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The River Variations

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“You were my/roaring orchestra/demanding my attention/as you stood/proudly on the stage.

I was/the background music/humming distantly from/your/laptop/only to soothe/your troubled head/when you focused/on everything else.”

ao-oa

*

John Watson never gets to finish his toast in the mornings. 

Then again, that’s a fairly common occurrence; everyday, in fact.  After all, John has spent the majority of his life being shot at and so these sorts of things tend to go by the wayside--being normal and actually finishing toast, whatever that actually means these days.   Upon returning from Afghanistan, before all of this new normal had happened, before he met the mad man with the violin and the skull for a friend, John had interviewed for a night surgical position that he didn’t particularly want at a dingy small hospital in a slummy cubbyhole of West London.  When the drab looking interviewer in the long white coat who sat behind a dusty desk amidst her collection of porcelain cats had asked him why he left his last job, John had let a lopsided grin shatter through his usually professional demeanor, folded his hands neatly in front of him, and responded with I was growing tired of people trying to kill me.  It’s not normal for a doctor and their patients to have the same mortality rates. 

Apparently, John’s humour is a lost cause on some people, but not Sherlock. 

Never Sherlock.

“I—shit, Jesus—“

“Your reflexes have decreased substantially over the last several days.  You’re not experiencing any vertigo, nor any aphasia, ergo that rules out any serious ailments, and yet your colouring still appears to be relatively pallid.  You’re simply exhausted.  A tip for future reference: you might sleep more if you spent less time watching various pornographic acts on your laptop.”

John doesn’t ask how (useless) and instead bends down to pick up the rolled up newspaper that has just cracked against his skull with startling accuracy.  Sherlock is staring at him with an absolutely Cheshire grin and leaning against the doorway of their kitchen, charcoal coat and scarf making him look miles and miles long.  His hands are tucked neatly in his pockets, too neatly in fact, which can only mean one thing, simultaneously good and bad at the moment.  Good because Mrs. Hudson will be pleased that she doesn’t have to potentially avoid any more experimental Tibetan death traps or whatnot upon bringing Sherlock a nice cuppa in the afternoon, bad because it’s 9:07am and John has just showered and dressed but has yet to eat his toast.  To counter this one thing, John returns to pressing his palms against the countertop and staring into the toaster, waiting for his toast to finish bloody toasting.  With Sherlock here now, the chances of actually getting to consume it are diminishing by the second.  

“Nathan Garradib—familiar name?”

“Just—give me one moment,” John sighs as releases one palm to unfurl the newspaper titled with OCTOBER BRINGS NEW DEVELOPMENT IN GARRIDEB CORPORATE MERGER.  He skims the article for three seconds on the kitchen countertop before pushing it away and returning to waiting,  “Errrr—no.  Should I have?”

Sherlock raises his eyebrows, visibly pleased.  “New client. Been hired to do a little background check, or so it seems.”

First case in a week and a half, thank God.  John had confiscated the gun by last Thursday preemptively, and if he wasn’t mistaken, the doctor had woken up on the sofa two nights ago after having dozed off while watching telly to find Sherlock sitting in front of him, hands clasped together and with a calculating gaze etched upon his face, looking very much like he wanted to take a scalpel and carve open the detective’s vena cava out of pure boredom.   A bit not good, that.   And yet, it’s better than watching the slow self-destructive gyre of Hurricane Sherlock, per usual.  The detective would peel off layers of his own skin and fillet them out of sheer boredom if he were allowed to.   Above all else, John is a doctor and so this would be incredibly hard to witness. 

 “Should be interesting,”  John says as the toast pops up.  Finally.

“Should be boring,” Sherlock counters dryly, “Nothing unusual, nothing fantastical.  The CEO of Garrideb here in London, Nathan, was approached by a lawyer from America with a corporation conveniently of the same name who has claimed that he is being offered a large inheritance if he can successfully merger three individual corporations named Garrideb together as one.  Nathan’s corporation is a debt consolidation service, the American one is apparently a credit union.  Serendipitously, some sort of new third and entirely unrelated corporation, yet again named Garrideb, just emerged in Birmingham of all places—and no, it’s not Nathan’s, it’s an entirely different company, a pharmaceutical company, apparently.   Fortuitous?  I think not.  This case is nothing more than a simple scam, a convenient and necessary emergence of an obviously false third party to claim this supposed inheritance, and an unknown benefactor ready to bequeath a very large sum of money to all three corporations if this merger goes through, or so it seems.   I’ll most likely have it solved by this afternoon, once we’re through with Lestrade’s droning on about the ostensible importance of evidentiary processes, of course.” 

John almost has the toast by the corner.  “Oh yes, we wouldn’t want to you know, follow those or anything.”  

And yet, the doctor turns around to hear the detective’s inevitable retort, Sherlock is gone with a single pivot of a heel and the flap of a coat.  John sighs once and then tosses the uneaten toast on a plate on the countertop, leaving it to grow cold and forlorn as he pulls on his jacket and pockets his keys.  Running after Sherlock on cases is not Afghanistan, it’s not leaving your job because of quite almost being bloody murdered, but the adrenaline, when it comes, is brilliant.  Brilliant like an imploding supernova which is what John is about to do, implode, if he doesn’t get some food, and rather quickly. 

Sherlock of course notices this, but he would never tell John.  Never. 

Thirty minutes later, across the street from the Yard, the detective leads John into quite possibly the world’s smallest Starbucks that is squeezed tightly into the row of businesses and makes him order both coffee and a bagel.  No toast, but that’s normal.  No ticking of machine guns in London, either.  And for John, this weird sense of returning to normalcy is inexorably beautiful, like the red-orange reflection of the sunset he used to watch while standing on the banks the Helmand River while in Afghanistan. 

It was so beautiful that if someone actually wanted to die, they would often drown themselves in that river.  It didn’t matter who, really, local villagers who had lost a loved one, sometimes distraught members of the Army, they would all wash up several days later, half buried in the muddy sand, bloated, and/or picked by fish to the absolute bone.    And so, while watching that sunset, John often wondered what it would be like to succumb to the weight of the soaked cloth of his uniform and be dragged under by the current and buried in the sand and mud-red silt.   A slow death, drowning is, but not a glorious one, not the death of a solider and so while the allure appealed to many, it didn’t appeal to John in the least, even after numbly sitting with his hands clasped together tightly in the command tent and watching the grainy video of his best mate and the redheaded female lieutenant that he had fucked last week have their heads simultaneously lopped off by Afghan insurgents.

He had made the mistake of telling that story to Sherlock one night while sitting in the living room at the flat, about how people liked to drown themselves in the Helmand. 

“And you know, it was ridiculous, really—sentiment, I know, you probably wouldn’t get it.  People do really stupid things when they love someone, drown for them, even.  Hell, if it was the villagers, sometimes even family members would watch them do it from the river bank.  Sickening, really. ” 

“Oh yes, fascinating, John.  Your elucidations on sociological normatives are groundbreaking, really ground breaking.”  Bored, per usual, but then, “Wait—they do?  Why would they do that?”

“Sometimes, yes.  They say that love is watching someone die, after all.” 

A long pause. 

“It would be beautiful,”  Sherlock had said somewhat absentmindedly as he had tucked the violin back under the crook of his chin, “to watch you drown and then bring you back to life again.”

Oh yes, John had though as he pushed himself out of his chair to take a walk in the night air, to get away from this repressed psychopath, his repressed psychopath of a flatmate,  Just fucking lovely.

*

Two days into the case and Sherlock has it all figured out, or so he says.   To be fair, he says that a lot though and throughout their time together, John’s learned that there’s approximately a 7% chance that he’ll be incorrect on some level.   Statistics and nothing more.   

He would never tell this to Sherlock, however.  Never. 

Sherlock is fervently scribbling on the white board in an empty briefing room at the Yard. Lestrade and John are watching him, arms crossed, and looking rather skeptical as if the detective is writing out his thought process in ancient Atlantean or tongues perhaps, which, knowing Sherlock, he actually might be doing at the moment. 

“All together now, three corporations named Garrideb.  One, the one with the lawyer from America, we’ll call that the American Garrideb.  My client, the CEO of the real Garradib, while eccentric, has been drawn in by the first’s promise of a split inheritance if he convinces the merger of the third corporation—Birmingham Garrideb, that is—to actually happen.  Hence, three individual corporations named Garrideb, the first and third obviously being fraudulent institutions, with my client’s being the only true business.  The lawyer from first Garrideb is from New York, and when I say from New York, I really mean that he was born in Chicago, has an illegitimate child there that belongs to his first and only high school girlfriend, is of Danish decent, has ran three marathons, and his parents owned a meat packing business.   He went to undergrad at Columbia, obviously on scholarship, before being accepted into NYU law where he failed the bar exam twice before being accepted at a mediocre law firm as a mediocre corporate lawyer until he was curiously hired on by the American Garrideb Corporation.  More importantly, he inexplicably has a JP Morgan Palladium card in his wallet, I saw it when he paid for lunch for the four of us this afternoon.  You have to be worth $30 million American dollars at least to even own that card—ridiculous Americans and their love of ostentatious tokens of superfluous wealth.  Doesn’t come from money and yet has one of these prestigious Palladium cards in his name.  Ergo, this supposed inheritance that is equivalent to 150 billion pounds has to have some sort of ties to the seedy underworld of banking corporations if the representative from the first and fake Garrideb is a) that ridiculously wealthy now, considering the price of flats in New York city these days and b) that involved with the Morgan corporation, at least on some level.  If he indeed has fabricated the Birmingham Garrideb as I suspect he has, there are most likely black market pharmaceuticals thrown into the mix as well.   Obvious.” 

“Obvious,”  Lestrade repeats weakly, tapping his finger against the second’s name on the board, ”I’ll agree it does seem a bit too convenient.  Two men, corporations of the same name, third shows up from nowhere and now all three are able to split 150 billion pounds, Christ. “

“Yes, precisely, yes—“  Sherlock is continuing on, looking somewhat like a one armed conductor at the moment as he gestures in the direction of the board.  Little does he know that the symphony he’s working with is only ever comprised of two people, both of who have no idea how to play the proper instruments, especially when the detective is this worked up into a lather.  “Furthermore, where on earth does one man, this supposed relative of the CEO of the American Garrideb in America, even get 150 billion pounds to distribute in the merger?  He’s not on the Forbes list, nor has anyone ever been under that name.  This whole thing is some sort of a scam, investment most likely.  Not exactly our area.”

Lestrade just rolls his eyes.    

“Arrest the representative from the third—no, the first—the lawyer,”  Sherlock diagrams with x’s, “the American one. Case closed.  No merger, no supposed inheritance.  Everything goes back to normal.  Ridiculously simple.” 

“I can’t just—“ Lestrade exhales as he scrubs his face, “Sherlock, I think that we actually have to wait for some actual evidence first that this is fraud.  As far as I can see, he’s done nothing actually wrong besides show up at your client’s door and claimed represent a corporation of the same name.  Plus, there are international laws that I have to deal with since he’s an American, if indeed anything is amiss.  Not to mention the paperwork, Jesus.”

“Oh, evidentiary procedures are useless, as always,”  the detective huffs  and to be fair evidentiary procedures are the last thing on John’s mind too.  His mind is currently on his back, and his back bloody hurts from spending all last night shuffling through box upon box of bank statements from a company in a country that doesn’t even have a proper monarchy.  He presses the heel of his hand into his spine and then fists a yawn.  Absurd, all this is sometimes. 

“Pull their international tax records,”  Sherlock is commanding now as he sets his hands on his hips and continues to stare at his own scrawled writing.  Jesus.  “Perhaps you can arrest this supposed lawyer for tax fraud, or at least tip off the proper authorities.  Call my brother.  He can alert the FBI, if he’s not freelancing for them in regards to this already.”

“Well, aren’t we feeling ambitious today?”  Lestrade mutters and leaves the room as John stifles another jaw cracking yawn this time into his elbow.  Tax records tonight, apparently.  No sleep again. Brilliant. 

“You’re obviously exhausted,”  Sherlock says as he does a double take, catching the motion out of the corner of his eye.  For a split second, John can see concern flit against Sherlock’s face, but then it’s gone and apparently he’s gone mad and imagining all sorts of things because what comes next is entirely unexpected, “You need sleep.”

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,”  John jokes because that’s how he does these things, joke about them, “You need my help.”

“Bad metaphor,”  is the half mused response that his quip earns him as Sherlock turns to face the scrawled diagram once again, “Cerebral 'death' can occur approximately from two to five minutes into hypoxia.  As you’re well aware, one can be brain dead for quite a long time until actual death.  However, once you are indeed brain dead, there is little biochemical activity necessary to establish complete REM or full blown sleep-wake cycles.  Hence, you cannot sleep in death of any kind.  Besides, I’ve already heard that used poorly once before—where do I know that quote from?”

“It’s a Bond quote,”  sighs John,  “Last Friday.  The flat.  Die Another Day?  It’s a bloody Bond quote.”

“Space on the hard drive, John.”

“Right, okay, not important I get it.”

Sherlock waves him off as he begins writing on the board again with a hard frown.  “I only remember things that are really truly important and your base pop culture references aren’t one of them.  It’s disgusting that the human mind can find movies such as those entertaining and quite frankly, it repulses me that you do as well.”

And perhaps it’s because John is just tired, and that he’s just been insulted for about the sixteenth time today, or that he needs some more coffee right now, but he snaps.  Really truly snaps, just for the briefest of seconds. “What do you remember then?”

A three second pause as Sherlock looks over and into his soul. 

And then the completely unexpected.  

“You were born at 12:58am on a Tuesday night in Cambridge.  It rained that day, your mother was on her way to your father’s recreational league football match when her water broke.  You went to primary school at Priory, your first kiss was in year one and with a girl named Elizabeth on the playground, you played the clarinet in your school orchestra—not well, but it mattered to your mum that you did something extracurricular that was neither football nor rugby.” 

John makes a vague noise, or at least tries to.

 “Your high school years were punctuated with all of the various embarrassing stories that the majority of adolescents face and you’d prefer if I skipped over elucidating them at present.  You went to medical school in Edinburgh, did residency at Barts and RAMC, graduated second out of your class of 140, and took a position as army doctor to offset the cost of your student loans.  While in Afghanistan, your greatest fear was dying before getting the opportunity to fuck,” his voice drawls languidly over the word in an obscene way that cracks through John’s body like lightning through dry wood and turns the doctor on far more than he anticipated, “that redheaded lieutenant from Company A.  She was captured and summarily executed a week later after you finally achieved that goal and you still feel guilty for it.  Life history, complete as far as you’ll let me go at present.  Physical characteristics:  You clench your left fist with more vigor than your right, you are —“

And John needs to stop this immediately, because whatever this is, it’s not okay.  “Okay, alright, I get it—you have enough information on me to blackmail me at any given time in my life.  That’s very nice.  Lovely.”

Sherlock looks slapped, like a beaten puppy or a child clutching a broken toy as he stands and presses the dry erase marker into the stained white board until it bleeds just a dribble of blue ink that begins to trickle towards the equator as the seconds tick on.  He turns back to his diagram and continues writing again. 

“Lovely, you always say that.  Why lovely?”  Sherlock murmurs, half to himself and half to John, “What I’d much prefer to know is if you think that it’s good?”

John doesn’t know quite how to answer and so he just stares, clears his throat, and changes the subject.  Both adjectives are entirely wrong.

It’s not okay.  And it’s not good, no.  Those were not the first words that came to his mind; that was not the noise that he was trying to make. 

Fantastic. 

*

 Outside of CEO’s flat.  Meeting occurring.  -SH

American Garrideb arrived. –SH

American Garrideb left. –SH

Real Garrideb went out, returned 30 minutes later.–SH

American Garrideb back now.  –SH

No sign of Birmingham Garrideb still.  Predictable. –SH

Both left for the evening, presumably to the pub down the street. -SH

Broke into flat.  First numismatist to ever set a triple alarm; unexpected. –SH

WHAT THE HELL. -JW

Mycroft should be calling you shortly. –SH

Bail hearing set for 5:30pm this evening.  Don’t bother wearing a suit. –SH           

*

John Watson is not gay.

And yet in moments like these, he’s not quite sure what exactly to call his thought process besides ‘in potential need of recalibration’.  He’d thrown out labels in Uni when he kissed another bloke on a dare, resulting in twelve shots being slid one after the other down the bar by his (mostly female) mates, and bedding two blonde twins named Mandie and Melanie later that night.

And so he’s not gay, but he’s been thinking about Sherlock’s response last night at the Yard and it’s intriguing to say the least.  The fact that he takes up a considerable amount of the detective’s hard drive should normally mean something, but then again it’s Sherlock and he’s an entire light year and a parallel universe ahead of normal at times.  And so now John sits and thinks about normal and how their normal is a good normal, the kind without toast, and his honest response to Sherlock’s little outburst was fantastic and that he might actually really like all of this, whatever it is and could be, if it really does mean something.  To say that he’s not attracted to Sherlock Holmes would be a blatant lie, John is pulled towards him like the gravitational ellipse whipping around the sun, like most men are pulled to all sorts of dangerous beautiful things like sports cars and cage diving with great white sharks.   He’s pulled to him because he alone has been given the sole ability to tame this exquisite creature, this sociopathic coal-haired mad-eyed being, and because Sherlock in turn sees something that even John doesn’t see beyond his own average averageness and believes that the doctor is equally as fantastic and brilliant and remarkable in an entirely different way. 

It’s maddening, to say the least.

But does he love him?  You love the people that you kill for, John supposes, you love the people that you make tea for each and every night, that you feed because they are too erratic and obsessive to feed themselves as they silently pace holes in the living room of your flat.  You love the people that make you laugh so hard that your belly aches, that know your eating patterns, that glance at you across the room while during a stuffy dinner party at their brother’s mansion and you know, just know what they’re thinking at all times.  You love the people that once they enter your life, you realize that you have been irrevocably altered and there is no way that you can ever go back to being the same person who you were before.  You love them because they become a facet of yourself, your best facet, your only facet, your best friend and at times, the rawest and truest other half of your soul.  You love them when you realize that life would be utterly colourless without waking up to them potentially drugging your coffee, or using your sock drawer to hide a box of poisonous spiders from your landlady, or telling you what an idiot you are, or dressing up as ninjas all in the name of solving a case. 

The realization smacks John across the face quite irreverently. Yes, in this way (and quite possibly every way), he loves Sherlock Holmes. 

Fuck.

He would never tell Sherlock this, of course.  Sherlock would most likely view this, whatever it is, as an experiment, after all.  Best not get emotions entangled. 

And so here they are, back at the flat after a day spent partially in jail (for Sherlock) and partially at a Continuing Education conference on biomedical ethics that was required to renew one medical license (for John.)  John is sitting in the living room of 221B, typing away at his laptop that rests carefully on his thighs and finishing a roll of chocolate digestives in between somewhat absentmindedly running his lips over the rim of a half empty cup of Earl Grey tea.   Sherlock is at the window, alternating in between scratching tempos in 3/4ths and staccatos across a lined sheet of fresh parchment and flicking the violin bow against his leg.  The sky is dark, but the bright autumn sun peaks just slightly over the London skyline, lighting Sherlock’s inky and errant curls seemingly from within.  The glow is refractive, and makes the detective look tinged soft and otherworldly fire bright.  It’s very distracting, twisting the sinews of John’s heart in this way that he’s not even sure they could be twisted, potentially ever and least of all by his flatmate.  The mad man scratching and flicking lit only by the inky and fiery backdrop reminds John of the river in Afghanistan and why people chose to drown in something so,

Beautiful.

He would never, never tell Sherlock this, of course.

“Have you ever heard that due to the laws of aerodynamics and physics, the ability of bees to fly should,  for all intents and purposes, be impossible?”

John’s head snaps away from the man framed by the rectangle of the window and the sunset, albeit momentarily.  He hadn’t even realized that he had been staring in the first place.  If there’s a moral here, it’s confounding the doctor, however since he’s John, he will willingly play along.

“I—er-, okay.  Why,” he licks his lips once, sets his tea down, and returns to typing, “does this even matter right now?”

“Information, John,”  Sherlock tuts as he flicks the bow absentmindedly against his leg as he paces back and forth, “You asked what was on my hard drive, and here you have it.”

“I asked you last night.  Apparently you have a) far too much information on me, b) the various and entirely gruesome ways to murder people, and c) bees?   I am just. So. Enthused. Why does it matter?  Useless facts like that are the types that you delete, aren’t they?”

“Irrelevant,” Sherlock mutters as he stops to scrawl across the page.  John can see his loopy handwriting from across the room. 

“You’re composing again, what are you composing?”

“It’s a variation.  Allegro molto.  You’ll know when I’m finished,”  Sherlock merely shrugs lackadaisically as he sets the pen down, flicks the bow against his leg once more, and tucks the end of the violin back under the crook of his chin.  The detective begins to play again and the notes filter through the flat and seem to wind tightly around the doctor with delicate and tenuous strings.  John watches the detective work the bow with precise dexterity and wonders, just wonders, what it would be like to have those slender fingers play against warm skin, trace the angle of his jawline, memorize every pore along the planes of his chest, brush the curve of his hipbone with Sherlock quietly sliding into his mouth, fitting perfectly like a puzzle piece and moaning ever so soft and low, John’s hands tangling in those sweat damp curls as Sherlock easily flips him and presses his shoulders to the mattress, Sherlock’s mouth breathing against his cock through thin cotton pants, that wet, glorious tongue working against crease of his inner thigh--what the hell—what the bloody fucking hell--

He shifts uncomfortably once and Sherlock pauses mid-refrain to glance back with a bemused smile.  He stares at John for three seconds longer than normal. 

“Are you alright?”

John clears his throat and shifts his laptop once more before returning to typing.  “Quite.”

They sit in silence, John clacking away and Sherlock errantly playing for God only knows how long.  It’s comfortable really.  Very domestic. 

“Well, I’m off to bed,”  John finally says as he snaps the laptop shut sometime later,  “And for the love of all that is holy, Mrs. Hudson’s asked you three times to not to blast the heater like you’ve been doing every night this week.  Autumn in London is not that cold—it’s only October, after all.” 

A pause.  And then a correction said much slower than normal, “You’re correct…it’s fall,”

 “Excuse me?”

“Fall,” Sherlock says as his face lights up like a Christmas tree, “Before I was so unceremoniously arrested, I had a chance to read through Nathan Garradeb’s emails.  The representative of the Birmingham Garrideb had emailed both of the other two and spoke of the merger taking place this fall.  True Britons would normally use the word ‘autumn’; ‘fall’ is an Americanism.  Concrete proof that the Birmingham Garrideb Corporation is a fake, fabricated by the American Garrideb one, most likely at the hands of the lawyer. “

John snorts fondly.  Sherlock sets down his bow and violin, looking rather pleased. 

“Hand me my phone—I need to text Lestrade,”  the detective says and then softer, just marginally softer as he indicates John, “Brilliant.”

*

Later that night, this semi-formulated hypothesis of John’s--that maybe, just maybe whatever all this is might actually mean something-- is further confirmed as he awakes in the middle of the night to find a gorgeous slender line of angles and limbs clad in a dressing gown, a soft v-neck t shirt, and tartan pyjama bottoms crawling into his bed.  Without saying a word, Sherlock irreverently flips the duvet cover down and flops in between John’s sheets.  As the detective presses his cheekbone to the center of the pillow and looks at him with impossibly cerulean eyes, the doctor turns to face him and inhales deeply, just barely catching the scent of Sherlock’s unwashed hair that smells like shampoo and traces of nitrobenzene that he was experimenting with in the kitchen earlier when John had gone down for a glass of water.

Sherlock Holmes is in his bed.

 It’s intoxicating.    Fuck, is it good?  He should have said God yes, and grabbed that man by the scarf last night.  It’s better than good, it’s you, he wants to say right now, but he doesn’t. 

The doctor opens his mouth and closes it once, before finding his voice again.  God only knows how many minutes have passed.

“Fancy a bedtime story, then?”

“Heaters broken and Mrs. Hudson is asleep at this hour,”  Sherlock says somewhat lackadaisically before he rolls over and tucks himself into a ball of limbs, “It’s been several days and although I dislike succumbing to the more base needs of the human body, I need sleep to keep my mind sharp.  Premise: it’s cold.  Heat rises, you are at the highest point in the flat, ergo, I will sleep here.”

“Oh right, yeah,”  John says, burying an almost miniscule grin in his pillow as he continues to watch the back of Sherlock’s head, very, very thankful that the detective is turned away from him, “Just…you know, go on.  Anything else you’d like to take from me while you’re at it?  My blood, perhaps—is it more oxygenated than yours?  Help you think better?”

“Stop talking and go back to sleep.”

“What did Lestrade say?” 

“He’s doing a bit of further research, now go to sleep.”

John wakes up the next morning to the sensation of a single angular hipbone pressing against his spine.  It would be easy—too simple actually, just a misplaced arm over his hips or perhaps an errant nuzzle to close the gap that they’ve both been hurtling towards in by inch. It would just take one thing, one little step to drag them both under.  But to say that they’re both inexperienced at this, John with a bloke and Sherlock with anyone, would be an understatement and instead John just rolls so that he’s lying belly up and lets the cadence of their quiet breaths lull him back to sleep as he ironically enjoys the feeling of being stabbed in the side by Sherlock Holmes. 

Sometime later, a text sets his mobile abuzz against the grained wood of his bedside table and a pale hand reaches over to silence it immediately, the message still unread.  It reminds John of elegantly swatting a fly, actually. Since the table is on the opposite side of the bed from Sherlock, this of course means that the detective is now currently lying on top of John which is just a fortuitous development in all…this.  His shirt has ridden up, just a bit, and John can feel smooth cool skin pressing against his own warm belly as he supports himself with one hand, stretched over John just barely.    

John opens his eyes to look up at Sherlock as the detective deliberately changes the phone setting from ‘vibrate’  to ‘silent’ and drops the mobile phone to the bedside table, now forgotten.  A hand finds Sherlock’s hips and he feels the detective’s breath hitch just slightly as Sherlock inadvertently squirms against his palm.   

John can hardly breathe. He's already half hard and desperately thinking of anything and everything but the fact that this man is flush against him and bloody squirming right now to prevent the inevitable.  

Nearly twenty seconds later, they’re still in the same position. 

“Do you want to move now?”

“Not particularly,”   Sherlock muses, as he presses his hips even further into John’s and Jesus, this is bad.  Those angles hurt, actually, but he really doesn’t care right now. Not in the least because there’s something far better to be worried about and it’s all John can see and smell and breathe because its lying on top of him and touching him and its tilting its head to show off how its v-neck shirt has slipped from its shoulder and the slender line of that pristine neck, that exquisite neck just pleading to be bit into and bruised and claimed, that fucking gorgeous neck,  “Do you?”

“Not at all,”  the doctor murmurs quietly before he reaches for the back of the detective’s head, slides his fingers into sleep mussed hair, and kisses Sherlock Holmes senseless.

*

The problem isn’t that he’s just kissed his flatmate, the problem is that the text message that rattled against the oak bedside table goes unread as John stuffs his phone into his pocket after kissing Sherlock for approximately a minute and ten seconds before the detective rolls off of John (now flushed and aching and hard), to answer to the ring of his own mobile.  It’s one of the Garridebs, their client Garrideb (or someone who sounds remarkably like him as they later learn), requesting a meeting at his flat about some documents that he has received from the American Garrideb corporation.  The problem is not that John resignedly dresses as Sherlock waves an annoyed hand in his direction and leaves to speak to Nathan, the problem is not that John doesn’t have the time for a frustrated wank before Sherlock pulls him out the door, the problem is that a simple text message didn’t get read and that this text is essential and fundamental to not only solving the case, but potentially saving John Watson’s life as well.   The text message, unread, actually reads thus:

lawyer from the american garrideb corp is actually a serial killer james winters, top of america’s most wanted.  fbi getting involved, stay out for now, very dangerous situation. –GL

Two more also go unread, because John’s phone is on silent, because Sherlock wanted it so, presumably so that he could keep kissing him.   

msg KEeps bouncing back from sherlock’s bloody phone, tell him will you? –GL

see you boys this afternoon. -GL

John Watson does not read these messages because he was too busy kissing Sherlock Holmes, just kissing, with the promise of more, much more, to come once they return from Garrideb’s, after the case, John.    Sherlock Holmes who selfishly set the doctor’s phone to absolutely silent before rolling over and leaving John so hot and bothered and frustrated, but who went along with him anyway because that’s what he does, that’s how he shows his devotion.    

Because of this, John Watson will not kiss Sherlock Holmes again that day. 

*

John’s not entirely certain what happens exactly, everything is a bit hard to recall, only that one moment they’re standing in the middle of their client’s downstairs living room amidst the cases and cases of antique coins and other oddities and then suddenly the lawyer from the American Garrideb returns not with Nathan Garrideb and the paperwork as promised when he opened the door, but with a gun.   John unfortunately happens to flick his head back from studying some ancient Sumerian currency a split second too late.  Not too late to shove Sherlock out of the way and to the floor, his first and only thought of course, but too late to make it out of the line of fire himself.  Which is...not exactly fine, he supposes numbly as he hits the cold hardwood floor, doing his best to supress a manic bubble of panic, but it's normal.  Sherlock is fine though, so it will all be fine, he concludes.  John is used to being shot, after all.  Sherlock has never been shot before and John has, so out of the two of them, it's far better this way. It’s normal.

Being shot is startlingly painful though, funny how fast he had forgotten about that.  The crack of metal through skin and bone and sinew and tissue, once--leg, then twice--chest,  and suddenly he’s lying on the floor and everything goes a bit hazy for a bit.

Sherlock is shrieking, somewhere, he thinks.    

The sound of sirens far, far in the distance, somewhere, he thinks. 

Someone else is screaming as if they are being beaten not even within an inch of their life, past an inch of their life, he thinks as well.

Although it should be the last thing he notices at present, the first thing that John notices is wrong with the entire situation when he can bloody think again is that Sherlock is looking down at him now and bleeding from his temple. Probably thwacked his head as he was pushed out of the way, brilliant John, wonderful job.   He does not take notice of the bullets currently lodged in his own body because if it’s not Sherlock, it’s not important, nor does he notice the absolute ocean of warm blood that is currently seeping through his clothing, or the fact that he’s lying on the hardwood floor of an unfamiliar flat dying.  Femoral artery, brilliant. One in the lung as well.   Is this shock?  Does he remember being in shock?

“Sher….”

Sherlock is practically screaming into the mobile phone that is tucked under his chin, his pale face stained with bloody fingerprints.  His own apparently, as John watches him shift the mobile phone again and press against the doctor’s leg painfully once more.   He’s using his scarf.  A grand gesture but now John will have to add it to the pile of dry cleaning for next Tuesday.   

John’s head pounds and it falls to the side as he vomits once, then twice.  The sight that greets him is no less gruesome.  As he tries to focus, the lawyer from the American Garrideb lies motionless in his own puddle of blood and cartilage approximately thirteen feet to the left, his skull bashed in to the point of pulpy deformity.  John’s a bit focused on breathing right now, but it look as if the corpse is missing both a nose and an eye and when he looks back up at Sherlock, he can see the detective’s face mottled with minute flecks of crimson. 

John doesn’t want to know, really. 

There’s a lot that he doesn’t want to know about Sherlock and this is definitely one of those things and so he refocuses his now failing eyesight on the potential psychopathic murderer that is currently still shrieking orders and pressing against his leg and chest.  A bit unnerving, but then again, he did just kiss this man.  A shudder rips through his body.  John is cold.  This is typical, apparently—he remembers this part. 

“You’re going to need stitches,“  John tries to say, his words a metallic bubble of blood and saliva, his breath in gasps.  It’s true, Sherlock will need stitches and he needs to hear it because if John doesn’t tell him now, who will? He reaches up and slides a slick finger across the detective’s brow, leaving a trail of more blood.  His lips were at that precise spot not less than an hour ago.

Strange.    

Sherlock’s eyes are wild and raw as he throws his mobile to the side before sliding his hand underneath John’s head. The doctor can feel the tackiness of his own blood in between the detective’s fingers as Sherlock cradles him to his chest like the broken rag doll that he is.  Sherlock is fine though and so it’s fine, he’ll bleed out for both of them.   John has been shot enough to know how not to die at this point but Sherlock says it anyway, “Shut. Up.“

“…I could…do them…thestitch--stitches” John tries as his head lolls out of Sherlock’s palm.   How did it do that?,  “…now…”

“—Just shut up.  Do you understand me right now?  You focus on breathing, you focus on living.  You are not allowed to die, you are not allowed to let your damned idiotic heart stop beating for even one second--“ Sherlock’s voice falters for perhaps the first time in his life, and he twists his face and presses into John’s leg harder, the doctor’s blood seeping warm and wet, “—Damn it, do you hear me?  Yes, you do, of course you do, even while dying the subconscious brain is able to process auditory stimuli.  Do not. Stop. Breathing.”

“O..k--”

But the words get stuck in his throat as he chokes on another mouthful of blood.  It burns his esophagus and not in the good way, like the smooth whiskey he drank at the pub while out with Mike Stamford last Saturday night, in the bad way, the way like dying. And then the world, his world, flickers once.  Everything fades to a pinpoint grey at first, then black, and all John can hear as he’s unceremoniously thrown to the cold hardwood once more is Sherlock beating against his chest, the crack of a fist against shattering bone, and then a mouth covering his and forcing air into his lungs, commanding him to live.  It’s a bit like kissing again almost, kissing the devil perhaps, and if this is how he has to die, by being beaten and then kissed to death by Sherlock Holmes then so be it.  It’s fine, it’s all fine, it’s exquisite actually, beautifully ironic and sad and twisted that the man who brought him to life once more in less than two minutes in the middle of the egregious fluorescence of Bart’s pathology lab would be the one to usher him into death, bathed in his blood, the lawyer’s blood, their blood.  It’s all one after all. Circuitous journey, life is.  He heard that phrase while sitting in an English lecture at Uni years ago and staring at the back of the brunette’s neck in the third row.

It would be nice to go back to that moment.  Hell, it would be nice to go back to then, to anytime actually, anytime before now, before dying.  Ironic that it would be on the first day that they kiss, he would die; every new beginning is some other beginning's en--

*

The first thing that John realizes is that, given his surroundings, he’s most likely dead.  Brilliant, John, very astute deduction, the voice in his head drolls. 

He’s standing in the living room of 221B, and the flat is dark but, strange thing, outside it glows bright white.  Sherlock is sitting amidst the smooth black leather of his usual chair, wearing his suit and purple shirt, his fingers pressed palm to palm and steepled under his chin.  He looks deep in thought, per usual, but as the doctor takes a step forward, the detective’s head snaps up, his eyes bright and focused on John, only and ever John.   

“Sherlock,”

“John,”

John looks around somewhat awkwardly and then down at his body.  He’s whole once more, no wounds, and oh, this can’t be good.  No noises exist outside, no cars, no horns, no anything and hell he’s not even certain if there is an outside.  Doesn’t look like it, now that he’s thinking about it.  Just the flat, the light, and Sherlock.   Reminds him of heaven, if indeed there is one.   A bit metaphorical though.   

 “Sorry—am I….?”

“Dead?  Despite the disgustingly cliché bright white light, no, unless you died and then I proceeded to do something ridiculously sentimental and in deliciously ironic fashion wipe myself from the face of the earth as well.”

“Did you?”

“Not that I’m aware of.  The human subconscious is always a tricky thing, however,”  Sherlock declares as he tips the triangle of his fingers somewhat conciliatory in the direction of the doctor, “All evidence points decidedly otherwise.”

“Right, okay.”  John says as he continues to stand because he doesn’t know what else to do, “So what are we doing here then?”

“You’re in cardiac arrest, obviously.  And it’s your dream, isn’t it?”

John looks around.  Apparently it is, and yet even in his dream or near death experience, 221B is still entropic in nature.  He glances around the corner to the kitchen to see half bubbling experiments on the stove, piles of unopened bills stacked haphazardly on his chair, three week old newspapers lining the sofa, the usual.  John sighs.  Even in death, he gets no peace.      

“Do you want to go?”  Sherlock asks, still not moving from the chair. 

“How badly am I injured?”

“Punctured femoral artery, bullet lodged into your collapsed lung.   You’ll be out for quite a bit, in the hospital for quite a bit longer, and then there’s always rehabilitation.  Also, I broke some of your ribs while giving you CPR and by some, I mean approximately ten.  I then proceeded to crack your wrist by squeezing it too hard in order to find a pulse.  I’m still trying to resuscitate you now, actually, and the paramedics are trying to rip me away from you.  Does that bother you?”

 “No, the sight of you covered in my blood bothered me to be quite honest.”

“I will taste it,”  Sherlock says as he draws the tips of his fingers down his face from nose to lips, “I’ll lick it off my index finger furtively while riding in the back of the ambulance.   I need to know what it tastes like, it’s a missing gap in my data about yourself.  You taste like tall summer grass; it reminds me collecting insects to dissect along the moor in Devon when I was a child.  Does that bother you?”

“No, but just for the record, not good.”

 “The death of the human body is a beautiful thing,”  Sherlock starts carefully as he looks past John, somewhere in his mind where the doctor would prefer not to follow, “The systems shut down one by one--it’s a bit like choreography, lymphatic often first, then endocrine, and onto the next and next and next—not modern like a Balanchine reworking, but more fluid and diaphanous.  Have you ever heard of the The Pharaoh’s Daughter?  Obscure ballet--you saw it with one of your little girlfriends two years ago, however--about a traveler during the height of burgeoning imperialism who takes massive quantities of opiates and while under, becomes reincarnated as an Egyptian princess who drowns herself in the Nile when she thinks that her lover has died.  She dances a variation about drowning—beautiful.  It reminds me of that, your dying.  An exquisite variation of organ failure and synapses misfiring.  I’d once said that it would be advantageous to watch someone drown up close and you went ahead and did it, drowning in your own damn blood.  It should have been beautiful.” 

“Was it beautiful when I died?”

“Of course not,”  Sherlock says as his eyes snap to John, pinpoint black and angry, as he presses the tips of his fingers together even harder,  “It was the most horrible and grotesque thing I’ve ever witnessed.  For lack of a better metaphor, you are the Nile and I am your sacrifice, not vice versa.  I was the one who drowned, not you.  Lestrade will have to pry the lawyer’s gun out of my hands.  Earlier today, you had the audacity to kiss me in your bed that smells of nothing but you, and now you assume that because you’ve claimed me in such a way that you have the right to go and die.  It’s inexcusable.  I hate you for it right now.”

“I have to leave eventually.  One day whether you like it or not, Sherlock, we will be separated and you know what?  You will be just fine.” 

“No,”  says says the detective plainly, “You won’t and if you do, I will not be fine.  If I don’t manage some theatrical way of offing myself over your dead body, I will most likely turn to drugs and die of an overdose, choking on my own crusted vomit in an alleyway somewhere on a rain and sludge filled night in London.   Is that what you want? ”

“You are just…unbelievable,”  John says, a smile growing on his face because right now his subconscious is doing just a marvelous job with the man in front of him, “Are you trying to guilt me into staying alive right now?  Because I never said that I wanted to die.”

“You’re in love with me,”  Sherlock snaps, irritated, “Just shut up and say it,”

John looks at the light just outside the doorframe of 221B, so quiet and peaceful and serene.  John then looks back at Sherlock, dark, and brooding, and broken.   There isn’t an option whether to say it or not and since it’s in a dream, it’s just fine.  There isn’t an option, there never has been, because it has always been him, always been this ridiculous man, drowning himself in the Nile like a bloody Egyptian princess, a madwoman in her own right. 

“Yes,”  John breathes, “And you’re not, because you can’t love.   High functioning sociopath, I get it.  This, whatever the kissing meant, is most likely an experiment and you know what? That’s absolutely fine. I accept it.”    

Sherlock laughs bitterly, so, so bitterly and shakes his head.  The detective pushes himself out of his chair and with three smooth steps, crosses to the doctor.  He stands approximately three inches from John’s lips and John just takes an indulgent moment just to breathe because with Sherlock right here right now, breathing is not boring at all and he’d actually like to do it for quite a lot longer.  Sherlock runs both of his hands down John’s shoulders and to the doctor’s, lacing their fingers together as he studies John intently as though the doctor is one of those childhood insects, pinned down on corkboard at Mummy’s summer home. 

“The first thing you did,”  Sherlock starts very carefully and for just one moment, as they stand there, this Sherlock looks not like a dream, but incredibly real and raw, “you didn’t even give it second thought—you just pushed me out of the way.  To even think that I would have not done the same for you is unimaginable.  There are clues everywhere--can you honestly not see them all in your funny little head?  There are a thousand little pieces, little trails, all leading toward the stunningly inexorable truth.  You’ll learn one day, perhaps, if you care to know.  You died for me, technically.  One day, I should only hope to return the favour.”

"You love me,"  John says, trying not to smile as broadly as he wants to right now, even if this is a dream, "You just said it, in oh, about a million and a half words.  That's what you meant at the flat that night, isn't it?  I told you that story about how love is watching people die and you, in your weird way, told me that you love me."  

"Unmistakably,"  Sherlock breathes as he tightens his fingers around John's, "And irrevocably." 

And with that, the detective softens his grip from John’s hands to fit the doctor’s face carefully in between his two palms, presses their lips together, and gives John an absolutely maddening breath of air from his own lungs.  It’s warm and wet and absolutely dizzying and John is seeing nothing but blackness and stars behind his eyelids right now.  As he inhales the air from the detective, this, God—lifesaving air, he knits his fingers into Sherlock’s hair and kisses this man back in full, letting himself be recalled back to life.  He’s breathing in Sherlock and nothing but Sherlock and now that he’s finally done it, he realizes that he never wants to breathe in any other way, potentially ever.  It’s gorgeous.  Heartbreakingly gorgeous to be kissed in this way, like it’s the only thing that could potentially keep you alive, and right now, it is. 

Beautiful yes, John’s brain fires as his heart kicks up once more, back on the cold hardwood floor of the unfamiliar flat with Sherlock gasping raggedly next to him and paramedics buzzing somewhere overhead, you’re right, Sherlock, it was fucking beautiful. 

*

The first cognizant though that John Watson has is five days later and involves the deadweight of Sherlock Holmes being draped over his body.  Sherlock is asleep and on his stomach—no, not asleep just lying still.  The doctor can hear the clicks and beeps of familiar sounding machines and feel the dull ache of stitches in his leg and the shallow plastic of the oxygen mask against his face.  He swallows down a sharp pang of nausea and finds his throat painfully, painfully dry and in this moment he realizes that, no, he is not dead and yes, he is in the hospital. ICU room, to be precise.   Not dead though.  Not much of an improvement, to be honest.   Without opening his eyes, John brings his right hand up to try and slide aside the oxygen mask in the hopes of getting water but he is stayed immediately by cool fingers catching his wrist from nowhere.  Sherlock has sprung to life. Recalled to life, both of them, apparently.

Sherlock would love the metaphor.  

“Leave it on for one more moment,” A voice floats down to him, “Your oxygen saturation is disappointingly low at present. “

John coughs once because he needs water damn it, and apparently now that they’ve kissed they’re sharing neurons as well because those fingers slide in his hair and carefully cradle the back of his head.  John feels the mask slowly removed and then the rim of a plastic cup is pressed against his chapped lips.

“Ice, no water.”

After John manages to swallow a few glorious pieces, his head is replaced back to the center of the pillow.  He blinks, now dizzy at the movement before wincing halfheartedly against the light that leaks in through his sore eyelids.  Through his eyelashes he can see a large lump in the crisp white bed sheets, indicating the gauzy packing that has swathed his left leg.  His left arm is encased in plaster, there’s the broken wrist, and as he breathes, he can feel the aching stretch of a chest tube across his ribs.  He only vaguely remembers bits of the dream ("You were ranting about an obscure...opera or something, Sherlock. It was bloody off,") however, apparently his subconscious is a remarkable self-diagnostician.  John tilts his head to the right to find himself tethered to a morphine drip hung amidst the various IV and blood transfusion bags.  Brilliant. The hand finds his good wrist again, the right wrist, and this time, a sharp whine of the spiking heart monitor is its reward as fingertips lightly trace down John's veins.   He can almost imagine Sherlock’s inadvertent smirk and if he were any less wrecked, he would do his best to wipe that smirk off of the detective’s face rather hard.   

John coughs once and winces sharply from the spasm of pain that rips through his lungs.  It bloody hurts, to say the least, but not anymore so than the scene that he witnesses as he finally opens his eyes fully.  Sherlock is not smirking.  To the right, good wrist, the detective sits next to the bed, his limbs curled awkwardly into the plastic chair, his chin pressed into the sheets and looking at John ragged and rumpled and lost, so, so lost.  He’s wearing his coat, but no scarf.  His eyes are lined with dark circles and his cheekbones protrude even more razor sharp than usual.  A line of stitches pulls angrily against his temple.

It’s heartbreaking.      

“You look…good,”  John croaks, trying his best to smile.

Apparently this is equally as devastating.    

“Why good?”  Sherlock questions as he inhales sharply, “Why not lovely?”

John just focuses on breathing for a moment.  The room smells like ethanol.  It’s sickening, despite his best efforts to push that thought down.  No wonder why so many people dislike being on this side of hospitals. 

“I am not good,”  Sherlock spits as he continues.  He pushes his face up from the sheets and scoots his chair closer before running his fingers through his hair, “My desire for you put you in danger in every possible way.   Had you been properly warned—the text that you missed was Lestrade doing just that, for your information, you would have been alright. You wouldn’t have almost been killed.” 

“Sherlock…”  John reaches for Sherlock's fingers with his good hand, tangling them together.  He wishes that he could do more, but he’s just still so bloody tired and his throat is still raw presumably from days of intubation.  As Sherlock speaks, the doctor massages the back of his hand with his thumb.  Soothing, he thinks, or at least, he hopes. 

“You tried to die on me and I broke you in various ways,”  Sherlock explains, an expression between betrayal and guilt etched in every pore of his face, and God, that just makes the doctor even more sad, "I had once said that doing just that would be beautiful and you went and gave me simultaneously the best and worst gift of all.  A minute and a half you were dead, I recalled you to life. I broke ten of your ribs to keep you alive.  I fractured your wrist because I couldn’t feel a pulse.  I would have ripped open your chest and taken your heart in my hands and forced it to keep beating myself, if I had to.” 

“That is…not good.” John breathes woozily, because it’s true.  It isn’t good, this type of behaviour, even if it’s what kept him alive.  He doesn’t mind the alive part really, but what he does mind is that his job as a moral compass might have just gotten 200x more difficult now that they’ve become…whatever they are.  Normal.  No toast in the morning normal.  

Silence.  

“You also beat a man to death,”  John reminds him as gently as possible.  His voice is getting clearer with use, just slightly, and Sherlock needs to hear these things.   

“A bad man.  Self defense.  Lestrade will need you to correlate my statement, of course.  It was worth it, though and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  I would have eviscerated him and strung him up from his own intestines had you not been lying in a puddle of your own blood and doing me the incredibly horrible favour of dying. ”

John is incredulous at the things falling out of this man’s mouth.   He clears his throat once, “What did they give you for your stitches?"  

“Absolutely nothing,”  Sherlock says as he shakes his head with a somewhat cross expression, “Mycroft has me on a list, apparently.  No narcotics.  It was horrible.”

John tries his best not to smile fondly at the emotional Molotov cockatil sitting in front of him, but he's not entirely certain that he's suceeding. “You’re…three days without sleep, about?”

“Obviously dying for nearly two minutes did nothing to sharpen your deductive prowess.  Five days, you’ve been lying here comatose for five egregiously long days.  Inexcusable.  I have cases, you know.  My mobile has been ringing non-stop,”

Five days without sleep can somewhat forgive the macabre delirium, John supposes.  They’ll talk about this whole murder thing later, once both have healed.   Blood spilt is blood spilt, and while John forged them in blood so long ago with a gunshot that cracked through his bones, two windows, and a deranged cabbie, this whole brutal murder thing is still a bit…disconcerting.  

“No, it hasn’t and no, you don’t have any cases,”  John counters with his best cracked half smile, “Come here and shut up.  If we’re going by patterns here, I expect that you have about twenty minutes max before you collapse from exhaustion and I want to check your stitches.”

His face just marginally softer, Sherlock tips forward and John’s lifts his hand to rub a thumb over the stitches, done horridly not by his own steady hand.  No painkillers.  Absolute madness.  Combine that to five days without a wink of sleep and Sherlock Holmes has gone certifiably insane. 

A long silence passes and the two just look at each other for a moment and share each other’s breath as John continues to lightly trace the neatly crossed x’s on Sherlock’s temple.  In truth, the doctor feels like a blind man reading braille written in a language that only he is able to comprehend.  And this is his language, after all, he acts as the sole existing Rosetta stone of ‘Sherlock’ on a daily basis.    

 “Three stitches”  John finally murmurs quietly as he continues to trace, noting the distinct way that Sherlock’s face has dissolved from angry or perhaps bloody homicidal to just guilty.  It makes John even more nauseous. “You bloody idiot.”

“Trivial,” Sherlock says quietly, his baritone now obsidian low and cracked, “you let yourself die.  I asked you to do just that once, then I kissed you, you didn’t get a text message that could have saved your life, and you were technically dead for a minute and a half.  I broke your ribs.  I broke you to keep you alive and somehow I keep finding it more inexcusable than what you tried to do to me.  I wish I could delete it all; I’ve tried, but I can’t.”

“You saved my life, it’s fine by me,” 

“No, it’s not,” Sherlock says, and then,  “You’ve been in the ICU for five days, you’re pumped full of opiates, you are hardly able to talk and still in an immense amount of pain, and here you are doing your best to comfort me.  I will destroy you.  I will take all of you, John.  I will take your blood and your bone marrow and your sleep and your oxygen.  You’ll never have toast in the mornings, ever.” 

In that moment, with the way that this man is looking at him now, John Watson decides that he never wants toast again. 

Ever.  

Sherlock looks just about ready to spill over into tears and John doesn’t know what to do because it would just be absolutely devastating if Sherlock cried, because Sherlock Holmes does not cry.  It would be wrong, so so wrong, as if the sky one day decided to just be tinged pink instead of blue, or if we all decided that it was proper to walk on our hands and speak only in riddles – which would just be disturbing to live in because Sherlock hates riddles.  So the doctor makes a split second decision to change the subject  (which, he thinks is rather split second at the time, Sherlock will later explain that it was not split second but merely the morphine which made him think thus) and instead relates to a question that has been on his mind for approximately  48 conscious hours and apparently  120 unconscious ones as well.   

 “Tell me about the bees,”  John mumbles, his words slurred slightly.  His eyes are suddenly very heavy again--blame it on the morphine, “Why are they important?  You never told me.” 

Sherlock blinks hard once, the moment now passed.  The previous motion was imperceptible to all besides John.  The detective is somewhat irritated again, thank goodness, back to normal whatever normal is for Sherlock.  It’s like comparing a child’s sketch in crayon to the oil magnificence of a Van Gogh sometimes, normal and Sherlock.  At least John’s got that part down right insomuch as he can easily recognize the difference between the two.

“What on earth do you mean?  There are no bees here right now—wait, oh, oh, oh, oh,  oh-- the bees.  You’re referring to our discussion the other night.  Really you’ve carried that question with you for almost seven days?  It’s important,”  Sherlock explains as he waves his hand indicating that it’s less important than John knows that it actually is, “because it is a scientific impossibility, it defies the laws of quantum physics and logic—it defies the entire empirical paradigm, the entire way that the world works, and yet it still happens.  While it's largely folklore at this date, true, it represents what some call a miracle. I choose to reference something else.”

John smiles lazily because this five-days-without-sleep-and-painkillers-Sherlock is almost being downright romantic right now.  “I thought that you didn’t believe in extended metaphors.”

“I don’t,”  Sherlock says as he presses the side of his cheek against the bed again and looks up at John miserably, seeming about five years old again, “And yet you gave me one and now I have no choice and here I’ve gone and broken you.”

John just reaches out to thread the fingers of his good hand into Sherlock’s hair.  It feels amazing, like spun silk.  He hadn’t really paid attention to the feeling before. 

“Stop this.  Just stop,”  John says quietly, as he massages the mad man’s skull, hoping that perhaps if he presses hard enough he can put Sherlock back together again, kind of like humpty dumpty in the fairytales.  It’s not right, all of this guilt.  “You care for me, I get it.  You can’t help it, and it scares the hell out of you, but you do.”

The answer is muffled by hospital sheets.  “Shut up,”

The doctor’s voice is still raw and gravelly, but he continues anyway.  “You’ve cared for me for ages now actually and haven’t known how to tell me so you recite facts, make vague comparisons to the miracle of how bees fly, and break my bones to keep me from leaving you.  And you think that this will destroy me?  Sherlock, I’m telling you right now, and I’m only going to say it once, but it would be an absolute honour to be destroyed by you, so give it your best shot.”

“….I have,”  Sherlock begins carefully as he just lies still and lets himself be touched, “no idea what I would have done had you--”

John shushes him gently, as one would shush a crying child.  And Sherlock is a child in these ways, emotionally at least.  It's in moments like these that the doctor is reminded how inexperienced he really is in regards to true, honest to God, stripped down emotion and this, this is how he knows that it's real.  John wishes more than anything that he could lean forward and kiss the detective’s hairline, just under those stitches, but everything bloody hurts and so he settles for continuing to press words and shapes into Sherlock’s scalp, which in between 'good' and hexagons and stars, he writes something that looks startlingly like 'I love you too.' 

“I’m not dying and no, I am not leaving,” John muses as he observes Sherlock’s quiet huffs of breath against the sheets, “you’re asking if I actually want this—answer: God yes I do, you great self-loathing git.  And just for the record, the dying--it was worth it all—all of this, to see the way that you’re looking at me right now. “

Sherlock is breathing incredibly unsteadily now, his eyes watery once more as he looks at his miracle lying in front of him so broken and warm and kind and still so impossibly giving.   “And how…am I looking at you, precisely?”

Like a man drowning in the river looks up from the mud-red silt at the sky above, John wants to say. Instead he just moves his fingers down from Sherlock’s hair to pensively etch the lines of his forehead, his eyes brimming full of equal affection, and murmurs,

“You already know how, now shut up and kiss me before I fall asleep again, you idiot.” 

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson will both drown in one another,

And yes, it will be beautiful

*

The Adventure of the Three Garridebs

-From the Blog of Dr. John H. Watson

Been a bit too busy to write up a proper blog post for this one, sorry.  I’m sure that you’ve read in the papers now about how the corporate merger fell through due to the fact that the lawyer from the American Garrideb Corporation was actually a serial killer who attempted to murder me.  Apparently, the CEO of the Garrideb corporation here in London had been consolidating a few very large international debts which left some people angry—I really can’t say anymore right now because of legal issues.  It was all a bit not good, but I’m fine now, back at the flat and doing well.  Sherlock is fine and already working on his next case.   Doctors say I should be able to start with him again in a few weeks and when I find some free time I’ll do a proper write up.

 

(2 Comments)

(1) No one cares about this little case, they’ve all read it in the newspapers by now anyway.  Stop writing.  Bed.  Come if convenient. –Sherlock Holmes.

(1) If inconvenient, come anyway. –Sherlock Holmes.