Resurrection, pt 1
Post Reichenbach Falls
Mrs. Hudson had locked the door.
It was such an alarming change in pattern that it took John Watson a few moments to realize what was going on. He stood on the darkened street, squinting at the battered knob and rattling the door in the frame. The thing had been kicked and forced open so often that he was surprised it would stay closed at all.
Still frowning at the doorknob, John sighed. Keys. Of course. He needed keys. He had keys. Fumbling at his pockets, starting with his coat pockets and moving inward to his suit jacket, pants and shirt pockets, he frowned. He didn't have keys.
He was usually faster on the uptake, but in his defense, he was rather immensely drunk right now. It was surprising that he could stay on his feet. Holding onto the doorknob helped, of course, and actually, he wasn't holding onto the doorknob anymore, was he?
That explained why he was sprawled on the damp pavement. He blinked at the sky. Faint ache in the back of his skull. He'd either hit it on the way down, or he was just starting the hangover portion of his evening a little earlier than anticipated.
Either way, he tipped his head to the side and found the keys lying in a puddle, mere inches from his hip.
"Lovely!" he said, to no one in particular. It took him a couple of tries to grab them, and he was absurdly proud of himself when he managed it.
Then it was the difficult and fumbling efforts to push himself up to the point where he could reach the doorknob. He was panting and dizzy when he found his knees, but he shoved the key into lock and got it to turn. "Success!" he crowed, as the door opened and he pitched face first into the vestibule.
"Not... Not so good." Taking a deep breath, he managed to inhale dust and the faint smell of chemicals, now so embedded in the carpet that they'd never come free. Unpleasant, but necessary, really, even Mrs. Hudson's careful cleaning couldn't cover the fact that the runner had been subjected to splashes of blood.
So much blood.
John's stomach rolled over and he fought his way back up to his feet, and stumbled forward into the wall and back, catching the door with his weight and shoving it closed. It slammed with enough force to send the sound reverberating down the silent, rain shrouded street. There was no reaction.
John was getting used to getting no reaction from anyone.
Mrs. Hudson's flat was dark and quiet; he'd heard that she was out of town with her sister. She still checked in with him, every couple of days she'd leave a cheerful message on his mobile. It didn't seem to bother her that he didn't pick up, and he didn't reply. She just kept at it, reliable as the tides.
221 Baker Street was silent and still, his footsteps making staccato echoes as he moved, shuffling and uneven, up the runner and up the stairs, the hall so familiar and yet so alien. He hadn't been drunk here often; that had been Sherlock's job.
The thought was so painful that he came to a stop, halfway up the stairs, wobbling, arms pitching out to grab at the walls. For an instant he hung, almost falling, before he thrust his weight forward again and crashed up the last few steps, into the door and into the flat. He sprawled out, cheek impacting with the carpet, and the burn was a relief, it was so good because it made the bloody alcoholic haze lift.
God, the wallpaper in here was horrific.
John stared at it, his nose almost up against the wall, cross-eyed, he stared. Waited for the wobbly pattern to be still again, and when it did stabilize, it wasn't much better.
He had to get away from the wallpaper.
To his feet, to his knees, back to his feet again, he had no control over his limbs, they flailed and fell, clipping bits of furniture and tangling with cords, the few bits and bobs that Mrs. Hudson had left intact, the few obstacles, he found them all. How was it, without the clutter, without the things, oh, God, so many things, so many things that Sherlock had filled their small space with, how could it be so much harder to move with the rooms empty?
He was standing, and it was so empty. John stood there, looking,even though he wasn't capable of seeing any longer. The room was empty. Everything was gone. He knew that the boxes lining the wall were filled with Sherlock's things, packed neatly away by Mrs. Hudson's careful hands, but it wasn't the things that created the emptiness.
It wasn't the lack of those things that made it empty. The lack was something more primal, more precise. It was like the flat had been alive, and now the emptiness was like the lack of a pulse on a still wrist. John's stomach rolled over, his fingers twitching, remembering, remembering the fading warmth of skin beneath his cold, shaking fingers. The lack of a heartbeat, in the man who'd publicly claimed to have had no heart at all.
Drunk, dumb, he stood there, senses straining. Listening for the faint,melancholy strains of the violin, the smell of tea brewing, the taste of chemicals in the air, the sight of a faint light in the kitchen. The feel of warmth. Any warmth. The warmth to chase away that memory of cooling skin and cold, wet blood beneath his feet, seeping into the knees of his trousers as he fell. The memory was alive, a gnawing sense of cold that wouldn't let him be.
Please, please God, was it too much to ask for any human warmth?
He'd been so cold. The summer had come, as much as summer could come for London, and even the air was stangnant with hot, thick moisture, he couldn't seem to get warm.
John took a stumbling step forward, his hand pressed to the wall, to keep himself upright and moving, and something ground beneath his heel. He looked down, the weight of his head tipping him forward. He pitched forward, coming up against the wall, and he slid down. Down. Down. So far down to his knees, and his hand fumbled on the carpet.
Merciless God, would he never be able to get off his knees?
His fingers were delicate as they retrieved the remains of one of Sherlock's collapsible magnifying lenses.
A tear flicked through the air, landing on his knuckle, and he struggled for a moment, trying to keep what was left of his control. But once begun, the tears refused to stop, and he collapsed back, his legs a tangle as they started in earnest. He brought his arm up, covering his eyes, hiding from someone, from everyone, even if there was no one there. For what felt like forever, he cried, silent and stuttering, his breath coming in raw gasps, pressing the inside of his arm against his skin, trying to trap the tears in his eyes, but they kept slipping out, faster and faster. His hands making fists, he couldn't bear the touch of his own tears, he couldn't bear to wipe them away, his own hands stained and so goddamn cold.
And he was sobbing, out loud now, breaking the silence with small, animalistic sounds of grief, horrible and empty. They echoed in the empty flat, in his head, in the nothing that surrounded him, and he curled up, going fetal with it, with the overwhelming sense of loss and guilt and grief.
The memories wouldn't stop. They played across the inside of his eyelids, every time he slept, or closed his eyes, or blinked. The flash there, the instant of no return, of black cloth wings that held no weight, fluttering as he fell, every element, every variable, everything in sharp focus, so sharp, the flicker of his heavy coat, trailing behind him, the weightless way he subsided through the air.
The horrific, unending sound his body made against the pavement. As final as a bell tolling for an ancient, half-forgotten death. The sound, John couldn't escape that sound, of cracking bone and sinew ripping, joints popping, he knew, he knew, he knew what the fall had done, he'd seen death, so much death, he knew how it could come, and he'd expected it, somehow, from the beginning.
A gunshot from a distance, a crazed killer leaping with a knife, a hint of poison slipped into a teatime biscuit, a bored hand reaching for another hit, one more than the body could sustain. All of the deaths he'd imagined for Sherlock, for himself, in the back of his blood soaked mind, had been violent.
And all of them had been unaviodable. He'd told himself there would be no time for reaction, nothing to do, no way to protect Sherlock, no way to reach out a hand, it would be over too quickly for him to do anything. A swift, senseless, violent death.
Not this. Not this agony of time, of recrimination spun out in his head, where John was forced to relive, to second guess, to retread every instant. Every word. Every gesture. Perhaps if he'd done something different, said something, made Sherlock understand, because there had to have been something he could've done, he'd had MINUTES. Unbearable, crippling minutes, and now John's life was shortened. Relived in minutes. Those minutes. It never stopped. Never paused. There was no relief.
He rolled, trying to right himself, and his coat hit the carpet with a leaden thump.
John fumbled at the pocket, at the heavy weight there. His Army pistol, recovered at last from where Lestrade had hidden it, under the pretext that John had been a material witness to a potential crime under investigation. Of course, no one thought that he'd shot Sherlock, but Lestrade had been acting in John's best interests at the time, so he hadn't complained.
He hadn't wanted the bloody thing about.
Now it was back in his possession, and he couldn't let it go. It'd become a lifeline, a safety net, a security blanket. Always there. Always. He clung to it, he checked it constantly, cleaned it over and over, always fumbling at his pocket to make sure it was still there.
Everyone needed an escape plan, after all.
John stared at the weapon, trying to force his eyes to focus. His breathing was still coming in ragged sobs, but his eyes were dry. He blinked, and the motion was slow, deliberate, and his heart seemed to slow, as if waiting for a similar order. Beat. Beat. Beat. It was as if he could control it, could stop it with a thought, with a force of will. He clutched at his chest, his fingers clawing at the jacket and shirt and everything else, and he choked on a sob.
After all, he could stop it, if he wanted.
As if in a dream, he brought the weapon up, the movement easy and swift and practiced, his muscles following habit, drilled into him over and over and over during his years in the Army. and practiced again, since Lestrade had placed it back into his hand.
He stared down at the barrel and he took a breath. Easier now. Calm. Relaxed. No fear. No pain. Just a moment of grace. The moment of truth. He kept his eyes on the gun, on the barrel, but his mind was calm now, his face still wet with tears, his eyes were clear. With care, he set it down in front of him and pulled out his mobile.
The text was simple, three words, sent to Lestrade because the one he'd wanted to reach was gone. Out of service, like as not, and in Mycroft's hands anyway. As Sherlock himself had said, he had to leave a note. It was just how these things were done. Unlike Sherlock's, John's was simple.
"I failed him."
He set the phone down, and reclaimed his gun. The mobile began vibrating. A text first, then a call notification. It went dark after a moment, then began buzzing again. And again. John didn't really notice.
He checked the pistol over, with clinical detachment. Taking a deep breath, his eyes falling closed, his wet lashes forming spiky stars against his cheeks, he raised the gun and set it beneath his chin.
A faint smile creased his worn features, and his finger squeezed the trigger.
"Don't." The word was unnecessary. The arms around him from behind, hard and heavy, taking ownership of the gun without giving John a moment to fight back, left no space for discussion. John'd raised the gun on an inhale, and before he could release the breath, it was gone, the cold weight away from his chin, out of his hands, ripped away.
The bullets rained to the carpet, the clip clattering to the floor, and the gun was thrown into the wall with unrestrained violence. It hit with a bang not unlike a gunshot, and John jerked back. There was nowhere to go, the solid wall of a body stopped him, and he fell back, back into a pair of arms that latched on with a bruising force.
It was a hug from someone unfamiliar with them.
"You bloody fucking bastard," John managed, even as he started to cry again. It was silent now, no grief, just cleansing, but his head fell back. The broad, muscular shoulder took the weight of his skull, and the arms tightened, tightened, squeezing bone and muscle and tissue, bruising skin and making breathing impossible.
"Don't," Sherlock said, his lips against John's ear, his breath hot there, and John realized Sherlock was shaking. Shaking violently, like a man in the midst of a malarial fit, his muscles jerking, his breathing ragged, Sherlock held onto John as if he was the only stable thing left in his world. "Don't you ever."
"You-" John kicked, struggled, pushing against the arms that manacled him, but it was no use, Sherlock had the advantage of size and strength and pure adrenaline. John flailed for an instant more, succeeding only in landing himself half in Sherlock's lap, their bodies tangled and the sound of their hard, sharp breathing combining into a strained duet. "You don't get to give me orders. You dead git. Bugger you. Bugger. You!" He screamed the last word and Sherlock jerked, his arms going slack.
John flipped his body, following the movement with a wild, haymaker punch that somehow connected with Sherlock's cheek. He wasn't sure how, but he suspected, as his friend crashed back to the floor, that Sherlock had moved into the blow. John scrambled, kicked, his knees ripping against the carpet, and, straddling Sherlock's hips, he grabbed him by the front of the shirt, yanking him back up into a sitting position.
Then he hit him again.
When Sherlock went down, John went with him, collapsing down, his head on Sherlock's chest, his face buried in the other man's shirt. Sherlock lay spread-eagled on the carpet, and John pressed his cheek against Sherlock's breast, finding the place where Sherlock's heart beat and resting his ear there, one hand fisted in his shirt, the other reaching up. Up to where Sherlock's pulse throbbed, in time with the steady, frantic beat of the heart beneath John's ear. Up the strong column of his neck, and John laid shaking fingers against his lips.
Sherlock, as if knowing what he needed, let his breath slide against John's fingers.
"I hate you, you bastard," John whispered against his shirt, and he felt Sherlock flinch, as if the words had caused a physical impact, one braced for but still painful.
"I know." Sherlock's voice was steady and calm, that hint of condescension and disdain that popped up when people around him got upset, got overwrought, and he was forced to deal with it.
John levered himself up, and regretted it in an instant as his cheek cooled and he felt the humiliating wetness there. "Do you. Do you really."
Sherlock stared up at him, unblinking, his remarkable, beautiful eyes steady. "Yes. I knew you would."
"And you did it anyway, you bloody selfish bastard." John's hands fisted in his shirt, a death grip that turned his knuckles white. "You made me watch you die. You-" His voice broke, his face twisted, and the agony of the memory was there; even as the real thing lay beneath him, whole and solid and warm, oh God, so warm, he couldn't forget it. The great black bird, wings clipped, plummeting down to break John's heart. "How could you do that? Did you ever-" He closed his eyes, lifting Sherlock off the floor, shaking him, and it felt good, so he did it again. "Did you ever even like me? Did I mean anything at all to you? Was I just another useful tool for you to dispatch when you couldn't be bothered to-"
John squeezed his eyes closed, his lips snapping shut, closed against the horrible truth that he'd never spoken, never considered speaking. He'd never doubted, not for an instant, that Sherlock Holmes was exactly the amazing, brilliant, quicksilver, broken and remarkable man that he'd known . He'd never doubted that. John had known his 'confession', made instants before he plunged to his death, was faked.
But he'd begun to wonder if their friendship was faked as well.
Beneath him, Sherlock was silent, and John laughed, the sound harsh. "Yeah. Okay, yeah." He raised a hand and scrubbed at his face, at his eyes, rubbing hard enough to remove any trace of tears. "Yeah. Got my answer, didn't I?" With a brutal shove, he pushed away from Sherlock. Drunk and still wobbly from a combination of relief and pain, it took him far too long to find his feet, and he spent most of the time trying not to cry.
He fumbled for the wall, and leaned against it for an instant, his arm braced, and his forehead on his arm. "Bugger you," he whispered. "I hate you. And yet I'm still so-" He broke off, his voice breaking. "So glad you're still alive. So- Fine."
He pushed away, and stumbled towards the door. His left leg stopped short, and his head jerked down. Sherlock's hand was fisted in the fabric of his trousers. His head down, he said something, too low for John to hear him. "What?" John asked, his brows pulling together.
"Don't leave me," Sherlock whispered. His fingers twitched, his knuckles white. "Hate me, if you have to. But don't leave me." The words were stretched thin, and he sounded like a terrified child, his shoulders heaving.
John paused, weaving on his feet. "Sherlock?"
"Don't leave me." His voice began to shake, and his other hand lashed out, grabbing John's wrist. "Don't. Don't, you can't, I can't-" His head jerked up, and his face was bone white, skin stretched over his skull like a bad mask and his eyes were pools of agony. "I can live with you hating me, I knew, I knew that would happen, but I can't-" His fingers tightened until the bones in John's wrist compressed. "Don't leave me."
John stared down at him, and his eyes slid shut. Slowly, carefully, he went down on one knee, the movement clumsy and awkward. Lowering the other, he shook off Sherlock's grip and reached out, drawing the taller man into his arms. For an instant, Sherlock fought against it, not seeming to understand what was happening.
"It's okay," John whispered. "It's okay. I'm sorry, Sherlock. It's okay. I'm right here. I'm not leaving. It's okay. I'm all right." He leaned forward until his forehead touched Sherlock's. "I'm all right. Whatever happened, why ever you did it, it's okay. I'm sorry. I'm not going to leave you."
Without thinking about it, he reached out and stroked Sherlock's hair away from his forehead. "It's okay." Sherlock's skin was clammy and cold, and John leaned in, brushing a kiss on Sherlock's brow. "It's okay."
Sherlock collapsed against him with such suddenness that John rocked back, his shoulders hitting the wall. He held on, even as he absorbed Sherlock's weight, the sudden, limp, dead weight of him. Watson's breathing seized, panic suddenly returning in a rush. "No," he said, giving Sherlock a shake. "Stay with me."
John wrapped himself around Sherlock, letting the other man settle against him, Sherlock's breath hot on his neck. John relaxed, relieved by the familiar pattern of life. Gently, his hand fumbling, he stroked Sherlock's hair. "It's all right."
His mobile buzzed again, and he struggled for a moment with which hand to use. The left was closer, and it was better to keep his arm around Sherlock's trembling back. It took more effort than he'd thought it would to pull his hand from Sherlock's hair, and the man twitched, breathing hitching. "It's all right," John repeated again, his voice firm, the same tone he used with a frightened patient in pain. Or Sherlock when he was on a bender. "I just need to get my phone. Lestrade must be half mad by now."
He ran his right hand up Sherlock's back to rest against the nape of his neck. "It's all right," he said, the mantra soothing for them both. His free hand fumbled on the floor, locating his angry mobile just as it started buzzing again. "Sorry, Lestrade, drunk texting. I'm fine, really."
"'Course. Where are you, John?" Lestrade's voice, full of gravel and harsh at the edges, was clipped now, in full on copper mode.
"I'm fine," John repeated, stroking Sherlock's hair.
"Yah, 'course. Where are you?"
"I'm with a friend. I've just been drinking too much, you know how it is, drunk texts and all. I'm fine, I'm not alone."
There was a long pause, and John could almost imagine the detective inspector weighing his words. "Look, John, I've gotta ask this, because I-" He sighed. "I worry. Where's your gun?"
"My mate took it off me. We had a bit of a row, truth be told. I doubt I'll be getting it back any time soon."
Another pause. "And you say he's not drinking?"
"Not a drop, Lestrade."
He gave an affirmative grunt. "Yeah. Good." John could hear the thump of fingers on Lestrade's desk, rolling and steady. "I haven't many friends, John, and I can't risk losing another one. So if I think, for even one second, that you're not safe tonight, I'd prefer to come round to get you, ya understand, right?"
"Yes. Thank you." Sherlock's breathing was slowing against John's shoulder, and John rubbed his nape. "Really, Greg. I'm fine." He cleared his throat. "I'm safe."
"Yeah. Don't panic me, my heart doesn't need the stress." Lestrade's voice took on an edge. "Don't think I won't track your mobile signal and send a car for you, you idiot. Even if not for my own sake, if anything happens to you, I'm the one left explaining things to Mycroft Holmes, and he gives me the shakes."
"You and everyone else in the commonwealth." John shifted his body, finding a more comfortable position. Sherlock shifted with him, and for some reason, there was nothing alien about the pressure of his body against John's. John rubbed his neck, strong fingers massaging his skin. "I'm fine. I'm safe, I'm sorry I spooked you."
Lestrade gave a humming sound of assent. "Yeah. John? Call me tomorrow morning,won't you?"
"'Course. Thanks, Greg."
"For caring and ringing back."
His only reply was a snort. "Yeah. Lay off the pints and get to bed."
"Good night." John disconnected the call and set his mobile down. He moved his hand to Sherlock's back. "You left me," he said, at last, his cheek resting against Sherlock's hair. "That's what I don't understand. "You left me. You... You faked your own death, and don't think I've forgotten that, how the hell-" He stopped, cleared his throat. "You know what, I cannot worry about that now, about the how. But you left me. You were the one who walked out, so I'm not certain why you have the gall to-" He sighed. "You left me."
Sherlock burrowed his face into John's shoulder, his silence eloquent.
John gritted his teeth. "Oh, of all the times for you to lose your tongue. All right, then, since the great and omniscient Sherlock Holmes won't give us his deduction, the world must then fall back to my poor skills." He took a deep breath, eyes closing.
"You timed your 'suicide' for when you had a witness. Me." Without thinking about it, John's voice took on the staccato, frustrated tone that Holmes employed while lecturing on his deductions. "You needed me there. You made certain I was witness to the whole thing, and that was cruel." He cleared his throat, it felt too tight. "Unaccountably cruel, you're often socially inept and clumsy, but you're never deliberate in your cruelty, unless you're responding in kind to some slight. Childish, but understandable.
"I, however, had offered you no offence, so you had some other reason to do it. Moreover, you lied to me. Deliberately, purposefully, you lied, encouraging me to believe in Moriarty's faerie tale. An act of penance from someone we both know is incapable of feeling guilt, so even if I were to believe it, it would always ring false. So you did that for some reason as well.
"So the question is why. Why would you want me to be certain you were dead, and also hate you for it?" Against his chest, Sherlock was still and quiet. Frustrated, Watson grabbed his chin and forced it up, forced Sherlock to meet his eyes. "Because you wanted me to believe that you were dead, and give up on you. You wanted me to leave Baker St, leave my blog, leave everything we shared."
No reaction. John stared at him, eyes darting, trying to find something, anything, to go on. "You wanted me to leave you. You did everything in your power to assure that. Except now, it's clear that's not what you wanted. If you didn't want it, and you did it anyway, then it was something you needed. You... Needed me to go. You-"
His eyes narrowed. "You had to cut ties. You HAD to. Not for your sake, obviously, then for... For mine." He leaned his head back against the wall, eyes closing with a sigh. "You're a great idiot, you know that. Moriarty. Of course. Moriarty. He used me against you. Again. I'm the bloody damsel in distress."
"Not just you." Sherlock's voice was gritty, strained. "All of you."
"All of us?" John frowned. "Me, Mrs. Hudson... Not Mycroft?" he asked, but it wasn't a question. In reply, he only got a disdainful glance. "Quite right. Not Mycroft. Then-" His eyes went wide. "Lestrade. Your other booster. He threatened us."
"So you had to die. And you had to make sure we didn't come looking."
"Yes," Sherlock snarled out, his teeth white and sharp in his strained face. "Yes, dammit, and I pulled it off."
"No, you didn't."
Sherlock's eyes narrowed, and John smirked at him. "I didn't believe you. It didn't make sense. I didn't believe you. I never believed you. But knowing something, and proving it, well, that's two different things, isn't it?
"So I set out to prove it." He grinned, and it was grim.
"It didn't take as much as I thought. A few carefully worded, but seeming off-hand comments to my therapist about eating my gun. A continuing withdrawal from everyone. An increase in drinking, going out in public without bothering to shower or shave. Wearing yesterday's clothes to the pub. Skipping therapy appointments. That time I punched Mycroft, though that was mostly for me. Carrying my gun everywhere. Public outbursts.
"I knew where ever you were, you were watching. You were watching, and interpreting. Watching and worrying."
Sherlock's eyes were wide, and if catching himself, he snapped his brows down. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Like hell you don't. You were watching. If you didn't care what happened to me, you wouldn't have bothered lying. You would've used me as a witness, and you would've-" His voice broke. "Done what you did. So you cared. You're obsessive. Protective. I know you."
"I know you!" It was a roar, a sound that John didn't even know that he was capable was making. "I know you better than any person, living or dead, on this Earth! I knew just what to do to pull you in, how to manipulate you. Feed you hints. Siphon out the information. Toss breadcrumbs in your path. You took the whole thing hook. Line. And sinker."
Sherlock was scowling at him now, his face looking much like a child's. "I knew you wouldn't. Not here."
"Wouldn't what. Let's put a name to it, Sherlock, you did it yourself, so there's no point in being subtle about it. You didn't think I'd commit suicide here in the flat."
"I knew you wouldn't. You wouldn't do that to Mrs. Hudson."
"You couldn't be sure." John gave him a smirk. "You say you knew. You may have even told yourself that you knew, but in the end, you couldn't take the chance. You followed me here."
"I beat you here."
"You knew I was coming here. And you had a choice: trust in your intellectual certainty, or make absolutely certain that I didn't kill myself. You had to chose, and you erred on the fact that you might be wrong." He grinned, and it was wobbly. "I'm more important to you than being right."
Sherlock stared at him, his face perplexed. "Well, of course."
"What?" John blinked at him. "Wait, what?"
"Of course you are."
John struggled against the dual impulses to burst into laughter and tears. Perhaps at once. "This must be what going mad feels like," he said. "I expected this. From the moment you said, 'Iraq or Afghanistan?' I knew you'd drive me right mad. You say things, you say blasted crazy things without a blink, like you're lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite, and then you wander off, without even letting the rest of us know we're about to die." He gritted his teeth. "I hate-"
Holmes moved so fast that John didn't even have a chance to react, lunging up, his mouth closing on John's, swallowing the words before they could be spoken, and John promptly forgot what he was saying in any case. For an instant, he just sat there, stunned, Sherlock's lips against his, the kiss desperate and tentative and awkward. Sherlock's hands squeezed his shoulders, his fingers biting into John's skin, holding him still.
Not that John could've figured out how to go anywhere, or even figured out if he wanted to.
He should want to. Shouldn't he? This was wrong, this wasn't what he wanted, this wasn't something he'd ever considered, this was his best friend, his up until recently dead best friend, and his tongue was in John's mouth. Wait, how had- He heard a groan and realized he'd made it, his body responding rapidly to the heat of Sherlock's mouth, and wasn't that messed up? He should stop this. Get up. Walk away. Instead, John tilted his head, and deepened the kiss, his lips parting even wider, his hands grabbing onto Sherlock's shirt.
Sherlock's hand slid down his chest, his stomach, finding that hard line of John's erection, and the touch was enough to clear the drunken haze of pleasure and booze from his mind.
John jerked his mouth free of Sherlock's, his head spinning, and nearly brained himself when his skull bounced off the wall. "Shit! Ah, ah, wait, what- What's-"
Sherlock grabbed his shirt and yanked him forward again, his clever hands sliding under John's jacket and pushing it back, off his shoulders, down his arms. John couldn't manage more than token resistance, trying to push Sherlock's chest away, but it was like trying to shove a brick wall. "Sherlock-" he managed, as Holmes grabbed his shirt and yanked, sending buttons flying. "Jesus! Sherlock!"
"What?" Sherlock said, his voice steady and calm. He grabbed hold of John's belt and flicked the buckle open.
"What do you mean, what? What're you DOING?" John grabbed his wrists, panting hard. "Jesus, we can't do this, I mean, we're in the middle of the bloody living room, what're you thinking?"
"Quite right." Sherlock pushed back, and John was left propped against the wall, naked to the waist, pants half open, struggling to breathe. And not sure if he was relieved or disappointed. "Bed, then," Sherlock continued, reaching down and pulling John to his feet.
"Bed? No, no, wait-" John stumbled, clumsy and fumbling, and Sherlock wrapped an arm around his waist, taking most of his weight and half-walking, half-shoving him towards his bedroom. "Sherlock!"
Sherlock heaved him off of his feet and onto the wide bed. John hit it and bounced, his scattered mind taking in the fact that the sheets and bedding were still there, apparently this was the one thing Mrs. Hudson couldn't bear to take care of. It was still the same tumble of soft sheets and thick down comforter that had always been there, and as John lay there, trying to collect his thoughts, he realized it still smelled like Sherlock.
Jesus Christ, when had he learned what Sherlock smelled like? He needed to get up. Now.
He struggled into a sitting position, only to stop, stunned, at the sight of Sherlock stripping. His shirt was tossed first, then his shoes kicked off, then he stripped his pants off his narrow hips, leaving him clad only in pale blue boxers. John gaped at him, intellectually taking in the width of his shoulders, the broad, muscular lines of his chest, the narrow, flat expanse of his stomach and the way the boxers slid down to cling to his slim hips.
Also, that he had an outtie belly button.
That small touch of humanity was enough to break the stillness, and John rolled towards the edge of the bed. "Okay, we're not doing this," he managed, averting his gaze away from Sherlock, not really sure how the whole situation made him feel. His body wasn't nearly so missish, aroused to the point of pain.
Sherlock grabbed his leg and pulled off one of John's shoes. "Why not?" he asked, logical about it. John's loafer hit the ground, and Sherlock reached for the other one.
"Well, for starters, I'm not gay!" Saying it aloud had absolutely no effect on his raging erection, or the way that his eyes seemed determined to linger on the broad line of Sherlock's shoulders as he leaned over to grab at John's foot. The familiar, tousselled hair and the dark brows, drawn low in determination made John's chest ache, and when Sherlock's sea-storm eyes shot up to meet his, John braced himself for what would be the easiest put down in Sherlock's career as a consulting detective.
It didn't take a genius to spot the indications that John's body was more than willing to indulge in some decidedly gay activities. John's chin jerked up. "I'm not gay," he repeated, more out of pride than anything else.
Sherlock's head tipped to the side. "Neither am I," he said, and he returned to yanking on John's sock.
John's mouth fell open. "Well, you bloody well could've fooled me," he snapped.
"I'm not gay," Sherlock said, with his usual combination of condescending irritation. "I'm not sexually attracted to men. I just love you."
John stared at him, stunned. "What?" he whispered.
Sherlock's head came up, his face set in a petulant frown. "I love you. That's it. That's all. At this point, I wouldn't care if you were male, female, or a hermaphodite. I want you. Because you're you." He reached up and yanked John's belt free. "I love you."
It was on the tip of John's tongue to ask him if he had any concept of what love was, but before he could, Sherlock looked up, just for an instant, quicksilver eyes flashing beneath beetled brows. And it was all there, the vulnerability, the helplessness, the fear. All of it, in a quick, sideways glance, as if Sherlock couldn't bear to hold his gaze.
"You don't have to love me back. I know, you hate me. I-" Sherlock's mouth twisted in a grotesque parady of a smile. "As long as you stay, as long as you-" He swallowed, and his throat bobbed. "Don't leave. Hate me. I can deal with that. I'm not particularly loveable, in any case, I wasn't expecting-"
The rage was hot and sudden and overwhelming, and John grabbed his shoulders, yanking him down, catching Sherlock off guard so he stumbled, falling foward onto the bed. John stopped Sherlock's words with his mouth, an open mouthed kiss, hotter than any he'd ever participated in. His whole life had passed, untold numbers of dates and girlfriends, and all of them were forgotten as he kissed this man.
Kissing Sherlock Holmes suddenly felt right.
When he wrenched his mouth away, he was dizzy and panting for breath. "Don't you ever say that again," he snapped out, his fingers digging deep into Sherlock's shoulders. "Not ever. There is nothing wrong with you, you are perfectly loveable, and anyone and everyone that's convinced you differently can rot in hell."
Sherlock stared at him, looking absurdly vulnerable. John cupped his face between his palms. "Look at me. You are perfectly-" His teeth clicked together. "I love you."
In his palms, Sherlock jerked back, trying to pull away, and John held on. "Don't lie to me," Sherlock snapped, but his eyes were flicking, taking everything in, weighing the evidence, gathering information. "I can't bear it."
"Some master detective you are." John rolled his eyes. "Fine." He reached out, and his face flushing bright red, he pressed a palm to the flat, muscular plane of Sherlock's stomach, his fingers trailing down, feeling the thick muscles tighten against his fingers. This should not have felt so familiar, so right, and yet it did, as he found the heavy weight of Sherlock's erection.
Sherlock grabbed his wrist, his breath leaving in a pained hiss. "Don't."
"Oh, now you're shy? Jesus, Sherlock." John flexed his fingers, knowing just how much pressure to exert, even if he couldn't stroke his palm against the impressive length.
Sherlock's eyes fell shut, his lips parting as he sucked in desperate breaths. His high cheekbones were flushed, his shoulders jerking with the force of his breathing. "I didn't-" He groaned as John cut him off mid-word, fingers tightening.
"I did," John said, chuckling. "I've found a way to stymie you. Excellent."
"Shut. Up," Sherlock choked out.
"Make me," John shot back with a sweet smile.
The instant Sherlock's eyes met his, John realized he'd made a mistake. He opened his mouth, trying to mitigate the damage, but it was too late. Sherlock's lips curled up in a tight, pressurized smile, and John tried to back up, but there was no where to go. "Now, Sherlock, you-"
Sherlock lunged, and John went down beneath him, their lips sealed together, Sherlock's heavy body pressing him down into the bedding. John felt his hands at the waistband of his trousers, and without thinking, lifted his hips so Sherlock could work them down, over his hips. John's hands slid up Sherlock's back, feeling the muscles flex there, beneath his trained fingers.
The kiss just kept going, their lips almost grinding together, their bodies straining. John was aware, on some level, that his pants were unfastened, halfway down his hips, and wasn't surprised when Sherlock ripped his mouth away, leaving John fumbling for breath. "God, Jesus, Sherlock-" he managed, his head falling back.
"Right," Sherlock said, the word clipped and precise, and then his mouth was on John's throat, hot and wet and strong. John groaned as Sherlock's mouth brushed against his right nipple, his tongue finding the sharp point. Sherlock lingered for an instant, his tongue flicking against John's flesh, eyes narrowed, fingers stroking over the planes of his breast and ribs, finding every point of sensation.
This, John realized, this was the danger. This was the extreme danger in letting Sherlock Holmes play. He was a man who could discover your weakness before you finished brushing your teeth, and being naked in front of him, literally naked and needy, was a recipe for disaster. Every hitch in breathing, every twitch of a muscle, every minute change in skin tempature, he would be aware of it all, cataloging, inventorying, learning, finding just the way to manipulate, to twist, to wrench every last bit of reaction from his lover.
Sherlock had once said that Mycroft was the most dangerous man John would ever meet; he'd certainly had the right family.
Holmes licked the sensitive skin just below John's belly button, and John arched off the bed with a cry. "Ah, I see," Sherlock said, and John could feel his smile against that baby-fine skin.
"Yes, yes, you win, let me up now-" John was babbling, his fingers digging into the white sheets. "Sherlock, I'm serious-"
"Shut up now," Sherlock said, and his hot mouth closed over John's heavy erection.
"Oh, God," John managed, before he forgot anything remotely resembling English.
Perhaps he'd misunderstood the purpose of foreplay before. It had all seemed like a lovely, unbroken string of pleasure, human contact and warmth, skin and touch and heat. Almost pleasant. There was nothing at all pleasant about sex with Sherlock. Up until now, it had been confusing, intense, an overwhelming, almost brutal pleasure.
Actual sex just might kill him.
Half propped up on the pillows, his hands scrambling, grabbing, nails ripping at the bedding, John struggled to breathe. The angle gave him a perfect view of what Sherlock was doing, his jaw stretched wide, his brilliant, beautiful eyes locked on John's the entire time. He altered the pressure, sucking and rolling his tongue, and John's hips arched up, hard and uncontrolled. Sherlock's eyes narrowed, and John had the distinct impression that he was smiling, smugly pleased with himself.
Then he set himself to the task of driving John insane.
It wasn't long before the grip on the sheets wasn't enough for John, and he made a fumbling grab for Sherlock's head, his fingers sinking deep into the dark curls. "Ah," he managed, as his fingers tightened, and Sherlock stared up at him, long, dark lashes barely moving as he monitored John's face.
Then his eyes flickered shut, as if he'd gathered all the data he needed for a solution, and John knew he was in trouble.
Sherlock pressed a hand flat on John's stomach, holding him down as his mouth slid over John's erection. With a hard, suctioning pressure, Sherlock deep throated him.
John came on a howl that would've been embarrassing if he'd been capable of feeling embarrassment. As he twisted under Holmes, his body jerking with the force of it, he couldn't do anything but struggle to breathe. When he finally collapsed back against the sheets, his body limp and skin damp, he was grateful his heart was still in working condition.
Of course, it stuttered to a stop as Sherlock sat up, eyes on Watson, and drew an index finger across his swollen lower lip, the sticky residue clinging to his finger. Sherlock licked it clean with a flick of his tongue, and John groaned, the sound wrenched out of him. "Jesus, Sherlock!"
Sherlock arched his eyebrows, his own shoulders heaving with the force of his breath. "Interesting," he said at last. He licked his lips. "Almost..." He swallowed, his high cheekbones flushed. "Very interesting."
"That's one way of putting it." John's head fell back, into the pillows. "Jesus H. Christ." He heard Sherlock chuckle, a smug little sound, and he managed, with a force of will, to roll over. "You bloody smug bastard," he said, snagging Sherlock by the back of his neck and pulling him down. Their lips met, and he taste his own essence on Sherlock's lips, on his tongue. It was stunningly intimate, and he groaned. The sound was caught and magnified by Sherlock, and John relaxed, just a bit.
It wasn't one sided. He could make Sherlock scream, too.
Keeping up the pressure of the kiss, John slid a hand down Sherlock's stomach. His fingers slid under the waistband of Sherlock's boxers, and Sherlock grabbed his wrist. John pulled away, breathing hard. "Turnabout's fair play," he said, with a lopsided smile.
Sherlock studied him, eyes narrowing. "You don't have to," he said, leaning in for another kiss.
Watson stared at him, right up until their mouths met again. He didn't need to. Sherlock would make this one sided, if John let him. For some reason, the thought was incredibly depressing. And what was it that Sherlock had said? That it was okay, because it was him.
Somehow, he realized, that was true. He wasn't interested in men, but Sherlock, Sherlock was a constant source of fascination. For an instant, he considered what had happened, what could happen, and his body reacted predictably. John's eyes slid shut. "I love you," he said, the words hot against Sherlock's mouth. "I do. But I didn't really, I mean, I didn't think about that. Acknowledge it. Not until just now, just when you reappeared, so give me some time."
Sherlock pulled back, just far enough to meet John's eyes. "As long as you'd like," he said, calm and placid despite the pressure of his breathing.
"All right then. We'll start with this." Leaning in, John kissed him again, even as he pushed Sherlock back to the bed, his hand closing on Sherlock's erection. Concentrating on the taste of Sherlock's mouth, the heat and pressure and rapidly growing sense of familiarity, he stroked Sherlock's erection, feeling him arch into his hand.
Sherlock's hands slid up his back, his fingers digging into John's skin, his grip almost painful. Moaning into John's mouth, he came hard. John kept stroking, his mouth teasing Sherlock's. When Sherlock finally subsided, his breathing ragged and uneven, John collapsed beside him.
This might take the cake as the weirdest night of his life. How strange that felt so right.
"Have you ever, um, done that before? I mean, what you did before?" John cleared his throat as he rested his head on Sherlock's shoulder.
"What, the blow job? No." Sherlock was breathing hard, his head thrown back.
John started to giggle. "You looked up how to give a-" He was laughing too hard to get the words out. "On the internet."
"Cosmo alone was a wealth of information." Sherlock's eyes fluttered shut. "I was good at it."
John nodded. "Yes. Yes, you were." Shaking his head, he closed his eyes, and yawned, burying his face in Sherlock's shoulder.
John might've fallen asleep. He wasn't sure, but when he next managed to pry his heavy eyelids open, he found himself beneath the blankets, with Sherlock's warm body curled against his from behind. One thick leg nudged at the back of John's knees, one muscular arm was thrown around his waist. It should've felt strange, alien, but somehow, it didn't.
For the first time in months, John was warm. Well, he thought to himself, it would be helpful in the winter; Sherlock's body radiated heat like a barely banked fire. It should be uncomfortable now, in early summer, but the night was cool and his skin was still damp, and God, it felt good to snuggle back into that heat.
Sherlock nuzzled his head, and John frowned. "Are you sniffing my hair?"
That made him laugh. "Don't. That's odd."
"It's not odd, it's deduction."
"Ah, I see. And what do you deduce from the scent of my hair?"
"You need a bath."
John snapped his elbow back, gratified when he connected enough to shock a yelp from Sherlock. "Remember our discussions about when being helpful crosses that invisible line to rude?"
"It'd be a lot easier to determine when that is if the bloody line wasn't invisible," Sherlock grumbled.
"Here's a hint. If the other person is naked and lying in bed with you, criticisms are usually not going to be well received. It's a vulnerability issue."
Sherlock pondered that, and John felt him nuzzle at his hair again. His cheeks flushed, but he let the blasted man do it.
"So what do I say?" Sherlock asked at last.
"Offering a cool shower for two usually has the same effect without resulting in your lover slamming the door on the way out of the room. Or out of the flat, if you're particularly unlucky. A kind word about their presence in your bed is also usually well received." John yawned.
"It's just, the smell is-"
"Fine! Bloody hell!" John kicked at the blankets, wiggling out of Sherlock's grip.
Sherlock grabbed him and dragged him back. "No," he said, ignoring John's struggles. "You're right, having you leave is singularly unpleasant." He buried his face in John's neck. "Stay there."
His hair brushed John's cheek, and he smiled. "Don't order your lover around, either, it's tacky. Unless everyone is into that sort of thing."
He felt, and heard, Holmes yawn. "I don't need generic lover advice," he pointed out, sounding sleepy. "Just you."
"Well, then, fine, you can try ordering me about all you'd like, you do anyway."
"You seldom do what I tell you to, though."
"You catch on rather slow for a genius." John snuggled back into Holmes' heat.
"It's not my fault that you're deliberately obtuse." For a long moment, Holmes was silent. His breathing steadied, and John relaxed, thinking he'd fallen asleep. He closed his eyes and relaxed, waiting for sleep. He was exhausted enough, mentally and physically.
"You would've done it."
It wasn't a question, but John sighed. "Don't be stupid. I wouldn't, not here." He winced. "I wouldn't've, period."
"Yes, you would. You took every precaution, after all. Made sure that Mrs. Hudson wasn't around, texted Lestrade with a message intended to set off alarm bells, left your mobile on so the signal could be traced. Even if he couldn't get an exact fix, he'd get the general vicinity, and he'd spot Baker street in the radius. He'd make straight for this place, and have your body out before even ringing Mrs. Hudson to let her know."
John was still. "You're imagining things again, Sherlock." He closed his eyes. "Good night."
"You were that sure I was alive."
Sighing, John shifted, and felt Sherlock's arm tighten. "Every time since I've met you," he said at last, "You've always shown up when there was a gun pointed at me. Every bloody time. You..." He paused, swallowed. "You always save me. Even if I can't save you. So if I was stupid enough to actually be considering pulling the trigger, and I'm not saying I was, well, then, it stands to reason you'd save me from myself, doesn't it?"
"Good night, Sherlock," John said, his voice firm. "Go to sleep."
Sherlock sighed against his hair. "I love you. Don't ever do anything that stupid or pointless again."
"Again with the orders."
"I'm not joking."
John rolled over, meeting his eye. "I'll make you a deal. I'll never kill myself, if you promise the same."
Sherlock studied him, and leaned in for a kiss. "Agreed."
"Good. Now shut up and go to sleep." John buried his face in Sherlock's shoulder. He paused, feeling the heat of Sherlock's skin against his cheek. "Sherlock?"
There was no reply, and he raised his head. "Sherlock?"
"I was told to go to sleep," Sherlock grumbled.
John couldn't hold back a smile, but it died quickly. "Will you still be here in the morning, or am I to get used to waking up alone?" The perils of sleeping with a dead man were suddenly plain to him. A shiver traced its way over his body.
There was a long silence, broken only by the sound of your breathing. "I had a bad night," Sherlock said at last. "About a month ago, maybe a bit more." The words were offhand, but it carried the hint of a lie. John would've bet a month's pension that Sherlock knew the precise date, the precise number of days that had passed since then. "A very bad night. And I woke up, and you weren't there."
The silence descended again, and John rested his forehead on Sherlock's shoulder. He knew how many things 'a bad night' could be code for, and none of them were good. "I'm sorry," he said, even though his absence had been none of his choosing.
"Yes, well, It wasn't pleasant. I've grown accustomed to your presence," Sherlock said, sounding very petulant. "I don't wish to live with that inconvenience any longer." His fingers stroked up John's back, the touch soothing and hesitant, as if he was still trying to figure out what was and wasn't acceptable. When John didn't object, the repeated the gesture.
He had always been a quick learner, if he was interested in the subject.
"Coming back from the dead, then?" John asked, his own hand resting on the narrow width of Holmes' waist.
"It's about time. Mycroft will be put out, but I find I don't much care."
"Mycroft knew. Of course, Mycroft knew." John's teeth gritted. "Now I'm all the happier that I took a shot at him when I had the chance." It had been an excellent punch, almost scientific in the force and accuracy, breaking Mycroft's nose with a single blow. There had been a lot of blood before John was dragged away by the secret service.
It had still been totally worth it.
Sherlock chuckled, and it was a very sweet sound. "I did appreciate that. You might well be the only person on Earth to get away with that, by the way."
"Well, of course I could. But I didn't need to. You did it for me." Sherlock yawned, and it vibrated through his whole body. "Was it really necessary to do at the funeral, though?"
"When else was I going to get the chance? Besides, I get the excuse of extreme grief," John said, grinning. "And the knowledge that there was no possible way he'd punch back. Or let his jackbooted thugs take me out behind the church. Beating a fellow in a churchyard is so uncouth, you know."
"True. Of course, now you've punched both the Holmes boys. I so look forward to you meeting our father."
John's eyes shot open. "Wait, your father?"
"Too late, good night."
John sat up. "Your father is still alive? Wait, you-"
Sherlock had his eyes closed. "Good night, John," he said, smiling.
Staring down at him in the dim light, John felt his head throb. "You," he said at last, "are impossible."
His only response was a faint, clearly faked snore, and John snagged his pillow and gave him a sold thwack with it. "Bloody hell," he said, slumping back down.
Sherlock dragged him back up against his body, ignoring John's struggles. "Good night, John."
John shook his head. "Good night, Sherlock." He paused. "I'm glad you're not dead."
"As am I."