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Love and Other Deaths

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The phone line crackles and breaks. From the other end, from somewhere in Europe, comes Sherlock’s voice.

John. White noise roars down the miles of wire. John. I-- The sound is like the wind. John, I--I never say the right thing, I--

Silence. Then the long moan of the dialling tone, a hospital heart monitor after someone else has been dragged from this world.

***

Sherlock’s mouth rests where the curve of John’s rib ends. One, two, three breaths, a fourth, and then he begins.

Sternum, stomach, inner thigh. Lips brush over the back of the knee, left ankle, up to the top again and then armpit, hipbone, neck.

He throws the sheets over both of them and they move against each other to their heartbeats - Sherlock 70 bpm and rising, John 63 bpm and stable.

***

Sherlock leans against the kitchen counter and rubs ineffectually with a towel at the hot, soapy bowls and mugs that John hands him.

He watches John’s arms move, the downward tilt of his face as he stares into the washing-up-filled sink.

Sherlock frowns. ‘I don’t love you,’ he says.

John meets his eyes, and smiles. ‘I haven’t asked you to.’

***

Outside it grows dark and London rushes to finish its day.

John opens out Sherlock’s clenched fist and runs the tip of his index finger down one of the lines etched into the palm.

He brings the edge of his left hand to rest against the edge of Sherlock’s right and slowly folds his hand shut like the cover of a book. John shifts his hand up half an inch so that their life lines curve together. He dips his head, lifts his hand, squints in between their joined palms.

He smiles.

***

‘I don’t love you,’ Sherlock whispers against John’s shoulder, his dark hair curling around the white, stretched skin of John’s scar, the top of his arm. He kisses John’s chest.

John holds Sherlock tighter. ‘Alright,’ he replies.

***

John has the blunt edge of a knife pressed against his stomach, an arm curled around his neck. He swallows and struggles to breathe. It’s dark and cold and his attacker’s body is hard and unforgiving against his back. The arm at his neck squeezes, he chokes. Fireworks shriek and explode up above, setting the sky ablaze with red and green and blue and gold light. Ducks quack and fuss on the bank of the park’s pond.

‘Let him go,’ a voice growls from behind.

John is spun round and comes face-to-face with the barrel of his own gun, gripped in Sherlock’s steady hands.

‘You won’t use that,’ John’s attacker says. His voice shakes.

Sherlock lifts one eyebrow and cocks the safety.

The moment that John feels his attacker’s grip on him weaken, he squeezes the hand that holds the knife against his stomach, applies pressure with his thumbs and twists the man’s wrist backwards, forcing him to drop the knife. He sends his elbow flying back into the man’s abdomen and turns around once he is released, shoving two fingers against the pressure point on the man’s neck so that he collapses onto the wet ground. John coughs and rubs his throat as Sherlock drops the gun and rushes forward to handcuff the man.

Later, much later, when they’re in bed, Sherlock presses almost impossibly soft kisses to John’s neck and throat. Sherlock runs his fingertips over the reddened skin there, runs his lips over where the man’s denim jacket had chafed.

‘Are you alright?’ he murmurs.

John scratches gently at the nape of Sherlock’s neck. ‘I’m fine.’

***

‘Get in the car, John,’ Sherlock mutters, walking quickly over to the silver mondeo parked on the other side of the road, slightly away from the crime scene.

‘Isn’t this Lestrade’s car?’ John asks, glancing over his shoulder.

‘Just get in,’ Sherlock says, clearly enunciating every word, widening his eyes meaningfully. He pulls a set of keys out of his pocket and presses a button. The car’s central locking clicks open. ‘There isn’t time.’

None of the police seem to have noticed that Sherlock has pickpocketed Lestrade’s car keys and is about to steal his car to boot. John looks around once more before sliding into the passenger seat, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible.

‘Sherlock!’ Lestrade shouts, twenty feet away, clearly wondering where they’ve both gone. The driver’s door opens and Sherlock folds himself into the car, pushing the seat back before starting the engine.

‘Sherlock, that’s my bloody car!’ Lestrade yells from outside. John looks in the rearview and sees the DI running over.

‘You’ll thank me later,’ Sherlock murmurs, briefly checking the mirrors before pulling out into the road with a horrible revving noise, accelerating down the grey street.

He depresses the clutch, goes to change gear. His hand wraps around warm fingers that are already curled around the gearstick. John slides the car into second, then third, and Sherlock laughs and laughs with the joy of it all.

***

John pours the peach schnapps he'd bought from the off-licence into a shot glass before upending it over Sherlock's bare stomach. He dips his head quickly to drink the sweet liquid from Sherlock's navel. Sherlock laughs and writhes, curls his toes and twists his neck at the ticklish sensation.

'Do it again, John,' he says, beaming.

Grinning back, John licks away the sticky paths the first lot of schnapps had made over Sherlock's skin. He pours another shot into Sherlock's navel and sucks it out, laughing at the shrieking noises that Sherlock makes. He presses wet, fervent kisses to Sherlock's sides, brushes his thumb over Sherlock's nipple, feels Sherlock's shaky laughter on his lips.

'Do it again, John,' Sherlock urges. 'Do it again.'

***

Sherlock breathes into the warm shell of John's ear as he sleeps. Sherlock's spindly fingers seek out the spot of skin to the right of the blue veins that travel down John's wrist, and he presses down in order to feel the strong, steady pulse there.

'John,' he whispers. The room is dark, the curtains drawn. 'John.'

John's chest rises and falls, his pulse beats strong and steady.

And Sherlock still can't quite say it.

He sighs instead, and curls into John’s side.

***

John falls asleep against Sherlock’s arm in the early hours of the morning during a taxi ride back from Staines. The numbness starts at his shoulder and creeps down until the entire limb goes dead, and there is nothing but dull almost-sensation. John’s lips are parted and he breathes louder than he usually does.

Sherlock stares at the top of John’s head the whole way home.

The taxi pulls up outside 221 and John wakes up at the slight jolt of the car. He blinks and stretches, gives Sherlock a tired smile. ‘Am I paying or you?’

‘I’d rather have ripped my arm off than wake you up,’ Sherlock blurts out, frowning as though he doesn’t quite understand it. The burn of pins and needles snakes its way into his muscles.

John pays the driver, thanks him, gets out and opens Sherlock’s door. The taxi drives off once Sherlock is standing in the middle of the road.

‘I would have,’ Sherlock says, looking lost and scared. ‘Fucking stupid, but I would have.’

Smiling, John stretches up and pulls Sherlock into a warm kiss. ‘I love you too,’ he whispers, kissing Sherlock again.

‘Oh,’ Sherlock mumbles against John’s lips. ‘Oh.’