Title: Little Forks and Merrythoughts
Author: cathedral carver
Word count: 3,100
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Warnings: Spoilers for The Great Game
Summary: This is how it always goes. Mostly.
A/N: Written for the 2011 Holmestice. Many, many thanks and much love to machshefa, for her ongoing support, encouragement and lovely beta work.
Two things only a man cannot hide: that he is drunk and that he is in love.
This is how it always goes:
It's bedtime. He's five. Mycroft is already in his own bed, reading with great absorption, but Sherlock is restless, as always, and has no desire to go to sleep. Nanny is used to this, and though it's aggravating, she's fond of him, and tries some distraction.
"Look, Sherlock." Nanny points out the wide, open window. He looks. "A star. First star, in fact. Do you see it?"
He does. He nods.
"Make a wish, Sherlock."
"Why?" he asks. He can't help it. He never can.
"Why?" Nanny laughs, tousles his hair, which only slightly irritates him. "Because that's what you do."
He's truly puzzled. "But a star is just a big ball of hot, exploding gas, hydrogen and helium, and carbon and nitrogen, oxygen and iron. Why would anyone make a wish on that?"
Mycroft sighs loudly from his bed, rustles his book. Sherlock ignores him. Nanny just laughs and takes Sherlock's hand, positions him in front of the window. She never knows quite what to make of him. "Come on. Close your eyes and make a wish."
Wishing on a star? Really? Even at this age he knows it is futile. But, as it seems so important to her, he does as she asks, at least the closing his eyes part.
"Don't tell me," she reminds him.
"Oh, I won't," he assures her, rolling his eyes beneath his lids.
"Else it won't come true."
He tries not to sound too disrespectful, for he is very fond of this nanny, and she's lasted longer than the others (but not for much longer, because several days later she's simply gone, and it has something to do with the inordinate amount of time she spends with Father, and something to do with the fact that Sherlock sets his bedroom carpet on fire, which is upsetting, but not entirely his fault: he simply wants to see whether white candles really do burn faster than coloured candles; they don't, but he knocks one over accidentally and, well, the carpet burns very quickly, indeed), and really, he'd like to make a wish, but at this moment he remains perplexed. What on earth does one wish for? A different brother? A new chemistry set? A pony?
He can feel Nanny waiting, which makes him tense, so, in the end he wishes for nothing at all, but doesn't tell her this, and she seems pleased when he opens his eyes and smiles up at her, and she hustles him into his bed where he lies for many hours, his mind travelling at light speed in a million different directions, and later, much later, he realizes what he should have wished for was for people he cares about to stop bloody leaving.
It's raining, he thinks. It's raining…but they're inside. Aren't they? He could have sworn they'd been standing by the pool a moment before, and there'd been a gun, and Moriarty, but definitely no rain. Odd, that.
He feels, rather than sees, John beside him, through the haze, through the rain. But finally he understands: not rain. Of course. An explosion. And, pool water, then, dripping from a fractured ceiling.
"You all right?" Sherlock asks for the third (or is it fourth?) time that night. This time, however, the answer is most imperative. John huffs out a laugh that sounds like a cough.
"I'm fine, Sherlock. Still fine. How are you?" His hands, John's hands, are on him. It's dark and wet. The floor beneath him is hard and sharp and angled, but John's face, his expression, is infinitely gentle and concerned.
"Moriarty?" Sherlock asks.
"Of course." Sherlock shifts a bit. Something unyielding digs into his side and it rather hurts to breathe. John's palm comes to rest on the side of Sherlock's face, his fingers sliding in the dirty tangle of his hair. Sherlock exhales. "But, we're still here, yes?"
John's fingers move again, coming to rest on the steady pulse in his neck. This seems to please him. He exhales, too. "We are."
Late at night, very late, long after John is asleep, after everyoneis asleep, Sherlock tries to puzzle these things out in the dark and quiet of the flat:
Maybe it is the sound of your breathing.
Maybe it's the soft, vulnerable skin on the back of your neck, right beneath where your hair ends, where it curls when it's long (not too long, but longer than usual).
Maybe it's because I want to wrap myself up in your jumpers, with or without you in them, as well.
Maybe it's the fact that you haven't left.
And this is how it always goes:
It's his birthday. Sherlock is 10. It's his birthday, and for some unfathomable reason, perhaps to distract him from the fact that Father moved out three days previous and hasn't been heard from since, Mummy has arranged for a magician to perform at his party. The Great Galini is fine, as magicians go, and the other children find him highly amusing, but Sherlock, being Sherlockhas figured out his tricks and sleights of hand before Galini even gets close to finishing them, and has even explained several illusions, in a loud voice, much to Mummy's chagrin. At first Galini is amused, but by the fourth time, he looks nothing short of murderous and Mycroft pokes Sherlock in the ribs hard enough to leave a mark.
"Can you at least pretend to be amused? You're upsetting Mummy," he hisses and Sherlock bites his tongue until it bleeds.
Finally Galini stomps off in disgust and is replaced by a birthday cake, which is fine, until the inevitable, of course.
"Make a wish, Sherlock," croons Mummy, and Mycroft stifles a laugh. Mummy tsks. Mycroft is immediately contrite. Mummy's eyes are very red, Sherlock notices, but of course they are: she's been crying for days, in her room, with the curtains drawn. Sherlock also notices her breath smells like bourbon, but she's tried to mask it with something minty. He must remember to tell her to try peanut butter instead.
He sits and stares at the candles, as perplexed and bewildered as ever about the prospect of wishing for anything, but everyone is watching and waiting, and since this is what children do, he closes his eyes and thinks.
He thinks he would like the party guests to go home now, as he's quite tired of the noise, and he'd like Mummy to be happy again, and he'd like to inform Galini that the only real magic is the Great Vanishing Act, and most of all he would really reallylike people he loves to just stop bloody disappearing.
The weeks following the explosion are strange ones.
They are unusually quiet with one another, and unusually gentle to one another. They nurse their respective wounds and Sherlock catches himself watching John, more than usual, even. What he fails to realize is that John watches him, too.
Their life is quiet and still, but for the occasional and rather insistent calls from both Sarah: (Call me John, please. I'm worried about you.), and Mycroft: Sherlock, unless I hear otherwise, I'm expecting you for dinner Friday night. Don't make me come over there.) Mrs. Hudson brings food almost continually, including wine and a whole chicken, and Lestrade is almost solicitous in his texts, which throws Sherlock into a deep depression. He just wants to work, but of course, no one is letting him, at least not right now, but staying in the flat with John only forces him to watch and watch and think and question, and usually the same question, over and over:
Why is he still here? When is he going to leave?
To which there is no immediate answer.
Then it's Sunday again, and it's boring, and he'sbored, and John has opened the wine, and why the hell not, before Sherlock realizes, he's consumed almost the entire bottle, save for what's in John's own half-empty glass. So far, John has not appeared to notice, as he is bustling about in the kitchen doing things with food.
"What are you up to, exactly?" Sherlock calls. He is supine on the couch, swimming in a most pleasant wine-infused haze. He's forgotten how nicebeing tipsy can be.
"Ah." He pauses. "Why?"
"Because some people do get hungry, from time to time…and do like to eat. Including me."
Time passes and John returns and situates himself with the paper once again. Eventually Sherlock remembers something, announced via his olfactory senses.
"Something smells," he announces. His voice sounds unnaturally loud in the small flat.
John looks up. "Yes." He puts the paper down. "Chicken, remember? It's been roasting for…" He checks his watch. "Well, it's done, actually."
This time Sherlock follows him on rather unsteady legs to the kitchen, where John is poking at the bird, which looks quite roasted and even appealing in its dish on the table.
"Perfect," John announces, and Sherlock takes the rather large knife from John, and positions himself above the bird. John stares in confusion.
"What…are you doing?"
"Isn't it obvious? I'm carving." Lord, he mustbe drunk.
"You…cooked, so I will…you know."
John pauses, wondering how to proceed without creating an incident.
"And you've…carved a bird before, then?"
"I have…carvedmany things before."
"A…bird, being one of those many things?"
Sherlock considers. "How different can it be, really?"
"Just go…amuse yourself elsewhere. I need to…concentrate."
"You just said you'd done this before."
"I said I'd carved many things—"
"But not exactly a—"
Sherlock brandishes the knife in his direction, menacingly.
John throws up his hands.
"Fine. Just don't come crying to me if you slice your arm off."
It also went a lot like this:
Once, there was a boy, of course, at school, and Sherlock was terribly fond of him (but not in lovewith him, of that he was quite sure, although it felt a lot like he imagined love would feel like, at some point in his life), and the boy liked him very much in return, and there was a lot of kissing, and a lot of cuddling, and a lot of reading together, side by side, for hours at a time on rainy afternoons, and Sherlock was so happy, until the day he came upon the boy, kissing another boy, and that was the end of that.
The boy, though embarrassed, was not overly distraught, and shrugged his shoulders like it couldn't be helped.
"Sorry, mate." He clapped Sherlock's shoulder and gave it a little squeeze. "Didn't mean for you to find out like this. But, you know how it goes."
And so he did.
And then the boy was gone.
Funny how that kept happening.
Several peaceful moments later and John is fully immersed in the paper and his glass of wine, when:
"Could you come in here."
"What is it?"
"Just need your opinion on something."
"I'm sure you're doing just fine." He pauses, sips more wine, eyes the empty bottle which he doesn't remember finishing, and adds: "Carry on."
"Yes. Well. Won't take but a moment."
John sighs, heaves himself up and moves back to the kitchen, where he finds Sherlock standing not over the chicken, but over the sink, cradling his left hand in his right hand. His normally pale, pale skin is coated red and shiny wet, dripping steadily.
"Sherlock! What the hell?"
He puts his wine down and grabs a dishrag and wraps the hands quickly and firmly, pressing down with both hands.
"Unbelievable," he mutters. "What did you do?"
"Sliced it, apparently."
John sighs. He pauses. Then: "Well, not your wholearm, at least."
Another long pause. "And, apparently notlike a bird, then."
"No. Apparently not. But, don't worry. I managed to not bleed on dinner."
"Yes. Well. Thank god for that," John mutters. He peels the saturated cloth back and takes a closer look. A deep gash, not long, but requiring several stitches. When he looks up, Sherlock is staring directly at him.
"And, at least I didn't come cryingto you about it."
"True." John pauses. "I think we need to go to hospital."
Sherlock sniffs. "Why? You're a very good doctor, aren't you? I'm sure you fixed worse in…the trenches, or wherever, right?"
John looks at him.
"Are you suggesting that I stitch this? Here?
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting."
"John. I'm not going anywheretonight, so if you'd like to brush up on your skills, now's your chance."
"Fine. Sit down."
He returns with his kit and goes to work. Sherlock can't take his eyes off him. Topical analgesic. Fine. Good. John bends his head, goes to work, black thread, in and out, and again. Sherlock registers very little of it. What he does register:
Despite his apparent nonchalance, he feels his heart, thready and erratic, knocking about behind his ribs.
John, however, is completely, utterly, almost frighteningly calm. These are good, admirable qualities for a doctor to have, he thinks.
"All done, then," John says at last. He finishes up and puts things away where they belong, not looking at Sherlock, not acknowledging his handiwork, not expecting any kind of thanks. He closes his kit with a sharp snapand leans back in his chair, places both hands, fists, against his eyes, rubs them, and exhales loudly. Then he stops, lowers his hands and looks directly at Sherlock for the first time since he entered the kitchen.
And it is only then, after it is done and done, the wound stitched and wrapped and throbbing lightly, it is only then that Sherlock can look, really look, and really see these things:
John's uneven breathing.
John's frightened eyes.
John's trembling fingers, stained with blood, Sherlock's blood, hisblood.
John's bruised, exposed heart.
Sherlock stands and sways slightly, and John, alarmed, stands to steady him.
"You really should stay seated, or better yet, lie down—"
Sherlock shakes his head, belches lightly, reaches for John's glass and drains what's left of the wine.
It takes a moment before John realizes. He blinks once, twice, then frowns in sudden realization.
Right. That's why he sliced himself, then.
Sherlock is never clumsy.
Sherlock isn't tired.
Sherlock isn't preoccupied.
Sherlock isn't distracted or faint or even nauseous.
Sherlock is drunk. Well, tipsy, definitely, with the telltale flushed cheeks and wine-stained lips and over-bright eyes and the waythose eyes are watching him and—
—Sherlock's mouth, his lips, are on John's mouth, his lips. It is tentative at first, testing and questing, waiting for a response, perhaps, but it's not a mistake, because he doesn't stop, and the longer it goes on, the more intense it becomes.
John, for a very brief, rather insane moment, almost considers not kissing him back. Silly, really, because he knows, just then, it's what he's wanted all along, even if he didn't knowit.
The kiss is messy and desperate and questioning. It's also almost painful in its abrupt desire, in its effort to both make up for lost time and forge a new path. John puts his hands on Sherlock's shoulders, then the sides of his face, which are hot, then wraps his arms right around him (all bone and sinew, he is, long and lean and—)
"Don't—" Sherlock breathes into his mouth. John stops.
"Don't what?" He's not sure he wants to hear the answer.
"Don't let go."
Of course he doesn't, and then they're drowning together all over again.
Later, when the kitchen is cleaned of both food and blood and Sherlock is sprawled on the couch, deliciously bruised-mouth and liquid limp, he realizes it's raining. Raining outsidethis time, which is rather fitting.
He moves his legs so John can sit, then puts them across his lap.
"Here." John holds out his hand. Sherlock moves to take it, then realizes he's actually holding something between his fingers.
"Ah. The furcula," Sherlock murmurs, "or little fork, in Latin." John sighs, closes his eyes briefly. "It's a forked bone found in birds, formed by the fusion of the two clavicles. In birds, its function is the strengthening of the thoracic skeleton to withstand the rigors of flight. Theropods have been found to have furculae, including dromaeosaurids—"
Sherlock stops. John leans over and kisses him, softly, firmly. He pulls back, just a bit. Sherlock licks his lips.
"Oviraptorids—" He continues softly. John smiles, leans over again.
No one speaks. It's very quiet, except for the rain. The rain outside, Sherlock thinks, and swallows a giggle.
"Are you done?" John asks.
Sherlock considers, then shakes his head.
"Not quite. the tradition that when two people hold the two sides of the bone and pull it apart, the one who gets the larger part will have a wish granted. Today the wishbone, once removed from the turkey or chicken, is first dried and then held between the little fingers of two opposing 'wishers.' Once the wish has been made the bone is pulled by each person. The wisher who breaks off a larger section of bone is assumed to have his wish granted."
John grins, kisses him once more, for good measure.
"Are you done now?"
This time Sherlock nods.
"Can we break the wishbone?"
"I prefer merrythought."
"Fine. Can we break the bloody merrythought, already?"
Sherlock smiles. John smiles, shakes his head. They each take one end in their fingers. Sherlock's are, he realizes, trembling. Interesting.
And this is how it's always gone, except for this time:
"Make a wish, Sherlock."
Make a wish. Close your eyes. Don't tell. It's not a ball of exploding gas, it's not a magic trick, or sleight of hand, and he hopes no one is going to vanish this time.
He looks at John, and, for the first time in his life, he knows exactly what he wants to wish for. And maybe, for the first time, he'll actually get it.
He nods, his lips twisting along with his heart.