The sun is rising, Jim notices as thin slits of light start seeping through the curtains. He’d fallen asleep last night. Or rather, this morning. Their late night rendezvous are progressively getting later and later. This time, Jim had found himself creeping into Baker Street at 3 in the morning. Ridiculous.
He turns over to lay on his side, propping an arm under his head as he looks up at his sleeping… Lover? Sherlock’s laying on his back, all sprawled out with the sheets barely covering his middle, his eyes closed. People often talk about how ‘peaceful’ their lovers look when they are sleeping, and how adorable and serene and lovely they are.
… Sherlock isn’t any of those things. He’s all sharp edges and harsh lines. Above all, he’s tense. There’s nothing about his posture that doesn’t say alert or on guard. He doesn’t trust Jim at all, perhaps rightly so. It’s not that Jim has a desire to hurt him, because he really doesn’t. In fact, the thought of causing Sherlock any real pain makes him feel just a little bit sick. He likes to think they’re past all that. However, he isn’t ignorant to the fact that he has hurt Sherlock in the past, and will probably do so again in the future, even if it isn’t his intention. Jim does that, though; he loses control and gets too caught up in his scheming. Before he knows it, the world is crashing down around his ankles and he’s the only one to blame.
Sherlock stops all that. Sherlock keeps him in line, even if he doesn’t realise he’s doing it. When he’s with Sherlock, he isn’t bored or irritable or itching to cause trouble. He’s content. He’s happy. It’s enough.
Part of him wishes he could shuffle up to Sherlock, tuck himself under the taller man’s arm and lay with him until the stress leaves his body. No, actually, all of Jim wishes he could do that. He wants Sherlock in every sense of the word, and it’s painful because he knows it can’t ever happen. They each have their respective roles to play, after all. Jim is a villain and an overall bad person. He, quite literally, will never be ‘good’ enough.
“You’re staring at me.” Sherlock states out of the blue, his voice heavy and rough with sleep (or perhaps just disuse). He doesn’t reply. Sherlock clears his throat, but his voice isn’t any less deep when he says, “Hadn’t you ought to be leaving? John‘ll be up soon.”
Jim hums in agreement, but doesn’t move. He’s comfortable, it’s warm and in all honesty, he just doesn’t feel like getting up. Above all he’s relaxed, which is an unusual - though not unpleasant - contrast to how he usually feels: stressed out and tense. This moment, the quietness, the togetherness, is nice. He doesn’t want it to end just yet, even though he knows it has to.
God forbid St. John find them together.
He doesn’t want to go back to his empty old flat. He doesn’t want to go back to his boring old life. He doesn’t want to go back to face Moran’s judgement - and Moran will judge him - Moran always judges him. He knows where Jim disappears to in the dead of night. He sees the marks. He sees the bruises, the bites, the swollen lips and the sex hair. He knows what Jim is doing and, more importantly, who he is doing it with. He thinks him not only a fool, but also a slut, though he’ll never dare verbalise the latter. Jim knows, deep down, that Moran’s primary concern is his safety and well-being, not only as his bodyguard but also as his friend… But that doesn’t make his harsh opinions any less hurtful.
He tells himself that he doesn’t care. He can’t afford to care; caring is a dangerous disadvantage. He’s lying to himself, though. He does care. Moran and Sherlock are the two most important people in his life. How could he not care?
“Why are you still here?” Sherlock’s voice cuts right through his train of thought. Jim looks up at him and it’s too much. He’s had enough. Sherlock’s using him and he knows it. When all is said and done, Jim knows he’s just a distraction. Just a stress reliever. Just a shag.
“Do you love me?”
“What?” Sherlock’s shock is evident, though not quite so as his utter state of confusion. The poor dear is completely floored, he hadn’t seen that one coming at all. He turns his head and looks at Jim, his eyebrows creased as he studies the smaller man’s face, trying to get a read on him.
“Do you love me?” Jim repeats. It takes his best efforts to keep his feelings in check and his expression neutral. He doesn’t want Sherlock to see that this is, in fact, a very important question and - let’s be honest - a defining moment in their relationship. If Sherlock answers with a flat out ‘no’, Jim’ll be heartbroken.
But Sherlock doesn’t answer at all. His mouth opens slightly, as if he’s about to answer, but then he closes it again.
“Do you love him?” The few moments worth of hesitation tell him everything he needs to know. He’s out of the flat before Sherlock even has the chance to process what, precisely, has just happened, never mind make any effort to stop Jim.
As per usual, Sherlock can’t seem to switch off. His ‘lover’, if you can call Jim that, is fast asleep just inches to his left after an evening’s worth of somewhat not-gentle sex. Well, technically it had been a first thing in the morning shag, because 3am doesn’t really constitute as ‘evening’.
He turns his head slowly, looking at his sleeping ‘lover’.
As much as Sherlock regrets even thinking it, Jim’s adorable when he’s sleeping. It’s such a cliché, admiring one’s ‘lover’ as they sleep, but he really can’t help himself. Jim’s always so guarded, as if he’s surrounded by wall after wall of defence mechanisms and bullet proof armour. To see him laying there, all unprotected and open, is really quite unsettling. He looks peaceful when his mind is at rest, more peaceful than he ever seems to be when he’s awake. It’s lovely. Jim’s lovely - another one of his more unexpected (though not unpleasant) traits.
It angers Sherlock. He’s supposed to hate Jim, but he just doesn’t.
Jim doesn’t usually stay the night. They’re both quite paranoid about John finding out about their little affair. Sherlock knows he wouldn’t ever be forgiven for this particular indiscretion. Even if he was, he’d never be trusted again.
Jim sighs softly, distracting Sherlock from his thoughts. It’s only then he realises that he’s been staring at the face of his ‘lover’ the entire time. To say he’s relieved that Jim is still asleep would be an understatement. He considers nudging him and waking him up so that he can tell him to leave, but he can’t seem to bring himself to do it. Jim looks so serene like this, and so utterly trusting. He trusts Sherlock not to hurt him.
He wonders whether that trust is arrogance or blatant stupidity. Perhaps it’s both, or perhaps it’s neither. Perhaps he’s right to trust Sherlock - the thought of Jim getting hurt makes Sherlock feel physically sick. He’s getting too close. They both are. They’re letting this become something more than it actually is. He looks at Jim and he feels something, and although he can’t quite find the words to describe it, he knows that it definitely isn’t hatred. If he had to communicate it, he would compare it to warmth or adoration, perhaps even attachment.
He lets Jim sleep, playing on his phone for a bit before shutting his eyes and trying to relax. He can’t, though, because his head is flooded with thoughts - all of them revolving around Jim. What if Jim wasn’t a criminal, or Sherlock wasn’t a detective? What if none of it even matters? What if Jim dies before Sherlock? How would he cope with Jim gone?
He doesn’t really register the time flying by, and he thinks he might have drifted off for an hour or so, but he does notice the slight changes in the room around him. The birds start singing outside as room begins to get lighter. It isn’t long before he hears Jim stir, waking up. His breathing pattern changes and the bed dips as he turns to face Sherlock.
“You’re staring at me.” Sherlock states after a few short minutes of silence. His voice comes out more hoarse than he had intended. He clears his throat before speaking again. “Hadn’t you ought to be leaving? John’ll be up soon.” John. John is a massive point of concern. He cares about John deeply. Though they don’t share any kind of romantic bond, John is the best friend Sherlock has ever had. Will ever have. John would never even dream of betraying Sherlock like Sherlock has betrayed John just by being in the same room as Jim Moriarty, a man who not so long ago had strapped a bomb to him.
Speaking of Jim, he still hasn’t moved.
“Why are you still here?” Sherlock asks, frustration nagging at his tone. It isn’t intentional. He’s sleep deprived and, as a consequence, somewhat tired. He’s conflicted. He doesn’t know how he feels about Jim, and he’s had enough of thinking about it.
“Do you love me?” The question catches him completely by surprise. Sometimes, it’s as if Jim can read his mind. It’s frightening to know that there’s someone out there who knows exactly what he’s thinking, even more so to know that that person is laying next to him in bed, looking up at him through large, dark, gorgeous eyes. In a way, though, it’s comforting. It’s nice to not be alone in his head.
“What?” He asks, giving Jim a look. Perhaps he misheard. Surely Jim wouldn’t be asking him if he loved him. Surely not. Jim didn’t get, in his words, ‘sentimental over his pets’, did he?
“Do you love me?” He freezes. He doesn’t know what to say. He’s completely floored by Jim’s question. He opens his mouth to respond, but no sound comes out. No words form. It’s as if he doesn’t know a lick of English as his mind refuses to formulate any kind response. He curses himself. It isn’t difficult, Sherlock. It’s a yes-or-no question. Say something.
“Do you love him?” John. Of course he’s talking about John. Jim is convinced that Sherlock has feelings for John. He doesn’t. Sherlock does love John, how could he not? He loves John as a friend - as his best friend. Loving John isn’t the same as being in love with John. He’s about to answer, explain himself, but in a flash Jim is gone.
He watches as the smaller man gets dressed in record time. Absently, he notices that the poor thing is covered in bruises. His neck and collar area are littered with love bites, ranging in size, shape and overall severity. There are faint bruises on his hips where Sherlock’s fingers had gripped him, and that's not to mention the teeth marks. He’s somewhere between terribly guilt-ridden and turned on as Jim throws on his shirt and jacket, letting his tie rest unfastened around his neck. He pulls on his underwear and trousers, quickly adorning his socks and shoes before leaving Sherlock’s bedroom without saying another word.
The gravity of what has just transpired hits Sherlock like a brick to the face. In seconds he’s out of bed, wrapping himself in his robe and nothing else. He bolts down the stairs, making it outside just in time to see Jim climbing into a taxi.
He yells at the taxi to stop, to wait just a minute, but it doesn’t. He can only watch it sadly as it disappears into the distance. “I love you.” He whispers, unheard and alone.