Author's Note: Thanks to the divine chasingriver for the beta.
The A&E staff assured him that John would live, but Sherlock wasn't comforted. As he gazed down at the broken figure on the bed, the taunting refrain My fault, my fault, my fault charged through his head like a runaway train, shattering his mind palace so thoroughly that he'd never be able to find refuge in it again.
He peeled off one glove and touched John's paper-white hand. "You'll never be hurt like this again. I promise."
Then he turned abruptly, brushed past an incoming Harry Watson, and left the hospital. When a cab pulled up in response to his summons, he said quietly, "St. Thomas Hospital."
The intake staff was kind when Sherlock told them in precise and mechanical detail about his mythical suicide plans. He'd been tempted to tell the truth: that he'd nearly gotten his flatmate killed while chasing a serial murderer and wanted to protect John from future injury. But he didn't want to risk being sent on his way with a Samaritans card in his pocket.
The papers for voluntary commitment were drawn up and respectfully presented. They asked him about next of kin and he said he had none. Mycroft would find and pester him soon enough.
After signing the papers, Sherlock was desperate to make sure that he wouldn't be released any time soon. When an orderly and a male nurse took him into a separate office to conduct a strip search, he resisted so violently that the admitting psychiatrist ordered Haldol and restraints. Sherlock fought and kicked and swore as they subdued him, trying not to show how badly he wanted their intervention.
That night, as he laid on a bed in a sterile white room, Sherlock gazed vacantly out the window. The moon was full. He remembered reading somewhere that the moon had healing qualities, and hoped that John was now conscious and could see it too.
Mycroft tried to get him released, naturally. Sherlock denied knowing his brother, and after a spectacular display of hysterics, the staff returned him to his room.
As steady hands guided him onto his bed and buckled fleece-lined cuffs around his wrists and ankles, Sherlock worried. He knew that Mycroft saw right through him, unlike the doctors, who gave him all the drugs he needed to stop missing John so desperately.
He hoped that his brother would not force him out of the hospital. The restraints, orderlies, and the locked ward kept John safe. From Sherlock, and his deadly impulsiveness.
Surely even Mycroft could see and understand that?
When Lestrade, Molly, and Mrs. Hudson tried to visit, Sherlock refused to leave his room. The nurses stressed that it would be therapeutic for him to see them, but he was determined to delete the concept of friendship. Real people with real lives had friends.
He'd never been 'real', and should never have tried to be.
They stopped making him come to group therapy after the second session, when he made caustic observations that sent many patients into fits and undid years of progress. The only organized activity he somewhat enjoyed was drawing, but he abandoned that after every male figure he sketched had blonde hair and a patient face.
He wandered the halls instead, missing his other half yet determined to keep a safe distance between them.
Even though the heart he'd always denied having was breaking.
He should have known that Mycroft wouldn't give up so easily.
One day, approximately two months after he'd been admitted, a new doctor joined the staff. This man was not a psychiatrist, but he had a warm and persuasive demeanour that made difficult patients like Sherlock want to take their medication and obey the rules just to please him.
When Sherlock saw the new hire accompanying the Chief of Psychiatry on an orientation tour, his heart convulsed in mingled joy and dread. The man spotted him immediately and came over, smiling gently and eyes glimmering with tears that could not be cried here and now.
"Mycroft got me a job," John said.
For the next two weeks, Sherlock's therapy consisted of daily sessions with John in the latter's private office.
You nearly killed me by leaving, Sherlock.
No, John I left you so you wouldn't die.
Sherlock had never read Carl Jung, or he might have recalled one of the latter's more perceptive quotes:
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed."
Whoever Sherlock Holmes and John Watson had been before they met, those personas no longer existed. Now they were 'Sherlock and John'. They solved crimes, John blogged about it, and Sherlock occasionally forgot his pants. Danger lurked constantly around the corner but, as John pleaded during one especially volatile discussion, "I'd rather face destruction with you, Sherlock, than live in peace alone."
Sherlock's final defenses crumbled. He sank to the floor, and let John hold him close.
"Mycroft will pull some strings," the doctor whispered. "I want you to leave here and come home with me. Tonight. Will you?"
"Yes," the detective murmured against John's woolen jumper. Now that his slender fingers were buried in that familiar and beloved fabric, he couldn't bear to let go.
That one word sealed a pact –and a union- that could only be undone one day by death.
Never again by fear.