They stare at each other for a long time while sat in the kitchen chairs. This time it was different and the weight of this knowledge hung like stale London fog. All the noise had faded away except for the steady clock tick that matched the loud thumping of Sherlock’s heart, that in a moment of irrationality Sherlock swore it was so loud John must be able to hear it.
Sherlock’s eyes flicker to John’s clinched fists. His jaw was tight with residual anger. Like most of their fights recently each word was filled with a purposeful spite and malice and hatred. There were no apologies for what was said in the heat of the moment because they both knew it would be a lie.
"I can’t do this anymore." John breaks the silence.
John scoffs, “is that all you have to say?”
“What else would you have me say? Would you have me get on my knees and beg you to stay? We both know I would never and we both know it’s too late for meaningless platitudes.”
“Yes. Yes, I suppose that true.”
John picks at the scratch on the table caused by a sword so many years ago while Sherlock just looks at the floor. The world around them is quiet. As if it stopped just for them. Just for this monumental 15 minutes. That’s silly and stupidly sentimental. Sherlock thinks.
John stands. His chair scraps across the linoleum and it reminds that this is real. That this is not a bad dream. This is their end. John lifts the old worn suit case he’d packed long ago and steps over to Sherlock.
"I love you." He says and places a deceptively sweet kiss on top the curly hair.
There’s a pause before Sherlock reaches behind himself blindly and grasps John’s face. His thumb rest below the ridge of John’ jaw and his palm warms his cheek. Then with a soft pressure Sherlock pushes John away and off. John takes this time to leave and walks to the door. A wet shine coats Sherlock’s eyes when John tells him he’ll be back soon to collect the last of his things.
The door shuts firmly and heavy feet fall on the 17 steps out of 221b Baker Street.
When John returns four days later, he finds all his belonging tucked and folded neatly into boxes at the bottom of the stairs. He can carry it all by hand to his new flat across town. It’s quite sad, John thinks. How little he had of his own in the place he lived for so long.
Two year pass.
John feels like he dies with the leaves on the trees each autumn, but still waits for the day he feels the rebirth of spring.
Sherlock doesn’t feel. He perhaps hears John’s voice or phantom footstep coming to bed with him. He might make two cups of tea, only to shatter both cups by throwing them to the floor with a great shout. He may spend hours chain smoking and shooting the walls. He doesn’t feel, though. Not anymore.
Lestrade keeps a careful eye on Sherlock. He offers him all the cases he can. He sometimes calls for an unwarranted drug bust, but Lestrade worries. He worries that Sherlock will slip to what he was before John. On bad days he worries sherlock slip farther than that.
Finally a cases that interesting comes in. 5 bodies. 5 locations. All bodies have the same word branded into their skin. ‘Immortal’
Lestrade bounds up the stairs to the sitting room where Sherlock lay lethargic on the couch. When informed of the case, Sherlock deems it a 10 then says he will come along. Lestrade finds himself disgustingly happy with the murder of 5 people.
When the arrive at the first body, Sherlock starts his examination. When he asks for John to tell him cause of death the room goes quiet. Everyone looks away out of pity and Sherlock just tries to swallow down the lump that began growing from the moment John walked out of the door.
After looking at all 5 bodies, Sherlock finds he is no closer to an answer than he was when Lestrade first told him of the case. Pictures are tacked to the walls and connected with colorful string. Sherlock paces frantically and ruffles his hair. It stands of end and curls out like a mad man.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. John’s voice chants in his head. I used to think you were clever enough to solve anything, but look at you now.
With a cry of frustration Sherlock tears down all of the pictures and strings. He breaths thickly and stares at the blank wall. A yellow face smiles to him. He hates that face. He hates everything that reminds of his time with John.
He violently shakes his head and picks of a photo of the third victim. Female, brown curly hair, darker skin, tall, close to John’s age. Then Sherlock realizes that this is the girl John had brought to Christmas one year. Its an identification. But he hardly remembered her name them, let alone now.
Sherlock’s phone stares up at him. Menacing and begging to be used.
"Come on, John. Answer." Sherlock taps his foot impatiently. He knows this is a bad idea, but he doesn’t know what else to do.
"Hello?" A dark and familiar voice croaks out through the phone.
"John. I need your help."
"Yes, of course. I need you to tell me the name of the girl you brought over for Christmas that year. You remember? The one with Molly, Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson?"
"Oh, yes! Thank you!" Sherlock goes to hang up the phone, but he hears John call out and beg him not to hang up yet.
"Sherlock, why are you so desperate for her name? What’s going on?"
"For a case. She’s been murdered."
"Murdered?!" John shouts and Sherlock winces ever so slightly.
"Yes, John. Murdered. As in killed. No long with us. Gone to heaven. If you believe in the afterlife and Jesus Christ nonsense."
"I got that, you tit. I’m coming over."
"To help catch Jeanette’s murderer."
"Oh." Sherlock ends weakly and the other end of the line is cut off.
The identification become crucial in discovering that these five people with kidnapped and were to be forced into a life of human slavery and trafficking. The purchasers of the victims worked for a business called ‘immortal’ and the branding a way to “claim their property.”
John and Sherlock stroll leisurely down the street of London. Both smile with an ease they haven’t had together in over 2 years. When Baker Street pulls up tension fills the air. They stand outside 221b for a few minutes before Sherlock sheepishly asks if John would like to come up for coffee.
Before Sherlock can walk toward the kitchen with presence of making coffee, John has his pressed against the wall. Sherlock gasps and moans when John leans into a kiss. The kiss opens up so John can flick his tongue in. Soon clothes seem to be just a bother and burden. Sherlock works off John’s jacket, button down, and starts for the vest. John lifts him by the hips to carry him to the bedroom. Their bedroom. Sherlock’s bedroom.
Clothing lays heaped on the floor next to the bed. Sherlock spreads out on his back while John climbs up between his legs. John kneels on all fours above Sherlock and just breathes. Oh god. How I’ve missed this man. I’ve missed his beauty, passion, and even the bloody scratch on the kitchen table.
Sherlock gets impatient and tugs John down to him. It’s been too long, two year too long. He needs in a way he has never needed before. Sherlock kisses like it’s the time they will ever have together because he honestly believe that to be true. Each touch is done with meticulous categorization of what has changed since they last were together and what hasn’t. Sherlock finds that most has not.
John is gentle and kind with Sherlock the whole time. Sherlock wishes he wasn’t. Sherlock wants John to tear him open and rip out his heart. Sherlock wants John to be angry. Sherlock wants anything but the sad reverence that John is willing to give.
Moonlight reflects of the stark white sheet as John pulls out and away. They lay side by side with their hand entwined until they fall asleep.
When John wakes up his fingers are stiff from being curled in Sherlock’s all night. He rolls over to see the sleep softened face of the man once loved. Still loves. John thinks. But shouldn’t. God, but he shouldn’t.
John carefully steps out of bed and gathers his things. Once again he kisses Sherlock’s head sweetly and whispers,
"I love you."
When Sherlock awakes, he is alone.
It’s another 3 years before they are to speak again. Just like the last time, it starts with a case.
But this time when Sherlock calls John says,
"No, Sherlock. I can’t do this again. Not again."