"Please, there's just one more thing," John Watson begged the unresponsive gravestone, "one more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don't. Be. Dead. Would you do that, just for me? Just stop it. Stop this."
Upon receiving no answer, John's head dropped to his chest in a silent sob; it was this action that caused the sweep of black suddenly flanking his reflection in the gravestone to go unobserved.
"No such thing as miracles, John, you know that," an all-too familiar voice came unexpectedly from behind him, "Only science that's ahead of the curve."
"Oh God, and now it's happened," John said with a laugh that teetered dangerously close to being a sob, "I've finally gone completely mad. I am actually hearing your voice now. My therapist is going to have a field day with this one."
"I thought Mycroft told you to fire her," the voice said conversationally.
"Oh, right, and I should really be taking advice about my mental health from your mad brother," John shot back sarcastically, like he used to do - pure reflex. It was only a few seconds later that the reality of the situation hit him once more.
"Sherlock, you're dead," he said slowly, and with no small amount of effort. "We can't be having another argument about Mycroft because...you're dead."
"And yet we appear to be doing exactly that, John," the voice said, now tinged with impatience, "so what does that tell you about the accuracy of your hypothesis?"
"Don't," John said fiercely, his voice strained, "don't...act like you're him. He's dead; I buried him right here. And no amount of wishing or praying or bargaining will ever..." his voice cracked as he finished shakily, "bring him back."
"You're sure?" the voice asked.
"Yes," John said vehemently, angry tears welling up in his eyes.
"Then why haven't you turned around yet?" the voice asked - softer, but still challenging. "If I'm not real, why won't you look at me?"
John took a moment to wipe away the tears now streaming down his cheeks. "Because if I turn around and you're not there," he drew in a shuddering breath before continuing, "then I'll have lost you all over again. And I can't take that kind of pain again, Sherlock, I just...I can't."
"John..." the voice said almost gently. It was sounding slightly closer now.
"So you can just go back to whatever desperate corner of my mind you came from," John said as firmly as he could manage considering he was still crying, "because I'm going to walk out of here right now and never look back. I'll do it, I swear, I'll..."
"John." The voice was very near now, and John shivered as he felt the slightest brush of warm air against his ear. But it was the light, but firm pressure on his shoulder that sent a truly violent jolt through him.
With his heart now beating so frantically he felt a little dizzy, John forced himself to turn around. Though he knew by now beyond doubt what he would see, John was still unable to suppress the strangled sob that escaped when he suddenly found himself staring into the face that had been haunting his hours, waking and sleeping, for the past week.
"It can't be," he whispered shakily, stumbling back a few steps until he was pressed against the obsidian tombstone. "I watched you die!"
"You watched me fall," Sherlock corrected quietly, his eyes scanning John intently, "The dying was done by a gun for hire named Charles Moreland and was brought about, ironically enough, by our friend Moriarty, days before my fall."
"But...all those horrible things," John shouted, his throat now raw from crying, "You told me they were true. Why? Why would you leave me with that?"
Sherlock shifted his gaze to the cold ground as he murmured, "I thought it would be easier. To let me go. If you thought I was the kind of person they say I am."
"Easier?" John screamed in disbelief. "No, Sherlock, it was most certainly not easier. On top of dealing with you being gone forever, I had to live with with the knowledge that either your last words to me or our entire relationship had been a lie."
Sherlock said nothing, though John noted a nearly indiscernible tremor passing through his hands, giving John a few moments to recover himself a bit before he continued quietly, "I never gave up on you, you know. Maybe I should have, but I couldn't..."
John took a deep breath in, knowing that if he didn't say it now, he'd never have enough courage to again. "I couldn't make myself believe that the man I loved had never existed."
Sherlock's head snapped up suddenly, and John was startled to see on his face an expression of intense emotion, though exactly which one was impossible to surmise. Even more shockingly, his cool, blue eyes, which John remembered as always remaining perfectly impassive, even in mortal peril, were not only ablaze with feeling, but also bright with tears.
When Sherlock finally spoke, the corners of his mouth had quirked up into a slight smile, though the intended effect of this was somewhat compromised by the single tear making its way down his cheek. "I should have known that you wouldn't let the logically correct answer get in the way of your deductive process."
"I should have known even death couldn't stop you being a smart ass," John said, unable to avoid echoing Sherlock's smile with a small laugh of his own.
"John, we can't giggle, it's a graveyard - stop it," Sherlock said. John recognized the words as a version of his own from the night they met, and for some reason this made him laugh harder. Soon they were both doubled over in hysterics, tears of laughter falling freely from their eyes.
But as the minutes passed, John found that even after the laughter had faded away, the tears wouldn't stop coming. Before he knew it, sobs were wracking his body and breathing had become frighteningly difficult.
Through the haze of tears clouding his eyes, John registered a black blur approaching him, and it was only upon feeling the brush of soft wool on his cheek that he became cognizant of Sherlock's hands on his shoulders, pressing John gently against his chest.
This realization only made him weep harder, and in an instant John's arms were wrapped tightly around Sherlock's neck, his head buried in the fabric of the familiar coat; John knew some irrational part of him was hanging on so tightly because he was terrified that if he let go, even for a second, Sherlock would be lost to him once more.
John felt Sherlock's arms surround him, tentatively at first, then with more conviction, until John found himself with breathing problems of a much more pleasant nature. "I...I'm sorry, John," Sherlock mumbled into his hair, his voice finally breaking as he added, "I am so...so...sorry."
It wasn't until that moment that John fully realized how hard the whole ordeal had been for his friend. He began to run his fingers soothingly through Sherlock's dark hair, murmuring, "Sherlock, it's all right," as he let his hand slide down to work through the knot of tension at the back of Sherlock's neck, "I forgive you." He could feel the collar of his shirt growing damp with the remnants of Sherlock's tears, but this just made John pull him closer.
Finally, when it seemed like they had both exhausted their immediate supply of tears and regrets, John pushed back just far enough to give them each a little breathing room. His gaze roamed automatically over Sherlock's face, which John was distressed to see seemed paler and more haggard than usual, as if he had gotten very little sleep in the week since his fall off St. Bart's.
As he was absently reaching up to brush a tear off Sherlock's cheek, John was surprised when Sherlock deftly caught his hand and held it there. He felt a strange wave of fondness rush over him as he watched Sherlock tilt his head infinitesimally to the side as he often did when he was about to make a deduction. What he was not prepared for, however, was what Sherlock said next.
"You said 'loved,' " Sherlock observed, entwining his fingers around John's wrist.
"What?" John asked, startled, thinking vaguely that he was definitely not emotionally recovered enough to try and ride on Sherlock's customary bullet train of logic.
"When you were explaining why you didn't believe I was a fraud, you said you 'couldn't make yourself believe that the man you loved had never existed. "
"Ah," John said, hoping to God the uncomfortable, stirring sensation in his chest wasn't manifesting itself as a blush. "Well, you see, er, Sherlock, there are many forms of love..."
"Then there's your pulse," Sherlock continued, paying no mind to John's stammered response.
"My pulse?" John asked, trying to sound casual as he privately wondered why the hell he had decided now would be a good time to have this conversation.
"It's racing," Sherlock said matter-of-factly, a look of triumph lighting in his eyes.
"Sherlock, I've just had a tremendous shock," John objected. "There would be something medically wrong with me if my pulse weren't racing right now."
"Ah, yes, but that was a number of minutes ago," Sherlock pointed out, still not letting go of John's wrist. "The initial effect should have worn off by now, so...there's only one explanation left for why your heart is still beating at nearly one point five times its normal rate."
"Which is?" John asked, swallowing nervously as he slid his wrist from Sherlock's grasp.
"That not only do you love me as your flatmate, your colleague, your friend, but...you are also in love with me, in a manner befitting a potential significant other," Sherlock announced, watching John intently.
John marveled at how Sherlock could proclaim the words that had taken him months of self-examination to admit to himself in the privacy of his heart as if they were no more significant than what he had eaten for breakfast or which train he had taken to get there.
"Did you, um, deduce anything else?" John asked, feeling very self-conscious.
"Like what, John?" Sherlock asked, brow furrowing.
"Like...if you're in love with me?" John inquired, forcing himself to meet Sherlock's eyes.
"Of course I'm in love with you, John," Sherlock said impatiently, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Well, forgive me, Sherlock, but there has definitely not been any 'of course' about it on my end," John said pointedly.
"If I weren't in love with you, why would I do all those utterly inane things that people only do when they're in love?" Sherlock countered.
"Like what?" John demanded with an incredulous laugh, at a loss to think of anything in Sherlock's behavior that remotely fit that description.
"Remember when we were out of milk, and I went to get some, even though you know I find corner shops tedious and the people in them even more so?" Sherlock asked smugly.
"Ah, yes, that time you did something I normally do twice a week, every week, how could I have forgotten?" John asked facetiously.
"And there was the time you asked me to please remove the severed head from the refrigerator, as you were having some work friends over, and I did it, despite the exposure to room temperature air nearly ruining my experiment on the larval development of blowflies," Sherlock continued.
"I see," John said slowly. "So your sum total of these supposedly blatant expressions of love for me has been you occasionally doing your share of the errands and keeping our refrigerator free of decapitated heads in the event of company, is that what you're telling me?"
"Not the sum total, no," Sherlock said quietly, after a minute, his expression suddenly serious again.
"Sherlock?" John asked, a sense of dread stealing over him. "What is it? What aren't you telling me?"
"That day, on the roof," Sherlock said, crossing his arms protectively in front of his torso, "Moriarty had snipers trained on you, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade. He said if I didn't jump..."
As Sherlock trailed off, John let the whole, terrible truth wash over him for the first time. In the end, all he could say was, "Oh, Sherlock," as his heart broke a little for his friend.
"I couldn't let him hurt you, could I?" Sherlock asked, and John could see that his eyes were glistening with tears at the memory of it. "I'd arranged it all with Molly beforehand, so I knew I wouldn't be giving up my existence...just my life."
John took a few steps forward and instinctively raised a hand to Sherlock's cheek, brushing an errant tear away with his thumb. "I wanted you to be able to move on, John," Sherlock said, suddenly averting his eyes, "to have a life with someone. That's why I called you and said...that Moriarty's lie was true."
"But I never believed it," John continued, now placing his right hand on Sherlock's other cheek so he was essentially cradling his friend's face in his hands.
"I know," Sherlock said with a quick smile, "That's why, after I made sure the coast was clear, I had to come back. I thought that maybe it meant there was a chance, that you and I..." As his voice trailed off, Sherlock lifted his eyes once more to John's.
The hope and fear John saw there in equal measure clutched at his heart, and before he had a chance to think too closely about what he was doing, he had leaned up to place his lips lightly on Sherlock's.
John lingered only the few seconds he thought it would take to make Sherlock understand before pulling away again, yet still the kiss left his whole body humming. "Was that, um, all right?" he asked, suddenly worried that he had misread Sherlock's signals.
"Yes, John," Sherlock said decisively, taking a handful of ragged breaths in and out, "That was...quite a bit more than all right."
John grinned and extended a hand out to Sherlock. "Well, then, I think it's about time I got you home, don't you?
Sherlock stared at him for a moment before he let out a slightly tearful laugh, slid his hand into John's and said, "Yes, John, I think perhaps it is."
They walked together in companionable silence for a few minutes before John said casually, "You were wrong about one thing, though." He began to lay his head companionably on Sherlock's shoulder, only to have it abruptly displaced as Sherlock pulled back to look at him.
"What one thing?" Sherlock demanded, looking distinctly appalled.
"Well, not only did I get you back, alive and mostly well," John said contemplatively, "but I even got a proper 'I love you' out of the bargain."
"What are you driving at?" Sherlock asked impatiently, clearly not pleased to be the party at this end of the deduction conversation.
"Nothing much," John said with a grin, "Just that there are definitely such things as miracles."
"Hardly, John," Sherlock scoffed easily. "I told you before, it's all science. In our case, basic endocrinology, a bit of chemistry, a dash of Newtonian physics -"
He was interrupted by John kissing him again, this time with a good deal more emphasis. "So that," John said, a few breathless minutes later, "all science, huh?"
"Well," Sherlock said, grinning appreciatively, "I didn't say it was an exact science."