Chapter 1: Twenty Words John Watson Needed without Knowing Them
1. Toska n. Russian: great spiritual anguish, often without any cause; a dull ache of the soul; longing with nothing to long for.
When Dr. John Watson was invalided home from Afghanistan, he’d been in too much pain—shock really—from the wound to his shoulder to focus on how much his life had suddenly changed. He’d had a purpose with the military, using his medical knowledge to save lives instead of fight the common cold. On that particular day, the one he’d been wounded, he had been running to reach a corporal who was bleeding out onto the white-gold sand when the bullet had torn through his shoulder, the hot metal biting his muscle and bone. After running another dozen paces, Doctor Watson had collapsed, blacking out from blood loss mixed with pain and heat.
Two surgeries, four pints of blood, seven stitches, three plane rides, and five psychotherapy sessions later, John found himself sitting in a dull, little room that contained little beyond his dull, little wardrobe, and the laptop on which he kept his dull, little blog. Harry kept saying how glad she was that he was safe at home, that he should be thankful he’s alive. But all he could feel was a hollowness in his chest, a little below and to the right of the knot of stiffness in his shoulder. His life had changed, and he felt as though he was missing something he’d never had, something he cannot see or express but knows is very much gone.
He doesn’t realize there is a word for it, but a Mr. Mycroft Holmes does, even if he doesn’t share this exact knowledge when he meets the good doctor two weeks later.
2. Duende n. Spanish: the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.
John and Sherlock didn’t go on dates per say, but every so often they would go on an entirely non-work-related outing and spend the day together with their fingers intertwined as they walked. On one such outing, John had convinced Sherlock to see a traveling van Gogh exhibit. Together they wandered the gallery, with Sherlock pointing out specifics of the brush strokes and subject matter, which John was sure he had researched on the internet before coming, as artwork often was of little use to solving cases. He had been proven wrong in a few instances, but he still held on to only the most basic information.
Conversely, John had done a lot of museum visiting as a teen and enjoyed reading art history books. Van Gogh had never been John’s favorite artist, having favored the strange geometry of Picasso. But he appreciated the work immensely, and there was something to be said for seeing the originals up close. As they stopped in front of The Starry Night, possibly the most famous piece of post-impressionist art in the world, John felt his breath catch in his throat.
“He painted it towards the end of his life, when he was in the asylum in Arles, a little over a year before he killed himself,” Sherlock said as he examined the painting in much the same way he looked over a corpse. “He said he had ‘a terrible need for religion’ when he painted it. You can sort of tell.”
John turned his attention from the painting to Sherlock, awed that he could look at something so beautiful and not be utterly stricken with the genius of it. But then Sherlock had always been more auditory, favoring classical music over classical artwork. John quickly turned his attention back to the painting, letting each stroke and swirl settle into him and feeling like he was, in some strange way, looking into the face of a god in which he wasn’t even sure if he believed.
3. Iksuarpok v. Inuit: to go outside and check if anyone is coming.
For the third straight day, John’s mobile had remained unusually quiet. His last contact with Sherlock had been a text saying, “I’ve found him. I should be home soon. Remember my bees.” He had smiled at the last part. Sherlock disliked being romantic just about as much as he disliked repetition, but he knew John liked to be reminded of his feelings. They had once spoken about what they would do when they retired, if they ever had the chance to retire. John had expressed an interest in moving to the country which had sparked a fire in Sherlock’s eyes. He had smiled, and said it would allow him to finally indulge his desire to be an apiarist without inconveniencing John.
Sherlock had never come closer to saying he wanted to spend the rest of his life with John, and he didn’t have to.
But now Sherlock was missing, on his mad hunt for Jim Moriarty. No one had heard from him in three days. Not Lestrade, not Mycroft, and not John. No contact to anyone in just over 72 hours. After facing his nemesis and the most dangerous man John had ever encountered; a man who had walked into and all over their lives eleven months ago, then disappeared after the events at the pool that led to John finally manning up and telling Sherlock how he felt—and the most searing kiss John had ever received.
Now he felt empty as he pulled his mobile out of his pocket for the third time that minute to confirm that he had received no new messages. Unable to stand waiting anymore, John pulled on his jacket, raced down the stairs and out the door. He paused, then looked down both sides of the street, letting hope infiltrate his mind one last time as he saw the hem of a black greatcoat billow out with the wind. Then a man, who was most definitely not Sherlock, passed in front of the tree that had blocked him from view. John’s heart sank as he turned, opened the door and tromped back up the seventeen stairs that led to 221 B.
4. Glas wen n. Welsh: a smile that is mocking or insincere.
Sherlock Holmes rarely smiled, and when he did it was to get something, whether it was better service at a restaurant or information at a crime scene. They were smiles that never moved past his lips, leaving his eyes cold and calculating. Most people ignored or didn’t notice the absolute lie that a smile from Sherlock Holmes was, but not John Watson. John could instantly tell that Sherlock was using the young woman who worked at Bart’s in order to get what he wanted. He could tell that the smile Sherlock gave in greeting to himself and Mike Stamford was merely him stooping to oblige social niceties. Even the smiles he gave to their new landlady, Mrs. Hudson were empty; he could see a flicker of warmth in his eyes during those smiles, but only a flicker—even this woman for whom he obviously cared did not garner a real smile.
No, the first time John ever saw Sherlock Holmes really smile was when he received a case, which just happened to involve a serial killer. He was nearly gleeful when he was working and, more importantly, not interacting with other people. Sherlock very clearly did not care for people, so his actions towards John were confusing to say the least.
He constantly worked to keep John involved, asking his opinion and for his observations, even as he was proven wrong by the superior intellect of the consulting detective. He still didn’t smile with his eyes as they worked, not at John; not until he had solved the case, gotten a name from the cabbie John had shot for him, and explained his deductive brilliance to DI Lestrade. Then, upon working out the entirety of the night’s events, as he walked away with his new partner, Sherlock Holmes smiled a genuine smile at John Watson, a smile that only left his face upon discovering his meddling older brother waiting for them.
5. Jayus n. Indonesian: a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh
Never in his life (even though he had only known Sherlock for six months, he couldn’t much remember what his life was like before his flatmate had invaded his every waking moment) did John think he would be better at anything than the great genius, Sherlock Holmes. But at the moment he was a little too preoccupied with clutching at his ever clenching and unclenching abdominal muscles as he laughed uncontrollably to notice that such an event had occurred.
“Really, John,” Sherlock huffed, “It wasn’t that funny.” This just made John laugh harder.
“We’re going to arrive at the crime scene in three minutes and twelve seconds, and if Lestrade sees you like this he may not let you advise me. And you know I can’t work with his people, even if Anderson isn’t on today,” Sherlock said, his voice teetering on the edge of pleading.
John finally managed to slow his breathing and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes in order to push away the mirthful tears that lay in the corners. “I’m sorry, Sherlock,” he managed to choke out, “But that was possibly the worst delivery of a joke I have ever heard.”
“Yes, perhaps that is because,” Sherlock said, “humor often relies upon a greater level of emotional understanding than I possess.” His tone had turned much colder than John was accustomed to, and as he looked at his friend he realized how vulnerable Sherlock had allowed himself to become with John. Also that he was lying to save face, Sherlock understood emotions, he just rarely expressed them.
Both men let the silence settle over them before John decided to indulge his flatmate and said, “Sorry for being such an arse, Sherlock. I wasn’t thinking.”
“At least I got you to laugh,” Sherlock responded, “That was my goal, after all. Now, I believe Lestrade has some bodies he’d like us to look at.”
6. Tartle n. Scottish: the act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.
In his long association with Sherlock, John had never known him to be anything but highly articulate. But one night, after being seated in a corner booth at Angelo’s where John had taken hold of Sherlock’s face and pressed their mouths together, and run his tongue along his partner’s lips, a cheery voice had said, “Sherlock Holmes, is that you?”
John pulled back to see a tall, red-headed woman standing by their table. “Hello?” John said, confused as to Sherlock’s relationship with this somewhat Amazonian woman.
“Hello,” she replied before returning her attention to the still flushed detective. “Sherlock, aren’t you going to introduce me to your, hmm, friend.”
“Y-yes, of co-” here he gave a choking cough, “of course. John, this is…” Sherlock paused, and John could see his hard drive buzzing behind his cool, grey-green eyes. “This is Carolyn Forster. I managed to find the man who killed her manager several years ago. How have you been, Carolyn?”
“Oh, Sherlock,” she cooed, “Surely you haven’t forgotten that you did far more for me than that.” John raised his eyebrow at this but refused to comment just yet.
“I introduced you to one of my brother’s friends from university, that’s all. The fact that he happens to have connections at the National Theatre and helped you get that part is beyond my influence.” Sherlock had pursed his lips upon finishing his statement.
John then stuck out his hand, and Ms. Forster grabbed it, “It’s been a pleasure meeting you Carolyn,” John said, “But Sherlock’s taking me out for my birthday, and it was kind of supposed to—”
“Oh, god!” Carolyn exclaimed cutting him off. “I’m so sorry, I’ll let you get back to your date.” She then sauntered off, back to her own table.
“You didn’t need to lie to her, John. I’d have gotten rid of her eventually.”
“Sure you would have,” John replied. Then he placed his hand along Sherlock’s jaw. “Now where were we?”
7. Mamihlapinatapei n. Yagan: the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.
John knew that he was drawn to Sherlock Holmes in a somewhat-more-than-platonic way the day after he met him. Not the day he met him, that first meeting had been infuriating, confusing, and a little shocking, but he hadn’t yet worked out any specific feelings he had for the strange, highly perceptive man. But after agreeing on a flat share, investigating a crime scene, being kidnapped by a government official, running through the streets of London, and shooting a murderous cab driver, John knew he felt something for Sherlock.
So he wasn’t particularly surprised when he started getting a warm feeling whenever he managed to make Sherlock smile, a real, full-face smile, not the cold, mouth-only version he uses when he’s trying to get information on a case. He was more surprised when those smiles became a more frequent occurrence. Then one day, after wrapping up a particularly gruesome murder case, during Sherlock’s first meal in four days (tea, toast, and plum jam) John made a comment—really more a pun, and a bad one at that—which led to a soft chuckle escaping the consulting detective’s throat before he looked up from one of the medical journals he had filched from John’s post. The sound caused John’s gaze to flit from the nearly empty sugar bowl to Sherlock’s face, and dark eyes stared into pale ones, both sets slightly crinkled at the edges. Taking a deep breath, words flooding his brain, John let his lips part, and Sherlock quirked an eyebrow, his smile soft and passive. The words on John’s lips froze and he closed his mouth, holding the air and all the possibility that came with voicing his desires tight inside his chest.
He glanced down into his tea cup, thankful for relief from Sherlock’s constantly analytic gaze. John didn’t look up again until long after Sherlock had managed to push the disappointment from his face.
8. Schadenfreude n. German: the act of taking pleasure in the misfortune of others.
Everyone who knew him would describe John Watson as a compassionate man. No one who knew Sherlock Holmes would describe him as such. No one save John Watson. Sherlock was perfectly capable of feeling for others—he simply chose to turn off any feelings of empathy he may have while working, and even while interacting with most people because it made him more efficient, better at his work, more capable of coping with his light speed thought process. It seemed to have become his natural state of being through years of keeping up barriers to shut everyone out. Then there was John.
With John, Sherlock was warm, happy, he would smile more freely. He turned his compassion back on with John. He turned it back on so much more frequently that when watching a particularly emotionally tense episode of Doctor Who (one of the only programs Sherlock tolerated) he found his eyes watering to the point he had to blink and let the fat droplets roll down his cheeks. John had been turning to check Sherlock’s reactions periodically throughout the episode and when he saw Sherlock Holmes get weepy over the Doctor he couldn’t help but let a giggle escape his lips.
“What?” Sherlock asked in a huff.
“Sorry, just, I’ve never seen you actually cry before. Not even when you were in physical pain.” Another giggle bubbled up from John’s chest.
“I am perfectly capable of expressing my emotions… sometimes.”
“I can see that, Sherlock, and I’m sorry. I know it’s hard to believe but sometimes I have mean thoughts, just like everyone else.” The smile still hadn’t left his face. “And the thought of you crying over Doctor Who is just a little, well, humorous to think about.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, John,” Sherlock said as he turned his attention back to the telly, his very demeanor declaring the conversation over.
9. L’appel du vide n. French: the instinctive urge to jump from high places
John Watson hadn’t ever thought he’d be running around the rooftops of London, but then, that had been before he’d met Sherlock Holmes. Now they were chasing a cab, trying to head it off before the passenger managed to elude them again and kill someone else.
Finally they hit a gap between buildings and Sherlock leapt without a second thought. John, however, paused as he remembered the psychosomatic limp in his bum leg. He looked down, getting hit with a wave of vertigo at the thought of missing the ledge, imagining falling, imagining throwing himself onto the pavement, before hearing Sherlock break through his wonderings with a shout of, “John, come on,” and he mustered the nerve to leap across the gap and dash to catch up to his mad new flatmate.
10. Torschlusspanik n. German: the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.
John had few worries in life. He liked his work at the surgery, he liked his work with Sherlock, he liked their friends, and he really liked his life at 221 B Baker Street. He was in a stable, committed relationship, and that relationship just happened to be with the man he had moved in with a little over four years ago. John knew one day he’d have to slow down, retire, but he and Sherlock had already discussed moving to the country and keeping bees, so that thought kept him happy.
Sherlock ended up a little more stressed about such things. One day, John came home from work to find Sherlock in a tizzy.
“What’s wrong?” John asked putting his hands on Sherlock’s shoulders in order to stop his pacing.
“I’ve got a grey hair, John. A grey hair!” Sherlock exclaimed as he lowered his head for John to inspect.
“Sherlock, you’re thirty-eight, the fact that you haven’t found one before now is pretty remarkable,” John said. “I know you rarely give a thought to your own mortality, but you’re getting older, and that’s just how life is.”
“But I’m not ready for old age! I still have so many more years of work ahead of me. And besides, you know I’d be intolerably bored by infirmity.”
“Yes, I do,” John said. “And I also know that you still have decades of work ahead of you before you even need to think about retiring.” Then he folded his partner up in his arms and whispered, “Now, no more dwelling on this. You keep your life moving forward or you’ll stagnate and miss out on the rest of it.”
11. Litost n. Czech: a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
As John pushed open the door to his empty, cluttered, cavernously small, cold, stuffy, and deafeningly quiet flat—his and Sherlock’s flat—he felt a hot stinging behind his eyes. His stomach turned and his throat constricted as he surveyed the room, pausing on every piece of Sherlock he saw. And there were so many, far more than pieces of himself that littered his living space. Finally, he locked onto Sherlock’s Union Jack pillow, grabbed it, and with a shuddering breath walked upstairs to his—no, their—bedroom.
Clutching the pillow to his chest, John collapsed onto the bed, breathing in deeply before exhaling in a slow whoosh. A salty tear dripped off the end of his nose and onto his lower lip before he realized he was crying. He gasped and choked as he huffed out a breath meant to expel the cold that had settled into his lungs. But the pain was too deep, and it felt as though it would never leave, because he didn’t know if Sherlock would ever come back.
12. Kyoikumama n. Japanese: a mother who relentlessly pushes her children towards academic achievement.
John didn’t meet Sherlock’s mother until he had been sleeping with his flatmate for six months, living with him for just over a year. Prior to the meeting he had thought she must have been strict, pushing her brilliant sons to attain the greatest level of success possible. He had assumed that Mycroft would be the favorite for having gained so much power, however unrecognized it may be. She had become an intimidating figure in his mind’s eye, the kind of mother who would rave, and send you to bed without supper for refusing to practice your violin.
The reality of the woman had been very different. She looked remarkably like her younger son, with dark curls, now greying, and clear, light-colored eyes. She had the same full lips, and she smiled so warmly when she saw him that John couldn’t help but return her soft grin. “I’ve heard so much about you, John,” she said as she took his proffered hand in both of hers, “From both of my sons.”
“Nothing too bad, I hope,” John replied as she ushered him inside the house.
“John, what could Mycroft possibly have to say about you that Mummy could construe as remotely bad,” Sherlock said.
“Actually, I was a bit more worried about what you’ve told her,” John said, flashing a smile at his boyfriendloverpartner. In response Sherlock stuck his tongue out at him, which John found so childishly endearing he couldn’t resist reaching out and grasping his hand, squeezing gently.
Mummy Holmes smiled, “My boys speak very highly of you, John. I’m so happy Sherlock has you in his life. You bring out the best in him, which is all I’ve ever hoped for.” And John found his previously held beliefs oddly confirmed.
13. Tingo n. Pascuense: the act of taking objects one desires from a friend’s house by gradually borrowing all of them.
Sherlock had a tendency to ask John once if he could borrow something, then treating an affirmative response as an open invitation to continue using said object whenever he pleased. At first it had annoyed him, and then he figured there was no harm in it; Sherlock wasn’t taking anything out of the flat, and John still had access to his things whenever he needed them.
He would have continued thinking little of the odd aspect of Sherlock’s personality had it not been for the fact that his jumpers had begun disappearing following the one time Sherlock had been excessively cold in the flat, because their heating was out, and had asked if he could borrow one of John’s jumpers since his coat wasn’t keeping him warm enough. John had been happy to fetch him one at the time, and while Sherlock still hadn’t been warm enough and the two had ended up on the sofa wrapped in all the blankets they could gather together in order to share body heat, it hadn’t seemed particularly odd just then.
A week later three of John’s jumpers had gone missing. After another week the only one he could find was the one he currently had on his back. “Sherlock,” He called down the stairs, “Sherlock, have you seen any of my jumpers?”
He ran down to the kitchen where he had last seen the consulting detective, only to find him gone. He searched the flat, but realized that Sherlock must have popped out for some reason or another. Perhaps Lestrade had called and Sherlock had been in too much of a rush to let John know he was leaving or even to ask him along for the case. So John took advantage of Sherlock’s absence to poke around in his bedroom, considering the possibility of his jumpers being there rather high.
He found a whole pile of them in the corner by Sherlock’s wardrobe, a pile which he quickly scooped up and carried back to his bedroom. Neither of them ever said a word about it afterwards.
14. Hyggelig n. Danish: a warm, friendly, cozy feeling that must be experienced not explained.
John had never thought getting married would happen quite like this for him. He’d always figured on a small church wedding to a nice girl he’d dated for a few years before deciding to settle down and have a family. Instead he’d had a small civil ceremony before three witnesses—Mycroft, Harry, and Mrs. Hudson; Mummy Holmes couldn’t make it to London in time—to a tall, perceptive, awkward genius of a man he had lived with for a few years before deciding to make it official and otherwise continue their lives as normal.
After making sure they had all the appropriate documents filed they returned to Baker Street along with their witnesses and a few other guests—Mummy managed to arrive in time for the reception—where they had tea and Mrs. Hudson had made a cake. It was quiet and small, and nothing like John had imagined, but he’d never want anything else now that he had it. He had Sherlock and a promise they would be together until they died, along with a ring on Sherlock’s finger to help stave off unwanted advances from men and women alike.
But John didn’t want to dwell on anything more than the feeling he had right in that moment when Sherlock leaned over to kiss him in front of their family and friends. There were whoops and cheers around the room as John reached his hand up to tangle in Sherlock’s curls, and he could feel himself melting into the moment; letting himself relax completely, basking in the warmth and friendship that hit him from all sides.
15. Saudade n. Portuguese: the feeling of longing for something or someone that one loves which is lost.
John had never really let himself believe the day would come. He’d known on a primal level, somewhere at the back of his brain that it would have to happen eventually; he just hadn’t counted on it happening so soon. Martha Hudson’s death had hit him in the chest like a bowling ball and pushed all the air out of him. She had been their landlady—his and Sherlock’s—for close to ten years before she had sold them the entire property on the condition she be allowed to keep her flat.
That had been three years ago. The previous night John had gone to check on her since they hadn’t spoken at all in the past two days. He found her stiff and cold on the floor of her kitchen. He’d called up the steps for Sherlock to dial 999 before doing a cursory examination that told him she’d likely had a stroke and collapsed; she’d have been brain dead in a few minutes, fully dead soon after. The coroner’s report they received the next day confirmed his diagnosis.
After making all the funeral arrangements and the appropriate phone calls to her extended family, John had collapsed. He’d managed to remain calm until then, but he let the damn break as he curled in on himself, waiting for the soft, constant, feeling that something was irreplaceably missing from his life to dissipate. Sherlock found him about an hour later and simply curled up behind him on the floor of their bedroom. After a few moments he whispered, “I know, love, I miss her too.”
16. Yuputka n. Ulwa: the phantom sensation of something crawling on one’s skin.
John was thankful to be done with the game between Sherlock and his psychotic-bomber “fan.” He didn’t care that it had ended abruptly, but he knew Sherlock did. The simple fact that he had left Sherlock watching a crap “who’s the father” telly program told him something was wrong.
Still, after days of insanity, John needed a break, and popping over to his sort-of-almost-maybe-girlfriend’s flat and spending the night away from his mad flatmate, and deductions, and consulting criminals, and the possible crisis of sexuality that his mad flatmate brought on seemed the best option. Wanting to clear his head, he had walked the whole way there, but as he crossed in front of an alleyway a few short blocks from Sarah’s flat, John felt a tingly prickle run along his back, as though a dozen insects scurried up and down his spine.
John looked from side to side, then behind him, before continuing on. He was a block away from Sarah’s flat when a sleek, black car pulled over and a tall man dressed in black got out, tackled John against the nearest building as he covered his mouth, and pulled him into the car as the sickly-sweet smell of chloroform filled John’s nose.
17. Prozvonit v. Czech: to call someone’s mobile phone, let it ring once, then hang up so they will call back and pay for the call.
Often, Sherlock would get in a mood, which led to his needing an outlet for his boredom, especially when he didn’t have a case. This usually resulted in an excess of body parts in the kitchen. That or Sherlock bothering Molly down at the morgue to let him do some experiments. In one very odd instance Sherlock began toying with his brother in a way only Sherlock Holmes would think to do.
Although Sherlock preferred to text he began calling his brother, but instead of letting the call go through he would hang up after the first ring. Then Mycroft would immediately call him back, ask what he wanted, Sherlock would say it was a pocket dial, or that he’d realized he could take care of it, or in some cases he’d actually have a request. Sometimes he would disconnect the call halfway through a word, which prompted Mycroft to call him again. He’d keep up the strange pretense for hours at a time, until finally, about two weeks into his new game, Mycroft said enough was enough and that he was going to tell Mummy. Sherlock promptly stopped the ruse, but smiled to himself when John asked him about it.
“I probably wasted about seven hundred of his minutes for this month, no great inconvenience to him anyway, but he won’t be pleased.”
“This really is the most childish thing you’ve ever done,” John said as he brought Sherlock his tea.
“I know,” he said as he took the cup, “But you know you like it when I am. It reminds you that I’m human.”
“Maybe it does,” John said with a smile.
18. Ya’aburnee n. Arabic: the declaration of the wish to die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.
Once, a particularly nasty case that took them into the country for a week and a half before Sherlock managed to solve the rather grisly string of murders ended with them being shot at repeatedly before local law enforcement managed to arrest the culprit. After a day of running across the countryside and almost being killed, together they collapsed into their rented cottage, breaths shallow as residual adrenaline coursed through their veins. After letting his heart slow for a moment and regaining his bearings, Sherlock pounced on John, letting his mouth move languidly along John’s neck, up his jaw, to his ear. His partner responded eagerly, sliding his hands along Sherlock’s back, bringing them to his chest and letting his thumbs rub circles around his lover’s already hard nipples. Sherlock moaned before crashing their mouths together in a dance of lips, tongue, and teeth, which heated intensely until they ended up naked, limp, and panting on the bed.
“God, that was good,” John said into the top of the head resting on his good shoulder.
“John,” Sherlock mumbled into his chest, “Marry me.”
“What?” John asked, clearly taken aback by Sherlock’s request-that-was-really-more-of-a-statement.
“I don’t want to live in a world where you aren’t. If you died, I don’t think I could continue, not anymore.” Sherlock pushed himself onto his forearm, letting himself look John directly in the face. “Will you marry me, John?”
And without a second’s hesitation John leaned forward to press his lips to Sherlock’s before saying, “Yes.”
19. Ilunga n. Tshiluba: one who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.
Mycroft Holmes was a difficult man to reach, seeming both far more detached and more emotionally aware than his younger brother. John also figured he had far more political influence than even Sherlock suspected. Somehow, Mycroft had managed to get John to answer the door and invite him in for tea; Sherlock had been missing and (John hardly dared to think it) presumed dead for just over two weeks.
“My people have found his body,” Mycroft said softly. John stood and walked to the door, ready to show Mycroft out so he could be alone before he collapsed in a puddle of grief. But then Mycroft added, “Moriarty’s body. It was mangled beyond recognition, but we were able to run DNA testing. He’s dead.”
“Still no sign of Sh— of him then?” John couldn’t bring himself to say his partner’s name.
“Nothing on my end.” Mycroft raised his hand to his temple and inhaled deeply through his nose. Then he lowered his hand and smiled weakly, or rather the close approximation of a wince that was trying to be reassuring. “There’s still hope, John.”
“I know; hope’s all I have left.” They sat in silence for several tense minutes until John’s mobile rang. His heart flipped before he looked down to check the caller ID, saw that the number was blocked, and then answered it tentatively. “Hello?”
“John,” a deep, utterly recognizable voice responded shakily. “John, I’m sorry, I’ve just managed to get somewhere safe. I’ve been avoiding Moriarty’s syndicate. Power struggle and all that, makes it pretty dangerous for the man who beheaded the giant.”
John’s mind whirred as he grappled with Sherlock’s use of metaphor. “Sherlock, where are you?” he finally asked, his voice breaking as he finished his query.
“I’m nearby. I can’t tell you where, but…” he trailed off, breathing rather heavily into the phone.
“When will you come home?”
“Soon. I promise you that, John. I’ll be home soon. Now I’ve got to go, but I promise I’ll contact you again as soon as I can.” Then he added, almost as an afterthought, “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” John whispered before the call disconnected. He slipped the phone back into his pocket before remembering he had a guest and returning his attention to Mycroft.
“So, my brother is alive then,” Mycroft said softly. John didn’t bother answering as no answer was necessary. “I’m sorry to have intruded on you for so long, John. Please let me know when Sherlock contacts you again.”
“Yes, of course,” John responded as he opened the door leading to the stairs.
Sherlock called John twice more before he returned to the flat. Then, more than a month after he had disappeared, he was there, at the door. John immediately began a diagnostic evaluation in his head, noting Sherlock’s sunken eyes and sallow skin. As he pulled his partner into his arms he noted that Sherlock’s ribs were more prominent than he’d ever felt them. “I missed you,” Sherlock breathed into the side of John head. Too overwhelmed to speak, John simply pressed hungry kisses against Sherlock’s jaw before reaching his lips and being rewarded with his lover moaning against his mouth.
Before things could get too heated, John pulled away. “Your brother will be here soon.”
“Why would Mycroft be here soon?” Sherlock asked, honestly unsure why his irritating older brother would be descending upon their flat.
“Because he’s been just as worried about you as I have,” John snapped. Then he tried to compose himself upon seeing the hurt expression flit across Sherlock’s features. “You know he monitor’s the flat; there’s no way he doesn’t know you’re here.”
As if to emphasize his statement they heard a knock on their door. John went to answer it and Mycroft Holmes stepped in, his ever-present umbrella clutched in his right hand. Before Sherlock could protest, Mycroft crossed the room and threw his arms around his little brother. Sherlock froze, his muscles tensing under his brother’s touch. Then, just as quickly Mycroft stepped back as he swatted the side of Sherlock’s head.
“What was that for?” Sherlock asked, indignation spilling out of his eyes and mouth.
“Don’t you ever do that to us again.” Mycroft’s eyes flashed coldly as he stared Sherlock down. “You’ve done it twice now Sherlock. Twice you’ve gone off, on your own, deliberately putting your life in danger without a good exit strategy. Twice John and I have thought you dead. Moriarty may be dead now and unable to lure you to swimming pools and cliff faces, but there will be others and I will not tolerate this again.” He then pulled his brother into another embrace before whispering, “There are people who care about you, Sherlock, people who love you. Think about us next time, too.”
Mycroft released him and then moved towards the door, “I’ll leave you two to your reunion, but Sherlock, do call Mummy when you’re done,” and he closed the door behind him. Mycroft Holmes is not a man to be crossed. At the very least, not three times.
20. Cafuné n. Brazilian Portuguese: the act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.
This time John had been the lucky one. When the bomb went off at the pool and he had knocked Sherlock into the water in order to avoid the worst of the shock wave, John hadn’t thought to survive it. Instead he had been perfectly unharmed beyond a few superficial cuts and bruises along with a cracked rib or two from the force of hitting the water.
Sherlock hadn’t been as lucky, as at least one of the snipers had managed to fire off a few rounds before the building caught fire and they had all run. The detective had been grazed along the side of his head, and worse, had a bullet go straight through his lower abdomen, piercing one of his kidneys. By the time the paramedics had arrived, John had gotten Sherlock out of the pool and was monitoring his breathing while applying pressure to his wounds. Still, he had lost a lot of blood and was unconscious, most likely from the pain.
John was bandaged quickly upon arrival in the hospital, while Sherlock was rushed to the ER for surgery. They hadn’t been able to save his kidney, but his prognosis was good and he’d been moved into a private recovery room courtesy of Mycroft. John had been allowed to see him immediately, also courtesy of Mycroft. Although Sherlock was very likely to recover and had no signs of traumatic brain injury, the doctors thought it best he sleep through the worst of the recovery phase and kept him in a chemically-induced coma. John stayed at his bedside the entire time.
When Sherlock was finally allowed to awaken, John had not left his side for more than thirty minutes in over four days. He’d slept in his chair and had very little to eat, but he could feel his veins humming, his brain wired at the prospect of speaking to Sherlock, really confirming he was still here. John’s hand moved to Sherlock’s dense curls, stroking his finger’s gently along his scalp as Sherlock’s eyes fluttered open.
“John,” Sherlock said, his voice scratchy from disuse. “John, what happened?”
“Hey,” John said, moving his fingers in tiny circles behind Sherlock’s ear careful to avoid touching the small scar there, “Hey, don’t try to talk. You’re alright. We made it out, and you’re going to be fine.” He continued his ministrations in Sherlock’s dark hair while making soft, what he hoped were soothing, sounds.
Sherlock’s eyes drifted shut as he murmured, “Thank you, John.”
Chapter 2: Bonus Word
I didn’t plan on doing more with this, but then I remembered a specific classification of pronoun that English lost centuries ago and that I kind of wish we still had. Then that turned into a little idea that turned into this. That and I felt that I'd done a disservice to the story by not including the actually moment of getting-togetherness.
Wit pro. 1st person inclusive dual, Old English: we, specifically referring to the speaker and the listener; most accurately related in Modern English as “we two” or “you and I.”
Following the events of The Pool and Sherlock’s recovery in hospital, John had taken to choosing his words very carefully, for no other reason than Sherlock Holmes appreciated the importance of proper language usage. He’d said that without respect for the intricacies of grammar, words and their meanings could be twisted inside out as easily as a nitrile glove when pulled off one’s hand. It also had roots in necessity as Sherlock was much easier to get along with when people did as he pleased, and John was the only person Sherlock wanted to be around upon finally returning to their flat after nearly a month of hospital beds, cafeteria food, and the incessant questions of doctors, detective inspectors, and government officials.
Sherlock had also gotten far more tactile with John than he had ever thought possible, constantly finding opportunities for their legs to touch when they were seated on the sofa or reasons to touch John’s hands while they had tea. Then, one day, Sherlock had rested his head on John’s shoulder while they were watching the evening news, and John had decided that he’d waited long enough. “Sherlock,” he said as he muted the television, “We need to talk.”
“What about?” Sherlock asked as he shifted his body, twisting his neck and tilting his head back so he could look up at John’s face while maintaining contact with John’s shoulder.
“We need to talk about Us. Whatever this is becoming, because you may not care about social conventions, Sherlock, but some of us need them. I need them.” John took a breath and reached out, taking hold of Sherlock’s arm and turning him until he was in an upright position, their faces level. “I broke it off with Sarah while you were in surgery because I knew she was right. When I was with her I’d talk about you; she said I could never be happy with her because I’d met you first… Because I’d met you already.
“And when I was talking to her, I said that we just wouldn’t work out, that we shouldn’t be together because it wasn’t fair for either of us, and something occurred to me.” Sherlock was staring directly into John’s face as he listened, his full lips parted and un-breathing. John swallowed as he focused on those lips before continuing, “I realized that I can say ‘we’ and mean me and Sarah, or it could mean you, me, Lestrade, and Sergeant Donovan, or it could mean me and any fifty people I know. But that’s not what I want. I want to say ‘we’ and have it mean you and me. Sherlock,” he reached out and placed his hand against his flatmate’s sternum, “And John.” He twitched his hand in order to gesture to himself, but Sherlock’s reflexes were quicker and he sucked in a shallow gasp as he held John’s palm to his chest with both of his own.
John huffed out a breath before drawing in another and extending his free hand to ghost his fingertips along Sherlock’s cheek and up into his curls, making the barest contact with the raised line of tissue behind his ear. Lifting one hand from his chest, Sherlock leaned into John’s touch as he mirrored his actions, sliding his fingers into short, golden hair before guiding John’s face to his.
Lips met lips and John felt Sherlock’s tongue slip into his partially open mouth where it ran along the inner edge of his lower lip before delving deeper to press against the underside of John’s own slightly lifted tongue; a shiver of pleasure and heat ran through John’s body in response. Sherlock released John’s other hand as he moved to slide his palm along John’s ribs before settling it against his back, and pushed until John shifted forward enough to press their torsos together. John in turn moved his hand up Sherlock’s chest, pausing to stroke at his pronounced clavicle, then settling it against the side of his long, pale neck as Sherlock sucked gently at his lower lip.
After releasing John’s lip Sherlock pressed one chaste kiss to his mouth and pulled back. He smiled and his clear eyes glinted as he whispered, “It’s about time, John.”
“Yes, we waited far too long.”