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*****

"To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves."

- Federico García Lorca

*****

 

>>PLAY<<

"So the tablecloths will be purple?"

"Lilac. And it's the serviettes. Really, John, do pay attention."

John groaned and buried his head in his hands. "Purple, lilac, what's the difference?"

"On the colour spectrum they-"

"Sherlock," John interrupted him, sighing. "It was a hypothetical question. God, I'm sick of all this."

"Oh." He frowned, feeling his enthusiasm for the wedding preparations evaporate. What point was there to it if John didn't feel enthusiastic himself? "So ... you don't want this, then?"

"Don't want what?"

"The wedding."

"Wha-?" John stared at him in apparent surprise. "Of course I want this wedding, Sherlock! The entire wedding is happening in the first place because I wanted it."

"But you just said..."

"The wedding I want. I simply don't care about the bloody tablecloths one way or the other!" John groaned again and dropped his head onto the table with a dull thud. That couldn't be comfortable. "Please, Sherlock, can we take a break from this? Just once? I'm desperate here."

'So am I.' He didn't say it out loud, of course. He wasn't stupid. "Fine. What do you want to do instead?"

"Don't you have a case going on? Any case at all?" The pleading tone of John's voice was almost disturbing. John didn't like it when people got killed. Perhaps a nice robbery would cheer him up.

Sherlock racked his brain for something. "I ... I could phone Lestrade, ask if he's got something. Or maybe ..." He paused, remembering. "Wait here."

John's reply was muffled by his jumper as he hid his face in the crook of his arm: "Trust me, I'm not going anywhere."

'You're already halfway gone' Sherlock thought, striding down the hall to retrieve his laptop from the bedroom. He shouldn't have left it there. Stupid. He had known John would come over today so they could finally decide on a colour scheme for their ties and hat bands that didn't clash with the other decorations. Mary had cheerfully told them to enjoy themselves and please come to a final decision while she had gone off to meet some of her friends for coffee to gush about her upcoming wedding.

Perhaps, he admitted in the privacy of his own mind, he had left the laptop in his bedroom on purpose after all. It was a perfect excuse to get away for just a couple of seconds, to regroup, to reinforce his defenses. Until John had made him best man and by default included him in all the preparations, Sherlock had never thought that his best friend's wedding would feel like a siege. He certainly hadn't expected that it wouldn't be the bride who was the invading army.

Mary wasn't the issue in all of this and that was precisely the problem. It wasn't her fault.

Dismissing the thought, Sherlock grabbed his laptop and charger and carried them back into the sitting room where John was still slumped across the table, looking for all the world like a man in desperate need of a holiday.

Sherlock opened his e-mails, deleting the usual junk mail and boring requests for him to find missing heirlooms and unfaithful husbands until he finally found the message he had been looking for.

"There is one case I have put off rejecting because it sounded too promising to pass up," he said softly. "The wedding preparations distracted me these past couple of days but I only got the email on Tuesday so my assistance should still be required. It is a bit more than a short break, however."

He turned the laptop around so John could read the e-mail, then tried not to stare at John's lips. He had the most frustrating habit of moving them ever so slightly as he read to himself.

"A murder ... at a remote hotel?"

Sherlock beamed at him. "No way to get there or away on foot unless you are equipped with hiking gear but a shuttle bus comes by once a week, so the killer is most likely still there. Isn't it fantastic?!"

"So ... what you're saying is ... we'd be trying to solve a murder, surrounded by people who could have done it ?"

Sherlock waved a dismissive hand. "Oh, we can exclude some of them immediately, I'm sure. Shouldn't be much of a challenge. Read on."

He bit his lip and turned away, not wanting to see the obvious changes in John's expression when he found the drawback.

"In ... but Sherlock, that's over five hundred miles away! In the middle of nowhere! We'd be lucky to get phone reception."

"There isn't any," Sherlock informed him. "No Internet access either."

"Sherlock ..."

He sighed. "You wanted a break. This is the only case I've got that sounds even remotely interesting and meets the criteria of giving you the break you want."

"Yes, but Sherlock ... this would be for an entire week!"

"I'm not saying we have to go. Talk to Mary about it if you must. I'm sure she won't object to a little pre-wedding trip with your best mate-" He made a face "- for the sake of solving a murder. And if she does, I can always decline the case."

He turned around to get a good look at John and felt a thrill at how obviously tempted he was by the offer. Taking a deep breath, he played his trump card: "Consider it one last adventure before you settle down."

"There will be other cases, Sherlock," John told him softly. "You do know that, right? Me getting married doesn't change that. I'll still come along on cases."

"Not for an entire week, though," Sherlock reminded him. "I'm sure Mary won't mind you being gone for an afternoon or maybe a day at most, but a week is quite another matter."

John frowned. "It's not like you to be this considerate of others."

'It's not like you not to be, either' Sherlock thought. "People change." He sniffed. "And I'm not going through the hassle of organising your wedding just so you can get divorced in a couple of months once she's fed up with you running off on cases all the time." But oh, how he wished it would happen.

John opened his mouth, blinked in puzzlement, and shut it again. "Fine. I'll talk to her. But you have to promise it won't be dangerous so I can in turn honestly tell her it won't be dangerous."

Sherlock hesitated and did a quick risk calculation. A week in a remote hotel far away from civilisation, living under the same roof as a killer, with no phone reception or internet access and therefore no way of calling in reinforcements should something go wrong.

He smiled and decided to bend the truth just a little. "It will be perfectly safe."

John grinned. "All right then."

*****

>>PAUSE<<

>>REWIND<<

".erehwyna gniog ton m'I ,em tsurT": mra sih fo koorc eht ni ecaf sih dih eh sa repmuj sih yb delffum saw ylper s'nhoJ

".ereh tiaW" .gnirebmemer ,desuap eH "... ebyam rO .gnihtemos tog s'eh fi ksa ,edarsteL enohp dluoc I .. I" .gnihtemos rof niarb sih dekcar kcolrehS

.pu mih reehc dluow yrebbor ecin a spahreP .dellik tog elpoep nehw ti ekil t'ndid nhoJ . gnibrutsid tsomla saw eciov s'nhoJ fo enot gnidaelp ehT. "?lla ta esac ynA ?no gniog esac a evah uoy t'noD"

"?daetsni od ot tnaw uoy od tahW .eniF" .diputs t'nsaw eH. esruoc fo ,duol tuo ti yas t'ndid eH. 'I ma oS'

".ereh etarepsed m'I ?ecno tsuJ ?siht morf kaerb a ekat ew nac ,kcolrehS ,esaelP"

>>PAUSE<<

But what if Sherlock had given himself away? What if John had thought to question him further?

>>PLAY<<

"Please, Sherlock, can we take a break from this? Just once? I'm desperate here."

"So am I." The words slipped out despite his best attempt to bite his tongue. Sherlock winced, hoping against hope that John might not have heard.

"What was that?"

Sherlock closed his eyes to steel himself before shaking his head. "Nothing."

"Desperate how?" John demanded. "Sherlock?"

Dread filled Sherlock's stomach. It was all going to hell now. He'd been on this slippery slope for quite some time, sliding farther and farther down. Apparently, the time to hit rock bottom was now.

"Must we do this?" he asked, trying to buy some more time. Ambiguity was key. Ambiguity meant misunderstanding, meant incomprehension, meant deniability.

But clearly John was not having any of it. Not today, for some reason. It didn't really matter what the reason was because today was not the day Sherlock had wanted to do this.

"Do what?" John demanded. "Plan my wedding? Question your statements? What do you have to be desperate about?"

"The wedding," Sherlock said, hoping John would take it as his picking an answer out of the list John had presented him with rather than an answer to the last option. Ambiguity, misunderstanding, incomprehension, deniability. The words had become a mantra in his head.

Perhaps it was something in his tone. Perhaps it was his short answers - too short, clearly a sign of forcing himself not to add details. ( Only lies have details .) Perhaps it was a momentary lack of control over his expression. Perhaps something about the set of his mouth or the look in his eyes.

John took a sharp breath, his gaze suddenly too intense for Sherlock to bear. He dropped his own gaze to the floor. At least this way he wouldn't have to watch John leave.

"Sherlock..."

He bit his lip. He had never been able to deny John anything when he used that tone, when his voice was so full of concern and caring and worry for Sherlock, as if nothing else mattered in the whole wide world but his wellbeing. It was a lie, of course it was, because the wedding they were currently planning was the number one piece of evidence in the case of John Watson Loving Someone Else.

He forced himself not to react. Let John draw his own conclusions. Ambiguity. Misunderstanding. Incomprehension. Deniability.

"Sherlock."

He drew his shoulders up, wishing he could fend off the emotional blow heading his way. It hadn't worked so far but perhaps this time...

Clothing rustled as John stood.

Ah. Leaving.

Sherlock braced himself, wondering what was the most likely reaction. Shouting? Stumbling apologies and a hasty retreat? A quiet disappearing act under the guise of needing distance? It didn't even matter - either one would destroy him. He should have know he wouldn't make it very far, should have known he would eventually mess it all up and ruin everything, just as he always did.

John gripped his shoulder and Sherlock almost jumped out of his skin.

"Oh, Sherlock."

He couldn't identify the emotion in John's voice. Sympathy? Pain? Grief? Exasperation?

No anger, though. That was good, wasn't it?

He didn't dare raise his head. Whatever it was, he didn't want to see it mirrored on John's face.

John crouched down in front of him, both his hands now on Sherlock's knees to keep his balance. Sherlock couldn't not look at him and fixed his gaze on the strong fingers gripping his knees.

"You never said," John murmured.

Sherlock blinked rapidly and found himself answering despite himself. "What is there to say? You've made your feelings on the matter quite clear."

His voice cracked on the word "feelings" - pitiful, embarrassing. Stupid, stupid Sherlock.

John made a soft noise in his throat. It sounded a bit pained to Sherlock.

Oh no. Hurting John was not good, he hadn't meant to do that.

"I'm sorry."

In all his life, he had never apologised as much as he had in the few months since his return. When would it be enough? Would he ever be forgiven for his many transgressions? Well, probably not, seeing as John was quite clearly only minutes away from leaving permanently. At least he could stop apologising then.

"You have got nothing to be sorry for," John told him, his voice intense.

Sherlock found himself lifting his head a little and looking John straight in the eye. He looked ... determined and, yes, there it was: anger.

He shrank away from the sight. "I shouldn't have ... I didn't mean to," he stammered, unable to determine even in his own head what precisely he had not meant to do. "I never wanted ..."

"Now I know you're lying," John said and the anger turned into something else, something that might have been wry humour. "It seems to me like you do want, after all."

He couldn't argue with the truth.

"I never meant to. I'm sorry. I keep ruining everything. Just ... forget it."

He'd die if John left. The realisation hit him quite suddenly but the moment he understood it, he knew it had been a long time coming, had probably been true all along. All that made him feel alive would whither and die and leave him an empty shell, an existence rather than a life. He would take John forgetting this entire conversation over having to endure that. Anything, just to keep him from leaving forever.

But John's hands were still on his knees and John was still here and John looked like he might cry. The very thought was terrifying.

"I don't ever want to forget a single thing about you," John said softly. His voice shook. "Quite the contrary. I want to know more and more and more. I want to have more and not let go of it ever again once I've got it."

Sherlock shook his head. "I don't understand. I've already given you everything."

John rose up on his knees, leaning forward, one of his hands rising to touch Sherlock's cheek. "Not quite."

And John kissed him.

He didn't return to Mary that night. He was already home.

>>PAUSE<<

>>REWIND<<

And just like that, all the pain they were headed for could have been avoided. But instead...

>>PLAY<<

"Please, Sherlock, can we take a break from this? Just once? I'm desperate here."

'So am I.' He didn't say it out loud, of course. He wasn't stupid. "Fine. What do you want to do instead?"

"Don't you have a case going on? Any case at all?" The pleading tone of John's voice was almost disturbing. John didn't like it when people got killed. Perhaps a nice robbery would cheer him up.

Sherlock racked his brain for something. "I ... I could phone Lestrade, ask if he's got something. Or maybe ..." He paused, remembering. "Wait here."

John's reply was muffled by his jumper as he hid his face in the crook of his arm: "Trust me, I'm not going anywhere."

*****

"Let me get this right. We're getting married in a month - four weeks - and Sherlock is dragging you off on a case to the middle of nowhere?" Mary sounded absolutely scandalised.

"Er ... yes," John confirmed. "That's about the gist of it, yeah."

"For a random crime ?"

"Well, it's more an actual murder, but yes."

"Oh, well, if it's an actual murder..." She didn't sound convinced.

"It is," he confirmed. "I can show you the crime scene pictures if you want me to."

"Oh for heaven's sake!"

John sighed. "Listen ... the wedding preparations are almost done, there will still be almost three weeks left for us to go over everything until we're thoroughly sick of it once I'm back. And it's not like I'm going to leave for a case for so long after we're married."

Mary turned away from the sink where she had been angrily scrubbing plates and stared at him. "Oh really?"

"Really," he confirmed.

Drying her hands, she propped them against her hips. "And what does Sherlock think of that?"

"He was the one who pointed it out in the first place," John told her.

Mary sighed. "Fine. Look, I know the two of you are practically attached at the hip and that this isn't the easiest thing for him." For a split second, John thought he saw something like defeat in her eyes, but a moment later she smiled warmly.

"So go and have that last big adventure with him and then come back so we can get married. I'll sort out the flower arrangements in the meantime."

He smiled and pulled her into his arms, kissing her softly. "I love you."

"I love you, too." Her fingers tangled in his jumper. "Have fun."