A/N: Just a quickie. But it took me all week to think it through.
He is waiting, because Sherlock needs to make tea.
Never mind the text at half past eight this morning, never mind the promise of something interesting and exciting and mind-boggling. Now, when he should be ready to leave, Sherlock is faffing about with a teapot.
"Are you sure you don't want some?" he asks, pouring tea into the first cup from much higher than is necessary.
He's even a show off when making hot drinks.
"No, I'm fine, really," John replies, raising a hand in polite refusal.
Sherlock pours more tea, and at this, John's eyebrows twitch.
Unless Sherlock has gone deaf, this strikes him as odd behaviour. He opens his mouth to say something, but the words catch in his throat, as Sherlock busies himself with milk and sugar.
Before he can squeeze the question out, Sherlock disappears down the hallway, mug of tea in one hand, and steps into his bedroom, closing the door quietly behind him.
John strains his ears, stops breathing, just for a moment, because he can hear the soft murmur of Sherlock's voice through the wall, his baritone carrying through the brickwork no matter how gentle his words. He cannot decipher what Sherlock's saying, but he can tell by the tone that there is a familiarity there, that this isn't a brand new venture, that he hasn't decided to experiment with a stranger, just to see what happens.
When he reappears, John can do nothing but watch as Sherlock heads back into the kitchen, picks up his mug, and swallows a few mouthfuls of tea. He tips the last of it into the sink and leaves his mug on the side, then heads towards John.
"All right?" he asks, throwing on his jacket. He pats down his pockets to ensure he has everything he needs, and makes a move for the door but stops when John doesn't answer. He frowns, looking John up and down. "What's the matter?"
"Is she back?" John asks.
"Who?" Sherlock's frown deepens, and John releases a short laugh of disbelief.
"Irene Adler," he says. Sherlock can't possibly expect him not to notice. Unless he's made a cup of tea for a mannequin, taken it into his bedroom, and spoken words to an inanimate object on a Sunday morning, but if that's the case then there are much more pressing issues that will definitely require some sort of intervention.
"God no," Sherlock says with a shake of his head. "Last I heard the price on her life had been upped to eight million euros. She couldn't possibly come back to London."
John opens his mouth to argue, but words fail him. He gets the distinct feeling that Sherlock might actually be telling the truth.
"Come on," Sherlock says. "It must be a good one if it's got Lestrade out of bed on a Sunday." He heads for the door but John throws out a hand to stop him. Before they set foot on any crime scene, there is a mystery he needs to get to the bottom of right here.
"But what about her?" John asks. "After all this you just..."
"What about her?" Sherlock replies with a frown, his impatience starting to show.
John sighs, casting his eyes up to the ceiling, craving the strength to see this conversation through to the bitter end.
"You and her," he says. "Is all that just...over?" He's half disappointed - Irene was the closest he's ever seen Sherlock come to any sort of romantic relationship; but half curious as well. If not Irene, then who? Who does he deem important enough to make tea for on a Sunday morning, when there is a crime scene waiting for him? Who does he trust enough to leave in his flat all day?
Who does he want enough, to have in his bed?
Sherlock takes his time formulating an answer. He presses his lips together, perhaps to keep anything too revealing from slipping out of his mouth. He focuses on the floor as he sorts through his thoughts, and eventually, after far too long a silence, he looks up.
"It never had any real degree of permanency," he tells John. He gives a shrug of his shoulders, his mouth turning down at the corners, suggesting that what's done, is most certainly done. "Maybe...in another life, if we'd both played the game a little bit differently..." He shrugs again, and John folds his arms, but doesn't say anything, waiting for more admissions. "Not this time around though," Sherlock says, and he offers a brief smile.
He's not upset.
He's not bitter.
It is what it is.
"You could go to her," John suggests. "Why wouldn't you go to her? She doesn't have to come here."
"I'm fine," Sherlock says. His tone is firm, but not argumentative. He's not trying to deny anything. He's relaxed, which is weird enough in itself. The only time John's ever seen him relaxed before has been with chemical influence, but Sherlock hasn't taken anything. He can tell.
"But you loved her." He's not sure why he's getting so hung up on this. Maybe it's because of his own loss, his own loneliness, that he can't stand to see someone else, especially his best friend, throw away an opportunity of happiness.
"Excellent use of past tense," Sherlock replies, and he dodges around John to get to the landing and snatch his coat from its hook. He pulls it on, ignoring John's hard expression, before eventually relenting with a sigh. "I mean...I'm not in love with her," he clarifies. "I want her to be safe, and happy, and if she ever turns up here and needs my help then I would never refuse. I want the very best for her, like I do for all my friends." He pauses, his chest puffed up with the words he's yet to say. "Including you."
John ignores the knot in his stomach, that has tied itself tightly at the mere suggestion that one day, he will have to move on, that he will have to find someone else because the thought of being alone terrifies him, because he needs somebody to love him, somebody that he can love, and love well, this time.
"So that's it then, is it?" John asks, his words sounding a little thick as they issue from his throat.
"Oh for God's sake," Sherlock snaps, and he yanks his scarf from the coat hook now, his patience diminishing more and more with each question. "There are nearly seven and a half billion people on this planet." He loops his scarf around his neck and gives it sharp tug. "Do you honestly think there's only one person I might ever find..."
Sherlock stills, his mouth opening and closing a couple of times before he settles on the right word.
John laughs, shaking his head, his arms dropping to his sides. "Suitable?" He laughs again, and surveys Sherlock, who seems to be quite serious.
"Is that your chat up line?" John asks. he bites his lip, to try and keep his laughter at bay, lest he put Sherlock in a bad mood so early on a Sunday. He doesn't want to have to put up with the fall out of that all day.
Sherlock rolls his eyes, but John still wants to push just a little further.
"You seem suitable, fancy a shag?" He puts on a voice that he knows sounds nothing like Sherlock's, his head bobbing from side to side as he speaks.
Sherlock quirks an eyebrow. Apparently he will not lower himself to respond to John's mockery.
"Seriously though," John says, dropping the act. "Who is it?"
Sherlock fixes him with a look, and then, at last, "The last person you'd think of."
John frowns, but doesn't have time to dwell, as Sherlock turns away and trots down the stairs. John follows with a sigh, brushing past the pink and black striped scarf that hangs over one of the coat hooks.
He supposes it doesn't matter who it is, as long as Sherlock's happy, and he's certainly that. He even manages to remember Greg's name when they arrive at the crime scene.
At Baker Street, Molly Hooper slips on Sherlock's second best dressing gown, and heads towards the kitchen to top up her tea.