“Right. Okay. You’re unattached. Like me. Fine. Good.”
“John, um… I think you should know that I consider myself married to my work, and while I’m flattered by your interest, I’m really not looking for any…”
John raised his eyes from his plate and sighed.
“I’m so sorry, no, I didn’t mean that. Not that. I just…” he looked away in embarrassment. “I don’t do all that well with people… I mean, I’m fine with people in general, and even in significant numbers, but I really don’t… I don’t…” he felt his throat constricting painfully. “Sorry.”
Sherlock was watching him wide eyes and waiting.
The soldier in front of him took a shuddering breath.
“I don’t. Do very well. With some kinds. Of changes,” he forced out. “If you had a significant other, whatever you’d call them, I’d need to know that… beforehand.”
“Ah,” Sherlock blinked and looked down, up and then surveyed John carefully, his head cocked to the side. “You wanted to know if there is any risk of another person staying occasionally with us, in the flat.”
“Yes. That. Thank you. I…” John sipped some water. “Sorry. I might not be a very good person to become a flatmate with, I suppose. I–I will pay and you can look for, for someone else, I mean, less…” he stood up, digging for his wallet.
A long, warm hand caught his chilled wrist,
“No, don’t,” Sherlock pulled him back into his chair. “We can certainly come to some agreement. I am a consulting detective and there may be customers coming to the flat, from time to time, but I think we can manage this. Would any kind of visit be a trigger, or only certain ones?”
“As-as long as I know someone is coming,” John murmured slowly to avoid stammering or blocking himself. “I will be fine. Or if I hear them, or somehow know they are there before I see them.”
“Mrs Hudson sometimes drops in to clean up or to leave some biscuits,” the detective provided an example. “But she does make a lot of noise when she comes upstairs. Would that be enough?”
“Y-yes. I think so, at least,” John sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m too much trouble to live with…”
“Not a problem,” Sherlock said softly. “A challenge, maybe. I think I can deal with the clients part easily, yes. Mrs Hudson has another flat, in the basement, dismal little place, but if we fix it up, she may let us have it for just the electricity bill. This way I will be able to separate the office from the flat. That would be of benefit to everyone, I suppose.”
John blinked in surprise and speared a bit of ravioli.
“You’d do that just because of me?” he managed to find his voice again.
“Oh, well. I have to admit our living room has become rather cramped rather quickly, as it is now. Half of these documents could go to the ‘office’, should I have it. I’d just have to clean the basement flat, dry it out properly and install some shelving. I don’t suppose you know anything about renovating?”
John felt a little smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
“Well, let me tell you about the summer between my first and second year at the uni…”
# (3 months later) #
“John, in case I wanted… To have someone over - if they would sleep in my room and then, well, in general, be about the flat, what kind of warning would you require?”
John nodded slowly and swallowed the dregs of his tea. And a tear, or maybe two.
“Just tell me the day before that I should expect someone to be in the flat in the morning. Preferably before she arrives.”
“Oh,” Sherlock twirled the mug in his hands. “That’s reasonable, I suppose.”
# (6 months later) #
“I suppose,” Sherlock began, watching John from over his plate. “I could have… A date. Tomorrow.”
“I see,” John replaced his fork carefully and twisted his hands together in his lap to stop them from shaking. “That’s nice. Would she be coming to spend the night?”
“That… depends on how the date goes, but that is the general idea. I have to clarify one thing, however, John. Whoever I’d invite in such a fashion, it would certainly be a 'he’, not a 'she’.”
“O-oh,” John looked down at his plate. “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to assume…”
“You went with the standard population behaviours, which is not a crime, but a reasonable usage of available information. Don’t worry.”
“So, he would be staying over? Very… very well,” he drank the rest of his coffee and took a long, steadying breath.
He had gotten better in the months of living with Sherlock. Regular meetings with clients in the downstairs 'office’, a lot of exercise when running after the detective, having a small but steady job at the local surgery (which he defended from Sherlock with ferocity he hadn’t expected) and being officially counted as half of the investigative team did wonders to his stability. He even managed to get used to the three people invading their flat on regular basis, which was the biggest surprise of them all. Mrs Hudson was very understanding about his 'little phobia’ as she dubbed it, so she usually called up the stairs when she came over. DI Lestrade - Greg - learnt quickly not to enter their living room without knocking and waiting to be let inside (one occasion when John had almost tackled him down was quite enough). Mycroft, well, Mycroft was the one that took some adjustment… But he also changed his patterns, usually calling ahead - calling John’s mobile, to be specific, under the cover of checking on his brother.
And now Sherlock wanted to introduce a new element. John nodded slowly, coming back to the present.
“Very… very nice,” he smiled at Sherlock, even though his heart was quietly breaking. Just a bit. “When would he be coming over?”
“I suppose I’d take him to a dinner first,” Sherlock drawled, looking at his mobile. “Definitely, dinner first, then we’d be coming back here.”
“OK,” John stifled a sigh. “Let me know when you have the time. I will let you have the flat to…” he shrugged and started collecting the dishes.
“Well, that depends on you, John,” Sherlock caught his hand when he was picking up the saucer. “I…” there was something shaky in that voice. “What time would you be ready?”
“T-to go upstairs?” John shrugged. “Anytime you need me to, just send me a text.”
“No, not… not that,” Sherlock’s voice had gone suddenly husky. “What time would you be ready to leave for the dinner with me?”