His limp is back in the worst way, his shoulder aches and it hurts to breathe (he’s not sure if the last is because of the walloping his ribs had taken or because he’s been sitting under a tree in the park for most of the afternoon sobbing other people’s despair. He hasn’t been this incapable of filtering since he was very, very young).
Of course, this is about the time when Mycroft shows up, the long black car gliding to a halt beside him as he limps oh so slowly in the general direction of Baker Street--because where else does he have to go? John climbs into the back across from Mycroft and glares, even though sitting in the warmth makes him want to purr in relief.
Mycroft doesn’t sound smug when he says “I told you he wouldn’t appreciate feeling manipulated, John.” He just sounds sad.
John shrugs. “And I told you to fuck off, Mycroft. What do you want?”
“Merely to give you a ride home, perhaps a few minutes to gather yourself. You’ve been rather distraught this afternoon, John, did you notice you cleared out almost the whole southern half of Regent’s Park? I’ve had reports that even the lake has cleared.” Mycroft pauses, gives John a look of disappointment at his lack of control, and then gets to the real point. “If you desire to move out of your current premises I can make a few discreet inquiries on your behalf. I assure you that you could be very useful, and would be well-compensated for your work.”
“Really, Mycroft?” John sighs. “Are you trying to bribe me out of Sherlock’s life or recruit me?”
“You just had what I believe you would refer to as ‘the mother of all rows’ with Sherlock, John; most people would never look back.”
John grits his teeth. “I’m not most people, Mycroft.”
“No, you really aren’t, are you? Well, keep it in mind. My brother isn’t particularly forgiving.”
“I really don’t think you give him enough credit sometimes.”
John spends the rest of the relatively short ride staring out the window. Mycroft doesn’t speak again until they’re pulling up outside Baker Street.
“One other thing, John. My assistant tells me that, other than tolling like Big Ben and felling her for hours with a reaction migraine, that beacon-thought of yours the night of the Incident sounded like both yourself and Sherlock. Can you explain why such a thing would happen?”
John looks Mycroft dead in the eye and lies through his teeth. “I have no idea what you’re even talking about, Mycroft.”
The flat is totally dark, but John can hear Sherlock breathing. So John turns on the light and sees his flatmate curled up in John’s armchair. He doesn’t move at John’s presence, doesn’t seem to react at all, but John can feel the tension coiling through him.
John remembers the layers of comfort and love and healing that he’d woven together and laid over Sherlock in the hospital. He puts together a remnant of that and spreads it over Sherlock’s shoulders, the only peace offering he can manage right now. Then he crosses the room and kneels in front of the armchair. First he grabs Sherlock’s ankles, gently, and lowers them to the floor. Sherlock seems to collapse in on himself, head lolling and shoulders hunched and breath starting to hitch. His eyes are squeezed shut, if-I-can’t-see-you-you-can’t-see-me.
“Shhhh,” John gentles him as he grabs Sherlock’s forearms and hauls him to his feet. “You shouldn’t sleep all curled up like that, time for bed.”
Sherlock is still terrified and angry and confused as hell. John is still angry and confused and hurt at Sherlock’s terror. He figures they’re a pair. He drapes Sherlock’s good arm around his shoulders, and guides the younger man to his bed, tucks him in, tucks the peace offering tighter around his shoulders, and leaves him to sleep.
Drowsily, too emotionally drained to dredge up more than the echoes of what he knows he’s feeling, Sherlock remembers waking up in hospital with nearly the same thick sense of comfort sitting over him and knows that John hasn’t really ever manipulated his emotions and certainly didn’t make Sherlock fascinated with him.
John starts out of a different nightmare than usual with Sherlock looming over him.
“You really shouldn’t be sleeping in an armchair either, John,” he says, voice low and hoarse from sleep and earlier stressors on his vocal chords. “Even though it does make waking you from your awful nightmares easier. Is this going to continue to be a regular occurrence, these nightmares?”
John shrugs, tries to still the trembling of his limbs. This one had been different; Sherlock had died in his arms covered in blood and shattered ceramic tiles, and his corpse had laughed, a hollow and devastating sound, at John for trying to save him, for trying to be his friend. “I don’t know. Could ask you the same thing.”
Sherlock tugs at John until he stands, and then wraps him in a hug. John isn’t sure if this is for his benefit or Sherlock’s.
“Mad at you,” John murmurs, muffled against Sherlock’s t-shirt.
Sherlock chuckles. “Good. Mad at you too. Bed?”
John nods against the taller man’s chest. “Will have to talk. Morning.”
John stares at the ceiling of Sherlock’s room. “Your bed really isn’t all that comfortable,” he observes. He still isn’t quite sure how he’s ended up sharing Sherlock’s bed essentially every night since they were released from hospital (and most of the time there as well if he’s being totally honest). Well, that’s not entirely true. Most of the time he starts out in his own bed, until he wakes or is woken by Sherlock in the midst of another nightmare, after which he crawls into bed with this flatmate for the nearness, the comfort and ok fine the cuddling too. It's been days and they haven't spoken about what John did yet; Sherlock has spent most of the time silent and brooding, and John still blames himself enough that he hasn't pushed.
John makes a non-committal sound, folds his arms so that his hands are under his head, despite the twinges in his bad shoulder. He continues to stare at the ceiling. Sherlock turns over and flops until his head is on John’s chest. This isn’t an unusual occurrence; John seems to be his favorite pillow.
“Do you want me to move out?”
The sharp starburst of panic that washes through first Sherlock and then John and nearly sweeps back before John ruthlessly shuts down the loop is answer enough. Sherlock’s arms snake around John and squeeze in further confirmation of how bad that notion is, but he lifts his head to look at John, who is steadfastly staring at the ceiling.
“I was just checking. You’re afraid of me, after all.”
Sherlock puts his head back on John’s chest, listening to his pounding heart. Sherlock’s is pounding just as hard (panic, adrenaline, increased heart rate). His hands clench in John’s t-shirt.
“No? I’m pretty sure I can tell when someone’s terrified of me, Sherlock. It’s happened before.”
John’s been hurt before, when someone found out he was empathic. Sherlock desperately wishes he could skin that horrendously evil person alive.
John chuckles. “I appreciate that, I think.”
“I’m not terrified of you, John.” “Then what?”
“I’m afraid of what you’ll find out about me. And then you’ll leave.” Sherlock huffs.
“I’m still here, aren’t I? And at this point, between your bloody still-waters bollocks and the clairsentience I’m pretty sure I know the gist of it. And the same could be said of you about me. You’re still here.”
“It’s my flat.”
“It’s our flat, and don’t change the subject. We’re having this conversation. I will leave if you want me to, but for now at least you’re stuck with an empath for a flatmate. I don’t know why you can read my emotions--”
“You’re lying, John.”
John sighs, licks his lips. “Not entirely. It shouldn’t have happened, either way.”
“John, tell me what you did to me. Please.”
“I can’t explain it.”
“Because it’s impossible!”
“Obviously not, John, as you have done it. Improbable is a more precise term, I should think.”
John thinks for a minute, resigns himself. “I could probably show you. But it will... hurt. A lot.”
“It was at the pool?”
“You were going insane and fast, Sherlock. I had to do something to help you and I wasn’t precisely thinking straight myself. Hell, I had to let your bloody brother know I’m an empath to get us found and believe me when I say that isn’t a decision I made lightly.”
Sherlock sits up and looks down at John. “Do it. Show me.”
John sighs again. It’s his resigned sigh, his fine-I’ll-do-this-but-only-because-you-actually-said-please-Sherlock sigh (even though Sherlock didn’t actually say please this time). “Lay back down; it’ll be easier to transfer if you’re prone.”
“Shut up, Sherlock. Stop looking like you’re about to run a particularly gruesome experiment; trust me, you aren’t going to like this.”
John sits up and then kneels next to his friend. His best friend. God this is a terrible idea. Slowly, he starts rebuilding the entire night in his head. When he’s got it all together, the pool the bomb Moriarty Sherlock the blood the screaming the begging his sopping wet cardigan his broken wrist his thought tolling like Big Ben the relief the panic the grey pain the strange urge to giggle about it all (now, anyway) the black chopper the drugs the doctors the worry, he grabs Sherlock’s head just like he did before and leans over, pressing their foreheads together, just like he did before, and lets the empathy and his less nameable peculiarity do the rest.
Sherlock chokes on a sob, but only once. It’s over in moments; John leans back and lets go of Sherlock’s head. There are tears leaking out of Sherlock’s tightly shut eyes, and he’s all a jumble inside. John isn’t any better, though. So he gets up and leaves.
John trudges into the kitchen and sets the kettle on. He gets the tea out of the cupboard, and two cups; even if Sherlock doesn’t want tea, he could really do with a cuppa right now, if John’s any judge and really, who better to judge Sherlock’s needs than John?
Sherlock limps in a few minutes later. His limp is worse than usual. His eyes are red-rimmed and his color is higher than usual. Sherlock, it seems, is not an ugly cryer. Not fair.
“I take it back, John,” he croaks. “I am terrified of you.” Sherlock leans against the worktop.
“I couldn’t do it again, Sherlock. The circumstances were extenuating. I don’t even think I could’ve done it had you been fully unconscious, I don’t know. I don’t have any idea how I did that.”
“You scooped me out of my own head and kept me. For a week.”
“Well, it sounds weird when you say it like that.”
“You wouldn’t do it again even if you could, would you?”
John looks up at his best mate. “Sherlock, I’m pretty sure I’d rather kill us both than do that again.”
Sherlock nods, a speculative look that John doesn’t like on his face. This isn’t going to be the end of that, no matter how little explanation John can provide. For the first time in years, John wishes desperately that his Gran were around; she’d always known more about the way things work than he did, and she hadn’t finished teaching him before she died. Not to mention the huge amount of amusement she'd get out of Sherlock.
“Go on, sit down, I’ll bring the tea out in a few. Your leg must be killing you right now.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Your limp is worse. And I can feel it.”
Sherlock retreats to the lounge. He spends most of the day playing his violin. He cycles through most of what he knows and through mindless screeching and through pop songs he's only heard in passing and through improvising things that make John want to cry. John spends most of the day with the telly on but muted, or reading a thriller, or just sitting staring out the window listening to Sherlock play. He spends all of the day waiting for Sherlock to work through his thought process, waiting for him to process what’s going on and to acquiesce to learning how to deal with his new connection to John and to stop fighting it. He spends all of the day waiting for Sherlock to forgive him.
That doesn’t happen until much later than John had hoped it would. He’s glad when it does though, and he stands to go to bed.
Sherlock turns from where he’s playing by the fireplace and looks at John. “Mine or yours?”
“Are you going to my bed or yours, John?”
Sherlock gives him one of those why-are-you-so-obtuse looks. “I do believe that if you sleep in my room I can soothe your nightmares without being forced to wake you to comfort you.”
“Is that why you’ve been doing that?”
“Yes. It’s not entirely selfish, although I must admit I find your nightmares extremely disturbing.” Sherlock suppresses a shudder.
“Sherlock--” John stops, shuts his mouth, opens it, closes it again, and then continues, “you realize how far outside of normal social parameters this is?”
Sherlock shrugs, raises his violin back to his shoulder. “Social parameters are boring. This is mutually beneficial.”
“Well. Uh.” John’s turn to shrug. “Can’t argue with that if it helps me sleep better.”
Sherlock starts to play. “I’ll be in shortly.”
Sherlock is inordinately pleased with himself. John looks down at him as the smile that no one else gets to see, Sherlock’s real smile (shy and hesitant and belonging to the little boy he used to be) spreads across his face.
“You didn’t wake up. I did it.”
John grabs the pillow he’d just vacated and hits Sherlock in the face with it. “Ta, you smug bastard.” But he makes sure Sherlock feels his gratitude before he gets up and goes to make the tea.
(The end, for now.)