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Still No Cure for Crying

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John’s world is all reds and golds. Muted, of course, since he is still a child, but scarlet and yellows and browns dominate what he can see. All children see some colours, washed out or dulled compared to how their parents view the world. His mum says he can see the warm, comforting colours of autumn because of his big heart. All parents tell their children things like that: reds mean you feel strong emotion like love or anger, greens that you connect with nature and animals, blues that you’re smart but aloof or shy, oranges that you’re full of energy and life. John believes it when his mum tells him how much he can love.

He even believes it when the colours go away. He opens his eyes one morning and they’re just gone; the world is all shades of grey with no hints of crimson or lemon even in the corner of his vision. He cries that morning and his mum tells him it’ll be okay, the colours will come back even better and brighter when he meets his soulmate. That first touch of skin to skin will bring all the colours to his sight, in all their full hues and shades.

John stays home from school that day and his Mum buys him a pair of soft and breathable cotton gloves to cover his hands. Once children lose their colours, it’s a much more intimate thing to touch skin to skin. He’s the first one in his year at school that has to wear them. He’s only 12, he thought he’d have a few more years before he lost his colours, but John doesn’t grieve their loss for long. He’ll get them back as soon as he meets his soulmate. Someone with a heart as big as John Watson’s won’t have to wait long.

***************
Sherlock can only see frosty blues and greens that blend with the sea. Those have been his colours for as long as he can remember, since he was a baby. He is incredibly intelligent, obviously, but that has nothing to do with the old wives' tales parents tell their children about which colours they can see. Sherlock plans to do a scientific study on it, to measure his classmates’ observable personality characteristics against which colours are most visible to them before puberty in an attempt to disprove those legends. But then his parents give him an electron microscope for his eleventh birthday and biology and chemistry take hold of his mind instead of psychology and chromatics.

One by one, Sherlock’s classmates show up at school or return from hols wearing gloves. Sherlock smirks at them, pleased that he can still see the world in slips of muted navy and emerald. Until one day, they’re just gone. Nothing but grayscale left behind. He’s nearly fifteen and he’d thought, quietly hoped, that maybe he’d get to keep his colours forever. That he wouldn’t need another person to give them back to him, that he’d be enough on his own. Sherlock refuses to cry, refuses to stay in his dormitory for the day like the other students did. Instead, he pulls on a pair of jet black leather gloves and goes to class.

***************
John doesn’t lack for interested company through his adolescence. As soon as the girls in his year start losing their colours, they seek him out despite parental warnings that finding your soulmate is something intimate and precious. It is not to be rushed, and only to be undertaken when a person is ready. Some just want to hold his hand to see if their colours come back, but it never works. John’s heard of, and even seen once, childhood friends who lose their colours but immediately get them back in their own private explosion of light just behind their eyelids the next time they innocently brush bared arms with their best friend.

John’s never had a friend like that. He has fun with the rugby lads and chats with girls who sit behind him in biology but he doesn’t have a single friend closer than any other. He doesn’t mind. He prefers it that way really. John likes having people around, people who like him, but no one that gets close enough to hurt him. His heart is big and kind, but he’s not foolish. Even the smallest hurts wound him deeper than they do his peers. He protects himself not by growing bitter but by keeping space between himself and others.

As John gets older he stops growing taller, but his shoulders widen out and his voice gets even deeper. The girls, and some of the boys, still seek him out to hold hands, to twist naked fingers together, but nothing happens. A few want to try the scene they’ve seen in so many romantic movies, when the characters decide it doesn’t matter if they aren’t soulmates and kiss only to discover they were soulmates all along. Even with warm, damp lips pressed together at parties or snuck into private corners, the colours never come back.

It’s better this way, John tells himself. If he’s not seeing colours again, at least the young women and men he’s trying with aren’t either. It would be terrible to be someone’s soulmate but for them not to be yours. It’s not common, but it happens.

He doesn’t worry through secondary school, or even through university. There are plenty of students around him who haven’t found their soulmates yet. And John might as well have fun in the mean time. A lot of fun, as it turns out.

But by his first year of medical school, there are fewer and fewer unattached people. He still dates, still gets laid, but by other sorry sods who haven’t found their soulmates yet and who he already knows are no match for him. It’s starting to feel like there’s no one left. John’s not sure he even wants a soulmate anymore.

There was one woman, Jeanette, during his second year of med school. He met her at a cafe, practically dumped his coffee on her in the morning rush hour crowd. Jeanette didn’t hold out hope for a soulmate either so they didn’t wait long to touch skin to skin. John appreciated that Jeanette didn’t put a lot of ceremony to it like some people. She just kissed him. They saw sparks but no colours, as the saying goes.

The sparks were good enough. More than good enough. It was the best relationship of John’s life. Dates turned into day long stretches of just spending time together. The sex was fantastic and John actually enjoyed waking up in Jeanette’s too-soft bed on days he didn’t have early lectures. He was happy.

After eight months of splitting their time between John’s flat share and Jeanette’s cramped place in Shoreditch, they moved in together. John was slow to unpack and Jeanette teased him about planning to move right back out again. He was just busy and he’d rather spend his time cooking dinner with Jeanette, making love to Jeanette, or exploring their new neighborhood with Jeanette than unpacking dusty paperback crime novels he couldn’t quite bring himself to get rid of. He wanted to do everything with Jeanette and a thorough unpacking wasn’t high on his list of couple’s activities. He thought he had plenty of time to sort his things and settle in.

Then Jeanette’s calf brushed the bare ankle of a tourist from Madrid on the bus and that was that. Turned out John was glad he’d never fully unpacked. It made heading back to a flat share with other students easier. Easier but not more bearable.

John hadn’t been looking for a soulmate for Jeanette, not really. But now he was even more convinced that there was no person out there for him. He had to make his own way in the world and take what little happiness he could find wherever he could find it. Jeanette became a blip in a string of short lived, but fun, casual relationships. John believes that almost all of the time, but there’s still a tiny spark of hope in his overly large heart.

***************
“He’s probably colourblind.”

Sherlock hears the insults. He always hears them, he just refuses to respond. The implication that he’ll never be able to get his colours back, that there’s no one out there for him and this grey curtain will remain over his vision forever, is intolerable. He cares less about the annoying addition of another person to his life than he does about being able to see and process the world in greater detail. There is so much he’s missing by not being able to differentiate saffron from goldenrod.

Mycroft presents him with an even more frightening prospect. Sherlock is home for a school holiday and bemoaning the idiots in his year who sneak around and press their fingers together like finding a soulmate is as worthy of their time as basic educational instruction when Mycroft snaps.

It’s the calm and slow clink of Mycroft’s fork against the table that stops Sherlock mid eviscerating rant. “Your classmates are merely trying to find who they are meant for, Sherlock. It wouldn’t do you any harm to try as well.”

It only takes one long, sweeping look over Mycroft to find the source of his unusual irritation: trimmed nails, slight stain on his shirt cuff, tie crooked, slight stubble on his chin.

“Try like you’ve been trying? No luck, then brother? You thought you had a promising candidate and you waited, you waited weeks to touch and then nothing. You thought you could still make a go of it. What are soulmates in the face of tepid compatibility and shared goals? But she wasn’t interested. She left you.”

If only he’d been able to see how red Mycroft’s neck became, he could have said how long ago she walked out.

“There are worse things than not finding your soulmate, Sherlock. You can find them and only get some of your colours back. Just regain the muted shades of childhood instead of the vibrant spectrum adults are supposed to see. They used to say that’s what happened to cold and heartless children, to those that saw only shades of blue or green. That even a soulmate wasn’t enough for them to see all the colours the world has to offer.” Mycroft rises from the table, the scrape of his chair against the floor echoing in the large and nearly empty dining room. “Remember what colours you could see, Sherlock.”

Sherlock’s gut twists. That was an old legend. There was no scientific proof, surely? Even partial colour blindness was a medical condition and had nothing to do with one’s soulmate. That would be the worst. To be saddled with the person meant for you and not even receive the benefit of full colour vision. Horrid.

The other students in his school and then at uni run around like animals pressing bare flesh to bare flesh in an attempt to get back something they’ve lost along the way. Some of them, more and more of them everyday it seems, find their soulmate and are able to see the world in all its hues and complexity again. And Sherlock’s world stays the colour of ash. But he still never feels compelled to remove his gloves and press his fingers against anyone else.

Never is a bit of an overstatement. He does try once, in his first year at uni. Victor Trevor is short and broad and the contrast between the sleek darkness of his skin and the blinding white of his smile is mesmerizing. Sherlock wants to tuck his chin against the close cropped hair on top of Victor’s head and just breathe him in, but Sherlock’s afraid of what will happen. Either outcome of skin-on-skin contact is terrifying to him.

They meet because they’re both the only underclassmen in their advanced chemistry seminar. Sherlock bullied his way in as a fresher but Victor’s a senior whose previous exemplary work and desire to go on to be a master chemist earned him a place in the class. Victor is intelligent and kind and never treats Sherlock as anything except a valued colleague in the chemistry lab. Even when he catches Sherlock staring at his hands during experiment preparations.

Victor invites Sherlock to parties, laughs but doesn’t mock when Sherlock sputters on his first shot of tequila, has Sherlock over for quiet dinners at his apartment, and Sherlock has never been treated so well by a peer in his life. He’s not quite sure what’s going on, if Victor’s interest is romantic or not. He’s so happy to finally have a friend that Sherlock tells himself that the uptick in his pulse when Victor is near is irrelevant. And that the empty space he feels in his chest when he’s not with Victor is a figment of his imagination.

Not even Mycroft’s knowing look and snide comment about Sherlock soon retiring his gloves is enough to elicit much of a response. Surely, if Sherlock ignores it, it will go away. But that desire to reach out and touch Victor, to press his lips against Victor’s wrist or to trail a finger along the inside of Victor’s arm, doesn’t go away no matter how much Sherlock tries to push it down.

When Victor starts touching him more, with a gloved hand wrapped around his bicep or a pat on his shoulder, it feels electric. Even through multiple layers of fabric, Sherlock thinks Maybe this is what it’s supposed to be like. Maybe just a little bit more and I’ll be able to tell if his eyes are more the shade of ground coffee or rich chocolate.

Their shared chemistry lecture is long over and Victor is preparing to graduate and move on. He’s doing the washing up after convincing Sherlock to eat just a little bit of his grandmother’s famous curry chicken (Lie. It’s not a family recipe. Victor just likes cooking it.) when the issue finally comes to a head.

“Sherlock, I think… well, I think maybe we could-” Victor stops, turns off the water and turns to face a terrified Sherlock still sitting at the kitchen table. “Can I touch you?”

That quiet question makes Sherlock’s stomach drop to his feet. Victor doesn’t need to clarify or explain his meaning. He wants his skin on Sherlock’s skin. Sherlock wants it too. He’s so sure.

Certainty doesn’t do anything to relieve fear though. Sherlock can only manage a silent head nod and licking his dry lips.

Victor’s gloves are already off, lying on the kitchen worktop while he dealt with the washing up, so it would be the most efficient for the two of them to just reach out and touch hands. Barely a press of palms is all it would take to know for sure.

Instead, Victor crosses the kitchen to stand between Sherlock’s awkwardly parted knees. Before Sherlock can pull off one of his gloves (Right is more traditional, but Victor is left handed so it may be more comfortable if he used the left), Victor rests his hand on Sherlock’s shoulder and bends to press their lips together. Sherlock lets his eyes fall shut and anticipates the burst of colour he’ll see when he opens them again. The kiss is dry and warm and lingering. It feels nice and comforting. Like coming home, if Sherlock had ever taken comfort in such a thing.

He feels Victor pull away, opens his eyes, and...nothing. It’s the same dead, gray world it was before Victor kissed him. Victor’s face is an expression of shattered love and disappointment. Sherlock imagines he must look very much the same.

Victor pulls back even farther and Sherlock wants to grab at him, tell him to try again, maybe the colours just need some time to come back after being gone for so long. He doesn’t. His hands stay folded neatly in his lap.

“I’m sorry. I thought… I was sure we’d work.” The distance between them becomes more and more unbearable with each tiny shuffle backward Victor takes. “We can still be friends,” he finishes quietly.

Sherlock leaves almost immediately. He rips his gloves off on the way home and throws them into the street. It doesn’t matter anymore. There’s no one for him so it doesn’t matter who he touches or who touches him. No one could ever match him, be made for him, or give him back what he’s lost. There’s no point in trying and no point in upholding pointless social niceties.
He never wears the gloves again. He will wear a pair of thick, black leather gloves when the weather is cold but that is for his comfort and no one else’s. He often gets mistaken for someone who has already found their soulmate and Sherlock doesn’t bother to correct the false assumption. It’s easier that way.

Victor graduates with a first and leaves. Sherlock doesn’t bother to remember where he goes or keep in touch. After Victor is gone, that dark, empty space in his chest grows and grows until it feels like he’s nothing but the void itself. There’s plenty of skin-to-skin contact after that, mostly the slide of one palm across another as he buys drugs on street corners, but none of that matters. He’s alone and always will be.

Chapter Text

“All right John?”

He’s just coming in for the 7 pm to 7 am shift at Bart’s A&E and the cheeky nurses he’d like to be flirting with are just leaving. John’s never had much luck at timing.

He smiles at them before ducking into the staff locker room. John’s barely got his scrub top over his head when Mike Stamford busts into the room.

“John, ambulance is bringing in an OD. He coded en route. ETA… well, now.”

“Shit.” John scrambles to tug his scrubs into place and barrels out of the locker room after Stamford. He didn’t even manage to properly put his bag away; his trousers are in a puddle on the floor as if he’d just stepped out of them after a night of heavy drinking. But that’s what John likes about the A&E: it can be completely calm and boring one minute and in total upheaval the next. It keeps him on the edge of his seat.

He meets the gurney in the hallway. Stamford is already listening intently to the paramedics as they wheel the young man in. John listens to the relevant details with half an ear as he looks down at the man. He peers at the still form on the gurney and feels a kick in his chest.

The nearly dead, drugged into unconsciousness, incredibly young-looking man on the gurney is breathtaking. Inky dark curls spread out across the stark white of the sheet under his head. His skin is so pale that, in the limited chromatics of John’s vision, he nearly blends into the blank background on which he lies. No one in this condition can be considered gorgeous but, John thinks, if he were to wake up and maybe eat a proper meal, this man could be devastating.

I wonder what colour his eyes are.

Before John can shake himself out of this reverie and actually join Stamford in saving this kid’s life, the kid in question begins to shake. No, not shake, convulse.

“He’s seizing!” John’s shout is unnecessary. The paramedics are already reaching for an anti-convulsive medication in a syringe as Stamford reaches out his gloved hands to pin one of the young man’s arms to the gurney.

He’s not secured. Why isn’t he secured? John barely has time to think before he’s wrapped both of his hands around the man’s shoulders, pinning him to the gurney so the paramedics can give him the injection.

John sees it happen but it’s like watching someone else’s hand, or like a dream, or even a movie. His thumb brushes, caresses, against the skin along the man’s exposed collarbone.

It’s instantaneous, the change that happens right before John’s eyes. Where the world was muted grey, it’s now bursting with colour. Shades John has never seen before; so vibrant and rich it makes his head spin. His stomach lurches and his blood rushes in his ears. He’d forgotten either his cotton gloves or the medical issue latex set in all the excitement. Just the pad of John’s thumb rests against that pale skin but it burns like a branding iron.

There’s a gasp and a jerk from young man. His eyes fly open. He’s still shaking, and there’s not recognition or sense behind those eyes, but they still stare out at John.

Oh, his eyes are blue. That’s what blue looks like.

***************

John spends so much time around the hiss and beep of medical machines that normally he doesn’t even notice them. Tonight, they ring out in the otherwise silent and dark hospital room where John has planted himself.

He stares. Looks at those now closed eyes and feels nothing but a bone-deep weariness.

This can’t be it. This can’t be him.

Sherlock Holmes. Aged 21. And a drug addict who nearly died tonight from a mixture of cocaine and heroin.

John gets all that from Holmes’s chart. That’s all the information he generally wants or needs about a patient. But he wants to know what makes Sherlock laugh, what his favorite food is, if he’s ever seen The Sting. Why he’s a drug addict and why he had to be John’s soulmate.

The door creaks open and in comes Stamford.

“I thought I might find you in here.”

John nods into the shadows.

“How are you holding up?”

The giggle that bubbles out of John’s mouth sounds panicked even to his own ears. He scrubs a hand across his face.

“Christ, Mike. I’d stopped looking, you know? And then, he’s… he’s this.”

“Not what I would have expected for you, no.”

“The only reason I met him is because he’s a drug addict that can’t measure properly.” John tears his gaze away from that pale (miraculous) figure in the bed to stare at the floor. “I can’t. I can’t be with someone like him.”

John doesn’t have to look up to know Stamford, always a believer in happily ever after, is frowning at him. “You don’t even know him.”

“I know enough.” John looks up and the expression on Stamford’s face is more confused and hurt than he’d imagined. “I know that I can’t risk my future, risk what I’ve worked for, just because my soulmate is a fucking moron.”

He’s angry. He can’t help but be angry. This was not the future John had envisioned for himself. He saw someone nice, someone sweet, or no one at all. But never a disaster. Even if it was a gorgeous disaster he felt the pull of even before their skin had touched.

“Maybe he’s not that bad, yeah? Maybe this was out of character?” Stamford’s cheery, “always look for the silver lining” voice barely registers against John’s dark mood.

John’s seen Sherlock’s (and how easy it was to think of him by his first name, like they’ve been friends for ages) arms. The inside of his left elbow is covered with scabs and scars. This wasn’t out of character. This was the near fatal culmination of a daily habit. John looks up, deliberately at Stamford and not at Sherlock. “I can’t, Mike.”

“Come on. Shift’s almost over and you’re exhausted. Let’s go get a cuppa and maybe things won’t seem so bleak after you’ve slept on it. All right?” Stamford’s arm is stretched out to guide John out of the room, just like they would an upset family member. Since Sherlock is unequivocally John’s soulmate, that’s what he is now. As good as family.

“Why didn’t you tell me the spots on the floor were a mix of red and brown?” John had been genuinely surprised to realize he could see the difference in the two shades now but he really just need another topic of conversation, anything except the figure in the bed.

Stamford is smiling as if John’s whole world hasn’t fallen apart. “Nurses say it’s better to hide blood drips.”

“Well that’s cheery.”

“They’re a morbid bunch, nurses.” Stamford laughs but John can’t quite join him yet.

Their walk to the doctor’s lounge is silent, and they stay silent until Stamford presses a dingy mug of tea into John’s hand.

“It really will seem better in the morning, John. I promise. It may not be what you expect, yeah? But you’ve found your soulmate.”

John drinks the tea too quickly and it scorches his throat, but it’s not quite hot enough to dissolve the lump there.

Instead of going home and going to bed, John walks directly to an Army recruitment office and signs up. They are very eager to get their hands on a fully trained doctor. He doesn’t go back to Barts. Not to say goodbye and not to see Sherlock Holmes.

He tells himself that he’s not being cruel. That maybe Sherlock would wake up and have no knowledge that anything had happened. Maybe Sherlock was John’s soulmate but John was not Sherlock’s. Sherlock’s eyes would still see black and white and grey and John wouldn’t have to feel guilty about that at all.

He tells himself that.

Chapter Text

Sherlock comes to consciousness in snatches and bits of disjointed wakefulness. He can hear the machines and feel hands on him, but it’s in an almost dreamlike, soft-around-the-edges way. He hates it. He hates it before he’s even aware enough to know he hates it. He should just be able to open his eyes and snap back to his usual self. Even when consciousness returns completely, it doesn’t work out that way.

He’s stiff, he’s sore, and he feels chewed up and spat back out again.

But he can see. Oh, can he see. Shades of red and brown and gold that he can’t even remember from his youngest days of childhood pop before his eyes. It’s almost overwhelming - like coming from a the deepest, darkest cave into full and bright sunlight. But he’s wanted these colours for so long, dreamed having the blues and greens back again, that he may never shut his eyes again.

The hospital staff, nurses and at least one doctor, come and go but no one seems to acknowledge the change in Sherlock. Maybe it wasn’t here. Maybe it was in the squat, or in the street before he was picked up by the paramedics. No,Sherlock thinks. It was here.

He doesn’t remember it, not exactly, but it’s like he knows. Like it’s burned into him somehow, that moment when his soulmate first touched him.

Sherlock doesn’t say anything, doesn’t bring it to the attention of his medical staff, until Mycroft appears. It’s too good a jab to keep to himself. Mycroft had found his soulmate just after uni. Claire is strong and fierce and, on the whole, Sherlock likes her much better than he likes Mycroft. They make a good team but Sherlock can tell they each feel burdened, weighed down, by the other. Like they value what they have built together but wonder what they could have done on their own.

Now, it appears that Sherlock won’t have that problem. His soulmate has granted him his colours and promptly buggered off. It’s terribly convenient.

“That tie doesn’t match your suit. The shade of burgundy in the tie is at least two shades too dark for that light of a shade of grey.” Sherlock’s voice is rusty with disuse but it still causes Mycroft to falter mid-step.

“It matches just fine.”

“You should let Claire pick your ties. She’s better at it.”

Mycroft sits gingerly, perching on the edge of a plastic chair by Sherlock’s bedside. “So, when did you become able to differentiate between burgundy and oxblood?”

Sherlock shrugs. Now that he’s initiated this conversation, it feels too intimate, too close. “When I woke up, my colours had returned.” He tries to make it sound nonchalant but the arch of Mycroft’s eyebrows tell him he did not succeed.

“Did this happen here?”

“I believe so.”

“Should I expect a happy announcement? Mummy will be thrilled.”

The part of this story that Sherlock was so happy about just a few moments ago, that he was proud to have avoided being trapped in something he didn’t want, fades away and he feels pinned to the scratchy, sterile hospital sheets under Mycroft’s gaze.

“No.” Sherlock picks lightly at the sheets under his fingers. “When I woke up, he, whoever he was, was gone.”

“He?”

Sherlock didn’t realize it until he’d said it, but it’s definitely a “he”. Sherlock can feel it in his gut and in his heart as true as the laws of physics. He musters as much dignity as he can. “Just a feeling.” He can’t help but snort as he says it.

Mycroft lets that sentimentality pass without comment, which is almost more annoying because it gives Sherlock nothing to strike back at.

Instead, Mycroft pities him. “I can have the hospital staff questioned. We’ll track down everyone that had contact with yo-”

“No.” That pity burns like bile at the back of Sherlock’s throat. “I’m glad to be rid of him. I don’t need a soulmate hanging around, expecting things of me. I am much better off on my own.”

“You don’t mean that.” Mycroft’s voice is quiet, but with a cutting edge. Sherlock never did know when to leave well enough alone.

“Don’t tell me what I do and don’t mean. You think I want to end up like you? Like Claire? Shackled together by some societal obligation but hating that constriction. It’s not a biological imperative. People can live without their soulmates indefinitely. You were just too weak to buck convention and now you suffer for it. I won’t be the same.”

Mycroft’s normally reserved demeanor went icy cold. Sherlock felt a brief sensation of free fall; the realization that he had gone just a step too far over the edge made his stomach tumble. He didn’t let it show on his face. Sherlock kept his lips twisted in a sneer and the contemptuous look in his eye. He was committed now. He would stay the course in the face of Mycroft’s anger and disappointment.

“You are a child.” Mycroft’s voice is hard when he finally breaks the chilly silence. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. You think you prefer to be alone simply because you’ve had no other option presented to you. But now you have the option. Even if you don’t know who it is, you will long for him. You will want to call out to him, to find him, and you will be unable to do so. It will drive you mad.”

Sherlock scoffs. He can’t help it. The idea of him longing for someone, soulmate or not, is ludicrous. He’s only ever had one real friend and though Victor’s eventual abandonment stung, Sherlock barely thinks of it now. He’s practically deleted it. Mycroft is exaggerating, being sentimental, which is entirely unlike him. His scoff only seems to anger Mycroft more.

“You will suffer for this. Let me find-”

“Suffer? How will I suffer? I am always alone. Alone protects me.” Sherlock is thinking about Victor about that horrible moment when their hands touched and nothing happened. He’s thinking about how Victor pulled away after that. Surely even a soulmate would do the same, create the same distance, once they actually got to know Sherlock Holmes. If his personality alone wasn’t enough to keep Victor why would an unexplained bond be any different?

“I don’t know why I expected someone who overdosed on a nearly lethal mix of cocaine and heroin to show good judgement,” Mycroft snaps. “You should have been colour blind.”

Sherlock doesn’t want someone who would stay with him out of obligation or some biological imperative. He doesn’t want anyone. He truly is better off alone. Sherlock takes two deep, steadying breaths. His head is pounding and he feels like he could fall asleep at any moment. He makes himself breath again, smoothing his hands over the starched white sheets.

“I will remain as I am, only with the benefit of enhanced vision. That is all that will change because of this incident.” He says it the way Mycroft would. To hopefully force understanding into that swollen head of his.

Mycroft’s anger falls into resignation as he pinches the bridge of his nose. “Have it your way. You always do.” Mycroft stands, brushes at his trousers like this conversation has somehow dirtied him. “There’s a detective to see you. When he’s done taking your statement, the hospital will release you and you’ll be taken to an inpatient drug treatment facility.”

Sherlock expected that, knew that it was coming. Even so, Mycroft says it with a finality that Sherlock automatically wants to argue with. He bites his tongue and stays silent until Mycroft has left the room.

The detective who enters is far more interesting anyway.

His dark brown hair is going grey, not just at the temples as one might expect, but sort of all over at once. His suit is a light grey, his shirt white but not bright enough to stand out, his tie a dull shade of navy blue. Everything about this man says he’s trying to fade into the background. Sherlock would have been able to determine that even without the benefit of his colours but seeing even this mundanity in as rich a detail as possible is exhilarating. There’s so much more he knows now, so much more he can deduce about this man.

“Detective Sergeant Greg Lestrade,” the man says by way of greeting. He barely flicks Sherlock a look. Just another drug addict that he needs to question.

“My, you must have pissed someone off to pull this duty instead of just sending a uniform. Tell me, did you argue with the Chief Inspector? Wreck a squad car?” Sherlock enjoys the look of shock on the DS’s face. He likes this, the power he has over people simply because he’s smart enough to look and actually see what others do not.

The DS recovers rather more quickly than Sherlock would have guessed. “We’re here to talk about your transgressions, not mine.”

“Oh,” Sherlock relaxes back in the bed and waves a hand lazily around his head. “Mine are so boring. Mismeasured some illegal drugs by accident, I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again, blah blah blah. But you, you’re much more interesting. Whatever you did was enough to get a shit assignment for one, no, two months but not enough to actually get demoted. So tell me, Detective Sergeant Lestrade, what did you do?”

There’s a flicker of interest from the detective, but it disappears quickly. “Right, Mr. Holmes, can you tell me who you purchased the drugs from?”

“Hmm, no, haven’t the foggiest,” Sherlock lies with a beaming smile.

“Are you sure? Not even a street name?”

“Nope.” Sherlock pops the “p” sound and discovers he is having a shocking amount of fun right now, actually.

The detective sighs and scrubs a hand through his hair. “Thank you for your time.” He makes to leave the room but Sherlock doesn’t let him get that far.

“Oh come on! You know I’m lying.”

“Yes, that thought had crossed my mind.” The detective’s dry sense of humor is another surprise.

“Then lean on me, make me tell you something.”

“It’s not exactly Metropolitan Police procedure to rough up minor drug offenders in hospital beds.”

“Minor drug offender!” Sherlock shouldn’t be offended by that, he really shouldn’t, but the detective is being both dismissive and amused at Sherlock’s expense. His pride prickles a bit.

“Only minor drug offenders land themselves in hospital. The rest stay out there and keep offending.” The detective’s not mad, not exactly. He’s frustrated and his cheeks turn just a little bit more pink, and Sherlock is so very glad to be able to finally see that.

He sees much more than that too. Creases in the detective’s shirt, scuffs and mud along his shoes, he’s tired but not unhappy.

“So, your soulmate doesn’t like that you’ve been removed from your normal duties but you don’t care. You’re happy about it.”

The detective’s brow creases. He’s about to contradict Sherlock. Something is not quite right about the deduction. Sherlock just needs to push it a bit farther, to see beyond the obvious. He rakes a quick glance over the man’s clothes and shoes again.

“Oh! You’re not happy about the change in duties. You’re happy because you’re still investigating your own cases. Gone a bit freelance? Your soulmate isn’t pleased about that either.”

The brow smoothes out and a look of astonishment comes over the detective’s face. For the first time, he lowers himself into the plastic chair by Sherlock’s bedside. “How did you know that?”

The thrill that shoots up Sherlock’s spine has nothing to do with his soulmate. It’s all about him. He can finally make people stay, rather than walk away, and all he needed was that extra boost that being able to see in colour gave him. “I didn’t know. I observed.”

“All right, how did you observe that then?” There’s no mocking in the detective’s voice. He is genuinely curious.

“I can also tell you that you enjoy breaking the rules. Not to a dangerous extent, and it’s not for the thrill of getting caught, you break the rules just enough to get the job done.”

The detective scrubs a hand through his hair, leaving it sticking up at odd angles. “Just having this conversation with you is breaking the rules so you’d better tell me how it gets the job done. And fast.”

That’s when Sherlock sees it. Possibilities laid out in front of him, now that he has full use of his senses.

He shoots a sharp look to the detective in the uncomfortable plastic chair. “What was your name again?”

“Greg. Greg Lestrade.”

Sherlock waves a hand. “Fine, Lestrade, whatever. The important part of this conversation is that I have a proposition for you.”

Lestrade snorts a laugh. “Oh, I’m sure you do.”

“No, not like that. I could consult with the police. When you have cases you can’t solve, which I’m sure is often, I can investigate for you. Use my skills to get the job done when you can’t.”

“That is definitely against the rules. Too far against the rules.”

“We can find a way. I’ll even come up with a job title, make it official sounding. I can help.”

There’s only silence from Lestrade, but he’s not leaving. Sherlock gathers his most convincing arguments, how the cut of Lestrade’s suit coat tells him he met his soulmate young. That it’s a woman. How Sherlock could tell that he was in the field investigating a case on the south bank this morning even though he was told to stay away just from the mud on his shoes. That he has no children and is conflicted about that. But Lestrade speaks before Sherlock has the opportunity to really dazzle him.

“You’ll have to stay off the drugs.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “Yes, obviously.” They were just something to do to pass the time anyway. And now that time has passed.

“And prove yourself. And as soon as it’s not working out anymore, you’re done.” Lestrade is pointing a finger in his face now and Sherlock has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning.

“Yes, yes. That’s all fine.”

Lestrade lays his card on the nightstand next to Sherlock’s elbow. “When you get done with your rehab or treatment or whatever, you call me, all right? We’ll see what we can work out.”

Sherlock holds that card between his fingers as if it were gold, immediately committing the number to memory, long after Lestrade leaves. Meaning comes from purpose, not from other people. He will not be lonely, he will not live a life unfulfilled just because the person who was supposed to stay with him - was supposed to love him - ran away. He will not.

Chapter Text

The desert is cold at night. Much colder than John would have imagined. Azad, one of their local translators, says it’s because there are no clouds in the desert. The sun shines all day but there’s no cloud cover to hold the heat to the ground once the sun goes down. It’s as good a reason as any, John imagines. He can’t remember a day in England when there were no clouds.

But that’s good. That’s exactly what he wanted. A place so foreign, so different, that he wouldn’t be able to spend too much time thinking of eyes the same blue-grey colour as the dreary London sky, clouds and all. Sometimes he still does a double take when he sees a young civilian who has let his inky black curls grow out to be nearly the same disheveled length as Sherlock Holmes’s. That’s only before his mind can register the subtle, no more than two shades difference between the hair of the man he left unconscious in a bed back in London and anyone he might meet in the desert. He’s always left a little relieved and a little disappointed.

Kandahar is shit. It’s brown and drab and boring as fuck. They get shot at occasionally but even that is barely enough to tick John’s heart rate up anymore. He’s busy but it’s still boring. He misses Kabul. He could stare off into the green and white mountains and forget what (who) he is running from. In the desert there’s nowhere to look but endless horizon during the day and endless sky at night.

John volunteers for nighttime patrols now. He used to just sneak out of his tent and stare up at the sky, at the beautiful fabric of pin prick lights, for hours. He used to lie to himself and say that it was because the night sky was just black and white, that it was like having his old vision back, in a time before he knew that Sherlock Holmes existed and before he felt hollow and empty all the time.

That’s not true though. The night sky is a deep navy, sometimes cobalt and sometime a deep purple, but never just the monochromatic black that limited his vision for years. The stars themselves twinkle and John swears he can see shades of pink and turquoise in their lights.

It’s stark and lonely and makes John feel small. It’s his penance for leaving Sherlock alone in a hospital in London, where he looked lonely and small against the stark white of the bed linens. John uses his nighttime patrols to think about what could have been, if Sherlock hadn’t been a junkie. Or if John had stayed. If he had stayed, what would they have become?

Some nights, he thinks of their life together as a happy affair. John would still be at Bart’s, Sherlock would be back at uni or maybe starting a career in finance or some such bullshit. John knows nothing about him, doesn’t know what he does or what he wants to do. But it doesn’t matter. The fact that John can tell the difference between vermillion and blood red means that they could work it out. They were already perfect for each other.

Other nights, John thinks about coming home to a dingy flat to find that Sherlock had spent their meager savings on cocaine and was passed out in a pool of his own vomit. He thinks about Harry, he thinks about other patients he had in London hospitals, thinks about his own father. He can’t go back to that. He worked too hard to get away from it in the first place.

It’s still lonely - not the kind of loneliness John was expecting either. He has friends, he likes his work (when he actually gets to do doctoring beyond yelling at 18 year old kids about sunscreen), and he doesn’t miss London. He just misses someone in London. Someone he’s never even spoken to.

So he takes night patrols, and he dreams of things he cannot have and things he was too afraid to reach for.

It’s been nearly ten years since he walked out of Bart’s without looking back and still he dreams about blue eyes under the night sky in the Afghan desert. Sometimes those eyes are glassy with a chemically-induced high, sometimes they are dark with lust. John guesses he’ll dream about them for the rest of his life. He spends his leave and times between deployment traveling, staying far away from London and away from those eyes.

The rest of his short life, he thinks, when a bullet tears through his shoulder. Shot from behind while trying to put an American sergeant’s guts back in his skin. A cowardly way to kill a cowardly man, John thinks, as Sherlock’s blue eyes float before his vision. All of a sudden he mourns the time he didn’t have with his soulmate. It’s not even about dying. It’s about dying without knowing.

***************
Sally Donovan has never liked him. Not from the first case Lestrade pulled him into. She was a uniform officer back then, but worked her way up quickly. He’d (correctly) deduced that she was madly in love with her soulmate, devoted to him and thought about him constantly. This, apparently, damaged her professional reputation. At least in her eyes, and that was reason enough to hate him.

“Freak,” she sneered every chance she got. “Where’s your soulmate then?”

He never gives her an answer. In part because he doesn't know. He never took Mycroft up on his offer to track the man down. And in part because he doesn't care. Doesn’t care where his mysterious soulmate has gone and doesn’t care to respond to Sally at all.

Sherlock keeps himself as busy as he can. He doesn’t think about his soulmate on police cases or when he’s working with his slowly growing portfolio of private clients. It’s only when one of his black moods overtakes him that he thinks about the man who touched him, literally and figuratively, and then left him.

His flat on Montague Street is dingy and dark but he can pay the rent with his private clients and that’s all that matters. He’s given up the drugs but he does still suck back cigarettes a few packs at a time. Lestrade only seems to mind that during the few days a month when he himself tries to quit smoking.

Even without the aid of stimulants stronger than nicotine, Sherlock still doesn’t sleep much. When he’s working, the long nights don’t bother him. Between cases, however, it’s a very different story. The loneliness, that bone deep ache in his chest where someone is missing, only bothers him in the dead of night. It presses against his sternum like a lead weight and the walls of his dirty little flat feel like they are closing in on him.

On nights like that, Sherlock escapes to the roof. He’s can pull himself out of his sitting room window, shimmy up a drainpipe past his upstairs neighbor’s window, and hoist himself up onto the roof in just under four minutes. With nothing but the sky above him, it feels bearable. He can’t suffocate in his own misery if the stars are overhead. Not that he can see many of them in London, but he knows they’re there.

Much like his soulmate. Sherlock can feel him out there. It’s not comforting and, most of the time, it’s not something to be maudlin over either. The man’s absence allows Sherlock to pursue the life he wants, to build something for himself. It’s what he’s always wanted and he’ll protect it fiercely.

But, alone on the roof, with cigarette smoke curling into the midnight blue sky, Sherlock can let his guard down. The doubts, the anger, the pain at being rejected by the person who was supposed to be perfect for him, the one made for him just the way he is, can come bubbling to the surface. His soulmate was able to give him his colours back but was unable to actually stay and tolerate being with him. His soulmate didn’t even need to speak to him to decide that. He was gone long before Sherlock even woke up. Normally it takes at least one conversation for Sherlock to drive someone away. He thought his soulmate would be made of sterner stuff.

Of course the one person who was supposed to be perfect turned out to be the biggest disappointment of them all, Sherlock thinks as his smoke drifts toward the few pinpricks of light visible against the light pollution of London.

And if he spends more nights on the roof than in his own bed, that’s his own business. He locks it all away when he’s not on the roof, alone in the night.

It’s disorienting that when it all comes bubbling to the surface it’s in the middle of the morning and he’s in front of Lestrade’s team at a crime scene.

Sherlock is mid-sentence, deducing the victim’s hair care routine, when the ever present ache in his chest explodes outward like a cannon ball.

He can’t breath. It feels as if his ribs have been ripped away from his sternum, like he’s bleeding out into the sand- no, it’s concrete. It’s the pavement on the London street - not sand. But that’s what he sees when he looks down. And the ground is not nearly as far away as he thought it should be.

He’s fallen to his knees. The pain radiating from his kneecaps barely registers against the pain in his chest. He bends over and retches, pavement turning into bloody sand before his eyes again. His stomach continues to heave even though nothing comes up. He can feel the slide of phantom sweat down his spine but his skin is covered in gooseflesh and he shakes with sudden cold.

Maybe that isn’t the cold after all. Lestrade has clamped a hand on his shoulder and is shaking him. But his teeth chatter together so it must be a chill.

Lestrade is speaking to him but he can’t make out the words. Lestrade is frowning, and his lips are moving, but all Sherlock can hear is the rush of blood in his own ears. His arms are hugged tight around his middle and he still can’t pull down a satisfactory breath. He stares up at Lestrade and his vision starts to blank out.

No, not blank out. Not like the tunnel vision that comes before passing out, or the sudden darkness that happens when you’re knocked out. His vision is going grey. It starts around the edges. The blue of the London sky fades to a washed out shade of grey. Lestrade’s salt-and-pepper hair blends into the background. The greyness creeps ever closer to the center of Sherlock’s vision until he thinks he will pass out. Not from any physical cause but from the panic clawing up his throat. He can’t lose his colour vision. He’ll have nothing. No career as a consulting detective, no soulmate, nothing.

Sherlock looks back to the ground, pavement again now, and heaves. He spits to clear the taste of imaginary bile from his mouth. When he looks back, Lestrade is no longer talking but he looks concerned. Very concerned. Even Donovan has stopped whatever it is she does at these things to lean over him with a sour look on her face.

The ripped apart feeling is still emanating from his chest but he can take tiny sips of air through his teeth if he’s careful. Sherlock struggles to his feet, Lestrade’s steadying hand still on his shoulder and his vision still grey around the edges.

“I need to go.” His voice is breathless and raspy and Donovan looks like she’s going to interrupt him. “I need to go home.”

Lestrade nods. “We’ll get an officer-”

“No. Not in a police car. I hate police cars.”

“I can’t very well put you in a taxi like this.”

Sherlock’s eyes frantically search the street. Cars are whizzing by as if nothing is happening. They enter the frame of his vision grey, brighten to shades of red or blue or black, then fade again as he loses sight of them. Panic still bubbles up in his throat and his hands twitch. He could flag down a taxi. Even if Lestrade won’t put him in one, he could make it himself back to Montague Street.

Lestrade’s saying his name again but Sherlock is trying to lurch toward the kerb. Lestrade’s hand on his shoulder slows him down but he must get home. He has no idea what he’ll do there but being out in the open, exposed while the smell of blood and the vision of grey-tinged sand is still fresh in his mind, is unbearable.

Sherlock is still trying to pull away from Lestrade when the great black saloon car pulls up directly in front of him. It takes up the length of his vision and the front end slides into the colour of ash as surely as if it had been burned around the edges. Maybe that’s what this is. The heart is burning out of him and scorching his colours along with it. The heart he never got the chance to truly know.

The back door of the saloon swings open, narrowly missing scraping against the pavement. Would Sherlock see sparks or would flame now be dull and lifeless? He can’t remember what it used to look like. Mycroft doesn’t bother to get out of the car. He only sticks his head through the open door to beckon Sherlock forward.

Lestrade’s hand no longer tries to restrain but instead guides him forward. Mycroft slides across the seat allowing Sherlock to clamber in next to him. Sherlock curls into a ball against the cool leather, using his coat to cover his eyes. If he can’t see anything at all then maybe his nausea will recede and his sweaty palms will dry and all of this will go away.

Sherlock can hear Mycroft and Lestrade murmuring something over his head, but he can’t be bothered to pay attention. His heart is pounding and he feels weak. The door slams and Sherlock takes a gulp of air. The gentle rolling of the car through the London streets rocks and soothes him.

Mycroft is silent for several minutes but the ride to Montague Street is not a long one and Sherlock did not expect him to remain silent for the duration.

“It is rare, but in the case of strong bonds, colour vision can be lost upon the death of one of the soulmates. It is very disorienting, and very painful.” There’s no smugness nor pity in Mycroft’s voice. Only a recitation of the facts.

“How can I have a strong bond with someone I’ve never even spoken to?” The red thread of his button hole is the wrong shade. It looks like rust and Sherlock cannot bear it. He pulls the coat from in front of his face but stays curled against the seat.

“It’s not a matter of time spent with your soulmate. The strength of the bond is a reflection of the compatibility you share and the quality of the relationship.”

“There is no relationship!” He left and now the only thing he left with me is going, too.

Mycroft lets Sherlock’s shout sit between them in the car for several long minutes before approaching from a different tactical vantage point.

“If your vision is not fully monochromatic again, there is a chance it may return in full colour. Your soulmate may still be alive, or the bond may just need time to repair itself after his death.”

The thought of him, whoever he is, being dead makes a sob well up in Sherlock’s throat. He traps it there and pushes it down with a wave of sarcasm. “So, only time will tell?”

“Unfortunately, yes.”

Several deep breaths through his nose, with his eyes squeezed shut, allow Sherlock enough presence of mind to think. To really think about the situation.

The bolt of clarity, of knowing for sure what is going on here, isn’t as stark or commanding as it usually is, but at least Sherlock can think through the pain in his chest. “You got to the crime scene awfully quickly.”

“Technically, you hadn’t entered the crime scene yet.”

“You knew this would happen. You were waiting for it.”

Mycroft pauses. It’s such a subtle pause that anyone except Sherlock would have missed it. “I didn’t know. I suspected.”

For Mycroft to have a suspicion about an outcome, he must have some facts with which to form that suspicion. “You know who he is.”

Mycroft doesn’t deny it. He simply inclines his head.

“You looked him up even after I told you not to.”

“Yes, I did. And it’s because of that I was able to get to you so quickly today.”

“Because you knew the chance of him dying was high. And you suspected the strength of our...of the bond.”

“Yes.”

Sherlock did not want to know, absolutely did not want to know, why Mycroft had any reason to suspect anything about his bond to his absent soulmate. His desire not to know anything else about his soulmate is less than absolute. It stings, like rubbing alcohol on a wound, that he could know, that he could have known all along, but it will do him no good. Knowledge will do nothing for him here.

If his soulmate is alive, and Sherlock gains knowledge of who he is, what will he do? Track him down and throw himself at the man’s feet? Unlikely. He’ll do nothing.

But still. He could know.

Sherlock clears his throat and aims for nonchalance. “How would you know he might die? Is he ill, maybe another patient the night I came into Barts?”

“Stop this Sherlock.”

“Or a dangerous job? Nurses have a shockingly high on-the-job injury rate but very rarely is it fatal.”

The leather of the seat creaks as Mycroft leans toward Sherlock. “I will tell you everything I know about the man. I will forward you the information I’ve collected. But you have to want to know.”

Sherlock stays quiet, focuses on breathing despite the continued pain in his chest. He thought it would have receded to a dull ache, similar to what he felt and ignored every day, but it remained a sharp, stabbing sensation that radiated deep into his bones.

The subtle crunch of gravel under the saloon car’s tyres shakes Sherlock from his thoughts. They’ve arrived at Montague Street and Sherlock pulls himself from the car without a look or word to Mycroft sitting next to him.

The conversation is not over, Sherlock knows that. It’s just temporarily stalled. If he’s honest with himself, what was said in the car today is just a continuation of the conversation at his hospital bedside from years before.

Mycroft had known for years and hadn’t told him. Sherlock could exist for years more, forever even, in ignorance. Blissful ignorance. Except for that excruciating, raw-around-the-edges hole in his chest. But that hole would have been there, has been there, regardless of Mycroft’s meddling. It’s just changed in the substance of its pain, not the amount. Much like greys turned to blues, and greens, and reds, and golds.

By the time evening comes, Sherlock has to know. Not everything, but something. Just a hint of who this man is, enough to keep him going for a few years yet. It’s the beginning of a slippery slope that will end in him driving himself mad, and Sherlock knows it.

To: Mycroft Holmes
Name?

The answer pings back almost instantly.
From: Mycroft Holmes
John.

Just a first name. And not a first name he can do anything with. It’s frustrating and it’s perfect. Sherlock rolls that common name on his tongue and through his mind for hours. His violin bears the brunt of frustration and anger that evening.

By the morning, his right eye is able to see in full colour again but his left is still tinged with grey in the upper left quadrant. He can manage with that.

Chapter Text

“Who would want me as a flatmate?” John can hear the pathetic edge in his own voice but he’s too emotionally exhausted to care. The cane in his hand feels like a dead weight holding him down.

Stamford’s round face is grinning at him like a lunatic. Maybe John’s just forgotten how normal people express happiness.

“Well, you’re the second person to say that to me today.”

John feels an unexpected, inexplicable shock of hope and excitement pierce his heart. “Who was the first?”

Stamford just smiles. Definitely a lunatic then.

***************

The walk to Bart’s is short, just a few blocks, and Mike was heading back anyway so John might as well tag along and meet this bloke who needs a flatmate.

When the door swings open and John sees him sitting there, pipette in hand and this time in a smart suit instead of vomit crusted denims and a faded t-shirt, his heart stops. Sherlock is obviously older, his hair is longer, and he looks like he might be approaching a healthy weight but just barely. John’s legs carry him forward, practically flinching away from Mike’s knowing smirk. Sherlock glances at him but doesn’t seem to recognize him.

There’s a pang of hurt in John’s gut at that but swiftly followed by Thank God, oh thank God.

Sherlock looks back to the petri dish in his hand and doesn’t acknowledge John. For a split second, John thinks he can escape, can walk back out of the lab and pretend this never happened. But instead, he’s walking forward. Closer to Sherlock. He manages not to stare, to glance around the room instead.

“Well, bit different from my day.”

Mike responds but John can only focus on the sound of Sherlock’s voice practically talking over him.

“Mike, can I borrow your phone? There’s no signal on mine.”

It’s deep, far more adult and masculine than John would have imagined. Has imagined, really. All those late, starry nights in Afghanistan had left him with all sorts of fantasies, but that deep, chest-vibrating voice hadn’t been accurately portrayed in a single one of them.

There’s a short back and forth between Mike and Sherlock. John’s concentrating all his ability on not staring at this man. He feels like a voyeur - suddenly confronted with the life he might have had and watching it greedily from the sidelines.

His hand closes around the phone in his back pocket before he can think about it. “Er, here. Use mine.”

“Oh, thank you.” Sherlock blinks at him in genuine confusion, but it only lasts for a split second before he’s striding toward John. It’s as if he’s unaccustomed to people offering him things, giving him consideration. The very core of John is aching to give him everything and Sherlock is confused by the gesture of a lent phone.

Mike chimes back in before Sherlock can reach John. “It’s an old friend of mine, John Watson.”

Sherlock is very careful not to touch John’s hand when he takes the phone. He’s not wearing gloves but a lot of adults don’t, even if they never found their soulmate. Maybe John was right all those years ago. Maybe Sherlock was his soulmate but he’s not Sherlock’s. There’s relief and pain in that.

But there’s also a slight hitch in Sherlock’s shoulders when Mike says John’s name. It’s tiny, so tiny John would have missed it entirely if he didn’t feel completely in sync with Sherlock’s being. But Sherlock couldn’t have known his name. Could he? Did he find out after John fled from his bedside?

If he knew, why wasn’t he saying anything?

“Afghanistan or Iraq?”

John catches the curl of Mike’s knowing smile at the corner of his vision. The question catches him off guard, not only because of its content but because he was so intently studying Sherlock’s profile as he tapped away on John’s phone that he almost missed the question entirely.

“Sorry?”

“Which was it? Afghanistan or Iraq?”

Sherlock looks up and their eyes meet for just a moment; those eyes are the same clear, icy blue John has dreamt of night after night. They focus on him and John feels laid bare.

Sherlock looks back to John’s phone and the feeling is gone. For just a split second, John was sure Sherlock knew who he was. But that certainty is gone as quickly as it came upon him.

“Afghanistan. Sorry, do you know…?” John lets that question trail off. Do you know who I am? Who I am to you? Are you furious with me for running away?

Before Sherlock can answer, a quiet, almost mousey woman comes into the lab to bring him coffee. Sherlock is unbearably rude to her and ordinarily John would be appalled by his manners. But, just this once, John rejoices in it. There’s a steady beat of mine he’s mine get away from him strumming in John’s blood as he watches the woman bat her eyelashes at him. It’s more repulsive than Sherlock’s dismissive manners but he can’t bring himself to care. They are finally in the same room together and everything feels right. Or almost right, at least.

“How do you feel about the violin?” Sherlock directs that question to John as John watches the woman slink out of the room in embarrassment.

It takes John a split second to switch his focus back to Sherlock. This man makes him feel so off balance. “I’m sorry, what?”

“I play the violin when I’m thinking. Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end.” Sherlock stops clattering away on the lab’s computer to look at John. “Would that bother you? Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other.”

It sounds like heaven to John. A strange, eccentric heaven. Even if ‘potential flatmates’ is all they are. But what if that’s not all they could be?

John looks to Mike and see him smiling so smugly that his lips look like they could split. “Oh, you… you told him about me?” About who I am. About who I am to him.

Mike holds up his hands in surrender. “Not a word.” As if that’s not a hell of a secret to carry around for… however long Mike’s known Sherlock Holmes.

John looks back to Sherlock, willing himself to see this for the disaster it could easily become. He needs a strategic retreat. He needs to show Sherlock how absolutely foolish this idea is, even without the complicating notion that they are soulmates. “Then who said anything about flatmates?”

“I did.” Sherlock pulls on his giant coat and seems unfazed by the coolness in John’s voice. “Told Mike this morning that I must be a difficult man to find a flatmate for. Now here he is just after lunch with an old friend clearly just home from military service in Afghanistan. Wasn’t that difficult a leap.”

He looks a bit smug. And John thinks he has a right to be a bit smug.

“How did you know about Afghanistan?”

That question goes ignored as Sherlock keeps pulling on his outerwear against the January chill he’s apparently about to face. “Got my eye on a nice little place in central London. Together we ought to be able to afford it.”

Yes, yes, yes, beats John’s heart as Sherlock walks closer to him. He’s tall and imposing now and so, so far from the too-pale, too-scrawny kid in a hospital bed from so many years ago. John is starstruck by him.

“We’ll meet there tomorrow evening. Seven o’clock. Sorry, gotta dash. I think I left my riding crop in the mortuary.”

The idea of Sherlock striding out that door causes a kick of panic in John’s chest. The idea of meeting him again, of seeing him later, is too tenuous a connection to make John feel safe. He needs Sherlock to stay.

“Is that it?” Sherlock looks back at John’s question and at least he’s gotten Sherlock to pause before leaving.

“Is that what?”

“We’ve only just met and we’re going to go and look at a flat?” It’s a lie but a tiny one. They didn’t really meet the day Sherlock changed his life forever and John ran as far away from him as he could.

“Problem?” And damn if the quirk of his eyebrow doesn’t make John’s mouth go dry.

“We don’t know a thing about each other. I don’t know where we’re meeting. I don’t even know-” John cuts himself off before that lie. He does know his name. He’s known it for years, thought about it daily. It niggles at him constantly, like a scab beneath his clothes.

If he thought he’d been the subject of Sherlock’s attention before, John was deathly wrong. Those incredibly blue eyes focus on him sharply and John can feel all his layers being peeled away. Sherlock takes a small step toward him and inhales deeply.

“I know you’re an Army doctor and you’ve been invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you’ve got a brother who’s worried about you but you won’t go to him for help because you don’t approve of him, possibly because he’s an alcoholic. More likely because he recently walked out on his soulmate. And I know your therapist thinks your limp is psychosomatic. Quite correctly, I’m afraid.”

John looks down at his cane when Sherlock pauses to take a breath. It’s embarrassing and he hates it but surely Sherlock wouldn’t hold it against him, not if they were soulmates? But now John truly is getting ahead of himself.

Sherlock takes a step forward, positively pulling John’s gaze back to his with nothing but the intensity of his eyes.

“Full colour vision, but acquired later in life than anticipated. Likely by accident. Soulmate is…” Sherlock’s voice trails off and his eyes go wide. He takes half a step back, away from John, and it’s all John can do not to press forward to follow him.

Say it. Please don’t say it.

John’s breathe rasps in and out through his nose as he fights to stay calm. Surely, Sherlock knows. He has to know.

“...not in the picture.” Sherlock just about regains his composure, but there’s a tension in his neck and a hitch in his voice that John can’t ignore. Sherlock spins away and finishes buttoning up that ridiculously long and swishy coat. “I think that’s enough to be going on with for now, don’t you think?”

That last statement should have been smug but it comes out flat and maybe a little afraid. John watches as Sherlock makes his way to the door. He wants to call out, to stop Sherlock from leaving, but remains frozen in place as Sherlock pulls the door open.

It’s at that last second, when John thinks he’s about to lose him again and simultaneously hopes that Sherlock will walk through that door without looking back, that Sherlock does look back.

“The name is Sherlock Holmes and the address is two-two-one B Baker Street.” He holds John’s gaze for a split second until John gives a slight nod. “Afternoon,” Sherlock directs to Mike before slipping out the door.

John watches the door for and counts silently to ten before turning back to Mike.

“You know him. You knew who he was.”

Mike plants his hands on the lab table in front of him and his smile finally fades. “I knew. And I know why you ran, John. Really, I understand it. But he’s not that man anymore. He’s… well, he’s extraordinary.”

John can easily believe that. Just this tiny glimpse of Sherlock as he is now convinces him of that.

Mike’s voice is quieter this time. “I know why you did it, but isn’t running from him exhausting?”

John doesn’t acknowledge that, except that the fingers of his left hand tighten into a fist at his side.

Mike’s round face breaks out into a smile again. “Besides, you do need a flatmate.”

Chapter Text

Sherlock practically runs out of Bart’s. He doesn’t slow until he rounds the corner at the end of the street. He didn’t even want to stop long enough to hail a cab.

His hands are shaking when he pulls out his phone.

To: Mycroft Holmes
Dr. John Watson

It’s not quite a question but not quite a statement either. It is as uncertain as Sherlock feels.

From: Mycroft Holmes
Would you like me to confirm or deny?

Sherlock doesn’t respond. There’s no need to.

Now he does stop long enough to take his first deep breath since leaving the lab and to hail a cab. Mrs. Hudson said he could start moving his things into Baker Street while he looked for a flatmate. He’ll use the rest of the day to pack and move boxes. Maybe some manual labor will calm his thoughts.

Maybe John will meet him tomorrow. But he abandoned him once, why not do it again? The pull of happiness, of acceptance and love, strains against Sherlock’s defenses. Coming face to face with John, with his soulmate, makes the possible future he has tried so hard to ignore a nearly tangible thing. All he has to do is trust that John will feel the same bone-deep wanting that he does, despite his better judgement.

***************

Sherlock stays up all night, unable to sleep, thinking about John Watson. Mrs. Hudson only asks him to stop screeching on his violin the one time. He does manage to go back to Bart’s to finish some tests from yesterday in the mid-afternoon.

But that means he emerges from a cab in front of Baker Street at the same time John knocks on the door.

“Hello,” Sherlock calls out as he pays the driver. John Watson seems a dangerous man to sneak up on, even when still using his cane.

The bob of John’s Adam’s apple should not be as appealing as it is. “Ah… Mr. Holmes.”

“Sherlock, please.” There’s some comfort in the structure of formalities, some safety there. Sherlock doesn’t offer his hand to shake, however. Touching flesh to flesh is definitely not safe for the two of them.

John watches him for a moment, maybe considering extending his own hand but thinking better of it. He has to know. There is no probable situation in which he does not know who he touched just before his colours returned - does not know who I am. And Sherlock has spent years quietly considering all of those probable situations.

It’s John’s own nervousness that ends the silence. He clears his throat before speaking. “Well, this is a prime spot. Must be expensive.”

“Oh, Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, she’s giving me a special deal. Owes me a favour. A few years back, her husband got himself sentenced to death in Florida. I was able to help out.”

“Sorry, you stopped her husband being executed?”

“Oh, no. I ensured it.” Sherlock can’t help but grin at the disbelief and admiration he sees in John’s eyes. And could it always be this easy between them? What might they have had already if John had stayed?

Mrs Hudson opens the door behind him and he goes willingly into her embrace. Things are still very uncertain, chaotic even, and the hug is more grounding than Sherlock would like to admit.

There are more pleasantries and Sherlock leads John upstairs, stopping to wait for him to hobble up to the flat but never apologizing for the stairs. It’s not as if John will need the cane for long anyway. If he stays this time.

When John is just a few steps behind him, Sherlock opens the sitting room door and strides inside. It takes John just a few extra seconds to join him. Sherlock heart skips a beat seeing John standing among the detritus of his hasty unpacking. John could belong here, following him home everyday.

John is looking around, avoiding Sherlock’s eyes, but Sherlock can bring him around if he’s given enough time. But Sherlock’s not sure he really wants to do that. John’s presence pulls something taut in his chest every time he breathes. Something deep in Sherlock’s very being wants John to stay, to stay forever, but layered on top of that is years of hurt that John ever left in the first place.

“Well, this could be very nice. Very nice indeed.”

“Yes.” Sherlock’s heart gives a traitorous kick of joy at John’s acceptance. “Yes, I think so. My thoughts precisely.” He spins around to take in what is one step closer to being their new home. Their first home. “So I want straight ahead and moved in.”

Sherlock is so happy he barely hears John’s “Soon as we get all this rubbish cleaned out.” It’s the breathy “oh” at the end that catches his attention. He replays the last few seconds in his mind and what John is saying becomes clear.

John flounders a bit. “So this is all…”

His gut reaction is tell John off. To at least scoff or ignore him. Instead, he capitulates. “Well, obviously, I can, um, straighten things up a bit.”

“No. No, it’s fine.” John smiles and it’s a slow, steadily dawning sun across his face. Sherlock is completely pulled in. He steps to the mantel and attempts to tidy just to give his hands something to do other than reaching out to John.

“No, you really don’t have to…” John takes a step forward and reaches out, but stops himself short of touching Sherlock’s hands where they hover above the mantle.

Sherlock looks up and finally locks eyes with John. The room is utterly still and quiet. John’s eyes are the blue of the deep ocean. Sherlock’s never seen the ocean at that depth but he knows it would feel like drowning. He feels like he’s drowning now.

“Are you staying this time?” Sherlock’s voice is small even to his own ears.

John hisses in a breath and Sherlock thinks he may run right then. Well, as much as a man with a psychosomatic limp can run. “Ah, so you…you know then?”

“Of course I know.” Sherlock rolls his eyes automatically.

“Mike said you were extraordinary.” John laughs a little bit at that.

“You would know, if you had been here.” Sherlock can’t quite resist that jab. As much as part of him wants John to stay, to fall into a comfortable domesticity with the man, he can’t give up without a fight.

John’s tongue darts out, slides back and forth across his bottom lip to buy him some time before he responds. “I know. I deserve that. It’s just… I wasn’t ready before.”

Lying. “Not ready? Or just didn’t like what you saw when your full spectrum of colour vision returned?”

Sherlock expects John to take a step back. That’s what most people do when faced with the burning lash of Sherlock’s tongue. Instead, John grips the handle of his cane until his knuckles turn white. A soldier indeed.

“No, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to take on a junkie kid as my soulmate. Especially a junkie kid who I only met because he was stupid enough to overdose in the first place!”

“Take me on? I didn’t need a childminder!”

“Oh, could have fooled me.”

“I needed-” a friend, a purpose, someone that loved me. Sherlock stops himself before saying any of that. “I needed my colour vision back. Which you were able to give me. That’s all.”

John seems mollified, his anger no longer threatening to boil over. “Needed it for your consulting detective business.” Sherlock’s surprise must show on his face because John adds, “I looked you up on the internet last night. Found your website, The Science of Deduction.”

Sherlock grins and hates himself for how quickly he vascilates between anger and hurt to wanting John’s approval and affection. It’s that pulling sensation in his chest again, and it feels entirely beyond his control. “What did you think?”

The expression John shoots him makes Sherlock’s stomach twist. He doesn’t like it. “You said you could identify a software designer by his tie and an airline pilot by his left thumb.”

“Yes, and I can read your military career in your face and your leg, your brother’s drinking habits in your mobile phone, and the status of your colours in the way you look at my eyes,” Sherlock bites back.

“How do you know all that?” John sounds less disapproving and more genuinely curious. It soothes some of Sherlock’s ruffled feathers but his emotions are still to riotous to be trusted. Maybe they can never be trusted around this man.

“I didn’t know. I saw. Your haircut, the way you hold yourself, says military. But your conversation as you entered the room said trained at Bart’s, so Army doctor. Obvious. Your face is tanned but no tan above the wrists. You’ve been abroad, but not sunbathing. Your limp’s really bad when you walk but you don’t ask for a chair when you stand, like you’ve forgotten about it, so it’s at least partly psychosomatic. That says the original circumstances of the wound were traumatic. Wounded in action, suntan, Afghanistan or Iraq.” Sherlock feels wrung out. This is everything he knows about the man who is supposed to be his nearest and dearest, his other half or extension of himself or some other nonsense, and he’s rattled it out in under 10 seconds in one great gush of breath. This is pointless. This will never work.

“What about the colours?” The anger seems to have left John entirely and he gazes up at Sherlock in...admiration? It seems such a foreign concept that Sherlock shakes it off immediately.

“You look at me like you can see me. See the details present in colour.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Sherlock swallows and forces down a breath. “I knew my soulmate touched me at Bart’s the night I came in but left quickly after. I never searched for you.” It seems important that Sherlock let John know that. That he wasn’t desperate or clingy, that he was happy to let John go if that’s what John wanted. “You worked there, you went into military service, and it’s likely the timeline would match up.” John has moved a few paces closer, or maybe Sherlock is the one who moved. He’s not quite sure. “And, I can feel it.”

The quiet closeness of the flat settles around them for several long moments. It’s not uncomfortable, like Sherlock often is with other people, nor is it boring or strange. It’s just quiet.

“I can feel it too.”

Sherlock nods. There’s no other response he can give to that. He feels better, better about this situation, but there are still unresolved issues poking him in tender places.

“Why did you run?”

John snorts out a laugh and Sherlock thinks he could get very used to that sound. “I’m a coward.”

He doesn’t know a lot about John Watson, but he knows what’s important. A coward is the farthest thing from what John Watson is. The air is warm between them, standing so close now that their breaths mingle together and Sherlock has to bend his neck to see John’s face.

“That’s not what I see.” John’s mouth curls up in a smile and Sherlock thinks John’s about to wrap a hand around the back of his neck and pull him forward into a kiss. His eyelids even grow heavy and begin to slide closed while he looks down at John. It’s something Sherlock hasn’t wanted in a long time, but now he wants.

John leans back a fraction of an inch as Sherlock sways forward. “Are you off the drugs then?”

“Oh for god’s sake.” Sherlock pulls back and twists his face into a disbelieving grimace. “Yes, of course. Have been since that night. I don’t even smoke.”

“Good. Yeah, that’s good.” John reaches out and Sherlock lets him wrap a hand around his wrist, but refuses to move forward again. Sherlock braces himself for some great reaction, some explosion, when John touches his skin but that time has passed. Sherlock missed it and now is met with just the warmth and comfort of John’s palm.

“The return of my colour vision, and the work it enabled, was more than an adequate substitute for cocaine.”

John’s hand is still warm around his wrist. Not pulling or insisting, but just sitting there. Waiting. “I’m glad it stayed an ‘adequate substitute’ and the novelty didn’t wear off then.”

That makes Sherlock remember the small patch of grey that still clings to the vision in his left eye. It’s been there for months, and has shrunk considerably, but still it persists.

“Your injury. You almost died. Where were you shot?”

“How do you know I almost died?”

Sherlock feels a prickly uncomfortableness settle on his skin as he tries to come up with an appropriate answer to that question. “I temporarily lost most of my colour vision when you were shot. It has returned, for the most part, but the experience was unpleasant.” Sherlock shrugs, aiming for nonchalance. “It can happen when one soulmate is seriously injured or killed.”

John looks shocked. “Yeah, it can happen, but it’s extremely rare.” He knows. He knows that it only happens with incredibly strong bonds. He knows how important this is. Panic wells in Sherlock’s chest. This is overwhelming. John must see it in his eyes, or feel just as overwhelmed and unready for that conversation, because he lets the truth of their bond pass without comment. “Have you seen a doctor?”

He rolls his eyes and tries to tug his wrist out of John’s grasp. John holds firm but gently rubs the pad of his thumb across the thin, soft skin just below Sherlock’s carpal bones. Like calming a wild creature.

“Of course I’ve seen a doctor. I’m not an idiot. And, besides, I thought you were the one who didn’t want to ‘take on’ a soulmate?”

“Damnit, Sherlock, that’s not what I meant and you- Look, I’m sorry I left you, it was a selfish thing to do. You should have had the opportunity to decide. We should have talked about this then, but I made the decision for us and I’m sorry about that. But it doesn’t look like you’ve suffered too badly because of the separation so just remember that, yeah?”

John had a point there. It hadn’t been completely pain free but Sherlock had thrived in his independence. He had gone from a listless drug addict to the only consulting detective in the world. Would he have been able to do that with John by his side? Possibly, but he’ll never know for sure.

But John is here now, staring at him with a mix of trepidation and hope in his eyes. And John’s thumb is still a distracting sensation against Sherlock’s skin.

“Does that mean you’re going to stay this time?”

“Yes, if you want me to. I’ll stay.”

“I did invite you to move in with me.” Yes, please stay forever.

John cracks a smile at that. “Yeah, well, I’ll give you time to rethink that if you like.”

“No.”

Sherlock’s answer is definite and the strength of it even surprises himself. He’s not done being hurt by John’s original abandonment, but Sherlock has him here now. He’d be a fool to let that go. It’s not something he knows logically, or can even deduce by how closely they’re standing together or by how comfortable John looks standing in the (their) flat. It’s something he can only feel, singing through his bloodstream with every heartbeat.

“Good.” John tugs him forward by the wrist and this time Sherlock lets himself be drawn to John. Their lips meet softly and press together without urgency. It’s chaste and sweet and Sherlock’s stomach flutters at the promise in it.

John peppers kisses over his lips, his cheek, his jaw, and all the way down to the point of his chin. It’s an affectionate apology and it makes Sherlock’s impatience bubble over. He nudges John with his chin until he can fight his way back to his lips. This kiss is less chaste, with slick and hot tongues sliding against each other. Sherlock moans, a bolt of lust striking him all the way to his toes when John nips at his bottom lip. He ends up with both hands on John’s shoulders pulling him as close as he can. Sherlock wants to feel him, all of him. It’s a hunger that has been tempered inside him for too long and now it threatens to break free.

John pulls back, but just his enough to free his mouth from Sherlock’s. “We should probably take this slow.”

It’s been ten years. It’s been my whole life. The newly discovered emotional, needing and wanting part of Sherlock begs to cry out at the injustice. But the more logical, grounded part of him maintains control. “Mrs. Hudson says there’s a second bedroom upstairs. If we’ll be needing two.”

“Yeah, that would be good. Good for now at least. For awhile.” John sounds like he’s babbling and his breath is coming in ragged inhalations. He rests his forehead against Sherlock’s. Sherlock has to say slightly bent over to make that position possible but he’s happy to stay like that, crick in his neck be damned.

Until he notices the reflection of police lights in the sitting room windows. He presses a quick kiss to John’s forehead and retreats to the window.

“Four,” Sherlock murmurs as he watches Lestrade throw the police cruiser into park in the middle of the street.

“Four what?” John comes to join him, trying to lean past his shoulder to see out the window.

“Four serial suicides.”

“You can’t have serial suicides.”

“So the police think, but now they’re here to ask for my help, so who do you think is right, hm? There’s been a fourth and there’s something different this time.” Sherlock can feel it, the thrill of the case, the promise of an impossible puzzle. It cracks his face into a wide grin. Oh, the things he can show John. He can show John what he can do, what he’s capable of and why John never should have left in the first place. He can show him what he was able to become without him, and make him proud.

Lestrade bursts into the Baker Street sitting room.

“Where?”

“Brixton, Lauriston Gardens.”

“What’s new about this one? You wouldn’t have come to get me if there wasn’t something different.”

“You know how they never leave notes?”

“Yes.”

“This one did. Will you come?”

Oh, that is interesting. Terribly interesting. Sherlock is already adding facts about the location and the presence of a note to what he’s memorized about the other victims based on newspaper articles and what he was able to hack from the Met’s database system.

There’s only one outstanding issue.

“Who’s on forensics?”

“It’s Anderson.”

No, no, no. That could end all of Sherlock’s grand hopes before they even get off the ground. “Anderson won’t work with me.”
Lestrade grimaces at the old argument. “Well, he won’t be your assistant.”

“I need an assistant! Oh! Wait. Wait a moment.” Sherlock turns his attention back to John, who has been watching the volley between the other two men with interest. “John, you’re a doctor. In fact, you’re an Army doctor.”

John stands a little straighter, almost at parade rest if it weren’t for the slight lean into his cane. “Yes.”

“Any good?”

“Very good.” Sherlock already know that, but he had to ask. The thought of John being any less than amazingly competent is unthinkable.

“Seen a lot of injuries then, violent deaths.” He’s turned into John’s personal space so they are standing toe-to-toe now, Lestrade’s presence fading from their minds.

John flicks a quick glance to Sherlock’s lips, then licks his own. “Yes.”

“Bit of trouble too, I bet.”

“Of course, yes. Enough for a lifetime. Far too much.” John looks anything but willing to back away from this.

“Want to see some more?” Say yes, Sherlock wills him.

John’s response is immediate. It races out of him on a great exhale. “Oh, God, yes.” He grabs the back of Sherlock’s neck and pulls him down for scorching kiss. It’s all Sherlock can do to keep from laughing in unadulterated, perfect glee at this man. This man who lets him see colours, who is going to run to a crime scene with him, and who wants to kiss him.

Lestrade pointedly clears his throat and John lets go, but the slow slide of his fingertips through Sherlock’s curls feels like a promise. It makes Sherlock shiver.

He turns back to Lestrade. “Detective Inspector Lestrade, my assistant, Dr. John Watson.”

“Christ.” Lestrade pinches the bridge of his nose. “Will you come?”

“We’ll be right behind you in a cab.” Sherlock grabs his coat from where he tossed it on the sofa and slings it around his shoulders.

Lestrade waves his thanks and heads down the stairs. Sherlock is just about to pelt off after him when he realizes John hasn’t moved. He’s still standing near the windows, watching him.

“Your assistant, huh?”

“Well, after a suitable probationary period, I should think so.”

John gives a giggle that makes Sherlock’s stomach flip. “Sod off.”

Sherlock cross the sitting room and takes John’s shoulders in his hands again. He presses a quick, hard kiss to John’s lips then spins him toward the door, nearly knocking John’s feet out from under him.

“Come on, Dr. Watson. The game is on!”

Chapter Text

“Hey, turn your bloody alarm off.”

“Hmmmrph, no.” Sherlock worms his way, face first, deeper into the pillows. He has one under his head and one under his arm, which means he must have John’s as well. He’s too tired to care or worry about turning the alarm off on his phone. John will see to it eventually.

He does so sooner rather than later. But it involves clambering up over Sherlock’s back to reach his phone on the nightstand. John must find the correct combination of keys quickly because the annoying trilling noise stops. See, Sherlock knew he could handle it.

It feels as if John only makes it part way back over to his side of the bed. Sherlock feels John’s warm weight settle across his back and side. He’s certainly not going to complain about that.

“If you get up, I’ll make you eggs.”

“Why would I get up for that? You can bring them in here.”

John rolls off and Sherlock huffs at the loss of that pleasant weight. Next thing he knows John is rolling him over, which is shockingly easy since it appears Sherlock was taking up the entire middle of the bed. He screws his eyes shut in protest and lets his arms swing wide.

“Come on, get up. You won’t sleep tonight.”

“I won’t sleep tonight anyway.”

“You are such a child.”

Sherlock simply hums again and listens to the sounds of John getting out of bed and wrapping a dressing gown around himself. Sherlock hopes it’s one of his dressing gowns. He does love to see John bundled up in the too-long garment while he lays around the flat.

It doesn’t take long until John is back and prodding at him. This time he tears the sheet away and leaves Sherlock nude and spread eagle on the bed.

“Come on, get up.”

John’s obviously not going to give up easily. Sherlock has learned to pick his battles. He pulls himself to his elbows and opens his eyes. “Do I still get eg-” Sherlock goes deathly still, staring at John.

“What? Do I have something on my face? Bedhead?” It’s John’s standard ‘joking but concerned’ tone.

“The damaged spot in my left eye. Where I can only see grey.”

“Yes?” John is definitely worried now. His brow is creased and he sits on the edge of the bed. His hand is warm on Sherlock’s bare thigh. “Has it spread?”

“It’s gone.”

“Gone?”

“Yes, gone, I can see full colours again.”

They had hoped that when John regained full use of his leg, that when the final lasting traumas of his time at war and being sent home before he was truly ready had faded, that the ashen spot in Sherlock’s vision would also fade. It hadn’t.

Sherlock wasn’t inhibited by it. He could work just fine with that burned out section of his vision still in place. They’d chalked it up to some traumas never leaving a man completely and gone on as they were.

“How is it gone? It’s been years.” John looks as shocked as Sherlock feels. “Nothing’s different about me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

He tries to find some explanation. “Is there anything special about today?”

“It’s a Wednesday.” John blinks at him confusedly.

“No, I mean, is there anything special about the date? It’s not the anniversary of the day you got shot, or of when Mike brought you to Bart’s, or anything like that?”

John thinks for a moment before shaking his head.

Sherlock sits quietly, blinking and focusing on objects near and far. He compares the colour he can see in his restored left eye with those in his right. There doesn’t appear to be any difference between the two. No lasting fading or degradation of pigments.

“Maybe it just needed more time. Time to heal.” John’s voice is quiet. He drags his fingertips down to Sherlock’s knee, then back up again.

He observes those fingers along their path several times before reaching out and placing his hand over John’s. “That could be the case.”

“But it’s fine now? Everything healed as it should be?” John is anxious and Sherlock’s first reaction is, will always be, to soothe him. But to do so truthfully.

“Yes. Everything is as it should be.” He brings John’s knuckles to his lips for a lingering kiss.

“Good. That’s good.” John pulls his hand away and gives Sherlock’s shoulder a warm squeeze. “Come on, I’ll make the eggs. You make the tea.”

Sherlock flops back down on the bed. “Hm, no.”

John swats at Sherlock’s leg as he heads for the door. “Get. Up.”

He waits until John is out of the bedroom and he can hear the everyday domestic noises of the kitchen. Only then does he get out of bed, and stretch languorously in the late morning sun. The sun warms his skin and Sherlock feels as if he has all the time in the world. That it ticks by slowly and comfortably now that he has found John. John will wait for him to emerge from the bedroom. He waited for John, and John waited for him, so a little more time means nothing. The world is a collection of blues and reds and golds and greens, and Sherlock Holmes isn’t going to miss a single one.