John didn't so much wake up as snap instantly into consciousness the second that the renewed bond slammed into him. It was painful in a way, to go from hollow and gaping emptiness to suddenly having someone else's mental and emotional state pour into his mind like a faucet had been switched on. He jerked on the bed, writhing with pain until the onslaught gradually began to slow into something that was marginally more manageable, and even then he was left with a ferocious headache.
Something small and hard was pressed against his lips and he opened his mouth automatically, registering the pills as they were slipped inside. Then a glass was held up, the rim telling against his bottom lip, and he drank greedily, slopping water down his front in his haste. He didn't care. He pushed the glass away after the worst of his thirst had been quenched, letting his eyes slide shut in order to focus as he tentatively reached out. Sherlock?
Just the sound of his name, spoken in that deep voice, was nearly enough to make John cry. Tears burned at his eyes, though he refused to let them fall. Where are you? he asked, because he couldn't quite make himself believe it until he could see Sherlock in person. Raw emotion hummed across their bond, fear and worry and relief and everything else that Sherlock would never admit to experiencing mingling into a tight ball of pressure in his chest.
We're close. We should be there shortly.
For the first time John looked around to see where 'there' was. He discovered that he was in a small room, no windows and walls painted an ugly shade of brown, that was pretty much bare except for the bed he was sitting on and a chair. Said chair was occupied by none other than Greg, who was holding the glass that John had just been drinking from. John blinked at him and Greg smiled, setting the mostly empty glass back down on the floor beside a pitcher and a bottle of pills.
"Glad to see you're awake, finally," he said. "You've been out for over twenty-four hours. I was starting to think that maybe something had gone wrong and Anthea had given you too strong a dose. Alright?"
"I can hear Sherlock," John said hoarsely, and Greg's smile turned softer at the corners.
"I figured that's why you'd suddenly come to. Don't worry, he and Mycroft aren't that far away."
They weren't close enough. John dropped his head into his hands and rubbed at his aching temples, but the physical pain was nothing compared to the desire to touch Sherlock again. He mentally clutched at his mate desperately, trying to get as close as possible in spite of the distance between them. Soothing calm trickled across their bond, but it was not nearly enough to disguise the fact that Sherlock was every bit as anxious as John was. He was just better at hiding it.
Hours seemed to pass, the car that Sherlock and Mycroft were driving in moving remarkably slow, before the brothers arrived at wherever he and Greg were holed up. John swung his legs off the bed and stood up the second he sensed Sherlock's elation, their bond surging with strength with each step closer they got. His knees buckled slightly and he wavered, a little dizzy, before Greg gripped him by the arm to keep him on his feet. John shot him a grateful glance as they took a step together towards the door. As it turned out, that wasn't necessary.
Sherlock was coming to them.
The door flew open approximately thirty seconds later and Sherlock barrelled in. In the next instant John was being tugged away from Greg and clutched against a lean chest, head tucked against reassuringly familiar material. He wrapped his arms around Sherlock's back and clung to him, dropping all of his barriers so that their bond was completely open from his end. Sherlock breathed in against his hair and, after only a moment of hesitation, did the same.
Pure emotion and longing gushed through them both, leaving them reeling to the point that Sherlock only just managed to get them both to the bed before they ended up sprawled on the floor. John soaked up everything greedily, not caring how much of a shock to the system that it was to have Sherlock roaring through his mind again. There was so much and it was so overwhelming that he knew it would take ages before he could sort through it all and understand everything Sherlock had gone through over the past week, but what little he could pick out only made him hug Sherlock that much more tightly.
You're shaking, Sherlock whispered, the words only just barely audible.
Actually I think that's you, John responded, although he suspected that there was a good chance it was both of them. It was nearly as bad as when their bond had first been formed, though at least this time they hadn't passed out. He finally tipped his head just far enough back so that he could get a good look at his mate. Much to his relief, Sherlock did not look harmed. Seeing him helped to ease the image of Sherlock'd blood spattered body that had been haunting him over the last few days.
Guilt flickered through, and Sherlock's eyes were shadowed when he said, I'm sorry, John.
And the thing was that John could tell that Sherlock really, truly meant it. He regretted having ever got involved with Moriarty; more than anything, Sherlock wished that when they'd encountered Moriarty at the pool he'd just shot him and ended everything back before it spun out of control and threatened so many people. The heaviness of Sherlock's remorse was enough to make his heart ache, and he couldn't resist trying to console the man.
No, don't apologize. You handled this as best you could. John reached up and cupped his face, pulling Sherlock down into a kiss. Sherlock opened up to him immediately, soft and pliant under John's hands, but as much as John wanted to continue he doubted there was enough time. They were probably already pushing it as it was.
When he went to pull back, Sherlock's hand slipped around his neck and kept him there for just a moment longer. And when Sherlock finally broke the kiss, it was with clear reluctance. He looked at John and spoke out loud for the first time. "You're right. We need to go."
In spite of their agreement it was another five minutes at least before Sherlock could bring himself to let go, and even then John kept hold of his hand. Greg had left the room and shut the door to give them some privacy, but he and Mycroft were waiting right outside. Mycroft looked the two of them over and said, "You need to go. Every minute you linger is another chance that someone will see you. Your plane is ready."
"Plane?" John asked, startled.
"We're going to France," Sherlock told him. "And then on to Russia."
John raised his eyebrows but said nothing. He'd never really travelled anywhere except for Afghanistan, but he supposed that now he was going to be seeing a lot more of the world. "And then?"
"It depends on what we find," Sherlock replied, sounding grim.
"Be careful," said Greg, eyeing Sherlock in particular. "Don't be an idiot, okay? The whole point of this is for you to actually be able to come home at some point, so don't do anything to fuck it up. Give them hell, but don't put yourself in too much danger." He stepped forward and swept Sherlock into a hug. Sherlock started to tense, but it was over before he had the chance to do much else.
"Hopefully we won't be gone too long," John said, since Sherlock appeared to be speechless after that little display. He looked Mycroft in the eyes, then Greg, and knew that just like with Molly he would never be able to fully express his gratitude. Without their combined efforts, Sherlock would dead. "Thank you."
"Take care," Mycroft replied simply, resting a hand on Greg's arm.
Sherlock's eyes flicked towards his brother and John didn't need their bond to know that while there were things Sherlock wanted to say, they were things he never would. He squeezed Sherlock's hand gently and took a step towards the door, pleased when Sherlock exhaled and followed. The door led to a private hangar that housed a small plane, engine already revved for take-off. John climbed the stairs first and sat down, automatically buckling his seatbelt. Because he had the window seat, he was able to catch one last glimpse of Mycroft and Greg before the plane swung around and started rolling out of the hangar.
"They'll be fine," Sherlock said unconvincingly. "Though I'm not sure anyone is going to buy the excuse that Mycroft needed a few days away to come to terms with my death."
"He loves you more than he lets on," said John, gazing at his mate as the plane took off. They were airborne. Against all odds, they had actually made it. He couldn't help sighing in relief even as he added, "They both do, much as you hate to admit it."
Sherlock made a face and didn't comment. After a couple of minutes, he said, "We're going to a small town just outside of Paris. Mycroft suspects that's where a major part of Moriarty's organization originated."
"I don't speak French."
"Of course you do," John murmured affectionately, a little amused. He had never released Sherlock's hand, and now he brought it to his lips so that he could brush a kiss to the back of it. Despite everything, he was glad he was here.
Sherlock glanced over at him. "John..."
"Shh. You can tell me everything before we land, but for right now I just need a few minutes."
After a second of hesitation Sherlock nodded and slipped his hand free so that he could wrap his arm around John's shoulders. John leaned into him even though the armrest between them dug into his ribs. It was worth it. It was all worth it.
That's it. Thank you for all the wonderful comments; I appreciated every one and I hope you enjoyed this story.