Sherlock has come to measure his life in the things he cannot say, in the words he keeps deep under lock and key, buried inside himself.
When he had been standing outside Appledore, lights flashing around him and his hands raised in surrender, he had known very well that he’d just done something even he would have a hard time getting out of. He’d had no choice, though – not with John’s safety at stake. It had been one of those moments, the ones he’d come to know so well in his two years away, where time stopped and every second felt eternal, where even the smallest details were magnified and distorted, and the most trivial things gained meaning and substance in their ability to just exist in the face of such mind-bending clarity.
And in that moment, his hands in the air, the helicopter roaring in his ears, a dead body at his feet – dead by his hands – he had turned and met John’s eyes. He had seen disbelief there mixed with fear and shock, and there was so much Sherlock had wanted to say as the world spun around them, somehow moving forward while the two of them remained locked in one moment that seemed as if it would never end.
It’s all for you, John, all of it, all so you can be safe. Can’t you see why I had to do it? I won’t let him touch you again. No one touches you, John. This isn’t the first time I’ve killed for you and I’ll do it again if I have to. You are the reason I live and the reason I die. You are everything. You are worth dying for again.
Yet he could say nothing. He’d had no time to say what he had wanted to say. Even if he had tried, the roar of the helicopter, the megaphones, the horror, and his pulse pounding in his ears would have drowned him out. The words were lodged deep in his heart, and so he spoke easier words instead. The words he’d wanted to say were nothing but the painful core at the center of his unraveling universe; a rock of emotion deep in his body wrapped up in memories of sentiment he hadn’t let himself think of since he was a child. He had choked them down and turned to face the lights of the helicopters, thinking only of John, and hoping more than he’d ever hoped before that John could finally be safe.
That’s the only place for the words he wants to say to John and the things he feels for John, he thinks, deep under lock and key, where his miserable self won’t taint them. He knows he ruins relationships. He knows it’s only a fluke that John has somehow decided to make Sherlock his best friend, and so he couldn’t say those things and wouldn’t do anything to risk it.
And now, Sherlock is standing on the tarmac with John. It’s silent, a stark contrast to the chaos of Appledore, and yet his entire being is on the same level of chaos it had been then. His mind palace is in ruins, swarmed by endless inner battles. The rooms and corridors and wings filled with John are threatening to crumble. He keeps his exterior calm and disconnects from the core of emotion inside of him. It’s what he has to do; he must protect John.
He makes jokes and he smiles. John doesn’t like emotional scenes, he knows that, so he keeps it light. He’ll do anything for John, after all. When he shakes John’s hand for the last time, though, their hands are clasped in a way that is so far from everything he wants that it’s painful despite his attempts to detach from the moment. The activity in his traitorous mind palace stills as the foundation holds and strengthens with this new memory: touch. He feels John’s skin against his, John’s hand warm and solid under his, John’s eyes boring into his, and everything around them disappears for a moment and it’s only this, as little as it may be.
For one moment, one terrifying, horrible moment, Sherlock is sure that the vice grip he keeps on the knot of emotions about John is going to slip. He’s terrified that things he cannot say will spill forth from his lips.
I’m going to die, John, I’m going to die, you don’t understand, this time it’s real and I can’t tell you. I can’t do this to you again, you can’t know, John, you mustn’t know, you must think I’m alive – I want to live, I want to be with you, it’s all for you, John, I’ll find a way, I’ll come back, please wait please wait please wait wait wait wait I can’t do this without you again John please I don’t even want The Work if you’re not part of it, please John wait for me, oh god, this is it, all the things I’ll never have –
But the thoughts take merely a millisecond to race in and out of his mind, and he smiles, gains control, turns, and leaves before he can let them take root.
Just like Appledore, he’s acutely aware of every moment. It’s another experience in which all of his senses seem heightened. Time seems to stretch as he boards the plane, seconds turning to minutes turning to hours turning to years. Every step is carefully hidden agony. As the distance grows between he and John, so grow the cracks around the bundle of emotion he tries so hard to hide. He feels so close to losing control that it’s dangerous, and boarding the plane is a relief because John is no longer watching him.
As he takes his seat, he feels a burn behind his eyes and he squeezes them closed. His heart is pounding and there’s something deep in his stomach clenching and twisting and writhing. His body is still, strapped into the airplane seat, but his insides are squirming to move, to go, to find John again.
He breathes deeply for a few moments, regaining control, firming the foundation of his mind palace.
And then, after an indeterminable amount of time that seems like seconds and hours and years all at once, the phone rings, and he can’t even begin to comprehend what it means when Mycroft says he’s going back.
And then, his body exuding confidence while his stomach writhes in emotions he can’t understand or allow to take hold of him, he exits the plane.
He keeps his control when Mycroft brings him in for top-secret debriefing meetings; it’s easy to turn off his emotions and fall into the familiar pattern of deduction and fact when Mycroft is involved. For that short time, his unbearable thoughts take a back burner; it’s only Moriarty and The Work, which is pale and confusing without John. But he’s falling short, and he can’t find the answers.
It’s not unlike the many mistakes he’s made recently, he thinks, first with Mary – missing so many important details about her, assuming she wouldn’t shoot him, assuming she’d purposefully spared his life – then with Magnussen. Magnussen had been a myriad of mistakes, from his glasses, to his vaults, and even to Sherlock’s underestimation of exactly how much Magnussen knew about his pressure points. He thinks he knows why his mind has stopped working like he wants it to – John. Too much of his mind is wrapped up in sentiment, and John’s not with him. It’s ruining him, plain and simple, and he’s beginning to feel desperate.
Finally, after a long and fruitless day, one of Mycroft’s cars brings him home. In the sleek and impersonal car, wrapped in the armor of his tailored suit, it’s easy to fall into the logical sociopath persona he’s so carefully crafted. But when the car pulls up to 221B, he’s shocked by the sudden wall of emotion, mostly relief, which hits him.
He does his best to push down the rush of emotions, but when he sees the off-center doorknocker and feels the familiar doorknob under his hand, he finds himself swallowing hard, his hands shaking. He’d thought he’d never see it again; he’d thought he was flying to his death.
And yet here he is, opening the door and going inside. He doesn’t know why this keeps happening to him, but his senses are on high alert again, trying to take in everything, and yet he can’t understand what’s happening.
He takes the steps slowly, blinking fast as he attempts to slow his mind and tries again to put a dam around the flood of emotions inside of him. He gets to the top of the stairs and opens the door with a shaking hand, though he keeps his back straight and shoulders back, knowing that if he allows himself even a moment of relaxation, he’ll break. He knows his resolve is wearing thin, that the ball of emotion in his stomach could surface at any moment. He wants to go straight to his bed and forget any of this has happened. He keeps his head down but jerks in surprise when he hears a voice.
It’s John. Of course it’s John, and Sherlock has been so intent on keeping himself together he’s failed to notice the clues of his presence, something which unsettles him more than he’d like. Another mistake. He swallows and holds himself still for a fraction of a second and then turns to John, who’s sitting in his chair. Sherlock melts into a familiar position of confidence, hoping he doesn’t seem surprised to see John.
“John,” he says, looking up, offering a smile. “Shouldn’t you be at home with Mary?”
John shakes his head, his face unreadable.
Don’t come over here, don’t, I can’t –
But of course, John stands and approaches. His jaw is set and he has the gait of a soldier, and Sherlock does his best to keep his own posture firm, to not give in to the twisting of his insides, but it’s getting hard.
John stops right in front of him. He doesn’t say anything, and Sherlock can barely breathe for fear of giving himself away. Unexpectedly, John reaches forward and pulls Sherlock into a tight hug.
Sherlock is stiff. His eyes are wide, and he’s staring, unfocused, at the window behind John. His pulse has skyrocketed and he can barely breathe, but John doesn’t seem to notice or care.
“Sherlock,” John says. His voice is low, carefully controlled and raspy, too close to Sherlock’s ear. “I almost lost you a second time, and I – Christ, I’ll be damned if I don’t appreciate the miracle this time.”
Sherlock squeezes his eyes shut. He feels his hands begin to shake and his posture is starting to crumble. His heart is pounding; his thoughts are racing.
Don’t touch me don’t touch me don’t touch me I can’t take it this is cruel I can’t I can’t, don’t ever stop –
With his thoughts as disjointed as they are, he can’t keep track of them. He doesn’t realize he’s holding his breath until he suddenly exhales fast and hard, his posture breaking, and he drops his head almost unwillingly against John’s.
He doesn’t know what he expects, but John holds him closer, his arms warm and strong, and something inside Sherlock is cracking.
It was all for you John, all for you, two years of torture and killing and fear and nightmares all for you I’d do it again I was ready to do it again don't you see John, don’t you see, I don’t want to do it again but I will don’t go don’t go don’t go don’t leave me –
And then John steps back, holds him by the shoulders.
Sherlock blinks at the sudden jolt. He’s breathing a little bit faster than usual, and his hands feel tingly. He curses himself, curses his traitorous body, his traitorous mind, his traitorous heart.
“Right,” John says. He clears his throat, squeezes Sherlock’s shoulders. He doesn’t meet Sherlock’s eyes, just gives him a quick once-over, as if to reassure himself that Sherlock is there and whole and safe. He gives Sherlock’s shoulders an awkward pat and then lets his hands fall inelegantly by his side. “You – you’ve nothing to say, then?” John asks. He’s hesitant, unsure, and Sherlock doesn’t know how to respond.
Sherlock’s heart is still pounding and he doesn’t know what to do. He’s never had emotions like this before, nor has he had a friend like this before, and if he’s honest with himself, he’s never even let himself give in to the mere dream of having someone like this in his life. He doesn’t know how to express this, doesn’t know how to express the agony he feels, and so he does nothing but shrug and offer a horribly false smile, a small one that goes nowhere near his eyes.
“Right,” John says again. “I – I guess I’ll go back to Mary, then.”
John turns, and in the time it takes him to take one step, something is happening in Sherlock that he can’t control. All the words he’s wanted to say, all the things he’s felt – the terror, the pain, the worry, the warm but painful things he can’t put a name to – they’re bubbling inside of him, twisting, working their way to the surface, fighting with his intellect, vying for purchase in his mind. The doors in his mind palace are blowing open, Redbeard is running in the surrounding yard, and there’s a warm wind howling through the hallways and rooms he’s never felt before.
The thoughts are bubbling to the surface – don’t go don’t go john it’s all for you it’s always for you, you have to stay john john john johnjohnjohn – and then John’s foot falls, his back to Sherlock, one step taken away from him, and it’s one step too many.
“John,” Sherlock says, but his voice is foreign, strange, wrenched from deep inside of him, rough with the emotion he’s tried so hard to stop. His hands are beginning to shake now, and his breath is getting fast. He’s rooted in place; he can’t move, can’t do anything except think of John, and now John is leaving –
I was going to die John, don’t you see? I was going to die, and I didn’t want to, I wanted to stay I want to stay, stay with me don’t leave me I need you I need you it’s too cruel, too cruel, why do I have to come back here if I can’t have you? just let me die if you’re going to walk away just let me die john john john –
John turns around and he’s there before Sherlock can realize what’s happening. Sherlock’s breath is coming in short, high gasps now, and he distantly realizes he may be having a panic attack. John’s hands are on his shoulders again, and Sherlock closes his eyes, savoring the contact, memorizing it, letting it drift through the open windows of his mind palace and taint every memory and thought inside because nothing in there is as important as John’s hands on his shoulders right now.
But John is speaking now, and Sherlock does his best to listen.
“Sherlock, Sherlock, Christ, would you bloody breathe?”
Sherlock blinks, stumbles when John pushes him, but then realizes John is guiding him to the couch, and he sits when John manhandles him down, does nothing but blink when John sits beside him and shoves his head between his knees with a rough hand to the back of his neck.
The hand grows gentle after a moment, though, and John’s voice is gentle, too, telling him to breathe. “In, out, in, out, that’s it, just breathe, Sherlock,” John is saying, and Sherlock can’t explain it, but a hot rush is forming behind his sinuses.
He can’t handle this gentle John; it’s too close to the deepest secrets of his heart, too close to the things he knows he’ll never have, too close to the impossible. He squeezes his eyes closed, curses the moisture he feels building in their corners.
He focuses on breathing and getting himself in control, and he manages, somehow, to quell the panic rising inside him. John’s hand is still on his neck, and he doesn’t dare move, though the position is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. He doesn’t think he can handle it, doesn’t think he can handle the swarm of thoughts in his mind – Moriarty hurt you and he’s here and I just killed a man but I’ll do it again, I’ll kill whoever is pretending to be him and I won’t regret it but stop touching me stop touching me don’t ever stop please I can’t take it –
“Sherlock,” John says. His voice is softer now, tinged with worry. His palm feels clammy against Sherlock’s neck. Sherlock breathes deep through his nose. He knows he can’t stay like this forever. He swallows, steels himself, and sits up. John’s hand slips away. He ignores the way the room spins for a moment, closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath. It’s shaky, but he’s doing his best to regain whatever control on himself he has.
“John,” Sherlock says again, and oh god, he hadn’t meant to speak. His voice is raw again. He hadn’t meant to, he really hadn’t, but he’s losing control fast. “John, you should – you should go,” he says, but he squeezes his eyes closed because he doesn’t mean it, he doesn’t, but he can’t bear for John to see him like this.
John laughs. It’s shaky and strange. “Of course I shouldn’t go, you bloody idiot,” he says. It sounds like a scolding.
Sherlock turns to face John, and he’s not prepared for the naked concern on John’s face. It’s blinding, so much concern directed at him, so much concern directed at him from John, and he swallows, unable to look away.
“Christ,” John says, his voice softer. “You’re a mess, aren’t you?”
Sherlock’s hands twist in his lap, but he still can’t look away, not from John. John’s concerned, he doesn’t like it when John’s concerned, and he knows John will be more concerned if he looks away – but he hates it, hates every second that John sees him like this, hates the way fear is crawling over his skin, hates the way he feels naked and exposed.
John reaches out and puts his hand on Sherlock’s shoulder, near his neck. Sherlock closes his eyes and a breath leaves him and his shoulders sag. He can’t handle this, he can’t.
“John,” he says again. It seems it’s all he can say, and this time, it’s wrenched out of him in such an utterly miserable way that his lower lip convulses for a moment against the upper, and he holds himself stiff and tries not to breathe for fear of losing control.
He’s come so close to losing it so many times today that each time is harder to control. His pulse is speeding up again, and he’s not sure he can keep whatever’s building up inside of him inside where it belongs.
“Sherlock,” John says. “You’re scaring me a little, you know?”
“I’m sorry,” Sherlock breathes. “Don’t – I’m sorry.”
“Christ, don't apologize,” John says. “There’s no need.”
Sherlock shakes his head, his breath coming fast again, his hands beginning to tremble. “John, you – it’s all – always, don’t you -”
He shakes his head, squeezing his eyes shut and tugging at his hair – this is all wrong. His words are all wrong, he’s not managing this right, he shouldn’t be saying anything at all, let alone these fragmented sentences, but all of the things he’s locked away are coming to the surface and he can’t handle it, not with John here, perfect kind wonderful John who cares.
“John,” he manages again, his hands dropping to his lap. Something hot is burning in his stomach. “Don’t go. Please.”
He closes his eyes, the words he can’t say rushing forth inside of him, threatening to spill, emotions he can’t handle fighting their way to the surface, when John reaches forward and pulls him into a hug again. He feels embarrassed to say such a mundane, trite thing to John, but it’s just another emotion to add to the cloud currently overtaking him. Somehow, this time, Sherlock relaxes into the hug, pressing his face into John’s neck, clutching the back of John’s jumper.
“I’m not going anywhere,” John says. His voice is low and controlled again. “I’m here.”
There’s so much he wants to say – I thought of you every day, every night I dream of you, you’re the reason I’m alive, I’m the reason you’re alive - but he presses his face into John’s neck instead, allowing himself this selfish indulgence, hoping to ease the flood of emotion, to ground himself into reality. He doesn’t even realize he’s shaking until John starts to rub a hand up and down his back, sending shivers over him, his flesh breaking out in goose pimples. He’s not sure anyone’s ever held him like this, and the twisting thing inside of him is threatening to spill over.
“John,” he chokes. “I can’t –”
“It’s alright, Sherlock,” John says. “Just let go.”
Sherlock shakes his head immediately, fingers twisting further into John’s jumper, breath coming out in a shuddering gasp, the pleasure of John’s hands against his back equivalent to torture in the way it’s making him feel all the things he’s trying so hard to push away. His skin is on fire, his insides are on fire; he can’t handle this.
“Let it go,” John says again. “You’re not alone, you know.”
And then Sherlock’s face screws up and it’s all rushing at him – torture, isolation, fear, worry, death, murder, Mary – and something opens inside of him, something terrifying. He feels like he’s been shot all over again.
“John,” he gasps. “It’s all for you. Everything. I jumped for you, I came back for you, I killed for you, and I’d do it again, I would, John, please-”
“Don’t you dare,” John says. He pulls Sherlock away, and Sherlock is shaking now, terrified to meet John’s eyes, but John meets his firmly, and the intent on his face is so strong it intensifies the hurricane of emotions Sherlock can’t control. “Don’t you dare even think of leaving me again,” John says, and Sherlock can’t help it, he can’t, but his hand reaches up and cups John’s face, presses against his skin, and his thumb rubs against John’s cheek. He closes his eyes; he hasn’t meant to do that, he hasn’t, but he’s out of control and he can’t help it and it feels like heaven, John’s skin under his thumb.
But John doesn’t push his hand away; he doesn’t do anything, and Sherlock opens his eyes, ready to meet anger in John’s face, but John looks startled and a bit shocked.
“Sherlock,” John breathes. “What – what you just said. It’s only just – what do you mean, you jumped for me?”
Sherlock swallows. He doesn’t move his hand; he can’t. It’s grounding him to John, forcing him to stay in the moment, forcing him to put himself on the line. “It’s – he would’ve killed you. Moriarty. He had a gunman on you. If I survived, you would die. I couldn’t -” He stops, regains control, focuses on the feeling of John’s cheek against his hand. “I couldn’t let that happen. That’s why you could never know I was alive, John.”
John’s silent for a moment, just staring, and their eyes are locked. John’s lips are pursed, his brow furrowed. Sherlock wishes he knew what he was thinking, but he can’t figure it out. “Christ, you – and I punched you in the face,” John finally says.
Somehow, his response makes Sherlock smile, a tiny small smile, and he closes his eyes in wonder – of course John can make him smile while he feels like his guts are being ripped out of him.
“And Magnussen – he’s not the first one you killed, is he?” John asks.
Sherlock’s smile disappears. He shakes his head no, but doesn’t open his eyes.
“How many?” John asks. He doesn’t sound judgmental; he sounds worried.
“Moriarty’s web,” Sherlock murmurs. His heart is pounding again, but this – facts – is easier to talk about than his feelings. “It was – eleven. There were others, but I didn’t have to kill all of them,” he says. “When they captured me, MI6 took-”
“They captured you?”
Oh Christ, he hadn’t meant to say that, he’d meant to soften the number of kills, but here he is, horrifying John, letting him down. He feels his hand start to shake and he starts to let it fall from John’s face, but John takes it in his. Sherlock’s eyes fly open to meet John’s, and John is warm, solid, holding his hand against his face, his thumb sliding against Sherlock’s.
Sherlock swallows. “John,” he says. “Please.”
He doesn’t know what he’s asking for. He just knows that he needs John, needs him, can’t stop what’s happening, needs what only John can give him that he’s too afraid to ask for.
“Sherlock,” John says, his voice soft. “I’m so, so sorry.”
Sherlock shakes his head. John’s not supposed to say that, he’s not.
“It must’ve been – Christ, it must’ve been terrible,” he says.
Sherlock tries to stop listening. He doesn’t want to hear this, he can’t hear this, but somehow, he’s replying, his words a broken whisper in the living room. “You weren’t there,” he manages, the choked words thick in the air between them. “I – every day I wanted to see you, I talked to you, I imagined you, but you weren’t there, and I – I wanted – I want – John, please, I can’t take this anymore, please-”
He’s never begged for something like this, he’s never wanted something like this, never, and he can’t bear to open his eyes, to see the rejection, to see the pity.
But when John speaks, it’s warm, understanding. “Sherlock,” he murmurs, his hand still secure over Sherlock’s.
Sherlock opens his eyes, and he’s not prepared to see the raw emotion on John’s face, the shining eyes, the intensity of his gaze.
“I’m so sorry,” John murmurs. “But I’m here now, I’m here. I won’t go anywhere.”
“Mary,” Sherlock says. He can’t help it. “You – you’re-”
John shakes his head. “I can’t – I didn’t know, Sherlock, I thought – Christ, it’s always been you, you have to know that.”
Sherlock thinks John must misunderstand the depth of Sherlock’s feelings. He knows this can’t be real. “No - ”
“Yes,” John insists. He lets go of Sherlock’s hand and it falls limply to the couch beside him, but John reaches out to cup Sherlock’s face instead. Sherlock’s heart is pounding; surely this isn’t happening, and yet he can feel the pads of John’s fingers against his skin, the rough edge of his thumb against his cheek. And then John is leaning forward, hesitantly, his eyes full of concern and fear, pupils flickering between Sherlock’s eyes and his lips.
Sherlock’s eyes fall half closed; he can’t bear to keep them open, and yet, he doesn’t want to miss John’s face in this moment. His hands are shaking and his breath is quick as John comes closer, just a bit, and then Sherlock drops his chin, and John’s lips brush his. It’s like electricity, like coming home, and his mind palace is under siege by John, who is blowing through it like a gust of hot summer wind.
It’s a short moment, but again, time seems to stretch, and in that moment, layered with the present is every time his heart has ached for John, every time he’s laid awake at night imagining John, every time he’s played his violin for John, every time John’s smiled at him and sent a flush of warmth over his body, every time their hands have touched over a cup of tea or a passed phone, every moment of his life with John, and when John pulls away a moment later, Sherlock can’t move. He’s frozen, his eyes half closed, his lips just beginning to part. The sensations he’s just felt haven’t even registered in his mind yet and he’s trying to catalogue the ghost of the previous moment, the feel of John’s soft lips still lingering on his own.
“John,” he breathes.
“Alright?” John asks, his voice far too soft, far too close.
“Yes,” Sherlock says, his voice low. “Please, John -”
He’s breaking, he’s sure of it, and he’s asking for things he knows he’s not capable of receiving, but he feels selfish, and when John’s lips touch his again, and John is there, there in ways Sherlock has never thought possible, present in heart and body and mind, his lips part against Sherlock’s and Sherlock clutches John’s jumper, pulling him closer.
They’re breathing the same air now, the two of them, and the twisting in Sherlock’s chest is beginning to solidify, spreading into warmth. Sherlock wants more, wants John’s air and John’s thoughts and John.
And then John’s tongue traces Sherlock’s lip, and Sherlock trembles, his own tongue sliding forward to meet John’s. He’s kissed before, of course he has, but it’s never been like this; it’s never reached into the very foundations of his being and pulled feelings and emotions out of him he’s never thought he could feel, it’s never invaded his mind palace, it’s never soothed the overwhelming flood of emotions he doesn’t know how to control.
John pulls away after a moment, and he holds Sherlock’s face in his hands, resting his forehead against Sherlock’s.
“Sherlock,” he murmurs. He rubs his thumbs along Sherlock’s cheekbones, and Sherlock opens his eyes, his heart pounding. John’s hands are shaking now, too. “Sherlock, I – what have I done to deserve you?”
Sherlock blinks in shock, then shakes his head, confused. “You – John, I don’t deserve you, I’ll never deserve you, you are-”
“No,” John interrupts. He lifts his head up and presses light, gentle, unhurried kisses along Sherlock’s cheekbone, temple, and ear. His hands are still warm against Sherlock’s face as his lips flutter against Sherlock’s skin, and Sherlock’s breathing becomes shallow as his stomach twists. Somehow, this feels even more intense than the kiss they’d just shared, and Sherlock can’t help it; the burn in his sinuses is back, and he feels hot tears pooling in the corners of his eyes. He closes his eyes, his lip quivering, and grips John’s wrists in his hands, tries to pull them away, but John keeps them where they are. John presses a kiss against Sherlock’s temple again, but this time, he holds his lips there, doesn’t move. Sherlock’s hands lose their grip on John’s wrists and fall away and the tears are leaking from his eyes and he can’t stop it, and John brushes them away with his thumbs. It’s quiet in the apartment, dusk filtering in the windows, and the only sounds are Sherlock’s breaths hitching between them. It’s like hushed magic, and Sherlock’s not sure it’s even real.
“Sherlock, you – you are amazing, what you’ve done -” John says, but he stops, and Sherlock opens his eyes. John’s eyes are right there, blurry as they are through the tears that won’t seem to stop, and they’re staring into his own. “Thank you,” John murmurs. “Thank you so much. You’ve saved me so many times.”
Sherlock shakes his head. “No,” he says, his voice choked. He sniffs, his breath catching. “You’ve saved me, John.”
John smiles at him, a soft smile Sherlock has never seen before. “It’s good we’ve found each other then, isn’t it?” he says.
Sherlock manages a smile. Somehow, the things he cannot say aren’t fighting with him any more; they’ve calmed, quieted, retreated. He’s said them, he thinks, and he feels tired. He leans forward and rests his head against John’s neck, and John’s hands shift to his neck and his back, holding him close. It’s without fear that Sherlock lets his arms encircle John’s waist, and he inhales, closing his eyes, his mind feeling clearer than it has in ages.
“Rest,” John murmurs. “It’s alright. I’ve got you.”
And with a warm breeze flowing through his mind palace, sunlight flooding the hallways and the rooms for the very first time, the foundation strong and secure, Sherlock rests.