The sand is rough and cool under John Watson’s feet, but after months working here he barely notices. He’s just glad he remembered to take his shoes off before he went pounding across the beach to the lifeguarding chair he’d been assigned that afternoon, because he’s fairly sure shoes full of sand won’t impress his date. He just hopes his wallet is still on the stand where he left it, though he highly doubts it.
He can see the chair in the distance, moonlight highlighting the white paint, umbrella furled and tied down against the threat of a storm. It’s already billowing up in the distance, clouds dark and silver-tipped and roiling, and the waves are starting to flare up and foam where the distant wind has pushed them harder into shore.
“Oh, thank fuck,” he mutters when he sees the dark square of his wallet tucked up under the edge of the seat, still slightly hidden and, fortunately, still full of cash. Claire’s going to dump him this time, he thinks sadly, turning back up the beach. She hates when he’s late. It’s probably for the best, though, as he’s not going to be here much longer as it is. He’s moving on to bigger and better things, and a shiny place at King’s is waiting for him in fall term.
Just as John reaches the edge of the high tide line he hears a splash and a curse, startling him into turning around. A tall, gangly figure emerges from the water, holding what looks like a bucket. The figure starts to trudge up the beach, exhaustion showing in every slow step before it (he? John is fairly sure it’s a man over there, in the dim moonlight) drops heavily onto the sand.
John sighs. He’s already late, but his instincts are prodding him to check and be sure the person is okay. He jogs quickly down the beach and stops.
“Are you okay? You really shouldn’t be out swimming alone in the dark, once the lifeguards are off duty…” John’s speech slows to a crawl, because the man – boy, perhaps, he has that long-limbed look of a teenager – glances up at him through a fringe of dark curls, pale grey eyes rimmed by a sweep of long, dark lashes, high cheekbones lit with a flush of sun, lower lip full and lush and John really needs to stop staring. Christ, he’s gorgeous.
“Spare me the lecture,” the boy says, and prods at his bucket with a stick. “I needed the specimens.”
“You needed the what?” John says, and looks into the bucket. It looks like there are jellyfish in there, a dozen or so small moon jellies. They’d had to close the beach a few days ago when they’d gotten too numerous for safety. “Were you stung when you got these? I’m fairly sure you’re not allowed to just take them.”
The boy rolls his eyes. “No, I wasn’t stung, and I needed them for my research. I’m extracting their venom and determining if it can be refined enough to create an undetectable neurotoxin.” The boy lifts his chin with the last statement, as if defying anyone to stop him. John considers a moment.
“I’d think it would be too unstable to refine,” John says. “Because I’ve read there is trouble keeping venom for research into whether or not it can be used for treating some forms of paralysis.”
The boy looks at him with a bit of skepticism and a healthy dose of annoyance in his raised eyebrow. “Well, that’s the entire point of it, don’t you see? It’s an organic toxin, and once it breaks down it will be virtually undetectable.”
“Oh, of course. Exactly the point.” John sits down on the sand, completely ignoring the fact he just ruined his date trousers. This conversation has to be the most interesting thing that’s happened to him in a month. John thinks a bit. “What if you extract the venom with a bit of water with salt in it, to mimic their natural habitat? Would the salt keep the venom more stable?”
“Why on earth would it…Wait. Perhaps not salt, exactly, but electrolytes. That’s…sort of brilliant, surprisingly enough. That medical career you’re looking for may not actually be a waste of your time.”
John’s floored. “What now? How do you know that?”
“Oh, come now. You’re obviously a lifeguard here for the summer, as your tanned feet show, which are worn smooth by months walking in the sand. Your hair is bleached white, your ears and neck are dark. But you aren’t staying, that much is clear, as it’s nearing the end of summer and your wallet is thin though you likely were just paid – not here to work and then blow all of your money partying on the weekend. You’re saving. You’re nineteen, in your gap year, and your obvious intelligence and knowledge of chemistry and the latest research into treating paralysis shows an interest toward medicine. You also are a lifeguard, requiring strength and endurance and ability, as well as the innate need to help and protect. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I’m obviously not wrong, am I?”
John marvels at how animated the boy grows as he talks, eyes lighting up and hands waving in the air as he illustrates his point. It’s fascinating, a whirlwind of intelligence and sharp focus and knowledge, and it leaves John feeling caught, snared by the sudden outflash of lightning-sharp intellect.
He’s a bit of an oddity, this beautiful boy with his bucketful of jellyfish, but John likes him immensely. Proud and defiant and brilliant. John grins at him and gently swirls a stick through the bucket of jellies, watching them pulse and float through the water.
“You’re not wrong. You’re amazing, in fact. I’m John Watson. Would you like to go, maybe get something to eat?”
The boy grins, a bright, lopsided smile that makes John’s heart skip a beat. “The name’s Sherlock Holmes. And I’d love to.”
Sherlock Holmes, it turns out, is in Bournemouth on holiday with his parents and older brother, (“Miserable twat,” in Sherlock estimation), hates being here, and has set up an illicit laboratory in the basement of the hotel. (“The locks are so easy to pick a child could do it.”) He’s 17 years old, going to Cambridge in the autumn to try to earn a double first in Natural Sciences and Criminal Psychology, and he eats more at one sitting than John has all day.
“I forget, sometimes,” he says, slightly apologetic, and he scrapes the last bit of sauce from his plate as John watches in fascinated horror. “I just get too busy working to eat, then I’m starving. I hate it; I wish I could work longer without stopping for food and sleep – it’s a waste of time, really, when you could be doing something interesting.”
John laughs. “Am I boring you, then?”
Sherlock stops abruptly in the act of raising his glass. His eyes catch John’s, and the flash of interest, of heat, makes John’s fingers tingle. “No,” Sherlock says slowly. “You’re the most interesting thing that’s happened here all summer.”
“Is that so?”
“Absolutely. And judging by the fact you ditched your date without even a hint of an apology, I’m guessing I’m the most interesting thing that’s happened to you.”
“Sure of yourself, aren’t you?”
“I think I have reason to be. Don’t you?”
John reaches across the table and takes hold of Sherlock’s hand, turns it over and, with more bravado than he actually feels, kisses the fine bones on the underside of Sherlock’s wrist. “I think you really do,” he whispers, and watches with a smile as Sherlock shivers. “Do you need to be back?” God, this is amazing, the rush of anticipation, of want, a flood of adrenaline through his veins that leaves him feeling flush.
“No,” Sherlock says, and his eyes look a little dazed.
John leans forward across the table, voice quiet so he won’t be overheard though he’s sure anyone looking at them would know what they’re talking about. “Then will you come back to the beach with me?”
Sherlock looks up through his lashes, lip caught between his teeth. It’s a move so outrageously and obviously coquettish that John is utterly charmed by it. “I will if you promise not to be boring,” he says with a smile.
Kissing Sherlock Holmes is like having a wrestling match with an octopus.
He’s hot, eager, and a little clumsy; it feels like his hands are everywhere and John really needs to slow this down.
“My God, Sherlock, oh, fuck, your mouth, Jesus. Um. We should, we should stop a moment.” John pulls away from Sherlock’s lips fastened to his neck and tries to catch his breath. Sherlock’s shirt is off and his chest is gleaming pale in the sliver of light through the cabana door, and John’s shoes are lost somewhere in the darkness of the floor. His trousers are also undone, cock pushing against his underwear.
“Why?” Sherlock says, petulant, and runs his hands down John’s arms. His knees are straddling John’s hips on the dressing bench and if Sherlock moves again John’s going to come in his pants. “I fully intend to have you, so why not now?”
John drags Sherlock’s mouth back down to him and kisses him, teases his mouth open with soft licks against his lips. “Because, genius, I want to suck you,” he says into Sherlock’s open mouth. The gasp he gets in return is gratifying, but it makes John pause a moment. “Has anyone ever done that for you before?”
“No,” Sherlock says, then goes back to attacking John’s neck. He’s going to have a hell of a set of hickeys tomorrow. “But I want that, John. Please. You taste amazing here,” he says, and bites down on John’s neck a little, making John jump.
“Ouch, stop, enough with that. Let’s see what I can do for you.” John stands, easily lifting Sherlock’s reedy body and turning to seat him on the bench before kneeling in front of him. He slowly unbuttons Sherlock’s jeans, tugs them and the still-damp swimsuit from earlier down over Sherlock’s cock. It’s mouthwatering, long and slightly curved and dark-flushed with blood, and John licks his lips. Sherlock shivers, his hips thrusting minutely, making his cock sway a little toward John’s mouth.
“Patience,” John says, and leans down to kiss the tip of Sherlock’s cock and swirl his tongue around the head. His skin is warm and slightly damp, still little salty from his earlier dip in the ocean. He’s delicious, and when John takes his cock in further, sucks lightly, almost experimentally, Sherlock’s moans and sighs ramp up John’s arousal until it’s almost painful. He pulls his cock free and strokes it a few times in rhythm with long pulls of his mouth on Sherlock’s cock, and can feel his orgasm already starting to coil tight in his belly. He backs off, tries to focus as much of his attention on Sherlock as possible. He wants this to be good for him. His own first blowjob was horrible, so he wants Sherlock to have a fantastic first one to remember.
John settles in closer, gets his shoulders under Sherlock’s bony knees and wraps his arms around Sherlock’s thighs. His hands splay across Sherlock’s taut stomach as John continues suck, fingers teasing the little trail of hair down under Sherlock’s navel or reaching up brush across a nipple. Sherlock squirms under his touch, occasionally gasping and digging his heels into John’s back. John can feel Sherlock starting to come unwound; his body is tensing, and suddenly Sherlock grips John’s wrists where they rest over his stomach.
“Now, John, oh God, please more, more, more,” Sherlock chants and John sucks harder, shakes off Sherlock’s hand to slide a finger down behind his balls and rub circles against his perineum. That’s apparently all Sherlock can handle, because his entire body arches off the bench as he comes, bittersweet, across John’s tongue.
“Lovely,” John whispers, leans his head on Sherlock’s trembling thigh and strokes himself, quick and light and with the taste of Sherlock on his tongue until he comes, gasping.
“Oh,” Sherlock says, coming out of his post-orgasmic daze. “You didn’t even let me reciprocate.”
John smiles up at him, feeling punch-drunk and utterly content. “You can next time,” he says, surprising himself. He really, really does want there to be a next time. “Well…I mean, when are you leaving?”
“Two weeks,” Sherlock says, and tugs on John’s shoulders until he’s sprawled across Sherlock on the narrow bench. Sherlock seems to be made mostly of legs and elbows, but there’s a hint of strength in his sinewy arms. “I’d very much like to see you again soon.”
“Anytime you like,” John says, and presses a kiss to his jaw.
“Why on Earth would you want to join the Army?” Sherlock says, voice slightly muffled from where he is tucked under John’s arm. They’re relaxing on the beach under a large sunshade, John on his lunch break and Sherlock leaning against his side, book balanced in his fingers. The sea breeze ruffles Sherlock’s hair and the little sun he’d managed to get has peppered the bridge of his nose and the tops of his cheeks with tiny freckles.
John presses a kiss to his head. It’s only been a week since they found each other, and every moment feels like drowning, immersed in heat and joy and Sherlock’s brilliance. They spend hours talking, teasing, learning everything they can about each other, giddy with adrenaline and lust. There isn’t as much private time as they’d really like, but they’d managed to avoid the all-seeing eye of Sherlock’s interfering older brother to sneak away from Bournemouth once to spend the day kissing amongst the plants at the Botanic Garden on the Isle of Wight:
“Are you sure your parents are okay with you disappearing like this?” John says, voice buffeted by the wind whipping through the open windows of his ancient Land Rover on the way to the ferry dock, U2 blasting from the radio. Sherlock was looking especially gorgeous, shirt open to show his bare chest, hair slicked back and a pair of expensive black-framed Wayfarers perched on his nose. John couldn’t help but to trail a hand up the leg of his shorts.
“They’re used to me wandering off, they’ll not think anything of it,” Sherlock says, and shivers under John’s touch. They barely manage to keep their hands off of each other on the ferry, devolve into desperate snogging behind an orchid display in the gardens, and by the time they get back to the Rover John’s ready to tear Sherlock’s clothes off. He finds a quiet spot to park behind a building and sets the handbrake, and before he can properly turn the engine off Sherlock is crawling into his lap in the front seat.
“Want you to fuck me,” he says, grinding down into John’s lap, and John involuntarily tightens his grip on Sherlock’s hips. They’d done that once before, Sherlock trembling and coming apart at the seams around John’s cock, and good Christ was it the hottest thing John had ever seen.
“What, now? In here? Um,” John looks around and spots a towel in the back, lays it out on the back seat and between giggles and fumbling and awkward elbows, they manage to get undressed. John had brought a little pot of lube with him, hoping for a little something, but didn’t think he’d get to use it for this. Especially not when they could so easily get caught. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. “Kneel for me, love.”
Sherlock does, perching on the bench seat and looking over his shoulder with a sly smile and wiggling his bum a little.
John groans, then smooths his hands over Sherlock’s rear, squeezing his cheeks and pressing kisses to each one before breathing lightly across his hole. Sherlock’s cock is hard and hanging heavily between his legs, and John gives it a quick stroke.
“Oh God,” Sherlock says, and arches his back a little. “I’m ... oh, fuck, John. More. Please.”
John can’t resist it when Sherlock pleads, can’t deny himself the taste of Sherlock’s skin, the silky texture under his tongue as he licks up from Sherlock’s balls to his arse before swirling his tongue around Sherlock’s hole. John settles in to enjoy himself, his pleasure at Sherlock’s moans and shuddering cries making him ache with sympathetic desire.
He licks and sucks and fingers Sherlock until he’s begging, pleading. He’s a trembling, sweating mess when John finally presses into him, fucks him slowly in the humid heat of the back of the Rover until they both collapse onto the seat with the pleasure of it.
Other than that one glorious day, though, Sherlock spends most of his mornings in his makeshift laboratory, his afternoons on the beach with John, and his evenings naked in John’s bed before staggering back to his hotel in the early hours. John sighs, content, and remembers Sherlock asked him a question.
“I can’t really explain it. I want to be a doctor, and my dad was in the Army, so I think I’m just born to it. I want to serve. How best to do both? RAMC. Simple.”
Sherlock turns over and props himself up on his elbow to give John a dark look. “You’re insane. You could be killed, you know. Casualties aren’t limited to front line soldiers. And,” he says, sitting up and really warming to the topic, “you’ll be in medical school for five years, then two years of residency, then another five of specialty, which I’m absolutely certain you’ll do, probably in laparoscopic surgery, and then you’ll join the army? You’ll be in your thirties before you even get there!” Sherlock huffs and crosses his arms, turning his head away from John and resting his chin on his knees.
He has a beautiful pout, John will give him that. “I know, Sherlock. And we only have one more week here together. But we can exchange information, get together during breaks, yeah?” John skims his nose down Sherlock’s arm and delights in watching the gooseflesh rise as he inhales the scent of salt and sand and warm, sunned skin. “I can’t imagine ever losing track of you. I don’t want to.” And it’s true. He can see the separation coming from a mile away, and it’s not just him going off to uni—Sherlock’s going to Cambridge soon. He prickles a bit with the idea of Sherlock amongst all those people: people who will find him as beautiful and brilliant and perfect as John himself does. And, of course, people who are much more in Sherlock’s league than John is.
John shakes himself. He’s being ridiculous. They’ve known each other a week. Yes, Sherlock is amazing, but their lives are already on a split path, diverging in less than seven days, and maybe trying to hold on really isn’t for the best. But oh, how he really, really wants to.
John closes his eyes as Sherlock kisses him with definite intent and whispers dirty things in his ear, and tries not to think of it now.
It’s John’s next-to-last night in Bournemouth and he can’t find Sherlock. He’s called his hotel, managed to put off his brother, searched the beach and their usual haunts, and nothing. They usually meet up again in the evening to have dinner at six thirty, but it’s now eight o’clock and Sherlock is nowhere to be found.
John’s torn between desperate sadness that Sherlock might have thrown him over and fear that he’s been lost or kidnapped. John’s pacing in front of the hotel when a young man, mid twenties or so with a rather severe face and dark hair slicked back into a perfect, smooth wave, steps in front of him.
“John Watson,” he says, and it isn’t a question.
“Yes,” John says automatically, and huffs a sigh and turns away from Mycroft. He may need to just go home. Sherlock must have stood him up, and it’s pathetic to keep waiting around for him like this.
“I’m Mycroft Holmes. I believe, if you’d care to wait a moment, I can tell you where Sherlock is.”
John stops pacing and stares at him. “Why would you do that? He told me you can’t stand any of his boyfriends.”
Mycroft just barely stops himself from rolling his eyes. “Sherlock exaggerates. I simply wish to get to know at least a minimal amount of information about the people my brother chooses to spend time with. He’s brilliant, John, I’m sure you know this. The mind of a generation. He’s an object of interest for not only this government, but other governments. I must have some idea who he associates with.”
“An object of interest? Sounds smashing, and utterly in his best interests, I’m sure. You said you know where he might be?”
Mycroft clasps his hands behind his back and regards John carefully, giving him the sort of scrutiny he usually gets from Sherlock right before a barrage of deductions. He must decide something in John’s favor though, because he simply gestures to the hotel. “He’s in his laboratory, in the basement. You’ll have to knock and identify yourself, though; he’s locked himself in.”
“Thanks,” John says, and runs for the lobby, finds the nearest stairway and practically flies down the stairs to the dim, rather creepy basement level of Sherlock’s hotel. There’s a small corridor with a few doors, and John looks through all of the little windows until he sees a light on in one room, Sherlock’s curly dark head visible behind a rack of instruments.
His knock must sound different than Mycroft’s, because Sherlock’s head whips up and he catches John’s eye through the window. He looks startled, and then bashful as he comes to unlock the door.
“John! I apologise, I’d no idea how late it had gotten.” He scrubs his hand through his hair, and John looks at him closely. His eyes are rimmed red, dark circles underneath. He looks exhausted.
“I was worried you’d dumped me,” John says, and looks around. “This is where you’ve been working all this time?”
“Yes, yes, it’s not particularly great, but it is at least convenient. And I’m so close to stabilizing the jellyfish venom, you’ve no idea. That’s why I lost track of time. Here, see?” Sherlock holds up a small vial of yellowish liquid, suspended perfectly under a layer of clear liquid that floats on top. “Sea water, as you said. Brilliant, John really. Now I just need to get a few samples ready to test on the mice back at home, and—“
“Do you need to do that right now?” John asks, and realizes he sounds petulant and needy. Pathetic.
Sherlock looks conflicted. He keeps staring at his extract, and looking at John, and indecision is clear on his face. “Tomorrow is our last night together. I need to get this ready to take with me. It’s part of my work, John, two solid weeks of it. I don’t want to lose it.”
John sighs. “I know, Sherlock. I was just hoping to spend time with you, not just stare at you while you drip venom onto excised mouse brains.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrow. “And by ‘spending time with’, I presume you mean having sex with.”
“Well, yes, I mean, you’ve been pretty enthusiastic, too,” John flounders, trying to figure out where this conversation is going wrong. “We’ve had a fantastic two weeks, please let’s not argue now.”
“I’m going to finish this,” Sherlock says quietly, “and you’re welcome to stay with me while I do. In fact, I’d like you to stay. But my work is important to me, and I will do what I need to.”
John blanches. “All right,” he says. “I’ll leave you to it. See you tomorrow?” John leans in for a kiss and Sherlock turns his head so it lands on his cheek.
“Yes, John. Tomorrow.”
John leaves, quietly turning the lock in the handle so it locks him out when he closes the door.
John’s packing his bags the next morning when someone knocks frantically on his door.
“John!” Sherlock says, throwing himself into the room when John opens the door. “I was afraid I’d miss you if I waited. I’m sorry,” he adds quickly, and takes John’s hand to press a kiss to the back of it. “I know the timing was bad, but I needed this research complete if I wanted to pass over most of the early tutorials.”
John takes a deep breath, recalls the little speech he’d thought up last night as he lay tossing and turning in the dark. Something about them going their separate ways, that it wasn’t really meant to be for them. But when Sherlock reaches out to cradle his jaw, John finds that none of the words will come, and he gathers Sherlock up into his arms, burying his head in Sherlock’s neck.
“Christ, Sherlock, I have no idea how I’m going to get on without you,” he says, and to his horror, he can feel himself choke up. “It’s so ridiculous, but I think we were supposed to find each other. I know we’ll be busy with uni, but please, please come visit me, or I’ll visit you, or something. Please.”
Sherlock clings, wraps his arms around John’s neck then hops up to wrap his entire body around John’s, his legs around John’s hips. Desire flares in an instant, swift and sure, and John turns to set Sherlock down on the narrow bed and start working his clothes off. It’s only moments before John strips, too, and crawls over Sherlock’s body, pressing him back into the mattress and groaning when their cocks catch and slide against each other.
“I’m sure I won’t be going home between terms,” Sherlock says, breathless, and presses little kisses to John’s shoulder. “I’ll come see you, we can meet halfway, in some tiny village inn.”
John laughs, then gasps when Sherlock gets his hands on John’s arse and rocks hard against him. “I’m sure we can scandalize villages all over the country, if we have to.” John digs around in his half-packed bag for the lube before shoving the entire bag off the bed onto the floor. He pushes some lube out with a trembling hand and slicks them both up before pressing back against Sherlock’s body, his cock sliding against the hollow of Sherlock’s hip, Sherlock’s cock pressing into John’s belly. It’s hot and messy and over much, much too quickly when John kneels over Sherlock’s legs, holds both of their cocks in his hands and strokes them both to a desperate orgasm.
“Never forget me,” Sherlock says against John’s mouth. “I know how these things go. I’m not stupid. But at the very least, don’t forget me. You said it. We were supposed to find each other.”
“Never,” John says, and he knows in his heart it’s true.
At first, the letters come fairly often. John gets a letter from Sherlock once or twice a week, full of recitations of experiments and results and observations of his professors and fellow students. They’re usually hilarious, dry and witty, though there’s a dark thread of Sherlock’s propensity to boredom running through them. John cherishes his letters, and writes back faithfully. He takes up the most recent letter and reads it again.
This place is full of idiots and hangers-on, Sherlock writes. If I’d wanted to suck up to people I’d have gone to work with Mycroft. I hope, at least, you have a suitable group of people with whom to share your work.
John laughs at Sherlock’s irritation, which doesn’t surprise him. There’s no one he’s ever met, not here, not anywhere, with a mind like Sherlock’s.
It’s all fairly normal, John writes. Almost everyone who is here actually should be, with the exception of one or two who won’t last the month, looking at them. Hopefully I’m not one of them.
I miss you.
I miss kissing you.
I miss your mouth on my skin.
I miss the taste of your neck, right where it meets your shoulder.
I have a few days at half-term. Come see me.
John waits with barely-restrained impatience for Sherlock to answer him. He could afford a small room, he thinks, if it’s the smallest and they bring food instead of eating in the pub. Maybe he could even bring Sherlock a present, one of the instruments he’s been learning about. Sherlock seems very interested in medical procedures, keeps saying he needs to learn about them. Hopefully not for a job as a serial killer, John thinks, then chuckles to himself.
The reply, when he receives it, is devastating.
I miss you, too. Unfortunately, I have been informed that I will be spending the half-term in France, with Grandmother. It is non-negotiable and honestly, I do rather wish to see her. She’s just about the most sensible person I’ve ever known in my life.
Perhaps in spring?
John can feel the disappointment curl around his heart and squeeze. It is not at all what he hoped for when they parted in August, but it isn’t exactly surprising. John sighs, and gathers his books. He’s got to get to lecture. Then he can decide what he’s doing for half-term.
John sits down at the computer lab one blustery March morning, types in his brand new email user id and password and waits.
The black window blinks green, and there’s a list of messages waiting for him. Professors, mostly, and a welcome message from the administrator. There’s also a message from Sherlock.
See, I told you this would be faster! I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written, but I’ve found the most engrossing Chemistry tutorial, and it’s been taking so much of my time. Most everything else here is so utterly boring, I’m not sure how I’m going to survive.
John clicks the reply button, then slowly begins to type
I’m not sure how this can be any faster, since I’ve never been able to type worth a damn. But I’ll give it a go.
I’m glad to hear you’ve found something interesting, at least. Have you any plans for the summer? Back to Bournemouth?
It takes a few days for the reply to come in.
I’ve been selected to complete a chemistry fellowship in Germany. I won’t be in the UK this summer.
I’m sorry, John. I think we both knew how this would end up.
All the best, and I won’t forget you.
John doesn’t email back, his own pride refusing to allow him to beg when he’s obviously not wanted. He never hears from Sherlock again, and his memory of that summer fades from bittersweet and sharp to soft and regretful, but never fades completely.
When John leans back against the stump of a tree in the Afghan mountains, pack tucked up beside him and weapon across his lap, he looks up at the stars and still remembers Sherlock’s eyes, bright and alive and radiating the sort of affection John knows Sherlock no longer feels. Letting Sherlock go without even an attempt to fight it was one those mistakes he spends way too much time thinking over.
He’s not sure what makes him follow Mike Stamford back into Bart’s to meet some stranger that Mike thinks would make a good flatmate, but he’s not got anything else to do, and it’s nice to talk to someone familiar even if the pain in his leg dammit, phantom pain, it’s not real, it’s not is leaving him irritable and snappish.
Mike opens the door to one of the laboratories and John looks around, amazed. “Bit different from my day,” he says. The lab is empty but for one man with a mop of dark curls working at a bench on the other side of the room.
“Oh, you’ve no idea,” Mike says, and he’s smiling
“Mike, can I borrow your phone?” says the man across the room. His voice has the tickle of the familiar, but John can’t place it until the man looks up and John stops dead.
Jesus Christ, it’s Sherlock Holmes. He’d know those eyes, those cheekbones, anywhere. He looks so much older, sharper, world-weary and unhealthily thin. Mike’s saying something about his phone not being with him, and John fumbles his phone out of his pocket.
“Here, use mine,” he says, and hopes his voice isn’t trembling, as the rest of him certianly is.
Sherlock glances up for a moment, then his eyes go wide with shock and recognition and he stands to walk toward John. “Thank you,” he says, and quickly types his message.
“An old friend of mine, John Watson,” Mike adds.
Sherlock stares at John, gives him that same penetrating, once-over gaze that John remembers from, Good Christ, it has to be twenty years ago now, and quirks a little half-smile. John is abruptly aware of how he must look, thin and tanned and leaning on a cane, and it depresses him a little.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?” Sherlock asks, and John snorts.
“Always. Am I wrong, though?” Sherlock takes a step closer.
“No. Of course you aren’t.”
“How do you feel about the violin?”
“I play the violin when I’m thinking. Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end. Would that bother you? Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other.” Sherlock looks predatory now, and John knows this is possibly the worst idea he’s ever had. Moving in with a man on the strength of having shagged him for a couple of weeks twenty years ago?
“Who said anything about flatmates?” John says, and hopes Sherlock takes it for the stab at teasing it is.
Sherlock gives him a wolfish grin, opens his mouth to expound, and John knows he’s done for.
Later that night, John gets a text.
You told me once that we were meant to find each other. I think you may have been right. –S
Sure of yourself, aren’t you? – J
I think I have reason to be, don’t you? – S
I think you really do. – J
God help him. He really, really does.