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The Missing Piece

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“You should’ve seen the state of the front lawn. It was like The Exorcist.”

“Was Rosie’s head spinning ‘round?”

“No, just the projectile vomiting.”

“Nice.” God, they’d finally put her down. He just wants to sleep, not talk about projectile vomit.

“Now, you think we'd have noticed, when she was born.”

John turns his head but doesn’t open his eyes. Too bloody knackered.

“Hmm? Noticed what?” What was she on about now?

“The little 666 on her forehead.”

“Mmm, that's The Omen.”

“So?” She sounds snappish. Because of course she is.

“Well, you said it was like The Exorcist. They're two different things. She can't be the Devil and the Antichrist.” A scoff next to him, because god forbid he actually know something that she doesn’t. Rosie starts crying in the other room, saving them from another inevitable round of bickering.

“Yeah, can't she?” He can hear the roll of her eyes in her tone as “Mary” tosses the covers back and goes to the nursery. “Coming darling. I’m coming.”

He can't remember when he started to see the little quotes around her name in his head, but it must have been sometime during those six months of silence. Seeing her at work but never so much as voicing her name. It wasn't her real name anyway, so why bother with the charade. And somehow the quotes had subconsciously appeared, and eventually he couldn't even think her name without it being “Mary”, or sometimes Mary* with an asterisk like a little bullet hole, a permanent addendum to her name. When he’s really angry, it morphs to A.G.R.A., but he rigorously forces it back to “Mary”, lest his tongue accidentally slip in a moment of rage.

His mobile vibrates and dings.

It’s been too long.

John swallows, eyes darting to the open bedroom door and back. Damn, what’s he doing, texting now?

I know. Sorry.

Miss you.

He blinks at the screen, then checks the clock and frowns. God, he must really be hurting, to reveal that. He can't reply in kind, too incriminating, but he’s surprised to see Sherlock being so open, unguarded. He wishes he could say what he really feels, but he has to keep things light. Luckily, in the past few weeks, they’ve both gotten very good at sending innocuous texts and reading between the lines.

You’re up late.

(Everything okay?)

Or early.

(The day’s just begun.)

Night owl?

(Can't sleep?)

Vampire.

(Thirst. Hunger. Need you.)         

John manages a hastily thumbed smiley-face before “Mary” returns with Rosie, cooing, “Oh, let's go see Daddy!” Perfect.

“I’ll take her.” He rolls out of bed quickly.  

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I might as well get up now.” He holds out his arms for Rosie and “Mary” passes her over, kissing and cooing in her cloyingly saccharine baby voice.

He palms his phone as he heads for the door, tucking it into Rosie’s bundle. “Mary” would notice, of course, but he has to look like he’s trying to hide it, play the part, in case (when) “Mary” scans his recent texts. He closes the door quietly behind him and makes for the stairs, bouncing Rosie gently and whispering soft reassurances in her ear. She’s already quieting, just wanting a warm body close and sweet words of affection. John can hardly blame her; he’s been missing those things all too much lately.

His phone chimes, vibrating in his hand, and he quickly moves it away from Rosie, but she doesn't stir, just snuffles into John’s chest. He swipes open the lock screen.

Free?

John looks over his shoulder. The hall to the bedroom is dark, the door beyond closed. “Mary” should be out for the night, or as long as Rosie will let her sleep. Better get down to the sitting room, just to be sure. When he’s safely downstairs, he carefully shifts Rosie to his right side, propping her head up on his shoulder. He wraps his arm around her small body, her bum cradled in the crook of his elbow, his hand splayed securely across her back. He lifts the phone in his left hand and slowly types out Could be…, all the while swaying back and forth.

Please.

John glances at Rosie, lightly dozing on his shoulder. He can’t do much—not what he’d really like to do with Sherlock on the other end—but perhaps he can help Sherlock, give him some comfort and companionship too. He must be feeling the distance more acutely, alone in his empty flat, surrounded by nothing but memories. John will do what he can to make sure he knows he’s not really alone.

I'll have to keep quiet.

Then I'll make enough noise for both of us.

John sucks in a sharp breath, trying not to imagine what sorts of obscene sounds Sherlock would soon be making… perhaps already was making. Christ. He has to get a hold on himself, though, respond calmly. Casually.

Why's that?

Thinking of you.

John grins, letting himself enjoy the old thrill of flirting, so long dormant. Even when they had been together, in the months before Christmas, there hadn’t been flirting. There had been caretaking, and heartfelt confessions, and life-changing world-shaking sex, but not this easy banter, this lighthearted push-and-pull of arousal. It was a game he hadn’t realised he’d missed, one he now can’t wait to play with Sherlock.

What about me?

Your hands.

He can see it, in his mind’s eye, his hands running over Sherlock’s naked body, exploring, caressing. He wonders what Sherlock’s imagining. John’s fingernails scraping his scalp as he grips his curls? John’s hand wrapped around his cock, slowly stroking, teasing? John’s fingers sliding inside him, opening him up, making him buck and groan?

He blows out a steady breath and forces the memories from his head. This isn’t about him tonight, it’s about Sherlock, what he wants.

What else?

Your mouth.

John licks his lips, unable to help it. He tries not to think of the myriad places his mouth has been on Sherlock’s body, lips and tongue and teeth, tasting and marking him as his own.

You like my mouth?

I love your mouth.

He wants to type back I love your mouth, your lips are heaven, your tongue is a miracle, but he can't, knows he can't seem too eager, can't give anything away. This is meant to look like a random encounter, a passing temptation, a harmless fling; something he could explain away if confronted but nothing he is truly invested in. Something she would forgive him for, and maybe help ease her guilt over her own deceptions. Nothing seriously damaging, just a petty revenge flirt. Tit for tat. Nothing concrete.

As if any affair could ever outweigh her shooting his best friend.

No, not his best friend; the love of his life. Really, in a way he should be grateful for it. Her betrayal brought into sharp focus his feelings for Sherlock, the thought of his loss (again) in stark contrast to the desire for revenge against his shooter. The fact that the shooter happened to be his wife didn't change the need for vengeance, just deepened the feeling of loss. But it also made him realise the depth of love he felt for Sherlock, had always felt for Sherlock, but had pushed down in misguided self-preservation.

Futile. He never stood a chance. Once he knew Sherlock did feel things that way, and felt them for him, it was all over. There was never any real choice, even before the shooting. He was always waiting (shirts folded, ready to pack) for Sherlock to swoop back into his life and carry him away. “Mary’s” betrayal just sealed the deal, both simplifying and complicating everything with one fatal blow.

John shakes himself from this maudlin train of thought and resumes his gentle swaying, careful not to disturb Rosie. He looks back at his phone, considers his reply. It’s less affectionate than he’d like, but it will do, and he slowly types it out.

Are you making noise?

Yes.

He closes his eyes, tries to imagine it, to remember the incredible sounds Sherlock makes. It’s a poor substitute, a distant echo of the passionate nights they shared during those marvellous (all too fleeting) months away from “Mary”. He sighs, and thumbs another text.

I wish I could hear you.

Call me.

John hesitates a moment, strains his ears for any hint of movement in the flat, but all is quiet. It's still risky—the phone could be (almost certainly) bugged—but he trusts Sherlock won't give anything away, and it's been so long. He gives in, pushes the call button, and brings the phone to his ear.

The call connects, and there's a rush of sound, harsh panting filling his head, surrounding him with fevered breath.

“You're so beautiful,” he whispers into the phone, and there's a high keening sound on the other end, nearly beyond his range of hearing. God, he loves when Sherlock's like this, lips pressed together and eyes squeezed tight, making desperate little noises. He's close, he just needs John's voice, John’s approval and acceptance, to push him over the edge.

“I’m here, I've got you.”

A broken whimper, followed by a loud gasp, and he knows, can see Sherlock, head thrown back, falling apart.  

“That's it, beautiful, so beautiful,” he murmurs, soothing praise, reassurance. It’s what Sherlock really craves, why he contacted John at four in the morning, to reaffirm this bond between them. They are in this together: no matter the distance between them or the lies they must live, it’s still the two of them against the rest of the world. This is what Sherlock needs to know, and John will give it to him, however he can.

The desperate panting has subsided, calm descending after the tempest of sound.

John swallows, licks his dry lips, screws up his courage.

“I miss you too.”

There's near silence, just the soft susurrus of breath, and then he hears it: a quiet sniffle. He wants to reach through the phone, stroke Sherlock's cheek and brush back his hair and kiss away his tears. Tell him how much he loves him.

Instead, he whispers, “Sweet dreams,” and disconnects. Rosie’s fast asleep by now — he could put her back in her cot and she’d probably sleep for hours — he might even be able to catch a few winks himself before he has to start his day. But he stays down in the sitting room, holding her close, until the sun rises.