Chapter 1: let this sacrifice be a gift
The first law of thermodynamics dictates that all the energy powering your body will not die, but transform.
John Watson never expected to live an especially long life. He didn’t expect to die young and beautiful either, in some tragic mishap that would rock his family and friends. But he had been a soldier. He had taken a bullet, and he had seen enough friends die that he could not fool himself into believing he was going to live forever. It was a delusion of the young, and one he could not afford.
Then he met Sherlock Holmes. When you ran with Sherlock Holmes, it was a foregone conclusion that you would not grow old. When their relationship became romantic, John added a few years back onto his mental estimation of his life expectancy, because if nothing else, Sherlock was a very possessive man, and good at protecting his things. When Sherlock was dead for three years, he ticked them back off. By the end, he figured he could expect to see sixty, at least. Sixty wasn’t bad.
He was forty-nine.
Their last day together was a Thursday, and they spent the first three hours of it in bed. John woke to Sherlock kissing his neck, fangs extended, murmuring platitudes into his skin and very sweetly asking to bite him.
“Yeah,” John had said, baring his neck, “go on.”
They made love after that, the sort of sex that had to be called “making love” or it felt positively criminal. They were side by side, with Sherlock rocking gently in and out of John until he’s giving little broken cries, squeezing Sherlock’s hand and gasping as he comes.
After, John spends some time worshiping Sherlock’s body. They don’t always have time for this, his slow admiration with mouth and hands and fingers of the curves and angles that make up the man he loves.
“Oh, I’m funny, am I?” John says, biting Sherlock on the flank.
“You look like me,” Sherlock says, grinning. “When you’re looking--at me, like that.”
John laughs. “I should be so lucky. You, all young and pretty and--thirty-fucking-five forever--”
“No,” Sherlock says sharply, “don’t.”
He curves a hand around the side of John’s face, brushes a thumb over his temple. There’s more lines on that face these days, and more grey around that temple.
“I said, remember? This part is...good.”
Of course it doesn’t last, and they get a text from Lestrade that sends them flying out of bed and into clothes. Near midnight, they’re chasing a jewelry thief down a darkened alley. Sherlock’s busy with the thief’s accomplice, securing him about half a block down, when the thief suddenly whirls and points his gun at John and, wouldn’t you know it, shoots straight his first try.
Dumb luck, John thinks as his knees go out from under him.
There is a high-pitched humming in his ears. Over it, he can just hear Sherlock’s roar of fury, the crunch of bone, screaming, and the wet ripping sounds of tissue and organs being torn out.
“Dial 999,” John shouts, not sure if he’s audible. He’s reasonably sure someone hears him, because a door slams. And normal people consider these sorts of things emergencies, don’t they?
The buzzing in his ears is very loud, and spots are swimming in front of his eyes. Things hurt, and he’d like to sleep for a while, so they will stop.
Don’t pass out.
The thought is sudden and firm, and John sees the sense in it. No. He is not going to pass out.
As soon as he comes to this decision, he becomes aware that his side hurts like fuck. He grits his teeth, clamps his hands down over the wound and gasps. Pain explodes behind his eyelids like stars.
“Let me.” Sherlock is on the ground beside him, cold hands on John’s ribcage.
“Shit!” John blinks at the tears welling up in his eyes, the automatic response to the sudden, intense pain shorting out his system.
“I--I don’t know what to--there’s--a lot of blood, so much--” Sherlock is panicking, John realizes. This gives him an odd sense of calm, a feeling of serenity that makes the pain just this side of bearable.
“Shh,” John says, clumsily stroking the back of Sherlock’s hand. “You’re doing fine. Keep the pressure on.”
Sherlock is making awful gasping noises as if he can’t catch his breath. John laughs, because Sherlock doesn’t even need to breathe, and here he is, hyperventilating, because--
--because I’m dying.
John experiences a brief moment of cloying panic, climbing up his chest and bursting out his throat in a choked-off cry. Sherlock’s shaking hands press tighter against his chest.
I’m going to die. This is it. I’m dying. I’m going to bleed out in this fucking back alley, shot by some lunatic with silver-treated bullets.
Well, we always knew this was coming, right? Not as if worrying will help. Besides, we’re not done just yet, are we? We’ve got something to take care of first. Come on, Captain, chin up.
John reaches up for Sherlock. He rubs the backs of his fingers down his face, thumbs at the tears on his cheekbone.
“Hey,” he says softly. “Not dead yet.”
“You can’t. You--you can’t. You love me. You wouldn’t do this.”
“Not dreadfully chuffed about it myself. Hey. Hey. Quit that blubbering and kiss me a minute, will you?”
Sherlock gasps and obeys. He doesn’t do it for long, breaking away with a hand to his mouth. “It tastes like blood.”
John winces. “Sorry.” He turns his head to the side and coughs wetly, spits red foam.
“I wanted to kiss you,” Sherlock says miserably. “I wanted to feel the last time you breathed.”
“Maybe you can.”
He shakes his head hard. “No. The--the taste, it makes me want to--”
John blinks calmly. “Go on then.”
Sherlock’s eyes widen. The corners of his lips tremble.
“Sherlock,” John says. He has to turn his head to cough again. “I can’t think of a better way to die.”
“No.” He’s still shaking his head. “I don’t want to kill you. No.”
John takes his hand. “It’s a gift. Go on. Take it. This way, the last of me, it’ll stay with you. Come on.” He winces. “Besides, it hurts. Make it...stop, will you?”
He reaches up and cups a hand around the back of Sherlock’s neck. His face is twisting awfully, but when he gasps again, John can see his fangs are out. He smiles.
“I love you,” Sherlock blurts out.
“I know,” John soothes, petting the back of his head. “Now come on. The blood in me’s going to be out of me if you don’t hurry, love, and then how are you going to drink it all?”
And it won’t be long before I’m gasping for breath and choking on the blood in my throat and dying in agony, so spare me that, will you?
Sherlock laughs bitterly and dips his head.
As soon as he presses his lips to the hole over John’s ribs, he lets out a sigh of relief. The pain is gone almost immediately. A warm glow radiates from his chest down through his limbs and up into his cheeks, and he relaxes.
He keeps one hand on Sherlock’s head and the other on his shoulder. This is the best part, feeling Sherlock getting warmer, going pinker, looking more and more alive.
“That’s it. As much as you can.”
John watches the stars above his head. The longer he stares, the more he can see. Even so, there aren’t so many, with London lights and all. He lets himself think about stars, as Sherlock drinks him dry.
Most of the stars you can see died millions of years ago, and you just see the afterimage because the light’s only just reached you. Many of the stars you see are actually two stars orbiting each other, a binary system, one partially obscuring its partner. The biggest, brightest, hottest stars are also the most unstable, and collapse sooner. All the heavy elements in your body, everything heavier than hydrogen and helium, were created in stars, stars that died to make you. You are made of dead stars.
Sherlock has stopped drinking now. He’s taken both of John’s hands and is bending over him, kissing him over and over. John isn’t breathing very much anymore, which is a strange sensation. There’s a quiet hum of panic in the back of his skull, but it’s not so loud he can’t ignore it. The ringing in his ears is back.
“Don’t,” Sherlock is whispering in his ear. “Don’t. You can’t. You wouldn’t.”
“Promise me,” John murmurs. “You’re not done yet. You’re going to live forever.”
Sherlock gasps. “I can’t. You wouldn’t make me.”
“My years, at least. Live my years, the ones I would’ve.” His tongue is heavy and sticky-feeling. “Ten years, maybe.” Maybe then you’ll have found something new, someone to surprise you. I hope you do. But John does not say these things. They will make Sherlock angry, and there isn’t time for that now.
“So don’t follow me too soon, all right?” He is speaking very slowly and softly now. “Wait a little while.”
Sherlock kisses his forehead. “I don’t think I can live alone again.” His voice is thick and strained. “I can’t. Not after you. I waited so long for you, John, too long, I--I can’t--I can’t keep living in this world if you aren’t.”
John’s eyelids drift down. He forces them open again. Not just yet now. Close, but not just yet. “Try? For me?”
Sherlock lets out a single sob. It is the only one John has heard. “For you, John. Only for you.”
John smiles. “I’m glad.” He takes a shallow, rattling breath and coughs again. “Kiss me for a while?”
The ringing in his ears is too loud for him to hear Sherlock’s reply, but Sherlock is kissing him now, which is good enough. He doesn’t hurt at all anymore. Sherlock is so unusually warm and John is so cold that they are almost the same temperature. There are hands at his temples and fingers running through his hair, which is very good, and he is smiling against Sherlock’s lips. His eyes flutter shut. The ringing is fading.
The first law of thermodynamics dictates that all the energy powering your body will not die, but transform.
He breathes out into Sherlock’s mouth.
Sherlock can feel it rushing towards him like a tidal wave, ready to obliterate him.
He chooses not to let it.
He holds John’s last breath in his lungs for as long as he can, until the ambulances pull up, sirens screaming. Then he exhales.
Chapter 2: when your soul embarks
“Soon everything will smell only of you."
Lestrade is already on his way when one of the paramedics at the scene sends him a text.
It’s that lycanthrope doctor of yours and his boyfriend. You sure you don’t want to send someone else?
The bottom drops out of his stomach. He practically stomps on the gas pedal.
He is the last one to the scene, judging by the number of vehicles. Sherlock is leaned against someone else’s squad car wrapped in a bright orange blanket. Sally Donovan is standing in front of him, arms crossed across her chest. Lestrade reaches them just in time to see, over Donovan’s shoulder, an EMT zipping a body bag shut over the pale, still face of Dr. John Watson.
“Oh my God, Jesus fucking Christ, no.” Lestrade turns away, his hands to his face.
When he’s more or less composed himself, he turns round. Sherlock is regarding him curiously.
“Did my brother send you?” he says.
Lestrade takes a deep breath. He is seeing very, very red. Donovan catches his eye and gives him a sympathetic grimace, as if to say, “what did you expect? Vampire.”
“No. Dispatch did. What happened?”
Sherlock gestures behind him. Lestrade realizes there was another body in the alley, though “body” is perhaps not the word most people would choose to describe the human remains strewn across the cobblestones and brick walls. He winces.
“We--” Sherlock shakes his head furiously. “I didn’t think the suspect would shoot. Wrong.”
There is something terribly off about Sherlock, barely perceptible, but there. It’s his chest, how he’s bothering to breathe even when he’s not about to speak, the unnecessary twitches of his fingers, his eyes darting about too quickly, blinking too often. Lestrade suddenly feels like kicking himself. Shit. Of course he’s one of those. I’ve got to--no, I can’t, I’m--too much to take care of--
“Right,” says Lestrade decidedly, taking Sherlock’s arm. He startles and glares at the hand, but does not move to shake it off. “Donovan, you drive this one home. Tell his landlady what happened; she’ll take it from there. I’m off to the...I’m off with...I’m off.”
Sherlock sneers, but takes a seat in the back of Donovan’s squad car. He tucks his bloody hands up under his chin and shuts his eyes.
Lestrade follows the ambulance to the morgue, placing two calls on the way.
Mycroft Holmes picks up after the first ring. “I know.” His voice sounds heavy. “I’m on my way to him now. How was he?”
“You know. Quiet. Mostly like he normally is, but a little--weird.”
Mycroft sighs. “Damn. My thanks, Inspector.”
He makes the second call from the hospital parking lot.
“Hey. Harry Watson? This is Detective Inspector Lestrade. I’m calling with some--bad news.”
It’s not the first of these kinds of calls he’s had to make. It’s not even the first he’s had to make for a friend. Like every time before, he makes sure his face is dry before he goes to identify the body.
Mycroft enters 221B Baker Street to find Mrs. Hudson sitting on the bottom step, clutching a hankie to her face.
“Mrs. Hudson,” he says, taking her hands. “My deepest condolences. If you know where Sherlock...”
“He’s--upstairs,” she manages, pointing behind her. “In--his room, I think.”
Mycroft smiles and pats her shoulder. “Thank you.”
His room, not their room; that means the upstairs bedroom that has not, in fact, been John’s room for years. Nevertheless, that is not where Sherlock is, as evidenced by the sound of running water and the smells of soap and wet blood.
Sherlock’s coat and shirt have been discarded in the kitchen sink. The faucet is on and just short of running over. Mycroft shuts it off.
He follows the smells and finds Sherlock in the shower with his trousers still on, sitting down in the tub, leaning against the wall and half-asleep. He jolts to alertness when Mycroft shuts the water off.
Sherlock blinks his eyes open. “Out.”
Mycroft sits down on the toilet beside the tub and hands Sherlock a towel. He takes it with a suspicious glare, and Mycroft wonders why. From the smell of it, the towel could be Sherlock’s or John’s, he can’t tell. Of course--all towels in the flat start as John’s, as Sherlock cannot be bothered to buy them. Sherlock starts using them because he enjoys the scent of John on the towel and on his skin, John switches to a new towel, Sherlock realizes his towel no longer smells of John and starts using John’s new towel, and the cycle continues.
“Soon everything will smell only of you,” says Mycroft.
Sherlock blinks. “Yes.” He briefly towels off his arms and hair before draping the towel over his shoulders and taking a washcloth to his fingernails. They are reddish-brown with blood. Sherlock scrubs at each cuticle in turn, working the stains out.
Mycroft frowns. This is wrong.
From all current evidence, Sherlock is making every effort to erase the last of John from his very skin: escapist behavior. When it comes--came--to John Watson, escapism is the very last behavior one would expect from Sherlock Holmes, considering the level of possessiveness he felt for him. If anything, Mycroft had expected to find him calmly licking his fingers clean, or freezing his bloody shirt so that years from now, he would still have a piece of John.
“What would you like me to do with the clothes in the sink?” he asks, testing a new line of inquiry.
Sherlock shrugs. “Don’t care.”
“Even the coat?”
“Especially the coat.”
“Mycroft, there are few things I have ever been the slightest bit unsure of. This is not one.”
He pinches a cuticle and snarls impatiently.
He pokes out his tongue and gives the bleeding cuticle a brief lick, stopping the bleeding.
He wipes his damp hands on the towel around his shoulders.
“Sherlock,” Mycroft says gently. “He wouldn’t want you to do this.”
Sherlock tenses immediately. “I don’t know how else to be,” he says, short and clipped.
“I understand,” Mycroft continues, scenting danger, “that when one is unaccustomed to powerful emotional reactions, one’s first instinct is to neutralize them when they occur. But there are cases--”
“--there are cases in which you cannot do so, and in which the proper reaction is to, in fact, allow the instinctual emotional--”
Sherlock explodes, springing to his feet and seizing Mycroft round the throat. Mycroft does not react except to wince when Sherlock throws him backwards into the mirror. It shatters, scattering shards of glass across the floor.
“I CAN’T!” he bellows.
Mycroft shakes his head, brushes the glass off his jacket, and straightens. “Sherlock--”
“Out.” When Mycroft does not move immediately, he shoves him hard in the chest. “OUT!”
Grimacing, Mycroft leaves, tracking broken glass down the stairs like stardust.
John’s scent is everywhere in the flat.
There is nowhere entirely absent of it, even the roof. Sherlock checked.
We went there last full moon and he fucked me through the sunset and then I held him until he transformed. It hasn’t rained, so the smell is still there.
So he hurls himself away, off into the darkness, and runs and hunts and feeds, drinking and wondering why the taste won’t wash out of his mouth. He gorges himself, drunk and delirious.
I’m going to die.
“Promise me. You’re not done yet.”
Sherlock remembers a place. He crawls into it like a crab into its shell, curls up inside and chases his thoughts round his head. There is too much in his head, everything and nothing of import. There had been drugs to keep it in line once, and crimes, and problems, and John. He’d have to sort it out.
You won’t. You’ll never sort it out.
The tidal wave is frozen in time, hovering over his head.
We’ve got time.
But we don’t, do we? Not anymore; we did, we did have time, and now it’s up, and you didn’t tell me, how could you not tell me we were out of time? You’re not allowed to do that. You aren’t. Weren’t. It’s wrong, all the tenses; they’re wrong. The whole fucking language is wrong, there isn’t a tense for you and there isn’t a noun for us, we monsters reveling in our mutually assured destruction.
I want to breathe in your last breath again and drink from the wound that killed you--would have killed you, but then I got to do most of it instead, which you liked better, and so did I--so please, take another breath. Take back your blood. I’ve decided I don’t want it after all; I’d rather it be in you.
Try? For me?
You’re going to live forever.
Chapter 3: as though we could not be saved
"You were, in my life, the very brightest thing I knew. I want you to be what I leave behind. I want your brilliance to be my gift to the world, understand? And I don’t want the world robbed of that too soon because of me.”
“I wanted to see what you looked like when you destroy something you love.”
He’s said it right this time. Did he ever tell John that’s how he meant to say it? Surely he knew.
“Simple. I trust you.”
“You are absolutely mad as a hatter.”
Everything smells like John again, the way he does in the curve of his neck the morning before a full moon. That’s Sherlock’s favorite place and time to drink from him. It’s like concentrated essence of John Watson, and it’s when John is strongest. John strong is good.
“It’s worth deep-tissue burns, torn ligaments, compound fucking fractures to see how much you feel about me.”
“Everyone feels like this?”
Sherlock’s mouth feels sticky and dry. He wonders why his eyes are shut, but does not see the point in trying to open them.
“Anything. Anything for you, John.”
He realizes he has not breathed in some time. Even more surprisingly, he find that he needs to. That’s not quite--but no. He inhales deeply, filling his lungs with John’s scent.
“We’ve got time.”
Like the night when John asked him if it had always only taken him a fortnight to get this obsessed, there is a song again.
there’s a possibility
This time, Sherlock is fairly sure the music is coming from inside his head. It is an uncomfortable sensation, but not an entirely new one. The song and time do not quite fit together properly, and something about this is wrong, but Sherlock cannot quite--
all that I had
--put his finger--
was all I’m gonna get
He opens his eyes.
tell me when you hear my heart stop
The sun is setting over them, and Sherlock’s skin is warmer than it has been in a hundred years. They are lying on grass side-by-side, hands intertwined. Something about this is--
--no, delete, disregard--
you’re the only one that knows
“You were dead,” says Sherlock. “Why would you die?”
John grins ruefully. “Sorry about that. Wasn’t planning on it. It’s not bad though, this. I think I’ll be alright.”
Sherlock’s mouth is trembling. He presses a kiss to the back of John’s hand. “I won’t.”
tell me when you hear my silence
“You remember what I told you?” says John.
“Yes,” says Sherlock, “but it was--wrong.”
there’s a possibility I wouldn’t know
John arches an eyebrow. “Oh?”
This is not John. John is--
--NO, DELETE, DISREGARD--
know that when you leave
“You cannot know,” Sherlock says, fervent, because John must understand this, it is crucial: “what it is like. Living this long and needing it to be--full, of--life, of anything to keep me from being bored, and you were the best of all of the things. Nothing can replace you. You were a--a sun, John, and you’ve gone out, and everything else is candles--”
“Shh,” John soothes, leaning forward and giving him a little kiss.
by blood and by me, I fall when you leave
“I know. I know, it’s hard. But look at it this way. You were, in my life, the very brightest thing I knew. I want you to be what I leave behind. I want your brilliance to be my gift to the world, understand? And I don’t want the world robbed of that too soon because of me.”
“But I can’t.”
so tell me when my sigh is over
John’s face contorts, and he kisses Sherlock again so he can’t see. Sherlock hates him a little for that, because John’s face is wonderful, but he cannot hate John now. There isn’t any time left to.
“You’ve got to. I’m sorry, Sherlock, that’s all I can say. You’ve got to.”
you’re the reason why I’m closed
John looks up at the sky and grimaces. The moon is coming up over the horizon.
“I haven’t got long, pet.”
tell me when you hear me falling
“Kiss me for a while?”
there’s a possibility it wouldn’t show
They kiss until John’s lips are not lips anymore, and the howling grows insistent.
by blood and by me
John climbs to his feet and pads towards the forest, pausing at the tree line to look back at Sherlock one last time.
I’ll fall when you leave
“Don’t,” Sherlock chokes out.
by blood and by me
I’ll follow your lead
--it’s a dream--
There is no sun warming his skin this time, though the mottled red skin on his arm indicates there has been recently. Too much sun, a dangerous amount of sun. He licks his lips experimentally. They still taste of blood.
At least three--no, six victims, all drained completely--
He stretches his limbs.
--all unwilling, healthy adult males, traces of methamphetamine, cocaine.
He cannot muster the emotion to care. Rolling his neck and wincing, he pulls himself to his feet. He is halted by a pang of regret when he realizes where he is.
221C. Where else?
The door has been broken down, but someone has leaned it back up against the frame. Mrs. Hudson, no doubt. He’ll speak with her later.
For now, Sherlock has other plans. He climbs up to the main floor, up the seventeen steps to 221B and down the hall to his room. It smells exactly as it did before he left. He shuts his eyes and breathes for a moment, remembering the hazy, drug-induced dreams.
Half back in the dream, he drifts over to the bed and lies down. If he buries his face in John’s pillow, perhaps he can just--
That is the final trigger, the end of his fever dream.
It starts as a hot feeling behind his cheeks and a tightness in his chest, then wells up and bursts out of him, racking his body. The tears are shockingly hot on his cold cheeks. They shouldn’t be, that’s not--but no, this isn’t a dream.
When he is able to pull himself upright again, his face has dried.
“Your years,” he murmurs. He runs the back of one hand down John’s pillowcase.
Chapter 4: time stands still
“I’m not frightened.”
Ten years is not so long as it might have seemed from Sherlock’s bed on a Sunday morning with John warm and alive in his arms. But it is nearly as long as he feared when he thought of it on a cold February morning with John bleeding out onto the pavement.
Some days are nearly too much to bear. On these days, Sherlock digs his way through the flat, looking for something that smells of John.
He cannot imagine what life would be like if one day, he found nothing.
Most days, though, are tolerable. He works with Lestrade, watches him go gray and start coming round with pictures of grandchildren.
Losing Mrs. Hudson is sudden. The stroke comes out of nowhere, a hurricane inside her skull that tears it to pieces before she has time to blink. She dies before she hits the floor. Sherlock hears it from upstairs and knows immediately.
She leaves him Baker Street. Sherlock briefly wishes she were still alive just so he could kiss her on both cheeks for it. It’s almost the best gift he could be given.
Mycroft tries to insinuate himself back into Sherlock’s life. It never sticks. Sherlock returns to the same sort of prickly hostility he kept to before John, and Mycroft eventually gives it up and goes back to ruling the world with Anthea, who is Marguerite again.
The world turns.
Sherlock keeps time on a calendar, and once a year he visits the alley. Some years Lestrade comes with him.
“Didn’t figure you’d last a week once he was gone,” Lestrade says on the fifth year.
“I made him a promise,” Sherlock replies, too quietly for Lestrade to hear.
Mycroft knows, somehow, how long he has planned. He contacts him near the end of January with an opportunity in France that will take him out of the country for several months on end.
“Can’t,” Sherlock says breezily. “Plans.”
Mycroft is quiet on the other end for a moment.
“You should know,” he says at last, “that I have always--cared for you.”
Sherlock’s face tightens. “I know.”
Sherlock is one hundred sixty-one years old when he dies.
He spends his last day stopping by the places that are his. He stops by Lestrade’s office to poke a dozen holes in his case, and offer his sarcastic congratulations to Anderson for finally leaving his wife for Donovan. Then he's off to Bart’s morgue, to offer Molly his earnest congratulations on the baby she’d only realized was on the way that morning.
“It’s--ten years tomorrow, isn’t it?” she asks softly, when she’s gotten over the shock.
Sherlock turns his face away.
She puts a hand on his arm. “He’d be proud.”
He turns back, smiles stiffly, bends, and kisses her on the cheek. “Thank you, Molly Hooper.”
She beams. “Atkins.”
After, he climbs the stairs to the roof and looks out to where he died once before. He feels perhaps he didn’t apologize to John enough for that, and wonders briefly, madly, if he’ll have a chance to tomorrow.
He makes his way to the alley with fifteen minutes to go until sunrise. The houses on both sides have been abandoned now, which is good. No bystanders. John wouldn’t have appreciated that.
Good job I don’t leave a corpse then, isn’t it?
He sheds his coat and leaves it folded on top of a rubbish bin. No need to slow down the process unnecessarily.
“We’re a few hours short, if we’re going to be exact.”
Sherlock smiles. “Are we going to be exact?”
He unbuttons his shirt, strips it down his arms, and lays it on top of his coat. He’s waited long enough.
“I am proud.”
“I’m not frightened.”
“I was frightened before, when I died.”
“Lucky you, getting practice.”
The sun is creeping up the horizon.
Sherlock blinks. His eyes are wet and hot. “Am I hallucinating?”
“Speaking for your hallucinations, I’ve a vested interest in saying ‘no.’”
Sherlock’s voice breaks, somewhere half between laughter and a sob. “I don’t believe in life after death.”
“I want to.”
Something in his head smiles at him, filling him up with warmth like he hasn’t felt in years.
“Then come on in.”