Sherlock Holmes was anything but an ordinary man. At thirty-five years old, he was still eternally baffled by his fellow human beings. He found others silly and so hung up on ridiculous distractions that did nothing but cloud his own mind. No wonder they couldn't use their brains, he thought. If he allowed himself to be distracted by touch and emotion and God forbid, sex, he supposed he would be ordinary too.
But John Watson wasn't ordinary. He realized this the first day they had met. The small, unassuming man had an inner strength that radiated from him. Still yet, he had killed for Sherlock – he had saved Sherlock’s life, and not just once, but multiple times. The first had been mere days after they had met and decided to become flatmates. John Watson, former army doctor, was special. And yet, he appeared to give in to seemingly unnecessary social conventions like dating. The very word made Sherlock cringe, memories flooding his mind. Sebastian. Ignorant prick who had used Sherlock's naiveté against him. Sherlock had needed his friendship, his companionship, and he had used Sherlock’s lack of social graces against him. Now that he was older, he wasn't surprised at this terrible quirk of human nature. That didn't stop the look of disdain from appearing on his face at the recollection or the slight twinge of embarrassment that coiled in the pit of his stomach whenever he remembered Sebastian, or even worse, when he ran into him on occasion.
The affair had begun simply enough. Sherlock recognized Sebastian as someone of high intellect, much like himself. He was much more well-liked at uni compared to Sherlock, though, and Sherlock had hoped to use that to his advantage. But Seb was more than just a brilliant mind – he was a very attractive man. He was tall, almost as tall as Sherlock at just under six feet. His messy blonde hair and perfectly manicured beard made his face look slightly softer, less harsh than Sherlock’s. They had met in one of those silly required literature courses, all completely pointless to Sherlock, but intriguing to Sebastian. It was an amicable arrangement at first. Sherlock would put up with Seb quoting some poet from the 18th century as a way to declare his infatuation with Sherlock. Sherlock always scoffed at this – ridiculous sentiment. But it made Seb smile, and holding hands felt good. Having his scalp massaged felt good. Kissing Seb gently felt good.
What Sherlock was unprepared for was the issue of sex. He had always considered himself to be asexual. He knew that he wasn’t truly attracted to Seb in that way, but how could he tell someone so infatuated with him? So instead, he simply put up with it. He felt bored most of the time. He rarely topped, and he rarely let Seb touch him, so for awhile, he was able to keep his lack of interest a secret. He played along, because he did care about Seb, even though love isn’t the term he would have used.
When Sebastian Moran had found out that the great Sherlock Holmes was asexual, that he had essentially been putting on a show for Seb, Sherlock’s social problems were magnified. Sebastian and Sherlock had a great row, where Sebastian accused him of leading him on, and Sherlock cowered at his anger. In the end, Sebastian told his flatmates how Sherlock had “humiliated” him, as though he were some experiment that had gone wrong. It was truly Sherlock who was humiliated in the end. Sherlock was certain that he would never truly have a relationship with other human beings in that way again.
That isn't to say that he hadn't used his relationship with other people to his own advantage. It took a long while, but he learned how to act the part of a friendly person. He learned what was expected of him, and he used that to obtain information and gain favors. This was always helpful on a case. He wasn't always the brash individual that the Yarders knew him as -- he could turn on the charm when he wanted to. He just chose not to most of the time, because acting the part took a lot out of him.
Sherlock realized that one day, John would figure him out. He was a doctor, after all -- he must have encountered someone at least a little similar to him in his work, even if that work had been mostly patching up soldiers in Afghanistan. But Sherlock was certain that John was smart enough to figure it out. The question that remained was when would it happen? When would John deduce that he wasn't a high-functioning sociopath, as he had often explained? And what would happen when he did?
Sherlock was used to people shying away from them once they knew. He had his reasons for keeping his medical records a secret. He had learned even in early childhood that people who knew treated him with pity. People who didn’t know treated him as an oddity, but that was okay with Sherlock Holmes. He was used to being the oddball, the genius. He had made his peace with that. He had grown up in a home where intelligence was prized, and social niceties were observed in order to further one’s social status. Sherlock failed to understand why people cared about each other so bloody much. He knew the truth, one that Mycroft repeated to him often over the years – “Caring is not an advantage.” He knew this in his head, but it made little sense to his heart.
One day, soon, John would figure him out. And when did, what would happen? Sherlock just hoped that John wouldn't move out.
The consulting detective had his long fingers drawn together, tapping his fingertips as his lanky legs were drawn up under him on the chair. John rolled his eyes at the pose. That cannot be comfortable, he thought. Sherlock was nearly still, and John was baffled at how a person could stay in one position for so long. But he didn't dare break the detective's concentration, at least not yet.
The pair had been on a case for a good five days, and John knew that Sherlock was missing something. Sherlock didn't miss things, not often anyhow. It was really shaking Sherlock's confident countenance, and it didn't do anything good for the tension within the flat. A woman had been murdered in a locked flat, her pale throat slit. There had been no murder weapon, no suicide note, and no blood on the woman's hands. The marks on her neck had been inconsistent with suicide, as the woman was left-handed, and the killer was clearly right handed. Sherlock had deduced all of this within the first 2 minutes inside the flat. What he couldn't figure out, though, was how the killer had gotten in and out without leaving any trace.
They needed a break, something to relax. John wasn't even 100% certain that Sherlock knew how to relax. He had never seen his flatmate do anything that bordered on “normal” or at least what “normal” people do. The air within the flat was stale, though, and John felt as though he were being suffocated.
"Come on," he said. "We're going out."
"You go," the detective snapped, slight anger at being pulled out of his reverie. "I've got to figure this out."
"And you think that you're going to figure that out by staring into space for the third day, do you?"
Sherlock let out a harrumphing sound, but acquiesced. "Fine,” he spat. “Where are we going?"
"I thought we would just take a walk, that's all. Get some fresh air. Clear our heads?"
Sherlock frowned at the phrase. "Clear your head, maybe," he muttered.
"Okay, fine, Sherlock. I'll clear my head." John looked at Sherlock quizzically, considering this. Was it really possible that his mind had never been devoid of thought? Sherlock was certainly a unique individual. But John Watson had known that piece of information since day one.
The pair walked in silence, taking in the sights of London. The city was bustling with energy, and John could feel a noticeable shift in the tall man that walked beside him. Sherlock Holmes was such an odd creature. John couldn't recall meeting anyone even somewhat like him. The day that they met, Sherlock had called himself a "high-functioning sociopath," but John didn't really believe that. His medical training caused him to truly question the man walking beside him. Sherlock came off as cold, but he wasn't uncaring, and though he often manipulated situations in order to solve a case, he never did it for his own benefit. Then there was the issue of money. John knew that Sherlock often refused money from his clients. Of course, the Yard didn’t pay them, but the clients that dropped by Baker Street on a regular basis often offered Sherlock far more than his modest fee. Sherlock always refused.
"John," Sherlock interjected. "You're thinking too loud. I thought this was supposed to be to clear your head," he smirked, throwing John's words back at him.
"You're right. Sorry. Beautiful night."
Sherlock simply rolled his eyes. Small talk was boring.
The rest of the walk around the block was spent in silence, each man taking in the sights, sounds and smells of London. John felt some of the tension in his flatmate's face transform into focused energy. It was odd to see such a visible shift, but John breathed a sigh of relief as they returned to 221B.
John was always reluctant to suggest that Sherlock do something different when he was so focused, but after several days in the flat, he couldn't handle the tension. Most of the time, it involved suggesting food. Or sleep. Unfortunately, this time, Sherlock had been opposed to both of these suggestions, claiming that they would do nothing but distract him rather than help him gain his focus. But a walk around the city he loved so much had been a very welcome suggestion. John was glad for that, at least.
Sherlock looked exceptionally more relaxed as John boiled some water for the tea. The fresh spring air had caused his features to relax just a bit. John scrutinized his appearance. There was an inexplicable calm but focused look on Sherlock’s face. He readily accepted the cup of tea that John brought him a few minutes later, as he invaded John’s laptop once again.
“Of course!” Sherlock cried out. “Of course – that is the only solution that makes sense, really.”
John didn’t say a word. He knew that it was pointless to waste the energy. Sherlock would tell him what was going on eventually.
“Don’t you see, John?”
“No, afraid I don’t, Sherlock. What have you finally discovered?”
“It was the maid. Of course it was the maid. Former lover of Ms. Desplat, killed her employer in a jealous rage. She had hoped to find Ms. Desplat in bed with the man that she loved, but to no avail.”
Sherlock’s words came out in a rush, nearly incomprehensible to most people. John had learned to truly listen, however.
“The maid? Huh. Never would have suspected. I assume she had a master key. And she would have taken care to keep everything clean. Excellent deduction, Sherlock.”
“Thank you,” Sherlock answered awkwardly. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and texted Lestrade.
I’ve solved your case for you – SH
Which one? – GL
Don’t be daft. Ms. Desplat was killed by her maid. – SH
Are you sure? – GL
Of course I’m sure, you blithering idiot. Scorned ex-lover; nothing surprising there. – SH
We’ll need to get a statement. – GL
I’m sure you will. In the morning. – SH
"That was bloody brilliant," John exclaimed, taking a bite of his pasta. Sherlock had just finished solving yet another case, only looking at the crime scene for a couple of moments before he had made his deductions.
Sherlock still wasn't used to this amount of praise. Did he know he was brilliant? Well, of course. It also wasn't that he had never heard praise before. Even Lestrade was known to exclaim how amazing his deductions were. Somehow, a word of affirmation from John had become something different. Somehow, it meant more. This unnerved him just a bit.
"Thank you," Sherlock uttered the perfunctory response, attempting to avoid John's gaze.
John looked at his flatmate warily. "Something wrong?"
"What could be wrong? I solved the case. I'm brilliant, apparently." Sherlock shifted uncomfortably in his seat, adjusting the blue scarf currently tied around his neck.
"Yes. And we didn't get shot at this time."
"No, we didn't." Sherlock said with a smile. “Good use of that pipe, by the way.”
"Thanks. You usually don’t seem this distracted after a case. What’s wrong?"
Sherlock paused for a long moment, unsure of how to really answer. "He's still out there. I can't figure out what he wants."
“He didn't strap you down with Semtex for nothing.”
"It's all a game to him. Lives don't matter. He wants to get inside your head. He wants to unnerve you, make you unsure of yourself."
"And he's gotten to you. He's gotten inside your head if you're this distracted, and this worried."
"Sherlock," John said, looking up at the taller man. "You look terrible. Some sleep, maybe?"
"That would be good.” He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep, though, not when he was this worked up. An idea popped into his head and he tensed, wondering if John would go for it. “Can you --" Sherlock hesitated. "Can you come with me?"
"Come where?" John hesitated.
"My mind is less chaotic when you're nearby. Can you come lay down next to me until I go to sleep?" Sherlock looked quite different than John had ever seen him look. He looked nervous, vulnerable, and much smaller than his six foot frame. His hands trembled slightly.
"Um, sure. Give me just a minute?" John asked. Normally, he wouldn’t have agreed to something like this, but with Sherlock in the state he was, he knew the detective needed calming. He figured he would just chalk it up to yet another one of Sherlock’s many experiments.
Sherlock nodded. John walked up to his own room, and returned a moment later, clad in blue and white checked pajamas and a red dressing gown. Sherlock's eyes were heavy with exhaustion as the pair made their way to Sherlock's room.
Sherlock stripped down to his undershirt and boxers, and quickly donned a pair of green pajama pants. John pulled down the covers to Sherlock's bed, quickly scanning the room. This was the first time he had been in here. Sherlock’s room had always been somewhat of a mystery, and based on what went on in the rest of the flat, he hadn’t dared to enter it. John found that it wasn't quite as disastrous as he thought it would be. It was fairly neat and tidy, unlike the rest of the flat.
John got lost for a moment in the ridiculousness of this all. If someone had told him a year ago that he would be lying down in bed with his flatmate, he wouldn't have believed them. But to John, this was just another one of Sherlock's many experiments. Ever since he had uttered the words "I'd be lost without my blogger," he knew that Sherlock felt more comfortable when he was nearby. This wasn't any different, and
Sherlock needed to sleep. The case had dragged on for far too long, and Sherlock hadn't slept in nearly 4 days.
"John?" Sherlock asked the man now lying down next to him.
"You're thinking too loud."
"Can you -- can you come closer?"
"Okay." John scooted closer, unsure of how to proceed. He settled on resting his head up against Sherlock's back, his feet gently grazing against Sherlock’s own, but drew the line at wrapping his arm around the detective. Soon, Sherlock's breaths became deeper, and it was clear he was finally asleep. It was then John realized how very exhausted he was, as well. The events of the day had been long and trying. Sherlock had yet again placed them both in danger by luring a murderous thief into a darkened alley. John had thought it would have been wise to at least phone Lestrade, but Sherlock didn’t think like that. Fortunately, John’s time in Afghainstan had led him to be a quick thinker, and he soon clobbered the man holding the knife with a nearby pipe, knocking him out cold. Lestrade arrived just a few moments later, and refused to let the pair retreat to their flat until they had answered all of his questions. Sherlock had been miffed about that, as usual, but John was there to remind him that the less they put up a fight about it, the sooner they could return home.
Certainly, I can no longer tell Ella that nothing happens to me, John thought with a grin as he drifted off to sleep.
Sherlock and John had fallen into a comfortable routine. When John thought about it, though, it wasn't really a routine, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. Their lives consisted of constant ups and downs. There could be fifteen days of utter boredom -- well, boredom for Sherlock. For John, it would be a nice calm before the storm. He would be able to sit around and watch crap telly, put in a few hours at the surgery where he worked occasionally, and do normal people things. This was often followed by several days of tracking clues around London for a case, only to be cornered by a thief or killer. Yes, there certainly was adventure in the lives of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.
At the end of each case, though, it had become routine for John to cook a decent meal, force Sherlock to eat a bit finally and not long after, fall into bed with his flatmate.
It all seemed so normal, so very natural of an activity, as much as fixing Sherlock’s tea or agreeing to any number of experiments was normal. Sleeping in his flatmate’s bed was normal for John. It was safe, it was comfortable. Better yet, it made Sherlock's chaotic mind a bit calmer, which was a relief for both of them. But sleeping in his flatmate’s bed raised some questions. Was it all as innocent as Sherlock had suggested it was when it all began? Was it really simply a way for him to feel calmer? John was unsure. He knew the Yarders would have a field day if they discovered that the pair were sleeping in the same bed. Assumptions would be made, incorrectly as always, of course. Everyone already assumed that they were a couple. It was an easy assumption to make. It just was the wrong one. John supposed that they should talk about this shift in their relationship. That's what normal people did, wasn't it?
But Sherlock wasn't "normal people." John wasn't really, either. He craved adventure just as much as Sherlock craved being special.
One afternoon, after solving a very harrowing kidnapping case very late the night before, John had awoken to find Sherlock wrapped almost entirely around him. He attempted to gently shift in order to move the detective off of him, but he was finding the effort he put in was entirely fruitless.
"Sherlock?" John whispered.
"Hamklahsflk" was the sound that came out of Sherlock's mouth.
"Sherlock!" John grunted. "Get off!"
Sherlock was sniffing John's hair, drawing in the scent of him. John noted the chill that came over him as he realized that he was actually enjoying the closeness to some extent. That is, he would have enjoyed it if the detective hadn’t been lying entirely on top of John. Sherlock stretched and rolled away from John, stretching his lanky limbs as he awoke. John sat up, rubbing his eyes. He noticed that the movement had made the room suddenly slightly colder and wondered why he had sought to disentangle himself from Sherlock just a moment prior. A glance at the clock told him it was nearly 2 in the afternoon. He yawned and lay back down, staring at the ceiling.
"I thought you wanted to get up," The deep baritone voice that spoke was still groggy with sleep.
"Rethinking that now, actually."
"It's cold now."
"Well, yes. I'd assume that would have been obvious, John. The human body does give off a certain amount of heat. I think that's part of the reason I like it when you sleep here -- your warmth."
John turned to face him. "You like me here because I'm warm?"
Sherlock nodded. "Yes."
"Hmmm. Okay." John wasn’t sure how to feel about that one.
"You're hiding something, John."
"Good deduction, yeah."
"You can't hide from me."
"I gathered that much, as much of an idiot as I am."
Sherlock blanched. "You're not an idiot, John."
Now that was an unexpected response. “Oh. Thank you.”
"You want to talk about this," Sherlock motioned between the two of them. "You want to know if this changes everything. You feel uncomfortable about it all and don't know how to broach the subject. Am I right?"
John sighed. "Well, yes. I was kind of curious as to your thoughts on that."
"Tell me this, John. Would you have worried about a relationship change if this were combat? If I were one of your fellow soldiers?"
John shook his head. "Well, I suppose not. No."
"We're friends, colleagues, whatever idiotic label you think needs to be applied to us today. Flatmates, certainly. The only thing that you sleeping here changes, John, is the temperature of my bed. Well, that, and of course, the whole point of the exercise was to make me feel calmer, and it certainly does that."
John mulled this over for a moment. So nothing really had changed, except that they were closer physically. John also had to admit that they were both sleeping much better. He couldn’t remember exactly how long it had been since he had experienced a nightmare, a flashback to that day in Afghanistan, but he was almost certain it had been prior to sharing a bed with Sherlock. In addition, Sherlock was sleeping more because he was sharper, more focused on the case. He was solving cases faster, which meant more sleep overall. John had nothing to complain about.
"Oh. Right, then. Coffee?" John said, getting up and slipping his dressing gown on.
It was a quiet autumn afternoon, quite normal by John’s standards, but a little bit boring by Sherlock’s. Things were peaceful at 221B Baker Street, and Sherlock was staring at John. He wasn’t just gazing intently like he often did, but he was genuinely staring. He had been inordinately still for a good 20 minutes, and John found that entirely disconcerting. The look the detective had on his face was a look of confusion, fused with a bit of worry.
"What?" John finally asked, a little curious.
"I'm trying to figure you out. I feel like I’m missing something."
John laughed. "Oh, the great genius doesn't know everything?" he asked, his voice laced heavily with sarcasm.
Sherlock raised his left eyebrow. "Oh come now, John. You really can't expect me to know everything, especially not when it comes to interpersonal relationships."
"Ah, right. Particularly bad with those, as I recall." He ignored a sharp look from Sherlock. "So, what about me are you trying to figure out?"
"What you are."
"What you are... to me." Sherlock’s face went crimson, and he avoided John's gaze.
"What I am... you mean you're finally ready to talk about labels? Is that what you're trying to say?" John had been wanting to have this conversation for awhile, but after the last somewhat failed, circumvented conversation, he decided to let Sherlock do the legwork when it came to their relationship, whatever it was.
"Y-yes." Sherlock was clearly out of his element here. Never was he unsure of what to say, but here he was, downright nervous, and it showed.
"I don't guess that I really know, Sherlock."
"We're friends,” Sherlock said matter-of-factly. “You and I – we are friends.”
"Well, yes, but I'd say we're a titch more than that, wouldn't you say? Friends, especially those of the same gender, don't tend to sleep in the same bed more nights than not."
“I suppose that’s true, John. Do you find me attractive?"
It was John's turn to blush. "Well, yes, of course I do.”
"You act like that should be obvious."
"It should be. The fact that I find you attractive wasn't obvious from the very beginning?"
"I assume that you’re speaking of our first night at Angelos."
"Yes." John shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "I wasn't asking you out," he was quick to clarify. "But I certainly was curious. You’re intriguing, not only in looks, but clearly in personality as well. You seriously don't see how attractive you are?"
"I'm afraid not, John."
"Well, Sherlock, you are bloody gorgeous. You could literally be a model."
"Obviously. Besides, you would never waste your talent on something so inane."
"Of course not. That didn't really answer my question, though. Not really. Perhaps I wasn’t quite direct enough. You like women, but you fail with them."
"Um, thank you for the astute observation. You know, that could be because you have a tendency to interrupt my dates or get them kidnapped. Wait," John hesitated, a realization dawning on him. "You did that on purpose, didn't you? No, not get them kidnapped," he said as a protest formed on Sherlock’s lips. "You didn't want my relationships with women to succeed."
"No, I’m afraid that I didn't. I was afraid you would move out." Sherlock couldn’t look at him while he said this, so instead chose to focus on a hole in the wall.
"Move out?" John nearly spit out his tea. "No, Sherlock, I'm not going to move out."
"You might. You could get married, after all."
John guffawed. "I sincerely do not see that happening, Sherlock."
"So you prefer casual sex instead?"
"No. That isn't it. I don't really have any interest in getting married."
"You might change your mind."
"No. I won't."
“Don’t care for relationships, then?”
“Mostly, no. I haven’t really had any successful ones to speak of.”
"How do you feel about me?"
"Well -- that's blunt."
" It’s the easiest way to get an answer, John."
"Do you like me? Are you attracted to me?"
"Yes and yes. I feel like I already answered the second one there."
"There’s a difference in ‘do you find me attractive’ and ‘are you attracted to me.’”
“Right. I suppose you’re right.”
“Do you want to have sex with me?"
John cleared his throat and suddenly became quite interested in his tea. "I'm not sure. Right this second? No, it's not something on my mind."
"Good." Sherlock let out a sigh of relief, and stopped staring at the wall.
"Good?" John’s eyebrows wrinkled in confusion. Where was this all going? He thought. This was not like any other “relationship talk” he had ever had in the past.
"I don't particularly want to have sex with you right now, either."
"Okay. So, where does this leave us, Sherlock?"
"I'm attracted to you, John. You're attracted to me. I think that's enough for me."
"I think this is traditionally where people would kiss."
John gulped. Was he truly ready to take that step? A knot formed in his stomach and he was suddenly very nervous. "Right. So you want to do this now, then?"
“Unless you were planning on fitting me into your busy schedule, John, yes, I think I’d like to kiss you now. If that’s okay, of course,” he added.
John's nodded, his heart pounding as the detective leaned down, brushing his thumb over the doctor's cheek. Slowly, gently, Sherlock placed a chaste kiss on John's lips, which were unexpectedly soft and warm. John gasped as Sherlock’s lips lost contact with his own, emotion overcoming him. Sherlock smiled, little creases forming around his eyes. John reached up to comb his fingers through Sherlock's hair. Sherlock let out a little hum of pleasure as he rested his head on John's shoulder and allowed John to massage his scalp lightly.
A few moments later, Sherlock lifted his head from John’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. His heartbeat was slow and his body felt extremely calm. His face no longer was full of tense energy, but was serene and most of all, happy.
"That was --" John found himself lost for words. He looked at Sherlock’s face, and knew that he had never seen his friend this calm. It was almost eerie.
"I think the term you're looking for is 'bloody brilliant'."
"Okay, fine. Yes, it was bloody brilliant."
It had been six months since the “pool incident”, and Sherlock was no closer to destroying Moriarty than he had been on his first encounter with him. He cringed every time he recalled that day. John strapped with Semtex, Moriarty playing the part of a puppeteer as John spoke the words “I can stop John Watson, too. Stop his heart.” Sherlock was full of a singular focus, determined to find Jim Moriarty, to take him apart bit by bit until there was nothing left. The words “I’ll burn the heart out of you” had taken on a new meaning as of late, and Sherlock vaguely wondered whether Moriarty himself had seen something there that he himself hadn’t been able to recognize.
From the very start, people had made assumptions about John Watson. Never had Sherlock even really had someone he could call a friend, so seeing this man in his company so often had caused people to really believe that maybe there was more to John than met the eye. Sherlock knew this was true. The short, unassuming man had an inner strength that few knew. He often gave off an air of calm and collected when he was trembling inside. Sherlock could read him, though. He knew mostly what was going on – how John felt, what he thought.
Much had changed in the past three months, since Sherlock Holmes kissed John Watson. It was a subtle shift, almost unnoticeable if a person wasn’t looking closely. A grab of a forearm, a significant look shared at a crime scene, even the placid calm that had taken over Sherlock’s features -- these were all clues that something had changed. This didn’t seem to bother anyone, not even the Yarders, who had all placed bets on when the pair would announce their new relationship.
Sherlock and John, though, were a little too private for that quite yet. This was new to both of them. Sherlock knew that John was different from Sebastian, but he wanted to be cautious and take things slowly. He couldn't afford to lose the one friend he had over rushing headlong into a romantic entanglement. John, for his part, was also reserved about the whole thing. His previous relationships had been with women, and none had been successful by any means. This was his first relationship with a man, and this was no ordinary man. This was Sherlock bloody Holmes. He refused to muck this up.
Their days were spent solving crimes, more for private clients than for the police nowadays. Sherlock was always on the lookout for clues, though, clues that would lead to Moriarty. It truly had begun to bother him, and as calm and warm as he felt when John was around, he was still very much on edge with not being able to solve this case, with not being able to locate and destroy Moriarty.
Their nights, however, were something different entirely. When they weren’t out solving crimes late into the night, the pair of them sat with limbs wrapped around each other, watching crap telly and eating takeout. Sherlock had even managed to gain five pounds, to John’s delight. John reveled in how very normal this seemed. Sherlock remained an extraordinary individual, with plenty of quirks and oddities that John didn’t fully understand. He hadn’t quite worked out why Sherlock behaved the way that he did, but in all honesty, it didn’t really matter to him. He was beginning to fall for the man in a way that he hadn’t ever fallen for another person. He hadn’t believed that it was even possible for him to fall in love. Was that what this was? He wasn’t sure.
This was where they found themselves one late night in early summer. It was raining outside, and Sherlock had reluctantly agreed to watch Doctor Who with John. John knew it would be hilarious. Sherlock would get annoyed and would point out the inconsistencies in the story, and would tell him his own proposed ending to the episode long before the halfway point. John found his deductions intriguing, hilarious, and even a little bit endearing. This was what had attracted him to the man in the first place. He had no idea that they would fall into such a state of normality. This was what the average person did, and yet, neither one of them were really anything close to average.
“No!” Sherlock was yelling, waving his fist. “You can’t save them both, you blithering idiot! The younger one -- save the younger one! The older one won’t really exist!”
John snuggled up closer, bathing in the warm comfort of the light blue blanket that managed somehow to cover them both.
“John, this is ridiculous. Doesn’t he see how this will turn out?”
John giggled. “I’m going to guess that the Doctor knows, but the average audience member wouldn't’ be able to guess.”
“But it’s so obvious.”
“Yes, to you.”
“Huh.” Sherlock sighed in contentment as John’s arm wrapped around his waist, drawing him in closer. He dropped his head to John’s shoulder, as he often did, allowing the doctor to massage his scalp and finger his curls. Soon, he was humming with pleasure.
“This is relaxing for me, too.” John placed a light kiss on the top of Sherlock’s head, causing the detective to shiver with delight.
“I don’t want to watch telly anymore.”
“No?” John felt mildly disappointed, as the show was not nearly half over.
“No. I’m tired. I’d like to go to bed.”
The pair disentangled themselves from each other, John leading the way, draped in the blanket that had covered them. Sherlock’s hands were on his shoulders, prodding him forward. Once they made their way into Sherlock’s bedroom, which really had become their room, John pulled down the neatly made bed and climbed under the sheets with the impossibly high thread count. He had just begun to register how warm and comfortable he felt here when Sherlock knelt down in front of him, caressing his cheek and drawing him in for a kiss.
The kiss started off chaste, soft lips moving slowly against slightly rougher ones. Then, unexpectedly, Sherlock slid his tongue over John’s bottom lip. John was shocked and immediately stiffened in surprise.
“I’m sorry,” Sherlock said, pulling away. “Was that too much?”
“No,” John cleared his throat. “Just unexpected. It was nice. Do that again, please?”
Sherlock smiled, bending down. He started out gently, with a simple peck. Then he began moving his lips slightly more fervently against John’s. He ran his tongue across John’s bottom lip. This elicited a moan from the older man. John’s lips parted, and Sherlock’s tongue moved inside his mouth. John had his fingers in Sherlock’s hair and pulled him down harder, curling his fingers in his hair. What had started off as fairly innocent had turned interesting and exciting very quickly.
John noted that Sherlock tasted of tea and toothpaste. His lips were so soft and warm, and his tongue was a delightful occupant in his own mouth. He hadn’t known that he wanted this, but now he was flooded with sensation. Sherlock’s tongue darted back and forth, and his own tongue was fighting with Sherlock’s for dominance.
Fingers still in the younger man’s hair, John lay down on the bed. Sherlock’s knee was pressed in between John’s legs, and he rested his chest against John’s.
“John,” Sherlock gasped. “Your heart --”
“Yes,” John gulped. “Yours, too.” John rested his hand against Sherlock’s chest, feeling it pound wildly. He attempted to ignore the rest of his body, trying to calm his breath.
“Are you -- are you okay?”
“Yes, Sherlock. I’m perfectly all right.”
“Perhaps I should --” he motioned to his side of the bed. “I’m going to lay down.” Sherlock felt dizzy and confused. The sounds, the tastes of John were completely overwhelming. He closed his eyes, placing his hand over his heart and willing it to calm itself.
“Sherlock?” John asked, a bit concerned. “Are you okay?”
“Fine. Just feeling a little -- out of my element.”
John placed his hand over the one resting over Sherlock’s heart. “Me too. We don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with. You know that, right? I don’t expect anything from you.”
Sherlock’s eyes flew open. “Not now you don’t. But eventually...”
John shook his head. “No, Sherlock. No. I never want to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable.” His voice was firm, almost stern.
Sherlock turned to look at John. “John, I can’t ask you to sacrifice -- I can’t ask that of you. You’ll grow tired of me.”
“No, Sherlock, I won’t.”
“But why wouldn't you? Sex is.... uncomfortable for me, or at least it has been in the past. And I know it’s something that you must want, eventually. So why wouldn’t you grow tired of me if it turns out that I can’t give you that?”
“Because I love you, you big idiot.”
Sherlock’s breath hitched, a feeling of warmth flooding his body. His cheeks reddened, and something in the pit of his stomach fluttered. Heat burned in his eyes and a single tear formed. As it fell, John wiped it away, leaving a trail of kisses down his cheek in its absence.
“I’m sorry. I’ve overwhelmed you.” John moved to pull away, but Sherlock grabbed his wrist.
“No, it’s fine. I hadn’t realized until now what that would feel like. Sentiment has never been my strong suit. But I can’t pretend that the feeling isn’t mutual.”
Sherlock wrapped his arm around John’s waist and pulled him close, running deft fingers down his back as John snuggled in closer. Sherlock’s heartbeat had slowed a bit, and he hummed as John’s breath warmed the base of his throat.
Minutes, hours, days, perhaps weeks later, Sherlock was calmer, much more collected. His eyes were clear and unseasonably soft, as he looked into John’s.
“This might be it.”
“Sorry?” John asked.
“This might be all I will ever want to do.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“No, Sherlock. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me.”
“But you said you were attracted to me.”
“You love me.”
“I thought we already established that.”
“Why aren’t you trying to shag me? Am I not desirable enough?”
“Oh God, Sherlock, no, that is definitely not it.”
John raised an eyebrow. “Having trouble with that deduction, are you?”
“Well, let’s consider the evidence, doctor. You’ve been with women. You’ve never been with men, not that I can tell.”
“Correction. I’ve dated women.”
“You’ve not had sex with them?”
“I have, but on a very infrequent basis.”
“Sherlock, you’d think this would be easier for you to deduce. I mean, really, considering --”
Realization flashed across Sherlock’s face. “Oh!” He smacked himself in the face, which caused John to flinch. “You’re asexual.”
“Finally,” John groaned. “Yes. I’m asexual.”
“I should have known.”
“Yes, you should have. We aren’t that different in that regard.”
“So,” Sherlock rubbed his temple. “You aren’t going to want to have sex, ever?”
“Sherlock, I don’t know. Things are different with you – far different than any other relationship I’ve ever had. So I don’t know whether I’ll want that or not. But if I do, we’ll talk about it. And no, if you don’t want
sex, we won’t have sex.”
“It isn’t that I don’t want to have sex with you, John. It’s that -- well, my past experiences weren’t pleasant. I have a feeling that has more to do with the manipulative human being I chose to entangle myself with than sex itself, though.”
“So we’ll go slowly, and if we decide that sex is something we might want to do, we’ll talk about it. Okay?”
Sherlock sighed in relief. “Okay.”
“John?” Sherlock’s voice had lowered to a whisper.
The day had begun fairly normally, or so John had thought. They had enjoyed coffee and biscuits before Sherlock departed, murmuring about “experiments”. That’s why John had to suppress the urge to burst into hysterical laughter when Sherlock walked through the front door, covered in blood from head to toe, brandishing a harpoon.
“What in the bloody hell, Sherlock?”
“It’s for a case.”
“Well, God, I hope so. You went on the tube like that?”
“None of the cabs would take me.”
“Right, then. Need a hand?”
John knew that it was not a wise idea to interrupt Sherlock when he was on a case. For the most part, he was just there to help him flesh out ideas, and on occasion, perform experiments on him. Really, Sherlock was part scientist, part performer. And his audience was most often John. John was the only one who wouldn’t roll his eyes incessantly and tell him to stop showing off (too frequently). John continued to find Sherlock’s deductions astonishing.
Sherlock emerged from the bedroom an hour later, having showered and looking downright smug.
“Solved the case, then?” John asked, looking up over his laptop screen.
“Oh, yes. Quite simple.”
“And the…” John tried to stifle a laugh, quite unsuccessfully. “The harpoon helped?”
A broad smile flashed across Sherlock’s face. “Yes. It did. Very simple, really. The suspect had to be exceptionally strong to run a man through with a harpoon.”
“I would think so.”
A faint voice rang out from downstairs. “Boys!” Mrs. Hudson called. “You’ve got another one!”
Soon, a young man in his early 30s was in their flat, shaking and breathless. He introduced himself as Henry Knight. John was fascinated by his story of terror, of what had appeared to him to be a gigantic hound, which had attacked and violently killed his father. He knew, however, that this case was nearly two decades old, and was baffled as to why Henry would come to them now. Of course, Sherlock knew the answer to that. No surprise there, John thought. Sherlock can intuit everything with a single glance.
“You went back on the advice of your therapist, and now you’re consulting a detective. What happened last night? What did you see that changed everything?”
“Strange place, the Hollow. It makes you feel so cold inside, so afraid…”
“What did you see?”
“Footprints. On the exact spot where I saw my father torn apart.”
“Man or a woman’s?” John interjected.
“Neither. They were…”
“Footprints? Is that it, nothing else?” Sherlock was miffed, feeling as though his time was being needlessly wasted.
“But what about the footprints?”
“Probably paw prints, could be anything, therefore, nothing. Goodbye, Mr. Knight.” Sherlock spoke dismissively, getting up from his chair, leaving John and Henry confused in his wake.
“But Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound.” Henry took care to emphasize the last two words of his sentence.
This stopped Sherlock in his tracks. “Say that again.”
“I found footprints, they were…”
“No, your exact words. Repeat your exact words from a moment ago.”
“Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound.” This time, Henry’s voice was quivering with fear.
“I’ll take the case.”
John looked at him, completely puzzled. “Sorry, what? A minute ago, footprints were boring, and now they’re promising?”
“It’s nothing to do with footprints; as usual, John, you weren’t listening. Baskerville, ever heard of it?”
“Vaguely,” John said, leaning back in his chair. “It’s very hush-hush.”
“Sounds like a good place to start.”
“So you are coming?” Henry questioned.
“Twenty year old disappearance? A monstrous hound? I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
And just like that, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes were on another case. The glee in Sherlock’s face as they rode the train to Devon was unmistakable. It was near to childlike delight. This both excited and unnerved Dr. Watson.
“Sherlock, you might not look so bloody thrilled.”
“But this is exciting, John! A case – and not just any case, but a decades old case with mysterious creatures! How could anyone turn this one down?”
“Well, any sane person would have, to be sure.” John smirked at Sherlock, hoping that the younger man knew he was teasing. Of course this case was bound to be bloody brilliant. This was just the type of mystery that had drawn them together in the first place.
The rest of the ride, unfortunately, was exceptionally boring. Sherlock spent most of it on his phone, frantically texting God knows who. John was used to this, of course. He patted Sherlock’s knee every once in awhile, and allowed his taller partner to rest his head against John’s shoulder.
Once they arrived, John realized that Henry had been right. Dartmoor was an extremely dreary place. The darkness felt almost oppressive. The locals, however, were nothing but accommodating and forthcoming with information. Mostly myths and legends, but the biggest piece of information was the rumors surrounding Baskerville itself, technically an army base, but believed to be far more sinister than a home for simple experimentation.
The car ride into Baskerville was nerve-wracking, at least for John. “How are you presuming to get in?”
Sherlock waved a pass at John nonchalantly. “With this.”
“Where did you get a pass to Baskerville?”
“It’s not specific to this place.”
John plucked the plastic from Sherlock’s hand. “Mycroft. Ah.”
“I acquired it ages ago.”
Sherlock drove the car to the front gate, where they are stopped by two gentlemen in uniform. After a short inspection of Sherlock’s identification and pass, they allow him through.
John snorted. “Mycroft’s name literally opens doors.”
“His name does prove to be useful at times. I told you, he is the British government.”
John thought Baskerville was unlike any other facility he had ever seen. Sterile white walls greeted them as they were led inside. John wondered what sorts of experiments they did here. They were soon introduced to a researcher clad in a white lab coat, medical gloves covering her hands as she mixed a chemical solution of some sort. She was a rather imposing woman, appearing to be in her mid-50s, with slight streaks of silver in her blonde hair.
“Dr. Stapleton,” she said, extending her hand tentatively. Sherlock ignored her.
“Hi, Dr. John Watson,” John replied, elbowing Sherlock in the side.
“Ow,” Sherlock pouted.
“You were making an arse of yourself,” John muttered under his breath.
“I doubt that,” Sherlock said in the same tone of voice. John rolled his eyes.
Dr. Stapleton looked annoyed. This was her territory, and as far as she knew, these two members of the British government have come to inspect her work. The lab was filled with a variety of medical and chemistry equipment. Sherlock jumped a little when a monkey bats up against the bars of its cage.
"Stapleton...why does that name seem familiar?"
John looked at Sherlock quizzically. What is he going on about now, he thought.
“The rabbit?” John asked, an eyebrow raised.
“Yes, John, the rabbit.” Sherlock was giving him that look again -- the look that said of course, you idiot.
“Have you been talking to my daughter?” Dr. Stapleton asked, her prim nose upturned.
“Dr. Stapleton, why did Bluebell have to die?”
John stood there, a look of confusion clouding his features. How in the world had Sherlock made that connection, between the request made earlier on Sherlock’s blog The Science of Deduction and the scientist in front of them here at Baskerville?
“Disappeared from inside a locked hutch, which was always suggestive.”
“The rabbit,” John was muttering under his breath.
“Clearly an inside job,” Sherlock said.
“Oh, you reckon?” Dr. Stapleton looked to be both annoyed and confused at the same time.
“Why? Because it glowed in the dark.”
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Who are you?”
Sherlock looked pointedly at his watch. John noticed that it’d been a full 23 minutes since they first entered the lab. Outside the lab, a blaring alarm screamed “Security level 5 breached.”
Bollocks, thought John. We’re in for it now.
“Thank you. I think that will be all,” Sherlock said, as he and John quietly slipped out the door.
“Just a minute!” Dr. Stapleton called after them.
“Did we just break into a military base to investigate a rabbit?” John asked incredulously, as they reached the lift door.
Sherlock looked at his phone. It read “What are you doing? M” He laughed. “Mycroft’s getting slow.”
They arrived at the lift, with Colonel Lyons, their escort, at their side. Lyons swiped his card, and Sherlock did the same. The lift opened, and inside, a new face appeared.
"Ah, Doctor Frankland," Colonel Lyons said. "Just showing these gentlemen out."
The alarm overhead continued blaring. Sherlock covered his ears and cowered in the corner of the lift.
The other riders gave him a pointed look. John just shrugged, explaining, "He is a bit noise sensitive, gentlemen. But we like what we've seen here. It appears that everything is in order."
“Right. Mr. Holmes,” Doctor Frankland nodded, shaking his hand. “Mycroft, isn’t it? We met at a conference in …. Vienna, I think it was?” He raised his eyebrows. Sherlock nodded at the lie. “Good to see you again.”
“Don’t worry,” he said to Colonel Lyons. “I’ll show them out.”
The trio walked to the front of the base in silence. John felt certain that they weren’t nearly as stealthy as Sherlock would have liked to believe. Doctor Franklin turned to Sherlock and whispered, “This is about Henry Knight, isn’t it?”
John was calm, but his eyebrows raised a titch nonetheless. Neither of them answered.
“I thought so. I knew he wanted help, but I didn’t know he was going to contact Sherlock Holmes!”
Sherlock grimaced but didn’t answer.
“Oh don’t worry,” Frankland said. “I know who you really are. Love the blog, Doctor Watson,” he said with a smirk.
“Oh, cheers!” John looked positively delighted.
“The um, Pink thing..”
“And the one with the aluminum crutch.”
“You know Henry Knight?” Sherlock asked.
“Well, I knew his dad better. He had all these mad theories about this place. Still, he was a good friend.” He looked back to see the others watching him. “Listen,” he said in a hushed tone, “I can’t really talk now. Here’s, uh, my cell number. If I can help with Henry, give me a call.”
“I never did ask, Doctor Frankland, what exactly you do here.”
“Oh, Mr. Holmes, I would love to tell you. But then I’d have to kill you,” he said with a laugh.
“That would be tremendously ambitious of you,” Sherlock paused as the smile evaporated from Frankland’s face. “Tell me about Dr. Stapleton.”
“I never speak ill of a colleague.”
“Yet you’d speak well of one, which you’re clearly omitting to do.”
“I do seem to be, don’t I?”
“We’ll be in touch,” Sherlock said, waving the business card.
John and Sherlock departed, walking back toward the car they had driven.
“So?” John asked.
“So?” Sherlock looked confused.
“What was all that about the rabbit?”
Smiling, Sherlock flipped up the collar of his coat just as they reached the car.
“Oh, can we please not do this, this time?” John asked with a roll of his eyes. He still held an expression of silent admiration.
“You being all mysterious with your cheekbones and turning your coat collar up so you look cool.”
“I don’t do that.”
“Yeah you do.”
They climbed into the car, and Sherlock began driving them across the moors. John looked over at Sherlock, deep in thought. He doubted that Sherlock even recalled John asking him a question.
“So the email from Kirsty...the er, missing luminous rabbit,” John began tentatively.
“Kirsty Stapleton, whose mother specialises in genetic manipulation.”
“She made her daughter’s rabbit glow in the dark.”
“Probably a fluorescent gene removed and spliced into the specimen.”
“So....” John looked over at Sherlock, still clearly missing something.
“So we know Doctor Stapleton performs secret genetic experiments on animals. The question is, has she been working on something deadlier than a rabbit?”
“To be fair, that’s quite a large field.”
Sherlock looked round at John, startled as he realized that was true.
John Watson had never shied away from anything Sherlock Holmes suggested, regardless of how ridiculous it sounded at the time. He had been called away from important meetings in order to travel an hour or two just to send a text message. He had voluntarily consumed food and drink offered to him by Sherlock, unaware of what was truly in them, all in the name of science. He had put up with a head in the fridge, and heaven knows what else in the microwave. He still wasn’t certain what had been in the teapot that one time. He didn’t ask, and simply chose to replace the teapot instead.
But this was the man that John loved and trusted. He knew that the sign of any good partner was to put up with each other’s flaws, and though Sherlock’s were much greater than his previous partners, he loved him. He was assured that Sherlock always had a reason for whatever presumed insanity he cooked up. All of this was the reason that John Watson stood alongside Sherlock Holmes and a very frightened Henry Knight in a darkened moor on one particular evening.
It was dusk when they arrived. John shook his head in amazement at the conversation that had led to this.
“We’ll take you back to the moor,” Sherlock had said to Henry, “and see if anything attacks you.”
“What?” John had questioned.
“That should bring things to a head.”
“At night? You want me to go out there at night?” Henry had asked, quite terrified.
“That’s your plan?” John had scoffed. “Brilliant,” he scoffed.
“Got any better ideas?”
“That’s not a plan.”
“Listen, if there is a monster out there, John, there’s only one thing to do. Find out where it lives.”
So here they were, back the moors. Henry led Sherlock and John across the rocks toward Dewer’s Hollow. John noticed the sound of foxes howling in the distance. He heard a rustling to his right, and went to investigate, as Sherlock and Henry continued walking. It was nearly dark now, and as he shone his torch in the direction of the sound, an owl screeched overhead. Looking back up, he noticed the flashing of lights from Baskerville. He soon realized that this was likely Morse code and quickly translated/ “U....M....Q....R....A. Umqra? Sherlock...” He trailed off, realizing that Sherlock and Henry had gone ahead without him.
Sherlock and Henry were far ahead of John, shining their flashlights around the moor, which by this time had become very dark, and full of a heavy fog.
“Met a friend of yours,” Sherlock said.
“Oh, right. Bob, yeah.”
“Seems pretty concerned about you.”
“He’s a worrier, bless him. He’s been very kind to me since I came back.”
“He knew your father.”
“But he works at Baskerville. Didn’t your father have a problem with that?”
“Well, mates are mates, aren’t they? I mean, look at you and John.”
“What about us?”
“Well, he’s a pretty straightforward bloke. And you....” He glanced at Sherlock, and decided to not finish that sentence. “They agreed not to talk about work, Uncle Bob and my dad.”
They stopped and Henry turned to his left, nodding. “Dewer’s Hollow.” They continued on further into the moor, John following quite far behind them.
“Sherlock,” John whispered into the moor. He shone his light back and forth, attempting to get his bearings. Suddenly, he heard an eerie metallic sound. He didn’t see anything. Odd, he thought, a little concerned that the other two were far ahead of him. Soon after, a loud howling sound could be heard in the distance. John quickened his pace in an effort to catch up with the others.
Sherlock deftly scaled the rocks, in an effort to keep his balance on the slippery rocks. Henry followed down more slowly, taking deep breaths to steady himself. Sherlock reached the bottom of the slope and shone his torch around, finding large paw prints. Henry remained only halfway down, and paused as he took in his surroundings. A howl broke through the eerie silence and Henry froze. His face was filled with horror as he realized what was in front of him. A savage growl ripped through the Hollow. Sherlock flashed his torch from one end to another, his face contorting with confusion as he took in what was in front of him.
It can’t be possible, Sherlock thought, as Henry joined him.
“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Did you see it?” Henry was trembling at Sherlock’s side, his face filled with terror.
Sherlock lowered his head, still unable to understand what had happened, refusing to believe what he had seen.
John soon caught up with the pair, as they were walking back. “Did you hear that?” John asked.
Sherlock stormed past him. Henry answered, “We saw it. We saw it.”
“No. I didn’t see anything.” His voice was tense.
“What?! What are you talking about?” Henry chased after him.
“I didn’t see anything.” Sherlock repeated again, more tersely this time than the last.
“Look, he must have seen it,” Henry Knight said, once they had returned to his home. “He must have. I can’t.... why? Why?” Sherlock had not traveled back with them, having disappeared again. John was a little concerned, but shrugged it off for now.
“Why would he say that?” Henry was visibly shaken, and had some difficult in removing his gloves as he retreated onto his sofa.
“Henry, I need you to try and relax, please.”
“I’m okay, I’m okay.”
John looked around and found a bottle of water, handing it to Henry. “Listen, I’m going to give you something to help you sleep, okay?”
“This is good news, John. It’s--it’s--it’s good. I’m not crazy. There is a hound....there is. And Sherlock -- he saw it too. No matter what he said, he saw it.” A small smiled crept across his face as he swallowed the pills, relief replacing the fear that had once inhabited the space on his face.
Sherlock had a habit of going off on his own -- John had known this from the beginning, so doing so now was nothing new. Still, he had worried about his partner. The look on his face had been so bizarre, so unlike the Sherlock he knew. It had been fierce, irrational, and something that John couldn’t yet place. Something was off. Had Sherlock really seen the hound? He wasn’t sure, but he knew he needed to find his friend and figure it all out.
Luckily, it didn’t take long for John to find Sherlock. The tall man was seated in an arm chair in front of the fireplace at the local inn, hunched over with his fingertips together. Unaware of the man’s distress, other patrons enjoyed their evening meal at tables nearby.
“Well, he’s in a pretty bad way,” John began. “He’s manic, totally convinced there’s some mutant super-dog roaming the moors.”
Sherlock looked at John briefly before his contorted face returned to the fireplace.
“And there isn't, though, is there? Cause if people knew how to make a mutant super-dog, we’d know.”
Sherlock breathed heavily and deeply, his body rigid, as though he was trying to fend off a panic attack.
“They’d be for sale. I mean, that’s how it works.”
John, oblivious to his friend’s distress, reached down and grabbed a notebook. “Listen, on the moor, I saw someone signaling. Morse code, at least I think it was Morse. U,M,Q,R,A. Does that mean...anything....” his voice trailed off, suddenly realizing how distraught his friend was. He put the notebook away, realizing that the code wasn’t really important. “So, okay,” he said, attempting to distract Sherlock. “What have we got? We know there’s footprints, ‘cause Henry found them. So did the tour guide bloke. We all heard something.”
Sherlock was looking into the fireplace, but closed his eyes at this point and exhaled a shaky breath. “Henry’s right,” he said tentatively.
John blinked in disbelief. “What?”
“I saw it too.”
“I saw it, too, John.”
“Just -- just a minute. You saw what?”
Sherlock met his gaze, his face filled with self-loathing. John could tell he didn’t want to admit what he said next. “A hound, out there in the Hollow.” Sherlock gritted his teeth. “A gigantic hound.”
John had to bite his lip to hold back the laughter that threatened to escape his lips. Sherlock Holmes was not a person who was often overtaken with emotion. For him to be expressing this was quite a challenge, John knew. Even as he looked back at his partner, John could see him furiously blinking, perhaps to hold back tears.
“Um, look, Sherlock. We have to be rational about this. Now you of all people can’t just..”
Sherlock blew out another breath.
“Let’s just stick to what we know, yes? Stick to the facts?”
Sherlock looked round at him. “Once you’ve ruled out the impossible, whatever remains -- however improbable, must be true.” His voice was quiet, almost timid, laced with fear.
“What does that mean, Sherlock?” John placed a hand over Sherlock’s trembling one.
“Look at me, John. I’m afraid.”
“Always able to keep myself distant, divorce myself from feelings. But, look, you see. Body’s betraying me. Interesting, yes? Emotions. The grit on the lens, the fly in the ointment.”
John was afraid now. He needed to say something to center his friend back into reality. “Yeah, all right, Spock, just take it easy,” he said, rubbing Sherlock’s hand. “You’ve been pretty wired lately, you know you have. Maybe you’ve just gotten yourself a little worked up.”
“Worked up?” Sherlock looked at John incredulously.
“It was dark and scary,”
“Me... there’s nothing wrong with me.” He began blowing out breaths again. He withdrew his hand from John’s in an effort to tap his fingertips back together. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” he said loudly.
Sherlock trembled, blowing out several breaths before looking at John. “There’s nothing wrong with me!” He shouted, startling John.
“Do you understand?” He looked round at the other patrons, realizing he’d said this far louder than he intended. “You want me to prove it, yes?”
“How about them?” He asked, pointing over his shoulder at an older woman sitting with a younger man, clad in a garish jumper with a reindeer pattern.
“Sentimental woman and her son. He’s an unemployed fisherman. She’s got a West Highland terrier named Whisky. Not exactly what we’re looking for... look at the jumper he’s wearing, hardly worn. Clearly he’s uncomfortable in it. Maybe it’s because of the material; more likely it’s because of the hideous pattern, suggesting that it’s a present, probably Christmas. So he wants into his mother’s good books. Why? Almost certainly money.”
Sherlock glanced back over at the couple. “He’s treating her to a meal, but his own portion is small. That means he wants to impress her, but he’s trying to economise on his own food.”
“Maybe he’s just not hungry.”
Sherlock’s speech went almost frantic, firing off his deductions extremely quickly. “No. Small plate, started. He’s nearly licked it clean. She’s nearly finished her pavlova. If she’d treated him, he’d have as much as he wanted. He’s hungry, all right. You can tell by the state of his cuffs and shoes.”
“How do you know it’s his mother?”
“Who else would give him a Christmas present like that? Well, it could be an aunt or an elder sister, but mother’s more likely. Now, he was a fisherman. Scarring pattern on his hands, very distinctive – fish hooks. They’re all quite old now, which suggests he’s been unemployed for some time. Not much industry in this part of the world, so he’s turned to his widowed mother for help.”
“Yes, obviously. She’s got a man’s wedding ring on a chain round her neck – clearly her late husband’s and too big for her finger. She’s well-dressed but her jewellery’s cheap. She could afford better, but she’s kept it – it’s sentimental. Now, the dog: tiny little hairs all over the leg from where it gets a little bit too friendly, but no hairs above the knees, suggesting it’s a small dog, probably a terrier. In fact it is – a West Highland terrier called Whisky.”
“How the hell do you know that, Sherlock?” John became increasingly frustrated, not being able to even slightly follow Sherlock’s train of thought. He was frightened at this prospect, not because he didn’t know where his friend’s mind was, but because he had never seen him in such a state of utter distress.
“’Cause she was on the same train as us and I heard her calling its name and that’s not cheating, that’s listening, I use my senses, John, unlike some people, so you see, I am fine, in fact I’ve never been better, so just Leave. Me. Alone.”
John sighed and sat back in his chair. “Ok.” He was baffled. He had no idea how to help his friend. He didn’t think that words would help right now, so he just sat there in silence. Sherlock rocked back and forth, tears in his eyes. What had happened in the Hollow? John thought. Clearly, something had. It was impossible to have actually seen the Hound, wasn’t it? John wasn’t so sure anymore. The man sitting next to him was likely the most rational man in the universe -- the most rational man he knew, anyhow. If he had seen something and been frightened, then what hope did mere mortals have?
Half an hour, an hour, perhaps two hours passed. People came and went. Sherlock had calmed a bit. He was no longer crying and shaking. His long legs were drawn up on the chair, his arms clasped tightly around them. He was simply staring into the fire, unmoving.
“Sherlock?” John asked, tentatively.
“I’m sorry.” Sherlock looked much smaller than his six feet. His face was pale and drawn. The sharp angles of his cheekbones seemed even more prominent in the light of the fire than they usually were. His face was stained with tears, and there were bags under his eyes.
“If I can’t trust my senses...”
“I know.” John reached his hand out and Sherlock placed his hand in it. John squeezed his hand, caressing his fingertips.
Sherlock breathed out a huge sigh, much calmer than he was. His breath was measured, and his heart rate had gone back to normal. He didn’t run away, he thought as John grasped his hand. That was the worst meltdown I’ve had in years, and John didn’t run away. He thought back to his childhood. These episodes had begun at a really young age, primarily because of his initial inability to communicate. That problem was resolved fairly quickly, but later, they became a result of some frustration that he wasn’t quite able to articulate. Tonight, he had been scared. He hadn’t been scared in a long, long time. And John had sat here by his side, through it all. He hadn’t run away. He hadn’t yelled at him for being afraid, or not being able to tell him everything that scared him. He had sat there and listened, a little annoyed at him showing off yet again, but that wasn’t all that unusual. What mattered was that John had stayed. Was this what it was like to be in a relationship? To be with someone who loved and supported you through the good and the bad? To Sherlock Holmes, this was something new, something to explore. All he knew right now is that he was grateful to have a certain short ex-army doctor at his side, holding his hand through it all.
Sherlock blinked, trying to assess his surroundings. Blue and red striped bedsheets. Warm accents. This was not Baker Street, he knew. It took a moment before he remembered where he was. Ah, the inn, he thought, remembering. He shivered, recalling the events of the past 24 hours. The Hound...John...the meltdown at the fireplace. John hadn’t left. John had stayed. John had held his hand, sitting silently until he was physically capable of calming down. He felt...odd. A flood of emotions, ranging from fear to love, from shame to gratitude, from guilt to elation welled up inside of him. John hadn’t run away. Now, as he lay still in the strange bed, he looked at the sleeping man next to him, whose hand was lightly pressed into his own.
Sherlock took the time to gaze at his partner’s face. Partner, he thought. There’s got to be a better word than that. John’s face was relaxed in sleep. Sherlock took a finger and traced the lines around his eyes and lips. How fascinating a supposed ordinary face could be. But John’s face was extraordinary to him. Is this what people feel when they’re in love? Sherlock wasn’t sure. There was something special about this man who had come into his life. He was a true dichotomy -- such an “everyman” on the outside, strong and brave soldier on the inside.
I will burn the heart out of you. Sherlock shuddered at the memory of Jim Moriarty’s words. Even a criminal had been able to see what at the time, Sherlock had not yet grasped. His heart. His heart was John.
Now, John stirred next to him. “Morning,” he said, his eyes fluttering open with a smile.
“Morning, John.” Sherlock said, squeezing his hand.
Sherlock flushed with embarrassment. “Yes. Quite right today, thanks.”
“I know I probably should just let it go, but I’m still curious...”
“What happened? I think that’s better settled over breakfast, don’t you think?”
John sat up, his face contorted oddly. “You, Sherlock Holmes, are volunteering to eat?”
“Don’t act so surprised. I do eat sometimes. How do you think I survived before you waltzed into my life, doctor?” Sherlock’s voice emphasized the final word.
“I suspect primarily on takeout. Okay, okay.” John smacked Sherlock’s side playfully with the pillow that had been resting under his head. “Let’s go eat, shall we? Then you can tell me the wonders of your magnificent brain.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes, but acquiesced.
Thirty minutes later, they were dressed and had made their way downstairs to eat breakfast. Sherlock’s eyes flicked over to the fireplace he had sat in front of just the night before, waves of guilt hitting him every time he did.
“Hmm?” He asked, distractedly.
“Tell me what’s going on in that funny head of yours.”
Sherlock looked at John as though his heart were going to break. Pain was evident in his eyes. “How can I --” he breathed out a shaky breath. “You didn’t leave. Why didn’t you leave?”
“Sherlock.” John was dumbfounded. “Should I have?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know.” His voice was quiet. “Everyone else does.”
“Do I look like everyone else?”
Sherlock chuckled lightly. “No, of course not. You’re not everyone else. Not many people would kill for me, especially not on the first day we met.”
John nodded, smiling at the memory. “That was rather mad, wasn’t it?”
Sherlock nodded. He picked up his coffee and sipped, trying to buy time until the real questions began.
“Sherlock. Talk to me.”
“I was scared.”
“It was more than that, Sherlock, and you know it. Henry Knight was terrified. Shaking, barely able to breathe without hyperventilating.”
“Not everyone responds the same, John. You should know that. You’re a doctor.”
“You’re right. Sorry, I just.... I was afraid for you.”
Sherlock’s head snapped up and he stared at John. “You were afraid for me?”
“God, yes, Sherlock. I’ve never seen you react like that. I thought you were having a mental breakdown. You are by far the most rational human being I have ever met, and you were terrified. You were shaking and scared.”
“But Sherlock -- you stood in front of Moriarty without fear, and we were essentially targets. You were going to swallow a pill, not knowing whether you would live or die. You and I have faced any number of enemies before. So why now? Why did you get scared this time, scared enough to dissolve into a trembling mess in front of that fireplace?” John furrowed his brows, confused and contemplating.
“Because...” Sherlock hesitated. “Because I lost the ability to trust my own mind, to trust my own senses.”
“Oh.” That clearly wasn’t the answer that John had been expecting. “That makes sense. Okay.”
A few moments passed as they drank their coffee in silence. Sherlock watched the people passing by intently. His eyes flicked to the fire ever so often. Oh, John, he thought. Will you figure it out? Will you leave?
“I’m not going anywhere.” John’s voice broke through Sherlock’s thoughts, as though he was capable of reading them.
“I said, I’m not going anywhere. I don’t care why you do the mad things you do, but I’m not going anywhere.”
“Why would you stay?”
“Because I’m just as mad as you.”
Sherlock hadn’t expected that. He shook his head. “No, John. You’re not.”
John took a bite of his biscuit. “You’re not a sociopath.”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “Spend much time in psychiatry, did you?”
“No. Not much. But you’re not a sociopath. Sociopaths don’t care who they hurt. You don’t always show how you care in an appropriate way, but you do show that you care.”
“I can’t pretend I understand your mind, but I see you. You are wired, always, but you crave stimulation. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep when you’re hyper-focused -- when we’re on a case. Today being the only notable exception, and I suspect that was some sort of apology, a way to make up for yesterday’s events. You are always moving. Pacing, playing the violin, even flopping yourself onto the couch seems to help you think. You see things that most people aren’t even capable of seeing. You notice things. That’s why you’re so good at what you do. Also, the information you store in that brain of yours is extensive. You know so much about certain subjects that it’s astonishing. I suspect that you were rather obsessive about certain subjects when you were much younger. But for all your talents, you need things done in a specific way -- proven by the fact that much of the time, you need complete silence on crime scenes, oh, and the way that you reacted when Lestrade unexpectedly entered the flat to search for drugs. And last night, that was no simple expression of fear. It wasn’t even close to a panic attack. I believe that would be more indicative of what we call a ‘meltdown’ in the medical community.” John sighed. “Is that enough?”
“Well, you’ve set forth your evidence. What is your deduction, John?”
“You’re not a high functioning sociopath, Sherlock,” John said, taking Sherlock’s hand and squeezing it gently. His voice softened. “You’re a high functioning autistic.”
Sherlock looked astonished, casting his eyes down. “Did you talk to Mycroft? Did he tell you that?”
“Myc-- no, Sherlock. Look at me, please.” John’s eyes were pleading.
Sherlock looked up, his eyes watery, tears threatening. His sharp features softened into something much younger than his thirty five years. The change in his features was astonishing, and John was taken aback for just a moment. “John, I --” his voice cut off.
“I just don’t understand why, Sherlock. Why would you prefer for people to think that you’re a sociopath?”
“Better fear than pity?” Sherlock shrugged, looking away. “People pitied me once they found out. I never got a chance to prove myself.”
John nodded. “I understand.” He intertwined his fingers with Sherlock’s. He placed his other hand around the back of Sherlock’s head, curling his fingers into the back of his curly mop. He drew Sherlock’s head closer. His breath hitched. John placed a chaste kiss on the bridge of Sherlock’s nose. “It doesn’t matter to me,” he whispered. “This doesn’t change anything.”
A single tear trailed down Sherlock’s face. John reached his thumb up to wipe it away. Sherlock swallowed the lump in his throat, wrapping his arm around John’s shoulders. He drew the shorter man closer to him and placed several light kisses on his face. Eyebrow. Kiss. Cheek. Kiss. Chin. Kiss. Each one a gentle sweep of lips against warm skin. Each one a single prayer of thanks.
It had been quite the morning for Sherlock and John. Unfortunately, or perhaps in this case, fortunately, they had far more to dwell on than the meaning of the word love. They had a case to solve, and this case was all to do with Henry Knight.
“John,” Sherlock said. The pair was seated outside the pub, sipping at their coffee. “I have to figure out what happened last night.”
“You said. You said, Sherlock Holmes got scared.”
“Well, yes. But it was more than that. I felt doubt. I doubted my senses.”
“You can’t believe that you saw some sort of monster.”
“You’re right. I can’t believe that. So how? How?”
“You’ve got something to go on, then?”
“Maybe.” Sherlock brought his notebook onto the table and shows John where he has written “H.O.U.N.D.S.”
“You think it’s an acronym.”
“Absolutely no idea. Perhaps.”
“So, what’s the plan?”
“I have a theory. We have to go back to Baskerville to test it, though.”
“Can’t pull the ID trick again.”
“Might not have to.” Sherlock whipped out his cellphone, quickly sending a text to his brother.
Mycroft Holmes somehow managed to negotiate for Sherlock and John to be allowed access to Baskerville for a full 24 hours. Major Barrymore was not happy about this decision, of course. He spent most of his interaction with Sherlock sneering and making snide comments about “conspiracy theorists”. However, Major Barrymore wasn’t the person that Sherlock wanted to see. He wanted to see Doctor Stapleton again and assess what’s really going on.
Sherlock and John entered the lift, traveling casually to the place where they first met Doctor Stapleton. John was the first to exit, and somehow didn’t realize that he had exited alone, without Sherlock. Gratefully, he possessed a security key card, which he soon slid at the entrance. He failed to notice a sign reading “KEEP OUT UNLESS YOU WANT A COLD.”
The lights were bright, and overwhelming. Overhead, an alarm rang out, blaring in John’s ears. He felt completely overwhelmed by the noise and the lights. He shielded his eyes and attempted to cover his ears while he tried to find the place to slide his card again. Finally, the noise ceased, and the only lights were the emergency lights. John continued to shield his eyes, still adjusting to the removal of light from his field of vision.
“What the….” John pulled out a flashlight, shining it around. “Hello?”
He screwed his eyes shut for a moment in a failed attempt to clear the after-images. As he opened his eyes again and peered through the bright dots, a shadow seemed to flicker across the room some distance away. John blinked and looked around the room, the after-images still frustrating his ability to see anything clearly. He lowered his head into his hand and rubbed his eyes for a few seconds, then raised his head again, realising how ominously quiet the lab had become. But that didn’t last long as something rattled to his right. He walked forward cautiously, looking a little anxiously at the row of large cages which he realised were all covered with sheeting that obscured their contents. The rattle sounded again. John walked slowly to the first of the cages, turning once to check behind him, then grabbed hold of the sheeting and pulled it back to show that the first cage was empty. Pulling the sheet back down again, he walked to the next cage as something clinked near the lift doors. He swung around to look and shined his torch in that direction but could see nothing. He turned again and grabbed the sheet over the second cage, tossing that back. Again the cage was empty, and the door was open. He moved on to the third cage and threw back the sheet. The monkey inside hurled itself at him, screaming as it grabbed at the bars. John dropped the sheet and stumbled back several paces, breathing heavily. He walked to the final cage and looked at it, then slowly his gaze was pulled down to the bottom of the bars where the sheeting had been pushed back a little. The door of the cage was slightly ajar and the bottom of it had been bent back by something that must have been incredibly strong. As John stared at the bent bars in disbelief, a low savage growl sounded behind him. John spun around, his eyes going wide as he shone his flashlight around but he can see nothing. He saw the nearby door to the Cold Lab and walked briskly over to it, taking out his ID card and swiping it. The reader whined its ACCESS DENIED alert.
“No. Come on. Come on.”
He swiped the card again, and again the reader screeches “ACCESS DENIED.”
“All right then,” He resigned himself to attempting to shine his flashlight in as many directions as possible all at once. He silently crept across the floor, not able to see much at all. All of a sudden, a low growl grabbed his attention. It is to his right. John shined his flashlight toward one of the empty cages and bolted toward it. He clasped his hand over his mouth, trembling with fear.
Sounds coupled with lack of vision overwhelmed him. Clawing, growling, howling – all could be heard from within his hiding place. Suddenly, his mobile phone rang. Sherlock spoke from the other end of the phone.
“It’s – it’s in here with me. Get me out of here. You have to get me out of here, Sherlock. It’s the big lab; the first one that we saw.” John breathed heavily, the creature growling outside. John avoided screaming in terror by clasping his hand over his mouth once again. “Get me out of here now, Sherlock. You have to find me.”
Sherlock’s voice was low on the other end of the phone, agreeing to look for John. His goal was to keep John talking long enough to be able to find out exactly where he was.
“I can’t keep talking, Sherlock. It’ll hear me.”
“What can you see?”
“N-nothing. Did you hear that?” The creature had just growled quite loudly.
“Stay calm, John. Stay calm. Can you see it?”
“N-no. I can’t…” his voice broke off as he noticed a shadow creeping against the sheet he had been hiding behind. “Sh…it’s here. It’s here with me.” His hands were shaking, voice trembling with terror.
The shadow appeared to move closer and all of a sudden, the sheet was being pulled back. Sherlock appeared in John’s line of vision. Sherlock helped John to his feet, and John collapsed into Sherlock’s arms.
“Are you okay?”
“Sh – Sherlock, it was the hound. It was here…. Did you see it?”
John, still trembling in Sherlock’s arms, looked around at the very empty lab, realizing that there is no way that a hound could be hiding here.
“It’s okay now.”
“No it’s not okay! I saw it! I was wrong!”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions.”
“What did you see?”
“I told you; I saw the hound.”
“Huge red eyes.”
“I made up the bit about glowing. You saw what you expected to see because I told you. You have been drugged. We have all been drugged.”
“Can you walk?”
“Of course I can walk.”
Sherlock nodded curtly, and the pair walked to the lab where Dr. Stapleton was engrossed in viewing something under the microscope. John remained shaky, very pale indeed. Sherlock was insistent on supporting him by leading him by the elbow. John wanted to roll his eyes at this, but in the state he was in, was quite unsure about walking by himself, despite his reassurances to Sherlock. Somehow, Sherlock managed to convince Dr. Stapleton to use her microscope, and Sherlock placed a crystalline substance on a slide. Dr. Stapleton insisted on allowing John to sit down, noticing his peaked state.
“It’s not in the sugar.”
“What’s not in the sugar, Sherlock?”
“There are no drugs in the sguar.”
“Why would there be drugs in the sugar?”
Sherlock didn’t answer.
“Sherlock. Where did you get the sugar?”
Sherlock looked down as he answered. “Henry Knight. The sugar came from Henry Knight’s kitchen.”
John sat back in his chair, pondering. “Of course. The coffee.” He should have suspected, really. Sherlock had to find a way to prove that he wasn’t crazy, that something had happened to alter their state of reality. His eyes flicked over to Sherlock, who was completely lost in thought, sitting cross-legged in the chair, fingertips tapping together yet again. Dr. Stapleton gives John a pointed look and he shrugs. “We may as well go grab a cup of coffee or something. This might take awhile,” he said, glancing at Sherlock briefly.
“What’s he doing?” Dr. Stapleton asked.
“Going to his ‘mind palace.’”
“It’s sort of an internal map of memories. Theoretically, once they’re stored, he just has to remember how to get back to them.” John shrugged, used to Sherlock’s mad habits and routines by now, still a little miffed that the detective hadn’t been forthcoming about his plan to drug John’s coffee.
An hour later, they returned to the lab, finding Sherlock having hacked into the main computer. John rolled his eyes at his partner, not surprised in the least. Sherlock Holmes was never really concerned about “personal boundaries.”
“HOUND. Project HOUND. Liberty, Indiana. Look.” He moved a photograph from the screen and a short list of names replaced it. In sequence, their names spelled out the word HOUND.
Sherlock quickly switched to another piece of information, which listed off a litany of symptoms: paranoia, front lobe damage, blood-brain, gross cranial trauma, dangerous acceleration, multiple homicide.
“Jesus,” John whispered.
“Project HOUND: a new deleriant drug which rendered its users incredibly suggestible. They wanted to use it as an anti-personnel weapon to totally disorientate the enemy using fear and stimulus; but they shut it down and hid it away in nineteen eighty-six.”
“ Because of what it did to the subjects they tested it on.” Dr. Stapleton nodded.
“And what they did to others. Prolonged exposure drove them insane – made them almost uncontrollably aggressive.”
“So someone’s been doing it again – carrying on the experiments?”
“Attempting to refine it, perhaps, for the last twenty years.”
“Who?” John continued to stare at the screen in disbelief.
“Those names mean anything to you?”
“Sorry, not a thing.”
Sherlock pulled up the photo attached once more. “Maybe our friend is at the back of the photo, someone who was old enough to be there back in 1986. Ah,” he said as he recognized a familiar face. “Maybe someone who uses the term ‘cell phone’ because he spent some time in America? You remember, John?”
“He gave us his cell number in case we needed it. Good old Dr. Frankland.”
Dr. Stapleton covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh my God. Bob Frankland. But Bob doesn’t even work on ... I mean, he’s a virologist. This was chemical warfare.”
“It’s where he started, though ... and he’s never lost the certainty, the obsession that that drug really could work. Nice of him to give us his number. Let’s arrange a little meeting.”
Just then, the ringing of John’s phone pierced the near-silent room. “Hello?” he answered. His features grew sharp, as he looks round to Sherlock. “Louise, what’s wrong? What? Where are you? Right. Stay there, stay there. We’ll get someone to you.” He ended the call and Sherlock’s eyes were questioning. “Louise Mortimer. Henry attacked her; he has a gun.”
“There’s only one place he would go. Back to where it all started. I’m calling Lestrade.” He dialed a number quickly, placing the phone to his ear. “Lestrade. Get to the Hollow. Dewer’s Hollow. And bring a gun.”
This chapter comes with a warning for dubcon, as well as brief drug use references. Proceed with caution.
“Hmm?” He looked over at John from his place on the couch.
“We need to talk about this putting drugs in my coffee thing.”
“Yes, Sherlock!” John raised his voice, exasperated. “You can’t just drug me whenever you like!”
“But it was for a case!”
“I know that, Sherlock. That’s not an excuse, though. I understand why you did it. You wanted me to feel what you did. But you can’t just do that. You know I’m perfectly willing to be one of your experiments -- if you tell me that’s what you’re going to do.”
“Oh. So you just want to know ahead of time?”
“But that wouldn’t have worked this time. You wouldn’t have seen the dog.”
“Maybe, maybe not. You don’t know that. You didn’t have to tell me what you were putting in my drink or what purpose it served. But I would have liked to have been able to choose to be a part of your experiment.”
“Ok.” Sherlock nodded slowly. A shy grin crept across his face. “We solved the case, though.”
John chuckled and let out a sigh. “Yes, Sherlock, we solved the case. Mostly you, though.”
“You, um, weren’t so bad yourself, soldier,” Sherlock winked at John, who turned a bright shade of red.
The previous night had been filled with terror and much drama. Sherlock had, of course, been the one to discover that the drugs were not in Henry Knight’s sugar, but in the fog in the moor. Frankland was dead, blown up by a mine as he attempted to flee Sherlock, John, and Lestrade (two of whom had guns pointed at him), and hopefully, Henry Knight’s nightmares would soon be over.
“This is going to make you rather famous, you know.”
“John, I think your blog has already accomplished that.”
“No, my blog is why Mrs. Hudson hasn’t kicked us out for inability to pay the rent. It’s your living. Your fame, however, is all your own. But a case like this? Well, I don’t think you can hide in relative anonymity anymore.”
“No. Certainly not.”
John stood up from where he was perched at the table (well, it was really less of a table and more of a chemistry lab) and walked to the kitchen to make some tea. Upon opening the refrigerator door, he realized they were out of milk and sighed. “Out of milk,” he said to Sherlock. “Guess I better run out and get some.”
“Mmm,” Sherlock just grunted, lazily stretched out on the couch, still clad in pajamas, dressing gown and slippers.
The air outside was cool, even for November. John pulled his coat tighter around him. The short walk to Tesco was calm and peaceful, so unlike the past few days. John laughed as he recounted the events of the past week. With what other partner could he experience such a range of emotions? With what other partner would he accept being drugged as part of his everyday life, and accept that sometimes he would just have to stand by idly as his partner went into a full autistic meltdown? Being Sherlock Holmes’ partner was anything but average. He smiled to himself, realizing that despite the madness, he was quite content.
John was quite chipper and barely noticed the black car until it stopped right in front of him. He rolled his eyes. What did Mycroft want this time?
“Hello, John,” he said, as John entered the car.
“You know, you could just phone me.”
“What do you want?”
“Hmmm.” He handed John a folder, a photo visible on the first page. “Recognize him?”
“Never seen his face before?”
“He’s taken a flat in Baker Street, two doors away from you. Sulejmani. Albanian hit squad. Expertly-trained killer living less than twenty feet from your front door.”
“It’s a great location. Jubilee line’s handy.”
“What’s this to do with me?”
John’s eyes flash with reocognition at the woman’s face. “I think I have seen her.”
“Russian killer. She’s taken the flat opposite.”
“Okay ... I’m sensing a pattern here.”
“In fact, four top international assassins relocate to within spitting distance of two hundred and twenty-one B. Anything you care to share with me?”
“I’m moving?” John’s face appeared amused, but there was an undercurrent of fear present as well.
“It’s not hard to guess the common denominator, is it?”
“You think this is Moriarty?”
“He promised Sherlock he’d come back.”
“If this was Moriarty, we’d be dead already.”
“If not Moriarty, then who?”
“Why don’t you talk to Sherlock if you’re so concerned about him?”
“Oh God, don’t tell me,” John said with a sigh, rolling his eyes.
“Too much history between us, John. Old scores; resentments.”
“Nicked all his Smurfs? Broke his Action Man?”
“We both know what’s coming, John.”
“Moriarty is obsessed. He’s sworn to destroy his only rival.”
“So you want me to watch out for your brother because he won’t accept your help.”
“If it’s not too much trouble.”
John sighed, angrily slamming the door as he exited the car. He was back at 221B within minutes and flung himself onto the now-empty couch.
“Didn’t get the milk?” Sherlock asked. He was standing at the window, playing a somber tune on the violin.
“Mycroft.” John groaned, flopping into his chair.
“Ah.” He put down the violin and bow on a nearby table, and sunk down cross-legged in front of John, resting his mop of curly hair against John’s knees. “What did my dear brother have to say?”
“Oh, we’ve apparently got killers next door. Four of them in the building,” he said, combing his fingers through Sherlock’s hair.
“Oh, that? Yes, I’ve noticed. I’m not sure what they want.”
“You knew?” John’s fingers stilled. “And you didn’t tell me? Sherlock.”
“I had a feeling that Moriarty would find a way to keep an eye on me.”
“Oh.” John gulped. “What do you think? It’d be easy for them to…”
“Oh, they’re not going to kill me, John. Or you,” he added quickly. “It’s too simple, John.”
John sighed, his hand coming up to rub his eyes. “You think he wants something more, then.”
“Oh yes. It’s all a game to him.” Sherlock took his hand and reached it back until John placed his hand in it. “I know you’re worried.”
John squeezed Sherlock’s hand. “How can I not be?” His voice was quiet, almost in a whisper, and there was a strained quality to it.
Sherlock swallowed hard. “I will figure him out. I will figure it all out, before… before he can hurt you.” He turned around to face John. He took his hand and placed it gently on the back of John’s head, lightly running his fingers through his sandy hair. Sherlock’s eyes were blazing, unreadable. “He can’t – he can’t take you away from me.”
“What about you?” John asked quietly, leaning down to press his forehead to Sherlock’s. “Don’t you dare put yourself in more danger than you already do. Not without me by your side.”
“I won’t. Not without you, no.” Sherlock let go of John. The emotions of the past few minutes had been far too intense, and he made to retreat to his room.
“Sherlock?” John called after him. “Where are you going?”
“I need – I need a moment.”
“Ok. I’ll be here.”
John made the tea, figuring that they could go without the milk this time. By the time the kettle had boiled, Sherlock had emerged from his bedroom and sat down at the table.
“You okay?” John asked as he set down the cups of tea and sank into his own chair.
“You don’t sound particularly convincing on that.”
“Emotions, sentiment – tricky.”
John nodded. He knew that all too well. He looked at his flatmate, who was staring into his teacup. “Yes, emotions can definitely be tricky.”
“My brother said something to me once. ‘All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage.’”
“No, I know. He isn’t wrong, exactly. I just …. John, you are the first person I have trusted to this extent.”
“I figured as much.”
“I want to… I want to talk about Sebastian.”
“Sebastian?” John’s eyes flickered with understanding. “Oh.”
“Would you be amenable to that?”
“Oh, yes. Okay. Only if you want to, though, Sherlock.”
“Yes. I need to tell you about him, so you are able to fully comprehend why emotions are so complicated for me.”
Sherlock sighed, then gulped his tea. John noticed that his hands were a bit shaky as he set his teacup back down.
“It was my first year at uni. I was such a different person then, John. I was so very young, naïve, and really not much like the person I am today. What you have to understand first is that I really wasn’t very well liked at all throughout my childhood. No, more accurately, no one noticed me at all because, well, my diagnosis preceded me.”
“Eventually, that was okay. I became the science geek, the chemistry nerd. What had been unintentional as a young child became intentional as I grew older.”
“You stopped really trusting people.”
“Yes. I knew they would simply judge me based on their own preconceived ideas, so I determined that I was going to just do what I was good at and sod everything – everyone else.”
“Yes, chemistry. So I entered uni as a bit of an isolationist. Luckily, my reputation as a talented chemistry student was the only thing that preceded me. It was easy to be disregarded, treated as just a loner and a bit of a weirdo rather than a disabled person. It was around this time that people began to notice my lack of regard for others, and that’s when I picked up the label of sociopath.”
John simply nodded. He was beginning to understand why Sherlock had been so reticent to label himself as autistic, and chose to be called a sociopath instead.
“Oh, it wasn’t ever official, of course. People were wary of me, though. Then, Sebastian Moran came along. We started off as writing partners in some inane literature class. Of course, I didn’t really want a writing partner, but one was chosen for me, nonetheless.”
John nodded, recalling his time at Bart’s and how he had often run into similar situations.
“It was an easy friendship. We had things in common – chemistry, similar upbringings. He didn’t understand my fascination with I guess what could be termed ‘mysteries’, but that was okay.” A somber expression came across Sherlock’s face. He hesitated and drained his teacup. It rattled in his hand as his hand shook.
John reached out his hand to clasp Sherlock’s. “Sherlock. If this is too much…”
“No,” he said firmly. “I need you to know this.” He didn’t look at John, simply stared at the table where their hands joined. His fingers were trembling marginally less now that Johns warm skin touched his own.
Sherlock took a deep breath. “It all changed very quickly. I don’t even think I really knew it had changed until he kissed me. I was just 19 years old, and it was completely overwhelming. I don’t recall being asked…about anything. Everything was just assumed, and I just complied because I thought that’s what was expected.”
John’s face fell.
Sherlock shook his head. “I didn’t say no, not at first. I didn’t dislike the small things, like holding hands, back rubs, and even a bit of kissing. Those things were okay. The physical sensations were enjoyable. Sebastian wanted more. He quoted poetry, expressed his love for me. I didn’t feel the same, but I didn’t know how to tell him that. We had sex. I did it for him. I never climaxed. He didn’t really question that. I think as long as he got off, well….”
John squeezed his hand. “Bastard.”
Sherlock smiled sadly. “Afterward, I would cry in the bathroom. I was never physically prepared for that, and emotionally even less. His touch, the sensations, oh God, they were so physically and emotionally overwhelming. It felt like the world was spinning, like everywhere he touched was on fire. My insides felt like they were being torn apart, bit by bit. I was so worn out, so scared of the things that I was feeling, and so sick every time that all I could do was cry.” Sherlock’s eyes clouded at the memory. He looked as though he wanted to cry now. John reached over and clasped his shoulder, rubbing gentle circles into his back. The tension that existed there began to slowly dissipate and he expelled several shaky breaths before he continued.. “Finally, he found me crying in the shower. I was shaking and trying not to vomit after one particular intense…experience. He looked at me with such disgust and asked me what the hell was wrong with me. I told him that I had never felt any attraction to him and the sex was just too much. He laughed in my face.”
“He told everyone. Called me a frigid bitch. Inaccurate terminology, I know. He was popular, John. I wasn’t. Any popularity I had gained was lost then.”
“Sherlock, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I just – I needed you to know why I haven’t attempted a relationship in 16 years. And why it’s very complicated for me.”
“Have you – have you ever talked to someone about this?”
“Like who? Mycroft?” Sherlock scoffed as he nearly spit out the name.
“No, no. I mean, a professional.”
Sherlock snorted derisively. “No. Not really my style.”
“What? No. No, I’m not. I just can’t fathom how the strong, many times arrogant individual sitting in front of me became the man he is today after that, at least not without some help.”
“Oh.” Sherlock looked down at his hands, as though he were inspecting his fingernails. “It took a long time. I tried to… dull the pain.”
“That’s how I got the job, you know.”
“Lestrade was my arresting officer.”
“Oh.” The shock of that revelation was difficult to suppress, and it showed on John’s features.
“My brother somehow managed to convince him that I could use a distraction, and he could use a consulting detective. So, seven years ago, he hired me. Unofficially, of course.” Sherlock yawned.
“A bit, yeah.”
“Would you like to go lie down?”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea, John.”
They walked to their room, the room that had previously been just Sherlock’s room, but now was really both of theirs. John had moved most of his clothes downstairs to this room a few weeks ago, as it made little sense for him to continue to live in a mostly unoccupied room upstairs.
Sherlock lay down first, deftly sliding his lanky limbs underneath the covers. John slid in next to him; arm wrapping around Sherlock’s back, tracing long lines up and down his spine. Sherlock shivered.
“Too much?” John asked.
“No. It’s magnificent. I’m just not used to the sensation. Please, continue. It’s very calming.” Calm, contented sighs left Sherlock’s mouth. He began breathing deeply, closing his eyes, and soon he was asleep.
True to John’s predictions, Sherlock Holmes could no longer live in anonymity. In addition to the Henry Knight case, which had been broadcast on every news channel, there had been a number of other high profile cases that Sherlock had been called in to solve. Lestrade had paid visits to Sherlock to enlist his help with some of the more mind-baffling cases, along with a few cold cases that no one seemed to be able to solve. Other cases had been Mycroft’s doing. Sherlock had reluctantly agreed to these, never one to want to help his brother. John had remained baffled as to why the brothers were so hesitant to interact with each other.
It wasn’t uncommon to have a reporter or two camped outside of 221B when one of them chose to leave in the morning, hoping to get a glimpse of the famous Sherlock Holmes. The attention made both men quite uncomfortable, having never truly been in the spotlight before.
One morning in early December, the pair was huddled around the table, drinking their tea. Sherlock pulled out the morning paper, and John groaned to see the photo of the pair of them with Sherlock wearing the deer stalker.
“‘Boffin Sherlock Holmes,’” Sherlock groaned, reading the accompanying article.
“Media nickname,” John replied. “Everyone gets one. Told you it would take long before you were famous. Let me see that,” he said, reaching for the paper. “Oh, look, Sherlock, I’m ‘bachelor John Watson.’ No wait, ‘confirmed bachelor John Watson.’ What the hell are they implying?” His voice was bemused, not angry as he considered this.
Sherlock chose to ignore him, stifling a laugh. “I don’t even like the hat.” He picked up the deerstalker from the mantle, flipping it back and forth. “What even is it? Deerstalker, so inaccurate. You stalk a deer with a hat? What are you going to do, throw it? Some sort of death Frisbee? It’s got flaps. It’s an ear hat John.”
“We have to be more careful,” John said.
“What do you mean, more careful?”
“I mean, this isn’t a deerstalker now; it’s a Sherlock Holmes hat. I mean that you’re not exactly a private detective anymore.”
“Oh, it’ll pass.”
“It better pass. Because the press will turn. The press always turns, Sherlock. And they’ll turn on you.”
“It really bothers you.” Sherlock gazed at John, confused.
“What people say.”
“About me -- I don’t understand. Why should it upset you?”
“Why should...” John trailed off. “Just find a little case this week, hmm?”
“Yeah, all right.” Sherlock got up, picked up his violin and began playing a tune John had never heard before. The atmosphere in the flat calmed as Sherlock played, his long, deft fingers moving the bow back and forth over the strings. John loved it when Sherlock played the violin. He had never had a talent for anything musical, and very much enjoyed his partner’s renditions of all his most loved compositions.
“You’ve stopped correcting people,” Sherlock mused as he finished the piece.
“What?” John had been just on the edge of sleep when Sherlock broke through the silence.
“People that assume we’re a couple. You’ve stopped correcting them.”
“Well, we are a couple, Sherlock.”
“I know that. Just not in the traditional sense.”
“Sex isn’t all there is, and you know that.”
“Of course. But people are going to make assumptions, John.”
“Let them make their assumptions.” John smiled. “It really doesn’t matter to me what they think.”
“Oh.” Sherlock beamed. “All right, then.”
“Have I rendered you incapable of coherent thought, Sherlock Holmes?” John grinned.
“No, I -- that was just unexpected.”
“I don’t know. It isn’t like we’ve gone out of our way to...”
“To what? Tell people we’re a couple? Don’t you think that’s a bit pointless? People have assumed that since day one, Sherlock. There’s really no need to come out and say it.”
“Besides, our body language betrays any secrets we might have held.”
“Oh, all right.” Sherlock got up and walked to the refrigerator, opening it up. It had been gratefully devoid of all human experiments for quite awhile now. He stared at its sparse contents. “I’m going to take a walk to the shops.”
“You’re -- oh, all right,” John acquiesced, realizing that this was likely an excuse to think in private.
Sherlock pulled on his coat, wrapping his scarf around his pale neck as he exited the flat.
The walk to the shops was quiet. Sherlock was surprised to find no reporters or photographers on his doorstep this overcast Sunday morning. This was good. He needed to clear his head, to think. This often happened, when he was feeling overexcited or overwhelmed with emotion. He breathed in long, deep breaths. Why were his brother’s words echoing in his head now? Caring is not an advantage.... All hearts are broken. But even now, he felt lost. He no longer felt that it was natural to be alone. He turned to his right, half-expecting John to be there, and disappointed when he wasn’t.
He counted off the short list in his head and made his way to the shop to make the required purchases. Milk, bread, eggs, sugar. He was out of his element here -- he usually sent John to do the shopping. It had always seemed so very domestic and boring. But today, he needed to calm down, and as mundane as this was, it calmed his mind and his heart. At the same time, it terrified him. The last thing he wanted to be was mundane, ordinary.
The door to 221B was open when he returned. “John?” He called. He must have left the door ajar when he left, not realizing he had done so.
“I’m here.” John’s voice called from the chair in which he usually sat. He was relaxed with his laptop open. A gentle clicking could be heard every so often.
“Anything interesting?” Sherlock asked, nodding toward the laptop.
“No. Nothing in particular.”
Sherlock clicked on the TV, figuring they would watch the midday news. The images that flashed on screen made him take a seat. Apparently, at precisely 11am, three very secure buildings’ security systems had been breached. The Bank of England. The Tower of London. Pentonville Prison. John brought his hand up to his mouth to stifle a gasp.
“Moriarty,” Sherlock spoke before the image of the man being led away in handcuffs even appeared on the screen. “He’s back.”
“How, Sherlock? How is that possible?” John asked, staring at the screen. “One man cannot be in three separate places at once.”
“No, you’re right. He had to have help, or....” Sherlock’s voice trailed off, the neurons in his brain firing quickly back and forth as he put the pieces together.
“Or what?” John knew not to press him too much, but clearly, he was right on the edge of an answer.
“He had someone, paid people off to unlock those doors. That is definitely a possibility. But I don’t think that’s right. He didn’t take anything, and not a single criminal is currently walking free on the streets of London. So he just wanted to prove that he could.”
Just then, heavy footsteps could be heard on the steps. Sherlock smiled as Detective Inspector Lestrade entered the room. “We need your help.”
“Yes,” Lestrade said, looking quizzically at the pair.
“It’s a key code of some sort. He wanted to prove how clever he could be. “
“Will I ever be one step ahead of you, Sherlock?” Lestrade asked, shaking his head.
Sherlock and John just grinned. “Afraid not, Lestrade.” Sherlock answered with a grin. John chuckled.
Later, the two flatmates snuggled up to each other on the couch. Sherlock breathed what could only be termed a sigh of relief. John looked at him inquiringly.
“He’s behind bars.”
“Yes, I gathered that much from the news reports, Sherlock.”
“It means for now, we’re safe. You’re safe.”
“For now? He broke into three of the most secure buildings in England. I don’t think that he’ll be a danger for a long, long while.”
“Ah, you underestimate him, John. He has a plan. I know he does. He’ll be out of that jail cell before you know it. I’m not exactly sure how, but he will be. He’ll pose a danger to us both yet again, very soon.”
“But for now, I’m going to enjoy our relative freedom, if you don’t mind.” Sherlock took his arm and curled it around his flatmate’s waist, bringing John closer to him. He curved his head downward, his face resting in John’s hair, simply breathing him in. John smelled of tea and cinnamon. He gently pressed a soft kiss to John’s forehead.
“You look sad.” Molly’s voice had been quiet and timid, as it so often was. Sherlock had looked up from the microscope he was using, a bit of shock on his sharp features. “You look sad when you think he can’t see you.”
Of course he was sad. He knew how this all would have to end. He was one of the most intelligent people -- the world’s only consulting detective. Of course he had been able to deduce Moriarty’s final plan.
Ah, Moriarty. The man -- no, the spider of a man had been so very clever. He had deftly manipulated the jury so that without any evidence presented, he had been found not guilty, to roam the streets of London again.
Upon his release, his first order of business had been to visit Sherlock at 221B. Sherlock could have been frightened -- should have been, actually. When he explained the meeting to John later that evening, he had just one thing to say. “If he wanted to kill me, he could have done so at any moment. That’s how I knew that he wasn’t there to kill me.” So instead, Sherlock had kept him talking, using every word he said as a manner of deducing what his plan may have been. It was rather insightful, really. Sherlock knew that it wouldn’t take long, and Moriarty would soon show all of his cards.
And so, Moriarty had struck again. He had found a way to be miles away yet again while two children were kidnapped and drugged. Upon entering the interview room to speak with the girl, she had shrieked at Sherlock and screamed at the top of her lungs. Now that had been an odd reaction. Sherlock wondered what had truly prompted it.
“Well, don’t let it get to you. I always feel like screaming when you walk into a room. In fact, so do most people,” Lestrade said with a smirk.
“Brilliant work you did, finding those kids with just a footprint,” Sergeant Sally Donovan said with a raise of her eyebrow.
“Thank you.” Sherlock couldn’t recall Sally ever giving him a true compliment, and he noticed the bite to her words this time.
That word reverberated in his head now as he took the cab home alone -- John had tried to come with him, but Sherlock had insisted they ride separately. John eyes had expressed a world of hurt feelings.
The TV screen in the back of the cab flickered on. Sherlock yelled for the cabbie to turn it off, to no avail. Then he noticed the face on the screen. Moriarty.
“Hullo. Are you ready for the story?” The sing-songy voice began. Sherlock’s eyes were glued to the screen. “This is the story of Sir Boast-a-lot. Sir Boast-a-lot was the bravest and cleverest knight at the Round Table, but soon the other knights began to grow tired of his stories about how brave he was and how many dragons he’d slain. And soon they began to wonder, are Sir Boast-a-lot’s stories even true? So one of the knights went to King Arthur and said . ‘I don’t believe Sir Boast-a-lot’s stories. He’s just a big old liar who makes things up to make himself look good.’ And then even the King began to wonder.....But that’s not the end of his problems, no. That’s not the final problem. The end.”
“Stop the cab! Stop the cab!” Sherlock yelled, as the cab comes to a stop. He walked up to the driver’s side window, the driver turning to look at him. He was wearing a cloth cap, very similar to the one that had been worn by Jefferson Hope. But the face before him was unmistakably James Moriarty. The cab sped away as Jim stated, “No charge.”
Sherlock barely noticed that he was standing in the middle of the street. A voice rang out “Watch out!!” and Sherlock found himself shoved to the ground. He stood up, went to shake the man’s hand as a sign of thanks. A gunshot rang out, and the man fell to the ground. Sherlock was stunned.
“Are you okay?” Sherlock turned and John stood before him.
“What -- yeah.”
“That’s him -- Sulejmani or something. Mycroft showed me the name.”
“He couldn’t touch me.”
“He died because I shook his hand.”
John followed him inside. Sherlock removed his coat and his scarf and began pacing. “Four assassins living right on our doorstep. They didn't come here to kill me; they have to keep me alive. I’ve got something they all want, but if one of them approaches me...”
“The others kill them before they can get it.”
“Hmmm.” He’s taken out John’s laptop and looked at the list of local Wi-Fi networks. He looked at the names and their signal strength. “All of the attention is focused on me. There’s a surveillance web closing in on us now.”
“So what have you got that is so important?”
“We need to ask about the dusting. Mrs. Hudson?” His last words were yelled.
The short, elderly woman came upstairs, still in her dressing gown.
“Precise details: In the last week, what’s been cleaned?”
“Well, Tuesday I did your linens --”
“No, here, in this room. This is where we’ll find it. Any break in the dust line.. Dust is eloquent.”
“What’s he on about?” Mrs. Hudson appeared confused, aiming her question at John.
“Cameras. We’re being watched.”
“What? Cameras? Here? I’m in my nightie.” The doorbell pierced through her moment of modesty, and she left to answer the door. DI Lestrade appeared in the room just a moment later.
“The answer’s no.”
“But you haven’t even heard the question!”
“You want to take me to the station. Just saving you the trouble of asking.”
“Yeah,” he sighed, resigned.
“Who was it? Donovan? I bet it was Donovan. Was I somehow responsible for the kidnapping? Ah, Moriarty is smart. He planted the doubt in her head; that little nagging sensation. You’re going to have to be strong to resist. You can’t kill an idea, can you? Not once it’s made a home there,” he reached forward and tapped Greg between the eyes with his fingertip.
“Will you come?”
“One photograph -- that’s going to be his next move. Moriarty’s game, first the scream, then a photograph of me being taken in for questioning. He wants to destroy me inch by inch.” By this time, he has found the camera, hidden behind some books. He moved it over to the laptop and began to type. “It is a game, Lestrade, and not one I’m willing to play. Give my regards to Sgt. Donovan.”
Greg Lestrade sighed in reluctance, and quickly descended the stairs.
“They’ll be deciding,” Sherlock continued once he was gone.
“Whether to come back with a warrant and arrest me.”
“Should have gone with him. People’ll think...”
“I don’t care what people think.”
“You’d care if they thought you were stupid or wrong.”
“No, that would just make them stupid and wrong.”
“Sherlock, I don’t want the world believing....”
Sherlock’s eyes pierce John’s. “Believing what?
“Believing you’re a fraud.” John’s voice betrayed him; he was trying to be strong, but he was becoming increasingly scared.
“You’re worried they’re right.”
“You’re worried they’re right about me.”
“That’s why you’re so upset. You can’t entertain the possibility that they might be right about me. You’re afraid you’ve been taken in as well.”
A tear dropped from John’s eye. “No, I’m not.”
“Can’t you see, John? Moriarty is playing with your mind as well. Can’t you see what’s going on?”
“No. I know you’re for real.” His voice was soft, barely audible, but determined.
“A hundred percent?”
“Nobody could fake being such an annoying dick all the time.”
Sherlock laughed, but there was sadness in his beautiful grey eyes. He stood up and took John’s hand, lacing his fingers in between John’s. “John,” he said, looking down at their feet. “I need you here.”
John drew them together, resting his head against Sherlock’s chest. His heart was pounding, his breath ragged. He reached his fingers up to brush a stray curl back into place. Sherlock’s eyes fluttered closed, and his face was once again unreadable. The pair stood like that for a short while before Sherlock’s heart rate had returned to normal.
“You really were worried that I disbelieved you.”
“Of course I was, John.”
“Yours is the only opinion that matters.”
“Yours is the only one that matters.”
Sherlock recalled the words he had spoken just last night. He never thought that he and John would be in such a different place less than a day later. Moments later, Lestrade had called with a warning -- he was to be arrested. John had protested, of course, the good friend that he was. Sherlock had gone quietly; he hadn’t fought one bit. But Lestrade had broken all of the rules in allowing him to be a consulting detective. This time, he would play by the book. He had flashed a sad smile to John as he was escorted downstairs in handcuffs. He hadn’t expected to have John handcuffed and flung next to him, hard against the police car, just moments later. Apparently, John had defended his honour.
“Joining me?” He had said, suppressing a chuckle.
“Yeah, apparently it’s against the law to chin the Chief Superintendent.”
A wry smile had flashed against Sherlock’s face. “Bit awkward, this.”
“Huh. No one to bail us.”
“I was thinking more of our imminent daring escape.”
“What?” John gasped, almost incapable of comprehending Sherlock’s previous statement.
Sherlock had reached into the police car, pressed the talk button on the radio, causing a screeching noise to emit from it, and brandished a gun before John even had time to think. Within minutes, they were running, the Yard not so close on their heels. They managed to drop the gun in the process, and John pulled Sherlock close as Sherlock had attempted to pull him through rather than over a fence. The handcuffs had been a bit of a barrier.
“Sherlock. We’re going to need to coordinate,” he had said sternly before kissing him lightly through the metal.
“Go to your right.”
“Go to your right.”
John and Sherlock had stood against the wall, panting. “Everyone wants to believe it. That’s what makes it so clever. A lie that’s preferable to the truth. All my brilliant deductions were just a sham. No one feels inadequate -- Sherlock Holmes is just an ordinary man.”
“What about Mycroft? He could help us.”
“A big family reconciliation? Now’s not really the moment.”
Suddenly, Sherlock grabbed John by his shoulders, spinning him around. “Sherlock,” John said. “We’re being followed. I knew we couldn’t outrun the police.”
“It isn’t the police. It’s one of my new neighbors on Baker Street. Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to jump in front of that bus.”
“What?!” John asked in a panicky voice.
There was not enough time to think. Sherlock waited and waited until, just at the right moment, he does indeed throw the pair in front of a double decker, plastered with 74 Baker Street on the marquee. Right before they were hit, the assassin appeared, flinging all three of them to the ground. Before the assassin was able to recover, Sherlock had his own gun pointed at him.
“Tell me what you want from me. Tell me.”
“He left it at your flat.”
“The computer key code.”
“Of course. He’s selling it -- the programme he used to break into the Tower. He planted it when he came round.”
The three had stood to their feet, three shots had rung out, and the assassin was dead.
“It’s a game changer,” Sherlock had said. “It’s a key -- it can break into any system and it’s sitting in
our flat right now. That’s why he left that message telling everyone where to come. We need to get back to the flat and search.”
“CID’ll be camped out. Why plant it on you?”
“It’s another subtle way of smearing my name. Now I’m best pals with all those criminals.”
John picked up a copy of The Sun and showed it to Sherlock. “Have you seen this? A kiss and tell. Some bloke called Rich Brook.”
Oh, thought Sherlock.
“Who is he?”
Sherlock’s legs moved nearly as quickly as his brain. John could almost see his synapses firing off quickly. John only wished he understood what was going on. Half an hour later, they were still handcuffed, seated on Kitty Riley’s couch. In the dark. What a predicament they had gotten themselves into. John wouldn’t have missed it for the world, though. His heart sunk with the knowledge that his partner’s name had been dragged through the mud. But he knew Sherlock had a plan. Sherlock always had a plan, no matter how mad they may have been.
The door swung open cautiously, Kitty Riley having noticed the door was ajar. A light flicked on.
“Too late to go on the record? Congratulations. The truth about Sherlock Holmes. The scoop that everybody wanted and you got it. Bravo.”
“I gave you the opportunity. I wanted to be on your side, remember? You turned me down.”
“And then, behold, someone turns up and spills the beans. How utterly convenient. Who is this Brook?”
Kitty shook her head.
“Oh come on, Kitty. No one trusts the voice at the end of the telephone. Those are all those furtive little meetings in cafes; those sessions in hotel rooms where he gabbed into your dictaphone. How do you know you can trust him? A man turns up with the Holy Grail in his pockets. What were his credentials?”
The door opened again. A man’s voice rung out, and soon, Jim Moriarty, dressed very casually as Richard Brook, came into view.
“Darling, they didn’t have any of the ground coffee, so I just got normal....” He let out a gasp as he saw John and Sherlock seated. “You said they wouldn’t find me here. You said I’d be safe here.”
“You are safe, Richard. I’m a witness. He won’t harm you in front of witnesses.”
“So that’s your source. Moriarty is Richard Brook?!” John was furious, nearly spitting the words.
“Of course he’s Richard Brook. There is no Moriarty. There never has been.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Look him up. Rich Brook -- an actor Sherlock Holmes hired to play Moriarty.”
“Doctor Watson,” Richard says, “I know you’re a good man. Don’t... don’t hurt me.”
“No, you’re Moriarty. He’s Moriarty! We’ve met, remember? You were going to blow me up!”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I needed the work. He paid me. I was out of work. I’m sorry, okay?”
“Sherlock, you better explain, because I’m not getting this.”
“Oh, I’ll be doing the explaining,” Kitty said, picking up a manila folder. “In print. It’s all here, conclusive proof. You invented Moriarty,” she stated, gesturing at Sherlock. “You invented him, your nemesis.”
“Invented all the crimes, actually. And to cap it all off, you made a master villain.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous.”
“Ask him! He’s right here. Just ask him. Tell him, Richard.”
“Look, for God’s sake, the man was on trial!”
“Yes, and you paid him,” she said again, gesturing again at Sherlock. “Paid him to take the rap; promised you’d rig the jury. Not exactly a West End role, but I bet the money was good.”
“I am sorry. I am.”
“So this story you’re going to publish. The big conclusion of it all: Moriarty’s an actor?!”
“He knows I am. I have proof. Show him, Kitty.”
“Yeah, show me something.”
“I’m on TV. I’m TV. I’m the Story Teller. Just tell them. It’s all coming out now. It’s all over now. Just tell them. Tell them!”
Sherlock bore his teeth down, walking toward him.
“NO! Don’t you touch me!”
“Stop it!” Sherlock yelled. “Stop it now!”
Jim ran up the stairs, John and Sherlock close on his heels. By the time they caught up with him, he had already dropped down out the window.
“No, no, no. He’ll have backup.”
“D’you know what, Sherlock Holmes? I look at you now and I can read you. And you....repel....me.”
Sherlock ran out the front door, John grasping the folder with all the information on Richard Brook still in his hand, was just one step behind him. As they caught their breath outside, John opened the folder. “Can he do that?” John asked. “Change his identity? Make you the criminal?”
“He’s got my whole life story. That’s what you do when you sell a big lie. You wrap it up in the truth to make it more palatable.”
“Your word against his.”
“He’s been sowing doubt into people’s minds for the past 24 hours. There’s only one thing he needs to do to complete his game and that’s to...” he trailed off, coming to a realization. Molly. He needed to talk to Molly. He can’t do this on his own, but he can’t put John in any more danger than he already is.
“Something I need to do.”
“What? Can I help?”
“No. On my own.”
John sighed, walking the other way, realizing there was something he needed to do as well -- he needed to speak with the person that had put Sherlock in such a dire predicament. Mycroft.
“She really has done her homework, Miss Riley.” John spoke from within the walls of the private office of the Diogenes Club. Mycroft pretended not to be startled as he took his seat.
“So how does it work, then? Your relationship... you and Jim? Do you go out for coffee every now and again? Your own brother, and you blabbed about his entire life to this maniac.”
“I never intend... I never dreamt....”
“So this,” John gestured to the file. “This is what you were trying to tell me, isn’t it? Watch his back, ‘cause I’ve made a mistake.” John slammed the file on the table, scattering a few of the photos. He breathed in a few deep breaths, attempting to keep calm. “How did you meet him?”
“People like him, we know about them, we watch them. But James Moriarty... the most dangerous criminal mind the world has ever seen, and in his pocket the ultimate weapon: a key code. A few lines of computer code that could unlock any door.”
“And you abducted him to find the key code.”
“Interrogated him for several weeks.”
“He wouldn’t play along. He just sat there, staring into the darkness. The only thing that made him open up.... I could get him to talk, just a little, but...”
“In return, you had to tell him Sherlock’s life story. So one big lie -- Sherlock’s a fraud. But people will swallow it because the rest of it’s true.” He stood up, smiling bitterly at him. “Moriarty wanted Sherlock destroyed. And you gave him the perfect ammunition.”
“John. I’m sorry.” Mycroft’s voice was strained and very soft.
“Oh, please.” He shook his head as he walked out the door.
“Tell him, would you?”
During John’s absence, Sherlock and Molly had gone over a plan that he hoped that he wouldn’t actually have to use. He hoped that he was clever enough to pull this off on his own, to find his own way to defeat Moriarty. But just in case, this plan was there.
Molly left the room and Sherlock sighed, slouching onto the floor, tossing a rubber ball back and forth between a cabinet and his hand. He had to keep John safe. If he couldn’t save himself from this, he had to keep John safe.
“Got your text message,” John said as he entered the lab.
“The computer code is the key to this. If we can find it, we can use it.”
“What do you mean, use it?”
“He used it to create a false identity. We could use it to break into the records and destroy Richard Brook.”
“And bring back Jim Moriarty.”
“Somewhere in 221B, the day of the verdict, he left a code. But where....”
“What did he touch?”
“Just an apple, nothing else.”
Sherlock drummed his fingers as he did the day of the verdict. He recalled his discussion around the two cups of tea that day. Of course. Binary code. John was unaware of the change in his countenance. He typed out a short message in his phone. “Come and play. Bart’s Hospital Rooftop. -- SH. P.S. Got something of yours you might want back .”
Several hours later, the phone rang. John rubbed his eyes, picking it up.
“Hello? What happened? Is she all right? Okay, yes, I’m coming.”
“Paramedics. Mrs. Hudson.. She’s been shot.”
“Well, probably one of the killers you managed to attract,” he spat out, breathing heavily. “Jesus, she’s dying, Sherlock. Let’s go.”
“You go. I’m busy.”
John’s face was incredulous, unbelieving at what he’d just heard. “Busy?”
“Thinking. I need to think.”
“You need to -- doesn’t she mean anything to you? You nearly half killed a man because he laid a finger on her.”
“She’s my landlady.” Sherlock simply shrugged at John. It tore up his insides having to deceive John like this, but it was the only way.
“She’s dying....” John choked up. “You machine,” he spat out. ”Sod this... sod this. You stay here on your own, if you want.”
“Alone is what I have. Alone protects me.”
“No, Sherlock. Friends protect people.”
The door slammed behind him. Sherlock swallowed his emotion. Now was not the time for sentiment. Now was the time for his plan to be put into motion.
A text alert sounded throughout the empty lab. “I’m waiting -- JM”. Sherlock sighed, putting his coat on and buttoning it before he headed up to the roof. He tied his scarf around his neck and headed out the door.
Ah, we have finally entered into Reichenbach territory. Apologies, of course, for breaking your heart.
Sherlock Holmes should, by all estimations, be terrified. The man who had destroyed his life, who had set him up as a fraud, who had threatened his life and his partner’s life more than once, was waiting atop the roof of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. He was there to meet Sherlock. He was there to solve this final problem of theirs.
But Sherlock Holmes was not afraid. Not for himself, in any case. Whatever happened today, however this ended, his only fear was for John. His only fear was what would happen to the man that he so loved and cared for, who had been his right hand man since the first day they met.
He knew what James Moriarty expected. He knew why he was up on this roof so early on this January morning. What he didn’t know was how would this all end? Would he, Sherlock Holmes, be clever enough to outwit this man, to make the world safe again? These were the real questions, the ones he had no answer to -- not yet, anyhow.
“Ah, here we are at last, Sherlock. The final problem. Stayin’ Alive. It’s so.... boring, isn’t it? All my life I’ve been searching for distractions. You were the best distraction and now I don’t even have you. Because I’ve beaten you. And you know what? In the end, it was easy. It was easy. Now I’ve got to go back to playing with the ordinary people. And it turns out that you’re ordinary, too. Ah well. Did you almost start to wonder if I was real? Did I nearly get you?”
“Nobody seems to get the joke, but you do.”
“Rich Brook in German is Reichenbach -- the case that made my name.”
“Just trying to have some fun.” He smirked, pure glee lighting up his devilish face.
Sherlock stood at the edge, tapping his fingers on the concrete in pattern.
“Good. You got that, too.”
“Beats like digits. Every beat is a one; every rest is a zero. Binary code. That’s why all those assassins tried to save my life. It was hidden on me; hidden inside my head. A few simple lines of computer code that can break into any system.”
“I told all my clients; last one to Sherlock is a sissy.”
“Yes, but now that it’s up here, I can use it to alter all the records. I can kill Rich Brook and bring back Jim Moriarty.”
“No, no, no, no, no. This is too easy. There is no key, DOOFUS!” Moriarty yelled. “Those digits are meaningless. They are utterly meaningless. You don’t really think a couple of lines of computer code are going to crash the world around our ears? I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed in you, ordinary Sherlock.”
“But the rhythm...”
“Partitia number one, thank you, Johann Sebastian Bach.”
“But then how did ….”
“How did I break into the Bank, the Prison, the Tower? All it takes is some willing participants. I knew you’d fall for it. You always want everything to be so clever. Now, shall we finish the game? One final act. Glad you chose a tall building -- nice way to do it.”
“Do it? Do what?” Sherlock sighed. “Yes, of course. My suicide.”
“Genius detective proved to be a fraud. I read it in the paper. Must be true. I love newspapers. Fairy tales. And pretty Grimm ones too.”
“I can still prove that you’ve created an entirely false identity.”
“Oh, just kill yourself. It’s a lot less effort. Go on. For me. Pleeeease?”
In a sudden movement, Jim was in Sherlock’s hands, held only by the shoulders of his wool coat. Sherlock dropped him back to the pavement, backing up. “You’re insane,” Sherlock says sadly and quietly.
“You’re just getting that now? Ok, how about a little incentive?” Sherlock’s head popped up, his eyes narrowing. “Your friends will die if you don’t.”
“Not just John. Everyone.”
“Three bullets; three gunmen, three victims. There’s no stopping them now. Unless my people see you jump, your friends will die.”
Sherlock’s breathing was shallow. He was shaking and nervous. Whatever plans he had to overcome Moriarty were gone now.
“You can have me arrested, you can torture me. You can do anything you like with me, but nothing’s going to prevent them from pulling that trigger. Your only three friends in the world will die, unless...”
“...Unless I kill myself. Complete your story.”
“You gotta admit, that’s sexier.”
“And I die in disgrace.”
“Of course. That’s the point of this.” Moriarty peeked over the side. “Oh, look, you’ve got an audience now. Off you pop. Go on. I told you how this ends. Your death is the only thing that’s going to call off the killers. I’m certainly not going to do it.”
Sherlock walked steadily toward the edge, his breath becoming shakier as he reached the edge. “Will -- will you give me a moment? Please? One moment of privacy?”
Sherlock’s breath came fast and shallow. He looked over the edge, seeing something below that made him chuckle. He jumped down back toward where Moriarty was standing.
“What?” Jim is angry. “What is it? What did I miss?”
“You’re not going to do it. So the killers can be called off, then. There’s a recall code, or a word, or a number. I don’t have to die, if I’ve got you.” His voice reverberated, almost sinister now.
“Oh, you think that you can make me stop the order? You think you can make me do that?”
“Yes. So do you.”
“Sherlock, your big brother and all the King’s horses couldn’t make me do a thing I didn’t want to.”
“Yes, but I’m not my brother, remember? I am you -- prepared to do anything, prepared to burn. Prepared to do what ordinary people won’t do. You want me to shake hands with you in hell? I shall not disappoint you.”
“Naaah. You talk big. You’re ordinary. You’re ordinary -- you’re on the side of the angels.”
“Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t for one second think that I am one of them.”
“No, you’re not. I see. You’re not ordinary. You’re me. You’re me. Thank you, Sherlock Holmes. Thank you. Bless you. As long as I’m alive, you can save your friends. Well, good luck with that.”
Sherlock pulled back in shock. Instead of shaking his hand, as he supposed Jim was meant to do, he had brandished a gun, placed it in his mouth and shot. Jim lay on the floor, becoming cold, his blood draining out.
Sherlock began to panic. By this time, John would be on his way back to the hospital, having discovered Mrs. Hudson was in perfect health. As he looked over the ledge, he saw a cab pull up and John exit the car. He quickly dialed John’s mobile number.
“Hello?” John answered quickly, his pace increasing as he exited the cab.
“Hey, Sherlock, you okay?”
“Turn around and come back the way you came now.”
“No, I’m coming in.”
Sherlock spoke frantically. “Just do as I ask. Please?”
“Okay, look up. I’m on the rooftop.”
“Oh God.” John’s voice was incredulous, strained and unbelieving at the sight in front of him.
“I -- I can’t come down. So we’ll just have to do this like this.”
“What’s going on?”
“An apology. It’s all true.”
“Everything they said about me. I invented Moriarty.”
“Why are you saying this?”
“I’m a fake.” His voice broke, tears flooding his eyes.
“The newspapers were right all along. I want you to tell Lestrade. I want you to tell Mrs. Hudson, and Molly. In fact, tell anyone who will listen to you that I created Moriarty for my own purposes.”
“Okay, shut up, Sherlock. Shut up. The first time we met -- the first time we met, you knew all about my sister. Right?”
“No one could be that clever.”
“You could.” Sherlock laughed mirthlessly, tears in his eyes as he attempted to smile. A single tear fell onto his cheek.
“I researched you. Before we met, I discovered everything I could to impress you. It’s a trick,” he sniffed. “A magic trick.”
“No. All right, stop it now.” John began to walk toward the entrance,
“No, stay exactly where you are!” Sherlock yelled in a panic, startling John.
“All right,” he agreed, reaching a hand up.
Sherlock reached his own hand unconsciously toward his partner. “Keep your eyes fixed on me. Please, will you do this for me?” The heart wrenching pain was evident in his voice. Sherlock struggled, shaking as he quietly asked the words. He didn't want to do this. But he must.
“This phone call. It’s....er, it’s my note. Isn’t that what people do? Leave a note?”
“Leave a note when?” John trembled, knowing the answer to this question. No, he thought. No, he’s not.... his thoughts ceased when Sherlock’s voice pierced the silence.
“Goodbye, John.” He dropped the phone, walking closer to the ledge. He stood there for a moment while John removed the phone from his own ear.
“No. Don’t. No. Sherlock!” He called out, but it was too late. Sherlock’s feet left the edge and John stood there, dumbfounded, as his friend gracefully leapt off the building. His arms spread wide, he plummeted toward the ground.
John was horror struck. “Sher.....” his last words to his friend died on his lips. He couldn’t see his friend, whose body was now obstructed by some sort of vehicle. John rushed to him, but found himself intercepted accidentally by a bicycle, which knocked him to the ground.
John struggled to stay conscious as he ran toward the building. “Sherlock,” he whispered. “Let me through,” he told the medics and onlookers. “Let me through, I’m a doctor. He’s my friend.” John crouched over Sherlock’s body, blood streaked over his forehead. His pale grey eyes eerily beautiful in death. He reached for Sherlock’s wrist, and held it only a moment before someone pulled his hand away. No pulse.
Oh God. John was helped to his feet by a couple of kind medics, who covered him with a shock blanket. He sighed pointedly. He knew he was most definitely in shock. He managed to regain his strength, and assured them that he’ll be okay.
A few moments later, he found himself being helped into a car. Mycroft, he knew for certain. He must have seen the footage...or the hospital must have called. Oh God, Molly, John thought. Molly was going to be the one there to see Sherlock’s body. Anthea handed him a sedative and the next thing he knew, he was in his own bed on Baker Street. Sleep....sleep. Sleep will help him forget.
Back at St. Bart’s, Molly was in the morgue. She had phoned Mycroft, though it was the last thing she actually wanted to do. She knew what seeing a dead person did to most people. Even the most reserved people, strong in so many other ways, couldn’t help leaving broken and sobbing after seeing their relative on that table. And then there was the issue that this time, she would have to put on a show. She had never been particularly good at lying, especially not to someone as important as Mycroft Holmes.
Mycroft entered the room, umbrella at his side as though it were a cane. “Dr. Hooper,” he said somberly.
Molly looked up, sadness and fear in her eyes. “Mr. Holmes,” she greeted him awkwardly, extending her hand.
“Mycroft will be fine.”
“Right. I’m sorry for the..... circumstances that have called you down here.”
“Let’s not make this any more awkward than it already is, hmm?”
“Right.” She led him over to a body on the table, covered with a sheet. She pulled the sheet away from his face, which had been cleaned off. It was pale, white, and gentle in death.
“Yes,” Mycroft said. “That certainly looks like my brother.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, sir.”
“As I was saying, Doctor Hooper. That looks very much like my brother. Very much indeed. You’ve done an excellent job. Now where is he?”
Molly’s jaw dropped. “But...”
“Oh, come now. My brother and I may not be close, but I’m not an idiot. I knew what he had planned likely before even you did. Is he here?”
Molly nodded and blushed a bright red. “Come with me.” She opened the door from the morgue, walking quickly down the hallway, casting her eyes to and fro to assure herself that no one was watching her. She and Mycroft entered the elevator and waited patiently as it descended to the 2nd floor. They took a short walk to a door, separate from all the rest on the floor, with no name plate. The room was dark, its only occupant seated at the desk, head in his hands. He wore a black coat, very much unlike the one he had previously worn.
Mycroft flicked the light on.
“I’m sorry... I didn’t tell him,” Molly muttered her apology as Sherlock looked up.
“No, Molly, I know. My brother is the British government,” he said with a smirk. “Thank you.”
“Sherlock,” Mycroft nodded at his brother. “What’s your plan?”
“I need to get as far away from London as possible. I’ll need to disguise myself.”
“That can be arranged. I’ll just have Anthea --”
“What do you mean, no?”
“Molly,” Sherlock began nervously. “I hesitate to ask, because I don’t want to put you in any more danger than I’ve already done. Would you accompany me out of London?”
“Sherlock,” Mycroft argued. “I don’t know if that’s the best idea.”
“No, I’ll do it. You need a friend. No offense, sir,” she said to Mycroft, blushing. “You can’t contact anyone else, I know. I can go.”
“Thank you, Molly,” Sherlock whispered.
Mycroft cleared his throat. “In that case, I’ll have a car ready for you to leave tonight. Much less conspicuous than air travel.”
“Thank you, Mycroft.”
“Sherlock?” Mycroft asked, concern clouding his eyes.
“I’m sorry.” Mycroft’s voice was barely over a whisper. He looked straight ahead, not meeting his brother’s eyes.
Sometime in the middle of the night, John Watson had sat upright in his bed. He felt groggy. It was a shock to be here, and he wasn’t even sure how he had gotten here in the first place. He and Sherlock had shared a bed for months now, so why wasn’t he in their bed? And where was Sherlock? Had they had a fight? Had Sherlock gone off on his own (for a case, no doubt)?
He remembered what had happened with a start. Tears burned in his eyes, his heart pounding in his chest. A sob escaped his throat, and the floodgates opened.
“Why?” He thought, tears dripping from his face. “Why did you have to do that Sherlock? Why did you make me watch?”
He knew his questions would never be answered. The only person who could answer them was gone.
His bed was cold. It smelled wrong. It didn’t feel like Sherlock. Try as he might, he couldn’t make the room feel right. He also couldn’t sleep in the bed they shared, as much as he desperately wanted to.
The days following weren’t any better. John simply went through the motions of surviving. He made himself take a sleeping aid in order to get some rest. He ate regularly. News reporters swarmed the flat on Baker Street, hoping that John would give his own version of events. He declined every time.
The day of the funeral, his legs felt like lead. He and Mrs. Hudson had shared a cab to the service. The cab ride was quiet, an oppressive silence weighted with grief hanging over them. Mycroft had asked him to speak. John had declined. How could he ever put into words what Sherlock had meant to him? Sherlock Holmes had been the love of his life, the center of his existence. His sun. Sherlock would have mocked him for the astronomy reference. How could he ever express even a fraction of that, to friends, to colleagues, to total strangers?
John was at least grateful that Mycroft’s influence had made this an entirely private event. He wasn’t sure what he would have done had there been swarms of reporters, “fans”, and the like, there to criticise, not to admire. Thankfully, there hadn’t been, and for that, John was grateful. Lestrade was there, along with Dimmock and a few others from the Yard. Sally couldn’t look him in the eye. Her face was stained by tears. Good, John had thought. You deserve every ounce of that guilt. He knew that wasn’t true, though. Moriarty had done his job, and done it well. He had “burned the heart” out of Sherlock. John had never expected it to be Sherlock’s physical heart.
John was grateful to get into the cab when the service was over. It had been a nice one. Sherlock would have hated it. Too sentimental for such a logical being. Too many tears, too many heartbroken faces.
Over the next few weeks, John tried to keep his mind busy. Sarah had offered him time off. He had declined, knowing that he would need the distraction to keep himself busy. Instead, he asked for more hours at the surgery. When he wasn’t working, he began cataloguing the contents of Baker Street. Sherlock had wanted people to believe he was a fake. He had ensured those were some of the last words that John heard. But why? Why would he say that? Was it some sort of game, some way of tricking Moriarty? John wasn’t sure. What he did know was that it didn’t matter anymore. His best friend, the man he loved was dead, and if it was up to John, he would clear Sherlock’s name.
John’s mind wasn’t nearly as sharp as Sherlock’s had been. He spent a good portion of his time reorganizing all of Sherlock’s experiments (the ones he could keep without it being some sort of health and safety hazard). He figured that the easier it was to access the information he needed, the easier it might be sift through it all. What he needed to do was get a hold of the case files of all the cases that Sherlock had solved. Surely, he would be able to clear his name with the information he could gather. But he knew that entire idea was fruitless. There was no way that Lestrade or anyone at the Yard would be letting him near the case files. Not now. Not ever. The only information he had to go on was what he had catalogued in his blog. It wasn’t nearly enough.
One month after the funeral, his limp and the pain in his leg returned.
Two months after the funeral, his nightmares began.
The dreams started off quite pleasant -- Sherlock and John giggling at a crime scene, Lestrade giving them a stern look in the distance. Sherlock and John having a cup of coffee at a table devoid of any biological experiments. Sherlock and John entangled in bed. Sherlock kissing John sweetly, gently, on the sofa, wrapped up in a blanket. Then, the dream would change. John would see his friend’s terrified face. He would hear him say goodbye. He would see him jump. He would see his still, lifeless face streaked with blood, his eyes impossibly grey and beautiful.
He would wake up screaming.
It took several visits with Ella, his psychologist, to pinpoint the reason for the dreams, and likely the limp as well. He hadn’t said everything he had meant to. Ella had tried to coax him into laying it all on the table in her office. He didn’t want to do that here, though. He knew that Sherlock would never have accompanied him here. He knew this wasn’t the time or the place. So he went to the only place that was left. Sherlock would likely have rolled his eyes at had he been able to witness it. He went to his grave.
It was ridiculous. His nerves were starting to kick in and he felt so unsure of every word he wanted to say. Emotion welled up in his throat and he found he was having a difficult time getting the words out. But he knew there was no rush here. As much as he wanted to speak the words he never had a chance to say, he also knew that he didn’t have to rush it. After Sherlock’s funeral, he had been too numb, too incapable of expressing what he truly felt. But he knew that now was the time. Now was the time to say everything that he truly thought.
“Um, hmmm... you told me once that you weren’t a hero. Um, there were times I didn’t even think you were human. But let me tell you this. You were the best man and the most human human being that I’ve ever known, and no one will ever convince you that you told me a lie. So there.”
John hesitated. This was such a difficult exercise. He knew he was simply speaking to marble, expressing what he hadn’t been able to say so many months ago. But no, he wasn’t done yet. He needed to say everything.
“I was so alone and I owe you so much. Please, there’s just one more thing. One more thing. One more miracle for me, Sherlock. Don’t. Be. Dead. Will you just... just stop this?”
John knew he was ridiculous. He had seen the man jump to his death. He had seen his body. He knew that Mycroft had been the one to officially identify it, but Sherlock had been right there in front of him, splayed out on the ground in front of St. Bart’s. John shuddered at the memory.
He had fruitlessly pleaded with God in Afghanistan.
Now he was pleading with a dead man. He really was a bit mad, wasn’t he?
“How is he, Mycroft?”
“How do you think?”
Sherlock sighed, resigned. He wished things weren’t this way. He attempted to run a hand through his hair but stopped short. His raven curls were long gone, replaced by a much shorter cut. He had dyed his hair red, and now sported very scholarly looking black square-rimmed glasses, as well. His face was paler than it had been, his cheekbones more prominent. The coat he wore was leather, and he now owned a motorcycle. He looked almost a little bit....lost. The difference in his appearance was stark, and he was almost recognizable. Of course, that had been the point.
The night after his jump had felt so chaotic. Anthea had made the required wardrobe-related purchases. Too obvious for anyone else to do it. He couldn’t wear anything resembling his old self. Too risky. Anthea had shown up at Molly Hooper’s flat just an hour after Mycroft departed the hospital with an entire suitcase of necessities. Sherlock had rolled his eyes at how many different sorts of clothing were encased in it, but in the end, he had resigned himself to the fact that he didn’t know what the future would hold for him. Best to be prepared for anything.
That had suited him well, now that he thought about it. He had taken down parts of Moriarty’s web in a French castle, in a German alleyway and in the Amazon. A different disguise had been necessary for each … murder. Sherlock shuddered at the way the word sounded in his head. He never thought he would be the one behind taking another person’s life, but he had never before had a reason to kill. Now he did.
It had been six months since his “death”. Mostly, he pushed away any emotion that surfaced. But tonight, with Mycroft here to check up on him in a posh Swiss hotel, he ached for John to be by his side.
“This is taking too long, Mycroft.” Sherlock fidgeted, shifting his weight from one hip to another in the chair.
“Is that your way of saying that you will finally accept my help in locating Colonel Moran?” Sherlock expected his brother’s expression to mock him, but he found it steely, tinged with concern and a bit sad.
Sherlock gritted his teeth. “Y-yes.” He hated this. He had never wanted to accept his brother’s help. But he ached for John. He wanted desperately to hold the man in his arms.
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”
“Save it, Mycroft.”
“Oh, dear brother, I’ve been saving you since you were very, very young.”
Sherlock shuddered at the memory. “You know I wouldn’t ask if....”
“Yes, I know. Sentiment. Tricky, isn’t it?”
“I told you. All lives end, Sherlock. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage.”
“Yes, thank you, Mycroft, for those words of wisdom.” Sherlock looked away, trying to hide the pain that currently clouded his features.
Instead of his last statement being bitter and cold as he intended, Sherlock realized how very sad he sounded. He missed Doctor John Watson. He had once told John that he would be lost without his blogger, and he knew that to be true. He was a man fully confident of his skills. He was clever; he was smart. He had taken down almost all of Moriarty’s contacts. He had sent several of the less dangerous ones into hiding. Yet somehow he resembled a lost little boy.
He grimaced as he recalled the trip the evening that he had “died”. He remembered changing into unfamiliar pajamas, climbing into bed, completely unable to fall asleep. He recalled Molly Hooper making him a cup of tea at three in the morning, her kind, gentle eyes filled with concern. He recalled unabashedly sobbing into her arms, an action that greatly embarrassed him now. She had smelled wrong, vaguely of lilac and apples. He recalled her arms feeling so very wrong. They were too fragile and thin. They were the wrong arms. The right ones were so far away -- so solid and strong. He was like a planet spinning out of orbit; lost without its sun.
But soon, Sherlock would be able to go home. Mycroft had paid a year’s worth of rent on the flat. John Watson continued to pay for his share with the money he made from the surgery. Mycroft had tried to offer to pay, but John had refused. It was part pride, and part self preservation, Sherlock was certain. He was certain that John was working on trying to move on with his life, despite having stayed in a place where memories of their life together abounded.
Sherlock had been there on the day that John poured out his soul to Sherlock's grave. He had been moved, touched. John had lingered there much longer than he supposed that he would. He didn’t speak again for a long, long time, before he said one simple word. “Goodbye.” Oh, how he wanted to reach out and touch John, to assure him that he wouldn’t have to wait forever -- that he just had to hold on.
But he couldn’t touch John. Not then. Not now. Not yet. Soon. Soon, he would provide the miracle John had sought so earnestly. Soon they would be reunited once more.
“He’s almost managed to clear your name, Sherlock.”
“He....what?” Sherlock had known that John Watson was clever. Obviously, he had been busy, too.
“Really quite remarkable, if you ask me. He’s had no access to the case files whatsoever. Just put together what madness you two had locked up in that flat, coupled with all the blog posts he had written about you, and somehow managed to figure it all out. I’m actually quite surprised.”
Sherlock’s eyes were twinkling. “I’m not.”
“Got a little hung up on the kidnapping case, seeing as he never did get the chance to write that one up. Plus, he feels as though his memory of that one was a little bit compromised by your untimely death.” Mycroft sneered. “Emotions.”
“Friends are what protect us, Mycroft,” he said, remembering John’s words to him.
“Hmmm. Can’t say I can argue with that. Well,” he said, standing. “I suppose I’ll be off, dear brother. Hopefully the next time we meet, I’ll be here to take you home.”
“I hope so, too. Mycroft?” He asked as his brother began to open the door.
“Help him, if you can.”
Molly Hooper was tired. It had been a long day at St. Bart’s hospital. She was grateful for the silence. It was calm, it was peaceful. She sighed as she closed out the final file of the day. It had been a young woman, in her early 20s, not much older than Molly herself. Those were always the most difficult -- those who were young, with much of their lives still left waiting to be lived. Whether it was a child or young adult, it was still difficult to think about. She was so engrossed in this thought that she didn’t hear the door open, didn’t see the hooded figure until he was standing right in front of her.
“Molly.” A familiar baritone voice spoke her name.
She jumped, but she recognized the voice. “You’re back.”
He removed the hood, to reveal his curly locks, darker than she had last seen them, but still a bit ginger. “I am. I need a place to stay, Molly.”
“Are you safe? I mean, did you --”
“Yes. Colonel Moran has been eliminated.”
Eliminated. It sounded so cold, so calculated to Molly. That was rather the point, though, wasn’t it? Jim Moriarty’s right hand man had been dangerous. So Sherlock had taken him out. “Oh. Well, good. Of course you can stay with me.”
Back at Molly’s flat, Sherlock removed his hooded sweatshirt and was now clad simply in a pair of expensive looking jeans, trainers and a blue-grey t-shirt. Molly thought he looked too thin.
“Are you hungry?” She asked.
“Yes, actually. The ride back to London was.....unpleasant, to say the least.”
Molly nodded, noting the circles under his eyes. Soon, she returned from the kitchen with two cups of tea and a sandwich for each of them. “Sorry. This is all I have at the moment. Been a little tied up at work lately.”
Sherlock smiled. “Thank you, Molly. Your hospitality is much appreciated.”
She blushed. “Sherlock, are you back? Back for good?”
He nodded as he took a bite of the sandwich. “Yes. My work is finished.”
“Then if I can ask a question,” she began timidly. After seeing his nod of approval, she continued. “Then why are you here? Why aren’t you with John?”
“He’s not there. At Baker Street,” he continued. “I have information from a reliable source that he’s gone down to Baskerville with Lestrade and Sgt. Donovan to...ahem, take care of some unfinished business, as it were.”
“Oh. Right. I’ve read the news stories.”
Sherlock arched an eyebrow. “Sorry, news stories?”
“You’ve been in the news.... er, again. Didn’t you know?”
“No, I’m afraid I didn’t.”
“Someone has been anonymously clearing your name. Lestrade got his job back. It’s obvious that John has been the one clearing your name. I don’t know anything about the rest.”
“Ah. Well, Mycroft had some hand in that, I would think.”
“John is at Baskerville. I wasn’t entirely sure why, at first, until I realized that he was investigating the kidnapping case which Moriarty had initially used to cast suspicion on me.”
Molly shuddered at the name, and Sherlock squeezed her arm. “It’s okay, Molly. He’s long gone.”
“Why is John at Baskerville?”
“Because he believes that the same drug that was used in order to make Henry Knight see something that wasn’t there was used on a very young girl to make her believe that she had seen something that she hadn’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“The afternoon she was found, Lestrade and Sally had the chance to speak with her first. She had obviously been drugged with a number of substances. She had no problems speaking with them. But when John and I went in there, she screamed when she saw me.”
“John believes, quite correctly, that through the power of suggestion coupled with a very powerful drug, she believed that I was her kidnapper.”
Molly shuddered. “That’s terrible, Sherlock.”
“Mmm. The toxicology report confirms that the drug was in her system. Actually, there was more of it than initially suspected. It’s a miracle that she’s alive.”
“God.” She sipped her tea. “So, how long do you need to stay? Not that I mind at all, of course.”
Sherlock smiled. “Hopefully just a few days. I just didn’t think that John would survive the shock of finding me in the flat after all this time, at least not without some warning.”
Molly nodded. “I understand.”
“Molly,” Sherlock began, somewhat tentatively. “I don’t think I’ve ever properly thanked you.”
“Thanked me?” Molly blushed furiously.
“Yes.” Sherlock cleared his throat. “I know you said once that you don’t count. That’s not true. You have been a wonderful friend. Thank you.”
“It--it’s nothing.” She looked down, and Sherlock clasped his hand around her wrist.
“No, Molly. It’s not nothing. You give yourself far too little credit. You can’t even see how instrumental you’ve been to my plan.” Suddenly, she couldn't quite meet his eyes, and his eyes widened. “Ah, right. It was you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I believe in Sherlock Holmes.”
Molly blushed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she grinned, with a bit of mischief behind her all-too innocent features.
“Oh, but I think you do, Molly.” Sherlock pressed a light kiss to her forehead. “Thank you.”
“It wasn’t just me, Sherlock. Lots of people...some outside of London, even. They haven’t forgotten you. You meant something to people. Not just me. Not just John.”
Sherlock’s breath caught in his chest. Something inexplicable had gathered there, right near his heart. He tried to shrug it off, but it stayed there. “Just the Homeless Network, I suspect...”
“No, Sherlock.” Molly’s voice was stern, the timidity that she usually displayed completely gone. “You listen to me. You are loved. This town needs you. You’ve come back for John. We all know that. But don’t you see the good you’ve done? How many people’s lives you’ve changed? Just look at Henry Knight. What would have happened to him without you?”
Sherlock sat back, taking in quick shallow breaths. “He’d probably be dead, quite likely by his own hand,” he agreed. His hands shook. The emotion on his face was unreadable. There was a stark difference between his usual cold, severe face and the face that Molly was looking at now. He sniffed, and let the tears fall.
Molly got up quickly and returned with a handkerchief. “Here,” she offered softly.
Sherlock considered waving her away, but instead accepted her gift. “Thank you, Molly,” he said clearly his throat. He wasn’t sure what had come over him. Usually, he was so collected, so able to will away emotion. But tonight, with his reunion with John just days away, with the things that Molly had said -- it was just too overwhelming. “It’s getting late, I think,” he said finally after a few moments of silence. “I think I’d like to go to sleep now.”
“Yes,” she said. It was late. It had been a long day for all of them, Sherlock especially. The expression of emotion in this manner, in such an unexpected way, often left him exhausted . He was grateful for the spare bedroom in Molly's home. The room was a little bit grandmotherly, even for someone with Molly’s taste, with its floral patterns and pastel shades. But it was calm and comforting all the same. Sherlock was asleep almost the moment his head hit the pillow.
Thankfully, Sarah had understood when John had asked for a few weeks off. He knew she would; she had always been so understanding and accommodating. He was grateful to still have her as a friend after the kidnapping incident. He was also grateful that she hadn’t tried for more of a relationship. But, after all, she had been fairly clued in to the idea of him and Sherlock. Though she hadn’t really understood their relationship (few did, to be honest), she knew that she would always be the second choice, even now that Sherlock was…gone.
John knew this case would take some work, but no one else seemed to be able to pick up on that. Lestrade had assumed that they would simply waltz into Baskerville, find what information they needed and return to London. John knew that this was a military base. There was no way that they would give away their secrets that quickly. It had taken the great Sherlock Holmes to break the silence last time. It would take a miracle this time around.
Thankfully, there were also miracle workers, one Mycroft Holmes. He had worked his magic last time around, and he was able to help out yet again. It still took some time to get the answers they needed, but when they did, the case was easily solved. John grinned a little sadly when he remembered Sherlock’s rating scale. This one would have been at about a 6. Had he been here, he would have sent John and would have stayed home.
It was a cold November afternoon when the case wrapped up. John had a difficult time telling what he was feeling. Relief, mostly, that his friend’s name was now cleared. Pride, that he was responsible for much of that. He hadn’t realized how much his deductive skills had improved compared to the first day Sherlock had asked him to attempt to deduce something. John knew that this time, Lestrade would have had a much more difficult time putting the pieces of this case together had he not been involved.
The train ride back to London was quiet, as many late afternoon and early evening trains often were. He imagined the last time he had taken this trip, with Sherlock, and he smiled. They hadn’t talked much that time. Sherlock had rested his head against John as he texted information back and forth with Mycroft, Lestrade, any number of people. It was a happy memory. He had been remembering more of those lately. The nightmares had cropped up every now and again, but they were eclipsed by the happy memories, the good dreams. Dreams of Sherlock caressing John’s cheek before he pressed a light kiss onto it. Dreams of John running his fingers through the mop of curls that rested on his lap. Even the exhilarating dreams of chasing criminals through the streets of London were happy memories.
John was astonished when he recalled that today, the day they had closed the case and thus unofficially cleared Sherlock’s name, was exactly eight months to the day Sherlock had jumped. He should move on now. He should find a way to move on. How does one do that, though? This was a thought that came to his mind quite often. How does a person move on after losing their soul mate? John smiled at the phrase. “Soul mate”. He and Sherlock had called each other “partners”. It was a purposeful word with a double meaning. People assumed things when they used that word. Neither of them cared what assumptions were made. John had a feeling that Sherlock would scoff at the idea of soul mates. But what other word was there for the bond they had? It was as though John’s world had been just one black and white photograph, but when Sherlock had entered his life, it was illuminated with light and vibrant color. And now... well, now.... he couldn’t finish that sentence. He knew one thing. His life was far emptier without Sherlock.
It was late by the time the cab pulled up to 221B. Mrs. Hudson was home, John could see. He yawned, wanting nothing more but to climb into bed. But first, he needed to do something. John opened up his laptop and turned it on. While it was loading, he made himself a cup of tea. He noticed that Mrs. Hudson had left a few biscuits for him in the kitchen. Her generosity never ceased to warm his heart just a bit. He took his tea and biscuits, sat down and began to type.
I Believe in Sherlock Holmes
I am certain by now that most, if not all of you have seen the signs around town. I cannot express the full extent of my gratitude to whoever has been responsible for erecting the signs in support of my most cherished friend. I realize that there are many out there who believed that Sherlock Holmes was a fake. I do not blame any of you for this opinion. James Moriarty made it very easy to question what was the truth and what was fiction. Even those closest to him questioned.
Over the past few months, you have undoubtedly heard that an anonymous source was helping to clear his name, to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had not been capable of committing those crimes -- that there had been another responsible. Today, as the case file for the final case Sherlock Holmes and I worked on closes, I am admitting that this person was me. I cannot bring Sherlock Holmes back from the dead. I very much miss my dearest friend and partner. So I did what I could do, to stay busy, but also to ease my conscience. I helped to clear his name.
It has been eight months since my friend, my partner leapt off the roof of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. I miss him dearly, and will continue to do so. But you, dear readers, now know the truth. Sherlock Holmes was not a fraud.
John sighed as he pressed “post”. Perhaps this was what he had needed to do in order to move on. Perhaps now he could. Most of him hoped that would be the case. There was a very small part, however, that was unsure, that simply wasn’t ready to let go.
“He has returned home, Sherlock.” Mycroft’s voice echoed from the other end of the phone. Sherlock nearly dropped the phone.
“Thank you, Mycroft.”
“Of course, little brother.”
Molly looked at Sherlock questioningly. The phone call had come just as they were about to eat breakfast. Sherlock had been at Molly’s flat for three days. As much as she appreciated her friend and had dearly missed his presence, she had been hoping that this case would be over sooner. Sherlock had spent his time waiting, yelling at the telly, trying to perform experiments on her food, and pleading with her to bring back body parts from the morgue. She would be extremely happy to have her flat back, thank you very much.
“He’s home.” Sherlock was positively gleeful.
Molly smiled. “I’m so glad, Sherlock.”
Sherlock frowned, looking around. “I’m sorry... I’ve been on edge.”
“It’s fine,” she said, patting his arm gently. “Do you -- er, did you do this all the time with John?” She gestured at the cluster of test tubes containing what she thought might be milk mixed with some other chemical substance.
Sherlock grinned sheepishly. “Yes.”
“Well, I will gladly pass the task of dealing with your experiments on to John.”
All of a sudden, Sherlock was nervous. His fingers trembled, and he looked down at his clothing. He realized how very different he looked now.
“I wonder if he’ll recognize me.”
“Sherlock. The only thing that is moderately ‘not you’ is that red hair of yours.” She frowned, looking at him. “You are a bit thinner, but certainly not unrecognizable.”
He ran his fingers through his hair and pondered this. He looked timid. “I’m not sure I know how to do this.”
“Sorry, love. No experience with people coming back from the dead. I just deal with the definitely dead, you know?”
Molly patted him on the shoulder as she stood. “You’ll figure it out. This is John. He’ll be happy to see you.”
“Where are you going?”
“Off to the hospital. I have autopsies to do.”
Two hours later, Sherlock was dressed. These clothes were nothing like the ones that he had worn in his days running around London with John. He thought about that wistfully. It had been just months ago, but it had seemed like a lifetime. He had on a pair of black jeans, a faded blue shirt and a black leather jacket. He wore leather boots on his feet. He had never recovered his wool coat, unfortunately. He highly suspected that it had been gifted to John, an item of consolation likely presented by Mycroft. He had considered buying a new one, but felt a sentimental attachment to his old one. He just couldn’t replace the one and only possession he had that Mycroft had purchased for him. He shoved his hands into leather gloves, gathering all his necessary possessions, and hailed a cab.
The cab ride seemed far too long. Sherlock’s hands were shaking as they pulled up to 221B Baker Street. Home, he thought. His heartbeat increased. He took several long, deep breaths before he opened the door to the cab.
Standing outside of the flat made his heart leap. Memories surfaced. Of the first day he met John. Of meals shared. Of a bed they shared. Of John’s strong, muscular frame curved up toward his own, John’s fingers in his hair. Of gentle kisses on his cheek or in his hair.
The emotion was overwhelming. Finally, he could wait no longer. He pulled out a key -- his key to the flat and inserted it into the lock. As he opened the door, he could hear the telly from upstairs. He climbed the stairs -- seventeen, he thought.
He opened the door to the flat and there he was. John was seated with his back to the door, watching telly. His keys slipped from his hands as he took in the sight. John was clad in a pair of casually fitting blue jeans and a plaid shirt. His sandy hair had turned a bit darker now, and there were a couple of streaks of grey that Sherlock hadn’t noticed before.
“Mrs. Hudson,” John began, standing up and turning around. His face froze as he took in the sight. He brought his hand up to his mouth.
“John,” Sherlock said tentatively. Oh God, he thought. What would John do? His heart was pounding out of his chest.
“Sh--” John began, walking over to look at the taller man. He lifted a hand to Sherlock’s face, cautiously touching his eyebrows, his cheeks, and the line of his jaw. “Sherlock,” he gasped, his features contorting as tears spilled down his cheeks.
Sherlock reached out and grasped John’s wrist. He smiled as he caressed the back of his hand. “John.”
“How. Can. You. Be. Here?” John asked through choked sobs. His entire body was trembling. His mind was racing, a war waging between what he had seen, what he had thought to be true and the man standing in front of him now.
“I am so sorry, John.”
John grabbed Sherlock by the coat and pressed his face into Sherlock’s chest. His tears wet Sherlock’s shirt. Every sob felt like a knife twisting in Sherlock’s heart. Sherlock could do nothing but wrap his arms around John, brushing his long fingers through the older man’s hair as his body trembled.
They stood this way for a good while, until John was calmer. John looked up, a hesitant smile teasing the corners of his mouth. “You are really here.”
“Yes. I’m here.”
“I’m not hallucinating?”
“No. You’re not.”
Disbelief and sorrow were soon replaced by anger. “Sherlock! How could you -- why did you --” John’s hands dropped to his sides, balling into fists.
“Can we -- can we sit down? I can explain.”
They sat in their usual chairs. It felt so awkward after so long had passed. Sherlock noted John’s fists and simply felt grateful that he hadn’t hit him -- well, not yet, anyhow. It took a few tries before Sherlock was able to get the words out.
“I’m sorry to put you through this, John. I never wanted to. This was never my plan.”
“I watched you fall, Sherlock. How are you here?”
“I had some help.”
“Not this time, I’m afraid. Molly.”
John’s eyes widened. “Molly?”
“Who else do you think could have provided a dead body? Well, okay, maybe Mycroft.”
“But you were dead -- on the ground.”
“No. I wasn’t.”
“But you had no pulse. I held your wrist. It wasn’t there.”
“You didn’t feel for long enough. Molly gave me a drug that slowed my heartbeat.”
John’s eyebrows furrowed. “Sherlock. Why the hell did you jump?”
“Moriarty. He had assassins trained on all of you -- Mrs. Hudson, you, Lestrade. If I didn’t jump, you all would have been killed.”
John’s expression softened. He grasped Sherlock’s hand, which was trembling furiously. “You did this for us?”
Sherlock nodded, a tear falling from his face. “I did this for you.”
John wiped the tear away with his thumb. “Where have you been?” He asked softly.
“Taking out the rest of Moriarty’s web. His contacts, clients, whatever you would like to call them. It was, of course, far larger than I initially suspected.”
John nodded. “Oh. I see.”
“I had to make sure you were safe,” Sherlock said, his voice breaking.
“Sherlock.” John’s voice was stern.
“Yes?” Sherlock asked, looking into John’s eyes.
“Don’t you dare do that to me again.”
“I -- I couldn’t. I’m not... that strong.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“Welcome home, Sherlock.”
Things between John and Sherlock had been very…tentative, to say the least. As much as John wanted to rush straight in to resuming their previous relationship, he thought they both knew that wasn’t entirely possible. It had been a huge breach of trust for Sherlock to not let him in, when he could have helped, when he could have been right there with him. These were the things that remain unspoken, that cause the tension in the flat to rise.
John prided himself on keeping it all together. Yes, he had missed his friend. He was glad to have him back. But what was the most difficult was the time where people thought he had been taken in as well. They thought that he had been fooled. John Watson was no fool, and he made it his goal to prove that.
It had been a difficult task, surrounding himself with so much of what Sherlock was – is. It was difficult after eight months to think of him in the present tense again. Harry had definitely expressed her concerns with John remaining at Baker Street. Any logical person likely would have moved out. Remaining at Baker Street was tantamount to his survival. He had to stay here. It was the only place he felt alive. Had he moved away, he might not have….well, found the will to survive. John shuddered at the thought.
The last week had been hell. He had to admit that. He had welcomed Sherlock back into his life with open arms. Really, what other choice did he have? He could have pushed him away. Could have. What good would that have done? As much as he wanted to scream, yell, even punch Sherlock for leaving him here alone, he simply seethed with silent anger, coupled with the faint relief that the nightmare was over.
He looked over to the man he loved, perched quietly in his chair, reading the news. This was new. It was as though the Sherlock he had known disappeared eight months ago, and a slightly less frantic one had returned about a week ago. Sherlock no longer yelled about being bored, about needing a case (well, there wouldn’t be one, would there?) and there weren’t experiments in the kitchen. No, this Sherlock was calm, logical, and simply enjoyed being in John’s company. He knew this wouldn’t last forever, but he willed himself to enjoy it for the time being.
“John,” Sherlock spoke, not looking up from his paper. “You’re thinking too loudly.”
Sherlock put the paper down and walked over to where John was seated at the kitchen table, pouring himself a cup of tea. “You are thinking too loudly. It’s distracting. If you want to say something, say it.”
“Oh.” John cleared his throat. He took a deep breath. If Sherlock was giving him permission to get it all out, he was going to use this chance to do so. “Sherlock, I’m angry. I’m angry with you. I am glad you’re here,” he was quick to add. “That doesn’t change how I feel.”
“I know. No matter how good my intentions, that doesn’t change the fact that I hurt you.”
That surprised John. For someone who had often been so oblivious to other people’s emotions, he certainly could read John’s. “Oh. Yes. That’s, um, a very astute observation.”
“John,” Sherlock’s voice was nearly a whisper, as he placed his hand on John’s shoulder. John reached up and caressed his knuckles. “I know that right now, this seems like an empty promise. I know I’ve hurt you. But I will find a way to make it up to you.”
“Make it – make it up to me?!” John stood up and whipped around to face Sherlock. “Make up for the last eight months, when I thought you were dead? Make up for the fact that the entire world thought that you were a liar, a freak, a fraud?”
Sherlock shrugged. “Why would their opinions matter to me?” He studied John’s face, seething with anger, for a moment before speaking again. “Oh. Because they bothered you. Because they affected you. People judged you for believing in me.”
“Bingo, genius.” John knew his words were biting and harsh. He couldn’t bring himself to care.
“But you didn’t try and clear my name because of that, did you?”
John’s reply was softer, quieter than Sherlock had predicted. “No. Of course not. I loved – er, love you. I couldn’t let people believe that you were a terrible criminal mastermind. I wanted them to see the man that I love. I wanted them to see the good person that you are.”
“But…I’m not. Look what I did to you,” he said, motioning toward the cane. “Why would you want me, why would you even let me back into your life after what I did to you?”
“Why… you seriously need to ask that, Sherlock?”
He shrugged. “I had hoped that you would move on.”
“How does a person move on when their heart has been torn out of them? When the very person that breathed life back into them in the first place, is gone?” John’s voice was low and tender. He was on the edge of breaking entirely into a million pieces.
Sherlock cleared his throat, trying to find words. “I – I…” he trailed off. He tried again. “I think you’re wrong.”
“How so?” John raised an eyebrow.
“I think it was you who gave me life – made me more human.”
“No. You’ve always been human. No one else bothered to get close enough to you to discover that truth.”
“I’m…sorry,” Sherlock choked out after a few moments, lifting his head away from John’s neck. He looked at John for a long moment, realizing that the tears that existed on John’s face were because of him. He had done this. Guilt overwhelmed him. “I’m. So. Sorry.”
“Don’t leave me again – I won’t survive,” John finally said, his face red, tear tracks apparent down his cheeks. “I mean it, Sherlock,” he said as he composed himself a bit. “I won’t survive. If I hadn’t had something to focus on, I don’t think you would have had someone to come back to.”
Sherlock’s breath caught in his chest. The thought of John Watson ceasing to exist made him feel panicked and overwhelmingly sad. “I don’t want to live in a world where you don’t exist.”
John nodded. “So we’re clear then. You don’t do this ever again. I’m with you in every sense of the word, Sherlock. I want you to be here. I want you in my life. I can’t handle you going away, regardless of the reason.”
“I know you want to protect me. I know that’s the case. I know that’s why you left. But Sherlock – don’t you think that I could have perhaps handled myself, maybe helped you, even?”
Sherlock considered that for a moment. “I didn’t want to put you in any danger.”
John laughed. “Oh, Sherlock. My life has been nothing but dangerous since the day we met. When has that ever stopped me?”
Sherlock grinned. “Oh.”
John jabbed him lightly in the ribs. “Right. We’re in this together, hmm?”
“Okay. No more running away.”
“That’s settled then. Tea?” John asked, pressing a light kiss on Sherlock’s cheek, wiping away the remnant of a tear.
Sherlock beamed up at John, relief clear in his eyes. “Yes. Thank you, John. Tea would be lovely.”
Sherlock’s calm demeanor hadn’t lasted, as much as John had wanted it to. He hadn’t expected that it would, but he had hoped.
“I need something to do, John.”
“What exactly are you thinking?”
“I don’t know, exactly. But it’s been three weeks. I’m bored. “
“Knew it would happen eventually. The only problem is I don’t know exactly what to do here.”
“No, Sherlock. There’s the pesky business of despite your name having been officially cleared, I don’t think that very many people are going to want to risk their careers in order to officially work with you again.”
“Hmm. That’s true. Not even Lestrade?”
“Huh, I think especially Lestrade.”
“Oh.” Sherlock looked pained. “He knows I’m innocent.”
“Yes, of course he does. But he’s under a lot of scrutiny. He can’t afford to make the same mistakes twice. We’ll think of something.” John looked at the calendar as he prepared two mugs of coffee. “Mrs. Hudson is returning tonight from visiting her sister. I, um, think we need to discuss how we’re going to break this news to her,” he said, motioning between the two of them.
“Should it be different from how I broke the news to you?” Sherlock’s eyebrow wrinkled, looking confused.
“Um, yes, Sherlock. That was a bit not good. A little more gently with Mrs. Hudson, hmm?”
“Okay.” Sherlock took a sip of his coffee. “I guess we can spend the day thinking of the least jarring way to inform her of my… return.”
“No, you can spend the day doing that, Sherlock. I have to go to the surgery today.”
“Oh.” Sherlock pouted, which made John giggle.
“I’m sorry, Sherlock. I need to work. Someone has to pay the rent on this place. Not to mention the food that….well, that you used to destroy, anyhow.”
“I thought – I told Mycroft to pay the rent for the year.”
“He paid for yours.”
“No.” Sherlock looked confused. “I told him – I told him to take care of the whole thing.”
“Ah. Well, that was my own stubbornness, I suppose.” John blushed furiously. “I didn’t feel right about … about taking something that was yours.”
“So my will… what did you do with the money? Not that it really matters,” he quickly added. “It’s yours to do what you wish.”
“Put it in an account. One I haven’t touched.”
“Put it… but why?”
“Accepting it, using it – meant that you were really gone.”
“Don’t worry about it, Sherlock. And I’m sorry that I have to go today, but I do actually want to go to work. I enjoy it. I’ve also been away from it for far too long. Sarah’s been good about it, though. I think she understood that I needed some time off. She urged me to take some time off…in the beginning. But I needed to stay busy. I guess she thinks that I’m compensating now.”
“You’ll be okay here? Won’t destroy the flat? Mrs. Hudson won’t be home until late. I told her I’d pick her up.”
“You know I did live alone before I met you.”
“Yes. And you also had your brother running in to clean up your messes. To put you in rehab when you overdosed. Again.”
Sherlock’s face became extremely pale. He didn’t want to think of a time…before John. Especially not that time. It was a dark period in his life, not one he wanted to relive.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No. You’re right. Don’t worry,” he said, picking up the newspaper’s obituary section. “I’ll find something to occupy my mind. Perhaps there’s a murder in here after all.”
John laughed and pressed a kiss into Sherlock’s darkening curls. They weren’t yet the jet black that he knew, but they were no longer fully red, either. “I’ll see you tonight, love.”
Sherlock hadn’t known what he had expected, coming home. He knew that his name had been tarnished, thanks in part to his own doing. Perhaps there had been another option. He could have asked his brother for help before he agreed to meet on the rooftop of St. Bart’s with a known madman. But Sherlock Holmes was a proud man, and risking his life was par for the course. In the past, it wouldn’t have mattered. It would have just been a game to play, another way to obtain a rush of adrenaline. But then he met John. And that changed all the rules.
So what happened now? He hadn’t been aimless in his work for a good seven years. And now – he felt a little bit lost. He wondered if any of the people who had proclaimed their faith in him actually really did need him. It was one thing to write “I Believe in Sherlock Holmes” and “Moriarty was Real” on the side of a building. It was another to put your full trust in a man who supposedly betrayed so many.
These were the thoughts in his head as he heard a knock on the door. Sherlock jumped. He had been so lost in thought he hadn’t heard the footsteps on the stairs, hadn’t been able to determine exactly who was knocking on his door.
“Sherlock!” The voice from the other side answered out. “I know you’re in there.”
Sherlock walked to the door and opened it. It was DI Lestrade. “Lestrade,” he began.
The smile on the DI’s face was brilliant. “Unbelievable.”
“You certainly don’t look like a ghost, but it’s hard to believe that you’re alive.”
“I suppose I should take that as a compliment,” Sherlock sneered.
“Suppose so, yeah.”
“Cup of tea?” Sherlock suggested, waving the detective inside.
Lestrade raised his eyebrows in surprise. Sherlock had never been the hospitable sort. “S-sure. As long as there’s not anything questionable in it.”
“Questionable?” Sherlock let out a laugh. “Oh, no experiments.”
“Good to know.”
The two sat awkwardly at the table while the kettle boiled. Lestrade studied Sherlock’s features almost as intently as John had. The mop of reddish hair, the too-thin face, features far too sharp now. Though Sherlock had retreated to wearing the clothing typical of his consulting detective days, he was still a shadow of the man he had been before. He had been to hell and back, and it showed in so many ways.
“Well? Is this a social call or did you come here for a reason?” Sherlock asked after being studied for just a bit too long.
“Oh. Ahem. John told me you were alive. I had to see for myself, of course.”
“So this is about satisfying your curiosity?”
“What’s the other part?”
“I’d like to have your help again. I know I have no right to ask that of you. I am very sorry for…”
“Stop.” Sherlock interrupted. “You did what you had to do. I know why you did. I don’t blame you for it.”
“Good. Good,” he responded, nodding.
“I also know that it’s because of you that I don’t have any charges against me.”
“That’s true. That was mostly John, though. He began by sending information to the Yard anonymously. I had an inkling it was him all along.”
“But John couldn’t have done anything about the information on his own, and for that, I owe you my gratitude.”
“Oh. Hmm. You’re welcome.” Lestrade was not accustomed to receiving compliments from Sherlock. “I suppose I have you to thank for helping to reinstate my position.”
“Ah, that was my brother’s doing. But no, I actually had nothing to do with that at all. That was all John.”
“He is rather the surprising individual, isn’t he?” Sherlock beamed. “So,” he began, grabbing a biscuit and handing the plate to Lestrade, “why have you come here? You mentioned needing my help.”
“Right. I can’t exactly restore you to the position you were in, but I could certainly use some help with some cold cases.”
“Excellent!” Sherlock rubbed his hands together in glee.
“So you’ll do it? I know you’d rather be there in the middle of the action, but I just can’t… not yet, anyhow.”
“Yes, of course.” Sherlock nodded. “I do understand the predicament you’re in.”
“No, thank you, Lestrade.”
“I’ll uh, just leave these here, then?” He asked, pulling out files from his bag.
Sherlock smiled, a rush of adrenaline running through his blood. “Yes, thank you.”
“Thank you again. For the tea, and the help,” Lestrade said, turning to leave.
“Of course,” Sherlock responded as the door clicked, waving the files at Lestrade as he left.
Well, this just might turn out to be an interesting day, Sherlock thought.
“You seem very….happy,” Sarah said.
John grinned. “I am.”
“Why?” She looked at him suspiciously. “New girlfriend?”
John laughed. “Ha. No.”
John snorted. “Not exactly.”
“What, then? I know you’re happy about the case being closed, but there’s something I can’t put a finger on. Something’s different.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Sherlock’s not dead.”
Sarah frowned, studying him intently.
“You don’t look as though you’ve gone mad.”
“That’s because I haven’t.”
“There’s no way… you said you saw his body.”
“I did. He had help – drug in his system to slow his heartbeat, smeared his own blood on his face. Crazy git.”
“Truer words were never spoken.”
“So where has he been for the past 8 months? If he wasn’t here with you, he had to be doing something, right?”
“I don’t know if I’ll ever know the full answer to that. But his exact words were ‘eliminating Moriarty’s web.’ Had help with that one, too, I’m sure.”
“Well. That’s something. And of course, he had a good friend out clearing his name,” she said, patting John on the shoulder, raising an eyebrow.
“Sarah. I didn’t know… I thought he was…” John’s voice faltered.
“No, I didn’t think you did,” she said, furrowing her brow. “That would have been one hell of an act on your part.”
John chuckled. “It was one hell of an act on his part, too.”
“Well, he is quite known for his dramatics.”
“That he is.”
“So now what?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, are you going to be off fighting crimes again?”
“No, I don’t think so. Not for awhile anyhow. I don’t think most people will be quite so….accepting that he’s back. And even if they are, people don’t forget that they were lied to so easily.”
“Hmmm. I suppose that’s true. What about your blog?”
“What about it?”
“You used it before to find clients. Could do so again.”
“Perhaps. I haven’t used it really. Just the once in the past eight months.”
"You have a powerful tool with that blog of yours.”
John just nodded. He hadn’t thought of it like that. Perhaps he should start writing again. He determined to run it by Sherlock that night. Could be useful, that blog. He hadn’t wanted to write in it after Sherlock’s “death.” The emotion was too raw; he didn’t want to get too personal. But now – it might be useful.
“Sherlock, what in the bloody hell?” John asked as he entered the flat. “What is going on?”
A cursory look around the flat revealed that Sherlock had taken up some sort of project, probably to keep himself from being utterly bored, John assumed. There was an experiment on what looked like curdled milk in a glass in the kitchen and there were papers strewn all over the table. What made the scene even more fascinating, however, was the fact that Sherlock was standing on his head.
“Sherlock? Are you trying to see how long you can hold that position without losing consciousness?”
Sherlock righted himself, shaking his head as he stood up. “Well, I was.”
“Sorry to have ruined your experiment,” John smirked. “But what is all of this?”
“Ah. Well, it seems that Lestrade was feeling a bit of guilt, as it were. So he brought by some files.”
“He’s letting you work on cases again?” John asked incredulously.
“Not exactly. These are cold cases, some dating back 30 years. Not quite as interesting, but I’ll take what I can get.”
“Brilliant. Sarah had an idea, as well.”
“She thinks I should start writing on the blog again. You do have a good amount of supporters – I assume mostly from people we’ve helped.”
“Hmm. Yes, that might be good.”
“I just know that a bored Sherlock Holmes is most certainly a problem.”
Sherlock gave him a pained expression. “I’m a problem?”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I meant that you having nothing to do makes me worry. And I can’t work and worry.”
“No, I mean it. Stay home with me. Help me with these cases.”
“I can’t just stop working, Sherlock. Besides, I’m rubbish compared to you.”
“I seem to recall a certain someone setting out to clear my name, and achieving that goal.”
John blushed. “That’s not remotely the same.”
Sherlock shook his head. “You give yourself far too little credit.”
John ignored the compliment. “You eat yet today?”
Sherlock shook his head. “Takeaway?”
“Okay.” As he scanned the kitchen for takeout menus, he mused, “You know, you’ve been more agreeable. I like it.”
“I mean, you don’t protest about eating anymore. You don’t say ridiculous things like ‘breathing’s boring’.”
Sherlock’s head snapped up from the specimen he was studying, a sharp look to his features. “You need me to spell this out for you?”
He sighed. “Okay. Breathing isn’t boring because I felt like my heart was being ripped out every single moment I was apart from you. And I learned the value of a decent meal, having been forced to go without every now and again.”
“Oh.” John was momentarily breathless and flushed. That had not been the answer he had been expecting. “I’m sorry. I should have realized…”
Sherlock waved his hand in the air dismissively. “No. It’s fine. I just – find that the things I used to think were unimportant seem to be…well, important now.”
John crossed the space between them, placing one hand around the back of Sherlock’s head. He pulled him down, looking deep into those piercing grey eyes before placing a tender yet insistent kiss on Sherlock’s lips. Sherlock’s response was warm and wet, and his tongue grazed over John’s bottom lip. John hummed with pleasure, stroking the back of Sherlock’s neck. He placed the palm of his other hand against Sherlock’s chest, feeling the thrumming of his heartbeat, steadily increasing at his touch.
When they broke apart a moment later, Sherlock blinked, attempting to steady himself. “That was far more exhilarating than making myself nearly pass out. May I ask what that was for?”
“I’m grateful you’re here. Alive. Well. Whole.”
“Oh.” Sherlock had become shy again, a light blush creeping onto his cheeks. “I’m glad you didn’t punch me.”
“When I came home, initially. I wholly expected you to punch me.”
“I think I was a bit too shocked with there being a dead man walking around the flat to think of violence.”
Sherlock laughed. “I’ll leave you to order the curry, then.” He turned back to his microscope.
John sighed as he snuggled up close to Sherlock on the couch, his fingernails scratching the reddish curls as Sherlock’s head lay on his chest. Sherlock hummed in pleasure. It had now been a full month since Sherlock had returned. John hadn’t expected everything to fall right back as it was quite as easily as it did. He hadn’t expected small things like hugs, gentle kisses, snuggling, even sleeping in the same bed to come easily. He had assumed that they would require a much longer healing process after such a large breach of trust.
But this was Sherlock and John. Two lives which had inexplicably woven together into one entity at some point in time. John still couldn’t believe how lucky he truly was, to possess the love of the man sitting beside him. Sherlock, for his part, had expected John to be a little bit more reticent on the forgiveness side of it. He had fully prepared to spend a few days sleeping in one of Mycroft’s spare bedrooms, or at a hotel (paid for by Mycroft’s expense account, of course). But John had forgiven him. Even if it had been tentative in the beginning, it was apparent that he was too happy to have Sherlock home to stay angry.
Sherlock’s grey eyes met the deep ocean blue of John’s eyes. Sherlock smiled.
“What?” John asked suspiciously.
“Just appreciating the view.”
John snorted. “Okay.”
“John?” Sherlock asked, sitting up.
“This isn’t temporary, right?”
“What are you talking about?”
“This. Us. You yelled at me, but just the once. I expected it to be worse; I expected you to hit me, throw me out. But you didn’t. Should I be prepared for your temper to flare at some point in time in the future?”
“Oh, God, no. Sherlock, I spent far too long feeling heartbroken, feeling like I was missing the other half of me. I’m not going to throw you out. Can’t promise that I won’t ever get angry with you, but not about that, I don’t think.”
“You ever heard the expression ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is?’ Sometimes I think that about us.”
- And pardon me, but I think we fit perfectly together.”
Sherlock nodded. “That sounds like an accurate assessment.”
“Right. So that’s settled.”
“Wait. I’ve just realized something.”
“Out with it, then.”
“I’ve never properly thanked you. I should have, John. You’ve saved my arse more times than I can count. Well, that’s not true, I can count them…”
“Right. Thank you. For saving me from myself. And for loving me.”
“And I’ve been thinking. Look, you and I both know how much I ache for a case, and I do. That isn’t ever going to change. And I don’t think that you ever expected it to. But I had a chance to think when I was…away.”
John looked at him pointedly. “And?”
“And I realized that I didn’t ever want to have to hope and pray that I’d make it out alive. That I’d make it back to you again. I didn’t ever want to put myself in that much danger again. For the first time in my life, I really wanted to live. Because the alternative – I knew what it might do to you.”
“Oh.” John was stunned. “So, what’s the plan then?”
“I think – I think I’d just like to work on the cold cases that Lestrade brings me. I’m not going to go looking for trouble.”
“Sherlock. I know you. You’ll get bored.”
“No,” he said, squeezing John’s hand tightly. “I won’t. I don’t need that kind of adrenaline rush anymore.”
“And why not?”
“I experience a very similar feeling when you’re nearby.”
“Oh. I see. So, what about the blog?”
“I’ll still take the odd case here and there.”
“Ok. If you’re sure?”
Sherlock chuckled. “I am. I’m just done playing the game. I’ve found something worth living for,” he said as he squeezed John’s hand. John positively beamed up at him.
A/N: The music playing in my head while writing this fic is Coldplay’s “Fix You”. It isn’t the song that Sherlock plays here, but the emotion behind it is similar. You can hear a gorgeous strings version and read a beautiful ficlet (that inspired a few of the ideas for this chapter) here: http://valeria2067.tumblr.com/post/13383508079/i-will-try-to-fix-you-a-hamish-john-and
Six months after Sherlock returns, so do the dreams. The nightmares.
He tries to hide them. He tries to pass it off as no big deal. But Sherlock knows. Sometimes, Sherlock holds him tightly, fingers entwined with his own until his heart returns to its normal 72 beats per minute. Other times, Sherlock accepts his withdrawal to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.
It shouldn’t be this way, John realized. There’s no threat. There’s almost no chance that Sherlock is going anywhere. But still, John cannot help seeing Sherlock’s cold, lifeless body lying on the pavement. The still, grey, unseeing eyes looking blankly up.
John doesn’t know what Sherlock thinks is going on. He doesn’t know whether he’s deduced that the dreams are about him. All he knows is that Sherlock is here, prepared to hold his hand, encircle his body in a warm embrace if needed. What had he ever done to deserve such an extraordinary love?
Their life is simple now. John has gone to part time hours at the surgery. Sherlock only takes the few cases that Lestrade is capable of offering and the odd case from a client. He doesn’t put himself in danger very often anymore, save for the spare chemical reaction in their kitchen. If a person didn’t know any better, they’d think that it was pure domestic bliss, that John had somehow mellowed Sherlock in some way. John knows this isn’t entirely true.
John briefly considered going to talk to Ella. But what had doing so really helped in the past? It wasn’t talking that fixed his leg the first time. It was Sherlock. It wasn’t talking that healed his broken heart when Sherlock died. It was getting out there and doing something, something that mattered, and even more so, it was Sherlock’s return to him. And this is why the whole thing was so complicated.
It doesn’t happen every night. Thankfully. But it happens often enough that Sherlock has begun to get a bit worried. But worrying about John – well, John is smart. He doesn’t neglect his health as much as Sherlock tends to.
“No! No! Don’t – no!” John woke up screaming.
“Shhh,” the voice pressed up to his ear said, holding John’s trembling form tightly. “John. I’m here.” John settled in as close as he could to the curve of Sherlock’s chest behind him, taking short, shuddering breaths.
“I – I’m sorry,” John gasped out. His heart hammered in his chest, his limbs trembling, tears falling from his eyes. “I’m sorry I couldn’t – I couldn’t…” his voice broke off, the sobs overtaking him, losing the ability to form words.
Sherlock turned him over so that they were face-to-face. “John,” he said gently. “You have nothing to apologise for. I may not understand your emotions, but you have nothing to be ashamed of. They are a perfectly natural reaction to negative thoughts.”
John took a deep breath. “Thank you, but I’m not apologizing for my emotions, Sherlock.”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “What, then? I thought for sure that you didn’t want me to see the way you reacted to a dream that I presume is about the war.”
John lifted a hand to wipe the tears away from his eyes. “Sherlock. You think the dreams I’ve been having have been about Afghanistan?”
John pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “Oh, Sherlock, sometimes you really are a daft git.”
“I got it wrong then.”
“Yes, you did. I’m not apologising for having emotion. I’m apologising for not being there to save you. I dream over and over about you jumping off that roof. I keep hoping that the dream changes, that this time, I’m up there with you, and I’m able to stop you. But every time – I see you plummet to the ground. I see your eyes…oh God, Sherlock, your eyes that day…” John choked back a sob.
“You see me.”
“Yes. I see you.”
Sherlock shuddered, his face betraying his absolutely perplexed thoughts. “Oh, John.” His eyes closed, several tears trickling down his face. He fell silent, his body shaking. This was his fault, he thought. It was his fault that John was having these horrible dreams. It was his fault that John was in pain – in agony, all things considered. “Oh God, John.” He gulped, wrapping his long arms around John, pulling him close, placing teary kisses on his face, his neck, his shoulders. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Later, John made himself a cup of tea.
Sherlock picked up a long-neglected violin and began to play.
The music that rang out in the flat warmed John’s heart and cut right to his soul. This was a new song, not one that John had ever heard before. And yet, it felt so very familiar. Not unlike the tune that he had composed when he had believed that Irene Adler was dead. But this tune was different – it was less somber and more hopeful. It bordered on melancholy, and yet, there were notes in the higher register that resonated with John’s very soul, that plucked the strings of his heart and it felt like…joy.
It was a prayer. It was an apology. It was everything that John had needed but hadn’t known to ask for. It was every word that Sherlock needed to speak but hadn’t been able to articulate the words to do so. It was a healing balm on wounds both old and new.
Sherlock drew out the final note with his bow and wordlessly placed it down on the table. He crossed the room over to where John was sitting in his chair, kneeling in front of him. He placed his head in John’s lap and allowed John to gently massage his scalp. Calloused fingers worked small circles into his head. Sherlock hummed, the pleasure of the motion vibrating through his body. John sighed in quiet, content relief.
He had thought that love was best expressed through big shows of emotion. But no, sometimes it was much more poignant in the smaller shows of affection. Funny, wasn’t it? Sherlock jumping off a roof in order to save John’s life should have been of the utmost importance, the most important moment of John’s life. It should have been the one that proved Sherlock’s love for John, the ultimate sacrifice. But their love wasn’t like that, he supposed. They had been mere acquaintances when John had shot a serial killer. It was the small, ordinary things that had been done with such care and affection that mattered. A grasp of a trembling hand, the stroke of a bow over the strings of a violin, a cup of tea, an arm wrapped around a broken man. Oh, Sherlock knew how to be dramatic. To everyone else, he was a genius, focused on his dramatics, always seeking an audience. Perhaps that’s why these little gestures mattered so much. The true acts of love weren’t jumping off a building or sacrificing one’s life for another, even the one they loved – they’d both done that so many times now. It was the small things that communicated so much love and tenderness, and this is what mattered. And tonight, with a certain genius sprawled out in front of him, John Watson realized how much he really mattered to Sherlock, and how many infinite possibilities lay ahead in their future. It didn’t matter what they did, where life took them. All that mattered is that Sherlock was there by his side.