“So” Lestrade says in an encouraging voice, playing with a napkin. “How’s it going with… Sherlock?”
John takes a sip from his beer and stares at nothing in particular.
“We’re not talking.”
They’re living together. Again.
John remembers what his mother used to say to him, every time his father disappeared for whole months and then came back like nothing ever happened: “Better a shitty father than no father at all.”
Sherlock is thin and quiet, cat-like in his movements.
The efficiency he puts in his experiments is at maximum level. Quick, precise, meticulous - more than he’s ever been, if such a thing is possible. Then he cleans everything up and tidies the whole kitchen.
His clothes never smell of smoke. The wall hasn’t seen a single bullet since he came back.
Every time he returns to Baker Street from one of his cases, which he went back to solve (alone), he’s careful not to make any noise. No more exultant Mendelssohn at three in the morning.
When John puts the kettle on for the both of them, Sherlock quietly thanks him.
John hates him.
During the first nights after his return, John wakes up, opens the door to his room and places index and middle finger on his neck, in order to feel life pulsing inside him. Sherlock opens his eyes and looks at him, shaking all over.
Shaking all over, then going away without a word.
At first, they don’t talk because they don’t want to. Two weeks after Sherlock’s resurrection, they don’t talk because they can’t anymore.
John wakes up with the sound of something breaking.
When he goes down the stairs, Sherlock is on the doorway. His eyes are open wide and he’s pressing both of his hands on his throat. The bottle of wine he just bought at Tesco lies in pieces at his feet.
John looks at his mouth frantically opening and closing without a sound. He looks like a fish thrown on the beach, struggling for air.
John is about to laugh and say something derisive when he realizes he can’t talk either.
Nobody notices. To all other people, nothing is changed.
Sherlock still deduces at the speed of sound; John patiently asks to describe symptoms as he always does.
They ask about Mrs. Hudson’s hip in turn. Sherlock insults Anderson with ease, John chats with Sarah at the clinic’s canteen.
Everything looks like normal, but nothing is anymore.
Baker Street is so quiet that even the slightest noise makes them jump.
Truth to be told, things were like that even before the arrival of this incomprehensible damage, but at least communication was still possible. Not pleasurable, but possible: they weren’t forced to gesturing.
John resists three days, then he decides they must do something.
He doesn’t know precisely what.
The day after, when Sherlock wakes up at three in the afternoon, he finds a note on his bedside table.
They shifted my turn at the clinic. Eat something. JW
He reads it hearing John’s voice in his head. His stomach clenches painfully.
He already wasn’t particularly hungry; now he isn’t hungry at all.
John comes back for dinner. He finds a post-it on the fridge.
Salad possibly injuring to health: experiment. Must not eat. Mrs. Hudson gave us half of his roast. SH
They’re pieces of information that Sherlock would communicate with his finest bored voice.
John thinks: “I miss him”, and it’s the first time he’s able to define their problem since he came back from the dead.
Sherlock is with him again but, at the same time, that’s not actually true.
Sherlock is lying deep in thought on the sofa when John steps into the sitting room, freshly cleaned and dressed. He’s holding a stationary bag in his hand.
Under the detective’s perplexed gaze, he pulls out a notepad and a pen. Then he hands them to him.
Sherlock automatically accepts the gifts.
Having provided himself with the same equipment, John starts writing something at a quick pace. After a few minutes he turns the notepad in his direction.
I’ve put a notepad and a pen in every room of the house. I don’t know how to make things better. The only thing I know is that I don’t want to go on like this. I want not to speak to you because I wish to do so, not because I’m forced to by these stupid vocal chords.
Write everything that comes on your mind. If you ever made comments about the weather at all, I’d tell you to write them down, too. This silence is driving me up the walls. We have to find a distraction.
Sherlock smiles, relieved. The he writes on his notepad:
I don’t know what happened to us. Which is driving me up the walls.
John lifts an eyebrow. He licks his lips and writes:
I thought a lot about this during the last days. I can’t think of no scientific explanation whatsoever. I don’t understand.
Sherlock stands up and makes a beeline for his microscope, not before having quickly scribbled:
Understanding incomprehensible events is my work.
I find ironic having thought, just mere moments before opening the door and coming back to you, that words weren’t going to be useful at all.
John rips the sheet of paper in four and throws the pieces away.
Oh no, you arsehole, we will talk about it. But not like this. We’ll do it properly.
Sherlock folds the note and slips it in one of his nightgown’s pockets.
He wonders if he should write that, during the three years of his death, he’d obsessively thought about him – about all of him, in excruciating detail.
His fingernails, for instance.
His thumb, round, softly curved. His index, slimmer, more pointed. His middle finger, slightly longer than the others, and larger, too. His ring finger, so elegant. His pinky, small, pretty.
During interminable stakeouts, he could begin from there and continue for hours, remembering every line on his palm, every vein of his wrist. His Mind Palace had always literally brimmed with John’s treasured everything, and he became fully aware of it only in those terrible moments, when he was missing him the most.
He writes instead: Go back to solving cases with me, fearing that he might be too explicit.
John could write it with his eyes closed.
The annoying thing is that they still understand each other with a look, but they have no way either to play it down or to change the subject anymore.
John prevents himself from thinking of Sherlock more than is strictly necessary, because damn, he lives attached to him. Again.
But it is as if after a period of complete blindness a Monet had been placed in front of him. He can't help but stare. He can't help but get constantly distracted by a lip between his teeth, by his robe open on his stomach, by the smell he has after shaving.
He would like everything to be simple. He would like not to be attracted to him and, at the same time, repelled by him. More than anything, he would like to still be able to trust him.
One evening Sherlock returns so euphoric from a case that his eyes shine and his lips tremble with delight.
John bites the inside of his mouth and says nothing. He clenches his fists.
He doesn’t stand still all evening. He plays a cheerful Vivaldi, humming, completely satisfied.
John hears the sound of his voice and loses his temper.
He barely gives him time to put down the violin before punching him. He doesn't know why he didn't do it as soon as he saw him reappear on his doorstep after three years of silence: he feels amazing. His hand prickles wonderfully and is covered by warm, revitalizing spasms of pain.
Sherlock's expression is so incredulous that it's almost comical. John is about to throw him another punch but the detective manages to stop him.
He does nothing else, though.
John sees red and provokes him. He slaps him with contempt. A gauntlet thrown.
Sherlock's eyes get dark. A moment later he takes off his robe and bares his teeth.
John knows that Sherlock's thinness is misleading. There is not an inch of fat under that shirt: it’s all clean muscles. Despite being underweight he is still taller than him, and his hands are bigger.
John counts on the instinct of the soldier and on the incandescent anger that pervades him. He can do little else.
They cling to each other at the center of the room, snorting, snarling, and every sound coming out of their mouth, though not words of complete meaning, is music to their ears.
Sherlock pushes his knee dangerously close to his groin. John moans in pain, grabs his legs and crushes him to the ground. He tries to block his arms but Sherlock is quicker and reverses their positions.
He sees him pulling himself up on his elbows and throwing a punch at him that doesn't even come close to either his nose or his teeth. John takes it with a grunt and immediately becomes still.
He looks at him. Sherlock is panting, mouth open, face red.
Then he smiles. A smile that becomes an almost complicit grin – almost - and finally a laugh.
John joins him, wiping blood from his lips.
I needed it.
Also that. But not only that.
What did you say to me?
John puts the cup of tea by the microscope and gets up, looking into his eyes. Then he writes:
Good night, Sherlock. Stop fussing and go to sleep, too.
Sherlock makes a childish grimace and writes stubbornly:
Our every attempt to make direct contact fails. We have full use of our voice in any other context: we can also use it in mutual presence, as long as the effort isn’t with the other in mind. I hum. You whisper comments at the newspaper. It’s not an environmental factor. It’s not a physiological damage. It’s the two of us, and that's it. If we are not clear with each another, we will never solve the problem.
Good night, Sherlock.
Sherlock watches him go. Then he goes back to doing research on his pc.
I couldn't talk to you for three years and when I was allowed to do it again, I didn't. It’s a punishment.
Sherlock is in a taxi. He squeezes the piece of paper until his knuckles turn white.
John slipped that note into his coat when he was sleeping.
He gets out his cell phone and types in quickly: Don't be silly, John. SH
Sherlock has just entered the tub when he notices that the notepad placed next to the toothbrushes has been used. Judging by the humidity of the ink, just a few minutes before.
When you weren't here I often thought that I had never seen you bathe. It's one of the things I regret most. I know it's stupid.
Sherlock shudders, closes his eyes and slips a hand between his legs.
He thinks of the curve of John's jaw. He thinks of his smile before saying: "Fantastic!"
He thinks of his silence, when he was still voluntary, intimate, and how it used to fill him with expectation.
When he comes, the roar of water covers his moans. Sherlock presses his hand to his mouth anyway.
They have both become very sensitive to noises.
I want to forgive you straight away and, at the same time, I don’t want to forgive you at all. Do you understand me?
I think so.
One day they sit facing each other and they try to read lips.
They can’t. The problem is obviously not so easily solved.
I needed emergency sutures, sometimes. None of those doctors had hands as steady as yours.
John keeps this note in his wallet.
Both of them think that Mycroft knows, but strangely the English government doesn’t rub things in. He asks individual questions and then leaves Baker Street without a single word on the subject.
John wonders if he pities them, even more than before.
Go back to solving cases with me.
Sherlock, I beg you.
John often asks himself: if they could talk to each other again, what is the first thing they would say?
Molly scratches a little gore from a bone and asks him with a shy smile: "How is John? I haven't talked to him for so long. "
Me too, thinks Sherlock, and replies that John is doing great.
Don't do it for me. Do it for yourself. Inactivity corrodes you. We're similar, John.
John crumples the note, then opens it again, smoothes it carefully and puts it inside the book he's reading.
They are forced to touch more - sometimes simply to attract the attention of the other in the midst of all that silence.
Sherlock is absolutely certain that it’s a very difficult thing for John to do. He didn't want to touch him even with a word, when he came back, let alone with a whole hand.
John wakes up more and more often around four in the morning. In his dreams, Sherlock tells him horrific stories in the most gruesome details, speaks in foreign languages, sings, whispers in his ear about who at the post office slept with who from the supermarket.
John is so hard right after that he can't get back to sleep. He touches himself thinking of Sherlock saying his name, only "John", in the most disparate intonations and in the most disparate scenarios.
Go back to solving cases with me.
I promise you nothing.
I hate needing you. I hate being an invalid because of you. You are my personal war.
It was great. It was like watching a technicolor movie after years and years of dull black and white newscasts.
John is not far away. He’s smiling. At his feet a man curled up on himself is mumbling curses. They chased him for kilometers and Sherlock has a sore knee, but it was worth it.
He’s so euphoric that he doesn't see it right away.
"JOHN!" screams Sherlock, alarmed.
John notices the gun that the criminal lying on the ground is trying to extract from a boot just in time. He shoots instinctively.
The man collapses on the ground, lifeless.
Only the sound of their heavy breathing is heard for a few seconds. Then Sherlock regains his sensed and starts running to him.
John looks at him with incredulous and grateful eyes. There’s something else that shines below, but Sherlock doesn’t want to deceive himself.
He tries calling him again but no sound comes out of his mouth. Evidently it was just an exception due to desperate circumstances, but it's still a good start.
John puts a hand on his shoulder. Sherlock looks up to meet his eyes.
He feels his index finger tapping lightly against his coat.
"Thanks," John tells him in Morse code.
Sherlock gives him the first real smile since he returned from the afterlife and nods.
Back home, Sherlock watches John barely make it in time to take off his coat before hitting the nearest notepad and writing a word madly.
He looks at him, firmly convinced not to believe his eyes. John is blushing but doesn’t break eye contact. He seems sure. Sincere.
Sherlock remains motionless.
John shakes his head and starts writing again with enthusiasm.
I risked dying. I'm alive. I don’t intend to waste any more time and deny myself something I have wanted for years. Kiss. Me.
He circles the words "kiss me", smiling halfway between amused and mischievous.
Sherlock takes his pen and notepad with shaking hands and writes with his heart in his throat:
I don't know if I can give you what you want.
John rolls his eyes.
You leave me speechless, he writes. And then he adds: ha ha.
Sherlock bursts out laughing so hard that tears come to his eyes. When he touches John's lips with a hesitant kiss, they are warm and smiling like his.
They’re in bed, in their pajamas. Sherlock is embracing John, who is writing with the notepad on the mattress.
Tomorrow I'll wake up, I'll say good morning, I'll kiss you like I've always wanted to do, I'll tell you everything I've always wanted to say. And you will answer me. We’ll make it.
Sherlock closes his eyes and inhales his scent. He stretches his hand over his shoulder, pulls himself up on one elbow and writes: how can you be so sure?
I trust you. In your life you have already performed two miracles. Why shouldn’t I believe in a third?
Sherlock squeezes him tight and tries to restrain himself from pushing against him, looking for some delicious friction. They will wait to heal first.
The sun filters through the windows, flooding the cushions.
They look at each other. They’re scared. They’re confident.
Sherlock stares at John's mouth. John is stroking his bare shoulder with his thumb.
He reaches out and squeezes his wrist tightly.
John smiles at him. His lips part softly.