It started out simply enough.
They were at St Bart's examining some soil samples for a case.
Sherlock was determined that they didn't belong in the house, where they were found and they were somehow linked to the killer. But they didn't match the samples that came from his footprints in another part of the house.
So they'd been here for about half an hour with Sherlock bent over the microscope muttering to himself. John had stopped trying to make sense of what he was saying after the first ten minutes and was now simply hovering over his shoulder, watching and waiting for his inevitable breakthrough.
Having heard they were working there, Molly came in with coffee for them, as always.The coffee was more for Sherlock than John of course; but Molly was not rude so she always brought him a cup as well. John was very grateful for this because after the shift he'd just pulled at the clinic and the usual "wear and tear" from a case he needed caffeine.
So he thanked her quite warmly when she handed him a mug and took a sip,letting out a content sigh. Sherlock, on the other hand, barely glanced up as he took his mug from her; before going back to work, without so much as a "thanks".
Nothing new there, though Molly couldn't conceal her disappointment. After all this time you would think the girl would just give up. And John feels quite sorry for her, because the news that they are dating will probably crush her. He still hasn't decided how to approach that on yet.
Sherlock solves that problem though by saying, just as Molly is turning to leave "My phone, dear." he request, well more like commands, extending one hand to reach for it. Before Sherlock had gotten to the word "phone" John was already headed for it; knowing what Sherlock wanted almost as soon as he opened his mouth. He could read Sherlock rather well and it was amazing how in-synch they were.
However he stopped dead in his tracks for a moment when the last word of the sentence reached his ears. Dear? No. He did not just say "Dear". Surely he'd misheard. Sherlock did not do pet-names or endearments of any form.
They'd been together for almost three months and he'd never called John anything except his name; or an idiot, but that's beside the point.
He quickly located the phone and turned back to hand it to Sherlock when he saw the shocked expression on Molly's face. Well shit. Apparently he hadn't been mistaken. Sherlock just called him dear. What in hell was going on? It's not that he really minded the display of affection; but it was so out of character for Sherlock that it was rather unnerving.
And now Molly knew and was scurrying from the room,obviously fighting tears. That's not how he wanted her to find out. And why would Sherlock do that?
He wasn't romantic or sentimental and it was disconcerting to John. However, he managed to pass it off as Sherlock making a point to Molly that he was unavailable; in his typically inconsiderate fashion.
He forgot about the incident until a week later when they were at a crime scene, on the same case. There'd been another victim, third on two weeks.
"I need a torch" Sherlock said, kneeling beside the bed to inspect underneath it, a few feet from where the executive had been found dead that morning. John didn't bother asking what could possibly be under the bed that would be relevant to their mysterious soil samples.
He'd learned when Sherlock told you to do something you did it and then could ask questions later.
So he just got a torch off of a police officer and handed it over to him. "Point it under the bed, sweetie." Sherlock said, gesturing for him to kneel down beside him.
John nearly dropped the flashlight in surprise. Sherlock did not just call him "sweetie" at a crime scene. He couldn't have.
Yet judging by the looks on Donovan and Lestrade's faces he had indeed. Maybe Sherlock had done it just to mess with the Yard agents? Yes, that's exactly the sort of thing he would do.
So again John manages to dismiss the incident and gets down next to Sherlock, helping him search for any evidence. He put the incident out of his mind, for a few day anyway.
One morning later that week it starts up again.
They've solved the case, turns out it was actually a contractor that both victims employed to renovate their homes. The killer had some sort of psychotic grudge against him and was trying to set him up to look as though he'd committed the murders.
Pleased with the results and still coming down from the "case high" they were enjoying a quiet day together in the flat, John blogging and Sherlock experimenting.
When it happens this time John can't find any explanation and it doesn't stop. "Would you bring me some tea,love?" Sherlock requests early that morning.
Then "Toss me a pen,darling." when he want to record the unexpected results of an experiment. And again later when John's taking a break to fix himself some lunch "Where's your laptop sweetheart? I need to use it."
John is actually getting a bit scared. Sherlock had to be up to something. Maybe there is something he wants and he is trying to butter John up? But John tosses that idea aside as soon as it's formed.That's not his style at all. If he wants something he will just tell John and more than likely John will happily oblige.
So what is all this about? John can't take it anymore when Sherlock start again, saying "How about Chinese take-away for dinner, honey?" "Sherlock what in hell is all this about?!" he finally snaps in exasperation.
Sherlock is unruffled by his outburst and merely raises his eyebrow
"Well you're always on me about not eating enough and -" "No. Not the food Sherlock. The pet-names.The endearments. All this couply stuff!"
"I'm not sure what you're reffering to John. We are a couple and-" "No, I mean why have you suddenly started calling me 'love' and 'darling' and such?" he clarifies
"Does it upset you?" Sherlock responded curiously."Well, yeah a bit." he says and Sherlock looks a bit confused and put out.
John tries to explain " I mean it's just not you Sherlock. Makes me think you're up to something." Sherlock smirks a bit when John admits his concern. "I'm sorry John. I didn't mean to worry you. I'm just not used to all of this." he says with a flourish of his hand, as if that will clarify everything.
Of course it doesn't. "All of what exactly?" John asks, still not understanding.
"This affection" he responded lacing the word 'affection" with the sort of bemusement one might apply to ancient Greek.
"It's not something I'm accustomed to expressing."And now John gets it.
"Oh, well you don't need to bother yourself with that. I'm not expecting anything romantic.We're a couple and I know you care about me so I don't need sentiments.I mean they are nice and all but not necessary." " I know they aren't necessary.That's the point. I feel as though I should work on expressing my affection for you." "So why pet-names?" John asks. He can understand Sherlock wanting to express himself but he's always seemed like an "action speak louder than words" sort of person.
" Well in observing other couples I've noted that physical contact and verbal expressions of endearments are the two most common methods of expressing affection.
We have the physical contact well covered I would say" he comments; quirking his mouth into a smirk as John reddens a bit
"However I've no experience with verbal expression of emotion. And I have no knowledge of how effective it is on you, or if I need to pursue a different avenue of expression. So I've been conducting an experiment to see which verbal stimulus you respond best to."
Leave it to Sherlock Holmes to make something as mushy and sentimental as a pet name into a scientific experiment.
"So an experiment huh?" "Of course. What else could it be?" Sherlock asks, rhetorically.
John just shakes his head, because this is the Sherlock he knows and loves.
"I don't know." he says with a smile. "Problem?" Sherlock inquires. He just smiles. "Nope. Just don't ever call me babe."