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Coup de Foudre

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John raced back to his chair, nearly slopping his freshly brewed tea as he perched on the edge of the cushion, searching earnestly through the crowd outside. Luckily, none of the people looked familiar, and he relaxed, sipping at the warm beverage as he leaned back, eyes continually scanning the passing faces.

The lodge hummed with activity around him, skiers and snowboarders spread out amidst the comfortable leather chairs, roaring fires, and intricate stonework that stretched to the shining wood ceiling. The trip had been Mary’s idea originally, but she had suggested using the Adlers’ chalet, and it had somewhat spiraled after that, Mary, Irene, Molly, Mike, and himself ending up piling on a plane and taking off to Zermatt as soon as their last exam was over. They’d been here three days already, running the slopes all day and laughing all night, and John was already confident this could quite possibly end up being the best week of his life. That is, if he ever figured out what to do about Blue Scarf.

He leaned forward, giving the crowd outside a thorough scan before quickly snapping his face over his shoulder, searching through the people in the lodge before whipping back to the window, not wanting to look away for too long.

Suddenly, there was an impact at the back of his chair, and he jumped, craning his neck back to meet Irene’s far-too-close face where she leaned over him.

“Morning, Cap!” she chirped, and he winced, dropping his chin back down to sip at his tea. “Hangover?” she asked sympathetically as she sank into the adjacent chair across the coffee table, but John shook his head.

“No. Just didn’t sleep well, I think,” he replied, shrugging as he cradled the cup in his hands.

Irene smirked, nudging his calf with her ski boot. “Too many sordid dreams spinning around that pretty little head of yours?” she drawled, and John sneered at her even as he could feel himself blushing.

“No,” he muttered, dropping his face to his tea, “just couldn’t sleep.”

“Mhmm,” Irene hummed skeptically, waggling her brows as John glared. She lifted her cup of coffee to her lips, slurping at the steaming liquid before wiping the lipstick from the rim with her thumb. “We’re nearly halfway through the trip, you know,” she said, shaking off her ski boots as she pulled her legs up onto the chair. “And Christmas Eve is the day after tomorrow. If he’s going home for Christmas-”

“He’s not,” John interrupted, and then flinched, realizing his mistake as Irene fixed him with her shrewd, black-lined eyes. “I-I heard them talking about Christmas dinner at the lodge,” he explained, focused intently on his thumb gliding along the white handle of the mug. “Something like that, anyway. I know I heard ‘Christmas’ and ‘dinner’, at least.”

“You mean ‘Noël’ and ‘dîner’?” Irene teased with a smirk over the lip of her drink, and John sat up, leaning over his knees toward her.

“Yeah, about that,” he snapped, sitting his tea on the table with a clunk, “why aren’t you helping me? You speak French.”

“Two reasons,” Irene chirped, lifting the appropriate number of digits as she settled further into the leather chair. “One, it’s just so damn funny watching you suffer,” she said, chuckling as John’s eyes narrowed, “and, two, what would I even do?” She shrugged, swirling her cup in her hands. “Write you a speech? Stand next to you and translate your awkward attempts at flirting?”

“I am not awkward at flirting,” John retorted, lifting a finger, because that much, at least, he was confident of. “I just…can only do it in English,” he added, fading to a sheepish mumble, and Irene laughed, brightening the blush on his cheeks.

Blue Scarf had first appeared only a few hours after their arrival, so named for the article always wrapped around his pale neck. They’d just finished settling into Irene’s chalet, and had headed down to check out the lodge and grab some lunch when he’d walked in, ambling along behind a group of people John later learned was his family, all babbling away in far-too-fast French.

John had had crushes before, had maybe even loved once or twice, but, if you had asked him three days ago if he believed in love at first sight, he would’ve said no. Now, however, he would hesitate, pause and bite his lip as he wavered, because he didn’t know how else to explain the feeling that had rooted him to the spot when his eyes had first fallen on the man. The group had actually carried on a few steps without him before he managed to make his feet move again, he was so enraptured, heart pounding all the way up through his spinning head, but he was just so…so… John didn’t even know what to call him, but he was beautiful, beautiful in a way beyond beautiful, with bright slate-grey eyes, dark hair that fell in curls around his pale face, and legs that went on for weeks.

He hadn’t been wearing his ski trousers then, just regular dark denim and his silver ski jacket, signature scarf tucked in around his neck, and his shoulders had been hunched, eyes narrowed at the back of the tall man in front of him, who John presumed to be his brother. He’d glanced to the side, finding the complimentary coffee table John had been walking past, and lit up, darting away from the group to fill a paper cup, glancing over his shoulder all the while to make sure they didn’t get too far away to follow, and maybe John should’ve said something then, should’ve stopped and made some comment about how strong it was or how they really ought to have more than just flavored creamer—like he would’ve done with just about anyone else—but his tongue turned to cotton in his mouth, and he just walked by, half in a daze the rest of the day.

Since then, he’d turned into something of a stalker, loitering around the lodge until he figured out his patterns, and then heading out in tandem with the French family, watching as Blue Scarf sped down the slopes, a streak of silver against the sparkling snow. Everyone else had eventually noticed, of course, and, to their credit, had been exceptionally helpful, texting him when they saw him here or there, and John would drop everything and go read in the lobby where he was playing chess with his mother, or drink hot chocolate two tables away from him and his father. Blue Scarf liked a bit of cinnamon in his, as well as whipped cream, but had pulled a rather adorable face when his father had offered him a scoop of marshmallows, moving his cup away and muttering something that conveyed disdain even to John, who couldn’t understand a word of it, which was, of course, precisely the problem.

The entire time John had been creeping around corners and hiding behind ferns, he had never heard any member of the Blue Scarf family speak a single word of English. John had taken the required amount of French in secondary school, but that had been years ago, and he hadn’t touched it since, now much too out of practice to even understand most of what they said, let alone contribute. They spoke French to the waiters, to the concierge, to fellow guests, even on the phone, and John had no idea what to do with that. He was charming, he knew he was charming, but getting that across with a combination of charades and hastily typed phrases into the translation app he’d downloaded? Well, let’s just say he didn’t like his odds.

“Well, you can’t just keep following him around,” Irene said, crossing her legs beneath her on the cushion. “He’s bound to notice eventually, and I really don’t fancy bailing you out of jail when you get arrested for stalking.”

John rattled his head, rolling his eyes to the ceiling, and then sighed, swiping his tea back up from the table. “I’ll figure it out,” he muttered, Irene skeptically tipping her head. “I can speak a little French,” he added, and Irene choked on her coffee, laughing wildly as she coughed.

“Seriously!?” she spluttered. “John, all you can do is say your name and order a ham and cheese sandwich!”

“Well, it’s better than nothing,” John countered, glaring at the woman, but she only continued to cackle.

“Oh, god,” she gasped, dabbing a tear from the bottom of her eye as she looked up at the ceiling. “Promise you’ll let me be there? I don’t think my life will be complete without seeing the look on his face when you ask him to a picnic.”

John glowered across at her, Irene beaming back, and then turned back to the window with a huff, sulking into his chair. “I’ll talk to him,” he snapped, taking a swig of his tea. “I just…have to find the right moment.”

“Got anything against right now?” Irene replied, and John looked up, frowning at her. Irene smiled, bobbing her head toward the window, and John followed her gaze, nearly covering himself in tea in his haste to scramble out of his chair.

He snatched his jacket off the back of his chair, shaking his arms into the sleeves and zipping it up with a tug of the lift ticket as Irene laughed, rolling back in her chair.

“Bonne chance!” she bade with a wave as he picked up his snowboard and darted away, nearly dropping his gloves as he pulled them from his pocket, and John waved briefly back as he rounded the corner, apologizing hastily to a young woman he nearly plowed over.

His boots thumped heavily down the concrete steps, and he leapt the last two, weaving through the bundled crowd on his way to the ski lift, where he could just make out the top of Blue Scarf’s tousled head.

He had grey earmuffs on today, apparently intent on giving John a heart attack, but was wearing the same silver jacket and blue scarf, black snow trousers tucked into his white ski boots. His skis were mostly black, with geometric white patterns snaking over the surface, and John was fairly certain he could’ve seen himself in the reflection, they were so well-polished.

Pulling his navy knit hat from the pocket of his black trousers, John tugged it down over his head, trying as best he could to remain inconspicuous as he slipped into line behind the boy, dropping his snowboard on the ground and fastening a boot into one of the straps.

The man’s mother was waiting with him, talking in hushed tones, and, per usual, in French, Blue Scarf nodding occasionally as he looked out toward the mountain. His mother swatted him lightly on the arm, drawing his attention, and he promptly replied, John nearly falling face first into the snow at being so close to the sound, the deep voice purring over the foreign syllables.

Swallowing through a thick throat, he straightened up, tugging the collar of his blue and white snowboard jacket up over his chin to help further obscure his identity as he waited, shuffling along behind the pair as the line moved slowly toward the lift. At one point, Blue Scarf’s mother met his eyes over the boy’s shoulder, and she smiled politely, a small gesture which John awkwardly returned, and then dropped his face, pulling off a mitten as he rummaged around in the pocket of his jacket for more hand warmers, the ones he’d put in his mittens earlier that day having run out of juice. In front of him, the discussion intensified, Blue Scarf and his mother talking in soft, hurried tones, and, when John next looked up, the mother was skiing away, Blue Scarf breaking off halfway through a shout as he stared after her.

He huffed, shaking his head, and then propelled himself forward with his ski poles, sliding up to the next spot in line, and John followed, frowning at the back of the boy’s head as he slipped the warming packets into his mittens and pulled them back on.

Before long, they neared the front of the line, John sliding his snowboard—a Burton he’d gotten on sale, black with brushstroke-style sweeps of royal blue and yellow—up behind the boy’s skis as they waited.

“Next two!” the attendant shouted, and, while Blue Scarf slid out immediately, John hesitated.

“What?” he muttered, blinking owlishly, but the gruff bearded man apparently had no time for it today, and rolled his eyes, stepping forward as he waved John on.

“Move up to the line,” he said, pointing at the faded red stripe in the snow. “We can’t allow singles today. Too windy.”

“But-” John stammered without any idea how he was going to finish it, because how could he possibly explain to this neon-orange-wrapped ski lift attendant that the man in front of him was far too pretty and French and pretty for John to possibly sit next to him without bursting into flames before the next lift reached them, so he just moved, scraping forward just in time to drop down into the spot beside the skier.

The entire right side of John’s body tingled, though he was actually nowhere near the boy, a solid several inches between every part of them, but it felt like he was everywhere, his proximity a physical presence that crept over John’s skin and pinched at his nerves. He tried to breathe, turning his head out over the mountain as they started the climb, but his lungs wouldn’t work, the air too cold and thin to bring him any relief, and he would be blaming what he did next on that. He looked, turning his chin just enough to see the boy if he stretched his eyes to the corners, and, my god, he was even more beautiful up close, although John could do to get a whole lot closer.

He was looking away, leaning forward as he held his skis in front of him, as if in examination, and John followed his eyes, startled to find you could, indeed, see a reflection in them, but, instead of his own, he saw Blue Scarf’s, grey eyes meeting John’s in the polished black surface.

John blinked, startled, but, when he tried to look at the boy himself, Blue Scarf looked away, dropping his skis and pressing further to the opposite side of the lift, peering down over the edge. He watched a moment, transfixed by the way the wind ruffled the man’s dark hair, and then the wind gusted, the lift bobbing with a rattle of metal that had John gripping hard to the edge of the seat. “Bloody hell,” he half-chuckled as it died down, craning his neck back to look up at the thick wire slowly dragging them along. “They weren’t joking about that wind,” he said, dropping his chin to look at the man, who was watching him now, a small frown creasing his forehead. “Oh,” John squeaked, suddenly embarrassed, but he always did have a tendency to joke when terrified, regardless of whether his audience would understand him. “Um, I was just- The-The wind,” he muttered, lifting a hand to wave it weakly through the air, but Blue Scarf only quirked a brow. John cleared his throat, blushing furiously as he turned once again to look down at the slopes to his left, skiers and snowboarders whipping around below.

Another gust of wind came up, shaking the lift again, but, instead of scaring John, it seemed to startle Blue Scarf, a soft hiss puffing from the boy’s mouth.

John turned, looking through the corner of his eye to see the man rubbing his gloved hands together in his lap, and, again, John spoke, forgetting the boy would hear only gibberish. “You cold?” he asked, and the man must have picked up on the questioning intonation, because he looked up, frowning as he tipped his head. “Um,” John stammered, turning to face him a little more directly, “your-your hands,” he said, gesturing down at the gloves with a mitten. “Er, froid? Tu avez, um... Fuck it,” he snapped, rattling his head in self-exasperation, and then pulled off a mitten, unzipping his pocket. “Here,” he said, offering two of the hand warmers, and Blue Scarf looked down at them, blinking perplexedly. “They’re for your hands,” he explained, miming sliding one of the foil packets into his mitten. “Or your boots, I guess, but the picture is of a glove, so…” He trailed off, shrugging. “They’re air-activated, however that works, so you just open it,” he said, ripping one open at the tab, “and then put it in your glove.” He slipped the packet out of the packaging, tucking the foil into his pocket as he held out the warmer.

Blue Scarf looked down at the small bag a moment, apparently still confused, and John was just beginning to consider whether he could survive a fall from this height if he jumped to escape his embarrassment, when the boy slowly slipped off one of his gloves, tentatively reaching out with long pale fingers. He took the warmer from John’s palm, lifting it up in examination, and then dropped it down his glove, sliding his hand in after it. He turned the hand side-to-side in front of him, curling his fingers in and out, and John smiled, unwrapping the second one and passing it across. The man smiled softly at him as he took it, tugging loose his second glove. “Merci,” he said, and John was either falling or flying, he wasn’t quite sure which.

“Um, de rien? Yeah, de rien,” he muttered, and Blue Scarf chuckled, a soft sound that John knew would haunt his dreams. “I’m, er, I’m John, by the way,” he said, brushing his mitten to his chest. “Je m'appelle John,” he added, smiling a little smugly as he made a mental note to throw the moment in Irene’s face.

The man smiled, nodding as he fixed John’s eyes with his own. “Jean,” he repeated, and, okay, now John knew it was falling. “Sherlock,” he said, tapping at the front of his jacket, and John beamed.

“Sherlock,” he echoed, glad to finally have a name, although the man would always be Blue Scarf in his heart. “Cool. I mean, um, génial,” he edited, and Sherlock laughed, the cold fading to a distant memory as they bobbed their way up the hill.

*****

As it turned out, it wasn’t actually that hard talking to Sherlock. Sure, he didn’t speak English, and John’s French was a combination of charades and Pictionary, but they got by alright on smiles and intonation, always doing something so as to keep conversation from being the main attraction. It had only been two days, but they’d spent most of that time together, somehow managing to bicker even over the language barrier, Sherlock rolling his eyes when John left half his cup free for marshmallows, and John snarling in increasingly creative curses as Sherlock beat him in game after game of chess, finally dragging the brunette over to checkers, which he was equally superior at. They also spent a lot of time on the slopes, Sherlock giving John and his snowboard some serious side-eye until he unceremoniously kicked his ass, beating him to the bottom by a whole 17 seconds—John had been counting—in which time John had looked up how to say ‘17 seconds’ in French so he could gloat properly, and, if the sulking Sherlock had done for the next two hours was any indication, the message came across loud and clear.

The others had taken to Sherlock almost as quickly, he and Irene sometimes squirreling themselves away in corners to babble at one another in French, and John probably would’ve been jealous if not for the glances Sherlock would shoot him every now and again, smiling in the soft firelight that reflected off his eyes. Luckily, Molly and Mary were there to run interference, pulling Irene away for this or that, and forcing John down in her place, Mary never failing to embarrass him with a wink over her shoulder as they left. Mike hadn’t seemed too bothered either way at first, but Sherlock had let him borrow his ski polish the day before, and that had apparently been enough to sway Mike to his side, the young med student not having stopped singing his praises since, a constant chorus of ‘That stuff is 100 quid a case!’ and ‘I could shave in these skis!’ following them wherever they went, but John didn’t mind.

He thought Sherlock was pretty damn swell himself.

“Oh, I got a 94 on that anatomy final,” John said, turning to Sherlock as they slid off the lift at the top. “He didn’t put all the grades up, but, considering the class average, I think I was probably one of the better ones. Which is good, because I’m taking another class with him next semester, and they probably grade better if they already think you’re smart, ya know?” He tipped his head at Sherlock as they headed toward their favorite run—or, at least, he thought it was their favorite, Sherlock leading him that way often enough—the brunette smiling softly, his usual response to John’s ramblings.

John knew he couldn’t understand him, of course, but it helped him to talk, helped steady the nerves constantly swimming in his stomach every time he was near the boy, and Sherlock was a great listener, nodding and laughing at all the appropriate times.

“The book for that class is, like, 60 quid, though. Don’t know how I’m going to afford it. Guess I’ll have to put in a few extra hours hawking peppermint mochas, and that smell does not come out, in case you were wondering. I have to take three showers before I stop smelling like a York peppermint patty,” he muttered, and Sherlock laughed, John grinning up at him. “So,” he chirped, adjusting his hat over his ears as he smirked, “ready to get your ass whooped again?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes, rattling his head as he adjusted the straps of his gloves, and John laughed, bending down to strap his other boot into his board.

Straightening back up, he beamed at Sherlock, who had just enough time to look suspicious before John leapt over the crest of the hill, speeding off. “Allons-y!” he shouted over his shoulder, those Doctor Who marathons good for something after all, and then proceeded to snake his way toward the bottom, dodging other patrons as he went. He was nearing the curve, slowing down a bit until he could see around the trees, when he heard a shout from behind him, barely audible over the scrape of snow.

“JOHN!”

He turned just in time to see a skier come flying toward him, clearly racing the man shooting along beside him, and then the man hit him, slamming hard into John’s shoulder and sending him careening off to the left. There was a blur of white and green, cold pouring down his collar, and then just pain, the grey sky above him flickering a moment before going completely dark.

*****

Heaven was comfortable, at least, his fingers shifting in soft sheets as he managed to command his hand to move. It took a little more effort to open his eyes, lids twitching in hesitation before obeying orders, but, as it turned out, they might have had the right idea, the light pouring straight into his brain like lightning, setting his head alight with agony. He groaned, even that making his headache worse, and then heard a soft rustle across the room, turning his head toward the sound.

Sherlock was sitting in a chair against the wall, elbow resting on the armrest as he propped his chin up on his hand, eyes widening as they fixed on John. He had removed his ski jacket and boots, wearing only the thick trousers and a tight black jumper, white and red Fair Isle design stretching across his chest, and John groaned again, turning his face toward the ceiling.

“Of course,” he grumbled, blinking up at the plaster as he lifted a hand to the side of his head, finding a bandage pulled across the skin. “Of course you saw that.”

Sherlock chuckled, and John turned to him, the sound prompting a smile even though just that small movement hurt.

“You didn’t have to stay,” he said, and Sherlock dropped his eyes to the floor. “I mean, you probably have better things to do on Christmas Eve than sit around a- Where even are we?” He looked around the room, realizing relatively quickly it was some sort of medical facility, and, after a quick glance out the window, he assumed it must be the clinic at the bottom of the mountain where all the ski-related accidents were taken. Like getting plowed over by a competitive asshole.

“Oh, god!” John moaned, clutching at his head as another wave of pain rippled through it. He sighed, letting his arm flop to the mattress as he blinked up at the ceiling. “This is so embarrassing,” he muttered. “I’m usually much cooler than this, I swear,” he added, bobbing his head vaguely toward the boy, who smiled. “So, if you could leave this part out when you tell all your friends about your holiday- If you mention me at all, that is,” he said, shrugging a shoulder, the usual Sherlock-related anxiety beginning to trickle in around the pain. “Which you probably won’t. Except as the crazy English guy who followed you around the whole week, which I can’t really argue with. You know, I don’t even know when you leave.” He turned, frowning at Sherlock, who frowned right back. “I never asked. Um, quand- quand tu- Fuck, what’s ‘leave’? Um…”

Sherlock laughed, loud and terribly inconsiderate, John flinching as his head throbbed again.

“Okay, I know my French is bad,” he snapped, narrowing his eyes at the giggling boy, “but there’s no need to-”

“It’s not that,” Sherlock chuckled, shaking his head, and John’s brow furrowed in confusion.

“Well, then what-“ He stopped, mouth dropping open as he blinked at Sherlock, who quickly stopped laughing, lips closing as he lowered his gaze. “Did you-” he stammered, shuffling up straighter against the elevated back of the bed. “Was that-Was that English?!”

Sherlock looked up at him, fingers twisting together in his lap. “Yes,” he murmured, and John huffed out a breath, falling again back into the pillows.

“Bloody hell,” he breathed, closing his eyes as he lifted a hand to his face, “how hard did I hit my head?”

“Pretty hard,” Sherlock answered, and in an English accent no less, “but I am speaking English.”

John snapped his eyes open, twisting his face back to gape at the boy. “You what!?” he spouted, trying to sit up, and then immediately collapsed back to the bed with a hiss of pain.

“Careful!” Sherlock blurted, leaping up to his side as he pushed at John’s shoulder, pinning him down. “The doctor said you might have a concussion.”

“You-You could speak English this whole time!?” he railed, eyes popping with fury as Sherlock just rolled his.

“No, I’ve learned through immersion over the past three days,” he snapped, and then sighed as John glared at him. “Yes, I can speak English,” he muttered, at least having the decency to look mildly ashamed of himself, but mildly wasn’t nearly enough for John.

“What the hell, Sherlock?!” he shouted, and Sherlock batted his hands at him, glancing frantically back toward the door.

“John, calm down!” he urged, and John swatted his arm away.

“Calm down my ass!” he sputtered, and Sherlock huffed, rattling his head like John was the frustrating one. “You let me make an idiot of myself for three days, don’t tell me to calm down!”

“I didn’t mean to!” Sherlock hissed, leaning down as he dropped his voice. “I just- Well, it’s usually easier,” he muttered, moving away from John’s bedside as he ran a hand back through his hair, pacing along the side of the mattress. “I- My parents are French,” he started, waving an arm in gesture. “They moved to England when I was young, but- Well, they were never really fluent in English, you know?” His breaths quickened as he moved, gesticulations increasingly wilder as he ranted on. “So, whenever they don’t have to, they speak French, and my brother and I speak it, of course, and- Well, people just don’t bother me as much when I’m French!” he plead, turning back to John as he reached his feet. “They try to talk for a bit, maybe, but then, when they figure out I can’t speak English, they leave.”

“But you can speak English,” John deadpanned, and Sherlock’s throat creaked as his mouth moved soundlessly, eyes pinched with pain.

“I-I can, but-”

“So you lied.”

“No!” Sherlock bleated, diving once again to his side. “I- Well, maybe, by omission, but-”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” John asked, shaking his head incredulously. “All that time, and you never-”

“I wanted to, I really did,” Sherlock urged, and John wanted to believe him, wanted to trust the pleading eyes boring into his, “but, after a while, I- I didn’t know how. I mean, how do you explain something like that?”

“I don’t know,” John muttered, tilting his head, sarcastically curious. “I’m sort of waiting for you to demonstrate.”

Sherlock opened his mouth, and then closed it, dropping his eyes to his hands, which were shaking slightly where they held the metal barricade on the side of John’s bed. “I-I don’t generally like…people,” he said slowly, peering up at John through his lashes. “They tend to annoy me. All of them. All the time. So, when-when you first talked to me, I-I just assumed I wouldn’t like you.” He grimaced slightly, lifting his shoulders in a sheepish shrug, but John nodded, understanding that much, at least. “I never like anyone,” he continued, shifting his hands on the bar. “It didn’t seem- I didn’t think- You were…unanticipated.”

“Unanticipated?” John echoed, uncertain how offended he should be, and Sherlock sighed, pushing off the metal arm as he twisted away a moment, lifting a hand to his mouth.

“I plan for everything,” he said softly, shaking his head as he looked back to John. “Imagine every possibility, every problem, every solution. My contingency plans have contingency plans,” he half-laughed, but his expression was broken, eyes sparkling a little where they caught the light. “But I didn’t have a plan for this. For you,” he breathed, shrugging in a spasm. “I- I never expected to like you,” he said, eyes dipping to his twisting fingers as he stepped once again to John’s bedside, “and I know- I know that’s a terrible excuse, and that I should’ve told you, but…well, by then, I liked you too much.” He swallowed, and John watched it bob down his neck, his own throat tight with words he hadn’t yet decided on. “I know it was wrong,” Sherlock murmured, voice breaking to a whisper as he met John’s eyes, “and I know- I know you must think I’m some sort of monster, but-“ He huffed out a shaky breath as he closed his eyes, fingers combing back through his curls. “I don’t know,” he whispered, shaking his head. “I don’t know what I’m doing, or-or what I’m trying to say, but I know… I know I’ve never felt like this.”

John’s breath hitched, his stomach leaping in spite of how much he wanted to be angry, and, no matter how loud he mentally shouted at himself, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from Sherlock’s, the slate grey just the same as ever.

“I didn’t even think I could feel like this,” Sherlock continued with a shoulder of a shrug, “and I suppose- I suppose that’s enough, in a way.” He stared at his shoes, shuffling back a step toward the door, and the spike of panic that rushed through John’s chest was suddenly his answer. “Just to know it’s possible. Even if- Even if you never- If we don’t-”

“You never answered my question.”

Sherlock stopped, lifting his chin as he blinked, startled. “Your…question?” he murmured, and John nodded, shuffling upright in the bed.

“About when you leave,” he added, and Sherlock frowned, scanning over John’s face as if he were searching for his sanity.

“I- Friday, but-”

“And then where are you going?” he pressed, voice level, trying not to give anything away.

“Home,” Sherlock murmured warily, “to-to London. I have a flat near school.”

“Which is where?” John prompted, and Sherlock tilted his head, brow furrowing even further.

“Imperial. But why-” he muttered, taking a small step forward, but John cut him off with a shrug.

“Just checking,” he said, twisting at his sheets a moment before looking back up. “I don’t do long distance well,” he added, smiling softly at Sherlock, who froze, eyes widening.

“Wait, are you- Does that- Really?” he spluttered, stepping back up to John’s side. “You’re-You’re not angry?”

“Oh, I’m furious,” John assured, and Sherlock winced, “but, at the same time…I guess it makes sense. What you did. In a weird, twisted sort of way,” he added, bobbing his head side-to-side, and Sherlock smiled, teeth scraping over his bottom lip as he dropped his chin. “I dunno,” he muttered, shrugging, “maybe I’m just a little high on finally being able to talk to you without wearing my battery out with translation apps.”

Sherlock laughed, shaking his head. “I think that might be the painkillers,” he said, smiling as John frowned up at him. “You were awake for a little bit at first. Sort of in and out. They gave you something for the pain, and you got a bit…odd.”

“Odd?” John echoed, trepidation rolling in his stomach, and his body began to chill with dread as Sherlock nodded.

“Just talking, mostly. Mumbling this or that. You seem to have a strange fascination with my scarf,” he said, quirking a brow, and John groaned, falling back into the pillows as he slung an arm over his eyes. Sherlock chuckled, and John felt the bed vibrate with his approach, his eyes opening to see the brunette smiling down at him.

“Shut up,” he snarled, and Sherlock grinned.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You were saying it with your eyes,” John snapped, and Sherlock laughed.

“You talked about those a bit too,” he smirked, and John whined, snatching one of the pillows from behind him to cover his flaring face. “It was practically poetry. Well, what I could understand of it, at least.”

“Kill me,” John moaned, pulling the pillow tight over his mouth, and Sherlock laughed, snatching it away as John glared. “I liked you better French,” he snapped, and Sherlock just chuckled.

“T’es mignon quand tu rougis,” he replied, grazing a finger lightly over the arch of one of John’s cheeks, and John was very lucky he wasn’t hooked up to a heart monitor, as it would most likely have exploded.

“On second thought,” he squeaked, and then cleared his throat, “maybe we’d better stick to English.”

Sherlock grinned, a glint in his eyes that was both thrilling and terrifying. “In public,” he amended, and that settled it: John was dead, had been since he hit his head, it was the only explanation.

John swallowed, Sherlock making things all the worse by following the movement down his throat, and he had to look back to the ceiling just to breathe. “Fucking hell,” he panted, and Sherlock laughed, John shaking his head in disbelief as the door opened, a smiling doctor striding in.

“Hello!” he chirped in a thick Scottish accent, cradling a clipboard in his hands, stepping to John’s side as Sherlock shifted down toward his feet. “Good to see you up and at ‘em! We got your scans,” he said, flipping through some of the pages, “and everything looks fine. You’re all set to go, if you feel up to it.”

John nodded, smiling hesitantly at the man. “Yeah, I-I think so,” he said, and the man smiled, tipping his head.

“You think so, or you’re sure?” he asked, swaying back on his heels. “Because it’s no trouble if you’re not. Better ya stay here than go out and end up hurting yourself again,” he cautioned, but John shook his head.

“No, I’m sure,” he affirmed, smiling as the man quirked a skeptical brow. “I mean, it still hurts,” he said, touching his fingertips to the bandage, “but I don’t feel light-headed or anything.”

“Well, alright then!” the doctor said, smiling brightly between the two of them. “I’ll get your paperwork sorted out. You can take that off whenever,” he added, bobbing a hand toward the bandage around John’s head. “No need to keep it covered or anything, just clean and dry. Friend here says you’re a medical student, so I’m sure you know the drill,” he said, waving his clipboard toward Sherlock, who smiled, his cheeks darkening a little as he avoided John’s eyes.

John nodded. “Yeah, I got it,” he assured, and the doctor grinned.

“Good, and be careful out there, yeah?” He nodded his head toward the window, all of them turning to look at the mountain beyond. “Don’t wanna see you back here,” he added with a scolding finger, and John smiled, lifting his hand to return the flick of a wave the man flashed before closing the door.

“Probably should take it easy,” Sherlock said, stepping back as John pulled himself free of the blankets. “Stay off the slopes for a day or two.”

“Why?” John quipped, smirking at the man as he slid to the floor, stepping across the cold tile to the chair where his boots and jacket were resting. “You tired of losing?” He grinned, chuckling as Sherlock glared.

“No,” the brunette snipped. “You very nearly got a concussion. Someone needs to look out for your well-being.”

“I don’t think it’s my well-being you should be concerned about,” John replied, and Sherlock frowned tipping his head at him. John smirked, pulling on his jacket before heading past Sherlock toward the door. “What do you think Irene’s gonna do when she finds out you’re not French?” he posed, laughing as Sherlock blanched, and he kept laughing all the way back to the lodge, patently ignoring any and all of Sherlock’s pleas and bribes.