“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!
Chapter 9: If You Love
“Love is whatever you can still betray.
Betrayal can only happen if you love.”
– John LeCarre
Warm sunlight spills across the bed, gently bringing me out of a deep, restful sleep. Drowsily, I automatically reach across the bed, groping for the warm, pliant form that is curled against me. Long, achingly familiar limbs twine around me, and I drift back off, cocooned and secure.
I wake again to soft lips pressing a line of kisses down the back of my neck, and a warm body pressed against my back, arms wrapped close around me. I automatically arch back into Sherlock’s embrace…
The events of the night before slam into me, and a bizarre combination of joy and the ache of betrayal burns into my chest. Abruptly, I pull away, sit up and swing my legs out of bed.
I turn my head to see a lightly bearded, ginger-haired Sherlock propped up on one elbow, his gorgeous seaglass eyes studying me. He smiles softly.
The pain in my chest intensifies, and I can feel my heart working overtime, beating like a trip-hammer. I need air. I have to get out of here. I rise, reach for my discarded trousers and shirt, and dress hastily.
“John?” His voice is so uncertain, so…un-Sherlock.
I turn around and look into pale eyes that are filled with anxiety. Damn. I can’t just run out on him. We have to talk. I force a smile onto my face.
“All right…” Sherlock sits up. The duvet slips down to his waist as he turns to swing his legs out of the bed, revealing his bare torso. I saw him last night, and felt his ribs with my hands, but this is my first glimpse of him in the cold light of day.
I am horrified.
Sherlock has never been a beefy guy, but his body has always been overlaid with plenty of strong, whipcord muscle. I remember mentally comparing him to Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, the first time I saw him undressed.
Now, his ribs protrude so far that I would have no difficulty counting them by sight alone. His clavicle stands out to a painful degree, and his scapulae jut like wings from his back. Before the fall, his body weight was probably about 75kg. I sincerely doubt that the man in front of me would tip the scales at more than 60kg. Fading bruises and a few new scars stand out against the too-pale skin.
“Jesus, Sherlock.” The doctor in me takes over, and I step in front of him to look more closely, my hands grasping his bony shoulders. “Have you eaten anything in the last ten weeks? How could you do this to yourself?”
Sherlock’s hands reach up to cover my hands on his shoulders, and he gently puts me away from him. He tugs on my dressing gown, wraps it tightly around himself. It’s far too short for his long legs, too large everywhere else. Spotting the neat stack of clean clothing that I left on the chair by the bed, he rises and picks them up, turning toward the bathroom. He pauses for a moment.
“Thank you for washing these, John,” he says, not looking at me. “After I’m showered and dressed, I believe you mentioned coffee?”
“Not just coffee, Sherlock. After seeing how thin you are, we’re having a big breakfast – and you will eat every bite.”
A hint of a smile tugs at the corner of his mouth, and he replies, softly, “Yes, doctor.”
As Sherlock is still keeping a low profile, I order room service – two full English breakfasts. When the food arrives, Sherlock is still in the shower, so I set out our plates on the small table under the window.
I tap on the bathroom door. “Sherlock? Breakfast is here.”
A few minutes later, Sherlock steps out of the bathroom, and my breath catches in my throat. He has borrowed my electric razor, and removed the horrid, patchy beard. The sight of the achingly familiar angles and planes of his beautiful, beautiful face causes an actual, physical pang in my chest. His silver sloe eyes meet mine, and he steps forward, closing the distance between us.
Wordlessly, he raises a hand to caress my cheek, then cups the line of my jaw. He leans down to softly brush my lips with his in a feathery-soft kiss. His lips part, the tip of his tongue lightly traces my lips. I gasp, and he takes the opportunity to tease his tongue into my mouth.
I know that this is a bad idea. Head, not heart. However, my traitorous fingers have somehow made their way to the nape of his neck, where they twine into the close-cropped ginger curls. I pull him closer, deepening the kiss, lost in the wave of sensation. His warm arms wrap around me, his long, clever fingers running across my back.
Oh, God, I’ve missed him so much.
Random images flit through my mind, remembered moments of bliss, lying twined together in our bed, racing across London rooftops, Sherlock’s head in my lap as we watch telly, laughing together as we leave a crime scene, eating out of the same takeaway container and bickering over who ate more of the good bits, making love in a beam of morning sunlight that slants across our bed, walking companionably hand-in-hand as we leave Bart’s pathology building…
…Sherlock lying on the pavement outside St. Bart’s, his pale, sightless gaze staring up at the grey sky through a mask of blood.
As mood-killers go, that one is pretty impressive.
I press my hands against Sherlock’s chest, gently pushing him away, breaking the kiss. He seizes my hand as I step back, and worried eyes meet mine, the longing in them perfectly clear. I squeeze his hand, then release it and turn toward the table, clearing my throat and trying to keep my voice steady.
“Food’s getting cold.”
I sit at the little table and gesture for him to join me. Sherlock sits down, warily eyeing the vegan version of a full English. The chef has certainly made an effort, and I must say that the soy sausages are quite surprisingly good. I tuck into my own meal, after first shoving what looks like a tofu scramble to one side. I note that Sherlock doing the same thing, and we smile at each other.
Eventually, I notice that Sherlock isn’t so much eating as poking moodily at his food, and I lean across the table to point sternly at him with my fork.
“Eat, Sherlock. I am going to get calories into you, you infuriating man, if I have to hold you down and stuff it down your throat like a foie gras goose.”
To my surprise, Sherlock picks up his fork and proceeds to eat everything but the tofu scramble (I can hardly say anything about that, since I couldn’t stomach it either). Seeing Sherlock this amenable is disconcerting – he normally resists my efforts to feed him as if it were a competition.
We finish our meal in silence, then Sherlock rises from his chair.
“I should really retrieve my things from Dewer’s Hollow before we return to London, John.”
“Return to London?” I blink at him in surprise. “You’re going to come out of hiding?”
“I’ve destroyed Moriarty’s network, John, save one individual. This man knows that I’m alive. There is nothing to be gained in avoiding him. I will return to London, he will come after me, and you and I will set a trap to catch him and end this, once and for all.”
“Who is he?”
“I’ll tell you about him on the drive back to London, John. It’s a long story.”
He steps over to me, and reaches for my hand.
“Before we go, though…” he pulls me closer to him, “…I was hoping that we could take a little time to…celebrate…being together once more.” His arms slip around my waist, and it would be so easy, so very easy, to let him take me to bed, to let him soothe and kiss and stroke my pain away.
Head, not heart.
He feels the stiffening of my posture, and releases his hold on me, stepping back. His glaucous eyes gaze into mine, searching for forgiveness. I can’t give him what he seeks – I’m just not there, yet. But, the way it felt to wake up in his arms this morning…maybe I’m not as far away from forgiveness as I thought.
I turn to pick up my bag, then head into the bathroom.
“I’ll get a quick shower, then, and we’ll make tracks for London.”
Behind me, Sherlock sighs.
“Whatever you say, John.”
Fortunately, our room is at the end of the corridor, and Sherlock is able to slip down the stairs and out the side door without being seen. I take the key to the front desk and check out, grateful that I do not recognise the young man on the early shift. Good – no awkward conversation. I settle the bill, then stride behind the inn, to find Sherlock irritably brushing dried mud from the passenger seat.
“Honestly, John, your hire car is filthy,” he mutters.
“I can’t imagine how that happened, Sherlock,” I reply, rolling my eyes at him. He’s been living in a mineshaft for over a week, with no access to running water. Two showers later, and he’s as fastidious as a cat again.
“Wasn’t that way before a certain muddy consulting detective sat there last night.”
I hear an irritable snort as my companion folds himself into the seat beside me.
The drive to the path that leads to Dewer’s Hollow isn’t far. I pull off in the little lay-by, and we climb out to begin our trek to the Hollow. It’s a beautiful morning, clear and sunny, and if it weren’t for the mud on the path, you would never guess that it had been raining stair rods last night. I follow Sherlock along the narrow path, drinking in the reality of his existence. Even the odd ginger locks seem amazing at the moment.
When we reach the woods, the path widens, and Sherlock drops back to walk beside me, bumping my shoulder with his own in his old, habitual way. As we stroll along the path, admiring the shafts of sunlight that break through the green canopy above, Sherlock casually takes my hand.
A burst of warmth floods through me. Despite the stern lecture from the thinking part of my brain, the overwhelming need to touch the man I love wins out. I don’t pull away. Instead, I squeeze his hand, then interlace our fingers. We walk the rest of the way to Dewer’s Hollow in silence, enjoying the tentative accord between us.
“What about the rest of the stuff?”
Back in Sherlock’s hideout, I am startled when Sherlock collects a couple of books, a rucksack full of papers, and a few other odds and ends, then announces he is ready to leave. I glance around at the camp beds, the spirit stove, the little gas lantern. It seems incredibly wasteful to leave them here, when they are practically new.
Sherlock looks thoughtful. “I’ll probably give a lot of it to Wiggins – if she can’t use it, I’m certain she’ll know someone who can.”
I look at him, baffled. “So…why exactly are we leaving it all here, then?”
Sherlock snorts. “I can have Mycroft send one of his minions for the rest of it later. He owes me one.”
Jesus. I hadn’t even thought about Mycroft. He needs to be told that his brother is alive and well, and has apparently dismantled most of a crime web in the last two months.
“He may not be interested in helping you out, once he gets over the shock of finding out you’re alive. He’ll probably be quite pissed.”
“Oh, he knows,” Sherlock shrugs. “If he’s pissed, it will be at how far over budget I went while I was in Hong Kong. He never has understood that sometimes large bribes are necessary – how else was I to gather data?”
Shocked speechless at this revelation, I stand motionless. Mycroft knows? He knows…yet he allowed me to struggle with grief over the loss of his brother, who apparently had gone over budget on his bribes?
My world tilts on its axis – for the second time in 12 hours.
Sherlock rambles on, something about the difficulty of bribing ICAC officials, when he finally notices that his audience of one has gone missing.
“John? What’s wrong?”
I lift my eyes to meet his, and he actually takes a step back when he meets my gaze, I can only assume from the utter fury he sees in my eyes. I clench my jaw and step forward to close the distance between us, my spine locking automatically into a military stance.
“Mycroft knows.” It’s not a question, but it’s clear that I’m seeking – scratch that, demanding – confirmation.
“It was necessary for Mycroft to know. I needed immediate access to an ongoing supply of funds, weapons and information. I had no choice but to take Mycroft into my confidence. There was no other way to accomplish my goals.” He eyes me warily. “What is it, John?”
“Mycroft has been in touch with me constantly, Sherlock,” I bite out. “He has been oh, so solicitous during my ‘time of loss.’ And nowhere during that time did he happen to mention that you were not six feet under. He’s been there, all the time. He executed your will, left me your trust fund – and we’re going to have a conversation about that little item later – and your Stradivarius. He took the violin away to keep it in secure storage.”
“Errr…” Sherlock seems incredibly uncomfortable, scratching at the back of his neck anxiously, then fiddling with the two remaining buttons on his shirt, unable to meet my eyes.
“I have the Strad.” He steps further back in the mineshaft, returning with a familiar violin case. “Mycroft used that as an excuse to get it for me. Sometimes I simply can’t think properly without playing. He had his assistant bring it to me in Moscow. This violin has seen far too many hotel rooms in the last few weeks. I couldn’t play it here, of course – wouldn’t do to start a new legend about a haunted Dewer’s Hollow, would it?”
He smiles playfully, as if he and Mycroft haven’t been playing me for a fool for months.
Sometimes Sherlock can be so spectacularly clueless – he seems genuinely surprised at my fury over his conspiracy with Mycroft to keep me ignorant. It’s as if, since he knew what was really going on, everyone else should simply fall in line with his plans, and leave pesky emotions out of the mix.
Fists clenched, spine ramrod-straight, I hiss out, “You are both absolute bastards.”
Turning sharply, I stalk from the cave, moving briskly up the path out of the Hollow. I hear Sherlock’s hasty steps behind me.
“John! John, wait!”
I think not.
Never breaking my stride, I stalk back to the parked car. Sherlock follows at a safe distance, and climbs into the passenger seat. He sits in silence, twiddling with something in his jacket pocket. I know he’s waiting for me to speak, but I can’t.
Turns out, the drive back to London can seem like forever, even if I’m not alone in the car this time.
oOoOoRead Chapter 10