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Done Pretending

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John was just on the verge of sleep when he heard it - a creek on the stair, followed by a gentle opening of the door. He stayed perfectly still and quiet as his body tensed in preparation for a fight. He ran through his options – he couldn't get to his gun without being obvious, the only near enough object would be his lamp which wouldn’t be a great defense if this was a kidnapping (as happened all too often since working with the Great Consulting Detective), but if someone was simply here to rob him it might at least scare them off. Just as he was about to go into action, he felt a gentle dip in the bed at his back. Now he was just confused, but then he smelled it – hints of cigarettes, formaldehyde, the Chinese they had for dinner that night, and expensive hair products layered on that personal scent of his skin and all that could only be one person. Sherlock.

He continued lying there with Sherlock at his back, not sure what to make of this. Sherlock had barged into his room plenty of times, with a swish of his dressing gown and a pronouncement that there was body found, or there was a new development in the case, or that they were out of lighter fluid and John should go get more immediately. “For science, John!” Sherlock getting into his bed however – hell, just Sherlock trying to be quiet – was a new development and John wasn’t sure what to make of it, so he let the tension drain from his body as this was not a break in, but continued to lay still and waited for Sherlock’s motives to reveal themselves.

Just as he was relaxing enough that he was in danger of falling asleep again, he heard it. “John,” he heard drawled softly at his back. There was another shift and he could feel the heat of another face much closer to his neck. “John,” the voice said again.

“Yes Sherlock,” he sighed, not sure what he needed but interested in sleeping as soon as possible. He didn’t have time for whatever Sherlock was playing at right now.

“I’m so tired John,” Sherlock said softly.

John gave a soft, slightly exasperated sigh. “Then go to sleep Sherlock. You’ve got a perfectly good bed in your room, I imagine, unless you’ve toasted that as well to study burn patterns or something.”

When no reply came, curiosity got the best of him and he rolled over. He was met with a look of such intense study and… what was that look… confusion? Sherlock was never confused. Something was clearly not quite right. John was paying attention properly now.

“What is it Sherlock?”

“I… I just… aren’t you tired John?”

“Well yes, that’s why I was going to sleep,” all his usual sarcastic bite drained out of his tone as he said it. He still wasn’t sure what Sherlock was trying to get at. Sherlock made no reply, but his eyes darted frantically over John’s face, as if they were searching for something, and his eyebrows were scrunched down as if Sherlock was pleading for something. John had never seen him look so helpless, so open and small, except when he was putting on a performance for a case. This was no act however, there was something really wrong. John tried again, “What are you asking Sherlock? What is it?”

“John I…” he sighed, as his expression shifted from seeking to resigned. Whatever he was looking for in John’s face, he hadn’t found it apparently. “Oh John, aren’t you tired of pretending?”

By now John was thoroughly confused and a bit concerned, but he still had no idea what Sherlock was asking. Sherlock let his eyelids close and John watched in wonder as tears glistened in those long lashes, one escaping and running across a cheekbone to melt away into the pillow. Sherlock’s tears wrenched his heart so deeply that in an instant John realized that he did know. He knew exactly what Sherlock was getting at, and he was so tired of it too.

Then again, maybe he was misreading. Maybe Sherlock didn’t love him back, maybe the mad genius was asking something else entirely, but if that was so, it was still true. John just couldn’t deny it anymore, couldn’t pretend that every fiber of his being didn’t need this man lying within arm’s reach.
John placed his hand on Sherlock’s cheek, and he heard Sherlock sigh at the contact just as he sighed in relief as well. This felt so right he couldn’t imagine why he had ever resisted the temptation. “Yes, Sherlock,” he finally answered.

Sherlock’s eyes opened slowly to meet John’s, with a look of tentative hope. John’s other hand came up from his side on the mattress to insinuate itself between cheek and pillow, wiping the moisture from the delicate looking cheekbone. Normally Sherlock’s singular bone structure made him look sharp, above it all, so untouchably aloof. That was what stopped strangers in the street and melted clients into putty in his hand. But here, John saw it for what it was. Angular it may be but John realized that this face was so delicate, so utterly fragile, so precious. The vulnerable hope in Sherlock’s eyes, the soft set of his usually firm jaw, the open wonder that smoothed out the wrinkles in his forehead made him look so young and so sweet, so much more the person Sherlock could have been if the world had not told him over and over again that he was an unlovable freak. Everything in his face cried out to John, saying Could it be? Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Please don’t break me. I can’t take that.

John’s own eyes closed for a moment as he let the enormity of this moment wash over him. There would be no turning back now. He had never made a move for fear that if a relationship went south, he would lose everything he cared about, because this man was everything that mattered to him now. Wasn’t it better to have a best friend, to have a partner for life even if it meant you could never be together in the way you wanted it to be? No more. Now they were partners in every way and since letting go would never be an option, they would just have to commit to making it work or deal with the consequences.

When John opened his eyes again, there was no fear left. He was sure. The side of his mouth quirked up in a small smile and he hoped the love he felt radiating in all the corners of his body was conveyed somehow in his expression. It must have been, because Sherlock’s look of tentative hope became a peaceful one, with a small smile of his own. John leaned forward a few inches and brought the face he still held towards his own, finally bridging the gap between them in a soft kiss.

Sherlock’s arms came up to wrap around John, one hand rubbing softly from hip to waist and back again, the other pressed gently between his shoulder blades as if trying to press John’s heart closer to his own. John’s one hand slid further into Sherlock’s soft curls, supporting him at the neck, while the other slid down to wrap around his shoulders. They lay like that for several minutes, kissing gently and reveling in finally being able to hold and be held by each other.

When they finally pulled away it was very slight, no one’s arms releasing, but creating just enough space between lips for Sherlock to whisper the definitive words that were already so clear to John. “I love you,” he breathed out, as if it were as natural as every time he exhaled.

John smiled at finally hearing it, even if they seemed so beyond these simple words. Three words seemed too trite to convey such an enormous truth, but he knew Sherlock needed to hear them anyway. “Oh Sherlock, I love you too. Now and forever”.

Sherlock’s eyes blinked open at this. “Forever, John”. It was neither a question nor a response, but John met his eyes and repeated himself to make sure his point was clear.

“Forever, Sherlock.” They kissed again for another few minutes, conveying all the things they felt but could never put into words. Finally John pulled away with another sigh before things heated up too much. For tonight this was enough. He wanted everything from Sherlock, wanted to do everything, touch and see everything, but for tonight that was enough.

“John we should –“

“Sleep, my love,” he cut in gently, “Right now we should sleep. And in the morning there will be time enough for everything else. We need not fear this will disappear by light of day, and right now I just want to hold you and remember that this is real. Is that ok? Can we just lay here together Sherlock?”

A serene smile replaced Sherlock’s look of worry. “Yes please.”

They shifted a bit so that John’s head rested half on the pillow but also on Sherlock’s shoulder, his arms wrapped around Sherlock’s waist. Sherlock’s lower had slipped to hold John around his back, the other free arm stroking up along the one John had draped across his stomach.

In the morning there would be more that needed saying, but for right now things just needed to be felt. It was enough to know that this was for real, and no one was pretending anymore.