Chapter 1: Prologue
I don’t notice him until he's sliding into the seat across from me.
I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. Should I ever see him again. But John Watson is sitting five feet away from me with a shy smile that’s so familiar and my mind goes completely blank. It’s the same smile that made me want to put my mouth on his skin.
He waits. As naturally, patiently, as he used to all those years ago. It’s infuriating. I glare long enough that the shyness fades away and he glances down, sucking in a nervous breath before looking up to stare back at me once more. The hope now present in his gaze has my stomach twisting itself into knots.
“Is she late?” I try my best to keep my voice as uncaring and cold as I can, but the glint in his eyes tells me that he heard the slight crack as well.
And there it is. My name in that voice. He says it so casually. As if our hearts never beat against one another, for one another, beneath our chests. My right eye twitches as I dig my nails hard enough into my palm to draw blood. “Not coming, then?”
My name. That voice. It takes every ounce of restraint I have not to get up and walk away screaming ‘Fuck you, John Watson’ the whole way out the door of this godforsaken restaurant.
“Then why are you here?” I need there to be a date, some dull woman that will bore him to death. I need John Watson to not be sitting here in front of me, for me. I need the wooden box lying under my bed to help forget that this moment I’ve been dreaming of for so long ever happened.
“Don’t have one.”
‘Will you let me finish a damn sentence for once in your bloody life, Sherlock?’ will be the next question out of his mouth if I’m doing this right.
“Your acting like a child.” Ah. Still too patient with me. Doesn’t want to hurt me more than he already has. Have to go a bit deeper.
“Not much has changed then, hm?”
“That’s not what I-”
“That’s all I ever was to you, really.”
“Will you let me finish a damn sentence for once in your bloody life?”
There it is. “Wasn’t aware you were capable of it.” Didn’t say my name, though. Interesting.
“How can you be so cruel?” He leans forward, nostrils flaring with frustration and I can feel my body instinctively moving closer before I can stop myself. “It’s been years since...Well, since.”
The sharp bark of laughter that comes out of my throat startles us both. “Oh, believe me, I know how many years it’s been since you-”
“I know what I did!” The fierceness behind his voice hits me directly in my chest and I clench my fist to stop myself from visibly reacting to it. My heart slams so hard against my sternum I swear he can see it through my layers of clothes, He glances around at the attention he's attracted by yelling before quietly saying, “I know what I did was wrong. It was for-”
“If you say your own good-”
“Your own good.”
“-I’m walking out of here.” Our tumbled words leave us glaring at one another, both breathing hard. “Well. This has been lovely. Let’s not do it again sometime. Watson.” I spit the name, seeing the reaction play out in my mind before it happens.
It’s worse than I imagined. Unfortunately, I don’t move quickly enough and am left fighting with myself to say something else, anything to stop the hurt building in his eyes. Instead, I turn away before he can see the gleam in my own.
That voice. Dangerous. Possesses the power to erase all the time and space between us. Its gentleness has been resting in my heart, shut away from the light, like a silent bomb ready to detonate at any second. Five minutes ago would have been a proper time.
His face. His goddamn beautiful face brought me right back to a time where I knew what it felt like to have his body moving in tandem with mine. Back to when he slipped away from me like hours ticking away on a clock. He looked so small tonight and though I’m trying to cast the memory away from my mind, its all I can think about. He appeared vulnerable in a way that had me wanting to wrap him in my arms and never let go. Helpless in a way that reminded me of when he saved my life. When I’d opened my eyes and seen the frantic, desperate face of a man who I was convinced would stay by my side forever. Well, that one time in particular. There were many. Maybe he wasn’t as desperate to save my life the other times.
My mind and my heart feel as though they are being pulled in two different directions and the closer I get to my flat, the faster the memories I’ve managed to keep at bay for years invade my mind. Hands start to shake: when I first laid my eyes on him and that hunger started to build inside me at a rapid pace that I could not control nor did I want to. Scratch at my arm through my coat: that night. Knees buckle, lose my balance-
‘Who the hell are you, John Watson?’
Chapter 2: Safety in Numbness
Thank you all so much for such a beautiful response to this! ♥ It means the absolute world to me!
I’m reminded of how small the world felt in your absence
In the days after
How when we grew closer, everything felt possible
The world was our canvas and together we held the brush
All we could be
How far we could go
If only we trusted each other's strokes
If only you’d had the same breathtaking certainty that I had
-Canvas by Dovahlock221
Six minutes and thirty-four seconds after I ease the needle back out of my arm, my phone vibrates. It feels as though my entire bed is shaking as I laugh and laugh because I know that John fucking Watson just texted me.
And I know how much this is going to hurt, but curiosity is my weakness and I can’t bring myself to step off the collision course.
That didn’t go as I’d hoped.
What were you hoping for? How the hell did you get my number? Ugh. Mycroft. -SH
I throw the offending phone down by my side only to lift it back up a moment later.
You two seem close. -SH
Because I just can’t help myself. I want nothing more than to throw my phone at one of my four bare walls, in hopes that it will shatter and I can grasp the broken pieces in a tight fist. I also want to keep texting him and never stop. The feeling settles beneath my ribs. I haven’t felt this deep ache in years. It belongs solely to him.
He’s worried about you.
As am I.
Clearly an afterthought. I’d forgotten how heavy his words could be without ever really saying much. Or rather, saying what he means. Always been a damned mystery. Though I know he would say the same about me.
He sentt you. -SH The realization hits me as I type the words. There really was never any date. Stupid. Good. But...he also wasn’t there on his own accord. I glance at the needle lying on the floor. Again? No. Need to know what he’s going to say next. I watch as the dots appear and disappear twice, displaying his...heasitance? Damn. Two ts.
What are you doing right now?
None of your concern. That will make him concerned. I don’t want that. Do I? Toss the phone on the Persian rug Mycroft sent as an obligatory housewarming gift. As if there could ever be anything warm about this place. Though burning it to the ground might do the trick. Now the wooden floors are vibrating. I sneer at the thin, offending rug as I pick my phone back up.
You’re taking quite a long time to text me back. What are you doing? I can hear the emphasis on the ‘doing’ as clearly as if he was lying beside me. I wish he was and I hate myself for wishing.
I can’t think of a single thing to say. No lie. No excuse for the misspelling. This hollow feeling in my mind, my chest is one I’m not accustomed to. Not anymore.
Four minutes. It took John Watson four minutes and thirteen seconds to make me feel all of this.
My heart is racing so I close my eyes to try and focus on anything other than the fast, painful rhythm of the damned thing. “Fuck you, John Watson,” I whisper, momentarily breaking the silence of my room.
It only hits me as I’m drifting off that he had a cane leaning against his chair at the restaurant.
Chapter 3: Mouthful of Useless Words
The door. And a voice. An angry, fierce voice punctuated by a fist against wood.
“-the goddamn door!”
Did I say that? No. I know that voice; it’s haunted me for eight years.
Footsteps.Three impacts.Walking cane.
Pounding. Pounding. Pounding. The harsh sound jolts me from sleep. Takes me a moment to realize that the pounding is not my own beating heart- Footsteps...three impacts...there should only be two-... The door. And a voice. An angry, fierce voice punctuated by a fist against wood.
“-the goddamn door!”
Did I say that? No. I know that voice; it’s haunted me for eight years.
“No. I’ve got it. Thanks, mate.” A door slams. “Your landlord is a prick.”
Ah, wonderful . John Watson is standing by my front door, one hand on the handle (prepared to walk out?) illuminated by the flickering, dim light bulb hanging above that I’m too lazy to reach up and screw in all the way.
“Never bothers me much.”
“This is...some...place you’ve got here.” He glances around before reaching up to twist the lightbulb into place. It makes me want to scream. I can feel the judgment from where I’m sprawled on my bed. As if he has any right to be here.
“Did you come here just to insult me?” I sit up, blinking rapidly to clear the black dots coating my vision, mostly from the damned light. My foot knocks against something on the floor and I wait until he looks away to judge some other part of my flat before looking down. As silently as I can, I push my foot against the wooden box to nudge it back under my bed.
“How long-” He stops. He knows . I look up to find him glaring at me so I mirror his gaze as I continue my quest.
“Hm?” Tilt my head in mock innocence just to watch his glare intensify.
His steadying breath almost ruins me. Almost . “How long did it take?”
“For what?’ I rise slowly, pulling my shirt over my head as I try to steady myself.
My hand is on the zipper of my trousers when he yelps and turns away, hand coming up to rub wearily over his face. “Jesus, Sherlock, can you-”
“Nothing you haven’t seen before.” But saying the words hurt and the realization of what I’m doing hurts . Because he hasn’t seen this version of me. “I don’t want you here,” I growl, covering my chest with my shirt as I brush past him.
His, “I know ”, is muffled by the slam of the bathroom door.
Chapter 4: Beautiful Stranger
I always thought the words and then were a prelude to something wonderful. Like seeing a ship come in or finding a note in your letterbox when you weren’t expecting one. That swift, surprising transition from nothing to everything.
Two little words that hold a world of promise.
And then the light pierced through the dark, forbidding sky, and the rain stopped falling.
And then I met you. -Lang Leav
Eight years earlier
The first time I see him feels like one of those ridiculous romance movies. Him standing by the front door, head down, beautiful eyes underneath long lashes, catching my gaze and holding it. I don’t really know if his eyes are beautiful, I’m too far away to tell, or if his eyelashes are very long, but standing here in a mess of sweaty bodies and drunken smiles, I can only see him. And he’s beautiful.
It’s the only word I can think of.
He’s surrounded by four less sweaty boys, presumably his friends. They’re talking and he occasionally nods his head to give the illusion that he’s listening, but his eyes are still on me. I suddenly have no idea what to do with my hands. The drink I’m holding hasn’t yet touched my lips, so I bring it to my mouth just to have something to do. And it goes down the wrong damn way. I pay no mind to the loud voice yelling in my ear to ask me if I’m ok. I’ve lost eye contact and now he’ll think I’m…-He’s smiling. Laughing at me? His smile is small, reaches his eyes, genuine. I want to kiss it off his face.
Caring is not- shut the fuck up Mycroft , I grimace and he frowns, tilting his head to the side and it’s too much. Eye contact this long- how long has it been? -and this intense is too much. I lift my hand, downing the drink and turning away, breaking the moment. I can visualize the disappointment written all over his face all too well. Or maybe he’s grateful.
The sounds around me come to life once more as I push through the swarm of bodies, ignoring the mindless chatter trying to swallow me whole and pulling a pack of cigarettes from my pocket. Smile as I wrench the back door open and feel the relief of frigid air rushing over me. Alone. Finally.
I’ve not been outside for more than two minutes before careful footsteps sound to my right and then-
“Hi. John Watson.”
I stare at the hand between us, imagining how it would feel against my skin. Pale, calloused. He’s shorter than I expected.
“You’re taller than I’d thought you’d be.” He drops his hand back to his side and clenching it into a fist, looking up at me from under- and damn everything to hell -long lashes.
“No, ah,” he laughs nervously. “It’s good-you’re a good-”
“Joking.” Our eyes meet and if I thought across the room was intense before it’s nothing compared to now. Close up his eyes are softer and they really are beautiful. Damn.
“Here,” he says, shrugging off his jacket and holding it out to me. “You must be freezing.” He glances down at my long-sleeved button-up, rolled up to my elbows. It is, in fact, freezing, but the warmth from the alcohol and his presence is enough.
“No,” dropping the half-burnt cigarette and crushing it under my foot.
“Why not?” He asks, trying to conceal the shiver that runs through his body.
“All your doing is solving a problem whilst creating another,”
“Jesus, fine. Here then.” He reaches out and it takes every ounce of self-control I have not to flinch or reach back. “May I?” he asks, already close enough for me to feel the heat radiating from his skin. I nod so he gently rolls down my sleeves before buttoning the cuffs, taking more time than we both know is necessary. Just when I think he’s going to pull away his hand moves down to clasp mine in the essence of a handshake.
“Let’s try this again. John Watson,” he says, smiling shyly, but also victoriously and I can’t help but laugh.
Chapter 5: Imprints
He said my name again. I clench my hands against white porcelain instead of punching the mirror. Squeeze my eyes shut against the harsh light. Did he somehow change every lightbulb while I was in the shower?
He’s still here when I step out of the bathroom dressed in a long sleeve shirt and pyjama bottoms, hands clenched in a tight fist to stop myself from ripping at the fabric currently setting my skin on fire.
He sits on my bed as if he belongs there. I know he’s staring at me. I can’t bring myself to do the same. Instead, I stare at the rug. It's been shoved, presumably by his foot. The corner is rolled.
“Down the sink?” Wrench a cabinet open and slam a glass down, filling it from the tap and draining it in a few large, painful gulps.
“Mhm. Broken syringes in the trash too, in case you were wondering.”
My skin crawls. “Nice. Satisfied?”
Can you get the hell out of my flat now?
“Not even close.” His voice is all too near. I spin, shoving my lower back against the counter when I see him moving across the floor towards me, tense hand stretched out.
Don’t. touch. me. I want to scream the words. Wrench myself sideways and create as much distance between us as possible. Before I can react, his skin is against mine and my brain stutters to a halt.
His warmth. A sensation I’ve not felt in years.
Never wanted to feel again after him. Images flash through my mind. Me, alone in his too-small bed, hovering my hand over the warmth left behind by his body. Our bodies, imprinted into the mattress. In my mind, this divot never right itself. Forever marked by him and I. The echoes of our movements amongst scratchy sheets lingering there forever.
In my mind, afterwards, he’d laid on a bed meant for us, alone. His body falling slightly to one side where I should have-
“Your heart is racing.” My thoughts come to an abrupt halt. His gentle fingertips are resting against the pulse point of my wrist, my sleeve pushed up - Let’s try this again. John Watson. - How is his touch still the same after all these years? Soft, caring. Too much. It’s all too-
I finally gain the strength to pull away, forcing as much disgust into the movement as I can and watch, pleased as it has the desired effect. His face falls from a frown to plain disappointment. And there’s the John Watson I remember.