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John ran up the steps to 221B lightly. He wasn’t late for work, not yet, but he still couldn’t dawdle. Funny that, he’d chosen to work on the other side of the city from where he lived, with Baker Street smack in the middle. He’d brought an extra coffee and a cheese Danish from Sherlock’s favorite bakery and he had time enough to leave them beside his chair, even if Sherlock himself wasn’t yet up and around.

Physically, it had taken months for Sherlock to recover from both his bullet wound and his near-overdose the day he’d almost left John behind for a second time. The detective was only now going out on cases again with any regularity, and they were usually no higher than a five. He’d grumbled about his enforced inactivity, but without bite. And then when the long tendrils of Moriarty’s web had finally reclaimed Mary and taken her away forever, John had been a bit preoccupied with the minutia of the funeral and the official explanations and the shock of it all, the guilt that he felt in being more than a little relieved, and he hadn’t noticed that Sherlock had started venturing outside of the flat more and more, until John started dropping by again and Sherlock seemed to be out half the time. He’d begun texted before showing up, to save himself the trip, he supposed, though it was really to save himself the disappointment of not seeing Sherlock.

John wondered if the fact that Sherlock had not once asked for his company on a case since Magnussen was because of what he’d almost said on the tarmac that day. Had Sherlock deduced how difficult it had been for John to say good-bye?

In any case, John had been given a second chance, or perhaps a third. He’d resolved to be a better friend. Not demanding things of him, but trying to be there for Sherlock, if he needed him. Bringing him treats. Forwarding him the more interesting cases that the blog readers still turned up with. He kept the flat he’d shared with Mary and he hated it, but he couldn’t justify moving somewhere new. Though he supposed the expense was no longer an issue with his little Mary-provided nest egg--the million-pound life insurance policy he’d discovered after her death. Perhaps that was why he hadn’t touched it, even after Mycroft had helpfully made the arrangements for the money. John had loved her once, but Mary had proven to be as devious as Moriarty and it didn’t feel right to profit off her—even in death.

He opened the door with his own key, and whistled out a soft greeting. The flat was quiet, so he set the coffee and bakery bag down, and was about to dash off a quick note to Sherlock when the door to Sherlock’s room opened.

“I was just going to—“ he turned, but it was not Sherlock in the doorway. Instead there was a man John had never seen before. A young man. Probably mid-twenties, sandy blond hair, a trifle taller than John, definitely more built. He was wearing pajamas—old-fashioned striped ones, the kind that matched on the top and bottom that you saw in old movies. He was barefoot. He had a terrible case of bedhead. You didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that he’d just rolled out of bed. Out of Sherlock Holmes’s bed to be precise.

The coffee John had chugged on the way there turned to acid in his stomach. It was like Janine all over again. Except this was so much worse. Because on some level he’d been convinced that Janine was a put-on, and he’d been proven right. Janine had even told Mary that she and Sherlock had never done the deed, so to speak, and he’d been unbearable grateful to have been on the receiving end of that particular bit of gossip. And this—person—was, though random as he might seem—the kind of person that John had always assumed Sherlock would gravitate towards. Somehow posh, refined, even standing silently in a hallway in his pajamas. Young. Fit. Male.

“Oh, sorry—“ John said, just as the blond raised a finger to his lips in the universal symbol for quiet. He tiptoed toward John, avoiding the squeaky board on the hallway floor, which surprised John. It meant that he was familiar enough with the flat to avoid making unnecessary noise. Who the hell was he?

“I’m Evan,” the man whispered. “You must be John.”

He was, Evan, apparently. Also apparently a mind reader. Fuck.

“Yeah, hi. Um, is Sherlock--?”

“He’s sleeping. Don’t want to wake him. He needs the rest.”

“Oh, of course.” John ordered his mind not to speculate on the reason that Sherlock might be so worn out. “I’ll just leave these…” he gestured to his pathetic little offerings.

“I’ll let him know you dropped by,” Evan said. Something proprietary in his tone had the John’s eyebrows rising and his shoulders squaring off.

“Thanks.” There was a moment of unbelievably awkward silence. “Well, I’ve got to get to work.”

“Nice to meet you,” Evan said, still whispering.

“Same,” John called over his shoulder as he made for the stairs, not bothering to be particularly quiet. If Evan was on the receiving end of a grumpy Sherlock Holmes, what business was it of John’s?

No business of his at all.