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Take the Risk

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Accept that all of us can be hurt, that all of us can and surely will at times fail. Other vulnerabilities, like being embarrassed or risking love, can be terrifying, too. I think we should follow a simple rule: if we can take the worst, take the risk.

– Joyce Brothers


:1: Linked

A sound not oft-heard rings out in the downstairs hallway of 221 Baker Street, London, UK.

The pleasant melody of John’s giggles fills the empty spaces in Sherlock’s heart the way he’s believed for so long that nothing ever could; it penetrates his sterling defenses, chips at the icy layer he’s carefully molded into place around him—a transparent shield that people can clearly feel and mostly misunderstand. It has never been about keeping people away; it is about keeping himself inside lest everything that threatens to burst him apart at the seams break loose and destroy the fortress he’s built.

There in the hallway of the old Victorian, the melody crescendos: Sherlock’s deep purr of true merriment mixing joyously with John’s higher pitch, the sounds dancing with one another; the two men from very different walks of life lean against the wall together, shoulders brushing, creating a new combination as if they are unique instruments: strings and winds.

Sherlock is unaware that he has slumped slightly, dropping his shoulders and slouching in order to make their heights even. He’s unaware because he cannot stop watching John: the way he laughs unselfconsciously as if nothing else matters but this moment. Sherlock finds that he strongly agrees with the doctor.

The rest of the world beyond the here and now is silent, gently shrouded in the dim light from the lamp Mrs. Hudson has conscientiously left on for them. The detective recognizes the gesture as a throw-back to an older time and appreciates the sentiment for what it is, though he’d certainly never tell her that out loud. The time-smoothed dark banister and vintage accouterments of the house add to the atmosphere, suddenly that much brighter for the giggling presence of this dangerously normal man at his side. A newborn awareness is tapping at the corners of his consciousness; this is, without a doubt, something precious, something rare.

What is this that is happening to him? He’s torn in two now, recognizing the duality in himself that he’s just witnessed firsthand in the ex-army doctor: the helper and the fighter clearly standing out in the darkness with the brightness of a thousand suns. The mostly-buried helper part wants to show John his hidden secret; the fighter part, the passionate side of him, it wants to take a chance and step closer, bodies pressed hotly against one another--push the doctor against the wall and force him to really see—everything: not just who Sherlock is but what he is. The details of what was and what could be.

With great control he takes a deep breath. In the mind palace, he firmly closes a door but does not lock it. In his subconscious, he’ll wear the antique brass key on a chain around his neck, yet, in the waking world, the key will be in the new melody they are slowly composing together.

Sherlock watches John closely, taking in every single detail of his new friend’s face, from the way a single wheaten eyebrow hair bends the opposite direction of the others to the beginnings of the laugh lines at the corner of his cerulean eyes. Still unsure of revealing everything to John, Sherlock eventually grows a bit uncomfortable and has to move out of the entryway. There’s too much could be in the air and he needs some space to breathe it in and allow it to coalesce into something more.

*

Shortly thereafter, in the tiny hours of the night, John stretches out in his bed that even for its small size is quite a luxury from the one he left behind in his beige bedsit. He’s staring at the ceiling and wondering why the great detective hasn’t yet deduced his lost abilities as easily as he called out his psychosomatic limp; never mind his desperation to be needed, to be useful. Perhaps Sherlock dared not probe too deeply because John did not? At first glance the man seems abrasive and rude…yet there is so much more there, John could feel only the slightest brush of …something he doesn’t yet dare name…against his mind. Perhaps it was an unusual bit of consideration. It’s very difficult for John to believe that Sherlock simply isn’t aware of it. Not for someone who is so omniscient.

John’s last thought before succumbing to a deep, cleansing sleep, is that there ought to be a smidge of guilt somewhere within him about that cabbie, oddly, there’s only a strange picture of a large frozen pond with a single, small crack in it as he tips into the welcoming darkness of his psyche. Standing over it, as one can do in such dreams, he can see a reflection of himself in the translucent surface; upon waking, he will be surprised to recall that the reflection is so clear and bright, almost as if he’s seeing himself through someone else’s eyes. An unusual pair of eyes, ones that, until today, he’s never seen in his entire life. Eyes that constantly shift their color until the word ‘grey’ is the best word to describe them, though even that seems wrong.

*

In the bedroom downstairs, the great detective himself is prone on his bed, limbs relaxed, with his eyes closed, his mind is fully aware. He listens closely to the soft squeaks of John’s mattress as he gets comfortable in his bed; when he is satisfied his new flatmate is asleep, he Reaches deep inside himself and changes into his Were form.

John Watson does not seem to wake when a lean black tomcat leaps from the floor of his room to the windowsill and pushes open the window with a paw. The cat turns his head and gazes at the sleeping figure, swishes his tail and gracefully slips out and down the fire escape to the pavement below. With any luck, he’ll be home long before John begins his day; he’s so very sure of himself that he never pauses in his movement, never considers for an instant that he may have been seen.

*

:There’s nothing new under the sun.: Sherlock Thinks hard at his brother as he blatantly makes a production out of ignoring him and all the others gathered nearby from where he’s stretched out on the ground in the shadows of the trees.

The surrounding darkness is punctuated by stately electric lights that catch in the eyes of those Weres and Shifters gathered here tonight. The Owl dismisses the others from the meeting and glares down hard at the Cat only barely hidden at the edge of the clearing. Some of the others spare the feline a nod as they pass, most simply mind their own business.

:There is a reason you are here I am assuming.: Mycroft stretches his long, clawed toes after standing for so long, finally stopping and letting them curl lightly around the branch where he’s been for the past several hours.

:Ah, dear brother, you assume…: Sherlock mentally snarks.

The Owl opens his beak in order to make a loud screech not very unlike the horrible caterwauling Sherlock calls forth when he tortures his violin. Down on the ground, the Cat pins his ears back and lashes his tail in irritation against the obvious jibe. A few seconds later, the Owl lands on the lowest branch of the tree closest to Sherlock, quickly folding his elegant tawny wings against his body.

:You interrupt an important gathering for nonsense, Sherlock? I could care less about Jeffery Hope; I have more pressing matters to attend to. Good riddance to bad rubbish and good evening. Go home.:

The Owl spreads his wings wide and makes to launch himself skyward. Sherlock makes an odd noise that to a human would sound much like a cross between an annoyed hiss and a kittenish mew; he doesn’t use it often, and as such, it is a real reaction, not one of his cleverly crafted fake ones.

In his mind, Mycroft sighs. He’s tired, it’s been a terribly long week and what he wants to do most is go home to unwind a bit.

:The problem, then?: He asks Sherlock then carefully sends some warm, wanting feelings home towards his Bonded.

For a moment, the Cat studies the Owl. It seems that he is as disinclined to answer as ever. Mycroft hisses lightly.

:I am unable to get anything from Him.: The cat keeps his eyes on the ground, a child finding it difficult to admit his shortcomings.

Mycroft does not miss the fact that it takes his exhausted mind a couple of minutes to recognize the strength of the word ‘him’ in Sherlock’s Mindspeech. Since he’s in his avian form, he can’t exactly frown; on the other hand, there’s no doubt Sherlock comprehends the implications of Mycroft’s slight hesitation.

:Sherlock,: Mycroft starts before closing his eyes. :In an effort not to sound trite, I am going to say this only once more, so please listen. Go home. He likes you for yourself.:

Mycroft doesn’t dare utter the words ‘preening’ and ‘trying to impress him’ but he can clearly Hear Greg saying them earlier.

:He will never accept me.:

:No, Sherlock, in this I believe you are wrong. Throw him out, keep him, it doesn’t matter to me.:

Without another thought or sound, the Owl takes to the dark sky, leaving his little brother alone to ponder his next step; past behavior has shown Mycroft how Sherlock reacts to his older brother having a favorable opinion concerning any of the detective’s acquaintances, so this time he has made the decision not to interfere...at least until they give him a reason to do so.

*

“That’s what people do!” James Moriarty screeches at the top of his lungs, his brown eyes rolling back in their sockets like a terrified animal.

John thinks that surely the lunatic should be foaming at the mouth, then his eyes meet Sherlock’s seconds before he finds himself lunging forward and grabbing the madman by the neck.

“Run, Sherlock!”

Sherlock never takes his eyes off John; he would be unable to do it even if forced. There’s an odd hum in the back of his mind that is familiar yet out of his grasp, keeping him cool though his heart is racing.

:Shoot him.:

The gun in his hand dips wildly for a few seconds as Sherlock visibly startles, which Moriarty sees clearly. Sherlock can tell that the madcap villain believes his words caused Sherlock to falter, words Sherlock is no longer hearing because all he can hear is an insistent, internal command telling him to move, to do something he’s never actually done before. Granted, he’s studied the methods, but…well, there’s no time like the present.

Without another thought, Sherlock takes careful aim, hoping everything he’s read over the years is true: aim for center mass. He points the gun at Moriarty’s torso and pulls the trigger.

In a heart-shredding, air-filled-with-sound instant, John drops to the ground behind Moriarty. The bullet rips through Moriarty’s chest and his body hits the tile with a thud. Sherlock’s mind fills with the buzz of white noise, he can taste gunpowder, his ears are ringing and he’s pulling John by the shoulders out from underneath the dead man and as far away from him as he can get. He rips the coat of dynamite from John’s body and tosses it into the pool. It is completely waterlogged and on its way to the bottom in seconds, a pinkish trail of blood spatter from Moriarty’s fatal wound follows it down.

Now they share a lame joke with John almost on his knees, back against the wall. He is trembling yet still completely in control. Sherlock drops to a crouch, reaching out with both hands and grabbing John’s shoulders. John gives a crooked smile, a strained laugh, and, without any warning, leans forward.

Sherlock turns to the side a little, offering a larger target, thinking John wants to rest his head on Sherlock’s shoulder, however, the movement is awkward and they end up stopping each other when their foreheads tap. Sherlock stares into John’s eyes and John gazes right back; neither man speaks or makes any sounds until Sherlock hears the sirens. The weight of something new, something naked, something so old unfolding right there in the minute bit of distance that still exists between them; like dandelion fluff, it gracefully glides away when the detective is forced to speak.

“We’ve got to go.”

John nods his agreement and follows Sherlock out the exit.

*

Later, the hour virtually unnamable, John fiddles with the kettle without actually ever turning it on. He blinks quickly, attempting desperately to keep the memories at bay of a past threatening to obscure the present. I can’t do this again, he thinks, yet deep inside he knows it is too late.

The memory of the pain is so clear, the sensation that his heart was being torn from his chest while he could see it all—the agony of the shredding of a Bond held in trembling fingers rendering him blind and mute against an agony that could have been the echo of all his bones snapping simultaneously…the suddenness of being able to Feel everything and it was all…too much. The second sting of misery as he fought to close his Shield down as tightly as possible; the desire to never let anyone beyond it again.

Never.

Never did he count on a madman hell bent on ending his life in a dank and smelly pool, either. It’s just possible that never isn’t really a constant, isn’t it?

His thoughts racing, John raises both hands to his head, steps away from the bench until his back hits the fridge then he stops, eyes fixed straight ahead, seeing nothing but dusty recollections. John slides down to the floor, rests his head against his knees and weeps silently. When a deep voice, strained in an attempt to stay quiet, possibly out of a bit of fear and even more so from true concern, speaks from the doorway, John knows he’s lost the battle within himself.

“John?”

He will look back on this later as one of those rare occasions where Sherlock sounds a bit off. Using the heels of his hands, he wipes hateful tears from his face and forces himself to meet the other man’s eyes. Right then, John decides that he can’t do it anymore so he lets his Shield drop. It’s physically and emotionally costing too much to keep it in place right now, after everything, and it is time to admit that after he mutely watched the Cat jump out his bedroom window, he knew.

Even if in the weeks, months they’ve known one another, Sherlock hadn’t ever mentioned it, he felt it wasn’t his place to start that conversation.

The force of John’s Shield dropping reverberates through the kitchen. It is as physical a sensation as a mental one, causing Sherlock to step back a pace and stop awkwardly with one foot on the tile and the other on the carpeting. His gaze intensifies and he Sends a shy feeler from his mind towards John’s. For the first time in their acquaintance, Sherlock finds himself wholly and truly shocked because while his thoughts distantly brush up against John’s, John’s mental channels are wide open, allowing Sherlock to Feel everything: so much that it is almost overwhelming: a veritable lightning storm of everything John is crashes over the detective and his jaw drops in awe.

The world spins on its axis and the vacuum of space is taken up by white light; blinding white light that crashes around them like a tsunami; it slams against the walls to echo against Sherlock as if his body has just made itself into a radar…the blips on the screen in his mind all point to one person. The very foundations of Sherlock’s self-made fortress shake and tremble until some of the brightness fades away and he Reaches out carefully, a child searching in the dark for his favorite security blanket.

John admires the tall man framed as he is by the doorway from his place on the floor and lets Sherlock probe along what could only be described as a mental ribbon that binds them. He gives the detective the chance to stop this now, though John is aware that he’s already all in. His head is spinning and the last thing he wants to do is frighten Sherlock off, but he thinks that this was the only way.

Without a second thought, Sherlock latches onto the tenuous Link that they have just created, just now, right here in the space of their dimly lit kitchen. Or maybe it created itself and the two of them are only along for the ride, he wonders as he settles himself on the tile next to John, discovering now the aching need to have as much physical contact with the other man as is possible in the moment. They lean against one another, both reeling from their discoveries, both breathing heavily as if they’ve just run across two blocks worth of roofs.

“You heard me,” John states after a little while. His voice is gravely, his throat dry from being constricted against the fear of rejection.

Sherlock nods, “I did.” He wants to say so much more, about how John effectively saved both of their lives by being the coolly logical one there at the pool…he is currently still so overwhelmed that he doesn’t have the words.

“Mycroft knew,” Sherlock announces softly as John Reaches out to him in turn, comforting thoughts that do not smother his own, instead, they complement them, allowing Sherlock all the space he needs should he feel like shutting John out.

“I thought he might,” John agrees, slowly curving his fingers around the top of Sherlock’s left hand, allowing his thumb to trace over the smooth skin there.

“He didn’t tell me,” Sherlock mutters petulantly, ever the baby brother. He sighs deeply and closes his eyes against the receding vertigo.

Being more experienced in these matters, John is recovering more quickly. Chuckling lowly, he lets himself relax into all of the sensory information he’s gathering, physically and mentally. It is quite surprising to find out how gentle Sherlock’s Mind really is. In all of their time together, John would have been sure it was a raging inferno of millions of thoughts racing against each other at the same time. Without a doubt, there’s a lot of data here, yet it is more a meandering stream of pictures than a rushing river of digits and letters.

:It was exactly that way when I was younger.:

John closes his eyes now, leans his head against the refrigerator door, preparing again for the onslaught of painful memories, but there is nothing save for the man at his side. For that, John is filled with a gratitude he doesn’t yet recognize. He Sends Trust in Sherlock's direction.

:You are here, now. I can’t go back:

John welcomes Sherlock into his mind as easily as he’s welcomed him into his heart. Though their Link is as fragile as a newborn babe, its overall feeling is more like slipping into a well-worn pair of comfortable jeans than it is a crisply starched tuxedo---it is Comfort and Not Alone, Strength and Solidarity.

:What is the next step from here?:

“What do you want, Sherlock?” John asks aloud.

:I want you to see me.: The detective moves so that they are facing one another. His eyes search John’s face.

:You know that I do.: John replies.

Sherlock nods, gets to his feet and before John can count to three, is at once naked then gone. The black cat with the green eyes sits down on his haunches and regards John coolly. John laughs and reaches out in order to trace the outside of a velvety ear.

Along their Link comes appreciation and John finds himself smiling. Sherlock moves a little closer, butting his head into John’s hand and setting up a deep purr. After a while, John returns to his tea-making, Sherlock Shifts back into himself and they pass a quiet evening reading, both men finding it easy to carve a place in their lives for each other.

Eventually, John finds himself in his bed, alone, considering this new advent in his life and for once being able to replay a few of his memories from a more detached point of view. As he begins to fall asleep, it occurs to him that it is probably no coincidence that Sherlock Shifts into a cat.

 

Chapter Text

:2: Memories  

John fiddles with the stack of worn blue-backed playing cards on the wooden floor, shuffling the deck then laying them out one by one in a sort-of solitaire game. Little grains of sand fly off of them as he plays. He stretches his legs and rolls his neck. Toby shifts on the bunk behind him, half asleep after Marty and Stephen left a bit ago to go on duty. They’d all been laughing and cutting up a little while ago, but now the tent is quiet, the sun going down around the camp. John is positively soaking in the company, glad for the first down time in too many weeks to count. Whilst he shuffles the cards again, he takes a long look at his hands, almost surprised to not see any dried blood.

“You want your bed back, mate?” Toby asks, slipping one hand over John’s shoulder. Small, neat fingers pluck at the collar of his old t-shirt and he leans back into a warm embrace.

“Toby, you’re out of uniform,” John mutters, grinning as he shoves the haphazard stack of cards beneath the bunk.

A warm, wet tongue swipes at his ear lobe before a voice chuckles darkly, “How so, Captain?”

John closes his eyes and moves slowly side to side. “I do believe a bra is generally considered part of your uniform, Lieutenant.”

Toby inhales loudly then laughs against the side of his neck. “Oh, you military types are all the same! Regulations, regulations, regulations!”

John reaches up with both hands and drags her strong, compact body down over his shoulder and into his lap where he kisses her with passion, cupping the back of her head lightly with both palms to hold her in place. When they pause to breathe, he runs his fingertips through her gingery-blonde hair, mussing it and enjoying the feel of the silky strands. Toby generally wears it short but it has gotten rather shaggy in the past weeks, a problem they’ve all been dealing with since the camp barber was injured in a skirmish. He tugs a lock gently, noting the contrast of the black tips to the rest of it.

Beneath reddish golden brows, Toby’s pale green eyes regard him fondly and her lips quirk up a little on one side. “John, I…this is silly, but I need to tell you something.”

John kisses her once more, a gentle press of lips as reassurance as he holds her in his lap. She’s smaller than him, for sure, but almost as muscular, he thinks as she tightens her thighs around his hips. She smells clean and of a rare desert breeze. “Yes?”

:I think it would be better if I said it this way.:

John grins. :You guessed, then?:

Toby nods. :I did, but I know you saw me the other night, which gave me a clue. You didn’t exactly flinch at the sight of a wild animal appearing out of nowhere near the surgery tent. I needed a run after being cooped up here so long.:

John thinks about the stocky lynx he noticed a few nights ago when he was taking a break outside the hospital tent, talking with Stephen and sharing a smoke. :The lynx? That was you, then, beautiful in both your appearances.:

Toby shakes her head and laughs at the obvious line. :Actually, that’s just one of them. I’ve also been a hawk, a domestic house cat and a caracal since being stationed here. Many animals, but, as me, well, I’ve been alone a long time, Captain. We seem to have a good time together…:

John studies her expression for a moment, taking in the way her bright hair contrasts markedly with her olive and sun-kissed skin, the faint line of freckles that runs over her nose and across both cheeks. He wants to tell her she’s beautiful again, but somehow that seems to be not enough this time. Instead of being insulted that she didn’t let him in when they first began…whatever this thing is between them…he is proud that she trusts him enough to share her secret with him now.

:Do you think this is a good idea, Lieutenant Sanderson?: He queries, doing his best to answer everything she didn’t say and leaving it somewhat ambiguous on the off chance he’s wrong. :Out here, things go pear-shaped so quickly. Not to mention, we may not always be stationed together. Will you want to come home with me?:

:John, I’ve always wanted to see London. Of course I’d come home with you. You’re the strongest Anchor I’ve ever met. I have nowhere else to be.: She adjusts herself on his lap, gazing earnestly into his eyes. :It doesn’t matter to me where we are. Our Link has been strong for so long now…I wondered if you had given any thought to perhaps making it something more permanent?:

It doesn’t take him long to make the mental leap.

:I’ve known Weres, Toby, but you’re my first Shifter.: His joyous laugh is apparent in his Mindspeech and Toby smiles back before wrapping her arms around his neck. He rucks her t-shirt up over her breasts and nuzzles close, thinking only of his joy in finding happiness in this almost-intolerable place. When they finally climb back into the bunk together, their Link hums and vibrates with happiness and he finds himself almost drowning in it.

*

In the flat on Baker Street, Sherlock closes John’s bedroom door quietly before sitting down on the landing outside it. He justifies his actions as being due to John calling out and sending Distress along their Link, knowing that since the beginning, John has never liked Sherlock prying about his room too much. Not like it ever actually stopped him, he just keeps his snooping to the times when he’s alone in the flat.

Mostly, anyway.

Vaguely he wonders just who this ‘Toby’ person might be, though he’s got a pretty good idea because of the sense of joy and elation that sharply changes into despair and loneliness. John surely is unaware of how much of himself seeps through, even when his Shield is closed. Wanting to comfort the other man, yet unsure of just what he’s allowed to do and having no desire to cross any invisible lines at three o’clock in the morning, he settles for remaining on guard outside John’s bedroom in the guise of a curled up housecat. The thought of John sets him to purring and he winds up dozing heavily for the next four hours.

*

“Sherlock, what are you doing out here?” John asks as he opens his door in order to step out onto the narrow landing. Impulsively, he leans down and strokes the wavy black fur on the Cat’s side.

Sherlock yawns, stretches and arches his back upward into the warmth of John’s touch; even as a cat he’s been feeling cold since the night at the pool.

:You were dreaming.:

John frowns as he ties the sash for his hunter green bathrobe, trying to remember what he could have been dreaming about…oh. A hazy memory of Toby surfaces for a second before he reburies it deep in his mind just as quickly.

:I’m sorry, Sherlock, sometimes old memories slip by.:

:It’s fine, John.:

The Cat strides down the short staircase, tail held high in the air; John pretends that he didn’t hear nor feel the annoyance at being Blocked from those particular thoughts that are being broadcast loudly in an odd patchwork way through their Link. He realizes that it isn’t so much that he doesn’t want to share his experiences, quite the contrary. Actually, no, he’s really torn. As much as he feels they should be able to share anything with one another, there are some things he’s never discussed outside of those who were there. On the other hand, Sherlock trusted him so quickly, so completely. Why can’t he do the same after it came so easily last night?

John sighs and realizes he’s merely standing in the hallway in his pajamas with teeth that desperately need to be brushed and stubble that needs to at least be scraped at to be made presentable. He tucks his hands into the pockets of his dressing gown and shuffles towards the bathroom so to break the backlog of these uncomfortable thoughts. In times like this, there is nothing like a good, old-fashioned routine.

*

When John opens the bathroom door, Sherlock is nowhere to be found, which, in and of itself is not all that unusual. The unusual thing, the thing that John is still finding hard to accept is that their Link is wide open; there’s a lovely cordiality thrumming between them that is still so new, so raw and so vibrant that it seems unreal, as if it could not be possible except for the strength of it.

:Are you out and about?: John Sends out as he dresses for the day.

:Indeed, John. Lunch?: Sherlock returns.

John considers his schedule. He’s not due into the clinic until two, so there’s no reason they can’t have a quiet lunch somewhere together. :Sure.:

:The Chinese place with the bronze dragon. Noon.:

With that, some of their Link seems to close up just a bit. If John Feels for it, he can still tell that Sherlock is out there, but it is more like recognition that someone you care for is only a ‘phone call away.

Wait, what? Care for?

John drops into his chair at the kitchen table, rubs his temple with his hand and drums his fingers against the scratched, stained wood without registering the hills and valleys that have been carved there over time. Of course he cares for Sherlock, obviously they have a strong connection or the Link would not even be a possibility. The more John thinks about it, though, the more a pleasant warm humming seems to stretch along the metaphysical connection. John knows that he could close his eyes and almost be able to visualize where Sherlock is at present within a scant few degrees of error.

Well, now. Surely it just feels so much stronger because it’s been so long for him? Even to his own brain, he knows how foolish that sounds. He finally pushes back in the chair and sets to making some breakfast in an attempt to think about anything else for a little while. Except that doesn’t go well either, because when the newspapers hold nothing interesting, he sets to work on the blog for a bit and realizes that it is just possible he’s already lost this particular battle, because all he can think about is Sherlock and what it would be like to go to sleep with a cat curled up beside him and maybe wake up to miles of bare skin…

John scoots his laptop off his thighs and stares at the wall. Maybe a long walk is a good idea, it will help keep his mind centered. He grabs his coat, wallet and keys and trots down the steps, doing his level best to ignore the way he feels a bit like he’s floating.

*

The first thing John notices when he steps through the glossy red door is that the restaurant smells divine. A slight whiff of fried dough along with freshly-chopped oranges and peppers as well as the sweet/sour tang of soy sauce greets him like an old friend. The second thing he notices is that not only can he Feel Sherlock, he can almost smell the man, which is absolutely ludicrous because of all of the other scents in the place. He crosses the dining room to grab a table in the back corner, one of the wooden benches with the lovely scrollwork along the arms.

:John.:

John looks up just as Sherlock steps through the door, his coat swirling around him as if living a life of its own. His eyes flash from across the room and the spicy scent John is now associating with the man does everything but actually assault his senses. In a matter of ten seconds, Sherlock is scooting in front of him; he hesitates then seems to change his mind about something, stands and finally moves around the table to settle in the seat next to John.

“Well, hello there,” John greets him, doing his level best to ignore the lean, warm thigh now pressing up against his own. A faint image of his earlier daydream flashes in his mind and he barely stifles a groan.

Instead of speaking, Sherlock tilts his head down towards John a little and very slowly blinks his eyes.

:I was half expecting you to rub your head on me.: John Thinks, glad to have pushed away his silly fantasy…for the moment. Their eyes meet and a little thrill runs through John when he sees the slight flush painted on Sherlock’s pale cheeks. John worries that Sherlock could See.

:To be perfectly honest, I actually felt like doing it for a minute there.:

They laugh until the waiter stops by for their order, John relieved and Sherlock just happy. The man grins widely at them and for a second Sherlock worries that he can Hear them, then he says ‘thank you’ and moves quietly along towards the kitchen. Sherlock relaxes a little more, soaking in the heat pouring off of John.

“So, what have you been up to this morning?”

:Ugh.: Sherlock answers, picking up a chopstick and using it to poke at the tablecloth. :Apparently Mycroft needed to see me. He is disinclined to be gracious to us for ridding the world of certain two-legged vermin.:

John only stops himself from laughing by accepting a glass of water from their waiter. It is quite unbelievable how John can Hear Sherlock’s eyes rolling in exasperation.

:Shame that.:

“There wasn’t any other way.” Sherlock states out loud.

“I don’t disagree with you,” John agrees as he pulls the lemon wedge out of the glass.

Sherlock turns in order to look John in the face. When he frowns, John explains himself.

“I have this weird feeling in my gut that Moriarty was never going to stop tormenting you until one of you were, well. Yeah, I think you understand.”

Sherlock nods, still poking at the tablecloth. John reaches out and grabs the end of the stick in his fingertips. “Stop that, you’ll put holes in it.”

Sherlock grins and makes to pull away but John won’t let go. In fact, his hand has moved so that it is now holding Sherlock’s wrist. “Lan knows me, she’ll just throw it out.”

“Sherlock, someone knowing you isn’t a good enough reason to poke holes in a tablecloth, and you know it. You wouldn’t do that at Angelo’s.”

For an instant, Sherlock has the decency to appear chastised. :Yes John.:

Their tiff ends when the waiter brings their plates and they both set to polishing them off. John lets go of Sherlock’s wrist, leaving a faint spot of heat behind as if his hand had been lying in the sun. Though they eat without speaking aloud, their Mindvoices are strong.

:So, I take it, Mycroft was responsible for the Clean Up at the pool?:

Sherlock cocks an eyebrow in John’s direction as he very indelicately slurps up a noodle, only a little surprised at the strong emphasis John can so easily put individual words in his Mindspeech, something Sherlock has always struggled to do. Vaguely, he thinks that he’d like to hear a dozen different versions of his name in both Mindspeech and conversation, especially in the darkness of his bedroom…

What is happening to him? Hoping John hasn’t picked up on his thoughts, he answers quickly to cover them up.

:You take it correctly, though I am positive he didn’t get his own hands dirty. He says ‘I owe him,’ but since that’s nothing new or even very creative, I’m in no rush to appear too worried about it.:

John snorts then shakes his head. After a moment or two of considering Sherlock’s unique profile as he wipes his mouth then takes a long drink from his own water, John checks the time on his watch.

“Well, I’ve got to be going. Will you be home when I get done?”

A little shiver runs down Sherlock’s spine at the word ‘home.’ He fights himself not to simply Change right there and curl up in John’s lap in order to sleep off his now full belly. Sherlock shakes his head but doesn’t move.

“Alright, you big git. You know how closely I toe the line with keeping my job, so you’ve got to get out of the way.”

Sherlock raises his head, allowing his eyes to lock with John’s. For a split second, he’s ninety-two percent certain that if he leans forward just a little, John will let him get even closer. An odd expression appears on John’s face and Sherlock leans in. There’s a warm vibration in the atmosphere between them, and Sherlock can Feel John’s Shield beginning to waver. When a throat is cleared beside them, however, the Shield slams down and though John turns a welcoming smile to their guest, Sherlock knows that it is quite possible that he pushed a bit too hard, too fast.

It is of no matter, he thinks after greeting Lan and complimenting her cooking, because when John walks a little too close as they leave the restaurant, he knows he’ll get another chance. Just as soon as he figures out what it is that he did to force John to mentally push him away so quickly. Sherlock watches John stride down the pavement, wondering at the newness of it all. A taxi stops beside him, but he waves it on in order to walk home.

:Thank you for lunch, Sherlock.: John Sends, but doesn’t turn around and look back.

:Anytime. See you at home.: Sherlock replies, turning in the direction of Baker Street.

Chapter Text

:3: Camaraderie

“How can you even say that I don’t trust you, Sherlock?” John glares down at the fully-dressed supine detective, tightly curled fists on his hips. Taking up the entire sofa, Sherlock is almost fully in shadow this way as there are no lights on in the flat. John tilts his head towards the ceiling and closes his eyes.

“I don’t…I was the one who said ‘shoot him’ remember?” John’s voice wobbles slightly at the end of his question. He grinds his teeth and shifts his stance by spreading his feet shoulder-width apart then yanks off the lab coat he’s inadvertently worn home from the clinic today.

Between the two of them, it goes without saying that John had absolutely no idea at the time whether Sherlock could handle a gun, let alone his antique-but-still-in-excellent-condition service weapon.

Sherlock opens his eyes very, very slowly and takes in his very best friend. In the dim light from the window, his irises are almost feline. Even more slowly, he drops his left hand down to the floor; long, thin fingers run under the edge of the couch in order to bring forth a small, leather-bound notebook. “You can say all of it between these pages, yet, still, after everything, you cannot say it to me.”

“Is there a good reason…and it better be a good reason, Sherlock, that you went into my room and took my journal from my bedtable?” John is seething now, Sending red hot flashes of ire down their Link that seems stretched so very thin right at this moment. He is finding it difficult to believe that there could possibly be anything in that book that Sherlock doesn’t already intuitively know; besides his anger should be enough to tell the detective that he does not want to talk about this.

Sherlock glares right back and purses his lips so tightly they blanch. :You left it here on the table.: He gestures dramatically towards the coffee table, eyebrows knitting together over his nose.

Before it occurs to him that Sherlock’s right, John almost argues. Once his brain catches up and he sees his folly, his jaw snaps shut and he takes three steps to his chair and settles his bum against the cushion harder than absolutely necessary. Indeed, he had left his notebook on the coffee table. It was half-past stupid when he’d awoken this morning, his brain a whirling, kaleidoscopic jumble of messed up memories and emotions so thick they could be sliced with a dull knife, so he’d sat down and made an attempt to collect his thoughts. Eventually he was able to drift upstairs and go back to sleep, his own words a balm to his soul.

For a minute he sits in his chair and regards Sherlock thoughtfully, allowing his anger to slowly disintegrate. Naturally, if something is left out in plain sight, the ever-curious shapeshifter is going to look in it. He would never consider that John had made a mistake.

That thought is so huge that it is absolutely humbling; if he weren’t sitting down, it would probably take him out at the knees. Actually, if there’s anything John knows intuitively about Sherlock it’s that the detective obviously trusts him above anything else—he never for once considers that John would make a mistake where it counts: just like at the pool. There was very little hesitation when John gave the order to shoot, no thinking it over, no worrying the edges of the command to take out a dangerous adversary until it separated at the seams…nothing.

Nothing more than trust, that is.

:Sherlock, I’m sorry.: John Sends regret through their Link, knowing full well that the detective will ignore it at this point; nevertheless, he makes an honest attempt.

“What happened to her?” Sherlock asks, sitting up and folding his legs; he taps the cover of the journal with his index finger and John knows that Sherlock’s probably got everything in the book already memorized: the good, the bad and the ugly truth.

“Sherlock.” John closes his eyes against another onslaught of emotion at the very idea that he can let his thoughts be so freely read when he cannot put them into words he can utter aloud. He can Feel Sherlock’s concern at the corners of his own awareness. “I can’t…”

The detective makes to leave the room and John strands and clutches whatever he can grab; it turns out to be a shirt sleeve. “Listen. I’ve not told anyone about some of that. Let me…” he trails off, the soft material of Sherlock’s button-down slipping through his fingers. He steps back, returns to his chair and takes a deep breath.

“Let me tell you about my first Link. Please. Let me do that much, at least.” Before you decide I’m not worth knowing anymore he thinks as he flips on the lamp next to his chair. “Before that, though, would you mind if we grab a bite first?”

In the buttery light from John’s lamp, a smile with a hint of warmth around the edges dances on Sherlock’s lips as the doorbell goes off downstairs as if on cue. “I’ve already thought of that.”

“Thank you,” John says, hoping to convey the meaning of the word for more than just dinner as Sherlock heads down the steps, leaving the door open behind him. Their Link is less strained now, as well. He takes that as a positive sign.

John pulls off his shoes and listens to the sound of Sherlock stomping back up the stairs with their dinner, making a valiant attempt to steel himself against the upcoming conversation. Footsteps continue on through to the kitchen, there’s a ripping sound and John can smell the enticing aroma of Angelo’s best homemade pasta sauce. Oddly, the scent sends him back to the desert.

*

John enters the cantina through the side door, leaving Alan Murphy to finish one last fag by himself, since John keeps trying to quit. It’s been a busy day, plenty of injuries but thankfully not many casualties; as far as this place goes, then, that counts as a plus. Johns come straight from the medical tent, so he’s still in his tan scrub bottoms, but he’s pulled off his shirt so that he can mingle without looking too out of place.

What a laugh, though, really? Looking out of place here? John runs weary hands through almost-clean hair and eyes the buffet tables while his stomach grumbles to the beat of the music playing lowly on the patchwork speakers. There’s four of them and none of them match. He smiles to himself as he waves at Sergeant Dan McNeil, tonight’s ‘DJ’ of sorts then heads towards the chow.

Everything is mouth watering, a real spread the likes none of them have seen at least since that one Thanksgiving two years ago when the Americans and the Canadians decided that everyone needed a break. Somehow a full spread of ham, turkey, roast beef and all the trimmings had appeared and for three days luck was with them and the entire camp along with their guests had gorged themselves. Certainly, they all paid for it after the fact, as to be expected in a place like this, but the way John remembers it, every morsel was worth it, as were the friends he’d made among the troops from across the pond.

Right now, though, he’s got his eyes set on an enormous plate of steaming spaghetti with sauce and oh God, are those meatballs? How the hell…? In all honesty, it’s probably better not to know, since he’s fully aware of how many ‘trades’ have been going on around and off camp for weeks to set this night up. Totally worth ignoring the occasional disappearance of odd things like tongue depressors or a case of extra-large latex gloves for this. He’s fairly certain that the garlicky, tomato-y, buttery aroma of the dish will be etched in his memory in times to come, especially the next time he’s standing in line in the mess tent.

John dives into his pasta, shoveling it into his mouth while his eyes rove around the room watching the milling soldiers and medical staff. There’s a lightness of atmosphere in the cantina so rarely enjoyed by any of them and though people are spread around the room talking, dancing or eating, there’s also a certain measure of wariness present in anyone who has been stationed here more than a few days.

Lost in thought as he is, John doesn’t see Toby enter the cantina until she’s in front of the table where he’s parked himself. Three-quarters of his plate is empty and he graciously accepts the coffee she hands him. He takes a long sip and grins.

“Sanderson, how do you craft such a divine brew?” John teases, glad to be able to drop the formality of titles for a little while. "Must be magic."

Toby laughs as she takes the chair next to him. “You already know entirely too many of my secrets, so I’m not going to give you one more.”

John wipes his mouth with a paper napkin from the stack on the table as he drops his arm over Toby’s shoulders. He hauls her in close and they kiss 'hello' warmly. Several lunkheads from around the room cheer while several more make obscene sounds, but it’s all in good fun. John flips them all off anyway and everyone has a laugh.

“Mmmm…..that’s good. Wish I wouldn’t have polished off a stack of burgers earlier, I could go for some of that right now.” Toby laughs, resting a hand beneath John’s chin.

John studies Toby’s green eyes, now lit up with joy. “Got any plans this evening?”

“Nope. My dance card is full.”

John snorts. “You’re entirely too young to talk like that. Dance card. As if.”

“Aww, you old fogey. Come on, let’s at least give it a try.” She grabs his hand and hauls him away from the table. He pulls her close and they sway to a slow song, eventually joined by several other couples. "You're only four years older than me," she whispers into his ear with a grin.

*

“John.”

John comes back to the present to find a full plate resting on his thighs and a makeshift pointer in his hand that turns out to be his fork. Sherlock is sitting on the last sofa cushion, the one closest to John’s chair, his legs bent, knees almost against his chest and hands on his shins.

“John,” he rumbles, impatiently waiting for the hazy look in John’s eyes to clear.

Finally, John’s expression shifts and he blinks. “Sherlock?”

Sherlock clears his throat. “You don’t have to tell me the next part.” He offers his words like a sacrifice.

John cannot accept it, though. Not now. Seems that once this train has started up the mountain, there’s no going back. He takes a deep breath and moves the plate from his lap onto the coffee table. “Could I make a request?”

Sherlock tilts his head and slowly nods.

“Would you…” John gestures vaguely from Sherlock’s head to his bare toes.

Sherlock nods again, unfolds himself, drops his clothes and in the blink of an eye he’s in his feline form leaping from the floor onto John’s lap. He settles quickly and begins to purr as John strokes his back.

“The next part is hard, and I know you can hear me, but I think if I show you, you’ll understand.”

Part of Sherlock wants to tell John not to tell him, but the naturally inquisitive part really, really wants to know; since he can’t speak as a cat, he chooses to remain silent. As much as this is going to hurt, he knows John needs it. It’s the only way they are going to be able to move forward.

:It was right after Murphy and a surgeon named Cooper started whirling around the dance floor like fools that it happened.:

Sherlock mentally curls around their Link, not only Feeling but also Seeing the exact moment when John shifts back to the desert, back to that night. He does his best to Send Trust to John, in the event that the other man needs to know he’s still there.

:I’m here John, go on.:

*

Murphy is six foot three if he’s an inch and Cooper almost a full foot shorter. Cooper is still wearing his scrubs and a lab coat that’s about fifteen sizes too big for him, so big, in fact, that the back of it is billowing out like a long skirt as Murphy spins him around. Murphy is all pale Irish cream, complete with a bright orange crew cut and freckles; by contrast, Cooper is dark, his ebony hair in tight ringlets against his skull. Both men are laughing like hyenas, Murphy’s icy blue eyes flickering around the crowd carrying on with them, but Cooper’s deep brown ones are solely on Murphy. Murphy’s blush is growing with every glance downward. People are clapping and hooting at the dancers.

The entire cantina is absolutely alive. John thinks it’s all quite lovely, especially seeing as how close Toby has managed to get to him over the past few songs and still remain vertical. He’s aroused, his belly is full and he’s surrounded by people who wouldn’t hesitate to protect him; he would do the same. It’s heady, that type of camaraderie.

In between the laughter, the snogging and the dancing, however, there’s a sound that quite a few of them catch before it’s too late. A low rumble like an earthquake.

“Take cover!” Someone shouts.

Dancers evaporate into thin air, some taking cover beneath the long tables, others, like John, taking command in order to make sure they do just that. When the enemy begins firing into the cantina, there’s simply nowhere to go. The sound of gunfire fills the silence left behind as a bullet hits the improvised sound system, effectively killing the music. Those who aren’t yet out of danger are running for the best place to find it.

A gigantic boom and a shower of rubble hits the floor at the far corner of the cantina. Someone screams and soldiers and medics alike are scrabbling for weapons that only some of them bothered to bring with them tonight; they've all let their guard down. John allows part of his mind to search for Toby, sensing other Links as he does so. It’s a mishmash of sound and images until he finds her.

:I’m safe, John, down in the back corner. Cooper and Stephen are here with me. Cooper is looking for Murphy. Stay down...:

Another shock shakes the building and in seconds John finds his path to safety blocked. He drops to his knees to find Murphy lying on his side. Staccato bursts of gunfire and whatever else the enemy is lobbing at them makes it difficult to feel for a pulse. It’s weak, but it’s there. The lights all blow at about the same time.

“Murphy, I’m here, right here, alright?” John asks above the din. He leans over the surgeon, trying to find the wound in the deep shadows and bursts of muzzle flash.

“Thanks, mate,” Murphy grinds out, his eyes watching John’s every movement.

John tears at the ruined t-shirt and manages to locate where the bullet struck Murphy. The doctor is lucky, because it looks as if the projectile managed to avoid his heart and lungs. John sits up to inform him of the fact when there’s a burning sensation in his shoulder and he’s thrown forward over Murphy. The last thing he remembers is the sound of reinforcements joining in the fire fight. Seconds before he goes completely unconscious, he manages to open up his Shield enough so that Toby can hear him.

:Get out!:

*

By the time John runs out of words, he’s hastily wiping away the tears running down his face. Sherlock the Cat is an unmoving shape in his lap, his tail wrapped around John’s wrist. John’s heart is calm, despite entering these realms he never planned to probe ever again, let alone tonight. It’s good, though, that he can get these things off his chest, to be able to share a large part of the story with someone who will not judge him, these things he’s never shared with anyone who wasn’t there—not his sister, certainly not his shrink. He realizes now how much of it he’s kept hidden, even from himself. He strokes the silky fur beneath his palm and thinks that perhaps he’s reached a point of relief, but not absolution.

:No one can give you that.: Sherlock finally moves to stand on his hind legs and place his front paws on John’s chest. Feline eyes so much like his human ones bore into John. :This is enough for tonight.:

John agrees and soon they part ways, more reluctantly than usual and wander to their separate rooms to sleep. When he wakes up in the wee hours of the morning, he reflects on the obvious concern and care shown to him by Sherlock earlier and wonders if certain people who have slapped the label 'freak' on him could very well be wrong. Once again he finds himself wondering what it would be like to wake up next to that soft ball of fur that kept him company for so long last night.

Chapter Text

:4: Facts and Fallacies

For almost the entirety of the next week, Sherlock is kept busy doing what he does best: unraveling crimes. Right beside him, John is kept busy going between being whatever the detective needs at the moment and a few scant hours at the clinic. With all of this activity, there’s little time to discuss more than stolen jewelry, the method of killing someone with a brass doorknocker, paperwork for the Met, and the age-old question of ‘is this really coffee or did you get it out from beneath a truck?’

John enters the flat to find it empty after a short shift at the clinic in the evening of the sixth day. He’s exhausted, mentally and physically, and, even a little disappointed that Sherlock hasn’t yet returned home, though that is a bit more difficult to admit. He wanders about the place for a few minutes, finally deciding to take a shower and at least get comfortable. The case was as good as solved when he’d left Sherlock this afternoon; naturally, he’s still curious about the outcome. That’s all this empty feeling is, just the need to see the whole thing through.

Grabbing a clean towel from the cupboard and sending a quiet thought of gratitude in Mrs. Hudson’s direction, John decides he’ll try to get into contact with Sherlock; if he doesn’t hear back, then he’s going on up to bed. They haven’t really tested their Link in any capacity yet. There isn’t a reason for that, other than they are usually together enough that it is unnecessary.

:Are you nearby?: John Sends as he turns on the tap and waits for the spray to warm before shucking off his dirty clothes and stepping into the stall. He’s washing his hair when Sherlock replies.

:On my way.:

Sherlock’s answer is multi-layered. John can clearly hear the detective’s natural elation at closing the case successfully, yet there is something more to it. He wonders if he should ask but hits the metaphysical wall between a little further and too much again. Since their Link is humming steadily he continues to leave off for the time being.

John has discovered over the past few days whether they are alone or together, that he unconsciously seeks out their Link. He’s Reached out for Sherlock when he was at the flat by himself, in the middle of a shift at the clinic, and once while waiting in line at Tesco. Another time he did it during a session with Ella, his therapist, simply because he was bored and wanted to see if Sherlock would respond.

The most amazing thing about it is that each and every single time Sherlock responds positively. Sometimes his answers are short, like if he’s in the middle of a book or an experiment, other times he has the tendency to talk for an hour at a time—exactly as he does when they are together. During these communications, however, the difference is the blatant happiness that emanates from the detective; each time John gets a little thrill that he gets to be part of it. Everything Sherlock hides from the world around him lives right there in his mind, just as bright as the sun for someone willing to look deep enough for it.

In his bedroom, John pulls on an old long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of worn pajama bottoms. He grabs the paperback he’s been reading off his bedside table, thoughts turning again to the memory of Sherlock telling him bluntly that he doesn’t trust Sherlock. Which he could argue until he’s blue in the face…save for the fact that Sherlock is right. Well, partially, anyway. John sighs, rubbing his hand over his face. There are two very big things that he doesn’t really want to share just yet. One of them is big enough that he barely lets himself think about it, banishing it from his mind as quickly as it appears. The other one is simply that he keeps finding that he wants more than their Link is providing. Sherlock is under his skin now.

John pushes his Union Jack pillow against the back of his chair and settles against it with a weary sigh. He assures himself that most of his channels are shut down before considering how their Link has come to mean to much to him—it’s become a comfort and he can’t think of a single way to ask Sherlock how he really feels about it. His thoughts trail about a little until he pauses on one of his current favorites, going to sleep with the Cat on his bed and waking up to the inevitable: one fully unclothed Sherlock, because, in his experience at least, shape shifters revert to their human form when they sleep deeply.

It’s a knife that cuts both ways, all this talk about ‘trust.’ In order to trust, John feels like he needs to be trustworthy in the first place. Why would someone like Sherlock, independent, self-reliant and confident—why would someone like that trust John enough to make themselves vulnerable like that in the first place? John knows that this image in his mind is slowly becoming an obsession. He pounds his fist against the arm of his chair. They are friends, first and foremost. Close? Absolutely. Is the potential for more there, between them? Absolutely. Is John capable of being the kind of man Sherlock needs? Someone strong who can meet him equally? Of that John is unsure. The last person who put their faith in him so completely was let down in the worst way possible.

The jiggling of the knob on the door downstairs forces his attention back to the flat. Looking at the clock on the mantel, he’s a bit surprised to see that it is well after midnight. He’s been sitting here in the almost-dark for two hours. Knowing Sherlock will need some refreshment, he meanders to the hob as Sherlock flies through the door at a trot, heading straight to the loo. John smiles and pulls their mugs out.

When Sherlock pads into the kitchen, he’s also changed into his ‘around the flat’ clothes, primarily consisting of flannel pajama bottoms and an old grey t-shirt that John is almost one hundred percent certain was in one of the few boxes he moved into Baker Street with. Sherlock’s fingers are making a swift knot of the sash on his blue dressing gown and he offers John a quick grin. John shakes his head at the almost-manic expression on the detective’s face and decides that he looks good enough to eat.

John comes so close to dropping the boiling hot tea kettle on his own foot that he doesn’t see Sherlock move until the taller man has one hand splayed out on his chest and the other wrapped around the handle of the kettle. John tries to pass the incident off with a shiver and a jaw-cracking yawn even as he leans into the heat of that broad palm on his chest.

“God, I’m worn out.”

Sherlock frowns at him, eyes like emeralds taking in every detail. For an instant, their Link stops humming and becomes more like the crash of cymbal dropped onto a tile floor.

:Honestly, John?:

:Please, Sherlock, leave it for now.: Even in his mind it sounds like a plea. He stares into Sherlock’s eyes, noting the wariness there and hating himself just a little for it.

Sherlock says nothing. Turning away, he replaces the kettle on its burner and makes his way into the sitting room to give John the space he so obviously needs. In a few minutes longer than it actually takes to steep two teabags and fix up the hot beverages, John joins him; John takes his chair, leaving the sofa for Sherlock.

He sips his tea and takes the lead, “Tell me about the case.”

Uncharacteristically, the detective seems to be waiting on that particular combination of words to fall from John’s lips. Sherlock gives him a nod and starts talking. As always, though, he doesn’t sit still for long. John finds Sherlock’s demonstrative nature calming, because when he’s focused on the case, for the moment, he’s looking at John with pride and passion in his eyes so different from the expression that says he fears that the earth is going to open up and swallow him whole. For all John knows, when he has the courage to admit to what he’s done, that might very well happen. Eventually, his heart heavy and his eyelids even more so, the crazy week begins to catch up with him and he dozes off.

*

Sherlock is right smack in the middle of his own stream-of-consciousness, hands in his hair, whirling about the sitting room laying out the entire case for John. When he realizes John has succumbed to the Sandman; apparently his pull is stronger than Sherlock being brilliant. He stands on the and regards John’s slack visage, idly considering what to do now. It’s so hard to be amazing when your audience is out cold. He frowns, starts to move towards John then stops and drops his hands to his sides, unsure. Every detail from the past seven days that he’s collected in his head disappears, inadvertently forcing him to face what’s been happening between the two of them the past few weeks when he’s been doing so much to ignore all but the reality of the situation.

Fact: over the past few days, John has almost dropped the kettle on himself twice, walked backwards into one of the officers working the crime scene when he was talking to Sherlock, who was chasing some evidence in the opposite direction; granted, Sherlock had been crawling on the carpet on all fours, but still…to top it off, John has been Sending random feelers out along their Link.

Second Fact: Sherlock is getting the distinct impression that if he were to push just a bit harder, he might be able to get John to break down and tell him everything, including whatever it is he’s hiding from Sherlock in the guise that it is for Sherlock’s ‘own good.’ It has become a mental block that is stopping the forward progress of their relationship as Shifter and Anchor.

Third Fact: John really needs to stop working at the stupid clinic because it is obviously exhausting him and making him unavailable when Sherlock truly needs an actual medical opinion at a crime scene and John is at least one hundred thirteen percent better than Anderson by anyone’s count. Not to mention that it was John who asked him to ‘tell him about the case’ and now here he is: sleeping.

Without being completely aware of his movements, he steps down and backs up in order to sit down precisely where he’s just been standing. Cocking his head at John, he presses his palms together, a move that brings his fingertips against his bottom lip. If there was a way, he certainly wouldn’t hesitate to see exactly what is happening inside John’s head right now.

Sherlock inhales deeply and brings his legs up to the table in order to cross them, getting into a perfect lotus position. He aligns his spine and closes his eyes, opening his own channels and Sending calm thoughts along their Link. He tells himself that he does not mean to pry, but he’s had no chance to test their Link, at least not the way John has, so he takes his time, counting the seconds by using his own heart as a metronome. There’s no way to actually ‘break into’ another person’s thoughts, which he already knows, but curiosity drives him on anyway.

When he does finally get somewhere, though, there is an overwhelming feeling of belonging, the likes he hasn’t known in many years, surely since early childhood. Sherlock stays long enough to figure out he isn’t going to get any further because so many of John’s channels are quiet, closed against anyone doing exactly what Sherlock is attempting to do, which would actually be considered to be a breach of privacy in most circles.

:Sherlock, really?:

His brother’s svelte Mindvoice interrupts Sherlock more surely than if someone would have shouted and he rocks backwards on the coffee table, almost falling off of it. He scrambles for a hand hold and opens his eyes, blinking in shock at his brother.

“How dare you!” Sherlock hisses under his breath. Guiltily, he looks at John who doesn’t appear to have noticed. Unashamedly, he glares up at Mycroft.

“The good doctor seems a bit, ah, uninterested in your conclusions tonight, dear brother.” Mycroft gracefully takes Sherlock’s chair, picking at invisible lint on his camel trousers.

“I thought all the Vampires would be out hunting at this late hour,” Sherlock snipes as he does his best to appear composed.

Mycroft gives him an indulgent smile. Sherlock pretends very hard not to smell the satiation and satisfaction the older man is giving off in waves. :I wanted to warn you, Sherlock. Leave it for now.:

Sherlock refuses the familial Link, instead gritting out, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He almost asks how Mycroft knew what he was doing, considering the implications of it in general, but stops himself before the words spill out of his mouth. Quarreling with him won’t show him that he no longer needs to make these ‘spot checks’ all the time—it will only make it worse. Besides, how in the world does he say ‘I’ve got John now, I don’t need you babysitting me, I haven’t thought about taking a hit in months?’

“Sherlock?” John queries groggily, his eyes flying open and body instantly going tense when he notices another person in the vicinity.

“John, it’s just Mycroft. He wanted to stop by and visit before leading the human sacrifice at the black mass with his coven of blood-suckers tonight, or rather, this morning…”

“Grow up,” Mycroft sighs, casting an exasperated look in John’s direction. “Hello, John.”

John just looks confused for a moment before he catches up with the entire weird exchange. “Sherlock, your brother isn’t a Vampire. Mycroft, I’ve got to get some rest. When you are done, will you make sure Sherlock at least makes an attempt to head in the direction of his bed? Thank you, gentlemen, and good night.”

As John walks past Sherlock, he absentmindedly runs his fingers through the frizzy curls on the top of his head and offers Mycroft a stiff nod. He trundles off towards his bedroom, exhaustion written in every step.

“My, what a tame kitty you’ve become. You once tried to snap Mummy’s fingers off in your teeth for doing that very same thing,” Mycroft states as he crosses his legs, fully aware that John could still hear his voice clearly.

Sherlock wants to growl at his brother, he really, really does but he’s so busy trying to capture the exact feeling of John’s warm fingers lightly scratching at his scalp that the only sound that comes out is a weak sigh.

This time, Mycroft’s eyes do widen for a split second.

“Well,” he says, standing and smoothing out his clothes. “I do believe that is all I needed to know. Incidentally, I left a file with your landlady for whenever you get a chance to look at it.”

Sherlock doesn’t take his eyes from the place where John disappeared upstairs.

Mycroft pauses, patiently waiting for an answer; when nothing is forthcoming, he adds, “Sherlock, I wonder if you know that cats are considered to be the one animal to domesticate itself. What is so very interesting about this is that the progenitor of the moggie, the wild cats of Africa and the Middle East chose to be with human kind for all the comforts of home people offered the species. All cats had to do in turn was simply do what they had always done anyway: hunt mice, exist and soon they found themselves venerated, cared for and even protected. Many house cats often bring home their uneaten kills as a gift for all that theyreceive. You see, the hunting instinct is still there, because as tame as a cat may be on the outside, they are very often still wild in their hearts.

Finally turning to face his brother, Sherlock narrows his eyes and watches Mycroft warily as he strides to the door, looking ridiculously put together for this time of night. There’s no possible way that Mycroft has any inkling what Sherlock had planned for later, because he didn’t even know it himself until just now. He frowns, going over that absurd little speech in his head. He wants to argue that he’s not a real cat in the first place, only a human with the ability to assume the feline form and personality…until he realizes that the argument is utterly futile.

Before stepping through the door, however, Mycroft turns and offers a real smile to Sherlock. “Congratulations, kitten.”

This time, a warm memory makes Sherlock grin back but Mycroft has already vanished down the stairs.

“Vampire,” Sherlock mutters without heat before unfolding himself from the table. He switches off the lamp and stands outside John’s partially open bedroom door for fifteen minutes before shedding his clothing and shifting. It takes ten seconds to cross the floor and leap up onto the bed. John is curled on his side so the Cat stretches out against John’s back and begins to purr. He tells himself that he is doing this for John, because he’s statistically more likely to have a nightmare when he’s as exhausted as he was tonight and not in any way, shape or form because Mycroft suggested it.

*

Leaning heavily on his cane where he stands in the clearing, John watches the Lynx gambol playfully through the trees and shrubbery, sunlight glinting off her golden fur as she moves in and out of the shadows cast by the ancient oaks. John is relieved to finally have a day where Toby can be herself for a little while after all she’s done for him; she’s barely left his side for a minute since he was shot, even demanding—and somehow getting—orders to be shipped back home with him. He has no idea how she managed that one, and honestly, probably doesn’t really want to know.

This whole thing surely has been no holiday for her. His injury and subsequent recovery has been filled with infection, anger, guilt and then pain and more pain. Today has been a good day. In fact, since he was allowed to go back to his family’s ancestral home, the days have leaned towards better.

They are in an old forest about twenty miles north of Stirling. John is tired from the short trek they’ve made through the woods, but pleased with his ability to do so. He’d had to argue with Toby a little about going off on her own for a bit, but in the end, it was well worth it. Their Link hums with satisfaction and joy.

John winds his way towards the center of the clearing where a large, flat boulder has been worn down by the elements. It takes him a minute, but soon he is resting on it, cane across his lap, the sun warm on his shoulders. He studies the old, hand-polished wood of the stick, rubbing his fingers over the eagle head handle. It's probably a silly thing, really, but his grandfather walked with this thing for years and he likes it much better than the military-issued metal one.

The next part is as clear as if he’s living through it again.

The forest grows quiet save for the piercing scream of a bird of prey. On top of that, there’s the growl of the Lynx. The baying of hounds.

The sound of gunfire. Very close.

John clambers down off the boulder, every limb stiff, not moving fast enough. It’s like trying to swim through cold marmalade. He knows he’s screaming, calling out for Toby as he pulls his ruined body towards the tree line. He stabs the cane down a little too hard and it sticks in the soft turf beneath a pile of last year’s leaves. John falls to the ground, but only for a moment and he’s pulling himself back up on the wooden stick. It snaps and a cry is torn from his throat to the heavens above, where blue sky has turned to grey. There’s an answering cry, a terrible, pitiful sound and the feeling that some god has reached into his heart and rent the beating organ in two as it is forced from his chest.

John has no memory of pushing up on his hands and dragging himself forward, until he is beside the Lynx, then, with growing horror, the comprehension that there is nothing from her coming down their Link. Her body shivers, all the colors in the world beginning to fade, then she lies there beneath him, naked, small and gone from this world. John holds her close, fighting memories of other deaths, other times he was useless and weeps as everything he is shatters into billions of pieces like carnival glass dashed against pavement. He's powerless, useless and utterly broken.

Chapter Text

:5: Friends

John’s nightmare splinters; he only wakes partially on a shout to discover that there is a weight pressing down on him from above; he can’t place where he is or what it is and everything is muffled and he’s blind. The heavy touch is too much; John growls and tries to smash at whatever it is with his shoulders. What is this? Is he under a deuce-and-a-half? Has he gone deaf from the gunfire? He can’t catch his breath. When his captor proves unyielding, he fights to get one hand free and swings instinctively until he makes some sort of contact.

Pulling back, his knuckles already beginning to swell, John throws himself backwards until his spine encounters something solid. There’s a firm thud of someone or something hitting the floor and it barely registers, but he’s got to move, got to get away from whatever is trying to hold him down. It’s either going to be them or him and he has always preferred the latter. He barrels out of the bed to land on his bad shoulder without feeling it and kneels down in the shadows by his desk, presenting as small a target as possible to whatever enemy has infiltrated his sleeping quarters. His eyes are beginning to clear, so he scans the city-dark bedroom that has grown from the forest he was seeing a few moments ago, searching for his would-be assailant. They could still be armed, after all, he only counted a single shot.

:John.:

A deep voice resonates imprecisely in the back of his mind. His thoughts are still unclear, disjointed, hazy and his ears feel like they’ve been stuffed with cotton but beneath all that white noise there is a relentless buzzing spurring him forward. He prepares himself to kill or be killed, there is no other way.

:John, you’re here, at Baker Street. You’ve had a nightmare.:

John’s breath is now coming in gasps, his lungs still needing to draw in oxygen, even though he is sure, in that moment, that he has no heart to pump the blood needed to move the oxygen around his body.

*

:It was just a nightmare.:

Sherlock cannot halt the lie in those words. Whatever that was, it was certainly not just a nightmare. Something else happened tonight, something unquantifiable. On John’s first shout, Sherlock shifted and approached the bed as calmly as possible. It was when he touched John’s shoulder in the hopes to give him a bit of comfort, or grounding or whatever…the feeling that their Link was a physical thing being pulled taut over an uncountable distance started in the back of Sherlock’s mind and he was yanked along until the pressure was too much and there was little choice but to Look.

Sherlock has seen everything.

From his knees on the floor on the side of the bed farthest from John, Sherlock closes his eyes against the inhuman rage painted across John’s features; clearly seeing normally daylight bright sapphire eyes darkened to midnight blue in the partial darkness of the bedroom. For the first time in his life, Sherlock cannot calculate an outcome from any action he can make-he has no prior experience whatsoever to draw on. All he can see flashing in front of his eyes is a photograph of a smiling young woman in a military issue khaki t-shirt with emerald eyes; his chest constricts with a tiny fraction of the misery John has been through and he knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that he would never survive something like that.

He slowly rubs his cheek, gingerly exploring what will be a nasty bruise come sun up as he makes an attempt to Speak to John over their Link again; he can Feel the Link, but the comfortable hum normally present is a chaotic mish-mash of noise not unlike the ruckus of instruments being bashed against an amplifier again and again. The pain-filled din forces him to raise his hands to ineffectually cover his ears; he cannot even imagine what it sounds like inside John’s head right now. This is terrible, something he never wanted to bear witness to when he attempted…whatever it was he’d tried to do earlier that Mycroft interrupted. Not this: not this horrible, shrieking pain, the echo of John’s grief, the ghostly remnants of a Bond torn asunder.

Aware that his unconscious self marched right in and took these memories without asking and only understanding a little of what’s happened here tonight, this Sharing that occurred while they both slept, Sherlock hurts. Every muscle and bone aches as if he’d been in a standoff with three thugs and a freight train and lost.

“John?” he asks, semi-hopeful, into the little room. His voice sounds strange, weak, insecure and for a moment he detests it, detests what’s brought him here.

*

As John rolls off the edge of the bed, he slams his Shield closed so quickly and so forcefully it is more than blocking Sherlock’s attempts to reach him, causing a metaphysical echo between them. There’s a drumbeat and the shudder of marching boots on tarmac playing over and over in his sub-consciousness because the enemy, whoever it was holding him down earlier, they will catch up with him any moment.

The retired soldier begins to rise from his knees the freezes on the spot, every muscle straining with the tension of remaining still as a tall figure morphs from the shadows and walks towards him. When that form seems to evaporate to be replaced by a feline-shaped one, John’s brain shuts down and his body takes control. He is off the floor, out of his bedroom, down the steps and moving downstairs and onto the pavement before he can scarcely draw another breath. The doors behind him bang open and stay that way; the ebony door leading into 221 Baker Street hangs forlornly on its hinges, squeaking slightly as if in pain.

It is some time before John is aware that he is moving. By some instinct, he’s managed to pull on his slippers, a fact he discovers as one of them falls off of his foot when he drops heavily onto a metal bench. He doesn’t look around because it makes absolutely no difference where he is. Frankly, there isn’t too much that matters to him right now, at all, except getting as far away from his nightmare slash living memory as he is able.

The only cognizance John possesses is the feeling of the hard bottom of the slipper he’s just put back onto his foot and the weak cream and sherbet dawn doing its damnedest to peek through last night’s scattering clouds. A small shiver runs down his spine; the chilly early morning air is seeping through the worn material of his sleeping clothes.

As the day turns brighter, a darting blur of movement draws his attention to the pavement. Sitting neatly between the toes of his slippers is a tawny dormouse, its shiny, oval-shaped eyes regarding him steadily. Watching the little animal causes some of the grief-ridden fog in John’s mind to dissipate. Now he can feel the bite of the cold metal against his bum, the ache in his feet and his shoulder. As if a switch has been flicked on, the sounds of the slowly waking city around him filter through the night’s lassitude. Something in the back of his mind rustles quietly, oddly he thinks of it the way a butterfly wing would sound as it slowly unravels if he were capable of hearing it.

The dormouse observes him a few minutes more, primly sitting up on its hind legs with its front paws under its chin. Long whiskers move back and forth as its tiny nose crinkles. With a tiny squeak, it leaves him. John’s eyes follow its skittering form as it scoots right through the open doors that on a closer inspection reveal the larger building around them to be St. Bart's Hospital.

John shifts against the bench and finally begins to come back to himself. People begin to pass by where he sits until one of them stops and hesitates.

“John Watson?” inquires a warm, good-natured voice.

John turns his head on a neck gone stiff and Mike Stamford takes a step closer, holding out one hand. John eyes his friend warily, still feeling the aftereffects of the previous few hours. When he doesn’t say anything, Mike approaches cautiously and gestures politely at the empty side of the bench.

“John, I’m not trying to pry, mate, but you look a bit ragged around the edges,” Mike offers, tugging at his long coat, causing the buttons over his belly to strain a little.

John still cannot find his words so he nods and looks out to the steadily increasing sea of humanity on the pavement. He knows Mike is talking but cannot make heads or tails of the words, until there’s a hand on his shoulder and then he is standing and moving into the building.

*

“Sherlock, what have you done?” Greg’s eyes widen in wonder as he swings his feet down off the top of his desk, the scone he was about to take a bite out of forgotten. Sherlock saunters into the DI’s office looking less put together than Greg has seen him, well, since his darkest days. Greg thrusts his cup of coffee into Sherlock’s hands as he closes the door. “Drink that, you need it.”

Sherlock starts to argue then gives up meekly as Greg pointedly stares at the cup. Now Greg knows something is terribly wrong. He kneels down in front of the younger man as if speaking to a child and almost rests a hand on his shoulder, taking in the tense expression on Sherlock’s bruised face, his unkempt hair, cream-colored shirt buttoned incorrectly and hanging out of a pair of jeans that look like they were last worn in 1992. He’s only got one arm in his coat, it hangs oddly off the other side. Greg takes a risk of getting his head knocked off and adjusts it over Sherlock’s shoulder, almost absentmindedly.

“Sherlock, if you’ll tell me, I can have the person who did this picked up in an hour. I know you love your cases, but this looks pretty serious. Here, let me call John and…” Greg fumbles a little as he pulls his phone from his trouser pocket, stopping when Sherlock clears his throat.

“No,” he says, sounding as if he’d swallowed a ton of sand. “It’s nothing, I…” he trails off, eyes suddenly too bright as he scrutinizes the DI. Whatever he sees there brings a frown to his sore face. “Never mind. I’ve got to go.”

With that, the consulting detective stands, almost dropping his coat. He hurriedly yanks it back over his arm and throws open the door, but not before Greg catches Sherlock’s odd expression. He’s gone as fast as he appeared, leaving Greg to wonder what it was that he saw that changed his mind about confiding in him, because Greg Lestrade is no fool, he knows he’s one of the few people Sherlock talks to and even though the youngest Holmes usually makes some snide remark or pretends to ignore Greg, the DI knows when his words are taken to heart. Not today, though.

Idly, Greg leans back in his chair and brings his feet back up to the blotter. He lays his phone down next to his foot and stares at it for a few moments, trying to decide if what he saw on Sherlock’s face was betrayal or the sudden realization of Greg’s new position in the community. Tapping his fingers on the desk then his phone, he picks it up again and dials John. When there is no answer, he sends a text message the does his best to concentrate on the cases he actually gets paid to worry about.

*

“Well, good morning, I wasn’t expecting you today, Sherlock. Are one of these yours? Well, I don’t mean yours yours, I mean are you here to examine one of the new ones?” Molly hangs her clipboard back on the wall next to the doors and gestures at the pair of bodies covered with white sheets on the tables nearest the sinks.

Sherlock shakes his head ‘no’ and rounds the corner into Molly’s office.

Molly stares at him in his disheveled state then casts a look back at the bodies waiting for her. She’s already ascertained one is a natural death by cardiac arrest and the other is a ninety-four year old man who was found dead in his bed last night. Neither are pressing cases when a man she’s known for years to be one of the most dapper, put-together people on the face of the planet shows up at eight o’clock in the morning looking like he’s been run through a grinder.

She flicks the light off, relocks the swinging doors and follows Sherlock into her tiny office where she finds him huddled on the two-seater sofa that sits across from the door. She has to walk past it to get to her very neat desk, but instead of sitting in her chair, she sits on the desk itself and folds her hands together in her lap.

“What’s happened?” she asks, sharply regarding Sherlock, watching for the lie.

“Nothing, Molly, I always come to the morgue because I feel like three-day old kidney pie.”

Molly frowns. Well, that was an answer, of sorts, only a completely un-Sherlockian answer, because he admitted that something is wrong. Didn’t he? After a few minutes of silence, Molly offers tea. Sherlock shakes his head and she realizes that she is incredibly uncomfortable, so she heads back to the doorway.

“Whatever it is, and I can clearly see it is something, Sherlock, you are welcome to hang out here for however long you need it.” She clears he throat, unused to being allowed to speak for so long in his presence without being corrected in some manner. “I’ve got to get to work now, but it’s not pressing, so if you need to talk…”

“Why would I need to talk? What could I possibly say?”

Ah, there it is, Molly thinks. She shrugs. “It doesn’t matter, I’m just letting you know I’m here to listen.”

There’s a faint movement behind her, but Molly doesn’t look back, instead heading into the morgue to get started. She buttons up her lab coat, switches on the bright overhead lights then grabs her safety glasses from the bench. After pulling on two pairs of latex gloves, she opens one of the cupboards near the sink to take out the equipment she’ll need for the first autopsy. Deciding that old Mr. Landers is the least needy, she draws back the sheet on the other body and sets to work.

After an hour or so, Molly is in the middle of weighing the organ that’s caused the poor dead man so many problems when Sherlock reappears, this time with his shirt buttoned up correctly and tucked into his jeans, though his coat is nowhere to be seen. He wanders over to the tall cupboard nearest the door then opens it and manages to make putting on a lab coat look like he’s getting dressed for a fashion show. Molly can’t help but watch, helplessly transfixed as he moves around her like he does it every day, copying her until he’s beside her, safety glasses and gloves on, hands held out as if he’s playing surgeon. She tries to ignore the smell of sorrow, guilt and loneliness that is emanating off of him.

Despite this, Molly stands stock still, her arms beginning to tremble from holding the heart over the scale, waiting on him to verbally pounce. When he remains quiet, she realizes how silly she’s being and goes on to finish the job. Mr. Parker’s heart finally weighed, she calls out the numbers to herself only to turn around and find Sherlock scribbling them down. Well, if he wants to help, she’s not exactly going to refuse it. At least if he’s not talking, the recorder will only pick up her voice.

Molly moves around him and continues her work, calling out numbers and notes about the deceased as she goes. Sherlock remains mute, though he helps without getting in the way. She finishes the last stitches down Mr. Parker’s torso and covers him back up, giving him a pat on the hand and thanking him for being so cooperative. She waits for a scathing remark that will force her to explain that even though he’s dead, he’s still human so he deserves respect.

When nothing whatsoever is forthcoming, she peels off her gloves, sets her glasses down on the bench and washes up, thinking that she’ll be able to grab a cuppa before she sits down to type up Mr. Parker’s death certificate. By the time she’s done washing her hands, however, she’s caught in a silent crossfire between Sherlock who has just removed his safety glasses and an equally mute John Watson standing in between the swinging doors, arms out at his sides, holding the doors open, his expression tense. Behind him, she can see Mike Stamford.

“Gosh, it’s cold in here and that’s saying something because this is a morgue,” she mutters nervously. No one answers her, so she skitters in between them all and towards her office. She counts to ten before Mike joins her.

“I’m sorry Molly, I had no idea Sherlock was here or I would have taken John up to mine.”

Molly nods. “What is that all about, anyway?”

Mike shrugs. His normally jovial face filled with worry about his friends. “Dunno. Found him out front on one of the benches. Looks like he’d been there awhile. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. You don’t suppose he finally…” Mike trails off, not wanting to speak ill of either of them.

“I haven’t the faintest idea, really. There’s no doubt that something’s happened, but I don’t think John would hit Sherlock out of anger, he usually just walks away, you know? He’s done it here loads of times, well, not loads of times, but enough that it feels like it’s a normal reaction when Sherlock is…” she finds herself at a loss for words.

Mike chuckles and some of the tension drifts away between them. He looks down at his watch. “I’ve got to be going, Molly, I’m really sorry to leave you with them like this. Let me get my class started and I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Molly smiles and leans against her desk, crossing her arms over her chest when the sound of two angry voices filter back to them. Mike raises his eyebrows over his dark-rimmed glasses and Molly shrugs.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. See you later, Mike.”

“See you, Molly. I will be back, time is of the essence. Take care.”

Molly watches Mike leave, noting that he seems to reach the doors much faster than usual. There’s a loud bang from the work space, but she decides that unless they go completely silent, she’s leaving them to their own devices for the moment. Sherlock’s been unusually quiet and at least if they’re quarreling, they’ll work out whatever has happened between them.

Or so she hopes. It’s what worked with her mum and da, anyway. Calmly she sets to work on the documents she needs to fill in for Mr. Parker.

Chapter Text

:6: Tea & Transport

By the time Molly's done washing her hands, however, she’s caught in a silent crossfire between Sherlock who has just removed his safety glasses and an equally mute John Watson standing in between the swinging doors, arms out at his sides, holding the doors open, his expression tense. Behind him, she can see Mike Stamford.

*

As the door opens, Sherlock’s field of vision is narrowed to John alone. He takes in the way John acknowledges Mike’s softly spoken “see you later, mate,” with a curt tilt of his chin, the way his entire body is tensed, ready to fly or fight.

When his eyes lock on Sherlock’s from where he stands stiffly with his arms at his sides across the room, there’s a fusion of heat/want/there you are in the back of his mind that reminds him of things that have become increasingly difficult to ignore, even in the midst of the negativity of last night. John’s icy stare is heavy, so he touches the ugly bloom of purple and red on his face lightly with his fingertips. Surely it looks worse in the terrible lighting here in the morgue.

Sherlock levelly meets John’s gaze. :Just transport John.:

John continues to stare at him, standing with his legs apart as if his feet are glued to the spot.

A faint beep from behind the wall between the morgue and Molly’s office goes off. A printer, Sherlock notes, and though his eyes are still on John, he considers Molly’s constant presence this morning. He has to grudgingly admit that it has been a balm to his shaken soul. He’s always appreciated that about her, even if he’s never said it out loud: as awkward as she can be, she generally knows when to be as quiet as a mouse. Naturally.

The sound of the hard plastic sole of John’s left slipper scraping across the smooth concrete floor startles Sherlock from his internal reverie. He recognizes the warm buzz in the back of his mind as proof John’s opened some of his channels back up to Sherlock; once again, their Link is strained and Sherlock wants that to change. Immediately. There’s a mixture of guilt, anger and something almost desperate twisting below the surface of what John is Projecting.

John is now studying the floor, his shoulders hunched forward. Sherlock opens his mouth.

:No. I don’t want to hear it.: John Speaks sternly. He doesn’t look up.

“John, I…” Sherlock tries. John meets his eyes with a scowl.

Sherlock shifts back a couple of paces so that he’s leaning against the chrome bench. He sets the safety glasses down behind him, accidentally knocking off a clear plastic container that clatters loudly against the floor. John visibly startles, giving Sherlock a glimpse into his exhausted mental state.

:I want to apologize.: Sherlock states as blandly as he is able.

John shakes his head and balls his hands into fists at his sides.

Sherlock sighs loudly, rolling his eyes at the ceiling. :This is getting us nowhere.:

“Sherlock, I don’t even know where to go from here,” John growls under his breath.

If they were anywhere else and if he were anyone else, Sherlock might not have caught the words. He frowns, cocks his hip and clutches the bench behind him for stability.

:Why were you in my room in the first place? I warned you about my nightmares before.:

“Yes, John, you did. I was there…”

“Actually, you know what, it doesn’t even matter!” John’s temper finally breaks. “You were there and because you were there, you saw…things…and I wasn’t ready…it won’t make any sense…”

Sherlock narrows his eyes as John’s entire frame begins to tremble. “It all makes perfect sense,” he says, pitching his voice to a quiet roar. He does not like the haphazard buzz of the Link right now, it is disconcerting. John is angry, but he’s angry for the wrong reason.

“John, you can blame me. I took your memories without your permission.”

“Are you kidding me?” John asks between clenched teeth.

John moves fast, stepping close enough that he’s between the autopsy tables. If he wanted to, Sherlock could reach out and pull John to him in an embrace he would surely fight his way out of.

:I apologize.: Sherlock Sends his most sincere apology along the Link.

John remains passive, his Shields still slammed closed. Sherlock startles when he begins to laugh.

:What makes you think that you could take anything from me that I would not voluntarily give you, Sherlock?:

John’s eyes are hard as granite now, and though he hasn’t moved a single step closer, Sherlock is caged by him as easily as if John had picked him up and dropped him into a trap. He realizes that he is breathing hard; the bruise on his cheek throbs sympathetically as if reminding him of John’s unintentional strength. What would it be like if John really wanted to hurt him? Sherlock tries to shake off that thought, because he knows that physically they are pretty evenly matched. He’s beginning to wonder what exactly he’s missed here especially when he thinks back to that first night when he considered John to be ‘dangerously normal.’

John inhales deeply, raising his chin. “Dammit, Sherlock!” He shouts and reaches out for Sherlock but aborts the movement when Sherlock winces, then he roars. “You see! This is why! Now you see what I really am! What my mistakes have cost….” He spins on his heels and heads towards the swinging door, pitching forward on his left leg and catching himself on his right before actually falling. “I can’t let there be a next time!”

Sherlock grabs John’s forearm. “You are an idiot.”

“Sherlock, let me go. Now.” John’s voice has gone eerily calm. He sets his jaw and his face flushes.

:No.: Sherlock clutches tighter.

John jerks his arm out of Sherlock’s grip and makes for the doors again, only to be stopped when they are pushed open by Mike Stamford. Sherlock moves back, but not far. There’s something else happening here and he fully intends to find out what it is.

“John? I thought these might be a bit warmer than what you’ve got on if you’re going to be hanging out here for a bit.” Mike holds out a brown cardigan and a pair of scrub bottoms to John.

John reaches for the cardigan and slips it on, ignoring the scrubs. “Thank you,” he says gruffly. “Won’t be here much longer.”

“Okay, John.” Mike agrees, his eyes flicking up to Sherlock. “I’ve got to get back to my class, I promised Molly I’d stop back by. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to come up.”

John bites out another thanks, then Mike is gone again, followed swiftly by Molly who has a stack of papers in her hands. She leaves them without saying anything.

After two heartbeats, John visibly deflates, one hand covering his eyes. “I need to sit down.”

Sherlock gestures towards Molly’s office and follows John. He takes the chair behind the desk and John drops onto the tiny sofa; more thick silence descends between them until John clears his throat.

“I’ll understand if you want me to leave,” he croaks, staring down at his fingers. His back is bowed and he is so tense that he’s almost hovering above the cushions rather than actually sitting on them.

“No.” Sherlock leans forward, resting his hands on the blotter, feeling like he’s about to leap over the desk at any second.

“What?” John asks aloud. :How can you trust me now?: He Sends down their Link.

Sherlock holds up a hand. “Wait.”

John glances over at him then back to where Molly stands in the doorway with two coffees.

“Thought you two might need a bit of refreshment. I need to get started on Mr. Landers, so you’re welcome to use my office as long as you need it.” She passes out the cups with a strained smile. “You’re welcome,” she agrees when they thank her before heading out to get back to work.

Sherlock puts his cup on the desk without drinking any. John takes a small sip that soon turns into a deep draught of the almost-hot liquid then scoots back, his feet still flat on the floor.

Sherlock inhales, preparing to wait all day if that’s what it takes to get John to tell him what’s wrong. He wants to go home and put this behind them. The idea of home seems to get through to John, who relaxes a little more into the sofa. Sherlock copies him, leaning back in the chair but does not take his hands off the desk.

:Go on.: he urges.

*

John blinks over at Sherlock, finding that he is rather cruelly amused that the detective is still in the room with him; cruel because surely he isn’t going to stay much longer. Fine, he thinks as he takes a deep breath and sets the coffee cup in his hand on the floor beside his leg. Deciding then and there that it’s best if he lays all his cards on the table, John opens his channels wide, closes his eyes and instead of Sending out a gentle probe towards Sherlock’s end of their Link, he blasts him with all the mental energy he can immediately sustain.

:Sherlock!:

The result is instantaneous. Sherlock’s head snaps back so fast John fears for a moment he’s given him whiplash. John shuts down part of himself, still leaving his Shield open. Their Link is vibrant now, the hum that he’s become used to is back in place. He rests his elbows on his legs, his face in the palms of his hands and waits for Sherlock to fill the silence.

*

Sherlock closes his eyes against the onslaught of information threatening to overwhelm his psyche. After a few moments of it, he slowly Reaches out and tamps down on some of it, learning to accept John’s overwhelming gift as he does so.

:John?: he Asks.

John stays where he is on the sofa and an overwhelming need to be near him forces Sherlock from his seat and to the cushion next to John. Slowly, he scoots closer until their thighs rest together.

“I am only going to say this once, but it needs to be said. Incredible.”

John raises his head, gazing at Sherlock with watery, red-rimmed eyes. “What?”

A light knock on the door announces Molly’s arrival. “Alright, you two?” she asks casually, though Sherlock can sense there’s more she wants to say.

He nods.

“I’m sorry,” John tells her.

Molly shakes her head. “It’s all fine, John. Honestly, I’m not surprised. It would take a Strong Anchor to Link with Sherlock.”

Sherlock looks from Molly to John and back to Molly. “You knew?”

“No,” Molly grins, “I observed.”

John chuckles weakly next to him. Sherlock continues to stare. Molly refuses to say any more on the subject and points at her desk.

“I’m done with Mr. Landers, now, could I?”

Sherlock nods and starts to put his arm around John’s shoulders before dropping his hands in his lap, huffing out an irritated sigh. All these damned unspoken rules.

“John, let’s go home.”

“Are you sure?” John queries and almost seems to melt against Sherlock when he answers in the affirmative.

*

Both men are silent until they are back in their flat with the doors closed and locked behind them. John goes straight for the kitchen and Sherlock to his violin. By the time the tea is ready, Sherlock is weaving back and forth slowly on the balls of his feet in front of the window, where the midday sun paints each elegant sway with a golden halo. With the sun as bright as it is, the injured part of his face is in shadow. As tiring as the past hours have been, he’s powerless to do anything but watch. He places their mugs on the coffee table then drops heavily into his chair and Reaches out.

Sherlock’s comfortably winding melody slowly draws to a halt until the silence makes John open his eyes and look. The detective is still, his chin still resting on its pad, bow arm relaxed, bow pointed towards his feet. Sherlock’s gaze is intense as he Listens for the tell that lets him know John is ready to talk.

:Has it always been this way?:

John nods. :Since I was a teenager, anyway. It helped during my military days, though I know your brother’s ability to do it—I call it Broadcasting—is much, much greater. You already knew that, I think.:

Sherlock regards John for a few heartbeats, then slowly takes the instrument from his shoulder and replaces it in its case. After that, he sort of runs out of steam.

:Come on,: John gestures at himself. :Join me?:

Still somewhat unsure, he folds down into the space between John’s spread legs, leaning against the chair. It’s awkward, but worth being a little uncomfortable to feel surrounded by John.

“John, what are we doing?” John’s fingers are slowly massaging his scalp and he thinks he better get the question out before he turns into a pile of goo.

After a calming exhale, John answers. “I’m not entirely sure. With Toby, I never noticed how strong our Link was until she called attention to it…with you, it’s different. I’m not myself, right now, Sherlock, I owe you an apology for that. As well as this,” he says, carefully caressing the injured side of Sherlock’s face.

Sherlock is mortified when a soft sigh passes his lips. There are times when it is much easier to be a cat.

“Yeah, I figured.” John states.

Sherlock frowns.

:Look, you know it’s hard for me to talk about some of this stuff, yeah?:

:Yes.: Sherlock tilts his face into John’s palm; the action is greeted by an almost-imperceptible intake of breath from above him.

“God, Sherlock.”John mutters. :I can’t even begin to tell you. Truly, I thought that knowing what happened would put you off, make you not want me around.:

“But I don’t know.” Sherlock rumbles as he sits up and spins around all at once.

“What?” John’s hands drop to Sherlock’s shoulders. “What do you mean? You, you saw…you saw it all.”

Sherlock shakes his head carefully so as not to dislodge John’s hands. He narrows his eyes. “Are we ready to talk about this?”

John is quiet, deciding what will be the best course of action. He could feign exhaustion, which would be true, but, the reality is that they are never going to be able to move forward into whatever their next step should be if he continues not trusting. He nods sharply, two fingers toying with the curl on the back of Sherlock’s neck.

“First, do you know you’re doing that?” Sherlock raises his eyebrows and rolls his shoulders.

John’s eyes widen and his fingers stop moving. “That? No, sorry.”

Sherlock catches John’s hand before he can take it away. “No, don’t stop. It’s fine.”

“There’s so much to say, I don’t know where to start.” John’s expression is tense, lines of worry etched in the corners of his eyes and mouth.

“Let me?”

“Go on, then.” John agrees, and Sherlock turns back around. Instantly, John spreads his hands over Sherlock’s broad shoulders, not massaging, just resting them there.

“I saw you, in the forest. You were injured, obviously near your parents’ home.” When he feels John shake his head a little, Sherlock corrects himself. “Grandparents’, then. Toby stayed with you through your injury and your subsequent healing. I gather it wasn’t all butterflies and posies.” He takes a second to indicate his face.

John’s eyes cloud over, grow shiny with unshed tears. “Yeah. I was a right bastard sometimes. She stayed with me, though. It was months before we got back on this side of the world. In all that time, she never changed, never shifted. She was a true Shifter, Sherlock, and the array of animals was amazing. Toby was an amazing person and I.” He inhales, stiffens his shoulders and meets Sherlock’s eyes. “I basically domesticated her then got her killed.”

This time there’s no stopping the tears. John’s mouth trembles when he makes the attempt and something in the region of Sherlock’s chest breaks. He surges upward, wrapping John in his arms and doing what he should have been able to do last night. John weeps quietly until he raises his head and pushing Sherlock away gently. He wipes at his face.

“I’m sorry. I’ll just go…”

“No, John. Stay.” Sherlock lets go completely in order to move from the awkward kneeling position. He grabs both their mugs on his way into the kitchen.

John listens to the faucet run and in exactly six minutes, Sherlock is back. They sit in a companionable silence, sipping at their tea. Eventually, Sherlock moves from his chair to the sofa where he stretches out on his back. John, thinking that the uncomfortably conversation is closed, grabs the television remote and flips on the set. He’s not really watching a documentary about penguins when Sherlock Speaks again.

:If anything, John, I do believe I owe Toby my gratitude.:

John watches a fat, fuzzy penguin chick squawk at its parent to be fed. :Why? He Sends a bit of fondness over the Link to let Sherlock know he’s not mocking him.

:She kept you around for me.:

With that, John laughs and discovers that so much of what he’s been concerned about has been largely needless. Sherlock chuckles, too and John thinks that somehow, things can go back to their brand of normality.

Eventually, John turns off the television to discover Sherlock sound asleep on the sofa, snoring softly. He wanders into the detective’s bedroom and pulls the thick duvet off his bed. If he leans down and places a chaste kiss on Sherlock’s forehead as he covers him to go up, well, that’s just something he felt that he had to do.

Chapter Text

:7: Rodents

Three weeks later, when there’s a lull between five cases that seem to have sprung up simultaneously out of nowhere like some macabre tidal wave of homicide, John wakes up to a bright morning, the sun through his haphazardly closed blind gently caressing the side of his face as if glad he exists in the universe. He smiles a little, thankful for a day where he can lounge about and maybe get to read the entire newspaper for a change. Not that he doesn’t enjoy being whisked out of the house at a second’s notice on a half-cup of tea and a quarter piece of toast; quite the opposite, really. Everyone needs a down day now and again.

He whips himself up a full English and adds extra rashers when the Cat deigns to get up from where he’s been curled in the seat of John’s chair since they got in at three o’clock this morning.

:You’ve got to be hungry by now.: John flips the bacon over with a fork in his left hand and pushes down the handle on the toaster with his right.

The Cat sits down on his haunches by John’s feet, blinks up at him and purrs loudly, whiskers twitching. He opens his mouth in order to make a delicate ‘miaow.’

:I’ll take that as a resounding ‘yes’ then.: John Sends as he returns his attention back to the hot skillet. There’s a nudge above his ankle as the Cat turns and pads almost silently from the kitchen, his tail held straight up in the air behind him.

As John’s sliding their plates onto the table, Sherlock effortlessly drops into his chair and John can’t help but enjoy the sight of disheveled curls begging to be petted and the dressing gown slightly open, showcasing the smooth skin on display. John pulls his own chair out, and, after letting his fingers brush over the nape of Sherlock’s neck, sets to replacing all the calories he’s lost traipsing all over London the past few days. Sherlock eats the majority of his breakfast, then disappears into the sitting room.

John fixes himself another cuppa and, after taking note that the Cat has returned to his curled-up state on John’s chair, this time with a full belly, he allows his mind to wander.

He has to admit that over the past twenty-one days he’s began feeling lighter and less guilt-ridden about his past. Sherlock’s words did not grant him absolution, yet they gave him the peace he hadn’t realized he’d been craving. The overwhelming acceptance that Sherlock and to a smaller extent, Molly, has shown him in the meantime has gone a long way to helping. It’s almost as if a heavy layer of fog has been blown away; he catches himself smiling more often, and not only because of this. There’s been more times than he can count over the past weeks where he’s flat out noticed himself noticing Sherlock: the way he moves, the way his eyes alight on the most worthless-looking piece of evidence, instantly making sense of it, the way his entire being lights up as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

The Link between them has grown stronger and today John is shocked to find that for the first time comparing Toby to Sherlock doesn’t feel as if there are knives being shoved into his chest. It’s not as if she would want him to be miserable, surely quite the opposite would be true. Granted, the two shifters couldn’t be much different physically, but their temperaments and even the pull of their animalistic natures are very similar.

Even before they were together, there were times when Toby had no choice but to shift, to be able to run free without the restraints and demands of humanity collaring her: Sherlock is much the same.

Of this aspect of Shifters in general, the need to spend time in their other skins just being themselves, John has no doubts whatsoever, because there’s something else he’s been picking up over the Link: a subtle shift in Sherlock’s temperament the longer he goes without changing. Until they are a week into their third case, John has been unsure whether the detective was even aware of the deeply-seated irritation with life in general that he’s Projecting; after that, it was no longer a difficult subject to tackle anymore.

John leans rests the back of his head on his chair, his arms relaxed on the arms, then closes his eyes and thinks about the past weeks. It’s an effort to remember as much detail as he can for the blog, as well as an exercise in organizing his own thoughts. It’s no mind palace, of course, but he’s learned that the practice is worth the effort, especially during those times when Sherlock begins a conversation right smack in the middle.

*

In the work area of what Sherlock insists on calling “Molly’s Morgue,” John is watching Sherlock out of the corner of his eye as the detective is flitting between the two bodies laid out on the stainless steel tables on either side of him. Their smooth caramel-and-cream skin has taken the washed-out, bruised-looking hue of the not-so-recently dead. Every so often, his green eyes glaze over a little bit—not enough that most people would even notice it, but along with each pause comes an accompanying feeling of restlessness down their Link.

It is then that John finds himself beginning the comparisons between Sherlock and Toby and realizes that his heart has already made a decision on the question his brain has been asking since he pulled the trigger and sent a bullet through two sets of windows.

John shrugs and picks up a page from the file lying on the bench next to where he’s seated on a stool close enough to hand Sherlock things, but far enough out of range of anything he doesn’t particularly want on his clothes. One of the victims is a thirty-nine-year old male Were, Roger Trundle, originally from Barbados.

According to the victim’s background report that John is holding, Roger’s shift was an Agouti. Frowning because he’s not all that familiar with rodents other than rats and mice, John pulls the file closer to him and shuffles through it until he finds a photograph of a rather large rodent with fur almost the same color as Roger’s hair. Each individual hair on its coat is banded with a range of browns and blacks, alternating light and dark. The animal has a short, rounded ears and a stubby tail that John would be unable to see except that the photo is taken from the side and the Agouti is trotting.

John slides the paper back into the file.

:John, look at the other one.: Sherlock Sends.

John looks up to see Sherlock’s rear end facing in his direction from where the detective is bent at the waist inspecting some tiny piece of evidence on the other body. John does his best not to seem too interested in that particular piece of Sherlock’s anatomy and goes back to the file to do as he’s bid.

The second report of paper outlines Roger’s sister, a thirty-seven year old female named Maya. Maya was also a Were, her shift was a Capybara, another large rodent found in the Caribbean and South America.

:Is this a real trend or am I looking for patterns where there are none?: John Asks.

Out loud, Sherlock commands “Look at this.”

John joins him, his eyes following the shape Sherlock is tracing on Maya’s left collarbone. There’s a long, thin cut there that doesn’t look like any knife wound he’s ever seen. He leans down, unconsciously mimicking Sherlock’s earlier movement, and takes in the ragged edges and the depth of the injury that makes a line from Maya’s collar back towards her shoulder.

“It goes around from there,” Sherlock points, gently rolling Maya to her side with gloved hands, “to there.” He stops, allowing John to soak it in. “On both of them.”

The nasty wound runs parallel to Maya’s spine, getting deeper at the jut of a vertebrae, leading to the reason she’s lying here before them: her spinal cord is severed cleanly.

“This didn’t happen while she was in her human form,” John wisely deduces. He pulls on a glove and carefully prods the torn edges of the slice. “No healing, either. She shifted back after she died.” He swallows hard, making a valiant effort not to think too much about the particulars.

Sherlock nods in agreement. “Correct.”

Their eyes lock for a moment and John feels himself being drawn in as if he’s a magnet and Sherlock is north. He realizes they are actually leaning in towards one another when there’s a surprised squeak from the doorway.

“Oh!” Molly says, her hands covering her mouth. “I didn’t know there were…” she trails off, her eyes following the line of the nasty wound. She pales a little.

“Molly, you need to have Simon fired. I cannot work with him,” Sherlock drawls as if his word is law as he takes a step backwards, pulling off the latex gloves.

John watches every single movement of his hands, his concentration broken when Molly sighs and crosses her arms over chest. She’s not yet wearing her lab coat over her russet jumper and khaki trousers, since her shift technically doesn’t start for another thirty minutes or so. John offers her a smile, hoping to soothe ruffled fur.

“Really, Molly, the type of riff-raff they hire to attempt to do your job when you aren’t here…” Sherlock mutters loudly. He’s stuffing the papers back into the file.

Molly only frowns at the odd compliment. John chuckles under his breath when she actually rolls her eyes.

:You know how he is.: John allows.

Molly raises her eyebrows and nods in acknowledgement but otherwise doesn’t answer, causing John to wonder if her Mind Voice is weak from disuse or she simply prefers not to communicate that way. He’s sure she can Hear him, especially after the quarrel he and Sherlock had here not too long ago.

“Molly, I’ll leave you to complete the preliminary investigations…” Sherlock is saying as he makes to push past her towards the door, clutching the brown file folder.

Molly stops him simply by not moving and holds out a hand. He stares at it. Behind him, John huffs.

“Give her the file, Sherlock.”

Sherlock shrugs as if he doesn’t need the information in it and Molly moves aside.

“If it helps, I can have copies uploaded to you by this evening,” Molly offers to Sherlock’s retreating form.

The detective doesn’t answer and John doesn’t particularly like the heightened and annoyed sensations that their Link is giving off, so he thanks her and tells her how much that would be appreciated and quickens his steps to catch up with Sherlock before he disappears from view in the most polite manner he can pull off.

*

“Sherlock!” John calls out at the retreating figure ahead of him, his voice echoing down the sterile corridor. Sherlock’s restless energy is growing by leaps and bounds; John feels like he needs to offer his help.

Sherlock waits for him to catch up, foot bouncing against the shiny tile, one hand rubbing the back of his neck, eyes hooded. His entire countenance is screaming ‘exhausted.’

John wants to help. Instead of touching him, however, he holds out both hands. “Go on. Change. I’ll take you home.” He opens his channels wide, allowing Sherlock to See.

Sherlock regards John warily, mutely. :You can tell, then.:

“Obviously,” John grins.

Sherlock nods sharply, the decision made. It’s as close to admitting his own uncertainty as John has ever seen. “Not here,” he says, pointing towards the door to the broom cupboard at the end of the corridor.

“Yes, go on.” In less than two minutes, he’s opening the cupboard and retrieving Sherlock’s clothes which he folds over his arm. He leans down and gathers up the Cat, who is purring before John stands.

:Thank you, John.: Sherlock Sends a strong feeling of Relief down their Link. John rubs his silky ears and the top of his head. No one even gives them a second glance as they step out onto the pavement.

John knows none of the taxis will pick them up, as most do not allow animals, so he relaxes and prepares himself for a long walk until one of Mycroft’s glossy black sedans pulls up alongside them. John ignores it for a couple of blocks.

:Doctor Watson, wouldn’t it be expedient to ride instead of walk?:

:Ugh.: John Thinks. :Now your brother’s in my head.:

There’s a sort of mental shrug and a slight tugging on their Link. :I would like to go home, John. Whatever makes that happen faster.:

John is only partially surprised to find that Sherlock Sounds exhausted. Without a second thought, he stops then climbs into the backseat after putting Sherlock down gently on the leather. Instantly the Cat becomes alert and swivels his ears towards his brother, who is impeccably dressed and watching him closely.

As John closes the door, there’s a tearing sound and when he looks, there’s a neat scratch right down the middle of the back seat. The Cat sits up and starts cleaning himself. Mycroft doesn’t quite groan, but the strangled sound under his breath is close enough for John to call it.

“I’d say sorry, but…” John states with a shrug.

“No harm done, Doctor Watson. I’m heading in the same direction, so I thought we could share. I’m positive Detective Inspector Lestrade is eagerly awaiting Sherlock’s opinion on this case.” Mycroft continues to watch the Cat through narrowed eyes, though his expression is bland.

“Thank you, but we are actually going home.” John pets the Cat’s back almost absently.

Mycroft’s fingers twitch only once before he speaks, but John doesn’t miss it. “Ah,” he says, “I see.”

They don’t speak again until the car pulls to a stop in front of Speedy’s. John gathers the Cat in his arms, cradling paws with extended claws on his palms so that the nice leather of Mycroft’s car doesn’t fall victim to any more territory-marking behavior.

:You take away all my fun.: Sherlock Sends, laying his ears back.

“ ‘ts not your car, Sherlock,” John admonishes, unlocking the door and starting up the steps. “Since it’s after seven, you want to do a takeaway?”

Instead of answering, Sherlock gracefully leaps from John’s arms as they enter their flat. He stops in the center of the sitting room before John can get the door closed and changes. John hopes his eyes don’t really bug out the way it feels like they do as the now-very-naked detective turns to look at John over his shoulder. He does a little hip wiggle and strides towards his bedroom, disappearing into the shadows behind.

“Sherlock…” John tries, only to be answered by a deep giggle.

Once he’s out of sight, John takes a deep breath and attempts to steady himself before calling for food. He wants to rush in behind Sherlock and tackle the flirty git to the mattress; ah, but there’s the rub: he’s still unsure where their boundaries lie. John shakes his head and dials the number to Lan’s. He’s interrupted several times in the midst of ordering by a pleasant warmth seeping down their Link until it’s gone and Sherlock is cruising towards the kitchen, dressing gown billowing out behind him.

“Tea, John?” he calls.

John finishes making their order and goes to make the tea. They start discussing the case and he puts his former thoughts on the back burner to be discussed at a later date. Right now, the dead Were siblings have priority over their personal lives, and John is comfortable with that.

Chapter Text

:8: Up A Tree

The sitting room of 221B is bathed in alternating shades of mild saffron light from the lamp on Sherlock’s desk as well as the tall one in the corner. The drapes are still open over the windows, allowing the thin charcoal darkness left behind a sunset long gone to peer in and study the inhabitants of the residence, both in their usual places. The detritus of a day spent knee-deep in researching their current case is spread about: empty mugs and plates on the coffee table or in the floor out of the way coexist with a pair of laptops, three mobile phones, none of which are John’s, several file folders and a rather glorious pile of wadded up pieces of paper scribbled with hurried notes in John’s doctorly scrawl.

Sherlock, no longer in his feline form, is stretched out on the sofa in his usual ‘in the mind palace’ pose, eyes shut, palms pressed together, index fingers resting against his bottom lip.

“Two different types of wounds. Similar, yes, but still different,” he rumbles, mostly to himself.

John is in his chair with his feet propped up on the coffee table, made possible by the fact that he’s pulled around to face the sofa, a thick old book on his lap. After two hours of flipping through the yellowed pages and scrutinizing the curly handwriting inked in green there, he’s beginning to get a headache. He stretches his arms until his shoulder pops loudly, causing Sherlock to open one eye and regard him as if he cannot believe that John’s body would dare interrupt the important tangent he was about to jump on.

“Don’t you dare,” John warns sternly, though there’s an affectionate undertone to his words.

“Yes, John,” Sherlock agrees.

John frowns, tapping the leather cover with his fingertips. “Look, I’m tired of staring at this thing. I’m not going to ask you where it came from, because it’s probably best if I don’t have that particular piece of information, but if you want me to continue searching for whatever it is I’m supposed to be searching for, I need tea.”

Sherlock pushes himself into a sitting position on the sofa, gazes at him from beneath tumbled curls and holds out a hand, all the while sighing wearily as if he’s the world’s most patient teacher trying to educate the world’s worst student.

“Truly, John,” he states, opening the book to the index. “There isn’t anything in particular I am searching for. The idea was for you to read it and give me a summary of what’s in it. Not that I don’t already know that,” he bluffs, “but I wanted to hear it in your words.”

Sherlock doesn’t look up again, even to see if his line of utter shite has had any effect; for that small mercy John is grateful, because he’s watching as the detective’s finger traces down the page and back up to the top. He tries to convince himself that Sherlock absolutely does not look delectable with his legs folded and his head bowed, an icon of genius and curiosity.

For the umpteenth time in countless weeks, John wants to step over the coffee table and run his fingers into those insane curls, especially that one, right there

:John.:

Oops, John thinks, that one got away from me. Sherlock is now peeking at him from beneath the noted curl, his eyes glimmering mischievously in the mixed light of the lamps. John is frozen on the spot, caught out, his channels wide open and obviously broadcasting want loud enough to be heard in Wiesbaden.

:I’d let you.:

John hears a gasp, but since there’s no way it came from him, he’s choosing to ignore it, instead focusing on that all-too-familiar Voice in his head. They continue to stare at each other, the familiar surroundings fading away to white noise. A siren sounds from down the street somewhere, a slash of blue and white lights cut through the flat.

Neither man moves until John is standing in front of Sherlock, the coffee table pushed out of the way, his hands out to move the book from the detective’s lap. Gently, as if reaching across eons of time and space, he sets it on the table, out of the way. Then, Sherlock’s face is in his hands, their eyes are still locked and they are so close they are inhaling and exhaling nothing but one another. Echoes of the time they’ve spent together, so much time, dance down the Link, drawing them closer.

:May I?: John Asks, always the gentleman.

Sherlock’s lips quirk upward a bit, his eyes wander from John’s to John’s mouth and back again. :Would you?:

John leans down, Sherlock closes his eyes and their lips touch, finally, whisper soft, another new thing in a long list of everything between them that starts as delicate as spun glass and grows until, panting, they stop to breathe.

“That was…” John starts, quickly running out of the words to describe the crystalline labyrinth of emotions running amok about the room and lighting up their Link as if it were on fire. He looks down into Sherlock’s face, mouth open slightly, lips red and eyes clear, taking in everything.

:Do you have any idea what I want to do to you?: John Sends, cupping Sherlock’s face in order to angle it upward, fingers tangling in the ebony curls on the nape of his neck.

:Is that the step you wish to take? This would be unbreakable to me, John.:

The faint lines around Sherlock’s eyes have softened along with the plea that John can Hear as loudly as if it were shouted. Hesitating for a second, he brings their mouths together once more. When they part this time, Sherlock’s hands are resting on John’s shoulders, long fingers curled around the tops of his biceps.

“Please, John,” Sherlock whispers.

John nods, places a kiss on Sherlock’s forehead and steps away, Sherlock’s hands running down his arms until there’s more distance between them now, but they are still connected. John turns his palms so that their fingers are interlaced. He squeezes, tightens his grip for a moment then lets go. Sherlock’s shoulders slump and he bows his head.

:No, you misunderstand.: John raises Sherlock’s chin with his fingers so that they can see each other. :I am sure, right now, right this moment, I would, with no hesitation. Could you say the same?:

Sherlock’s eyes close, dark eyelashes fanning against skin flushed pale rose. “Would it hurt you if I said I need time?”

“Not at all, Sherlock, I understand.” John starts to move away; the coldness of the distance making itself immediately apparent.

Sherlock’s hands grab at John’s, finally stopping on his forearms. His expression is open now, gaze intense. “This has nothing to do with your past and everything to do with mine,” he states openly, ending by putting a hand over his mouth in an attempt to hold in the words.

:I understand. I want you to know your own heart. I will be here whenever you need me.: John Sends Affection over their Link. He gives in one more time, caressing Sherlock’s head and face, letting his fingers trail down the line of his jaw as Sherlock makes an odd sound that greatly resembles a purr.

“I need to rest awhile, Sherlock.” John tells him, yawning and actually moving away this time.

“Good night, John,” Sherlock half-mutters as he pulls the antique tome from the coffee table.

John bids him the same and heads up to his room to get ready for bed.

*

The very next evening, they are walking through the park, near enough to one another to share body heat. It’s early in autumn yet, but the past few nights have already grown chillier and this one is no exception. The trees are already beginning to shed their leaves, some them sport bald patches in their lower branches whilst still wearing full crowns on top.

In the comfortable silences that fall into the natural rhythm of their conversation about the case, John picks out the soft susurrus of Sherlock’s coat swishing gently against the backs of his legs, the easy tap of their shoes on the pavement, and even more importantly, the contented, vibrant hum of their Link. It’s all made easy because there aren’t many other people around tonight, most choosing to stay in where it’s warm.

John is carefully mulling on how to bring up what happened last night, picking through a thousand ways to open the conversation in a private part of his mind, at least until Sherlock suddenly freezes beside him, body tense, expression alert. The detective cocks his head at an angle, his eyes on the sky.

An ominous silence descends around them as what few birds and squirrels have been minding their own business about the park completely stop what they are doing; only then does John hear the long notes of a raptor’s cry as a huge black and white bird swoops down from the sky with the speed and intent of a freshly dropped missile.

:Look out, John!: Sherlock warns.

True to his nature, John doesn’t have to be told twice and he hits the pavement to present as small a target as possible as the bird passes over his head, the tips of its flight feathers ruffling his hair. He looks over his shoulder just as it turns mid-flight and opens its sharp beak to let out a furious, ear-splitting screech and dives towards him again. John can Feel its unadulterated rage.

:Down!:

Sherlock’s command comes through loud and clear; this time John flattens himself against the walkway. The bird makes a second pass and he can almost feel the press of the bird as it flies over him. Above his head from where he is prone, he can clearly make out the swish of Sherlock’s coat as it’s dropped unceremoniously over him, like a blanket or a suit of armor, he doesn’t really take the time to contemplate. He keeps his head down, though, because the bird—an Osprey, he recognizes—is now on its third return trip and it is getting closer to sinking four-inch talons into his back. Doing his best to avoid being impaled, he flips to his side and scoots into a crouch, back bowed, hands on his head as would best protect him with or without the Belstaff.

Just as something heavy thuds to the ground next to him, he hears an angry hiss. John sits up fast, shoving Sherlock’s coat off his shoulders, in order to see that the Cat is standing on his hind legs, front legs extended and toes stretched as far as they are able, smacking at the hairsbreadth of no man’s land that somehow exists between the Osprey’s broad breast and Sherlock’s claws. The Cat’s jaws are wide open, prominently displaying his rather menacing fangs. The Osprey swings its powerful wings in an arc, almost catching the Cat upside the head until the feline ducks to one side then instantly righting himself. Back on four paws, the Cat growls, his ears going flat. He spits as the bird misses another strike, screaming again when its talons meet nothing but empty air.

The Osprey’s eyes are cold and calculating, black pupils tiny in their golden irises. John sees Sherlock duck to avoid the bird’s deadly claws, then his worry shifts to its incredibly jackknife-like beak as the bird’s head darts back and forth, aiming for the Cat’s eyes.

Sherlock like this is faster and more agile than the raptor, however, ducking and spinning in place as the bird finally gains enough space to stretch its wings out and take off. Without a look backward, the Cat gallops after it, twisting his body and leaping up towards it, trying for purchase. John scrambles to push himself off the pavement and gives chase to the two animals, his heels crunching on grass already beginning to lie dormant.

:Sherlock!: He Calls.

There’s no answer but he can soon see why that would be. All of Sherlock’s considerable feline prowess is being used to hold his body aloft in an oak tree that was probably already ancient when the Knights of the Round Table were first organized. The Cat is far up in the high branches, hissing and spitting and doing his level best to claw at the Osprey who seems hellbent on knocking him from his precarious perch.

The massive feathered fiend is screeching and grabbing at the Cat with its feet, obviously aiming to skewer Sherlock in the head as quickly as possible. Like before, though, the Were is ducking and twisting out of the Osprey’s reach, which is only serving to make the bird even angrier.

On the ground where he is losing sight of the battle fast, John is torn. He widens his stance, grateful for the feel of the Browning against his back. In the rapidly dying light, however, there’s a strong risk that he may aim at the avian and inadvertently hit the feline. Still undecided, he reaches around and rests his hand against the butt of the gun as both the decision and the choice are ripped from his hands.

Another bird, this time an equally enormous Eagle Owl barrels into the Osprey, causing it to drop like a bomb towards the hard ground. The two birds scream and hiss at one another as they roll, sharp beaks tearing at throats and feathers flying everywhere. John takes refuge in the tree, climbing as close as he dares to the tiny limbs where Sherlock is now stretched out, green eyes taking in the entire scene below them.

With a final scream that Sounds to John awfully like a Warning, the Owl flaps his great wings and the Osprey stops struggling, one wing pinned to the ground by a strong claw. John can no longer make out the exact details of the fight, but it seems to him that the Owl has won by a landslide.

John’s attention is pulled away from the fight when the Cat slowly creeps down the branches and into his arms. The next thing John witnesses is the Osprey taking to the sky, albeit much clumsier than before, as several of its flight feathers have been pulled out, leaving gaps in its right wing.

John carefully makes his way down the tree, still cradling the Cat against his chest. When at last he makes it back to the ground, the Owl gives him the once-over with the flick of his head. John Reaches out to show their gratitude, but he’s cut off by Sherlock’s Mindvoice.

:Thank you.:

The Owl does not reply, only blinks once more at them and, dramatically spreading his wings, pulls himself skyward. John watches him and thinks that there’s something familiar about the bird.

:Could you take me to my clothes, John?: Sherlock queries, breaking into the train of John’s thoughts.

John recognizes then that the shifter in his arms is shivering. He makes for the spot on the pavement where they started and bends down to retrieve the pile of hunter green shirt, black trousers with the belt still in them, socks, pants and Sherlock’s coat. After he wraps the Cat in the coat and manages to shove the pile of Sherlock’s clothes under his arm, he heads back out to the main road and hails a taxi, thinking only of getting Sherlock home where he can check him over.

Chapter Text

:9: Kiss, Revisited

“John, I am fine,” Sherlock grits out between clenched teeth. He is sitting sidewise on the the sofa, right leg tucked beneath himself and back to the armrest, shoulders rounded and head down, all the curls on his scalp falling over his face in the same direction as if they lack the will to fall the other way. There’s a pretty good reason for the wet-and-then-dried-in-a-hurricane-poodle look, however, and that reason is one particularly concerned ex-Army doctor. He sighs, perhaps adding a bit of a dramatic flair by pushing his head up into John’s hands a little, then decides that he’s not going to be able to fight John reassuring himself.

John leans forward from the waist where he’s standing with his hip almost resting against Sherlock’s shoulder, fingers deep in the ebony mess on Sherlock’s head, doing his best to probe gently for knots or contusions and not get lost in the way the lamplight of the sitting room shines on each glossy hair. At least that’s what he says he is doing. In reality, he’s reassuring himself that the Osprey’s scythe-like talons came nowhere near Sherlock’s feline skull. John pulls a few bits of dried leaves and a tiny twig from under the silky curls, but finds nothing more. No bumps, lumps or soft spots, everything seems well. In a minute he’s going to stop pretending to be assessing and not just touching then they will start talking. That’s the plan anyway. He will get to addressing that in a minute. Right.

In the space of three heartbeats, John realizes all over again that he really quite enjoys touching Sherlock; this is different than all the times they’ve made physical contact so far. He has also discovered that he is quite addicted to the sense of mutual contentment that hums along the Link; not like earlier where that steady expression of it seemed to have disappeared altogether; as if Sherlock had Blocked him. He wonders why the detective would do that, especially in the middle of such a scene as a huge Osprey appearing from out of nowhere and attacking them.

:That bird doesn’t even belong around here, does it?: John Asks.

Under his hands, Sherlock lets loose another long sigh, but this time it’s much less overly dramatic and a lot more relaxed, grounded. John adjusts his stance so that he might knead Sherlock’s shoulders; Sherlock groans softly at the contact.

John wants to bring up the conversation he’s been putting off for days, the one that’s going to involve discussing feelings and the like. He works a particularly stubborn spot below the base of Sherlock’s neck. Sherlock rolls his neck against the pressure, helping John ease the stiffness out of the muscles and practically melting into John’s palms then jerks forward, breaking their contact as if he suddenly realized what he’d just done.

“Sorry,” John mutters, meaning more than what he sees as pushing the physical stuff.

“No, don’t apologize,” Sherlock grumbles out loud, leaning back again. “And, no, Ospreys generally only summer here.” Mentally, he tells John, :I enjoy your touch. Sometimes I forget.:

John nods in understanding, continuing the massage. “Take this off,” he commands, picking at Sherlock’s dressing gown. “A Shifter then, or a Were?”

Sherlock pulls away long enough to divest himself of the powder blue silk then scoots farther up on the sofa in order to give John room to sit down behind him. “You couldn’t tell?”

John shakes his head then slowly runs the palms of his hands over sharp shoulder blades, using his thumbs to outline the broad, flat bones. :One day, I’d like to touch you more.: He hesitates for a moment, considering the odd blankness that seemed to exist around the Osprey and the Eagle Owl that appeared out of nowhere, apparently a shifter dues et machina.

“I don’t know how to explain it, Sherlock. There was this…well, like a vacuum around the bird. I could barely Feel you.” He scratches the back of his neck as Sherlock turns around and regards him, puzzlement written all over his face.

“That isn’t possible,” he tells John.

“Well, it happened. I didn’t even realize it at the time, to be honest, which is even stranger. In fact, until I started thinking about it, I’d never have noticed.”John caresses the side of Sherlock’s face now until the other man leans in towards him, his gaze rapt. “It was like a hole, a gap. Something,” he frowns and shrugs.

:What are you looking for?: John queries, fighting himself from shortening the distance between them. The Link vibrates happily, but the undercurrent of Want is clearer now that it has been yet.

:You always tell me the truth.: Sherlock answers blatantly.

“I have no reason to lie to you, Sherlock,” John agrees, understanding everything that isn’t being discussed.

In the half-second before Sherlock takes the plunge and kisses John, he Sends out a feeler, searching for permission. It is granted just as quickly.

This time when their mouths touch, John automatically angles his chin and allows Sherlock to oh so tentatively lick the seam of his lips. It’s a cautious bid of curiosity, one that, should John decide against continuing, Sherlock could immediately pull back and attempt to pretend it was a mistake. John knows better so he tugs Sherlock even closer by grasping his bare shoulders and pushing himself forward against the hard planes of Sherlock’s chest whilst their mouths and tongues create new stanzas for an ancient, epic poem.

There’s so much building between them, many things they’ve said and have yet to say but neither can force himself just to relax and trust he isn’t going to be rejected by the other even now. It is a wonderful thing, this, and if the emphatic joy that waltzes up and down the Link they have created could be made into light and colorized—they would light up the entire street with golds and silvers, perhaps the whole block or even the entire city. Or even the very zenith wrapping about the Earth…

When they come up for air John is on the floor on his knees, the sun worshiping the moon. Sherlock is curled around him, one broad palm on either side of his neck as if he’s afraid to move too far out of his orbit. John leans forward and smiles, his hands grasping the strong, lean thighs that cage him. Each time Sherlock moves, he can feel the play of the muscles beneath thin black trousers.

:I want you so badly.: John Sends, not the least bit self-conscious as he rubs Sherlock’s biceps, forearms, his hands then runs his fingers across his flat belly. He goes still as he waits for Sherlock to either give permission to go farther or revoke it.

:And I, you, John.:

John remains where he is, only shifting a bit to get off of his knees in order to rest his bum against the floor. In this manner, he can allow his hands to rest on Sherlock’s thighs, yet still allow him space to consider his answer.

Sherlock cards his fingers through John’s hair, green eyes burning with barely concealed desire and a hint of something unnameable. John’s channels are wide open, and Sherlock wants so badly to simply take all that is on offer. For a moment he reflects on the ridiculous notion of sex being stupid that he had when he was younger; there's more important things to discuss at the moment, however, no matter the opinion of the lower half of his body.

After a minute or two of carefully studying John’s face, Sherlock lets go in order to rest against the sofa’s back. “You always tell me the truth.”

John nods and pushes himself off the floor. There’s an odd feeling pulsing along their Link that he doesn’t completely understand. He settles into his chair. “Yes, I do. You said that earlier.”

Sherlock closes his eyes then opens them again, too slowly to be called a blink. In the instant that he refocuses, John accepts that he is splayed wide open for the detective to dissect. Truly believing that he hasn’t left anything out, he stares back. After a few seconds of this, he drops his Shield completely.

“That. You did it again,” Sherlock’s wearing the expression he wears when he’s come across something that stymies even him.

:This?: John Asks as he raises his Shields then immediately drops them again.

“Yes,” Sherlock agrees. “That.”

“Alright, why is this so fascinating? John exhales, allowing some of the nervous tension suddenly filling the space between them to dissipate.

Sherlock ignores John’s question, answering with one of his own instead. “You would let me in that far?”

“Yes, Sherlock, I would. I will. I explained why I was so hesitant, you accepted me…and now, what? Are you having second thoughts because of Toby? It’s fine. I…I understand…”

“No, John,” Sherlock moves fast when he so desires and he is perched on the arm of John’s chair, his mouth pressed against John’s, before John can even take a breath to complete his sentence.

John Reaches out, trying to grasp what it is Sherlock is trying to learn. Sherlock Returns with reassurance. John relaxes into the kiss and hauls Sherlock down into his lap. :You’ve come to be everything to me, Sherlock. Why wouldn’t I let you into the center of all that I am?:

:You are afraid that one day you’ll descend into a depressive rage because of the times you did the same with Toby while you were recovering.:

:I am.:

:Yet, my fear is that if I get in too far…:

:Go on, Sherlock. Please.: John cups the back of Sherlock’s head as their kiss grows deeper, hotter.

:When you realize I’m not enough, I’ll never be able to return to myself.: Sherlock answers after melding his front against John’s chest and slowly rocking his hips into the space between their groins.

“What?” John says aloud, pushing Sherlock away enough to look up into his face, yet holding him still when it seems he’s about to bolt.

An odd trio pictures pass down the Link: behind his eyes, John can see a small, rough-coated terrier, what seems to be a test tube on fire and finally, what seems to be a stick figure holding two square flags on long poles. The flags are red and yellow; the figure holds one above his head and one down at his side with the red facing away from the figure.

Realizing that it is Sherlock’s turn to talk, John tucks him against his chest. “Tell me,” he commands gently, keeping his arms around the warm, bare skin as Sherlock drapes his legs over the side of John’s.

“I was fifteen when I met the only other Were besides blood relatives who bothered to get to know me until then.”

“How is that possible?”

Sherlock shrugs, glad that John isn’t going to ask the most obvious question yet. “I have always stayed mostly to myself, John, even you must realize this.”

“Alright,” John acknowledges. He shifts and is happy to discover that the raging erection from a few minutes ago has decided to run for the hills for the time being as he settles in to hear the story Sherlock is allowing into the light for the first time.


 

These are the flags in the mental picture Sherlock Sends to John. It may be a clue to the next part of the story!

 

Chapter Text

:10: Genius: Then and Now

By the time he gets to tell John his story, Sherlock Holmes is well known for the powers of his mind. Sherlock at age fifteen was not much different, though he’d just discovered his ability to shapeshift and the idea completely obsessed him. Unlike other families Sherlock knew of, the Holmes were unembarrassed by their many Were and Shifter relatives and actively encouraged the practice in their sons. Of their parents, only Daddy Holmes is a shifter, a rather docile-appearing white Bengal Tiger with thick fur and a heavy belly, though his brother is a stately Buzzard and their grandmother a sleek black leopard.

Mummy has discussed Links and Bonds and Anchors with Sherlock ad nauseum and his curiosity of the subject is burning him up. In fact, she dug through the Holmes library and gifted to him the very thick tome he’s got open across his lap at the moment, a handwritten treatise of everything the Holmes family knows about the physical, mental and even some theories on the metaphysical phenomenon that partially involves humans possessing the capabilities to Shift into animals at least part of the time. Once he decided that shifting to a plain old housecat could have its moments and didn’t mean he was lesser to any of his family in any way, he jumped right into the information feet first.

Young Sherlock is on the ground, long legs stretched out in front of him, back to a wide old oak tree with his head bowed over the book. With one finger he is following the tiny green scrawl line by line, soaking in every word, eyes flashing from side to side, almost speed-reading. By the time he notices the white terrier that has attached its rather annoying self to his ankle via its tiny, sharp teeth, Sherlock is annoyed beyond repair. Naturally, he says the first thing that comes to mind.

“Ow! What the hell was that for?” He peers down at the growling cur and grabs it, none too daintily, by the scruff of its neck and pinches. The dog immediately lets go but Sherlock does not. Bringing the animal close enough to his face to see its eyes, he frowns and lowers the canine to the ground. “Who are you?”

At once the light around the dog seems to bend and it Shifts into its human form, which turns out to be a broad-shouldered, strawberry blond-curly haired youth whose blue eyes sparkle with mischief. Though he’s as naked as the day he was born, he holds out a hand in Sherlock’s direction. “The name’s Victor,” he grins, “Victor Trevor.”

Sherlock looks at Victor’s hand, then back at his muscular chest and swallows, his throat suddenly gone dry. He tilts his head to the side, considering and finally holds out his own hand. Victor grabs it and pumps it vigorously, an action that causes the flaccid member between his legs to bounce in time.

Sherlock stares at it, then, realizing what he’s doing, blushes furiously and does his best to burrow into the book in his lap, saying nothing for fear his twisted tongue will betray his lack of experience.

“Ah, don’t be embarrassed. Happens to us all. Sorry about the bite, mate, but you have c-a-t written all over you.” Victor gestures towards Sherlock’s ankle, where there’s almost nothing left of the wound now but some dried blood and dark pink skin. “Oh,” he says softly, his own eyes flickering over the lanky teenager trying hard to make himself invisible. “That’s why.”

Victor drops down on the ground next to him, leaving only enough distance that they aren’t touching. “What’re you reading?”

“Nothing that would interest the likes of you,” Sherlock snarls, still not meeting the newcomer’s eyes.

Instead of standing up and marching away in a huff, Victor laughs. “Well, then, what are you about? Out here in the park on a frankly gorgeous day, hiding in the shade with your nose in a giant book?”

Victor reaches out and makes like he’s going to flip the cover up but Sherlock is faster and he hauls the tome against his chest, glaring but finally looking at Victor.

“You. Would. Not. Be. Interested,” he bites out.

“Well, then, why not?” Victor grins, crossing his arms over his chest. His very naked chest.

Sherlock gulps, forcing his attention to remain on Victor’s face and mentally admonishing himself against his foolish thoughts. “Why are you talking to me?”

Victor shrugs and scratches at the back of his neck. “You’re interesting. What can I say?”

“Oh, you always tell people they’re fascinating by sinking your teeth into their legs?” Sherlock frowns as he yanks his legs up, bending them at the knees and planting his trainer-clad feet on the ground as if daring Victor to move him.

“Fine!” Victor chuckles, raising his hands in the air. “Is this your hobby then, deciphering old books with snarly handwriting?”

“Is it your hobby to run amok like a mangy mongrel and bite people? How do I know you aren’t rabid?” Sherlock leans towards Victor, attempting to use his newly found height to intimidate the other boy.

Victor rests a hand on Sherlock’s shoulder, picking idly at the blue cotton t-shirt. This time when their eyes meet, Sherlock doesn’t waver and Victor doesn’t back down.

For the first time in his life Sherlock finds himself being studied the way he studies everyone and everything around him.

“You are fascinating,” Victor breathes as he leans forward, not enough that they actually touch but enough to show his intent.

Sherlock ignores it, though he isn’t dim enough not to know Victor’s intention. “I have other interests, if you must know. They are not hobbies, however.”

“Such as?” Victor’s voice has gone deep.

Sherlock is dismayed to find that the heat seeping through his shirt from Victor’s hand is distracting him from pushing this apparently insane—and possibly rabid—creature away from him. He doesn’t though, and he needs to figure out why.

“I do research.”

“Yeah, I bet you do,” Victor raises a white-gold eyebrow, “I can imagine what you look like under those clothes.” He indicates Sherlock’s jeans with a jab of his chin.

Sherlock shakes his head. “No, not sex, sex is stupid, Victor.”

Victor lets go of Sherlock’s shoulder immediately and moves back several feet. Sherlock finds himself regretting his words the instant they shoot past his tongue. For some reason he doesn’t like the disappointed look on Victor’s face. He scoots a little closer and copies Victor’s movement earlier by resting his hand on the other boy’s shoulder. There’s a visible change in Victor’s expression, something that Sherlock would almost describe as yearning if he only knew better.

“I…” Sherlock glances down towards Victor’s groin and forces his thoughts to heel. He sighs. “I don’t think sex is stupid, I’ve just never…”

“Oh!” Victor’s face lights up with understanding. He leans towards Sherlock again, this time not touching him, but holding his gaze. “How old are you anyway?”

Sherlock contemplates lying, but since there seems to be nothing to gain from it, tells the truth. “Fifteen.”

“Alright, then.” Victor seems to relax a little. “I can handle that. I’m seventeen, won’t be eighteen until September. Would you like to go for a run?”

“What?” Sherlock asks, a bit dumbfounded and though it is hard to miss, apparently rendered a bit slow by the misdirection of blood flow from his brain to parts much more southerly.

“A run. You know, you Shift, I Shift, we have a gambol across the park, you come back here and I go home.”

“Why?” Sherlock asks, stumbling over the word.

Once again, Victor laughs out loud. “Come on, I’m sure you take a run with your friends loads of the time!”

“No.” Sherlock really doesn’t want to admit that he doesn’t really have anyone he considers to be his friend, so he clams up.

“Come on, now, don’t be that way, mate. It will be fun!”

“You want to be friends with…me?” Sherlock detests how young he sounds.

“Sure,” Victor agrees, scrambling to his feet.

“You don’t know anything about me,” Sherlock states, pulling back into himself.

“Yes, I do, now come on,” Victor insists.

Sherlock stands but makes no effort to disrobe. Victor frowns down at him and Sherlock makes a mental note of the three and one half inches that separate them in height. “Tell me what you know.” Surely, he thinks, Victor will fail at telling Sherlock anything about himself and he can go back to his research.

“Alright, fine, I already know your Shift is a cat, probably a tomcat and probably black by the color of your hair and the faint lines between your eyes that show me you spend a lot of time frowning. Most toms are surly, so there you are. Obviously you live close by,” here he turns his head back and forth, practically doglike, trying to look through the trees. “I’d say that way, but I’m probably wrong,” he grins, pointing towards the south.

Sherlock says nothing, not agreeing or disagreeing in any manner, trying to remain inscrutable though inside he’s actually impressed.

“There’s really only one thing I don’t know, actually.” Victor taps the side of his head with his index finger and shuffles his bare feet in the grass.

“Well?” Sherlock leads.

“Your name!” Victor laughs.

This time, Sherlock finds the laughter infectious and a small, shy grin cracks through his rigid facade. “I’m Sherlock,” he offers in a quiet voice.

“Whee oh, then, Sherlock, let’s go for that run!”

Victor Shifts into the terrier again and Sherlock watches the hyper little dog run in circles before bounding through the trees. Without stopping to consider anything more, Sherlock drops his clothes and follows suit in his own four-legged form.

*

“…and?” John asks.

Sherlock frowns, turning a quizzical expression up to the doctor from where he’s slid onto the floor between John’s feet. ‘Melted’ is probably a better word, but he’s not about to say it out loud. Fairly certain that the rest of his tale would be obvious, he lets the question hang for a few moments before answering it. There’s a gentle tug on their Link reminding him that John is listening intently, hanging on every word, it reminds him that John will take any miniscule detail of Sherlock’s life he’s willing to parse out and return it to him buffed and shined by the simple fact that John permits him the space in which to share it.

Sherlock finds himself suddenly interested in several short blond hairs on John’s toes. He picks at them carefully until John nudges him with his foot.

:Quit stalling.:

Sherlock grins to himself as he hauls his lanky body back into John’s lap, the chair beneath them creaking out its irritation at being used like a gym set. Exhaling slowly, he returns John’s gaze.

“We became friends, sort of. More than acquaintances, but not…not like this,” he pauses, gesturing between them with his index finger.

“I understand, he was your friend, Sherlock.”

Sherlock watches John for a moment more, making sure he’s really as alright with this as he says he is; probing at the Link, he discovers, as always, that John’s words ring true.

“It seemed he was always finding me, no matter where I hid…no matter where I happened to be: the Library, the park, he even caught me at the train station once five minutes after I’d arrived back from visiting my grandparents. He always seemed to know where I was and when I’d be there.”

John nods sagely, in complete understanding but absolutely not mentioning the fact Sherlock has done the same thing to him many times since they first met. “He really liked you,” he states, toying with the curl over Sherlock’s eye.

Sherlock shrugs, accepting that he didn’t understand it then and doesn’t really understand it now. That leads him to the thought that he doesn’t really understand how John can put up with him…but before his mind rushes into a loop, John rests a hand on the top of Sherlock’s thigh, causing his thoughts to come to a complete halt. He looks down at John’s hand and watches as he covers it with his own, then looks back up at John.

:I’m right here, Sherlock. Stay here with me?:

Sherlock stares into John’s affectionate expression and nods. :Thank you.:

:Wow, that’s amazing!: John teases as he Sends happiness and joy down the Link.

Sherlock cocks an eyebrow and smirks. :Aren’t I always?:

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it!” John chuckles.

Sherlock frowns again; John reads him loud and clear. “You. You’ve said ‘thank you’ twice in the past, what? Eighteen hours or so?”

“Yes, see what you’ve done to me, John? You’ve turned my brain into mu…phrumph…”

Sherlock words stay put in his mouth because John makes a snap decision and decides the detective needed a kiss right then. Sherlock reciprocates, his hand slowly working its way up John’s shoulder, to the collar of his shirt and then to the back of his neck where it rests. As their kiss grows more heated, he takes the initiative and slowly moves his palm to the front of John’s jeans, not quite surprised in the least to feel the heat of arousal there.

John instantly pulls back and moans. “Good god.”

Intrigued now, Sherlock lets his fingers dance over John’s zippered fly, pressing down only enough to pull another long groan from John’s throat. He swallows hard, feeling the blaze of heat on his face. He needs to see John overcome by pleasure right now, so he Asks, knowing full well that if he tries to speak, he’s going to completely cock it up.

:May I?:

“Oh yes,” John half-mutters as he cants his hips upward, even harder now beneath Sherlock’s palm. “Only, though, only if you are sure.”

:I’m sure, John.:

They move towards each other at the same time, their mouths meeting in a tangle of tongues and lips, their kiss growing more passionate and less tentative. Sherlock deftly unzips John’s fly and tugs his jeans down enough to pull most of his cock from his pants. With the thrill of discovery, Sherlock carefully wraps his hand around it and ever so slowly tugs.

John groans under his breath again, throwing his head back. Sherlock takes advantage of the situation and attaches his lips then teeth to the side of John’s neck. John is a warm weight in his hand, his legs under Sherlock’s thighs trembling slightly from the pinned-down position. Sherlock studies his face, using the knowledge of his own body and John’s expressions to let him know when John is so very close.

“Sherlock…” John warns.

:I want to see you come.:

John shivers against Sherlock’s rumbly Mind Voice, opens his mouth to warn him once more but his orgasm hits him fast. “Gah,” he grits out as Sherlock starts to slide back to the floor but John is having none of it, so he hauls him back up into the chair and takes possession of his mouth. When they part once more, John caresses the side of Sherlock’s face, “Your hands are incredible.”

“Well, John,” Sherlock smirks, though even he admits that the effect is probably lost with the flush he can feel burning his face, “that was just one hand…”

He’s cut off, though, by the loud knock and subsequent opening of the door. Mrs. Hudson peers inside, smiles and says, “There’s a client downstairs.”

Without looking to John, Sherlock asks her, “Possibly we need about five minutes.”

Mrs. Hudson winks at him, nods, and disappears again, closing the door as she goes.

“Oh my god, I’m so glad you are sitting there right now. Don’t need Hudders getting an eyeful…” John snorts, attempting to control his laughter but it wins out and he giggles.

Sherlock laughs, too, a deep, throaty sound that John will never tire of hearing. He offers John a peck on the lips then gracefully unfolds out of the chair. “We need to change quickly, we have a client!”

Together they share another laugh and John is still giggling under his breath five minutes later when they are redressed and he’s turned on the kettle and they can both hear the client’s footsteps on the stairs in the hall.

Chapter Text

:11: High and Dry

“So, you see, Mr. Holmes, my nephew has been AWOL for two months now and I was hoping…” Mable, their client, sobs politely into the pink handkerchief she’s clutching in her hand like a life preserver. “He’s such a gentle soul, there’s no way he’ll survive a Court Martial…”

From his armchair, where he’s perching like a pasha who wears his emeralds in his eyes rather than on his fingers, Sherlock sniffs disdainfully at the crumpled-up, sodden wad in Mable’s fist, ogling it as if he’s afraid she’s going to attempt to touch him with it. She looks up, mascara running down her face, red nose drippy and all he can conjure up about the entire situation is irritation. The foot he’s been tapping on the floor begins a faster rhythm.

“John…” Sherlock lifts his eyebrows, using one hand to gesture at the woman as if pleading for John to make her, if not less gooey, possibly easier to understand.

John, who has just returned to the room from the kitchen, has both hands wrapped around a tea tray on which he’s balanced their tea kettle, three cups, sugar, cream and a small plate of biscuits. He sighs as he places the tray on the coffee table, then Sends Sherlock a little bit of affection in an attempt to calm his nerves, which he’s sure are stretched about as thin as they generally may be expected to go before he snaps and begins deducing things about her she’s probably not prepared to share.

:Considering what was on your hands twenty minutes ago, are you really so concerned about a bit of mucus and tears?:

John can Hear Sherlock’s snort of disdain. :You are not contagious, John. Besides, it was only one hand.: As if that were the most ridiculous thing John’s ever said to him. John manages to stifle a very inappropriate grin by turning towards Mable and offering her a cuppa. She gives him a watery thanks and accepts a cup with cream, no sugar, thanks. He takes his own beverage to the sofa, since she planted herself in his chair seconds after flitting through the door.

Sherlock, uncharacteristically because he’s still mostly thinking about earlier, gives Mable a moment to compose herself; it turns out to be completely wasted because the moment she opens her mouth to speak, she breaks down and cries all the harder.

“Ms…” Sherlock tries in between watery sobs, a trifle annoyed that he’d deleted her name the moment she said it to John, as useless as that information often proves to be.

“Just call me Mable, Mr. Holmes,” she gets out between gasping sobs, choosing to ignore the fact that she’s already told him the same thing twice.

Sherlock gives John his most ‘this is ridiculous’ glare and rubs the arms of his chair. He pushes off of it and strides out of the sitting room. :John, please do something with her.:

John can barely make out the sound of the bedroom door closing over Mable’s weeping. He’s not exactly irritated at Sherlock’s behavior, more like unsurprised. The genius detective has never done well with people crying all over their flat, and he’s probably not going to start having more patience just because they are Linked. He clears his throat and puts his cup down.

“Ms. Wright? Did you say?” Mable nods, wiping at her nose. :I hate that shade of pink.: “Look, maybe we have gotten off to a bad start, why don’t you take a card,” John explains as he digs one of Sherlock’s business cards from beneath a toppled stack of papers on his desk. He encourages her to stand by walking over to the door and offering the card.

She takes the hint and adjusts her clothing before taking the card with a sniff. “Thank you, Doctor Watson. I’m just so concerned about my nephew, no one can understand why he’d jump ship like this out of nowhere…oh,” she draws her hankie out of her pocket and dabs at her eyes, which succeeds in doing nothing more than smudging her mascara further, giving her the overall impression of a middle-aged, slightly overweight raccoon in a pink overcoat and pink ‘sensible’ shoes. John notices that her fingernails are also the same shade. Yes, if he didn’t before, he definitely has an aversion to that color now.

Mable tucks the business card away into a pocket and hefts her very large and very pink handbag over her shoulder. “I apologize Doctor Watson, I promise to give you a call tomorrow once I get myself back together. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, and please pass my gratitude on to Mr. Holmes. I am so terribly worried about my nephew…”

“I understand, Ms. Wright. Thank you for coming, I’m sure we can work something out. Would you like me to call you a cab?”

Mable shakes her head to the negative as she steps gingerly down the stairs. John watches her until she’s out of sight, then after he hears the outside door open and close, he shuts and locks their door. He sighs and leans against it, still partially reeling from the orgasm earlier and the fact that he’s ninety-nine percent sure he’s headed for creating a Bond with Sherlock. That thought alone is almost enough to make him weak at the knees. He straightens up, double-checks the lock, gives the tea things a glance—they aren’t going anywhere—and heads towards the bedroom.

“Sherlock, what…oh my god,” John’s voice pitches high in the middle of his statement and trails off to virtually nonexistent by the end because the sight greets him almost makes him begin to weep. And that would probably be a huge mistake, because…well…damn.

Sherlock, completely naked, is stretched out the bed on his belly, facing the doorway with his chin propped on his hands. As if John had been gone for hours instead of minutes, Sherlock purrs, “Hello, John.”

John knows his jaw drops open though he’s completely helpless to do anything but stare at the miles of smooth skin in front of him. His fingers curl into fists at his side as he restrains himself from jumping up there and licking every inch of it. Somewhere in the space still left in the back of his reptile brain, he thinks: This is It.

:What took you so long?:

John practically starts at the intrusion into his mind, pulling his concentration away from the luscious acres of plush detective arse and long, beautiful back laid out like a buffet for him alone. Barely realizing he's unbuttoning his shirt and feeling the weight of Sherlock’s gaze with every movement of his fingers, he makes an attempt to explain.

“I tried to calm her, Sherlock, but she is really concerned about her nephew. Apparently he went AWOL from his ship over a month ago, I can’t imagine the trouble he’s going to land in, once they find him…” John is fully aware he’s babbling but cannot seem to stop it.

:John.: Sherlock’s Mind Voice slices John’s thoughts cleanly in two. :There’s more important things to be concerned with right now.: He actually wiggles his behind. John stares even harder.

When John still doesn’t move, though he’s made progress, he’s got his shirt and his vest off, Sherlock gracefully raises himself up on his hands and scoots towards the left side of the bed, leaving an open space and a clear invitation, but on the off chance John has derailed completely, he Sends: :Join me?:

If there’s anything else John has ever wanted more in that moment in his entire life, it has been completely obliterated by the bounty in front of him. Unzipping his jeans and letting them drop to the floor then climbing onto the mattress next to Sherlock in one smooth movement, John pauses on his knees and Reaches out.

:Are you still sure?:

John Receives Desire and Need and returns it along with Want and Affection. He leans down to begin placing a trail of petal soft kisses from the base of Sherlock’s neck down his spine. Beneath him, the detective hums and purrs contentedly. Kneading one well-formed buttock with the palm of his hand, John moves upward again in order to gently grasp the skin on Sherlock’s nape in his teeth. He worries it a bit then sucks and finally laves the little red mark with his tongue.

Sherlock moans. :How many more times do you need to hear me say ‘yes’ John?:

John pats Sherlock’s side, a simple request that he turn over; he strokes Sherlock’s chest and runs questing fingers down the sparse happy trail before answering, thoroughly enjoying every single quiet groan and intake of breath he coaxes from the detective. :As many times as it takes.:

Sherlock makes an odd sound in the back of his throat as he grabs the back of John’s head and hauls him downward towards his mouth. Licking his way in, he swallows every sound of pleasure he teases out of John, until John’s incredibly warm palm and practiced surgeon’s fingers are wrapped around his prick. He unselfconsciously rolls his hips upward, searching for more friction as he drowns in John’s mouth. Sherlock is caught there as if hanging in time, between the delicious feel and taste of John and the intense wave of his own pleasure as John skillfully strokes him.

:Purr for me, Sherlock.: John lets go in order to rub his palm up Sherlock’s sternum, then trace fingertips across his pectorals.

Sherlock answers the plea with a rumbly sound, something like a cross between a growl and a purr, if a human could make such a noise. John finds himself almost shivering at the sound as it travels from his ears and down his spine, leaving tracers in his synapses.

:Christ, Sherlock, if I would have known this is what was waiting for me, I might have pushed Ms. Wright out a whole helluva lot quicker than I did.: He flicks his tongue at Sherlock’s right nipple while at the same time squeezing with the fingers now wrapped back around Sherlock’s cock.

Somehow, Sherlock’s brain fuses two names he hasn’t heard in eighteen years between two strokes of John’s hand. He throws his head back and grabs John’s arm, effective stilling his movements.

“What?” John asks aloud, stymied at the abrupt change in mood.

“Please, for all that is logical and orderly on this planet, please tell me that Mable’s last name is not Wright.”

Sherlock’s eyes captivate John even now, quickly moving from almost dark to bright green in half a second. He gulps and adjusts himself in his pants. Their Link immediately changes, as well, from hot and sultry to cold and clinical as he nods his head and chews at his bottom lip; the answer is as clearly stated between them as if it were written on the ceiling in fifteen inch, bright yellow letters.

“No! Not now!” Sherlock growls, grabbing at his curls with both hands. John moves out of the way to avoid being clocked by Sherlock’s head when he sits up.

Suddenly, the flirty, come-hither expression is gone and he’s talking a mile a minute, softening cock waving as he grabs his trousers from the floor and steps into them, sans underwear. He rips open a dresser drawer in order to pull a t-shirt over his head and then he’s flying through the flat, leaving John gaping-mouthed and more than a little bit in shock.

“I’ve got to find her, right now!” Sherlock calls as he slams open the door and trots down the stairs. John makes it through the flat just in time to see the tail of his coat flying out the front door. Idly he wonders if it is possible to get a case of blue balls forty minutes after an orgasm then decides to get dressed and at least make an effort to catch up with the detective.

Chapter Text

:12: Costly Mistake

Suddenly, the flirty, come-hither expression is gone and he’s talking a mile a minute, softening cock waving as he grabs his trousers from the floor and steps into them, sans underwear. He rips open a dresser drawer in order to pull a t-shirt over his head and then he’s flying through the flat, leaving John gaping-mouthed and more than a little bit in shock.

“I’ve got to find her, right now!” Sherlock calls as he slams open the door and trots down the stairs. John makes it through the flat just in time to see the tail of his coat flying out the front door. Idly he wonders if it is possible to get a case of blue balls forty minutes after an orgasm then decides to get dressed and at least make an effort to catch up with the detective.

 

“Sherlock!” John calls as he rushes down the steps in the detective’s wake. He’s hurriedly thrown on some clothes, only stopping long enough to make sure he was reasonably decent with the majority of any offending skin covered—one part of his body in particular. He barges through the outside door, leaving it swinging on its hinges, but his mind is too preoccupied at the moment to spare it a second thought as he is forced to stop and blink against the brightness.

Mid-afternoon in London is always the same: when the sun is shining in any manner, people are everywhere. John shouts for Sherlock again, knowing it’s a useless endeavor as his voice barely carries above the din of chatter, honks of automobiles, the loud engines of busses and even the muffled bark of a small dog tucked into a lady’s handbag somewhere.

John stops short, stuffing his hands into his pockets and shaking his head. His head!

:Sherlock? How far have you gotten?:

He starts walking again, staying close to the buildings to his right. When he has to stop to cross traffic at a corner, Sherlock Answers him.

:I’m here.:

John turns his head, his ears having caught the slightest rustle of material, and finds Sherlock standing beside him, back against the wall, head down, and hands shoved down in his pockets, looking every bit as if he’s been waiting for John for hours rather than a few minutes.

“Well?” John asks, gently gripping Sherlock’s elbow.

Sherlock doesn’t move from his position, though, merely bends his knee and places one foot flat against the brickwork. “It’s her,” he mutters.

“What?” John takes a step closer, which jostles Sherlock’s arm a little bit.

The detective finally looks up at him and sighs wearily. “I still have more to tell you,” he shakes his head, “If you are still inclined to listen.”

“Why would I ever be otherwise?” John lets go and they turn together back towards the flat.

 

Back home with the tea made once again, John is seated comfortably in his chair, patiently waiting on Sherlock who has locked himself in the loo.

:Come on, you’ve been in there half an hour. Your tea will be cold.: John Sends.

Instead of the normal happy buzz he usually feels, their Link whirrs a bit; if John could see the colors he would insist on the one coming from Sherlock’s direction is icy blue. John turns that over in his mind a few times, curious as to why the detective is feeling so cold towards him at the moment.

“Sherlock,” he calls over his shoulder, “Look, we don’t have to talk about it today, you know. Let’s work on the case…” John trails off as the Cat pads his way into the sitting room. The feline stops at his feet and raises his head, meowing plaintively.

“You lazy bugger, you know you could make that jump easily,” John admonishes fondly as he leans down to bring the Cat into his lap after setting his cup down on the coffee table.

:It is easier for me to talk about it this way.: Sherlock Sends a bit of worry and insecurity towards John.

“Wait a minute,” John says aloud, “Whatever it is, I gave you my worst, right? So let’s be on an even keel here, alright? I’m not here to judge you, Sherlock, whatever happened.”

The Cat stands up on his hind legs in John’s in order to bump his head against the bottom of John’s chin. John smiles at him and strokes the silky fur down his back. With the other hand, he retrieves his tea in order to take a sip of it. Sherlock purrs as he’s curling up. He gives a very human-sounding sigh and John rests his head on the back of the chair, preparing to Accept whatever Sherlock is going to show him.

Like a character in a book he read not too long ago, John finds himself right in the middle of what seems to be Sherlock’s memory.

*

“Oh, come on, Victor, it’s just an experiment!” Sixteen-year-old Sherlock pleads with Victor, who has just entered Sherlock’s bedroom. The alarm clock on the side table reads 5:15; he’d gotten off work at five and drove straight over. As always, Sherlock’s parents nodded as he passed through the house, having accepted his presence in their lives over the past twelve months.

“What are you talking about?” Victor queries, frowning at the teenager who is practically taking up the entire space on the King-sized bed not covered by books, papers and what he’s sure is a bag of dead mice.

Sherlock sits up against the headboard then reaches out a drags the plastic satchel towards him. He deftly tucks down the mouse tails poking out of it and grins his lopsided grin at Victor as he snaps the bag closed. “Come on, you said ‘anything for you,’ remember?”

How could Victor forget? With those gorgeous eyes pinning him to the wall—and doing quite a good job roaming his body at the same time—Victor is sure he only did what any red-blooded man would do when faced with the intensely wondrous creature in front of him: promise him the moon and stars, and the comets and nebulas to boot.

Victor sighs and drops heavily on the bed next to Sherlock. He reaches out and rests his palm on Sherlock’s shin. Sherlock chuckles and bends forward, resting his hand atop Victor’s. He’s gained some height in the past year and now he barely has to tilt his head up to get to Victor’s lips. They kiss slowly, but Sherlock pulls back when Victor’s hand begins to wander.

Victor is reluctant to let him go, but he knows better than to push. He also knows Sherlock’s going to keep telling him ‘no’ until he gives in and goes along with the ‘experiment,’ which is all the younger boy has been talking about for months. He’d even shown Victor the notes in that big old book he’s got—not that much of it made any sense to Victor at all—and it seems like he knows what he’s talking about.

“You know neither one of us is an Anchor, Sherlock,” Victor states as he crawls up the bed to sit an arm’s length away from his boyfriend, toeing off his black high-tops as he goes.

“Yes, Victor, I am fully aware. It has been done, though. Not many times…besides, we seem to be compatible in all other ways, this won’t be that different.” Sherlock shimmies himself until they are face to face, casually caressing Victor’s cheek, while at the same time shoving a stack of books of the bed with his foot.

Victor still has his doubts, but he’s very well aware of the fact that he has lost this argument completely, because Sherlock pulls off his black t-shirt and tosses it into the corner of the room somewhere. Victor grabs him by the shoulders and kisses him again, this time long, hot and sloppy.

Sherlock’s arms roam down his back, long fingers pulling at the hem of his shirt. Victor leans forward, allowing Sherlock the space to pull it off of him. Sherlock immediately latches onto Victor’s neck.

Victor moans and wraps his legs around Sherlock’s hips, greatly encouraged to find him already hard and wanting.

:Alright, Sherlock. Alright.: Victor Sends, hoping that maybe this time Sherlock will be able to Receive the feelings as well as the words.

For the first time since they started testing all of this out, Sherlock Receives them, and though they are a bit weak, only pale imitations of the real thing, he takes their meaning and pushes Victor down onto his back. He swings his leg over Victor, effectively straddling him so that they can grind against each other.

“You know I want you,” Victor mumbles against Sherlock’s mouth. The younger boy’s hands answer for him as he unzips and yanks down Victor’s jeans.

:Yes.: Sherlock shoves clothing off and out of his way, wasting no time.

Before he can blink or even ask what Sherlock’s doing, he’s wrapped his lips around Victor and is sucking him hard. But Sherlock, even clumsy with inexperience, putting all of his concentration behind it, makes the experience so intense that all Victor can do is hold on and enjoy the ride.

In no time at all, Victor’s legs are tightly locked around Sherlock’s waist and Sherlock is balls deep inside of him. Within the rhythm of their bodies has also come a backbeat in their minds. Sherlock is focused on everything at once, while all Victor can concentrate on is the sharp, precise snap of the other boy’s hips against his own, the slap of sweating skin and the sweet taste of Sherlock’s mouth. He’s willingly opened his heart and his body to the young genius and now he does his best to force wide all of his Channels, the ones he’s still unsure even exist.

:Now, Victor!: Is the only warning Sherlock can give as he feels like he’s being pulled apart at both ends; there’s a push behind his eyes, alternately his body is nothing but heat before he goes cold and clammy and then, out cold, he falls forward against Victor’s chest. Somewhere in the back of his mind he hears a woman scream “Oh my God!” but he’s so far gone, now, he doesn’t even recognize his mother.

Chapter Text

:13: Regrets and Resolve

In a single graceful movement, the Cat leaps from John's lap to the floor and Shifts. Sherlock takes a seat on the sofa, never taking his eyes off John. John stares right back, Feeling the blank spot left in the story over their Link. He frowns.

“What happened, Sherlock?” John knows well enough when Sherlock is lying by omission. But why now? Normally he doesn’t push when there’s something Sherlock doesn’t want to share…yet, somehow this seems too important not to. He leans forward, resting his elbows on his thighs and drops his chin into his right palm. “Out with it.”

Across from him, Sherlock yanks the afghan off the back of the sofa and drapes it over his lap. Drawing his legs up to cross them beneath himself, he touches the tips of his fingers to his lips as if to hold in the words.

John considers pulling Sherlock’s hand away; before he can act on the thought, however, Sherlock takes a deep breath and turns his head to avoid John’s gaze.

“Mummy came in. She was shouting at me, at Victor, at both of us,” he tells the drapes. “I only heard her come in the room, I wasn’t aware of what happened after that. I woke up in hospital, in a room so institutionally white that I was tempted to yank out the IV in my arm just to end the monotony of the color. In the end, though, I realized Mycroft was in a chair at the foot of the bed….”

*

“Sherlock, what have you done?” Mycroft hiss-whispers between clenched teeth as he tilts his head, peering at Sherlock as if his eyes are lasers with the ability to pierce straight through his little brother’s hormone-stewed teenaged brain in order to unscramble the idiocy that he’s been infected with recently.

Sherlock huffs then drops back to the bed when his head swims. He thinks that if Mycroft figured it out, perhaps their parents had, too. Well, that’s that then. Apologizing to Victor’s family will be awful, he’s sure of it.

“Mycroft! That’s enough from you, young man.” Mummy Holmes swoops into the room, her expression tight in an obvious attempt at masking her high emotional state. Her royal purple dress flutters around her legs as she pats at her silvering coif. Her voice is low but stern, the voice of someone used to having their orders followed.

“Yes, ma’am,” Mycroft doesn’t quite mutter as he quickly vacates the chair.

Mummy fusses over Sherlock for a moment, elegant fingers pushing his curls off his forehead, hands caressing his face before leaning down and kissing his forehead warmly. She offers Mycroft a nod and he moves the hard plastic seat closer to Sherlock’s bed, heeding the wordless request.

As she settles into it, Sherlock Sends a picture of a brooding hen to his brother. Mycroft tries not to react and the weird half-laugh, half-serious expression that passes over his face for a millisecond looks painful enough to make Sherlock snort rudely. Mycroft does his best to hide it behind a pointedly fake cough.

“Knock it off this instant.” Mummy orders without raising her voice or even turning around.

Both boys fall silent, Sherlock in the bed, Mycroft standing behind their mother with his arms at his sides.

Mummy clears her throat and reaches to pat Sherlock’s hand. “Now, dear, I’m not sure what you’ve always seen in that boy, but he isn’t to be welcomed back to our home in the near future, so you won’t have to worry about any more unwanted advances from him.”

Sherlock frowns, taken aback. Behind Mummy, Mycroft mirrors the sentiment. He can’t help but be quite disturbed how apparently Mummy has missed the fact that Sherlock was the one doing the ‘advancing.’

“Mummy…” Mycroft attempts to explain.

Sensing a get-out-of-jail free card in the offering, Sherlock glares. Mummy hushes them.

“Now, enough. You’ve told me your theories, Mycroft, and I don’t believe that Sherlock would abuse the knowledge that we’ve passed onto him in such a way,” she states, patting the side of Sherlock’s face, seemingly oblivious to the stunned look he’s wearing.

Over her shoulder, Mycroft shakes his head from side to side silently, his disbelief palpable. Mummy continues to caress Sherlock’s hand; she continues talking, too, unaware that both siblings have quite literally tuned her out.

For the briefest instant, Guilt presses against Sherlock’s heart. He tells himself that he didn’t mean any harm, and besides, Victor could have told him ‘no’ at any time, so really, since Victor is older than him, the blame really does belong on his shoulders…

“…and so, he’s enlisting today, right about now, I should think.” Mummy holds her watch up to the light.

A heavy stillness blankets the room. Mycroft can’t contain his disappointment in his brother’s silence; the lack of loyalty to the one person other than Mycroft himself who could be in Sherlock’s orbit without being torn to pieces—and even volunteer to be, at that. Awkwardly, keeping his eyes locked on Sherlock’s, Mycroft raises his Shields and pulls his pager from his pocket, making a rather dramatic show of being needed by his employer.

Mycroft drops a kiss to their mother’s head. She puts her arm around his waist and brings him close to her, still holding Sherlock’s hand in the other.

“My boys, you both try so hard to fit in. I know. We can’t control what others do, though, remember that.”

“Yes, Mummy, my apologies, but I’ve got to run. I wish I could make up a good story, but you know how it is.” Mycroft explains, fixing Sherlock with an icy stare.

Sherlock’s eyes widen for a fraction of a second at Mycroft’s words. He hisses and for a moment Mycroft can clearly See the Cat. Mycroft shakes his head.

“Goodbye, Sherlock, see you in a month.” Mycroft tugs open the door and glides through it.

Sherlock watches his brother leave, inwardly acknowledging how much he’d love to learn to move so silently the way Mycroft does. He studies this for ten seconds or so, coming to the conclusion that Mycroft must have some sort of device in his shoes before tuning back into Mummy’s litany of what a good boy he is.

Once again, Guilt makes its appearance. Sherlock wards it off just as fast as he did the first time, though. Eventually, he fakes exhaustion and Mummy leaves him be. Only when he is alone again does it even occur to him what he’s done.

*

John regards Sherlock through half-lidded eyes. He doesn’t quite know what to say. Part of him wants to reach back in time and slap some sense into the idiot teenaged genius-or at least the ability to confess; the other part of him fights to rally between that betrayal and the possibility that it could still find a way to happen to them.

“John, I was wrong. I didn’t find out until after the fact that Victor enlisted into the Royal Navy because he wanted to be as far from London as he could get. I wrote him a letter a year later and it was returned to me, unopened. I deserved that, though, you see…” he paces between the sofa and his bedroom, absently pulling on his robe, tying the sash with trembling fingers. “I…actually, I want to say that I didn’t know, but I did. I knew full well what my silence cost. I’ve regretted it since and that one letter was the only time I attempted to make things right.”

John lets out the air he’s been holding in his lungs that’s beginning to burn. His eyes track Sherlock’s jerky, graceless movements as the detective first picks up the skull on the mantle then runs his palm along the tops of his books.

“You aren’t smoking right now,” John states firmly.

Sherlock freezes on the spot, held by the unusually cold tone and the shuttering, slamming sound of John closing his channels.

Sherlock will admit it hurts, but he’ll also admit it is what he deserves.

John sits back in his chair, weaving his fingers together in his lap, crossing his right leg over his left. His gaze is far away. After a few minutes, he gestures towards Sherlock where he still stands in front of the bookcase. Their Link warms a little and Sherlock chooses to interpret this as a positive sign.

“It isn’t my place to forgive you for what you did to someone else, you know that, right?” John asks, giving his words the space to roam freely between them. Outside the windows, the sky begins to darken, heavy grey clouds moving in and promising rain.

Sherlock accepts the truth of John’s words with a sharp nod as he folds himself into his own chair in order to rest his chin on his knees.

John fights the urge to let everything go and just wrap Sherlock in his arms, but there’s a small detail still nagging at him. “The client from earlier? Mable Wright? She’s related to Victor in some way, yeah?”

Sherlock agrees, more than a little proud at the connection John’s made. “Victor’s aunt. He stays with her when he’s home on leave.”

John licks his bottom lip. “You said you’ve had no contact with him?”

“I hear things, John, in the same way I find out details about victims and perpetrators. Occasionally, a familiar name crosses my path. I’ve not attempted to seek him out, I did not lie to you.”

John closes his eyes and decides to believe that Sherlock learned his lesson. “So what, then? Why doesn’t Victor go home?”

Sherlock works his hands into his hair, eyes flashing. “It wasn’t just our failed attempt at creating a Bond that was discovered that day. His parents were more concerned about the fact that he is a Were rather than a Shifter than they were even about finding out he’s not as arrow straight as they’d hoped,” he scoffs.

“Wow. I’m actually a bit surprised, Sherlock. I didn’t know there was that type of polarity within the community.”

Sherlock nods. “Apparently in some circles, Weres are considered unfortunate, with their absolute need to shift. Shifters are like the crème de la crème.”

“Alright. So, in short, two stupid teenagers decide to do something stupid. Big surprise. I think I can speak for Victor in some small ways because, Sherlock, did you even realize that he was in love with you?” John asks, straightforward even though he’s not entirely comfortable discussing this.

Sherlock is quiet for a few heartbeats. The urge to shift to avoid this conversation is strong, but John understanding his regret over the whole episode is paramount. “No. Not then. I was in my own mind too deeply, I wanted to be able to do something even Mycroft hadn’t done. Mummy and Dad’s Bond is so…” he hesitates, searching for the right description, “…Profound. I thought maybe if I was able to have that, maybe I wouldn’t be so curious, so hungry.”

“Sherlock, no. Is that the reason for the fake drugs bust?” John asks, talking about their first case together.

Sherlock nods again, allowing his discomfort to show on his face. “I was stupid, John.”

John accepts this. “Right then. Back to now. I’m not ignoring that, understand, I just see no reason to make you relive it at the moment. You’ll tell me if and when you’re ready, yeah?”

“Yes,” Sherlock murmurs. Feeling that a bit more of their Link has opened, he Sends a short vibration laced with Gratitude towards John.

John’s eyes shine and he blinks several times rapidly. “I don’t believe you’d ever sell me up the river that way, Sherlock. In fact, I don’t think you’ve ever done anything remotely like that since.” When Sherlock indicates John is correct, he continues, allowing his channels to open fully now. “Good then. We are on the same page. Tell me what we need to do next and then I’m for tea, alright?”

“Yes, please,” Sherlock agrees. “Next, we need to find Mable. She knows more about Victor’s disappearance from his duty than she let on, I’m certain. The Victor I knew was a reasonable man, he would take his service seriously.” He drops his feet to the floor, toes working at the pile of the well-worn carpet there.

“I’m missing something,” Sherlock tells John when he leans down to place a soft kiss on the top of his head, fingers trailing from sharp cheekbones to the angle of his jaw. Sherlock closes his eyes and leans into the touch.

:Are we alright, John?:

:Yes, Sherlock, we are fine.:

With that, John heads to the kitchen to start their tea and await the moment when Sherlock figures out the where and the when of their newest case.

Chapter Text

:14: Old Intrusions

Sherlock’s eyes are bright chips of emerald in the yellowish light from the streetlamps that line Baker Street. Evening stretches out around them, muffling the sounds of the city and heralding the calm peace of night. Both men are relatively relaxed after hours of researching via media and on foot, plus an excellent sit-down dinner at their favorite Thai place.

Without warning, the detective goes still as they approach their front door; John confirms via the Link that something is off. Sherlock holds up one hand, then points towards the threshold where the door has been left open ever so slightly.

It’s enough, John understands, to put them both immediately on edge. Sherlock peels off his coat and starts undoing his buttons right there in the street. John collects it all into a neat bundle and stashes it against the wall when they move into the foyer. Two steps behind him, the Cat is sniffing at the floor, ears alert and body tense. He tiptoes past John and begins trotting up the staircase.

:We really don’t need to actually sneak into our own home, Sherlock.: John reminds him as they march as quietly as possible up the steps.

Sherlock only answers with the flick of his tail and a twitch of his whiskers. John rolls his eyes and as quietly as possible opens the unlocked door. It snicks softly; John grabs it before it smacks against the wall. Even with his quick thinking, its old hinges squeal in protest. John freezes on the spot. As if there’s no real concern, Sherlock ignores him and tip-taps past, tail in the air in the snooty cat way that they all have—both the half human ones and the real ones.

John follows him after taking care to close the door again, blinking as Sherlock flips on the lamp nearest the window. As always, their domestic clutter welcomes them; obviously untouched by an outsider.

:Sherlock, maybe we are just overreacting…: John starts.

:John. There’s someone here. I can smell him.:

John stiffens his spine and turns away from the Cat, one hand dropping to the small of his back where his gun is tucked carefully beneath his jacket. He doesn’t take it out, however, as he quickly estimates the damage that a rogue bullet could do in here. A squeaky sound from the direction of Sherlock’s bedroom echoes through the sitting room. John takes two steps in order to peer around the corner just as Sherlock gives a hiss; John turns to look at him, takes in the hunched back Halloween cat pose and fur standing on end. The Cat’s mouth is open, ears flat on his head and his teeth are bared. A long, low hiss permeates the air.

:What?: John Asks, opening his channels and Seeking. When nothing is forthcoming, he takes one more step forward and then jumps backward when another sound erupts, motioning with one hand for the Cat to stay put.

Even with prior warning, it takes a full second for John to get himself under control and realize that the cacophony he can hear over his own pounding heartbeat is a dog barking. Dropping his hands to his sides, he edges toward the bedroom and slowly opens the door. Behind it, a small white terrier of some flavor is standing on its hind legs with its front paws resting on the wood. It barks joyfully at him, pink tongue hanging out its mouth.

“What the hell?” John mutters, opening the door a bit wider. The dog drops down to all fours and steps closer in order to sniff at John’s outstretched hands, tail wagging. As soon as a cold, wet nose makes contact with his skin, two things happen simultaneously.

The dog blinks up at him with blue eyes that are most certainly un-doglike and John can Feel the shapeshifter for what it is at the same time Sherlock bellows down their Link, :John!:

Sensing no danger, however, John turns on his heel to be greeted by Sherlock, in the buff, perched in his chair, long legs crossed modestly and an honestly surprised look on his face.

“What are you doing here?” he sneers at the dog as it follows in John’s wake.

John’s pretty much guessed who it is by now and his suspicions are confirmed instantly when the dog Shifts into a tall, well-built, strawberry-blonde and blue-eyed man about Sherlock’s age.

“Go on, get your clothes. I know they aren’t far.” Sherlock prissily commands, managing to both look down his nose at the other man and wink at John at the same time.

The man nods and retrieves a pair of jeans and a green t-shirt from the depths of Sherlock’s bedroom. He slips the shirt on as he passes John, showcasing his build and a tattoo on his left shoulder blade that John recognizes as the Royal Navy insignia. The tattoo is relatively new, the dark blue ink still bright in places, the skin around the design red and irritated. Tugging the hem of his shirt down, he pulls a chair away from their kitchen table into the center of the room and sits down on it, expression openly curious, hands clasped together in his lap.

“Aunt Mable still looking for me?” The Were asks in a voice like candied velvet. The familiar tone catches John off guard; a deeply seated darker emotion begins to stir in the back of his mind.

For a few heartbeats, John is so sure that Sherlock’s been lying to him that it takes all his willpower not to go right back out the way they came in, and maybe just keep going. Instead, he thinks about it again and moves to stand beside Sherlock after grabbing his dressing gown off the back of the couch and handing it to him. If anyone were to walk in, John would prefer that their sitting room didn’t look like they are about to have an orgy. A thousand questions flit through his mind, though he remains silent when Sherlock Sends Trust and a request for his patience.

With a troubled sigh, he finds that he’s watching the newcomer closely, deciding that he’s already trusted Sherlock this far, a bit more probably won’t hurt. After all, Sherlock hasn’t taken his eyes off the other man and John forces down what he is certain is misplaced jealousy that certainly doesn’t feel that way right at this instant. Sensing the roiling sentiment, Sherlock introduces the two men.

“Victor, this is my Anchor, Dr. John Watson,” he states, finally looking John straight in the eye.

John wants to add more to that, but his tongue is knotting up over the words so in the end he simply gives the sharp nod of a superior officer greeting a lower ranked one. Victor recognizes it for what it is and nods back before cutting his eyes back to Sherlock.

“It’s the only way you would have known I was in town. Did she come to you looking for me?” Victor starts again as if the conversation were simply on pause, his expression nervous.

John can clearly feel Victor’s anxiety; it’s almost like another person in the room.

“Yes,” Sherlock rumbles. “I assume you’ve got an excuse for going AWOL? Some lame justification of your slighted honor, I suppose?”

Victor opens his mouth then closes it again, twice. “What the hell are you on about? Sherlock you’ve got it wrong this time.”

Sherlock frowns and John’s eyebrows fly up towards his hairline. In all the time they’ve been flatmates and friends and now more, he’s never heard anyone other than himself flat out tell Sherlock much of anything. Even Mycroft often takes the high road and veils his words in cryptic statements that mean nothing to anyone outside the two of them. 

“No, Sherlock, I’m here because of you,” Victor states evenly.

:I don’t even know where to go with that.: John Sends.

Sherlock shakes his head very slowly from side to side, clearly sensing everything John hasn’t said so far. “Go on,” he orders, standing and tightening the sash of his robe. He moves to the sofa, taking the seat closest to the arm. John moves to join him, thinks better of it and heads into the kitchen. Victor and Sherlock regard each other silently as they wait for John to return.

John brings in the tea tray, offering Victor a cup. Sherlock declines one and John makes his own then takes the empty spot next to Sherlock. He does not rest against the back of the couch as he spreads his legs, though he does toe his shoes off.

Sherlock notices John fidgeting and rests his hand, palm down, on John’s thigh. John relaxes some. :He’s a client now.:

“Right,” John says aloud, not wanting to be too incredibly rude to this person who snuck into their home.

“I’ve been searching for someone, Sherlock,” Victor pauses, eyes roving the room, jaw tightening. “Look, I’m not going to say that you letting me take the fall twenty years ago is something that I’ve forgotten…but, I won’t say that I didn’t understand then or that I do now. Please, the reason I’m here has nothing to do with that. Let me take care of my business and I’ll be out of yours. If you don’t even want to help me, I will understand.”

Sherlock says nothing, only lets his gaze rest heavily on Victor.

“Fine, I get it. Talk or get out. Just like old times, eh?” Victor’s weak attempt at humor falls flat. He sets his still full tea cup on the floor next to his feet. “No, that was stupid, I understand. No worse than before, I can see you haven’t changed.” He clenches his teeth and seems to be having some sort of internal argument with himself. “You are going to find this ridiculous, but there was a sailor from another ship, I ran into him on leave. But, before I tell you that, I have to confess to being interested in your career, alright?”

When no one answers him, he continues. “So when this bloke, I think he is a Midshipman…anyway, he starts carrying on about how some London detective got his brother locked up and doing twenty for knockin’ off his old lady. Of course I knew exactly who he was talking about. I didn’t say anything. He just goes on and on. I knew him for another Were as soon as I ran into him, but I had no idea how…what’s the word?” Victor scratches at the stubble on his chin. “Deranged. That’s it. I had no idea how deranged he was. It wasn’t until later that I put it together that he’d managed to murder two people in the three days were on shore leave.

I saw the second one. I was on my way back to my hotel room late one night and he was right there, right in the middle of the street in this little town on Sumatra and there was a body at his feet. Honestly, I don’t remember every detail…you know I don’t have your mind for it, Sherlock…but there I was and there he was….and then he was gone and this bird attacked me. I wound up with a small gash on my shoulder, which I got covered with ink as soon as it healed. I didn’t like the scar there, it reminds me too much of what a coward I am.”

Victor retrieves his cooling tea and takes a deep drink.

“So yeah, I’m a coward. But I’ll take my lumps as I earn them. I should have told, should have turned him in, but the thing is, after that night he disappeared. Until my next leave, which began a little over eight weeks ago tonight.”

“You ran into him again,” Sherlock states.

Victor agrees. “Yeah, I did. This time the bastard was bragging about his kills right there in this pub. I tried to talk to him, you know, Were to Were, but it got me nowhere. There was some stuff in there about how the shifter community should be considered “the mighty” but I stopped listening and went back to my pint until he said your name. Claimed he was going to get revenge on you for locking up his brother. Well, that’s when I started listening again. He pulled the disappearing act the very next day but I had already decided I was going to chase him down, so I found a bit of evidence in the room I followed him to after he’d believed he’d drunk me under the table…”

“Evidence?” John asks. Beside him, Sherlock cocks his head and raises an eyebrow.

Victor nods and reaches behind himself. From the back pocket of one of his jeans he pulls out an object that John and Sherlock recognize even before it is fully in the light. “I found this. It’s the feather of an Osprey.”

Chapter Text

:15: Headache

Victor nods and reaches behind himself. From the back pocket of one of his jeans he pulls out an object that John and Sherlock recognize even before it is fully in the light. “I found this. It’s the feather of an Osprey.”

John can hear the pieces of the puzzle shifting into place in Sherlock’s mind. Inside his own the sound is one he’s sure the tectonic plates make as they shift over the planet, if it were audible to human ears: a smooth grating as the plates ease up against one another and finally rest, never realizing the great marvels they’ve carved out in their wanderings, such as deep lakes and mountain ranges. John waits until Sherlock’s inner whirling dervish slows, yet the singing vibrations left over buzz down their Link and John feels the adrenaline rush all the same—but it’s different now, too, as if they are sharing both the high of the puzzle and the steady drumbeat of the march that is a call to do something, to fix the broken pieces and right the wrongs.

:John, stop the poetry.:

Caught out, John’s ears redden and he realizes that he’s been staring at the detective as these thoughts are droning through his brain. Sherlock raises his left eyebrow and his lips in a half-grin. Staring at him, there’s a heartbeat where John’s possessive inner cave man takes over and he forces himself to recognize the other person in the room, then it dawns on him that this is Sherlock’s ex-lover and the inner cave man begins screaming in some uncouth language about how watching John drag Sherlock by his hair into the bedroom would actually serve him right...then he remembers that apparently Victor has put his career and his freedom on the line to follow some mad sailor who is swearing revenge on Sherlock for assuring his mad murderer of a brother got his just deserts.

“Oh,” John doesn’t mean to say out loud, but clearly does anyway. He’s a bit dizzy from the total onslaught of Sherlock’s thoughts, yet there’s no way to put that into words so he clears his throat.

Both Sherlock and Victor are regarding him closely now.

“Hairball?” Victor asks, deadpan.

At that point, John loses his mind. He tries to smother a chuckle that quickly turns into a giggle and trying to stifle that doesn’t work, so he gives up and goes ahead and laughs. It helps dissipate some of the tension between them all and he doesn’t even regret the tears that are leaking from the corners of his eyes. He wipes them away with his index finger and grins up at Sherlock.

“It wasn’t that funny,” the detective snarks.

“Yeah, it was,” John answers.

“Do you mind?” Sherlock gestures towards Victor, who’s watching them both with an expression that wavers between concerned and amused. :Besides, the sooner we close this case, the sooner you’re inner caveman can do whatever it is cave men do.:

Naturally, that derails John’s happy train in an instant. He stares at Sherlock for a second then turns back to Victor. Beside him, Sherlock shifts a bit closer, pressing their legs together from thigh to ankle.

“You will take us to this person?” Sherlock asks without taking his eyes off John’s face.

“I think I can do that,” Victor states, watching the incredible sight before him. He’s fairly certain John’s either going to eat or kiss Sherlock and he’s slightly less mortified to find that neither option surprises him as much as he really wants to stick around and find out if he’s right. After a moment where no one says much of anything out loud, Victor unzips his jeans.

John’s and Sherlock’s heads swivel towards the shifter and Sherlock nods. “Before you do that, will you let John in?”

John frowns, instantly catching up with the detective; though unsure this is a good idea but knowing that it’s for the best. There’s no way he’ll be able to keep up with both of them in their four-legged forms. “Sherlock, I’m not sure if I can even do that.” They’ve never really discussed ‘it’ though John’s always itched for the chance. A vague ripple of a memory of fifty soldiers diving for cover dances before his eyes. Did it happen then?

“You can, John.”

John gets off the couch and holds his hands out in front of his chest. “Sherlock, seriously, this isn’t a game. I’m really not sure if I should…”

“Ha!” The detective interrupts him. “You said ‘should,’ John. Come on, you’ve wanted to try it before. Now’s the perfect chance. If you can’t, so be it, but if you’re able, then Victor and I can go on ahead.”

“Are you sure?” John asks Victor, ignoring Sherlock’s pleading expression.

Victor studies John for a moment before answering, “Sure, can’t be the worst thing I’ve ever done.” He ends his sentence with a pointed look at Sherlock who actually has the decency to appear a bit chastised.

“I know. We need to talk…but…” He asks in a low voice as he points at the door. :John, please.: He Sends.

John nods, a sharp tilt of his chin, showing that he understands time is of the essence, then crosses the small space and takes his chair, resting his arms on the side of it. :I’m not stupid, you know. Though it is ultimately going to help you out, you’ll do what you can for Victor?:

:Yes.: Sherlock’s answer is brief, the last constant drawn out into a hissing ‘s’ that ends as he swiftly changes, remaining on the sofa with his tail wrapped around his paws.

“Should I?” Victor queries, indicating the Cat.

“No, let’s try it this way first. Don’t get up,” John says as Victor makes to stand. After a minute of silence, he continues, “Alright, I’ve got my Shields up. I…Honestly, I’ve not done this with someone I wasn’t at least Linked with in a very long time. It’s going to seem a bit…oh, I don’t know…pushy and intimate, but, please don’t fight it. I’m only going to try this once.”

Closing his eyes, John shoves all thoughts aside of Victor and Sherlock as young men and concentrates on the man as he is now, sitting on one of their heavily abused kitchen chairs, a bit out of his element. John holds onto that once-all-too-familiar feeling and accepts it as something they have in common outside of the Were most certainly watching the proceedings from the sofa. John can hear a soft mewl but ignores it as he Searches.

He doesn’t have to go too far, casting about in the psi-darkness of his own mind until suddenly, there’s a brightness, a color that’s different from Sherlock’s…he latches onto it and a new warmth, not as comfortable as his Link with the detective’s, floods his system. Trying hard to remember things taught and long forgotten and secretly wishing he’d had time to prepare for today’s random weirdness, John forces the light to move into a single beam, blocking it off from everything else. Now he can clearly make out the brightest light that is their Link, separate but alongside this new, temporary one.

John opens his eyes, startled to see the white Dog with the blue eyes at his feet, pink tongue lolling out of his mouth, broadcasting loud and clear.

:Alright, it’s done, Sherlock, Victor?:

:I’m here.: Sherlock Answers, as he leaps from the couch and trots to the front door, tail flicking back and forth.

:Hello, John!: The Dog’s happy voice comes through, but it’s like listening at the other end of a scratchy phone connection. Even so, it’s clear enough and John is satisfied that they won’t lose each other.

:Can you hear each other?: John slips into his jacket and adjusts it so that it doesn’t pull too tightly over his back and expose his gun. Both Weres regard him from the door, the Cat side-eyeing the Dog as if he can’t believe he’s sharing the same space with him.

John chuckles, zipping up his jacket. :No.: Comes the answer from both of them simultaneously. John thinks that just maybe it’s better that way. :Wait. So I’m supposed to be some sort of metaphysical two-way radio?:

As an answer, the Dog barks playfully and the Cat merely blinks at him as if amazed he finally caught up. John groans and opens the door, observing quietly how the Cat follows the Dog down the steps. Well, if nothing else, this is going to be interesting.

*

Of course, John mutters to himself, of course it’s an abandoned building. Naturally. Couldn’t be a comfy house where they could knock on the door and be invited it. Maybe even have a spot of tea and a biscuit. No, that just isn’t the way things work.

:Hush.: John Sends towards Trevor when the Dog does his best to dig under the door, paws scratching uselessly at concrete. He sits on his haunches and whines up at John.

“Good thing at least one of us remembered the usefulness of thumbs,” John grumbles, carefully jiggling the knob. Finding it unlocked, he starts to push it open enough to peek through but the combined feline and canine forces push his fingers away from it as the Weres bound through. Victor gambols playfully, short tail wagging but Sherlock moves in cat time, making sure John is looking at him as softly tip-toes through what turns out to be an empty lobby.

Apparently the building was used as offices for some business or the other because there are still a row of chairs in front of the big front windows and an empty reception desk with what looks to be an original Apple computer still perched on it. He brushes off some of the dust and whistles lowly.

:John! John!: Victor mentally Calls from somewhere out of John’s sight. John rubs at his temples, trying to assuage the headache that’s been steadily growing worse since they left Baker Street. Unsure whether it’s due to Victor’s exuberant terrier personality or the fact that he’s clinging to two separate lines of communication simultaneously, it is still a pounding behind his eyes he’d rather live without. Eventually it will slow him down, so the quicker they get out of here the better off they’ll all be.

:John, John, John! John!: Victor barks as he trots back and forth between John and a flight of steps beyond the lobby. Sherlock is at the base of them, sniffing warily, tail lashing back and forth.

The Cat raises his head, green eyes peering at John as he draws closer to them. Victor dashes up the steps and dashes back down again, apparently enjoying the game. John makes to step up on the first one when Sherlock’s sits down on his haunches.

“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me!” John shakes his head. “Fine.” He reaches down and picks up the Cat who immediately climbs onto his shoulders and stretches out like some sort of living shawl. John doesn’t particularly like this arrangement but doesn’t see any reason to argue when the purring starts. That’s thanks enough, he figures as he follows Victor up to the next floor.

*

It is dimmer up here, John notes as he walks into a large, open room that is mostly empty except for some abandoned desks and chairs. A decrepit copy machine stands guard in the corner, the top covered with yellowed sheets of paper and what appears to be a very large pile of droppings of some sort. Sherlock growls deep in his throat, effectively silencing the purring. Even Victor is quieter now, sniffing here and there but not Saying anything. Finally, the Dog goes still and sits down in front of a doorway at the end of the room. Most likely the office of whomever was in charge here before the business went bust.

John joins him, taking an old painting affixed to the wall on hinges. It’s been swung aside so that John can easily make out a wall safe with a broken lock. It, too, hangs open wide, empty. He backs up a few feet, estimating that where he’s standing now is where a large desk would have been, probably wooden due to the lingering dust on the floor that he’s trod through.

:John John!: Victor Calls. John turns to face the Dog as Sherlock gives a warning hiss and jumps off John’s shoulders to the floor. :He’s here, he’s here!:

There’s a loud screech and the three of them find themselves on the icy end of a very angry dark-eyed glare brought to them by a huge black and white bird of prey. It drops to the floor, opening its magnificent wings and opening its beak to let out a harsh, angry hiss.

Sherlock raises his back and Victor starts barking his head off. It’s all John can do to keep from shouting at both of them over the absolutely hateful pounding behind his eyes. :What the hell do we do now?: He Asks.

Chapter Text

Before Sherlock can Send a single thought, however, the bird shifts and they find themselves facing an average sized, medium-built man with a shock of greasy black hair and a brutish face. He gazes back at them with deeply set brown eyes and a fierce expression.

“Get out, I only want him,” the man points at the Cat.

John sets his jaw and shakes his head very slowly back and forth. “Don’t think so, mate.”

“Fine by me, friend, I’ll kill yer all then. I got no qualms about killin’. Really, though, takin’ you’s out ain’t no big deal, but I’m really after the one that’s gotten Barry thrown inta’ the lockup.”

John spreads his legs and notes where Sherlock has gone stock still at his feet. Victor has pressed himself into the far corner nearest the ancient copy machine, whimpering lowly. In the back of his mind he can hear Sherlock’s irritated huff. Somehow, even facing whatever this is that’s in front of them, John suppresses a smile.

:You. Killing. Is Not.: Sherlock’s Mind Voice sounds as exasperated at the hacked up language as his normal speaking one normally does.

:Really not the time to be correcting grammar, Sherlock.:

:I know who his brother is. Remember Belarus?: Sherlock Sends.

:You’re kidding.: John Returns.

“Come on little puddy cat, wanna play?” the Were grins wickedly, his tongue resting against his top teeth, drawing attention to the one in the middle that’s cracked.

John frowns, cocking his head to one side and pressing his lips tightly together. Studying the burly shifter in an attempt to figure out how best to bring him down doesn’t seem to be helping the situation any, so he switches to deciding how best to defend the three of them.

“So, what none of yous going even try? Doesn’t matter, I’ll take you down,” the Were drops his gaze onto John then to the Cat, “…then I’m gonna crush that in my hands until there’s nothin’ left but dust!” He lowers his head and charges them like a raging bull: head down, meaty shoulders hunched, thighs quivering with exertion.

John squares his stance, opening his arms wide and balancing on the balls of his feet, wholly prepared to bear hug and wrestle the man to the floor in as efficient a manner possible. The shifter throws a wrench in that plan, however, by veering sideway, tripping over his own feet and falling directly over the Cat.

There’s a loud thud in the dusty silence of the empty office building, a screech, then a high-pitched yapping. A low snarl and the big Were howls in pain. John quickly recovers his momentum, dropping to his knees on the brute’s back and yanking his arms above his head.

From beneath the Were’s shoulder there’s an angry yowl followed by a hiss. The man gives another loud cry and bucks upwards—not enough to dislodge John, but enough that the Cat is able to get out from beneath him. Spitting and swiping one of his front paws with the claws fully extended, Sherlock backs out and away from the big man. John instinctively does a fast check for injuries and has to stop himself from laughing, because, attached to the perp’s ankle is Victor, his sharp little teeth dug in deep, tiny dots of blood staining the white fur around his mouth.

There’s a loud crash downstairs. John listens for a moment, keeping himself firmly in place. Once he realizes it is help, he calls down, “We’re up here!”

The four of them are completely still for about three seconds, then the big shifter yanks his hands out of John’s, bucks and manages to get his arms away from his body enough to push upward at the same time John scrambles to get his hold back. The back of the Were’s head smashes into John’s face, causing him to reel backwards, clutching at his nose. Victor starts barking at the Were shifts with inhuman speed. By the end of the fifth second, the Osprey has Sherlock in his talons and huge wings are bearing them aloft. He’s hissing and spitting, twisting his body as if to sink his claws into the Osprey’s belly but it is all a useless effort, because the twisting has caused the sharp talons to clutch even tighter.

John reaches for the Cat but it’s too late, they are out of the old office; he can still hear footsteps on the stairs, getting closer as he lunges for the door, his head spinning from the pain of what he’s sure must be a broken nose. Using their link to Reach out towards Sherlock, he is discouraged to discover nothing but a white-hot rage; he realizes that he deserves it as much of it is aimed at him. He hangs his head, a wave of chills and nausea cresting like a wave through him. The last thing John hears is the sound of glass smashing somewhere on the floor above them, Victor howling like he’s gone rabid and a concerned voice asking John what the hell just happened here; as the fog takes over his mind, it occurs to him that he has no idea what the man’s name is.

*

Lestrade grabs John around the waist, preventing him from hitting the floor. There’s blood all over the bottom half of his face, and after a cursory glance, Greg’s pretty sure it’s broken. He saw the Osprey with the Cat, but he was too far away to make any attempt at a rescue. Right now, though, John Watson is out cold with a bloody face and just who the hell is this insane terrier?

“Sally, I need an ambulance, stat,” he calls out, nodding his head towards the limp doctor in his arms, glad he didn’t put on a white shirt today. Very slowly, he lowers them both to the floor, cradling John’s torso against his chest, keeping his head upright so that there’s no choking on blood. Once he’s seated, the dog comes over and pokes his cold nose at Lestrade’s elbow.

“Well, little fella, I don’t know who you are or how you’ve gotten involved with these two, but I’m sure this is going to be a good story when I get to hear it.” Carefully, he shifts John, freeing up one hand which he holds out to the dog. The little white terrier sniffs it then licks at his fingertips, leaving little smears of crimson there. “Good gods, what’s happened here?” Greg asks, eyeing his hand.

:Please, we need to go somewhere safe.:

Greg frowns, head swiveling from where he’s watching his team check out the office back to the dog. The terrier is resting on his haunches now, tongue lolling out of his mouth. Greg’s never seen a four-legged creature look so downright exhausted. Then it clicks. A few days ago, Mycroft said ‘Osprey’ and that huge raptor flying up the steps earlier is certainly no kestrel…

Greg’s contemplations are interrupted by the paramedics, who gently get John to a stretcher and down to the ground floor as efficiently as possible. Greg follows them, the terrier on his heels. No one else seems to be paying any mind to the dog, which in some ways he’s glad but in other ways distinctly annoyed that a room full of detectives is ignoring what could either be a prime witness or even a suspect to what has changed from a homicide inquiry now to kidnapping.

Kidnapping. Oh god. Greg leans down and picks up the dog. The animal quickly relaxes against him, its little heart banging in his chest. He watches the red lights of the ambulance pull away and wonders what exactly is the best way to tell one of the most important men in the community that his baby brother has just been kidnapped by the very shifter—Greg’s almost ninety-nine percent sure on this point—Mycroft had it out with before. He opens his channels wide and prepares himself for whatever happens next. However, there's no hiding something like this, not that he'd even try...because if anyone has the ability to find Sherlock fast, it's going to be Mycroft.

Chapter Text

John opens his eyes and stares at the roof of the ambulance. It takes a few seconds for the memory of what’s happened to rush to the forefront of his mind; the knowledge arrives along with a new throbbing on his forehead, right over his nose, bad enough to make his eyes water.

:Where are you?: He Calls out uselessly, gritting his teeth against the pain hard enough that his jaw creaks when no answer is forthcoming, causing the paramedic sitting closest to him to jump a little in surprise.

“Doctor Watson?” she asks kindly.

It takes a minute to process that she’s speaking to him because he’s still desperately Reaching out towards Sherlock or the Cat or whichever form he happens to be in right now. John’s starting to get upset and it must show on his face because the paramedic disappears and a young constable’s appears in her place.

“Doctor Watson?” the man asks with a frown as if unsure that John’s identity hasn’t changed in the past ten minutes since DI Lestrade told him who the injured man was and threatened him with pain of death if he were to let anything else happen to the doctor.

John frowns back, growing increasingly irritated with the situation, never mind the ache in his head. The constable must recognize something in John’s expression that makes him instantly wary and stops him from asking the same stupid question again, so the next time he opens his mouth it is without preamble that he smartly ensures John that the DI is working on ‘it.’

John’s expression hardens again but he can’t answer because the stretcher he’s lying on is being gently pulled out the back door of the vehicle, then there’s a set of gray swinging doors and before he knows it, he’s been checked over and is sitting on the edge of a bed, alone, waiting to be discharged. He finally dozes off that way, elbows on his knees, face cradled in his hands. His heart aches and the worry for his…his best friend…no, that doesn’t even sound right anymore, not even inside his own mind…John’s thoughts begin to tumble over one another as his body reacts to everything that’s transpired today: shoulders tightening, legs shaking, fingers trembling as he fights against breaking down in this soulless room, alone.

Because that’s it, isn’t it? He’s not really alone anymore, even with this block of their Link—and he hopes to whichever deities are currently paying him any mind at this moment that have the sense enough to keep John well away from whoever this giant fool of a revengeful shapeshifter is, because he knows he won’t stop at a single punch. After a few minutes, he’s able to better compartmentalize his emotions and gets control. He pats at his jeans pockets and tugs out his mobile. Irritated that no signal is coming through when he pushes the button, John crosses the room and starts to open the door only to discover that it is locked.

From the outside.

He peeks through the single window only to see the back of a stranger’s head. Possibly male, if the closely-cropped head of brown hair is any indication. So that means he’s got a guard dog then. What the hell? In the instant before his rage can resurface, the mobile still in his hand vibrates in it’s entirely too cheerful way that a text message has come in. He wishes he could be more surprised when he sees who it’s from.

Stay where you are. We will bring him to you.—MH

John stills right where he stands, fingers of his right hand curved around the cool, rounded handle of the door, his phone lying across the palm of his left. A strange sensation starts in the base of his spine but soon grows, until it is almost as if fingers are splayed over the small of his back. He remains where he is for a few more moments, then trudges wearily back to the bed on the pretense of resting, though he knows full well that if given even a fraction of a chance, he’ll take it and be right out the door.

**

Lying face down on a dirty tile floor, Sherlock peers through what is surely several years of built-up grime in an effort to force away some of the dizziness he’s feeling; it isn’t working, but at least pretending temporary deafness has made the Osprey leave him alone for the time being. Someone has slipped an ill-fitting pair of denim shorts over his legs, they’re too tight in the thighs and the zip is undone. The annoyance of the material is only overshadowed by the fact that his temples are throbbing from the effort he’s been making attempting to Reach John. There’s something odd going on and the more he tries, the worse his headache gets. It makes no sense.

Fighting a fresh wave of vertigo, he forces himself into a sitting position and it finally hits him. That smell; the very air around him is filled with a scent that is ‘off,’ not quite a stench but couldn’t be called pleasant, either. It must be what’s keeping him from contacting John. Well, in that case, then, there’s only one last thing to do. He weighs his options carefully, knowing he needs help while at the same time he can’t resist aggravating Mycroft whenever the opportunity arises. And what better opportunity than now?

Sherlock half-crawls in a crouch towards a wall and puts it at his back so that he can face the door, noting a large vent in the floor next to where he was lying. A faint wisp of steam is emanating from it. With a frown, he concentrates, picturing his fingers reaching out for an invisible thread, not unlike a strand of human DNA. When nothing happens, he switches tactics with a frown, deciding that even though he’s unable to Reach Lestrade, surely Mycroft will answer.

:Where is John?:

When he receives a return answer, it is as if Mycroft is millions of miles away, which Sherlock knows isn’t possible—the Osprey took him no further than five miles from the warehouse. He knows he’s not on the ground floor, though; the giveaway is the slight sway of whatever building he’s currently being held in.

:Send me, more, Sherlock. I can’t get a lock on your position.:

Sherlock takes a deep breath through his nose, glad to find that his headache is abating somewhat since he’s opened the distance between himself and that vent.

:Between five and seven miles due east from the warehouse. Third…no, fourth floor.:

Their sibling Link is silent for five minutes. Sherlock closes his eyes and rests his chin on his knees after pulling his legs up. It’s cold in here. He would change, but he’d rather not lose this tenuous connection.

Into the silence comes the echo of a human being stomping up a staircase. Just before the door bangs open to admit his kidnapper, Mycroft Sends: :On my way.:

Sherlock is grateful, but doesn’t have time to tell Mycroft because the big man from the warehouse picks him up from the floor by his throat and slams him against the wall. Sherlock gasps and claws at the broad palm cutting off his air supply, while at the same time doing his best to kick towards the shapeshifter’s groin. The man begins to squeeze, smiling at his captive, his eyes cold as flint and his mouth twisted in a nasty smirk that tells Sherlock that for once, someone else has the upper hand.

Chapter Text

:18: Responsibility

Hateful past memories and current revelations swirl and tumble in the kaleidoscopic chaos that has taken over John’s mind. For a few moments, he forgets where he is, more importantly, however, he’s forgetting when he is. Sitting on the corner of the hospital bed, legs dangling on either side of the mattress, his phone still cradled in his hand, he’s got too many recollections of too many other hospitals threatening to force him into giving up and retreating into himself.

“No,” he mutters aloud, shaking his head back and forth. Right now is not the time to be doing this. If he can just hold it together until Mycroft lets him know where Sherlock is, then he’ll be fine. On the other hand, he wonders if Mycroft has any intention of doing that at all. Besides the guard at the door, the fact that the door is locked from the outside, not to mention the fact that he’s up he doesn’t know how many floors from the ground…

“Well, fuck,” he bites between his teeth. It looks as if he’s well and truly stuck. With nothing else to do except to make an attempt at keeping his mind from thoughts he has no desire to examine at the moment, John gets off the bed and starts pacing the room, holding his arms stiffly at his sides, fingers tightly clenched into fists. As much as he fights it, when he starts thinking about why he’s here, Toby’s eyes flash in the forefront of his worried mind and all he can do is hold on against the inevitable comparisons between his partners that are forcing themselves to be made.

John tries to convince his traitorous psyche that this situation is nothing like the one with Toby. He can easily see how it could be his fault, though, when he hesitated back at the abandoned office building---and in that one fraction of a second, the big shape shifter was able to get his hands, no talons, right on the Cat. His cat.

Frustration mounts quickly and his newest fear is that he really is going to get his wires crossed. Striding across the room with purpose now, he stops in front of the door and lifts his foot, ready to kick it down. In the wee instant before it connects with the metal, however, the door is pushed open, resulting in nothing more than John landing hard on the tile on his backside.

“What?” he asks uselessly as Sherlock reaches out to help him off the floor. Once he’s back on his feet, he’s able to look more closely at his best friend.

Eyes blazing, Sherlock is grinning lopsidedly, his mussed hair hanging in a viciously kinky curtain over his forehead. His cheeks are smudged with dirt, and is that blood? John leans closer by way of tip toeing, using the pad of his index finger to trace the thin line beneath Sherlock’s right eye.

“I’m hale, John,” Sherlock says aloud, voice cracking. The normal hum along their Link has changed its tune, from a constant mental vibration to an in and out hum-buzz-hum that reminds John of the struggles of a bird trying to break out of its eggshell.

The raspy sound of Sherlock’s voice threatens to push John off kilter again, because somewhere deep down inside he was certain he wasn’t going to ever hear it again. Reaching out slowly, he straightens the button-down shirt Sherlock’s gotten from somewhere so that it hangs properly. Only then does he realize that the detective is wearing absolutely nothing else. The reason for the crooked shirt is now quite obvious.

As in, wow, that’s pretty obvious. Absently, John licks his lips.

:John, you’re blushing.: Sherlock Sends as he begins walking forward, effectively herding John back towards the cot.

John frowns up at him. :Your Mindvoice, Sherlock, it’s…I don’t know…: He lets his sentence fade because there’s no real way to tell if something is really wrong or if it’s just his overactive imagination inventing problems.

Sherlock closes his eyes, parts his lips slightly and takes a deep breath while at the same time, pushing one broad palm against John’s chest enough to push him down onto the end of the bed.

“John, please relax,” Sherlock croaks.

“What’s happened to you?” John curls his fingers around the back of Sherlock’s neck as he falls to the thin mattress, effectively pulling the other man along with him. However, Sherlock stays on his feet, bending awkwardly at the waist in order for John to inspect his neck. “These bruises are more than fresh…I’ll kill him!” John growls, starting to push himself off the bed.

Sherlock shakes his head, straightens up then slowly folds down to his knees, gripping John’s thighs. He clears his throat with a frown against the obvious pain. After a moment, he explains with a whisper, “Belarus. Berwick. The Osprey is Barry’s brother, Damon.”

“Right,” John agrees, gently pressing his fingertips to Sherlock’s jaw without really paying attention to what he’s doing. Checking wounds is second nature. “Barry’s the one who killed his girlfriend with a carving knife, tried to run and ended up in Belarus doing hard time when he murdered a bakery owner there*.”

Sherlock nods, eyes boring into John’s, waiting for the pieces of the puzzle to connect. John doesn’t even need to hear the words ‘you know my methods’ to read Sherlock’s expression loud and clear.

“Oh!” John exclaims. “Damon’s mad at you because it wasn’t Barry who killed his girlfriend originally. It was Damon killing Barry’s girlfriend, then he murdered the bakery lady when he took off…wow. That’s…something. I don’t even know what that is.”

:Good, John.: Sherlock’s Mindvoice is still off, though it seems to be coming through clearer.

:I still don’t understand.: John Sends.

Once again, Sherlock shakes his head. He goes still for a moment and opens his mouth to reply, but before he can get the words out, Mycroft pushes open the door and pauses dramatically on the threshold, umbrella cocked just so with the point against the tile. In his other hand is a neatly folded pair of blue jeans with a pair of trainers on top of them. John grins at Sherlock’s equally dramatic eye roll then pats the mattress next him, politely asking Sherlock to get out of the unusually submissive posture he’s put himself into.

:You don’t need to do that.: John Sends as he deftly catches the jeans Mycroft tosses towards them. He hopes he doesn’t throw the shoes.

All in a single motion, Sherlock rises, plants himself beside and a little behind John; he shrugs, which is apparently all the answer John is going to get. Sherlock leans on him heavily. All three of them pretend not to notice, just as they absolutely do not notice how he’s faintly rubbing his cheek against the spot between John’s shoulder blades. Well, at least Mycroft is ignoring the incredibly possessive catlike behavior; John thinks there’s an awful lot of his body parts that are responding to the simple movement. He sighs wearily.

“Mycroft? Could we get on with it please? I’d really like to get home.”

“Mmm, yes. I do believe a summary is in order, Doctor Watson.” Mycroft’s blue eyes flick from John’s face to Sherlock and back again as he steps into the room in order to deposit the shoes in one of the visitors’ chairs. “I do believe...really, John, I don’t even need to say anything, do I?”

John starts at the abrupt change Mycroft’s manner—from clipped and formal to awfully…would it be a stretch to call it ‘familiarly warm?’ He understands completely both the warning and the blessing made crystal clear and for the first time, John is permitted to see Mycroft as the protective older brother who is positively exhausted. Still hesitant at the quick turnaround, John merely nods, equally feeling the weight of the day…or possibly a halfway dozing consulting detective who is still only wearing a shirt, he isn’t sure anymore.

“I’ll make it short: you were all drugged. The drug, we still aren’t sure exactly what it is yet,” Mycroft puts so much emphasis on the word ‘yet’ that John is certain he’s cracked a tooth. “It was in the air, apparently sent through the ventilation system. In the office you three were in, the main source of it was in the corner near the copy machine.”

That makes a good deal of sense to John. “Victor then.”

Mycroft nods. “Yes, the Terrier could detect it.”

“Only it had blocked our temporary Link enough that I couldn’t pick up anything he was trying to tell me.”

“Correct,” Mycroft says, his eyes on the tip of the umbrella as he twirls it lightly between his fingers. He looks up, allows enough unspoken words to pass between them then turns on his heel and leaves the room.

“Sherlock?” John asks once Mycroft is gone. It appears, however, that Sherlock is either sound asleep or faking it incredibly well. Their Link has noticeably switched from a discordant buzz to a weaker version of its normal hum, which leads John to believe he’s really out cold. Smiling a little, John prods, pushes and pulls until he’s flat on his back with his head and the pillow and tucks Sherlock against his side, curving an arm around the drowsy man’s shoulders. Truly, there’s probably no harm in taking a bit of nap before he checks himself out.

 

A little while later, John wakes to the warm-cold-warm sensation of short puffs of breath against the side of his neck. Sherlock’s long, lanky self is half draped over John with his head hooked over John’s shoulder. There’s no way that is very comfortable, so John shifts some in order to give Sherlock what space he can on the narrow cot; the Were apparently is perfectly fine because he makes a rumbly sound in his chest and wraps his arms tighter around John’s torso. It occurs to him then that the Holmes brothers established the identity of the kidnapping Osprey, but not what happened to him after the fact or exactly what went down that caused Sherlock’s injuries.

“John,” Sherlock mutters against his skin, sending tiny bolts of electricity to his brain.

:Let’s go home.: John Sends.

Sherlock shifts and rests his palm against John’s belly. There’s still two layers of clothing between them yet it feels as if there’s nothing but heat in that simple touch. John relaxes for a few more minutes, enjoying the weight of Sherlock’s hand and the soft breathing until he realizes that he’s practically panting.

:What do you need, John?:

John fights against the rising tide of desire threatening to drag him under and drown him; he tries to remind himself that it right now it’s inappropriate and that Sherlock has not agreed to anything yet…because he knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what the next step in their relationship is going to be…once they make that Bond, there will be no going back, at least for him. And right now? Answering that question would be entirely too easy; he won’t, though, not until he is absolutely certain that Sherlock is ready—hell, wants to even take that next step. There’s a strong feeling of hope there, edged with some fantastically imaginative pictures of what it would be like if and when it finally happens.

As guilt descends on him, he nudges Sherlock’s shoulder and tries to wriggle out from beneath the surprisingly heavy weight of him. Sherlock’s arms are like a vise.

“If you don’t let me up, I’ll just pee on you,” John does his level best to sound serious.

Sherlock snorts with either laughter or the fact he knows John’s lying but finally moves off him enough to allow John to get up.

Once he’s finally on his feet, he looks over to Sherlock and all thoughts of rushing into the loo to hide for a few moments and get his head together simply dissolve. Sherlock is lying on his side now, facing John, hair mussed into a crazy halo around the top of his head, lips slightly parted, wearing his best ‘you know you want me’ expression. The too-big shirt hangs over him, unbuttoned completely and showcasing his very naked body from the base of his collar to the tops of his thighs. John knows full well that his eyes have stopped at the thick thatch of curls above parts of Sherlock that are apparently getting-very-interested-in-the-proceedings.

John tries to speak but there’s no longer enough air in the universe. What he really wants to do is crawl back in that bed and find a thousand ways to make Sherlock shout his name. “We…we really need to talk about this, Sherlock…” John stammers, doing his level best to be the responsible one.

Sherlock lazily blinks. “Does it look like I’m in the mood to talk, John?” he says out loud but at the same time Sends :Get back in bed.:

Again, John fights the twin sensations of being pulled forward physically and mentally. He knows he’s not exactly helpless, but he’s got to be sure. Without saying anything else, he turns on his heel to discover that t’s an almost painful experience to tear his eyes away from the decadent sight on the bed. “Sherlock, get those clothes on and let’s go home.”

He doesn’t wait for a reply, only closes the door of the tiny bathroom then stares at himself in the mirror and wonders why he’s being so serious about this. The answer is instantaneous: because he doesn’t want to make the same mistake he made before. Very, very carefully, he Reaches out to reassure Sherlock that this is not a rejection.

John makes quick work of the facilities, flushes the toilet and washes his hands then splashes some cold water on his face. When he steps out of the loo, Sherlock is really dressed, the last few buttons on the too-big shirt done up and the tail of it tucked into the jeans that probably fit him best about ten years ago because they are so tight John can see everything. It’s going to be a long cab ride home, that much is certain.

%MCEPASTEBIN%

Chapter Text

:19: Bond

Together they manage to get out of the cab without injuring themselves or anyone else. Sherlock’s barely left enough space between them to take the five steps, seven in John’s case, from the kerb to the glossy black door. Once there, Sherlock presses his chest against John’s back while John fiddles with the handle. John’s imagination is on fire, picturing all too clearly everything those tight jeans aren’t concealing. It’s not difficult, considering the heat that’s pouring from Sherlock’s front onto John’s back. Next thing he knows, there’s a very hot, very wet tongue lapping at his ear…

Dammit. They really need to discuss this, but…

John growls some under his breath in relief or utter need, he’s not sure which, as he suddenly discovers that he’s being practically shoved up the stairs and then through their flat door, then he’s on his back and Sherlock’s kissing him within an inch of his life. And even though this is a really terrible idea, considering he’d been out cold less than five hours ago, the way that lithe body feels over him and around him and pushing him against the floor…none of that matters any more.

Their Link is alive, saffron and mustard and bright red balloons of color lighting up behind his closed eyes. A snatch of an old song runs through his mind, Ninety-nine luft balloons go by… and he can almost hear the start of the funky beat…UFOs or bombs he doesn’t care at all; some part of him wants to laugh like a hyena at the ridiculous metaphor. Then Sherlock’s hips are doing some amazing thing that would be dirtier than the Lambada if anyone were to see it, effectively shoving all thoughts of 1980s pop songs out of his head. This thing between their minds is not the comforting hum of home, it is a raucous, slamming drumbeat played to drive crowd insane with desire.

Desire. There’s certainly no shortage of it here if what is poking against John’s thigh is any indication.

:Christ, Sherlock, I do believe you could injure someone with that thing.: John Sends, trying to pull back a little from the precipice, a weak attempt to control the free fall he knows is coming. Sherlock’s got his face cradled in his broad palms; perhaps it keeps them both from spinning into nothing, into everything that exists.

Even in his Mindvoice, Sherlock manages to send through a feeling that surely amounts to a smug smirk. John pulls back enough to get a breath in, enough to force Sherlock to look him straight in the eye.

:Are you sure about this?:

Sherlock doesn’t answer, only holds John’s gaze right there, balanced on the palms of his hands, their bodies pressed together from the waist downward and John knows, he knows that this time it’s finally right. There’s no longer any hint of doubt in those sparkling emerald orbs. It seems like it’s been too long, not long enough and just right. There’s really nothing else to say so he grabs the back of Sherlock’s head and pushes their mouths back together. Idly, part of his mind wonders what the Bonding is really going to be like if things are this intense between them and they haven’t even taken their clothes off yet.

John’s hands may be trapped, but Sherlock’s are not, his fingers have gone from gripping John’s face to his hips to his arse, a handful on either side. Those big paws are pushing upward and John can’t do anything else but go along with it, meeting Sherlock thrust for thrust, grind for grind.

:Sherlock.: It’s really the only warning he can give and he’s ready to give a whole lot more now that Sherlock’s teeth are worrying his earlobe and there’s a deep sound vibrating through Sherlock’s chest and John can’t even think about anything anymore because like those balloons in that song, there’s going to be some popping around here and he’s about ready to beg…

Until someone clears his throat.

“Bloody hell!” John grits out between his teeth when Sherlock nips a little too hard before letting go.

They don’t exactly jump away from each other, though they do turn their heads towards the irritating sound. Victor Trevor is stretched out on the sofa, legs propped up on the arm and watching them with an avid glint in his eye that puts John instantly on the alert.

“Oh, do carry on, gentleman. Seems like it was going to be a good show!” Victor booms.

“My, how your demeanor has changed, Victor.” Sherlock all but hisses, anchoring his fingers around John’s hips and pulling him flush against his front. An almost electric charge dances down their Link and John knows it for the possessiveness that it is.

“Actually, I just wanted to thank you,” Victor states sincerely, his voice dropping to its normal tone. He gracefully pulls his legs down off the arm of the sofa and stands, adjusting his shirt and trousers as he does so. “Somehow Mycroft managed to get me reinstated, so I can have my life back.”

John nods sharply at the other man as Victor rests one hand on Sherlock’s shoulder. He fights the very real urge to bite those shapely fingers.

:Down, John. He’s on his way out.:

:Don’t care.: John Returns. :We can talk to him later.:

Somehow, Sherlock manages to chuckle under his breath while pulling John closer against him. “Goodbye, Trevor.”

“Aye, I’m glad you’re alright, Sherlock. John, it was good to meet you.” Victor offers a half-salute then turns towards the door. He stops with his hand on the knob, turning back to them by looking over his shoulder. “I wasn’t kidding about the ‘good show’ part, though….” he grins like a dog worrying a bone.

“Victor!” John snaps.

With a hearty laugh, Victor steps out the door, closing it firmly behind him. Then, finally, they’re alone.

“Come on, John,” Sherlock mutters, pulling away in order to begin tugging off his clothes.

It takes John about three seconds to catch up and by the time he gets to Sherlock’s bedroom, he’s starting to feel like he’s being led by the clothes dropped everywhere like some sort of weird bread crumb trail. The Link between them is pulling him forward as surely as if he were roped and tied. :There’s no going back this time.:

“I know,” Sherlock murmurs from where he sits on the bed, completely naked with his back against the headboard.

John manages to tug off his last sock and clambers up and into Sherlock’s lap, carefully lowering himself and bending his knees slowly in order to not hurt either one of them. He is still a bit achy but can’t bring himself to be bothered at the moment because Sherlock’s hand is wrapping around the back of his neck and Sherlock’s hot tongue is swiping at his lips and John is moaning into the kiss and opening his mouth and his mind to his lover.

Neon bursts of color behind his eyes threaten to overtake him until his thoughts are blasted wide open and Sherlock is there…not just on the bed with him, bodies slowly melding against one another, hips aligning and cocks slipping together, skin tugging slightly as not enough slick or friction builds between them. Their Link is the same, heated to an almost blinding scarlet and vermillion, bringing their minds and their bodies into sync.

For John, it is an uplifting experience in more ways than one as Sherlock grabs him by the arse and hauls him over so that now he’s flat on his back. Sherlock reaches out, fumbles for a second with the drawer on his bedside table, yet their lips never part. John draws his legs back, resting his calves against the small of Sherlock’s back, allowing their bollocks to rub…the end result is that there are sparks in their minds and electric shocks down their spines pooling in their groins.

…and then…and then…

The first of Sherlock’s fingers to breach him causes John to gasp and bite at Sherlock’s bottom lip. Sherlock groans, pulls out completely, and then unerringly finds his target a second time. He smiles against John’s mouth when John actually whimpers.

“God, Sherlock…” John whispers as their tongues knot.

John’s fingers dig into his back, from either passion or pain, Sherlock is unsure. For a single heartbeat, Sherlock stops, mind and body waiting on John to say…what, he doesn’t know, but he is patient, even with the pulsing of their Link in his mind, shooting out dark green tendrils so thin as to be transparent, a temporal illusion proving the reality of what is happening.

“Yes, Sherlock. Yes,” John says out loud, since he is unable to piece together any coherent thought as Sherlock fingers him into oblivion.

It takes virtually no time at all until John’s hips are snapping in time with Sherlock’s thrusts. Sherlock is balanced over him on one hand, eyes going from where he has three fingers inside John and John’s face, flushed with desire.

“I want you,” Sherlock says under his breath, unable to say more than that.

:Yes, now, Sherlock. Now.:

John’s Mindvoice is breathy and needy. Sherlock decides that he is really enjoying see John in the throes of passion like this. “Let me make you come this way,” he says softly.

John doesn’t answer, but whether he simply lacks the willpower or is too far gone remains to be seen. Sherlock shifts slightly until John’s cock, the tip dotted with precome, pushes against Sherlock’s flat belly with each thrust of his fingers.

Later, John will admit to being lost in the sensation of Sherlock’s talented fingers but for now he knows he wants them to come together, so he hoarsely bites out, “No, together.”

“Good,” Sherlock agrees, carefully pulling out his fingers and carelessly wiping them on the bedclothes beneath them. He pushes himself up onto his knees; John’s calves rest against his hips as he slicks up his own almost ignored cock. Leaning forward to line himself up with John’s body, he thrusts slowly, shallowly, then kisses John deeply and finally enters him fully with one slow push.

Sherlock curves his arms beneath John’s back and pulls him slightly, causing John to groan and tighten his legs until they are so caught up in the feeling of Sherlock inside John’s body that they are no longer kissing. John’s hands are buried in Sherlock’s hair, holding Sherlock’s face tightly against his neck. One or both of them is crooning soft words of endearment up until Sherlock’s hips stutter and the feeling of him spilling over is enough to push John towards his own climax.

John moans loudly as the spasms that began in his body light up his psyche as well. For a few moments, there’s nothing but a vast space of saffron light and the two of them, naked, smiling at one another. Sherlock’s eyes are a bright, unearthly emerald and John knows his must be much the same—possibly icy, shimmering pools of sapphire.

:Together, then?: Sherlock Sends, his Mindvoice achingly filled with wonder and fear of loss simultaneously.

:Together.: John agrees as his body relaxes in Sherlock’s arms, his mind at peace and his body satisfied that the Bond they have just created will only become stronger for the time they have already experienced and have yet to see.

In Sherlock’s silent, musk-scented bedroom, endearments are whispered and two good men, a Shapeshifter and an Anchor, learn that together, they are Great men and what they will accomplish together is unlimited by nothing save for their own eventual humanity. Even, then, however, their Bond will stand the test of time.