A/N Written for anyrei1 who asked for fluff but got a bit of angst and some snogging instead.
Since the snow was falling over an inch an hour, the coffee shop was all but deserted. Only one customer, a tall, middle-aged man with auburn curls and grey sideburns, sipped at his coffee. Mr. Sigerson had been coming into the coffee shop where John worked every evening for the past week.
John was cleaning the tables, ready to close up shop and head back to the tiny apartment that he rented in this hell hole called Oswego, New York. John had run after Sherlock's death. He had run from everyone and everything that reminded him of Sherlock Holmes. He ran until he landed here, in upstate New York. And no one knew who John Watson was, or Sherlock Holmes. Heck, lots of them had never heard of Scotland Yard. Few of them remembered anything about St. Bart's or the tragedy that had occurred there two years ago.
John Watson had fashioned a new life out of the wreckage of his shattered heart. It wasn't much. But it wasn't giving up, and it paid the rent. And John forced himself to live and to make friends. But he never smiled, well, at least not with his eyes.
John never smiled with his eyes anymore, until Eric Sigerson wandered into the coffee shop with an arm load of books and endless questions about Oswego and the University and the lake and coffee beans and finally, what was John writing and why hadn't he had it published.
It was strange to be dissected by this visiting professor. Oh God, he was another genius, obviously. John should know by now that geniuses were bad news for ex-army doctors. Warning. Red Alert. Danger.
John had wisely steered clear of the charismatic man for a whole night before he was sucked back in by the handsome man's acerbic charm, scintillating intelligence and biting wit.
It was if John had finally woken from a long, tortuous nightmare. Suddenly he stood with the sun in his eyes and wind on his cheeks and... poetry? And no doubt bad poetry at that. But John didn't write poetry that didn't revolve around Sherlock Holmes, did he? Oh, no. Oh, God, no. He was falling again. What an idiot.
"John," called Sigerson softly. "Please sit with me for a few minutes. Let me buy you a coffee?"
John gave the man a shy smile.
Sigerson had done his research. He had subtly and thoroughly questioned everyone who knew John Watson. He knew how rare this smile was. He knew that the short blond had been badly hurt by a great loss, which few people knew about and no one would discuss. He knew that, in point of fact, John Watson never truly smiled anymore. And yet tonight, John smiled shyly for Mr. Sigerson. And it was beautiful.
"Look, Mr. Sigerson..."
"Please, call me Eric?"
"Eric, first of all, I get free coffee. So put your money away. And since I'm finished cleaning, well… I'd be happy to join you," said John a bit breathlessly.
He was inexplicably drawn to this man. Eric was the first person John had been attracted to in two years. The first person he even wanted to get to know really. But there was something in Eric's eyes. Something that was hiding behind those glasses, which perched on Eric's nose.
John felt himself blush; he was staring into Eric's face like a lovesick pup. John hurried behind the counter to make them each a dry cappuccino and to try to get his racing heart beat under control.
Eric waited, his breath catching when John Watson sat down at the table with two small cups covered with foamed milk and just a dusting of cinnamon.
Perhaps it should have been predictable, but John brought over a plate of biscotti. Eric should have predicted John's words, "Look, you can't just live on coffee, Eric. Eat something. These are really good. Try one."
"John, I do not live on coffee..."
"Coffee and tea, then," said John smiling. It changed his whole face. His eyes, which always mirrored the sadness of a world lost, suddenly sparkled, his blue eyes shone...like they had once, long ago in a flat at Baker Street after his first mad chase with a consulting detective.
Eric swallowed with difficulty, memories and dreams colliding in the maelström of John's eyes.
"John, I like...I like tea. You should try it..."
"No. Nooo," said John pursing his lips, "I do not drink tea. I hate it!" he added harshly. His left hand began to tremble and he stared sightlessly out the window. The snowflakes fell and fell, and behind them he could see a man falling, falling.
"John. John I am so...so sorry," whispered Eric, his large hand easily covered John's, almost stilling the trembling.
"No. I'm the one who's sorry, Eric," said John rubbing his face with his free hand. "I...it's a...a sensitive subject. Rubbish really," John smiled his quick little fake smile and forced a fake laugh, "I mean, who the hell cares whether someone drinks tea or coffee or cappuccino or..."
"I read your work, John. I read your stories and shared them with my editor. When I say editor..." John's head whipped up, looking at Eric with confusion.
"Sorry, what? What were you saying?" asked John, he'd been lost for a moment; the ghosts of Baker Street had filled his mind. He could see the brash young detective. He could hear him talking about the skull... John's heart was racing again; it was a wild thing, stampeding out of control, and yet hidden deep within the quiet barista and former army doctor so that no one else would ever know.
"The editor loves your work. She says with just a bit of fine-tuning, just the smallest amount of editing, your stories about Sherlock Holmes could soon be ready for publishing. She wants to publish it, John. It's a great opportunity," said Eric, licking his lips nervously. "I did not show her your other… work. I... I didn't know if you wanted to share that with..."
"Share that? I probably shouldn't have shown you!" said John blushing crimson. "The silly ramblings of a middle-aged man, bunch of lovesick nonsense...
"I found it beautiful, John. Frankly, I did not want to share that part of you with anyone else," said Eric firmly. He turned John's fist over so that his hand could firmly grip John's, palm to palm.
"John, surely you've noticed that I...John, I ..."
John cocked his head to the side, trying to understand what his new friend was saying. John looked down at their clasped hands.
Huh. John was holding hands with a man at 10:00 at night in a dimly lit coffee shop. John sipped his cappuccino.
He did not pull his hand away. Instead, John tightened his grip on Eric's hand.
"I found your musings interesting, John," said Eric.
"Wha? What?" asked John, trying to concentrate when he was solidly fixated on the hand holding his.
"You said that your friend had died for a reason. You said that he did it because Moriarty made him do it. You said..."
"Yeah," sighed John. "I know what I said, Eric. Sherlock Holmes died to stop Moriarty and somehow it was supposed to...I don't know solve the case or...or..."
"Maybe he did it to save his friends?" suggested Eric. "Maybe he did it to save you."
"Oh God," said John, pale and confused again. He liked Eric. He liked Eric a lot. Why did he keep having to see Sherlock in Eric's eyes and hearing Sherlock on Eric's tongue?
The two men sat silently. The wind howled in frustration and threw snow at the windows in vain. The men, warm and safe from the storm, sipped their coffee. Their hands stayed linked together, as the ghosts from their pasts tried to enter the shop and drive them back apart.
"I made them," said John, fixing his eyes on the floor.
"What?" said Eric, suddenly brought back to the present.
"I made the biscotti. My friend Maddie taught me how to bake. It's what I do now. I make coffee and I bake," said John pursing his lips and twisting them to the side.
"Yes? And I understand you've joined the volunteer ambulance corps and write for the local paper and have taken up white water rafting on the Black River. Isn't that a bit risky?"
"I'm hardly the man I used to be," snapped John loudly. "I was a doctor and a soldier."
"And now you've come back from a hell, which you should never have had to visit. You've made a new life here, in the middle of nowhere."
"Don't let the locals hear you say that, Eric. They are very proud of their city," said the barista chuckling wryly.
"City? Bah! This is nothing compared to London or Stockholm or Berlin or Paris..."
"Yeah? Then why are you still here? You said you were here to give a lecture four days ago at the University. What's keeping you here in Nowhereville?" asked John, grinning for the first time in what may have been years. John was inexplicably pleased at catching up the brilliant Professor Sigerson.
"I am still here, in Nowhereville, as you so eloquently put it, because you are here, John Watson," said Eric standing up.
The tall auburn man moved around the small table to stand over the blond. His free hand gently cupped John's chin, his thumb rubbing along the rough stubble of John's cheek.
"I am here John Watson, because you are the most beautiful, the bravest, the kindest, the wisest man I have ever met."
John was sure he was no longer breathing. He stared hypnotized at the silvery-grey eyes above him. He was suddenly sure that he was about to be kissed by a ghost. He knew now that this was all a dream. Another one of those nightmares where Sherlock came back and kissed him...The nightmare, of course, started when John woke up to face another day in a world without Sherlock.
John closed his eyes and let the tears fall. The dreams always ended, and his nightmare life was never ceasing.
Eric's breath hitched, and the words he was trying to say died in his throat, because John Watson sat quietly in front of him, as tears bled out of his eyes.
Eric would have gladly thrown himself in that stupid lake that was making all the stupid snow, if only he could undo the hurt and pain inflicted on this, the best of men.
Instead, Eric bent down, and gently kissed John's wet cheek, the salt taste mixing with the smell of coffee and aftershave and the pure masculine smell that was John.
John choked back a sob. This dream was so real. It was going to hurt so much in the morning. It hurt so much right now. And it felt so right.
The soft lips tenderly traced kisses down his cheek and over to the corner of his mouth. Those soft lips covering his own and murmuring his name saying "John. Shhh. John, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. John. My beautiful John."
John jerked his head back sharply staring into the grey eyes above his. Eyes that held more moisture than they should...if it was real. If he was real...John felt the room grow dim and his world tilted dizzyingly.
Eric kissed him, his warm lips pressing harder against John's. "Eric...Wait!"
John stared into the grey depths, deeper than Lake Ontario, Deeper and more changeable than any Great Lake.
"Sher...Sherl...Sherlock," he whispered reverently. "Please don't...never"
"Never. I will never leave you again."
They never knew who made the next move. Their kiss was harsh and full of the pain of mourning and loss and separation. Their lips slid past one another as Sherlock knelt in front of John, his hands cradling his precious bloggers face. John buried his trembling hand in soft reddish curls that should have been dark brown.
Their kiss deepened as Sherlock begged for entry and for forgiveness. John's lips parted, pleading for his miracle to be real and to stay with him.
Their kiss shared the taste of coffee and cigarettes and anisette; it sheltered them from the winter storm and broke down the horrific frozen walls of their nightmare past. Their kiss burned them, lighting the forges of their hearts. The kiss rekindled their love undying.
Epilogue (because there is always an epilogue :D)
Out in the storm the winds raged. The tempest tore across Lake Ontario, picking up speed and water to fling torrents of snow at the small city on the edge of the great lake. The lights were all out, the puny humans huddled in their little homes of wood and brick and stone and cement. Most of the people slept soundly, quite used to the tantrums the weather liked to throw.
Even the two men who had found each other once again, finally slept. The blond was held close on his lover's chest, while the taller man buried his nose in his blogger's short hair breathing in the scent of home and friendship and love.
Outside, the ghosts danced on the wind and in the snow. One ghost paused and cursed the couple in vain. He had burned the heart out of that detective. He had! Yet now the detective's heart burned with love! That wasn't part of the plan!
The angry ghost railed and howled. His voice was lost in the powerful, primal roar of the tempest. His dark soul was blasted clean by the elements and scattered in the frigid, pristine snow.
John snuffled uneasily in his sleep. As so often happened, his dream was dark and frightening. Strong arms tightened around him, a deep voice rumbled in his ear.
"I have you, John. I have you always; sleep." And John slept.
Reviews welcomed like cappuccino during a winter storm.
Disclaimer I do not own the rights to Sherlock. If I did there would be Johnlock. Moffat gets to control His Last Vow, I can keep writing fan fic for now.
Sorry. I am so, so sorry. That is a truly bad attempt at poetry. I blame John, who writes bad poetry and the stress of worrying about the emotional trauma that will ensue following His Last Vow.
I think I want to form a club where everyone has to wear a funny ear hat and spout Johnlock and propose AU's while we drink tea.