The door closes behind them with perhaps a tad more force than is strictly necessary.

Emptied at last of landladies-who-are-not-housekeepers, hovering colleagues, and nosey siblings—more well-wishers than would have welcomed Sherlock home had he been alone,

(too many… but they're here for John, so that's all right)

the flat echoes with blessed silence.

At last.

John looks exhausted, the lines of his face harsh against hospital-sallow skin. He hasn't moved from the sofa since Sherlock settled him there an hour ago with a cup of tea and an unspoken promise.

(Soon. We'll be alone soon.)


John's voice has grown stronger over the days in hospital. Rest and medicine (and me…) holding him while bones knit and internal injuries heal. But despite the relative privacy of the room,

(the one without a wall of windows… the one that meant it was no longer necessary to count John's every breath or measure his haemoglobin at three hour intervals, only six… idiots would have had no need to draw such frequent bloods if only they'd listened… I told them I would know in an instant if he were tohaemorrhage…)

words, each one a blaze of fire, had burned unsaid between them, so many words, crackling in the silence.

But now, now there is a door that locks,

(double-bolted to be precise, and perhaps it wouldn't hurt to slide a kitchen chair beneath the doorknob for good measure)

and the windows have curtains to shut out prying eyes. This time, there will be nobody interrupting just as John's breath hitches from the touch of Sherlock's hand against a stubble-rough cheek, nobody barging in at the precise moment Sherlock has mustered the courage to whisper words he's never before said out loud (not to anyone) into John's ear.

Now, they are alone.


He's drifted to the kitchen, opening and closing the cupboards.

(Mrs Hudson has been in to clean. Of course she has. All my experiments gone off..)


"Yes, John? What can I get you?"

He can hear John's snort clear across the flat.

"Now I'm certain they kept the real Sherlock in hospital and replaced him with an alien who brings me tea and bustles about the kitchen."

Sherlock puts down a mug that he's sure had been holding two mismatched forefingers before— Well, before.

Will the world forever be divided into before and after?

"Just. Sherlock, come here. Please."

Sherlock nods even though John can't see him.

"Be right there," he says over the sudden pounding of his heart.

They've been alone in the flat countless times before. Have spent hours side by side in comfortable silence, bathed in flickering light from the telly (Mrs Hudson's) and the laptop (John's). Have watched shows no thinking person could pretend to enjoy punctuated by snide remarks (Sherlock's), complaints about the snide remarks (John's), flurries of texts (Sherlock's to Lestrade:any dead bodies? and Lestrade's to Sherlock: do you ever sleep?) and the occasional phone call (Mycroft's. Ignored… rejected… no, ignored with a vicious stab to the mobile.). But the telly is off now, and John's laptop has been tucked away somewhere only Mrs Hudson knows, though it wouldn't take much effort to deduce. He puts his hand in his pocket just as John calls out again.

"Leave your phone alone, Sherlock. Just come here, won't you?"

He does, wondering at the tightening in his chest. He stops short at John's chair, frozen.

"Look," John says. He's fiddling with the edge of his jumper and won't meet Sherlock's eyes. "If you've changed your mind…" He swallows thickly, but his voice is still rough and he's talking too quickly. "People do funny things after a trauma. You know, things they wouldn't normally." He glances up at Sherlock before returning to examine the edge of his jumper.

(He's nervous, why is he nervous? There's nothing wrong with his jumper… maybe he's cold… is he cold? )

"I have some experience with these things." John takes a deep breath. "So if you've changed your mind—" He clears his throat just as Sherlock finds his voice.

"No!" He hadn't meant to shout. "Changed my mind?"

(Since when did this have anything at all to do with mymind?)

He's at John's side in a flash. "Where did you get such an idiotic idea?" The quirk of John's lip brings a pocket of air, and he can breathe again.

"You just seemed so uncomfortable. I thought—"

"You thought that my behaviour of the last week has been anomalous and that now we're home, I might be regretful." His chest tightens again.

"Yes." John nods and still won't meet Sherlock's eyes. "That."

"John." Oh, John. "Look at me, John."

Piercing blue eyes find his. Eyes shadowed by what they've already seen, by what they may yet face. Wary eyes, but steady. Strong.

"Don't do this just to prove me wrong, Sherlock," John says, and just like that it occurs to Sherlock that there is a world of difference between being fearless and being brave.

"There will be ample opportunity, no doubt, to prove you wrong in future," Sherlock says and smiles at the way John's eyes crinkle when he smirks. "In this matter, however, you may as well accustom yourself to knowing a great deal more than I."

John pauses, as if to digest the idea that he could know more than Sherlock.

"But I don't know," John says. "I mean, I didn't know. Not until I saw your face that night. By the pool." Sherlock is so close he can nearly feel John's warm huff of breath on his skin. "But Moriarty knew. He knew before I did, I think."

"It's why he took you," Sherlock agrees.

"I'm a liability," says John flatly, and he's back to not looking at Sherlock again. "And you're married to your work—"

"Stop," says Sherlock, and then his heart speeds up again. "Unless it's you who's having second thoughts."

John's just shaking his head with the oddest smile on his face.

"No such luck," he says. "My thoughts don't stand a chance against—" John lifts his head and Sherlock can hardly breathe from the naked longing in that look.

Oh. Oh. Sherlock feels heat coiling, warm and low in his belly. There are no thoughts now. None that make sense. The sensiblething would be to walk (run) away, to put himself as far away as possible from this feeling rushing through him like wildfire.

But he's long past sensible.

All he knows is that when John is close, he can feel the thrum of his own heartbeat, grounding him, allowing him to soar, and when he touches John,

(oh, god)

all thought dissolves until there's nothing left but the texture of his skin and the heat of his body so near. Nothing else matters, only getting closer—holding on.

(I can't lose you. Not now.)

Sherlock doesn't say the words out loud, but even so, they fall from him, floating into the space between, and John reaches out his hands as if he could scoop them up like grains of sand and keep them safe.

"I thought you were going to die. I thought—" Sherlock's voice deserts him, and his eyes blur.

(Then I would die, too.)

"You wouldn't have," John says, as if the thoughts racing through Sherlock's mind are audible to him too,

(they are, they must be, how can they be? Oh, thank god they are.)

and reaches for Sherlock's hand. "It just feels that way. You would have recovered and moved on—" But he never finishes that sentence because Sherlock has taken John's face

(his precious, precious face)

between his hands and now his mouth is covering John's.

John's lips are soft, and Sherlock drinks in his soft huff of surprise and then the long moan of pleasure when he sweeps his tongue along the line of John's mouth.

He shivers, and John sighs, threading his hands through Sherlock's hair and drawing him closer still. There's something about the way John touches him; the way he brushes his mouth against Sherlock's and then tastes; the way he draws out each kiss as if he's starving, and Sherlock his only source of sustenance. It's as if he could peel away every last layer between them—even words a barrier to what John is telling him now.

(loved and safe and home)

It's never felt like this. Never. Not with the men he'd experimented with at uni or with the handful of women he'd kissed just to sample the differences. With them, he'd been watching, cataloguing his body's responses, taking note.

Not now.

Now, it's all he can do to breathe between bouts of kisses, and he'd rather not breathe, really. Kissing John is so much better. He loves everything about it—everything—and he never loves everything about anything.

But it's John, and he's making the most marvellous sound deep in his throat,

(it makes me burn)

and one of his hands is wandering to the opening of Sherlock's shirt, and it occurs to him that there is much, much more of John's skin to touch, and all sorts of things that he wants to know that only touching John, kissing him, tasting him everywherewill tell him.

He's never wanted to know someone so deeply before. Never felt the need. Never felt he didn't already know everything relevantsoon enough to be bored again.

John groans and pulls back just enough to rest his forehead against Sherlock's, breathing hard, his heart hammering under Sherlock's hands.

"Don't go," Sherlock whispers.

John shakes his head and looks up, startled. His cheeks are flushed, and his lips are swollen from Sherlock's kisses. Sherlock feels a surge of triumph.

(Mine. I've marked you. Mine.)

"Did I do something in the last five minutes to indicate I had any intention of going away from you?" John is asking. "Ever?"

Sherlock hesitates. "I suppose we have to breathe, at some point," he concedes.

How is he to know, though, when he's been too much? There's always a point when he's been too much.

"I don't know how to tell if you're pulling away because I've…" Sherlock pauses, swallows. "I had no idea what kissing you would show me," he admits, not only to John, but to himself. "I can't always tell what you feel."

John quirks an eyebrow and Sherlock snorts.

"I nearly always know what you think, or where you've been, but I don't usually know how you feel. But just now, I did. I knew. And then—"

(And then you stopped kissing me.)

"Has it occurred to you to ask?"

(Oh. No, actually, it hadn't.)

"Just words," Sherlock says.

"You don't trust words?"

Sherlock shakes his head and looks over John's shoulder to the too-clean kitchen. "Everybody lies."

"But this—" John waves his hand between them. "This doesn't lie."

Sherlock looks at John. "No. I'm sure of it." His heart is pounding. He's sure he's right, but what if he's wrong? He's never wrong, but maybe this time he is. Maybe this time he's misread this and John is doing that thing he said people sometimes do after a trauma, and—

"Sherlock." John's voice is a whisper, but it's right next to his ear, and it's followed by the most tender kisses along the line of his jaw, and his thoughts careen to a halt right then and there.

"Hmmmmm." He's never been without words without being bored. Not until now. John's tongue circles the shell of his ear and he groans.

"You need to listen to me," John is whispering again in his ear, and Sherlock manages to nod. "What you know right now won't be any less true when I stop kissing you."

As if to prove his point, he does just that and leans back enough to look Sherlock in the eye. "And I might even use words to tell you one day, in addition to showing you, I mean." Sherlock feels his pulse accelerate, and John must know because he traces his fingertip along the furrow between his brows, smoothing it. Soothing it.

"Later." He looks serious, and Sherlock's heart leaps into his throat. "But in the meantime, you can check the other way any time you like."

John is smiling and now Sherlock can feel it. It's almost as good as when he's kissing him—well, nothing could be as good as when he's kissing John, except perhaps for the long list he's composing in his head of things he'd like to do after and between bouts of kissing John—but the point is, he can feel it even with all these air molecules piled up in a heap between them.

"Any time?"

"Any time you like."

Any time. He's allowed to touch John, to kiss him, any time he wants. He feels that warmth curling in his belly again.

Now there is always, always going to be something to look forward to.


a/n: Endless thanks to the alpha/beta/cheereading village of dreams: annietalbot, bethbethbeth, bluestocking, pyjamapants, scoffy, and subversa. Your eagle eyes and your support make everything I write so much better.

This follows directly after Evidence, which has, it would seem, morphed into a series. There will be more to come in this universe.

The line, "Everybody lies" is quoted directly from the American television show, House, whose title character owes his spiritual provenance to Sherlock Holmes.