The receptionist, Emily, smiled at him when he walked in.
"How are you, Mr. Holmes?" she asked with genuine interest that indicated John had not shared their problems with her. Not that he would have any reason to - she and John were not particularly close – but Sherlock had an unreasonable suspicion that everyone knew and blamed him. The fire was his fault, he knew that. He accepted that even if he didn't admit it out loud. It had been stupid - he had not properly anticipated the effects of the hydrogen gas. He was ill-prepared for the flare up and the damage. It could have, and probably should have, been much worse.
John had also been correct when he'd pointed out that Sherlock had not given any consideration to his own well-being. Someone coming to Baker Street to tell him that John had been injured had been the worst moment of his life. He did not wish that for John. He would be more careful in the future.
"Dr. Watson didn't tell me you'd be stopping by," she said, looking at her computer screen. Sherlock opened his mouth to say that it was a surprise when she continued: "He's with a patient right now, but then he is free the rest of the afternoon. I think he said something about having an appointment of his own."
Sherlock frowned, he did not know with whom John had an appointment. He had not anticipated John having to be somewhere else. He usually knew such things. John believed Sherlock was generally indifferent to his daily goings on but that was not entirely true. He made it a point to know where John was supposed to be at almost all times.
Sherlock nodded toward the waiting room chairs. "I will wait to see him," he said and Emily offered him another smile.
"I doubt he'll be much longer," she replied. Sherlock hoped not.
He settled in a chair as far as possible from the man with the flu and the child who was likely to vomit at any second. He hated coming to the surgery because of all the festering disease. It never seemed to affect John though. John was rarely ill.
From his location he could see the glass doors that led back to the doctor's offices and the examination rooms. If John walked out with his patient, Sherlock would be able to see him. He paused, imagining John looking at him through that door and then looking away, not acknowledging Sherlock's presence, refusing to see him.
The detective knew that it would never happen, not with John. But the fear still tightened in his chest - the fear hadn't left him since the argument the night before.
John had been asleep at the table when he'd walked in. The telly and every light in the small hotel room were still on, so clearly John had not intended to fall asleep. Sherlock had sat down on the bed and watched John for several minutes, realising that he could reach over and touch him. He could hear the quiet breathing and smell the familiar scent. John was so close, physically. And yet he was so far away in every other way. He was so far away that Sherlock didn't even know where to look for him anymore.
It was terrifying and Sherlock had to fix it. He knew now that it was his problem to fix.
Seeing movement behind the glass doors Sherlock looked up again. A woman with long flowing black hair came around the corner, looking back over her shoulder to talk to someone. Sherlock wasn't surprised to see John following her. The woman wasn't talking to him though, but to the small child John was holding in his arms. The little girl, with dark curly hair, was rubbing her eye and had a bandage on her chin. John was bouncing her slightly on his hip and after a moment she began to laugh. She was reluctant to do so, wanting to continue to sulk, but John had broken through. Her laugh brought a smile to John's face and the whole scene took Sherlock's breath away.
They set a perfect scene; walking down the street he would have deduced they were a happy family, a husband, wife, and their child. There were subtle indicators that it was otherwise, and he noted them quickly, but others would not see that. Others would think they were together, that John belonged to her.
Sherlock's legs tensed with the desire to stand, the desire to insert himself between them and claim what was so clearly his.
He stopped himself though, knowing John would be even angrier if Sherlock interrupted time with a patient. Sherlock fisted his hand over the arm rest and forced himself to sit back in the chair. He turned his head slightly so he wasn't obviously staring, but managed to keep an eye on the scene.
John stopped at a small counter just inside the door, opened a drawer and pulled out small piece of paper to hand to the little girl. A sticker, Sherlock realised as she peeled it off and stuck it on her dress. She smiled down at it before leaning over and planting a quick kiss on John's cheek. He smiled back as he sat her on the ground.
He'd be an excellent father. Sherlock had always known that. Before they'd become involved, before he'd even known that he was interested, he'd always suspected the John would leave him for a house in the suburbs, a wife and children. Sherlock knew that it was something John had always wanted, always thought he'd have. He'd given that up though. He'd left it in some vague meadow of dreams when he'd settled on a life with Sherlock.
And always insisted that he didn't regret it.
Sherlock had moments of doubt. Their life was very much Sherlock's life, just with John in it. They were Sherlock's cases, Sherlock's experiments, Sherlock's environment. John was almost a satellite orbiting around him, with no apparent influence on the everyday goings on. John had changed him, dramatically, fundamentally, but hadn't changed his lifestyle. Not really. No body parts in the flat was hardly a real inconvenience. Not even the crap music and crap telly were that much of a burden because he experienced those things with John and nothing he did with John would ever be all that horrible.
John, however, was pliable and easy going. He did what Sherlock needed, went were Sherlock wanted, rarely asked for anything. Well, he'd often insist that Sherlock eat, which could be tiresome, but was generally inconsequential.
John deserved better, he always had. But until yesterday Sherlock had never suspected that John might want better.
Sherlock's chest tightened as the little girl took her mother's hand and waved at John. John waved back, pushing the door open for them.
"Thank you," he heard the woman say in English tainted with an Italian accent. John just nodded - typical John dismissing the gratitude. Sherlock turned his head, stared at his husband. John looked towards him, their eyes locked, and there was a split second before recognition crossed his features. The recognition became surprise and then dread. John didn't really want to see him. Sherlock felt a fist tighten around his heart and it ached as he stood up, a constant, throbbing ache.
John gestured with his hand for Sherlock to come with him. Sherlock walked past him and stood waiting while the doctor let the door close.
"What's wrong?" John asked, looking up. His voice was quiet; there were examination rooms and offices on either side of them as they made their way down the hallway.
"Nothing," Sherlock said, alarmed that John's mind immediately went to disaster. Surely, Sherlock could just stop by to say hello or just to see him. Then he realised that he'd never once done so. "I needed to discuss something with you and…" He trailed off as John led them into his office.
John sat at his desk and Sherlock sat in the chair across from him. He wanted to go to the other side, perhaps lean against the drawers as they talked. John could reach over and touch his thigh; he could rest a hand on John's head. He didn't like that he felt unwelcome in his husband's presence.
They sat in silence for a moment before Sherlock reached into his coat pocket and withdrew an envelope. He handed it to John and watched as the doctor opened it and pulled the cheque out. His hazel eyes went wide as he examined it before looking back to Sherlock.
"I went to Mycroft," Sherlock said, although that should probably be obvious. John nodded and set the envelope down on the desk. Sherlock had half expected the revelation to make everything better, but was not really surprised that nothing had changed at all.
Sherlock waited and after a moment John sighed. "And what is the cost for this loan, Sherlock? What do you owe Mycroft?"
"Very little really, I have agreed to look over several cases on his behalf, two of them he has wanted me to look at for months. He also has an empty flat that he will allow us to use until the repairs are completed at Baker Street."
John nodded again and looked at the cheque sitting on his desk. "What changed, Sherlock? What was it that suddenly made going to Mycroft worth it?" Sherlock frowned and shifted in his chair. John knew what it was, he could see the knowledge in the hazel eyes, but he wanted Sherlock to say it. He wanted Sherlock to admit it.
"Her," Sherlock replied, managing to not snarl out the word. John nodded and looked towards the window. Sherlock had known which coffee shop John had meant immediately - he'd gone in there and seen the woman before coming here. He knew which one John would find attractive immediately. He hated her.
"She isn't the-"
"I know she isn't the problem," Sherlock said. "I borrowed the money as you suggested, I should have to deal with the consequences of the fire, not you. I should pay the price for getting it fixed, not you."
"I'm already paying the price, Sherlock. It was my home, too."
"I know," Sherlock said. He'd hoped to avoid this argument.
John sighed, shaking his head and leaning forward. He looked at the cheque and pushed it back into the envelope. "Are you sure about this?" he asked, holding it up for Sherlock to see. "I don't want to hear your complaints when Mycroft asks for something. I don't want you to think I've forced you into this as some sort of punishment."
"I won't." The sting of the accusation surprised him. He knew he could be difficult when being forced to do something he did not enjoy but he wouldn't blame John. Then he realised that he might do just that very thing. He might blame John later simply because he had borrowed the money for John's sake. He made a mental note not to do that - and he hoped he remembered. John did not deserve any of the blame. "What other choice do we have? I don't want you to take another job. I don't have any cases with large payouts imminent."
John nodded, dropping the envelope again and leaning back in his chair, looking away. He was so far away, Sherlock noted. He was right there, but so far away that Sherlock missed him.
"I talked to Harry this morning," he said. Sherlock was confused, Harry didn't have the kind of money they needed. "She's willing to get a loan and buy me out of the house." Sherlock stared at him for another second before standing in a grand fluid movement, startling John.
"NO," Sherlock snarled, smacking the desk with an open palm. "That is your house John! Your mother left it to the two of you. Why would you sell it to Harry? That's ridiculous!"
John laughed but there was no mirth in his eyes. "What would you prefer, Sherlock? It's the only thing I own. It's the only thing I have to barter with. Even if you and I never live in Baker Street again, we're obliged to fix it for Mrs. Hudson. She didn't deserve what happened either."
Sherlock took a step back, the thought of poor Mrs. Hudson shot through his chest. John was right of course, but not that way. Never.
"No," Sherlock said quieter. "We will use Mycroft's money and I will deal with the debt. I will fix this."
John eyed him suspiciously for a moment before nodding. "Okay," he said taking the cheque and putting it in his desk drawer. "I'll take it to the contractors this afternoon, I have a meeting to sign the paper work at four."
"I'll go with you," Sherlock declared, his mind cringing at the idea.
"That's not necessary. I will just be signing the paper work, you'll be bored." Sherlock shook his head. It didn't matter; he knew he must attend the meeting.
"I will be there."
"Fine," John sighed and Sherlock could tell he was concerned about his actions while bored. He need not be.
"Go to lunch with me," Sherlock said. The words surprised him, he hadn't known they were coming. They surprised John as well. It seemed right though, it seemed like it would be better. "Please," Sherlock added realising he hadn't exactly asked a question. "Please, go to lunch with me?"
John sat quiet for a moment and Sherlock could see the internal debate. He also saw that when John decided to go that it was not because he wanted to, it was because he could not come up with a reason not to. The pain in Sherlock's chest sharpened and he thought for an instant that there might actually be something wrong. Perhaps his heart was literally breaking. He forced in a breath and it eased somewhat.
"Sure," John said, placing his hands on his desk. "Yeah, that would be nice," he added a moment later, trying to convince himself. Sherlock grabbed on to it. John was trying, he wanted to want to. It was significantly better than nothing. "I, um, I have to sign out and leave a few notes. Wait for me here?"
Sherlock nodded. "If you wish." John nodded and stood. He nodded again, clearly having an inward debate. He seemed to settle something and his hand brushed Sherlock's shoulder as he walked by. Sherlock closed his eyes and knew the sensation wasn't lost on John. It was as if a firecracker went off in the small space. It took his breath away.
They walked next to each other in silence. It was more companionable than some of their conversations recently had been though. Sherlock looked down, seeing John's hand swinging in time with his step. He had the overwhelming urge to hold it. His fingers flexed, but he stopped his arm from reaching out.
He was afraid he'd be shaken off.
He'd remembered having the same fear years ago, when this thing between them was still so new. He'd wanted to tangle his fingers with John's on a walk home from a crime scene. He thought about it the whole way, secretly hoping that John would be clued in and reach over and take his fingers. Sherlock hadn't known how to begin it, he hadn't known how to start it.
Lying in bed that night, John had run fingers through his hair and quietly asked what was wrong. Sherlock had buried his face in embarrassment and explained. John hadn't laughed at him. Instead, the doctor's hand had simply traced down Sherlock's forearm before slowly lifting the long fingers and intertwining the shorter, skilled ones. "Just take it," he'd said before bringing Sherlock's hand to his lips and placing a kiss there.
Sherlock could clearly remember the sensation of the warm tongue darting out to taste him, and the comfort that settled over him at being given some previously misunderstood permission to touch John whenever he wanted. Walking next to him on the way to lunch, Sherlock wondered if that were still true, if his touch was still welcome. He silently took a deep breath before reaching over.
He caught the hand and John did not pull his arm away, which Sherlock counted as an initial victory. Sherlock moved his fingers along the exposed wrist, feeling tiny twitches under the skin as he skimmed over the smooth palm and spread his fingers easily between John's. The doctor's closed around him instantly, the grip tight. Sherlock gripped back with equal desperation. He felt a surge of relief as they kept walking and John didn't pull away.