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The silence is absolute and deafening. John stares blankly at the Stradivarius laying neatly across a pile of old case files on the hearth, wishing, not for the first time, to hear the screeching tones again at three in the morning. The elegant curve of the violin’s neck mocks him in its stoicism. The skull smiles blandly back at him amid the shadow boxed beetles and unopened correspondence. John feels the sudden and violent urge to smash it against the wall; to see old bits of calcium and cartilage shatter against the unwelcome smiley face on the battered wallpaper. He steadies himself with the comforting ritual of making tea. He places two bags in the bottom of the slightly dented stainless pot and has poured the scalding water over them before he realizes he only needs one cup. He no longer has anyone else to make tea for. The abandoned pot goes cold and over stewed for three whole days before Mrs. Hudson finally bins the lot.

The day he wakes up with shooting pain down his right leg and has to limp down the stairs to the loo is the day he realizes he can no longer stay at 221B. He is too bone weary to delude himself any longer that he will hear quick footfalls ascending the stairs, a slight hitch in the gait every time one is skipped from over eagerness. His heart hurts every time he uses the bathroom, knowing just on the other side of the door is an empty room, the sheets still rumpled because neither he nor Mrs. Hudson can bring themselves to strip the bed. He let himself in there once, the day after, just to run his fingers along the line of tailored suits hanging pristine and crisp in the closet. He rubbed his callouses along the blue silk of the dressing gown tossed carelessly over the back of the nightstand, feeling the uneven skin catch on the delicate fabric. He inhaled the heady scent of Sherlock’s faint cologne from the neck of his dark purple button up before tossing the offending garment away and slamming the door behind him. He has not entered the room since and knows he never will again.

John goes to stay with Harry for a few days, just to sort out the details of moving from the one place he’s felt at home since Mum was still alive. He informs Mrs. Hudson of his plans and she nods sympathetically and asks for the twelve millionth time what he thinks should be done with all the “scientific rubbish” cluttering her worktops. John snaps that he could care less, but they both know it’s a lie. Meticulously, he packs his belongings into his old army trunk and avoids the sitting room like the plague. His possessions have unhelpfully fitted themselves into slots seemingly designed for them amid Sherlock’s things. John knows he leaves half of them behind, but he cannot imagine moving them out of their well-loved spaces. They fit so well amongst the clutter and rubbish that Sherlock had piled around himself, magpie-like in his tendency to hoard certain objects. John snatches the Union Jack cushion before he can rethink it and shoves it to the bottom of his trunk, below the cable knit and denims, and amid sordid socks and his shaving kit. He nearly convinces himself to forget it’s there, but he’s hard pressed to do so. It’s the one item of Sherlock’s he’d dared move from its home and the guilt claws unrelenting in his gut.

He refuses to talk to Mycroft. His culpability in Sherlock’s death is tantamount to homicide as far as John is concerned and he honestly doesn’t trust himself not do follow through with his more drastic threats should he ever come face to face with the man again. He knows Mycroft could help him in finding a new flat, would probably even buy him a bloody house if he so much as quirked an eyebrow, but he won’t allow him the satisfaction. He’s through being a pawn in the unending game of Holmes versus Holmes, the final move an undeniable and irrefutable check-mate. He stays with Harry for four days before he’s crawling out of his skin. He briefly entertains the idea of moving back to Baker Street, just to get away, but decides it would be immeasurably worse. Instead, he moves to Brixton, taking the Victoria and transferring to Bakerloo at Oxford Circus to get to the surgery. It’s out of the way, but the flat is affordable and nowhere near his sister or Westminster.

::

Three years later, his life is relatively normal. He’s met a girl at a pub out with his old army mates one night in February. Mary is lovely and pale with shining golden hair and kind blue eyes that speak of comfort and life. He takes her out to dinner the following Friday evening and kisses her chastely when he drops her at her doorstep. She’s a primary school teacher who is wonderful with children and doesn’t mind John’s sometimes callous nature and restless behavior. She calls him brave for his war efforts and never mentions his limp or his scar. He moves in with her twenty nine months, two weeks, four days and seven hours after St. Bart’s and she says nothing of the slightly frayed Union Jack cushion adorning her, their sofa.

John works at the King’s College Hospital in their trauma unit, the need for dangerous situations and dire solutions a relic from his army days. He enjoys the teaching aspects of his career and knows he is making good changes in the minds of the impressionable youth in residency. His life may seem mundane and dull to some, but in his mind the normalcy is exactly what he needs. If he becomes restless and irritable once in a while, that’s only to be expected and if the tremors in his left hand ail him too much, he passes the scalpel on to a student for a bit of practice.

He is therefore, completely blindsided by the text he receives at exactly 11:59pm on 25 October.

Baker Street. Come at once if convenient. SH

John stares at his mobile, his heart seeming to stutter to an abrupt halt before racing forward double time. He has sat bolt upright in bed, the duvet tumbling down his abdomen to pool at his hips and Mary stirs faintly on the right side of the bed, shuffling around to shut out the cold air now seeping under the covers. John swallows audibly before realizing that he’s received this exact text before. Clearly there has been an error in his mobile service and it has resent itself, four years later, to his device. John lies back down, returning the mobile to the bedside table and forcing the bile back down his throat. He cannot ignore the ache in his chest, however and sleep is futile for the rest of the night. At 3:04am he kicks back the blankets and shuffles down the hall to the kitchen, pocketing his mobile and snatching his laptop off his desk. He briefly considers a medically induced coma before remembering he’s working graveyard tomorrow and his already erratic sleep schedule cannot abide another insomniac cock-up. Instead, he makes himself some tea and turns on the telly, propping his laptop on his knees and settling back into the cushions on the sofa.

The cursor blinks relentlessly at him as he tries to gather his thoughts. Finally, and against his better judgment, he types “Baker Street” into Google. He scrolls past the Wikipedia pages and Gerry Rafferty YouTube videos, settling on The Sun article titled “Suicide of Fake Genius.” Nausea clenching in the pit of his stomach, he opens the web page and scans over phrases like “notorious detective Sherlock Holmes, resident of Baker Street, Westminster was found early this morning on the pavement just outside St. Bartholomew’s hospital…” and “sources believe Holmes committed suicide shortly after murdering acquitted criminal James Moriarty, alias Richard Brook…” The article is one he’s read before and torturing himself now with the sordid details of that morning is certainly not improving his sleeping habits. He clicks the back button and descends through the articles published in the London Times one week after the fact denouncing Moriarty and clearing Sherlock’s name. John had always suspected Mycroft of helping the matter along, but he’s never bothered to ask.

Realizing this is getting him nowhere, John types in the address of his abandoned blog. He has not written a word since that day and has not even checked for activity. The blog reminds him too much of home and the smell of noxious gasses seeping from the microwave with an undercurrent of curry, the feel of the sinking cushions on the old leather sofa, the sound of light footfalls as they paced back and forth across the ancient wooden floorboards. He experiences a sudden an irrational sense of longing for the comfort of the drafty windows and fireplace. He yearns to see the web-like crack in his ceiling that ran from the door to the outer wall from when the bomb had blown the other side of the street apart. But most of all, his heart aches to hear that low baritone say his name in that perfect way that makes his chest swell with pride and his face split into an uninhibited grin, just one more time. John wipes at the moisture on his cheeks in an irritated gesture, slamming his laptop closed and fishing his mobile out of his pyjama pocket.

He stares at the message one more time before firmly hitting the delete button and going back to bed.

::

John is miserable.

His normal routine has been completely and utterly fucked by one errant text in the middle of the night exactly three weeks, two days and seventeen hours ago. He had phoned his mobile service in the morning after a night of absolutely no sleep and demanded to know what they were playing at. The woman on the other end of the line had assured him that there had been no noticeable errors in his service the night before and was he absolutely certain it wasn’t a recent text? She had gone for the manager after hearing exactly how filthy a man’s vocabulary could become after three tours in Afghanistan and a particularly brutal sleepless night.

Since the text message, John has had three rows with Mary, the most recent of which was this very morning when she suggested that he might want to take the weekend to visit his sister. The uncharacteristic and unforgivable way he had shouted at her is twisting in his gut and making his already throbbing head twinge with guilt. His students are clearly aware of his foul mood and the annoyingly knowing look they’re giving each other is grating on his frayed nerves. The ping of his mobile in his pocket comes as an unmitigated relief and he turns away from his students with a mumbled “excuse me.” Either Mary has decided to forgive him (again), or Harry has replied to his request of sanctuary for the weekend.

I’m sorry, John. SH

John’s focus narrows to a precise point and his breathing has become erratic. He can absently hear sounds of other people talking, a hand on his unsteady shoulder and the vacant thud of his cane hitting the tiled floor. The blurred edges of his vision white out momentarily and his chest heaves with labored breath. Firm hands catch him around the waist and he feels himself forced into a sitting position in one of the plastic waiting room chairs, his head shoved down between his knees and someone calling for water and help. Someone is trying to pry his hand open from the death grip he has on his mobile, but he shakes his head and clutches the plastic casing like a life line. He can hear his heartbeat thudding in his ears, far too fast for sitting in a chair and hyperventilating.

“I’m fine. Fine,” he croaks in a voice that doesn’t sound a thing like his own. There are other doctors rushing towards him now and he registers his students being ushered out of the vicinity, grateful at least for a shred of dignity. He takes an uneasy sip of water from the paper cup suddenly in his hand and tries to regulate his senses. Heat flairs up into his cheeks as he realizes he’s just nearly fainted at work, in hospital, in front of nearly all his residency students and most of the staff.

“Sorry,” he manages, embarrassed beyond belief at all the fuss being made. Dr. Langston holds his gaze and shakes her head with a small smile.

“What on earth was that, John?” she asks fondly, taking his pulse and putting her hand to his forehead for a quick temperature check.

“Not sure,” he lies, unwilling to go into details about why a text message would spiral him out of his own immediate control. His clutch on the mobile tightens momentarily, but he reminds himself to breathe calmly. “I’ve not been sleeping well. Perhaps my lowered immune system has caught a virus or something.”

She nods sympathetically and asks if he can stand. He does so and accepts the hated cane she slides into his grip. He limps towards the loo, promising Claire he’ll go home and rest and thanking her for her assurance that his students will be in her care until he feels able to return. As soon as the cubicle door closes behind him, he turns to the now slightly damp mobile in his sweaty hand.

I’m sorry, John. SH

John blinks back at the impossible text and replies in the only way he can think of.

What. The. Fuck.

He hits the send key and holds his breath for exactly twenty-two seconds before:

Baker Street. Come at once if convenient. SH

John feels anger bubble up in his chest. Rage the likes of which he hasn’t felt in years tears through his senses and he grits his teeth against the sting of obscenities vying for position in his brain.

Who the fuck is this and how did you get my number

Punctuation, John, is a virtue. SH

Fuck punctuation and fuck you.  how did you get this number

Please, John. SH

John stares at the mobile, his mind racing far ahead of his trembling body. In one swift motion, he crashes the cubicle open and strides purposefully out of the toilets, down the stairs to the entrance of King’s College. He’s halfway to the tube station before he realizes he’s running along the road in a lab coat with no jacket and that his cane has been damningly disregarded to the floor of the toilets.

::

John stands outside the heart wrenchingly familiar dark green door, staring at the brass 221B with a looming sense of dread. His hand moves automatically to his pocket before realizing that his keys will not work here anymore. Feeling nauseous, he watches his own hand grasp the knocker and thump twice before falling to his side. His feet feel like they’re glued to the spot, though his heart is making a valiant effort to vacate his rib cage by the simple act of banging against the bones until they either relent or crack under the pressure. Three minutes later, his breathing has eased and he’s starting to feel the vague impressions of foolishness nip into his consciousness. His hand lifts to the knocker once more when his phone pings.

Door is open. SH

John swallows the bile rising up his esophagus and turns the door handle slowly, wishing for the first time in over a year that he had his Sig Sauer on him. The sight of the garish wallpaper in the foyer makes his stomach flip over with barely repressed memories. Mrs. Hudson has had the light fixtures replaced and the fireplace in the hallway has been recently painted a sunny and clashing yellow. His feet are heavy as he steps on the first well-worn stair, the dilapidated wood squealing and protesting his weight. The noise is shockingly loud in the stillness of the hall and John wonders, not for the first time, what the hell he’s doing here. Instinct moves him up the rest of the flight, his mind fighting the reminiscence of years ago. The landing is perhaps a bit dusty, but so gut wrenchingly familiar that he finds his feet moving into the kitchen of their own volition. The sight of the worktop covered in boxed up paraphernalia stutters his movements to a halt.

In the back of his mind, he knows he’s being watched. The thought tingles up his spine and makes the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Slowly, he turns to the sitting room door and slides the glass panel back.

Sherlock is there, silhouetted in the window, looking perhaps a little thinner, but whole and alive.  John’s breath catches in his chest and he staggers through the door, steadying himself on the back of the repositioned armchair. Sherlock’s eyes are moving, taking in every detail of John in that clinical and unapologetically inquisitive way of his. John feels as though he’s being dissected alive: every hardship, every heartache laid bare in front of this extraordinary man.

“Sher…Sherlo—how? How?” John splutters, trying to remember to breathe.

Sherlock’s eyes lock onto his and John feels as though he’s drowning in their cold intensity. “I’m so sorry, John.”  

And there it is that lovely rumble—that voice he’d know anywhere and it’s suddenly filling all the empty spaces he didn’t even know were still vacant. John launches himself forward on unsteady knees and crashes into Sherlock, crowding him against the wall and clutching him tight in a breath-stealing hug. Absently, he knows he’s winded the idiot, but the idea of letting him go is so deplorable that he only grips tighter. Sherlock’s hands come to rest tentatively on his back and he’s making awkward soothing noises into the hair on the side of John’s head.

Rationalization finally catches up with him and John suddenly steps back, forcing Sherlock to let go as he’s abruptly shoved into the wall again.

“John?” Sherlock asks, not bothering to try and remove his shoulder blades from the wallpaper. John’s hand is rough against his sternum and he’s wise enough not to try and break John’s hold.

“Sherlock,” John growls, his hand tightening further into the white button up, his left hand systematically clenching at his side. John can feel the pent up tension of three years roaring through his senses, but tries courageously to hold on to the tenuous threads of his rational brain. “You’re dead.”

Sherlock has the audacity to roll his eyes. “Obviously not.”

John’s grip tightens in the shirt and pulls Sherlock forward a few inches before he slams him back against the wall. The satisfyingly loud crack of Sherlock’s skull hitting the plaster is a small comfort and Sherlock winces, but wisely doesn’t move.

“I saw you fall,” John grits out, the rage now warring with the hurt and making his vision blur.

“Wrong.”

John feels like he’s spinning down into a void of dangerous motives and manic instability. His left hand tightens into a fist subconsciously and it’s all he can do not to bury it into the pliant flesh of Sherlock’s jaw.

“What do you mean, wrong?” he shouts instead, barely holding on to the frayed edges of his control.

“You saw what you were meant to see.”

“What I was… Fuck. You.” John loses the battle and his left arm swings wide, Sherlock’s bones crunching obscenely as his fist makes contact with a highly arched cheekbone. Sherlock doesn’t even roll into it, just takes the blow with maximum pain as though he knows he deserves it. The thought just angers John more and he’s suddenly seeing red, both fists flying now as he pummels into any available stretch of flesh he can manage. For long minutes, his body takes over before his brain has the rationality to catch up and he finds himself on the ground, knees on either side of Sherlock’s hips as he kneels over his bruised and bloodied best friend, who has finally gained enough self-preservation to curl himself into fetal position. John’s breath catches again and he stares in horror at what he’s done. He tries to lurch himself backwards, but Sherlock’s hand whips out and grabs him by the front of his collar.

“Oh god, Sherlock… I’m, I’m so…” John stutters.

“Don’t you dare,” Sherlock murmurs as his fingers dig into the slightly damp wool. His eyes are flashing and alive with the kind of fire that is so painfully familiar, John feels all the anger rush out of him in a great sob.

Unable to stop himself, John collapses forward, wracking sobs heaving from his lungs as he pours his all of his grief, all of his pain and anger into the willing chest of the man beneath him. Sherlock’s long arms wind around his back and he runs his fingers through the hair at the nape of John’s neck, rocking him slightly and just allowing him to weep. After about ten minutes, the absurdity of the situation strikes John suddenly and he hiccups into stillness. He knows he should feel awkward, cradled against Sherlock’s solar plexus and straddling him on top of it, but he’s too knackered to care. He takes a deep breath and pushes himself up. Sherlock allows it, but he moves his hands to John’s biceps instead as if reluctant to break contact for even a moment.

“Bit awkward, this,” John says with a weak smile. His thin stab at humor does not ease the tension between them in the slightest and John takes refuge in his medical training. “We should probably see to your… erm… wounds,” he finishes lamely.

One of Sherlock’s eye cavities is already purple and his breathing indicates at least one cracked or bruised rib. There is a cut across his cheekbone and one on his lip that is seeping shockingly red blood in a slow trickle down his jaw and into the back of his curls. John’s guilt increases and he slowly eases himself off of Sherlock’s lap. He holds out his hand and Sherlock takes it, grimacing as his ribs protest the movement. John sighs and opens his mouth to speak.

“Don’t,” Sherlock says abruptly.

“You don’t even know what I was going to say,” John says wryly, moving towards the kitchen to see if the water is on.

“You were about to apologize and then ask me to explain,” Sherlock says with his customary assertion. “Don’t bother. I deserved that and more for what I put you through.”

John sighs, but pointedly doesn’t disagree and begins rummaging through boxes for a flannel. Sherlock has relocated to the brown leather sofa and the act of pulling away the white sheet that covered it seems to have aggravated his ribs enough to silence him for the moment. Finally finding a few old tea towels among the chipped mugs and mismatched cutlery, John moves to the sink, breathing a sigh of relief when the water tap splutters a bit, but flows steadily moments later. He allows the water to run for a few minutes, cleaning out pipes that haven’t had proper use in three years and gathering his thoughts as best he can.

When he turns back around, Sherlock is slouched back against the cracking leather cushions, his face looking worse for wear, but calm and oddly peaceful. He allows John to clean his injuries and even accepts a plaster for the cut on his cheekbone, but he flat out refuses to go to hospital for his ribs. John isn’t in the mood to argue, so he sinks back into the cushions instead and busies himself with cleaning his bruised knuckles.

The silence stretches between them until John finally looks up expectantly. Sherlock’s eyes are riveted to the red bruises blossoming on John’s left hand and he just knows the maniac is cataloguing some kind of scientific inquiry about the speed of broken capillaries on the knuckles of left or right handed blokes.  Sighing again, John clears his throat and raises well-practiced eyebrows at Sherlock, who finally has the sense to look abashed.

“I’m… sorry, John,” he rumbles and John shakes his head wearily.

“So you’ve said, a number of times, in fact.  Why don’t we start with the how?”

Sherlock looks decidedly uncomfortable, but he raises his eyes to John’s and begins to speak, “Moriarty is dead.”

“I know. It was in the papers the day after… well.”

“It was a trap, John.”

“A trap?”

“Yes, John, don’t you see? I had to die because Moriarty killed himself.”

John shakes his head slightly, “I’m not following.”

Sherlock huffs in impatience. “Moriarty sent me three messages, three ‘I O U’s to indicate his intended targets. The idea was not only to destroy me professionally, but to destroy me utterly. Don’t you remember his exact words? He told me he’d—“

“Burn the heart out of you, yes,” John finishes gravely. He won’t soon forget the words that haunt his every waking nightmare.

“His methods were precise and completely irreversible. He knew my reputation ultimately didn’t matter to me in the grand scheme of things, so he made threats to the only people I care about: Mrs. Hudson, Detective Inspector Lestrade and you, John.” Sherlock’s eyes blaze ice-blue through the gloom of the evening light and their intensity burns a hole right through John’s consciousness. “I couldn’t lose you, John.”

John swallows around his suddenly tight throat, but forces his voice into calm, “But I still don’t understand why you had to fake suicide.”

“The threat would only matter unless I killed myself and died in disgrace. Moriarty needed to prove to me that I did in fact have a heart and that I would be willing to die to save those who commanded it. He wanted me disgraced not only to the world, but to myself.” Sherlock’s voice is bitter with resentment and barely suppressed anger.

John lets out a shaking breath and allows his hand to clasp onto Sherlock’s knee briefly before pulling away. Sherlock catches his fingers before they can return to John’s lap and squeezes them once before deliberately placing them back on his knee. “I couldn’t lose you, John,” Sherlock repeats, his voice velvet deep in the still air.

John finds he’s staring at his fingers, thumb brushing lazy circles into the fine wool of Sherlock’s trousers. The tension between them is back, but it has an edge of desperation now. Clearing his throat again, John forces the issue, tearing his gaze from the intimate contact and staring right into Sherlock’s eyes. “But how did you fake it, Sherlock? I saw you fall. I took your pulse…” John’s voice breaks and he has to look away.

“Molly,” he says simply and John’s gaze snaps back up. “She provided the blood, the extra body and the brain tissue. She also delivered evidential proof that I was dead.”

John splutters, “But it was you, Sherlock! It was you! Your body, your eyes, your pulse...”

“A cricket ball strapped to the inside of my elbow. It cut off circulation to my wrist. It was a magic trick, John. Nothing more.”

The words spark anger again through John’s brain, but he forces his voice steady as he says, “I never stopped believing in you.” John knows his gaze is as intense as Sherlock’s and the air between them crackles and sparks.

“I know, John. I don’t deserve your loyalty.”

John takes a shaking breath and forces himself to ask the most difficult question yet, “Why are you back now, Sherlock? Why three years? Do you have any idea what you put me through?” John’s voice rages out of his control and before he realizes he’s shouting again. “Mrs. Hudson, Greg… do either of them know? Do you even care what happened when you died? Three years, Sherlock! Three years…” John’s voice breaks and he has to look away to hide the moisture in his eyes.

“Nobody knows, John. Just you.” Sherlock’s voice is quiet and he places his hand over John’s, squeezing his fingers again and leaving his hand wrapped around John’s.

John snorts in half-desperation, half-anger, “Nobody knows, eh? Nobody except Molly Hooper and bloody Mycroft.” At Sherlock’s pointed silence, John is forced to turn back towards him. The look of genuine surprise on his face makes John grit his teeth. “Oh, thought I couldn’t figure it out, did you? I’m not as idiotic as you insist on thinking I am. I know he set you up, so it only seems fair he should bring you back.”

Sherlock tugs John’s hand forward so it’s resting on his chest, right over his heart, “I never meant to hurt you. I’m truly sorry, John.”

“Sorry? Sorry, are you? Well ‘sorry’ doesn’t cut it, Sherlock Holmes. You will never understand the depth of torture you raked over me,” John finishes brokenly, but he doesn’t remove his hand. Time stands still for the briefest of moments, or maybe a lifetime and all the unsaid things that should have passed between them years ago hang suspended in the ether. John’s breath is labored and he’s finding it hard to focus on anything but the words spinning behind his teeth, toppling over his tongue and making his heart ache from the silence.

“I loved you,” he finally breathes out, the words steady and slow despite his racing pulse.  The declaration hangs in the silence, content nearly tangible in the still room. The steady beat of Sherlock’s heart is the only thing grounding him at the moment. Perhaps Sherlock knows it, because he laces their fingers together and the catalyst breaks.

Despite all of his protestations, all of his railing and ranting about being decidedly not gay, John Watson is an opportunist. It’s all fine, after all and before he can regulate his actions, John lurches forward and presses his lips against Sherlock’s. The hum of appreciation is loud in the empty room and John is honestly not sure which one of them it seeps from. Sherlock’s fingers clench painfully around his own and John feels the long fingers of Sherlock’s other hand splaying across his shoulder blades and tugging him closer. Sherlock’s sharp tongue, so barbed with insults and volatile with criticism is shockingly soft and pliant when sliding against his own and John swallows the moan of pleasure that drips from his throat like honey. John buries his left hand into soft curls and tugs Sherlock’s head forward, slanting his mouth wider and deepening the kiss just a little more. John’s breath huffs out in a sob and he presses Sherlock further into the cushions, barely registering the hiss of pain when he leans heavily into injured ribs. Reality slams back into focus and he jerks his head away in alarm. Sherlock’s growl of disapproval does terrible things to John’s resolve, but he holds himself in check, bracing on the back of the sofa and glancing concerned eyes towards Sherlock’s damaged torso.

John,” Sherlock says, his echoing baritone thick with heat and longing. He blinks his eyes open and they dilate into focus, pupils blown wide and irises darkening to a thundercloud grey. He unwraps his fingers from John’s and slides both hands down to John’s hips, lifting and tugging until John finds himself again sitting astride Sherlock’s lap.

“Your ribs,” John starts, but Sherlock is already claiming his mouth again in a kiss searing with enough heat to consume. His hands grasp demandingly into the flesh of John’s arse and he pushes his hips up, the contact making John gasp at the sensation. Sherlock kisses like he speaks: with absolute focus and persistent precision, pushy and unrelenting. He tastes of danger and nicotine mixed with a heady dash of freedom and John cannot resist the insistent pull. If he’s honest with himself, he knows he never could. Sherlock is a raging inferno barely concealed behind all that frightening intellect and John knows now that he’s never felt more alive, not even in the deserts of Afghanistan. Sherlock takes what he wants and leaves nothing for the mere mortals and ordinary people; what chance did poor John Watson have, really? John allows himself to be swept up into the kiss, his hips grinding down into Sherlock's into a steady give-take rhythm that has them both gasping with unbridled need.

“Missed you, John,” Sherlock murmurs against his jaw before he bites into the soft flesh and John feels his world tilting sideways. It takes him a moment to realize that Sherlock has indeed shifted them down and he’s now lying on his back, his legs still wrapped tantalizingly around Sherlock’s hips. Sherlock licks a path down the side of his neck before sucking hard on his collarbone. John’s neck arches into the contact and he hears a low moan escape his lips, sure such a wanton noise has never come out of him before. He gets a low chuckle in response, the vibrations running straight through to his bones.

“Sherlock, god, what—what are we doing?” John gasps, his hips thrusting up of their own accord and grinding his now throbbing cock against an overly pronounced hip bone. He shudders at the contact and his spine arches up again when he feels the answering throb of Sherlock's cock against his inner thigh.

“Something we should have done years ago,” Sherlock growls, realigning his hips and pushing down with a driving force. John’s fingers clench into crisp white cotton and he suddenly wishes he wasn’t wearing so many clothes. The thought goes straight to his cock and he suddenly thinks of all those nights alone, dreaming of Sherlock coming home to him with absolute clarity. This is what he’s been missing in his life for three sodding years: the danger and intrigue, the out of control actions and the impulse to simply live.

He’s vaguely aware that he’s mumbling a steady litany of obscenities and demands. “Sherlock, Jesus Sherlock. Fuck… missed you. Fuck, so long. Waited so long, Christ. Need you…need you... inside, Sherlock. Christ…” Sherlock is sucking his way across his chest, leaving a dark red trail of obvious marks in his wake. John’s not aware when he lost his lab coat or where his jumper has gone to but he really can’t be bothered at the moment because Sherlock is moaning his name against his neck and pushing his hips down and John is seeing stars. It’s not enough, though, not nearly enough and he quickly pushes his hands between them to undo his trousers, but Sherlock’s hand is already there, roughly shoving the fabric aside and sneaking his fingers into John’s pants. The minute those long, pale fingers wrap around his cock, John knows this will never be enough. He feels the slide of his foreskin snapping back over the glans and throws his head back with a guttural moan. Sherlock is watching him with his lower lip trapped between sharp teeth, but his eyes are drinking in John’s expression, mapping out each twist and pull in stuttering gasps and broken cries. John tries to focus on the feel of Sherlock’s weight on top of him; the rhythmic thrusting of his still clothed hips, the taste of Sherlock on his tongue, but all he can do is hold on and pray for oblivion. He fists both hands into the expensive cotton of a pristine white shirt, and tears the fabric apart, buttons scattering across the floorboards like marbles. Sherlock growls his name and John is coming, mouth open on a silent scream and body shuddering with the force of his orgasm. His vision whites out momentarily and he struggles to catch his breath, briefly aware of the hard cock still driving circles into his inner thigh. Sherlock is panting now and he buries his face into John’s neck, biting down on the flesh hard enough to break the skin. He thrusts once, twice and his whole body stiffens, aftershocks trembling through his limbs as he groans low in his throat.

Their bodies gradually still and John is acutely aware of the ringing silence through the flat, broken only by their gasping breath and the slight creaking of old leather as they settle. Sherlock finally raises his head and his lips stretch into a lazy grin, and John is unsure if the blood on his lip is from John’s own neck or the re-split cut at the corner of his mouth. John traces the crimson liquid with his thumb, smearing it across Sherlock’s full bottom lip and smiles back.

“Worth the wait,” Sherlock whispers, barely audible in the stillness of the room. John manages a weak smile before a frown settles into his forehead. Sherlock blinks down at him, eyes narrowed in concentration for a moment before his expression clears and he huffs a gentle laugh against John’s lips. “My ribs are fine, John. I’ve had much worse injuries, I assure you.”

“Strangely enough, that’s not actually much of a comfort,” John replies, but he allows his fingers to card through the now sweaty curls adorning Sherlock’s forehead. Sherlock’s eyes close in apparent pleasure and he hums low in his throat. John is well aware that his clothes are a sticky mess and that Sherlock’s ribs really shouldn’t be straining this much, regardless of the surly detective’s assurances. He sighs lightly and revels in the feel of being draped in all six feet of languid Sherlock before he knows he has to move.

“Sherlock,” he tries, but Sherlock just burrows closer, his weight a welcome comfort that John knows cannot last. “Sherlock, come on, we need to talk.”

Sherlock huffs, “Talk, ugh. Talking’s boring.” John chuckles lightly, but pushes at Sherlock’s shoulders until the man finally grunts and rolls his eyes, but reluctantly sits up. John sees the wince of pain before Sherlock can mask it and immediately leans forward to examine his ribs. To his relief, they are just bruised, but John knows that bruised ribs sometimes hurt more and take forever to heal. Sherlock shrugs this news off with a mumbled worth it and John smiles in spite of himself.

John stifles a giggle as he tucks his now spent cock back into his pants, not bothering with his denims at the moment. Sherlock’s shirt took the brunt of the abuse and it is practically shredded where the buttons used to be. He pays it no mind, though and when John attempts to apologize he says, “Don’t be ridiculous, John. I have plenty more shirts, but I have only one of you.”

“Right then,” John says, turning to face Sherlock. “What happened here tonight, is it likely to happen again in future?”

Sherlock’s eyes widen briefly before narrowing in a characteristic studying expression. “Yes, John,” he replies finally. “If you’re referring to the sex, which I’m assuming you are, then it will definitely be happening again, many times in the future.” John grins at the adamant tone, but it fades when Sherlock’s expression turns stonily serious. “As for the rest… I promise to never leave you again, at least not without a reasonable explanation.”

John frowns. “Define ‘reasonable explanation,’” he says wryly. Sherlock has the good grace to look abashed and John finds he cannot be angry for long. He’s simply too tired.

They flop gracelessly into Sherlock’s bed, sheets still twisted from three years previous. Apparently Mrs. Hudson couldn’t bear to enter Sherlock’s room in her grief either. The mattress emits little puffs of dust when they settle in, but the duvet is mostly clean and other than sneezing once, John isn’t bothered by the stale air. He is riveted by the expanse of smooth, pale skin as Sherlock strips off the remains of his shirt and lets his trousers slide to the floor to pool at his feet. He doesn’t even protest as his jeans are removed for him, long fingers tugging at his socks and smoothing up his ankle in an uncharacteristically gentle gesture. How can he complain when he is wrapped in the arms of his most beloved friend, Sherlock’s even breath against his neck and the steady thud of his heartbeat proving that he is undeniably alive.

In the morning, when his head is inevitably clearer, he will have his well-deserved mental break down. He knows he has to consider his relationship with Mary and how the hell he’s going to explain everything to his work and his mates. Christ, he doesn’t even want to think about what Harry is going to say, but for now he is safely cocooned in the warmth and smell of home. Sherlock’s fingers caress his abdomen in seemingly unconscious soothing circles and he finds the swell of sinewy bicep to make a very comfortable pillow indeed. His eyes keep drifting closed, but his mind doesn’t want to let this moment go.

“Sleep, John. I promise I’m not going anywhere,” Sherlock murmurs low in his ear. John halfheartedly turns his head to look over his shoulder. Sherlock’s eyes are reflective in the soft light filtering through the dusty windows. He’s watching John’s profile as though he’s a particularly interesting puzzle that he’s just now beginning to unravel.

“What about you?” John asks, drowsiness slurring his words and making his tongue thick in his mouth.

“You know I don’t sleep much,” Sherlock smiles and kisses his temple. “Go to sleep, John. I’ll look after you.”

John sighs contentedly and snuggles back into the warmth of Sherlock’s arms. Just as he’s drifting off, he says, “You know this isn’t over, right?”

“No, John.” He can tell Sherlock is smiling, “This is only just the beginning.”

 

But I’ll still believe, though there’s cracks you’ll see

When I’m on my knees I’ll still believe

And when I’ve hit the ground, neither lost nor found

If you’ll believe in me, I’ll still believe

~Holland Road, Mumford & Sons