Disclaimer: Don't own Sherlock.

Warnings: Language, references to non-con, angst upon angst

A/N: So much genuine love and thanks to Guest, AliitVodeson, My reaction, magirl0413, Cassandra-The Seer, starrysummernights, KingHerod, 2die, Asher, Nisiria, Damelia Evenshire, hjohn302, The Schwa and The Umlaut, KnoKnayme, Breina, JustAnotherParallelDimension, Moonlight Serenity, sherlockian88, Yaoi Queen the 13th, .forever, heywhynot, fallenangel, Hidingtobeseen, and Grac3 for your extremely excellent reviews. *Regina's mom voice* God love ya, you girls keep me young!

Oh and special note for fallen angel (who is actually not reading this anymore, so this may be a bit pointless…) but I totally understand why you didn't wanna continue and I'm aware the material is pretty dark and I honestly don't take it lightly.

Again, long wait because I'm a dick. Also if you find this chapter a bit depressive, it's cos I'm in a right mood today, but I hope you like it anyway.

~III~

John remembers a park. He remembers a park near his house and an ice cream van and a tree with a kite stuck in it. He remembers throwing sticks for dogs and rolling in the grass and being pushed on his swings.

He remembers Harry making daisy chains.

He remembers his mother's face, smiling.

He remembers feeling happy, feeling warm, feeling safe.

Then John got too old for the swings and his dad left and his mother cried and Harry turned to drink and he went to Afghanistan and got shot and never felt safe again.

And he's never been one to dwell, but at some point in his life John had decided happiness never lasted. It came and went as it pleased, and the good things always soured in the end. He accepted this. John was a realist. He got by.

But Sherlock.

Sherlock.

He'd let himself believe in Sherlock. He'd let himself believe that happiness could last; racing round London in the day and eating takeaway in front of the TV at night, alongside his incredible, impossible, wonderful flatmate.

And now it was over. Never again could meeting Sherlock's steady gaze be a refuge, never again could he let that voice wash over him as he lay back on the sofa, only half listening and yet fully contented.

Sherlock had witnessed his ruin. He'd seen John stripped of his dignity, broken by a monster. How could he ever see him in any other way?

John felt tears prick at his eyes and he blinked them away, hugging his knees closer to his chest as he straightened his back against the wall behind him. He could feel Sherlock's eyes on him from across the room, and he didn't want to cry. He just wanted not to be there.

Sherlock hadn't spoken yet and John was both relieved and frustrated because he didn't want to talk, but at the same time the silence stretched out between them, vast and unbearable.

Until Sherlock broke it.

"This is my fault."

Sherlock was clearly having some trouble speaking, the words tumbling jerkily from his mouth.

"I should have taken him seriously from the beginning. I should have tried harder to put him away, I should have killed him at the pool and damn the consequences."

"Don't do this," John said, suddenly feeling utterly exhausted.

"I knew you were in the path of danger. I should have protected you." Sherlock ploughed on.

"You couldn't," John said bluntly and Sherlock blanched, but John was too tired to explain what he really meant – which was that it seemed like no power of earth could stand in Moriarty's way.

"It's not your fault," John said, closing his eyes.

"It's not yours either," Sherlock said, too quickly, and John's eyes snapped open.

"Who said it was?"

Sherlock looked like he was picking his words very carefully, and just watching him John felt a sudden unbidden fury rising in him.

"Spit it out, Sherlock," he spat.

Sherlock met his gaze, teeth worrying his lip slightly. John had never seen the other man look so unsure of himself, but rather than calming his rage, it only fed it.

He had no idea where this anger was coming from, but all he knew was that it momentarily took his mind off the utter misery that coursed through his entire body. The anger was strong, tearing through his body like a stimulant, giving him something to grip onto.

He focussed his gaze on Sherlock, who had finally opened his mouth to speak.

"It is natural in a situation like… that… to feel a sense of…"

"A sense of what?" John said dangerously.

"Shame," Sherlock said softly, and John sprang onto his feet like he'd been electrified.

"You fucking… you don't have any fucking idea… and don't- DON'T JUST SIT THERE AND MAKE YOUR LITTLE DEDUCTIONS ABOUT ME AND TELL ME HOW I'M FEELING-"

"John. John. John." Sherlock's voice was insistent. "I don't have to deduce. I already know."

John knew he'd regret what he was about to say but his body was all rage and fire and he felt like he'd explode if he didn't just-

"You don't know! You agreed! You let him do it, just to get your fucking fix!"

The vicious satisfaction John took from watching Sherlock's face shutter down ebbed away as quickly as it came. And quick, nauseating guilt took its place.

How could he say that? Especially as it was the last thing he thought.

John kneaded his hands into his eyes, wanting to apologise but not having a clue where to begin. He couldn't think straight, not with Sherlock here, and Moriarty out there, and that sour taste still acrid on his tongue…

He sank back down to the floor again, opposite Sherlock, head in his hand. He was preparing his apology when Sherlock spoke.

"I shaved my head."

John looked up.

"After J.J., I shaved my head. Because he touched my hair, he ran his hands through it, pulled my head back with it. And I couldn't bear to see it in the mirror, or feel it with my own hands, because it reminded me of him and what I'd done."

Sherlock's tone was clear and steady.

"And to this day, I still spend as little time as possible looking at or touching my hair because it will never stop reminding me of that night, or making me feel..."

Sherlock looked straight into John's eyes.

"…ashamed."

A sudden sensory assault hit John; Moriarty looming over him, the cold of the stone beneath his knees, hands holding his head in place to thrust harder into his aching mouth.

John could feel a lump growing in his throat, he knew he was perilously close to losing it, but he needed to tell Sherlock before he lost all control…

"I'm so– I'm so sorry…"

And then John was crying and there was nothing he could do except feel his shoulders shake and his cheeks grow wet as a terrible howling grief rended his body.

He felt a warmth at his side and suddenly Sherlock was there and he was holding him and despite the fact it was so unlike anything that had happened between them before, it felt perfectly natural for John to bury his face in Sherlock's chest and weep.

~III~

John's sobs were subsiding but Sherlock had no intention of letting him go any time soon. He'd never felt such an urge to be close to someone, not just mentally but physically, to literally protect them with his entire body.

Holding John, feeling him shake, watching the strongest man he'd ever known break down made Sherlock want to scream and shout, but also to just stay here like this, as long as he could, with his arms around his friend.

Sherlock had nearly broken down himself, in that room. Watching as Jim…

He would have traded himself for John a thousand times over. Let Jim do his worst to him. He would do anything rather than watch that again. It had been akin to a physical pain, a knife twisting in his gut as he witnessed Jim dragging his pleasure from John.

Sherlock had never known such pure hate course through his veins before now. He wanted to eviscerate Jim, to take him apart bone by bone and drag a serrated knife across that wicked skin until Jim screamed.

He subconsciously hugged John closer to him, feeling the wiry strength in his friend's body. John had finally grown still, sobs ceasing to wrack his body, but he stayed pressed into Sherlock's chest, eyes closed.

Sherlock remembered the first time he realised he wanted to kiss John. They were walking home from dinner after a successful case and the mood had been light because the missing child had been found, alive and well, and even Sherlock couldn't fail to appreciate the happy ending for once.

And he doesn't remember exactly what John was saying that made him laugh so hard, something about Anderson and a mud splatter fetish, but he remembers looking at John and feeling a sudden pulse through his stomach that had nothing to do with amusement at John's joke and everything to do with the way John's eyes were shining. And he imagined pressing his lips on John's for the briefest of moments and the unfamiliar fantasy shocked him, made him feel giddy and light headed. Sherlock didn't want to get close to other people. He wanted to keep his distance. But something about John…

Sherlock almost regrets feeling this way about John, when Jim had found such a horrifying way to use it to his advantage. But he can't fully regret it, not when he looked down at John in his arms, shattered but still utterly and completely brilliant.

"I didn't mean what I said," John suddenly whispered, and he's so muffled by Sherlock's body that he almost doesn't hear him.

"I know," Sherlock replied.

There's a long pause, and then:

"I'm scared, Sherlock."

John's voice was no longer shaking, he was stating a fact, clear as day, almost daring Sherlock to make fun of him.

"You'd be a sociopath if you weren't." Sherlock said.

John shifted slightly.

"Is that your way of telling me you're not scared?"

"No," Sherlock says simply, and John seems to understand because he sinks back into Sherlock's embrace.

~III~

This chapter may as well be subtitled 'Everyone is insanely out of character'… I'm sorry guys, only angst wanted to come out today, hope it was okay anyway.