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A Strange Fear

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"I honestly don’t know what I see in you, sometimes." It pierces the air for all it’s hissed quietly enough that only John hears it. It’s petty and cruel, a verbal slap to the face designed to hurt, and oh God, does it ever.

He knows that it’s just Sherlock’s frustration speaking; he knows that Sherlock is irritated and fed-up, and that Anderson has been an utter arse yet again, and that Sherlock lashes out when he’s upset, but. The problem is that he’s been asking himself the same question over and over again for the past few weeks, ever since that night Sherlock had pushed him against the back of 221b’s door and kissed him for the first time, kissed him speechless, mindless, stupidly in love, and then left him there and climbed the stairs up to their flat two at a time, never to speak of it again -- until the following night, when he’d climbed silently into John’s bed and curled around his sleeping form. And the night after that, when he’d done it again, only wearing not a stitch of clothing, and burrowing his chilly hands under John’s cotton pyjamas until John had sworn impatiently and frantically tugged them off.

He hadn’t said a word, not during and not after. John is far from smart when it comes to Sherlock, and he’s far from understanding him, either.

So, it hurts, almost as much as that shot to his shoulder that had torn through muscle and ligaments and shattered the clavicle had hurt all those months ago. John blinks a few times, looking up at Sherlock’s pale, impassive face, and has to turn away to keep Sherlock from seeing the expression on his. Once he’s not looking at Sherlock anymore it’s easier to nod, mutter “Right” and walk away, let the night swallow him whole. He thinks he hears Sherlock call out his name, but the blood is rushing in his ears and he doesn’t turn to check.

He walks for hours that night, heedless of where he’s going. At one point he looks up to see Westminster Abbey, at another The National Gallery. At some point he walks past St James Park, hears Big Ben tolling three times in the distance. Later still, he reaches Covent Garden, the square quite empty and rather ghostly in the thin fog. The chill in the air worms its way under his coat slowly but surely, until his shoulder aches insistently and he’s frozen stiff, wet from the unrelenting drizzle, miserable and thoroughly disgusted with himself for acting like a fourteen-year-old girl whose boyfriend has just dumped her. He turns resolutely towards Baker Street -- he needs to curb the latent dramatic streak that his constant interaction with the Holmes brothers has apparently encouraged.

Sherlock was just being Sherlock. John doesn’t know why he’s surprised; doesn’t know why he allowed the careless jibe to hit so deep. He supposes that he’s letting his own insecurities twist the words into something sharp and painful, making a lot more of it than Sherlock meant, no doubt.

John shakes his head. He’s letting Sherlock get too far under his skin. He’s going to have to draw some boundaries when he gets back to the flat; for a start, no more sharing a bed. It’s ridiculous that he hadn’t stopped Sherlock in the first place, when he’d crossed that line three weeks ago. No wonder he’s getting messed up; the mixed signals Sherlock is sending could confuse a shuttle, and the resulting crash is inevitable. Either he’s going to keep shagging Sherlock and not get emotionally involved, or he’s going to nip the thing in the bud. Since John isn’t one of those men who can shag someone without caring about them, it’s going to be option two, and that’s that.

He’s being unforgivably dramatic about the whole thing. He snorts as he rounds the corner into Baker Street, and ignores the latest CCTV camera that swivels to follow his progress -- he doesn’t even have enough energy left to give Mycroft the two-fingered salute. He unlocks the front door, pushing it shut gently so that he doesn’t wake Mrs Hudson, toes his wet shoes off and pauses to hang his even wetter coat up to dry. He walks upstairs calmly -- and slowly, his leg is killing him, he doesn’t know how he hasn’t realised until just now, but it almost crumples under him half-way up the stairs and he has to lean heavily onto the banister to keep his balance. He limps through the flat’s door and into the kitchen, craving the inherent comfort that only tea can provide. He flicks the light on just in the kitchen, hoping to delay cluing Sherlock in that he’s back. It’d be really nice to leave the inevitable conversation until the morning, when he’s feeling less fragile.

He closes his eyes ruefully as he lets his tea brew -- just thinking about it is exhausting. The quiet noise behind him makes him jump and reach for a gun that he no longer carries, but it’s just Sherlock. Of course it is. Why make anything easy when he can make it as difficult as possible?

John doesn’t look at him; he doesn’t fancy being studied like some exotic specimen, as is Sherlock’s habit; no doubt he’s trying to work out what he does see in him. Not much, John reckons -- just a tired army doctor with an aching shoulder and a limp that’s in his head, ordinary and plodding, nothing special at all -- nothing to hold Sherlock Holmes’ attention, certainly. John only marvels that it lasted this long.

He sidesteps Sherlock’s still form to get the milk out of the fridge, still not looking at him.

“Would you like a cup?” he asks, perfectly polite, the perfect housemate. It’d be nice if they could manage to salvage that, at least; John’s gotten far too used to the flat to find the thought of trying to find a new place to live in any way palatable.

“John,” Sherlock says; he sounds tentative, so much like that first time in the restaurant across from Northumberland Street all those months ago. John’s stomach clenches.

Please don’t, he thinks, closing his eyes in defeat. Don’t do this. Don’t make this more complicated than it has to be. Don’t make me feel like more of an idiot that I already do.

Of course, Sherlock doesn’t listen. He never does, as good as he is at reading minds.

“You’re upset,” Sherlock states, straight to the point as always.

“I am,” John admits. “But only with myself,” he adds quickly. “So it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Sherlock is silent behind him; John wonders if he’s frowning or squinting, the way he does when a particularly stubborn clue is trying to wiggle away. Probably not, he thinks.

He turns to walk into the living room, but Sherlock stops him with a brief touch to the arm not clutching the hot cuppa like a lifeline.

“You’re upset with yourself because you think that you’ve misunderstood my motivations.”

“I really hate it when you do that,” John mutters, embarrassed; he can feel the tingle a blush making its way up his neck and into his face. “Yes, alright? Like I said, it’s fine. I won’t make it awkward for you. We’ll just establish some boundaries and it’ll all be back to normal.” He makes to go round Sherlock again, because surely this should be enough to satisfy the world’s only consulting detective.

“You haven’t,” Sherlock says quietly.

John blinks again, finally looks up at him. Sherlock looks wrecked; his normally pale skin is pallid, like all the blood has drained from his face. There are black circles like bruises standing out under his eyes; those have mostly been there the past few days, what with him being constantly on the go and hardly stopping to eat, let alone sleep; but there’s something haggard about him now that hadn’t been there earlier.

“I haven’t what?” John asks, desperate to be allowed to walk away but knowing it won’t happen before Sherlock is done with him.

“Misunderstood,” Sherlock says, and just like that the blood is pounding in John’s ears all over again. He opens his mouth and closes it again, not knowing whether to yell at Sherlock or kiss him.

“You shouldn’t be upset with yourself. You should be upset with me, or more accurately, with Anderson for managing to turn me into a prick without even trying.” There’s anger in Sherlock’s voice, anger at himself for letting Anderson get under his skin when he should know better.

“Are you actually admitting to having been a prick?” John says, genuinely taken aback. This is the first time he has heard Sherlock apologise to anyone since John met him.

“Yes,” Sherlock says. There’s no bluster, no defensiveness -- just a simple statement. “What I told you earlier was a complete lie. I know exactly what I see in you. Sometimes, there’s so much to see that I can barely keep the data flow straight, and I have to scramble to record every little scrap so that I don’t delete it again by mistake. Every time I think I have you pat down, you do something, or say something, and you turn the world over on its head again. How could I ever walk away from that? You are the biggest mystery of all, John.”

John stares at him, speechless, hope bursting in his chest until Sherlock huffs impatiently, moves John’s arm to the kitchen counter where John puts down his untouched tea, crowds him back against it and kisses him, all warm lips and cold hands clutching at John’s face anxiously. John can’t help but respond, just like he can never help doing what Sherlock asks or needs from him.

“I am sorry,” Sherlock murmurs into his mouth, lips still brushing John’s roughly, sharp teeth biting down into them.

John wraps his arms around Sherlock’s back, drawing them flush, leeching the warmth from the tall, wiry body into his chilled one, needing him closer. He doesn’t resist when Sherlock drags him up to their bedroom, strips all the clothes off him and proceeds to warm him up properly.

Sherlock is almost frantic; John feels the urgency in every touch, in every kiss, in the way Sherlock grips his thighs and licks, sucks, swallows around John before slicking up his fingers and slipping one carefully inside him. No matter how much John swears, commands, and, in the end, begs, Sherlock takes his time mercilessly, stretching him open and pliant before shifting up the bed and sinking inside him with a half-strangled grunt. John is desperate by now, but Sherlock refuses to be rushed, stroking along John’s side, pinching a nipple gently and then harder when John asks for it in a voice that’s already breaking.

He kisses John again and again, devours his mouth, like he’s trying to climb inside it and never come out. John threads his fingers through the black curls and holds him there, gentling the kiss until they’re just nipping at each other’s lips and Sherlock is rocking slowly inside him, the head of his cock brushing John’s prostate over and over again, until John is whimpering into his mouth and pressing his hips upwards insistently. Sherlock moves faster then, his thrusts more and more forceful until his pace is back to frantic, slamming inside harder with every stroke. John yelps when Sherlock twists a nipple again; his orgasm takes him completely by surprise and his whole body clenches from the force of it, hands helplessly convulsing around Sherlock’s arms. He bites down hard on Sherlock’s neck to muffle his yells, and Sherlock stills with a grunt, hips stuttering reflexively as he empties himself inside John's still-spasming body.

He collapses over John, limbs suddenly shaking, body growing heavy and pressing John into the mattress. John loves those moments, when Sherlock is pliant and unguarded, vulnerable in a way he never gets. The bite on his long neck is already starting to bruise; it’s going to be a violent purple by tomorrow morning, and John feels a flutter in his stomach just thinking about Sherlock walking around with it there for all to see.

Later, once they’ve got their breaths back and Sherlock has wiped their mess away fastidiously with a fistful of tissues, they switch to lie wrapped around each other under the still-tangled covers. John’s head rests on Sherlock’s not-as-bony-as-he’d-first-thought chest, eyes closed as Sherlock draws languid fingers through the damp hair at his nape. He’s half asleep when Sherlock speaks; he feels as well as hears the words thrumming through Sherlock’s chest.

“That look on your face,” Sherlock says softly. “I never want to see that look again for as long as I live. It was worse than that night in the pool. I thought I was going to curl up and die when you walked away. I wondered if you were even coming back at all.”

John winces, but with Sherlock lying is rarely the way forward. He could always tell when John did it, anyway.

“It hurt, I’m not going to lie.” He feels Sherlock shudder and tense miserably against him. “But I meant what I said before. I’ll never leave you, not of my own free will.”

Sherlock relaxes again, arms wrapping around John even tighter. “You have my solemn permission to kick me if I ever say anything that nasty to you again. I may say a lot of horrible things, and I very likely will, but this is not one that you should pay any attention to. It will always be a lie.”

“That’s okay,” John says, pushing a leg between Sherlock’s and settling down for the remainder of the night -- or as long as this fragile peace lasts before Sherlock is up and pacing again. “I’ll just kick Anderson instead, if it’s all the same to you.”

Sherlock huffs a laugh in his ear, one of his quiet, genuine ones. “You won’t ever need to ask my permission for that.”