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The Holy War

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He moves house. The new flat is smaller and smells like cheap cigars, but that’s good. There aren’t any ghosts; when he turns around he doesn’t expect to see someone who isn’t there.

He goes on the rota at the Royal Free. It's not far from the new flat, and more importantly, it isn’t Bart’s. He was offered a more permanent place there, but... no. Never.

He fills his time with work and when work isn’t enough to take his mind away from things he’d rather not think of he takes to walking around the streets, usually at night. He can’t sleep without dreaming and he can take care of himself, so why not?

He doesn’t think when he spies a mugging in progress, just interrupts and leaves the criminal sprawled on the pavement, nose bleeding and mouth spluttering. It’s been some time since he’s used his fists to solve a problem, the last time was …

He doesn’t want to think about that so he pushes it away, locks it up. He wishes he knew how to delete it. That’s one trick he could do with now. So many things I never asked, never said...

“Thank you,” someone says, and it’s the man John just saved. He’s thin and old and stooped. “I was just going to the shops and he came out at me.”

John nods and checks over the man with a doctor’s eye. He’s shaken, but otherwise fine. John himself is as steady as a rock despite the adrenaline pumping throughout his body. He does a quick self-check, but the only things he notices are the scrapes on his knuckles and that for the first time in weeks, months, he feels like he’s alive.

Between the usual drunks and the young squatters, all pierced and dirty and begging to be victimized, there are always people in casualty late at night. A junior blurts out, “It’s like a war zone,” one morning around 2:30, which makes John snort. He hopes no one hears him. John tries to get his work hours then.

Sometimes he still ends up at work in the early mornings, when young children might be brought in to A and E.

“You need a plaster, doctor,” a little ten year old tells him, as he stitches up a cut over her left eyebrow. “On your fingers.”

Children notice too much. They look somehow wise and scornful, even when they don’t say anything.

It reminds him too much of Sherlock. See, he can say his name. He’s fine.

“So I do,” John says with a smile, and finishes. “Keep that dry.”

When he gets home he’s exhausted, but not quite enough. He thinks about the sleeping pills Ella got him and entertains the idea. But they make his dreams twist into funny shapes and he can’t wake up when he needs to. Without the pills, though, he sees Sherlock’s coat billowing in midair and then blood, so much blood. Frankly, he’d rather dream about the war. He makes himself a coffee and vows to stay awake a little while longer.

There’s a message on his phone when he eventually looks. He doesn’t check often.

It’s always Mycroft. It’s never Mycroft’s number. John supposes that it’s a simple matter for someone as competent as Anthea to arrange. At first John thought it was only paranoia. After all, many people misdial and get a mobile accidentally.

When he looks as his phone bill, though, John sees that he is receiving a wrong number every five and a half days. Even he can’t miss the coincidence. His sister never rings him, anyway; she always sends emails, on the theory that they’d be less likely to argue.

The truth is, John has always been the sort to make friends at work, or playing rugby--doing something. After Afghanistan, he really didn’t do friendships. Except. Well. The wrong numbers are nearly the only phone calls he gets.

He texts back, Hello Mycroft.

He imagines the surprise on the other end, though Mycroft would hide it perfectly. This is the first time since the calls began that John has answered. He wonders what Mycroft will make of that. A sign that John is feeling better, or that he’s desperate?

He snorts a little. The person texts back, Sorry, wrong number.

Did that make it more or less likely that it was Mycroft? It was something Sherlock would do; he was better at impersonating a human than Mycroft was. If Sherlock weren’t.

If Sherlock weren’t dead.

If Sherlock weren’t dead, John would have said this indicated it was Sherlock.

He thinks he’ll go for a walk instead of going to bed. He can walk near Camden Lock. There are always people on the streets at this time of night, some rising, some about to go to bed.

John walks. He very carefully doesn’t look at the stars. He feels his separation from the rest of the world even more keenly than before he met Sherlock. That disconnection he felt when he first returned to London is back and stronger than ever. There’s no purpose, no direction, just like his walk. He’s just ploughing on.

Something draws him in and toward loud voices that echo off an alley’s walls. He doesn’t realise what he’s doing until he’s there, crouched and poised.

Everything is incongruously pink and clean in the beginnings of sunrise, and the (John supposes) drug dealer’s dark shadow drips down the wall. Dawn light flashes off the blade of his knife. There’s a moment when John realizes that he’s not merely threatening the other man, that he’s going to stab him, and that moment seems to pass while he’s leaping forward.

John was never as showy a fighter as Sherlock. It probably would have been a good thing to know how to knock a knife out of someone’s hand with a kick rather than a punch. That way, the heavy sole of the shoe would absorb some of the force of the blow. This way, John brings his clasped hands down on the man’s wrist. A stupid move, but an effective one; he drops the knife.

He’s disarmed the man but there is still a danger. The man comes at John, a solid wall of flesh, but John does a half turn and a step back and the man is past him. John lets him attempt a punch, grabs his arm, and then slams the man’s wrist against the bricks. There’s a muted crack that gives John intense satisfaction. The man howls and John knocks him unconscious.

He turns to look for the other one, but he’s scarpered. John pants and puts his hands on his knees. Now he’s properly tired, by God. Now he could really use some sleep. He staggers out of the alley, walking west, back to his flat.

On the way he thinks to text 999 to send an ambulance for the would-be stabber. Good thing his next shift’s not for another day. He doesn’t want to end up becoming some kind of machine, beat ‘em and treat ‘em. He’s punch drunk, giddy. Damn. That’s better. That’s much better.


It’s a month later and the calls haven’t stopped. The late night excursions haven’t either. John only goes out when he can’t sleep, but that’s happening more and more frequently. He knows the danger, knows that if someone found out the extent of what he is doing that there would be questions about his mental health.

He’s not suicidal. He’s careful; he always assesses the situation before jumping in. He doesn’t take his gun on these trips, though. He doesn’t need to. Part of him whispers that it wouldn’t be sporting that way, in any case.

It’s a rainy morning and he’s limping a little on the slippery pavement. The car that pulls up next to him is nearly silent. The window doesn’t squeak rolling down.

It’s Mycroft Holmes himself. “May I give you a lift, Dr. Watson?” He has that arrogant politeness John remembers.

“Sure, yeah,” John says, and he gets in the car. He doesn’t know why. A month or so ago he would have told the other man to bugger off. Part of him is still angry about Mycroft’s unwitting part in Moriarty’s scheme.

Mycroft looks at him, and John struggles not to squirm under the scrutiny. “You aren’t sleeping well,” Mycroft says.

“I’m sure you didn’t come down here to state the obvious.”

“I rather think I did,” Mycroft says. “John. You cannot solve the problem of urban crime through solo vigilantism.”

“Going to find me a new flatmate, are you,” John says, his throat closing a bit over the joke. “Remember, Mycroft. You can’t buy me, and you can’t intimidate me through surveillance, and you can’t stop me by,” he has to swallow, “telling my secrets to the press. Who do you think you’re kidding, with all those phone calls, all those the wrong numbers?”

Mycroft goes still for a split second. He opens and shuts his mouth, winces, and repeats, “Wrong numbers.”

John feels his spine straighten. “If it wasn’t you--Moriarty is dead.”

“Yes,” Mycroft says.

“Dead dead, not Irene Adler dead.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Doesn’t matter!” John explodes. “Sherlock diedbecause--”

“Moriarty’s organization goes on whether or not he’s dead,” Mycroft says in that pained, Holmesian, Oh-God-it-must-be-terrible-to-be-so-slow manner.

Then there is a bit of polite scuffling as John yells, “Stop the car!” and Mycroft growls at him to stay in the car and Anthea, front passenger seat, turns round to stare at John with her big dark eyes.

“What on earth are you on about?” Mycroft asks. John can tell he’s going for mild, but he sounds slightly alarmed.

John sets his jaw. It’s Moriarty calling, or at least one of his minions. Now that he’s worked this out, he just has to find a way to use it against them. Sherlock would know how. Sherlock would--

He blinks at the intense wave of grief that hits him. It isn’t getting better with time.

“John?” Mycroft is saying.

“Fine,” John says. He’s not quite sure if he’s answering an unspoken question or if he’s agreeing to something.

Mycroft nods and instructs Anthea to trace the calls.

“Of course those calls weren’t from you,” John says slowly. “Why would you need to phone me when you have access to all the CCTV in the country?”

Mycroft does not dignify this with a reply.

“I’m not in danger,” John says.

Mycroft sniffs.

“What?”

“Right, must state the obvious,” Mycroft says. “You love danger.”

John doesn’t love anything but a memory. He shakes his head. He doesn’t know how to explain what he does or why he does it, only knows that it’s the only thing keeping him alive at the moment.

“No? You certainly behave as though you love it. Rushing in where angels fear to tread and putting your life on the line. How often, John? More often than not, I daresay.”

“It’s none of your business,” John snaps.

“That is where you are wrong,” Mycroft says quietly. Then, “He wouldn’t want this.”

Something inside John clenches and he grows hot with anger. This he knows. This is his shame -- he’s still furious at Sherlock for leaving. “I don’t give a fuck what he would want.”

Later, he’ll whisper quietly to Sherlock to forgive him, but at the moment he hates him. Hates his memory and hates Mycroft and wants nothing more than to ram his fist into one of the Holmes brothers’ throats. He must be telegraphing this desire to Mycroft, who flinches minutely.

“Is this all?” John asks. “Is this why you picked me up? For a little reproving lecture?”

“Dr. Watson,” Mycroft says.

“Mr. Holmes.” They’re in front of the hospital now. John unlocks the car doors, gestures with his head. “I’ll just get out here then, shall I? Anthea, nice to see you again.” He opens the door and gets out.


It’s storming when he finishes work. John pulls the collar of his jacket up against the rain and sets off toward his flat. No umbrella, the storm came up out of nowhere, and he’s drenched in seconds. He’s thinking about hailing a cab when the attack comes.

He isn’t expecting it and is therefore caught off guard. The first blow is to his head, staggering him for a split second, but then instinct kicks in and he defends against the next attack. His arm goes up in automatic defense as something shiny slices toward him. Knife. Amateur, then, because a professional would have just sliced his throat at the first opportunity.

This time, it’s not a problem that he tends to punch rather than kick, because the ground is slippery and he could end up on his arse. Anyway the other fella--it’s the dealer from a month ago--is quite a bit taller. Everyone is, aren’t they. Sherlock’s short friend.

He plants himself and waits for the other to come at him. At the last moment he pulls back and breaks the fellow’s nose with a Glasgow kiss. Then he drives his fist right into the ribs.

Blood is flowing freely from the cut in his arm, faster when he strikes. It makes a sort of arc in the air on impact. It feels good. He knows he must be concussed. His thinking is distorted; losing blood is never good. But God, it feels like something, the cold rain, the impact under his hand, the solid thud. Really good. This is why medieval doctors used to bleed people, to balance the humours. The little splats of it onto the wet ground are satisfying. It feels so good he might be laughing.

John’s a bit not all right, isn’t he.

He’s going to end up seriously hurting this poor bastard, the way he’s going at him. “Shit,” he says out loud. The other has stopped moving and is just clutching his abdomen. “Come on, you,” he says. “Let’s get you inside.”

He winds up with the gangster’s arm over his shoulder, practically dragging him into A and E. “Blunt force trauma to the abdomen,” John says. “He’s going to need to be kept under observation, I think--possible internal organ damage.” He gets the thug through triage and then secures himself a bay where he can stitch up his forearm in peace.

John gathers what he needs and then strips out of his jacket and jumper. The wound has stopped bleeding as profusely as it had been. Good. It looks worse than he’d thought, though. It’s a clean slice from a sharp knife, which makes it easier. It’s in an awkward place, though, his dominant arm, which means using his right hand to do the suturing.

First he has to clean and disinfect. He hisses at the sensation, sharp stinging that makes him feel lightheaded. He has to sit down for the rest. Should have been seated anyway.

He pat the area dry with gauze and then moves straight to stitching.

He’s already given himself fourteen semi-neat sutures when there’s a knock on the door. Whoever it is doesn’t wait for an invitation, just walks right in.

Oh. Lestrade.

“Busy here,” John mutters. His voice sounds strange in his own ears, weak and almost thready.

“Jesus,” Greg says.

“It was quicker,” John says.

“What happened, John? That big fucker says you assaulted him.”

“Ha,” John says. “He jumped me from behind and--”

“There wasn’t anyone else about, though.”

“Are you going to arrest me?” John asks. “Because that would just be the perfect end to a perfect day.”

“Your colleagues think you might have ruptured his spleen,” Greg says.

“You never told them I did it, did you?”

“I think I have to nick you,” Lestrade says.

“You know that I don’t go about rupturing people’s spleens as a matter of course,” John says.

Lestrade frowns. “He jumped you, you fought him off, you beat him severely, you brought him back here yourself and now you’re stitching up your own arm. You couldn’t call us at some point?”

John completes the last suture, makes a knot, and clips it with shears.

“At least you didn’t use your teeth.”

“You think I belong in gaol?”

“I think you need some help.” Lestrade sits so that they are at eye level. “Have you used some sort of anaesthetic on that?”

John shrugs. “I’m off work, I’ll go home to sleep.”

“Look at me,” Lestrade says.

John looks. He’s feeling defiant and woozy at the same time.

“I think you’re a danger to yourself. And others,” Lestrade says. The words are straight out of a handbook.

Panic like bile rises in John’s throat. He swallows hard. “Greg, no...”

“It’s better than where you’re headed if you keep this up,” Lestrade says. “Just a few days.”

“I’m not a bleeding mental case,” John says, and the room seems to tilt on its axis.

Lestrade catches him before he falls onto the hard floor.


It takes days for John to wake fully. He keeps dreaming Sherlock comes in to visit him. He’s too sleepy to speak, even in his dream, so he has to content himself with looking at his friend.

When he finally seems to be truly awake, he looks at his drug chart. He’d been on hydroxyzine for a few days; perhaps that accounted for the hallucinations. They weren’t a common side-effect, but he was a small man, and perhaps the dosage was a bit high. It was a good choice for a tranquiliser. They could have given him an antipsychotic, and then where would he be? The prescribing physician isn’t someone he knows.

Thank God for small mercies, eh? As it is, he thinks he’ll have to quit his job here. Another bridge burnt. Once the others in A and E realize, if they haven’t already, that he roughed up that poor bastard, they won’t want to work with him.

Who wants to work with a physician who hurts people? He let his head drop onto the pillow. Of course he wasn’t trying to hurt people. He was trying to help people.

There’s a dark shape in the doorway. For a moment, John thinks it’s Sherlock, that he’s hallucinating again. He welcomes it.

Mycroft moves into the room and John blinks back disappointment. Mycroft sits in the chair by his bed and speaks in an undertone.

“The man’s name is Tommy Richards, also known as Tommy the Knife. He was wanted for armed robbery and assault. He admitted he attacked you first, so you are, as they say, off the hook,” Mycroft says.

“Is he...”

“He’ll recover.”

John nods. “Probably against data protection for you to tell me whether I perforated his spleen.”

Mycroft doesn’t say anything.

“Shit,” John says. “OK, that does it. I’m resigning.”

“Then my own offer of employment will be opportune,” Mycroft says, with that sour lift of his upper lip that passes as a sort of polite smile with him.

“I’ve been sectioned,” John says.

“You’ll be discharged shortly.”

“I’ve been sleeping for several days, how can they examine me to discharge me?”

“Your physician decided that you were exhausted. She’s going to prescribe anti-depressants and demand that you seek psychotherapy.” Mycroft looks at his fingernails. “As you well know from looking at your chart.”

“What’s your offer,” John asks, “security guard at Buckingham Palace?”

Mycroft sniffs and makes a face as if smelling something foul. “As you may have gathered from our previous conversations, I have taken it upon myself to bring down the remaining members of Moriarty’s crime web.”

John feels hot and his heart begins to pick up tempo. “What does this have to do with me?”

“I feel you could be a valuable asset,” Mycroft says.

But John is shaking his head. “I’m not like- I can’t-” He stops himself from stating the obvious -- he’s no Sherlock.

Mycroft nods as though John has spoken aloud. “Leave the investigation to me. I’m actually quite good at what I do.”

Understanding hits and John finds himself nodding. Mycroft wants to aim John like a laser, after most of the work is done. John doesn’t know whether to feel insulted or elated.

“Surely you have plenty of hired guns to do this,” John says slowly.

“No background check can guarantee incorruptibility and no amount of money can buy loyalty,” Mycroft says gravely. “I cannot begin to explain how valuable you could be to this operation.”

It’s unexpectedly candid and John feels something like hope bloom in his chest.

He wants to say no. Saying no would show that he didn’t need to be sectioned, that he was merely tired. Refusing is the sane option, the one a person who had recovered from trauma would take.

“I don’t want to be kept in the dark,” John says.

“Of course.”

“I don’t want to do anything without being fully briefed.”

“You said, and I agree.”

“And I’m not loyal,” John says. “You always use that word, as though I’m Sherlock’s dog.”

“Queen and country,” Mycroft says, exquisite public school enunciation making his consonants diamond hard. “You are a man of your word.”

“All right, then.” He’ll go to hell. What difference does it make? He’s there already.


The phone calls don’t stop, though now they’re coming more frequently. Every other day, in fact. The numbers are always different, and if John picks up there’s always a pause before the click.

He mentions them to Mycroft again. The other man doesn’t seem disturbed, though there’s something on his face that John can’t puzzle out.

“I had them checked. I don’t believe they’re coming from the syndicate,” is all Mycroft will say.

This narrows down the possibilities, but John can’t figure out the source as much as he tries. Sherlock would know. Right away, he would deduce the answer from the pattern of the calls or some hidden code in the numbers. John tries, but the only thing he finds is frustration.

Mycroft keeps him busy, though, and John doesn’t think about the calls all that often. John doesn’t think of much except the work. It’s good to focus on something concrete. He is a precision weapon which Mycroft aims and lets loose upon the enemy. John doesn’t mind as much as he would have thought.

He’s not an assassin. The people John pursues have valuable information that can’t be lost. In six months -- has it really been that long? -- John has only had to use lethal force once. He doesn’t regret anything except the lost intel, because Mycroft assures him that he should not.

Since when is Mycroft Holmes anyone’s moral compass? Sherlock must be whirling in his grave.

God, that hurts.

The phone rings. This time, John picks up. “Hello?”

There’s a faint sound of someone inhaling, as though taking a drag on a cigarette. There’s no immediate click.

It’s Sherlock. It’s Sherlock. He’s sitting on the other end of the line, smoking. John can’t speak. His friend’s name is sitting in his throat, stuffing down the rising percussion of his pulse. He makes a strangled sound and hangs up.

He stares at the phone in his hand and breathes. In and out.

Delusions. Denial. It’s easier to believe that Sherlock is out there, somewhere, than to accept he’s really gone. And he is. John saw-

“Fuck,” John whispers, not wanting to flash back to that moment. That impossibly real, helpless moment when he saw Sherlock fall. When his whole world came down around him. He shakes his head and considers turning the phone off completely, but then there’s always the chance that Mycroft will contact him with another mission. John needs one desperately.

He gets up and leaves the flat, wandering on Church street. There are all kinds of antique shops there. John has always liked looking at the old children’s toys and books from earlier eras, the kitchen tools--he covets a crazy apple-peeler he finds in one shop, like a torture device, all toothed gears. In one shop he finds a whole stack of 19th century books: Through the Looking Glass, British Birds, The Collected Poems of Catullus, The Holy War. He is leafing through British Birds when he senses there is someone behind him. Someone is watching him.

There is a mirror next to the door of the shop, the type shopkeepers use to see who has come in. He raises his eyes, trying not to register that he has noticed.

It’s Sherlock.

John sucks in a breath so fast it makes him dizzy. He stares into the mirror, frozen, afraid that if he turns around Sherlock won’t be there. He should have questions, or perhaps feel frightened, but when he slowly turns and faces Sherlock, all he can feel is joy. It’s heady, so much that he sees blackness crowding in, and then he’s pitching forward.

Sherlock catches him. John has tunnel vision, can only focus on one point, and that’s Sherlock’s gaze. John desperately clutches at Sherlock’s shoulders, his coat, like that will keep him conscious. But it’s too much, and then everything goes black.

He comes to consciousness in a little kitchen at the back of the shop with a mug of tea and brandy in front of him. Sherlock is staring at him.

“Where’s the shopkeep?” John asks.

“She’s gone off for some biscuits,” Sherlock says.

“What?”

“She thinks you’ll need a biscuit to help you raise your blood sugar.”

“You told her I was diabetic,” John says. “What are you doing here?”

“I work here,” Sherlock says. “Temporarily.”

“Here. A bookshop not five hundred yards from my flat.”

“An antiques shop. You want to hit me,” Sherlock says.

“No,” John says. He grabs Sherlock’s upper arms tightly. “Sherlock. Is it really you?”

“Don’t cry,” Sherlock says.

“Shut up,” John says, and hugs him so tightly that it probably hurts, if it’s not a dream.

“Ow,” Sherlock says softly.

“Christ, I missed you so much. You idiot. You absolute idiot.” Then he punches Sherlock’s shoulder. Not his face, though, and not as hard as he could have. He wants to hold on again, but he restrains himself. He looks Sherlock over carefully, taking in every detail. He’s thinner; his cheeks look more gaunt than anything. His eyes are sunken and red-rimmed. Not enough sleep. “Idiot.”

“You’re repeating yourself,” Sherlock says, but his lips quirk up. He looks almost happy. To see him, John realizes.

“Why? How? No, not how, save your brilliance for a time when I don’t want to punch you,” John says, and realizes he’s grinning like a maniac. “Why?”

“It was the only way to keep you safe,” Sherlock says.

John reaches up and cups Sherlock’s face. Sherlock’s eyes widen.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” John says, leaning in. “I’m afraid I’ve had a bit of a shock. Can’t be held responsible for my actions.” And that is when he kisses Sherlock.

If you can call it a kiss, what they do. Sherlock’s mouth is on his and it feels like he’s being consumed. His mouth is open and his tongue is touching Sherlock’s, and Sherlock’s mouth works like he’s taking bites, trying to have more, and he’s hanging on tight.

Sometimes it’s so good to kiss someone in a dream, you feel like your whole self is touching theirs, and then it just flows into an embrace, and it’s not a problem that you’re both male and he’s taller.

That’s how John knows this isn’t a dream. He’s kissing Sherlock Holmes and then he opens his eyes and Sherlock’s eyes are open, and he pulls John toward him, and they fall backward on Sherlock’s ancient office chair, the spring creaking the whole way down and the wheels giving way, and everything crashing, and they’re on the floor, and he’s on top of Sherlock, and has to get up. It is desperately embarrassing, wriggling and pushing himself off his friend, and then pulling Sherlock up too, and brushing them both off.

So John laughs. He pulls his head away and laughs and laughs, and when he’s finished laughing he says, “Tell me everything.”

Sherlock looks at him. “Boring.”

“Listen, you jumped off a building in front of me. I still haven’t recovered. I’m not persuaded that you aren’t a hallucination.”

Sherlock puts out his tongue. “You are hallucinating antiquing and PG tips.”

“Point,” John says. He can feel that his face is hot, but he’s smiling. “I’ve never dreamed anything like this.”

Sherlock’s ears are slightly pink. John takes a breath.

“You visited me in hospital when I was sectioned.”

“Yes.”

“Tell me. For fuck’s sake.”

“There was a lorry,” Sherlock says, “for a laundry service. I landed in it.”

“Was I meant to miss that?”

“Yes,” Sherlock says.

“And what about--”John swallows, “What about the body? I saw a body.”

“That was Molly’s good work.”

“I hate you.”

Sherlock sits back down in the swivel chair, and fidgets with it, turning back and forth. Finally he stops. “If you hadn’t been utterly grief-stricken, if I hadn’t been conclusively dead, Moriarty had arranged for you to be assassinated.”

“And you didn’t trust me to act grief-stricken, or to take care of myself.”

“You and Lestrade,” Sherlock says, and John clears his throat, and Sherlock adds, “and Mrs. Hudson.”

“Oh,” John says. “Fuck.”

“Mrs. Hudson is at least a decent actor,” Sherlock says. “You are the worst liar I’ve ever seen.”

“I’ve done a good job on Moriarty’s people, though.”

Sherlock leans forward and tugs on his hair. “My brother has no morals.”

“Why?”

“He was meant to keep an eye on you.”

They look at each other and start to laugh, again. “Bloody hell, Sherlock,” John says.

“You have done a good job on them,” Sherlock says.

“And?”

“And now we have to catch the last one.”


Sherlock lives nearby. It’s cramped and cluttered, and John wonders how Sherlock can breathe. Then he sees that the flat is situated so that one could look out the window and see John’s own building. His own window.

He doesn’t mention his discovery. “You should rest,” John says. “Sleep deprivation will do you no good.”

“Bloody doctor,” Sherlock mutters. He takes hold of John’s wrist and John follows. Sherlock sits on the edge of his bed and looks at John. There’s a strange expression on his face, something almost like pleading. “Will you stay here with me tonight?”

“Of course,” John says. If Sherlock thinks John will ever leave his side willingly, he’s got another think coming.

“We’ll talk about Moran in the morning,” Sherlock says. He’s still holding John’s wrist.

“Sherlock,” John says. “I’ll be here.” Without saying another word, John gently pushes Sherlock to lie down and then climbs into the bed behind him. The bed is small but neither of them seems to mind.

John thinks he won’t sleep, but he does. He’s never slept in a bed with a man, and certainly not with Sherlock, whose sleep habits were never particularly good. He wakes several times in the night with his arms wrapped around Sherlock, thinking muzzily, “No tits,” and “Not a dream.”

At 4AM, there is a sound in the living room and John wakes to full consciousness in an instant.

Sherlock sits up, and in the dim light, puts a finger to his lips, and shakes his head.

There is someone in the flat. The door to the bedroom has been left open and Sherlock stands. His stealth is remarkable, but John thinks perhaps the intruder wouldn’t have heard him, as he already has industrial headphones covering his ears.

He’s about to fire a rocket launcher at the building across the way. John’s building.

John’s flying tackle is hardly silent, but it is quiet, and the would-be assassin goes down. John sees Sherlock secure the rocket launcher and John wraps his arm around the intruder’s neck, holding tight. In seconds, the man is unconscious.

“Well. That was unexpected,” John says. He feels like laughing.

“Speak for yourself,” Sherlock mutters, examining the man on the floor. “It’s Moran,” he says.

“How do you know?” John asks.

Sherlock gives him a look and says, “Recognise him from an old photo. He was trying to kill you.”

“Unprofessional, not waiting to see if I’m actually home,” John says.

“Look across at your flat,” Sherlock says.

There is a figure moving around behind the shades. It looked as though someone was at home.

“You had a decoy in my flat? What if Moran had killed him instead?”

“I set up a computer animation to duplicate your movements and project your image on the blind.”

“Really?”

Sherlock rolls his eyes, but with a smile that says he’s happy John is impressed. “Now listen,” he says, “I’ve texted Lestrade. You need to go back into the bedroom and lie down.”

“What? I’d hardly have slept through that.” He hardly thinks Lestrade will fault him for taking on his own assassin, but Sherlock has a look on his face that says he’s not taking any arguments.

“You would if your medication made you sleepy,” Sherlock says.

“Ah,” John says. “My medication.” Sherlock turns him by his shoulders and marches him back into the bedroom.

John, lying in the strange bed, is almost giggly, but also a bit worried that Moran will come to and Sherlock won’t be able to handle him, baritsu or no baritsu. Lestrade and his men make as much noise as a herd of elephants.

“Sherlock!” Anderson yells, and John sits up and puts his feet on the floor. He’d hardly be expected to sleep through that.

John makes it out of the bedroom in time to see Lestrade’s face when he sets eyes on Sherlock.

“I didn’t believe the text was from you,” Lestrade says. “You cagey bastard!” But he’s smiling wide. He sets eyes on John and then looks from him to Moran. “Let’s go over this from the start. How did this happen, and shit, is that a rocket launcher?”

“This,” says Sherlock Holmes, “is Sebastian Moran, wanted for the killing of Ronald Adair. He was poised to launch a shoulder-fired missile into Dr. Watson’s flat. He was a colleague of the late James Moriarty.”

“That again,” Anderson says.

John sighs. “There’s a man with a rocket launcher aimed at the window of my flat.”

“A man wanted in two other crimes, one a recent murder,” Lestrade says. He’s examining Moran. “You all right, John?”

“John was asleep when Moran broke in,” Sherlock says. It is strictly true.

It seems to take ages for Lestrade to release them. His dark, serious eyes search John’s face before he smiles and shakes his hand.

As they get out to the street, it’s nearly dawn again. John is whistling. Sherlock doubles over laughing. “Did you really find the police that inept?”

“What?”

“You were whistling that bit from ‘The Pirates of Penzance’,” Sherlock says. “With catlike tread, upon our prey we steal.”

“Oh, was I,” John says. “Didn’t realize.” He swings his arms as he walks. “Where to?”

“Baker Street,” Sherlock says.

“It’s not-” John begins to say, but Sherlock interrupts.

“Paid in full in our absence and ready for us,” he says. He hails a cab.

Home.

“Good,” John says.

He remembers the kiss and the comfortable way they’d slept together and wonders if it’s just a happy reunion thing or something else. He watches the streets move outside the taxi window and reaches for Sherlock’s hand without looking.

Sherlock grabs John’s hand immediately and laces their fingers.

They have to let go when they get out of the cab, but they climb the stairs of 221 nearly at a run. Mrs. Hudson is apparently not at home. Sherlock opens the door with his key and they walk into their flat.

“Oh, it’s clean,” John says, closing the door behind him. He turns and Sherlock is right up in his space, pushing him against the door.

He doesn’t say anything, just holds John there and looks at him for a moment before bending, swanlike, to kiss him, again.

“Is this--a thing?” John gasps, when Sherlock lets him have a breath.

Sherlock’s face is in his neck. “Is that a problem?” His breath tickles John’s ear.

“No, it’s fine,” John says, and pulls Sherlock to him, tighter, closer. Their hips are flush together and he can feel that Sherlock is hard, too. Sherlock is kissing and licking and biting his neck and his chin and his jaw, and whispering, “John, John, John.”

He drops to his knees in front of John and it’s all downhill from there. He gets John’s flies open and his pants down and John’s cock in his wild, wet mouth. John wants to say something, anything--something ironic and devastating, or loving and angry and truthful--but he can’t do that while Sherlock Holmes is sucking his cock. His hands are in Sherlock’s curly hair and he’s just hanging on, hoping he’s not pulling too hard.

He looks down and Sherlock is looking up at him, observing, recording--and pulling on his own cock. The only sound is Sherlock’s intermittent hum and the slick clicking of his own wet prick, sliding between those pink lips.

Then Sherlock gives a single deep, surprisingly loud grunt around him, and comes to climax. It’s so sexy that John loses control and fucks his mouth, two thrusts, and is overtaken by his own orgasm.

His head falls back with a bang against the door. Sherlock is still on his knees, his head against John’s chest, breathing hard and holding him.

“Brilliant,” John says when he can talk again. “You’re amazing.” It seems he’s always saying things like that, but the context is brand new.

“I have been told,” Sherlock murmurs, smiling up at John. One of his thumbs is caressing John’s hipbone.

John touches Sherlock’s curls lightly, amazed and thrilled that he can, now. “So many things I never told you,” he says. He still sounds as regretful as he did when he thought Sherlock had died.

“Not as many as you think.”

“Because you spied on me,” John says. Even in this odd, post-orgasmic haze, he’s still angry with Sherlock.

Sherlock gets to his feet, and John refastens his trousers, and they right themselves. There’s a distinct cooling in the room until Sherlock looks into his face. “John,” he says, and folds John up in his ridiculously long arms. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re a crazy bastard,” John says into his collarbone.

“I know,” Sherlock says, his old, arrogant self.

“I love you,” John says. He listens to Sherlock’s heartbeat, inhaling his scent.

After a moment, Sherlock says, again, “I know,” a question for the universe: how can this be? “Will you stay with me?”

“God, yes.”