Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners, Arthur Conan Doyle and in their BBC version Stephen Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and Stephen Thompson. The original characters and plot are mine. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: This story is a character study that starts a little before Reichenbach and follows Sherlock's and John's lives until their reunion three years later; anticipate spoilers for both seasons. It is indeed a story using songs, but please give it a chance before pressing the back button, I promise it's not just repeating dumbly what the lyrics say and applying them to characters. Hope you enjoy reading, and please R&R! Concrit is much appreciated.

All my thanks to Statistiques and BritChick101 for betaing this chapter, and to Wingatron who is currently helping me edit the entire story.


Nutrisco et extinguo: "I feed upon it and extinguish it"

Ultima forsan: "the last, maybe" in reference to the fleeting instant with the literal temporal connotations of "the hour".

Warnings: There are several same-sex couples in this fic, including John and Sherlock. Rating for this chapter is K+



Chapter I: Ultima forsan

Mountain & The Sea, by Ingrid Michaelson

You call me a mountain,

and I call you the sea.

I'll stand tall and certain,

and watch you swallow me.

This wasn't supposed to happen. You had never intended to take a flatmate.

Of course, there was the rent issue, and you definitely did not want to rely on your family's money, or, God forbid, Mycroft's. ...Well, technically, he was family too.

In any case, you did not need their help. If you set your mind to it, you were obviously smart enough to succeed financially. As a consulting detective, naturally – because really, could you be expected to be anything else? You would never give up the Work for money in any way. In fact, you would never give up the Work. Not for anything.

Although you had told Mike Stamford of all people that no one would ever want to share a flat with you – something that did sound a bit insecure, in hindsight – you hadn't expected the man to come back the very same day with an old pal from uni. You had deduced that it was useless, and consequently, harmless, to talk to Mike because he couldn't possibly have known anyone who would cope with someone like you. Who did?

But then he had to suddenly run into John Watson.

Something must have been wrong with you that day – possibly Molly's coffee; you never know what she could have mistaken for the sugar in a mortuary – because you actually let John catch your interest, and thought: why not? The army doctor wouldn't last long anyway. Until then you might even be given some work to do, in which case you wouldn't need the distraction any more.

But John had stayed.

John had laughed in amazement at your deductions about his past; had followed you to a crime scene; had refused a bribe for spying on you (and God knows he needed the money). John had killed a man for you within two days of making your acquaintance. And so you had realized how much John needed this – the thrill, the danger, the action.

At first it had merely been a little challenge for you. You wanted to see if you could get rid of that psychosomatic limp for the doctor, if you could come to understand the man quickly enough to make life spark in those eyes again.

Of course, that had nothing to do with the fact that you were completely mesmerized by the warmth and sheer light that those eyes had unintentionally poured forth on that taxi ride when John had declared: that was amazing. The ex-soldier was supposed to be broken and traumatized and dull. Yet there he was, actually surprising you, and you found yourself more and more excited to explore his reactions.

You were used to people being irrational, but this, this was something else: John didn't fit in any category, he didn't follow any pattern. Those moments when he succeeded in throwing you off balance were new; they carried the novelty of something you were not only unable to anticipate but also unable to comprehend. You found yourself addicted.

You can move me if you want to

You can move a mountain, you can move a mountain

You can move me if you want to

You can move everything, you can move everything

The Work always came first. But the point of the Work was to shed light, to expose: the thrill of it was dissection and the illumination of reasonable explanations so that by the end you had unravelled everything... and thus felt the emptiness again. You only longed for another case to fill the void and make the unbearable monotony and listlessness stop, even if just for a while. Until the next case. And the next.

The repetition was never a problem. Desire is the very core of life, after all, and it is only natural that it always fixates on a new object. Satisfaction is dull, anyway. The ache is what keeps us going – well, in any case, what kept you going. When this desire was at work aiming for the truth, your mind was flying, and nothing else mattered.

But then John had come into the picture. John, the unexpected flatmate you indulged as a distraction. John, the dumbfounding soldier who shot a man to save your life when you had barely known him for twenty-four hours. John, who kept surprising you and who stayed. You concluded that his addiction to danger and anything that could thrill him out of his stupor was stronger than you had anticipated.

Oh, he certainly got mad and you had fights and argued quite a bit, but he always came back. He answered your every text and rushed to your side from wherever he was any time if you asked him to. He made tea and bought milk and made you watch crap telly and ridiculous films. He cared for you as a doctor and attended your every injury sustained during a case; in fact, even through your mundane illnesses, like the flu, he'd enter doctor mode. He became your colleague and flatmate. Even your friend. And that was just preposterous because you did not have friends.

Well, that's not exactly true: there was Lestrade, who needed your brain and had developed some sort of fatherly affection towards you after your stint with the seven percent solution. A keeper sent by Mycroft. But one who genuinely cared for you, although he would never admit it out loud. Although you never would.

There was Mrs. Hudson too, who was so grateful for what you had done for her concerning the matter of her husband. She was one of the few people who enjoyed your company, even if she always insisted on not being your housekeeper. Not everyone could be Sherlock Holmes's landlady, but Mrs. Hudson not only put up with him: she was happy to have him. She fussed and chided and cared. She was motherly.

But John... John was different. He was unpredictable. You knew Lestrade would always need you for cases and admire your intellect, knew that Mrs. Hudson would always bear with you because you were the closest thing she had to a child and nothing would ever change that. But John didn't owe you anything, nor did he need you for anything except the excitement you could provide. Vital excitement, perhaps: had he not met Stamford on his stroll in the park, he might not have lasted much longer with the temptation of a loaded gun in his drawer and nobody to miss him.

But now that he is back on track, will he need the thrill for much longer? It could very well be only a necessary re-adaptation to civilian life, some kind of transition back to society through a mixture of dangerous and mundane. Both are good to John: he wants both. The only hope you have to keep him by your side is to provide as much excitement as possible, and pray that he never tires of it. You can't give him anything else: you are insufferable at times (fine, most of the time) and wretched at crafting relationships.

That is something you cannot change.

I will grow my own trees

While you follow the moon,

I feel you in my knees

Say you'll come in soon.

It was not just a necessary re-adaptation to civilian life. That much was clear when days turned to weeks and to months. You suspected that John might have some commitment issues that would account for him not having gone and settled down with a wife yet – the nurse that had cared for him in the war, Bill Murray, had after all referred to him as a Casanova on his blog.

Yet this did not completely square with your own analysis of the doctor.

There was a pattern. He would meet a woman and flirt with her. She would give in rather promptly and they would start "dating". After a little while John would start sleeping at the woman's place from time to time. Not always on the sofa. You would unintentionally ruin some dates – yes, unintentionally: you needed John when you needed him, and that was all there was to it. It was hardly your fault John always ran to your side instead of ignoring your texts.

Gradually his relationship with the woman would deteriorate, until she broke it off, usually quite dramatically. You always found that the women John dated were excessively fond of slapping.

In any case the girlfriends represented no danger. John never loved them. He liked them, admittedly. They provided the other half of the balanced life he needed and that you could not entirely provide. This was confirmed by the fact that John often went to his girlfriend's when you had quarreled or when, as he claimed, you had been more insufferable than usual and he "needed some air".

Air. The girlfriends were refreshing, but none of them was vital. John valued his friendship with you more. it was not during cases that this was most evident, but in your boring everyday life.

When you bantered with each other. When he first offered to play Cluedo with you because you were about to riddle the wall with bullets. When he understood you were sorry about something you'd said and took your peace offering – buying milk, beers, accepting to watch a stupid movie – without reproach. In the intimacy and connivence you shared, there was a reciprocal and unvoiced fondness.

John Watson was not only fascinated with you. He cared about and for you.

You can move me if you want to

You can move a mountain, you can move a mountain,

You can move me if you want to

You can move everything, you can move everything.

Surely this was not supposed to happen. John was to be a toy, a distraction; then he turned into an experiment because he was interesting and new, and he was so dumbfounding for the first few days that you fell for it even more.

Then he stayed. The spark of life in him grew brighter and those damn eyes kept shedding that stupid light that couldn't satiate your need for him, and you knew you were doomed. You realized that the prospect of a future without John made something clench inside of you, and you did not want it to happen, even though you knew it would. It would, probably sooner rather than later.

John would keep caring but he would eventually move out. You were loath to admit, even to yourself, that you would actually experience loneliness when you realize he was not around anymore. It might take a while to register, so accustomed have you grown to his presence. But at some point it would sink in and 221B would not be the same.

Consequently, to keep him by your side just a little longer, you must provide him with that necessary thrill without actually endangering him. You must tolerate a certain amount of mundane in his schedule (the clinic, the girlfriends, the crap telly, his silly holidays, and so on) without giving him enough space to be satisfied with only his normality. It is crucial that the advantages of sharing a flat with you always outweigh the disadvantages in John's mind.

After months of living with him you have come to note a few constants. John is a proud man and hates to feel inferior or useless. It is necessary to remind him once in a while of his value and merits. You would not exactly call it stroke his ego, but at least limitate your usual remarks about people's stupidity. A bit.

The pool incident made you realize how important it was that not only Moriarty but John too saw that you weren't just a machine. It was regrettable that the consulting criminal had noticed. But after reading John's post on his blog it was clear that he too enjoyed some displays of emotion on your part.

Refreshing, he'd written. The hurt and disbelief in your eyes when you first set them on John at the pool had been refreshing. Your flatmate was not a sadist, and if he found some pleasure in you looking broken and betrayed, there was only one explanation: he too wanted to know Sherlock Holmes was human.

The worse part of that post, though, was when yourblogger admitted he did not know whether you would sacrifice your life for his. Your intellect being superior, you would always take the course of action that would most likely result in both his and your survivals. You saw no logic in unnecessary heroism and would not throw your life away on the spur of the moment.

Which was not exactly what John had done, of course: he had probably not seen any better option at the time. Yet you found yourself strangely upset reading his post. If Moriarty had realized your weakness, clearly John had not.

So little displays of emotion and small tokens of affection were actually welcome, perhaps even wanted. You did not like it, but it was unacceptable that John would believe he did not mean as much to you as you did to him. Yet it was also imperative that he did not become aware that he might well mean more.

Not the slightest miscalculation will you permit: if you manage it well, you may keep the doctor with you for a while. And perhaps perhaps increase the chances that he will visit you often when he's married and gone.

You wince at the thought, and wonder.

"Are you all right, Sherlock?"

But then one day you'll go away, but I will too

But until then, oh my darling friend, well I will hold

Yes I will hold, yes I will hold

Yes I will hold on to you

You try not to look startled as his voice snaps you out of your musing.

"Of course I am, John. Just thinking about the case."

He comes over, mug in hand, and sits in the armchair, tossing the Union Jack pillow away. You watch him sip his tea nonchalantly.

"That's not your Superior-mind-busy-with-a-case don't-you-dare-disturb face, though."

You look up and blink at him. He's doing it again. Not the kind of observation Mycroft or you would make, but an intuition, a form of understanding all the more precious as it doesn't arise from some cold-blooded analysis. John doesn't know because he can read faces like you can. He knows because it's you.

At your silence, the doctor looks slightly worried.

"Is something bothering you? Maybe I can help."

"I assure you, there is nothing of the sort."

"Now I know you're lying."

"What? Why?"

"Your phrasing. When you tell the truth, you're clear and simple. Also, you're always lying or at least pretending when you start with 'I assure you'."

You cannot stop the smile tugging at the corner of your mouth.

John answers it openly with a smirk of his own, warmer than the mug he's holding. He doesn't smile at you like anyone you know; not like Mrs. Hudson, not like Lestrade. There is nothing parent-like about him. The fondness pervading his expression is not protective, but teasing. And yet John would protect you with his life.

It did not make any sense, but John Watson had elected to trust you and care for you of all people. You could not have hoped for a better flatmate, one more complementary than John was to you. He gave you warmth and admiration like you never expected anyone to give you. No one had ever trusted you and respected you as much as John did. And if the price to pay was to have a heart, then so be it.

"Interesting. So you've been developing your deductive skills? Maybe I'll really end up rubbing off on you with time."

You can move me if you want to

You can move a mountain, you can move a mountain

You can move me if you want to

You can move everything

With time. With time. Yes, maybe you can keep him a bit longer, with prudence and equilibrium.

Two qualities that John's presence unfortunately seems to jeopardize.

You can move everything