John leant against Sherlock as they walked outside, and Sherlock seemed comfortable with the closeness. If he were pushed to admit it, John might suggest that he wasn't feeling quite as bright and alert as he might like. They didn't get far, as they reached an ambulance with an open door and Julia, Clara and Sheila all shivering inside it.
"Are you all OK?" John asked, pulling away from Sherlock.
"What's happening?" Clara asked.
"Well, people are a bit worried about you being in that house so much and not going to school," John said. "The police are going to check into things, and make sure that you and Julia have got a safe place to live."
"Will Mum and Dad come too? What about Brian? He looks after us."
John hesitated. "Now Julia will for the short term. Hopefully your mum and dad will be back with you again very soon. But for now, you trust Julia, don't you?"
Clara nodded brightly. "The Lord will provide for us."
John smiled uncomfortably. "I hope so."
"All things happen for a reason. I suppose he sent you to us, didn't he, because Julia was so unhappy."
"No," Sherlock said. "That was me, and I had no idea about Julia."
"But who sent you?" Clara asked.
Sherlock stared at her and looked ready for a long theological debate with the twelve year old, until John put a gentle hand on his wrist.
"Are you OK?" he asked Sheila.
She was shivering and huddled into her blanket. She nodded miserably. "I don't know where I'll go now. I had no plan beyond getting out."
"If the crew here say you're fit to leave, come home with us."
She gazed at him, pie-eyed.
"Oh, yes, brilliant!" Sherlock said. John assumed he was being sarcastic, and he frowned at him. "No, really brilliant," Sherlock said. "Mrs Hudson will be in such a stew over looking after her, that she won't have time to fuss over you or skin me alive! Perfect."
"That's remarkably selfless of you, Sherlock."
Sheila smiled wanly.
"You are welcome," John told her. "Richard knows the house too, so he can meet you there. When you're warm and fed again, we can work out next steps at that point."
There was a wait then as Sheila was double checked by the ambulance crew, and while Lestrade talked to all of his men and all of the witnesses. Sherlock suggested they just crept away in a cab, but John made him wait.
He was exhausted and beginning to ache again by the time that Lestrade drove them home, and he found he wasn't inclined to assist Sherlock with Mrs Hudson than he ought to be. After his weak protests of his wellness fell onto her deaf ears, he led Sheila upstairs and found her dry biscuits to eat while the sounds of Mrs Hudson shouting herself hoarse drifted up the stairs.
Eventually the noise quietened, and Sherlock came upstairs looking distinctly irritable, and Mrs Hudson followed him to start fussing around the kitchen. She cooked a meal of rice and fish while John repeated how safe and well he was, and Sheila looked embarrassed and exhausted, and Sherlock sulked in the living room.
Eventually Mrs Hudson took Sheila away, and John was alone with the sulking detective. He went to sit next to him on the sofa.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Mostly for leaving you alone to deal with Mrs Hudson. Do you want to tell me how you worked it out that it was Brian?" John asked soothingly.
"He was going for the people who worked on Sundays. Only the most hardened sex workers; people he didn't think he could change. He was too kind to Richard too. He'd worked out pretty quickly that Richard would have nothing to do with him, and then he started eyeing up me, and then you. He was always on the lookout for people weak enough to gather to himself."
There was another silence as John thought about this.
"I thought you might do better at pretending to be weak and gullible than I usually manage," Sherlock said. "I'm sorry too."
"I probably shouldn't have let you out on your own. I should certainly have given you a basic outline of my thoughts; it was selfish not to."
"You did. Vatican cameo, remember. I knew then that he was the killer. I was a bit hazy on everything else, I admit, but I knew he was a killer when I went with him. I assumed you wanted me to go."
"Yes." John frowned. "Why did you? Yesterday you were wrapping me in cotton wool. Today you're sending me into cults with pyscho killers in them."
Sherlock shrugged. "You seemed well. When we woke up this morning your temperature was down, and your pulse was normal. I thought you were well enough to experiment on."
"Yes." Sherlock gave him a sidelong look. "I was concerned that when you got out and about and started working again, the excitement of the job might drive away some of the lustful feelings for me. I didn't... I was worried... It just seemed sensible to find out sooner rather than later."
They sat in silence for a while.
"Did it?" Sherlock asked eventually.
"I mean it; I was looking for you before I even got out the door. You didn't leave my thoughts for a second."
"What about you?" John asked. "Do you think you can still love me when I'm well again and we're working on cases together?"
"I already told you that I could. And I kissed you, which seems to carry greater weight with you than anything I actually say."
John gently rubbed his lips. "Yes. It does seem to."
"It did distract me though," Sherlock said. "Several times I almost abandoned waiting so that I could just come and get you. I was working on a plan to get to the front door when you called me." He paused. "It was distracting."
"So distracting you want to slow down with me?"
"No! I'm sure I'm capable of overriding any feelings when it's strictly necessary. It might just take some practice, that's all."
There was another short silence.
"How quickly did you go into soldier mode?" Sherlock asked quietly.
"Hm?" John noticed a strange look in Sherlock's eye. He was looking directly at the coffee table, as if he didn't want to trust eye contact at that moment. "Quite quickly," he ventured. "As soon as I got in the house."
There was a distinct gleam in Sherlock's eye now.
"Before that even," John said. "When we were on the tube really."
The eye flashed. "Tell me about it," Sherlock said. "What did you do when you got into the house."
"Well I needed to reconnaissance immediately," John said. "I divided the house into floors and sections according to their uses and their worth as escape or holding places. I calmly interviewed each of the inhabitants to gauge their threat level, and how much protection they would need. I infiltrated…" Sherlock jerked suddenly at this word, and John smiled gently before continuing. "I infiltrated the group and worked out potential allies. All of this was planned the second I walked in the door."
Sherlock turned to look at him, and he was virtually salivating. Once again, he didn't seem entirely sure what to do with himself.
John smiled. "Would you perhaps like to come to the bedroom to have some sex with John the Soldier?" he asked.
Sherlock nodded, and leaped past him, taking his hand and pulling him along as he went.
John suddenly found the idea of three days in Sherlock's bed was very appealing indeed.
Thanks for all of your support as we've gone through this one. It didn't turn out precisely as I planned when I started it, but I think it turned out OK, and I hope you all enjoy it.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!