Final chapter! I hope you've all enjoyed this as much as I've enjoyed writing it, and will continue to do so with this one remaining chapter. As it's the end, reviews are appreciated even more than usual (which is a lot), so if you do have the time, I would love to know what you've thought.
And, for one last time, I don't own Sherlock or The Fray.
'If I say who I know it just goes to show
You need me less than I need you
Take it from me we
Don't give sympathy
You can trust me trust nobody'
It's raining. Big fat drops of water splash onto the grey slabs of the pavement, spraying upwards upon impact, leaving tiny droplets of water on his shoes. His hair is soaking too: water running out of it, down his face and into his eyes – a lone figure on a deserted street. It's quiet, but he doesn't notice, his face turning upwards towards the door of the flat in front of him, so that little streams flow down his neck, sending blossoming patterns across his shirt. He shivers.
He's been standing there for far too long, he realises as he contemplates the little number on the door: any onlooker would be puzzled as to why this man was lingering outside in the wet. He has no umbrella, and the water has long since soaked through his jumper into his shirt, the cab long since sped off.
On instinct, his hand reaches out for the handle, his eyes never leaving the little '221B' above his head. The number has become a little familiar phrase, a reminder of home, something that rolls off the tongue when anyone asks him his address: 'Oh – 221B. Baker Street.' It feels natural.
Still, John hesitates. His hand is resting on the door handle now, the cold brass stinging the flesh of his hand. The water pours faster over him, the hammering of the rain increasing in volume and speed. By now, he is soaked to the skin, and practicality overrides anything else – he lets himself in, gratefully leaning against the wall at the bottom of the stairs, and shaking his head, so that water droplets fly everywhere.
Now inside, John looks up the stairs, and the trepidation he felt outside seems a little sillier than it had then. It feels more normal now he's actually here, and he wonders vaguely if Sherlock's managed to set fire to anything in his absence.
He takes the stairs at speed, bursting through the door of the flat with more vigour than was strictly necessary. It's very quiet, the curtains drawn, and a consulting detective sprawled across the sofa, apparently asleep, with three nicotine patches on his arm, and an expression of deep thought. Ah. Probably not asleep then.
Keeping in mind that Sherlock deeply disliked anyone interrupting him when he was thinking, and wondering briefly what he could be thinking about, John made his way quietly to the kitchen, intending to put on the kettle, and wait for Sherlock to awake from his reverie.
He tries to ignore the hurt that manifests when he realises that Sherlock is probably working on a new case, and he doesn't know about it.
The noise, that cuts through the dead silence, makes him jump. He turns towards the source very inelegantly, stumbling as he faces the detective, whose eyes are open and fixed on him.
Sherlock's eyes might radiate interest and energy, but his voice is almost hoarse, probably from lack of sleep. The detective has propped himself up on one elbow and is squinting at John across the room. He looks unusually disorientated upon closer inspection. John had thought the expression in his eyes to be the usual inquisitiveness, but it's not. There's frustration, and possibly confusion too. His brows are furrowed, and the man is almost frowning. He's glaring at the patches on his arm with venom, as if they had personally offended him. They probably did.
After his chat with Mycroft – who, John realises now, was effectively making up for the misunderstandings caused by their combined pride – his anger towards the detective has vanished completely, replaced by concern.
"Three patch problem?" John asks, pointing at Sherlock's arm, and watching him uncertainly.
"Only three left," Sherlock corrects him, with a small smile that John returns; followed by a scowl, apparently aimed at his own forearm. The detective squeezes his eyes shut very tightly, and John almost goes over to the sofa to see if he's alright.
"And the curtains?"
"The light was annoying."
Silence falls. Sherlock stays lying on the sofa with eyes squeezed shut, John stands frozen in the kitchen, feeling useless. The silence is very different from the usual silence in 221B – which was amicable, mutual – no, this is more uncertain. Both of them, John senses, are making an effort not to offend the other, or bring up any subject that might be sensitive, and have plumped for staying silent: the events of the past days too raw to be considered safe topics.
John moves back over to the kettle; filling it with water and flicking it on just for something to do. The rain continues hammering down outside, little bullets of water pelting the concrete.
"I saw Mycroft in the hospital," John tries. He knows mention of Mycroft is never a way to put Sherlock in a good mood, but he can't think of anything to say, and the tension is unbearable.
He's got his back to the consulting detective at this point, and as such is surprised when the voice that answers comes from much closer quarters than he'd anticipated; Sherlock having moved into the kitchen, and leaned against the counter to survey his flatmate. John meets his gaze tentatively; aware that the last time they met he would have been glad for an excuse to punch the man.
"Did you?" There's a certain defensiveness in the detective's voice that doesn't belong there. His expression is hard to read.
John looks away again, banging a pair of mugs onto the counter, and throwing teabags into them much too hastily. He stays entirely concentrated on his task, eyes on the amber liquid as he adds the water, trying to pretend that he can't feel Sherlock's stare never wavering from his face. He adds the milk, only managing to look at Sherlock to pass him one of the mugs.
"You could have told me yourself," he says awkwardly, taking a sip far too quickly, resulting in a burnt tongue.
"You wouldn't have listened." Sherlock replies, setting his own tea down for the present, obviously learning from John's mistake. It's with some shame that John realises the statement is probably true.
He takes another sip, more carefully this time, but it still results in a searing pain across his tongue. Sherlock stifles a grin, and John puts the liquid to one side for the moment, too.
"I did have a gun, you know," he tells Sherlock. The detective makes no comment, and John continues. "And, you did still poison me. But, in a sense, I guess I should thank you."
They contemplate each other for a few moments; until John feels a grin spreading irresistibly across his face, and sees his expression mirrored in the face of his flatmate. It feels natural again, and there's a sense of understanding between them.
"John," Sherlock starts uncertainly, seeming unable to gauge the reaction his words might bring. "I did know about the gun…"
John opens his mouth to speak, but his flatmate ploughs across him.
"…but the killer was far too likely to use his own in retaliation if you'd done anything: I didn't know who he might shoot." The detective's smile has vanished, replaced by an expression of anxiety, lips pressed together. "My poisoning you was the only way I could ensure you would survive, and," he grimaces, looking as though he's trying to force something out that he'd really, really rather not. John is tempted to laugh, but lets him finish. "Your dying would…I mean…well it would be – not good."
He looks at John in defiance, seemingly daring him to contradict him, or mock him.
Gradually, however, his expression softens and their grins return, dissolving into companionable laughter. The scene is so familiar; John feels for the first time since entering 221B that day, that he's home.
They stand like that for a good few minutes: grinning and chuckling a little, until Sherlock turns away, crossing the flat to open the curtains. John follows more slowly, balancing the mugs of tea.
"You're drenched," Sherlock observes, flinging himself onto the sofa again and glancing over at John as he sips the tea, who's clutching his own mug in both hands.
"Not your most impressive deduction."
Sherlock huffs, lying back into the upholstery, and crossing his feet on the arm of the couch.
"So, did you sort everything out with the case?" John asks, yawning, and shaking some of the moisture out of the sleeve of his jumper.
"Yep. Killer jailed, all victims identified, and Virginia allowed to live her own life again."
"She still doing the TV show?"
"Yes, actually," Sherlock says, stretching in a way not dissimilar to a cat. "It's a little more liberal in approach now; you'll be unsurprised to hear."
"And what happened with her and Scarlet in the end?"
Sherlock gives him a very scathing look, rolls his eyes; and he rests his head further back into the sofa, looking distinctly bored.
"Really, John, I've told you many times that I simply do not care who is sleeping with whom."
It's very dark. He's tired. There is a hyperactive consulting detective harassing him as he tries to sleep.
Groaning at the disturbance, John rolls over, squinting at the display on the alarm clock. The little red numbers inform him that it's five in the morning, and he claws at the recently removed covers, trying to claim them back.
"G'way, Sherlock," he mumbles, sitting up in an attempt to reclaim the duvet. Sherlock is fully dressed: not only in his customary suit, but complete with coat, scarf and gloves, and an excited and slightly manic glint in his eye. He is holding his phone in his hand. John looks at it, and groans again.
"You're kidding," he says.
Sherlock smiles at his small observation.
"You're on good form this morning," the detective tells him, sounding slightly impressed, if surprised. "Which is why I need you to get up and dressed – now."
John scowls at him, but he's properly awake by this point. He realises that it isn't actually that dark, and that the darkness was caused by his eyes being shut. Nonetheless, it's very early, and he feels that if he can't distinguish between the inside of his own eyelids and his bedroom, he will probably be of little use to Sherlock.
Still, he likes their cases as much as his insane, insomniac flatmate, so he swings his legs off the bed obligingly.
He would admit that he preferred them when the sun had risen fully, though.
"Fine. Go away, and I will."
The detective complies, but John can feel him hovering behind the door impatiently, and tries to quell the nervous energy radiating through the wood by engaging him in conversation.
"What's the occasion?" he calls, clumsily pulling a jumper over his head, and stifling a massive yawn.
"Some rather unusual housebreaking," Sherlock replies, and John can hear the grin in his voice. "Nothing taken, but there's some kind of message left there. Hurry up."
Sherlock manages to chivvy John out of the door in less than five minutes, amidst the latter's complaints. John realises such protests fall on deaf ears, but reasons to himself that it never hurts to hope.
They're standing outside on the pavement, scouring the misty street for a cab, when Sherlock speaks again. John barely catches the words: he's blinking and shaking his head, trying to wake himself up.
"This'll be worth it," Sherlock tells him, giving a grin as a cab approaches. "Trust me."
At those last two words, John turns to face him in faint disbelief. He sees in his flatmate's eyes the realisation of the significance of what he's just uttered; seconds too late. They stand numbly in the mist, looking directly at each other, each wondering, searching for an answer.
John inhales, not moving his eyes from Sherlock's for a moment, contemplating the detective carefully; and making sure that when he speaks, both of them know exactly what he means.
Because it's important.
"Okay," John tells him.