Title: Everlasting (3/5)
Summary: A Tuck Everlasting fusion, in which the Holmes brothers have lived for a very, very long time.
A/N: Chinese translation available here. Thank you, rosemarry102!
Sherlock felt Mycroft's eyes on him as he walked into the house.
"Do you really have nothing better to do than sit around and wait for me to come home?" he asked.
Mycroft smiled without a trace of humour. "I want to make sure you do come home."
"What could possibly happen to me that would worry you? I can't be killed."
"You can still feel pain, Sherlock. You can still be hurt." Mycroft watched Sherlock take off his coat and scarf and toss them on a chair. "You were with someone," he said. He spoke casually, with no hint of surprise. Sherlock pursed his lips as if to hide them. "Does he know that you'll be leaving in three weeks?"
Sherlock turned to glare at his brother, but Mycroft saw through him instantly. His face fell.
"Oh, Sherlock..." There was a trace of pity in his voice.
John saw Sherlock every day for a week afterwards. They met by the oak tree in the meadow, looking down on London and exchanging stories about the last time they had been there.
On Tuesday, they laid on their backs in the grass, staring up at the clouds and talking until the sky turned dark and the stars came out. They clung together on the walk back to Harry’s house, half wary of walking down the pitch black road without a torch, and half using the darkness as an excuse to hold tightly onto each others’ arms. John stumbled on a tree root halfway down the road, and grabbed at Sherlock’s waist to keep his balance. Sherlock righted him, and kept one hand pressed to John’s back for the rest of the walk. They stood outside the fence to kiss goodbye, and Sherlock ran his hand up John’s spine and into his hair. John gave a full-body shiver at the sensation.
On Thursday, the sun was too strong to lie in the grass of the meadow. Sherlock leaned up against the oak tree reading a book about poisons, while John listened to him ramble on about the chemical composition of each one. Sherlock didn’t realize that John had fallen asleep against his shoulder until he made a particularly strong gesticulation in his passion and ended up elbowing John in the stomach. John woke up coughing and laughed at the bewildered look on Sherlock’s face.
One week after his interview, John got the job at the clinic. He was sitting in front of the telly with Harry when he got the phone call, and turned the volume down low to answer, ignoring Harry's glare. She watched as he paced back and forth between the kitchen and living room, then gave him a thumbs up when he burst into a grin and looked over at her.
"Congratulations," she said, after he had hung up and sat back down on the sofa.
"Thanks." John put the phone in his pocket and turned the volume back up, not really watching whatever cooking show was on, but leaving it on for Harry. He saw her check her own phone out of the corner of his eye. Her foot was restlessly twitching against the chair.
"You okay?" John asked.
"Fine," she said. She put the phone down on the side table and turned back to the telly. John wasn't fooled. Her eyes were distant and troubled, and there was a tiny crease in the middle of her forehead. Her foot kept tapping against the chair cushion.
"You have a support group meeting tonight, right?" John asked.
"I said I'm fine."
"I didn't ask a second time, I'm just—"
"Drop it, John."
John pursed his lips and took his phone back out to text.
"Are you texting him again?" asked Harry. "God John, you're like a teenager."
"Well he did help me get the job. It's only right to thank him."
Harry rolled her eyes, but smiled. "Ah yes, of course. Wonder boy. Pretty face, good shag, gets you a job. What more could you want?"
John glanced up at her over his phone. "I'm not sleeping with him," he said. He typed another "thanks" in reply to Sherlock's congratulations, added a smilie, and then deleted it, thinking that Sherlock probably wouldn't appreciate it.
Harry looked over at him. "No shagging yet?" John shook his head. "Well what am I supposed to think?" she asked. "You've come home with fresh bruises on your neck twice now, you slag."
John threw a pillow at her.
Sherlock stopped by that night to congratulate John properly. They stood in the front doorway for ten minutes until Harry passed by, saw John toying with the top buttons of Sherlock's shirt, and cleared her throat loudly. John felt his ears heat again, and knew Harry would be mentioning it later.
"Sherlock, this is my sister, Harry. Harry, meet Sherlock."
Sherlock's eyes flitted over Harry quickly as they shook hands. She raised an eyebrow, but met his gaze boldly when he looked her in the eye.
"So you're the one who's been chasing around my baby brother?" she asked. "I certainly hope you'll be taking good care of him."
Sherlock nodded. "I fully intend to."
"Good. It's nice to meet you, then."
John looked between the two, awkwardly. Harry looked defiant, and Sherlock looked as if he were holding something back. Finally, Harry nodded at them and left the hallway. She returned quickly with her jacket over her arm.
"I'm going to my meeting," she said. "Be back later. You kids have fun. And don't forget to practice safe sex."
Sherlock smirked, but it faded when he looked at John and saw his troubled expression.
"Something's wrong," he said.
John shrugged. "I'm worried about her."
"I know. She's thinking of drinking again." John didn't meet Sherlock's eyes. He was only confirming what John had suspected. He sighed and took Sherlock's hand, changing the subject.
"Can you...would you like to stay?" he asked. "Harry won't be back for a couple of hours."
Sherlock looked at him with regret. "I honestly can't," he said. "I'm on a case."
"You're on a case right now? Anything I can help with?"
Sherlock shook his head. "Not this time. You wouldn't like it anyway. More drugs. Very boring."
John smiled, sticking two fingers in the waistband of Sherlock's trousers and pulling him closer.
"I thought you didn't take the boring ones?"
"I do when they offer me a day's free reign of the morgue in return for solving it."
John laughed. "Well, whatever makes you happy," he said. "Will I see you tomorrow?"
"Probably not. I'll solve the case tonight and spend tomorrow at the morgue. I'm holding them to the full 24 hours, since they never specified when we made the agreement."
"Bugger for them."
Sherlock put a hand to John's chest, outlining the shape of the tags underneath his t-shirt. John watched as Sherlock's expression turned inward. He looked troubled again. Part of John wanted Sherlock to tell him everything, but another part knew that it was too much to ask for.
Sherlock's fingers traced the chain up John's chest and around the back of his neck. He pulled John in, but didn't kiss him, just stroked the clasp again and again where it settled over John's skin.
John's first day of work went better than he had expected. He quickly realized that he was overqualified for the position, and because of his experience, he instantly gained the respect of his co-workers. His patients seemed happy to meet him, and though he had nothing but routine check-ups all day, he could tell that the work he was doing was deeply important to them. He got home around dinnertime feeling pretty good about his day, only to find that Harry was kneeling over the toilet, throwing up with mascara streaks running down her face.
She looked up as he entered the bathroom.
“I’m sorry, John,” she cried, weakly. She wiped at her face with a towel and gave a wet cough into the toilet.
John sat down next to her and pulled her hair away from her face. He murmured “it’s alright, it’ll be okay,” as she rested her head on the cold porcelain of the toilet bowl. He stroked her back to soothe her as she tried to explain that Clara was getting re-married and when she found out...
John shushed her and got her a glass of water to rinse her mouth.
“That’s why I moved in with you,” he said. “So we can help each other out.”
She squeezed his hand tightly and apologized repeatedly as he helped her into bed.
The next morning, John brought Harry breakfast and sat with her until she shooed him away so she could “mope in peace.” She called a friend from her support group, who promised to come by to keep her company. John smiled at Harry, reminded her that he had his phone with him if she needed anything, and went out to head towards the meadow, where he knew Sherlock would be waiting.
He was halfway there when he sensed movement in the clearing where they had first met. When he went to investigate, Sherlock was knelt over the spring again, collecting another vial of water.
“What do you do with all that stuff, anyway?” John asked.
Sherlock put the vial in his pocket and recovered the spring as John approached him.
“Tests. Science things. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Is that so?” John asked with a smile.
“Mmm.” Sherlock tugged at John’s shirt and pulled him closer, sniffing his neck. “You smell like vomit,” he said, bluntly.
John barked out a laugh and shoved Sherlock aside. “Thanks a lot,” he said. “Harry got some bad news last night and fell off the wagon again. She was throwing up for a good while.” He knelt down by the spring and pushed aside the rocks.
“What are you doing?” asked Sherlock, sharply. He put a hand on John’s shoulder and pulled him away.
“Cleaning up a bit, since apparently a shower wasn’t enough. I don’t want you put off by the smell of Harry’s sick on my neck.” John cupped his hands to collect some water, but Sherlock smacked them away before he could touch it.
“Don’t do that.”
“What the hell, Sherlock?” John pushed Sherlock away and frowned at him. “What’s got into you? You already took your water sample. I’m not going to contaminate it or anything.” He reached for the water again, but Sherlock put both his hands on John’s shoulders and pulled until John toppled onto his back.
“Okay, seriously?” asked John, scowling. He stood up and brushed the dirt off his trousers. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Don’t touch that water. There’s another spring elsewhere in the woods. I can take you there. Or we can go back to Harry’s, if you prefer.”
“Why, what’s wrong with this water?”
“Contaminated with what? You’ve put your hands in it plenty of times. You touched it not five minutes ago.”
“John, don’t argue, just—”
“No, what’s the big deal about this water? What’s this your own special supply you can’t have me touching? Did you lay claim to it? Is that it?”
“Sometimes you act like a right arse, Sherlock Holmes.”
“John.” John crossed his arms and looked at Sherlock, expectantly. Sherlock ran a hand through his hair, seeming more nervous than John had ever seen him. “What are you doing today?” he asked.
“What am I doing? Nothing. I was going to spend the day with you, but if you’re going to be like this then—”
“Harry won’t need you? Your day is free?”
“Harry’s having a friend over. There's no alcohol in the house, and she knows I have my mobile if she needs me. ...Why?”
“I’d like you to come with me. To my house.”
“Are you asking me to have sex with you after you just had a temper tantrum over a spring of water?”
“What? No. I—You need to meet my brother.”
“Just come with me.”
Sherlock led John away from the path, neglecting to follow any trail and leading the way by memory. John followed willingly, his irritation at Sherlock giving way to his curiosity. Sherlock hadn’t spoken much about his brother, and John got the feeling that they didn’t get along very well, but there had to be some strength to their relationship if they still lived together.
They walked for what felt like miles.
“Does it always take you this long to get there?” asked John. “When you come to see me, you walk all this way?”
Sherlock turned to glance back at him, but didn’t say anything. They went the rest of the way in silence.
Finally, John spotted a clearing up ahead. They came upon a worn-down trail and followed it to a small cottage surrounded by flowers and bee hives. Sherlock took a breath at the front door as if to steel himself, and went inside, pulling John by the hand behind him.
The house was comfortable, warm, and a complete mess. The hall was cluttered with three coat racks, two overflowing umbrella stands, and a table covered in papers, books, and unopened packages. Sherlock led John into what appeared to be the living room. There were test tubes filled with water covering a coffee table and a writing desk. Some were attached to stands, or had stirrers in them, as if the experiments were left half-completed. A large leather sofa was pushed up against a picture window, covered in quilts and pillows that were worn and faded with age. Sherlock stepped around stacks of clutter and sat down on the sofa, motioning for John to sit at the other end.
“Watch the sheet music,” he said, pointing to some scattered pages by John’s feet. “I’m in the process of correcting those.”
John stepped around the sheet music and sat down on the sofa, looking around at the room. Sherlock took off his shoes and curled up his legs, facing John. John followed suit, shifting so that they sat closer together. Sherlock tugged a quilt from the edge of the sofa and tucked it around their legs.
“What’s this all about, then?” asked John. “Where’s your brother?”
Sherlock took his phone from his pocket and sent a quick text. “He’ll be home soon,” he said. He gripped the phone tightly in his hands, and didn’t look at John, instead gazing out the window with his lips pursed. He took a deep breath.
“Remember when we first met, and you asked me how old I am?”
John smiled. “Yes. I was trying to stop myself from ravishing you, and you told me that you were much too old for me.”
“What I said was true.”
“I told you that I was 104 years old. I wasn’t lying.” John gave Sherlock a questioning look as Sherlock reached over to the table behind him and picked up a piece of paper. He passed it to John without looking at it.
John studied the paper. “This is a birth record,” he said. “This is your birth record?” Sherlock nodded, watching John’s facial expression closely. John looked up. “I don’t understand.”
“I was born in the year 1908.”
“That’s impossible. You’re in your mid-thirties. Forty, at the absolute most.”
Sherlock looked down and toyed with the edge of the quilt.
“In 1942, I was...on case. And I was stuck. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the next step in solving it. Boredom and aggravation tend to bring out my vices...which were particularly unhealthy back in those days.” Sherlock frowned and tugged at a loose thread on the quilt. “I thought that chemical stimulus would help me work. While under the influence of drugs I managed to pinpoint a suspect that I was certain was the murderer. I tracked him to a cabin in this very town. It was dark, and it was raining. I called the Met from the train station, but I didn’t wait for them to arrive. I wasn’t in the right state of mind to be doing it, but...I went after him myself. I got lost in the woods, and collapsed in the clearing. The one with the spring. When I saw the water there in front of me, I drank from it. It tasted a little strange, but I was just so thirsty, and the water appeared to be clear.
Mycroft tells me that I passed out there, by the spring. He found me himself, and took me to A&E. When I woke up, I was...fine. They told me that they couldn't figure out why I had collapsed. They found no drugs in my system. They told me it was probably exhaustion."
John looked at Sherlock slightly worriedly, as if he wasn’t sure whether he was being left out of a joke, or if he should start questioning Sherlock’s sanity.
“What are you saying?” he asked. “You found some kind of...fountain of youth?”
Sherlock shrugged. “I don’t know what I found. I've been experimenting on the water for decades, with no results as to how it works. But whatever it was...drinking from it has made my brother and I immortal.”
John stared at Sherlock with a slight frown. Sherlock was finally meeting his eyes. He looked slightly nervous, but determined.
"The drug dealer, the night we had dinner for the first time. You saw correctly. He stabbed me. I felt the blade go through my body, and I felt it twist. It hurt like hell, but it didn't kill me."
John was still sceptical. Sherlock gave an exasperated sigh and got up from the sofa. He sifted through some papers on the desk and pulled out a gun. John's jaw dropped as Sherlock offered it to him.
John looked at the gun with a frown, but didn’t take it. “Is that a loaded gun?” he asked.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Says the man who sleeps with a loaded gun underneath his pillow.”
“I don’t do that anymore.”
Sherlock looked at John with one eyebrow raised. John met his eyes with defiance.
“John, you’re not going to believe me until you see it with your own eyes. If you don’t do it, then I will.”
“I’m not going to shoot you, Sherlock.”
“Suit yourself.” John gave a strangled cry as Sherlock swiftly pointed the gun at his own chest and shot himself through the heart. The bullet went clean through his body and landed in the wall behind him. He took a step backwards from the blow, and snarled in discomfort, but didn't fall down. John stared at him in shock, then grabbed at Sherlock's opposite shoulder.
“What the fuck, Sherlock, are you—what the fuck!”
“I’m fine, John. As you can see for your—”
“Don’t you ever do that to me again, you sick fuck!” Still avoiding Sherlock’s left shoulder, John decided instead to kick him in the shins. Sherlock stumbled out of reach.
“John, look at me. I’m fine.” He took both of John’s shoulders and held him still. “I’m perfectly fine.”
John was staring at the hole in Sherlock’s shirt, where the bullet had gone through his body. He put a finger in the hole and pressed it to Sherlock’s skin. Sherlock watched carefully, then slowly unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it aside. There was a faint red mark where the bullet had passed through. Other than that, his skin was untouched. John pressed his hand over Sherlock’s chest and ran it over the skin, feeling for any abnormality. The redness slowly disappeared under his touch, and Sherlock's skin returned to normal.
“How...” he looked up at Sherlock. “How on earth...” Sherlock didn’t say anything, just met his gaze and allowed John to do what he needed to do. “I don’t understand,” John whispered.
Sherlock shook his head. “Nor do I. I can’t explain it.”
John moved a hand to Sherlock’s back, feeling for an exit wound, but not finding anything. He looked behind Sherlock, at the fresh hole in the wall. He put his hand back to Sherlock’s chest.
“That’s...amazing,” he said. “I can’t...I don’t know what to say.” His fingertips kept grazing over Sherlock’s skin, and when he looked up again and met Sherlock’s eyes, the moment changed. He suddenly realized how close they were standing. Sherlock’s heartbeat fluttered under his fingertips. John took a step forward and licked his lips.
“I do hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
John jumped at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. He spun around to see who he presumed was Sherlock’s brother standing in the doorway. Sherlock sneered. He rolled his eyes so dramatically that John was sure it must have caused him physical pain.
“John, meet my brother, Mycroft. Mycroft, John.”
Mycroft took a few steps into the room, stepping on some of Sherlock’s precious sheet music as he walked. Sherlock groaned as his brother’s heel dug into the paper.
“Nice to meet you,” said John, politely extending his hand.
Mycroft just smirked. “I’d like to have a chat, if you don’t mind,” he said.
John dropped his hand and nodded, feeling that he didn’t really have much of a choice. He turned back to Sherlock, who was carefully buttoning his shirt and avoiding eye contact.
“This way,” said Mycroft. He turned on his heel and walked into the hall and towards the back door.
“Your brother’s a bit of a creeper,” John whispered. Sherlock smiled at him and kissed him gently on the cheek before pushing him towards the hallway with one hand. He flopped back onto the sofa as John walked out.
Mycroft took John down a pathway behind the house that led to the edge of a large pond. There was a bench nestled up close to the water. They sat down, looking out over the pond, where the sun was setting in the distance. Mycroft leaned his umbrella up against the bench and crossed his legs.
“Sherlock told you about the spring.”
It wasn’t a question, but John answered “yes” anyway.
Mycroft paused for a moment before continuing. “I always told Sherlock not to get attached to people. That caring wasn’t an advantage to people like us. There’s no point in caring for someone when they live a normal human life, and you don’t.”
John didn’t say anything.
“Sherlock doesn’t get along well with others. He’s rude and condescending. Acerbic, at times. He enjoys his detective work, when he can partake in it, but it hurts him to be surrounded by death. It’s something that he can never have, and therefore it at once confuses and terrifies him." Mycroft took a deep breath. "He likes you. He never had trouble distancing himself until you came along."
John turned to Mycroft, who was staring down at a pool of tadpoles at the edge of the water.
“What do you mean? He’s been alive for over a hundred years, he must have had a...spouse...partner...someone to pass the time with.”
Mycroft shook his head. “He’s taken lovers, but hasn’t stayed with them for any longer than a week. You’re the first person he’s truly cared for.”
John felt flattered, proud, and incredibly sad all at once. He clenched his fists in his lap. He suddenly wanted to run back to Sherlock and hold him close.
“He may ask you to drink from the spring.”
John looked up. “What?”
“Sherlock has something now that he’s never had before. He’s not going to be able to give you up easily. The simplest solution would be to never give you up. To hold onto you forever.”
John took a deep breath, trying to organize his thoughts. All this talk about the power of the spring, and he had never once considered that he himself could drink from it. He tried not to think too much about it just yet. He wasn't sure he was ready.
"What about you?" he asked. "Sherlock drank from the spring because he was lost and he was thirsty. How did you come to drink from it?"
Mycroft's eyes were downcast. "Sherlock doesn't do well when he's alone. He needed someone to look after him." He didn't explain further, but John didn't need him to. He looked up at the setting sun, which was casting deep red rays across the pond.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” asked Mycroft. “It rises in front of our house, right outside my bedroom window. Every day I see it rise in the morning and set at night. It’s a cycle that never ends.”
John chuckled. “Are you making an attempt at a heavy-handed metaphor?”
Mycroft didn’t smile. “You don’t know what it’s like, John. To have to see everyone around you grow old and die. To have to move every ten years or so because people start noticing that you aren’t aging. To have to continually cut ties with the people you've come to know and befriend and appreciate, and to start up somewhere new in a different location. It’s...tiring. Life becomes extraordinarily tiring." He stiffened his back and looked at John. "You won't tell anyone about the spring."
"No," John said, surprised at the sudden hard tone to Mycroft's voice. "No, of course not."
"I think you understand what would happen if the knowledge of that spring became public. You know how detrimental that would be. To the entire human race."
John pursed his lips and turned away from Mycroft's slightly terrifying facial expression. Mycroft took John's chin in his hand and physically pulled his head back to face him.
"Tell me that you understand, John. I want to believe that my brother is intelligent enough to have made a good decision in sharing this with you, but quite frankly, I trust no one but myself."
John swallowed, audibly. "I swear I won't tell a soul," he said. He pulled Mycroft's hand away, roughly. "For fuck's sake, I swear it on my life. On Sherlock's life."
Mycroft held his eyes for a moment, then nodded and looked back out at the pond.
"I should also take this opportunity to give you the talk that I'm sure you were expecting."
"Which would be?"
"If you hurt him I'll break your legs."
John laughed. "That won't be necessary."
Mycroft smirked, but it quickly vanished. "No, I'm sure it won't."
The sun had almost completely set. A sliver of light still hovered above the horizon line. The clouds in the distance were struck with deep red and orange. Stars came out above their heads as the sky grew dimmer.
"You know we can't stay here," Mycroft said softly. "Very soon...we'll need to move on."
John bit his lip. "I know."
"You know it won't last."
John didn't say anything, and Mycroft didn't follow up on his comment. They watched as the sun sank below the horizon.
Sherlock raised a questioning eyebrow when Mycroft led John back into the living room, but he didn’t say anything. John just smiled at Sherlock and held out one hand.
“If I recall correctly, we were supposed to be hanging out at the meadow today.”
Sherlock jumped up from the sofa and took John’s hand. He snatched the quilt into his arm and gave Mycroft a suspicious look as they walked out the door.
“What did he say to you?” Sherlock asked.
“Nothing? You were with him for half an hour and he said absolutely nothing?”
John smiled and squeezed Sherlock's hand.
It was dark by the time they arrived at the meadow. The sky was unusually clear and crisp, so they threw the quilt out on the ground and laid down to look up at the sky. John pointed out constellations as Sherlock grew increasingly bored. He turned onto his side to watch John as John continued naming constellations as he found them.
Sherlock traced the shell of John’s ear, pushing his hair to the side. It was getting long and unruly. It had lost its shape, obscuring the edges of John's ear with strands of dishwater blonde. John smiled.
“I should get it cut,” he said. “But it’s still a novelty for me to have it this long.”
Sherlock moved the strands from side to side with one finger.
“Some of them are turning grey,” he said.
John pulled a face. “Yes well, you try living in a warzone for a while, see what it does to your hair.”
Sherlock drew his hand back. “My hair won’t ever change.”
John turned to him. He ran a hand through Sherlock’s curls, soft and dark. They would never go grey. They would never look any different from the way they looked now. He tilted Sherlock’s chin up to see his eyes, then kissed him.