Title: Courting Unending
Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: 1976
Characters: John, Sherlock
Disclaimer: Sherlock belongs to way more powerful and wealthy people than me.
It was forty-one months since everyone who knew them – with the exception of Mycroft – had believed that Sherlock and John had been killed in the explosion at the disused factory.
(Technically speaking this is a sequel to Courting is Over but I think it can be read as a stand-alone story.) It was forty-one months since everyone who knew them – with the exception of Mycroft – had believed that Sherlock and John had been killed in the explosion at the disused factory.
It was thirty-eight months since they had been smuggled out of England and onto the continent to continue their recovery.
Thirty-seven months since Sarah had realised the truth, confronted Mycroft and had been allowed in on the secret.
Twenty months since John and Sherlock had tracked down James Moriarty in Italy and had ended his reign as the world’s only consulting criminal. Twenty months since they had realised during his interrogation that he had a much larger network of lieutenants than they had hoped, and that each one of them would need to be found and dealt with before they could safely return home and let the world know that they were alive.
It was thirteen months since John – lonely, frustrated and unable to fight his feelings any longer – had hesitantly walked across the hotel room, stepped into Sherlock’s personal space, looked into his eyes and, seeing only welcome and encouragement, took his face in his hands and gently pulled his head down until their lips met. Thirteen months since – an hour or so later – Sherlock had asked him, “What took you so long?”
John had sighed. “Sarah, mostly,” he said. “She’s a fantastic friend – and ever since Mycroft told us how she worked out that we were alive, I haven’t been able to get over how brilliant she is. And then I began to realise how I felt about you, but I didn’t feel that it was right to start something without talking to her first. I know that she and I are never going to end up married with a horde of kids running round but it still felt wrong not to tell her first.” He smiled ruefully. “But I’m not likely to have a chance to talk to her any time soon and to be perfectly frank ...” he ran his hand up Sherlock’s side, marvelling at the sensation of his skin under his fingers and smiling as Sherlock arched into his touch, “... I couldn’t wait any bloody longer.” He grimaced momentarily. “I just hope she’ll understand.”
“Considering how bright she has shown herself to be so far, she’s probably been expecting this for longer than you have,” Sherlock told him. “She’d be more surprised if we got back home and weren’t together.” He looked closely at John’s shrug. “But that’s not the only reason you’ve held back, is it?”
John looked uncomfortable but realised that Sherlock would persist until he knew everything. Unable to meet his eyes, he said quietly, “I wasn’t happy with the idea of you seeing the scars on my back and my legs. I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about them.”
“How do you think I feel about them?” Sherlock demanded. “I feel angry at seeing them because they shouldn’t be there. You got them by being more noble and selfless than I could ever be, and they make me feel ashamed. You saved my life and were willing to sacrifice your own, and I will never forgive you for endangering yourself like that on my behalf. I intend to spend practically every waking moment ensuring that the rest of Moriarty’s network is taken down so that they will never endanger you again.”
He rolled John over onto his back and loomed over him, running his fingers through John’s hair and gazing down at him intensely as he spoke more softly. “And I intend to spend every free moment making you far too content to consider risking your life ever again,” he said before lowering his mouth to John’s once more.
It was twelve and a half hours since they had captured the last of Moriarty’s lieutenants – a long and exhausting year of chasing around the world tracking down each of them and ensuring that they were out of commission permanently. They had run the last one to ground in Brussels at eight o’clock that morning after an all-night chase across the city, following several different leads until they finally found him hidden in a basement of a house not far from the city centre. As he was being loaded into a police van under the watchful eye of a support team sent by Mycroft, Sherlock and John turned to each other and stared in amazement as they realised that the job was finally done, then said simultaneously, “London,” before turning and starting to run in the direction of the nearest Eurostar station. Sherlock was already texting Mycroft as they went, demanding that tickets and passports be provided immediately. Despite all the paperwork being handed to them within twenty minutes of them jogging into the station, they had a frustrating three hour wait for the next train, although this had given Mycroft’s people the chance to bring them a change of clothes and some English money.
The train left Brussels at one o’clock in the afternoon and commenced what – to Sherlock – felt like the slowest two-hour journey ever. He had never understood it in the past when anyone said, “This afternoon is really dragging,” or “How did today go so quickly?” Time always moved at the same rate and he didn’t know why some people’s perception of the passage of time should differ. But now that he could almost physically feel his beloved London getting closer, he could no longer trust his mind to count off the minutes accurately and by the time they were only forty minutes into the journey he would have sworn that they had been on the train for at least an hour and a half. John noticed him repeatedly looking at his watch and frowning and once the train had entered the Tunnel itself he took pity on him, leaning across the table and murmuring into his ear.
“I have no idea whether there’s an under-Channel version of the Mile High Club but shall we see if we can start one?”
Despite Sherlock’s protests that a Seventy-Five Metres Deep Club didn’t have the same ring to it, the attempt to create one was an interesting – if not altogether successful – fifteen minute distraction after which Sherlock slumped back into his seat and glared in frustration out of the window until they cleared the Tunnel. After that, John’s heart wasn’t sure whether it was going to survive until they actually arrived in London. As the train raced across the English countryside Sherlock’s sulky expression began to lift and his gaze out of the window became more and more excited the nearer they got to the city; the muscles in his face began to relax, his eyebrows lifted and the tension around his eyes started to fade. It wasn’t until now that John had realised how overwrought and stressed Sherlock had been looking recently, and to watch all that anxiety bleed away until he looked ten years younger and more like the energetic overgrown puppy who had bounced all around London brought tears to John’s eyes. As if sensing his emotional reaction, Sherlock looked across to him and held his eyes as John blinked rapidly, then he grinned happily at him.
“We’ll be bored within days,” he told John cheerfully.
“Then your first port of call had better be Scotland Yard,” John said. “Let Lestrade punch you in the face, let Donovan slap you ... actually no, she’ll probably punch you even harder than Greg will ... and then ask for every cold case that they couldn’t solve while you were away.”
Sherlock’s eyes lit up even more.
It was eight hours and thirty-one minutes since the train had come to a halt at St Pancras station and Sherlock and John had linked hands as they walked out of the station and stood on a London pavement just breathing the air for a while. Eight hours and twenty-nine minutes since John had turned to his partner and murmured, “Get us some transport,” and Sherlock had grinned with delight as he walked to the kerb, threw up an arm and yelled, “Taxi!” Eight hours and twenty-nine minutes since they had climbed into the back of the cab and told the driver to head in the general direction of Scotland Yard but to drive wherever he felt like going and to take as circuitous a route as he liked. Occasionally one of them had suggested a particular road but otherwise they let the driver meander around the city as they gazed out of the windows in delight and reacquainted themselves with the sights.
But then, deep in the city, John had asked the taxi to pull over. Turning to Sherlock he clasped his hand and told him that he needed to go and see his sister and break it to her that he was alive. If her job was still the same, she would probably be working at home this afternoon and he could get a Tube from here to her house.
“You go to Scotland Yard,” he told Sherlock, “and we can meet up in a few hours and compare facial injuries.” Smiling ruefully, he added, “And then I’ll go and see Sarah and she can even up the wounds by punching me on the other side of my face.”
Leaning forward and kissing him briefly, he turned and got out of the cab but Sherlock followed him out and put a hand on his shoulder, turning him back to face him.
“We’ll both go and see Sarah,” he said. “She’s my friend as well, and I should be there to explain why I took you away from her before we could tell her.”
He looked into John’s eyes. “But she’s going to be fine about it,” he told him. “I guarantee that she’ll have seen this coming; and I have no doubt at all that she’ll continue to be a friend to both of us. Besides ...” He shrugged and gave John an evil smile. “There are going to be many occasions when I’m busy on a case and haven’t got time to satisfy your rapacious sexual appetite, so who knows what might happen?”
John gaped at him. Sherlock laughed at his expression and then ran a possessive hand into his hair and gripped his head firmly.
“Sorry, no,” he said. “I can’t share you with anyone.” He smirked. “Had you going for a minute, though, didn’t I?”
“I’m going to kill you,” John told him straight-faced. “You’ve survived all this time, and now I’m going to kill you where you stand.”
Still grinning, Sherlock took his face in his hands and then pulled him into a deep kiss that left both of them breathless. Afterwards, Sherlock gazed into John’s face for a moment, then buried his mouth in his hair.
“I’m almost afraid to let you out of my sight,” he murmured. “For the first time in years we’re safe, but even though I’m not normally superstitious I’m worried about being jinxed.”
John pulled back a little and looked up into his eyes. “We’re going to be fine,” he reassured him. “Go and get beaten up by the gang at the Yard and I’ll get thrashed by my sister, then we can face Sarah together. And then ...” He pulled Sherlock closer again and spoke softly against his lips. “Then we’re going home.”
Sherlock shivered with delight at the thought. John kissed him once more before turning and walking towards the Tube station, smiling at him over his shoulder as he went. Sherlock watched until he was out of sight, then climbed back into the cab.
It was just over three years since Sherlock and John had been forced to leave their beloved London, but at nine thirty that evening they unlocked the front door of 221B Baker Street, walked inside and came home.
Author’s Note: The kiss in the London streets was totally inspired by Marie’s awesome And the World Stops Turning, a print of which now hangs in pride of place on my living room wall.
Happy New Year, everyone – and happy new Sherlock tonight!