They're watching a DVD when it happens.
It's such a perfectly lovely winter evening--frost collecting in starbursts on the window panes, mugs of tea by their sides, and a nice fire rumbling in the fireplace--that John doesn't even question it; it's just something that happens between two friends, something he does for no reason at all, he thinks, and when it's over, he hardly feels like having the crisis, nay, the minor breakdown that Sherlock does.
Just before the credits roll, a young couple in the very 18-rated film they're watching begins swapping spit up against a car, groping and practically rutting like a pair of dogs in heat. Sherlock groans loudly and tosses a Biro at the screen.
"This is vile, John," he says, waving a hand in the general direction of the telly and turning his eyes to the case files spread across his lap. "Why people insist on exchanging saliva, risking exposure to nasopharyngitis, mononucleosis, not to mention venereal disease, is entirely beyond me."
John takes a long, slow drink of his tea before pursing his lips. "Have you not done it, then?" He smirks. "Surely you must have--"
Sherlock looks at him pointedly with an expression of utter loathing, causing John to pause his speech, slightly taken aback. "You've not kissed anyone?"
"I don't see how that's any of your business."
Sherlock heaves a great sigh and shuffles around a stack of papers. "Is it really important whether or not I have, John? It's an entirely detestable and unsanitary activity hardly warranting its status as a rite of passage. As if one must chance contracting candidiasis in order to become a proper man!"
The corners of John's mouth turn up into a slight smile. "So you've not, then."
"Oh, do shut up." Sherlock's face colours just slightly, a dusty pink flush settling comfortably across his cheekbones. He suddenly appears entirely riveted by the papers spread across his lap, staring down at them with nary a blink.
John watches him for a moment, watches him taptaptap with his fingers against the arm of the sofa, watches him flex his bare toes against the floor. On a whim, just after he scoots to the edge of the sofa cushion, prepared to go and shut off the DVD, he takes hold of Sherlock's arm.
Sherlock looks up at him, brow furrowed. "What?" he asks, exasperated.
John leans over and presses a quick, entirely dry kiss to his lips, right over the seam. He pulls back and gives Sherlock's arm an affectionate squeeze.
"There," he says, standing from the sofa. "Now you've been kissed."
Sherlock doesn't talk to him properly for two days.
He sulks like a child, flouncing around the flat in his dressing gown with an irritated look plastered across his face, all lowered eyebrows and a straight line of a mouth. He doesn't eat, he doesn't sleep, and he covers his left forearm with nicotine patches, adding one after the other, compulsively, until John eventually has to tackle him on the sofa, rip them off one by one, and dispose of the package from whence they came.
On the third day following the kiss, John stumbles into the sitting room at half-seven in the morning, bleary-eyed and sleepy, to find Sherlock fully, immaculately dressed and sitting in his armchair with his violin, tenderly stroking the strings with his index finger.
"You kissed me," he says in place of a greeting, in place of "Good morning, John," or "Cup of tea?" or "Sleep all right?"
John rubs his eyes with the heel of his palm. "I did," he says easily, stifling a yawn and making his way across the room and into the kitchen. Tea. He needs tea.
He hears a shuffling coming from the sitting room behind him, as if Sherlock is shifting about in his chair, followed by, "You should know that I'm not presently interested in a sexual relationship."
John nearly drops his RAMC mug back into the draining rack. "Good," he says, voice a bit strained. "Fine." He sets about filling the kettle and snatching a teabag from its box before adding, "I didn't mean anything by it, really."
There is a gentle thump, the sound of a newly-uncrossed leg making contact with the floor, and then a dull tune of some sort, fingers plucking a violin like a harp. "Fine," Sherlock responds over the gentle thrum of sound, mirroring John's reaction.
It takes a grand total of eight days for Sherlock to return to his normal self, whatever that means. He picks up a gruesome little murder case, a nice dismemberment, and channels into his work the energy previously directed toward whinging, huffing, and pulling displeased faces at John.
John, swamped with work at the surgery [it's flu season, after all], spends his sparse free time sneaking kips and ordering takeaway, leaving his flatmate to traipse around London, dashing under lines of crime scene tape and ahaing whenever a new piece of the great puzzle snaps into place.
Things seem to be going fine--well, even--as if the world of 221b has righted itself, no longer tilted on its axis, as if whatever storm rumbling in Sherlock's belly has gone for good. John goes about the week as usual, minus a few midnight chases across rooftops, Sherlock goes about the week as usual, minus a blogger on his heels, and the week comes to an all-around satisfying [though tiring] close. Case solved. Mad week at the surgery over.
Because of this, John doesn't expect the text he receives as he's wheeling a trolley through the aisles of Tesco, on the hunt for food that is specifically not made en masse, stuffed into cartons, and delivered within an hour.
What DID you mean by it, then? SH
John lowers his brows and types back three question marks.
He doesn't receive a response until almost fifteen minutes later, when he's queuing up at the register.
The kiss, obviously. SH
You said you didn't mean anything by it; however,
humans rarely act without motivation. SH
Can we talk about this later? John runs a hand across his face and moves forward in the queue.
As you wish. SH
They don't talk about it that day. Sherlock's away when John arrives home, and by the time he returns, John's gone on up to bed.
They're having dinner after a case nearly a fortnight later when Sherlock finally brings it up again. He makes a stab at a rolling carrot on his plate after chasing it about with a fork, and says casually, "I believe perhaps this qualifies as later."
"Mm?" John's got a mouth full of pasta and a torn chunk of garlic bread in his hand.
"We're meant to discuss what motivated you to kiss me."
John swallows inappropriately loudly and grabs blindly for his glass of wine. "Dunno," he offers after several gulps of the liquid. "I wanted to?"
"But why?" Sherlock looks perplexed. He's done eating for the moment, has got his elbows on the table as if he's forgotten his manners, and his hands are up under his chin in a near steeple-pose.
"You'd never done it." John shrugs.
"So it was out of pity." Sherlock closes his eyes for a moment and sighs, an oh, obviously, sigh, like he's figured it all out. "Well. You needn't have bothered. As I expressed prior, giving or receiving a kiss is really quite a ridiculous marker for the progression of one's life." He removes his elbows from the table and smooths his napkin across his lap. "I'm no different than I was a fortnight ago. I've no more quality of life nor maturity."
John sets his cutlery on his plate and dabs at his mouth with his napkin. "It wasn't out of pity, Sherlock, you great, dramatic bugger. I wanted you to have a kiss. They're nice." When Sherlock doesn't respond after several moments, he continues, "We can forget about it if you want. Do your little deletion, clear out your mind palace, whatever you do."
Sherlock places his napkin in his plate and exhales slowly out his nose.
They have a nice walk after dinner, opting to travel back to the flat on foot rather than by taxi. Sherlock keeps half a pace ahead of John at all times, gloved hands stuffed in the pockets of his Bellstaff.
It's a beautiful night for winter--cold but still, the air crisp and fresh. John crosses his arms over his chest and breathes deeply. The smell of the air, of London's pollution somehow muted, replaced by an odourless chill, makes John think of Christmas, of school holidays and family. It makes him reminisce.
"My first kiss was with a girl named Victoria," he recounts, turning to Sherlock and giving him a small smile. "She was older--year nine--and she had the longest, blondest hair you've ever seen."
He goes on to tell Sherlock about her Christmas party, about the mistletoe and the quick kiss in the dim glow of the fairy lights, and to his surprise, Sherlock listens. He doesn't look at John as he speaks and he doesn't smile or hm or nod, but he doesn't stop him talking, either, and afterwards, there are no scathing comments, no scoffs, no protestations. Sherlock simply lifts his head up and watches the sky as he walks, looking at what he's claimed to care nothing about as if it's all right to feel for a moment.
They're having tea later on, sat in their armchairs dressed in pyjamas and reading, Sherlock going through the day's paper for any crimes of interest and John making his way through chapter twelve of a book he's been trying to finish for ages. It's calm and it's peaceful and the fire crackles pleasantly in the background.
"I'm not presently interested in a sexual relationship," Sherlock says suddenly, very quietly, repeating his exact words from weeks ago.
John lowers his book into his lap and hmms at him, eyebrows lowered in confusion but, pointedly, not alarm.
Sherlock's still reading through the paper, eyes scanning the pages.
"What's this about, then?" John asks after several rather silent and awkward moments.
"I just thought you might like to know."
John moves his eyes from side to side, unsure of how to respond. "All right," he settles on, picking up his book once more and trying to focus on the pages.
"That is to say, however," Sherlock continues, as an afterthought, "it's possible there will be a time in the future that I might perhaps like to engage in sexual activity, at least as an experiment."
"You've had a kiss. That doesn't mean you have to lose your virginity, too," John says, glancing over at him and suppressing a smile at the unusual, unnatural height at which Sherlock is holding the newspaper, concealing his face.
"Virginity." Sherlock scoffs. "As if a virgin is an actual state of being. People are so dull."
He's silent for several moments, for long enough that John thinks he's finished talking. And John's about to make a comment, to possibly change the subject, when Sherlock begins once more:
"I might wish to be kissed again," he says from behind the newspaper. His voice is quieter than normal, gentler, and John has the sudden urge to pull away the paper clutched in Sherlock's hands so he can see his face. "If you're amenable, of course. It's only logical to repeat experiences in order to obtain the most accurate data."
From anyone else, this statement would be a come-on; it would be flirtation. From Sherlock, it's exactly as it sounds; it's a genuine, albeit shy, request.
Something in John's gut clenches. He shuts his book.
When there is no response after a full minute, Sherlock slowly lowers the newspaper in his hands and peeks up over the top. He really is such a kid, John thinks, giving him a small smile. He's a brain, sure, a bloody genius, a right annoying arse much of the time, but there's something endearing about him, almost sweet.
"Obviously," Sherlock says, raising the newspaper once more and speaking into the pages, his voice coming out all muffled, "if you're unwilling, it's fine. I shan't mention it again."
John sets his book down on the sidetable and scoots up to the edge of his seat. Carefully, he reaches over and hooks two fingers over the top of Sherlock's paper, tugging it down until he can see his face. His cheeks are all pink again, flushed and warm-looking. He avoids John's eyes and focuses, instead, on the bottom part of the newspaper, on the classified ads, which he particularly enjoys.
"Do you want another kiss, Sherlock?" John asks before he allows himself too much time to think.
Sherlock opens his mouth as if to speak but shuts it abruptly a moment later, his teeth clacking together.
"Yes?" John asks. He leans forward, slightly, pushing the paper down further, until it's a wrinkled mess in Sherlock's lap.
Sherlock narrows his eyes and looks from side to side, as if suspicious or thinking too hard or possibly, most likely, both. "I suppose I wouldn't mind," he says quietly after an awkwardly long period of time.
John leans over and kisses him.
It doesn't last more than four seconds--a quick press of mouths. John feels the cool dampness of Sherlock's lips from where he had licked them only seconds before John had leaned in, feels Sherlock tense up, freeze, hold his breath, and then in one, slow stream, exhale shakily through his nose, the warm air landing on John's left cheek.
John finishes the kiss, gently puckering his lips and sucking as he pulls back and causing a proper, quiet smack when they separate.
Sherlock sits there afterwards, lips parted just slightly, face impossibly red, breathing out his mouth.
"All right?" John asks. He places his hands on Sherlock's shoulders and gives them a firm squeeze. Sherlock nods and reaches up to rub the side of his finger over his own bottom lip, a nervous reaction, possibly, a gesture of nascent embarrassment.
John smiles affectionately and brings up a hand to stroke across the top of his flatmate's curls, dishevelling the mop of hair in the way he knows he hates. Sherlock grumbles at him as expected and swats his hand away.
"So are you going to take notes, then?" John teases, motioning toward the sitting room table where the laptops rest. "Draw up a spreadsheet?"
Sherlock pulls his legs up into the chair with him and reaches for the abandoned newspaper, which has fallen to the floor. "No," he says quickly, pointedly, shaking out the paper and going back to his reading.
John smirks and picks up his book once more. "We can do that every now and again if you'd like," he says, turning the paperback to where he'd left off and straightening out the dog-eared page.
"Fine," Sherlock responds after only a moment's silence. The colour spread across his cheeks deepens, and the corner of his mouth upturns just slightly.
John decides that he likes it very much. Very much, indeed.