Sherlock still dreamed of him sometimes, in what little space there still was for dreaming. He would wake clutching a pillow to his chest, then fling it unceremoniously against a wall, embarrassed at himself. After this, he would dig around behind his nightstand and extract the pack of cigarettes he kept stashed there. The smell of smoke would always wake John up, but Sherlock, leaning his head out the open window, didn’t know that.
* * *
“John,” Sherlock called one afternoon.
John peeked his head out of the kitchen, where he was making a valiant but doomed attempt at baking after watching too many cooking programs. “What?”
“I got a text,” Sherlock said, pointing at the mantle where he’d left his phone.
John rolled his eyes, but he knew it was useless to complain about it. He snatched the phone up and clicked open the inbox without a word, though when he opened the new message, his eyebrows nearly shot off his face, blowing his cool facade.
“‘Sherlock,’” John read, “‘In London for the month, would like to see you, we really need to talk. VT.’”
At these initials, Sherlock sprang up off the couch, and then awkwardly sat down, clearly infuriated with himself. “Text back ‘no,’” he said curtly.
“Yeah, but who is it?” John asked.
“Just send it,” Sherlock said.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m doing it,” John muttered, tapping at the keyboard, then swearing and tapping again. “They need to make one of these for actual human thumbs,” he complained.
“Have you sent it?” Sherlock asked.
John dropped the phone unceremoniously into Sherlock’s lap. “Keep it in your pocket next time.”
* * *
“You’ll never guess who was in here looking for you,” Lestrade said as Sherlock and John strolled into the station.
“Unless it’s the woman slicing up these girls, I’m not interested,” Sherlock said flatly.
Lestrade rolled his eyes. “Yes, the killer just waltzed right—wait, did you say it’s a woman?”
Sherlock was grinning his pleased, I’m-so-bloody-clever grin. “Most certainly.”
Lestrade was frowning. “It’s an unusual MO for a female serial killer,” he muttered.
“It is a most unusual woman,” Sherlock answered.
“Were the initials VT?” John asked.
Sherlock cocked an eyebrow. “John,” he said, “I’m good, but I’m not quite that good.”
“No, I mean,” and John addressed himself to Lestrade, “the person who came looking for Sherlock, were the initials VT?”
Lestrade’s face broke out into a smile. “So,” he said, “the doctor’s got his very own mystery on his hands.”
“Something like that.” John’s cheeks were going red.
Lestrade nodded. “Then all I’ll tell you’s yes,” he said. “Wouldn’t want to spoil the fun.”
Sherlock’s face was it’s usual mask of calm, but John noticed a fistful of papers crumpling beneath his fingers. “Did you tell him anything?” he asked quietly.
Lestrade gave Sherlock a hurt look. “Of course not,” he said.
* * *
John had asked Sherlock once who his flatmate before John had been.
“I lived alone,” Sherlock had told him without looking up from his laptop. “My old flat was cheaper than this.”
John had almost believed him, but later that night he woke up with the smell of cigarette smoke tickling at his nose, and he knew Sherlock had been lying. He watched wisps of smoke creep past his window, dissolving into the night air, and he wondered who Sherlock was thinking about.
* * *
“Victor!” Angelo exclaimed, ushering Sherlock and John to their usual seats. “Waltzed right in like nothing doing! Well, you’ll be sure I didn’t sit him down here, Sherlock, it’s your table, not his.”
“Very kind of you, Angelo,” Sherlock said.
“You’re better off,” Angelo nodded sagely. “John here’s better in near every regard.”
John frowned playfully. “Near every?”
“Well,” Angelo scratched his chin, “Victor was taller.”
“I’d really rather not talk about it,” Sherlock said, shooting Angelo a sharp, angry glance. Angelo looked like he wanted to say something else, but he bit back whatever comment he had and took their orders. “Black coffee,” Sherlock said curtly, and that was all.
“So you did have a flatmate before me,” John said once Angelo had gone.
Sherlock glared at the candle in the middle of the table, then dug out his wallet and threw his debit card on the table. “I’m going back,” he said.
John watched him walk down the street, hands shoved in his pockets. He never had managed to convince Angelo that he and Sherlock weren’t dating.
* * *
Once when John had been making some effort at cleaning the flat he had found a few news clippings that had fallen out of one of Sherlock’s many overstuffed folders. Old cases of his, as far as John could figure, or at least ones he’d been interested in. He spotted Lestrade in one of the pictures, and smiled to himself. Then something in the back corner caught his eye: a tall figure in a wool coat with his face turned away from the camera, and a young man with an arm around his shoulders, laughing.
For a moment, John wondered if he shouldn’t show them to Sherlock, pretend he hadn’t seen him in that photo and then point out, oh look, that’s you, isn’t it? He’d have to answer then, wouldn’t he?
Eventually, John shoved the clippings back into their folder, and put the folder in a drawer with the rest.
* * *
“Hello,” a young man said, sticking out his hand. “My name’s Victor Trevor, I love your blog.”
John looked Victor over. He was about Sherlock’s height, though more sturdily built and of considerably ruddier complexion. Light brown hair was brushed back from his hair in a style that John’s cowlicks made impossible for him. His nervous smile showed a row of straight white teeth. Handsome, really, though nothing remarkable.
“You’re not coming into the flat,” John said.
Victor drew back his offered hand. “I know that,” he said quietly. “I just wanted to tell him something.”
“Then you can text him,” John said curtly.
“Please,” Victor said, his expression pained. “Please, will you just tell him something for me?”
John crossed his arms. “Go on, then.”
Victor bit his lower lip, and then, “Tell him I was wrong.”
John frowned. “About what?”
Victor smiled sadly. “He knows what,” he said. “Please just tell him that, will you? It’s important that he knows. Well, it’s important that he knows I know it, I suppose.” Victor turned to leave.
“Were you and he…” John began, and then stopped, not sure what he wanted to ask, or to know.
Victor stopped, and John could see his shoulders rise and fall with a heavy sigh. “I convinced him to put himself into a position where he could be hurt,” he said carefully, “Against all his instincts, and all his better judgement.”
“And then you hurt him,” John said.
“And then I hurt him,” Victor said, and walked away.
* * *
“I consider myself married to my work,” Sherlock had said, and behind the awkwardness, John had seen something in his eyes that almost looked like fear.
* * *
“Wrong?” Sherlock asked, looking up from the paper.
“Wrong,” John said, sipping his tea.
“Oh.” Sherlock shrugged. “He wasn’t, though.”
“Are you going to go see him?” John asked.
Sherlock held up the paper over his eyes, and didn’t answer.
“Do you like the violin, John?” Sherlock asked, flipping a page.
John shrugged. “I like it when you play it as though it’s an actual instrument, other times I’d like to toss it out the window.”
“And when I don’t speak for days on end, does it bother you?”
John thought for a moment. “Sometimes, but more often it’s a nice vacation from you constantly trying to prove you’re clever.”
“I smoke,” Sherlock said, with something akin to hesitation, “Though I’ve told you I quit.”
“I already knew that.”
Sherlock lowered the paper a little. “I’ve also done other things.”
John gave Sherlock a look. “I already knew that, too.”
Sherlock closed the paper and made an annoyed face. “And do you like being my flatmate?” he asked, as though it should have been obvious.
“Yes,” John replied without a moment’s hesitation. “There’s no one else I’d rather live with, really.”
Sherlock nodded to himself, satisfied. “Good,” he said.
“Are you going to see him?” John asked again.
“No,” Sherlock said.
There were a lot of things John wanted to say, questions he wanted to ask, enough to take a lifetime to answer. Instead he spread out his half of the paper on the table, and said, “Look, Lestrade’s trying to grow a moustache.”
Sherlock glanced over. “He looks like an idiot,” he said.
John grinned, and poured Sherlock a cup of tea.