On February 1st John wakes up to find that Sherlock’s half of the bed is empty, and on his pillow is a single lavender rose. He smiles softly, picks it up, and presses his nose into the petals.
The following day John finds two of the same flower, their stems cut quite short, waiting for him in his favorite mug when he goes to make tea. He doesn’t ask Sherlock about it yet, and Sherlock acts as if nothing is different.
On February 3rd there are three lavender roses waiting for John. One is resting in his left shoe; another is tucked inside his jacket pocket; the third he finds on the doorknob when he’s on his way out. He puts them on his desk at work and thinks about texting Sherlock for an explanation. But he doesn’t. Not yet.
Four roses find their way onto the mantlepiece.
Five are found nestled in John’s chair late in the evening on February 5th.
Six are discovered the following morning, wrapped neatly together with ribbon, in the refrigerator. Still, neither of them say a word.
It isn’t until the 7th of February–when John finds seven lavender roses, cut from their stems, floating in a bowl of water on the kitchen table–that John’s curiosity gets the better of him. He’s not much for computers, but he knows how to use google at least. The results make his head feel light.
Eight roses decorate the sitting room in various spots.
Nine are placed into various beakers and tubes.
Ten litter the surface of the sofa all day on February 10th. They avoid sitting there all day, but neither of them mentions it.
On February 11th there are eleven roses lining the doorframe of Baker Street.
The 12th brings a bouquet to John’s office where he switches them out for the three that have begun to wilt but that he was unwilling to remove.
Thirteen roses hang from the ceiling of their bedroom the following day. John isn’t quite sure how Sherlock managed that without waking him, but he lays there for almost half an hour, just watching them sway back and forth.
John comes home from work on the 14th of February and finds lavender rose petals scattered up and down the seventeen steps of 221B. If he had to guess he would say there were enough petals for fourteen roses. His chest constricts, and he takes the steps slowly, a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.
He expects to find Sherlock waiting for him, but when he reaches the top he finds the door to the sitting room closed, a note taped to it. Sherlock’s untidy scrawl reads, You know where to find me.
And John does. He’s back down the stairs and out the door in seconds, and for once it seems he’s got Sherlock’s luck on his side as a taxi rolls to a stop when he flings out his hand.
The lab at St. Bart’s hasn’t changed much since the day they met, and it’s a bit like walking into the past when John pushes the door open to find Sherlock waiting for him in the same exact spot he had been when John had first seen him. Only this time John isn’t limping. And this time Sherlock is holding a single lavender rose instead of a pipette, and his gaze is soft and warm as it settles on John.
“Knew you’d get it,” he says, his eyes crinkling with his smile.
John walks toward him, taking his time even though his heart is pounding. It’s ridiculous, he thinks, because they’ve been together for months now. “I’m smarter than I look,” he says, unable to keep from smiling in return. He stops about a foot away, nodding toward the rose in Sherlock’s hand. “Isn’t that cheating?”
Sherlock shakes his head. “You see, but you do not observe,” he says, a mischievous glint in his eyes. He steps closer, holding the flower up between them. “There were only thirteen on the steps. This is number fourteen.”
John steps closer and reaches out to touch the petals, letting his hand slip down until his fingers ghost over Sherlock’s. “I looked it up, you know. Lavender rose.”
“I know,” Sherlock says, his smile widening. “On the seventh. I was surprised you held out for so long.”
John can’t help laughing. “I’m not even going to ask how you knew.”
He plucks the rose from Sherlock’s fingers and sets it gingerly on the counter beside them, removing the delicate barrier between them so that he can step into Sherlock’s space and draw him down for a soft, slow kiss. Sherlock’s hands cup his face, his thumbs stroking along the sharp edges of his jaw, and John clings to fistfuls of Sherlock’s shirt at his waist.
When he pulls away it’s only enough so that he can speak, and his lips brush Sherlock’s with every word. “Love at first sight,” he whispers, and he frees one hand to touch the petals of the lavender rose beside them. “And you always said I was the romantic.”
Sherlock kisses him again, lingering for a long, sweet moment. “I thought you should know the truth. The whole of it. How long I’ve loved you.”
Something in John’s chest aches, and he spends long, drawn-out moments pressing his lips to Sherlock’s, murmuring his I love yous into his mouth, hoping that it will be enough, that Sherlock will understand that he’s been loved since the moment John saw him in this very lab so many years ago.
Later that night–after Sherlock has led them home, after John has pressed him against the sheets, after countless kisses and touches and soft, pleading words–later, they sit together in front of the fire, half-clothed, legs tangled together, and press the single lavender rose in between the pages of a heavy book. And when they’ve finished, John takes Sherlock by the hand and leads him back to bed.