Sherlock approached 221B with a deep sense of dread he hadn’t entirely anticipated. Speedy’s was closed for the day already, and foot traffic had thinned to nothing with the temperature falling to just above freezing when the sun set nearly three hours ago. From the street level, he could just barely see a corner of the ceiling and the living room wallpaper through the window - only one lamp on, then, the one on the desk. Somewhere up there John was waiting. It felt like they were the only two souls on Baker Street.
The door was bolted, but Sherlock was spared the indignity of having to pick his own lock by Mycroft’s forethought: Sherlock’s old key had magically appeared in the pocket of his coat sometime between when he had left his brother’s house and now. Hopefully it wouldn’t be actually necessary to thank Mycroft, but Sherlock turned and gave the nearest surveillance camera a curt nod anyway before pushing open the door and stepping inside.
Everything was oppressively silent. Logical conclusion, Mrs. Hudson was out - just as well, since Sherlock was still supposed to be dead. Would have to be “dead” for a while longer, until his name could be cleared and the inevitable media frenzy controlled. He climbed the stairs as quietly as possible, toward the open door to 221B.
John. Not such a sneaky entrance, then - John was waiting for him, arms akimbo, feet shoulder-width apart in a classic alpha challenge posture which made Sherlock want to curl at his feet and hug his legs until John forgave him. Not that he deserved it, after all he had done, but this was John and his ability to forgive anything, everything, was practically magical in its limitlessness. Not that the current combination of livid and determined really boded well. Sherlock stepped further into the room and closed the door behind him out of long-buried habit which had, at one time, pleased John. The carefully-prepared apology he’d worked so hard on for weeks was teasing him, dancing around just outside his ability to remember the words, the proper intonation-
“Stop.” John lowered his chin slightly, his glare burning hot and accusatory. “I don’t want whatever measured bullshit you’ve planned out ahead of time. Just answer me this: did you mean what you said these last few months?”
Sherlock didn’t trust his voice. He nodded.
“So all of that ‘I never lied to you’ crap - you were serious about that.”
Sherlock nodded again. John’s posture was stiff and guarded - every inch the dangerous soldier. Meticulously controlled, as long as Sherlock didn’t make any sudden moves or say the wrong thing-
“You do know,” John continued in a carefully clipped cadence, “that lies by omission are still lies, right?”
Sherlock licked his lips and fought for the right words. “I couldn’t - I was taking a huge risk by contacting you at all. I couldn’t tell you I was alive. I couldn’t.”
“And yet you still managed to drag confessions out of me. Things I’ve never told anyone else. Things I never could tell anyone else. Tell me, Sherlock: was that because you were bored? Or,” he lowered his voice to nearly a rumble, “was it because because you really do want me to pin you to the door? To stroke you and suck you until you’re breathless and boneless under my hands?” He advanced forward, claiming his territory in the room as he approached. A general in the midst of battle. “I want to hear you say it,” he growled. “Was that a lie?”
Oh god. Sherlock felt wood against his fingertips, belatedly realized he had fallen back against the closed door and was shrinking against it. The realization did nothing to enable him to stop. He swallowed hard and very deliberately shook his head no.
“I want to hear you say it,” John repeated, stalking the last few steps until he really did have Sherlock’s body pinned the door and he was practically breathing his words in Sherlock’s ear. “Use that bloody voice and tell me - if I tore your clothes off now, threw you down on the sofa and had my way with you, would that be what you wanted? Or was all that just a ruse?”
“It was-” - Sherlock’s voice cracked, the first time it had done so since he was undergoing puberty. He felt himself flush, but he gamely tried again. “It was true.”
“And what about now?” John growled, lips half an inch from Sherlock’s auditory canal. The sensation of breath against the sensitive skin of his inner ear gave Sherlock full-body shivers. Of course John noticed, leaned closer, pressed their chests together, would certainly be able to feel the rapid staccato of Sherlock’s heartbeat. “Don’t lie,” he murmured.
“Please.” It came out as a whisper, and Sherlock closed his eyes in embarrassment. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go, John wasn’t supposed to stalk him like a bloody lion after a wildebeest-
“Strip.” John stepped back suddenly and folded his arms again. Sherlock’s body swayed forward against the sudden loss as if their torsos were both magnetic, but he caught himself from falling just in time. He met John’s eyes - cold, determined, deadly - and discovered his fingers already unbuttoning his shirt without needing any input from his brain.
It was terrifying. Sherlock removed his clothing slowly, methodically. Not with any sense of seduction, merely with as much efficiency as he could muster. John wanted him to strip and so he stripped. He left everything on the floor where it landed, and John just watched placidly with his arms crossed and a ramrod-straight spine. The room was chilly without the protection of a shirt and jacket, but Sherlock willed himself not to shiver. Not from the temperature and not from John’s gaze.
“Come to the middle of the room and turn around. Slowly.” John stepped back to allow Sherlock room to pass, then resumed his military-stiff stance once Sherlock was in place. “I want to see you,” he added.
Sherlock held his hands, fingers spread and palms out, slightly away from his sides. He turned in a slow circle, painfully aware the entire time that John’s eyes never stopped flickering over his body. Cataloging the residual damage, assessing it and analyzing it. Doctor’s eyes. Most of the burns were gone now, only a slight pinkening to his skin to show where they had been, but several of the bruises were still visible. The one from John’s fist was the most lurid, a vivid purple against Sherlock’s right cheekbone. John’s gaze skipped right over it and continued its silent inspection.
“It wasn’t just a fire,” John finally said. “I’ve seen most of these before - were you in Afghanistan when you were captured?”
“Syria,” Sherlock admitted.
“Ah.” John twirled a finger, a non-verbal command for Sherlock to make another revolution. “Taking down Moriarty’s network, I assume?”
“It was the last cell. And the riskiest to get close to.”
“And you let yourself get captured.”
“I didn’t . . .” Sherlock closed his eyes. It was easier to not see John. “I didn’t want to wait any longer. To see you. I didn’t know they knew about my connection to Mycroft.”
“So you thought - what? You’d get a friendly beating and then be let go?”
Sherlock bit his lips together so hard he could taste a tiny tang of blood in his mouth, but he didn’t answer.
“That was a question, Sherlock!” John barked, just a shade shy of military. “Answer it or I walk out this door and you won’t find me again.”
Sherlock didn’t say that Mycroft could find John anywhere. He didn’t say that he would probably be throwing himself at John’s feet and clinging like a toddler before John had even gotten the door open. He did open his eyes and suck in a breath and force out the truth. “I needed to do something. After Christmas. I needed . . . I had to make progress, to get closer to you. I miscalculated.”
“And you got yourself tortured and fucking set on fire.”
“The fire was mine.” Sherlock met his eyes steadily - he would not be embarrassed about this, couldn’t regret what he had done to bring himself back to John. “I broke out of the room where they were keeping me, snapped my guard’s neck, and set fire to the building. Mycroft tells me all twelve of them were eliminated. I got out before I could verify. It was a four-mile walk to get back to where my brother’s men could find me, which unfortunately made some of the damage worse.”
“Jesus fucking Christ.” John stared at the ceiling for a long moment, visibly getting himself back under control. “Was that it, then?” he finally asked.
“They were the last cell. It’s not done, not yet, but the danger to you is past.”
“And to you?”
“The physical danger, yes.” Honesty - you promised honesty. “It will be a few more weeks before I can officially come back from the dead - Mycroft’s ability to bend the laws works better when done out of the public eye. And as of right now, I’m still a suspect in several hundred murders.”
“Christ. The media is going to be a circus, isn’t it?”
“It doesn’t matter.” And it didn’t, now, because John was here and nothing else mattered. Sherlock was naked and the room was cold and John was still looking forbiddingly stern and it didn’t matter, none of it, because John was here. Listening.
And observing. John’s face went through a slow progression of expressions as he realized Sherlock’s thoughts had turned back to their current situation - resignation, realization, interest, and then a fierce predation which had Sherlock’s bare arms breaking out entirely in goose pimples.
“This is it, isn’t it,” he murmured. He stalked around Sherlock in slow circles, his expression only one step short of a leer. “You want to see how much I want you? Here.” He cupped a palm over his clothed crotch and thrust crudely in Sherlock’s direction. “A genuine erection, all for you. Congratulations; I guess I really am bi. Didn’t think I’d actually . . . confirm it, as it were.”
Sherlock kept his feet planted and his spine straight, but he followed John’s progress with his eyes. Every time John circled around behind him and out of Sherlock’s line of sight, the hairs on the back of Sherlock’s neck prickled and his half-erection bobbed hopefully. Nothing that would have been noticeable if he had still been in a suit - but he wasn’t, he was trembling and naked in the middle of the room with a fully-clothed John Watson assessing him, and damned if that didn’t turn him on so obviously that even John couldn’t help but see it.
John drew to a stop, directly behind Sherlock. He waited there for eons, not touching, just existing, making Sherlock’s entire nervous system quiver. And then he traced a single fingernail from Sherlock’s tailbone all the way up to the base of his skull. Sherlock’s lungs seized and his head snapped backward as if he had been hit by a particularly sharp uppercut. He could feel John’s dark chuckle behind him.
“It’s time,” John said, and tightened his grip on the nape of Sherlock’s neck to the point of not-quite-pain. “We’re going to bed, and you and I are going to do this for real.”