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Where You Go, I'll Follow

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John still has nightmares. Translucent things that don't quite make sense, leaving him grasping at the air when he wakes up with shuddering breaths.

 

It's him, sinking down into unnamed arms, choking out, oh god, no, no, and him trying to fly, trying so hard and failing each time. Sometimes, it's walking around a chair, catching a glimpse of something, but when he's finally in front of it, there's nothing in it.

 

Nothing, no one, empty.

 

He's not doing well, everyone knows it. Mrs. Hudson toddles after him, fretting and making more tea than he can drink. Molly stops by sometimes, but if she ever looks up into his eyes, her shaky hands come up to cover her trembling lips as she holds back a sob. Even Greg, who only had one common interest with him before this, checks in on him, even drags him out to the pub every once in awhile.

 

Harry calls, just once, says sorry, and it sounds like an apology for everything, not just this. But this is more than everything else, bigger, heavier. Everything cannot even begin to compare to this.

 

Six months come to a close, and he realizes that he only has one more half to get through and it will have been a year.

 

A year… since falling.

 

Jumping, more like.

 

His phone buzzes against the tabletop, and he jolts in his seat. He picks it up quickly, thumbing the message open. It's Greg.

 

I could use your help on this one.

 

Right, like John is still prudent when it comes to cases. No matter his insight, no matter his medical abilities, he's not Sherlock. Still, the words dance before his bleary eyes, and he hasn't got anything else to do.

 

He makes it to the station and walks in quietly. Donovan gives him a quick look, but looks away sharply when he stares right back. He doesn't recall what he'd said to her, or done, but when she'd insinuated the world was better without Sherlock Holmes in it a mere six months ago, he'd apparently lost all sense, going mad enough for Greg to throw him into a cell overnight. She hasn't said a word to him since; he's thankful for that.

 

“John,” Greg says, sighing in relief as he walks up, hands shaking, lips twisting, “it's good to see you. How've you been?”

 

John gives him a small shrug. “I'm here. What's going on?”

 

“Haven't seen anything like it, not in my whole bloody career. Three murders, back to back, absolute no cause to be found and no leads,” Greg tells him, waving him to follow him into his office.

 

“How do you know they're murders if there's no cause of death?”

 

“Well, that's the strange part. We didn't at first, simply because we couldn't find anything, but there are identical notes found on all the victims.”

 

John's eyebrows shoot up in interest. “And what do these notes say?”

 

“Doesn't really make sense, you see. Just a bit of blathering on, useless words paired together. We were thinking a code, maybe, but we haven't had a chance of cracking it so far.”

 

“But it leads you to believe it's murder?”

 

Greg looks grim. “All the victims are blind, some from birth, some from later in life. The notes are written legibly, in straight lines, no evidence of being even the least bit shaky. A bit strange, innit?”

 

“A bit,” John agrees mildly, lips tipping down. “What am I here for?”

 

“You're the best contact I have, John. At the very least, you can examine the most recent body, maybe find something Anderson is missing, something. The press is all over it, giving the public a new boogeyman to fret over.”

 

“And at the very most?”

 

“I'm sorry?” Greg repeats, blinking in confusion.

 

“You said, at the very least, so that implies you hope I'll do more,” John says reasonably, crossing his arms. “What do you want from me, Greg?”

 

Greg's shoulders sag, and he looks pointedly away from John's gaze. “He'd be ecstatic, you know; this is right up his street. Please, John, if anyone can channel Sherlock Holmes, it's you.”

 

“I'm not him,” John snaps immediately, body going tense, “I haven't ever been.”

 

“I know,” Greg says quickly, looking straight at him with a weary expression. “No one's expecting you to be, but you were always there. You weren't just his sounding board. I'm asking you to help me.”

 

And that, that is what gets him, every bloody time.

 

John releases a small sigh. “Take me to the crime scene. I'll try, but that's all I'm promising.”




 



The crime scene is a bit bland. A nearly empty hotel room, devoid of all life, just there. The body is perched on the bed, almost as if he's sleeping, but John knows a dead body when he sees one.

 

“Right,” John says, sighing, and holding out his hands for a pair of gloves.

 

Anderson passes them over with a sour look, but John mostly ignores him. He considers going straight to the body, but Sherlock wouldn't have done that; he would've looked around the room. So, John slowly walks around the room, looking for any details.

 

He runs his hands along the windowsill. Wet, he thinks. Pulls at the curtain; it's dry. He moves on to the bedside table, opening the drawer, looking over the sides of it. Wait. John looks back in the drawer, frowning in slight confusion.

 

“Where were the last crime scenes?” John asks, still rifling through the contents of the drawer.

 

“All hotel rooms at this brand of hotel,” Greg answers, standing off to the side, crossing his arms. “They were booked under aliases, and no receptionist can remember what the man who booked it looked like.”

 

John looks up. “Are they sure it was a man?”

 

“Well, no, but-”

 

“Where are the bibles?”

 

“Bibles?” Greg echoes, arms dropping, blinking in slight confusion.

 

“Yes,” John confirms, turning to face him. “Haven't you ever stayed in this chain of hotel before? They always have a bible in the drawer. It's not here, so where is it?”

 

“Bibles?” Anderson scoffs, rolling his eyes. “What do bibles have to do with anything? Detective, he hasn't even looked at the body yet! You can't seriously think his presence will be helpful?

 

“At the other hotels, were there any bibles?” John asks Greg, completely ignoring Anderson.

 

Greg frowns, scratching his head. “Actually, not that I can think of.”

 

“Maybe hotels stopped doing that?” Anderson suggests, arching his eyebrows in challenge.

 

John waves a hand. “Not this chain, but go check with the receptionist, would you?”

 

Anderson sputters, but Greg just says, “Go.”

 

Turning towards the body, John stares at the dead man laid out before him. He's wearing a trenchcoat, and there are water droplets drying on the front. John leans forward and checks the back. Dry. John keeps looking him over, checking for lacerations, or any indication that he put up a fight, anything.

 

“Were the other bodies lying down like this?”

 

“In the same position, almost as if sleeping.”

 

John frowns, keeps looking. He looks for details this time, scanning the man head to foot. He hears Sherlock's voice in his head, listing off, unmarried, doesn't take care of his fingernails, is obviously bowlegged, a bit poor by the state of his clothes, regularly gets his hair trimmed, but never shaves, uses a walking cane for the blind by the indentions in the inside of his hand…

 

John scans the room again. “Did you confiscate his walking cane?”

 

“His what?” Greg mutters, blinking.

 

“Sherlock was right,” John announces with a small sigh, “you are idiots.”

 

“There was no walking cane, John.”

 

“He was blind, Greg. He doesn't just walk around without some indication of where he's doing, does he? It's not in this room, and you haven't taken it as evidence, so where is it?”

 

Greg gives a shrug. “I dunno. Maybe the killer took it with the bibles.”

 

“Don't mock me,” John huffs, frowning. “What about the other victims? Did you find any on those?”

 

“No,” Greg admits.

 

“A bit too coincidental, don't you think? Where's the note?”

 

“The note?”

 

“The one you found on his body,” John says, arching an eyebrow in bemusement.

 

“Oh, right! In his pocket. We thought it best to leave it there until you saw it,” Greg says sheepishly.

 

John rolls his eyes but fishes out the note without complaint. He hears Sherlock whisper in his head, idiots, all of them. He feels guilty for agreeing.

 

The note is a strange thing, actually. It's written concisely, with steady hands, the pen-stroke never hesitating. The words read:

 

Unison sea ask group desire two sight.

 

It's all absolute rubbish, and John suddenly misses Sherlock more than he has in weeks. The words don't mean anything, none of it has no connection, but Sherlock would've known anyway. Because he's brilliant, because he's incredible. Was. Because he was those things.

 

“Doesn't make any sense, does it?” Greg asks.

 

John shakes his head. “It means something, but I'm not sure what.” He takes out his phone and takes a picture of the note. “So, what do we have? Three blind victims, all with the same note, all put in the same positions, all missing bibles and walking canes. And how does it all connect?”

 

Greg looks even more confused, if possible. “See? That's why I need you. I haven't a clue.”

 

“Neither have I,” John tells him.

 

“You must've noticed something, John.”

 

Before John can tell him anything, Anderson suddenly walks back into the room, looking none too pleased. “You were right, Dr. Watson. Every room has a bible, except this one.”

 

Greg gives John a patient smile. “What else have you noticed then?”

 

“He was standing at the window before he died, possibly when he was attacked. It was open before and shut after,” John says.

 

“How could you possibly know that?” Anderson snarls, lips twisting in anger.

 

John sighs heavily, again. “Please don't tell me you really are that dim. The coat, Anderson, the coat. It's wet on the front, not the back, which suggests that he wasn't out in the rain, at least not recently before his death. It's wet on the windowsill, which means at some point, it was open, but the curtains are dry, which means they were blocked.”

 

Anderson wrinkles his nose. “So, what, you're Sherlock Holmes now? Of course, we couldn't be free of his idiotic ramblings, no, he had to leave that to you.”

 

John stands up ramrod straight, chin tilting. He narrows his eyes and scans Anderson, letting Sherlock's deductions fill his head. He gathers all of it and discards it immediately. John isn't Sherlock, and he doesn't deduce, and he isn't doing this.

 

“Sod off, Anderson,” John snaps, heading towards the doorway. But he can't resist one last dig, so he throws over his shoulder, “And it's not idiotic ramblings, it's called deduction. It takes a certain level of intelligence, which you'll never be able to do, because Sherlock was right when he said you were the dumbest person alive.”

 

Anderson gives an offended squawk, but John just leaves the room. He heads towards the elevator, chest aching, just wanting to leave. Greg catches the doors as they close, sliding in quickly, and fantastic, now John has to put up with him for three floors.

 

“Don't listen to him, John. He is an idiot, and he's also angry that you figured things out he didn't. You've given us more connections; it's a start. You see why I need your help, don't you?” Greg rambles, pouncing almost immediately.

 

John gives him a flat look. “I gave you more questions, Greg. I couldn't connect anything, or figure out what Sherlock could. You don't need me, you need him, but he's-”

 

John cuts himself off and looks away, clenching his jaw and swallowing thickly. The words linger in his mind anyway, there and aching, cracking his chest wide open. Greg makes a small noise in the back of his throat, sad and awkward.

 

“I think you're an asset, John,” Greg insists softly, tone careful like John's a bomb waiting to explode on everyone. “I know you miss him, I do too in my own way, but… it's different for you. This could… help, maybe; I'm just saying, don't give up on it, yeah?”

 

The elevator dings, and John steps out with yet another sigh. He looks at Greg's hopeful expression, mutters, “Fine. Start with the upstairs flat next to the hotel. The window was open, someone might have noticed something. Call me with anything you find.”

 

“I will,” Greg promises, looking relieved.

 

The elevator doors close, and John stands there for a moment, eyes closed, just breathing. For a moment, he imagines Sherlock at his side, excited and perplexed about this new case. The game, John! The game, Sherlock murmurs in his mind, is on.

 

John swallows, shakes it off, and walks outside. He doesn't get three steps before he comes to an abrupt halt. A sleek, black car waits at the curb, running, and so obviously for him that John wants to groan. Steeling himself, John gets in the car without any prompting, staring at Mycroft blankly.

 

“Dr. Watson,” Mycroft greets, dipping his head.

 

“What do you want, Mycroft?”

 

“One wants many things, especially recently. As it stands, it's never that simple. A question, if I may?”

 

“You may ask.”

 

Mycroft narrows his eyes for a moment. “Just what exactly are you doing?”

 

That makes John blink. “I'm sorry?”

 

“You're off galavanting with Detective Inspector Lestrade, getting involved in things you have no such business in. Why?”

 

“Excuse me? You're not my keeper, Mycroft; I'm perfectly capable of making my own decisions.”

 

“You'd think so,” Mycroft murmurs, looking disapprovingly down his nose. “However, I think it best suits you that you do try and keep out of trouble.”

 

“Best suits me?” John scoffs, slumping back into his seat in shock. “Why are you even worried about me, Mycroft? There's literally no reason for you to have any contact, whatsoever.”

 

Mycroft's eyebrow sweeps up high. “You really think so little of me, Dr. Watson?”

 

“I don't understand what that has to do with my question.”

 

“You are one of the most important people to my brother, Dr. Watson. You can't possibly think I would just abandon watching you.”

 

John stares at him blankly. “You must be joking.”

 

“I do not joke.”

 

“I am not something for you to latch onto in his absence. I am not a project to keep you busy. I don't need you to look after me; I am not him.”

 

“Obviously,” Mycroft drawls, sounding so much like his younger brother that it hurts. “It's not for you, it's for him.”

 

“He's gone, Mycroft. Whatever sense of duty you feel, I release you from it. I don't need your help, and I certainly don't want it,” John hisses, hurt and angry and so tired.

 

The car pulls to a smooth stop. John hadn't even realized it moved to begin with. He sighs, and looks out at Baker street, throat tight and dry. He wants to sleep, at least for the few hours his body allows him these days.

 

When John goes to open the door, Mycroft quietly says, “You gave him something, John, something he never had before you.”

 

“What's that?” John croaks, pausing in his spot.

 

“Love, contentment, immeasurable loyalty. All of it was never shrouded in secrecy, or resentment, or even out of a sense of responsibility. You gave him everything I could not, everything he never allowed himself, and you did it without trying. That is a debt I cannot repay, so I will not cease in watching after you, nor will I stop trying to keep you from trouble.”

 

John's exhaustion seeps out of him rapidly, leaving nothing but pulsing spite. Suddenly, John wants nothing more than to toss himself right into the middle of danger, to follow any shot of adrenaline all the way to potential self-destruction. Taking a deep breath, John turns to glare at Mycroft.

 

“I suddenly know exactly how Sherlock felt about you. Which means that I'd rather you leave me alone altogether. Stay away from me, Mycroft, and don't even think about getting in my way.”

 

John forces himself out the car, slamming the door behind him, and goes into his flat, earlier desire to sleep long forgotten. Instead, he makes a list of all evidence he has, what he'll need from Greg, and plans his next moves.

 

The game is on.




 



“Well?”

 

Mycroft frowns at the body lying upside down on his couch, feet propped against his wall, hair brushing the floor. Eyes are closed, hands fixed like prayer is coming, fingers pressed to lips, and a perfectly crafted expression of indifference.

 

Even then, Mycroft can still see just how much Sherlock worries about John Watson.

 

“He is suitably angry with me,” Mycroft answers, shrugging out of his jacket. “My updates say he's making a list about the case at this very moment.”

 

Sherlock suddenly whirls around and sits up, eyes opening. “I'll need to go out tomorrow.”

 

“You're playing with fire. I don't see the point in you leaving until… necessary.”

 

“It is necessary, you idiot. Don't you see? John's going to visit my gravestone.”

 

“Now is not the time to be involving yourself with cases,” Mycroft says sharply.

 

“I will not be solving this case,” Sherlock murmurs, grimacing at the words. He brightens when he adds on, “John will.”

 

“You shouldn't be out,” Mycroft insists, but Sherlock can easily tell how quickly he's folding.

 

Sherlock sighs, only manipulating a bit when he allows himself to look upset. “I want to see him.”

 

Mycroft looks away, brow burrowing, lips pinched. Sherlock wonders what he said to John, and what John said back. Whatever the conversation was, Sherlock is well aware of the abilities Mycroft carries in getting people to do as he wants, especially without them knowing. Sherlock has never done what Mycroft wants; it's an ongoing battle.

 

Sherlock never really loses.

 

“And how do you suggest such a thing?”


“Well, give the groundskeeper a day off, obviously.”

Chapter Text

Molly looks surprised when he walks into the morgue, then wary, then quickly averts her eyes. John barely catches the guilt on her face before she's turning to face the body on the slab. She doesn't look at him when she talks.

 

“Are you here to see me, Dr. Watson?”

 

“As much as I love visiting you, Molly, I'm here to see the bodies. I'm helping with the current case.”

 

Molly glances back at him in surprise. “Oh,” she says lightly, smiling. “Well, that's lovely. Have a look at the latest victim then.”

 

No argument, no worries, just an easy invitation. Maybe because it's him, maybe because Sherlock is gone; John has no idea. Either way, he moves over to the other side of the slab, looking down at the body he'd seen the day before.

 

“Absolutely no sign of struggle?” John asks, snapping on gloves.

 

Molly frowns, looks down at the body like it's a puzzle with missing pieces. “None. There's no bruising, no scratches, not a hair out of place.”

 

John runs his hand around the underside of the man's chin, feeling along for any soft spots. “And cause of death?”

 

“Oh, Dr. Watson, I feel like a failure,” Molly suddenly wails, dropping her head and sniffling as her shoulders shake. “First Sherlock, now these victims! I can't do anything right!”

 

Awkwardly, John removes the fingers he has in the victim's mouth and uses that hand to pat Molly's shoulder, wincing when he realizes what he's just done. But Molly seems to settle with a comforting hand on her shoulder, so John does not remove it.

 

“You haven't anything to blame yourself when it comes to Sherlock, Molly.” John feels the blame settle heavier on him as if he's forgotten it. “And why don't we look over the bodies together, see what we can work out with two pair of eyes instead of one, hmm? No shame in it.”

 

Molly bites her lip, looking guilty again for a flash, then just nods her head. “I checked them head to foot, Dr. Watson. There's no sign of what killed them. Just one second, they're alive, the next… their hearts stop. Cause of death is technically cardiac arrest, but that doesn't make sense.”

 

John sighs; it's going to be a long day.




 



The day is long, and as it starts to come to a close, John really doesn't want to go home. He has no more than he started with and there could be another body at any second. He wants to talk to Sherlock, wants to have Sherlock talk to him, wants to break down the case and solve it and come home and giggle like idiots over the rush of it.

 

There's rain in the air, and a slight drizzle has started up, but John still tells the cabbie to take him to the graveyard. It's not too terribly long of a ride, but when he gets there, the rain has started up some more.

 

The gravestone looks the same, nondescript and home to one of the only names that has ever mattered to him. John stops in front of it, frowning, swallowing thickly, begging his eyes to stop watering. He hasn't come here for a cry.

 

Taking in a shaky breath, John scans the graveyard. There's a small family in front of a different gravestone a few rows ahead, and a hunched over, old groundskeeper is raking leaves off to the side. Meaningless, all of it, all of them. John swallows, looks back to the one thing that matters.

 

“Right,” he says through a tight throat. “If you were here, you'd tell me that this is a waste of time. You'd be angry with me, say that I should be solving this case instead of here. You'd be wrong, Sherlock, so very wrong. You were wrong about a lot, wrong about yourself, wrong for jumping…”

 

John looks away, heart throbbing in his chest, jaw jumping with everything he holds back and shoves down. The rain starts to pick up, and the other family heads to their car, heads down, audible sniffles reaching John as they pass. The groundskeeper puts down his rake, heads to the shed.

 

“Not the point, not the point. I'm here about the case, actually,” John tells the name staring up at him. He fishes his small list from his pocket, and reads it. “Unison sea ask group desire two sight. Three victims, all blind, missing walking canes, no bibles in the hotel rooms. Sherlock, there's no signs of struggle, and no way to tell what caused their death. Three cardiac arrests for seemingly no reason; it doesn't make any sense at all.”

 

He hears Sherlock's voice in his head: the details, John. What are we missing?

 

“I don't know,” John sighs. “This is impossible. How did you do it?”

 

The rain starts to pick up, heavier and louder. John doesn't pay it no mind, just listens to Sherlock's voice in his head, murmuring, think of our first case together, do you remember it?

 

John does. He remembers the daze of complete awe he felt for Sherlock, how he'd ran after him, completely enamored by his abilities. Everyone looked at Sherlock like he was mad; John has always thought him to be amazingly superior. His brain knew no bounds, even past the point of discomfort, but even in those moments, John had been floored by it. The first case, the one with murder-suicides and the cabbie, that was the thing that saved John's life. Or rather, Sherlock was.

 

“It was the cabbie,” John says, frowning. “What does that have to do with this?”

 

Sherlock sounds annoyed in his mind. Think about it, John; it's all connected. The cabbie couldn't face his own mortality, so he made it a game. And he knew exactly how, knew exactly who he needed to be to play it. Think, John, think!

 

“And what of the bibles then?” John snaps, crossing his arms, annoyed and confused.

 

Religion, Sherlock tsks at him. Clearly the murderer is religious, or fighting with religion. It's a token, something for themselves, maybe a comfort.

 

“The walking canes, then? What does the murderer need walking canes for? Are they blind?”

 

Don't be daft, of course they're not blind. That's a different type of token. More of a trophy.

 

“But how did they die, Sherlock? How?” he replies sharply, glaring at the gravestone, wanting answers that aren't coming.

 

There's silence. Sherlock has nothing.

 

“Excuse me.”

 

John gives a full-body jolt, taking in a gasping breath. The rain has plastered his clothes to him, and his hair is sticking to his forehead. He looks over to the groundskeeper, Sherlock's quick deductions going on his mind. Hunched over, must've been tall in his younger years, slim, so he's not eating well, not quite looking at you, respecting your grieving.

 

“Yes?” John snaps.

 

The man holds out an umbrella. “Thought you might need this. Wouldn't want to get sick, would we?”

 

It's a kind gesture, though pointless now, but John takes it anyway, opening it up. The rain stops beating down on him, and he takes a deep breath, mind sort of settling itself. Sherlock isn't talking to him anymore, and John closes his eyes for a moment, his throat clicking into the silence.

 

“Thank you,” John finally manages to say.

 

The groundskeeper still won't look at him, but he does bob his head. “Don't stay too long, you'll catch a cold,” he says, then walks away, hobbling back towards the entrance of the graveyard from behind John, his cane squelching in the grass.

 

Something tickles at the back of his mind, and John stands up straight, head snapping to follow the man's exit. John stares after him, right up until he disappears, a thread of confusion unraveling within his mind. He can't put his finger on it, so he chalks it up to his frustration with the case.

 

He looks back to the gravestone. “You're not telling me anything I don't already know.”

 

Sherlock's voice floats back through his mind. Well, obviously. I'm just an echoed concept made up by you. I'm dead, John. You'd do well to remember that.

 

John grits his teeth and pivots where he stands, walking to get a cab, going home feeling no better than he did to begin with.

 


 



It's a three in the morning, a mere week later, when it hits him. He's at his desk, staring blankly around the room, when he notices the skull. Sherlock's skull.

 

“Well, it worked for him,” John mutters, getting up and walking over to it.

 

The skull stares back blankly.

 

“Unison sea ask group desire two sight.”

 

John waits; the skull looks bored.

 

“They're just words paired together that mean nothing. I've scrambled them, changed their letters, looked at the different translations of them. They mean nothing as they are.”

 

The skull looks at him patiently.

 

John blinks. “As they are…”

 

The skull waits.

 

“You absolute cock,” John tells it, narrowing his eyes at it. “Why didn't you say something?”

 

He whirls away from the seemingly smug skull and turns to his list. He flips it over to the blank side and starts writing, chewing his lip furiously.

 

Unison

 

  • Group
  • Us
  • We

 

 

John takes in a shaky breath, swallowing thickly in surprise. Of course, of course. This makes so much sense actually, and he feels like an idiot. He keeps writing, stomach quivering in excitement.

 

Sea

 

  • Water
  • Ocean
  • See?

 

 

Ask

 

  • Question

 

 

Group

 

  • We, again?
  • Us

 

 

Desire

 

  • Need
  • Want
  • Sexual attraction

 

 

Two

 

  • Double
  • To?

 

 

Sight

 

  • See, again?
  • Clairvoyance
  • Not blind

 

 

John stares at his list for a very long time, looking over the words laid out for him. Even this way, they don't make much sense, and John feels frustration bubble up within him. He whirls away from the desk, turning on the skull in anger.

 

“That didn't help!” John shouts at it.

 

The skull looks affronted.

 

“They must mean something, you utter worthless chew-toy. I'm going to give you to a bloody dog!”

 

“John?”

 

Mrs. Hudson hovers in the doorway uncertainly, watching him in slight concern, just as she used to do when Sherlock went on his rampages. John gave a small growl in the back of his throat, turning away, mind still working almost painfully.

 

“Not now, Mrs. Hudson, I'm trying to think.”

 

“And that requires talking to the skull?”

 

John glares at her. “It's helpful.”

 

“You sound like Sherlock,” Mrs. Hudson muses, a small painful smile flitting over her face.

 

“Well, it's currently not helping, but it did for a moment, and why are you up so late?”

 

“I thought I saw Sherlock, but it must've been a dream. We see what we want to see, I suppose.”

 

John goes very still, his mind stopping altogether. Mrs. Hudson hovers in the doorway at three in the morning, looking sad and tired, missing Sherlock, but none of that has registered with him at all.

 

We see what we want to see, I suppose.

 

Sherlock laughs happily in his mind.

 

“Mrs. Hudson, you absolute beautiful woman,” John breathes, moving over to grip her in a tight hug. She gives a soft, delighted noise, and he pushes back, holding her at shoulder length. “You mad, brilliant woman. We see what we want to see. Of course, of course. Thank you so much. Remind me to make you a cuppa when I get back!”

 

He hears Mrs. Hudson's faint “you're welcome?” but he doesn't really register it. He's already out the door, rushing out on the street. As expected, a black car pulls up beside him as he rushes, so he quickly hops in the car.

 

“Take me to Scotland Yard, and get Detective Inspector Lestrade there as well,” he orders without preamble.

 

There is no reply, but not too long after, he's scrambling out of the car and into the building he knows all too well. Greg is only a few steps ahead of him, looking weary and confused. John grabs his arm, practically hauling him along.

 

“John?” Greg sputters, blinking blearily.

 

“The note. I know what it means. We see what we want to see.”

 

“Um.”

 

John glares at him and pushes them into his office, shutting the door behind him. “Wake up, Greg. I've made a connection.”

 

“Have you slept at all?” Greg asks, frowning at him in disapproval.

 

“No time for concern. The note; it means: We see what we want to see,” John says, waving a hand carelessly.

 

“But the victims are blind.”

 

“Exactly!”

 

“I'm not following,” Greg tells him, shrugging.

 

“This whole time, we've been thinking of them as ruthless murders. We keep looking for signs of struggle, or pain, but there aren't any. The murderer isn't killing them for fun, or to kill, or because they hate the blind; they're killing them to save them.”

 

“Okay… but, John, what's killing them? How are they dying? How is the murderer picking them off without so much as anyone noticing?”

 

John snaps his fingers, eyes brightening. “Check between their toes.”

 

Greg stares at him. “ What?”

 

“The victims; check between their toes. Adenosine, followed by a shot of air, can be heart stopping, can't it?” John asks, arching an eyebrow.

 

“With enough of both, yes, but…”

 

“It's immediate, mostly painless, fairly easy to do. Check between their toes.”

 

“Why the toes?” Greg asks, watching as John gathers his coat, slipping it on.

 

“Because no one notices the toes, and if they do, it's incredibly easy to miss.”

 

“And where are you going?”

 

“Home,” John lies.

 

Greg frowns at him. “You're too pent-up, John. Don't lie to me, and don't be Sherlock.”

 

John pauses, looking at Greg almost dangerously, breathing harshly. “I'm not Sherlock.”

 

Before Greg can say anything else, John's leaving the room, heading out the back entrance, away from Mycroft's watchful men, and making towards a hotel.




 

 

“He's figured it out, then?”

 

“Sherlock, he's gone missing.”

 

Sherlock's head snaps up, and he blinks rapidly in surprise. “He really has figured it out.”

 

Mycroft glares at him. “This is no laughing matter. Not only did you go to 221B Baker Street, now John Watson is missing. Tell me where he is this instant.”

 

“I merely stopped by,” Sherlock tuts carelessly, flapping a hand in the air. “No one saw anything. And John isn't missing; he's on vacation.”

 

“If you have any semblance of care for him, any at all, then you will tell me where he is,” Mycroft snaps, narrowing his eyes and clicking his umbrella to the floor in agitation.

 

“He's all I care about,” Sherlock hisses back, leaning forward with a glare. “And he needs this; he needs to do this without me, to keep living. He needs it.”

 

Mycroft frowns at him. “No, you need it. You're frightened, worried that we won't catch the last person in Moriarty’s network. It's why you came to me to begin with. You want him to keep going, just in case you can't return.”

 

“Let him be,” Sherlock says, moving back to lay on the couch. “He knows what he's doing.”

 

“You did as well, if I recall, but how many times did John Watson save your life?”

 

“Plenty, and he couldn't the last time, because I had to save his. Leave it, Mycroft.”

 

“Where is he?” Mycroft snaps.

 

Before Sherlock descends all the way into his mind palace, he sings, “Not telling!”

Chapter Text

It takes three different workers to recall the room number of the blind woman who just checked in an hour ago. John dashes off the moment that he gets it, racing down the halls, heart in his throat. He bangs on the door, and after a few moments, it opens very slowly, giving him just enough room to slip in.

 

A gun sits comfortably against his forehead, real and there, and John blinks up at the woman holding it. She's taller than him, wearing her uniform and long skirt, hair pulled back in a full bun. Her dark eyes blink at him, mouth twisted in a sneer.

 

“Thought you'd never find me out, Dr. Watson,” she says, pursing her lips for a moment. “I feared that you weren't nothing more than Sherlock Holmes’ sounding board after all.”

 

“Took me a minute, I must admit,” John replies, stepping carefully into the room, scanning it. “Where is she? The woman you planned to murder.”

 

The woman hums low in her throat. “Located her to another room; I'll deal with her after you. But it most certainly won't be murder.”

 

“We have two varying opinions on what murder is, miss,” John tells her.

 

“This is murder, what I'm going to do to you. Them? I save them. Do you know why I save them, Dr. Watson?”

 

“Haven't a clue.”

 

“My brother… he was only nineteen when he was mugged and almost killed. No one wanted to investigate ‘'im, see. He was blind, couldn't describe his attackers. When nothing happened, they came and finished the job, all because he was blind.”

 

“I'm sorry that happened to you, I truly am, but you have to know you're not saving them.”

 

She gives a small smile. “We see what we want to see, don't we? Though, for them, they don't get to see anything at all. How was it, reading that note, being blind? Did you enjoy it?”

 

“I figured it out though, didn't I?” John tells her, arching an eyebrow. “Here you are, at this specific hotel, with this specific reason, and here I am, knowing your here.”

 

“Perhaps you did enjoy it,” she murmurs, tilting her head at him. “Being blind can be easier sometimes, even without meaning to be. We see what we want to see, Dr. Watson. Proof can be staring us right in the face, and simply because we think we see something else, we'll ignore it.”

 

John frowns at her. “You're not saving them. In fact, you're not better than the ones that murdered your brother. This is murder.”

 

She shoves the gun against him harder. “I'm saving them,” she snaps harshly, eyes narrowing.

 

“What about the walking canes?” John asks abruptly. “Why do you take those?”

 

“To remember the ones I save.”

 

“And how do you get them to lie still while you kill them? Can't quite figure that out.”

 

She frowns, but says, “Well, they can't very well see me coming, can they? Sometimes, I'll have them stand at a window, tell 'em I'm cleaning in certain spots, have them move to the bed, tell them to remove their shoes for comfort. They almost always do, and why wouldn't they? I'm just the cleaning lady; why shouldn't they trust me? We see what we want to see, remember?”

 

John stares at her, chest pinching. “How long have you been doing this?”

 

“Years,” she answers honestly. “My brother would be twenty-five next year; I started a year after his death, saving them, protecting them.”

 

“Murder,” John corrects.

 

“That's not murder, Dr. Watson, this is. It's for them in the end; I'm not going to let you stop me.”

 

For a split second, John considers letting her pull the trigger, just closing his eyes and escaping his pain, but he remembers that there is a woman in danger. So, when the gun moves slightly, her hand steadying, John ducks and tackles her around the middle, wrestling the gun away from her and clipping her in the side of the head with it, knocking her out cold.

 

John grabs up his phone, makes the call.




 



“I told you not to do anything stupid, John,” Greg snaps as he watches the woman being walked into the back of the police car.

 

John rolls his eyes. “I didn't do anything stupid; I solved a case. I'll take your thank you in the form of cash, or a night at the pub where you buy rounds.”

 

Greg shakes his head like he's mad. “Honestly, sometimes you make it seem like Sherlock is still here. Don't start trying to give me heart attacks, yeah? I want to live until I'm sixty.”

 

“Text me when you want to go to the pub, Detective,” John teases, chuckling as Greg walks away.

 

He looks up, and the woman stares at him through the window, mouthing words at him.

 

We see what we want to see.

 

Like waves from the ocean, many things suddenly come crashing down over him. Molly's guilt, Mycroft's cryptic words, Mrs. Hudson's dream, the groundskeeper, the groundskeeper with his very own cane, the one Sherlock had kept in his room as proof of his brilliance for saving John from his limp . John sucks in a sharp breath, stumbling back as his throat grows tight.

 

Sherlock makes a small sound in his head, annoyed and huffy. Took you long enough, John.

 

There is a car waiting, just sitting at the curb, his ride home. John swallows and walks over to it, hands trembling. He slides in, says as calmly as possible to the driver, “Take me to Mycroft's. There is something very important he must know. It's of national security. If you don't, he'd be angry that you hadn't.”

 

“Sir, we have orders, and can't just-”

 

“Forget your bloody orders! The world is at stake, and you worry about orders! Take me to him, now, and do not spare even a moment.”

 

That seems to shake the driver out of it, and he hurries them out onto the street. It's dark outside, just blots of shadows passing by, and John grips his knees, trying to breathe. He doesn't know what he's hoping for, doesn't know what he's even thinking.

 

False hope? Probably.

 

A chance? Knowing Sherlock, also probably.

 

The driver apparently doesn't want to be the one to let his country down, because he drives them right to the front door. John doesn't wait, just launches himself out the car, through the front door, and straight into the sitting room.

 

He comes to a halt, heart freezing in his chest.

 

There's… no one.

 

“Dr. Watson?” Mycroft asks sharply, walking into the room with nothing on but a silk robe.

 

John stares at him. “Is he here?”

 

“Who?” Mycroft asks, one eyebrow sweeping up.

 

“Sherlock,” John answers, looking at the expensive staircase in consideration, “is he here? Answer me, Mycroft. I want a straight answer.”

 

Mycroft hasn't lied to him, even let certain things slip, and John stares at him closely, looks for any misstep. But Mycroft just looks pitying when he shakes his head and murmurs, “No, John, he's not.”

 

Right, then.

 

A miscalculation. He must be wrong; it's certainly happened before. And now, he feels everything he did six months prior, but fresh and with a sharper sting. Not willing to cry in front of Mycroft, John whirls around and stalks back out, getting right back in the car he just came from.

 

“Sir?” The driver asks.

 

John looks out the window, choking out, “Take me home, just… take me home.”




 




221B Baker Street is dead silent.

 

John stands out on the sidewalk and looks up at it, head tilted back slightly. Down below, Mrs. Hudson's light is on, but there are no sounds reaching him. Up above, there's a dim light from the living room; he must have left the lamp on.

 

John presses his hands to his ribs, tucking his arms around himself, holding himself together as tightly as possible. He hasn't been able to cry, not once in six months, and he can't now. But his whole body aches, he can barely breathe through his tight throat, and his heart throbs so painfully that he almost can't stand it. He wants to reach in and scrape everything he feels out, just yank it up and toss it away.

 

Before Sherlock, he felt nothing. He had been numb, just a shell of himself, walking around with a limp and waiting for the courage to find his end.

 

Then he met Sherlock, and his whole life changed. He had adventure, companionship, purpose, a reason to live. Family, meaning, love.

 

After Sherlock, it's neither of those things. He's floating now, stuck somewhere between feeling everything and nothing at all. Completely torn between having the will to keep going and aching to give up. It's worse than anything else.

 

John doesn't want to go into 221B Baker Street, doesn't want to walk into his flat and find it empty, doesn't want to sit in his chair and stare at the one across from him, just there and pointless, a gaping chasm waiting for Sherlock to come back. He wants to turn around and go to the last place he believed Sherlock to be, just lay in the grass beside his headstone and wait for the day he'll join him in the dirt. The world, and life, seems so pointless if Sherlock isn't around to make it theirs.

 

But he can smell the rain in the air, can feel the hair at the nape of his neck begin to curl, so he does what he always does; he forces himself to keep moving, a bone-deep desire to finally reach the day when he won't anymore.

 

“John,” Mrs. Hudson greets as soon as he walks in, hovering in her doorway, restless and fretting.

 

Right. He'd left in hurry and acting oddly.

 

John waves her off, starts climbing the stairs, head watching his feet carry him each step. “Not now, Mrs. Hudson; we'll have tea later.”

 

“But John-”

 

“Not now, please. Just, just let me be, alright?”

 

Mrs. Hudson bites her thumbnail, eyes wide with worry. “Oh John, I wish you'd listen to me.”

 

“Tomorrow, Mrs. Hudson,” John tells her wearily, stopping at the top step, looking down at her with the best smile he can manage.

 

His lips barely even twitch, but Mrs. Hudson seems to decide to leave him be. She wavers in the doorway, eyes jumping from him towards his flat, biting her lip. Then, she gives a curt nod and goes back into her room, shutting the door with a soft click. John sighs and walks into his flat.

 

“Hello, John,” Sherlock says, sitting in his chair, thumbing through one of his books, not even looking up to spare a glance.

 

For a moment, John's world comes to a halt. Everything just… stops. Just as Sherlock sees the world, John does as well. The setting goes into freeze-frame, pausing the details in place.

 

How could you doubt the evidence, John? Sherlock whispers in his mind, then leaves altogether, and John knows, instinctively, that he'll never hear it again, won't need to.

 

Sherlock is alive, Sherlock is alive, Sherlock is…

 

Alive.

 

Everything comes back in a rush, and John's legs give out beneath him. He chokes out a breathless strangled noise as he goes down, crumbling to the floor where he is. He ends up on his arse, head between his knees, crying, finally crying.

 

“John, listen to me.” Sherlock is suddenly there, on his knees across from him, staring at him with those steady eyes, face soft and careful. “I need you to breathe, focus on breathing, that's it.”

 

John's tears halt, his back snaps straight, and he just stares. Sherlock blinks, clearly not expecting that reaction. He leans back slightly, assessing him with his serious deduction powers, and John isn't having any of that shit, thank-you-very-much.

 

“You absolute cock,” John chokes out and lunges forward, all thoughts escaping him.

 

He lands a few punches, manages to knock Sherlock's head pretty hard against the floor. At first, Sherlock takes it, clearly thinks he deserves it, but then his natural instinct comes to him, and he starts fighting back. He defends himself, no intent to harm, just wrestles John into a strange embrace, locking their arms together between them, their cheeks pressed together.

 

And John just sags against him, sobbing.

 

Eventually, Sherlock lets go of his arms and moves his hands around John, holding him with one hand on his back, one hand on the back of his head. John lets his hands sit limply between them, tucks his face into Sherlock's neck, and cries it out. Just cries with all the pain, and loss, and hurt he's felt for the last six months, cries until his body hiccups and his eyes have nothing else to give.

 

Then, he just presses his face harder into Sherlock's throat and breathes.

 

It's a very long time before he moves; he's actually very close to falling asleep, suddenly so exhausted that he could pass out right there in Sherlock's arms. But the hand at the back of his head twitches, fingers brushing along hair, an unconscious action no doubt, and John takes in a shuddering breath, pulling back slowly, blinking his itchy eyes.

 

Sherlock stares at him. “Do you feel better?”

 

John doesn't answer him, just leans in and presses a kiss to his lips, eyes flickering closed. It's a line he's never thought to cross, one Sherlock never expected him to, but his body completes the action before he even thinks about it. Just leans forward, pushes him close, drops off a kiss like routine.

 

It's not routine; John would know.

 

The kiss, for it's part, is practically innocent in its entirety. Just a press of two mouths that move together like they're well-acquainted, even though they most certainly aren't. Sherlock's whole body has frozen, but his eyes are closed, and his mouth moves sweetly in tandem with John's.

 

There's no room for exploration or curiosity, because this just is. It's not John, it's not Sherlock, it's just everything else that now sits between them.

 

But there's anger, and resentment, and endless questions, and grief, and demands, and accusations, and so much pain just waiting on the end of this moment… John is consumed by it. He yanks away, face flat and harsh, eyes blazing. Sherlock just stares at him like he's a puzzle.

 

“Get out,” John orders firmly.

 

Sherlock blinks. “What?”

 

John scrambles to his feet, stepping back a few paces, running shaky hands through his hair. “You know what, you should stay. I'm sure you've missed being here. I'll leave.”

 

“John, stop,” Sherlock says, standing up easily, body swift and springy and alive. “We must talk, there's so much that we need to-”

 

“I can't stand the sight of you, not now,” John spits, whole body trembling.

 

Sherlock opens his mouth, clearly about to argue, or apologize, or speak at all, and isn't that the strangest thing? Sherlock speaking, living. John can't function, can't think, can't breathe. He just turns and rushes out the room, slamming the door behind him, stomping hurriedly down the stairs. Mrs. Hudson opens her door and sticks her head out.

 

“Where are you going?” Mrs. Hudson asks in concern, touching her hand to her cheek. “Oh, John, I tried to warn you, I did. It's a good thing, isn't it, him being back? Oh, don't go, John, just-”

 

He slams the door, not even throwing her a glance, sucking in air as soon as his feet hit the pavement. And here he is again, just as he was not too long before, having gotten everything he's wanted for six months, not being able to handle it. He leans down, puts his hands on his knees, and dissolves into shaky laughter, trying to breathe and stop crying while his shock takes its course. When he looks back up, a sleek car pulls up to the curb; he stumbles over to it, sliding in without hesitation.

 

This time, Mycroft waits for him.

 

“You knew,” John accuses, hands shaking so hard he can't even put on his seatbelt. “You bastard, you knew, and you…”

 

Mycroft gives him another pitying look, just like the one from before. “You'll stay at mine tonight. Better company than Sherlock, I suppose.”

 

“How long?” John demands.

 

“You'll have to talk to Sherlock if you wish to know all the details.”

 

“I hate you, I hate him, and I hate everything about these last six months.”

 

“Only one of those statements are true, Dr. Watson, and we both know it.”

 

And… John can't really argue that.

Chapter Text

John wakes up, but doesn't open his eyes.

 

As soon as he's come around, he's alert and tense. His muscles want to jump, eyes want to snap open, a shout crawling up his throat. He just keeps on breathing deeply, doesn't move.

 

There is breath puffing against his hair, ruffling it just at the top. He can feel eyes boring into him, watching, recording. John has always been aware of Sherlock, always, always, always. Before he left, and after, when he was in the graveyard, and even the moment he walked into his flat.

 

John can feel him now.

 

“I know you're awake, John,” Sherlock tells him, because of course he knows.

 

John doesn't open his eyes. “I don't want to see you.”

 

“Would you be happier if I went back to being dead?”

 

That is a terrible, horrible thing to say. John goes still, heart picking up in his chest. Goosebumps rise up his arms, and he can feel all the small hairs there stand up in attention. Sherlock is still hovering above him, but John is suddenly terrified that when he opens his eyes, it will have all been a dream.

 

“I asked you,” John whispers, still not even cracking his eyelids, “no, I begged you, Sherlock; I wanted one last miracle, just one.”

 

Sherlock sighs heavy above him, breath pooling over John's cheeks. “Hmm, yes you did. I've granted your wish, have I not?”

 

Finally, John opens his eyes, and Sherlock is staring down at him, waiting. “Six months too late,” John tells him, voice cracking.

 

Sherlock rolls his eyes, standing up and leaving John's eyesight, walking over to the chair across from the couch John had slept on. John doesn't sit up, just turns his head to look at Sherlock, trying not to be so obvious with how needy his gaze is.

 

“Miracles take time,” Sherlock tells him seriously.

 

John swallows harshly, just staring. “Was it just a big experiment then? How did you pull it off? I was there, I saw you, I- I touched you, and- and-”

 

“Moriarity.”

 

“Come again?”

 

Sherlock crosses his legs, lips pulling down into a frown. “He wanted to destroy me, wanted to take everything away from me.”

 

“Yes,” John agrees, sitting up on the couch, looking at Sherlock carefully, “it's why he ruined your reputation, why he-”

 

“No,” Sherlock says sharply, looking at him in vague annoyance, “he knew that didn't matter to me, just a mere tiresome irritation in the grand scheme of things. Moriarity knew where to hit me to make it hurt, knew who to go after.”

 

John's not a complete idiot, so he guesses, “Me?”

 

“You,” Sherlock agrees.

 

“And that pushed you to kill yourself?”

 

“It was either me or you.”

 

John sits back on the couch, reaching up to run a hand over his mouth, looking away from Sherlock, unable to stand the sight of him. “So, he threatens to kill me unless you kill yourself, and what? You never thought to tell me, Sherlock?”

 

“You saw his power, his resourcefulness. I couldn't take a chance, not with your life at stake. If I wouldn't have complied, you'd have been dead before breakfast. I didn't have a choice-”

 

“You had a bloody choice, Sherlock!”

 

“John,” Sherlock tries, but that's it.

 

John launches himself to his feet, pointing a finger at Sherlock, anger brimming over, his voice rising into shouts. “No, no! You let me believe you died! I thought you were gone, thought- and for what? You had choices, Sherlock, endless choices!”

 

Sherlock doesn't stand, just looks up at him. “Stop this and listen to me. Moriarity threatened your life; I did what I had to do to keep you alive. I've spent the last three months with Mycroft - listen closely, John - with Mycroft trying to unravel his network, just so I could come home. Up until yesterday, it seemed impossible.”

 

“Do you have any idea what it was like?” John croaks out, blinking rapidly to get rid of tears.

 

Sherlock looks confused, which he almost never does, and gives an awkward shrug. “I'm not entirely sure what you mean.”

 

“Up until yesterday, I believed you to be dead. I lived everyday knowing that you had killed yourself, knowing that my presence in your life was worthless, knowing I wouldn't ever see you again.”

 

“But none of that was real.”

 

“Sherlock, it was real for me! I lost my best friend, couldn't save him, and had to live with that! And it's your fault. You could have told me, or taken me with you, or killed me off instead! Anything. Anything besides what you did to me.”

 

And there it is, the crux of John's problems, lying out there in Mycroft's luxurious sitting room, open and bare for them to stare at. Sherlock “died” and didn't have the decency to take John with him when he did, reality or faked, it doesn't matter. John draws up and away, turning his back on Sherlock, staring down at his shoes and clenching his fists.

 

“I couldn't kill you off, not convincingly. You wouldn't have shown the proper reaction if you knew.”

 

“We have done everything worth doing together, Sherlock; why couldn't we have done this one as well?” John whispers hoarsely.

 

John feels more than hears Sherlock stand up, closes his eyes when a hand tentatively lands on his shoulder. “Would you have come if asked, just left everything you have behind?”

 

John slowly turns around, staring up at Sherlock with glittering eyes and a stubborn set to his jaw, expression steady. “Without hesitation.”

 

Sherlock opens his mouth to say something, face crumbling in surprise, but he snaps it shut when John's phone suddenly starts ringing. John doesn't immediately answer it, wrapped up in staring at Sherlock, almost can't tear his eyes away. There's a charge in the air between them, something like tension, but not quite.

 

“Answer it,” Sherlock murmurs, shattering the moment as he drops his eyes.

 

John does as he's asked, answering his phone and clearing his throat. “Yes?”

 

“John, I'm glad I caught you,” Greg sighs on the other line. “There's a case, and it's a bit-”

 

“Fine,” John cuts him off, “I'll be there, and I'm bringing Sherlock.”

 

“What, John-”

 

John hangs up, slipping his phone back into his pocket. Sherlock stares at him, trying to keep his composure, but John can see the excitement flaring in his eyes. He looks genuinely happy for the first time since he's been back, and it hurts in the best way. John clears his throat again.

 

“There's a case.”

 

“I heard. I'm coming with you.”

 

“Yes,” John confirms, bobbing his head, “but only because lives are at stake. You are not forgiven.”

 

“Of course,” Sherlock murmurs, resigned.

 

“After it's solved, we'll have a proper talk in our flat, and if, at the end, I don't want to have a go at you, I'll stay. If I do, I'm leaving,” John explains carefully.

 

“Leaving?” Sherlock asks softly.

 

John nods stiffly. “Moving out.”

 

“I don't want-”

 

“I didn't want you to be dead, but you were, so we don't always get what we want, do we?”

 

Sherlock tucks in his lips and looks down for a moment, fingers twitching at his sides. “Yes, fine. May we go now?”

 

John sweeps out his hand. “After you.”

 

As they leave, the door shutting behind them, Mycroft gently bangs his head against his refrigerator door, inwardly cursing whatever deity that decided to allow two complete idiots to fall in love.




 



“You solved the last case all on your own,” Sherlock observes in the quiet of the cab ride.

 

John keeps staring out the window. “You would have solved it in a day.”

 

“Well, yes, but you're not me.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

“Tell me how you knew where she was.”

 

“Bibles. She always took a bible. There is only one chain of hotels that carry bibles in central London, and she had one hotel left she hadn't touched.”

 

Sherlock hums, pleased. “I'm proud of you.”

 

“Don't be,” John snaps, looking over at him, eyes narrowing. “Your voice was in my head the whole time, telling me what to do, pushing me to figure it out. That's what happens when your dead, Sherlock; I make you up in my head to get by.”

 

“You made me up in your head because you associate intelligence and detective skills with me,” Sherlock says quietly, frowning at John.

 

“No, Sherlock, I made you up in my head because I missed you.”

 

Sherlock's jaw twitches as he looks away, shoulders stiff, long neck obscured by a mass of curls and the collar of his coat. John snatches his eyes away, staring out his window again. The silence is heavy between them, sharp and poignant; John almost thinks he can hear their rapid heartbeats.  

 

“Do you think it was easy for me?”

 

John blinks, head snapping over as he turns harsh eyes to his companion. Sherlock still isn't looking at him, but his throat bobs in the silence. John scans him, notes his fingers gripping each other in his lap, takes in just how stiff he is, eyes the way his jaw hardens with him gritting his teeth.

 

John hums, sarcastically asks, “Was it? How am I to know? You were probably having the time of your life solving Moriarity's puzzle. For all I know, you were too caught up to notice the passing time, and you probably didn't even-”

 

“John,” Sherlock cuts him off harshly, head whipping around, greyish-blue eyes sharp and thinned into accusing slits, “stop this nonsense immediately. I spent every moment trying to get back to my life as it was before. There was not a moment that I enjoyed being away, and it certainly wasn't easy for me. I had to watch you, day in and day out, in a state of mourning, always fearing for your life, always wondering when I would finally be able to fix things.”

 

“You watched me?” John sputters, eyes going wide, anger and shame coursing through him.

 

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “Between moments of taking down Moriarty's network, I found… relief in watching you. It was merely a comfort, John, and one I shouldn't have taken. That was a gamble with your life as well, but I…”

 

Sherlock snaps his mouth shut, teeth clacking together loudly. There is plenty to examine from what Sherlock had just said, but the most fascinating part - to John at least - are the words Sherlock didn't say. He almost never doesn't finish out a thought; he has always spoken as fast as his mind can think, so he never has much control on what he says.

 

Yet, Sherlock clearly is holding something back.

 

John prompts him. “But you…?”

 

Sherlock still looks angry, and when he speaks, his words tumble out in a hard, quick rush. “It was completely baseless of me to watch after you, of course. A selfish action based off sentiment, which, as you know, only pairs itself with weakness; I shouldn't have put you in such a predicament, especially one so serious such as that. No express permission was granted for me to play with your life, and look where sentiment got me. Weakness, John; you have all rights to hate me after-”

 

“Sherlock.”

 

“- such an inexcusable moment of-”

 

“Sherlock.”

 

“- stupidity, which I certainly have never been, and-”

 

“Sherlock!”

 

The words cut off, and Sherlock sucks in a deep breath, relaxing back into the seat. John can't help how his lips twitch, even despite the anger he feels over losing his best friend and gaining him back all in six months. John knows it isn't quite the time, but he reaches over and gently nudges Sherlock's shoulder, making him flick him a quick glance.

 

“Don't do that, John,” Sherlock snaps, voice thin and tight. “Of all the things to be angry with me for, you shouldn't discard my idiocy when it came to sentimentality so simply.”

 

John full out smiles then. “You are human, Sherlock. You missed me, so you watched me. It's not idiocy, it's normal.”

 

Sherlock curls his lip. “Tedious,” he snaps. “It was a mistake; you could have died. It went against every single thing that I knew to be true-”

 

“And you still did it,” John says softly. “Despite your concern for me, you still put my life in danger for purely selfish reasons.”

 

“Yes,” Sherlock whispers, looking back out the window again, his chest stuttering as he inhaled a shaky breath, throat bobbing again.

 

John sighs. “I'm not angry about that.”

 

“You should be. That's exactly why you should be angry. One mistake, one misstep, and you would have sullied the walls of 221B Baker Street with your blood spatter.”

 

Immediately after the harsh words, Sherlock blanches, expression flinching, eyes closing. John watches in awe, mouth parting.

 

Of course, John knows the limited fears that Sherlock has struggled with. John dying had been one on the list since the pool, but it seems to have grown worse in the past six months. His concern for John's continuing life is something of a comfort, like a warm hand running up his back, kneading muscles and making him relax.

 

“Sherlock, it didn't happen,” John murmurs, leaning across the seat to try and grab his eye. “Listen to me, I did not die, you saved my life; there is no reason for me to be angry over that. I'm not angry about that.”

 

Sherlock finally looks at him. “You're angry that I died and I didn't tell you.”

 

John gives a short nod. “Yes,” he says carefully, throat bobbing. “You left me, Sherlock. Whether you see it that way, you did.”

 

“I left for you.”

 

“That doesn't change the fact-”

 

“We're here,” the cabbie suddenly announces, turning around to face them with a small smile. “Have a nice day then, I hope you sort out your domestic. Only catched snippets, I did, but you seem a lovely couple indeed.”

 

John immediately flushes. “No, we're not-”

 

“Come on then, John,” Sherlock cuts him off, throwing some bills at the front and pushing John out the cab. “My first case since I came back; it better be worth my time. After, we talk at home, yes?”

 

John blinks at Sherlock's rapid words. “Yes, of course. We have to solve it first though.”

 

Sherlock stares at him with a calculating gaze. “If I can solve it in under two minutes, will you agree to stay with me regardless if you wish to assault me?”

 

“That's a terrible bet,” John snorts. “What if it's simple? I'm not taking that.”

 

“Come on, John. Lestrade calling you, needing your help… it has to be a bit of a struggle. Take the bet.”

 

“I'm not. It's a ploy to get me to stay.”

 

“Well, yes,” Sherlock agrees, lips twitching into a small smirk. “How about this? We go look at the body, and you decide if you'll take the bet.”

 

John considers this, lips pursing. “Fine. I'll decide when we have all the details.”

 

Sherlock grins sharply, eyes bright. “Fantastic!”

 

Then, Sherlock is off, rushing towards the building, and John sighs, following after him, just as he always has, and quite possibly, always will.

Chapter Text

Greg is crying.

 

Sherlock doesn't pay it any mind, but John keeps staring in amazement. Greg keeps turning his blotchy face to the side, wiping away the stray tears that fall, eyes immediately falling back to land on Sherlock - who doesn't seem to care and reads over the file with a small frown - after he turns away. It's almost as if he can't bare to look, but has no ability to look away; John can relate.

 

Finally, Greg speaks. “You- you faked it?”

 

“Obviously,” Sherlock mutters, eyes scanning the thin file with annoyance. “Why are there only two victims? Did the organs get removed after- no, not the point. John, we need to go see the crime scene.”

 

“Sherlock,” John scolds lightly, making Sherlock look at him. John jerks his head at Greg, eyebrows raising, and Sherlock follows the movement.

 

Sherlock blinks at Greg. “Oh,” he says, suddenly awkward and uncomfortable, “you missed me. Really? That's not what I was expecting. You rarely surprise me, Detective Inspector, good job.”

 

John heaves a sigh, rolling his eyes. “What he means is that he missed you too.”

 

“That's not-”

 

John sends him a sharp look, and Sherlock quickly stops his flow of words. Greg watches, clearly emotional by the events. “Bloody hell, I never thought I'd get to see that again.”

 

“What?” Sherlock asks, narrowing his eyes.

 

“John keeping your arse in line. Honestly, I'll regret saying this later, but I'm glad you're back.”

 

“That's great, Gavin. Where is the crime scene?”

 

Greg looks exasperated and makes a strangled noise in the back of his throat. “Greg, Sherlock, my name is Greg. Here, you and John can ride with me.”

 

Sherlock waves an uncaring hand and whirls out the room, still scanning the file with a small frown. Greg takes a deep breath, shaky hand coming up to run over his mouth, face slack in shock. John watches sympathetically; he remembers all too well how he reacted when Sherlock returned.

 

“Go ahead, you can ask,” John murmurs when Greg's eyes start searching his face.

 

Surprisingly, Greg looks concerned. “And how are you handling it then?”

 

John suddenly remembers how Sherlock mocked the normal people for leading with their emotions; they blatantly disregard the chance to collect data just so they can find - or bring - comfort. Greg must have endless questions, even ones John can't answer, but his first instinct is to care about how John feels. What Sherlock considers stupidity, John finds himself appreciating. It makes him relax.

 

“I bloody attacked him,” John says, but doesn't say “in more ways than one” and gives a weak smile.

 

Greg just nods. “Sounds reasonable, knowing Sherlock Holmes. Come on then, let's get going before he storms back in here like a pissed off peacock.” Greg grins and sweeps out a hand.

 

John follows him to the door, frowning. “I know you have questions.”

 

“Yes, well, I've learned that when it comes to Sherlock, it's sometimes better to not know,” Greg admits with a rueful chuckle, and he just walks out the door, adjusting to the new perimeters of Sherlock's return, as if it's just that simple.

 

John hates him a bit for that.

 

Sherlock is waiting by the door, flipping through the file with quick, nimble fingers. His head snaps up when they join him in the hallway, and he closes the file, looking displeased. John opens his mouth to get them going when Sergeant Donovan suddenly rounds the corner, sees them, and comes to a very abrupt halt, her eyes wide.

 

Sherlock flicks his eyes over her, one eyebrow sweeping up. “Sergeant Donovan, you look as if you've seen a ghost,” he says lightly, a malicious gleam in his eyes that John makes no move to dim.

 

“You're dead,” she replies in a hoarse whisper.

 

“It appears not,” Sherlock murmurs in open amusement, cocking his head to the side. “I see that you've stopped hitting your knees for Anderson in my absence. Good for you.”

 

Donovan's eyes flicker to John for a moment before darting away. “How are you-”

 

“Oh!” Sherlock sounds surprised. “John is the one who convinced to stop taking-”

 

“Sherlock,” John mumbles, averting his eyes when Sherlock glances at him.

 

“Whatever did you say to her, John? She certainly never stopped before. How did you-”

 

“Sherlock,” Greg warns sharply.

 

Sherlock barrels on carelessly. “Oh no, this is quite the mystery. What did John say to you to make you change your putrid habits?”

 

Donovan averts her eyes, a faint blush tinting her caramel colored cheeks. “You are the same menace you were before. I preferred you-”

 

She stops, skips her eyes over to John, then turns on her heel and leaves. Greg heaves a sigh, John forces his fists to unclench, and Sherlock immediately turns on him. He looks amused, not hurt in the slightest, and John has to look away.

 

“You'll tell me about this,” Sherlock says.

 

John shakes his head. “There's nothing to tell. Come on, we must be going.”

 

Greg leads them down the hall, and they follow. John can feel Sherlock's eyes boring into the side of his face, searching and deducing and being the permanent thorn in John's side. When it becomes apparent that John isn't going to explain, Sherlock starts pulling on his elbow.

 

“John. John. John, just tell me. What was said? After all the times I told her about her involvement with Anderson, you say something once and she just, what, decided to stop? John, John, John-”

 

“Can you just stop? There is nothing to tell.”

 

Sherlock might have let it go, but Greg snorts loudly from in front of them, and his eyes brighten. “There very clearly is something to tell. I'd like to know, John. What did you say?”

 

“I don't remember,” John snaps, sending a sharp look at him. “Drop it.”

 

Sherlock does not drop it.

 

“Oh, oh, this is fantastic. You can't remember, which suggests it was done in such a bout of emotion that you deleted it by accident. You're too good of a man to have hit her, so it was words. But what set you off? What did she say?”

 

“Sherlock, it's not-”

 

“Important. But it is. I wasn't here, and I want to know. It must've been something horrible or else you would remember it, so what did she-”

 

John comes to an abrupt stop, whirling around on Sherlock, anger boiling up and over. “You weren't here by your own choices! I'm not going to tell you what she said, and I don't remember what I said, so drop it already, Sherlock. Can I have one thing, please? Just one that you don't deduce, or find out, or pick away until you know!”

 

Sherlock's lips tighten, smile long gone. He's lost the fun of the game, and he narrows his eyes. “Detective Inspector Lestrade,” he says abruptly, whirling around to pin the wide-eyed Greg with a calculating look, “what did Donovan say to John to set him off?”

 

“Don't you dare answer that,” John growls, stomping forward to point at Greg.

 

“Um,” Greg chokes out.

 

“Was it terrible?” Sherlock asks.

 

Greg flinches, Sherlock's eyebrows jump, and John releases a harsh breath, hissing, “Stop interrogating him, Sherlock, he won't say anything.”

 

“He had to incarcerate you after the fact, meaning you were in such a state that you couldn't be trusted with the public. It must have been awhile ago, possibly right after my death, because you don't still look too terribly affected at the sight of her. If it was right after my death, you were mostly touchy about one thing, which suggests that she said something vulgar about me, and you reacted very harshly. I'm not sure why you would withhold that from me, John; Donovan never liked me, and I never her, so anything she could have said wouldn't bother me. And Detective Inspector Lestrade doesn't have to say anything at all, his face gives it all away.”

 

Greg looks tired, turning to face John. “Remember when I said I'd regret saying what I said moments ago? Yes, well, I was right.” He turns and walks away, shaking his head and walking out the door.

 

John stares at Sherlock, and he wants to be angry, but he's mostly in awe. He always is when Sherlock does that, but now isn't the time. “She told me the world was better off without you in it.”

 

“Oh,” Sherlock hums, frowning, “that doesn't surprise me much. I'll have to run into her and find out what you said to her. That will be interesting.”

 

“One thing, Sherlock,” John breathes, weary and wrung out, and starts walking, “just one.”

 

Sherlock tuts, falling into step beside him. “You already have that, John.”

 

“Oh? Pray, tell, what have you withheld your brilliant mind from working out?”

 

“The kiss.”

 

“The kiss? What kiss are you on about, Sher-”

 

“Yes, that one.”

 

John slows to a stop as soon as they step outside, his throat suddenly dry. “You haven't tried to deduce it then?”

 

Sherlock shakes his head, eyes very firmly pointed somewhere over John's head. “No.”

 

“Why not?” John asks.

 

Sherlock looks as if he's sucking on a lemon, resembling Mycroft more than John would ever admit. The delirious laugh gets stuck in his throat; this moment is so surreal. Here they are, talking about the kiss they shared without really talking about it, and John doesn't know what to feel.

 

“I'm only saying this for your benefit, and you'd do well to remember that I'm in a constant state of intelligent superiority when compared to anyone. But to answer your question, I… can't.”

 

“What?”

 

“I do not like to repeat myself,” Sherlock snaps, bottom lip poking out just so in his trademark pout.

 

John giggles slightly, lifting a hand to catch it. He clears his throat, murmurs, “You can't? Are you telling me that you can't figure out the kiss?”

 

Sherlock narrows his eyes, dangerous and angry, arms crossing over his chest. “There are too many possibilities, John, each more unlikely than the last. How does one deduce something that has no reasoning? It could've pertained to you being overwhelmed by emotion, or even just being happy to see me, your body reacting before you thought about it. There's also the chance of shock; everyone reacts to shock differently. Or perhaps you did it purposefully to confuse me. While the body often doesn't connect with the mind for normal people, you are certainly above average, and yet, you did it without so much as a reason. You haven't said anything about it, expressed regret, or made a move to do it again, so there's no reaction from you at all to tell me how you feel about it; in fact, it's almost as if it didn't happen to begin with, which I even considered, but I know I didn't imagine it, and-”

 

“Sherlock.”

 

John watches in faint amusement as Sherlock snaps his jaws closes and takes a deep breath. When it's clear that Sherlock is going to stay quiet and listen, John smiles and says, “Does your brain ever take a break at all?”

 

“No,” Sherlock mutters.

 

John rolls his eyes and starts towards the car Greg waits in. “As amazing as your brain is, it should allow you rest every once in awhile,” he says softly, smiling over his shoulder as Sherlock rushes to catch up with him, strides long and growing short when they walk side by side.

 

“That doesn't tell me anything, John.”

 

“I'm going to keep my one thing, Sherlock, and you're going to let me have it.”

 

“But-”

 

“No. Let's focus on the case. I'll let you know when we get there if I'll take the bet or not.”

 

Sherlock sulks the whole way to the crime scene, and John just grins out the window.




 



Anderson takes one look at John and sneers, then his gaze falls to watch Sherlock leave the car. John can feel the twitch of his lips, but his smile is long gone when Anderson whirls away from the body, rushing over to some bushes and vomits loudly. Greg sighs, Sherlock smirks, and John suddenly feels like joining Anderson in losing his lunch.

 

There's a moment where things become real; this is the worst possible moment for it to happen.

 

A sharp pain shoots up his right leg, suddenly there and visceral, and he has to shift his weight abruptly so as not to fall. As his left hand suddenly trembles, the ache in his injured shoulder abruptly flaring, John has to take in a steady breath.

 

Right. Okay.

 

John turns his eyes to Sherlock, stares at him until it hurts not to blink. He's here, he's alive, John reassures himself. He waits for the waves of pain and off-putting unsteadiness in his limbs to fade. Sherlock looks at him sharply, eyes calculating, gaze assessing; his lips tip down in a frown.

 

His hand steadies, his leg relaxes, and John breathes slowly, swallowing thickly.

 

John is suddenly terrified that he'll never be able to forgive Sherlock. The thought is like a dirty secret in his head, taunting him. Look what he's done; he can do it again. It's a fear, one that's just started up, settling deep in his chest, aching and heavy.

 

“The body is over here,” Greg says, leading them over, yanking them back to the present.

 

Anderson slowly turns to face them as they walk up, eyes wide. “I quit,” he breathes out, blinking in surprise at his own statement.

 

“What?” Greg asks, blinking rapidly.

 

“Yeah, that's- that's right. I quit,” Anderson says, drawing to his full height. “I can't do this anymore, not with him, not with them. This is too much.”

 

Greg looks as if he's going to try and comfort him, but Sherlock just flaps his hand carelessly, rudely drawls, “Yes, yes, you're overwhelmed and your estranged aunt has recently died, leaving you with money you don't deserve. What's the saying? I'm just the catalyst to your circumstance. Go away now; leaving is the best thing you've ever done for me.”

 

Anderson's eyes widen in offense, and that seems to be what pushes him over the edge. He yanks his gloves off harshly, throws them to the ground and roughly stomps on them, chest heaving. John has to press his fist to his mouth to keep from outright giggling, but Sherlock looks very pleased with his outburst. Anderson releases a strangled growl and stomps off, leaving without saying anything else.

 

Sherlock looks at John, and they hold some sense of control for a moment, but then Sherlock's lips twitch, and John loses it. They fall into breathless laughter, soft and long-cherished giggles ringing out, making people stare at them like they're mad.

 

Greg fights very hard to keep a straight face. “Boys, it's a crime scene. Stop it.”

 

Sherlock tucks his lips in and sobers, but his eyes are bright. “Not good?” He asks John.

 

“Terrible, really,” John says with a mock sigh, shaking his head. “How ever will we get by without him?”

 

Sherlock is very clearly pleased by John's teasing, and he smiles all the way up to the body. John follows a bit more slowly, looking around the scene. It's a woman, her purse lying beside her body, and there are terribly done stitches on her chest. Sherlock snaps on gloves and stoops down, just staring at her, his smile falling.

 

Sherlock looks at him in question. “Well?”

 

John teeters on the edge of something, heart in his throat. From what John knows of the case, it isn't something simple. The woman had died from infection due to her organs being removed, and her husband suffered the same fate a mere week earlier. There's no lead on the killer, no DNA to pick up, no reason why someone wanted their organs to begin with. There's not much evidence to deduce.

 

But Sherlock.

 

Sherlock is smart, probably already knows who the killer is and what they eat for dinner. The bet they've made isn't about Sherlock's intelligence; it's about John's forgiveness.

 

He can take the bet, Sherlock can figure it out in under two minutes, and John's decision will be snatched from him. He won't have to worry about deciding whether he can stay or not, won't have to admit to himself that it was what he wanted, won't have to take the step of letting Sherlock back in his life after he left it on purpose.

 

Or, he doesn't take the bet, and they finish up, go back to 221B Baker Street to talk. If John doesn't want to beat Sherlock to a bloody pulp, if he can find it within himself to forgive him, he'll stay. That's a near impossible possibility, and John is frightened of what that means.

 

Sherlock offers him this bet because he knows John, knows what he needs, knows how to ease the uncertainty and war he has within himself.

 

John breathes carefully. “I'll take the bet.”

 

“Detective Inspector Lestrade, take out your phone, set your stopwatch to two minutes, start it when I tell you,” Sherlock orders, never taking his eyes from John. When Greg warily does as he's asked, Sherlock stands up, says, “Start it.”

 

Greg does.

 

Sherlock takes a step towards John, just stares at him patiently. The seconds tick by, and with each one, John struggles to breathe. Sherlock isn't moving, isn't even looking at the body, isn't even going to try. John suddenly fights the urge to rage, to scream, to lash out, or worse… cry.

 

John's lips tremble around his name, a plea, or a question, but it never comes out. Sherlock holds his gaze; Greg's phone keeps running.

 

And it's not fair, not fair at all. Sherlock knows John would find complacency in having the decision taken away, but he's not selfish enough to do that, even though John wants him to be. Sherlock wants to be forgiven, wants it to be John's choice, and John doesn't think he can do it.

 

“What bet is this then?” Greg asks awkwardly.

 

They say nothing. John flicks his gaze to the time; it reads: 1:36. Only twenty-four seconds left. John stares at Sherlock, waits for him to give into the urge of showing off at the last second. That would make more sense than anything.

 

The stopwatch buzzes into the tense silence, and Sherlock breaks his gaze, announces, “It was the son who took the organs, but she did it. Obviously.”

 

John curses sharply and turns away, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. Anger floods into him again, and it's been doing that so much in the past six months. It's not stopping, not running out, not tempered with Sherlock's presence; if anything, the fury and resentment has gotten worse.

 

John whirls around, pins Sherlock with a look. “Explain it. Why was it the dead woman?”

 

Sherlock twitches, fingers flickering in his wariness, and clears his throat. “The sutures are done poorly, but the cut started from the woman. She began to cut herself open, but couldn't finish, and the son took over. Her purse is worn and old and needs replacing, but she hasn't because they're low on money. There is financial aid papers sticking out at the top for college in America, but she's not going back to college. No, her son wants to, so she's trying to find money. She is the one who sold her husbands organs; she killed him. It's not obvious, but she's left-handed, so it looks as if she never made the cut herself. She sold her husband's organs, then sacrificed her own, just so her son could go to college in America, just so he can follow his dreams, just so he can be happy.”

 

Greg scoffs. “Sherlock, that doesn't make sense!”

 

“Look at the state of her fingernails; she bites them nervously. Patches of her hair is missing. She was mentally unstable and possibly was obsessed with the happiness of her son, even to extreme measures. The beginning of the cut on her and the ones on her husband matches, but you can tell where the son took over. There is blood wiped away in certain spots, where he cried over her, then tried to get rid of the evidence. Take the samples, talk to the son, but he's no murderer.”

 

John's chest rises and falls, short little shallow thrusts as his heart races in his chest. It's always been awe-inspiring to watch Sherlock do that. He barely even looked at the scene, and he's figured out without so much as an issue. He's known, possibly since they arrived at the Yard, but he let John have his bet, let him win it, and will let him make the final decision. It's almost painful to think about.

 

“Amazing,” John breathes, the word slipping out without permission.

 

It's amazing, all of it. Sherlock's mind, Sherlock giving him the choice, Sherlock being alive.

 

Greg sighs heavily. “Well go on then. I'll call you and let you know.”

 

Sherlock doesn't wait, just takes the brisk walk back to the street, flagging a cab so easily that John hates him. It's as if they all became aware that he's back and adjusted themselves accordingly to do his bidding. John has never missed him more than he does in that moment, and his eyes sting as he follows Sherlock into the cab.

 

“221B Baker Street,” Sherlock tells the cabbie, settling back in the seat. His next word is a whisper, one John barely hears, but it pierces his heart when he processes it. “Home.”

Chapter Text

Mrs. Hudson sticks her head out as soon as they enter. “So you two have made up then?”

 

“Not quite,” Sherlock says, moving towards the stairs. John pauses to give her a reassuring smile.

 

“Oh, John, don't be so hard on him. He's missed us something terribly, can't you tell? Find it within yourself to forgive him, or you'll never forgive yourself if you lose him again,” Mrs. Hudson tells him, lips trembling around a watery smile. “It's a bit of a domestic, dear, every couple has them.”

 

“Mrs. Hudson, we're not…” John trails off and gives a weary sigh. “Thank you. Come around for tea later?”

 

Mrs. Hudson brightens immediately. “Of course, John. I'll be up after my telly runs out of good shows to keep me occupied.”

 

John thinks about moving out, thinks about how he'll miss her if he does, thinks about how she'll call him and berate him for things that don't make sense to anyone but older, tittering women with not enough to do in their day. She won't come in and check on him, won't make him tea, won't insinuate he and Sherlock are married, won't tut about the state of the flat. And if he goes, he'll miss her.

 

John moves forward and pulls her from the doorway, tugging her into a delicate hug. “Thank you, Mrs. Hudson, for everything.”

 

She chuckles in his hold, allows it for a moment, then pulls away to look at him fondly. “Oh, it's alright. You're my boys; it's what I do. Less of a job now that Sherlock's back; he'll look after you, and you'll look after him. That's what you two do.”

 

John gives her a thin smile, doesn't correct her, lets her have this. The fear that he'll leave still sits heavy in his chest, a constant throb of what he knows he can't handle. When he turns away and starts up the stairs, Sherlock stares down at him from the top, face drawn and exhausted.

 

He knows.

 

Sherlock just grits his jaw and strides into the flat, leaving John to climb the stairs. John thinks, sadly, that he loves these stairs. It was his first metaphorical mountain that led him to healing, a hurdle to climb that started his adventure with Sherlock. He climbs them now, his shoes thumping on the old wood dully; he has always loved that sound, does even more so now, loves the final thunk when he reaches the landing. It sounds like finality, like taking a chance, like coming home.

 

John hadn't changed one thing about the flat after Sherlock's “death” because he simply hadn't been able to. Nothing sits out of place; it's clear that the flat - and John - have been waiting for him to come back. The first time Mrs. Hudson had come up with intentions of tidying, John had yelled and raged and ran her off, careless of the pain she must've felt. He'd apologized later, of course, but he'll never forget her wide eyes as his shouts echoed in the emptiness that Sherlock should've occupied.

 

The chair hasn't moved an inch, John keeps it free of dust. The violin still has its corner, John carefully keeps it pristine. The experiments haven't been finished, John waits patiently for the results to appear. There's still haphazard files thrown about that Sherlock had tossed around the day before he left, John never sorts them and won't let Greg have them, no matter how many times he's asked. Sherlock's scarf still hangs by the door, John hasn't had the heart to wash out Sherlock's smell, even though it's beginning to get musty now.

 

Nothing has changed, John hasn't let it, couldn't handle it.

 

And Sherlock fits right back in like he's never left, hanging up his coat by the door, settling into his chair without a thought, pushing the small table between their chairs just off center like he always does; John nearly chokes at the sight as he'd fixed it before Sherlock “died” and it never had been pushed around again.

 

John can see it, can perfectly picture how things will go. Sherlock will come back, John will stay, and their lives will continue on with just a mere stutter. John hadn't moved on, hadn't been able to, and Sherlock won't have to try to fix himself back into things. It's a horrible thought, but John doesn't want it to be easy for him, doesn't want him to be able to come back and have no issues to work through.

 

It's not fair. John's been struggling since the moment Sherlock had stood on the roof and took the step off; Sherlock should have his own challenges as well.

 

“Are you going to hover in the doorway all night, or are you going to come in so we can talk?”

 

John jolts, pushing himself into the room. Sherlock looks at him patiently, and John can't handle it. With his entire body trembling, he goes into the kitchen to make him some tea. The comfortable sound of clinking and boiling water helps him breathe, helps him relax as he braces his arms on the counter, eyes slipping closed under the weight of the stress.

 

Before he's thought about it, John has poured two mugs, mixing Sherlock's up just how he likes, making sure to keep the spoon in for him to fiddle with because it makes him feel calmer.

 

It's just a… nice gesture. Just one that conveys how much he cares for Sherlock, how easy it is to slip him back into John's daily routine, how he can't forget that he's John and that's Sherlock and they're them.

 

Forgiveness is simply a facade he's used to protect him. Again, unbidden, the words float through his mind like a curse, or a reprieve:

 

We see what we want to see.

 

John carries the mugs over, sits them down on the small table between them. “Alright, let's talk.”

 

“You have questions.” Sherlock immediately starts fiddling with the spoon, clinking the sides of his cup with it. “I will answer them all.”

 

“Where did you go?”

 

“To begin with, I was on my own. I travelled all over, following whatever lead I had on dismantling Moriarty's network. I was mostly out of London; I went to China, the states, and Russia, where I spent majority of my time in Siberia.”

 

“And after?”

 

“As much as I loathe to admit it, I have a brother with nearly the entire British Government at his disposal. When I realized my mission was going to take much longer than I hoped, I sought him out.”

 

“How much longer?”

 

“John.”

 

“Sherlock, how much longer?”

 

“What was wrapped up in six months with him would have taken years without… two, possibly three, by my calculations.”

 

John grips his mug and looks away, throat tight and dry. He drinks his tea and feels incredibly grateful that Mycroft exists.

 

“What were you doing?”

 

“Moriarty had many things in place to follow through with his threat, even after his death, if I failed to follow through my end of the bargain. I found them all, and as Mycroft put it… extracted them.”

 

“Did you kill people?”

 

“Yes.”

 

John closes his eyes and turns his face to the side. He can't help but feel disappointment, though not at Sherlock. There's a guilt settling on his chest; he should've been there, should have been the one to pull the trigger, just as he has always done so that Sherlock wouldn't have to. There's resentment that Sherlock didn't take him, but mostly… John just feels pity; killing isn't easy, and Sherlock shouldn't have been forced to do it.

 

“Were you hurt?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Tell me.”

 

“I was stabbed, once in the side with no major issues, once in the arm which I barely felt. There was a time I was caught and was put through what normal people consider torture, though I handled it well enough. Lack of sleep, lack of food, flogging that left me with thin scars on my back. Nothing to concern yourself with, John, I'm fine.”

 

John lifts a shaky hand and covers his mouth, willing his stomach to stop turning. The thought of Sherlock dealing with… that makes John's chest hurt, makes his stomach roll, makes his breathing go thin. Sherlock looks as if he's discussing the weather, words casual, tone light, but John can see the tightness around his eyes, the discomfort betrayed in the small details of his face. John recognizes them as his own; he looks the same when discussing things from the war.

 

Sherlock shouldn't have had to go to war.

 

“Who else knew?”

 

“One person and one alone. Molly.”

 

That hurts a bit, but John keeps to the facts.

 

“Why was she told?”

 

“She helped me fake it. Only she could have, while also keeping it to herself. Her previous devotion to me was exploited, a thing I regret. It was necessary, however, as she was the only one who would follow my directions without so much as looking twice, and her resources were needed.”

 

“When did you return to London?”

 

“Three months after my death. There were still two more contacts that needed to be handled, one prepared to kill you at the mere whisper of me, one running what Moriarty left behind.”

 

“You began watching me then?”

 

Sherlock's steady gaze breaks. He'd been holding John's eyes and answering without displaying any flicker of emotion, but here… he falters. “I lasted all of two weeks before I had Mycroft help me watch over you. I shouldn't have-”

 

“No. No. This is mine, Sherlock. Why did you call Mycroft for help? What pushed you to do that?”

 

“I knew there were people in London who needed to be handled and things were getting a bit risky in Russia, but mostly… John, I just wanted to come home. I wanted it to be over so I could get back to my life, back to… what I left behind.”

 

There's nothing else to be said, not really. John could ask for details, could ask for endless reports on Sherlock's time away, and Sherlock would give it to him. But John really doesn't want to know. He doesn't want the knowledge of the things that Sherlock had to do, nor the things he went through. It's painful enough knowing the little that he does.

 

But there is… something.

 

The true problem sits heavy and solid between them, dragging tension in their sitting room. It's the very thing John is terrified to ask, the one he needs to know the most. It sits at the back of his throat, knocking at his teeth, making his lips sting with the urge to spit it out. Sherlock knows - he always does - and he waits patiently.

 

Finally, John chokes out, “Why?”

 

That one word sums of everything John needs to know, but can't bare to hear. Why did you leave me, why didn't you take me with you, why didn't you let me know you were alive along with Molly, or even Mycroft, why didn't you let me come and take every hit that you did and make every kill you shouldn't have had to, why, why, why…

 

Sherlock is Sherlock, so he needs no elaboration.

 

“You are too important to me, John,” Sherlock whispers, face softening. “I did not want you to come. I knew it was going to be hard, and I didn't want you to deal with that. I was mostly able to convince myself that my “death” wouldn't hurt you as deeply as it does. You have always meant too much for me to put you at risk… but you already knew that.”

 

John knows he's crying, but he ignores it with valiant effort. “Tell me you're sorry, tell me you'd do it differently if you could go back, tell me you'll never put me so far above yourself again,” he demands, his voice cracking with his pleading. “Please, Sherlock, just tell me… Tell me and mean it.”

 

Sherlock holds his gaze, and the seconds tick by as John waits, hoping with all his being that Sherlock can give him this. He is on the precipice of letting it go, moving on, taking it as another moment in the life with Sherlock Holmes. All Sherlock has to do is tell him what he needs to hear and sound convincing enough for John to believe him.

 

Sherlock looks away and sips his tea.

 

John chokes on a sob, world crumbling around him, finally, finally splintering apart with it. Because Sherlock doesn't lie to John if he can help it, not about the things that matter. Because Sherlock can't give him this, can't let him think for even one moment that he's safe from such a fate. Because Sherlock is Sherlock, and John can't.

 

John gets to his feet, swaying from how weak he feels, and walks to kneel in front of Sherlock, catching his gaze. John knows his eyes are bright with tears, his face is red with emotion, and he must look on the edge of a mental break. Sherlock does not look at him carefully, like he's worried; he watches John curiously, waiting to be surprised, waiting for John to do what he thinks he will do, waiting like he has never for anyone else.

 

John braces his hands on Sherlock's knees and pushes himself up, leaning right into Sherlock, and pressing their lips together.

 

Sherlock is certainly surprised; he jolts and his teacup rattles when he shakily sets it aside. John pays it no mind, just presses their mouths together and lets the kiss unfurl, tender and careful. John presses goodbye into his mouth, catches Sherlock's bottom lip between his teeth and tugs lightly, tells him with that gesture that he can't do this, that he can't go through it again, that losing Sherlock is impossible; giving him up is something else entirely.

 

Sherlock makes a small noise in the back of his throat, just a small, broken thing that makes John's heart ache with regret, wants, wishes.

 

John very carefully pulls away from him, blinking his eyes open. Sherlock's still poised as if he's being kissed, eyes closed, lips puckered just so, breath caught in his chest. Then, his eyes peel open, bright and, for once, confused. He breathes harshly through his nose, hands dropping from John's cheeks, blinking as if he can't even remember reaching out for them. John gives him a trembling smile, weak and flickering, and stands to his feet.

 

Sherlock tips his head back, looking up, exhaling shakily. “John…” he whispers, voice hoarse.

 

“I'll be after my things tomorrow, Sherlock,” John murmurs, dipping at his waist to press a gentle kiss to Sherlock's forehead, lips brushing over curls as he forces himself to pull away.

 

Sherlock watches him walk out of their home, doesn't say a word, doesn't make a move to stop him.




 



Sherlock despises unnecessary emotions, especially the ones he hasn't been able to predict.

 

It's been three days since John left. While he'd been out, visiting with Molly, John had come back and taken most of his things; his clothes are gone, his gun is missing, and his laptop no longer sits on the desk in the sitting room. The cuppa John had made for himself still sits on the stand by his chair, mostly full with cold tea.

 

Sherlock hasn't been able to move it, though he knows how pointless it is to avoid it, and he spends most of his free time staring and glaring at it in intervals. Sherlock hasn't had tea in three days.

 

Detective Inspector Lestrade had rung him up on day two with a case, and Sherlock had clung to it with barely concealed desperation, his troubled mind reaching for any distraction. Sherlock had solved it in two hours and is now back to staring at the cup sitting besides John's chair. He's sulking, he knows, but that's easier to admit than the chance that he's waiting, just on pause until John comes back.

 

John is not coming back.

 

After everything - the fake death, the six months of constant worry, the idiotic ache in his chest he felt for home, for John - Sherlock never expected John to leave. Well, John has always managed to surprise him more than anyone else. A creature born of shameless emotion, armored with secrets and tedious hopes, John appears a simple man. But Sherlock has been aware of John's lack of simplicity since the moment he realized that, after only a few days, John had killed for him.

 

Sherlock tells himself that it's for the best. John has six months of living without Sherlock, is probably settling on that preference. Though, Sherlock remembers the last kiss they shared, how John had sagged into him with such exhaustion and regret, pouring into the kiss so many endless things Sherlock hadn't - and still hasn't - been able to to decipher. Another puzzle that follows John Watson wherever he goes.

 

Sherlock is staring at the cup again, but his gaze is distant, his mind works rapidly. He has no clue where to begin in this empty flat.

 

“Sherlock!” Mrs. Hudson cries, whirling in through the door with her usual tutting and concerns. “Oh, you haven't left your spot since yesterday. Come now, surely there must be something for you to do.”

 

Sherlock does not look away from the tea. “I should move his tea; why haven't I moved his tea? That doesn't make any sense, it's just tea!”

 

Mrs. Hudson hovers near him, sighing like she thinks he's the biggest idiot alive, which he knows is impossible, but he makes no move to defend the state of his intelligence. She whisks around, tidying with nervous energy, and she purposefully bypasses the cup of tea. Sherlock knows he isn't going to enjoy whatever she is about to spout off about.

 

“You miss him, Sherlock, that's all. Can't imagine he's faring any better; he was in a right state after that stunt you pulled.” She touches his shoulder as she lectures him, flitting off immediately after. “My boys, you're too special to let go of each other over a silly domestic, don't you think?”

 

“Dull,” he rattles off, eyes fixated on tea of all things.

 

Mrs. Hudson clicks her tongue disapprovingly, shaking her head. “You need to go and see him, Sherlock. Apologize, beg him back, do what you have to do. I won't stand for you moping about in this flat just because you're too blind to see how much he means to you. Just for once, listen to me.”

 

“I do not beg anyone for anything,” Sherlock snaps, jerking his gaze from the cup to glare at his assuming landlady.

 

“Well, you better learn how. John's a soft one, isn't he? A bit more romantic than most; he'll need heartfelt apologies and grand gestures. Maybe a good thorough shagging will help too!” Mrs. Hudson insists, heading towards the door again.

 

Sherlock considers her retreating figure, lips pursed in annoyance. “You were angry, but you forgave me. Even though you'd mourned me, you accepted me as if I never left. Can't he do the same?”

 

Mrs. Hudson pauses in the doorway, looking back at him with fond exasperation. “Oh, Sherlock,” she sighs softly, reaching up to place her hand over her heart, “of all the things you can figure out, love just isn't one. I have loved you dearly for so long, and I always will, but I didn't lose half of myself when you left; John did. Think about how'd you feel if he'd had done what you did, then go talk to him.”

 

With that, she sweeps out the door, leaving him with new information to mull over.

 

Though he thinks majority of what she'd said is absolute rubbish and not at all factual, he still finds himself standing. He walks over to the cup, considers picking it up and washing it, but his brain rationalizes that John can clean up his own mess once he's returned home. After all, Sherlock isn't going to just let this go; some things just aren't meant to be ignored, especially the mysterious ones.

 

John has always been his favorite mystery.

Chapter Text

As John skips down the steps outside of Harry's flat, a black car stops at the curb. To John, it seems like a looming dragon he can't ignore, and seeing it grates on his nerves. He already wants to pull his hair out after three days with his older sister; he really doesn't want to deal with an older sibling that isn't his own right now. The car looms anyway, waiting.

 

Sighing, John slides in, staring at Mycroft flatly, in no mood to deal with him. “Yes, what is it?”

 

Mycroft purses his lips, looking his usual sour self, and John has to refrain from rolling his eyes as Mycroft sweeps out a hand dramatically. “It seems my dear brother wants your attention today, Dr. Watson. I've been sent to assure your arrival to his current position in London.”

 

“I have things to do today, Mycroft,” John sighs wearily, ignoring how his heart leaps in his chest.

 

“Yes, well, Sherlock hasn't ever been aware that you have a life outside of him. Why should he start now?”

 

“Do I detect a note of bitterness in your tone, Mycroft? Is there something you wish to say to me?”

 

Mycroft's eyes narrow and his next words come out hard and cold. “You left, Dr. Watson. If it wasn't for my brother's unperturbed fondness for you, I'd have you removed from existence for what you've done.”

 

John reels back, eyes going wide. “Excuse me? Are you threatening me?”

 

“While I'd savor such a moment, I'm not currently throwing threats. I personally think it's called for, but Sherlock has made it very clear that I'm not to breathe the wrong way in your direction,” Mycroft snaps, fingers tightening around his umbrella. “As it stands, I'm cleaning up the mess you've made again, so I expect you to be a bit less hostile.”

 

“You just threatened to murder me, Mycroft, excuse me for not being so amicable. What are you on about anyway? I've made no mess, nor have I done anything to warrant your wrath.”

 

“As you know, I worry for Sherlock constantly, and I'd made the mistake of believing him safe in your care. I was terribly wrong.”

 

John's heart jumps in his chest, throat going tight, endless horrific possibilities darting through his mind, each worse than the last. “What's happened to him? Is he- is he alright?”

 

“Quite,” Mycroft snaps, looking at John as if he's a mere flea. “Not in immediate danger, and while I'm slightly assured by your reaction, I still find myself - what's the word, ah yes - fearful for him. You took great liberties to mentally destroy him, though he won't ever show such a thing.”

 

“How have I done that? Sherlock is-”

 

“Sherlock went through traumatic events while he was away and, as you are well aware, that can affect anyone more than they're aware of. His one relieving factor was you through it all. And you left. Do you have any idea what this will do to him?”

 

John blinks. “No, actually. I didn't leave on bad terms, I just… needed to go.”

 

“Yes, and Sherlock needed you to stay. You've let me down, you've let him down, and worst of all, you've let yourself down without even knowing it.”

 

“Are you guilt-tripping me, Mycroft? Do you honestly expect me to believe that Sherlock is-”

 

Mycroft gives a sharp hiss, sliding forward in his seat to pin John with narrowed eyes. “I do not care what you believe. The facts are unprecedented; you chose to leave him when you both needed to stay. Don't you think Sherlock will consider your leaving as a sign of you being able to live without him? Have you even thought - with that tiny brain of yours - about how Sherlock will feel about you leaving?”

 

“No, I bloody well haven't. I didn't leave Sherlock because of Sherlock, I left him for myself! What happens the next time a random killer tells him to fling himself off the top of London's highest building lest I be shot? Hmm, Mycroft, what then? It's not that I can live without Sherlock that made me leave, it's that I can't!”

 

There's silence as Mycroft leans back, shrewd eyes considering him. John sucks in a deep breath, heaves it out, tries to relax under such an exclamation. It's incredibly hard to do; he is stressed, wants to go home, and misses Sherlock.

 

“Self-defense,” Mycroft notes decidedly. “You've always been a very practical man, Dr. Watson. I trust you'll find someway to change course on your current endeavors.”

 

John glares at him. “Is that another threat?”

 

Mycroft's lips twitch in a faint smirk. “No, it's merely a prediction. I'm entrusting you with Sherlock once more, please do not let us all down.”

 

With that, the car pulls to a calm stop and John's door is opened by the driver. John doesn't move at first, just frowning at a suddenly mostly pleasant Mycroft, but the conversation appears closed. John feels as if nothing was resolved, but Mycroft looks at peace once again, as if he'd found what he was looking for from John.

 

Unsettled and just overall done with the whole encounter, John whirls away and steps out of the car. He blinks in surprise at the restaurant in front of him, barely noticing the car pulling away.

 

Sherlock snatched him from his errands to eat? John considers just hailing a cab and leaving altogether, letting Sherlock wait up for him for once, but the desire to see him again outweighs the petty thought. Sighing again, John walks through the door.

 

The restaurant is dimly lit with soft lighting, decorated with fairy lights of all things. There is a delicate aroma of Italian and the faint scent of cinnamon. All the tables are shelter from each other, booths squirreled away for intentions of privacy. John thinks, as he stands there in slight concern, that the setting is very romantic.

 

“John!”

 

Sherlock stands up from his table, waving his hand, knees knocking against the leg of the table and making the cutlery rattle loudly. Sherlock doesn't pay his own fumbling any mind, clearly very excited to see him, all smiles and bright eyes. The sight makes John's chest flood with warmth.

 

“Sherlock,” John greets as he moves over, settling in the chair across from Sherlock.

 

As Sherlock takes his seat, he hisses excitedly, “They have brilliant wine here, John. I've taken the liberty of getting us some.”

 

Sure enough, John already has a wine glass full of dark red liquid, and it looks so polished and good that it makes his mouth water. Sherlock urges him to have a sip, jerking his head towards it, and John obliges him. As the slightly bitter, yet tangy wine flows down his throat, John slips his eyes closed and hums, relaxing for the very first time that day.

 

“Thank you,” John says softly, opening his eyes and smiling politely.

 

Sherlock stares with calculating eyes, fingers folded under his chin, elbows on the table. “Long day?”

 

“Long three days,” John admits quietly.

 

“Oh?” Sherlock asks, genuinely curious, eyes lighting up with endless questions.

 

Before John can say anything, the server is suddenly at the table. John looks up expectantly, only to be surprised when a plate is sat in front of him. Sherlock takes his own, nodding carelessly to the waiter, moving his wine to the side.

 

“You ordered for me?” John sighs, half-amused and half-annoyed.

 

Sherlock hums quietly. “Of course. I looked over the menu and got what you would've picked. Seeing as I know your favorite foods, your eating habits, and how you eat at this time of day… I just made the simple deductions on what you'd want. Is that alright with you, John?”

 

John purses his lips and looks down at his plate. And of course, it's exactly what he would've ordered if he'd seen the menu. “It's fine, Sherlock.”

 

They eat quietly for a bit, engrossed in their own food, and John settles into the comfortable silence. He wonders if things should be awkward. After all, Sherlock had died and come back to life, John had kissed him twice and then left. The circumstances should leave them feeling awkward around each other, but John is in just as much ease in Sherlock's presence as he always is.

 

“How's Harry?” Sherlock asks quietly.

 

John huffs out a laugh. “How do you do that? No, wait, it's a thread in my jacket, or the way my eye twitches every thirty seconds.”

 

“No… you just smell of alcohol.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Sherlock frowns at him. “You could've went anywhere. Mycroft would have-”

 

“No, he most certainly wouldn't. Besides, that's not the point. I'm just… staying over until…”

 

“Until?”

 

“I don't know,” John admits quietly, shrugging. “Until I get my own flat, I suppose.”

 

Sherlock pushes his plate away with a frown and says, “Come home, John.”

 

John takes a bite of his food, but it struggles to go down. He washes it away with some wine, keeping his gaze casted aside. “I can't, Sherlock.”

 

“You say that, but your body disagrees. You want to come home, so why don't you? It's pointless to do this; why deny yourself the comfort?”

 

“Precaution, I suppose. Sometimes what we want isn't always what's best for us.”

 

“Don't be dull, John. You are not a simpleton who denies one's self of the things they want; you have always went after what you desire.”

 

“That's not entirely true, or else I would have jumped off that building right after you did.”

 

Sherlock flinches, sitting his wine glass down from where he'd sipped it. “Okay,” he sighs, looking up to meet John's eyes,” “this is clearly something we can't just ignore.”

 

“You don't say,” John quips sarcastically.

 

“I'm sorry,” Sherlock murmurs, just staring and watching and meaning it. “John, there are things I've done that deserves all of my regret, yet I've never granted one instance my remorse. For you, for this, I sincerely apologize.”

 

The words punch John right in the chest, heavy and solid. Sherlock is sincere, that much John can tell. And he's right; he doesn't really apologize, not like this, not for anyone. The genuineness of the gesture and the severity of the truth in his tone is enough to make John's eyes prick with hot tears.

 

“I believe you,” John says, because he does. “I appreciate it, I really do, but it's not enough. You can't just apologize and make it all go away. I'm not leaving to get away from you, I'm leaving to get away from you leaving again, if that makes sense.”

 

Sherlock huffs. “You act like I'm rushing to go through these last six months again.”

 

“I'm not saying you are, Sherlock. I'm just not afraid to face the reality of the situation. If something were to happen, and it was either me or you, it's become very clear which you'd pick. I- I can't go through that again, not ever.”

 

“And what would you do? If it was me or you, what would you do, John?”

 

John swallows, staring down into his wine glass with burning eyes. “That's not the point, Sherlock.”

 

“How dare you sentence me to this when you would do the same? That is entirely the point.”

 

“It's not about you, Sherlock, it's me who-”

 

“Oh, how boring,” Sherlock snaps sharply, eyes narrowing, “the useless lie that is the “it's not you, it's me” line. Please, spare me.”

 

“Stop it, I'm not lying. You did what you did, but I'm creating distance because I can't handle it again. Being Sherlock Holmes’ weak point is not on my list of achievements,” John growls.

 

“Do you think distance will save either one of us from the possible fate of having to go through this again? The odds of people forgetting what we mean to each other is highly unlikely, no matter what you do. If, for whatever reason, it becomes you or me, the distance will not save you from pain, nor will it me.”

 

John hates how fucking rational that argument is. In fact, he hates everything about this conversation. It's such shit because Sherlock is right, yet John isn't wrong. This isn't some debate with one right answer, this is something they have to decide for themselves. It's their life, their choices. John knew exactly what he was signing up for from the moment he had pulled the trigger to save Sherlock from the cabbie after just a few days of knowing him. He hadn't once regretted his decision, but he'd fooled himself into believing that Sherlock was invincible, that he had no weakness to exploit, that he wouldn't be something John would have to lose.

 

“I wish I'd never met you.”

 

Sherlock goes very still. “What?”

 

John swallows and nods. “You heard me, Sherlock. I wish I hadn't ever met you, wish I'd been disgusted by the words “Afghanistan or Iraq” instead of intrigued, and I wish I'd never found a home with you. All of this wouldn't have ever happened if I'd just never met you.”

 

Sherlock stares at him for a long time, then slowly relaxes, lips curling up from where they'd tipped down. “Without me, you're life would have been so incredibly dull, John.”

 

“Full of yourself, aren't you?” John snorts, shaking his head in amusement.

 

“Yes,” Sherlock says. “I want you to be aware of the situation that we've got ahead of us if you do not wisen up and come home. You will go back to your sister's flat, I will go back to our flat. You will miss me, I will contact you every chance I get. You will go about your dreadful routine, I will suck you back into mine. You will try to avoid me, I will be sure to see you every single day. You will eventually get your own place, I will invade it. You will let all of this happen because you will miss me, I will not hesitate to play dirty. And if something happens that results in our weak points being exploited, whether it is ten seconds from now or ten years, it will hurt as much as it did the first time, if not more, for the both of us.”

 

John's stomach ties itself into knots at how certain Sherlock is. He's never been wrong before and that scares John. The moment of indecision and faux-protection stretches between them. They stare at each other, eyes never straying, and John holds his breath until he can't anymore, letting it explode out of him and dropping his gaze.

 

“Sherlock…” John croaks, teetering between two very hard decisions.

 

“Furthermore,” Sherlock barrels on, voice wavering just slightly, “the option of coming home holds more merit. Things can go back to how they were if you wish, or it can be different. You can still make me tea, I can still hate your sweaters. You can still fuss over me not eating properly, I can still play for you when you have trouble sleeping. You can still yell at me for being rude, or mindless, or careless, I can still roll my eyes and ignore you. All of that can happen, just as usual, or we can change it.”

 

“Change it?” John asks, frowning.

 

Sherlock purses his lips, eyes narrowing in consideration, then he reaches out and places his hand over John's. “We can add things to our life if you'd like,” he says, voice dipping low.

 

John stares at the hand covering his. “Sherlock, you aren't seriously doing an experiment right now.”

 

“Whatever are you talking about?”

 

“You're trying to figure out if the kisses we've had are based on romantic attraction or not. I'm not you, but I'm not a complete idiot.”

 

Sherlock's hand falls away and he heaves a heavy sigh. “You could just tell me, John, and-”

 

“What would have happened if I said yes, Sherlock? What would you have done then?” John challenges, arching an eyebrow.

 

“Oh, don't look at me with such disappointment. It's not that serious, John.”

 

“But it is. You can't just cut an emotional moment with your need for information. Answer me, what would you have done if I'd said yes? What if I had agreed wholeheartedly? What if I had wanted dates, and kisses, and sex, and all of it?”

 

Sherlock gives a casual shrug. “I wasn't ignoring the moment, John. There was an opening for information; I couldn't ignore it. As it stands, I didn't get anything out of it. And if you'd had answered, I would have. As for what I'd have done… well, John, there is a reason people think us to be a couple, you know. I don't see-”

 

“What?” John interrupts in a hiss.

 

“There is. We're middle-aged with no relationships with women, we live together, we are the most important people to one another. People with simple minds assume that means we're together. Not much of a jump, if I'm honest,” Sherlock says, tipping his head from side to side in consideration. “Of course, I've always said I'm married to my work, and you claim you're not gay, so we're better described as friends. Yet, you've kissed me twice, and I participated without complaint, which suggests otherwise. Normal people would call that a relationship, or the starts of one, wouldn't they?”

 

John stares at him flatly. “You're a cock.”

 

“Yes, you've said. But I've made my point, haven't I?”

 

“Not really. You haven't answered my question.”

 

“I wasn't lying when I said I'm welcome to change, John,” Sherlock sighs, arching an eyebrow at him almost playfully. “Whatever you need to come home, I'll give to you - within reason of course. I will not stop experimenting or working, which you'll never ask me to do because you like that I do it.”

 

“Eyeballs in the refrigerator and chasing down mad men is non-negotiable, but you - Sherlock Holmes - would allow… affection to be added in our daily routine,” John says dryly.

 

Sherlock unfolds his hands from in front of them and flicks his fingers like he's batting away John's sarcasm. “And why not? You've kissed me twice; it wasn't terrible. You are aware of my need to do my work, you never bore me, and you won't intentionally hurt me. Molly says we're practically married anyway, and Mrs. Hudson says that you're a romantic. Though, she also says a thorough shagging will get you to come home, so I'm not sure of her reliability when it comes to you. Still, my statement stands.”

 

John gives a breathless laugh of awe, shaking his head in amazement. “You're actually serious, aren't you? You'd do this if I asked, just to get me to come home, wouldn't you?”

 

“Yes,” Sherlock says, shrugging again.

 

John doesn't know if he wants to bang his head against the table, or Sherlock's, more. For him to be the smartest man alive, Sherlock can be incredibly dim. While John appreciates the sentiment, that is not a good enough reason to be intimate with someone. Not that John cares to be intimate with Sherlock at all, at least he doesn't think so.

 

“I won't come home just to be intimate with you, Sherlock,” John tells him seriously, watching with warmth in his chest as Sherlock's face falls just slightly, “but I will come home because I want to, and because you make sense when you say distance isn't the solution.”

 

Sherlock's recovery time is amazing, because his face brightens immediately. “You'll come home?”

 

“Yes,” John answers, lips twitching.

 

“But we're not adding affection to our routine?” Sherlock asks curiously.

 

“That's not a reason to add affection, Sherlock. Intimacy happens for different reasons altogether.”

 

“That literally tells me nothing about why you've kissed me twice, or how you feel about it.”

 

John smirks. “I know.”

 

Fondness crosses Sherlock's face, and he sighs softly, relaxing at the table. “You've always been my favorite mystery, John.”

 

That is oddly too much to hear, so John pretends he didn't. “Right, well, at least Mycroft won't try and murder me anymore.”

 

“You? Mycroft wanted to murder me,” Sherlock says, rolling his eyes at the mere idea.

 

“Really?” John asks, frowning. “He seemed concerned about you, actually.”

 

“Funny,” Sherlock muses, eyebrows dipping down in confusion, “he was for you as well.”

 

Their eyes meet and it clicks. Sherlock's eyes automatically narrow in distaste, and John snorts behind his palm, laughter jerking his shoulders up as he tries to hold it in.

 

“Meddling Mycroft,” John chuckles, grinning at Sherlock. “He made each of us think we were hurting the other.”

 

“It's not funny, John. He played us. He made me think letting you leave was a mistake, made you think leaving was mistake.”

 

“Well, it was, wasn't it?”

 

As that, Sherlock's face softens. “Yes, it was,” he agrees, then his eyes narrow again, “but he will not get away with this. He thinks he's smarter with me, but do you know that proves?”

 

John puts his cheek in his hand and stares at Sherlock warmly, amusement and contentment unfurling in his chest. “That he's an idiot?”

 

“And this is why you're my favorite, John Watson.”

Chapter Text

The thing about going home after six months of Sherlock being gone is that John expects it to be hard. The problem with that is that it isn't.

 

John puts his things back where they belong; Mrs. Hudson flits about, making tea and tutting at them in a decidedly pleased fashion; Sherlock plays his violin, drags John along on cases, finishes his experiments from before and starts some more. Things rotate back to the way they're supposed to be, and John feels something within him heal. The wound will always have scar tissue, he knows this, and it aches at the strangest of times. Sherlock will smile at him, or forget to pick up milk, or start composing, and John will almost crumble under the bittersweetness of it.

 

But all in all, it's perfect again.

 

His life with Sherlock has always been wild. Between the insane cases, the oddities of their home, and the adventures in his days… it's wild. But within the lack of normalcy, there is perfection.

 

The only difference is the abrupt ache he gets, or the new fears he's discovered, and Sherlock's sudden obsession with how John feels about him.

 

Sherlock won't leave him alone about it. He claims it distracting not to know, but John thinks he's just being a cock. Sherlock brings it up at least once a day, even suggests experimenting if John doesn't know how he feels about it himself. Sherlock watches him always, seeming to try and figure out John's reasoning behind the kisses and what possible feelings that could be there. John ignores him to the best of his abilities.

 

They decide to allow clients again, simply because Greg has nothing to call them up for. The first is a man who's pets all keep running away, and Sherlock declares him boring, practically pushing him from the flat. The next, however, catches his attention.

 

The woman is small with red hair and a kind smile. She looks timid and unsure, but John can see the fire in how she argues with Sherlock. Her situation is a bit on the heavier side. She is under the assumption that her brother is an arsonist, and she's terrified he'll hurt someone someday, but she has no proof.

 

“And you're willing to imprison your brother on the chance he'll hurt someone?” Sherlock asks curiously, tilting his head at her.

 

The woman's jaw hardens. “Someone could die, Mr. Holmes. I love my brother dearly, but he has to go down for this.” Her fingers twitch and she shifts in her seat, looking as if in discomfort.

 

Sherlock cocks his head. “Where does your brother work, Ms. Fendell?”

 

“He's an accountant at-”

 

“Boring!”

 

“You asked!” she shot back hotly, eyes narrowing at Sherlock in annoyance.

 

“Hmm, and does he have any family outside of you at all?” Sherlock continues.

 

“A wife,” she replies, frowning slightly, no doubt worried for the woman married to an arsonist. “He hasn't said anything, but I think she's pregnant.”

 

“When is the last time he committed arson?”

 

“Eight months ago.”

 

“Any idea as to why it's been so long?”

 

“Not a clue.”

 

Sherlock hums again and looks away, focusing his gaze out the window. “Do you have someone, Ms. Fendell? A lover, or a child?”

 

“No,” she murmurs, sagging slightly in her seat, fingers twisting together, “it's just me and my brother.”

 

“It's clear you love him and this pains you a great deal, but you seem to believe this is absolutely necessary anyway,” Sherlock muses.

 

She gives a crooked smile, eyes sliding down to the floor. “Funny how love for something can push you to do the last thing you thought you'd do.”

 

“You love him, so you stop him. How very… sentimental,” Sherlock murmurs.

 

“Quite,” she agrees quietly.

 

Then, without preamble, Sherlock is on his feet, waving a hand around. “Alright, alright, we'll take your case. Have a nice day, John will be in touch!”

 

John watches the woman get ushered outside in faint amusement, eyes trailing the way her hips sway. She really is pretty, and John muses the consequences in getting involved with a client. He hasn't had a good shag since before Sherlock's “death” and he quite misses it actually.

 

“A good case, then?” John asks casually as Sherlock whisks back in with a faint look of confusion.

 

“Do you love me, John?” Sherlock asks without preamble, looking directly at him.

 

For a moment, John balks at the question. He's just been bouncing back from ogling some woman, and he needs a moment to catch up. Sherlock waits patiently, eyes never straying, and John has to catch his breath from such a look of intensity. Finally, clearing his throat, John decides to be honest.

 

“I do, yes. You're my best friend, of course I love you. Why do you ask?” John replies.

 

Sherlock frowns at him. “If I were to do something terrible, would you support me or have me put away? Something not quite terrible, but getting close.”

 

“I suppose… well, I don't know, and how would I? You do terrible things all the time, Sherlock, and I tolerate them. What's this about?”

 

“John, I need to understand. Her brother is the only connection she has in her life; he is clearly the most important thing to her. Yet, she's making moves to have him arrested and put away, all because he might be a danger someday. Why?”

 

“Well, maybe she's actually worried about people.”

 

“No, no, she reacted with the same distaste as I do to sentimentality; she's clearly intelligent. Why is she attached to him, John?”

 

“Sherlock, he is her brother, you know,” John sighs in exasperation, rolling his eyes.

 

Sherlock tuts and waves a hand. “Familial bonds hold no true weight; they're a mere obligation to most people. Look at Mycroft and I, look at you and Harry. No, she grew up losing homes to supposed house fires - though she knows it's his doing - and yet… she still shows care for him instead of blame. It almost doesn't feel real.”

 

“Maybe they've just always been close,” John suggests, shrugging slightly.

 

“Unlikely. An arsonist and someone who cannot form bonds easily? They most likely were never close at all, yet she appears to cling to him. And still, her loyalty is lacking, despite her love.”

 

“I don't think analyzing her love for her brother is going to help us catch him.”

 

“Still, it brings a question to mind. You said I do terrible things, does that mean-”

 

“You don't want to hurt anyone, Sherlock.”

 

“Not usually,” Sherlock agrees, lips twitching up in amusement. “The question still stands. You said you love me; would you support me in this situation or have me put away?”

 

“You're not-”

 

“Yes, I'm no arsonist, but I am cruel, and I enjoy things that normal people consider vile. I enjoy dead bodies, I understand serial killers, and the lives of others are very insignificant to me. On more than one occasion, I've actually put people in danger. Moreover, I've hurt you plenty. Yet, here you stand, still by my side, still seeing good in me where many do not believe there is any.”

 

John tucks his lips in, pushes them out, then sighs heavily. “Well, you've got your answer then, haven't you? Sherlock Holmes, you're a terrible person and I'm your partner in crime. Brilliant.”

 

“You're being childish,” Sherlock snaps, huffing in annoyance. “Explain it to me.”

 

“Fine,” John groans, moving over to plop himself on the couch beside Sherlock, propping one leg up and facing him, tucking the propped up foot underneath his other knee. “Right, so it's not about excusing you or supporting you; it's that I know you're a good person. Yes, you do things that aren't so good, but you've always meant well. Sometimes it's as easy as that. I see the good in you, always have.”

 

Sherlock leans forward, waving a hand jerkily, practically vibrating in his seat. “Exactly! He's her only connection, he's never actually hurt anyone, and yet… she wants to see him put away.”

 

“Well, it's different for her, I imagine. She loves him as a brother; I don't love you like that, Sherlock,” John tells him, not really thinking about the words before he says them.

 

“How do you love me, John?” Sherlock asks, voice soft with curiosity, eyes scanning him for details.

 

John forces himself not to go rigid and keeps his breathing in check. “How I've always loved you. Now, what does her need to do the right thing have to do with us putting the brother away for arson?”

 

Sherlock blatantly ignores the question. “How you've always loved me? John, that tells me nothing. You're purposefully being vague.”

 

“The case, Sherlock-”

 

“I don't care about the case at this moment; I may be coming close to solving the case you've given me!”

 

“I'm not a case, Sherlock,” John mutters, rolling his eyes and moving to stand up.

 

Sherlock darts out a quick hand and grabs his wrist, keeping him from moving. “Of course not. You're my best friend, and there are feelings that I don't understand. I'm simply asking you to help me.”

 

“Why won't you let this go?”

 

“Why won't you tell me?”

 

“Sherlock.”

 

“John.”

 

John narrows his eyes. “Alright, fine. If I were a bad man, would you support me or have me put away?”

 

“Honestly?” Sherlock muses, lips twitching. “I don't know because you're not capable of being a bad man, John Watson. You've shot a man on the mere hunch that he was going to harm me, yet I'll never see you as anything but a good man.”

 

“See?” John hums, ticking his head to the side as if to prove a point. “You see me as good, even if some of my actions say otherwise. I feel the same for you. Another question, do you love me?”

 

Sherlock considers for a moment, then hums, “I suppose, if I'm capable at all, that I do. Though, love is merely a symbol of-”

 

“Nope, no, not hearing that. You love me, but do you love me as a brother?” John challenges, arching an eyebrow pointedly.

 

“I don't even-”

 

“Don't you dare say that; we both know you love Mycroft, and it would embarrass you if I had to provide evidence in my argument.”

 

Sherlock wisely snaps his mouth closed. “Fine,” he mutters, rolling his eyes, “I don't love you as a brother, and no, I have no idea as to why any of this matters. This isn't the point.”

 

“Exactly. The point is there is an arsonist out there we're meant to be questioning, and you're in here worrying over kisses and romance like an ordinary person. Don't tell me you're becoming boring, Sherlock Holmes,” John teases, lips twitching.

 

Sherlock's lips part and his eyes widen in pure shock. He goes rigid, back snapping straight, hair seeming to fluff up in anger at the mere thought of him being ordinary, or god forbid, boring. The sight is amusing, and John knows he's staring at Sherlock in what can only be naked adoration.

 

“You're right,” Sherlock breathes out, looking surprised and disappointed in himself.

 

He looks ten seconds from jumping up and running off to get started on the case, as if to prove how utterly extraordinary he is. John can see it now; he's going to bury any curiosity he has and stop wondering about what it all means. John is bordering on laughing outright. The whole situation is amusing, and he is only adding fuel to the fire when he leans forward and catches Sherlock's lips with his own.

 

And despite associating kissing and romance and other such feelings with being boring, Sherlock does not snatch away. He sort of folds into it with a small noise of surprise, scooting forward almost eagerly, like this is an experiment. John hums against his mouth, laughing, purposefully teasing him. Sherlock still has his eyes closed when John pulls away.

 

“Boring,” John chuckles, standing up from the couch with a bounce in his step.

 

Sherlock frowns at him. “You're confusing me on purpose, John!”

 

John smiles. “Just this once.”

 

“That doesn't help,” Sherlock yells after him as he heads up to his room to change.

 

John laughs to himself the whole way.

Chapter Text

Mark Fendell does not look like an arsonist.

 

He's a broad man with a bright smile and is quite handsome. His wife is equally beautiful with long blonde hair and dimples. They're at a park, clearly enjoying a couple's picnic, sharing looks of amusement as kids run and play around them.

 

“How'd you know he was here?” John asks as they start across the lawn.

 

Sherlock huffs. “The idiot made a post on Facebook about it. People allow themselves no privacy these days. What if someone wanted to find them?”

 

“Works in our favor though,” John notes, pulling Sherlock to a halt. “How are we going to talk to them without seeming creepy?”

 

“Pretend to be a couple, obviously,” Sherlock says, rolling his eyes.

 

John's eyebrows jump. “What, why would we-”

 

But Sherlock is already walking. John sighs and hurries after him, smiling at the kids that they pass. Sherlock walks around their target and finds a good spot only a few feet away. He suddenly reaches out and pulls John into his side, looking over at the couple with a sweet smile.

 

“Do you mind if we sit here?” Sherlock asks, gesturing to the grass. “Me and my husband love to come out and enjoy the park after a long day at the office. We won't be bothering you, will we?”

 

The wife grins at them. “Oh, certainly not! Have a seat, enjoy the sun. Not many times do we get a day without rain, yeah?”

 

“Indeed,” John agrees mildly, letting Sherlock pull him down beside him.

 

Sherlock's arm goes around him, casually sitting around him almost possessively. Mr and Mrs. Fendell smile at them tenderly, and John decides it can't hurt to sink into Sherlock's hold, letting his free hand reach out and entangle with Sherlock's. The hand resting on his side tightens slightly, asking him to relax and follow his lead.

 

As always, John trusts him.

 

Each couple, the real and fake, go back to watching the kids, basking in the rare nice weather. There's a few minutes that pass and John happens to catch the supposed arsonist's gaze; he offers a smile. The moment shatters as Sherlock pulls his hand out of John's, reaches in his pocket, and pulls out a cigarette and a lighter. Sherlock doesn't say anything, just puts the cigarette between his lips and flicks the lighter, flame flickering in front of its target.

 

John doesn't even think, just reaches up and snatches it out, breaking the offending thing in his fist. Sherlock blinks at him, looking surprised, and John glares at him in offence. Then, abruptly, Sherlock turns to the other couple.

 

“Terribly sorry about that,” Sherlock apologizes, making a face of regret. “I'm quitting see, and it's really a terrible habit.”

 

The wife gives a small smile, but her husband looks a little sick. “Oh, it's fine,” she says a bit tightly, eyes flicking her eyes towards the children. “I do hope you manage to put them down.”

 

“Yes, well, my husband's a bit touchy when it comes to habits,” Sherlock chuckles awkwardly, reaching out in a seemingly mindless gesture to squeeze his leg. “His sister's an alcoholic, mind you, so it's fair.”

 

John jolts, jaw dropping. “What the hell!”

 

“Oh, it's fine, love,” Sherlock tells him, squeezing his leg again and tightening his arm around him, just squishing him close altogether, “I'm sure they know all about unruly siblings!”

 

The wife nods reassuringly. “Oh, I do. My sister's a bit younger and dumber, has too many kids she can't care for, but… she's family. What is there to be done with them, but love them?”

 

“And you?” Sherlock asks the husband, smiling politely, waiting expectantly.

 

The husband is a bit cagey, lips tight, eyes flitting about. “I don't have any siblings,” he says quietly.

 

“A pity,” Sherlock hums, almost as if he actually feels bad for the bloke for growing up alone.

 

The wife is suddenly scrutinizing them closely, looking between them in interest. “How'd you two meet then?”

 

“We've known each other for about two years,” John says quickly, elbowing Sherlock in the side when he goes to speak. “We became flatmates, then friends.”

 

“Then lovers?” The husband asks casually, lips twitching in faint amusement, apparently comfortable with this particular topic.

 

“Yes,” Sherlock answers quickly, elbowing John this time as the age-old line of “oh no, I'm not gay, we're not together” perches on his lips.

 

Instead, John forces out, “And you?”

 

The wife sinks into the man's side, sighing happily and grinning. “He practically trampled over me on the tube, sent all my things scattering everywhere. He never really looked at me as we were getting everything up, but right as he was standing up, he took one look at me and dropped everything again.”

 

“Oh, hush it,” the husband laughs awkwardly, cheeks going red. “I told you, I did it to get your number. I ringed her up the next day, I did.”

 

John smiles, softening. “Well, you're a lovely couple!”

 

“You really are,” Sherlock agrees, all smiles and kind eyes. “Actually, we've been meaning to make friends with other couples. As it stands, we mostly spend time with each other. We should all go out for coffee!”

 

There is a touch of Sherlock's normal enthusiasm, but it's reigned in. Still, it's equally compelling. The couple share a quick considering look with each other, clearing communicating in a way only a close couple can. John makes himself a bit smaller, a bit more unassuming, softens his face, and waits. Whatever Sherlock is doing, he fully trusts him to be doing the right thing.

 

The wife suddenly grins at them. “That'd be brilliant! We have free-time on the weekends; it sounds like a lovely time.”

 

“Wonderful,” Sherlock says, abruptly moving his hand from John's leg and holding it out between them. “I'll program my number in your phone.”

 

“Oh, dear,” the wife groans, tapping her pockets and looking at her husband, “I always leave my phone at home. Terrible habit, really. Be a dear, Mark, and let him put his number in your phone.”

 

The husband fishes it out immediately. “Here you are. Name's Mark, by the way, and this is my lovely wife, Sarah.”

 

“William,” Sherlock says distractedly, clicking away on Mark's phone, “and my charming husband is Hamish. It's a pleasure.”

 

John has to fight not to react to his middle name being spit out without so much as a twitch. But again, Sherlock clearly knows what he's doing. John tries not to watch Sherlock go through Mark's phone, no doubt scouring his privacy, but it's a close thing. Then suddenly, Sherlock hands the phone back over with a sweet smile.

 

“Ta,” Mark says, smiling at Sarah as if he's expecting to be rewarded for being polite.

 

“I've sent myself a text,” Sherlock tells him. “Hamish and I will be in contact, but unfortunately, we must be going now. Busy day of errands, you understand.”

 

Both Sarah and Mark seem very sympathetic to the busy lives of adults, nodding and smiling in understanding. John lets himself be pulled to his feet, still hovering close to Sherlock, intertwining his fingers with Sherlock's when he offers his hand. They back away a bit, tethered by their hands, and John smiles down at them kindly.

 

“It was lovely to meet you both,” John tells them sincerely. “We'll be in touch, I'm sure.”

 

“Of course,” Sarah agrees, smiling pleasantly.

 

Sherlock gives them a wave, tugging John after him insistently. “Have a nice rest of your day,” he calls over his shoulder, then marches them along.

 

“Sherlock?” John hisses, sinking a bit closer, aware that the other couple are still watching them leave.

 

“Not to worry, John,” Sherlock tells him, pulling him out to the curb, raising a hand for a cab, “we'll get home before the Chinese place closes.”

 

John just sighs. “Where are we going?”

 

“Mark and Sarah Fendell's home,” Sherlock says, like it's obvious, pulling them into the cab.

 

“Of course we are,” John mutters, rolling his eyes as Sherlock gives the address flawlessly.

 

Sherlock leans back into the seat, bringing their clasped hands into his lap, looking down at them with distant eyes. John flicks his gaze towards their hands, tensing as he realizes they never let go. But Sherlock hasn't seemed to notice their hands wrapped together perched on his right knee, and he has the frown that means he can't work something out, so John wisely does not snatch away and waits for the perfect moment to retract his hand.

 

“He claimed not to have any siblings, and his wife - who he adores - didn't even twitch to suggest otherwise,” Sherlock murmurs.

 

“Maybe he knows she is trying to turn him in,” John suggests, shrugging.

 

Sherlock huffs. “Yes, but he doesn't have any care about that. He either doesn't think she will actually do it, or he's convinced himself that no one can find any proof. Nothing fits, John.”

 

Sherlock is getting a bit frazzled, alarm spreading in his frame, eyes darting about as if he can find the answers in the air. John doesn't really think about it, just acts on instinct and rubs his thumb over the back of Sherlock's hand soothingly. Surprisingly, Sherlock settles a bit, frowning instead.

 

“Oh, it's John now? It was Hamish a moment ago,” John teases, trying to lighten the mood.

 

“A necessary evil,” Sherlock says, lips twitching as he relaxes, just as John had hoped. “If they don't already know us as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, I don't want to give any idea to as who we are. So, for them, for a bit, we're Hamish and William; just a lovely couple in London.”

 

“We'll actually be going to get coffee then?” John asks curiously.

 

Sherlock hums. “We'll have to. Mark's a mystery, isn't he? Seemingly terribly normal, yet…”

 

“Everyone has their secrets, Sherlock,” John tells him, still rubbing soothing circles into his hand.

 

“Right you are, John, right you are,” Sherlock agrees with a sigh, his head falling back against the seat with a dull thunk, his hand tightening around John's.

 

They sink into comfortable silence for the rest of the ride, lost in their own thoughts. John's forgotten to watch for the moment to take his hand free, actually enjoying the contact. It's a small reassurance, easing the bittersweet ache in his chest he gets when Sherlock does Sherlock-like things. He's aware it's an intimate gesture, something between close people, but it feels too casual and normal for John to really be bothered with it.

 

Then, the cab stops, and Sherlock drops his hand, practically sailing out of the cab. John blinks rapidly, staring down at his hand, actually a bit peeved at the loss, and oh no. No, that's not good at all.

 

However not good it is, now is not the time to deal with it; John pays the cabbie and follows Sherlock out onto the street. The house they stare up at is pretty normal for London. It's a bit on the modest side, a normal grey color, and has a fenced in lawn. It hangs at the end of the street, and it appears to be the only house allowing a bit of privacy from its neighbors. Well, that works in their favor.

 

“And just how do you plan to get in?” John asks, arching an eyebrow in challenge.

 

Sherlock smirks. “I've got my kit.”

 

“Of course,” John tuts, following Sherlock around the side of the house, nervously looking around for any nosy neighbors. “You and that bloody kit. It's the worst thing Mrs. Hudson could have ever gotten you for Christmas.”

 

“It was her most thought-out gift, and I know you helped her pick it out, John,” Sherlock tells him, sidling up to the back door. “You're as much to blame as her; thank you for that, by the way.”

 

John rolls his eyes, watching as Sherlock grabs his lockpicking-kit from his pocket, shielding it with his body. He looks rather casual, as if he's just leaning up against the door, but it pops open moments later. Sherlock quickly waves him in, shutting the door behind them with a quiet click.

 

“Sherlock, what are we doing here?” John asks, following Sherlock as he darts through the back hall, stopping abruptly in the kitchen.

 

Sherlock doesn't even look at him, just starts going through the drawers, looking at the stove, examining the sockets. “You know, I've just committed a terrible crime. Breaking and entering, John. That's a bit not good, isn't it?”

 

John flaps his arms, following him into the sitting room, avoiding the windows. “It is! What are we doing, Sherlock; what are we looking for?”

 

“Yet, you're here,” Sherlock muses, rifling through the mail on the coffee table. “Despite the not-goodness of the situation, you're still here with me. And you say it's because you see good in me.”

 

“And I trust you,” John quickly says before Sherlock can say his most obvious hypothesis.

 

Sherlock pauses in checking the wiring behind the telly, looking at him. “You trust me?” he repeats, eyeing him closely.

 

“Well, obviously,” John snorts.

 

“Elaborate,” Sherlock demands, going back to what he's doing.

 

John sighs, following him up the stairs to the bedrooms waiting. “I trust you not to do something with intentions to hurt someone. I trust you not to get me in trouble, not serious trouble anyway. I don't know, Sherlock, I just trust you.”

 

“So many endless perimeters on trust. One has to ask themselves the depth of trust that's applied to each person in their life. Do you trust me with your life, John?”

 

“Yes, of course. You've proved over that you won't let it end, not if you can help it. You take it too far sometimes, but I trust you.”

 

“Hmm. And before? Before the times that the theory was tested and you had your proof, did you trust me on blind faith?” Sherlock asks, popping up from where he was looking under the bed, eyes watching John for his answer.

 

John shifts awkwardly in place. “I did, yes.”

 

Sherlock narrows his eyes, hopping to his feet, moving to the closet. “Conclusion,” he yells from inside the closet, going through Mark and Sarah Fendell's things, “you either are an idiot, who cares nothing for your own life, or… you have loved me, not like a bother, since then.”

 

As Sherlock backs out the closet and closes the door, arched eyebrow waiting, John glares at him flatly. “You're a right arse, you know that? It's a bit of both, actually,” he tells Sherlock, opting for honesty.

 

“You're only confusing me more,” Sherlock sighs, wrinkling his nose in distaste.

 

John shrugs. “You don't have to know everything all the time, Sherlock. I'm only being honest. And what about you? Did you trust me before? Wait, do you even trust me with your life now?”

 

Sherlock slams Sarah's jewelry box closed, whipping around to stare at John. “You really are an idiot. John, I have trusted you since our very first case. There is no one I trust more.”

 

“Oh. Right. But doesn't that make you an idiot who doesn't care about their own life? Or… did you love me, not like a brother, since you've known me?”

 

“You shot a someone after mere days of knowing me. No hesitation, no regret… nothing. You saved my life before you even told me your middle name. I'm no idiot, and my life certainly matters.”

 

John purses his lips, aware that Sherlock is right. Triumphant and recognizing victory, Sherlock darts past him, heading towards the bathroom. John turns around to stare at the mirror on the back of the dresser, looking at his reflection. There's a small, stupidly soft smile on his face.

 

Yes, definitely not good.

 

John immediately fixes his face and whirls away from the mirror. He meets Sherlock in the hallway, arching an eyebrow in question. Sherlock doesn't give him answers, but honestly, John's used to that at this point. He just follows Sherlock back out the back down the steps and out the back door, frowning as Sherlock hurries over to the small shed near the fence. John follows, looking around to make sure no one's watching them commit crimes.

 

“Sherlock,” John hisses, eyes going wide as he pried the crickety door open. “Sherlock, what are you doing? You can't just-”

 

“Now… this doesn't make sense,” Sherlock hums, reaching out to yank John into the shed.

 

It's a tight space, and they're pressed together, but light filters through the cracks in the dingy wood that makes up the shed. Right in front of them, there is a small stool with a lighter sitting on it, and beside it, an empty gascan sits unassumingly.

 

“Seems a bit arsonist-like to me,” John comments.

 

Sherlock frowns, looking put out, his mind no doubt working a mile a minute. “We need to leave. We have approximately three minutes until Mark and Sarah will arrive home. Best be off, John.”

 

They clamber out of the shed, quickly heading out to the street. As usual, a cab stops for them nearly the moment Sherlock throws up his hand, which John despises with his whole being. They quickly slide in, Sherlock throwing their address out, and just like that, they're leaving after committing a serious crime.

 

“One day,” John tells him decidedly, “we will not be so lucky, Sherlock.”

 

Sherlock scoffs. “Please, as if I let luck dictate any of my actions. Now, ring up the Chinese place and get us take-out. We'll make it back in time.”

 

John tugs his phone out of his pocket, glancing at Sherlock in surprise. “You're eating?”

 

“Mm? Oh, yes. I've been a bit… fuzzy since the park, and I think my body is betraying me again. Eating, sleeping, such tedious tasks.”

 

“Alright. You want spring rolls, then?”

 

“Yes, they help me think.”

 

John fights a smile, placing their order in faint amusement. Sherlock is silent, eyes closed, lips tipped down in a frown. Even after John's placed the order, Sherlock ignores him, working through the details in his brain.

 

Once they're in their flat, take-out spread out between them at the kitchen table, John can't help but to ask, “So, why did we break into Mark and Sarah Fendell's house today, Sherlock?”

 

“Did you not enjoy our day?” Sherlock asks, clearly teasing him.

 

“It was fine; I just think Hamish and William would be a bit sad to know their friends had intruders while they were away, don't you?”

 

“They needn't worry. The intruders didn't take anything; they were just looking for information.”

 

John chuckles. “And what did they find?”

 

Sherlock leans forward excitedly. “For an arsonist, Mark seems to abhor fire. When I flicked my lighter at the park, he flinched.”

 

“Oh, that's what you were doing.”

 

“Mhm, and quite the reaction out of Hamish, I must say. But I hoped you'd do that.”

 

“So you could bring up siblings,” John guesses.

 

Sherlock looks pleased. “Yes. And then, at their home, it's practically fire-proof in every way. Everything is electric, there's no firepit, and the house is protected ten times over in case a small fire can break out.”

 

John hums. “But the shed.”

 

“Yes,” Sherlock agrees, frowning down at his rice, narrowing his eyes, “that I can't understand. Why go through such desperate lengths to avoid fire at all costs to begin with? He's an arsonist, he should be entranced by fire. But if he is avoiding it, why have a shrine in his nearly unused shed?”

 

“Hmm. Maybe he fell in love. He clearly is besotted with his wife. Maybe he loves her and doesn't want to go that route anymore.”

 

“That could explain why he avoids it, but that doesn't fit either. An arsonist doesn't just… give up on fire. If anything, it'd be like having an affair. He'd try his best, but he wouldn't be able to stop.”

 

John considers this. “Maybe that's why he has the shed with the strange shrine?”

 

“But that doesn't make sense either. It's clearly not gone in often. The shrine was put in a few days ago, which you can tell by the mismatched layers of dust. The evidence contradicts itself,” Sherlock murmurs, picking at his food, eyebrows furrowed.

 

“Don't stress too much, Sherlock. If anyone can figure it out, it's you,” John says reassuringly, reaching over to pat his hand.

 

As he goes to take his hand back, Sherlock suddenly curls his fingers up, catching his hand. John thickly swallows the bite of food he'd snuck in at the end of his sentence, staring down at Sherlock's hand cupping his. He watches as Sherlock's fingers press between the spaces of his, locking them together. Something warm and unsteady unfurls in his stomach, and John quickly looks away, snatching his eyes up to stare at Sherlock's face.

 

“You held my hand today, even after you needed to for the case,” Sherlock notes quietly, eyes fixated on their intertwined hands.

 

“Yes,” John agrees, clearing his throat, “yes I did.”

 

Sherlock suddenly looks up at him. “Why?”

 

“Forgot it was happening,” John admits.

 

“That doesn't give me any data on this, John. That could be because you're just so comfortable with holding my hand that you enjoyed it, or that you're truly that much of an idiot, or that it truly didn't matter that it was happening. Why are you being purposefully confusing?”

 

“Maybe you're overthinking it.”

 

“Overthinking is impossible.”

 

“Sherlock, I've told you to stop analyzing my feelings for you. It's just not on.”

 

“Manners and societal expectations aside, I find it ridiculous to not know what you feel for me. Aren't I the least bit entitled to the information?” Sherlock mutters, frowning at him.

 

John rolls his eyes. “Shut up and enjoy your meal, Sherlock,” he murmurs.

 

Knowing a lost cause when he sees one, Sherlock gives up for now, sulking and eating his food, throwing John betrayed glares through the whole meal. John just smiles back pleasantly. Not once, through the whole meal, do their hands fall apart.

 

John mindlessly strokes Sherlock's hand with his thumb, completely at ease.

Chapter Text

The following weekend finds them at a small cafe, sitting out on the patio with Mark and Sarah. As John and Sherlock sip their drinks, their free hands intertwined on the table, they casually try and get as much information out of the other couple as they can.

 

John has to admit, as the time slides by, that Mark seems a really good bloke and not arsonist-like at all.

 

“And how do you spend Christmas?” John asks, after Sarah mentions what Mark got her last year. To soften the blow of such an invasive question, he provides his own information. “William and I mostly spend it together.”

 

Sarah gives him a small smile. “We spend Christmas with my family on rare occasions. They live a bit aways, so we mostly just spend it together too.”

 

“No family of your own near enough, Mark?” Sherlock asks, immediately taking a sip of his coffee after the question.

 

“My family and I don't really get on. My parents and I have… disagreements about things. It's just better to stay with Sarah,” Mark admits with an awkward shrug, smile waning a bit.

 

John quickly leans forward. “Ah, I understand your troubles, mate. My mom's a bit touchy about things, so I stay away too. Had a bit of a rough childhood myself; my dad wasn't the best, my sister was rough on my mom, and I was just there.”

 

“Oh, that's not great. I'm sorry,” Mark says, clearly not good at these kind of things. “Didn't have the best childhood either. We lost a lot of our houses growing up, so I had to move around a lot. We didn't really get to keep much as children.”

 

“Bankruptcy?” Sherlock guesses lightly. “My brother used to have a bit of a gambling problem himself.”

 

Mark flatly says, “Fires. We lost four different homes to house-fires.”

 

Sarah tuts, reaching over to run her hand up his arm in comfort. “Mark has a bit of fear when it comes to fire, says its always been a part of his life.”

 

“That's tough luck, mate,” John says, kicking Sherlock in the ankle when his leg starts bouncing in excitement.

 

“Luck,” Mark scoffs, lip curling.

 

“Oh, don't go fretting about that now, love,” Sarah murmurs soothingly, then changes the subject. “Have you two ever thought about children?”

 

John chokes on his drink, hacking as he sits forward abruptly at the words. Sherlock calmly drops his hand and thumps him on the back, smiling at Sarah and Mark politely. They watch John struggle to breath in a mixture of concern and faint amusement. Once fine, Sherlock reaches back down and twines their fingers together again.

 

“Hamish is a bit touchy about that. He used to want kids just because he thought that was expected of him,” Sherlock tells them easily.

 

“Ah,” Mark says, like he understands.

 

Sarah smiles sweetly. “I take it you didn't realize you were gay until later then?”

 

“I'm not gay,” John replies automatically, and Sherlock stomps on his foot.

 

“Bisexual then,” Sarah allows immediately, waving a hand carelessly. “I am too, you know. Had myself a sweet girl before I met Mark.”

 

John blinks rapidly. “Ah, yes.”

 

“It's fine to not want kids,” Mark assures him with a crooked smile. “We didn't want any, but Sarah got pregnant despite the precautions, so we're taking it in stride. I'm figuring it's just another adventure.”

 

Sarah laughs loudly, tossing her head back. “That's what we're telling ourselves anyhow. Things happen, life goes on, might as well keep going, right?”

 

“I think it's fine,” Sherlock says, shrugging. “My life isn't really meant for kids, plus I'd be a terrible father, but you two seem perfect for it.”

 

John frowns at him. “Sh- William, you wouldn't be a terrible father.”

 

Sherlock arches an eyebrow at him. “I'd get bored.”

 

“Not bloody likely,” Mark chortles in amusement. “The little tykes could keep you going for days! I'll miss boring once the little guy is born.”

 

“It's a boy?” John asks Sarah.

 

“We're hoping, but we mostly just want a healthy baby. We find out next week; I'd be open to texting you the gender if you're curious,” Sarah offers, looking slightly hopeful.

 

“Oh, we'd be delighted,” John says immediately, and it's not exactly a lie.

 

Not too long after that, Sherlock and John are back at 221B Baker Street, going over the case. Sherlock paces the floor, John makes tea, and they both avoid the biggest problem they have.

 

“Mark just has to be the nicest arsonist I've met, doesn't he?” Sherlock snaps, accepting the tea John offers with a nod.

 

John settles in his chair, frowning. “He doesn't seem to be on the edge of breaking down and setting fires to hurt people. Do we have to do this?”

 

“Sentiment, John,” Sherlock reminds him sharply.

 

“Don't take that tone with me! You like them too.”

 

“Yes, but willful ignorance can cost some people their lives. Unfair as it is… we still have to do our job.”

 

“And you're one hundred percent sure he's an arsonist? There's no doubt?”

 

“I'm not, actually. The evidence seems to be pointing towards it, but there are other factors suggesting the opposite. Like today, he was clearly upset about the house-fires, as if someone else was to blame. But the disagreements with the parents? They must have known he was the one to set them. Nothing is adding up, and it's pissing me off.”

 

John gives him a smile. “Things usually don't. You're Sherlock Holmes, you can work it out.”

 

At that, Sherlock gulps down his tea, setting it aside with a hiss, and moves over to melt himself down on the couch. It's actually a bit like watching fluid, the way his body just gracefully lands haphazardly on the couch. His hair ends up brushing the floor, back arched almost inappropriately over the arm of the couch, legs out and crossed, toes digging into the cushion. John chuckles and tilts his head at the almost-but-not-quite backbend.

 

Sherlock stays that way until John goes to bed, and John falls asleep thinking that Sherlock Holmes is very flexible and has mighty endurance indeed.




 



It's later in the evening the following day when Sherlock suddenly bolts right out of his seat.

 

“Sherlock?” John asks carefully.

 

Sherlock starts throwing on his coat, restless and quick to go. “The sister! How could I be so stupid, John? The sister!” he yells excitedly.

 

John hurries to his feet, taking off after Sherlock, ducking into the cab just before it starts to pull away from the curb. “What about the sister?”

 

“Don't you see?” Sherlock yells, turning towards him in the seat. “This whole time, we've just taken the sister at her word, believing that her brother is the arsonist when most of the evidence points to the contrary. But John, he's not the arsonist… she is!”

 

“Wait, what?” John barks, eyes bulging. “That doesn't make sense; why would she come to tell us about an arsonist if she's the arsonist?”

 

Sherlock waves his hands around wildly, ecstatic and high off the knowledge. “She's planning to set fire somewhere, probably where she works! Someone has to go down, and she knows it can't be her. But all the houses she set fire to when she was young has one other common person. And if Sherlock Holmes is investigating the brother who she was trying to imprison, then certainly it must be him. He'd be enacting his revenge, trying to kill her. It's so obvious, isn't it? She planted the evidence in Mark's shed. She struggles with connections. She's always cared for her brother, but not enough to care if he goes down for a crime she commits! Brilliant… just brilliant. I can't believe I missed it!”

 

And okay, John can see it now. “But how do we know it's today, Sherlock?”

 

“Mark's off work today; the firm he works at is undergoing mandatory construction. He's home, alone, and she's just an innocent at work!”

 

The cab comes to a sudden stop outside of a library, and John's eyes widen. He'd forgotten that she works at a library. This is so very not good, and John rushes out after Sherlock. They burst in through the front, eyes scanning the people milling about in equal horror. So not good.

 

“Sherlock,” John says warily, anxiety making him fidget in his place.

 

Sherlock looks around, eyes darting about to take in every piece of data. “Pull the fire alarm, help everyone out. Call Lestrade, have him on the way with ambulances. I'm going to find her. If I'm not out in fifteen minutes, leave.”

 

With that, Sherlock darts off, coat flapping as he rushes around a corner. John gapes after him, eyes bulging in shock. He must be a bloody idiot if he thinks John is just going to follow all of those directions. However, he can follow a few.

 

John calls Greg, not even explaining fully, and hangs up just as he pulls the alarm. People immediately start towards the door, some annoyed, some wary, but John doesn't have time for them to go slow. He gets at the door, holding it wide open, rushing people and putting a sense of urgency on the situation. It helps when, not even five minutes after, there's a crash and loud whoosh of what is undeniably a large fire taking flame.

 

“Sherlock!” John yells loudly, shoving himself past the crowd of rushing people.

 

It's way past fifteen minutes, he knows this, but he honestly couldn't give a fuck less. He rushes the same way Sherlock went, darting around the corner towards the back offices. As he draws nearer, he can feel the waves of heat grow stronger, prickling his skin with sweat, heady and thick.

 

He turns one more corner and his eyes burn with the heat. Fire crawls up the walls, coming from one office and spreading. The woman, their client, stands outside the room, staring into the window with a face of awe. The flames flicker in her dark eyes, red hair flickering ominously. John freezes for a moment, heart suddenly dropping.

 

He runs up to her, yanking her by the shoulders, shaking her. “Where is he? Tell me!”

 

The woman's lips curl up, and John can't even think, can't remember her bloody name, can't breathe, because she just raises her arm and points at the office where the fire most definitely started. John shoves at her, careless that she just walks away, heading out the front door.

 

He immediately starts throwing his weight at the door, slamming into it. “Sherlock! Sherlock!”

 

Faintly, he hears a delirious, “John?”

 

“Sherlock! Sherlock, hold on, I'm going to get you out!” John shouts, relief gripping him.

 

He reaches out to grasp the doorknob, cursing when it immediately burns his hand. Huffing, he drops his hand and goes back to slamming against the door, sweat pouring down his face. He feels lightheaded now, breathing becoming an exercise rather than a reflex, but he ignores it.

 

Sherlock's voice drifts out, just barely being heard over the roar of the flames. “Can't… breathe…”

 

“No, no, no, Sherlock, you listen to me; keep breathing, okay? Just- just hold on!”

 

Energy surging, John backs up and throws himself at the door again. It crumbles in slightly, denting in, and smoke immediately filters through. John closes his eyes against the sting, coughing against the assault on his lungs. Sherlock doesn't reply, and John can just make out his hair through the crack of the door; it's covered in soot and unmoving.

 

John panics, the thought of losing Sherlock again making him lose all sense. He backs up one more time and slams his whole body against the door, most definitely knocking his shoulder out of socket. But that doesn't matter, because the door caves in and John can see Sherlock lying on the ground, slightly protected from the fire by an upturned desk shielding his body, though not for much longer.

 

He practically skids beside him, slapping Sherlock's cheek lightly. “Sherlock, can you hear me?”

 

Sherlock is most definitely passed out and not waking up anytime soon. John immediately sets to yanking him towards the door, fully prepared to drag him to safety. He pulls with everything he has, shoulder screaming in protest. He manages to maneuver them out into the hall, but he keeps stopping when his body racks with coughs violent enough to make him want to vomit.

 

His vision blurs, chest heaving, and everything is sore. He gives a shout, tears leaking from his eyes, burning his cheeks, and keeps trying to get them down the hall. His head pounds and he knows he's seconds from passing out and joining Sherlock in burning alive in this stupid library.

 

There's really no other way he'd rather go than by Sherlock's side, so he fights until he can't anymore.

 

The last thing he sees before the world tips is the fire licking its way towards them, then nothing really matters as everything goes black.

Chapter Text

When Sherlock wakes, eyes peeling open, he quickly takes stock of everything around him.

 

High, fluorescent lights. Clean, sterile room smelling of medicine. A faint beeping that times with each pound of his heart. Rattling in his lungs. Very, very sore throat. Pain throughout his whole body.

 

Conclusion: he's in a hospital, suffering from smoke inhalation, but he's going to live.

 

Then, where's John?

 

“He's fine. He's down the hall with injuries more minor than yours, though his shoulder will probably smart for a bit.”

 

Sherlock turns his head, taking in a rattling breath. Mycroft sits in the chair beside his bed, umbrella perched against his crossed legs. Even with the annoyance of his brother's general existence, Sherlock finds relief in his words. And he's in no state to talk, which means that there is no one outside of John who can guess what he's going to say by his facial expressions but Mycroft.

 

Sherlock glares at him, who's with him?

 

“Detective Inspector Lestrade is with him now, talking his ear off, I'm sure. You gave the poor man a fright, I must say,” Mycroft tells him disapprovingly.

 

Sherlock glares harder, what happened?

 

Mycroft sighs heavily. “After you decided to be an idiot and get yourself locked in an office with the start of the fire, Dr. Watson rushed in to try and get you out. He managed to pull you out after you'd passed out, but passed out along with you in the hallway. You're both fine. Within three days, you both should be up and talking again and free to go. Detective Inspector Lestrade had the woman arrested as soon as she came out. He actually tricked her into confessing, not that the evidence wasn't enough.”

 

Mycroft actually sounds reluctantly impressed, but Sherlock narrows his eyes, how were we saved?

 

“Before Dr. Watson passed out on you, he gave a shout, alerting some firemen of your presence. You were taken before any permanent damage was done. Miraculously, neither of you suffered any burns. As I said, you'll both be fine.”

 

Sherlock deems this worthy enough and turns his head back towards the room at large. Mycroft makes no move to leave, and Sherlock finds himself reluctantly grateful for his presence. And as much as Sherlock hates that he is, Mycroft is right.

 

By day three in the hospital, he can talk without his voice scratching and feels next to no pain. He's restless and annoyed because they haven't let him or John see each other or talk. But Sherlock knows they will be released soon, so he tries not to throw every available object at the idiotic nurses.

 

As soon as Sherlock had been able to call Mycroft an idiot with his voice rather than his eyes, he'd left. Detective Inspector Lestrade had bounced between his room and John's room, scolding them in intervals for trying to kill him with a heart attack before he can turn sixty. Sherlock mostly doesn't pay him any mind. Not until he walks into Sherlock's room, throws him some clothes, and says he's free to go.

 

“About time,” Sherlock snaps, trudging into the bathroom to change into his suit from before the fire, washed and fresh. Thankfully, it and the coat hadn't suffered any burns either.

 

Lestrade waits for him at the door to his room, rolling his eyes. “Come on then. John's been in a mood since he was brought in; maybe you can calm him.”

 

Sherlock follows him out, trying not to show just how eager he is to see John. “He's probably as annoyed with the idiotic staff here as-”

 

Whatever he was going to say leaves his mind. John is waiting, arms crossed, little foot tapping in clear agitation. When his eyes land on him and narrow, Sherlock wisely snaps his mouth shut. Right. He must be an idiot if he doesn't think he's in trouble.

 

John starts up to him, eyes practically in slits, and Sherlock fights the urge to stiffen. Don't show weakness, Holmes, it's just John. Well, sometimes his brain isn't exactly working correctly, which seems to be in direct correlation to John's presence in his life. He'd distance himself if his brain wasn't at it's best when John was around as well.

 

John pokes him in the chest sharply, following up each word with a sharp jab. “You. Absolute. Insufferable. Careless. Cock!”

 

“Yes,” Sherlock agrees flatly, “thank you, I've missed you too dear.”

 

“Do not tease me right now, Sherlock. This isn't funny! You could have died,” John shouts, arms flailing about awkwardly as his indignation tries to escape him all at once.

 

Sherlock arches an eyebrow. “We both could have, if I'm told correctly. What did I say, John? Hm? I told you, fifteen minutes, then leave. What did you do? Who's the actual absolute insufferable, careless cock here, if we're honest?”

 

“And I was just supposed to leave you to die then?”

 

“Ideally, I would have found my way out.”

 

“And if you hadn't? I was just supposed to, what, leave you there?”

 

“Yes.”

 

John's eyes widen, rage and disbelief making his mouth dangle open. “Are you- do you- argh!”

 

Apparently, words are not enough to articulate his anger and despair. John reaches out and grabs the front of his shirt, fisting his hand there snugly, and Sherlock figures it's a good thing this is happening in the hospital. It's not ideal for Lestrade to see this, or the nurses who find it funny after he'd deduced them to basic shrivels, but when John punches him, he will at least have access to gauze.

 

John does not reach up and punch him.

 

John yanks him down and kisses him.

 

Right. This keeps happening, always when Sherlock least expects it, always when he's not prepared. It always catches him off-guard. Not being able to prepare, his mind completely gives up altogether and shuts down, letting his body take over, which is… not good. His body thinks it's a brilliant idea to curl into it, close his eyes, and let it happen, always.

 

His mind, once back to work, does not agree.

 

This time is not different. John kisses him again, yet not the same as any other time before. His lips are insistent this time, a little angry and biting. Sherlock has not been kissed in such a manner, so he isn't quite sure what he's supposed to be doing. Again, his mind provides nothing while his body thinks it's the best thing he's experienced since learning who the actual arsonist was.

 

Each kiss has a different feel, and he has them categorized in his head. The first: Desperate Kiss. The second: Tragic Kiss. The third: Playful Kiss. This one, the fourth, is automatically dubbed as the Angry Kiss as soon as John pulls away and his mind immediately starts racing again.

 

Once Sherlock manages to peel open his eyes, he glares at John. “Why do you keep doing that?!”

 

Lestrade coughs from beside them, hovering on the edges of Sherlock's peripheral. No matter. This can be discussed later, and will be.

 

John seems to be on the same page because he gruffly mutters, “Let's go home, Sherlock.”

 

“Fine,” Sherlock snaps.

 

“Good,” John retorts sharply.

 

“Boys, boys,” Lestrade laughs, leading them out the doors, “save it for the bedroom.”

 

“Oh, stuff it, Gerald.”




 



As soon as the door to 221B Baker Street shuts, leaving them in their sitting room, Sherlock whirls on him, all looming presence and demanding eyes. John merely quirks an eyebrow at him and stalks off, going to make them some tea.

 

In all honesty, John's last three days have been hell. He'd spent them in the hospital, recovering from a sore shoulder, a shoddy throat, and broken mentality. He'd begged and begged to see Sherlock, just needing to know he was alive. Even before he could talk, he'd try and get up to go and search him out anyway. Greg and Mycroft had reprimanded him each time, reassuring him, but that didn't really add up to actually seeing him.

 

The moment he seen Sherlock, alive and complaining, John had to take a deep breath. Compared to last image of him, limp on the floor and not breathing, John had been relieved.

 

Then, the anger had flooded in.

 

Sherlock sodding Holmes had went and done the same exact thing he'd done when he'd stepped off that roof, and he hadn't been apologetic in the least! John could've killed him, or fought him at least, and he'd had all intentions to do one of those things. John had been equally surprised when he kissed him instead, no thought or preparation in his mind.

 

He'd just done it, and now, now… Sherlock wants answers. John has no answers to give him, has no idea why he'd done it, why he's been doing it.

 

So… he makes tea.

 

“John,” Sherlock says carefully, hovering a little bit behind him, “are you going to talk to me?”

 

“Are you going to apologize?” John snaps, and yes, he's still a bit on edge.

 

“For?” Sherlock asks curiously, no doubt having no idea what he's done.

 

John whirls away from the boiling water, glaring at his flatmate. “You did it again, Sherlock. After everything, you risked your life… again. You left me behind… again. You were going to die, and you wanted me to be safe… again. For that, I deserve a blood apology!”

 

“Oh, I'm so sorry for caring about you, John. I'll keep myself in check next time,” Sherlock growls, stomping his way to the sitting room and sinking into his chair with a scowl.

 

John hurriedly makes their tea and follows him, sitting their cups down, dropping into his chair and glaring at him. “You know that's not what I'm talking about. You know how I feel about this, Sherlock-”

 

“And you are well aware what my decisions are on the subject. When there is likelihood of death, I wish for you to avoid it. You seem to want the same for me. We both put ourselves in danger, me trying to catch an arsonist, you trying to save me. Which, that's just an achingly familiar display, isn't it?”

 

“When I passed out, do you want to know what the last thing I thought was? I felt at peace, Sherlock. Dying at your side, us together, doesn't scare me. Before that moment, I was terrified.”

 

Sherlock curled his lip in disgust. “You seriously devalue yourself. John, your life isn't some-”

 

“So help me, Sherlock, if you finish that sentence, I will…” John trails off, threat gleaming in his eyes. He takes a steadying breath, clearing his throat. “Losing you scares me, me dying scares you. If I could die with you, I'm fine, and if I could stop risking my life, you'd be fine. What's the comprise?”

 

Sherlock frowns, flicking his gaze around as he considers the options. “We can retire early and raise a bee farm,” he suggests.

 

“Too early,” John denies. “I'm not that old.”

 

“We can cease all contact and have zero knowledge of what happens to each other,” Sherlock murmurs, lips ticking down in a displeased frown.

 

“No,” John says simply, “next.”

 

Sherlock clears his throat. “There is the last possibility of us just… getting used to being afraid of such things. Learn to cope, fill the spaces between with things that matter, move on, let it get easier with time. It's that, or the others.”

 

John nods. “Fine, that's what we'll do. Just… for me, Sherlock, please stop almost dying on me.”

 

“I was fine,” Sherlock huffs, reaching out for his tea, taking a delicate sip. “You saved me, as you always do. Everything was fine.”

 

“I wouldn't have had to save your life if you hadn't risked it in the first place,” John mutters, leaning forward to copy his motion, sipping his own tea.

 

Sherlock smirks. “Sentiment.”

 

“Yes, yes, I have sentiment for you, Sherlock. And yes, I love you, not like a brother. And yes, I snogged you, not once, not twice, not even three times, but four, and you still have no idea what it all means. Some genius you are,” John scoffs, rolling his eyes.

 

“I have an idea,” Sherlock admits, sitting his tea aside to lean forward. “It's control, isn't it? I come back, you kiss me to have control. I put your life before all else, you kiss me for control. I consider giving up the game of why you're doing everything you're doing, you kiss me for control. I get severely injured and cause you worry, you kiss me for control. It's all about control with you, isn't it?”

 

In a way, he's entirely right. The first kiss had been an instinctual grasp of control as he was assaulted with too many emotions. The second, however… he'd taken that control, used it against Sherlock, punishing him in a way. The third has been lighter, just a tease, but it had been about control too, just a yank on the leash to see if it had any pull. And the last… that kiss had been control on the situation, proving to the bittersweet and raw ache in his chest that Sherlock was alive, was fine, wasn't leaving.

 

Sure, in a way, it is control.

 

But mostly…

 

“No, Sherlock,” John sighs, shaking his head slightly and smiling, “I kissed you every single time because I wanted to. It's not much deeper than that. I wanted to, you let me, so I did. Does that explain how I feel about you? It shouldn't; I don't even know that.”

 

Sherlock stares at him. “You mean to tell me that you had me in a state of confusion because, for the first time since I've known you, you decided to disregard every single line you've drawn between us, just because you randomly got the… urge to?”

 

“It's not random, Sherlock,” John whispers, eyeing him softly. “You asked me if I'd trusted you with my life before you ever saved it, and when I said I did, you asked if it was because I am an idiot or because I loved you, not like a brother. What did I tell you? It was a little bit of both. I haven't lied to you.”

 

“And why now?” Sherlock asks, watching him with calculating eyes.

 

John shrugs sheepishly. “The first time was an accident. Yes, I wanted to, but it just happened without much thought. But after that… why not, right? You never stopped me.”

 

“So, the first time, you were in distress about me being dead and coming back to life, and the first thing you wanted to do - after punching me, of course - was kiss me?”

 

“Do you expect anything less from me?”

 

“You really do lead with your emotions,” Sherlock notes, rolling his eyes in disgust. “Tedious, dull, and boring. I can't believe-”

 

“Oh, shut it,” John cuts him off with a small laugh, shaking his head. “You allowed it, Sherlock, every single time. Why is that?”

 

“Experiments, of-”

 

“No. No, nope.”

 

“It was just-”

 

“No, I don't want to hear the logical parts of it, Sherlock. Forget the data, forget the rationalizations, forget your own brain for one moment. When we were kissing, what did you think of?”

 

Sherlock's lips tighten in annoyance. “I didn't. My- my mind went completely silent. It shut down, John; you shut down my mind.”

 

“That must have been horrible for you,” John murmurs, eyebrows furrowing.

 

“It was…” Sherlock pauses and clears his throat.

 

“Yes?” John prompts.

 

“... New,” Sherlock settles on delicately.

 

“You must have kissed someone before, Sherlock.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“You said it was new, but you have-”

 

“It only happens with you, John.”

 

“Oh.”

 

They both pause to go over the implications of that, and John sips his tea, letting it soothe him. Sherlock copies his motion, and they stay completely silent, their eyes averted from each other.

 

Then, it hits John. He makes Sherlock's mind go blank. He makes Sherlock Holmes lose all conscious and common thought. He does that. Him. It's such a strange concept that he has to fight the urge to giggle. Of course, Sherlock probably aligns that with some form of torture in his mind, but John knows what it really means.

 

Sherlock flicks his gaze at him. “Why are you grinning? You're being smug; I don't appreciate it.”

 

“You do know that isn't a bad thing, right? Sometimes you're just taken with someone enough to sort of… well, lose your head over them, I suppose. A kiss can make it hard to think, or stop thoughts altogether. A hug can make you happy. A smile can make you smile. It's… it's not a bad thing that you feel… that for me, Sherlock,” John assures him casually, shrugging slightly. “Actually, I'm flattered.”

 

“I don't like it,” Sherlock decides firmly.

 

John huffs, rolling his eyes. “You don't like it because you don't understand it because you've never felt like this for anyone. Irene… she meant something to you, but it wasn't… soft, or special; it was just a game to you both, one you both enjoyed immensely. You and I, we don't play games where we aren't on the same team. We're partners. You and me, that's just how things are, how they're meant to be.”

 

Sherlock nods cautiously, like John is baiting him into a trap. “All of that is accurate, yes.”

 

“That doesn't mean anything was ever going to happen between us,” John tells him easily, taking a sip of his tea, watching Sherlock narrow his eyes over the rim of his own cup. “The kisses were accident, then on purpose, and something I did because I wanted to. You said it yourself, I go after what I desire. You were prepared to add intimacy in our relationship just so I'd come home.”

 

“And if you'd had said yes then, we'd be fine right now, and I wouldn't be dealing with all this. It's not that I don't… consider, it's just that - as I said years before - I'm married to my work.”

 

“Yes, and I'm a vital role in your work.”

 

“Well, yes, but… kissing you doesn't exactly help me get any work done, does it?” Sherlock argues, arching an eyebrow in challenge.

 

“And what of when you need to relax?”

 

“I don't need to-”

 

“And what about when you overthink things?”

 

“Overthinking isn't-”

 

“And what about when you need a break?”

 

“John, I don't need a break.”

 

John sighs and puts his tea to the side. “You say these things, but when I ever been anything but helpful to you, for you, Sherlock?”

 

“I understand you mean well, John, but this is merely a hiccup in the system, an error, a humane defect I've adopted out of my care for you. No one is to blame here, no one but me.”

 

“Are you seriously likening your love for me to a virus, Sherlock?”

 

Sherlock just nods, blinking. “Yes.”

 

“Wow,” John breathes out, laughter bubbling up in his chest. “That's just… hilarious.”

 

“Sure, laugh at me,” Sherlock grumbles, glaring at him. “So much for caring about me, John. I really-”

 

“Oi, I do care about you, you cock! I just find it amusing that you think love is a bad thing. Well, actually… it's a bit sad,” John mutters.

 

“I don't-”

 

“Listen, we could go round and round all day. Personally, I'm exhausted, I want to watch crap telly, talk to you, and nap in my chair. Soon as we get back to ourselves, we'll take clients again - which reminds me, we need to get with Mark and Sarah again, explain everything. Outside of that, I'm just tired now, Sherlock.”

 

“You're- you're not going to try and press upon me the importance of a romantic relationship, or even, at the very least, be angry that I've denied you?” Sherlock asks carefully, narrowing his eyes.

 

John's eyebrows jump. “No? Above all else, you're my friend, who I love dearly. I'd never try to make you do something that doesn't make you happy, and if I'm not it, I won't get angry with you for it. I'm sure the next time I want a good shag, I'll get a bit peeved off about it, but I won't be angry with you.”

 

“And what will you do?” Sherlock asks, tilting his head in curiosity.

 

“About?”

 

“When you want sex.”

 

John hums, letting his head thunk back against his chair, eyes sinking closed. “I'd have to ignore it, or find myself a girl to date. Probably wouldn't work out, either because you'd stop it, or because they'd realize I'm in love with my flatmate. Whichever, but I'll possibly be able to get a good shag in before. I'd have to move on at some point, wouldn't I? Maybe I'd try dating a bloke - though I can't imagine anyone I'd consider outside of you. It'd be all pointless though; we're always going to be here, you and I, in this flat, happy and alive. That's all that matters.”

 

There's complete and utter silence from Sherlock, and John wonders if he even understood most of his rambling slurred words. But he can't really make himself open his eyes and look.

 

Next that he knows, he's asleep.

Chapter Text

Sherlock never says anything, so John doesn't either.

 

After their conversation, things go back to the way they were. John doesn't kiss Sherlock; Sherlock doesn't interrogate John on his feelings. While they're both aware that they love each other, they put it in the back of their minds, just a small comfort.

 

John actually likes that it's out. He doesn't feel like he has some dirty secret that he was hiding from the world and himself. Sherlock, however, is none too pleased to know he is capable of love like this. John finds it all incredibly amusing; Sherlock does not.

 

Afterwards, they go back to taking clients, or dashing off when Greg calls, or doing the occasional rather boring - according to Sherlock anyway - favor for Mycroft. Sarah and Mark actually reach out to them, thanking them, telling them they're having a boy, and asking to catch up again. John wisely waits for Sherlock to suggest a time and place on that one. Mrs. Hudson, the only true constant in their lives, tuts and tidies and tsks, just generally loving them.

 

Things are back to normal.

 

Mostly.

 

There are moments, just small slips of time, where John will notice the differences. John will reach out to clap Sherlock's shoulder, or dig his phone from his pocket, or simply move past him, and Sherlock will absolutely melt under his touch for a moment before snapping up and acting like it never happened. John will laugh, or smile, and Sherlock will stare at him with the softest fondness, an open expression he's never wore before, but he'll clear his face when he realizes it happens. And there are times when Sherlock will look at him in consideration, eyes sizing him up, wondering, curious, like he's actually thinking about breaking his own decision. He gets mindless about it sometimes, eyes caught on John's mouth, just frozen, being ripped in half with want and duty.

 

John is a very good flatmate, best friend, and partner, because he very firmly does not mention these things, nor does he act on them.

 

The thing about it is… he knows how these things work. In this, and only this, he's much more knowledgeable than Sherlock Holmes. They are a mere band to which pressure is being applied, and he waits for the moment they will snap, or rather the moment Sherlock will.

 

Unresolved sexual attraction can be fun if they let it, especially when they have the comfort of love and companionship to fall back on.

 

John can be subtle about it; Sherlock already thinks he's an idiot. He can most certainly get away with this when Sherlock loses control of himself. Or, they can settle in this regular dance if Sherlock has perfect control, which he may very well have. Either way, John lets himself have a bit of fun, just every once in a while.

 

This day starts out wonderfully.

 

“Lestrade called,” Sherlock announces, bursting into the kitchen to tug at John's elbow. “Get ready, we have to go down to the Yard.”

 

John puts the mugs back into the cabinets, turning to face Sherlock. “Something nice then?”

 

“Yes,” Sherlock hisses excitedly, swaying closer, practically looming right over John's face, catching his gaze with bright intensity. “It's poison, John. You know how I love a good poison, and- and… what are you doing?”

 

John doesn't look up from his focus on Sherlock's silky shirt, pushing his tongue between his lips in concentration. He can feel Sherlock staring at him, tension permeating off his frame, and when John's knuckles brush against his neck as he unbuttons the stubborn clasp, Sherlock's throat bobs. Once the clasp is handled, John smooths his hand down Sherlock's chest as casually as possible and gives him a bright smile as he pulls away.

 

“You'd buttoned one too many clasps in your rush. Now, about the poison?”

 

It takes Sherlock a moment to speak, but when he does, his voice is a rasp for the barest second, then he clears his throat and snaps his mouth closed. John stares up at him with a bright smile, watching him expectantly, waiting for him to finish talking. Sherlock just turns around and leaves the room, head held high, curls fluffier than normal.

 

John grins to the empty room.

 

When they get to the Yard, Sherlock is back to his energetic self. John shares a look with Greg, rolling their eyes as he bounces excitedly around the room, practically yelling at the top of his lungs about the poison and it's seductive allure. When Greg seems to grow too alarmed, John starts forward to bring Sherlock down a few notches for all their sakes.

 

“John, John, do you see?” Sherlock exclaims, not calming in the slightest, overeager mind working to the point that he isn't thinking about what he's doing in the present. “It's beautiful, poetic, perfect!”

 

John's eyebrows shoot up when Sherlock reaches out, drawing him in close, putting his long fingers on the side of John's face. “Okay,” John chuckles, going a little breathless when Sherlock spins him around happily, yanking him forward nose to nose. “Oh, alright then. I take it this poison pushes all your buttons then. I'll make sure to keep it out of your reach and out of our flat.”

 

Sherlock stares right into his eyes, their noses brushing gently. His green-grey iris’ sparkle in delight, and he declares, “You'd be honored to die such a way, John, trust me. When you get tired of me, I want you to poison me. Make it yourself, it's more intimate that way.”

 

“Of course,” John says, giggles spilling out in puffs of air on Sherlock's cheeks.

 

Sherlock looks positively pleased that John will murder him in such a way, and he rubs their noses together one more time before shoving away, back to prancing around the room. Greg arches an eyebrow at John, having a bit of a question on his face whenever they do something like that, especially after the kiss they had in front of him. John just ignores him and watches Sherlock dance around.

 

Later, when Sherlock is making his deductions, face scrunched up as he thinks, pacing the room, John can feel the tension growing within him. As usual, Sherlock starts bouncing ideas off him, frowning when they're dull, considering when they hold merit.

 

John leans up against the wall, arms crossed in front of his chest as he makes suggestions, watching Sherlock walk back and forth, back and forth. Then, something sticks, and Sherlock comes to an abrupt halt, swiveling on his heel to grin at John. With every word they pass back and forth, getting closer to the killer, Sherlock takes one more step closer.

 

And finally, the point, the revelation, and John's arms have unravelled, leaving him open and waiting. Sherlock's only mere inches away, eyes bright with the high of the game and, admittedly, the high of John. While he's aware of this, the way Sherlock sways into his space makes his stomach clench, makes him want to drag him in close. John breathes deeply, skin tingling all over, and he wonders if they've always been this way.

 

But they're in the morgue with Molly, Greg, Donovan and two regular police officers, none of which look surprised at what they see.

 

Still, they have a killer to catch, so they set off, dragging themselves away with much effort. The killer goes down for it, naturally, and then they're in a cab, riding home, still thrumming with energy from the whole damn day. John's legs are bouncing, he's grinning out the window, and he can't really pin down one coherent thought.

 

Just before they pull up at the curb outside their flat, Sherlock and John suddenly catch each other's eyes. They don't mean to, really. They've been stealing looks at each other the whole ride when the other isn't looking, but this time, they steal a glance all at once. Something charges between them, sharp and heady, and John can feel all the hairs on his arms stand on end, his stomach knotting itself in a mixture of nerves and anticipation.

 

They arrive home suddenly, and Sherlock tears his gaze away, slamming himself out of the cab so fast that John's head reels at the loss of his gaze. Shaky and fumbling, John pays the cabbie and follows Sherlock up into their flat. Sherlock stomps up the steps so quickly that John nearly trips trying to get up into their flat right behind him.

 

Sherlock goes right up to the mantle, glaring at the skull like it's the cause for all his problems. The skull just stares back in a seemingly mocking fashion. John walks the door back, leaning against it when it gives a soft click. Sherlock's head snaps over at the sound, and they stare at each other.

 

“Alright?” John asks, because he doesn't feel alright at all; he feels like he's about to implode on himself, all his muscles tight and quivering.

 

Sherlock stares at him. “I'm not going to come over there,” he says seriously, but John isn't sure who he's trying to convince, maybe himself, maybe the skull; John knows how argumentative the skull can be.

 

John nods, taking a deep breath. Not tonight, it isn't going to happen, it shouldn't happen, he thinks to himself firmly. He just says, “Okay.”

 

“Good,” Sherlock murmurs, turning back to glare at the skull, eyes faraway like he is when he starts to sort through his mind palace.

 

John clears his throat, still leaning his weight against the door. “Today was a good day, wasn't it? You- you did it, you caught the killer; you always catch the killers, you're bloody brilliant, of course-”

 

Whatever else John is going to say gets caught in his throat when Sherlock's head whirls around at lightning speed, eyes halting on him heavily. John goes very still, aware they're teetering on the edge of something they can't come back from, waiting to see whether Sherlock will snap or not.

 

Sherlock, the man who can barely control himself from anything, snaps.

 

John's chest heaves, expanding and gasping in air, as Sherlock abruptly crosses the room in four long strides. His hands reach John first, grasping his cheeks, cradling lightly, then his lips follow.

 

It's the first time Sherlock has ever kissed him, not the other way around. John has underestimated just how much he wants this because he arches up into it eagerly, kissing back fervently and with ease. Sherlock's body pins him to the door, shaking all over, and his lips smooth over John's desperately.

 

No matter his inexperience, Sherlock hasn't ever really done anything wrong in his entire life. Maybe he's unconventional, but it's almost always better. When it comes to snogging, that hasn't changed. It's not something that has ever happened to him before, but when Sherlock sucks on his bottom lip, making an entrance, slipping his tongue in and running it behind his top teeth… well, John really likes that.

 

The kiss is curious, which is to be expected. Even if Sherlock's brain isn't working currently, he still treats it like something to explore for data. He tries everything, shying away when John grunts unhappily, repeating when whatever he does elicits a moan from him. John thinks, dazedly, that he has never been so thoroughly kissed in his entire life.

 

And then, Sherlock pulls away, just a bit, only to trail his lips along John's jaw, following the line of it with his tongue, teeth nipping when he reaches the neck. As much as he enjoys it, as much as it kills him, John carefully reaches up to delve his fingers into Sherlock's curls and tug him up and away.

 

John stares at Sherlock, who trembles in his arms, eyes wide with betrayal and want. He is nearly rattling in his skin, his hands clutching at John's jumper too tightly, breathing erratic. He looks impaled between begging for more and going into a full-fledged panic attack.

 

Concerned, John reaches down to cradle Sherlock's cheeks, watching him carefully. “Sherlock, what's wrong? You're trembling. Talk to me.”

 

“I decided not to give into barbaric desires, John. I made the choice, but- but I did it anyway. That doesn't make sense; I wasn't going to, but…”

 

Sherlock suddenly blinks and shakes John's hands from his face, clearing his throat, smoothing down his suit, back to calculating the world around him again. And John understands. Sherlock isn't one who has to face attraction, or want, or desire. The things he wants are to stimulate the mind, not the body. Wanting John as he does has to be a right shock.

 

“It's alright, Sherlock, you haven't done anything wrong. It just happens to-”

 

Normal people, ordinary people, not me,” Sherlock hisses sharply, narrowing his eyes. “Before, it was a mystery and interesting, now it's a waste. When you kissed me, there was a reason; when I kiss you, there isn't. I would have done trivial acts such as this to have you at home when you left, yes, but that is a friendly gesture, as well as my need for your uses. Otherwise, I don't want you.”

 

It's a lie, bold-faced and defensive, John knows this, but it stings all the same. He knows Sherlock is vulnerable right now and probably wrestling with his mind constantly. John pities him, can't help it, just feels sorrow for all the reasons why he won't allow himself to love or be loved.

 

John takes a deep breath. “Right. Well, let's look at the facts, Sherlock. You have to admit-”

 

“I don't want to look at the facts,” Sherlock snaps, taking a hasty step back. “There are no facts to look at. Your presence hinders me, which I cannot subject myself to. I will need to be going now. Move, please.”

 

“What?” John explodes, mouth dropping open.

 

Sherlock stares at him, mouth pressed into a thin line. “Move, John, I'm leaving.”

 

“No, no, Sherlock! You can't just leave. We- we have to talk about this, alright? And you-”

 

“Oh, so you're the only one who gets to leave? That's not only unfair, but hypocritical.”

 

“Sod it all, that's not what I'm saying! You can't just leave because you're feeling too much.”

 

“You can't tell me what I can and cannot do, John. You're not my keeper, you're not my husband, you're not anything. Now… move.”

 

John flinches, the dredges of anger and pain lapping at the edges of him. He swallows, breathes out a quiet, “Please don't. Sherlock, just- just talk-”

 

“I can't, John!” Sherlock roars, throwing his hands up, the lid on his temper popping abruptly. “I can't just “talk about it” like it is worth talking out with you. There is nothing to discuss, and I need to leave! I can't stay here, I can't even think around you!”

 

As abruptly as he exploded, Sherlock settles down, sagging a bit after his outburst. The words are out there now, and John hears them for what they are. Sherlock straightens up, his face impassive, eyes cold and merciless. But that doesn't matter, John already knows what this is.

 

“Bloody hell, you'd crumble like a stack of cards in the rain if I so much as touched you,” John breathes out in awe, fingers moving across the space between them, hand trailing over Sherlock's collarbone.

 

Almost as if to prove John's words as correct, Sherlock folds immediately, crossing the space between them and erasing it. They don't kiss, don't even get sexual at all; Sherlock drops his head against John's shoulder, breathing deeply, draping all over him and going limp.

 

“Hate you,” Sherlock mumbles, nose rubbing along the underside of his chin.

 

John sighs, holstering the majority of Sherlock's weight - though he's not heavy, just tall - and edging them towards the couch. “Alright, come on then, let's get you to sprawl out on the couch and sulk there instead of on me. I know your mind's all in a tizzy, let's try and relax, that's it,” he soothes, dropping onto the couch and pulling Sherlock after him, rolling his eyes when Sherlock immediately latches onto him, pushing them back to lay down. “Your brain really needs to give you a break, you poor sod. We'll just stay here until you work it out, yes?”

 

Sherlock makes an unintelligible noise against his throat, curling into him, half on top of him, half curled into his side. John relaxes and smoothes the hand curled around Sherlock up and down his back, rotating back and forth. He presses his lips into those ridiculous curls, sighing heavily.

 

All it takes is being in love to ruin Sherlock Holmes, and John can't help but feel guilty.

 

And that's how he falls asleep, holding the world's brightest mind, fretting over the state of his heart.



 


“Ah, brother mine, to what do I owe this… pleasure?”

 

“Have you had sex, Mycroft?”

 

Mycroft barely reacts, but Sherlock sees the answer in the slight twitch of his eyebrow, the flicker of emotion in his eyes, the way his fingers tighten around his umbrella. So… not even Mycroft, one of the sleaziest people he knows, is without touch of intimacy. Has it been just Sherlock all this time?

 

“I don't know what-”

 

“What of love?” Sherlock interrupts, saving them that awkward conversation.

 

Mycroft doesn't show his relief. “What of it?”

 

“Have you experienced it?” Sherlock asks, arching an eyebrow in challenge.

 

“Romantic, platonic, or familial?”

 

“Why are there so many?”

 

“Don't whine, Sherlock, it is most unbecoming,” Mycroft says, moving over to take a seat in his chair across from his couch that Sherlock is perched on, feet tucked under him, chin in hands. “Those are just types of love, brother dearest. Platonic love? No, I haven't had the disgrace. Familial? Yes, in fact, I enact it frequently.”

 

Sherlock frowns at him. “Don't be so dramatic, Mycroft. If you're expecting a thank you, you will be very disappointed.”

 

“What's this about?” Mycroft asks, sitting back and tapping his umbrella against the floor.

 

“What of… romantic love?”

 

“Have I…?”

 

Sherlock narrows his eyes in annoyance. “You know very well what I'm asking.”

 

“All hearts are broken, Sherlock, all things end. Loving is not an advantage; it is a weakness.”

 

“You are not answering my question.”

 

“You've yet to ask one,” Mycroft says, eyebrows crawling up his forehead as he waves his free hand through the air.

 

“Have you ever been in love?” Sherlock grits out flatly, nostrils flaring in shame and anger.

 

Mycroft rarely surprises him; he manages to right now. “Love, as it stands, is more imagery than description at this point in time. Be that as it may, sometimes… it happens anyway. Love, likened to cancer in my opinion, does not care the level of your intelligence, or lack thereof, it simply attaches itself to anyone it desires, especially the unwilling.”

 

“Who was she?” Sherlock asks quietly, then casually tacks on, “Or he?”

 

“Whilst I was finding my position amongst the government, and you were losing yourself to whatever drugs you could find, there was someone. This person compromised my career, very nearly cost me everything, and not once did they do anything but love me. I had to make a choice, Sherlock, and I did. Here I stand; I wager you can deduce the decision I made.”

 

Mycroft gives a small smile, just a flickering humorless thing. Sherlock tilts his head, narrowing his eyes. The tryst couldn't have lasted more than a year, Sherlock would have known. It almost bothers him that he wasn't aware of this.

 

“Do you regret it?”

 

Mycroft takes a considering breath, clicking his tongue while he releases it. “Brother mine, regret is for those too stupid to understand the point of choices. I did what I did, I do not stand around and ponder what would have happened if I'd chose otherwise. Between power and love, I chose what could never cause me strife in the end. Logic over emotion always provides solid results.”

 

“You weren't choosing between power and love, Mycroft,” Sherlock murmurs, studying his older brother carefully. “It was a choice between them… and me. A choice between not giving up on me, saving me, helping me, or staying with them.”

 

“Very good,” Mycroft praises softly, dipping his head in acknowledgment.

 

“Why?” Sherlock asks sharply. “Why would you cost yourself… and for me?”

 

One eyebrow sweeps up, and Mycroft regards him shrewdly. “Don't be an idiot. You were the solidified factor that rendered me where I am, but you were not the only thing that pushed me to my decision. Sherlock, please do not flatter yourself.”

 

“Was it worth it?” Sherlock snaps, strung tight and feeling wound up.

 

“You, brother mine, have always been worth it.”

 

“If you think, for even one moment, that I will start being cordial to you, you are-”

 

“Oh, certainly not,” Mycroft chuckles, shaking his head in amusement. “I expect one thing from you for the information.”

 

Sherlock frowns. “And what's that?”

 

“In due time,” Mycroft hums. “You have more questions. Feel free to ask them. Anything personal will require payment at a later date.”

 

“What about your mind? The- the feelings. You always taught me they were a weakness, even after you'd experienced it. How did you… cope?”

 

“One finds that releasing yourself to the fears you hold dear can free you from expectation. It's not about the state of your mind, Sherlock, it's the standards you hold yourself to.”

 

“You're suggesting that, when faced with such a thing, we should just… give in? Are you joking?”

 

“I do not joke, you know this. Love, romance, attraction… is not a battle to face down and win. It has beat you the moment you come to know it. The strangest thing about it is… it is not a cheap artifact to be careless with; it is a rare thing, Sherlock, especially when real and genuine and returned. Only true idiots toss it away because they believe themselves superior.”

 

“It clouds the mind, is a weakness, is-”

 

“Hear me very closely, and if you listen to nothing else I've ever told you… listen to this. What you have with Dr. Watson is not a weakness, nor is it a distraction, or a hindrance. If anything, it only further pushes your exceptionality and adds to the level of your superiority. What I had, what I gave up, was special; what you have is more than that could ever imagine being. Not every genius finds their Dr. Watson, brother mine, you'd do well to hold onto him. Do not be an idiot, I taught you better than that.”

 

Sherlock averts his eyes, shame hitting him at Mycroft's lack of tact. Then, the words catch up with their impact, slamming into him. Sherlock mulls them over, snatching them from the air, examining them curiously. Again, Sherlock hates to admit when Mycroft is right.

 

“I will give you this, just this once,” Sherlock says sharply, narrowing his eyes, “thank you.”

 

Mycroft's umbrella clatters to the floor as his hand spasms, but it is the only reaction that let's Sherlock know he's surprised him. “Dr. Watson is good for you and clearly a miracle-worker,” he says, voice slightly strangled, eyes glittering slightly.

 

“Shut up,” Sherlock says, curling up on the couch and settling in place.

 

“Oh no, Sherlock,” Mycroft says, standing and picking up his umbrella, “in due time has shifted to this present moment. I wish to collect my favor.”

 

Sherlock huffs, rolling his eyes. “Of course you do, so predictable, so boring.”

 

“Go home, Sherlock,” Mycroft orders softly, walking towards his kitchen.

 

“That's not very brotherly of you, Mycroft, kicking me out as you are,” Sherlock snips.

 

Mycroft pauses. “It is, whether you realize it as of now. The favor remains: go home, talk to Dr. Watson, do not make the same choice I made.”

 

With that, Mycroft sweeps out of the room, just as dramatic as always, and Sherlock stares up at the ceiling with a blank glare.

 

He does not need to go home; he needs to sort out his mind and figure out what he's going to do. Being in John's presence as of late does not leave him in the state of intelligence it usually does. He cannot trust the results he may make there.

 

John hadn't pushed him, but Sherlock hadn't been able to stop himself. Like Mycroft with cakes, once he'd gotten a taste… he'd been unable to resist.

 

Sherlock remembers the decision he made, remembers the firmness in which he stood his ground, and he remembers how easily that had shattered. John had praised him, as he always has, and Sherlock had felt nothing but adoration spring forth. His mind had immediately shut down, letting his body do the rest. The moment he'd touched John, his mind had woken up, fighting with his body, trying with all his might to gain control.

 

Sherlock has never been unable to break the will of his body when he uses his mind.

 

John, the kind man he is, had noticed the war immediately and stopped things from going further. And when he'd thrown harsh insults and said things he couldn't mean, John had still cared for him, still held him when he'd broken under his mind's new restraints. Sherlock had left the following morning without so much as a goodbye, needing to get his mind back in order.

 

That had been a day ago.

 

Sherlock is still unfocused and uncertain as he was, but his talk with Mycroft - a last resort - has helped slightly. Sherlock wonders if he will ever be able to function in John's presence again, and if not, can he stay away to salvage his brilliance? Maybe he'd get used to it if they tried. They'd kissed before, even acted as a couple, even held hands, and that had been completely fine to Sherlock. The moment he'd decided he wasn't going to do anything, his body had rebelled enough to send his mind spiralling.

 

Conclusion: Sherlock Holmes needs to have sex with John Watson to alleviate the desire he feels.

 

“Sherlock,” Mycroft calls from the kitchen, sounding displeased, “we had a deal.”

 

Sherlock immediately stands up from the couch, renewed and ready with a plan. “Of course, Mycroft, I despise your presence anyhow.”

 

“Just so you know, Dr. Watson is clean of any and all diseases,” Mycroft shouts back, being purposefully crude to get under Sherlock's skin.

 

Sherlock doesn't even slow down, just steps outside and into the car waiting, spitting out, “221B Baker Street, if you will. I have urgent business.”

Chapter Text

John is fine, mostly.

 

He knows Sherlock is alive, so he's fine. Sherlock's absence isn't something to be truly concerned about. When he'd woken to find him gone, John hadn't been too surprised, only disappointed. What bothers him is that Sherlock had left his phone, didn't leave a note, hadn't said a word.

 

John is aware that Sherlock has things to work through, so he's fine. Mostly.

 

There is still that fear of Sherlock being gone. It settles deep in his bones, pinching at the bittersweet wound and rubbing him raw. His mind, the bastard, mocks him with the thought that Sherlock will never return. John handles it to the best of his abilities.

 

He calls Greg and Molly, has them over for tea, invites Mrs. Hudson up. He doesn't tell the details, that's personal, just says that he and Sherlock had a row, and they might be unable to contact Sherlock for an unidentifiable amount of time. They seem to take it in stride, offers to talk if he needs it; John does not need it, so he hurries along the process. He's just about to see them out when Sherlock walks in the door, face stony, eyes on John immediately.

 

“Everyone out,” Sherlock orders sharply, “John and I need to have sex.”

 

Which… that's not what John had expected, if he’s honest. He just blinks rapidly, trying to process the words that just fell from his favorite person's mouth. His brain has come to a stuttering halt, not helping him in the least.

 

Mrs. Hudson giggles and heads to the door immediately, side-stepping Sherlock, pausing to pat his cheek and smile at him fondly. “It's about time you listened to me, Sherlock. Good on you.”

 

Molly is right on her heels, eyes fixed on the floor, face so red it looks painful. She doesn't even look at Sherlock as she scurries away, following a very pleased Mrs. Hudson down the stairs. If John was in his right mind, he'd pity Molly.

 

Greg clears his throat. “Well, that answers that question. I'll be on my way then. I'll call if anything comes up. Have a brilliant day, gents!”

 

“Yes, thank you, Geoffrey. Do not contact me or John for two days unless it is of the utmost importance, and save me anything interesting,” Sherlock informs him, waving him out the door and slamming it in his shocked face.

 

John listens to Greg's boots stomping down the steps, but barely registers it. He's looking at Sherlock, who appears to be completely serious. Somehow, he'd gone from denying any want of intimacy to demanding it within the span of a day. God, John doesn't even want to know the things that happen in Sherlock's mind.

 

“What?” John says, because that's all there is to say.

 

Sherlock eyes him evenly. “We need to have sex.”

 

“Yes… yes, you've mentioned,” John murmurs, clearing his dry throat. “Care to explain how you've come to this conclusion?”

 

“You probably wouldn't be able to follow the process; my brain far surpasses yours, as we both know.”

 

“Okay, okay, no. Sherlock, you can't just come into our flat and decide we're going to have sex. It's not as easy as-”

 

“Do you contradict me on purpose just because that's who you are, John?” Sherlock asks him curiously, narrowing his eyes. “Or, is it just something for you to do? Why must you be so difficult?”

 

John glares at him from his chair. “I'm not going to have a row about your distaste for my knack of arguing with you, mostly because we both know you love that about me.”

 

Sherlock's lips tighten. “Debatable.”

 

“Not the point, Sherlock,” John sighs, reaching up to scrub a hand over his face.

 

“You want to know why I've decided that having sex with you is the best course of action?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“My brain does not get a rush of endorphins from things such as sexual desire, nor romantic. As such, I was unprepared for it when it happened against my will. My body never fails to bend under my mind's will, not until then. I fumbled with the new restraints and did not understand them. After much deliberation, I have a hypothesis that sex will help.”

 

“Okay, I understood most of that, you cock. So, how is sex going to help?”

 

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “Simple, John. Sex will alleviate the desire I have for you.”

 

John can't help but snort. “No, it won't.”

 

“Pardon?” Sherlock blurts, blinking.

 

“Sherlock, it's not something you can just… work out your system. When you love someone and desire them, sex only brings you closer to one another. You're not going to stop wanting me, you're going to want me more. And if it's really good, which I can pride myself on thank-you-very-much, you're going to crave it… a lot. Especially because it's new for you.”

 

“I don't have enough data on sex. How am I to know how one would react if-”

 

“Look,” John interrupts sharply, standing up and watching Sherlock stiffen immediately, “what you need is to be honest with yourself. You've never blatantly ignored your brain before and with good reason. Let's just… state facts.”

 

Sherlock considers him for a moment. “Fine. We will try it your way first.”

 

“You love me.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You're attracted to me.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You like the intimacy.”

 

“Inconclusive.”

 

John stops. “Alright, tell me about that.”

 

“I find it abhorrent to experience what I did. It's disgraceful and a complete waste of time,” Sherlock complains, wrinkling his nose.

 

“But?” John prompts, rolling his hands to urge him to continue. “Keep going, Sherlock.”

 

“But I… appreciated certain moments. In fact, when you were kissing me without warning, or holding my hand, or when we pretended to be a couple for the case… I found it perfectly fine.”

 

“Felt no different than our regular lives. We're comfortable being like that, mostly when we're not thinking about it.”

 

“Yes,” Sherlock confirms.

 

“Okay. Let's keep going. Facts. You want to leave me rather than deal with this.”

 

“False. No matter what, I'm not leaving.”

 

John can't hide the way his shoulders sag in obvious relief. “Thank you. Okay, next. You actually want to have sex, not just… do it.”

 

“Inconclusive.”

 

“Explain.”

 

“While we're in the midst of… intimacy, my body is very firmly for the idea; my mind, however, is not. They rarely disagree, so you can see my issue.”

 

“They need to agree before anything can happen.”

 

“I'm considering it, John, of my own free will and violation,” Sherlock snaps, averting his eyes.

 

“Are you embarrassed?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Sex, romance, and intimacy has always seemed to be meaningless and a weakness to those inferior to me. I have no desire to be ordinary, John.”

 

“Okay, delete that. Delete that and whoever told you that love and sex and intimacy is bad. Just- just hear me out, Sherlock,” John growls, waving his hands around. “Yes, your mind is turned all around right now because you've made it think it has to be. If you stop thinking of this as a bad thing, you'll be fine. Sex isn't going to make you less of a genius, romance won't stop you from working, and intimacy isn't a disease you need to distance yourself from.”

 

Sherlock stares at him after his outburst, eyes narrowing in concentration. “Are you suggesting that I've compromised my own mind?”

 

“That's exactly what I'm saying. Think about it; you didn't have an issue with anything that happened between us until you decided it was a problem. The moment you realized it wasn't some mystery to solve, or an experiment to collect data from, it became real for you. It scares you.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You worry that you'll always be in this state of mind around me, which is a problem because I help your mind be better.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And it's new, and tedious, and boring, and exciting and you don't know it. That bothers you.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“But you want it anyway,” John concludes softly.

 

Sherlock meets his eyes and swallows. “Yes.”

 

“Okay, new plan,” John says, clapping his hands together and starting towards the kitchen, ignoring when Sherlock follows him. “I'm going to make you tea, and we're going to do what we always do. You're going to pull one of those unsolved files from the dead-end cases, and I'm going to turn on the telly. You're going to get wrapped up in it, and I'm going to help you with it in the way I always do. You're going to forget what you feel for me, just for a moment, and you're going to solve a case that doesn't even really need to be solved. And after… we're going to have sex. That is the new plan. Are you agreeable?”

 

Sherlock is silent for a long time, watching John make tea, then, “Yes.”

 

“Brilliant,” John chirps. “Best get started then.”

Chapter Text

John thinks, sometimes, that he might just be a bit smarter than Sherlock. Sometimes. About some things, at the very least. Human things. Them.

 

This is one of his more brilliant ideas.

 

Sherlock has brought his whole box of old case files, the ones abandoned halfway through. Sometimes when the criminal gave themselves up, sometimes when they killed themselves from guilt, sometimes when they were caught before Sherlock had the time to be the one to do it. Either way, it's covered in dust and nearly empty; Sherlock rarely doesn't see a case all the way through.

 

John settles on the couch, at the very end of his side, and Sherlock joins him on his own end, the box sitting between them. John raises his eyebrows, gestures to the box, and sips his tea. The telly remote sits waiting, but John doubts he will flip it on.

 

“The first,” Sherlock says, pulling the first file open, frowning slightly. “Toby Worthsire; he'd killed four women and took patches of hair as trophies.”

 

“We worked together on that case, didn't we? It was a bit bleak, admittedly, but you'd called him a rat - tenacious, yet disgusting,” John muses, humming as he looks down into his cup.

 

Sherlock blinks at him. “You remember that?”

 

“I remember most of the things you say, Sherlock, even the ones I'd enjoy forgetting,” John answers dryly, lips curling up in a mockery of humor.

 

“Right,” Sherlock murmurs, clearing his throat, looking back down to the file. “He never defiled the women, just murdered them and took their hair. They always died from a direct stab to their neck. There seemed nothing connecting them.”

 

“Not until you found it out, of course,” John says, rolling his eyes in fondness.

 

“It was quite easy,” Sherlock huffs, narrowing his eyes. “They all were on the new year, new me regime, and by the state of their stomachs after death, they'd changed eating habits very recently. At least two of the victims had recent strain on their knees, and one of the others had seen a doctor for medication by the complaints of abdominal pain.”

 

“Which you figured out in three minutes after looking over their files,” John mutters, waving a hand.

 

Sherlock just cocks one eyebrow. “It was incredibly obvious, and you were the one to identify the strain on their knees.”

 

“I'm a doctor,” John replies simply.

 

“Indeed. And after I realized those things, we got news that Toby Worthshire turned himself in for the murders,” Sherlock murmurs, sighing heavily, shaking his head. “A bit of a disappointment really; there was nothing left to investigate.”

 

“Tell me anyway,” John prompts, leaning his side into the couch and waiting patiently.

 

“Alright,” Sherlock agrees, eyes lighting up with childish delight. “He was their personal trainers, obviously. They hired him as if hiring a cleaning lady; he would come over to their homes three times a week and train with them.”

 

“Didn't he have other clients?”

 

“Yes, but they weren't what interested him.”

 

“And why not?”

 

“They weren't blonde.”

 

John's eyebrows jump. “He took their hair; they were all blonde. So, what do you think?”

 

“Quite a violent murder, seemingly, but in truth, it was meticulous. He created the messiest wound, blood splatter everywhere, which suggests his lust for the murder itself. But that's the problem with normal people, they're so pitifully eager to cast people in such an evil light.”

 

“He wasn't murdering for the kill.”

 

“No. Think about it, John. He always cut the underside of their hair; he wanted to leave them with their dignity, leave them pretty. The murder itself was messy, yes, but it was a quick death with the best way to watch them die without doing much of the work. A stab to the neck, blood everywhere, quick death, not much energy spared. He wasn't killing them because of who they were; he was killing them because of who they weren't.”

 

“Crime of passion, but… multiple.”

 

Sherlock sits up, scooting closer in his excitement, setting the box aside, hands reaching out mindlessly to land on one of John's crossed legs, fingers clenching tightly. “Close, but not quite. There was a woman who didn't love him, mother, lover, friend - someone - and he fixated on the chance to murder them. Obsession pushed him to follow through, but he couldn't, not on the blonde he really loved. He didn't thrill in the murder, hence the one stab, but he thrilled in their death, hence the messy spot he chose. As I said, tenacious, yet disgusting.”

 

John blinks, staring at him in awe. “How did you know that, Sherlock?”

 

“He took their hair, what he considered their most important feature. Just the way he murdered them was intimate enough, but taking the hair… John, that was the most important information of all.”

 

“Is that why you wanted to see their bank statements and look through his flat?”

 

Sherlock gave a shrug, but John could see the small grin on his face. “I wanted to, even after he turned himself in. Naturally, Lestrade agreed to no such thing, so we had to take his confession in stride. It matched, however. Personal trainer, took hair for personal reasons, didn't like killing, just couldn't stop. What a waste; that could've been fun.”

 

“And more people could have died,” John reminds, hiding his smile and dropping his voice to a scolding tone.

 

Sherlock clears his throat. “Yes, well… you're right.”

 

“Still… he turned himself in a mere two days after Lestrade called you, and yet, you figured out in that amount of time. We were just looking for proof from that point. You figured it out, Sherlock, from just the way they were murdered. Brilliant. Just brilliant.”

 

John watches Sherlock's smile flicker on his face, trying to be forced away, but failing. John's always praised Sherlock, simply because he is amazing. Usually, it can be annoying, but it's never not awe-inspiring. John's praise seems to please Sherlock, and he thinks about when they first met, when Sherlock had said that most people didn't like it, didn't like him.

 

“Thank you, John. It was just simple-”

 

“No,” John interrupts sharply, setting his tea aside, taking Sherlock's and moving it too. He grabs Sherlock's hands and stares into his eyes, needs him to hear what he's about to say. Sherlock looks at their conjoined fingers, throat bobbing, but John just continues with, “Sherlock, it's not just simple. If it was, everyone would do it. But you are extraordinary, you are… gifted. You're mind - how it works - is amazing, is incomparable; no one can do what you do, not like you, not even Mycroft. He may have taught you, he may even be as good as you, but you, Sherlock, you put it to good use, you save lives, you don't let it be used by higher power, and you never let it control you. What you do can be harsh, can be lonely, can be distasteful, but you do it anyway because not only are you a great mind, you are human. Sherlock, you're undoubtedly the best man I have ever had the honor to know.”

 

With that, John drops Sherlock's hands and sits back, pleased. He feels lighter now that he's said that, now that Sherlock knows that. His sincerity rings true, that much is clear.

 

He expects Sherlock to thank him, or laugh it off, or completely ignore the moment altogether. He even considers the possibility of Sherlock being bashful about it, though he rarely is. Mostly, he expects Sherlock to move on from the moment rather quickly and tackle the next file.

 

John does not expect Sherlock to tackle him.

 

John's back hits the couch, head pillowed by the cushion on the arm, and the air pushes from his lungs with an oomph. Sherlock follows the start of his own impact, landing right on top of him, bringing them chest to chest, nose to nose. John's legs have spread naturally, and Sherlock lays between them.

 

John blinks, Sherlock has bright eyes.

 

For the second time, Sherlock kisses him. It's actually quite gentle, a soft press of mouths, tender lips holding each other. A thank you, John realizes in a lightheaded daze.

 

Sherlock pulls away slightly, exhaling against John's lips, and John doesn't open his eyes, just stays perched on the edge of something. He waits, wondering if Sherlock will launch them off. When Sherlock's lips come back down harder, more insistent, curious… John relaxes into the fall.

 

It's brilliant; of course it is, it's Sherlock. But John is surprised by how interested he is in these events. Everything with Sherlock is emotional, led by the depth of his love, not the urgency of his lust. John's never actually thought of Sherlock as someone to shag, though he's been attracted to him since he met him. Sherlock is very handsome; he's tall, has perfect cheekbones, is smooth, and the rumbling timber of his voice can make even the straightest man tremble. Gay or not - which John isn't - Sherlock is a very attractive man.

 

But he's always been an abstract thought, to John at least. Unobtainable, uninterested, undesiring. He's something John's mind has always brushed over, skittish at the thought, at least the part of him controlled by lust. Which John thinks, as his mouth gets plundered recklessly by him, is a crying shame.

 

As always, Sherlock is imperfectly perfect.

 

He has no shame in what he does; he doesn't care to stop sucking John's lips in his mouth, doesn't hesitate to sweep out and taste under his tongue, no doubt recording the results, and he doesn't seem embarrassed to react in either pleasure or dislike when John tries something. It's actually quite easy to navigate, and John is surprised that he'd ever expected this to be hard.

 

Because breathing is important, and he's been wanting to for forever, John tears his lips from Sherlock's and latches onto the pale expanse of his neck, sucking and nibbling away, imagining marking lovely bruises into his skin for the world to see, and why hasn't he fantasized about this before? Jesus.

 

Sherlock pants above him, and when he speaks, his words break apart around breathy laughter and surprised moans. “I thought that you - oh! - you were not gay? This-” he jolts when John rakes his teeth over the tendon beneath his ear, “this is considered homosexual behavior, John.”

 

John breaks away to beam up at Sherlock, pleased at the mess of hickeys he leaves behind. “I'm not gay, Sherlock. Sarah calls me the typical grumpy bisexual. You know… she's the only one whoever guessed it right.”

 

“You are a drama queen,” Sherlock states flatly, narrowing his eyes down at him. “All those times you violently denied that you were gay, you were just being a brat. I can't believe you.”

 

“I never said I was straight,” John chuckles, eyes roaming over Sherlock's throat. “Actually, I might have, I'm not sure. The thing is… I don't like men, not sexually at least; I like you. I looked it up after Sarah called me bisexual - there are things suggesting that I experience heterosexual sexual attraction, but homosexual romantic attraction. But that can't be right, because when I thought about it, I've been attracted to you since you deduced me when we first met. No, I'm bisexual. I'm attracted to women ninety-eight percent of the time, while you and that famous rugby player you hate are my two percent.”

 

Sherlock smiles above him. “I'm an exception.”

 

“Well, mostly. The rugby player-”

 

“Wears makeup and takes steroids. I'm an exception, John, you're exception.”

 

John chuckles. “Aren't you always?”

 

“Indeed. What now?”

 

“Well, we're equally inexperienced in this field, though I have references. Have you ever…?”

 

“You're asking if I'm a virgin.”

 

“I am.”

 

“It was never an interest of mine,” Sherlock mumbles defensively, frowning.

 

“That's fine,” John says quickly. “It's all fine. Inexperienced, like me. Good.”

 

Sherlock's face softens. “You are the epitome of sentiment, John Watson. You call on nostalgia without thought, drop off comfort without strain, care beyond measure without hesitation. Do you remember our first time in Angelo’s?”

 

“Mhm. Oh! Yes, yes I said those same words, didn't I? Something about you being unattached. You thought I was coming onto you,” John murmurs, laughter bubbling up in his chest.

 

“Were you?” Sherlock asks curiously.

 

John grins up at him. “I'm not sure, honestly. I was in awe of you, starstruck even. My befuddled mind didn't catch up until you mentioned I was, and then I balked at the mere suggestion.”

 

“I wonder what would have happened if I'd just went with it, assuming that we were dating.”

 

“Probably a lot more shagging.”

 

“Unlikely. I would have avoided that as much as possible, until I couldn't help it.”

 

“So… nothing would have changed?”

 

Sherlock smirks. “We've been a couple for a very long time, John.”

 

“Oh, shut up and kiss me, you cock,” John laughs, reaching up to tug him back down.

 

Sherlock seems more than eager to comply, humming into his lips, the vibrations travelling to his chest, warming him. They fall into it as fast and easy as they fall into everything else; it's practically routine now, shifting into their lives as simply as if it's always been there. John enjoys how it's new, yet perfectly normal all at once.

 

The things they've yet to do sit between them unspoken. Sherlock's fingers tremble when they crawl under John's jumper, curiously mapping out his skin, shaking every time he moves to a new unexplored spot. John arches into his touch, gives permission, encourages him to continue. And when Sherlock's arm is caught by the jumper, refusing him the chance to touch all of his torso, John sits up, breaking away with a deep breath and yanking the offending fabric away, lying back down and waiting.

 

Sherlock looks down at him with a furrowed brow, one hand trailing over his chest, moving cautiously over the war scar on his shoulder, brushing over the bumps and curves of every rib, settling near his belly-button. John watches his eyes roam, cataloging and recording, eager to investigate the details of his naked skin. It should put him off, but John's mostly fond of the curious delight in Sherlock's eyes.

 

“Can I?” Sherlock asks, and John has no idea what the question even is.

 

Still, he smirks and answers, “Obviously.”

 

Sherlock's head ducks immediately, curls lowering near his chin, and John sucks in a sharp breath when Sherlock's tongue sets about exploring. Of course, Sherlock would do this; he's a detective, an eccentric one at that, and John's witnessed him put horrible things in his mouth just for clues. This shouldn't surprise him, and it doesn't really, but Sherlock's tongue and mouth roaming all over him certainly ceases all functional brain activity.

 

John lets him do as he pleases, the chest being explored heaving hopelessly, and Sherlock pops up when he's done, apparently satisfied with all the mysteries he's solved with his tongue. John is very hot all over and his fingers itch to touch, so he drags Sherlock back to his mouth and tugs at his offending suit jacket all at the same time.

 

“You have to stop kissing me if you wish for me to disrobe,” Sherlock mumbles against his mouth, humming out a laugh when John makes a frustrated noise at him being right again.

 

John does pull away, mind whirling, images of what's to come suddenly breaking free from wherever he'd locked them away at. Sherlock sits back and casually starts taking off the top part of his suit, unbuttoning with efficient precision, long fingers flowing down his chest; John's mouth goes dry as he watches. Then, just then, it hits him what's happening.

 

“Be right back,” John announces abruptly, squirming his way off the couch, stumbling to the doorway. He pauses, holding himself at the threshold, looking at the confusion on Sherlock's face, and announces seriously, “Do not stop what you are doing; I will be back momentarily.”

 

Sherlock's eyebrows jump at the force of his words, but his fingers continue their endeavor immediately, seemingly without permission. “Aye aye, Captain Watson,” he replies smoothly, lips curling in a way that makes John want to fold into him and kiss him into oblivion.

 

John points at him, narrowing his eyes. “You are a flirt, you bastard. Keep going.”

 

Sherlock's soft laugh follows him out as he rushes to his room, practically bursting the door off its hinges in his haste. He makes quick work of the state of his bedside drawers, fumbling through them with sharp curses and mutters of annoyance. Once nearly everything in his drawer is haphazardly on his bed, he finds what he's been looking for.

 

For a brief moment, he holds up the lube, tilting his head at it. He'd bought it before Sherlock's “death” with the intentions to spice up his sexual life, figuring something besides a dry wank would do the trick. It had been opened once, and the mess of it had put him off entirely, so he'd thrown it in his drawer and left it, barely remembering it. He's more than thankful for it now as he dashes back to their sitting room, shutting the door as he enters again.

 

“Ah,” Sherlock concludes simply, as if John has answered his question, “lubricant.”

 

John doesn't deem that worthy of a response, eyes stuck on Sherlock in nothing but his suit trousers. Though he's smaller than most from lack of eating, he's incredibly beautiful. Thin, but lithe with effortless grace; John would tell him if Sherlock would do anything but roll his eyes at the words. John does not have enough vocabulary to explain just how he feels for Sherlock, and no words come to mind to describe just how bloody enticing he is.

 

Still, he's never been the type of lover who doesn't compliment his partner. “You have no idea just how handsome you are, do you?” he asks, genuinely curious, eyes roaming eagerly.

 

Sherlock looks down at himself briefly, then looks back up and shrugs. “Not that looks matter in the least, but I'm aware that I'm not horrific to look at like Mycroft is. I appreciate the sentiment anyway.”

 

“One, never mention Mycroft when we're about to shag ever again,” John states with a grimace, waving a hand and doing his best to wipe the offending brother from his mind, “and two, you are more than just not-horrific to look at… you're a pleasure to look at, Sherlock. Just in general, everything about you is a pleasure, but this too.”

 

“Is it customary to compliment your bed-partner in this situation?” Sherlock asks, frowning at John in confusion. “If so, I can assure you that you're more than just aesthetically pleasing, John.”

 

“You're fine,” John chuckles, moving back over to the couch. “Don't force it, just do whatever you want to do. Usually, in moments like this, it's always a good thing. And thank you for that.”

 

As John sits back down, a few feet from Sherlock, smiling up at him, Sherlock eyes the lube with narrowed eyes. “So, what exactly will that be used for? Or rather… who?”

 

Right. Right.

 

“I know the mechanics of it, as I'm sure you do, but I've never done it, so it will be-”

 

“I don't.”

 

“Pardon?” John asks, eyebrows raising.

 

Sherlock sighs. “I deleted it. While I've gathered some unwanted things from lewd comments from others over the years, the actual mechanics - as you say - is not something I've ever cared to know.”

 

“So… not gay, then?” John mutters, eyes wide.

 

“Oh, women have never been of interest of me, as you know. They've always been your specialty, not mine. Men, if anything, were more appealing, but not enough to have any sexuality applied to me. Donovan once called me an asexual freak, which I never cared to question, but it appears she's wrong about that after all,” Sherlock explains lightly.

 

John sets his shoulders and takes it in stride, nodding. “Alright. I'm assuming that you can deduce where… parts go.”

 

Sherlock arches an eyebrow. “If I wanted you to be anything but comfortable right now, I'd lie and say no. But I won't tease you; yes, I'm aware of what goes where and why the lube is necessary.”

 

“There doesn't have to be penetration, Sherlock. It can just be hands and mouths,” John blurts out, shrugging awkwardly. “If you're not ready for-”

 

“A gentleman you have always been, John. Tell me, when have I ever done anything halfway?”

 

“It's not halfway, it's just… taking it slow.”

 

“I don't particularly take things slow, but if that's what you want, I will. If it's for my sake, you can save it. I'd like to do everything with you because I'm curious, and desire seems to have chased away any anxiety I may have any other time.”

 

“Oh. Well, in that case, then fine.”

 

“Which begs the question,” Sherlock says, nodding to the lube, “who will have the honor of being on the receiving end of penetration?”

 

“You're taller,” John murmurs, like that has anything to do with anything at all.

 

Sherlock narrows his eyes. “You're wider.”

 

“Well, what's your preference?”

 

“I don't have one. Yours?”

 

“I haven't a clue,” John admits sheepishly.

 

“Well, you're usually more dominant in bed, and no, you don't want to know how I know that,” Sherlock hums, waving a hand at John's wide eyes. “Oh, you really do, alright then. You're smaller than most conventional men, and you have a desire for control, and you find comfort in falling into societal roles expected of most men, most likely in sex as well. There is also the way you walk after you've just shagged some woman, like you're powerful, as if you've conquered some war.”

 

The words fall out without permission. “For that, I'm going to bugger you until you can't walk,” John declares with a sharp tone.

 

Sherlock shrugs. “It's only fair, I suppose. I have most of the power in nearly everything we do elsewhere, except for when you bring out what I have fondly dubbed as the Captain John Watson voice. In this… I am comfortable with relinquishing some of that superiority.”

 

“You're a cock, you know that?”

 

“I'm aware.”

 

“Just checking.” John huffs out a laugh, looking around the room. “We can't shag here; the couch is too small, and it's where you do some of your best thinking. It'll be your room then.”

 

“Why not yours?”

 

“My bed is currently holding most of the contents of my room on it, and your bed is better. Plus, it's much closer. Now, off you pop, let's go.”

 

Sherlock purses his lips and rises fluidly, leading the way to his bedroom. John figures that since they're doing this, it can't hurt to look at Sherlock's bum. He's seen it, has even seen it naked due to Sherlock's dramatic actions in the Buckingham Palace, but he hasn't ever really allowed himself to consider it. Sherlock is perfect in nearly every way; in this, he hasn't failed either.

 

“My eyes are up here, John,” Sherlock teases as they enter his room, looking over his shoulder in open amusement.

 

“Shove off,” John replies automatically, eyes scanning the messy bedroom, rolling his eyes at the jars of fluids lining a shelf by the door. “Are sure this is where you want to have sex for the first time?”

 

“Don't be an idiot; the setting does not change what's to come, nor does it add value. Don't look that way, John, I have all plans to go into this with an open mind,” Sherlock cuts him off quickly, moving to sit on his bed. He scoots back until he's leaning against his wall, long legs crossed in front of him. “I can't promise how I will feel about it; sex has never been interesting to me, but I'm making the decision to try. In fact, I'm currently aroused.”

 

John reaches out and closes the door. “Right,” he chokes out, moving to sit on the end of the bed, clearing his throat. “Well, that's- that's good. Okay, so I want you to know you can stop me at anytime, and you have to tell me if you don't like something. If you've deleted it, the penetration can cause discomfort at first, but the idea is that you'll eventually find pleasure from it.”

 

“Obviously,” Sherlock says, waving a hand carelessly. “I have a prostate, which means that when stimulated, my body will betray me and feel pleasure from the intimate contact.”

 

John can't help it; a giggle slips out. The moment is just so surreal. Here he is, about to have sex with Sherlock Holmes, and they're talking clinically about it. In a way, it's a comfort, but mostly, it's hilarious. Sherlock seems to understand, because he giggles too, and then they're in a fit of hysterical laughter. John curls into himself, falling to his side on the bed, legs dangling off the end, and just laughs.

 

When he pops back up, John just stares at Sherlock fondly, and without thinking, announces, “I love you, Sherlock Holmes.”

 

Sherlock's smile falls away, leaving him to blinking rapidly in surprise. John has known it so long, he's forgotten that he's never actually said it. For the first time since they snogged on the couch, John feels a pinch of discomfort.

 

“A release of dopamine,” Sherlock murmurs, staring at John intently. “I knew that, but hearing the words rewards my brain. I could get high off that.”

 

John blinks. “You're… welcome?”

 

“Say it again.”

 

“I love you.”

 

“That makes no sense,” Sherlock breathes out, shaking his head. “But I shouldn't withhold my truth if you haven't. As you know, I love you.”

 

John does know this, has had it confirmed, but it still fills him with warmth and joy. And he understands what Sherlock means. Despite knowing that they love each other, saying it makes him feel… happy. Just happy. Pure, simple, lovely happiness.

 

John can't remember the last time he felt like this. When he came home to find Sherlock alive? When came home after leaving? After a good case? Back before all the fake deaths and confusing feelings? But all of that has been shrouded in something that obscured all of his joy, even just slightly. There is nothing getting in the way of this; nothing could ruin Sherlock telling him that he loves him.

 

Sherlock loves him, and for the first time in his hard life, John feels unashamed happiness.

 

John could cry, or curl in a ball and soak up this moment, or cover Sherlock's whole face in kisses. He settles for kissing though, or tries to. As he crosses the bed, Sherlock meets him halfway, hands grabbing his face and tugging him back down. John falls on top of him, and they're in parody of their position on the couch, just with John on top. John grabs onto whatever his hands land on - one in Sherlock's hair, the other cupping his neck - and kisses him with all he has.

 

There's a bit of fumbling as Sherlock shifts on his pillows comfortably, their chins knocking into each other, but they just give breathless laughs and keep on going. Kissing Sherlock is like coming home, like making tea, like solving a case, like wanting to live; it's everything.

 

But more than that… it's heated.

 

John first notices the anticipation and desire when the evidence of their arousal presses into each other, there and heavy and unlike anything John has ever felt before. It's not even sexy, actually, but knowing that Sherlock really is aroused only makes him more on board. And when he curiously diolates his hips, circling down smoothly, causing them to brush together, he finds the reaction is more than he'd hoped. Not only does he feel pleasure from the contact, but Sherlock grunts against his mouth and immediately seeks out to repeat the action.

 

“Take off your trousers,” John orders as soon as they break away for a breath.

 

Sherlock grins in amusement. “You're using your Captain voice again.”

 

“Shut up, you like it,” John retorts, fumbling with his own trousers.

 

“Astute observation, John,” Sherlock tells him, humming in approval, lifting his hips to push at his trousers, trying to shimmy them past his thighs.

 

John gives an annoyed growl and gives up on his own trousers, choosing instead to yank Sherlock's down and toss them away. “Thank you, Sherlock, now lift up a bit, please.”

 

Sherlock does while teasing, “So polite.”

 

John ignores him, kicking off his trousers and immediately turning his attention back to Sherlock. John thinks they have spent way too much talking and not kissing, so he goes about fixing that. He forces his cloudy mind to remember to rut against Sherlock every once in awhile, just to keep that small jolt of pleasure circulating between them.

 

John lets it build until he can't take it anymore, until his cock is almost removing his pants on its own, until Sherlock has his arms thrown around him to hold on tight, until they're basically just gasping into each other's mouths. Then, and only then, does he allow himself to slip his fingers under Sherlock's waistband of his pants, curiously brushing the tips of his fingers along a cock that's not his own.

 

Like Sherlock, it's tall and smooth, and John would laugh if he wasn't so preoccupied. After initial contact, he just throws all caution to the wind and full out grabs on, wrapping fingers around the shaft and waiting for protest. If there is the opposite of protesting out there - accepting, John's hazy mind provides - then that's what Sherlock does.

 

He never even twitches, just goes on kissing John as if that's all he needs right now. John supposes that's fair; it's just a hand. So, to test a theory, he pumps his fist slowly, squeezing slightly. Sherlock arches slightly, muffling a sound against his mouth, and that just won't do. John pulls away quickly.

 

“We need to remove our pants,” John says reasonably, pulling his hand out of Sherlock's pants and quickly removing his own.

 

Sherlock pauses in taking his off, staring at John's cock with unabashed curiosity. “You're wider,” he announces in slight surprise, continuing in shoving his pants off and throwing them across the room.

 

John smirks at him. “You're taller.”

 

“That's meant to go in me?” Sherlock checks, still eyeing John's cock.

 

“I'll have you know, my cock is very average, Sherlock,” John tells him in faint amusement, rolling his eyes. “And you needn't worry about things. If you don't wish for it to go in you, it won't.”

 

Sherlock eyes him, lips pursed. “I want you to do what you did with your hand, but with your mouth.”

 

“What?” John says, blinking.

 

“The texture and temperature is certainly going to be better, which means that I will enjoy that even more than your hand. It is something people do during sex, isn't it?” Sherlock explains seriously.

 

John gives a nod. “Yes, but I've never-”

 

“Would you like me to do it to you?” Sherlock asks, watching him expectantly.

 

John would like that very much, because Sherlock would try absolutely everything and would probably be perfect at it too. But for once, John wants to be the one to go into something recklessly. It's safe, he knows, but Sherlock hasn't experienced either way, in either direction, so he'll be wholly unprepared.

 

“Maybe after,” John says.

 

Then, without preamble, John scoots down, grabs Sherlock's cock, and wraps his lips around him. He pauses for a moment, all references leaving his head, and has to scramble to figure out what in the hell he's doing. Sherlock looks down at him, an eyebrow cocked impatiently, and John remembers every time he's ever been sucked off.

 

Right.

 

Revenge is lovely, John relishes in it. When he wets the tip with his tongue, swirling and pushing himself down, Sherlock gives such a look of surprise that John nearly pulls off to laugh. But Sherlock slams his head back, his chest expanding as he sucks in a deep breath of air, and John closes his eyes to continue what he's doing.

 

He tries to imitate what he's experienced, the sucking, the hollowed cheeks, the humming - it's actually a bit like eating a lolly enthusiastically. Sherlock's fingers clench in the covers, and he keeps sucking in deep breaths, chest rising up, up, up. John isn't prepared for Sherlock's hips to jerk, and he finds himself none too pleased to be stabbed in the back of his throat with a cock.

 

No, he's not a fan of that.

 

He comes off with a pop, coughing slightly, and Sherlock's head snaps up, eyes bleary but narrowed in offense. “Why are you stopping?”

 

“Too soon for coming, Sherlock,” John says simply, lifting himself up and hobbling on his knees to flop down beside him. “Now, we can go on with the shagging if you don't want to-”

 

“I want to,” Sherlock replies immediately.

 

John blinks rapidly, a knot of anticipation tightening in his gut when Sherlock slinks down the bed, fluidly sliding like a bloody seductress to put himself eye-level with John's cock. He stares at it, gaze scanning it, most likely deducing so many things John doesn't want to hear by simply looking at it. But Sherlock says nothing, just leans forward and takes John right in his mouth.

 

Surprisingly, it's not perfect. Honestly, it's a bit sloppy and rushed; John can tell he's not a fan of it. But he also has no gag-reflex, so John's a gasping mess by the time Sherlock pulls away without warning and crawls up beside him.

 

John heaves a deep breath. “Christ, Sherlock.”

 

“Bored,” Sherlock replies blandly. “Let's do something else. We should kiss again; I do so like that part.”

 

“Okay,” John laughs, amused and kind of relieved that Sherlock is still himself, even amongst sex of all things, “fair enough. Onto kissing and sex.”

 

Sherlock seems pleased at the new plan and hums happily into the kiss when John gives it. Amusement wipes away to be replaced by their earlier urgency, and John deepens the kiss on instinct. The lube was lost somewhere near his knee, and without breaking the kiss, John fumbles around for it. He gives a small groan of victory when he locates it and pushes himself up to hover over Sherlock, pushing back into the pillows. And just as before, he sits at ease between Sherlock's legs, sprawled out on top of him.

 

Sherlock pulls back, tipping his head, inviting John to have a go at his neck. “Are you going to-”

 

“Mhm,” John hums into his skin, sucking a spot near his Adam's apple, marking him again.

 

At John's confirmation, Sherlock spread his legs farther and takes a steadying breath. He doesn't seem frightened or nervous, but John has all intentions to make this as painless as possible. He is short enough that he has to scoot down Sherlock's body, turn his mouth's attention to his chest instead, pleased with marking him there as well, just to get the right angle to reach between Sherlock's legs after coating his fingers in lube.

 

John doesn't think this part can be sexy, or even fun, but he's surprised to find himself even more aroused when a finger slides in just to his knuckle and it's very, very tight. His brain, so focused on sex, immediately reminds him that the tight heat surrounding his finger will soon envelop his cock. Which, that's more than sexy and fun; it's absolutely fantastic is what that is.

 

Sherlock just keeps breathing, calm as ever, relaxed as possible. John knows it has to twinge a bit, but Sherlock doesn't seem affected in any way.

 

He continues to take it slow, just a gentle probing, and he's content to lap at the dips in Sherlock's chest, pressing gentle kisses to his skin. He's even more pleased when his finger starts gliding in and out without resistance not too long after. Sherlock spreads his legs even farther, and John remembers thinking how flexible he is.

 

“I'm fine, you can add another,” Sherlock answers his unasked question.

 

John tentatively does as he's told, carefully adding in a second. Sherlock hisses slightly, and John immediately stops. At the pause, Sherlock picks his head up to glare at him, determination etched into all of his features. Right then. John takes it slow still, watches the annoyance on Sherlock's face slowly loosen into consideration.

 

John pushes his fingers in and turns his hand to the side, aware Sherlock needs to be stretched out completely before he can actually do anything, and Sherlock jolts so hard that headboard knocks into the wall. John stops again, worried.

 

“Alright?” John asks cautiously.

 

“You've found my prostate,” Sherlock informs him, voice tight and strangled.

 

John fights a smile. “Ah. I take it you'd enjoy it if I did that again, yeah?”

 

Sherlock answers him by rolling his hips down on John's fingers, shuddering as he does. John assumes it's best not to move his hand, just lets Sherlock find his own pleasure for a moment. Learning your own body and how it reacts to pleasure is important, John thinks, so he uses the moment to reach with his free hand and pour even more lube on the hand Sherlock fucks himself on.

 

The more Sherlock rocks, the easier John's hand glides, and the lube only makes it easier. The faster Sherlock moves, the heavier his breathing becomes, the more hazy his eyes get, the more his breath pushing out of him start to resemble moans. And John is very pleased to see that Sherlock is finally enjoying himself with sex.

 

Then, Sherlock suddenly stops, snaps, “I feel empty, I need more. It's inaccurate, but it's my body's way of informing me that I'm ready for penetration by you.”

 

John pulls his hand free immediately, blinking in surprise when Sherlock groans in disappointment. They stare at each other for a moment, startled by such a noise leaving him, and John blinks when Sherlock's cheeks bleed with red. He's never actually seen Sherlock blush either; it's all around a moment of complete shock. But John doesn't want him to be embarrassed, so he sets to work doing what Sherlock wants from him.

 

Like always.

 

John uses the lube from his hand to lather his cock, pouring some more out for good measure. He leans back and lines himself up, bracing one hand on Sherlock's raised knee. Carefully and ever-so-slowly, John pushes his way in, taking it a centimeter at a time, hissing through his teeth.

 

“Is it uncomfortable?” Sherlock asks through gritted teeth, face pinched.

 

John tries to breathe. “It's- it's tight, Sherlock. Tight, and hot, and perfect. It's the farthest from uncomfortable I've ever gotten. And you?”

 

Sherlock wriggles his hips, wincing. “For an average cock, it certainly feels like a lot, but at least I no longer feel empty. Give me a moment.”

 

John does, breathing deeply, closing his eyes. Sherlock eventually relaxes, humming. He clenches around John experimentally, no doubt curious, and John keens, nearly folding in half, his hips jerking out slightly. He immediately freezes, eyes peeling open.

 

“I'm sorry,” John says quickly.

 

“You may move, John. I've adjusted… just take it slow,” Sherlock replies.

 

It takes all the effort he's ever exerted to roll his hips back in slowly. Sherlock merely looks up at him, waiting. John breathes again, shaky and on edge, and slowly drags out, pushing back in just as carefully. Sherlock pulls him down for a kiss, apparently his favorite thing, and John props himself on his elbows, keeping his gentle pace.

 

They kiss for awhile, and after a bit, John's cock slides in and out easily. Sherlock doesn't seem opposed to him speeding up, so he does in increments. The only indication that Sherlock's enjoying himself is the grip he has on John's shoulders, fingers digging in hard enough to bruise, a completely unconscious gesture.

 

John soon grows uncomfortable with the position and has no choice but to pull back, balancing himself on his knees. He grabs Sherlock's knees and folds them farther apart, changing the angle slightly. Sherlock lifts his hips, getting comfortable there, and John gives an experimental thrust, deep and quick.

 

“You okay?” John asks immediately after.

 

Sherlock swallows. “Do that again.”

 

Right, okay.

 

John does it again, pushing his hips forward sharply, and Sherlock closes his eyes, breath leaving him in one gust. And that's what John's been waiting for, that look of pleasure.

 

John repeats the motion over and over, faster and harder, biting his lip so he won't moan like an idiot. Sherlock is clenching everything, his jaw, his eyes, his arse, his muscles. John knows he isn't going to come, that just doesn't happen that easily, but something has to give; Sherlock's seconds from breaking, or imploding, or something.

 

John finds out what when Sherlock's jaw unhinges and a curse passes his lips, followed quickly by a moan that he clearly tries to swallow. John isn't about to have that, so he plants his knees, angles his hips a certain way - he is a doctor; he knows exactly where the prostate is - and rolls his way in.

 

He gets his desired results as Sherlock has apparently stopped overthinking it, just groans and shudders and reaches up with a scrambling grip to hang onto something.

 

John knows this part. He knows how to tease, how to drive his lover's to the edge, knows how to distinguish when they like something and when they don't. John does not skimp on his talents here; he fucks Sherlock like it's going to be his last shag. He savors every moment, pushes Sherlock to trembling and breaking around moans, and tries not to lose his grip on his pleasure way too early.

 

Somethings can't be helped though, because John can feel himself about to snap. He goes slower, barely pulling out, barely rocking back in, and reaches down to rub his hand up and down Sherlock's cock. At the unexpected sensation, Sherlock's eyes snap open in surprise, and John immediately falls in love with the cloudiness of them.

 

Sherlock is finally rendered silent.

 

John hurries back up, practically encouraging them to find release, and he speeds up his hand. John gives one good thrust, twist his hand just right, and Sherlock comes with a hoarse shout of surprise, garbled sound something between John's name and curse. John is right there with him, yanking out and coming on the bed, staring at Sherlock's mess near his belly-button in bemusement.

 

No matter, John is boneless now and couldn't give two shits about the mess on them. He falls beside Sherlock, panting and nearly high off his orgasm. They just lie there until their gasps turn to easy breathing, quiet and spent.

 

Then, “That was… messy.”

 

John turns to stare at him. “All that, and you decide that's the most important deduction.”

 

“The others should be fairly obvious,” Sherlock says, sitting up and moving to the door. “That was messy, and wonderful, and we shall be doing that again.”

 

With that, Sherlock leaves, and John can hear the faint sounds of the tap running. John grins at the ceiling, amused and pleased and stupidly proud of himself. He's still victorious when Sherlock comes back in and throws a wet hand-towel at him, smacking him in the face with it.

 

“Oi!” John yells in offense, snatching it away and glaring up at the amused Sherlock.

 

“You were being smug again,” Sherlock points out simply. “Now, clean yourself. We need a nap before we do it again, this time with me straddling you.”

 

John blinks. “Oh no.”

 

“What?” Sherlock asks, narrowing his eyes.

 

“You're going to be a sex-fiend, aren't you? When you get bored, I'm going to have to shag you.”

 

“Are you complaining?”

 

John starts cleaning himself off. “Oh god, no.”

 

Sherlock smiles, leaning against the doorway, completely starkers. “I feel the same, mostly.”

 

“Did you expect not to?” John asks.

 

“I feared I'd become ordinary,” Sherlock admits.

 

“Are you still the superior prat I've fallen in love with?” John teases.

 

“The very one.”

 

“I wouldn't have you any other way, you know.”

 

Sherlock hums and moves over to the bed, crawling up to settle beside John, staring at him. “I'm aware. I just can't believe I ever thought this was a weakness. I feel like I could solve three of the hardest cases back to back and still be home to shag you before dinner. This is brilliant.”

 

John puts aside the towel, poking at Sherlock and pushing himself into his side, resting his head on Sherlock's chest, eyes closing. “Yes, well, even you can be surprised, Sherlock.”

 

Sherlock doesn't even reply, fast asleep, and John follows him as he always does, drifting off into peaceful sleep without nightmares.

Chapter Text

Things don't change, not that Sherlock truly expects them to. Mostly, the same routine rotates in his daily life; intimacy is his only addition.

 

They still take clients, still work cases, still work with Lestrade, still humor Mycroft on certain occasions. Nothing within their flat changes either. The skull still sits on the mantle, less judgemental after they'd finally had sex; the kitchen is still overrun with experiments, most of which John still fusses about; John still has his bedroom, using it when Sherlock has plans to stay up all night, ignoring it when they have sex and fall asleep together; they still drink tea, John still conducts his blog, Sherlock still plays his violin at the worst time of the night; they keep right on being them as if nothing has changed.

 

While most things haven't, the changes that have happened are stark and clear.

 

John professes his love with ease, never faltering, warm and pleased in his truth, and Sherlock always feels the reward like a stroke to his mind. He's still trying to work out why John telling him those trivial three words means so much, but he doesn't let the mystery hold him back from returning the idiotic sentiment. When handed to him, Sherlock has no choice but to return the words to John, simply because the sweetness of them causes him to ache in a way he hasn't felt in years.

 

Sex, of course, is less of a problem than he imagined. While messy and uncertain, it is quite pleasing to do. In fact, having sex with John practically saves lives. If there is a case that's proving to be difficult, Sherlock can drag John off to the bedroom and return with a thriving mind, nearly solving the case in minutes every time. And sometimes, they have sex just because they want to, just because John wears Sherlock's favorite jumper, just because Sherlock mocks John's favorite program on the telly, just because Mrs. Hudson teases them about being right about them all along when she comes around with tea and biscuits and a playful smile. There's a freedom in sex, and Sherlock enjoys it far more than he has ever expected to.

 

They stumble, at first, when faced with what they are to each other. Molly says married with an air of a woman working very hard not to eye up someone else's husband; Sherlock and John work together to find her a suitable man. Lestrade just ribs them about it relentlessly, mocking and cajoling good-naturedly until Sherlock firmly confirms that yes, John does the fucking and makes the Detective flush bright red, never to tease them again. Mycroft offers to officiate the marriage papers he's had drawn up since he first ever spoke to John - which John is mystified that Mycroft hadn't been joking then - but they both agree to decide on that on much later date, Sherlock because he knows John would want a real wedding, and John because he knows Sherlock wouldn't. They'll get there eventually.

 

Mrs. Hudson, unsurprisingly, provides them with the only answer that fits. She taps their cheeks, pinching slightly in joy, and declares them her boys, saying that they'd always be Sherlock Holmes and John Watson to her regardless.

 

In the end, they settle with that. They're just them, living in 221B Baker Street, solving cases, having arguments that they both love and pout about in equal measure. Out in public, in the eye of the media, they don't go out of their way to make a statement. But John doesn't refrain from holding Sherlock's hand when he gets too riled up or frustrated, and Sherlock has no qualms about announcing that they have to leave and have sex very promptly. Naturally, the media explodes over it, and John resigns himself to ignoring the newspapers around the city.

 

Sherlock is pleased to find his life almost exactly the same as always, only improved by the new additions.

 

One morning, something feels different.

 

John's up earlier than him, which never happens when they fall asleep together, and he's sitting in his chair when Sherlock enters the sitting room. His eyes are distant, cloudy with some faraway thoughts, mind working far harder than an idiot's should. He doesn't look up when Sherlock enters, doesn't greet him, doesn't say anything, and Sherlock is immediately discomforted by the stillness.

 

“John?” he greets quietly.

 

John does not look at him when he says, “It's been six months, did you know?”

 

Sherlock immediately files away in his mind, recalling what happened six months ago in mere seconds. Ah, his return. “Yes,” he says, because he does know.

 

“I remember thinking, before you were back, that the next six months were going to be as hard as the first, that they'd go by and it would be a year, and I still wouldn't understand how to live without you.”

 

“This date is important to you. Are we going to make it our anniversary? John, you know I don't really do sentimental things such as-”

 

“Sherlock,” John says, blinking and finally looking at him, “you were gone, dead, and I… I wanted to follow right along after you.”

 

Sherlock moves over to the couch, settling on it and crossing his legs. “You wouldn't have; you knew I wouldn't have wanted that.”

 

“I know. I would have… kept on going, I suppose. A year would have come, then two, maybe three, and I still would have ached,” John admits quietly.

 

“You might've found someone,” Sherlock suggests, fighting the urge to curl his lip in disgust.

 

John smiles slightly, looking down at the twisted fingers in his lap. “A nice woman, blonde maybe, very pretty, would be stern with me. Margret, or Sylvia, or Mary.”

 

“Seemingly normal and kind. You would have fell for her easily,” Sherlock says softly, frowning out the window at the thought. “She would have helped you heal, like I have before, and you'd want to marry her. By then, I'd have come back in your life.”

 

John looks up, scoffing. “I would have been so angry with you, Sherlock. You'd have popped up out of nowhere, without warning, probably in the middle of the very date where I'd propose, because you're a cock with impeccable timing.”

 

Sherlock looked over at him in surprise. “You would have been miffed at my return?”

 

“More that miffed, Sherlock, I would have probably attacked you worse than I had when you actually returned. It would have been even worse because I'd be ready to take the final step with someone I love when the supposedly dead love-of-my-life just randomly shows back up. I would have hated you as much as I loved you.”

 

“You would have stayed with her.”

 

“Yes. We'd have lived together, happily, having kids, and you'd have been the best man at my wedding.”

 

“We'd have gotten too close at some point though.”

 

“Oh, sure. Probably on stag night, when we'd drank too much. I'd have stopped controlling myself so much, probably touched you intimately, maybe even let you know that I wouldn't mind if it would go further. But you wouldn't act on it.”

 

“No, I wouldn't have. I wouldn't ever compromise your happiness, John, no matter my own.”

 

John gives him a sad smile. “I'd still have loved you, and you'd still have been in my life.”

 

“Of course,” Sherlock agrees. “The woman, your wife, she'd have insisted on it. Stern, as you said, and probably perceptive as most of the woman you've seeked after before, she would have known how important I was to you. She would love you, truly love you, so she'd want you to be happy, even if we weren't always on the best of terms.”

 

“She'd probably turn out to be a bloody criminal, or a spy, or an assassin, knowing me,” John chuckles weakly, shaking his head. “That'd be just my life.”

 

“I'd figure it out; she'd shoot me,” Sherlock says, lips twitching in faint amusement.

 

John frowns. “You'd live, obviously. Me and her would have our issues, but if she was good - really good - I'd forgive her, though there would always be tension. Something would happen, something terrible, and it would come down between you two.”

 

“You wouldn't have to choose,” Sherlock tells him seriously. “We'd choose for you. Whomever you could live without, that's who would be gone.”

 

“That would leave me right where I am, maybe with a child, maybe not, but ultimately… with you.”

 

“I guess it's a good thing I called Mycroft for help with all this, isn't it?”

 

John just smiles. “Sherlock, we're always going to end up together, aren't we? No matter what we face, no matter what world we're in, no matter who else exists… it's always going to be us.”

 

“Quite frankly, I have little evidence suggesting otherwise,” Sherlock admits, shrugging shamelessly.

 

“One day, when Mrs. Hudson is gone, when we can't chase criminals anymore, when we've decided to rest, we'll leave this place and raise bees, and you'll be the crotchety old man who talks harshly to the youth and only softens in my presence. And one day, we'll die together, all at once, and that's going to be okay, because we'll have some other life to fall in love with each other all over again,” John muses softly, face radiant with joy.

 

Sherlock grins. “Maybe I'll be an angel this go around. You can be a non-believer.”

 

“Sounds like an adventure.”

 

“With the two of us, it always is.”