Title: Redivivus
Author: cathedral carver
Characters/Pairings: Sherlock/John, Mycroft
Rating: PG
Warnings: Character death. Sort of.
Summary: There are so very many different ways to die.

A/N: Written for daymarket in the Holmestice 2011 December Fest.

xx

Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.
~Somerset Maugham

xx

He awakes to fire.

His eyes snap open and he lets out a yell because his torso is very hot. Unnaturally so. He pushes up on his elbows and peers through a haze of smoke.

His bed is on fire. Why is his bed on fire?

He processes: Cream walls. Blue comforter. Pale blue sheets. Neat. Tidy. Unnaturally so.

He deduces: Oh. It isn't his bed at all, or room, for that matter. It's John's room and John's bed. But, the fact remains that it's still on fire.

He curses: "Fuck."

He remembers: Late-night experiment, dreadfully quiet, dull flat, late late late, overwhelming desire to both blow something up and have a smoke. He did not blow anything up, far as he remembers, so he must have…had a late-night smoke instead. In John's bed, for some reason. After John was asleep. And then…Sherlock fell asleep. And then—

He went and set the bloody bed on fire.

He comes to this conclusion in less than 2.6 seconds and then his hands are slapping madly at the smouldering blanket covering his chest.

"What…what are you doing? What?" John rouses, at last, and starts coughing. He struggles to sit up and peers through the smoke. "Sherlock?"

"Hmm."

John watches him.

"You've set my bed on fire."

"Appears so."

"How…why…what are you doing in here, anyway? It's—" He peers at the clock. "It's 3 a.m." He coughs.

"Hmm."

John watches Sherlock continue to slap at himself. He does not offer to help. The room is very smoky, but there are no more flames. John coughs again.

"What did you do?"

Sherlock huffs. "Put a fire out. Obviously."

"In my bed."

"Yes."

"After you started a fire. In my bed."

"Yes."

John stares. "You drive me bloody fucking insane, you know that, right?"

Sherlock waves a hand at him, dismissive. John hisses out a breath, flops back on his bed.

"Go to sleep. It's all right now," Sherlock says, and it is. A lot of fuss over nothing, really. John lies still for a moment, then hauls himself up, goes to the window, throws it wide open. He stands there for a moment, breathing. Then he goes to the door.

"I'm sleeping in the living room," he says. "Who lives like this? I can't live like this. This is—"

Sherlock smiles. Sometimes he can't even help it. "Exciting. I make your life infinitely more exciting," he says. He coughs. "Admit it."

John does not smile. "You make it infinitely more exasperating." He pauses. "And often nearly deadly."

"You'd miss me if I was gone."

"Oh, no. I think you've got that the wrong way around," John says, coughing. "You'd miss me."

"Ha!" Sherlock leans back, crosses his arms, because he feels he is right and has won the argument, such as it is. John shakes his head, sighs, and walks away. Sherlock doesn't call him back, doesn't correct him.

Later, much later, Sherlock will regret this. He'll regret it when he has all the time in the world to think about it.

He doesn't sleep.

xx

John is grumpy because he is tired. He's tired because he didn't sleep well, because Sherlock set his bed on fire. Sherlock is sulky because John is grumpy and not really speaking to him and doesn't he realize it was an accident? Sherlock would never set a bed on fire, not on purpose, anyway, and certainly not John's bed, because he's well aware of how John prizes sleep. For some strange reason.

So, John is grumpy and Sherlock is sulky and then Mycroft shows up and the entire day goes straight to hell.

"I have a job for you," Mycroft announces.

"No," Sherlock replies.

"Yes," says Mycroft.

"No."

"Yes." Mycroft waits. He reminds Sherlock of a snake. Predatory, coiled, ready to strike. Cold-blooded, to boot. "Please."

"No," Sherlock repeats. "Thank you."

"Sherlock."

"Mycroft."

"John."

"Leave me out of this." John snaps. "Please."

Mycroft sighs, turns back to Sherlock.

"I grow weary of fighting with you."

"Then stop."

"I can't."

"Why?"

Mycroft sniffs. "Because."

"Because…you need me."

"Something like that." Mycroft says.

"Something exactly like that. Unfortunate. For you."

"No matter. I always win. In the end."

"You do not."

"Sherlock, really." Mycroft smirks. "Please."

"No."

"Sherlock." Mycroft arches a brow, just one. "I'm warning you—"

"Are you, now?"

"Yes."

"We are no longer children, Mycroft. You cannot literally twist my arm any more."

"No, we are not, and I can not, and yet. There are other—" Mycroft sighs. "Please." Mycroft sighs again. He sounds almost genuinely distressed. "Don't make me do something you will regret."

Sherlock snorts. "I'd like to see you try." He glances at John. John is reading. Grumpily.

Mycroft pauses. "All right. Don't make me do something I'll regret."

Sherlock snorts again, louder. "Have you ever, in your entire life, regretted anything you've done, Mycroft?"

Mycroft sighs, taps the folder against his leg. He considers.

"Take the job. I implore you."

"No."

Mycroft looks very sad. "Very well, then."

"Very well, then," Sherlock mimics.

"Good day," Mycroft says quietly.

Sherlock snorts again. "It will be. Once you leave."

"Good day, John," Mycroft says, even more quietly. John looks up, nods. Mycroft stares at him a full three seconds longer than normal. Sherlock frowns.

Later, much later, Sherlock will have trouble deducing or describing the exact expression on Mycroft's face at that moment. He'll regret not taking the time to truly analyze it. He'll regret it when he has all the time in the world to think about it.

xx

The assailant's knife sinks deep, right to the hilt as Sherlock is busy calculating the exact distance and speed he will need to run to catch the accomplice and he assumes John has it all under control, because John is very strong and surprisingly agile despite his size and apparent lack of muscle definition. But, John surprises him once again as he stutters and stops and makes a sound that Sherlock has never heard before, something between a moan and a shout and something that sounds like indignation, like what the fuck just happened and what do I do now?

Sherlock can practically hear John's doctor brain madly processing and cataloguing and failing.

"John." Sherlock doesn't even shout. His voice is barely a whisper, in fact, and he thinks John probably doesn't hear him at all because John dies very quickly and very bloodily.

Sherlock knows John is dead because John is very still and white and slightly blue and when Sherlock slides his hand up under the jacket and the jumper and the shirt and presses his hand against John's bloody chest, everything is still and silent, no reassuring thumpthumpthump to be found. When Sherlock presses the skin of his cheek against John's, the slackness there is like a jolt to the heart.

Sherlock sits back and observes some more because his brain is having trouble processing.

This isn't right. This cannot be happening. This is not how it goes.

John cannot be dead.

He starts shaking John roughly, and yelling at him, and slapping his face and pressing on his chest, hard, but nothing is happening, and then there are other voices yelling and other hands grabbing and John still isn't alive, and how can that be?

And what did he do to deserve this?

Sherlock closes his eyes and lets his head fall, a marionette with its strings snipped, his forehead coming to rest on John's, and he notes that John's skin has already grown hard and cold. Unnaturally so.

xx

The flat is quiet and still and chilly and Sherlock cannot settle anywhere on anything. He sends Mrs. Hudson away twice, then locks the door. Then he shoves a desk against it for good measure. Hours pass before he realizes he has not stopped moving once. He walks from room to room to room to room as his mind tick tick ticks away, calculating, cataloguing: Kitchen. Table. Chair. Wall. Floor. Skull. Coat. Scarf. Violin. Kitchen. Table. Chair. Wall. Floor. Skull—

He gradually becomes aware of sounds, sounds of his feet scraping on the floor, his fingernails scraping against the walls, his eyelids scraping against his eyeballs, and other stranger sounds, as well, loud sounds, keening, wailing sounds. Lost sounds.

He becomes aware the sounds are coming out of his own mouth.

xx

Funeral day. Cold and grey and blowing. Dead leaves everywhere. Everything dead.

Everyone is there, standing around, dressed in various shades of black. Black for funerals, of course. Black out of respect for the dead. Do the dead even care? Who knows? Mike has a steadying arm around Molly's shoulders. Mrs. Hudson is weeping openly. And Mycroft. Mycroft, hovering at the back, away from everyone, staid and stone-faced, hands folded neatly over the handle of his umbrella.

"Sherlock." Someone is saying his name. He isn't sure who. Doesn't matter, really, does it? Unless it does. Sherlock blinks, very slowly. He moves his head. Oh. The minister. The minister is looking at him, expectantly. What does he expect? What? Who the hell is this man, anyway? John didn't go to church. "Sherlock," he says again. Sherlock stares at the minister's mouth, trying to decipher. What? What? He's gesturing now, slightly, down, down. Sherlock looks down. His hand is clenched. Why? He opens it. Black dirt. How did that get there? What is he supposed to do with it?

He stands at the edge of the grave, the great gaping bottomless hole, that isn't really bottomless, of course, because there is a casket at the bottom, and in the casket is—

Sherlock closes his eyes. He can't do this. He can not. His hand opens. The dirt falls. Sherlock sways. He falls, too.

xx

He awakes to fire.

His eyes snap open and he lets out a yell because his torso is very hot. Unnaturally so. He pushes up on his elbows and peers through a haze of smoke.

His bed is on fire. Why is his bed on fire?

He observes: Cream walls. Blue comforter. Pale blue sheets. Neat. Tidy. Unnaturally so.

He realizes: Oh. It isn't his room at all, or bed, for that matter. It's John's room and John's bed. But, it's still on fire.

Again.

Wait a minute.

He vaguely recalls a late-night experiment, dreadfully quiet, dull flat, late late late, overwhelming desire to both blow something up and have a smoke. He did not blow anything up, far as he remembers, so he must have…had a late-night smoke. In John's bed, for some reason. After John was asleep. And then…Sherlock fell asleep. And then…

And then.

He vaguely recalls this happening all before.

"What…what are you doing? What?" John rouses, of course, and starts coughing, struggles to sit up and peers at "Sherlock?"

Sherlock stops slapping at himself and stares at him.

"You've set my bed on fire."

Sherlock can't speak.

"How…why…what are you doing in here, anyway? It's—" He peers at the clock. "It's 3 a.m."

Silence.

"You don't have anything to say."

No. Yes. Yes. I'm so very happy you're not dead after all.

"You drive me bloody fucking insane, you know that, right?"

"John."

"This is ridiculous," John says, and it is. He goes to the window, throws it open. Then he goes to the door.

"I'm sleeping in your room," he says. "Who lives like this? I can't live like this."

Sherlock lies still for a long, long time. Even after the room has grown so cold he starts shivering under his burned blanket.

xx

John is grumpy because he is tired. He's tired because he didn't sleep well, because Sherlock set his bed on fire. Again. Sherlock is confused because his life has suddenly become very weird and confusing, but he's also overjoyed because John is not dead, but he can't convey his confusion or his joy to John without sounding crazier than John already believes him to be.

John is grumpy and not really speaking to him and doesn't he realize it was an accident? Sherlock would never set a bed on fire, not on purpose, anyway, and certainly not two nights in a row.

So, John is grumpy and Sherlock is confused and then Mycroft shows up, again, and the entire day becomes even more bewildering.

"I have a job for you." Mycroft sits. Again. He waves the manila folder. Again.

Sherlock stares at him. Again.

"Sherlock? Did you hear me?"

Sherlock can't speak. John looks up.

Mycroft clears his throat. "Sherlock?" he says. "What is it?"

Sherlock shakes his head, hard. "It's just…it's."

"What?"

Now John is looking at him too. Tired, grumpy, not-dead John. "Sherlock?"

Sherlock swallows audibly. "It's…nothing. I'm just…didn't sleep well."

"Really." John rolls his eyes.

"Sherlock," Mycroft sing-songs.

Sherlock shakes his head slowly. "No. I already…I told you this. Already." He pauses. "Didn't I?"

Mycroft tsks. "It would be most…beneficial…to all involved if you would just—"

Sherlock rubs his eyes. "No. I don't think so."

"Sherlock, I'm warning you—"

"Again?"

Mycroft cocks his head. "Whatever do you mean?"

Sherlock closes his eyes. He thinks he can smell smoke. His eyes feel gritty. "I mean, no. No. I…still will not."

Mycroft purses his lips. "Don't make me do something you will regret."

Sherlock stares at him, honestly curious. "Like what?"

Mycroft sighs. "Will you take the job?"

"No."

"Sherlock." Mycroft makes a face. "I have ways—"

"You can't make me do anything."

"Really? Can't I?"

Sherlock considers. "No."

"Very well." Mycroft stands, smiles. "Try to have a good day, Sherlock." He pauses. "And you, too, John."

xx

John falls quickly, sinks like a stone, a spot of black fabric in blacker water, light hair dark with water, and he's gone before Sherlock can even blink twice. By the time they fish him out he's long gone cold and blue and still, face slack and still, even as Sherlock presses his own warm skin against it, murmurs "No, no no no no no."

"Sherlock," Lestrade implores. "He's gone. He's—"

"No. No. He's not. He can't be. No. No. No."

"Sherlock—" Lestrade's voice breaks and it's then that Sherlock knows it's happened again. Lestrade liked John, liked him a lot. But, everyone liked John. He is, was, a very likable person.

Sherlock is soaked with river water from John's clothes and hair. His body feels thick and cumbersome in Sherlock's lap. He cradles John's heavy, wet head in his arms. He wishes the sun would come out, even for a minute, because John is so cold and he thinks it would warm him up a little.

But, the sun doesn't come out and John never gets warmer and Sherlock is sent home in his sodden, freezing clothes that smell like the Thames and nothing like John and everything like the end.

xx

Kitchen. Table. Chair. Wall. Floor. Skull. Coat. Book. Violin. Kitchen. Table. Chair. Wall. Floor—

He becomes aware of sounds, sounds of his feet on the floor, his fingernails scraping against the walls, followed by other, stranger sounds, the sounds of heavy items smashing, crashing, splintering.

He becomes aware the sounds are the result of his tearing the flat apart with his own raw and bloody hands.

xx

Funeral day is cold and grey and blowing. Dead leaves everywhere. Everything dead.

Everyone is there, standing around, dressed in various shades of black. Black for funerals, of course. Black out of respect for the dead. Do the dead even care? Who knows? Mike has a steadying arm around Molly's shoulders. Mrs. Hudson is weeping openly. And Mycroft. Mycroft, hovering at the back, staid and stone-faced, hands folded neatly over the handle of his umbrella.

Sherlock looks at Mycroft.

Mycroft looks back.

The Mycroft winks once, very slowly and solemnly. Sherlock closes his eyes briefly. He opens them. He takes a step towards his brother, but then someone is pressing heavy, cold dirt into his hand.

Sherlock closes his eyes. He can't do this. He can not. His hand opens. The dirt falls. Sherlock sways. He falls, too.

xx

He awakes to fire.

Again.

John gets angry.

Again.

John leaves.

Again.

Sherlock lies shivering. And confused.

Again.

xx

"My goodness, Sherlock, whatever is wrong?" Mycroft seats himself with care, taps the manila folder against his knee. "You look simply dreadful. Haven't you been sleeping?"

John snorts from behind his book.

"No…no, not well."

"Well, this will cheer you up. A job."

Sherlock closes his eyes. "Mycroft—"

"Come now, I'm sure you've realized by now how important this is."

Sherlock's eyes snap open. "What do you mean?"

Mycroft smiles. "I mean my jobs are always important."

"That's not what you meant—"

"Of course it is. What else could I mean?" Mycroft smiles pleasantly.

Sherlock stares at him. "Mycroft, no one, not even you, has that much power."

Mycroft smiles wider. He holds the folder out. Sherlock stares at it. Plain, manila folder, completely innocuous. He wants to sit on his trembling hands.

"I don't want to."

Mycroft sighs heavily. "Sherlock, you are the most infuriatingly stubborn—"

"I don't want to." He sounds 10 years old. He realizes this.

"Don't make me do something you will regret."

"No. No. Wouldn't want that." He bites back a laugh.

Mycroft pauses. "All right. Don't make me do something I'll regret."

"Do you…ever regret anything?"

Mycroft tilts his head. "I think the question here, Sherlock is, do you?"

xx

The bullet comes from somewhere high and to the left. The shooter is right-handed and not overly skilled; it's a lucky shot and John is particularly unlucky these days, of course. Sherlock had led them down a different section of the alley today, cleverly avoiding both the knife and the river, but in the end, death finds John Watson once again. In the end, the blood comes along with the scrabbling fingers and the wide-eyed look of surprise, followed by the stillness and coldness and in the end, it doesn't matter how many times Sherlock sees this part. Doesn't matter in the least. He lets his head drop onto John's and he sobs like his heart is cracking wide open.

xx

Kitchen. Table. Chair. Wall. Floor. Skull. Coat. Book. Violin. Kitchen. Table. Chair. Wall. Floor. Textbooks—

Sherlock grabs the biggest, heaviest one he can find and sits at the table.

Hanging. Asphyxiation. Drowning. Gunshot. Food poisoning. Blood poisoning. Stabbing. Hemmhorage. Aneurysm. Flu. Carbon monoxide. Electrocution. Hernia. Car accident. Choking on any number of food products.

Sherlock slams the book shut and holds his head in his shaking hands.

There are so very many different ways to die.

xx

Funeral day is cold and grey and blowing. Dead leaves everywhere. Everything dead.

Blah, blah, blah, blah blah blah blah.

"Mycroft…" Sherlock pushes his way through the crowd. People part for him because they can see he is grieving. "Mycroft. I need to talk to you."

"Yes?

"Something…is happening."

"Yes, Sherlock. Something is happening. We're burying John."

"No, no. I mean…" He closes his eyes. This can't be happening. It can not. He opens his eyes. Mycroft is watching him closely.

"Sherlock? Are you quite all right?"

"No. No. I don't think I am."

"Of course. We're in the process of burying your best friend. You're understandably distraught. Perhaps you should sit down—"

"Mycroft—"

And here comes the minister with the fucking dirt. Again.

Sherlock closes his eyes. He can't do this. He can not. His hand opens. The dirt fell. Sherlock sways. He falls, too.

xx

He awakes to fire.

He starts laughing. He can't stop.

After he's beat down the flames, he rolls over and wraps his arms around John. This wakes John up, who is understandably furious. Again.

"What, what on earth—"

"I won't let you die today John," Sherlock says into John's neck. "I won't. I promise."

"Yes. Fine. Thank you." He coughs. He sits up. "Course, you could start with not setting fire to things in my bedroom. Namely, my bed."

"Right. Of course. I shall try to not—" Sherlock's babbling.

John extricates himself from Sherlock's frenzied grasp and throws the window wide open. He stomps from the room, muttering something about psychiatrists and medication.

Sherlock watches him go.

Who lives like this? Who?

Who?

He has no answer.

xx

"Job, Sherlock!" Mycroft waves the folder.

"No."

"Oh, my."

"You're not nearly as clever as you think," Sherlock says. His left eye is twitching.

"Really, little brother?" Mycroft stands. "And yet, here we are. Again."

Sherlock clenches his fists.

"Good day, John," Mycroft says. John yawns. He's tired because he hasn't slept because Sherlock set fire to his bed.

"Sure," he replies.

"I will see you later," Mycroft says to Sherlock pointedly. He leans close. "Try the blue suit this time. Much more flattering."

xx

Ibid.

xx

Ibid.

xx

Ibid.

xx

He doesn't want to do this anymore.

xx

Ibid.

xx

He tries to recall a time he has bested Mycroft at anything — sports, school, music, work, boyfriends/girlfriends — ever.

He cannot.

xx

"John?"

"Yes?"

Sherlock blinks back sudden hot tears.

"Nothing."

xx

John throws the window wide open, letting in a gust of cold air. He coughs. "Christ almighty, who lives like this? I can't live like this!"

Sherlock throws an arm over his face, his warm, wet face. "I can't either."

xx

He drags John into a closet and closes the door.

"What the—"

"Shhhhh."

"Sherlock, for fuck's sake—"

"Quiet, John. Don't talk. He can't…he can't hear us in here. He can't find us—"

"Who?"

"Mycroft," Sherlock hisses.

"Sherlock. Seriously."

"Just…please. Don't talk. We just need to…just for awhile…just—"

"Sherlock—"

The world explodes.

xx

Ibid.

xx

He drags John into a taxi and they drive and drive and drive.

"Where are we going and why?"

"Shhhh."

"Right."

The lorry is large and heavy and plows them right off the road into the telephone phone. It takes John all of 11 seconds to die. Sherlock knows, because he counts.

xx

He awakes to fire.

He slaps himself so hard it hurts. Over and over and over. Harder and harder and harder. Then he rolls over and grabs John.

"Hey. Hey…what?" John awakes in a panic, almost knocks Sherlock in the face with an elbow. "What…are you doing now?"

"Nothing. Nothing."

John coughs.

"The room is filled with smoke."

Sherlock says nothing.

"What are you doing in here, anyway?"

Sherlock says nothing. He holds on tighter.

"Sherlock." Cough, cough.

"Let's just stay here today," Sherlock says loudly.

John peers at him. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing. Nothing." Sherlock pushes his face into John's neck. "I just…don't want to go anywhere today."

"Fine with me." He coughs. "I need to open the window first."

Sherlock doesn't move.

"Sherlock—"

Sherlock has covered John entirely with his own body.

"We will not leave this bed. We will just stay right here—"

"Ok. Why?"

"Shhh."

He's still holding on when John's breath slows and slows and slows and stops.

xx

"Why do you even bother coming here, anymore?"

"Because, eventually you will say yes."

Sherlock drops his head into his hands. "I will beat you. I will find…some way to beat you."

"Sherlock, dear boy." Mycroft stands. "It's a noble thought, but you have never once in your life beaten me."

xx

He awakes to fire.

He looks over and John's already dead.

He starts crying.

xx

Funeral days are the hardest, he decides. The darkness, the cold, the bitterly cold wind, the bleakness, the bare, clattering branches, the hole, the dirt, the utter absence of John.

And Mycroft's fucking face.

xx

Kitchen. Table. Chair. Wall. Floor. Skull. Coat. Book. Violin. Kitchen. Table. Chair. Wall. Floor. Textbooks—

Useless. Useless. He's read them all by now, several times.

He ends up in John's room. He picks up the blanket, the burned blanket, the one with the distinctive burn hole in the middle of it. Sherlock picks it up, presses it to his face. It smells like smoke and chemicals but it smells like John, too. He breathes it in, he sucks it in. He starts crying. He doesn't stop, not for a long, long time.

xx

Funeral day.

The mourners are looking at him strangely. Even more strangely than usual, it seems. When he glances down at himself, he sees he's still wearing the clothes he wore during John's most recent death. He's covered in blood.

"You will not win, Mycroft," Sherlock whispers raggedly. Mycroft only shakes his head slightly, so slightly no one else would even notice.

"Oh, Sherlock," Mycroft says. To his credit, he sounds almost sympathetic. "Why must you go on torturing yourself like this?"

"You…will not…win," Sherlock says again. He almost means it.

Mycroft motions ever so slightly to the gaping wound in the earth, the black hole, the bottomless hole that is not bottomless at all.

"But, I already have, my dear brother."

Sherlock closes his eyes. He can't do this. He can not. Not anymore. His hand opens. The dirt falls. Sherlock sways. He falls, too.

xx

"You set my bed on fire."

"I know."

"Why?"

"I'm sorry…I'm going to stop. Very soon now. I'll stop, okay? Just...don't die anymore, please?"

"I swear I never have a fucking clue what you're talking about."

xx

"Sherlock." John is speaking. Sherlock blinks rapidly and tightens his grip around John's trembling body. The fall should have been enough to kill him instantly, but instead he's dying a rather slow, agonizing death today. Sherlock can hear sirens in the distance. He can feel John's broken body beneath his hands.

"Sherlock."

"Yes."

"Love you, all right?"

Sherlock blinks again. What? John's eyes flutter closed for a moment, then open again. His eyes are very dark. He smiles.

"All right?"

Sherlock nods. His nose is running. His nose is running, he realizes, because he's crying. John is dying in his arms and Sherlock's face is covered in snot and tears. He leans close and presses his wet lips to John's face.

"All right."

xx

He fights his way through the crowd of mourners to where Mycroft is waiting, a serene smile on his face. Sherlock all but falls at his feet.

"I can't…" He takes a deep, ragged breath. "I can't do this anymore. I can't. Just…make it stop, all right? You were right. You were. Right. I'm…sorry I doubted. I'm…sorry. For everything."

Mycroft smiles down at him. Bare-branched trees rattle behind his smug head.

"No matter. I always win. In the end," Mycroft says. Then, he adds, "Good boy."

Good, good, good.

He feels a heavy, warm hand on his shoulder. Mycroft leans in close, very, very close, so close Sherlock can feel his lips against his ear. The words he hiss mean little, because at least it's all over, it's all over now.

"There will be no more fucking with me, Sherlock." He pulls back a little and smiles a little. "We have an understanding, yes?"

Sherlock nods, nods, nods. "Yes."

"Ah. Good. Very, very good."

xx

He awakes to fire.

He's so very tired of this now.

xx

Mycroft arrives. Mycroft looks superior. Sherlock leaps from his chair, grabs the innocuous looking folder from Mycroft's outstretched hand, takes it, clings to it.

"I'll do it, all right? I'll do it, whatever it is, I'll do it."

"Really?" Mycroft smiles. He looks to John. John is frowning. John is confused. "Splendid. But I haven't even told you what it is."

"Doesn't matter. I'll do it. I'll do it. I promise, all right? I'll do it."

"Well, I must say, this is a pleasant surprise."

Sherlock, wild-eyed, clutches the folder, glances from Mycroft to John and back again.

"Just…make it all stop, all right? I'll do it."

"Sherlock?" John is concerned now. He puts down his book.

"It's all right John, no worries," Sherlock babbles. "Everything is…fine. It's all fine. Everything is…it's all…"

"Fine. Yes, John." Mycroft brushes his fingers across the top of Sherlock's head. "Everything will be just fine now."

xx

"We need milk." John is already putting his coat on.

"I'll come with you." Sherlock leaps to his feet. He feels dizzy.

"You will?"

"Yes."

John just looks at him. "All right."

The day is cold and dull, just like every other day of late. Sherlock walks very close to John, and though John looks at him askance from time to time, he says nothing about the proximity. He even brushes his hand against Sherlock's from time to time.

The explosion comes from behind them, just as they pass by the grocery storefront. Sherlock grabs John without thinking, angling his body away from the blast, twisting and tumbling, both his arms wrapped so tightly around John's body he wonders if the man can breathe at all.

Hang on, hang on, hang on, he hears himself chanting, but he isn't sure who he is talking to, as their bodies slam against the pavement, and he feels/hears John grunt in pain. There is a wave of heat, and the rain of bricks and plaster, and Sherlock presses his head against John's, presses his mouth against John's cheek and waits for it all to be over.

Again.

xx

He awakes to fire.

He sighs and opens his eyes, beats down the flames, coughs several times.

Cream walls. Blue comforter. Pale blue sheets. Neat. Tidy. Unnaturally so.

Yes, yes, yes.

John awakes, too, rolls over, holds a hand to his face.

"What…what the—"

"It's nothing. Nothing," Sherlock says frantically, swatting at himself. "It's fine. Go back to sleep."

John doesn't move. "You were smoking?"

"Well…"

"In my bed?"

"I…think so?"

John sighs. He goes to throw the window open, letting in a huge blast of cold air. He breathes in a few times, deeply, shivers a little. Sherlock watches him. Then he gets back in the bed. He wraps his arms around Sherlock. For the first time Sherlock notices the heavy white bandage covering John's hand.

"You're hurt."

"Yes. In the explosion yesterday." John frowns. "Don't you remember? Did you hit your head harder than I thought?"

"Yesterday." Sherlock swallows. "You remember. Yesterday."

"You…saved my life," John says quietly.

"I saved your life." Sherlock laughs. He finds this so very funny.

"Yes." John is confused. "You really don't remember?"

Sherlock laughs again, quickly, like a bark. Then they are both quiet.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" John asks.

"Nothing. It's…nothing." Sherlock smiles. "I'm just…so very glad to see you, is all." He presses his head against John's neck and cries a little. He's really so very tired.

"Sherlock…Sherlock, what? What's…"

Sherlock keeps shaking his head against John's collarbone. He wishes he could stop crying long enough to speak coherently.

"You're…scaring me a bit, Sherlock."

"Yes. Well. Me…too. You." He pulls back and sniffs. "I just—"

He stops talking because John's mouth is suddenly covering his insistently. It's warm and dry and soft and very insistent. John's good hand slides along the side of Sherlock's jaw. Sherlock kisses him back. When they stop, they are both slightly breathless.

"You…you kissed me," Sherlock says.

"I did." John nods.

"Why?"

"Just wanted to, I suppose. Something I've been thinking about for awhile." He pauses, looks slightly defensive. "And, you kissed me back."

Sherlock nods. "I did."

They stare at one another. The room smells like smoke, but it's clearing, finally, and it's getting cold, and John's not going anywhere, finally, and Mycroft won't be coming, not today anyway, and John-who-is-not-dead, is lying back down and pulling Sherlock with him. Sherlock goes willingly and kind of collapses against him, his eyes already closing.

"Go to sleep," whispers John, his cold fingers in Sherlock's hair. "It's all right now."

Later, much later, Sherlock will think about all this. He'll think about it when his head is clear and he has all the time in the world to think about it, but for now, he lets John hold him and he lies still.

He sleeps.

xx

-30-