Walk to Win
John wakes up and is confused for the fraction of a second it takes to remember that he is in his old room, not the one he has shared with Sherlock for... he has lost count, really. It feels as if it has never been different, as if Sherlock Holmes had always been a part of him. Sherlock does have the tendency to take over people's lives, as John well knows. He is not surprised that he hardly remembers a time before Sherlock. Even Afghanistan appears as if it's always been a nightmare, not a very real past causing nightmares.
He groans as his sleep addled brain reminds him of the happenings the day before. He should have known. He knows that Sherlock isn't one for artificial celebrations. He hadn't expected Sherlock to partake in any Christmassy cheer. Unfortunately, he also hadn't expected the time of the year to have a... more volatile effect on his rational detective.
John sighs. Sherlock had suddenly realised what it could mean to allow certain emotions. Had realised that it could become harder to harness feelings that before were easily put into boxes and shelved to be appraised but not felt. Had realised that allowing himself to love someone would remind him that he had loved before. Loved and lost. And where at any other time, Mycroft's jibes concerning their mother and past Christmases would have dripped off him like snow on a warm window's glass... this time, Sherlock had lashed out. The words had been cutting and deliberately hurtful, reflecting the pain Sherlock could no longer suppress.
Mycroft had, of course, understood immediately. This hadn't made him hold back his own pain, however. And Mycroft, just like his brother, knows where to hit for maximum impact.
John had taken a furiously shaking Sherlock home, where Sherlock had then gone for John's jugular, singling him out as the cause for his emotional instability. Many words had fallen, but the one that had cut the most was 'regret', and John could then feel the pain first-hand.
Finally having had enough and retreating upstairs, John knew, lying in his own bed, that Sherlock would eventually want to take back his words (as far as he ever wants to take back words), but even John's patience has its limits. He lay on his own, thinking about how he had cut short his visit with his sister to be with his lover and friend. So much for Christmas.
John turns in his bed and thinks about how it isn't really Christmas without pain and of course lovers and relatives trying to kill each other. He smiles, cynically. It's not his father, this time, though. Nor his sister. No, it's someone who isn't emotionally aggressive, but someone instead largely untested, untrained. Just as volatile.
Now, having slept (restlessly) through the night, John curses himself for his reaction. He doesn't regret it, exactly. Sherlock might be useless with emotions, but that doesn't mean that John has to take everything the insulting detective hands out. Of course, being who he is, he can't help but feel bad, anyway. Sherlock doesn't have mechanisms to deal with an overdose of emotion, he is merely very adept at not letting them surface in the first place. Well, that is one quality he no longer has entirely unlimited access to. Mostly, it is firmly in place, but, as has become quite clear, there are times when that unwavering wall cracks.
And it is sort of John's fault, when it comes down to it. They both know it. This is merely the first time that Sherlock has voiced it. Has voiced in anger that, maybe, the sacrifice isn't worth making.
A knot forms in John's stomach at that thought. It's not like he could have done anything, the day before. He knows an intransigent Sherlock when he sees one, and he knows himself well enough to know that staying while angry and hurt would only have made things worse.
In the end, it doesn't matter. He knows that he will never abandon Sherlock. Even if it takes deep and calming breaths to not just start crying, right now. He will not give in, not after he managed to avoid it before. If Sherlock were to decide that he could not sustain the established connection any longer...
John stops that thought before it can go anywhere. After all, the answer remains the same. In whatever way Sherlock is able to allow, he will stay.
It takes a few minutes of breathy puffs into the silence of his room before he hears the sounds from downstairs. Sherlock... is playing his violin. John turns to look at his alarm clock. Sherlock is playing his violin at three fourteen in the morning, his mind corrects. And it's not the angry or frustrated fiddling that John has come to know very well from whenever Sherlock is in a mood. No, the music that finds its way upstairs is soft and beautiful. John sits as the knot in his stomach gains weight. Heartbreaking. The music is heartbreaking.
John swings his legs over the side of the bed, rubs his eyes and gets up. He is still wearing the clothes from the previous day, having been to knackered to even change out of them. Anger and pain are terribly draining. He can't even begin to imagine what they must have done to Sherlock.
He softly pads down the stairs and finds Sherlock in his nightwear and dressing gown facing the window, playing his music.
Sherlock stops the moment John enters the living room. Both his arms fall at his sides, bow and violin in his near-limp hands, but what John really notices is the pure anguish in his expression. He has seen it before. It is infuriating and crippling at the same time.
John wants to apologise for walking out, even though he knows damn well that it wouldn't have done any good to stay. Wants to just step forward and hold this man. Wants to tell him that he loves him, even if he's being a dickhead.
"I didn't mean it," Sherlock says, sounding as pained as he looks.
John can't help it. He has to smile. "Well..." he begins, "it is sort of my fault, and it was easier, before."
Sherlock sways slightly and averts his eyes. Then his piercing gaze returns, unflinching, like a man facing a firing squad. "But I don't regret it. Couldn't."
John can breathe a little easier. He doesn't know what he would have done, had Sherlock decided that friendship is all he can make himself to give, after all. Well, John has established that he would have remained where he is, but... The consequence doesn't bear thinking about. Too late. Too late for him.
"I..." Sherlock continues, "I'm... inept at this. I knew that, of course, but..."
"Do you love me?" John interrupts him, his face serious (and secure – he knows the answer).
Sherlock straightens. "Yes," he says, once more without fear or regret.
John's little smile returns. "I can deal with the rest."
"I can deal with you losing it because you don't know what to do with yourself and what you feel. I can." He shrugs and sighs. "Your little tantrum was, well... I'm not going to lie to you and say it wasn't hurtful." He does another little shrugging motion. "I know you," he relents.
Now it's Sherlock who can breathe again. "You're not leaving."
"Never for long, anyway. 'S not like I can keep away." John's lip twitches. "You know... my life was easier before I met you, and it's definitely your fault that it's anything but easy, now. Sometimes I feel like saying that I regret ever meeting you, but I could never mean it. Not really."
Sherlock returns the tentative smile, then clears his throat. "I'm going to have to do something about my lack of control. It's a liability." He looks almost... huffy, and John has to hold back a grin.
"Practice makes perfect," John agrees and then smirks. "Let's see if we can get you ready to deal with a full family Christmas, by this time next year."
Sherlock scowls at him, and John chuckles.
"Come here," John says, signing Sherlock closer.
Sherlock puts away the instrument that is still in his hands and follows John's request. He slings his arms around John's waist and releases a shuddering breath into his neck.
John leans his head against the dark curls and weaves the fingers of one hand into them, while the other cups the slender neck.
Sherlock's grip tightens. "I can't lose you." His voice is hoarse, hardly more than a dark whisper.
John kisses his temple and then presses his head closer, squeezing his eyes shut. "You're a damn near insufferable man, Sherlock Holmes."
Sherlock dry-sobs a laugh. "Sufferable for you?" He tries to hide it, but the question rings within his words nonetheless.
John smiles a pained smile, presses another kiss to Sherlock's temple and pulls back enough to cup his face and look at him. "Don't be stupid. I'm not suffering you, or I wouldn't be here. You can be a pain in the arse, but suffering?" He raises an eyebrow. "Or do you really think I would? Merely suffer someone?"
Sherlock studies him for a long moment and comes to the conclusion that... no, he wouldn't.
"I am still a soldier, Sherlock. I can take pain now and again if the end game is worth it. And I am hell bent on winning this war." His lips twitches for a second, before it becomes an honest grin.
Sherlock tries to resist it, but eventually has to return it. "Your war, am I?" He sighs into the kiss when it comes and closes his eyes. Once it ends, he rests his forehead against John's. "I suppose... my war in this context is with me, then?"
John opens his eyes to see that Sherlock is already looking at him, intently. He licks his lips, then he nods, reluctantly. "You could say that. In a manner of speaking." He's not really sure what Sherlock will make of this metaphor. The detective is of course at constant war with himself, his mind and the empty time and space in between. John doesn't know what another war would mean to Sherlock.
"I gave up the drugs," Sherlock says, musing. "I fought them and beat them and put my mind to some use. If you ever feel like it, ask Lestrade. He'll tell you that it was a war I was fighting."
John nods. He has seen people detoxing before, after all. Many of them failing. Some of them succeeding.
"So if I have to fight myself to keep you, to put my... feelings to use, as well..." He pauses, his eyes are burning. "I am hell bent on winning this war."
John reaches for one of Sherlock's hands, tangles their fingers and brings them up to kiss them. "When has either of us ever shied away from potential danger?"
Sherlock tilts his head, smirking expectantly. "Never."
They begin their battle not back to back, but lips to lips, and if anyone can bend hell, it is certain to be them.
Sherlock Holmes has found his heart walking with him, guiding him, loving him. Steady, immovable.
John Watson has found... that his heart is now learning to walk. Brave, unstoppable.
And so they walk. Walk to win.
Happy New Sherlock, everyone ;)