Sherlock closed the book with determination, the pages bumping carelessly into each other, and placed it over his legs. The little girl opened her eyes, looking at him through her long eyelashes. Her curly blond hair was all messed up but, as she smiled, Sherlock couldn't help but notice how lovely she was.
"You were supposed to be sleeping already, young lady." Sherlock said, removing a lock of hair from her face.
The girl looked at the ceiling, her brown eyes wide open. She was thinking, Sherlock could tell. With time he had learned she had become a lot like him, except that she was still kind and friendly and quite popular at school. She was cleverer than he had ever been at her age and still, she had used that in her favour. She knew how to treat people and make them do exactly what she wanted, but in a nice way and for a good purpose. And she also knew how to listen and captivate because she was sweet and funny. The girl stared back at him, serious now.
"Daddy, do you think I am crazy?" she asked, concerned.
"Yes, of course." Sherlock said, without thinking. The girl frowned and Sherlock added, getting closer to her and running his fingers through her hair. "But I'm going to tell you a secret." her eyes opened ever wider as he whispered the words. "The best people in the world are."
He then smiled kindly and the girl laughed, relieved.
"That's why papa loves you?" she asked, the big smile on her face.
Sherlock thought for a moment before answering. But it was an easy answer, after all.
"Yes, and that's why I love him too." He said, a little embarrassed. Love was not a word he used much, but the girl had learnt to use it quite often, with John's motivation.
The girl laughed and Sherlock got up, placing a kiss on her forehead, wishing her good night and sweet dreams. As he put the book down on the bedside table and turned the light off, the girl closed her eyes to sleep. Sherlock turned around and saw the corridor light turned on and there, framed by the door, was John. Sherlock froze in place, remembering the words he had just said and without hesitating he passed by John with just a nod of his head and into the living room. John took a look at his daughter asleep and closed the door behind him, following Sherlock.
"What did you say to her?" John asked, a smile lingering on his lips.
Sherlock picked the violin up, checking the strings.
"She asked me if I thought she was crazy. I said yes, but that the best people in the world are. She was pleased."
John came closer, removing the violin from Sherlock's hands.
"No. Not that. After. What did you tell her after?"
Sherlock faced John, his heart racing fast, knowing the answer John was searching for. The words wanted to make through the knot on his brain, to find a way out, but his throat was closed. Why was it always so difficult? It was just those three words, not more than that. 'Tell him,' Sherlock thought. 'Tell him.'
John let go of his hand and gave him a gentle kiss, leaving for their bedroom to sleep. He felt like he had pushed more than he should have. Sherlock was always difficult when it came to show affection and he had no right to pressure him to say words he didn't want to.
Hours later, after playing his violin and finishing composing a new melody, Sherlock came to the room as well and laid down next to John. He grabbed his hand but John was fast asleep. And, for the first time since he could remember, the words found their way out through the labyrinth.
"I love you, John." he said.
John's breath was even, peaceful. Sherlock turned his back and closed his eyes, knowing he had been too late, that he had missed another chance.
"I love you too." John whispered, making Sherlock freeze in place. He looked at John, so close to him, eyes locked in each other. The other man was smiling. "It's not that difficult, you see."
And then John held him close and Sherlock realised that, no, it wasn't difficult at all. And just as John placed his head on his chest, making him feel warmer and comfortable, he repeated the words, like a lullaby, understanding now what they really meant.