The thing about families, all families, whether you are born into one or surround yourself with people you love until they become your family, things always go wrong. There is no such thing as a perfect family. No such thing as a perfect life.
Sometimes love is not enough, and sometimes…it is too much.
The boys would never say so, but Sundays have always been their favorite day. When you ask them what their favorite moment in a week is they tell you all the things that make them unique. They talk about martial arts and fencing, they talk about the violin and chemistry, spend long enough talking and John will list your organs and the actions of each the way a college professor would, Sherlock will look at the same body and tell you what you had for a snack yesterday before bed. And they do love those things, the mad, busy moments of their lives. Learning things they never truly forgot, things that once upon a time, made them the happiest they could have imagined being.
Only, when they tell you, when you ask, there is a hesitance. A slow, soft kind of look and if you really quite lucky, a smile that says 'you already know'. And then they tell you Football. Chemistry. Literature.
But the things is, on Saturday nights they almost always sleep well. They wake up on Sunday and wander around in their half wakeful daze and fall into the couch together whispering, and if you walk through the room two pairs of eyes follow you and it does not feel like being watched. It feels like walking through a room of beautiful paintings and meeting the adoring eyes of each painted figure and imagining for a moment that these creatures can see you. That somehow they gaze out from their beautiful worlds, and they love you.
Sundays their flat slowly fills with people. Mrs. Hudson is always first, cleaning away things that you did not realize where even there until she was sweeping it away with a 'tisk', bending to place a kiss on each of her boys, her bag of 'just in case' hanging heavy at her side with the promise of presents Mycroft insists will 'spoil' them.
Next is always a toss up. Normally it is Harry, waltzing in the door as if she were secretly Queen of it All and somehow bringing the outside breeze in her wake. She is the mad energetic blond who pokes fun at them for still not being dressed at noon and then takes them out to laze about in the sun or to some 'normal childhood fun' that they will make fun of later. Then she gives them too many sweets and holds them when they crash from the sugar.
Sometimes it is Greg Lestrade who comes first. He always comes with a pile of work under his arm that he always has every intention of doing and then never touches. He will let Sherlock slink around him, blue eyes on the folders, he will let John distract him, and then he catches them both in his arms as a small hand reaches for the papers and drags them both to the couch. They all laugh and Sherlock pouts, even though his face is straining against a smile, and Greg will tell them stories. Sometimes he we will give them a folder he put together that morning and the three of them end up on the floor with pictures and clues scattered all around them, Sherlock pacing between paper clippings and photos or flopped on the ground with his fingers steeple beneath his chin. The ending is never too bad and no one ever dies, but sometimes the bad guys gets away. On those days John makes sure to tell them both, Sherlock gazing up at him as if he were a reservoir of all the hidden knowledge in the world, and Greg with his self-depreciating smile, that sometimes the bad guys win, and that it is okay. And always, no matter what the case was, they both believe him, this little boy telling them it is okay.
Sometimes, and Mycroft is starting to suspect that they communicate what weeks they will get to preoccupy the boys first, Greg and Harry show up at the same time, one of them carrying enough take out teas and coffees for everyone like a benevolent barista god of good will. And then all four end up scattered on the floor with clues or running through an aquarium with sweets in their pockets.
Mrs. Holmes is always last. Coming in while the others are still out or lost in the midst of a game and she will sit with Mycroft with cups of tea that are usually forgotten minutes into the conversation. The boys always come to her when they have finished, interrupting with tales of victory and embraces that sometimes flow over to Mycroft the way they do with younger children with enough vivaciousness to fill the room. A head on his shoulder, a hand pulling at his shirt as the other boy spins out the story of their adventure.
Sometimes Mycroft forgets himself. Forgets Mummy is watching him, seeing the child that was once hers happier than he had ever been with her. They come and fist a hand lazily into his shirt and he pulls them into his arms. They laugh and curl into him like they have not yet outgrown him. Like they are still his.
And if he has John in his arms, laughing or pressing his face sleepily into his neck, grey-blue eyes watch him, the story stutters and then continues. And when they are headed to dinner and John and Mummy lead the way and Sherlock will lag behind, blue eyes catching. Mycroft catches him up in his arms and lifts him off his feet and Sherlock wraps his arms around him tight and doesn't say a word.
Dinner itself is the purported reason for coming, ignoring that most of the guests arrive well before noon.
When the tradition first began dinner was usually catered by Mycroft's people, dishes delivered by stern faced people in black suits for everyone and then a few plates made in their own kitchen under watchful blue eyes in the hopes that Sherlock would find something to eat. Now Sunday dinners seemed to be equal parts people wandering into the kitchen on a whim and cooking and cartons of take away scattered over the table. The hesitance and decorum of years before had long since melted away and as their family grew dinners grew rowdier and more playful.
Sherlock never ate a lot, but when everyone was there, and telling stories and laughing and John was sitting next to him ready with a word and a whisper, no one worried that he wouldn't find something to eat.
This Sunday Sherlock and John were still sitting together on the couch, Sherlock lazily fingering his violin, his bare feet ticked beneath John who was talking too low for anyone but Sherlock to hear. Mrs. Hudson had come in and placed soft kisses on both of their heads, the boys pretending not to feel it so they would not need to react the way all the other boys their age did, with annoyed scrunched faces. But when she wandered away they both had smiles on their faces that had not been there before. Sherlock's plucking became almost a tune, light and simple.
Mycroft got the alert before she ever entered the main door. He could have stopped her before the boys even knew she had arrived. Could have her taken away where the boys would never have to see what she had done.
But he didn't.
It was a choice.
He gave the word and the guards allowed Harry to pass through undeterred, her steps weaving slightly, her eyes glassy. It was her choice to come here.
He couldn't protect them from the world. He could try in vain to protect them from the past, he could keep evil at bay, but they would always have their own demons warring with those of the world.
And it was better to learn this way wasn't it? Through them, through the mistakes of others rather than letting them fall on their own?
The loved one falling back into drink.
They had to know what the world could make them do.
Harry would understand. Later.
John who was still his little boy, who seemed to be made of nothing but good, of smiles and laughter and giving too much of himself without a second thought. The boy with too much darkness in his past to begin to fathom, the child who was still haunted by things that happened in another lifetime and hid the screams behind a smile.
The man and the child that had made Sherlock Holmes come to life.
He had to know that if you are not careful you can become the demon in the night. The aunt drowning in drink, the man gambling away his life.
He had to remember that he could defy a predisposition of genetics. He had remember why he had to.
And a memory is so much more tangible than a dream.
So he let Harry in.
The second Harry stepped into the room the boys went still, frozen as statues. Eyes fixed on her and silence fell in a way that made you long for sound. Her bleary eyes turned to them and the emotions were written across her face as clearly as if they had been words. There was sorrow and love and desperation and heartbreak and a desire to not be alone so fierce that it seemed to pour off of her like a miasma that threatened to fill the room.
She took a step towards the boys.
He wanted to be invisible.
Mycroft stepped out of the shadows.
"Harriet sit down."
She obeyed the order, collapsing into the chair closest to her and just feet from the boys, her head falling into her hands limply. Up close they could see the redness of her eyes, the tear tracks stripped down her face. They could smell the wine clinging to her breath and clothes.
Every muscle of John's body was taunt and ready to fight or flee, his eyes were blasted wide open but he was so still he seemed not to breathe, a perfect doll.
"How much did you drink?" She looked up at Mycroft with eyes too much like Johns. Counting in her saturated mind the hours and the bottles.
"Three bottles." It was Sherlock's voice, thin and vulnerable as he looked between Harry and John. "Three bottles since this morning. Since she ran into Clara."
Harry broke down. Her short blond hair covered her face, swinging around her hands as she cried into her fingers, her voice muffled and choked. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I saw her and I always imagined that she was happy without me, but I saw her and she-I wasn't there for her- I wasn't- and I wanted to be here but it was too early so I just had one drink. I wanted to come here because you boys are the only thing I have not messed up and I wanted-" She looked up as a sob choked her and she was not the energetic, lively, beautiful aunt they loved. She was a ruin. Her face was a disaster of tears, of anguish and blackened sorrow, and all of that agony was directed at them in eyes that echoed Johns.
"I'm sorry John- I never wanted this. Sherlock you have to promise me, you have t-"
"Stop it." Sherlock's wavering voice cut into her drunken litany.
She looked at him and took a breath that filled her thin body. Her eyes filled with determination and the dedication of a drunk, blind to everything but what she needed to say "Sherlock you have to take c -"
"STOP IT!" His scream stopped their hearts, tearing their eyes to him.
Sherlock was up, his violin crashed to the ground, his bow thrown to the floor and he was standing as tall as his eleven year old body would allow. His grey eyes cutting and cold, and more human than they had ever been.
"You are hurting him! He is shaking!" Sherlock was screaming. He was fury. It rippled off of him and arrested the attention of every person present, a power a child should not possess.
And he was right. John was not still. He was trembling.
Sherlock turned, his knees sinking into the couch in front of John, blocking the other boys view of Harry and forcing two far off brown eyes to come back to him. Two pale hands ran through dirty blond hair.
They were intruders watching an intimate moment as Sherlock bent to kiss Johns forehead, stealing one more moment to fortify himself, to be strong enough, before he looked back into Johns eyes. Their noses touched, and Sherlock tried to be the whole world for him.
Whatever he saw in John's eyes in those moments Sherlock was sure he could move him. That John would not fight him, that he would trust him, even if he was scared. He pulled John off the couch and for just a moment, into his arms. They were moving, Sherlock always staying between him and Harry. Slender white arms touching and bullying John as he moved like a wooden puppet, without thought, without his grace. Lost in a nightmare of a dream.
Mrs. Hudson was at the door before another word was spoken. She took in the scene in an instant and hurried forward, her skirts flaring out, a single sympathetic look for the room and then all of her attention was on her boys. There was no wondering where her loyalties ,or her heart, lay. She flew forward with the speed of a woman half her age and bundled them off together, arms curling around them as she whispered promises of tea and safe places. A wall of sheer will and love between John and Harry.
And then they were gone.
Harry stared at the place they had disappeared, her thoughts slowed by the drink but not stopping the tears from leaking from her eyes.
It had been worse than Mycroft had thought. A grave miscalculation. He meant it to be a lesson. He never dreamed John would be so affected-
The horror in his eyes, the way he shook.
Memories too close to the surface.
They sat in silence, Harry and Mycroft, weighed down by guilt of their actions and the suffocating pain that had been left behind by the people they were meant to protect. The horror of what they had done and the scars it might leave.
Mycroft could have stayed that way for days. Lost in thoughts and the melancholy of poor decisions, sinking into a strange lethargy, too shaken by his failure to offer help. His helping is what had hurt them.
He should never have exposed John so crassly. He could still hear Sherlock screaming in his mind. His cold-burning eyes looking straight into him, accusing him. 'You are hurting him!'
Gregory Lestrade had no such compunctions. He walked in with a smile like the first day of a holiday away and four paper cups still warm from the shop. His 'Hello' died on his lips.
He knew them, knew what had happened. Harry sloppy drunk and crying, the way Mycroft would have used her. He sighed and closed his eyes, it was a habit he indulged in when he felt the world was going mad every time he turned his back. He put the drinks down on the ground and left them, jogging further into the flat. It was one of the things that made Lestrade an excellent Detective Inspector. He never lost the bigger picture; never let himself crumble beneath the weight of too much pressure.
He never lost sight of what really mattered.
He came back in minutes. Running his hands through his hair and fetching the drinks from the floor. He put them on the table and sat down on the settee, reassured that they had waited for him, that nothing important had been discussed in his absence. He motioned for Mycroft to sit with a world weary determined gesture that did not broker discussion.
Greg leaned forward, his body bent like Atlas, arms resting on his legs as if the weight of the last minutes was tangible, resting on his shoulders. But when brown eyes looked up at Harry they were clear, ready.
"Now tell me from the beginning."
Harry scrubbed the tears off her face, soaking them into the damp material on the edge of her sleeves and staining it dark and obvious against her light blue blouse. Before she could draw her hands away her face was a mess of tears again, water slipping down her cheeks, eyelashes clumping, her blond hair tangling as she pushed it forcefully behind her ear as if it were the source of her anguish. She stared at the floor, wringing her hands.
"Just bring him back. If you bring them back I will stop. I need to apologize- I need to show him- I-" Her words were dark and quick and wet. Determined as wine, as a desperation that has no resolution, a child begging for it not to be real.
"They are gone Harry." Greg met her eyes, watching as rage flared and muscles tensed, ready to scream, to spiral into a self-destructive rampage. He never changed position, that same world weary posture, the same look he gave her every time they had a fight, every time they went out for dinner to talk about how fucking weird their lives were. "I sent them with Mrs. Hudson." He pushed a warm paper cup into her hand and motioned for her to drink. Harry hesitated, torn between the energy of rage and the lethargy of guilt.
Greg took another cup and handed it to Mycroft, fixing him with his best DI 'don't-push-it' look. Mycroft accepted the paper take away cup after a moment of hesitance, as if he knew the effect it would have. As he settled into the settee with his cheap cup it made him look like one of them, drawing away from his immaculate suit and untouchable air, guilt and worry tingeing his features and making him look inexplicably worn. Making him human. Three refugees huddling together after a storm.
"John will be fine, Sherlock was holding onto him when I got there and there was this look on his face-" Greg paused and shook his head as if to refocus himself. He looked directly at Harry, knowing he was telling her what she already knew, letting her take comfort in the words. "I don't think there is any better place for John right now than where Sherlock is."
Greg cleared his throat and sat back. "Now, like I said, why don't you tell me from the beginning?"
John is safe from her. Two doors separate them. Two doors and space and carpet and Nana and him and he won't let her touch him.
And John is breathing and holding his hand; but he is not smiling or laughing. He is not looking at him and reading his thoughts. Not telling him that he is okay and that he doesn't need to worry. Because he is not okay. The pulse Sherlock is counting under his fingertips is bounding and quick, fear is pooling in John and washing over him, rising so fast that he might drown. His cheeks are flushed and his breath is quick and shallow. The skin under his fingers is hot with blood and panic.
Sherlock will protect him.
More doors, more space and air and carpets and floors. More people between them. Separating. Protecting.
And then when they are alone and safe Sherlock will fix John. He will make it better. Because he is older now. Smarter. Things can be different now and he doesn't have to be helpless when John is hurt. He is the only one that can help John. He knows he can.
Because when John hurts, he hurts. He can use that.
But this is not like the nightmares and the man haunting them. John is not lost in dreams. It is different.
How is it different?
John squeezes his hand hard; Lestrade walks in with a face that crumples when he sees them.
Two doors and Nana and Sherlock and now Lestrade. Good. Better.
Sherlock folds John against his chest. He is warm and solid in his arms, in a way that shouldn't be shocking but somehow it is. Johns rests his head on Sherlock's shoulder, hiding in the darkness of his neck, dark curls brushing his cheek. Sherlock can feel eyelashes brushing his neck as John closes his eyes and inhales, and the patterns of his breath deepens and slows against him. He can feel it on his skin, in the rise and fall of his arms wrapped around Johns back.
He lets Sherlock hold him. And John's arms wrap around him and his fists curl into the cloth of his jimjams. Holding onto him like he is the only solid thing in the room.
He holds him in front of everyone. It is something he has not done in a long time. John would never stop Sherlock from holding him- he would never push him away- but he has not held onto him like this since-
Sherlock holds him tighter, secure in his arms, and thinks. 'I will never let you go.'
Lestrade is talking to Nana. Sherlock is trying to listen. He has to protect John. But John is in his arms and if Harry comes in then Sherlock has him so it will be okay. And it's just auntie Harry, and Sherlock will explain why she is broken again and John will forgive her when he hears about Clara. So he doesn't listen to them, not really.
He is listening to John breathe.
All he can do is nod when Lestrade asks them if they want to go with their Nana for the day. And he is speaking to the rhythm of Johns heart beat and it is distracting. Like John is erasing the rest of the world, making order of the mad screaming chaos and taking the logical parts of his mind that race in circles every moment of every day and filling it with the cadence of a heartbeat that leaves room for nothing else.
When Lestrade goes off to get their coats and their boots Sherlock doesn't say a word about still being in their pyjamas. He doesn't care.
Sherlock let's go of John reluctantly and feels his heart lurch as Johns embrace tightens as if he cannot stop himself. Sherlock takes both coats as Lestrade comes in and drops his own to the floor. Lestrade and Nana huff at him. He doesn't pay them any attention.
John would not want anyone else to touch him right now.
John lets him thread his arms through the sleeves without a word. He doesn't even look up. Sherlock is zipping it up carefully. He doesn't want to catch the material in the zip. John hates when that happens and later when he can notice again, he will know Sherlock was careful for him.
Brown eyes look up just as fingers stop under his chin.
Sherlock was right. John is not being chased in a dream or a memory. It is there, that haunted look of terrible lingering things, but it is pushed back, under control. Like recovering from a nightmare and knowing that you are safe. John can still see him but he is lost the way Sherlock gets lost sometimes. Stuck in his brain, thoughts taking over and shutting down the parts of your mind that let you speak and function and be alive.
Sherlock will speak for him until he can speak again. He will protect him and take care of him until John can be alive with him again.
He is emboldened by the look, by the ghost of John's hands curling into his pyjamas and breathing against his skin. He tips forward and kisses John on the nose. If John were okay right now it would make him laugh, instead brown eyes watch him. They don't leave him.
Sherlock throws on his own coat and doesn't bother to zip it. Lestrade brought their wellies because it is raining. They look ridiculous in sleep clothes and rain boots and coats but they are easy to slip on so Sherlock does and holds Johns hand and prompts him to do the same, the motions as thoughtless as a doll, only functioning enough to trust in him. Because he trusts.
Sherlock doesn't let go of his hand as Nana leads them out the back door and into the waiting car as body guards slip around them pretending to be unseen. He doesn't let go as Lestrade holds up as hand in a silent goodbye, or as the door slips closed and they slip into the rainy streets of London.
They drive silently, the three of them ensconced in the back of one of Mycroft's black cars. Nana hesitates and she looks at them as if deciding something profound. Sherlock has pushed himself into the corner and pulled John between his legs to hold him back to chest, arms coming around his slender belly. Because if it were Sherlock, when it is Sherlock who gets lost, when John holds him it makes him feel like he is not alone.
John should never have to feel alone.
John is holding on so tight to the arms around him that Sherlock's bones ache beneath his grasp and nails are biting crescent shapes into his flesh, he doesn't say anything.
Whatever Nana sees in them makes her decide, it is there in the set of her mouth and the crease in the corner of her eyes. She looks tired, old in a way she never has to Sherlock. She smiles at them in a way that Sherlock knows means that she is sad. He has memorized this look, it is complicated the way adults so rarely are, one that he had John explain to him when they were alone. John is always brilliant at emotions, at knowing when things are good or 'not good' and he always helps Sherlock when he doesn't understand. It's the smile that means they have done something to break her heart, even if she never says so. She tells the driver to take her home.
It is raining hard when they finally stop. Nana gathers herself and puts away her sad smile. They won't see it again today, she has banished it to somewhere deep inside of herself, not like she is erasing it, but saving it for later. She is brave for them the way Sherlock is brave for John. The smile she gives them as she pulls up their hoods and zips up Sherlock's jacket is bright and cheering.
She takes Sherlock's hand and leads him out onto the pavement. John is tucked into the crook of Sherlock's arm the moment he is out of the car and he is staring at the ground, watching water ripple around his blue boots. Sherlock is staring at John. Nana is holding her breath.
She bundles them through the door and it is warm even in the front landing where she makes them leave their wet things, hanging up their coats and taking off their boots with such a flutter of motion and life that they do not think to protest. There are stairs that loom over them, straight ahead like it is the only place you should ever want to go. Sherlock counts 17 to the landing as John tugs off his boots, he stands on the bottom step, sure that they are going upstairs. But Nana leads them through the door on their right. A momentary, irrational flicker of confusion and even something that should not be loss but feels too close, flashes through him. But then they follow Nana inside her flat, and everything radiates safety and warmth. Everything smells of her and looks like it should be with her and it makes him think of fresh biscuits she lets him steal and sweaters that mean she loves them which smell of her and this place and this is where he wants John to be.
John is watching them through wide eyes that seem to see again, tempted by new surroundings, new things that push the thoughts in his mind away and replace them with Nana and something that feels like home. Sherlock is going to fix him.
He takes Johns hand and he does what Nana does. He smiles. It's not fake. John would know, he always knows when Sherlock is faking. But it is for John, he can always smile for John.
They explore the flat together, silent adventurers in foreign lands. They walk through the sitting room, dazzled by trinkets, discovering photos of Nana like a looking glass through time. She is young and smiling and holding a little boy, she is a girl and she is smiling like it is the best thing in the world to be riding a horse, she is the way she is now with pretty silver blond hair and she is holding both of them and the three of them stare out of the photo laughing. All of it, all at once and the evidence, the echoes of these moments in time surround them in her things. He points out a photo to John. Brown eyes blink and watch. Fingers curl around his and it is almost like being alive.
Nana watches them and laughs with a huff as they push open the doors of her flat, sighing as if she knows she should be annoyed but really isn't. Adults, Sherlock knows, are weird.
By the time they get to the last room, the single bedroom with its hand crocheted blanket in soft shades of purple John is reaching out to touch. His fingers are tracing over soft fabric and the smiling faces of another photo that had drawn his eye the moment they entered the room. The hand in Sherlock's tightens to get his attention, brown eyes meeting his and sparkling. Sherlock pretends he was not already watching, he lets John show him an image he is too young to remember being taken. Two little children, babies nearly, look out at him, holding hands the way they stood now. Protective of each other even then.
There is another photo. One placed on top of a bookshelf and toppled over on its front so only the edge of faded gold frame shows. An empty place on the bedside table gleams like an unnatural dissonance in the flow of the room, whispering of things that once sat there, of people Nana loves enough to wake up to. Sherlock wants to know who she loves the way she loves them and why she hides them.
John is holding his hand and still staring down at the photo, and the hint of a smile is not yet on his face but it is almost there. Sherlock would not let go for the world.
Nana stands at the door, regarding them with a smile that is much more soft and warm than the one in the car, waiting for one of them to catch her eye. Sherlock thinks of warm biscuits with chocolate and fuzzy sweaters that look better on John than on him and the smell of tea, and those are silly things to associate with a person, they aren't facts, Nana doesn't mean warmth and tea and hugs, and a look can certainly not be all of those things. But it is John who pulls him towards her, who lets her kiss his hair as she motions them back to the sitting room for milky tea and toast. And he doesn't care. Nana, Sherlock decides, can be an illogical thought.
They have tea together and Nana puts on old music, she puts on a waltz and big bands and men that croon like they are in love and their hearts are broken all at once. John is not talking yet, silent as he smiles at the two of them. He curls into Sherlock as Nana tells them love stories that sound like fairy tales but she insists are true. Love, she tells them, can always sound like a fairy tale if you tell it right. Sherlock is doubtful, but John is warm against him and in his silence pulls the idea over himself like a blanket.
She stands as the music, an old record player sitting in a proud place in the corner (which she insists sounds more like 'real music' than anything digital), switches over. She holds out her hand to Sherlock and waits. John watches in silence.
She teaches them to waltz.
Johns silence turns into laughter.
When they finally collapse onto the settee the sun has long since fallen and John tugs at Sherlock's clothing with a giggle. The message is clear, even though the dance is still floating through their minds, twirling, and the music sways and carries on without them. They never changed out of their pyjamas.
The smile Sherlock gives John is victorious and feels like dancing.
They never get to spend their day in their pyjamas. Mycroft would be scandalized.
Nana tries to put them to bed in her room but John looks up at her with disapproving eyes and for the first time all day, finds the words to speak.
John tells her in no uncertain terms that they will not take her bed and that they are fine on the settee.
Sherlock looks again at the frame on the bookshelf of the bedroom, unseen people, unseen loved ones, facing nothing but dark wood, hiding their faces from the world. When John turns to him for support he agrees. He would agree with anything John wanted in this moment. The picture frame fades from his mind as John takes his hand and they go back to the sitting room. They lie down, letting Nana cover then in blankets and tuck them in as if they were little children. She kisses them and tells them to wake her if they need her.
They wait until the light flicks out and they can here Nana settle in her own room before Sherlock crawls under the blankets, emerging on Johns side of the settee and wrapping an arm around his middle so neither of them will fall. John turns in his arms so they are face to face. It is dark but Sherlock can see the outline of his face, he can tell when John closes his eyes.
He waits, and John asks, so he holds him, because right now he can. He holds him close and tells him about Clara and the story Harry would have told Mycroft and Lestrade over tea and tears. He wonders how long it took for Lestrade to convince Harry to spend the night at his place once they were done.
He hopes they take good care of each other.
Sherlock remembers what Nana said about all love stories being fairy tales if you tell them right, and how John seemed to glow with the idea of it, John who faded into stories until he seemed not to breathe, how his eyes had watched her. He thinks of Harry and how much it would hurt if John were taken away from him.
It's not a happy fairy tale, but not all love stories are.
Sherlock tells John that Clara had left Auntie Harry even though they still loved one another because sometimes things get in the way. Sometimes drinking is more powerful than love. He watches Johns closed eyes in the half light as he describes how Harry had imagined Clara happy, that she had found a family like Harry had found one with them. She would have been okay if Clara had been happy.
But Auntie Harry had seen her at the market and it wasn't like she had imagined with her heart only half broken. She was not beautiful and married; she did not have a baby on her arm the way she had always dreamed of when she was a girl.
Clara was skinny and alone and still beautiful, but sick. Clara was dying, and she was all alone.
And instead of Harry's heart being half broken, it fell apart.
Johns hand reached out of the darkness and pulled Sherlock tight, holding on to the back of his neck, fingers playing in his curls. Sherlock closed his eyes.
John begged him to promise that he would never leave him.
Sherlock could feel the wetness on his cheek that was not his own.
Sherlock did not ask for anything, but John whispered it into his skin as he fell asleep. A promise Sherlock would never have thought to ask for.
"I promise to never drive you away."