Sherlock stared up at the ceiling. One of his arms dangled over the edge of the sofa, and one was placed carelessly over his head.
“I’m dying,” he announced.
Mrs. Hudson tutted as she brought a tray of tea and biscuits over to the coffee table. “You’re not dying, dear,” she told him. “You just need a nice case. That’ll cheer you right up.”
Sherlock refused to look at her and shut his eyes, trying his best to look like the corpse he would soon become. “I’m dying,” he said again. It had been days since anyone had even been up to check on him, and he had been in an even worse state without an audience nearby. Now, at least, he had Mrs. Hudson to fuss over him, and that was better than being abandoned up in 221B, left on his own to wither way into nothing.
As soon as his landlady was no longer looking at him, having retreated into the kitchen, Sherlock reached over and grabbed one of the biscuits off the tray. He ate it quickly, not wanting his hunger to be obvious.
“Sherlock,” Mrs. Hudson called, sounding much like she’d done when she had discovered the toes in the fridge.
The man in question looked up to see what had horrified her. He grimaced when he caught sight of the sink, on the verge of overflowing.
“What have you done to the sink?” she asked disapprovingly. “This had better not be part of one of your experiments. Oh, and the toaster.” She moved over to that obviously damaged appliance and examined it. Her little exclamations continued for a bit, but he didn’t bother listening to her list all of the other items he had placed under distress.
“I’m dying, Mrs. Hudson,” he called, shutting his eyes once more, “so perhaps you could get me some more biscuits instead of worrying about the state of the kitchen.”
She carried on lecturing him about needing to not destroy things, but she did get him his additional biscuits, so he counted the interaction as a success anyway.
Three days later, Sherlock had managed to get himself out of the flat. After ages without a case, Lestrade had finally phoned him. Of course, as it turned out, the case was painfully simple, and Lestrade was only able to keep him occupied for the duration of the morning. As he re-entered 221, feeling that crushing boredom beginning to take hold once more, Mrs. Hudson popped her head out of 221A.
“Sherlock, dear, I meant to tell you before you popped off, but there’s a very nice man fixing up your flat a bit,” she said.
Sherlock’s mood almost immediately got worse. He glared at his landlady. “Mrs. Hudson, what have I told you about letting strangers come into my flat without my permission?”
Mrs. Hudson’s expression turned firmer, as if daring him to continue along this path. “221B is my flat, young man, and I am letting you stay in for a very low price, so I can let in repairmen when I see fit.”
Sherlock groaned and tossed his head back.
Mrs. Hudson smiled, clearly knowing that she had won their little argument. “Do be nice to him.” She retreated back into her own flat—which was undoubtedly free of strangers—and Sherlock glared at her door.
He would not be nice. He was very good at driving people away when necessary, and he would put those skills to the test right then. He stomped up the steps, determined to make as much noise as possible and to be such a nuisance that the repairman would eventually flee the premises. He flung the door open, letting it bounce off the adjacent wall, and he opened his mouth to say something rude, and—
And the repairman was the most attractive man he had ever seen. He stood there, in the kitchen, his too-tight T-shirt clinging to him over a fine sheen of sweat. His hair was sticking up a bit where he’d run his hands through it. It was a military haircut, Sherlock noticed, which fit with the overall stature of this man. He was strong and held himself like a soldier, and Sherlock had always loved a military man, and, damn, he was staring.
The repairman smirked and took a few steps toward him. “You know, with all that stomping on the stairs, I was expecting more than just a slender little thing like you,” he said.
Sherlock couldn’t quite get his mind to cooperate with him. He had no idea how to respond, and he couldn’t even begin to think of words to string together. He ought to be better at such things by this stage in his life. He was twenty-four and should have been prepared to handle hot military repairmen standing in his flat, smirking at him, looking so unbearably handsome.
“I’m John,” the unbearably handsome man said, wiping his hands on a scrap of cloth he must have brought with him before holding one out toward Sherlock.
Sherlock, unsure what else to do, stepped up and shook the repairman’s hand.
“Are you the quiet type, then?” John the repairman asked. His tone was teasing, and Sherlock again was struck by how little he knew about navigating such situations.
“You were going to be a soldier,” he blurted out, because his mind, in its current addled state, was only capable of repeating back the last deductions it had made.
Although John hadn’t been moving much before, after that comment, he froze completely. Even the air around him seemed to come to a halt. When he started moving again, it was mainly to look down at his feet and then back up at Sherlock, as if checking to see if the man was actually there in front of him. “How could you possibly know that?” he asked.
“Your stature,” Sherlock told him.
John raised his eyebrows, apparently unimpressed with that explanation.
Sherlock rolled his eyes, his confidence in his deductions overriding his horrible social skills. “You’re currently standing at ease.”
John blinked and glanced down at himself, appearing almost surprised with the fact that, yes, he was indeed standing at ease. He shifted awkwardly, clearly working to get himself out of that habitual stance. He looked back up at Sherlock. “Amazing.” And he really did sound impressed now. His lips had quirked upward into a little smile, and his eyes seemed to be sparkling, which didn’t seem strictly but was clearly happening nonetheless.
Sherlock felt a jolt shoot through him, almost like his heart had been shocked by the simple word of praise. He focused on the kitchen table just beyond John’s arm, unable to stare directly into those sparkling eyes any longer. “It was obvious.”
John took another step toward him, and while there was still quite a bit of space between them, Sherlock’s heart rate accelerated at having any distance between them removed. “Can I get your name?”
“Sherlock Holmes.” Like an idiot, Sherlock began reaching out to shake John’s hand again, and upon realising that they had already done that bit, he brought it up to run through his hair instead. The intention behind that movement was apparently not lost on John, who laughed in a way that made Sherlock feel simultaneously embarrassed and comforted.
“Pleasure to meet you, Sherlock Holmes,” John said, and he again was smirking that smirk that made Sherlock’s knees weak. “I think I’m about done in there.” He tilted his head in the direction of the kitchen.
It took Sherlock a painfully long time to comprehend precisely what John was referring to. “Oh,” he said at last when his mind began functioning properly again. “Oh, right.”
“Bit of a mess, but it should all be good as new now.”
Sherlock stood there, and John stood there, and they stared at one another for a moment. John’s expression was amused, and Sherlock tried to keep his expression relatively neutral.
“Oh,” he said again, startling himself into action, because he suddenly remembered that payment was necessary in exchange for services like this. He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and began flipping through it. “How much do I owe you?”
John laughed again in that embarrassing-yet-comforting way. “You know what? Don’t worry about it.”
Sherlock frowned at John, bills already in his hand ready to be passed over to the repairman.
John’s smirk was back in place, and he took another few steps toward Sherlock until the heat from his body could just about be physically felt. “For you, Sherlock Holmes, there’s no charge.”
And then John winked at him.
John, the handsome military repairman, winked at him.
Sherlock’s mind—like the hard-drive to which he always compared it—crashed.
Sherlock wasn’t entirely sure of anything after that. Given what he knew about himself, he was fairly certain that he had just remained in that spot, going over what had just happened again and again and again, all while John carried about his business and eventually departed. When Sherlock’s blinking eyes focused on the physical world once more, he noted that John and his tools were gone and that he was still holding his wallet.
“Christ,” he breathed into his now-empty flat.
And—for reasons entirely unrelated to John—he began looking around the room at his furniture, wondering what, if broken, would require a repairman’s assistance.