If the man had thought that by coming at night he would catch Sherlock sleeping, he had been mistaken.
Sherlock was wide awake. The large, airy hotel room in Geneva was no more conducive to rest than his cramped, cluttered digs in London. Mycroft had been so insistent that Sherlock undertake this mission, so transparently hopeful that foreign climes would distract him from his troubles, that Sherlock had at last given in. But Mycroft had been mistaken. The only thing that troubled Sherlock was boredom, and the simple, if clandestine, transfer of data with which Mycroft had entrusted him had been boring to a shocking degree.
Sherlock watched the black-clad man slip in through the doors from the balcony. The man wasn’t large—shorter than Sherlock by at least a head, and slight besides, though he moved with a certain catlike grace. Sherlock held himself still as the man moved to the spindly ornate table that served as a desk and started rifling through the papers and drawers. It crossed his mind to simply let the man take what he’d come for. The exigencies of transient political power were nothing if not boring. But in the end, pride prevailed: he’d come for the documents, he’d retrieved the documents, and the documents were going back to London with him.
Sherlock gathered himself, flicked on the lights as suddenly as he could, and launched himself on the intruder.
Height, weight, and surprise should have given Sherlock the advantage, but the man fought well, clearly trained in close combat. Not only that, Sherlock realized, as the man freed a hand to reach for something strapped to the small of his back: he’d come armed.
Sherlock could feel the cold blade of the knife pressed between them as they grappled silently on the carpet’s lush pile. They were too entangled for either of them to get enough purchase to use it effectively, but Sherlock could feel the man starting to force the angle, the steel beginning to prick through the thin silk of his pajamas.
With a grunt of desperation, he used one hand to force some distance between them, and got the other one around the man’s hand on the knife hilt. Sherlock’s grip was strong, courtesy of long years of violin playing; he slowly, oh so slowly, turned the knife away from his own chest.
In a kind of stalemate, they rolled over once, twice. And then a horrible fate intervened. The intruder hit an obstacle—Sherlock’s discarded shoe, perhaps—and pitched forward onto the deadly point of his own blade.
Sherlock could feel, in his own hand, the resistance offered by skin, tissue, fat, as the knife slid home. Then a rush of blood—arterial, judging by its rate of flow—soaked them both as the man slumped heavily on top of him.
Panicked, Sherlock scrambled out from under, let the other man lie face down on the carpet as a pool of red spread out around him. In the heat of the fight, he’d never focused on the man’s face, and now, under the room’s tastefully muted light, he found himself staring at the back of the man’s head instead: short fair hair, a round skull, lines scored into the back of his neck by the sun.
Sherlock’s breath stuttered to a halt, the slick of blood on his shirt turning to ice. He tried to reason with himself. The resemblance was mere coincidence. There was no reason for John to be in Geneva, knife in hand.
Still, it was a long moment before Sherlock could force himself to flip the body over, and the relief that flooded him when he found the nose to be aquiline, not snub, the rapidly clouding eyes brown not blue, was almost too much to bear.
He barely made it to the washroom in time, spitting strings of bile into the fine porcelain toilet. Not much to bring up, at least; it had been days since he could stomach one of Geneva’s rich meals.
When the spasms passed, he dialed the number Mycroft had given him for emergencies.
“Allo,” A rough voice answered. Not Mycroft, of course—a local professional.
“J’ai tué un homme,” Sherlock said. He had always wondered how he would react, if he were to kill someone. Now he knew. His voice was level and his hands were steady, and he wished profoundly he’d just let the man take the bloody documents.
“Don’t move.” The voice on the phone switched to almost accentless English. “We’ll be right there.”
Mycroft’s people—two men and a woman—were skilled, silent, and dressed entirely in black.
“Shower, change, and get out of here,” said the one Sherlock had spoken to on the phone. “We’ll take care of the room and get the hotel staff squared away. Come back in the morning.”
“And the body?” Sherlock dared to ask. It was still lying in the middle of the room, ringed with blood. He couldn’t bring himself to look at it directly.
“We’ll take care of it,” said the man, as if he were discussing a stack of overdue library books.
When Sherlock got out of the shower, his soiled clothes had been removed and new ones laid out for him. He donned them, brushed past the people working in the room, and plunged into the carefully tended Genevan dark.
He walked aimlessly, glad of the lake wind on his face. The events of the night jangled along his veins. His own false vision haunted him. He hadn’t seen John in eight months; why would he imagine he saw him now, in the person of his attacker, in the person of the man he’d killed? He wasn’t angry at John, and as far as he knew, John wasn’t angry at him. They had parted ways amiably enough. Why would John’s face hover over such a scene of such violence?
Sometimes, Dr. Freud, a pipe is just a pipe, Sherlock told himself bitterly. And sometimes an old friend’s face is just a trick of the light.
His thoughts juddered and tripped across the past like an old-fashioned needle on a damaged record--landing now on the unknown intruder’s death, now on the circumstances of John’s leaving. Which, in the harsh light of memory, might not have been so amiable after all. Sherlock could hear his own voice, the tone of it, contemptuous and cold, even if he could not make out or remember his own words. He could feel the thud of the door as John left for the last time, overdubbing the thud of his assailant hitting the carpet.
When he looked down at his hands they were red.
Sherlock froze, but it was just the wash of light from a club’s neon sign. He hadn’t been walking aimlessly after all. Even after all these years, some part of his brain had cataloged the place most likely to have what he was looking for—should he ever need to look for it again.
He went inside.
The cocaine was ridiculously easy to procure, though some residual scruple made him buy it with his own funds rather than Mycroft’s. If the dealer was put out by Sherlock asking for distilled water and a kit, he didn’t show it. A few extra francs bought Sherlock a clean corner of the supply room, a syringe still in its sterile packaging, and a factory-sealed bottle of water. How very Swiss, he thought.
It had been three years, seven months and sixteen days since he’d done this, but his hands remembered as if he'd done it yesterday. He tied off with his belt and slid the needle into his vein. A drop of red welled up at the point of entry, and Sherlock waited for the drug to hit his system with keener anticipation than he felt about anything for the past eight months.
When it hit, the drug didn’t slow his thoughts or calm them, but it smoothed their passage wonderfully; it assuaged the horrible tangling and twisting, the stuttering and skipping, and turned everything into a bearable stream of noise and color.
Back in the club, Sherlock put his elbows on the bar and let it all wash over him—the pounding of electronic music, the smell of sweat and cologne and tobacco, the haze of lights. Sipping a vodka and lime, he let his gaze wander over the crowd. Mostly young, mostly male, entirely intoxicated. His eyes snagged on one figure—slim, blond, not much more than a boy. There was something about the square set of his shoulders, the subtle curve of his mouth.
Sherlock jerked his eyes away, horrified that it had happened again. But not before the youth had turned his head and caught him staring.
Heart hammering, Sherlock looked down at his glass, trying to let the clarity of the liquid there soothe him.
“Tu me paies un verre, beau gosse?”
The blond youth had materialized at his side. Up close, he was a little older than Sherlock had guessed, but he still looked entirely too much like a younger John: same height, same soft curve of jaw. But his blue eyes held a hint of cruelty that John’s never would.
It was for that reason, more than any other, that Sherlock said yes.
The youth seemed unsurprised by what Sherlock wanted.
He wasn’t a prostitute—Sherlock knew because he’d asked—but he wasn’t averse to sharing Sherlock’s remaining cocaine. He took Sherlock back to his grubby flat, pushed open the door, and said “no names, rosbif.”
With the flourish of a born showman, he drew a box of toys from beneath the bed. When Sherlock pointed to the wax candles, the youth’s red lips stretched into a wolfish grin.
The drug sometimes gave Sherlock the rare gift of leaving his body, of seeing himself, as it were, from the outside. And so it was now.
He watched the youth push him back onto the unmade bed and straddle him, unbuttoning his shirt with dexterous fingers. Drops of wax slid off the lit candle and fell towards him; they seemed to move so slowly Sherlock fancied he could see the tiny globules flatten as they hit bare skin. The heat of the wax barely registered, but sharp red marks rose in its wake. His sex began to fill and harden; he observed it curiously, as if it belonged to somebody else.
Above him, the youth’s face flushed, his breath came quicker. He was naked, too, though Sherlock couldn’t remember him taking off his clothes. Smiling as cruelly as Sherlock had known he would, he reached down and pressed a thumb into one of the burn marks. A single, blessed jolt of pain shot through Sherlock, a line tethering him to his own flesh. The youth slid the thumb into his mouth, slicking it with spit, and reached around to finger himself open.
The sensation of the youth lowering himself onto his cock was almost enough to throw Sherlock back into his body—so hot, so tight, so all-encompassing. He clung to his distance as if to a life raft—it was precious, this escape—but it was no use. The youth rode him with relentless skill, rocking, clenching, scraping his fingernails along the burns. A bright net of pleasure and pain closed around Sherlock, drew him inexorably into the cave of his flesh. He came with the force of a knife to the gut, and the youth followed him, spunk stinging against the raw places on Sherlock’s chest.
Afterwards, the youth, oddly fastidious, offered Sherlock a flannel and a tube of antibiotic cream. He propped himself against the headboard, a bottle of cheap brandy in his hand, watching Sherlock clean himself up.
“You want to go again?” he asked after a bit.
To his surprise, Sherlock did. He rarely did this kind of thing. He never did it at all when he was clean, truth be told, and he’d been clean for years. Until tonight. Now that he’d rejoined his body, it felt loose, open in a way it rarely did. Desirous. By way of answer he put a hand on the inside of the youth’s thigh, spreading his legs.
It was perfect for a while. Sherlock’s thoughts had finally slipped into a lower gear, and arousal came easily for once. The youth was loose and open too, still exquisitely oversensitive from the first time. Sherlock pulled one the boy’s legs over his shoulder, and found a good angle almost effortlessly, one that had the boy almost whimpering with pleasure.
Then he made the mistake of looking down. The youth’s eyes were closed, his face slack. Sherlock thrust into him again, and when the youth opened his eyes they were John’s eyes, his face John’s face, made beautiful by desire just as Sherlock knew John’s face would be, though he’d never seen it for himself. When the youth moaned, his voice was John’s voice, suffused with longing.
Everything crashed, went tight and tense again. Sherlock lost his grip on the youth’s hip and slid out of him, suddenly flaccid. He almost tumbled off the bed in his haste to get away.
“What the fuck?” the boy said, back to his own voice and face, but Sherlock ignored him, jamming his legs into his trousers, his feet into his shoes, and stumbling towards the door of the tiny flat.
“Enculé,” the youth called after him. “At least leave the coke.”
And then dawn was breaking and he was back at the hotel, with no idea of how he’d gotten there. Mycroft’s people were gone, and the room was exactly as it had been before the man with the knife had come through the French doors. The papers on the desk were in the same precise state of disarray and the carpet was so clean it might have been replaced. Probably had been replaced.
Sherlock showered, wincing a little as the flannel rubbed the raw places on his chest. He put on clean pajamas and headed toward the bed.
A piece of hotel stationary lay on the pillow. It read, “Come home. –M.,” though the handwriting was not Mycroft’s.
Sherlock lay down on top of the covers instead, sure that sex and drugs would accomplish what days of political intrigue had not.
But he could not sleep. As the drug left his system, the dizzying blur of thoughts returned. His mind raced while his limbs felt as heavy as lead. He had left his supply at the youth’s flat, after all, but even if it had been across the room he doubted he’d have had the strength to fetch it.
He lay there, a wakeful prisoner of his exhaustion, while voices from the past shrieked and jibed at him. The arguments he had had with John about Irene, as nonsensical in replay as they’d been at the time. His fury at John’s suggestion—made public on his blog—that Sherlock had been jilted by Irene. Had been in love with her, for God’s sake, when, really, all the time—
He wanted to tell John he’d killed a man. John, of all people, would understand. But when he whispered the fact aloud, all he could hear was John’s voice saying, “You’ve been the agent of so many men’s deaths—what difference could it possibly make to have done it with your own hands?”
The contempt in John’s voice sounded familiar. It was the same tone that had colored his own voice in the weeks before John left. A heavy knot of shame and regret formed in Sherlock’s stomach—another thing pinning him to the bed.
The day brightened and faded and dimmed into evening, and still the voices tortured him, kept at him through the night. At some point tea and sandwiches appeared, although Sherlock couldn’t remember calling down for them. Probably Mycroft’s way of letting him know that he knew Sherlock was still in Geneva. Probably thought he was lollygagging in some way. Sherlock didn’t want to think about what Mycroft would do if he knew Sherlock was prostrate on the 500-threadcount sheets, more or less incapable of getting up.
He didn’t touch the tea. He wasn’t hungry or thirsty, although he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since that vodka in the club. The voices, the memories, demanded all his attention.
As the shadows lengthened on the second day, John came into the room.
Sherlock sat bolt upright in bed, strangely terrified that the sounds inside his head had turned into a walking, talking hallucination.
He told it to go away, and waited for it to ridicule him the way the John-voice in his head had, but it simply brushed aside his protests in with the gruff diffidence Sherlock remembered from their days of living together.
That was unexpected. Sherlock gathered himself to question the apparition further: if this were a hallucination it was different than the others.
It claimed to have been sent by Mycroft to determine whether he was still alive—well, of course it did--and proceeded to check his vital signs. Which wasn’t the sort of behavior you’d expect from the emanation of a deteriorating mind. But was precisely the kind of thing John would do.
Its hands were warm as it opened his pajama shirt to press its stethoscope against his chest, and Sherlock had to turn his face away from that impersonal gentleness, the light in the room prisming through the sudden moisture in his eyes. The apparition buttoned his top again when it was done. If it saw the fading burn marks on his chest, it didn’t mention them.
But it did give him some minimalist medical advice: eat, rest, drink plenty of water. The kind of thing John had told him on a regular basis when they lived together.
It was confusing. Sherlock had gotten used to the idea that he was going crazy, seeing John in every face. How was he supposed to accept that this John might be real?
“You won’t be able to get a flight back to London tonight,” he said, testing, as the maybe-John finally packed away his instruments.
“That’s my lookout, isn’t it?” the apparition said, with quite John-like dryness, and left.
Sherlock missed him horribly when he was gone. Eight months was a long time, and it had been good to have John near him again, whether he had been a hallucination or not. He roused himself enough to call the front desk, and mustered enough Holmesian imperiousness to get the concierge to tell him that yes, a Dr. Watson was registered for the night. Sherlock even managed to procure the room number—the room directly above him, if his understanding of the hotel structure was correct.
He fell back onto the pillows, hardly daring to breathe. Apparitions didn’t need hotel rooms. They just faded away when they were out of sight. Maybe Sherlock hadn’t fallen completely over the edge of sanity. And more importantly, maybe John was here.
Before he was aware of what he was doing, he was through the French doors and on the balcony looking up. His legs shook under him, and his mouth was dry. But that didn’t matter, because the next balcony up was John’s. So close. But not close enough.
It wasn’t the simple matter it would have been if he’d been in better shape. His depth perception was shot to hell and several times handholds he thought were within easy reach eluded him. But he managed the ascent without falling into the busy boulevard below, and that was good enough.
He pushed through the French doors without much thought of stealth, and got half a step inside before someone knocked him down with a thumping blow to the shoulder.
Sherlock grinned; he couldn’t help it. He was quite sure that figments of one’s imagination do not set upon one with candlesticks.
“What are you doing here?” asked John. “Did you scale that hotel wall?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” Sherlock said.
John meticulously bisected a Klonapin. Sherlock took the proffered half, making a face at such niggardliness. But it worked as advertised, draining all the anxiety from his system and plunging him immediately into unconsciousness.
It tossed him back into wakefulness exactly four hours later.
The room was almost pitch black, heavy drapes drawn against the lakeside lights. He could feel the firm cushions of the sofa under him, and the weight of a thick hotel duvet over him. John must have tucked him in. Sherlock was glad of the covering: not for its warmth, which was almost stifling, but for the barrier it provided between him and the dark. Uncertainty had descended again, and the shadows seemed oddly mobile, swirling like the eddies of an underground pool.
Fighting panic, he lurched to his feet, dragging the duvet along like armor, and jerked the blinds open enough to reveal solid shapes, mapping and pinning down the darkness. He could see John now, curled in a ball on the bed, and moved towards him, curious and yet afraid of what he’d find.
The man in the bed looked like John, to be sure. Sherlock could make out the familiar blue check of his pajamas. The man slept the way John always slept—one hand under his cheek, his mouth slightly open. But Sherlock had been fooled before. He wished John slept bare-chested. If he could just see the skin under that layer of cotton, could trace the seams and puckering of the scars along John’s shoulder, he would be able to tell if this were John in truth—he knew he would.
Sherlock leaned closer, one hand going out involuntarily, as if to peel away John’s clothing, but before he could make contact, John came awake with a start, grunting and flicking on the bedside lamp.
“Christ, Sherlock, what’s wrong? You look like a bloody ghoul. ”
That was promising. Who but John could sound so annoyed whilst laying such a warm, steadying hand on Sherlock’s arm? But the worm of doubt remained.
“No.” Sherlock shook his head. “I just—“ He sat abruptly on the edge of the bed, trying to come up with a sane way to put it. “It’s just--. Would you—would you mind unbuttoning your top? I need to see--.” He paused, feeling ridiculous, but couldn’t help himself. “I need to know it’s really you.” He’d been trying for a dispassionate tone—gathering evidence, nothing more. But that wasn’t what came out.
All traces of annoyance left John’s face. “Really me?” he asked. “Sherlock, have you been hallucinating, the past few days? If you have, I need to know.”
“No, no. Just the tricks of an exhausted mind,” Sherlock lied. He made no protest when John pressed a hand to his forehead, then flipped Sherlock’s palm over to lay two fingers along his pulse. Then he pressed on. “But—would you, John? I—“
John released his wrist, and looked at Sherlock, an unreadable expression on his face. Not pity, Sherlock didn’t think—something halfway between worry and yearning. “I suppose so, if it’ll calm you down. Your heart’s going like a jackhammer.”
Deftly, his gaze never leaving Sherlock’s, John undid the buttons of his pajamas, drawing the material away from his left shoulder. And there, scored red against his pale flesh, were the scars of his surgery, the bullet’s original entry site dark at their center, like a ruined heart. Sherlock had never touched those marks, and he didn’t now, just lifted a hand again and circled them in the air, while impossible relief flooded through him.
“I don’t know what difference it makes,” John said softly. “If you can hallucinate the rest of me, surely you can hallucinate my scars too.”
But it did make a difference--against all reason, it did. Sherlock was about to explain when something, maybe the second wind of the Klonapin, slammed against the back of his skull, and he pitched forward precipitously, vision tunneling. He would have cracked his head on John’s collarbone if John hadn’t caught him on the way down, slowing his fall to a controlled collapse.
“You, my friend, are a wreck,” said John, settling Sherlock’s head on the pillow and scooting out of the bed to lift Sherlock’s feet onto it. “Here we go.”
John turned off the light. Sherlock expected him to move away, then, to take Sherlock’s place on the couch. But with the few shards of consciousness left him, he was aware of John moving around to the other side of the bed and lying down on top of the covers, propped on one elbow, watching him.
It was broad daylight when Sherlock woke again, and John, dressed in yesterday’s clothes, hair damp from the shower, was just tipping the elaborately liveried hotel employee who had brought in breakfast.
“No, don’t get up,” John said when he noticed Sherlock stirring. “I had them bring a tray for you, as if you were a proper invalid.”
He set eggs and toast and tea in front of Sherlock, and crossed his arms—a gesture that said “eat or I’m considering hospitalization,” more clearly than any words.
Sherlock forced it down, though it caught like sawdust in his throat.
John nodded tersely when he’d done. “Right. I’m going out—I need another set of clothes.”
Sherlock drifted. For all that he’d only occupied them for a few hours, the bed clothes smelled amazingly like John—of cheap Boots shampoo, and clinic antiseptic, and beneath that something musky and soft that was only John. Sherlock knew there were olfactory hallucinations as well as everything else, but he didn’t think this was one. It kept the demons away too effectively.
It was almost teatime when John returned, and Sherlock had only just managed to drag himself from the bed to the sofa and send for his things from the other room. John was wearing a blue cashmere sweater that brought out the color of his eyes, and stirred Sherlock in ways he’d thought he was too debilitated for.
“People will start thinking you’re Mycroft’s kept man,” he said, to distract John from the flush rising in his cheeks. He wondered, for a moment, exactly how Mycroft had convinced John to undertake this assignment, but he pushed the thought away.
John huffed good-naturedly and rang for more food.
Food that Sherlock suspected he’d surreptitiously drugged, because halfway through the Coq au Vin Sherlock was nodding off again. He fell asleep on the sofa, bread roll still clutched in one hand.
The night before seemed to have brought them to some unspoken agreement, however. So when Sherlock found himself, sometime after midnight, hovering at the side of the bed, John silently pulled back the covers, moved over, and made room for him.
Every night, John slept, and Sherlock watched him sleep. Sherlock would drop off towards morning, and if John, in his turn, watched him, he did not know. By the time he awoke, John would be gone, pursuing whatever tourist activities he was using to amuse himself while he waited for Sherlock to be well enough to manage the flight home. When he returned, Sherlock would have shifted to the sofa; they would eat, and it would begin again.
It was nothing they had ever done in Baker Street, and even now, they were careful not to touch. It was oddly satisfying, nonetheless: to feel John’s weight beside him on the mattress, to listen to him breathing, to see his mouth purse and crinkle as he dreamed. It smoothed the current of Sherlock’s thoughts, stilled the shadows of the night, and drew a firm line between the real and the unreal. He could be content with just this, Sherlock thought. This would be enough.
And so it happened that John was asleep and Sherlock awake when a second attempt was made to take the documents.
Just let them have the wretched things, urged a voice in Sherlock’s head, but he ignored it. John was involved now, and would be in the path of Mycroft’s rage if things went pear-shaped
Once bitten twice shy, however, and this time he slipped his phone off the nightstand as soon as the curtains trembled. The text was preset and went silently.
Mycroft’s people appeared even more quickly than Sherlock had expected. He tried not to think about what that meant about how closely they had been observing the room and to be grateful instead about the lack of blood.
He and John watched as a pair of discreet professionals cuffed the intruder. One of them handed Sherlock a note: “Home. Now. –M.”
“The hotel might want to think about investing in some motion sensors for those balconies,” John remarked as he closed the door after the two men and their charge.
He came to stand in front of Sherlock. “What a pair of old duffers we are, in our dressing gowns and carpet slippers.”
Then he reached up, tangled his hand in Sherlock’s hair, and pulled him into a kiss.
It was a cascade of sensation, a white hot burst. Sherlock drew back so sharply he almost stumbled. He stared at the spotless carpet, willing his heart to stop ricocheting around his chest.
“Sorry,” John said. “Sorry.”
But when Sherlock risked a glance up, John didn’t look sorry at all. He looked—fearless. As focused as if he were sighting down the barrel of a gun. How could Sherlock have forgotten that only John could look that way?
“It’s just--” John continued. “It’s just that—since I left—I’ve sometimes thought—that things between us might have been easier if we--. And then the past few days. Well—“ John dropped his eyes momentarily, but when he raised them again they were clear. “Those marks on your chest. You didn’t make them yourself, did you?”
“No.” Sherlock shook his head. It seemed the least he could do--to try and match John’s courage.
“Is that what you need?” John asked. “I don’t know—I’ve never--. But I would. I would for you.”
The words hit Sherlock even harder than the kiss had. That John would offer that after everything—. It was more than unexpected. It was undeserved.
“No,” he said. “That’s not it.”
He stepped closer and undid the sash of John’s dressing gown. His hands were shaking slightly, but he ignored that, undoing the buttons of John’s top. John stayed perfectly still, but Sherlock could see his ribs expanding and contracting as his breath grew shallower, more rapid. He skimmed along them, and John’s skin was soft—so much softer than he’d imagined.
Sherlock moved his hand up to the scars on John’s left shoulder. These, too, did not feel quite as he expected—gnarled, to be sure, but smooth, too, along the red paths of former pain.
“Here,” he said. “Can you feel anything here?”
“Not much.” John’s voice had gone hoarse. “I’ve lost most sensation there. Nerve damage.”
“That’s how it is for me, mostly, to be with other people—like that--. I can’t feel much—. Unless--. “ He swallowed. “But sometimes--“
Sherlock dropped his head and pressed his mouth to the scars, tonguing over the irregular pits of flesh, daring to graze his teeth along the ridges.
And even though John had said the flesh was dead, Sherlock felt it come alive under his lips, felt the blood rising to the surface of the skin, the muscles flex and tremble. John gasped and arched into Sherlock’s mouth.
Their height difference made the angle awkward, and they teetered a bit as they tried to press closer together. Sherlock put a hand at the small of John’s back; John pushed his hands up under Sherlock’s pajamas, almost clinging. One of them was shaking with desire, though Sherlock couldn’t have said which one. One of them was keening low with need.
“John,” Sherlock breathed into his collarbone. “John.” He could hear the plea in his own voice but couldn’t tell if he were begging forgiveness, or simply begging John never to leave again.
But whatever the meaning, John seemed, miraculously, to understand. He dug his fingers into Sherlock’s back and ground himself against Sherlock’s thigh. Sherlock could feel the length of him, hard and hot, along his leg. The phantasms of the past few days scattered. The world cohered around him, grew solid.
Then an unlucky movement overbalanced them. They tumbled to the floor and everything fractured again.
Sherlock knew he’d landed on his back, John sprawled mostly on top of him, but it felt like half his body was still falling and the other half was about to float away. He’d somehow lost track of his own limbs—couldn’t tell if his feet were higher than his head or the other way around. It was horrible to break apart like this, to be so sure that soon he’d be reduced to separate aimless molecules. A scream twisted in his throat, trying to get out.
But before it could, hands drew him out of the chaos. They pressed along his shoulders, down his sides, around his hips, until he knew the outlines of his body again. They found the insides of his thighs, cupped his sex gently, then rested on his chest until he could hear the rapid but regular beating of his heart. They held his face between them as warm lips brushed across his own.
“Here you are, Sherlock,” John murmured as he touched. “You’re here.”
And here he was.