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"Bloody hell, Sherlock! What were you thinking?" Sherlock looked out from under the café awning to where John was climbing out of the cab. Rather, had been; the cab door now stood ajar, driver evidently unpaid, John's duffel, satchel, and cane abandoned at the curbside. "You utter arse," John said as he advanced toward Sherlock. "You were shot not a month ago – in the chest, no less – and you know full well how nicotine slows such a recovery." Frowning, he added, "I thought you gave them up before the wedding."

Sherlock felt his lips twitching at the irony. This man, who had found him high on cocaine in a drug den not six hours before said shooting, was concerned over nicotine. But he also knew better than to push John on this. He handed him the cigarette."

"I was expected to lie about in bed all day, feign sleep at appropriate intervals – "

"To actually sleep, Sherlock," John corrected him.

" – to actually sleep at particular intervals," Sherlock continued, "whether I was tired or not. Tightly-monitored supply of morphine, no stimulants stronger than tea, and all that after I was required to quit cold-turkey under… atypical circumstances, let us say. And no cases, John, not a single case for weeks, not so much as an ASBO summons."

John scowled at him for a moment before shaking his head in amusement as a fit of laughter took hold of him. "Next thing I know, you'll be complaining they barred the doors to the morgue."

"They wouldn't – "

"You were a patient, you know. Recovering from extensive thoracic surgery; they spent hours in your chest, Sherlock, and with none of the pre-operative behavioral changes that minimize risk of longterm complications. Whose dear brother fairly traumatized half the surgical staff. After which point you absconded from the post-op ward without anyone being the wiser – I'm still not sure that ward nurse has recovered from Mycroft's attentions on that last point, incidentally, you really should speak to her on his behalf – only to all but collapse from blood loss some hours later. Of course they'd watch you like a hawk after that. I'm surprised they let you go after only four weeks."

"Ah, that." It had taken some rather rude (yet wholly honest) deductions about his doctor's son's fondness for opiates and his utter ineptitude for organic chemistry, along with a promise to sit the boy down for a talk on the former or six hours' tutoring on the latter, whichever Sherlock preferred, once he was well enough. An odd choice, that, given the cocaine in Sherlock's own system at the time of his admission and the fact that Sherlock had been shot by any assassin during an attempted burglary. Wouldn't any competent parent want to minimize his offspring's contact with such a man, rather than mandate it? But at the end of four weeks bedbound, Sherlock was not keen to argue. Medical discretion was a glorious thing.

"Come to it," John asked, "how did you manage – "

"Do you really want to know?"

John considered that for a moment. "Not particularly." Then, nodding to the waiting car. "Will you pay the cabbie? My leg, you know…"

"Your leg," Sherlock repeated. "I suppose your wallet is too far a walk, too? Never mind." He walked over and paid the cabbie, collecting John's discarded baggage on his way back ot the awning and setting it down at John's feet. "Is this all you brought?"

John must have made some answer. Certainly, his lips were moving and Sherlock was vaguely aware of sounds reaching his ears. His brain, however, thoroughly refused to cooperate, to focus on anything other than the sight laid out before him. John, his coat collar turned up against the rain, taking a long pull on the cigarette that had so recently been in Sherlock's mouth. The way his lips curled tightly around the cigarette, his cheeks hollowed ever so slightly, his eyes half-closed in an expression reminiscent of, well, other pleasures.

This was potentially problematic.

"You don't smoke," he reminded John, firmly guiding his thoughts back to the mundane. "Filthy habit, as you put it."

"I didn't," John corrected him. "Past tense. Haven't smoked in years, in fact. And it is a filthy habit; you really should consider giving it up for good, and you're halfway there after four weeks clean." He paused. "You are four weeks clean, aren't you?"

"Well, I could hardly skip down to the corner store." Orderlies were a different question, of course, but as Sherlock hadn't actually bought a cigarette off one of them, he hardly thought that warranted mentioning.

"Good," John said. "As for me, I'm gasping. If your wife left you, if she – well. I'm due a fag at least."

Mary was hardly a new problem, but Sherlock took his point. In the aftermath of her shooting Sherlock she'd stayed well clear of him, never coming into London proper and certainly not near John, so far as Sherlock knew. John had taken a leave of absence from the clinic this last month, only recently picking up the odd locum shift at area clinics, and had split his nights between the visitor's chair in Sherlock's hospital room and Lestrade's couch. Yet here John was: bag in hand, about to settle back in 221B. Sherlock guessed John must be wondering about Mary, feeling the effects of her betrayal with more urgency than he had since the direct aftermath of Leinster Gardens. He certainly seemed stretched a bit thin.

"Lestrade sends his best, by the way," John said, "and kindly asks that the next time you get yourself shot, you receive treatment  at a hospital more than ten blocks from his flat. Apparently I snore. As for the rest, well, Mary – " (my lying wife, my very-soon-to-be-ex-wife, whatever her name, Sherlock could all but hear John add as he swallowed hard) " – she's put most of my belongings in storage out in Finchley. Should have mailed you a key, actually." He frowned. "There's not much. A few books, DVDs. Winter clothes."

"And the flat?"

"She's keeping it for now," John said.

"You mean you're keeping it for her," It wasn't a question. Mary was a part-time nurse and had no other income Sherlock knew of, certainly not anything she'd risk touching if she thought John might go to the police.

"We've a good rent for the neighborhood," John answered him, "but a God-awful lease. There's five months left on it, and I'd have to pay at least three if we broke it. Besides, you know, the baby. She could hardly afford Brixton on her own. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and set it against his thumb, letting it burn at the flesh. That had to be painful, but perhaps that was the point. He replaced the cigarette between his lips and took another pull. "Changing subjects entirely, is there anything I should know before we go in? Is the flat… habitable?"

"Ah," Sherlock said. "Mrs. Hudson cleaned out the fridge. I regret I haven't had the chance to restock it with body parts. Actually, she threw out all my experiments. But your old bedding was… irrecoverable."

John quirked an eyebrow dubiously. "Right, that's not at all creepy. Just why were you using my room?"

"Nothing like that," Sherlock said. "An experiment gone badly wrong four days before… Well, before. And why shouldn't I use it? It wasn't your room at the time, and it's on a different floor so if things go badly, the fumes don't keep me from staying in the flat. Most times." John's eyebrow arched higher still, but Sherlock didn't dignify that with an answer. Of course experiments went badly with some regularity; if they had predictable results they'd hardly be worth doing. "The quilt is fine, but the sheets are burned through. We'll go round to Mark's and Spencer's tomorrow to get new ones, if you like. Come to think of it, we may need new teacups. Outside a laboratory, sanitation efforts only go so far."

"I thought you enjoyed poisoning me," John said dryly. The memory of just where he'd shared that revelation struck Sherlock like a body blow. John, too, if the way he was twisting the wedding ring he still couldn't bring himself to take off was any indication.

"Only under precise laboratory settings," Sherlock quipped. "As for tonight, you'll take my bed."

John frowned to himself, a little more sad than Sherlock liked seeing. "I'm not taking your bed. It's not my flat anymore, is it? Besides which you're recovering from a bullet wound to the chest. You need regular rest on a proper mattress."

"I've spent more nights away on that couch than I care to count," Sherlock replied. And if a lying, soon-to-be-ex-wife entitles you to a smoke, it certainly warrants a bed to sleep in. "It's comfortable enough, and it's only for one night." He picked up the duffel bag and handed John his satchel and cane. "Let's go in."

 

-0-0-0-0-0-

 

They'd talked for quite a while; or rather, not-talked, at least not about anything that mattered, setting into companionable silence while the television played in the background. After a late dinner, Sherlock offered to do the washing-up; a joke, as takeaway meant Styrofoam cartons and plastic forks, with the only proper dishes being the porcelain monstrosities Mrs. Hudson leant them for tea.

Not long after, John declared himself beyond tired and had gone off to Sherlock's room, leaving Sherlock sprawled out on the couch with a half-finished blog post open on his laptop. How to deduce certain diet patterns from a person's appearance. Thinking of Mary, of the signs of three, had put the idea in his mind. It should prove more interesting than 243 types of tobacco ash, in any event. If he ever managed to finish it, that was. He'd read the same sentence no less than seven times now and he still couldn't remember what he'd actually written. Unacceptable. Scowling, he closed the laptop and set it down, turning to face the couch, Graham Norton droning on behind him.

Sometime later, Sherlock woke with a start, his chest screaming for the morphine tablet he'd forgotten to take earlier. Had he fallen asleep? But never mind that; he reached blindly for the end table, fumbling with the blister pack and finally swallowing it dry. Slowly the warmth spread through him, and he exhaled slowly, smiling at the sensation. He glanced at his watch, saw it was half-two. Some sports commentators were going on about Arsenal's chances later in the week. Reaching for the flipper, he turned the television off.

He'd been dreaming, he knew. Of what? No, he realized, of when. The smile grew wider. It had been the night John had kissed him in this very room. The Night. Years later, and Sherlock could still see it, feel it, as if it was happening just now. How had such a simple gesture changed him so profoundly? (Rubbish, his mind helpfully supplied. Lips against lips; his hands carding through John's hair, John's on his hip, so close and so far apart all at once – how could that not change things?)

They'd had four straight days of solving Moriarty's chosen puzzles with little enough sleep in between; that alone should have been enough to drive him to bed. Sherlock didn't often sleep, but four days was enough to make even him long for his bed. And there was the dead woman and her neighbors, the traumatized boy, the woman crying in her car. John's chest covered in Semtex and snipers' sights. John's face covered in a deep disappointment, the weary shock writ plain across his features when Sherlock had offered Moriarty the memory stick. John seeing Sherlock as he truly was (wrong on the facts but substantially correct all the same): no longer fantastic or amazing but still apparently worthy of salvation. As if things were so simple, even then. As if Sherlock could ever have run.

He should have been bone-weary after all that. Barely able to climb the stairs and pour himself  into bed. But should be damned: what Sherlock was, in that moment, was alive.

And he wasn't the only one, it seemed. After Moriarty sauntered off, after the snipers' sights' disappearance and the police report and the too-long cab ride back to Baker Street when John pointedly refused to touch, be touched, but his eyes, the way he'd looked at him… after all that, John all but pulled Sherlock up the stairs to their flat. He stopped at the first landing, ran a finger down the front of Sherlock's skirt over the buttons in a promise of things to come, and when John hooked his thumb around Sherlock's belt, pulled him closer so his breath ghosted along the long, pale column of Sherlock's neck – how truly exposed, John's for the taking if he would just move – Sherlock could hardly keep from gasping. Even now, through his opiate-fuelled haze, he remembered the feel of John's breath, his thumb's caressing Sherlock's sternum with a flash of longing. He'd bit his lips, then, forced down the sound building in his throat. For John's sake, he hadn't wanted Mrs. Hudson to find them out, and there would have been little mistaking that sound. He looked at John, then, saw his flushed cheeks, the way his pupils had grown wide so his irises were reduced to slender rings of blue. People might talk, but John hardly seemed to care just then. Delightful.

Once inside their flat, John had pinned Sherlock against the wall, rising on the balls of his fleet to claim Sherlock's lips. He helped Sherlock out of his coat, let it pool on the floor at his feet. "Now yours," Sherlock whispered, running a long finger along the inside of John's wrist before grabbing the coat's sleeve so John could ease out of it. John flicked the button at Sherlock's neck free, caressing the newly-exposed skin underneath. Then another. He let his other hand slip inside John's trouser pocket, and Sherlock's head rolled back against the wall. Oh, he'd liked the way John thought.

Suddenly, John took a half-step back, pulling his hand out of Sherlock's pocket and holding the memory stick out for Sherlock's inspection. The Bruce Partington Project. John had made his anger over the plans quite plain, back at the pool, but Sherlock guessed he'd forgotten said anger in the heady rush of adrenaline once Moriarty finally left. In that moment, though, John could hardly look past the evidence he thought he held in his very hands. "Christ, Sherlock," John said under his breath, and Sherlock's latest groan was of an entirely different sort than the one he'd let escape seconds earlier. John tossed the thumb drive into Sherlock's chair with more force than was strictly necessary. Raised his hand to Sherlock's throat, whether to caress it or choke him Sherlock still wasn't quite sure.

"Christ," John repeated. He'd let his hand fall to his side. "What were you thinking?" Sherlock for once wasn't sure what he could say that would help matters, so he opted instead for silence. John held his hand just short of Sherlock's neck, grasping his fingers into a fist and reaching the fingers out until at last he sighed heavily. "I can't even look at you right now. Just talk to Mycroft. Tomorrow wouldn't be too soon." He'd reached out then, running his thumb along Sherlock's jaw, just one stroke and entirely too fleeting for Sherlock's tastes, before he turned away and went off to the bathroom.

The irony was not lost on him. The memory stick was loaded with false plans, carefully prepared by Mycroft's agents precisely so Sherlock could give it to Moriarty. If he'd accepted it, Moriarty could – would – have been arrested immediately and taken for a vigorous interview in, well, an interrogation chamber where the customary rule of law didn't always apply. There was no risk, really, no high treason on Sherlock's part, no risk to crown and country. Sherlock could have shown John the memory stick, have Mycroft confirm the files were fake, but on one point at least John had it right. Sherlock had held John at arm's length, had kept him out of his plans and gone to after Moriarty by himself.

And why? Because John had taught him to care. After the old woman, John had looked so distraught, so disappointed – it seemed to matter, somehow, that he grieved for this one person he couldn't save. Even if it didn't help them, he was still supposed to care. So he'd tried, and quite to his surprise, he had – a little. He'd imagined how scared the woman must have been when, trapped in her blindness, she heard her door taken off its hinges, felt Moriarty's breath against her ear. And he'd heard it again in the child's voice, counting down to his own death as Sherlock tried, desperately, to find the answer that would save him. For those crimes Moriarty had to pay full penalty, and at Sherlock's hands. After that day of all days, the Work had to come first. But he'd cared about John, too, cared too much to put him in harm's way unnecessarily. He'd thought that was caring, at least. Stupid, perhaps, but in his defense he'd been quite new at it.

So he'd let John go, that night, promising himself he'd make it right. He'd meet with Mycroft and "apologize," a lie that he hoped would show John the real truth: that he could do better.

Whatever Mycroft might think, whatever John might think, Sherlock wasn't wholly ignorant of the mechanics of sex. He knew the science behind it as objective fact, but he'd also experienced it. There was Catherine, who'd sucked him off before he'd returned the favor the night after their A-levels, and Victor, his lab partner at university who'd finally proved to him that women were most certainly not his area. They'd shown him how a partner's addition could enhance the experience – surely the physiological process wasn't that dissimilar – but in the end, they'd provided no more than physical release. Quite a release, in Victor's case, but no more.

John, though. The way he'd looked at him, the way he'd seen him – it lit a fire in Sherlock's very bones he'd never felt before, or since. He wanted to see into his mind, to claim him and be claimed at his very core. That night, after John left him alone in their living room, once Sherlock caught his breath, he retreated to his bedroom. He told himself he really was a bit tired after all, that John surely wouldn't thank him for being around when he passed back through. That this was most definitely not a rather pitiful attempt to be as close to John as present circumstances allowed, separated only by a rather thin wall. That was a lie, of course, but just then Sherlock was less scornful of self-delusion than usual.

Through the wall, Sherlock heard John turn the shower on. Was it cold, he wondered, or was this simply a convenient place to indulge in a spot of masturbation? He listened carefully and just made out the rhythmic slide of flesh over flesh, the low grunt not entirely covered by the sound of the water hitting the shower wall. Did John really think he could bring himself off so close to Sherlock's room without being overheard? Or did he want to be overheard? Sherlock knew better than to follow him into the bathroom, but still, the thought of John, so brazenly touching himself where he had to know Sherlock would hear him gave Sherlock hope. Once John saw him aiming for better, wouldn't he pull close to him again?

On the couch, Sherlock let his dressing gown fall open. Surely this was the height of stupidity, what he was planning on doing, but the morphine left him feeling pleasantly hazy. It would be all right. He pushed his pyjama bottoms down his thigh and took himself in hand. Closing his eyes, he saw John in the shower. Stiff as a guardsman on parade, slicking himself with Sherlock's body wash. And wasn't that an intriguing possibility. What would John do,  precisely?

Sherlock knew he was right not to go into the bathroom, that night. That would have been foolhardy; more than that, simply foolish. Still, he couldn't quite keep himself from wondering: what might have happened if he had? A tremor ran through him at that thought. He imagined John kneeling before him, a hand rough with gun-calluses wrapped behind Sherlock's thighs as John hollowed cheeks, just as he had around the cigarette that afternoon. But no; this was John, the man who kept him right. Surely those positions must be reversed. Sherlock would have crouched down before him, running a thumb along John's length before taking him into his mouth. Oh, that would be lovely.

John would run his hand along Sherlock's jaw (as he had that night, Sherlock realized with a grunt), through his shower-soaked hair, at last coming to rest on the back of Sherlock's neck as he urged the other man on. He's smile down at him; perhaps even laugh for the joy of it. Yes, that would do it. He imagined the taste of John, his smell, the look in his eyes as he came and Sherlock drank him down, like a starving man at a feast. Almost there. Or wholly, it seemed. Before he realized it, Sherlock felt his calves contract, his back arch, and he was spilling himself over his hand.

As his breathing slowed to something approaching normal, he listened carefully for any sound from John's – his – room. Lestrade was right; the man did snore. John didn't know where Sherlock's imagination had taken him tonight, didn't have to – must not, at least not now. Not because Sherlock was ashamed as such or even thought John would be categorically opposed (he'd proved quite the opposite, that night after the pool), but because John was still married to a perhaps-not-wholly-retired assassin, his lying soon-to-be-ex-wife as he'd put it, who was still very much pregnant with John's child. They hardly needed to add adultery to that list. That was what he'd promised, wasn't it, in his vow? To always be there, for John, whatever he needed? He came first.

Vaguely, Sherlock thought he should do something to cover himself, but the morphine, orgasm, and late hour conspired against him. He did try to pull his robe shut but before he could tie it, sleep took him.

 

-0-0-0-0-0-

 

"William Sherlock Scott Holmes, what have you done?"

Sherlock opened his eyes, squinting against the overhead light. Mrs. Hudson must have turned it on. Mrs. Hudson. Looking down at himself he saw how he must look to her: dressing-gown fallen open again, pyjama bottoms pushed down almost to his knees, unambiguously exposed. What a picture he must paint. "You know my methods," he said. "What can you deduce?"

"That you and John have picked the absolute worst point to sort out what should have been obvious to you since day one."

Sherlock pulled his bottoms up and walked into the kitchen. "But?" At the sink he pulled his shirt off, wetted it, and used it to clean off his hand and belly before throwing the soiled shirt into the utility room.

Behind him, Mrs. Hudson put the kettle on. "But you've given him your room for the night while you sleep out here. That's hardly a mark of mutual affection." Her gaze fell on John's cane still resting against his chair. "And he's still here. That's good luck for you; if you ran him off like that I'd toss you out on the street, and good luck finding a new landlady as tolerant of your odd ways as I've been." She frowned to herself, deep in thought. "So I find you like that, on the very night he came back to Baker Street, but not with his knowledge – if he knew, you'd either be sharing a bed this morning or he would have left. Oh, Sherlock."

He decided to ignore that last part. "You're coming along nicely, you know. Well done."

"He's married, you remember."

"To a wife who has spent the last month sleeping in a different postal code," Sherlock said. "Tell me, does that speak of connubial bliss?"

"I assumed John was simply staying near at hand until you needed less looking-after. You two have quite a history, and losing you once nearly dragged him down into the grave after you. Mary knows that." She pursed her lips together. "Are things a bit rocky between them, then? The first year of marriage can be quite rough."

"Marriage changes people, as you said," Sherlock said dryly. "Sometimes it simply doesn't change them enough." He could say more, of course, but somehow he didn't think it was his story to tell. Instead of elaborating, he shrugged. "He gave up the job in Finchley and took a position at the Princess Grace A&E. Not locum work; staff. He seems to be settling in for a while, and I haven't heard Mary complain."

Mrs. Hudson frowned at that. "Whatever is coming between them, I hardly think you climbing into John's trousers will help things."

"Mrs. Hudson!" Then, smiling to himself, he added, "Though he might not be as opposed as he'd have people think."

"Regardless," Mrs. Hudson said, "you have truly questionable timing, dear." She paused. "Is this a story I even want to hear?"

Sherlock felt himself blushing. "There's not much to tell, truthfully. We kissed once, not long before the case with Ms. Adler. I thought John might be amenable to more, but. Well." He sighed. "He thought I was prepared to give a certain memory stick containing state secrets to Moriarty, that night at the pool. He was wrong, but it cooled his passions that night." He took an apple out of the fridge and set about slicing it.

"And you never told him? John?"

"He was wrong in the details but right to be upset."

She looked at him for a long moment, trying to work out what he meant before the realization dawned on her. "The Work."

"The Work," Sherlock repeated. "It still mattered, or it seemed to, before – before St. Bart's. John had me ready to demand full payment when Moriarty killed a stranger. That was motivation enough, but then he strapped John with explosive, trained a sniper's sight on his heart, and made him dance. For that, he deserved to – "  Remembering who he was talking to, Sherlock broke off. "'Full payment' no longer seemed sufficient," he said at last. "Ms. Adler, Baskerville, the whole Richard Brook affair – it was for John, and for all the people like him that Moriarty had used like that over the years. But it was for him, never with him. You might say Mary isn't the first Other Woman to come between us."

"But she's there now, dear," Mrs. Hudson said. "He needs a fixed point, at least one, now more than ever. You'll only break both your hearts if you ask John to choose between you."

She turned to the fridge and pulled out a carton of eggs, but  Sherlock stopped her. "The apple will be enough. More than, most likely; too much food overwhelms him when he's upset."

She replaced the eggs in the fridge. "You know him best, but it hardly makes sense to me."

"I had Lestrade show me the Yard's dossier on combat stress," Sherlock said. " He clearly had a rather particular set of difficulties, I saw that right off.  I wanted to know what to expect. At some point I actually wanted to help him."

"And when was that?"

Sherlock restrained himself from rolling his eyes with some difficulty. "Sometime between when he shot the cabbie to save me from a situation that was more or less of my own making, and when he and his date were abducted by Chinese smugglers for the crime of being me." Closing his eyes, he recalled the file Lestrade had shown him, picturing it in his mind as sure as if the papers were spread out on the table before him. "'Combat veterans often experience a great drive to meet the behavioral expectations of non-veterans in their life and will perceive any inability to do so as a failure. Family and friends of affected veterans should therefore take care to set appropriate goals. Food in particular can present a particular challenge, and smaller, more frequent meals should be accommodated where possible.' Did you never wonder why we ate so regularly, even when we were on a case?"

"John would hardly believe it if he heard you say that," Mrs. Hudson laughed. "He often complained about that, you know. That you never once let him finish a meal."

Sherlock smiled knowingly at that. "I learned his habits. If I'd thought he truly wanted to go on eating I would have let him, but better he should resent me than himself."

Behind them, the kettle started to whistle and Mrs. Hudson walked over to brew Sherlock's morning tea. Sherlock took a bowl from the cupboard for the apple-slices and put the cutting board in the sink, thinking over all he'd learned about John since yesterday. It was nearly eight now, but John had made no sign of waking. After such an early night, that in itself was worrying. There was his irritability (excusable, even predictable with Sherlock, but with the ward nurse who gave him too much morphine?). The weight he'd lost this past month, and above all the cane's reappearance. Was he really doing so poorly as that? "How long has he been using the cane?" he asked at last.

"He tries not to," she said as she set his cup in front of him. "Mary said he used it regularly when they first began seeing each other, though not at work. You know John, his pride. He'd push through it if he could manage it at all. Though honestly, I hardly saw him after your – after St. Bart's. You should ask Mary, the next time you see her. Or Molly; they seemed quite close before John moved out to Finchley." She sighed. "But you can't let him see, dear. You have to be more careful. I know you care for him. I think you might love him already, or at least that you could easily grow to. It's in your eyes, but you can't let him see. Not now, not if things have gone pear-shaped with Mary."

"Of course not." Then, more thoughtfully, with the kind of earnestness only she could bring out in him: "I'm beginning to see, you know. How thoroughly I've wounded him. I honestly had no idea he'd be so affected. And as for the rest?" He winked playfully at her. "I'm not saying it wouldn't be grand, but you're quite right about fixed points. That's what I promised him, and I'm a man of my word."

"You said that was your first and last vow."

"Easier to honor them that way."

Mrs. Hudson got up and laid her hand on his shoulder. "It would be grand. Lord knows it's rare enough to find someone who can tolerate you, much less enjoy it. But if you're looking for more than a quick tumble, you'd do well not to come between them. He'd hate you in six months, however things turn out with Mary." Leaning down, she kissed the crown of his head like his mother used to, when he was a child. She was right, of course; Sherlock had worked that much out last night. Having John back in 221B was deeply satisfying. Like breathing, not boring at all as it turned out; or like the itch he couldn't scratch, when a friend finally managed it, the deep relief of it all and the knowledge someone else was there to help with things big or small.

Besides, he knew John Watson better than that. He'd seen the glint in his eyes when he thought Sherlock wasn't looking. Given time, Sherlock doubted he'd stay away. Was sure of it, in fact.

"Are you going to Tesco's this afternoon?" he asked, turning around. "John may have a list for you."

She clapped him on the shoulder. "I've half a mind to say no. Not your housekeeper, dear, and don't you forget it. But I am, and for him: just this once."