let me fall, from hopes so high
nc-17 | sexual content | alternate ending
Inspired by Dear John by wendymarlowe.
John refused to pace.
The clock in 221B said it was 8:07pm. His watch claimed 7:59pm, while his phone read 8:03pm. He would give Sherlock the benefit of the doubt. Maybe all the clocks were wrong. And there could be plenty of reasons why he was running late. Mycroft's drivers were never particularly expedient. Or if Sherlock had hopped into a cab, they could have hit bad traffic.
He didn't allow his mind to go to the other options. Sherlock had been in a car accident. Sherlock had been using and ODed in the car on the way here. Someone had blown up Mycroft's home minutes after Sherlock sent that message. (Okay, that's just ridiculous. Probably.) Sherlock never intended to come and was just messing with him.
John's mind had run through dozens of scenarios in the time since he learned that William was Sherlock. Upon returning from their "date", he had deleted all his emails, messages, and chat logs, but fortunately, hadn't emptied the trash folders. He eventually restored them, and even though it hurt, read them over again. He thought about the look on Sherlock's face when he approached John in the restaurant lobby. In the moment, he thought it was arrogant gloating; afterwards, he realized it looked more like hope.
He had many questions. He was still confused and hurt and angry. But he knew, without a doubt, that Sherlock was not just toying with him. Sherlock could be a manipulative, conniving arsehole, but he didn't do it for fun. He did it to gather evidence. Learn information. Test hypotheses. He had messed with John in Baskerville for the purpose of proving his theory correct, not for the sole purpose of messing with John. He wasn't a cruel bastard who fucked with people for his own amusement. Sherlock wasn't a sociopath. (No matter what he claimed.) If Sherlock just wanted to test a theory that John was happy/miserable/whatever, there were easier ways to do that, like having Mycroft plant a few bugs.
Whatever Sherlock had been thinking - or not thinking - this wasn't just a sick game.
The problem was, John still wasn't sure what it was.
Finally, finally, John heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He quickly settled on the sofa, trying to look casual. The door flung open and in blew Sherlock, coat swirling around him, cheeks flushed, breathing heavily.
"John," he panted. "I'm sorry. There was an accident - we weren't involved - but the road was blocked off and the driver refused to use his identification to push through. Idiot."
"You ran here?"
Sherlock nodded. "Would have been on time otherwise."
"Sit down." John gestured to a chair, to ensure that Sherlock wouldn't try to join him on the sofa. He couldn't let Sherlock get close; it might break his resolve. It was only the second time that he'd seen the man in person since he had returned, and fading bruise on his jaw notwithstanding, he was just as beautiful as he remembered. "I'm going to set the rules."
He was braced for an argument, but Sherlock followed instructions, sitting down, staring at him intently.
"Rule number one: I ask the questions. Rule number two: if you lie, even once, I walk out of here, and you don't try to find me."
"I agree to your stipulations," Sherlock said evenly. "But ask one thing in return."
"What makes you think you have the right to ask for anything?"
Sherlock held up a hand. "I only beg you to grant me patience. There have been motivations and feelings that I have only recently acknowledged to myself. I may need time to consider my answer to ensure it is, in fact, truthful."
His patience was worn thin, but the request was not unreasonable. He nodded. "Why did you do it?"
"You'll need to clarify what 'it' is."
John took a deep breath to keep from screaming. What helped - slightly - was the expression on Sherlock's face. John swore he could see hints of desperation and fear there. "Why did you start this? Why contact me at all?"
"I told myself at the time that it was because I missed you. That I just wanted contact with you. I realize now..."
There was such a long, uncomfortable pause that John almost regretted allowing Sherlock time to think about his answers.
"... I realized that I was upset - jealous - about the idea of you meeting someone else. I wanted to stop you from -"
"You wanted to stop me from being happy with someone else?" His anger was flaring up again; this is part of what he feared - that it was just Sherlock, sabotaging a relationship that didn't even exist yet because he couldn't share his fucking toys.
"Yes," Sherlock replied, refusing to make eye contact. "I didn't want you to be happy with someone else because when I saw you had listed yourself as bisexual, I allowed myself to - not on any conscious level, mind you - entertain the idea that I could have a relationship with you. I knew I would return, unless the job killed me. I wanted to return to you. And ... if I had died, and I was just words on a screen that no longer appeared in your inbox ... I believed you would ... deal with that better than if you knew who I was."
Now it was John who paused. Too much information had been dumped on him all at once. Sherlock had (really?) decided he wanted to try to have a relationship with him. Sherlock had (always?) wanted to return to him. Sherlock could have died. He could have died and John would have never known that he had survived the fall and died alone in some ... he didn't even know where Sherlock had been.
"Are you saying now that you hid behind that William character because you thought it would be easier if you died?"
"No." He looked angry, frustrated, but somehow his tone stayed even. "I didn't tell you at first because it was too dangerous. Mycroft always assured me the lines I used were secure, but I still needed to be careful. Nothing is 100% secure. I couldn't tell you. And there is no 'William character'. I am William."
"Bullshit." He couldn't help himself, launching out of the sofa, moving towards the chair, stopping when he saw Sherlock swallow hard.
"I won't hit you again," John promised, as a wave of shame washed over him. "I shouldn't have hit you the first time. I acted without thinking."
"All actions require thought."
Sherlock's expression changed. He no longer looked irritated, just ... tired.
"When's the last time you slept?"
"The night before our ... planned dinner. I've had microsleep periods since then, however."
John sat back down on the sofa, elbows on his knees, face in his hands. He willed himself to calm down - nothing would get accomplished if he lashed out. "What do you mean when you say you're William? William doesn't exist. You created him."
"I released him." Some of Sherlock's peevish tone returned. "Those parts of me were always there. I ignored them. Lied about them. To myself, to others. The fact that you never saw them doesn't mean they didn't exist. Being online allowed me to say things more easily. I believe it allowed you to say things more easily, too."
"So you really wanted me?"
Sherlock closed his eyes. John leaned back, clenched his fists as the silence dragged on. It was a simple yes or no question, dammit. Either there were times when John made Sherlock's heart race or there weren't. Either John could make Sherlock's knees feel weak, just at the thought of their mouths pressed together, or it didn't. Either he fantasized about being bent over the table and taken, hard, fast, sweaty, messy ... or he didn't.
"You are dismayed and annoyed by my pause. You think this is an easy question and the answer should be on the tip of my tongue."
Because it should! John silently screamed. All we shared online and you have to fucking think about it? Rage and embarrassment taking over, he launched out of his chair, into Sherlock's face, desperate for some sign - dilated pupils, increased breathing, licked lips, something to show that it was real.
"Do you fucking want me? Do you fucking want me now? Did you fucking want me then? Did you fucking want me when you were talking to me online? Did. You. Fucking. Want. Me."
"Yes." No hesitation this time.
"When?!" He was in Sherlock's face, close enough to lean in and kiss him, if he wanted to. Close enough to feel Sherlock's breath on his face when he replied, finally speaking at the rapid-fire speed he'd come to expect from the man.
"I believe there was an element of physical attraction present upon our first meeting. I am unable to accurately chart its progress, but I am certain the attraction had evolved to a more emotional attachment by the night with Moriarty at the pool. There were several nights when I experienced nocturnal emissions while dreaming about you. I would occasionally masturbate in my bed and found myself thinking of you, although I didn't allow the thoughts to become sexual in nature. I don't know exactly when I ... became completely and stupidly in love with you. I only recognized the feeling in hindsight, analyzing the agony I felt on the roof of St. Bart's, knowing that I would have to be separated from you, not knowing if I would ever be able to see you again. The jump was a last resort, John. It was not the primary plan. I had other four contingencies but they all proved impossible. I believed that you would survive our separation with only minor side effects; I was unaware of your orientation or that you harbored such strong feelings for me. Even had I known, however, I don't know as I would have employed a different course of action. I don't know if I would have allowed myself to recognize my own feelings, and if I had, I believe I would have ... suspected that you would be better off without me. I don't think I would have believed it was possible to have a sexual relationship with you without you becoming disappointed and eventually leaving. I know you want me to tell you that I would have taken you with me and spared you all of that pain, but it's not true. I would not have allowed myself to hope, as I have now, that we could be together. Nor would - "
Suddenly John's ears were ringing and his legs felt wobbly. Sherlock's hands were on his shoulders and John found their positions reversed - Sherlock standing over him as he settled in the chair.
"Are you alright? You were shaking."
"I need a moment. Without you hovering over me."
Sherlock moved back, hands at his sides, then pressed together with interlaced fingers, then at his sides again, as if he didn't know what to do with them. John just sat, his body feeling heavy, like that influx of information was weighing him down.
"You could have told me," John said, finally, wearily. "You could have told me the truth when it was done, when you were finished."
"John, you wouldn't have believed me." Sherlock stepped forward, and then as if remembering that John didn't want him hovering, he dropped down, knelt in front of him, hands on the armrests of the chair. "You would have accused me of playing a sick game. You would have demanded proof, when none would have sufficed. If I had told you things you had told me when we were here, alone in the flat, things that only I should know, you would have assumed the flat had been bugged. If I had taken a ridiculous 'proof of life' photo with that city's daily newspaper, you would have assumed it was doctored. If I had called you, you wouldn't have recognized my voice, not with the smoke damage. And ... and you would have likely cut off all contact. I would have never had a chance to explain."
"Bullshit," John said, even as his mind was acknowledging that everything Sherlock had just said was true. "You wanted to do it in person because you thought you could keep me from running away, or you assumed I wouldn't make a scene."
"That is also true." Sherlock touched the bruise on his face, almost absently. "I thought I could make you understand."
John maintained eye contact for several moments, as if he would be able to read the truth there. But he was never as good at reading Sherlock as Sherlock was at reading him. His gaze wandered down, until it settled on a scar just peeking out of the collar of Sherlock's shirt.
"I want to see," he told Sherlock. Not a demand, or a question. Just a statement.
Once again, he averted his eyes. "I don't think that's wise."
"I'm a doctor." It might have been unwise, but John couldn't resist reaching out and gently touching his face, tilting his chin upwards until their eyes locked again. "I promise you, I won't be disgusted."
"It's impossible for you to promise that without having seen them but that is not my primary concern. I told you that I did this for you, and while that is true, it does not make any mark left on my body your fault or your responsibility. I know you will feel guilt - as irrational as that is - and I do not wish to cause you more pain."
Sherlock's voice cracked slightly on that last word. John felt more of his anger and frustration slip away from him.
"I still would like to see. If only because I know you, and I know you probably haven't been taking care of yourself properly since being discharged from your nurses."
Sherlock rose, swallowed hard, and then stood like a statue for several moments. John was just about to take it back, say it was all fine, he was sorry for pushing him, when Sherlock slowly turned around and began shrugging off his coat. He tossed it on the sofa and then began unbuttoning his shirt. It dropped to the floor and John watched as he took a deep breath and stood on wobbly legs.
Tears began to form as he took inventory, though he tried to blink them back. His hands hovered over healing skin and older scars, as if he could somehow fix them with his touch.
"My choices," Sherlock reminded him. "You are blameless in this regard. And ... John, you must know ... I would suffer a million times worse, if it would keep you safe. I know I have hurt you many times before, intentionally and carelessly. I told you that I am still the same person I was before I left, but that wasn't entirely true. The part of me that couldn't understand why you would be so upset about being drugged, the part of me that would injure you without thought, without understanding what I was doing, I want to leave that part behind. I want you to trust that I will do whatever I can to keep you from harm. But I don't know if I can promise you that, not yet. So I do not expect you to be willing to embark on a romantic relationship now, or ever. I do not expect even to simply have our old ... friendship back. I will accept if you never want to see me again, or if you need more time to process. I will ... I will accept whatever you decide."
"Sherlock." It was barely a whisper, and Sherlock continued as if he hadn't even heard.
"It is difficult for me to say these things, but I know it is important to tell you that I do ... I do love you. I always thought people who said they loved people with 'every fiber of their being' were daft, but I understand it now. It's irrational and stupid but it feels as if there is not a single cell or electron in my body that is not devoted to you. You also must know that I am honestly sorry for your anguish and pain. Even if I had entertained the idea that we could have had a relationship, I wouldn't have taken you with me, because I couldn't bear the thought of these scars on your body. Or worse. I have thought, many times in the last few days, that you would have been better off had I never contacted you and never came back. That I should have disappeared -"
John cut him off with a single step forward, wrapping his arms around him and resting his head on Sherlock's back, mindful of the tender skin. He couldn't manage words. Not yet. He simply stood there, letting the tears that were building up fall, letting his breathing become ragged, letting everything he had been holding inside out.
Sherlock hesitated. "I wish to touch you but am unsure if you want me to."
He blindly reached out for Sherlock's hand and brought it up with his, encouraging him to wrap his own slender arms around John's sturdier ones. They stood there for an eternity, until John was certain he could breathe without shuddering, until his eyes had dried, until he could wipe his cheeks without trembling hands. He turned Sherlock around, knowing what he looked like and not giving a damn.
"I love you," he said. He watched as Sherlock's eyes closed, as his body swayed enough to make John concerned he might fall over. "I need to clean up, but then I want you to prove to me everything you just said."
"I ... I don't understand ... oh."
Sherlock was terrified.
He had been anxious when he sent his declaration - worried that maybe John had finally blocked him, worried that John would read it and think it was a lie. He had been fearful when hours went by without a reply. The brief moment of relief when he saw that John had agreed to a meeting quickly morphed into panic as his mind cycled through all the possible scenarios that might occur. (Sixteen in total, only three of which ended favorably for him.) And he had been horrified when he realized some idiots had the audacity to get into an accident serious enough to block off the entire road and force a detour. He had ran faster than he thought possible, hoping against hope that John would give him the few extra minutes he needed to get there.
He was terrified when John threatened to leave if his terms weren't met, terrified when he had to verbalize feelings and thoughts that he had only recently allowed himself to realize. He was terrified when John asked to see his wounds, terrified when he couldn't seem to stop himself from talking, terrified he was saying too much or too little, terrified when he felt John breaking down.
He was terrified when he saw what he had done to John. Terrified because he knew this had to be the end.
And, irrationally, he was terrified when he was told that it wasn't.
He somehow acquiesced to John's suggestion and allowed John to lead him to his old bedroom. Everything was orderly and clean, indicating that the woman Mycroft had hired to come in twice a month was competent enough to dust any visible spots. John excused himself to the bathroom and Sherlock found himself wishing he had picked up his shirt off the floor. Standing there, half-naked, he had no clue what to do. Should he continue undressing? Lie on the bed?
Instead, he walked to the nightstand, opening up the drawer to find everything was as he left it. A half-empty pack of cigarettes. Twenty-two pens, all green, with various nibs and ink compositions. A book on the Enigma machine, only half-finished. A napkin with "necklace, tunnel, interrupted" written on it. (Related to a case, to be sure, but he's since deleted whatever it was.) And a mostly full bottle of lubricant. Silicone based, so it wouldn't degrade condoms. Hypoallergenic. Expiration date roughly estimated when the antimicrobial components would no longer be able to keep bacteria and fungi from growing. The bottle had expired last month, and he hadn't tightly capped it after the last time it was used, so it probably wasn't safe.
If John wanted ... he had no clue what John wanted.
He was still standing there, staring at the drawer, when he felt John's arms around him again. It felt better this time.
"Are you okay with this?"
"I don't know what 'this' is going to entail."
"It entails whatever you're comfortable with."
"May I turn around?"
John stepped back and gave him room to do so. His eyes were still tinged with red, as were his cheeks, but he had cleaned up his face and looked much better.
Sherlock was utterly clueless on how to proceed. They hadn't even kissed yet. He didn't know if John wanted to just cuddle - a stupid word for something he desperately wanted to try - or if he was expecting something more. He wasn't even sure if he would be capable of performing tonight, if -
"Stay with me, Sherlock."
He frowned. "I haven't gone anywhere."
"You know what I mean."
They just stared at each other for a long moment, until John suddenly laughed.
"I forgot. You said I would probably take charge at first."
Sherlock swallowed hard as John slid a hand up his side, behind his head, pulling him down for a kiss. Their first kiss. It couldn't possibly be as good as it was in his dreams -
Their lips met and all Sherlock could think was that his imagination had failed horribly in envisioning this. Most of his prior experience with kissing had been sloppy or perfunctory, but always rushed. Kissing was never the point, just an obligatory stop on the way to sex. He knew John would be different, but he had anticipated something slow and gentle, not eager and forceful. John's fingers massaged his scalp - a deliberate callback to their first time online? - as his other hand caressed his bare back, soothing over his scars. Sherlock relaxed enough to slip his hands under John's shirt and was rewarded by a low moan.
"We don't have to do anything tonight," John whispered against his mouth. "If you're too tired -"
"No." There was no finesse in how he maneuvered John onto the bed, pulling his body on top of his. Then, just as quickly, he was jerking as if he'd been electrocuted, almost hitting John in the face.
"Sherlock, if this is too much -"
"These aren't my sheets. These are polyester."
John laughed, running a hand over the fabric. "It feels fine to me."
"They're like sandpaper!"
"I could rip them off the bed?"
Sherlock's diatribe ended abruptly when he saw the expression on John's face. "I've missed that."
"Seeing you smile."
His comment had the unintended effect of making the grin disappear. There was a fleeting moment of sadness but before Sherlock could apologize for once again saying the wrong thing, John caressed his cheek, leaned down to press a soft kiss to his lips.
"Tell me when you're ready to take over and show me exactly how sex with you is different from sex with women."
Sherlock felt his face flush at the reminder of his online boasts. "I may disappoint you."
"I have been disappointing in the past."
"I don't want to talk about the past right now." John began removing his clothes and Sherlock found himself staring stupidly at him. He knew he should probably assist John, or perhaps take off his own trousers. But it was mesmerizing, watching as skin was slowly revealed. John had only turned on one lamp upon entering the room and Sherlock was torn between just continuing to view the - slightly awkward, due to their position on the bed - striptease and wanting to turn on more lights so he could examine John's penis in detail.
"This works better if we're both naked."
The flush was undoubtedly spreading down his chest. He couldn't seem to get his hands to work, but fortunately John's were steady and gentle. Soon he was completely bare against what really were incredibly aggravating, scratchy, uncomfortable sheets.
"Okay, yes, rip them off the bed, these are horrid."
Sherlock loved the sound of laughter, the way John manhandled him to get the offending sheets off the bed and out from under him, the way he tossed them aside. The mattress felt like silk in comparison.
"Are you finally ready to get started?"
He attempted to regain some of the confidence he had as William, sitting on his bed with his computer on his lap, imagining what he wanted to do with John. He flipped John onto his back, not as fluidly as he would have liked, but pushed his anxiety to the back of his mind after seeing John's face. Unless he was mistaken - and he was almost 96% sure he wasn't - that was pure lust.
The thick cock pressing into his stomach was a bit of a clue, as well.
Kissing. John liked kissing.
So he started at John's mouth, taking his time until curiosity got the better of him. John's face, chin, and neck tasted faintly of soap. His chest tasted like cotton, then salt, becoming more concentrated as he headed towards his goal. His hand got there first, wrapping around John's cock, trying to imagine what it would feel like inside him.
Sherlock jerked up his head, pulled away his hand. Apologies didn't come easy to him, so he wasn't certain what to say.
"I didn't say stop." John touched his head, fingers sliding into his hair, causing his eyes to close. "Just wanted to say ... I think I knew."
"Knew that you had William inside of you. Knew you were capable of that."
"You couldn't have known. Not for sure." His eyes flew open and the words rushed out of his mouth before he could stop them. Why give John an excuse to end this?
But John just smiled. "I hoped, then. I hoped."
You were right, he wanted to say, but he just lowered his head instead, finally engulfing John. He moaned against the warm flesh and fixed his gaze on John's face. If he didn't know better, he'd think John was in agony, the way his head thrashed from side to side, the constant stream of cursing. John kept trying to watch him but he couldn't keep his eyes open. Sherlock regretted the loss of eye contact.
Next time, then.
There would be a next time.
"I'm - shit, Sherlock - I'm almost there."
He responded with a low hum around John's cock as he took in as much as he could. John's hips bucked up involuntarily, eliciting a breathless apology, and Sherlock pushed down on John's legs to keep him still, to keep him from choking when John finally came. As much as he wanted to save a sample and put it under a microscope, he was fairly certain that would be Not Good; he swallowed instead and added it to the list of things to try later.
Sherlock felt relaxed for the first time since he had walked into their flat. John wasn't leaving. He couldn't promise Sherlock forever but he was staying, for now. John let Sherlock fellate him and had clearly enjoyed it. They could fix this. Sherlock could fix this. He could fix them.
"I should reciprocate," John murmured.
"It can wait." He crawled back up John's body, pressing a soft kiss to his cheek. "You're tired."
He was surprised when John kissed him, surprised when John slipped his tongue into his mouth. Nobody else had ever wanted to kiss him, after. He had just assumed it was something that was Not Done. John gently rolled him over onto his back, performing the move with much more grace than Sherlock had done earlier. He was suddenly aware of his own arousal, embarrassed upon realizing how close he was. John was going to think he had the stamina of a ... something that didn't have much stamina. He couldn't even think straight.
"I won't last."
"Next time." And it was a promise. John licked his hand, used his own saliva and the ridiculous amount of fluid already leaking from him as lubricant. Three strong, firm strokes and he was done. Sherlock had thought his mind would shut down, but it was the exact opposite - all his senses kicked into overdrive and his brain tried to capture everything. The sight of John's face staring down at him. The sound of John telling him how beautiful he was. The smell of soap and sweat and sex. The slight taste of blood from where he had accidentally bit his own lip. And the feel of John's hand - the perfect balance of gentle and steady, guiding him through it.
"John," he breathed.
There were likely no useable sheets in the flat. Probably not any food, either. He was thirsty and had no idea if there were any clean glasses around, if he could be deigned to drink tap water. His back ached and he was tired and messy and they still needed to talk about things. John shifted, ran his clean hand through Sherlock's hair.
Sherlock allowed his eyes to close.
It was a promise.