It’s windy, and cold, and this horribly superficial conversation - what he knows is undoubtedly their last conversation - has stalled. Emotionally loaded seconds, awkward, too much.
John turns away, avoids his eyes for a moment, and Sherlock knows he knows. Knows what that “who knows” means. Knows he isn’t coming back from this.
The silence is deafening. So many unspoken things hovering there between them. Hidden, held back, stifled for so long. The seconds become unbearable. He looks down and steels himself. He will do this. Right or wrong, he refuses to go to his death a third time without John knowing.
He takes a steadying breath.
John looks up, face tense, lips pursed, obviously trying to keep whatever emotion he is feeling off his features.
“There’s something I should say...I’ve meant to say...always, but I never have. Since it is unlikely that we will ever meet again, I might as well say it now…”
John’s face softens, only slightly, and he can see the effort his friend is putting in to keep himself in check...and he can see it failing. There is so much sadness there that Sherlock can’t take it. He can’t do this...can’t let that sadness be the last look he sees. It isn’t fair. He is going to board a plane carrying him to his execution… and John will be left with Mary. It wouldn’t be right to put these words out there now, when there is no hope and no chance for them to be more than just a voice in the wind. To interfere, to come any further between John and his wife - as much as he despises the idea of leaving him with her - it’s selfish. It would be painful, and he doesn’t want that to be the last memory John has of him. So he improvises…
“Sherlock is actually a girl’s name.”
A joke. Something ridiculous and light and unexpected...and for a second it works and John smiles, laughs even, as he looks away. For the moment that is all that matters. At least he will have that last memory of John’s smile.
“It’s not,” John answers, but, suddenly, he isn’t smiling. His restraint and control are gone completely and his voice is rough with emotion. “That wasn’t what you meant to say at all, is it?”
He freezes, panic setting in; an adrenaline rush, skyrocketing his pulse. Despite the instability in his voice, John steps closer, eyes never leaving his, searching for something...something he must have found, as he nods and soldiers on.
“How was that sentence really gonna end, Sherlock?”
And he can’t speak. And he can't look away. Even as he feels the embarrassing heat and prick of tears behind his eyes. He knows it is beyond obvious now, there is no disguising it, no mask he can put up to block it. John isn't an idiot. If he ever thought he saw it before, he damn well can see it now. He could just say it. He was going to say it. He can’t say it. Any other time and he would have bolted. Escaped. But there is no where to go. He is cornered and terrified and…
John’s hand is on his arm. Lightly gripping him. He isn’t sure when that happened, but John is touching him. Steadying him. Grounding him. Attempting to calm him. Urging him to answer. And his face...god, is it hopeful?
And he sighs helplessly before replying, eyes on the ground and voice barely above a whisper.
“Does it really need saying, John?”
John is quiet. It is all wind and loaded silence, and it is hateful.
Then there is the light press of fingers, lifting his chin. Forcing him to look into damp, cobalt eyes. So close. When did he get so close?
“You...aren’t coming back from this, are you?”
John’s fingers trace upward along his jaw, resting against his face as he gives a quick shake of his head. The first traitorous drip of moisture escapes his eye.
John’s breath hitches, but he doesn’t move, and doesn’t blink away his own echoing tears.
“Right, ok. Then I...if this is my last chance to…” his voice breaks, and his other hand comes up to grip Sherlock’s elbow.
“John. Stop. Please? You have Mary now…”
At those words, a fire lights behind John’s eyes, his expression cycling through frustration, pain, and anger.
“Fuck Mary! Fuck her and her bullshit lies! Fuck this joke of a marriage that I never wanted! Fuck this sodding suicide mission...and fuck this bloody plane and your arse of a brother!”
John’s voice is quiet but ferocious, hand tightening its grip as his other moves from Sherlock’s cheek to neck, tangling into his hair...pulling…
They hover, face to face, for an instant, scarcely a breath apart.
There is an indignant squawk of protest from behind them, and then...then there is a hard, urgent collision of lips against his. Far from soft or gentle. It is intense and desperate and needy. It is every unspoken thought. It is the completion of every aborted sentence. It is everything they never said.
The hand at his elbow slips down to interlace with his own gloved hand as they break apart. John gives it a squeeze.
“C’mon, let’s go.”
“You honestly think I would let you go off alone, again?”
“John! It is a death sentence. It’s…”
“My choice. You may not have one, but I do. It’s the two of us...against the rest of the world, yeah?”
And John’s hand is pulling him in again, pressing his forehead against Sherlock’s.
“Together, Sherlock...always together.”
Then he is being led by the hand, past a speechless Mycroft and a fuming Mary, and onto the plane.