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The Invocation of Saint Margaret

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As far as things went in his life, John Watson was familiar with the sense of regret. Regret, guilt, pain, missed chances, near-misses, and what-ifs enough to drown a man. Most people assumed that John was either unaware of the number of times his life nearly ended or nearly began or that John was simply above acknowledging the possibility of any reality other than the one in front of him. Pragmatic. That was too simplistic. Resigned. Too pessimistic. And St. Margaret had never been high on his list for intercession. St. Jude on the other hand…

The fact of the matter remained that John Watson, in all his strength and spirit, couldn’t possibly bear the weight of the infinite potentials if he’d simply changed one small thing. If he’d ducked right instead of left, his father may never of given him that concussion. If he’d attended to the fallen solider on his left first rather than his right, the bullet would have found a much more deadly home than his shoulder. If he’d ignored Mike, given into the feeling that he never wanted to see anyone from his past life, then he’d never have met Sherlock Holmes. And in spite of the scars borne of that meeting, John knew that without the man, he’d certainly have ended his own life in a matter of months. No, John Watson carried all of this on his back, with scars and sweaters and layers of buttoned up stodginess to keep the world from questioning it, from questioning him.

A few months ago, John would have considered his brief friendship with Sherlock as a shortened stay of execution. A brief glimmer of hope and excitement for a doomed man. His final meal. But life went on. The world still turned. And the pain of waking up day after day became a dull ache that squeezed his heart, but no longer felt like glass slicing into the soles of his feet. That he met Mary, a woman who seemed as much a desperate healer as himself, was either a godsend or a trick of the devil. Were all doctors and nurses attracted to hopelessly broken things? She eased his pain in a way that whiskey burned his throat. Trading one hurt for another, recognition of a hole that could never be filled, because there was no one left on Earth of anywhere similar a shape. And John started to listen to his friends. No one like that was left and no one ever would be same and John was still there. Time to move on.

And then he was back. Back and bigger than life and bolder than brass and as much a dick and megalomaniac as ever. And John hurt. He ached. Not for the company, Sherlock was more than happy to have John trail after him, chasing midgets and strong-arming drug dealers. John ached for everything that could have been, for what was that never could again, and for the fact that his hope had died with Sherlock and one resurrection was one too many to expect. But cases were like a quick breath of air for a drowning man. And John was nothing if not pragmatic. His sense of self-preservation had him gulping the scant oxygen spared in Sherlock’s wake. And John could never say no. St. Margaret’s blessing and curse.

And so he found himself sitting in 221B, arms crossed over his chest, tea growing cold on the table, as Sherlock expounded on the single matchbox. Infuriating was the word for it, not Sherlock’s exposition, but the case. All of the boxes empty but that one, the one in Sherlock’s hand. The one he refused to open or let John touch. He’d failed to acknowledge it to the Met as well, but that was rather standard issue. No, bring the singular piece of evidence back to Baker Street and do what with it?

John opened his mouth to scold, to warn, to simply ask, when Sherlock preemptively slid the box open, staring into the depths of light that streamed outwards and lit the entire room. John frowned. In all his experience, matchboxes did not glow. And even one that would be carefully rigged with an LED system would never give off the warm yellow light that seemed to be enveloping them both. His next thought was that an IED, even one so small, could in all probability kill them both. And John was out of his chair, reaching across the space, reaching for Sherlock just as the flash grew hot and blinding and too much for his body.

And John blinked.

It wasn’t bright anymore. It was… dim… Not the pitch of death that John had come accustomed to narrowly avoiding. But a pleasant, soft, glowing light. Mood lighting? A candle flickering in front of him and the smell of garlic and tomato and pasta and wine. Angelo’s? Interesting that death would send him somewhere with food. Small comforts for the eternally uncomfortable. Certainly if he were dead, John would have picked something other than Angelo’s for his entrance to heaven. Then again, if he were dead, heaven was probably a far stretch from the life he’d led. And he certainly wouldn’t expect to be seated across from Sherlock Holmes.

“What?”

Sherlock with no matchbox in his hand. Sherlock… looking younger, madder, brighter and flushed and animated and clever, and everything John could remember from their first dinner together. Everything down to the candle and the clothes Sherlock was wearing. The clothes John was wearing. He furrowed his brow; this wasn’t what he’d been wearing moments ago. This was what he’d been wearing…

To say that John was confused was an understatement. Sherlock’s lips, younger lips, minus the scar he’d given him upon his return, minus some of the laugh lines and frown lines, minus years of emotion, they moved, mouthing something John couldn’t hear. And everything took on a very real sense of déjà vu. Not that he was unaccustomed to the sense of the unknown, but this was more a sense of the known not making any sense at all. And normally, that was a feeling that could only be blamed on Sherlock.

John squinted at Sherlock, tilting his head as if to try to see him from a different perspective. Maybe everything was just a trick of the light. Was his hair shorter? A bit lighter? “Pardon?”

Sherlock twisted in his seat, turning to face John full-on. His eyes narrowed into something that John could only describe as complete scrutiny. Maybe this was a test. Maybe John was going to relive some of the highlights of his life before being fully dead. Limbo. John Watson, this is your life. And this night? Was it a highlight or a lowlight? Could John count this as a victory or a loss? Pleasant or painful? Then Sherlock spoke, “Why are we here?”

So it would be painful then. That was as deep as questions could run. Might as well ask for the meaning of life. Repeat Sherlock, Limbo Sherlock going straight for the jugular. Are we here to see something important or unimportant? Something John would be proud of or ashamed of? Is your next step off to heaven or straight to hell? Or, maybe John was simply missing the obvious. Come to think of it, he didn’t remember that being a question. “What? You think I’ve already forgotten?” It had only been a few years and his memory wasn’t that bad. He certainly knew why they’d gone to Angelo’s. Though, still not that question. “We’re trying to track down a serial murderer. I’m not quite that dim. Or was that a rhetorical question?” He smiled. There, Limbo Sherlock. Chew on that one. Well handled, John. And at what looked like a shadow of surprise on Sherlock’s face, John couldn’t help but smile wider.

“A serial murderer passing it off as suicide?”

“So you claim,” John grinned. If hindsight is twenty-twenty, John was going for broke. Maybe he could have fun reliving this night. Make sure he would always remember it as a tick in the win column. Maybe… Maybe he could find it ending differently than murder and lo mein.

Sherlock bristled at the teasing tone, twisted to look back out the window and search for the arrival of a murderer. So John watched him. It’s what they did. They couldn’t both stare. Then Sherlock closed his eyes and started to hyperventilate, and that was weird. That was something new. That didn’t happen on that night or for many many nights after. John had seen Sherlock reach a state of borderline panic, but later. No, Sherlock did not have a panic attack at Angelo’s, and John would be damned if he let it happen now. If this was going to be his memory, he wouldn’t have a suffering Sherlock watch him head for the pits. He reached across the table and set his hand gently, familiarly on Sherlock’s arm. “Are you alright?”

John shouldn’t have teased. He’d forgotten how young Sherlock had truly been when they met. How delicately brilliant. How innocently curious. And how freshly raw his emotions were. Always just below the surface. The way he’d preened at a positive word; words that never cost John and paid out triple when Sherlock heard them. And maybe deviating from the course of the evening had tipped the balance of memory into shade. Wouldn’t be doing that again if he could help it. John squeezed the arm gently. “Deep breaths, hm?” he rubbed his thumb across the fabric of Sherlock’s jacket as he spoke, low and soothing. “In and out. Slowly. That’s it.” Sherlock’s breathing at least leveled off. “Relax, Sherlock.” The tension in his shoulders ebbed away. “Good,” John murmured. “See? Everything’s fine.”

And Sherlock opened his eyes.

John felt a deep pang of reverence. The idolization he had for Sherlock when they’d first met, the admiration, adoration, the thought that he’d have followed this crazy man into certain death with no regret, all the emotion surfaced as he regarded Sherlock. He still couldn’t decide if this was a good or a bad memory to relive. Clearly he had followed him to death. And Sherlock looked at him with a tinge of pain. That was certainly not something John remembered seeing. “So,” he squeezed Sherlock’s forearm one more time for good measure before retreating into his own chair and freeing Sherlock from the personal space invasion. “Not a big fan of crowds then?” Yeah, it was the public space, the restaurant, the people; it was not John’s teasing or manipulation of space and time. Wibbly-wobbly.

“I am not overtly a big fan of any gatherings,” Sherlock stated.

Obviously. John had to take a bite of his food to keep from rolling his eyes. Ok, we’re nearly there, nearly back to the night as remembered. John babbled, filled the space with meaningless words. Looking for that common ground. That night. What had come before rather than what had come after. “You know, people don’t have arch-enemies.” That was it. He’d met Mycroft earlier in the evening. Sherlock’s arch-enemy, brother, British Government in body and soul.

“Sorry?” Sherlock blinked at him.

Yes, this was where they’d been. “In real life. There are no arch-enemies in real life. Doesn’t happen.” John took another bite of his food. Glad to have found that conversation. The conversation. Yes, back on track.

“Doesn’t it?” Sherlock asked casually.

John noticed the small frown flicker at the corners of Sherlock’s mouth. No he’d definitely have noticed that on the night. He’d been all but staring at Sherlock’s mouth at the time. “No.” John felt a small tug in his gut. “It doesn’t.” Nor do you die in an explosion and relive one random conversation from five years ago. It’s doesn’t happen. “So then who did I meet?”

Braced for the flippant response, for a snide, ‘What do real people have, then?’ So John nearly choked on his food when Sherlock met his stare and answered, “My brother.”

“Your… Your brother?” That was unexpected. Unnerving. That certainly was new, and if this night was going to be relived, then apparently all rules were out the window. If Limbo Sherlock could deviate from the past, so could John. Fine, we don’t need to follow the script. “Your brother is your arch-enemy? Your brother whisked me away to an empty warehouse to have a little chat about spying on you?” Oh if John had known that the first time around. Silly Mycroft.

“He’s a mite overprotective.”

John couldn’t contain the laugh that bubbled out of his chest. “Overprotective?” Silly, wry, sarcastic, young Sherlock. “Was not the word I was going to use.” Though it was true, Mycroft was patently and patronizingly protective of his younger brother.

Then something different happened. Sherlock smiled. The corners of his mouth pulled up in one of his true though slightly stilted smiles. “You still should have taken the money, though I do truly appreciate your show of loyalty.”

John had to grumble at that. If he’d taken the money, all bets would have been off. Mycroft all but stated that paid spies are not to be trusted, and that show of loyalty had probably cemented his time in Baker Street rather than being vanished, as he was sure Mycroft was able to do. It didn’t really bear thinking what a distrusting Mycroft might have done. John hid his concern behind another mouthful of pasta.

“And I do promise my brother means well. He’s simply surprised at our fast… camaraderie.”

John blinked. Young Sherlock, sharp and biting Sherlock being cautious with his words and defending Mycroft. Truth be told, John had learned that their brotherly affection ran much deeper than anyone could suspect. But Sherlock had always been woe to acknowledge it. What else would this Limbo Sherlock admit to? How far could they deviate from what actually happened into what could have been said? “I’d ask if you don’t have many friends, but you named your pet skull.” You named him, and you spoke to him, and you used me as a stand-in, John thought wistfully. How ridiculous the beginning of their friendship was. “So I got the big brotherly once-over immediately, then?”

“It would seem so,” Sherlock’s head tilted, a lock of curl tumbling over his forehead. My God, when did he ever look this young? “I assure you he approves of you or he wouldn’t have allowed you to return.”

John chuckled; he wanted to touch that curl, brush it back from Sherlock’s eyes. Wanted to do more than that. Wait, had Sherlock just suggested… “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.”

Just you wait, John thought. Mycroft was always mistaken that John was the sane one, but frankly… Oh the light-hearted turn this night was taking. “On you? You’re the one running after murderers.” And shooting walls, and using clients as bait, and jumping off buildings…

Sherlock raised a brow at him, thankfully missing the melancholy expression that passed over John’s face. “And you’re the one following after me.”

“Hm, yes,” John hummed in response. Always following. Always chasing. Always wanting. John looked the young Sherlock over, really looked. So the same and yet so different. And he knew, instinctively, where they were in the conversation that had taken an unexpected detour. “So then, girlfriend? Boyfriend? Has your brother frightened them all away?” Close enough, John thought. Nearly the same.

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

John pursed his lips. That didn’t seem right. Sherlock hadn’t had a suitor when they’d met; he’d been married to his work. Married to a lifestyle that didn’t seem to allow even passing curiosity. So then… Well there was nothing for it; in for a penny in for a pound. “You don’t have a girlfriend then?”

“Girlfriend? No, not really my area.”

John blushed. Exactly the same answer to a much different question. He couldn’t say why he’d blushed so deeply, maybe it was the tone Sherlock used. The implication seemed much deeper than the last time John had heard those words. “Oh right,” he pressed on. “Do you have a boyfriend, then? Which is fine-”

Sherlock cut him off, same as before. “I know it’s fine.” John started to nod, but Sherlock continued. “But no. I don’t. Not currently.”

Not currently? John’s brain stalled. That was not… Sherlock was married to his work, or… “But you have had? Boyfriends, I mean.” This was different. Honest. Softer. Like Sherlock was listening to the conversation rather than focusing on the case at hand. Maybe John could even get him to eat something this time around.

“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 ardor.”

John shifted in his seat, not sure if he was truly pleased at the turn or if it made him deeply resentful that it hadn’t done in reality. What is reality anyway? Sherlock shifted forward, invading John’s personal space ever so slightly, and wet his lower lip. John felt his mouth go dry and licked his own lip reflexively, staring at Sherlock’s mouth. “I would,” he started to say, trying to keep from blushing again. “Imagine so.” He was absolutely transfixed with Sherlock’s lips, watching the way they remained slightly parted as the man breathed. “Well then,” he tried to reign in his bodily response. “We’re both single.”

“Hm, is that so?” Sherlock purred. John felt the rumble run down his spine. Had Sherlock’s voice always been pure sex? God it had always been smooth, but deep? “No girlfriends? Boyfriends?”

John remembered how this conversation had felt. The way he’d thought he’d been clear on his attraction. The way he’d questioned Sherlock and received rather logical, unemotional answers. How the questions had been one-sided. That Sherlock was asking in return, that was different. That was… what? “Neither,” John responded. He was actually single at present. He tried not to think about the parade of girlfriends he would soon march past Sherlock.

“So there has been both?”

John thought his heart would actually stop for a moment. Has been, would have continued to be. God dammit. This was clearly torture. This night, this memory, this incarnation was designed to show him just how painfully wrong things had gone from the beginning. Welcome to your life, John Watson: a study in regret. He couldn’t keep looking at Sherlock, Limbo Sherlock; it hurt too damn much. “I…” he toyed with the food left on his plate. How could he even answer that question. There had, certainly, been both. But the truth of it was there was really only one. The beginning and the end of all that could have been and never was. “There was one bloke…” He began. No. Not accurate. “Well two…” He snorted at himself. “But I tend to…” What? John Watson, what do you tend to? You tend to devote yourself to the emotionally unavailable and broken and potter on with your broken life in a happy disaster. “I’m not gay.” He regretted it immediately as it was out of his mouth. It was true. Not gay, but certainly queer. He tried not to glare at Sherlock. Tried not to be cross with this version that actually was paying attention to him.

“Labels are boring,” Sherlock said flatly. And John felt the blush creep up his chest and neck. Sherlock was nothing if not obsessed with labels, certain labels, the classification of all things. But not this? “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 its so-called glory.”

That did it. John felt his face flame, the tip of his nose out to his ears. All its so-called glory? Jesus fucking Christ, did Sherlock ever hear himself speak. “I’ve never really considered myself… I don’t usually talk about…” No. No he’d always been nothing but defensive about the subject, especially with Sherlock. All the ruffle and rile from what? From being rejected the first time around? Because Sherlock wasn’t interested in something like that? In Transport? John met Sherlock’s stare with more composure than he truly felt. “It takes a very particular sort of bloke to gain my attention too.” There. Right back at you, Limbo Sherlock. “Just so you know.”

And there was that smile, the really contented Sherlock smile, the rare one that almost no one got to see. He practically glowed with it. And it made John’s heart twist. Where had this Sherlock been hiding in the beginning of their friendship? “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.”

John stared. He blinked and stared more. He never expected flattery from Sherlock, never. And to have some of his own words parroted back, brilliant, bravest, kindest, wisest. No wait, he’d never said those words. Not yet. Sure he’d called Sherlock brilliant, but the rest, all of that was years down the road. Years of friendship and longing and miscommunication and near-death experiences. And want. Want. All the want of their mutually denied feelings. And it’s openly laid-bare in their first dinner. How could life possibly have been so cruel the first time around? John wanted. He wanted to re-do, to rewrite, to remake their lives and he wanted. Oh he wanted. And yet there was still this young Sherlock, somehow redirecting everything down a different road. And how to not scare him? Not to let whatever terrifying possibilities congealing in his gut and squeezing his throat, those, not to let those in. John fell back on the oldest trick in his book: Deflect with humor. “Are you looking to fill that position yourself then?”

Boom. Flirting. John Watson was good at flirting. Sherlock blushed. Sherlock Holmes was lost for words and blushing madly and it made John want him so much more. But the silence seemed to stretch. Too much silence. And John wondered if he’d crossed some invisible line. “Shit,” he swore. “I’m sorry.” Too much, John, he thought to himself. Too much. Five years of too much. “I promise, if… I mean, I can respect boundaries.” They don’t even know each other yet, and here he’d gone and laid it on full. “I would never…” I totally would. “Fuck.” How do you explain that you know, but you don’t? No, don’t regret this; make it right! Damnit, Watson, pull yourself together. “I’m sorry if I’ve made this awkward. This is one reason I don’t generally admit to-”

Then Sherlock cut him off. It took John Watson 1.5 seconds to realize that words weren’t coming because a pair of full and plush lips were pressed against his, and he grunted in confusion. It took another 1.5 seconds for the frozen shock to wear off, because Sherlock Holmes was kissing him. Realization there, shock gone, it took John Watson 0.2 seconds to decide that not only was he beyond pleased that Sherlock Holmes was kissing him, but also that Limbo Sherlock, young Sherlock, his Sherlock was hesitating and fuck hesitating.

John gave a low hum of approval as he tilted his head to deepen the kiss. He gathered a fist full of Sherlock’s lapel, crumpling the smooth, expensive fabric between his fingers as he parted his lips and pressed into the kiss. This. This. Want. I want this and I want you. And he felt the sensations down to his toes. This was real. This was everything. This Sherlock. This life. This night. And Sherlock wasn’t hesitating anymore. Maybe less experienced, maybe a bit shy, but Sherlock wasn’t pulling away, he was learning. And John didn’t want him to think about it, so he proceeded to absolutely snog Sherlock Holmes senseless. Kiss him breathless and mindless and senseless with all the want that five years of longing could muster.

It was only when John found himself growing physically dizzy that he released the man far enough to gasp in some much needed air. He wasn’t sure if it was possible to suffocate in limbo, but it would be one helluva way to go. And when he opened his eyes, John was met with the image of a thoroughly debauched looking, well-snogged Sherlock Holmes, complete with a wild, wide-eyed stare, kiss-bruised lips, and the most delightful blush across those emblematic cheekbones. And John thought he might just die all over again. Happily. And with grace this time. Except that would mean he’d never get to repeat his performance. And he wanted to. He wanted.

For a moment, John let the tip of his tongue rest against his lower lip, mostly to keep from biting Sherlock’s. Then he pressed forward with his well-worn, tried and tested, self-deprecating humor. “Who knew I was so special.”

Sherlock sucked in a sharp breath, and in the necessary vacuum of sound, John felt his heart shatter into a thousand tiny pieces. Here would come the deductions, the warnings, the barriers, the walls, the snarky and biting observations, the distance, the dismissal. John’s affection as an experiment, as a test, as something to scrutinize and sneer at. And the hope. Hope that was dead and buried and mourned and forgotten and had all but, in the short moment, wrapped itself around his countenance like a woolen jumper started to unravel again. “You are special, John,” Sherlock’s words ghosted across John’s lips. “So incredibly special. You are my conductor of light.”

And just like that, the delicate, broken pieces of his heart throbbed back to life. How long? How many times? How desperate he’d been for words of praise, no matter the size, from Sherlock. And in three brief sentences, John had enough to warm the darkest moments that their five future years might bring. And John locked that warmth away with the fragile hope, tucked it down, held it close so no one could possibly dim it. Not even Sherlock. The miniature glow of something positive gleaned from a meal in Limbo might just sustain him. Humor, hide behind humor and bluster. John felt himself smirk, “Well now there’s a line if I’ve ever heard one.” Going for broke, John released one of Sherlock’s lapels in favor of stroking up the long line of his neck and letting the curls at the nape of his neck tickle his fingertips. “Shouldn’t we be watching for the serial murderer? You haven’t taken your eyes off me.” Why are you paying attention to me, Sherlock?

John felt the low hum rumble through Sherlock’s neck. “You are far more interesting. And besides, I saw his car just now.”

John twisted to glance at the street through the window at his back. “What, really?” How had he managed that?

“Indeed. Taxi driver. Easy enough to pick up victims, take them somewhere they shouldn’t be, and toy with them. I’ll text Lestrade.” John eased back into his seat in a bit of shock as Sherlock pulled out his mobile with a frown. “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.”

Quiet evening? John mused. Goddamn. When Sherlock was on fire he was on fire. The night didn’t need to be spent in a foot chase or a mad panic or murdering a… well, a murderer. And as much as John enjoyed a good run through London’s back alleys, a promise of something more interesting certainly shouldn’t be put off for future evenings. John leaned forward on the table, his hands clasped loosely in front of himself. And John smiled with purpose. “Who said tonight wasn’t interesting?” It was a very small adjustment of his leg to brush against Sherlock’s thigh. Sherlock looked back up from the mobile and nearly dropped the damn thing on the table. John felt his smile grow fractionally as he dipped his head, leaning closer to Sherlock so he could whisper. “And it doesn’t necessarily have to be over just yet.”

Sherlock blushed deeply, coloring his face, neck, and even the tips of his ears. It made John feel warm all over. Case over. Interest returned. Sherlock a pleasing shade of pink. God, why didn’t this happen? Why wasn’t this his life? John was willing to give just about anything to make this real. To make this happen. To make things different. And the way Sherlock was looking at him, as though he couldn’t believe John’s interest, couldn’t believe John’s affection, couldn’t understand John’s focus, and all that unknown welling up into his eyes, making them glassy and warm. John’s body mirrored the arousal and it snapped between them.

“Indeed,” Sherlock said finally. John rallied any and all of his reserves to keep from grinning at the crack in Sherlock’s voice. Sherlock’s thigh pushed back against his knee and it was like a calming stroke of his ego. “Have you finished? Shall we return to the flat?”

Oh God yes. “Yes,” John collected himself, gazed at Sherlock, willed the innuendo into his expression. “I could do with settling in to the place.”

John knew the moment the message was received and they were both on their feet, coats in hand, coats on, outside on the pavement, stalking each other and walking home. John couldn’t keep from admiring the long line of Sherlock’s neck as his hands deftly wrapped the scarf in place, but he became more enamored with the idea of Sherlock’s hands. His long, slender fingers. Practically the only exposed skin other than the man’s face. And John still wanted. Maybe it was because he needed to side-step a plant, maybe it was because he needed to touch, but their arms brushed for the second time, and John shivered as Sherlock’s fingers brushed over the back of his hand. It was an invitation that he willingly accepted, ghosting fingertips along the spaces and webbing of Sherlock’s hand.

Flirting. They were flirting like children on a playground. John felt Sherlock’s hand slide into his own and he smiled. It was all so hesitant. A question, seeking permission. And John was happy to say yes to anything and everything Sherlock was willing to give. He squeezed Sherlock’s hand and rubbed small circles along that fine wrist with his thumb. And when Sherlock gasped, John let a pleased grin settle over his face.

They made their way back to Baker Street, neither fast nor slow, hand in hand, John rhythmically caressing the soft skin of Sherlock’s wrist. And again, John Watson felt as though he could die happy. Then again, he was already dead, wasn’t he? He released Sherlock so he’d unlock the door, content to watch for a moment. Then he bounded up the stairs with a light-hearted chuckle. “Tea?” he called from the top of the stairs. Without hesitation, John shucked his coat onto one of the kitchen chairs and filled the kettle. “Was that a yes?”

He thought he might have heard the click of the locks as he turned the kettle on and pulled down two mugs. When he turned, Sherlock was leaning against the kitchen doorframe and watching and looking… sad. Oh, Sherlock. John felt some of the wind escape his sails. Why was this sad? And the melancholy lanced through him painfully. If it wasn’t real, was Limbo Sherlock going to send him on? Tell him he’s dead? Force him to confront the inevitable failure of life and love and plan? “We…” What are you doing, John? Making tea? That’s a friends thing. That’s what you’ve always done, but never done yet. Why would it be sad? “Don’t have to have tea…” John tried to keep his face neutral and he knew he failed. “I just thought…” Thought that this is my role. That this is what I do. This is who I am for you. No… who I become to you. And then you leave, and I leave, and this isn’t even my kitchen anymore.

“Tea would be lovely,” Sherlock said softly. John gave a small nod and busied himself with making the tea. Splash of milk in his own, two spoonfuls of sugar for Sherlock, and he nearly jumped when he realized that Sherlock had relocated to space just behind his right shoulder. John glanced up from where he was stirring Sherlock’s tea. “But I was hoping for rather more than tea.”

It was a tribute to his self control that there wasn’t tea everywhere, with the heat that raced down his spine at the deep pitch of Sherlock’s voice and darker implications. And if this is what Sherlock was going to be like, John wasn’t sure he’d survive the arousal. So the sad face was some sort of assumed rejection? He wet his lip compulsively. “You’re not interested in me being the least bit subtle?” Well there go all his well-made, hopeful plans out the window. “I was going to seduce you on the sofa and everything.”

It was only half in jest. John had every plan to slowly tease Sherlock for half an hour, an hour at most, but an attempt to take his time, enjoy it. Sherlock had a slightly dazed look on his face and John realized that Sherlock was envisioning the possibilities. John smirked. There were loads of possibilities. Now he’d just have to wonder. Sherlock’s eyes sharpened and focused on John’s face, on John’s mouth. “I would think my bed would be far more comfortable for such activities.”

Oh. Heat fanned out through John’s chest. Fuck subtlety, it was clearly overrated. And Sherlock’s bed… Bit of the cart before the horse, but anything and everything he could have, he wanted. Burned with want. And now. No waiting. Want. Now.

A loud bang from the front door snapped his revelry. “Sherlock!” Martha-cockblock-Hudson. John swallowed and immediately mourned the space at his side that Sherlock had vacated in favor of the main door.

“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 nearly choked. Overshare, Sherlock. Was that out loud? No wait, was that an open invitation to his bed? A warm flush crept up the back of his neck and spread to his ears. Tea. Make the tea, Watson.

“Sherlock! You have visitors.”

John furrowed his brow as he heard a group of people mounting the stairs. Why? Who would be dropping in? Surely even the events thus far would have foregone the need for a fake drugs bust. Sherlock had given them the name, the taxi number…

“What are you doing here?” Sherlock sneered, not leaving the doorway.

“Oh, nice to see you too, Sherlock.” John recognized Lestrade’s voice.

“I solved the case. Go and catch the driver before he endangers someone else.” Well, Sherlock was never one to mince words.

“And how did you know his address?” Oh great, Donovan was there too. Of course she was.

John strained the tea bags and tossed them in the sink. “You want your tea now?” he called. “Shall I make some for everyone?”

“A simple slew of internet searches. Honestly you’re wasting time. He will-” Sherlock was practically tossing them from the flat. John grinned. Eager, Sherlock.

“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.” Now that wasn’t fair. Yes there was the pink case, but…

“We didn’t exactly catch him in the act. All we have is your word.” Oh sweet baby Jesus, Anderson was there. John felt his irritation start to get the better of him.

Sherlock heaved a sigh and John was glad that even Limbo Sherlock hated Anderson for his absurdity. “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?” Fuck’s sake, Lestrade. Do some of your own goddamn work. John was really feeling the impatience now. It wasn’t even that he didn’t trust Sherlock; he didn’t believe him? Sherlock, whatever his proclivities prior to John, was not a liar. He was never wrong.

“Yes. Pills.” Sherlock snapped. “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-”

This was going poorly. “Whose phone?”

Had Sherlock really deduced everything so quickly? Maybe John really was a conductor of light. Think of all the cases they would have solved in an instant if he’d just kissed Sherlock. John collected the two mugs of tea and wandered into the sitting room. “Oh yes. Well fine, hold on.” Sherlock slammed the door shut, retrieved the case with a flourish, and stomped back to the door.

It wouldn’t do to pout, but John plastered an innocent look on his face. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. They’ll just be leaving.” John tried not to crack a smile when Sherlock threw the door open and practically pitched the case 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.”

Lestrade managed to catch the door with his hand before it slammed in his face again. “And where did you happen upon this suitcase, Sherlock?” John nearly groaned. He bloody well looked for it, didn’t he? Get out, Greg, I need to snog my flatmate senseless.

“Unlike your officers, I know where to search for clues.” John flinched at the harsh tone in Sherlock’s voice. Bit not good, Sherlock. “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.”

Well, that was honest. Sherlock had essentially laid out the case from start to finish there. What else could they possibly need? “How about we just come in and look for ourselves, then?” Donovan offered rudely. John clenched his jaw. Ok, that was enough. He set the tea on the coffee table and turned toward the door.

“When you have the proper paperwork, I’d be thrilled to have you riffling through my pants drawer, Sally.” Sherlock was going for the jugular on that one, John thought. Then again, no. Sally Donovan was never to be near Sherlock’s pants drawer if John had a say in it. “But for now, would you all be off doing your jobs?” Sherlock tried to shove the door shut again.

Lestrade’s hand was still firmly in the way. “You’re a mite wound up tonight, mate.” John bristled. The implication was there. Sherlock was agitated. Sherlock was using. He wasn’t though; Lestrade just never had cause to see Sherlock eager for something other than a case or another form of stimulation. He locked eyes with Lestrade around Sherlock’s shoulder. “He’s not frightened you off yet? Good. I suppose.” He smiled at John.

This would be his line now. John didn’t need to shoot someone to prove his loyalty to Sherlock, but he could do him one better. A slow smile, mockingly insincere, pulled his lips flat. “Not in the slightest,” he crossed the space purposefully to Sherlock’s back, pressing firmly into the curve and tilting his head to address the three. “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 evening?” Donovan’s question was laced with malice, and frankly, John didn’t feel like humoring her.

He was so far from being ashamed of this. Everything he could have had. Everything he’d been too afraid to reach for. Everything he’d spent years wanting and mourning. No. Not ashamed. Would not be shamed. He heard Sherlock’s sharp breath, and as entertaining as the verbal lashing would be, John rather hoped Sherlock would save his energy for something far more useful. Instead, John slid his hand around Sherlock’s waist, purposefully caressing his hip before flattening his palm on the silk shirt, his pinky dipping to measure the distance to Sherlock’s belt. Sherlock’s skin heated against his palm and a tiny shiver raced down the man’s spine. “And what if we do?” John gave her a lazy smile.

Donovan and Anderson gave each other a horrified look, but Greg didn’t look all that surprised. There was the bet. He’d admitted it to John about a year after Sherlock had ‘died.’ In reality, Anderson’s spiteful declaration that Sherlock would probably rather die first than bed a normal person, had won the pool And Anderson had been horrified when the money was pushed upon him shortly after the fall. The yarders all had been curious about Sherlock, and frankly, that Lestrade was going home with a reasonable sum of money tonight sat better with John. Greg was very close to smiling and John could see it. “Right you are, John. We’ll come round in the morning if we need more.”

Go for broke, Watson. John cocked a brow at them, barely flexing his fingers against Sherlock’s abdomen. “Better make it afternoon.” He couldn’t hide the cheeky smile, and it was worth it for the pink that suffused Sherlock’s skin and the low huff out of Lestrade. Yeah, he was right pleased with himself.

“Oh god, you’re bloody perfect together,” Donovan gasped, shooting a look over her shoulder as she fled with Anderson.

“Ta,” John knew how to make words cut when he needed them to. “I happen to think so too!”

Lestrade was still pleased enough with the scenario as he addressed Sherlock, “You’d better be right about all this.” Implication: relationship, not the case. John couldn’t fault the man. He knew how much time and energy he’d invested in Sherlock before John’d arrived. And if things went sour, day one with someone new, Lestrade would be left with the pieces. John couldn’t fault him, but he could be saddened at the need.

Sherlock stiffened and pulled his posture upright, pomp and angles. “I am always right.”

Lestrade snorted and grinned at John. “Don’t wear him out too badly, mate.”

As happy as John was to see him leaving, he couldn’t keep from reasserting his rightful place. “No promises,” he called. Lestrade finally cracked and laughed. And he was gone.

They were alone, the two of them. And John needed that. He tightened his arm, drawing Sherlock far enough from the door to close it, and wrapped his other arm around him, his palm sliding to a stop somewhere over Sherlock’s chest. His forehead rested against Sherlock’s back and he let out a soft sigh. It was a possessive posture and John knew it, but he just needed it. He needed to be here, now, with Sherlock, with this time, in this space. As it was the last chance he’d ever have. St. Margaret, pray for us. “Sorry if that was too…” he brought his cheek to Sherlock’s shoulder, wrinkled his nose, and grunted. No. No apologies. Go for broke. Go for everything. All in. “I didn’t want her feeling like she was free to make those sort of comments.” Because she wasn’t free. He knew about her and Anderson. Friendly jest is allowed; bitter cutting is not. “If I’m being too-”

“You are not,” Sherlock interrupted him. “And you are correct. She would have persisted in such comments for years if allowed.”

John held on, felt Sherlock steady himself with a deep breath before relaxing and reaching a hand over his shoulder to rub his fingertips against John’s scalp. It was as close to purring as John Watson was capable and he hummed all the same. Why couldn’t this be reality? Their reality? It felt real. He rubbed his nose lazily against Sherlock’s neck. Smelled real. No, correction; it smelled like home and heaven and Sherlock. And the sudden idea that if he let go, it would all disappear seized his heart. So John held on tighter. Won’t let this go. He spoke into the soft skin at the nape of Sherlock’s neck, “Tea’s getting cold.”

“Not interested in tea.” Sherlock’s fingers tightened in John’s hair and gave a light tug.

John growled low in his throat, molding himself along Sherlock’s back as he lipped at the long line of skin leading up to Sherlock’s jaw. That patch of skin just below his ear, that was the spot he wanted. He took his time getting there, scraping teeth and stubble along the way, his palms shifting to absorb the hitch in Sherlock’s breath. “You’re no fun, Sherlock,” John teased, his breath puffing across Sherlock’s earlobe. “Snogging on the sofa is one of the best bits.”

“Am I being too easy?” Sherlock murmured. “I can demand you cease your groping, but I would rather you didn’t.”

So John didn’t. He did chuckle between small nips at Sherlock’s nape. “Somehow, I think things with you are never too easy, Sherlock.” When Sherlock bristled, John had to work to contain the threatening laughter, smoothing his hands down Sherlock’s side as he bit that patch of skin he wanted so much. “Not like that, you git. I mean you’re interesting. Different. Unique. Easy isn’t a word I’d ever use, but that’s not a negative.” John’s voice dropped low. “Eager maybe…” He traced the shell of Sherlock’s ear with his tongue.

Sherlock moaned. An actual, purposeful, maybe involuntary, sexually charged moan. And John felt it run down his spine and settle into a low, simmering tension that made John want to push him up against the wall and have at here in the sitting room. But Sherlock’s weight dropped neatly against John in a lovely, pliable way. Swooning, was the word for it. John tightened his arms around the man. Never letting this go. “Yes, let’s go with very eager,” he teased, pressing a light kiss to Sherlock’s temple. “Fine. Bed it is. But I’m still snogging you senseless once we’re there, just so you know.” John ducked under Sherlock’s arm, sliding around his side and keeping hold of his waist. “Who knew you were a swooner,” he grinned.

“I am not swooning.” John might have been more convinced if he wasn’t already supporting half of Sherlock’s weight and the normally piercing silver-blue-green eyes had taken on a glossy, unfocused viridian hue. Not a swooner, my eye. John maneuvered them into the kitchen toward the bedroom and was smugly proud of their progress until Sherlock dipped his head to rumble in John’s ear. “I am merely eager to have that mouth and tongue on all parts of me.”

“Christ!” John nearly dropped them both, tripping over his own feet. He felt the blush that fanned out across his chest, warming him inside and out. Direct is good. He swallowed, cleared his throat, and steadied himself, determined to make it to the end of the hallway before stripping Sherlock bare. “You know that voice of yours ought to be illegal.”

Sherlock voice was tinged with smugness. Maybe he was just pleased to have nearly killed them both in a horrible falling-in-the-kitchen accident. “Does this mean you enjoy a vocal partner?”

John cocked a brow as he thought of the numerous, near pornographic exclamations he’d heard from Sherlock over the years. The Oh’s and Please’s and Jawn’s. And John tipped his chin down at the odd sensation in his throat. “No, it means I like your voice in particular, you prat.” In fact, John was quite sure that speaking any language, Sherlock’s voice would be enough leave him warm and wanting.

John was proud that he managed to make it to the bedroom and all the way to the side of the bed before near dropping with the effort of restraint. “So, you’d rather I was quiet?” Sherlock asked.

Quiet? Why on Earth would John want him to be quiet? Except maybe to spare Mrs. Hudson from an earful. No. Not quiet. Not loud. John wanted him to be Sherlock. Just be. Not over analyzing. He could hear the thinking already. “Stop trying to deduce your way through this, Sherlock.”

Stop deducing. Stop thinking. Stop trying to impress me, Sherlock. For God’s sake, you can’t possibly make me love you more. John grabbed the front of his suit jacked and tried to kiss his brain off-line. He poured himself into it. Kissed him hard, full, hungry and deep and completely in control. John’s tongue licked its way inside Sherlock’s mouth only to retreat so he could suck on that full lower lip. And with the barest scrape of teeth, Sherlock moaned. John fingers tightened in the jacket as he pulled back from the kiss. Not far, never far, but just far enough to breathe.

Sherlock whimpered and John felt the sound shudder through his entire body. Wanton, that was the word for it. Sitting there, well-snogged, eyes closed, lips parted in a none too subtle invitation for more, and John wanted more. “You can’t think your way through this, not with me.” It was barely a whisper, a growl against Sherlock’s lips, but John meant it. He knew Sherlock. He knew the man. And this may be fresh territory for them, but no shamming. John couldn’t handle Sherlock putting on a show. Not here. Not now. John traced the line of Sherlock’s mouth with his tongue and the reaction was heady and genuine as Sherlock moaned again, crushing handfuls of John’s jumper in his fists. “I want you to react honestly, Sherlock. That’s all.” John felt the huff of a sigh blow across his lips in response. “Turn that brilliant brain of yours off.” That’s all I want. “Just be here.” That’s all. “With me.” That.

John froze, considering resorting to prayer in the silence that followed. That’s all, he thought. That’s all. Please, Sherlock. The tug of his jumper as Sherlock’s fingers twisted the knit only barely preceded the striking motion of Sherlock opening his eyes and it knocked the breath clean out of him. Sherlock studied him, not shrewdly, not dissecting, but reading, searching, and John wanted to tell him everything. Show him everything. Give him everything. Let Sherlock see right through him. “John,” Sherlock sighed. “I would be here, with you, for the rest of time, if the universe would allow me.”

John felt the worry melt away in a warm glow that seemed to well up from somewhere deep in the pit of his stomach and spill through the cracks of his skin and smile. In what world, in what universe would they not find each other? “I’d say the universe owes us that much, hm?” Owes us. Drives us. Draws us like magnets and damn if I’m not too weak to fight that. He reached up to cup Sherlock’s cheek, drawing him down to rest their foreheads together. “I want,” I want. I need. “So much more than just one night in this bed, love.” So much more. One night would never be enough.

“I want eternity with you in this bed,” Sherlock answered. “I never wish you to leave it.”

John ran his thumb across Sherlock’s cheek. Goddamn cheekbones, John smiled to himself. And the curls; he dug his fingers into the dark mess of hair. “I guess I won’t be using the extra bedroom after all.” Maybe for clothes, maybe some storage, but hell if I’m ever going to sleep up there.

“We’ll find some other use for it,” Sherlock sighed. “John.” His hands went restless, roaming across John’s chest, his shoulders, his neck, pulling and holding and fidgeting.

John buried a second hand in Sherlock’s hair. “Promise I’m not going anywhere,” he murmured. Don’t let me go anywhere. I don’t want to leave. Not ever. He let the ringlets run through his fingers as he dragged the pads of his fingers across Sherlock’s scalp. “All I want is right here.” He pulled Sherlock close for a kiss. It wasn’t about hunger this time, it was a promise. Anything and everything John could do to stay, he would. If this was to be another second chance, his shot at a second life, the right life with Sherlock, there was nothing that would keep him from it.

The kiss deepened and Sherlock’s hands finally came to rest on John’s shoulders as he pulled him close and tumbled them backwards onto the bed. It was an invitation that John was patient enough to accept with a thorough snogging. They pressed together and John set about his original plan of snogging Sherlock senseless. And when he reached the point of being breathless himself, John moved down to that long, pale column of neck, laving the skin with kisses and licks and nips, drawing out small gasps and shivers. And when firm fingers twisted in his too short hair, John responded with a bite just above Sherlock’s collarbone.

And Sherlock moaned. “Yes, I…” Sherlock gasped as John’s tongue dragged over the slightly purple mark he’d left. “I seem to have thoroughly misjudged the joys of necking with John Watson.”

John chuckled. Thoroughly misjudged, misjudged over and over. He added another lovebite slightly higher than the first. That was two marks. This might become a problem for him. Any higher and someone would see it, scarf or not. Though, Sherlock didn’t seem to be protesting. “I hope you’re not misjudging the joys of everything else.” Because everything is what I want. He freed his hands from the mess he was making of Sherlock’s curls and pulled apart the buttons on Sherlock’s jacket. “Then again,” John hummed against Sherlock’s jaw. “Surprising you is a pretty big feat. I should stop complaining.”

Sherlock shucked his jacket and let it land heedlessly somewhere on the floor. “I have the utmost confidence in all of your abilities, Captain.”

John groaned. He was halfway to asking how Sherlock knew he’d been a captain when he realized he just didn’t care how. Maybe he should be concerned that Sherlock seemed to know he liked his title, but that was completely irrelevant in the face of the evidence that Sherlock seemed to like calling John by his title. John was intensely bothered by the fabric between his hands and Sherlock’s skin and he attacked the buttons with as much purpose as his lips did Sherlock’s.

Voices were lost in a mad scramble of kisses and nips and shed clothing. Forced separation as John’s jumper joined Sherlock’s jacket, shoes fell on the floor, buttons survived distracted fingers though only barely, and Sherlock’s trousers loosened on his hips as John pulled back to rid him of trousers and pants in one go.

“Oh yes,” Sherlock gasped. “Yes please.”

Begging. Sherlock was begging him. This Sherlock was his Sherlock and yet so much more. And John couldn’t contain his glee, his gratitude, his joy at this chance. The grin managed to hide a giggle, but God was he happy. “So bloody eager,” he threatened a bite to Sherlock’s chin as he pushed the last of Sherlock’s clothing away. Sherlock scrabbled to kick his pants off, flailing to free his feet from the fabric. “And what,” John asked firmly, trailing fingertips over rib notches and solid lines of Sherlock’s back, “are you so eager for precisely?” Because you can have anything.

“Everything.”

“Everything?” John echoed. God yes. He had everything there in front of him without a stitch left to hide it from his fingers. Sherlock wanted everything. God, John wanted everything. He just couldn’t decide where to start. He found two handfuls of bum and pulled Sherlock flush against him, the drag of Sherlock’s heated skin contrasting at the boundary of his trousers. Those would have to go; John wanted his trousers and pants gone. And soon. And Sherlock whimpered. And John had to taste again. He traced the seam of Sherlock’s mouth with the tip of his tongue. “I don’t know if we can manage everything tonight, love.”

“John!

His name snapped out of Sherlock like chastisement, like a complaint, full of eager irritation. And as much as John agreed with the sentiment, it made him laugh. There would be time enough for everything. John pressed forward, rolling Sherlock onto his back. “Hm,” he contemplated the long, lithe body beneath him. It would be over fast if they didn’t rein it in just a bit. “Let’s calm you down a bit, shall we?” He dipped his head to kiss a meandering trail along Sherlock’s chest and sternum. He flicked his tongue over Sherlock’s nipples, not missing the sharp intake of breath at each lick. Sensitive, noted.

“No,” Sherlock objected as John went lower. “I am…” John pressed a kiss to the indent at Sherlock’s hip. “I am calm.” His navel. “I…” The crease of his groin. “I…” John wrapped an arm across Sherlock’s hips, pinned him down, and ran his tongue from base to tip in a single, firm move. “Oh, Christ!” John grinned to himself as he settled in to taste Sherlock properly. Beautiful. John wasn’t particularly surprised; Sherlock’s body was a damn work of art. Wouldn’t suit if top and bottom didn’t match. So John teased just a little, just with the tip of his tongue. He tightened his grip on Sherlock as hips pressed up. Eager.

It wasn’t the first time John had given someone a blowjob. It wasn’t the second or the third. He wouldn’t count himself as practiced, as for the past five years he’d shied away from dating other men. Then again, that was five years that had been shed and his most recent partner to this point in time had been quite pleased with his ability to give head. Fingers fisted in his hair as he sucked in earnest, and John set himself to the task of shorting out Sherlock’s brain as pleasantly as possible. And Sherlock moaned and bucked and stuttered out broken words that sounded like John’s name.

John hummed and bobbed and took him further into his mouth, relishing the texture and taste and sounds and throbs that were just for him. He felt the fingers clench in warning, but he didn’t mind. Instead, John wrapped a sure hand around the base and matched tempo with his mouth, lifting his eyes to watch Sherlock come apart. And it was incredible. He was transfixed by the sight. John slowed his strokes, drawing out the last waves of ecstasy and swallowing down the evidence with pleasure.

It went without saying that John could happily pass on having seen Sherlock in the throws of it. Or rather, he could happily spend the rest of his life repeating the process. He released Sherlock from his mouth, though not his hand, as some semblance of coherence returned. “Amazing,” he growled. “Truly amazing.” He kissed the sharp angle of Sherlock’s hipbone. “You have no idea what a breathtaking sight you make when you let go, Sherlock.” John sighed reverently and pressed kisses to the trembling muscles of Sherlock’s stomach, continuing lazy, slow strokes with his hand. “Now then,” John purred. “Calm enough to tell me what else you’d like tonight?” Because the answer is yes.

“You don’t play fair,” Sherlock complained. John responded by flashing Sherlock a pleased smile. Fairness had nothing to do with it. And John wasn’t playing. This was everything, the beginning of everything, the beginning of what should have been, and John didn’t give a damn about fair play this time. He returned to his project of kissing every inch of skin he could find. “And oh do you make a sight of your own…”

John gave a satisfied hum of pleasure at both the praise and the shift of Sherlock’s fingers, carding through his hair, testing the texture. But he did need a touch of guidance. He wanted to know what Sherlock wanted. Everything. He nipped at Sherlock’s rib. “Still not answering me, you git.”

Sherlock’s breath steadied as he gave him a quizzical look. “Do you get no say yourself? I meant it when I said everything so surely you’re free to choose as you’d like.”

Everything. He could take as he wanted. Take it all. Have it all. Five years of want and desire and he was supposed to somehow make sense of it. He wanted. He wanted sex, yes. But he wanted breakfast tomorrow. He wanted the day after that. He wanted to hold Sherlock’s hand on a case. He wanted to kiss him over tea. He wanted to fight over telly. He wanted to squabble over experiments. He wanted to laugh at their ridiculousness. He wanted to be there with Sherlock every step of the way. He wanted years and years and grey hair and arthritis and glasses and retirement and bees. John wanted. He wanted everything. John felt a blush spread across his cheeks and ducked to hide it, kissing his way up Sherlock’s chest. “Because,” he murmured finally, propping himself up on his elbows, framing Sherlock’s torso beneath his own. “Because I want everything too,” John admitted. And I don’t want you to be bored of me. Everything together. All in, Watson. “And I’m desperate to please the brilliant man beneath me, so why not make him choose?”

There. There it was. Everything. He wanted it. And somehow the intensity in Sherlock’s eyes made him want to pull away and hide. It was too much. It was their first day. Sherlock didn’t know the five years that John did. But before John could move away, Sherlock’s hands rose to cup his face between warm palms.

“There is not a future I wish to inhabit that does not have you right here, John.” John sucked in a breath, but Sherlock pushed on. “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.” Sherlock’s lips brushed against John’s. “Have me tonight, John. Please.”

John blinked. He knew Sherlock had been speaking, but the message grew jumbled in the sound of his heart swelling to the point of bursting. Everything. Everything. Together. Oh God. Sherlock was offering him everything forever and John couldn’t bring his mouth to form words. He blinked again. He took a breath. “I’d ask you how you know exactly what to say, exactly what I need to hear, but you’re Sherlock bloody Holmes.” Sherlock’s breath ghosted across John’s lips as he smiled slowly. “I believe you mean every word, even if you read my mind.” And he did. “I want you. From that very first look. I…” I want you. I want it all. I want everything. “I…” I love you. I’ve always loved you. I never knew I could love anything before you. The rest of his breath seemed to escape before he could finish the thought. Finish the sentence. God dammed, sodding, buggering, tongue-tied idiot he was.

“John,” Sherlock said calmly. John blinked. “Those trousers will have to come off if you’re going to ravish me.”

John giggled. He dropped his forehead against Sherlock’s and giggled hard enough to make his sides hurt. He caught his breath and kissed Sherlock senseless before shifting off to the vacant side of the bed. He felt light, weightless. He stripped his trousers and cocked a brow at Sherlock. “Pants too?” he teased. When Sherlock just laughed, he kicked them off. “I should leave my socks on. I hear that’s a sexy look.”

“Don’t you bloody dare.”

John shuddered at the low purr that rumbled out of Sherlock. God that voice. He didn’t waste time stripping off, and immediately returned to his previous spot, settling atop Sherlock, letting warm skin press into warm skin. And it felt like heaven. And Sherlock looked like a debauched angel. John rocked his hips experimentally, rubbing his cock against the underside of Sherlock’s and smiling at the uninhibited moan that came in response.

It was a hard knock to his control and John dove into Sherlock’s mouth with abandon. It hardly muffled the moans that spurred John on as he rutted down against Sherlock. Sherlock’s legs wrapped around John’s thighs as he bucked up, and John pulled back, letting out a shaky laugh. “It’s going to take some doing to get you to enjoy slow builds, isn’t it?”

Sherlock and delayed gratification were not a pair John easily melded and while he didn’t want to wait, he didn’t want to waste this time they had. John stopped rutting and braced himself on his forearms, nearly collapsing at Sherlock’s whine of protest. No, Sherlock, wait. Patience. He nipped at the jut of Sherlock’s jaw. “Have you got anything?” Lube, condom, anything?

When Sherlock didn’t answer, John was tempted to laugh again, but his own impatience got the better of him. He fumbled with the bedstand drawer, digging for supplies. Belatedly, Sherlock started mumbling, “Yes, oh yes.” But by then, John had already found the two items he’d wanted.

He shifted back onto his knees as he squinted at the condom wrapper. Math was never something to be done when under the influence of lust, but John still managed to count the years backwards and snorted. Not expired, but it certainly was close. It must have been in that drawer for ages. He flashed a grin at Sherlock as he tore the package open and slid the condom on. “So it’s been a while?” Sherlock’s eyes were cast too far south to see John’s smile, and when he licked his lips, John’s grin widened. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Yes. God yes. The sight of Sherlock’s tongue should have knocked John over the edge, but somehow, it helped him focus. No wonder Sherlock was so eager, if it had been that long, John wouldn’t have lasted more than a half minute. No, he would take his time, make it last, make it worth the five years and missed moments and waiting and wanting. And maybe the only time, the only chance. It gave him a rather singular focus. He snatched one of the pillows, “Hips up.”

Sherlock obeyed, slowly uncoiling his legs from John’s thighs and slowing his breath. John ran his palms down Sherlock’s flanks, a slow, soothing path to caress his hips and thighs as well. “That’s it,” John murmured, slicking the fingers of both hands with lube. “Deep breaths.” He told Sherlock as much as he told himself. “I promise not to do anything until you’re properly stretched.” Until I’m completely in control of myself. “No A&E trip for us, hm?” He’d seen it once or twice. It was far from pleasant.

Like riding a bike, Watson. It had been ages since he’d prepared a partner like this. He turned to the side and kissed the first patch of skin he found as set to work, stroking Sherlock’s cock with one hand while reaching lower with the other. The lazy attention pulled a moan from Sherlock as he spread his legs further and rocked his hips. John caught his lower lip between his teeth at the display. Patience, he chided himself, sliding his fingers back to find the puckered entrance, sliding one finger around in a slow circle.

“That’s it,” he whispered. “Relax, love.” John watched Sherlock carefully, circling his finger, waiting for the urgency to wane before pushing his finger inward. He heard the hitch in Sherlock’s breath and paused, holding his breath, willing Sherlock to relax as the warm heat pulled on his finger. “Mm, very good,” he said with more confidence than he felt. Praise, profuse praise and encouragement spilled from his lips as slowly stretched and soothed with the single finger.

He knew Sherlock was ready, but John was going for overprepared rather than under. He knew Sherlock was impetuous enough to be hasty and John would not indulge that tonight. Or ever again. Scratch that, John was going to indulge Sherlock in every way possible. By the time John slid a second finger in, Sherlock didn’t tense at all. “So very very good.” The feel of it, the look of him, all of it. Everything. Everything was good. “How about a reward, hm?” It was a simple flick of the wrist. Well, simple with a thorough knowledge of anatomy and a bit of practice. But John found Sherlock’s prostate with ease.

Sherlock nearly rocketed off the bed. “John!” His eyes rolled closed as he trembled and arched. John’s groan was buried under Sherlock’s loud cry as Sherlock’s hands fisted in the sheets over his head. “More.” Sherlock begged. “Oh, more.”

Oh God. John bit back another groan. “Fuck what a sight you make, Sherlock.” I never thought I’d see this, you like this. “God…” John tried to calm the heat that raced through him. If it was too much for him, what it must be doing to Sherlock. He released Sherlock’s cock and smoothed his palm across Sherlock’s stomach and thighs, shushing him, soothing him, bringing him back down from the brink. “Stay relaxed, love.”

When the trembling died down, John refocused his attention on the task at hand. He pumped the two fingers in and out, biting the tip of his tongue in concentration at the hypnotic movement. Adding a third finger brought a flush to his own face, his breathing deepened, and by God was he hard. Everything. Sherlock moaned loudly and John glanced up, finding Sherlock’s eyes fixed on him. “I…” A long breath heaved out of him. “Please… Enough…” Sherlock implored. “I need you.” John hesitated. Want. “Need… Please, John!”

John shuddered as he groaned. Sherlock could rip away every shred of self-control John possessed with just a look, but when he begged. God. He stilled himself before bending down and capturing Sherlock’s mouth in a bruising kiss. I promise, Sherlock. Everything, I promise. It took a concerted effort to withdraw his hand and Sherlock whimpered against his lips. Oh Sherlock, I promise. John lined himself up and pressed forward. It was a test of his restraint to keep from burying himself in one quick thrust, and the way Sherlock was kissing him back was enough to make his arms tremble. And for all his trouble, Sherlock wrapped his legs around John’s thighs and drew him the last of the distance. Fingers twisted into his hair, and they were flush against each other once again.

The five years was worth it. Worth the wait. Worth everything. John broke the kiss and rolled his hips slowly, drawing a moan from Sherlock to match the one he couldn’t contain himself. Slow, Watson. He wanted. Make this last forever. Want. For everything. He set a slow pace, torturous, patient. He rested his forehead against Sherlock’s, breathing with him, sharing the air in the narrow space between their lips. He pressed forward, lengthening his thrusts in the languid tempo. He couldn’t keep it up, not for the time he wanted. God, he wanted. He dipped his hips and knew he’d found his mark as Sherlock gasped out a cry that may have been his name.

Sherlock’s hands clutched at his shoulder, at his back, at his hip. The carefully trimmed nails dug into skin, and John was sure there’d be marks. Good. He’d wear it like a badge. The moans, gasps of pleasure, sighs and sounds poured out of Sherlock in an unending recitation that John heard only as encouragement. Words garbled into nonsense. More. Louder. Faster. John felt the pleasure building and held on for dear life, pushing Sherlock further along. Come on, Sherlock. Perhaps against his better judgment, John opened his eyes.

Oh God, it was beautiful. Sherlock was beautiful, breathtaking in every sense of the word. Lost in the sensations, lithe muscle moving under heat flushed skin, as John’s name spilled in a ceaseless invocation from Sherlock’s lips. The honesty of the naked exposure shuddered through John and he tumbled further into the abyss of want. Everything, Sherlock. And Sherlock tightened around him, clenching, arms clinging, legs trembling, breath lost in the wave of pleasure. And John surrendered, as it was the only thing left to do, with a moan that probably woke the neighbors. And he shuddered as he came.

He couldn’t even think about keeping his weight off of Sherlock, but somehow he had the presence of mind to keep from collapsing. Deep breaths, calming breaths, he buried his face against Sherlock’s neck, sucking in air like a man dragged from near drowned. Sated bliss. Total contentment. Sherlock began to unwind around him, the death grip on his arms relaxed and those long fingers brushed through his short hair, ruffling and mussing in a familiar and affectionate manner. Could die happy. Maybe am dead. This was everything. For five years, all he’d wanted. He’d wanted it since he’d walked into Bart’s. Since Sherlock had dissected his life at a glance. Since he’d first seen him. “Do you believe in love at first sight?”

In the brief pause before Sherlock responded, John prayed that he couldn’t die of a heart attack if he was already dead. Going for broke. No more hiding, no more choking on unspoken words. If he could, he’d smother Sherlock with the raw honesty of how he felt. Then he felt the pull of muscle as Sherlock’s mouth drew back in a smile. “I do now.”

“Good,” he murmured into Sherlock’s skin, the shiver of response giving him courage. He dragged his nose across Sherlock’s carotid, nuzzling into the pulse point. Fast, full, healthy, alive. He thought briefly of the moment he’d tried to find a radial pulse and winced against the panic that tried to take hold. No. Sherlock was whole and alive and warm and stretched out beneath him in a gorgeous post-coital haze. And nothing would take this away from him. He would live through each and every soul-destroying moment of watching Sherlock fall if it would mean keeping this moment. Everything. “Because I knew the moment I walked into that room, at Bart’s.” He could see it, the moment Sherlock looked up from the microscope. Casually, as if he’d been interrupted from deep thought that would be there when he returned. “You looked at me, and I knew.”

The arm that Sherlock had draped around John’s waist tightened. “I knew you were utterly remarkable and extraordinary. I knew you somehow fit me. I knew you were important. I knew I needed you.” Sherlock let out a long breath, the air having trapped a deep truth that he needed to release. “I have never needed anyone in all my life but I knew in an instant that I needed you.”

Now he knew. Not Limbo, not death, not hell. This was heaven. Forget that Sherlock had only known John for mere hours. This was the truth he’d always longed to hear. And it warmed him from the inside out. There wasn’t a cell in his body that didn’t feel happy. Happy, blissful, sparkling, intoxicated, joyful. He was at peace with so many long dreaded demons and weightless. And he was smiling. John pushed himself up to take in Sherlock’s face, awash in honesty and not a small amount of vulnerability. He wanted to look him in the eyes when he finally admitted it. “I need you just as much, Sherlock. Promise.” I promise. The promise was sealed with a kiss. Short but genuine.

The waning haze necessitated movement, and John pulled away to dispose of the condom and possibly ruin his vest on a cursory cleaning. The distance didn’t last. John returned to the bed for a shuffle of limbs, a jumble of their bodies, as they found positions that nearly eliminated the space between them, comfortably entwined. And John slid his hand into the mess of curls resting on his shoulder. He closed his eyes and let the silky hair run through his fingers. Peaceful. He could fall asleep like this. Hell, Sherlock could fall asleep like this. Couldn’t he? But he wasn’t. John gave one of the ringlets a tug. “You’re thinking too much. I can almost hear it.”

“Sorry,” Sherlock apologized automatically.

John felt the cascade of questions in the ensuing silence. He pulled again. “Still thinking.” No thinking about this. No second-guessing. I needed this. We needed this. This is how everything should have been. Everything. “Worrying even, if I know anything.” This is the only thing he knew for sure: This was right. John shifted, tilting Sherlock’s chin up with a gentle finger. Sherlock blinked at him and John was certain. This was everything and he would die to make Sherlock see it. “There is not a thing to worry over, love.”

“What if this fades come morning? I couldn’t…”

Fades? John couldn’t help the grin that stretched across his face. This doesn’t fade. This will never dim. Nothing on God’s earth could lessen what he felt for Sherlock. Wither the world and John would carry on with this torch. Hell, even Sherlock’s, albeit fake, death hadn’t diminished the power of John’s affection. “It’ won’t.”

“How do you know?”

Because this is real. This is everything. He ran his fingers through Sherlock’s hair; how had he never done that in the other life? He traced the solid line of Sherlock’s neck, his spine. “Because life is cruel and harsh,” he answered honestly. And I’ve seen how harsh it can be. I’ve lived it, survived it, and I won’t go back. I won’t give you up now. “But every step I’ve taken was to find you. There’s no pulling me away once I have done. I will be here.” And it was decided. John decided in his mind, in his heart, in his soul. “Right here.”

“Right here?”

John trailed his fingers across Sherlock’s shoulders, his back, the nape of his neck. All places that five years later would map the scars of Sherlock’s work, of the people meant to harm, of the time they were apart. And John knew he wouldn’t let them ever form. “Right here.” They had each other in the way they were always supposed to. And this was how it would be from now on. And screw physics and science and practicality. “It’s all fine.” This would be real. This was real. This was everything. “More than fine.”

Sherlock heaved a sigh against John’s chest, his arms clinging to John in a way that nearly broke John’s heart all over again. He would never leave this man. Sherlock’s face pressed into John’s neck, “Far more than fine. It’s perfection.”

John pressed a light kiss to Sherlock’s forehead. Perfection. A litany of prayer to St. Margaret ran through his head. He closed his eyes and let the warmth and weight of Sherlock anchor him in the bed, their bed, as he fell asleep. Everything was perfection.

 

~o~

 

John sniffed and wrinkled his nose. The bright slant of sunlight fell directly across his face and it was warm and sharp and morning and warned of an hour that would see him at work already. He cringed and buried his face in the pillow, sighing deeply and wishing for a few extra minutes of snoozing. His pillow felt softer than usual. Come to think of it, it smelled different. He cracked one eye open in search of the clock. Instead, he was met with a mop of dark curls and expensive white linens. And John was instantly awake.

He sat up a bit too quickly and surveyed the room. Sherlock’s room. Sherlock’s bed. Sherlock asleep in Sherlock’s bed. Next to him. Close enough to touch, to kiss. A mess of clothes discarded on the floor from last night. Last night… John scrubbed a hand over his face and looked around again. Last night… Was last night. And now it’s morning. It’s the morning after. It’s still then. That time is still now. And they were decidedly not dead. So… Not Limbo? A wide smile bloomed across John’s face. Not dead. Not in Limbo. Living. Alive. Now. And John had to choke back a wave of giggles. Maybe he’d never done anything in his life to deserve what he had right now, but he’d damn well work to keep it. And waking a sleeping Sherlock Holmes was not something one did lightly.

John eased himself from the bed, planted a gentle kiss atop the pile of curls, and snuck into the bathroom. How he managed to shower and salvage some clean clothes from one of his suitcases that had yet to be relegated to the upstairs room without waking Sherlock would remain a mystery for all time, but it gave John the idea of bringing the man breakfast in bed.

After a quick glance in the fridge, John shrugged into his coat and popped down to the closest Tesco for supplies. He’d forgotten about Sherlock’s predilection to experimentation and disregard for normal nutritional needs, but without much thought, he stocked up on breakfast and dinner foods, tea, milk, coffee, a few biscuits, and the mainstay cleaning supplies that were least likely to be in the flat. By the time he returned to Baker Street, his stomach was growling and Sherlock was still out cold.

No matter. John started humming as he made breakfast in the kitchen, in his kitchen. It felt like home. Eggs, sausage, toast, beans, and in a small fit of pique, John had made hotcakes. Well, he’d made about seventy-five percent of the batch when a one-handed flip wound up with the skillet and spatula clattering to the floor. “Shit!” he swore loudly. There was plenty of food, but it hurt his pride and sense of completion to have batter uncooked and a pan that was certainly no longer fit for food preparation. Muttering a long string of cuss words, John cleaned the uncooked flapjack from the floor. He had just risen from collecting the pan and spatula when he heard Sherlock’s bare feet on the hardwood floors.

John gave him a happy smile as he dumped the pan into the sink. “Sorry. I kipped out for a few things.” He was sorry for abandoning Sherlock in the bedroom, for not waking him slowly with kisses and caresses as his imagination had suggested when he’d reached the shops. He was decidedly not sorry if the pan had spurred Sherlock’s dash into the kitchen in just his pants and robe, because that was a sight to behold. “Seeing as you have nothing but human fingers in the fridge. Not much of a filling breakfast, that.” He wiped his hands on a dishtowel and stepped into Sherlock’s personal space, stealing a kiss and reveling in bed-warmed heat that clung to him. This was something that could easily become a guilty pleasure. John gestured to the table. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

Sherlock plopped down into one of the chairs. When he didn’t answer, John shot a glance over his shoulder and blushed at the dazed and distant smile on Sherlock’s face. He filed that look away in the now cluttered corner of his heart as something that would make him warm on the bitterest mornings.

“Now don’t tell me you’re not hungry.” Transport, he’ll say it’s just transport, John thought. “You didn’t eat anything last night and I happen to now have intimate knowledge on just how very human you are.” Five years worth of knowledge. Human. And beautiful. And real. And alive. And wanted. So very, very wanted. John slid a plate to Sherlock along with a mug of tea, two scoops of sugar. “So eat.”

John set his own plate to Sherlock’s left and scooted his chair into the table. He took sip of tea as Sherlock started in on his own food. Seeing Sherlock eat without complaint made his grin. He smothered the expression with a large bite of toast and nudged Sherlock’s thigh with his knee. When Sherlock froze, his gaze somewhat unfocused but studying John nonetheless, John raised a brow. “Is it no good?”

Sherlock was never a big eater. Maybe John would have to convince him. The badgering to eat, to sleep, to clean (the flat, never himself) was a mainstay of the relationship they’d developed. It was probably too much to ask to keep from nagging. And he could do that, put up with strong-arming Sherlock into minding the human necessities if it meant staying. If it meant he could have this moment. This moment that Sherlock took to kiss him. John’s mind stalled at the gentle brush of lips against his. It was sweet, hesitant as if Sherlock was looking for permission. John pressed forward, letting Sherlock take what he wanted, letting him tease and taste and nip and glide, until pulling away. John hummed low in his throat. Oh he wanted. He could feel the flush that had bloomed across his nose and cheeks as he opened his eyes again.

Sherlock smirked, “It’s fantastic.”

It was a broad and stupid smile that took over his face, and John was so pleased with himself and Sherlock and the food and the flat and their fate that he couldn’t be bothered to rein it in. Only the need to eat the rapidly cooling food moved the expression from his mouth, but never from his eyes. In fact, the food was stone cold by the time John was properly finished, due to the frequent interruptions of Sherlock’s lips finding other ways to occupy John’s mouth.

 

~o~

 

John found himself sneaking glances at Sherlock, stealing moments of smiles and generally reveling in his presence. Soaking in every moment as if it might be their last. As if it would all be taken away again. As if this was still Limbo and he was dead or in a coma or hallucinating. Returning to the present was far too painful to consider. But nothing unusual seemed to happen. They ate, though John actually managed to consume his fill of breakfast foods. They kissed, though Sherlock seemed enthralled with the idea of finding the most opportune moments to divert John’s attention from nearly everything but kissing. And then John tried to wash the dishes. Tried and failed, because Sherlock insisting on a nice long shower… Together… And John’s refusals fell on deaf ears and rather persistent hands. And in response, John forced Sherlock to put on clothes and help him retrieve his belongings from the bedsit.

It carried on as a normal day.

John raised a brow at the recurrent chiming of Sherlock’s phone; something that was waved off with the word, “Lestrade.” And he gave little thought to it beyond that. Mrs. Hudson insisted on bringing tea and biscuits up as they unpacked John’s belongings. Or rather, John unpacked and tidied and folded and organized as Sherlock sat in the middle of the floor and made alarming comments about his jumpers. Finally, John insisted that Sherlock leave him a moment to put his damn pants away, without an index thank you very much. But after a few moments, the silence from the sitting room became alarming, and John descended to find the more alarming specter of Mycroft Holmes silently glaring at his brother. John carded his fingers through Sherlock’s curls before picking up a book and sitting on the sofa, leaving the two to their own conversation. He didn’t miss Sherlock’s smug smile or Mycroft’s elevated brow. But then again, he found that he rather didn’t care.

In the evening, John set to the kitchen again, making a nice stir fry while Sherlock gave the impression of composing something new on the violin. John knew the song, Sherlock had written it a few months before they’d met. But it was still soothing, comfortable, pleasing. After eating, they watched telly. John had resigned himself to only watching the shows while listening to Sherlock rant when he remembered that there were better things for Sherlock to be doing with his mouth. Snogging on the sofa was one of the best bits, but when Sherlock turned out to be more ticklish than John could have possibly suspected, they ended up in a tangle of limbs on the floor. So yes, at that point, the bed was a better plan.

And whatever John’s plans had been when they shut the door, they were quickly tossed aside in the face of Sherlock’s immovable desire to absolutely destroy him with want. John couldn’t remember a time he’d let someone spend that much time on him, in him, with him. He’d never come harder in his life, and there certainly had never been sex like it. Die happily. He could die happily. Sherlock would take him to pieces and John would gladly put himself back together just to let Sherlock have his way again.

The morning after, and the morning after that became every morning after. They found their routine, John often rising before Sherlock, if Sherlock came to bed at all. If John was up, it was to make food, or go to work, or relieve himself with the intent to come back before Sherlock could even think about missing him. And some mornings, John found his own creative ways to wake Sherlock in a way they both found pleasing. But the best mornings were when Sherlock decided to wake John slowly and skillfully and in such a way that neither of them left the bed for hours.

John found a comfortable routine that balanced working at the surgery with running the streets at night with Sherlock. Medical cases and criminal cases blurred together as life moved forward. There was a stable peace in 221B. Maybe, John thought, he was more attentive to Sherlock, more forgiving, more giving, more tolerant, more proud, and more accepting. He treasured his days with Sherlock, and in return, Sherlock didn’t seem to sulk, at least not as much as John remembered. There was less bickering, less body parts in the fridge, less bruised egos.

As time moved forward, John worried. He worried, and fretted, and dreaded that knowing what had happened the last time would force it to happen again. Necessitate the pain that they’d foregone. Delay the inevitable. But caution and care brought different outcomes. John never murdered the murderous cabby, but Moriarty did. John never went out on a date with Sarah, so they were never abducted together. And Soo Lin didn’t suffer the consequences of her childhood. Sherlock’s deductive skills seemed sharper, faster, brilliant as ever. And the little cases came and went without fanfare. Moriarty was, as always, unpredictable, and John still found himself in a semtex vest. But Sherlock was on form.

With nudges and winks, their timeline changed and morphed into something new. And new took the edge off of John’s dread. Within a year, everything had changed and time moved on as new and incalculable as it had been before the matchbox.

John clung to one important fact: if he didn’t go with Sherlock, Sherlock did not go. And the fall never happened. Moriarty died, and by his own hand. And Sherlock practically knelt in the remaining bloodstain to propose. John wound up doubled over laughing at the timing. Nothing romantic about blood and brains and proposals… Except for them. Certainly not a story for the grandchildren. John accepted.

John had nightmares, filled with bullets and bombs and blood and sand. He shared them with Sherlock if he woke. He never told Sherlock about the ones where Sherlock was on the pavement, or John was left alone. He just couldn’t bear it. And he couldn’t bring himself to correct the horror that seemed to rub off on Sherlock, brining out nightmares in the man, echoes of what might have happened if they’d never truly found each other. Sherlock told John about his nightmares. And John would listen, and choke back the memories that flooded him with the accuracy of Sherlock’s dreams. And John would tell him, together or not at all.

John actually missed the day when he caught up to the present. It was hard to tell; everything had changed. He was married, which Sherlock loved. He was working steadily at the surgery, which Sherlock hated. And he, they, were expecting a child. John was already worrying about the future, worrying about the child’s education, health, career choices, temperament, and fights over curfew and tattoos and smoking and universities. Sherlock admitted that he was afraid he would drop the new baby when it arrived, be it out of nerves or jealousy as John would clearly love his child more than Sherlock.

Then William Hamish Watson-Holmes arrived and John was done for. He didn’t think he’d the capacity to love more than he already did, all the broken and damaged parts of him. But then he had a son. He and Sherlock had a son. And Sherlock couldn’t look past the fact that William did look a helluva lot like a miniature John, which John found embarrassing, but Sherlock insisted was perfection.

Years flew by. Between the days of diapers and disease, of cases and chases and cuddles and chaos, John lost track of Limbo. Their son grew up and went to university. John and Sherlock were eventually forced to retire from active cases, though John couldn’t force Sherlock from the pursuits of cold cases. Well, he probably could, but he didn’t have the heart to. But John never lost the marvel of the what if that brought him back to life. Light a candle to St. Margaret every morning, for his hope, his heart, his life was happy. He and Sherlock had found their joy in each other. He’d found home the second time around. And John Watson was, quite possibly, blessed by the patron saint of second chances.