Sherlock watches his knee bounce up and down.
A nervous twitch.
Sherlock has never been nervous. He's never anxious or unsure.
Apparently, that has changed.
In the past few days, everything has changed.
"You should be with him," Mycroft's irritating voice comes from his left.
Sherlock doesn't turn. "He's asleep."
"He'd want you with him."
Sherlock bites down hard on the inside of his cheek. He eyes Lestrade hovering nearby, watching Mycroft like a hawk, attempting not to seem like he's eavesdropping.
The emotion tearing through Sherlock is threatening to release itself in the form of a fury so intense it's heating his entire body.
He says nothing.
"Sherlock," Mycroft says as gently as he can. Sherlock flinches. "He needs you."
The stoic façade of the Holmes' brothers is crumbling.
Sherlock doesn't respond, not trusting himself to speak.
"You're his husband," Mycroft says softly. "Even if he doesn't remember that, he still needs you."
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Sherlock knows the unreasonable rage he's filled with is due to the hurt, the confusion, the intense mix of emotions he's currently experiencing.
He doesn't even know whom he's angrier at.
Mycroft for being a meddling prat?
Lestrade for being with his meddling brother, never choosing to leave him?
The doctors and nurses who have no answers?
Or his husband?
His husband who chose to go back to war? His husband whose psychosomatic limp he fixed, whose tremor miraculously disappeared after years of working with him?
His husband who dove at the chance to go back to the battlefield immediately upon request? Who chose to leave him? Who decided their life together wasn't enough?
Who now lies in a hospital bed with broken bones and cuts and bruises and a white bandage wrapped around his head from an injury sustained on said battlefield, now believing it's five years ago, thinking he's only just returned from war, having no idea he's married, no idea he's been invalided home twice.
No idea he's had a life with one Sherlock Holmes. No idea Sherlock Holmes has been waiting for him.
"Go sit with him," Mycroft urges.
Sherlock eyes the Detective Inspector attempting to be inconspicuous and failing. It's no wonder the police are so incompetent. "Did Lestrade put you up to this?"
Mycroft waits a silent beat then says, "Go to him," as he stands.
Scrubbing a hand down his face, Sherlock waits for Mycroft to swagger off.
Then he rises and rounds the corner, slipping silently into the room that holds his sleeping partner.
John Watson is curled on his side, one arm tucked underneath his head, the other laying palm flat against the empty space next to him.
The fact that John's body still remembers Sherlock and their usual sleeping position feels like a tiny stab in Sherlock's heart. It should be comforting.
Sherlock wants to fill that empty space.
Sherlock wants to crawl into bed with the man he hasn't seen in months, find his usual position, with John's hand up his shirt against his stomach and John's lips pressed to his ear.
John still looks the same.
Still like John.
Like his John.
A little tanner maybe.
An extra line or two on his face.
Hair a bit blonder then when he left London from the blazing sun in the Middle East.
But overall, he's still John.
He moves and breathes and talks like John.
But he's not John.
Not Sherlock's John.
He's taken several steps forward without even noticing before he has to stop himself and look away.
This is probably the best time to be in here, anyway. While John sleeps.
Because then John's beautiful blue eyes aren't looking at him in confusion. They aren't searching over him in concern and fear, trying to piece together who he is and what he's doing here. Trying to decide how he's supposed to act. Trying to sort out what he's supposed to mean to John.
They've told him, of course. He's been home for several days, requiring surgery for the broken ankle that hadn't been set properly and supervision after the serious knock to the head he'd received. After his unit found out that he didn't know any of his men or the mission they were on, they sent him to the medic. Mycroft had stepped in after that, getting him to Bart's by plane, and under the care of the best doctors they could find.
John is aware that his memory is missing. He's aware that Sherlock is someone he's supposed to know. Supposed to care deeply for. Supposed to love.
But he has no recollection of their life together. He doesn't remember being invalided home the first time and meeting Sherlock in this very hospital. He doesn't remember moving in to 221B Baker Street and starting a life with the only consulting detective in the world. He doesn't remember the cases and the chases and the adrenaline.
He doesn't remember taking care of Sherlock.
He doesn't remember falling in love with Sherlock.
He doesn't remember asking Sherlock over and over if he was alright the first time they made love, always being so careful with him.
He doesn't remember sliding a gold band onto Sherlock's ring finger while he slept against John's chest. He doesn't remember murmuring marry me as Sherlock roused from a deep slumber, stroking his curls and grinning at him. He doesn't remember going to the courthouse the very next day and signing the papers, dragging Mycroft and Lestrade along for witnesses because they were the only two that could be available on short notice.
Because Sherlock simply couldn't wait to make John his legally.
Because John couldn't wait either.
He doesn't remember the way he looked at Sherlock with glistening eyes as he signed the paper, whispering I love you husband so quietly no one else could hear.
He doesn't remember the day the army called a year later. He doesn't remember looking wide-eyed at Sherlock and saying 'They want me back' like he couldn't quite believe it. He doesn't remember preemptively arguing that he had a duty to fulfill, that when the army calls you don't say no, that Sherlock needed to understand.
Sherlock hadn't said a word. He'd simply nodded and continued on with their life, solving cases, running all over London, being happily married.
Until John's deployment date came.
Sherlock hadn't wept. He hadn't whispered tender words or extended tight hugs. He simply nodded stoically; accepted John's kiss on the cheek and saw him off.
The next time they would see each other, John wouldn't know him.
John wouldn't remember him.
The doctors say that they can't say. It could be temporary. It could be permanent. They don't know.
Sherlock knows, of course.
Sherlock is certain.
It'll be permanent.
John won't remember their life. Like it never happened.
Because Sherlock was stupid enough to believe that their fairytale life was forever.
This is just the universe correcting its mistake.
Erasing the past five years and setting Sherlock back where he belongs: alone.
He's only wept once so far. The first time John had woken. He'd looked up at Sherlock with sheer terror, confused and scared and not understanding why a man in a long charcoal coat was hovering near his bed.
He'd thought he'd been captured.
It may have been the single worst moment of Sherlock's natural life.
Even when Sherlock knew about John's memory loss, he still hoped maybe once John laid eyes on him, all would be right.
Nothing was right.
Sherlock steeples his fingers under his chin as he sits in the furthest chair from the bed, elbows on knees, eyes fixed on the sleeping figure of his husband.
It aches to be this close and not touch. Not hold on and cuddle close and exchange caresses and kisses.
It had hurt when John was physically gone.
Having John here but not actually having John here.
Seeing his face and hearing his voice and not being John at all.
This is unbearable.
This will be what kills Sherlock.
He's certain of it.
John stirs with a quiet moan and Sherlock slips silently out the door.
"You can take my room," Sherlock says diplomatically.
John's head whips around to stare at Sherlock.
"Oh- no," Sherlock all but barks, horrified at the implication. "I won't- I'll stay in the other room. So you don't have to reconcile two sets of stairs."
John's eyes narrow a fraction.
Sherlock fights back a small smile. Simply because that irritated look John is currently giving him is so... John. No one tells John what to do. No one coddles John Watson.
The thrill of seeing a glimpse of his John doesn't last, as the doctor hesitates, snapping his mouth shut on his retort.
He always snaps at Sherlock.
There is no hesitation.
He pops off whenever he pleases.
It would feel better than the overly polite look John is trying to force on his features. "I'll be fine, thank you," he replies.
Sherlock suppresses a sigh and nods once in acknowledgement.
This is so much worse than he could have ever imagined.
They'd agreed John would move back into 221B once the doctors had cleared him. He didn't have anywhere else to go and this was his home after all. John had been wary at best with the arrangement but conceded the point after realizing his only other option was his sister Harry whom he didn't get on with.
And he had to stay with someone through his recuperation from surgery.
Sherlock really was the only option.
And for some inexplicable reason, it made him feel guilty. So bloody guilty to force this man who didn't know who he was, to live with him. To be forced to play pretend.
Sherlock has already sorted out how this will end.
Prolonging the inevitable seems so cruel for them both.
In eight weeks, once John is fully healed and is able to move about without wincing, Sherlock will have divorce papers drawn up. He will take care of everything, only needing a signature from John to complete the process, and send him on his way. He'll let John know that it was alright for him to move out - John is only staying here now because he has to. He'll no doubt feel guilty by the time he's healed.
Even if he's not Sherlock's John, he's still John Watson, and Sherlock knows John Watson better than anyone.
Sherlock will make the transition easy for him.
It will break Sherlock.
Most likely kill him.
But John doesn't need to know that.
John stands uncomfortably in the doorway, glancing around the flat, hands twitching at his sides against his crutches.
His ankle is in a cast and his jeans are rolled up to accommodate the thing and he looks utterly miserable.
Sherlock wants to make some stupid joke about it to make John laugh. Tease John about how much he must hate those crutches and that stupid cast. He wants to laugh and laugh with John until they're intertwined, finding each other again.
He wants to kiss John. Touch him intimately and whisper in his ear that he plans to take care of him, telling him all the ways he will. He wants to take him to bed, lay him down in the sheets and arrange him so Sherlock can pleasure him without pain. Like they normally do when one is down. They've both been injured in the past. They always take care of each other, faux-taunting one another to ease the tension of helplessness, fixing themselves under the sheets so they can still touch and fondle and make love.
Something shatters in Sherlock's chest as he watches his husband glance around their home uncomfortably, trying to find words to say to his partner- flatmate.
Sherlock is his flatmate.
No, those words no longer apply.
Sherlock is just another body in this flat. He's simply the tall man who occupies the first floor bedroom.
He must stop thinking of John as his husband.
He watches John shuffle into the room, seeming unsure how to proceed.
"Have a seat," Sherlock says breezily as he strolls into the kitchen, attempting to appear unaffected. "Tea?"
John loves tea.
Small comforts, Sherlock supposes.
For both of them.
"Tea would be fantastic," John says, and Sherlock watches in horror as John settles onto the couch.
John doesn't belong on the couch.
John belongs in his chair. His chair where he drinks his tea and chicken pecks his laptop keys and yells at Sherlock for breaking into said laptop.
Sherlock catches himself before John notices him lingering and hurries into the kitchen, flipping on the kettle.
He hears John shifting against the cushions, trying to find a comfortable way to set his leg.
Sherlock makes his way to his coat on the rack near the door to pull his phone out of the pocket and subtly tosses a pillow onto the coffee table without looking over.
There is a beat of silence before John chuckles quietly and heaves his foot up onto the pillow and doesn't say a word.
Sherlock makes his way back to the kitchen to pour the now heated water. He mentally notes where the telly remote is and reminds himself to grab it on his way back into the main room.
Christ, this is awkward.
Sherlock has never felt more uneasy in his life.
He goes back to the couch, tea in hand, swiping up the remote as he goes, setting both on the table next to John.
"Thanks mate," John says with a strained smile.
It's like a blow to the gut.
He's John's mate now. Not his partner. Not his lover. Not even his best friend. Just his mate. A flatmate. A housemate. A fucking mate.
And it's so…polite.
John is a lot of things to Sherlock.
Polite is not one of them.
Sherlock tries to return a tight smile of his own but he's certain it's more of a grimace and turns to go to his microscope.
"Sherlock?" John says softly and Sherlock turns back, doing all he can not to close his eyes in agony. Hearing John so...unsure, unable to even say Sherlock's name without it coming out of his mouth like a foreign word makes him ache in places he didn't even know existed.
"Hm?" Sherlock replies to contain a sob threatening to leave his lips.
"I-" John starts, glancing anywhere but Sherlock's eyes. "I'm sorry about...all this."
Sherlock furrows his brow. "Um," he says hesitantly. "…Alright."
John sighs. "I... I know this isn't easy for you."
Christ, neither is this conversation. "It's alright," Sherlock repeats.
John exhales through his nose in a huff. "I'm...sorry that I don't-"
"John," Sherlock says softly but sternly and John glances up to meet his eyes. "It's fine." The tone is definitive but Sherlock is sure he's going to fall apart at any second. "Let's just see about getting you better, alright?"
John holds his gaze for a long moment, seeming unsure if he should trust Sherlock's words or not. They stare at each other until John tips his head in a shallow, quick nod. Sherlock nods back and takes off to the loo for a shower.
He holds back the tears until he's under the water.
It'll mark the second time Sherlock weeps since John came home.
The nightmares start immediately.
Hours after John has fumbled his way upstairs, muttering an awkward goodnight, Sherlock hears the cry. It's muffled but Sherlock knows what it is.
It hurts so much not being able to go in and hold him.
He fidgets for another moment before another scream rings out.
Unable to do nothing, Sherlock opts for the less intrusive route.
He pads up the stairs silently, violin and bow in hand, and sits on the stairs just as a groan and sharp screech pierce the silence.
Bringing the instrument to his chin, Sherlock glides the bow down the strings, playing long, shimmering notes as another sob echoes from behind the door.
Sherlock closes his eyes and plays anything he can remember, different pieces running together, different emotions pouring through the notes.
He loses himself in the music, attempting to block out the pain. Pain from listening to his husband hurting. Pain from no longer having a husband. Pain from no longer have a John.
He plays until his fingers bleed.
By the time he stops, he has no idea how long it's been.
All he knows is by the time he's done, there is silence.
Sherlock watches from his perch at the kitchen table as Mrs. Hudson fusses over John.
He is doing his best not to glare at her and certain he's failing.
Mrs. Hudson had barged in about eight minutes ago, eyes immediately welling up at the sight of John propped up on the couch, hands flapping in front of her.
"Oh John! Oh dear, how are you? How's the ankle? Is the leg acting up again? Oh, I'm sorry dear, I know you don't remember me, I live just downstairs, 221A. I'm so sorry about all this. Is Sherlock taking care of you? He gets easily distracted you know. Or, well, I suppose you don't know...but you better tell me if he isn't doing what he's supposed to... "
John's eyes flit to Sherlock in panic and Mrs. Hudson continues talking.
"Landlady," Sherlock mouths and John nods gratefully at him, seeming to relax slightly.
Sherlock allows himself a hidden smile.
Comforting John gives him a hint of joy.
It's a twisted pleasure and a stupid one at that.
John could get help from anyone really.
Sherlock is not special.
"I brought up some sandwiches and a few frozen dinners," Mrs. Hudson continues, beaming at the doctor. "Sherlock isn't much for cooking or cleaning or much of anything really. Would you like a cuppa?"
Sherlock ignores the jab and watches John's eyes widen at all the new information just thrown at him. "Uh-"
"Just this once, dear," Mrs. Hudson says turning toward the kitchen, "I'm not your housekeeper."
Sherlock ducks his head as Mrs. Hudson makes her way to the kettle. "How is he?" she whispers behind her hand. Sherlock peeks around her shoulder to see John glaring at her back.
Obviously, Mrs. Hudson isn't as quiet as she thinks she is.
"He's fine," Sherlock says loudly, flinging himself from the stool toward his laptop on his chair.
Mrs. Hudson, as always, takes the snapping in stride and begins making tea.
The small grin John throws in Sherlock's direction as he passes through the main room makes Sherlock's heart stutter in his chest.
Four days in.
It's unbearable being in the flat.
It's unbearable being around John.
Sherlock tries to be discreet but he watches.
He watches John storm around as best he can on a busted ankle.
He watches John seethe on the couch, glaring at the telly.
He notices John staying in his room in longer increments, only coming downstairs for food or a wash or just a change of scenery.
He avoids Sherlock as best he can.
He avoids the awkward quiet they fall into when together.
John always was the strong, silent type.
Until it came to his feelings for Sherlock.
It was something Sherlock always cherished about their relationship. Being open to each other. Taking care of each other.
But that's long since past.
Now, John is angry.
Now, John is bitter.
Now, John is miserable.
And it has little to do with his memory loss.
It may not be obvious to John.
But it's obvious to Sherlock.
John misses the war.
He misses Afghanistan.
He misses the danger and the excitement and the adrenaline.
And misses John to the very core of his being.
"Do you work?"
It's been a week back to the flat by the time John asks this question.
He's barely spoken to Sherlock, with the exception of greetings in the morning and small talk about food and the occasional nod.
John clearly has no idea what to say to Sherlock.
Sherlock is grateful for the silence. He has no idea what to say either.
The question startles him. "What?"
John coughs uncomfortably. "Do you work. You know, like do you have a job of some sort?"
This is why they don't speak.
Every time they do, Sherlock's heart breaks just a bit more.
He nods slowly. "Yes..." he says at length.
John huffs. "Why aren't you there?"
Sherlock fidgets at his microscope. "Sorry?"
John is getting angrier with every word. "You've been home for a week. You don't leave the flat. Why are you here all the time?"
Sherlock's eyes widen. "I...I just wanted to make sure you were-"
"I'm fine," John spits. "Jesus, Sherlock, I'm...sorry but Christ, you are driving me insane."
He truly has no idea how to respond.
Luckily, John doesn't seem to be looking for a response.
"You are here all the time, looking at me like I'm some lost puppy, pitying me like some poor, pathetic idiot and I can't breathe. You are suffocating me. I can't leave the flat because I can't maneuver this bloody leg around properly, but you? You can. So please, for the love of all that is holy, go to work."
John's chest is heaving, fists clenched on his crutches, face reddening, lips pressing together, draining the color from them.
Fuck, he's gorgeous like this.
Sherlock loves angry John.
It's a kink he'd found he had years ago.
Angry John is an excellent shag.
It's resulted in fantastic sex in the past.
The familiar ache returns at the pit of Sherlock's stomach when he realizes all too quickly that this will obviously not end in fucking.
Another painful realization.
They hold each other's gaze for a long moment.
Then Sherlock swipes up his phone from the table.
"Alright," he says softly, and makes his way to the door, ripping his coat from the coat rack as he goes.
And that's when he feels it.
It's not instant.
Probably won't be for a while.
But he can feel it starting.
Being with John had brought out things in him he didn't know existed. Simply because before John he didn't care to.
Now that it's over.
Now that there is no more he and John.
There is no reason for these feelings.
No need for them.
Sherlock slides into a cab, barks an address at the driver and silently sets about gathering his memories of love and happiness and John Watson.
To file away in a room he plans to lock up and throw away the key, never to be seen or heard from again.
Lestrade's eyes bulge as Sherlock sweeps into New Scotland Yard. "Sherlock?"
"Brilliant observation," Sherlock mutters, grabbing the first folder he sees off the desk.
Lestrade frowns. "What are you doing here? Isn't John still-"
"John is fine," Sherlock bites back. "What do you have for me?"
Lestrade blinks, approaching him warily, looking concerned and a bit scared. "Sherlock," he says gently, extending a hand. "You should be-"
"Stop," Sherlock barks, stepping out of reach. "What do you have?"
Lestrade hesitates. He glances around as though the answer may come from mid-air.
Sherlock sighs. "Please," he says. That always seems to work with other people. The word please. Lestrade looks so startled, Sherlock says it again. "Please."
The DI runs a hand through his hair, looking quite stunned.
"Yeah, alright," he murmurs and Sherlock sags in relief. "Actually, I do have something."
Sherlock nods sharply. "I was certain you would. You lot are incompetent without me."
Lestrade narrows his eyes. "Good to know you haven't changed a bit."
Six hours and a lengthy investigation into London's transportation later, Sherlock actually feels better. Not great. The same slightly empty feeling he has working without John has returned. But it helped.
It got his brain focused on something besides the ending of his marriage.
So, naturally, a familiar black car is of course waiting outside as he exits the police station.
"I'm certain Lestrade will be along soon," he says flippantly as a window rolls down.
"I'm not here for Gregory, Sherlock," Mycroft replies. "Get in the car."
"I need to get home-"
"I'll take you. Get in."
Sherlock huffs a sigh and glances down the street. "You're kidnapping me outside of a police station."
"I pay their salaries. I'm sure they would give me a pass."
"I'm sure you dole out other special favors to the lead Detective."
"Get in the car, Sherlock."
Growling low in his throat, Sherlock acquiesces, slamming the door behind him. "What?" he demands.
Mycroft raises a condescending eyebrow, but holds his tongue.
He's tiptoeing around Sherlock.
Has been since the hospital.
The car starts to move and Sherlock wonders if he can remain silent for the entire ride.
Mycroft seems content to stare at him, silently judging his every move.
Sherlock ignores him with practiced ease.
"You need to begin thinking about the future, Sherlock," Mycroft begins finally, calm as always. "You need to think about what's best for John."
"He's not a child, Mycroft," Sherlock says tiredly. "He can make decisions for himself."
"Not when he's missing vital information for making those decisions."
Sherlock glares. "He's only been back a fortnight. It's a bit early to be making decisions."
He's already made decisions regarding his and John's separate futures, but that's none of Mycroft's business.
The car pulls onto Baker Street and Sherlock watches as they park in front of the familiar building.
"Sherlock," Mycroft says softly as Sherlock lunges for the handle. "I'm truly sorry all of this happened. But you need to be realistic. Once John heals-"
"Once John heals, he will move out," Sherlock says loudly. "I have no illusions to my current situation, Mycroft. But first and foremost, I am John's friend and I will help him until he no longer needs me. I will then take the necessary steps to dissolve our marriage and let John live his life. I am not so selfish to force a man to live with me who has no interest in doing so. Afternoon."
And with that, Sherlock throws open the door and slips out of the car, gritting his teeth at the feeling of Mycroft's eyes boring into his back.
The feeling Sherlock had felt leaving NSY fizzles out immediately at the sight of John sitting on the couch tensely, offering a rather pained, closed lipped smile as Sherlock makes his way inside.
"John," he says with a nod as he hangs his coat on the rack.
"Hi," John says, rubbing a hand on the back of his neck. "Listen, about earlier-"
"It's fine," Sherlock says hurriedly with a flip of his hand.
He has no interest in John's apologies. They are hollow and unfeeling and don't mean half the things Sherlock wishes they did.
John exhales sharply. "No it's not and stop saying that."
The bite in his words makes Sherlock falter and turn with a furrowed brow.
John sighs. "I know you... I know this is hard for you and I'm sorry for snapping."
Sherlock nods cautiously. "It's-"
"It's not fine. This whole fucking situation is not fine." John's words come out soft and tired as he presses the heels of his hands against his eyes. "I don't know what to say to you."
"I don't either," Sherlock murmurs. He ventures to his chair and lowers himself carefully feeling a bit stunned. "I don't mean to make you uncomfortable."
John shakes his head. "You don't. Really, you don't, Sherlock. I'm just," he shakes his head incredulously. "I'm married," he murmurs. "I'm married and I didn't know. It's...alarming."
"Because I'm male?"
It was a question burning in the back of Sherlock's mind. Along with so many others.
Are you afraid of me?
Do you hate me?
Why did you go off to war in the first place?
Why did you leave me?
Do you still think I'm beautiful like you always used to say? Or could you only see that when you still loved me?
Can you see us at all?
Can you see how we were?
Do you dream about me?
Do you remember me in your dreams?
He suppresses those questions and focuses on the one he's spoken, watching carefully.
John startles, snapping his head up to look at Sherlock. "What? No! Oh my god, no. I came to terms with my sexuality a long time ago."
Sherlock thinks that over for a moment. "Do you have questions? I'd be happy to answer them."
John blinks at him for a moment, uncertainty and curiosity fighting for dominance on his face.
"It's alright," Sherlock says with a small nod. "I don't mind."
He does mind.
So bloody much.
But he knows John needs this.
And if it will comfort John, how can Sherlock deny him?
John licks his lips, shifting on the couch. "Uh-" he huffs a quiet laugh. "Maybe we start with something simple. What do you do for a living?"
Sherlock swallows a laugh of his own. Not so simple but he'll do what he can. "I'm a consulting detective."
John blinks uncomprehendingly and Sherlock chuckles. "Essentially, I assist the police in investigations. I invented the job so don't worry about having no knowledge of what it is."
John's shoulders relax slightly. He nods. "Okay. How did we meet?"
"We met at Bart's actually," Sherlock replies, ignoring the thud of his shattered heart. He can still see John limping into the lab, looking the part of wounded soldier so perfectly and knocking the breath from Sherlock's lungs. "I was in need of a flatmate and you were in need of a flat."
John hums. "After I got shot, yeah?"
Sherlock nods. John has no recollection of being shot. In his mind, he's just come home from that tour, his last memory being a few moments before the bullet entered his chest.
Sherlock wants to tell John how beautiful he thought he was that first day. How fascinating Sherlock had immediately found him, standing there with a cane in hand, putting absolutely no weight on it, giving so much of himself away without even knowing it.
Sherlock had thought he was perfect from the start.
"And how did we start being...together?"
The lump that forms in Sherlock's throat threatens to suffocate him. "Um-" he doesn't know how to say this. "I... you worked with me. On cases."
John cocks his head. "For the police?"
Sherlock nods. "Once you moved in, you started coming with me, doing investigations and such. You liked the danger- excitement."
He leaves out the part about John calling him brilliant and extraordinary in the cab ride to their first case together.
He leaves out the part about John's limp and it disappearing after their first chase together.
He leaves out the part where John killed someone to save Sherlock's life hours after their first meeting.
John actually smiles. "I don't doubt it," he laughs. "I've always had a thing for a thrill."
Sherlock tries to smile back but he's certain it doesn't reach his eyes. It wasn't just a thrill. John is an adrenaline junkie, no doubt about that, but Sherlock knew it was more than that. "Yes, you do," Sherlock murmurs.
John beckons Sherlock to continue. "Go on."
"We'd been working together about a year and had a particularly... dangerous case. It ended in an explosion."
Sherlock's heart beat harder against his chest as John's eyes twinkle at that sentence. "An explosion?"
Sherlock allows himself a small smile as he nods. "Well, a kidnapping and then an explosion."
John is actually breathing a little harder. "Were all the, uh, cases like that? All the ones I worked on with you?"
Sherlock thinks that over for a moment. "In different ways, I suppose. Not all of them resulted with something exploding, but many of them involved chases and you carried your gun more often than not."
John is blinking like he can't quite believe what he's hearing. "Wow," he breathes. He shakes himself slightly. "Okay so after the explosion..." he rolls his hand in the air for Sherlock to continue.
Sherlock clears his throat. "You, uh... you kissed me. We got home and you said you were so thankful that we'd made it out alive and then you kissed me."
That wasn't the whole truth.
John had sat silently on the ride back to Baker Street that night after the pool and Moriarty and the semtex vest blowing up. They'd just barely made it inside when John had grabbed Sherlock by his coat lapels, thrown him against the door and pressed his mouth insistently against his, murmuring nonsensical things like I almost lost you and what the hell were you thinking and don't ever do that again and I love you I love you I love you.
It had been the best night of Sherlock's life.
John now sits silently on the couch, biting down on the inside of his cheek, lips twisting. He unknowingly brings his fingertips to his lips. "Oh," he says softly, the word breaking.
Sherlock doesn't know how to proceed. He stays completely still, looking anywhere but at John.
John exhales slowly, gathering himself. "How did we... who proposed to who?"
"John, we don't have to-"
"Please," he murmurs. "I'd like to know."
Sherlock runs a hand through his curls.
He doesn't want this to hurt John like it seems to be.
But he doesn't see a way out.
"Um...y-you proposed. To me," he clarifies.
John nods, eyes shining brighter than before. "How?" The word comes out a whisper.
Sherlock worries at his bottom lip. "In our bed," he murmurs. "I was… you gave me my ring in our bed."
He leaves out the part of waking up with a wedding ring on his finger and the man he loved more than anything whispering a proposal in his ear.
He leaves out the deep, thorough shag he'd been on the receiving end of after he'd accepted.
He watches in horror as tears spill onto John's cheeks.
It's agony not to go to him. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
John cuts him off with a wave of his hand, swiping fingers against his eyes. "I asked," he says, attempting to smile with trembling lips. "I hate that I can't remember something like that. Something so important."
Sherlock hates it too but doesn't say anything.
"Sorry," John murmurs, wiping the wetness from his cheeks. "I s'pose this memory loss thing has me coming over a bit wobbly."
Sherlock swallows hard on the lump in his throat.
"Why don't you wear your wedding ring anymore?"
John looks genuinely perplexed and Sherlock resists the urge to sprint from the room.
He'd removed it.
As far as John is concerned, they aren't married. Why would Sherlock continue to wear his ring?
"I didn't want to..." Sherlock searches for the right words. He can feel John watching him. "...make things uncomfortable."
John leans forward as best he can with his bum leg, his eyes softening slightly. "This is your home, Sherlock," John says with such kindness it makes Sherlock's teeth grind. "I don't want you to feel like you have to walk on eggshells around me."
Sherlock hasn't been walking on eggshells.
Sherlock has been trying to sort out how to just be.
How to be alone.
How to be on his own again.
How to bloody survive this.
All he does now is nod.
John sighs. "Do you want something for dinner?"
Sherlock shakes his head. They've had enough awkward conversations for one night. "No, thank you."
John frowns. "Actually, I don't think I've seen you eat since we got here."
Something warms in the pit of Sherlock's stomach at how John that comment was. John his husband, not John the memory losing soldier.
"I eat," he murmurs.
John actually laughs. "Oh yeah? When?"
Sherlock's lips twitch. "When you're not looking."
John snorts and rolls up off the couch. "I'll make us something."
Sherlock watches John hobble across the room.
He stops in the doorway of the kitchen and turns, offering a shy smile. "You play the violin beautifully, by the way."
He doesn't allow Sherlock the chance to respond before he's turning back around and limping to the fridge.
And for the first time since John came home, Sherlock begins to hope.
John is fitted for a boot at his doctor's appointment a week later.
He comes home grinning and whistling as he makes himself a cuppa.
Sherlock can tell how thrilled he is.
He'll be able to walk.
Maybe even leave the flat.
The boot will come in a week or two.
And Sherlock can already see the beginning of the end.
He hasn't cried in weeks.
Maybe that's a good sign.
He's dedicating himself to his work and his experiments.
Like he should have done all those years ago and never dealt with stupid, useless emotions like love.
He's done a remarkable job of keeping his experiments contained to his room. Well. The more gruesome ones, anyway.
He's installed a small fridge and icebox to keep the body parts fresh.
Today, he's got fingers.
They're clearly pity fingers, seeing Molly's sad eyes looking at him as she handed him the bag. "I'm so sorry, Sherlock," she said sweetly.
Sherlock ignored her and made his way home quickly, the bag of digits clutched in his gloved hand.
He hurries up the stairs excitedly, dropping the bag on the table and taking off to the loo.
John isn't home, having his weekly doctor's appointment, so Sherlock knows it's safe to leave the fingers out for a bit.
He uses the toilet and heads to his room to find the acid he's stored for this very occasion when he hears a sharp yelp.
"AH! What the-"
Sherlock runs from his room into the kitchen to find John's giant blue eyes staring at the bag in absolute horror.
"Sherlock," John says breathlessly. "Are those-"
"Nothing!" Sherlock cries, reaching out for the bag.
John is quicker.
He swipes the bag from the table and holds it up to examine it. "Are those... fingers?"
Sherlock's face burns hotter than the sun.
He'd been so careful.
"I-" he drops his gaze to the floor. "It's for an experiment."
John narrows his eyes. "An experiment?"
"Yes," Sherlock says softly. "For work."
"The police give you things to experiment on?"
Sherlock shakes his head. "No, I get them from the morgue. It's just something I do."
"Whose fingers did you chop off?"
It's Sherlock's turn to look horrified. "No ones! John I would never-"
He's cut off by John's laughter.
John is laughing.
John is laughing.
It's the closest to happy John has been since coming home.
Sherlock furrows his brow. "What?"
John's shoulders are shaking, his lips curling into a genuine grin. "Seriously? Why do you have these?"
The question is good-natured, but it still makes Sherlock feel queasy.
He doesn't like John looking like this.
Like he's... happy.
Happy without being in love with Sherlock.
Happy without being married to Sherlock.
He shoves that self-centered thought aside for now and runs a keen eye over John's body. The happy smile makes more sense now. "You got your boot."
John smiles wider. "I did," he says, admiring the plastic wrapped around his leg. "I can actually function like a real person now."
Sherlock nods. "That's great news."
It's not great news.
It's the worst news in the history of news.
John nods. "I probably can even make it down to the store as well. So you don't have to do the shopping anymore." He gives him a knowing grin. "If Mrs. Hudson is to be believed, you hated doing it anyway."
Sherlock's jaw clenches down on a protest.
He doesn't hate it. He loves it. He gets to do something for John and it's the best thing in the world.
He reminds himself to be extra rude to Mrs. Hudson the next time he sees her.
"But really, what are these for?" John says nodding back to the bag in his hand.
"I was going to test the effects of acid on recently decaying skin."
John glances at the bag then back to Sherlock. He shakes his head fondly and hands it over. "That's disgusting but I'll leave you to it."
Sherlock plucks the bag out of John's grasp, beyond horrified.
John tosses one more smile his way, then turns and walks almost normally out of the kitchen.
And bites down hard on the suffocating feeling in his chest.
John is happy.
Because John is able to leave the flat.
John is able to escape.
John is able to restart his life.
Sherlock is lying in bed staring at the ceiling in the late hours of the morning.
He hates the mornings.
Mornings were always the best with John.
John loved morning cuddles and soft kisses.
John loved quiet words and slow caresses.
John was always so gorgeous in the morning. All lazy smiles and sleep-warm skin and contented sighs.
Mornings, John would say, are for husbands. Mornings are for quiet Good morning baby's and How did you sleep?'s and Tell me about your dreams'.
Sherlock couldn't say for sure what he himself looked like in the mornings. But he would wager he looked quite ridiculous, staring up at his lover like a love-sick teenager, all wondrous and enchanted, trying to sort out where John Watson came from and how of all places had he wound up in Sherlock's bed.
Because it didn't make sense.
It didn't make sense that John Watson's last instinct at night was to make love to Sherlock, and his first instinct in the morning was the stay in bed for as long as possible, rubbing Sherlock's back and whispering tender things in his ear. Like he could do this for the rest of his life and be happy.
It never made sense to Sherlock.
Why perfect John Watson had chosen him of all people.
But it had become Sherlock's norm.
And Sherlock never wanted it to stop.
He supposes maybe the world is just righting itself now. Just fixing the mistake it had made so many years ago.
The army was the first step.
The memory loss was just icing on the cake.
It was the morning hours that Sherlock allowed himself to process these things.
Process and accept.
And find a way to survive the day.
Rolling out of bed with a groan, Sherlock dresses and makes his way to the kitchen.
He no longer lays around in his dressing gown.
He's become quite a considerate flatmate. He's never been this considerate for anyone in his life. Not even when he still had a husband who knew who he was.
He doesn't want John to feel uncomfortable.
He doesn't want John to leave.
Even though he knows, he bloody knows it's for the best.
He makes his way to the kitchen.
And just barely stops himself from falling as his knees buckle.
John is standing at the stove, spatula in hand, humming. He's cooking eggs.
The déjà vu is overwhelming.
Sherlock almost goes to him.
Almost wraps his arms around John's fit waist. Almost presses his front to John's back, sealing them tightly. Almost nuzzles his face into John's neck, kissing behind his ear to make him sigh and smile.
Because John turns at that moment.
And looks at Sherlock with those now unseeing eyes. Those eyes that now look at Sherlock with uncertain sympathy and confusion and attempts at not pitying but missing the mark by a mile.
The way someone looks at an acquaintance that they're certain they should know but having no idea why.
No softness like his John always had.
No tender grins or beckoning waves.
No familiar recognition.
Sherlock wonders if the tightening in his chest will ever loose.
"Morning," John says.
Sherlock goes to respond when a loud ding sounds through the flat. Relief floods his system for a reason to leave this moment. "Text," he mumbles by way of explanation as he turns back and hurries off.
He leans against the wall just inside his room and takes a deep calming breath.
And sets about forcing his walls back up.
Grabbing his phone, he scans the message from Lestrade and thanks his lucky stars that his unpredictable job keeps him from falling apart every thirty seconds.
He's trying so hard to forget. To tuck it all away and move on.
It's not easy when a living, breathing reminder lives in his flat.
He slips on his shoes and makes his way back to the kitchen as John is pouring his now scrambled eggs onto a plate. "Case," he says, raising his phone.
John's eyes flash at the word. "Oh yeah?"
Sherlock nods, ignoring the tiny flutter in his stomach. John always loved cases.
"Have you eaten?"
Sherlock shakes his head.
John glances at his plateful. "You should eat."
"I'm fine, thanks," Sherlock says softly, hovering near the exit.
The doctor blinks rapidly, seemingly having some sort of internal debate. In the end, he slumps slightly and looks down. "Well. Good luck."
With a sharp nod, Sherlock intends to turn around and leave.
Instead, his brain decides to unhinge from his mouth and words come tumbling out that he had no intention of saying. "Do you want to come along?"
John straightens in his seat. "Really?"
Sherlock silently berates himself, but nods anyway.
The lopsided grin John gives him practically tears him in two.
"Let me just grab my coat," John says, hobbling off the kitchen stool and doing his best to walk normal. The boot really does work well for him. He may just be useful.
The taxi ride is a miserable affair.
John makes small talk and Sherlock physically restrains himself from cringing.
"It's nice to be out of the flat for a change," John says pleasantly. "My head gets a bit foggy being cooped up."
"Mm," is the extent of Sherlock's responses.
He doesn't want to chitchat. He wants to get to the case and get to work.
Get back in his comfort zone.
In their comfort zone.
John eventually goes awkwardly quiet until they arrive at the address Sherlock had on his phone.
Lestrade is on them immediately, mouth open to begin spouting information, but he falters at the sight of John trailing behind.
"John!" he says in shock, gaping at him like a stupid guppy.
Sherlock rolls his eyes.
"Erm- hi," John says, eyes flashing to Sherlock for help.
"He doesn't know who you are," Sherlock says tiredly to Lestrade, itching to get out of this discussion and on to the crime scene. He steps around the DI and into the building, needing no more reminders of the fact that his life with John is over.
This, he still had.
He ignores Lestrade's annoying bumblings of reintroducing himself and makes his way up the steps. He slips into the room where the body of a middle-aged woman lies on her side. He kneels close and does what he does best; he observes.
Out of the corner of his eye, he notes John limping his way just inside the door and watching.
"Do we have a time of death?" he barks as Lestrade follows John in.
"Not yet, Anderson is still on his way."
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "Anderson is incompetent."
"Will you just tell me what you see?" Lestrade says sharply, obviously in no mood for any antics today.
Sherlock smirks as he turns. It's nice to know he can still find pleasure in being smarter than the police.
He pointedly ignores the doctor watching him from the corner.
"She was a recluse," Sherlock says, turning smugly to Lestrade.
The DI frowns, glancing around. "Her flat is quite clean."
With a heavy sigh, Sherlock decides being vague will not get them anywhere. "She was a recluse, not a hoarder," he says. "Not all recluses are unclean. She didn't often leave her home, or have company over seeing this side of the doorknob has no wear on it. Her clothes are washed, ironed and her hair and makeup is perfectly done. She cared about her appearance to the point of obsession but her crippling anxiety kept her in her flat. She had a terrible mix of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety, leading her to kill herself in the cleanest way possible."
"Which was?" Lestrade prompts.
With practiced ease, Sherlock turns to John. "Doctor?"
He immediately curses himself. John is gaping at him like he's never seen him before. He blinks several times, startling out of his thoughts and Sherlock winces.
"The cause of death."
John shoots a brief glance at Lestrade, clearly looking for any kind of disapproval.
Lestrade is obviously used to this.
It's almost like old times.
"Um," John starts, limping toward the body. "Well..."
He does a cursory glance, snapping on gloves Lestrade must have handed him on the way in, lifting a wrist and sliding hair away from the woman's face.
"Without a toxicology report, I can't say for certain," John says. "But I'd guess poisoning."
Sherlock nods. "Cyanide poisoning, to be specific," he says with a smug smile at Lestrade.
"How could you possibly know that?" John asks from the floor, staring at Sherlock in wonder.
"Easiest form of poison to obtain online through the right channels. And of course the fact that she could have it delivered to her. No need to venture out into the world. Plus, it's clean. She bleeds internally but no outward marks until later after death. She could have been here for days before being found if her downstairs neighbor hadn't burned her dinner and set off the fire alarm. That is how they found her, right? The fire department found her body?"
Lestrade nods. "They thought she may have died from smoke inhalation."
Sherlock scoffs. "It's truly astounding how completely idiotic men in uniform are. The small fire downstairs was just that: a small fire. There wasn't nearly enough smoke to asphyxiate a person one floor up."
"Brilliant," John breathes beside him, voice full of wonder and incredulity.
The door in his mind marked DO NOT ENTER suddenly flies open and only then does Sherlock realize that key he'd sworn he'd used to lock up actually belongs to John Watson and his praise.
The memories flood in and Sherlock has the overwhelming feeling of freefalling.
It's the hope that hurts the most.
Like maybe they could be them again if John still thinks he's brilliant.
Sherlock exhales silently and sweeps from the room.
"So that's how you help the police? With your deductions?"
John looks like a little schoolboy sitting across from him. His eyes are the size of dinner plates, his hands are clasped in his lap. He's brimming with questions and curiosity and excitement.
Sherlock's having the urge to throw his hand over John's mouth.
Or cover his own ears.
Whichever will end this incessant questioning and painful topic and intense wave of memories it keeps bringing up.
They've been at it since the cab ride, taking the conversation into the sitting room of their flat, John never catching on that Sherlock is hating every minute of this.
This John can't read him like his John always could.
He nods to the current question, offering a pained smile.
"Wow," John breathes. "I mean, that's pretty incredible. The way you sorted out all that with one look. Amazing, truly. What help was I ever as your partner?"
The question is supposed to be a jab.
A self-deprecating comment.
A silly little goof.
Sherlock swallows the bile that rises in his throat.
You made it worth it, John. Everything I did, you made it all worth it.
He shrugs. "Your medical degree came in handy."
It's an equally beautiful and horrible sound.
"That was fun today," John says happily. "Thank you for letting me come along."
"You're welcome anytime."
Someone needs to remove his voice box. He needs to stop saying things he shouldn't say.
He walks a fine line every day of desperately wanting John by his side, and never wanting to see him again. It's unbelievably painful to be near him.
But imagining a life without John Watson is simply unimaginable.
John grins. "That would be so great, thank you. Should we order some food? I'm starved. Oh, and you're eating tonight so don't even think about saying no."
Sherlock wants to hate him.
Sherlock wants to hate John's stupid smile and upbeat attitude and excitement over meals of all things.
Sherlock wants to scream. He wants to yell and cry and shake John senseless until he remembers their life together and stops talking to Sherlock like they've just fucking met.
But he knows better.
So instead he nods back and pulls out his laptop so he can stare at something besides his life slowly disappearing before his eyes.
The next three cases involve pursuits.
John can't keep up but he still seems thrilled to be a part of it, following in Lestrade's car and grinning when he arrives finding Sherlock pinning a suspect to the ground.
He doesn't know this is what he used to do.
He has no idea the things he used to do.
It's been three weeks of working together again.
And every single day Sherlock dies a little more.
It's the fifth week when it happens.
Sherlock doesn't see it coming.
Sherlock didn't anticipate it.
It's after an exciting case.
John had positioned himself just along the wall to catch the suspect if he diverted a certain way.
Being the imbecile that he was, the man did just that.
John had clotheslined him.
It had been rather impressive.
John was preening from head to toe, obviously beyond pleased with himself.
It had been so bloody endearing.
Sherlock had been miserable all the way home.
John had babbled happily the entire cab ride home, grinning from ear to ear, gesturing wildly, reliving the moment over and over.
Sherlock had stayed silent. He just wanted to get home. Get home to his room where he could lock himself away and stay there forever. It was cases like these that had ended in a good shag in the past. It was cases like these that made Sherlock want to stay far far away from John.
So he hadn't been ready.
Too preoccupied with his need to retreat, Sherlock doesn't notice John's extra effort to make it up the stairs quickly.
Sherlock doesn't notice John's harsh breathing.
Sherlock doesn't notice anything until his back is slammed against the door of their flat.
John's strong body is on his.
Sherlock's brain immediately short circuits. He forgets John's memory loss. He forgets the past six weeks. He forgets everything except his husband's body pressed to his, demanding attention.
He hasn't been touched like this in months. He immediately melts into it.
John rocks up on his toes and their lips meet.
And just like that, Sherlock snaps out of it.
This is wrong.
It feels wrong.
Sherlock gives a hard shove against John's chest and he stumbles back, eyes fluttering open.
No no no no no.
"Wh-what are- y-you doing?" Sherlock demands.
John stands slack jawed. "I- sorry, I just…"
Sherlock's heart falls heavily to his stomach. "Why did you do that?" he breathes.
John attempts a shrug. "I dunno… sorry-"
Sherlock shakes his head vigorously. "No. No, tell me. Tell me why?"
John shifts his weight, scrubbing a hand down his face. "I just- Jesus, I can see it Sherlock. I can see…I can see us."
Sherlock doesn't move.
Sherlock doesn't breathe.
"I mean I can't see us," John amends. "I don't remember anything still. But watching you... seeing you do these amazing things and... and the cases and the police and… I can see it. I can see how we became…us."
It takes a half second to process those words.
And then Sherlock is narrowing his eyes. "So you think you can kiss me and just, what? See what happens?"
"No!" John says, eyes wide. "No, but...I don't know, I know this is what you want and maybe if we try I could just-"
John's brow crinkles. "But if you just let me-"
"Let you what, John?" He sounds so bitter and angry and he knows it but he can't stop. "Let you just 'see'? Let you just what? Date me? Date your husband who has a history with you that you know nothing about and then what? What happens if you don't want this in the end? What then, John? What happens then?"
John seems shocked into silence. He stares, unblinking.
"It's not enough for me," Sherlock wants to scream but it comes out soft and scared. "It- you aren't mine, John. You don't know who you are to me. You falling in love with me was an anomaly the first time. I have no misconceptions about that. I will not set myself up for failure like that."
"In a few weeks," Sherlock cuts him off, "you'll be out of your boot. You'll be entirely healed and able to work and move normally."
John furrows his brow. "I-"
"I'm certain Mycroft can find you a suitable flat."
Even as he says it, it tastes like acid in his mouth. He wants more than anything for John to stay here. To stay with him. To love him. To bloody remember.
But Sherlock knows better.
He knows better than to believe that John could ever fall for him twice.
The first time was a fluke at best.
Sherlock couldn't stomach a second rejection.
Not with John.
And as selfish as it sounds, Sherlock doesn't want to start over. Sherlock wants his John back. His John who remembers their inside jokes and their anniversaries and their history. His John who needs him as equally as Sherlock needs him. His John who knows him.
Maybe it's selfish.
But Sherlock has never pretended not to be selfish.
John runs a hand through his hair. "I think maybe if we just-"
"John," Sherlock warns. "Don't do this. I know you. I know why you're doing this. I'll be fine, alright? And... and who knows, maybe you can even still work on cases with me."
Sherlock isn't sure if he hates John's broken brain or himself more at this moment.
John looks a little... relieved.
Sherlock will be grateful when he doesn't have to stomach looks like these on a regular basis.
"I'm sorry, Sherlock," John says. "I... I never wanted to hurt anyone."
Sherlock nods. "I know. I'll have the papers drawn up. You don't have to worry about a thing."
They don't say much to each other the following weeks.
Sherlock throws himself into his work.
John stops coming along.
Mycroft stops by to finalize moving details. He nods politely at John and explains where the new flat is.
And of course he has parting words for Sherlock.
"I'm disappointed in you, Sherlock," he says as he walks out the front door. "I thought you'd try harder to save your marriage."
Sherlock slams the door in his face.
The morning comes all too quickly as Sherlock finds himself perched at the kitchen table, staring down into his microscope, feeling completely at a loss.
He thinks he should be numb to the hurt by now. Numb to the total agony of losing the only person he's ever loved.
But apparently, he's not.
As he watches his hand shake reaching for another sample, his stomach swoops in panic at the sound of footsteps.
The last time he'll walk down those steps.
The last time he'll walk in this kitchen.
The last time he'll walk out that door.
And out of Sherlock's life forever.
He waits in terror, listening to John's familiar gate make its way to the kitchen.
"Mycroft has scheduled the movers to arrive in the next hour," Sherlock says without looking up as the footsteps stop nearby.
He can't look up.
He can't watch John walk away again.
There is no reply.
"I suppose you wanted to be on your way sooner," Sherlock continues, taking the silence for irritation, "I'll send Mycroft a text about it."
Still no reply.
Sherlock glances up over his microscope to find John in the doorway.
John stares at him unseeingly for moment, blinking rapidly.
Sherlock frowns. "John?"
John eyes widen a fraction. Then his brow knits between his eyes. He swivels his gaze around to stare into the main room.
Raising a shaky finger he murmurs, "You were sitting in that chair."
Sherlock glances at the offending chair, then back to John. Confused, he shifts in his seat. "Uh, no, I –"
John lifts a hand to halt his words, without turning, and Sherlock pauses, pursing his lips. John still doesn't turn. "You were sitting there." He takes a step toward the chair, then tilts his body. "Or, you were…laying sort of like…sprawled out but bunched at the same time." He freezes for a moment and Sherlock follows suite, still entirely unsure what is going on.
John whips back around, staring into the doorway of Sherlock's room, mouth agape, lost in thought. Sherlock waits.
"I'd had a lie in," John whispers as though he were seeing the events unfold before his very eyes. "I'd had a lie in, thinking I'd be able to relax on Christmas of all days."
Sherlock blinks rapidly.
Then realization crashes into him like a ton of bricks.
Sherlock suddenly can't breathe.
John flips his hand back. "I came out here," he turns to look at the chair, "and you sat there."
He stops again, shakes his head once and says, "Sulking. You were sulking. You'd thought I… you'd thought I hadn't gotten you that microscope you'd been wanting for ages."
Sherlock is terrified to move a muscle. He doesn't even dare to blink. He doesn't dare to breathe. He watches, eyes wide and round, as John turns back to him.
John's blue eyes are swimming. His lips parted, bottom lip trembling.
He looks at Sherlock.
Like he's seeing him.
For the first time since he's been home, John is seeing Sherlock.
A small gasp leaves Sherlock's mouth.
"You looked so beautiful," John murmurs, voice cracking with emotion and wonder and the memories that Sherlock has longed for him to have. "Even in a sulk, you were the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen."
Sherlock doesn't notice his own hand is over his mouth.
Sherlock doesn't notice the moisture trickling down his own cheeks.
All Sherlock notices is John Watson standing in the doorway of the kitchen, recalling a moment Sherlock had been certain he'd never again remember in his lifetime.
"That was the moment I decided I would ask you to marry me," John whispers, tears falling in earnest as he blinks. He attempts a few shaky breaths, seeming rooted to the ground. "I bought the ring the next day and the morning after that I slid it onto your finger."
Sherlock can't move.
He bites down hard on the inside of his cheek.
He can't believe it.
He's too afraid.
Please let this be real.
Please let this be real.
Please let this be real.
John's face crumbles.
He doesn't notice the clatter of the stool falling to the ground as he leaps from it, rushing to John.
"John," he croaks as he collides with John's strong body.
Arms are wrapping around him, kisses are falling to every inch of his body, hands are finding their way into his hair. Familiar arms. Familiar lips. Familiar hands.
Sherlock can't get close enough, his broken heart attempting desperately to put itself back together, leaping with hope and fear and uncertainty, needing John to nestle back inside of it and stay there forever.
"I'm so sorry," John is murmuring, clutching Sherlock to him, laying urgent kisses to his cheeks and neck and shoulders and chest. "I remember, Sherlock. I remember. I'm so sorry."
Sherlock locks his arms around John and hangs on, suddenly feeling that horrible, empty, hollowing feeling fill itself with John Watson again. With practiced ease. Like that blank void had been sitting open all this time, just waiting. Waiting for John Watson. Waiting for John Watson to remember and come back, and be welcomed with open arms.
And suddenly, Sherlock can breathe.
He buries his face in John's neck and sobs. "John," he whispers, fistfuls of John's shirt clutched in his fingers.
John is rocking him in his arms, stroking familiar fingers through his hair. "I'm so sorry, baby, I'm sorry," John repeats over and over. "...I'm so sorry, I'm so so sorry..."
It only makes Sherlock cry harder.
But the tightness in his chest is loosening.
The barrier he'd built is slowly crumbling.
Sherlock's heart is slowly, achingly, beginning to pick its pieces up off the floor.
Sherlock's brain switches from cold, unfeeling, careless bastard back to warm, loving, needing husband, as he holds the most important thing in his life, and remembers what this feels like. Remembers what it's like to be held by this strong army doctor.
All this time he'd thought John was the one that needed to remember.
He'd never realized he'd also forgotten. Blocked the memories, tried to forget, to not need it anymore.
God, he needs it.
He remembers and he needs it more than he needs air.
He can't get close enough.
John pulls back and Sherlock whines softly in protest, but John doesn't go far, hands coming to Sherlock's cheeks.
"I love you," John whispers brokenly, his face equally as wet as Sherlock's, his eyes red-rimmed but still so bright and deep, his tanned cheeks splotchy. "I love you so much, Sherlock, so much."
Sherlock whimpers, grasping at any area of John's body that he can reach. "I love you," he murmurs back, "I love you. Please…please don't leave me."
A small, choked sob leaves John's lips as he stares up at his husband, a fresh wave of tears filling his eyes. "I can't believe I didn't… Fuck- I don't know how I'll ever be able to make this up to you. I'll never leave you again, love, not ever. Not ever. Do you hear me? Not ever."
Sherlock is nodding hastily and John is pulling him in by his cheeks and their lips meet.
Sherlock makes a terrible sound.
A pained sound.
A sound one only makes when their entire world that they'd believed they'd lost entirely comes screaming back to them in full force with everything they have.
John makes a similar noise.
The kiss is wet with tears, and sharp with teeth and strong with tongues and the most powerful thing Sherlock has ever experienced.
Christ, he loves this man.
This man he'd believed no longer existed.
This man who is whispering I love you's and I'm sorry's into Sherlock's mouth, digging his fingers into Sherlock's curls and tugging with force, sealing their mouths and bodies together.
Sherlock chokes another soft cry, the ache in his chest beginning to dissipate and replace itself with warmth and comfort.
He's terrified to trust it.
His fingers are on the hem of John's shirt.
John doesn't pause his kisses, but asks, "Are you sure?" so fiercely, Sherlock rakes his shirt up even harder.
"God yes," he says as he tugs the jumper up and over John's head. "Please. Take me to bed."
It's the only thing he can say. He can't say the other things. He needs John to just know. To read his body like he used to. He kisses John deeper, crushing his body to his, hoping John can understand what he's asking.
I need you. I need to feel you. I need to know that this is real.
I need to know that your body remembers mine.
I need to know that you still love me. That our marriage is still intact. That our life is still a possibility.
I need to know that your heart still belongs to me.
I need to know you'll stay.
And John, always so intuitive and understanding of Sherlock's nonverbal communication, moans softly. "Yes."
The way to the bedroom is a blur.
Sherlock barely notices when his clothing is entirely removed.
He barely notices when his back hits the comforter.
Because he's focused on his soldier.
His army doctor.
The man he calls his husband.
Not his flatmate.
His partner. His lover. His other half.
He'd believed that he'd never have John this way again.
And now here he is, back where he belongs, in their bedroom, in their bed, skin pressed to skin, looking at Sherlock like...
Like he belongs to him.
Like Sherlock is his.
It brings on another set of harsh tears. "John," Sherlock murmurs, gazing blearily up at his husband hovering over him. He grips John's biceps. "John, please."
John's arms are sliding underneath him, body pressing to his, sealing them together. "I'm here, love," John murmurs. "I'm here. I love you, and I'm here."
Sherlock barely notices the first finger entering him. His eyes are locked on his doctor, watching John's every movement, every breath.
John is watching him too.
Sherlock can't fight the tears.
"It's okay, love," John murmurs. "I know. I understand. I love you, okay? Let it go. It's okay."
Sherlock nods, blinking as the moisture falls down his temples. He reaches for John, kissing his lips as John works him open. He's hardly paying attention, because this has nothing to do with the physical act of sex. This has nothing to do with fucking or coming.
This has everything to do with emotion.
This has everything to do with love.
This has to do with reaffirming that they are real. That the Holmes-Watson household still exists and stands strong. That they still wholly and truly belong to one another.
And when John finally pushes into him, it's the last piece of his heart to find its way back to its rightful spot and mend itself into place.
Limbs are tangled, bodies holding each other tightly, sweat-soaked skin seeping into each other's pores. They lay silently, breathing hot breath into the other's skin, sealed together.
John begins to rock.
Back and forth, in and out, gliding himself deeply into his lover, lips murmuring love and affection and apologies softly against Sherlock's ear.
Sherlock arches against the touch like a magnet being drawn to its mate, laying gently kisses on John's neck and shoulders. His fingers find John's fringe and dig in deep, twining long fingers into shaggy hairs and holding on. His other arm wraps around John's back, pulling him as tight as he can. His heels dig into John's back, ankles locked, hips tilted upward as they move together. Every inch of their bodies are touching.
John grounds Sherlock into the mattress, clinging just as hard to Sherlock, movements and breathing speeding up.
"Sherlock, oh- god I love y-you," John gasps, finding Sherlock's lips.
"John," Sherlock cries, finding that that's the only word he can articulate. The only word he wants to say. The only word he needs.
John finds Sherlock's hand, lacing their fingers together, pinning it next to Sherlock's head.
He stops his movements.
Sherlock groans, wriggling his hips in an attempt to get John to continue.
He needs this.
John's blue eyes are fixed on him.
"John?" Sherlock inquires softly.
"I want to watch you," John murmurs. "I want to see you."
Sherlock moans quietly, gooseflesh bubbling across his skin at those words. He's wanted to be seen. He's wanted John to see him so badly all these weeks. He squeezes John's hand, rolling his hips gently.
"I see you, Sherlock," John murmurs, bringing his hand down to between them to wrap around Sherlock's erection. "I see you, baby. Please. For me. Please come."
Sherlock's eyelids flutter at the touch but he can't close his eyes. He can't look away.
He wants to look at John forever.
He wants to look into those ocean deep blue eyes and see recognition.
See John looking back at him, knowing who he is. Knowing what they mean to each other. Knowing what this means. Caring about him. Loving him.
John begins to move again, hand stroking over Sherlock, rocking into him.
It doesn't take long.
"Oh - J-John, I-" Sherlock stutters, struggling to keep his eyes open, trembling from head to toe.
He's being touched by his husband.
After months without, after weeks of believing this would never be something he'd have again, Sherlock shudders uncontrollably as he spurts onto his own stomach, vision blurring slightly with the effort not to blink.
But he can still see him.
He can still see John.
He wraps himself around his doctor and pulls him down. "Go on," Sherlock murmurs over his lips. "Please, come in me, John."
The whimper John releases is the most beautiful thing Sherlock has ever heard. He can feel the warmth filling him deeply, John emptying himself inside of Sherlock, crying out words Sherlock still can't get enough of.
They don't move, panting breathlessly against each other, neither of them willing to let go.
Sherlock begins to feel whole again.
John is the first to move, shifting out of Sherlock and onto his side.
He isn't gone for long, as his sated, sleepy body finds Sherlock, pulling him under the covers and against his chest.
Sherlock hums, nuzzling his cheek against John's strong body.
John strokes a hand down Sherlock's back, his nose buried in Sherlock's curls.
"I'm sorry," John says after a long bout of silence.
Sherlock tenses. "Why did you leave?" he murmurs. He should clarify but he can't. He can't bring himself to ask John why he chose to leave him to run off to a warzone.
John sighs. "I can't explain it," he murmurs. "I was just... scared."
Sherlock traces a pattern on John's belly with the tip of his finger, trying to stay calm. "Scared of me," he mumbles.
John's arm tightens around his shoulders. "No," he says fiercely. "No not of you, Sherlock. I was scared of... our life. This life we built. I was scared you'd...get bored.
Sherlock flips over as fast as he could, scrambling to lay hands on John's cheeks. "I will never get bored of you," he says intensely. "Never."
John attempts a smile, eyes filling. "When they called, I just thought maybe it was a... sign or something." John huffs a humorless laugh. "God it sounds so ridiculous now. Call it a mid-life crisis I suppose."
Sherlock shakes his head. "Please don't go back."
John straightens slightly, looking panicked. "I won't," he says, wrapping fingers around Sherlock's forearms. "I won't, I promise."
Sherlock searches his face for a moment longer.
It's terrifying to trust this.
To believe that this is actually going to be his life again.
That things are going to be okay.
That John is back.
He settles back down, sighing heavily as John's hand finds its way back into his curls.
"You're home," he breathes, giving John's middle a squeeze.
"I'm home," John agrees, laying a kiss in his hair.
And for the first time in months, Sherlock sleeps soundly, knowing in the morning John will be there.