The footsteps of a drunken couple making their way home fade away along Southbank leaving Sherlock alone in his spot on the edge of the undercroft once more, with only the demands of his body for company. Considering that this company consists of it informing him, with increasing instance, that a) one mug of soup consumed over twenty four hours ago is insufficient fuel for a man currently using the street as a bedroom and b) neither his hoodie, his jeans, nor the distinctly threadbare blanket he’s attempting to keep the biting cold at bay with are in any way equal the task. Stifling another shiver he pulls the blanket more tightly around his shoulders and attempts to distract himself by staring out towards the river.
It doesn’t help. The first thing his eyes fix on is the spot on the balustrade where, only nine months ago, his world was profoundly changed. He’d told John a memory from his childhood, of his love for the Thames, in the hope of easing the pain of the memories haunting John. John’s response had been to share his hurt, which turned out to be linked to another river, over four hundred miles away but just as important to him. And in sharing those memories they found they’d shared something more, the moment becoming pivotal in their relationship, shifting the balance just enough to tip them over into an intimacy Sherlock had never thought himself capable of experiencing, let alone acting upon.
He can still feel the warmth of John’s arm draped around his waist, feel the tension in John’s hand as he’d enclosed it in his own and lifted it to kiss. His tongue runs itself over his lips as he recalls the texture and taste of John’s skin; the sensation that this was something he’d always been meant to do.
To his horror a bubble of sickness wells in his stomach, his eyes begin to burn and his throat aches with tightness. He lifts his gaze in an effort to break the spell of the remembrances, prove that this new year visit to the city he loves is not simply a sentimental impulse that would have been better left unheeded. He fails miserably, for over the river, above the jagged London skyline, shine the lights of the BT tower.
A tower that is barely a mile from Baker Street, a mile from John, a mile from home.
He hasn’t seen John since his unscheduled return, although that had initially been his intent; to see without being seen; to confirm that the lack of new from Mycroft was indeed a good sign; to know, rather than infer, that John was safe and as well as he could be. Yet he’s been putting it off since he arrived. Lying to himself about the delay, insisting it is for John’s benefit, to make sure that he’s not been followed when he knows full well he’s not, that he’s as invisible as it’s possible for one person to be.
And now he knows why.
In the darkness of the city night, where there is really no darkness at all, the loneliness inside him is billowing up, a nebulous cloud of blackness that threatens to blot out all light. Alone does not protect him any more. Without John he is truly homeless, his emotions, like his body, having no place to rest, nothing to settle on, nowhere to exist as they should. His subconscious recognised immediately what his waking brain has refused to admit until now; that to be in John’s presence would be to risk everything that he’s working for and to treat every moment of pain his actions have put John through as inconsequential, because John is a magnet for both his treacherous body and his treacherous sentiments. He cannot be sure he could see John without being overwhelmed by the need to touch him, to hear his voice, to see him smile. He can no longer trust himself.
Drawing his knees up to his chest, Sherlock rests his forehead against them; hiding his face as the last of his control shatters.
Dawn has broken before his cheeks are free of tears.