"Are you listening?"
"Mm." Sherlock pried his eyes away from his laptop. John had already given three lectures this week about the importance of eye contact and he wasn't in the mood for another one.
"I'm trying to remind you that tomorrow's my reunion."
"Reunion? What reunion?"
John pinched his nose. Sherlock liked it when he pinched his nose. "For the army, Sherlock. They're having a benefit for veterans and everyone from my squad will be there."
"Ah, right. Six o'clock on the other side of London, you were annoyed that the invitation didn't arrive sooner. See? I listen."
John hummed and let his hand rest on Sherlock's shoulder as he grabbed his mug off the desk. "Not sure storing the information is the same as processing it. But I'll take it. Be ready by 5:30, alright? They're pretty punctual at these sorts of things."
John felt Sherlock's shoulder tense under his touch.
"Why do I need to get ready?"
John smiled. It happened more often than he thought, his having to explain basic etiquette and expectations. Small talk doesn't have to have a purpose. Holding hands isn't always an invitation for sex. John making eye contact with the taxi driver is not flirting.
"Because you're coming with. It's a plus-one event. You know, wives and such."
Sherlock's fingers steepled under his chin and John gave him a moment to process. They'd been together for nearly a year now and there had yet to be a week when John hadn't needed to break things down.
Confusion, fear, a touch of panic.
"Everyone will have a hot young thing on their arm. I've got to show you off, haven't I?" His joke fell flat as Sherlock searched his eyes.
"Only partially. Look, this is important to me. We'll all be catching up on each other's lives, meeting kids and hearing about promotions and shit. I'll enjoy myself more if you're there."
"This is a nonnegotiable part of a relationship?"
"Not every event is mandatory, but yeah, I'd like to take you somewhere other than the Yard every once in awhile."
Sherlock returned his fingers to his keyboard. "Alright."
John fastened the final button of his army uniform as he stepped into the living room and was met with a frozen detective.
Sherlock's eyes traversed John from head to toe and John huffed.
"Yes, alright, you've finally seen me in my uniform, let's move on. Bit tight but it's alright, yeah?"
"Mm." Sherlock's feet, of their own free will, brought him to his soldier. "I don't want to share you."
John kissed him and turned him around, looking at the clock. "You don't have to. Now come on, we should have left five minutes ago. You ready?" He looked him over. Sleek black suit, pressed white shirt, cufflinks John recognized as a gift from Lestrade last Christmas. His hair was bouncier than normal and his hands had the slightest tremor.
"Sherlock Holmes, you're bloody nervous."
"You got all dressed up for me and you're shaking like a leaf. Come here." He took Sherlock's coat out of his hands and shoved it into the closet; it was warm outside and he wouldn't have him hiding how good that suit made him look. "I won't leave your side at the party, alright? It's an hour of cocktails, two at the most."
"They won't like me."
John sat on the couch. "That's not true."
"They won't like that I'm with you."
"They're a pretty open-minded group of people, Sherlock, I'm not worried about that."
"Not because I'm a man. Because I'm…me."
"Come here, love." John placed his hand on top of Sherlock's, as he always did when these sudden bouts of doubt arose. He couldn't understand how Sherlock didn't see how John was the lucky one. "Repeat it for me again."
Sherlock shuffled and mumbled.
"Can't hear you."
"I make you happy. If that's one day not the case, you'll tell me." He said it with the rote memorization of a schoolboy.
"You make me happy. And that day will never come."
They sat like that for a few moments before finally heading out the door.
Sherlock didn't know he would be jealous until John had become his. He hated that everyone in the ballroom could see his shoulders in that uniform, how everyone came up to him as though he was the one they were most excited to see, how inside jokes from a world he'd never experienced were tossed around like confetti. He loved to see John smile and his laugh made his stomach flip, but when someone else put it there? He felt dizzy.
And John was true to his word, never leaving his side, guiding him from one conversation to the next with a gentle hand on the small of his back. "This is Sherlock," he said, and the next words out of his mouth were never "He's brilliant" or "Maybe you've read about him in the papers." He just presented him as a person, his person, as though their being together was the only thing that was worth mentioning.
Everyone they met was polite, and no one whispered "How on earth did you get him?" in Sherlock's ear. And he was grateful, because he didn't have an answer.
Sherlock was only half-listening to yet another introduction when he saw the man's raised eyebrows.
"This is your boyfriend then, is it?"
John patted Sherlock on the back and laughed. "Yes, well, hopefully not for long."
Hopefully not for long.
Hopefully not for long.
Sherlock dropped his glass and stuttered an apology as John bent down to help. "Hey, not a big deal." He met his eyes and realized Sherlock's were darting back and forth. "You okay?"
"I'll—towels." He shook his head and cleared his throat. "I'll just…actually, air. I need some air."
"Okay. Let's—" John was cut off by an old mate, clearly on his third or fourth drink, dragging him towards a group of younger soldiers that had just wandered in. He turned around quickly. "Go outside, I'll meet you there in a sec. Don't leave, okay?"
John finally made it outside ten minutes later, finding Sherlock pacing under a streetlamp.
"Hey. Panic attack?"
Sherlock flinched from John's touch.
"Sherlock. Communicate, please. Big breaths, okay?"
"You said you'd tell me."
"If something was wrong. If you weren't happy. You promised."
John tried to catch up. "Who said I'm unhappy? What am I missing here? Did I look at someone for a split second too long? What do you think you saw?"
"I didn't see, I observed."
"Sherlock, I made you a promise. What promise did you make me?"
Sherlock took a few breaths and kicked a nearby rock. "That I'd always explain my conclusions."
"So start explaining."
"You said…you said 'not for long.'"
"That last man, he asked if I was…and you…you said hopefully not for long."
John looked down and couldn't help himself. He laughed.
"For a genius you can be a real idiot, you know that?"
Something flickered in Sherlock's face.
"That doesn't mean what you think it means."
"I speak English, John, don't patronize me. 'Hopefully not for long.' The question was whether I was your boyfriend. I fail to see how I could misread that."
"You bloody sod, I can't even stick with my plans, can I?" He took one of Sherlock's hands, holding on even when he tried to pull away. With the other hand he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a tiny black box.
"Would you be my husband instead?"
John bent his knee. "You don't just make me happy. You make me a better person. You make me proud to be with you. You entertain me, you frustrate me, and you make every second without you unbearably dull. I told you that day you're afraid of will never come, and I mean it. Will you let me take care of you for the rest of our lives?"
Sherlock didn't move.
"I'm not as young as I once was, Sherlock, my knee's bloody killing me."
"Oh. Oh! Of course." Sherlock grabbed his forearm and pulled him up. "John. Are you—"
"If you ask me if I'm sure, you're a bigger idiot than I thought. Just answer."
Sherlock looked down at the two identical rings, the strong hands holding them, and said "Yes."