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What we could become

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When the dust had settled once again in their turbulent lives, John felt himself grateful for a chance to breathe. To manage a new routine with Rosie and his job and Sherlock. Without Mary.

The gaping hole her death had left in his life was as painful as ever, but he no longer shied away from it. He no longer felt as if he was carrying it alone. Not when he was back at 221b Baker Street, back in his sofa opposite Sherlock’s, Rosie between them dozing peacefully.

John had been staring at Sherlock when the thought hit him.

“You know, I think I finally understand what they mean about us. Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson.”

“Hm?”

“About us being in a relationship.”

That finally prompted Sherlock to look up from his – John’s – laptop screen. A puzzled frown crept over his face.

“Have I missed something?”

John chuckled, mostly at the absolute affronted tone in which those words were spoken. God forbid the great detective had actually missed something.

“Just… thinking.”

“Oh. Well, don’t let it hurt your head.”

“I’m serious, Sherlock.”

That elicited a deep sigh.

“Enlighten me then, John.”

“It’s just that I never thought about the fact there are different kinds of relationships. Not all need to be sexual, or even romantic. And here we are, living together, raising Rosie together. It just feels the way it’s supposed to, don’t you think?”

Sherlock just stared at him, intense gaze focused in a way that always made John’s skin feel too tight.

“Are you propositioning me, John?”

“God, no. Besides, aren’t you aggressively asexual?”

That earned him an amused snort.

“I suppose that is one way to describe it. I have never felt sexual attraction towards someone, neither have I felt the need to explore that aspect in any sort of relationship.”

“That’s what I figured. And I’m still not attracted to blokes, in case you’re wondering.”

“I deduced as much.”

“But… That’s not all there is to a relationship, is there?”

“I suppose not. But then again, that is not my area of expertise.”

“Yeah, I know. What I mean to say is that despite of all that, it sort of feels like we’re married already. Do you know what I mean?”

There was a long silence. So long that John began to doubt his own words. Maybe he was being silly. Where was he going with this, anyway? Just when he opened his mouth to backpaddle, Sherlock spoke again, voice soft and surprisingly vulnerable.

“Is that a good thing for you?”

“Of course. Of course it’s a good thing, Sherlock. You’re the person I love most in this world. The only one that ever occupied the same place was Mary, and even she could see what was between us. Or the potential for it, anyway.”

I know you two. And if I’m gone, I know what you could become.

Her words rang through his head again and he felt the familiar pang of grief that always came when he thought of her. But through the pain, he found there was slowly growing more room for remembering the good moments as well. The way Mary and he had effortlessly connected, and the way she had made a place for Sherlock in that as well, without ever questioning it.

“What are you saying, John?”

“I don’t know. Maybe that I feel like I just realised something important and at the same time completely obvious. It makes me a bit angry, a bit confused, but mostly happy.”

“Happy?”

“Yes. That despite everything, despite everything I’ve lost, I can still end up in this place. With you. With Rosie.”

John gave Sherlock a smile that he hoped conveyed that feeling. The latter was still donning a rather blank expression that told John he was busy processing everything that had just been said.

He knew better than to interrupt that process and glanced away, content to give the brilliant detective opposite him some time.

“I love you too, you know.”

That was not the answer he’d been expecting and his eyes shot back to Sherlock. Before he could reply, Sherlock continued.

“I know I don’t go in for emotional declarations. I still regard emotions as obscuring rather than helpful, but I do acknowledge that I am an emotional creature, despite what the public might presume.”

“Oh, I know that.”

“Yes, quite. Which I suppose means that I should on occasion try and convey my emotions when they arise. And if there is one thing I am sure of in this world, it is the depth of my affection towards you, John. I do not, however, know what that means for our relationship. I always presumed you would object to declarations of romantic love.”

“Is that was this is?” John asked softly, scared to break the spell.

“I… think so?”

“It’s okay if it is. I think it might be shared.”

John’s voice was so soft by now he could hardly hear his own words, but Sherlock seemed to have no trouble hearing him.

They stared at each other for a long time. Each, John thought, a bit lost for words.

In the end, words weren’t really necessary. They never were when it came to them.

That night, after John had gotten Rosie to sleep and had retired to bed himself, he heard the door of his bedroom opening.

Sherlock was standing in the doorway, illuminated by the light of the hallway, looking unsure and vulnerable in his dressing gown and sleep pants.

John felt something tight in his chest he hadn’t realised was there loosen and scooted to one side of the bed, wordlessly extending an invitation.

He closed his eyes and heard Sherlock move across the room, heard the rustle of fabric as the dressing gown was shrugged off, and finally felt the dip in the bed as Sherlock situated himself behind John.

With a gentleness he’d only rarely experienced from the detective, John felt a warm body slotting in place behind him. They fit together effortlessly. Of course they did, John thought with a smile, a rightness settling in his bones at the chest pressing to his back, the knees bumping the back of his own, the arm wrapping carefully over his waist.

He felt the whisper of lips against the nape of his neck, before Sherlock’s head settled on the pillow and he could hear the detective sigh contentedly.

John had no idea what this would mean for their relationship, what the new parameters would be. But in that moment, he couldn’t bring himself to care.

He was home.