A/N: Hi, I am so sorry this took so long. I really wasn't expecting it to. So yeah, everyone officially hate me? Good. See the end of the chapter for more notes.
It took John three days to get to the hospital to see Sherlock. He wasn't quite sure what he was doing in those three days, it was all a sort of blur, but he knew where he hadn't been. He vaguely recalled going to Baker Street because he knew Sherlock wouldn't be there. A large chunk of those three days was spent in sleep or something resembling sleep, maybe catatonia. After the three days he didn't feel rested but he didn't feel tired either. He felt numb like he was still waiting for everything to hit him.
He hadn't even really thought about visiting Sherlock at the hospital, not really. The idea had flickered into his thoughts for a moment and then it was gone. He only went when Mrs. Hudson came upstairs, said she was going to visit and told him to get dressed. He did so somewhat reluctantly, not even bothering to think about what he was putting on, just grabbing clothes randomly
"Young man, you go upstairs and change this instant!" Mrs. Hudson said the moment he stepped out of his flat and went to join her in the front hallway.
"What, why?" he asked, not wanting to exude the energy it would take to go back upstairs.
Mrs. Hudson simply gestured to his trousers and he looked down. Two large, brownish patches adorned his knees and the moment he realized what they were, he felt his legs give out. He gripped the railing of the staircase so hard he thought he might break it off. He started hyperventilating, breathing in sharp gasps. He felt dizzy, like he might fall over, his grip on the railing was the only thing keeping him upright.
"John?" Mrs. Hudson said with concern, putting her arm around him. "Dear, are you alright?"
John swallowed hard and steeled himself, his feet feeling firmer underneath him. "I'm fine." He managed to choke out. "I'll just go change."
"Take your time dear." Mrs. Hudson said, still looking worried about him. He nodded at her and started to ascend the stairs again, heading back to his room. He slowly took off his jeans, trying his best not to touch the stains on the knees as he slipped them off. He laid them on his bed and just stared at them for a long while, everything finally hitting him. Jim was gone, dead, and it was all his fault. If he had warned Jim not to be at the warehouse or had insisted Jim leave after they'd met in the lift. If he had managed to convince Jim that he loved him enough not to leave, this wouldn't have happened.
He snapped out of it when he remembered Mrs. Hudson was downstairs waiting for him. He grabbed a different pair of jeans and headed downstairs. She gave him a sympathetic look and linked her arm through his, not letting go all through the taxi ride. "I'm worried about him too." She said quietly, giving his arm a squeeze. "But it's Sherlock, he'll be fine."
"Of course." John nodded, not having the heart to tell her that Sherlock wasn't really on his mind at the moment.
When they got to Sherlock's room, John let Mrs. Hudson go in first, waiting outside the door. Sherlock was stabilized but not awake, which made the idea of seeing him somewhat less painful. But when John got to his door, he found his feet unable to step inside. So instead he watched his friend through the glass, enjoying that there was a bit of a barrier between them.
Sherlock was hooked up to a heart monitor and the steady beeping noise was something of a comfort, a reaffirmation of life. He wondered if this was how Jim felt every time he had listened to John's heart. He could see how it would be appealing, comforting even. John felt himself daze off to the sound of it, getting lost in his head.
It took him a few moments to realize Mycroft had joined him and had in fact started talking. John joined the conversation a bit late, with no idea what Mycroft was chatting to him about. He listened intently to figure out the topic of discussion. He didn't want it to be too obvious that he hadn't been paying attention.
"He hasn't woken up yet but when he does, I'm sure he'll want to see you."
"I don't think that's such a good idea." John confessed, keeping his eyes trained on the room.
"I'm no good to anyone right now." John interjected quickly. "I'm sure you'll make sure he has everything he needs."
"I can't do that if you leave John." Mycroft said to John's retreating form. John chewed on his lower lip pensively for a moment and then turned back around.
"No one needs me." He shrugged. "Not anymore."
"John, you really should –"
"Just keep an eye on him and let me know if his condition worsens."
"I've been guaranteed that it won't." Mycroft said with conviction.
"Good." John nodded. "Then please don't call me. I won't be coming back here."
John shoved his hands in his pockets and turned to leave again. "He needs you John."
John turned his head slightly and spoke over his shoulder. "Well I need to be alone. I'm sure Sherlock can understand that." His tone was icy before he walked away.
He continued walking for a long time, his mind in a fog, not even paying attention to where he was going. It took him awhile to realize he had started walking the same route he and Jim had done the one morning when the world had been ending. It only struck him when he stopped in front of the twenty-four hour coffee shop, recognizing it from that early morning.
It didn't take long before he found himself at Jim's flat and went in without thinking. Jim had given him a set of keys a while ago and the four digit key code for extra security. He pulled the keys from his pocket and slipped each of the necessary keys into their locks. Then he punched in 1973, the year John was born.
When he opened the door, he almost expected Jim to pop out and say hi or push John against the door the moment it was closed. Instead the flat was just empty, silent, as he walked through it. Memories flooded him of the day they had spent shagging on any available surface they could find. He wondered what would happen to the flat now that Jim was dead. He couldn't imagine never coming back here. Depending on how things went with Sherlock, he considered moving in. It was rather ironic that he had been dead set against the idea when Jim was alive but now he was seriously contemplating it.
He finally stumbled into the bedroom, tugging off his jumper and toeing off his shoes before flopping down on the bed. He inhaled deeply, the mix of his and Jim's scents swirling through his nose. His deep breath turned into a sob and he buried himself under the covers. It didn't take long for John to drift off to sleep, pretending Jim was simply in his office, planning world destruction.
John awoke to a barrel of a gun being pointed in his face. It took him a moment to move his attention from the gun to the man holding it. His face was hardened, his blond hair was cut short and John recognized it as distinctively military. "Sebastian Moran?" John guessed, sitting up slowly, the gun following him as he did so.
"You've got a lot of nerve coming back here, Doctor Watson." Moran said harshly. "Get up."
"I don't think so."
"I won't shoot you if you get up, I will shoot you if you don't." Moran threatened, motioning for John to get up with the gun.
John sighed and pulled the covers back, thinking that there was no guarantee that this man wouldn't shoot him either way. But if getting up meant he wouldn't die right away, then he could manage it. He picked his jumper up off the floor, making sure to move slowly so the man didn't think he was trying anything. He didn't know if the man was trigger-happy.
"Any point in asking where I'm going?" John asked as he pulled the jumper on over his head.
"We're going for a little walk." Moran replied enigmatically.
John rolled his eyes and sat back down on the bed to put on his shoes. Moran tapped his heavy booted foot impatiently. "So you worked for Jim?" John asked conversationally.
"Used to." Moran said, sounding somewhat bitter.
"What happens to everything now that…" he trailed off, unable to say out loud yet that Jim was dead.
"That's not really your concern, Doctor." Moran responded curtly and John just continued tying his shoes.
When John finished, he stood up and Moran cocked his head towards the door, signaling John to go through it. John stared him down for a moment, wondering if Moran was planning on shooting him in the back. Moran huffed out a breath and clicked the safety off of his gun and lowered it, but kept it securely in his hand. John nodded in thanks and walked towards the door.
Fortunately, it was a rather short drive so being confined in a car with a man with gun wasn't too bad. There was no need for awkward chatting and Moran kept his eyes fixed on the road while John stared out his window. John didn't look at Moran until the arrived at their destination, a graveyard. John eyed Moran questioningly. "Get out of the car, Doctor Watson." Moran said simply, doing the same himself.
John slid from his seat and closed the door behind him. Moran was already trudging his way across the cemetery and John hurried to keep up. Moran stopped abruptly in front of a fresh pile of dirt, the grave unmarked. John stood next to him, wondering what they were doing.
"There he is." Moran cut through the silence after a few moments.
"Jim?" John inferred.
"Yep." Moran nodded.
"Why is there no gravestone?"
"There usually aren't, for people like him. People that don't really exist. But that's where he is, all the same."
John had no idea what to say in response to that, so he stared down at the pile of dirt, which underneath was buried the criminal mastermind. It seemed like such a pathetic end to such a remarkable man, to be nothing but a pile of dirt with no way for anyone to even tell who was resting there. John crouched down and touched the edge of the dirt, silently saying goodbye. He wasn't about to do it out loud for Moran to hear.
He was in the middle of mentally saying he was sorry when he heard the safety of Moran's gun click off. John didn't even bother turning his head. "He'd still be alive if it weren't for you."
John didn't say anything, he didn't have it in him to argue. In fact he wasn't even sure if Moran was wrong in thinking that.
"Oh you might not have pulled the trigger, but you're the reason he's dead. You and both those Holmes brothers. Jim knew or at least he had a good idea that he was going to die. Got all his affairs in order before he went to the warehouse that day. Knew what Holmes had planned, figured it out the moment Sherlock went to his big brother. Sherlock played you for a sap, Doctor Watson. He was well aware of you and Jim before he took you to that warehouse. He had one specific goal in mind and that was to kill Jim, get him out of the way so he could win back your affections."
"Do you really expect me to believe a word of this?" John asked with a snort of derision.
"If you won't believe me, maybe you'll believe it from Jim." Moran said and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a letter and tapped it against John's shoulder. John reluctantly took it from him. "I didn't read it." Moran promised. "I wouldn't invade Jim's privacy like that."
"So I read it and then you shoot me?" John asked snidely over his shoulder.
"I'm not going to shoot you Doctor." Moran put the safety back on and slipped the gun into his jacket. "Out of respect for Jim. He loved you and it wouldn't be right. But I promise you this, if I ever see you again, if our paths should cross, there will be nothing keeping me from pulling this trigger on you or Holmes."
"I understand." John nodded and pocketed the letter.
"Goodbye, Doctor. You better hope you don't see me again."
John closed his eyes and waited till he heard the heavy footsteps leave. He sat down next to Jim's grave. He tried to finish what he'd been in the middle of saying before but now the words weren't coming. Instead he patted the earth covering Jim and tried to keep his eyes from welling up. "Damn it Jim." John said wiping his eyes on the back of his sleeve. "Why did you have to leave me?"
There was no response but then John hadn't really been expecting one. He sat there for a long time, staring at nothing, until it started to rain. Pulling his jacket closer around himself, he headed for the main road to hail a cab and go home.
Sherlock awoke with a groan as everything hurt and his feeling of the drugs started to wane. He blinked a few times to clear his eyes and then turned his head to find Mycroft sitting next to his bed. Sherlock looked around the room but there was no one else. "Where's John?" Sherlock croaked out.
Mycroft reached for the cup of water on the bedside table and held to it Sherlock's lips, tilting it gently so some of the liquid flowed into Sherlock's mouth. "I'm sorry Sherlock, he's not here."
"Oh." Sherlock said slowly, trying to take that in. If John wasn't here, where was he? As if reading his mind, Mycroft answered.
"He stopped by earlier but I'm afraid he's taken Moriarty's death quite hard. He said he needed to be alone."
"Yes, of course. No reason he should be here." Sherlock shrugged, feigning indifference.
Mycroft gave him a knowing smile and placed a comforting hand on Sherlock's uninjured shoulder.
"Does he know?" Sherlock asked, trying to swallow around the lump in his throat.
"I'm not sure. There was no audio in the lift so we can't be sure how much Moriarty told him. Jim managed to keep his mouth covered for most of it so we can't even try reading his lips."
"Do you…do you think if John did know the truth, he would ever forgive me?" Sherlock asked quietly.
"Are you planning on telling him?"
"I'm not sure." Sherlock answered honestly.
"If you do, make sure you mention that it was not your intention for Moriarty to die. It might help." Mycroft advised, taking his hand off Sherlock's shoulder and sitting back down in the chair by the bed.
"Nothing went the way it was supposed to." Sherlock grumbled, slumping down in the bed.
"The plan did get a bit muddled but then Jim Moriarty is…was a difficult man to predict."
"I knew he'd force a confrontation but I thought he'd back down. I thought he'd give John up." Sherlock confessed grimly.
"Apparently his attachment to John was greater than either of us realized." Mycroft said, regret evident in his voice.
"I don't know what to do now." Sherlock said miserably.
"First you concentrate on making a full recovery and then you worry about fixing things with John." Mycroft said with a tone of finality.
"What if John leaves?" Sherlock stared at Mycroft with such terror in his eyes, a sight Mycroft hadn't seen since Sherlock was a boy. "I always knew he would, it was sort of inevitable really but I thought we'd still be friends."
"Don't worry about that now. There's nothing you can do until you're better."
"I won't survive it Mycroft." Sherlock dropped down against his pillows and turned his face away from his brother. "I won't survive it."
Instead of a letter, it ended up being instructions, instructions that led John to a safety deposit box. They key had been in the envelope and when he turned it into the lock, he had no idea what to expect. Jim was always one for keeping him on his toes but this felt like a rare gift. It was as if Jim were still around, still playing games and communicating with John. If John hadn't felt Jim die in his arms, he might have allowed himself to hope that Jim was still alive and this was his way of telling John.
The only thing in the box was a phone, a white phone. Jim had briefly explained why he had two phones and John remembered this was his personal phone. He made sure there was nothing else in the box before shutting it and locking it back up. He slipped the phone into his pocket and decided to look through it once he got back home.
The moment he turned the phone on, a little box appeared and he clicked yes without even reading what it was asking. His breath caught in his throat as Jim's voice started speaking.
"Hi Johnny. I hate to be cliché and use the old 'if you're hearing this I'm probably dead' thing but sometimes there's just no other way to say something. I am, in fact, dead if you're hearing this because Seb wouldn't have given you my instructions otherwise. And if I'm dead well… then there's a few things I want to say to you. First being that I knew if Sherlock and I were going to have a confrontation he would bring back up. After last time he wasn't about to meet me without knowing he would be safe, especially if Mycroft was involved. I know meeting with him will likely result in my death. I don't really mind, Johnny. Doing the work I do, living the kind of life I do, I was never going to make it to old age."
John let out a shaky breath and waited for Jim to continue. He lied down on the bed and put the phone next to his ear on the pillow, closing his eyes so it felt like Jim was right there talking to him.
"I never really minded the idea of an early grave. It sounded better than getting all old and wrinkly except…well then you happened and I…fuck Johnny. Why is this so difficult? No, I can get through this." He took a deep breath and continued. Meanwhile the corner of John's eyes were prickling with tears. "I told you once that loving you was going to destroy me and this is it. This is the moment. It's not even dying that's going to do it, it's right now as I leave you this message because I know I can stop it, avoid it. I could just not go. I considered it. I considered a lot of things. I thought about asking you to run away with me but then remembered you wouldn't even agree to move in with me. Why would you drop everything, leave it all behind and flee the country with me?"
John choked out a sob and covered his hand with his mouth to stifle it so he could hear what Jim was saying.
"I can't just leave Johnny. I can't leave you, leave you behind. I can't, I can't fuck. It would be unbearable. Truly. I would do anything for you Johnny and I suppose this is when I prove that. So I guess that's a decision made then and that means I'm going to die. I don't mind, not really. I realized a long time ago you and I weren't going to have forever. I gave me three months and that's more than I ever expected to get. You've been trying to remove all my masks, get to the man underneath, well here he is. Nothing was ever real, no genuine emotions before you. You treated me like a man, like an actual person. I don't think I even identified myself as human until you pointed it out. So this is him, the real Jim. It was always real with you John. I'd never met anyone before that I could be myself around that would still want to be with me. I'd never expected to find anyone like that but then I never could have predicted you. You were so beyond anything I ever could have imagined for myself and every day I'm thankful that I decided to go to the pub that night."
John wiped his face on his sleeve and buried his head in the pillow, everything but his ears so he could still hear.
"There's just one more thing before I go Johnny. It might be a lot to ask but I want you to remember me. I don't think anyone else will, at least not for the reasons I want them to. If you look through this phone you'll see that I've left you some things that might help with that. But yes, if you could, I hope you can remember me. I hope I get to see you before I go. If nothing else, I want your face to be the final thing I see. If not, it's fine I'm sure I'll be thinking of you anyway. But if I could be granted one kindness in a life full of shite, this would be the one I'd want. To have you there, with me, at the end. I love you Johnny. I could have had forever and it still wouldn't be enough time to tell you everything I want. But I guess that's the only thing, the only important thing, for you to know. I love you, John Watson. Never doubt that."
The recording ending and John didn't move. He tried to swallow around the lump in his throat with little success. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling for a long time, doing nothing but breathe. Finally he grabbed the phone off his pillow and replayed the message, putting the phone on his stomach. He lost track of how many times he listened to it.
When he finally stopped, he opened the phone and started to look for what Jim had mentioned, the things designed to help him remember, as if he could possibly forget. Saved under a folder entitled Johnny, there were pictures. They looked like they were taken off the CCTV. Pictures of dates John could recall and moments he couldn't. There were quite a few pictures of them simply walking together and John only recognized it as the day the world was ending because of Jim's leather jacket, something he'd only worn the once. They looked like a normal couple, fingers entwined, eyes locked on each other and small smiles playing on their lips. They looked happy and it made John ache.
He went through the rest of the phone. There were a few recordings of their conversations, a few voicemails he'd left and all the text messages they had exchanged. John was thankful for them considering he had had to delete his own. Jim had saved every single one of them. He went through them, laughing at some of Jim's inane comment despite himself. When he finished, instead of feeling better, he felt hollow and alone. At least he had something left of Jim, something to hold on to.
John moved out of Baker Street three days later, a day before Sherlock was scheduled to come home from the hospital. John didn't want to see him, didn't want to be there when he got back. Instead he found a shithole little flat that he could just barely afford on his own and went right ahead and moved in. He'd learned to keep his belonging to a minimum since his army days so moving out wasn't as much of a hassle as it could have been.
Any time not spent at work was spent either sleeping or walking around London. The days passed in a blur. John wasn't even sure if he was eating but he was never hungry so he must have managed something. He had started spending most nights down at the pub, drinking himself into a stupor, just like he'd seen his sister do countless times. For someone who had taken such great care of only having one or two drinks when the mood struck him, John let go of his inhibitions quickly. Personal tragedy could do that to a person.
John started having nightmares again, nightmares of the rooftop, of watching bullet after bullet pierce Jim's skin, ripping through it as if it were nothing. He heard Jim's screams echoing in his ears and it was usually that sound that tears him from his sleep. John usually awoke wishing he could crawl out of his skin. The guilt he felt was overwhelming and the nightmares usually proceeded hours on end of just walking through London. They always ended at Jim's unmarked grave.
In the end Sherlock waited two weeks before he contacted John. It was just a single text with an address and the words please come –SH. John wasn't sure why he ended up going to what ended up being a coffee shop but he supposed that after all they'd been through, it deserved to end with a conversation. Maybe he was planning on having a row but mostly he just thought the whole thing deserved some closure. Their friendship had once been very important to John and he thought it needed a better ending than John just running away, leaving Sherlock recovering in the hospital.
When he arrived at the coffee shop, Sherlock was already there, waiting for him. There were two cups of coffee on the table, one in front of the empty chair meant for John. Sherlock had both his hands around his cup, staring down at it unblinkingly. John had never seen the man looking so small. He didn't even glance up when John sat down.
"Well?" John asked, his tone harsher than he had intended.
Sherlock finally glanced up at him and immediately looked back down at the safety of his coffee cup. John grabbed his own and took a sip. His patience was wearing thin quickly. Sherlock opened his mouth to speak several times but always ended up closing it again without saying a word. John rolled his eyes and sighed heavily. "This is a waste of time." He said pushing his chair back and standing.
"How are you?" Sherlock said quickly, the words running together.
John curled his hands into fists but tentatively sat back down. "You really don't want to know the answer to that." He replied stiffly.
"I wouldn't have asked if –"
"Sherlock." John tried to keep his voice as level as possible. "You. Don't. Want. To. Know."
Sherlock swallowed and looked away, staring out the window. "And how is your new flat?"
"Bearable." John answered, lifting his cup to his lips again.
The corner of Sherlock's mouth twitched. "No it isn't."
"It'll make do." John shrugged. "Is that all you wanted?"
"No." Sherlock turned his head so his eyes met John. "That's not all I want."
"Come home John."
"I understand that you're upset about Jim –"
" – Upset?"
"— And that you're grieving."
"But there was no need for you to move out."
"Sherlock." John said a bit louder, trying to get his attention. "I'm going to stop you right there. I felt it was necessary to move out. I'm the one who decides what's best for me. You don't factor into it."
"And drinking yourself into a coma is what's best for you?" Sherlock asked, quirking one eyebrow up.
"Maybe it is." John replied, irritated beyond belief.
"What can I say John. How do I get you to stop this and come home?" Sherlock asked desperately.
"I don't want you to say anything and Baker Street isn't my home. Not anymore."
"Why did you come then if you weren't going to listen to what I had to say? If you were going to insist on being complete irrational."
"Irrational?" John asked indignantly, slamming his hand on the table and making it jump.
"A man is dead Sherlock. I know it was two weeks ago and maybe you've deleted it already, considered it irrelevant but I can't forget it. Jim is dead and I was in love with him, so I think I've earned the right to be a little irrational." John spat, wanting to flip the table over and hit something.
"John." Sherlock said softly, reaching out and placing his hand over the other man's. John flinched and pulled his hand away while Sherlock looked back down at his untouched coffee. "He chose to die."
"I'm sorry?" John asked in confusion.
"Up on the rooftop, I gave him the chance to walk away. He didn't take it."
John's mouth gaped open, taking in his new information. He blinked a few times, trying to process.
"He gave me the same option. I didn't take it either."
"Why not?" John pursed his lips together while he waited for the answer.
"Walking away would be admitting defeat. It would have meant giving you up. Neither of us was willing to do that."
"Sherlock." John started but pressed his finger to his lips and tried to compose himself. "You had no claim over me, Jim did. I was with Jim."
"Does that mean I'm not allowed to fight for you?" Sherlock shot back.
"I – " John scraped his teeth over his bottom lip, finding it very difficult to stay calm. "I offered you everything, for fuck's sake I kissed you. You told me you weren't interested."
"No, I don't think you did. I think you saw me happy with someone else and realized what you might have missed out on. I think you got jealous."
"I was jealous." Sherlock admitted freely. "I was jealous of Sarah and the one with the spots. And the one with the nose hair. Yes, I was jealous of Moriarty too, even if I wasn't aware that was who it was."
"Then why didn't you say something?" John asked in aggravation. "I was right there Sherlock, you could have spoken up at any time."
"Do you think this comes easy to everyone? Not all of us can fall into relationships the way you seem to."
"Sherlock, I kissed you. All you had to do was say yes, yes John, I want you too. Let's try and make a proper go of this. I don't know how I could have made it any simpler for you. But you told me you weren't interested and you left. How was that easier?"
"I was surprised and confused. It wasn't expecting things to manifest in quite that way. I wasn't prepared."
"Then you should have told me that and I would have backed off, Jesus Sherlock, who the fuck do you think I am? I wouldn't have pressured you or done anything you were uncomfortable with."
"I know that."
"Then why didn't you tell me that? Why did you turn me down flat so I believed there was no hope, that I'd been misreading all those looks, all those moments between us, that it had just been my stupid imagination running away with me, hoping that this was more than it was. Why didn't you just tell me the truth?"
"Because I was scared." Sherlock yelled and more than a few people turned to look at them. Sherlock sent daggers at them with his eyes and then turned back to John. John simply snorted in disgust and shook his head in response.
"It's not important." John said tugging his fingers through his hair. He was tired, so fucking tired and he just wanted to leave. "We can't go back and too much has happened since then. That feeling's gone, the one I used to get when I looked at you. That excited, butterflies in my stomach, lustful feeling isn't there anymore."
"We could get it back."
"I don't want to." John said getting up out of his seat. He grabbed his wallet out of his back pocket and placed a few notes on the table to pay for his coffee. "You know, we could have avoided all this is you had just acted like a fucking grown up for once in your life and had an actual conversation with me. But no, you had to retreat in on yourself because you're too fucking scared of something as simple as emotions. Well congratulations Sherlock, you got what you wanted. You're alone."
"John." Sherlock said to John's back as he turned to leave. "Please."
It was the please that caught John's attention, having never heard those words uttered from Sherlock before. Reluctantly, he turned back and looked at Sherlock expectantly.
"Come home." Sherlock said quietly, unable to meet John's gaze. "Nothing has to happen, I just…please. Come home."
John swallowed, reaching out and gripping his chair, needing something to hold on to. He stared at Sherlock and finally looked at the man, really looked, for the first time since he'd entered the coffee shop. Sherlock's eyes were red-rimmed, deep and dark circles under his eyes, his hair unkempt and messier than usual. His clothes were wrinkled and unlaundered, his cheekbones jutting out more than normal. He looked haggard and John realized Sherlock had been shot and he hadn't even thought to ask if the detective was all right. Obviously he had survived being shot but John had no idea what the recovery had been like.
John had never seen Sherlock like this. Not even on particularly brutal cases that took over a week to solve, where Sherlock nearly starved himself to death, did he look this undone, this distraught. John's heart clenched as if a fist were wrapped around it, squeezing it tightly. It hit him quite suddenly just how much Sherlock needed him, which was something John had never realized before.
He had always thought Sherlock didn't really need anybody and only associated with people when he found them helpful or convenient. John had been fairly certain that Sherlock only kept his around to do the tedious and boring tasks Sherlock didn't feel like doing, such as laundry, shopping or making tea. But he was just now starting to get that maybe it was more than that, went deeper than that.
John sighed and scrubbed his hand over his face. "I need time, Sherlock. I need to be on my own for awhile. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Sherlock nodded.
It took two months. Two months for John to get sick of his tiny, depressing flat. Two months for John to be so bored of his life that he wanted to scream. Two months before he started to miss Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson, Baker street and everything that came with it.
He still had nightmares, woke up to the sound of Jim screaming. He still took his long walks around London, in the early morning before the sun was up and the world was quiet. He still sometimes fell asleep at Jim's grave, having spent the early morning there just talking.
It took two months for John to decide he was ready to let Sherlock back into his life, even in some small capacity. They'd go back to being flatmates, nothing more. He could forgive Sherlock enough to become that again because he remembered the broken man in a coffee shop, begging him to come home. And in the end, he felt that someone has to be there to save Sherlock from himself.
So John showed up back at Baker Street in the early evening, his two bags under his arms, the rest still at his old flat. He used his key to get in and slowly made his way up the stairs. He could hear Sherlock playing his violin, something slow and melodic and it was familiar, comforting. When John opened the door to their flat, Sherlock didn't even break his stride and just kept playing.
John dropped his bags by the door and went straight into the kitchen to make tea. Sherlock continued playing as John tapped his fingers against the counter, waiting for the water to boil. The water finished and he made two cups, carrying them into the sitting room. He placed one by the desk, close to where Sherlock was playing, staring out the window. Then he sat down in the red chair that was very much his, closed his eyes and listened.
"Welcome home John." Sherlock said without turning around.
And even though John smiled, he could feel Jim's phone in his front jacket pocket, resting right against his heart. An entire romance contained in a single item. The only thing left besides memories and an unmarked grave.
A/N: Hello again. So before everyone starts coming after me with knives, this is not the end of this story. There is going to be a sequel that is Sherlock and John dealing with the aftermath of this whole thing. I made a promise to a few people that I would update my other fic and then I'm going to start working on it. It will by no means be as long as this was. Right now it's about six chapters in my head and hopefully it won't be more than that. But I don't feel right posting it as part of this story because it's not really a Jim/John story anymore (for obvious reasons) and I also think it would make this story overwhelmingly long. So if you're interested, keep an eye out for that. If not, I hope you enjoyed this story and no one is planning on hunting me down.