Chapter 1: Sherlock
Sherlock Holmes rolls over in his bed, one arm instinctively going around the warm body pressed against him. He smiles against a shoulder, his eyes still closed. "I've missed this."
"Have you now? That's interesting."
His eyes pop open, and he shifts, looking into eyes that do not belong to John Watson. The smile is wrong, the nose is wrong, the hair and the teeth and everything, everything is wrong and is not John and he shoves himself back, away, apart. He squints in the darkness. "Victor?" He feels as though he might stop breathing at any moment.
Victor props himself up on his elbow, still smiling. "Well of course it's me. Who else would you have expected?"
Sherlock shakes his head, scrambling further away. He wonders how he hasn't fallen off the bed yet.
"Sherlock, please." Victor's looking at him, hurt and pain and fear in his eyes, and Sherlock squeezes his eyes shut.
"You can't be here."
"You wanted this, Sherlock."
"No!" Sherlock opens his eyes again, glaring now. "I never wanted this. Not with you."
Victor smirks at him. "Are you so certain?" Sherlock opens his mouth, then closes it again and licks his lips. Victor grins again. "We don't have to tell John."
"There's nothing to tell John - we haven't done anything. Just go. Victor, just..."
"He won't mind, though."
Sherlock gives him an incredulous look. "Of course he'll mind. We're eng-"
Victor starts laughing. "Yes, of course. Your desperate proposal after less than a week separated." Victor keeps laughing, and Sherlock is shaking now, rage and a hint of embarrassment and more than a little hurt.
"Why are you here, Victor?" Sherlock's voice breaks only a little, and he swipes at his eyes furiously. "I thought... I thought we were friends..."
"We are, Sherlock!" Victor's watching him again, and Sherlock shakes his head.
"Then why do this?"
Victor scoots closer, and Sherlock is frozen. "Because you want it."
"No." Sherlock watches him shift closer still. "No, I... I want John, Victor, not you, I..."
Victor licks his lips, moving in to kiss Sherlock. "I think you want both of us."
"No, no, I-"
"But there's only one of us here right now, so why not take what you want?"
"My... my roommate!" Sherlock's breathing hard and wide eyed and desperate to find anything that will make this stop. "We... we can't, he'll... he'll hear us and..."
Victor's lips are so close now. Sherlock can barely see anything but Victor's eyes, can feel Victor's breath on his lips, can feel them move right in front of him as Victor speaks.
"He's busy. He won't notice us. It's alright, Sherlock."
"No, no it isn't. Stop. Victor... please..."
Victor's laughter is soft but low, and Sherlock closes his eyes again. "Begging for mercy, are you?"
"Yes, yes, anything, just..." Sherlock leans away, just a bit, putting a few inches between him and Victor.
"You don't really want me to stop do you?"
"Yes I do. Stop, Victor."
"If it helps, I understand why you want him, Sherlock."
Sherlock whips his head around, gaze finding the other bed. John is sitting on it, the folder Mycroft had given him open, papers spread everywhere in front of him. He's holding one, reading intently.
John looks up, smiling. "Sherlock."
Sherlock looks completely baffled for several seconds. Then he swallows, and nods slowly. "This is a dream."
"Dreams are where you process what you want to become reality."
Sherlock looks back at Victor. "No. Dreams are where your subconscious tries to sort out truth from fiction." He glared.
"Sherlock, it's fine."
Sherlock's gaze turns back to John, who is still smiling at him. "John, I don't-"
"Of course you do, look at him!" John let his eyes trail appreciatively over Victor. "Tall, tanned, fit." John looks back at Sherlock and shrugs. "I'm a washed up soldier and a washed up doctor. He's still got a career waiting for him. Like you do."
Sherlock was scrambling towards the edge of the bed. Trying to get to John, trying to get away from Victor, either way, he was failing.
"John! I..." He hesitates, biting his lip, and John laughs.
"Can't even say it in a dream, can you?"
Sherlock closes his eyes. "John, I love you."
When he opens his eyes, John is there, right in front of him. "Do you?"
"Yes." Sherlock reaches for him, pulls him close.
"Say it with your eyes open, then."
Sherlock opens his mouth. No sound comes out.
"Harder than you think, isn't it?" He turns back to see Victor looking at him, a sad smile on his lips.
"But I do. I do love him."
"Then tell him, Sherlock."
Sherlock turns back, breathing frantic and shallow. "John, I... I-" He starts choking, the words suddenly thick and heavy and sticky in his throat. His lungs burn as the words swell, and he feels himself start to asphyxiate.
He reaches out again, but John is too far now, too far to grab hold of. He wants to scream, wants to make John realize what is happening. You're a doctor, help me!
"Can't help you if you won't even say how you feel to my face, Sherlock."
Hot tears are leaking from the corner of Sherlock's eyes now, and he clutches at his throat as his vision begins to darken, just at the edges. He feels like his throat might explode at any second.
He falls back, his eyes closing as he gives himself over to the sensation of dying.
It hurt, the first time. It hurts now. He remembers this.
But where before it had been a blessing, a hopeful release from a life he felt he could no longer bear, now it was maddening, slow and cruel. To see John there, watching him fade.
He feels his fingers tapping out a rhythm. He hopes John understands.
Suddenly, there were lips on his, and he could breathe as long as those lips were on his.
His arms encircle the body now pressed against him, pull it closer, closer, into him and through him and he refuses to let the kiss stop even for a moment. His hands move up to clutch at hair, to keep this mouth close. He won't let them pull away even for a second, and he doesn't even care who it is.
"That's enough, love."
He opens his eyes and it's John, John kissing him, John talking to him, John, John, John.
"I love you." His voice is soft and whispering and somehow it's the loudest thing he's ever heard.
John smiles. "I know. But that doesn't mean you don't want him."
Sherlock feels his heart breaking, a real and tangible pain he could measure, with the right equipment.
"How much does it hurt?"
He stares at John, confused. John's wearing a lab coat now, has a clip board in his hand. Sherlock looks down and he's in a hospital gown. "What?"
John flicks his pen towards the wall - there a chart, a ridiculous chart with smiley faces and frowny faces and numbers. "How much pain are you in?"
"You're heart is breaking, right?" John looks at him, impatient.
Sherlock nods. "I... a six..."
John tilts his head, a half-shrug gesture and Sherlock is frowning at him.
"I suppose that's not too bad then."
"It's horrible, John, what... why are we here..."
John looks up at him, surprised. "You needed the right equipment."
Sherlock shakes his head. "No, I was just..."
"Ah." John turns as the door opens. Victor's walking in, wearing dark blue scrubs and beaming. "Here's your equipment."
Victor stands there, hands on his hips and looking triumphant. Sherlock stares blankly from John to Victor.
"Well go on then, use him." John steps back. "Can't diagnose you properly without this."
Sherlock gapes at him before turning back to Victor, who's pulling his shirt over his head. "Come on, Sherlock. All the equipment you need." He holds out his arms, twirling slowly. "John doesn't mind."
Sherlock leans away. "I mind."
"Oh I doubt that." Victor looks him up and down. "I'd say you're just burning to get a hold of me."
"Sherlock, this is ridiculous." John's rubbing at his forehead. "The sooner you use him the sooner I can figure out what's wrong with you."
"Nothing's wrong with me!" Sherlock insists. "John, I love you, I want you!"
"Even just a blowjob, Sherlock, even that will help me figure out what's wrong."
"There is nothing wrong with me, do you understand?" Sherlock hopped off the bed, standing straight and angry and glaring at them both now.
John's hands come up, placating. "Alright... Spock, just... calm down." Sherlock's glare intensifies. "Let's look at this logically, alright?"
Sherlock waits, looking back at Victor to make sure he isn't taking off anything else, then his eyes return to John's.
"Let's consider the facts." John smiles warmly.
John shrugs. "Your reaction to him the first time you met is a good start."
Sherlock blanches. "Physiological response. You were texting me. I was lonely. He was friendly."
John laughs. "Yeah? I've been lonely too."
Sherlock reaches for him. "I don't want you to be."
John nods. "I know."
Sherlock cannot stop the tears, yet again. "John, please..."
John looks at Victor. "We're wasting time."
Victor nods. "Yeah, I think you're right."
"He really hates it when people waste time." John's eyes are back on Sherlock now, and Sherlock narrows his eyes, trying to deduce what's going to happen next.
They both move in, and Sherlock shrinks back. They grab his arms, pushing him back onto the bed. He thrashes and shouts at them, but they simply stand there, to either side of him, calmly holding his arms.
"Victor?" John's voice is calm. "Go on. I've got him."
Victor nods, letting go of Sherlock's arm and sinking to his knees in front of him.
"No." Sherlock's looking down at where Victor is staring at the spot where his hips are under the hospital gown. He squeezes his eyes shut and wishes he had more clothes on just as Victor lifts the gown, and is rewarded with the sound of laughter.
"Now where did you get these trousers from, I wonder?"
Sherlock opens his eyes. It's a dream. I can make things happen, if I concentrate hard enough!
"Enough of that, Sherlock." John's tone is reproachful, but Sherlock smirks.
Victor reaches up and pulls at the waist of the trousers. "Huh." He looks back at John. "They won't come off."
Sherlock looks smugly at John. "I don't want him." His voice is low and steady. "But if you wanted to try your hand at it..."
John stares at him, then leans in to kiss him. Sherlock brings his free hand up to rub along the back of John's neck. "Wake up."
Sherlock frowns. "No."
"It'll only get worse if you don't, you know."
Sherlock shook his head. "I'm dreaming. But I'm in control now."
"Are you so sure of that, darling?"
Sherlock's head jerks around, and he sees Irene standing near the wall. His heart races. "No. Not you too."
"Not happy to see me, then." She gave him a very staged pout. "And after I got all dressed up just for you." She smirked at him. "Perhaps I shouldn't have bothered?"
Sherlock closed his eyes. "Go away."
Sherlock looked over at John, who was now tapping his pen against his lips as she stared at a clipboard. "What is?"
John looked up. "Well, your reaction to her. Not even a hint of arousal." John frowned. "You were engaged to her, and you never wanted her?"
"You've read my file, John, you know what it was like between us."
"You were with her for several years, Sherlock."
"So?" Sherlock let his annoyance bleed into the words. "What does that have to do with anything at all?"
John shrugged. "You're with me, but... do you really want to be?"
Sherlock made a frustrated sound and straightened up, brushing at the front of his hospital gown. "I'm done answering these inane questions, John." He stared into John's eyes. "I want you. I want to be with you. I do not want Victor, or Irene, or..." He looked away. "I don't want anyone but you." He looked back up. "Now stop this. Send them away." He gestured towards Victor and Irene, who were both watching him with a detached amusement.
Sherlock glared. "Why not?"
John smirked. "You're in control."
Sherlock stepped back then, nodding. "Oh, stupid, stupid, of course." He closed his eyes.
When he opened them, it was him and John again, on the rooftop of Clouds House. John stood there near the edge, watching Sherlock and smiling, one hand held out.
"Do you love me, Sherlock?"
"Of course I do." Sherlock stepped forward - and John took one step backwards. One step closer to the edge of the roof. Sherlock halted, his breath catching. "John. What are you doing?"
John kept smiling pleasantly. "I'm waiting."
Sherlock's hands clasped behind his back. "Waiting for what?"
John laughed. "For you, silly. Come here."
Sherlock nodded, and stepped forward.
John stepped back.
"John, stop moving."
John frowned. "What are you talking about?"
Sherlock looked down at John's feet, then back up to his eyes. "You've only got about three more steps before you fall off the roof. Please." Sherlock held his own hands out now. "Please, John, come to me."
John shook his head as he chuckled. "Not how it works, Sherlock." He looked behind him, then back at Sherlock. "Come here."
Sherlock shook his head. "No. I won't send you over the edge of the roof, John."
John's hands go to his hips as he tips his head back, one long breath blowing out. "Call it a leap of faith, Sherlock."
"I've never put much stock in faith, John."
John licks his lips and looks at Sherlock again. "What do you think marriage is?"
Sherlock opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. "If I come to you..."
John looked behind himself again, nodding. "Yeah. We'll go over the edge." His head turned back to Sherlock. "But I trust you." He grinned. "You'll catch me, Sherlock."
Sherlock took a deep breath, calculations whirring through his brain. "Oh. Oh." He looked at John's eyes again, saw the wrinkles at the sides of them as John saw him understand.
"I love you, Sherlock."
Sherlock smiled. "I love you, John."
And then he started running.
He watched as John took his steps, one, two, three. Saw him take the fourth one that sent him over the edge of the rooftop, just as Sherlock's hand clasped around his wrist.
They both went over, clinging to each other.
They fell forever, it seemed. Sherlock waited, he waited and waited and they kept falling.
He looked at John then. John, who was smiling like this was the best thing in the world.
"You should wake up, Sherlock."
"I... I can't."
John pulled him close, kissed him. It was chaste, just the lightest touch of their lips together. When he pulls away, Sherlock keeps his eyes closed. They fall farther.
"Wake up, Sherlock, wake up."
"I'd rather stay with you, you know." Sherlock opens his eyes.
John smiles as they fall, picking up speed. Sherlock looks down and he can see the ground now, rushing towards them. John's voice is calm and steady, a perfect paradox to their current situation. "No choice. You're going to wake up... now."
He wakes up shouting, clutching his pillow tight to his chest and sweating like he'd just come off stage after a week-long performance.
He closes his eyes again, and takes one long, shaking breath.
Chapter 2: John
John Watson yawned and rolled over in his bed, stretching his arms and smiling as his phone beeped quietly. He reached over and pulled it clumsily off the nightstand, squeezing his eyes shut before opening them wide. He peered at the text.
[Good morning, John. -SH]
John chuckled, rubbing his face before replying.
[It is now. What are you doing up so early. It's only half six. -JW]
John tossed his phone onto his pillow and sat up, swinging his legs over the side of his bed and stretching his arms properly, right hand coming up to rub at his left shoulder. His phone chimed again, and he reached for it.
[What's the time got to do with anything? And have you forgotten my habits already? I'm wounded, John. -SH]
John shook his head, putting his phone back down and padding into the bathroom. He glanced at himself in the mirror, frowning at his sleep-mussed hair. It was getting far too long - he'd really need a haircut next weekend.
When he was finished, he stepped back out and grabbed clean clothes. His phone chimed again, and he swiped at the screen, licking his lips as he read.
[I... I had a rather unpleasant dream last night. I just wanted to let you know that I... miss you. -SH]
John snorted. [I miss you too, you odd man. Go eat something. Please. I'm for a shower. -JW]
He plugged his phone back into the charger, then stepped into the bathroom.
The water was hot as he stood under it, and he closed his eyes. It felt good on his back, which seemed stiffer than usual. He'd have to figure something out - sleep was more difficult to fall into these days, what with Sherlock gone. Ever since Afghanistan, he'd found comfort sleeping near others, and sharing a room with Sherlock at Clouds had been no different, really. Safety in numbers and all that. He sighed and leaned his head back, letting the water wash over his face.
He opened his eyes and looked at the walls. Unthinkingly, a hand reached out, fingertips trailing over the wall to his right. He thought back to one of the last nights Sherlock had been here, when he'd surprised John in the shower. John bit his lower lip as he thought about the way Sherlock's skin had felt under his hands, his lips, his tongue...
His left hand automatically reached down, gripping himself tightly. He closed his eyes and conjured up the memory of Sherlock's voice, low and sensual and so damn perfect it should have been a crime. A soft, quiet moan escaped him as his hand worked harder, faster.
"Sherlock, Sherlock, oh god, Sherlock..." He was panting and whimpering and the only thing keeping him upright now was his right hand still on the wall as he came, Sherlock's name ground out between his teeth.
He stood there, breathing heavily for a moment, leaning to the side and resting his entire forearm against the wall, his head on his arm and his eyes still squeezed tightly shut. He shivered and closed his mouth, taking one long deep breath in through his nose. He opened his eyes and watched the water splash around his feet.
Christ, he was in trouble.
He hurried through the rest of his shower, scrubbing himself with an efficiency he hadn't used since his service in the war. He quickly toweled off and dressed in a pair of dark jeans and a simple black shirt. Then he brushed his teeth and stepped out of the bathroom.
His phone chimed as soon as he opened the door. It chimed a second time before he'd made it around the bed that used to be Sherlock's. By the time he finally picked it up, it had chimed another two times.
He glared as the screen flared to life, showing not four messages, but six. "Jesus Christ, Sherlock, you couldn't wait for me to get out of the shower even?" He muttered a few more things as he walked over to the window seat and plunked down, opening his inbox.
The first message was indeed from Sherlock. [Fine, if I must. I'll see you for lunch. Apparently I won't be able to get there until noon today. Not sure why. Think of me. -SH] John grinned and shook his head, clicking through to the next message.
[I hope you don't mind, John, but I'll be stopping by to see you this morning. Hoping you are well. -Mycroft H]
John's eyebrows rose a bit at that. If Mycroft was coming to see him... there must be news about his own transfer, then. That had to be it. He felt his heartbeat start to race and tried to tamp it down. It would not do to get his hopes up. There was always the chance that it was something entirely unrelated to John's transfer. He couldn't think of what, but...
He took a deep breath, and opened the next message. The number was Unknown.
[Dear me, Johnny Boy. Looks like you've hidden Sherlock from me. Naughty naughty. But don't worry. I'll find him. I always do. -Jim M]
John's mouth opened as he read and re-read the message. Jim M... He frowned. That... that had to be...
He blanched. If this... Jim, had his number suddenly... John closed his eyes.
He should go to Mycroft. Ask about Jim. Ask him to find out-
John frowned. Was this the man he'd become? Running off to his... well, he wasn't sure what he should call Mycroft, but whatever he was, John certainly didn't want to go running to him with every little problem. Mycroft was just the sort of person to consider this a favor. Quid pro quo sounded an awful lot like the sort of thing Mycroft would expect. No, John couldn't take this to him. Not yet, at least.
He'd ask Sherlock. Sherlock would tell him.
John sighed loudly. He needed to stop dwelling on this right now - he still had three more messages to get through.
The next one was Harry, saying that she was thinking about him while she was working today. He smiled and sent a quick reply telling her he was thinking about her too.
The next message was again from Sherlock, saying that he'd just heard Mycroft would be there to see John, and complaining that Mycroft had probably set it up so that Sherlock would not be there when he was. John rolled his eyes and smiled fondly. He and Harry were the picture of sibling love and affection when compared to the Holmes brothers.
The last message was from an Unknown number - John couldn't be sure, of course, but he was definitely leaning towards the idea that this was not from Jim M. It was a very short message, with none of the pageantry of the first message.
[I look forward to meeting you, John.]
No name, no explanation. Nothing but a simple pleasantry and his name.
It made his blood run cold.
He licked his lips and was about to close out of his messages when the phone beeped in his hand. He opened up the newest message.
[The next four hours and thirty-seven minutes are never going pass. -SH]
John stared at the phone for a moment before closing out of everything, shoving it in his pocket, and striding towards the door. Breakfast. he'd have breakfast, and then he'd worry about the strange texts.
He walked down the hall, unsurprised to find Molly leaning against one of the walls. He nodded to her, and she fell into step next to him.
"Are you alright, John?"
He glanced at her, giving her a faint smile. "Yes, sorry, just... tired. Sherlock texted me at half six this morning, the git. Don't know why he insists on waking me up so bloody early." He smirked as she giggled.
"Perhaps he just wants to remind you of how much he loves you." Molly looked at him and waggled her eyebrows teasingly.
John chuckled. "Right. I can see that, actually." He affected his best impression of Sherlock's baritone and peered at her through narrowed eyes. "John, you mean so much to me that I must keep you from your peaceful slumber with my declarations."
Molly laughed out loud as they walked through the lobby area and towards the dining hall, her hands coming up to cover her mouth. "Oh, god, sorry, that..."
John grinned. "I must be getting better, you've never laughed quite so loudly before."
Molly looked away shyly, her face flushing. "Yeah, a bit."
They each grabbed some eggs, toast, and bacon, and found a small table. John went back for coffee and papers, and soon they were sitting comfortably, sipping and reading in relative quiet.
Molly was switching pages when she let out a startled gasp and dropped the paper, which splayed out the moment it hit the ground.
"Sorry, oh, I'm... I'm sorry." She immediately dove to the floor, picking up the sheets hastily.
"Well, here, let me help you." John reached down, grabbing a couple pages, then slid to his knees and reached for one more.
"Oh, no, I-" Molly was reaching, but it was too late. John's eyes had come to rest on the picture that had no doubt brought on Molly's reaction.
The photo was old, but it made John no less happy to see it. Sherlock was standing there, his arm around the waist of one Irene Adler. The two were smiling at the camera, and Irene's left hand was sporting a rather hefty looking diamond ring. The captions read, Holmes and Adler: Reconciliation?
John pushed himself back up into his chair as he read the tiny write-up below it.
The Rumor Mill is abuzz with this latest bit - are Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler working to rekindle their romance? We all remember their rather sudden split, but perhaps they've found something worth fighting for after all. Neither party is talking right now, but a close friend to Adler stated that she recently visited him in rehab. For now, the idea is still just speculation, but we want to know what you think! Send us your opinions!
It wasn't until Molly put her hand on his that John realized he was shaking. He glanced at the article again. Beneath that was a website, an email address, and a Twitter handle.
"John, it's just someone being stupid."
John stared at the contact information. Maybe...
He looked up at Molly, and she immediately pulled him up, out of his chair. Her hand was warm and comforting on his wrist as she lead him out of the dining hall. She dragged him a few feet away from the door, then pushed him against the wall. His breath left him in a quick whoosh, and he stared at her.
"No, John, you listen to me for a moment."
He gaped at her. He'd never seen this side to Molly, this dominant side. She'd been commanding when she lead him out of the dining room, forceful when she'd pushed him against the wall. She hadn't hurt him, but he was starting to think she could, if she wanted to.
He was very glad she didn't seem to want to.
She stepped back, arms going around her middle as she hugged herself. "Sherlock loves you."
John leaned his head back against the wall. "Alright..."
"And you know if he was going to even think about... about... her... He'd tell you. He would."
John nodded. "Of course."
"So don't you dare go getting worked up right now."
He smiled softly. "Yes ma'am." His eyes slid dow to look at her.
She watched him for a second, then nodded. "Good."
He stepped off the wall, hands on his hips. "I'm being ridiculous."
"Well, yeah." Molly shrugged. "That's what happens."
John nodded. "OK. You're absolutely right. I should... not worry about this. I mean... She did come to see him. And he was miserable about it."
Molly brought her hands out in front of her in a grand gesture. "Well there you have it."
John chuckled. "Thank you."
Molly grinned. "Anytime. I'm gonna..." She gestured at the room. "Are you?"
John shook his head. "No, I... I've rather lost my appetite, I think. I'll see you later?"
Molly nodded, and walked away. John rubbed at his forehead with one hand, then started off towards his room.
He'd made it halfway when his phone chimed. He opened it up.
[It's not true. I swear to you, it's not true, John. Please, I need you to believe me on this. -SH]
John stopped and fired off a quick reply. [Yeah. Molly sorta... reminded me of that. Thank you, though. For telling me yourself. -JW]
The reply came quickly. [You're welcome. I'll see you soon. And I'll tell you over and over again that she's not the one I want, if it will help. -SH]
John pursed his lips. For a man who cultivated an image of being stand-offish and above the petty needs of most people, he was surprisingly tender at times. It was not something John ever anticipated.
He went back to his room and dug out the file Mycroft had given him. He opened it, wondering when he'd last sifted through it - it felt like a lifetime ago. He laid it down on his bed, rubbing at his face with both hands. This was insane.
"I'm mad. That's the only explanation." He stared at the file, then closed it again angrily. It wouldn't have the answers he wanted. Only Sherlock would have those, and Sherlock wouldn't be here until after Mycroft had come and gone, it seemed.
John stowed the file away again, then grabbed his laptop. He opened up his email and sent Mike a quick update, letting him know things were going well still. He checked a few of the popular news sites - three of them also had small blurbs on the supposed reconciliation. Despite Sherlock's text, John still felt a stab of jealousy when he saw the pictures of him and Irene. They were a striking couple, really - under any other circumstances, John would probably be thinking how lovely it would be for them to work things out.
Of course, under the actual circumstances, the idea was far, far less appealing.
The next few hours passed slowly as John played far too many losing games of Solitaire. At quarter til eleven, John closed up his laptop, brushed his teeth, and walked back down towards the lobby.
When he stepped into the lobby he saw a familiar figure standing near the windows, umbrella next to him like a walking stick and one hand in his trouser pocket. John walked over and stood next to him.
"Good to see you John."
"Mycroft." John nodded in greeting even though they weren't looking at each other. "Funny, I don't remember your name being on my visitation list." He smirked.
"As your benefactor and sponsor into Whitecross, I have certain... privileges. I hope you won't think less of me. I assure you that I shall only visit for the purposes of discussing your impending transfer, unless you indicate your desire for less... formal meetings."
John let his eyes slide over to look at Mycroft's reflection in the window. He looked decidedly uncomfortable, and John ducked his head down, trying not to laugh.
"Thank you, but... I think I'm alright."
Mycroft let out a breath and relaxed. "Thank you, John."
"Of course." John shoved his hands in his pockets. "So... how are you?"
Mycroft turned slightly, one eyebrow arching inquisitively. "I'm well. And yourself?"
John shrugged. "I'm... fine."
Mycroft watched him for a moment. "Ah. It's not true. Put the entire idea out of your head, John. Sherlock is entirely devoted to you." Mycroft frowned. "I've the messages to prove it, should you be so inclined."
John's eyes went wide. Sherlock was leaving messages... about him... for Mycroft? The temptation was incredible, but...
"Is there anything in them you think he hasn't told me, but that I should know?"
Mycroft smiled. "Clever, John. Excellent." He turned fully and looked John in the eyes. "He's made mention of needing a place to stay - his own flat was rented out in his absence, at my insistence. I offered him my spare room, and his immediate response was rather..." Mycroft flushed slightly. "Ah, well, you know my brother, I'll leave you to your own deductions about what he might possibly have objected to."
John frowned before it hit him. "You... offered him a room."
Mycroft nodded in approval. "His words - which I shall not repeat verbatim - essentially boiled down to his insistence that if you were not there, he would not be either." And elegant half shrug interrupted Mycroft's speech. "Whitecross being the only exception, at present."
John smiled. "And I take it I am... persona non grata in your house?"
Mycroft looked shocked. "On the contrary, John, you are most welcome in my house. I do hope to have you both over for dinner once you're out of Whitecross. My brother, however..." Mycroft's nose crinkled as though he'd smelt something offensive. "...is... imaginative in his descriptions of what he might get up to in my house, with you there with him."
John closed his eyes as he felt his face heat up. "Oh God, I'm... I'm so sorry, Mycroft, he-"
"I trust you to be the soul of discretion, John. No, it's not the threat of...that... happening. More the fact that he will not stop discussing it, and while I am fully capable of acknowledging my brother's adulthood, he is still my brother, and-"
"I... I get it, no problem." John gave him a tight-lipped and awkward smile. "We'll find a place."
"You may not need to."
John licked his lips. "Is that so?"
Mycroft nodded. "It is. The head of Whitecross, one Mrs. Emma Hudson, has several flats in London that she routinely rents out to former patients. I believe Sherlock has been talking to her about the idea of renting one of them. I'm assured it's a lovely flat in good location, though he's been rather good at keeping me from finding out precisely what the address is."
John scratched at his neck. That was definitely like Sherlock.
"So what can I do for you today, Mycroft?"
"Shall we sit outside, John?"
John nodded, and the two walked out, finding an available table and settling across from one another. Mycroft immediately opened the slim briefcase he had and pulled out a folder, handing it to John.
"Your transfer will take place in three weeks."
John smiled as he looked over the paperwork Mycroft had. "Excellent."
"I thought you might be pleased. It's a bit sooner than we had originally anticipated, but I had a feeling that no one would have any complaints."
John shook his head. "None here."
"Good." Mycroft sat back, hands clasped. "I trust that you're... well enough, until then?"
John nodded quickly. "Yeah, course." He looked up. "Only a few weeks. We can survive that. And if we can't, well... doesn't say much for either of us."
Mycroft studied John again, and John once more felt like a specimen in a science class. "Be careful with him, John."
John's breath caught in his throat, and he tried to swallow. "I will."
"He is... dangerously attached."
John didn't know what to say, but he tried his best. "He's... important to me. Very... important."
Mycroft nodded slowly. "If I may give you a bit of advice?" John gestured for him to continue. "He will need you more than he's ever needed anyone. Please don't give up when - and I do say when, not if - it gets difficult. Sherlock will make things very difficult. I would hate to see you chased off by it."
John pursed his lips. He'd seen Sherlock being difficult. But he had a feeling it wasn't anywhere near as bad as it could - and according to Mycroft, would - be.
Mycroft stood, glancing at his watch. "As ever, John, it was wonderful to see you. Must be off now." He inclined his head at the folder. "Look over this, and do let me know if you've any questions."
John smiled, stood up, and shook his hand. "Thank you, Mycroft."
Mycroft lead the way back inside, and was less than halfway through the lobby when John heard him sigh softly. John, however, was not paying attention to anything regarding Mycroft now.
Sherlock had just stepped through the front door.
Chapter 3: Sherlock
Sherlock walked through the door of Clouds and took a deep breath, feeling almost as though he was coming home. Of course, Sherlock could admit - at least to himself - that this was mostly due to the fact that John was here, and anywhere that held John was home, as far as Sherlock was concerned.
He glanced around for a brief second before he saw his brother. His eyes narrowed, and he hoped Mycroft could see just how unhappy Sherlock really was with him. Mycroft sighed, and then Sherlock's eyes slid to the left - and locked on John's.
John. John, who'd not pressed him to talk about happenings nor people at Whitecross, despite being quite curious about it. Natural, the curiosity. Unnatural, the ability to keep from prying, from demanding.
Sherlock often wondered precisely what John saw in him. But he never questioned what he saw in John.
He felt a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, echoing the one that was now spread across John's face. Mycroft moved past him, nodding. He understood that there would be words between them later, but for now the only thing in the world that Sherlock was willing to focus on was the man that was walking towards him and beaming.
Sherlock couldn't even say a word in greeting before John was pulling him down and kissing him. As far as hello's went, Sherlock couldn't think of a better one.
"Missed me, did you?"
John's answering laugh was quiet and warm against Sherlock's lips. "God, yes."
Sherlock pulled away and smiled. "Well, I hope my brother was here saying you won't have to miss me for much longer. Not that I'm complaining about the welcome, of course."
John laughed again, and stepped back. "Good, because you'll be getting another one like it in a week."
John's hand slipped into Sherlock's, fingers threading together naturally, and Sherlock looked down as he blushed. "It still feels... odd, to be doing this so..."
John's other hand came up, fingertips tracing along Sherlock's jaw line. "Yeah." His voice was soft. "Dunno about you, but... I think it feels brilliant."
Sherlock's grip tightened momentarily on John's hand, then relaxed again. John grinned, and pulled him down for another kiss.
The two walked outside after that, still holding hands, talking about nothing in particular. They found a rather nice patch of grass and sat down, soaking in the sunshine. Sherlock closed his eyes and let a contented smile grace his lips.
"I'm..." John took a deep breath beside, and Sherlock turned his head to face him. "I'm sorry if... if you thought I might... oh hell." John ran his fingers through his hair. "I was upset, when I saw that... the rumor, about..." He blew out a long breath. "It took me by surprise, and I'm sorry if you worried that I wouldn't believe you."
Sherlock's smile disappeared. "The thought had crossed my mind."
John nodded, leaning forward and looping his arms around his bent knees. "I... I'm a jealous person. Always have been. Can't say it's ever something I won't be, and..." He glanced over at Sherlock, grinning. "Well, look at you. I'd say I have a right to be jealous of anyone who makes eyes at you."
Sherlock felt his gut tightening, but he said nothing.
"But... I trust you. I really... really trust you." John was looking straight ahead again, and Sherlock closed his eyes.
"Thank you." He swallowed. "For what it's worth... I... trust you too."
When he opened his eyes, John nodded. "Thank you." His hand reached out, and Sherlock took it automatically.
They sat quietly for a few moments, and Sherlock struggled with the idea of telling John about Victor. Part of him wanted desperately to simply tell John everything, tell him exactly what he thought was going through Victor's head, tell John that he was downright scared of what might be going on in Victor's head. But part of him said he was over-reacting and jumping to conclusions - twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.
A compromise, then. Partial truth was better than complete omission, was it not?
"I..." He licked his lips. "I do want to... tell you something."
John looked over at him, curious and a bit wary. "Alright."
Sherlock steeled his nerves. "There's... there's someone at Whitecross who isn't... entirely boring."
John nodded but said nothing. Sherlock felt very suddenly as though he were standing naked on stage in front of the entire world. He felt heat spread over his face, and focused on his and John's entwined fingers instead of John's eyes.
"His name's Victor." Sherlock tightened his grip - John had begun to pull away. "No, please, just... let me finish." He looked back up then. "You trust me, don't you?"
John let out a long, slow breath. "Yeah. I... yeah, Sherlock, I trust you."
Sherlock nodded. "Thank you." He took a deep breath and continued. "He's... friendly. Nice. Former tennis player, quite good at one point. And he..." Sherlock closed his eyes. "He seems to... understand. What it's like to be-" He stopped, opening his eyes and watching John again. "Er..."
John sighed. "What it's like to be famous?"
Sherlock nodded hastily. "Yes. To be... sought after. In all the ways no one really wants to be sought after."
John nodded thoughtfully. "So what you're saying is... you've made a friend?"
Sherlock frowned. "What?"
John snorted. "Leave it to you to be dense about this." He shifted so that he was facing Sherlock a bit more directly. "Have you... I dunno, shown any... personal interest in him?"
Sherlock wrinkled his nose. "I helped him and a few others with preparing breakfast the other day, but that was a bit of a disaster and I think I might no longer be allowed to assist in the cooking-"
"Alright, OK." John held up his free hand to cut Sherlock off. "What I mean is, have you made a... move on him?"
Sherlock's eyes narrowed as he watched John's face. "What sort of move?"
John shook his head. "Do I need to give you a demonstration? Thought you were supposed to be brilliant."
Sherlock opened his mouth, then closed it again, his eyes widening. "Oh!"
John laughed. "Yeah. Have you tried to oh this Victor bloke?"
Sherlock glared at him. "Absolutely not."
"And has Victor tried to oh you?"
"Stop saying oh like that. And... no."
John giggled. "Then you seem to have made a friend, Sherlock. Most people think that's a good thing."
Sherlock looked down at the grass between his feet. "Oh..."
John snorted. "I can't say oh but you can say oh?"
John pulled his hand away - Sherlock panicked for a split second, thinking he'd truly insulted John, before he felt John's palm come up and shove his shoulder. He toppled over on his side rather gracelessly, letting out a quiet yet indignant noise.
John only laughed at him some more.
Sherlock righted himself, glaring as John laughed, waiting until the opportune moment...
And then, he sprang.
His palms hit John's shoulders carefully but firmly, and John let out a yelp as he tumbled backward, Sherlock now pinning him in the grass. He looked up and Sherlock, who was certain his pupils were blown rather wide - just like John's.
Sherlock spared a thought for how much trouble he was about to be in, and then John flipped him right over, hands grabbing his wrists and pinning them above his head. He was sat on Sherlock's thighs, which stretched him out a bit more than was probably comfortable, but which lent his bodyweight even better to the task of detaining Sherlock, who was struggling minutely as John loomed over him, smile wide and fierce.
"Think you're so clever, don't you, Sherlock?" John's voice was low, and Sherlock shivered at the sound of it. "Tell me, how are you going to get out of this, then?"
Sherlock stared up at him, breathing a little harder than he had been a few minutes ago, and still struggling a bit.
He surged up and kissed John. It was enough to make John forget what he was doing, just a moment. That moment was all Sherlock needed to break John's grasp on his wrists and pull him close, roll him over until Sherlock was now on top again, pinning his arms between their bodies as he kept their lips locked together.
A soft, quiet whimper slipped through John into Sherlock, and he groaned, pressing even closer and deepening the kiss. John pulled his arms free, but instead of trying for the upper hand, he simply wrapped them around Sherlock's ribs and stayed right where he was, perfectly contented.
Sherlock pulled away finally, only enough so she could see John's eyes, which opened lazily.
"Christ, you're good at that."
Sherlock grinned. "So glad you approve."
John closed his eyes again and sighed. "Much as I do love this-" He wiggled a bit underneath Sherlock, and Sherlock could feel just how much John approved. "-you should probably ease up off of me, before they, I dunno, come at us with a hose or something."
Sherlock nodded and pushed up, sitting back on his heels. John pushed back carefully and sat up, legs still on either side of Sherlock's knees. "So... what do you think the whole point of that... article..." John frowned. "I mean, it just..."
Sherlock scowled. "It was meant for you."
John looked up, eyes wide. "For me?"
Sherlock gave him a sad smile. "You defended me. Stood up to her for me. And she's clever, she'll have worked out how we felt just from that."
"Jesus." John rubbed his face with his palms. "So she's... like you are, with the observations."
Sherlock shrugged. "A bit. She's..." He frowned. "She's brilliant, but..."
Sherlock smirked. "For Irene, it's the best word." He sighed. "She's complicated."
"She's a woman."
"Yes." Sherlock nodded thoughtfully. "The Woman."
"The only one? Ever?"
Sherlock looked at John - he'd let his eyes wander off, but now he saw a teasing glint in John's eyes. Sherlock shrugged. "The only woman that has ever... interested me."
"Really?" John sounded so baffled by the notion that Sherlock could only grin.
"Yes, but not the type of interest you're thinking of."
"Enlighten me, then."
Sherlock sat properly, arms behind him at an angle as he leant back. "Irene's mind - it's the only one I've ever encountered that worked like my own does. Well, aside from Mycroft's, at least." Sherlock made a face. "But I never count him for anything."
John laughed loudly. "I've noticed."
Sherlock ducked his head and smiled. "Well. Irene... she intrigued me. First time we met, she was-" Sherlock chuckled at the memory. "-picking the lock on one of the Private rooms backstage at Cadogan Hall."
"But... don't her parents-"
"So why did she-"
"Because, in her words, it was more fun and more challenging to pick the locks than use a key."
"Jesus." John shook his head. "That does sound like you. Did she get the door open?"
Sherlock smirked. "I may have given her a bit of instruction on proper technique."
John looked up at the sky. "Why am I not surprised?"
"We became quite good friends after that. Well, I say friends but..." Sherlock licked his lips. "Three months later her parents visited. Came right up to me, shook my hand, and asked when I was going to propose."
John spluttered. "Were you even-"
"No. Or... well, I wasn't sure if we were... dating." Sherlock looked as though he'd taken a bite of a particularly sour lemon as he said the word. "We never went out to dinner, nor movies. Never really did anything that I had believed to fall under the category of dating, let alone anything that would have been in the subcategory of exclusivity. Nonetheless, her parents were... impressed by me. They wanted to see her with someone they approved of, and who better than the First Chair violinist?"
Sherlock huffed out a breath and looked away, eyes going distant as he stared at the grounds surrounding them. "I asked her about it the next day. Asked why she'd told her parents we were dating. Laid out all the facts, gave very specific examples of what dates were, and reminded her that we'd done none of them, ergo, we were not dating."
"What did she say to that, then?" John's voice was quiet, and Sherlock looked down at his lap.
"She kissed me."
John was silent for a beat. "Ah."
Sherlock nodded. "Bit hard to argue against that. When she pulled away, she asked me if I'd felt anything."
"And did you?"
Sherlock shook his head. "Nothing apart from the physical presence of her lips on mine. I asked if she'd felt anything. She told me no."
Sherlock looked back at John. "She told me that she didn't believe in... love." Sherlock stared into John's eyes, willed John to hear what he wasn't saying.
John smiled softly. "A life without love? Well. That's terrible."
Sherlock tilted his head. "At the time, I agreed with her."
John leaned forward. "And... do you still think like that?"
Sherlock sat forward, his gaze traveling over John's face to finally rest on his lips. "I think, now... that love might, in fact, exist."
He had barely finished the sentence, and then John was there, kissing him and touching him, running fingers through his hair and over his neck, his cheeks, pulling him closer.
"Sherlock." John's lips moved against his, and Sherlock moaned slightly.
"Christ, I want to-"
"Yes, John, I-"
"Three weeks is far too-"
"We could always-"
"God yes, please."
Sherlock pulled away and stood up, helping John to his feet. "We should-"
"Yeah." John nodded, stepping back and taking a deep breath. "They might be a bit suspicious if. Well."
"If we walked in with rather obvious erections?"
John's face, which was already pink from exertion and arousal, got brighter with a bit of embarrassment now. "Yes, though I wasn't going to say it, Sherlock."
Sherlock grinned. "Well then, we could always... take a walk."
John looked around, then nodded. "Sounds wonderful." He held out his hand and smiled.
Sherlock's answering smile was even larger as his hand slipped into John's.
Chapter 4: John
John was currently lying on his back, slightly breathless, entirely naked, and incredibly turned on. Almost painfully so, in fact. The only thing that kept him from taking matters into his own hands was the fact that, at this very moment, matters were in Sherlock's hands instead, which John found to be infinitely more enjoyable overall. Add in the things Sherlock was saying as his hand moved over John's cock and his own complete nakedness, and John couldn't see a downside to his current state.
John's eyes rolled back down, focusing on Sherlock's face with great difficulty as John felt the pad of Sherlock's thumb slip up and over the head, which was slick and a bit sticky. "Sh...Sher...lock?"
Sherlock looked wicked and debauched and John stifled a moan as Sherlock licked his lips and leaned over, placing a kiss on John's left hip. John was gasping as Sherlock's hand tightened ever so slightly - not painfully, just enough to catch John's attention again. It was so much, so much sensation and feeling and John wondered if maybe, just maybe, it was too much, and then he felt Sherlock's lips press against his own and thought stopped.
John tugged Sherlock closer, smiling as Sherlock let out a gasp into his mouth. "Christ, the sounds you make..."
Sherlock whimpered, and John let his hands roam freely over warm skin. The textures of Sherlock's skin were surprising, despite John having touched them before, seen them before. The way his scars were almost too soft, like wax poured into a mould and allowed to cool, silky ridges against the smooth but somehow rougher feel of the rest of his skin.
John chuckled. "You didn't let me finish."
Sherlock looked at him, eyes dark and lidded. "Anything."
John cupped one of Sherlock's cheeks, and Sherlock closed his eyes, leaning into the touch. "Lie on your stomach. Please."
Sherlock swallowed, but nodded, and John shifted out of the way. Sherlock lay down and let out a long breath. John watched the way the muscles in his back moved as he shifted and got comfortable.
"Relax for me."
Sherlock huffed. "Easier said than done."
"Then trust me."
Sherlock glanced over his shoulder. "Always."
John held his gaze for a moment, then moved forward and pressed his lips to Sherlock's right shoulder blade.
Sherlock sucked in a breath. "Oh."
Sherlock nodded, dark curls bobbing quickly. John smiled, and then kissed a spot of skin just an inch from his first kiss. Sherlock seemed to be holding his breath.
"Relax." John could feel his breath rebounding off of Sherlock's back and onto his own face. He watched as the tension leeched away minutely, and brought his hands up to caress Sherlock's sides.
He kissed his back again, and again, and again. Sherlock sunk further and further into the mattress with each touch, each press of lips or flick of tongue. John worked his way down and across and up again, fingers kneading gently at Sherlock's hips and lower back.
He looked up as Sherlock shifted, just enough that their eyes locked as Sherlock looked back at John.
"What do you need?"
Sherlock rolled over and beckoned. John moved up until their groins were pressed together. Sherlock arched into him, biting his lower lip.
"Could we..." Sherlock took in a deep breath.
John smirked. "I'm going to find a way to imprint this moment in my mind forever."
Sherlock stared at him, a slight upturn to his lips. "And why is that?"
"Because being the one who makes you react like that is a tremendous ego boost."
Sherlock shifted slightly, and John shuddered as he felt Sherlock's erection press against his. "I see what you mean."
John looked at their hips, then back up at Sherlock's face. "Tell me what you want."
Sherlock opened his mouth, then looked down the length of his body. His hand came up, hovering, then reached down and gripped both of their erections. John sucked in a breath.
"Oh. Yes, that... yes."
"It... it would be easier..."
John nodded, and reached up, his hand wrapping around them both, around Sherlock's fingers. "You'll... you'll tell me if it's too much, right?"
Sherlock was quiet for a moment, then nodded. "Yes."
John felt Sherlock's hand start moving, stroking up lazily, and he moved with it, letting Sherlock set the pace.
Sherlock started slowly, almost as though he was bored with the idea of sex already, but soon he began to speed up, grabbing the small bottle of lubricant that John had bought and adding some to their hands as they went. John was biting his lip and trying not to moan loudly enough to attract attention, while Sherlock was thrusting up into their hands, and John couldn't stop his own hips moving a bit, finding a rhythm that hit every spot he needed.
"Yes, Sherlock, god, close..."
Sherlock's ankles suddenly locked against the backs of John's thighs and his free hand was between his teeth and John felt him come, pulsing warm and wet over their hands. The feeling brought John over the precipice, and he bent over, his forehead pressed to Sherlock's chest, trapping their hands between them awkwardly. He felt his body jerk a few last times, then raised up enough to uncurl his hand from around them.
John slid to Sherlock's left, and collapsed beside him. He took a few deep breaths, then burst into giggles.
Sherlock looked at him, clearly trying to seem offended. He failed, and soon joined John in his outburst.
"I'm too damn old to feel like a bloody teenager."
Sherlock grabbed a rather well positioned flannel, and wiped his hand off before moving on to other areas of his anatomy. He folded it over and handed it to John, who took it and cleaned himself off.
"I must admit, I cannot fathom the appeal of having to do this for terribly long. Years of it sounds utterly ridiculous."
John laughed again, tossing the flannel at a small pile of clothes that needed laundering. "And if you'd ever been a normal teenager, I'd be worried by that statement." He ran his now dry hand over Sherlock's abdomen, watching as a shiver rippled through him. "But you've always been exceptional, haven't you?" He looked up then. Sherlock's face was carefully blank. John's own smile wiped off instantly. "Sherlock?"
Sherlock leaned into him, kissed him hard. John's tongue flicked out, and Sherlock's mouth opened wide in response. They lay there, kissing each other as though it were the only thing keeping them alive, and John wondered how he'd ever kissed anyone else. Kissing Sherlock simply felt as natural as breathing. The idea of anyone else being there instead felt wrong. He couldn't even picture it now.
John opened his eyes and stared at Sherlock from inches away. "For what?"
John ran a hand down Sherlock's side. "Are you... are you alright?"
Sherlock nodded quickly. "I simply... am learning how much I appreciate patience. It's a rather new commodity in my life."
John swallowed, then pulled him closer. Sherlock's face buried itself in the crook where John's neck and shoulder met, and John rubbed his cheek along the side of Sherlock's head. "You're welcome."
He felt Sherlock's arms tighten around him for a second, then relax again. They stayed there for a few minutes, then Sherlock pulled away, a tightlipped smile on his face. "We should... get dressed."
John sighed. "Yeah." He sat up, turning and swinging his legs over the die of the bed. It felt pleasantly odd to be doing this with Sherlock there again. He'd missed it.
He shimmied into his pants again, then pulled on his t-shirt and trousers. When he looked over, Sherlock was just buttoning his suit trousers, shirt buttoned and tucked, looking almost as well put together as he had when he arrived, aside from his slightly swollen lips.
They sat by the window together, and John clicked on the telly. They didn't watch it, though. They sat there, talking about nothing at all, the soft sounds of BBC Two (which John had found Sherlock watching occasionally) sounding far away. Sherlock held John's hand as they sat there, and John politely ignored the slight tremble that ran through them as time slipped by them in typically frustrating fashion.
Before they knew it, John's phone beeped, and he looked at it grudgingly, then back at Sherlock sadly. Sherlock nodded, and they stood up, neither wanting to move from the room.
"Have they..." Sherlock opened the door and let John out first, closing it again behind him. "Are you going to be getting another roommate?"
John shrugged. "Dunno. They haven't mentioned to me, but... I mean, I can't imagine they want that bed to go empty for much longer, really."
Sherlock nodded. "True." He stepped in closer to John as they walked through the hallway. "I won't say I'll be overly excited about the idea, though."
John snickered. "It would, ah, put a bit of a damper on-"
John laughed again, and Sherlock reached out to take his hand. They walked the rest of the way to the lobby hand-in-hand and silent.
When they arrived, there was no one there to pick Sherlock up just yet, so they sat outside on the steps and waited.
"I don't want to leave."
John looked over at Sherlock, who was staring out towards the gate. He looked solemn, and John squeezed his hand.
"I know. I don't want you to either."
"No, John... I..." Sherlock looked down at his feet where they sat on a lower step. "I can't... it's too much, seeing you for a few hours and then leaving again, I can't do it."
John could have sworn his heart stopped then, just for a moment. "So... are you saying-"
"No. I'm saying I can't bear this, I can't..." Sherlock pulled his hand away and covered his face, hunching over. His voice was muffled when he spoke again. "John, this... the separation is killing me, I can't go back."
John scooted closer, one arm going around Sherlock's shoulders. "I'll be there in a few weeks. We can do this, Sherlock, we really can."
"I need you."
Sherlock looked up then, and his eyes were red despite being dry. "I need you there. I need... I need us, I need..." He choked on the next word, took a deep breath. "I'm an addict, you know that."
John nodded and said nothing.
"It's more than that. Addictive personality. Not necessary to cultivate addictions, but inordinately helpful in beginning and maintaining them. And..." Sherlock swallowed. "I am. Addicted. To you."
John pursed his lips and looked down.
"And I feel... god, John, I feel like I'm going to shatter, like any moment I'm going to fall and there won't be anyone there to catch me. You won't be there to catch me."
Sherlock was trembling now, and John sent up a silent prayer that he would figure out what he could do right then to make it stop, make Sherlock feel safe and secure and more like Sherlock Sodding Holmes, because right now he was not the brilliant man that everyone saw. Right now, he was a terrified little boy who was only looking for reassurances that the monster under his bed wasn't real.
The problem, of course, was that the monster was the addiction that had brought him to Clouds. And John didn't ever want it to not be real, because if it wasn't real, he and Sherlock would not have met.
"You know you can text me. Or call. Anytime."
"It's not the same."
John closed his eyes. He was only too painfully aware of that fact. "I know. I wish I could change it right now."
There was a sound, and they looked up. A car had just turned into the long drive, and Sherlock let out a strangled sound, trembling even harder. "John."
"I don't want to go."
John reached out, placed a hand on either side of Sherlock's face and forced him to look at him. "You will be fine."
"No." Sherlock was trying to shake his head, but John held firm.
"You will. You will call me the moment it's too overwhelming, and you will talk to me. You will scream, rave, rant, cry, anything you need to do. And I will listen. Do you understand?"
Sherlock swallowed and nodded as best he could. John released his face, hands sliding to his neck as John pulled him in for a kiss. Sherlock's lips worked feverishly against John's as the sound of tires slowly moving over gravel came ever closer.
John pulled away first, hand smoothing over Sherlock's cheek before running fingers through his hair. "I'll see you next weekend, yes?"
Sherlock pursed his lips, then nodded, looking miserable. John forced a smile, stood up, and held out his hand. Sherlock hesitated, then took it, and stood up.
The car stopped in front of them.
Sherlock took a deep breath, then strode towards it, opening the rear door. He stopped for a moment, then turned back to John.
"You... you do still want to." He looked intent but uncertain, and it took John a moment to parse his meaning.
His face lit up, and he grinned. "Of course." His hands came together in front of him, right fingers playing along his left ring finger.
The gesture was not missed by Sherlock, who smiled softly. "Good." Then he ducked into the car and pulled the door shut.
John waved as the car drove away. The windows were tinted and it was damn near impossible to see, but he was still entirely certain Sherlock was waving back.
Once the car turned out of the drive and out of his sight, he sat back down on the steps, face in his hands. And he let himself cry, just for a moment.
After he'd had his moment, he scrubbed at his face and looked out over the drive. He wished for the car to come back. He wished he was home again, with friends and family and people who knew him as someone other than John Watson: Alcoholic. Failed suicide attempt. Hanger-on of Sherlock's coattails.
He immediately chastised himself for that thought. None of this was Sherlock's fault. Thinking unkindly wouldn't help him at all - in fact, just the opposite. And the last thing he wanted was to start resenting his...
Oh. His fiancé. Oh. That word held some weight.
He took a deep breath, let it out, and took another one. The sun was beginning to set, and the sky was beautiful.
His phone chimed in his pocket, and he grabbed it quickly.
[Driving out to see you is a far more preferable trip. -SH]
John snorted, then replied.
[I admit that I do enjoy seeing you step out of the car more than I like seeing you get back into it. -JW] Then, as an after thought, he typed another message. [I miss you. I'm sorry. I wish you didn't have to go either. I wish I was there and you didn't have to even come here. -JW]
His thumb hovered for a few seconds, then pressed send.
A moment later a new message was heralded by the beeping of his phone. He opened it.
[Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans fires. -SH]
John quirked an eyebrow. [Shakespeare? -JW]
[Rochefoucauld, but the source is not important. -SH]
John smiled. [I think that's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me. Thank you. -JW]
He stood up, and went back inside. It would be a long week, but he'd get through it.
He had to.
Chapter 5: Sherlock
Sherlock turned just in time to catch the tennis racket that had been tossed at him. He held it in front of himself, frowning. "What..."
Victor laughed. "Let's get out of here for a while. We've both got the time and the permission to leave. Let's get out, play a while. The way you've been the past two days, you look like you could use it."
Sherlock glanced over Victor - he was wearing a maroon polo shirt and black shorts. Black socks. Black trainers. Over one shoulder was an oddly shaped bag that Sherlock deduced could only be holding more rackets. Over the other shoulder he had a second bag, this one more conventionally shaped, which no doubt held balls and... Sherlock found himself at a loss as to what else might be needed. He knew the signs of an athlete, but he'd never needed to know about most of their equipment.
He glanced back at the racket in his hands, and then at his own clothing. "You want me to play tennis... in a suit?" He looked back up at Victor and quirked one brow.
Victor grinned. "Well if you must, but I think you'd more comfortable in this." One of Victor's hands dipped into his normal bag, pulling out something that he held out for Sherlock.
Sherlock handed the racket back as he took the... clothes? He held them up, gaping only a little. There was deep, midnight blue polo shirt and a pair of black shorts. He hated to think it, but they looked rather good.
"We're just about the same size, I think they should work out well for you."
Sherlock looked at Victor as his hands lowered with the clothes. "Shoes."
Victor looked a bit confused. "Beg pardon?"
Sherlock licked his lips and swallowed. "Shoes. I can't wear..." He looked down at his feet. "These won't work well on a tennis court."
He looked back up to see Victor grinning. "You've got trainers. I've seen them."
Sherlock sighed. "Well..." He looked at the racket in Victor's hands. "I..."
"It's just tennis, Sherlock." Victor's voice was soft. "I'm out of practice and itching to get back on the court, even just for a few quick knock-arounds. And I think you might enjoy it, if you give yourself a chance to."
Sherlock closed his eyes. "Fine." When he opened his eyes again, Victor's grin had brightened exponentially. Sherlock huffed as he turned away. "I'll just go get changed."
"I'll be here waiting."
Sherlock walked up the stairs, clutching the shirt and shorts tightly. It was just tennis. Victor had said it was just tennis. This was not a date. This was absolutely not a date and he was absolutelynot feeling even a little bit guilty over it.
Sherlock changed quickly, and he had to admit that he and Victor were quite similar in body type. The shirt was just ever so slightly snug across his shoulders, and the shorts fit perfectly, hitting him just above his knees. If he were one to acknowledge such things, he would have to say that the overall effect was quite flattering. He momentarily thought about asking Victor to take a picture, send it to John, but the idea was squashed rather quickly. What was he supposed to say about it? [Hello John, popping out for a knock-around with Victor, don't I look wonderful in his clothes? -SH]
No, sending John a picture would likely end badly, he thought. Best not to mention it right now. Sunday's admission of weakness was still fresh in his mind. In addition, the idea was too much like asking permission, and Sherlock was never one to ask permission. He was, however, quite adept at begging forgiveness. And John would forgive him, wouldn't he?
No. John wouldn't forgive him because there was nothing to forgive. John had named this thing between Sherlock and Victor - friends. They were friends. Friends were allowed to go out socially. He wasn't doing anything wrong.
Was he? After all, if it wasn't wrong, he should tell John about it. Right? Yes. No. He wasn't sure.
He stood in the bathroom and stared at himself. When had he started keeping things from John?
He shook himself and stepped back into his room, out the door, down the hallway. He wasn't really keeping this from John, he decided. He was simply... delaying the relay of information. It wouldn't even be an omission, it would simply be... postponed.
He stepped off the stairs and strode over to Victor, his trainers much quieter and strange feeling on his feet than his normal shoes. Victor turned, mouth opening and... hanging open, as he took in the way Sherlock looked.
Sherlock felt himself blush, and he pursed his lips. "I, erm..."
Victor shook his head, giving Sherlock a slight smile. "You look better in that than I do. Far more like a tennis player, especially."
Sherlock frowned. "I highly doubt that."
Victor chuckled as he put his sunglasses on and jingled the car keys. "Trust me on it, would you?"
Sherlock couldn't think of anything to say to that, so he simply nodded, put on his sunglasses, and followed Victor to the car.
It wasn't a particularly impressive car, but it was clean and it rode smoothly, and Victor handled it like he'd been driving it a while, which was somehow comforting and even more bothersome, as now it really did start to feel like a date.
"Where are we going?"
Victor smiled as they pulled to a stop at a red light, and began fiddling with the radio. "Today? Weston Tennis Club."
Sherlock looked out the window as they drove. "Today?"
Victor was silent a moment. "I like... variety. And there are several clubs in the area."
Sherlock looked back at him. "Do you live nearby?"
Victor gave him a half shrug. "I used to. Sometimes I still do." He grinned and glanced over. "Even without rehab, that is."
Sherlock gave a faint smile and nodded slowly. "I see."
"So what about you? Where's home?"
Sherlock stared straight ahead. "London."
"Oh, London, what I wouldn't give to be there more often." Victor's tone was fond.
"You have good memories of it."
"My best memories are London."
Sherlock felt one side of his mouth quirk up at the phrasing. They drove on in companionable silence, the radio soft and unobtrusive. Sherlock didn't recognize any of the songs, but they were pleasant enough for his liking.
It wasn't long before they were turning off the main roads and into a small club. Victor pulled out a card and handed it to the guard at the gate, who nodded to him and waved them in.
Victor parked and looked over at Sherlock with a wide smile. "Ready?"
Sherlock swallowed. "I've little choice at this point, I think."
Victor laughed. "You'll be fine! Remember." He opened his door and stepped out, stretching slightly and taking a deep breath. "I'm horribly out of practice. I doubt I'll be anything like the player I was before. Not yet, at least." He reached back into the car and grabbed the two bags, coming around to Sherlock's side and handing him the racket bag. "All you have to do is hit the ball."
Sherlock's eyes narrowed behind his shades. Hit the ball, indeed. "Well, if that's all there is to it, maybe I should be a tennis player."
Victor laughed even louder than he had a moment ago as they walked towards the courts.
The court on the far end was blocked off, large signs proclaiming it to be RESERVED on either side of the net. Victor lead him to it, pulling the signs off to the side and dropping his bag next to them. He opened it up and pulled out several tubes of bright yellow-green balls, opening one and dumping two of the three balls into his hand.
"Just bring the rackets over here." He looked up at Sherlock, beaming like a kid who'd gotten everything he'd wanted for Christmas. Sherlock stepped over and lowered the bag from his shoulder. Victor shoved one of the tennis balls into his pocket, then opened the racket bag. He handed the first one to Sherlock, then checked over what was left before selecting one for himself.
Sherlock looked over at the other courts, watching as people knocked the balls back and forth, some of them going easy and slow, others putting their all into every swing, making the ball a little yellow blur as it zoomed over the net each time.
Sherlock looked back to see Victor grinning. "I suppose so."
"Alright, so... basics. What do you know about tennis?"
Sherlock pursed his lips, glancing back over at the other courts. "Hit the ball over the net."
Victor laughed softly, then stopped. "Wait... that's it?" He looked at Sherlock incredulously. "That's... that's really all you know about it?"
Sherlock shrugged. "I'm a musician, sports are hardly anything I've ever felt a need to concern myself with understanding."
Victor nodded. "Alright, fair enough. Here." He stood next to Sherlock and pointed at the lines on the court. "These are the boundaries. Basically, you want to hit the ball over the net, but make sure it bounces in this area."
Sherlock eyed him suspiciously. "Surely there's more to it?"
Victor shrugged. "For now? No. That's really the biggest rule. Hit the ball over the net, don't send it out of bounds."
Sherlock frowned but nodded. "Alright. How do we... start?"
Victor handed him the tennis ball he'd kept in his hand. "Essentially, throw the ball in the air, hit it with your racket."
Sherlock took the ball and gave it a few quick, experimental bounces.
"You'll want to back up a bit, here." Victor indicated where Sherlock should stand. "Take your time, and if the first one doesn't work out, try again."
"That it?" Sherlock was fairly certain there was far more to the game than Victor was telling him, which was frustrating. How was he meant to understand the game if he was given only the most basic, child-like instructions?
Victor beamed at him. "Just try to hit it after I do. We'll work on more later, but for now, let's just get you with a feel for the game." Victor reached out and squeezed Sherlock's shoulder, then jogged quickly to his own half of the court.
Sherlock gave the ball a few more bounces as he waited for Victor to get into position. Then he threw the ball high, and brought his racket forward hard.
The ball flew fast - directly into the net.
Sherlock stood there, glaring at it. Victor laughed.
"It's alright, just... try it again!"
Sherlock walked over and picked up the ball, staring at it on his way back to his starting position. He bounced it once, twice. Threw it up, caught it in his hand. Threw it again, moving his racket with it, caught it in his hand. He looked over at the net, then at Victor. Then he threw the ball into the air, and brought the racket forward.
The ball sailed just over the net, bouncing once on Victor's side of the court. Victor reached out and brought the ball hurtling back at Sherlock. Sherlock grabbed the racket with both hands and swung hard.
He missed the ball, spun around almost two full rotations, then fell over with a rather undignified yelp.
Victor was at his side in a moment. "Hang on, just hold still for a second Sherlock, I want to make-"
"I'm fine." Sherlock grit his teeth and looked at his legs. He'd hit the side of his kneecap on the ground, skinning it a bit, but that was the worst of it, and there was no blood. He sighed. "I'm fine, Victor, let me up."
Victor held out a hand, and Sherlock took it without thinking, let Victor haul him up. By the time he realized what was happening, he was nose to nose with Victor, who was smiling brightly.
"Not a bad serve, Holmes."
Sherlock's face was already a bit pink over his lack of grace during his fall, but he was certain it was now a deep, bright red. "Oh, uh... thank you... Trevor."
Victor licked his lips, then backed up slowly. "Ready to try again?"
Sherlock looked at the ball, which was now sitting just at the fence behind his half of the court. He huffed. "Yes."
"Good." Victor backed away, returning to his side of the net. "You can serve again. That second one was beautiful."
Sherlock walked over and grabbed the ball, bouncing it several times as he found his first position. He looked over at Victor, who was bent over, racket in hand, looking for all the world as though this were the best thing he could possibly think of doing right then.
Sherlock scanned the lines of the court, calculating. Then he threw the ball into the air, and swung his racket.
The ball sailed over the net, and Victor dove for it, missing it by inches. It bounced once within the lines, then sailed out.
"Brilliant!" Victor was cracking up as he retrieved the ball. "That was fantastic, Sherlock!"
Sherlock allowed himself a small smile as Victor tossed the ball back to him. "Thank you."
"Maybe you went into the wrong career, mate." Victor stretched his arms as Sherlock bounced the ball. "You might have made one hell of a tennis player."
Sherlock gave him a half shrug, then readied himself to serve again. Victor took his stance, nodded, and waited.
The ball flew into the air and Sherlock smacked it hard. It went over the net, bounced, and Victor hit it back.
Sherlock watched it, figured out where it was coming, and managed to return it. Victor was grinning as he knocked it back over the net at Sherlock again.
Sherlock had to move fast to return this one, and it didn't quite make it over the net.
"Not bad, not bad." Victor pulled the second ball from his pocket. "How about I serve, and you see if you can volley it back at me?"
Sherlock nodded, and took a position somewhere about the center of the court, in the back, just as he'd seen Victor doing. Victor bounced the ball a few times, then threw the ball into the air. His racket hit it, and Sherlock gulped as he watched it fly closer and closer. He raised his racket and smacked the ball, which flew wide and bounced out of bounds.
"At least you hit it this time!"
Sherlock glared at Victor as he retrieved the ball. "Shut up."
Victor giggled, then served again.
It bounced, and Sherlock hit it back over the net. Ha!
Victor smiled and swatted the ball backhanded, sending it at an odd angle. Sherlock raced over and knocked the ball back at him. Victor came in close to the net and smacked it to the other side. Sherlock watched as it bounced just out of the line, then smiled smugly at Victor.
"Oh hell." Victor was shaking his head. "Well spotted."
Sherlock simply kept smiling, and went to grab the ball. He tossed it to Victor.
"So this..." He looked around. "This is... what you do for fun... and for a profession?"
Victor shrugged. "What about you? I hear you, humming under your breath when you think no one's listening. You're a musician." His tone sounded much like Sherlock's had earlier. "It's in your blood."
Sherlock conceded the point. After all, he'd said as much to Harry when she'd asked about it. "So this is in your blood, then?"
Victor nodded. "I was five when I picked up a racket and started whacking tennis balls around. And... just never really stopped." He gave Sherlock a slightly lopsided grin. "What about you? When did you start playing violin?"
Sherlock licked his lips. "I started plucking the strings on my grandfather's instrument when I was three." He smiled faintly. "He thought it was the best thing he'd ever heard. Gave it to me a year later, told me he wanted to hear me playing in-" Sherlock stopped abruptly, swallowing back the rest of the sentence. He placed his hands on his hips and looked at the ground, taking a deep breath.
Victor, mercifully, said and did nothing, he simply waited.
Sherlock raised his head and nodded once. "I... thank you."
Victor smiled at him. "Sure thing. You want to serve?"
Sherlock shook his head. "No, you go ahead."
Victor nodded and retrieved a ball, bouncing it a few times as Sherlock took his position, and waited. Victor bounced the ball once more, threw it in the air, and swung.
Chapter 6: John
John groaned as he rolled over, restless and alone. It was one of the nights that, only weeks ago, he would have shared curled up next to Sherlock - possibly listening to him talk about his music. That had been the favorite topic of conversation, in those stolen hours when everyone but themselves seemed to be asleep. Sherlock was a genius, and when it came to his music, he was deeply passionate and so very alive. It was one more thing that John had - John got to see him like that, John was the one he talked to about it all, John John John.
He was selfish, really, to want that part of Sherlock for himself. But he refused to feel guilty about it. After all, it wasn't as though he wanted Sherlock to stop playing professionally. He just rather loved the idea that it was he whom Sherlock shared the inner workings of the music with.
He smiled up at the ceiling and sighed, closing his eyes. He was more than half tempted to text Sherlock, see if he was awake - he was almost always awake, it seemed, even when he'd been curled up next to John with his eyes shut and his breathing deep and even. Even then, it had only taken a shift, a cough, and Sherlock was wide awake, looking somehow perfectly rested and alert, whereas before his first coffee, John seemed to stumble about like a newborn giraffe that hadn't quite learned how it's legs worked.
He stretched his hands above his head and groaned again, rolling onto his side and grumbling to himself.
Then, his phone chirped.
He paused, blinking several times, before rolling over and staring at his phone. Sure enough, one of the little lights was blinking steadily, telling him he had a message. He pushed himself up and reached for it, flicking at the screen with his thumb.
One new text. Number Unknown.
John licked his lips and stood up, stretching up onto his tip-toes, then padding carefully to the window seat. He sat down and opened the message.
[I bet you're laying in your bed right now, thinking about him, aren't you Johnny Boy? - Jim M]
John felt his mouth open slightly as he let out a slow breath. He hit reply. [How'd you get my number? And don't you have better things to do? - JW] He pressed send, then grabbed up the remote and turned the telly on, keeping the volume almost muted. It didn't feel like he'd be getting to sleep any time soon, and at least this way he wasn't in his bed, thinking about all the things he couldn't do, couldn't have...
Well, that was quick.
[Are you saying you don't want to talk to me, Johnny Boy? I'm hurt, really I am. I thought it was so touchingly loyal, the way you came to his defense. -Jim M]
John's mouth puckered and twisted as he stared at the text, and shook his head. Replying would only encourage him, right? Ignore him long enough, he'll go away.
John let out a frustrated sigh. Except that he knew Sherlock. Hell, he was a fellow musician in the orchestra. Ignore him, and he might make things much, much worse for Sherlock.
That settled it. John hit reply and typed out his response. [Tell you what. I'll talk to you, if you promise you're leaving Sherlock out of it. -JW]
He looked up at the telly - one of the episodes of the original Doctor Who was on. Tom Baker was grinning, long scarf flapping at his sides in a slight breeze. John smiled, remembering watching these episodes with his parents years ago, a young boy curled up on the couch thinking that this was the best thing ever.
His phone signaled. He opened the message.
[Good! Very good! You know how to play, Johnny Boy. It's really very... exciting. To hear you make demands. Bargaining for your precious Sherlock. Such a good pet. -Jim M]
John's jaw tightened, and his thumbs hit the keys a bit more forcefully than he'd intended. [Not a pet. Not Johnny Boy, either. John. It's just John. -JW]
He dropped the phone on the seat next to him, and waited.
It was almost a full four minutes before the response came. John had nearly thought himself free for the night.
[Oh, Johnny. Do you know what that made me think? I hope you get to out me in my place soon. I can see you'll be ever so much fun to play with. -Jim M]
John stared at the message in shock. The way it was phrased made it sound so... dirty. He swallowed, and set the phone down, taking several deep breaths. This was insane. He was texting his...
His brain stuttered on the word. Fiancé. It still felt awkward and heavy, so heavy, that word.
Perhaps it was that, for him at least, there was no word that could truly capture Sherlock, the way John saw him. The best word was simply his name, Sherlock. Anything else made him sound conventional and typical, and even at his worst Sherlock Holmes could never be considered either of those things.
John licked his lips and looked back at his phone. Regardless of what word he used, the fact was that he was texting his fiancé's... god, what would Jim even be to Sherlock? Certainly not aboyfriend. Sherlock would have balked at the very idea of that word. But lover gave the impression that there had been love, and John knew from the way Sherlock reacted at any mention of Jim that love was certainly not something they'd ever experienced with each other.
Christ, but this was all far too complex. Ex-shag, maybe? Yeah, that could work. Maybe. Jesus.
John growled, and picked up his phone. It was still silent.
"I'm a complete moron, aren't I?"
His eyes widened as he admitted that he had, indeed, just spoken aloud. To himself.
Although it could hardly be worse than texting his fiancé's ex-shag at - he glanced at the clock on the phone - half four in the morning.
He was just about to turn off the telly and head back to bed when a new message came in. Number Unknown.
[Did you fall asleep on me, Johnny? Or have I bored you? I could tell you just how good it felt, getting myself off while reading your text. I could hear you, you know. In my head. -Jim M]
John felt his heart picking up the pace as another message came in just as he finished reading the last one. With trembling fingers, he opened it.
[I could tell you how I licked my hand before touching myself. How I licked it over and over, then imagined it was you on me. Imagined I heard your voice telling me all sorts of dirty things, Johnny. -Jim M.]
John swallowed thickly, and he felt his prick stir a bit. It was a most unwelcome feeling.
He hadn't even been thinking about what he was doing when he felt his hand brush against it, half-erect and filling out steadily.
He stared down at it, then stood up, dropping the phone on the seat as he strode into the bathroom.
The light was harsh and far too bright when he flicked the switch, but it was, at the very least, a mood kill. He turned on the sink and splashed his face with cold water, then grabbed a flannel and soaked it, shoving it down the front of his pants. His hips jerked back at the sudden, unwelcome intrusion, but he grabbed his cock in the flannel and gave a quick squeeze, hissing in a breath as he did so.
When he pulled his hand back, he was most definitely not hard anymore.
He threw the flannel onto the counter beside the sink, and leaned over it, focusing on the breathing exercises every therapist he'd ever seen had taught him. He imagined this must be what Lamaze was like, and gave out a soft giggle at the image the popped into his head.
He closed his eyes and bent his head, arms splayed out and hands gripping the countertop, trying to figure out what to do.
There was always the option of telling Sherlock. He'd meant to do so the first time, but... well, Sherlock inspired many feelings within John, and absolutely none of them led to the discussion of another man texting him. He'd meant to, when Sherlock had been here a few days ago. He really had. Of course, when Sherlock had given him that look and started taking off his clothes, John's brain had blanked completely. And bringing it up via text seemed... wrong, somehow.
John looked up at his reflection, looking himself over. Most days, he was happy to simply accept that Sherlock was his, was with him, had chosen him. And then, there were moments like this, where he looked at the dark bags under his eyes, his hair sticking up in awkward directions from sleep, and his skin looking far paler than it really had any right to be, and he wondered just whySherlock had chosen him.
These moments were, by far, not his favorites.
He let out a long, steady breath, and straightened up. He rinsed the flannel, rung it out, hung it back up. No use in leaving a mess. He already had a much worse one to deal with, it seemed.
He stepped out of the bathroom and turned off the light, which might not have been the best of ideas, as he was now temporarily blinded. He banged his right leg on the empty bed that had been Sherlock's, emitting a soft curse and groan, then stubbed his toe on the small bookshelf next to the television alcove.
"Jesus Christ." He grit his teeth and groped along until finally, his eyes adjusted and he could just make out the silent, dark form of his phone. He picked it up.
The message light was blinking.
He thumbed the button to bring the phone back to life, and looked at his texts.
Three new, unopened ones. All from number Unknown.
He sighed heavily as he opened to the first one. [Did you like that, Johnny? Did you reach down and touch your cock, thinking of me? Did you moan and gasp and hear my voice too? -Jim M]
John sucked his lips between his teeth as he went to the second one. [Are you ignoring me, Johnny? That's a bit rude. I just want to get to know you. Maybe we could be friends. -Jim M]
John's brow furrowed at that, but he dutifully opened the final message. [Oh! Or are you in the bathroom right now, trying to get rid of you little problem? Tell me Johnny, don't keep me guessing. Pretty please? -Jim M]
John rolled his shoulders, the left one aching more than usual. Too much tension. He'd have to see about some sort of physical therapy, maybe. Just... just something, to help get rid of the too-tight feeling. Some way to work out the things that Jim's texts were doing to him.
He looked at the phone for a moment longer, then smiled faintly.
[It's John. Just. John. Not Johnny. Your choice. -JW]
He hit send. He might not be the genius that Sherlock was, but he had a feeling he could still figure out how to play the game.
He walked gingerly back to his bed, taking great care not to whack his abused legs and feet on anything else as he did so. He set his phone on the charger, and climbed under the blankets. Just as he was settling in, his phone beeped. He opened up the message.
[You're going to be so much fun, John. I can see it. You and I, we're going to be good friends. Think of me. -Jim M]
John smirked, then put his phone back down. Then he lay back and closed his eyes.
When he woke again, it was to the sound of his phone's alarm telling him to get up. He moaned into the pillow, one hand reaching out and pressing the buttons on the side of his mobile to silence it.
The room was definitely brighter, despite the shades being drawn down. John blinked around at everything, throwing a rather unhappy glare at the bookshelf.
Of course, the bookshelf did not care, and ignored him completely.
He threw his feet over the side of his bed again, and grabbed his phone. There were no new messages. He grinned.
He showered quickly, keeping the temperature on the cooler side and scrubbing himself down as hurriedly as he could manage. He dried off, and dressed in a simple pair of jeans and a striped button-up, and combed his hair. Then he went down to breakfast.
He saw Molly, George, and Jeremy there, and nodded to them as he stepped into the line for food.
His plate clattered a bit as he tried to set it down at their table, and George smiled up at him.
John nodded, grinning. "George. Jeremy."
Jeremy's head tilted up in acknowledgement, though his eyes never left the article he was reading. John shook his head with a snort.
She beamed. "Morning John. Sleep well?"
His face blanked, and he looked up at her as he opened a small jam packet. "What?"
Molly tittered. "Well, it's just... you looked so happy, walking in."
John let a soft smile grace his lips again. "Yeah. I guess... I mean, less than three weeks. I'm getting out of here in less than three weeks."
Molly beamed, and leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner. "You should ask George about his release."
John stared at her wide eyed, then looked at George, who immediately blushed brightly.
"Oh, I..." He stammered a bit, staring at his plate. "They said... should be a month."
John beamed. "Are you... are you going home then?"
George grinned brightly. "Yep. Told my wife this morning." He swallowed. "She... she cried, said she was so happy..."
John reached out his right hand. George looked at it, then took it and gave him a firm shake.
"Congratulations, George. This is excellent news."
George nodded, unable to speak now, it seemed.
"What about you then, Jeremy? Things going well for you?" John looked over at the man, who was still reading the article intently.
"Oh, yeah, fine."
John frowned slightly but decided not to interrupt him. Molly shrugged.
"He saw something about an art gallery opening, and a big write up on new artists being featured. Said he had to read it immediately."
Just as Molly said that, Jeremy gave a very excited exclamation and looked up.
His three companions jumped slightly, and George looked at him curiously. "Everything alright, mate?"
Jeremy's eyes were bright, and he handed the paper to George, pointing to a particular section. "Read this. Read it so I know I'm not dreaming."
George stared reading it out quietly. "Among the most highly anticipated sculptures are three pieces done by Mr..." His voice trailed off, and he looked up at Jeremy. "Blimey, you never... I didn't know you... Christ."
"Well keep going!" John gestured at him with his fork, which was blessedly empty.
"Mr. Jeremy Pace, whose use of long, sweeping lines is reminiscent of a master painter's brush-strokes, yet translates so easily into Mr. Pace's sculptures, you might be willing to think he'd invented technique."
John looked over, a surprised smile on his face. "Holy Mary, that's fantastic!"
Jeremy smiled sheepishly. "I didn't... I mean, I never said because, well... it's a bit cliché, isn't it? The drugged out artist?"
John looked down at his plate, pushing his eggs around. "Probably no more so than musician."
Jeremy put a hand on John's shoulder. "Look, I'm gonna be entirely honest. I thought you and Sherlock... well, I thought it was a bad idea."
John's jaw clenched but he waited.
"And that wasn't because I don't think you two were good for each other, John."
John looked over at him.
"It's because I know what it's like, to feel the pull of something that will completely alter your mind. I know what it's like to feel that coursing through, and suddenly... everything's clear. I was always at my most creative when I was high as could be."
John swallowed. "Oh."
Jeremy smiled softly. "But I think... I think, now, that you may be the best thing someone like Sherlock could have." He laughed gently. "Truth be told, I'm a little jealous I don't have anyone waiting for me."
Before John could answer, his phone chimed. He pulled it out of his pocket and opened the message without looking at who it was.
[I miss you. -SH]
John licked his lips and shoved his phone back in his pocket.
Jeremy squeezed his shoulder once, then his hand retreated.
John closed his eyes, and allowed himself to believe - because he knew that Sherlock was, undoubtedly, the best thing that had ever happened to him.
Chapter 7: Sherlock
The bow in his hands slid effortlessly along the strings. His eyes were closed as he played a simple set of warm-up scales, and he breathed in slowly as the sound utterly filled every inch of him.
It was soft and almost mournful, the sound of the scales as they resounded off the walls of his room. He was alone, but the door was cracked. His roommate was in his final counseling session - tomorrow morning, he'd be packed into a car and sent home, into the arms of his family and friends. He and Sherlock weren't close, but Sherlock wished him well. He also wished his departure would happen faster, because the sooner he was out, the sooner John was in.
As was so often the way of things, Sherlock's thoughts found John and latched on, and his playing reflected the emotions that he'd long since lost control of.
He finished his scales, then let out a long breath. His mind darted about, rifling through countless pieces he could play, before finally landing on Vivaldi. Sherlock frowned, and the rifling continued.
He landed on a Rossini and smirked, nodding once and beginning. He let his eyes fall closed again as his fingers worked the strings.
He never heard the door open. He wouldn't have stopped even if he had, of course - too enthralled by the spell of the song, the sheer magic that seemed to come with producing something beautiful.
It was the creak of bedsprings and a soft sigh that made him open his eyes, and he whirled, still playing, never missing a beat nor a note.
Victor was sitting there. On the edge of Sherlock's bed. And he was staring at Sherlock with absolute awe.
Sherlock swallowed, and kept playing, his eyes reluctant to leave Victor's.
Finally, he let his eyes slide shut again, and turned away, his brain finding something new to play - Bach, perhaps. He wasn't entirely sure, suddenly, and he grit his teeth and tried to concentrate. The issue was that it was increasingly difficult to do much at all, knowing that just a few feet away, Victor was sitting on his bed and staring at him like he was...
Sherlock felt a shiver ripple through him.
He stopped then, lightly dragging the bow across the strings a final time before he turned around again.
"Most people knock."
Victor blushed slightly. "Sorry. It was open."
Sherlock nodded and pursed his lips.
Victor's eyes went wide. "Oh, God, should I go?"
Sherlock opened his mouth, then closed it again. "I... no, it's..." He looked at the door, then back at Victor. "It's fine." He gave a smile that he was sure didn't look even remotely comfortable.
Victor watched him, then stood. "I've made you uncomfortable. You don't... like to play in front of other people..."
Sherlock's eyes opened wide, and he laughed out loud. Victor stared at him as though he was mad.
"I only meant..." Victor sighed, his hands going to his hips. "I meant... when you're... not on stage..."
Sherlock was still chuckling as he put his violin into it's case, placing the bow with it. He turned back to Victor and clasped his hands behind his back. "It's... it really is. Fine. I..." He looked down at the floor. "I simply haven't played in..."
He looked back up to see Victor nodding at him. "As you may have noticed the other day, I can understand." Victor allowed a small smile to form on his lips. "And, if it helps." He licked his lips. "You play beautifully."
Sherlock blinked. "Thank you."
Victor nodded again. "I... I hope I get to hear you play again sometime." He turned towards the door.
"Victor, wait." Sherlock stared at his own hands - they were reaching. Reaching for Victor. He dropped them hastily as Victor turned back, his expression curious.
"I... I could play. Some more. Now." Sherlock frowned at the floor. "I... I need the practice, and... I've been composing-"
"You compose?" Victor was looking at him with awe again, as though this were the most amazing thing in the world. "My God, that's... that's incredible."
Sherlock felt his ears burning as he flushed, and he shook his head. "No no, I assure you, it's... it's just mathematics-"
"It's music, Sherlock, trust me - composing is quite an ability."
Sherlock's mouth twisted to side as he contemplated Victor's words. "Well... I could use... an opinion."
Victor's eyebrows rose. "Oh?"
Sherlock nodded quickly. "Would you... stay? And listen?" Sherlock inhaled through his nose. "Please."
Victor worried his lower lip between his teeth for a moment, then gave one slow nod. "I'd love to. Thank you."
His smile was bright as he looked around the room. Sherlock motioned to his bed again. "If you like..."
Victor stared at it, then glanced back at Sherlock from the corner of his eye. He toed off his shoes, then sidled onto the bed, sitting back against the pillows and the headboard.
Sherlock stared at him for a moment, then hastily turned to pick up his violin again.
His set the violin on his shoulder, taking a deep breath as he loosened himself up a bit, conjuring the music into his mind. He gives a few quick, experimental strokes, and licks his lips, then begins.
It starts slowly, building gradually, the crescendos gaining in intensity each time before sloughing off into gentle, swaying pianissimos, only to start again.
He's staring - he knows he's staring, Victor knows he's staring and there's nothing he can do because Victor is staring too, and Sherlock refuses to be the one to look away. Halfway through, Sherlock's breathing hard, and he still hasn't stopped looking at Victor, who's flushed and biting his lip.
When Sherlock finally finishes, he pulls the bow aside with a great flourish, and takes a bow. He rises to see Victor staring at him with wide, eager eyes.
"That was incredible." His voice is breathy.
Sherlock swallowed. "I'm glad you liked it. I..." He took a calming breath. "I haven't played it for anyone else yet. I... it's..." He closed his eyes.
It's for John, and I want him to love it, I want him to hear it and know all the things I can't say.
Sherlock opened his eyes. "It's not done yet."
Victor grinned. "I look forward to hearing the completed piece, then."
Sherlock tilted his head slightly. "I... thank you." He wasn't sure what else he was meant to say. There was something terrifyingly intimate about playing for someone in your bedroom, versus playing for hundreds of people in an auditorium. He'd felt it with John, and now...
"I should..." Victor slid off Sherlock's bed. "I should probably go."
Sherlock raked his teeth over his lower lip as Victor moved towards the door.
"Are you..." Victor paused at the door, hand on the knob, back to Sherlock. "Are you available?"
Sherlock's eyes went wide. "Am I... what?"
"Tomorrow." Victor turned his head back. "I was thinking... we could go out. Grab some lunch, hit another court. There's one other here that I tend to favor..." His voice dropped off, and Sherlock opened his mouth once, then closed it again as he thought.
This was a bad idea. His brain and his heart were screaming at him, it seemed. And yet...
"I'll find you at eleven, shall I?"
Victor turned a bit more, looking surprised. "Perfect."
Sherlock nodded once. "Alright then." He paused, and Victor smiled softly.
"It's a date." And then the door opened, and he was gone.
Sherlock stood very still, both lips pulled between his teeth as he replayed Victor's parting words over and over.
It's a date...
No, that... Sherlock sighed, and busied himself with storing his violin. It was a figure of speech. It absolutely did not mean date, it meant...
He looked up at the wall as he snapped the violin case closed.
This could prove problematic, at the very least.
The door opened behind him - he turned quickly, only to see his roommate, Jason, stepping through the door.
"Hey." He smiled easily, nodding. "Listen, I..."
Sherlock watched as he scratched at the back of his neck.
"I just want to say thank you."
Sherlock frowned. "What for?"
Jason shrugged. "For... being so nice."
Sherlock's eyes narrowed further. He'd done his level best to avoid Jason, overall. Not because Jason was particularly annoying, but simply because he was uninterested in attempting small talk or friendship with someone who was on his way out. It was pointless, putting that effort into anything that wouldn't go more than a few weeks.
Jason chuckled. "Well, for not being cruel, then."
Sherlock looked down, feeling his cheeks flush again. "I... I should, perhaps, have..."
He looked up. Jason was shaking his head. "You were... you were not alright when you got here. I mean, I'm American, and I could see it. I know you Brits are all about your stiff upper lip and whatever, but..." He licked his lips. "You were miserable. You could have taken it out on me."
Sherlock's eyes widened. "Why would-"
"Because that's what people do."
Sherlock stepped back slightly, the weight of truth hitting him like a sledgehammer. He'd been unkind to nearly everyone at Clouds when he'd first arrived. Well, everyone apart from John, really. He'd been miserable and unhappy and...
He closed his eyes. "I've recently come to realise that I am... more human than previously believed."
He opened his eyes again, and crossed the room, holding out his hand. Jason stared at it for a moment, then reached out and shook it.
"I wish you the best. Congratulations on your impending release." Sherlock smiled.
Jason grinned. "Thanks. You too, for what it's worth. The best thing, not the... oh, hell." Jason flushed, and Sherlock snorted.
"Yes yes, alright, that's enough. I am still British."
Jason released his hand and shook his head, still smiling. "I'm gonna finish packing and take a shower. You want to grab the first one?"
Sherlock shook his head. "No, thank you. I think... I think I'll go for a walk."
Jason nodded, and turned back to his things.
Sherlock strode out of the room, glancing around. No sign of Victor, which was good. Right then, he was not who Sherlock wanted to talk to.
He made his way down the stairs and then outside, signing himself out for an hour at the front. Then he strode out the door and down to the gate.
The air was warm but not hot, and Sherlock smiled as he stepped out onto the sidewalk, his hand reaching into his pocket automatically. He pressed a few buttons, holding it to his ear. One, two, three rings.
"I was just thinking about you."
Sherlock grinned. "Were you, really? Do tell."
John's laughter was welcome and needed and oh how Sherlock wanted to hear it more often, hear it in person every day, every day for the rest of his life and even longer, if he could manage it.
"Well I've just stepped out of the shower..."
Sherlock moaned very softly, thankful he was alone at the moment. He glanced around, watching for signs of anyone coming towards him. "I'm not... I can't right now..."
John chuckled. "So I shouldn't tell you all about the clothing I'm not wearing right now, then?"
"God, that... the way your voice gets when you say my name like that, I... Christ, I don't think you understand..."
John groaned into the phone. "If you're not careful, you'll be walkin' 'round with a hard-on and no way of taking care of it. Where are you, anyway?"
"Interestingly enough, out for a walk." Sherlock inhaled deeply through his nose. "It's not London, but it's far more city than we saw at Clouds. I'll show you, when you get here." He took a long blink, his voice heavy with longing. "I miss walking with you."
He heard John settling onto the bed, the mattress creaking slightly. "I miss that too. Not long now, though."
Sherlock nodded. "Two weeks, two days."
"Not that you're counting."
"Of course I'm counting, how else... oh."
Sherlock smiled fondly. "Good. I don't mind talking to myself, but talking to you has infinitely more potential."
"I've got potential, then?"
Sherlock could hear the bright grin that was on John's face in his words, the way his voice sounded so thoroughly elated.
"A bit, perhaps."
There was a moment of companionable silence, and John spoke again. "So how are things at Whitecross? You get to go out? Do anything fun?"
Sherlock nearly stumbled. "I..."
"Alright, fine, do you get to do anything that normal people consider fun?"
Sherlock opened his mouth, then closed it again, huffing out a breath. "I... played tennis..."
"What, really?" John sounded as though he was on the verge of laughter again. "Oh, I would have paid to see that."
Sherlock glared up at the sky. "Yes yes, you're very funny."
"Did you enjoy it?"
Sherlock thought back - the thrill of it, the feeling of the ball in his hands, the feel of the court when fell, Victor's hand on his, Victor's face so close he could-
"It was... alright."
"Did you go with someone? You must have done, I can't imagine you-"
"I went with Victor." Sherlock winced. He hadn't meant to simply blurt it all out like that...
"He's... he's the one you said played professionally?"
"Yes." Sherlock swallowed. "He's... out of practice, and... he thought I might be a good... stand in..."
John was silent for a moment, and Sherlock feared he'd said too much.
"It's fine, Sherlock."
Sherlock paused where he was on the sidewalk, staring across the street. It was still mostly deserted, though there was a young lady jogging towards him now. Running shorts, workout tank-top, iPod and earphones - she paid him absolutely no mind as she ran past him, intent on her workout routine.
"I know it's fine."
John sighed. "I'm just saying, it's fine to go out. Spend time with your friend."
Sherlock narrowed his eyes and lifted his chin, regardless of the fact that John couldn't see him. "You're jealous."
"No, I... alright, a little."
"Is it because you think I'm..." Sherlock trailed off, trying to find the words that would fit around the lump that had settled in his throat. "That I'll be... unfaithful?"
John made a soft noise. "No, it's... well, I mean, most people are worried about that, but to be honest, I think that's the least of my concerns."
Sherlock looked up at the sky. The clouds were moving fast, but there was not feeling of rain in the air. "I don't understand."
"It's stupid, really. You're going to laugh."
"Tell me." Sherlock could hear John fidgeting with something.
"I'm jealous of the time anyone spends with you right now. Because I wish I had the option."
Sherlock looked down at the ground. That... had been unexpected.
"Because, what I said before, I meant it." John's voice had gone quiet. "I trust you, Sherlock."
Sherlock pursed his lips, and wished he felt as though he deserved it.
Chapter 8: John
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
John stepped off the small bus and slipped on his sunglasses, taking a deep breath through his nose. A part of him was loathe to admit it, but he was going to miss this little town - it had been welcoming, and was always a nice change of pace from being stuck at Clouds around the clock the rest of the week. Of course, the way Sherlock talked, it sounded like freedom and trips out of the house were far more prevalent at Whitecross - something he could happily admit to looking forward to with no small amount of anticipation.
Molly stepped up next to him, and he glanced over at her. "Fancy a walk down by the lake? I could use the exercise, work up a bit of an appetite..." He stretched his arms up over his head and yawned. "Fresh air might wake me up, too."
"Are you alright, John?"
He looked back at Molly. "What?"
Molly bit her lip. "Well, it's just... you said you've not been sleeping much lately, and... I just... I'm worried."
John smiled gently. "Yeah. Just... nerves, excitement. Getting out, it's... and being with..." He looked down at his feet as he felt himself flush a bit. "I'm just eager, I suppose."
He looked back up.
Molly watched him a moment, then nodded. "Alright. But, you'd... you'd tell me if there was something else, right? Not that you have to, I just..." She fiddled with her hair. "I just don't want you to feel like you can't talk about it - whatever it is. With me."
John grinned and nodded. "Consider me well informed of your availability and willingness to listen."
Molly giggled, then looped her arm through the one John offered. "So. Lakeside stroll, is it?"
John began leading her off. "Yes, I think that could be very nice."
"Is Sherlock joining us today?"
John shook his head as they walked comfortably together. "Nah. Something about his roommate leaving, they were doing some sort of send off." John snorted. "Not his thing, really, but I think it's good for him, spending time with the people at Whitecross. I don't want him to stay cooped up in his room all day long, avoiding human contact. He seems to have made at least one actual friend, though, so I'm holding out some hope."
Molly grinned, and they walked quietly for a few moments down the main street in the town.
When they came within view of the lake, Molly cleared her throat. "Um, John... I was wondering..."
They sat down on a small bench, and John looked at her, waiting patiently.
"Would you... would you like to meet my... well... I guess, my boyfriend?"
John was glad he had on a very good pair of sunglasses which obscured his eyes, because it was bad enough that his eyebrows were currently attempting to join his hairline. "Boyfriend?" He stared at Molly in muted shock, then broke into a wide smile. "You little minx, you!"
Molly blushed, deep and bright and all over her face, and sucked her lips between her teeth to suppress a laugh. "Oh, no, he... I mean, we've only had lunch once, maybe he's not..."
John stifled a laugh at how bashful she sounded. "Molly, I would be delighted."
Molly beamed at him. "We're supposed to be meeting for lunch today, too. You should join us."
"Oh, I wouldn't want to intrude."
"No really, I'd love it if you did."
John thought about it as he looked out over the water. A gentle breeze had picked up, pushing small, rolling waves along the surface. On the one hand, lunch with Molly would be nice - he enjoyed company, far more than Sherlock ever did, and Molly was sweet - surely anyone she'd met would be a nice guy. Though on the other hand, sitting through lunch and watching two people be adoring and affectionate when he was not able to do the same sounded an awful lot like one of the nine rings of Hell.
No, he thought, I'm being ridiculous. I got so used to seeing Sherlock everyday that now I can't even be happy for a friend without feeling sorry for myself?
He licked his lips and nodded again. "Alright. But only if he approves. Oh." John frowned. "What, er, was his name?"
Molly twiddled her fingers in her lap. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't..." She took a deep breath. "James. But he prefers Jim."
John felt something sharp and hot lance through his gut. James was a popular name. Many people named James went by Jim. It was absolutely not the same Jim. Hell, Jim was probably just as popular a name as John, really. The odds were astronomically in his favor of this being some other Jim he'd never heard of before.
"Jim. Good name." John took a deep breath. "What, ah, does he do? For a living, I mean."
"He works in IT for the hospital I worked at before I-" She cut herself off, looking away. "Well, before I came to Clouds." She looked up, over the water. "But, uh, he works there - has for a few years, it seems." She tittered, sounding nervous. "Funny, isn't it? You work somewhere and never see them, and then the strangest of circumstances bring you together."
John nodded. Jim worked in IT. At a hospital. See, he thought, definitely not the same Jim.
"So, how did you meet?"
"He was here, in the town, last week. Visiting the clinic, helping them set up something or other." She bit her lower lip. "He... he recognised me. Said he'd wondered where I'd gone off to, thought he might not see me again..." She trailed off, closing her eyes.
John couldn't help but feel an overwhelming rush of happiness at hearing Molly sound so blissful. Usually she was a bit nervous and timid, but now...
"Sounds like he's had a bit of a crush on you, then."
Molly shrugged slightly, but there was no mistaking her smile. "A bit. I never... oh, that sounds so horrible, but I never really noticed him... but, I mean, I worked in the coroner's office, we don't need IT very often, really, and usually they come in when we're just doing post-mortems... oh, sorry! I just mean they..." She covered her mouth with her hands for a moment, looking at John with a slightly horrified expression. "I only meant they come in when we're not using the computers, that way they don't... oh, I'm so sorry."
John scooted closer and put his arm around her shoulders. "It's fine, Molly." He rubbed her upper arm gently. "Really. It's all fine." He pointed at himself with his free hand. "Doctor, remember? I've seen plenty, and med school had me doing post-mortems. Nothing about it will bother me."
Molly looked up at him appreciatively. "Sherlock's very lucky, you know."
John nearly frowned, thrown off balance by the sudden change in topic. "Sorry... he is?"
Molly nodded. "You're... you're one of the kindest men I've ever known. And Sherlock..." She looked down at their feet, splayed out in front of them at an angle. "I think he needs kind. And understanding."
John felt his stomach clench. God but he missed Sherlock in these moments. "Yeah, well." He smirked, trying to lighten the mood. "Who else is going to put up with him?"
Molly laughed, and John considered his mission a success.
They sat quietly together for a few minutes before John checked his watch, and announced that they should probably get going if they were going to meet Jim. Molly flushed again at the mention of his name, and John wondered if he looked even half as love-struck when people mentioned Sherlock. He wasn't certain what answer would be preferable.
They walked without talking, John's hands in his pockets, and Molly fiddling alternately with her hair or her fingers, until they stepped up to a small Mediterranean restaurant. Molly asked for a table for three, and they settled in.
"So what's he like, then?" John clasped his hands together, elbows propped up on the table's edge. "He must be special, to catch your interest."
Molly blushed again. "Oh, he-he's, well, he's..." She took a breath. "He's nice."
John chuckled. "Got to be a bit more than nice."
Molly played with the napkin in front of her. "He's..." She looked up at John. "He's sweet - talks about the things he wants to do for me. I... I tell him he doesn't have to but... he says he wants to, and-" She looked up at the ceiling. "-he's the first." Her eyes go wide at the implications in her wistful tone. "Oh, God, no, not that kind of first! I just mean... he's the first guy I've really noticed. Since..." She trailed off with a wince and an apologetic glance, and John nodded.
"It's fine, Molly. I know you have - or, had - a sort of crush on Sherlock." John smirked. "Can't say I blame you." He winked, and Molly giggled. "Tell me more about him."
Molly took in a deep breath, ready to start talking again, but then blushed and grinned. "Jim!"
John turned, standing up and extending his hand in one smooth motion before he even saw anyone. "Hello, pleased to..."
His voice failed him as he saw the short dark hair, the dark eyes. A teeshirt and tan jeans had replaced the bespoke suit, but there was no question.
It was absolutely the same Jim.
"...meet you." John stared as Jim took his hand.
"You must be John. Molly's mentioned you."
John swallowed. That voice, the same Irish lilt he'd heard the first time, but now so soft and kind and wrong. He forced a smile as they shook hands. "Did she? All good things, I hope."
Jim giggled a bit, looking at Molly adoringly. "Of course. You know Molly - she's never a bad word to say against anyone." He looked back at John. "So innocent. It's a rare quality."
John stiffened. "It is." He tightened his grip on Jim's hand. "So you should know." He stepped a bit closer. "I won't take the thought of you breaking her heart very well."
They stared at each other, grips strong and tight, and John saw something flicker in Jim's eyes. Amusement? Intrigue? Understanding? He wasn't sure, but whatever it was, Jim gave a small nod and loosened his grip. John had to physically restrain himself from yanking his hand back and wiping it on his trousers.
"Joining us for lunch, then? John?"
Jim's smile made John want to wretch. He smirked in response.
"Actually, I can see you two want some privacy. Perhaps another time."
"Oh, you don't have to..." Molly looked worried, as though she'd managed to offend John. He leaned in and gave her a quick, one-armed squeeze around her shoulders.
"If anyone understands new love, it's me, Molly." He smiled reassuringly at her. "I promise, it's no trouble." He looked back at Jim as he straightened up. "Take care of her."
Jim looked down at Molly, who gazed up at him with affection and a bit of wonder. "Of course." He glanced back at John. "I swear that not a single hair on her pretty little head will come to any harm whilst she's with me."
"I'll hold you to that."
And then John was gone, nearly running out of the restaurant. He waited until he was no longer in sight of it, and then the shaking began.
He took a long, tremulous breath, and pulled out his phone. Hi fingers shook as he scrolled to his contacts, but he forced them under his control as he finally found the number he was looking for.
The phone had barely finished its first ring when it was answered. "Good afternoon, Mycroft Holmes phone."
"Uh, hi, this..." John frowned. He hadn't expected someone other than Mycroft to answer it, so the woman's voice threw him for a moment. "This is John Watson, I need to speak with-"
"Ah, yes, just a minute."
John scratched at his cheek idly as he walked, phone pressed to his ear.
"Ah, John. How nice to-"
"There's a problem."
Silence greeted him for a moment before Mycroft spoke again, and John could almost hear his deductions as facts slid into place - not a rude man by nature, interruption indicates problem is serious and not being exaggerated, more data needed. "Tell me."
John launched into what had just happened with Jim, explaining that he knew about what had happened between Jim and Sherlock, and that he was worried about Molly, and then...
"I just don't understand why he's even involving her when he's already texting me constantly-" John stopped, closed his eyes. "Ah, shit..."
Mycroft was quiet still, and now John could picture him pursing his lips as his eyes catalogued John's body language, considering what John had just told him and deducing every possible meaning. He was preparing himself for a serious dressing-down when Mycroft finally spoke.
"Has he threatened you?"
That... was not what John was expecting. Not at all what he'd been expecting. He frowned. "I... sort of, he... he implies without ever even saying anything that sounds like a threat, but, well, you know him."
"Indeed." Mycroft sounded far away, as though he was lost in another world. "He's quite clever, that one."
No, not lost. Admiring.
"Oh god, you think he's brilliant." John didn't even try to keep the disdain from his voice.
"He is brilliant, John."
"Calling you was a mistake."
"Brilliance is not determined by motives, John. It's a simple fact. Jim Moriarty is brilliant. Devious, underhanded, and someone I'd take great pleasure in personally squeezing the life from with my bare hands, but all of that in no way negates his intelligence."
John's mouth fell open in disbelief. Of all things he'd ever believed Mycroft capable of feeling, murderous would have been at the bottom of the list. Or possibly not on the list at all. Mycroft seemed to exist in a permanent state of detachment and utter cleanliness. Surely he never dirtied his hands with anything...
"I've surprised you."
"A bit." John couldn't lie - with Mycroft, it was pointless, even over the phone.
"Good to know." There was a smile in the words, and John couldn't help the small grin that came over him.
"So... is this where you tell me I need to talk to Sherlock? Tell him what Jim's been saying?"
"I think it would be best, for the moment, if we leave Sherlock out of that particular... mishap."
Mishap. Like it was something so benign, so simple and unaffecting.
"Yeah, OK." John started walking again, finding his way back towards the lake. "What do you need me to do?"
"Can you forward your conversations to me?"
John cringed, but nodded as he answered. "Yeah, I... I can do that."
"If it will help, I swear to you that no judgment shall come from me. I merely want to analyse the tone, not the content."
John sighed. "Alright."
"Please forward any future messages to me also."
John looked out at the water. "Hmm?"
"I believe that you would not be remiss to tell Sherlock about Jim seeing Molly. He will likely be able to provide some valuable insight into... what you might expect to see."
John swallowed. "Alright. So, leave out the texts, but mention Molly. Anything else?"
Mycroft was silent. "Tell him I..." John straightened up, noting the sadness in Mycroft's voice. "Tell him I hope he's well."
John took in a deep breath. "I will." He hoped those two words conveyed his understanding. From the small sound he heard on Mycroft's end, he was certain they had. "Thank you."
"Good day, John."
The call ended, and John lowered the phone, staring out across the lake still. Tell him. But don't tell him everything.
Deceit was not something John liked. Keeping the texts from Sherlock had been one thing when he was keeping them from everyone. But now... Mycroft knew. And part of John was utterly disgusted at the fact.
The rest of him knew that right now, Sherlock - for all his haughtiness and general disdain when it came to feelings and emotions - was not in the best form for dealing with certain things, especially those pertaining to issues involving John. That was why he'd never mentioned the texts before, after all - Sherlock was fighting off a depression brought on by their forced separation, and the last thing John wanted was to cause him any more stress.
He growled, and leaned back against the bench. A breeze picked up, and he turned his face into it, letting out a slow breath before he made another phone call.
This time, the phone was just starting it's fourth ring when a welcome voice came over the line. "John?"
John chuckled. "Still at the party, then?"
Sherlock huffed, and spoke through gritted teeth. "They refuse to end it."
John heard the background noise begin to quiet, and he could picture Sherlock doing his best to slip away from everything. There was another voice then, close but not actually talking into the phone. "Sherlock, where are-"
The phone seemed to have been pulled away from Sherlock's mouth now, his words quieter but still audible. "I'll be back, Victor, I need to take this."
"You'd better come back, I'll be here waiting."
Sherlock sighed heavily, and John felt his gut clench. Ah, jealousy, how kind of you to show. But there was nothing to be jealous of. Sherlock may be many things - was certainly most of those things - but he was not unfaithful. John was sure of that.
A moment later, the background noise was gone, and Sherlock was speaking into the phone again. "I need you. Here."
John's gut tightened even more at the longing in Sherlock's voice. "Soon, real soon."
"Perhaps sooner than you think."
John frowned. "What?"
"I'm... asking Mycroft for a favor."
Well, that makes two of us, it seems. "Oh? How'd that feel?"
"Like having all of my teeth pulled without an anesthetic.."
John snorted. "I bet. So, what's this favor?"
Sherlock was quiet a moment. "Getting you here a week earlier."
John felt a golf ball settle in the middle of his throat. "That would mean..."
"Yes. You'd be here next weekend instead."
John sucked in a breath. "Do you... do you really think he'd go for that?"
"I don't know. But I... I had to try. I can't..." Sherlock cleared his throat. "I'm lost without you, John."
He shouldn't feel a thrill at those words. Shouldn't feel a surge of pride in the way Sherlock sounds so dependant upon him. But he does, and it feels marvelous.
"I feel much the same without you around." He says it and means it, and it is one of the scariest facts he's ever known.
They were quiet then, just breathing and existing together over a phone line, and John squeezed his eyes shut to keep out the tears that threatened. "Uh, listen. I... I needed to talk to you about something."
"Oh..." That one word was somehow able to convey the tension John could picture all over Sherlock's posture. "I see-"
"No you don't, stop thinking that. It's nothing to do with us."
"You said you needed to talk to me. Generally the phrasing, 'we need to talk,' and its variants are used to dictate the beginning of a break-up - or at the very least, serious issues between two people, often leading into a break-up, am I wrong?"
John couldn't stop his silent laughter. "No, you're not wrong. Sorry, that was a poor choice of words then. I need to... inform you of a situation, regarding a friend. Better?"
"Much, thank you."
"Good. So." He once again began to detail the situation regarding his near lunch-date, taking much better care to leave out the fact that he was receiving texts from Jim this time.
When he finished, he was certain he could hear the gears and cogs in Sherlock's brain working at top speed. "So, uh... what... do you think we should do?"
It was a day to be surprised by the Holmes brothers, it seemed, because John felt completely gobsmacked by that word. "Nothing? Sherlock, you can't be serious."
"I am serious."
John rubbed his free hand over his face, wondering if it was possible he'd end up wiping the whole thing off himself one day, the motion had become so repetitive in his life of late. "So we just, what, sit back and let him-"
"He won't do anything to her as long as she knows nothing about our... past." Sherlock took a deep breath. "And I trust you haven't been talking much about that."
"I haven't talked about it at all, why would I?"
"People do things they wouldn't normally do for a variety of reasons, usually starting with money and notoriety-"
"Yes, alright, I get it, but that's not me." John's mouth twisted unhappily. "You do know that, don't you?"
Sherlock was suspiciously quiet for several beats of John's heart. "I... try to remember that. You are very different from anyone else I've ever met. I hope you know that."
"I do know that." John's voice was gentle. "I do." He stretched his legs out in front of him, accepting Sherlock's decision about Molly and Jim. "Alright, we do nothing. For now." He felt the addendum was needed. Sherlock didn't protest. "You should probably-"
John sighed again. "Right. I'll... I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Of course. The very first moment I'm able to be there, I'll be at your side."
John pursed his lips. "Have fun."
"I doubt it. But... thank you."
They hung up, and John pocketed his phone again, leaning forward and putting his head in his hands, elbows on his knees, thinking about how much he'd like to punch Jim, punch him until he stopped fighting back, until he stopped moving, until he stopped breathing. For Sherlock. For Molly. Even, a bit, for Mycroft.
Doing nothing was going to be a lot harder than he'd thought.
My apologies for the length of time it took to get this one up. Life. It happens.
Things you may be interested in knowing about:
- The Consulting 5-year-old has officially become The Consulting 6-year-old. I'm still not sure how this happened. She is also very much looking forward to the next episode of Doctor Who, and can recite the rules for the Weeping Angels. Yes, it really is as adorable as it sounds.
- 221B-Con is happening in Atlanta, GA, US-of-A: April 13-14, 2013. It should prove to be a veritable cornucopia of Sherlock Holmes-iness. I will be there. You should come find me, if you've the chance! Google it for a bit more info - they're lining up panels and activities and such now! (This will also be my very first con - ever, in the history of ever, so I'll likely be walking around with a very dazed and excited look on my face. That may help in spotting me.)
-This chapter may, in fact, have attempted to kill me with it's sheer mass. When uploaded, it stood at 3714 words. There is no proof, but it's possible I cried.
And that's it, for the moment. Sorry to have kept you waiting, but I hope that you enjoy this chapter anyway! Cheers, and DFTBA!