It was starting to become normal for John. The previous week he could barely get Sherlock to say an English word at all. It was all "prepare moi du thé, s'il te plaît" and "prend ta veste, on sort!" and "dépêche-toi, John!", leaving him gaping at the air in front of him trying to grasp the meaning of those French syllables that sounded foreigner to his ears and perfectly native on Sherlock's tongue.
Today the consulting detective was sitting at his desk, distractedly muttering to himself and striking things in pen on the document in front of him, only to scribble something else in its place, his mouth set in a thin stern line. He barely looked up when he heard John enter the room.
"Già che ci sei, preparami un caffè," Sherlock asked him, not really politely, and John rolled his eyes at the new assault of foreign phonemes.
"What is it this time, Spanish?" he asked, recognising the Latin origin of the language and subconsciously registering the differences with French.
Sherlock didn't look up even then. "Italiano," he replied, flatly and continued scribbling translations for Lestrade.
John wondered if he should order an electronic dictionary to carry upon his person at all times. The flat was full of dictionaries, but what good did they serve when they were out and running across London and John felt stupid because he couldn't understand whether Sherlock wanted a lift or was insulting his observation skills. It was frustrating, especially since he had started to grasp some basics of French after a full-immersion week, since Mycroft felt compelled to answer Sherlock in the same language and even Lestrade seemed to understand what was going on.
And not even two days after Sherlock had started speaking English again, an opera singer had to be murdered in a morbidly curious way during his stay in London. And naturally Lestrade had to hand over the transcript from his calls and texts to Sherlock because he couldn't find a translator on a short notice, so John was now stuck with a Sherlock who would most likely keep speaking only Italian until the case was closed.
Sherlock looked up after a couple of minutes. "John, coffee," he asked again, completely unaware that his previous request had been in a foreign language that John had had little hope of comprehending.
"Sure," he answered, and went in the kitchen to make some while the detective returned to his translations.
John made coffee for the both of them and then looked over Sherlock’s shoulder, trying to read his notes, something easier said than done, considering his tiny and cramped handwriting.
Sherlock extended a hand to get his coffee, then took a grateful sip. “Ah, grazie.”
John had understood that, or at least, he chose to believe it was a ‘thanks’. “So, what is all that?”
“Niente di interressante. Soltanto una serie di messaggi privati tra il tenore e l’amante.” Sherlock replied, continuing to scribble and stifling a yawn with the hand not holding the pen.
John rolled his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I don’t care how sexy you sound when you speak a foreign language, I still don’t understand half of what you say. Sometimes less than half.”
Sherlock put the pen down and looked at him in the eyes. It took him a second or two to gather his thoughts and switch language. “Well, it’s nothing interesting, just some private texts between the tenor, our victim, and his lover.”
“How do you know he was a tenor?” John asked, scanning the rest of the police file Lestrade had lent them.
Sherlock calmly replied, “Perché era il Duca di Mantova. The Duke of Mantua, from the Rigoletto.” John stared blankly at him and Sherlock pointed to a book in one of the shelves. “L’antologia delle Opere Liriche, John.”
“You’re not going to start singing airs now, are you?”
“Certo che no, io sono un baritono.”
John just stared at him.
“Prima hai detto che sono ‘sexy’ quando ti parlo in un’altra lingua, o sbaglio?” the detective teased him, turning and grabbing his jumper to draw him close.
John had grasped the crucial word and, more importantly, had understood the gesture. “Maybe,” he ventured, and Sherlock smiled at him.
“Forse,” he replied or translated, John wasn’t sure, and to be completely honest he wasn’t even interested in knowing the difference.
“Are you going to kiss me?” he asked, seeing as the distance between their lips was inexorably dissolving.
“If you ask me in Italian, yes.” Sherlock replied, letting go of his jumper and returning to his translations. “I need to send these to Lestrade.”
John grabbed the English/Italian dictionary that was on the topmost shelf.
Just in case.