Chapter 1: SALLY
Sally Donovan has always had dreams.
When she was younger she dismissed it as déjà vu; when the things she dreamed (half-asleep late at night) came true, it could only be déjà vu. Nothing else.
It was always the same: a slightly horrifying sense of disorientation that passed quickly enough, and it so fit the description of déjà vu that she assumed everyone shared her issue. As she got older, as she grew into her gift, she began to realize that she was different.
The moment that she realized was almost an anticlimax, compared to everything else that was going on at that moment. She was in uni, doing an unpaid summer internship at the New Scotland Yard while she studied to become a police officer. That night she woke up in the middle of the night sweating and crying.
The dream danced across her eyelids as she sobbed: blood. So much blood, everywhere and at the center of it, Mary, her best friend. Mary, who had schemed with her to become a detective. Mary, who joined the program at the same time Sally had. Mary, dead in a puddle of her own blood.
It took her several hours to calm down enough to go back to sleep. By the time she managed it, she was only able to catch a small nap before she had to wake up for the day.
She spent a good chunk of the morning drinking very strong coffee and trying to wake up, and it was nearly noon by the time she realized she hadn't seen Mary yet.
A sense of foreboding overwhelmed her.
No one answered Mary's mobile. She told herself that she was being stupid when a young Detective-Inspector by the name of Lestrade walked in.
“We've got a report of a dead body,” he said to her. “Want to ride along?”
It was exactly what he'd said to her in her dream last night.
She was unsurprised to find the scene playing out exactly as it had the night before: every word was the same. Even the coppery tang of blood in the air. By the time she got to the end of it all (the body, the body, the body) she was in a daze, not even so much horrified as nauseated and stunned.
There was a strange man, not much older than Sally herself, that Lestrade had called in to look at Mary's body. “She was one of our interns,” Lestrade told Sherlock Holmes quietly, off to the side of the crime scene.
Sherlock's gaze rested on Sally. “She was your friend,” he said, tonelessly. Sally nodded, swallowing hard to avoid giving in to the urge to vomit.
“You don't seem very upset,” Sherlock commented, sweeping past her and into the crime scene. He sneered. “If you weren't so unbelievably moral I'd think you'd done it.”
Sally's forward momentum (fist raised, arm tensed; Sherlock didn't even flinch) was stopped by Greg Lestrade's arm blocking her path.
“Just ignore him, Sally,” he said, quietly. “He's always like this.”
That was the day that Sally Donovan decided to hate Sherlock Holmes.
She has had the same recurring dream for the last ten years, since well before she became an adult: she stands in an opulent palace, a foyer of sorts with no seating but a lot of books and pictures. There are golden walls and tassels and treasures stuffed into corners. It looks like something out of Tales of the Arabian Nights, a sultan's treasury: there are even coins scattered about the floor, although if she picks them up they do not resemble actual currency. They are flat pieces of gold and silver engraved with small facts, things like: “Killer whales – orcinius orca – are actually dolphins rather than whales,” and, “Afghanistan is the number one supplier of opium in the world.”
She is standing there and there are two men with her. One she has identified as Greg Lestrade, although he looks older, his head of hair almost entirely gray. The other is shorter and dishwater blond, and he stands alert and wary. She doesn't know his name, hasn't met him yet.
Greg speaks. “Where are we?” He looks around. “It looks like a pirate's treasure trove.”
The other man looks pained, and when he speaks he has a light, pleasant, friendly voice. “Oh God,” he says. “Tell me we didn't.”
“Didn't what?” Greg asks.
The dream begins to get fuzzy around the edges at this point. “-ally,” Greg is saying. “Sally! Are you okay?”
“I'm fine,” she replies. Greg turns back to the other man.
“–ohn, do you know where –“
“–d pal –“
The dream cuts out.
Sally always wakes up from these dreams terrified, even though the dream itself isn't scary. And for some reason, it always reminds her of Sherlock Holmes.
Sally naturally gets hired on by the NSY after she graduates from university. Greg Lestrade expressed himself happy to have her on-board, although he had to ask her several times to tone down her derision toward Sherlock Holmes.
She didn't like him. He was bad news, and while she'd never had a dream involving him directly, he unsettled her. She'd never tell him that she felt slightly guilty when she called him a freak (because if anyone was a freak it had to be her: who else can see into the future but never, ever control it?) but she suspected that he knew anyway, if not why.
As much as she hated him, she had to admit he was brilliant, if terrifying. And it was because of him that she had a name for her curse, a word to point her in the right direction.
“Why can't you ever predict these things, Sherlock?” Greg said, one day, rubbing a tired hand down his face. “You keep saying people are predictable.”
“I'm not a precog, Lestrade,” Sherlock replied, derisively. He rolled his eyes. “Seeing the future has never been my forte, although if you'd like I believe there's a woman downtown with a deck of tarot cards.” Something about this statement made Sherlock smirk at Lestrade, who fidgeted. “I make an educated deduction that generally turns out to be correct. In the absence of information, I am essentially useless.” It looked like it pained him to say that.
Sally blinked, then pulled her notebook out and wrote the word down: precog. She had no idea what it meant, but she'd an idea that it might pertain to her.
Later that night, after Sherlock had single-handedly solved their case, she logged on to the Internet and searched for the word. It brought up a plethora of information, and Sally realized very abruptly that she wasn't alone in the world.
The first and only time Sally dreams of Sherlock Holmes, he jumps off of a roof and smashes into the sidewalk below. Then she is at his funeral and she can see him watching from afar. She walks up to him, and he turns to her.
“I'm not dead,” he informs her. “But don't tell him. It's for his own protection.” He nods toward a man and Sally turns to see the dishwater blond from her Arabian Nights dream. He is standing in front of a black gravestone emblazoned with Sherlock's name.
“Protect him,” Sherlock tells her, drawing her gaze back. “Protect John.”
Two days later, Sally watched in stunned amazement as Sherlock Holmes strode up to their crime scene and introduced her to his colleague, Doctor John Watson.
She can never tell when the her dreams are going to come true. Fifteen years ago she started dreaming of a horde of knowledge, a treasure trove of information that she stood in with Greg Lestrade and John Watson, and it still had yet to come true. And sometimes her dreams are just dreams : there's no rhyme or reason to which ones are going to actually happen.
She'd managed to write off so many of her dreams over the years that it came as something of a shock when Greg pulled her to the side and told her that Sherlock Holmes had jumped off the roof of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. It hurt, very suddenly: She'd never liked him, and she thought he possibly did awful things for attention, but she'd not wanted him dead.
Just as suddenly she remembered her dream.
Sally had never been a religious woman. She hadn't entirely ruled out the idea of a higher power, but the idea of that higher power having a set of rules that everyone had to abide by seemed strange to her. She'd never been a woman of faith, but for the first time she had solid faith, absolute faith and hope, in something.
Sherlock Holmes was alive .
She didn't attend the funeral directly. She figured that John had to blame her, in part, for what happened, and she couldn't find it in herself to begrudge him the blame. She did, however, go to the graveyard on the day the funeral happened. She stood off to the side, waiting.
Just as he did in her dream, Sherlock slowly walked up to her. “You knew I'd be here,” he said, softly.
“I dreamed about it,” she replied. “But then again, you knew that.”
He nodded. “You did your research on precogs, then.”
Sally laughed, harshly. “I know you're not of the best opinion of the Scotland Yard, but I'm not a complete idiot.”
“Horrifically enough, I am aware of that,” he said, eyes turning back toward the funeral procession. They were both silent for several minutes before he continued. “I'm not dead.” He paused. “But don't tell him. It's for his own protection.”
“I wasn't planning on it,” she said.
“There are assassins,” he said. “They will kill him if they get even an inkling that I'm alive.” He closes his eyes and for the first time in their association, Sally can see him as what he is: a human, tragically flawed man. Sherlock Holmes is an actual human being. She still couldn't stand him, but she very suddenly realized that she didn't hate him anymore. He gave up everything for the only friend he ever had. Sherlock Holmes, she realized, was actually capable of love.
“I won't tell him,” she promised.
“Protect him,” Sherlock said, nodding toward him. “Protect John.”
That night, Sally dreams of the Arabian Nights treasure trove again, only this time, there's a door there with her name on it.
Chapter 2: GREG
Growing up, Greg Lestrade thought he'd taken after his father.
He was utterly ordinary: smart enough, strong enough, but ordinary just the same. It had taken him a rather long time to cotton on to his particular skill set, because it was so very different from his sister's and mother's.
He was twelve years old before his mother realized what was going on. When he'd described their father as purple and sad and tasting like plums the day before he committed suicide, his mother had realized quite quickly that her son wasn't ungifted as she'd thought (it had been disappointing, really, to be such a powerful precog and to have such a powerfully past-clairvoyant daughter, but she'd loved her son all the same). Greg was a powerful receiving empath, and she mourned it of him.
“The life of an empath is never an easy one,” she'd murmured into his hair, rocking him back and forth as he cried out in the unified, shared grief of their family. It was unfair, for a twelve-year-old boy to suffer through the grief of three when his own had to be overwhelming enough.
Their extended family, the ones they'd moved in with when they traveled back to London after his father died, were unsurprised when Greg chose to learn to block out his gift and decided upon an utterly average and normal career. The Modovanu clan was noted for it's eccentricities to begin with: the entire family was comprised of fortune-tellers and soothsayers and witches. It was from them that Greg had inherited his curse, and he didn't feel very charitable toward them for it. He'd never fitted in with them anyway, taking after his father in looks and personality. He looked utterly British, despite his father's French heritage, and wouldn't be out of place at a rugby match or a pub night. Amongst his family, though, he stuck out like a sore thumb: tall with white skin and brown hair where all of them were short with olive skin, slanted eyes, and shiny black hair. The gypsy blood really became obvious when Greg was amongst them.
It quickly became second nature to tune out other people's emotions, especially when Greg went off to university: it was a necessity, or he'd have quickly had a nervous breakdown. His mother had helped him build a wall in his mind, around his heart, and everything else he managed to ignore.
It was rather like being in a crowded room while holding a conversation. You could tune out everyone else's conversations but your own, but occasionally someone outside of your bubble said something loudly and it caught your attention.
That was happening now. Greg was going through a fairly average day when he caught a whiff of orangeish/ironcopper/anger/hate .
That was the weirdest thing about his particular talents, he thought: it was emotional synaesthesia, always accompanied with colors and taste/smells at the back of his throat. It was one of the only ways he'd ever found to discern between the foreign emotions and his own. If he focused enough, he could find the person emanating strong emotions because they literally glowed to him. Staring at someone with all of his senses open was like looking into the sun's corona. A person could pulse with it if they felt strongly enough, sending out little emotion-flares that infected other people.
An empath like Greg Lestrade could see, quiet obviously, how one person's bad mood could ruin everyone's day. On the flip side, sometimes the colors were beautiful and infected everyone with joy.
Sherlock Holmes was almost always an electric yellow/excitement/taste of lightning and rain . Unless he was high ( brown/mud/sick ) or more recently, looking at John Watson ( pink/chocolate/puppylove ). There had also been one time when Greg had walked into 221B Baker Street and Sherlock had been practically throwing his emotions at Greg. It had been all black and despair and boredom and strangely, the taste of Miracle Whip.
Sherlock Holmes was fascinating to study from an empathic standpoint, but not nearly as fascinating as his protege, John Watson. John was interesting because he didn't emanate any emotions whatsoever. Not even a flicker: John Watson had a barrier to psychic intrusion of any sort. Greg actually quite enjoyed it: hanging around John was sort of like taking a break from life. They became something similar to friends and often met up at a quiet pub to drink and watch the latest match. Greg enjoyed those nights.
The orangey hatred tasted like blood at the back of Greg's throat, choking him before he managed to stifle it. It was so strong that he couldn't shut it off like he normally would, and he went to investigate. Not entirely surprisingly, the emotions were emanating from the cell that contained one James Moriarty, supposedly Sherlock's arch-nemesis. As he watched, the emotions flickered, became tempered with red/apples/lust and then dark yellow/licorice allsorts/confusion . The intensity with which the man felt things terrified Lestrade.
Something was coming. He wasn't a precog – that had been his mother's arena – but he could sense that plans were afoot. Whatever they were, they made him feel sick to his stomach and he left work early, citing a stomach bug.
Despite not being a precog, he kept his mother's old tarot deck, a Rider-Waite that was older than he was. His wife hated it and he generally didn't trust it, but Mum had willed it to him when she died and it meant a lot to him even if he didn't use it. Today, however, he felt ill-at-ease enough to pull it out and shuffle it until it felt right. He'd never really studied the Tarot with any intent to practice it, but it made him feel closer to his family, and often shuffling through the cards without doing any serious casting made him feel more in control of a situation. He never, ever let anyone catch him doing it, although he was fairly certain Sherlock had figured it out.
He pulled out a card, letting his mind do the work. He was completely unsurprised to find that he'd drawn the Tower (weak foundations; disaster; bad omens), but without prompting the top card flipped off the deck and landed, face-down, on the ground at his feet.
Greg reached down with some amount of trepidation and picked it up. He hesitated, but swallowed and turned the card over. It is the ace of swords (reason; intelligence; pursuit of justice; application of intellect) – Sherlock's card.
+ + + + +
When he got the call about Sherlock's suicide, Greg felt it hit him almost physically. Sherlock had annoyed the piss out of him at times, and more often than not he had to resist the urge to throw a fist into the younger man's face, but he still regarded him as a friend and son-surrogate. Sherlock had taken up the mantle of adopted child with relish, although he hadn't said so aloud. He didn't need to: Greg could feel the affection that radiated off of him ( pale green/mint ) and it spoke as clearly as if he'd waltzed into Greg's office and stated that he wanted an adoption.
He'd been so angry, so disappointed when everything had gone down and they'd had to arrest him, as if he'd found one of his daughters smoking pot or prostituting herself. This, though...this was worse. This was the loss of a child, a friend, a colleague.
He wanted to cry, to throw things, to scream. He wanted to find James Moriarty and stab him. He wanted to find his almost-ex-wife and pound into her brutally, to work off the anger and hatred. He wanted to compose sonnets and he wanted to burn out the very sun.
Instead, he took a deep, shaken breath and walked out of his office. The first person he found was Sally Donovan.
He caught her by her arm and pulled her around the corner. She looked at him, concerned.
“Sherlock's dead,” he said. He felt the initial wave of shock. “He committed suicide. Jumped off St. Bart's.”
She was silent for several seconds, her mouth moving in astonishment. To his surprise, the shock was followed by purple/plums/sadness and gray /ash/depression and then dark green/elastic-rubber/hurt. Sally Donovan cared , to some extent, about Sherlock Holmes.
Just as suddenly, however, it was followed by white/vanilla/hope/faith . He looked at her strangely, but she covered herself well.
“How's Doctor Watson doing?” she asked, calmly. She closed her eyes. “He'll blame me, naturally, but you should go find him. He likes you. He'll need a friend right now.”
“Right,” Greg said, nodding slowly. Sally walked away from him and he stared after her.
Sally Donovan did not believe that Sherlock Holmes was dead, and it wasn't denial. It was absolute and honest faith in something. And not only that, but she didn't believe he was a fraud. Not anymore.
Greg blinked after her in stunned amazement, and then left for St. Bart's and John Watson.
+ + + + +
He'd almost forgotten about it by the time the funeral rolled around. It wasn't a media circus, as he'd expected; John and Mycroft had managed to keep the details of the funeral out of the general public's knowledge. It was small: less than twenty people, including the preacher and Mycroft's mysterious assistant. John and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson were the closest to the grave, ostensibly as Sherlock's closest friends.
Lestrade let out a shaky breath as they began to lower the casket into the ground. John was, as usual, a blank spot next to him, and Mrs. Hudson was letting out waves of olive green/phlegm and sickness/grief . The people around him mostly were broadcasting variations of that grief, except for the preacher, who was tan/custard creams/bored .
He listened to the preacher intone words that he felt certain that Sherlock would have been furious to hear – religion, he'd said, made absolutely no sense – before being buffeted by white/vanilla/hope/faith and then just as quickly, redbrown/tobacco/annoyance . It was Sally, and that taste of annoyance was only ever aimed at one person.
To his surprise, her annoyance quickly turns to green/mint/affection and yellow/daisies/amazement . Sally had never expressed affection towards Sherlock Holmes, and for a brief second he doubted his empathy and read on the subject.
Then he caught a whiff of electricity and rainstorms and he knew . The funeral was over now, and Greg walked away quickly; his supposed grief could excuse him a lot.
He followed Sally's signature: it was loud and clear, like she was an emotional homing beacon. He walked up behind them as Sherlock was saying, “Protect John.”
The two of them were silent for a moment before Sherlock spoke aloud again. “I was wondering when you'd notice me, Lestrade.” He did not move his head even once to acknowledge the other man, but Greg was overwhelmed with a wave of minty affection – specifically for him, although a portion of it seemed to be reserved for Sally now too. Sherlock, it seemed, had found a sister-figure.
“I noticed Sally first,” Greg admitted. Sherlock smirked. He still refused to take his eyes off of John.
“I suppose someone with no training would broadcast rather loudly,” Sherlock said. “She's just a precog, after all.”
“Broadcast?” Sally looked alarmed and confused. Greg looked at her in astonishment.
“You're a precog?”
She frowned at him. “When I dream, sometimes, I can see...things. But what do you mean by broadcast?”
“I'm an empath,” Greg replied, blinking. “My mum was a precog. She could control it, though.” He turned to Sherlock. “What do you mean, training? You've had training?”
“Oh, yes,” Sherlock said, smirking. “Mycroft's a broadcasting empath. Our mother thought it best to teach me to resist him.” His smirk turned to a sneer. “It's always the French.”
Greg inhaled sharply. Broadcasting empaths – those who could make people feel whatever they wanted them to feel – were dangerous, and he'd only ever met a few of them. It bordered on thought control.
“So you don't have a...” Greg trailed off. How would one explain their unique skill set?
“Oh, I have a talent,” Sherlock said. He finally turned away from his own funeral, toward Greg and Sally. “I'm honestly surprised you never picked up on it, either of you. Neither of you is entirely idiotic.” Coming from Sherlock, it was almost a compliment.
Greg gave him a look. “Get on with it, Sherlock. And while you're at it, give me a good reason why I shouldn't go down to your funeral and let everyone know that you're alive.”
Sherlock's look was sharp. “You can't tell anyone, Lestrade. Not a single person.”
Greg narrowed his eyes. Sherlock continued without being prodded. “Moriarty,” he said, glancing back toward the funeral. “He had snipers poised to kill John, Mrs. Hudson..and you. If I didn't jump. That's why he killed himself: he was the dead-switch, the only person who could call off the attack. If I had him, I had a way out of it.”
Greg swallowed. “Wh –“
“Don't be stupid. He chose the three people in this world who I actually value and threatened them,” Sherlock said, turning back toward him. “The snipers are still out there, and I have to take them down before I can return.” They were all silent for several long, awkward moments at this declaration.
“So what are you, then?” Sally said. “Other than a freak, anyway.” This was said with something resembling affection, so Greg neglected to tell her off for it. Sherlock smirked.
“In the parapsychic community, I'm what's known as a 'finder,'” Sherlock replied. “A real-time, location-based clairvoyant. I find things .” He sighed. “It's not always that easy, of course; I see what's around the thing I'm trying to find, but I don't always know exactly where it is. If I could reprogram it to just give me GPS coordinates, it would solve a lot of problems.”
Greg laughed outright; Sally choked slightly. Greg realized that Sally had never really had a chance to see Sherlock's off-beat sense of humor. He found himself perversely thrilled that she could see it now.
“It's what led me to research deduction,” Sherlock admitted to the two of them. “I often had a general idea of what was going on but needed more information. These days I barely need to rely on my gift.”
They were silent for several more minutes, chewing on this information and letting it percolate through their minds.
“So then,” Greg said. “You're leaving?”
Sherlock nodded. “I need you two to take care of John.” He glanced over toward Greg. “Moriarty should have forced me to choose. It would have been more effective.”
Greg understood him immediately: Sherlock cared a great deal for Greg and Mrs. Hudson, but John was at the top of his priorities. And he knew why, too.
They were best friends, of course, but Sherlock had somehow managed to fall in love with the other man. It was radiating off of him in waves, warm and friendly and affectionate and protective. Sherlock's love for John tasted like mulled wine, spiced and hot.
Sally left before Greg did, muttering something about Baker Street that Greg took to mean surveillance. He didn't bother informing her that Mycroft most likely had the entire flat bugged; the more people looking over John, the better.
“Don't do anything stupid,” he said to Sherlock. The sun was going down and John was still alone at the gravestone. “Don't go getting yourself killed just because you fell in love.”
Sherlock looked very much like he wanted to ask a question, and Greg was almost positive he knew what the question was. He shook his head.
“I don't know how he feels, not for sure,” he said. “The man's got a shield like I've never seen before in my life. I've never got so much as a blip of surprise from him.” At this, Sherlock looked surprised.
The two of them waited until it was dark and John finally left for Baker Street. Then they turned and stared at each other for several minutes. Greg inhaled, exhaled, and gave the taller man a hug.
“Do not go getting yourself killed for real,” he said, gruffly, into his shoulder. “It was like...like losing a child. You're not to put me through that ever again.”
Sherlock looked stunned and gratified. His affection pulsed toward Greg in waves. Greg smiled back.
“Now then,” he said, clapping him on the shoulder. “Go and save your boyfriend.”
Chapter 3: JOHN
John Watson knew a lot of things, and very few of them were things he's meant to know.
John was possessed of a natural intelligence; he was nowhere near Sherlock's level of brilliance, but he'd made it through medical school, and he'd come out of the other side of a war alive. When he was very small and just learning to talk, he'd been able to realize that telling people their innermost thoughts made them uncomfortable.
As he grew older, he began to understand that not everyone could hear those innermost thoughts. He realized fairly early on that it was actually a pretty intense invasion of privacy, and he began blocking them out.
By the time he entered puberty he'd constructed a several meters thick wall in his mind. It blocked out most of it – things still got in, and very occasionally he dropped the walls because he needed to see what someone was thinking. For the most part, though, he was able to give the people around him a modicum of privacy.
Things still shouted out at him sometimes. Whenever he went on dates, he could hear what his dates were thinking about him: surface thoughts like that tended to be very loud. They may as well be screaming at him for all he could avoid it.
He knew his sister was a lesbian before she figured it out herself. He went to bed every night hearing her innermost torment, and forced himself to stay awake until she, herself, had gone to sleep: another day with his sister alive was worth sleeplessness. That her thoughts had turned to suicide so often scared him the most; it kept him from admitting his own bisexuality for years, his mind equating non-heterosexuality with suicidal thoughts.
The first time he met Sally Donovan she broadcasted her stunned surprise and recognition of him like a bright, neon-yellow casino sign. Standing next to her was like standing in the middle of Las Vegas. All signs pointed to her and screamed “PRECOGNITION.”
Greg Lestrade didn't hide his empathy much, although it had startled John as it was something of a feedback loop. Then he realized something: His shield, so effective against telepaths, worked against empaths like Greg Lestrade as well. Good to know, of course, but it meant that Greg was intrigued by him, something that Sherlock took notice of. Luckily, Greg had no idea that John was a telepath, so he didn't bother keeping his thoughts to himself, but Sherlock was observant. Out of everyone on the planet, Sherlock would be able to figure out John's secret.
Sherlock was better at shielding, of course; not that John meant to, but they spent so much time in close proximity that he slowly gleaned all of Sherlock's history. So he knew about Mycroft and he knew about their mother (could see her clearly in his mind, actually) and he knew that Sherlock had a gift too. Because of it, Sherlock was better at guarding his innermost thoughts, although of course, not perfectly.
Some day he would mention it to him, the fact that there was something Sherlock failed at other than human interaction. Nothing would please him more, actually, because there were very few things in this world that John excelled at better than Sherlock Holmes.
John is not a big believer in fate, but he had to wonder about the fact that in the same week he'd met three other psychics. Together, they made four – the lucky number.
+ + + + +
When he was twenty seven, he was in Afghanistan getting attacked by another telepath working for Al-Qaida.
It had almost taken him out, and only sheer perseverance had kept him from losing his mind entirely. As it stood, two very good men lost their lives and John almost joined them. It was the first inkling that John had ever had that there were other people like him in the world. They had sporadic internet access in Afghanistan, but on his next leave he sat in a public library for the majority of a day, doing as much research on ESP as he could find. He learned technique, honing his skills against the other library patrons; as immoral as it was, he even managed to take control of one man's body for several seconds.
It scared and awed him, this gift. This curse. But he was a soldier first, and a doctor second: any advantage he could potentially have, he would use.
When he went back to Afghanistan, he was armed with a thick shield that protected him from mental invasion but did absolutely nothing to stem the tide of other people's thoughts.
+ + + + +
One thing John learned as a doctor is that human beings have the most beautiful thoughts right as they die.
He heard it the first time at the tender age of twenty two, still at St. Bart's learning how to be a surgeon. They were going for a walkabout in the terminal cancer ward, learning about the various ways to diagnose someone with cancer (of course, most of this was a moot point: the majority of people here would simply refer people to oncologists). A woman suddenly went critical and flat-lined one ward over, and John heard her go out.
For one brief, shining, brilliant moment, her mind sang, like the most beautiful finale to the most amazing song ever written, and then it was silent. John half expected a standing ovation.
Every time he was around someone who died, their life's song ended and it was beautiful. It saddened John, as a doctor who wanted to save people, but at the same time he felt privileged to witness these last moments. It was beautiful, and there was no sound like it on the physical plane – each person's song was different but there was an ethereal quality to it that he'd never heard from mere music before.
The closest anyone had come was Sherlock, composing one day in a fit of pique after a case had gone stale. The noise that came out of his violin was a cry to the night, an admonishment to the world. It clearly said: “I'm not finished yet, don't let me go.”
Sherlock was psychic in his own way, but there was absolutely no way he could possibly understand what had just happened. Still, he turned toward John and grinned.
“I liked that one, I think I'll keep it,” he said, noting it down.
+ + + + +
Once John had settled down into his life, he began searching.
He'd met four psychics – five, if one counted Mycroft, but John never did – in one week. How many of them were there in just the greater London area alone? How many people who could actually hear thoughts or see into the future?
It took several months of digging, of searching the Internet from anonymous cafes and reading up at the library, but he found others. They met in secretive areas, secluded and never under surveillance, because they were absolutely right: if the government had an inkling that so many of them existed, they'd be in trouble.
John had met Mycroft. If Mycroft had truly found the time to know John, John would have quietly disappeared, he knew. Mycroft Holmes cared about his little brother, immensely, but he was a dangerous man to be on the wrong side of, and he was ostensibly the entirety of the British Government.
He met hundreds of others – people who could, like him, talk telepathically. People who could lift things with their minds. People who could see into the future, who could project or receive emotions, people who could find people or things by touching something close to them. People who could heal others with a glance, people who could see soulmates. There were so many others out there, and John met as many of them as he could.
He began to keep notes; research, he called it, and it was, although it was something more. As a doctor, this interested him. And surprisingly, they were all willing to be interviewed, as long as he didn't include any photographs or identifying data. They wanted answers the same as he did.
Still, there were no answers to be found. John looked at vials of blood and decoded genetic structures for months and there was nothing. He'd have to have actual brain scans, he thought, and while John was smart, he wasn't a brain surgeon. He'd not be able to make heads or tails of it.
But it was a start.
+ + + + +
They'd been friends for a year and several months when John and Sherlock went to Baskerville. They had the sort of familiarity between them that old married couples got sometimes; the ability to have entire conversations with their eyes, to express their disbelief or interest in something with the quirk of the lips or a flicker of an eyelid. People had noticed it from the beginning, of course – not a day went by when John had to explain, for the thousandth time, that he and Sherlock Holmes were not a couple, thank you very much.
It wasn't that John was opposed to the idea as a theory, it was just that people like Sherlock Holmes don't have relationships. They may yearn for them, but John was pretty sure that if Sherlock ever actually decided to date someone seriously it would burn both him and his partner out. Sherlock didn't take interest in things, he consumed them. The only reason John was still around was because he was a telepath and could tell when Sherlock decided to turn into a mental vampire and drain the life out of a room.
That, and he was an utter, utter masochist.
It was an accident, actually, and he hadn't meant to do it. He'd read about it – that psychics could form mental bonds with each other. In fact, he'd met several bonded pairs in his research. Telepaths could tell fairly easily when such a bond was formed because their bonded's thoughts would sound loudly in their head, almost as loudly as their own thoughts. Empaths could tell sometimes too, for the same reasons, but precogs and clairvoyants probably wouldn't notice, and John had never met a kinetic who wasn't also a telepath so he couldn't test that theory out.
It was in the lab at Baskerville, the lab where he thought he'd been chased by a monster. He'd been scared witless and Sherlock had come and made everything better. Later on, of course, he realized about the drugs, but all he could focus on at that moment was Sherlock's eyes, gray-blue and concerned. Vaguely clinical, but then again, Sherlock was always clinical.
He had an intense feeling of being sucked in, and by the time he realized what was happening, it was too late. He'd formed a mental bond...to Sherlock Holmes.
Shit, he thought to himself.
+ + + + +
The last month before St. Bart's, Sherlock started getting secretive. John realized after the fact that he'd rather given himself away, although Sherlock had never said anything: some clues must have been slipping out, somehow, about John's ability. Somewhere along the line, John must have reacted to something that Sherlock had thought rather than something he'd said.
Sherlock's shield wasn't the best, but because he was using it now, John had to deal with the moral quandary of his gift. He couldn't in good conscience go after the information: what he did normally was invasive enough. Actually, it was an all-out invasion of privacy and he felt very badly about it sometimes.
One plus side, however, was that Sherlock began taking him to more crime scenes and asking him about things more often. John never acknowledged what Sherlock had apparently learned, and Sherlock never mentioned it by name, although sometimes when he needed John he'd loudly think at him rather than bothering to shout across the flat. John would sigh, set down his paper or close his laptop, and pad over to wherever Sherlock was at the moment.
It was the only answer John would ever deign to give: he'd never verbally told anyone close to him about his talents. Not only that, but he was pretty sure Mycroft had bugged the flat and he had absolutely no desires to announce his gift to the British Government.
+ + + + +
They were running from Lestrade, who had absolutely hated arresting John and Sherlock, when John caught the tail end of a thought from Sherlock. He'd obviously not been shielding well because of the rush.
Got John caught up in all of this can't save him have to save him how silly it would be to go through all of this and lose the one person I love most need to find somewhere to go somewhere safe tuck John away –
It overwhelmed John so much that he barely avoided getting his arm ripped off by a ridiculous, hyperactive consulting detective who had absolutely no idea that short men cannot hop seven-foot-tall fences. He grabbed at Sherlock's shirt and for a brief second they stared at each other.
Sherlock blinked and John was overwhelmed with it, he thought perhaps because they were touching, that's why the thoughts were so loud, and good God, how Sherlock loved him. It hurt to think about, but because Sherlock was thinking about it he was thinking about it.
He let go of the taller man's hand from where it touched his, atop the fence. Almost immediately there was a cessation of the panicked thoughts and John breathed easier.
“We're going to have to coordinate,” he said.
+ + + + +
John knew Sherlock wasn't dead. He hadn't heard his soul-song, hadn't heard his final statement to the world. Sherlock had stopped him on the street so that he couldn't hear his thoughts, but he hadn't known about the song. No one did, because John never talked to anyone about it.
So when he saw the body, artfully playing dead – Sherlock concentrating on his mental shield more than anything – John didn't say anything even though he knew, he knew that Sherlock was alive. And because Sherlock always had a reason for everything, he went along with it. John had gotten to be a fairly good actor over the years: hiding the ability to read people's innermost thoughts will do that to a person.
So he grieved. To an extent, he was grieving for real: Sherlock was gone, out of his life, and he had no idea when or if he'd ever be back. He didn't know if he was ever going to be able to see his best friend ever again.
And if John was honest with himself (something he tried to be) he loved the other man too. He wasn't sure if it was romantic love, although the idea of touching him had taken on decidedly erotic overtones over the last month or so. But John would jump in front of bullets for Sherlock, he would shut down his blog for Sherlock, he would live in abject poverty if it meant that Sherlock could live one more day. That meant something, even if John couldn't really put a name to it right now.
He ought to have seen it coming from a mile away. The very first day he'd met Sherlock Holmes, he'd killed a man for him and then agreed to move into his flat.
The day of the funeral he pottered around in the kitchen, drinking tea and waiting. He wondered if Sherlock planned to let him grieve for the months or years ahead. He wondered if he was delusional, but no: he knew that Sherlock's song would be beautiful, the most beautiful he'd ever heard, and he'd not heard it yet. Sherlock was bonded to him. If Sherlock died, he'd hear it from anywhere in London.
He was just enough of a romantic to think that he might hear it from anywhere in the world.
+ + + + +
The funeral day was actually quite pretty, the sort of day Sherlock would have loved to go traipsing around London in search of a serial killer on. That John would rather be searching for a serial killer by himself than be at this funeral was telling.
He was standing near the gravestone, attempting not to throttle the preacher (reciting things by memory and not actually giving two fucks about the supposed dead person they were supposedly saying goodbye to) when he felt two presences he didn't expect to feel here, today.
Sally Donovan and Sherlock Holmes.
Standing together, about twenty yards away, and as far as he could tell, getting along.
Well, this was a turn-up. He let his eyes glaze over and drifted his mental touch toward them. Sally was as clear as day; she had no training, no mental blocks. Sherlock was trying mightily to block himself, and John stayed away from him. If anyone would be able to sense John's presence in his mind, it would be Sherlock.
It was immoral, terribly terribly wrong of him, but he settled himself firmly inside Sally's mind, looked through her eyes, heard what Sherlock was saying to her. When Greg joined them, he settled into his mind, too, although he was quieter: Greg had been trained by his mother and he knew what to look for.
He smiled, an hour or two later, walking away from Sherlock's grave. Sherlock was alive. All was well.
Chapter 4: SIX MONTHS LATER
Greg and John were at a pub together, drinking beers and occasionally throwing peanuts at the television screen when the sport took a turn for the worst.
“Y'know, I think you were his best friend,” Greg said, suddenly, taking a swig of beer. “Only friend he ever really had, actually.”
John regarded the man across from him. Greg had gone through a lot these last six months: the finalization of his divorce, the inquiry at work and subsequent demotion (John was pretty certain, actually, that the only reason he hadn't been canned outright had been because of Mycroft's subtle influence), and then the work Greg and Sally had done to clear Sherlock's name. Anderson was still angry at her for it, actually.
They hadn't said it aloud, but then again, they didn't have to: John was a telepath. The two of them wanted Sherlock to have his reputation to come home to.
Greg hadn't gotten his position back, and he'd taken John's old room at Baker Street (John having moved into Sherlock's room for the time being; he carefully didn't think even to himself about what it might mean) so they could split rent. Greg was a nice sort, pleasant to be around. As much as John loved Sherlock, it was great to have a flatmate who didn't play violin loudly at three in the morning or hide body parts on the fridge. They could occasionally watch Bond films or go to the pub, and if one of them went on dates, the other never crashed it.
But that didn't faze John. Greg considered John his friend, and John considered Greg his friend, and that was the sort of thing he would have expected even prior to St. Bart's. Greg liked it because coming home with John as a flatmate meant he got a break from the constant emotional overflow; John liked it because Greg was a decent person and didn't remind him too much of Sherlock.
No, what surprised John the most was Sally. She'd taken to popping by occasionally and occasionally turned into frequently. She was around most of the time nowadays, joining them on their Bond nights and watching rugby. Not so surprisingly, she'd met Harry and the two of them were now seeing each other (casually, they were both quick to point out). John could have said they'd get on famously if they ever met – cut from the same sort of cloth, now that Harry was sober. The two of them even managed to ride out the “When Harry Met Sally” jokes fairly well.
The most surprising thing about her, though, was that as time went on her thoughts about Sherlock turned fond. Sherlock had gone from psychopath and dangerous potential criminal to ...well, like a brother. She was an only child and both of her parents were dead, so she'd found her family, belatedly, at 221B Baker Street: Greg Lestrade was cast in the role of her father, Mrs. Hudson as her mother, and Sherlock was her absentee brother. John found that she thought of him as a sort of brother-in-law, both because of his blood relationship to Harry and his supposed romantic one with Sherlock.
It was nice, actually, and the only thing that could make it better would be if Sherlock were actually there. He felt a vague pang of loneliness and yearning, and he let it flow away.
Belatedly, he realized he'd been looking at Greg for almost a solid thirty seconds and shook his head. He came to a decision; if he was going to let Greg know, best not to do it at the flat anyway, right?
“You don't have to do that,” John said, softly. He took a sip of his beer and turned his head down to inspect the ring of condensation it had left behind on the table. “I'm a telepath, Greg. I know he's not dead.” He could feel Greg's stare, and idly he drew his index finger through the condensation, forming a water-drawing against the grain of the wood.
“A – but how is that even –“
“Possible?” John grinned and looked back up. “If you have a scientific explanation for how you know that the bartender is depressed today, since he looks perfectly normal, I'm all ears.” He paused. “Incidentally, it's because he's about to break it off with his girlfriend. His wife is pregnant.”
Greg blinked at him. “All this time, you knew.”
John nodded. “I know I had a part to play. Same as you did. Incidentally,” he continued, taking another swig of beer, “I don't actually need protection. But it was very sweet of you three to make a pact about it.”
“There were people out to kill you. Trained assassins. How could you possibly –“
John sighed and closed his eyes. He very briefly sank into Greg's mind and made him take a swig of his beer, before releasing him and staring at him expectantly. God, he hoped he wouldn't punch him or –
“That's amazing,” Greg said, staring at his hand in awe. “You can do that with anyone?”
“Almost anyone,” John said, nodding in relief. “Very few people can shield against me, although Mycroft and Sherlock are both pretty good.” He was silent for several seconds before continuing. “Not that I've ever attempted to do to them what I just did to you. I don't think it'd end well.”
Sally chose that moment to arrive and their discussion was somewhat forestalled. They joked as usual and had their beers, but when John would have made to go home, Greg stopped him and suggested, instead, that they had to Regents Park.
It was freezing outside, it being mid-December, and while it rarely snowed in London John was fairly certain that it was snowing outside the city. Still, he acquiesced.
Once there, Greg demanded that he let her in on the secret. John was reluctant; a lifetime's worth of protection instincts were screaming at him not to do this. But still, the Park was one of the few places where you could find CCTV-free areas and there were no audio bugs in the spot Greg had chosen. These were two of the most trustworthy people he knew.
Finally, he agreed and told her everything.
+ + + + +
They had exactly two weeks of not-pretending, and then Sherlock came home.
+ + + + +
Greg had just dropped his kids off with his ex-wife (who had custody; they'd been visiting today), and Sally, Harry, Molly, Mrs. Hudson and – surprise, surprise – Mycroft had joined them for Christmas Eve. It had been sort of vaguely pre-planned, since last Christmas there had been a group of them there, but John hadn't even thought about making a party of it. Thankfully, Mrs. Hudson and Sally were planners and there were munchies and drinks for everyone.
Mycroft had aged, John was surprised to discover – he hadn't seen the other man since shortly after Sherlock's funeral. He thought that if anyone would have seen through Sherlock's plan, Mycroft would have, but apparently not. Very suddenly, John realized that the only people in the room who actively believed Sherlock was dead were Harry, Mrs. Hudson, and Mycroft. The majority of people here knew, without a doubt, that Sherlock Holmes was very much alive – he could even hear it vibrating from within Molly's mind.
It was unnerving.
There was the sound of footsteps on the downstairs landing, and John sat up straight in his chair. No one else had heard them, but he had, and the mental signature that came along with it was unmistakable. He caught Greg's eye, and then Sally's. The two of them stiffened, as well, as more footsteps crept up from the landing.
John reached out and sank into Sherlock's mind, allowing the other man to fully sense his mental presence. There was a sense of completeness there; being in the mind of other people was intrusive, but he was bonded with Sherlock. They were, essentially, two parts to a psychic whole.
I missed you, he thought to him, quietly and warmly. But really, Christmas Eve? I suppose I should be happy that you haven't lost your flair for dramatics.
Sherlock wasn't a telepath so his thoughts back weren't as clear, but he was amused and able to get the general hang of it.
I should have known I couldn't fool you, Sherlock thought. Some day, you'll have to tell me what gave me away. Who's here? I don't want to give anyone a heart attack.
Harry, Mrs. Hudson, and your brother are the only ones who don't know you're alive, John thought. I think Harry will be angry more than anything, and Mrs. Hudson will be happy, but your brother doesn't look so well. He showed him Mycroft from where he stood.
There was a flash of guilt. You might warn him, Sherlock thought back at him. John thought that this new ability, this telepathy between the two of them, might just come in handy in the future.
John stood up and glanced around the room. Sally had engaged Harry in discussion, although her eyes kept darting to the door, and Greg was talking to Mrs. Hudson and Molly about something. John went to stand beside Mycroft.
“This is going to sound very strange,” John said, smiling wryly. “But for once I need to kidnap you.”
Mycroft, who was standing near one of their windows, looking down at Baker Street, raised his eyebrow. He didn't look like he was actually going to keel over and have a heart attack, but he looked tired. John realized that Mycroft had spent a good portion of his adulthood looking after his little brother; Sherlock's disappearance must have left him at loose ends.
Like Sherlock, Mycroft had a fairly good mental shield. Because he was an empath, he'd be able to tell instantly if John actively tried to intrude upon his mind. But, just like with sonar, John could passively listen to the other man's thoughts, the ones that leaked around the shield or were just general public thoughts. He missed his little brother something terrible, and there was a sort of half-imagined wish that Sherlock had managed to fool everyone. It was a low-level thought, something that was constantly at the back of the other man's mind. John smirked: a Christmas wish come true, then.
“Right, just come on,” John said. He led the other man outside and toward the stairs.
I don't even know where to begin, he told Sherlock.
He got the sense of Sherlock rolling his eyes. Just tell him I'm alive, he replied.
Mycroft was looking at John curiously. “Are you quite alright?” he asked.
“What? Yeah, why?” John asked.
“Your eyes were crossed,” Mycroft said. “It was alarming.”
“Ah. Well, I guess that's a thing now,” John said, blinking. Did you know that my eyes cross when I talk to you? Mycroft just mentioned it.
“You're doing it again,” Mycroft said.
I imagine mine do too. That is going to be very annoying. Do you think it's permanent?
God, I hope not.
“Uh, sorry. Anyway,” John said, running his hand through his hair. “I don't really have a good way of telling you this.”
Mycroft rolled his eyes. “If you're coming out to me, I deduced you were bisexual two years ago when I first met you.”
“No!” John exclaimed, mortified. God, I hate your brother. Can you hear this? Tell me you can hear this. The fact that they'd fallen back into their normal banter was a good sign, John thought. “No, that's not it. I already...nope, not it at all. Seriously not it.” He sighed.
I certainly can. Just bring him downstairs, it might be less painful all around, Sherlock offered. John could sense his amusement.
“Have you developed some sort of congenital eye defect?” Mycroft asked, curiously, leaning toward him. It was such a Sherlockian response that John was momentarily confused.
“Right, just come downstairs,” John said, echoing Sherlock as he began navigating the stairwell. He let his mind loose, listening, and Mycroft was curious but had no idea what was going on. “And promise me you won't yell or anything.”
“Why would...I...” Mycroft trailed off as he caught sight of his brother, leaning against the entry door of 221 Baker Street. John's breath actually caught in his throat: it was the first time he'd seen Sherlock in six months, too, and he was just as amazing as when he'd thrown himself off the roof of St. Bart's.
Bugger, he thought to himself, dazedly. He was a goner.
“Sherlock,” Mycroft said, quietly. John glanced at him; it had obviously cost Mycroft a lot to keep his voice steady. His public thoughts were torn between affection for his brother, the absolute need to hit him, and genuine pleasure that Sherlock had managed to flummox the world.
“Mycroft,” Sherlock said, equally quiet. He nodded at him. It was possibly the most...pleasant interaction John had ever seen between the two brothers.
The three of them were quiet for several moments before Mycroft spoke. “Ah. Molly. And the rubber ball, perhaps?”
“In part,” Sherlock said, nodding acceptance. It was another one of those exchanges that John didn't understand in the slightest, and both brothers had their shields up to maximum now, so he'd probably never understand.
Then, Mycroft strode toward Sherlock, who looked vaguely panicked. For one brief second, John thought Mycroft was actually going to hug Sherlock, and he pondered running upstairs to get his camera, but instead Mycroft slapped his little brother, and then shook his hand.
It was...all very gentlemanly. Sherlock looked annoyed as he rubbed his face.
I suppose I deserved that, Sherlock said in an aside to John. His eyes didn't cross as severely as John's did when he did it.
If there's a trick to that you have to share it with me, John said.
You're the telepath. Shouldn't you be teaching me?
I've never been told I cross my eyes when I do it, John said, defensively. I've no idea how to fix it.
Sherlock smirked. “Well, then,” he said aloud. “Shall we head upstairs?”
John wished fervently that he could warn Greg and Sally, but instead he just sent Greg a pulse of hesitance. It was his own way of saying, “Incoming.”
+ + + + +
Harry's reaction had been priceless, and John almost wished he had his own mind palace so that he could tuck the memory away to cherish later. Mrs. Hudson had been thrilled.
“Oh, Sherlock!” she'd exclaimed, enveloping him in a hug. “I'd hoped, I'd hoped but I daren't wish for it! And here you are!”
After several hours the non-residents of 221B Baker Street had cleared out. Greg went up to his room, leaving Sherlock and John to sort out the matter of sleeping arrangements.
Sherlock stared up toward the ceiling; they could clearly hear Greg preparing for sleep. “A lot of things have changed while I was gone,” Sherlock said, quietly.
“Yeah,” John said, rubbing his hand through his hair sheepishly. “He needed a flatshare when he got demoted, and I needed a flatshare because my flatmate rudely pretended to commit suicide.”
“Lestrade got demoted?” Sherlock looked aghast.
“Yes,” John said. “He did. In part thanks to you, so you might consider apologizing at some point – up until two weeks ago he and Sally both kept their promise to you despite the fact that you made both their lives a living hell.”
Sherlock looked like he was in physical pain at the suggestion of an actual apology. John rolled his eyes.
“I'll make tea,” John said. “We have a lot to talk about.”
I would actually love to know why the two of us can communicate this way, Sherlock said. John realized that his mental voice was a shade deeper than it was physically.
I suppose we could start with that, John replied. I'd still like tea first. Although I suppose... He sighed. Perhaps I shouldn't give you anything heavy to throw at me until after that discussion.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes, and the two of them sat across from each other. Just like old times, in their individual chairs. Greg had never attempted to make Sherlock's chair into his, instead electing to sit at the couch or table. He knew, after all, that Sherlock would be coming back to claim it.
I'm fairly certain Mycroft still has bugs laying around the apartment, John said. Would you object to having this conversation mentally?
Not at all, Sherlock said. It's actually rather soothing. I spent a good portion of tonight on a very noisy train. My ears would enjoy the respite.
John grinned and closed his eyes, trying to collect his thoughts.
Right. So, obviously you're aware that I'm a telepath, John began. And I know that you know about Sally's precognition and Greg's empathy, too. And you're a clairvoyant.
I already know all of this, John. Sherlock didn't think get to the point, but it was there all the same.
Right, John said. He could hear his mental tone getting nervous. Well, see, the thing is, telepaths and other psychics, you know, in times of stress... He sighed. We can bond with each other, psychically, if a suitable ESP-type mind is nearby. At least, that's what my research on the subject suggests. No idea if a psychic can bond with a non-psychic.
He opened his eyes and saw that Sherlock was staring at him. So, I bonded with you? Somehow? Sherlock said. He looked about as horrified as Sherlock ever got.
John shook his head. No, quite the opposite, actually. At Baskerville, I bonded with you. By accident, if it makes it any better. He sighed again, running his hands down his face. Most clairvoyants and precogs, and probably kinetics, could never sense that sort of thing unless they were also telepaths, which does happen occasionally. If I hadn't just now initiated the link, you probably never would have known unless I died.
What makes a suitable mind? Sherlock mused. He had his thinking face on, now, legs pulled up in front of him and hands pressed together, a mockery of praying. He was staring into the fire.
I'm not entirely certain, John admitted. The lack of research on the subject is more impressive than the research being done. It's considered pop science and there's really no way to measure this sort of thing objectively. Close friends, family members, lovers – husbands and wives are the most common bonded couples. This next part was going to be...uncomfortable. As far as I can tell, from my own experience, the mind reaches out in a blind panic and attaches itself, forms a psychic bridge, with the mind that feels...safest.
At this, Sherlock turned his head very deliberately and looked at him. I had just drugged you, or thought I had, he said. How could you consider me the safest option?
Well, for one, you were the only psychic in the area, John said, rolling his eyes. For another, you're my best friend. And if you'll recall, you had just – to me, at least – saved my ass from a demon-hound. And the thing with the bomb and Moriarty. And when those Americans were going to shoot me. Oh, and when the Chinese goddamn Mafia was going to kill Sarah and I. For every time I've saved you, you've saved me. So yeah, I guess I sort of...subconsciously associate you with protection. John squirmed in his chair and pointedly did not look at Sherlock.
They were quiet on all fronts for several minutes. Sherlock's attention seemed to be drawn to the fire, and John's to the wall – a year later and those bullet holes were still there. Finally, John spoke again.
“So, tea?” he said, aloud. You're not going to throw it at me, right?
“Tea sounds good,” Sherlock agreed. No. I'm not angry at you, John. Perplexed, but not angry. A small smile graced his features and John smiled back.
The ritual of making tea – unwrapping teabags and boiling the water and adding the cream and sugar – calmed him down considerably, and he felt much more at ease as he handed Sherlock his mug.
The nice thing about being able to have a conversation in thought was that you could drink tea while doing it. Sherlock looked very much like he wanted to ask a question, but John took a sip and started talking before he had the chance.
I'm sure you'll want to test out the limits of the link at some point, he offered. I'd be surprised if you didn't. Interesting bit of information – I think it's strengthened by touch. I got a nice chunk of stream-of-consciousness thought from you while we were running away from the Met in handcuffs.
Sherlock smirked. Then his eyes narrowed suspiciously. John sighed. Honestly, Sherlock was one of the most paranoid people he'd ever met in his life.
He couldn't really blame him for it, to be honest.
He selected the chunk of memory and the two of them watched it together, through the link. It came complete with John's own memory of adrenaline and being overwhelmed by Sherlock's thoughts – even without the bond, Sherlock had one of the most intense minds John had ever encountered – and that brief moment, when he'd grabbed Sherlock by the lapels to steady him. That brief moment when both of them had almost kissed.
Gently, John withdrew from Sherlock's mind, leaving a path there should Sherlock want to talk, but not actively impinging. They sat together, both thinking silently as the clock ticked. Before John knew it, it was chiming midnight – Christmas Day – and their tea had gone cold.
John stood and retrieved Sherlock's cup, making them both fresh. He set Sherlock's mug next to him on the table, and took his spot again, content to simply sit there, happy that his friend was back. He let Sherlock feel this, passively, this contentedness that he had now that Sherlock was back in his life. No demands, just pleasure in his company.
“So, as you've probably ascertained,” John said aloud, “Greg has my old room. I can kip on the couch tonight if you'd like. We'll have to sort something out.”
Sherlock started at his voice speaking aloud, swinging his head over to regard the shorter man. “I can't imagine why you'd want me to kick you out of your own room,” Sherlock replied, in the most reasonable voice John had ever heard him use.
“It's your room, Sherlock,” John said, rolling his eyes. “It was always your room. I was just using it.”
Sherlock shrugged and made a gesture with his hand. “I'll take the couch,” he said. John leveled his gaze at him.
You are sleeping tonight, Sherlock Holmes, John thought at him. Orders from your doctor. Take the bed.
Sherlock looked belligerent. John ignored the look and continued.
I'm shorter than you are, it makes more sense for me to take the couch, he said. Logic. I can use it too, you know.
Sherlock rolled his eyes and looked back to the fire. He was silent for several seconds before he put his two cents in.
Or we might just share the bed, he said, studiously not looking in John's direction.
John gave himself a few minutes to ponder that one. He had to admit that the idea of curling up next to a warm and happy Sherlock was a pleasant one. But he also remembered what he'd thought at Baskerville: people like Sherlock can be hell on regular people.
Then again, John had never really been a regular person, and he'd put up with Sherlock's nonsense for almost two years already.
We might, at that, he said. He stood up, abandoning what little was left of his tea, and held his hand out to help Sherlock up. Sherlock took it immediately, hauling himself up against the smaller man's weight.
They looked at each other, almost desperately, trying to convey...something. Suddenly, John began to giggle.
“You know what Sally used to call...this? The staring at each other,” John said, through his laughter. “She called it eye-fucking.”
Sherlock smirked. “Is that an option?”
John's laughter cut out and he stared at Sherlock. Then he smiled.
“Perhaps. Some day. Something to look forward to, maybe.” Still holding Sherlock's hand, he led the younger man to bed.
Chapter 5: LEARNING CURVES
Greg came downstairs the next morning, not entirely surprised to see the couch empty. It had been, he thought, a fifty-fifty chance. John was an unknown variable.
Greg briefly tried to envision what sort of mathematical equation could comprise Sherlock Holmes (E=MC squared? Already taken, and there's no lowercase j in there anyway), before shaking his head. Really, abstract reasoning prior to breakfast wasn't on.
He made tea and toast, to settle his stomach. They'd drank rather a lot last night, once Sherlock got in. Celebrating his return to life, and all that. He could already tell that Mrs. Hudson had a hangover downstairs (brown/mud/ill), and he supposed he should just be grateful that he only felt a bit off.
Greg stood at the sink and wondered what John and Sherlock's plans for today would be. Tomorrow was Boxing Day. He'd promised himself to the kids for the day: the shops had some pretty amazing sales planned and they wanted to spend their Christmas money. Today he'd planned on staying home and relaxing, maybe exchanging gifts with John and Sally. This was before Sherlock had come back, before he and John had decided to sleep together in John's bed. If the two of them were going to spend the day rutting, perhaps he'd just nip off to Sally's early.
A loud yawn to his right startled him and he looked over. John, pleasantly rumpled after sleep, stumbled over to the kettle, flipping it on even though it was still warm.
“No rutting, most likely,” John mumbled, blearily pulling a mug and tea bags toward him. “You're probably safe.”
He was never going to get used to that.
“Sherlock can probably help you put up a better shield,” John replied. He was more alert with every word he spoke, but still obviously half-asleep. “I try to block it out anyway, but things slip through. And I'm still waking up.” He yawned again.
More footsteps coming down the hall, and Sherlock padded out wearing a T-shirt and pyjama pants. His hair was mussed with old product and sleep, and his eyes were half-lidded and un-alert. Greg didn't think he'd ever seen Sherlock look so undignified. Perversely, it pleased him.
John grinned at Greg but said nothing aloud. Sherlock looked between the two of them and rolled his eyes.
And so life at 221B Baker Street began again.
+ + + + +
John had known that Sherlock would want to test out the constraints of their bond, but he hadn't fully expected a solid week of distance-training. Sherlock was hiding out; whatever he planned on doing next week when he came back from the dead he'd locked up behind his shield and John didn't like the idea of breaking down his barriers, so Sherlock simply had to stay inside.
This meant that John had to take the Tube all over the damned city, and cabs elsewhere. Thankfully, Sherlock was financing this insanity, or John would be absolutely broke.
They had discovered that they could talk to each other throughout the entirety of London; no mean feat, as John had difficulties talking with actual telepaths more than a mile away. It also meant that they could always contact the other, without phones. Sherlock had plans for after his great coming-out: he desperately wanted to separate them by the entirety of the damned island and discover if they could still talk.
“Sherlock,” John warned him. Sherlock looked almost innocent as John continued. “I'm not going to Scotland midwinter. That experiment waits until May at least.”
Sherlock huffed in exasperation. “Of course not, John. You'd be going to Plymouth.”
+ + + + +
Despite everything, somehow they'd not got round to actually discussing their sort-of relationship. They were sleeping together every night, but there'd been no sex, no signs of affection. Basically, things were the same as they were before St. Bart's, only they shared a bed.
Not that John had a problem with any of that. There was something nice about waking up every morning with Sherlock wrapped around him. But the not-knowing bothered him, somehow. He knew that Sherlock loved him, and he was fairly certain that he loved Sherlock.
Then he realized that that was the problem: he couldn't bring himself to ask Sherlock about it until he knew for certain what he, himself, was feeling. He spent days agonizing over it, and he still couldn't come to a conclusion.
It mattered little, though, as the day after New Years Sherlock stormed into New Scotland Yard and presented himself for arrest.
+ + + + +
“What the hell is he playing at?” Greg said, angrily. They were watching on the telly; Sherlock hadn't given either of them fair warning, but had somehow managed to have almost the entirety of the London-based press present as he turned himself in. Flair for dramatics, indeed.
“I've no idea,” John admitted. He closed his eyes.
Sherlock, he said sternly. There had better be a damn good reason for all of this.
There was a brief moment of silence; John could tell that Sherlock was actively debating whether or not to ignore him. John sent the younger man a pulse of warning, a promise of dire things if he didn't acknowledge him, and Sherlock responded.
Sally and Lestrade cleared my name, Sherlock replied, meekly. I need to clear Lestrade's name, and bring my name back so I have work. I can't take cases if everyone thinks I'm dead, and especially not if Lestrade isn't a Detective-Inspector anymore and can't hire me on.
So your fondness for him has nothing to do with it, then? John asked.
There's a long silence before Sherlock admits, That might have something to do with it as well.
Right. You're sure you'll get out okay?
I might need you to post bail for me in a few hours. I've left the money on the dresser.
John laughed. Right. Let me know, then. He kept the connection open, but let it fall into disuse. He turned toward Greg.
“Surprisingly, Sherlock is attempting to do something rather...self-sacrificing. Although of course it still benefits him.”
Greg eyed him for a long time before he sat upright in his chair.
“You've bonded with him, haven't you?” he asked. John closed his eyes.
“Of course. Of course you'd know all about that. Stupid not to realize, really,” John said, sighing. “Yes, months ago. At Baskerville.”
Greg played that time back through his head and then his mouth formed a small O in surprise. “When you two went to the base, right after I first got there.”
John nodded. He'd never exactly mentioned what had happened in the lab and he still had no plans to. Thankfully, Greg didn't ask.
“So what, then, is Sherlock playing at?” he asked instead.
“Rescuing your career,” John replied, a full-fledged smile appearing on his face. “He was actually very upset that you'd been demoted, and not only because it meant he didn't have a well-positioned 'in' at the Met.”
Greg looked stunned. “He could have just apologized.”
“Well, this is Sherlock we're talking about,” John said, flipping channels idly. “He's never one to do things by halves.”
“No, I suppose he isn't,” Greg said. “Am I to move out, then?”
John turned slowly and looked at Greg. “Is that why you think he's doing it? So you'll have the money for your own flat?”
Greg shrugged. “I've noticed that you two aren't engaged in relationship bliss. That sort of thing is pretty evident to an empath, even one up against a shield as strong as yours is. I figured you'd want your room back.”
John snorted. “You are aware that there's a fully-functioning attic across the hall from that room that I could take if I needed, correct?” He sighed. “I know you like it here. Sherlock's got a fairly good shield and I'm impenetrable, right?”
Greg nodded. “Mrs. Hudson almost never registers, too, which helps. God, is it that obvious?”
“Telepath,” John said, grinning and tapping his forehead. “I'm not going to chase you away. You're our friend, and lord knows that after the year you've had you deserve some respite. Plus,” and at this John colors, “cuddling with Sherlock every night, even platonically, is nice. Warm.”
John can't go much farther on that tangent, despite how very much Greg looks like he wants to say something, because both of their phones go off near-simultaneously: Dimmock calling for Greg, and Sally calling for John.
“Right,” John said, standing. “Let me grab the bail money Sherlock left, and we can split a cab.”
Greg nodded, standing up himself. He needed to change, even if he was only going in for a statement.
+ + + + +
It took hours upon hours: Sherlock had shown up at eight in the bloody morning, right as the main office of the NSY opened up for business, and the three of them didn't get home until well past midnight.
The two of them, plus Mrs. Hudson, Sally and Harry, had been brought in to make statements (quickly, John had been able to intimate to all of them that Molly was not to be mentioned. They didn't want her to lose her job just so Greg could get his back). Sherlock had managed to present a paper trail of all of his work for the Met that John wasn't entirely certain was legitimate, but it was one that showed that his checks (Sally had been so unbelievably wrong about him not being paid; he was a proper consultant for the Met even if he failed at procedure) had not only been signed and authorized properly, but that Lestrade had gone through the entirely correct channels to get them signed.
It was something that Lestrade had been annoyed by when he'd first been demoted, because he figured that Sherlock had never even bothered to keep the check stubs. If he'd cashed them at all, anyway.
Surprisingly enough, they had been cashed, although Sherlock only tended to deposit them into his account once he'd accrued several of them. Either way, they were all valid, issued by the Met's human resources division, and signed by Lestrade's direct supervisor – not the one John had hit, but the one in charge of approving outside consultants. Considering how often Sherlock came to be in life-threatening situations for the work he did, John had never thought he charged enough. This was a sentiment that the general public seemed to be echoing, as the evening news proved.
Finally, a late-night judicial decision dismissed the fraud case against Sherlock as there'd been no life insurance to worry about. It was technically fraud, but other than some emotional distress no one had actually suffered, and Sherlock had likely saved the department a great deal of money from not having to actually prosecute him for Moriarty's crimes.
Sherlock was so damned smug about it. “Knew they'd get there eventually,” he said, striding away from New Scotland Yard impressively, his coat billowing behind him. John and Greg followed behind him at a more sedate pace; there was absolutely no guarantee that Greg would be promoted again, but he was vindicated, publicly, and that counted for a lot.
Of course, once the media picked up on the fact that Greg was now living with John and Sherlock, there would probably be hell to pay, but whatever. John was exhausted and he wanted nothing more than to just go home and fall asleep.
Curled up next to his flatmate, who was warm and wrapped his arms protectively about him while he slept.
John smiled to himself, despite how tired he was. That sounded, frankly, like the perfect night to him.
+ + + + +
Over the next week Sherlock and John spent rather a lot of time experimenting with their bond. John kept copious notes, much like he had when he was talking to all of the other psychics he'd found. There were a lot of interesting things that they discovered.
As he'd promised, John spent one really uncomfortable day wandering around in Plymouth while Sherlock was in Aberdeen. They could still hear each other, loudly and clearly, on total opposite ends of the bloody island. Sherlock swore he was going to find the funds to send the two of them to various bits of the globe to discover their reach. John wasn't looking forward to it.
They also discovered that Sherlock had, to some extent, the ability to borrow John's gift, and John to borrow Sherlock's. It happened like this: John couldn't find his wallet despite the fact that it had been on the nightstand in their bedroom, which strongly spoke of Sherlock's involvement.
(This was actually the case, although there had been no nefarious purposes involved. Sherlock had merely taken the wallet so he could put a copy of Sherlock's debit card in there. That the detective had decided to give John partial control over his finances was a matter of discussion for another time.)
John was incredibly frustrated, naturally, as he had to leave to go to work; he'd not worked as an actual doctor in over a year, but Sarah had called about an hour previous begging him to come in as they were overwhelmed at the clinic. On instinct, he reached out and touched Sherlock's mind, but instead of asking where the wallet was he just thought about the wallet and suddenly he could see it, sitting there, shoved in between the arm and cushion of his chair.
He blinked in astonishment. Did I just –
I think you did, Sherlock replied, steadily. He came into view in the bedroom. “That was amazing,” he said aloud. John found himself stunned; it had been an incredible violation of privacy to just reach out and use Sherlock's talents like that, but Sherlock, being Sherlock, would naturally find it fascinating.
Then he started thinking about it and discovered that he agreed with the other man. “I wonder if it goes in both directions?” he mused. Then he shook his head. “No time to wonder about that, I've got to go to the clinic. I'll be back in a few hours and we can talk then.”
Sherlock accepted this for what it was, but somehow John was unsurprised when Sherlock decided to test at the end of his work-shift instead.
He'd just finished up with a patient, taking the burden down from overwhelming to somewhat manageable. Sarah had come up to thank him, profusely, for helping out. He was in the process, actually, of taking off his lab coat and preparing for a Tube ride home when he felt the intrusion.
Sherlock – he warned. Sherlock had absolutely no shame, though, instead reaching out to borrow John's gift, which he then used to skim Greg's surface thoughts as he got home from work.
It had the unfortunate side-effect of forcing John to listen to Sarah's surface thoughts, which all revolved around the fact that Sherlock was back which probably meant that John and Sherlock were sleeping together, which was really too bad because she'd have liked to give it another go, but she'd never –
Just then, John's phone buzzed. It was Sherlock demanding that he come home. Since Sherlock never texted him anymore, not now that they had this altogether better form of communication, he knew that this was a rather Sherlockian rescue rather than an actual demand.
“Gotta go, sorry,” John said, grinning falsely. He left the clinic in a hurry.
Thanks for that, he said. And then: But you're not to do that without permission or dire need ever again.
There was a moment of silence, and then Sherlock accepted those terms. Fine, he said. He didn't attempt to define dire need, which left John somewhat uneasy, but he had to trust that Sherlock didn't want to piss him off too badly.
Had to hope, anyway.
+ + + + +
A few days later, Sherlock left on a case while John was working at the clinic again and Greg was busily getting re-promoted. He contacted John about halfway through his shift.
Interesting case, he said. A pause and then, I probably don't need you to come on this one, so you needn't worry about leaving the clinic if you don't want to.
It was uncommonly polite and considerate of Sherlock, and John was on the alert immediately.
What's wrong? he asked.
Sherlock laughed at him. Nothing, he assured John. A small prod reassured the older man immediately: Sherlock allowed him to see that he was merely trying to make up for barging in on John's mind earlier that week.
Right, he said, smiling to himself. I'm needed here right now, so let me know if you need anything. And try not to get shot; I'm out of pressure tape at home.
I will endeavor to avoid it, Sherlock replied. And then there was silence, or at least, as much silence a telepath can ever actually have.
Still, he made a note to get some more pressure wraps from Bart's after work.
+ + + + +
When he finally got home, pressure wraps in-hand, Greg was already sitting on the couch, having a beer and smiling to himself.
“Detective-Inspector,” John acknowledged him, smirking, as he went to set the tape in his dedicated first-aid section of the sitting room before plopping down on his chair. Greg grinned back at him, raising his beer in mock-toast. They sat there, quietly, for several minutes.
John was contemplating going and getting his laptop. He hadn't updated the blog since Sherlock had come back almost a solid month ago, and he was still unsure of whether or not he wanted to continue using it. It had, after all, almost brought Sherlock's downfall.
His thoughts were interrupted by Greg. “So you two still haven't –“ he coughed. “I mean to say, I mean, I can't tell about you, but I know how Sherlock feels –“
John blinked. “No, we haven't,” he said slowly. “I'm not...not entirely sure what it is that I feel. Or what I want. And until I figure that out I can't –“
He let out a slow sigh and rubbed his hands down his face. “Sherlock's worth more than that,” is all he could say.
Greg seemed to accept this, although John could hear him worrying away in his own mind from across the room. Greg was wishing that he could feel whatever it was John was feeling so he could reassure him, because Sherlock was like a son to him and he just wanted the man to be happy.
It caught in John's throat.
“Stop,” he said. Greg looked at him. “No, stop, right there. That's...that's the answer.”
“But I can't,” Greg said, looking at him, stunned. “I've never been able to. That's the problem.”
“Well, yes,” John said, frowning and leaning forward in an unconscious mimicry of Sherlock's thinking position: elbows on his knees, hands steepled in front of his face. “I've not let it down in years, of course, but it's not a natural shield. I constructed it during Afghanistan.” His face pulled into a frown. “I'm not even sure I can let it fall after all these years, but I could try.”
+ + + + +
Greg stared at John in stunned amazement. An impenetrable mental shield, constructed by John himself; he'd never heard of such a thing, and Greg had grown up with an entire family of psychics.
John must be more powerful than he realized, because that sort of thing shouldn't even be possible.
He realized exactly what John was suggesting: taking his shield down, trusting Greg to listen to how he felt about Sherlock. To let an outsider into his head for the first time in close to a decade.
Greg found himself somewhat flattered by the trust. He inhaled.
“I won't be able to tell properly, you know, unless Sherlock is here.” He felt it was proper to warn him of that. “Emotions can't just be called into play. They have to be real or I won't understand them.”
John nodded and was quiet again for several minutes. “Ah, he's on his way home anyway,” John said, eventually. “So now would probably be a good time to start. It's going to take a while.” He frowned. “Although, he's bringing Sally for some reason.”
“I'll still be able to tell,” Greg assured him. “How long will it take to get it back up? Not that I don't trust Sally, of course.”
“I can get them down in about twenty minutes, I think,” John said. “But to get them back up might take an hour or two.”
Greg nodded. “Are you sure about this? We could wait.”
“I'm tired of waiting,” John said, quietly. “And I can't rely on my own thoughts on the matter. Everything about Sherlock is confusing in my mind. I think it's only fair that I give him a straight answer.”
“Right, then,” Greg said, standing up. “You do that, I'm going to make something to eat. If Sherlock is bringing Sally back after he's been on a case, we'll probably need it.”
John nodded and closed his eyes.
+ + + + +
It was a massive thing, his shield, layered thick against his mind. Dismantling it felt strange, like peeling back his skin painlessly. It hadn't been down in years, and when he was done he felt more naked than he'd ever been in his life.
It took closer to thirty minutes than twenty and when he opened his eyes again, Greg had managed a passable meat and potatoes sort of meal. A plate of it sat in front of him.
“Eat,” Greg said, jabbing his finger at the plate. “I've set some out for Sherlock and Sally as well, so we'll all be well-fed before we get sucked into whatever it is he's planned.”
“Can you feel me?” John asked, curious, as he pulled the plate onto his lap.
“I could, but I blocked it off,” Greg said. “Listening to people's feelings can put someone right off a good meal, especially when that feeling is rampant vulnerability.” He shrugged and began to eat his meal.
It really was very good, and John found himself enjoying it. Somehow he managed to continue enjoying it even when Sherlock walked into the door and John was assaulted with pictures from the crime scene Sherlock had just been to.
He shot Sherlock a disgusted glance and Sherlock reigned himself in. Greg, who was mostly finished with his meal, set the plate down and shoved it away from him, glaring at John, who attempted to get some control over his emotions.
Sherlock eyed the two of them suspiciously. John sighed. “Experiment,” he said. Sherlock looked very much like he wanted to ask a question but he restrained himself admirably. John eyed him warily as he stood, picking up Greg's dishes as well as his own to deposit into the sink.
“Eat,” he said, echoing Greg. “I've no idea what you've planned, Sherlock, but we're not doing it on empty stomachs. Orders from above.” He gestured toward Greg.
A slow smile crept upon Sherlock's face. John smiled back; he knew that look. Sherlock was feeling particularly proud of them for figuring something about him out. Like a mother who's child has just taken their first steps, Sherlock was proud of his friends for learning to observe the world around them.
It was heady stuff.
He turned back toward the sitting room and was arrested by the look on Greg's face. The other man was staring at him, stunned, his lower jaw hanging open, his eyes wide.
“Right,” John mumbled. “Come on then.”
+ + + + +
Greg hadn't expected the pure strength of John Watson's emotions: the only person he'd ever met who could broadcast this fully was dead now, from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. But where James Moriarty had been full of conflicting emotions, all muddy and unpure, John's were absolute, set in stone. The things that John felt about Sherlock weren't horrible things like misplaced lust or anger or jealousy.
But they were certainly the strongest things Greg had ever felt in his life. It almost knocked the wind out of him, how powerful John was: when he projected, he projected everything.
Once they got up the stairs, into Greg's room, he turned toward him. “Jesus Christ, John,” he said, sitting down on his bed. He brought his hand up to touch his temple, lightly. “Jesus fucking Christ. No wonder you need to shield. If I didn't know how to block this stuff off I'd have a bloody migraine.”
“What?” John was very clearly confused.
“You're really, really strong,” Greg said. “Strongest telepath I've ever met, and I think you might have something in the broadcasting empathy range, too. Knocked the wind right out of me.” He let out his breath with a weary whooshing noise and brought his hand to his head. “Damn.”
John was torn between impatience/yelloworange/citronella and concern/darkblue/caramels. He wanted to know the answer to his question, but at the same time, he didn't want to hurt Greg inadvertently. Very suddenly, there was an added touch of curiosity/pink-and-blue/bubblegum.
Greg held up his hands. “I can't even believe you needed to ask me if you were in love with Sherlock,” he said. “It's bloody well obvious that you are, so I can only assume that you've never actually been in love before. God, you've got it even worse than he does.”
John flushed. Greg continued as if he'd not seen it. “To answer what I think is your second question, I'm fine. I've been doing this long enough to know when I need to cut it off.”
John nodded acceptance of this. He opened his mouth, and then closed it. Then he opened it again and Greg sighed.
“Go ahead and ask, whatever it is.”
“I'm wondering if I'm strong enough to try to talk to you telepathically even though you're not a telepath,” John admitted.
Greg laughed. “You've been around Sherlock too long, mate. You're starting to think like him. Go ahead and try, I guess.”
John closed his eyes briefly. At the back of his mind, Greg could hear him, hear John's voice: Can you hear me?
Greg couldn't reply back, but they had their answer. Just as well, because at that point Sherlock showed up at the door, suspicious enough to let his shield drop and his jealousy/green/lemons show.
Greg sighed. “Not gay, Sherlock, and even if I were John wouldn't be my type.” He stood and strode past the two men. “I've no idea what's going on, but let's get it over with, yeah?”
“So, since no one's gonna bother asking,” Sally said, as the three of them walked back into the sitting room, “I'm gonna go ahead. What the hell are we all doing here? I had a date.”
John groaned and massaged his head. “I don't want to know.”
Sally grinned at him. John really, really wanted to get his shields back in place; it was difficult to block out the images Sally was throwing at him and he desperately needed to never see his sister in that light, ever again.
“Right,” Sherlock said. He moved toward the kitchen, pacing in front of the fridge. Suddenly, John realized that the kitchen table was empty. That never happened – there was almost always some sort of experiment or left-over item resting on it.
Not only was it empty, but it was covered with what looked suspiciously like a black tablecloth.
“The table's clear,” he said, dumbly. He looked up at Sherlock with suspicion and narrowed his eyes. “What are we doing that requires a clear table?”
Sherlock grinned that proud grin again. Next to him, Greg winced. “Tone it down, mate,” he muttered, nudging John.
Sherlock, who only saw a nudge and mutter, narrowed his eyes and began pacing again. “The case involves a notorious psychic in the area – Maggie Bunestroni. She was killed in the middle of a séance; the murderer is claiming that the drug she gave them to induce a psychic-type state caused a psychotic snap.”
“Entirely possible,” John said. “What drug was it?”
“Salvia divinorum,” Sherlock said. “Diviner's sage. It's supposed to open up the third eye; ridiculous, of course, but there's some research that shows it may help parapsychic abilities extend their reach in the brain's mental pathways.”
“Ah,” John said, nodding. “Depending on the strength, that could do it.”
Sherlock looked at him curiously. “Have you tried it before?”
“Ah, no,” John said. “I'm a doctor, Sherlock. I'd know about any strong psychotropics. It's one of those things I have to deal with occasionally.”
“Right,” Sherlock said. John found himself surprised that Sherlock had forgotten that he would be familiar with that, but the younger man was obviously agitated over something. He reached out, but Sherlock had retreated behind the wall of his shield.
“So,” Greg interrupted. “Why are we all here, then? Couldn't a toxicology report solve this?”
Sherlock shook his head. “There were four people at the table for the séance; all of them were strong psychics. A clairvoyant, a precog, an empath, and a telepath.”
John sat upright. “So you mean to test if one of us tries to go psychotic.”
Sherlock nodded. “I've never tested whether or not diviner's sage is more likely to affect those with parapsychic abilities before. With your permission, I would like to restrain each of us – restraints that should be easy to escape from once we're sober again – and recreate the event.”
“You want us to take drugs and see if one of us tries to kill you?” Sally said, staring dumbfounded.
“I want us to take drugs and see if one of us kills you,” Sherlock replied, grinning. “Maggie Bunestroni was a precog.”
“Am I the only one not alright with taking an illicit drug?” Greg asked.
Sherlock looked outright offended. “Salvia divinorum isn't illegal. It's not even illicit. You can purchase it at the smoke shop. It only lasts about twenty minutes.” He fished a bottle with an eyedropper out of his pocket. “You don't even have to smoke it; it comes in a tincture. Ingested orally, it should encourage visions and a potential psychotic break and we can see if the subject is likely to be telling the truth.”
“Uh, point of order,” John said, raising his hand like he was in school. “We don't necessarily have the same makings of the group in question. This isn't a good representative selection.”
Sherlock looked deeply annoyed. “I know that, John. I just want to see if there's a good chance that the drug will cause violent reactions in psychics. I don't think it's possible; the interaction between the parapsychic brain and the drug should result in temporarily enhanced psychic abilities, and possibly hallucinations, but nothing else. Once I prove or disprove that, I can find a loophole in the argument and get them arrested. Or not, depending on the science.”
John stared at him for a few seconds, stared at his crazy, crazy madman. His madman who wanted him to get high and try to kill someone.
“I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this either,” he said. “Show me the restraints.”
Sherlock grinned, and John realized that he was going to wind up being convinced. All of them were – what Sherlock wanted, he had a habit of getting.
+ + + + +
It was actually a fairly simple rig. The restraints had to have been purchased at a sex shop – they clipped on to the chairs easily and could be unclipped as well, but they required a clear mind. One had to depress a button while simultaneously flicking a clip, which would free the fabric cuffs from the chair and allow the restrained to uncuff themselves. John tested them out several times, flexing in place, before assenting to the test.
“Pretty good, actually. You must have paid a penny for 'em,” he said, twisting round to examine behind his back.
Sherlock grinned wickedly. “I know the owner, and he owed me a favor.”
John groaned and didn't reply.
Before they all knew what was going on, the three of them were tied up to the kitchen chairs and being administered salvia tincture, a single drop underneath each of their tongues. Sherlock administered a drop under his own tongue and then restrained himself expertly. Watching him do it send a shot of lust straight to John's groin.
“D'ya mind?” Greg demanded, glaring at him. John giggled helplessly. And then continued giggling. And then he giggled some more.
Before they knew it, the four of them were laughing hysterically. John looked up; Sherlock was laughing so hard he was crying, and God if that wasn't a beautiful sight.
John could actively feel the drug working, from a clinical part of his mind. It was like a thermometer, mercury rising up his body the higher he got. When it got to his very fine brain he froze in place and he could feel his mental reach extending. His mind reached out of it's own accord, and he twisted in place, within the restraints. He could feel three minds close by: absently, he identified them as Greg, Sally and Sherlock. Casually, he gathered them close to him, protectively, and then he went exploring.
Downstairs was empty; Mrs. Hudson had left earlier that day to visit her sister in Leicester. On the street there was a completely non-psychic sandwich shop attendant. John passed him by as unimportant. There was a psychic dog-walker down the street, someone John had actually met before, but he didn't know them well nor did he care about them, and he passed him by as well. As he drifted by, the walker stood upright and shivered.
“John,” Sherlock's voice called him back. John focused on his flatmate, reigning his mind in. He looked into Sherlock's eyes, deep, and felt himself being sucked in – just like at Baskerville.
“Shit,” he commented, before everything went black.
+ + + + +
Sally was laying down on a hard surface. She could hear John and Greg talking behind her but she was deeply afraid to open her eyes.
Finally, she realized she couldn't put it off anymore and sat up, blinking. Then she swore soundly to herself, panic rising from her gut and threatening to envelope her.
She'd been dreaming of this place for damn near twenty years at this point. Actually being there, however, made her realize that they had to (somehow) be inside of Sherlock's mind. It explained a great deal; why everything, including the walls and paintings, felt like him. Of course Sherlock would think so highly of himself to have a mind that glistened with gold, impossibly shined down until she could practically see herself in the walls.
She reached down and snagged one of the coins.
“Where are we?” Greg asked. He looked around him with interest. “It looks like a pirate's treasure trove.” He looked down at his wrists, flexing his hands lightly. Remembering restraints, Sally knew.
John almost looked like he was in physical pain at the thought. “Oh God,” he said, wincing as he stood up. “Tell me we didn't.”
Sally let out a near-hysterical giggle.
“Sally, are you okay?” Greg asked. He began to walk toward her, concerned. She laughed again, holding up the coin.
“I'm fine,” she assured him. “Afghanistan is the number one supplier of opium in the world, did you know?”
John looked alarmed.
“John, do you know where we are?” Greg asked, turning toward the other man.
John winced again. “I've an idea. Sherlock's mind palace.”
“It's a memory technique. The method of loci,” John explained, sighing as he began to walk around the foyer they were in, fingertips trailing absently against the walls. “You map out a visual space in your mind so that you can store information – memories, facts, whatever. Theoretically speaking, you can't ever forget anything because it's tied to visual memory, which is stored in the right hippocampus. It allows for faster recall and,” at this John sighed, “near-unlimited storage capacity.”
“So we're walking around in Sherlock's mind,” Greg said, exasperated. Sally giggled again and he threw his hands up, turning to her.
“What in the bloody hell is wrong with you?” he demanded.
“The Arabian Nights,” she said, laughing and letting the coin slide out of her hand. It fell to the ground with a loud crashing noise. “I've been dreaming of this place for almost two decades, dreaming of you two here with me.” She sat down heavily on a cushion with tassels and let her hand drift to the right, toward a hallway. “There are doors down there, doors with our names on them. The dream always cuts out then.” Something dangerously close to a sob escaped from her throat.
The two of them stared at her for a long time. She stood up after her cry, and began walking down the hallway resolutely.
“There, see?” she said, pointing to a door that bore John's name. It was first in the hallway. “First in line, most important; best friend and lover. John H. Watson – Is your middle name really Hamish?”
John looked annoyed. “Yes. Shut up. Why do we have doors?”
Sally shrugged. “If it's his mind palace and he needs places to store things, why wouldn't he give the important bits their own room? I'm surprised he hasn't given you an entire bloody wing to yourself.”
John's annoyed look softened slightly. “Right, you lot aren't allowed in here,” he said, pushing the door open and entering it. The door shut firmly behind him.
Greg looked at her, amused. “Shall we continue on?” he asked, holding his arm out gallantly.
She laughed, still feeling a little hysterical. The next door they encountered was Greg's – a brass plaque that said DETECTIVE-INSPECTOR LESTRADE sat on the door, highly polished but relatively nondescript. The door itself was made of a heavy, intricate, dark wood.
“Wanker!” Greg cried. He dropped Sally's arm, fumbling about in his pockets and digging out a permanent marker (Sally briefly wondered at it, but shrugged it off – they weren't real here, right? Their bodies were likely still back at Baker Street, so the ability to summon a magic marker on command didn't bother her. No more than anything else here did, anyway). Angrily, he wrote “GREG” on the door above the plaque. “Forget my name now, you utter dick!”
Sally giggled. She didn't even try to go in with him when he opened the door, instead continuing down the hallway. She passed several doors (MYCROFT's door was made of crosshatched metal and looked forbidding, but MRS. HUDSON's was friendly and welcoming; MORIARTY's door looked to be welded shut, but MOLLY's was unlocked and slightly ajar) before she found hers.
Where John's door had been ornate and golden, inlaid with precious gems and filigree, and Greg's had been stern and respectable (carved and polished to a high sheen), Sally's was a plain office door, of the type they had at New Scotland Yard. It looked, in fact, exactly like her office door did now, with a little placard on the front proclaiming SGT. SALLY DONOVAN. It showed some signs of having been cleaned and polished recently, but then again she was just barely on good terms with him.
She could see Anderson's door down the hall. It was falling apart and looked rather like a horse's stable door. She supposed she should feel flattered.
She took a deep breath, and opened her door.
+ + + + +
SGT. SALLY DONOVAN
Sally didn't know what she was expecting. It looked almost exactly like her office, although there were more bookshelves and pictures. A facsimile of her was sitting behind her desk; she could tell, anyway, that it was supposed to be her.
Sherlock's version of her was slightly taller and more imposing than she actually was, and when she spoke aloud Sally could tell that she had a more acerbic wit than Sally herself possessed.
“Who are you?” Not-her said.
“I'm...you, I suppose,” Sally replied.
“Huh,” Not her said. She sat back down at her desk; Sally wasn't even aware that she'd risen. “I guess I shouldn't be surprised. That salvia experience was likely to go bad, wasn't it?” She got back to work, whatever Not-her would have to do in a not-office in Sherlock's bloody mind palace. She didn't talk for the remainder of Sally's stay there.
Sally looked at the books on the wall; that Sherlock had this much stuff stored away regarding her was somewhat alarming, considering how little time they'd been on decent terms.
She was unsurprised to pull one of the books out and find an annotated copy of every time she'd called him a freak in a demeaning manner, with a footnote at the end that indicated when it had become an endearment rather than an insult. She chuckled to herself, replacing the volume and pulling out another.
This one was more interesting, and it detailed her affair with Anderson. It included observations about what this meant, regarding her self-esteem, and a list of reasons why Sherlock was disappointed in her because of it. At the top was, “Because she's smarter than this, and deserves someone better than that idiot.” It was obviously a well-thought-out argument and had been there for a long time.
Sally was touched. She bit her lip as she put the book back in it's spot.
That Sherlock had seen something in her before she'd ever been able to see something in him didn't surprise her; what surprised her is that he allowed himself to think well of her at all. She'd treated him horribly, basing everything she hated about him on a grudge from before she'd even made the force.
There was a photo album. Flipping through it, he found snapshots of her face as she aged from a uni student to where she was now. It categorized her exact expressions – occasionally she made one that Sherlock was unable to identify. These were annotated with scrawled notes next to them – things like, “constipation?” or “This could be anger, verify.” The ones he'd positively ID'd had typed-up tags below them, as if their identification merited pretty labels.
An apparently new addition was a book very near the door; he added to it frequently, she surmised. It looked new and frequently-touched. It was, in fact, a list of things they'd done together since he'd tentatively penciled in “friends?” next to her face in his mental index. It was randomly spaced out, not organized at all, which surprised her, but included such details as, “went to a pub with John, saw Sally on a date with Harry, smiled,” and, “Held door out for Sally at a crime scene.”
She imagined that he had a similar book for Lestrade and John, but theirs had to be longer. Still, the breadth of it amazed her – Sherlock Holmes was a man who didn't want to forget anything about those that he considered his friends.
“Sherlock,” she muttered. “I don't know what I did to deserve being your friend, even if I've never come out and said we are.” She placed her hand on the wall. “But thank you.”
It was probably just her imagination, but she felt incredibly safe just then; like the very walls were pulsing with affection.
+ + + + +
Greg had known Sherlock for nearly eight years at this point. He thought he'd known what to expect when it came to what Sherlock thought of him, but he'd been rather surprised to walk in and find this.
It was a board room, the sort of room Greg would probably never see in his life. There was a long table in the center with large, imposing-looking chairs all round it. Files were piled at every seat and after a few seconds of inspecting them, Greg realized that they were all crime scene files.
To Sherlock's mind, this was a briefing room.
There were books all along the walls, tons of them, more than he thought should probably be able to fit into such a small room. The bookshelves were recessed, built into the room itself, and inlaid with what he thought might be polished cherry wood. It was a deep reddish color, anyway, and very handsome.
There was a fireplace, too. It was all very fancy looking and Greg had to wonder exactly what the hell it was that made Sherlock think he would ever go for a place like this.
Then he remembered a snippet of conversation with Mycroft. Holmes the Senior had made mention of their childhood, very briefly, when they'd picked Sherlock up on possession charges at one point – how he wondered if their distant father was to blame for Sherlock's addictions. A father who, for all intents and purposes, had abandoned his children in favor of The Work.
This, Greg realized, was Sherlock's father's study/office/boardroom.
At the head of the table (and what a table it was – mahogany and oak, polished; it must weigh a ton) sat a very young version of himself. His arms were crossed, but he was smiling and he looked proud.
Greg avoided young-him. It was creepy; his hair hadn't been that shade of brown in years, and he was sure there were stress-lines and laugh-lines across his face that Sherlock seemed to not have taken notice of. He guessed it was probably a compliment. Probably.
He'd known that Sherlock considered him something of a father-surrogate, in the same way that he viewed Sherlock as his recalcitrant son, but the extent of it startled him. He struggled to contain a wave of affection: who knew what Sherlock could feel while they were here? Lord knows, he didn't want the younger man to know how much he could potentially get away with.
He edged toward the side of the room, plucking a book off a shelf at random. Just as quickly, he put it back where he'd found it: it was the gut-wrenching tale of the night Greg had found Sherlock overdosing. He'd rather not remember it quite so vividly, thanks.
There were snapshots scattered about the room; none of them were framed, but some were laying on shelves, others wedged in between books. Still more were laying on the floor; Greg leaned over to pick one up and smiled.
It was from the first day he'd met John; there'd been the fake drugs bust at Baker Street, and he'd sat in Sherlock's chair watching the two of them have eye-sex with a bemused grin on his face. He flipped the photograph around and saw, in Sherlock's handwriting, penciled in on the back, Lestrade: approval of John? And he laughed, because Sherlock was right: This was the first time he'd seen them interact on a friendly basis and he'd been thinking, this man, this doctor...might just be what Sherlock needed, even if he himself couldn't get a sense of the man. He turned and began poking through piles of photographs and books again.
After what felt like hours later, he found another book, a small notebook actually. It was tiny compared to everything else in the room (case files, times Greg had come to get him for an insight, times Greg had shown up to drag John out to the pub after a particularly horrible incident, several Christmases in a row) but this one was handwritten, quickly done in a spare second. It was stream-of-consciousness, never edited, not even remotely grammatically correct, and all in Sherlock's odd, spiky, hard-to-read handwriting.
It was from the rooftop of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. It was Sherlock's last thoughts before he plummeted to his not-death. His last thoughts about Greg Lestrade.
Greg almost put it back on the shelf. These were all intensely private thoughts, things he was fairly certain that Sherlock would never tell him himself. But the curiosity of it got the better of him and he continued reading.
he's going to get them going to get them – John john john not john never john oh god and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson and oh god no –
never told them never told them I swear to god if I get out of this I'll remember your first name and I'll clean up and I'll remember how to fill out the right paperwork after a case and oh God he's going to think I killed myself they all are –
they're all going to be so disappointed in me and I'll never be able to make it up to them. if I get through this I am going to buy Lestrade a pocket watch for Father's Day. I won't tell him who it's from but he'll probably know, he's much smarter than I give him credit for and oh god someone needs to take care of them all –
god please let this work don't want to lose them all – worked too hard for them – never thought I'd have frie –
Greg slammed the book shut, his heart pounding. “Jesus, Sherlock,” he said, flinging the book away from him. “Jesus Christ.” Unknowingly mimicking Sally, he placed his hand against the wall, palm down, breathing heavily. “It's an amazing thing, Sherlock Holmes, to have a place in your heart.” He let his breath leave him, slowly, out of his mouth. “Damn.”
+ + + + +
DOCTOR JOHN HAMISH WATSON
John was perhaps the most curious out of the three of them. This was a man who he'd recently realized he was in love with, and who was apparently in love with him. He stood the most to lose from being here, but also the most to gain.
He closed the door behind him and was surprised to find that the room was modeled around their room at Baker Street. It was much more lush – outfitted, in fact, more richly than the foyer they'd just come from – but despite that, there was the periodic table in it's frame behind their door, and Sherlock's judo certificate hanging over their bed. The bed was the same, but the bed-clothing was almost decadent; silks and brocades as far as the eye could see.
He himself was perched, cross-legged and in his pyjamas and grinning almost beatifically, in the direct center of the bed. His doppleganger's hands rested calmly in his lap. He seemed to radiate goodness, and John snorted at this image that Sherlock had of him: despite the fact that John Watson was so well-memorized that he could be perfectly rendered from memory, Sherlock very clearly was viewing him through rose-tinted lenses.
The floor was an absolute disaster area; it was littered, knee-high in some spots, with books and sheets of paper and photographs and even little tablet computers (each playing a single memory – clever, that). An entire section of the room seemed to be dedicated solely to sexual fantasies Sherlock had had involving John; some of them made him blush like a schoolgirl. Some of them gave him distinct ideas: the thing with the blindfold and the riding crop, he absolutely wanted to try some day.
Even better if he could get Sherlock to agree to be on the receiving end afterward.
Shaking his head, John turned away from that section. He was startled to find Sherlock sitting at the side of the bed.
“Um, hi,” John said, blinking.
Sherlock looked at him. “You probably shouldn't be in here,” he said, steadily.
“Why not?” John asked, sitting next to the detective. The idealized version of him sat behind them, minding his own business. “It's to do with me.”
Sherlock seemed to consider this. “True,” he allowed. “And to be fair, it's nothing you couldn't ascertain on your own if you were truly determined to find out, being a telepath and all. But I'd rather you didn't.”
John was honestly surprised at the answer he'd received. He scooted closer to Sherlock and considered it for several minutes before continuing. “I don't know that there's anything you could shock me with, Sherlock.”
Sherlock grinned, although it was a terrified sort of grin. John realized that Sherlock was scared – scared of what John might discover here. John put his hand over Sherlock's and didn't say anything. He did, however, take the opportunity to give the other man's hand a squeeze, which seemed to relax him a bit.
“I'm surprised you're not keeping Sally and Greg from mucking about,” John said, attempting a change of subject.
Sherlock shrugged. “I'm not worried about what they find out. Comparatively, it's unimportant. If they find anything dangerous, I'll know.”
“But there's something in here you don't want me to find out,” John stated. “And you're going to keep me from it.”
“If I can,” Sherlock said, nodding. “It's nothing personal. Well, it is, but it's not meant maliciously, the keeping you away from it.”
“I'd gathered,” John said, squeezing Sherlock's hand again. It was only Sherlock's mind, but he could still feel the warmth emanating from the other man, and he let his head rest on his shoulder. He was equally torn: he wanted to press for the information, but on the other hand, he fully respected Sherlock's right to privacy.
He sighed. “I can't imagine what you could possibly be ashamed of, considering what I already know of your past. It's in here, so it's got to do with me, but otherwise, I've no ideas.” He shrugged. “If you're bound and determined to keep it from me, I won't stop you.”
Sherlock looked surprised; he turned to look at John and the two of them caught each other's line of sight.
This was...an illusion of some sort, John knew. These things were the physical manifestation of their personas, their egos, projected into the mental space that Sherlock called his mind palace. It didn't make it feel any less real when Sherlock leaned down and pressed his lips against John's in their first-ever kiss.
+ + + + +
John and Sherlock wandered back into the foyer of his mind palace, the fingers of John's right and Sherlock's left hands entangled. They were back before the other two members of their party. John figured they'd wait a while and go searching if they had didn't show soon, especially when Sherlock assured him that there shouldn't be anything that would hurt them wandering around.
“Do you know how to get out of here?” John asked. Sherlock shook his head.
“I wasn't expecting this to happen. I expect it had to do with you taking your shields down. Why did you do that, anyway?” Sherlock looked at him, curiously.
John looked down and toed the edge of a gold-hued tile at his feet. “I needed to let Greg feel me.”
Sherlock raised his eyebrow. “What could you possibly need an empath for?”
John shrugged, eyes still on the ground. “I don't know my own feelings so well sometimes,” he admitted. “It's a bloke thing, I suppose, and probably a byproduct of being shielded for so long.” He sighed. “So I needed him to tell me for sure what was going on my head.”
He looked up and found himself caught in Sherlock's gaze again. The younger man, naturally, had deduced the exact nature of what it was that John needed an empath to feel for. It was very intense, being the only thing in Sherlock's focus when he was in his own mind – his own element, as it were.
“Plus, you know,” John said, looking away again, this time to the wall to Sherlock's left. “It's hard to recognize it when you've never...felt...that way, specifically, for someone.”
“You wanted to know if you were in love,” Sherlock surmised. A smile, almost lazy, and just barely concealing a heavy case of the nerves, crossed his face. “What did Lestrade tell you?”
“You can't tell?” John asked, looking him directly in the eyes again.
“I can guess,” Sherlock said, innocently. Then the smile came back. “But perhaps I'd rather hear you say it.”
“Of course you would think this is the correct time to get me to tell you I love you, you absolute nutter,” John said, rolling his eyes. “Of course, life or death, stuck in your –“ And then he realized what he'd said and clapped his hand over his mouth. It would have been almost comical if it weren't for the import of the words he'd just conveyed.
“Did he happen to mention,” Sherlock said, eyes intent on John's as the older man removed his hand from his mouth and struggled to contain his blush, “what my feelings on the subject were?”
“He might've, yeah,” John mumbled. “Besides which, I can read –“
Sherlock dismissed this with a wave of his hand. “What I think and what I feel could be two entirely different things, as you very well know.” He stepped closer to John, forcing him to look up at him. It put their faces dangerously close to each other's.
Neither could tell for sure who moved first – for all they knew, both of them did, because this was a mental construct, their bodies back at 221B, probably slumped over in their restraints – but very suddenly they were kissing. This was not the chaste kissing from John's room; this was John sneaking his tongue around to the back of Sherlock's teeth and Sherlock taking great breaths through his nose before diving in to curl his tongue around John's. This was hands running up each other's shirts and through each other's hair, leaving them looking completely debauched. This was one step before undressing, this was full-out snogging, and no doubt it would have gone far, far past that despite the mental construct aspect of it had Sally and Greg not chosen that exact moment to walk back into the foyer.
“Oy!” Sally called out, crossly. “I didn't need to see that.”
Greg was smirking, but he didn't say anything, merely raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. John pushed slightly away from Sherlock, breathless and blinking. Slowly, he turned toward the other two and a flush spread across his face and likely down his neck and sternum.
Sherlock looked entirely unfazed. “Did you two enjoy your time, digging through my mind?” he said, raising his eyebrow. “I hope you spent as long as you'd like; you won't ever get the chance again.”
Greg and Sally looked at each other, and their expressions both softened slightly as they nodded. “Right, then,” Greg said, dispelling the awkwardness. He strode away from the hallway and back towards John and Sherlock. Sally followed in his wake. “Any ideas of how to get out of here?”
Sherlock shook his head again.
John nudged him with his elbow and pointed. “There's a front door, you know,” and as he said it, so there was. “We could try that.”
Sherlock blinked at it. “That wasn't just there,” he said, flatly. John grinned.
“Excellent powers of observation in this one. Shall we?” And he reached out, snagging Sherlock's hand once more.
+ + + + +
The four of them crawled out of the salvia haze minutes later, groggy and tired. A quick glance at the clock showed that their shared hallucination hadn't even taken a total of thirty minutes, even though it had felt like hours, possibly days.
Sherlock was the first to recover – John expected that his prior experience with recreational drugs was actually a positive in this case – and released himself from his restraints, pulling the cuffs to him and undoing the heavy-duty velcro that held them together. He then quickly went about checking the other three, starting with John.
“I'm fine, Sherlock,” John said, tiredly, as Sherlock undid the cuffs and checked his pupils. He stood up. “I'm going to check Sally; you do Greg.”
The two of them released their other two friends and inspected them for mental or physical damage. Everything seemed to be okay, and the four of them agreed that it seemed entirely impossible that salvia could have led to a complete psychotic break.
“She must have been murdered right after the salvia began to wear off,” Sherlock said, tapping his fingers to his lips. “Perhaps the killer emerged before the other three and used the opportunity.” He nodded, definitively. “Tomorrow the murderer will be ready for my questioning. It all should unravel from that point.”
Greg smiled, but he looked exhausted. He put a hand on Sherlock's shoulder, squeezed affectionately, and excused himself to bed. It was nearing nine at night, after all.
Sally stayed to help them clean up after dinner; she seemed uncommonly quiet, but then again, Sherlock and John were as well. After about thirty minutes, she began making her excuses to leave. Impulsively, she threw herself at Sherlock and wrapped him in a hug.
At first, Sherlock froze, but then he allowed his hands to circle around her as well, awkwardly. The two of them parted, and Sally smiled at him – possibly the first true smile Sally had ever given him. Then she nodded at John and left.
“What was that all about?” John said, gesturing at her. “And what's with Greg, and the shoulder? Neither of them seemed predisposed toward signs of affection toward you before.” He narrowed his eyes. “What exactly did they see?”
“The same thing you saw, John,” Sherlock said, still staring out of the door to the flat.
“I bloody well hope not,” John growled, his face turning bright red. He very suddenly remembered the riding crop.
Sherlock grinned. “Well, not the exact same thing.” He shut the door and turned toward John. “But they saw...my feelings, how I feel about them. No barriers.” He narrowed his eyes. “And Lestrade defaced the door to his room. That aside, the two of them know exactly how I feel about them...as my friends. I suppose it's made them feel a bit more sentimental toward me.”
John grinned. “I should expect so. It's a bit intimidating, you know, being in the orbit of Sherlock Holmes.” He drew closer to the other man. “More than a bit, actually. It's outright overwhelming.”
“I overwhelm you?” Sherlock said, as if the idea delighted him. He looked about to say more, but his mouth was very quickly occupied with their first kiss in the real world.
I've one more chapter, a sort of epilogue, to write, but I don't know that I'll be able to get to it tonight or tomorrow. Hopefully this week?
Chapter 7: ENDINGS AND NEW BEGINNINGS
AND NOW, WE JUMP DIRECTLY INTO SEXYTIMES. Also a teensy bit more plot.
I'm leaving this as-is, because I think I'm done playing in this universe. Maybe. I could be wrong. Naturally, if anyone else wants to write a fic with these characters and these established abilities, you're totally welcome to – I think I did alright with them, considering I'm coming off a three-year bout of writer's block, but I'd really like to see what someone with some honest writing talent could do.
That said, I want to thank everyone for their reactions to this fic. I'm honestly flattered that anyone even read it! You're all so lovely. I love the Sherlock fandom – I may never go back to Final Fantasy!
Side-note: I have a John shimeji and a Sherlock shimeji (little desktop toys that run around on your screen). They were both VERY annoyed with me while I was writing this porn.
+ + + + +
ONE YEAR AFTER ST. BART'S – FIVE MONTHS POST-RETURN
Of all of the things that Sherlock would have expected from a relationship with John, this was pretty much at the last of the list.
He let his head fall backward, against the headboard of their bed. God, where did he learn how to do this? He chanced opening his eyes, hazily tuning out the white at the edges of his vision to focus on the blond head bobbing in between his legs.
“Christ,” he muttered, as John rolled his eyes up to look at him. Around his cock, the older man smiled a devilish grin and then proceeded to do something with his tongue that made Sherlock yelp.
John was good at this. Sherlock had had fantasies, of course: he wasn't asexual and even if he were he suspected John would have made an exception out of himself (which would have made him demisexual, his mind corrected, not asexual. He tuned that out as well). But that reality played out so much more intensely between them, that John had thrown himself into that aspect of the relationship, had startled (and pleased) Sherlock.
Of course, the fact that John could see into his mind and figure out exactly what Sherlock wanted helped. That John could cope with what he wanted – Sherlock's moods and desires changed so quickly in their outside life that it was honestly no surprise to either of them that it happened in the bedroom, too – was just one more reason Sherlock loved him.
John did something against the bottom of the glans (Sherlock's complete inability to quantify what the something was spoke to how out of his mind John drove him) that made him shudder and hiss out a warning. “Too close,” he whispered.
With a slight popping noise, John detached his face from Sherlock's groin. He was still grinning as he shimmied his way up the taller man's body, finally sitting down on Sherlock's lap and leaning over to kiss him.
On the nightstand nearest the door, Sherlock's phone beeped. He ignored it. This was more important.
“Is it, now?” John said, with an amused lilt to his voice. He nibbled at Sherlock's neck, leaving a very small bite mark at the juncture between neck and shoulder. “I must say, I'm flattered that you find me more important than a potential crime scene.” This was said with a thrust of his hips that drove their cocks together.
Sherlock hissed. “Contrary to what Sally said for the majority of our association, I have never once got off at a crime scene.” He hissed again as John let his hands trail down his sides. “Quite the opposite right now, I'd think.”
“I love that you can't seem to shut up, even during sex,” John commented, wryly, grabbing one of Sherlock's hands and leading it to his own arse.
Sherlock pointedly didn't make a comment about how he was a finder and thus completely capable of finding John's arsehole on his own. John heard it anyway and threw his head back, laughing. Sherlock mustered up what dignity he had left and reached for the lube, which he'd shoved under his own back to warm up while John had messed about with foreplay.
“Didn't hear you complaining,” John muttered into his mouth, before drawing his tongue across Sherlock's teeth and biting his lower lip, almost to the point of drawing blood.
Sherlock's brain briefly short-circuited as he shuddered through flickers of pleasure. When he came back from his almost-orgasm, he uncapped the lube hurriedly and spread a generous helping over his fingers. John grinned at him and then thrust unconsciously as his lover's fingers – as previously indicated – expertly found his arsehole and circled it lightly.
Sherlock had fully intended on teasing this out, but John thrust back and his index finger found itself buried him. He bit his lip, almost exactly where John had bit it moments earlier, trying hard not to moan at the noise John made as he began moving the appendage.
Only the fact that he had a very fine brain capable of keeping track of numerous ideas at once allowed him to go through the process of preparing John while the other man kept up with his foreplay, biting and nibbling at what areas of his lover's body he could access in this position. Sherlock decided about halfway through that perhaps he was on to something about the value of it.
“You decide that every time,” John commented, smirking. He sank back on Sherlock's fingers – multiple, now, as Sherlock had curled his hands together and was now thrusting four long, talented digits into his lover's body – and let out a small whimper before continuing. “And yet, every time, I have to re-convince you.”
“Wouldn't want your – pun intended – oral skills to suffer,” Sherlock said, leaning forward to draw a tongue across John's left nipple.
John let out a breathless laugh and sank backwards one more time before pulling Sherlock's fingers out of him. Grabbing the lube – Sherlock made a mental note to buy more later on today, as they were nearly out again – John squeezed out another generous portion and reached between them to spread it out along Sherlock's length. The lube had gone slightly cool in the time since Sherlock had pulled it out from under him, and his breath caught momentarily at the cold touch to heated skin.
John kissed him again. This, he thought, was probably his favorite part of their relationship, amazing sex life aside – the kissing. John kissed well, of course, but it was the intimacy of it on a totally innocent level – even when John was pillaging Sherlock's mouth, he was gentle and loving. Sherlock was no telepath, but all it took was one kiss for him to know how John felt about him.
If John had simply taken the time to kiss Sherlock four months ago, perhaps he wouldn't have had to unshield his mind for Lestrade.
John groaned. “Do not. Do not think of our flatmate and boss when I'm about to fuck you senseless.”
“Sorry,” Sherlock said. He was unhappy about the timing too – Lestrade was practically his father.
Clearing his mind, he focused on the subject at hand. He grasped his penis, holding it steady from the base, and John lifted himself up. The other man nudged the tip of Sherlock's cock into place and slowly (agonizingly) sank himself onto it.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” John murmured, shuddering, as his arse came to rest across Sherlock's lap. He let his forehead sit against Sherlock's as he adjusted.
Sherlock took the opportunity to pepper his face with small, affectionate kisses. Really, they didn't have this opportunity too terribly often – Even with John's shields back in place, Greg could always tell when they were feeling amorous through Sherlock, and it put John off. And of course, Mrs. Hudson could physically hear them because the walls were so thin.
An opportunity when both of them were out for several hours, allowing the two men some much-needed alone time? Priceless. They never got to take it slowly like this.
“You're doing it again,” John said, shakily. He sat up and steeled himself. “I'm going to render you temporarily incapable of rational thought. I just thought I should warn you.”
Sherlock looked almost affronted. “I'm never incapable of rational thought.” Still, the challenge sent a frisson of pleasure down his spine and his cock twitched, sending a near-matching shudder of pleasure through John.
“You say that every time,” John murmured, his lips touching Sherlock's. “And yet, every time, you're a mess afterward.” He grinned and lifted his hips, rolling them back toward the younger man with a practiced ease.
“Shit,” Sherlock said, the sibilant “shhh” sound drawing out of him harshly. An almost-matching curse tore itself out of John's mouth as he repeated the motion.
Sherlock's phone beeped again and was ignored by both men.
Catching Sherlock's lower lip between his teeth, gently, John suckled and continued moving his hips. Sherlock attempted to help by thrusting upward, which caused him to pull back so quickly (moaning the entire time) that he nearly took Sherlock's lip with him.
“God, do that again,” John said, eyes closed. Sherlock complied.
They kept it up like that, bringing each other higher and then stopping before they lost it, drawing it out over the majority of a half hour (on top, Sherlock reminded himself later, of the nearly hour-long snogging and petting session that had started the whole mess). By the time they were close, Sherlock's phone had beeped several more times and then John's had begun as well.
Sherlock felt himself losing control over his eyelids, which began to flutter. His breathing became sharp and erratic. “Close,” he muttered. John nodded, his face taught as he tightened his thighs against his lover's body.
“God, yes,” John said, following it with a delicious-sounding moan that, in combination with a particularly rough thrust, finally sent Sherlock over the edge.
He cried out, long fingers scrabbling at John's hips as he thrust up into him. The sudden extra stimulation made John gasp out, and the older man reached a hand down and began moving rhythmically, his breath beginning to come closer as Sherlock emptied into him.
Still thrusting, Sherlock moaned. It was almost religious, how wonderful it felt, little flickers of light at the edge of his vision and shockwaves of pleasure flowing from his dick into every extremity. His spine twitched, plowing his hips up into John one last time, and he collapsed onto the bed, exhausted.
Not even fifteen seconds later, John let out a guttural cry. His head was thrown backwards in ecstasy, and his cock twitched before sending a stream of semen onto Sherlock's stomach (which, he noted absently, was still heaving from his exertions and orgasm). A warm puddle of it pooled in between the two lines of rectus abdominus and began to drain into his navel. He twitched; it tickled and he wanted to clean it up, but didn't want to ruin the mood.
“Mood: not ruined,” John informed him, sounding exhausted. Carefully, the older man pulled himself off of Sherlock. Fetching a discarded shirt, he wiped the mess he'd made off of his lover's stomach. “We need a shower.”
Sherlock hummed an agreement but didn't stand right away. John chuckled.
“Told you: incapable of rational thought.”
Sherlock raised his eyebrow. “I fail to see how trying to compute our refractory periods so that I can time our shower to align with a satisfactory second encounter is irrational.”
John laughed and reached for his phone, flicking it open to see who'd been pestering them. His eyes widened, and his nose scrunched up in disgust. “No, what's irrational is your brother sending me text messages while we're mid-coitus.”
Sherlock groaned and began the arduous process of getting out of bed. “I doubt we'll have time for a second encounter, then, if Mycroft's pestering us. Come on, then.” He sighed. The shower wasn't going to be nearly as pleasant as he'd hoped.
+ + + + +
Mycroft knew what they'd been getting up to. Sherlock understood this: he saw the world the way Mycroft saw it. And childishly, his brother rolled his eyes upon walking into their flat.
John, ever the polite one, offered Mycroft tea. “Please,” he said, in a clipped voice as he settled into John's chair. “Perhaps it will offset the taste of endorphins and serotonin lingering in the air.”
John grinned wickedly and went into the kitchen. He was a doctor: he knew what made sex pleasurable at a chemical level.
“What do you want, Mycroft?” Sherlock asked. His brother and he were on slightly better terms these days, but the tension that had always been between them – the competition, the sibling rivalry, the memory of insults given in childish voices – ...that would always remain.
Mycroft seemed to be steeling himself, sharply inhaling. “We've received reconnaissance that a group of people possessing extrasensory perception in Afghanistan has been rallying new members.”
Without really thinking about it, Sherlock's eyes drifted toward John.
“They're dangerous, Sherlock, and the reconnaissance indicates that they're planning on coming here as the next phase of their platform. Which, incidentally, includes taking over the entirety of Great Britain for themselves, as we have a statistically high number of those possessing of parapsychic abilities.”
“And you mention this to me...why?” Sherlock was interested, but it wouldn't do to let Mycroft know this early in the game. He needed all of the information his brother would deign to give him.
“I know about your little group,” Mycroft replied, his voice distasteful. “You fancy yourselves a special operations team of the parapsychic.”
Sherlock raised his eyebrow. Not that he was surprised; the four of them had been training, fairly publicly for them, for the last four months. Training rather hard, actually, practicing at and refining their talents. The research John had done had helped, and the four of them had been working with other groups of the parapsychic. Sally was even to the point where she could actively control her gift from one moment to the next, which intrigued him. And John had discovered a latent telekinetic ability; nothing that could move mountains, but his minor talents had saved their lives a few times.
“We solve murders, Mycroft,” Sherlock said. “Hardly the type to traipse about in the desert, risking our lives from people with assault rifles.”
“You are exactly the type,” Mycroft retorted. “And you know it. A military man, two paramilitary members, and a stubborn, stupidly posh detective. A telepath and telekinetic, an empath, a precog, and a clairvoyant. It's exactly what we need to take them out, Sherlock.” Mycroft settled down and inhaled. On exhale, his tension visibly left his frame. “In exchange, I will provide you with our most recent research on gestalt-based telekinesis.”
Sherlock sat upright. “The gestalt works, then?”
Mycroft nodded. “It had been theorized, as you well know, but we've successfully used the ability. It lends a significant boost to standard telekinesis.”
“Gestalt, huh?” John said, coming back in to the room bearing a tray. “Sorry, I was peeking.”
Mycroft looked vaguely annoyed. This delighted Sherlock.
“Yes, gestalt. The kinetics we've trained into it can tap into electrical power sources to extend their kinetic abilities.” Mycroft frowned. “When this is over, we were considering approaching you, Doctor Watson; you've done possibly more research on the lives of individual parapsychics than anyone currently alive.”
“A regular J. B. Rhine, I am,” John replied, jovially, taking a sip of his tea.
“Quite,” Mycroft replied, rolling his eyes. “The fact remains, there's some research which suggests that all parapsychics have the potential to be telepathic and telekinetic, so long as they can tap into the gestalt. We would appreciate your input...after this little problem is taken care of.”
“So, let me get this straight, then,” John said, raising his eyebrow. “You want us to be some...what, psychic and potentially homoerotic Charlie's Angels? I'm not entirely certain I enjoy the idea of you ordering us about the globe, Mycroft.”
And this was the crux of the problem for Sherlock, as well. He didn't mind helping his brother out occasionally, no matter how much of a fuss he kicked up about it, but he didn't like expectations being put upon him.
By anyone other than John, anyway.
From the sidelong glance John shot him, the older man had heard that stray thought. The smirk confirmed it.
Mycroft sighed. “Obviously, when one is considering hiring a consulting detective and his motley crew, one draws up a consultant's contract,” he said. He opened his briefcase and produced a startlingly thick document, which he passed to Sherlock.
John sat on the arm of Sherlock's chair, reading over his shoulder. A few times his eyebrows rose in stunned amazement at the concessions Mycroft had made – he must want this group taken care of, stat.
The resources we'd have available to us, Sherlock said to John, in awe.
Really, though, the entire Kandahar airport? That seems excessive, John replied, smirking. If the recon on this group is right, we won't need that. I wouldn't, anyway.
But it's nice to know we have it if we do need it, Sherlock chided him. John's laugh tinkled at the back of his head.
Mycroft looked very annoyed that they were talking where he couldn't hear them, but he elected to allow them their discussion in peace.
We'll have to talk to Sally and Greg, John said, slowly. They've only just got the knack of basic telepathy. They could be a danger to themselves because of it.
Nonsense, Sherlock replied. They're both trained police officers in addition to highly-skilled psychics. They can handle it.
We still have to talk to them, John said, with a pointed look in his direction.
On this point, Sherlock agreed with him. The two of them turned to face Mycroft.
“The two of us, we agree,” John began. “We'll need to consult with Greg and Sally on the rest. On the condition that you allow us a look at some of that research you were talking about before we head out.”
Mycroft looked physically ill at the concession, but he sat up in his chair.
“It's more than I'd hoped for,” he admitted, standing. “Keep the contract, go over it with a fine-toothed comb if you need to, but I require an answer by...Friday,” he said, thinking ahead.
Friday gave them the majority of a work week to discuss it and think it over. John had no doubts that if they gave Mycroft an affirmative answer on Friday, then by Saturday they would find themselves in the middle of Afghanistan.
“By Friday? We can do that,” John said, smiling. Mycroft nodded to both of them and hurried out, his phone already in his hand. “I'll have the relevant research to you by the end of the day.” He shut the door behind him; not that it afforded them any privacy, as they knew there were taps in here they'd not searched out yet, but still. Considerate.
“What do you think?” Sherlock asked, tapping the side of his foot against the floor.
John eased himself into the chair that Mycroft had so recently vacated, and he thought. After several minutes he spoke.
“I think that asking a soldier who fought for Queen and Country to make a decision is a dirty trick, Sherlock Holmes.”
Sherlock grinned at him. “Really, honestly, though.”
John sighed. “I think we should go. I think that our group is smart and fast, and I think we have real potential to become something amazing if we do it. Why, what do you think?”
Sherlock grinned ferally. “Could be dangerous.”
John smiled back and took a sip of tea. “And here we are.”