Disclaimer: I do not make any profit from this endeavor. Gatkiss, Moffat, and the BBC own this incarnation of Sherlock. (This disclaimer holds true for all future chapters as well.)

Warnings: This story takes place after Season Two of BBC Sherlock, so it includes spoilers. It is rated M for sexual content (M/M) in later chapters, so if that's not your thing, you may wish to read elsewhere.

Last, but not least, thanks to AsyaAna for betaing this story and to Im_not_a_lizard for the Britpick.

Part One

He didn't bother sorting their flat, the things that over the span of two years had become theirs, weren't even separable anymore.

A petri dish with God knows what sort of mold or infectious disease growing inside, a colony that was thriving in spite of everything. He sniffed it and set it down, fighting a grimace or a smile. The spoon Sherlock had used the day before their lives had gone horribly awry still retained a dried, circular impression of milky tea. Not sure what he was doing, or why, he picked it up and pressed the flat of his tongue against the curve, the faint tannin souring his mouth. He couldn't find it in him to wash the spoon or dispose of the bloody petri dish, and then there was the violin. He couldn't bear the thought of never hearing Sherlock play again.

And so he took his coat, wished a crying Mrs. Hudson farewell, and walked across London towards his sister's flat. The day was surprisingly pleasant, given that he'd just attended his best friend's funeral as one of three mourners. Three, for the most amazing person John had ever met. Three.

One could almost imagine that it wasn't the sort of day someone died at all; still, John wasn't foolish enough to lie to himself. He had seen enough death in his life to know when it was real. He could forgive Sherlock anything, but he'd never forgive him for this, for dying, leaving him as one half of a whole he didn't even know had existed. It wasn't clear when exactly it had become true, when he'd stopped living alone and had started living with someone else—not in the sense of sharing a flat, though of course that was true, too—but living for them. For him.

Once he arrived at Harry's he paused. The idea of staying in one place, static, made his vision go fuzzy and his heart rattle in his ribs. He turned up his coat collar and strode away, feeling the urge to limp and fighting it as the panic receded. He hailed a taxi, only then realizing he was holding the tweed cap that had become Sherlock's trademark though he despised it. John had always thought it rather funny.

You have to give the public what they want.

Sherlock had scowled at him. The public are fiends and if you give them what they want, they'll eat you alive.

But you look so distinguished, John had teased, making Sherlock stop complaining long enough for their photo-op. Watson, confirmed bachelor, and Holmes, consulting detective. The press sometimes hit too close to home. John hadn't been ready then.

How strange that of all of the things in their flat, he would have come away with this particular object. Surely war wasn't more devastating, John thought. He wore this hat, and I'm holding it, and it holds traces of him. Skin cells. DNA. Funny . . . John was ready now, and it was too late.

"Where to?" asked the cabbie. John stared at the hat, crumpled and sweaty from his hands, noting where his wrist had been rubbed raw from the cuffs when he and Sherlock had fled from the police. It was red, the wound, and angry looking, and he wanted it to remain always, hated the thought of it ever healing.

The driver spoke again, irritated. "I said, where you headed?"

"I don't know," John said. He could still feel the tug of Sherlock's hand.

Thanks for reading! I have also posted this story on my livejournal account and A03 if you prefer those reading platforms.