When William woke up, he noticed three things.
First, he was laying on an unfamiliar bed, in a room he had never been in before.
Second, his daemon had also just awakened, and she seemed as lost as he felt.
And third, Sherlock Holmes was sitting on a chair next to his bed, long hair falling on top of his eyes as he snored slightly, Euphemia sleeping quietly near his shoulder.
His hair was longer and messier than he remembered, and bags under his eyes indicated he hadn't slept properly in a while. His clothes were rumpled, presumably from falling asleep on a chair. Despite all that, as soon as William saw him, he could feel his heart beat faster. Has he been waiting on me?
He thought back on their fight atop the bridge, him falling to what should have been his death and Sherlock following him, not to die together, but to save him, to make him live . Catching him, as he’d asked those times before. He never realized how much he meant those words until he was falling to the Thames, his enemy’s arms around him his only connection to the world.
As he watched the man, Sherlock's daemon woke up. Seeing William had opened his eyes, she let out a delighted hoot and waved her wings, accidentally hitting Sherlock as she flew towards the shelf Ophelia was perched on.
"God, Effie," he mumbled, still only half conscious. "I told you to be more careful…"
The words died in his throat as he noticed William looking at him, his eyes widening and mouth gaping with surprise. He closed and opened his mouth a few times. William chuckled lightly. This was the first time he'd seen the famous detective be rendered speechless.
"Hi there," he said weakly, raising his hand a little.
Sherlock's expression changed from shock, to relief, to joy. His eyes got watery, but he didn't care. He took the hand William raised, touching him as if to prove to himself he wasn't dreaming.
He couldn't finish the sentence, the sobs threatening to come out blocking his throat. They stayed in a comfortable silence for several minutes, the only noises heard being Sherlock's sniffles and the occasional rustling of feathers from either daemon, who were currently grooming each other. In the quiet, William took in his situation. He remembered little from the fall itself. He remembered the heavy wind, the feeling of hitting the water, and the stinging feeling in his left eye, which he assumed was why his vision was different. He remembered Ophelia holding on to his shoulder, refusing to be too far apart even when neither of them expected to survive.
Mostly, he remembered Sherlock holding him, cradling his head in his arms and whispering in his ear, “let’s live, Liam” .
He never expected to live after his plan. But then again, he never expected Sherlock Holmes would walk into his life and carve his place in it the way he did. Maybe the unexpected wasn’t as bad as he feared.
As if there were a being reading his mind and wanting to play games with his heart, another unexpected thing happened. Euphemia flew down from her spot on the shelf to sit in the bed. Sherlock dropped his hand – William almost immediately missed its warmth – to greet his daemon, but instead of going to him, she turned to William. She looked up, a knowing and piercing gaze, and burrowed her head under his hands, leaning into his touch.
William froze. Touching another person's daemon was a taboo, an act of extreme intimacy. Something he never even considered he would experience. Still unmoving, he looked up to Sherlock, trying to understand what was happening. The other man was looking at the floor, a faint blush on his cheeks.
"You…" He said, after what seemed to William like hours, but was probably less than a minute. "You can pet her, y'know."
This seemed to make William's body go back to work. He looked at the owl, that all-knowing gaze still in her eyes, and, slowly but surely, began scratching her head. It was awkward at first. He was afraid of hurting her (and, consequently, Sherlock), so he tried to be as deliberate in his movements as possible. As he noticed Euphemia's happiness, however, he grew more comfortable, and started realizing the little things, like how different her feathers were from Ophelia's, or how Sherlock would gasp slightly whenever he touched her ear tufts, and God , William needs to hear that sound more often.
With so much in his mind, he barely even registered what his own daemon was doing. It wasn't until he heard Sherlock's surprised cry that he noticed Ophelia had also taken some action. He looked up, seeing a dumbfounded Sherlock staring at the crow perched on his pulse. He looked from her, to Euphemia, and finally to William, clearly just as unsure of what to do as he had been. William smiled and nodded slightly, giving him permission.
If William thought touching Euphemia felt good, having Sherlock touch Ophelia felt phenomenal .
For most of his life, sharing sensations with his daemon only ever meant sharing the bad. Injuries from his life in the streets, or the beatings from his adoptive family; his pain and her pain were the same, and that’s how it had always been. While he knew their bond meant their joys were also shared, they had been so few that neither fully believed that. But as Sherlock gently patted Ophelia’s head, with so much care and affection and love , he discovered what they had been missing all along. Every touch was felt with the highest intensity, every feeling multiplied in a scale even William wouldn’t be able to understand, even if his mind hadn’t been getting extremely hazy.
"Sherly," William said, the name escaping his lips before he even thought it.
(How could he even stop to think, though, when Sherlock Holmes was sitting there, cautiously caressing his soul as if it were the most precious being in the world?)
The use of the nickname sparked the man's attention. Even if it wasn't the first time he heard William calling him that, Sherlock still reacted as if it were, with a mix of surprise and fondness.
"Can I kiss you?"
For a second, William almost regretted the question. Any thoughts of doing so left his mind quickly, however, as Sherlock jumped on top of him, their daemons flying out of the way to perch together on top of some furniture.
The two men stared at each other for a while, blue eyes getting lost in his. Sherlock stroked William's cheek, his every movement careful not to hurt him, and leaned down for a kiss.
It was messy. Neither was fully sure of what to do, and Sherlock was still scared of pushing him too hard, but none of this mattered to William. For once, he had no elaborate thoughts running through his mind. All he could think of was the taste of Sherlock’s lips on his, with a tinge of cigarettes and a slightly salty taste from tears that hadn’t fully dried yet, but so perfectly him it made William want more, more, more .
Eventually, they broke for air. Sherlock panted on top of him, his cheeks seeming to get redder by the second. He smiled.
"I thought you'd never ask."