Thanks again for the reviews. And well done to those who worked out the message. It was 'Grave' :-)
"Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend somewhere along in the bitterness. And I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life." The Fray.
John lay awake on the sofa, watching the light grow brighter through the living room window. He breathed a sigh, and swallowed down a wave of nausea. Today was the day. Suddenly, all the months of longing now turned to fear, and John doubted whether he'd be able to get off the sofa, let alone make it across London to meet Sherlock.
He washed and dressed with a struggle, ignoring the nagging thought of his painkillers in the bathroom cupboard. A glance at his watch told him it was 10 o'clock. John knew if he had to wait around in the flat any longer, he wouldn't go. Grabbing his jacket from the back of the door, he stepped out into the street in search of a cab.
The taxi grew nearer to the graveyard, and John's hands wrung nervously in his lap. He looked out of the window for a familiar figure.
"Actually, mate, could you just drop me here?"
He climbed out of the cab stiffly, regretting his decision not to take his tablets, and wandered slowly up the gravelled path and across the lumpy grass to the shining black granite headstone under the far tree. He traced the lettering with a finger and smiled.
"A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men," he said to the gravestone, and then giggled to himself. He sniffed, pulled his face into a serious expression, and then laughed again.
He stood and waited. Despite the fact that his watch had not yet reached 11, John felt a sense of disappointment with every passing minute. His eyes scanned the graveyard and he bounced slightly on the balls of his feet.
"You better not stand me up," he muttered under his breath. John took another scan of the paths, and faltered. There, at the top of the path, by the church, stood the tall, familiar figure of Sherlock Holmes. He was lacking his long coat and scarf, and was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans, a zipped up navy hoodie and canvas shoes. But it was really him. Alive. Breathing. Smiling. John's breath caught in his throat.
Their eyes met, and even across the distance, John could see Sherlock mouth pull into a small smile. For the first time since the fall, time stopped for John. Sherlock took several steps towards John, and he could feel his own body moving from the graveside. His steps quickened down the cemetery path, and suddenly, after months apart, they collided. John was hit with such a force that it made him stumble slightly. Two arms held him firmly, and John felt his own shoulders shake as he let out a little sob. Sherlock Holmes held him silently. It felt like an age before John released Sherlock and rubbed at his eyes frantically with the palm of his hand. He gave Sherlock a look up and down, and frowned.
"What are you wearing?"
Sherlock laughed loudly.
"That's your first question?" he said in disbelief. John simply shrugged and let the sound of Sherlock's voice wash over him. He grabbed hold of Sherlock's hands. They were warm in his own. He ran his hands up Sherlock's arms, to his shoulders and squeezed them tightly.
"I mean, fucking hell, Sherlock!" He pulled the taller man into him again, and Sherlock stood motionless while John embraced him. He rested his head against John's and waited.
"Aren't you going to ask me how?" Sherlock asked after a while.
"No," John answered quickly into his shoulder. "No," he laughed again. He finally stepped back and observed him again. "Can't I just have this; my own little miracle? Can't I just believe for one moment that it's because I deserve this?"
Sherlock thought about this for a moment and then nodded.
They turned slowly and headed down the path towards the church, and out of sight from the road.
"Oh, I brought you something," Sherlock said casually, and pulled a small box from one of the pockets in his hoody. John frowned as he turned the parcel over in his hands.
"These are mine," he mumbled, looking at the painkillers and the prescription label on the side of the box.
"A fact you seem to have forgotten," Sherlock pointed out bluntly. John stared at him. "You look terrible, John."
John nodded numbly and put the packet into his jacket pocket.
"Well, I did just get hit by a car…Oh and there's the also the fact that my best friend threw himself from a building. Forgive me if I'm not looking my best." He gave a sniff and looked away.
They reached a bench on the far side of the graveyard and sat down beside each other, their shoulders touching for more than just need of warmth.
"I miss you… Every day," John admitted to his knees.
"No, you don't know," he replied irritably.
"You think that this has been easy for me? That I haven't missed you?"
"I didn't think you'd have time to miss me in Hell, what with the Cluedo…" he trailed off with a smile.
"Nothing; something Molly said that's all. She was humouring me. Of course she was. I'm such an idiot."
"You mustn't be cross with her, John."
"But I am cross with her. And I'm cross with you. What the hell are you playing at?"
His eyes locked with Sherlock, and Sherlock flinched at the question.
"You said…" Sherlock took a deep breath. "You said friends protect people. That's what you said. On that day. Those were your words. Do I really have to explain it to you?"
"So you did this for me? Well thank you, very much!"
"No, I did this for me," Sherlock said honestly. "I'd backed myself into a corner, and I saw no way out but this. If I hadn't, then… Well, I wasn't prepared to bury you in the ground, just because I'd made a mistake."
John shook his head.
"I'm selfish," Sherlock corrected.
They sat in silence, listening to the sound of traffic in the far distance.
Sherlock turned to John suddenly, and looked at him sternly.
"Why aren't you taking your meds?"
"I don't know," John mumbled. He did know. Part of John desperately wanted to punish Sherlock. It had given John control of something, when everything else in his life seemed to have tumbled out of control. "Is that why you're here? Back from the dead to lecture me?"
"Yes. And I thought, maybe you needed a reason to take them." He offered a smile and John returned it. John thought for a moment about telling Sherlock everything; that he wasn't coping. It was on the tip of his tongue, when he caught Sherlock looking anxiously around the graveyard, and shift uncomfortably on the bench. John realised then, that Sherlock had not come back. This was a passing visit. He had come for the sake of the pills and nothing more. John shut down again, and braced himself for what was to come.
"Go on then," he said quietly, and Sherlock broke his gaze from the empty cemetery.
"Go on what?"
"Tell me how you did it. You're dying to tell me. Pun intended."
"What goes up, must come down," he said cryptically and John elbowed him hard in the ribs.
"Don't give me that, Smart Arse. You never hit the floor, did you?"
Sherlock shook his head slowly.
"You utter bastard." A grin spread across Sherlock's face. John hated that it was contagious. "And Moriarty?"
Sherlock's grin faded slightly.
"Dead-dead, or Sherlock-dicking-around dead?"
Sherlock just smiled and John sighed. Both men fell silent for a moment. John knew what was coming, and he hoped that the silence would last forever. It didn't.
"I have to go, John," Sherlock said quietly, partly hoping that it wouldn't be heard. John shook his head.
"Or, here's an idea, how about, instead of being dead, you just be alive instead? You've done the hard part. You broke my heart, and I still forgive you. Who gives a shit what anyone else thinks?"
Sherlock looked truly moved by these words, for a brief moment. His jaw set decisively.
"I have to fix this mess. If they knew I was alive then they'll come after you. Friends protect people, remember?"
"I hate it when you quote me, back at me."
"I know." Sherlock let out a long breath. "Please, John, for me, just look after yourself. Take your meds, get some sleep, eat a sandwich for God's sake, I don't know. Just…I can't go through all of this, only to find that the person I'm fixing this for is…" He closed his eyes. "Just, don't die, ok?"
Sherlock rose suddenly from the bench.
"I have to go."
John rose too, grabbing firmly at his hand.
"No, no, no. I've only just got you back."
Sherlock looked down at his their hands.
"Or, I could come with you?" John suggested. It broke his heart to see tears forming in Sherlock's eyes.
"No, don't. Don't do that," Sherlock muttered sadly. He cleared his throat. "Go home, John. Home-home. Back to Baker Street. Be happy. Be alive. And I'll come back for you."
He pulled John into an awkward hug.
"Don't you make me a promise, if you can't keep it," came John's voice, muffled into Sherlock's shoulder. Sherlock kissed him clumsily on the top of his head.
"When have I ever let you down?...Ok, stupid question. Don't answer that."
They smiled sadly at each other.
Sherlock turned on his heels and walked quickly down the path and out of the graveyard. John closed his eyes, not being able to watch Sherlock leave his life again. He hoped, for the first time since the fall, that he'd be able to sleep that night.
John's line at the gravestone is a Willy Wonka quote.
I was planning on this being the end, but I find I can't leave it there. I'm working on an epilogue which should be up at the weekend. In the meantime, please take a look at my Broken trilogy: The Broken Man, Harder to Breathe, and So What Happens Now? It's rather angsty. John gets very angry. He throws things. I'm rather proud of it :-)
Many thanks for the support I've received during this.