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A Memory Kindled

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'What was it like?'

I don't need to see his face to know what Sherlock's asking about, given that his fingers have been running over my scar for the past few minutes but I turn anyway, shifting under the sheet so that I'm fully on my back, left arm pressed into his chest. His fingers go still but he doesn't move them away; he flattens them out, covering the bullet hole. His front teeth snag his bottom lip and his forehead creases as his gaze sweeps my face. I assume he's trying to work out if he's offended me by asking.

I offer him a crooked smile in response.

I don't mind. Not now. Not him.

I'll tell him anything he wants to know. Always would have done, right from the beginning. It's how I knew I'd fallen for him, finding myself blurting out such a personal bit of information, in front of a room full of police officers, just because he asked me.

'Getting shot or almost dying?'

He quirks his eyebrow in response and I read the surprise in his face.

'Should I not have been so blunt?'

'I ... you are not like other people, John Watson.'

He's smiling and I can feel him relax next to me. Turning my head I kiss the tips of his fingers.

'Both then?'

He nods, expression turning serious.

'Both.'

I draw in a breath and I can almost taste the air, dust dry and tainted with the tang of copper.

'It burned,' I say, trying to keep my voice steady as I close my eyes while the memory unfolds in my head. 'Not at first, not while the adrenaline was still pumping and I was more concerned about the lads than me. But then I couldn't get up and I couldn't feel my fingers and I looked down and I could see the blood. Then I could feel it.'

'And it burned?'

'As if the bullet had ignited my bones and the fire was trying to burn its way out, licking through my flesh, consuming me. I ...'

I'm bleeding fast, wetness spreading over my back as well as my chest and I have to fight for every lungful of air, fight to stay conscious as the pain blossoms and spreads. My vision is darkening and I know what's happening. I know my infinite has just become finite and suddenly I want to cling to every tiny moment; I'm grasping at my shoulder, desperate to press the blood back in, douse the flames, hold everything back ...

Only it's not my shoulder I'm gripping but a hand and that's enough to allow me to wrench my eyes open. The rest of the memory shatters as I see Sherlock's face, not Murray's, above me and realise it's his hand I'm squeezing the life out of.

'John.'

His voice cracks on my name and he looks horrified.

I don't blame him, I'm gasping for breath, my whole body is shaking and I can feel the sweat covering every inch of my skin.

Shame sweeps through me, a different kind of fire but no less distressing for it, and I try to pull away, hide my ridiculous reaction, muttering "Sorry, I'm sorry" as I do.

I don't get far, my words cut off by his lips over mine as he starts kissing me, swiftly and softly. And he keeps going, feathering kisses over my mouth, my forehead, my cheeks, my chin, whispering as he does so.

'No apologies ... not for this ... never for this ... I can't imagine ... Shouldn't have asked ...'

'Yes, you should,' I say, managing to get my quivering muscles under enough control to press my fingers over his mouth. 'I wouldn't have told you if I hadn't wanted to.'

'That's not the point. I didn't think. I know you still dream of it but I didn't think it would have the power to hurt you when you were awake. I didn't know!'

'And now you do.' I'm calm again, in the face of his distress. I've always been like that. Much better at coping when I have someone else to cope for.

'But I ...'

'But nothing.'

He opens his mouth, to protest what I don't know, but I don't want to think anymore, don't want to remember or to soothe. So I pull him to me and kiss him, bruising and deep until we're both burning with a completely different kind of fire, one that is more easily quenched.

After, when the passion is reduced to smouldering embers and I'm on the cusp of sleep, I remember I never answered the second part of his question.

Then I hear him murmur "Thank you, God, for letting him live" and realise I don't need to.