Yup. A sequel. Already. Couldn't help it. Sorry. Keep an eye out for three and four in this series.
It's not been his definition of a good day, that's for sure. Believe it or not, the only thing more traumatising than an old man having a heart attack in your surgery is the paperwork you have to fill out afterwards. So it's three hours later than usual when John jogs up the stairs towards the flat. If his life was anything remotely resembling normal, his lover might be waiting up for him, or asleep on the sofa. Maybe John could cover them with a blanket, something touching and romantic. John sometimes wishes Sherlock could be a little more romantic. Not rose petals on the bed or anything. Just, more...friendly, more giving with his touches. Words would be nice as well. Sherlock hasn't said more than monosyllables for a week, and that's harder than it sounds. John really likes Sherlock's voice, misses his baritone and his comments.
Well, Sherlock's awake anyway.
Sherlock isn't facing the door, but John is hardly sneaking in, so Sherlock knows he's there. A ninja couldn't sneak up on Sherlock Holmes when he's in this mood. He doesn't notice when John leaves, but he always, always knows when he comes back. John wishes maybe he'd care a little more. Not care, that's not fair. Sherlock cares, John knows he does. Or thinks he does. John shakes his head irritably, chewing his lip. No need to be needy or insecure. There's nothing Sherlock hates more than needy and insecure, except perhaps Mycroft. 'Hello' would be nice, though. Instead of...
"Do you," Sherlock says with the air of one making a grand proclamation, "have any tomatoes?"
John ignores him. He seems to be doing that a lot these days. A month and a half since their first kiss. That first month was dizzy, happy. John didn't feel like he was walking on clouds, or anything, but it was a delicious feeling when Sherlock leant his chin on his shoulder, pronounced the newspaper boring and kissed him on the cheek. But Sherlock's gone quiet lately. Too quiet. John wonders if there's a case Sherlock hasn't told him about. It wouldn't be the first time, but it give him an uncomfortable, squirming feeling to think Sherlock is getting into danger on his own. He's too tempted by the killer's secret to be trusted on his own with them. First that taxi driver, then finally Moriarty and that memory stick. Sherlock always has to know, and it can't be good for him.
"One of my patients died," he says instead of responding to the question.
"Is that all?" John says, agitated. Sherlock might have even said 'Oh dear', or 'That's nice'. He doesn't bloody talk anymore, not to John, though he's happy to walk Lestrade through the many steps he went wrong and insult Anderson with almost childish delight. But John doesn't hear much from him, not for the last week or so. He became quiet and surly around him. John has a horrible, sick feeling that Sherlock is driving them apart. The first full sentence out of him in days, and it's about bloody vegetables! Or fruits, he corrects mentally, because he's beginning to think Sherlock can read these slips directly from his head.
"Don't you care about people?" John says, tearing off his jacket, and wanting to throw it at the curly back of Sherlock's head. He would, if he thought that would make him turn around. The sick feeling grows every minute Sherlock wouldn't look at him. He'd known all along that this was a mistake, but he was blinded by private smiles and long pale fingers. Sherlock is too impulsive and unpredictable for anything resembling a relationship. And he's still too young.
That's enough of an answer.
"Fine then," John says, stalking over to him and grabbing his shoulder. Sherlock looks at him. He looks worse than annoyed. He just looks bored. Bored of arguing, and John, and questions of morality. John's breathing hitches, but he can't tell if it's shock or fear. Maybe anger. He's angrier at Sherlock than he's ever been in his life. How dare he freeze him out? How dare he lead him on like this? He thought...John feels gullible, that's what it is. He was pulled into Sherlock's web in a rash, regretful moment, but the worst part is he's not sure if he wants to try and wriggle free or just give up.
"What about me? Do you care about me at all Sherlock?"
There's a pause. And then, "...Define care."
John's never been shot at point blank range, but he supposes that's what it feels like. Pain blooming behind his eyes, a momentary black screen over his ears and eyes. John can't watch Sherlock, and luckily for him Sherlock turns back to contemplating. Lucky, lucky him. He's so lucky to be in love with a man who'd rather stare into space than talk to him. He staggers backwards, nearly trips over an armchair, and falls down five stairs before his head clears and his feet are under him again. He's hoping Sherlock will call after him, anything that will give him an excuse to march in there and reignite the argument, have new words replace the ones that seem to have seared themselves to his eyelids.
He gets a cab, though they still make him uncomfortable. Bloody Sherlock. Why did he ever listen to Mike Stamford? He was a nutjob when they were at uni, and he was even worse now. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson as roommates. The stupidest idea the world had ever seen. Really, all of this was Mike's fault, and if John thought lecturing him would help, or if he knew his address, he would do it. But he gives the driver the address of the one person he thinks can help him understand this predicament.
Molly Hooper takes one look at him and steps aside to let him through.
"Thanks," John says. He wasn't sure she'd let him in, being eleven at night and everything, but Molly might be kinder than he took her for. And she's the only person he knows who's been as irreparably broken by Sherlock Holmes as he has. He can give her some advice for free: if he kisses you, run. He can't keep it up.
She seats a decidedly shell-shocked John on the sofa, hands him a beer silently, and sits next to him. John doesn't like silence, and he fills it, immediately and awkwardly. Maybe this is why Sherlock ignores him so much.
"I'm sorry," he says, staring down his bottle. "For Jim. And...Sherlock."
He has no idea if she knows. Sherlock could have had one of his 'Look what I've got!' moments, or he might have been in a 'John is my secret, not yours' mood. It's impossible to tell. It's always impossible. Sherlock's bloody impossible.
"So you're together then?" Molly says, nodding wisely. "Thought so."
"I wish people would stop saying that." John mutters gloomily.
"I wish people would start."
John laughs darkly. "Don't bother. He's an utter bastard."
He doesn't see Molly flinch. Maybe she's one of those strong, unflappable women, the kind you can tell anything too. Sherlock would be perfect for her. John tries to remember if Sherlock is gay or bisexual, but if he's honest, even the thought of Sherlock with somebody else makes him want to break something, no matter how selfish or aggravating he is.
"What happened?" she says softly.
John doesn't want to give her the details. It's too raw, and when he imagines saying it out loud, it sounds weak and inconsequential. Words can't describe the flat tone, the increasing distance, or the way John wouldn't mind downing several bottles of pain killer right now.
"We had an argument," he says simply.
Wonderfully, magically, she seems to understand. She wraps him in a quick, one-armed hug that allows John to lean his forehead against her shoulder and take a steadying breath, then she gets up and flicks out the light as she leaves the room.
"Good night John," he hears her say fondly.
He doesn't sleep, of course. He's dissecting those last moments, torturing himself. So many points where he could have gone differently, but the sad thing is he knows it would have made no difference. Sherlock had been pushing him away for some time, and if John had been too naive to notice, it was his own fault. His own fault for not letting him just walk away that first time. He could have saved himself a lot of time and effort, and heartbreak, if he had. Maybe he would have wondered all his life what they'd been like, but it would have been, would have to have been, better than this. Real memories were harder to dismiss. Real kisses on his skin were harder to forget. Whatever idiot who said it was better to have loved and lost had obviously never actually done it.
He has one bright moment to his night, a text at 3am from Mycroft.
(3:04): Please tell your boyfriend to stop distracting me. MH.
(3:07): Not my boyfriend. Deal with him yourself. JW.
It gives him a bittersweet triumph to see the words backlit and bright in the dark. It doesn't help him sleep, but it gives him a little comfort. A couple of nights sleep and a clean break are all he needs. He'd go and see Sarah, maybe. It's so stupid that in the back of his mind he's entertaining the thought of going on a date with her just to lure Sherlock out. He'd have to find somebody new.
Molly comes down at seven thirty and throws his legs off the sofa to make room for her. John can't really turn his head to the left, but other than that, it was a pretty comfy night. Slept in his clothes, of course, and sits up, rubbing his neck. Molly slides some black coffee towards him and flicks on the news. John's been uneasy with the news since the 'gas line' incident at Sarah's place, but the reporters are talking very seriously about melting icecaps, and John relaxes, sipping coffee.
Predictably, both of them freeze as soon as his passport photo comes on screen.
Stupidly, John thinks it's unfair for Sherlock to look stunning and breathtaking in his passport photo while mere mortals look like gormless idiots. The second is a swirling chaos of panic and shallow breathing, helped along by the image of the burned-out shell of his flat.
"We've only just fixed the bomb damage," he mutters hysterically.
That's just before the frantic tugging on of shoes and sprinting out the door, coffee mug spilt over the nice glass table. Molly doesn't cry after him. Or she did but John didn't register it. The latter is probably more likely, knowing the both of them. John's got tunnel vision, and he hails a taxi by jumping in front of it. The cabbie looks absolutely shocked, but he's stopped hasn't he? That's all John needs, and he flings himself in.
"Baker Street," he gasps.
The journey is excruciating in the London traffic, and John fidgets all the way, imagining Sherlock's scorched corpse against his will. He can already hear the comforting voices of friends and family. He wonders if Mycroft will come to the funeral. He'll probably lurk at the back, leaning on his umbrella, only to make a surprise speech. That man loves the sound of his own voice. John's breathing hard from the running, but his burning lungs don't matter. Sherlock is all that matters. When he said he wanted a clean break, this wasn't quite what he in mind, and the only reason he's not a screaming wreck right now is because he refuses to believe Sherlock's actually dead. Sherlock can't be dead, since he's pretty sure that's against the laws of physics. But he might be, he might be, and his vision blurs. John realises with a shock that he's crying. He swipes at his cheek with the sleeve of his jumper, but he can't seem to stop. It's not even as if he's actively causing it. The tears just seem to be slipping out without his noticing. Perhaps his face is numb.
"Couldn't you go ANY BLOODY FASTER?" he explodes, voice rough with tears. The cabbie grumbles, and their speed doesn't change.
He practically has a heart attack when his phone jingles, the annoying tone Sherlock set it to in order to momentarily alleviate his boredom. He fumbles opening the text, heart twisting and clenching. His inbox is full of enlightened and bored texts from Sherlock. He's very careful not to venture there. Lestrade's number. Shaking thumbs press buttons. He must know something.
(7:46) Have stolen Lestrade's phone. Stop panicking. Am in hospital. SH.
The initials make him release a breath he didn't know he was holding as a laugh. Relieved, disbelieving jerks from him breathlessly. Their local hospital is Bart's. Sherlock isn't dead. He's well enough to be stealing Lestrade, who's probably driving him up the wall. John doubts the inspector has a wallet, ID, or keys by this point.
"Sorry. Sorry," he says to the cabbie, who he feels a bit guilty about yelling at. "I thought my friend was dead, but he's just in hospital. Bart's, please?"
"And he told you this by text?" the cabbie asks incredulously.
"Yeah," John says. He's still breathless, and he can't stop smiling. "He's a bit of a nutter."
The cabbie grumbles agreement, and takes a sharp left.
John stuffs two twenty pound notes into the cabbie's hand, tell him to keep the change and runs like a crazy man across to the glass double doors. He's not the most graceful of runners, unlike Sherlock who could run through snow without getting wet, but he still gets there. Thank God there's no queue at the front desk at this time in the morning. John practically collapses on the cheap plastic masquerading as wood, still gasping for breath. The receptionist raises an eyebrow. She's probably seen all sorts in here. She's got one of those unshockable faces.
"Sherlock Holmes," he gasps. "I'm looking for Sherlock Holmes."
"Are you immediate family?" she asks in a bored voice.
"No, no, I'm his flatmate." John says, getting desperate.
"I'm sorry, only his immediate-" the receptionist begins to rattle off distractedly, turning back to her computer screen.
"Believe me, I'm much more fond of him than his immediate family. His brother is a politician who refers to the public as his minions! And I'll bet you any money there's an Inspector called Lestrade in there, maybe a Sally Donovan. If there was an Anderson earlier, he's probably dead now. My flat was burned down in the early hours of this morning, and I want to get in there before he escapes out the window! He's definitely capable of it!"
John is shifting his weight from foot to foot, and rubbing the back of his neck in stress. But the receptionist appears convinced.
"Room 318. This floor." she whispers conspiratorially.
"Thank you," John says, genuinely grateful. "Thank you so much."
He takes a quick glance at the blue signs hanging on the walls, and takes off down the right-hand corridor.
31-Oh never mind. He can hear them talking from here.
"Oh shut up Anderson! These patients don't need you damaging their mental health with your pitiful excuse for logic!"
Sherlock's smooth baritone manages to maintain its dignity even in the midst of a pretend drugs bust and this situation is no difference. It's his upper-class childhood, John supposes. Whatever it is he envies it, and slows down as he approaches the door. He doesn't want to look like an idiot, after all. He's made enough of an idiot of himself lately. The memories of why John wasn't present for that fire hit him in the belly with a sledgehammer. They knock him off-balance, and suddenly the text message is more confusing. But he steels himself. He will make sure Sherlock is alright, and then he will leave. That is all.
He opens the door carefully and calmly, but Sherlock's eyes on his are curious and hard to bear without looking at the floor. But John rolls his as a cover for looking away.
"Ah, John," Lestrade says, audibly relieved. "Maybe you can talk some sense into him. Since Mycroft here's been completely useless." Lestrade jerks his thumb at Mycroft sitting in the only available chair, daintily drinking tea.
"Where did you get a tea cup and saucer in a hospital?" John asks incredulously, momentarily distracted. But as always, he's drawn back to Sherlock. His steps are measured, not too fast and not too slow. Perfectly normal. John glances over him, hands firmly to his sides, palms turned towards himself rather than the room at large. Sherlock is looking at him like he's afraid what he might do. It's unnerving actually. He's standing at the foot of the bed, and John reaches past him for his chart. Is it just him, or does Sherlock flinch? Probably just him. John flips through the pages, cataloguing injuries. Cuts, bruises, a sprained wrist.
"You are extraordinary," he murmurs. "No serious burns."
It's almost as if he hasn't realised he's said it.
John very gently puts the chart back in its place. "My work here is done. Mycroft, please delete my number from your phone."
Well, he's quite proud of himself. It looks like Sherlock has rubbed off on him, because that last comment was similar to what he'd say in this situation. A bony hand grips his forearm tight, and John stumbles to a stop. He sighs. Why can't Sherlock leave him the bloody hell alone? He made himself excruciatingly clear last night.
"John..." Sherlock says warningly.
"Sherlock." John says, rubbing his forehead in resignation.
"Mycroft..." Sherlock's brother murmurs to himself dramatically. John imagines he's waving his teacup in the air dreamily and looking off into the middle distance. There's a yelp of pain and a satisfied 'hmm'. Lestrade has no qualms about kicking the most powerful man in Britain on the ankle, apparently.
"Will you let me go?" John asks, tugging his arm experimentally. No, he concludes, is the answer to that question.
"It was fake," Sherlock says, his voice somehow intense. Desperate, in any other man. But Sherlock Holmes is never desperate. How very degrading.
"What?" John asks, softly and disbelievingly. He rotates in Sherlock's grip to face him. His mind races, and the truth dawns on him in the slow, soul-crushing way big truths do. The last two weeks unravel in front of his eyes. Sherlock acting superbly in front of an intercom and a distraught widow. Fake.
"You knew," he accuses decisively, taking an angry step towards Sherlock. "You knew."
"I knew." Sherlock confirms. Somewhere far in the distance, Mycroft draws air to speak, but Lestrade must have kicked him again, because silence falls.
"I cannot believe you. You ignored me for a fortnight, chucked me out, and for what? For you to be the target of an arson attack!" John is intent on keeping his voice at a reasonable level. He's heard for himself how thin these hospital walls are. But it's hard when Sherlock is so bloody frustrating.
"I had to get you out of the flat." Sherlock speaks so sincerely that John knows he means it.
"What about getting yourself out of the flat?" John asks, a smile playing around the corner of his lips now. Sherlock still...whatever Sherlock feels for him. And that's good, because John honestly had no idea where he was going to sleep otherwise.
"Wouldn't have worked," Sherlock says, his shrug like a wave rippling through his shoulders.
"Idiot," he says affectionately.
Sherlock hums, whether in agreement or tolerance John doesn't know, but a full grin has blossomed on his face now. Sherlock slips closer quietly, links his hands together so his arms hang casually on John's waist. Smiling himself, that beautiful, irritating smile, he dips to capture John's lips in a kiss. John doesn't know whether to pull away or just hit him, since Sherlock knows he doesn't like people knowing about them. So he takes a third way, winds his arms around Sherlock's neck, and kisses back.
The kiss is short, but it's long enough for Sergeant Donovan to see, and she drops her fresh cup of coffee as she walks in. John is quite sure it's seeping into the soles of his shoes, but he can't bring himself to care. He feels Sherlock's laughter against his mouth, and pulls away slightly, poking the detective in the ribs.
"Stop that," he says, trying to repress his own laughter.
John catches Mycroft reluctantly pressing a fifty pound note into the hand of a triumphant-looking Lestrade. Lestrade catches his eye and grins. Cheeky bugger.
Sally Donovan is huffing and sighing and shaking her head. Sherlock is still laughing. Anderson may have fainted. Lestrade is extremely satisfied, lounging against a wall. Mycroft looks put out.
"You do send the most misleading text messages," Mycroft drawls lazily from his chair, and John feels his cheeks flush. This is definitely not something he wants to discuss at the moment. But Mycroft is quiet, mainly because Lestrade is smiling at him in a frankly disturbing way.
John manages to unwrap himself halfway from Sherlock's long spidery limbs, but one arm snakes out as they stand side by side, fingers dancing teasingly along his lower back before settling on his hip, drawing John. John shifts, then steps on Sherlock's foot, but he's immovable. In way, it's comforting, because this is the Sherlock he had before arsonists and fake silences, but it's also really, really annoying. Not only is it hard for him to think straight with Sherlock twined round him like this, it's also immensely embarrassing.
"Stop it," he hisses, but the room is small enough that they all hear it.
"No." Sherlock's voice is very clear. John rolls his eyes and gives up.
"What exactly has been going on?" he asks tiredly.
Lestrade takes pity on him, and begins to explain, with the occasional enlightening comments from any of the rooms other comments.
How wonderful it is to put this group with such a normal dynamic in an enclosed space with scalpels within arm's reach.
Shorter than the first instalment, but I'm actually quite happy with it. Also strangely happy with the fact that Mycroft and Lestrade have developed slashy minds of their own. A companion piece for them set between parts four and five of this rapidly expanding Mumfordverse is in the works. Oh Mycroft, how you amuse me :').