Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are the property of Mr Conan Doyle. The modern adaptation belongs to Messrs Moffat and Gatiss. I own nothing.
Summary: Written in response to a prompt at sherlockbbc_fic. In short: John is arrested and serves time for shooting the cabbie. A guilt-ridden Sherlock visits John to keep his spirits up throughout his prison term and they still become best friends (or maybe even fall in love).
Additional disclaimer: I have taken some liberties with the judicial system here. Apologies if this annoys anyone!
The first anniversary of John’s sentence seems to come in no time and Sherlock spends the night before his weekly visit to John tossing and turning, unable to sleep. He thinks of all the things John could have done in that year, thinks of the life they could have led here at Baker Street, the adventures he could have shared. It still makes him sick to the stomach, to think of the way his own stupidity cost a man his freedom. A man who had already suffered through a war and injury and coming home to nothing. A man who did not deserve the malign influence of Sherlock Holmes in his life.
It wasn’t the first time Sherlock’s thoughts had turned to this strain. What life would be like if he had never met John. John would have been better off, in the end. He would have found himself a steady job at a surgery or a hospital, he would have worked hard, maybe he would have met someone and settled down. Maybe they’d have got married, had kids. And what would have Sherlock’s life have been like? Well, if he had been lucky enough (because after all, it was all down to luck) he wouldn’t have died at the hands of a mad, pill-wielding cabbie. He might have found a nice place (couldn’t go back to Montague Street), probably would have continued his life such as it was: cases, boredom, insufferable visits from his brother. Friendless. Alone. Because although he only saw John once a week, he knew they were closer than Sherlock had ever been to anyone. Closer than Sherlock had ever wanted to be with anyone. John was the closest thing he had ever had to a best friend and he liked to think maybe John thought the same. He certainly had never asked Sherlock to stop visiting. He should have. Maybe, even if Sherlock couldn’t stop this horrible event from ever happening, he should have let it end there. Should have let John serve his time in peace, away from the man who was to blame for it.
Somehow, Sherlock manages to force all these dark thoughts away when he visits John the next day. He wouldn’t ever stand John up. If John asks, he will never come again, but until that day, he will come every week until John is free. John is already sat at their usual table when Sherlock arrives and he greets Sherlock with his usual smile, but there is something wrong, something in the way his shoulders slump, in the way his voice is quieter than ever. They both make poor attempts at normal conversation but they soon give up and Sherlock sits there, wishing he knew what to say, wishing he knew what that look in John’s eyes meant.
He has almost got up the courage to ask when John visibly sags, running a hand over his face. He looks older all of a sudden, and so tired. He glances up at Sherlock and gives him a wry smile.
“Sorry, I’m not very good company today.”
“Do you want me to leave?” Sherlock asks awkwardly.
“No!” John says quickly, his hand landing on Sherlock’s on the table for a brief second as if to stop him, “I mean, not unless you want to.”
“Of course not.”
John smiles tightly and then lets out a sigh, rubbing his forehead again.
“I just... things are getting to me a bit today.”
Sherlock stays silent, wishes he had the courage to reach out and take John’s hand.
“It’s been a year,” he says quietly, “Only one sodding year!”
John lets out a shaky breath and continues in an even quieter voice.
“It feels like a lifetime. I’ve still got two more years, and that’s if I’m really lucky. If not, it’s five. And I don’t -”
He cuts himself off but Sherlock can tell what he was going to say: I don’t know if I can bear it. Suddenly, Sherlock finds his missing courage and he reaches out to place one hand over John’s. It won’t help, it won’t change anything, but he doesn’t know what else to do. John studies his hand for a long time and then turns his own over and grips Sherlock’s tightly, fingers twisting around Sherlock’s wrist. They sit in silence, hands clasped, until it is time for Sherlock to leave.
A few weeks later, there is something different in John’s expression (when will this man ever stop surprising him?) but this time, it is something lighter.
“Do I owe your brother my soul now?” he comments with a smile.
“You don’t know?”
“Know what?” Sherlock asks impatiently. He dreads to think what Mycroft has been up to now.
“He showed up here a few days ago, talking about a special appeal. Something about circumstantial evidence and DNA, and I’m pretty sure he said something about the new Prisons Secretary having an affair with his PA. I don’t know, it was all a little over my head...” he trails off, smiling ever so slightly.
Sherlock takes a moment to process John’s excited ramble and then another moment to let it really sink in.
“And what would this appeal amount to?” he asks, trying to keep his voice steady.
“I’d be out in about six months to a year. Probably have to wear one of those electronic tag things, but I could handle that.”
Sherlock doesn’t really know what to say to that. He didn’t realise there was a new Prisons Secretary (politics, who cares?!), but if Mycroft has any kind of sway over him, he will gladly learn everything he can. If it means John will no longer be in this place... The thought brings a happiness so savage it almost hurts and he has to take a deep breath.
“Sherlock?” John asks worriedly and Sherlock shakes himself out of his daze.
“Six months?” he repeats, even though he heard it perfectly well the first time.
“Well, probably more like a year. You know, bureaucracy and all that,” John says, but Sherlock can hear the relief in his tone, “I owe your brother big time.”
Sherlock scowls but he has to admit, if Mycroft can pull this off, Sherlock will happily refrain from any kind of comments on his brother’s weight for a year. Maybe even two. And he’ll behave himself at Christmas dinner. And he’ll return the hugely expensive decorative pipe he stole from Mycroft - just to spite him - not so long ago. John’s carefully-tampered happiness is infectious and Sherlock smiles warmly at his friend as the conversation moves onto other topics.
Somehow, and Sherlock doesn’t really care about the details (for once), Mycroft pulls it off and John is given leave to apply for parole in just nine months’ time. Sherlock delivers the news himself and for once gets to see John alone, in his role as messenger from John’s lawyer. John is surprised to see him in the little consultation room but takes the letter Sherlock gives him with trembling hands. Sherlock stands to one side as John reads and when John has finished, he looks up, his expression flooded with surprise and delight.
“Is this real?” he asks in bewilderment.
“Of course,” Sherlock replies, unable to hold in his own smile. Nine months. Nine months is no time at all.
In the next moment, he is surprised as John gets to his feet and throws his arms around Sherlock, his relief and his happiness obvious in every line of his body. Sherlock tenses at the contact at first - he is unused to this kind of closeness - but it passes swiftly and he returns John’s fierce hug, wrapping long arms around his friend and discreetly breathing in his scent.
“I can’t believe this,” John whispers into his neck and Sherlock is surprised, once again, by the effect the feel of John’s breath on his bare neck has on him. He just holds John tighter, relishing the contact, until John extracts himself with a wide smile, his hands clutching Sherlock’s arms.
“Nine months,” John breathes and he looks younger, and so happy it makes Sherlock’s heart ache, “God. You Holmes brothers are pretty amazing, you know that, right?”
Sherlock flushes involuntarily at the words, but John is already speaking up again.
“I promise to never think of your brother as a creepy stalker ever again,” he says solemnly, “Even if I am slightly scared of getting on his wrong side.”
They both laugh and it feels good. Sherlock feels lighter, like the load that has been weighing him down since the day John was arrested is slowly being lifted. There is light at the end of the tunnel, finally. Nine more months. No time at all.
The nine months don’t quite go as quickly as Sherlock might have liked, but the time keeps steadily ticking down: eight months, six months, three months, eight weeks, three weeks. The paperwork is already working its way through the system a few weeks before the nine month deadline is up. John is easily accepted for parole, of course, and once all the paperwork is sorted, he is given a release date, just two weeks later. Sherlock delivers the news again and John hugs him even tighter this time - and they linger in the embrace for even longer than before.
“Have you still got that spare room going?” John asks in a low voice, when he finally extracts himself from Sherlock’s embrace.
“I’m sure we can work something out,” Sherlock answers with a smile.
They both laugh and Sherlock just wants to pull him close again, wants to press his mouth to John’s and - he blinks himself out of his wandering thoughts. John is still watching him warmly and it makes the warmth in his own stomach increase tenfold. Wouldn’t do to get ahead of himself though. Sure, they had become somehow even closer in these last nine months, but that didn’t mean John thought of him the same way.
“We’ll have dinner, when you get out,” Sherlock says, his heart thumping with the words ‘when you get out’. It still feels like a dream. Or no, not like a dream - like his nightmare is finally coming to an end.
“Angelo’s?” John asks with a smile, “Do you promise to eat this time?”
Sherlock laughs and promises. He’ll do anything John asks, anything John wants. He is almost high with the knowledge that soon he will get to see John whenever he wants, no longer restricted by visiting hours. He will get to share his home with John, just as he was always meant to. It is an intoxicating thought.
The day of John’s release comes and Sherlock is practically buzzing with excitement. He has already gone through a number of different outfits and has checked his watch at least a hundred times. He will leave in just under an hour to pick John up and bring him home. Bring him home to Baker Street. He had to take off the nicotine patch he had put on earlier - he was stimulated enough as it was. He can’t sit still, can’t concentrate on the few experiments he has running in the kitchen. He’s even taking to tidying things away, but stops himself when he realises what he’s doing.
The doorbell goes half an hour before he is due to leave and he lets out a loud cry of frustration.
“Go away!” he shouts, even though the person at the door will not hear him, “Mrs. Hudson!”
He remembers after a few moments of silence that Mrs. Hudson is out visiting her sister and with a snarl of frustration he clambers down the stairs. If it’s a double glazing salesman, or Jehovah’s witnesses, or some charity collector, they are very much going to regret the day they knocked on his door. He throws the door open, ready to bite out a scathing comment - and freezes.
John is standing there on the doorstep, a small bag slung over one shoulder, giving him a sheepish smile.
“Thought I’d surprise you.”
When he glances behind John, Sherlock sees one of Mycroft’s innocuous black cars pull away from the kerb and drive away.
“You - you -” Sherlock isn’t known for being speechless and he doesn’t particularly like it, feels stupid even as he feels his mouth gaping.
“Can I come in?” John asks with a smile.
“You can - Come in! Come in!”
Sherlock practically drags the man into the house, shutting the door behind him and just standing there for a long moment, hands on John’s arms.
“You’re really here.”
John laughs and gives him a fond smile.
Sherlock briefly calculates the odds of John objecting to being kissed within an inch of his life in the middle of the hallway, but shakes the thought away quickly as John speaks up again, still smiling.
“Aren’t you going to show me around?” he asks teasingly, “I never did get a very good look at the place.”
Sherlock smiles and leads John up the stairs, taking his bag from him and throwing it onto the sofa.
“I see you haven’t tidied in nearly two years,” John comments with a smile.
“I moved the skull somewhere where Mrs. Hudson didn’t have to look at it,” Sherlock says, because it’s about the only thing he can remember doing to appease his - their - landlady.
John laughs, looking around the room.
“Yes, it looks so much tidier for it,” he jokes.
Sherlock smiles and takes John by the arm, leading him through the kitchen, to the bathroom, Sherlock’s own bedroom and back to the landing again. They linger there, just looking at each other, smiling.
“So my room’s upstairs?” John asks in a low voice.
“If you want,” Sherlock replies softly.
John nods, looks briefly up the stairs, then turns his attention back to Sherlock.
“Actually, if you don’t mind, I’d quite like to do something I’ve been waiting almost two years to do.”
“Of course. What?”
Sherlock has barely finished speaking when John steps deliberately into his space, eyes holding his as he raises one hand to the back of Sherlock’s neck. He gives Sherlock a moment to back away but then leans up, closing the space between them and pressing his lips to Sherlock’s. At first, John is hesitant and he almost goes to pull back, but then Sherlock quickly gathers his wits and steps forward, bringing his body into contact with John’s and kissing him back as he raises a hand to cup John’s face. John lets out a moan low in his throat - the best sound Sherlock has ever heard - and he curls his fingers in the hair at Sherlock’s nape as his other hand comes to rest on Sherlock’s waist, fingers twisting in the fabric of his shirt. Sherlock takes another step, wanting to get closer, and John stumbles backwards, hits the wall but pulls Sherlock close as soon as he comes to a stop. Sherlock tilts his head, just so, and coaxes John’s mouth open under his, slides his tongue over John’s upper lip. It is too good. So much like every fantasy he has ever had - but a million times better.
They part, breathless, and he opens his eyes to find John watching him with a hungry look, lips shiny and red from Sherlock’s kiss. He brushes his fingers over John’s jaw and John’s eyelids flicker at the contact.
“Two years, hmm?”
“Yes,” John answers, his voice husky.
Sherlock bends his head and breathes his reply against John’s ear.
“You can’t even imagine what I’ve dreamt of doing to you for two years.”
“You’ll have to show me,” John replies and Sherlock takes in a sharp breath, his whole body flooded with desire for this remarkable man. And not just desire: affection and hunger and yes, love. He will not say it, not yet, but for now he will drown himself in John. He will worship him and adore him and someday, he hopes he will be able to make up for those two lost years.