Author's Notes: Okay. Seriously done this time. This was supposed to be a one shot in the first place. It is, of course, quite different than the first two. But once again, you asked. And I got inspired. So here we are.

In other news, diction is one of the great joys in my life. I hope I send you all scrambling for dictionaries! XD

Words

Mycroft, Sherlock thinks, is an insufferable bastard.

He has known that for a long time, his entire life really, but there is something to be said for irrefutable proof and he has it here in front of him in the form of a file folder.

God damn you, Mycroft, you sanctimonious ass.

How his brother knew precisely how much this particular topic had been on his mind lately is irrelevant. That he felt the need to act on it is something else.

He'd even dropped it off himself while wearing that impossibly irritating not-smirk of his.

Sherlock hasn't opened it yet. It sits on a side table while Sherlock sits in his chair and glares at it on the unlikely chance that he has gained the psionic ability to make things burst into flames (pyrokinesis, Sherlock had deleted the word previously but researches it on his phone for the simple satisfaction of it).

He cannot quite convince himself to burn it using more pedestrian methods.

It would be so easy to open it and read the words. The ones that would be printed there in black and white, simplistic English.

Words that would provide answers. John's words.

Sherlock intensifies his glare.

And this is how John finds him, hours later, after his shift at the surgery. Sitting with one leg crossed over the other, his knee bouncing with pent up frustration, and glaring at a completely innocuous folder.

"Right," John murmurs after getting a look at him. "How long ago did Mycroft come by then?"

Sherlock blinks in genuine surprise and pleasure. "Excellent, John! How did you know?"

John spares him an amused glance while putting away his coat. "You've got your 'Mycroft is an arse' face on."

Well. It's hardly an impressive piece of logical deduction but it's so very John that Sherlock chuckles. "This morning, about an hour after you left."

John whistles in appreciation. "That long? This must be a good one then. What did he want?"

"To further prove his status as the most inescapably annoying person in my life. He even manages to beat out Anderson."

John gives him a look. "Sherlock, have you ever thought about trying to get along with your brother? Just once?"

"No," Sherlock says simply. "Why would I do that?"

John shakes his head and leaves it at that. It's none of his business. Besides, truth be told, he finds Mycroft annoying too.

This is as far as the conversation goes for the moment while John makes tea and Sherlock resumes his glaring. It is not until after John has placed a mug in front of Sherlock and sat down in his own chair that it continues.

"So?" John prompts eventually.

Sherlock responds with practiced blankness.

John appears unimpressed at Sherlock's feigned obliviousness. "What's in the folder?"

"I haven't opened it," Sherlock dissembles.

"Not what I asked," John says immediately.

Sherlock smirks despite himself. John is getting better at that, at spotting the holes in what Sherlock does and doesn't say. Sherlock likes to think it's his influence. "Wonderful, John. You are in rare form today."

"Thank you. The folder?" he asks, not one to be easily dissuaded.

Rather than answer, Sherlock picks up the item in question and all but throws it at John.

His blogger opens it.

And goes very, very still.

John shuts down. All the easy, accessible emotion and thought processes disappear behind a closed-off, eerie calm.

It would be fascinating if it wasn't so damn frustrating.

John carefully lays down his tea and closes the folder. He doesn't, quite notably, hand it back to Sherlock. "You've read it?"

Sherlock scowls. "I told you, John. I haven't opened it. I know what it is, of course, but have no knowledge of the specifics of the content."

John starts. "You don't – you mean you never –"

"Why would I?" Sherlock asks, anger leaking into his voice. "You never told me any of it."

"You never asked!" John snaps. "What? Did the great Sherlock Holmes find something he couldn't deduce? Or was it just not important enough?"

Sherlock freezes. Did John really think that? That Sherlock would care so little? After everything? "I thought ... that is, I believed you didn't wish to speak of it."

"Of course I didn't!" John says. "That doesn't mean you shouldn't have asked!"

"That is the most ridiculously contradictory thing I've ever heard!" Sherlock grouses.

John pauses, and then deflates, before giving into helpless chuckles. "It is, isn't it?"

Sherlock picks up his mug and stares into its depths without drinking. "Do you really believe that – that I don't..." he trails off.

Sherlock is normally good with words. But not... not with this. So instead he holds onto his mug with both hands, two fingers taping out an uneven rhythm against his will.

"What am I supposed to believe?" John asks heavily. "You call yourself a sociopath, and then everything that happened at pool... but then, after, you never asked and I..."

"You wanted me to ask," Sherlock says perceptively. "No, you needed me to ask."

It is a moment of enlightenment, an epiphany. John is insecure of all things. Sherlock looks up and meets John's eyes.

"I'm asking, John," he says. "I'm asking right now. What happened?"

John slumps, actually slumps, into his chair. "Maybe you should just read it," he murmurs, offering the folder.

Sherlock ignores it. "If I wished to read it I would have already, long before Mycroft could stick his nose into it. I want you to tell me."

"I was hit with a tranquilizer dart," John says quietly. "When I woke up I was in a pitch black room with that... that bloody vest and Moriarty speaking in my ear letting me know exactly what was happening. What would happen if I... failed to do as told."

Sherlock doesn't speak, doesn't interrupt, he simply listens with rapt attention.

"And then there was nothing. Hours and hours of nothing but darkness and white noise coming through the bloody ear piece before Moriarty was talking in my ear again and having me walk out and find you there."

John laughs, one short bark of uncomfortable laughter. "I could barely move. Didn't want to risk setting off the bomb if I tripped or banged it on something. Ended up sitting there in the darkness for ages. And the fucking white noise. Thought I was going to go out of my head with it."

John grins shakily. "Bit unimpressive, isn't it? Nothing really happened at all. Wasn't hurt or anything. Just... a whole lot of nothing. And my mind going round the twist with nothing to do and only the situation to focus on."

Sherlock waits for John to pick up his tea again and take a sip before speaking.

It takes longer than it ought to.

"You realize," Sherlock picks his words carefully, "that what you are describing is sensory deprivation. And that it qualifies as a form of torture when a person undergoes it unwillingly."

He is proud of himself for the steadiness of his voice. For not getting up and throwing something breakable against the wall.

But evidently John hears something in his voice that Sherlock doesn't realize is there.

"I'm fine," John says.

Sherlock hesitates. "You are certain?"

"Yes," John insists. "I am fine, Sherlock. It's not... I'm not... I'm fine."

Sherlock releases a slow, measured breath. "Yes. Okay... as long as you are certain."

They sit in complete silence for a long time before John draws in air to speak. And when he does it's just two words.

"Thank you," he murmurs.

Sherlock doesn't ask for what.

He doesn't need to.