-He's gone, John... He's... He's gone...-
The only thing clearer than Lestrade's words to him that night was his face, stricken. Destroyed by the very words he was saying. Showing on his face exactly what roiled within John Watson. He blinked at the DI and then wavered back a step, the detective's hand clamping around his arm, voice sounding tinny and far away—something he couldn't quite make sense of.
He found himself on the sofa, tea pressed into his hand and then retrieved when it dribbled over the rim from his limp grasp.
Vaguely, then, it was day. He blinked at the windows, daylight shining in. No rain in London today.
"Can you eat, John?" Mrs. Hudson asked quietly as the door was pushed open.
"John?" Lestrade's voice followed. "We're... We're going to need to ask you some questions..."
"Now? Oh, look at the poor man," Mrs. Hudson reprimanded as if he weren't right there. And maybe he wasn't. Maybe he was napping on the sofa, stolen from Sherlock, dreaming a terrible nightmare and none of it was real. Sherlock wouldn't have gotten himself killed. There's no way. He wasn't that dumb. He said he was just taking a quick trip to Switzerland to buy some equipment that had to be purchased first-hand. Now he was dead? Evidence found in a river. Beneath Reichenbach Falls. A bloody waterfall? What was—
"What?" He demanded breathless, sitting straight up. Ignoring the way the world swam for a moment. "What. Did you just. Say."
Lestrade looked at him, startled. "I said Moriarty's body was found. On the rocks beneath the falls, I'm afraid."
"You're afraid?" John hissed. "Like that isn't anything but good news!"
"He has crimes to answer for, John," Lestrade replied, but John was already tuning him out, distracted by the suddenly glaringly obvious evidence that his flatmate had planned on not coming back: experiments cleaned up, there hadn't been fresh body parts in almost a week, the old ones inconspicuously disappearing, the rent had been paid, Sherlock's things looked positively organised, and there was fresh milk in the fridge. Even some biscuits John liked that Sherlock didn't. God, how could he be so stupid. It was all so obvious. Sherlock was right. He saw, but did not observe. He was vaguely aware of Mrs. Hudson leading Lestrade away, concerned mumbling white noise. All white noise.
He was only aware of a week and a half passing him by by Mycroft's weary, "And here I thought Sherlock was the more emotionally fragile... John, you will lose your job if you don't get up, clean yourself, and move. Sarah and Lestrade have made all the excuses they can. You're running out of time." Motionless in the middle of the tepid flat, Mycroft's burning stare was so far removed from the realm of 'important,' John felt almost like laughing at the absurdity. Instead, he slouched further in Sherlock's favourite chair, stretching his legs out in a pale imitation.
Mycroft sighed. "When you are prepared to be a human being again, here are the details for the service."
He blinked suddenly, tension humming through his body. His eyes focused in on Mycroft, finally seeing the man. "Service?"
"Yes, John," he said in that patient way of his, lines creasing more heavily about his eyes, trousers not impeccably pressed, and his shoulders sagging instead of loose and confident. "For Sherlock."
"Who will come," John breathed, the world floating out of focus again.
Mycroft said nothing.
"You loved him."
"Sherlock. Your own brother. You loved him." John stared at his face. Searching... For what, he didn't really know. Something. A hint? A clue? There. A subtle twitch of the lips. The less subtle drop of the eyes away from John.
"I loved my brother, yes."
"Hm. So did I," John mused, realising it to be true.
"How unfortunate," Mycroft murmured.
The next morning he did shower and present himself to work, smiling blandly to stop the expressions of pity cast his direction.
"John," Sarah said, sitting next to him and taking his hand at lunch. "Go home. You're not helping yourself."
"But I was told to come into work..."
"Yes. And your mind is obviously not here. Go home. It's fine. We can cope."
But home wasn't any better. Because then he thought about Sherlock. Too much.
John dragged the violin from beneath the sofa, opened the case and stared at it for more time than he realised when his stomach growled. Lifting it reverently, he dragged his spine straight and drew the bow across the strings, horribly dismayed by the appalling sound that issued forth from the thing. He carefully tucked it away and then sat on his hands. The music all was dead.
And just like that he was crying. Hunched over like a puppet loose on its strings. He cried until the light faded in the windows and then curled up on the sofa where Sherlock used to sleep, taking up half the space.
Maybe he would go back to Afghanistan. What else was left to him?
"John! John dear! You really ought to get up," Mrs. Hudson chastised, bustling about the flat. "It's turned into a worse mess than when Sher—oh dear..." She trailed off, looking a bit lost. "Well dear. Not your housekeeper." She murmured, leaving the tea on a clear space of coffee table and then backed quietly out of the apartment.
Apparently two days had passed.
John dragged himself into the kitchen and found some soup, heating it in the microwave. Maybe he could look into re-enlisting. He didn't limp anymore. He still had steady hands. He could help. He bent over the counter, letting his head drop to the surface with a thunk.
The flat was so quiet... John rushed to the stereo and flipped it on, Keane streaming out the speakers. He winced and changed it to radio, an appropriately melancholy cello and piano duet filling the void instead.
The microwave dinged and he retrieved the soup, burning his tongue on first taste. He had barely returned to the sofa when there was a knock at his door.
"Jesus, John! You look awful!"
"Thanks. That's exactly what I needed to hear."
"John," another voice said.
"Lestrade!" John blinked.
Harry pushed passed him. "Lord, what a mess..."
"Lestrade..." John said drily, moving aside. "My sister, Harry."
Harry snorted and Lestrade picked at the hem of his sleeve.
"What's wrong with you?" He blurted.
"John... We have a case..."
John stared at him blankly.
"We—I... Was wondering if you could help."
"I'm not Sherlock."
"No one is. Wait, wait. That's not what I... You know the way he thought, John. You're..." Lestrade sighed heavily. "You're the next best thing. We're stuck."
"You should help him, Johnny," Harry said, something crashing in the background. "Oops."
"Don't touch anything," he hissed over his shoulder, then catching Lestrade's sheepish expression. "Alright... Let me... Let me—"
"Shower? Shave? Look human?" Harry supplied.
"Get out!" He bellowed. "Get the bloody hell out of my home!"
Harry blinked at him. Dropping the folder she was holding. "John, I've only—"
"Get. Out. I don't want to talk to you right now."
Harry stared hard at him a moment before sweeping out the door.
"John, are you—"
"Shut up, Lestrade. Give me ten minutes."
And that was how he was saved from Afghanistan. And then one case turned into two. Two cases turned into four. Four cases turned into six months. Six months turned into a year. And a year turned into two years and eight months.
But that was when he saw the article title.
'Local Amnesiac Tells Fortunes; Cannot Tell His Own'
He snorted at his own spurt of hope that jarred through his body and then closed the window and set his laptop to hibernate. However, as he exited 221B, Mycroft's car was waiting, the window rolled down.
"Are you coming?"
"You think it's him?" John asked, the hope cruelly rekindled.
Mycroft pushed his sunglasses down on his nose so John might appreciate the force of the glare. John only rolled his eyes and sighed.
"But it can't be possible," John protested even as he slid into the seat next to Mycroft. "It's been nearly three years. We... We would have known, right? We would have been...been notified, wouldn't we?"
"John..." Mycroft sighed almost kindly. "If he doesn't remember, what is there to tell."
"You hope it's him."
"And you don't?" The brother countered sharply.
John gave a curt nod. "I don't... I don't know what to think. It's been so easy to convince myself... I. I won't see him again." John lifted his gaze. "If it's not him I'm going to kill you."
"Don't get your hopes up."
"The very fact that we're physically going there leads me to believe you're fairly positive it's him."
Mycroft smiled his bland smile. "See. You're learning."
John rolled his eyes. "And if it isn't? He was dead."
"They never found a body."
"This isn't like you, My—"
"John, if we could please dwell in the company of our own thoughts for the remainder?"
Leaning back into the seat, John folded his arms and let his eyes drift closed. Mycroft would wake him when they arrived.
"So you're here to see our Fortune-Teller?" A squat nurse chuckled, giving them a tired appeasing smile as she lead them through the hospital. "He has a queue. People come to him for answers. And he's usually right too. I've only ever heard of him being wrong once or twice. And he's seen hundreds of people. More flock in due to that article, of course..."
Mycroft nodded. "What can you tell us about his health?"
"His health? Well he's just fine! Except, of course, for all of the therapy."
"Therapy!" John blurted.
"Yes, he came to us in such poor condition..."
"Please elaborate, Judy," Mycroft encouraged, slowing his steps minutely so they'd have more time to get the nurse to talk.
"He had all sorts of broken bones and bruising, so there was lots of physical therapy. Broken ribs. He was in a coma for the better part of a year. Poor dear. To be honest—"
"Please do," John sighed wryly.
"He's been the most terrible patient."
John's heart clenched. It certainly sounded like Sherlock. "What do you call him? I assume you don't know his name."
The nurse chuckled. "No, no. we were calling him John, you know, for John Doe, but he got angry with us and told us to call him Napoleon."
"Merciful heavens," Mycroft murmured.
"That mean something?" John asked quickly.
"It... It would, all evidence points to the result being him, but I would have to see..."
"Of course!" Judy chirped.
By now, they could hear the low murmur of the people waiting to see him.
"How did... How did this all start?" John asked.
"Well, he was cross because he wasn't allowed to move, claiming he was bored and generally carrying on—this was at the previous hospital—and then he suddenly yelled that one of the nurses was pregnant. She hadn't known herself. Then it started amongst the staff—he was telling people who loved who, who was cheating, who was going to get the promotion, who should start looking for another job. People took it home, I suppose, and the next thing they knew, he had queues like this one—" she gestured at the loose string of at least 45 people "—and when he was transferred here for treatment and monitoring, the news followed. It's like he holds court, you know. Everyone listens and believes him. The awed looks on their faces... It's really incredible if you haven't heard him. He's sort of in a sulk today though. We were out of custard..."
"I'm just sayin' be careful, because he's made more than a few cry too."
"I'm sure," John replied, eyes already on the room down the hall and heart beating loudly in his own ears,
"Very well. Thank you, Judy. John?"
"Let's go." He took off down the hall, passing by the queue of people wringing their hands, looking hopeful, praying, clutching objects, and giving the two of them curious looks. Mycroft, he could understand. The man breathed authority. The doorway appeared further and further away as he stepped towards it, wondering if this wasn't all some cruel dream sequence born of wishful thinking.
"John? Breathe, John..." Mycroft's voice said near his ear evenly.
He wasn't aware he'd stopped walking until he blinked and everything was in perspective once more. He sucked in air and patted Mycroft's arm in thanks.
"Are you alright."
"Fine. Fine. It's all...fine. I just."
Mycroft smiled at him. "I quite understand."
He returned the smile, his own probably just as drawn. They walked again, pausing near the door. John could only see feet, breathe freezing in his lungs as the person inside called out, "Next..." in the same bored tones Sherlock always used.
Ignoring the agitated cries of 'Queue jumper,' John rushed in, Mycroft at his heels.
"Clearly not a couple, friends. You love someone but you're not sure if the feelings are returned. No, it's not that. You only figured it out too late. The person is dead or unattainable. And you..." Sherlock turned his gaze on his brother. "Yes, grief makes for an excellent diet."
John could only stare. Eyes roving over Sherlock, hair much longer, hanging over his face, looking soft, face thinner, if possible.
"You..." Sherlock narrowed his eyes at them, straightening and pressing his hands flat into the sheets on either side of him. "Both of you. You know me. You know who I am!" He accused. "What do you know? Who are you? Government and a doctor—but that's not all you do—war veteran, detective. You don't do much doctoring these days, do you. Government..." Sherlock pursed his lips. "Secrets and ah. One of those."
John looked at Mycroft, for all appearances, leaning on his umbrella casually. But John could see the creases at the corners of his mouth and eyes, the tightness across his brow and in his fingers.
"Sherlock," John said, wetting his lips.
The man made a soft sigh, eyes fluttering closed in pleasure. "My name. That's my name?"
"It's fitting that you might choose Napoleon..." Mycroft said dryly.
John moved over towards the bed, pulling up a chair. "Yes, your name is Sherlock Holmes. You're brilliant—but of course you already knew that."
"Tell me more," he demanded. "How do you know me? Who are you? Family? Do I have family? Yes... You're my brother. Elder. That explains the grief. You couldn't keep me safe. Though not for lack of trying. I'm sure I hated you."
"Sherlock!" John reprimanded.
"You..." Sherlock narrowed his eyes at John. "A watch that's not yours. Not a lover. Though you..."
John looked away, flushing.
"I see. I'm sure I didn't know."
"I didn't either," he said hoarsely. "You were right. Before."
"A friend? I don't strike myself as the type to acquire friends. The nurses all hated me."
"Probably because you were blunt and irritable," John said softly. "As usual."
"So we lived together then."
"I see." He was silent a moment, and John could almost hear his brain whirring.
"Do you want to go home, Sherlock?" Mycroft asked quietly.
"You will, of course, have every physical therapy need cared for."
Sherlock looked away, his jaw tensing.
"Oh come on. You don't want to stay here, do you?" John put his hand over Sherlock's. Promptly looked hurt when the other man withdrew his own.
"We'll take you back to London. Perhaps it will spark something." Mycroft signalled to the nurse outside and withdrew a pen from his pocket, setting it on the table on Sherlock's other side.
Sherlock eyed it with disdain.
Mycroft arched a brow. "You'll need to sign the—"
"I know I'll need to sign the papers!" He snapped.
John looked down to Sherlock's trembling hands in his lap. Frowned. Afraid? Of what was Sherlock afraid. Leaving? That wasn't it. "Sherlock?"
"I'm afraid you still haven't introduced yourselves," he said stiffly.
John blinked. "Oh! I'm sorry. I... Sorry. I forgot."
"How funny," Sherlock drawled.
Mycroft chuckled. "My name is Mycroft Holmes. I am indeed your elder brother."
"John Watson, your flatmate, as I'd said. I hope to be called your friend. I consider myself so." He gave him a small smile. Hopeful.
Sherlock rolled his eyes and grabbed the pen, scrawling his name gracefully across the sheet. "Finally. We should leave immediately."
Mycroft took the papers, pausing at the signature, and then handed them back to the nurse. "There is, of course, the small problem of bringing you back from the dead."
"You would find that amusing," John said, all of the relief and joy making him rather giddy. "It'll be fine! Lestrade will be glad to see you. Sally will laugh, of course, but that's fine. And—Mrs. Hudson! She'll be so happy, Sherlock! She'll—"
"I didn't gather I had so many people awaiting my return..." he drawled. "The people here can't wait to get rid of me. The only reason they're glad is the queues make people hungry, and they buy food from the vending machines and café."
John pressed his lips closed, brows dipping down. "Well they're just idiots."
"Of course they are," Sherlock agreed easily, arching a brow. "At any rate. Have you brought me clothes? I haven't had proper garments since I arrived here, I assume. Something sharp."
"We'll buy you something," John said quickly. With Sherlock's death, John had suddenly become a surprisingly wealthy man. And he'd not spent much of Sherlock's money. Save for what was spent on the funeral. And upkeep on the headstone. Which... Well. That was another matter that could be foregone for later thought.
Tsking sharply, Sherlock swung his legs over the side of the bed, reaching for the cane there. "Stop fawning. Treat me how you normally would, John."
John grinned. It was the first time he'd said his name.
"Stop grinning. You look mad," Sherlock said without turning around. Then stiffened and looked at John. "Interesting," he murmured.
"I..." Sherlock cocked his head and then shook it. "I seem to react to you rather instinctively." He got to his feet, a spasm of pain passing so briefly over his face John thought he might have imagined it.
"Are you alright?"
"Of course I'm not alright! I fell off a waterfall—or so I'm told, an exceedingly stupid choice—and I've been through loads of physical therapy."
He flushed, feeling stupid. "Right. I..." Swallowed the words to save them for later. In private.
"I'll get the car," Mycroft said. He paused in the doorway to look over his brother. "Sherlock..."
"What is it?" he snapped irritably, crossing the room to a dresser.
Sherlock looked up at him, eyes narrowing sharply as he saw.
Mycroft gave him the faintest of smiles. "I am glad you're back."
Brows shooting up, Sherlock pursed his lips as he watched Mycroft disappear around the corner. A young man leaned into the doorway and asked hesitantly, "May I come in?"
"She doesn't love you. Stop waiting," he snapped. "Go away! All of you!"
John shook his head. "Be gentle."
"I am going home after nearly three years, or so I'm told. There is no need to be 'gentle' when one might settle for expediency," Sherlock replied, limping to the closet to pull out his coat.
"Yes. It is mine."
"I..." His throat burned as he looked away.
"Please tell me you're not going to get emotion every time I do something."
"I haven't seen you for almost three years, Sherlock! I thought you were dead!"
He looked slightly chastised.
"Now, there's no need to be unkind to these people who have come to you for help. Now let's please get back to London."
"Car's ready," Mycroft said.
The trip back to London was uneventful, Sherlock jumpy and fidgeted the whole way. It made John nervous and hesitant to bring him up to the flat. Mycroft lead the way, however, waiting for John to unlock the door. "We...uh. Haven't told anyone... just in case..."
"Of course." Sherlock was looking around a little wildly, the street, the house, the people, the cars, the cameras.
"Let's go inside," John said gently. He hesitated with his hand at the small of Sherlock's back and then tucked it into his pocket.
"What did I tell you about treating me like I'm fragile, John?" Sherlock gave him an arch look and then swept into the house.
John snorted and followed him. "Coming, Mycroft?"
"I shall visit another day. You should...be with him."
John nodded. "Thank you."
Mycroft returned the nod and then slid back into his car.
John didn't wait for him to drive off before running up the stairs.
"This is all mine?" Sherlock asked when John entered the room.
"Most of it. I've..." John shrugged, helplessly. "I've just...left it. I couldn't..." Shrugged again. "I couldn't..."
"Sentimental," Sherlock tsked.
Looking at him sharply, Sherlock turned slowly, looking at everything evenly, equally.
Sherlock shook his head.
"Memory is fickle, John." He was still looking though, and he said it faintly.
"How do I like it?"
"Black. With four sugars." John went to the kitchen, forcing himself through the motions of making tea. "I know... I..."
"You've obviously something to say," Sherlock said, appearing in the doorway.
John shook his head. "I've been so used to thinking you gone... That I'd never see you again, that this is... This is. I don't know what to do."
"Finish the tea, John."
Staring at Sherlock, rememorising his outline, John huffed quietly until it gave way to full-out laughter.
"Sorry, was that..." Sherlock's brows dipped down and the corners of his mouth tilted slightly. "Was that funny?"
"Oh God..." John wheezed. "That's... that's so you."
Sherlock stiffened. "I see."
"No, no..." John wiped at the corners of his eyes. "That's a good thing."
"I do hope, John, that you won't hold me to expectations that I cannot, given my lack of memory, enforce."
"I'll try not to be to disappointed." He smiled and poured the tea, handing the mug to Sherlock.
"You will be."
John blinked. "Hm. Maybe."
Sherlock shrugged. "I don't mind. It's hardly a situation in which I can do something. The cards, as they say, are out of my hands."
"God, I've missed you."
"So what is it I do?"
"You don't remember anything?"
"The chemistry looks familiar. I know all of that."
"Oh. Right." John edged passed him with his mug and tucked himself into the sofa. "Well... You're a consulting detective."
"You scorn yourself," he said with a smile. "A consulting detective. You help out Scotland Yard. Like with those people who queued up for you. You solve crimes they can't."
"Sounds like yo—" He broke off at the knock. Frowning, he got up to answer it when it swung open and Mrs. Hudson shuffled in.
"John dear, I heard voi—" She gasped, dropping the tray of tea as she caught sight of Sherlock standing in the middle of the sitting room. "Oh merciful God in heaven!"
"Mrs. Hudson!" John hurried over, kicking the broken pieces of china into a pile. "Sherlock—rag hanging off the oven—please! Mrs. Hudson, sit."
"Sherlock Holmes... As I live and breathe..." She stared after him, watery eyes following him as he returned with the rag. She reached out a hand to touch, but didn't.
"Mrs. Hudson," Sherlock said warmly. "I appear to have frightened you. I'm sorry."
She stepped over the mess John was cleaning and threw her arms around him. "I'm so happy—how are you—I don't understand!"
"I don't remember anything," Sherlock said, arms rigid by his sides, hand white-knuckled around his cane.
Mrs. Hudson stepped back immediately, smiling before she wiped at tears. "Oh I'm so glad you're back dear! John's been—well." Then smiled and looked down at John. "Not my business dear. I'll finish up John."
"Yeah. Yeah, thanks. I should probably call people, should they come over and we experience the same disaster," John said with a crooked grin. He was still staring at his mobile, Lestrade's name high-lighted, when Mrs. Hudson left.
He blinked at the hand on his shoulder.
"Oh sorry. I... Uh, would you prefer to go over and surprise them?"
"The Yard?" Sherlock arched a brow.
"I'm..." John broke off, dropping his gaze to his feet. "Lestrade might not actually believe me if I tell him you're alive."
Sherlock stared at him a moment but said nothing, finally sniffed and tapped his good foot. "Very well. Let's go."
"It obviously means something to you, and I ought to get to know the faces of the people with whom I had previously been affiliated. However," he gave John a small mischievous smile, "I do believe it might be worth it to see their faces as I've 'come back from the dead.'"
John laughed. "Oh good. Good to see you haven't lost your sense of humour."
The Yard was busy, of course; it always was. John couldn't help the little smile as the secretary did a little double-take, dropping her papers.
Sally apparently wasn't at her desk as they walked past. John sidled up to Lestrade's door, knocking quietly.
"Yes who is it? Come!"
John pushed open the door with a finger held up first to Sherlock then touching his lips briefly.
"Oh John. How are you? Good to see you. Sorry I haven't been by in the past few days. I—"
"No, it's alright. I was actually just out of town."
"Oh were you?"
"Yes, I've... Well, actually..." John leaned into view of the crack and smiled at Sherlock, jerking his head slightly. "You'd never believe if I phoned..."
"Sorry, wha—Oh God." Lestrade gripped the edge of his desk, swaying on his feet. "Oh God..."
John rushed forward to ease him into his chair. "Sorry! So sorry! I didn't mean to have you be that startled. It was a bit contrived, wasn't it..."
Sherlock snorted. "Hello, Detective. I would tell you it'd be good to see you again, but I cannot recall anything of my former life."
It didn't really matter what Sherlock said, the soothing baritone freezing Lestrade in his chair.
"So sorry. I didn't..."
Now John laughed a little at the startled expression on Sherlock's face.
"H-how..." Lestrade spluttered helplessly. He finally mastered himself to his feet and then skirted his desk to reach out and touch. But didn't quite.
They all wanted to touch, John realised with a soft grin. They all needed it. To be sure he was real.
"God, what... What happened...?"
"We—Mycroft and I—found him. He didn't remember..."
Sherlock tsked it out of the way and looked around Lestrade's office. "Your wife is doing well."
"Yes, thank you," Lestrade said, expression melting into a soft smile. "Thank you. God, Sherlock. It's good to have you back."
"Sally in today?" John asked.
"Oh yes! She should be back soon. She was just out for coffee."
"Yes, went well, I am to understand," Sherlock said vaguely.
"What? How do you know?" John turned to follow his gaze and caught sight of the sergeant walking in the doors. "Ah. Yes."
"Donovan!" Lestrade barked.
Sherlock edged against the wall, leaning there casually, waiting for her to enter. John grinned at him.
"Sir. John. Good to see you." She eyed him. "You... You look good."
"You do as well. Lost some weight? He's good for you. Your previous was dragging you down."
She whirled with a gasp, tripping over her own feet so that John had to grab her shoulders. "What are you—you're dead!"
"Legally, I suppose. Unless Mycroft's fixed it," Sherlock replied blandly. But John could see the slight twitching at the corners of his mouth that suggested he found this all very funny.
"What the bleeding hell!"
"A pleasure to see you as well, Donovan."
Sally was still gaping when John let her go. She swayed slightly, but stood on her own. "John Watson, you bastard!" She whirled on him. "Springing this on me!"
He grinned. "Well, would you have believed me otherwise?"
She glared and then grunted. "Nice to see you back, freak. It's been almost boring around here without you."
"Flattered," Sherlock drawled. He looked around the office more.
"Would you like a re-tour?" John asked.
"No, no. I'm done for the day. I'm—John, let's go."
"You alright?" John peered up into his face and offered him a small smile. "It's fine. We can go."
Smiling faintly, Sherlock nodded and then gave the same to Lestrade and Sally.
"Can we... Can I... call you if we need help? Are you up to that?"
Sherlock blinked and then gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Very well." Then he turned and limped out, John following him.
He half-turned to Lestrade.
"Will he be alright?"
"Should be fine," John said. "I hope. I'll see you around..."
They got dinner, Sherlock's eyes flitting around. "This place should be familiar."
They both jumped as there was the sound of breaking china behind them. Then Sherlock was suddenly clasped to the big Italian's chest.
"As I live and breathe! Sherlock fucking Holmes! Gracing my door!"
John stepped back to catch sight of Sherlock's face, slack with shock, eyes wide. He snickered, drawing the man's attention.
Holding Sherlock at arm's length, Angelo beamed and was rambling something about their usual table. Sherlock glanced at him. John smiled to hide the hurt that he remembered the other man, but not him.
"Ah, Mister Holmes! I am so glad that the rumours of your death were mistaken! Mister Watson has been a stranger! I have not seen either of you in such long time! What you like? Anything you want is yours!" He bustled the two of them to their usual table, pulling out Sherlock's chair and pushing him into it. "Your usual?"
John skirted the table and sat. "We'll take two menu—"
"Yes, that will be fine," Sherlock interrupted smoothly. "Thank you, Angelo."
"Do you remember your usual, Sherlock?"
Sniffing at him, Sherlock folded his arms across his chest. "Of course, John. Give us a minute then, Angelo."
The man beamed and moved away.
Sherlock tsked. "I remember the man. This place seems familiar. I'm merely letting him serve me. It's what he wants."
John sighed. "An act, then."
"Of course, John. I rarely eat when out."
"I know." He rested his chin on his fist. "Nothing else coming back, hm?"
"John, it will undoubtedly happen so conveniently."
He gave him a smile because what else was he supposed to do. They waited through a semi-awkward silence until Angelo came back for their—John's order: a fetuccini alfredo.
"I feel the urge to apologise," Sherlock said finally, not looking at John, but instead training his gaze out the window while they waited for their food.
"I have vague recollections of Angelo and this restaurant, but nothing of you, John. And I find myself...feeling poorly. As if I've disappointed you somehow."
"Sherlock, you couldn't—"
"Of course this is irrational, I agree." Sherlock's eyes flicked towards him and then immediately away again. "I merely wish you to know that while I do not remember you, I feel fondness towards you. And no, it is not, as you earlier professed, because I know that you loved me."
"Love," John said quickly, feeling his cheeks heat.
Sherlock's brows tilted up as he searched John's face.
"Love. Present tense," he mumbled.
"Very well. Love then."
"Oh God. Don't feel—don't feel like I'm pressuring you. I'm not. I just. Well. It's out in the open now," John said, spreading his hands flat on the table. He was grateful when Sherlock's food arrived, opening the floor for a subject change. "Go ahead and begin. Mine will be right out. I don't mind waiting. Watching." He sighed inwardly at his sudden verbal incompetence.
Sherlock's lips twitched. "You are more uncomfortable than necessary."
"And how, pray tell, uncomfortable should I be? This is awkward. I don't know what's wrong with me. And now I'm mussing everything up."
"You're hardly 'mussing everything up,' John." Sherlock sniffed at the food and took a bite. "Much better than the jelly at the hospital."
"I should think so, Mister Holmes!" Angelo said, setting John's plate down. "Eat! Eat! Enjoy, my friends. On the house. It is so good to see you after such long time."
"Thank you. Really." John lifted his fork and shovelled in a bit of fetuccini alfredo. "This is really good."
Angelo beamed and then gave John a wink and left. Which John valiantly ignored.
"So there was never actually anything between us?" Sherlock asked casually, stirring his noodles around his plate.
"Oh God. Now? You want to have this conversation now."
"There wasn't. I don't strike myself as being the type of person to form personal relationships well."
"We were friends. Nothing more."
"Yes. Mates. Friends. More-than-colleagues." He filled his mouth with food.
"But you wish for more?"
"Can we please not have this conversation now?" John pleaded.
"Why not?" Sherlock let his fork clatter into his dish. "I am curious about your motives, and I..."
"I am curious," Sherlock said stubbornly.
John sighed. "Please. Just wait. I haven't asked you about what you remember of Reichenbach."
"Moot. I remember nothing."
"I don't believe you."
"It may as well be nothing," Sherlock huffed.
John straightened. "So you...do remember something?"
Waving the remark away with a hand, Sherlock scoffed. "Mostly images that don't make sense."
"I read the report, seen his picture, and I do not recall him," Sherlock said flatly. "Probably the nurses that treated me early on."
Sherlock sighed as if he were giving in to some great favour. "Things are familiar to me, John, but I do not know them."
"That's a good sign?"
"Your guess would be as good as mine."
Chuckling, John smiled at him. "That might be a first."
Sherlock blinked a moment and then smiled, the small smug one that Sherlock usually reserved for winning arguments and pulling one over on his brother or the Yard. "Finish your dinner then."
"You too. You've lost weight."
"Boring." But Sherlock took a bite anyway. And when John had finished, Angelo sent them home with dessert and seconds.
John let Sherlock lead them three blocks before John insisted on a taxi for the ride home, looking pointed at Sherlock's leg when questioned.
"Don't treat me like an invalid," his flatmate said sharply.
"Hardly," John laughed. "You could be restricted to a wheelchair and you'd never be an invalid."
Sherlock's brows shoot up as they settle in the taxi.
"You would always call for a taxi if you noticed that I was in pain. Even if it was psychosomatic. So I am allowed to do kind things for you." He faced forward, aware of Sherlock scrutinising him from his peripheral for the rest of the ride home.
"You've kept most of my belongings," Sherlock said the next day while John was fixing tea.
"Couldn't really bear to get rid of them, I guess."
Sherlock hummed, accepting the mug and continued on being engrossed in his computer.
Sherlock hummed again.
"Are you even listening to me?"
"Of course, John."
"Oh really? So you could repeat what I just said?"
"Of course, John."
Smirking, John shook his head. "You're lovely, you know that?"
"Would you be against anything between us?" John shifted his weight to his other foot. "You've never said, you know."
"Mm'yes, John." Sherlock was hunched towards the computer, glaring at the screen.
Inching around the table until he could see, John found him looking through photos. Well. Photos and scans, it seemed, of cases, crime scenes, security footage, and other image recordings. "Would you hate me if I kissed you?" he murmured, sinking onto the arm of the sofa. Following Sherlock's profile with his eyes, John gathered himself and then bent his head into Sherlock's line of sight and kissed him lightly at the corner of his mouth.
Sherlock froze stiff, eyes flying wide.
John drew back, frowning. "Sherlock? What... Sherlock?" Taking in the slackness in his mouth, limp hands, and blank expression, John swore and then shoved the table back to kneel between Sherlock's knees, cupping his face. "Sherlock?" Then his eyelids fluttered and he sagged backwards into the sofa.
"Sherlock? Can you hear me?"
"Fine..." Sherlock sighed, the word more air than sound. "I'm fine," he said again, clearing his throat. His hand fluttered in the air, as if unsure what it was supposed to be doing.
"Sherlock, I think you just had a petit mal seizure. I should—"
"No hospitals, John. You know... I hate hospitals..."
John sighed. "Drink your tea. Get some fluids and calories in you. What's the last thing you remember?"
"You kissing me." Sherlock stared at him through his lashes.
"Oh God..." John cursed low, his face hot.
It was, however, enough to make Sherlock give a little grin. "I'm fine. I don't..."
"I'm so sorry. I—"
"And what makes..." Sherlock grunted as he shook his head and sat upright. "What makes you think that this is in any way your fault?"
"It was right after I—"
"Yes. So." Sherlock sipped the tea. "Perfect. Have you learned nothing, John? Just because one event follows another does not mean that they are related or from direct causation. I would have thought better from you."
"Wait a minute! That's not.." John snapped his mouth shut with a click. "Fine. Do you need anything? I still say I should take you to the hospital." He stood and turned towards the kitchen, stopped by Sherlock's hand on his wrist.
"You misunderstand my meaning, John."
Squinting at him, Sherlock's eyes were clear and focused, open. He was letting John read him. "But a...shock..."
He gave a conceding nod. "It was a shock."
"You weren't listening," John said helplessly.
"I hadn't guessed..."
The tension leeching from him, John's shoulders fell forward. "It wasn't meant..."
"Of course not. It's hardly your fault."
"I caused the shock."
"See it is my fault!" He snatched his hand away, but Sherlock held tight, jerking forward into John's side.
John blinked at him. And froze as Sherlock stretched up, fisting a hand in John's shirt to pull him down until their lips met.
"Do it properly next time," he purred, centimetres from his lips, and then smirked.
"Sher—you... you bastard!" John jerked away. "What's the matter with you?" He frowned at the way Sherlock blinked at him lazily, leaning into his space. "What is the matter with you?"
"I think... I..." he said faintly, eyelids fluttering. "Remember." And then promptly collapsed back into the sofa.
"Shi—Sherlock!" John caught his pulse and heard breathing, biting his lip while he watched Sherlock twitch and groan. He grabbed Sherlock's hand. "Sherlock... Can you hear me?"
"John..." Sherlock groaned after a few moments. "I'm...I'm okay..."
"Shh... Just breathe. Are you... What do you need?"
"I'm fine," Sherlock said, sharper. He squeezed his eyes shut then forced them open. "Fine. Stop panicking."
"Not panicking," John said quickly, panicking.
Sherlock turned his head and gave him a cutting look, so familiar. "Help me up."
Slipping an arm around his shoulders, John helped Sherlock shudder upright. "Have some tea. Steady."
"You and your ridiculous need for tea..." Shelrock snipped weakly.
John blinked. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you have a ridiculous obsession with the beverage. It is not, nor ever will be, the staple of the English people." Sherlock was upright now, even if he was leaning heavily onto John's shoulder. "I'm fine."
"Sherlock, you just had a petit mal seizure and then passed out on me again. We're going to hospital."
"And I'm telling you I don't need the hospital! It's just my... system. I'm fine. I'm...what do you say...rebooting."
"Rebooting! Of all the ridiculous—you're not a computer!"
Sherlock snorted. "What have I told you about the difference between seeing and observing, John."
"That I always miss th—" His jaw dropped and he stared at Sherlock. "Fuck. Well fuck me! I was too busy being worried about you to even notice!" John stood, stepping back.
"It's trickling back..." He pressed a hand to his temple, wincing.
"No, no." Relaxing back into the cushions, Sherlock closed his eyes.
"Wait, no—" John blurted.
Sherlock cracked an eyelid, lips curving up until the grin disappeared and he was leaning forward, eyes raking over John. "Oh. Oh."
"Stop it!" John snapped, rolling his eyes and folding his arms.
"No need to get defensive. I apologise for worrying you. I am glad to be home. And..." Sherlock trailed off. "I would need more information, but I do believe that your kiss is not remiss."
"Would you..." Sherlock purred, looking up through his lashes. "Again?"
John sucked in air, but bent his head to press his lips against Sherlock's.
Sherlock purred again, leaning up into John. "This... I like this..." Sherlock said against John's lips.
"Oh God. Tell me you're back. Tell me you've come back to me, Sherlock," John murmured, closing his eyes.
"John," Sherlock said, reaching up to cup John's face. "I wouldn't lie. Not to you. To my brother. But not to you."
John snorted quietly, quickly degenerating into hysterical laughter. "Oh God..."
"John. John, we must fool my brother. We must. You understand. We must play this ruse. You must help me, John." Sherlock grinned up at him, eyes alight with the prospect of mischief.
"God, you infuriating beast of a man. I hate you," John laughed, gripping him tightly.
"Yes... I quite understand the feeling," Sherlock mused. "Well then. Shall we visit my dear brother? I do rather think he feels somewhat neglected."
"I think that would be brilliant. God, I'm so glad you're back."
"I as well."
John's cheeks hurt from smiling. "I'm sure you do."
"I also," Sherlock said gently, "am glad to be back for you."
"I know that, you idiot."
"As you say, John... As you say."