I See You Across The Seas
Sherlock could hear John moving around upstairs, packing the last of his stuff. The last few weeks had flown by. Harry had found a flat and her work visa had been approved - today was the day they left for Australia.
Sherlock felt an odd sense of loss. He knew he shouldn’t; John hadn’t even left yet and it wasn’t like he was going to be away for long. Plenty of couples were apart for much longer than a month and a half. If John had been going back to Afghanistan, maybe this feeling would be justified, but it wasn’t. It was irrational, and Sherlock didn’t do irrational. He pushed the feeling aside as John came down the stairs lugging his suitcase behind him.
“Got everything?” Sherlock asked.
John dropped his bag in the living room, giving it a cursory glance. “I think so.”
“Not taking your gun?”
John was taken aback. “No, Sherlock, I am not taking my illegal firearm with me to Australia. I’d get arrested at the airport.”
Sherlock shrugged. “Mycroft would let you out again.”
“I’m not going to be chasing after criminals in Australia, I’m helping Harry move in. I won’t need a gun, Sherlock.”
“Suit yourself.” This was it then; John was leaving. Only temporarily, but leaving nonetheless. That disgusting feeling of abandonment was creeping back in again; pointless, he told himself. It’s only a few weeks. “We could talk via webcam while you’re away, if you’d like? You’ve got one built into your laptop so all you’d need is an internet connection.”
“Um, okay.” John looked a little surprised at Sherlock’s suggestion. Why? Wasn’t he the one who’d been going on about how they wouldn’t be able to see each other for so long? Was this not what he wanted? “Yeah, that would be good,” John continued with a smile.
Sherlock nodded and checked the time on his phone. “You’d better get going if you’re going to make your flight.”
“Thanks.” John’s eyes roamed around the messy room, taking everything in – most likely missing the details, but probably good enough for his purposes – before settling on Sherlock. His smile faltered slightly as he stepped towards Sherlock. Reaching up, he brushed a gentle hand across Sherlock’s cheek, down his jaw. “It’s not for long,” he said softly, more to himself than for Sherlock’s benefit.
Sherlock tilted his head down, bringing his lips to John’s in a chaste kiss. There was nothing passionate about it, just a promise that they’d be back together soon, a goodbye for now but not for long.
Sherlock pulled back, smiling down at John. “Take care.” He knew John would understand what he meant.
“Love you too.” And with that, John picked up his bag and made his way to the door and into the taxi waiting to take him to Heathrow.
Sherlock looked around the empty flat. Yes, it was foolish to feel a sense of loss. He headed into the kitchen and pulled out the spleen currently residing in the fridge.
~ ~ ~
“Tilt the screen upwards by ten degrees.”
John was sat at the small desk in his bedroom—well, technically the guest room—as he adjusted his laptop to Sherlock’s specifications. The noise from the TV down the hall quietly carried into his room as Harry settled down for the evening.
“There, is that better?”
“Much.” Sherlock’s voice lacked its usual timbre as it travelled around the globe and out of John’s speakers, washed out and tinny.
“You know, this was actually a really good idea,” John said, getting as comfortable as he could on the fold-up chair.
“Of course it was, it was my idea.” Sherlock’s mildly indignant face filled John’s screen.
“That doesn’t automatically make it a good idea. Remember that time you let yourself get shot in the chest as part of the plan?” He was never going to let Sherlock forget that particular stroke of idiocy.
“I was wearing a kevlar vest. It’s not as if I was in any real danger.”
“Sherlock, when someone is aiming a gun at you, the whole point is to not make them fire. What if he’d decided to shoot you in the head?”
“The chances were very low. Besides, you were shot and you’re still here, are you not?”
It really amazed John sometimes that such a genius could be so startlingly thick.
“First of all, any chance of getting shot in the head is too high and second, I didn’t plan on getting shot and it most definitely wasn’t to the head.”
“I take it settling Harry in isn’t going well.”
No matter how often he did it, Sherlock’s non-sequitors always sideswiped John for a moment. “Nice try, and no, it’s not.”
Oh yes, and there was Sherlock’s smug smile, the bastard. “I did warn you that your attempts at helping your sister would not be fully appreciated.”
John sighed. “Yes, I know you did. It’s not like I expected it to be a barrel of laughs either, you know. I just wish we could decide on something without arguing for hours about it.” John pinched the bridge of his nose as he continued. “We went furniture shopping the other day and I swear we spent two hours arguing over whether she’d need a dining set or not.”
John looked back up at the screen only to be confronted with a grinning Sherlock trying his best to hold back laughter. “Yes, yes, I know I said you were the worst shopping partner on the face of the planet, but I think you might have some competition.”
“Please, if I wanted to I could be much worse than your sister.”
“It wasn’t a challenge.” Before he could accidentally encourage Sherlock in any more disastrous plans, John switched topics. “So how’s London? I hope you’re not using my absence as an excuse to not eat or sleep properly. I’ll set Mrs Hudson on you otherwise.”
Sherlock gave a quiet huff. “Of course I’m eating and sleeping You need to stop worrying so much. I’m not a child; I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself.”
John rolled his eyes. “Sure you are. What about cases? I expect there to still be four walls when I get back, you realise, no matter how bored you might be.”
“The walls are perfectly fine. It’s only six weeks, John, I’m not going to blow up the flat.” At that John raised his eyebrows. “That was one time and it’s not like I intended to set it on fire. Anyway,” Sherlock said, “Lestrade brought me a missing persons case this morning. The girlfriend reported him missing when he didn’t come home from work Wednesday evening and his friends on the construction site he works at haven’t seen him either. Apparently, he left early on Wednesday, but he’s not on any of the CCTV cameras covering the entrance and there’s nowhere he could be hiding on the site itself.” Despite the poor sound quality, Sherlock’s frustration was easy to hear.
“Sounds like just your thing.” John tried his best but couldn’t quite manage to stifle a yawn. Glancing at the laptop’s clock he realised it was almost midnight; no wonder he was tired, he’d been up since half six that morning and spent the day helping Harry sort out her finances and bank accounts.
“You should go to bed, John, it must be nearly midnight over there. I should get back to the case anyway.”
If John hadn’t been so tired he probably would have picked up on the softer tone of voice, so unlike Sherlock except for when they were alone in bed together.
“I’m fine.” And another yawn he couldn’t quite hold back. “You know, that case reminds me a little of that thing they do in movies where they bury someone in concrete to hide all the evidence. You’ve probably already thought of that, sorry, I’ll shut up now.” He rubbed at his eyes, willing them to stay alert just that little bit longer. It wasn’t until the breathless “oh” of dawning comprehension came over the speakers that John looked back at Sherlock, eyes wide, lips apart. “What? Wait, did I just solve a case for you?” It would be a first and, in John’s current state, a bloody miracle if he had.
“Hmm? Oh, no. I just realised how he left the construction site. I’m sorry John but I’ve got to go and look at the CCTV footage again. Get some rest,” and without even a proper goodbye Sherlock disconnected.
John sat back in the cheap plastic chair. He was glad they’d found time to talk face to face despite the twelve hour time difference and it was nice to see Sherlock was keeping busy whilst he was gone. A small part of him had hoped for some indication that he was missed – it was only natural – but he was just glad Sherlock was looking after himself. It had taken his mind off of his sister though, which was definitely a good thing. He still had five weeks left of this and as lovely as Sydney was the heat was too familiar and just made them argue more. He found himself longing for the damp grey skies of London, of home.
~ ~ ~
Two Months Earlier
Sherlock was leant over his microscope in the kitchen, carefully examining the bacteria cultures he’d been growing for the past week or so. John hadn’t been too happy about it, but he couldn’t complain - Sherlock had labelled them this time.
Reaching across the table for the next petri dish, he heard John’s footsteps on the stairs. He’d been out for lunch with Harry – familial bonding, John had called it. Sherlock knew that John had a rocky relationship with Harry at the best of times, but he also knew John wasn’t the type to let that be an excuse. He’d keep meeting with Harry no matter what his feelings towards his sister might be.
They’d actually been getting on a little better of late. Harry was drinking less, attempting to stop entirely in fact. She hadn’t quite managed it yet, but despite the occasional slip-up, John had said she was getting better. It was Sherlock’s understanding that today had been more than the usual obligatory meet up over coffee, but he didn’t have enough data to fully grasp the details.
Sherlock turned his focus back to the culture in front of him as John came through the door and headed straight for the kettle and the mug cupboard. Strange, thought Sherlock, he only makes himself a cup of tea after one of their argumentative meetings. John’s body language told him something wasn’t right – he was definitely hiding something. No, it was more than that; this was something John had to say but really didn’t want to.
“You can just say it, you know. Whatever it is that you’re worried about telling me,” Sherlock said without looking up from his experiment.
John heaved a sigh, and slowly pivoted round to face Sherlock, leaving the kettle to boil. “I...you’re really not going to like it,” he said, rubbing his eyes with one hand.
“You’ll tell me eventually anyway, why not now?”
John steeled himself before continuing. “You’re right, of course you’ll find out, even if you weren’t the world’s only consulting detective,” John smiled. Whatever this was John really didn’t want to tell him. “I met with Harry today, as you know, and, uh, well...”
“I don’t think I’ve heard someone struggle for words so badly since Mummy started discussing her experimental sex life one Christmas. Just spit it out already, I need to concentrate.”
“Your mum’s–” John shook his head. “Sorry. Well, you know how Harry’s been doing better lately?” At this Sherlock gave a noncommittal nod wishing John would just get to the point. “Well, the other week she told me she wanted a fresh start, you know, a new life as it were.” John stopped, reluctant to get to the worst part.
Sherlock suppressed a heavy sigh. “Just say what the problem is already, would you?”
“I’m going to Australia,” John rushed out. Sherlock stilled over the microscope. Australia? John was going to Australia? Why? Something to do with Harry, obviously, and a new start...
“Harry’s moving to Australia,” he said out loud.
“Yes,” John sagged against the countertop. “She requested a transfer at work and they gave it to her yesterday. She’s already started looking at flats in Sydney.”
“So you’re moving with her?” Is that why John had been so reluctant to tell him? John was leaving? For good? And not just down the road either, but halfway around the world.
“What? No,” John sounded surprised. “No, I’m just going to help her get started. Moving is stressful enough, let alone emigrating to the opposite side of the planet. I’m just going to make sure she settles in okay, and doesn’t fall back into drinking.”
“Oh.” Well, that wasn’t nearly as bad as Sherlock had thought it would be. It would mean a few weeks without John’s presence, without his company on cases, but he could deal with that. He’d solved plenty of cases without John’s help in the past; a few weeks without him wouldn’t be too troublesome. “I think I can manage a few weeks without you, John.”
“Uh, well, that’s great, but I’ll be gone for six weeks, Sherlock.” John sounded so dejected by the idea Sherlock wondered why he was even going in the first place. Then again, John had a thing for caring about people, and the guilt that he might not have done everything he could for Harry would weigh on him.
“That’s fine, really,” he added at John’s incredulous expression. “Six weeks is nothing. I’ll take a few cases and it’ll be over before you know it. When are you leaving?”
John blinked, stunned by Sherlock’s calm acceptance of the situation. There was no point in getting emotional about it, Sherlock reasoned. Siix weeks was a relatively short period of time, and he could do all the experiments John wouldn’t let him try. “We’re not sure yet. Harry wants to have a place to stay before we head out. Look,” John said, “are you sure you’re okay with this? I know it’s not ideal.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes at John’s concern and leant back over his microscope. “It’s six weeks, John. How bad could it be?”
~ ~ ~
It had been a week, just one week, and already Sherlock missed John. He knew most people considered that to be a normal reaction when your significant other was away for any substantial period of time, but Sherlock prided himself on not being normal. The average person was so ruled by their emotions in every little thing they did, but not Sherlock. He operated on logic based on facts. At least, that’s what he liked to think. Until just over a year ago, it had been true.
Until just over a year ago, he hadn’t known John Watson.
Outwardly, he might not appear all that changed. Less brutal in his derision, perhaps, but still the same man. Inside, he knew it wasn’t quite so simple. Before, he’d been detached from most situations. Now, he couldn’t help but feel concerned over John. No matter how many times John’s life or health was at risk, the fear and panic crashed over him, refusing to be completely pushed aside until he knew for certain that John would be alright.
It was a vulnerability, a weakness that could be exploited all too easily, so he hid it. These novel emotions interfered with who he was and what he did, and there was no benefit to be had from letting them surface. He’d tried to hide them from John as well, but their sheer intensity worked against him.
It had been eight months now since they’d both realised how the other felt, eight months of these emotions. Sherlock still tried to hide his feelings for John, but there were times when he would just let go, when they both enjoyed showing the other just how much they cared. It had only been a week and already Sherlock missed it. He couldn’t tell John, he wouldn’t show anyone just what John’s absence felt like – he wasn’t sure he’d be able to hold back if he let go this time.
His phone vibrated inside his pocket. Lestrade had texted – a new case, missing person. Dull, but it was better than sitting here thinking about John. A distraction, that’s all he needed and then he could just patiently wait out the next five weeks.
Grabbing his coat he made his way out the flat, he needed to inspect a construction site.
~ ~ ~
John took another glance down at the clock on his laptop – quarter to nine. Sherlock was supposed to be online at eight. He’d passed the time updating his blog, filling in everyone back home on Australia. He’d give Sherlock another fifteen minutes before calling it quits; it’s not like he had somewhere to be, after all.
At ten to Sherlock came online.
“I am going to kill Mycroft slowly and painfully with that infernal umbrella of his.” Sherlock’s face had gone past irritation and was heading straight for enraged.
“Nice to see you, too.”
“Why can’t he just leave me alone? I don’t want or need his concern. It’s intolerable.”
“He cares about you, that’s all. I’ll admit he can be a tad overbearing about the whole protection thing, but he means well.” John doubted he’d ever forget his first meeting with Sherlock’s brother. “Why is he so concerned? Is something wrong?”
Sherlock’s face froze momentarily before moulding back into a look of absolute irritation typically reserved for encounters with his brother. “Nothing’s wrong. He just likes to show off.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” John said doubtfully. Sherlock was hiding something, of that John was positive. He just didn’t know what. “I hope all the chairs still have four legs this time.”
“That wasn’t my fault. The leg was loose.”
John smiled at the memory of the chair leg flying across the living room after Sherlock had thrown a rather vicious kick at the unoffending object. “Shall we talk about something else then, or would you rather take it out on your violin?” John asked.
“I think a change of subject might be better. The violin can wait until later.” Sherlock was calming down every minute; hardly surprising from a man who considered himself above such trivial things as emotions most of the time, but still it was nice to know John had some influence even from half way around the globe.
“Uh, so I was thinking of going for a walk down around Watson’s Bay. Don’t laugh.” Sherlock ignored the warning and broke into a lighthearted chuckle, his anger from Mycroft’s visit evaporating. John found he couldn’t help but react to that sound, even over tinny laptop speakers, grinning in return.
“You know they have a nudist beach down there?” Sherlock said once he’d suppressed his mirth.
John’s eyes widened in surprise. “How the hell do you know that and not who Simon Cowell is?”
“I needed to know it at some point, I can’t remember the details. The knowledge of who Simon Cowell is, on the other hand, has never come in useful,” Sherlock said with a derisive air, as if knowing who Simon Cowell was marked John as some lesser being. Considering the shows he did, maybe that wasn’t a half bad assessment. “So, will you go?” Sherlock asked.
“To the nudist beach? No, it’s not really my thing,” John huffed in amusement. “I was just going to walk along the coast a little, soak up some sun, fresh air; you know, things in short supply in the middle of London.”
“What about Harry?” Sherlock asked.
“What about Harry?”
“Isn’t she going with you on this excursion?”
“Oh, no. Harry started work yesterday, so this is my first day where I can explore properly.”
“So why are you staying out there if she’s all settled?”
“I didn’t say she was all settled, I said she’d started work. There’s still a lot of things to sort out and finalise and I can do that whilst she’s at work. Besides,” John continued, “this was supposed to be a new start for her, and at the moment I have to keep pulling bottles out of her hands. I’m not going to leave her now just to hear she’s gone back on the drink in a few months time.”
“Have you considered that she might not want your help?” Sherlock asked with an intense, calculating look in his eyes.
John sighed. “Of course I have.” He knew Harry probably didn’t want him here, and if truth be told, John didn’t really want to be here either. But this wasn’t about what he wanted, or what Harry wanted. This was about what she needed. “I don’t care if she doesn’t want me here. I’m not going to let her destroy herself on another continent.”
“You know you sound like Mycroft when you say that,” Sherlock said darkly.
“Yeah, well I care about Harry and Mycroft cares about you,” John bit out. “Maybe you shouldn’t fight against him so hard. It’s not easy being the older sibling, you know.” How had they gotten into a fight? At nine o’clock in the morning?
“It’s not easy being the youngest either, having older brothers smother you,” Sherlock spat back.
“I’m not smothering any – no, can we not do this, please?” John brought himself up short. “I don’t want to be arguing with you as well. Can we just pretend that didn’t happen, delete it or something?” If Sherlock could delete Simon Cowell, surely the past few minutes couldn’t be that hard? “I know it’s tough and I know it was my choice and I’m sorry, okay, but can we just make the most of being able to talk face to face?” John ended with a small smile, hopefully an olive branch.
Sherlock didn’t look happy; frowning sternly, eyes blazing, but at John’s peace offering Sherlock’s ferocity vanished almost instantly, as if a mask had suddenly covered his features. “Yes, of course.” The irritation had even disappeared from his voice, although that might just be due to the speakers. Was this what Sherlock had been hiding earlier? Was he afraid of revealing how much John’s absence meant to him?
“You know we’re halfway through now, only another three weeks to go. Less than that, in fact.”
“Yes, I know, John. I am perfectly aware of the passage of time.” Sherlock rolled his eyes.
If Sherlock wasn’t going to admit to missing John then so be it. John could hardly force him to acknowledge it out loud and he would probably hate him if he tried. Sherlock rarely told John he loved him, either, and it didn’t mean he didn’t. Sherlock just wasn’t used to these kinds of emotions, let alone expressing them explicitly. John knew Sherlock loved him from all the little things – the way he would slow down for him when his stupid psychosomatic limp decided to reassert itself; the way Sherlock made him tea in the evenings after a bad day at the surgery; the way Sherlock would wrap his arms around John during a particularly bad nightmare, not confining, simply holding, grounding him when he inevitably startled awake, breathing heavily. If he had been there with Sherlock in person, he would have known exactly how Sherlock felt in all the tiny gestures he made; but over such a distance, when the only way they could communicate was via e-mail or webcam, the words became more important.
“I think I might play the violin for a bit now,” Sherlock said, interrupting John’s thoughts.
“Oh,” John tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice. “Okay then. Can I listen?”
Sherlock gently shook his head. “Go and enjoy your walk. Have fun at the nudist beach,” he added with a smirk.
John looked heavenward. “I told you – you know what, maybe I will go. Might be some rather attractive people there baring all. Maybe I’ll run off with one of them and raise koalas,” John smiled slyly.
“I doubt it,” Sherlock huffed. “After all, none of them offer thrilling chases over rooftops and murders.”
“You’re right, I’m only with you because of the excitement of the chase and the constant presence of human body parts. Nothing to do with your body or your mind,” John’s smile softened. “You know, I can always go to the bay tomorrow; not like it’s going anywhere. I think I’d rather listen you you play right now.”
Sherlock looked right into the camera. “If you’d prefer,” he said with a light shrug and a smile. At John’s small nod Sherlock disappeared from the shot, leaving him with only the quiet clicks of a case opening and the faint rustle of clothing. The view from Sherlock’s webcam shifted, blurring as Sherlock spun his laptop round to face in the right direction. John sat back, relaxing, listening to the beautiful sound of the instrument, marred slightly by having to go though the microphone on Sherlock’s laptop and out of John’s speakers, but nevertheless still elegant.
John didn’t go for his walk that day, but it was by far the best day of the three weeks so far.
~ ~ ~
He was halfway through this ridiculous separation that John had forced upon them. It had already been too long in Sherlock’s opinion. He took a quick look at his phone – 7.30. Plenty of time before their arranged meeting at eight. Rising from the sofa, he made his way into the kitchen, opening the fridge door to take out the small jar containing a pair of eyes – one hazel and one a deep sea green.
He could hear footsteps on the stairs. What the hell did Mycroft want now? He slammed the jar of eyes on the table and closed the fridge with enough force to dislodge the magnets.
“Bugger off, Mycroft,” he said as his brother stepped through the door.
“How charming. Perhaps it was such gentlemanly conduct that led to dear Doctor Watson’s departure.”
Sherlock turned to glower at his brother. “John is only away for six weeks to help his sister move in. It has nothing to do with me.” Damn Mycroft and his infuriating ability to hit raw nerves. It had been something Sherlock had been wondering about – had John’s decision to leave been influenced by his behaviour? Was Harry’s emigrating just an excuse to get away from Sherlock for a while? John’s reasons for going held merit, but Sherlock was self-aware enough to know he wasn’t the easiest person to live with, let alone be in a relationship with. If past experience was anything to go by, John would be glad for the time away. But then, John wasn’t like the others. If their conversations were anything to go by, John was missing him just as much.
Mycroft smiled smugly. “I know that, Sherlock, I was wondering if you did.”
“If that’s the only reason you came, you can leave. The door’s behind you, I trust you’ll be able to squeeze back through it.” It was childish, but when dealing with Mycroft it was always a mistake to rise to civility. If Sherlock was polite it would only encourage Mycroft to come back, and that was simply inexcusable.
“Whenever will you grow up? As a matter of fact, I stopped by to check up on you,” Mycroft said, running a finger over the table’s surface before inspecting it for dirt. “You’ve been declining cases with alarming regularity. I was worried.”
“I’ve been declining them because they’re all painfully obvious and not worth my time.”
“I wonder if it’s the absence of a certain ex-army doctor’s company rather than the cases which leads you to think so,” Mycroft said, dropping his hand and focusing his gaze back onto Sherlock.
Sherlock didn’t bother to respond, unscrewing the lid on the eyeball jar. Perhaps if he ignored him Mycroft would you just leave of his own accord. Even if it hadn’t ever worked before, there was always a first time.
Mycroft, the bastard, simply watched him work with what Sherlock suspected to be feigned interest. “What a marvellous case of heterochromia. St Bartholomew’s, I assume?” There was silence as Sherlock continued to set up his experiment. “If Detective Inspector Lestrade’s cases are unsatisfactory, I have some interesting mysteries you could take a look at,” Mycroft said after a few minutes.
“Not interested,” Sherlock replied, not bothering to look up.
“Come now, you don’t even know what they’re about.”
“I don’t need to. I don’t care about your problems, Mycroft, and I will not be your errand boy. Solve them yourself if they’re so important.” Sherlock finally moved, fixing Mycroft with a baleful glare.
Mycroft swung his umbrella up and began inspecting the folds of material. “I have other things to occupy my time. You, on the other hand,” he said, swishing the umbrella back down, “are wallowing.” He withdrew a manila envelope from his briefcase. “Take the job, Sherlock.” He dropped the envelope onto the exact corner of the table he’d been inspecting earlier. Sherlock just put his head down, re-focusing on the mismatched pair of eyes as Mycroft made his way to the door. “He’ll only be another three weeks,” Mycroft said. The tone of his voice was almost kind.
Once he’d gone, Sherlock abandoned the eyes and grabbed the envelope off the table. He was about to rip it in half and throw it in the bin when he realised what time it was. Throwing the intact case onto the table, he whipped out his phone – 8.45. Cursing Mycroft, he stormed into the living room and turned on his laptop, hoping he hadn’t missed John completely.
~ ~ ~
“I miss you,” John told Sherlock over another skype call. “I can’t wait to get home soon. Two more weeks.” John smiled into the camera; two more weeks and then he could go home again, could see Sherlock, could run his hands over that perfect alabaster skin.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Yes, two more weeks. I told you, I am perfectly capable of keeping track of time myself, you know.”
“So what day of the week is it?” John asked with an amused smirk.
“It’s a Friday. I’m not–”
“Thursday, actually,” John interrupted Sherlock’s rant. “But well done for getting close.”
Sherlock grabbed the newspaper which must have been lying on the desk next to his laptop and scanned the header of the front page. “Oh, yes I remember now. Mrs Hudson brought this up last week.”
“I hope this doesn’t mean you forgot to pay the bills for this month? I left them on the table for you to sort out. There should be a post-it note on top telling you what to do.”
Sherlock leant out of shot, leaving John with the sound of papers being shuffled about and the dull thud of a book that must have fallen onto the floor. “Oh, here we go. Yes, I’ve got them,” Sherlock came back into view brandishing a small stack of bills with a bright yellow post-it stuck to the front covered in John’s scrawl.
John buried his face in his hands. “Sherlock, those needed to be paid yesterday. They’ll cut off the power otherwise.”
Sherlock simply threw the bills back onto the disaster area of a desk with a shrug. “Mycroft’s probably dealt with it by now.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Then what is? The bills will be paid, isn’t that what matters? Honestly, John, stop fussing. It’s not like we’re married, and you’re not even here at the moment.” Sherlock went back to sorting out all the papers he must have moved to find the bills.
“How would being married make it any different?” Sherlock’s tone had shifted slightly when he’d said that, but with the sound quality being what it was he couldn’t pinpoint the meaning behind it.
“It’s just a figure of speech, John. It’s not important.” He was definitely distracted and definitely trying to cover up something.
“Would you want to be? Married, that is? I mean, I don’t know, I just never saw you as the marrying type.” Married to his work, maybe, but to a person? To John? They’d never talked about it. In truth, John hadn’t really thought about it either; he was happy as they were.
“And what is the ‘marrying type’, exactly?” Sherlock asked, pulling back into view, leaving the papers alone.
“I don’t know, just – well, you never really mentioned it, so I just assumed.”
“You haven’t mentioned anything about it either.”
“You can see someone’s personal history within five seconds of meeting them; I just assumed you’d be able to tell. Anyway, I hadn’t really thought about it before. Would you, though?” John continued. “Would you consider getting married?”
“Depends who was asking,”
“Me, obviously. Would you say yes if I asked you?”
“Are you?” Sherlock’s gaze had intensified. Of course, that might just be the video quality.
“Sure, why not?” John said, vainly trying to hide his yawn. “Would you marry me?”
There was a brief pause on Sherlock’s end as John took a sip of his, now rather cold, tea. “Yes.” Sherlock’s voice was soft, kinder and more serious than John had heard from the man in a long time.
“Well there we go, you’d marry me and I’d marry you,” John smiled sleepily at the computer screen. His gaze drifted to the small digital clock. “Christ, it’s late. I better head off to bed, Sherlock. I’ll call again tomorrow, same time?”
“Of course,” Sherlock said with a little smile, one of his truly happy expressions, one that reached his eyes. “Goodnight, John.”
Harry was drunk. It was inevitable, really - a night out with work after the stress of moving to a new country? Of course she’d hit the drink. John had suggested she use the excuse of still unpacking to get out of it, but Harry never listened to him. As much as he wanted to blame her, she’d just wanted a nice night out with her new colleagues, get to know them better. He couldn’t begrudge her that. He only wished he’d been there to keep her in check rather than sat at home like some lovesick teenager waiting for Sherlock to get online. Harry should have been more controlled, but it was John’s fault for not going with her.
Harry was slumped over the toilet bowl. She’d finally stopped dry-heaving and was now just leaning heavily against the porcelain on the off-chance of a repeat performance.
“Don’t be mad, Johnny,” she slurred when he came over to clean her up a bit. “S’all good.”
“No, it’s not all good, Harry. You’re a recovering alcoholic, you’re not supposed to get this trashed any more,” John told her. He carefully lifted her to her feet and walked her to the bedroom. He’d already found a bucket for her to use if she needed to and placed it next to her bed.
“‘S funny. You’re funny, Johnny,” she said, giggling at something only her drunken mind could comprehend.
“Yes, wonderful. Okay,” he said, helping her out of her sodden clothes and into bed, “I need you to lie down for me, on your side.” She usually slept on her back, but she was too drunk to argue as he carefully moved her arms. “Keep your chin up as well, Harry.” He gently tilted her head as she drifted off. Finally, he was satisfied she wasn’t about to choke on her own vomit or tongue.
He sat there for half an hour, just watching, making sure she didn’t start choking. The irony was they argued less when she was as drunk as this – Harry wasn’t an angry drunk unless provoked, and John knew there was no point in arguing with her when she wouldn’t remember in the morning anyway.
As he checked the bedside clock, he realised he was almost an hour late for his ‘date’ with Sherlock. He gave Harry a quick once-over and made his way to his bedroom. Grabbing his laptop, he wandered back towards Harry’s room, keeping close enough to hear any noise she might make and yet not so close that he would wake her if Sherlock happened to still be online.
“You’re late,” was Sherlock’s greeting.
“Yes, I know,” John huffed. “Harry went out with some work mates and, well, she’s currently passed out on her bed in the recovery position, so I can’t talk for long.”
“Why did she go out drinking if she’s a recovering alcoholic?” The way Sherlock said it, as if it was a ridiculous mistake to make, didn’t help assuage John’s guilt.
“Yes, Sherlock, I am well aware of what a bloody awful idea it was. I tried to get her to see sense, but making Harry see sense when it comes to drinking is like trying to get you to be civil to Anderson.” Even her brother putting on his doctor hat wouldn’t convince her.
“If you want to go watch over Harry, I understand. After all, it’s partially my fault that you didn’t go with her to the bar.”
“How did you...” John began before realising that it was probably pretty obvious he hadn’t gone out with Harry. “Yeah, I should have gone to the bar with her. It’s not your fault, though; we could have just rescheduled.”
“I didn’t mean to suggest this was your fault, John. Harry is a grown woman. She should be able to look after herself.” John smiled slightly at that. “What? Oh yes, very funny. I keep telling you, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thank you. I’ve made it nearly five weeks, haven’t I?”
“Yes, you have. Well done for managing not to starve or blow yourself up in five weeks.”
“Your sarcasm is noted,” Sherlock replied in a dry voice. “Really, though, if you want to watch over her and make sure she’s alright I don’t mind. I have some experiments that need attending to. As you said, we can always rearrange.”
“Are you sure that’s alright? I know we don’t get to see each other very often. I don’t want you to feel like, I don’t know, I’m ignoring you.”
“You’re not ignoring me, you’re looking after your sister. Which, I might remind you, is the reason you’re halfway around the globe in the first place,” Sherlock said. “You’ll be back in a just over a week, anyway.”
“God, I love you sometimes,” John said with a soft smile. “How about we try again tomorrow night, same time?”
“Fine with me,” Sherlock agreed, before adding, “Unless Lestrade finds me a case by then.”
“Good morning, Sherlock.”
Hanging up, John sincerely hoped Harry wouldn’t waver from sobriety too much after tonight; he didn’t want to think about Sherlock’s reaction if he had to tell him he’d be staying longer than the original six weeks.
~ ~ ~
Week Six (well, almost)
“So,” Sherlock’s voice came through John’s laptop, “did you want me to meet you at the airport when you get back?”
Damn, this was the part John had been hoping to put off. He knew he wouldn’t be able to, knew he shouldn’t, but he also knew it wouldn’t go down well. He’d put it off for fifteen minutes already; it was time to bite the bullet. “About that...” He wished his stomach would stop squirming. “I don’t think I’ll be coming home in a couple of days like we’d planned.” He couldn’t look at Sherlock’s face as he said it – when had he become such a coward?
“What? Why not?” Sherlock’s voice was steady but John could hear the emotion underlying it. “Is this about Harry? That work party?”
“It’s related, yes.” John looked up at Sherlock. To anyone else, Sherlock would simply look confused - a rare sight in the first place - but John could see the subtle frown lines and hardness in his eyes. “The whole point of coming was to make sure she settled in sober; I can’t leave knowing that in all likelihood she’ll go back to drinking as soon as I’m gone. She’d been doing so well. She deserves better.” Sherlock really didn’t look happy, understandable really, John wasn’t happy about it either. But Harry was family and as much as they didn’t get on most the time, he’d hate himself even more if he abandoned her now.
“Is this...” Sherlock grimaced before schooling his expression into one as neutral as he could manage. “Is this just about Harry? Or is this some desire to stay in Sydney longer and to have more time away from me?” It sounded like Sherlock had been worried about this for a while but had been too afraid to ask.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” John told him fiercely. “Sherlock, I’m not happy about this either. Of course I want to come home, of course I want to see you again. Trust me, if I wasn’t worried that Harry would be straight back on the booze as soon as I stepped on the plane, I would be home already. I love you, Sherlock; I want to be there with you. Besides,” he added, “if I was trying to avoid you, why would I be talking to you all the time?”
“I’m not feeling guilty. Well, alright, I am, but only because I feel terrible for not coming home as planned. That is not the only reason I’m talking to you.”
“If you were worried about Harry drinking, you shouldn’t have let her move to Australia. Everyone drinks there.”
“Drinking is a part of lots of cultures. She was just as likely to get pissed in England as she is here, so don’t start any of that. I know you’re upset, but don’t be a dick.”
“You know how I am, there’s no need to insult me with such petty terms. I’ve had worse from Anderson. If you haven’t realised what I’m like by now then maybe we shouldn’t be getting married. I’m not sure I should be with such an unobservant imbecile.” Sherlock’s face twisted in derision.
“Fuck off, Sherlock,” John said before Sherlock’s exact words sunk in. “Wait, married? When are we getting married?”
“I have no idea as to an exact date. You asked me, remember?”
“No, I don’t remember,” John said with a tone of panic – how would he forget something like that? Unless... “Sherlock are you talking about the other week when I asked if you’d ever want to get married?”
“Obviously. What other time have we discussed marriage?”
“Never.” Oh, this was a disaster. “Sherlock, I was just asking if you’d ever consider getting married. I wasn’t, I mean...” How the hell was he supposed to explain himself without hurting Sherlock even more? “I didn’t mean it as an actual proposal.” He winced; that definitely wasn’t the way to say it.
“So you don’t want to marry me?” Sherlock’s voice was laced with a potent mixture of rejection and anger.
“I didn’t say that,” John corrected in a rush. What was he saying? He loved Sherlock, that wasn’t even in question. When he’d asked Sherlock if he’d ever thought about getting married, he’d been hoping the man would say yes. He’d wanted to know that Sherlock felt the same way about him as he felt about Sherlock, that they had that possibility open to them. But John was a bit of a romantic about these things. He didn’t approve of couples who rushed into marriage because they knew divorce was an easy way out if things went wrong. But that wasn’t how John felt about Sherlock. He already lived with him, knew all his bad habits, his propensity for keeping body parts and toxic chemicals scattered around the flat. He knew all that, lived with all that, and he’d never thought of leaving Sherlock. He might have needed some air occasionally, but who didn’t from time to time? At the end of the day, John would always go back to Sherlock, and wasn’t that what marriage was all about?
“John, do you want to marry me or not?” Sherlock impatiently interrupted John’s thoughts.
“Yes,” John said, meaning it. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”
“Good.” Sherlock’s expression lost some of it’s cold fierceness as the tension in his jaw relaxed, even managing to give a small smile. “Now that that’s sorted, when are you coming home?”
“I don’t know,” John sighed. “Probably no more than another week or so. Don’t worry, Sherlock, I want to be back home just as much as you do.”
They spent the rest of the morning talking. When they said goodbye, John had almost forgotten he wouldn’t be going home just yet. Almost, but not quite.
~ ~ ~
Sherlock wasn’t moping, no matter what Lestrade or his brother said. He did not mope, ever. It was an experiment in how long he could go without verbal communication and using as little energy as possible. It was definitely not moping.
It was ridiculous. Sherlock didn’t care about Harry’s welfare. If he didn’t care about his own sibling’s welfare, there was hardly any point in caring about someone else’s. Why couldn’t John just come home? It was Harry’s life; let her destroy it as she saw fit. He would never voice that aloud, though. He knew it was just a bit beyond ‘not good’. John would probably forgive him, but it wasn’t worth the argument it would cause.
Sherlock curled up even tighter on the sofa, pulling his thin blue dressing gown around him. If Mrs Hudson came by he could just pretend he was cold. It was rather chilly in the flat. He should probably get up and do something about that, it’s what John would do. But John wasn’t here, was he? It would hardly be Sherlock’s fault if he froze to death because John was enjoying the sunshine and warmth down under too much to come home. Besides, getting up to turn on the heating would ruin his ‘use as little energy as possible’ experiment. He was doing well so far.
He heard his phone vibrate on the table. Lestrade, most likely, in another vain attempt to distract him with cases. When would the man learn that simple cases were useless? They only made his black moods even darker. Maybe it was Mycroft, in which case it would just be another text telling him to stop pining and do something. It didn’t much matter who it was, it was bound to be tedious and dull.
He wished he had something to occupy his mind, something to stop it spinning in circles. He didn’t even have his stash anymore, not since someone (he suspected Mycroft, the git) had given Lestrade a very specific anonymous tip off. He could always go out and get more, but that would require ruining the experiment. Maybe he could drop a note to someone in his homeless network and get them to acquire it for him. He stored the idea away for later.
The worst thing was not having a time frame for when to expect John to return. He might be there for another week or another month, there was no real way of knowing. Even if John did give him a date, there was no guarantee that he’d stick to that one any more than he had the first.
His phone vibrated continuously this time – a call, had to be Mycroft. Well, he wasn’t going to pick up. If Mycroft really needed to talk to him he could bloody well come in person.
Ten minutes later, in which Sherlock still had not moved, his brother’s voice carried up from downstairs. Damn him.
~ ~ ~
John turned his laptop on to check for any new e-mails from Sherlock. He’d sent one yesterday morning, nothing particularly important, but Sherlock hadn’t replied yet. Not even with a basic “on a case”.
1 New Message
It wasn’t from Sherlock – unknown sender; junk mail maybe? It didn’t look dodgy, but then again you could never tell. In the end, John decided to open it; it might still be from Sherlock and the subject heading did say urgent. Praying that he wasn’t about to destroy his laptop, he clicked on it.
Dr John Watson
If it was spam, it was certainly well-targeted.
Be at Sydney Airport, terminal 1, gate A arrivals for 2pm
Well, that explained the mystery of the message’s sender even if it only gave him more questions. He looked at the clock - plenty of time to get there. He hoped it wasn’t some foreign dignitary, although that seemed unlikely. Mycroft would know people in Australia far better equipped to deal with them. He knew who he wanted it to be, of course, but he had to be careful with that thought. If he ended up being wrong, he didn’t want to go through that bitter feeling of disappointment.
No matter who it was, he’d be there to greet them; it’s not like he had any better plans.
~ ~ ~
Well, here he was – two o’clock, terminal one, gate A at Sydney Airport, just as Mycroft had asked, still without a clue as to who he was supposed to be meeting here. John hoped it was at least someone he knew. He still hadn’t thought of any reason why he would be asked to greet one of Mycroft’s officials. As hard as he’d tried not to hope, there was really only one person he wanted to see come through the arrivals gate.
John checked the arrivals board. There were a couple of flights from London up there, but none of them were arriving at two. Maybe whoever it was wasn’t flying from England. After all, Mycroft hadn’t said anything about which flight it was. He hadn’t said anything at all, really. A small well of disappointment started to rise in John’s chest as it seemed less and less likely that Sherlock would come striding through the gateway.
As the minutes passed, John wondered whether he should have made a sign to hold. Except not only did he not know who he was waiting for, it was quite possible the other person didn’t know who was meeting them here. Silently cursing Mycroft, he continued to watch as plane load after plane load came through, as people greeted their loved ones with fierce embraces or loving touches. He tried to stop his imagination replacing the couples with himself and Sherlock – tried, but failed.
Checking the time, John noted it was already 2.45 and there was still no sign of his mystery arrival. It was possible that the flight had been delayed, of course, but knowing Mycroft and his strive to be omniscient John suspected he would have been informed had that been the case. Maybe there’d been some other problem; lost luggage, difficulties at immigration or a problem at customs. Whatever the reason, John was bored of just hanging around. There was a coffee shop not far from the gate where he could grab a cup of tea. Deciding that whoever was coming could wait around a little bit, he made his way over to the coffee stall.
He hoped he wouldn’t have to wait much longer. True, he didn’t have any definite plans, but hanging around at an airport all afternoon wasn’t his idea of a good time. He’d just bought his tea in one of those horrible cardboard cups with the leaky plastic lids when he heard a familiar, deep baritone voice behind him.
“You were overcharged.”
John almost had a heart attack, barely holding on to his tea in shock. “Sherlock?” he asked breathlessly, spinning round Standing right there in front of him stood all six foot two of Sherlock’s skinny frame.
“Hello, John.” Sherlock’s face lit up in a brilliant smile, the kind normally reserved for triple homicides.
John didn’t know what to do with himself. Seeing Sherlock standing there had just wiped every coherent thought from his head. “But, I...what? I mean, how? Sherlock?”
Sherlock rolled his eyes heavenward. “For goodness sake, John. Yes, it’s me. Mycroft bought me an open return ticket since you didn’t know when you’d be able to come home.” John still hadn’t regained control of his mind enough to do anything other than gawp. “You’re not about to collapse or anything, are you?” Sherlock’s eyes narrowed, as he gauged John’s well-being. “Perhaps you should sit down.”
Slowly, John’s neural pathways seemed to start firing again. Sherlock guided him into a chair at a nearby table, taking the seat across from him. “No, I’m fine, it’s just. There weren’t any flights from London landing at two, I thought...” John trailed off.
“Connecting flight. I landed in Singapore first.”
“Oh.” That made sense. John nodded. But, “Then why have you only just come through the gate?”
“Oh, that, yes, I apologise for the delay. The officials seemed to incorrectly believe that the couple in front of me were drugs smugglers. I informed that they were mistaken and they took offence at my deductions. Mycroft had to tell them to release me.” Sherlock scowled slightly at the thought of needing his brother’s interference.
John sat stunned for a second before he started to laugh. “Only you could get in that much trouble within ten minutes of landing.” It was slowly sinking in. Sherlock was here, in person, sitting less than half a metre in front of him.
Sherlock’s grin reappeared until he too was laughing. It felt so good to hear Sherlock’s voice without the tinniness of the speakers, to hear his rich laugh – something he hadn’t heard in a while.
Eventually their mirth subsided, leaving the two of them smiling happily at one another, each drinking in the other’s presence. John reached forward and took Sherlock’s hand in his. It felt so good to touch him again; he’d missed Sherlock’s surprising warmth these past few weeks.
After a few moments of gentle calm, hand in hand, Sherlock rose to his feet pulling John up with him and pulled him close and into a deep kiss. John sighed happily as they both tried to explore the other’s mouths, re-learning the taste and feel. Slowly the passion they’d begun with withdrew into a languorous teasing of lips and tongues before Sherlock pulled away, resting his head over John’s shoulder in a comforting embrace.
John never wanted to let him go. If they could stay there like that for the rest of their lives, John would die happy. He felt a breath of air against his neck – I missed you could just be made out. John smiled against Sherlock’s shoulder.
They stayed like that for a few seconds longer before pulling away, but not enough to break contact. “We should probably get the car,” John said softly “You’ve had a long flight.”
Sherlock nodded and grabbed his hand luggage, leaving the larger, heavier bag for John to deal with. At least it had wheels, John thought, grabbing the handle and catching up with Sherlock, who was already halfway to the car park. John felt better than he had in the last six weeks; once again following after the brilliant detective.
~ ~ ~
It was mid-morning. Sherlock was lounging decadently on the hotel bed with only his boxers maintaining some level of dignity. John had driven them back to Harry’s place in the Sydney suburbs but it hadn’t been long before she’d kicked them out. According to John, it had been his decision - let Harry have her independence while still being close enough if she needed any more help. Sherlock suspected it was due to noise levels and Harry’s childish desire to be the first person to have sex in her own flat. Too late, he thought with a victorious grin, remembering his first night on Australian soil. So now they were staying at a hotel. Sherlock couldn’t remember which one of the many in downtown Sydney they’d ended up in, but it didn’t matter. Mycroft would foot the bill.
John came out of the en suite bathroom dressed in jeans and a light t-shirt. Although he’d been spending most of his time helping Harry with the move, he’d obviously spent some time on the beach as well – Sherlock had seen the tan lines from his swimming shorts. He was more tanned than Sherlock had ever seen him. Even at that first meeting his tan had already begun to fade, nothing like the fresh bronzing John was sporting now. His hair was blonder too, bleached by the sun. Sherlock found himself wanting to explore every inch of him, to trace the tan with his fingers, with his tongue – would it affect the taste of John’s skin? He’d run these experiments multiple times now but still his curiosity wasn’t sated. Neither of them were complaining.
John smiled when he saw Sherlock sprawled across the bed. “You know you’ll have to leave this room eventually, right?”
Sherlock shifted up to get a better look at John, leaning back on his elbows. “Of course, but since we don’t have a specific day we have to leave by I intend to make the most of you.” Sherlock gave John a long, steady look over, more for its effect on John than any need for observation. “Besides, isn’t this what engaged couples do?”
“What, have sex all day?” John asked with an amused grin. “Come on, I thought we could grab some lunch down at the harbour. I haven’t really been sightseeing yet. I was too busy with Harry and then, well, it didn’t hold any appeal at the time. Anyway, you need to eat something. You’re even thinner than usual.”
It was true Sherlock had lost what little weight he had to spare. He hadn’t thought John would notice; it was only Mycroft who had commented on it at home. Most likely John had attributed it to Sherlock’s poor eating habits, but when he wasn’t on a case Sherlock ate normally, and he hadn’t had a proper case for a couple of weeks now. It just wasn’t the same without John’s continuous attempts to ‘feed him up’. Despite his usual irritation, he found he’d missed the concern behind the requests, each one a small proof of John’s love. “We could just order room service,” Sherlock said, pouting.
“You need some vitamin D as well. Come on, Sherlock,” John cajoled, “I bet you’ll love the Opera House.”
“Dull, typical tourist trap.”
“Fine,” John snapped as he began to lose his patience. “We can go to a beach and you can loll about on the sand soaking up the rays rather than lay on a bed in a hotel room, even if it is five stars. The fresh air will do you good.”
The beach actually did sound tempting. As a general rule, Sherlock hated beaches. It was too hot lying out in the sun, not to mention that the sand got everywhere, making him uncomfortable and interfering with his deductions of the other visitors. If he couldn’t spend his time working out the lives of those around him, he got bored. Despite this antipathy towards beaches, if John was there dressed only in swimming shorts, dripping wet from a swim in the sea, water beads evaporating off his finely-haired chest as he lay out in the sun... Well, he could probably force himself to make an exception. Of course, he’d have to wait until they were back to the hotel room before Sherlock could properly show John his appreciation, unless he could persuade John that the car would suffice for privacy. Sherlock could feel himself hardening just at the thought.
“You win,” Sherlock sighed in mock surrender. “We can go to the beach after lunch. However,” he continued with a gleam in his eyes, “since lunch is still a good hour away, might I suggest something to work up an appetite?”
John’s eyes locked with Sherlock’s before slowly following the pale contours of his body down towards his growing erection. “Deal,” John said as he made his way towards the bed, pulling his t-shirt up over his head as he did so.