmate (John bought him a bowl and wrote body parts on it – and he's actually using it for once, so he won't be reprimanded). There is no apparent reason for John to be this way.

John stares him down over a cup of tea, all deliberate calm. "Sherlock," he says.

His tone is perfectly even. Sherlock narrows his eyes, scans him up and down, but no, there's not a single tell-tale twitch. "Yes?"

John is eyeing him in much the same way. He, however, seems to find what he is looking for, which is highly irritating. He nods once to himself.

"You're in love with me," he says without any emotion. He takes another sip of tea, and then gently sets down the cup. His face is perfectly still, gaze locked with Sherlock's own.

Sherlock opens his mouth, but shuts it without speaking. After a moment, he opens it again. "That's absolutely ridiculous John, I am a sociopath."

"You are in love with me," John repeats, simply. He does not move, his expression does not change, but utter certainty exudes from him. It is the sort of certainty that cannot be argued against. It is the sort of certainty that has been precisely considered, calculated, aimed and fired directly at Sherlock's vitals, and there is no time to dodge.

He sits across the table from John, needle held loosely in his fingers and bowl of steaming eyeballs set in front of him. He lets the shot hit – it's point-blank, tearing right in one side and out the other, neat, clean, efficient and it cannot possibly be true.

Sherlock's fingers tremble slightly. He clears his throat and looks down at the eyeballs, examining them carefully. His chest burns and his lungs ache. He has never been shot before; this feels more like drowning, anyway.

"You should breathe," John reminds him. Sherlock blinks. Ah, yes.

The air is warm and fragrant – Earl Grey and eyeballs. His fingers are still trembling, so he sets down his needle. John has just shot him in the head.

He cannot think.

John smiles – slow, calm, still utterly unreadable and it's damn disconcerting. Sherlock does not understand how anyone can ever call this man boring. How can they ever think he would lose interest? How can they not see

He feels dizzy. Remembers to breathe again, Earl Grey and eyeballs and John leans across the table to kiss him.

Sherlock does not close his eyes. He does not move at all, just watches, and John's smile widens against his mouth and John's eyes are very knowing and very grey, too close to reflect any surrounding colours for once, and Sherlock's pulse is quickening and he is very warm and he puts his hands on his thighs where his fingers shiver uncontrollably and John pulls back.

"I'm in love with you as well, so don't worry about it," he remarks; the second bullet. The smile on his mouth is quirked a little more to the left than to the right and Sherlock's lips are tingling. There is a sort of swooping feeling in his stomach, it's very unpleasant and he wants it to stop. John's expression is no longer quite so closed off but Sherlock has been shot in the head and in the heart and can't think straight to interpret it.

"Are you?" he breathes, forgetting not to care. John nods again.

"It's really quite obvious," he smirks, shoulders relaxing to at-ease so he must have been at least a bit nervous but there should be so much more to see and Sherlock can't see it – "But you're doing very well, for you."

Sherlock growls and flings the bowl of eyeballs at the sink. One of them goes flying and explodes against the cabinet, but the rest make it. John doesn't flinch. "I'm sorry but your feelings are unrequited," he snaps.

"They aren't. You're going to clean that up," John says. He drinks some more tea. Sherlock wants to throw it in his face.

Instead, he throws himself down on the couch and hides under the blanket and tries to sulk for the rest of the afternoon. It works except that he's still aching from the double-tap, still unable to think straight and most likely bleeding out. He listens to John finishing his tea, cleaning up the splattered eyeball and all the other dirty dishes. Fetching his laptop. Sitting down in his armchair. Turning the TV on, turning the laptop on, typing intermittently, Sherlock can't stop listening.

He waits to go to his mind palace but it won't come. John is in love with him. He is in love with John. His heart beats faster in a panic that seems altogether too gleeful. Whenever he thinks of the kiss his gut clenches and tingles crawl up his spine and it's all extremely unproductive.

Sherlock sits straight up, blanket falling about his thighs. It's been ten hours and John went to bed some time ago but that's no deterrent. He picks the lock easily and stomps into his blogger's bedroom, flicking the lights on. "John!"

The man is already sitting up in bed – he must have heard Sherlock coming up the stairs. He's yawning, hair mussed and eyes heavy and Sherlock feels like slipping in next to him and never moving again – what the hell has John Watson done to him?

He stabs a finger forward. "I refuse to be in love with you!"

John yawns widely.

Sherlock's heart stutters.

"I will not accept this!" he yells, and kicks the bed. John laughs, surprised. It's absolutely infuriating.

"I – I hate you," he hisses next. John stops laughing at once, and for a moment Sherlock feels vindicated but then their eyes meet and he sees John is hurt and that hurts him. He wants to punch John for that. He wants to delete this and solve a murder instead. He doesn't want to feel guilty but John's staring him down and he has to look away.

"Sherlock," John sighs. His voice is a little rough from sleep. "There's no need to get all worked up about this. There's no pressure. It's just – I love you, and you love me. That's all. You can take your time with it, I don't mind, but don't go getting worked up and saying things you don't mean."

Sherlock wants to scream that he does so mean it, but John is looking at him steadily. He's not at all unreadable now; Sherlock can see every single emotion etched across his face – and all of them are terrifying.

He slams the door behind him and doesn't say a word to John for the next week and a half.

-xxx-

When Sherlock finally begins speaking to John again, it's about a case and he acts as though the whole incident never happened. If his friend were to bring it up, he is prepared to change the subject immediately, but John never tries. Everything continues exactly as it used to for several months. They help Lestrade catch a serial killer, three thieves, and a drug dealer. It's all very boring. Sherlock gets a new batch of eyeballs and redoes the experiment, but uses John's favorite cereal bowl instead of the body parts one. In retaliation, John invites Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft over for dinner.

Mycroft compliments John sincerely on his spaghetti and doesn't lose his smirk when Sherlock asks how his diet is coming along. He expresses sincere concern for his little brother's well-being, claims to be charmed by Mrs. Hudson (and charms her in return), requests John invite him round more often, and says Mummy has been waiting for a call. At that, Sherlock starts playing his violin as screechily as possible. Mycroft soon exits, but he continues sawing away at the instrument, ignoring Mrs. Hudson's disapproving looks until finally she takes her leave as well.

"Never again, John," he warns darkly once the door shuts behind her. John snickers.

Sherlock glowers at him. John attempts to straighten his face, but his lips keep twitching, and after a moment, both of them burst out laughing.

"You should eat, too," John says finally, catching his breath. Sherlock shakes his head.

"I ate this morning."

"Yeah, a single bloody piece of toast. Sherlock –"

"Oh, stuff it. There was jam on it, wasn't there?"

John huffs, and crosses his arms. He says that is not sufficient in any way and Sherlock really ought to know better by now, he is going to waste away and then he won't be able to catch any criminals, not to mention he'll drive John mad

Sherlock drops his violin on the sofa and kisses John.

He's not very good at it; he almost misses and John's lips are all mushy with surprise, and when he tries to adjust he ends up bumping their noses together. But John smiles, after a moment, smiles and pushes Sherlock away.

Everything he is feeling is completely bared on his face – his crooked grin, his slightly flushed cheeks, the warmth in his eyes. Sherlock's heart thumps faster than it should and when John leans back in and kisses him properly his knees wobble and he sits down sharply on the sofa next to the discarded violin. John laughs and follows him and Sherlock would say something snarky but he's too busy trying just to breathe, John is so warm and so close and he smells of soap and garlic sauce and he's kissing Sherlock's neck now and the world goes fuzzy at the edges.

"You adjusted much quicker than I expected," John admits, kissing him on the lips again, and Sherlock shudders, clutching at his jumper.

There is a hole in his head and in his heart and they're filling up with John Watson, he may be moaning, John's hand is in his hair, his eyes slip closed and he feels sloppy and overcome and burning and he is terribly afraid but he can't stop. He doesn't want to stop. He is self-destructing, he will never recover from this, he's in no way ready for this but can't bear the thought of it ending.

"John," he says, "don't stop. I – more –"

John stops. "Right," he says abruptly, wiping his mouth and pulling away. "Think that's enough for tonight. Goodnight, Sherlock."

And then he leaves the room; leaves Sherlock gaping after him, bewildered, infuriated – a little relieved.

-xxx-

He doesn't explain himself the next morning and neither does Sherlock. They don't mention the previous night at all, and then John leaves for work and Sherlock is left to brood alone. He does, all day, unsure if he's done something wrong. He can't tell if he's angry at John or himself, or neither of them. He might even be relieved. He is relieved, if he weren't he wouldn't have just let John walk away the night before, but he's angry nonetheless. He wasn't ready to stop.

He wasn't ready to continue, either, but he resents John trying to stop him. As soon as the man arrives home, he pounces – shoving John into the wall, he attacks him with clumsy, hard kisses. John tries to say something, but Sherlock doesn't let him; he smothers every attempt until finally John just gives up and kisses him back. They migrate to the sofa, John's somehow leading them there unerringly even though he's going backwards and tugging Sherlock along too, and Sherlock determinedly kisses him and kisses him and kisses him and loses sight of whatever frustration he was feeling in favor of kissing John and kissing John and kissing John some more.

Eventually, John starts undoing the buttons of his shirt – Sherlock yanks back in surprise and stares at him. John blinks, seemingly confused… then sighs.

"Sorry, sorry," he mutters, getting up from the couch and going to fix some tea, walking a little awkwardly. Sherlock avidly watches the entire process, mind whirling for the reason why. He ignores the cup John offers him, too lost in thought. John smiles ruefully, shifting awkwardly in his armchair.

It clicks.

"Aha," Sherlock says mildly, grateful and irritated in equal measures.

John raises an eyebrow.

"You're trying to ease me into this, aren't you?" he accuses.

There's not even an attempted denial. "It would be easier if you didn't jump me as soon as I walked in, or go begging desperately for more – but yes."

Sherlock snorts. "I never beg."

John doesn't say anything, just smirks around a swallow of tea. He looks far too confident. He has been far too confident all along. It's rather annoying.

"I'm still not in love with you," Sherlock snaps, tongue tingling against the word, but it doesn't make John stop smirking. Rather, his smugness only grows more pronounced.

"You are," he says matter-of-factly. "But I'll wait for you to admit it."

He's using the same calm, steady voice he does when he talks down murderers or aims guns at peoples' heads. There's that same deep confidence, that absolute surety, and it's impossible to contradict. It's breathtaking, somehow, and Sherlock has no idea where it comes from but he loves it. This is John, this is why he is unique and never boring, this is his steel core: shooting the cabbie without hesitation, chasing danger, saying, "That's brilliant."

A shiver travels down Sherlock's spine slowly, almost lazily. He doesn't know what to say, or if he even can say anything; his throat is clenching, his heart aching for a more he can't verbalize and couldn't handle if he got it. His pulse thumps yes, yes, yes despite himself and he looks away from John's clear eyes.

"It's been two weeks since our last case," he changes the subject, feeling completely transparent and out of his depths and not minding at all. "Where have all the criminals gone? I want a good murder!"

John chuckles. "Bit not good, Sherlock," he advises.

"Don't care," Sherlock says softly, and keeps looking out the window because he doesn't want John to see his grin. "I really could not care less if I tried."