“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.
Thanks to arianedevere and the detailed transcript of “The Reichenbach Fall” at her LJ site: http://arianedevere.livejournal.com/tag/
Many thanks to my beta, Skyfullofstars. Sky, thank you for making me stop and think harder about this story. It’s better because of you.
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!
Read Chapter 7
Chapter 8: Unfed Hope
“What we call despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.”
― George Eliot
It is quite late when we arrive at the inn, and no one is in the car park. As we climb from the hire car, I look ruefully at the wet, muddy stains on the upholstery. There goes my cleaning deposit.
We slip into the deserted entryway, and quickly make our way upstairs, to room 221. Sherlock smiles when he sees the room number.
“Remember when we stayed in this room before?” He’s reaching for me again, as I open the door. I deliberately step out of his reach, then hold the door open for him to enter. His hands drop to his sides, and he silently steps into the room, standing respectfully away from me. I close the door, and turn to face him.
“Sherlock, we still have a lot to talk about, and then I’m going to need to make some decisions about us.” He looks startled, and his eyebrows furrow with worry. I press on, keeping my voice as calm as possible.
“But right now, what we both need, more than anything, is a hot shower, some tea, and some rest. So why don’t you take the first shower, while I see what I can find for you to wear.”
“Will you…” he swallows, then whispers, “would you join me?”
Sherlock’s water-slick chest pressed to my back, soapy hands reaching around to assiduously lather the front of my body from head to toe…
No. Not yet.
Maybe not ever.
I shake my head in refusal, trying not to see how his body sags from disappointment and rejection.
“You go ahead. I’ll go sort out tea and clothes.”
I force myself to look away from those luminous eyes, so filled with disappointment and desolation. My heart aches from the effort of resisting the urge to take him in my arms and snog him senseless.
Tea. Clothes. Right.
I remember from our past visits that the inn has a tiny laundry room with a single, coin-operated washer-dryer unit. I rummage through my bag, pulling out my striped dressing gown and a clean pair of boxer briefs. Once I hear the shower running, I slip in to leave the dressing gown and pants for Sherlock, and scoop up his filthy clothing from the bathroom floor. Sherlock’s silhouette behind the shower curtain is so tantalising, bringing sensual memories to the surface.
Wet skin sliding slickly against my own, long, graceful fingers sliding down my back, his warm, wet mouth working its way down from my collarbone to points further south…
I resolutely turn away, and head down the corridor to the laundry room. After tossing the grimy items into the washer, I realise that I’ll need laundry soap, and so I head for reception.
Gary is poring over a ledger at the desk, and looks up with his cheery smile when I walk in.
“Ah, good evening, John. What can I do for you tonight?”
“I got rather muddy tonight, Gary, hiking through the woods, and I need to wash a few things. Do you sell laundry soap?”
“Aye, we have packets for sale.” He lifts one from a shelf behind him, and hands it to me. “I’ll just add it to your room, shall I?”
“That would be marvelous, Gary, ta very much.” I turn to return to the laundry, then suddenly swivel back toward Gary, with a brilliant idea for avoiding some of the awkwardness tonight.
“Something else, John?”
“Actually, I’m going to need a second room, if you don’t mind. My…ermm…that is, a friend arrived unexpectedly this evening.”
Gary’s genial face sags into tragic lines, as though he’s going to have to deliver news of a death.
“We’re booked up solid, John. Not an empty room to be had. Can your friend share with you tonight? We might have a vacancy in the morning.”
I knew that solution was too easy.
“It will be fine, Gary,” I smile. “I just thought I’d ask.”
“John, I hope you don’t mind my saying so,” Gary still looks apologetic, “but you should get some rest. You look dreadfully peaky. When you walked in just now, you were so pale and wan, you looked like you’d seen a ghost.”
He’s not exactly wrong, is he?
“I’ll be fine, Gary. I’ll get to bed as soon as I get the washing done.”
“All right. Good night, John.”
Laundry started, I stop at the little tea station in the conservatory to make two cups of tea. Black, two sugars for Sherlock; milk, no sugar for me. I pick up a packet of Jaffa cakes as well, hoping to get some calories into Sherlock. Remembering the prominence of his ribs under my fingers (don’t think about his skin under my hands, don’t go there, Watson) I take a packet of Hobnobs as well.
When I return to the room, I find Sherlock, swathed in my dressing gown, which is far too short for him, really – it makes his legs look ridiculously long. He stands by the window, gazing out into the dark. Turning eagerly toward me, he takes a tentative step in my direction.
I offer him his tea, as well as the packet of Jaffa cakes. His fingers brush mine lingeringly as he takes the cup, and a shiver of longing courses through me.
No. Head, not heart, remember?
The hot tea only serves to remind me how chilled I am. I gulp it down, then pull some clean clothes from my bag.
“I’m going to get a shower,” I tell Sherlock. “You should go ahead and get some sleep.”
He looks…almost timid.
“Here?” He gestures toward the large bed.
“Yes, here.” I am too tired to have things out tonight. All I want is to take a shower, warm up, and get some sleep. I’m wrecked, and I know he is, too. And it’s not as if we have another option – there’s no other room available.
Besides, if I wake up alone, how will I know it wasn’t another dream?
The shower is wonderful, and I stand there for ages, letting the hot spray wash away some of the tension from my back and shoulders. I make a conscious effort not to think about Sherlock being in here, hot water sluicing over his naked body. By the time I’ve dried off, dressed, and brushed my teeth, the bedroom light is out.
I still need to dry Sherlock’s clothes. As I slip from the bathroom to the door, I look over at the bed, and see that Sherlock is sound asleep, curled into a tight ball under the duvet. The sight is arresting – Sherlock has always slept in a loose, boneless sprawl, taking up the majority of any bed he occupies. To see him like this is heartbreaking, for reasons I can’t quite articulate.
When I pull out the clothes to move them to the dryer, I can’t help studying them. The only things that Sherlock ever wears that aren’t perfectly tailored are the pyjama trousers and soft t-shirts that he sleeps in. Now I’m folding a worn pair of ridiculously baggy, denim cargo pants, a thick, shapeless, button-up shirt in moss green, an oatmeal-coloured t-shirt and thick wool socks. It’s almost harder to reconcile these clothes with the man I love than it was to accept the ginger hair and patchy beard.
The only item of clothing in here that says Sherlock to me is the pair of blue silk boxers. I remember a conversation with Sherlock about his reason for wearing such ridiculously expensive pants. It was before we made the shift from friends and flatmates to lovers, and I was sorting through my laundry in preparation for washing.
“Sherlock, do you have any clothes to be washed?” I know he doesn’t wash many clothes, as much of his laundry is dry-cleaned, but everyone wears underwear and socks. I might as well throw a few things in to complete this load.
Sherlock glances up from his microscope.
“Hmm? Oh, yes, I have a few things in my laundry hamper.”
I wait for a moment, thinking he’ll retrieve them for me, then sigh and go into his room. As I pull out the scant armful of pants and socks, I wonder when our relationship became one where I’m perfectly okay with handling another bloke’s dirty underwear.
As I toss them into the basket with my things, I notice that his boxers all seem to be silk.
“Oi! Sherlock! You should have told me that these were silk – I almost threw them in the wash!”
He doesn’t even spare me a glance this time.
“Don’t be ridiculous, John. Those are washable silk. Just pull them out of the washer before you move everything to the dryer – machine drying is hell on silk. I’ll hang them up to dry in my room as usual.”
“That’s ridiculous, Sherlock. Why would you go to so much effort on a pair of pants? Why not just wear cotton?”
Sherlock sighs, sits back from his microscope, and steeples his fingers beneath his chin. He is silent long enough that I assume the conversation is over, and I pick up the basket of laundry to carry downstairs to the washer. When he speaks, it startles me.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed before that I’m extremely sensitive to textures, John. I have a hard time tolerating tight elastic around my waist, or rough cotton against…well, sensitive areas. It’s very distracting for me, like having insects crawling on my skin. It’s the reason I wear my t-shirts inside out – the seams are too harsh to tolerate. Silk boxers decrease that issue for me. It’s not ridiculous to me. It’s worth the money to avoid distraction.” He looks back down at his microscope, making it clear that the conversation is over.
I feel slightly ashamed of not connecting Sherlock’s avoidance of touch (the gloves, the coat, the distance he puts between himself and almost everyone else) with a hypersensitive reaction to textures. Somehow, I am moved that he has trusted me enough to tell me the reason for this eccentricity. I carry the laundry downstairs, and later, I am careful to separate out the silk items when I transfer everything to the dryer.
Now, I find myself smiling wistfully as I remove the silk boxers from the laundry before starting the dryer. I drape them to dry while the rest of the clothes go in the dryer.
Because I want to let Sherlock sleep, I wait in the deserted conservatory until the dryer cycle is complete. I find a copy of the Dartmouth Chronicle, and glance over it, skimming through the local news. “Local Group Fights To Preserve Historic Church.” “Residents Vote To Increase Technology In Schools.” “Local Groups Row Over Access To Lighthouse Beach.” Not very scintillating stuff – it doesn’t do much to keep me distracted from thoughts of the man asleep in my bed, just down the corridor. Fortunately, the load of laundry is small enough that it dries fairly quickly.
Once I’ve folded and made a tidy stack of the clothing, as well as folding the newspaper, I’m out of excuses, and out of energy as well. Wearily, I return to room 221, and a bed that holds what I’d have given anything to see again.
That’s the thought that is running through my mind as I change into pyjamas and slip under the duvet. As I lie there, looking at Sherlock’s sleeping face, rendered even more unearthly than usual by the watery moonlight falling over it, I think about how desperately I had longed to see him once more, to hold him, to kiss him, to have him back.
Propping up on one elbow, I study that beautiful face, a face I never thought I would see again. A wayward curl stands out from his fringe, casting a shadow across his cheekbone. I reach out to smooth the lock of hair back down so that the light can fall on his face unhindered. The scruffy beard doesn’t do much to camouflage the exquisite line of his jaw. As I draw my hand back, I fight the urge to stroke along it and feel the texture.
I can’t believe he’s really here, in my bed, close enough to touch. God, I want to touch him. As I lie there watching him, feeling so very conflicted, he begins to moan in his sleep, and tosses his head from side to side.
“No,” he groans. “No, not John…no, John…don’t go…John, please…”
Sod this. My willpower is shot for the night, and the man that I love more than my own life is crying my name in his sleep. Fuck willpower – I can sort out my feelings tomorrow. I’m only human.
“Sssshhh, Sherlock, I’m here,” I murmur in his ear, as I slip my arms around him and pull him close. His long limbs twine around mine. I’m surrounded by the warmth and scent of my Sherlock, and it’s like coming home.
I know that I should sleep, but I’m afraid to close my eyes, afraid that I’ll wake up to find that this has all been just a dream. I think about how often I told myself that, if I could go back and do things right, then I could somehow have kept him alive, and would hold onto him, never letting go again.
So why can’t I just forgive him, and give in to what we both desperately want?
Filled with a tumult of heartbreak, joy, despair, love, and longing, I feel my body finally succumb to the bone-crushing exhaustion, and I sink into oblivion.
*See “Song of Sherlock” and “My Brother’s Keeper” for further backstory.Read Chapter 9