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Three Minutes

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Flat on his stomach, Sherlock can almost *feel* the bomb below him, malevolant and unstoppable. There are no obvious ways in, even for him; no exposed wires that scream "cut me", no big red button labeled "cancel", nothing. Still, a setup as elegant as this, all sleek and refined and made by masters of their craft, there has to be an off switch. Whoever made this isn't going to risk an accidental premature explosion ruining their plans.

34 ... 33 ... 32 ...

And there, down on the side almost out of sight, he finds a toggle switch. He can reach it with ease, and flicks it over.

29 ... 28 ... 27

The countdown continues.

He blinks at it, but the numbers tick relentlessly downward. Maybe, he thinks, it cut one connection without cutting the others. Maybe it was loose. Maybe it was a decoy switch, not connected to anything. Maybe--

But they're running out of time, and John -- stupid, wonderful, frustrating, loyal, amazing paradox of humanity that he is -- deserves to know, and so Sherlock loocks up at him and says, in a quiet voice, "I'm sorry."

John looks at him like he's sprouted a second head and says, "What?" and probably he deserved that reaction, because it's not like him to admit defeat. But the numbers admit it for him

22 ... 21 ... 20 ...

and Sherlock doesn't care about what he deserves because one of the things that matters most to him (Moriarty was very not wrong with that assessment, nor whomever had tried to make John part of a bonfire) is standing in front of him, and so Sherlock speaks, low and quick and despairing, "I can't ... I can't do it, John. I don't know how. Forgive me."

He's talking about the bomb, but a hundred other things too, and hopes like hell John understands.

He waits patiently through the denial, through the anger -- because, all right, he did tend to poke people (John especially) just to see how he'd react, so maybe this could have been a trick -- and then, then when John does finally get it, there is a long moment where Sherlock wonders if he won't say anything. But then John says, "You were the best and the wisest man that I have ever known," which surprises him, and "Yes, of course I forgive you," which doesn't quite so much, and then he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath for an explosion that doesn't come.

Sherlock has his eyes on John, rather than the bomb, but the timer in his head had ticked to zero without his noticing. Nevertheless, he just *watches* John, still as a statue until he cracks one eye open and says warily, "Hang on, hasn't it been longer--"

Even though he knows the answer, Sherlock glances at the display

00

and finds himself starting to giggle.

00

It worked, he thinks, and lets himself fall prey to the laughter that overtakes him. God bless stupidly predictable terrorists and their off switches.

John, of course, interprets Sherlock's laughter as an admission of guilt, and starts in on him with all the offended dignity that he can muster on the heels of panic. Sherlock gets to his feet and, in the middle of about the seventh stuttered, invective-laden sentence about what a horrible person he is, shuts John up by kissing him.

John just stares, anger momentarily forgotten.

"That's better," Sherlock says with satisfaction, and steps back.

"I'm not your boyfriend," John says finally, his voice as stubborn as ever.

Sherlock just shakes his head, smiling, because for the first time in two years the world feels right again.