Actions Speak Louder

John has always been a big believer that actions speak louder than words.

When she is seven, Harry goes through a funny phase where she refuses to talk. It's not long after their mum died, her life snuffed out by a speeding car, like someone turning a light off. Harry communicates mostly in nods, head shakes and scowls, and occasionally in improvised sign language when she cannot get her meaning across. John gets her a book out of the library about actual sign language, thinking that it could be an interesting hobby for her, but when he presents it to her, she pulls a face and drops the book down the back of the sofa.

Later, when John is watching TV, Harry comes and curls up next to him on the sofa. She should really be in bed, but he knows dad has been drinking again tonight, and he'll be damned if he lets this family fall apart any more through fault of his own.

When Harry falls asleep on his shoulder, he carries her to bed.

He had never planned to become an army doctor, believing that hospitals were battlefields enough, but after Harry calls him, drunk, for the third night in a row, he starts beginning to think it's a good idea.

When people find out, they raise their eyebrows, their mouths forming neat little 'o's. "Really?" they coo, "What a hero," when John knows they're really thinking, mousy John and war? What happened there?

When he's shipped out, a woman at the army base tells him how brave he is. John thinks it's ironic; he's only joining the army to escape. Coward, he thinks, and erases Harry's number from his phone.

When he first meets Sherlock Holmes, John thinks his head will explode. Sherlock talks too fast about too much. How can he read me like a book? John wonders, how can he know things about me that I wasn't even sure I knew myself?

What really gets John though, is the wink. John doesn't know why Sherlock Holmes winked, or did that thing where he clicked his tongue against his teeth, but somehow, it seems to irritate John just as much as his superior, smug knowledge did. What does a wink even mean anymore? God, I hope he wasn't flirting with me, John thinks.

When he next sees Sherlock Holmes, John watches him carefully, on the edge of terror that Sherlock may just do that winking thing again, and that he will still have no idea how to interpret it. Thankfully, he doesn't, and John thinks to himself, I really need to get a grip.

When Sherlock and John go to the bank to meet Sebastian Wilkes, John can't help but notice the way that Sherlock's smile is tighter than usual when Sebastian shakes his hand and calls him, "Buddy." John doesn't know if he would have noticed this before he met Sherlock, but right now the tension between the two cannot be missed.

When Sebastian shakes John's hand, he squeezes just a little too hard; a display of power. John squeezes back, harder.

Sebastian smiles a false smile, and laughs a false laugh. John doesn't bother. He hates Sebastian already.

John thinks that by now, he ought to have realised that Sherlock is really not straightforward. In fact, it is possible that he is not even backwards, sideways, up, down or diagonal. He seems to exist on a plane entirely of his own.

No-one else would create such a fuss over three little words.

"Why?" Sherlock asks, brusquely, "Why does it even matter? Don't you get it – words, they're so pointless, so meaningless. They won't change a thing – saying to someone 'live' won't make them live, saying to someone 'die' won't kill them, and saying 'I lo–" He breaks off suddenly, shaking his head in disgust. "It doesn't change a thing, whether I say it or not."

John is, admittedly, a little stunned by this outburst. But then Sherlock looks him in the eye, and John knows he's right – of course he's right, a niggling voice in the back of his head snarks – and that of course, it doesn't even matter at all.

John thinks they've probably been on the same page all along.

They're at a swimming pool, and John is fairly certain he's going to die.

Sherlock's got his gun pointed at the bomb, and Jim Moriarty is just standing there, smiling, like the smug bastard he is.

John's going to die, and he's not sure he's completely happy about this; that is until Sherlock's gaze meets his own, and there's a question there. It's something new and strange for John, for Sherlock to seek his permission, to ask, is this okay? Sherlock knows what he's gambling with, and all of a sudden, John isn't sure that Sherlock is quite the sociopath that he claims to be.

But suddenly for John, it's all okay; because he asked, it's all okay. Maybe that's what love is.

Sherlock's eyes bore into him, the colour of the sky on a winter's day, questioning. John nods.

There's fire all around; everything's burning, and John is pretty sure the swimming pool doesn't even have a roof anymore.

John doesn't know where Moriarty is, whether he's dead or he's injured or he's fled. All John knows is that he hurts all over, but that's fine, because at least it means he's alive.

John tries his best not to move – he's not quite sure why, but in his mind, lying completely still seems to be the most viable option right now. Something moves in John's peripheral vision; he tenses, but it's just Sherlock, combat crawling, inching towards him.

When their eyes are level, Sherlock stops. There's a deep cut across Sherlock's forehead, that's bleeding into his eye – John's pretty sure it's going to scar. Sherlock's hand reaches out for John's, and their fingers entwine.

They're still lying like that when the police arrive.