Sherlock stands in front of the door to 221B Baker Street. His finger curls over a button near the bottom of his coat – change from his old one, olive green, double breasted with five buttons each side – collar still turned up and long at his knees. His other hand stays fisted in his pocket. Underneath the coat he wears the same black suit, hair still cut the same and curly just above his eyes. Nothing, except a dull shift of color in his wardrobe, marks him as changed; except, of course, his being alive.
It has been a rare moment in Sherlock's life that he has ever found himself nervous – excited, curious, anticipatory – but rarely nervous. Sherlock knows John still lives in the flat – cross checked residency forms, Mycroft's CCTV logs, old advertisements, credit checks – knows John will answer the door. He knows John changed jobs – public hospital, Sarah's practice gone to the past; knows John's life moved on – no proxy texts from Lestrade and now changed locks.
"Breathe," Sherlock says to himself and raps the door knocker twice rapidly.
What he does not know – cannot decide, cannot pin down – is how John will react, what he'll say to seeing Sherlock again.
A voice from within calls, "I've got it!"
Sherlock feels a rush of endorphins at the familiar voice and tries to manage a smile – never his forte when a case or clever puzzle is not involved.
"I've got it, Mary!" John calls again as the door begins to open.
'Mary?' Sherlock's mind flashes and he rolls through his catalog of research to find the name.
Then the door opens fully and John turns to gaze at him (breath stops, his or John's?). Same hair – short, military, blond with slight gray but no more than before; blue shirt, white buttons, cuffs undone, open at the throat; new jeans, build slightly thinner and brown, ordinary shoes. His nose has been broken once since last they stood together but his eyes look just the same. Three years and John has hardly changed – a glorious, beautiful sight standing staring at Sherlock from the doorway.
Sherlock thinks he needs to say something more, something banal like 'good morning' or 'how are you?'
Then abruptly John punches him hard in the jaw. Sherlock's head snaps around – the force feels unfamiliar, has John never punched him before? He stumbles then John punches him again – same side – slamming Sherlock in the cheek. Sherlock falls and just barely catches himself from smashing his teeth into the pavement with one knee down and his right hand flat on the concrete (lucky he wore gloves).
"You bastard!" John shouts. "You fucking –" John cuts himself off with a growl.
Sherlock groans and tries to carefully shift his jaw around. He certainly did not expect to be hit by John; an oversight, obvious now if he goes over the facts – military, emotional, occasionally rash.
"Fucking bloody arsehole bastard!" John screams. "Three years, you… and you were – god, you –"
Suddenly, John stoops, crouches, kneels and grabs Sherlock into his arms. Sherlock stiffens in shock – no one hugs him ever – but John wraps his arms tightly despite Sherlock's posture; no escape, no room, no thought – only John's arms. He pulls Sherlock's head against his shoulder, Sherlock basically sitting on the ground now, and shoves his cheek against Sherlock's hair as if holding him closer will make Sherlock more tangible, more real.
"You're alive," John whispers, repeats, a hitch in his breath, shaky. "You're alive, you're alive, you're alive…"
"I'm alive," Sherlock says quietly and gently rests his hands on John's back.
John pulls back, touches Sherlock's jaw, turning it right and left. Sherlock hisses involuntarily, notes the tears built up in John's eyes, the unguarded happiness.
"Not broken… no, good." He huffs a laugh. "I want to hit you again."
"I'd prefer not."
John laughs once more and pulls Sherlock back into the hug, hand clutching the back of Sherlock's neck. Sherlock has never been embraced like this – not in adulthood, hardly as a child – has never felt the pure joy of care from someone else like this. He shivers.
"I am so angry, you son of a bitch," John rambles. "It's been three bloody years. God, three – oh, I want to kill you myself."
"That may defeat the point of my return."
John makes a gasping noise close to a sob and squeezes Sherlock tighter – breath constrained, increased body heat, feeling of finger marks in the skin of his neck. Sherlock does not pull away. He thinks 'how does one comfort someone else?' Sherlock rubs a circle on John's back, keeps his other hand anchored against John's side, an indication 'I am real.' This moment is out of his depth, out of his normal sphere of murder and theft and puzzles to solve. This is John's sphere and Sherlock is the unpracticed one at real emotion.
Suddenly, Sherlock knows something he wants to say, something he feels, something true. "I missed you, John." He breathes out. "Very much."
"I've missed you!" John snaps, laughs high and unnatural – border teetering on hysterical. "Thought you were bloody dead, of course I missed you! Christ."
John wobbles on his heels, still balanced oddly in a crouch and he lets go of Sherlock so he falls back into sitting, leans against the building wall beside the stoop. They stare at each other, tears drying in lines on John's face. Sherlock has a strange urge to reach out, touch John's face, and wipe the tears away. Sherlock notices after a beat they both breathe heavy and do not look away.
"I'm still angry." John smiles wider than the first time they raced through London streets and arrived out of breath against a wall at home together. "Very angry with you, Sherlock."
Sherlock smiles slowly. "I know."
John breathes deeply, tries to slow his heart. "I know you're not going to apologize."
John tilts his head and a thousand conversations flash through Sherlock's mind, every time John agreed, followed, listened, said 'yes.'
John smiles – that same smile, that 'this is Sherlock' smile full of trust and acceptance. "All right then."
"Right, good." Sherlock nods.
"But I'm allowed to be angry."
"I would surprised if you weren't given your personality and the circum–"
"No analyzing!" John cuts him off.
Sherlock closes his mouth. John sighs then looks left and right as though finally noticing they are still out on the sidewalk – conspicuous, drawing eyes as people walk past. His eyes shift back onto Sherlock.
"Okay." John breathes out once more and his eyes search Sherlock's face. "Okay."
Sherlock knows the words really mean 'I forgive you.' Sherlock feels unknown tension leave his shoulders, forgiveness he did not know he had wanted. He is unexpectedly, unbelievably happy.
"Okay," Sherlock echoes.