Mycroft smiled at him and affectionately and completely unselfconsciously brushed the hair on Sherlock’s forehead out of his eyes. He caught himself in the gesture, one he’d not repeated for nearly twenty years. Sherlock smiled at him.
‘Thank you Mycroft.’ He said
Mycroft nodded ‘You know where I am.’ He said striding towards the door. Sherlock nodded, adjusted his jacket and turned nervously back to face John.
John smiled nervously back at Sherlock who took a tentative step back towards him, John didn’t move, frozen to the spot suddenly nervous. Sherlock took another step and opened his mouth to speak but suddenly winced grasping at his side. He stilled for a moment as the pain from his ribs subsided. John was at his side in an instant, gentle hands moving his own and supporting him.
‘I don’t suppose anyone has looked at you have they?’ he asked.
Sherlock shook his head, the pain this time taking longer to subside.
John nodded curtly, ‘Right. Sit. Rest a bit I’ll run home and get my stuff. Then I’ll take a look.’ He guided Sherlock gently to the sofa where he sat reluctantly, only for the hope the dull ache he’d been ignoring all day might subside a bit. Then his mind clicked back into focus, this meant John would be leaving, he didn’t want John to leave not so soon. He couldn’t be certain he’d return.
John turned back to him after pulling on his jacket, reading instantly the concern in Sherlock’s mind-he might not be a genius but it was clearly written across his face. He stepped back in front of Sherlock.
‘I’ll be back.’ He said firmly and reached out a tentative hand to Sherlock’s shoulder, ‘I’ll um, I’ll bring some of my things-clothes and things-so I won’t have to go back for a couple of days.’ He bit his lip hoping that was the right thing to say. Sherlock searched his face as if looking for some kind of confirmation this was really happening. ‘I’ll be back.’ John repeated.
Sherlock nodded slowly, still looking unconvinced. John nodded in return and went to walk away, there was a sharp tug on his arm and he was pulled back towards Sherlock as long arms wound around his waist. John brings a hand down to Sherlock’s head and pats his head gently not much wanting to let go either, this touch is reassuring and safe and while they both need it so badly they’re both reluctant to push further but also so desperate for the reassurance this brings. John shakes his head slightly, it’s so simple and yet so confusing. One thing at a time he tells himself, Sherlock needs him as a Doctor first, then they can go from there. John extracts himself from Sherlock’s grip and with one final reassurance that he’ll be back he leaves.
Sherlock leans back into the sofa for a moment, before crossing to the window to watch John go. He’ll be back he repeats, he’ll be back. And then what? He asks himself. Minutes earlier he’d felt with certainty what he wanted, the execution was proving more difficult. This was puzzling, usually action followed knowledge seamlessly- on figuring out what needed to be done you did it. Why then was he having trouble with this? He thought for a moment; because he was not certain. He thought he was certain but he couldn’t be certain of John’s thoughts, no of his feelings Sherlock corrected himself.
He ran over the evidence in his mind, John had come back despite everything he had chosen to return. Everyone else seemed more certain than ever that John had feelings beyond that of friendship for Sherlock, and he was now certain that his own feelings-though he did not fully understand them having no quantifiable evidence with which to compare the sensation-were that of a stronger affection for John. But Sherlock had no means to express these feelings. And John seemed reluctant to proceed without certainty that Sherlock was comfortable, which he was not without certainty that John was. So they had reached an impasse. He lay down on the sofa to consider the puzzle, how they moved from this to somewhere else.
John was in a taxi on his way back to Baker Street within an hour, he’d not wanted to linger in the flat any longer than it took to retrieve what he needed. It felt suddenly even less like home, he knew he belonged back at Baker Street, it was an easy decision once he’d made it despite his anger at Sherlock, despite everything that had happened since he was gone John knew he couldn’t be anywhere else. Something else tugged at him however as they rounded the last corner into Baker Street, there was something changed in their relationship and he had just consented to something else changing as well. Something he’d resisted maybe, or perhaps had just not recognised was there? Either way now it was there staring them in the face and neither of them knew what to do about it.
John could hear Sherlock thinking when he walked into the flat, he’d rolled his eyes and later derided Sherlock for his accusation that thinking was disturbing him. But with Sherlock John could hear it-perhaps not hear it but sense it at least. Without even rounding the stairs and seeing him pace uncomfortably holding his side he was trying to work something out. And John didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce what it was it was the same thing that was running-probably a little more slowly in his own mind. John sighed and set his things down, in this he suddenly realised he might have to take control, in fact he just might be the expert.
‘Sherlock stop.’ He said firmly.
His voice caught Sherlock by surprise partly as he was so deep in thought, partly he was now so unused to the sound. He pulled up sharply and winced at the pain in his side. A look of palpable relief spread across his face at the sight of John.
‘You’re back. Good, that’s good.’ He said nodding to himself, he made a move to step closer to John then hesitated. Now that John was back in the flat he wasn’t quite sure what to do, he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.
‘Are you alright?’ John asked
‘Fine. Yes. Fine.’ Sherlock answered
‘Right.’ John put his hands in his pockets and shifted a little himself, one thing to think he would take charge and sort this out himself, quite another to do it. This was Sherlock and him after all and he was wary that they might only have once chance to get this right.
‘Sherlock?’ he tried again ‘Are you alright?’
‘Yes. Fine. I’m just er..’ Sherlock looked around the room for something to do, touch anything but stand with this gaping chasm between him and John. Part of him wanted to leap across the room and take John in his arms-or whatever it was people did- the other wanted to run away. That was the problem he finally realised, pieces falling into place like the answer to a case. He didn’t know what to do, and for Sherlock Holmes that was unthinkable. He looked up at John about to try and explain it away to distract him onto another topic, anything. But he was too late, his face betrayed him.
John’s expression softened in affection realising; Sherlock was confused, more than that Sherlock had no idea what to do. ‘It’s alright.’ John said with a slight smile ‘Why don’t we get you fixed up a bit?’
Sherlock swallowed again, relieved to be given a respite from grappling with this-whatever this was-and allow John to be his Doctor, they both knew where they stood in that scenario. He nodded, ‘Alright.’ He said
‘Good.’ John said firmly, ‘Bathroom, and you’re telling me everything that’s hurt whether or not you think it needs treatment-I’m the doctor and I do not want another septic knife wound to deal with in a week’s time.’
Sherlock scrunched up his face at the memory, frankly he’d learned his lesson from that particularly painful incident, and he complied willingly taking himself to the bathroom while John busied himself collecting supplies. Sherlock perched himself on the edge of their ancient bath and unbuttoned his shirt, he found when he tried to remove it he’d stiffened up to the point it was painful to remove his arms from the sleeves. Just as he began to struggle John came in juggling his bag and a bowl of warm water.
‘Here, let me.’ He said putting them down and going to Sherlock’s aid. With a slightly indignant huff Sherlock allowed John to help remove his shirt, standing so that the shorter man could pull it down.
The small gasp that escaped John’s lips as he did so didn’t surprise Sherlock but he felt an unexpected pang of something at the noise.
‘Nothing serious.’ He muttered trying to be reassuring, ‘I got treated for the worst of them. Some of it is new.’
John stared for a moment not knowing where to start, Sherlock’s back was a tapestry of injuries, bruised green and blue with older injuries to almost black in places, intermingled with these were red scars and scratches, the deepest of which was clearly fairly fresh and had needed stitches but hadn’t had them. John reached out a hand and touched it lightly, Sherlock’s flesh recoiled instinctively at his touch and he leaped away.
‘Sorry.’ John said ‘Sherlock is this ok.’
Sherlock leant forward gripping the sink, John’s touch had felt like fire to his skin he’d instantly wanted to be as far away from the touch as he could, and that felt wrong. He breathed heavily for a moment.
‘Yes.’ He said ‘Carry on.’
John watched his knuckles turn white as the gripped the sink in an effort to fight the urge to recoil and run, he reached up again and attempted to touch one of the less angry looking scars. Again Sherlock recoiled from him almost slamming into the sink with the force at which his body took him.
He was breathing heavily, and could still feel the fire hot sensation of John’s touch on his skin. He tried to force his breathing to slow it down. Why was this happening? He tried again to breathe deeper to be calm, it was a waste of time trying to fool John however.
John moved slowly around to the side of Sherlock, invading his space but not touching. He had a fair idea of what was wrong, he’d observed Sherlock for nearly two years, and he knew him. Every touch he’d had in the last three years had been in violence, of course he recoiled. John wasn’t taking it personally, a little edginess from Sherlock they could handle. John reached down and covered Sherlock’s hand with his own, he felt the twitch beneath his hand at the touch but held on, and knowing Sherlock could handle this.
‘Sherlock.’ He said gently ‘I get it alright? And I don’t mind.’
‘I didn’t mean.’ Sherlock coughed a little ‘But it hurts. Why does it hurt?’
‘I don’t know Sherlock it just does.’ He gave a little squeeze to the hand under his ‘But do you think you could let me take a look now? If it gets too much tell me and I’ll stop.’
Sherlock exhaled and nodded pushing back off the sink; he looked John in the eyes briefly but then fixed them to the floor. It tore at John to see him so helpless and knowing in the short term he wasn’t going to help.
‘Sorry.’ Sherlock muttered.
‘Nothing to be sorry for.’ John said ‘Besides, you’ve done far worse to me.’
He saw a small twitch of Sherlock’s mouth at that and took it as a sign to go to work. He worked quickly checking the scars and bruises of Sherlock’s back. Sherlock flinched away several times but each one less violent than the last. John handed him the bandage to hold in place while he strapped up his ribs.
‘Alright?’ he asked
‘Better.’ Sherlock said looking at him. ‘It’s better now.’
‘Good.’ John said finishing his bandaging and turning his attention to Sherlock’s head. The gash wasn’t deep but would have bled a lot falling on the thin skin of his scalp he worked quickly and steadily, cleaning away the dried blood and treating the cut with an antiseptic. Sherlock sat quietly unmoving throughout. When John stepped back to look at him properly he realised that Sherlock seemed fascinated by John’s medical bag, it was leather, expensive clearly and embossed with JHW just under the clasp. Less than 2 years old he decided and rarely used as John was mainly teaching and using the hospital facilities now.
‘Wedding present.’ John said softy ‘From Mary.’
Sherlock nodded and lifted his gaze to John’s again, ‘I would like to hear about her.’ He said
John smiled tightly, happy that Sherlock was interested but not ready as yet to reopen that part of his life. ‘Later.’ He agreed. He leaned in for one final inspection of Sherlock’s head then stepped back.
‘That’s you fixed I think. For now at least.’ John smiled reached out and swiped Sherlock’s nose playfully with the damp cotton wool in his hand.
Sherlock gave a slight yelp in surprise which turned into a small but definite laugh which John echoed as Sherlock lost his balance and began to fall backwards into the bath. John reached forward pulling him back upright with a quick grasp of Sherlock’s forearm and a strong hand on his back, Sherlock reached up and grasped at John grasping his shoulder both of them still laughing, a slightly hysterical sound of relief. Sherlock looked up as he steadied himself in the stillness realising they were incredibly close, close enough to feel the other breathing. Sherlock’s eyes flicked across John’s face taking in the details close up, really looking for the first time in three years, weathered and tired but still unmistakably John. Something flared inside Sherlock that he was finally beginning to understand. He reached around slowly and brushed his fingers to John’s face, lightly at first but then pressing his hand more firmly there.
‘Alright?’ John asked trying to keep his own nervousness from his voice.
Sherlock nodded and pressed his hand a little more into John’s face, leaning fractionally closer John smiled a small reassuring smile. Sherlock tilted his own face up towards John a little and returned the smile; John moved his one hand up Sherlock’s back keeping a firm grip on Sherlock’s other arm just in case he lost his balance again. His hand found Sherlock’s hair and wove his fingers into it gently before bringing a hand to Sherlock’s cheek mirroring the hand on his own. He traced a cheekbone with his thumb and smiled again. Sherlock whose eyes had been trained on his own until now flicked down quickly and John understood before perhaps Sherlock did.
‘It’s ok.’ He said returning the hand to Sherlock’s hair briefly before resting it on his shoulder ‘There’s no rush.’
Sherlock nodded looking up again and squeezed the arm that still gripped his own, John looked down instinctively and something caught his eye. He grasped Sherlock’s arm tighter and turned it palm up to face him, he ran a hand up to the crook of the elbow and ran his fingers lightly over the marks there.
‘These aren’t just from yesterday.’ He said
Sherlock looked down at his arm where John was still tracing the marks some feint some angry and red. Mycroft had noticed too of course but had turned a blind eye for the moment hoping perhaps that John would also find them.
‘No.’ Sherlock said fixing his eyes downwards
‘How often?’ John asked.
Sherlock shrugged, ‘It depends.’
‘Sherlock. Answer me.’ John demanded trying to keep the anger from his voice
Sherlock snatched his arm back and folded both arms across his stomach protectively.
‘Like I said it depends.’ He said fixing John with a glare ‘Sometimes it was every week, every few days, others it was weeks at a time.’ He shuffled a bit and looked down again ‘Sometimes, things happened that made me need it more. Sometimes I needed it less.’
John nodded although Sherlock wasn’t looking at him, ‘But you used last night didn’t you.’
‘You know that.’ Sherlock said to his lap
John knelt down in front of him and pulled gently until Sherlock uncurled his arms for John to examine once more. He didn’t need to really, he knew what was there, and he couldn’t change that. He ran a hand over each arm again, lingering once more on the scars.
‘Promise me Sherlock you’ll do it here in future. If you need to.’
‘Why?’ he asked, still talking to his lap.
‘So I can keep you safe.’
Sherlock looked up and his eyes locked with John’s, he nodded solemnly ‘Ok.’ He agreed
‘You’ve died once on me Sherlock Holmes I’m not about to let it happen again.’ He’d meant it as a joke but the end of the sentence caught somewhere in John’s chest. He pushed himself quickly to his feet and quickly left the bathroom. Sherlock didn’t follow sensing John needed some time alone, instead after a few moments he padded downstairs and slipped quietly into his bedroom.
Sherlock was just shrugging into his dressing gown when John appeared in the doorway, calm and collected again he leant against the doorframe.
‘Hungry?’ he asked
‘Defiantly.’ Sherlock replied
‘Good.’ John said with a smile ‘Because dinner has appeared.’
Sherlock frowned ‘Mrs Hudson?’
John shook his head and jerked his head towards the kitchen table where a large bag had appeared. Sherlock strode past John and examined it. The receipt attached in a familiar scrawl read
Anything for you Sherlock. I never believe what the papers say.
‘News travels fast.’ John commented
‘Mycroft.’ Sherlock said but couldn’t keep the grin from spreading across his face, one which John found himself mirroring. Sherlock’s phone beeped.
In case you forget to eat. M.
As Johns beeped simultaneously
Sorry about that. Enjoy the food. Greg.
Sherlock silenced his own as the second text came through from Mycroft.
Trust me he does. M.
‘Dinner then?’ Sherlock asked attacking the containers with zeal.
‘Starving.’ John confirmed.
They set about locating plates and utensils in the now unfamiliar arrangement of the kitchen and were soon seated at the kitchen table, which on the plus side was mercifully free of experiments and hazardous materials unlike most nights they’d lived there previously. After a moment John frowned.
‘This is a new table!’ he said
Sherlock looked at it puzzled ‘Is it?’
John lifted his plate, ‘Yes.’ He smirked ‘And do you know how I know this Sherlock?’
Sherlock lifted an eyebrow in question.
‘No burn marks on this side from the acid you spilt, all four legs are still the same height because nobody sawed a bit off to use in another experiment, that side still has the varnish on it from whatever the hell you spilt there. And,’ he paused for a big finish ‘There’s no sword mark on the end. How the hell that happened I still don’t know.’
Sherlock smiled almost fondly at the memory. ‘Ninja’ he said
‘Come on.’ John said
‘Really.’ Sherlock said
‘An actual Ninja? Is there even such a thing as an actual Ninja?’
‘Well one left a mark on your kitchen table John.’ Sherlock was actually smirking now.
John rolled his eyes and went back to his food, Angelo had of course sent over both of their favourites-a risotto for John and a chorizo pasta for Sherlock along with copious amounts of bread and what looked like some kind of decadent Tiramisu for desert. Sherlock was eating hungrily which reassured John that his current more slender frame was more a result of working a three year long case and not having anyone to look after him than anything more sinister.
‘So any real life Ninja’s over the last three years?’ John asked conversationally.
Sherlock looked a bit confused, ‘Not really.’ He said
‘Tell me about it.’ John said ‘I mean I know you did yesterday, but the other stuff. You must have stories to tell-things you want to show off about.’ John smirked a bit this time.
‘Why do you want to know?’
John shrugged, ‘Fill in the gaps. I don’t know.’
Sherlock raised an eyebrow, John did know it seemed.
‘Alright.’ John said ‘Because it’ll make it feel normal, you showing off about what you’ve done how clever you were. And I want us, this to feel normal.’ He exhaled and took a large mouthful of risotto.
Sherlock nodded, and thought for a moment ‘Well there was this one Concierge in Paris.’ He began and then was off, regaling John with tales of his time away. The detail on Moriarty’s men in some cases in others just the random hotel employees and passers-by that weaved their way into his awareness. And it was as it had always been for a while, John listened and interjected with questions and comments, some of them admiring some of them sarcastic, and Sherlock talked. And it was like he’d never been away, except that John hadn’t been there for any of this so he’d always have to settle for just the story.
Sherlock finished telling a particularly complicated tale about Russian aristocracy and leaned back in his chair allowing silence to fill the room. They’d long ago finished the food and his pushed his plate away slightly.
‘Angelo hasn’t lost his touch then.’ John commented ‘I’ve missed his cooking.’
‘You’ve not been lately.’ It wasn’t a question.
John shook his head, ‘Didn’t feel right somehow. Going there with anyone else.’
There was a heavy silence, and John knew Sherlock was also thinking back to the first night they’d gone to Angelo’s the first meal they’d shared together.
‘It’s still all fine you know.’ John said quietly ‘Whatever way you choose.’
Sherlock frowned, ‘Choose?’ he mused.
‘Yes Sherlock. You have a choice.’ John insisted getting up ‘And it’s all fine.’
Sherlock nodded slowly.
‘I think I need a drink.’ John said ‘Do you think Mrs Hudson has some cooking Sherry hidden somewhere?’
‘I looked earlier.’ Sherlock commented ‘Nothing.’
‘Tea it is then.’ John said flicking the kettle on ‘You want?’
‘Please.’ Sherlock said deep in thought.
John left him to it while he boiled the kettle, gesturing for Sherlock to follow him to the living room once the tea was made they sat either side of the fireplace in silence a while longer until Sherlock spoke.
‘Tell me about them.’
‘The same reason as you. I need to know what I missed.’ Sherlock said ‘Tell me about Mary and Hamish.’
John didn’t speak for a moment, after a long pause he reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He removed a slightly tattered photo and handed it to Sherlock. It must have been taken shortly before the accident; the child in the picture was around two years old, and looked like a miniature version of John. Sherlock had never taken much stock of people’s children previously taking as read that as they shared their parent’s genes then there would be similarities but seeing John reflected in the small child so perfectly took him by surprise. The woman was petite and pretty, an office worker of some kind Sherlock guessed but from just the one image it was difficult to be certain, A loving woman who would have been good to John, But the child he couldn’t take his eyes off.
John began to speak and Sherlock flicked his eyes between him and the photograph, hearing the story of how they met-at a coffee shop near a surgery John was working at-some of their courtship, and the wedding.
‘It was fast yes, but I was alone and I couldn’t be alone any longer. ’John explained seeming to forget that Sherlock was there.
Mary had become pregnant shortly before they got engaged, so they married quickly and began to raise the baby. It seemed all was well with John’s life for a while, until of course it wasn’t. He held out his hand for the photo as he reached the point in the story he’d been dreading. John got as far as describing the funeral before he lost control, very slowly and very quietly tears began to escape. His voice stayed even and he shrugged finishing his story with;
‘And I guess the rest isn’t very interesting, went back to work. Alone again.’ He hung his head not in an attempt to hide the tears that had slowed but not quite stopped, but more as a gesture of defeat.
Sherlock had remained almost motionless and completely silent throughout got up and knelt in front of John’s chair and put his hands on the arms, not touching the other man just resting close.
‘John I am sorry.’ He said
With a small sniff John nodded not looking up, he felt Sherlock shift a little closer and looked up.
‘I don’t know how to help.’ Sherlock said his eyes filled with utter confusion, John looked up at Sherlock and made a spluttering noise through his tears, completely knocked sideways by Sherlock’s admission and the genuine concern in his eyes, without thinking John pulled Sherlock towards him and kissed him.
It was short and chaste, Sherlock didn’t respond, but he didn’t pulled away either, John felt the grip on his arm tighten and his pulled away. His heart dropped to his stomach cursing himself for taking things too far, upsetting whatever delicate balance they’d managed to achieve.
‘Idiot.’ He said cursing himself ‘Sorry. Sherlock it’s just telling that story it made me think of things, want something….really it doesn’t have to mean… well I’m…’
Sherlock pulled back and rocked back on his heels hands coming to rest back on the arms of the chair. John straightened and ran a hand through his hair, still embarrassed.
‘So now what?’ Sherlock asked.
- ‘Bed I think.’ John replied and laughed lightly in spite of himself at the look of surprise on Sherlock’s face, ‘Sleep.’ He said glancing at his watch and stifling a yawn, ‘It’s after one, and you look like you need three week’s sleep as it is. As usual.’
Sherlock uncurled himself from his position at John’s feet stood, and stretched awkwardly as his injuries would allow and wrapped his dressing gown around him.
‘Right.’ He said ‘Ok.’
‘I’ll take the sofa.’ John said making it easier for Sherlock.
‘Right. Ok.’ Sherlock repeated hesitating before turning towards his room. He paused in the kitchen and turned back ‘Goodnight John.’ He said ‘It’s err, good that you are here.’
John smiled fondly ‘Night Sherlock.’ He said retrieving the blanket from the back of Sherlock’s armchair and making his way towards the sofa. He heard the door to Sherlock’s room click shut and he sat down heavily on the sofa resting his head in his hands. John cursed himself for being an idiot, for letting his emotions at thinking of Mary get the better of him and push things with Sherlock. Twenty four hours ago he was just about computing that Sherlock was alive and now he was kissing him? Was it just desperation to be no longer alone? Missing Mary who by his own admission would never have been if Sherlock had been around? He didn’t bother to answer the questions as he undressed and threw himself down on the sofa. The answer was much simpler, and yet it seemed far more complicated to execute. Luckily for John a lack of sleep the night before and more than a little emotional burnout meant that sleep quickly overtook him in spite of the uncomfortable sofa and his anxiety about the man on the other side of the bedroom door.
Sherlock sat on the edge of his bed thinking, he’d waited for this, he’d thought about this for three years; being back home at Baker Street, having John with him. He’d tried to deny his other thoughts about John but they’d crept in repeatedly and this was not how he imagined it. When he’d taken John’s hand so carefully, so tentatively earlier that evening he’d thought that was it, the hardest part over. He realised now he’d been wrong, and he had no idea how to proceed. This was all uncharted unknown, with anyone. Sherlock wasn’t naïve in any sense, he’d experimented in his teens and twenties, but experiment had been the operative word, both sexually and emotionally he’d been collecting data, analysing behaviour in himself and the other person. And he’d found nothing of consequence emotionally, plenty of data on human emotion and love that he’d put to use in other ways over the years, but nothing had gotten close to accessing his own emotions in the same way. Even if it had this was different, this was John Watson and he was Sherlock Holmes and it was everything he had held onto while he was away, and also everything he’d gone away for in the first place. Sherlock had no answers and for once his body was betraying him, his eyes and limbs heavy he lay down and attempted sleep, knowing he would probably not manage a full night and hoping at least he wouldn’t alert John to his disturbed rest. Once again he was wrong.
Sherlock didn’t know whether he’d shouted John’s name or simply the noise had woken him. Clearly he had been shouting in his sleep because while still shouting incoherent words he opened his eyes it was John who swam into focus first. He felt strong arms at his shoulders steading him while also shaking him to consciousness. He’d seen him fall again, over and over in his dream. Each time becoming more vivid, more detailed John first fell and then he would die in Sherlock’s arms. Over and over while Moriarty’s voice filled Sherlock’s head mocking him, over and over as the man he loved died. He protested that in the dream, telling Moriarty so which only made the man more cruel and John’s death’s more brutal. But now John was here, warm and real and in front of him except Sherlock couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t about to fade away and die again only to reappear and repeat the process. He gripped onto the arms that held him down tightly, enough to hurt probably, and pulled himself closer to John. He could smell the familiar scent of him now and feel the warmth from his skin. Sherlock reached up to pull him closer just to be certain, to feel he really was alive. John reached over and touched Sherlock’s face.
‘You’re alright.’ He said his voice sounding distant and blurred but the touch was warm and real.
Without thinking Sherlock pulled him closer desperate to feel the warmth of his touch to be absolutely certain that he was really there, with him. He touched John’s face, sensors in his fingers telling him the warm skin and rough stubble were real, but still it wasn’t enough he pulled John closer to him and kissed him.
It wasn’t like the kiss from earlier that night, this was raw and needy and rough. Sherlock had kissed enough people but he was unpractised, lacked finesse regardless of that it wasn’t that kind of kiss. It wasn’t romantic or tender it was a desperate yearning to assert something, that they were both here, both alive. If taken by surprise John quickly caught on, returning Sherlock’s kiss with equal desperation. A mess of lips and teeth and tongue they pulled at each other hands gripping wherever they could, painful clashes and nips and iron like grips until they pulled apart breathless and exhausted. The second apart was too much for Sherlock he cleaved to John pulling him closer as he caught his breath head resting against his chest.
‘I’m sorry.’ He managed between ragged breaths finally tilting his head up.
It was only then that John realised Sherlock’s face was streaked with tears, and only when John reached over and brushed some of them away with a hand that Sherlock came fully back to consciousness and realised what had just happened.
‘I woke you up.’ Sherlock said embarrassed and pulling away now. ‘Apologies. You should sleep.’
‘Sherlock.’ John said partly in desperation, a little in anger that Sherlock could dismiss what had just happened, and dismisses the tear that still spilled down his cheeks quite so quickly. But he was Sherlock and he turned his back quickly to John facing the window, his still ragged breathing betraying what had gone before.
‘Sherlock you just half screamed the house down.’ John said exasperated ‘And then-‘
‘And I kissed you.’ Sherlock said to the wall ‘Yes. As I said apologies for both. Go back to sleep John.’
John stood for a moment once again dumbfounded by Sherlock’s inability to behave in any remotely normal manner. And then he realised that was where he was going wrong; he’d become used to the normal functioning of the world again, of normal human beings.
‘Fine. I will go to bed then.’ He declared putting himself unceremoniously next to Sherlock and pulling the covers over him.
Sherlock snaked his head around to look at John, ‘What are you doing?’
‘Going to sleep.’ He said settling down and closing his eyes.
‘Here?’ Sherlock sat up in bed again and looked down at John.
‘Yes.’ John said opening his eyes ‘I suggest you do the same.’
‘Why are you sleeping here?’ Sherlock frowned at him, unsure what to do with the continued close physical proximity of John.
‘Because I think you need me to.’ John said simply and closed his eyes.
Sherlock paused for a moment, considering first what John had said and the implications of it, a warm feeling spread over him and he felt his body relax for the first time since coming to bed. He lay down next to John but keeping a respectable distance between them. For a long moment he lay and looked at him, making sure he was real that he hadn’t imagined it that it wasn’t another cruel twist in his dreams. Finally closing his eyes he sensed John move adjusting the duvet and felt him tuck it up over his own shoulders, when John settled back down he was a little closer to Sherlock than he’d been before. Sherlock opened his eyes to see John’s were closed again, he sat up a faction and adjusted his pillow and pulled the duvet tighter around him, when he settled back down it was a fraction away from John’s side, close enough to feel the heat from his body. He settled there not daring to let himself move closer as much as he wanted to reach out and touch John he was still wary, unsure how much was too much, but as he lay there he felt the tension leave his body little by little but be replaced by a longing to reach out and be even closer. He shifted his left hand from where it rested under his chin until it was just next to John’s shoulder, a fraction more a slight move of his fingers and he’d be touching him. But instead he just rested there.
John smiled a little as he felt Sherlock settle next to him he’d forgotten how dealing with Sherlock was sometimes like dealing with a small child, one who either knows exactly what they want but unable to express or get it or who doesn’t really know what they needed until they get it. He felt Sherlock relax in the bed next to him laying on his side barely an inch from John he could feel his every breath, he sensed the slight movement and could feel Sherlock’s hand hovering now only millimetres from his shoulder. He guessed Sherlock was desperate to close that gap, the irony that a man who usually had no problem man-handling other people in whatever way he saw fit was having trouble just reaching out and touching him would have been amusing had it not made John’s heart ache slightly. He realised that this child-like part of Sherlock was actually a terribly dark part of him that didn’t or hadn’t had chance to understand love and emotion like everyone else. For long minutes John lay listening to Sherlock breathing at his side, feeling the closeness and the longing between them. Something shifted in Sherlock’s breathing and John felt the tension re-enter his body, whatever momentary peace he’d found had been replaced by whatever strange emotions this was stirring in him. John felt a pang of guilt, for forcing this on Sherlock but as his breathing hitched further and John felt a slight twitching across Sherlock’s body as if it couldn’t rest and be still. John took a breath, flipped quickly onto his side and wrapped and arm firmly around Sherlock.
Sherlock tensed momentarily at the contact and John responded by tightening further his grip around Sherlock’s chest, he felt himself pulled closer and the bristly touch of John’s hair against his neck. He lay for a few moments trying to get used to the new contact, his brain working in overdrive trying to evaluate the meaning and understand his feelings which had seemed to implode inside both his chest and brain at once. He felt his pulse quicken and breathing become rapid again as he tensed. John responded by holding tighter, his hand snaking around to Sherlock’s own and laying over it, slowly he worked his fingers between Sherlock’s until his body seemed to take the cue and intertwined with John’s.
‘Sherlock.’ John muttered into the back of his neck, feeling the tension across Sherlock’s body puzzled at how he could both so clearly need this but also have a body that resisted so strongly against it. John realised that perhaps nobody had ever held Sherlock like this before he shifted his weight so that he could wrap himself a bit further around Sherlock’s body and hold on a little tighter. Something gave a little in Sherlock and he breathed out a heavy breath.
‘Is this ok?’ John asked softly into the back of his neck, Sherlock didn’t move or respond ‘Sherlock.’ John tried again ‘If it’s not you need to tell me.’
John felt a slight tightening around his fingers ‘It’s fine.’ Sherlock said in a voice so broken and small it felt like John’s chest had been ripped in two ‘It’s good.’ He added.
John swallowed hard ‘Good.’ He whispered ‘Go to sleep Sherlock.’ He squeezed the other man’s hand lightly and felt a soft squeeze back, and finally the tension holding Sherlock’s body, taut in his arms, began to ebb away and his breathing even out. Only when he was sure Sherlock was asleep did John relax his grip and drift off to sleep himself; after he’d planted a soft kiss on the back of the other man’s neck.
The next morning John woke to find their positions reversed, Sherlock was now curled tightly around him head and mass of hair in the crook of John’s neck. He seemed to be sleeping soundly and thankfully his grip around John’s waist was light so he extracted himself gently eliciting only a murmured moan from Sherlock before he was soundly asleep again. Covering him with the duvet once more John left him to sleep. Sherlock had always been a creature of extremes, either up at all hours or sleeping through half the day, John guessed given the exhaustion he’d seen etched in his face the day before he’d sleep for several more hours. John rarely had that luxury the army having taken away the ability for lengthy lie-ins.
After a brief visit to Mrs Hudson to procure some milk and some supplies for breakfast-and a packet of biscuits because ‘Sherlock needs feeding up’ John set about tidying and unpacking the rest of Sherlock’s things. Although he knew they would either be rearranged due to his ‘idiotic’ placement of them or flung around the room while Sherlock searched for something else, it gave John a sense of purpose to methodically unpack boxes of books and scientific apparatus and find homes for them once again. Besides if he put them away now he might have some kind of standing in the ‘that’s not where it goes’ arguments that frequently followed Sherlock’s more adventurous experimentation. The room unpacked still only looked half full, his own things reduced to the small duffle bag that still lay next to the couch. John pulled out his phone and scrolled through the menu, within seconds of dialling he was answered by Mycroft’s clipped tones.
‘Mycroft. I’m calling in a favour all things considered it’s not much to ask.’
‘I can have my people pack up your flat and have it delivered to Baker Street by this evening.’
‘Myc-how? What?’ John shook his head and walked to the window ‘You know what I don’t even care anymore. Yes, thank you that would be lovely. And if you could-‘
‘The letting agency have already been informed. I have paid your last month’s rent and yours and Sherlock’s first to Mrs Hudson.’
John should have been angry at the elder Holmes’ interference, his assumptions, but in the face of such blatant generosity and he had to admit it kindness it was impossible.
‘Thank you Mycroft.’
‘You’re welcome John.’ Mycroft sounded unduly pleased with himself ‘How is everything?’
‘Fine. Yeah fine.’ John said too quickly
‘John?’ Mycroft enquired.
John sighed, ‘Is he… I mean is he alright?’ he almost blurted it out relived to have someone to confide in.
Mycroft paused, ‘No John.’ He said finally ‘I rather think he isn’t, not at the moment. But you shouldn’t let that prevent you from…pursuing things. I rather think it might help.’
John paused before replying and there was a muffled conversation at the other end of the line before John had chance to enquire Lestrade’s voice was in his ear, telling him at least they had worked out their problems, to a point at least.
‘John.’ He said ‘Alright? Look in English I think what he’s trying to tell you is the last three years have clearly taken their toll on Sherlock. Seems he’s a bit more human than we ever thought eh? But that doesn’t mean that you and him shouldn’t…well, if that’s what’s right.’
John leaned against the window frame and scuffed his foot against the bottom. ‘Right.’ He said.
Lestrade sighed a little ‘Look John I can’t tell you what to do but you know him better than anybody. You’d know if it wasn’t right. And for what it’s worth, I think it is even if it is a bit well, difficult at first.’
‘You’d know right?’ John said with a smile
Lestrade laughed and John could imagine the indignant expression on Mycroft’s face. ‘Yes I would.’ he said there was another muffled set of sounds and John assumed he was being passed back to Mycroft.
‘He is correct.’ Mycroft said without explanation ‘On all fronts.’
John opened his mouth to respond but at that moment there was a soft click from the bedroom door and Sherlock emerged fully dressed and looking wide awake. John groaned inwardly wondering how much of the preceding conversation he’d been eavesdropping on.
‘Thanks Mycroft.’ John said brusquely and hung up leaving the elder Holmes to deduce what had happened.
‘Morning.’ John said pocketing the phone.
Sherlock nodded, ‘Coffee?’ he asked
‘Yeah alright I’ll make some more.’ John said moving towards the kitchen ‘There’s bread too, if you’re eating. And biscuits, Mrs H seem to think you need biscuits.’
‘No: Coffee?’ Sherlock repeated ‘I’m offering.’ He gestured in the vague direction of the kettle.
‘Oh. I see.’ John said with a shake of his head ‘Please.’
Sherlock nodded and busied himself with the coffee John wandered into the kitchen and sat at the table. Sherlock brought the coffee over and poured John a cup.
‘Ta.’ He said wrapping his hands around the mug as Sherlock poured his own pausing to look down at him and fix him in one of his penetrating stares.
‘Mycroft is correct.’ Sherlock said finally.
‘What? How?’ John asked
‘That I am damaged somehow, whatever terminology he used.’ He wrapped his hands around his coffee cup protectively ‘I don’t understand human relationships other than to observe them and my own emotions are often a mystery to me. I am damaged by our childhood and more recently by the events of the last three years, many of which I edited or hid from you when you asked. I am impossible to live with domestically as you well know and romantically I pose an almost impossible thing to fathom.’ Sherlock took a deep breath.
John put down his coffee cup and fixed Sherlock with his own penetrating stare, one he’d perfected to get Sherlock’s attention ‘Firstly, there’s no such thing as impossible things.’ He said with a slight smile, then turning serious again ‘But potential ‘romantic attachments’ should know the worst about each other I agree. So I’m ex-army with PTSD, recently bereaved of both wife and child and highly likely to be unemployed again in the near future when I start taking time off work to chase dangerous criminals around London.’
Sherlock frowned as John stood up and crossed the small space to stand in front of him.
‘I know the absolute worst of you.’ He said wrapping his hands around Sherlock’s and removing the mug setting it down on the worktop ‘And you are still the best bloody man I have ever known.’
Sherlock’s eyes lit up with emotion and locked onto John’s he gave the briefest of nods in acknowledgment and finally there was only one answer he could give. Slowly he tilted his head down and softly brushed his lips to John’s. He pulled back enough to see John return his smile before leaning in again. This time there was no hurry, no desperation and John returned the kiss fully pulling Sherlock further down towards him by his shirt. It wasn’t a kiss that answered all the questions or promised that everything would be fine but it was finally a start.
Sherlock pulled back from John and smiled, the strange warmth spreading through him again still coupled with the tightness in his chest that accompanied it. He felt a squeeze on his fingers and focused his eyes on John.
‘It’s all fine.’ He repeated once again with a gentle smile. ‘Three time’s I’ve said that now and I’ll keep saying it until you believe me.’
Sherlock nodded, not quite managing a smile, but John had said that to him before and possibly given the evidence so far, it would be.
‘Good.’ He said squeezing the fingers back ‘Good.’