Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Non-con and slash, Sherlock/John.
Summary: Written for a prompt on the kinkmeme: Before shoving him in the explosive vest, Moriarty fucked John, viciously. John makes it through the whole encounter with Moriarty and Homles via his own badass soldier nerves of steel, but afterwards, when he and Sherlock are admitted to the hospital for minor burns and abrasions and shock, the hospital staff find other injuries on John.
(Title page by birddi)
John was going to break up with Sarah.
He was resolute, and he was determined that it would done by the end of the day. Which wouldn't have been a problem, except that he had to wait until Sarah got off work to talk to her. Three hours, twelve minutes to go...far too much time to think.
They'd only been on a handful of dates and neither of them were particularly emotionally involved – they hadn't even slept together yet – but breaking up with someone always made him feel guilty. Even that time he'd broken up with Matthew, who had been an utter arsehole and completely unsuited for a long-term relationship.
And, of course, thinking about breaking up with Sarah inevitably led to exactly why he'd felt it was necessary. Another thing he didn't want to think about.
He knew he was doing the right thing – he didn't have anything to offer a relationship right now. Just the thought of kissing someone, let alone having sex, was enough to make him feel nauseous, and he was self-aware to enough to know that even purely emotional support would probably be rather beyond him at this point.
Still, John was dreading it. It wasn't so much about Sarah as it was about what the break-up and the necessity of it said about him (and that sounded horribly selfish, but it was true). It was as though ending the relationship was admitting that he was deficient, that even in this small way, Moriarty had won.
He needed something to distract him, and since he was going to have to check how Sherlock's hands were healing, an obvious solution presented itself.
John left the living room – where he'd been channel-surfing and trying not to look at the clock – for the kitchen, where Sherlock was surfing the internet on John's laptop and shooting occasional, impatient glances towards the boiling kettle. John toyed with the idea of asking what he was doing, but decided it was best if he didn't know.
“Sherlock, how are your hands?”
Sherlock glanced at his fingers, still patched with sticking plaster. “Adequate.”
“Do they feel tight? Itchy? Swollen or painful?”
Sherlock's gaze cut to John, his eyes as hard as industrial diamond. “What's wrong?”
Sometimes, it was nice to have a friend he didn't need to bother keeping secrets from. At other times, it was just uncomfortable to have Sherlock know almost everything that went through his brain.
“Just give me your hands, Sherlock.”
“...I'll surrender my hands to your inspection if you tell me what's wrong.”
John sighed and bowed to the inevitable – he just didn't have the energy to fight with Sherlock right now.
“I'm going to break up with Sarah when she gets off work, and I'm trying to get my mind off it.”
“Ah.” Surprisingly, Sherlock offered his hands without further comment.
There wasn't anything John could do. In spite of the hot water, Sherlock had been fortunate enough not to burn himself, and all of the scrapes were shallow and likely didn't even need the plasters John had insisted on applying.
“Should I relocate to my bedroom?” Sherlock asked abruptly.
As usual, John didn't quite follow his thought process. “What?”
“For the...break-up,” Sherlock said, a faint hint of distaste in his voice. “I'm told a measure of privacy is appreciated for such matters.”
John frowned. “I'm not going to break up with her here. I'm walking over to her place.”
Sherlock scowled. “You're not going alone.”
“Excuse me? What happened to 'a measure of privacy is appreciated for such matters'?”
“It's not safe,” Sherlock muttered, his tone unexpectedly vicious and his eyes dropping to the laptop as his scowl deepened.
A shiver skated up John's spine at the implications behind Sherlock's objection. He hadn't even considered the idea that Moriarty might attack him again – he'd got what he wanted after all, so why would he bother? – but now that it had occurred to him, he cursed himself for a bloody idiot for not realising it sooner. Of course Moriarty would still consider him a viable target; he was just the kind of person to kidnap John purely to make Sherlock dance to his tune.
The thought of somehow ending up in Moriarty's clutches had John suppressing the urge to run upstairs and hide under the covers of his bed, like when he was five years old and terrified of the nameless shadows that lived in his cupboard.
Suddenly, the idea of Sherlock accompanying him to Sarah's house seemed quite welcome.
“Just do me a favour and don't listen in.”
If Sarah was honest with herself, she knew this day had been coming. John had been uncomfortable and standoffish whenever she visited him in the hospital, and had always made an excuse to prevent her visiting him when he'd returned to his flat. Some of it might be PTSD – John had clearly been tortured, and god, it made her sick to think about that – but Sarah knew how to spot a man who was about to initiate a break-up.
And if she were truly, painfully honest with herself, she'd been expecting it for much longer than that. She'd seen the way Sherlock acted around John, and more importantly, she'd seen the way John acted around Sherlock.
Sometimes she truly wondered why he'd started dating her in the first place. Did he think Sherlock wasn't interested, or had he convinced himself it wouldn't work out?
Well, whatever the reason, Sarah knew it wouldn't have been out of boredom or a desire to provoke Sherlock's jealousy. John had his faults – being a closeted adrenaline junkie was one of them – but at heart, he was a good man. Something that was becoming all-too rare these days.
That was probably why Sarah had continued seeing him even when some part of her had known it was a lost cause. Because John was honest, and brave, and loyal to his very bones, and was the kind of person who became a doctor because they truly wanted to help people, the sort who always tried to do what was right.
Which was why Sarah knew that soon they'd be having that conversation. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but soon. Because John Watson wasn't the sort of man who broke up with someone over the phone; he'd do it face to face.
So when someone rang her doorbell, she felt absolutely no surprise when it turned out to be John.
“We need to talk,” he said quietly, his expression serious. But his mouth was wrinkled at the corners, as though he was uncomfortable and trying not to show it.
Sarah simply nodded, feeling nothing but acceptance and a dull sense of regret. “I know.”
The fact that Sarah had taken it so well had left John feeling relieved, and then guilty that he felt relieved.
Sherlock had honoured John's condition of not-eavesdropping by taking himself off...somewhere...when they were three houses away, reappearing just as abruptly when it was over.
“Jesus, Sherlock!” John yelped when the man seemed to materialise beside him. “How can a man your size move so bloody quietly?”
“You were distracted,” Sherlock replied, sounding close to bitter for no reason John could determine.
Under normal circumstances, John would have tried to puzzle out what had upset Sherlock – with varying degrees of success – but now he was just too exhausted and emotionally drained to bother. He'd been dreading breaking up with Sarah, then he'd been relieved she'd taken it so well, then guilty for being relieved, and now he'd progressed to a strange sense of shame, horribly similar to what he'd felt when he'd stood outside the crisis centre.
He knew he shouldn't feel that way. He and Sarah hadn't really been going anywhere – that it had been more a question of when they would break up rather than if – but ending the relationship now felt like surrendering. Felt like admitting that Moriarty had screwed him up so badly he'd never have a relationship again.
John knew, logically, that wasn't true, that it might take years to recover but that recovery was an option...but right now, he couldn't see it. He thought ruefully that it seemed stupid that a few hours of torment could have traumatised him more than months at war, but perhaps that was because the war – for all its violence and terror – had never been personal.
This...what Moriarty had done...was sickeningly personal.
John shook his head once, sharply, like a dog shaking away water. He wouldn't think about that. Instead, he would focus on the fact that he undoubtedly felt lighter, now that the break-up was over and done with.
He was surprised to realise they were already home – apparently he'd been so absorbed in his thoughts he hadn't even noticed when they'd turned into Baker Street. John gave a small huff of amusement at himself, conceding that it had been a good idea to have Sherlock tag along, if only because he might have walked himself into a bus otherwise.
“You seem...happier,” Sherlock observed quietly when they were back in the flat, the detective in his chair and tapping away at John's laptop again while John tried to scrounge something edible from the fridge.
“Well, it was the right thing to do,” John mused without turning around. “It's not like I could keep her hanging on until I got over it.”
And John wasn't going to think about how impossible it seemed that he'd ever 'get over it'.
Although in the hospital, he'd thought about what happened every second of the day. But now, back home, he'd be caught off-guard and as much as ten minutes would pass without it demanding his attention.
It was similar to what had happened when his parents had died. In the first few days, he used to think about it every moment, and each time it hurt just as much as it had the first time. But eventually he went hours without truly thinking on it, then days. It wasn't as though it had never happened, but that he absorbed it, and it became something that was there but not remarked upon. It changed him, but it didn't marr him forever.
“Besides, Sarah took it pretty well,” John continued. “Seemed a bit relieved, to be honest.”
“Imbecile,” Sherlock muttered, in the kind of soft tone that suggested he'd mostly been talking to himself.
John turned around. “I beg your pardon?”
“Imbecile,” Sherlock repeated. “She's going to give up on you just because it might be a bit of work? As I said, imbecile.”
Sherlock hadn't looked at John – his eyes were still fixed on the laptop screen – but there was a strange intensity to both his face and his voice. As though Sarah accepting the break-up had personally offended him in some manner.
“She's not,” John said, feeling the need to defend his ex-girlfriend; after all, it hadn't been her fault they'd split up. “Look, Sherlock, when you get into a relationship, you expect certain things from your partner, things that I'm not...I'm not in any fit state to provide right now.”
If that last part was a little bitter, John thought he certainly had the right to be.
Sherlock had abandoned the laptop to focus on him completely now, a small line between his eyebrows showing his confusion. “Like what?”
John wondered how he could explain it. Then he wondered why he was even considering explaining it – shouldn't this be the point where, if he was in a conversation with anyone else, he'd declare it none of their business?
“Look, Sherlock, Sarah and I went into this expecting, at its most basic, two things from each other: sex and emotional availability. Now emotional availability I might be able to swing on a good day, but right now, pulling out all my fingernails with pliers holds more appeal than the idea of having sex.”
Sherlock snorted. “So? She'd still have you, wouldn't she? If I was in a relationship with you, I wouldn't let anything so paltry as lack of sex deter me.”
For a moment, John froze, torn between conflicting impulses. On the one hand, the problems that would have inevitably developed had he continued seeing Sarah were hardly 'paltry', and it infuriated him to hear them referred to like that. On the other hand, that came close to being the nicest thing Sherlock had ever said about him.
“That's all well and good to say,” John made himself respond. “But you don't want a relationship with me, so-”
“...what?” It was all John could say.
“You claimed that I did not want a relationship with you, which isn't true,” Sherlock said, a little too calmly for John's peace of mind. “In actual fact, going by the symptoms and the common definition of the state, I'm probably in love with you. Of course, given that this is a new experience for me, that may be a premature conclusion.”
John collapsed into his chair because really, there was nothing else he could do. Actual words were beyond him, and he simply gaped at Sherlock like the police tended to do when the detective made one of his more outlandish deductions.
Sherlock was frowning at him again. “Is this news to you? I didn't think I was particularly subtle.”
“Some of us need things spelled out every now and then,” John said, his voice still flat with shock – it was a lot to take in, and it had been a very emotional day.
“You really had no idea?” Sherlock asked, his head cocked slightly as though he were marvelling at John's obtuseness.
“I had absolutely no bloody clue,” John said honestly, still reeling as he gathered himself to be equally as honest in turn. “If it helps, I...well...me, too.”
He could tell Sherlock understood. For a moment, the furrows in his brow deepened, and John could tell he was going through his memory, re-examining John's every word and action in light of the new information. Then, all at once, his face smoothed out in a particularly self-satisfied smile.
This would usually be the point at which John kissed him. But as that was out of the question, he just remained sitting opposite Sherlock, feeling awkward.
The insane, emotionally-stunted man John was in love with had just told him he felt the same way...so shouldn't he be feeling happier? While joy and contentment were curling through his chest, they were like wisps of smoke rather than the raging bonfire he'd half-expected. He was happy, but...not much. Maybe it was because that, even though he'd been handed exactly what he wanted on a platter, he couldn't yet see the way to ever actually taking it.
“Why couldn't we have had this discussion before?” John asked, half to himself and half to the universe at large.
“...perhaps the timing could have been better,” Sherlock conceded.
“I mean, it won't be sunshine and roses. Shit, Sherlock, do you have any idea how difficult this will be?”
“I'm told I'm difficult all the time,” Sherlock pointed out affably. “Maybe it's your turn.”
John probably should have been angry at the flippant dismissal of what he knew would be a long, hard road to come, but all he felt was a dim sense of amusement.
But still, he felt compelled to ask, “What happens if I don't get better?”
Sherlock shrugged. “Then we'll continue on as we have been.”
John snorted, thinking it typical of Sherlock that, having made up his mind to hold onto something, he wouldn't let go of it for anything. “You don't do anything by halves or – god forbid – normally, do you?”
“Normal is boring. Besides, you will get better.”
“Just like that? You just know that I'm going to get better?” John said, the scepticism heavy in his voice.
John knew his look would be politely described as 'disbelieving'.
“Oh, all right then,” Sherlock said, rolling his eyes. “Be like the police and don't believe me without solid proof. It's tiresome, but eventually you'll realise I was right.”
Looking at Sherlock in front of him, all pale skin and dark hair and sharp angles and completely, arrogantly confident that he was right, John could almost believe it. It was as though if Sherlock said he was going to recover, then that made it true.
John realised that was probably a bit of a warped view of the world, and it was that more than anything that prompted him to laugh.
The sound of it surprised him. It wasn't bitter or choked off or strained as all his laughs had been since he awoke in the hospital. It came from deep in his belly and sent his ribs into spasms so rapid he could barely draw breath between them.
It was exactly the way he'd laughed before he'd even known Moriarty's name. It felt rich and warm and above all, real.
John allowed himself to think that maybe, just maybe, Sherlock was right.
Sherlock had made himself scarce when they approached Sarah's house, and hadn't even given in to the temptation to peek in a window. Probably for the best, really; he certainly didn't want to see or overhear Sarah dissolving into tears when John explained why he'd come over.
And he had no doubt she would be crying at some point. After all, John was walking out of her life, what sane person wouldn't be upset? If John had tried to leave their flat, to leave Sherlock after something like this, Sherlock knew he would have done anything and everything he could to make John stay.
In the end, the visit didn't take nearly as long as Sherlock had anticipated, but John was so distracted when he left that Sherlock was right beside him before the doctor noticed his presence. John was largely silent all the way home, and it was only when they were actually inside the flat that he seemed to come back to himself somewhat. He seemed happier, unburdened almost, and while it was certainly pleasing, Sherlock couldn't help but wonder exactly why. He'd been exceedingly reluctant to end his relationship with Sarah, so why did he seem so relaxed now? Shouldn't he be angry, regretful, depressed or some combination of the three?
So Sherlock did what he usually did when he was puzzled about John – he asked. With anyone else, he'd simply try to deduce it; most people prevaricated to extraordinary degrees when faced with questions about their emotional state. But with John, Sherlock was guaranteed an honest answer, guaranteed that he'd at least try to explain it.
“It was the right thing to do,” came John's voice from the kitchen. “It's not like I could keep her hanging on until I got over it. Besides, Sarah took it pretty well. Seemed a bit relieved, to be honest.”
Relieved? Sarah was relieved that John ended their relationship? Why? She wasn't a closeted lesbian, didn't seem to be hiding any shameful secrets that John was on the verge of discovering...
“Imbecile,” he stated. It was the only conclusion.
But apparently that confused John, and Sherlock had to elaborate; if Sarah didn't actually want a relationship with John, then clearly she was a monumental idiot. John, however, seemed to take Sherlock's perfectly reasonable conclusion as a signal to launch into a superfluous explanation.
John seemed to think he would be incapable of providing what Sarah needed, which Sherlock found frankly ridiculous. So Sarah would have to go without sex for a while, so John would have some emotional problems – she still would have had John. In Sherlock's opinion, that more than outweighed any problems. If it had been him John was in a relationship with, he wouldn't have accepted any of those excuses. If, in that hypothetical relationship, John had ever considered breaking up with him simply because he thought it was for Sherlock's own good or that it would spare him pain, Sherlock would have swiftly disabused him of the notion.
But then again, Sherlock suspected he was in love with John, and he supposed it was possible Sarah wasn't as attached.
He made his opinions known, and was honestly taken aback at John's surprise. He'd always believed John was aware of his affection (Sherlock had hardly been discreet), but was simply politely ignoring it because he didn't feel the same way. He'd known John was sexually attracted to him, but there was a large gulf between physical attraction and actually desiring a sexual relationship with someone, and Sherlock had always assumed John felt nothing beyond friendship for him. And even if it was an unusually loyal and patient friendship...well, that was simply John's nature.
John was looking rather dazed. “I had absolutely no bloody clue.”
There was a slight pause, and John seemed to be struggling with something. For a moment, Sherlock was worried that this new knowledge would make John uneasy. It was ridiculous, as they'd managed to get along perfectly well for quite some time, and his knowledge of Sherlock's feelings wouldn't actually change anything, but most people were funny about things like that.
“If it helps, I...well...me, too.”
For a moment, Sherlock was certain he'd misunderstood. John couldn't be referring to...but yes, he was looking ever so slightly flustered but still as earnest as ever – he was telling the absolute truth.
John was in love with him.
Sherlock dissected that thought. If John was in love with him, why had he been dating Sarah? Except he'd been unaware that Sherlock reciprocated, as evidenced by his surprise earlier, so taking that into account...
Sherlock reviewed his interactions with John over the past few weeks, incorporating the new variable of John's feelings for him, and felt a slow smile begin to pull at his cheeks.
John loved him.
Sherlock had a sudden impulse to go to John's chair, bend over him, and finally determine what kissing John was actually like. But he quelled the desire almost as soon as it formed; John wouldn't welcome such a gesture, not now.
“Why couldn't we have had this discussion before?” John sighed, and Sherlock had to admit to a vague, frustrated sense of regret.
“...perhaps the timing could have been better,” was all he said.
“I mean, it won't be sunshine and roses,” John went on, beginning to look distressed. “Shit, Sherlock, do you have any idea how difficult this will be?”
Sherlock had a conceptual expectation, but he knew it was probably nowhere near the reality. So he settled for pointing out the obvious – that he was difficult as well – in the hopes that John might understand that on occasion, some things were worth the complications.
“What happens if I don't get better?” John suddenly asked, and Sherlock heard the vulnerability in his voice. However much John might like to pretend otherwise, this was a concept that truly frightened him.
But Sherlock had never been much good at platitudes or comfort, so he settled for the truth. “Then we'll continue on as we have been.”
And he meant it. Sherlock supposed it was conceivable that there might be someone else in the world like John, but he thought it highly unlikely. There was little factual basis for his conclusion but something told him that what he'd found with John, he wouldn't find with anyone else.
John prattled something about normality, but it couldn't disguise the fact that he was still worried.
“Just like that? You just know that I'm going to get better?”
“Of course.” Sherlock would have thought it self-evident, but John still looked sceptical.
Sherlock gave in to the urge to roll his eyes. “Oh, all right then. Be like the police and don't believe me without solid proof. It's tiresome, but eventually you'll realise I was right.”
It was true that he was wrong on occasion – John's sister sprang to mind – but Sherlock knew he was right about this. John would emerge from this ordeal different, yes, but certainly not broken. While Sherlock would have liked to think it was because John was not alone, he knew that was pure narcissism on his part; John would have survived regardless, because of his own will and his own strength.
John blinked at him, as though startled by the assurance in Sherlock's voice, then quite suddenly burst into laughter.
It wasn't scraped or broken-sounding – John wasn't laughing to hide his own pain or in an effort to reassure Sherlock. It was an honest laugh, deep in tone and slightly wheezing, sounding almost as though he were out of breath. The kind of laugh John had frequently given in to before Sherlock had received the pink phone.
In spite of the fact that Sherlock had no idea what had amused John so, he found himself smiling.
It was a start.
AN: And that's it! I know some people will be disappointed at my ending it here, but this felt like the right place to bring this story to a close. Enough to imply that there's still a lot of darkness to go, but that John and Sherlock will get through it together.
And thanks so much to ginbitch, who beta-d so many chapters of this story and helped me improve it!