AN: A lot of people who reviewed 'Morphean' indicated that they'd quite like a sequel which ties up the story, so here it is. Dedicated to skyfullofstars, who is always so kind and generous with praise, and who I hope will feel better soon, in order so they will be writing the next chapter of 'Rebellion of Angels' for the enjoyment of all fans of well-written Johnlock. =). Seriously, the writer is too filled with awesome to express in words.
He dreams of the grit of sand rubbing at the web between his fingers, a chorus of gunfire. An ask and answer and the echo it cuts through streaming daylight accompanied by an aria of someone crying.
He dreams; the frantic frenzies and the sluggish drain of time that sandwiches each small war, the bawdy jokes, the whoops and catcalling, a playground language of tussle and chase to alleviate the weight of being mortal and all too fragile that makes their combat gear all the heavier.
There are tracks like dotted lines from tent to tent, indents of feet punched out into the sand, a memoriam to the midnight exchanges of idle chat when the stars are cramming up the sky and nobody can sleep.
("You see that, Doc?" Tobias says to him when they abandon their poker game halfway, giving up the ghost of gaining anything worth much, the private instead bringing out a polaroid photograph from the inside pocket of his uniform. "That's my Lindsey – this was our wedding day, see? She said she wanted us to make it proper before I left, make a decent bloke outta me, that's her in her dress, here, take a look. Jesus, isn't she beautiful? I'm getting leave in about three weeks, and god I can't wait. Hey – what about you, Doc? You going back to anyone special?").
And then he dreams of the sunlight as a hammer blow to his eyes, unforgiving, blistering the skin of his forearms exposed from under rolled up sleeves, the way it strikes off the red on his fingers, bleaching it white with light, his body dressed in his khaki finest, his hands performing his own civilised butchery that they call healing back home. He dreams of how his words feel loud in his head, a cocoon of disparate gunfire, a drum call of shouting, men running in his peripheral vision following their own little maps to where they should go, and he tries to restart the broken down engine of someone's heart that's flat lining beneath him, his encouragements almost mechanical.
(He remembers the photograph of the May Day wedding, where a woman named Lindsey wore white with flat shoes, a satin ribbon veil pulled back away from her face, and smirked with delight at her new husband all the way through the vows. Only now the tale told to him in the darkness after a poker game means nothing to no-one out here anymore, is just words, memories relayed to a doctor who is just a man in the end, cannot stop death even when his hands come down again, manually pumping blood around a dead man's body. Telling a corpse to open his damn eyes, telling him he's got to because he's going home in three weeks and there's a woman with smiling hazel eyes and his ring on her finger who is waiting for him. Who can do nothing with the knowledge of those old tales of someone else's life but bundle them up and bury them in the shallow earth over his heart, his throat filled with sawdust, his eyes smoked with tears from a candle laid in honour of the fallen. That May Day wedding crumpled away with a widow's heart looted by grief and a coffin overlaid with a flag which cannot serve to wipe away her tears.)
May Day. He always wonders about those words. May Day. Mayday. Born from an old French root and trickled down into the language when a foreign king sat upon an English throne; Mayday, from the French M'aidez.Meaning help me.
John is dreaming that he is choking on blood more than he is air, that the universe is swollen and hovering over him and he has ventured out too far from himself to come back again. He is a straw man with his burlap-sack skin tattered and spilling out his stuffing, a bullet knocking a hole in the weave, lying on his back listening to his life drain out, wondering whether it makes sense, any of it at all. And he's not sure whether this is It, the it spoken with a capital or in quotation marks, never naming it outright, or whether he minds that much, or whether there were things he wanted to do before the final curtain falls down and the audience is drowned out by red, heavy drapery; did he want to travel or see the Grand Canyon, or skydive or fall in love or raise children, or is it the fact that he might never have done those things, but the point was that he always had the chance, and now he won't.
Right now it might be morning or even early afternoon, but the moon is still a wavering spectral shape in the sky, a tenderly carved cut in the expanse of the daytime sky, and there is the promise of stars tonight. His body is over-sensitive to sound and the gunfire makes him shiver, but hey, if he's going to die, at least he took some of those bastards with him right? His unit is safe.
And with that thought his eyelids close, and he follows the direction that the dark goes in the hope he might find salvation in the hidden spaces beyond.
Then he dreams there are hands trying to stitch him back together with a needle and twine thread, and he wants to say it, m'aidez, m'aidez,but the words aren't there for him, his mouth unmoving and his limbs so heavy, so he reaches out across some divide, half asleep, and says to the darkness, voice raw with blood: I am not finished. I am frightened. I do not want to die alone.
His soul is trembling, and John won't know it yet, but it was searching for something, casting out for the thing it was missing, the fragments it had been born without, the thing that would smooth over its imperfections. And in that moment before his heart stuttered and stopped, someone equally as lonely heard him, listened to his soul and thought it music, a singing of swords, the melody of a war ground.
And then John Watson wakes up.
At least, he thinks he does.
Sherlock is gunfire bright. He whirls and shouts and acts as his own personal star burst, and John stands off from the corona and breathes him in, this remarkable man that gives him the glory of the battlefield in the alleys of London, who shows him the seeping sounds of a breathing city, her songs and rhythms and the heartbeat of a million people.
He falls in love with Sherlock knowing there is something not quite human about him, knows his heart is being carried by a man who maybe isn't quite a man, isn't quite what he appears to be. All men have their gods, the shrines at which they worship, their stadiums and red carpets and hallowed halls, yet when the god of dreams walks among them, all men know him for what he is. They are fooled only for so long, lulled into a golden cage that shatters upon the warmth of morning. They hold out their hands, feel the texture of a fantasy in the ground rubbing dirt into the soles of their bared feet and the wind riding eddies through their fingers, and know none of them to be real, to be dreams and nothing more. Men know that within dreams, things happen that shouldn't, that you take what you see as a given and only think about them later, when the illogic of it sweeps over a tired mind and queries what it sees.
John does not yet question why he never gets round to seeing any of his old friends, how the ones he does meet up with, few and far between, are all imperfect in their renditions: Stamford's extra weight, Bill's new job as a supervisor, poorly formed tatters of memories picked up and reshaped with careful hands, a craftsman working with the damaged tools at his disposal. And John does not question why the world he is enveloped within, this terrain of speed and sound of Sherlock's making, is so different than his old, how he's fitted in so perfectly, how it's like coming home. He worships not a god but a man, not in sacrifices and hecatombs and servitude, but with his unwavering faith, his belief in something bigger than him, his prayer like kisses over the psalm-book of Sherlock's skin.
Everyone wakes up from a dream eventually. And John knows, even if he doesn't have words for it, that one day this might come to an end. All the running, and the shattering of street light on the Baker Street road, and all of the symphonies of footfalls, will stop, and there will be nothing more to this part of his story, and the world will have gone black before his eyes. But he will always have Sherlock. He knows this like he knows the replacement of sunrise over sunset will happen day after day after day, knows what a London night looks like, the shards of old explosions flung across the dark cloaked by inner-city pollution, knows this like he knows the man he lives with, and fights with, and loves with every fierce pound of the stubborn organ in his chest.
He knows how the skin around Sherlock's eyes crinkles as he smiles, momentary flickers like candlelight in his pupils, how he craves the anarchy of the new, and at the same time, for some unexplainable reason, always comes back to John. Always looks at him like he is nothing he has ever quite seen before, had never quite expected, like the one person he thought could possibly love him wouldn't be the one he imagined it would be.
Even before the question is asked, John would always say he would follow Sherlock anywhere.
The two of them are on their backs side by side. There is damp grass soaking through the woollen fabric of Sherlock's long black coat, sticking to the skin beneath and making him shift to try and find a dryer patch. John is sprawled next to him, his fingers twined in the other man's own, who earlier gave him a blue scarf that is soft as eiderdown before they walked out of the door, pressed it into his palm, the god's fingers clenching automatically.
John had coughed gruffly and said it was only to stop him getting a cold, because he's an idiot and doesn't look after himself, following the offer of the scarf with the tailored black fabric of his coat. Sherlock took the items and the gesture with merely a knowing grin, wrapped himself warm with both, shucking the coat over his shoulders and twirling once with his hands out wide like he's making angels in the air. John had laughed and called him mad and then kissed him, murmuring a 'come on, you' like it's a devotion.
Now, they are looking out onto the field of stars above them, an upside down world like they are staring at a lake above them dotted with tiny buoys of light, a dislocated observable universe they've laid claim to. Every so often Sherlock will ask a question, a mellow sound that colours the silences, one of many, always wanting to know more, histories and philosophies and humanities and all of them John's, and without glancing over, the doctor will answer with starlight reflected in the whites of his eyes, a lazy smile as he basks in Sherlock's attention and the glimmer of the moon.
There is the sound of footsteps, light crunch of grass underfoot, heels digging into dirt, heralding the arrival of a third. Sherlock sits up, hearing the noise before John, knowing his dreams, the storyline he's written, the constructs of his craft, and knowing that there should be no interruptions, not tonight, that there is someone in the dream who is not meant to be there.
A man, or a facsimile of a man, walks towards them across the slight incline of the slope where the two men are placed. A figure familiar to Sherlock and hatefully so, forming slow, graceful strides as he walks, with a suit cut out of midnight and nearly unseen against the sky, fastened with two silver buttons over a white shirt the colour of ripening funeral lilies on coffins, his tie a navy stripe. John doesn't see him at first, but Sherlock does, bristles, tensing.
"Tell your brother to leave us alone for just one night." John has pushed himself up onto his elbows to see who it is, before slumping back down to his former position with a careless sigh, tucking one arm under the back of his head in an attempt to settle again. Mycroft has visited before the dreams of his younger sibling, forming his own role in the dream time to check on his brother, and John knows him by sight, even if he doesn't know what his real purpose is. "I thought he said he didn't have any cases for you."
Sherlock uses the palms of his hands to force himself onto his feet, not glancing back at John, attention focused entirely on the new arrival. Knowing why he's here, knowing the only reason why he'd come directly, and oh, hating him for it, fists clenched and a heavy fright stirring at the core of his chest.
"I'll go talk to him." Sherlock stands up, making his way towards Mycroft with the dew that sprinkles the dark grass wetting the hems of his trousers, meeting his brother at the mid point of the distance between them, his body blocking the view of John almost defensively, posture stiff and taut as violin string.
"You knew this time would come," Mycroft tells him, almost conversationally, his umbrella, which he swings once idly before planting it into the soil by his feet, scoring a dent into the damp, loamy ground. His expression is unreadable as he studies his brother.
"Not so quickly as this," Sherlock spits out. He's angrier than he has right to be. Of course he knew. Of course he saw this coming. Saw how every dream he weaved over John became easier to control the deeper the mortal regressed into his mind and out of his body, how it was all too simple to believe that they might always have this half-life, John with his stupid human heart that can't last as it should.
"Everyone has their time."
"What about my time? Tell me that, Mycroft. What about what Iwant?" His tone stoked with fury, he pulls himself to his full height, bold and tall and with blood-lust in his veins. "I could stop you."
"Why shouldn't I?" Sherlock snarls, "Who are you to take him from me?"
"It is the way it has always been. You know this."
"Then I challenge it. John is mine. You shall not touch him. I would raze Elysium to the ground if it meant that he was safe, and I will keep you from taking him. I'd go to the Underworld to return him to me if that is the fall he is destined to take. You shall not touch him, you hear me?"
Mycroft's voice is cold and filled with age, something vast and endless. "Do not cross me, brother. There are rules and they must be abided by. You would be foolish to do otherwise." His tone shifts, sympathy directing his words. "I would not concern yourself too much. I have little doubt that John's soul will be judged as anything other than pure, and there is no laws we have written that deny he can reside with you if that's what he chooses." He lowers his head, a hawk-like stare meeting Sherlock's own. "You gave him your promises of eternity already. Are you afraid to keep them?"
"No." Sherlock declares brusquely, and then breathes out, all his bluster gone, hands shoved deep into his coat pockets. "How long do I have? Until this has to end?"
"Soon. By their time, you have a day until they turn off the device that breathes for him."
Sherlock nods to show he has heard, turning around to look at the man seemingly alive on the grass, lungs filled with night-time, waiting for Sherlock to come back. Who in real life is inhaling his last stuttering breathes before he finally reaches the final quiet of all men. The god of dreams wonders whether he knows he's dying. Whether he can feel himself in the real world, immobile limbs numbing without use, brain shutting down, starved for oxygen, his lungs not strong enough to provide it, wonder whether he knows he has died a warrior's death defending his men.
"I can give you tonight," Mycroft says, and his words are almost gentle. "Tomorrow, I will take him."
And with that, the god of death leaves, the knocking of his umbrella a knell upon the ground.
Sherlock makes his way back to John. The sensation of being groundless seems to make his legs want to waver, unsteady in their progress, but his steps are upright and regular, even if he sits back down too hard with a bump and cannot for a moment look at the man to his left, instead choosing to fiddle with the buttons of his coat. The dark grass gives off a faint whistle in tune with the single note of the breeze. The field which before seemed peaceful now seems so dreadfully empty.
"What did he want?" John asks. Sherlock huffs, feigning disinterest. He forces himself to stop messing with the buttons he's twisting between thumb and forefinger, wondering with a distant thought why his hands are shaking.
"Sticking his big nose in where it isn't wanted, as per usual. His usual precious governmental issues. I told him it could wait."
"Good man," John smiles at him, and Sherlock is struck by the fact that John has absolutely no idea that he is going to die. "I've been waiting weeks to have this time off. Cases are great and everything, but this... this is nice too, you know?"
Sherlock makes a non-committal noise, but it's an agreement that's as good as any he is going to give. John shuffles over so they're slotted together again, making the grass crumple beneath their weight, and Sherlock wraps his arm around the doctor's shoulders, tugging him in nearer, glad for the excuse of human contact so he can reassure himself that John is still here, is still with him and hasn't left him.
He is calming now, with the smell of John in the air and the cool of the midnight dew beneath his fingertips, and the dull, but perceptible sensation of a beat that Sherlock measures in his head, using his other hand to clamp around John's wrist with his fingers resting on the pulse point, but he keeps thinking about the fact that this will end, and there is nothing he can do, god through he may be. There are a hundred things that could fling the two of them apart, no matter how close they are now, lying with their faces tilted up at the sea of stars; John could choose Elysium, an eternity without Sherlock filled with golden fields and lilting music and peaceful shores, a resting place for heroes, those who have died with honour. It is his right, his deserving reward for his bravery and valour in battle. He could grow discontented with Sherlock in his land of dreams, long for normalcy, rest for his weary bones over the consistency of adventure and change that Sherlock would offer, or even feel betrayed at the lies Sherlock has woven, however much they were done so with love.
Sherlock does not want this to be the last night he will have to be with the mortal he has chosen as his own.
"What would you do," he asks carefully, reaching into the black vault of all the inadequate things he wants to fill these hours with, and picks out a question. "If you only had one more night left in the whole world?"
John shoots a concerned look across at him.
"Why? Nothing's wrong is there?"
"No – don't be irrational John. I'm just asking a question, I'm not morbidly curious due to my own impending demise." Sherlock closes his eyes, internally flinches with his choice of words, and begins again in a quieter tone. "Forgive me. The stars often find me in a more speculative mood. I am simply interested as to what you would do."
John takes a loud intake of breath, using his arm bent at the elbow behind his head as a rest. He gnaws on his bottom lip.
"It'd probably be really boring," he admits with a sigh.
Sherlock smirks despite himself. "If your idea of how to spend your last night is a takeaway and repeats on Dave as is your usual preference for a 'quiet night in', then, yes, I would consider that a waste."
John grins back, and then his mood turns contemplative, serious consideration shining through his expression as though a dim, watery shaft of yellowing sunlight through heavy clouds. He presses his lips together, then unconsciously licks his lower lip, his frown casting shadows like the ridges of mountains over his forehead.
"I would come here, I think." he says finally. "Look out at the stars, and see just how small we all are on the grand scale of everything, and then we'd sit and watch the sunrise. We'd stay up all night, and we'd... we'd just talk. Like we're doing now. About anything. Everything. All out into the open, like those stars." He snorts, seemingly embarrassed at his own sentimentality, considering his own ideas laughable. "It's ridiculous I know..."
"It's not ridiculous." Sherlock interrupts him. He turns his head to gaze at John, and his heart swells with something like love except it's far bigger than that, with no measurable edge and with the possibility for so much more than the fraction of what they've unlocked now. There are still things he doesn't know, still things Sherlock is learning, piece by piece and with careful slowness. Loving John, Sherlock has always found, is like uncovering a universe that stretches out infinitely. "It's not."
John doesn't indicate he's heard, instead continuing to stare upwards, his body still pleasingly warm where Sherlock touches it despite the faint cooling of the breeze.
"Thing is," John vocalises his thoughts after a long pause, "I don't think I'm scared of dying. Scared of what comes after it, yeah, but dying... It's a natural process, isn't it? Everyone dies. Everyone who has ever lived has died, that's the way it goes. Good men, and bad men, and all the shades in-between, doesn't matter. The heart stops pumping blood around the body, brain cells die without oxygen, aerobic respiration stops, rigor mortis sets in, then you have the body bloating and decomposing, releases gases, that sort of thing." He lets out a short breath. "It's not pretty, death, but it's factual. It happens, and there is no way around it. One of the first things you learn as a doctor. But you have to accept it, otherwise you can't move past it, focus on living the time you do have."
"Why are you scared of what comes after it?" Sherlock asks quietly. The question seems oddly intimate.
John angles his head to look at Sherlock, wondering why he's interested at all, but responding just the same. "Because I don't know what will happen. No one does, not really. You can have faith, yeah, and be pretty damn certain that paradise is on the other side, but, when it really comes down to it, no one has the faintest clue." He gives a weak sigh, and frowns. "I don't want there to be nothing at all. Just... I dunno, black? Loneliness? I know brain function doesn't survive death, I'm not an idiot, but I'm not too sure about my soul. I want there to be something beyond, but at the same time..." He pauses, trying to place his sentiment into words. " It's too big for me to even think about."
"I wouldn't concern yourself with the afterlife," Sherlock says matter-of-factly, "You would not be alone because I would be there with you. I would take care of you."
John gives a snort. "You think I'd entrust you with the keeping of my soul Sherlock? You'd lose the house keys if I didn't always keep them on me."
"Wouldn't you trust me with it?" Sherlock asks, and John perhaps realises that this question is important to Sherlock by the tone he uses, for he looks directly at him, smiling with a gentle tease of his lips.
"Yeah," he says. "Yeah I would. Completely."
They talk for a long time afterwards, through the midnight hours where only the stars and the curve of the moon light their vision, and they can only see outlines of each other, sketched in silver, straying away from bigger things like death and stepping from minutiae to minutiae, until the sky begins to lighten, heralding dawn. A pooling orange and pink streaks lines across a lighter blue, a refraction of yellow and gold light bathing their faces.
They watch the sunrise with hands held in hands, and they do not let go until long after it has risen.
The sky overhead is piecing the clouds together like a blood clot when Mycroft's car slides against the curb outside Baker Street. It stops and lingers, and then the door opens wide and a carefully pressed trouser leg presents itself, grounded along with the steel-tipped end of a cane.
Sherlock stills from his place at the window, having pulled back the edge of the curtain to glance out every five minutes, the frustration of waiting winding him up too tightly like the spring of a watch. He finds his whole body unwilling to participate in motion any more, his chest barely rising even if he's suddenly breathing hard. He has a half-fleeting thought of locking the door, childishly bolting and twisting the catches, or else standing warden at the top of those seventeen steps, watching Mycroft's inevitable rise to meet him as a wave against cliffs, the light from the window behind him making the daylight tremble over him; Sherlock's head held stallion-like, proud, his neck arched, and he would show his brother the promise of a battlefield, teeth bared. I have claimed him. This is my right. I would see Olympus torn asunder, those golden citadels shattered, were it to mean that John remained mine.
But John says, "Sherlock. You're wearing a hole in the carpet. Sit down here, stop fussing." and he does just that, wishing some weapon in his fingers, a fight brimming in him, anxiousness hovering as an after-taste, even when John looks up from his laptop and gives him one of those careless smiles so filled with easy grace.
There is a knock. Two. Three.
Death has come, and Sherlock isn't ready for this like he thought he was.
"Come in!" John shouts over, closing the laptop lid and placing the machine to the side of the chair, as though readying to stand. Sherlock stands back up again, fretting, not knowing what he is to be expecting, all his immortal years not enough to lend him any experience he can cling to for this. He is still young, old only in loneliness, and his anger is near to sparking a lusty, vicious fire. He wants to start a war here.
Mycroft walks in, strident, suited and appraising everything with grey eyes. The air seems to simmer, or maybe it's just Sherlock, who is standing taut as tripwire, eyes flicking: John, Mycroft, John, Mycroft, knowing whose side he will choose if it comes to it.
John stands also. His body compact, built like it could withstand barrage-fire or the collapse of civilisation, like he could survive anything simply through his will to keep breathing. He holds out a hand to Mycroft, greets him as he shakes it, genial and well-mannered, and Sherlock watches as Mycroft touches John and feels like he is swallowing glass.
"Tea, Mycroft?" John asks, his body half turning already to the kitchen, to the processes he knows, the familiar, the predictable.
"Not today, I'm afraid," Mycroft replies almost apologetically, then affixes John with an unyielding gaze, direct, brutal with its intensity. "You know why I'm here don't you, John?"
"Yes," John says, "You've come to take me away."
Sherlock snaps his eyes over to him, surprised,– seeing soldier, warrior, deadman – and observes him unbowed by the weight of his mortality, no flicker of fear, no tension in his limbs as though he will run at the first presented opportunity.
John smiles at the god they call Death, Thanatos, Shinigami, like he is untouched by any of this, as though he has always known what has been coming. Maybe he has.
"I must say," he says with a smirk, tucking hands into the pockets of his jeans, "I kind of feel a bit underwhelmed. You haven't even got a scythe. No flowing black robes, no skeletal features, nothing."
"I'm sorry I've disappointed you," Mycroft curves his lips in a proximity of a curt smile, his tone curious, before he straightens his posture, looking down at the shorter man. "Though let me say in turn that I'm rather surprised at how up to date you seem to be. Most men don't know me when I come. Not at first."
"You've been lingering round this house for a while."
"Ah, well, family matters, checking in on my brother, that sort of rigmarole. Needs must."
"But you aren't here for him today, are you?" John says boldly. "You're here for me."
Sherlock's heart stutters with the simplicity of that statement. You are dying John,he thinks, do you not care?
Mycroft tilts his head. "You do not seem to be very concerned."
"Oh, I am," John replies. "Given the choice, I'd rather not be going anywhere. But then again, I've known this was coming for a while, had a bit of time to come to terms with it." He gestures around at the Baker Street rooms, the chairs, the wallpaper, the grinning skull playing paperweight to letters on the mantle. "This isn't real, is it? Not in the way it should be. And it hasn't been for a while now, ever since I came back from Afghanistan. I wondered at first why I seemed to lose everything from my old life, why I was given a whole new one to share in, what I had done to deserve it when it was everything I had ever wanted. And sometimes I feel things, sensations like a cannula under my skin, or hearing nurses talking about brain function and ventilators, and I know that that's real in the way that this world almost is. This is all a dream, one perfect, brilliant dream. "
He looks at Sherlock, kind eyes, sloping smile, no judgement there, just a smile reserved solely for him, like a reassurance. "But everyone wakes up from dreams in the end, don't they? They have to end some time."
Sherlock thinks the name, John, a sepulchre of all the possibilities they had, all the things they should have done together, and he thinks that this might be it, and that sensation of slipping makes him nauseous, detached, a lack of air like he's face down in water drowning, waterlogged and out of breath.
"John," he says, deep voice breaking at the end, an imperfect baritone note. John glances at him, and then moves nearer, and Sherlock wishes Mycroft wasn't here, but his presence doesn't ruin John's gesture of calm, the way he stands with his hands to his side like an unwavering audience, a permanent companion.
"I will go where you want me to go, Sherlock," John whispers, and neither know if Mycroft is listening in, but for the moment neither care. "I have always promised that, and a little thing like dying isn't going to stop me now, is it?" Sherlock laughs once, wet-sounding, miserable, and John reaches out, joins their palms fleetingly, the warmth of skin grounding them together. "I do not know what sort of being you are, only that you are not a man, and I love you all the same, because you will always be your insufferable self. Just tell me what I can do."
"Stay with me," Sherlock says, and he would be asking gently if he wasn't so desperate, if his hands weren't trembling like ripples on water, if he couldn't see the possible futures before him where John leaves and doesn't return, and each one is hollow and bound up in monotony, nights without stars, seated on the banks of the wailing river, the reflection of his loss in the black water, or else the future swallowed by dusty paths like the roads out of the Underworld, always glancing behind and seeing ghosts without footsteps. "Stay with me. You can, I want you to, and I can make us a home like this, and you never need wake up. But it would be forever, once your choice is made. And if you aren't sure you – I mean, of course, if you wouldn't want to – I would, understand if you, if you make a different choice..."
"Sherlock." John's voice is teasing, a caresses as he touches their hands again, aligning the grains of their lifelines against each other, clasping fingers like the weave of wicker basket. "Forever is more than satisfactory, you idiot." He squeezes Sherlock's hand. "I made my choice a long time ago, and I've no intention of leaving you to fend for yourself. God knows what you'd get up to."
Sherlock smiles, and he smiles not with a gesture of a god but with the gestures of the invented man he has become, the name of Sherlock Holmes whose skin he is slipping into. Sherlock Holmes is who he has always been, in as much as he is arrogant and impossible and stubborn, intelligent and proud, but Sherlock Holmes who is also the qualities he never thought he had that one small human has brought out from within him; brave and protective and with so much love in his chest he finally understands why wars are fought for it, why men pursue and chase and die for it. And most of all, Sherlock Holmes is John's. John Watson the healer, who patches together gaps he did not know were straining the fabric of his old immortal heart. And it will always be as such.
"Have you made your decision?" Mycroft interrupts Sherlock's moment of contentment, and he feels a frown creasing his forehead before John turns to the elder god, and nods solemnly, his hand still held in Sherlock's grip.
"I will go with you," he says firmly, the scene as strange as the players – a diminutive grey-blonde man standing uncowed and determined before the god of death. "But I request that Sherlock accompany me. I'm not leaving him on his own."
Mycroft bows his head respectfully. "I see no issue with that. I suspected as much would occur." He tucks his hand into the breast top pocket of his suit, and draws out a golden coin with a face and carved short symbols on one side, handing it over to John. "Your fee of a drachma, for the Ferryman. He's rather old fashioned, doesn't like to deal in any of this newfangled currency." He gives one more glance around the Baker Street rooms, the two occupants standing backs straight and hand in hand. His lips raise in a smile, but he doesn't comment.
"There is a car outside which will take you," he says, and turns and leaves, as smoothly as he came, the door left open for the two to follow.
"Want to see some more?" Sherlock murmurs, gesturing for the door, eyes fixed on John's face. Already he is imagining all the things he will show John, the palaces created from his mind that they can explore, the adventures they may have. The lifetimes that will be theirs.
"God, yes," John smirks, and clenching Sherlock's hand once more, they exit the living room of 221b Baker Street, leaving it empty, to fade away as a half-remembered dream. There is a faint, ever so faint, click, and then a whine, like the drone of a heart monitor flat lining.
The door shuts quietly behind them.