Why did the room seem smaller now that it was John's turn? He'd never had a problem with claustrophobia. In fact, there'd been some tight spaces in his life that he'd quite enjoyed when shared with a particular consulting detective. So that wasn't the problem. He supposed it was the Chula device in the corner causing his disquiet. It appeared innocuous, but he knew better. And he was about to get a very painful lesson to support that knowledge.
"Sherlock? Isn't it time you joined the others in the control room?"
"I asked them to give us moment. In private."
John glanced at the two cameras that hung in opposing corners and for the first time noticed that the little red indicator lights on them were dark. "Oh. I know you're not going to try to talk me out of anything," he challenged.
"No. You'll get no more arguments from me on this."
"Good. Because I will not be your trophy boyfriend." He tried to add some levity into the situation and for a moment succeeded.
Sherlock almost smiled. "Oh, but you're so handsome," he purred, and the tone went straight to John's cock. It was a good thing the cameras were off. John shot them another quick glance to be sure.
Yes. All good.
"Bastard," he said without malice.
Sherlock grew serious again. "Do you recall the conversation we had this morning?"
"God, was it only this morning?" How long had today lasted? It felt like forever.
"It has been a long day," agreed Sherlock, reading John's thoughts in his face. "But what you said. Do you remember?"
"I remember. I said that I wouldn't change a thing about before we met."
"No. But you would change the more recent past."
John let out an exasperated sigh. "Are we really going to go over that again now, here?"
"Just shut up, John. Let me say this."
Sherlock's tone was strained, his expression fraught. That didn't happen often or without damned good reason. John pressed his lips together to keep them shut, and nodded.
"I'm sorry I didn't trust you then the way I ought to have. I know better now. I swear it."
Sherlock stepped closer. Close enough to touch him. He placed one warm hand on John's cheek, and John instinctively leaned into it, letting his eyes close and drinking in the touch he'd been without for too long. "You really are beautiful." The words were a warm whisper in his ear. Lips brushed his cheekbone, his lips. "I'm sorry."
The sharp prick of a needle jabbed into his deltoid caused John's eyes to fly open in shock. He locked onto Sherlock's pale, determined gaze as the sedative--it had to be a sedative--flooded under his skin.
"What did you--?" Damn, the drug was quick. The world began to spin. Darkness circled his vision, creeping rapidly into the centre. He wavered on his feet. "You… you fuck--"
Sherlock held his unconscious lover in his arms, taking that silent, private moment to embrace him before settling him in the metal chair. He pressed one last kiss on John's youthful cheek before standing straight and exiting the room. He closed the door behind him and sealed it up as he'd observed Ace do earlier, and joined the Torchwood team in the control room.
"Ready then?" Martha asked him.
"Turn the cameras on," he instructed, knowing how the others would react to what they would see. He cut them all off before anyone could exclaim or comment. "I've sedated him." He placed the syringe on the console next to Martha. "You'll want to return that to your medical bay."
"When the hell did you swipe that?" she demanded.
"It doesn't matter. Get on with it."
Mickey shook his head, more impressed than distressed. "That was cold, mate, but I can't blame you."
"I'll be in the corridor," Ace said, her voice betraying her mixed emotions. "Shout when you want the door opened."
There was a tense pause after her departure. Martha used it to continue to glare at Sherlock. He returned the look impassively. He knew he'd have to pay for what he'd done to John, but she wasn't the one he cared about. "I said get on with it."
Wordlessly, she turned to the machines. "Ready?"
Mickey nodded. "Activating the device," he said for the third and final time. "Energy building. Discharge in three...two...one..."
The purple flare of energy struck John and even in his sedated state, his body tensed. He writhed in the chair as the reversion process twisted every cell in his body. But he didn't waken. Not even when his wild thrashing grew so violent that it tumbled him to the floor.
"Christ!" exclaimed Mickey.
Sherlock watched in stillness and silence, unwilling to look away. He owed John a great deal and the least he could do to begin to repay his debt was to watch. It turned his stomach but no signs of his distress showed on his face. He made sure of it. Only his shaking hands, clasped tightly together behind his back, out of sight of his companions or any cameras, gave away the lie.
At last, John stilled and lay limp, a rag-doll figure tossed aside by a child's careless hand.
Martha called out "Ace! Door!" as she pushed away from the controls.
She was quick, but Sherlock was quicker. His long stride beat her to the door. Ace barely had it open far enough to allow him access. He noted her expression as he passed her and filed it away for later. The only thing that mattered now was John.
Sherlock knelt beside him only a moment before Martha matched him across John's body.
"He's breathing," Sherlock said. "Heartbeat elevated but strong."
"I'm the doctor here," scolded Martha although her own observations matched his. "He's still out cold. How much did you give him?"
"I wanted to be sure."
"You wanted--? How. Much?"
"I know what I'm doing."
She leaned in over John's prone form and shouted into Sherlock's face. "Answer the goddamned question!"
"All at once? Are you mad?"
"We need to get him to your medical bay."
That she couldn't argue with and unhappy as she was, Martha knew it. "I am not done with you," she snapped angrily. Then she looked down at her patient. "He's dead weight like that. I'll get Mickey to help."
Martha paused half way to the door to skewer him with one more glare. It rolled off him like so much sand in a desert. She shook her head, muttered an epithet, and stormed out.
Ace blocked the doorway behind her and just looked at Sherlock. She leaned a shoulder against the frame. Tense and trying to appear casual, he noted. Arms crossed over her chest. Defensive posture. And then he met her eyes...
And was at a loss.
It had been a long time since a woman, since anyone had stumped him like that. It took him aback and he cursed silently as he saw her recognise it.
She gave him a smile she'd reserved solely for John up until that moment. "Good job," she said, meaning it, much to his surprise. Then added with equal sincerity that did not surprise him at all, "I hope he kicks your ass."
John woke slowly and not at all certain of his surroundings. The light of a single incandescent lamp caused the room to glow ethereally. Soft music, something from the swing era, played. He shifted under the bedclothes, and wondered how he'd gotten wherever he was.
"You're awake. Good." Sherlock's voice was a quiet anchor.
And then he remembered.
"You drugged me," he accused. He pushed himself painfully up to a sitting position, astonished when Sherlock swiftly moved to adjust the pillows behind him. He bit back an instinctive thank-you, pursing his lips tightly together.
"At least you don't deny it."
"What would be the point of that?"
"I don't know. You could have tried to convince me I'd imagined it."
"The success of that would have been very unlikely."
"So you did consider it?"
"Hm." John could think of nothing more to accuse him of at the moment, so he fell silent.
"How are you feeling?"
"Beaten-up times ten." He rolled his head to one side and then the other, and rolled both of his shoulders, feeling and hearing his joints pop with every movement. The old ache and twinge was back in his damaged shoulder. Oddly, he found it a comfort. "Make that times fifteen."
"I have painkillers if you want them. Martha gave them to me for when you woke."
"She trusted you with medical supplies? She's more forgiving than I'd have been in her place."
"We came to an agreement."
John's eyes narrowed. "She gave them to Greg, not you, didn't she?"
Sherlock tried to look affronted, but John knew his guess was right. "He's not far. I can get them from him in less than two minutes."
John considered declining and then decided that would be stupid. "Yes, please."
Sherlock rose and bounded up and out of the room.
Jack's quarters, John finally noticed. Of course. He looked around and spotted the source of the music. There was the phonograph he'd half-expected to see when they'd first come in. It was on a wheeled table. It must have come out of some hidden closet he'd not found before. As must have the book Sherlock had casually dropped beside him on the bed. The Jungle Book. He picked it up and almost put it back down. It was old. Very old. Possibly even a first edition. He carefully opened the worn leather cover to find it inscribed: To my dear friend, Jack Harkness. Your valour will not be forgotten. Rudyard Kipling.
Yup. First edition all right. He carefully closed it and set it almost reverently on the bedside table.
"Here." Sherlock spoke as he descended the stairs, a small bottle in one hand. He handed it off to John and then ducked into the lavatory.
"How many did she say to take?" John called, not even remotely recognising the name on the bottle.
"One." Sherlock emerged a moment later with a glass of water. "She was quite adamant on the point."
"Ta." John downed one pill, figuring he could take more if he needed to.
Sherlock solicitously took the bottle and glass and set them aside--avoiding the century-old book, much to John's relief.
The music ended and Sherlock rose to see to it. Those old phonograph arms didn't retract on their own.
"Play another one," John said. "I like it. And since you don't have your violin, Glenn Miller will have to do."
"This one is actually Count Basie."
"Whatever. I don't recall getting here, or getting undressed," he went on as Sherlock slid the record into a paper sleeve and selected another. Soon the rich voice of Ella Fitzgerald warmed the room.
"Lestrade assisted with the former. I handled the latter on my own."
John looked down at himself, raised the covers to peer underneath. "And the t-shirt and, uh, silk pants?"
"Presumably the possession of this room's previous occupant."
"You know..." John looked around the shadowed room, at the phonograph, at the chair, the Kipling, the purple paisley boxer shorts. He thought about Gwen's comments and random hints others had dropped in unguarded moments. "I rather want to meet this mysterious Jack."
"So do I." Sherlock poured amber liquid from a cut crystal decanter into a tumbler. "None for you. Not with the painkillers." He took an unapologetic sip and sat on the foot of the bed.
John didn't protest. He could feel the drugs taking effect as his muscles eased and the aches and pains of 22 years receded to a dull throbbing. "I don't remember the process, either. I presume it was successful?" He absently rubbed at his bad shoulder, unsurprisingly the worst of the lingering aches.
"Completely. Would you like a mirror?"
"No. So the sedative--"
"Had no effect on the results whatsoever."
"Hm." John was silent a moment. Sherlock sipped his drink. Ella neared the end of her song. "I bet Greg's feeling a bit irked over that."
Sherlock snorted a laugh into his glass, and John chuckled, too. "I think he appreciated the opportunity to look macho in front of two beautiful women, don't you?"
"Probably, although I wonder if he thinks now that it was worth it." He yawned, feeling tired and lightheaded. "What else was in that pill?"
"Just a painkiller. I swear." Sherlock held up his free hand. "Although she said they might make you sleepy."
"Particularly on top of the drugs you slipped me before, I presume."
Ella began crooning a ballad. Gershwin, John thought through the growing haze in his mind. "I am really angry with you," he said with another yawn. "You know that, right?"
"Of course. Ace said you should kick my ass."
"I should. I will." John nodded, his head floppy against the pillow. When had he lain back down? When had he snuggled under the covers? "What time is it?"
That was okay then. It had been a very long day and his whole body felt flattened. He'd earned a rest. "Come to bed."
"In a minute."
John rolled his shoulder again. It was the last bit of him that still hurt. Martha's drug was powerful stuff. "You don't mind, then?"
"Mind what? ... John?"
He was falling asleep. He'd be out any minute. His eyes closed. "The crow's feet, the grey hairs, the scars..." He felt the bed shift as Sherlock rose from the foot and came to sit closer to him. One hand came to rest on John's hip. He could feel its warmth through the blankets.
"I wouldn't change one thing about you or the moments and decisions that brought you to me."
The words struck a chord in John's sleepy mind. A chord that rang back to early that morning.
"You're the only person in the world idiotic enough to fall in love with me," Sherlock went on.
"Put up with you," murmured John into the pillow.
"And I have just enough idiot in me to fall in love right back." His voice was fading. A lulling baritone against a background of Ella Fitzgerald. "Because life before you was tedious, boring stuff. But life with you is worth living."
John was just awake enough to snort half a giggle. "Sap."
"I'll deny I said it if you ever bring it up again. No one would believe you anyway."
"Shut up and go to sleep."
John drifted off to the strains of George and Ira Gershwin.
"Still I'm sure that he'll come someday. Maybe Tuesday will be my good news day. He'll build that little home that's meant for two, from which I'll never roam. Who would -- would you? And so all else above, I'm dreamin' of the man I love."