sherlock starting to spend a lot of time at bart’s post-s3 to keep himself out of the house and away from john’s empty chair. meeting a new lab technician there and being too listless and burned out to bother ripping him to shreds with deductions. as a result, the man actually chats to him. first of all it’s talk about the weather and the traffic and last night’s telly and sherlock doesn’t care, but the technician’s perceptive, notices he’s losing his audience and turns talk to the equipment in the labs, recent technological advances and prototype kit being tested abroad and what they each specialised in at Uni to earn their degree and suddenly sherlock finds himself talking shop with a fellow chemist and it’s new. it’s good. gradually, he finds himself less bothered whenever talk turns to trivia. there’s something refreshing about that part, too.
the man’s name is Jacob, which is a useless name, “Jake” is even worse and he tells him so on one of his less charitable days, but it doesn’t get him much more than a laugh and the suggestion of a lab coat if he wants to avoid losing his suit to dangerous chemicals. weeks go on like this until one day he’s invited out for a drink when the work day’s over and usually he wouldn’t go, god knows, god knows usually he’d dismiss it out of hand but there’s no case on and it’s getting harder and harder to be at home.
one drink. keeping up conversation with him outside of a common environment isn’t actually especially difficult. two drinks. he’s plain, lives an entirely boring life outside of the labs (and a mediocre one at best within them) but he’s a couple of inches taller than sherlock and a couple of years younger and his hair is chestnut brown and he’s of lean build and his surname is Keele not Wallace or Weston and almost nothing about him is anything like– “Jacob” can’t be helped. and anyway, one shared initial should not a reminder make.
there’s been interest there from the start, sherlock isn’t blind to the signs, and after the third drink he thinks he might go home with him. “… do you want to call it a night?” perceptive. right, yes, he’s perceptive. sherlock had forgotten. he’ll have to be more careful of that in the future.
he doesn’t go home with him that night, but it doesn’t take them too much longer.
john popping around to 221b for the first time in a week and a half, all apologies and dark bags under his eyes and finding sherlock just as distracted as he always is. being here is getting harder and harder. sherlock’s more distant with every visit and coming over at all is a catch twenty two: john knows what the problem is, it’s the same thing that keeps him up all night and away for longer and longer and it isn’t going away, but he doesn’t want to go away either. can’t stand to keep his distance.
he asks the customary “alright?”, gets the customary grunt. sherlock heads to the kitchen to sort out the customary cup of tea and he hates this, he honestly does. customary. jesus. time was they were the least customary people he’s ever known. john asks him what he’s been up to and sherlock dutifully recounts his week in enough detail that he can hear the elephant trumpeting in the brief quiet between each sentence. the two minute summary amounts to “nothing much,” and so he searches the flat for any hope of something more promising to talk about before sherlock feels compelled to ask the inevitable question– he finds it. a jacket of unknown origin laying over the arm of the sofa.
“client forgot their coat?” sherlock seems confused until john points it out to him - the fog clears, but the odd expression left behind puts john on edge. “oh. no.” “… it doesn’t look like it’s your style.” “no. it’s not mine.” “right.” sherlock pauses for a moment, assesses him - presumably trying to work out how likely he is to drop it if sherlock doesn’t give him what he’s after - and turns back to the tea. “it’s jacob’s.” “jacob’s.” “yes,” john stays silent, and the pause pregnant with a question he doesn’t really feel the need to ask. eventually, sherlock starts up again, “he’s a lab technician at barts.”
a lab technician at bart’s. right. a lab technician at bart’s that john hasn’t met but sherlock has deigned both to speak to and remember the name of. …unless that isn’t actually his name at all but some vague approximation of what his name might be if sherlock had actually been listening when he told him. poor sod. “you leave something at the lab?” “no.” sherlock isn’t really getting the hang of leading questions today. “steal his coat when he botched up your blood samples?” “no.” sherlock turns with the tea, brushes past him to set the mugs down, one on john’s chairside table and one on the desk. he stops with his back to him, falls silent, and it’s not until now that john realises his hands are in fists.
“he came over for dinner.”
what? “–for takeaway, actually. i didn’t cook.” john hadn’t meant to say that out loud. “must have left it behind when he went. i didn’t notice.” it’s noon. sherlock notices everything. if this lab technician had been heading to leave without his coat after dinner, he would have noticed. the coat wouldn’t be here. john takes a closer look at sherlock’s turned back, becomes aware of the lack of his usual grooming, the sleep-mussed state of his hair. sherlock turns his head, turns it almost far enough to look back at john over his shoulder–
he pulls out a chair and sits down. john can’t move. he can’t move an inch. silence reigns, seconds stretch, all it still.
sherlock picks up his mug and turns the page of a newspaper. it almost looks casual. the almost is everything.
“how’s the baby?”