Author's Note: And at last we come to the final chapter of The Last Drop. It was not my plan to end it here, but the fic took on a life of its own and decided to tie itself up nice and neat. This is the first fic I've ever written that I can take some pride in, and I have you lovely readers to thank. Your support has been inspiring and healing on a level I can't possibly articulate. Just know that you made this lowly post-post-grad writer feel like she was doing something right, and she is forever grateful.
John stared at the text, reading it repeatedly as his mind fumbled to find meaning. Before he was able to come up with a suitable reaction, his fingers began typing of their own accord.
And if you hadn't? Would things have gone differently?
It was risky, and John felt scarily unfocused. Before his courage faded, or his sense returned, he shut his eyes tight and hit send.
The long drag of time before his phone buzzed in reply was unbearable. He was about to slam the back of his head into the door when he felt a gentle vibration in his palm.
"Well, that was clear," John mumbled scornfully. He shut the phone and set it face down on the floor beside him, as if looking at the curt word any longer would scald him. He tried to take a few deep breaths, but his chest was painfully tight and it nauseated him.
After a few dragging moments passed, the mobile buzzed again. John couldn't open it fast enough.
Not like that. SH
John was used to Sherlock being cryptic, but this was ridiculous. He was at a complete loss for a reaction, in any direction. There was only one word he could think to text back. It would have to do.
The reply came almost instantly. Sherlock was a master texter, if there ever was one.
Come downstairs. SH
Then let me come up there. SH
John, you're being obstinate. SH
What do you want? SH
John didn't have an answer to that. He stared at the screen with his thumbs suspended over the buttons. Sherlock messaged him again.
This is complicated. SH
They seemed to have reached a stale mate, neither of them willing to pursue the trajectory of the conversation. The words 'not like that' whirled in John's brain, indiscernible and frustrating. They could have been in hieroglyphics for all the sense they made to him. Complicated indeed.
After about five minutes of sitting on the floor and staring at the mobile in his lap, John rose and began undressing. Changing into pyjamas was as good a technique as any to distract himself, or so he pretended. Just as he tied the draw-string of his plaid, flannel bottoms, the phone vibrated. He jumped and nearly tripped when he scrambled to pick it up.
I'll be in my room. Please help yourself to the take-away. I won't bother you. SH
I'm not hungry. It was a blatant lie. His stomach growled a rebuttal.
Irrelevant. You need to eat. SH
Hmm, where have I heard that before?
If you don't come down in three minutes, I'm coming up. SH
Is that a threat?
It's not a very good threat.
Three minutes. SH
John tossed the mobile onto his bed, and made to take a step towards the door, but his feet wouldn't budge. He had the oddest sensation of having his mind scream for him to move forward while his body patently refused, rooting him to the spot. His jaw clenched, and he balled his fists at his side. John had never found his physicality so out of his control, which was saying a lot considering he was once afflicted with a psychosomatic limp. Did he actually want Sherlock to come to him? It didn't seem appealing, but neither did venturing into the kitchen. It wouldn't be out of character for Sherlock to break his word and ambush John as soon as he hit the living room. At least John knew what he was getting into should Sherlock come to him instead.
He shook his head, forcing his body to stop playing tricks on him. With renewed resolve, he walked to the door, took hold of the knob, and pulled it open. A gasp escaped his throat. Sherlock was standing barely a foot in front of him, plate of chow mein in hand, a withering expression on his face.
"I said three minutes," he stated, voice so low John swore he could feel it reverberating in his chest.
"How long has it been?"
"Four and a half."
"Here. Eat," Sherlock demanded, thrusting the plate into John's hands and pushing past him into the bedroom. John turned slowly, eyes wide as he watched Sherlock pace back and forth a few times, his blue silk robe swishing behind him. Apparently Sherlock had experienced a similar thought process to John's, having changed into his night wear. He finally settled by sitting on the foot of John's bed.
"Come in, then," John muttered sarcastically. He crossed the room and took a seat as his desk, setting down the plate. A wisp of steam from the noodles wafted into his nostrils, and such a wave of hunger took him that he immediately picked up his fork.
"Good?" Sherlock asked as John stuffed a hefty portion into his mouth. He chewed and swallowed hastily before replying.
"You heated it up for me," he observed, disbelieving.
"Of course I did."
"That's out of character. First you make me tea, then you bring me dinner? Maybe you're still drunk."
John elected not to pursue his point any further, but rather devote more of his attention to the chow mein, which was rendered shockingly good by his lingering hangover. As he shoveled it into his mouth, Sherlock adjusted his position. He scooted until his back was against the wall on the far side of the bed, still keeping to the end. He crossed his legs, rested his head on the wall, and locked his eyes on John.
"I've never spent much time in your room before," he observed after a moment.
"Except when you're going through my things without my permission."
"Only by necessity."
John sighed. Nothing was sacred when you were Sherlock's flatmate. Granted, John had also riffled through Sherlock's things before, but only to check for drugs, which was a far better 'necessity' than whatever motivation Sherlock had concocted.
With each bite John found his eyelids growing heavier, his mind slowing. As his stomach began settling, it was as though his brain checked 'hunger' off its list of requirements, and began moving into 'sleep.'
"Finished?" Sherlock asked just as John slipped the last noodle into his mouth.
"Yes. It was…really good. Thank you." John met his eyes for the first real time since Sherlock had barged his way into the bedroom. A wave of nervousness rushed through him, seeing Sherlock sitting on his bed, staring into him with those grey spheres. John shifted on his chair, futilely willing his skin not to blush. "So…" he said, instantly resenting the awkwardness of the word.
"You're nervous. Do you want me to leave?"
"No! No, it's fine. I just…"
"Your cheeks and the tips of your ears are flushed, your feet are fidgeting, and you keep meeting my eyes and looking away. You're nervous."
"I am not!"
John let out a shockingly animalistic groan of frustration.
"Why do you have to make everything so difficult?" he practically bellowed.
"Why do you have to be so completely ignorant of the obvious?" Sherlock countered.
"Well, why do you have to be so damn cryptic all the time?"
"Why do you have to be such an idiot?"
"Why are we arguing like nine year olds?"
"Because we're immature!"
For a long moment Sherlock and John sat stock still, glaring at each other and breathing heavily. In the back of his mind John mused that a third party would probably be able to see sparks fizzing between them. Then, in perfect unison, they broke into a fit of laughter. John was so exhausted that once he started he couldn't stop, and soon tears were forming in the corners of his eyes and his stomach muscles were cramping. The resonance of Sherlock's deep laugh, rare and titillating as it was, only fueled John's silliness.
"This is ridiculous," he finally said, sighing away a final chuckle.
"Yes," Sherlock replied airily.
"I'm really tired," John announced, sagging against his desk.
"I should expect so. I didn't exactly make your hangover easy, did I…?"
"No. No you didn't. You never make anything 'easy.'" Despite his words, John offered Sherlock a tired, albeit fond, smile. His head was swimming, fatigue from the effort of sitting up beginning to dizzy him. "I'm just gonna…," he began, crawling onto the bed, which was conveniently close to the desk, and pulling back the covers. He chose to ignore how Sherlock tensed up at his movements, and slid himself between the sheets. John felt logy, frustrated at his body for slipping him towards sleep without his permission.
An involuntary sigh escaped his lips at the sudden sensation of comfort. He snuggled into his pillow, lying on his side facing the wall. With the cool fabric on the side of his face and the weight of the blankets over him his eyes began to close.
"I'm just resting my eyes," he mumbled weakly.
"I should go." Sherlock began sliding off the bed, but John reached out a hand to stop him, keeping his heavy eyelids closed.
"No, it's fine. Stay." John grabbed the covers beside him and pulled them down. "It's not like we haven't slept together before." His lips were sluggish on the words, the sound of his voice in his own ears seeming distant. He was tired of being awake, tired of his little game of words with Sherlock, but mostly tired of pretending to not want things that he craved at every moment.
"It's still early," Sherlock argued quietly.
"What if I'm not tired?"
"You are." Sherlock fell silent, but didn't move. "Either get in, or leave. Those are the rules."
"Is this another game?"
"Yes, it's called 'the sleeping game' and I'm currently winning, so get in here now or I'll kick you in the face."
"That wouldn't be very sportsmanlike conduct."
John moaned in frustration, still refusing to open his eyes. He'd salvaged the last of his reserves to convince Sherlock to get in the damn bed with him, and now he had nothing left. He turned over sharply, facing away from Sherlock and curling on his side.
In a few moments, he was well on his way to being fully asleep, but just as he about to drift off for good, he felt the delicate shifting of the bedding behind him, and heard the soft slide of skin and fabric. The curl of a victorious smile teased at his lips, and he shifted ever-so-slightly into a more comfortable position. For a moment, he wondered if Sherlock was holding his breath behind him. Even if they had slept together the night before, it was a whole new experience without the liquid courage clouding their minds, especially since John now actually possessed cognitive awareness.
The tension emanating off Sherlock's body was palpable, even though they weren't actually touching. It was winding him up, pulling sleep further and further from his grasp.
With a deep breath, conjuring all the courage he could muster, John reached his right arm behind him and found Sherlock's elbow. He was relieved to discover that Sherlock was positioned as he had predicted: on his side, facing John's back.
Delicately, he slid his fingers down the silk, from forearm to wrist, until he met the bare skin of Sherlock's hand. He clutched it tentatively, as though Sherlock would yank it back any second, and pulled it towards him.
Exhaling the breath he didn't realize he was holding, John placed Sherlock's hand on his waist, smoothing it down, and returned his own hand to rest in front of him. He clenched his teeth, praying that Sherlock wouldn't remove his palm.
It had felt, to John, like a big step in a thoroughly uncharted direction, and if Sherlock hesitated now, it was over. It was a small gesture, meaningless if Sherlock was anyone else. But he wasn't. He was a brilliant, emotionally depraved, exceptionally unusual bastard, and if this wasn't the catalyst for him and John, nothing ever would be.
Moments passed, slow and bloated with meaning, and Sherlock didn't move his hand. Soon, heat was flowing between them from the small bit of contact, as though their bodies were attaching to each other. Gradually, the tension receded from both of them.
When Sherlock spoke, it was barely above a whisper.
"Does this mean you're not mad at me anymore?"
"Mm," John mumbled into the pillow. A few moments passed.
"The cigarette was your idea."
John sighed, releasing the last bit of tension he held in his body, and shaking his head a little.
"What, Sherlock?" he said in a croaky, slightly irritated voice.
Despite his crankiness at being kept awake, John smiled. In a last act of bravery, he took hold of Sherlock's hand on his waist once more, pulling it forward. Sherlock moved closer, the fabric of his robe now just barely touching the back of John's t-shirt. Warmth seemed to hum in the thin space between them. John had planned on letting go of Sherlock's hand, but once he clasped of the cool digits it felt absurd to release them again. Instead, he pressed their joined hands against the fabric of his stomach. Rather than flushing with nerves at the contact, as he'd expected, a tepid calm seemed to unravel from it, spreading throughout his body. It felt like untying a knot deep inside him, like this was always how things were meant to be.
"G' night," John mumbled, barely coherent. He felt Sherlock's warm breath graze the back of his neck, inducing a faint and pleasant shiver through his body.
And John, who was so very tired, was carried into sleep.
To be continued...
Author's Note: I know what you're thinking…. "AFTER ALL THAT THEY DIDN'T EVEN KISS?" But before you come after me with pitchforks and harpoons, I would like to happily announce that a SEQUEL will soon be coming your way. Patience, my darlings! Delayed gratification is the sexiest form of torture.
And as one final note I would like to implore you to check me out on AO3. It's a lovely, crisp fanfiction archive that I'm very happy to be apart of. If you're on as well, please come say hi! The name, as always, is Phyona
UPDATE: The sequel is officially up! Go to my profile to read 'The Temper Between' in which Sherlock and John catch a fever.