Molly, Sherlock thinks, is a far kinder person than anyone gives her credit for.
After he falls, he goes to her, and he doesn’t have to open his mouth before she’s ushering him inside, her hand warm on his back.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” she asks, and her voice is full of false cheer.
“Molly –” he starts, and she looks up at him, sharp.
“Please,” she says, and he watches her face fall the slightest amount. “I had to show John your body. Please – just – please.”
He nods at her and accepts the cup of tea.
She hands him a blanket and pillow, that night, and he sleeps on the couch, against her will. He stares up at her, raises an eyebrow, and she throws her hands into the air and walks away, to her own bed.
He wakes in the morning and she’s gone, but there’s a try of biscuits and a now-cold mug of tea next to him, along with a note.
Be careful. Don’t go out, please. We need to have a real conversation.
He would listen; but he has somewhere to go.
He visits his gravestone.
He hears one more miracle and it nearly breaks him, nearly makes him step outside his hiding spot, but he doesn’t, stays where he is until John gives an almost military turn and walks away, shoulders slumped the slightest bit.
He goes back to Molly’s and she strokes his hair and pretends not to know why he’s shaking in her arms.
Once, John asked him, Do you just keep talking when I’m away?
Sherlock had shrugged at this, moved on to something new, a different topic, something more worthy of his time, then.
He’s realizing, now, that the answer is yes.
He hears himself, sometimes – he says things, asks John to hand him various items, and when enough time has passed he looks up and he’s forced to remember, again.
(Caring is a dangerous disadvantage, he reminds himself, but then – he has nothing to be disadvantaged towards, now.
To the world, Sherlock Holmes in name and body is dead and gone.
Why shouldn’t he care about what he’s left behind?)
Molly continues to go to her job, as though everything’s normal; because as far as anyone should be able to tell, it is.
She leaves Sherlock by himself.
He very deliberately does not think about John after that because the second he does is the second he’ll need not to be alone, and right now he doesn’t have that.
Alone is what I have. Alone protects me.
He was wrong to say that to John, but he won’t regret it.
Had to be done.
Sherlock Holmes as John knew him is dead and gone.
He waits for Molly to return.
When Molly gets home, she looks absolutely exhausted.
She frowns at him, folding her hands over her lap, and twists her fingers together.
“I need to know,” she says, “what you’re planning on doing.”
He takes a moment to answer her, steepling his fingers, looking at her over them, pondering. “In what regard?” he finally asks.
“Are you going to tell him?”
He doesn’t ask who she means; he knows. “No.”
He looks at her, and his gaze narrows. “I’ve done this to protect him – and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson – but mostly, him. If anyone knows I’m alive, he’ll be in more danger than he’s ever been.”
“He could pretend.”
“He’s a terrible liar.” He’d known ever since Irene’s ‘death’, ever since John had tried to lie to save his feelings. Perhaps someone ordinary would fall for it, but Moriarty isn’t just anyone.
(He doesn’t believe for a moment that Moriarty is dead.)
“He’s your friend. He’s hurting.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” and he’s standing without realizing it, nearly shouting at her.
She shrinks back in her chair but there’s a spark in her eyes he wouldn’t have expected to be there. “I’m not sure that you do, that you understand just what it’s like for him. You called him to tell him goodbye and had him watch you jump off of a building. I’m asking,” and now her voice is higher, more angry, “are you going to let him grieve in peace or are you going to tell him, someday?”
He stares at her. “I – I was hoping I would tell him,” he says, and he feels silly, standing with his hands flat against the table. “Someday.”
She scoffs and stands herself, giving him the barest of waves before going up to her bedroom, shutting the door just a bit louder than she needs to.
He makes a noise that could be a growl in some circles and sits back down, resting his head in his hands.
He doesn’t sleep that night.
He looks on her computer, goes to his inbox and tries to solve cases, letting himself slip away from all of this.
Molly comes down in the morning, arms crossed over her robe, and she looks at him, worrying at her lip. “I’m sorry,” she says.
He looks up at her, startled. “I’m not sure what you’re apologizing for.”
“I realize,” and she may be apologizing but there’s still an underlayer of hurt beneath the surface, “that you’re hurting, that you’ve done something both crazy and brave. I shouldn’t have brought up John. What you do is your business.” She breathes. “I wish, however, that you would stop treating me like a child. I’ve helped you fake your death, I’ve let you stay in my home with no word to when you’re leaving – and you’ve been going through my computer, which is – not unexpected but not appreciated either – and I’d just like a bit of respect.” She isn’t shouting at him but it’s like Christmas, again, words pushing out of her with no regard to her usual ‘keep everything bottled in’ demeanor.
He frowns at her for a moment. “I know. And I apologize, Molly. I’ll be out of your hair within the week.”
She looks up, eyes wide. “That isn’t what I meant, you can –”
He shakes his head, and she falls silent. “It isn’t safe for me to be here. I simply need to change my appearance a good amount and then I’m traveling.”
He shrugs in response. “I just need to get out for a while, clear my head. I can control my impulse to see John for the moment but that isn’t going to last, not when I’m spending day in and day out stuck in your flat with nothing to do. I need to dye and cut my hair. If you would be so kind as to help me?”
She nods, and he sees a barely suppressed smile. “I’ll buy you some dye. Ginger?”
He inclines his head. “Whatever you think would suit me.” He doesn’t much care; he simply wants to be unrecognizable.
She changes his appearance, that night, chops his hair short, something close to a buzz cut, and dyes what remains a light ginger.
“Thank you,” he says, when she’s through, and quickly kisses her on the cheek, offering a smile before he turns to walk away, back to her computer.
He buys himself a ticket – to America, New York City, and then from there he’ll figure out what to do.
By the time she’s asleep he’s ready to go and he leaves her a note.
Thank you for everything.
He travels, at first.
He gets a job in New York, at a shop near a flat that he can afford to stay in for a while. He examines the customers and nearly loses his job but his boss seems to like him, for some reason.
It’s dull, though, and after a year and a half (that’s long enough, he tells himself, but when he gets on the plane he’s terrified out of his mind) he returns to England.
He moves into a nondescript flat that’s probably too close to Baker Street, but he can’t make himself go farther away.
He’s a different man, now, in the eyes of everyone that matters.
The woman who owns it hadn’t given him a second look when he’d asked her if he could move in, and he hasn’t seen her since that day.
It’s for the best, he tells himself, but after John, after living with someone for that long, he’d grown accustomed to a sort of – companionship, for lack of a better word.
He hasn’t had that for a long time but being back in London, he remembers, and he almost aches for it.
He’s not lonely; he doesn’t get lonely, has never really needed the company of the others like some do. The more boring people.
He’s plenty clever enough to entertain himself, after all; he plays the violin at all hours of the night and has rapid-fire conversations with himself and forces himself to examine the people that walk on the street below him, tries to remember what it felt like to feel a sense of pride in that.
(The pride didn’t come from the skill, after he’d moved in with John, but from his reactions – the way he’d stare, open-mouthed, and say brilliant or fantastic.
That was where the thrill was.
He doesn’t have that anymore.)
He doesn’t contact Molly for the entirety of his time in America.
He can’t bring himself to.
He fiddles with his phone, sometimes.
He takes it out and taps messages, quick and to the point.
I do wish things had gone differently.
The problem, he thinks, is that he can’t send them; he can’t give John the hope that he knows he’d have to dash away, too soon.
He can’t be selfish, in this.
And so his fingers backspace over the keys until there’s nothing left.
He sits, and waits.
He travels quickly, quietly, and no one recognizes him because no one questions the suicide of a man about to be revealed to be a fraud.
He visits Molly, in the morgue, one day, and she smiles at him, kinder than he deserves.
She reaches out, pats his arm, and he jerks away from her but she doesn’t apologize.
She stares at him, a smile still on her lips. “Why didn’t you contact me? Or, perhaps, why did you come back?”
He shakes his head, because he can’t tell her.
She seats herself on a chair, still staring, unblinking, at him. “You might as well tell me,” she says, and it’s soft, honest. “I’m not going to go anywhere.
He shakes his head. “I can’t,” and this is nearly a whisper, a confession.
Her face twists into something slightly more pleasant. “I know it hurts,” she whispers, and stands up, walking to him, cupping his cheek in her hand.
He turns away from her, sharp. “I don’t need –”
“You miss John,” she says, and it’s not an inquiry, it’s a statement of fact.
It’s the truth.
The sky is blue, humans are idiots, and Sherlock misses John Watson.
He nods, closing his eyes.
“Have you seen him?”
“Not since I’ve been back.”
“Why don’t you talk to him? Return?”
A shake of the head. “I can’t do that.”
She tsks. “I think – he might be in more danger than you know.”
His head snaps up. “What?”
She licks her lips, looking almost nervous. “He’s not well since you’ve been gone, Sherlock. I know you’ve been keeping tabs on him, but I’ve – I know things, all right? I know things about him that you may have overlooked.”
He looks her over, and he sees nothing – but he remembers looking at John and seeing everything. “I wouldn’t overlook anything about him.”
She frowns, slight. “He’s not well,” she says, again, inanely.
“He’s better than he would be if I were publicly alive. He wouldn’t be breathing at all if I hadn’t jumped.”
“And is this life better for him?”
“It has to be.”
She clenches her jaw. “If you’re going to say things like that, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
He stands, walks to the door.
“His limp’s back.” She says this to his back.
He doesn’t move, but stiffens.
Once outside, he types out a message.
I miss you, John.
He won’t send it, can’t send it, but it feels nice to have typed it, to stare at the letters on his phone. John is alive because Sherlock is not; Sherlock couldn’t have lived with himself if John had been ripped from the world.
He’s never been one to attach to people; he’s always been on the fringe of the rest of the populous. He’s never felt much of a need to “attach” to anyone, finding it tedious to talk to one person for days on end.
John had been different. John is different; Sherlock had known him as well as he’d known anyone else and yet there had been something about him, bringing him back, making him want to continue conversation.
You’re a machine, John had said, and Sherlock knows – it isn’t true. He might have thought so before, might not have minded in the days before John Watson, but now he does, wants to deny it –
I am not a machine, John, I was merely protecting you.
He types the message and doesn’t send it, finger hovering over the Send key before punching out of the message altogether.
He lets out a heavy sigh, rubbing at his eyes, and leans forward.
He feels old, these days. He supposes it’s the lack of conversation making him feel such; he has nothing to focus on other than himself, and he can feel the seconds ticking by, his life (his real life) ending.
He misses talking to John; he wasn’t insufferable, was the opposite. He had (has, he has to remind himself, because John is wonderfully alive thanks to Sherlock and he’s not letting himself regret what he has or hasn’t done because John is alive) a human brain, a gloriously human brain, and Sherlock wants nothing more than to talk to him, to find out what’s going on inside.
He misses him, as he’s never missed anyone else.
It hurts, like an ache in his chest, and he wonders if all humans are like this, or if this is something more, y ears of non-attachment rearing up on him.
John’s stopped blogging.
He had continued, up until six months after the funeral; he’d posted something about Sherlock not being a fake, and then – nothing.
Sherlock goes through his blog, on occasion, and he’s got the articles nearly memorized by now but that doesn’t stop him reading through them, letting the words shape themselves on his tongue, because so long as he can read what John’s written that means he existed, that he was real, that he was there, with Sherlock when no one else was.
He reads through the stories and scoffs at the style of language, but there’s a fondness, beating just underneath, in John’s words, for John.
I miss you, he types, more than is probably normal for someone to, but he never sends it, never sends a single damn message to him.
John stops blogging, and a year and a half after starts texting.
Sherlock’s never changed his number; he’s never felt a reason to. Irene hadn’t made contact with him, and no one else knew he was alive.
He gets a message, one day.
You’re missing out on a load of great cases.
He doesn’t say anything in response, can’t, but his fingers are shaking as he pockets his phone, and he has to close his eyes, steady himself.
John doesn’t know; he doesn’t know, this is a coping mechanism.
(Then why did he wait so long?)
John’s operating on faith alone, faith that shouldn’t be grounded in anything but is, and Sherlock’s not sure what he’s supposed to do with that, not sure if he’s supposed to be running on that or knowledge.
Anyone with proper intelligence could figure out he’s alive; he’s sure his brother has his suspicions, if not certainties – and John may not have the same level of intelligence but John must know, has to know, because John is John, and has always understood him in ways that no one else dared to try.
After that, the messages don’t stop – they pour through, and Sherlock reads each one with a fondness in his chest that’s hard to get rid of.
I still don’t take sugar in my coffee.
Molly’s been talking about you lately. Not sure why. She says she misses you. She seems sad. She always was fond of you.
I never told you the truth, about Irene. She’s dead.
Your brother was here today. He gave me a hug. It was strange but I returned it. You would have made fun of me.
And so on and so forth; John sends him updates about his day, and in doing so he secures Sherlock’s place in his life (if he ever had one).
Sherlock gets to know him, again, and it’s different from before – because now, he doesn’t have day-to-day conversations, he has near-daily text messages, and he stares at them for the longest time, trying to figure out what it is that made him decide to relay that bit of information, to tell him that instead of something else – anything else.
He wants to know John’s reasoning, above everything else – and he supposes that makes sense, that’s what he always wants to know about everyone, but this feels different, because it is – well, it’s John sending him messages and Sherlock not understanding.
That’s the worst of it, he thinks.
The not understanding.
He closes his eyes.
“I love him,” he says to Molly, one day, staring at a mug of tea without drinking it.
She gives him a hug, and he normally wouldn’t return it but this is Molly, and he knows that she cares.
“Are you going to go back?” she asks, every time they meet.
And one day, he nods.
He isn’t lying.
It’s been three years, and he has to work up the courage, tells the cabbie to drive around too many times before getting out.
Three years, and John’s still living at 221B, and he knocks on the door, feeling his heart racing in his chest, in his veins.
He’s never been this nervous about talking to someone before – never been nervous at all, actually, which is strange, now that he thinks of it.
He knocks, three times, and steps back, arms crossing behind his back.
John’s talking, as he comes up to the door, and Sherlock’s heart, melodramatic (and dangerous) as it sounds, skips a bit.
“If this is about –”
He cuts himself off, looking at Sherlock.
“Hello, John,” he says, and forces himself to smile, though he hasn’t gotten better at that – John’s slight grimace proves it.
“What?” This is faint, barely spoken.
Sherlock doesn’t say anything.
And then – blinding pain, to the side of his face; his head snaps to the side and everything goes cold.
He wakes up and John’s standing over him.
“Brilliant, John,” and he sits up, holding the side of his face, “truly.”
He winces, at that. Probably not good to joke around him for a bit.
There’s silence, from the other end of the couch. John’s staring at him. “You don’t get to pull this ‘I’m an amazing detective’ stuff. Not today.”
Sherlock is silent.
“You’re alive.” A pause. “Have you been getting my texts?”
Sherlock laughs at that, looking down. “I have.”
Silence. “And you haven’t responded?”
He feels what has to be guilt (there’s no other explanation for what it might be) creep up the back of his spine, hot and slow. “I didn’t think I could.”
“And you can, now?”
“It took… courage, of sorts.”
“To tell me you’d faked your death? After three years? Why would that take courage? You’d think it would be easy, for the absolutely brilliant Sherlock Holmes.”
Sherlock closes his eyes, remains sitting even though John’s standing, now. “I deserve that.”
“I – what?”
He doesn’t say anything, just opens his eyes, looking up. “I’ve missed you, John.”
John shakes his head. “You can’t – you can’t just waltz back in here after – you bastard, you don’t –”
“Would you like me to leave?” This is slow, a promise – if John wants him to leave, he will. He’ll leave and not return. He’d deserve that.
John’s eyes are open, now, and he’s staring at him as though he wants something. “I –” and he cuts himself off. “I just need – a bit.” He walks into the kitchen.
“Do you want me to leave you alone?” He asks this quietly, staring down at his hands, but if it’s what John wants he’ll leave and never come back.
(Please don’t let that be what he wants.)
“Just be quiet. Would you mind doing that?” John’s making tea, the pot rattling more than Sherlock remembers it having done before.
He sits on the couch, still, and nods.
John does talk to him, that night.
They sit opposite each other, as they always used to, and John simply stares at him, eyes open, unblinking.
“Why?” he asks, finally.
“Moriarty was going to kill you.”
“He would have had you die. You and Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade. I couldn’t have let that happen.”
“And so you –”
“Pretended to die.”
John’s eyes are shut, tight. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m telling you now.”
“Why did you wait three years?” He opens his eyes. “Do I mean that little to you?”
“John.” This is soft, barely a whisper, and he feels something hot tug at his insides. “You mean more to me than anyone else has, before.”
A shuddered out exhalation, and John’s eyes are shut. “You can’t say things like that.”
“I’m trying to be furious and I can’t manage to keep it that way.”
Sherlock half-smiles, and winces as the bruise on his cheek twinges. “If it matters, I feel sufficiently hurt.”
Silence. “Did – do –” John breathes out, sharp. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say, here.”
“I’ll leave.” He stands up. “I’ll find somewhere to stay, I don’t mind.” He turns back to John. “But I would like to – talk to you, again. To hear about your day, other than through texts that don’t seem to mean anything.”
He’s nearly out the door when he feels a hand on his arm.
John’s staring at the floor. “Stay,” he says, and drags his gaze upward, hand tightening on Sherlock’s arm. “Please.”
It’s silent in the room, and Sherlock nods.
How can he not?
John sleeps on the couch, that night.
Sherlock sits with him until John starts to nod off, and he reaches for him, but at the first touch of his hand he’s sitting up, shaking his head, pushing Sherlock away.
And he feels a heaviness in his chest that shouldn’t be occurring but somehow, against his will, he feels an ache, a palpable aching in his bones.
He wants to curl up next to him, bury his face in John’s shoulder, hold him close until the tension evaporates – but he can’t, and he won’t, until he’s sure it’s what John wants, and so he walks away, into the kitchen. He makes himself a cup of tea and grabs the newspaper.
He’s gotten better at entertaining himself with mundane things, since he left. He reads it cover to cover, twice, and returns to the living room.
He spends a long while looking at him, wanting so badly to reach out, to take hold of his hand, his hair, to pull him close and just breathe him in – but he can’t, won’t.
He’s hurt John more than Sherlock can ever be hurt; and so he sits, and waits for the sun to rise.
And when it does, when the light hits John’s face, he twists – and Sherlock’s never watched him wake up like this, and he waits, holding his breath.
John’s eyes flutter open and there’s a deep-set resignation in his bones, one that goes away as he fully wakes up, looks around him.
His eyes fall on Sherlock and they widen before squeezing shut again.
He mutters something, and it takes Sherlock a moment to understand what it is.
“Not again,” he’s saying, rubbing at his eyes, “not again,” and that hurts, too, hurts like people are always talking about being hurt; as though he’ll never get better from it, as though he wants to curl up into a tiny shell and stay there, where no one can say things that might hurt him.
And – the worst of it is that this is his fault, that the ache deep within him is due entirely to mistakes he has made himself. He doesn’t have the right to feel this hurt; that should be entirely John’s.
He’s an adult, now, though, and he’s faced worse than this (has to have – because those two words shouldn’t be enough to break him, can’t be enough) and so he presses forward, leans his chin on the tips of his fingers. “Are you all right, John?” he asks, voice low.
John tears his eyes open, looking at him, staring. “You’re not real,” he says.
“I’m afraid I am.”
“You can’t be real.”
“I’m sorry, John.”
That appears to be what breaks him; his face crumples in on itself and he’s standing, shaking his head. “It’s been three years – you’d think I’d be over the delusions by now,” he breathes out, and he doesn’t sound angry, so much as – resigned to a life without Sherlock.
And that? That really hurts.
Sherlock stands, too, reaches out to rest an arm on his shoulder. “You’ve been sending me messages,” he says, voice low, “and I’m sorry I haven’t responded to them, but it took time –”
“Three years’ time?” and this is still resigned, but there’s an underlying layer of bite.
He’ll take what he can get.
“I was scared,” he says, voice even, as though it’s a fact – because it is, because Sherlock hasn’t had a problem admitting he was scared since Moriarty on the rooftop, since John Watson will die and a fall that could, theoretically, have killed him, if not for Molly Hooper.
“Scared of what?”
“That you wouldn’t want me here, after all. That after all of this time – you’d move on.”
“And why shouldn’t I have?” John’s angry, getting more so by the second – he looks as though he’s ready to snap, body held taut. His voice is calm, even, but Sherlock finds himself flinching back, just slightly, at the absolute hurt in his eyes. “Why shouldn’t I have moved on? You clearly have.”
“Of course I didn’t. You didn’t – you have no reason to have waited for me. You have no reason to have thought I was alive – but the messages, John –”
“They weren’t anything,” but he’s shifting, now, looking more nervous, and it’s all that Sherlock needs to continue, to stop himself falling apart.
“They meant everything to me.” He says this simply, honestly.
There’s a long moment where they just stare at each other, and then John lets out a soft sigh and crosses the room, wrapping him in a hug.
“You absolute arse,” he says, breathes into Sherlock’s coat, and his hands tighten around his back, moving up to his neck, holding him tight. “You absolute –” and there are tears coming from his eyes, and he’s pulling away, muttering “sorry” but Sherlock hauls him back in, holds him close. He hadn’t realized how much he missed John’s touch – or if he had, he hadn’t let himself think about that.
“You forget that you weren’t the only one who was alone,” he says, voice pitched low, into John’s hair.
There’s a sound that’s almost a sob, and John holds him, close.
They stand there, for a long while, until John manages to extricate himself, closing his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he says, again, and his voice is falsely dispassionate.
Sherlock only raises an eyebrow. “I don’t think that you are,” he says, a soft smirk playing at the corners of his mouth, “you certainly don’t seem it.”
John shrugs, a smile quirking at the corners of his lips. “I missed you,” is all that he says.
Sherlock smiles. “I missed you, too,” and before he can stop himself, “so much.”
Things aren’t entirely okay, not for a while.
It’s awkward between them, now – Sherlock catches John just looking at him, sometimes, as though he expects him to disappear, and that’s more than a bit disconcerting (and quite a bit heartbreaking, if he’s honest with himself), and when he catches him watching back, John looks away, points to something else, changing the subject unprofessionally.
Sherlock lets him, though, because he doesn’t want to have the conversation that he knows has to happen – he doesn’t want to hear you can’t stay here and moved on.
And so he lets himself pretend that they can be what they were, that they are what they were. He goes back to his cases, goes back to the life that he had to leave behind. Lestrade smiles at him, but it seems forced, and he takes him aside after his first case.
“You really hurt him,” he says, in lieu of a proper hello.
Sherlock swallows. “I know.”
“You – you hurt all of us.”
He closes his eyes.
“I lost my job.”
Sherlock can’t breathe.
He’s only half-expecting the hug when it comes – he deserves more, perhaps a nice slap to the face (or a punch, like John had given).
It’s a quick hug, but it makes him feel like maybe – perhaps – things can go back to the way that they were; that he can be properly alive, again.
Lestrade smiles at him.
“It was worth it,” he says in a whisper.
Sherlock inclines his head; too many feelings, all of this missing. He’d missed him, of course, and he can’t say it but Lestrade’s face softens, an almost imperceptible amount, and he knows he gets it.
He gets a clap on the shoulder for that, and then he’s gone, leaving Sherlock alone in the little alcove.
John turns to him, one day. It’s been three weeks and two days since Sherlock came back.
“I’m sorry,” John says, almost whisper-soft, and he’s staring down when he says it, almost as though it’s a confession.
Sherlock frowns. “For what?” He’s not done anything wrong; he shouldn’t be apologizing, not now.
“You know what for.” John takes his hand, laces their fingers together. “I missed you,” he says, and it’s nearly a whisper, again.
He leans forward, and presses his lips against Sherlock’s. It’s a dry sort of kiss, but John’s trembling, Sherlock can feel it, and he pulls away, the faintest amount, to rest his forehead against John’s.
“Don’t leave me again,” John whispers, almost imperceptible, and Sherlock feels his heart crack, just the tiniest bit.
“I could never,” he says in return, and it’s the most honest he’s ever felt.
John’s eyes are wide as he looks at him, almost as though he wants to believe but can’t.
Sherlock’s the one to lean down, this time, to press his lips against John’s; it’s chaste but there’s nothing innocent about the way they hold onto each other. John is the anchor keeping him at shore, and he thinks, as he nudges John’s mouth open, pushes him back onto the couch to sit next to him, that he’d quite literally die for this man.
Things don’t change much, after that.
At least, on the surface.
John still keeps him at a bit of a distance, but it’s safer, now.
Sherlock sleeps in his own bed; John’s kept it for him, pristine, the way that it was before.
It’s a week after they get together before John comes into his room, looking terrified, as though he’s going to be kicked out.
“Can I –” he starts, gesturing toward the bed, and Sherlock sits up straighter, nods, pulling down the comforter.
“Of course,” he says.
There’s something almost like an awkward moment when John first sits down; he looks at Sherlock as though terrified he’s going to be made to leave.
And then Sherlock pulls him all the way on top of the bed, tosses the blanket over him, a hand resting on his waist. “You’re okay,” he whispers, because he thinks John needs to hear it.
“I’m sorry,” John says, breathes out, “for being so scared.”
“You don’t have to be,” and he’s not sure what he’s saying that for, because John should never feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable; this man, this amazing, brilliant man should always be happy.
There’s a smile at the corners of John’s lips. “I know,” and he kisses him, soft. There’s a bit of urgency in the kiss; he leans forward, sucking Sherlock’s bottom lip into his mouth, and there’s a hand gripping his waist, hard, before he pulls back, resting his forehead against Sherlock’s.
“John,” he nearly gasps out, and his voice is almost unsteady, “please.”
John pulls away to look at him, eyes wide. “What?” he breathes.
“Anything,” and he leans forward, kissing him again, harsh, rolling them over so he’s pinning John down against the sheets.
John gasps, head tilting back, pushing up against him. “Fuck,” he hisses.
“What do you want?” Sherlock asks between kisses, moving to the column of his neck, pressing his lips against his pulse points, soft.
John shudders. “Just – anything,” and he shifts against Sherlock, and he’s hard in his pajamas.
Sherlock – he doesn’t know what to do with that, and he kisses him, back, shifts his hips so they’re against John’s, whispers “I want you” against his lips.
“Yes –” John gasps out, and he’s moving more urgently against Sherlock, a hand gripping his shoulder, tight. He flips them over so he’s pushing Sherlock against the sheets, sucks at his neck, leaving a dark mark that won’t fade for a long while.
“Sherlock,” he hisses out between clenched teeth, and with the hiss of his name everything goes soft behind his eyes; he comes, as does John, and there are stars all around him and he’s panting. Neither of them have managed to get out of their clothes and they lie there, looking at each other.
John bites his lip, and reaches out a hand to rest against Sherlock’s heart. “You aren’t allowed to leave,” he says, very serious, the nails catching just a bit on the fabric.
Sherlock leans forward, catches John’s lips in a kiss, fingers fluttering just underneath his chin. “I would never,” he whispers back, honest.
“You – you cannot leave me.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Because –” and there are, truly, a thousand ways he could finish that sentence, I love you being the most obvious, but instead he laces his fingers through John’s, kissing his knuckles, delicate. “I couldn’t leave you again,” he says, very serious, just as John is. “I wouldn’t be able to take the loss. I know what it feels like – I wouldn’t do that to myself again.”
John closes his eyes, the ghost of a smile on his lips. “Thank you,” he whispers.
“You don’t have to thank me.” He doesn’t. He deserves to be happy, more than Sherlock does; he deserves all of the love that the world has, and more. “But you’re welcome,” he whispers, against the curve of John’s lips.
They fall asleep together, and it’s almost painfully domestic. He’s never had a partner like this; he’s never been one to sleep too near someone else, never wanted to.
John, though, defies all of his preconceptions. He thinks that perhaps he’d be able to tolerate more people, if they were more like him; but of course, that’s silly. No one is like him, that’s the beauty of it.
Sherlock falls asleep tangled together with John, and he thinks between one breath and the next that he’s never really been happy, not like this.
He falls asleep with a smile on his face.