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How To Give Your Boyfriend Who Doesn't Know He's Your Boyfriend the Best Valentine's Day Ever

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I think that John Watson might be my boyfriend.

I do have evidence to back this up. It's not a theory based simply on hopeful conjecture. Molly and I have been discussing frequently the formulas of romance (for someone who knows so much about the subject, one would think that Molly would be married with children at this point in her life. She is very sweet, and I think that as soon as I solve my own little mystery, I'll work on finding a boyfriend for her) and while talking to her, I realized that John and I are more a couple than John and any of his girlfriends. For instance:

  1. We take care of each other. If I get stabbed, John sews me up. If John gets the flu, I bring him tea and paracetamol and play him soft, pretty things on my violin until he falls asleep.

  2. We entertain each other. I bring John along when we go dashing about London after criminals, and he reads to me or forces me to watch telly with him (please don't tell him how much I enjoy Doctor Who) or finds me new cases.

  3. We make each other happy. He makes me happy all of the time, and I know I make him happy when I buy the milk.

  4. We buy each other gifts sometimes. I bought him a new jumper the other day because I burned all of his up in the Great Acid Experiment (as he refers to it. Scathingly, I might add) and he bought me a lovely old copy of Bach's Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor that he found in an antique store for no reason at all. (I think maybe it was a thank you for the jumper, but I'm not positive on that. I like to think that it was just a whim.)

  5. We even go on dates whenever a case ends, buying each other dinner and eating off of each others plates. Apparently we put on quite a show. Once, an old woman even stopped by our table to tell us what a lovely couple we were, and John turned scarlet and I just thanked her.

  6. We also stare at each other. I stare at John because he's pretty and my favorite human in the universe, and I assume he feels the same way.

Really when I think about it, it's all rather romantic. Hm.

Molly (and her magazines) say that all of this data leads to one conclusion and that that conclusion is that John and I are boyfriends. I have to say that the thought doesn't alarm me nearly as much as I thought it would. Really, the only step we have left to achieve is the physical one, and I doubt that John will have any reservations there. I know I certainly don't. I feel that, with Valentine's Day coming up, I ought to begin this venture.

Molly also recommended to me a magazine on love, since it's a subject I know sadly little about and I'd like to make this John thing official. It's rather stupid as magazines go in all areas but one, and that area is an article by one Harriet Lily Fairchild entitled How To Give Your Boyfriend the Best Valentine's Day Ever. It goes like this:

How To Give Your Boyfriend the Best Valentine's Day Ever

By Harriet Lily Fairchild

Worried that you aren't keeping him entertained? Struggling to find the perfect gift, the perfect date, the perfect sentiment that will make this day of love a holiday to remember forever? Then look no further, ladies, because here are my top recommendations for the best Valentine's Day ever!

  1. Just started dating? Maybe you haven't made it official yet and don't want to scare him off. Well worry not, my dears, for young love can never be squelched with a casual but classy dinner! This one is a good way to slowly turn up the heat over wine (a nice red) and pasta without seeming too eager. End the night with champagne back at your place, and BAM. Date achieved, and no one's running away screaming!

  2. Do you and your lover enjoy pretty scenery? Then go for a romantic drive! Don't be afraid to put on some steamy music and take the secluded but scenic route—that just provides more alone time so you can get a little intimate. A perfect occasion for romantic conversation!

  3. Getting bored? Tired of same-old same-old? Then meet your love for the first time all over again! Go separately and meet up at a pub or a hotel, and even take it one step further and, if possible, go back to the place that the two of you first met! Remember: you're two strangers now. Approach them, offer a drink, and see where the night leads you!

  4. Does your sweetie enjoy a lazy morning in? Do you like to cook? If so, a sweet breakfast in bed might be the way to go! Cook up some pancakes and eggs, whip up a mug of hot chocolate for an extra sugary effect, and don't forget the flowers!

  5. Are the two of you artsy? Does getting your creativity on make either of you sweat? If so, hosting a paint and wine evening is just the thing for you! Invite a few other couples over, break out the vino and the canvases, and get to work! Extra points if you paint portraits of each other.

Now. Ms. Fairchild's article might be badly written and riddled with rhetorical questions, but it is also riddled with wonderful date ideas. Molly says I should just choose one and that it's excessive to do more than that, and she has a bit of panic on her face when she says this, but I have never not been excessive. I don't think I could stop if I tried.

I'm doing them all.

“John.” I like saying John's name. It's a beautiful name, which is something I never realized until I met him. A beautiful name to match a beautiful man. “John, get up and put your date trousers on. We're going to dinner.”

John looks up at me. He's sitting in his chair typing in that slow, two-fingered way that makes my (left) eye twitch whenever I'm forced to bear it for prolonged amounts of time, which is why I've been holed up in my bedroom for most of this evening. Well. I say that's why. In reality, it's because I've been choosing my own date outfit, which is hard, because I dress so nicely every day that finding something even more beautiful than my usual attire is an ordeal.

But I succeeded, I think, because when John looked up at me his eyes got all wide, and not only are they still wide, but his mouth is open a little bit and he's—good lord. The man is panting. My own breathing begins to quicken. This should be fun.

(I make a note and store it quickly in my mind palace. The note reads: tight black trousers and tight dark red button up produce favorable results from John. As does particularly tousled hair.)

“My what?” John asks after a period of time that he probably thinks was shorter than it actually was. He's still staring. Hard.

“Your date trousers. Do try to keep up, John.” I pivot on my heels and make sure he has a nice view of everything as I look over my shoulder and continue speaking to him. “Also shoes. Can't have you strolling about in your socks in February.”

“Are we going on a date?” he asks in a voice that's slightly amused and slightly self deprecating.

“Yes we are, and you had better hurry up or we'll miss our reservations,” I snap.

I make sure to stay facing the door, but I hear John get up. Presently he comes back, and when I turn around, he looks even prettier than usual. He's taken an extra step, I see, and not only has he put on his date trousers and shoes, but he has also donned his date shirt, which is dark blue and matches his eyes quite nicely.

“Good,” I say.

“Lovely,” John says.

We put our coats on.

Something that may sound strange: my boyfriend is very attractive when he eats. He is attractive when he eats in the same way that he is attractive when he shoots at criminals or reads the comments on his blog or drinks tea or gets me to sleep for eight hours, and I think this is because John loves all of these things. And I never realized this before I met John, but when a person loves something—really really really loves it—that love shows. And that love is very attractive on my boyfriend.

We are at Angelo's in our usual corner eating our usual things. I did call to make a reservation, but as soon as we got there and Angelo realized it was me (I had given him the fake name of Bee Pirate McMurderson, so he was quite fooled until we showed up) he forced us to go sit down and then dumped a candle and a bunch of free stuff on our table that I took without comment and John halfheartedly protested to keep up the front of being polite.

“You aren't really as nice as people think you are, you know,” I say to him. He's eating a bowl of pasta that I don't remember the name of smothered in pesto and it really looks rather good. I think I'll steal a bit of it when he looks away. And then to be nice I'll dump some of my manicotti onto his plate.

He looks up at me. He's smiling cheerfully from his seat in the corner, and without me even asking he spoons some of his pasta onto my plate. “No I'm really not,” he agrees pleasantly. “But I'm polite, which is good.”

“I suppose,” I say. I give him a piece of my manicotti. “You aren't polite to criminals, though.”

“Well, no.” John has stopped eating and is just sort of staring at me, his face all soft. It makes my heart do peculiar things. “But I don't think they really deserve it, do you?”

“No. Especially the ones that hurt people,” I add. “You can be as impolite to them as you wish.”

John's smile is warm. “This is a good date,” he says instead of answering me. I'm halfway happy because he's enjoying himself, and halfway annoyed because even though we've both been saying 'date' repeatedly, he still doesn't seem to really get it.

“Yes,” I say slowly, as if I'm talking to someone who has trouble comprehending basic things like the fact that you and your flatmate are in a romantic relationship. Which I am. “Better than all of those dates that you and those women go on all the time.”

John laughs and leans back against his chair. “Well. Yeah. I mean you and I don't really have to scrounge around for anything to talk about, do we? I wish all women were as easy to talk to as you are. It's nice.”

I'm possessed with the sudden and alarming urge to shake John until he sees some sense. That was another indicator of a romantic relationship in Molly's magazines, and I want to find all of the articles she and I poured over the other day and shove them under his pert nose and yell at him to read and to observe.

Calm down, I tell myself. I still have four other Valentine's Day themed events left to knock some sense into John with, and I plan to use them to their fullest.

I spent nine whole hours in search of the perfect car that I could take my boyfriend on a romantic drive in, and I'm furious, because the only one that has a working CD player, seat warmers, tinted windows, and plenty of leg room in all of London is an enormous white van of the variety that kidnappers and perverts fancy. It's parked outside of Baker Street right now, looking creepy and stalkerish in front of Speedy's, and I try not the think too much about it as I climb the seventeen steps up to our flat. There's no sense in worrying now. The perverseness of the vehicle shouldn't detract at all from the romance of our drive.

“John!” I call, throwing the door open. He's in the kitchen making a cup of tea, and he doesn't turn around or so much as jump, not even when I slam the door behind me. That just goes to show you how incredibly used to me John is. I stride across the flat, leaving my coat and scarf on, and stop behind him.

“John, leave that and come with me immediately!”

“Are you bleeding or on fire?” John asks pleasantly as he switches off the stove and wraps a flannel around his hand. We keep one in our kitchen for this very purpose. (Our kettle gets alarmingly hot. It's almost as if it's trying to get back at us for some personal harm we have done to it, which neither John nor I understand. I've only put eyeballs in it once, and John only makes, on average, ten cups of tea a day. It's unreasonable.)

I am taken aback, which is a rare enough occurrence that I still don't remember the proper reaction one is to have to being taken aback. I blink a few times. “Nooooo,” I say.

John nods. He still doesn't turn around. Pours steaming water into his mug. “Good. Is anyone we know and like bleeding or on fire?”

I blink some more, even though it didn't help the first time I was confused. “John, what is your fascination with blood and flame?”

“Answer the question, Sherlock,” he says—still pleasantly—stirring sugar into the cup.


He turns around and hands me the cup of tea with a pretty, John-like smile. “Then I do not see one reason that we can't take the time to have a cup of tea before dashing off to do whatever it is you need me to do with you.”

And then he turns around and fixes his own cup of tea.

I stand there and stare at the back of his head. Maybe if I stare hard enough he'll turn around—but no. Now my eyeballs just hurt. “I can give you a reason,” I say.


“I hired a stalker van and I'm going to put you in it and then I'm going to put me in it and then we're going to drive around and look at things and listen to nice music,” I say all in a rush, before my creative muse gives up on me. Even though all of this is true, I still need my muse sometimes to help me construct attractive phrases.

John stops moving. He turns to face me carefully. “Fine,” he says at last. “Let's do your thing.”

I smile and toss back my steaming tea like it's a shot of whiskey, drinking it fast to lessen the pain. John says that one day I'm going to drink tea hot enough to land me in hospital, to which I always respond that that would be quite the way to go. John gives me an admonishing look now, but it only halfway works because he's very clearly too intrigued by this van adventure to give me much mind. He sits his tea on the counter.

“Oh!” I say under my breath. Impressive. It takes a lot to get John to give up his tea.

We clatter back down the steps and John throws open the door. He stares at the van for fifteen-point-nine seconds (I was totally counting) before he throws his head back and laughs and laughs and laughs.

I love John's laughs. They sound like the giggles of a little boy mixed with the warm chuckles of a man his age mixed with honey, and I get all gooey inside my ribs whenever he does. (Must remember to ask Molly if this is another symptom of love. I have a feeling that it is.)

“I think we should name it,” I say as we approach the van.

“Minerva,” John responds promptly.

“Minervan,” I correct.

“Perfect,” John says. “Let's get inside Minervan.”

We do.

The thing about hired vans: they tend to smell like all the people who were ever in them, and all that culminated scent tends to be a bit not good. I, however, came prepared, and I already sprayed the whole inside of this van with some nice perfume that Molly loaned me for this very purpose. She is very wise.

John slides into the passenger seat and turns to grin at me. “You want to tell me why this is happening?”

“I would prefer for you to use your own deductive skills and come to the conclusion on your own,” I say as I turn on the ignition. The van flares to life, and the CD player whirs before the first song starts.

Molly also assisted me in the creation of this CD. She is rather more subtle than I am (if you can believe that) but compared to most people she isn't really very subtle at all, so John should get the message. The playlist that we created is thus:

  1. Can You Feel the Love Tonight by Elton John

  2. Make You Feel My Love by Adele

  3. Somebody to Love by Queen

  4. All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You by Heart (Molly's idea. Daring, I thought, but then that's rather the point isn't it?)

  5. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler (My idea. Molly was delighted.)

  6. Can't Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon

  7. When I See You Smile by Bad English

  8. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You by Bryan Adams

  9. I Just Called To Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder

  10. I'd Die Without You by P.M. Dawn

And then Molly said that we should stop because John was a man of action rather than a man of words (can't decide if I agree) and that all of this sing-talking might confuse his brain a bit.

John looks alarmed at first when Elton John comes blasting into the van, but by the time I've navigated us to the end of Baker Street he's grinning again, his head leaning back against the seat rest.

“Nice music,” he comments when I stare at him for too long. Someone honks their horn at me and John flips them off helpfully.

“Thank you,” I say. I made it for you, so if you'd stop being a dense idiot and just realize what I'm trying to say I'd be eternally grateful, I think, but I don't say any of it out loud.

We drive for a bit throughout London. It's massively difficult to navigate a vehicle of this size through the busy road and requires my full concentration, which I hadn't really given enough consideration. I want to spend this time talking to John about Romantic Things and listening to my masterful CD but I also don't want us to die while I'm in the process of wooing my boyfriend, so I valiantly sacrifice conversation for safety.

I also hadn't really counted the fact that it's night time. Anything particularly scenic to see is rather hidden by the lack of sunlight, and the streetlights are so far below us in this monstrosity that the only things really illuminated are people and other cars. Even so, John seems to be enjoying himself; he keeps chuckling randomly and shaking his head with an ironic sort of smile on his face, which I suppose is good.

Somebody To Love comes on and I hum a little (because who can resist the dulcet tones of Freddie Mercury?) and John sits up sharply, nearly smashing his face against the dingy glass pane of his window in his hurry to look out. “Sherlock stop the van,” he says sharply.

I don't have to ask what's wrong. If John says to stop the van, than I'm bloody well going to stop the van. But before I can fully stop the van John has thrown open his door, and by the time it's parked (in the middle of the road, much to the dissatisfaction of everyone around us) John is out of the vehicle and crossing in front of various moving objects at a trot.

I follow him. Of course I do. You don't let your boyfriend cross the road on his own.

By the time I reach him, John has broken out into a full on run, and I finally see why: several yards ahead of us is a well-dressed man fighting his way through the Saturday night crowd and throwing panicked looks over his shoulder at John and I. He is Joseph Randy, highly wanted counterfeiter, and the Yard has been chasing him for weeks.

“Excuse me!” John yells (there he goes, being all polite and not nice) and people part to make way for our chase.

“You do know that Lestrade hasn't specifically requested our services on this case, yes?” I pant to John as we follow Randy, careening around the corner of a brick building and chasing him down a mostly deserted street.

Randy stumbles and falls—amateur—and John pounces on him, pulling out his revolver and dropping to his knees as he presses it to Randy's back. He looks up at me, smiling a broad smile, and says, “Oh, I'm sure he won't mind.”

“Where did that gun come from?” I ask in confusion, but John just continues smiling at me in that beautiful way and tells me that I'd better text Lestrade and tell him what we've done.

I do. I love my crazy boyfriend, even if he pulls guns out of strange places and is a slutty, slutty whore for danger and abandons hired vans in the middle of busy thoroughfares.

“So you're telling me that we need to take separate cabs to Bart's, I need to bring Stamford, and we need to reenact our first meeting word for word?”

I sigh. John is being dense, which is annoying, because he isn't dense, he just likes to act like he is. “Yes, John,” I say.

John shakes his head at me. “Why?”

Because maybe then it'll go through that thick skull of yours that you need me and I need you and we may as well be romantic about it. “Because it'll be fun.”

“I think that maybe you don't know the meaning of fun,” John says slowly. (I'm annoyed. That's my trick, talking to people like they're idiots.) “Fun is a word that describes going on a trip. Or riding a bike. Or hanging out with friends—“

“And that's what you'll be doing, isn't it?” I interrupt quickly, before my brain quite realizes what my mouth plans on saying. “Hanging out with friends?”

John does this thing some times where he just sort of opens and closes his mouth and blinks slowly at me when he doesn't want to agree with me but knows he really doesn't have any choice but to agree with me, and when he does it now, I know I've won.

He sighs. “I suppose you're right. Fine. I'll do your crazy reenactment thing.” He grabs his coat and slides his arms into the sleeves. “I'm surprised Mike agreed to this.”

“Mike Stamford is...” I hesitate. When I told Stamford what all of this was about he seemed positively ecstatic at the though of John and I becoming romantically entangled. I think that maybe he wants us to be a couple as much as I want us to be a couple. Almost as much, anyway. “Surprisingly receptive to my experiments.”

“Humph,” John says. “Fine.”

I smile at him. “Lovely. I'll leave first.”

I run out the door before he can come up with another counter-argument.

I'm sitting at the far end of the lab just where I sat that first day, squeezing some blood into a petri dish with a pipette. I'm unexpectedly nervous, more so than I've been with the other two dates. This seems... bigger, somehow. More significant.

There's a knock on the door, and I jump slightly even though I know who it is. When John and Mike enter, I allow myself to glance up only briefly before I turn my eyes back to the work at hand. It's just as difficult this time as it was the first day that I ever laid eyes on John Hamish Watson. There is now, as there always has been, a compelling air about him that I can't help but be drawn to. Perhaps it's those eyes.

I hear some paper rustling. Ah. The scripts that I prepared. John might not have to use his, although Mike certainly will. I'm very lucky that I've stored every single bit of John that I can in my Mind Palace: otherwise these scripts would have been monstrously difficult to write with accuracy.

“Well, bit different from my day,” John says flatly. He's obviously annoyed and putting absolutely zero effort into his performance.

Mike, however, is a surprise: he chuckles just as he did that first day, remarks “You've no idea!” and shuts up. Good form, Mike. I remember to compliment him later.

I sit down. “Mike, can I borrow your phone? There's no signal on mine.” Which is, of course, a lie, just as it was that first day. I knew the pretty, magnetic, angry little doctor with the limp and the compelling eyes would offer his to me. Being polite, but not necessarily kind.

“And what's wrong with the landline?” Mike asks. Bravo, Mike.

“I prefer to text.”

“Sorry, it's in my coat.”

John fishes in his back pocket, mumbling swears under his breath when he nearly drops his script, and retrieves his cell. “Er, here. Use mine.”

“Oh,” I say, as if I don't know that this is what's going to happen. “Thank you.”

As Mike walks towards John, I nearly laugh at my younger self. I was so worried with impressing him. Thank you. I never say that. Good thing I did, though, or else John might not be my boyfriend now.

I stand and walk toward John. His jaw is set, head tilted back, as he watches me watch him. The edge of his mouth twitches.

“It's an old friend of mine, John Watson,” Mike says, and his voice is oddly breathless. Excitement, I realize. Good lord, Mike. Take it down a notch. This isn't a wedding.

I reach my boyfriend and take the phone from his loose fingers. Turn a quarter turn away from him and begin to type random strings of letters into his notes. Mike's excitement is catching on and making my fingers inconveniently shaky.

“Afghanistan or Iraq?” I say. I feel John's gaze on me, hot and heavy.

“God, you're an arse,” John whispers, and Mike and I both shoot him a glare. He rolls his eyes a little, but it's halfhearted, and he doesn't have to consult his script when he says, “Sorry?”

“Which was it—Afghanistan or Iraq?” I let my eyes slide up to him for just a second, and catch him glancing at Mike and Mike smiling smugly at the both of us.

“Afghanistan,” John says. “Sorry, how did you know...?”

I look up once more and Molly comes into the room right on cue, beaming and holding a steaming cup of coffee. She winks at me when she comes in and I allow myself to break character for just a moment and wink back. Molly is a lovely friend.

“Ah, Molly, coffee,” I say. “Thank you.” (Thank you, again. I was already in love with him, wasn't I?) I hand John's phone back and take the mug, looking closely at her. Neither of us can help the grins on our faces.

Here is where I must admit that I took a certain artistic liberty and neglected to write in my unkind words to Molly Hooper about her lipstick into this script. However we both thought that, given what I am attempting to achieve with this date, I could be forgiven. She winks again and leaves.

“How do you feel about the violin?” I ask.

“I'm sorry, what?” John shakes his head slightly. He isn't looking at the script at all now, and I feel warm and tingly in my chest when I realize that he remembers every detail of our first meeting just as vividly as I do.

I type on a laptop keyboard as I'm talking. I was so scared then to look at him for too long. I think I was daunted by the idea of a boyfriend, but now I can't imagine life without mine. It's just as the last song on my CD says: I couldn't live without John. “I play the violin when I'm thinking. Sometimes I don't talk for days on end.” I look at John now, turn the full force of my gaze upon him. He's smirking ever so slightly. “Would that bother you? Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other.”

I know what we're both thinking. That those are absolutely absolutely not the worst things about me. And that somehow, miraculously, he's stayed with me anyway. I smile at him now, but this time, unlike the first, it's genuine.

John looks at Mike. “Oh, you... You told him about me?”

“Not a word,” Mike says pleasantly.

John turns back to me. “Then who said anything about flatmates?”

I pick up my beautiful coat and throw it on, adding an extra swish for effect and also just because I really love to swish my coat. “I did. Told Mike this morning that I must be a difficult man to find a flatmate for. Now here he is just after lunch with an old friend, clearly just home from military service in Afghanistan. Wasn't that difficult a leap.”

Wow. John is right. I really am an arse.

“How did you know about Afghanistan?”

I don't answer him. Another way I was trying to present my best self then, I think. Scared that if I showed him too much, he'd just run away. I wish now that I had known that John is a slutty, slutty whore for danger and also just a very wonderful man. I wouldn't have worried as much then.

“Got my eye on a nice little place in central London,” I say instead. “Together we ought to be able to afford it.” I walk toward John. “We'll meet there tomorrow evening. Seven o'clock. Sorry—gotta dash.” I pause, give him a half smile, and he licks his lips. My heart thumps. “I think I left my riding crop in the mortuary.”

I walk past John and head for the door. Hear him turn behind me.

“Is that it?” No, John. Definitely definitely not.

I turn back from the door slowly, take a few languid steps closer to John. “Is that what?”

“We've only just met and we're gonna go look at a flat?”


John's face does the thing that I love, and because my creative muse has just now chosen to abandon me, I can't quite describe it as anything other than... sexy. He doesn't look at Mike like he's supposed to. Keeps his eyes fixed on me. “We don't know a think about each other. I don't know where we're meeting, I don't even know you're name.

I stare at him for a moment. This had been a hard thing to do that first day. Deciding to lay everything odd and deterrent about myself out there for him to see. It's so much easier now. “I know you're an Army doctor and you've been invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you've got a sister who's worried about you—“ another artistic liberty. I loathe being wrong— “but you won't go to her for help because you don't approve of her—possibly because she's an alcoholic, more likely because she recently walked out on her wife. And I know that your therapist thinks you limp's psychosomatic—quite correctly, I'm afraid. That's enough to be going on with, don't you think?”

I turn, walk to the door again, open it and go through but I lean back into the room. “The name's Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221B Baker Street,” I say softly. I click my tongue and wink, but this wink is slower than the first one, and accompanied by a smile. John just shakes his head.

I leave, the door slamming behind me.

As I wait in the hallway I hear Mike's voice. “Yeah. He's always like that.”

Mike exits behind me after a few moments have passed. He is grinning like an idiot but I refrain from saying anything rude as he did a top notch job in there. “Mike,” I say, “Have you ever considered joining the Royal Shakespeare Company?”

Mike just laughs and claps me on the shoulder. I wince. “Tell me how it goes, mate. I want all the details,” he says, waggling his eyebrows a little. Then he disappears down the hall.

John comes out next, and I'm suddenly smacked in the face with the realization of how very much he doesn't need his cane anymore. Because of me, obviously. I hope he realizes too.

He stops in front of me. He looks... grateful, almost. He's all soft in the facial area, and his eyes are big and blue and look hot. Temperature hot. “I don't think I say enough,” he begins in a low, urging kind of tone, “Just how very glad I am to have met you.”

“Me too,” I say stupidly. Here I am, presented with an opportunity, and I go and say something inane and idiotic. “Glad. That I met you.” And then, because apparently I don't know when to shut up: “I'm an arse.”

John laughs—it's more a huff of air than anything else—and, before I can even blink, leans in and wraps his arms around my waist. His soft cheek is pressed against my chest, and he squeezes me closer to him.

I appear to have forgotten how to breathe.

Here is something that most people do not know about me: I am a really great cook.

Mycroft is too, which is probably less shocking given his fondness for cakes and the frequency at which he likes to consume them (no cook on this earth could keep up with an appetite like that). Mummy made sure we knew how because she said, and I quote: “You boys will be caught in many sticky situations and mark my words, being the only hostage who can make a fine batch of crumpets can gain you days of life when there is a gun held to your forehead.” Which turned out to be true on multiple occasions.

So number four on the list of dates isn't all that daunting. I simply woke before John this morning (actually I never went to sleep last night, but you don't need to go telling him that or else he'll get all stroppy on me and not make me tea ever again—or at least for a day) and whipped up a batch of crepes. I am incapable of cooking for anything less than four people (it's a genetic mutation that Mummy discovered when I was very young) so I lay three of the crepes on the only unbroken plate in our whole flat and stash the rest in aluminum foil in the refrigerator next to the toes. Next I made tea for him, even though that's one thing I am bad at it, but when it came out smelling weird I just dumped a lot of milk in it and I think that's fixed it.

I put all of this on a tray and begin walking it out of the kitchen, but halfway there I remember. The rose! I didn't buy a rose. I cast my eyes about for something that will work in place of one, and they land on the skull sitting placidly on the mantle. Perfect. I place him next to the plate of crepes and continue my sojourn to John's bedroom.

The third step from the top creaks a little, but I maneuver my long legs over it. I don't want John to be awake before I open his door; I want to watch him for a minute.

Which yes, I do realize sounds maybe just a bit a tiny little bit maybe bad but he's beautiful when he sleeps and if you ever saw him you'd understand so just shut up.

He used to sleep with his door shut firmly the whole night, because I think he was afraid that I'd hear him having one of his nightmares and not want to be flatmates any more. I guess I should have told him that even with the door closed I could still hear him, and anyway nothing could make me ever not want to be flatmates with him. Not even if he was a murderer. If he was a murderer I'd just be his accomplice and we'd never get caught because Lestrade isn't as smart as us.

Anyway, the point of all of that is to say that John sleeps with his door open now, and he hasn't had a nightmare in months. I feel rather proud of myself, even if it isn't necessarily due to me.

So I slip through his open door, silent as the dead. He's laying on his right side, curled in gently on himself in a little, John-shaped ball that I want to hug (or to hug me). His left hand is pillowed underneath his cheek like a child, his mouth is soft and melty and smiley, and the blankets are pulled all the way up and tucked under his chin. The effect renders him younger than he actually is, takes years off of his appearance. He makes my heart dive down into my stomach.

I'm so caught up in watching him that I accidentally jostle the tray as I make my way over to him, and the skull clatters against the plate of crepes (damn you, skull. A rose would never betray me like this). John blinks slowly, once, twice, three times, and on the third his eyes stay open, fix on me. He smiles languidly.

There is nothing childlike about him now. Not in the least.

He sits up. The blankets fall away from his torso, revealing—oh god, is that? Yes—revealing one of my cotton shirts on him, too big and hanging around him, exposing one smooth collar bone. His hair is sleep-mussed. His eyes are luminous and deep, warm and hot and compelling and—and—

And the whole thing is unbearably erotic and it's a very veryveryvery good thing that I'm holding this tray, else I'd have pounced on him by now.

“Did you bring me breakfast in bed?” John asks me through a yawn. He stretches his arms up over his head and the bottom of the shirt lifts so that I can see a pale strip of exposed skin there just above the elastic waist band of his plaid pyjama bottoms. I think he's doing this on purpose.

I open my mouth to speak, fully intending to put forth a well-formed sentence full of exposition and explanation and words from the English language, but instead all I seem to be able to say is: “Nngh.”

John grins. Slow. Sexy. “Come here, then, and let me see.”

My knees are shaking. I am annoyed at my knees, and I want to yell at them, but I want to look at my boyfriend more, and I can't do both. So I just walk in a wobbly sort of way towards John's bed, and then I sit the tray carefully on his lap.

I have to lean over him a little bit when I do it. One of the legs of the tray gets stuck, and John's fingers tangle with mine as he helps me draw it out. They stay there even after the leg is set up, and he squeezes my cold digits tightly in his warm ones before letting go.

When I stand, I intend to put as much distance between John and myself as I possibly can because he hasn't even eaten his breakfast yet and I'm afraid I'll kiss him before he can even try the marvelous crepes that I cooked; however, it's as if there's an invisible string tying John to me that's only about half a yard long. I end up with my thighs pressed against his mattress, looking down at him as he looks down at his food.

“The skull's a nice touch,” he says.

I make another noise.

He glances around the tray, and I just want him to try it, to eat it—

Oh, bollocks.

“Fork!” I gasp, my hands going up to grip my hair by the roots. How could I have forgotten such an important thing? I back up a few steps. They've been going so well, these dates have, but now I've gone and ruined—

“Sherlock, hey.” John's hand shoots out and grabs onto my left hip bone. He tows me back towards him, towards his bed. My hands come down from my head and cover John's, pressing his warm hand into me. His thumb slips up under the bottom of my shirt and I shiver a little when it strokes—so slowly that I wouldn't have even noticed if I didn't notice everything—at the cold skin there. “It's ok. It's great. Perfect, even.” He smiles up at me, reassuring. My breath evens out.

“I made them,” I whisper.

His smile widens. “And they're going to be delicious. I'll just use my hands.”

And then he does.

And it's another one of those things, another one of those little John-things that shouldn't be arousing, shouldn't be sexy as hell, but still somehow manage to shorten my breath every single time he does them. He uses his left hand to rip a bit of one of the crepes off while keeping his right hand gently stroking my hip, lifts it to his mouth. He makes a show out of chewing; lips and jaw and teeth and then, finally, moist pink tongue, flickering out to retrieve the powdered sugar that dusts his lips.

He swallows. Closes his eyes, tips his head back against the headboard. I wait. Don't breathe.

“Well,” he says mildly, not moving from his current position. “Fuck you.

“I—“ I stare at him. “What?”

He opens his eyes and swivels his head to face me all in one movement. “That—“ he points with is left hand at the tray— “was the best fucking crepe I've ever had in my life.”

John is becoming sweary. I like when John is sweary.

“I'm glad,” I say.

He squeezes my hip a little harder and I barely restrain a groan. “Why the hell do I do all of the cooking if you can cook like that?”

“I didn't know it was that good,” I lie. I did know. I do know. I'm the best cook I've ever met.

John raises his eyebrows. “Have you tasted this?” Points at the crepe again. His points are becoming aggressive. I must be on the look out for flying fingers.

“No,” I say. Honest.

“Well then sit down and shut up, mister, because you are in for one hell of a ride,” he says, and then he yanks me onto the bed beside him, taking his hand away from my skin so that he can shift and lift the tray at the same time, sitting it at the foot of the bed. He climbs to his knees and rips another piece of crepe off. “Open your fucking mouth,” he says, and without thinking (this does not seem to be a morning for thought) he shoves the crepe into my mouth.

Except other things are shoved in there, too. Things like John's fingers, which taste a little bit salty and a little bit warm and mix wonderfully with the sweetness of the crepe. I gasp around them, and he gives me one of those slightly murderous smiles that I love so much, and I swallow the crepe without chewing.

I see how this game is to be played.

It's my turn. I rip off a piece, grab John's shoulder with one hand and shove it into his open mouth with the other. Feel his tongue swipe gently at my thumb. He laughs as he chews, and then I laugh too, and we laugh and touch and feed and eat.

Something that I did not know about me but that I know now: feeding and being fed by my boyfriend is something that I enjoy a lot. A lot a lot.

I think I'm a genius.

I mean, I've always thought that. But now I know.

I invited Molly and Lestrade over for the paint and wine evening. It's perfect, you see: they are both single and they are both kind of pathetic and they are both my friends, and they'll be too busy talking to each other while they paint to pay any attention to John and I, and I will have John all to myself. And it's actually Valentine's Day today. And if you don't understand the plan by now, you might as well stop reading.

John has been at the clinic all day, so I asked Molly to come over early to help me set up. She arrives, holding a bottle of wine and looking very pretty in a purple dress. I tell her so.

She smiles at me at pats me on the cheek. “Oh, I do hope this works out for you and John.”

“It will,” I say confidently as I follow her into the sitting room. I've already pushed all of the furniture out of the way and rolled back the carpet because none of us are experienced enough painters not to get it all over the floor. Molly sits the wine on the table and begins helping me unfold easels.

“How have the other dates gone?” She asks with a sly smile.

“Actually quite good.” I tell her about all of them, and she's laughing so hard that tears are running down her cheeks at the perverted van thing (I really don't see what's so funny) when Lestrade walks in.

“Hullo,” he says. He's also carrying a bottle of wine, but he looks less pretty than Molly. I tell him so.

Lestrade gets scowly, but Molly saves the day. “I think you look pretty,” she says, and then both of them turn bright red and begin mumbling niceties.

And because I love them both, I keep my mouth shut. Although I do allow my eyes to roll a maximum of twice every five minutes.

When John walks in, Molly, Lestrade and I have already set up all four wooden easels in a semicircle in the sitting room, placed canvases upon all of them, and then poured a bunch of little cups of different colors of paint and set them all on the table. We've poured the wine, too—Lestrade's and Molly's—and now we're selecting our brushes.

John sort of just stops moving completely in the middle of the sitting room as soon as he sees us. His eyes are wide and his mouth is shut tightly. He stares at me.

There is a moment of utter silence.

Then: “Oh, Sherlock,” Molly gasps, putting her head in her hands. She peers up at me through her fingers. “You didn't tell him, did you?”

John's eyebrows are climbing at a steady rate towards his hairline. I can tell that he is preparing to be polite and not nice to me. “Sorry... didn't tell me what, Sherlock?”

I gesture at him randomly with my glass of wine, because that seems like a good thing to do. “We are having a paint and wine date.” I take a sip of wine and then, when nobody says anything, add: “Happy Valentine's Day.”

John begins to laugh. He laughs and laughs and laughs, and then (still laughing) he walks past me, picking up Molly's bottle of wine. “What are you doing?” I ask him. I'm equal parts worried, disturbed, and amused. He could be having a mental break, in which the consumption of wine would probably not be the best course of action, or be could simply be very happy, which I doubt.

John turns to me. He's still laughing, but it's a weird, sort of hopeless kind of laughter that I don't understand. I dislike not understanding things. “I,” he says, smiling madly at me, “am going to get very drunk. And then I'm going to paint a picture of you because I want to.”

(Behind John, Molly and Lestrade are looking worried and nervous. They glance at each other and whisper something that I don't catch.)

“I don't understand,” I say at last.

“No, you don't,” John responds, taking a drink straight out of the bottle.

I step forward and pull the bottle out of his hand, and he lets me. “Don't get drunk first,” I say. “You won't be able to accurately render my visage if you are intoxicated.”

“I could accurately render your visage upside down with my eyes closed,” he mumbles, but he doesn't fight me. He just turns to face Molly and Lestrade. “You two...” he points a finger and waggles it back and forth between them. Again with the aggressive digits.

“What?” Lestrade blinks (he's terribly slow) and then his eyes widen. “No! Sherlock just...”

Molly looks equally as surprised. Horrified? Taken aback. “Sherlock just asked us to...”

God. People are so tedious. Things worked much better when it was simply John and I. I will have to remember for future dates, assuming that this one doesn't ruin any chances I might have had.

“Let's paint,” I say a little to loudly.

Lestrade, it turns out, is actually a really good artist. His depiction of the skull (which I have placed neatly back on our mantle) is surprisingly true-to-life, although he doesn't seem to be taking any of this that seriously. He just flirts with Molly (which is the goal, I suppose, although it still annoys me a little bit) and sloshes his brush around and somehow manages to make it look good.

The rest of us—even myself—are, I'm afraid, truly horrible.

Molly's painting of her cat Mr. Darcy looks like a regurgitated owl pellet with two green olives stuck somewhere towards the top. My picture of John more closely resembles a hedgehog in a jumper than the actual subject (and I'm glad, very very veryveryvery glad that I refused to tell anyone what I was painting). And John's painting of me—

“John!” I gasp, not even trying to keep the horror out of my tone. “Is that what you think I look like? That looks like a Baked Alaska! I do not look like a Baked Alaska!”

John glowers at me. “Well it's bloody difficult to paint that face!” He waves his paintbrush in my vicinity, dangerously close to getting a dash of dark brown on my cheekbones. “It's all—all...”

Molly and Lestrade stop talking and turn to watch us. “All what?” Molly prompts.

He doesn't finish his sentence and launches into a new one, shoving his tiny, insistent body into my personal space (I don't mind. He's so warm) so he can criticize my own art. “And I know you were trying to paint me, Sherlock, so don't you dare talk about how bad mine looks because this—“

“You should know what your boyfriend looks like, John—why is everyone staring at me?” Because they are. They're all staring at me, Molly and Lestrade with huge, excited eyes, and John—

Oh. Oh. Did I really just say that out loud?

“Oh, damn,” I say. My heart is beating so fast that it feels like it's growing bigger, swelling and swelling and shoving it's way up into my throat so that I cannot breathe. John's paint brush dangles from his left hand and his jaw is clenched and he is very, very still. So still that I think he might not be breathing either. Only his eyelids move, flickering down over his eyes once and then back up, a pale flash of pink that sets me on edge.

“What,” John says softly, burrowing his gaze like a drill into my own, “did you just say?”

And I think what I do next is maybe the bravest thing that I have ever done, or will ever do. Braver than chasing criminals down a dark alley. Braver than squaring off against a man with a pistol. Braver than deducing someone in three seconds and praying that I get it right. Because my heart is at stake here (yes it is) and if this goes wrong... if he doesn't...

Nonsense. Molly and I read the magazines. I smile at him, my bravest, truest smile. “I called myself your boyfriend. You know I am, John, there's no denying it. Just as you are mine.” My voice didn't shake, not one bit, and it only gets stronger. “We fit.

John's paint brush hits the floor with a squelching clatter as he launches himself at me, and I drop my wineglass (it shatters) so I can take him in my arms. He slams his lips against my own, hot and hard and insistent, and I am so surprised that for a moment I simply stand there, still.

John's fingers are in my hair. He's tearing and pulling, and I feel that golden honey fill me slowly, making my knees weak. “You're my boyfriend,” he says, pressing open mouthed kisses along my jaw line. (I think I'm drooling.) “Fucking kiss me.”

I take a deep breath, and then I do.

There were articles in Molly's magazine about this, too. About how to kiss someone properly, and the different levels of kisses, and what each of them means, and I made sure to commit every detail to memory.

I shouldn't have bothered.

Once I purse my lips against John's, once I taste him and feel him and touch him every thought flies from my mind, and my body acts on it's own. And I'm good at this, I realize as John walks me backwards and backwards until my knees hit the sofa and I fall onto it, taking John's smaller body down on top of me. But John—John—John is an expert. He's sucking at my neck in that tender spot right under my jaw that makes me—oh—oh I moan when he does that, loud and long and low and—

John,” I gasp. He's holding himself above me with his hands placed on either side of my head, gazing down at me with a look in his eyes that's hungry and primal and I want him god I want him oh. Oh. I paw up at him, weak as a kitten, trying to lower him down, to get him near me, to make him kiss me and—

“Do you have any idea,” he breathes, sending wafts of warm, wine-scented breath down into my face. They make me dizzy, set my head spinning. “How long I've wanted to do this to you? With you?”

“Now,” I whisper raggedly. “Do it now John—“

“God I love you, you mad bastard,” he growls.

And then he does.

Later we are stretched out on the couch, sweat-drenched limbs tangled with each other and rapidly cooling in the chilly air. I'm nestled on John's chest, my head notched squarely beneath his chin as I silently revel in the sound of his heartbeat. The sound of his breaths. He's so alive, so real, and he's mine now, in ever sense of the word. His fingers card gently through my hair. One thing I know now about John that I didn't know an hour ago: he really likes my hair. That's good, because I do too.

“John,” I whisper softly. I'm still quiet, still reverent. Still don't quite believe this is real, even after all those hours of carefully planned dates. Even after what just happened. “Where did Molly and Lestrade go?”

John is still for a moment after I ask my question. Then his chest begins to move quickly under my head, up and down and up and down; his breath shortens, becomes choppy; and then he's giggling, that wonderful, delicious gurgle with a faint wheeze thrown in.

I raise my self up slightly and look down at him. His eyes are squinted with mirth, his chin is tucked down into his chest as he meets my gaze. I begin to laugh too. He's compelling like that.

“I hope they left before we... oh Christ, imagine their faces when we—and I just pounced on you—“ John's words dissolve into helpless giggles. He's gasping a bit. “Christ. We gave them one hell of a show, Sherlock, if they did stay.”

“Good,” I say. I'm smiling. Positively beaming. I bet I look like an idiot but I don't care. “Molly will be proud. She was rooting for us, you know.”

John raises his eyebrows and begins massaging my scalp with his fingers. “Was she?”

I nod. “She helped me set all of these up. The dates, I mean.”

John's giggled fade, but his smile stays in place. He's looking at me with wonder in his face, and I almost expect him to say amazing! Brilliant! “You... those were... holy shit, Sherlock. I thought you were just clueless. I thought you were just having a bit of fun, doing an experiment—“

“I told you they were dates,” I say a bit sullenly. Or at least I try to say it sullenly. However it's very hard to be sullen when the person you love most in the world is laying beneath you and smiling his face off and giving you the massage of a lifetime.

“I know, love,” he whispers. Pulls me down, kisses me. “I just didn't want to get my hopes up.” A brief silence. Then, amused: “Does that mean you made that ridiculous CD?”

“Molly helped me,” I say. Kiss the tip of his nose.

“We must remember to thank her, then.”


He kisses me again. I think he likes to do that. I certainly like when he does it.

I whisper against his lips, “I love you, John Watson, even if you are more polite than nice and a slutty, slutty whore for danger.”

I feel him smile as his lips graze my throat. “Happy Valentine's Day, love.”