Hello, readers! So, I really seriously apologize for getting this chapter out so late! School's started, and between advanced placement classes, orchestra and sports I've been really, really busy. Also, I went on a week long backpacking trip with school—probably one of the most amazing things I've ever done!—and thus this chapter has been...long-awaited! Nonetheless...without further ado! Disclaimer: I don't own Sherlock, or any associated characters. They all belong to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Steven Moffat, the bastard (anyone else catch The Angels Take Manhattan?).

Chapter Twenty-four

"I mean, I just don't get it. It's like, he's always smiling at me in the halls, and then when I try to talk to him, he's a million miles away. Like I don't exist."

Gina held her textbooks against her chest, cheeks flushed as she spoke rapid-fire about Tommy Jackson, a boy in their year who happened to be the extremely handsome captain of the rugby team.

"Maybe he's afraid to talk to you," John said tiredly. Obviously, he'd made a mistake in befriending Gina. It had been a half-hearted attempt at finding someone to make Sherlock jealous—John knew that he ought to feel bad about it, but he couldn't, not since he'd discovered that Gina didn't really care about him, and only wanted someone to talk to about her romance woes.

"I don't think so." She said briskly. "Anyways, you know who else is bloody cute?"

"No, who?" John felt weary of this routine—it was always someone ruggedly handsome and probably unattainable, like a strapping athlete or one of the brilliant boys in her Maths class.

"That Sherlock Holmes."

"What?" John coughed, choking on a breath of air.

"You don't think so?" Gina sounded suddenly very...interested. "I never thought so myself—he's a bit freaky, you know, and all—but then today I realized that he's actually really hot."

"Oh. Um." John swallowed. "Yeah. Sure. Whatever you say."

"Anyways." Gina turned off of the path that they'd been walking, heading for the dormitories. "I'll see you around, John."

"See you."

John walked in a loop around the quad, silently summoning all of his courage. Today was the today that he was going to talk to Sherlock. Not talk in the quiet, "friendly" way that they'd been talking for the past two weeks. No, they'd circled the truth too many times.

It was time to break Sherlock's silence.

He was about to turn and go into the dormitory building and find Sherlock, maybe corner him, and start talking, but then someone called his name.

John turned. He faked a smile.

"Hey, Molly! Hey, Lestrade."

"How's it going?" Molly asked. As they drew closer, John realized with a jolt that Lestrade had his arm around Molly's shoulders. Despite the dreary day, they both looked very happy.

"Oh, just great," John shoved his hands into his pockets. "Yeah, great."

"I haven't seen you with Sherlock recently," Molly said. "You two haven't had a row, have you?"

"Oh, I'm sure they're both just busy, eh, John?" Lestrade's voice was falsely bright.

"Busy, yeah." John wanted very badly to talk to Lestrade alone, but he couldn't bring himself to ask Molly to leave. He was privately very glad when she announced that she'd better go do some homework. John averted his eyes awkwardly when they kissed each other.

As soon as Molly was out of earshot, John said,

"I need to talk to Sherlock."

"About what?"

John realized that Lestrade was obviously unaware of the full scope of the situation.

"We...we sort of break up. I broke up, I mean. With Sherlock."

"Wait..." Lestrade folded his arms against the cold. "You ended things with Holmes?"

"I guess. I really regret it," John admitted. "It was a stupid mistake, Greg."

"So? You're going to...reconcile?"

"I don't know. If he wants to hear it."

Lestrade squinted across the snowy quad. "He will."

"Why do you say that?" John's heart skipped a beat. Had Sherlock mentioned something to Lestrade? He knew that they were friends; Lestrade was one of the few students who would actually willingly tolerate Sherlock's forensic obsession and general weirdness.

"I know Sherlock Holmes. I've known him long enough to know that he's a good guy, John." Lestrade reached out, put a hand on John's shoulder. "Someday, he might be a great one."

John nodded wordlessly. He knew that Lestrade spoke the truth; for all of his strangeness, Sherlock Holmes was a good person.

"I know," He said tightly. "I know, Greg."

And then he turned.

"I have something do to."

"Go do it," Lestrade said.

"I will," John promised.

...

Sherlock stared at the pages of his chemistry textbook with mounting disinterest. Cations and anions were only interesting for so long; weeks ago, he'd read well ahead of the rest of the class, and was now facing extreme boredom.

The door opened slowly; Sherlock glanced up, saw John, looked down again. He expected the other boy to grab a jacket, or his cleats, or his football kit, and leave.

But John approached.

And put a hand on Sherlock's shoulder.

And said,

"Can we talk?"

...

They followed a meandering path, half buried under the snow and slush, down to the woods.

"It's so beautiful down here," John said quietly. "Even if it's kind of bleak, it's beautiful."

"Let's cut out the pleasantries," Sherlock said shortly.

John took a deep breath.

"I need to say something."

Sherlock stared at the flat, gray sky. "As do I."

John took another deep breath, and he got ready to speak, and then he blurted,

"Imadeamistakeandweshouldgetb acktogetherplease,"

And at the same time, Sherlock said,

"I love you, John."

...

"What?" John's face went white, then reddened.

Sherlock instantly wanted to pull the words back into his mouth, forget uttering them.

He didn't.

"I said that I love you, John." It was time to come clean. "I've felt this way for a long time, John—too long, alright? And I know that you feel the same way."

John swallowed audibly. "You're right."

"Yes, I tend to be."

John embraced Sherlock tightly, gripped Sherlock's shoulders like he didn't want to let go again. He didn't need to apologize, not right now, maybe later, but did later really matter at the moment? And Sherlock didn't need to forgive him, not yet. Maybe later.

"Sherlock," John said softly, tilting his face upwards, squinting. "How is it that you always know what I'm thinking?

...

Sherlock phoned Mycroft that night.

"Hello?"

"Mycroft?"

"Sherlock?"

"I..."

"Why are you calling?" A pause, and then, "Is everything alright?"

"More than alright." Sherlock said. "I just wanted to let you know that—although we haven't always been on the best of terms, I still feel great...loyalty...towards you. As a brother. And, er, as a friend."

It took a lot to admit that; that Mycroft had been more of a parent to Sherlock than his mum and dad had ever bothered to be. It had always been Mycroft bandaging scraped knees and fixing tea in the afternoon, and herding Sherlock towards the primary school gates each morning.

"How very sentimental," Mycroft said lightly, but Sherlock could tell that he was, in some distant, Mycroft-ish way, touched.

They talked aimlessly for a while, and then Sherlock hung up. He needed to talk to John.

Broaching the subject of their...argument...would be difficult, stiff and awkward. Sherlock tried to make John feel at ease, but that was extremely hard because privately, Sherlock was very nervous and fighting not to become overly emotional.

No use tearing up during a weighty discussion, was there?

"John," He said, taking a seat at the desk. John had gone for a run around the campus—apparently ignorant of the biting cold and the promise of snow—and stood stripping off his jacket and shoes.

"Yeah?"

"I think we ought to talk about..."

"Thought you might say that." John hung his head.

Sherlock struggled to find the right words; there were so many thoughts tumbling around in the space between his ears—he was afraid of saying the wrong thing, of offending John, of making him feel unworthy.

"When we met, I...I didn't think..."

"This is my fault," John said suddenly. Sherlock broke off, looked up. John met Sherlock's gaze, and there was something guilty in his eyes. "I wasn't completely honest with myself—hell, I wasn't honest at all. About being gay, I mean. I lied to myself for years, Sherlock. I told myself that I was something that I wasn't, and I started to become that person. I hid parts of myself away from people. I didn't want to let anyone into that. I didn't want anyone to see."

Sherlock's chest tightened; he wanted to tell John that he understood how it felt—to lock part of yourself away, seal it off from sunlight. To feel that part of yourself growing and thriving in the dark, reaching, wanting.

"You're the first, Sherlock. You're the first person to see that part of me."

"John, I didn't know." That was a lie. It sounded canned, stupid.

"It doesn't matter, anyways," John said bitterly. "It's in the past, now."

Sherlock rose to his feet; he felt distant, ignorant, he was everywhere at once, he crossed the room, he was embracing John, he was holding him and muttering I'm sorry, I'm sorry into John's hair. He swallowed with difficulty. After a moment, Sherlock tasted salt on his lips and he realized that for the first time in a very long time, he was crying

...

John clapped his hands together and exhaled. His breath lingered, a cigarette-smoke cloud in the cold air. The football team had arranged a sort of practice scrimmage against nearby Saint Anne's College. So far, it wasn't going well.

The team was playing hard, and John appreciated that. They were undeterred by the frigid weather, the icy wind. They were playing hard, and they were failing only slightly less than miserably.

"John!" Lestrade jogged over and slapped John's shoulder. "You alright, mate?"

"We're doing fine!" John lied brightly. "Everyone's doing fine!"

He saw Sherlock standing on the sidelines and felt a funny lurching somewhere in the region of his chest.

The whistle shrieked in John's ear; the boys leaped into action. Saint Anne's team consisted almost entirely of big, burly boys who held a certain fondness for body-checking.

John took possession of the ball, sprinted lithe and rapid towards the goalposts—he saw, out of the corner of his eye, Sherlock standing on the sidelines, wearing his familiar dark coat. He was winding back his foot for the shot—he had it!—and then—

The breath was stolen, sudden and violent, from his chest; John felt himself collide with the frozen ground. There was a sharp pain against his back, and then he lay breathless on the grass. A heavy-built Saint Anne's boy passed his field of vision. The sky looked very dark, roiling with clouds, from this angle.

"You alright?" Tom and Lestrade helped John to his feet; Newcastle was awarded a penalty shot.

"Take it, John!" Lestrade said. Saint Anne's took position in front of the goal, jumping up and down, arms folded. Someone hurled an obscenity.

"You fucking fag!"

John cringed inwardly, something that might have been his pride stinging. He wound up his foot, and he thought of nothing but Sherlock's face, and how Sherlock's face might break into a grin if they won this stupid scrimmage, and it wasn't even a real game, for God's sake, and then he booted the ball.

Score. The goalie leapt to the left, arms outstretched. John's fired ball zipped cleanly past his head, bouncing satisfyingly into the corner of the net. Newcastle cheered; Saint Anne's scowled darkly, muttering under their breath.

As they left the field, Sherlock approached. John was pulling on his windbreaker.

"Good job, John," Sherlock said, and then, "It was alright, wasn't it?"

"It was alright, yeah." John grinned at him, and Sherlock grinned back, and then they walked back to the school in companionable silence.