Harry was drunk. It was inevitable, really - a night out with work after the stress of moving to a new country? Of course she’d hit the drink. John had suggested she use the excuse of still unpacking to get out of it, but Harry never listened to him. As much as he wanted to blame her, she’d just wanted a nice night out with her new colleagues, get to know them better. He couldn’t begrudge her that. He only wished he’d been there to keep her in check rather than sat at home like some lovesick teenager waiting for Sherlock to get online. Harry should have been more controlled, but it was John’s fault for not going with her.
Harry was slumped over the toilet bowl. She’d finally stopped dry-heaving and was now just leaning heavily against the porcelain on the off-chance of a repeat performance.
“Don’t be mad, Johnny,” she slurred when he came over to clean her up a bit. “S’all good.”
“No, it’s not all good, Harry. You’re a recovering alcoholic, you’re not supposed to get this trashed any more,” John told her. He carefully lifted her to her feet and walked her to the bedroom. He’d already found a bucket for her to use if she needed to and placed it next to her bed.
“‘S funny. You’re funny, Johnny,” she said, giggling at something only her drunken mind could comprehend.
“Yes, wonderful. Okay,” he said, helping her out of her sodden clothes and into bed, “I need you to lie down for me, on your side.” She usually slept on her back, but she was too drunk to argue as he carefully moved her arms. “Keep your chin up as well, Harry.” He gently tilted her head as she drifted off. Finally, he was satisfied she wasn’t about to choke on her own vomit or tongue.
He sat there for half an hour, just watching, making sure she didn’t start choking. The irony was they argued less when she was as drunk as this – Harry wasn’t an angry drunk unless provoked, and John knew there was no point in arguing with her when she wouldn’t remember in the morning anyway.
As he checked the bedside clock, he realised he was almost an hour late for his ‘date’ with Sherlock. He gave Harry a quick once-over and made his way to his bedroom. Grabbing his laptop, he wandered back towards Harry’s room, keeping close enough to hear any noise she might make and yet not so close that he would wake her if Sherlock happened to still be online.
“You’re late,” was Sherlock’s greeting.
“Yes, I know,” John huffed. “Harry went out with some work mates and, well, she’s currently passed out on her bed in the recovery position, so I can’t talk for long.”
“Why did she go out drinking if she’s a recovering alcoholic?” The way Sherlock said it, as if it was a ridiculous mistake to make, didn’t help assuage John’s guilt.
“Yes, Sherlock, I am well aware of what a bloody awful idea it was. I tried to get her to see sense, but making Harry see sense when it comes to drinking is like trying to get you to be civil to Anderson.” Even her brother putting on his doctor hat wouldn’t convince her.
“If you want to go watch over Harry, I understand. After all, it’s partially my fault that you didn’t go with her to the bar.”
“How did you...” John began before realising that it was probably pretty obvious he hadn’t gone out with Harry. “Yeah, I should have gone to the bar with her. It’s not your fault, though; we could have just rescheduled.”
“I didn’t mean to suggest this was your fault, John. Harry is a grown woman. She should be able to look after herself.” John smiled slightly at that. “What? Oh yes, very funny. I keep telling you, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thank you. I’ve made it nearly five weeks, haven’t I?”
“Yes, you have. Well done for managing not to starve or blow yourself up in five weeks.”
“Your sarcasm is noted,” Sherlock replied in a dry voice. “Really, though, if you want to watch over her and make sure she’s alright I don’t mind. I have some experiments that need attending to. As you said, we can always rearrange.”
“Are you sure that’s alright? I know we don’t get to see each other very often. I don’t want you to feel like, I don’t know, I’m ignoring you.”
“You’re not ignoring me, you’re looking after your sister. Which, I might remind you, is the reason you’re halfway around the globe in the first place,” Sherlock said. “You’ll be back in a just over a week, anyway.”
“God, I love you sometimes,” John said with a soft smile. “How about we try again tomorrow night, same time?”
“Fine with me,” Sherlock agreed, before adding, “Unless Lestrade finds me a case by then.”
“Good morning, Sherlock.”
Hanging up, John sincerely hoped Harry wouldn’t waver from sobriety too much after tonight; he didn’t want to think about Sherlock’s reaction if he had to tell him he’d be staying longer than the original six weeks.
~ ~ ~
Week Six (well, almost)
“So,” Sherlock’s voice came through John’s laptop, “did you want me to meet you at the airport when you get back?”
Damn, this was the part John had been hoping to put off. He knew he wouldn’t be able to, knew he shouldn’t, but he also knew it wouldn’t go down well. He’d put it off for fifteen minutes already; it was time to bite the bullet. “About that...” He wished his stomach would stop squirming. “I don’t think I’ll be coming home in a couple of days like we’d planned.” He couldn’t look at Sherlock’s face as he said it – when had he become such a coward?
“What? Why not?” Sherlock’s voice was steady but John could hear the emotion underlying it. “Is this about Harry? That work party?”
“It’s related, yes.” John looked up at Sherlock. To anyone else, Sherlock would simply look confused - a rare sight in the first place - but John could see the subtle frown lines and hardness in his eyes. “The whole point of coming was to make sure she settled in sober; I can’t leave knowing that in all likelihood she’ll go back to drinking as soon as I’m gone. She’d been doing so well. She deserves better.” Sherlock really didn’t look happy, understandable really, John wasn’t happy about it either. But Harry was family and as much as they didn’t get on most the time, he’d hate himself even more if he abandoned her now.
“Is this...” Sherlock grimaced before schooling his expression into one as neutral as he could manage. “Is this just about Harry? Or is this some desire to stay in Sydney longer and to have more time away from me?” It sounded like Sherlock had been worried about this for a while but had been too afraid to ask.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” John told him fiercely. “Sherlock, I’m not happy about this either. Of course I want to come home, of course I want to see you again. Trust me, if I wasn’t worried that Harry would be straight back on the booze as soon as I stepped on the plane, I would be home already. I love you, Sherlock; I want to be there with you. Besides,” he added, “if I was trying to avoid you, why would I be talking to you all the time?”
“I’m not feeling guilty. Well, alright, I am, but only because I feel terrible for not coming home as planned. That is not the only reason I’m talking to you.”
“If you were worried about Harry drinking, you shouldn’t have let her move to Australia. Everyone drinks there.”
“Drinking is a part of lots of cultures. She was just as likely to get pissed in England as she is here, so don’t start any of that. I know you’re upset, but don’t be a dick.”
“You know how I am, there’s no need to insult me with such petty terms. I’ve had worse from Anderson. If you haven’t realised what I’m like by now then maybe we shouldn’t be getting married. I’m not sure I should be with such an unobservant imbecile.” Sherlock’s face twisted in derision.
“Fuck off, Sherlock,” John said before Sherlock’s exact words sunk in. “Wait, married? When are we getting married?”
“I have no idea as to an exact date. You asked me, remember?”
“No, I don’t remember,” John said with a tone of panic – how would he forget something like that? Unless... “Sherlock are you talking about the other week when I asked if you’d ever want to get married?”
“Obviously. What other time have we discussed marriage?”
“Never.” Oh, this was a disaster. “Sherlock, I was just asking if you’d ever consider getting married. I wasn’t, I mean...” How the hell was he supposed to explain himself without hurting Sherlock even more? “I didn’t mean it as an actual proposal.” He winced; that definitely wasn’t the way to say it.
“So you don’t want to marry me?” Sherlock’s voice was laced with a potent mixture of rejection and anger.
“I didn’t say that,” John corrected in a rush. What was he saying? He loved Sherlock, that wasn’t even in question. When he’d asked Sherlock if he’d ever thought about getting married, he’d been hoping the man would say yes. He’d wanted to know that Sherlock felt the same way about him as he felt about Sherlock, that they had that possibility open to them. But John was a bit of a romantic about these things. He didn’t approve of couples who rushed into marriage because they knew divorce was an easy way out if things went wrong. But that wasn’t how John felt about Sherlock. He already lived with him, knew all his bad habits, his propensity for keeping body parts and toxic chemicals scattered around the flat. He knew all that, lived with all that, and he’d never thought of leaving Sherlock. He might have needed some air occasionally, but who didn’t from time to time? At the end of the day, John would always go back to Sherlock, and wasn’t that what marriage was all about?
“John, do you want to marry me or not?” Sherlock impatiently interrupted John’s thoughts.
“Yes,” John said, meaning it. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”
“Good.” Sherlock’s expression lost some of it’s cold fierceness as the tension in his jaw relaxed, even managing to give a small smile. “Now that that’s sorted, when are you coming home?”
“I don’t know,” John sighed. “Probably no more than another week or so. Don’t worry, Sherlock, I want to be back home just as much as you do.”
They spent the rest of the morning talking. When they said goodbye, John had almost forgotten he wouldn’t be going home just yet. Almost, but not quite.
~ ~ ~
Sherlock wasn’t moping, no matter what Lestrade or his brother said. He did not mope, ever. It was an experiment in how long he could go without verbal communication and using as little energy as possible. It was definitely not moping.
It was ridiculous. Sherlock didn’t care about Harry’s welfare. If he didn’t care about his own sibling’s welfare, there was hardly any point in caring about someone else’s. Why couldn’t John just come home? It was Harry’s life; let her destroy it as she saw fit. He would never voice that aloud, though. He knew it was just a bit beyond ‘not good’. John would probably forgive him, but it wasn’t worth the argument it would cause.
Sherlock curled up even tighter on the sofa, pulling his thin blue dressing gown around him. If Mrs Hudson came by he could just pretend he was cold. It was rather chilly in the flat. He should probably get up and do something about that, it’s what John would do. But John wasn’t here, was he? It would hardly be Sherlock’s fault if he froze to death because John was enjoying the sunshine and warmth down under too much to come home. Besides, getting up to turn on the heating would ruin his ‘use as little energy as possible’ experiment. He was doing well so far.
He heard his phone vibrate on the table. Lestrade, most likely, in another vain attempt to distract him with cases. When would the man learn that simple cases were useless? They only made his black moods even darker. Maybe it was Mycroft, in which case it would just be another text telling him to stop pining and do something. It didn’t much matter who it was, it was bound to be tedious and dull.
He wished he had something to occupy his mind, something to stop it spinning in circles. He didn’t even have his stash anymore, not since someone (he suspected Mycroft, the git) had given Lestrade a very specific anonymous tip off. He could always go out and get more, but that would require ruining the experiment. Maybe he could drop a note to someone in his homeless network and get them to acquire it for him. He stored the idea away for later.
The worst thing was not having a time frame for when to expect John to return. He might be there for another week or another month, there was no real way of knowing. Even if John did give him a date, there was no guarantee that he’d stick to that one any more than he had the first.
His phone vibrated continuously this time – a call, had to be Mycroft. Well, he wasn’t going to pick up. If Mycroft really needed to talk to him he could bloody well come in person.
Ten minutes later, in which Sherlock still had not moved, his brother’s voice carried up from downstairs. Damn him.
~ ~ ~
John turned his laptop on to check for any new e-mails from Sherlock. He’d sent one yesterday morning, nothing particularly important, but Sherlock hadn’t replied yet. Not even with a basic “on a case”.
1 New Message
It wasn’t from Sherlock – unknown sender; junk mail maybe? It didn’t look dodgy, but then again you could never tell. In the end, John decided to open it; it might still be from Sherlock and the subject heading did say urgent. Praying that he wasn’t about to destroy his laptop, he clicked on it.
Dr John Watson
If it was spam, it was certainly well-targeted.
Be at Sydney Airport, terminal 1, gate A arrivals for 2pm
Well, that explained the mystery of the message’s sender even if it only gave him more questions. He looked at the clock - plenty of time to get there. He hoped it wasn’t some foreign dignitary, although that seemed unlikely. Mycroft would know people in Australia far better equipped to deal with them. He knew who he wanted it to be, of course, but he had to be careful with that thought. If he ended up being wrong, he didn’t want to go through that bitter feeling of disappointment.
No matter who it was, he’d be there to greet them; it’s not like he had any better plans.
~ ~ ~
Well, here he was – two o’clock, terminal one, gate A at Sydney Airport, just as Mycroft had asked, still without a clue as to who he was supposed to be meeting here. John hoped it was at least someone he knew. He still hadn’t thought of any reason why he would be asked to greet one of Mycroft’s officials. As hard as he’d tried not to hope, there was really only one person he wanted to see come through the arrivals gate.
John checked the arrivals board. There were a couple of flights from London up there, but none of them were arriving at two. Maybe whoever it was wasn’t flying from England. After all, Mycroft hadn’t said anything about which flight it was. He hadn’t said anything at all, really. A small well of disappointment started to rise in John’s chest as it seemed less and less likely that Sherlock would come striding through the gateway.
As the minutes passed, John wondered whether he should have made a sign to hold. Except not only did he not know who he was waiting for, it was quite possible the other person didn’t know who was meeting them here. Silently cursing Mycroft, he continued to watch as plane load after plane load came through, as people greeted their loved ones with fierce embraces or loving touches. He tried to stop his imagination replacing the couples with himself and Sherlock – tried, but failed.
Checking the time, John noted it was already 2.45 and there was still no sign of his mystery arrival. It was possible that the flight had been delayed, of course, but knowing Mycroft and his strive to be omniscient John suspected he would have been informed had that been the case. Maybe there’d been some other problem; lost luggage, difficulties at immigration or a problem at customs. Whatever the reason, John was bored of just hanging around. There was a coffee shop not far from the gate where he could grab a cup of tea. Deciding that whoever was coming could wait around a little bit, he made his way over to the coffee stall.
He hoped he wouldn’t have to wait much longer. True, he didn’t have any definite plans, but hanging around at an airport all afternoon wasn’t his idea of a good time. He’d just bought his tea in one of those horrible cardboard cups with the leaky plastic lids when he heard a familiar, deep baritone voice behind him.
“You were overcharged.”
John almost had a heart attack, barely holding on to his tea in shock. “Sherlock?” he asked breathlessly, spinning round Standing right there in front of him stood all six foot two of Sherlock’s skinny frame.
“Hello, John.” Sherlock’s face lit up in a brilliant smile, the kind normally reserved for triple homicides.
John didn’t know what to do with himself. Seeing Sherlock standing there had just wiped every coherent thought from his head. “But, I...what? I mean, how? Sherlock?”
Sherlock rolled his eyes heavenward. “For goodness sake, John. Yes, it’s me. Mycroft bought me an open return ticket since you didn’t know when you’d be able to come home.” John still hadn’t regained control of his mind enough to do anything other than gawp. “You’re not about to collapse or anything, are you?” Sherlock’s eyes narrowed, as he gauged John’s well-being. “Perhaps you should sit down.”
Slowly, John’s neural pathways seemed to start firing again. Sherlock guided him into a chair at a nearby table, taking the seat across from him. “No, I’m fine, it’s just. There weren’t any flights from London landing at two, I thought...” John trailed off.
“Connecting flight. I landed in Singapore first.”
“Oh.” That made sense. John nodded. But, “Then why have you only just come through the gate?”
“Oh, that, yes, I apologise for the delay. The officials seemed to incorrectly believe that the couple in front of me were drugs smugglers. I informed that they were mistaken and they took offence at my deductions. Mycroft had to tell them to release me.” Sherlock scowled slightly at the thought of needing his brother’s interference.
John sat stunned for a second before he started to laugh. “Only you could get in that much trouble within ten minutes of landing.” It was slowly sinking in. Sherlock was here, in person, sitting less than half a metre in front of him.
Sherlock’s grin reappeared until he too was laughing. It felt so good to hear Sherlock’s voice without the tinniness of the speakers, to hear his rich laugh – something he hadn’t heard in a while.
Eventually their mirth subsided, leaving the two of them smiling happily at one another, each drinking in the other’s presence. John reached forward and took Sherlock’s hand in his. It felt so good to touch him again; he’d missed Sherlock’s surprising warmth these past few weeks.
After a few moments of gentle calm, hand in hand, Sherlock rose to his feet pulling John up with him and pulled him close and into a deep kiss. John sighed happily as they both tried to explore the other’s mouths, re-learning the taste and feel. Slowly the passion they’d begun with withdrew into a languorous teasing of lips and tongues before Sherlock pulled away, resting his head over John’s shoulder in a comforting embrace.
John never wanted to let him go. If they could stay there like that for the rest of their lives, John would die happy. He felt a breath of air against his neck – I missed you could just be made out. John smiled against Sherlock’s shoulder.
They stayed like that for a few seconds longer before pulling away, but not enough to break contact. “We should probably get the car,” John said softly “You’ve had a long flight.”
Sherlock nodded and grabbed his hand luggage, leaving the larger, heavier bag for John to deal with. At least it had wheels, John thought, grabbing the handle and catching up with Sherlock, who was already halfway to the car park. John felt better than he had in the last six weeks; once again following after the brilliant detective.
~ ~ ~
It was mid-morning. Sherlock was lounging decadently on the hotel bed with only his boxers maintaining some level of dignity. John had driven them back to Harry’s place in the Sydney suburbs but it hadn’t been long before she’d kicked them out. According to John, it had been his decision - let Harry have her independence while still being close enough if she needed any more help. Sherlock suspected it was due to noise levels and Harry’s childish desire to be the first person to have sex in her own flat. Too late, he thought with a victorious grin, remembering his first night on Australian soil. So now they were staying at a hotel. Sherlock couldn’t remember which one of the many in downtown Sydney they’d ended up in, but it didn’t matter. Mycroft would foot the bill.
John came out of the en suite bathroom dressed in jeans and a light t-shirt. Although he’d been spending most of his time helping Harry with the move, he’d obviously spent some time on the beach as well – Sherlock had seen the tan lines from his swimming shorts. He was more tanned than Sherlock had ever seen him. Even at that first meeting his tan had already begun to fade, nothing like the fresh bronzing John was sporting now. His hair was blonder too, bleached by the sun. Sherlock found himself wanting to explore every inch of him, to trace the tan with his fingers, with his tongue – would it affect the taste of John’s skin? He’d run these experiments multiple times now but still his curiosity wasn’t sated. Neither of them were complaining.
John smiled when he saw Sherlock sprawled across the bed. “You know you’ll have to leave this room eventually, right?”
Sherlock shifted up to get a better look at John, leaning back on his elbows. “Of course, but since we don’t have a specific day we have to leave by I intend to make the most of you.” Sherlock gave John a long, steady look over, more for its effect on John than any need for observation. “Besides, isn’t this what engaged couples do?”
“What, have sex all day?” John asked with an amused grin. “Come on, I thought we could grab some lunch down at the harbour. I haven’t really been sightseeing yet. I was too busy with Harry and then, well, it didn’t hold any appeal at the time. Anyway, you need to eat something. You’re even thinner than usual.”
It was true Sherlock had lost what little weight he had to spare. He hadn’t thought John would notice; it was only Mycroft who had commented on it at home. Most likely John had attributed it to Sherlock’s poor eating habits, but when he wasn’t on a case Sherlock ate normally, and he hadn’t had a proper case for a couple of weeks now. It just wasn’t the same without John’s continuous attempts to ‘feed him up’. Despite his usual irritation, he found he’d missed the concern behind the requests, each one a small proof of John’s love. “We could just order room service,” Sherlock said, pouting.
“You need some vitamin D as well. Come on, Sherlock,” John cajoled, “I bet you’ll love the Opera House.”
“Dull, typical tourist trap.”
“Fine,” John snapped as he began to lose his patience. “We can go to a beach and you can loll about on the sand soaking up the rays rather than lay on a bed in a hotel room, even if it is five stars. The fresh air will do you good.”
The beach actually did sound tempting. As a general rule, Sherlock hated beaches. It was too hot lying out in the sun, not to mention that the sand got everywhere, making him uncomfortable and interfering with his deductions of the other visitors. If he couldn’t spend his time working out the lives of those around him, he got bored. Despite this antipathy towards beaches, if John was there dressed only in swimming shorts, dripping wet from a swim in the sea, water beads evaporating off his finely-haired chest as he lay out in the sun... Well, he could probably force himself to make an exception. Of course, he’d have to wait until they were back to the hotel room before Sherlock could properly show John his appreciation, unless he could persuade John that the car would suffice for privacy. Sherlock could feel himself hardening just at the thought.
“You win,” Sherlock sighed in mock surrender. “We can go to the beach after lunch. However,” he continued with a gleam in his eyes, “since lunch is still a good hour away, might I suggest something to work up an appetite?”
John’s eyes locked with Sherlock’s before slowly following the pale contours of his body down towards his growing erection. “Deal,” John said as he made his way towards the bed, pulling his t-shirt up over his head as he did so.