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Lestrade yawned as he unlocked the door to his flat, glad to finally be back from his three week stint in the SCD. He understood that investigating terrorism threats took precedent over his own cases but still. It was hard not to worry that Dimmock would make a mess of things.

He shuffled inside, hung up his coat and - nearly had a heart attack. A tall, lanky figure had suddenly materialised next to him, still wrapped in a coat which should be much too warm.

"Bloody hell, Sherlock, are you trying to kill me?"

Sherlock sniffed. "With such a pathetic lock on your front door you should be more used to surprise visits."

Lestrade groaned. "How many times have I told you not to break into my flat? If you want to see me just ring the fucking doorbell like a normal person!"

Sherlock, of course, ignored him and strode into the living room where he flopped down on the couch with all the elegance of a puppet whose strings had been suddenly cut. Lestrade followed him because, really, what else was he supposed to do?

He sat down next to Sherlock and leaned back into the cushions, closing his eyes.

"So?" he finally ventured after waiting for a bit, "what brought you here in the middle of the night?"

Sherlock next to him still didn't answer. That was so unprecedented Lestrade opened his eyes again to take a closer look at him. Sherlock was tense, his mouth drawn into an unhappy slant and he was staring at a spot on the opposite wall without uttering a word. Oh dear.

Lestrade carefully leaned over and nudged the man with his shoulder. "Hey, you realise I can't actually help you if you don't tell me what's wrong, right?" Despite himself his voice had become more gentle. Sherlock speechless was rather shocking and very, very worrying.

After a moment, Sherlock heaved a huge sigh and then melted into the couch cushions, resting his head on the backrest, next to Lestrade's. He turned to look Lestrade full in the face for the first time this evening, his eyes dark and unhappy. He licked his lips nervously and then said in a hesitant voice:

"You remember what you taught me? I mean, um. About people showing interest in me?"

Lestrade nodded. It wasn't exactly something you could forget, teaching Sherlock Holmes how to let people down gently.

"Yeah?" he prodded.

"Well," Sherlock continued, "we never covered what I was to do if - you know. Um. If I was in fact interested. In the other person."

"Huh." Lestrade had to concede the point. At the time when he had taught Sherlock that nice little speech about being married to his work it had seemed utterly unlikely that he would ever want to actually flirt with the person in question. Lestrade still found it a bit of a hard concept to wrap his head around.

"Wait, are you telling me somebody hit on you and you actually wanted them to?" Even to his own ears he sounded faintly incredulous but then, in all the years he had known Sherlock, that had never happened.

Sherlock just nodded, still keeping his eyes fixed on Lestrade's.

"And....well. I didn't know what to do." Sherlock Holmes sounding helpless and confused. Lestrade felt vaguely like he should look out the window just to make sure the world wasn't actually ending.

"Huh." he said again, intelligently. After a moment, however, it hit him. "It's John, isn't it?"

Sherlock just nodded and really, Lestrade would be lying if he said he was completely surprised by this.

"Well," he said after a moment, "what exactly happened?"

Sherlock looked uncomfortable and then directed his gaze up to Lestrade's ceiling.

"John went on a date with Sarah. His new boss," he clarified impatiently when Lestrade drew breath to ask who the lucky lady was. "He took her to the circus and I....I invited myself along."

"You did what?"

"It was for a case! The circus was run by an ancient Chinese crime syndicate - "

Lestrade cut him off before he could get them completely off topic. "OK, yes, I'm sure Dimmock will fill me in on that tomorrow. So, what happened?"

But Sherlock just blew out a frustrated breath and remained obstinately silent.

"You went along and...discovered that you didn't like John paying that much attention to somebody else? Especially romantic attention?" He was going out on a limb here but judging by the darkening of Sherlock's face he had hit the nail on the head.

"Sherlock, not to be rude here, but isn't John straight?"

Sherlock snorted. "On our very first case he asked me quite insistently if I had a boyfriend and almost asked me out. I had to use the speech."

Lestrade groaned. "He hit on you, you let him down gently - " he couldn't help the way his voice emphasised the last word, it had been a lot of work to teach Sherlock gentleness, "and now you have discovered that you are interested in him after all? Just when he has started dating somebody else?"

Sherlock shrugged. "I doubt Sarah will want to go on a second date after she was almost murdered on this one. But yes, in general that is the situation." He turned to look at Lestrade, his face open and vulnerable. "I just...what do I do?"

Lestrade sighed. "Well, I'm not going to lie, this would be a hell of a lot easier if you hadn't already turned him down." Sherlock glared at him but Lestrade just shrugged. Sherlock's threatening glares had stopped working on him some time ago. "I'm sorry, mate, but I really think the only thing for you to do now is to simply....tell him. And hope for the best."

If Lestrade hadn't known better he would have taken the look on Sherlock's face for outright fear. He gently patted the man on the leg. "Hey, cheer up, the chances are pretty good he's still interested. You'll just have to screw up your courage and go for it."

Sherlock groaned and slid sideways a bit, resting his head on Lestrade's shoulder. "Is it always this....difficult?" He asked after a moment.

Lestrade chuckled. "Yeah, most of the time that's just how it is. You'll live."

 

A week later, he was just leaving a crime scene and mentally running through the next steps of the investigation - canvas the neighbourhood, follow up on business contacts - when his phone chimed. It was a simple message from Sherlock containing exactly two words: "Thank you"

Lestrade didn't stop smiling for the rest of the day.