"I tremble; they're gonna eat me alive.
If I stumble, they're gonna eat me alive.
Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer?
Beating like a hammer...

Help, I'm alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer.
Hard to be soft, tough to be tender.
Come take my pulse, the pace is on a runaway train."

"Help, I'm Alive" by Metric

"You're not going to get out of here like that, Sherlock," Moriarty teases.

As John watches, Sherlock's eyes dart from the Semtex vest to Moriarty to the dot that must be on John's forehead, then back to the Semtex. A loop, like he's trying to make all of the calculations that'll tell him what to do, but there're too many variables. Around and around and around. A circle of indecision. It's a dead point and they're not going anywhere.

"Come on now, you aren't going to shoot it. John has ten feet to clear to get to the pool's edge, you know there's no way he'll make it before everything goes boom. I can see it in your eyes: you won't risk his life or limbs like that." John looks over at Sherlock, but he's staring straight at Moriarty now, giving him his full focus.

John blurts out, "It's fine. Really." Because it's not John who matters here. He's a soldier, not in the sense that he's been in a war, but in that he's willing to fight, to fall, for something greater. Sherlock's a great man, Lestrade's words echo in his mind, and it's completely true. He's got the sort of potential that makes him ache in awe.

"Oh yes, Sherlock." Moriarty's grinning now. "It's all fine." John pales. How long has he been following Sherlock? "I'll tell you what, babe - I'll let you go. Both of you even. If...you shoot your pet."

John immediately just says, "Do it, Sherlock."

It isn't even something he has to think about, taking a bullet (a singularly exquisite pain) for him.

"He's so loyal. I see why you let him tag along. He must do wonders for your ego-"

"You only want me to shoot him?" Sherlock asks, narrowing his eyes, and John can tell that he's thinking that a graze to the arm or even a bullet in the thigh would be acceptable, something to be recovered from.

Moriarty laughs, light and high-pitched. "You know it won't be easy. So!" He claps his hands, excited. "Rules: head or chest, your choice. You only have to tell him what you really think of him first. Then, head or chest. You have to decide if you'd rather not be able to look him in the eyes again or have to watch him realize fully just how extraneous he is, on the off chance that he might just survive. It's up to you, Sherlock. Do you want him to possibly live and know the truth or do you want to be a murderer?"

"And if I refuse? You won't kill me, Moriarty. You wouldn't break your favorite toy."

"Then," Moriarty begins, smiling in a way that promises pain, "I'll make you watch as I break him. I can make it last hours, days, even, and when he begs me to end it, when he doesn't even look human anymore, he'll blame you. I'll make you listen when he does. He'll curse you the way only the almost-dead can - with everything. And he'll mean every word."

Sherlock's frown deepens. "May we discuss?" This earns a nearly-feminine laugh. John decides that he'd very much like to shut that mouth for good, as soon as possible.

"So that you can convince him to let you put a bullet in his brain? I'd love to hear it."

"I can handle it," John says softly as Sherlock turns. "I've walked for days without food or water, I've had to dig shrapnel out of my own shoulder with my fingers, I've watched men I thought of as brothers fall under fire. I can handle anything he dares to throw at me." Sherlock looks at him for a long moment, and John gets the strangest sensation that he can see through the man's skin, that beneath, he's just a collection of shards and edges that are grinding away at each other. But on the surface, there's an apology in the space between his lips.

Sherlock shakes his head. "I can't let you do that."

"It's fine, he'll get bored or something before I give in, and you'll have time to get us out of here."

"He won't be bored." His eyes are full of a dark knowledge. "He knows a million ways of destroying someone without killing them, believe me. I know. He'll never stop, he'll never run out of things to make you hurt. I've seen inside of his head, I've been there, not the way he has, but I know it. It is not a possibility that he'll break you into nothing, it's a guarantee."

"It won't come to that. You'll think of something long before them," he says, hoping it's true, believing it's true.

Sherlock glances quickly at Moriarty, then whispers, "What if I don't?" The fact that he's doubting himself is disturbing. It sets John's stomach into a twisted knot.

"Then shoot me on the right side of my chest, between my fourth and fifth ribs. That's below my armpit. If you can, angle the trajectory so that the exit wound is far away from my spine. Don't go too low, or you might-"

"John, I know my anatomy." He looks less annoyed than his tone implies. "Are these hollow-point bullets?" It takes him a minute to remember what ammo he purchased. For a flash second, he imagines what would happen if they are hollow-point, the damage he's seen too many times to be able to stop the shiver that runs up his spine. The last thing he wants is a million pieces of a bullet scattered in his rib cage.

John sighs nervously. "I don't think so." A sharp look, though he thinks that maybe Sherlock isn't really cross with him or any iteration thereof, more worried than anything else.

"You don't think so?" he hisses, and John gives him a hollow look. It's all he's got. Sherlock softens just the smallest bit. "Fine." He turns back to Moriarty, who's looking a little impatient. "I'll shoot him. That's what you want, isn't it? You'd like me to kill him by my own hand. It's not because you want me to suffer, is it? You're jealous of him. You're fascinated with me, but this is the closest we'll come to being allies, to being friends. You wish you could have his place. There's no use in denying it."

Moriarty stares at Sherlock dead on and lilts, "Amateur psychology does not become you, dear. We'll have to work on that. Come on, now. Let's get on with it." Sherlock turns to face John, leveling the gun at him. It shouldn't feel this way, given the circumstances, but in the back of his throat is the bitter tang of betrayal, like blood, like iron. "You have to tell him, Sherlock."

"I have to tell him what, exactly?" His eyes aren't leaving John's now, they're trained on him with a sort of soft, sorry look to them.

"What you really think of him." Moriarty gives an exasperated sigh, then walks towards them with large, annoyed steps, stopping no more than a couple feet away. "It shouldn't be that hard; I can see it all just beneath the surface."

Sherlock's jaw is tight, angry. "Fine. John. I appreciate that you don't throw out my experiments-"

"No no no no no! That's not it!"

"What would you have me say, then? Why don't you fit me with one of your ear pieces and feed me the lines you'd like." He rolls his eyes, and John's not actually sure if he's genuinely upset or just baiting the madman. Neither bode well. "Tell me, how best should we act in this vicarious drama of yours? Would you like tears? Sobbing? Hysteria? Tell me!" He's not yelling, but his voice is so intense, his words have the same force. Moriarty grins wickedly. It's the grin of a sadist who knows that pain is approaching swiftly.

"You may, if you're so moved. But I'd rather like you to start with the fact that you'll hate everyone he might ever love, and we can progress from there." Sherlock narrows his eyes at this. "Tell him. I want you to tell him so and then I want you tell him why." It's complete madness. Any shred of sanity John had imagined in him has disappeared.

It's a grim moment before Sherlock speaks. "John. I...I hate everyone you'll ever love because this poof has told me to-" Moriarty smacks him on the back of the head hard with his gun; it looks surprisingly painful, and Sherlock's eyes widen in surprise.

"If you do that again, you won't have a choice in this. I'll annihilate every last bit of him, I'll let you hold the pieces in your hands when I end him. Then I will let you go. Know that it will be you who chose that for him if you don't comply." There's the strangest expression on Sherlock's face, and it takes John a second to realize that it might be fear. "What do you think I should start with? Should I take a knife to him? Acid? Electricity? Fire? I do find the poetry in that to be fitting - I did tell you that I'd burn the heart out of you. Or should I take him apart other ways? Tell me, how should I defile him, Sherlock? Would you like to see the sorts of obscene shapes I can bend him in, the terrible things I could do to his empty shell of a body? I won't enjoy it, of course, but it'll be enough to watch you writhe because you can't do a thing to stop it. Is that what you'd like?"

"I'll tell the truth," Sherlock says, like it's bullets he's pushing through his teeth. "That's the most I can do."

"It'll suffice, I'm sure. Now carry on. You're starting to try my patience." The way Sherlock looks at him then makes him burn to be somewhere else, somewhere they can face down armies and worlds together, not be forced to play Moriarty's games, turn against each other. Everything about him is an apology now, and John honestly fears what he's about to say. Because beneath the brilliance, Sherlock can be cruel. He knows exactly where to cut to wreak the most damage on a person.

"I forgive you," he whispers. Not really as a consolation, more to brace himself.

There's no way it'll be enough.

"I hate Sarah, John. And Harry. Your parents, even. I hate them more than you could ever imagine." He sighs, almost like the whine of a wounded animal, and scrapes at his temple with the barrel of the gun. "It's all your fault, you see. You make me hate people just a little more than before. I couldn't figure it out at first, but I know it started when you first called me 'amazing', like you meant it. You waste things, John. Words, mostly. You just throw them from your mouth like they're nothing for you to say, like they don't cost a thing. The most ridiculous thing, though, is that you don't even realize it." Sherlock has turned into something wild. He's too big for his skin, he's trying to push through himself and expand. He's gone supernova and it's all John can do to watch.

"I absolutely loathe the things you do without thinking. I don't think you understand that I was never meant to be balanced. Did you ever think that there might be a reason for the way I do things? Of course you didn't. I have an incredible brain, you've said as much, but I was never meant to have a heart. But you've gone and ruined that now, haven't you?" It's now that John starts to wonder where this is going. Sure, he believes in emotional growth, but he never meant to turn him into this thing, this self-contained explosion. "You've twisted everything! I have so much reason to hate you-"(John winces here as a vacuum forms in his chest)"-a thousand things, reasons that I should sever all ties, and yet I haven't. You're a prize fool, John Watson, the most incredible imbecile I've ever met-"(This shouldn't hurt, but it does. Too much.)"-You're just so completely ignorant, so amazingly stupid! It's revolting. I'm disgusted by it. By you." John's becoming a photonegative, the inverse of him. Where Sherlock is an exploding celestial body, brilliant while burning, he's the rapidly-collapsing star, falling into himself. A black hole.

"Sometimes I want to throw up with how much I don't hate you." Sherlock's still wild, but somehow John stops and remembers how to breathe when he hears that. "It makes me ill just to think about it, let alone speak about it. The worst thing about all of this is how totally unprepared I was. It's so easy not to care about anyone, I don't think you realize just how easy, but then you came in and decided that I wasn't human enough for you-"(That was never it, never. Sherlock's always been too human, too much inside of one man.)"-It's supposed to be easy not to feel, but you've gone and made it impossible not to." In an instant, Sherlock has moved the gun from his own head and pressed the barrel against John's, twisting his jumper in his fist.

He growls, "For a second there, you probably thought that I'm not a complete monster. You thought I developed some long-lost sense of empathy, didn't you? You're wrong." His face is twisted into a snarl, inches away, so close that John can taste the rage and despair on his breath. "I couldn't care less about people, the whole population. But you." Sherlock twists the gun, grinding it into his scalp, and John whimpers in the back of his throat, quietly. "I could kill everyone, absolutely everyone and it wouldn't mean a thing to me, because they're nothing, nothing at all. I just need you." His face falls and it looks like he's about to either cry or yell. He shoves John away roughly, enough that he stumbles a little. The desperate curve of Sherlock's mouth, the raw something in his eyes, the way he looks defeated now, crumpled and small, it all breaks him a bit.

"Do you see what you've done?" he whispers. His voice is like a bare wind whistling through the gnarled limbs of a dead tree - the sound of a broken man. John can't bear to see anyone like this, least of all Sherlock (a mountain for all he could be moved, a statue of cold marble, an unshakable truth), just Sherlock with his shaking hands and wild eyes; he makes a flash decision and advances slowly. When he crosses the handful of feet, he grabs Sherlock by the shoulders to steady him. "Look at what you've made me, John. I'm not a man, I'm something less. A monster. A beast."

"You look alright to me," John breathes, trying to calm him.

A bitter laugh. "John. Don't think for a moment that I won't destroy you like him. I will consume you, I will warp you into something terrible, I will take everything you have to give and then I'll take more. Because I need you. I need to have you. I need to be inside your skin. I need to breathe with your lungs. You'll be damaged because I need you to be. I'll bruise you, scar you, bleed you because that's what you've done to me. You've brought out the worst in me with the best, and I won't stop until you know that the way I do." The gun's at the corner of his jaw now, the hand holding it just resting on his shoulder like Sherlock's forgotten about it. The other hand's gripping his upper arm like he's trying to pierce it, then moves, grabbing his neck and jumper with his nails and insistency, nothing soft about it.

"I'll ruin you, John Watson, I'll ruin you," he says, almost like an apology, and then Sherlock's mouth is crushing his own. His lips are too urgent to be soft, too wanting, like broken glass. John can't quite comprehend it all, like there's a missed connection between his mouth and brain; he has no control over his own body. No, he's caught in the tide of Sherlock's need and it might be enough to drown him. The mouth on his is hot and there're teeth, biting his lip like they own it, enough to hurt, enough to make him gasp, but that's all Sherlock needs to lick his tongue inside.

There's no conscious decision, no conscious thought that tells John to respond, it's just instinct; there's no other option.

John thinks they might have caught on fire somewhere between their mouths and souls. In the only still-thinking part of his mind, it's clear that Sherlock is raw energy now, something to bend to and something to drain the life out of. His hands are just holding on, trying not to fall in or be blown away, because it's utterly terrifying what he can feel in Sherlock's breath and mouth and need. Tongues and lips try to set something ablaze, or maybe they've already reached the point of combustion and it just hasn't caught up yet, but that doesn't explain why he's drowning, drowning-

"Hello-o! Much as I enjoy a good tragic farewell, this little snog-fest is getting out of hand." The voice is enough of a shock to make John jolt backwards. Moriarty looks like maybe he might just shoot them and be done with it. He glances at Sherlock and something catches in his throat. He's still wild, almost feral, and his eyes have gone dark, almost black, his mouth a red smear, his full lips swollen and John thinks, going by the sting in his lower lip, that the tiny spot of blood on Sherlock's mouth is his own.

Sherlock doesn't look at Moriarty, but says to him, "You asked for the truth, you asked for this. You meant for John to be afraid, though, or disgusted, didn't you?" Moriarty seems to have nothing to say, and John knows the feeling. "Don't worry, he is. Or he will be when it catches up to him." For some reason, John wants to just kiss him again, be lost in him again, whether they're killed for it or not.

"I'll give you a moment, then, shall I?" Moriarty says. It's clear by his expression that he has some new idea, some horrid new plan, since he's grinning like a kid at Christmas as he backs away a couple steps, then a couple more.

As he pulls John toward him, Sherlock whispers, "Don't forget to breathe." John reaches for him open-mouthed and hungry. It's more of a soul-sucking than a kiss, deep with a slight tang of iron. This time, though, he's aware of the barrel of the gun tracing his hairline, his jaw, teasing under his chin, then sliding down to press against his chest. He's not sure if it's in spite of the fear or because of it that all of the blood rushes to his head and he's dizzy in a way that shouldn't feel right, not considering the circumstances. Sherlock's breath is hot in his mouth, tasting like a promise. Oddly desperate, John scrabbles at his hair, fingers tangling in curls.

They're twisting, winding around each other like smoke. He lets Sherlock steer them because he's too lost to be able to think about it. Something like adrenaline, something like fear is pooling hot in his chest. Maybe it's the end of everything approaching, but he couldn't care less, even if he could truly think about it. Instead, there's only the demanding swarm of lips and teeth and tongue that might devour him.

Pulling away just barely, Sherlock says, "John, breathe. Breathe now." John wants to protest because really, air is such a silly thing, but he takes a gulp of oxygen, finding Sherlock's lips again.

There's a painfully loud noise near his ear and then swirling vertigo until he hits something soft. When he opens his eyes, uncomfortable because his mouth feels empty, a hand goes to cover his sore ear and he realizes that he's underwater. Looking up, he sees a glorious war of starlight above, stretching and swirling and writhing in painfully bright oranges and yellows. It's oddly beautiful.

John hadn't really held his breath, so his lungs are starting to burn fiercely when the fiery beast above recoils, retracts. Then Sherlock's hands are pushing him upwards, pulling him to the surface. The gasping breaths he takes when his head breaks through the ceiling of water sound foreign to his good ear. As he recovers, he watches Sherlock, who's breathing hard and backing away, away to the edge of the pool, just resting against the side. John dares to pulls his eyes away and look over the edge, at where the bomb went off, at where Moriarty was standing. There's nothing, just blackened tile.

The soldier, the doctor, the practical-thinker kicks in, asking, "Did you see him when you fired?"

"I couldn't risk looking," Sherlock says almost like a confession. He fired blind?

"You mean..." The soggy detective doesn't meet his eyes. "If you had missed...? If you had missed, we would have been killed!"

Sherlock looks at him hard. "Yes, well, I didn't miss." John sputters for a moment. "Come on, let's get out of the pool. Lestrade will be here in a few moments."

"You knew he was coming? Why didn't you-"

"John. He's coming because a pool just exploded. He's coming because before I left the flat I told him to send out his little Yardies to look for a bomb on this side of town. I couldn't risk spooking Moriarty with the presence of law enforcement, but if we're lucky, Lestrade will have been intelligent enough to at least check my blog. He'd know I'm at a pool, and someone will have seen the explosion, judging by the windows." John looks up towards the ceiling and sees the windows have all blown out. "We have only to wait a few moments." Sherlock lifts himself up on the edge of the pool, pulling himself out of the water. It's a moment before John does the same.

Sitting, wet, on the scorched tile, a stray dark thought comes to him: Sherlock is quite the talented actor. He's seen it before, that the man can cry, can muster false emotions to put on a good performance and get what he wants. What if everything before the explosion was just an act?

"You are correct. I should say I was impressed by how well you played along. It's good to know that I can depend on you in a time of peril." John doesn't say anything, just tries to breathe and wrap his head around the fact that the most real handful of minutes in his life were entirely a lie. It's a staggering sort of truth, that the most intense thing he's ever witnessed, ever experienced had been nothing more than a plot to escape. It's obvious, even. He should have known that Sherlock could never feel a thing like that, not such a wretched, empty marvel of a man.

There's a bang! as the doors are flung open and collide with the wall, and John snaps his head towards the noise. Lestrade slows from a run to a halt, but the paramedics behind him stride toward them in a business-like manner.

"What on earth happened here, Sherlock? Why is John here? Where is he? The man who did this? You better start explaining."

"There was an unforeseen complication. I intended to hand over a blank flashdrive and stall Moriarty until you arrived, but it seems John was foolish enough to allow himself to be kidnapped-"

"There were three of them, I'd hardly say I allowed anything." Sherlock looks at him for a second like he's trying to see more truth beneath his words.

Seeming to shake it off, Sherlock continues, "Anyway, John and I managed to stall him long enough to set off the bomb."

"Where, exactly, does the bomb figure into everything?" The look on Lestrade's face shows he knows Sherlock is about to insult and scold him.

"Really, Lestrade, you must pay attention. Obviously, John was selected to be Moriarty's fifth mouthpiece." He considers something for a second. "A serious mistake on his part."

Sherlock tilts his head, saying, "It would appear so. In which case, I highly doubt it."

No one says anything for almost a full minute.

One of the paramedics turns John's head from side to side, then says, "The damage to your ear should heal on its own in a few days, but otherwise you should be fine. We'll get you some blankets; it's chilly out there." John smirks a little, thinking of the last time they gave Sherlock a blanket.

"I guess," Lestrade says, looking at them both with a hint of concern, "you may leave. Though I'll expect you tomorrow before noon at the Yard. Otherwise, I will find you. You know I will." This seems mostly directed at Sherlock, but then he turns to John and says, "Make sure he turns up, alright?" Lestrade then turns to a police officer standing in the doorway. "Any word from the bomb squad yet?"

The paramedic comes back with a grotesquely orange blanket for each of them. John offers a thanks and pulls it around his shoulders. The pool room is warmer than outside because the pool is heated, but he's still getting cold as he starts to dry a little.

John turns to Sherlock. "Shall we get ourselves a cab, then?" Sherlock nods, but doesn't say anything, just gets up and starts walking away. It takes a minute to catch up, and when John does, they're outside. It's freezing between the chill of the night, his dripping clothes, and the sinking feeling that he's just found and lost something incredible in the span of ten minutes. Hissing against the cold, he pulls the blanket tighter. Sherlock is walking quickly to get to a main street to find a cab, so he quickens his pace to catch up; it does something to warm his blood and occupy his mind. He doesn't want to think about it, can't think about it. The second he truly examines everything, he knows it'll end badly.

As he slides into the cab, he hopes the cabbie doesn't see that they're completely wet; he's not sure how much cash he has on him in the first place, though it's a good thing he didn't think to bring his phone with him. Weary, John leans against the window, watching all of the shops and buildings slide by, wondering at how normal they all seem even though some sort of dimensional shift has occurred.

"I suppose it's a natural progression," Sherlock says softly, startling John out of his thoughts.

"What?"

A blank look. "I didn't say anything."

"You just said 'I suppose it's a natural progression'. What's a natural progression?" He does his best to do the soldier stare-down, a little hard since he's shivering, but after a moment or two, it seems to have an effect.

"I hadn't meant to say anything out loud." John keeps staring, waiting for the inevitable continuation. "I was considering the past hour and came to a conclusion: It's a natural progression from killing for me to dying for me." This, this is a shock. That it's so true it seems to slaps him in the face. In the heat of the moment, John would be willing to do just what he said, he was willing to do just that, but hearing it like that, giving the action, the feeling words puts it into harsh perspective. He would die for Sherlock Holmes.

"Would it be alright if we never speak of tonight again?" he asks, knowing that it's the last hope he has for self-preservation.

Stiffly, Sherlock replies, "Of course. It's no wonder that your masculinity and self-respect have taken a blow at feeling helpless. It was the first time you've ever been truly victimized, was it not?" Completely missing the point.

John simply glares at him in response for a moment, then turns back to the window, ignoring him for the rest of the ride.

After paying the cabbie (made possible by the tenner he keeps in the heel of his shoe for emergencies because apparently, Sherlock's card isn't acceptable), John follows Sherlock up to the flat, shaking with the cold. Were he alone, he would peel off his clothing at the door, put on a kettle, and get into his warmest pajamas. But he isn't, so he hangs his wet coat up next to Sherlock's, then heads to the loo to grab a towel. His towel is gone, though that's probably because it was more in-reach (having been on the rack) than Sherlock's, whose is crumpled in ball wedged between the sink and wall. It's damp from his shower that morning, but John takes it anyway because the only alternatives are talking to Sherlock or being wet. Neither are very appealing.

In his room, he strips down and scrapes the excess water from his skin. He's shivering as he pulls on his pajama bottoms, the thick fleece ones for winter, and not one, but two jumpers; it might be better in his room, but downstairs, with the boarded-up, blown-out windows, it's quite cold. The clothes still stick to his damp limbs and it's uncomfortable, but warmer. Goosebumps flicker across his skin in waves and they're not going away, so after taking a moment to be a responsible adult by hanging up his wet clothing, he heads to the kitchen to make himself a cuppa.

After the water's done, he takes his tea to his room and sits on his bed, setting the cup on his bedside table. A quick thought, then he gets up and locks the door before sitting on his bedcovers again. He looks at the tea, looks at the wall across from him, then back at the tea. Picks it up. It's too hot, but he drinks it anyway because the burn in the roof of his mouth and his throat and his stomach mean that he'll be warm soon.

And then he just sits.

And sits.

That's when his thoughts, his fears, crash upon him, though he thinks he's almost ready for them. He's wrong, he's so wrong about that because the thinking is far worse than anything. Letting a thousand doubts that are more like facts, more like worries that stink of truth find him is not something he's actually ready for, but he's too far in to stop.

Sherlock has changed everything, that much is certain. He's corrupted it all, the balance they've wobbled into existence. There's nothing for it. The disturbing thing is how little time it took. In less than fifteen minutes, Sherlock had as much as said he loved him and then said it was a lie. It's far too much to process in that little time. It had felt like being truly alive, facing down Moriarty. The mortal fear, the adrenaline, the winning, the losing, all of it just too many ups and downs and then he's shown something too raw to be disbelieved...too many things converging at one time to take his world, flip in, twist it, mold it, then hand it back with no time to adjust. It's no surprise the outcome is something unexpected and crippling.

Before being kidnapped, before the mess, John would have said that he sees Sherlock as some sort of madman he can't bring himself to get rid of. Someone incredibly crazy. Someone he'd never dream of really leaving, they're just twisted together like that, molded together by dark acts and secrets and dangerlust. There had not been a time prior when he would have said that he loved Sherlock. It's simply not a thought that occurs to him. They had started out in the realm of the platonic and John never really had a strong desire to be with men and Sherlock can be antisocial with alarming frequency. Friends would be the most extreme outcome; there had been no place for love in the mess.

There isn't, still. John can't tolerate the thought of love, not yet, but he knows that where there was nothing hours before, something alarmingly large exists. Something he never wanted. But now Sherlock had shown him something real and terrible, something like war and rage and fire, and that's the sort of territory he thrives in. It isn't supposed to happen that Sherlock's entire soul (or whatever one might call that dark, writhing sort of energy in him) is a battlefield. A place for him to claw through the mud to destroy an army of foes. A place for him save someone and wish he could save more. A place of indescribable loss and horror, but also one of victory and glory and the triumph of good over all else. It's exactly the kind of place John was made for. But he isn't supposed to feel like he belongs among the dark folds and shadows of another person's psyche. Worse still, that person isn't supposed to be a self-professed sociopath, a man incapable of feeling, the most ignorant genius to walk the Earth. That person isn't supposed to be too brilliant to ignore, enough to burn his eyes out, not that he'd mind.

And for the love of God, John was never, not in a million years meant to kiss him.

The night had just been a giant collection of things that should never have been allowed to happened. And then somewhere in the midst of how wrong it all is and how much John just wants to sleep and wake up and convince himself it's all a dream, he thinks for just a second of just leaving the room, finding Sherlock, and snogging him senseless.

But then he remembers that he's not in a rom-com and that the other key point in this little adventure is that Sherlock doesn't actually love him. The problem is that it had been surprisingly easy to grasp the idea of there being something there, but now that he's accepted that weird sort of twisted reality, he can't shake it. He knows that it's wrong, he's aware that it's a false premise he's based his gospel off of, but for some reason, the far more plausible answer is the one he can't wrap his head around. Doesn't want to. Because Sherlock's selfish and cruel and unfeeling except when he isn't, and he had been everything wrong and painful and human about himself for a few moments and maybe that's why. He'd put a little too much of himself into the performance. Sure, he could have made some sort of sappy confession of love, but John wouldn't have believed it, and probably, Moriarty wouldn't have either.

John lays down on top of his cold blankets and sheets. A mind shouldn't be able to spin the way his is. He needs sleep and he needs it now. He needs to leave his mind for long enough to stay sane, even if that means coming back to this madness later. With determination, he shuts his eyes against it all.

In his dreams, he's no more than a paper boat on a boiling ocean.

"All this potential has messed up my whole day,
A storm of times and overlapping things.
This information has left me overwhelmed.
I've no idea where I should go.

How can I stand and hold up this great wall?
And if it falls, then I might blow away.
What's wrong? Can't he see how hard I've tried?
I'm numb inside.
I'm done tonight."

"Numb" by Barcelona