Author's Note: This story starts a little before Reichenbach and follows Sherlock's and John's lives until their reunion three years later. As in any story of grief, mourning, and separation, please expect things to get worse before they get better - John believes Sherlock is dead, and Sherlock is left dealing alone with Moriarty's mess and the shadows in his own brain. There is also a lot of mystery and in a way this could be considered a massive case fic, exploring the legacy of Jim Moriarty. I am a great fan of Conan Doyle's and of the first two seasons of BBC Sherlock, so you can expect a lot of references, as well as many others - to operas, fairy tales, etc. If you hate song fics, please do still give this a chance: you can absolutely follow the story while skipping the lyrics, although that might make you miss a clue or hint, and your reading experience might not be as multi-dimensional. The links to the songs are always given right below the chapter title, but you may also decide not to listen to them, and only read the inserted lyrics. Whatever you do, I just wanted to point out that the songs aren't random. Anticipate spoilers for both season 1 and season 2 of the BBC series, but not beyond, since I don't follow canon after that. On that note, my Mary Morstan was created before I ever watched season 3, so you can consider her an OC inspired by Conan Doyle's work. There are several pairings in this story, which I have not included in the tags, but rest assured that the main one, around which the story revolves, is John and Sherlock.

If you want to read this story with its illustrations and embedded links (to musical pieces or references), please read it on AO3.

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.




Warnings: Rating for this chapter is K+

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'.

All my thanks to Statistiques and BritChick101 for betaing this chapter!



Chapter I: Ultima forsan

Song: 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 notwant to rely on your family's money or, God forbid, Mycroft's. Wait, were you supposed to consider him family too? You did not need it. If you set your mind to it, you were obviously smart enough to succeed financially. As a consulting detective, of course – 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 for anything.

So yes, you had been rather bored that day, what with Lestrade being stubborn and still not calling you for the serial suicides, and you'd 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. But even you hadn't expected the man to come back the very same day with an old pal from uni. You had already deduced that it was useless to talk to Mike – and consequently, harmless – because he couldn't possibly have known anyone who would cope with someone like you (and who did?). But then he had to suddenly run into John Watson.

And something must have been wrong with you – 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 you thought: why not?The army doctor wouldn't last long anyway, and 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, he had followed you to a crime scene and had refused a bribe for spying on you (and God knows he needed the money). He 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 lightthat those eyes had unintentionally poured forth on that taxi ride when John had declared: "That was amazing." The man was supposed to be broken and traumatized and dull, and yet there he was actually surprising you. You found yourself more and more excited to explore the doctor's reactions, because they were sometimes so unexpected that they unsettled you. You were used to people being irrational, but this, thiswas 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, naturally. 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, 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 yougoing. When this desire was at work aiming for the truth, your mind was flying, and nothing else mattered.

But then you met John. John, the unexpected flatmate you indulged as a distraction. John, the bewildering 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 the army doctor's 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. Your friend. And that was just insane because you did nothave 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.

There was Mrs. Hudson, too, who was so grateful for what you had done for her concerning the matter of her husband. She did not actually mind your company, even if she always insisted on notbeing your housekeeper. And really, just remaining as your landlady was in itself an impressive feat.

But John... John was different. He was unpredictable. You knew Lestrade would always need you for cases, and 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, a transition back to society through a mixture of dangerousand 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 cannot give John anything else: you are insufferable at times (OK, most of the time) and wretched at crafting relationships. It 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.

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 distraction, but then he turned into an experiment because he was interesting and new, and he was so puzzling for the first few days that you fell for it even more. And 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 couldn't bear the prospect of a future without John, even though you knew it would happen – and probably sooner rather than later.

So 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 mundanein 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. Not the slightest miscalculation will you permit: if you manage it well, you may keep the doctor with you for a while, and perhaps even be granted the "honour" of being the godfather to his first child when he is married and gone.

You wince at the thought, and wonder. Does it haveto hurt so much?

"Are you all right, Sherlock?"

John's voice startles you out of your reverie. You shrug.

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

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

John comes over, cuppa 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 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 can't help but chuckle.

John grins – andthat smile: not Cheshire cat like enough to match yours, but coated in just the right amount of banter to make you want to kiss him on the spot. Not that you've ever kissed or wish to know what it would feel like: it would no doubt be quite counterproductive, and spur John off to pack right away. Kissing does not make sense anyway. You chase the annoying thought away with a mental scowl before answering John, a smirk floating on your face.

"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, 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 seem to jeopardize.