A/N - I originally wrote this fic in the caption of a picture on tumblr. After many requests and a lot of persuasion, I expanded on it (minorly). It's a bit long, so I figured I'd put it up. It's here on AO3, if you'd prefer.
I HAVE NEVER SEEN TiMER, so I apologise for anything that is not consistent with the movie. This is just me throwing my feels everywhere. Not beta-ed/edited, so all mistakes are my own.
From the day Sherlock could count, the clock on his wrist had confused him.
"But what does it do?" he asked his mother disdainfully. "What is its purpose?"
His mother just smiled down at him and rubbed over the spot on her own wrist. Sherlock could see that it was down to all zeros. Time had run out, but he didn't know what it was timing. She crouched down next to him and took his wrist in her hand, glancing down at it for a moment.
"One day," she said, "you're going to meet someone. The most important person you've ever met. Then, the clock will say zero."
"It's counting down to the day I meet someone?" Sherlock questioned. His tone was near disgusted. "That's ridiculous. What's the point of that? And don't say I'm too young to understand. That doesn't work."
She shook her head and repeated, "the most important person you've ever met, Sherlock."
"I don't like people," Sherlock said adamantly. "They're annoying."
She stood back up and ruffled his hair fondly, ignoring his huffs of protest. "You'll understand, when it happens," she assured, walking away. Sherlock frowned at the floor and stomped off to the sitting room to read, angry that his mother wouldn't give him a straightforward explanation.
Later on, as he managed his way through boredom and bullies and endless hours of school, he started hearing more about it. Excited quips from girls, squealing and showing each other their wrists. He would sneak around and listen, struggling through their annoying giggles long enough to finally hear; the timer counting down to the day you'd meet the most important person you'd ever meet. Your soul mate.
The words made him cringe in digust. The fact that he even had a working timer was horrid; it meant he'd end up meeting someone he would be deigned to remain with for the rest of his life. How could someone stand a single person for such a long amount of time?
The time on his wrist, by age ten, still read over 40 years.
John spent more time than he liked to admit thinking about what his soul mate would be like.
What colour is their hair? What are their interests? Do they like sports, or do they prefer to read? What do they do? What'll they think of me?
The final question, he knew, was ridiculous; they'd love him, just as he'd love them. That was how it worked. The question was always nagging at his mind, though.
He was something of a romantic, you could say. He liked the idea of lying around with someone, cuddling with them on cold days and teasing, flirting like no one else mattered.
He hadn't even met his soul mate and he was enamoured of them.
The time on his wrist read 30 years on his first day of medical school, and he wondered why he was one of the few who had to wait so long. He continually told himself it would be worth it, eventually.
It was the first proper case Lestrade had actually, legitimately, asked Sherlock to come to, and he was being harassed about his timer.
"For god's sake!" he shouted, practically ripping his sleeve as he tugged it back down. "Yes, I do have one, yes, it is functioning!"
Anderson was sneering at him from a distance and Sherlock had half a mind to chin him right then.
"Jesus, calm down, Sherlock!" Lestrade exclaimed, holding his hands up defensively. "It's just - you know, a surprise. For you."
"Not like I ruddy well control whether or not I have one," the detective hissed, absentmindedly rubbing his wrist.
The rest of the people in the room glanced around awkwardly, hands unconsciously touching the marks on their own arms. Lestrade kept eyeing Sherlock in a way he believed to be inconspicuous until Sherlock finally snapped and remarked, "is it proof enough?"
"Proof of what?" Lestrade questioned, confused.
"Proof enough for you and your team that I'm a human being, even if I'd rather not be."
Lestrade expression fell and he looked away, upset with himself. "How much time is left?"
"What's it your business?" Sherlock muttered.
The time had jumped from ten years to twenty yesterday afternoon, and he berated himself for feeling anything by it.
It was the only word present in John's mind. Bloody accurate in so many senses. Burning desert sun, burning bullet embedded in his shoulder, burning ground against his back, burning throat as he let out strangled cries and raggedly inhaled dust.
Pain could cover it, if only minorly, but burning was more specific.
On top of the searing in his shoulder (searing worked pretty well, too), there was a hard throbbing in his left wrist, and he could see behind his eyes that the number of days until he met his soul mate were spinning rapidly, counting down.
Hell, maybe they're dead, too, he thought. The burning sun became blotched out with black spots and John was lost to the world, writhing in the dirt unconsciously.
Sherlock's eyes snapped open and he cried out in surprise, gripping his arm and working his jaw through an unexpected throb of pain. That… Definitely didn't feel right.
He did a once-over of his arm and found nothing wrong until his eyes passed over his wrist. The numbers all read zero in dark red font and Sherlock's expression faltered.
Just the day before they'd read four years, nine months. Something had gone wrong.
John's eyes flew back open and he wheezed, trying to work against the pain in his lungs as he scraped along for air.
Broken ribs, from the idiot giving you CPR, his mind supplied. You've just had a heart attack, too. Don't forget the bullet wound, of course. Sorry, you were thinking about your soul mate? Good bloody luck.
If he'd had enough oxygen, John would've shouted for it to shut up. He could feel hands working on him, inexperienced and trembling, moving too fast, too shoddy.
"Stay with me, mate," the soldier begged. "God help us."
Sherlock watched as the numbers started re-appearing.
1 day, 2 days. 3. 4. 5. 6.
They jumped back down to zero and his stomach flipped. They started over.
… 10, 12, 15, 22.
7, 17, 20.
The detective growled in frustration and rubbed his thumb hard over the mark.
"Make up your mind!" he shouted at it, watching as it climbed to 30 and dropped again. Every time it hit zero, he'd feel a stab of pain in his chest, a heavy weight on his heart.
The number rose once more and stopped at sixty-eight days.
If he felt a swell of warmth and relief, he dismissed it.
Since returning home, John had stopped checking his wrist. There'd been too much distraction; teary visits from his mum and tense ones from Harry. Trying to find somewhere to stay while he was healing and until he could find a job of some kind.
"I heard you were abroad somewhere, getting shot at! What happened?"
"… I got shot."
There was something nagging at the back of his head, but he couldn't place it. He felt different - almost better.
"Come on - who'd want me for a flatmate?"
It wasn't until he stepped in the door of that lab.
"Mike, can I borrow your phone? There's no signal on mine."
John snapped his gaze up and his right hand clenched around the head of his cane. That voice; that gorgeous baritone sent a chill down his spine and made his chest feel like it was inflating.
"Ah - here. Use mine," he offered breathlessly. Sherlock met his gaze and something flickered over his expression. His eyes darted down to his wrist and he lifted his sleeve just a centimetre - enough to make his breath hitch.
"Mike, give us a moment," he ordered. Mike eyed them, back and forth, before complying and standing to walk out.
"Be back in ten minutes, mate, I ought to go check on something anyhow," he said to John before he walked out. Sherlock stood as soon as the door shut and strode over to John, looming over him so close that John had to take a step backwards.
"Does it read zero?" Sherlock hissed. "Plain, grey zero?"
John wet his lips and sputtered a moment. Sherlock rolled his eyes and snatched the cane from John's hand, taking his arm in the other and shoving up his sleeve.
0000d 00h 00m 00s
"Afghanistan or Iraq?" Sherlock demanded.
"What?" John asked, bewildered.
"Answer the question; Afghanistan or Iraq?"
"Afghanistan," John managed. "How did you - "
"You were shot. You died, went into cardiac arrest, four times," Sherlock said.
"How do you know this?" John asked.
Sherlock released John's arm roughly and undid the cuff on his right arm, holding it out for John to see. The doctor ran a finger over it gingerly, then encircled Sherlock's wrist with his hand. "Did you know," Sherlock murmured, "if your soul mate - " he said the word like it was filthy, but his gaze was still soft " - dies, you can feel it? It shows up red on your wrist and it physically pains you."
John swallowed and smiled tightly. "To be quite fair, I think the bullet hurt worse," he quipped.
"What's your name?" Sherlock asked.
The two stared at each other in a haze, eyes scanning over each other's faces like they were committing them to memory.
"You're looking for a flatmate?" John inquired eventually, softly.
Sherlock grinned and John grinned back, sliding his hand from Sherlock's wrist to link their fingers together.
They lose track of time just staring at one another, drinking each other in. Sherlock hadn't know this man moments ago, but he'd almost lost him. The depression that John has been feeling for months has been blanketed by an uplifting one, and he has a smile on his face where there wasn't one before.
He feels like the constant hold of Sherlock's gaze should be intimidating; his eyes are sharp and bright, framed by gorgeously groomed dark curls. His full lips are stretched into a grin that almost looks unnatural on his visage, but John can't help the grin it causes on his own face. They're breathing each other's air, simply standing in the middle of the lab, and John hasn't even noticed that he isn't holding his cane anymore.
The door to the lab swings open and Mike steps back in, not seeing the pair at first, but definitely looking bewildered when he does.
"My god," he breathes, leaning against the work top. "You two?"
"Mike, I said to give us a minute," Sherlock mumbles, tilting his head to get a better look at John's eyes.
"It's been a good twelve, at least."
Sherlock furrows his brow and looks over at him quizzically. "Can't have been. I just walked over here."
Mike grins and crosses his arms. "Seems you're a bit dumbstruck." Sherlock glares at him and abruptly looks back at John, eyes softening in slight before he unlaces their hands and turns around.
"No need to act so smug with yourself," he states, striding over to pick up his coat. "It's not as if you paired us yourself."
"Hey, this is how the fates planned it," Mike chuckles, pulling a stool over to take a seat. "This was a set point in time and I got to bring the soulmate of the Great Sherlock Holmes to him."
"It wasn't fixed," Sherlock says matter-of-factly, pulling on his scarf. "It was altered. John nearly died, multiple times, and that's the only reason he's here sooner. It would have been almost another five years otherwise."
"Hello," John says firmly. "Still here."
"Yes, and standing without your cane, look at that," Sherlock says with another grin. John's eyes widen and he glanced down in surprise, flexing his hand around air. "Psychosomatic," Sherlock explains. "Meant to tell you that at some point."
"Thanks for the heads up," John snorts.
Sherlock laughs and walks back up to him, holding the cane for him to take. John takes it hesitantly, as though his holding it would cause him pain again.
"I'll see you tomorrow, seven o'clock if you can," Sherlock says, stepping around John. "Ought to have you take a look at the flat before you move in, though I doubt there will be any problem. I'd better be off; I believe I left my riding crop in the mortuary and I have something to attend to."
"Riding crop," John breathes in confusion, turning around as Sherlock opens the door. "Oi! I don't know where we're meeting!"
"221 Baker Street!" Sherlock calls just before the door shut.
John looks incredulously over at Mike, who has a stupid grin on his face.
"I think he likes you," he laughs.
When John steps foot in Baker Street the next day, the deal is sealed. It's not as if he would've declined anyway, but the flat is nice - if a bit disorganised - and John hates staying in his bedsit alone. He watches from an armchair while Sherlock flits around, moving papers and books and looking, really, almost nervous.
"How did you know I was in the military?" John asks to distract him.
"I told you, I felt when you died," Sherlock says absently, stacking some books.
"Yeah, but I could've. I dunno. Been hit by a bus."
Sherlock grimaces and turns to him. "What you said when you walked into Bart's; bit different from my day. That's what tipped me off. You were painfully obvious after that."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, your stance, your hair, your limp, your speech pattern. It all read military," Sherlock explains. "I just couldn't figure out where you invalided from."
"Hold on - sorry, that's - you could just read me, like nothing?" John asks in awe. "That's - Christ, amazing."
"… Really?" Sherlock's surprise is blatant on his face.
"Absolutely," John grins. "Can you do that with anyone other than me? I mean, because of the - "
"Yes," Sherlock says immediately. "That's my job."
"Amazing," John breathes, smiling up at him.
Sherlock shifts awkwardly, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I'm glad you think so. I was afraid once you found out that there might be some… Problems." He pulls out a hand to gesture between them vaguely.
"The normal reaction to my observations is not praise," Sherlock admits.
John chuckles. "Maybe I'm just a bit touched in the head."
"Excessive blood loss can do that to a person," Sherlock concedes with a smile.
John narrows his eyes and reaches behind him, pulling up a Union Jack pillow and throwing it at Sherlock. "That's not what I meant, you git." Sherlock grins even wider and throws it at John's head.
Lestrade won't stop staring at John when they get to Lauriston Gardens.
"Sherlock, who is he?" he whispers furtively as they ascend the stairs.
"I told you, he's with me."
"Yeah, but is he - "
"I don't see how that's any of your business," Sherlock interrupts, adjusting his gloves.
Lestrade stops him when they get to the landing. "I'll tell you how it's my business; I'm letting you on this but I'm not about to let some random bloke in on a scene," he says firmly. "Now, who is he?"
Sherlock huffs noisily through his nose and nearly rips his cuff pulling it back. He displays his wrist to Lestrade for two seconds before covering it again and snapping his glove into place properly. "Acceptable?"
"Ahh," Lestrade murmurs. "Yeah. Uhm, I guess - "
"If you start to give congratulations I'll take my anger out on Anderson."
By the time Sherlock has finished with another, even more astounding round of deductions, he's gone in the blink of an eye. John doesn't even have time to protest, which he resents a bit, but he can't complain about it either, because Sherlock is nowhere in sight. Rather than even attempting to follow him, John takes his time leaving the crime scene, ignoring the way people stare at him.
"So you're the guy, right?"
John starts slightly and looks up at the voice of Sergeant Donovan. "What?"
"The guy," Sally emphasises. "Because you wouldn't be here with him if you weren't. He doesn't have friends, or colleagues. So you're the one we've all been waiting to see."
John bristles and sets his jaw, staring at her with hard eyes. "Yeah," he says, tipping up his chin. "Yeah, I'm 'that guy'."
"Figured it would be a guy," Sally mutters. "Freak's always seemed the type."
"You're really stepping into dangerous territory here," John warns her.
She smirks and crosses her arms, stepping around him. "I can't tell you to stay away from him now, but I can warn you," she says, turning back to face him. "He's not right. Calls himself a sociopath, insults everyone, sees really weird things. Gets off on the crime, depending on how weird it is. He's scary smart, and he'll use it against you."
"I'm leaving," John says, pushing past her.
"Can't say I never warned you," she tells him.
"Never asked you to," John mutters harshly.
After being coerced into a kidnapping, John takes Sally's warning a bit more seriously.
The man that meets him in an empty warehouse is tall and wiry and the way he speaks reminds John of grease sliding on a hot pan. His smile is manipulative.
"It is quite unlike Sherlock Holmes to fall into acquaintanceship so quickly," he says. "Especially not with someone like yourself."
"It is an odd set of circumstances," John says complacently. "Though, none of it is your business."
"On the contrary. Do please do me the favour of letting me see your wrist, hmm?"
"No," John grinds out.
"Please?" the man pouts. John considers punching him, and then remembers that - whoever he is - he had the power to alter the CCTV and get into the public phone lines. He steps forward instead, holding out his left wrist. The man smiles slickly and saunters toward John, hooking an umbrella over his arm. When he reaches for John's wrist, John jerks it back instinctually, taking a slow breath.
"This really would be so much easier if you were to comply," he says. John works his jaw and brings his arm back forward, twitching uncomfortably when the man's long fingers touch his skin. He slides the sleeve of John's jacket upward and looks down at the clock on his wrist, stilled and stopped at zeros across the board.
"As per my assumption," the man murmurs. "This is most interesting, indeed."
"Why?" John manages.
"I never thought he'd actually meet his soulmate," the man tells him. "With the amount of trouble he gets into and the inordinate number of years until he was supposed to, I figured he'd be dead before it happened."
"Who the hell are you?"
The man grins toothily. "Consider me family."
"Of both of you," he says. He lifts the umbrella from his arm and turns around, striding away and swinging it like a pendulum. "Give Sherlock my blessing, would you, Doctor Watson?"
John stares after him until he's gone and then walks out, disregarding the woman trying to bring him home and finding himself a cab.
He finds Sherlock on the couch in 221B when he gets back, lounging and seemingly relaxed.
"I was just kidnapped," John states upon entering the room.
"Mm? That explains why you didn't answer my texts."
"Where the hell have you been, anyway?" John demands, walking over. "Some creep in a suit 'sends his blessing'."
Sherlock makes a low growling noise in his throat. "I'll kill him later," he states. "We have work to do."
"That's great and all, but I'd like a bit of explanation."
"No time, John! There's a serial killer on the loose. Can't have petty conversations while that's happening." Sherlock finally sits up and swings his legs off the couch, standing to tower over his flatmate. He pauses and licks his lips. "The work takes precedent," he says quietly. "I need it to."
John stares. "Was she telling me the truth?"
"Sergeant Donovan, was she telling the truth when she said you get off on the crimes?" John asks.
Sherlock's face takes on a look of disgust. "I need the work because if my mind goes stagnate, I lose control," he says firmly. "I need the stimulation, constantly. I need the work. Come, John, we have a stakeout to hold."
John watches bemusedly as Sherlock pulls on his coat and scarf, pausing in the doorway to get his gloves.
"As for getting off on the crimes," the detective adds, "I suppose that will be for you to see later."
John follows as soon as Sherlock leaves the room.
The most terrifying part of the evening was watching as Sherlock nearly slipped through his fingers. John hadn't realised just how far the idiot was willing to follow the statement 'the work takes precedent'. Near suicide was not one of his considerations.
The cab ride home is silent, save the five minutes Sherlock took to order in Chinese food. John can feel the detective's eyes roving over him, but he refuses to look away from the scenery flashing outside the window.
When they get home, John leaves Sherlock to pay the cabby, walking up the stairs and ignoring Mrs. Hudson's greeting. Sherlock runs up after him as soon as he gets inside.
"John, I - " he begins as he enters the room. John cuts him off by shoving him against the wall and giving him a bruising kiss, his lips insistent against Sherlock's. The detective stands stock still for a moment, bewildered, before hesitantly pressing back into the kiss. John pulls back a moment later, clutching the front of Sherlock's shirt and pressing his face into his chest.
"John," Sherlock breathes. "John, I'm - "
"You can't do that," John rasps, pulling him closer. "You can't do that to me."
"John, I wasn't - "
"You were, you great fucking twat, you were going to take the fucking pill - poison, Sherlock!"
"I - John, I - " Sherlock stutters, cautiously wrapping his arms around John's torso. "I'm sorry."
"You can't do that to me," John repeats. "You are the only good thing that I have and I just got you and I can't lose you."
Sherlock gapes down at John, sputtering a bit more. He takes a slow breath and slides one of his arms up until he can cup John's face in his hand, then tips his chin upward. He ignores the red of John's eyes because it's all too much at once; because he doesn't know how to transition from feeling completely empty to overwhelmingly affectionate and protective and caring for a single person in one day. It's too much, but he needs it, so he ignores John's tears and looks right into his eyes instead.
"I'm sorry," he murmurs.
"I can't - "
"I know," Sherlock promises. "I don't - " he clears his throat awkwardly. "I've never had so much as a friend before. I need time to adjust to having to be sensitive of someone else. I wasn't aiming to upset you tonight. I got caught up. I told you, the work - "
"Takes precedent," John finishes flatly. "I know. I just hadn't expected that - Christ, Sherlock. He was going to kill you."
Sherlock swallows tightly and nods fractionally. "That was his intention," he admits hoarsely.
"You can't go doing that," John pleads.
"I'll adjust," Sherlock insists. "I will. And it's… not always like this."
John nods and sighs shakily, releasing Sherlock's shirt front. "I'm sorry," he whispers.
Sherlock runs his thumb over John's cheek experimentally and is glad to see a less frightened look in his eyes when he glances back up. Sherlock leans down and presses his lips to John's, almost featherlight, before dropping his hand and pulling back.
"To be quite honest, that's not how I expected that to happen," Sherlock mumbles, smiling down at his partner. John giggles breathlessly and leans against him.
"It wasn't how I'd intended," John admits. "I sort of attacked you, a bit."
"It was much more enjoyable than when a suspect tackled me last week," Sherlock offers hopefully. John laughs against his chest and Sherlock grins.
"I feel like this is going to be a very interesting relationship," he mutters.
"That is the understatement of the century," Sherlock affirms.