Sometimes, Henrik doesn't talk, as John's come to find.

Henrik's never been much of a chatterbox, anyway, seemingly preferring to keep to himself most of the time. (Unless he's seeking a distraction from the voices of his mind, in which case he can ramble on about the most random subjects for ages, grasping at straws to find something, anything to converse about; that's rare now, though, but happened a lot when they were both younger.)

But there are days, every once in a while, when he gets back from work and he seems exhausted and won't speak a word to John all evening.

Today is one of those days. John had the day off, but Henrik didn't, and it must have been busy and stressful for him, as he arrives home without a hello, just walking through the door and taking off his shoes and suit jacket before he takes a seat next to John on the sofa.

The first few times this happened after they got together, John had felt hurt, thinking Henrik was deliberately shutting him out. It still takes effort to remind himself, now, that that's not his partner's intention. Back then, though, John would lash out about it, all anger and harsh words and 'please just talk to me' and 'what the hell did I do to make you give me the cold shoulder?'.

Henrik had come to explain it later on after the third or fourth time that happened. He'd admitted that he wasn't sure why it happened, but that it wasn't any fault of John's, just another one of the odd ways his mind worked; that, occasionally, when he was stressed and overwhelmed he'd find it hard or impossible to speak. He'd said something, too, about feeling a disconnect of sorts between his brain and his mouth at those times, like he could form sentences perfectly well in his head but they just wouldn't come out. John wasn't entirely sure he understood that part.

He still doesn't really understand it, but he tries to, and by now, they've figured out how to deal with those days.

John gets up and shuts the curtains, then turns the TV volume down, so Henrik has the chance to rest and recuperate for a bit. He returns to his spot on the sofa. "Dinner's in the oven. And yes, I am trying to avoid nearly burning the house down this time."

Henrik raises a hand to his chin and brings it back down: "Thank you." (Not long after their initial conversation on the subject, they'd agreed to pick up some sign language together so Henrik could better express his feelings to John when he couldn't speak. It's not perfect, and they don't know much, and it's no failsafe, but they've both found it helpful: John finds it very reassuring to receive affirmation that Henrik isn't just giving him the silent treatment, and Henrik has found it to reduce his frustration in trying to get things across.)

"What, for the dinner, or trying not to burn the house down?"


John laughs. "It was one time, Henrik!" he says, faux-insulted. "God, I start a small fire once and my boyfriend never lets me forget it."

Henrik sighs. "You shouldn't have done it then."

"Fair enough," John agrees.

They spend the rest of the evening in silence, apart from John's occasional comment on how 'incredibly stupid' some reality show on the TV is. (It had taken a while for John to adjust to nights like this, to Henrik's preference for quietness and organisation in general: John had always needed chaos and stimuli to keep his mind occupied, and living with someone who felt the exact opposite was difficult at first. Henrik had struggled too, for the same reason; it ended up being one of the most major causes of friction when they first moved in together. They still have the occasional fight about it, being such a balancing act, but most of the time, it's one they're quite good at.)

Later that night, when John's in bed, curled up in Henrik's arms and about to drift off to sleep, he hears an "I love you" whispered gently into his ear.