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This Will Have Been Enough

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The section headings come from [info]hehangs's amazing Sherlock/A Softer World remix, found here.

This Will Have been Enough


i. I always thought violence didn’t solve anything. Until one day it did.

When he thought about his death, John Watson never thought about it happening like this. He’s in an alley, snow is falling and melting in the puddle of his blood on the pavement, and he is dying from a stab wound to the chest, delivered by the suspect Sherlock had sent him to trail. John had been noticed, knocked unconscious, dragged to the alley, and stabbed three times in the chest. Sherlock was on the other side of London; John’s phone was gone, taken by the man who killed him. There would be no one to comfort him. John blinked away tears and took a shaky breath.

He thought of Harry, how she had been all knees and elbows as a teenager, constantly teasing her little brother about his height, his earnestness, his honesty, everything. John remembered Harry at fifteen as a true beauty—even with the gangly limbs, she had been beautiful, always catching the eye of the older boys.

Then, one summer day when John was twelve and Harry fifteen, the two of them had gone down the shops to get a 99 flake. Three of the older boys who always whistled and leered at Harry stepped in front of them as the siblings were walking home, ice cream dripping down their wrists. One of the boys leered at Harry and grabbed her wrist, mouth in a sneer (one John would recognize later as the look of a boy who always got what he wanted, even if it meant taking it by force). Harry shoved at him, dropping her 99, but his grip tightened. The other boys laughed as Harry started squirming harder.

“Let her go!” John yelled.

“John, run!”

Instead of running, John dropped his 99 and pushed the other two boys away from him.

“Lookit the runt acting tough,” one of them jeered before John, seeing red, drew back his fist and punched the kid in the stomach, dropping him as he wheezed.

“Hey, watchit—” the other one got out, grabbing John’s right arm and trying to twist it behind his back. John kicked out and caught the kid’s knee, dropping him as efficiently as the first boy.

The third goon now had gripped Harry hard around the biceps, hard enough that John could see the white impressions his fingers were leaving in his sister’s flesh. He was snogging Harry, obscenely thrusting his tongue into her mouth. Harry bit his tongue and he snarled, “Bitch!” and drew back his arm, fist forming to throw a punch.

To this day, John doesn’t really remember grabbing the shit’s wrist and punching him hard enough in the mouth to knock out a tooth. John’s knuckles were red and raw. Harry was sobbing. The tosser who dared to hurt his sister was bleeding profusely and running off down the street, followed by his little gang.

“You all right?” John asked, sucking absently at his raw knuckles.

Harry was stood agape. “Yyyeah. I’m fine. Let’s go home and get your hand looked at.”

They walked away, both their 99s melting into a single puddle on the pavement.

*

Three hours later, after tears and shouts and reprimands from their parents, Harry knocked on John’s door. When he opened it, she hugged him, kissed the top of his head, and then left again.

Harry never teased her brother about his height, or anything else for that matter, ever again. But that was the last time she kissed him, and the last time she hugged him while she was sober.

ii. Life is essentially a chess game. You have to plan and calculate and I am so lonely.

The unending, relentless black of the Afghani night haunted John’s dreams.

There was no respite, even in the night, from the screams of dying men. John worked as fast as he could, operating for hours on end until the men beneath his hands melted into each other in his mind’s eye: a neverending swirl of beige, red red blood, yellow, brown, black, the parchment of exposed bone.
*

There is nothing more lonely than being the man left to crouch in the burned, shelled-out building waiting for the inevitable cry of “Medic! Fer Chrissakes, Medic!” and the quick rush of calculating bullet trajectories and plotting a route through the carnage to get to the wounded without getting hit himself. John hated the feeling of helplessness that stole over him in the quiet before the bullets started flying and he was needed.

*

His med tech, Bill Murray, used to compare their route plotting and impromptu marathon surgery sessions to a game of chess.

“It’s like we’re the Kings and everyone else is a pawn trying their damndest to protect us so we can win the game” Bill said over a cuppa during one of their rare quiet moments.

“Then who’s the one moving the pieces?” John asked as he moved his rook to capture Bill’s last pawn.

Bill snorted. “God only knows.”

John quirked a grin and reached over to nick a biscuit from Bill’s plate.

“Oi!”

They were quiet for a moment. John shifted and finally Bill moved a bishop. “How is surgery like a game of chess?”

Bill didn’t answer for a long time. Then, slowly, “because you’re the one moving the pieces then. You’re the one determining how the game will go because you’re calculating the risks as you operate. You can checkmate Death.” Their eyes met and held over the nearly empty chessboard. John looked away first. He moved a knight without thinking about strategy, about life and death and love.

Bill moved his bishop again, knocking over John’s king. “Checkmate.” The flickering light in the tent cast an odd shadow over Bill’s face, twisting it into an imitation of the Reaper, eyes glittering in a fleshless skull. John shivered and cast the comparison to the back of his mind where it jeered at him.

“John? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Goose walked over my grave. Want another go?”

Their second game was interrupted by a nearby blast and shouts of “Medic!” The two men ran out to help, leaving the chessboard set up for a new game whenever they returned.

The next blast was close enough to knock over both kings.

*

Murray had died five hours ago, less than an hour after they had rushed out of their tent. He had been shielding John from gunfire while John had applied a tourniquet to McGregor’s gushing thigh when the bullet ripped through Murray’s chest, tearing through his heart and stopping it instantly. He hadn’t even had time to shout.

John had had to leave him there until the fight was over and the bodies could be retrieved. It was another four hours of operating before his hands started to shake so badly that another tech had gently told him to take a breather. John had stalked back to their tent no, an insidious voice whispered in his mind, just yours now it mocked as he yanked back the door flap and saw the chessboard, undisturbed except for two pieces. When he saw the kings knocked over, he gave a harsh, barking laugh and kicked the crate the board had been sitting on. Pieces flew across the tent.

*

After Murray’s memorial service, John had thrown out the chessboard and all its pieces save the two kings. The kings traveled in his breast pocket and stayed with him even after he got shot and invalided home.

The day he left hospital and took up his room the army had found for him, he took the penknife he’d gotten from his storage unit and carved JW into the bottom of the black king. The wood easily yielded to the neat precise strokes of his knife, revealing a shock of beige in the black paint. He set down the black king and picked up the white one, carving BM into the bottom. His hand didn’t shake at all.

*

Those two kings were still sitting on his bureau in 221B. John wondered if, when Sherlock went into John’s room to pack up his things after he was dead, Sherlock would pick the kings up, turn them over and wonder why John had chosen the black king. John wondered if Sherlock would figure out that the reason he picked the black one was because it matched the color of the crushing loneliness he felt under the unyielding black of the Afghani night after Bill died.

iii. I sing anyway.

Two months into his second tour in Afghanistan, four months before Bill dies, John had checked his email for the first time in a week. There were two emails from Harry.
One was dated six days ago. It was two sentences long.

Mum and Dad died today in a car accident. The doctor said they wouldn’t have felt anything, but I saw the looks on their faces when I had to identify them.

John felt his breath explode form his chest as he choked on a sob. Bill glanced up at the harsh sound, took one look at John’s face, and was instantly at his side, one large hand clamped painfully on John’s left shoulder as he leaned down to read the screen.

John’s right hand snaked up and clutched at Bill’s hand on his shoulder, squeezing so hard he was sure he heard Bill’s bones groan in protest.

“Jesus, fuck, John, I—I’m so sorry.”

John could only force a swallow past the thick lump in his throat. He clicked on the next email, dated a few hours ago.

the funeral was today. you shouldve been here, you bastard, why werent you here you shouldve been here i needed you and you werent here. you just had to be the big goddamned hero for everyone else and you werent here to be mine

i hate you.

Bill’s hand turned in John’s crushing grip. “Come on.” He pulled John up from the rickety folding chair and into his chest as he switched off the monitor with his other hand.

John went to him, buried his face in Bill’s shoulder and finally let go, a fierce, short-lived sob soaking Bill’s fatigues. It was over nearly as soon as it began. Bill’s arms were around him, one hand rubbing slow, smooth circles on his back while the other gripped a handful of John’s fatigues. John let himself lean further into Bill’s warm, steady chest. He never forgot Bill’s smell—the sharp, clean tang of sweat, the musk of his aftershave, the desert scent that crept into everyone’s clothes and stayed there, cloying. To John, it was the smell of home, of comfort. They stayed locked in that embrace until John finally relaxed the death grip he had on Bill’s biceps and flexed his fingers to get some feeling back into them. Bill quirked a wan smile and they walked off together, Bill’s arm slung companionably around John’s shoulders.

That night, he and Bill curled up on John’s bed in their tent and breathed each other in.

That night, John knew what it meant to be loved as their careful hands explored each other’s bodies. John’s blood sung in defiance of Harry’s i hate you: here, at last, was someone who understood him, who knew him wholly; here, at last, was someone who John was here for; here at last was someone who needed him and who John needed equally as much.

*

Four months after his parents died, John’s heart is ripped from him the moment Bill’s was when the bullet tore through Bill’s heart and stopped it.

One month after he lost his heart, John was in a convoy headed out to patrol a recently recaptured town. He wasn’t even surprised when the bullets started flying, when he heard the screams of “Medic!” He went out, did his job, saved lives when he could, gloves dripping blood, hands steady as a rock as he tied off tourniquets and pushed gleaming organs back into screaming bodies.

The bullet that grazed his leg barely registered. John just slapped a gauze pad on it and turned back to the soldier he was working on—Turner—who had a nasty abdominal wound. Turner wasn’t going to make it. Another bullet whizzed past John’s ear, so close that he instinctively ducked down a bit closer, shielding his patient.

Then his world (more specifically his shoulder) was on fire.

A third bullet punched into his shoulder and lodged there. John instinctively reached up, fingers slipping in his own blood, to staunch the bleeding. Under his other hand, Turner had stopped moving and John dimly registered that the only screams he could hear now were his own.

He had to dig the bullet out of his own shoulder using his pocketknife. His screams drew the attention of the rest of his unit and they ran to get him out of there, getting him back into the Humvee and driving pell-mell back to base. Of that trip, John would only remember the singing of the tyres as they bit into the sand and how the eerie singing matched the blood ringing in his ears.

*

Recovery was long and difficult. He was delirious from fever, raging with infection, and shaking with the grief that he was going to have to leave the place where he had loved and been loved in return.

The kings from their chess set firmly ensconced in his breast pocket, John left Afghanistan still gripped in a haze of fever and pain.

*

When he woke up, finally lucid and on enough morphine to keep an elephant pain-free, Harry was sitting in a hard plastic chair next to his bed. Her eyes were red and puffy, her hands shaking. She smelled of alcohol, bitter and sharp; she smelled of pain and regret and bitterness.

When she saw his eyes were open, her face contracted in a parody of a grin. “Hey, stranger,” she whispered, using the same greeting she used since she left for university and only came home or spoke to her family for Christmas. When he decided to join the RAMC, he had to call Harry to tell her. She screamed at him for ten minutes straight and then hung up. The next time he heard from her was when she told him their parents were dead.

He didn’t answer. Couldn’t. The last words he had from her, you shouldve been here, you bastard, why werent you here you shouldve been here i needed you and you werent here. you just had to be the big goddamned hero for everyone else and you werent here to be mine i hate you, were too powerful to be swept away by her familiar greeting. He turned his face away and he heard her sigh.

“I could never hate you.” Harry murmured. “Never, not really.”

Silence.

“But you needed me, and I’m here.”

Silence.

She stood and looked down at him. John finally looked at her properly and realized that both of them were blinking back tears.

Harry reached down and squeezed his hand. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, and left without looking back.

She didn’t come back the next day, nor the next, nor the day after that and on and on until John finally understood that she wasn’t coming at all.

*

Harry came back the day he was released from hospital. She was drunk and he ended up having to help keep her upright and moving as they wove through London and back to the flat the army had found for him. Harry had slurred something about staying with her, but John didn’t need her anymore.

John had thought he didn’t need anyone anymore. He was wrong.

*

I need someone now, John thought as he was bleeding on the pavement. His blood was sticky and the scent of it made him nauseous. His fingers were slick with blood once again as he tried to staunch the wounds on his chest. There was no one to hear him scream, even if he had been strong enough to do so, no Humvee to race him back to hospital, no Bill, no Harry, no Sherlock.

John Watson closed his eyes and shivered, hoping that Sherlock would somehow know, as he always seemed to know, that John needed a crushing embrace, a hand smoothing circles on his back, needed to feel Sherlock’s bare skin on his own as they lay in their cocoon on John’s bed, and would come running down the alley and crush him to his chest and murmur over and over “you needed me and I came, John, I’m here.”

Instead, there was nothing but the cold and the silence.

John Watson laid in the snow and waited for someone to take his hand.


iv. Good decisions are just bad decisions you didn’t get to make.

John can picture with startling clarity the events that led up to his meeting Sherlock Holmes.

When he was released from hospital, he left with a new phone (Harry had left her old one for him on her last visit), clothes (also Harry), a cane, a (mostly) psychosomatic limp as the gash from the stray bullet on his thigh was pretty much healed, two chess pieces, the key to his storage unit, Bill’s spare dogtags, his own dogtags, and his gun.

Most days, he stayed in his poky flat and puttered around the internet. He forced himself to go out and walk every other day and forced himself to go to his therapy appointments once a week. It was getting harder and harder to force himself to do those things.

Harry called twice a week, the phone buzzing merrily on the desk. John would answer her questions in a monotone and in as few words as possible. Eventually, the calls came once a week, and then every two. John didn’t mind.

Ella, his therapist, tried to draw him out, asking about his days: “Fine.”

Three weeks later, she asked about his love life: “I don’t want to talk about it.”

She shifted in her seat, surprised at his vehemence.

“You lost someone.” It was a statement of fact, not a question.

John didn’t answer her, but his left hand started shaking slightly.

She let the silence draw itself out. Finally, after long, tense minutes passed, she said tentatively, “Who was it?”

John thought he must be breathing loud enough for the whole street to hear. He licked his lips and stammered “He....he was Bill.”

“Who was he?”

“My med tech.”

“How long did you work together?”

“Both my rotations, so about a year and a half.”

“Were you close?”

“We played chess.”

Ella smiled. “That doesn’t answer the question.”

“That’s all I’m telling you!” John snapped.

Pause. Then “I’m sorry, that was rude.”

Ella just nodded. “What was he like?”

“Dependable. Steady as a fuc— rock. Laughed a lot.”

Ella didn’t ask another question for a moment; instead, she looked at John, really looked at him. John felt like she was peering into his soul and ducked his head.

“Did you love him?”

“I...I need to go.”

John stood up, his bad leg buckling for a second before he steadied. His hand was shaking so violently that he could hardly grip the handle of his cane. Ella was halfway out of her seat and reaching to steady him when he sidestepped her and stalked out the door, slamming it behind him.

*

That night, John sat on his bed with his loaded gun in one hand, flicking the safety on and off. He clutched the white king with BM carved in the bottom in his other fist.

I never told him how I felt.

Off.

I’m sure he knew. He had to have known.

On.
What if he didn’t? What if he didn’t?

Off.

John put the gun to his temple and listened to his quickened breath, heard his heart pounding in his chest, felt the blood rushing in his ears.

No. something inside him said as he clicked the safety back on and put the gun back on his lap. Not tonight, anyway. There is more for you to do here. It’s not time. Not yet.

*

The next day he met a man who saw right through him, picking apart John’s life and laying it out before him in stark detail. John had gone home that night and looked at his hand—it was perfectly steady.

The day after that, he was agreeing to move in with this Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective, who could identify an airline pilot by his left thumb.

Those two days changed everything. John had not felt this alive in months.

The deep, gut-wrenching fear he had felt when he saw his new flatmate, a man he had known for less than 24 hours, standing in the opposite building holding a white pill in his hand shocked John to the core. Before he could even think, his gun was in his hand and he had pulled the trigger, killing the man who had threatened his friend.

Friend? John thought as he ran back through the building and out to meet the police; he could hear the sirens approaching.

The smile Sherlock gave him as he complimented his shooting skills sent a thrill down John’s spine.

Friend. He’s not even interested. he told himself firmly. But a small part of his heart that had been closed off since Bill died began to warm.

*

He was getting colder; the snow clinging to his eyelashes. His hand twitched. God, he wished he had his gun. Waiting for the end like this was too much—it reminded him of being shot. It would’ve been better to go out in a blaze of glory.

Suddenly, John was inexplicably angry—it flared in his throat with a sour acidity. Why in the hell had he agreed to tail the person who stabbed him? Why had he let Sherlock run off on his own on the other side of the city? Why had he left his gun in his drawer? Why hadn’t he checked in with Lestrade? Why hadn’t he answered Harry’s call yesterday?

Why had he moved in with Sherlock? No! he snapped at himself. Sherlock was the best thing to happen to me and I will never regret meeting him. Never regret loving him, even if this is the result.

Why me? a even smaller voice in his head asked. Why was I so special? Why was I the one he chose? The one he loved?

John knew that that those questions would remain forever unanswered and he couldn’t help the taste of bitterness that filled his mouth as that small part of him cursed Sherlock for never telling him why.


v. You make me want to pretend to be a better man.

John fell in love with Sherlock like this:

He knew there had been something there in Sherlock’s eyes, something that said I could be persuaded even as Sherlock’s words said “married to my work” and “I’m flattered but not really looking for anything.” Even John’s own repeated protestations of “I’m not his date!” at their first dinner together had not been as forceful as they should have been. John was not romantic enough to call it love at first sight, but there had been something there right from the start and that had been enough to go on with.

Then John had shot the cabbie and the smile and camaraderie he and Sherlock shared first at the police cordon and then later at the Chinese restaurant on Baker St. felt familiar. Felt right. He didn’t know how much he had missed that closeness, that dependability on your comrades until he moved in with Sherlock.

Sure, there were things that no one should have to put up with in a flatmate: “There are toes in the toaster, Sherlock, why are there toes in the toaster?” but John put up with them anyway. He didn’t mind the long silences, found Sherlock’s strops alternately endearingly funny and endlessly annoying, and even liked the violin, as long as it was making actual music and not just screeching like a pining tomcat.

John’s limp was gone and he felt more alive than he had in years, even since before he joined the RAMC at twenty and had been on tours of duty all over the world. But there was something niggling at him: he needed to feel useful. He wanted to be a doctor again. Plus, their bills were piling up and Sherlock didn’t seem bothered enough to pay them or seem alarmed that there wasn’t enough money to pay them. When John managed to swallow his pride long enough to ask for a loan, Sherlock had swirled off to the bank and John met Sebastian.

He never could quite put his finger on what bothered him about Sebastian. The casual cruelty towards Sherlock was one reason, but there was something deeper, something inherently slimy about the man that raised John’s hackles and made him hunch his shoulders protectively in his coat. He was glad to leave the bank, exhaling in a whoosh as they walked out the glass doors and back into the frigid London air.

*

Sherlock started solving Sebastian’s case. John went and got a job and a date all at once.

John couldn’t help but feel a vague sense of guilt when Sherlock asserted that what they were doing by going to crime scenes and dinners and running hell-for-leather through London were dates. But even though John was rapidly developing a crush on Sherlock, he knew that Sherlock would never reciprocate his feelings, so he tried to keep squashing his feelings down. Hence the date with Sarah. Which was a bit of a disaster. Having Sherlock crash their date, getting kidnapped, and being threatened with death tends to sever any romantic feelings.

Sarah and John decided they would be better off as friends, and their friendship was strong, even if they did bond over complaining about Sherlock’s quirks.

John tried to tell himself that he had imagined the flash of triumph on Sherlock’s face when he told him about breaking it off with Sarah.

*

When they left the bank for the second time, this time in triumph, John thought that if he never saw Sebastian again it would be too soon.

*

After the “Blind Banker” case (John liked that title for his blog; Sherlock had scoffed), Sherlock went for weeks without a case. John thought he was going to go mad. A bored Sherlock was insufferable at the best of times, but a Sherlock who had been bored for weeks was dangerous. His experiments got more volatile and more disgusting.

“The fingernails are embedded in the ceiling, Sherlock, how did they manage to get up there?”

“Ah. A slight miscalculation in how much gunpowder to use.”

As the weeks went on, Sherlock’s mood got worse and worse. John could count on one hand the number of times he’d seen Sherlock dressed in something other than his pyjamas during those long weeks.

Then, at last, he got a text from Sherlock just as he was leaving the surgery for the day.
26 Gresham St. Hurry.
SH

John shrugged into his coat and hailed a cab.

There was a body facedown on the pavement and police cordons up when John managed to catch up to Sherlock. John had to catch his breath when he caught sight of his flatmate, who was more animated than he had been in weeks. He is beautiful like this, John thought as he strove to be casual. Christ, just look at him. Sherlock’s hands were twisting elegantly in the air as he gesticulated at Lestrade, emphasising his point. The light was throwing shadows around his face, picking out his cheekbones and turning his normally pale eyes darker.

“John!” Sherlock cried as he spotted his flatmate. “We need to see a man about a missing necklace.”

And just like that, the game was on.

*

It took twenty-five hours to solve the case. When it was over, John was dead on his feet and Sherlock had to help him up the stairs into their flat. He was so tired that he couldn’t help but lean into Sherlock’s steadying hand.

John shuffled into the kitchen, jaw nearly cracking with a yawn. “Tea?”

Sherlock didn’t respond. John filled the kettle and just as he was reaching to turn off the tap, Sherlock’s hand was doing it for him. John jumped as he felt Sherlock’s jacket brush his shoulderblade and then Sherlock’s hand. Was. On. His. Waist. John took a deep, shuddering breath, suddenly wide awake. He turned around slowly, unwilling to spook Sherlock or dislodge his hand from his waist.

Mistake. John was very aware of all the places they were touching as Sherlock crowded further into his personal space. “Er, Sherlock?” he stuttered, sounding far more breathy and dammit needy than he intended.

“I saw you watching me.”

John swallowed. “Wha—”

“You’ve been watching me for weeks. Did you think I hadn’t noticed?”

“Nnno.” John cleared his throat and tried again. “Sorry, I’ll just sto—”

“I don’t mind it, John. And I can’t figure out why I don’t mind it. I rather like it, in fact.”

“Oh.”

“John.”

“Yes?”

“John, can I revoke what I said on our first date?”

“Our first what? Sherlock, we’ve talked about this—we haven’t been on any dates.”

“I’m not married to my work, John. I’m just not interested in anyone. Well, wasn’t interested. I think....” Sherlock glanced down, steeled himself, and met John’s eyes. “I think I might be interested.”

John’s smile was soft and small. “Care to test your theory?”

Sherlock looked puzzled. John reached up and gently, slowly, pulled Sherlock down and kissed him. He pulled back after a moment. Sherlock looked stunned. John rather liked that look.

“You okay?” John asked after a moment. Sherlock’s brain was still processing the data it just received—if his brain whirred any faster, Sherlock would have smoke coming out his ears.

“I think that the experiment needs to be repeated. Multiple times.” He leaned down and captured John’s mouth with his own.

The kettle and tiredness were forgotten as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes kissed until their lips were swollen and tingling, until there were no thoughts of anything except of breathing each other’s air.

*

My lips are warm John realized. Then, he understood why. It wasn’t from Sherlock’s lips on his own, it was from the blood dribbling from his mouth. He turned his head to the side and tried to wipe his mouth on his shoulder, but it didn’t work. The blood just smeared across his cheek. It was difficult to breathe. Bastard must’ve punctured a lung, he thought as he struggled to keep from hyperventilating, to keep his breaths steady and slow and even, like Sherlock’s were when he slept curled around John, his breath warm against the back of his neck.

Sherlock has to be here. I have to hang on long enough for him to find me. He found me once, he’ll find me again. Just hang on.

He coughed weakly. Just a little longer.

Chapter Text


vi. I know that I don’t deserve you, but that’s okay. Life’s not fair.

They started sleeping together. Just sleeping, not fucking. Sherlock was a bit skittish and neither of them wanted to rush anything. The night of their first kiss, after they had managed to break apart long enough to remember that there was a world outside of each other, John took Sherlock’s hand and started tugging him towards the stairs and John’s room. Sherlock dug his heels in and tugged back on John’s hand. John turned back to look at his flatmate? Friend? Boyfriend? John hated labels. He just caught the flash of panic that spread across Sherlock’s face and froze.

“Just to sleep, Sherlock. I’m beyond knackered and I...” he trailed off. Sherlock was watching him impassively, a hint of anxiety breaking through. “I just want to hold you. There’s no need to rush into anything—I don’t want to rush into anything. I just...want you close. Is that all right?”

The anxiety that had been playing across Sherlock’s face nearly disappeared. “Yes. Yes, I think that’s all right.” He followed John up the stairs to his room, but balked again in the doorway.

“I might not stay the whole night. Would that bother you?” Sherlock’s words fell out in a quick, nervous, clipped jumble.

“Sherlock,” he said softly. He reached out and touched Sherlock’s arm. “Hey.” Sherlock looked away. “Can you look at me?” Sherlock’s eyes met his and skittered away again. “Whatever you want, Sherlock. I mean that. There is. No. Rush. Okay?”

Sherlock looked relieved and leaned forward to give John a nearly chaste closed-mouth kiss. John smiled up at him. “I’m going to change. Will you come back in a minute?”

He nodded and padded off down the stairs. When he came back, John was already in bed and snoring gently. Sherlock hesitated for a moment, then climbed in and curled around John, his breath stirring the fine hairs at the nape of his neck. He slept.

When John woke the next morning, Sherlock was gone, but his side of the bed was still warm.

*

They fell into a pattern, of sorts. John stopped making his feeble “not his date” protests when they went out for dinner. Sherlock would come to bed with John at least two nights a week, but he rarely stayed the whole night. If John had a nightmare while Sherlock was there, he would gently rub circles on John’s back or shoulders and murmur into his ear.

Two weeks into their new...whatever-it-was, John took Sherlock’s hand at a crime scene. He only held it for a moment to ground Sherlock, who was so agitated that he couldn’t think. John saw the wild look in his eyes and took his hand, squeezing it gently for a few heartbeats. Sherlock shot him a grateful look and took a deep breath before dropping John’s hand and spinning back to Lestrade, spouting his deductions at a dizzying pace.

Two days later, John came home from the surgery to find Sherlock on their sitting room floor with a very familiar box sitting next to him, its contents spread out across the floor.

John froze.

Sherlock had not heard him come in; his attention was fixed upon a photo that he held in his hand.

“What are you doing?” John snapped. “Those are private!”

Sherlock jerked his head up and turned the photograph so John could see it. It was the last one he and Bill had taken. Bill was kissing his cheek; John’s grin lit up his face.

“Who is this?” Sherlock asked without malice, just simple curiosity. “He was someone important to you; there are five other photographs with him—no one else except your parents and Harry feature as often in your photographs. He only appears in your pictures from Afghanistan, so you met him there. But you don’t speak of anyone specifically when you talk about your war experiences, so he was important to you but whatever happened between you is too painful to talk about, so you don’t. Whatever did happen was traumatic but you miss him—these photos are well-thumbed and were on top of the pile, so you look at them often. But the box was dusty, at least five months’ worth, so you haven’t looked at them since you started developing feelings for me.”

John sighed and crossed the living room and stood next to his flatmate. “He was my med tech. And yes, I met him in Afghanistan, and yes, we were close—he was important to me.”

Sherlock’s eyes lit up when his deductions were confirmed. “And what happened to him?”

John couldn’t answer for a moment—his throat closed up. He sank down next to Sherlock and gently took the photo from him. “His name is...was, I suppose I should say, Bill Murray.” John stopped and cleared his throat. “We were lovers.” Sherlock’s eyes met his, warm and curious. “He died from a GSW to the chest. He was shielding me while I worked on someone else.”

Sherlock took his hand. “Did you love him?”

“I did. I hope he knew that. I never told him. And that’s the one thing that I regret out of everything.”

Sherlock looked thoughtful for a moment. He opened his mouth but closed it without saying anything. Then, “Will you tell me about him?”

John spent the next two hours telling Sherlock about Bill. He kept playing with the kings that had been in the box with the photographs until Sherlock picked up the white chess piece and looking at the BM carved in the bottom of it as John told him about carving them after he’d left hospital. When John wound down his story, Sherlock leaned over and kissed him gently. “Thank you, John.”

*

After John told Sherlock about Bill, Sherlock came to bed with him every night. They still had not made love yet; they shared increasingly intense kisses and ran their hands up under shirts, but nothing further. Sherlock seemed to be stuck—he would kiss John passionately for hours but if John tried to put his hands below Sherlock’s waist, he would freeze and then flee. John always felt guilty afterwards, and firmly stamped his libido down. He would wait for Sherlock, no matter how long it took.

Two months passed since their first kiss when Sherlock crawled into bed in just his pants and held John close, pressing his face into the crook of John’s neck and breathing him in. John ran his left hand soothingly up and down Sherlock’s bare back. “John?”

“Hmmm?”

“I’ve never....done this before.” The admission was hushed, breathed into John’s neck.

John kissed the top of his head. “I’ve told you before—it’s all fine.”

That seemed to reassure Sherlock, who started pressing kisses into John’s neck as he slid his hands up under John’s t-shirt. John groaned and tipped his head back to allow him better access. Sherlock tugged on the hem of his shirt and John reluctantly pulled back long enough to pull the shirt over his head.

John would always remember the reverence he had felt the first time he made love to Sherlock. The soft noises he made as John kissed him, his moans as John gently prepared him and then filled him, coming deep inside his lover as Sherlock keened and spilled over his belly.

After, Sherlock fell into a rare deep sleep while John carded his fingers through Sherlock’s curls. Before he too dropped off to sleep, John murmured “I think I’ve gone and fallen in love with you, you daft sod,” into Sherlock’s hair. Sherlock stirred and held John closer.

The next morning brought a pink phone and five ominous pips.

*

I love you. John coughed again, more blood coating his lips. It was always you.

His tears were falling freely now. I don’t want to go. I’m not ready. He’s not ready. Oh, God, what will he do without me? What will I do without him?

Please, God, let me live.


vii. I know you don’t love me but there must be something I can do to make you a better person.

Sherlock was in his element—the game keeping him moving long after he should have collapsed from exhaustion. John was still a bit sore about Sherlock’s casual disregard for the tenderness of the night before as John had come home to find Sherlock shooting holes in their wall and then insulted John’s blog. He knew it was the boredom taking its toll on his lover, but it didn’t make Sherlock’s seeming ability to forget the intimacy of the night before hurt any less. John stormed back out, heading to Sarah’s and a lonely night on the couch.

The news of the Baker St. explosion the next morning sent his heart racing as he ran home, his only thought Sherlock has to be fine, he just hast to be spinning like a broken record in his head. His heart nearly dropped through his shoes with relief when he saw that from the outside, at least, 221B looked mostly unscathed, the only casualty the windows.

Sherlock and Mycroft were sitting across from each other, Sherlock doing his best to get rid of his brother by insulting him, and when that didn’t work, ignoring him, until Mycroft left to Sherlock’s violent violin flourish.

“Finally.” Sherlock muttered as his mobile rang. John wasn’t sure if he meant finally Mycroft was gone, finally there was a case, or finally John was home.

“John?”

John blinked. Sherlock was standing very close to him. “Are you coming? Lestrade wants us at Scotland Yard. Apparently, there was a delivery for me.”

“If you want me to.” Sherlock frowned at John’s hesitation, at the hint of sadness in his tone. John knew better than to expect an apology from Sherlock, but he had not expected the return to the way they were before they kissed. This Sherlock was cold and aloof and it sent John reeling. Maybe last night had been a mistake? Maybe Sherlock was spooked and didn’t want to go back to the warmth, the closeness they had shared over the past few months. John felt the bitterness of rejection flood his chest and tried to harden his heart. If Sherlock didn’t want to pursue their relationship, then John would back off, even if it killed him to do so.

“Of course. I would be lost without my blogger.” Sherlock’s smile faded as he saw the look on John’s face. His own face closed off and he swirled out the door as he pulled his coat with a flourish.

They were silent on the ride to Scotland Yard. If Lestrade noticed anything amiss between the two of them, he kept it to himself as Sherlock opened the envelope and pulled out a pink phone.

The next few hours passed in a blur: 221C, St. Bart’s labs, back home, Mycroft’s office, home again. Sherlock solved the case with shoelaces and a microscope. John was tired; trying to remember how he had acted before they started kissing, before he had fallen in love pulled hard at his heart. He ached to reach out and rub Sherlock’s shoulders as he sat hunched over the microscope at Bart’s and again at home. He longed to kiss him when the light of triumph lit up his face, but he didn’t. What was worse was that Sherlock seemed not to notice.

*

It is a near thing, but John just manages to keep his hand from squeezing Sherlock’s shoulder as the old woman’s phone connection abruptly cuts off. When they return to their flat, the news is already covering the massive explosion. Sherlock mutes the telly with a vicious stab of the remote.

“So why is he doing this then, playing this game with you? Do you think he wants to be caught?”

Sherlock’s lips quirked. “I think he wants to be distracted.”

“Oh. You’ll be very happy together.” John stood and started towards the kitchen, unable to shake the sick feeling that perhaps this Moriarty was the one Sherlock really wanted. How could he, plain, boring, ordinary John Watson compete with someone who so delightfully interesting? His stomach churned; he felt sick and a bit disgusted with himself for ever even thinking that he could possibly be enough for Sherlock Holmes.

“Sorry, what?” Sherlock nearly spat.

John whipped around, furious. “There are lives at stake, Sherlock, actual human lives. Just, just so I know, do you care about that at all?”

“Will caring about them help save them?”

“Nope.”

“Then I’ll continue not to make that mistake.”

“And you find that easy, do you?”

“Yes, very. Is that news to you?”

“No, no.”

“I’ve disappointed you.”

“That’s good. That’s a good deduction, yeah.”

“Don’t make people into heroes John; heroes don’t exist, and if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them.”

Before John could respond, the pink phone beeped and Sherlock’s fingers were flying over his own phone. John reluctantly sat down and started flipping through the paper, ignoring Sherlock’s barb about “this caring lark.”

What John wanted to say was: Heroes do exist. Bill was one, and you are too, even if you don’t believe it. You saved me from myself, and I don’t think you know that you did. What John did say was the information that Sherlock had requested; he couldn’t resist emphasising Andrew West’s death. Sherlock scoffed and called Lestrade. Soon enough, they were heading out again. Sherlock stopped at the sitting room door and held out one of his spare scarves.

“Take this. It’s freezing and you’re no help to me when you’re slowed down by the cold.”

John accepted it, and if he burrowed down into it and breathed in Sherlock’s familiar scent (wool, chemicals, musk) and Sherlock noticed, he didn’t comment.

*

After solving the final puzzle at the gallery, he and Sherlock were back home, bundled in their coats because of the draft from the boarded up windows. John was getting tired of being ignored by his lover and even more tired of the uncertainty of where he stood with Sherlock. The man had not even touched him in passing since the night they had made love for the first time. After finishing the sentence he had been typing up for his blog, John made a decision. Sarah would lend an ear, help him figure out what to do from here.

As he was leaving for Sarah’s, Sherlock had seemed a bit odd, agreeing to get milk and beans. He didn’t even glance at John as he left and John buried the hurt as he trotted down the stairs.

He was only two blocks from Baker St. when there was a sharp stabbing pain in his neck, and then blackness.

*

When he came to, John was in a changing room, likely at a pool from the cloying and pervasive scent of chlorine. He was alone, but there was an earpiece clipped to his collar. As he reached to take the headphone out of his ear, a voice said, mockingly, “Ah ah ah Johhny boy, I wouldn’t do that.”

John’s hand froze in midair. That voice...it sounded familiar.

“Good boy. Now, do you see the coat and vest on the bench?”

John glanced down and gritted his teeth. There was a hideous green parka and shit a vest wired with enough Semtex to bring down a house on the bench next to him. “Yes,” he grunted.

“I think you know what to do, Johnny boy. Be a good lad and don’t anything rash now. Wouldn’t do to have my gift to Sherlock damaged before he got to enjoy it.”

John’s heart sank as the implications of Moriarty’s words sank in. Play along. There’s no point in killing yourself off now, not while there’s a chance for Sherlock to catch this bastard. John shrugged into the vest and parka and sat back down.

“Not long now, Johnny. Now, I’m sure you know the rules, but here’s a friendly reminder. Repeat what I say and if you deviate by one word, well, then....boom! I’ll tell you when to open the door and make your big entrance. Ciao!”

John let his head rest against the concrete wall as he waited for the end to come.

*

John sat up straight when he heard Sherlock’s voice ring out in the pool.

“Showtime, Johnny boy. Give it your best shot. Go on and see your lover.” Moriarty crooned in his ear.

John closed his eyes briefly. How had he known?

There was nothing else for it. John opened the door and shoved his hands in his pockets.

“Evening.” He said in as calm a voice as he could manage.

The look of pure shock that flashed across Sherlock’s face told John all he needed to know. Sherlock thinks I’m Moriarty. Now I’m interesting enough for him. He fought to keep a bitter smile off his face. He saw the moment that Sherlock realized that he was wrong, that John was a hostage and that Moriarty was really Jim from IT, and in that moment, Sherlock went from polite interest to rage as his protective instinct flared to life.

John had nothing of sacrificing himself for Sherlock. If it meant that Sherlock lived, then that was all that mattered. After Sherlock realized that John was the hostage, not the criminal mastermind, he couldn’t keep his eyes from flicking back to John every few seconds. His eyes were alternately asking if he was all right and apologizing for what was happening. For not believing in John. Those looks made everything worthwhile. In that instant, John knew that Sherlock loved him, even if he never said it.

He absorbed Moriarty’s threat to burn the heart out of Sherlock and filed it away for later. There was nothing that he and Sherlock couldn’t defeat, not now. Not with the knowledge of Sherlock’s feelings locked away deep in John’s heart.

As soon as Moriarty left, Sherlock was ripping the parka and vest off him. “Are you all right?” Sherlock asked in a panic. “Are you all right?

“Fine, I’m fine...Sherlock!” Sherlock flung the vest as far as he could and then grabbed John and yanked him close, clinging to him for a moment before tipping John’s head back and devouring his mouth.

They broke apart just long enough for Sherlock to gasp out “I’m sorry, John, I’ve just been overwhelmed and I couldn’t think for want of you and I’ve been an arse, I know and I went about everything the wrong way and I’m sorr—”

John cut him off by kissing him fiercely. “It’s fine now, Sherlock,” he gasped as he started kissing and nipping down his lover’s throat. “We’re fine, we’re fine, we’re—”

Moriarty’s mocking sing-song threat broke them apart. Sherlock stepped away from John and pointed the gun at the vest. John sank down in a crouch, prepared to spring into action. Sherlock met his eyes, and John nodded.

Sherlock pulled the trigger, and the world exploded.

*

Sherlock Holmes pulled out his mobile as he entered their flat, absently shaking the snow from his coat. John wasn’t back from trailing Gerald Winston yet, which was unusual. At the very least, John should’ve texted him with some information by now, and he hadn’t done that either.

At home. Where is Winston now?
SH

He waited for a few minutes, knowing that John might have to wait for an opportune moment to read his text and respond. When no response came after ten minutes, Sherlock frowned and sent another text.

Where are you? Is everything all right?
SH

Still no response.

John?

Still nothing.

JOHN.

Sherlock pulled his coat back on and raced down the stairs, arm out to hail a cab as soon as his feet hit the pavement.

*

Please, God, let me live, John prayed again, feebly. The doctor in him knew that he wouldn’t. His extremities were numb; he couldn’t feel his legs anymore. Lost too much blood, he thought detachedly.

Hurry, please. Please be here, I need you here where are you where are you where are you? please...


viii. I love you like crazy. If anything ever happened to you, I wouldn’t know what to do.

The first thing John was aware of when he woke up was the soft beeping of a heart monitor. The second thing was that everything hurt. The third was the burgeoning sense of panic for Sherlock where is he? Is he all right? He blinked and groaned softly.

“Good evening, Doctor Watson,” Mycroft said. He was standing next to John’s bed, both hands resting on his umbrella handle.

“Wha—“ John’s voice gave out. He cleared his throat and tried again, whispering this time so as not to overtax his sore throat (he recognized the soreness as coming from a breathing tube—worrying). “What happened?”

Mycroft’s fingers twitched on his umbrella handle as he shifted his weight. “What is the last thing you remember, John?”

“Sherlock pulling the trigger and shooting the vest full of Semtex.”

Mycroft grimaced. “The bomb exploded. Both of you were caught in the blast. Sherlock appears to have shielded you from the explosion. The police had to dig the two of you out from the rubble.”

“Where is Sherlock?”

Mycroft’s glare turned stony. “He’s dead.”

John’s breath left him. Every cell in his body was screaming Nonononononononono! but his throat was closed up and no sound could escape. A great, yawning emptiness took hold of his heart—John knew he would never fill it again so long as he lived.

Mycroft glanced at the nurse who ran in as John’s monitors went haywire. “We’ll speak again soon, Doctor Watson.” He turned and left as calmly as ever.

*

John was released two days later. There was no one to bring him home, so he took a lonely cab ride back to 221B. Mrs. Hudson greeted him at the door, tears in her eyes, clutching a handkerchief as she helped him up the stairs. His right ankle was broken and the cane, for now, was necessary, not a prop. John smiled faintly at the thought of Sherlock scoffing at the cane. But when he opened their sitting room door, there was no Sherlock sulking on the couch. The flat smelled like mould—one or more of Sherlock’s experiments must’ve gone off.

The thought of never getting to yell at Sherlock to clean up the mould before the flat became toxic was what finally pushed John over the edge. He tottered over to the sofa and collapsed on it. Mrs. Hudson, sensing that he needed some space, disappeared back downstairs, a promise of tea called over her shoulder.

When she came back up an hour later, hoping that John would have had time to collect himself, she found him with his face pressed into the back of the sofa, clutching the green throw pillow to his chest. She left the tea on the coffee table and crept back downstairs.

When she went up again the next morning, the tea was untouched and John was in the same position as the day before. She could hear the thick, clogged sound of his breathing through tears she couldn’t see. Mrs. Hudson gently leaned down and pressed a motherly kiss to John’s temple and stroked a hand through his hair. He shifted on the couch to make room for her, and then laid his head in her lap after she sat down. The two of them sat in silence, John’s tears soaking through her dress as she ran her fingers through his hair over and over.

*

Mycroft came to see John the next day and was greeted by John pointing his gun at his face. The gun didn’t waver at all. John’s knuckles were white where they gripped his cane.

“Where. Is. He.” John gritted out between clenched teeth.

Mycroft looked at him for a brief second, seemingly oblivious to the gun pointed at his face. “Ah.”

“We had a signal worked out in case one of us had to leave suddenly and couldn’t tell the other where we were going. It was our way to let the other we were still alive. I haven’t been upstairs until half an hour ago—my ankle couldn’t take the stairs. And I don’t think my heart could’ve taken sleeping in our bed without him in it, he thought. My red tie was on the bureau, so he had to have come here to set the signal after the pool—there wasn’t enough dust on it for it to have been before it.”

Mycroft’s face remained impassive.

John clicked off the safety. “I won’t ask again. Where. Is. He?”

“My brother has always been so dramatic. I knew, of course, that it would do more harm than good if I did as he asked and made you believe he was dead. The signal was one that we had used as children; we had a different meaning for it, of course. I had a feeling that he would have told you the signal and what meaning he would have assigned it. I had one of my people place the tie on your bureau. When my surveillance learned you had been upstairs, I came here. It is reassuring to see that my assumptions were correct.”

John didn’t move.

“Shall we sit down?” Mycroft took a seat in John’s armchair, and gestured at the couch. “Please, Doctor Watson, do sit down. I have much to tell you.”

John sat, the gun in his lap.

Before John could say anything, Mycroft started talking.

“Sherlock is in Paris. He’s fine—no lasting damage was sustained from the blast. He insisted that I help him disappear, fake his own death, so that he could keep you safe. Moriarty is still out there; his body was never found at the pool. Sherlock seems to feel that to have you with him makes you more of a target and makes him more vulnerable to distraction. He had me set up a protection detail for you and made me swear never to tell you that he was truly alive and well, knowing that you would come after him. He said that what he wanted was for you to be happy and safe, and knowing that you would eventually move on and perhaps find someone was enough for him. He thinks he’s doing the noble thing by sacrificing his own happiness to protect you. I think he’s wrong.”

John gaped. “He did all this, hurt me like this, just because he thinks I’ll be safer and happier without him? I can’t believe I’m hearing this. I won’t believe it.”

Mycroft gave him an assessing look. “Do you love my brother, Doctor Watson?”

“I think that’s none of your business. And if I did, I’d want him to be the first to hear it.”

“Good.” Mycroft stood and turned to the door. Anthea was there, a file folder in her hand. Mycroft took the folder and gave it to John. “In here you will find a new passport, identification, firearms permit, money, and Eurostar tickets to Paris. Sherlock’s hotel address and room key is there, too. Your rent here at 221B will be taken care of in your absence.” Mycroft gave John a small smile. “Good day, Doctor Watson.”

John was up the stairs and had a bag packed in record time.

*

Time slowed to a crawl as John made his away across the Channel and through Paris until he was finally standing in front of Sherlock’s hotel room door, heart beating so loudly he was surprised Sherlock couldn’t hear it. He slid the key through the lock and opened the door. Sherlock was slouched in the small desk chair, hunched over the laptop. He whipped his head around at the sound of the door, eyes wide as he saw John framed in the doorway.

“John?”

John was across the room in three strides, pulling Sherlock out of his chair and smashing his lips to his in a messy, brutal kiss.

“You do not ever do that to me again.” John growled as he tore his mouth away from Sherlock’s. “You do not go anywhere without me—we’re better together. Understood?”

Sherlock breathed a yesssss as John attacked him again. Sherlock’s fingers scrabbled at the buttons of John’s coat as John nearly ripped the buttons off of Sherlock’s smart black suit jacket.

He took Sherlock there in the dark, the soft blue glow of the laptop fading to black.

After, Sherlock held John as he drowsed, nose pressed into Sherlock’s neck. Sherlock gently pressed a kiss to John’s crown and murmured, “John?”

“Hmm?”

“I’m sorry.”

John pressed a kiss into his neck and propped himself up his hand to look Sherlock in the eye. “Forgiven. Don’t do it again. Don’t ever leave me and go where I can’t follow you.”

Sherlock nodded. “As long as you do the same.”

John smiled. “I swear I will not ever go where you can’t follow.” He leaned forward and kissed Sherlock. “Now, tell me what you’ve found so far.”

They talked late into the night, the soft sounds of Paris cocooning them as they planned their next move.

*

I’m sorry, my love.

The snow was falling more thickly now, settling and melting in John’s wounds.

John suddenly remembered something Sherlock once told him as they were in bed together in Switzerland as they waited to spring their trap for Moriarty: nothing lasts forever, John. There is nothing in this world that lasts forever. Sherlock had looked down, uncharacteristically shy. He went on to say, quietly, But if there was something that could, it would be us, John. The kiss they shared after his quiet declaration was one that still made John shiver whenever he thought of it, and it had been months ago.

If only it could be us, John thought. Oh, God, I wish it could.


ix. There are no sweeter words than this. Nothing lasts forever.

It took Sherlock six months to track Moriarty down.

They went all over Europe, breaking up some of Moriarty’s smaller crime rings. Stockholm, Brussels, Paris, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Belgrade, Antwerp, Kiev, Krakow, Minks, Moscow, and so many others that John forgot the names—all the cities began to blend together. They never spent more than four days in any one city for fear that Moriaty would trap them there, or anticipate their next move and have a trap waiting to be sprung at their next destination.

John, for some reason, had kept his old mobile—Harry kept calling and leaving tear-filled messages begging him to call her back, to tell her he was all right. She had reported him as missing, one of Mycroft’s infrequent communiqués said. John finally had to break his mobile into pieces and left them scattered throughout Europe—the temptation to call her back, even just to reassure her he was fine and hang up immediately after, was too strong.

Sherlock was growing more and more frustrated as time went on. Moriarty was always just one step ahead of them, dancing just out of reach. Sherlock nearly stopped sleeping, resigning himself to a few hours every few days, and that was only when John dragged him to bed, stripped him naked, and made love to him. John’s face gained a few new lines as he fought through Sherlock’s intellect to force him to take care of himself, to eat, sleep, drink, slow down for an hour.

John himself had become more paranoid—his gun was a constant, reassuring weight at the small of his back. He was constantly looking over his shoulder, waiting for some thug to emerge from the shadows and take him or Sherlock.

The stress got the better of both of them; Sherlock would snap at John’s “mothering” and John would shout about Sherlock’s “death-wish” and then they both would sulk in silence for hours or days until finally the dam would break and they would tumble into bed, breathing apologies into each others’ mouth. John thought they would never see home again, that this quest would end up killing one or both of them. He was nearly right.

*

Finally, six months after John showed up at Sherlock’s Parisian hotel, they found Moriarty in Switzerland. Arriving at the town of Meiringen, they checked into a local hotel and Sherlock set to work dismantling Moriarty’s second-largest crime ring. Two days into their stay, Sherlock received a text that made him pale slightly. John frowned at him, asked, “What is it, Sherlock?” but Sherlock didn’t bother to answer. Instead, he asked John to run out and find some black shoe polish—John, bless him, went out in search of it without questioning why. As soon as John closed the door behind him, Sherlock re-opened the text he had just received.

Hi, sexy. :) Been dying to have a chat.
Reichenbach Falls, 3 PM tomorrow.
Come alone. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to your pet, now would we?
-M x

Sherlock bit his lip for a moment and then replied:

3 PM
SH

Sherlock went down to the concierge and left a note for John, leaving instructions that Doctor Watson would be walking towards the Falls tomorrow, and would someone come and fetch the Doctor at 2:45 the next day to tell him about the note waiting for him at the hotel? The concierge nodded and wrote down his instructions with a promise that his message would be delivered as he asked.

Mission accomplished, Sherlock went back up to the room and waited for John to come back. When he did, Sherlock took him to bed and kept him there all night, taking John several times, each growing more and more desperate until finally, after the last round, John cupped his face and asked, “What’s troubling you?”

Sherlock bit his lip.

“What is it?”

John touched his forehead to his lover’s. “There’s nothing you can’t tell me, Sherlock, you know that, right?”

Sherlock swallowed. “I know.”

“Then what is it?”

“Nothing lasts forever, John. There is nothing in this world that lasts forever.” Sherlock said in a fierce whisper.

“Sherlock—” John’s face crumpled a bit, folding in on itself.

Sherlock couldn’t bear to see that look of hurt on his love’s face, and he looked down, uncharacteristically shy. He went on to say, quietly, “But if there was something that could, it would be us, John.” He met John’s eyes. “It would be us.”

“It will be us.” John said in the same fierce whisper Sherlock had used. He leaned up and kissed Sherlock deeply, one hand coming up to hold his head, fingers sliding deep into Sherlock’s curls.

When they broke apart long minutes later, Sherlock licked his lips and looked at John. His expression was one of endearing uncertainty, and John smiled and kissed him again.

“John?”

“Yes?”

“John, I....I just wanted you to know that I...” He cut himself off, heart suddenly pounding so hard that he could barely catch his breath. “I love you. Always.”

John’s lips parted in a silent gasp. He blinked, slowly, and he opened and closed his mouth several times before he finally found his voice again. He smiled at Sherlock, thumb caressing his cheek as a few silent tears slipped from John’s eyes. “I love you, Sherlock Holmes. I have never felt whole until I met you, and I cannot imagine life now without you in it.”

Sherlock’s answering grin forced his own tears to fall.

They made love for the first time as true, acknowledged lovers and slept tangled in each other, so intertwined that it was difficult to know where one ended and the other began.

*

The next day, Sherlock kept John in bed for as long as he could, until John, laughing, complained of being so sticky that if he didn’t shower he would end up permanently glued to the bed. He got up, stretched, and sent Sherlock a wink over his shoulder. “Care to join me?”

Sherlock was out of the bed in a flash.

After dressing, John suggested that they stretch their legs a bit, so they went on a walk around the town. At 2:30 in the afternoon, they passed a sign that pointed visitors towards the Falls, and with a quirked eyebrow at John, Sherlock started walking up the path. John caught up with him and took his hand, squeezing it gently.

Fifteen minutes later, someone started shouting, “Doctor Watson? Doctor Watson!” John turned, and stopped, pulling Sherlock to a halt beside him as a young boy ran up to them.

“Yes?”

“There was a message delivered for you at the hotel. They said it was urgent.”

John looked at Sherlock. “It’s probably from Mycroft—he’s the only one who would know we’re here.”

Sherlock hmmmed in agreement.

“Let’s go get it, then, shall we?”

“No, go on. I’d like to keep walking—I’ve been thinking over some of the....things we we’ve been looking at for the past few days.”

“Right.” John stood on tiptoe and kissed him fondly. “I’ll be back in a bit, yeah?”

John let go of his hand and followed the boy back to the hotel. Sherlock stood rooted to the spot, staring at John until he was long out of sight.
Sherlock turned and kept walking, shrugging off his coat and dropping it on a nearby rock as he made it to the Falls. Moriarty came up behind him, breathing “Hello, sexy” into his ear. Thus began the greatest fight in Sherlock’s life.

*

John walked up to the hotel’s front desk. “Message for Doctor Watson?”

“Yes, Doctor. Here you are.”

John took two pieces of paper from the concierge.

The first was in Sherlock’s spidery hand. John opened it with a sinking feeling clawing its way up his throat.

John,

I’m sorry.

SH

He clutched the scrap of paper in his hand as he opened the second note, hand trembling so badly he could barely focus on the words.

Falling off a cliff is such a messy way to go, isn’t it, Johnny boy?

-M x

“Fuck!” John spat and ran back the way he came, still clutching the notes in one fist.

*

When he made it to the Falls, all John saw was a great deal of smeared, muddy footprints at the edge of the cliff and Sherlock’s coat draped over a rock. “No....” he breathed. “No, please God, no, not him, not him, not now.”

He went to the cliff’s edge and looked down. There were no signs of a body. John cupped his hands to his mouth. “Sherlock!” His shout was swallowed up by the roar of the Falls.

*

Six hours later, the Swiss police called off their search. Night was falling, and there was still no sign of either Sherlock or Moriarty. They would continue their search the next day, they promised. Perhaps the currents were stronger than they thought and they had been washed further downriver than anticipated. John trudged back to the hotel, wanting only to fall into their....his., bed, bury his face in Sherlock’s coat (which he had clutched since finding it on the rock), and cry.

John held his breath when he opened the door to their, no, his room, a wild hope that Sherlock would be sitting on the bed or in the chair flaring in his chest. He wasn’t there. John fell fully clothed onto the bed, buried his face in Sherlock’s coat, and finally gave in to the sob that had been threatening to break free all evening.

*

At four in the morning, John sat straight up in bed, gun pointed at the window. Sherlock froze, one of his legs over the sill. “John?”

“Sherlock?”

His lover was covered in bruises and scratches, John saw as he put the gun down and turned on the light. Sherlock levered himself the rest of the way in the window, brushing off his suit. He turned to look at John, only to get a solid punch to the jaw that rocked his head back.

“You bastard!” John shouted. “Do you have any idea, any idea Sherlock, what I’ve been through today? What about your promise? Don’t go where I can’t follow? I thought you had, Sherlock. That’s twice, now, you’ve done this to me.” He paced the small room, turning sharply on his heel every ten steps. He stopped in the middle of the room, hands fisted in his hair. “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”

Sherlock stood absolutely still and silent. “John, I know I went about this the wrong way. Again. There was no other choice, John. He threatened you, and I had no choice. I will always choose to keep you safe, even if it means that you hate me for it.”

John’s head came up. “I could never hate you. But, God knows, I don’t always understand you.”

Sherlock sat on the bed, and John followed, keeping a careful few inches between them.

“What happened, Sherlock?”

Sherlock took a deep breath. “It’s over. He’s dead. We fought—he went over the Falls and nearly took me with him. I managed to keep my balance; he didn’t. I had to run into the woods to escape his backup. I got a little lost trying to make my way back here.”

John huffed a laugh. “Six months of chasing him and he dies by falling off a cliff.”

Sherlock reached over and took John’s hand. “It’s all but over, I should have said. There’s still his second-in-command out there.”

“Moran?”

“Yes. My sources say he’s back in London.”

“Home.”

“Yes.”

“Sherlock?”

“John.”

“Let’s go home.”

They smiled. Home, John thought as he pulled Sherlock to him and kissed him.

*

“Stop here!” Sherlock told the cabbie. While he didn’t know exactly where Winston might be, the most likely place was his local pub. If Winston was still here, John should be nearby. He threw money at the driver and leapt from the cab, striding purposefully to the pub door.

*

A few alleys away from Winston’s local, John Watson knew his time was almost upon him. He was shaking violently from blood loss; his blood had formed a large puddle that seeped under his back, perversely warming him while the snow froze him. It was getting harder to draw even a shallow breath and his heart was beating more sluggishly by the moment.

He tried desperately to remember the feel of Sherlock’s skin against his, the taste of him, the texture of his curls wrapped around his fingers. He thought he heard a familiar pair of footsteps at the end of the long alley where he was lying mostly hidden in shadow. “Sh-Sh-Sherlock?” he whispered. The footsteps faded away and John couldn’t help the one strangled sob that escaped him.


x. Before we met, I was so scared of dying. But if the end comes today, this will have been enough.


Once they had returned home from Switzerland, Sherlock surprised everyone with his return. Mrs. Hudson had fainted, and when she came around, hugged Sherlock and then John and cuffed both of them affectionately across the backs of their heads. Lestrade, Donovan, and Anderson took their return far more moderately—Donovan with an eyeroll and an almost-affectionate “Freak,” Anderson with a mostly-civil sneer, and Lestrade with an exasperated “Can we just get on with this?” and a smile.

John rang Harry, listened to her shout and sob simultaneously, and arranged to meet for coffee in a few weeks.

Sherlock, meanwhile, had been steadily chipping away at finishing off Moran and the last of Moriarty’s crime syndicate. They had only been back three days when John came home from the surgery (Sarah had nearly fainted when he walked in the door, and after regaining her composure, offered him his job back) to see Mycroft sitting in his armchair, Sherlock opposite him on the sofa. The brothers were engaged in a Holmesian conversation which consisted of raised eyebrows, significant looks, and discordant notes from Sherlock’s violin.

“Ah, Doctor Watson. Good to see you again.”

“Hello, Mycroft. Tea?”

“No, thank you, I must be going now. I just stopped by to see how Sherlock’s case was going.”

“Fine.” Sherlock drawled. “At least until you distracted me.”

“Do let me know how you get on.” Mycroft stood, and sent one last jibe at Sherlock, “Or if you need assistance.”

Sherlock glared and took up his bow, scraping it across the strings and making John wince as Mycroft shook his hand and left, twirling his umbrella.

*

Four weeks later, Sherlock was little closer to Moran, but he had managed to point Lestrade in the direction of several of Moriarty’s low-ranking henchmen, who were quickly arrested.

“I’m off to see Harry,” John shouted down the hall. When they had started sleeping together, Sherlock always came to John’s room, and eventually moved in upstairs, turning his own room into a storage/experiments-John-doesn’t-want-in-the-kitchen room.

“Fine.”

“Do you need anything while I’m out?”

“I’ll text.”

John smiled ruefully to himself and set off for the coffee shop.

Harry was waiting on him when he got there. She looked smaller than normal slouched in a booth near the back. Her blue eyes were tired and her hair looked limp. Christ, she looks awful, John thought with alarm. She managed a smile as he slid in across from her.

“Hey,” he said, trying not to let his worry show on his face or in his voice.

“I should be beyond furious with you, after I hear you’ve been caught in an explosion—which, by the way, I found out about because Clara called me and told me it had been on the news and told me that you were reported missing—and then, come to find out, you were alive this whole time and you. Couldn’t. Be. Arsed. To. Call. Me. And. Let. Me. Know!”

“Harry, I’m—”

“And then you call me out of the blue, six months after you’d gone missing, and nearly give me a heart attack and all you can say is hey?”

“Harry!” John reached out and grabbed her wrist. “Keep your voice down.”

“Johnny...” Harry’s mouth twisted and her eyes filled with tears.

John was next to her in a flash, pulling her close and hugging her tightly as she cried into his chest. “I’m so sorry, Harry. We were chasing someone all over Europe, and we couldn’t let anyone know we were alive because we were trying to keep everyone else safe. If anything had happened to you, I don’t know what I would’ve done. I would never have forgiven myself. I’m sorry, Harry, I’m so sorry to have put you through this.” As he held his sister, John finally fully understood why Sherlock had left him behind to go to the pool alone; why he had tried to fake his death—the mere thought of someone he loved coming to harm because of him was unbearable.

After her tears stopped and she had regained her composure, they talked for several hours. She was on her way to being completely sober, Clara had agreed to meet with her again and their relationship was slowly on the mend. Her job was going well, and things finally seemed to be looking up for her.

“I’m happy for you, Harry.” John said warmly as he played with the handle of his mug. “Really, truly happy.”

She smiled back. “What about you? How are things?”

“I’m in love with my flatmate,” he blurted.

“No shit.” Harry said, sarcasm dripping from her voice.

John glared at her.

“Oh, come on! I’ve known you were since you moved in with that madman. He’s all you ever talk about. Have you seen what you look like when you talk about him?”

John blushed.

Just then, his phone buzzed.

Need 8 ft. of nylon rope.
And biscuits.
SH

He grinned and pocketed his mobile.

“What, does he need a dozen eyeballs and a lizard?” Harry teased.

“Shut up.” John said and tugged her back into a hug. He kissed the top of her head (for all her teasing when they were kids, he had ended up just two inches taller than her) and held her tightly. “Take care of yourself.”

“I will.”

They shared one last smile as they walked out and started in opposite directions.

It was the last time they saw each other.

*

Three days after he and Harry met at the coffee shop, John found himself standing in front of a jewelry store, staring at the simple gold bands in the window. John had always wanted to be a husband. Sherlock’s husband. He smiled softly and opened the shop’s door, walking out half an hour later with a small box with their two rings in it hidden safely away in his pocket.

He hid the box in his bureau and waited. The anniversary of their first kiss was in two-and-a-half weeks, and he would ask him then.

Four days before John was going to ask Sherlock to marry him, Sherlock sat up in bed at two in the morning and shouted “Gerald Winston!”

John woke instantly, and said drolly, “I hope you weren’t shouting his name because you were dreaming of him.”

“What? No! John, he’s the link to Moran! We need to figure out his schedule—where he goes, who he sees. He’ll lead us to Moran, I know it.”

“Right, yes, fine. In the morning, Sherlock. Go back to sleep.”

Instead, Sherlock got up and went downstairs to pace. John huffed and turned over, falling back asleep in moments.

*

Sherlock started trailing Winston the next morning, bullying Lestrade into getting information about Winston’s criminal history (negligible). Sherlock spent the next two days buried in a mountain of paper—all of his evidence he had collected about Moran. His homeless network was watching for Winston, and at the end of the second day, the network came through again, providing information on Winston’s haunts through the city and the days and times he visited said haunts.

Sherlock was ecstatic. He grabbed John as the doctor walked by him and yanked him down onto the sofa, kissing him soundly. “We have him John!”

John grinned down at his lover. “Time to celebrate?”

Sherlock’s answer was to attack John’s belt.

They managed to make it up the stairs to their bed, shedding clothes along the way.

After, John tucked his chin into Sherlock’s shoulder. “You know,” he murmured drowsily, “before I met you, I was so afraid that I would die and in the instant before I did, I’d see that my life hadn’t meant anything.”

Sherlock stirred and pressed a gentle kiss into John’s forehead.

“But I don’t think that will happen now. You and me, this life, this has made it worthwhile.”

Sherlock was quiet for a moment. His own murmur stirred John’s hair. “This will have been enough? This dangerous, insane life we lead? I’ve nearly gotten you killed more times than I can count.”

“Yes,” John said firmly, “and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

*

The next night, the day before he was going to propose, John was sent after Winston (“Listen in on his conversations, John. Who does he talk to? What are they talking about? I need data, John.”). Sherlock, meanwhile, was following up some undisclosed leads on the other side of London.

That was how John found himself in Winston’s local at half past nine, drinking a pint and mentally recording everything Winston and his surly companion were saying.

When they stood up to leave, John left a minute later, throwing a few notes on the bar and heading out the door.

He hadn’t made it more than ten steps when he was grabbed from behind and dragged into a nearby alley. Winston’s sour breath nearly made him gag as John struggled against the iron grip of Winston’s henchman as he held him in a chokehold. Winston clapped his hand over John’s mouth and hissed, “Thought you were clever, eh, Watson? Moran’s smarter than your mate gave him credit for. Tell you what, though, you’ll make a nice present for him when he finds you dead in this alley.”

John caught a glint of the knife before searing pain ripped through his chest, leaving him gasping for breath. The henchman let go, and John fell in a heap.

The two men hurried away and left John bleeding to death in the snow.

*
Sherlock stared at the pub owner as he told him that two men, one matching Winston’s description, had left the pub about twenty minutes ago, followed by a man who matched John’s description.

Sherlock’s blood turned to ice as he strode from the pub. If John was not answering his phone, then something must have happened to him. John always answered his phone, and the lack of communication made dread settle in Sherlock’s stomach.

He began a methodical search of the alleys near the pub, searching for a clue to John’s whereabouts.

His heart nearly stopped when he saw a shadow move in the depths of one of the alleys. He ran into the alley, praying to a God he didn’t believe in that it was John, and if it was, that he was all right.

*

John’s last thoughts were of the small box hidden in his bureau. He wonders how long it will take Sherlock to find it, wonders if Sherlock will wear the ring John bought for him.

He was so cold. His eyes grow too heavy to keep open.

It’s okay that you weren’t here when I needed you, he thought. Oh, God, let me live. Please, God, let me live for him. He needs me too much, even if he won’t admit to it. Please...

Then, there was nothing but silence. The snow fell, gathering thickly on John’s eyelids, catching in his eyelashes.

“John? JOHN!” Sherlock crashed to his knees beside his lover, brushing the snow off of his eyelids and gathering him to his chest.

John moaned and cracked his eyes open. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“John, no, no, no, no, John, don’t go. I can’t follow you, John, you have to stay.”

He managed a ghost of a smile. “It was enough, Sh’lock.”

John Watson gave one final shuddering sigh and let go, held in his lover’s arms.

--Fin--