There's only this. Right now. Tonight...
AN: Here we are, friends. The last chapter in this installment. You have all been so patient with me, and I hope you all enjoy it. Thank you all so so much for your encouragement and for seeing me through this every step of the way. There will definitely be more on the way. I'm not done with Jane and Sherlock just yet! Oh and it was the weirdest thing, as I was writing the end of this chapter Adele's 'Set Fire to the Rain' came on the radio and I nearly died with how perfect it was. So you should listen to it. I forgot how amazing that song is.
Anyway. Without further ado...
The taxi ride was silent all the way back to the flat. Sherlock was a mirror image of Jane, turned likewise to stare out of his window from across the seat, but instead of observing the London cityscape at night, he opted to observe her in the reflection of the glass.
She holds herself stiffly, her back ramrod straight, and the fingers of her left hand curled into a tight ball in her lap. A perpetual frown darkens her brow, and she stares out her own window without really seeing. He can tell her shoulder is bothering her by the way she subconsciously hitches it higher than the other one, and this alone has Sherlock's anger spiking again. He pictures her tied to that hateful chair — her arms pulled back at an unnatural angle, wrists rubbed raw — and grits his teeth. He wants to dig his fingers into her shoulder and knead away the ache; he wants to hold her hands and sooth the rope burns with his caress; he wants to get her to say something, anything, to make sure she's really truly there sitting next to him. But most of all, he wants to pull her close to him and forget what could have happened if he hadn't reached her in time.
He does none of these things, however.
Instead he presses his fist almost painfully into his thigh and tries not to think about how utterly compromised he is. (Consumed, overwhelmed, devastated by her all-encompassing presence.)
There are no excuses for what happened tonight. None whatsoever. For the second time in his life he foolishly let someone in, and they had laid to ruin the sharp workings of his mind, the detritus of sentiment left clinging to his once stalwart logic. There's no reason why he shouldn't have solved this case sooner, no reason why he let Shan get away. He did this to himself; he let down his walls, and Jane almost paid with her life. It was unacceptable.
But he had been here before already, hadn't he? He had tried to talk himself into making her leave once before, and it didn't work.
Or more accurately, he talked himself into believing that he functioned better with her around in the end. In her absence the Work would suffer, surely, and it was a relief to have something other than cocaine to keep the hateful ennui that stretched out between cases at bay. (Most everyone would agree with him on that front, at least.) Despite what he thought, Jane was now necessary. Full-stop.
So here he was. At a bloody impasse with himself.
(It seemed as if he was well and truly fucked. As the saying goes.)
The cab pulls up to the kerb, and Sherlock pays the driver before following Jane up to the front door. She stands on the top step for a moment looking down at her left hand. She flexes her fingers, willing the tremor to ease, and Sherlock pauses before unlocking the door.
"Jane?" he says, and her head snaps up. Sherlock can see the exhaustion in the corners of her eyes, and the tension in her mouth.
"What?" she asks. She clenches her hand again. Sherlock looks at her, and gently circles her now-bandaged wrist with his fingers.
"Yes I —" She closes her eyes and breathes out steadily through her nose. "I know."
He lets go and opens the door for her, hanging back as Jane ascends the stairs. He makes sure to lock the door securely behind him before following her up to the flat.
Jane stands in the middle of the sitting room, her arms folded tightly across her chest as if she were warding off a chill. She's still wearing his coat, and she clutches it to her even more. He follows her gaze, and sees what she is looking at: the windows. A shudder runs through her as she takes in the horrid yellow paint.
"I'll wash them," Sherlock says coming to stand next to her. She looks at him with a wry, sceptical expression.
"You will, will you?"
"Well…Mycroft will get someone. He owes me," Sherlock says rocking onto the balls of his feet.
Jane huffs out a laugh and wipes a hand over her face. "Lazy prat," she says affectionately. She looks up at him with a smile like the sun slowly parting the clouds, and the previous darkness gathered in her hazel eyes dissipates little by little. (He feels a warm ball in the centre of his chest at seeing this smile that he files it away for further inspection.)
"I'm going to go take a shower," Jane finally says and shrugs out of his coat. She hands it to him. "Thank you for saving my life. And well, not dying," she says ruefully. He simply nods, and watches as she walks down the hall to the bathroom. He looks down at the coat in his hands and frowns at the bit of dried blood on the cuff. Jane's blood. (Wrong. So wrong.)
He hangs it up by the door.
"Eventful night," Inspector Lestrade says from the hallway making him jump. He didn't even hear him come up the stairs. More importantly —
"How the hell did you get in?" Sherlock snaps, instantly on the defensive.
"Oh please. I've had a key to this place since you've moved in."
"Mrs. Hudson," Sherlock says. (Meddling landlady. Good intentions; highly annoying.)
"Mrs. Hudson," Lestrade confirms walking the rest of the way into the flat. "Dimmock still needs a statement out of you. And Shan is nowhere to be found."
"If you came here to state the obvious, Inspector you'll find that you are wasting your time," Sherlock says.
"Okay," Lestrade clips. "You like facts, don't you? Well here's one for you. Fact: what happened tonight was a fucking train wreck, Sherlock."
Sherlock whips away from the Inspector and makes his way across the room, anger roiling under his skin. He kicks over a stack of books that was sitting next to the desk in a poor attempt at letting out his frustration.
"Why are you here?" he snarls, and presses his palms onto the worktop glaring at the window in front of him.
"Where's Jane?" Lestrade barks, cutting to the chase. There is a ragged and barely contained anger residing just under the surface of his tone.
"She's fine," Sherlock says.
"According to who?!" Lestrade erupts, incensed. "She bloody well got kidnapped and tied to a chair in a goddam tunnel!"
Sherlock hangs his head between his shoulders. "I guess you've been keeping tabs on me through Dimmock," he says spearing the k at the end of the word. "And here I thought you weren't my keeper?"
"You're a goddam idiot, did you know that? What were you thinking going in without backup?" Lestrade shouts ignoring this. "I mean, a fucking crossbow, Sherlock? She could have been killed!" Sherlock balls his fists, crushing various papers at his disposal in his hands. "Are you even listening to me? Jane could have died."
"I KNOW!" Sherlock roars spinning around.
Lestrade isn't fazed, and he stalks up to Sherlock and shoves him in the chest. "I thought we had an agreement, Sherlock! Last time I told you, I bloody well told you what would happen if I thought you were using her as bait —"
"Bait?" Sherlock says, incredulous. "You think I was using her as bait?"
"I wouldn't put it past you for a second," he spits.
"Because you would know all about using people to further yourself, wouldn't you, Lestrade?" Sherlock says narrowing his eyes.
Lestrade clenches his jaw and looks away. "You and me. This. We're done," he says through bared teeth.
"So-so what? That's it? I'm ousted from Scotland Yard?"
"You bet your arse."
"See how well you do without me, then! If it weren't for me you would still be behind a desk, or trailing after Gregson as a bloody sergeant!" Sherlock accuses, rage coursing through his veins.
"Come off your high horse. You really think I made Inspector solely by taking advice from a junkie?" Lestrade scoffs looking at him pointedly.
"I'm clean," he snarls, lips pulling back from his teeth.
"Yeah for now. You don't necessarily have a good reputation when it comes to staying clean. Your problem is you think you're above it all, but you're no better than any ordinary addict," he says pressing harder. Sherlock tries not to blanch at this. "That's all it is to you, chasing the next high. You're a liability, Sherlock, and I can't just keep waiting around for you to kill yourself. Or someone else."
"I don't need to listen to this tripe!" Sherlock says and makes to go around the Inspector. Lestrade clamps his hand around his bicep and yanks him back.
"If I were to search your flat right now would I come up empty handed?"
Sherlock glares at him, but he can't help it when his gaze flickers over to the violin case on the desk. And damn Lestrade for being a somewhat decent detective for noticing. (He was adept at the most inconvenient times.) Recognition crosses his face, and he looks at the case.
"Uncle Greg?" Jane's voice suddenly interrupts from the kitchen as she walks cautiously out into the sitting room. She wraps her fluffy bathrobe more securely around her. "What's going on?"
Sherlock jerks his arm out of Lestrade's grasp, and straightens his suit jacket. "Yes, Lestrade. Would you care to explain what's going on?"
The Inspector doesn't say anything. Instead he steels himself and marches over to the violin case, angrily flipping up the latches. Sherlock looks on, trying to maintain an air of disinterest even as Lestrade's deft fingers pry open the hidden compartment. He tucks his hands into his trouser pockets casually, even though every fibre of his being is on tenterhooks.
A frown creases Lestrade's face, and after a moment he comes away with nothing, shaking his head in disbelief. He huffs a bitter laugh, and Sherlock's mind kicks into overdrive. (He didn't find it. Yes! Wait. How could he not have? It was just there a few days ago.)
"Greg?" Jane prompts once again. She looks between them warily.
"I — nothing. My mistake," Lestrade says, closing the case with a snap. He comes over to her and puts his hands on her shoulders, peering into her face. "Are you all right?"
"Yes. Just tired," she says her tone even. Sherlock doesn't miss how carefully she forms the words, however, belying her lingering unease.
"Your fears assuaged, Inspector?" Sherlock sneers. Jane shoots him a look over the other man's shoulder. Lestrade ignores him, and ducks his head so he could talk softly to Jane. Sherlock turns his back in disgust and leans against the wall to look out the window as best he can due to the paint. He can't make out what they're saying, but after a few moments, Jane ushers him out. "Good riddance," he murmurs under his breath as he watches Lestrade cross the street to his cruiser and drive off.
He doesn't turn around even when Jane sighs from behind him. He hears her make her way across the sitting room, and watches out of the corner of his eye as she busies her self with something on the mantle. After a moment, she comes up behind him, and he catches the scent of her shampoo: citrus and roses. Sherlock finds that the vitriol in his head and the buzz in his limbs starts to fade despite himself.
"So…a hairpin?" Jane says eventually, penetrating the dense silence. She folds her arms in front of her chest and looks likewise out of the window.
"I should have put it together sooner," Sherlock says. "It was one of the items up for auction on the website. Obvious. Van Coon's PA was wearing it right in front of me." He reaches into his pocket and turns around, finally. He holds out the bent beaded comb. "It was this that reminded me."
Jane takes it, a haunted ghost of a smile hovering on her lips for a moment before vanishing once more. She runs her thumb along the crushed metal rose before setting it on the desk. She meets his gaze with her own, and silently pulls something out of her own pocket.
Sherlock starts when she places the small packet of powder into his hand. His immediate reaction is anger, but it is quickly cut off by a cold stone of worry settling in his chest. "How did you find this?"
"My sister's an alcoholic, remember? I know all the tricks," she says plainly. Already there is an indignant retort, an explanation at the fore front, ready to lash out and defend, but Jane holds up her hand. "I'm not — I'm not going to take it from you."
"Of course not," Sherlock bites out. "I'd like to see you try."
She arches an eyebrow. "Let me rephrase; I don't want to take it from you," she says.
"I — what?" Sherlock says reeling back slightly. (Unexpected. Incongruous to all that Jane is. Doctor, healer, soldier, protector.) "Yes you do. Don't lie."
"No I don't," Jane says simply. "Okay I'll admit I don't want you to have it at all, but this, if I take this, it isn't about the cocaine at all. It's about control."
"Control? What do you mean?"
She looks at him, a small frown creasing her brow, and shifts on her feet. "All your life you've been at the mercy of other people; choosing what they think is best for you, making decisions on your behalf. You keep this bit of powder around not to use it, no. You keep it to remind yourself that it's you who is the one choosing not to take it. Not because of Mycroft and his ultimatums, or Lestrade and his threats, but simply becauseyou decide."
Sherlock's mouth goes dry and he looks down at the packet in his hand. "How could you possibly know that?"
"I ran away to join the Army, remember? I know what it's like to constantly be pinned under someone else's expectations," she smiles sadly. "and I'll be damned if I'm just another person in your life that dictates what you should or shouldn't do. It would kill me if that's all I was." She breaks off suddenly self-conscious, and her gaze skitters away.
"Jane…" he says and trails off. What can he say? For once in his life he is speechless; rendered apart and utterly seen by another human being. (He's tried, oh he's tried to keep her out, but she single handedly toppled every strong hold he's built for himself. How does she do that?) 'If that's all she was.' Preposterous. Can't she see that she is so much more than that? He reaches out and turns her face towards him.
She is everything in these quiet moments. And it's so obvious.
He swallows thickly. It's clear to everyone how much she means to him, even (and especially) his enemies. Tonight was proof of that. He pushes down the cold lump of fear, and allows himself to caress her cheek with his thumb before he makes himself turn away.
"Thank you," he says to the window. It's starting to rain, the patter of rain drops a hateful white noise to his ears. He closes his eyes.
"Just…" Jane's voice hitches, and she breathes deeply to compose herself. He tears his gaze away from the devastated look on her face in the reflection. "I'm here. I want to be. I've never wanted to be for someone before, but I do. For you. If – if not indefinitely, then at least for tonight, know that I am."
Sherlock doesn't say anything as she turns and makes her way up to her bedroom. He crushes the bag of powder hard in his fist and clenches his jaw almost painfully. Every step of hers as they carry her away is like a spike of pain beneath his rib, pounding in time with each footfall.
(He wanted to go to her. Oh, how he wanted. But he couldn't. There was too much risk involved for him. For her.)
With a wordless growl his flings open the window and tears at the plastic bag, releasing the white powder into the howling wind. He feels suddenly sick as the last vestiges of bitter cocaine cling to his fingers.
He shuts the window and presses his forehead to the cold glass.
Jane tumbles into a restless sleep wrought with exploding mortars, desert sand, and Chinese women with painted faces. Sherlock's face swims up to the surface just out of reach, eyes magnesium bright, and every time she gets close he vanishes like vapour. Suddenly the dreams change and she running through the streets of London, down alley after dark alley, fruitlessly searching, always searching…
There is an insistent pounding from somewhere, pulling her from the grasp of unconsciousness, and she startles awake just as her door opens with a bang. She scrambles to an upright position against her headboard clutching the duvet to her chest.
"Sherlock…?" she says taking in the tall figure outlined silver in the street light pouring though her window. He pants slightly, out of breath having just run up the stair.
"You said…you said…" he flounders, shifting on his feet. Jane gets out of bed and stands there with her arms across her chest, worried. Lightening acrs across the sky temporarily illuminating her room, and she is able to see the flash of his eyes boring into her with all the intensity of the storm outside. She shivers, decidedly not from the cold.
"Sherlock?" she says again and takes a few hesitant steps towards him.
"At least for tonight," he finally says, barely above a whisper. Jane's eyesight is finally adjusting to the dimness, and she doesn't miss how it seems as if Sherlock is holding himself back, his posture taut yet leaning forward just so.
She frowns at first, not sure what he means when her words come back to her.
'At least for tonight…know that I am…'
"Yes," she breathes, and suddenly they are both breaching the distance between each other in a clash of hands and arms in a clumsy embrace. She feels herself being pulled tightly against him, strong arms wrapping around her waist, and damp breath on her cheek. She can't help her hands from roving up his chest and up that long column of neck before cradling his face between her palms, thumbs caressing those impossible cheekbones.
Sherlock presses their foreheads together like he did earlier that night in the tunnel. He takes a quaking breath, air stuttering out of his lungs before he speaks. "I don't do these things, Jane," he says, voice rumbling like thunder.
"I know. I know," she whispers.
"There's too much at stake," he says.
Jane closes her eyes and swallows around a lump in her throat. "I know," she says again, her heart sinking when she realises he's right. Tonight, she put multiple people at risk simply due to her association with him. It was inexcusable, and Jane tries to push away the awful images of Sherlock's broken body and blank eyes. This was a reality that could never happen.
"There's only this. Right now. Tonight," he says feverishly. His arms tighten around her even more, and the sky lights up again with crackling electricity.
"Tonight," she confirms, gathering her strength and her courage. It was only one night, but she would take it — anything he had to give. She pulls back a little, and cards her fingers through his hair, a few tears escaping from the corners of her eyes. "Please?"
And then his lips are on hers with bruising force as he all but drinks her in. She kisses back with equal frevour, small sipping kisses at first before tentatively touching her tongue to the seam of his mouth. He moans, and parts his lips, his own tongue sampling hers.
Jane's blood sizzles through her veins, and Sherlock walks them backwards until her legs hit the mattress. She sits heavily, and scoots back, dragging him on top of her by his rumpled dress shirt so she can continue to explore the silken depths of that mouth — that mouth that's always so sharp, always so witty, and for once, completely silent yet no less expressive as he sighs and gasps, nipping and lapping at her own.
He balances on his forearms, pushing his fingers into her hair, and she arches up, suddenly needing him closer. She hooks her leg around the back of his knee, and throws her arms around him, pulling him down even further until they are flush and she can feel his heart hammering wildly against her own.
She buries her face in the crook of his neck, and tries to stop herself from shaking apart. All of the fear and anxiety of the past few hours pours out of her simultaneously in a flood of emotion and it's suddenly too much. Her tears stream down her face full force, and soak into his collar.
"Jane?" he asks, pulling back. He brushes the hair away from her face, and she slams her eyes shut against the deep ache in her chest.
"So – sorry," she trembles. "I'm sorry I —"
"Shh, shh," he soothes and presses a kiss to her brow. "It's all right, I've got you. Shh." He presses another kiss to the corner of her mouth, and manoeuvres them so they are laying face to face, sweeping the duvet over them in a sort of protective cocoon. He tangles their legs together and draws her closer still, a hand cupping her face, thumb brushing over her lips and cheek. "Sleep, Jane," he whispers.
"I don't want to," she murmurs catching his elegant hand in hers, kissing his palm and the tops of his knuckles. She burrows into his chest breathing him in as she calms down under his anchoring presence. Despite herself, she feels exhaustion prickling at her eyelids. "Will you stay?"
"As long as I can," he promises. She tightens her hold on his shirt and tilts her head up one last time to brush her lips chastely against his.
She settles into the cove of his body, already drifting to the sound rain and the lull of his steady breathing.
She knows that by morning everything will go back to the way it was, but for now, she can imagine her light and her world are tucked securely in her arms.
For now, it is enough.