Disclaimer: I own nothing in this frankly wonderful universe; that all belongs to ACD and Moffatiss.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS for "The Sign of Three" and "His Last Vow." SHELVE until you have seen the episodes and if you want to remain unspoiled!
Author's Note: I first wrote this piece after my…third?...viewing of "His Last Vow" ::winks::. Regardless of how much I loved some aspects of the third season, there were others I wished had received further elaboration and exploration. This is the first of (I'm sure) a number of such fics that go into those points I would have enjoyed seeing more of. It has gone through a number of revisions, but overall, I am pretty satisfied with the outcome ::grins::. I hope you are, too!
Rating: T (for language and intense emotion)
Summary: Sherlock's untimely departure and unexpected return at the end of "His Last Vow" prove to be the proverbial straws that break John's back…(Post-Series 3. Season 3 SPOILERS. Intense Friendshipfic. Angst and Fluff.)
Personal Thoughts/Memories (Italics)
By Sentimental Star
The scrambled, mixed voice…the child-like animations…the irreverent, dark humor…all evidence pointed to no one except Moriarty as the perpetrator of the frankly off-putting message. And he was just intelligent enough, just desperate enough, to pull the exact same stunt as Sherlock.
Although how the hell he survived a bullet through the brain is beyond me.
Unless that hadn't actually been Moriarty.
"But he's dead. I mean, you told me…you told me, he's dead! Moriarty…"
Mary voiced his stunned thoughts far more adequately than he ever could have hoped to. John brushed her arm as he backed out of Mycroft's car, shaking his head in dumbfounded silence. "Absolutely. Blew his own brains out…"
"So how can he be back?!"
The doctor released a heavy sigh, shaking on the inside as he realized, he realized…"Well, if he is," a swallow, and he turned as the sound of turbo jet engines reversing their thrusters broke gratifyingly over his ears, "he'd better wrap up warm." He clenched his trembling fists in his pockets, "There's an East Wind coming…"
The instant jet plane tires hit tarmac and its thrusters shut off, John was off and running for the plane before Mary or Mycroft could blink.
The moment Sherlock stepped off the last stair of the plane and onto the tarmac, he found himself nearly knocked backwards onto his rump from a sudden collision with a warm body. Only a last minute step backwards saved them both from falling.
Before the detective quite understood what had happened, a strong hand grabbed the back of his neck and he found himself yanked into a leather-clad shoulder. He came up sputtering and completely flummoxed, "J-John! I…what…"
Said army doctor simply yanked him back in, smoothing his quaking hands over Sherlock's nape and back, even as he buried his face in the younger man's shoulder.
The consulting detective tried one last time to voice his (not-) objection, awkwardly leaning down into the shorter man's arms, "John, w-we have a case. Shouldn't we save this for-?"
"Sod the fucking case! Sod all of England for all I bloody care right now, Sherlock! Just once, just once can we pretend that there isn't some sort of madman out to spook half of London? That I haven't nearly lost you? Again? For the third time?"
A soft scoff with an underlying tremor fell against John's ear. "Come now, John, it was hardly that-"
"No?" clear disbelief rang in the doctor's shaking voice, "Then what was that, 'Since this may be the last time I speak with John Watson...' shit? I'm not blind, Sherlock!"
"Worth a shot," muttered against the older man's jaw.
A short, sharp breath puffed against Sherlock's neck, "Three times, Sherlock. Are you trying to set a bloody world record?"
Swallowing thickly, the younger man murmured, "Well, you know what they say…third time lucky."
Whatever else Sherlock might have wanted to add was released on a harsh exhale as the consulting detective found himself all but manhandled into a fierce embrace by one of the few people whose touch he welcomed; indeed, even relished.
Just as Sherlock's hands twitched, as though he might reach out to touch John, footsteps entered his peripheral hearing. It became apparent that his doctor had heard them, too, as the older man released a shuddering breath against his skin and made to pull away.
Well, we can't have that.
"Just…just give us a moment, will you? Please…"
The words tasted funny, did not sit right on his tongue. Sherlock had meant to affect the tremor, embellish the words' wavering just a touch, to chase away Mycroft or Mary or whomever decided now would be an ideal time to interrupt…but there was very little in his tone that wasn't genuine.
The footsteps hesitated a moment, then retreated. Mary, then.
His hands, having hung uselessly at his sides just a few seconds prior, now crept up to cautiously touch John's shoulders. Uncertainly, awkwardly, they patted the doctor's back, rubbing hesitantly at the older man's trembling body.
Gradually, Sherlock became aware of the near-hysterical giggles erupting from his chest where John had buried his head. "I…don't think this is in response to my…er…" he coughed, "rather inadequate attempts earlier at making you laugh…correct?"
That won him a full-blown snort and rather tremulous hand against his cheek as John raised his head, "You are," the man's voice cracked, "a complete and utter bastard, you know?"
Of course, his words did nothing to belie the joy shining in his face.
Sherlock inclined his head, a tiny, half-disbelieving smile pulling at his lips at this man's unabashed delight, "You have said on occasion."
John's eyes squeezed shut, a last ditch, ineffective effort to keep their flurrying heat at bay. His hand moved shakily up Sherlock's face to his hair, soon joined by the other, as he held the consulting detective's head in place, struggling to come to terms with this unforeseen miracle (if the world's only consulting criminal apparently being "not-dead" could count as such).
He therefore missed the locking of Sherlock's jaw and the blood that spilled from the younger man's bitten lower lip, as the detective tried to come to grips with his own rampaging emotions.
I can't…not again. I can't say goodbye, not like this, not to him. I've never believed in God before, John Watson, but if it keeps me from having to leave you…
"I didn't want to go, John," the words were out before Sherlock's magnificent brain could stop them, and the detective was horrified to hear the tremor in his own voice as it shook. "I didn't want to leave you. I never wanted to leave you."
John's eyes flew open. You did not have to be a genius of Sherlock's caliber to understand that the consulting detective spoke of more than simply his shockingly brief plane journey.
"You don't have to tell me," he insisted softly.
Sherlock snorted thickly, "Well, that's a change in tune. A year ago you were still determined to have out every last detail you could of my Hiatus."
"A year ago, you hadn't just been shot while I was only a floor away from you," John retorted quietly. "A year ago, you hadn't just killed a man when I was in plain sight of you."
Sherlock's lips twitched, "Well, to be fair, he wasn't a very nice man."
John's jaw dropped briefly, before he closed it with a small chuckle. "True…"
He reached up again for Sherlock's face, gently framing it between his hands, and abruptly turned very serious, "I do know why you shot him, Sherlock. Do not believe for a moment that I am unaware."
Sherlock swallowed again, thickly, "Then it should not surprise you to hear that Moriarty was aware of it, too."
Motion ceased on John's part.
Wait, is he saying…?
The doctor's eyes slammed shut, "Oh, Christ…" His voice wavered, then broke, "Sherlock…."
Sherlock lightly pressed his forehead to John's, "Is it truly so surprising, John?" he asked softly, shutting his eyes. "You know what I'm like. You know what I said in my speech during your wedding—I was not exaggerating your importance."
"But to kill yourself, Sherlock…!"
"You would have done the same."
John's eyes flashed open. Feeling the flurry of John's eyelids against his cheek, Sherlock immediately opened his own and jerked back slightly.
The doctor's blue eyes, filled with moisture that had not been there a second ago, swirled so darkly with a multitude of different emotions that the air was literally knocked from Sherlock's lungs. Alarmed, the detective felt his eyes widen and immediately averted them. Or would have, if John's hand on his chin had not prevented him from looking away.
"A Bit Not Good?" he murmured uncertainly.
"No, you idiot," John whispered, as his voice fluctuated wildly. "I would have done exactly the same thing."
Heat crept into Sherlock's cheeks. This was still New, the fact that he was someone's Best Friend, even after nearly a year had passed since John had first said so.
(Although, honestly, "Best Friend" hardly covered the wealth of warmth and affection he felt for John. He loved this man, and would willingly die, or kill, or live for him. He had, in fact, already done all three. Regardless of whose trail he was on, regardless of whoever's game he played, John would always come first.)
Perhaps that was why, when John's other hand suddenly curled around his cheek, Sherlock could not muster more than the barest hint of insecurity at the doctor's next question, "Sherlock…promise me something, yeah?"
The detective straightened his shoulders, meeting John's gaze as evenly as the doctor would allow, "It depends on the promise, John," he returned softly. "If it is anything that asks me to retract the vow I made to you—and Mary—at your wedding, I will not have anything to do with it."
John gave a few rapid blinks, desperately trying to ignore the moisture twining down his cheeks, "God, no, Sherlock. I would never ask you to retract that! I-I just don't want to lose you again. Not to that vow, not to the whims of the British law system, and absolutely not to Moriarty."
"Ah," a tiny smile flickered across Sherlock's lips, lighting up a small, sparking flame in his eyes as he slid one of his hands around John's waist and warmly squeezed, "I think I can promise that."