I am sorry it's taken me so long to update this story. :) I will never abandon it, though, and there is an end in sight. Thanks for the support, everyone!
John aimlessly roamed the flat, at loose ends and hating it.
He didn't know what to do with himself.
He didn't have to go to work- he'd taken the following two weeks off, anticipating his honeymoon with Mary.
That wasn't needed now, he thought sardonically, pacing past the window for what felt like the 200th time, pulling aside the curtains and glancing uninterestedly down at the street below.
The schedule had already been made and finalized and his replacement lined up. John didn't think anyone would appreciate him coming in to work last minute and messing things up. Not to mention that John didn't really want to go. He'd have to answer the probing, shocked questions which were sure to be asked about what had happened between he and Mary, why they hadn't got married, why he'd ran off with Sherlock…
He scrubbed an agitated hand over his face, groaning, wishing he had the answers.
Sherlock had left some time ago, agitatedly muttering about the state of John's shirts and something about a lack of presence which had left John mystified as to what he meant.
John, nonplussed, had watched Sherlock quickly gather his things, avoiding eye contact with John all the while, before clattering down the stairs and slamming the front door behind him. He hadn't even paused to tell John where he was going. Or invite him along.
Sherlock had been gone an hour and John was already wishing he'd gone with him. Wherever Sherlock was, it had to be better than being here. Alone with his thoughts.
Because, try as he might, John kept replaying his meeting with Mary from earlier that day, torturing himself further as he remembered the hurt expression in her eyes. All her accusations about him and Sherlock. The blatant distrust she'd shown. The way her face had crumpled when she began crying. How she'd clung to him, sobbing-
John shut those thoughts down once again, running a hand through his hair and groaning. He needed something to do. Something to distract his brain with.
He was going stir-crazy.
Even watching telly held no appeal. The voices were just grating, pointless noise. The music too loud. The jokes off and not even remotely funny. John couldn't stand sitting still for another second and so continued to pace pointlessly around the empty flat.
His nerves itched with the need to be doing something but he had no sense of direction.
He needed a plan, John decided, passing the window again and pulling back the curtain. Nothing, had changed in the twenty seconds since he'd last looked, though. There was the same bland, grey concrete. A few new passersby. No one of interest.
John let the curtains fall back to their original position and pivoted away from the window, starting his repetitious march across the carpet and down the hall to Sherlock's bedroom- his and Sherlock's bedroom?- before turning again and walking through to the kitchen. He dodged his own armchair and dragged his feet as he neared the window. Again.
This time, John changed it up and didn't look outside. He'd look every other time, he resolved, wiping his palms against his jeans, his jaw set as he began his circuit again.
God, but he was going insane.
He needed something to do.
Looking at his blog was right out. John had glanced at it earlier, shortly after Sherlock had left, and the words of encouragement, of recrimination, of crowing triumph, had made him both laugh and cringe. It seemed most of London had been expecting he and Sherlock to get together and John didn't know how he felt about that.
A bit annoyed, truth be told. Who the hell were random strangers to think they knew him, think they knew his sexuality? Think that he should have been with Sherlock from day one?
The next time he got to Sherlock's bedroom, instead of turning around and walking back through to the kitchen, John went inside and sank down onto the side of the bed. He let his head drop to rest in his hands and allowed himself the barest of agonized groans.
What a colossal cock-up.
There were practicalities, essentials, to be taken care of now that he and Mary were no longer together. John knew there were things he should be doing…if he could just make his brain function.
His clothes were still at his and Mary's flat. As were all his possessions, come to think of it.
There wasn't any food in 221B. The idea of buying more reminded John that his money was tied up with Mary's in a joint bank account. Lovely.
Massaging his temples, where he felt the beginnings of a fabulous stress headache coming on, John wished he'd thought to grab a few of his clothes- just some shirts and clean pants- while he was at the flat that morning. He'd had a lot on his mind, though. It was understandable he hadn't…but he wasn't going back. Not now. Not when Mary was possibly still there. Crying her eyes out. Over him. Maybe in another day or two.
It'd be easier to just buy more, John thought, but, once again: money.
John whooshed out a deep breath and flopped back on the bed, bouncing slightly, his arms akimbo. It'd be best if he talked to Mary. Sorted everything out with her- all the bills and what to do with their flat and money and things…
If she would even talk to him.
John didn't blame her if she wouldn't.
He wouldn't even talk to himself right now if he were her.
He wondered if Mary would keep her engagement ring or pawn it. It couldn't be returned to the shop, of course, and John wasn't such a heel that he would ask for it back. He didn't want it, to tell the truth. She could keep it…he just wondered what she'd do with it.
He'd seen a film once where the woman had thrown her engagement ring into a lake after being spurned by her lover. It'd been poetic and romantic and seemed utterly stupid to John at the time. Maybe not so much now. Maybe Mary would gain a bit of closure that way.
John thought not.
He stared blankly up at the bedroom ceiling and pointlessly tried to remember the name of that film. It kept his mind from circling around all his other problems.
When should he call Mary? How could he make things better- was it even possible to make things better after what he'd done? How many of his friends were still his friends? What would he do when Sherlock got back? Would the awkwardness ever go away between them? Now that they were together, would they make each other happy…or drive each other crazy?
John felt entirely overwhelmed with the situation he'd put himself in.
He closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing, an almost-forgotten technique his therapist had tried teaching him years ago. He'd thought it was bollocks when she'd told him about it but had gone along to appease her and to save himself from a lecture. It was supposed to be relaxing, calming, and John obediently purged his mind of everything he was worrying over and concentrated on the steady rise and fall of his chest. Inflating and deflating his lungs. Breathing in the slightly musky smell of Sherlock's room and slowly…letting…it…out.
And just as slowly, as the minutes lengthened and John relaxed into the lulling silence of the flat, his mind ticked to what was really bothering him. The problem he was struggling with at the bottom of everything else.
Because as horrible as it seemed, John was more depressed and upset over the fact that he wasn't…more depressed.
He knew he should be feeling worse over what he'd done to Mary.
He shouldn't be feeling relief.
He shouldn't be feeling as if he'd just been given a second-chance at life. Deep down, he shouldn't be…happy.
John jolted at Mrs. Hudson's call, jumping off the bed and barely making it to the bedroom door before the lady in question popped her head around the corner.
"Oh! I'm sorry! Am I interrupting?"
"What? No! No, of course not. Sherlock's gone out so I was just…resting." He gestured behind him at the rumbled bed, giving Mrs. Hudson a fake, sunny smile. She'd already seen him yesterday depressed and upset. John didn't want her to see any more.
"Oh." Mrs. Hudson's smile morphed into something knowing and mischievous and she slyly winked. "I suppose you didn't get much sleep last night."
John, blinking rapidly as he tried to understand thathis sweet, former landlady had just eluded to he and Sherlock having sex, felt himself flushing. "I…No, no, that's not…" John trailed off and awkwardly cleared his throat, not sure where he was going with that sentence.
"I thought you might like a little dinner?" Mrs. Hudson asked, raising her eyebrows, apparently not aware of John's conundrum. "I know Sherlock doesn't keep anything edible in that hazard of a kitchen - though God knows I've tried to make him keep at least the bare essentials. You wouldn't believe how long he went last month without eating. I came upstairs one morning and found him hunched over that microscope, shaking and trembling all over. It looked like he was vibrating. And so pale." Mrs. Hudson shook her head, clucking her tongue. "Silly boy. He gets so caught up in those cases of his…Anyway, you must be famished."
"Uh…yeah. I guess I could eat." John muttered, frowning, and, at Mrs. Hudson's urging, followed her down the stairs to her flat. "When was that?"
"When Sherlock didn't eat?"
"Oof. When wasn't it?" Mrs. Hudson rolled her eyes indulgently. "You remember what he was always like, John. You couldn't get him to take more than a cup of tea and a biscuit on a good day. Then when he was in one of his moods...and when he was on a case! I told him, time and again, that he needed to eat but did he listen? Ignored me or shouted. I wasn't surprised he got so bad…"
Mrs. Hudson pulled pots and pans from her cabinets as she chatted, placing a few on the hob and a few more to the side, ready to be filled. John sank uneasily down into one of the kitchen chairs, guilt of another kind clawing at his gut.
It'd always been his place- he'd always been the one who badgered Sherlock to eat. Nagging at the consulting detective and reminding him that his body required him to subsist on something other than air. Sometimes, John had felt that without him Sherlock would have slowly wasted away.
Which was ridiculous. Sherlock was over thirty. He didn't need someone constantly telling him to eat.
John tried and failed to convince himself of that.
The idea of Sherlock spending days not eating, alone, haunting his flat filled with cardboard boxes of his belongings, wrapping himself so tightly into a case that he forgot to eat, made him feel unbearably sad.
"I thought we'd have roast and potatoes." Mrs. Hudson said happily, breaking into John's thoughts heedlessly. "Something filling for your- well, I suppose it's not your first night back but we still need to celebrate in some way." She giggled happily, giving John another bright, twinkling smile. "I'm sure you and Sherlock had fun celebrating last night." She winked and chuckled at John's carefully bland and neutral expression. "Care to chop up these carrots, dear?"
John pursed his lips, fighting another blush as he pulled the allotted carrots toward him and picked up the knife.
"I know it's not my place to say, John," Mrs. Hudson said, pausing in her dinner preparations to give John a Look, "but I am so glad to have you back. And I know Sherlock is too, whatever he may say. He was miserable without you."
John shifted, uncomfortable. "He seemed…fine. Before. Without me, I mean."
"You know better than that, John." She reprimanded lightly. "You know how Sherlock really is. He'd rather have everyone think he doesn't have feelings, but that's a lie. A deliberate sham. He feels things deeper than most people and your not being here… Well. As I said, it's not my place to say. But he's very glad you're back."
"I know he is." John said truthfully, eyes carefully trained on severing the vegetables in front of him, remembering Sherlock's quiet confession earlier that afternoon.
"I'm glad you're back."
Be still my beating heart, John thought sarcastically but with immense fondness and felt himself smiling, a warm bubble of happiness swelling in his chest at the memory.
He'd just opened his mouth to ask Mrs. Hudson if she were planning on making her mashed potatoes for dinner and was ready to very prettily beg the sweet lady to make them if she wasn't- when the front door banged open, startling them both, making Mrs. Hudson jump and flinch. They listened as hurried, heavy footsteps dashed up the stairs and stomped around in the flat upstairs.
"That must be Sherlock." Mrs. Hudson scooped up the freshly cut carrots and plunked them into the bubbling pot on the hob. "Would you care to go up and fetch him-"
The footsteps were suddenly racing back down the stairs and Sherlock burst through Mrs. Hudson's door without knocking, his cheeks flushed.
"Mrs. Hudson, have you seen Joh- Oh. There you are." Sherlock drew up short at the sight of John seated at the kitchen table and nodded awkwardly, looking slightly abashed. He pressed his lips into a thin line, eyes sweeping over the flat. "Well. I'll just. Go back upstairs-"
"Oh no you won't, young man." Mrs. Hudson cut in severely, brandishing a spoon and motioning Sherlock inside. "There's nothing edible in that flat of yours so I'm cooking dinner for us all. Why don't you make yourself useful and uncork that bottle of wine Mrs. Turner gave me on my last birthday?"
Sherlock hesitated in the doorway, looking heartrendingly unsure. He quickly glanced at John and John felt his entire face light up when their eyes met across the room. The heavy weight which had settled, relentlessly, on his chest and mind throughout the afternoon lifted slightly. John couldn't even be arsed to care if he looked stupid, grinning like a loon. He was bloody well happy to see Sherlock and he wasn't going to pretend otherwise.
Slowly, by creeping increments, Sherlock's face relaxed from his insecure frown and lightened. He smiled at John, his eyes crinkling at the corners, though something insecure still lingered about his eyes which made John's heart trip over in his chest, made him want to erase that look by any means necessary.
John wavered, uncertain, then stood and strode over to his friend- boyfriend- lover and clasped his hand, giving it a squeeze and tugging Sherlock down until he could slot their lips together for a brief peck, smiling at Sherlock's soft inhale of surprise.
He pulled away and smiled up at Sherlock, pleased to see the awful uncertainty melt away from Sherlock's eyes, replaced with something sweet and calm.
Sherlock squeezed John's hand before dropping it and, after giving Mrs. Hudson, who had paused in her cooking to stare approvingly and unabashedly at her two boys snog, a warning glare, stepped around John and opened the cabinet, pulling out the proffered bottle of wine from Mrs. Turner.
Mrs. Hudson returned to her cooking with an unconcealed, contented smile and John went back to his spectator seat at the table, unable to suppress his smile either.
"Oh! John- I never told you." Mrs. Hudson suddenly said. "You remember how hopeless Mrs. Turner was when it came to cooking? Always setting off the fire alarms and making us think we were about to be burned to a crisp in our beds?"
John nodded, allowing himself to relax into the warmth of Mrs. Hudson's kitchen, soothed by the smells emanating from the stove and the close proximity of Sherlock as he expertly uncorked the bottle of wine with a sharp pop.
"Well, on my birthday she decided to cook a surprise dinner for me. Of course you know how that ended…"
"Oh! And remember the time Sherlock dressed as the clown?" Mrs. Hudson hooted, actual tears of mirth running down her cheeks. She slapped the table as she laughed, rattling their empty dinner plates and almost upsetting the empty bottle of wine, gasping for breath as she remembered Sherlock, all six-feet plus of him, petulantly dressed as a happy clown. Complete with large rubber shoes.
"I think I still have a picture of that on my laptop." John choked, his own face red from laughing so hard, helplessly clutching his stomach. He couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed so much or so hard. All his worry and guilt from the afternoon had melted away under the combined effects of good food, good company, and swapping stories with Mrs. Hudson, interspersed with witty, dry remarks from Sherlock.
It felt good.
John felt warm. Relaxed. Happy. All was momentarily right with the world.
"You'll have to send it to me." Mrs. Hudson gasped, producing a hankie from her sleeve and wiping her eyes with it. "I'll have to frame it. It'll look wonderful on the mantle."
John snorted and looked beside him to see how Sherlock, who had remained stone-faced throughout their entire story and ensuing laughing fit, would take being forever immortalized in such a way.
"I think it's time we were going." Sherlock deadpanned, standing, towering over his inebriated landlady and his slightly tipsy John.
"Going so soon? I was going to ask John if he remembered the time you had the client-"
"With the mysterious on-line girlfriend?" John asked, gleefully grinning. He knew which case Mrs. Hudson was talking about.
"And Sherlock made the on-line dating profile to flush him out-"
"And instead got sent some decidedly naughty pictures from a very interested grandfatherly gentleman?"
John and Mrs. Hudson both dissolved into laughter again and Sherlock, staring into the middle distance long-sufferingly, felt his lips twitch into a small smile despite himself.
"I don't understand why he even bothered sending them. It wasn't as if one was actually able to see his-"
"Sherlock!" Mrs. Hudson waved her hands helplessly, patting at her eyes again. "Please. I don't want to know-"
"Trust me. You don't." John assured her, grinning. "It was bad enough Sherlock made me look."
"Made you look?"
"Yeah. He got mad that I laughed at him so he-"
"I changed the background of his mobile with one of the more…visually stunning photographs." Sherlock put in, smiling wickedly at John.
"Yeah, 'cause there's something so visually stunning about pink lace knickers on a man old enough to be my grandfather." John quipped, rolling his eyes and fondly watching Mrs. Hudson dissolve into laughter again.
"Oh." Mrs. Hudson finally sighed, sniffing and smiling up at her boys, "it's just like old times, isn't it? All us together and you two bickering." She held out her hands and John and Sherlock, after glancing at each other, each took one.
"You must promise me never to leave again, and only be gone for no more than a few days. Unless it's your honeymoon. Then I'll gladly watch little Hamish and Sherrinford."
"What-?" John glanced at Sherlock, bemused, but the genius was already rolling his eyes and tugging their landlady to her feet.
"Come on, Mrs. Hudson. I think you're ready for bed."
"You may be right, dear." Mrs. Hudson hiccupped happily, patting Sherlock's cheek and reaching over to pinch John's. "I think I'm rather tired."
"Inebriated, more likely." Sherlock muttered and he and John exchanged grins over Mrs. Hudson's nodding head.
After they'd made sure Mrs. Hudson could finish getting ready for bed on her own, John and Sherlock said goodnight and left her to sleep off her intoxication. They quietly closed the door behind them and John followed Sherlock up the stairs to their- their- flat.
It was dark, all the lights off, and John paused in the doorway and watched Sherlock walk away from him.
He felt relaxed after the evening spent laughing and reminiscing. Contented in a way he hadn't felt in a long time. It was a perfect relief from the turmoil he'd been in earlier that day and John realized, watching Sherlock pause and turn back to stare at him, what he wanted.
He wanted Sherlock.
He'd wanted him all along. He'd denied it, hidden it, buried it, and tried to forget about it. He'd lied about it, sworn against it, believed it would never be his.
It could be his. It was his. All he had to do was reach out and take it.
John stepped forward. Sherlock was still in front of him, eyes flicking over his body in the dark.
John rose up on his toes- ridiculous but necessary considering their heights- and, swaying forward, pressed his lips again Sherlock's.
He felt Sherlock stiffen in surprise and John wondered how long it would take before Sherlock wasn't surprised every time they kissed, when it just became natural. He couldn't wait.
"I want you." He murmured against Sherlock's lips and his stomach clenched in desire at the convulsive shudder he felt work its way through Sherlock's body.
"Yes?" John asked, trying to make out Sherlock's face in the darkness of the flat, wanting to know how he looked, try and decide what he was feeling, but he could only see the vague outline of one alabaster cheek. John pressed a gentle kiss against it reverently.
"Yes." Sherlock shakily exhaled against John's ear and John threaded their fingers together and pulled Sherlock toward the bedroom.