Disclaimer – Property of more than one person/organisation. Not me sadly.
AN- I'm still working on "Hope for Heros" but this (inspired by John's reference in "The Great Game" to there being some leftover risotto in the fridge) just wouldn't go away. Hope you enjoy.
Sherlock's head snapped up at the decidedly alien noises coming from the kitchen. On the whole he and John had thus far managed to live in relative harmony. Having been in the army John was well accustomed to having to make allowances when billeted in close quarters. Years of boarding school had made Sherlock all but immune to the sensibilities of those around him.
However, dysfunctional, it seemed to work well enough.
But this was unprecedented.
"What are you doing?" Sherlock asked, as he crossed the room with long strides and started poking into the bags and packets on the kitchen table like an inquisitive puppy. "What is this?"
"Give me that," John rescued the jar Sherlock had opened, just before he could stick his finger into it. "I thought I'd cook us dinner."
Sherlock looked around noticing for the first time that the kitchen had been at least partly cleared there was a new looking wooden chopping board on the counter, along with a knife and a couple of pans. Even the cooker looked like someone had made a valiant attempt to ensure it wouldn't actually fail a health inspection.
It was quite rare that Sherlock was truly perplexed. However, he knew that John was well aware that Baker Street was within walking distance of numerous good restaurants, most of which had grateful proprietors prepared to waive their bills because of services Sherlock had previously rendered. All of which made cooking a quite redundant activity.
"Why on earth would you want to do that?"
John gave him a look that Sherlock couldn't quite read. Which was something of a feat in itself. No less so, the mixture of emotions which had flitted across his face. The exasperation, with a touch of irritation, was a reaction Sherlock was entirely accustomed to eliciting from the general population. The odd mixture of fondness and something he couldn't quite pin down, was more unexpected.
It wasn't anxiety, or even nervousness exactly but something else. Something different.
If he didn't know John Watson better he would have said the man looked somewhat shy. But that idea was plainly preposterous.
"Just because." Were the only words he said.
"Because?" Sherlock frowned. "That's not an answer."
Everything about John's body language swiftly told Sherlock it was the only answer he was going to get. His shoulders tensed, his lips pressed together in a tight line, he avoided eye contact and he actually took a step or two to the side to increase the distance between them. Sherlock wondered if this was another one of those occasions when he had done something perfectly rational to which the other man had inexplicably taken some kind of exception. But when he spoke John's tone wasn't in the least part offended.
"Do you like Risotto?"
"Risotto is a very complicated dish," Sherlock pointed out. "For a start you need Arborio or Carnaroli rice."
"It's amazing what you can buy in a supermarket these days." John held up a bag of Arborio rice.
"You have to use two rings, one to soften the onions, garlic and vegetables and frying the rice. The second to prepare the stock and keep it at a roiling boil."
"Last time I looked this cooker has four rings," John pointed out. "I think I'll manage. Since when did you know so much about cooking anyway?"
"Just because I don't cook, doesn't mean I can't." Sherlock pointed out. "It's simply basic science. That's what makes it all so utterly tedious. It's just so predictable. It bakes, it boils, it fries, it pings. Boring. And then you're left with a mountain of dirty dishes and more food than one person could reasonably eat in a week."
"That's only because you don't eat," The Doctor in his flatmate spoke up. "Us lesser mortals like our three square meals a day."
"You had breakfast this morning." Sherlock was defensive.
"An apple," John pointed out. "And I had only taken a couple of bites before you pushed me out the door. And before you say it, I know we stopped for lunch in the café but the witness came home before I had even been served and half of Lestrade's sandwich does not count as dinner in my book. And you, as usual, ate nothing at all."
Sherlock was silent for a moment, his face creasing in distaste as he acknowledged the truth of John's words. Time had been of the essence and there hadn't been a moment to lose in pursuit of their murderer. But now the man was arrested, the case closed and he could afford to be magnanimous. John had been helpful and he hadn't complained past reasonably tolerable levels.
"Alright then, let's go out for dinner." He declared, already reaching for his coat and scarf.
"Sherlock, I said I was cooking. We don't need to go out." John protested.
"And I said, waste of time," Sherlock reminded him. "Do you particularly want Italian or shall we go to that little Korean place? Your choice."
"What I want is for you to get out of the kitchen and leave me in peace," John's voice held that edge which Sherlock had begun to realise was a sign he was losing his patience. "I've already bought all these ingredients, I'm going to cook."
Sherlock frowned. He had no idea why John was being so stubborn about this. It was a time consuming and ultimately utterly futile exercise. He blinked suddenly as he belatedly recognised what he deduced was the root of John's concerns.
"Look, I'll pay for the ingredients. Now are you coming? If we hurry we can just make the second sitting at Angelo's."
"Funny, I thought you said it was my choice?" John asked dangerously quietly.
"Yes, of course," Sherlock swiftly agreed. He had said that. And frankly right now he would agree to anything if it would get John into his coat and out of the flat and this entirely perplexing mood he was in. "Whatever you'd like."
"You just don't get it do you?" John glared at him, his voice rising as he lost his fragile grip on his temper. "Going to a restaurant isn't what I'd like. I went shopping. I bought real food. I thought it would be a nice thing to do. As a sort of thank you for letting me move in. Just two blokes sharing a flat having a bite of supper together, eating something not out of a tin or a packet or a takeaway or in a resstraunt for a change, just the two of us, having dinner, at home, but obviously that's too boring and domesticated for you."
Furious now and more than a little hurt that his gesture had been so poorly received, John gripped the counter top tightly, feeling the muscles throb in his damaged shoulder, reminding him of everything he had lost. His eyes shifted leftwards and he scowled at the carrier bag of brown skinned onions, butter, garlic and all the other ingredients which he could rightly ill afford just at the monent.
God, he was such an idiot.
Reaching out he seized the handles of the bag, crossed swiftly to the large kitchen bin and prepared to dump the whole lot inside. To his surprise, before he could act, a pale, slender hand closed around his wrist with unexpected strength.
"Don't do that," Sherlock's voice said almost gently. "It would be such a terrible waste."
"What?" John blinked at him, feeling his pulse beating gently against the warmth of Sherlock's thumb. "But you said .."
"Risotto, you say?" Sherlock flashed him a blinding smile as he released his hand. Then he was unwinding his scarf and shrugging out of his coat as John watched dumbfounded at the mercurial change in his demeanour. "And are those porcini mushrooms? Delicious, I'm sure. Shall we say dinner in about half an hour then?"
"Well, yes, that would probably be about right." John agreed, feeling almost shell-shocked as Sherlock smiled at him again before disappearing from sight.
Exactly twenty-nine minutes later the whole flat was suffused with the delicious smells of a perfect mushroom risotto. John cast a slightly wry glance at the two trays already set with plates and cutlery. It wasn't exactly five star dining but he couldn't see either of them using a dining table even if they had room for one. The fire and the telly would be just the thing for the dark winter evenings.
John thought about all the time he had spent in barracks or on deployment when the mess had been his main venue for meals. Full of noise and companionship he had had little time or inclination to cook back then. Coming home to weeks of Hospital food had left him with a desire for real food, something made from ingredients you could actually recognise. Living in the rehabilitation centre he had felt utterly rootless and the aching loneliness had been almost worse than his physical wounds. Now finally and at last, he had found a place that he might actually be able to begin to call home.
They were words he would never actually say out loud. But as he heard Sherlock's footsteps approaching he wondered how much of his feelings his flatmate had been able to deduce from his outward appearance. It was something of a toss up. Sherlock might be a detecting genius but he could be remarkably clueless whe it came to anything involving emotions. Still, it was obvious that whatever had caused his dramatic volte face he had done it purely for John's sake and that had to mean something.
"Smells good." Sherlock announced cheerfully.
John looked up and couldn't quite resist the temptation to smile. Sherlock was covered in dust and he had an actual cobweb in his hair. Following John's amused glance he brushed fairly ineffectually at some of the dust, given that he had a corkscrew in one hand and an already open bottle of red wine in the other. Crossing to the kitchen he dropped the corkscrew on the table and began hunting in the cabinets, all the time holding up the wine, somewhat precariously, in his other hand.
"It took me a while to find the appropriate bottle, it was right at the back of the cellar, so its only been breathing for a few minutes," He explained as to John's amazement he fished two very expensive looking crystal wine glasses from the back of a cupboard. "And it might not be quite the right temperature. It's close to freezing down there. I suppose we could always pop it in the microwave for a bit?"
"Sherlock," John snagged the wine out of Sherlock's hand as he waved it a little too enthusiastically. He wasn't a great wine buff but he had a little knowledge. Enough to know that sticking it in the microwave was no way to treat a decent bottle of .. as he read the label he felt a strange tightness in his chest, the room suddenly seemed very warm and he wasn't sure he could remember exactly how to breathe. "Sherlock, do you know what this is?"
"Of course," Sherlock met his gaze steadily, his serious expression leaving no doubt that his actions had been the result of anyting other than a deliberate choice. "It's a bottle of Romanée Conti 1978. It was a present from a grateful client. I was saving it for a special occasion. I think this qualifies don't you?"
It was no good, John had to look away and bite the inside of his cheek to get his emotions under control. Even so, he felt the sting of tears in his eyes at the totally unexpected act of kindness and generosity. He remembered reading that a bottle of the 1978 vintage had recently sold for over £15,000 at auction. It was a long time since anyone had cared enough about his feelings to do anything remotely like this. Coming from Sherlock, it touched him beyond measure.
As apologies went, it was a damned good one.
"Yeah," He agreed, clearing his throat a little. "So, shall we eat before it gets cold?"
"I'd like that," Sherlock smiled warmly at him. "I believe I would like that very much indeed."