all my love and thanks to everyone who has contributed in some way to this story: angearia, automaticdoor, fuyukodachi, imaginarycircus (who did beta duty for this round), quinara, rdf (who did beta duty for this round as well), tiferet, and also my mom for her cheerleading.

.o.

MAY

In a nice concession to dramatic convention, John finds Moriarty leaning against the mantle when they return to Baker Street.

He has the skull in hand, and his eyes flicker up to meet John's when John crosses the threshold into the living room.

"You could shoot me now," Moriarty says, "but it wouldn't be very sporting."

"Yes, right," John says, just before he shoots him.

Right between the eyes, nice and clean. John can hear Sherlock's footsteps on the stairs, now, then the long pause just behind him. He thumbs the safety back on, but doesn't holster the gun. His ears are ringing. Small things draw his eye: a monograph on bees lying under their sofa, the fine leather detailing on one of Moriarty's leather shoes.

"We have a hostage in our kitchen." Sherlock sounds very far away.

"You should call Mycroft."

"It's Sebastian," Sherlock says. "There's a bomb."

"Call Mycroft," he says again. Then he goes and sits in the doorway, because that's what you're supposed to do, aren't you, when the earth quakes under you.

Time passes. John gives Mycroft's gun to someone and lets them sit him down at the kitchen table, pull the sliding door closed. They've already taken Sebastian somewhere. John answers their questions as best he can until Sherlock whirls back in and kicks them out.

"Go, go," he tells the woman in the neat black suit who's been in the kitchen for the last hour. She is reluctant to be shooed. "I've already done your job for you, I don't understand why you're still here."

"Doctor Watson," she says, shaking his hand, ignoring Sherlock. "We'll follow up with you sometime this week."

"Sure." He doesn't remember her name or what day of the week it is. His hearing's mostly back, though. "That's fine. Just fine."

.o.

He takes a shower, brushes his teeth, climbs into bed, because he's home again and this is what he does at home. He almost sets his alarm for the morning shift at the surgery before he remembers he doesn't work there anymore.

Sherlock comes in, still in his suit, pristine. His hands are soft, no smell of cordite, just the unscented soap in the bathroom. He's laid the back of one against John's forehead, like he's checking for a fever.

"Not sick," he says.

"I didn't think you were."

The past two months have been like a dream, or some excursion out of time, with no electric bills or late night trips to Tesco or calls from Harry (fuck, he has to-) or cases from Lestrade, and John's still not awake, despite the familiar sheets beneath him. He watches Sherlock undress, hanging up his suit in John's closet before discarding everything else on the floor. Sherlock puts on one of John's t-shirts and his own drawstring pajama pants, creased and rumpled like they've been lying on the floor this whole time.

John shifts over when Sherlock climbs in bed, rolls over and closes his eyes. Sherlock curls up behind him, tucks his cold nose behind John's ear. John shivers. Trembles. Sherlock puts an arm around him, tugs him close. The dissonance takes John by surprise. He feels like he's cracking open, like he can't hold the warmth of this moment and the sensation of the gun in his hand inside him.

"He was there," Sherlock says. "In Switzerland. When you found me."

There's a quiet that neither of them attempts to fill. Sherlock says nothing. John doesn't say, "You idiot." He inhales, exhales, over and over, keeps breathing as he moves from one moment to the next.

.o.

There's no inquest, no blood spatter, everything swept neatly under the rug. He can't decide whether or not he's relieved. Harry brings curry over the flat a few nights later and lays into him for disappearing for months on end with only a cryptic email for reassurance.

"You're not on your own, John," she points out. "You're all… off somewhere in your head when you have a problem. I'm glad you have him," she tilts her head toward the kitchen where Sherlock is conspicuously defrosting the refrigerator, "but next time you take in your head to hare off around the continent for weeks, I'd appreciate a little notice."

"Next time?" he says, raising an eyebrow.

Harry rolls her eyes. "Not fooling me. Inside of a fortnight you'll be texting me from a loo in Amsterdam, 'Hullo, promised I'd call before I left the country, sorry about that.'"

"You've a very active imagination. Amsterdam, really?"

"It's a gift," Harry says, folding her hands on her lap primly.

In the kitchen, Sherlock drops something and curses.

.o.

The surgery is swamped and Sarah is grateful enough to have him back on staff that she doesn't ask many questions.

"When can you start? Yesterday?" she asks, stepping into her office.

John stands up and relieves her of some of the folders that are threatening to escape her grip. "Tomorrow, if it's not too much trouble. It's really — you're sure you want me back?"

"John," Sarah says, setting the rest of the pile down on her desk. "You're taking all of my appointments for the next two days. I haven't had a day off since last Tuesday. Please take some charts and stop talking."

He does.

It's a relief to have his days neatly marked out before him. Sherlock's taken some case from Mycroft that requires more hacking than legwork, which he complains about at length while John orders in Chinese or contemplates how long he can reasonably go without doing laundry.

A week in, he finds a severed thumb in the newly cleaned fridge and in the ensuing row says, with unexpected heat, "I know it's not over, he probably has half a dozen henchmen plotting how best to take over and kill us, very slowly, probably not in that order."

"Congratulations," Sherlock drawls, hands still cupped protectively over the offending Tupperware. "You've mastered inductive reasoning. Alert the press."

"I killed him," John says. Slow, deliberate, words measured. "I would just like a little bit of time. For my delusions. You know. To pretend we live in a world with no archenemies except for your brother and that Adler woman."

Sherlock pulls a face.

"In retrospect, she was rather charming," John adds. "Best nemesis ever."

"First class," Sherlock concedes.

"Very attractive."

"You'd know." Sherlock flaps a hand in a way that somehow manages to evoke both his flagrant homosexuality and John's appreciation of a fine pair of breasts.

"Shut up," John says, and then, "Come here. Wait, wash your hands, first."

.o.

He dozes off later and wakes up to find Sherlock watching him, face close, one leg slung over John's. "Do you think we need a bigger bed?" Sherlock asks.

John presses his forehead against Sherlock's and bumps their knees together. "No."

AUGUST

Harry's coming over for dinner, so John nips out to pick up some salad greens and a loaf of bread. This dazzling show of hospitality will probably not distract either Harry or her new girlfriend from the miserable state of the flat or the acid burns on the kitchen table, but he is ever hopeful.

After he comes out of the Tube, John doubles back and snags Sherlock by his collar. "If you're going to stalk me while I do the shopping, you know the rules."

Sherlock looks put out, like they don't do this every Tuesday. "What gave me away?"

.o.

.o.

You can read commentary on this story at ladyofthelog dot livejournal dot com slash 698415 dot html :)

Thank you for reading!