|A sequel this time: "Harbor" - John/Sherlock - R/NC-17
||[Aug. 12th, 2010|10:48 pm]
(she lives between pages)
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC 1)
Pairing/Characters: John/Sherlock; Mrs. Hudson, Molly, Sarah
Rating: R, maybe light NC-17.
Notes: A sequel to Drowning Man, because I promised one to a handful of lovely people. And also, I think that there are some serious issues that need resolution. All Eliot quotes this time around are from The Waste Land.
Summary: Recovery doesn't necessarily begin when they stitch you up.
***Now available as podfic here, read by speccygeekgrrl .***
The night before, John can't sleep.
He almost wishes he could say it's the pain in his leg, which is healing nicely, but that isn't true. He's grown so accustomed to pain, any kind of physical duress, that he's accepted it as a fact of his existence. He hasn't taken any painkillers for days—not because they have no effect, but because he has preferred to face Sherlock with a clear head during their daily visits. The cab fares he's run up between Baker Street and the hospital have been extraordinary, but then, Mycroft has been paying.
Tomorrow morning, he'll take one last trip, and Sherlock will return with him.
Keeping Sherlock confined to bed for three weeks, one of the nurses had told him, wouldn't have been possible without John's presence. As it was, he'd been a holy terror during the hours when John had been there, never mind the hours when he'd been absent. And they couldn't have kept him drugged indefinitely. As it was, Sherlock had adapted to the point where wandering the halls soundlessly after dark with the morphine drip still attached had become a regular occurrence. A night watchman had caught him running some kind of experiment in the mortuary. John hadn't had the nerve to ask what, precisely, the damages were. Sherlock hadn't elaborated.
John shifts on his mattress, cursing the elusiveness of sleep.
Sherlock's nocturnal wanderings aren't the only thing they haven't been talking about.
* * *
Sherlock stays in bed only because John had made him promise not to cause trouble on his last night. Granted, John's idea of trouble is somewhat far-fetched.
Even after his condition had stabilized, they'd kept him confined to a private room. Partly Mycroft's doing, he had suspected (throw money at the problem until it goes away) and partly John's (he'll be happier left alone, and so will the people who won't have to put up with him). If they'd let him be put in a room with other patients, he'd at least have had plenty of environmental data to keep himself occupied. It was no fault of his own that he'd found it necessary to roam further afield in search of work.
Idly, Sherlock reaches out through the darkness and snags his book off the table.
He does, in fact, have a problem to solve that doesn't require a corpse or chemical compounds. He hadn't initially considered it a problem, not least because he'd been pumped full of so many different substances at the time of the incident that he'd been incapable of thinking before he acted. Not that he'd particularly wanted to think about it anyway. He'd almost died. He'd been entitled to some kind of compensation.
Sherlock presses the spine of T.S. Eliot: Collected Poems 1909-1962 to his lips.
He wants to kiss John Watson again before an even greater problem engulfs him.
* * *
Sherlock is already in the lobby when John arrives: sat in a wheelchair, covered in a blanket. He offers John a thin, but genuine smile, eyes manic with pent-up mischief.
"At least it's not bright orange this time," John observes. "Ready to go?"
"Not quite," says one of the nurses, Saleema, of whom John has grown quite fond thanks to her masterfully no-nonsense approach to handling Sherlock. She's carrying a vase of flowers so showy that it nearly obscures her face. "These just arrived," she explains, breathless. "Will you be able to manage getting them home?"
"Let's see," John says, detaching the card. "At a guess, they're from Scotland Yard—"
"No," Sherlock replies, deadpan, as if he's already worked it out. "Even worse."
Couldn't very well send you off home
without a token of affection, could I?
(Oh, and your little dog, too.)
"Burn them," says John, fiercely, crumpling the card as he hands the bouquet back.
"Let me see that," says Sherlock, tugging on John's sleeve.
"No," John responds, taking hold of Sherlock's hand in order to still it. "Pardon. You needn't do anything so drastic," he says, turning back to Saleema. "Give them to Mrs. Dodd. She was in the bed to my left. Charming pensioner lady with lavender hair."
"Keep them," suggests Sherlock, unexpectedly. "You've been a great help."
"Well, I—" Saleema looks flustered, but she collects herself quickly. "I may not be allowed to, but if Mrs. Dodd doesn't want them, I'm sure I can always find someone. I'm guessing they're from a party whose attention isn't...welcome?"
"His secret admirers have got a bit out of hand," John explains. "Thank you, yes, you've been amazing. We'll be back for that check-up in a week or so."
"I want to see," Sherlock mutters as another attendant pushes him out the door.
"Not a chance," John says, quickening his limp. Their cab is waiting.
* * *
Sherlock manages to tease the card from John's coat pocket during the fifteen-minute cab ride home. This is accomplished primarily through pretending to be asleep on John's shoulder, with one arm thrown across John's lap and curled around his waist. The result is that John is too flustered to pay attention to Sherlock's fingers, what when he's occupied with worrying about the rest of him. John finally relaxes about halfway through the journey, resting his cheek against the top of Sherlock's head.
On the one hand, it's very pleasant. Curious, Sherlock noses his way inside John's collar, breathing warmly against John's neck. John shivers slightly, his possessive hold on Sherlock's elbow tightening. It won't be difficult to get what he wants, Sherlock realizes, not when John is still clearly as preoccupied with the incident as he is. How long will it take, Sherlock wonders, for conditions to favor a repeat attempt? Mrs. Hudson won't give them any breathing space for at least a fortnight. Sherlock also grudgingly recognizes that he's still very weak. John isn't at his best, either.
The moment is one of almost perfect silence until the cab driver speaks
"Sir, you may want to wake your—" he hesitates politely "—friend. We're there."
"That won't be necessary," Sherlock says, straightening in his seat. The stab of pain is unexpected enough that he hisses with it, swaying forward. John steadies him.
"It's straight to bed with you," John says, shoving twenty quid in the driver's direction as they pull up to the curb. "If you're tired enough to fall asleep, you need rest."
"Sofa," Sherlock counters, reaching to open his door, but John stops him.
"Bed," he says when he's finally around the other side and gets the door for him. If Sherlock doesn't think about it too hard, it's almost funny, how quickly John can move with a cane. "We at least know you can walk. Come on."
"Of course I can," says Sherlock, taking John's hand. "See? Now, the sofa—"
"Is not where you're going," John snaps, waving to the driver as he pulls away.
Being helped up the stairs by a man who needs help up the stairs himself is, in fact, extremely funny. When they reach the top, Mrs. Hudson is waiting for them.
It's only later, once John has practically tucked him in (he'd leaned close for an instant, and Sherlock had fleetingly thought—but no), that Sherlock manages to fully investigate Moriarty's note. Expensive ink, expensive card-stock, expensive flowers.
Such a pity, that the bastard's words are so cheap.
* * *
After such an uneventful homecoming, John would have liked to have thought that their troubles (aside from the madman at the door, waiting, waiting) had subsided, at least for a little while. He'd got a decent night's sleep, and so, if he could believe his eyes, had Sherlock. Alas, they weren't out of the woods just yet.
Mrs. Hudson taps him hesitantly on the shoulder while he's in the midst of washing up the remnants of the breakfast tray he'd ended up sharing with Sherlock.
"I don't know if you've seen," she says, looking slightly pale, her eyes darting in the direction of the refrigerator, "but there's a...well..."
John closes his eyes and clenches his jaw. "Still there, is it?"
Mrs. Hudson nods miserably. "I thought letting him have the skull back would help!"
"I'll take care of it," John sighs, drying his hands on the nearest dish towel, which is covered in—well, to be fair, it isn't worth wondering. As he hesitantly cracks the refrigerator door, Mrs. Hudson flees. He understands instantly why.
"Christ! Sherlock!" he shouts, covering his nose with the dish towel. "One of your experiments has gone health-hazard. Where's your mobile?"
"Don't know!" Sherlock calls back. "Ring it!"
Five minutes after confiscating his own phone from beneath Sherlock's pillow, John follows the sound of Sherlock's into the living room. It's on the desk under a sock. It doesn't take him long to locate a number for the mortuary at Bart's.
"Sherlock!" Molly answers without preamble. "I've been—I mean, we've been so—"
"How did you know? I mean, this isn't Sherlock, obviously, but it's his phone, so—"
"John," she says, a touch disappointed. "Hi. We can see all the numbers coming in."
"Right," John says. "Listen, about all of the...items Sherlock borrows from you on a regular basis, what does he usually do when he's done with them?"
"Brings them back a bit worse for wear."
"Ah. That's what I hoped you'd say, because there's a...um. In the fridge."
"That'll be Alan Turville's head. I'd wondered where it had got off to."
John shakes his head. "Well, listen—as you're already aware, we're both of us fairly incapacitated at the moment, and Mr. Turville is unfortunately not keeping very well."
"Ooh, right," Molly says. "Gotcha. I can drop by and collect him if you like."
"You're a star," John replies. "Have you got a moment now?"
"Sherlock runs a high risk of infection as it is." He's not above playing the guilt card.
"Right," Molly says. "I'll be there in ten."
Nine minutes and forty-two seconds later, John lets a masked, breathless Molly into the flat. She shoves a mask at him instantly and says, "Put this on." She holds up what looks like a garden-variety plastic cooler and a Sainsbury's bag full of highly specialized cleaning supplies, most of which John recognizes. "Right. Let's do this."
The job doesn't take long. Safely masked and gloved, John holds open the refrigerator door while Molly casually takes hold of the erstwhile Mr. Turville's hair and drops his head neatly in a large biohazard bag. From there, the bag goes into the cooler, and the real work begins when Molly proceeds to spend the next twenty minutes scrubbing out the entire fridge with one cleanser after another after another.
"To be honest, I'd just ask your landlady about getting a new fridge," she says, finally indicating that John should shut the door. "Failing that, I'd recommend keeping your food very well sealed. Get some of those plastic containers with locking lids."
"Food?" John echoes. "What food?"
"Never mind," Molly sighs, finally removing her mask and gloves. She tosses them into the cooler, indicating that John can do the same. "That's that. Want me to advise him against stealing entire heads in future? Maybe stick with minor digits?"
"I'm not sure what good it would do," John admits, walking her to the door.
Molly hesitates for a moment on the threshold. "He isn't up for visitors, is he?"
"No," John lies. "Not at all. Still sleeping off painkillers, the poor sod."
Molly nods, but she isn't quite finished. She bites her lip before she speaks.
"A friend of mine who works as a nurse—I mean, she's not a gossip or anything—but she says that, over at the hospital, they're saying you and Sherlock are—"
John sighs, too exhausted to protest. "Can we not discuss this right now?"
"Okay," Molly says, donning the shell-shocked look that John has come to associate with Sherlock playing oblivious to her advances. "It was nice to see you, John."
"For what it's worth," John says, "I'm sorry."
"Guess Sherlock was right about him," Molly says, closing the door as she slips out.
"That wasn't at all awkward," Sherlock observes loudly.
Fleetingly, John would like to smack him, but he settles for rapping his cane against the wall on his way back into the kitchen. He hunts down the dishcloth and picks up where he left off with the washing-up. "Have you heard?" he asks, raising his voice over the running tap. "Molly says we're officially an item now."
"Good," Sherlock says, sounding curiously satisfied. "It'll keep her from pestering me."
John finds that the urge to go in and kiss him lasts for a good long while.
* * *
Much though Sherlock is glad that John is the one attending to him, he doesn't look forward to these moments of tense, teeth-gritting discomfort. John insists on checking his dressings both morning and evening. Given that he hasn't been quite as strictly immobile as John would have liked in the four days since coming home, the consequence is all too frequently a fresh streak of blood on the gauze.
"You've got to stop this," John warns him, swabbing around the sutures as gingerly as he can. "I don't care if you insist you were playing sitting down."
"Music is therapeutic," Sherlock replies, distracting himself with the feel of John's other hand at his waist. It's strange to think that, before, John had never seen him in less than his pyjamas and dressing-gown. If John appreciates what he sees, his expression doesn't show it. As evidence, Sherlock is left classifying the manner in which John touches the parts of him yet uninjured: with reverent, restrained longing.
He closes his eyes until the new dressing is taped in place, predicting the exact points at which John's hands will settle. One splays tentatively at his ribcage, the other at his collarbone. Sherlock opens his eyes to exactly what he wants to see. John's brow is knit in concern, but his eyes are hazy with half-admitted want.
Unfortunate, that Sherlock's pride and John's hesitation can't seem to meet halfway.
"Sarah called," Sherlock says, fetching John's mobile from under his pillow. "She wanted to know if you'd got the flowers and if we were getting on all right. I said yes to both, though I told her she might want to avoid lilies next time. Your eyes are still slightly puffy from the pollen. Yes, John, you're allergic. Make a note of it."
Several emotions cross John's features, only one of which Sherlock isn't happy to see.
"Did she say anything else?" he asks.
"She wanted to drop by to say hello. I told her you haven't got anything on tomorrow."
At that, John looks positively furious. Sherlock fights the urge to smile. Instead, he goes with a slightly weary flutter of the eyes, a sag of the shoulders forward and inward. Shameless, but necessary. John's eyes fly wide, Sarah forgotten.
"What's the matter?" he asks. "Are you in pain, should I go fetch—"
"No, I'm fine," Sherlock says. "Just tired." He struggles with the dressing gown.
John tugs it back up onto his shoulders and wraps him in it snugly. "Lie down."
It gives Sherlock a slight thrill, hearing those words and finding that he doesn't mind obliging. John tugs the covers up almost to his chin, neglecting to realize that he's still sat on the edge of the bed until they catch on his knees. He sighs, reaching for his cane where it's propped against the wall. Sherlock reads hesitation in the gesture.
"Wait," Sherlock says. "This is going to sound daft, but would you mind—" Sherlock steels himself, hating the fact that he finds articulating his wishes difficult "—staying?"
John stares down at him for a few inscrutable seconds before leaning to switch off the light. Just as Sherlock resigns himself to the fact that John is probably about to walk out without so much as a good-night, the covers are lifted and the mattress sags. John settles himself beside Sherlock, his leg-dressings a soft, scratchy whisper against the fabric of Sherlock's pyjama-bottoms. He settles an arm carefully across Sherlock's waist, his fingers closing around Sherlock's wrist, thumb settling on the pulse-point. John's lips are a ghostly presence at Sherlock's cheekbone, his breath shallow.
Neither one of them says a word, which is how sleep finds them.
* * *
John wakes to an empty bed and the sound of voices in the kitchen.
Sherlock sounds unusually chipper, and Sarah—
Sarah. John untangles himself from Sherlock's sheets and fumbles for his cane, hoping to God he doesn't look too unpresentable. As it is, he's in pyjama-bottoms and a ratty t-shirt. Sherlock's dressing-gown lies conveniently discarded at the foot of the bed. It's too big for him, but it's too late to be worrying about—
That. Goddamn it.
Both Sherlock and Sarah stop what they're doing and stare, for very different reasons, John is sure. He pushes past Sarah's astonishment and Sherlock's amusement, taking the remaining seat at their small table. Sherlock appears to be fully dressed, although lacking his usual polish: jeans and a button-down blue shirt. Jeans. He does a double-take at that; he hadn't even known Sherlock owned any.
"My only pair," Sherlock informs him, offering a steaming mug. "Tea?"
"Thank you," John says, flashing Sarah a chagrined smile. "Hello."
She laughs, more relaxed under the circumstances than John would have expected.
"Hello to you, too. Sherlock tells me you're catching up on some much-deserved sleep. This kitchen looks fabulous in comparison to the last time I saw it. Your dishes were approaching sentient. Unless that's Mrs. Hudson's doing—?"
"No," John says, taking a bracing sip of tea. "Nope, all me."
"I've been telling Sarah about your new hobbies," Sherlock explains. "Daring rescues. Housework. Forensics. You've become a veritable renaissance man."
"When can you spare him?" Sarah asks, and John isn't certain she's joking.
"Can't, I'm afraid," says Sherlock, patting his chest lightly. "I tend to leak."
"Oh, God," Sarah murmurs, breaching the chasm. "It must've been awful."
"No worse than the rest of what we've seen," John says, "and you would know."
"Yes, but none of us actually got hurt," Sarah reminds him, cradling her tea. She squints at Sherlock abruptly. "Shouldn't you be taking it easy?"
"Yes," John says, rising. "Yes, as a matter of fact. Sherlock, bed."
"Sofa," he says, firmly, collecting his tea and biscuits before leaving the room.
John sinks back down in his seat, groaning. "Oh, I don't even..."
Unexpectedly, Sarah reaches across the table and takes his hand.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asks, her voice strained, but not unkind.
"I really didn't think there was anything to tell," John admits, screwing his eyes shut. "Honestly, I didn't. I still don't know if there's anything to tell. I swear to you."
"John," says Sarah, gently. "Unless I'm mistaken, you spent the night in his bed."
"Well, yes, there's that. I did spend the night in his bed, but nothing happened."
Sarah gives him a dubious look, but it softens to one of pity in the face of his silence.
"John, everything's happened."
"I can't argue with that," John sighed. "More tea?"
* * *
The door slams so forcefully that Sherlock's teeth rattle. He clutches his chest.
"That was quite a stunt you pulled earlier," says John, loudly, just having returned from his impromptu lunch with Sarah. "Fortunately, that's hardly the most painful this-is-over-and-yeah-we're-better-off-as-friends I've ever endured, so I suppose I should thank you for setting her at ease. Who knew you were such a charmer? Sherlock? Are you even listening to me?" By thump-thumps, John is on the sixth stair.
"Yes," Sherlock says, turning the page. IV. Death by Water: Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead, / forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell / and the profit and loss. "I'm pleased to hear it was painless. Could have been worse."
John's bitter laughter accompanies his thump-thumps up the next eight stairs.
"You should listen to yourself, Sherlock."
A current under sea / picked his bones in whispers. "Should I?"
Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. "Unbelievable!"
"I fail to understand why you're upset." As he rose and fell / he passed the stages of his age and youth / entering the whirlpool. "I only gave you exactly what you wanted."
"Oh, and what was that?" John's standing in the doorway now, waiting.
Sherlock doesn't look up. O you who turn the wheel and look to windward—
"A daring escape, John. A way out."
John says nothing and stalks off into the kitchen, collects up dishes. The sink fills.
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
Sherlock rises then, fearful of what he might find if he should follow.
* * *
There's no use pretending that he doesn't love Sherlock.
John does. He bears him the deep, fierce, irrational love normally reserved for someone you've known since time out of mind—someone who, just for the fact of his being there, you can't help but adore. The wanting him, though, is problematic. The needing him. That's what's different this time, and it terrifies John beyond belief.
As does the thought of losing him, John thinks, nearly dropping Sherlock's mug.
Sherlock's long fingers steady his elbow, sending a jolt so palpable through him that he does, in fact, drop the mug. The handle splits off with a sickening crack. John can't find the voice to apologize, let alone ask Sherlock what on earth he's doing as he spins John around and pins him up against the damp sink-edge.
“I need you. Badly, and completely against my better judgement. Is that a crime?”
All of the air in John's lungs escapes him in a bark of laughter.
"Have you taken up mind-reading as well?" he asks, incredulous.
"I hardly need to hear your thoughts to know them," Sherlock says, and kisses John then and there, in the kitchen, tentative and open-mouthed and longing.
This time, John isn't foolish enough to let the moment pass. He wastes no time in rucking up Sherlock's shirt, letting his fingers skim tentatively across the gauze. No dampness. Perhaps there's no harm in letting him have his sofa after all. John tugs Sherlock down closer, deepening the kiss. Sherlock makes a soft, strangled sound, his fingers scrabbling at the edge of the sink. Mortified, John stops. He must be in pain.
"No," Sherlock says, breathless, his eyes veiled and wild. "Just—not here."
John laughs. “Sherlock, this kitchen has seen its fair share of worse bodily fluids.”
“Still. Not a good place for it. Your leg. And I'd prefer to lie down.”
John's heart is in his throat. He can only nod, and lets Sherlock lead him back to where they started the day: folded together in his narrow bed, counting the hours till morning with each unconscious breath. For the first time in months, John hadn't dreamed. He undresses Sherlock carefully, pausing only when the job's finished.
"So," John murmurs, starting on his own buttons, "lie down."
Sherlock is paler and thinner than ever, but that, John knows, will change with time. He can't help but feel self-conscious as he settles beside Sherlock, this time without benefit of clothing or cover of darkness. Sherlock's breath hitches in his chest, and John is quick to lean and kiss him again, let his hand drift low over flat stomach and prominent hip-bone to ease an entirely different kind of pain. Sherlock twists under the first brush of John's fingers, turning to press against him with such force that John knows he'll find fresh blood when he checks the dressings later.
In the meantime, John holds Sherlock as still as he can, touching whatever he can reach with each slow, seething kiss until Sherlock arches against him with a muffled sob. It's not long until John follows, coaxed by Sherlock's sure hand.
John cleans them both once he's caught his breath, stroking Sherlock's flushed skin.
“I was thinking I might turn your room into a laboratory,” Sherlock ventures at length.
John stirs from his dozing just enough to prod at Sherlock's dressings. Damp.
“Why not turn your room into a laboratory?” he asks, rummaging on the floor.
Sherlock sighs, put-upon, as John finds his kit. “Yours is cleaner.”
“My thoughts exactly," John replies, pulling the old gauze loose.
“Fine," winces Sherlock. "Lab in my room, love nest in yours. Are we sorted?”
"Yes," John says, ignoring the blatant sarcasm, and silences him with a kiss.
- Continue: Profit and Loss, Part 1 -