John's mukluks seemed to disintegrate the further he got from Heathrow Airport. The thick fabric grew floppy and soggy in the light, warm rain. Sherlock smirked at him when the fabric began to squish loudly with every step. Still, John plodded forward, glad they'd dropped their bags in Mycroft's waiting limo and left it behind. The taxi would actually bring them home, once they could find a willing one.
Gladstone trotted at his side, his tongue wagging out of his mouth. It was twenty eight degrees and humid despite the rain, but the dog kept pace with John all the same until they'd found a taxi. Sherlock spent the ride glued to the cab window, taking in all of the city's minute changes. John had no doubt they'd be dashing through these streets again, needing the fastest shortcut Sherlock could find them.
They reached 221B and John knocked, turning to see Sherlock catching up to him as he'd done the first time they'd arrived so many years ago. But now, Sherlock stared back at John, checking in with him, taking care of him. John met his eyes and nodded more confidently than he felt. Sherlock tucked his hands behind his back in the way that he did when he was nervous and didn't know where to put them.
They'd laid their cards bare to each other to see. Sherlock would die for him. John couldn't live without the man. They had sex. John wasn't sure either of them truly knew what that'd mean, back at 221B. John felt like they were trying to stretch their old skins around themselves and expecting them to fit. But it meant the world to Sherlock to be back in all the noise.
Mrs. Hudson opened the door. John stepped back a step, expecting screaming.
Instead, the old landlady blinked at them both and smiled hugely, her wrinkles deeper now. Sherlock smiled widely, looking almost smug.
"Oh, my boys! Home at last," she said, drawing Sherlock into a hug. Sherlock accepted it, looking rather pleased at John's baffled expression.
Something twisted in John's stomach. Sherlock's smile faded.
"But.. you guessed?" he asked, uncomprehending, and Mrs. Hudson smiled faintly, stepping outside.
"Oh, but Sherlock made a mistake in his stupid plan, didn't he? He'd promised me quite sincerely that he'd show me where he'd hidden his blasted drugs, if he ever left," she said, shaking a finger at the genius. John blinked rapidly and she smiled fondly at him, her eyes remorseful, older than they'd been before.
"You'd gone by the time I'd realized," she said sadly.
"You couldn't have guessed, John," Sherlock stated. John winced, but didn't comment.
They could get past that too.
"And where have you been?" Mrs. Hudson asked, scowling at John's sodden skin shoes as she drew him into a hug. "Those are not coming into my flats, you know," she stated, wagging a finger at him. John couldn't care less. "And -who?" she asked, blinking down at the dog, apparently just noticing the huge animal by John's side. John laid a hand over Gladstone's soft head, wondering what he'd do if Mrs. Hudson rejected the animal. Live elsewhere in London? That felt impossible.
"Gladstone," Sherlock answered, drawing himself up as if preparing for an argument.
"Oh, pepper down," Mrs. Hudson dismissed him, waving an idle hand in his direction and bending over the dog. "I like huskies."
"Malamute," John corrected. Gladstone stayed sitting obediently and Mrs. Hudson stroked the dog's ears, smiling softly.
"I like their eyes. Huskies have such beautiful eyes. Like Sherlock's," she said, smiling again.
"Malamute," John corrected again and Sherlock smirked. Mrs. Hudson swallowed and pulled her hand away, her eyes catching on the two of them again.
"Hush up and come inside. The flat's as you left it, minus the general filth. You go on up, I'll bring you tea," she said, backing up, her voice getting thicker with every word. John followed Sherlock inside and shut the door quietly, watching as tears started to fall down the woman's cheeks.
Sherlock hugged her with one arm, glancing down at her graying hair, his gaze horribly remorseful for a moment as he watched her sob into her hand.
"Oh, my boys," she said, and finally pulled away. Sherlock tucked his hands behind his back again and looked to John for guidance. John grimaced, unsure what to do.
"Tea?" Sherlock asked and suddenly bounded up the stairs toward their old flat. John couldn't tell if he was offering or asking for it, now that he did both. Mrs. Hudson wiped the tears from her eyes with her thumbnail.
"Oh, but he is a funny little man, isn't he? Oh John, I'm so glad you've come home," she exclaimed, looking up the stairs where Sherlock had disappeared.
"You mean the place is still for rent?" John asked, shocked, and Mrs. Hudson looked offended.
"Rent out 221B? England would fall," she protested, turning and walking toward her apartment. For tea, presumably.
Sherlock walked around the apartment quietly, running a finger over the dusty tables and chairs. Dust is eloquent, John remembered, and watched the man inspect the carpet by the window, where he'd always stood playing the violin – where John stood afterward, watching London churning outside, wondering what Sherlock would have seen standing there in his stead. Sherlock's eyes had that haunted look to them again when he turned away. Gladstone followed behind him, licking every surface Sherlock touched.
John sat down on his chair and sent up a cloud of dust around him. Three years. The time weighed between them differently here. Sherlock kept exploring. John knew what he'd find; the flat looked exactly like how he'd left it. The experiments were gone, the refrigerator empty. The kitchen cabinets were still full of their oddball assortment of cups and plates but the chemistry equipment was gone. There was a stack of mail on the small table by John's elbow, collected by Mrs. Hudson before John left. All the bills had gotten paid. Everything else ended up there: coupons for the local gym memberships, adverts for half price boxers, unsolicited credit cards and insurance quotes, all long since expired. John shuffled through them quietly, uncertain why he was bothering.
"Yoo hoo!" Mrs. Hudson called, her feet scrambling up the steps at a pace she'd never done before.
Mrs. Hudson had surgery on her hip. It's doing better.
John winced and threw the mail back on the table beside him. Sherlock looked up from where he was running a finger over his long-abandoned books, the spines John had run his finger down, trying to find his friend in the PhD dissertations and studies there. Sherlock frowned, watching John's face, and John smiled grimly. He heard Mrs. Hudson reach the top of the steps and turned to face her, glad for an excuse to look away from the man.
"I brought scones. I thought the two of you should -" she started, before pausing, glancing past John at where Sherlock stood by the fireplace. "spend some time together," she finished awkwardly, rushing to set the tea tray on the small table by John's side. She gathered up the old adverts and hurried away. John glanced at Sherlock, wondering what was on the man's face that had sent the woman scurrying out of their company, but Sherlock looked as confused as he was.
John grabbed a scone and bit into it, glad to have something to eat after the long days of traveling. It'd been a hard ride to town, though the dogs had sold well. He closed his eyes, feeling the heat of London on his skin. It was odd to have his skin so exposed, odd to feel the lightness of thin clothing on his shoulders and hips. They wouldn't be going back to the arctic. Already it was odd that he'd been there at all, though the noise of London felt just as foreign and jarring in his ears. He wanted the silence back. He heard the rustle of fabric and knew Sherlock was taking his own chair, sitting across from him.
"John," Sherlock called quietly. John sighed and opened his eyes. Sherlock was staring into his eyes, his expression concerned.
Sherlock Holmes, in Baker Street again. John swallowed, gratitude threatening to overwhelm him.
"How are you, John?" he asked. John cleared his throat, trying to get the tightness out of his way.
"I'm fine," he said and it was too high pitched. John cleared his throat again and Gladstone stole a biscuit from the low tray. They both ignored him. "Everything's fine. Better," John added.
Sherlock nodded slowly and started back toward the bookshelf. Gladstone proceeded to wolf down the rest of the scones. John threw him the last one and went to take a shower.
"Sex," Sherlock announced as John was walking through the kitchen. John paused, blinking rapidly and turned back to face the man. Sherlock was standing stiffly by the window, rapidly looking more uncomfortable. "Sex will help," he explained.
John blinked, processing.
They didn't quite fit in here yet. For once, one of Sherlock's suggestions actually made sense to him. Sex would help.
"Yeah, alright," he said and Sherlock smiled.
Sherlock stalked Lestrade in the parking garage outside Scotland Yard. John watched him approach the man from the darkness. He stayed crouched by a support beam, kneeling in a long-since-dried puddle of human urine, his SIG in his hand in case he had to shoot Lestrade's gun. Sherlock always did have to be dramatic.
Lestrade lit a cigarette and Sherlock started walking forward, his smirk evident even in the dark room. They'd had to disable three different overhead florescent lights to get this corner as shrouded as it was. Ridiculous, but John could feel his heart beating wildly in his chest and he loved it.
"Those things will kill you," Sherlock stated and stopped before he reached Lestrade's corner of light. To let Greg adjust, presumably. Lestrade froze, his hands still cupping his cigarette, and John watched the man come to his conclusions.
"Oh, you bastard," Greg cursed, pulling his cigarette away.
"It's time to come back," Sherlock said, clearly enjoying himself. John kept his gun down, though he desperately wanted to shoot his lover in the foot, seeing Sherlock's smug expression.
It did not all work out, John wanted to growl. Still, he could remember how Sherlock looked at him, in the tundra, when he thought John couldn't see. So very pained by his own deeds.
"You've been letting things slide, Graham," Sherlock drawled, his hands clenched behind his back. His fingers were flickering in his palm; nerves, John thought.
"Greg!" Lestrade corrected angrily. John stood up slowly, putting his gun away. Sherlock was joking, clearly; he'd either never learn Lestrade's name or he'd learn it accurately but he'd never guess Graham.
"Greg," Sherlock added, smirking and John watched realization settle over Lestrade's face. He looked furious for a moment and John's fingers itched toward his gun. Lestrade's arm tensed. John decided to let him punch Sherlock; the genius deserved it.
But Lestrade's arm swung around the man's shoulders and pulled him into a hug. Sherlock tensed, his whole body suddenly straight as a nail, making what looked to be a very uncomfortable hug. Sherlock could be quite cuddly late at night; John had never seen him look so awkward. Sherlock smiled lightly, clearly trying to figure out a way to escape, before he relaxed and John started walking out of the darkness.
"And John?" Lestrade asked, worry clear in his voice. He pulled away, holding Sherlock by the shoulders. Sherlock's face fell. John blinked, pausing in his stride.
He still hadn't realized how bad it'd been, John thought, watching as Sherlock's eyes grew haunted from whatever he saw in Lestrade's expression. Lestrade sighed, his shoulders drooping heavily.
"You thought he went to Alaska to shoot himself," Sherlock deduced, frowning heavily. Lestrade looked instantly confused.
"Alaska?" he asked and Sherlock rolled his eyes.
"Irrelevant," he said, and Lestrade swallowed, apparently drawing his own conclusions.
"I'm not dead, Greg," John said, deciding finally to end the foolishness. Lestrade's head whipped around. John smiled, thrilled to see the man again. Greg's eyes lit up and he glanced back to Sherlock, taking them in together.
"Oh you utter bastards," he repeated. John shook his head and Greg's eyes dimmed again.
"He didn't know," Sherlock confirmed. Greg frowned. John sighed and ran a hand down his face. He didn't want to talk about that time. He looked up to see Greg and Sherlock having some silent conversation, achieved exclusively through glares.
"Enough of this. It's like crap telly. Let's get out of this dank garage and grab something to eat. I've been on duty for forty eight hours," Greg said finally, breaking out of the exchange and finally shoving his cigarette back in its pack.
"I'm not dead. Let's have dinner," Sherlock agreed, smirking. Greg frowned, clearly missing the joke, and glanced at John.
How can any man have this much fake death in his life? John wondered, biting his lip. Sherlock's bright eyes searched his face, clearly concerned. John snorted quietly, considering their lives, and Sherlock beamed at him.
"It was the second brother," Sherlock stated, turning back toward Lestrade and shoving his hands into the pockets of his dark coat, suddenly looking much more comfortable. John drank in the sight. This is what he came back for. They could live like this again, somehow.
"I know that much," Greg snorted, shoving his cigarette pack into his pants pocket and starting toward the garage exit. "Help me prove it," he ordered.
John followed behind, taking in Sherlock's tall stature, clean hands and freshly cut hair. The man belonged here.
They got back to the flat that night and John didn't know where to go to bed. He'd never gone into Sherlock's room, not since the suicide. He'd slept on the couch more often than his bed, and he was sure Sherlock could see it in the folds of the cushions or some other minute detail that shouldn't matter at all. They'd had sex against the kitchen wall, neither wanting to kill the mood by investigating either of their bedrooms.
Sherlock answered the question by striding up the stairs toward John's bedroom, apparently unconcerned by the issue. John followed curiously, wondering at the reason. Gladstone's nails clicked up the stairs behind him, and John belatedly realized that someone would need to let the dog out to pee before they slept.
"Your bedroom is larger, gets better light, has a safer escape route to the back alley, and has an overhead fan. Mine is connected to the main floor and better regulated to a new shared area. I was thinking a shared laboratory -slash-butchery. You will continue to bring home live game, yes?" Sherlock answered, rambling as he made his way up the stairs.
John smiled slowly, feeling his heart beat start to pick up as he watched Sherlock Holmes step into his old bedroom.
"I can hardly start trapping and skinning the London squirrel population," he commented, unbuttoning his pants as he made it up the last steps.
"Pity. Why not? It's drastically overpopulated," Sherlock commented, pulling his fine shirt over his shoulders. John smiled, feeling their banter fall back into place.
"Far as I'm concerned, it's not the Yard's fault if they shoot you" Lestrade commented off-hand as he handed them each a pair of sanitary gloves. He led them toward the back of a restaurant strip, a small parking lot filled with police tape and tired-looking officers trying to ignore the overpowering smell of old fish wafting from the nearby dumpster. Sherlock stood tall, his expression haughty and his eyes dancing with arrogant amusement. The great Sherlock Holmes, back from the dead to show off again. John was surprised to find himself enjoying it. The officers gawked and reached for their guns as they passed under the yellow police tape, Lestrade leading the way.
There is a certain power trip to this, John thought, amused as he saw a blond officer he vaguely recognized choke on her own spittle.
"Where's Donovan?" John asked quietly and Sherlock threw him an approving glance. Curious too but too proud to ask, John noted, rolling his eyes at the man. Sherlock only straightened further and smirked down at him. John chuckled lightly and Greg pointed into the back of a sushi restaurant brimming with police officers.
Donovan was striding outside, giving orders for camera warrants and phone records. Anderson walked behind her, staring at her ass as he snapped off his gloves. Donovan stopped short, staring at Sherlock Holmes like she was watching her own death.
"Oh bloody hell," she cursed. John blinked, surprised. She didn't sound angry. Donovan gripped a hand over her heart and inhaled sharply. "Oh bloody hell," she cursed again and Anderson finally looked up from her ass. He whitened badly.
"It occurs to me that this is not particularly healthy," John commented quietly. Sherlock smirked.
"Regular heart exercise improves cardiovascular health," he stated, pulling on his gloves.
"WebMD tell you that, did it?" John growled, following beside him. "Because that's not remotely what it meant."
Sherlock shrugged casually and smirked as he walked past Donovan's gobsmacked face to duck through the restaurant's broken doorway.
A/N: Please help my professional writing career by following me on twitter at GwendolynTweets. Thank you!