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He Who Loves Well (Forgets Slowly)

Chapter Text

There really wasn’t much to me anymore. Eat—sleep—rinse—repeat. That and noise.

 

The hum of florescent lights can be irritating. Could drive someone to madness. It is driving me to madness. I am mad—at least officially. Ella doesn’t say so, but I can read her face like a book and that is because we’re both medical professionals. Even without the credentials, I can’t switch off that medical brain of mine. She reprimands me for that sometimes, but I crumple the papers up and toss them in the bin. Gets my message across, I think. I hope.

 


John, you need to learn to read lips.

 

I smile despite myself. It’s bitter, I think. Pick up, fold, crumple, move on.

 

How is your sister?

 

I sigh. Shake my head mutely. She sighs as well. We’re a bit of a Sigh Fest these days. We hit brick walls with my therapy—probably my fault. It doesn’t much matter.

 


This isn’t going to work, John.

 

I quirk an ironic smile that lasts but a second. I know. Award for Doctor Obvious goes to you, Ella. Bravo. I’ve become rude of late, but, ha, no one has to know that. Only me.

 

Just me.

 

 

The bright sun makes me squint as I cross a park as a shortcut to my home. Or “box,” if you prefer; I know I don’t. Dimming my other senses makes the noise more acute, so I speed up to shorten the experience. The intensity of the buzz rises, overwhelming the longer it continues. It’s as if a horde of insects are descending upon me, and that quickens my breath. I’m almost panicking now; must move faster. A few squawks of birds break into the din, and that’s enough to get my breath back for a moment. I am not paying enough attention to notice the face of the man on the bench that I pass. He skips ahead of me, as much as a man of his stature could skip.

 

Our eyes meet and he looks expectant. I suppress a sigh and stand straighter. He’s speaking, but of course none of it makes sense to me—just a jumble of a few sounds that I can still hear. It’s like someone switching quickly between radio stations. It’s garbled English—maybe—and it’s absurd. He clearly has no idea he sounds like a buffoon to me. Again, rude. Probably unforgivably so, were I speaking rather than thinking. I lean on my cane heavily and point to my left ear with an annoyed expression.

 

The man blinks and recoils a little, but only for a second. In the next he’s pulling out a business card that I look at doubtfully.Michael Stamford, it reads. I stare in confusion for a moment before I place him, and then I’m afraid that a rather silly expression of understanding comes over my face. Mike. It is my old friend from university. Lovely. Just what I bloody need.

 

 

An hour later finds us at the Criterion drinking coffee and scribbling notes on a pad of paper. I nod politely through our meeting and even at his suggestion of a flat share. He is also mad, of course, because that is a mad suggestion.

 

Who would want me for a flat mate?

 

Mike smiles at me and then laughs which sounds like a mother hen clucking. I can’t help whatever expression is on my face after picturing Mike with feathers on, flapping about in a tizzy. It’s almost enough to make me laugh. Mike picks up his pen and writes. He turns it toward me.

 

I think there’s someone you ought to meet.

Chapter Text

Mike gestured me into a lab with his trademark friendly smile. I almost appreciate how much he’s trying for me. He cares more than I do.

 

 

My eyes run over the place automatically. There’s sleek glass where there’d once been painted metal. There are more lights. It looks too new for me—I don’t belong here. It is interesting, though, undeniably so. And I’ve missed something, as usual. Coming back to myself, I see Mike staring at me with his hand outstretched toward another man who seemed to be studiously ignoring us, focusing on some procedure with a pipette. I try to look apologetic for my rudeness since that’s what’s expected. Mostly because I’m not in the habit of being outwardly rude—I prefer to keep that bit of me internalized and maintain some semblance of the man I once was.

 

 

Mike’s lips move and he repeats his gesture. I follow the invisible line in the air to a dark-haired man’s equally dark eyes. He is severe almost, most unlike Mike who is simply friendly-looking, even from afar. It’s striking. He’s mid-movement, poised over something on the table. With a few odd blinks, he reanimates and looks away while simultaneously delicately handling the instrument in his hand. A drop falls gracefully onto his workspace. He examines and squints. Possibly in focus or maybe interest. He doesn’t look fascinating—he looks fascinated, and I am afraid that I’m staring. Perhaps I am the fascinated one.

 

 

I blink once, too long, and tear my eyes back to Mike who is now looking over my shoulder. Startled still at the thought of not being able to hear if someone is behind me, I nearly hurt my neck looking behind myself so quickly. A mousy woman enters with a cup in her hand and sets it beside the man with the striking eyes. He doesn’t look up and for some reason; he’s a little more fascinating than a moment ago. I see the woman’s mouth move just a little and she smiles flirtatiously at him. He doesn’t acknowledge. He might as well be the deaf one.

 

 

Mike turns his head to me as the mousy woman looks up from her shy position. The striking man’s eyes flick up briefly to meet mine again. My shoulders tighten self-consciously as I realize that I must have laughed aloud. I barely noticed and I certainly can’t hear anything over the not-so-white noise. The lamps in the room are purest white that remind me of fluorescents that remind me of the buzzing that bring my ears back to attention. Fuck it all if I could just be properly deaf—hearing less than just a piercing whistle blow over a lot of unintelligible noises. I look at the floor to gain some footing mentally. Perhaps in a year—my God, a year!—the ringing will not be so apparent to me. Maybe I will drown it out, perhaps—

 

 

Sherlock Holmes.

 

 

I’m looking at an iPhone with a numberless text message open to those two words. How confusing. He knows? I raise my gaze slowly to his. My stomach clenches lightly at the prospect of meeting his eyes again. I can’t help admiring his frame as I move up with my eyes. I’m so starved for any sort of affection for another person that my mouth almost waters as I take him in. I haven’t wanted a woman since my return from Afghanistan. Priorities, I suppose. Mine may be pointless now, but that hardly enters the realm of my overwhelmingly pathetic existence.

 

 

He hands the phone out to me pointedly, and I take it automatically, mute as usual. I’ve quite ignored Mike and the woman. I realize this and do nothing all the same. They could jabber all day and still the only thing I would be able to make out are the words on the lit-up screen in front of me. I tap out the letters single-handed as the other grips my (you old man!) cane to keep sturdy. I hold it out to him to take back and he does so gracefully again. He’s precise in typing after he reads my John Watson in a split-second.

 

 

I assume you’re looking for a flat share.

 

 

My eyebrows rise in surprise. He doesn’t react to it, so I reply, How do you know that? and look over at where I remember Mike standing a minute ago. He’s gone apparently, and a glance at the mousey woman provides the information that he’s gone to the loo via some vague, nervous gesture and odd look out the door. I’m not even sure how I understand it, but I do. I shake my head once to myself.

 

 

Mike’s idea of a joke, probably.

 

 

That makes no sense to me, so I look up at him and shake my head again. I hand him back his phone and he hesitates for a moment.

 

 

I speak aloud a lot, quite often simply to myself.

 

 

I stare at that for a moment longer than I should and feel a little shame tug at my stomach. The ringing is abundantly clear abruptly and I can feel a tension headache starting to form. I realize that I am staring at his message and not saying anything. The phone is taken swiftly back by his lean fingers which I admire despite myself.

 

 

There are some stairs. Is that acceptable?

 

 

He gestures to my cane which I’ve forgotten I’m using, not for the first time. I nod without giving myself permission to and then ignore my own disbelief at my actions. He returns the nod and retains his phone as he turns away. He enters something in on a computer and then goes back to examining his earlier experiment. My eyes are fixed on him and quite happily so since the woman has left the lab at some point and Mike has yet to return.

 

 

I have a bad habit of fidgeting with my cane and occasionally I’ll—I sigh—let it slip through my fingers and hit the floor. I’m not sure how loud the noise is, but I think I apologize in a whisper before I bend down to pick it up. I notice that the laces are undone on my left shoe while I’m down there, so I stay to tie it.

 

 

Fantastic!”

 

 

Prickles shatter out from the middle of my spine as I freeze mid-loop.

 

 

More data.” A mutter.

 

 

A blessed mutter—a sound with depth, tone, and tangibility. A voice to match the one in my head. I use the edge of the worktop to lever myself up again. There’s a light brush of air as the striking man, now in a long, dark coat, sweeps by. He sets a piece of paper with something penciled onto it directly in front of me and then simply leaves the room.

 

 

I watch him go, my face frozen in some expression, and he passes Mike in the doorway. The man… Sherlock, I think his name gently… nods to Mike and is out the door and room completely in the next second. I recognize my name on Mike’s lips, the one thing I can recognize of lip-reading, but ignore him again in favor of the other man’s note.

 

 

SH, followed by a phone number.

 

 

221B Baker St. Seven o’clock tomorrow evening. Don’t forget the cane.

 

 

I stare blankly at that. Was that some coded reference or tease to my damaged psyche via the limp? Was the man that curt? Or that… observant?—intelligent?—omniscient? A coincidence. A joke. Of course. I stare at his initials.

 

 

SH.

 

 

SH.

Chapter Text

I’ve stopped listening to music; I cannot hear it. Rather, I can’t make words out. Symphonies are a joke to me—a plumber banging on pipes with no aim to be seen. I don’t long for a melody the way I might have once, which wasn’t too often. I long for the thing I can hear—I can hear Sherlock Holmes. In my head, in my dreams, and even in reality.

 

 

His cry of, “Fantastic!” stays with me like the scent of my mother’s one good dish, roasted beef adorned with cut carrots on the platter my father’s mother gave them as a wedding present. It lingers and swims through my brain leisurely doing a backstroke, like the stroke of the “L” when saying the name “Sherlock.” It’s blissfully human and familiar.

 

 

After blinking my eyes open, it takes about thirty seconds for me to notice the ever-present buzz of my broken ears, and those seconds are what give me hope for one day ignoring it altogether. It’s an awful start to the day, and my right fist hurts when I unconsciously clench it. I let go immediately and sigh into the darkness.

 

 

Ah, four in the morning. Not quite seven o’clock yet—more than twelve hours to go, even—so more sleep is in order.

 

 

 

I wake mid-shake, jumping in surprise, which frightens me more. I think I speak aloud an “Oh!” because I lose track of my breath. That spurs some light hyperventilating, but I’m a soldier, damnit, and there is nothing wrong with me!

 

 

My pillow takes a beating as the ringing materializes and sounds stronger than usual this early in the morning. I drag myself from the bed as my body aches to stay put. I wonder if there is a way to deselect the self-destruct button I hit back in Afghanistan and try to bite back the hopeless laugh I feel coming on. My stitched seams are popping open and I’ve passed the point of help, probably. It’s sad; I made a fantastic soldier, after all.

 

 

Stumbling to the bathroom, I seek my one respite from the ringing. Water rushes out of the shower head and the steam collects and fills the room. I step in to burn my back and jar my working senses into focus. It stings and I wince. The ringing tries to compete with the feel of the heat, a ridiculous battle I can’t find a meaning for, and I hunch over to lean on the wall of the shower. It’s wearing and the more I try not to concentrate, the more I focus on the meaningless sound, both nothing and the only thing.

 

 

My head rests on the wall, forehead taking in the vibrations from the moving water. Slowly, attempting to forestall the misery I feel prodding my nerves, I turn my head and press my left ear to the wall. A duller, less spiking noise booms at my eardrum, and I feel something like a mixed laugh/gasp from my throat and vocal cords. The sound of water being forced through small tunnels with amazing force produces a sound unique and powerful enough to negate the whistling. It’s fabulous, and I let my tensed shoulders relax as the music of the water does its work. It makes sense to me that this waterfall washes away the dirt and residue of the sands and dry lands of the war I’ve been part of. In so many ways.

 

 

 

The whistling is far to the back of my mind after its respite, and a towel is around my waist after leaving the bathroom. My phone is by my bed, along with Holmes’ note. I walk over and put his number in under just his surname. It would be embarrassing to accidentally call the man by his first name after only knowing him a few minutes in person; not something to be encouraged. I make enough cockups for myself without trying, why add to the list so blatantly? I sigh when I recall our meeting in the lab. I said not a word but behaved oddly enough, I am sure, to make a lasting impression.

 

 

Nevertheless, my fingers are already typing out a text. I’d blame my frazzled nerves, but this action is very much conscious to me.

 

 

This is my number-John Watson

 

 

I hit send with a bit of a wince and make an effort to ignore my phone by placing it too forcefully on the kitchen counter top. I pick it back up again when the screen lights up a moment later.

 

 

Saving it. Thank you.

 

 

Yup, definitely too eager, I tell myself, and put the phone back and pointedly step to get the kettle. I’m embarrassed by myself, but I’m used to it, so I’m used to ignoring it as well. When the tea is made, I instinctually grab my phone on the way to my desk. I set down tea, phone, and get out my laptop. Clearly already obsessed, I sneer viscously in my head at my silliness. I clearly care too much. I’m typing Sherlock Holmes into a search engine. It’s good to research that your potential flat mates aren’t psychopaths, I tell myself. Of course.

 

 

The Science of Deduction

 

 

My phone lights up and I notice I’ve missed a text from before and have a new one. Both are from Holmes—anticipation makes my stomach jump. The first text makes it sink again in surprise.

 

 

Afghanistan or Iraq?

 

 

My eyes flick to the screen as I read the title of the page again. Deduction… surely not. I read the next text.

 

 

Mike told me you are a doctor. Any good?

 

 

I swallow hard and reply honestly to the second question.

 

 

Very good.

 

 

 

 

“I hope he’s tidier than you are, Sherlock,” Mrs. Hudson reprimands as she glances through the stacks of equipment and books.

 

 

A rumble of laughter sounds in his throat. She smiles and shakes her head at him fondly. His phone pings and a glance down shows Watson’s response: Very good. It makes him smile privately.

 

 

I’mm-ah sh-sh-ore, Missus Hud-son.” John Watson could be covered in dirt; he would still be one of the most interesting specimens of man that Sherlock had ever met, if profoundly unobservant.

Chapter Text

I may be a very good doctor, but I was a shameful patient. I didn’t take my own advice and I didn’t take my therapist’s advice.

 

 

I use more bills on the taxi than I care to focus on. It’s good, though, that my pitiful place and Baker Street are so far from each other. I may never have to see the view outside my tiny window again. That’s a calming thought, one of my few. It leaves me semi-confident about the forthcoming day.

 

 

I’m early, I know, so I try the cafe next to 221B. There’s not much to see in it, but it’s got food and drink and it’s quaint enough to ease my nerves somewhat. Seven o’clock approaches slower than I’d hope for; there’s been no more texts from Mr Holmes. I’ve a stray thought that it’s perhaps another of his experiments that has kept him preoccupied. He certainly seemed serious about them, what with the formal lab and equipment. I probably could have walked the halls of Barts--and proclaimed my nostalgia had anyone questioned it--and caught a glimpse of the striking eyes again. That was likely more luck than I had a reserve of, however. I wouldn’t want to push it.

 

 

My phone vibrates in my pocket and I pull it out to read a text from the man himself.

 

 

Didn’t take you for a coffee man.

 

 

I startle and look up at the window of the cafe. There’s only the hustle of people walking by, no striking eyes, no voice, nothing of the man. I look confusedly at the message and then manage not to jump when the slim figure walks close from behind me and slides into the seat across from mine. I stare rather openly, hoping he’ll explain himself for being a spook, but he’s looking down at the phone in his lap. Mine buzzes again in my hand. I glance at it.

 

 

You didn’t see me come in. You’re not very observant.

 

 

I raise my eyebrow at that and slowly type a reply. Odd, only because I’ve not felt it in so long, I feel short tingles of excitement spark on my nerves. It feels childish to text someone sitting across from me, but I see the merit behind the idea. Save us the spectacle of exchanging his phone back and forth again. It does deny my eyes the pleasure of looking at him, though. I suppose I should take what I can get.

 

 

No point in making eye contact with people who i cant speak to

 

 

It’s glib, but that’s me lately, so I feel compelled to be honest for the sake that we may be flat mates soon. I look up very carefully under my lashes and spy a small smile on his face, a humoured one, and I feel proud and then silly for it. My phone buzzes.

 

 

Bit of slow typing for someone who isn’t able to speak. I would know. Our landlady is Mrs Hudson.

 

 

Our landlady? My stomach clenches happily and I fight a grin. Our. He’s still amenable, then. Must remain nonchalant. I address his first comment.

 

 

How would you know that? I’m the deaf one.

 

 

Self-pity doesn’t suit you, Watson.

 

 

That makes me forget my affection for a moment, and I wince inwardly but blink visibly. I chance a slow glance up him and see his eyes are on me, his expression reserved but interested, I think. Do you want to bet? is on the tip of my tongue which surprises me. I don’t talk aloud any longer; have I forgotten that? Hmm, seems that I have. I break eye contact and type.

 

 

How would you know? I finally send, jaw tight. I wait a moment but nothing is forthcoming. I resist the urge to look up again; nonverbal communication I can handle--best to stick to it. This is a prime location. It must be expensive.

 

 

Mrs Hudson owes me a favor.

 

 

How unfortunate for her. I feel guilty for thinking it, but my pride feels better for it. I don’t know what to say, so I put my phone on the table and sip my coffee before looking directly at Holmes. He’s typing on his phone, so I’m free to admire (within limits, of course). Dark suit, curled hair, interested quirk of the lips. He’s not far from amused and I wonder what’s sparked his attention. I see my screen light up and my eyes drift to it. My hand tightens around the cup and I ignore the phone to pointedly look at Holmes. He must sense that I’m looking since he responds in kind, even puts his phone in his suit pocket. He’s entirely too put-together and I almost long for his poise and maybe a bit for just him. He’s pleasing to the eye, to my eyes, and my ears. The tinnitus prods at my awareness, but I’m in a bubble of unconcern when Holmes’ eyes are on me.

 

 

While I watch, Holmes pulls out his phone again. He turns around and leans on the back of his seat, phone to his ear.

 

 

Where? Different... how? Forensics?... I’ll bring... my own. One. Hour.”

 

 

His speech is stilted but much more normal than babbles of garbage that make up everyone else’s conversation. I want to leap up from the seat, turn the man around bodily and force him to continue speaking forever. I live and breathe the cadence of his voice; thank god he doesn’t know. Properly addicted now, I think. A junkie for that connection I’ve been deprived of so long. In response, the ringing magnifies from background noise to main event, and I sigh in frustration. The sound must have attracted his attention; Holmes turns back to me as he slips his phone back away. He looks about ready to get up and leave and I dearly hope that isn’t his plan. It does sound as if he’s needed elsewhere, however. A bit depressing to no longer be needed. And when precisely did I become such a dark, brooding, lifeless thing? Idiot.

 

 

I clench my jaw and glance away, ready to leave as well. Flatmates will have to wait another day at least, it seems. I’m lost in the single-key tone playing in my head when a light touch makes me jump slightly. My eyes fly back to him and his elbow is on the table, his hand reached out to the side of my face. Gently, and almost discretely, his index finger runs up the side of my ear. He studies it intently running that long, pale finger around the back of the lobe and up my ear again. He stops a moment later and takes the same hand to push my phone more toward me. I’m frozen, eyes glued to him, a tad wide at the moment. Certainly staring.

 

 

He gets up, looks me directly in the eye, and nods his head to the side to indicate 221B, I think. I desperately wish he were asking me to bed than to share a flat. The things those pale fingers could do. The things I would do to hear him speak again. Him to gasp his, “Fantastic!” in reference to a beautifully-timed lick by my tongue that won’t speak but still wants to give. I fear my expression is giving me away, but who caresses another man’s ear but to communicate affection? Or even lust, I don’t mind. I’d soak it up--am doing so, right now. I swallow but my mouth is dry and uncomfortable. He turns and leaves and I’m doing the same before my brain can catch up. I hastily grab my phone and jam it in my jeans pocket. I take my cane after almost forgetting it and limp quickly, more quickly than I should be able to.

 

 

We’re at 221B.

 

Chapter Text

I’m a poor judge of character. I have some optimism of everyone that’s almost reflexive. It’s surprising to see Holmes embrace the woman who answers the door. I somehow thought it unlikely, even ignoring his early touch to me. He gives her a kiss on the cheek and she beckons us in warmly. I almost want to smile—I think I grimace instead from a twinge in my leg and the annoyance of lugging my cane around. But, then again, Holmes is intriguing and his look of anticipation lights the same fire under me and I already know that the flat will be acceptably comfortable. I have little doubt of the company, either, truth be told.

 

 

Holmes is in front of me while our landlady is behind.

 

 

Hudson. This—is—John.

 

 

I turn my head back to see Mrs. Hudson as we enter the flat door after some tiresome stairs. She’s speaking while looking at me, seeming for all the world like she’s intending me to hear her. I think that I make out “lock,” which is likely from Holmes’ first name. She’s gazing reproachfully at him, but he’s turned away, stacking some books. Mrs. Hudson points upward and smiles at me as she prattles on, probably in a very kind way, but I just feel the need to sigh. Again.

 

 

John was injured—in the war,” Holmes explains while reshuffling books, facing away from me. “Explosion. Lost. His Hearing.” His tone is informational, a mere drop of fact, nothing like the cause of the afflicting PTSD.

 

 

My first instinct is to be grateful that he can’t see me obviously listening to him. My second is rather more defensive and sharp. How the bloody hell did he know something like that? We’d met once prior and I was pretty sure that I didn’t text about my warhood traumas to people in my sleep. Fairly sure. Sure as hell hoped not, anyway. Men with guns didn’t necessarily frighten me; I do occasionally frighten myself with what I’m capable of, however, and if I have somehow betrayed myself to this new acquaintance, Sherlock Holmes, then I might as well give up now.

 

 

I remember his text from earlier: “Afghanistan or Iraq?” Oddly, the anger and fear clear my head for a moment. It’s almost as if I want to be proficient at it. My eyes drift helplessly back to Mrs. Hudson, and I fear my expression has gone stony and my posture ridged, tellingly so. I bite a smile out and let my eyes reach the floor and hope she doesn’t suspect anything.

 

 

It’s quiet around me for a bit. I’m mostly not paying attention to anything but my own thoughts, eyes examining the imperfections in the floor. I go to check out the view from the window, finger drifting over the edge of the sill. I turn slightly to watch Holmes out of the corner of my eye. I want to text him, but we’re in the same room and Mrs. Hudson is hovering in the kitchen doing something. I can’t speak aloud because how would Holmes know how to respond to that? Pen and paper was tedious, and I hadn’t brought any with me. I guess I expected everyone else to have some if they wished to speak with me. How very pompous of me.

 

 

I let the background noise of my head wash out the awkwardness that I feel. I study the floor again. It’s almost welcoming to pretend to be completely deaf and dumb. I don’t feel bad for it; I don’t mind my solitude when it’s my choice. How could he possibly know about the accident? I hadn’t shared that information in detail with Mike.

 

 

His room is upstairs. Mine will be this one.” Holmes speaks and it’s a stone in a stream, spreading the noise into two paths, breaking up its steady run through my consciousness. I almost lazily raise my eyes to watch Holmes and Mrs. Hudson. They exchange words that are silly from only one end. “Going out. Might. Need. Food. Cold is fine.” And like that—he’s gone. Trapezes down the stairs without a goodbye. Though, of course, he doesn’t think that I’m capable of hearing it. It still annoys me to some extent.

 

 

Mrs. Hudson gestures me to a chair with a pillow and hands me a newspaper. I take the hint almost automatically. My leg pains me and I stop myself from shouting in frustration—not even words, but what would have been a mindless exclamation of stress. I grit my teeth and get on with perusing articles about serial suicides and some new exhibition at a local museum. It’s all exceedingly dull. My phone vibrates in my pocket. While I fumble and try to get it out of my pocket, I see that Mrs. Hudson has gone off somewhere, probably back to her own flat. Probably best before I take my mood out on her.

 

 

Do you like it?

 

 

Holmes. I reply with the only thing I can that won’t give me away. You asked me Afghanistan or Iraq. How did you know? His reply is slow in coming, and I‘ve gone back to the paper by then.

 

 

I deduced.

 

 

And that was supposed to be an answer? No. Absolutely not. HOW? That should communicate the message effectively.

 

 

It’s what I do, John.

 

 

I clench my jaw and shake my head at my phone. Not good enough. I wait almost ten full minutes for a text back. I knew that I was pushing the boundaries of politeness.

 

 

Tan. Your haircut. The rest is just guesswork.

 

 

My left hand unclenches from where it lay in my lap. Guesswork? Am I that easy to read? I couldn’t agree with that. I reply, Seems a stretch.

 

 

I have no reason to lie. A second text arrives immediately after. I cannot choose what I see. I simply see it.

 

 

It hadn’t been my intention to insult the man. I remember the feel of his fingers on my ear, and the feeling smacks into my consciousness. Of course. Of course Holmes meant no ill will. I wince as I realize this; Holmes was telling me the truth—he wasn’t attacking me. I thought wryly that he wanted to show off his peculiar intuition.

 

 

For the first time in years, I feel some need to share a bit of myself with another human being. It was impulsive, but I want it badly, to give him something for my being an arse. I swallow reflexively and type quickly and send. I immediately half-regret it. Trust issues.

 

 

Fair warning: tinnitus. Slowly driving me mad.

 

 

My heart jumps into my throat for a second before righting itself. Holmes’ reply is short.

 

 

I know.

Chapter Text

“You’re infatuated.”

 

I laughed; I truly did not care what this woman said. “I barely know him,” I reasoned.

 

Ella’s tone was professional. “That’s why I called it an infatuation, rather than something more... meaningful.”

 

I caught her meaning and challenged it. I replied, “More meaningful—like what? ‘Love’? You can’t love someone you’ve only just met.” I was laughing at her, and I knew that she could sense it. She volleyed well, though, sitting up straighter and using her words carefully.

 

“Even lust would be better, much better than an obsession, John.”

 

Chills ran down my spine and I got my first hint of unease. “I’m not obsessed. There’s nothing in my behavior to suggest that,” I nearly snapped. Ella was putting words in my mouth; that wasn’t like her. She preferred to listen and wait for me to give her something, and I almost never did, which expressed the absurdity of the situation pretty well. I nervously adjusted my position and watched her closer. Now that I thought about it, she looked different, older and a little more stern.

 

“John,” she said with hopeless concern.

 

I swallowed nervously. “What is it?”

 

She shook her head sadly and said, “Check your phone, John. I need to talk to you.”

 

“Huh?” What the hell? “You’re right here—we’re talking right now.” Medical professional gone mad, but which one of us?

 

 

I jump and suck in a deep breath, almost a gasp or a hiccough. The lights are dim, my neck aches, and there is a persistent buzzing in my ears and on my leg in my lap. I’m alone, facing the window whose curtains are open to a scene of downpour and lightning blurring the outside. Ella’s voice echoes in my head. I’ve never heard her speak a word to me, for obvious reasons. This thankfully hadn’t been a nightmare, but it was pretty fucking crazy all the same.

 

I fumble with my phone and check the message, no, messages that I’ve received. I have to scroll up to get them all, past a couple of photos that I only glance at for a second; they mean nothing to me at the moment.

 

Investigating a murder. Very interestingly deemed ‘suicide’. The police are incompetent, as always. SH

 

A pity you can’t hear; could use your expertise. SH

 

Ta.

 

Does this look appropriate for asphyxiation? SH

 

A picture of a hand, side of a face, and a palm were attached. I shiver and set my phone down, slightly disturbed. The tips of her fingertips were blue, the same as the side of her face, but to a much lesser extent. I bite my lip and look again. Perversely fascinated, I scroll down.

 

The contents of one’s bin bags can be truly alarming. SH

 

How about the asphyxiation? SH

 

I slowly type my reply. Yes, asphyxiation. I grudgingly add, Strangulation?

 

No. Poison. Returning to Baker Street in twenty minutes. Meet me. SH

 

I quirk an eyebrow and glance around. Mrs. Hudson could have let me back in; that would explain if Holmes thought it odd I was inside waiting for him. He didn’t have to know that I’d never left. No, no, I think not. A short, low rumble of thunder startles me and I blink at the scene outside. Great splashes of rain dotted the glass, the new replacing the old, and it is enthralling. I hear it; I hear the thunder. There must be something in that—some connection that I cannot see—why I hear one thing and not another. The thunder covering the buzz for short periods. The physician who looked me over first claimed I was only “partly deaf,” and would get my hearing back in a week. Biggest disappointment of my life, when that week came and went—then two and five and twenty. Remembering being so hopeful made my mouth bitter and shame flash through me hotly, every time. What utter, incomprehensible shit that was. I recall flat out denying the other specialist who claimed it was a psychosomatic injury, the hearing loss and the shrill constant that accompanied it. Of course it wasn’t the bomb that fell on the roof of the building. No, I was “tired and needed a rest.” Bloody idiots.

 

 

Holmes could very well be the strangest man that I’d ever met, but he’d yet to bore me. Asphyxiation and poison were hardly boring subjects. I get up and move to the window, my leg protesting, but my head reasoning that Holmes couldn’t see me sitting the same place I’d been when he’d left. I hold my phone up and look through our conversation from the beginning. In the shining dots of water, the lightning is magnified. A few thunderbolts are large enough to put that familiar spike of adrenaline into my blood. Oh yes, tired, indeed. Tired of being tired. The lightning’s not even frightening, just impressive, and as interesting as Holmes’ eyes. I remember his precise movements in the lab, manipulating the microscope with a focus I could only ever hope to have directed at myself.

 

 

I imagine for a moment mapping out Holmes’ chest with my hands, examining as close as he with his microscope. Was his skin soft? Perhaps rough with hair. Probably pale. Possibly warm, warmer with my tongue on it for hours of languid exploration. Intricate, certainly. Memorable, absolutely. Perhaps the only thing I’d like to be able to remember. For my last thoughts, the one thing I want to have running through my fading consciousness. That would do. I could handle that.

 

 

 

I might’ve carried a gun in a uniform, and I’d certainly killed someone before, for the war going on. I’d been a doctor blasting other men away and stitching the lucky ones up. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Bloodied, on the offensive, and fucking tired of it. That was right.

 

 

I hadn’t heard a lover gasp for me in more than a year. I want it, badly, with a passion I’d forgotten myself capable of. It makes my nerves light with energy.

 

Someone touches my shoulder and I barely stop myself from attacking like a maniac. My fingers squeeze the phone in my hand, back tensing. The hand leaves my shoulder immediately and I turn to see Holmes walking away to the kitchen to put a pink suitcase on the table. Unzipping it, he raises his gaze to mine then looks pointedly to the inside of the suitcase.

 

 

I blink at him, my heart still hammering away from the fright, and think of the chance I’ve been given. Something to remember when I had nothing left. I’d get that something.

 

 

Infatuated? I most certainly was.

 

 

The only thing keeping me above the water was the man called Sherlock Holmes.

Chapter Text

 

Piercing eyes are inquisitive by nature, I think.

 

The suitcase on the table is pink, clean, and small, not unlike the woman in the photographs of earlier, and I shiver a little. He’s looking at me with his distinctively piercing eyes and they are so appealing, but I push that down and away. I point at the case and look at him with questions hopefully expressing themselves on my face. A twitch of the mouth is my only response and I sigh, out loud I think. He’s just staring at me which is uncomfortable. I let my jaw clench ever so slightly but fight the annoyance as best I can. I shrug, giving up. His shoulders drop and he looks disappointed and I feel oddly lacking. So far, I’ve kept the attention of the man across from me, but I realize in that moment—it isn’t guaranteed forever.

 

Piqued by that thought, I give a little. I pull up the picture he sent me on my phone, and hold it up with a gesture at the case. He’s pleased, I can tell; he drops his previously crossed arms and nods. He pulls out his phone and immediately shows me an un-addressed text. He’d already prepared this for me, it seems. That thrills a little.

 

Jennifer Wilson. Journalist, serial adulteress, driven by murderer to the scene, case forgotten. Found where murderer dumped it in less than an hour.

 

My, he’s proud of himself. That’s quite attractive, I must admit, if only to myself. Is he trying to show off? I can’t quite tell, but he’s not pompous… he’s something else. Fascinating. Holmes types a text on his phone and looks at me pointedly until my phone buzzes, and I realize the hint.

 

Can I borrow your phone for a minute?

 

My brain plays the made-up sentence, Can I borrow you for a minute?  privately, and I clear my throat to hide my giddiness at the thought. I hand over my phone and watch him type out a text and hit send. He waits for a moment, turning over the phone to inspect it. When he looks back at the screen, he starts grinning. A blocked number is calling, he shows me. I reach for the phone, but he pulls it out of reach and waves his hand for caution. Holmes holds my gaze and very slightly shakes his head, “no.” I stare, not catching on to why I can’t answer my own phone. Using his pale fingers, he pretends to choke himself with one hand and rolls his eyes like he’s losing consciousness. He opens them wide and gestures to the phone. I look at it for a second until it dawns on me.

 

I open my mouth to speak automatically in my disbelief. I cut short the first word of, “Did you just text a murderer?” and stand there, hand outstretched for the return of my phone. The man was insane.

 

Holmes looks exasperated and hands me back the phone, only to pull out his own, write something, and hand it over to me.

 

It’s fine. Setting a trap. We’ll have him arrested this evening.

 

I punch the letters harder than I should. This man was being unbelievably stupid.

 

You’re certain of that, are you?

 

Yes, I am. His stare was earnest after his text.

 

That was the end of it, then, was it? Well, good bloody luck with that. I huff what feels like a small, disbelieving laugh, shake my head at him, and turn to go, phone firmly in my own hand. Fingers wrap delicately around my elbow and pull me back a little to face Holmes. I catch a glimpse of his sincere expression before a quick, loud buzz sounds close by, and I jump. My head turns toward the door, the direction of the buzz and my breath comes back to me only reluctantly. Being far louder than my own set of ear bells but of the same tone, I thought for a moment that my eardrums were breaking all over again, but of course they weren’t. Just spooked. Still, my eyes don’t leave the door, the bell signaling that someone wants to come in. I swallow and blink over my dried eyes with difficulty. I drop my gaze to the floor, chest slightly tighter than it should be. That was unexpected.

 

Holmes steps in front of me and takes hold of my shoulders. Well, that’s embarrassing.

 

You… can hear.” The Fantastic! was implied in his voice.

 

I keep my eyes turned firmly to the floor and don’t make any indication that I’ve heard him. The buzzer rings again and it sets my nerves on edge. My hands are fists to hold in my anxiety. My own invisible sound seems higher than usual, and for once it feels protective—blocking things from getting into my consciousness. That doesn’t stop Holmes from leaning down to catch my gaze and speak directly, slowly to me, for me to read his lips, not that I need it.

 

Why are you lying?

 

I push his hands off me and take a step back. I have an incredible urge to speak to him, so I do. I actually rather shout at him.

 

“Does it look like I’m lying? Jesus.”

 

I pass someone delivering a package at the door as I fairly storm out. I go to take the cab parked on the street in front of the building, but it’s empty with its light out, and isn’t that just my usual luck. Cane in hand, I totter down toward a busier road.

 

My phone buzzes, and I realize I’ve still got it in the hand not gripping my cane. Holmes is calling me, which of course is ridiculous, since I technically shouldn’t be able to hear him. Mister bloody know-it-all. Go find another experiment. I decline the call, but a text follows immediately after. I’ve just turned the corner at the next street and try to close the message, but my finger slips and I hit “view” instead.

 

SOS

SH

Chapter Text

“Keep it there. Mm, yes, there.”

 

 

That lovely voice is caressing my consciousness playfully. Gentle scruff of beard across my chest. The hair raises on my arms and a flush swims up from my toes, chilled and hot at once.

 

 

“Sherlock,” I breathe, letting the air carefully out of my lungs as I pull the trigger finally.

 

 

The crack is probably loud enough for the neighbors to hear, so I’ll just be off quickly. In the hall, I look around in confusion and share this look with an older woman holding her cat in her arms. I shrug my shoulders and pretend to examine the hall for intruders. She seems satisfied, and I give her a nod as I’m off down the steps. None the wiser.

 

 

My fantasies make my hand steadier which is interesting. They might even come true if the careless idiot didn’t get himself killed anytime soon, which he almost did. My stomach drops with the thought, reminding me of when I first looked upon the scene through the window across the street from 221B. For whatever reason, Sherlock Holmes had a death wish, and I just might kill him for it.

 

 

I catch a cab and dispose of the gun, making sure I don’t have an audience. It’s regretful to let it go, and I cringe at being unarmed in a city like London where apparently your average delivery man can be a psychopathic killers. What a great city. The energy is firing along my nerves in my skin. I most probably could lift a car off of a trapped dog. Or make a gorgeous, dark-haired man moan underneath me. Hm, if only. I quirk a small smile at nothing, looking over the Thames. Oh yes, this was London. My fantastic home.

 

 

I wander back toward somewhere I might find a ride back to 221B. Best to check that the piercing eyes haven’t gotten themselves into trouble yet again. How utterly stupid to have texted that man. I was incredibly lucky that one of the adjacent flats was empty. No one answered my knock, and I’ve picked a few locks before. Better with a gun, yes, but not completely useless otherwise. The bastard had better be alive when I get back.

 

 

The flashing lights is somewhat frightening until I see the dark curls illuminated by the lights on the inside of the ambulance. With the chance to watch him without reciprocation, I examine his expression. He’s deep in thought, which I suppose is good; much better than disappointment at not getting to try out the pill he’d had in his hand. It had been shaking, and that was fascinating. My lip curls just a little at the thought of those digits shaking from overstimulation. A bit of bed sheet gripped in them. That’s the one.

 

 

I glance around, away from the object of my detailed fantasies, and I try to look nonchalant, examining. I have no idea what’s going on here, after all. Completely ignorant. A man walks up to Sherlock, and I can’t keep my eyes from following. They talk, Sherlock with his face pointed down at his phone, and I watch him get up and smirk. I force myself to look away again, clenching my jaw. I really must get my fantasies under control. At best, I could do to not let them show on my face. Wiping my smile off when I notice it, I go for something neutral. The adrenaline is making me giddy a bit. Letting my head turn back around at the pair, he’s looking at me, expression frozen, and I look away again quickly. You can’t read someone’s face if you can’t see it after all. It takes more than usual to keep my thoughts behind my expression. He’d see it; he’s clever and his brain is as piercing as his eyes. He’s walking toward me, discarding his orange blanket in a police car window.

 

 

He stops in front of me and tries to catch my gaze. He does, but I refuse to let him see anything. Finally, he pulls out his phone and taps at it. I know he’s texting me. My phone buzzes.

 

 

Good shot.

 

 

I stare at the text and make my expression bland and then confused. I look up at him--gorgeous eyes focused on me--and make it clear I have no idea what he’s texting about. He just stares at me, right in the eye, and waits. Without looking away from my face, he’s tapping on his phone again.

 

 

We need to get the powder burns off your finger.

 

 

I can’t help my eyebrow raising at that. ‘We,’ he’d said. That sounded promising. Looking up from my phone, he’s got the smallest of grins on his face. I nod after a moment because really, who was I kidding? Though. I glance pointedly at 221B and show the question on my face. He nods at me, and I can’t argue with that, though my bedsit is pathetically bare of decoration, unlike his new flat. But, a chance to get him to mine isn’t one I’m willing to pass up so easily. I tilt my head in the direction of the main road and start walking off, knowing he’s behind me and then beside me.

 

 

In the cab, there seems less space than there usually is. I spare a quick thought to the money I’ve spent flocking from one side of the city to the other, but it’s gone when I watch Sherlock taping on his phone again. He’s precise and sure when he types. Attentive to detail. Confident. Traits that follow into other parts of his life, one would presume. Mustn’t stare. I look away.

 

 

There’s a buzz in the background, but it’s been more helpful than usual, making me feel as if I have the privacy to think as loud as I like.

 

 

Lips, firm, around my collar bone. Complete attention focused on my chest. He’s making a map of it, like he means to return later. I’d only wish for once. Adept at multitasking, his hands frame my shoulders and drag down them to hold me in place while he kisses my midsection.

 

 

I swallow and fidget before I can stop myself. I keep my eyes strictly pointed out the window and my expression is steely. I go back to my daydream.

 

 

The long, slow pass of my tongue at the hip; breathing hotly on his skin just to arouse, not that he needs it. It’s just a tease before I reach my goal. What would make this situation better? Lube.

 

 

A cough of surprise at my own thoughts hurts my throat. I’m slightly off-kilter. Would he want to know my daydream? Or would he dislike it? That puts a bit of a damper on it, so it’s easier to relax a bit in the seat. Breathing slowing, good. My phone buzzes in my pocket. I fish it out and open the text sent by Sherlock.

 

 

They won’t have the flat cleaned up until tomorrow.

 

 

I bite my tongue to keep from answering aloud and force myself to blink a couple of times. I tap out a reply.

 

 

You can stay at mine. Small, though. No sofa.

 

 

I feel compelled to warn him and am a bit ashamed for it.


You don’t mind sharing your bed?

 

 

 

Well, then.

 

 

 

Not at all.

Chapter Text

This is a new, lingering sensation. A strangely hypnotic one. The heat seeps from his side of the bed to mine. Heat, radiating from John's back, travels through the space between us, constantly keeping the chill of his bedsit away from me. It's comfortable and drugs me into sleep.

 

 

Fingertips find their way, ever so slowly, up my chest, under my shirt. My attention is focused on its movement, and I remain still, feigning slumber. I float on the sensation, more, always more.

 

 

I awake with some sort of contained jump that spikes adrenaline in my veins. I do often long for that triumphant energy, but no longer seek it out in drugs. Perhaps I could find it in John. Perhaps. The man stayed too close to not be interested, but he wasn't blatant either. Tricky.

 

 

Out of the blue, pardoning clichés, I turn to him and stare at his back, studying his breathing for a few lingering minutes. When I am sure that he is deep enough in sleep not to wake easily, I lean down and put my lips close to his left ear.

 

 

"You're fascinating, John.... show me what makes you tick."

 

 

There is no response, so I try again, thinking my usual manner of speaking is in order. I could maybe deduce his certain attraction by guiding his dreams a little.

 

 

John. You-you’re fascinating. Sh-sh-show. Me. You.” I feel my breath, buffeted by the cartilage of his ears, and I feel as if a bat, looking for the echo of my words to lead me forward, on the prowl for more, always more. “John.”

 

 

“Hmm?” A grunt ending in a sigh, and a little jerk of the shoulder tell me John’s closer to consciousness, and I privately grin. Not quite awake yet, his breathing is now steady again and lulling. Silently, I sniff his night shirt just a little, and it is strongly unique. The soap, a familiar scent, is nothing like what’s used to wash his clothes. The scents are a bow across strings for all their striking melodic expression. They say John.

 

 

Mmm, that is a good sound to smell.

 

 

Crossed wires.

 

 

Attraction.

 

 

Yes, there it is.

 

 

If only a touch of the curiosity that is John Watson. Just a hint of permission.

 

 

I lift my left hand ever so gently, directing it at the tan hair with so much depth, but stop short.

 

 

Without prior warning, John swats the air by his own ear, as if a bug were flying around it. I tilt my head and look closer. There’s nothing there to swat at, so it must be part of John’s dream. Fascinating. He tries to hit something away again, though still clearly asleep, and it is almost enough to laugh at. He starts brushing his hand over his ear, and I narrow my eyes to study it, hand still hovering just out of reach. No hair, no dust, no insects of any kind. John more forcefully tries to relieve some sort of annoyance or itch on his ear now. His hand draws back again to smack it away. My expression goes blank. In a split second, my left hand grasps his before he makes contact as I come to a realization. It wasn’t something on the outside. That would have been relieved by now. It was in John’s own head. Perhaps a side effect of what precisely had caused his injury. Or maybe he is always like this in sleep. John’s hand trembles in mine from the force with which I hold him back. I am at a loss, looking for the best way to proceed. On the other hand, another piece of the puzzle that is John. Also fascinating.

 

 

John.”

 

 

I lean forward more and simply lick without thinking. It’s just an urge I’ve given in to, rather than a brilliant distraction idea. I find out that John washes his ears, from the pleasantly mild taste. Gentle and tough at the same time, the texture of John’s ears reflect the man’s personality, and it’s unexpectedly more intoxicating than his scent. It’s highly doubtful that John himself would make that connection, so I appreciate it thoroughly for him. I cannot spare the attention to see if John’s awakened. I suppose that is what I was going for, but still, I missed subtlety by a far mark; not my usual way of doing things as delicate as these. Not the way I usually admire.

 

 

The hand in mind relaxes, and I take that opportunity to hold it more gently, just holding. I stop my perusal of his earlobe but stay close. I think it unlikely that John would take the initiative, so I allow my fingers to slide carefully around his hand and link through his, not holding, merely existing next to each other. I feel an uncharacteristic moment of warmth and I watch our hands together, and it is fascinating. There is also the feeling of something achieved, but that doesn’t make sense to me.

 


I deliberately breathe on John’s neck and a little at his hairline on the back of his head. I hear him swallow. I use my other arm to slowly lift myself up a little more. I lean over John just a little to show that I know he is awake. I confess I did not expect his response.

Chapter Text

A man’s slightly stubbled chin is against my hand. I flex carefully, and I see that caution in the man’s expression, eyes trained on mine, arms holding me just far enough away to give the appearance of control, a poor defense.

 

 

John. John.

 

 

My eyes snap down to read lips, though I actually can’t. Strange force of habit. Holding him down, the vibrations from the man’s speech are absorbed by my fingers, and the sound reaches my ears faintly. Seeing, feeling, and hearing my name is almost luxurious for my torn senses. I lick my lips in glee before I can stop myself. And then the fog of sleep finally goes completely.

 

 

“Shit,” slips out of my mouth before I can censor it.

 

 

My fingers loosen. I jump up and nearly fall off the bed. Sherlock quickly grasps my night shirt in his hands and jerks me back to keep my balance. Suddenly, we’re in the same position as just a second ago, bizarrely as if we’d never moved at all, only now his arms are holding me up instead of away. I blink a flurry of movement out and sacrifice my view of his striking eyes. I may not be heavy, but I’m still conscious of Sherlock holding me up—until he isn’t—lowering me until I’m lying on his chest and he’s letting go of me carefully.

 

 

I suppose that’s my cue to get up and brush myself off, so to speak. My, but that’s embarrassing. Humiliating, really. Shit.

 

 

I linger for the hell of it. I linger for the warm breath sneaking down to me from him, since I’m short to his tall and spooked to his cautious. Slowly, I place my arms on either side of him, conscious of the fact that I’ve just attacked this man and I’m still too uncomfortably close to him to assure him I won’t do so again. Actions speak louder than words, so I’d better just back away and call him a cab, or rather, have him call himself a cab. If texting a cab were possible, sure, I would. Idiot. A hazy buzz like florescent lights begins to seep into my awareness. How has this gotten so convoluted so quickly? Is there really a man in my bed? The high-pitched whistle is especially grating. I probably don’t even remember where all the important bits are; I’m probably rubbish in bed since I let my skills atrophy in my bouts of self-pity. It’s only been a minute, and already I’m almost willing to slice off my own ears or puncture my eardrums—again. How the hell would I know one way or the other? Fucking idiot. I smirk self-consciously and my, isn’t that a familiar gesture to me? Look at the poor man: socially inept, physically disabled, and mentally fractured. Bloody brilliant. It’s actually mocking me now, the tinnitus; it’s dimming because nothing’s louder than my own self-degrading thoughts. John Hamish Watson, ladies and gentleman—

 

 

“’nough.”

 

 

My gaze flies to his as I’m half up on my arms. How long have I been laying on him? Sherlock Holmes looks defiant.

 

 

Stop feeling. It’s a wasted—human—scapegoat for responsibility.” Sherlock’s eyes are intense, and I have no idea what he’s talking about. I watch him deliberately lift his right arm. I hold still; I did just attack the man, fair’s fair.

 

 

The pad of his thumb runs along my bottom lip which strikes me as an incredibly silly thing to do, but I experience an arrhythmia all the same. His hand moves away when I don’t react outwardly, and he looks confused and then as if I’m a bit dim.

 

 

Sherlock speaks forcefully, as if he is frustrated with me. “Stop being regretful of your instincts. They are a gift. I don’t mind, John. Really, I don’t.

 

 

“But—”

 

 

He reaches and runs his thumb over my lip again, as if he knows what it does to me. I swallow reflexively. My back’s stiff from holding the same position so long.

 

 

“I could be dangerous,” I admit shakily. My vocal cords aren’t happy to be used for sentences after so long neglecting speech.

 

 

Sherlock smirks. His eyes look down a little, at what I presume is a bizarre fascination with my mouth, before his sharp gaze fixes on mine. Quieter, he says, “I do not consider it an inconvenience.”

 

 

He doesn’t speak any more after that, and we’re simply watching each other. I’m quite happy to continue lounging on him, though it feels slightly formal all the same. It’s nice. Despite that, I feel the tension in my shoulders and I know it’s from the monotonous buzz behind my ears. Sherlock’s words fight a good battle with it in my consciousness, but my inability to understand his motivation lessens its impact enough to let that power slip slightly. With great effort, I make my shoulders fall a bit. It doesn’t much help.

 

 

My eyes are now glued to his covered chest, counting the imperfections of the buttons. The random thought strikes me that he’s in a white shirt that couldn’t possibly be comfortable to sleep in. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. It hits his shirt and bounces back at me. The shadow of hair I can see through the shirt is awfully tempting.

 

 

“People might talk,” I warn.

 

 

Will you?

 

 

I shake my head, my expression shrewd. Sherlock’s gaze is so focused and interested; I don’t think anyone has ever seen much in me to be interested by before. There isn’t anything; nothing happens to me. I am two-dimensional, and that’s nothing new to a scientist, I’m sure.

 

 

Good,” he replies immediately, and I’m confused.

 

 

I watch Sherlock very deliberately bring his gaze from my eyes, over my nose, and down to my mouth. He’s staring. Why is he staring? Does he know I was staring last night, in the cab?

 

 

Do you find me attractive, John?” Sherlock speaks to my mouth.

 

 

My eyes widen. The fingers of his right hand come up toward my face again, and I think he’s going for my lip again, but he only goes as far as my neck. His fingers brush lightly, appreciatively, I think. I swallow and a shiver travels down my spine that wakes up all of my nerve endings. I can’t look him in the eye; I concentrate on where his shirt collar meets his skin. I’m frozen, never mind that I’ve been laying on the man for the better part of an hour. His first two fingers press gently into my skin, and I have a split-second of absolute clarity.

 

 

He’s a scientist; he’s inquisitive; he knows things he shouldn’t; of course I find him attractive. He’s collecting information that isn’t his to get. He’ll know. He’ll know any second. I’m a doctor; I’ve checked the heart rate of so many people that it’s basely clinical now. From Sherlock, it’s incredibly personal. And he doesn’t care, doesn’t mind that he’s stealing information so blatantly. He must know that I see what he’s doing. He’s not hiding it. He doesn’t mind. Does he want me to know that? That thought alone makes my heart race faster. It’s embarrassing how obvious my body is being, and now more signs are going to start showing themselves. Blood pumps under my skin under his fingers.

 

 

His eyes are so striking. His mouth is inviting and his lips are pale. I take my chance.

Chapter Text

My right hand inches toward the dark curls of Sherlock’s hair. I draw my fingers through the thickness and measure his reaction. I can feel his heart beating roughly against my chest, and it strikes me as such a sensual thing. My blood rushes downward in anticipation as my stress levels dwindle and my breath is light and short. I know he can feel my arousal and that he looks completely entranced by my face which gives me confidence for the first time in a year.

 

 

I let my index finger run down the length of his earlobe and I stop myself just in time from bending down and licking it. No, I have to explore more. Test his responses like I know he’s been testing mine. Leaning slowly onto my elbows above him, I bring my hands to gently cup the sides of his face, my thumbs resting on his dramatic cheekbones. From the bridge of his nose, I gently press the pads of my thumbs down and draw them across his face until just before his temples. I do it again and chance a look into his eyes, but they’re closed. I repeat this motion until his features go lax and I hope he’s relaxing completely.

 

 

Feeling a bit more confidant, I lean down and hover over his lips with mine. His lids open lazily and I see how dilated his pupils are. The body doesn’t lie well enough to fake his attraction, and it’s mesmerizing. Sherlock tilts his chin up and fits his lips over my top one very gently. I feel him swell against my thigh and press into him a little more. A small moan rumbles in my throat, and Sherlock’s eyes get a bit sharper in focus. Bringing his hands up, he draws them up my back, first over my shirt, then back down, under, and up. I shiver and break our lips apart carefully, puffing an excited breath of air at the sensation.

 

 

Can you trust me?” Sherlock rumbles at me, his voice thick with arousal.

 

 

Can I? Not “Do I,” but “Can I?” I think that I can let myself trust him. I nod once with feeling, and Sherlock wraps his arms around me immediately and rolls us over so that I am beneath him. After being trapped under a blasted up building when I was injured, I don’t really care for the position, but I don’t have much time to think about it because then Sherlock is leaning down and speaking his hot breath right into my ear, and he drowns out the background buzz of my broken ears so well that I relax back muscles that I didn’t even know were tensed. I let out a long breath and close my eyes in relief so refreshing that I forget about how much I want to touch and be touched. He’s going on about some case of his from last year, as he said, and tells me all the evidence the police missed that he found and all the potential suspects. He goes on to describe the methods he used to solve the case and the resulting irritation and gratitude of D.I. Lestrade and how amusing it was to watch. I’m so relaxed that I’ve barely moved and my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth dryly. Apparently, I forgot to salivate over the turned-on, dark-eyed, sharp-looking Sherlock Holmes. I accidentally refer to him as “Shercock Holmes” in my head and mentally correct myself but can’t stop the small grin from appearing on my face. I sigh then and relax completely into the sheets of the tiny bed.

 

 

Sherlock continues his steady stream of words that are so unrelated to the movement of his right hand down to cup my hardness through my sleeping shorts. My toes curl reflexively and I’m arching up into him as my breath shortens. I’m completely lost in Sherlock Holmes, voice, touch, and scent. I feel his chest vibrate above me and I flick my eyes open. Sherlock surprisingly has an irritated expression on, his brows down and his right hand rummaging in his trouser pocket. I know that look, of course: the why is someone calling right now of all times? look. The downside of mobile phones, technology, and being a brilliant-minded man that everyone wants to exploit to their own advantage. The man might as well be a vibrant red target for those in need, himself included. I sigh and forget that last thought; it was the old John talking, not the one who rolls around in beds with tall, sexy, homosexual men in broad daylight. I grin and let him up from the bed easily so he can have some privacy because, I, elatedly, can hear every word he says as he turns from me.

 

 

Mycroft, your timing iss… ssuperb, as per ussual.”

 

 

He stops talking to listen. I keep the grin on my face as I go across the bedsit to make some tea. I hate the mirror tile backsplash that covers the wall behind the sink, and I glare at it as I always do, though with a lighter heart than normal. Getting water for tea is tedious with its routine and I tap my finger on the counter while I stare this way or that as I wait. My eyes catch his lips and I watch them move steadily. I blink and stare, my grin freezing on my face and eventually fading.

 

 

Sherlock’s lips were moving rapidly, he was speaking fluidly, not looking happy. I can’t hear him, though. I blink and look away, my face getting stony, the hand on the faucet tightening.

 

 

Get. It. D-done.” Sherlock growls behind me, and I turn my head in his direction, my expression confused. He hangs up roughly then looks at me. I smile tightly and turn off the water carefully.

 

 

Mysterious Mr. Holmes. Curious Dr. Watson, for that matter. I huff in forced amusement.

 

 

Something’s off, I realize.

 

Chapter Text

I’m still tensed after making tea and toast for us both. My movements are trying to be shaky from my effort to ignore the inconsistencies zipping through my head. Sherlock had popped out to get a newspaper to read with breakfast. I don’t flatter myself that I can hide my distant attitude from him completely. As soon as he shuts the door to my bedsit, I smack my teacup down on the table in a release of frustration, then wince when I realize he’d probably hear it since I gave him no time to get away from the door. Hiding anger was difficult for me, and confused anger was a greater leap that I almost wasn’t capable of.

 

 

Shit.

 

 

I stare at my phone on the table but I don’t really see it, just use it as something to focus my attention on. I’m thinking too deeply to notice when Sherlock reenters the flat, and my eyes burn a bit from lack of blinking. It stings when I finally do, and open them to see him standing in his coat next to the closed door. He’s watching me with an expression of hesitancy, clearly confirming my mood. His expression smooths.

 

 

Sshould I go?” Sherlock asks me straight out but keeps his tone devoid of his own inclinations.

 

 

I shake my head once distractedly and look back down, away from his eyes. The atmosphere in the room has chilled since this morning, and I rub my shoulder absently, trying to massage the tension out of it. No, I don’t want him to go. I do find him more complex than I had before, however, and I didn’t think that was possible. I had no right to demand his life story, and I certainly wasn’t about to tell him mine to make him show himself to me. No, no talking. That would just annoy me. I take a deep breath and look over at the door to the toilet, just for something else to focus on.

 

 

Hm. I might not want to talk, but I don’t want this interesting man to go. I raise an eyebrow at my idea, more bold than I’m usually capable of being.

 

 

Turning my gaze deliberately to him and holding his attention for a moment, I pull the shirt I’d put on earlier over my head and set it on the table absently. Looking away and getting up, the shorts and pants go as well before I walk into the only other separate room of the flat and stand naked before the shower. I turn the water on to warm up, and when I glance sideways, Sherlock’s there in the doorway to the small room, coat and jacket removed, as well as his shoes and socks. He’s asking me with his eyes if this is alright, and I answer by unbuttoning his shirt stoically. I pull it back and off his arms, and his pale muscles flex at the shoulder, and I salivate a bit, but at least that stays private. I’ve never showered this way with a man, but Sherlock was more than just a man, he was a complex book of knowledge. The words might be above my understanding often, but his cover appealed to my senses, and I was one short these days. Sherlock’s mind is as erotic as his dark-haired, sharp-gazed body, and the two enhance each other in my view. He makes me feel alive, and I have not been alive for months. I stand close to him and examine his features up close while he watches me silently.

 

 

Remembering the water, I turn and pull back the curtain halfway to get in, leaving it open behind me and moving forward into the heat of the water.

 

 

Out of habit I put my hand against the shower wall and feel the pulse of it beneath my fingers. The spray of the water shifts minutely, bouncing off Sherlock behind me and hitting my back in little driplets.

 

 

Strangely, I can’t relax with him there. I may find some comfort in the drowning noise of the water, but I’m not keen on sharing that.

 

 

There’s the light touch of tips of fingers against where the scar is on my shoulder. The hand against the wall curls into a fist without my even thinking about it. I lean away from the touch, but his hand follows me. I hate it and have to force myself to stay still.

 

 

The fingers leave the back of my shoulder and reach ahead of me to turn the water off abruptly. I’ve got a bit of a tremor in my chest. Trying to contain it works somewhat. He stays touching the tap and I can catch out the corner of my vision his sharp jawline, and that has me closing my eyes and shivering in the chilled air.

 

 

Sherlock grasps my shoulders and I let him turn me around so I’m facing him, but I only see the black behind my eyelids, thankfully. I sense I’m being overly emotional, very unmanly, and the shivering in the cold is probably making me very unattractive, unfortunately.

 

 

You were underground somewhere in Afghanistan. A bunker, or a cave, or something similar.”

 

 

My heart drops and I wince. It’s like there’s a cold breeze blowing through my ribcage.

 

 

“Don’t.” I try to squeeze the anxiety out of me by making fists at my sides.

 

 

I ssusspect there were bombs. Nothing else could bring large sstructures down too fasst for you to esscape.” Sherlock’s factual and plain in tone. Is he doing that on purpose?

 

 

“Please stop,” I whisper. I’ve gone shaky in the breathing department, and I let air deliberately out of my nose to calm my nerves. It only helps so much.

 

 

The explosion damaged your hearing permanently. You can still hear the implosion, however. Bit ironic.”

 

 

I still when he’s breathing his words on my mouth. I feel it but I don’t lift the lids.

 

 

“Sherlock: Shut. Up. I-I’ll panic.” I have no idea how frightened I sound. I can’t bloody hear it. If I were crying, I wouldn’t be able to hear it. If I were screaming, I wouldn’t know. If he was being completely honest, I wouldn’t know what he was saying. Why have I talked for him? He isn’t worth it. I barely know him. I shouldn’t trust him.

 

 

I know why you kept your gun, John.”

 

 

My eyes fly open in a combination of amazement and horror, and his sharp eyes are boring into mine. He’s leaning down a bit to look me in the eye properly. I have nothing to say to that and press my lips together tightly. A distant ringing teases at the edges of my consciousness.

 

 

It’s fine.” Sherlock lets his hands drop from my shoulders finally. They drag down in an almost reluctant way that brings cold shivers to my arms. “It’s all fine. I-” He hesitates and quirks his mouth in a strange way, eyes trying to x-ray the shower curtain from the looks of it. “...understand.”

 

 

I blink rapidly in a sort of dumbfounded way.

 

 

Then I want to kiss him rather confidently. But, I haven’t been truly confident in anything for a long time, perhaps besides the shot I took at the serial killer. It’s an alien feeling to me now. I don’t really trust myself to carry through; I’ll probably behave like a bumbling buffoon. Sherlock seems to brace himself and looks back to my eyes.

 

 

With a look of daring, he says, “I burned your cane in Mrss. Hudson’s fireplace.”

 

 

My brow goes down in confused surprise. I instinctively look at the hand that’s usually grasping a cane, my palm opening and me seeing nothing but air there. A moment passes. I stare.

 

 

Ha! I hadn’t even noticed!

 

 

I’m smiling when I raise my head back up. Sherlock’s face has a hint of amusement. I have no idea what to say to that.

 

 

Hands come up to hold my face still, and Sherlock has taken the initiative of confident kissing, and I couldn’t mind less. I think I may even be laughing. A joyful laughter. Another alien feeling.

 

 

Chapter Text

Hands at my waist held onto me, guiding me to turn my back to the wall of the shower as we kissed. The water kept us warm as we moved lips. I looked at him briefly and saw that he kept his eyes open. I had to close mine for all the drops of water falling off Sherlock’s wet curls. Pressed against me, he wasn’t aroused, but his focus was palpable. The grip he had on my skin was firm and I got nothing but positive feedback from the way he took kisses from me. They had a rhythm but were slow.

 

 

Gently as I can, I raise my hands to his lower back, the hot water hitting right there. The shape of his back meeting his largest muscle is mouthwatering. I unconsciously tilt my head farther back to kiss him better.

 

 

I don’t hear anything, not the rush of the water nor the usual ringing. Touch has overtaken my other senses, and it’s divine. The focus of his tongue against mine showed a complete consciousness that lit up the neurons in my brain and put air in my lungs again. I hadn’t breathed in months, and I hadn’t had ambition in months, and I hadn’t been human in so many months. That thought assaulted me and competed with my brain’s concentration on Sherlock’s lips.

 

 

I’d lost my breath, and Sherlock had pulled back to give me some air. I gasped for it like I was drowning. My eyebrows pulled together in confusion and I saw that reflected back in Sherlock’s expression. Fuck.

 

 

I gripped his biceps tightly, leant my head back against the wall as the water fell down, and closed my eyes. I was having a random panic attack. Sherlock turned off the water and I shivered in the chilled air. Trying to keep from drowning and trying to reason with myself that I wasn’t, my mind couldn’t really work that out.

 

 

I felt the pressure of Sherlock’s thumbs massaging my sternum firmly; it almost hurt, so it got my attention. I opened my eyes and he offered me my towel which I took gratefully. We dried off and didn’t speak.

 

 

-

 

 

We laid on the bed without clothes.

 

 

“Chance is a fine thing. My sister nearly poisoned herself with alcohol once, but beer actually saved my life. If I hadn’t been drunk and laying on the floor a year ago, I’d have lost more than just my clear hearing.”

 

 

Sherlock looked across at me, mutely waiting for me to continue. I watched the ceiling with my hands clasped on my chest. I was quite relaxed and didn’t mind Sherlock’s eyes on me. I rather enjoyed being the subject of his study. It meant I meant something to him, and the man certainly had all of my attention this last week. I’d never seen the man so still as he laid beside me, squished against the wall on my insignificant bed.

 

 

“A few of us were celebrating that we’d made it through a night raid… It looked like lightening, but it was actually the spark of machine gun fire above us.” I take a deep breath and feel a sarcastic grin on my lips. “We’d had a few Army-supplied beers in one of the bunkers. A structure that went down pretty deep underground. Apparently, it didn’t make a very good bunker when put to the test of real wartime conditions.” I pause, blink, and think. I’m thankful that I don’t have to hear myself retelling the story or writing it out on pieces of paper like Ella suggested of me. Sherlock was my exception, the one person I expected nothing from. No two-bit analysis, no babble about “chance” or “sacrifice.” I appreciate the silence which is by now a very unfamiliar grace.

 

 

“I was on the floor, my hand outreached for another can that I’d knocked over and had rolled off. I toppled over in my chair trying to get at it, the state I was in, it’s no wonder. A bomb hit the building. The pressure from the explosion had nowhere to go underground, so it filled the room, pushed out the walls, my eardrums and killed everyone else. The end.” I finally look at Sherlock, a slight grin on my face. His expression is impassive, and I got nothing from it. That was comforting. Ella would surely be trying some sort of word association or have me look at random blots of ink so I might see the faces of my dead mates and crumble. Sherlock knew me better, and that’s what made him brilliant. We barely knew each other, but he’d seen my… whatever. Personality? Intricacies? Didn’t matter. Sherlock was more interesting than ten ordinary people and was more beautiful than I reasonably had any right to ask for. And he didn’t look surprised. I narrowed my eyes at him.

 

 

“You knew that already, didn’t you?”

 

 

Sherlock turned his head to stare at the ceiling himself. He didn’t answer. I lifted my hand slowly and ran my fingers lightly down Sherlock’s arm. He had hair, but not much on his arms. I reached his hand, and he stayed still while I manipulated his fingers, examining and feeling. I soon noticed his chest moving up and down rather quickly. The rest of him remained still as a statue, but his breath betrayed his interest. I wonder absently if I am enough to tempt him. I wouldn’t be upset if I wasn’t; I was just curious. Either way, “boring” didn’t interest Sherlock, I knew. Passivity wasn’t what he craved, unless it was interesting. What would be interesting night now?

 

 

His phone, apparently.

 

 

Reaching over to the bedside table, Sherlock picked up his phone and read something. Typing back quickly, taking his hand from my grasp, his eyes were focused. I could feel his presence slipping away with his interest diverted from me, so I rolled on my stomach and put my arm over his bare stomach. He glanced down at me briefly and kept typing. He really had a lot to say, it seemed.

 

 

“I have a package waiting for me at Scotland Yard. I must go, briefly.” Sherlock’s eyes communicated slight regret, but I saw his interest was piqued. Regret and renewed attraction fought for space in my chest, but attraction won out. His interest was infinitely intriguing to me.

 

 

“Want me to go with you?” I ask, genuinely at ease in offering up my company.

 

 

Sherlock pulled himself up and got dressed before he answered, his eyes looking ahead at something I couldn’t see, examining a thought thoroughly. His voice was distant when he replied.

 

 

“I won’t be long.”

 

 

Pulling on his coat, he was almost to the door. I leapt up to stop him for a second. Grabbing two fistfuls of his substantial coat, I carefully and confidently pushed his back against the wall behind the door and got in one last good look of his sharp cheekbones and complicated irises. I could often be better at actions than words, I absently observed. I tugged gently on him and he obliged and made himself shorter far me. He knew I wasn’t trying to stop him from leaving, I could tell.

 

 

I put my lips to his with steady pressure. Arousal flared and my heart skipped one of its intended beats. I stepped back reluctantly, dropping my arms.

 

 

“Bye,” I said gently.

 

 

Sherlock focused on me for a moment then gave me a nod. He left without taking his eyes off of me, and they held such promise for when he came back. I shivered in anticipation and nodded too. I gave a quick wave, and he was out the door.

 

 

I should have gone with him.

 

 

Chapter Text

By the time the sun was setting, I gave up on seeing Sherlock again that day. It could be possible that the man’s idea of “briefly” was a tad different from my own; Sherlock was out of place in other ways, so it stood to reason that his norms were skewed when compared to, well, norms.

 

Tired of the paper, my blog, and fiddling with the settings on my second-hand phone from Harry, I grab my coat and lock the door behind me on the way out. I flick up the collar while I fairly spring down the stairs, so at ease with the motion I’d avoided for a year. I feel myself chuckle and grin, enjoying the crisp air despite the cigarette smoke I walk through on my way to the closest Chinese place I know of.

 

There’s a line at the desk, but that’s alright because the telly’s on and the atmosphere is cheerful. I miss my cane just a little since it was something to fiddle with when bored, not that I longed for my silly limp again. And, honestly, the cane wasn’t even that nice of one; there were ones I could’ve gotten with flames down the side and fancy duck handles. Should I ever need one for real purposes—likely in much older age—then I’ll head right for the flaming ducks, I promise myself.

 

Realizing I could make things go quicker, I step out of line for a moment to grab one off of the stack of plain paper menus and a pencil from the little holder provided. I retake my spot and use my hand to write on. I clumsily circle the white rice and lo mein. That’s really all I’d need, so I fold the incredibly long menu in half to just show where I’d circled. I’ve picked up a few quick tricks in my semi-deafness. At the top, I scribble my name to distinguish my order because that is one thing I really can’t lip-read. I can’t lip-read more than a few choice, simple words, so there really was no point in pretending that I could. Different from other times, and since I’ve got a few moments with the long line, I shorten the future encounter further with the phrase, next to my name: “I am deaf.” They’d know I wasn’t just trying to rush them by handing them a pre-written order. It really didn’t matter, but I did it anyway. It suddenly didn’t quite bother me as much since I wasn’t really completely deaf and in a good way. I could hear Sherlock.

 

The line had gotten longer behind me, I can see from a brief glance around. Everyone behind me was looking at the telly, so I glanced at the patrons sitting at tables for something to do. Sherlock did say I was unobservant. I could try to be more so, if only for my own amusement. No luck, though; every pair of eyes were concentrated on the set in the corner of the room. The line moved up a place, so I stepped up a little more to follow it and put my gaze onto the news that was apparently so enthralling.

 

I couldn’t hear it, but I didn’t need to. I could read it.

 

There has been a massive explosion in Central London.”

 

Well, that wasn’t good, not at all. The woman talking had a very sympathetic expression while she spoke the details. I waited for the byline to change.

 

Baker St homes destroyed in blast. Two fatalities, several injured.”

 

A small chill goes down my spine, simply because that was a very bizarre coincidence. I never had reason to go to Baker Street before Sherlock, so there wasn’t much I knew about the area. Thankfully, Sherlock had gone to Scotland Yard, so there was no chance he was there, plus his place was still a crime scene. It wasn’t likely he would even be able to get into the flat.

 

“I have a package waiting for me at Scotland Yard. I must go, briefly. I won’t be long.”

 

And yet, it had been hours. I took a step forward as another person was served with their take-away bags. My eyes found the floor as I thought.

 

I knew Sherlock took chances, had the utmost confidence in himself; it was something I’d noticed the first time I’d met him, even if I didn’t consciously acknowledge it. I clench my jaw at that thought. I made a fist around my borrowed pencil. I had plenty of courage to resume watching the news report, even as my heart rate sped up a little.

 

Massive explosion in central London.”

 

Police were being interviewed on the screen, as well as witnesses.

 

Tragedy had an intuition. It brought its knowledge with it like a cloud, and I knew that well. In reality, it’s simply the brain putting facts together and making an assumption. I suppose. It made my chest numb, like I’d stopped breathing until I knew if I was right or not. I could be paranoid. I probably was. Ex-soldier, here. Another step up the line. My eyes remain glued to the screen. They’re showing pictures of the scene now, but there was too much smoke to make much of anything out. My phone buzzes in my pocket. I’ve got a text from Mike Stamford.

 

Are you ok?

 

Yes why

 

I let my fingers drop my menu in the bin as I leave the line and the restaurant. I don’t look at anyone I pass. I am almost back to my flat when Mike replies. I was going back to wait for Sherlock. The report had spooked me.

 

Are you home? Whats your address?

Chapter Text

7 March 2015 – 4 November 2015

 

 

EIGHT MONTHS ON

 

“There now, that should do. A sprain is nothing to take lightly,” I say with my doctor’s authority voice.

 

I pat the dirtied boy gently on the top of his head, think myself an old man, grimace internally, and smile tightly. Clearing my throat awkwardly, I wander off toward the cramped communal kitchen of the shelter. Though it’s not the most organized of places, the kettle was always on, and there were always twelve packs of disposable cups at hand, thankfully. I’m done for the evening, final issue seen to, so one cup and I’ll be off.

 

Emmaline’s dark curls catch the corner of my eye, and I turn and smile at her genuinely but briefly. Her large, sincere eyes were annoyingly difficult to ignore, and she made me uncomfortable a bit. I take too large of a gulp of hot tea in my want to leave quickly, and I scald my tongue. Emma brings the tips of her right hand up to her chin, hand flat, and down again in front of herself. She follows with the letters of my name, as she often did.

 

J-O-H-N

 

I nod once and look down awkwardly. She was always too friendly toward me, and I found her too innocent to be interesting. I doubt Sherlock would have been surprised by that idea.

 

We stand in silence while she waits for her tea to steep. I sip awkwardly, but the sense is likely only in my head. As soon as I’m finished, I crush the frail cup almost unconsciously, reflexively. I give the sad thing a study in my hand, frowning internally. I throw it in the bin but my eyes don’t leave it. A blink brings me back, and I stand a little straighter.

 

“Well, I best be off,” I say.

 

Emma gives me a wave and a big smile. I nod farewell and I’m out.

 

 

-

 

 

It’s dark and the wind has a bit of a bite. There are plenty of people walking the pavement to wherever, and it looks noisy. I pull the discrete ear plugs from my ears just to revel in the sounds.

 

 

-

 

 

I walk past 221B on my way to the Tube, as usual, and I glance up at the window, as I always do. Plain curtains.

 

 

-

 

 

I meet Mary for a drink, as I promised last week when we were both volunteering at the homeless shelter. She’s brought the notebook we use to communicate, and we work on learning to lip-read together, babbling the silliest short sentences across the pub table. She’s chipper and makes me smile and laugh for two hours until she has to get home; she has to go to work early. She has a job at a clinic near my tiny place, but she lives on the other side of town.

 

She offers me a lift home, as she always does. Typically, I refuse. Tonight, though, I’m especially bored, and I don’t fancy an empty evening. I nod and thank her, happy to be in her company. She wasn’t like other women.

 

 

-

 

 

 

I simultaneously push the strap of her bag off her shoulder and crowd her against the closed door of my flat. I’ve put my earplugs back in, so all I’ve got is the hum in the background and my own thoughts, and that’s peaceful.

 

 

There’s a certain beauty in feasting my eyes on Mary’s exposed breasts with almost no sound. It’s incredibly easy to simply focus on the top curve of them, and her pale skin in the half-light is a contrast my sense of sight adores a bit. I feel very much like I need to give this woman the things her body needs. We both have medical backgrounds; she almost certainly knows how I can both professionally and humanly appreciate her body and its reactions.

 

I run one finger delicately from her collarbone to the tip of an aroused nipple and can see keen enough to notice the bumps and hair raising in response. What a tantalizing response.

 

I see her panting and a wanting expression on her face, but still I explore.

 

I turn her around to unhook her bra, then get on one knee to be at eyelevel with the last bit of fabric covering her. I kiss the skin as it appears, pulling slowly at the thin waistband. As I stand, I run my tongue up along her spine and watch as she braces herself a bit on the closed door, head leaning forward, tilting down slowly. I have a flash of wanting Sherlock in this position, but that was never going to happen.

 

“You're gorgeous, Mary,” I make sure she knows. She turns her head slightly and I see her expression, giving nothing away.

 

 

-

 

I can’t help the smirk on my face as I part ways with Mary at the door to my building. Her eyes say it back for a second, then blink on to the next thought. That woman was hard to read and gorgeous walking away.

 

My good mood walks off with her. I stare a bit, even after she’s out of view. It’s started to rain, and there’s a man with an umbrella open standing across the street, his eyes on me. I nod in a friendly, offhanded way and return to my tiny flat.

 

My phone buzzes as I shut the door behind me, and I expect to see something cheeky from Mary, though that would be slightly out of character for her, a text so soon. Still, a little flirting would be fun. I’m slightly out of practice.

 

Front window.

 

Huh. It’s a number I don’t recognize, and I automatically walk to the tiny window that looks down at the street in front of the building. It’s pretty well pouring now, but I catch sight of the man with the umbrella again. At first glance, he strikes me as a very slick businessman, but he has no briefcase, and he’s risking his expensive suit in the downpour which is odd.

 

I squint to see better, but there’s nothing to see. The man with the umbrella gets in a dark car and drives away, and there’s nothing else interesting to be seen on the street from my limited view.

 

-

 

I’m off to get a small bottle of whiskey a few hours later, and I throw open my door to leave the flat. I’m startled half to death by a short man with his hand up to knock, a similar look of fright on his face, too. His following smile and laugh are very friendly, and I grin politely in return. He’s speaking but he makes no sense to me of course, and I motion that I can’t hear him. He understands almost too quickly and points to a badge on his chest with his name and “British Gas” on it in big letters. He shows me his clipboard and points to the name at the top, the name of my neighbor, and I smile and point up to indicate the person’s upstairs. She’s an old woman who’s had a few falls, so I know of her. He thanks me, I think, and he heads for the stairs while I lock my door behind me.

 

-

 

“How did you get these burns?” I can feel a sharpness in my voice by the way it’s rough on my vocal cords. I try not to be too accusing to the people at the shelter; they don’t return if they’re just going to get a reprimand.

 

Emma is next to me and does a wonky sort of exploding motion with her hands. I don’t know much sign language and can’t read lips, though I’m still practicing with Mary once a week. My startled look prompts her to write down “gas leak” on her handy notepad. I blink at the words, say “Right,” and just treat the wounds. It’s still a little disturbing, but gas leaks did happen: price of the modern world. If it’d been 1815, there’d be fire instead and a lot more of them from all the candles.

 

-

 

I pass Mrs. Hudson in a shop one morning. She’s chatting animatedly with the proprietor and doesn’t notice me, thankfully. I slip out the door safely. I didn’t think I could get out of a conversation with her very easily if started.

 

-

 

“Fuck! …bugger! And tits!”

 

I jump and wrench my neck sitting up straight so quickly. Heart beating, air rushing out my nostrils, I blink at the empty common room of the homeless shelter. The TV was halfway through The King’s Speech. I stare at the movie, catching my breath and blink absently. Firth’s struggling on the screen to get his words out. It looks a bit like how I feel trying to understand people talking to me. I hear bits but not words, certain tones.

 

The subtitles come up out of nowhere. Emma grins at me as she walks by and sets the remote down on a side table. Her presumptuousness annoys me almost to words but I bite my tongue and kind of grimace-grin back for a split second. I get up immediately after.

 

-

 

A paid position is open

 

Nancy handed me the note. She was expectant; she obviously thought I’d take the position, no questions asked. She was right, of course.

 

-

 

“Stop this absurd habit. You sound appalling and look absolutely ridiculous.”

 

“Brother mine,” a smirk, “feeling guilty?”

 

Mycroft’s eyebrow went up. “Why on Earth should it affect me either way? Just stopping you from making a fool of yourself to the greater public.”

 

“The fact you mention it means that you do care, obviously.”

 

After a long look, Mycroft takes a paper from his desk and hands it over. “It seems your would-be murderer has found you out. Trying to get you back on the playing field, as it were.”

 

Keen eyes read the address.

 

“This is where John lives.” Emotionless gazes meet.

 

“I’m aware of that.”

 

“He’s trying to annoy me into showing myself?” Sherlock had a lilt to his voice, slight humor, bit of bewilderment.

 

“I rather think his motives more… complex than that.”

 

“Hm.”

 

-

 

My veins lit on fire. My eyebrows lift slowly, eyes opening more to take in what I saw.

 

I saw, and I acutely wanted.

 

In an instant, the world became better.

 

I wasn’t given to episodes of hallucinating, so it must be real. It actually wasn’t surprising. I’d watched a film about ghosts last week, and I’d entertained the possibility that Sherlock knew I missed him.

 

I slam my front door, feel the impact in the floorboards.

 

Sherlock looked exactly the same, but he stared at me without expression. He was simply waiting. I really don’t know what he expected.

 

In two strides, I’m in front of him, and by God, he was real. No ghost. Tangible. A fragile human that, actually, wasn’t dead. Yet. The man’s time wasn’t up after all? No random explosions? What the hell was going on?

 

Sherlock seemed cautious now, all dark coat, dark hair, piercing eyes. To his credit, he doesn’t move while I glare furiously at him, utterly bewildered. I have the skill of speed of movement.

 

I shoved his chest with one hand, rather confident in my ability to knock him into the wall he stood in front of. His eyes never left mine, and he never looked scared, only intense. My hand still on his chest gripped the edge of the opening of his coat.

 

He was so real.

 

I clear my throat and look slightly down at his coat buttons. I feel the air go past my vocal cords weakly. I was whispering.

 

-

 

John’s eyes lost their fight and his grip slackened a bit on me. He’s still the fierce ball of fire, incredibly interesting and unpredictable man I’d left months ago.

 

I thought he might punch me or maybe faint; his fellow soldiers had died with him in Afghanistan but none of them had ever come back to life. His relationship with death was probably an old one; there was no way to be sure how he’d react. I attempt to be as stoic as possible, aware anything I said or did might be the flame that lit the fire and he’d show me what he thought of me, whatever that was.

 

What?” I asked, leaning forward a bit.

 

John didn’t look me in the eye as he repeated himself, just slightly louder than before. His firm grip returns but he looks like a man beaten to the ground, the expression on his face. That worries me more than his violence.

 

“Thank God,” he whispers.