A/N: Sorry for the lateness of the update, all! I was feeling really uninspired for a long time. And, for the first time in a long time, I actually have homework. #shocked gasps# I finally finished, though! And it's uber-fluffy, so beware.

Sooo, last night I realized something. Well, a couple things. For one thing, I remembered that dialogue is one of my strongest points. I'm not sure why this is, but I have a good feel for voices. I also realized, late at night while I was trying to finish Watson's diary entry in the last chapter, that this story is a bunch of things that were WRITTEN DOWN during the Hiatus. Which means that this is a story ENTIRELY WITHOUT DIALOGUE.


The good news is, people's voices do come through their writing, so I was able to get that in, but there wasn't the dynamic of having the person in the room with you, which I've been missing. But I decided, in the end, to keep the dialogue out. It makes the story hold together better. And anyway, I've no idea what anyone could be saying in any case.

Anyway, to make this author's note even more long winded, let me just say that it has been a fantastic experience writing this story. I am so indescribably thrilled that you've all liked this so much. But, I am sad to say, the epilogue is upon us. The Great Hiatus is over, Holmes is back, and this story is about things written down during the Hiatus, so this is the end of the road. I'd like to give extra special thanks to my livejournal mates, who have sometimes been reading this twice and who encouraged me to continue from the original one shot that is now the prologue in the first place. And thank you cookies go to all of you who have reviewed, because your reviews make my day.

And just to make this even longer, I should point out that: Yes, school is starting. So this will PROBABLY be my last full blown story for a while. I will keep up with Fragments! (I still have to write that chapter that I've had half sketched out in my head for about two weeks, I know...) But studies do get in the way of important stuff like fanfiction, so I'm afraid I will not be as active as I would like. But I'll still be constantly around :)

The so familiar Baker Street rooms were exactly as they had always been. The Persian slipper was full of tobacco, the cigars were in the coal scuttle, and Mycroft had even made sure that the stylized VR of bullet holes in the wall remained as it was. (Watson was not entirely sure that the latter was a good thing.) But, more importantly, it was home.

Sherlock Holmes was back. There was a buzz around London for some time, for although Holmes refused to have his name published in any sort of newspaper, word has a way of getting around when the dead suddenly come back to life. Mycroft complained for some time later that he was receiving small cards congratulating him on the fact that his brother was not dead after all.

Eventually, life settled back into a state of relative normalcy. Holmes returned to Baker Street, Mycroft finally cleared up the Khartoum incident, and Lestrade, after a brief period during which he walked about the city with the look of a man who was permanently in need of a drink (which indeed he was), once again became accustomed to going to Holmes for assistance as it was needed. What truly heralded the true return to normalcy for Holmes, however, was Watson's move back into Baker Street.

Holmes had been hoping that such a move would take place. Upon his return he had found his Baker Street rooms emptier than they had been, though Mycroft had indeed kept them exactly as they were. When Watson was sitting across from him in his customary armchair, however, the emptiness was gone. Holmes was truly relieved when Watson had decided to return to their old rooms. He wished he knew how to tell his friend how much he had missed him over the past three years, but he could not find the words.

Somehow, though, he knew that Watson did understand. It was one of the most fascinating and endearing characteristics of the man. Holmes was brilliant when it came to careful observation and reasoning, but Watson was wise in a way that he knew he would, or could, never be.

And so, eventually, life moved on. Aside from the odd souvenier lying around Baker Street, there was very soon almost nothing to indicate that Holmes had ever been away.

All traces were not obliterated, however. Inside Holmes' desk drawer, amongst the mass of papers, odds and ends, and the occasional cigarette was an unsealed envelope, addressed to Doctor John Watson.

Holmes could not have given a good reason why he had kept the letter, which he had never posted. It is doubtful that he knew the answer himself. Yet for some reason he held on to it, even after it was clear that there was no further use for its continued existence. Perhaps it was meant to show that he was not himself flawless. Perhaps it was to prove to some small part of him that he was not emotionless as he appeared to be. Perhaps its purpose was to serve as a reminder of something shameful that he had done in the past, and though he had been forgiven by the injured party, he found that he could not forgive himself, not yet. Holmes simply avoided speculating after a while and, like the letter itself, pushed all thoughts of it to a dark, neglected corner and let them sit undisturbed.

And so the letter remained in the desk drawer.

Some years later, a cloudless night when London was quiet and Holmes was restless, the detective chanced to be hunting through his desk when he came upon the letter again. He was struck, for some reason, by the fact that the letter was quite useless now, and that it was perhaps time to throw it away completely. He moved to toss the whole thing into the fire, but something stayed his hand, and he reached into the envelope to remove the letter one last time.

The letter was all there, but there was something more. A note, which had not previously been there, tucked neatly into the folded pages.

My dear Holmes,

I can see now that you did not mean for this letter to ever find its way into my hands. In my defense, I would like to point out that it is difficult to ignore an envelope addressed to one's self, but even so, I apologise for the breach of privacy. However, having read what you have written, I believe there are some important things that you should know.

I will not pretend that the three years of your absence were easy for me. On the contrary, they were certainly the most difficult of my life. Losing you was such a shock to my system that for a long time I did not know that I would ever recover--I am still of the opinion that it was only your return that allowed me to put your death behind me. Losing Mary on top of that made the years almost unbearable. Three years is a very long time to deceive anyone, my dear Holmes, and I know now that I need not have wept over your demise, for it did not truly occur. I dearly wish that I had know, Holmes, so that I could have been spared that unnecessary pain. You know this, of course. You have expressed it quite clearly here, though I doubt you will ever communicate the knowledge aloud. Let me confirm that you are absolutely right on that point.

But--never forgive you? My dear Holmes, for all your cleverness, you really can be unreasonably dense at times. Did you truly think that I would never forgive you? That I would throw away so great a friendship just like that? It was an undeserved deception, Holmes, but I know that you had your reasons, and though I do not entirely agree with them, I confess, I understand them. And let me assure you that I forgave you the moment I saw you. Your friendship is much too important for me to lose, my dear Holmes. And I am truly honored to call you my friend.

As always, my dear fellow,

Very sincerely yours,

John Watson

Holmes folded the note again with slightly shaking hands and replaced it in the envelope, which in turn was replaced in the desk, as an emotion he could not name nor find the words to express welled up inside his chest.

He shut the desk drawer with a snap and turned to look at where Watson was sleeping in his customary armchair. A book lay open on his lap, and he was snoring gently, his face peaceful. A slight smile touched his lips. His old friend, his comrade, his Boswell, with whom he had been through so many trials and adventures, had indeed forgiven him.

And I am truly honored to call you my friend.

What amazed Holmes the most was that he felt so much.