Sherlock’s insides ran cold from the moment he saw John in that well, alone, suffering, and nearly drowning.
“I will find you,” he managed to stutter before repeating with more conviction, “John. Hold on. I will find you.”
John looked down at the water, now at level with his hips. The deafening roar of the thick pouring stream echoed off the circular walls as the splash sprayed a sharp, cold mist everywhere.
His feet were chained solid to the bottom. Even if Sherlock were to get here in time, there was no telling how he’d be able to get him out.
He wasn’t getting out of this alive. He just knew it. But the part of him that still believed in Sherlock, that had always believed in him, urged him to believe otherwise.
“Sherlock, can you hear me?” he called out, knowing he’d be able to hear him in his earpiece.
“Yes, John. I’m coming. Hold on.” Even the sound of that voice was enough to just slightly calm his nerves.
“Please hurry,” he said weakly, and threw his head back onto the rough interior walls.
Sherlock ran through the yard in the dark, led only by the light of the lantern in his hand. He called Lestrade, explaining where he was and begging him to come with the police force and an ambulance if necessary.
He wouldn’t lose John, he thought determinedly as he sprinted forward. Not when they were this close to the future he wanted with him, the future they both wanted. There had been too many close calls lately for this to be a coincidence. Too many almost-confessions from him and too many prolonged looks and unexplained emotions from John.
Sherlock now knew that they both wanted more than what they had. For years he had thought his feelings were unrequited, that he was doomed for a lifetime of silent longing. But now that he knew otherwise, all he had to do was tell John. And he had been planning to for several days. But the right opportunity had never arisen.
Now that John was chained to a well and almost drowning, he found he hated himself for waiting too long. No, he would not lose John when they were this close to happiness. He would simply not allow it.
He reached the well to find it already surrounded by officers handling a massive rope.
“Lestrade,” he panted.
“Sherlock. Don’t worry, we’re going to lower a rope into-.”
“Send me down.”
“Lower me down there. I have to get him,” he said, already wrapping the rope around his middle.
“No, you can’t! How are you-”
“His feet are chained to the bottom!” he bellowed in fury loud enough for several officers to turn and look at them.
“His feet. They’re chained up. Lowering a rope will do nothing.”
“Then how will you-”
“Believe it or not Gavin, I do have one or two useful tricks up my sleeve that don’t involve doing your job for you. Lower me into the well,” Sherlock demanded.
Lestrade and two nearby officers quickly exchanged looks before relenting and helping him wrapping the rope in several tight loops around his waist. Once a secure knot was tied, the rope was hooked onto the pulley where normally a bucket would be pulled up.
Sherlock stood perched onto the edge of the well, and jumped in, his descent guided by several strong armed officers.
The water was up to John’ s neck. He raised his chin up in attempt to keep his mouth and nose above the surface for as long as possible.
Where the hell was Sherlock?!
As if on cue, the flash of police lights he could barely make out above him at the well’s opening was blocked. Relief flooded through him as the dark figure that could only be Sherlock descended into the well attached to what looked like a thick, sturdy rope.
His knees went weak, and if he wasn’t about to drown, he most likely would have collapsed. Sherlock landed in the water with a splash.
“Sherlock . . . my feet . . . I can’t-”
“Yes, I know. Calm down,” he ordered, gripping his shoulders reassuringly. “Breathe.”
“Hurry, Sherlock,” he said frantically, raising his head as the water rose to his chin.
“Don’t you worry about a thing. I’ll get you out of here. Breathe, John.” With that, he dove underwater, crouching at his feet.
John’s head was tilted upwards as far as he could reach. As the water rose over his cheeks and chin, he took one final breath and was submerged.
He wasn’t sure how long he could hold his breath. Not very long surely. And his body going fully into panic mode wasn’t helping things.
His mind began to cloud as he felt Sherlock continue to fumble at his feet. Didn’t feel like he was making much progress. If his eyes were open, there would surely be black spots dancing in his vision by now.
His body began to spasm as it panicked and tried to save him. His lungs burned violently in his chest. At once, he couldn’t hold out any longer. He felt himself drift backwards in the water as his back collapsed against the wall. Sliding down the rocky surface, he tried holding onto his last bit of consciousness before slipping into darkness.
Then, a pair of arms were around his waist and he was hoisted up off the ground.
His head surfaced and he breathed in a lungful of air with gratitude. The fire in his chest calmed as he caught his breath, never more thankful for air in his life.
Sherlock had done it. He saved him.
Of course he did, he thought was a weak smile as he wrapped his arms around his shoulders.
Sherlock held tightly to John’s waist and clutched the rope with his other hand as they were pulled up to safety.
John had tucked his head into his neck endearingly as he caught his breath, his body most likely still in a state of shock from nearly drowning.
Sherlock buried his nose into his wet hair. “I’ve got you,” he whispered onto the top of his head. “I’ve got you.”
John responded by wrapping his arms tighter around his shoulders.
Finally, they were pulled out of the well and collapsed together onto the grass. Sherlock fumbled to his knees, clutching at John.
“John. Are you alright? For god’s sake, say you’re alright!”
Greg helped John up into a sitting position as he coughed out water, shaking and trembling from head to toe.
John’s insides were frozen and he was shivering violently. Suddenly a blanket was being draped around his shoulders and there were large hands rubbing firmly up and down his arms. He pulled the blanket tighter around his body and finally allowed himself to look up at Sherlock.
He was astounded at the vulnerability he saw in his eyes. The weakness, the panic, the desperation. Sherlock continued to rub his arms and back vigorously to circulate his blood flow.
“Yes,” he coughed. “I’m alright.”
Sherlock pounded his back and he continued to cough up more water.
“Sherlock!” he rasped hoarsely between coughs. “Stop it, I’m fine!”
Sherlock flinched back slightly at this. “John?” he asked again, more cautiously this time. “What’s wrong?”
John sighed and looked away so he wouldn’t have to look into Sherlock’s wide, wounded puppy dog eyes. He was probably hurt that he didn’t want to accept his help. How could he explain to Sherlock what he was feeling?
“Look. Don’t be like that. It’s just . . . I hate that you have to do this so much.”
“This. Rescuing me. Everyone thinking I’m your damn damsel in distress. I’m fucking useless, Sherlock. Mycroft was right.”
A moment of still silence followed his words. Sherlock’s hands had stopped rubbing him and now laid rested on his arms. John shivered and clutched the blanket tighter as a cold breeze rushed past them.
For several seconds they sat in the grass, the distant red police lights flashing around them as the officers sorted things out.
“John. Look at me,” Sherlock said quietly after a while. It was barely above a murmur. Just meant for the two of them to hear even though Lestrade and his officers were standing nowhere near.
John looked further down and away. He hated this. He hated himself for being such a burden and couldn’t stand for Sherlock to see the self-loathing on his face.
“John,” he repeated. In his voice, John could hear the gentle reminder of a conversation they had had earlier. We are all human, Sherlock had said. Even you.
He screwed his eyes shut for a moment to gather his courage, and looked up at Sherlock. As he did, Sherlock reached out to tilt his chin up and leaned in.
From the moment their lips touched, John’s spirit was ignited.
He was taken back to that first day they spent together. When they were on their way to dinner after the case and Sherlock had looked at him like there was something . . . more.
He remembered the night they returned home after the bomb incident at the pool. Standing squished together in the doorway, neither wanting to enter first. Sherlock asked again if he was okay and they had looked at each other with an intensity he had never experienced before. He had looked at Sherlock’s lips and begun to lean in but Sherlock had moved.
The time he had been taking care of Sherlock after Irene had drugged him. He came to check on him, brought him some water, and before he could stop himself had dropped a kiss onto his forehead. Given, Sherlock was drugged out of his mind and likely didn’t remember. But either way, neither spoke of the incident again.
And the time they had shared a room at the Baskerville inn. Sherlock had caught him watching him as he slept in the middle of the night. Neither had said a word to break the silence, but instead continued to watch each other in the soft intimate darkness.
One of their last nights together before the fall. John had reached through the metal bars and pulled Sherlock in close by his coat, their hand cuffed together above them. Their lips hovered. He could feel his breath on his skin. He could have done it then. They were so close . . .
His stag night. They had been rubbing their feet up against each other’s legs all night. So when John gripped his knee and leaned in, they both knew where things would have gone, had they not been interrupted.
His wedding day. When he spontaneously hugged him. Desperate for some physical contact after that declaration of love. Desperate to touch him, to breathe him in, to declare it back to the world.
When John had visited him in the hospital after he was shot. Sherlock, once again, drugged into oblivion, but he couldn’t resist leaning down and pressing a kiss to his forehead. No one had to know.
And of course, the evening they spent together just a few nights ago. The one he replayed in his mind over and over in the dead hours of the night wondering if it was real or if he’d just imagined it. The one where Sherlock had cupped his neck and pulled him into his chest, resting atop his head. The one where he had sobbed openly into his shirt and Sherlock didn’t mind one bit.
The one where he had whispered those forbidden words against Sherlock’s chest in a moment of weakness, not knowing or caring if he could hear him.
And countless other stolen moments where something could have happened. Anything. But it just didn’t. Until now.
John cupped Sherlock’s face and pulled him in further. The kiss remained soft and tender, but still burned with a fiery passion at the same time.
Their lips broke apart, the sound of the releasing suction deafening against the silence between them.
Sherlock cupped the back of John’s neck and pressed their foreheads together.
“How long?” John asked.
“Since the start.”
At this, John released a soft, relieved laugh.
“Shh, you can’t giggle, it’s a crime scene,” Sherlock murmured gently against the corner of his lip, a callback of their first case together.
John smiled and turned into the touch. Their lips joined once again, more desperately than before. Sherlock broke away to kiss tenderly at the corner of his jaw and then nestle into his wet neck.
This time it was John who cradled Sherlock’s head to his body and rested his head atop the damp curls. And Sherlock who privately whispered the no longer forbidden words into his skin:
“I love you.”