“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world,
which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime,
and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay
Author note: Part 5 of the "No Heart For Me Like Yours" series. This story contains quite a few spoilers for the rest of the series, so it would probably make much more sense to read the series in order, as it tells how John and Sherlock got to this point.
This chapter could not have been written without the help of two marvelous fic writers, abundantlyqueer and AfroGeekGoddess. Thank you both so much for your ideas and feedback on the character of Moran and his backstory. You are both amazing.
Enormous thanks to my incomparable beta reader/editor/mentor/friend, Skyfullofstars. I can’t believe how much time and effort you put into encouraging me, despite everything going on in your life. You are the best.
Disclaimers: Sherlock belongs to Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock Holmes originally belonged to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I own nothing. This makes me very, very sad.
Warnings: Sherlock/John. Slash, slash, somewhat graphic slash. Major, major spoilers for Season 2.
Trigger warnings: Suicidal ideation; references to previous abusive relationship, non-con, sexual assault.Please read and review!
Chapter 13: A Second Chance
“I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.”
― Maya Angelou
Long, slim fingers slide into the hair at the nape of my neck, startling me out of my intense focus on the Moran research.
Succumbing to the temptation, I lean back into the touch, savouring the sensation. A deep chuckle abruptly brings a lump into my throat. God, I’ve missed hearing that laugh.
Sherlock so rarely laughs with others, but the two of us have always dissolved into giggles when we’re together, from the first night we spent at a crime scene. Hearing him chuckling now, it hits me again – he’s alive. He’s here. He’s still mine – if I’ll allow him to be.
The fingers slip out of my hair, move down to squeeze my shoulder affectionately, and then Sherlock steps around to slide a carefully balanced tray loaded with sandwiches, biscuits, and tea onto the little table between the two fireside chairs. He flops down into the chair opposite mine.
“I assumed you would prefer to eat up here, instead of dining with Mycroft.”
“That’s brilliant. Cheers, love,” I say, feeling a bit stunned at his thoughtfulness, as well as incredible relief at not having to break bread with the man I punched a couple of hours ago.
Sherlock goes absolutely still, his crystalline eyes wide.
“What?” I lean toward him, concerned. “What is it?”
He shakes his head abruptly.
“Nothing, John. It’s nothing. Here – you haven’t eaten anything since the dreadful fish and chips you picked up in Exeter. Obviously, you’re hungry.”
I take an egg and cress sandwich, bite into it thoughtfully. Chewing, I raise an eyebrow at Sherlock, looking pointedly between him and the plate, until he finally sighs and picks up a sandwich.
“Seriously, Sherlock – why did you look like that?”
Sherlock takes a gargantuan bite of his sandwich, shrugging and chewing ostentatiously to show that he can’t possibly answer the question. Ridiculous man. I will remember this, though, for the next time I need to get him to eat. I wait until he swallows, then prompt him again.
He looks strangely abashed.
“It’s just…well…that’s the first time you’ve used an endearment since…well, you know…” He doesn’t need to end the sentence. The fall from the rooftop at Bart’s looms between us, unspoken.
“It felt…singularly pleasant.” He takes another bite, then mumbles through his mouthful, “I’ve really missed it.”
Despite being filtered through a mouthful of cheese sandwich, this statement brings on another moment of clarity for me. The love of my life was gone – gone – and I was lost without him. I have the rare opportunity for a real second chance.
I’m going to stick by my policy of taking it slowly, but I’m not letting this opportunity pass by, either. I know what it’s like to exist without Sherlock. I’m not going to voluntarily do it again.
“So, what’s the big plan for Moran?”
“I’m going to use his own skill against him.”
I look up, alarmed.
“Sherlock, you can’t mean that you plan to lie in wait and shoot him!” I lean forward, earnestly, to hold his gaze. “Moran’s a sniper, he’s intimately familiar with methods of stalking and hiding. You are far more likely to wind up being on the receiving end of any bullet fired in that exchange.”
Sherlock smirks. “Not exactly, John. Yes, I plan to lie in wait – but he’ll be doing the shooting. I plan to bait the trap with a target he simply can’t resist.”
He rises from his chair, and paces back and forth before the fireplace.
“Moran has had several opportunities to take me out if he really wanted to do so. He could have shot me on the rooftop at Bart’s. He could have shot us through the walls at Baker Street earlier today, if he was in place. Armor piercing rounds and infrared scopes would certainly make it possible. He has certainly proved, many times, that he has no compunction about taking innocent bystanders out with his target, so it wouldn’t matter who he shot along with me.”
“No, he’s not going to do it like that. Moran wants to see my face when he takes me down. I’ve taken away his meal ticket in destroying Moriarty’s network. His spotter is all he has left. He’ll want to see it happen, see the moment the bullet strikes me.”
I shudder at the horrid mental image of Sherlock’s body being penetrated and shattered by a high-powered rifle.
“Tell me you’re not planning on setting yourself up as bait.” When he merely smiles at me, I gasp, “Jesus! You really are a nutter, you know that? If he gets you in his sights, you can’t possibly outmanoeuvre him. He’ll kill you.”
“That’s the idea, John.”
“No.” I leap to my feet, seizing him by his shirt front. “No, you are not putting me through that again, Sherlock. I’m not losing you again.”
I bury my head in his chest, still fisting both hands in his purple shirt, breathing in the scent of him and feeling the reassuring solidity of his pectoral muscles against my forehead. Sherlock’s arms wrap around my shoulders, holding me tightly.
“My apologies, John – that’s not how I meant to say it. Moran is going to think it’s me that he’s shooting. Meanwhile, we’ll be waiting to catch him in the act.” He pulls back a bit and smiles, tipping my face up to look into his own. “Think of it as a sting operation, if you will.”
“Then who are you putting in the line of fire?”
“My decoy will be here in the morning, John. Don’t worry – if all goes well, no one will be in danger of being shot.”
More mysterious bullshit. I have to clench my jaw and pinch the bridge of my nose to keep from shouting at Sherlock.
“Sherlock, I have had enough of the ‘wait and see my grand plan unveiled in all of its glory’ attitude. I think we’ve had enough magic tricks and sleight of hand in this relationship.”
He looks startled, then apologetic.
“Of course, John. It’s just that it’s hard to believe if you haven’t seen the decoy firsthand. I’m not trying to hide anything from you – it’s just simpler to let you see it for yourself tomorrow.” He leans forward to press his forehead to my own.
“I swear, John. No more deceptions. No more lies.” He presses forward to kiss me softly, chastely, on the forehead, as though solemnising a vow. “The decoy will work, you’ll see. First thing in the morning, you’ll understand.”
He squeezes me tighter for a moment, then pulls away.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’ve got to see a man about a dog.” He heads into the bathroom that joins the two bedrooms on this floor. Instead of hearing the door close, though, I’m surprised to hear him snort derisively.
I follow Sherlock to the bathroom doorway, to find him holding a small box with a photo of a gorgeous, brunette woman on it, labeled “Préférence Permanent Hair Colour – Brasilia Dark Brown.” In his other hand is a small sticky note, written in a neat, precise hand:
For God’s sake, do something about your hair. You look absolutely ridiculous as a ginger.
My eyes meet Sherlock’s in the mirror, and we dissolve into giggles.
I spend nearly half an hour saying goodnight to Sherlock, standing close together at the door to my bedroom, talking and laughing – then kissing.
It starts out slowly enough, but then Sherlock sighs with pleasure as I slide my fingers into his glossy locks. Even though his curls are still too short, they are back to the original, dark chocolate colour that makes his skin look like porcelain, and I can’t keep my hands out of his hair. That little sigh hits me squarely in the libido, and I am pulling him closer, wrapping myself more tightly around him.
Christ, it feels so amazing to hold him again.
Finally, reluctantly, I end the kiss, and pull back. I’m still held loosely within the circle of Sherlock’s arms. He leans forward and presses his forehead to mine, those opalescent eyes gazing into my own.
“May I stay with you tonight, John?”
“I need to take things slowly,” I whisper, stroking his cheekbone with my thumb as I cradle his face in my hands. “Can you understand that?”
“No,” he sighs, but he takes my face in both of his hands, and leans down to kiss my forehead in a chaste press of warm lips to my skin; a benediction. “But you understand it, and I trust you.”
He releases me, slowly, and I stretch up to kiss him once more, soft and sweet.
After I close the door behind him, I step into our shared bathroom, firmly closing both doors, strip out of my clothes, and take a quick shower. I consider taking care of the lingering feelings of arousal myself, but then simply turn the shower to cold for a minute at the end. Equally effective, albeit a lot less pleasant, but I don’t want Sherlock to overhear me wanking in the shower.
Back in my own room, I dress in flannel pyjama trousers and my old Army t-shirt. It feels strange and lonely to climb into the enormous, fluffy bed alone. Fortunately, I’m so exhausted from the rollercoaster ride of the past two days that I find myself drifting off immediately.
Sherlock and I race through a narrow, twisting alley. Sherlock is fleet as a deer, and I pound along at his heels, watching his coat flare out behind him like a superhero’s cape. Suddenly he makes a leap at the ladder of a fire escape, pulls it down, and races up toward the roof of the building. I try to scramble up behind him, but my hands keep slipping from the rungs, and then the ladder melts away into nothingness.
I run around the building, looking for another way to follow Sherlock, but there are no other fire escapes, no doors, no way to reach him. My mobile rings in my pocket, and my heart does a strange, sideways-twisting sort of beat when I see that it’s Sherlock.
“Hello?” There is no reply, just a roaring sound, like a waterfall. “Hello? Sherlock?”
There is still no answer, only that strange roar, mixed now with faraway sounds of machine-gunfire and confused shouting.
“Sherlock! Sherlock, answer me!”
“John?” Suddenly he’s on the line, his voice trembling with emotion. “John, this phone call...it’s my note. It’s what people do, don’t they – leave a note?”
God, no. Please don’t do this.
“Leave a note when?” I gasp, my heart in my throat. I look up at the building in front of me, and see him against the sky, his silhouette so unmistakably Sherlock.
“No. Don’t.” I lunge forward to try to catch him, to try and stop it from happening. No matter how hard I try to run, I can’t seem to make any forward progress, and the movement of my limbs is agonizingly slow, as though I’m moving through taffy.
He tips forward over the edge, plunging toward the pavement below.
“No! Sherlock! Sherlock! Sherlock!” I’m sobbing his name, and screaming, screaming, screaming. I stagger forward as strangers’ hands roll his body over, turning his blood-streaked face to the sky. His silver eyes gaze sightlessly upward, rimmed with blood.
I can’t breathe, I’m trying to scream, but it feels like the wind has been knocked out of me. I stare at those empty eyes, knowing that my life is over, too. As I reach for him, longing to gather him into my arms, hands grasp at my arms, pulling me away, dragging me across a grassy moor, granite tors looming above me.
“No, please, no, don’t take him away from me, no…” I’m sobbing as the hands inexorably drag me farther and farther away from Sherlock.
Gentle voices are calling my name, trying to soothe me, “John…John…you can’t help him now…John…”
“No, please, no…please, God, let him live…don’t make me live without him…Sherlock, please don’t do this to me, Sherlock…Sherlock…”
“John, it’s all right…you’ll be all right…John…John…”
“John!” urgent hands are clutching at me, shaking me. “John! It’s all right. I’m here. John!”
I struggle to get away from the hands, scrambling backward, fighting the strange tangle around my legs, desperate to escape the hands that are holding me away from Sherlock.
“No! Let me go! Don’t take him away from me, please…Sherlock!”
“JOHN!” Sherlock’s deep voice bellows. “John, for God’s sake – it’s me! I’m here! Wake UP!”
I’m trembling and gasping for breath like a racehorse, and I can feel the tears streaming down my face. I sag desperately into the warm, strong arms that wrap around me, holding me close. I press my nose into Sherlock’s neck, breathing in that elusive, tangy scent that is just him. It feels so good to be pressed against his strong, lithe body, to feel the silky-soft shirt that he’s always worn to bed, inside-out, so thin from repeated washings that it’s almost translucent in spots.
He pulls me closer, tighter, and he’s babbling something, over and over, but I can’t understand him because he’s buried his face in my shoulder. His body is shaking, almost spasming, much like my own. I pull back, alarmed, and snap on the small bedside lamp.
He’s sobbing. Christ.
“John, I’m so sorry, John…I’m so, so sorry…I didn’t know…I never wanted to hurt you…I had no idea it would hurt you this much he was going to kill you I love you so much I couldn’t let anything happen to you you’re everything to me I love you I love you I’m sorry so sorry so sorry…”
I seize his face in my hands, place a soft kiss on his lips.
“Ssshhhh…” I pull him down with me to the pillows, and we cling to each other, not speaking, just breathing together, sharing each other’s breath and existence. We lie together for ages, gazing into each other’s eyes, hardly moving, other than the soft movement of fingers across cheeks to brush away tears.
At long last, Sherlock speaks, his voice a husky whisper.
“I am so very sorry, John. All I wanted was to keep you safe – and I think, in some ways, that I may have hurt you more than if I had allowed you to be killed. That was not my intention. Please…I know you can never forget what I did, but…do you think you could ever forgive me for doing it? Do we have a future together at all?”
I don’t answer right away. Instead, I stroke a wayward curl from his forehead, allowing my fingers to trail through the newly-dark locks. I’m not avoiding answering him – I’m simply trying to gather my thoughts.
“It’s not that I doubt my ability to forgive you, Sherlock. I’ve done nothing else with you since the day we met. I don’t like to think of myself as a doormat, but I have always found myself helpless to resist your decisions.” I pause, stroking his cheek thoughtfully.
“Ever since we became a couple, I’ve always imagined us growing old together. Even before we got together, I couldn’t imagine life without you. Of course, I can’t say that anymore – I can imagine it only too well.” Sherlock winces, and I give him a sad, little half-smile.
“I don’t want to feel that way ever again, Sherlock. I’m…not alive when you’re not there. It was absolutely the worst feeling of my life, knowing that you were gone forever.”
“I’m so sorry –”
“Hush,” I tell him, pressing my fingers to his lips to stop his words. “I’ve heard your apology, and I need you to listen to me now.” He nods, those moonstone eyes locked onto mine.
“To be together forever like that – it requires commitment, and honesty. I thought you were committed to me, and I thought you’d never, ever lie to me, Sherlock. You proved me wrong on both counts when you jumped from that roof.”
I stop his words with my fingertips again.
“I know now why you did it. I comprehend your reasons for feeling that you had to do it. But, you have to understand, it makes it hard for me to trust you to be honest, to be committed to our relationship, when you are capable of doing what you did.”
“I never meant to be dishonest with you, John…” He stops speaking when he sees my raised eyebrow.
“Let’s review the evidence, shall we?” I hold up one finger. “First point: You lied to me, and told me you were a fraud.” Another finger. “Point the second: You allowed me to believe that you were dead, for ten weeks, Sherlock. Ten bloody weeks that felt to me as if the world had ended. You found time to conspire with Wiggins, as well as the brother that you profess to hate, but you couldn’t bother to tell me. That is a betrayal, Sherlock.”
Sherlock swallows hard, looking staggered, as though I had punched him in the gut.
“Point the third: You forced me watch you commit suicide. We won’t even mention how mad an idea it is to take someone who suffers from PTSD, who also happens to be the son of a suicide, and deliberately put him through a trauma like that. You are damn lucky I didn’t climb up there and jump after you.”
Sherlock is staring at me, his expression shattered. He swallows hard, and nods his head slowly.
“I do understand that,” he says. “It is completely understandable that you would feel this way. But, John – I will never, ever voluntarily leave you again. Never.”
He pulls me close and kisses me softly, a gentle, lingering press of lips that is incredibly soothing, reassuring. Then he sits up, and swings his legs out of the bed to stand up.
“You should get some sleep, John. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.” He stands, and turns to return to his room.
He turns back to me.
“You do realise that it’s a bit not good to say, ‘I’ll never leave you,’ then immediately jump up and leave, right?”
He gapes wordlessly at me.
“I wonder just how many conversations we can actually have about your sense of timing,” I say, as I throw the duvet back invitingly. “Come on, you mad bastard. I’ll sleep better if I can keep an eye on you.”
Sherlock smiles tentatively, as he slides beneath the duvet. He lies down beside me, and we turn onto our sides to face each other. We lie in silence for a moment, simply gazing into each other’s eyes.
“How are you going to keep an eye on me if you are asleep?”
“Oh, shut it, you wanker – you know it’s only an expression.” I shove his shoulder playfully, and he chuckles in that rich baritone that drives me wild. “I meant, I’ll sleep better if I can get my hands on you.”
His eyebrow rises as the corner of his mouth quirks up, and I realise that my phrasing is really rather…suggestive.
“I didn’t say anything.”
We are quiet for a moment, then Sherlock says, softly, “Of course, if you do want to get your hands on me…”
I look into those clear eyes, and he is smiling at me. Grinning back at him, I turn over, presenting my back to him in invitation. Sherlock wastes no time in spooning in behind me, his warm chest and arms wrapping around my back, making me feel warm and safe…and very, very loved.
No more nightmares tonight.