I. The birds, they sing, at the break of day
John has first seen - or rather heard; because once you heard him, you pretty much forgot that you even had eyes - the man years back, before the ghost wound in his leg, before blood and stifling heat of Afganistan, back in the golden nineties when the world was still relatively simple, without the mobile phones and with internet barely rising its intangible head.
It was summer of '93 and Harry, who still had sparkling eyes and a completely white nose, dragged him to a concert of some Canadian bloke he'd never heard about before. John had protested rather vigorously. He wasn't going to help her sneak into the backstage so she could seduce one of the back-vocalists; he was quite sure that was her only motive to go. In the end, John gave up and went with her, because she wouldn't stop bothering him otherwise.
But for once in his life, John had been glad he had given in to Harry's whims. The man on the stage was some crazy mixture of musician and priest in an evening suit with a cocked fedora and a smile with thousands of years behind him. His voice was torn black velvet curtains of some half-forgotten dingy jazz bar. And the words ... God, the words. John stood in the darkness, with his face turned up to the light from the stage and felt like his heart was slowly and painlessly cut out from his chest, wrapped gently in thundercloud-grey silks of music and then put back into the cradle of his ribs, skin and tissue healed with a searing-hot touch.
When the concert ended and the strange, strange man left the stage with tango steps, John didn't quite know what to do with himself. Harry must have disappeared sometime during the concert, gone to seduce one or probably all of the admittedly lovely back-vocalists. He was left alone, and perhaps that was for the best, because he didn't really feel like speaking anyway.
That night, John walked the streets of London with a smile on his face, the music gently thrumming in his bones, giving the strength and beat to his steps. The freshly made and healed wound in his chest ached; a sweet, sweet pain that was rather like being in love. The thoughts of sleep were far, far away from his mind; John walked, murmuring the words, drowning in the dark taste of them that reminded him of strongly sweetened black coffee.
He wandered the streets of his beloved city until early morning. That was when he found himself a bench on the riverbank and watched the sunrise for the first time since he was a child.
II. Cracked things
In the damp heat of an run-down hospital room, a soldier is writhing on the bed, feverish and delirious from the tearing pain and drugs that never really manage to scare the pain away. The doctor standing next to the bed is looking through his chart with the wrinkled forehead of someone who is far too educated to expect miracles.
The soldier on the bed suddenly laughs, hoarse and slightly mad. "There is a crack in everything," he rasps, eyes glassy and blind. "That's how the light gets in."
The doctor doesn't even look up from his chart. He has heard a lot of feverish ramblings before and this one definitely doesn't count as interesting.
III. The wind that blows through the graves
John went to Hell, because it seemed like fun, and when his body failed him, they sent him back. Now he feels like an old man, walking with a cane and feeling the lines in his skin with a trembling hand when he washes his face in the morning.
There is a faceless woman named Ella speaking nonsense about post-traumatic stress disorder and trust issues and adjusting to the civilian life. There is an uncomfortable bed at the end of each grey day. There are the streets and sounds and people of the city he once loved, but the city doesn't love him back anymore. There is also a British Army Browning L9A1 in the drawer of his nightstand, and he cleans it each day before going to sleep, because it makes him feel like a warrior again; stroking the smooth metal, he takes it apart and then puts it back, piece by piece, the way a religious man would say his bedtime prayers. In the dead of the night, when nightmares wake him up, he opens a book of that strange, strange man's poetry and whispers the words in the darkness until his blood feels warm again.
Then, John Watson meets Sherlock Holmes, and the world snaps back into focus. The cane and PTSD and other stupid things fall away from him like shrivelled dry vines from a stone statue suddenly come to life. London forgives him his long absence and turns into a battlefield for him, and John feels young again. His hand stops trembling.
But Sherlock ... well, Sherlock is crazy and keeps a framed psychiatric evaluation on his bedroom wall which proves it. He has jars with human organs in formaldehyde and keeps human eyes in the microwave. When he is bored, he hacks into the government files and invents new explosives.
John cannot possibly imagine how the hell did Mike knew that there were two men in London in desperate need of some crazy company in order to remain sane, but he doesn't really care.
IV. Through the velvet curtains
It reminds John of a dance, this strange, strange life he is living now. He has been sentenced to the twenty years of boredom, and now, he is free.
The cluttered flat he maneuvers through, following Sherlock and his trailing coattails, his bouncy curls, seems more like a dance floor every day. The blood on the pavement and the flashing of police lights giving rhythm to Sherlock's quicksilver thoughts; the push and pull of Chinese takeaway and bullet holes in the walls, of monsters and fights in the darkness with toast and tea in the golden light in the mornings. John is always the one that makes tea - and does the laundry and cleans around the flat and does the shopping - because that's his way of saying thank-you for the rooftop chases and bloody knuckles of his fists and sometimes powder burns on his fingers, the adrenaline-filled wanks in the early hours of the morning. It doesn't seem like a fair trade, but John doesn't know what else he can do for this brilliant man. So he takes care of him, and in turn, Sherlock takes care of their boredom.
There is one problem, though.
Sherlock is pale like an alien life form, his skin faintly glowing in the dark streets of London. He has the eyes of some strange nighttime creature, so bright that it hurts to look into them sometimes. His body goes on for miles and miles, his cheekbones seems freshly sharpened each morning and his hands are light and white like paper planes. When he plays the violin, one can almost see flames licking through his flesh and stroking the strings. He twirls through his insanity like a dervish, his coat and silver strands of thoughts fluttering behind him like faithful subjects.
In other words, John wants Sherlock to the point of being crazy from it. He stares, helplessly, on and on, day after day, because he cannot not stare; because normal people are unnerved by strange things, and John yearns after them. Soon, he abandons the pretense of not thinking about the flatmate when he brings himself off in the mornings; and in the evenings, the sound of the violin downstairs intertwines with his gasps. One day, he opens the book of that strange, strange man's poetry and finds Sherlock on every single page, in every single word. And he knows he is in it for good.
V. Your beauty and your burning violin
One late evening, when they are caught in the no-man's-land between one case and another, Sherlock picks up his violin and starts playing.
John is reading his book - and it is The Favourite Game by that strange, strange man - and needs a few moments before realizing that he knows the melody Sherlock's playing; has it more or less ingrained in his bones.
Sherlock is swaying like a tree in the wind, almost dancing while playing, and John feels like drowning in the sauntering, unbearably sweet music. It is broken now, pieces twisted around with dancing fingers and little silvery bells of sound linking them together; broad, vibrating tones cutting through and sliding through John's flesh like ghosts of blades. Light-headed, he stares at Sherlock's bare forearms and closed eyes, eyebrows drawn together and lips slightly open, and he could swear he can see flames flickering around the slender frame.
His violin is burning.
John laughs like a man gone mad, presses a fist to his mouth to keep quiet.
Sherlock stops playing, opens his eyes. And smiles. "You know this song, John?" he asks.
John nods, not trusting his own tongue right now.
And Sherlock, damn his clever mind, recites the lines, word for word, sending them through the still air like little birds of fire. His voice slides against the invisible scars on John's chest, and John knows there is no more peace for him on this world.
VI. The witnesses are gone
Sherlock puts away his violin and descends down upon John like a quiet angel made of ice and ink, and kisses him, and kisses him, and kisses him, murmuring the words against his lips.
Let me, let me ... Oh, John, please-
By the time they manage to get rid of their trousers and underwear and push John's shirt up far enough for Sherlock to mouth at his nipples, there is little sanity left in John. He twists his fingers in the dark curls and stifles his broken moan against Sherlock's damp neck, and begs for moremoremore.
VII. To the end
John knows that they are a combination too glorious to last.
He knows that one day, the violin won't stop burning until only ashes shall remain.
And he does.