Darkness Bleeds Through

(Author's note: I'm messed up in the head. Sorry about that. Starts off dark, will eventually get better. That's all anyone can hope for, right? Eventual slash, my apologies to those who are not into such things, but fairly warned be ye, says I. I don't own them, no disrespect to copyright holders intended.)

The worst thing about nightmares wasn't the nightmares themselves. It was the overwhelming fear of another one.

Or perhaps it made more sense to say, the worst thing about nightmares was the inability to realize when one had started. They all seemed so ordinary, at the beginning, and that was worse. It was worse because he never knew when he was dreaming and when he was about to lose his mind. Because John Watson always knew he was dreaming. The knowledge never changed the outcome. The dreams always caught him before he had time to brace himself.

John sat at the breakfast table, his heart beating too fast as he scanned the newspaper. There was the faint ticking of a clock, somewhere far in the background, the soft play of morning light on the aged wood, the faint smell of burnt toast, newsprint ink, and hot tea. They were impressions, instead of a cohesive whole, as if he were disconnected from the scene, taking it in from a distance.

The click of a spoon swirling in a china cup brought his head up. He watched Sherlock's long, graceful hand, fingers cradling the silver spoon, move in idle circles. His attention was on the book he held open with his other hand, fingers pressed down on the pages to hold it open, dark head bent low over the pages. Without looking up, he pulled the spoon from the tea, tapped it against the rim of the cup and set it, bowl up, on the edge of the saucer before he picked up the tea cup. A curl of steam broke the surface, brushing his lips just before he opened his mouth and took a long sip.

John watched, snapshots of images all he could maintain. A faint, bell like ping caught his attention, and his eyes flicked down to the spoon. The tip hung a bare inch over the pale china of the saucer, and as he watched, a second drop of tea rolled from the hidden underside of the spoon's bowl. For an instant, it hung suspended, then dropped to explode on the saucer, pale creamy brown against the white.

The third drop was rich, ruby red.

It pooled in the middle of the tea, jewel-toned in the morning light, and John's stomach turned over. He reached out with fingers that shook the smallest bit, and picked up the spoon. He turned it over, studying the silver bowl. It held the faintest sheen of tea still, and he rubbed a thumb over it, bringing the damp skin to his nose for a sniff.

Tea. Milk. Sugar.

He looked down at Sherlock's saucer, where the droplet of blood had spread through the tea, thin threads of viscous red in the almost skin tone of the pale brown. John reached out and returned the spoon to its resting place, tipping it forward to cover the droplet. He looked up and met Sherlock's eyes.

Sherlock was staring at him over the rim of his tea cup, blue grey eyes as fathomless as a winter sea. Dark lashes swept down, covering them for an instant, and he returned the cup to the saucer.

John stared down at it; the tea was drained, the cup mostly empty now, and what little was left looked darker, hidden in the shadows. Uneasy, John returned to his paper, but the words wouldn't make sense, the march of letters incoherent.

He took a deep breath, and tasted the wet, coppery tang of metal in the back of his throat, reminiscent of wet dirt and rot. He swallowed, and reached for his own cup of tea, untouched until now, to chase away the smell. Eyes down, he brought his cup to his mouth and drank fast, trying not to taste, trying not to look.

The flavor was sweet and rich, with the faint hint of jasmine flower and warm herbal notes. He drained the cup, gulping at it, grateful that it coated his throat and left no room for anything else. His fingers a bit steadier, he lowered it to the saucer.

Halfway there, his hand froze, arrested by the sight of the red residue coating the inside of the cup. He jerked his hand back, and the cup fell, cracking against the saucer. He was only barely aware of Sherlock's head snapping up; his eyes were locked on the shards of the cup, now bleeding freely.

The dark, shimmering liquid ran from every edge, every splintered fragment, dripping and pooling amongst the shards until it filled the saucer and slipped over the top, rivulets cascading to the table. John stared down at it, his heart pounding in his ears, and he nearly screamed when a hand clamped down on his wrist.

Head jerking up, he met Sherlock's eyes again, and struggled to smile. Sherlock, silent, tipped his head to the side, his eyes holding all the edge of a sword. He looked down at the ruin of John's cup, then back up, and his hand was still warm on John's wrist. With utmost care, John retrieved his hand, pulling his arm loose from Sherlock's grip, ignoring when his skin slid through the red rivers that now poured across the table. They sparkled as they reached the edge and trembled there for an instant before spilling to the kitchen floor.

John stood, pushing his chair back, and it slid against the wet tile, leaving streaks that looked like wounds. He picked up the cup, saucer and all, and moved to the bin, ignoring the way the blood dribbled down his hand, down his wrist, sickeningly warm against his skin. He pitched the whole mess into the rubbish, scattering drops of blood against the floor and the counters and the walls, splash marks like ricochets.

There was the scrape of the other chair moving, and he turned back to find Sherlock standing, his expression one of mingled curiosity and concern. His fingertips were braced on the table, on either side of his book, and there, where the shadows were thickest, where the pale skin pressed against the wood, the shadows grew and spread and turned liquid red.

John stared at the shadows beneath Sherlock's hands, where the dark pools bubbled and splashed, as if something was dropping from his arched palms, dripping into the red black shadows. When he raised one hand, reaching for John, he left a trail of droplets suspended in the air for a brief instant before they crashed back to the table. John couldn't tear his gaze away from the red palm as it came towards him, filling his vision, and an instant before Sherlock could touch his shoulder, he stumbled back, feet skidding on the floor.

Heart pounding, he retreated, his face still and calm and as unreadable as a mask. He headed for the living room, trying not to listen to his footsteps squishing across the wet floor, the way the scent now rose like smoke in the air. That taste of new pennies, sharp and hard and catching in his throat like a physical lump.

Grabbing another section of the paper from his armchair, he sat, his fingers biting into the pages. He hid behind it, breathing hard now, too hard, too sharp, but the taste on his tongue, the scent was enough to push his respiration into overdrive. He closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, trying to regulate his breathing, letting it hiss through his teeth. Don't look, don't hear, don't taste or smell or feel, just don't.

His fingers were wet.

Shuddering, he opened his eyes, the lids lifting so slowly it took an eternity. The words were red, liquid, pouring slowly down the pages, beading up like rain on a window. Flowing faster and faster, they peeled away, collapsing down to drip blood against his legs. He sat still, letting it happen, even as the warm wet soaked through his trousers, to his skin, cooling against him.

The paper was snapped away, and he stared, almost blind, at Sherlock, standing in front of him, then kneeling in front of him, face creased with confusion, with concern. John was shaking now, he could feel the faint, jittery flickers of his muscles, from his crown to his toes. He stared, eyes blank and steady, trying not to see.

Blood poured from Sherlock's hair, down his face, down his neck, soaking his shirt. Blooms of red-black wet against his arm, his hip, appearing like gunshot wounds beneath his clothes. His fingers dripped as he reached for John, but there was no pain on his face, no panic or fear or suffering in his bright eyes.

His fingers touched John's cheek, and they were wet and warm and John folded in on himself. Curling up, as tight as he could, his hands pressed against his ears, eyes shoved hard against upraised knees, nose buried in the fabric of his pants, anything, anything to make it all go away.

Dark and swaddled and as hidden as he could make himself, he felt the wet slide over his skin, finding all the cracks in his defenses. He pressed his lips together, but it dribbled against his mouth, against his nose, choking him, and he started to sob.

If he was lucky, he woke up then.

The bad dreams ended with him awake and choking back a scream into his pillow. The really, really bad dreams ended with him frozen, eyes open, chest struggling to take in any amount of air. As if his lungs were locked, his heart staggering to a stop, he just lay there, panic mounting, fighting for breath and sanity.

When it was over, when he could breathe again, in more than sharp, agonized little pants, he curled into himself, skin damp from sweat and burning hot, shaking from some interior chill he couldn't control. He would stare at the wall, his body jerking, until the sky outside the window began to show signs of dawn. Then, usually, he would fall back into an exhausted, empty slumber.

On the very bad nights, he stayed awake, fear of the nightmare, fear of being trapped inside it, was enough to overwhelm the need for sleep. When morning dawned, he met it with the resignation of a man who'd survived one battle, but could see no end to the war.


"Mmmm," John replied, the sound absent-minded. He took a bite of his toast, wincing at the bland taste of the bread. He desperately wanted some butter or jam for it, but the way his stomach was churning, he doubted it would stay down. Dry toast it was, then, and weak tea with extra sugar. He squinted down at the front page of the paper.

On the couch, Sherlock kicked his feet in the air like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Still in his dressing gown and pajamas, he snarled at the ceiling. John shook his head, unaccountably amused. "Bored!" Sherlock yelled.

"I did hear you the first time," John said, gulping down the remainder of his tea. "I just didn't care."

Sherlock rolled over on the couch, giving him a dark look. John grinned back at him, not the least bit bothered. "I need a case." Sherlock looked at him, expectant, as if Watson was hiding one from him.

"That you do. Go harass Lestrade." Pushing his chair back, John stacked his plate and cup. "I've got office hours down at the surgery, so you'll just have to muddle through on your own." He stood, and the sudden change in altitude was enough to set off an unexpected wave of dizziness. He staggered, grabbing for the table, and the plate tipped in his hand. The tea cup slid off, tumbling to the kitchen floor and shattering on impact.

John felt the floor shift under his feet and he tried to hold on, but his grip on the table wasn't enough to keep him upright. His knees folded, and he would've landed right on top of the broken cup if not for Sherlock, lunging out to steady him.

John blinked at him, shocked by how fast he could move when he wanted to. "Thanks," he managed, his shaking hand lowering the plate back to the table. "Just a little dizzy there."

"You look like a ghost," Sherlock said, maneuvering him back into his chair. "Head between your knees."

"That's really not-" John sighed as Sherlock pushed him down. "Fine. But this is an overreaction, Sherlock, I just got a little lightheaded."

"Your eyes rolled back into your head."

"And yet, here I am, fully recovered." Sherlock's hand was on the nape of his neck, holding him still, and the warmth was somehow comforting. "Can I get up now?"


John sighed, and gave in. Closing his eyes, he took a couple of slow, deep breaths, and felt Sherlock's fingers flex against his neck as he did. It took a few minutes, but at last, Sherlock's grip relaxed, and his fingers lifted. John sat up, taking it slow this time.

In front of him, Sherlock was crouched down, collecting the shards of the teacup in one hand. As he straightened up, and a piece of the cup caught the light. Without thinking, John reached out, grabbing his wrist, and jerking him to a stop.

There was a drop of blood rolling down the edge of the piece.

Nausea hit him, hard and fast and the small amount in his stomach roiled and twisted. John gritted his teeth against the urge to vomit, his fingers scrambling against Sherlock's wrist, his hand, looking for-

The cut on Sherlock's thumb was thin, a faint line of red against the pale skin, and John started breathing again.

"Oh," Sherlock said, looking down at his hand. "Must've been sharper than it looked." As John released his wrist, Sherlock absently stuck his thumb in his mouth, turning away to drop the remains of the cup in the kitchen bin. His nose wrinkled up, and John sighed, getting a grip on his emotions.

"That's not sanitary," he said, and his voice sounded tired, exhausted really, thin and washed out. He reached for Sherlock's hand, but Sherlock was already moving towards the sink.

"It's fine, it's just a nick," and there was a note there in Sherlock's voice that John didn't want to think about. "You're going to be late for work."

John checked his watch and cursed under his breath. "Jesus, yes, I am." He grabbed his coat and his bag, fumbling for everything, his fingers refusing to respond in the way that he wanted them to.


He glanced up and met Sherlock's eyes for only an instant, a bare glance, because those clear blue-grey eyes, storm eyes, he always thought, like the sky right before the rain. The color of the sky the instant before the clouds closed in, a warning of coming chaos and violence.

Sherlock's eyes, and he couldn't meet them right now, he was too tired, too mentally exhausted to shield himself, and there was no place to hide from those eyes.

"Mmm?" he said, pretending to be occupied with the zip of his jacket. It was an excuse to be looking down. Away from Sherlock's eyes.

Because Sherlock never missed anything.

"Maybe you should call out sick today," Sherlock said, his words careful.

John snorted on a laugh. "I have to save my sick days for your cases," he said, arching his eyebrows. Straightening his jacket, he juggled his bag into his right hand, tucking his left into his pocket. "It'll be fine, I'll grab a cup of coffee once I reach work. God knows we always have some around."


"Gotta run, I'm late enough as it is!" With a faint smile tossed over his shoulder, he was out the door and clattering down the stairs. "Have a good day, Mrs. Hudson!" he yelled down the hall.

"Have a good day, dear!" she called back.

At the curb, he hailed a cab, and, almost against his will, he glanced back over his shoulder. He wasn't surprised to find Sherlock's pale face in the second floor window, expression unreadable, eyes hidden by distance and his lowered brows. John managed a thin smile, raising his right arm, the one that was holding his bag, and gave a little bit of a wave.

The cab slowed in front of him, and, grateful to have an excuse to look away from Sherlock's unblinking stare, John managed to get the back door open and slid in.

As the cab pulled away, he slumped back against the seat, eyes sliding shut, body going limp. At this point, he didn't know what was more exhausting; the nightmares, or trying to keep Sherlock in the dark about them.

Sarah poked her head into the office. "All done?"

John glanced up. "What? Oh, yes. Or rather, nearly." He had to squint a bit to bring the form in front of him into focus. "Just a few more signatures, you know how it is. Easier to let the paperwork pile up and get it done at the end, rather than try to carve out the time between patients."

She chuckled, bracing a shoulder against the doorframe. Her lab coat was still crisp and her hair was neat. In contrast, John felt like a rumpled mess. This was likely because he was a rumpled mess. Luckily, most of his patients today had been children who weren't going to make judgments based on appearances. They were just happy if the doctor was kind and understanding.

"Slow day?" John asked.

Sarah gave another half shrug. "May I come in?"

"Oh, sure." He waved her in, bending his head over his forms, pen tapping along the lines until he found where he was supposed to be signing. It was a struggle to do even wield the pen.

Sarah stepped in, pulling the door shut after her, and took a seat in John's visitor chair. "How're you feeling?"

John glanced up. "Fine. A little sluggish, you know how it is at the end of the day." He nodded at his empty coffee cup. "Might grab another cup before I go, if the pot's still got some dregs."

"Maybe you should lay off the caffeine," Sarah said, her voice soft and kind.

John's pen cut across the page, skidding from the line where he was supposed to be writing, leaving a sharp, dark swath of ink in its wake. Biting back a curse, he snapped the cap back on and set it down, exercising extreme care. "What's this all about, Sarah?" he asked.

Her lips twitched, just a bit. "Sherlock called," she said, and John threw his hands in the air, slumping back in his chair.

"Oh, for Christ's sake," he muttered. "So I wasn't feeling well this morning, is it really something we need to alert the bloody media about?"

"He's just concerned about you, is that so bad?" Sarah said. "Don't suppose you'd let me give you a physical?" John gave her a look, and she sighed. "Yeah, I didn't think so, but I had to try, you understand."

John shook his head. "It'd be too awkward, and you know it." He leaned back in his chair, letting his head fall back. "I've just been having some trouble sleeping. Insomnia. It's not the end of the world, I'll get through it."

She made a humming noise under her breath, not sounding convinced. Her eyes were warm and kind and John had to resist the urge to stick his tongue out at her. The way her lips quirked, it was pretty clear that some amount of petulance was showing on his face.

"How long?" she asked.

"A couple of days." He rubbed his face. "About two weeks. Maybe." Maybe a lot longer than that, but he'd managed to hide it pretty well at first. He didn't really see any point in admitting the full extent of the issue if he didn't have to.

"Okay," she said, easy and calm about it. She pulled a prescription pad from her pocket. "I think you should pick up some sleeping pills. I know they're not any one's first choice, but if you don't sleep, you're only going to get worse."

He'd considered and discarded the idea of sleeping pills pretty early on. Sleeping pills put you to sleep and kept you asleep, and being trapped in the nightmares, being unable to escape, that was a thought terrifying enough to freeze the blood in his veins. Bad enough when he came flailing and choking awake, gagging on a scream, but to be trapped...

That was not going to happen.

But it was easier to take the prescription from Sarah, who was, honestly, just trying to help. He didn't feel like trying to explain, hell, trying to explain would just make things worse. So he accepted the prescriptions from her with a faint smile. "Thanks, Sarah."

She smiled back. "I need you healthy, John. You've got quite the following around this place."

"I'm stingy with shots and very liberal with lollipops," John explained, folding the slips in half and burying them in his wallet. He had no intention of filling them, so his primary focus was on keeping them away from Sherlock.

As if he was going to be able to do that.

"There is that," Sarah's smile was wider now, more real, and John relaxed, just a bit. "Let me know if you need some time off, John."

Oh, yeah, hanging around the flat was the worst possible idea. Sighing, John shook his head. "I'm fine, really. Thanks."

But it was clear; he had to be more careful. His mask was slipping. At all costs, he had to keep Sherlock from... He shook his head, banishing the thought as he reached for his forms again. No. There was no point in even thinking it. No point in even giving it voice.

He could do this. No one would ever have to know.

Five days of Sherlock dogging his heels at all turns, and John wasn't nearly so certain. He'd taken to retreating to his room or the bathroom, his only means of escaping Sherlock's suspicious eyes.

Long showers were a catch-22. They made him feel better, but most of the time, he was too exhausted to do much more than sit there and let the water pound down on him. If he wasn't careful, he was going to end up falling asleep in here, one of these days.

Passing out in the shower would not be a good thing. Best case scenario if he did was Sherlock figuring out something was wrong and coming into the bathroom to check on him. Worst case scenario was that he ended up drowning in his own bath.

Not the sort of end he'd like to see in his obituary. So embarrassing. John's lips quirked up in a half-smile. "Retired Captain John Watson, MD, war veteran and beloved friend, found drowned face up in his tub, mouth wide open. Turns out, he was not smart enough to come in out of the rain," he muttered to himself, feeling the edge of a hysterical giggle build in his throat.

As it was, he didn't trust himself to stand up. He'd been sitting, huddled against the tile, knees up and arms wrapped around them, feeling the water pound against his head and back. How long he'd been here, he wasn't sure, but his fingers were starting to wrinkle. Dizzy, unstable, he reached forward, almost tipping as his center of balance shifted, and turned off the water before slumping back.

He was so exhausted that everything hurt. Everything. John stared at nothing in particular, blinking only when his eyes started to burn, breathing in a shallow, easy rhythm.

Head back, he sat there, letting himself drip dry until the cold got the better of him. Gripping the side of the tub, he pushed himself up and out, on wobbly knees and with his head spinning at every movement. He grabbed a towel off the rack and started drying himself off, leaning his shoulders against the door for stability.

Dressing in pajamas took forever. John wasn't sure if he would've been able to handle anything more complicated than a half dozen buttons, and even with that, he found himself wishing for a pullover. By the time he was done, he was breathing hard, and he wandered into the living room, considering the possibility of food.

Sherlock was sitting at the kitchen table. All of the usual clutter was gone, the surface what would pass as clean in their chaotic flat.

John's whole life was spread out in front of him.

Laptop, mobile, wallet, medical bag, note book and assorted scraps and bits of paper, culled from the trash and John's pockets and the prescription forms that he'd hidden in the back of his sock drawer, and John's stomach dropped like a stone.

For a long moment, he just stood there, caught somewhere between terror and rage, his body shaking, his mind struggling to find something, anything to say, to deflect, to distract, to get Sherlock to leave this alone, to leave him alone, and he knew it wasn't going to happen.

The feeling of being completely and utterly trapped sank into him, into his bones, and he was too exhausted to stand up anymore. He sank down, his legs unstable, to collapse in his chair.

Sherlock didn't look up. "John-"

"How dare you." John heard the words as if from a distance. When the raw feeling of his own throat hit, he swallowed. It didn't do anything to dislodge the lump there, but he tried to think of it as anger and not pain. Or overwhelming fear. "My God." His hands made fists on his knees, his fingernails cutting into his palms. "How... How dare you."

He knew Sherlock was looking at him now, those quicksilver mercury eyes, and he kept his head down, using the rage as an excuse, as a shield.

"John, why haven't you gotten these filled?" He heard paper rustle. "This one's from your therapist, I think-"

And just like that, the anger, the rage was gone, and John was left flatfooted, empty, empty except for the fear. Backed into a corner, trapped, he lashed out with a force he didn't know he was capable of.

"Leave me alone!" He exploded to his feet, his voice a thin, low whisper, all he could manage, and so much worse for that. "For God's sake, for once in your life, can't you just leave me alone? Stop prying, and picking, and meddling, stop, just-" His head came up, his face twisted in pain. "Stop LOOKING at me!"

He had an instant to see the expression that crossed Sherlock's face, and then it was gone, and he thought he'd imagined it, maybe he had, because Sherlock was back to staring at him with that removed, annoyed, disdainful look that he leveled upon the stupid, trying people that existed all around him.

John stood there, trembling, shoulders heaving with the force of it. "Leave me alone," he repeated, his voice close to normal now, wasn't it good that he could make that attempt, could pretend, he was getting good at that. Not good enough to fool Sherlock, of course, nothing did, but the lying was coming easier and easier.

"You've canceled three appointments with your therapist," Sherlock started, as if John hadn't said a word, "and you have half a dozen prescriptions you haven't filled. This isn't-"

"Any of your business!' John shoved a shaking hand through his hair. "Do you listen to anything I say, do I even register? I'm not an experiment, and I'm not a case, and I'm not-" His voice choked off, a strangled sound of frustration. "Of course I didn't, Sherlock, because you're there, you're always there, you're in everything, I can't come home with pills, or you'll be digging through the pharmacy bag before I get through the door.

"I can't do anything, I can't risk doing anything, you're there, you're always there, watching and getting into things and ignoring anything that would count as personal boundaries! I can't do anything, you're always there, and I can't do anything while you're-" His voice had risen, hard and sharp, and trapped, held, pinned by those eyes, he wrestled himself back under control. "Leave me alone. For once in your life, will you please pretend you respect me, or-" He choked on a bitter laugh, "Or like me, enough to just leave me alone!"

Sherlock was still, his head tipped away, his face hidden in the shadows, and that was good, that was what John wanted, wasn't it, to keep Sherlock's eyes off of him, to just be able to hide, because he couldn't, he could not risk Sherlock figuring this out, anything but that, please, please God, for once, have pity.

Don't let him figure it out.

Stalking to the kitchen on legs that trembled, John grabbed things, his hands unsteady, he grabbed everything, shoving things in his bag, crumbling paper and jamming it all together, and with the tattered remains of his life, he stalked out of the living room, up the stairs, and into his room, slamming the door behind him.

The flat remained quiet for the rest of the night. About halfway through, he got out of bed and hovered at the door, his fingers holding the knob, but not daring to turn it. Resting his forehead against the panel, he listened, hoping against hope for the faint sounds of Sherlock's violin, or the tele playing some horrible overnight infomercial, or something, anything.

But the silence was overwhelming, and after a while, he retreated back to his bed to stare, blind and unblinking, at the dark windows until the sun began to rise. John might've slept for a few minutes then, or a few hours, not enough, and too much, and he swam awake through an aching head, feeling like he was going to cry.

Judging by the gritty feeling of his eyes, maybe he already had been. He flatly refused to check; if he was, he didn't really want to know about it.

It took him way too long to work up the courage to leave his room, and his relief upon finding the living room and kitchen empty was staggering. He hustled into the bathroom, showering to try and restore some feeling of life before he went back out again.

Still empty.

He set the kettle and made breakfast, and wondered why the silence was so overwhelming. The scrape of his fork on the plate was obscene, too loud in the too quiet space. By the time he finished eating, the silence had begun to wear on him.

He rinsed his plate and set it aside, staring down at the sink. With a sigh, he headed to Sherlock's closed door. Pausing outside, he swallowed hard, and raised his hand to knock. "Sherlock?" He took a deep breath. "Sherlock, I"m sorry. I just... I haven't been sleeping well, and I'm under a lot of stress. I shouldn't have taken it out on you." He waited, resting his forehead against the door, listening carefully. "Sherlock, can I come in? Please?"

He waited, seconds stretching into minutes, and sighed. Turning the doorknob, he poked his head in.

The bedroom was empty.

And he didn't like himself very much, because the first thing that registered was relief.

He slumped against the doorframe, rubbing his forehead with one shaking hand. After a long moment of pulling himself together, he took a quick look around. Not that it would be easy to see if anything was missing, in the rat's nest that was Sherlock's room, but still, everything seemed untouched.

With a sigh, he retreated back into the flat. Sherlock's violin case was gone from it's customary spot by the front window, the sheet music still scattered across the floor. That, more than anything, made a ball of ice form in John's stomach. Sherlock never removed it from the flat; more than anything else, it was a solid reminder of his presence.

And now it was gone.

John's stomach hurt, a physical ache. He pressed a hand there, trying to breathe through his his nose as he wandered back to the couch. His movements careful and controlled, he took a seat, staring down at his closed laptop. He rubbed a hand over his face, took another deep breath. It was okay, it would be okay. Sherlock had just stepped out for a while.

He kept his own hours, there really wasn't anything unusual about waking up to find him gone out already. When things got busy at the surgery, or Sherlock was assisting with some aspect of a case with Lestrade that involved labwork, they could go days without seeing each other. Days when the dirty dishes in the sink or Sherlock's shirt abandoned in the bathroom was the only sign that he'd been through.

Or the sound of his violin late in the night.

John buried his face in his hands, taking a deep breath, and another. Just... Had to keep breathing. He checked the clock, and reached for his laptop. He'd do some writing, that would occupy him for a few hours. Sherlock should be back by lunch, he could wait that long before he had to head to work.

He opened his laptop and stared, unseeing, at the blank blog post.

By noon, it was clear that where ever Sherlock had gone, he wasn't heading back home just yet. John had skipped lunch, packing his bag for the surgery and washing yesterday's dishes. He hovered in the flat for as long as he could, and then pulled out his mobile.

It took him an embarrassingly long time to dial. When the call went to voice mail, his shoulders slumped. "Hi," he said, clearing his throat after the beep. "It's John. I'm sorry about yesterday, Sherlock, I didn't-" He swallowed. "Look, I lost my temper, and I shouldn't have said that. Any of that. So, um, I'm sorry. I am, so let me know what's going on, will you? Thanks. Ta."

He cut the connection, and there was a finality to doing that, and he didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to think about any of it, so he grabbed his bag and set his shoulders, and headed for the front door.

By the second day, John was depressed.

By the third day, he was a little freaked out.

By the forth day, he was completely and utterly freaked out.

And by the fifth day, he was done with this nonsense, and went looking for Sherlock with a vengeance.

John glanced around the lab and bit back a curse. Molly, seated at one of the lab benches, looked up at the sound. She grinned, looking pleased to see John as always. "Oh, hullo!" she said, head tipping to the side. "This is a nice surprise."

He couldn't help smiling back. "Hello, Molly. How're you doing?"

"Oh, good, good, you know how it is. Busy, busy, busy," she sing-songed, bracing her hands on the stool on either side of her hips. "Are you looking for Sherlock?"

"I am, yes. I thought he'd be here."

"He was, until just a few minutes ago." She pointed at a work station that was still covered in petri dishes and pipettes. "He just jumped up and lit out, you know how he is. Gets his answer, and boom, gone."

John rolled his eyes. "He shouldn't make you pick up after him."

Her grin stretched a little wider. "Oh, I don't, I've got graduate students." She stood, stretched. "What case are you two working on?"

"Ah, I'm afraid I don't know," John said, with a tight smile. "In that I'm not on this particular case of his." He walked over to the lab station, studying the remains of Sherlock's research. Not much to go on.

Molly's smile died. "Oh, did you have a row?" She patted the lab stool next to her. "Want to talk about it? I can get us some coffee?"

John sank wearily onto the seat. "Yeah. Thanks, Molly. Really, thanks."

Over a substandard cup of hospital coffee, he explained the basics, skipping the embarrassing details. She listened intently, a frown growing as he told her about the final fight, the one they'd had before Sherlock had simply walked out. Finally, exhausted, he let out a sigh. "And that's it. He's been in and out of the flat for five days, but never when I'm there. I've got no idea where he is, where he's been spending his days, or where he's sleeping. He isn't answering my texts or calls, and I've already apologized, no answer. I don't know what is wrong with him."

Molly took a deep breath, and released it. Avoiding John's eyes, she tapped the side of her coffee cup with one finger. "Oh, John," she said, her brows drawing up tight. "That… That wasn't good of you."

John groaned. "Fine, he loses his temper every five minutes, and I'm expected to take it. But the one time I pitch a fit, and he just up and moves out. Sure, that's fair." He reached for his coat, teeth gritted. Everyone took Sherlock's side, everyone. Which was so monumentally unfair.

Molly reached out and snagged his shirt sleeve, her teeth sinking into her lower lip. "You really don't see it, do you?" She chewed on her lip. "Let me, um, let me try to put this in a way you might, you might understand, okay?"

She took a deep breath as John subsided back to the stool. Clutching her cup in between her hands, she began speaking, choosing her words with obvious care. "What if you noticed that Sherlock, well, that he looked sick? Weight loss, pallor, difficulty breathing, coughing, you know, obvious symptoms, to you, because of the doctor, that you're a doctor." Her nails scraped the cup. "And what if you confronted him about it, and he admitted that he had lung cancer-"

John felt the blood drain from his face. "Is he sick?" he choked out. "Is that what this is about, is he sick?"

"No! No, this is just an example." Molly's hand jerked, a couple of drops of coffee splashing to the bench. She mopped at them with her fingers, only succeeding in spreading it around. "But what if he was sick, just as an example, and when you confronted him about it, he said that he hadn't been getting treatment, because he knew you'd be angry with him for smoking. So it was easier to hide the symptoms, than it was to hide the treatment? That you might ignore a persistent cough, but there's no way you'd miss the signs of chemotherapy."

He stared at her, appalled. "That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

Molly gave him a sad little smile. "That's what you did, John. That's what you told him."

"What? Wait, what?"

"I think to Sherlock, sick is sick.. So," she said, her voice very small, "no matter what you intended, what he heard was, that you're sick. That you're ill. And there are treatments, there are things that can help you get better, but you're not doing them, because he'll notice and then you'd have to deal with him. That it's easier for you to be sick, to suffer, then have to explain things to him."

She leaned forward, her whole face radiating concern. "What he heard, because he's Sherlock, is that as long as he's there, as long as he's watching and seeing and being, well, Sherlock, you're not going to allow yourself to get treated." She swallowed. "I know he seems kind of, well, blunt, and oblivious." She managed a faint, fake-sounding chuckle. "And you were frustrated. But you told him, or rather, he heard, that it's his fault you're not getting better."

John stared at her. "Oh, bloody hell," he whispered. "So he left."

"Yes. He left, he's avoiding you, because if he's not there, then you can get better." She blinked rapidly, nervous. "But John? Are you getting better, without him?"

He let his head fall forward, smacking painfully into the lab bench. "No. Oh, holy, holy hell. Oh, God, how could I have missed that?"

"It wasn't well done of you, it's true." Molly patted his back, a delicate little brush of her fingers. "John? I know, I mean, I know you love him. Like a friend, I mean, oh, that came out wrong, really, I just meant a friend."

John couldn't help laughing, despite the chaos in his head. "I knew what you meant," he said, sitting up and meeting her eyes. Her face was bright red. "It's okay, Molly."

"So, he's your friend," she managed, straightening her shoulders. "And when he's been sick, you've taken care of him, haven't you." It wasn't a question. "If he was really, really sick, you'd never blame him for that, or leave him to suffer through it alone."

"No. I wouldn't." And it was a little insulting that she'd even say it.

Her head tipped to the side, a faint smile drawing up her bow lips. "Then isn't it unfair that you assume he wouldn't want to help you? That you being sick would be too much for him, or he wouldn't care? After all," she whispered, leaning forward, her cheeks still pink, "he loves you, too."

John stared at her. After a long moment, he reached out, cradling her cheeks in his hands, and leaned forward to kiss her on the forehead. "You, Molly Hooper, are brilliant," he said, sitting back.

She giggled, ducking her head. "Oh, don't be silly. Go, go straighten everything out before he does something the whole city will regret."

"I would, if I had any idea where to find him," John groaned.

"Well, it's obvious, isn't it?" she said, eyes dancing. She returned to her microscope. "He's not at the flat, and he's not at my place. He's not here, I would've noticed someone sleeping on one of the couches in the staff room. He can't stand hotels, too many unfamiliar people touching his things, and even if he could bring himself to ask Lestrade, Lestrade wouldn't put up with Sherlock for more than a day." She looked up, grinning. "He's at Mycroft's, of course."

"He can't stand Mycroft."

"That's true. But where else could he go?" Her grin stretched. "It's like Robert Frost says, John, 'Home is a place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in.'"

John took a deep breath before he dialed. Knowing how busy Mycroft was on a day to day basis, it would bounce straight over to voice mail, and he would be able to put this off. Still, as the connection went through, he took a deep breath, trying to figure out what to say.

"Oh, thank GOD," Mycroft said, picking up mid-ring.

John jumped and nearly dropped his mobile. Pulling himself together, he took a deep breath. "Hello, Mycroft, it's, um, it's John Watson."

"Obviously. I have been waiting for this call." There was a note of censure in his voice that confused John, but he plunged ahead anyway.

"I'm looking for Sherlock. I know it's unlikely, but is he-"

Mycroft rattled off an address, and John fumbled for a pen. "Never mind, I'll send a car for you," Mycroft said. "Just please, please take him away. If I'd any desire to live with maudlin violin music as a background accompaniment to my every waking hour, I'd have moved in over a music studio."

John blinked. "So… He's there."

"Of course he's here. Where else would he be? He simply showed up, violin case, suitcase and bad attitude as his only baggage. I ought to have listened to my instincts and chased him off with a broom."

"I'm surprised you didn't." John folded up the scrap of paper with Mycroft's address and stuck it in his wallet, just in case.

There was a moment of silence, a slight pause, and when Mycroft finally spoke, it was with a certain warmth. "It proved impossible. After all, he's never come to me for help before. I would've thought, not too long ago, that he'd prefer to sleep on the streets than under my roof." He made a little chortling sound. "I'm surprised at how pleased I am that he did show up, even though he's been a constant annoyance."

"You're going to lord this over him, aren't you?" John asked, disapproval in the words.

"So cynical, Dr. Watson. No, as tempting as it may be, I do want him to repeat the gesture, should it become necessary. As we both know, Sherlock tends to react… Poorly when he feels he's being mocked."

"Quite the diplomatic turn of phrase," John said, unable to repress his smile completely.

"One does one's best." Mycroft cleared his throat, a polite little sound. "I would be rather indebted to you, John, if you were to collect him before this evening. I'm having dinner guests, and the sight of Sherlock in his dressing gown and bare feet does not inspire confidence on the part of foreign dignitaries. His hair alone is enough to frighten a small child today."

"I imagine so."

"He just sits there, half dressed, barefoot, knees pulled up in front of him and his feet on the chair, glaring at the assembled party," Mycroft sounded like he'd forgotten John was on the line. "Snapping his violin bow around as he points at ambassadors and tells them that they need to check their brake lines and that their children are smoking illegal substances. Then the whole thing dissolves into chaos."

John's lips twitched. "Suddenly, my problems with Harry seem unimportant."

"Please come fetch him. As soon as possible."

John reached into his pocket, fumbling for the folded papers there. "I have a few stops to make," he admitted. "I'll be by right after." He paused, his fingers tightening on the scraps. "Mycroft, I can't force him to leave, you know that, don't you? If he decides to stay, I can't force him to go back to 221B."

"Of course you can."

He paused, eyebrows arching. "Excuse me?"

"Of course you can. Tell him you need him. He's not capable of telling you no, not if you ask him directly." Mycroft chuckled again. "The car will be there in half an hour, do get your affairs in order." The click of the line disconnecting was so faint that John barely heard it.

His movements careful and controlled, John put the phone away. Taking a deep breath, he squared his shoulders. "Right," he said, with a sharp nod. "Let's do this, Watson."

Mycroft met him at the door, opening it before John even had a chance to knock. "Good evening," he said, with a faint smile. "Thank you for coming." He stepped aside, waving John in.

Already dressed in formal attire, his shoes mirror bright and his suit perfectly pressed, he lead the way through the cavernous front hall, his shoes clicking on the marble floors. John couldn't help looking up and around, admiring the understated elegance of the decorating. Art and flower arrangements were laid out to their best advantage and the graceful, curving staircase that lead to the second floor was lined with a beautiful rug.

"Your home is lovely," John said, hands still tucked in his jacket pockets, paper bag held pinned under his arm.

"Why, thank you." Mycroft gave him a faint smile. "The London residence is the smallest of our properties, but it's quite comfortable." When John chuckled, he glanced over. "Yes?" he asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Nothing. Just thinking that maybe I should've waited for you to name a figure, the day we met," John said, shaking his head.

"You should have, I was planning on making it quite lavish," Mycroft said. "Turning it down out of hand was rather rash." He paused at the base of the stairs. "But endearing. If you wouldn't take money from me, likely you wouldn't take it from anyone, meaning I was leaving Sherlock in capable hands."

He waved an idle hand towards the second floor landing. "Which is what I will do now, if you please. I need to check on last minute arrangements for dinner, and I believe you'll agree that my presence will not act in your favor while you're trying to negotiate with him."

"Probably not," John agreed. Taking a deep breath, he started up the stairs. "Where is he?"

"As he appears to have paused his playing, you will need a hint. Turn left at the landing and follow the hall to the end, last door on the left." He paused, a faint smile twisting his features. "The room, that you notice, that overlooks the main drive. His playing stopped at almost precisely the moment you stepped out of the car, so I believe he is expecting you." With that, he strode away. "Good luck, Dr. Watson!"

"Thanks," John said, jaw set. "I think I'm going to need it."

It didn't take long to find the right door, and he needed every moment to get his thoughts together. Pausing in front of the dark wood panel, he steadied his nerves before he raised his hand to knock. Rapping his knuckles on the door, he paused. "Sherlock?" he called, pitching his voice low. This house was far too quiet. "It's John. May I come in?"

No response.

He waited for a few moments, then repeated the gesture. "Sherlock?" Finally, he reached for the doorknob, a little surprised when the door opened easily. He poked his head in. "Sherlock?"

Sherlock was seated in an elegant armchair beside the front window. Framed in pale light of the setting sun, his head was turned away from John, throwing his form into a stark profile. His dark hair was a wild mop of gilded curls, and his shoulders were draped in his blue dressing gown. He was holding his violin against his chest, the bow deserted on the small table next to him. His fingers flicked against the strings, legs a loose tangle in front of him. His bare feet always looked huge, especially sticking out from pajama pants that were a little too short and a little too snug for his legs.

"Hi," John said. He slipped in and closed the door behind him. Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, he waited for some response. Sherlock didn't look in his direction, the delicate plucking of his fingers against the violin strings the only sign of life. John bit back a sigh. "I'm looking to hire the world's only consulting detective."

The flicking fingers stilled. "You can't afford me," Sherlock said, his tone wry and arch.

"Yeah, well, I think you owe me some commissions based on past partnerships." John reached out and placed the paper bag on the table next to Sherlock's bow. It was only because he was watching Sherlock like a hawk that he saw his flatmate's head tip, ever so slightly, in that direction. He took a deep breath. "And I need your help."

That brought Sherlock's head around, his pale eyes finding John's. John managed a half-smile. "Help me," he said, and it was a raw whisper, his voice breaking between the words.

There was a flicker of something that crossed Sherlock's face, there and gone so fast that John almost missed it. Something that looked very much like relief. Sherlock snapped up out of his chair, dressing gown fluttering behind him as he stalked across the room to the dresser and put his violin away. "Right," he said, adding the bow to its slot and slapping the lid of the case down. "First of all, we need to find you a better therapist, your current one is rubbish."

"My therapist, what are you-" John stopped, a broken laugh slipping past his guard. "You bastard, you've gotten a hold of my therapy notes."

"I have a source." Sherlock paced back across the room, snagging the paper bag and upending it. Pill bottles bounced on the tabletop, and he grabbed one at random, lifting it to read the label. "My source is Mycroft. And she's misdiagnosed you over and over, it's just startling how little she has gotten RIGHT. She could've guessed based on your military file and done a better job figuring you out." The bottle was slapped down, he picked up the next. "I can figure out more when you're refusing to talk to me then she can when you're forced to talk to her. It's an absolute embarrassment."

"Remember how my objection here was that you didn't recognize personal boundaries?" John asked, more amused than angry now. "How, exactly, did you think that stealing and reading my therapist's notes was going to look, in light of that conversation?"

"I'm sorry," Sherlock said, the words flat and uninterested. Two more pill bottles lifted, considered, and then returned to the tabletop.

John laughed out loud. "No, you're not."

"No, I'm not." Sherlock held his hand out. "Mobile."

"No," John told him. "Sherlock-"

Sherlock stared him down, silvery eyes narrowed to faint slits. "If you expect results," he said, the words clipped, "then I require data. I will not work with a client that insists on keeping me in the dark, it's undignified."

John narrowed his eyes back. "Then you're taking my case?"

Sherlock smirked down at him, that tight lipped smile he did that made him appear somewhere between puckish and demonic. "It was always my case," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. "You've only just recently agreed to cooperate. But do not mistake me, this is, and has always been, my case." He wiggled his fingers. "Give me your mobile."

"Prove it."

"Excuse me?" Sherlock arched one eyebrow. "Is that a challenge?"

"If you're planning on billing me, I ought to know what I'm getting. If this has been your case all along, then prove it. What do you already know?"

The silence stretched between them, and Sherlock's teeth flashed. "Everything."

"Prove. It." This should not feel quite so much like flirting. There was something seriously wrong with him.

Sherlock's smile only grew. "The nightmares started six weeks ago," he said, folding his arms behind his back as he began to pace. "Though they only got particularly bad about twenty days ago.

"The fact that you've tucked your hands into your pockets, an unnatural position considering how you're sitting, indicates the intermittent tremor in your left hand is back, and you're trying to camouflage it by hiding both hands. That stared sixteen days ago; you skipped breakfast and left your coffee on the table. No choice in the matter, your right hand had your bag and you couldn't risk taking your left out of your pocket.

"You limp when you're not thinking, when the exhaustion takes over, and you jerk whenever you're touched, as if you can't bear the contact."

He paused. "Then there are the dreams."

"Let's not-"

Sherlock kept talking, right over him, as if he hadn't opened his mouth at all. "I'm going with the assumption that you've actually told your therapist the truth about the content of your dreams, but I'd like to clarify."

John took a deep breath, his shoulders rising and falling. The air pressed against his throat, and he ignored the metallic taste of fear and blood. "Yes," he said, his fingers balling into fists on his knees.

Sherlock turned away, opening his violin case again and pulling out a handful of pages, leafing through them in a way that made it clear he'd already memorized the contents. But he stared down anyway, as if there was something hidden there, something only he could see.

"The dreams always take place in familiar places. Domestic places, places that you're not accustomed to finding violence. Never in a war zone, never in a medical space. The kitchen at 221B Baker, your childhood living room, Mrs. Hudson's flat, all places of that nature. Safe places, places you like.

"You're never alone, but mostly there's only been a few people with you, never strangers, always family or friends. Originally, there were a wide range of others sharing your space, but it's narrowed lately, and now, it's almost always me." He paused, considering John's set face. "Is that correct."

"Yes." John stared, almost sightlessly, at the far wall, feeling his chest compress as he struggled to breathe. He was lightheaded. Dizzy. He was afraid. He could feel it, like a physical thing, on his skin, in his chest, closing his throat. He jerked his eyes to Sherlock. "Yes."

"The dreams start slowly. The main difference between your usual dreams and these nightmares is the appearance of blood. A large quantity of it, but it starts slowly. In a way that could be mistaken, or ignored. You're the only one who sees this blood, the rest of the world continues on, unaffected."

John's eyes slid shut. "Yes."

"You're not the first soldier, or doctor, to dream about blood, about your friends and family bleeding out in front of you. She's tied this into your PTSD, indicating that the overriding issue is one of battle trauma." Sherlock folded the pages and slipped them into the pocket of his dressing gown. "It's not."

"No," John said, even though it wasn't a question.

"The people in your dreams aren't suffering. They aren't dying. There's no pain or fear on their parts, only yours. This isn't a battle issue, or a medical one. This is something different, because you are suffering. You are suffering because you're seeing this, and they're not." He paused. "That's why your mind has fixated on me; you fear discovery, and you know, logically, that I'm the one most likely to figure it out." His mouth twitched, just a little. "Fear of exposure, of discovery, of something hidden, and dreams filled with blood only you can see."

He glanced up, meeting John's eyes. "You think you're going insane."

And it was a relief, to hear it stated so plainly, without judgment or disdain, just a calm statement of fact. The relief was so overwhelming that he slumped forward, hands bracing his upper body upright with shaking arms. He sucked in a deep breath, and another, trying not to embarrass himself by hyperventilating.

"I am going insane." He pushed his head up, managed a weak smile. "I'm losing my mind. I can feel it. I'm..." He swallowed, his mouth working. "I'm afraid of when I start seeing things outside of my dreams, it's so... Real."

"You're not going insane," Sherlock said.

"I don't think you get to make that judgment, Sherlock." John relaxed his hands, and they were steady now, now that the worst was over. He'd been found out, Sherlock knew, all of the effort, the fear, the hiding, the pain, all of it was for nothing. Sherlock had figured it out anyway, and all of the strain was gone.

The fear had been worse than the impending insanity itself.

"Bad dreams don't mean you're going to lose your mind, no matter how real they are." Sherlock's jaw was a hard line. "You're not going to go insane. I won't permit it."

John's breath slipped out in a hysterical sounding giggle. "And what, exactly, are you going to do when I start seeing things that aren't there?"

Sherlock stared at him, his gaze steady. "Do you trust me?"

John's laughter died in his throat. "Yes. Of course."

He leaned over, and before John could do more than twitch, he covered John's eyes with one broad palm. For a long moment, they just sat there, John's eyes blinking with frantic urgency as the darkness slowly calmed him. He took a deep breath and let his eyes fall shut, the warmth of Sherlock's hand seeping into his skin. "I'll see for both of us," Sherlock said, and John sighed, faint and light and relieved.

It was comforting, the darkness, the warmth, and he reached up, one fumbling hand covering Sherlock's where it rested against his eyes. "I don't think that'll work," he said, but his breathing and his heartbeat were slowing, steadying, everything relaxing, and he blinked against a sting of tears. There was no way that Sherlock would miss that, so, with a squeeze, he pulled Sherlock's fingers away from his face.

"It will."

John shook his head as his eyes readjusted to the light, Sherlock there, leaning over him, staring down with a calm, determined expression. He leaned over, his hands braced on the bed, on either side of John's hips. "Am I hired?" he said, teeth flashing.

In answer, John fished his mobile out of his pocket and held it up between two fingers.

Sherlock flicked a glance at it, then back at John's face. "Left hand."

Rolling his eyes, John pulled his left hand out of his pocket and switched the phone between his palms before proffering it again. Sherlock took it with a flick of his wrist, then caught John's wrist with his free hand. He studied the still digits for a second, then released it. "Good. I'll send you a bill." He was going through John's mobile as he headed for the closet.

"Send it to Mycroft, he owes me one." John stood. "Get dressed, and let's get out of here before his party guests start arriving."

"I'm fine like this. Get your prescriptions," Sherlock said, emerging from the closet with a pair of shoes. Without looking, he jammed his bare feet them and picked up his violin case. "Let's go."

"Sherlock, put some clothes on!" Shoving the pill bottles back into their bag, John struggled to catch up. "Didn't you bring clothes? Mycroft said you had a suitcase-"

Sherlock waved a hand in the air, a lofty gesture that John translated as 'screw it.' "He'll have everything cleaned and sent back, he's incapable of doing anything else," he said, stomping down the stairs. His violin case swung by his side, and there was a spring in his step that made him look absurdly young. Of course, the fact that he was still in his pajamas and dressing gown didn't hurt that impression.

Mycroft looked up from the front door, an expression of dawning horror wiped clean from his face in an instant, but not quite fast enough, and he glared at John, who shrugged, just as horrified. The pleasant looking couple with Mycroft blinked at Sherlock as he bore down on them. "Thank you for coming," Mycroft said, trying to draw them away. "If you'd like to join the rest of the guests in the parlor..."

Sherlock swept up behind Mycroft, throwing his violin case up and over his shoulder, bracing the back of his wrist on his shoulder and hanging the case behind his back. His head tipped to the side. "Sherlock," Mycroft said, his tone holding a warning note.

Sherlock ignored it. "American. From North, no, South Carolina, Charleston to be precise, in banking, financial backers for the, well, let's not bring that up, married nine years, second wife, third affair, horseback rider and recent broken right wrist, blamed on a car accident but more likely the result of a fall in a place with heavy drinking and uneven floors." He paused. "You really shouldn't sleep with your au pair, it's just undignified."

With that, he swept out, leaving Mycroft clutching his forehead and John struggling to hide a grin. The man drew himself up to his full height, his face turning a dangerous shade of red. "What the HELL was that-"

Sherlock ducked his head back in. "The bit about the au pair was addressed to her, not you, if that's what you're taking offense at," he said, with a tight lipped smile. "John, come along!" And then he was gone again, whistling his way down the drive.

The man stared at the slim, aristocratic looking woman. "Delia?"

"Oh, like you didn't know," she sniffed, a proud smile on her face as she headed for the front parlor. "You slut."

"This... Is not my fault," John said to Mycroft, who parted his fingers just enough to level a one-eyed glare in John's direction. John gave him a faint shrug. "Sorry."

"Please just go," Mycroft said, before turning his attention to damage control.

John went.