Warnings: Implied intercourse between two men, organs not being inside their body cavities.
Spoilers: The Great Game
Disclaimers: Sadly, not mine. Not mine in even the vaguest sense of the word.
Author's Notes: Originally a kinkmeme fill for this prompt; the OP requested a literal interpretation of the quote "I have been reliably informed I don't have [a heart]." Other people posted with great ideas, but I was reminded of a Gundam Wing fic I read ages ago, Lost and Found by Lys ap Adin (also on Ao3, apparently), where the heart is an object you can literally give to the one you love.
Not beta'd, nor brit-picked. If you see any pathetically glaring errors, feel free to let me know (hopefully in a constructive manner?). Some editing done between the kinkmeme fill and this post.
"I have been reliably informed I don't have one."
It's true. There is no one more reliable than himself, after all.
Sherlock can still remember the distaste he had for the pulsating organ, the confusion that so much importance was placed on an object so messy and inconsistent.
As a child, he spent nearly an entire summer holiday researching it. He found it interesting from an anatomical standpoint, as a four chambered muscle necessary for life, but when he delved into the more romantic applications, he found nothing more than vague gesticulations regarding things with no concrete definitions. Things like 'feelings' and 'emotions', things he had no interest in. At all.
He had never known something to be so very necessary, yet so very useless.
So he became careless with his heart, leaving it in the yard when he was called in for dinner, stuffing it under his bed to gather dust, and, on one occasion, leaving it in his trouser pocket to be tossed in with the wash. Inevitably, someone would find it and clean it off and return it, and Sherlock would get scolded by mummy for being so careless with something so important. Also inevitably, she would bring up Mycroft, perfect Mycroft, who was so very responsible and careful with his.
Which was also true. Mycroft kept his heart under lock and key, in a strong box with no permanent location. On occasion, he would let Sherlock observe him as he accessed it, taking his heart out, rubbing it clean, tucking it in his inside jacket pocket. That only happened on the days that Mycroft would spend time with some of the other teenagers also on holiday. More specifically, female teenagers.
And as much as Sherlock was loathe to admit it, Mycroft was the more intelligent Holmes child (just for now, Sherlock would assure himself, it was only logical as Mycroft has had more time to accrue information) so it was logical to assume that he had discovered the greater purpose for the organ. So Sherlock would follow him and observe, but would never understand Mycroft's actions.
The girls he spent time with were twittering, silly things with vacant eyes that would be best described as 'not unattractive'. They giggled and swayed their hips far too much, and wore their hearts on their sleeves, bare for all to see everything that coursed through them. It utterly confused Sherlock as to why someone as intelligent as Mycroft would waste time with them and after observing them unawares on four occasions only to be caught on the fifth, Sherlock voiced this frustration loudly to an irritated Mycroft and the vapid girl blinking next to him.
And was promptly laughed at.
Not that it meant anything coming from the girl; observation showed that she giggled with alarming frequency at things that were nowhere near funny. And Mycroft frowned and scolded and pushed Sherlock away in typical Mycroft fashion, nothing new there. Sherlock took the first opportunity to escape, then backtracked to his secondary reconnaissance position, and was so focused on avoiding the gaze of his brother that he didn’t notice anything amiss until he was well tucked away.
Mycroft was laughing.
Which was odd, Mycroft never laughed, except for a few chuckles when Sherlock was being especially investigative towards the stuffy old women mummy had over. What could possibly be so amus- oh.
Mycroft was laughing at him.
Mycroft and that girl were positively in stitches, and Sherlock could feel his eyes tingle, could feel his breath catch, but could attribute no physical stimuli to the responses. And clearly it couldn’t be the result of Mycroft, just because Mycroft had never laughed at him before, and was always patient when Sherlock asked questions, and understood that Sherlock just wanted to know everything, it clearly wasn’t due to Mycroft, he could laugh all he liked.
His heart hurt. How odd.
Sherlock pulled it out of his trouser pocket, and watched as blood pooled in his palm and dripped off his knuckles. Was this heart break? A poor term, then, as it was merely cracked in several places. Nonetheless, it hurt. It throbbed. Combined with the burning water he felt pooling along his lower eyelids and his inability to breathe properly, this, this was intolerable. How could anyone bear this? Why would anyone want to?
In that moment, Sherlock decided he definitely didn’t.
It was easy to nick a canning jar from the nearest shop. Hard to close it tight, though, his hands were small and not very strong, but he made due. The bridge in the middle of town was his next stop, a grey arch over a green stream with a fast current- it had recently rained. He rolled the jar between his palms, watching his heart flop around the inside of the jar, leaving red smudges along the glass. It still hurt, but at the moment it was layered with disdain that any part of him should be so mercurial. But that faded. And when the jar holding his heart finally floated out of sight, he felt nothing at all.
It was marvelous.
If he were capable of feeling disappointment, Sherlock would have when Moriarty made that statement. How utterly banal- and to waste so much conviction on it, too.
But for some reason, Sherlock finds himself affected. Not his heart, of course not, not possible. His body had been treacherous this entire evening, really. Freezing up like that, when he first saw John, making him think Moriarty had reduced himself into using something as mundane as a paralyzing gas of some kind. His stomach plummeting, falling endlessly into nothing when John parted the jacket to reveal the bomb embracing him. His eyes repeatedly darting over to John without his consent, his lungs stuttering when John grabs Moriarty from behind.
It has been a very odd evening indeed.
What surprises him the most, though, is the fierce unclenching of his entre body when he finally manages to fling the bomb vest across the floor. How had he not noticed being so full of tension? The relief of it makes him dizzy as he paces along the tiles.
He does, however, notice when he tenses up again. It’s the exact moment the words “I’m so CHANGEABLE” bounce off the walls.
The rest of the evening gets sort of fuzzy, but the geriatric doctor holding his chart assures him that head injuries are wont to do that sort of thing. Apparently standing up in the face of an explosion is a bad idea, what with the being pushed head first into blunt objects. John had the right idea, being curled up as small as possible, and he tells him so, repeatedly, when he manages to hobble into Sherlock’s room.
Then Sherlock reminds John that perhaps the right idea would be to not allow oneself to be strapped to large quantities of explosives, and then John will bring up the notion of perhaps not playing cat and mouse with a criminal mastermind, at which Sherlock sneers and John does that little half smile he does when he resigns himself to playing along with Sherlock’s whims.
After that it gets very quiet, and for some reason his rib cage has decided to take part in an implosion when he locks eyes with John. He’s not quite sure what that implies, but when John squeezes his hand, he squeezes back.
Due to his much lauded lack of a head injury, John gets to leave to hospital a full 24 hours before him, and he spends the morning before he leaves loudly exulting in his very near future of his own bed, and tea that doesn't taste like used dishwater, until suddenly he goes very quiet again. Sherlock takes note of the absence of rib-cage-implosion, which allows him to rule out silence as a contributing factor.
From his jacket, John takes out an object wrapped in the remains of the soft brown jumper he was wearing at the pool, and places it in his hands. It is about the size of a fist, and is pulsating rather quickly.
“I figured, after all… that, that this was pretty obvious,” John mumbles, “but I wanted to make it official.”
After peeling back the wool, Sherlock finds himself completely dumbfounded at the steadily beating mass he holds in his palm.
“John- I can’t-” He tries. No good, his throat has decided to rebel too.
“I figured that, too.” John rubs the back of his head and licks his lips, as if the fact that he just handed his heart to Sherlock Holmes was an expected and understandable concept. “But if I keep it with me, the damn thing is just going to fester. It doesn’t change anything, not really. I’ll see you at home, yeah?”
Sherlock can only nod.
When he rejoins John at Baker Street, he is surprised to find that John was mostly right. Very little has changed, and that which has pertains mostly to Sherlock observing John in an attempt to deduce why anyone- let alone someone as responsible as John- would willingly hand their heart to a sociopath.
The results are inconclusive. Sherlock even takes the time to observe John’s heart, in an attempt to pry answers from it, but sees only an average human heart, warm and beating. He keeps it wrapped in that bit of jumper and hidden in the false bottom of his violin case.
Although his observations did yield the two following statements: First, John finds Sherlock physically attractive. Second, the reverse is also true.
This, at least, is something with which Sherlock has experience.
During his time at university he had an ongoing investigation of human sexuality and sexual practices. It was highly revealing in terms of psychology and at times pleasurable from a physical perspective, but the experiment had tapered off as he got older and people seemed to expect more than he could give.
Logically, Sherlock knows that romantic and sexual relationships are not mutually exclusive; rather, most literature on the subject seems to imply that one is the precursor to the other. And clearly Sherlock and John's relationship is past the point where it could be ever be sexual only. They are colleagues. Flat mates. Friends, he has heard mentioned, but having no experience in that matter is able to neither confirm nor deny.
John gave Sherlock his heart, which indicates that he wishes to pursue a romantic relationship with Sherlock, but had also stated that he did not expect one to occur. And Sherlock respects John; he enjoys John's company and is rather pleased that Moriarty had not managed to incinerate him. All in all, his flat share with John is going well.
So he would share his body with John. It seems the least he could do.
And as it turns out, John seems rather keen on the idea as well.
Sherlock had been rather worried for a bit there, when he had first pressed John's shoulders against the door of their flat as he pressed his lips against John's. John had gone still, so still, before he exhaled a slow, even breath from his nose and melted into Sherlock. Underneath his palms tension just seemed to seep out of John's shoulders, and all at once Sherlock was reminded of a gun and a pool and John collapsing as tension left him only to snap back into place a moment later. His ribs started to clamp shut around his chest cavity yet again, so Sherlock squeezed his eyelids closed against the memories and kissed John harder as John responded in kind.
Eventually they stumble to the upstairs bedroom, where Sherlock finds himself enjoying the experience far more than his memories on the subject indicate he would. His hands seem delighted to touch John, to card through his hair and touch his lips, to smooth over his chest and thighs. His tongue is perfectly content to discover the taste of John's skin while his nose categorizes John’s scent and his ears take inventory of every gasp and moan. And as his eyes track the flush that is traveling down John's neck, Sherlock realizes that his brain is thoroughly engaged in the entire proceedings.
It is an unexpected, but not unappreciated, consequence. Sherlock is most definitely not bored, and it is wonderful.
Of course, they arrive at the predictable conclusion, and Sherlock cannot recall having enjoyed the journey there more. This is the topic he is mentally examining as he and John lay panting side by side, but all mental processes grind to a halt when John drapes an arm over his chest. It is unfortunate that he needs to remind John that is not what this is, but he manages to do so without censure, without any emotion really, as he rolls out of the bed to gather his clothing.
John does not reply.
Sherlock is walking through the doorway when he takes note of an odd sensation located in the pit of his stomach; it’s uncomfortable, dense, and seems to writhe about like something alive. John, being a doctor, should be able to recommend a course of action to eradicate this newly formed growth, but when Sherlock turns his head over his shoulder to put forth an inquiry, the words die in his throat.
Not that he can see much of John, as he has flung a forearm across his eyes and Sherlock is unable to determine his mental state accurately from his half-covered facial expression. But something about the pinched corners of his mouth, the fists his hands have formed, the tightness of his shoulders, makes whatever seems to have lodged itself in Sherlock’s digestive tract double in size. Clearly John is not fit to provide a solution.
So Sherlock left without saying anything.
Even after a shower and fresh set of clothes, the wriggling mass persists, and Sherlock's brain is muddled and tumbling bits of irrelevant data from the past few hours over and around his skull. It is more than a little disconcerting, and Sherlock finds himself reaching for his violin in an attempt to quiet his restless mind and body.
He has one hand wrapped around the neck; he has lifted the smooth polished wood partially out of the case when it occurs to him that perhaps John’s heart might have some knowledge to yield on the subject. It is entirely possible that John’s recent actions were driven by emotion, although Sherlock cannot perceive how- the lack of emotion on his part had been stated from the onset- and while John’s heart has had little information to lend thus far, Sherlock’s fingernails pry up the false bottom located where the neck usually rests and seeks it out anyway.
He is peeling back the soft brown wool wrapped around the pulsating mass when he notices the iron scent of blood on his tongue, and he honestly can’t place it’s origin until he looks, really looks at John’s heart.
Not significantly, and no where near as badly as Sherlock’s the day he lobbed his into the great unknown, but from the top of the right atrium to the bottom tip of the left ventricle there is a long red seam. It’s hardly even bleeding, really; the blood is welling up so slowly as to barely produce a drop every other beat.
But it is not right, so very not right, that he is holding John’s heart in his hand and it is broken. The ghost of a memory of blood filling his palm as his own heart lay cracked makes Sherlock bite his lip, because if anyone in the world should be spared that sort of pain it would so obviously be John. John, of course John, because John is good and nice and patient and understanding, and even when he angry and irritated and disappointed, he is always kind, so very kind.
But then John went and handed his heart to Sherlock Holmes, of all people, and Sherlock knew John could never achieve the same mental standard as himself, but clearly he is a bit more of an idiot than Sherlock had ever suspected because any brain dead plebian would be able to tell that John certainly deserved better.
And all at once, Sherlock can feel the emptiness in his chest. He is aware that he is missing something, something important, as his lungs shudder on either side of that void.
Very, very carefully Sherlock folds the brown wool back over John’s heart, and very, very gently, he places it back in his violin case. His violin he places inside as well, and with great deliberation he closes and the lid and latches it shut. He allows himself a long, deep breath as considers the possible courses of action.
Option 1: Their sexual relationship continues. Sherlock will hold on to John’s heart, John’s heart remains broken, with the high probability of cracking further.
Option 2: Their sexual relationship ends. They continue as friends only, Sherlock will still hold John’s heart, and John’s heart will most likely remained cracked as it is, or crack further.
Option 3: Sherlock returns John’s heart. John is free to locate someone deserving of his attentions, who will possibly be able to fix what Sherlock has broken.
Logical, yes, but thinking about it makes Sherlock’s fists clench and his breath shorten. Unacceptable, then, but for reasons that are unclear.
Option 4 it is then.
He grabs his coat.
Sherlock hails a taxi with one hand while the other looks up train schedules on his mobile. If he recalls correctly (which he does, obviously) then his destination is a small estate near Chichester that has been bequeathed to Mycroft. He is narrowing down the fastest possible method of travel when an unmarked black car pulls up along side the cab. Sherlock huffs in annoyance; the cab is only half way to the train station, and even if he makes a break for it, he would still get there after Mycroft has muddled the timetables hopelessly. He is unusually restless and impatient, illogically so, as an hour wasted in Mycroft’s presence will have little to no effect on the outcome of his actions.
That doesn’t mean he has to go quietly, though. He makes the assistant pay the cabbie, and after 10 minutes of sharing a backseat with Sherlock, Mycroft’s usually unflappable right hand woman looks strained. Strained enough to slam the door behind him as he enters Mycroft’s office, at least, which would normally leave him smug, if nothing else, but all he can manage as he flops gracelessly into the chair in front of the desk his irritation.
Mycroft very deliberately ignores him for the page he is currently writing on, which he finishes with a flourish before calmly placing his fountain pen exactly parallel to the right edge of the paper; he then laces his fingers on the desk top while leaning back in his chair. His eyes were appraising when they finally met Sherlock’s, and there are at least two full minutes of silent eye contact before Mycroft gave the tiniest quirk of an eyebrow.
“Chichester, Sherlock? Feeling a bit nostalgic, are we?”
In lieu of giving a verbal answer, Sherlock opts to glare and huff.
Mycroft only smiles, dropping his chin slightly toward his chest as he always did when he knew something Sherlock did not.
“Do you really think you are going to find it, Sherlock,” Mycroft breathes, “it has been, after all, three decades since you abandoned your heart to the tender mercies of nature.”
“I know that,” Sherlock grinds out. He is very aware of it, and had been very consciously not thinking about that fact. And that the calculated probably of actually finding the thing is slim to non-existent.
Another condescending smile from Mycroft. “Well. As long as you are aware.”
At this Mycroft gracefully slides his chair out and stands to pad noiselessly across the plush carpet to the wall- to a painting, in fact, a rather dreary landscape of London- which he then swings out to reveal a safe.
Sherlock did not resist the urge to roll his eyes. Mycroft could be so unbearable dramatic.
The code is entered, the door opened, and from his position in front of the desk, Sherlock is unable to see what the safe contained. Reaching inside, Mycroft carefully removes an object of clear glass, and with his fingertips gripping the top only, Mycroft walks over to Sherlock’s chair and offers him the unopened canning jar.
It is easily the most pathetic thing Sherlock has ever seen.
The jar is barely big enough, his heart having grown as he did, but even then Sherlock knows it should be larger, healthier, more vibrant. It looks nothing like John’s heart, colored a glorious shade of red with a strong steady beat. His is darker, almost grey in color, wasted and pitiful, weakly throbbing at the bottom of the jar.
Sherlock reaches a hand out, and lets the jar rest in his palm. The lid hadn’t been closed tight enough, trace flakes of silt and clay line the bottom, with the occasional rusted red powder of old blood. The jar itself is dusty, almost filmy, and clearly has never been cleaned or opened.
Mycroft rests a hand on his shoulder and Sherlock starts at the contact, “It’s not as bad as it looks.” He says softly, “It only needs a bit of exercise.”
“Speak for yourself.” Sherlock mumbles in an all too late effort to save face. Something is different, though, in Mycroft’s tone. His words repeat in Sherlock’s head as he slips the jar into his coat pocket. Mycroft, underneath the condescension and disdain, had sounded almost… concerned. Worried.
As he turned to leave, Sherlock wondered if that had always been there, layered and hidden, if he is only now able to hear it.
Mycroft’s assistant looks relieved at Sherlock’s silence during the trip back to Baker Street; Sherlock spares her no notice beyond that initial glance. He is entirely preoccupied.
During the entire ride Sherlock’s mind is in a whirlwind, impossible to pin down a single thought. Clearly this is what he wanted, to find his heart and give it to John so John’s heart wouldn’t fall to pieces; that had been his ultimate goal in leaving the flat today.
But it is all so very, very illogical. How is this, Sherlock’s pathetic, wasted heart and all the pitiful emotions that came with it, how is this conducive to him? Sherlock hadn’t one clear thought since Mycroft handed the jar over. It obviously is not beneficial to him in any way, it is apparent that this is a rash decision made with incomplete data, and Sherlock is just about to announce that to the driver and demand he turn around when the car pulls up to Baker Street.
Apparently Mycroft’s assistant had not forgiven his earlier transgressions; Sherlock is unceremoniously shoved out the door.
He would have to return the thing to Mycroft tomorrow, then. The repercussions of destroying it would not be worth facing, best to let it gather dust in Mycroft’s melodramatic wall vault, safe and stagnating far away from Sherlock.
Emboldened by this decision, Sherlock finds the strength to ascend the stairs.
That would be the best course of action, he thinks as he pushes the door open. It would be of no benefit to him to keep the damn thing.
But then there is John, folded over on the far end of the green couch with his laptop, attempting to ignore him as he pokes at the keyboard. John, who inexplicably loves him. John, who had handed Sherlock his heart.
And Sherlock understood. He would never benefit from this complicated emotional business of having his own heart. John, however, would. And Sherlock finds he is willing to do anything that would make John happy. That would keep his heart from cracking, keep Sherlock from causing him pain, ever again. Sherlock's heart is no longer his own, that much is clear.
Sherlock sits himself at the other end of the couch as he pulled the jar from his pocket. His heart, against all odds, is still pulsating weakly. It is so much less than John Watson deserves, but for some god forsaken reason, it seems to be all that he wants.
Sherlock places the jar at John’s left hand, before drawing his knees up to rest his chin on them. He could see his heart beating faster in the jar, out of nervousness, fear. John could so easily change his mind and decide that Sherlock isn’t worth the effort. Sherlock feels sick at the thought, so he watches John’s face instead.
He watches John notice the jar, wrapping a hand around it as he shoots Sherlock a look of confusion. He watches John bring the jar up and turn it over so he can see the contents.
Watches John’s look of complete surprise. Watches John swing his head up to meet eyes with Sherlock.
Watches John smile.
Sherlock feels his heart flutter.
EDIT, April 14, 2011: Reread this, and cringed over my tenses. Hopefully this is better. And a big thanks to anyone who read this before and liked it anyway; you're made of stronger stuff than I.