Part III of the "Evidence" series. Reading the earlier two in the series will definitely enhance your understanding of this one, though I do think this fic can stand on its own as well.

This instalment was inspired in large part by a "Make me a Monday" request from morganstuart on SherlockBBC (here .?thread=25063390#t25063390), and it expanded from there.

Sherlock takes John's promise, that he can touch him, can kiss him any time he likes, to heart.

Every caress, an experiment. Each brush of his lips and stroke of his fingertips across John's skin a test of whether the truth he finds beneath his hands is real.

Pulse thrumming (his and John's both) accelerating from the sharp taste of sweat on his tongue and the scent of need rising with every breath.

Sometimes, it takes all day long before Sherlock knows for sure, but once he does, he winds himself around John, blankets tucked around them, as if he alone could keep John safe. Keep him here, away from the danger they never speak of but know still lurks outside.

Sherlock has never before had cause to take such careful care of his heart.

John tires easily, still weak from internal injuries and broken bones that are gradually mending. Sherlock has no intention of chasing after murderers without John in tow, but still, late at night when John has fallen asleep curled up against him, his body warm and his breathing steady, Sherlock texts Lestrade.

Any bodies? SH

And smirks at Lestrade's answer:

Do you ever sleep?

It doesn't occur to him to wonder the same about the DI.

He and John spend most of their time inside these days, the wet weather just another deterrent to venturing out.

This doesn't stop the outside from coming in.

Mrs Hudson (Tolerable as long as she doesn't touch my experiments; also, she brings biscuits) and Sarah (John likes her and she is protective of him, so that's all right. Shared goals are good. John says so.) pop by daily to check on them, clucking in ways deemed understandably maternal by John and marginally bearable by Sherlock. They bring food and have taken to doing some of the laundry and washing up.

"Don't get used to it," Sarah says as she puts clean plates and mugs away in cabinets that should really be holding samples of a potentially virulent strain of Staphylococcus.

Sherlock shrugs, but John laughs a little, and Sherlock realises how much he's missed that. John's laugh.

Lestrade comes by once or twice, looking ragged. Distracted.

(crick in his neck, bags under his eyes… hasn't been sleeping well…)

Sherlock tolerates being fussed over with ill grace, and almost successfully ignores his irritation about being watched. But later, when Mrs Hudson cleans out a bottle of fungal enzymes that Sherlock had been saving for experimentation on that ear he's got stored in the freezer, he snaps.

"Keep your interfering hands out of my kitchen! Idiots," Sherlock mutters, throwing the empty bottle in the bin and relishing the sound of glass shards pounding against one another.

But John's face crinkles (angry, he's angry) and shakes his head, "Not good, Sherlock. More than a bit."

Mycroft is, sadly, undeterred by Sherlock's temper tantrums and dagger-eyed glare.

He's been watching them constantly.

(What quality surveillance can one obtain through resolutely closed curtains, anyway?).

Mycroft has no need to come by. Not technically.

But he does. Not every day (thankfully), but several times over the week they've been home. Sipping the tea that Mrs Hudson always keeps flowing, chatting with them as if holing up in their flat and being fussed over is perfectly normal.

"He's long gone, isn't he?" John asks the third time Mycroft takes up more than his allotted space in their front room with his three piece suit and ubiquitous umbrella. It's the first any of them have spoken of him since the hospital—Moriarty—and it's like the bursting of a soap bubble, the shimmering surface surrounding them shattering like drops of water.

"He'll be back," mutters Sherlock, and John looks at him with that combination of stoicism and determination that makes Sherlock want to kiss him and hide him.

"Of course he'll be back. Isn't that why we're squirreled up in here, not even going out to do the shopping?"

He's looking fierce and Sherlock grits his teeth.

"We can't exactly spend the rest of our lives like this. Inside. Waiting." John pauses. "Can we?" He looks at Mycroft first, and then Sherlock. "Well, I won't. I have to get back to work. Get out of this blasted flat." He pulls back the curtain and watches the rain. "Even if it never stops pissing outside."

Mycroft just looks constipated at John's pronouncement, and Sherlock suppresses a wave of horror at the thought that for once, he and his brother might be on the same side.

The protecting John side.

Not that either of them could ever let John know. He wouldn't be pleased to be thought of as a fragile object, something in need of guarding.

It isn't that Sherlock sees John as, breakable. Not exactly. Actually, he knows that between the two of them, it's he who is more easily broken. He who would never survive without his doctor, his blogger. John.

No matter what John believes, no matter that Sherlock had lived all of his thirty five years without this man's presence in his life, he recognises one truth.

That if John were to pass from this earth, Sherlock would be right behind him.

Right after ripping the head off the neck of Jim Moriarty.

Mycroft knows, too, he thinks.

The way his lips pinch together, Sherlock can see it. Mycroft's furrowed brow; the worry Sherlock pretends to believe is not genuine.

He knows better, but he'll never tell.

Just this once, he'll allow his brother his overbearing protectiveness and supercilious disregard for Sherlock's own competence. He'll take whatever protections they can get. Not for him, though. For John.

Always, always, for John.

Days pass and they're both getting restless.

Sherlock hates the waiting. Waiting for Moriarty to surface. Waiting to see if he'll dangle some new bait in front of Sherlock, luring him out of his protective stance. Waiting for John to finally have enough energy and to have had enough and walk out of the flat even without Sherlock's agreement.

(Consent. No, he doesn't need my consent. He's a grown man. But I need him. Like oxygen. He should defer to me since I'd die without him… But he doesn't listen to me. No, that's not true. He listens to me when it's important. This is important. He must listen.)

Until today, John hasn't had the energy to push back when Sherlock talks him out of taking a trip to the shops or even just a walk around the block. Sherlock can see the fatigue in the dark shadows under his eyes. He knows that a bit of resistance and a twisty argument will be enough to shut down John's resolve.

Sherlock refuses to feel guilty about this despite having been subjected to three (no, four) lectures (mostly from John) about how he must move around in order to heal. Sherlock insists that walking up and down the stairs and around the flat should suffice, and usually, John lets it be.

But today, John reaches for his jacket, the one he insisted be returned to him from the crime scene.

(battered leather, tiny hole in the cuff, smells like John).

The jacket he'd been wearing when Moriarty snatched him (before he put John in the semtex jacket and covered it with that horrible parka).

"I'm going out. Are you coming?"

As if there could be any other option.

It's still raining. John never carries an umbrella and neither does Sherlock (he has a collection of them – birthday presents from Mycroft – in a closet at Mummy's).

Neither, apparently, does Greg Lestrade.

"We're just heading out," says John. "Any news?"

Lestrade shakes his head. "Nothing. It's as if the man never existed."

Sherlock huffs.

"You're looking a bit rough," John's saying as Sherlock scans the street.

"Long night," says Lestrade.

"Anything interesting?" asks Sherlock, perking up.

"No. And I hope to god it stays that way."

Sherlock frowns, but John is walking ahead, obviously enjoying the feel of cool rain, his face tilted to the sky.

"Later, then?"

"Later," says Lestrade.

For once, Sherlock is too distracted to notice that Lestrade doesn't go back the way he came.

Their days fall into a routine. It goes like this:

They wake each morning still clinging to each other from the night before when John might have had a nightmare, or Sherlock might have reached for him just to be sure.

They are intermittently tentative and fierce with one another, as likely to scrape teeth against bare skin as to soothe with the swipe of a tongue or a tender touch. It's a rhythm that plays like beats under Sherlock's skin. Steady, stronger and more certain with each rising sun.

They don't rush to leave their bed. There is no race of discovery, or challenge to overcome. No enemy lines to breach, or even illnesses to conquer. Only the slow healing of bodies and minds behind walls erected (and only cautiously breached) for their own protection.

Sherlock thinks he might, in fact, go mad.

This is why he finally stops arguing when John insists on a morning walk after tea and toast. It's also why it takes him precisely three days to realise that every time they step out their front door, Lestrade is five steps behind them.

He must be losing his touch.

Sherlock, not Lestrade. Lestrade never had a touch, as far as he knows.

"Why are you following us?" he asks on the fourth day, when John has wandered into the Beatles shop down the street, leaving the two of them to soak in the rain.

"Not following you."

"You are following us and you're looking more ragged by the day," insists Sherlock. His eyes scan the DI from head to toe.

"Same suit as yesterday, and quite possibly the day before. Really should freshen up. Tie has both a fresh stain and an old stain. You haven't changed it either. You've shaved, but quite badly, really. And your hair smells of the shampoo they stock in the locker rooms at the Yard. You haven't been going home. Why haven't you been going home?" Sherlock narrows his eyes just as John emerges with a Lennon beanie hat and a smile.

"We're off, then?" he asks brightly, looking from Sherlock to Lestrade and back again. "What did I miss?"

Lestrade grunts and walks ahead. "Just Sherlock being Sherlock," he says. "I have work to do."

"As you say," says Sherlock. But he wonders just what Lestrade considers his work these days.

The morning walk wears John out and he usually cajoles Sherlock into some lunch and then a nap.

(It's hardly a sacrifice. Sarah's at the surgery and Mrs Hudson is busy with afternoon telly. Mycroft is most likely

destabilising some third-world country, so at least we can be assured of a bit of privacy until teatime.)

Sherlock can scarcely imagine what his life will be like when it's not randomly invaded by concerned family and friends. When he and John can walk about in a state of undress if they choose without fear of scandalising well-meaning visitors.

Afternoon naps are upstairs in John's room. The climb is good exercise, and also affords another layer of silence around them, a cushion of lumber and fibre and air between them and the world outside.

They lock John's door behind them.

Skin to skin, curtains drawn against the afternoon light, Sherlock learns the breadth and depth of John (and John learns me, too, he does, against all the odds).

Each day a master class. Each night a virtuoso performance.

Sherlock revels in the sounds he can draw from John. The growl when Sherlock bites; the rough moan when Sherlock swirls his tongue right there. How he can make John beg, "pleasepleaseplease", and cry out his name, long and rough, when he shatters. He thrills at how John makes him shiver and at the stream of nonsense that flows from him when John uses his mouth (Ahhhh) or finds all the secret spots on his body and presses on them one at a time, just like that.

He pretends not to hear John whispering that he loves him as Sherlock kisses his closed eyelids and shushes him to sleep. He will tell him. He will. He hasn't got the words yet, though he's collected the sounds.

It's an odd feeling, Sherlock thinks. Being loved.

He's long been accustomed to the overbearing protectiveness of his brother (learned at the hands of our mother), and the bossiness of all manner of authority he'd long ago learned to ignore.

But this. This is something else entirely.

Mrs Hudson, ensuring that neither of them die of starvation. Sarah (yes, even her) checking that they haven't dropped into another load of trouble, her eyes worried—warm—even as she scolds them. Even Molly (generous Molly who understands more than I'd have ever anticipated, even me) has texted once or twice with the offer of a spare leg up for experimentation.

(Yesterday she had a batch of brains on offer, but that's probably a bit much for John right yet.)

And Lestrade.

"He's outside." John's whisper surprises him.

"I thought you were asleep."

"Was. But you were thinking so loudly I woke up."

Sherlock grins.

"How did you know he was out there?"

"Obvious, isn't it?"

"Well, yes."

"Hard to miss, really." John pokes him. "You're not the only observant one, you know."

"I know. I know."

He thinks he understands why Lestrade watches them. Knows why he's spending his nights in the squad car instead of behind doors, closed and double-bolted, warm in his bed. Sherlock doesn't know what to do with the knowledge or with the feeling that surges in his chest when he thinks of it.

He hasn't had opportunity (not until recently; so much has changed recently) to think about what friends do for one another. What they'll do to protect each other. About how many different types of love there are, really.

"I don't think he's gone home."

"I know," says Sherlock. "He's sleeping in his squad car, I think."

John freezes and Sherlock is alert in an instant.

"He's always here. Sherlock, do you think he knows something we don't?"

He feels John's heart jumping underneath his hand. Terror still lurking just under the surface.

"No. I don't think so," he says, dropping a kiss on John's warm skin. "I don't think it has to do with a new danger. Only the one that has already passed."

"Ah." John knows about this. About how your fear can strangle you, fear of the thing that has already happened.

"He's standing guard." John's voice is rough and Sherlock nods, the knot in his own throat choking him.

"Mycroft is watching us more thoroughly—"

"I know." Sherlock pauses and glances at the windows with their curtains drawn tight. "I don't think that matters, really."

"No, I suppose it doesn't." John looks thoughtful. "He's doing it for himself, too. Not only for us."

Sherlock nods.

"So he can feel as if he's doing something," John says. "To not feel so helpless."

"Helpless," Sherlock echoes, his heart thundering in his chest.

"You know what that's like." John's voice is hushed.


He can't look at John. Can't, because he'll see him like he was that night, standing there in that horrible parka, strapped to a bomb that was meant to tear him into a hundred thousand pieces.

He feels John's arms wrap around him, hands stroking, soothing. Calming him until his pulse stops hammering and he can breathe again.

"It's okay. I'm okay."

Sherlock buries his face in John's hair.

(John's okay. He's okay. He's here. He's fine. He's more than fine, actually. He's brilliant.)

Sherlock takes in a big breath, a lungful of John to sustain him until the next time.

He nods, and after a moment, John is talking again.

"We can't hide forever, Sherlock. Eventually, we have to get back out there. Back to normal."

John brushes his thumb along the line of Sherlock's jaw.

(tender, so tender)

"Normal." Sherlock swallows thickly.

"Yes, normal."

(But what if Moriarty comes back? What if he snatches John off the street again and this time… what if this time he

succeeds in ripping John from me, and tears John into pieces so tiny that bits of John are blown away by the wind and I can't find him…)

Sherlock slips his arms around John and pulls him tight against him. Skin to skin. Heart to heart.

"Maybe we should tell Lestrade it's time for him to go home," Sherlock whispers.

"Maybe we should," John agrees, and brushes his lips against Sherlock's.

Sherlock's heart is still beating just a little too fast, but for now, he'll pretend it's only because John is kissing him, and that his hands have started to roam to some of Sherlock's very favourite spots.

John will go back to the surgery and Sherlock will get some more enzymes so he can experiment with the ear that's been in the freezer almost too long. And when Moriarty surfaces again, they'll get him. This time, they'll get him.

In the meantime, Sherlock will focus on what's important: cataloguing the taste and texture of the sounds John makes when Sherlock touches him (forty-seven unique types, so far… no, forty-eight as of this afternoon) and is, frankly, more than a bit occupied.


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.

Evidence has, it would seem, morphed into a series. There will be at least one more instalment to come in this universe.