“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, references to non-con, references to sexual assault, references to child prostitution/abuse, references to homophobia.Please read and review!
Chapter 16: One More Time
“Have enough courage to trust love one more time. And always one more time.”
― Maya Angelou
Sherlock turns toward Edwin, wearing an obvious expression of irritation at the interruption.
Edwin flinches a bit at Sherlock’s tone. As irritated as I am at being thwarted in my attempt to discuss something incredibly important, I can’t help but feel sorry for the boy. He clears his throat, and replies in a rather timid voice.
“Mr Holmes, I think I’ve got the movement as smooth as it’s goin’ ta get. Mind takin’ a quick gander to make sure everythin’s all right?”
“Of course,” says Sherlock, leaping to his feet with a complete change of attitude. He starts to follow Edwin to the study, then turns back to me. “Coming, John?”
I really, really don’t want to see that thing again.
“I don’t think so, Sherlock – I’ll be upstairs.” I pause, then hastily add, “Unless you need me to help you, that is.”
He smiles, and I know that he understands how deeply unsettling I find the decoy.
“I’ll always need you, John,” he says, “but I think we have this under control, if you’d rather go upstairs for a bit.” He steps back toward me, bends to kiss me softly on the cheek. The distinctive tang of his scent fills me with an unexpected yearning to drag him off upstairs, strip him of his blue shirt and jeans, and simply hide away in that bed forever. My eyes close involuntarily for a moment.
He gives me that crooked, charming half-smile that I’ve never seen him share with anyone else.
“You’re welcome, John.”
Back in the bedrooms upstairs, I discover that Mycroft’s housekeeper has made the bed with fresh linens. My face burns as I remember the state we left the bed in. I soothe my embarrassment with the knowledge that any employee of Mycroft’s will certainly, by necessity, be the soul of discretion, and will never say a word to us about it.
My things have been tidied away. I wander through the bathroom into Sherlock’s room, noticing that his clothes have all been put away as well, and his odd assortment of items from his pockets placed conspicuously on the bureau. Spotting the drawstring bag, I cross to the bureau and pick it up, tipping its contents into my palm.
I gaze at the finely crafted Arabic characters against the soft, lustrous gleam of the platinum bands, and I remember lying sprawled naked across the bed, incredibly aroused, waiting for Sherlock as he rummages through my bedside table drawer for a bottle of lube.
“Good God, John, the amount of useless items in here…” Sherlock starts tossing random objects from the drawer over his shoulder in his quest for the elusive bottle.
“Oi! Watch it!” I protest, as my father’s old pocket watch bounces onto the bed, followed by a slim volume of poetry and a small jar of lip balm. I scramble up to check his activity before he breaks something.
“Here, let me find it, you lunatic!” Irritated, I nudge him aside, and locate the bottle of lube. I realise that his utter disregard for my things has taken the wind out of my sails, metaphorically speaking. I drop the bottle of lube back into the drawer with a sigh, and hear Sherlock’s echoing sigh of frustration behind me. Ignoring him, I pull on my discarded pants; then I sit down on the side of the bed, scooping up the pocket watch to check for damage.
I place the watch carefully back in the drawer, toss in the jar of lip balm and bend to collect a few small items from the floor as well. As I restore them to the drawer, I glance over my shoulder, expecting to see Sherlock sulking. Instead, I find him propped up on his elbow on the bed, holding the little poetry book. He looks at me like a puzzle he wants to solve.
“You read Arabic?”
“Persian,” I correct him, extending my hand for him to return the book. “Dari Persian, to be precise.” Sherlock holds the book out of my reach, opening and leafing through it.
“It’s poetry?” he asks, as he turns the pages. “And a gift from a woman, an Afghan woman, but not local, very well-educated; a romantic relationship, but she broke it off. Who was she?”
“How –?” I shake my head at his amazing observational skills. “Yes, right – she was an Afghan woman, you’re right; Laila was a surgeon in the military hospital where I was stationed in Helmand Province. She was local, you were wrong about that – born in Laškar Gāh, but moved to England as a child. She dumped me when I decided to transfer to being a combat medic – said that it was proof positive that I should be sectioned.”
“Why did you keep the book? Why here in this drawer, so close to you? You’ve never mentioned her, John. Was she important to you?” The jealousy in Sherlock’s voice makes me smile a bit.
“No more so than any of the other romances I had over there.” I reach over to stroke his cheek reassuringly, and he leans into my palm. “No, I kept the book because of the poems, actually. This book is actually translated from English, all poems written by women – and is obviously a banned book in Afghanistan.”
Sherlock’s eyebrows lift, and he pages through it.
“You used to read this page a great deal. What does it say?”
I take the book, and read a bit from the short poem.
“Life must go on
Though good men die...
Life must go on;
I forget just why.”*
Sherlock’s eyes pierce through me, and I know he can read my remembered despair in my face and posture. He reaches out, takes the book back, and turns to another page.
“You’ve read this one a great deal lately. What does it say?”
I look at the page, and smile at him.
“I started reading this one when you and I first got together. Somehow, it says everything I feel for you, right here in two lines.” I try to clear my throat of the sudden lump that has risen in it, and read the stanza.
ldquo;In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours.
In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.”**
I set down the book; lift my eyes to his. Sherlock reaches out to draw me down into his arms, pulls me close, and kisses me softly, reverently.
“That’s how I feel, as well, John,” he whispers. “How odd that some writer that we’ve never met knew exactly how to put it into words.” He kisses me again, and we find that no more words are needed at all.
Remembering that conversation, I smile as I admire the elegant engraving of the writing on the two matching bands. My Dari might be a bit rustier now than it was then, but I have no trouble at all reading these rings:
قلبی برای من مثل مال شما
نه عشق برای شما مثل من هست
No heart for me like yours,
no love for you like mine.
“John, are you ready –?”
Sherlock stops abruptly in the doorway, taking in the sight of me sitting in the chair before the gas fireplace, gazing at the firelight reflecting from the rings in my hand.
“John?” It is a desperate whisper.
I look up at him, meeting the sheer fear in his silvery gaze. I reach out a hand for him, and he approaches swiftly, dropping gracefully into the seat facing mine, and takes the proffered hand.
“Edwin interrupted me earlier, Sherlock,” I say, gazing seriously into his eyes. “I was about to ask you a question.”
Sherlock’s crooked little sideways smile appears.
“Seems to me that I was about to ask a question a while before that, John, and you interrupted.”
Guilt for the way I stormed out on him surges up, but I tamp it ruthlessly back down. The feelings of betrayal and doubt were genuine, and I won’t pretend that my fears are groundless. I frown a bit at Sherlock, and his smile vanishes in an instant.
“I needed a moment, Sherlock. I’m assuming these are…”
“Wedding rings, of course, John. Even you must be that observant.”
“Ta for that, love – you were clearly born with the Holmes silver tongue.”
Sherlock rolls his eyes at me, even as he slips from his chair onto his knees in front of me. Resting his hands on my knees, he gazes up into my face. I study the lines of his face, every elegant angle and curve so dear to me; and watch, amazed, as he struggles for words.
“Sorry, it’s just…I’m just…will you? Marry me?”
I look at this astonishing, infuriating man, a man who has held my heart in his hands from the day we met. How like him to plunge headlong back in like this.
“You want me to marry you.”
“Well, all right, same-sex marriage hasn’t been legalised yet, although Mycroft is on the case, so it should happen quite soon. But civil partnership is certainly an option; I just didn’t think that you would be so nitpicky about language. That’s really more my area. Very well, will you be my civil partner? Although it doesn’t really roll off the tongue as nicely as ‘will you marry me’…”
“Sherlock!” I have to stop this ridiculous flow of words. He looks up, opalescent eyes wide, surprised at my exasperated tone.
“I need to know exactly what you’re thinking right now, because I just told you last night that I’m not sure of your ability to commit and be honest. How does that fit in with a proposal?”
He looks honestly bewildered.
“It’s proof that I do want to commit to you, isn’t it? And proof that I’ve wanted it for a while, I might add – I had these specially made because of you – I chose Dari for the engraving, because of your connection to Afghanistan. I chose the verse engraved on them from that book of poems, because that verse was the one thing in that book that wasn’t useless, and it reminded me of you…” he trails off, looking alarmed at my scowl.
“Bit not good, Sherlock,” I warn him.
Sherlock fists his hands in his curls, groaning, and looks up at me, his mercurial eyes flashing.
“I’m well aware that I’m shite at this, John. I’m rubbish at emotions, at sentiment. But I genuinely do have sentimental feelings about you, about marrying you. I just…don’t know how to tell you that you’re the center of my world, and I’m lost without you. If you give me this chance, I’ll spend my life trying to live up to what you deserve. I just wish I had the right words!” He slams a fist into the ottoman beside him in frustration.
I reach over, take that clenched fist in my own hand, pry it open to lace the fingers into my own.
“For a man who can’t find the right words, you’re doing all right,” I whisper.
He lifts his head, the soft glow of the fireplace transforming his face into unearthly beauty. Those extraordinary eyes meet mine, lighting up with hope.
“Does…does that mean you forgive me, John?”
“Yes, love. It will take a while to get over it, but forgiveness is mostly about intent, anyway. I want to forgive you, and in time, I know that I will.”
“Will you marry me? Will you spend your life with me?”
Marriage. Marriage to Sherlock.
I reach out to stroke his jawline, suddenly overwhelmed by how incredibly precious this man is to me. Before I met him, I was so alone, living a monochrome existence. Then he walked into my life, and suddenly, everything was in vivid colour. When I lost him, I thought so often about how, if I could only have another chance at being with him, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab onto life with both hands and never let go.
This is that chance.
Who knows what the future will bring? We are about to confront an incredibly dangerous assassin. If something happens to either of us, and I haven’t given Sherlock my answer – can I live with that decision?
There’s no way to know how much time we might have together. I’m not wasting another second.
I smile at him, leaning forward to kiss him softly.
“Yes, you maniac. I can’t bear the thought of spending it anywhere else. Imagine all the excitement I’d miss.”
Sherlock seizes my face in both hands, crushing his lips against my own. When I part my lips, his tongue plunges in to explore and claim my mouth, tongue stroking aggressively against mine. The surge of desire between us is overwhelming. When at last we break the kiss to gasp for air, Sherlock’s thumb strokes against my cheekbone, and he chuckles.
“I say danger –”
“– and here I am.”
Sherlock kisses me deeply again, and things are heating up between us when I’m suddenly struck with a thought, and can’t help but giggle a bit. Sherlock pulls away with a puzzled air.
“Hilarity, John? Really? And you harp on about my timing.”
I giggle again.
“Sorry. It’s just – I can’t believe we got engaged at Mycroft’s.”
I laugh again at his vague expression of horror.
We are gathered at the door, ready to head back to Baker Street. I’m armed, as is Sherlock. Edwin and Wiggins are carrying two large duffel bags, presumably containing the decoy and equipment. I’m relieved not to have to see that thing again.
“Is everyone clear on what they’ll be doing?” asks Sherlock.
Everyone nods. Edwin looks nervous and hesitant; Wiggins defiant; Mycroft inscrutable as usual.
Sherlock sweeps us all with his gaze, gives us an approving nod, and turns to the agent waiting at the door. The agent is listening to an earpiece, and he nods briefly to Mycroft, then opens the door.
“All clear, sir.”
We walk swiftly to the two long, black saloon cars waiting for us. Edwin and Wiggins climb into the first one, Wiggins looking back to give Sherlock a long, weighted look. I’m not sure what she’s trying to tell him, but Sherlock gives her an equally serious nod, then a cheeky wink. Her face brightens, and the corner of her mouth pulls up a bit. The agent closes the door behind her, and then their car pulls away as we get into the second car.
Another agent is waiting to drive us. Sherlock, Mycroft and I sit back against the buttery-soft leather, and the car pulls smoothly away from the kerb. Mycroft glances between us, studying Sherlock’s face, then mine, before he speaks.
“I suppose congratulations are in order?” Sherlock growls at his brother, but Mycroft ignores him and looks me over, shaking his head wonderingly. “I was surprised this morning to see how readily you welcomed Sherlock back into your bed, Doctor Watson, but marriage –”
It’s none of your bloody business, Mycroft!” explodes Sherlock, before I have a chance to unleash the tirade I feel building behind my lips.
“Nonsense, Sherlock,” Mycroft replies. “You are my younger brother, Sherlock, and as such, I believe it is my duty to give the traditional ‘hurt him, and I’ll kill you’ speech.”
Before Sherlock can explode again, I lean forward and point sternly at Mycroft.
“Mycroft, I have had more than enough of your bullying and interference in our lives. If recent evidence is anything to go by, I am the only one of all three of us who has a decent track record in avoiding ‘hurting’ Sherlock. I’m tired of your condescension and your veiled threats. I love your brother. I plan to marry him and spend my life at his side, protecting him from harm whenever possible – which includes the harm caused by his interfering, overbearing, and frankly, stalkerish brother. Our relationship is none of your business, Mycroft Holmes, and from this moment on, I expect you to recognise that fact.”
For a moment, Mycroft’s face is a picture of shock. His jaw hangs slack, his mouth opening and closing soundlessly; a goldfish out of water, gasping for oxygen. Sherlock grins wickedly, thoroughly enjoying seeing his brother taken to task for his constant interference.
Mycroft pulls himself together with a little shake, recovering his dignity.
“Of course, Doctor Watson. My apologies if my methods have seemed…overbearing…in the past. I assure you, the knowledge of your impending nuptials pleases me enormously. I am greatly looking forward to being present when Sherlock introduces you to our parents.”
Meeting the parents. Christ, what must those two be like?
“One sociopathic duo at a time, Mycroft,” snaps Sherlock, “Let us deal with Moran and Adair first.”
I scrub my face with my hands as the car moves slowly toward Baker Street through the London rush hour traffic. I realise that I’m suddenly almost looking forward to a confrontation with a couple of coldblooded assassins.
Anything to postpone meeting the pair that produced the Holmes brothers.
* excerpt from Lament, by Edna St. Vincent Millay
** by Maya Angelou
Read Chapter 17