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A Second Chance

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He'd not been as surprised at the flash of light as he'd perhaps ought to have been. Generally matchstick boxes were not given to illuminating a room all on their own but this one was unique, clearly, simply given the set of circumstances that had placed the tiny box in his hands. He'd expected something. He truly would have only been surprised if nothing had happened out of the ordinary. The flash of light was blinding but over swiftly before his retinas could complain too loudly at the white nothingness. He quite calmly catalogued the length of the flash and the relative time for his eyes to adjust to proper light once more. He narrowed his gaze in preparation to thoroughly examine the inside of the box to deduce the source and reason for the light flare.

Then his eyes readjusted to colour and his thoughts halted with an audible huff of astonished air. Yes well... yes fine well now he was thoroughly and utterly blind-sided with astonishment.

He was sat at Angelo's.

He blinked rapidly as his gaze darted about. He went stiff as a board struggling to keep a handle on his shock. He was no longer sat in his flat. The matchbox was no longer in his hand.

The restaurant was unmistakable. It was evening. A rather full compliment of patrons. The man himself was ingratiating himself to all. It felt real. Far more real than any dreams he'd ever endured. The cushioned bench was firm beneath him. He could feel nicotine patches plastered to his inner arm. The room smelled of pasta and wine and liberally applied cologne. He could hear all the chatter, from the inane woman across the way to the love-birds to his far left. Every detail was in place. Every sense thrummed to repeat back to him that yes he was in Angelo's. But he couldn't be here. Was it merely a supreme hallucination? No previous high had ever produced in his own mind a scene so real. Had he suffered a stroke and forgotten how he'd gotten here? It seemed highly unlikely. He didn't feel ill. Had he been drugged in some way by whatever was in the box? Only, if he had, why had he not wakened in bed or hospital. John wouldn't have simply left him...


All at once he looked about himself in search of John, half spinning on the bench, but he had only to turn to his right to find the man sat beside him, prodding at his serving of pasta. John quirked a bemused look at what was likely a comically stunned expression on Sherlock's features.


Sherlock openly gaped.


Oh yes there was most certainly something quite wrong. Besides the obvious, of course.

The John sat beside him was distinctly younger than he ought to be. The thin lines that gracefully aged him were lighter. His hair was more dirty blond and far less liberally dusted with flecks of grey. His features were more open. His stance was more inviting.

The inane woman across the way spoke up and drew Sherlock's attention. He mouthed to himself the words she said next at the exact moment she spoke them. "If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college." He'd known she'd say it. He remembered her saying the ridiculous phrase.

John narrowed his gaze on Sherlock and tilted his head. “Pardon?”

This wasn't simply Angelo's. He'd been here. Before. Prior. Earlier. This very moment. This was...

His attention shifted sharply back onto John, whose head was still (rather adorably) cocked to one side in concern. Sherlock narrowed his gaze on this young phantom and questioned, though he already knew the answer, “Why are we here?”

“What? You think I've already forgotten we're trying to track down a serial murderer? I'm not quite that dim. Or was that a rhetorical question?” John smiled. Truly smiled. His eyes lit up and his features softened. There was something astonishing in the way he looked at Sherlock.

Sherlock couldn't help but press, “A serial murderer passing it off as suicide?”

“So you claim,” John verbally nudged him with the comment. His eyes flashed at the tease.

This was their very first meal at Angelo's.

Sherlock snapped his mouth closed with an audible click of teeth and shifted to sit stiffly upright, facing ahead and away from John, as he struggled to come to terms with the scene in front of him. The most likely explanation seemed to be a hallucination, even if Sherlock had never before experienced something so lifelike during his own recreational use of hallucinogens, or even when doused with the HOUND experimental compound. People have claimed to experience exceedingly real imagined fantasies and horrors. His own mind palace was very lifelike but he was in control and aware of being there. He had no idea how he'd ended up here and it simply didn't feel the same. It did not feel like a construct of his own mind. Yet what other explanation was there?

He could sense John's questioning gaze on him but ignored it for the time being. If this was some sort of dream, then this John could surely wait quietly for him. Sherlock placed his hands flat on the table in front of himself. He wasn't eating, obviously, and the place setting before him was empty. The wooden table felt solid. Worn. Stained but well kept. He could trace the light bit of grain in the wood through the polish. It was cool to the touch at first but gradually warmed with his body heat. It felt real.

Sherlock closed his eyes. Wake. He needed to wake. He willed himself to wake.

A hesitant but firm hand moved to rest against Sherlock's forearm. John's voice was low, tinged with colours of Doctor Watson, as he asked, “Are you alright?”

Sherlock likely looked to everyone else as if he were about to have a panic attack. Perhaps he was.

Why would he not wake? He couldn't stay here. He couldn't bear a figment of John looking at him as he knew this John was surely looking at him right now. Because the John back at his flat, the John nearly five years older, no longer looked at him with such wonder. Certainly not often. Generally not ever.

The hand on his forearm squeezed. “Deep breaths, hm? In and out. Slowly. That's it. Relax, Sherlock.” John's voice was smooth and soothing with the undercurrent of authority. Sherlock found himself doing as ordered without a second thought. His breathing evened out from the panic that had stricken him. His posture slouched ever so slightly. “Good. See? Everything's fine.”

Sherlock opened his eyes.

Everything was not fine.

He was still at Angelo's. He was still sat beside a younger and adoring John Watson. A John Watson who smiled openly at him, doing his very best to reassure and comfort the odd but mesmerising man he'd only just met. Sherlock was overwhelmed by the difference. Oh how he'd abused John's adoration. Oh how he'd ruined their relationship. Of course, it had been to keep John alive, it had been to keep them all alive, but it had cost so much. So much more than he'd realised at the time he'd made the choice to jump. Two years away had taught him just how very much John meant to him, just how ridiculously bleak life was without his beacon of light, but it had driven a wedge between them. There was no such hurt in this John Watson's eyes. He was keen. He was open. He was pleased. Pleased to be here, with a high-functioning sociopath, staking out for a murderer. Pleased to have purpose in his life once more. Pleased to taste adventure and danger. Pleased to be with Sherlock.

He wasn't certain if John back in his own time was still pleased to be with Sherlock, for all they now ran about London solving mysteries to keep busy since his return. It was not the same. Living in 221b without him. It was empty.

So much... unrealised potential sat before Sherlock right at this very moment. If only he had observed then what he saw now.

John gave Sherlock's forearm one final reassuring squeeze and then retreated with Sherlock's breathing back down toward normal. “So. Not a big fan of crowds then?” John pointed his fork around the restaurant, as if that were the reason for Sherlock's panic.

“I am not overly a big fan of any gatherings,” he stated matter-of-factly, as if it were obvious, which it would be since Sherlock was not generally a fan of people, period. Only one person, really... He kept his gaze on John, watching him methodically eat his meal. If he were going to be hallucinating this time and place, he might as well enjoy the moment. The case was of little consequence. If the dream carried on he'd merely ring Lestrade and tell him the address of the killer, never mind how he knew. He ignored the window and instead took in the myriad of minor details that made up John Watson as he sat calmly under the attention. The tan woolly jumper he wore was a particular favourite. His hair was still short and he was mildly tanned from only just returning from war. If only he'd hallucinated a handful of weeks later. He very much appreciated John with longer fringe. It was remarkable all the small details that bespoke of how much younger John was before him. Not that the current John appeared old, though thank bloody Christ he'd gotten rid of his ridiculous moustache, but this one lacked the small little touches of age. How had so much time passed since their first meeting?

Quiet between them stretched on a bit, what with Sherlock busy mesmerising the calm stillness between them, and as John was wont to do, he filled the easy quiet with chatter.

“You know, people don't have arch-enemies.”

Sherlock blinked at the shift in subject, just as caught off guard by the line as he had been when the comment was stated years before, and muttered, “Sorry?”

“In real life,” John persisted. “There are no arch-enemies in real life. Doesn't happen.”

“Doesn't it?” Sherlock replied without thinking, the words out of his mouth before he could stop them. He frowned as he willed himself not to utterly repeat himself. No. No he was not going to mimic what he'd said before back to this dream John or whatever was going on. For one, it sounded frightfully dull to relive something to the letter with no surprises, and for another, he really should have answered these questions, these particular sets of questions, quite differently at the time. If only he'd known. If only he'd paid attention. If only he'd not been frightened of the idea of needing someone.

John pressed on with his inquires. “No. It doesn't. So then who did I meet?”

Sherlock met his gaze and held it. John remained steadfast in his line of questioning. Yes. Why not enjoy taking a different path? He answered simply but honestly, “My brother.”

“Your... Your brother? Your brother is your arch-enemy? Your brother whisked me away to an empty warehouse to have a little chat about spying on you?”

“He's a mite overprotective.”

John barked a mocking but still amused laugh. “Overprotective was not the word I was going to use.”

Sherlock smiled at him, the corner of his lips curling up at this younger John's reactions. “You still should have taken the money, though I do truly appreciate your show of loyalty.” John grumbled at the comment even as he grinned around a forkful of pasta. “And I do promise my brother means well. He's simply surprised at our fast... camaraderie.” Sherlock picked his words thoughtfully, not wanting to frighten this phantom John with declarations. Yet.

“I'd ask if you don't have many friends but you named your pet skull.” John's eyes lit up at the tease pointed at Sherlock. “So I got the big brotherly once over immediately then?”

“It would seem so,” Sherlock returned with a suggestive tilt to his head. “I assure you he approves of you or he wouldn't have allowed you to return.”

John snorted but then blinked at Sherlock's expression. “What seriously?”

“He will tell you he has a minor place in British government. I'd say he rather is the British government. Either way he doesn't seem to think you're a poor influence on me.”

“On you? You're the one running after murderers.”

Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “And you're the one following after me.”

“Hm yes.” John hummed and cast what was clearly now, what with Sherlock's more extensive knowledge of the man, an appraising and appreciative look over Sherlock. “So then girlfriend? Boyfriend? Has your brother frightened them all away?”

“All but one potential suitor,” Sherlock said meaningfully.

The other man pursed his lips at the comment. “You don't have a girlfriend then?”

It amused him that John would push for this subject again even though they had deviated with the talk of Mycroft. He answered pointedly, not distractedly as he had been the time before, but used the same words, “Girlfriend? No, not really my area.”

The reply got a flush from this John and yet he persisted, “Oh, right. Do you have a boyfriend, then? Which is fine--”

“I know it's fine, but no, I don't. Not currently.” He purposefully omitted the ridiculous line of being married to his work. It had been feeble bravado at the time and it had served to thoroughly confused John to no end over the rest of their relationship. Perhaps at least this hallucination of John might get the true drift of his interests.

“But you have had? Boyfriends, I mean.”

Oh if only he could have this conversation with the actual John Watson. If only he had said all this to the actual John Watson at the time. Sherlock's gaze turned gentle and adoring as he spoke softly, “I have had sexual liaisons with male acquaintances but none I would classify as boyfriends or serious emotional attachments. It would take someone quite special... It would take a very unique individual to get my undivided, uninterrupted attention and ardour”

Sherlock shifted oh so slightly forward, leaning an elbow on the table, and purposefully wet his lower lip. John's gaze dropped immediately to the move and his own tongue darted out in unconscious mimicry.

“I would imagine so...” John's gaze stayed fixed on Sherlock's lips as they stayed gently parted. “Well then, we're both single.”

“Hm, is that so?” Sherlock rumbled. “No girlfriends? Boyfriends?” He pushed to return that question, something that he had on many a night wished he'd done. As much as John clearly adored him, he had not once heard John speak on his sexuality other than to rebuff comments on his being gay. There were more options than gay or straight and surely, after his own forward and honest answer, John could be just as forward with his new and interesting flatmate.

“Neither,” this John answered, which in itself was something of a victory. He did not dismiss boyfriend out of hand.

“So there has been both?” Sherlock pressed, trying his best not to look too interested in the answer, but unable to hide the interest from his eyes.

John's own eyes flashed with something, memories perhaps, and he broke their intense gaze to poke at his pasta. “I...” He stammered. Then the most miraculous thing happened. John blushed. All over. His ears turned pink. Yet he continued on, “There was one bloke... well two... but I tend to... I'm not gay.” He stated firmly, a flash of the actual John showing through, as he looked up almost defiantly at Sherlock.

“Labels are boring,” Sherlock managed to say smoothly, even as his own heart leaped in his chest. If only... if only his John would admit to such things. He did his best to soothe the phantom John in front of him. “And if one must label it, bisexuality is nothing to fret over. One might even say you're far better off, being able to enjoy the human form in all it's so-called glory.”

The other man relaxed though he was still pink all over. “I've never really considered myself... I don't usually talk about...” He levelled Sherlock with a steadier look and admitted quietly, echoing Sherlock's own words, “It takes a very particular sort of bloke to gain my attention too. Just so you know.”

Sherlock smiled, truly smiled, at the thought that he could be the sort that John would notice. If only... If only he'd nurtured that idea... His own eyes flashed with adoration at John. “No matter the gender, you deserve someone who understands just how very special and unique you are, John Watson. Too many dismiss you without seeing who you truly are. You are brilliant and selfless and loyal to a degree unseen in many. You are the bravest, the wisest, the kindest. You are to be treasured. You are to be fully accepted for every facet of who you are. You deserve so very much more than average from your potential romantic interests.”

The mild speech left John stunned a moment, quietly taking in Sherlock, before his eyes flashed an even darker blue. His voice was distinctly flirtatious. “Are you looking to fill that position yourself then?”

It was Sherlock's turn to blush. Even if it was a hallucination, a very real feeling John Watson had just bloody hit on him. Pointedly hit on him. Without any mistaking the comment. Sherlock's cheeks burned pink and he all at once turned shy. He looked down at the quite remarkably real imaginary table. Was this what would have happened? Was this how it would have gone? If only he'd opened that door? If only he'd been honest? If only he'd responded to John's inquiries positively?

Shit, I'm sorry,” came John's concerned voice, rushing to make up for what he took as Sherlock reacting negatively to the flirtation. “I promise, if... I mean, I can respect boundaries. I would never... Fuck, I'm sorry if I've made this awkward. This is one reason I don't generally admit to--”

He was cut off as Sherlock kissed him. Soundly. John stiffened with shock, grunted in surprise, but it only took 3.2 seconds for him to return the kiss. They were the longest 3.2 seconds of Sherlock's life, whether this was a dream or not, because John felt real, John tasted real, John sounded real. The other man finally hummed into the kiss and parted his lips, tilting his head to one side. Oh god did he feel real. John gripped him by the front of his suit jacket and they kissed into oblivion, heedless of the stares in their direction from the other patrons. For once this whole experience did take on a dreamlike quality as his first kiss with John (hallucination or not) materialised into something magnificent. Not until they both needed to come up for air did they part, each gasping against one another's lips, and Sherlock took in the sight of a thoroughly snogged John Watson. Flushed cheeks and bruised lips. Long lashes that lifted to show pupils blown wide and eyes that flashed a deep blue and seemed to glow at the sight of Sherlock.

John positively thrummed with happiness as he teased gently, “Who knew I was so special?”

“You are special, John. So incredibly special. You are my conductor of light.”

“Well now there's a line if I ever heard one.” John smirked. He slid one hand up along Sherlock's lapel and curled fingers gently around the side of Sherlock's neck. “Shouldn't we be watching for the serial murderer? You haven't taken your eyes off me.”

Hm, there would be Three Continents Watson with his own assured lines and touches. Being the focus of John's attentions was beyond expectations, even from a phantom John. “You are far more interesting. And besides, I saw his car just now.”

John's smile faded as he twisted to look behind himself at the busy streets beyond the window at his back. “What, really?”

“Indeed. Taxi driver. Easy enough to pick up victims, take them somewhere they shouldn't be, and toy with them. I'll text Lestrade.” Sherlock reached for his mobile out of his coat pocket, frowning in displeasure to feel John's hands slip from him at the move. Pity they did not get to enjoy the high of the chase together. It had rather cemented real John's attachment to Sherlock. He hastily tapped out a text to Lestrade, mildly annoyed at the now ancient cellphone. “The MET should be able to track the man down themselves with this information so I'm sorry for the relatively quiet evening, all things considered, but I do promise more interesting evenings in the future.”

“Who said tonight wasn't interesting?” There was a warm brush of knee to Sherlock's thigh. Sherlock looked up to find the full force of John's charisma pointed at himself. He nearly dropped his mobile. He turned the fumble into a blind move to set it on the table. John merely smiled and leaned in close to murmur, “And it doesn't necessarily have to be over just yet...”

Sherlock had never blushed so deeply in all his life. It seemed once that door was opened, this John was quite confident in his interests, for the night at the very least. He'd half expected John to brush off the kiss and more intimate talk in favour of returning to normality. Perhaps if their friendship had been more cemented, he would have reacted thus, but things were still new on all fronts, as flatmates and colleagues and friends and more, and this John saw every possibility as still open. This John was quite keen not to have Sherlock forget the possibility of more. It was startling how intensely John looked at him. How every soul did not faint at his feet was a mystery. That look could get anyone to respond and John at this very moment chose to point it at him.

“Indeed,” Sherlock managed to find his voice, though it traitorously cracked. He shifted to brush his thigh against John's knee himself in silent agreement. “Have you finished? Shall we return to the flat?”

“Yes. I could do with settling in to the place.” John's eyes were magnetic. They flashed with keen interest.

They both reached for their coats at the same instant, a flurry of movement to stand and step out into the night and wrap up against the cold, all while never noticing the chill as they marched in time toward Baker Street. John's gaze lingered over Sherlock's neck and hands as he slipped his scarf back into place. They walked briskly, John's cane and psychosomatic limp forgotten, but Sherlock took care not to outpace John's shorter strides. It was not an unpleasant bit of silence.

After the second brush of arm against arm as they walked side by side, Sherlock realised John was still attempting to touch, even out in the not uncrowded city streets. It was unexpected. Yes the restaurant was public but somehow touching here felt far more open. He'd expected even imaginary John to loathe public displays. Sherlock tested the theory by reaching to brush long fingers over John's hand as they walked. He was surprised to find those fingers turning and brushing his own back. Remarkable. He pushed for more. He slid fingers along John's palm and then clasped his hand. The man squeezed in return and brushed his thumb over Sherlock's inner wrist. The move sent an audible gasp from Sherlock and a wide grin from John.

John Watson, figment of his imagination or not, was willing holding his hand and caressing him as they marched toward Baker Street.

Had his hallucinations shifted toward ridiculous fantasy?

He floated the rest of the way to the flat, hardly able to bring himself to release John to retrieve his key, and opened the door in a rush. John stood by with the same pleased smile plastered on his features. They stepped inside and Sherlock blinked as John bustled up the stairs two at a time ahead of him before Sherlock could even shut the door after them.

“Tea?” John called out nonchalantly as he reached the top of the stairs. He disappeared as Sherlock followed after. He slipped off his jacket and scarf, hanging both beside the door, as he heard John in the kitchen. “Was that a yes?”

Sherlock shut and locked both doors into the flat, not the least bit interested in Mrs. Hudson popping up to say hello, as she generally had horrid timing. He stepped to the entrance of the kitchen and leaned against it to take in John busying himself with tea. His heart ached. Sure enough this John was soon to be making all the tea for the next few years but his John back in his own time rarely attempted. He wasn't over enough and it wasn't his kitchen any longer. Sherlock fought a horrible wave of melancholy. This wasn't real. As entertaining as it was, it couldn't be real, he had to wake at some point, and he would be left with an empty... life.

John put the kettle on and placed two mugs on the counter before he turned back toward Sherlock. His shining eyes faltered at the pain etched on Sherlock's features. “We... don't have to have tea... I just thought...” He stumbled over his words, suddenly unsure of himself.

“Tea would be lovely,” Sherlock reassured, loathed to be the one to make this John lose his smile. He ought to live in this moment. He ought to enjoy this ridiculous slice of heaven while it lasted. He shouldn't be thinking of reality. He should be basking in the glow of this John's adoration and interest. He pushed aside his dour mood and stepped over to John beside the counter. He waited until the man met his gaze before he dropped his voice and murmured in a low, sultry baritone, “But I was hoping for rather more than tea.”

The flash of interest returned to John's deep blue eyes. He wet his lower lip and turned to fully face Sherlock. “You're not interested in me being the least bit subtle? I was going to seduce you on the sofa and everything.”

Sherlock's thoughts stuttered at the sound of those words on John's lips and the mental image they produced. Well now maybe he should have gone along with tea and gotten the full John Watson seduction. He refocused his eyes on a smirking John, who clearly knew Sherlock had just wandered off to imagine the scenario. He pulled himself together and met the challenge head on. “I would think my bed would be far more comfortable for such activities.”

John's look glazed over as he clearly mentally wandered off at the suggestion. Now to deduce which activities John was envisioning, to surprise John with it immediately upon pulling him into the bedroom...

His observations were cut short. There was the muted loud bang against the front door downstairs. “Sherlock!” came Mrs. Hudson's shouting voice. On cue, as ever, to interrupt.

Sherlock frowned and left a dreamy looking John beside the kettle to unlock and open their flat's main door. He shouted back down, “Yes Mrs. Hudson. John will take the room upstairs, whether he uses it often is another matter for discussion, but do kindly be quiet.”

John made a startled noise and flushed, muttering a grumble at Sherlock, but not arguing too soundly at the comment. He turned back to making tea.

“Sherlock!” Mrs. Hudson snapped again. “You have visitors.”

Sherlock frowned as he pushed his head out the door to look down the stairs. He hadn't texted Angelo for the cane. There shouldn't be...

His frown deepened at the sight of Lestrade, Donovan, and Anderson climbing up his stairs. The drugs bust. Yes of course. But they were home early and Sherlock had solved the case. They should be off finding the driver, not harassing them. “What are you doing here?”

Lestrade huffed at the brisk greeting. “Oh nice to see you too, Sherlock.”

“I solved the case. Go and catch the driver before he endangers someone else.”

This was really eating into his fantasy time with dull and ridiculous triviality. He'd meant to be dragging John to bed by now.

“And how did you know his address?” Donovan asked as she came to stand beside Lestrade on the landing.

Sherlock barred their entrance into the flat proper with his body, the door propped only half open, and ignored a muted question from John called out from the kitchen. “A simple slew of internet searches. Honestly you're wasting time. He will--”

“We already caught him, Sherlock,” Lestrade interrupted. “But we have reason to believe you're withholding evidence and I need everything I can get on him.”

Anderson huffed, “We didn't exactly catch him in the act. All we have is your word.”

Sherlock released an all-suffering sigh. Even in his hallucinations this Anderson was insufferable. He'd been far more interesting since Sherlock's two years away. This one was still a prat. “Check his floorboards and crawl spaces. Thoroughly examine his car. He'll have an illegal firearm on him and supplies for crafting his own pills.”

“Pills?” Lestrade questioned.

“Yes. Pills. He presents the victim with two pills, leads them to pick the poisoned pill and they both ingest them. Only his isn't poisoned. Thinks he's clever. That along with her phone--”

“Whose phone?”

“Oh yes. Well fine hold on.” He slammed the door shut, to the annoyance of the officers. He marched over to the pink suitcase, tossed the cover back on, and zipped it with a flourish.

John wandered into the sitting room holding their tea. “What's going on?”

“Nothing. They'll just be leaving.” Sherlock hefted the luggage and returned to the flat's door, opening it and shoving the bag at Anderson. “That's her suitcase. You'll find a phone the same appalling shade of pink. That'll be hers as well. Ties him neatly to the murder. Case closed. Goodbye.”

He moved to slam the door shut again but Lestrade held up a hand to stop it with a firm thud. “And where did you happen upon this suitcase, Sherlock?”

“Unlike your officers, I know where to search for clues.” Lestrade's look hardened at the answer and Sherlock hefted another sigh as he continued on, this all being terribly dull for a hallucination. “I found it in an alleyway near to where you stumbled upon the body. I assure you I have nothing else pertinent to the case.”

“How about we just come in and look for ourselves, then?” Donovan demanded.

“When you have the proper paperwork I'd be thrilled to have you riffling through my pants drawer, Sally, but for now would you all be off doing your jobs?” He gave the door another shove against Lestrade's hand.

“You're a mite wound up tonight, mate,” Lestrade stated the obvious. His gaze flicked over behind Sherlock and clearly spotted John, now having set the tea aside, beyond in the sitting room. “He's not frightened you off yet? Good. I suppose.” He flashed a smile at John, one that bespoke of the camaraderie they'd share later on with both of them 'dealing' with Sherlock.

“Not in the slightest,” John said as he came up behind Sherlock. He pressed himself to Sherlock's back and looked round him at the officers still barred entry to the flat. “Are you lot going to keep agitating him for much longer? Haven't you got what you need? Surely further questions can wait until morning.”

“What? Got plans for the evenin'?” Donovan sneered with malicious intent, taking in John's close posture with narrowed eyes.

Sherlock opened his mouth to lay into the rude woman with a slew of deductions about her and Anderson but then stopped before he could start as John's arm slid around Sherlock's waist from behind in a possessive and blatant gesture.

“And what if we do?”

Donovan and Anderson looked about as dumbfounded as Sherlock felt. Lestrade, to his credit, was trying to hide a smile that clearly advertised the fact he'd just won a very large sum on a bet. Sherlock paused a moment to wonder if his own Lestrade had placed bets on him and John, and if he'd rather lost it that time around.

“Right you are, John,” Lestrade managed as straight-faced as he could. “We'll come round in the morning if we need more.”

“Better make it afternoon,” John boldly amended, earning a bright pink flush out of Sherlock and a barely contained huff of laughter from Lestrade.

“Oh god, you're bloody perfect together,” Donovan gasped as she and Anderson turned to flee from the scene.

John called out darkly after them, annoyance laced with false civility, “Ta, I happen to think so too!” Their only reply was irritated grunts of disgust as they disappeared from sight.

Lestrade shook his head at the pair. His gaze settled on Sherlock. “You'd better be right about all this.” The comment was not merely over the case. Hallucination Lestrade was as ever more observant than one might imagine.

Sherlock pulled out of his stunned silence enough to tilt his chin up defensively. “I am always right.”

Lestrade snorted and said to John, “Don't wear him out too badly, mate.” He cocked a smile and, thankfully, turned to leave.

“No promises,” John answered, finally earning a chuckle that Lestrade could not hold back.

John's arm tightened around a still rather shocked Sherlock and bodily pulled him back a step to get the door shut. Then he further surprised Sherlock by wrapping his other arm around him, continuing to hold him from behind. The earlier gesture had not merely been for show. John did not pull away now that they were alone.

“Sorry if that was too...” John started to say against Sherlock's shoulder. He grunted and began again. “I didn't want her feeling like she was free to make those sort of comments. If I'm being too--”

“You are not,” Sherlock immediately interrupted. “And you are correct. She would have persisted in such comments for years if allowed.” He took a deep steadying breath. He should stop being so surprised at each turn. John was loyal. John was a romantic. Of course he'd not be shy over this. Not when he'd decided on it. Not when it appeared to be happening. John was steadfast in a direction once he picked it. Somehow, remarkably, this was the direction picked.

He relaxed into John's hold on him and moved a hand back to thread into John's short cropped hair over his shoulder. His fingers brushed through bristly strands and gently over his scalp. John hummed and Sherlock could feel the vibration of it all along his back. This all felt so ridiculously real...

John shifted to nuzzle his way to Sherlock's neck. His arms tightened around him. His lips brushed against Sherlock's skin as he spoke. “Tea's getting cold.”

“Not interested in tea.”

He gently tugged on John's hair, earning a low pleased noise at the back of John's throat, as the man pressed himself firmly against Sherlock's backside. John's mouth opened to press wet kisses to Sherlock's neck. He lightly scraped teeth against skin and sent Sherlock into shivers, his breathing hitching as John's hands took to roaming instead of merely embracing. Kisses traced up to Sherlock's ear before John murmured, “You're no fun, Sherlock. Snogging on the sofa is one of the best bits.”

It was a tease but it still sent Sherlock's more analytical side worrying. “Am I being too easy?” he voiced the concern aloud before he could stop himself. “I can demand you cease your groping but I would rather you didn't.”

John chuckled against him, the sensation nearly better than the continued kisses to his neck. “Somehow I think things with you are never too easy, Sherlock.” Sherlock immediately worried in the opposite direction, that he'd be a horrible romantic interest, that this John will grow too irritated to deal with him, that things will work out even worse than in reality, what with emotions set even higher. John read his tension as he continued, “Not like that, you git.” He bit down lightly just behind his ear. “I mean you're interesting. Different. Unique. Easy isn't a word I'd ever use but that's not a negative. Eager maybe...” He purposefully ran his tongue along Sherlock's earlobe.

The world tilted ever so slightly at the glide of tongue against skin. Sherlock moaned. His legs quite nearly turned into mush. John tightened his hold around him once more to keep him upright.

“Yes, lets go with very eager,” John purred into his ear, teasing humour in his voice. “Fine. Bed it is. But I'm still snogging you senseless once we're there, just so you know.” He shifted to come around beside Sherlock, ducking under an arm and bringing it around his own shoulders, to help keep Sherlock upright. “Who knew you were a swooner.”

“I am not swooning,” Sherlock protested, though his mind was fantastically fuzzy with John's attentions. He looked dreamily at John as the man pointed them through the kitchen toward the bedroom. He leaned down to drawl into John's ear, his voice dropping into a sultry rumble, “I am merely eager to have that mouth and tongue on all parts of me.”

Christ!” John gasped and stuttered in his own guiding steps as he struggled to keep them both upright. He loudly cleared his throat and soldiered on down the short hallway. “You know that voice of yours ought to be illegal.”

Sherlock radiated smugness at his minor victory. His mind filed away that little bit of knowledge. “Does this mean you enjoy a vocal partner?”

“No, it means I like your voice in particular, you prat.”

He was led into the bedroom and John turned so they both could sit down, the mattress complaining lightly at the sudden weight.

“So you'd rather I was quiet?” Sherlock pressed, heart rate ticking up another notch at being here, finally bloody here in his bedroom with this John. With any John. He wanted this to be perfect. Everything had to be perfect. He had to be perfect, seeing as John was perfection personified.

“Stop trying to deduce your way through this, Sherlock.”

John gripped him by the front of his suit jacket and kissed him. Deep. Full. Simmering with hunger but thoroughly in control. His tongue expertly spread Sherlock's mouth open and then he sucked on his open lower lip. Sherlock moaned. John pulled it from him with little effort. He could no more not moan at the kiss than he could shove John away from him. It was intense and brilliant and beyond all experience and, sadly, over far too quickly. John broke the kiss and Sherlock whimpered. Bloody whimpered. It was low and needy and ridiculous. His eyes were closed and his mouth hung open, as if hopeful he'd look too inviting to stop and John might take it up again.

Instead the man mouthed against his lips, John's voice a deliciously deep rumble of its own now, “You can't think your way through this, not with me.” His tongue dipped out to run along Sherlock's parted lips, brushing over the lower. Sherlock moaned and reached for him, clinging to John's jumper, utterly proving his point. “I want you to react honestly, Sherlock. That's all. Turn that brilliant brain of yours off. Just be here. With me.”

The comment stabbed at Sherlock's heart more than this John could ever know. He wasn't here. He wasn't really here with John. And yet he was. Somehow he was. It wasn't real but it felt real. Was it madness to forget this was a dream? Was it stupidity to do as he asked and simply be in this moment? What harm would it do? Break his heart further once he woke? He'd already lost that John. This one was real enough. This one was his. He twisted his fingers in front of John's jumper. It was all so real.

He slowly opened his eyes, meeting the intensely honest look on John's face, and he broke. “John,” he sighed in the softest of tones. “I would be here, with you, for the rest of time, if the universe would allow me.”

John's entire face softened and lit up at the unexpectedly heartfelt answer. “I'd say the universe owes us that much, hm?” He smiled, unknowing just how bloody right his comment truly was, and rested his forehead to Sherlock's, a hand coming up to cup his cheek. “I want so much more than just one night in this bed, love.”

“I want eternity with you in this bed,” Sherlock answered immediately with every fibre of conviction. “I never wish you to leave it.”

John's thumb brushed over his cheek as he took in the taller man, sending Sherlock's heart skipping in the most delightful and yet distressing way. He wanted this. Whatever this was. He wanted as much of this as he could get. Finally John smiled and gently pushed those fingers back into Sherlock's curls. The sensation was utterly distracting. “I guess I won't be using the extra bedroom after all.”

“We'll find some other use for it,” Sherlock sighed in relief. This John was his. Somehow. Remarkably. Whatever this was. John was his. His John. Sherlock's own eyes reflected the enormity of his adoration. “John...” He relaxed his fingers against John's jumper and smoothed his hands up to cling to John's shoulder and neck instead. Would he stay? Would he not disappear? Would he not wake? Would this work if he did remain? How could he ever be enough for John Watson?

“Promise I'm not going anywhere,” John soothed, picking up on Sherlock's concerns. He brushed fingers through long curls. “All I want is right here.” He kissed him again. Sweeter this time, mixed with promises still unspoken, but overwhelming in their merely being in John's touch. This John hardly knew him. This John had only met him. Yet this John adored him all the same. This John wanted him.

Sherlock returned the kiss even as he leaned back, pulling the smaller man with him. They shifted further onto the bed and settled along their sides. They pressed together, chests all the way down to John's leg hitching over Sherlock's, but there was no rush to remove clothing. John wanted to snog first. Sherlock was more than willing to snog for eternity.

He was left breathless by the time they broke, head fuzzy in the best of ways, as John moved to press kisses along Sherlock's jaw and throat. His fingers twisted in John's hair as the man took to attacking his neck with as much vigour as the snogging. He shuddered at the scrape of teeth and moaned at a firm bite. Sherlock gasped out a teasing confession, “Yes, I... I seem to have thoroughly misjudged the joys of necking with John Watson.”

John chuckled in amusement and gave another bite to his neck that was followed by a firm suck, both of which were likely to leave a mark. Sherlock had the ridiculous hope that Lestrade would interrupt them tomorrow merely to show off his neck.

“I hope you're not misjudging the joys of everything else.” John tugged on Sherlock's curls and then those hands were moving down to unbutton Sherlock's suit. “Then again surprising you is a pretty big feat. I should stop complaining.”

Sherlock snickered even as he was swiftly stripped of his jacket. “I have the utmost confidence in all of your abilities, Captain.”

There was a heady groan from John at the use of his title. Firm hands quickly moved on to Sherlock's dress shirt. Lips were back on Sherlock's mouth and the kisses were much more heated. Well now there's a kink they share in common. Sherlock's own hands rushed to catch up with John's quick work stripping him of his tops. The kisses broke to slide off John's jumper, only to resume immediately as buttoned shirts were hastily done open. Shoes were toed off and kicked onto the floor. Sherlock's head was swimming as John's roaming hands settled on stripping him of his trousers too.

“Oh yes,” Sherlock broke the kisses to gasp. “Yes please.”

John cracked a lopsided grin at him. “So bloody eager.” He gently nipped at Sherlock's chin as he got both trousers and pants down over Sherlock's already keen cock to push them more haphazardly down thighs and long legs. Sherlock kicked once they were down out of John's reach, toeing off socks in process, damn fucking eager to be in nothing at all with John. “And what,” John said, reattaining Sherlock's drifting attention, eyes snapping back onto the flushed, gorgeous man in front of him, “are you so eager for precisely?” There was a glint in John's eyes as he posed the question. His fingertips ghosted over Sherlock's side and teased up his spine.

Everything,” Sherlock gasped immediately, eyes glossing over at the skin to skin touches. His cock was pointedly left ignored between them, and John was still in his trousers, but it was all at once remarkable to be here, remarkable to see want in John's eyes, remarkable to wallow in this moment.

“Everything?” John repeated back. Both his hands brushed round to Sherlock's backside and slid down to cup his bum. Sherlock bucked forward against John, merely able to whimper rather ridiculously at him. He shuddered as his cock brushed against both trousers and John's bare stomach. John ran his tongue along Sherlock's lower lip. “I don't know if we can manage everything tonight, love.”

John” was the only mildly coherent word he could manage. He wanted. He wanted so much. He wanted it all. He wanted every iteration and possibility. At once. There was no one way to have John Watson.

John's rolling chuckle sent another gasp out of Sherlock. The other man shifted him onto his back and released his bum. “Hm, lets calm you down a bit, shall we?” John trailed kisses over his sternum and chest, flicking his tongue against each of Sherlock's peaked nipples, before continuing lower.

“No, I am-- I am calm. I... I... oh Christ!” Sherlock's mild attempts to dismiss the idea were thrown out the window as John pinned his hips down and ran his tongue from base to tip in one long, delicious move. It was made all the more stunning because it was John tasting him. He bucked against the firm hands holding him down and arched his back up toward that perfect mouth. John's tongue leisurely circled over the glans and Sherlock's mind shut down. He did his utmost to keep his eyes open and glued on John, even if most was blocked from view by the back of that glorious head, because he was going to remember this moment for the rest of his life. He fisted fingers in John's short cropped hair. Then he was lost to moans as John took the head and more into his mouth. Sherlock was an incoherent mess of moans. He thrust against those hands keeping him pinned down as John began to bob and suck and hum.

It was embarrassingly quick but he had wanted this, had dreamed of this, had ached for this for so many years. He could not be expected to last with John's mouth on him. He came in a rush. He had no time to warn John. He was too busy falling to pieces. He felt one of John's hands take over with wet strokes as he still came against John's tongue. The man didn't release him. He merely hummed and sucked and swallowed. Sherlock bucked and strained to give him all the seed he could as waves of euphoria washed over him.


Only as he came down did John slow his strokes, releasing the head from his mouth with a pleased growl. “Amazing. Truly amazing. You have no idea what a breathtaking sight you make when you let go, Sherlock.” He hummed and turned to press kisses along Sherlock's hip and stomach. His strokes turned lazy but they didn't stop completely, keeping Sherlock half hard. Not that he bloody needed the help, what with John in his bed, he'd need no help staying aroused. John positively radiated smugness as he pressed, “Now then, calm enough to tell me what else you'd like tonight?'

“You don't play fair,” Sherlock drawled in a sated, adoring tone. His eyes focused on the sight of John between his legs still, John kissing at his skin, John stroking him lightly still and sending shudders through him. Flushed and hungry. Deep blue eyes filled with so much more than what ought to be there. So much behind every touch and kiss. “And oh do you make a sight of your own...” His fingers in John's hair loosened their hold and played through the strands instead.

John delighted in the comments and touches but still teased with a nipping kiss just below Sherlock's ribs. “Still not answering me, you git.”

Sherlock thrummed with pleasure but his mind was slowly returning to him. He took a steadying breath. John was rather persistent that Sherlock pick their activities. He tilted his head down at John. “Do you get no say yourself? I meant it when I said everything so surely you're free to choose as you'd like.”

There was a flash of something in John's gaze and then he was oddly blushing at the comment. Why the embarrassment? He shifted and kissed his way up Sherlock's chest as he answered, “Because.” He released Sherlock to prop himself up on both his elbows and settle above him, keeping Sherlock's gaze. “Because I want everything too, and I'm desperate to please the brilliant man beneath me, so why not make him choose?”

It was such a heartfelt statement. Sherlock took a steadying breath against the wash of emotions. There was so much adoration, so much want in John's eyes. He was utterly desperate to keep that ardour in John's gaze. He was starkly reminded of the John above him. Their relationship was so new, at least from John's point of view, and he was worried over Sherlock growing tired of it all. He nearly laughed at the thought but knew John wouldn't appreciate the reaction. Instead, his hands moved to cup John's cheeks, returning the same honest look with his own.

“There is not a future I wish to inhabit that does not have you right here, John. There's no reason to fret over trivialities. I would have you in every way possible, from now until I draw my last breath, but for tonight, if you wish, I would have you just as we are right now. Face to face. I want to see you. I want to watch you. I want to feel you inhabit every fibre of my being. I would give myself up wholly to you and I would feel you everywhere. I want you John. Tonight and all the nights that follow. You right here is all you need do to please me. Even in my darkest moods, it's truly all I ever need from you.” He brushed lips against the stunned John above him. “Have me tonight, John. Please.”

John blinked as he struggled to comprehend, his marvellously long lashes distracting Sherlock a moment, before John spoke and regained his attention. “I'd ask you how you know exactly what to say, exactly what I need to hear, but you're Sherlock bloody Holmes.” He smiled against Sherlock's lips. “I believe you mean every word, even if you read my mind. I want you. From that very first look. I... I...”

Sherlock could read in his eyes the emotions bursting to flee from John's lips but the man was never good at emotional contact. “John,” he soothed, pulling the man back to the here and now. “Those trousers will have to come off if you're going to ravishing me.” Humour was always the best at diffusing John's more tongue-tied moments.

John predictably giggled, releasing the tension floating between them, and then he stole a quick, heated kiss before he shifted back enough to strip out of the last of his clothing. “Pants too?” he returned the tease, earning a chuckle from Sherlock. “I should leave my socks. I hear that's a sexy look.”

“Don't you bloody dare,” Sherlock growled in the lowest of tones.

He couldn't help but watch as John stripped out of everything. He'd seen John topless only a handful of times. He was rather self-conscious of his scar, though it wasn't really as noticeable as one might imagine. Lighter skin that puckered slightly, more at the back than the front. Sherlock had seen, and in his more recent years earned, far worse. He was far more keen to see everything else. He'd spent many a night daydreaming and deducing what John would look like divested of clothing. More firm muscles than not. Round bum. Cock larger than average for his build. Smooth skin. Light hairs. Yet seeing it in the flesh, seeing John settling above him once more, unclothed and hard, it was all overwhelmingly different. True his deductions were right but the reality of it, the sight and scent and feel of John settling atop him... it short-circuited everything in Sherlock, leaving him a gaping, aching mess. Blood rushed from his brain to his own cock so quickly he gasped. John rubbed his cock against Sherlock's, brushing firmly the undersides of their leaking lengths, and Sherlock moaned with abandon.

John kissed him, not that it did much to stop Sherlock's moans, and continued to rut down against him. So good, more ridiculously good than it ought to have been, but it wasn't enough. He wrapped legs around John's thighs and thrust up in an attempt to add more friction between them. John broke the kiss with a low, rumbling chuckle, “It's going to take some doing to get you to enjoy slow builds isn't it?” He stopped his rutting.

Sherlock merely whined at the back of his throat in protest. No stopping. Why with the stopping?

John nipped at his jaw and purred in a deep tone, “Have you got anything?”

Sherlock's brain was far too fuzzy to comprehend what John was asking for the longest moment until John reached toward the nightstand to have a look himself. “Yes oh yes,” he babbled immediately, more at the idea of lubricant than recalling if his younger self truly had any stored. Thankfully fate was not cruel to him and John retrieved both lube and a condom. Bless himself for being prepared.

John shifted upright onto his knees, which was annoying but necessary, and narrowed his gaze on the condom wrapper. He let out a snort at the date but he did tear into it so it couldn't have been out of date. He cocked a grin at Sherlock as he rolled the condom on. “So it's been a while?”

Sherlock was far too utterly distracted by John touching himself to answer. He took in the way and manner of how John worked the condom on, filing everything away for further use on deducing how John liked to be touched. He unconsciously licked at his lips.

“I'll take that as a yes,” John harassed. He finished and reached for one of the pillows. “Hips up.” Sherlock obeyed the commanding tone blindly and soon found the pillow underneath himself, propping him up. He slid his legs further open, uncoiling them from around John's thighs, and planted his feet against the bedding as he worked on calming his breathing. It had indeed been a long while and he needed to relax. “That's it,” John soothed, the doctor in him showing through as he slicked fingers with lubricant and took in Sherlock. “Deep breaths. I promise not to do anything until you're properly stretched. No A&E trip for us, hm?”

He pressed what was possibly the most adorably soothing kiss to Sherlock's propped up knee as he moved one hand to fondle Sherlock's balls and the other to gently and distractingly stroke his cock. Both hands were slicked and both moves sent him moaning. He spread his legs further and rolled his hips up. John took the encouragement and slid fingers back behind along smooth skin until he reached the puckered entrance. He merely rubbed his middle finger over the sensitive skin as he continued to lightly stroke at Sherlock's cock.

“That's it. Relax, love.” John remained at merely rubbing for longer than expected, until Sherlock was content with the touch, until he wasn't expecting more any time soon, then finally that middle finger pushed inwards. Sherlock's deep breaths hitched but he otherwise remained relaxed at the intrusion. “Mm, very good.” John's voice was light but commanding, demanding attention. Sherlock basked in the praise, doing his best to focus on breathing and earning more praise. John worked him with that one finger, stretching and soothing, until he was overly prepared for the second. The sensation of the second digit was nothing compared to previous experience but then of course John would be careful with him, would know what he was doing. “So very very good. How about a reward, hm?” John shifted those scissoring fingers and ghosted over his prostate with practised ease.

John!” He shouted before sliding into a heady moan. His own eyes rolled close. His body trembled. He arched his back up off the bed. He reached above himself to grip at any part of the bed he could cling to, twisting at the comforter. “More oh more!”

Fuck what a sight you make, Sherlock. God...” John's hand on Sherlock's cock slid away to soothe touches over his stomach and thighs instead, clearly not wanting to set him off again. “Stay relaxed, love.”

Fingers still stretched and teased for what felt like ages before a third finger was added. It was more but it wasn't nearly enough. He opened his eyes to take in the breathtaking sight of John flushed and naked and hard and concentrated on the task at hand. He moaned to gain John's attention, “I... Please... Enough... I need you. Need... Please John!

There was a shudder that ran through John at the request, groaning wordlessly back down at Sherlock. His fingers stilled and he bent forward, capturing Sherlock's mouth in a deep, devoted kiss. Those fingers finally slid out of him. Sherlock whimpered into the kiss but something more blunt was pressed to him. Yes yes yes! his mind chanted as he returned the kiss with just as much passion. John was slow even now. He took his time gently pushing into him but it hardly mattered. Sherlock's thoughts all stopped except for the overwhelming sensation of being right where he wanted to be, right where he belonged. Legs wrapped around John's thighs again as he was finally fully sheathed. Arms clung to his shoulders, twisting fingers into short dirty blonde hair.

His John.

The kiss ended with a sloppy smack of lips as John began to roll his hips. They both moaned in unison. The pace was slow but at this point Sherlock had no will to complain. If John wanted slow, they could bloody well go slow. All he needed was John buried deep. John rested his forehead against his. Breaths mingled. Thrusts lengthened. One dip to John's hips and Sherlock was awash in pleasure. Of course the man would find his prostate without trying. He dug short nails into John's skin. He was lost in moans and sounds, unable to stop them, unwilling to stop them. Every neighbour would know what they're doing and Mrs. Hudson would twitter come morning but what did it matter? He wanted the whole world to know John was his, only his, forever his. John moaned words into Sherlock's ear but he couldn't focus his addled brain to comprehension. The build was delirious and delicious. John kept the slow pace all the way through, breaking Sherlock 's mind into pieces over and over again as they built toward a peak together.

There was nothing. Only John. John's warmth. John's touch. John's taste. John's scent. John's moans. It had to be real. It was real.

The climax was literally breathtaking. He couldn't breath, couldn't moan, couldn't think. He'd never come so hard in his life but then it was John, all John's doing. He bucked and clung and made a mess between them, all while floating away into the haze surrounding his mind. He came back to himself just in time to hear John's orgasmic moans, to feel the man shudder and file away the sensation to keep forever. John was sweat slicked as he shuddered to a stop, melting atop him and burying his face against Sherlock's neck, even as he gasped for ragged breaths.

Was this what pure happiness felt like?

Sherlock eventually loosened his grip and turned to brushing fingers through John's hair. They both took long minutes to regain themselves and their breath.

The words from John were dreamy and honest and unexpected. “Do you believe in love at first sight?”

No, yes now he knew what pure happiness felt like. He smiled hugely at the ceiling above his bed and it carried over onto his voice. “I do now.”

“Good,” John hummed which sent shivers through Sherlock. He nuzzled at Sherlock's throat and went quiet a moment. Sherlock lulled into the flush of afterglow and nearly drifted off before John spoke again, his voice quiet and tender, “Because I knew the moment I walked into that room, at Bart's. You looked at me, and I knew.”

Sherlock's heart skipped as his mind rushed to fully wake and focus on those words. John fell for him then? Had both Johns? He tightened an arm around the one sated and adoring above him. “I knew you were utterly remarkable and extraordinary. I knew you somehow fit me. I knew you were important. I knew I needed you.” He released a long breath and admitted weakly, “I have never needed anyone in all my life but I knew in an instant that I needed you.”

John brushed his nose along Sherlock's neck and shifted to prop up and meet his eyes. The man looked astonishing. He'd never, in so many years, seen John so happy. His whole face and being glowed with joy. “I need you just as much, Sherlock. Promise.”

He kissed him, short but sweet, and then shifted to slide his softening cock out of him and dispose of the condom. There was a reshuffling and rearranging of limbs and blankets and pillows. They ended up with Sherlock curled around John, resting on his side, one arm and leg flung over the other man. John twisted his own leg around one of Sherlock's so they were thoroughly entwined, hands carding fingers through Sherlock's curls.

There was a lengthening silence between them as they settled. Sherlock lost himself in his own musings on alternative timelines. It was silly to entertain but perhaps this wasn't a hallucination. The science on such a thing was exceedingly theoretical at best. He struggled not to give himself too much hope that he wouldn't fall asleep here and wake five years in the future to an empty bed and flat, but he still couldn't help mulling over the idea. If this John fell for him immediately, did that mean the other did as well? If he'd chosen to risk their friendship for more, before he'd jumped, would it have worked? If he'd risked it even after returning, would it have worked? And yet, did it matter? This seemed the best possible outcome, the best possible time. They were fresh. They were new. They would waste no time in enjoying themselves together. If he could have picked a point, any point to have been given a second chance, this would have been it. Enact one relatively minor change to shift everything. But would it stay? Would he stay? Would he not wake? Would he be able to live without this if it all vanished?

John tugged lightly on Sherlock's curls. “You're thinking too much. I can almost hear it.”

“Sorry,” Sherlock muttered automatically, his thoughts still carrying on. He needed to deduce how he'd ended up here but he had no matchbox to examine, nothing but his own memories to go over, and there was little remarkable. If only he could figure out how he got here, then he could remain here by avoiding whatever it was that triggered whatever was happening. If he could--

John tugged again, interrupting his thoughts more firmly. “Still thinking. Worrying even, if I know anything.” He reached his other hand to tilt Sherlock's face up to meet his eyes. Sherlock blinked but obeyed the nudge. “There is not a thing to worry over, love.”

Sherlock's heart melted over the endearment paired with the emotions flashing in John's eyes. The words fell from his lips before he could stop them. “What if this fades come morning? I couldn't...”

John smiled. A luminous, glorious smile. He pressed a kiss to Sherlock's forehead and soothed, “It won't.”

Though they were speaking of slightly different interpretations, Sherlock grasped at the reassurance regardless. “How do you know?”

John soothed fingers through Sherlock's hair, following the line down his neck and spine. “Because life is cruel and harsh, but every step I've taken was to find you. There's no pulling me away once I have done. I will be here. Right here.”

He wanted to believe. He wanted to know that life was not so wicked as to give him John and take him away once more. “Right here?”

John soothed him back down onto his shoulder and played patterns over Sherlock's back with his fingers. “Right here. It's all fine. More than fine.”

Sherlock released a long breath and relaxed, continuing to cling to John, but allowing himself to let go. Whatever happened, it would happen, and for now he had John. Fighting sleep would be a losing battle even for him. It was best to test. It was best to see what happened. Now. Instead of dragging out the anxiety and his time spent with John, if he was destined to wake away from here. He nuzzled in closer to John's neck, breathing in the scent of him. His John. Whatever happened, he had one night with his John. It was more than he'd ever dared to hope for after returning.

“Far more than fine,” he murmured as he closed his eyes. “It's perfection.”

He listened to John's heartbeat and respiration, lulled by the very real sense of John Watson sated and happy and his beside him. He knew when John himself drifted off. He clung to consciousness a bit longer, soaking in the sensations, memorising this moment. As silly as it was to do so, he hoped and he begged, with whatever deity or quirk of science or aneurysm in his brain, with whatever had brought him here, that he could stay. Could he not deserve happiness?

Just this once.

He woke slowly. His mind was sluggish. He'd slept far longer than normal. He was given to short wisps of sleep. He could tell all at once that he'd slept in. He pushed to get his brain back online. He took a deep breath. Breakfast. He could smell breakfast. Waffles, perhaps. Sherlock inhaled again. No, hotcakes. Yes. Eggs. Sausage. Beans. Toast.

He cracked his eyes open to see his bed empty. He flashed with worry at the thought of the previous night having vanished into a haze of nothingness. The bed was empty. The room bore no clear signs of the night prior. It could be Mrs. Hudson's cooking. He jerked upright in a panic.

Then he heard a loud thud from the kitchen and the very distinct voice of John swearing as he cleaned up the spatula and pan he'd dropped.


He was out of bed in a rush and fumbling for the door to his room. If the dressing gown dangling on the back of the door hadn't fallen half atop him, he likely wouldn't have remembered to dress. He tugged the blue silk gown over his shoulders as he rushed into the kitchen. John tossed him a pleased grin as he set the dropped pan into the sink. “Sorry. I kipped out for a few things, seeing as you have nothing but human fingers in the fridge. Not much of a filling breakfast, that.” He stepped to Sherlock, stole a kiss, and then pointed him to the table to sit. “I didn't wake you, did I?”

He was still here. Sherlock struggled between stunned gaping and elated smiling. He sat simply because if he didn't he'd crumple to the floor in a heap. He'd slept. One never slept in a dream or hallucination. He couldn't recall his dreams clearly but they'd been there all the same. Yet here he was still with John. It was perfect. More than perfect.

“Now don't tell me you're not hungry. You didn't eat anything last night and I happen to now have intimate knowledge on just how very human you are.” John shuffled together a plate of breakfast and set it in front of Sherlock along with tea. “So eat.”

Sherlock stared down at the plate. It all look delicious, but then, it could have all been burnt twice over and it would have looked delicious at this point. The sunlight of a remarkably bright day outside filtered in and shone across the sitting room into the kitchen. The room was bright and warm. It was filled with reassuring scents. Cooked food and dust and John and books. He reached for the fork and ran a finger along it's metallic smooth surface. Cool to the touch. Freshly washed. Likely because John, rightfully, trusted nothing in Sherlock's cupboards to be clean. He wrapped fingers around the fork and went for the scrambled eggs. They were well seasoned, not without their minor faults, the little realistic details of overcooked edges but soft fluffy insides. John sat at the corner to his left. The wooden table and chairs creaked. There was a reassuring nudge of knee to thigh, mimicking the night previous.

This was real.

There was no other deduction he could manage without further analysis. He was truly here. Whatever happened, he was here at Baker Street with John half a decade prior. Until further evidence availed itself, it was the only conclusion he could accept.

He looked at John. Blond hair flashed with the barest hints of grey in the sunlight as John tilted his head. His warm face flashed with mild concern at Sherlock's still appraisal. “Is it no good?”

John was real.

He leaned over to kiss him merely because he could. John responded. He didn't pull away. He didn't rush off. He returned the kiss. He tasted of tea and toast. Sherlock lingered over the kiss a moment, teasing and tasting, before ending it with a flourish. John gave a low, pleased hum as his eyes reopened. Sherlock revelled in the sight of his John looking more flushed than a moment ago.

“It's fantastic.”

John beamed a smile at the praise and tucked back into his breakfast. Sherlock took his time at it, picking at the best bits, as he continued to watch and observe, but his mind was far more preoccupied with how long he ought to politely wait before snogging John again.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened. They ate. They kissed. Washing up dishes was boring so John was instead dragged rather bodily back for a long shower together. Sherlock was then forced into actual shirt and trousers so that they might fetch the rest of John's things from his bedsit.

It all carried on as any other day.

Lestrade texted with more questions. Sherlock ignored the innuendos. Mrs. Hudson chattered in her incessant but pleased way when they returned with John's things. She fussed over her boys as only she could until Mycroft appeared mid-afternoon with tedious topics. Sherlock skipped over questions about himself and John, as the answer was written all over their faces, and instead pointed the conversation back on Mycroft himself. The man huffed at accusations of being lonely and he was so swift to leave that it rather proved Sherlock's point.

John cooked stir fry. Sherlock composed on his violin. They managed an evening in. They watched horrid telly until Sherlock had all the fun to be had amusing (or annoying) John by deducing every twist, and instead tackled the other man on the sofa. As Sherlock had correctly stated the night before, the sofa was not nearly large or wide enough for the two of them, and they relocated to the bedroom.

John undone beneath him was perhaps the most glorious sight of all. The joy. The pleasure. The want. The trust. Flushed and moaning incoherently. His John was nothing short of breathtaking.

Sherlock woke the next morning, and every morning following the time shift if he were honest, searching for John. Some mornings he was there beside him, real and solid and immediately reassuring. Some mornings he was further away. In the loo or cooking or working. Sherlock detested his working but he knew he couldn't complain, at least not until his own cases grew more steady. John enjoyed feeling useful and helping others. He could not take that from him. He knew that more than his younger self ought to have known and it smoothed over some of Sherlock's darker moods. Moods that were rather infrequent and quick, because he had only to think of where he'd be if he weren't there with John, to counter any negative happenings.

Although he'd initially feared he'd be bored reliving a timeline he'd previously encountered, things changed rapidly through chains of events. What with the cabdriver living, Moriarty reacted rather swiftly to be certain he didn't live long in custody. Some of the mundane cases remained only slightly changed but the larger moves and footnotes changed over time. Things took a decidedly different turn with the Chinese syndicate, seeing as he was able to immediately find Soo Lin Yao and keep John from being kidnapped mid-date, seeing as the date never took place. Moriarty changed tactics immediately, which was rather frightening on one level, but made things much more interesting. Those chosen as bomb victims shifted places and changed enough that Sherlock could not use his prior knowledge without contaminating his current deductions.

It took less than a year for events to play out differently in such a way that nothing was predictable. Even a few world events, which he should not have had as much impact on, changed as time went forward. It was rather a large bit of evidence for life and events not being predetermined and left Sherlock musing on if everyone's minor actions shifted the world in rippling effects.

Sherlock proposed on the spot mere moments after Moriarty was slain. He hadn't been able to bring himself to make anything between them formal until that particular threat was dealt with. John scoffed something about timing but he did say yes so that was a win regardless.

He had nightmares. He woke with haunting memories of the life before this. He used the dreams as a way to tell John without telling John. For no one, not even he would believe Sherlock wasn't mad. Maybe he was. Maybe it was all in his head, one way or the other, but he really didn't wish to find out which was real and which was not. This was real. This was his life. He watched John's horror at the memories/nightmares Sherlock recounted. It was therapeutic to share them, at least that little bit, and to be reassured that there was no breaking their bond, as well as firmly demanding that Sherlock never go anywhere without him. Sherlock would never, could never do such a thing again.

It was interesting, when the day came, and he was 'back' to the present. Life was remarkably different and yet all at once the same. John was working as a GP. John was married. John was expecting a child. The job was to fund the surrogate and nursery. Sherlock huffed over their making plenty from consulting but John insisted on a nest egg for the child. Sherlock was not so secretly worried he'd be horrible with the tiny person, and rather replaced in John's eyes once they arrived. He fretted for months. John did his best at soothing his nerves but nothing helped. Not until the small bundle of uncertainty arrived, changing their lives utterly in a new direction, and Sherlock watched John hold him. One look at John with William Hamish Watson-Holmes washed aside all doubts. He was a miniature John. And therefore, perfect.

Years piled up. Decades passed. Dangers came and went. Cases filled with wonder and horrors. Lullabies grew into books read aloud turned into 'Get out of my room dad!' Will was smart and caring and so much his father, although John insisted he was so much like both his fathers. When Will went to uni to study Chemistry, Sherlock finally gave in to the point. Life as Sherlock never could have imagined unfolded in it's many intricate ways but one thing was forever and always constant. John. John there to mediate. John there to calm. John there to push. John there to scold. Without John, it would have all fallen to pieces, but John was steadfast and true. John was as loyal and adoring decades later as he had been that first night. He never lost the way he looked at Sherlock. It was never stolen from his features. Years later his eyes still lit up at the sight of him.

Even when they retired, Sherlock still woke looking for John. It didn't matter that upon waking he was clearly older and clearly moved to the countryside, the bedroom all different. What mattered was John. If John was there, either beside him or to be found nearby, then the world – this world – was right.

Maybe it was all one long elaborate dream. Maybe he was lost in a coma, lost in his own mind. Maybe he'd unknowingly jumped time. He never did conclusively find the answer. It no longer mattered. Not since that first morning. This was his reality. This was happiness. This was home.

And who argues with being gifted a second chance?