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A Very Delicate Mission

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The lamp on the desk clicked on, and John, grown used to the dimness, shaded his eyes.

"I have a mobile," he said. "I think I even mentioned it before."

Mycroft was sitting on the corner of the desk, his ankle poised perfectly on his knee, his hands poised perfectly on the other knee. "Oh, I generally prefer to chat in person," he said. "It's so much more...informal."

"And harder to track," John said, and winced internally. He was out of it now. Well out of it. When would he shed these habits of thought, stop seeing?

Mycroft inclined his head. "That, too. How are you, John? It's been too long."

"Fine," John said, looking at Mycroft's desk. Perfectly bare, except for the lamp. Funny. You would've thought Mycroft would be the messy one. "Just fine."

"Really? I would have thought that that bed-sit would oppress your spirits after your roomier digs at Baker Street. But perhaps you're more resilient than that."

He shaded the word with a faint distaste. John stirred impatiently. "Look, Mycroft, I'm sure you didn't drag me down here in the middle of the night to discuss my feelings about my accommodation."

"You're quite right." Mycroft unfolded his limbs and rose, carefully. John couldn't help thinking of a flamingo. "I--that is, Her Majesty's government--have need of your services, John."

"You do."

"Sherlock is in Geneva. I need you to go and fetch him for me."

He'd been afraid it would be something like this. He rubbed his eyes. "Look, Mycroft--"

"He was on a very delicate mission for us," Mycroft continued, "which he completed successfully. He should have been home three days ago. Instead, he hasn't left his hotel room."

"That's interesting, but it's got nothing to do--"

Mycroft was imperturbable, and uninterruptible. "He gets these fits, you know. He works himself into a state, won't eat or sleep for days, and then the most trivial incident sets him off and he collapses. Usually at a spectacularly inopportune time, such as now. But all I need you to do is get him on the plane home. Once he's on British soil, he'll be much easier for me to manage. I--"

"Mycroft!" Dammit, he'd let them get under his skin again. He took a deep breath before continuing. "As I'm sure you, of all people, must know, I haven't spoken to Sherlock in eight months."

"Oh, I know, John. I simply don't consider it relevant."

"It's relevant to me."

"I'm sure you think it is," Mycroft said. "But consider the situation. You know him. You're a doctor, and in the past you've had considerable success in getting him to follow your advice."

"I have?" John furrowed his brow. "No, I'm pretty sure I haven't."

"You even have an adequate security clearance. In short, you're the man best qualified for the job. And it really is a matter of national importance, I'm afraid."

Oh, the old routine that always offended Sherlock so much. God forbid anyone have any motives that didn't match his own. If he could hear this conversation, he'd be boiling over with disgust.

John looked up at Mycroft's cool face, remote as the moon. "I'll bet you both upset your mother. Loads."

Mycroft smiled genially. "I'll have your flight booked."


Geneva was dazzlingly bright. White and blue and so clean. John closed his eyes and let the taxi find its way.

The tickets--first-class--had been waiting on the bed when he'd gotten back. In a white envelope, along with a credit card and another, blank-faced swipe card, a sticky note with a room number attached. No letter, no further instructions. The envelope was of a heavy, creamy stock. John found himself staring at the soft ragged edge where he'd torn it open.

"He never texts when he can talk," Sherlock had once said.

Eight months when there might have been no such thing as a Holmes in the world. And now this.

John had thrown the envelope into the bin. Then he'd kicked it over for good measure.

The hotel must have been one of the most expensive in Geneva. All baroque, more ridiculous blue and white and gold. Chandeliers, gilt chairs. He had nothing with him but his satchel, so he simply took the ancient lift upstairs.

The door was twice his height, if not more. John knocked on it.

No response.

He knocked again.

"I've told you seventeen times now," a muffled but familiar voice yelled from within, "Bitte nicht storen! Ne pas deranger! For God's sake, I don't need housekeeping."

Well, he wasn't dead, at any rate. John swiped the card and stepped inside.

It was quite a large suite. It had probably looked a lot more impressive before Sherlock's belongings had exploded all over it. John began picking his way through the foyer, taking care to avoid the mysterious blue gel seeping across the floor from a smashed beaker. It wasn't easy, with all the curtains pulled against what must have been a spectacular view. "That's not how it looks to me," he said.

He emerged into the main bedroom just in time to see Sherlock, lying on the bed, sit bolt upright. "John?" he said, his eyes opening wide. A second later, they'd gone dark and sleepy again, and he dropped back onto the bed like a puppet with the strings cut. "Oh. My brother sent you. Of course."

"Yes." John had decided that lying about that would be pointless. He eased a pile of books aside with one foot. "He's worried about you."

"Bully for him," Sherlock muttered, staring up at the ceiling. He was wearing a bathrobe over a half-unbuttoned shirt and what looked like silk pajama bottoms. "Go away."

"Afraid I can't do that."

"You most certainly can," Sherlock said, very positively. "Anyone with any self-respect would." John didn't say anything, merely picked up what looked like a very old tea service and deposited it on one of the more structurally-sound-looking towers of books. Sherlock sighed impatiently. "Must be why he sent you."

Bait. John wouldn't rise. This was no different from any other patient not to his liking. "I don't ever pretend to understand what's going through that man's mind."

"Of course not. Just mine."

"Not yours." John stopped, and went on again. "Obviously."

There was a pause. "I must have told you to go away ten minutes ago," Sherlock said, still looking at the ceiling. "Why are you still here?"

"It was more like two."

"Funny, it feels much longer."

John grimaced. "Look. It's not like I want to be here, either. Let's just get this over with."

"No. Whatever 'this' is, I'm sure I don't want any part in it."

He'd gotten within ten feet of the bed, though it was dark enough that Sherlock was able to bury himself in the shadows. He took over a chair that he wasn't entirely sure was intended to be sat on. Mycroft's credit card could stand it. "Well, I'm not going anywhere."

"What if I call hotel security?"

"How do you think I got in here?"

Sherlock's head lifted enough to let him aim a glare in John's direction. "What if I call the police?"

"If you think Mycroft hasn't squared them already, you really must be in terrible shape."

Actually, Mycroft hadn't mentioned that, but it came to John as perfectly natural. Inevitable. Sherlock only waved it away, sharply. "I haven't slept in five days. What do you want from me?"

"Your vitals. Let me convince myself that you're not going to need a medevac team, and I'll get out of here. That'll have to do for Mycroft."

"Or?"

"Or I'll sit here until we both die," John said, exasperated. "Don't you find this a bit tedious, Sherlock? Because I certainly do."

Sherlock didn't say anything at all for several minutes. Then, abruptly, flinging his arms out like a martyr, "Fine. Fine. Appease my brother, if that's what you think you're going to do."


Sherlock wouldn't let him turn on any lamp besides a tiny gilt one on the bedside table. The shadows it threw made him look ghoulish against the stack of pillows he was propped on. The shadows and the pallor. He obviously hadn't been lying when he'd said that he hadn't slept in five days. The dark circles under his eyes made them look as if a three-year-old had had a go at them with a black crayon. He'd lost four or five pounds since John had last seen him.

John was hoping to make this as quick and impersonal as possible. But when he reached to open Sherlock's shirt a little further so he could use his stethoscope, Sherlock went absolutely rigid and immobile.

"Did that hurt?" he asked, startled.

"No," Sherlock said, and immediately he was boneless, his head lolling away from John on the pillow. "No, of course not."

"Well, does it hurt anywhere else?"

"No."

"Right, then," John said.

It was easier than he'd thought it would be, peering into Sherlock's eyes and listening to his heart as though he were some stranger in the clinic. Sherlock wasn't fighting him, and John could reduce him to a constellation of symptoms and numbers, clues to be ticked off and analyzed. Not that it was particularly pleasant to watch someone doing his best to pretend that he'd left his body behind for the duration. But once he caught Sherlock's eyes surreptitiously turned to him under his dark lashes, and that was worse.

"Well," he said finally, loosening the blood pressure cuff, "your pressure is elevated. Skin's cool and clammy. Heart rate's up a bit. You present exactly like someone suffering from exhaustion, possibly coupled with coming down from the use of certain substances I won't mention to Mycroft."

"Sorry to bore you with the cliche," Sherlock said.

"The good news is that it's nothing a few days' rest won't cure. You might as well stay here, where there are people to look after you. Rest, drink plenty of fluids, order room service and actually eat it, and, you know, a proper massage or two wouldn't hurt."

He tried to think if he'd been worried before, or convinced that this was merely Sherlock's latest move against Mycroft. Well, he wasn't worried now.

He stood up. "Guess I'll see when the next flight back is."

The room was even harder to navigate now that he'd had a bit of light. He was a few steps away when Sherlock demanded, "That's it? You're leaving? Just like that?"

"Isn't that what I said I'd do?"

"I'm sure my brother's paying you for more than that. And Mycroft always gets value for money."

John didn't bother to tell him that he'd turned down the offer of a fee. "That's Mycroft's lookout."

"Anyway, you won't be able to make a flight back tonight," Sherlock muttered.

"And that's mine."

"Fine," Sherlock sighed, flicking him away with one hand. "Run along, John. Back to your normal life with all the normal people."

"I'll give your regards to Mycroft," John said.

"Don't you dare."


As it turned out, Sherlock was right about the flight schedules. After speaking to the desk staff, John gave in and let them book him a room. They knew who he was, and seemed to think he should have rooms at least as grand as Sherlock's. John didn't have the energy to argue, so he found himself sitting on a massive old bed with a quilt wrapped round him, the remains of a heavy and absurdly expensive room service dinner on a little table nearby.

His mobile rang. Mycroft, of course.

"You see, I do know your number," he said pleasantly when John answered. "And now you have mine. I expect it will be useful for you."

"He's still breathing," John said.

"And?"

"It's just exhaustion. He'll be all right in a few days."

"You'll wait with him, of course."

"He's fine, Mycroft. And he'll get on his feet a lot faster without me around."

There was a pause. "That's what you think, is it?"

"Yes," John said definitely. "Yes, it is."

"Enjoy Geneva, John. The restaurants are spectacular."

The phone clicked. John wondered if smashing it would do any good.

It was you walked out on him, you know, he said, and threw himself backwards onto the bed.

He dreamed of wandering lost on the moors, his boots sinking further into the ground with every step. Far away, a dog howled.


Later that night, around 3 am, John woke to a rattle from the French doors that led onto the balcony with the magnificent overlook of the mountains.

Maybe that delicate business wasn't as finished as Mycroft thought it was. He'd have to be sure to bring that up, later.

It would be nice if someone would try to kill him for his own sake for once.

He felt under his pillow, out of habit, but of course he didn't have his gun. Not possible, with airport security. He remembered that there was a heavy silver candlestick by the bedside and found it by touch.

The door rattled again, and he slipped out of bed and flattened himself against the wall with the doors. And waited. After a long moment, they opened, almost noiselessly, and a figure slipped into the room.

John lunged forward, bringing the candlestick over and down. The figure whirled, and John landed a thumping great blow on his shoulder rather than his head.

A second later, he was glad: the audible curse was definitely in Sherlock's voice, and it was Sherlock's impossibly lanky shape that slipped to the floor.

"No, don't apologize," he said, holding up a hand, "I deserved that."

"I wasn't going to," John said, turning on a light. Sherlock winced at it.

"That's not very gracious of you."

"You should be in bed."

Sherlock started to get up, but slipped. John grimaced and held out his hand, bracing him up and over to an armchair. "Can't sleep."

John's mind had finally caught up to the situation, and he turned to stare out the doors. "Did--did you just scale the wall of the hotel?"

"Yes." He rubbed his shoulder. "Possibly not the best idea I ever had."

"You could have just knocked on the door."

"You wouldn't have let me in," he said, as if he were explaining to a child.

"Probably not," he agreed.

There was a silence. Finally, Sherlock said, examining a piece of bric-a-brac, "So, you didn't make your flight."

"No. And now your brother's asked me to stay on."

Sherlock snorted. "Of course."

"Don't worry, I'm not going to be nursemaiding you."

"Thank God for that."

Another silence.

"So, is there a reason you dropped by, or were you just looking for an excuse to rappel the walls of the Four Seasons?"

"I told you," Sherlock said crossly, "I can't sleep."

"So you came by to harass me? Thanks."

"I thought you might have something."

Raiding his bag. Of course. "As a matter of fact, I do have Klonopin," John said, rising, "but not if you've taken anything else in the last 24 hours."

"No," Sherlock muttered, but John wasn't convinced.

"In fact, if you're taking these, I think you'd better stay here tonight."

"Thought you'd never ask," Sherlock said, and caught the pills from his outstretched palm, somehow without actually touching him. He swallowed them and flung himself full-length on a nearby sofa. "Turn off the light, can't you?"

"Turn it off yourself," John said, and got back into bed.

Eventually, he did. John stared up at the dark reaches of the high ceiling and willed himself not to toss and turn. Sherlock was absolutely silent. John hoped the pills were having their intended effect. Everything else aside, Sherlock really did need the rest. The sooner he recovered, the sooner John could get back to London and put everyone named Holmes out of his mind. Again.


When John woke the next morning and checked on Sherlock, he was deep asleep. Apparently the Klonopin had overcome whatever nerves were resisting the slide into unconsciousness, and now he was out cold.

John hadn't planned to stay in Geneva this long; he needed a change of clothes, a few other things. He pulled on yesterday's denim after a dubious sniff and headed out the door.

The concierge downstairs had assured him that he was right in the middle of the shopping district, but it quickly became apparent to John that the two of them meant different things by "shopping district." All he'd wanted was an H&M or a Uniqlo or something, but instead the streets were full of glittering boutiques where single jackets were presented in the window like works of art. Entirely too expensive, but John found himself recklessly plunging into one. Mycroft had to be good for it.

He returned home a few hours later with the vague impression that he had spent a great deal of money indeed. The cadet-blue jumper he was wearing now was the softest thing he'd ever worn, and though he'd protested the color, the inquiring look he got from several women as he passed in the street said that maybe they hadn't been wrong.

It didn't surprise him at all, as he entered his room clutching his bags, that somehow Sherlock had managed, without getting off the sofa, to engineer the staff's moving half his belongings into his room. He had been staring glumly into space, but when John came into the bedroom he turned his eyes to him and actually smirked.

"What?"

"People will start thinking you're Mycroft's kept man."

"Oh, and I suppose you're paying for that suite you're not even occupying yourself?"

"I'm on a very delicate mission for the British government."

"You mean, you were," John said. "Now you're a very delicate mooch."

Sherlock didn't dignify that with a response.


John spent the next three days visiting every park and museum in Geneva. He shuffled through lines patiently and looked dutifully at Protestant teacups. He sat in the English Garden and watched the Jet d'Eau, the fountain curving high into the air above the lake, all that energy, beautiful, powerful, wasted in scattering water back into water. He even went to the Museum of the International Red Cross, for as long as he could stand it. It's peacetime now, he told himself. You've left the battlefield behind.

Anything to be away from the room where Sherlock lay on the sofa, sometimes dozing, but more and more listlessly contemplating some book or paper. John ate at home, though, and he ordered for both of them.

"You're not starving yourself in my rooms," he said to Sherlock when he'd made a face. "This is a no-ridiculous-affectation zone."

Sherlock had made another face, but he'd eaten his dinner. With a sarcastic inflection. John had forgotten that you could wield a knife ironically. He ignored it.

At night, he retrieved some of the pillows which had somehow made their way to Sherlock's sofa and huddled himself beneath the heavy blankets. Sherlock, to his relief, did not try to make conversation.

The evening of the third day, he noted the color in Sherlock's cheeks, the reviving brightness of his eyes, and said, "Right, then."

Sherlock didn't look up from the local paper he was scanning. "What?"

"You're looking much better. Not entirely recovered yet, but enough to get home tomorrow. I suppose Mycroft would prefer it if we went together, but you can make your own arrangements, if you want."

He turned over a page. "And what if I don't?"

"Then I'm sure your brother will send someone else to mind you. I'm leaving regardless." He felt slightly breathless, almost angry. Well, what had he been expecting?

"Well, you've got your jumper out of it, I suppose. You don't need anything else."

"Good night," John said.


He turned in three hours early, after a couple of stiff ones. So he didn't actually hear the man breaking in to recover the documents from the mission-that-wasn't-quite-as-finished-as-one-had-been-led-to-believe until Sherlock had flattened him. The subsequent scene, with the hotel management and the police and then two very quiet men in suits who turned up last to take the intruder away, took much too long for something he really didn't know, or care, anything about.

"Well," he said to Sherlock when they'd finally left, "looks like you're in even better shape than I thought."

"He was waiting for us to leave the room unguarded," Sherlock said. "When you told reception you were checking out tomorrow, he decided he'd have to risk a break-in."

"Hold on," John said. "Has this all been a ruse, then? To draw out the last of your opponents?"

He really wasn't sure whether to be angry or admiring. But, wait, he thought, he'd seen, himself...

"No," Sherlock said, sitting down quite suddenly on the sofa. "But it did occur to me that I might be able to make use of it."

There was surprisingly little of the usual self-satisfaction in his voice, and John decided he couldn't really object, much as he would have preferred to have been informed. "Well-played, then, I suppose. But now there really can be no earthly reason for you to stay here."

He didn't wait for Sherlock's acknowledgement, but headed towards the ensuite. He wanted some aspirin.

"What if I'm not all right?"

"I told you before," John said wearily. "You will be."

Sherlock said, very low, "Well, it doesn't feel like it."

It stopped him. A couple of dismissive remarks suggested themselves in John's brain, quite insistently. But instead he said, "That's what they keep telling me, anyway."

He glanced over his shoulder. Sherlock had propped himself up on his elbows to watch him. "What do they know about anything?"

He sounded so tired. Real weariness, of the soul, not merely the exhaustion of overworked nerves. John didn't think he'd ever heard that from him before. "Not much," he said.

Sherlock swallowed. "Then why are we doing this?"

The plaintiveness of his query took John off guard. He took refuge in simplicity. "Look, I really did come because Mycroft asked me to. I'm not playing some kind of complicated game."

"No, I mean it. I don't understand it. I wish someone would explain it to me. Only there isn't anyone I can ask. It's getting in the way of the work."

John snorted, startled out of the spell cast by Sherlock's mood. "Oh, well, if it's getting in the way of the work--"

"Don't be--" Sherlock dropped his face into his hand and sighed raggedly. "That's not what I meant, you know it's not, you're probably the only person in the world who does know it."

And, God, he wished he didn't. Really wished he didn't. Wished he could stand there and not feel anything at all. Mycroft probably could. Mycroft, Lestrade, Moriarty: the only people who would even take an interest.

As if triggered by his thoughts, his phone buzzed. Sherlock said, "Oh, go ahead and give him your report."

He didn't. Instead, he switched the phone off without looking at it and came back to sit on the far end of the sofa. It still seemed far from where Sherlock was huddled in a loose pile of limbs. "Sherlock, what happened?"


For once, Sherlock didn't seem particularly eager to relate his adventures. He rubbed an anxious hand through his hair. A bruise from his recent tussle was already starting to come out over his cheekbone.

"I killed a man. First time I've done," he said, after a while, contemplatively. For a minute, it was surprising, but then it wasn't. Sherlock was so much younger than he liked to think of himself. "Oh, when you think of it, I've been the agent of many men's deaths, but never--" He made a gesture. "Right there. With my own hands."

John swallowed. A sudden fear crept round the edges of his thoughts, but he held it off. "But surely you had to. Self-defense. Right?"

"No," Sherlock said, and then, at John's stricken expression, "yes," and then frowned, "no," again.

"Sherlock--"

"He was about to kill me," Sherlock said. "But if I'd been faster, cleverer, he'd never have been in a position to do so in the first place. I wasn't, though. I wasn't."

He shouldn't be relieved that Sherlock was blaming himself, should he? "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, Sherlock."

"Quoting Germans at me isn't quite as comforting as you might think, John."

John waved it away. "And then what happened?"

Sherlock sighed. "Afterwards, it just all seemed so...pointless. A man dead, on the floor, and for what? Mycroft's useless little schemes in service of queen and country?" He turned his head and raised his voice a little. "The empire fell over half a century ago!" He looked back at the ceiling. "I thought about going back to that damn empty flat. I texted Mycroft that his bloody business was finished, and then I went to bed instead. Later on, it just seemed like too much trouble, getting up."

John sat quiet for a while. Sherlock had, actually, been in pain. Just not in a way he'd been able to see. Or a way that could be fixed with a handful of Klonopin and a few good meals. Some doctor he was.

Sherlock kept his chin up, as if he were expecting John to mock him, and defying him to do it. When John finally let out a short, rueful laugh, though, he jumped as if he'd been stung. John shook his head. "And Mycroft thought it would be something trivial."

"From his point of view, it undoubtedly is." Sherlock shrugged himself deeper into his dressing gown. "A life means nothing to him."

"I'm not sure that's true," John said. He thought of Mycroft sitting alone in his bare office, texting John to rescue his brother, and he thought of Sherlock playing the violin to the silence of Baker Street, and he thought of the sickly yellow light the lamp in his bed-sit cast over his book at night, and he felt almost unbearably sad.

"And then you turn up, and all you want to do is poke and prod and make sure I'm fit for further service. You can't even bear to be in the same room with me otherwise--"

"Hang on," John said, jolted out of his reverie. "Do you think you might have had anything to do with that?"

A long, long silence, but not one John had any intention of shortening himself. Sherlock shifted around uneasily, giving a minute examination to the edges of his robe. John waited.

"You shouldn't have blogged about the Bohemian scandal," he said, finally.

The Bohemian--John laughed incredulously. "Why, because she beat you? I was there, too, you know. My God, what an ego!"

"No," he said, "although that was humiliating, as well, thanks."

"As well? Oh," John realized, "you didn't want me saying that you liked her. But you did, don't tell me you didn't. You probably still have that jpeg on your laptop."

Irene, so clever, so beautiful in such a careless way, so heartless, and Sherlock so captivated, like every morning was Christmas and every evening the New Year--you might have thought that it would be hard to differentiate infatuation from the usual attention Sherlock paid his criminals, but as it turns out, it was obvious. At least to John.

"You didn't have to tell the whole world about it. 'To Sherlock, she is the woman'--could anything sound more pathetic? Molly Hooper patted me on the cheek!"

John threw his hands up. "I'm sorry, but--But that's exactly the part I thought you wouldn't mind, if only because it would stop people thinking you liked me!"

Sherlock looked at him. And said nothing.

Oh, he had to be having him on.

"Come on!" John sputtered. "You, you couldn't like her and me at the same time!"

"Oh, can't I," Sherlock said with a gloomy relish. "Do explain."

And this was startling, this was huge, but this was also, John realized, a distraction. "And so you go from there to 'You were nothing before I found you, nothing, and you'll be nothing if I get rid of you, so stop turning my life into your material'?"

"Did I say that?" Sherlock asked wanly.

"Yes, Sherlock, you really did. What's more, I know you remember you did."

"Ah." Sherlock looked down at his hands, now folded in his lap. "I was an ass."

More than he knew, if he meant it about being attracted to John. John wasn't about to tell him that, though. Instead, he waited.

"I knew I was an ass the minute you walked out the door, all right?"

"And it didn't occur to you to apologize?"

That was what had come home to John the hardest. It wasn't as if he'd expected Sherlock to come crawling after him with flowers, but his behavior had been so completely unjustified--so out of the blue--that John had believed that he had to come to his senses sooner or later. By the time a week had gone by, he was prepared to accept what would surely be the most awkward apology ever. Probably in the form of a text, which was at least an acceptable beginning.

When none arrived, all the voices that had warned John about Sherlock from the very beginning--he doesn't have friends, he's using you, you're his pet, nothing more--had begun chiming in his ears. It wasn't a conclusion he'd wanted to rush to, but at the end of a month, a month in which Sherlock was plainly not in hospital or jail or otherwise forcibly detached from his mobile, he was out of other options.

Right, he'd finally imagined saying to the sky. If that's the way it is--

"Apologize?" Sherlock looked at him as if he'd proposed fan-dancing as a means of communication. "What good would that have done? I said it, and, obviously, you remembered it. You still do."

"People do forget things over time, Sherlock."

"In my family, we never forget a single word we've ever said to each other. I can still remember precisely the phrases Mycroft used when I contrived to walk in on him and Euphrenia Soames."

"And yet," John pointed out, "you're still speaking to each other."

"Not because he's forgotten," Sherlock said, "or because I apologized. I never did."

"No, you great blooming idiot," John said, "because he loves you."

Sherlock breathed in. John felt his cheeks heat and wondered if he'd said too much. Then Sherlock said, "Then, by your logic, apologies aren't necessary."

John got up, impatient. "Not if you're content to have Mycroft be the closest and quite possibly only relationship you'll ever have, no."

"Wait." Sherlock stretched out a hand, keeping his eyes on his face. "What would happen if I were to apologize? Not to Mycroft."

"I think you'd have to do it to find out," John said, and not to prolong his suspense. He felt shaky inside, as if something were about to break.

"Fine." Sherlock exhaled and said deliberately, "John, what I said before was unkind. And inaccurate, which is worse. I'm sorry. I..." He ran out of words and rubbed his forehead, closing his eyes. "Please, can't we go home. I want to go home."

He kept his eyes shut, waiting. It was strange, to see the uncertainty on his face--that, for once, he genuinely didn't believe he knew what John would do. That he was afraid to try to deduce the answer, because it was too important to him.

God, he'd missed Sherlock. He'd missed him so much he couldn't even admit it when he was right in front of him, because it would have cracked his world wide open, and he couldn't stand it happening again. Physician, heal thyself.

John sat down again and put a hand on his knee. Sherlock's eyes flew open, and he looked at John, questioning. Home, John thought. That sounded good.

He smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."