Title: The Glass World
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Sex, Swearing, Self-Harm, Suicidal Thoughts
Words: ~8400
Additional Notes: This fic took on so many transformations that I spent the majority of my time calling it, "that one fic where I take a simile and wring that motherfucker dry". Hope you enjoy the finished product! Might possibly be extended into 2, maybe even 3, parts. See author's notes after the fic for more important info on future updates, to this fic and a certain one that's been on hiatus for far too long...


oOoOoOo

A glass shatters. Perhaps a single split, maybe a few others splitting off from the point of impact, but certainly no more - in a clean break, these are the shards that can be easily stitched together. A few sticky dabs of adhesive and all that remains is a thin line etched into the glossy surface. It won't ever be completely whole again, but it has been mended enough that the difference hardly matters.

A glass shatters, shatters into thousands upon thousands upon thousands of diamond-small bits, all jagged, minute edges to fine silver dusting. No matter how flawless the pattern once was, no matter how exquisite or expensive the thing that it had been, what it is now is not worth the agony of attempting to resow all those individual, scattered pieces back into something other than a hideous mess of unhealed scars, if it can be done at all.

No, instead, these pieces are tossed out with the rubbish before they can wound the next person who happens upon their way. Before they can sink into tender feet, before they can scrabble into cuts and scratches, before they can dig their barbed edges in and grow into infectious, burning sores that will never, ever be healed - the men responsible will survey the mess, shake their heads at the precious loss, and tidy up. Until it seems as if nothing ever happened at all.

And that will be that.

oOoOoOo

John's reeled into the kitchen by the sound of a crunch and the pained yell that follows. There's a flask - or what used to be one, rather - in a disorganized jumble like puzzle pieces on the table, the edges of each thick, protruding shard stained dark and red. John eyes the congealing blood a moment longer, heart settling as he takes in the amount and assures himself it's not enough to be truly damaging, then lifts his gaze to Sherlock, who's turned to the running sink and mumbling in a stream of indistinguishable words.

John sidles over, leaning his hip against the counter. He folds his arms. "I did tell you to be careful. Give it here."

Sherlock takes a moment from staring in perturbed dismay at the broken skin of his hands to turn his head and give John a withering look. John sighs, and stepping forward gently lifts Sherlock's arms out of the stream of water and into the light to get a better look. As the weak kitchen fluorescents slide across it, he can see the dozens of tiny pink cuts that have flayed the normally pristine skin, vivid little beads of blood seeping from the corners of each and trailing sluggishly across his palm. John grimaces, but it doesn't look too terrible. The worst thing would be making sure that there weren't any fragments left.

John turns the spigot, and the water drains down to a tinny drip, drip, drip that they ignore, John nudging him towards the table while he retrieves the first aid kit.

He sets out on search with his tweezers, while Sherlock winces at the probing but remains mostly quiet and unobtrusive. "You did a good job not breaking it too badly. Just a few chunks, and they're not too small," he asserts after a prolonged silence in the quiet authority of Doctor-mode, and Sherlock suppresses a smile, even as he's huffing in indignation from his nostrils.

"Please. It's not as if I did it on purpose," he grouses, already despairing over the loss of data. The amount of new variables this... incident produced made all his other results essentially useless. It wouldn't take too long to recreate, but it was an inconvenience nonetheless, one that has him sighing again and jerking his hand impatiently. Luckily, John's just removed the last shard, though he casts a warning glare up at Sherlock.

Reaching for the rubbing alcohol, he replies easily, "No, no of course not, I thought you enjoyed trashing your experiments." He snorts. "I'm not stupid. No, don't respond to that. And sit still, this will sting a little." To Sherlock's credit, he only tenses when the cotton swabs descend over his hands, disinfecting and wiping away the last strains of drying blood. John's gentle fingertips follow, soothing over the skin with another dry cloth, the whisper across his skin pleasant through the sharp bite of the alcohol (also pleasant, albeit in another way).

He can't help but marvel, really, at John's skill in this. It shouldn't continue to surprise him, but whenever John barks an order or, conversely, patches up one of the scores of wounds they've each suffered, the pleasant curl of John's unexpected existence throbs somewhere deep in his chest. It's incredibly frustrating to have him doubting whether or not Sherlock knows that, and Sherlock watches in careful, ruminative silence, tracking his movements with a hungry intensity as he thinks.

Then John's applying bandages, capable and precise as he squints under the yellow lamplight, and it's done. Sherlock crooks his fingers and straightens them again, testing the give. John nods, satisfied, turning to pack up his things. Sherlock stills him with a hand stretched across the table, palm up and stark against the finished oak. "Thank you." There's not much more to say. In his mind it suffices, isn't it enough? but he cannot tell whether or not this is one of the things John will understand.

Gifted in his own way at reading between the lines, John's eyes soften, a touch darker, and he hurriedly reaches for the bandages. In a horrible, horribly amusing turn of events, it's John's clumsy fingers that completely bypass the stack at his wrist and dive unassumingly into the chopped glass gathered neatly to the center of the table by none other than himself.

"Shit!"

A few minutes later, and their roles are reversed - Sherlock is dragging the edge of the tweezers over John's fingertips, a smug grin on his face to balance the deep scowl framing John's.

"Done," he announces. John examines his handiwork, wiggling his fingers in front of his face. "Not bad. This one's a little sore still. Dammit, why the left hand, too?" he mumbles, not for the first time, and sets about checking the incisions.

Sherlock watches with open interest, tilting his head to the side. "You're better at this than I am," he says slowly, uncertain about the words, and gives John an undisguised survey, eyes falling from the top of his head down to where his feet curl around the chair legs. John does a very literal double-take, and can't refrain from giving a little laugh.

"That hard to say, mm?"

"No, I -" he says, much too quickly, and starts again at a prompt from John's raised eyebrow. "I accept facts. You have medical training, I would expect you to be more proficient, or I fear your patients would be more than a little alarmed. So I meant - when I had to do that for myself, by myself, it wasn't as simple or well done."

It's not half of what he meant at all, but John's quietly nodding down at the table, undoubtedly remembering what it was like before that, too. The creases of his eyes crinkle when he looks back up at Sherlock. "I think there was a compliment somewhere in there. Thanks." He frowns. "My right hand is rubbish at this, though. Bandage us, will you?"

Sherlock obliges, removing the tan strips from the box and laying them over John's fingers and against the one slice across his palm. His own fingers glide over the edges, taping them down securely, grazing the sides of John's as they thread over his flesh. Without being asked, he moves to the right and repeats the procedure, only it's becoming less procedural with every pass of his hands over John's.

He finds himself getting caught on the ridges of his knuckles, the callouses on his trigger finger, and is dragging his fingertips overmuch on the soft crease of his palm and the tendon opposite on the back of his hand. He cups the distal radial head in his pursed fingers while his pinky strokes across a milky green vein jutting up from his wrist. In his sudden, unexpected desire to know how those hands that so steadily held a gun might bind his wounds with such great care, he almost misses the moment when his objective caresses turn intimate. But it's then, as he's fastening a bandage over it with great care, that he can feel the pulse of John's heart in his thumb.

His breath leaves him in a quiet whoosh of air, and he looks back up at John.

John's nostrils are delicately flared, and though his shoulders are tense the muscles around his mouth have gone slack in watching Sherlock's hands. He swallows, and when he looks up, jerks his hands away.

"Sorry, I just -" Sherlock's not sure why John's apologizing, why he's standing up from the table and backing away in careful shaking steps, his face flaming. "I didn't mean anything, it's not - oh, hell. You've already deduced it all anyway." His eyes squeeze shut, one hand massaging the troubled crevice that has appeared on his forehead. "It really won't get in the way, it hasn't, you can just forget it."

Sherlock has followed him up, and stalks closer with every backwards step John takes to the counter. Because of course he has deduced the simple tells of John's pulse and uneven breathing. But he has come to a conclusion John evidently did not imagine himself. "I won't forget it." He smiles, swift and sharp.

John misses it completely, instead looking pained as he stares earnestly into Sherlock's face, in his worry failing to note all the evidence there. "I swear, I can actually control myself. I'm not going to, shite, molest you in your sleep or something, but I'd just really like not to move -"

"In fact, I think I'd like to remember it."

John stops. A tremor runs through his clenched jaw. "What?" he grits out.

Sherlock's smirk falls into shadow as he tips his head forward and down, the lost light arching over the back of his head in streaks of fiery auburn on his hair. It's like looking into the sun as he steps closer to John and he's forced to tilt his chin up to keep him in focus. Notes the glitter in his wide, pale eyes with some apprehension and a curious flip in his stomach.

Then, epiphany strikes, and he gasps. "You bastard," he hisses, pushing Sherlock backwards, again and again until he hits the opposite wall.

Now Sherlock looks frankly shocked, not having anticipated this sort of reaction. But John is coming closer again, closer, and then he's there, hands fisting in his collar and pressing dry, eager lips against his own. "Why didn't you say anything?" he demands, the words slipped between angry bites and slicks of his tongue against Sherlock's eager mouth.

"Didn't know," Sherlock husks around a nip of his own.

"Bollocks," John responds, dragging him down by the nape. He curves his face away from Sherlock, whose lips slide wetly across his cheek instead. He gives a frustrated roll of his hips, and John's head drops to his shoulder. "Ah... no, don't actually think I care anymore. Upstairs." He takes him by the shoulders and twists him around, swatting his behind.

Sherlock starts, "Mine is -"

"Too close to Mrs. Hudson for what I've got planned," John finishes, and the predatory gleam in his low-lidded eyes is enough to send Sherlock running.

But despite John's ominous words, it's more reverent than anything else.

At first glimpse of Sherlock's naked body, John sits back on his knees and has to close his eyes and breathe for a long second. Then he's caging his body and dedicating himself to the study of every freckle, every scar, while Sherlock trembles and flutters his gauze-wrapped hands over his scalp and threads them through the strands of short, dishwater hair, soft, quiet whimpers the only sounds as the room descends around them, still and solemn.

"I love you." It's whispered into the shell of his ear, barely more than air against the side of his face.

A full body shudder ripples through John. In that moment, it's ridiculous. He's tempted to ask if he heard correctly, because this is Sherlock Holmes, and he doesn't say or do... that. Especially not when this is so new; what does he even mean, love, how can he, how can they - how can he know it, too? But Sherlock's looking at him with deep, serious, hidden eyes that are still somehow more open than they've ever been, and John can only crawl up his body and kiss him long and grave.

Sherlock's quiet as John tongues him to release, just sighing out distantly as he climaxes, almost louder when he's doing his own exploration, and again when John has his ankle hiked into the small of his back and is finishing inside him, lips sealed to where his sweaty temple pulses with effort.

It has them both undone, the intensity of staring into John's face as it contorted in those final seconds, and for John, the blood rushing below the heat of his mouth, evidence of a heart just above the skull globing his brain.

What has passed between them is humbling and terrifying. Operating well on fear, though, no one says anything.

Nothing until, "Does this change anything?" John dares to ask it when they've cleaned up, pushing the green duvet further down the bed and grimacing at the heat.

Sherlock throws his eyebrows up and snorts derisively in response, curling closer to John all the same. He settles his chin in the cleft of his shoulder. For moments, it's just breathing, calm and slow, John watching their chests rise and fall in tandem.

Slowly, carefully, Sherlock lifts his hand to John's chest and pushes gently. "Turn over," he commands, but the words are gilded just enough by longing that it's easy for John to obey. He rolls. Sharp, attentive green-blue eyes drink in John's scar, winding in thick threads from the central pocket and spiraling back out like an exploding star encased in amber. The fingers that aren't plastered whisk over the rough, rose-pink edges. It feels like worship in the way he maps every wiry line, and in the soft, unsteady flush that builds as Sherlock's exhales breeze across the cooling skin.

The phone rings.

Sherlock curves his arm around John, fumbling around for the source of the noise on the nightstand. "It's Lestrade," he says to John, before answering the call and snapping, "What is it?" as his hair flops over his face. A hard glint enters his eyes as he listens, and one corner of his mouth lifts fractionally. "I'll take it. Get here as soon as possible." He ends the conversation and turns to John. "Something about an ambassador. Kidnapped children," he muses, tapping his mobile against his chin contemplatively. His eyes drop down John's body. "We'll have to get up."

John pushes the hair back absently, then sighs. "I had some shopping to do anyway," he submits, untangling his arms with regret from around the other man's torso. Soon as he moves, Sherlock is already halfway off the bed, but John's hand catches around his wrist. He looks back, waiting, prompting.

And John wants to say something. They've begun something here that he values, values too much already for it to be safe at all. He needs to tell Sherlock, needs to let him know what this means -

John's had casual sex before. But this isn't it. This... this could break him.

But he slumps back against the pillows and allows Sherlock's hand to slip out of his grasp. He manages a smile. "Go."

After all, they have time.

oOoOoOo

There's not time for much of anything else as John goes out for the shopping, finds himself at the Diogenes with Sherlock's arse of a brother, comes back to the flat on a case about kidnapped children, and works with Sherlock on said case. There still isn't time as they're finding the kids per Sherlock's brilliant deductions of a shagging footprint, of all things. And then suddenly Sherlock is being accused of abduction and who knows what else, and then they're running, christ, and Moriarty has him, has Mycroft, has them all fooled, might even have Sherlock. It seems like so long ago that Sherlock breathed a shivering confession between them, while their sweaty feet tangled and John's lips were at his throat. So impossibly far away, and he's so tired, and for a moment, he forgets -

"You machine!"

He turns and leaves.

It's not long before he's coming back, and there's Sherlock on top of a hospital, black coat swanning out like fragile wings testing the air, his hand stretching down. John vividly, shockingly remembers holding that hand just yesterday, and feeling it slip out from under his fingers.

It's unreal, a moment frozen in space where nothing exists. Nothing at all.

"Goodbye, John."

And then they're out of time.

oOoOoOo

John's trust shatters like a glass. A thousand, hundred thousand, a million pieces of glass all scattered around like cold and distant stars. It shatters like bones hitting pavement.

"I'm angry," he tells Mrs. Hudson. That doesn't begin to cover it. But then again, John has time to get over it. At least, he has time to try.

oOoOoOo

Sherlock has never doubted John. Not since he showed him the flat and thought, "This could be too much, no one else has stayed, why would he?" Back then, he didn't care so much either. John had been impressive - army doctor, family problems - but just another mystery to solve and discard. That was before.

He shudders up from the intimate caress of the black body bag on the table, ignoring Molly's look of concern as he marches into the bathroom and slams the heavy metal door behind him. Tense hands splayed on the grimy sink, he peers back at his reflection in the dull, rusty mirror. He is pale. His eyes are afraid. He swallows.

This time, when he doubts John, it is precisely because he matters. So Sherlock doesn't break. Not really. He can't. Not yet.

oOoOoOo

John wonders what he did wrong. What would have changed if he'd said those words back to him, if he'd said anything in response, to let him know he was not alone. He wonders if, had he Sherlock's powers of deduction, he would have noticed the signs of a friend so steeped in depression that he had to jump off a building to end it all. Mostly, he just wonders.

He doesn't understand it, any of it. The more he thinks about it, the more he searches for signs, the more confused and angry he becomes. The more he ends up shaking and fighting for a way to stop the tears and the questions alike, punching walls, breaking things.

Once, he breaks a glass cup, and a piece lodges into the flesh of his arm. The satisfying sight of brilliant red welling around the wound, assuring him he is still alive, still human, in the pain, in the way it reminds him without apology of blood on cement, is the beginning.

oOoOoOo

Days. Months. Glass on a decaying floor that sinks down into soil and becomes a part of the earth, until all the edges of the world are grown glinting and harsh, yellow light lancing from their fierce angles until it blinds, and every step is a crunch and a cry. The glass tears into tender flesh, tender hearts, without mercy, and festers.

oOoOoOo

At last, at long, long last, he finds himself on streets whose avenues he knows, whose faces he recognizes, the smell of rubbish and smoke and city a distant dream. He is following John home, hardly daring to believe the sight of the man in front of him, and when he turns - same eyes, slightly aged face, new/old limp, same question - strips himself of his disguise.

He doesn't want to doubt him, but as soon as he sees the reawakened grief in his eyes, the flash of hot blue anger, the guilt, he knows.

oOoOoOo

Trust is like a glass. Sometimes, it breaks cleanly in bonds that can be mended with ease.

oOoOoOo

"I told you to leave."

John's voice rises from the armchair, where he's sitting in the dark and staring out the open window of his own flat. The moon is nothing more than a sliver, fighting as it is through gathering cloudbanks. Low rolls of thunder rumble in the distance. London's noises more than fill the space, traffic crawling by more slowly now in John's deserted neighborhood, while the dim, murky glow of streetlights rises up just below his window, casting the building and sky that sing up above it even further into darkness.

Sherlock stares at the back of John's tipped head in the dark, then makes his way quietly around to stand in front of him. "I just wanted to thank you for your assistance today. It was most valuable." John doesn't move. "Moran's gone, Moriarty's empire is finished, it's over," he tries again.

They listen together, as the room darkens, and the steady patter of rain begins against the side of the building.

"John?" he asks at last.

"What do you want, Sherlock?" There's a fury there that even the thunder, impassive and inanimate, cannot rival. Sherlock forces himself to take a brave step forward.

"To apologize."

John grits his teeth. "You already have."

"But I never -"

"No!" John growls, and pushes up past Sherlock, limping to the window. A crack of lightning splits the sky, the grey sky fragmenting behind it. A breath of wind courses over John's tired face, before his hands reach out and pull the window closed. "I just - can't. I've heard all your reasons, fine. I get it. Doesn't change the fact that you betrayed me like no one has..." He laughs, low and bitter. "Has ever betrayed me before."

Sherlock visibly flinches, but John is still staring out the window, even as raindrops shatter against it and their broken bodies and streaming tails begin to crowd and distort everything from view. "I don't think you know what it was like. You had a hard time of it, yeah, but you can't even know..." His breath exits his lungs in a rapid sigh, as if falling out of him to land on the carpet beneath his feet. "I thought I... I thought you..." He sways dizzily.

"I'm not," Sherlock interrupts quietly.

John rounds on him. "But I thought it! I was believing the bloody fucking impossible because there were no other options. An entire year, Sherlock, an entire year of seeing you in every tall ponce with a coat and thinking how much of an idiot I was, of wondering what the hell stupid me could have done differently, of - of this!"

He hadn't intended to show him, had wanted to keep one last shred of dignity for himself, but before he can stop it he's rolling up his own shirt sleeves and thrusting his arms out for Sherlock's inspection.

Tiny white lines criss-cross the space from elbow to wrist, all in various stages of healing. Some, red and ragged, look fresh. Sherlock takes the proffered arm, reading it with inscrutable eyes. John blows heavily out of his nose and hangs his head. The pad of a thumb strokes lightly over one scar, as if it could blot it away with the simple touch, but things aren't that easy. Not for them. Sherlock's breath hitches, and when John at last looks up, his face is that of a ghost.

"You slept with me, and then you killed yourself. Do you know how that makes - Jesus, more than that, you were my friend. And you let me believe..." His lips purse, and his head shakes from side to side. "I can't be around you anymore, Sherlock."

Another stroke, lingering and deep.

He's staring into the abyss behind Sherlock's shoulder. "It makes me sick."

His hands stop, only because they're trembling too much to move properly. Nothing seems to be working. His systems are down, and there is only white noise in his head as something breaks, irreparable and gone forever.

Sherlock lunges forward desperately, drags John back around and drapes him into his armchair. He crawls up over him, knees straddling his legs while his arms trap him in on the back of the chair and throw them into the confines of darkness. They're both breathing heavily, and there is nothing for him to do but kiss John, over and over and over, every part of his face, until he's practically suffocating, suffocating at the build-up of months and grief in his throat and choking on the mad, trembling desire to fix what he knows is already too far gone.

John remains unresponsive, completely removed from the display but for the fluttering of his eyelashes, and Sherlock can feel a heat and anger of his own. He doesn't know how to get inside, how to pull John in and tell him who he did this for, why he did it, why it matters at all. He wants, savagely and possessively, to hurt him; wants to carve his own lines into his marked skin to erase the ones of the past. He wants to dig inside and hide himself away until he is the one beating inside John's chest, the only thing, the only one, the only heart he'd ever needed.

The rain is violent against the windows. The shutters rattle. The building shudders.

John juts his chin forwards, looking up at him through wary, accusing eyes. You did this.

Sherlock goes slack, because no one knows it more than him. They are the only ones who can fix this, and John doesn't want to. He can build the bridge from his side, but if John doesn't make it from his it will still crumble into the ravine below. He has never been more at a dead end than now. Even when he was pretending, for all that long, long year, he has never felt more dead than in this moment.

He'd never stopped to wonder if friendship would be enough. But why it isn't is something he'll wonder for the rest of his life.

He leans forward, one more time, intending for their last to be that fatal kiss of death that seals the implicit promise.

Sherlock's shirt expands with each rapid inhalation, the fabric dragging against John's chest in tortuous, rhythmic rustles that are too loud, much too explosively loud in the confined space. His own ragged breaths fill that small space between them, Sherlock's open mouth asking but not taking in the desperate way it greedily gulps around each gust of hot air and exhales it back in shaky pants across his lips. He can almost taste them, the salt and musk and spice, but it's not enough, not enough until John... He curls his fingers amidst the buttons, slipping a finger between them to graze John's feverish skin in a quiet plea.

John sees it, feels it, and as he does, the first crack appears in his unbroken facade. Then more, more, until they're spidering off around him and John Watson is breaking to pieces in quiet seconds and lost time. Sherlock has never seen anything more beautifully sad.

Face contorted as if in anguish, John lifts his arms with an agonizing slowness. They are trembling, and he hesitates, but when they drop it's to fall over the swell of Sherlock's waist. He gives an experimental flex, digging into the white, unmarked skin, supple muscles, hidden bones jutting from beneath. Sherlock's breath catches, and he's unable to stop the imminent forward roll of his hips. John's eyes flutter and squeeze shut.

Surging forwards, he crushes the other man to himself, one hand scorching across his back and slipping over his shoulder to tangle in the violent, unruly black curls at his nape, while the other lies flat against the base of his spine and pushes, pushes, pushes closer, tearing his shirt from his belt to get at the skin beneath. Sherlock's sob of relief drops into the locked contact of their heated mouths, neck dropping forwards in eager acceptance, his own quivering hands just daring to touch as they skate over his jaw and trail across his neck and shoulders, rising up and over, down and back, half-delirious already at the heady sensation of his fingertips on what he has for so long been denied.

He breaks the kiss to let a soft moan of "John," slip past, but a savage hand grips his hair and yanks, turning it into a sharp cry of pain as Sherlock's neck and bobbing Adam's apple are viciously, obscenely exposed. His head is thrashed back forwards with a snap, and he's dazed to find himself staring into John's furious, cold, broken eyes.

"Shut up," John whispers, hoarse voice faltering in the middle. "Just shut up, shut up, shut -" his white teeth perforate the shallow flesh just above his collarbone, and he rocks his hips up while dragging Sherlock's down in a solid thrust. At John's request, his mouth falls open but no sounds fall out, though his face is screaming, screaming; he can hear his own voice in his head as a new, frozen fear thrills down along each ridge of his slender spine, the winter dawn of cold realization, and settles into his gut. Through the fog of deranged arousal and greed and pain, that something curls low in his stomach and grips him tightly from the inside out.

His neck falls limply down once again from its elegant skew, and his shivering lips blunder unrefined kisses across every centimeter of skin he can reach, the touch and taste and scent of man swirling along in ribbons of data that tangle in his mind and turn into white noise; the brilliant, dazzling white noise of too much sensation, much too much too much, all at once and everywhere. He sighs, a quiet, keening surrender at the starbursts of John thrusting himself and his growing hardness up against his own, and is lost to the flood.

John feels him slump and tears his teeth away from where they've left a horrific, blotchy purple-green stain to nudge his head over sharply and align their gazes, his nose just grazing the side of Sherlock's twitching cheek. Taking a moment to settle, the flat of his tongue rasps over the stubble from the bottom of his jaw to the crest of his cheekbone, and Sherlock gasps at the heat and moisture that comes close to beading on his lashes. John's own breath siphons out, eyes falling open, and from where their heads are tipped together the eyelashes of one almost graze those of Sherlock's. A millimeter closer and he would be out of focus, but as it is he's looking at his own reflection in the wide pool of Sherlock's depthless pupils and iron grey shallows.

He stares, hard, face otherwise unreadable.

At last, Sherlock shudders visibly, spine bending in three distinct convulsions. He gives a stiff, pained nod, already moving to escape it as he extends his lips plaintively toward John's. When they meet again, it's softer, but somehow all their intensity has managed to diffuse into the shared reaches of their tongues and teeth. Sherlock chases John's tongue back into his own mouth, where John sucks down around the slick surface and coaxes him forward into his throat, releasing only to place a sharp, unexpected nip at the trough in his cupid's bow. Sherlock jerks and sighs, a stutter in the careful drag of bottom lip over chin that has the silver string of saliva snapping away between them, but still closes up smoothly when he finds the top being worried between John's canines and meets it in the middle. Warm puffs of air accompanied by firm presses over unyielding teeth, they grapple, Sherlock's red mouth blooming over John's at last as if he wants to swallow him whole. He suppresses a whimper as John touches the tip of his tongue gently against the flat of his own and swipes, twisting away from the barrage against his sparking nerves and settling back against his heels

He snatches John's hand from where it's slung across his hip and drags, splayed fingers trailing over the gap of sweat-beaded skin between shirt and trousers and spilling over onto the fabric covering his bowed thighs and their open juncture, then over the growing erection slotted beneath it. Sherlock's eyes nearly roll back into his head at the first contact, and he presses down harder, grinding the heel of John's palm over the thick ridge muffled by layers of clothing.

John pulls his hand back, but it's with infinitely more gentleness that he soothes his agonized look of loss in three gentle kisses mouthed in an arc down across his jaw, neck, shoulder. Infinitely more cruelty, all the same. His hand takes the place of his lips, one mirrored on the opposite shoulder, and both slide down his arms, taking Sherlock's and placing them alongside his buttons, and though his fingers shake his desire makes him more than efficient at dividing John from his shirt. His sweaty palms can't resist sliding up and under, blazing across his chest, nails catching over his friction-red nipples and the dip above his sternum before they, with help from John's straining arms, manage to tear the shirt away and drop it somewhere behind the armchair.

Sherlock takes the opportunity to cock his head and tug at John's ear, moisture slotting around the lobe. John remembers as clearly as if it had happened yesterday, the ghost of breath and words falling into it. He tears himself away, corner of his mouth curled, and reaches for Sherlock's belt.

Sherlock stares in silence, swallows, and then steps back when he's pulled the leather away, coming to his feet. He cups a hand over his balls and breathes out shakily, then toes off shoes and socks, moving next to remove his trousers. John follows suit, both of them stripping quickly. Their underwear joins the pile on the floor, John settles back against the seat, and then Sherlock's insinuating himself back into John's space, curling upwards with the trail of kisses that rain over his sternum, open-mouthed and lingering over the faint dusting of hair, while John's hands stroke up and down his thighs, close to their goal but not touching. They just brush the crease between leg and torso, and Sherlock's back is arching, cock curving harshly upwards in tandem, just visible beyond the end of his shirt. His knees press against the fleshy expanse of John's thighs, boxing John in, growing closer and closer until their chests press together. Their cocks brush, jerk.

That long-forgotten contact has Sherlock screwing his eyes up in an effort to keep silent, John clenching his own jaw as he brings his hand up to his palm and licks once, twice, eyes on Sherlock all the while, and lowers it again. His fingers graze over Sherlock's perineum, the unexpected rasp of fingers over the nerve endings farther back raising a sharp inhale, and slide forwards, up over his sac and pausing for a firm tug, trailing up the shaft, centering on the glans. Sherlock's lost control of his breathing by the end of it, leaning forward into John's shoulder, sharp, frenzied flutters of loose lips brushed against his neck as John finally aligns them side-by-side and gives a firm, complete stroke. He licks out and tastes the salt on John's skin, and feels the vibration of a withheld groan in his throat. Humming himself, he rocks gently into the contact.

His thumb cups Sherlock's head, nail running parallel to the slit in a smooth line with precum smearing after it, while his hand continues the rhythm on them both, pleasant friction roughening with each pass of his hand. The stout, veined arch of John's erection throbs against Sherlock's, until with a grit of John's teeth he is pulling his own hand away. "Budge up," he sighs, supporting the backs of Sherlock's thighs as he straightens, his own hands returning to the chair-back and flexing taut as he looms over John, all pale angles and shadow in the night. He strokes down, cupping the backs of his knees, and then brings his hand to his mouth and spits. Sherlock steels himself even as he's relaxing his buttocks, unclenching, allowing his head to drop forward and the wet locks of his hair to just tickle John's scalp. He gives an uncertain, drawn out sigh as John circles his opening, puckering in and out in anticipation. One hand still on his thigh for a brace, John paints his fingers down the cleft and then sinks them in, no warning as two are abruptly and harshly encased in hot, aching muscle.

It's impossible to rein in the pained exclamation as it drops into John's hair, but the short strands muffle it sufficiently that John only shushes him with a rap of his fingers, morphing into another encouraging stroke to his clammy thigh while Sherlock's walls clench in rapid time and the muscles in his back quake. John pushes up relentlessly into Sherlock's body, and, unused to this after so long, it's many moments before the punishing slide is the least bit comfortable. But Sherlock can't deny him this, can't deny that he wants to be hurt by John more than he's ever wanted anything before. Wants to take ownership for his unforgivable mistakes. Wants to break.

So he bears it with steady will and brunt force, pushing down as John spits again and adds a third finger, mouth dropping open as he feels the stretch, the back and forth rock, of John's short fingers spreading him wide. He bites at the bridge of John's nose when he brings his head down, who huffs and twists to find his mouth instead. The stretch in John's neck is brutal, back over the chair, and his fingers loose some of their rhythm. But Sherlock mimes it into his mouth, tongue thrusting in and out on one slippery rotation, one careful hand rising from the chair and skimming his jawline, up into the sharp curve of his hair and the creases of his forehead. John's fingers stiffen completely, and then he's pulling them out, with a turn of his head laying his cheek against Sherlock's. He feels saliva whizzing past his ear, and hears the sounds of John's own hand squelching on his neglected prick. He takes the moment to press one last, lingering kiss into his greying hairline before rising up again, bum pushed forwards and in slightly as his spine curves straight in one clean, upwards arc, mirrored by the rise of his cock against his belly.

Thicker flesh than John's albeit stout fingers circles his opening, dragging wetness around the gaping hole. He pushes into the faint touch, muscles reaching and grabbing for themselves, but John stills him with a hand pressed into the curve of his side and lips at the level of the bruised skin just below his shoulder. He trails over the raised clavicle, hesitates for one small uncertain second, then bites down on the mark again and presses in.

Sherlock's mouth gapes wide, soundless, breath hitching and stopping completely as violet bursts of sensation bloom across his lids. They flicker closed, an aborted moan against his skin as John holds him, just holds him steady in the storm.

Sherlock's thighs are already bent to a cruel angle, and it's not without anguished features that he sinks into the last few inches, heavy, long breaths and the stuttered rise and fall of his hips at last bringing him to rest on John's lap, his penis swaying hard and red between them. His chin turns into John's temple, and his hands come up helplessly to clasp John's head to his chest, and for a moment, they just breathe, John himself getting used to a feeling he'd long since forgotten - being inside him, yes, but Sherlock, obviously breathing against him in the push and pull of lungs, heart throwing itself against his ribs, so very alive.

John's teeth dig in sharply, suddenly, caught in the heady notion of wanting to taste his pulse, and Sherlock kicks his hip in response, and then from utter stillness they are abruptly in motion, shoving against one another as John rises and Sherlock falls. Falls, falls, falls, like so long ago, but this time John, biceps straining, lifts him back up. Lightning strikes in the window behind them, illuminates nothing but a shadowed figure hovering above him like a dark angel, whose arms envelop him like the softest wings and whose lips are not of heaven and whose faceted eyes reflect the galaxy. Who knows what Sherlock is, where he is from or why he is there on the Earth at all, but in that moment, he is John's. Mine, he mouths around the indentations of his sucking, gnawing teeth. Only mine.

It's a lie, and they both know it, but he groans it anyway, and Sherlock bobs his head with the rhythm smacking up into his arse. His fingers are like vices twisting in the short hair, bringing John's mouth closer, mashing his nose into his unblemished shoulder.

How he wants, in that hour, for John to bite right through. From the corner of one eye, as he fights for breath and strains to keep the difficult rise and fall of his screaming, unused muscles, he sees the reverence John pays his unbroken skin. Looking the other way he finds John's harsh, winding scar, standing out in stark relief over the blushing flesh. And he wants that, needs that - needs the evidence that he has somehow been changed for good. John was the bullet that, when they collided out of meager circumstance, shattered him and left him damaged, in ways that would not be forgotten.

How fitting, then, for John to scrawl the evidence with his teeth, to chew past skin and muscle and tendon and bone and sail out the other side of his life while he loses blood and life and loves every second of it. How he would love to see John raise his head and smile at him through lips drenched and dripping rust and crimson; how he would love to sneak down and taste himself on his lips, metallic and so very sad, maybe bite John's lip and leave marks of his own. No one escapes whole, not from this.

Sherlock moans, mourning a loss he has not yet had in a funereal wail, and this time, John doesn't try to stop him when it sounds like his name. His quadriceps are in agony, and his feet are losing blood and growing tingly and forgettable. He is nothing but a vessel and a brain, giving to John and just sick enough to want to keep feeling it in the white-node sparks it sends along his synapses. It sparks in front of his eyes now, and he's not alone.

John has fallen away from the harsh, blood-edged contusion mottling his collarbone like a brand, and his nose is now curved just under Sherlock's ear. His breath is loud and severe as it falls from his body, and with each speeding upward jerk of his hips little grunts are muffled in the back of his throat, rumbling and deep with the thunder outside. He bolsters Sherlock's hips, cupping him forwards, with his cock bowed between them as it strikes in again and again and again, faster and faster, the wet meeting and parting of skin too unnaturally loud, one limp hand desperately grasping John's neck as he soars overhead and crashes back down, mouth open and gasping, and maybe he's shouting or maybe it's thunder, but it's rumbling and rolling and sobbing and then it's there. Sherlock is coming, the friction of their abdomens around his cock the only touch he'd ever needed, the feel of John scraping his walls and sinking deep more than enough.

And it's like a train crash, or a bullet, or dropping a dish and watching it on the way down and knowing, in all cases, how it's going to end, and not caring enough - not daring enough - to look away as it all goes up in flames and blood and glass.

He sobs, rhythmic contractions in the stammering aftershocks of his hip, stripes of semen splashing against underneath his chin, over John's chest, his chest, running down between the meet of their legs and dripping over his cock. John leans forward with a groan and tastes the dull line of it, bitter and salt all in a rush on his tastebuds, somehow still so sweet, and then he throws his head back and comes without warning. He holds Sherlock, all its light and shadows, to him as he spears up, and up, and finally descends, mouth hanging wide as his chest heaves with effort and his body shakes and shakes.

And though he doesn't say it, he feels it, too, the steady drain of realization as reality tears viciously at the edges of their small world, finite world. He clasps his arms at the small of Sherlock's back, pulling him closer and shutting his eyes against it for just a few precious seconds longer. Sherlock whimpers as John finds his mouth, searing into it and unable to do anything but yield and accept whatever else John is willing to give. But it's just his lips, sharp and just this side of violent, and his breath, until there's no more oxygen and he tears away with a sharp intake that could, in the right circumstances, be considered a wild lament as it rushes into his deprived lungs.

Sherlock catches his eyes, one last time, and both men lean bonelessly into the one thing they have left.

Then John is pushing him off his lap and shoving him into the yawning center of the room, as if his touch is scalding. Sherlock watches, like his own planet orbiting away, wide-eyed and and with a dawning sense of complete and utter helplessness as John puts his elbows on his knees. He drops his face into his hands. "Get out," he whispers.

Sherlock does.

oOoOoOo

Trust is like a glass. Sometimes, it breaks cleanly in bonds that can be mended with ease.

And sometimes, it doesn't.

oOoOoOo

Sherlock waits for John to appear in the morgue, to be standing hunched in his green jacket under the overhang at New Scotland Yard on rainy days with that ratty old navy umbrella; waits for a phonecall, a text. Waits for feet on the stairs of a flat John's never even seen.

He turns to his elbow and expects John to be there with raised eyebrows, waiting for the next explanation. He expects muffled praises and laughter from the grim corners of crime scenes. He expects to turn and see John huffing along as they run after the next thug into dark alleys, into god knows what waits for them. Them, together.

But nothing is waiting, just long days of silence in his head and a black and white world ahead. The mark of incisors, a deep purple-green-yellow discoloration like the universe on his chest, they all fade with time. And soon, he stops expecting those things.

oOoOoOo

Sometimes, John imagines what it could have been like. Wonders is he could have turned to Sherlock each morning with a grin and kissed him sweet and soft, stale morning breath be damned. Wonders if he'd still be running after that madman, whether they were mapping London's streets or falling into downy cream sheets. He wonders, passingly and with a brief, unnoticed flex of his fingers, what it would be like to just lie beside him and breathe under starlight.

He knows he's being stubborn. Knows that what he's missing is waiting. Knows it, and hates it. For reasons even he can't explain, he's chosen this, and he's too far down this road to think about turning back.

John wonders and knows it every time he sinks a blade into his flesh, and then promptly forgets.

oOoOoOo

Sherlock knew it was the last time. What he didn't know was why, or how, or if the nauseating sensation akin to millions upon millions of cells and blood vessels rupturing inside him, his existence unwinding in innumerable red threads, would ever go away; and countless other wonderings about how something so flawless, so exquisite, so beyond priceless and treasured and loved, loved, could have been so easily destroyed by one man's folly.

His folly; for all his intelligence, his brain had betrayed him, and that's the most ludicrous, painful thing of all.

You did this.

Sherlock knew, could feel it in the breaking of his chest, that it was the end.

Lying back on the cold, hard lumps of the threadbare mattress, Sherlock stares up at the moldy, peeling yellow plaster on the ceiling and closes his eyes, and tries to remember what it is to feel nothing.

oOoOoOo

They forget to clean their mess from where it lies discarded, always in the back of their heads. It festers, festers until time steps in to do it for them, sweeping little shards away like the tide till they're no more than grains of sand.

oOoOoOo

John's going to kill himself one day, he decides, as he's slumped against the bathtub and the trails of red are streaking down over his forearm. And for the first time in a long time, his head tips back, and an ugly smile is carved deep and harsh upon his face.

oOoOoOo

One day at just another crime scene, Sherlock turns blankly to the curve of his elbow and expects nothing at all.


As previously stated, this fic can stand on its own. But while originally intending it to be a oneshot, I don't think we've quite heard all there is to tell, so stay tuned in case I do decide to keep it going. In addition, the next chapter of The Small, Shared Things has been sent to my beta - that's right, it's actually finished! - so expect to see that sometime in the coming weeks :) Thanks for stopping by! Reviews are lovely, if you decide to leave them, and I hope you have a lovely week - oh, and a happy fourth to my fellow Americans.