A/N: This is the last chapter. Thanks to absolutely everyone who read, reviewed, favorited, and alerted this fic. :) I don't have much to say (yet?) so please enjoy. I don't own Sherlock.
Not for the first time, the world in front of him swam black on black and white on white. He forced his eyes to stay open anyway, staring around him wildly. A dull ache in his shoulder reminded him exactly where he was and why. He hated this place, hated every part of it, from the too-clean floor to the tasteless food. This was a hospital.
It had been six days since facing off with Moriarty, he reminded himself. He couldn't leave yet. Not just because his own shoulder screamed when he tried to move it, but because the others were here. He hadn't seen them - no, the hospital had strictly forbidden it, damn them. No matter how much he'd screamed and yelled, they'd detained him, even as the great Sherlock Holmes began to cry again.
Lestrade, they said, was stable and quite alive. But no one seemed willing to give him updates on John or Mycroft. And it bugged him, it really did. It drove him to the point that he'd lay awake late into the night. He'd never admit it, but just the night before he'd found himself crying, breathing hard, panicking because he couldn't be sure if they were alive.
In the time that he'd spent awake in the hospital, he'd contemplated this. He'd hated it, too. The new emotions, the way he was unable to control them. Many had said that Sherlock did not have a heart - however, it was quite the opposite. The man had a heart that, over the years, had been masked and hidden away from prying eyes. He'd been so afraid of losing it that he would never give it away… until he had unwillingly, to the three other men that had suffered through Moriarty's game.
On the night of the seventh day, he found himself crying again, but he forced himself to be quiet this time. The last time he'd been caught, nurses had flooded around him with assurances that meant nothing and oxygen masks he refused to use. But tonight, there was something different. The door opened quietly, so quietly that he didn't even notice.
When he looked up through his damp lashes, however, he was so shocked that he simply froze. Was the man in front of him an apparition? It had to be. After all, the man he knew didn't need a wheelchair, didn't have scars crisscrossing every visible part of him. But it had to be, it had to be. Fate couldn't play another cruel game with him.
Despite his shoulder screaming, he bounded up from the bed, crossing the room before the other man could protest. He wrapped his good arm around John, carefully as not to disturb the wounds but not all that carefully at the same time. He held on far longer than most would, only hoping that this was real, that he was really and truly here.
When he finally pulled away, he only kneeled beside the wheelchair, good arm resting on the side of it. "John," he croaked, surprised as just how raspy his own voice was. "You're alive."
"Of course I am," John made an attempt at an encouraging smile, but it faltered a bit. "You saved me, Sherlock. You saved us."
"Not fast enough," he shook his head slowly. "Mycroft…"
"Is alive, don't worry."
"And your legs…"
"I'll get used to it."
No more words were needed. A relieved smile cracked on Sherlock's face, despite the tears that stained it. He leaned forward, capturing his best friend in another embrace. They stayed like this until a nurse noticed both men out of bed, but even then they were reluctant to part.
And as the door closed behind John, another tear slipped down Sherlock's face.
"I won't let that happen to you again," he whispered.
It was a beautiful, warm morning and they all gathered outside. All, of course, meaning all but Mycroft. The hospital allowed visitors but had deemed him unfit to join the others. Sherlock, Lestrade, and John stared at one another with little half-smiles on their faces, though none could ignore the scars and wounds that each bore.
Sherlock, John had noted recently, took a turn in who he was. He was becoming extremely protective, and stressed over locks and security almost to the point of OCD. He didn't bottle his emotions - in fact, he seemed unable to control it. The first time Sherlock had cried in front of him had been at night, in the darkened hospital room, but he hadn't noticed it. The second time had shocked him, and by the third he realized what was happening: Sherlock did not know how to cope with these new emotions, and it was tearing him apart.
John, Sherlock had noted guiltily, was still much the same, but he didn't seem to sleep much at night. None of them did. And, oh, God, he felt so guilty for the wheelchair. He should have protected the man from this. Yet John never brought it up, never complained, never accused. But who was he to blame? It was Sherlock's fault for leaving him alone…
Lestrade must have been the only normal one besides the sling his arm was stuck in. He'd kept up his smile, kept up appearances, but the impact was far more than he'd ever allow anyone else to see. He was struggling with work, struggling to the point of drowning, and he knew well that things weren't going to stay the same. And, if things changed, he knew he wasn't going to be able to cope. He barely slept at night anyway, and admittedly winced at even the mention of Moriarty.
And then there was Mycroft.
Once a confident man, now broken. He wasn't even really allowed anywhere but his hospital room as the doctors tried to rehabilitate him, emotionally and physically.
The four of them, together, strong, perhaps, but they all suffered separately, spiralling downwards with each day.
And God only knew what would happen when they hit the bottom.
A/N: And so we end our 22-chapter epic journey. Well, epic enough. I hope the ending was good enough, it was hard to find one that worked. This chapter leads us to the possible sequel, which will be called Learning To Live. However, I can't promise that it'll be up any time soon because it's not a priority fic. And to those of you who love Moriarty: never fear, I think you'll like the next criminal just as much. In fact, he might even remind you of someone… Intrigued? I hope so.