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I've never done this before. Angst for our boys? What? If you've read my other Sherlock works, you've seen that in my mind they exist in a perpetual state of fluffy, which is a very weird place for Sherlock and John to be, trust me.

However, now they exist in angst, thanks to this prompt. They glory in angst. The angsty John in my brain scares me just a tad, and I don't know where he's getting it from. But I adored the prompt: Sherlock hates having to state the obvious, which is why he never tells John that he loves him until it's too late.

I adored the prompt and so I ran with it, fast and far. I understand that takes on "The Adventure of the Empty House" have been done to death and back again in the wake of The Great Game, but this was the only way this prompt chose to be in my head, and my John doesn't exactly take it the way Doyle!John does. It's probably horribly cliched and awful, and I'm wondering at how I left it--if I should continue on with one more chapter, or if I should leave it alone in its angsty glory.

I make no claim on Sherlock, John, or the lyrics by The Fray I use as the epigraph. I merely borrow them for my own sadistic amusement. *pets John*

“Why’d you have to wait?

Where were you? Where were you?

Just a little late

You found me, you found me.

Just a little late

Why’d you have to wait to find me, to find me?”

- The Fray

Just a Little Late

He stood watching John’s back, so tense and coiled, and the way John’s palms pressed against the glass of the window.

John’s hands were shaking.

He had never once seen John’s hands shake. Always steady, always calm in the face of battle—that was John, the soldier. That was the John Mycroft had met shortly after they’d moved in together. That was the John Sherlock had known.

It was not the John who turned to him in a flat filled with boxes taped and shut and labeled carefully, with all the meticulousness that had so often clashed with Sherlock’s perpetual state of incredibly disorganized chaos. It was not the John who stalked to him and said, in a voice choked with rage, “Three years, Sherlock.”


“Three YEARS!”

“John, I understand your anger, but you aren’t letting me—”

“Fuck, I don’t think you do ‘understand!’” John stepped closer, a hand raised almost threateningly, but something gave way and he whirled impossibly fast on unsteady legs and trudged back to the window, slumping, defeated, to the floor.

The John that looked up at him from the floor was not the John he knew. This John was broken. Sherlock had never had a taste for poetry or most other literature—not unless it was obscure or somehow related to forensics—but after three years of hiding, not being able to solve cases at nearly the same level he once had, some of that popular amusement had trickled into his brain, even as he tried his damnedest to delete it. One line of one of those damnable poems had reminded him of John: “My head is bloody, but unbowed.”

His John had never crumbled in the face of danger. It was only in nightmares that John had allowed himself a release, the nightmares Sherlock had always pretended not to hear, although on occasion he had sat in John’s room, wanting to be able to wake John up should the nightmares seem too much for him to handle. He’d never spoken to John about these nights, had never allowed John to know what he did. He hated stating the obvious aloud—he’d thought John knew he cared for him, that he was actively concerned for his welfare.

Apparently, John was unaware of this after all, because this broken John looked up at him and spoke, his voice calmer now, but still with the undercurrent of rage and pain that Sherlock did not want to believe he caused.

“I don’t think you do understand, Sherlock. I don’t think you know what it’s like to pull someone from a fucking swimming pool after having been held hostage. Someone who’d been knocked unconscious by all the debris from the explosion, someone you didn’t notice had nearly drowned until you’re being pulled out of a burning building. I had to fight them to go back in there, did you know that? Had to knock one of them unconscious and run back inside.

“I don’t think you know what it’s like to be giving mouth-to-mouth to that person all through the ambulance ride. I don’t think you know what it’s like to be told that you died, Sherlock! Fucking hell, and it wasn’t even a doctor who told me, it was bloody Mycroft, because they wouldn’t let me see you! You don’t understand, Sherlock! You weren’t the one acting as a bloody pallbearer at the funeral, you weren’t the one living in this flat alone for three years—you were off gallivanting around America, solving crimes without so much as leaving me a fucking clue that you were alive all—this fucking—time!”

Sherlock took a breath—as usual, he was lost when it came to human interactions. What was unusual was that he had never been lost when it came to John.

“John, Moriarty’s associates would not have stopped had they known I was still alive. I had no choice but to make arrangements with Mycroft and the doctors, and I am sorry I had to leave without telling you, but it would have put you in danger—”

“Because you were always so concerned about not putting me in danger, weren’t you!” John shouted, getting to his feet again and this time coming as close as he dared, barely a hairsbreadth between them. “You were the one I had to kill a man for—you were the one who nearly got Sarah and I killed on our first date—you were the reason I got held hostage! For fuck’s sake, Sherlock, wanting to keep me out of danger then is no excuse for all the times you clearly didn’t care before that night!”

There were words Sherlock Holmes had never imagined himself saying. Actually, he’d never had to imagine saying them, because to himself, he said them all the time—the words were that painfully obvious. Obvious—that was why he’d loathed the thought of saying them, because he had thought John understood.

“This was not an attempt at atonement, John. It was not an ‘excuse,’ like you seem to think. John, I stayed in America because—” John was looking at him now, which was more than he had done since Sherlock had showed up, and Sherlock knew he had to say it. “—because I love you, John. It was never something I planned to do—nor was it something I wanted Moriarty to know.”

Because he had known. He had known perhaps even before the scene at the pool, had undoubtedly been keeping them under surveillance before that point. He had had his suspicions confirmed the second Sherlock’s voice broke when he said John’s name. He had known just from looking down the barrel of the gun Sherlock held as John had him in a headlock.

“Do you know what happens if you don’t leave me alone, Sherlock? To you?”

“Oh, let me guess: I get killed.”

“Kill you? No, don’t be obvious. I mean—I’m gonna kill you anyway, someday. I don’t wanna rush it, though. I’m saving it up for something special… no, no, no, no, no. If you don’t stop prying… I will burn you. I will burn the heart out of you.”

“I have been reliably informed that I don’t have one.

“But we both know that’s not quite true.”

His eyes had strayed to John then, just for a moment, the briefest moment where he had realized what he would have to do. Should they survive this, he told himself—and they would, he had no question that they would—he would have to make sure John lived.

Because as much as he tried to tell himself that he had no use, no desire, for emotions and what they did to others, others who weren’t him, he had every possible emotion when it came to John.

Just this one time, he could not live with blood on his hands.

John was staring at him now, staring at him the same way he had at the pool, but with a different emotion in his eyes. There, it had been pure and abject terror, but also a certain kind of trust—the knowledge that if they worked through it together, if Sherlock pulled the trigger and John pulled them into the pool, that they could get out of it alive. For a brief, an entirely too brief, second, there was a flicker of John from three years ago—the John who had showed his hand at the pool, the John who had saved his life more than once.

Now, there was just anger, pain, rage. Now, there was John’s back turning away from him and shoving boxes out of the flat and down the stairs, exactly the thing Sherlock had wanted to prevent by showing up at the flat and revealing he was alive after all. Now, he was standing alone in the center of an empty flat, all because he had refused to state the obvious.

He knew with utter certainty, then, that he did have a heart after all.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
Oh, so sad, but beautifully done.

Oneshot? Question mark? Could there be a sequel, in which all is made well and they end up together, happy? Maybe?
Apr. 2nd, 2011 09:05 pm (UTC)
Haha, yes, that would be the reason for the question mark! I'm debating, because it hurts me to leave them this way! I might also want to take on writing the things John lists to Sherlock (morbid as I am, the pallbearer thing is something I now desperately want to write). So yes, there will probably be more to this in the future!
Apr. 2nd, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
Oh, my. That's very painful.
Apr. 2nd, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, that was good. I find myself thinking about their version of EMPT sometimes and I genuinely think that this John would not let Sherlock back into his life. Well done for having them break up - it was sad but it rings true for me.
Apr. 2nd, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
I think John wouldn't forgive very easily at all--he lost so many people in combat that I can see him being very, very upset by Sherlock having faked that, whether for a good reason or not. I think John in general would be willing to call out Sherlock on occasion--I once read a fic where John reacts very, very angrily to not being called when the flat is almost blown up in The Great Game, and I think that's been the image I've carried around in my head when it comes to playing out a scenario like this. So yes, there is no easy forgiveness for Sherlock here, and running it as a breakup scenario seemed best and most plausible.
Apr. 3rd, 2011 11:08 am (UTC)
I once read a fic where John reacts very, very angrily to not being called when the flat is almost blown up in The Great Game

You wouldn't have a link handy by any chance? Because that sounds like something I'd quite like to read.
Apr. 3rd, 2011 02:41 pm (UTC)
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6447068/1/The_Glass_and_The_Floor is it! It's their argument about the situation and then, well, basically makeup sex. ;)
Apr. 3rd, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
Excellent, thanks!
Apr. 2nd, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
I will just have to hope for the best.
Jenn as she retreats to cave of lurking/depression/ with loads of angst ...
Apr. 3rd, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
YOU GO JOHN! I mean, yes, very painful for Sherlock (and I quite understand the intention a bit) but even in the books I was miffed with Holmes for the constant deception, and his own death was the worst. I love the Empty House angst. :D

...but John will forgive him soon, right? :)
Apr. 3rd, 2011 06:46 am (UTC)
There has to be a sequel!
Apr. 3rd, 2011 10:56 am (UTC)

I'm such a sucker for happy endings.

Apr. 3rd, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
Gosh, this is lovely.
Apr. 4th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
So damn painful, and yet so damn true. I don't see Moriarty having to lift a finger after TGG to burn Sherlock's heart out - Sherlock'll do all the heavy lifting himself.
Jul. 12th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)
I love that you finally did something angsty! I would love a sequel though. It's too sad like this T_T
Jul. 12th, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
LOL, maybe most of what I've done for this particular ship isn't angsty, but most of my other fics from the past year or so are. ;) I have beginnings for a prequel and a sequel sitting on my hard drive waiting to be touched--they'll happen eventually!
Jun. 22nd, 2015 11:25 pm (UTC)
(opening tardis) HELL !! and this was made before season two!! fu** !! casandras powers are so sad!!!! (closing tardis)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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