AN: Hello everyone! *Throws confetti in the air* We have reached the long awaited conclusion of this story! I wanted to get this up here as early as I could this weekend so everyone could have a chance to enjoy it. I really want to thank you all for staying with me for so long and giving me those wonderful reviews I so desperately crave. I'm incredibly humbled that you stuck with me for so long. Don't be too sad that this is the end of this story though, I have plenty more ideas where this came from, so you should be hearing from me again soon! Thank you all again for reading, and favoriting, and reviewing, and all that good, gooey, delicious stuff. Love you all! -M-o-M-

Disclaimer: Me no own, just borrow. Please no sue?

Chapter 20:

The sky was pitch dark with storm clouds, and rain was just beginning to tick against the cold streets, when a black cab turned the corner and pulled up in front of 221B Baker Street. A slow, deep roll of thunder was coupled with a blinding flash of forked lightning, and the doors of the cab flung open with the urgency of people trying to get under cozy cover before the torrent began. The two men, one limping slightly and one carrying a large bag of Chinese take-away, scrambled to enter the house, their calm, friendly laughter curling around the growling thunder.

Sherlock could barely contain the strange feeling of giddiness that fizzed inside his skin as he followed John's limping frame up the stairs into the flat. It wasn't usual for Sherlock to follow John but, considering the doctor's sprained ankle, the detective wasn't going to take the chance of his flatmate falling backwards down the stairs. John paused at the landing and, his eyes a deep navy in the brief flash of light from outside the house, smiled over his shoulder at the tall man behind him.

Pausing again five steps into the flat, he stared at something in the living room, and Sherlock shot a puzzled glance at the back of his friend's head. Instead of asking what was wrong, the detective sidled up beside his partner, turning his eyes to the living room. What he saw was unexpected.

'Maureen' was standing in the middle of the room, hands clasped before her stomach. She wore a casual black dress instead of a business suit, and the same red pumps they had last seen her in. Completely silent, the woman walked forward and pressed a soft kiss to John's forehead. Smiling warmly, she reached out and pulled Sherlock forward, pressing another kiss to the detective's forehead as well. The feeling made him shiver.

Her heels made no sound as she descended the stairs and slipped out the front door. Sherlock turned his own shocked gaze to meet John's confused eyes. "What just happened?"

"I think we just got congratulated on a job well done."

Both men looked at the door downstairs and then back at each other. They began to shake, eyes dancing, and burst into gales of hysterical laughter. It was so bad, Sherlock had to prop himself against the door frame in order to keep John upright when the doctor's ankle threatened to give out. Eventually, their laughter dissolved into chuckles, and then degraded again into giggles.

Wiping the happy tears from his cheeks, John rebalanced himself. "Let's eat, Sherlock. I'll start the tea if you'll set out the food."

Still fighting to control his laughter, Sherlock nodded, "Tea would be superb, John."

The sound of John puttering about the kitchen, and the smell of their favorite Chinese as Sherlock fussed in the living room, filled the void that had been gnawing inside both men. John couldn't stop grinning, and Sherlock couldn't wipe the smile from his face no matter how hard a little voice (that sounded remarkably like his father's) in his head told him it wasn't proper. Sherlock's smile widened when John tramped back into the room, two mugs clasped in his right fist, and collapsed onto the leather sofa.

Sighing deeply in contentment, John placed the mugs on the coffee table and dragged his plate of steamed dumplings over, licking his lips hungrily. He ignored his flatmate's chuckle as he tucked in, moaning in pleasure as he stuffed his mouth. Only when he heard the sound of a deep baritone groan beside him did he look up. A mug clenched in both his hands, Sherlock was in the process of taking a long swallow of tea, the detective's eyes were closed in bliss.

When Sherlock opened his eyes and locked on to the affectionate gaze of his doctor, all the tension, all the pain, every negative thing he'd been feeling seemed to leak out of him. John was home, alive - if a little worse for wear - and safe, and he had made Sherlock's tea exactly as he always had. All was right again in the detective's world.

"Welcome home, John," the detective said, almost shyly.

"Thanks for finding me, Sherlock." John reached over and gave his flatmate's knee a gentle squeeze. "Now eat your food. You look like a starved cat."

At the touch on his knee, Sherlock's mind zeroed in on the sensation of warmth, both from John's hand and somewhere inside his own stomach. He covered his discomfort by taking another sip of delicious, tannin-filled heaven. Mrs. Hudson was going to be thanked profusely for picking up milk, and Sherlock reminded himself to buy the old woman flowers or something to do just that.

Judging by the way John was ravenously shoving dumplings down his gullet, he hadn't eaten very well in a long time. Sherlock was eating much slower, afraid to make himself sick. John had always warned him not to binge.

"You're going to make yourself ill."

Letting out a soft snort, John swallowed mightily. "It's a reaction to all the energy I used up coming to save your ass." The doctor smothered his cheese wontons in mustard and sucked them down. "She found me as soon as my orders were sent to return home. I was so happy I nearly passed out. When I got my flight papers, She dropped by again and told me that there was going to be a change in plans. Instead of coming on the Congo Express tomorrow, I got stuffed onto a Cargo plane bound for the American Air force base outside of Cambridge. I hitched a ride from there to the train station, and hopped the first train to London. Then, I ran from the station to the Club, and I assume you know the rest."

As John tucked back into his food, Sherlock turned his body until he was leaning against the arm of the sofa. "Am I correct in deducing you haven't eaten since you left Africa?"

"Close." A huge gulp of tea helped John swallow down the egg roll he had shoved, almost whole, into his mouth. "I haven't eaten since two days before. We got bombarded with refugees." He fell silent, closing his slate blue eyes as if pained. "I thought Afghanistan was hell, but that place?"

It physically hurt Sherlock to hear the break in John's voice. "I'm sorry you were exiled there."

Rubbing his hands over his face, John let out a long sigh. The doctor looked so exhausted suddenly, the detective worried the man would simply pitch forward and start snoring into the Orange Chicken. Sherlock began shuffling the food over to his side of the table, trying to prevent just such a travesty. John chuckled wearily and groaned, lifting his bandaged ankle up onto the table.

"Did you sprain it on the first or the second kick to the door?"

The doctor gave a curious look over at his friend before replying, "Does it matter?"

"Not really. Just curious." Sherlock reached out and lifted the pant leg obscuring his view of the ace bandage around John's ankle.

After a few moments of silent study, the detective glanced back over his shoulder in askance. John's cornflower blue eyes held such fond affection that Sherlock actually felt a blush rise in his cheeks. Unable to keep eye contact, the detective turned his eyes back to studying the bandage as John let out a soft chuckle.

Before he could scathingly object, Sherlock heard John lean forward and felt the doctor tousle his curls while stating, "I hopped the fence to get into the rear of the Diogenes Club. Let's just say I didn't exactly stick my landing."

When John leaned back again, his fingers sliding out of Sherlock's satin hair, the detective couldn't help the soft sound of disappointment that escaped his throat. Sherlock expected his doctor to sputter in that awkward (but oh so endearing) way which usually occurred when he was uncomfortable. Instead, the detective felt the lightest of touches tracing the metal links along the back of his neck. A shiver ran down his spine, and was replaced half-way down his back by a feeling of surprise when John's hand closed over his shoulder.

Applying gentle pressure, John guided Sherlock to lean back until the detective's head rested on his thigh. He waited a long moment to see if there were any objections, and when none were forthcoming, John buried his hand back into Sherlock's dark mop of hair.

Completely taken aback, Sherlock was, at first, completely frozen in place by the feeling. Physical touches were normally unwelcome to the detective. His family hadn't been the hugging type, and his years in school and university had taught him to abhor the contact of other people. This was different. It wasn't restraining, or painful; it didn't feel frightening.

Tentatively, the detective laid a hand against his doctor's leg, just shy of wear his cheek pressed into the camouflage material. John sighed in pure contentment, and Sherlock heard his head loll against the sofa back. Even though he knew John would get a sore neck if the man fell asleep in that position, the detective was loathe to move with John's fingers still caressing his scalp.

Whether it was an hour that past, or simply ten minutes, Sherlock eventually turned until he could look up into John's face. The doctor dragged his heavy head up until he could look down into the clear, light eyes of his companion. Those same eyes fluttered closed when John stroked his thumb reverently over Sherlock's sharp cheekbone and down the detective's swan-like neck.

"You should go to bed, John. You'll be stiff tomorrow from your injuries. No need to give your neck an additional crick." Sherlock's eyes opened slowly when he finished speaking, his voice slightly husky..

A huffing laugh escaped John's lips, "My neck appreciates your concern. I'm taking a shower first. I feel absolutely horrid."

Neither man made any move to get up. Sherlock found his usually racing mind felt rather placid laying there, with the backs of John's fingers lazily stroking the line of his pale throat. If John's soft, dream-like expression was anything to go by, he found nothing wrong with their current situation either.

It fell to John to be his usual, caring self, "Come on, you, neither of us is going to wake up without neck pains if we don't move. Would you like to shower before me?"

Reluctantly, Sherlock dragged himself up into a sitting position, "Leave the food and mugs. We can clean tomorrow."

Behind him, John chuckled, then groaned again when he moved his ankle back to the floor. The detective had to help drag his doctor off the sofa, faltering a little at just how solidly heavy John was, even after losing at least two stone in weight. A rueful grimace passed over the doctor's features as he regained his balance and limped towards the stairs.


Sherlock had been sitting in the dark living room for hours, listening to the far off creak of mattress springs. Somewhere upstairs, John was tossing and turning a bit in his sleep. The detective didn't want to sleep, unlike his weary doctor. If asked, he would probably just say it was adrenaline left over from the day's activities. In truth, he was worried that if he closed his eyes for even a moment, everything would be over (a thought of such irrationality he was embarrassed to admit that he thought it, even to himself).

Letting his emotions out of their little Mind Palace cupboard, he recognized the feeling of terror in regards to the thought of waking and finding John gone. It was such a pervasive, all-encompassing feeling it was bordering on panic. All he wanted was to delete it forever, or at least overwrite it with that wonderful calmness he'd felt with John's fingers sliding through his hair and along his skin.

He ran his fingers through his hair, pulling on the strands and letting the pain push the emotion into the background. All it did was give him a minor headache. A soft snarl of irritation slipped out of his mouth, immediately cutting off at the sound of heavy footsteps on the stairs.

John's solid silhouette, sans sling, appeared in the moonlight as he trudged across the floor towards the kitchen. The detective remained perfectly still, until he caught the slight glitter of tear tracks on John's dear face. Quietly he rose and crossed the room, reaching out to snatch his doctor's wrist as the silent man passed.

"Christ!" John hissed loudly, his whole body tensing into battle-mode.

"Sorry." Sherlock dropped the wrist in his grip as if it were on fire.

After regaining his breath for a few moments (and surreptitiously wiping the tears from his cheeks under the guise of rubbing his eyes), the doctor squinted up at his friend, "What are you still doing up?"

"I could ask you the same question, John. You should be sleeping." When the only answer Sherlock received to such a statement was John licking his lips, the detective softened. "Nightmares?"

A humorless laugh left John's mouth, and the sound actually hurt the detective inside. "Can't get round you, can I, Sherlock?"

He found he couldn't help a smirk at his doctor's backwards praise. Instead of letting a snarky remark slip, though, he deliberately stepped into John's personal space, crowding as close as possible without physically touching. Truthfully, he didn't know what he was doing, but Sherlock knew that somehow John would understand. After a long second, John made a soft, almost choked noise and rested his forehead against the hollow of the detective's neck and chest.

Sherlock's reaction was immediate; his long arms wrapped around John's broad shoulders and tightened securely. Warm arms circled his thin waist, drawing him closer to his doctor. He brought a hand to the back of John's head, letting his spidery, agile fingers card through John's, surprisingly silken, sandy hair. Neither man made any sound, even when John's shoulders began to shake and Sherlock lowered his cheek against the top of the doctor's head.

With the storm abated for over an hour, the world of Baker Street was silent, except for an occasional, soft gasp of breath from the doctor. As the shakes subsided, John's muscles began to gradually go limp, his dislocated shoulder sending twinges of pain along his nerves. Sherlock felt when his doctor's injured arm slipped from around his waist, and concluded that it was more than high-time for John to be resting in bed.

"Come along, John," he whispered, "that shoulder needs rest if it's going to heal properly."

John sighed against the flesh before him, making the detective shiver. "If I could sleep for more than five minutes without thinking I was going to wake up in Africa, I would."

So, the doctor feared waking up far from home just as much as Sherlock feared his friend's absence. An interesting - and oddly soothing - thought. "I could play for you?"

John's chuckle warmed every inch of Sherlock's frame as it vibrated through his chest. "Fixed your bow, did you?"

A short bout of silence answered him before the detective carefully detached himself. "No, but I looked in the case an hour ago, trying to decide if I should or not, and everything was fine."

Puzzled, John watched Sherlock approach his violin case as if it were a live, wild animal. The detective switched on one of the mismatched desk lamps and carefully unlatched and lifted the top of the violin's case. Sherlock gasped in surprise and reverently stroked the instrument.

John sidled up beside his friend and hummed appreciatively. Instead of the scratched and lovingly abused violin, the Stradivarius glittering in the flickering light (Going to have to change that bulb, aren't you, John?) looked brand new. Gently, Sherlock lifted it and the bow in his skilled hands, tracing the beautiful wood of the instrument's body and the perfectly tightened horsehair of the bow.

The doctor smiled up at his companion's blank, surprised face. "She must like you, Sherlock. It's not often She fixes things without a reason."

"You're White Lady did this? Was that why she was here?" Sherlock's voice was slightly rough.

Shrugging caused John to wince in pain, "I don't really know. Maybe it's Her way of saying 'thank you'?"

Cradling the violin beneath his chin, Sherlock slid the bow across the strings. A pure A sang beautifully in the air, echoing around the flat at just the perfect pitch. The detective coaxed a full, vibrant quarter of some beautiful, familiar song that made John's hair stand on end. Each note of the music wrapped around the room, turning the cool night as warm as a spring afternoon. Even the dying echoes lent a seed of ringing beauty to the air.

Whispering as the heart-tugging sound dissipated, John asked, "Was that 'Hearts of Oak'?"

Sherlock's lips twitched as he stroked a finger along a sinuous curve, "Yes. It seemed appropriate somehow."

John's warm chuckle permeated the air, and the doctor wrapped his arm around the detective's waist, pressing his forehead into Sherlock's shoulder. Instead of tensing, all of Sherlock's muscles began to slowly relax, even as he reverently replaced the violin in her case. "Thank her for me?"

"I'm sure She knows, Sherlock." John backed up and yawned mightily. "Oh bloody hell, am I exhausted."

To John's complete surprise, Sherlock yawned as well, turning to settle his arm over the doctor's shoulders. "Come along, soldier. You deserve all the rest you can get, and for once I can actually say I, too, am utterly knackered and would relish some sleep."

At the staircase, they parted, and John made the slightest of annoyed whimpers as he limped to the bottom of the stairs up to his room. Sherlock turned in the hallway to his own bedroom, watching the doctor steel himself to ascend the steps. Very suddenly, he didn't want the man to disappear into the upper floor, the fear of everything having been a dream breaking back into his psyche.


"Yes, Sherlock?"

"You don't," the detective's voice was soft and hesitant, "er, you don't have to go up there if you don't feel up to it."

In the half-light, John's eyes were a lovely shade of navy as he turned to regard the man a few steps away. With an awkward half-hop, the doctor resettled his feet on the landing and waited. Sherlock reached out a hand in silent, shy invitation, glancing in a sort of detached way at the wall. A few stilted steps were all the warning he got before a warm, callused hand slid home against his palm.

There was a lump somewhere in both men's throats, silencing any attempt at speech, as Sherlock lead the way into his surprisingly clean bedroom. His inner sanctum was one of the few places Sherlock did not conduct experiments, although the desk in one corner was haphazardly littered with books and papers. Releasing the doctor's hand, Sherlock quietly settled himself beneath his warm duvet and closed his eyes.

Every move John made as he made his way to the other side of the mattress was loud, but unobtrusive, in Sherlock's ears. The way the man wriggled to get comfortable, immediately heating up the space beneath the sheets like a furnace, made the detective smirk. John's movements quieted with a soft sigh of contentment.

Sherlock rolled onto his side, eyes closed, and stretch an arm across the no-man's land between them, wrapping slender fingers around John's thick wrist. After a long moment, the feeling of John's pulse thudded against his fingertips, and the detective let out a quiet hum of satisfaction. Darkness tugged at the corners of his mind, and he barely registered the feeling of John rolling towards him before sleep overtook him.


Whatever was buzzing angrily somewhere behind him was going to get pounded with a hammer, and then dipped in acid, if it didn't shut the bloody hell up in the next few seconds. It was the first time Sherlock had ever woken up warm and comfortable in thirty-plus years, and nothing was going to tear him away from the firm, cozy thing beneath him. He shut his eyes tightly, and strengthened the grip he had on his delicious smelling pillow.

From somewhere slightly above and under him, a sleep-darkened voice rumbled, "Sherlock, if you don't answer your bloody phone, either it's going to throw a fit or I am, and if it's me, your phone is going to come out the worse for it."

Okay, the phone was on vibrate, so what was John playing at coming downstairs and complai…oh. OH. Warm, comfortable, squishy thing beneath him was not a pillow, then. Sherlock opened one eye experimentally as the phone let up its incessant noise-making.

His face was cradled in the hollow of John's neck and good shoulder, and John's right arm was wrapped around his back, the hand a heavy (but welcome) weight at Sherlock's waist. Sherlock's own right arm was stretched over John's midsection, his hand wrapped around John's left arm. Oh, and that was embarrassing; Sherlock's right leg from the knee down had somehow become wrapped around John's leg.

Sherlock was caught between wanting to leap out of the bed and flee the room, and not moving so John didn't wake up further and notice their positions. Both men cursed softly as the phone started to buzz again, shaking so hard it was probably dancing across the top of the table. The hand at Sherlock's waist squeezed before removing itself to rub at John's eyes.

"Answer it so I can go back to sleep, please? It's been vibrating for hours."

Choosing to follow John's example and ignore their current predicament, Sherlock carefully extracted himself and rolled over. "Why did you not wake me?"

"I tried kicking you, but then you threw your leg over mine and threatened to experiment on my jumpers with moths if I didn't 'desist'."

A noncommittal hum left Sherlock's throat as he checked the caller ID on his mobile while studying his flatmate in his peripheral vision. John's dark blonde hair was sticking up in a frankly adorable way, and the man had thrown his right arm over his eyes to shut out the daylight. There seemed to be no tension in any of the muscles Sherlock could see, and there was no flush of embarrassment either. Both absences boded well for the detective, but it was hard to tell just how awake John really was, and when the realization of their prior positions would sink in.

"Just Mycroft. Completely unimportant. I'll text him later."

John's right arm extended itself across the bed and he rolled his head to the side, piercing Sherlock with eyes a startling shade of sleepy sapphire. Heat pooled somewhere in his gut as John's gaze lazily swept up and down his body. Sherlock only unfroze when John yawned suddenly, breaking the contact.

"If he wanted to text you, he'd text you. Just call him back. He'll just send Lestrade over if you don't, and I am not even going to attempt explaining anything to him right now."

Grumbling but obliging, Sherlock dialed his brother and (in the spirit of scientific integrity, you understand) rolled back over until he was once again settled against John's chest. The doctor let out a soft sigh, curving his right arm until his hand was right back at the spot on Sherlock's waist it had previously vacated. For good measure, the detective slipped his leg back over John's and got a chuckle and a squeeze in reply.

"Ah, Sherlock, glad to see John has finally made you see reason. Exactly how long did you think I would wait before dropping by?" Mycroft's voice was annoyingly smug this early in the morning. Oh wait, did that clock say 11?

"What do you want, brother dear," Sherlock spat into the receiver, "I was in the middle of a very important experiment."

"Yes, I'm sure you were." Lord, he just wanted to smack that smarmy smugness right off his brother's face. "Just thought that I would graciously inform you that we may or may not have missed a link in Moriarty's chain."

Sherlock sat up so fast his head spun, "What?"

"Lestrade will be by around one or two in the afternoon, I suspect. Ta, brother dear." The line cut to a dial tone as Mycroft hung up.

John was a little slower at sitting up, wincing as his shoulder complained about the movement. "What is it?"

He stared down at the phone, a trace of disbelief on his face, before he answered, "Mycroft says I missed someone. Something? Someone."

A heavy sigh was all the reaction Sherlock received before the bed started to dip as John struggled to get his feet to the floor. After a short minute, John chuckled, "You need a shorter bed. I'll make us some tea and scrounge something up for lunch, yeah?"

The sight of a strip of the golden skin of John's back as he stretched silenced Sherlock's protest against eating. He cleared his throat a little too loudly, gaining a confused gaze as John rounded the bed and moved slowly to the door. When the heavy silence, and Sherlock's powerful stare, got to be just a tad too uncomfortable, John stopped with his hand on the doorknob.


"I missed someone in Moriarty's web. We're still in danger. And we just woke up together after spending the night in the same bed."

John leaned against the door jamb, trying to take pressure off his ankle, and raised an eyebrow, "Problem?"

"Surprisingly, no."

"Good." John smiled crookedly. "We'll have a nice little bit of mystery and then home in time for tea."

Sherlock returned the smile with a wicked smirk of his own, "Could be a little more complicated than that. And dangerous."

With the deliberate slowness of a stalking lion, John approached the side of the bed, smile unfaltering. Sherlock fidgeted with the phone in his hands, unwilling to break the small staring contest they seemed to find themselves in. Goosebumps littered the flesh of his arm as John's right hand slid along the bare skin of his bicep and up to tangle in the dark curls at the nape of his neck. He sucked in a little gasp of air as John pulled their faces thrillingly close.

Sherlock could actually feel his pupils dilating as his pulse began to race. To his amazement, John's pupils were blown so wide there was little more than a sliver of slate grey at their rims. The detective could feel the heat as John's tongue darted out to moisten his lips.

"Good thing I thrive on danger, then." As John's mouth pressed softly against his, Sherlock gripped the phone tighter in his hands. Pulling back with a funny little smile, John spoke in a voice full of promise, "No one will ever separate us again, Sherlock. There's no stopping us now."

Once more their lips pressed together, and at the sensation of John's tongue sliding along his bottom lip, the detective's phone fell to the floor with a clatter. All of Sherlock's muscles went completely slack until the kiss deepened. One hand fisted in the front of John's soft t-shirt, while the other traveled up into the doctor's disheveled hair to pull the man even closer. Sherlock groaned as John's hum of approval pulsed through his nerve endings.

This was going to take a lot more experimentation.