I haven't written Johnlock in a while, and this was supposed to be 'short and angsty'. Well, it fits the angsty, but not so much the short. There will be at least one more part. Warnings for mentions of child abuse, foster care, sexual abuse. Teenlock!AU set in the US. Oh, and also asexual!Sherlock.

Just a note on asexuality - there's some stigma out there that abused people are more likely to be ace. I don't consider my background having an influence on my sexuality. To me, they're completely separate entities. Just to confirm that I'm not intentionally reinforcing a stereotype.

Sherlock held the vial to the window, to the sunlight streaming through, examining the contents, the purity. He had done his research, knew what to look for. Knew what he was in for, with the contents of the vial. It had started slow, innocuous. Sherlock hadn't even noticed it until it was too late. Hadn't noticed just how much danger he was in until the blonde-haired boy had completely invaded every aspect of his life.

He picked up the syringe next to him, examined it, checking the markings on the side, how much he could draw up. It wasn't until every time he touched John that it felt like his skin was on fire, like he was burning, like his body was completely, utterly focused on that one, single point, that Sherlock noticed. That he realised just how far he had fallen. How he had gone from untouchable, aloof, full of hatred for the rest of society, to rendered a witless moron by a single smile from the simpleton John Watson.

Slipping the needle into the capped vial, he drew up the dosage he wanted, double and triple checking. He inhaled sharply, setting both the vial and the syringe aside, and wrapped a thin piece of rubber about his arm. Some people would call it an irrational reaction to being in love - if that's what Sherlock wanted to call it. He didn't. It was an undeniable attraction, and one he had fought so hard to ignore. He didn't want to deal with emotions, didn't want to deal with love. The only solution would be to make it go away. There was only one way he knew how to make it stop.

He had hidden himself away, where no one could find him. He was alone. Flicking at his arm, he searched for a suitable vein. He had blown most of them in the past, but he was able to feel one. He knew how it went, being high. It made the world fade away, made it so that nothing mattered. John would probably be worried. Maybe try and find him. But Sherlock was safe. John and his feelings of warmth, safety, security - they couldn't reach him. He couldn't see John's smile, couldn't feel his touch. Couldn't feel the lurch in his stomach as John grinned madly when Sherlock caused the chem lab to be evacuated. Couldn't feel the sizzling along his skin when John rested a hand on his shoulder when he was standing next to him. It would all be gone.

He slid the needle into the vein, pulling back on the plunger just a bit to make sure, allowing a faint pink tinge to colour the fluid. Didn't want to risk blowing a perfectly good vein, not when he had so few. It would be like the era Before John, where the world was pain and fear, blood and hatred. Sherlock had escaped, had transferred to a new school, a new family - the Lestrades. But it erased nothing. It didn't erase the flinching, the looks, the fear. Everyone knew who he was and what had happened to him. Except for John. Not at first, at least. That was why he sat with Sherlock at lunch. Grinned at him. Asked him how his day was. Associated with the tarnished, the broken.

The door slammed open and Sherlock jerked so hard the needle nearly broke in his skin. As it was, it slipped out of the vein, and he scowled, lifting his head of tousled curls to glare fiercely at the unwelcome invader. He inhaled sharply when he saw who it was. The syringe was grabbed out of his hand, vial picked up and thrown across the room before strong, warm arms wrapped around him, gathered him close. "No," John said fiercely, something dark and desperate in his voice that made Sherlock's stomach clench uncomfortably.

Sherlock pushed away from him, from the touch that set fire racing through his body, stood up, not allowing himself to savour the good that lingered underneath the bad. He didn't deserve it, none of it. He didn't want it, he reminded himself fiercely. None of it. "Go away," he told the other boy, proud that his voice didn't waver.

"No." Sherlock could hear John cross his arms over his chest, hear the steely defiance. "I know what you're going to do, the moment I leave."

"If you aren't going to leave, I'll just go somewhere else," Sherlock replied cooly, lifting his light-coloured eyes to meet John's.

John, who played both rugby and soccer regularly, simply uncrossed his arms, went towards the door, barricading it by standing in front of it, a small figure, the lone soldier. "I bet I can." The silence stretched between them, long and fraught with unresolved tension. It had been building, and Sherlock had done his best to ignore it, had done his best to pretend that nothing was going to happen, because it was only going to end up being painful and ripping his heart apart. "Sherlock, talk to me."

"About what." His voice was cold and hard. He turned, walked to the small bed in the shed, threw himself down on it, using the comforter as a shield. Petulant and childish, yes. But it was a defense nonetheless. He didn't want to see John, didn't want to see the disappointment, the hatred, when he realized that Sherlock was nothing but used and tarnished goods. He wasn't worth sticking around for.

Soft footsteps echoed as John walked closer to the bed and Sherlock stiffened. John must have seen it, for he stopped. "Did you do your homework for biology today?" he asked conversationally. "Because I'm stuck on the question about mitochondria."

Sherlock allowed the comforter to drop, just a bit, and turned over, facing John. For a moment, a tentative peace was re-established. "You're lying," he said curtly. "Biology's your best subject."

"Maybe." John chuckled. "Let's get you out of here."

"No." Sherlock moved, lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. The truce that had been established moments before evaporated into thin air. "I'm not leaving." John's sigh was audible. "Why don't you just go? I'm sure Mary's waiting for you," he spat out. John had been seen twice, in the past week, with the same girl. A simple, sweet, blonde-haired girl named Mary. She seemed the sort that John would like, but it had made bile rise in his throat every time Sherlock saw them together.

John walked closer, and Sherlock scrambled to grab the comforter and wrap it firmly around him. He scooted as far back as he could, to prevent John from touching him. John was good. John was light, and warmth. He couldn't be sullied by Sherlock, not more than he already had been. "Sherlock, Mary and I aren't dating."

Sherlock frowned. "Of course you are."

"We're not." John's weight settled onto the edge of the bed. Sherlock inhaled sharply, fighting the myriad of emotions that were welling in him. He wanted closer, wanted farther away, wanted John curled up against him, holding him, kissing him, the same time he wanted John to never touch him again. His breath came faster and faster, his heartbeat pounding in his ears, and the world threatened to spin, his chest tightening as the panic set in. "Sherlock." John's voice was quiet, comforting, and the soft tones of it wrapped around Sherlock like a security blanket. He clung to it, with all of his mind, as much as he was able to. "Silly git," John murmured affectionately.

"I'm not silly," Sherlock snapped, ignoring the fact he was wrapped up in a comforter and blankets like a toddler and looked rather childish.

"Sherlock, it's you I wan-"

Sherlock tensed, tight as a whip, and bolted up, shoving John off the bed with the force of his actions. "Don't," he hissed through clenched teeth, fighting waves of panic, of dark thoughts, fear and loathing floating up unhindered. "Don't say that."

John lay sprawled on the floor, ashen, dark blue eyes wide as he stared up at his - what was he to Sherlock? What was Sherlock to him? Sherlock's breath was coming rapidly, his teeth chattering, his body convulsing as it shook, caught in the throes of a panic attack. Sherlock's eyes fluttered closed, chest heaving, and he fought to move, to grasp, to have something to hold onto. The bed shifted, moved, something Sherlock barely registered, until he felt hands gently take his.

He inhaled sharply in surprise, fingers instinctively digging nails into the soft skin. He heard a muted groan from the other person, from John, but he didn't let go, didn't stop touching Sherlock. The touch felt - odd, felt like his skin was burning, tingling radiating from the point of contact and spreading a warmth throughout his entire body. He felt like he was sinking into the bed, like he was soaring, like he could do anything, if only John was by his side. It made him nauseous, made him sick, and he swallowed hard, his throat dry. "Stop."

John carefully twined their hands together, smoothing thumbs over Sherlock's too-pale skin. "Breathe for me."

A shaky inhale, and Sherlock fought to gather his attention, draw together the shattered fragments of his mind to focus on the way his skin met John's, how the rough skin brushed against the smoothness of his own. He exhaled slowly, feeling the tremours subside, his body losing some of its tenseness as it accommodated and adapted to John's touch. "That's it," John encouraged, a smile on his face, one Sherlock dared not match. What exactly, was he supposed to be doing? Oh. Breathing. Sherlock crinkled his nose, the barest amount. How utterly pedestrian.

It wasn't long enough before Sherlock was calm, and he could feel John loosen the grip on his hands, no longer focused on securing him, anchoring him in the midst of his panic attack. They sat in silence for a long time, breathing together, Sherlock clutching John's hands, too scared to let go in case John left and didn't come back. Finally, John shifted, peering down at his friend, and Sherlock reluctantly returned the eye contact, afraid of what John would see.

Staring at John was different. John was strong, and protective, and fierce, and Sherlock could see all of that. He was afraid John saw him as he felt - broken and empty, not worthy of anyone's time or affection. John lifted their hands, squeezed them, deliberate, then let go. It felt like Sherlock had lost a connection, been set adrift, but he said nothing, didn't fight. He watched, listened, observed.

"Let's go," John murmured. "Let's get you home."

Sherlock hadn't hidden far from his foster home, which in retrospect, was probably a bad idea. Then again, he had no idea that John had even known where to look. He still had no idea how John had found him. Silently he stood and picked up his jacket, ignoring the drug paraphernalia, ignoring what had almost happened. It hadn't and that was all he chose to think about it. John watched, steady and warm, supportive at the same time he was nonthreatening.

They walked towards Sherlock's foster home in quiet contemplation. Occasionally their shoulders brushed, and when Sherlock flinched away, John didn't say anything. If he caught Sherlock watching him, he offered a soft, warm smile that stoked the fire in Sherlock's belly, made him want, made him need. He was torn between passion and hatred, two emotions that often coexisted. Eventually they stood at the end of the driveway, exchanging glances. "Do you want me to come with?" John asked, gentle.

What Sherlock really wanted was none of it to happen, for nothing to exist, for pain and uncertainty and confusion to be emotions of the past. But he knew it wasn't realistic, and above all, Sherlock defaulted to logic and its conclusions. He took a deep breath, slipped a hand into John's, feeling brave for the first time in a long time. It wasn't much, and the contact scared him, the thought of what it meant causing his breath to hitch in his throat. He nodded, and John squeezed, reassuring, and took the first step towards Sherlock's living quarters.

Greg, his foster father, had been suitably angry, but it was an odd sort of anger, more like a slow simmer. Sherlock's older brother Mycroft was just as worried but obnoxiously so, having quickly deduced where Sherlock had been and what he had been attempting to do. John was considered a hero, Sherlock his corruptor. All in all, Sherlock had muttered rebelliously to himself, business as usual.

The next day, however, when Sherlock went to school, it wasn't the same. Something was different. Something had changed, between him and John, because of the time in that small shed. The giddiness that attempted to consume him whenever he saw his friend had become lighter, happier, as if there was less of a burden weighing it down. John slid into the chair next to him during the final class, and Sherlock nearly jumped out of his skin. Instead he pulled slightly in towards himself, reluctant, and flipped open their biology textbook. It was John's best subject.

Before he knew it John was slamming the book shut since class was over, sticking it in his bag and standing expectantly, waiting for Sherlock to catch up. "Do you wanna do something?" John asked amicably, his backpack already slung over his shoulder.

"No," Sherlock replied shortly, picking up his gray messenger bag and slinging it over his shoulder.

"Alright, we can just hang out at your place." John seemed unruffled by Sherlock's curt tone, and Sherlock scowled at him.

"Greg wouldn't allow it," Sherlock deflected. There. It was true. Greg certainly wouldn't allow Sherlock company, not after last night.

"Yes he would," John replied with a cheeky grin. "Already asked him." He slid his hand into Sherlock's and led their way out of the school. Sherlock blinked, startled. When? What? Why? John wanted to spend more time with him? He narrowed his eyes. There was obviously something else going on here, some sort of motive he simply wasn't picking up on.

They spent the rest of the day in Sherlock's bedroom, Sherlock reluctantly drawn out of his desire to be antisocial by John's eager academic discussions. Sherlock was loathe to be quiet when there was the potential that John could be spreading misinformation about the DNA replication cycle. Eventually John bade Sherlock goodbye, leaving the tall, dark-haired teen sprawled on his bed, one of their more focused biology textbooks spread out in front of him.

There was a knock on the door. "Go away," Sherlock muttered immediately, eyes captured by the helix decorating the page he was on.

The door opened and Greg stepped in, closing it partially behind him. He grabbed the chair from Sherlock's desk and moved it to the center of the room. Sherlock's room was abnormally clean, everything meticulously put away. Not that he had much, anyway. The Lestrades were his fifth foster family in six months. He never stayed anywhere for long. Still, at least Greg was nice. It wasn't like Marie, his wife, was around much, not anymore.

"How was school today?" Greg asked. Sherlock made a disparaging noise, turned his face away. Hopefully if he ignored Greg, the older man would go away and leave him alone. It had worked on all the others. He heard him sigh, heard the chair squeak as he rearranged himself. "Sherlock, we need to talk."

Sherlock closed his eyes, at that. His hands balled into fists. He wasn't going to cry. He refused to cry. Too many times he'd allowed himself to hope, to think that maybe, just maybe, he had found a family that wouldn't shove him out the door the moment things got rough. "When's the social worker coming?" Sherlock asked coolly, voice muted by the fabric his face was pushed against.

"What?" Greg seemed genuinely puzzled, and for a moment, Sherlock felt hope flare in his heart. He shoved it back down.

"You're getting rid of me, right?" Pushing himself up, he turned so that his head rested on his elbow, propping him up so that he could meet Greg's eyes. "I'm too tough for you. Too broken." He spat out the last word like it was poison, and in a way, it was. Sherlock knew the statistics now, that said that he wasn't going to make it, that he was going to have the roughest time. Those that were pulled as teenagers always did. That wasn't even taking into account his history.

"Sherlock, you're not broken," Greg said quietly. "I'm not - as you put it - 'getting rid' of you." Sherlock's eyes narrowed, searching Greg's face for any sign that he was being dishonest. There was nothing but an open sort of honesty that caused Sherlock to tense uncomfortably. He was used to deceit, to people lying and taking advantage. Someone - a normal person, who couldn't hide from him - that sort of person confused him. There had to be something behind it. Some motive he couldn't read. "John's a good sort, isn't he?"

Sherlock's shrug was barely noticeable, as he was laying on the bed. John was more than just a good sort. He was all that was good, all that was light and wonderful. That was why Sherlock couldn't be near him. That was why they shouldn't be together. He wasn't good for him. Greg smiled faintly, just the lift of a corner of his lips, and Sherlock scowled.

"You're not polluting him. He's not going to catch anything, being round you," Greg started, stopping when Sherlock lifted himself up into a sitting position, glaring fiercely at the older man.

"How would you know?" Sherlock snapped. "You don't know anything. You're just a stupid adult."

Sherlock's body, already whip-tense, nearly snapped in half when Greg let out a short laugh. "Sherlock, you're not the only one who's gone through something like you went through. Whose father had a penchant for little boys." There was something dark, a cloud forming on Greg's face that caused something to clench in Sherlock's chest, some feeling of kinship that he hated and wanted to go away. "Everyone at school. They laugh and point, but never to your face, no. To your face they just stare at you, or even worse, flinch away from you. Like your father's perversion is something they could catch. Like you could contaminate them."

Sherlock dipped his chin a fraction in mute acceptance, agreement. He softened, his body loosening, and he slumped back against the wall. "You know."

"Yeah." Greg nodded, the cloud on his face dissipating, his expression returning to normal. "But John's a good guy. He doesn't care about all that stuff."

"He doesn't know," Sherlock cut him off. "That's the only reason he talks to me."

"Why are you so sure of that?" Greg inquired, his tired face kind.

Sherlock had no response to this, so he rolled onto his front, sprawling out over his bed, much in the same position he had been initially. Greg leaned over, patted the bed, before standing and returning the chair to its original position. "Just think about it, okay? That's all I'm asking." He left Sherlock's room, closing the door behind him.

Sherlock did think about it. Turned the thought over and over in his mind. He tossed the biology book off his bed, stared at the ceiling. Breathed in and out, and thought. John's simple acceptance. His smiles. The way he leaned into touch Sherlock, wasn't afraid to feel his skin on his fingertips. He wasn't afraid of 'contamination'. He was just - him. And it was something that frightened Sherlock to no end.

John wasn't easily categorized, like the others. Sherlock couldn't place him in a box, couldn't assign him a label, no matter how much he tried to. John continued to defy anything and everything Sherlock tried. And Sherlock - Sherlock wanted it. Craved it. But it terrified him at the same time. it was new and different, and since leaving - where he came from, New and Different had never been very positive words.

Sherlock exhaled in a huff, glaring at the ceiling as if it was purposefully denying him answers. Instead, he forced the issue from his mind, deciding he had contemplated it enough, and instead turned to the homework he had to complete for the next day. Tedious as it was, it would provide a sufficient distraction from - John.

School the next day was horrific. The teachers seemed to go out of their way to be particularly boring, and John had to stop Sherlock three times from attempting to get in trouble out of sheer, unbeatable boredom. The first had been an attempt to see how far he could flick a pencil. The second was with a bunsen burner, in chemistry. Then Sherlock had been moments from dropping a large box of books on the floor. He huffed. John was so utterly responsible that it was nearly vomit-inducing to contemplate.

Sherlock had asked Greg if he minded if John came over again, and Greg had said it was fine, offering Sherlock a wink that he scowled at, drawing a chuckle from the older man. John followed Sherlock out of the schoolyard. It was nearly deserted - Sherlock always left later than the rest, to ensure the looks, the whispers, the giggles were something he didn't have to tolerate more than he absolutely had to. "I know what happened to you," John said offhandedly. Sherlock stopped in his tracks, his pulse accelerating, throat suddenly too dry.

"No you don't," he snapped, catching up to the few steps John had gotten ahead. "You only know what those idiotic buffoons said happened to me."

John slowed to a stop, Sherlock reacting appropriately, stopping next to him, although neither boy looked at each other. "No one told me, Sherlock. Well, not the details. I didn't listen. I did some research. Found out where - where he's jailed, what the charges were."

Sherlock wanted so badly to hide, to just disappear. To forget that this was happening. He had never wanted John to know how tarnished he was, how broken, how utterly pathetic he was. That he hadn't even been strong enough to prevent his father from doing - what he did. "How long have you known?" he asked quietly.

"Couple months now," John replied, and Sherlock could see something, some expression on his face that he couldn't understand. He started walking again, and Sherlock blinked for a moment, then caught up. A couple months? But - there was no way - what?

"What?" Sherlock said dumbly.

John stopped, and this time he did spin to look at Sherlock. There was some warmth in his eyes, some affection that made Sherlock feel like there were insects crawling all over him, a creepy sort of prickling in his pores. "It doesn't bother me, you know," he said carefully. "I don't think you're contaminated, or I'm going to 'catch something' from you. That's just silly." John shrugged. "Did you happen to watch the match on the telly last night?" he asked amicably, changing the subject as easily as he drew breath.

"No," Sherlock said dismissively with a shake of his head. John sighed dramatically.

"Well, you missed a good one," he informed Sherlock. Sherlock rolled his eyes.

The next few weeks passed in much a similar matter, John nattering him about matches, schoolwork, whatever came to mind. It felt much more natural, each passing moment, to have John around. The sizzling that had caused problems, had caused pain, had slowly faded to a bearable level. It still scared him, but less. He was able to focus more on the bits that he liked, that made him feel warm, safe, secure. All feelings he wasn't used to, but was growing to selfishly enjoy.

"What do you mean, you're going away for the weekend?" Sherlock demanded, sprawled across the sofa as Greg cooked dinner in the kitchen.

Greg rolled his eyes. "It's a training seminar I have to go to, Sherlock," he said patiently. "For work."

"Boring, boring, boring," Sherlock muttered savagely. "What imbecile is going to be required to watch me? Your wife?" When Greg tensed, Sherlock knew he had hit a sore spot. He didn't say anything, but he plucked aggressively at the fabric of the couch, his version of an apology.

"She's away at a friend's house," Greg replied quietly. "Mycroft will be your respite parent. He's got to work most of the weekend, but he'll be able to drop by and check in on you two."

"Great." Sherlock sighed dramatically. He paused. "Two?"

Greg smiled, smug, plating the chicken-and-pasta dish they were having for dinner. "John's going to be keeping you company this weekend," he said.

"He is?" There was the prickly sort of excitement, anticipation, spreading across Sherlock's skin at the thought of just him and John, alone for an entire weekend.

"Don't go getting any ideas now, mind you," Greg said with a laugh. Sherlock made a face, and Greg chuckled. "I've got permission from his parents, and he'll stay here from Friday after school, and leave Monday morning."

"It's been - approved?" Sherlock asked hesitantly.

"Yes, your social worker knows and everything has been documented," Greg assured his foster son.

Sherlock let the first grin in a long time slide across his face. Greg brought over their dinner and sat on the sofa next to Sherlock, squeezing his shoulder with trembly fingers. There was something proud, something unashamed underneath Greg's normally kind face, and Sherlock felt his insides feel warm and fuzzy. He scowled inwardly.

John showed up a few nights later with a duffel bag and a huge smile. Sherlock let his lips curve up a semblance of a smile, his fingers tangling as he fidgeted, nerves thrumming so loudly he could nearly hear them. He licked his lips, eyes darting from John to Greg as the older man greeted John with a hug. Sherlock envied the way Greg was around people, how he was open and warm, inviting all those who needed shelter into his home. "I'll sleep on the couch?" John looked from Greg to Sherlock, setting the bag down by the door.

Greg winked. "Sounds about right," he replied easily. He rustled Sherlock's hair, having to reach up to do so. Next was John's hair, except Greg didn't have reach up this time. John rolled his eyes before grabbing Sherlock's hand and dragging him to the sofa.

"There's a match on," John proclaimed, settling down on the opposite side of the sofa, careful to leave space between him and Sherlock.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Boring."

Greg chuckled. "Have fun, you two. Mycroft should drop by tomorrow morning. If not then, Sunday." Sherlock nodded acknowledgement and Greg waved then disappeared out the door.

"How long have you been with him?" John asked after approximately ten minutes of watching the match on the television. "Living with him, I mean."

"Three months," Sherlock answered, pulling his knees up to his chest and staring straight at the television, avoiding John's gaze. "Longest I've been in a home since - since I entered care."

John nodded absently. "What're we going to do for dinner?"

They ended up ordering pizza, and John ate half of it while Sherlock nibbled on his one slice. He had grown accustomed to not eating much, and the habit had grown from scarce food growing up. It was strange, sitting near John. John, who was so animated, cheering and chatting at both the screen and Sherlock as his team fought for the win. Sherlock didn't really understand what was going on, but it was fascinating to watch John, watch how he lit up, how vibrant and full of light he was, pumping his fist into the air and turning to Sherlock with a huge, unabashed smile.

He saw things, in people. Saw John's mother's alcoholism in the creases in John's clothes. Saw the way Marie cheated on Greg in what she wore, the time she spent out. But he didn't speak, didn't say anything about what he witnessed. He had tried, once. When he was home. Never again. Sherlock shivered.

The weather had been cloudy, most of the day, and Sherlock saw the beginning of rain outside, the droplets splattering on the cement. He shifted uncomfortably. There'd been a storm in the forecast. A thunderstorm. Sherlock hated thunderstorms, hated the loud noises, the flashes of lightning. They scared him and he had no idea why. Most nights, he hid in his bed, under his duvet, and waited for them to go away. But John was here. Sherlock wasn't sure what that would do. Would they be better? Would they be worse?

It wasn't long before the rain started pouring down, nearly deafening out the noise of the TV. Sherlock had drawn up into himself, tensing, and once he heard the first peal of thunder, fear surged throughout his entire body. "I'm going to bed." He unfurled from the sofa and walked off to his room, not even looking back. Shedding his clothes, he drew on his pyjamas, crawling under the covers and pulling them up over his head. He curled into a ball on the wide bed, centering himself, focusing on inhaling steady breaths as the thunder crashed loudly around him.

The door creaked. Sherlock registered it, peripherally. He knew it occurred, but didn't realize what it meant. Couldn't process it. There was weight on the edge of the bed, and Sherlock flinched, drawing further into the ball, clutching his legs to his chest. "Sherlock?" John's voice was soft, tentative.

Carefully Sherlock rucked down the comforter, popped the top of his head out. John was sitting on the side of the bed in his pyjamas, watching Sherlock with a warm expression. "Want some company?" John asked.

Sherlock inhaled, exhaled. Thought. He examined John critically, seeing his nerves, his fatigue - his fear that maybe it wasn't the right decision. But there was also hope, and affectionate, and - caring. The feelings threatened to overwhelm Sherlock, send him hurtling over a cliff he didn't feel he was ready to face. Sherlock unfurled enough to crawl over to the far side of the bed, leaving plenty of room for John while still allowing for space between them.

A loud noise, a crash of thunder, and Sherlock whimpered. His mind was scrambling, trying to find something to grasp onto, rendered blank by thoughts of blood, pain, fear. John's warm hand touched his shoulder, and Sherlock jerked away out of habit, oversensitized, afraid of the physical contact. "It's me," John murmured, carefully spreading his fingers over the warm skin of Sherlock's body through his thin t-shirt. "Sherlock, it's just me."

"John." Sherlock exhaled slowly, slowly his breathing, focusing on their point of contact. Every inhale, every exhale, was his name. It was Sherlock's mantra, his ray of hope. Sherlock turned on his side, saw John stretched out next to him, and flinched when the next clap of thunder echoed through the room.

Silently John reached out, gathered Sherlock into his arms, and eased the lanky teenager so that he was laying half on him. "Is this okay?" John asked quietly, smoothing a hand up and down Sherlock's back, comforting. It felt strange, laying against John, like his skin was on fire, like he was too hot and too cold at the same time. At the same time, it felt like home - like peace, like shelter. A moment for just the two of them.

John leaned down and Sherlock felt lips press against his head, and gentle reassurance. "Sleep," John murmured. "I've got you. You're safe."

Sherlock slept.

When he woke up, he was still pressed against John, and the smaller boy was passed out underneath him, an arm wrapped possessively about Sherlock's lower back. "Good morning," Sherlock murmured, stretching but maintaining the contact. He felt anchored. Safe. Valued, despite what he was worth. He pressed his head in the crook between John's head and his neck. Pressed his lips to John's neck, tongue tentatively tasting skin, feeling the carotid vein pulse underneath John's delicate skin.

"Hello." John sounded drowsy but pleased, and he pulled Sherlock closer to him, his hand making circles of comfort on Sherlock's lower back. Sherlock lifted his head and glanced out the window, pleased to see only a light drizzle of rain.

"No more storm," Sherlock said, pleased.

John hummed his agreement, a lazy smile decorating his lips, pleased. "What do you want to do today?" he asked, seemingly content to stay in bed with Sherlock.

"I want to do some tests on the pond," Sherlock mused as a reply. "Examine the flora, the fauna."

"Sounds good to me," John said agreeably. "Do you want first shower?"

Sherlock unfurled and hesitantly crawled over John, since his bed was tucked neatly against the wall. "You can use Greg's shower, if you want," he told John. "Second door on the right, after you leave my room."

"Thanks," John answered with a smile. He lifted a hand, touched Sherlock's cheek in a sweet gesture, and stood, walking out of the room. Sherlock sat, flustered, and pressed his hand to where John's had lingered. He allowed himself a moment or two of sentimentality before gathering himself, walking into his bathroom.

The shower was quick, clinical, and he dressed in clothes he was willing to get dirty. He was going to go wading for microbe samples, after all, and he had to be willing to get in there and do the work himself. Greg had granted him a microscope, and he was allowed increased access to the laboratories at school due to his advanced work. Sherlock just had to bring his own samples.

John greeted him out in the living room, making toast in the kitchen. "G'morning," John hummed, offering Sherlock a piece of toast. Sherlock took it with a grimace and nibbled at it, eating about half of it before setting it on a plate on the counter. "Sherlock," John scolded.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. As he walked out of the kitchen, he trailed his hand horizontally across John's lower back, feeling the muscles tense under his skin, naming them as they moved. It was fascinating, how John was built. How he was put together. Sherlock wanted to study it further, wanted to evaluate everything about him.

"Microbe time?" John asked, a twinkle in his eyes.

"Yes," Sherlock nodded vehemently, agreeing.

They spent the day wading about the pond, gathering various samples that Sherlock would use to expand his already considerably vast pool of knowledge. John was helpful, obeying Sherlock's orders and wading into some deep silt to gather the deepest samples. Even Sherlock rolled up his clothes and waded into the water, gathering the top-level samples and organizing them in his kit. It was comforting, the science, almost freeing. It wasn't something he had done often, in his old life. But it was something he enjoyed, and Greg had tried to cultivate it.

"Ready to go inside?" John inquired. "Store the samples in the fridge, yeah?"

"Yes," Sherlock nodded. "The small one, on the left."

"Greg got you your own fridge?" John blinked.

"Yes." Sherlock's lips twisted into a wry smile. "He doesn't like me keeping samples in the main fridge. His wife doesn't like it."

"She's not around much, is she?" John's lips pressed tightly together, his displeasure emanating from every pore of his body as he slid the samples into the requisite shelf of the fridge.

"She's cheating on him." Sherlock admitted. "I don't - I think he knows, but I don't...I don't know what to say."

John made a sympathetic noise and straightened up. "We got time to watch a movie," he said cheerfully.

"Greg has a wide collection." Sherlock walked to the bookcase, pushing aside a few books and selecting one of the movies in the back. He tossed it to John, looking for acceptance. John laughed at the selection - it was a Disney movie, something silly and sweet and nothing that would trigger any of Sherlock's past. Sherlock sat on the sofa and waited for John to turn the movie on.

John allowed Sherlock a few moments to acclimate before he slowly coaxed Sherlock into lying full length against him, head nestled in the space between his neck and shoulder. It was comfortable enough that Sherlock could see the movie (not that he really cared about it), and still have the security of John next to him, arm over his back. The feelings - they were still there, burning low and hot underneath his skin, every time he looked at John, every time John smiled at him. But they were easier to deal with. They weren't as frightening.

Because Sherlock knew that John wouldn't hurt him. John was respectful, and kind. He pushed Sherlock, sometimes, but he would always accept Sherlock for who he was. Sherlock curled closer to John, allowing his eyes to drift closed, lulled by the sound of John's voice and the muted noise of the video. John's hand trailed up and down the long length of his spine, a gentle caress.

Sherlock stirred, hearing the credits begin to play, lifted his head. John tilted his down, meeting Sherlock's gaze, and offered a warm smile. Sherlock's skin tingled, and everything slotted into place, like the world, that had felt so wrong, was now right. He lifted a hand, fingertips cautiously tracing John's jaw line, shaky, and scooted up just a bit. Just enough so that, with John's cooperation, their lips could meet in a tentative kiss.

Heat raced through Sherlock's veins, threatening to set him on fire, and he moved further up. John's tongue traced the curve of Sherlock's lips, and he opened his mouth, allowing the kiss to turn passionate and heated. Sex didn't do much for him, Sherlock had found, but this was better than anything he had tried before. He felt dizzy. Drunk. Like he could kiss John for years and never get enough of him, of the way he tasted, the soft little noises he made when Sherlock did something particularly clever with his tongue.

They parted, just enough so that Sherlock could see John's eyes, see the way the pupils had dilated and almost erased the lovely blue of his irises. "Hello," John murmured, breathless.

"Hi," Sherlock replied, equally soft, almost shy. He had never done something like this. Never kissed anyone. Not that he had had much of an opportunity, outside of - what he had gone through. He laid his head back on John's chest, unable to deal with the swarm of emotions that threatened to rise in his chest. John stroked a hand up and down Sherlock's back, not demanding, just comforting.

Together they breathed, their movements syncing, before both boys fell asleep.