A/N: So, this is the first part of another post-EMPTY-story and the emotions both men have to deal with, afterwards. I know it has already been done for several times, but I hope you'll like it anyway...

Coming home

All of a sudden I am wide awake… panting… sweating. I keep having those disturbing dreams, almost got used to them during the last three years without my friend, but full of doubts, loneliness and fear.

The night is pitch black, and it takes an eternity to adjust my eyes better to the darkness and to realize where I am: This, at last, is Baker Street! I am home!

Utterly relieved I try to steady my breathing and fumble for some matches to light a candle. It is only now that I notice I am not lying in my bed, but on the couch in the sitting room, where I must have eventually dozed off, after sitting up with my dear, sorely missed Watson for hours.

After the arrest of Colonel Moran, after returning together to our old rooms, neither Watson nor I had had the heart to go to sleep. None of us had wanted this day to end, this wonderful golden day of reunion… almost of resurrection, if one wants to put it that way. And it is true, I have not felt so alive for… well… a lifetime. And during these last hours, thank God, I did have the opportunity to see life somehow returning to the features of my best, my only friend.

It had been a shock, indeed, to see my Watson thus much altered by obvious grief, undoubtedly caused by the double loss of friend and wife. And I had been stupid enough to shock the poor man another time by my unnecessarily theatrical return into the world of the living. This must have been the first time in his life this solid rock of a character had surrendered himself to a faint.

But then – how his face, his whole person had been illuminated by sheer joy. I will never forget this look, as long as I shall live. A shadow of his smile, like an echo, had remained on his face the whole rest of the day...

...even while ambushing the bloody Moran.

...even when I had to admit to him that during the time of my disappearance I had to confide in my brother Mycroft, while keeping him, Watson, in the dark.

...and when he forgave me right away, pushing the undeniable hurt aside to focus on the joy of being together again.

After capturing Moran, we had – quite naturally, it seems – headed back to Baker Street, settled down in the sitting room we had shared for so many years and indulged in the simple fact of togetherness. It had been a most peculiar state, spellbound, detached from time and reality, and neither of us had wanted to break this spell by such a trivial action as saying good-night.

Nevertheless, I must have fallen asleep eventually… the strains and hardships of the last days finally taking their toll.

But now I am wide awake.

And something is wrong.