John woke up with a sharp gasp, eyes snapping open wide. No. No, he wasn't in the desert of Afghanistan anymore. No, he was back in London. His shoulder was healed, a glorious scar where the bullet had entered. His leg was still stiff. He had a limp now. Harry gave him crap for it.

Breathing coming back down to normal, John sat up, peeling sweat-soaked sheets off his body. One quick look around the room and he realized he was more disoriented than he thought. It hadn't been recently that he'd come home, no. He was now living at 221B Baker Street with his brilliant best friend, Sherlock Holmes. Who rarely slept and was always there for John whenever his nightmares woke him.

"Sherlock!" John called, rolling off his mattress and stumbling to his bedroom door. "Sherlock!" Why wasn't he answering? Usually he came running...

John toppled down the stairs, the interrupted nightmare still seeming to hover over him like an angry ghost. Maybe Sherlock had actually gone to bed tonight. John walked as quickly as his sleep-ridden body would let him and barged through the door of Sherlock's bedroom.

The bed was empty. John stared around the room stupidly, mind reeling. Where was Sherlock?

A brief image of flailing limps falling, falling...

Oh. Yeah. Sherlock was dead.

John staggered backwards out of the room, drowning in a renewed bout of grief. His sense of reality finally started to sink in. Sherlock had jumped off Bart's. Moriarty had convinced the world that Sherlock was a fake. John had seen Sherlock jump. Sherlock had tried to convince John that he indeed was a fake, but John refused to believe that. But no matter what John believed, Sherlock was dead. And he had been for three months.

Blinded by tears, John tripped over something and fell to the carpeted floor hard. He'd been okay, he'd been okay, and now this... No. No, really, he hadn't been okay. He'd never been okay, not since Sherlock's suicide. He went through motions, did the normal ordinary people, every day things. In a daze. And most definitely not okay.

It was like coming home from Afghanistan all over again. No wonder he'd woken up thinking he was still limping, still alone. Here he was alone again. And, though granted he hadn't pulled out his cane yet, he had to admit his leg was feeling rather stiff.

It was just life. It wasn't exciting, it wasn't interesting. There was no danger, no thrill. John just moved through every day without having to worry about anything. And he hated it. What was the point? No wonder he'd gotten that gun, that gun that was supposed to be for himself, but instead... Instead he'd used it to save Sherlock...

He had to still have one, right? Leftover from adventures with Sherlock. Meant for protection. But this was protection, wasn't it? Protection from a life of endless, pounding, suffocating nothingness. Yes. Yes, there was a gun in his room, hidden in the closet. He'd get it in the morning. For now...

For now John was just going to curl up on the floor and sleep. Just sleep.

Sherlock walked with a bit of a spring to his step. He was going home. After three long and incredibly busy months, he was going home to 221B. He opened the door with a flourish and stepped inside, taking a deep breath in. Oh, it felt good to be back. It felt glorious.

His eyes strayed to Mrs. Hudson's flat, but he quickly decided he'd stop by later. First he needed to see John. Sherlock knew from his own observations and what Mycroft had told him that John had taken it the hardest. John needed to know he was alive.

It was a bit of a shock when Sherlock opened the door and the first thing that greeted his eyes was John curled in the fetal position on the floor, sound asleep. That was odd. The only time John hadn't slept in his own bed before was when he was sick and confined to the couch.

Frowning in concern and confusion, Sherlock knelt down next to his friend and placed a hand on John's shoulder, shaking it.

"John. John, wake up. Are you all right?"

John woke up slowly, blearily, an arm shielding his face against unwelcome light. "Nngh, what is it, Sherlock?"

Sherlock tried to suppress a smile. Oh, it was so good to be back. "I'm back, John. I'm alive."

John's arm froze, hiding his expression from Sherlock's gaze for a short second. Then with a flurry of motion, John was standing, staring at Sherlock, pale-faced and eyes wide as saucers.

"Sh-Sh-Sherlock?" he stammered. Sherlock rose to his feet, holding a hand out in a calming gesture.

"Yes, John, it's me," he assured him. He had known this reunion was going to be hard. He was prepared for this. "I'm alive. I didn't die. It's all a bit complicated, but why don't I make us some tea and I'll explain, all right?"

John didn't seem to take any of Sherlock's words in. Instead he just continued to stand there and stare dumbly. Sherlock frowned, concern falling deep onto his brow. Something was wrong...


After a beat, John shook his head furiously. "Ah, uh. I'm sorry," he said, not looking Sherlock in the eye. "Let me, ah. Give me a moment to process this." He shuffled past Sherlock, eyes staring downward, and quickly stepped up the stairs. Sherlock stared after him, frozen by bewilderment for a moment, before bounding up after the doctor. He hesitated outside of John's bedroom door for just a moment, but then flung it open.

"Oh my-John, no!" Sherlock cried, halting in the threshold of the room. John whirled to meet Sherlock's plea, tears streaming down his face, gun in hand and held in his open mouth. Sherlock's stomach had dropped to his feet and his heart had jumped to his throat. Suicide? Was John serious?

"What are you doing?" he demanded, wincing at the harsh tone in his own voice. That was no way to talk to a man in this state. John had taught him that, in fact.

John, strangely, chuckled. It was a dark, sardonic chuckle and it caused goosepimples to go scrambling up Sherlock's spine. John waved the gun at Sherlock carelessly.

"You. You're not real. Just... just don't. You died," he said. Sherlock bit his tongue, mentally kicking himself. This was the one possibility he hadn't prepared for. John not believing the evidence of his own eyes.

"No, John, I didn't. If you'll just let me explain-"

"I saw you jump!" John bellowed. "I took your pulse, there was blood everywhere, I went to your funeral, I've been to your grave too many times to count... You're dead."

Sherlock shook his head, risking a step forward. "It was all a trick, John, I didn't die, I'm real. I'm here, I promise." Another step forward and Sherlock reached out carefully for the gun. "Now, just let me expl-"

"No!" John screamed hysterically, jerking the gun back and pointing it again at himself. "No, no, no, you stay away from me, you're not real!"

Sherlock bit back a swear in frustration. "Why won't you let me prove to you that I am?" he asked desperately.

John shook his head, the terrifying laugh coming back. "Because when you can't, it'll just make... make this worse."

Sherlock stopped. "Make what worse?"

"This pain," John replied, closing his eyes as fresh tears spilled over. He gestured to his chest with his free hand. "This agony that just sits here and never leaves. It'll kill me, Sherlock. It'll kill me."

Words failed Sherlock. His mind reeled. He'd known John was taking it hard, but this... This...

"John..." he whispered hoarsely. "John, I'm so sorry, I didn't know-"

There it was, the dark chuckle again. "Oh, don't even," he spat bitterly. "Just... don't." And before Sherlock could process what was happening, John raised the gun, opened his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

Someone was yelling, but Sherlock didn't care. All that mattered was John. John, who was crumpling to the floor like a puppet with it's strings cut. John, who was supposed to have been shocked, yes, disbelieving, yes, but then he was supposed to have smiled. His "oh, Sherlock" smile. Then Sherlock would explain and John would be in awe and then things could go back to normal. Not... not this...

Sherlock wanted to rush forward, to catch the smaller man before he hit the ground, to cradle him in his arms, to save him, but he couldn't. Something inside of him pushed him backwards and he hit the wall with a thud. John was dead instantly, he knew that, but he still wanted to be there for him, even though it was utterly pointless sentiment. But he couldn't. Instead he found himself sliding down the wall, completely unaware of any of his surroundings save the heap on the floor that should have been John.

Time had no meaning and suddenly there was something obscuring his sight line. Sherlock blinked angrily at the offending object, moving to bat it out of the way. But the blinking brought the object into focus and Sherlock paused. It was Lestrade and he looked confused. Concerned. Scared.

"Sherlock? Sherlock, you're alive... How...?" Lestrade glanced back over his shoulder and seemed to rethink what was really the important question. "What happened?"

Sherlock placed a strong hand on Lestrade's shoulder and pushed him out of the way. John. He needed to keep his eyes on John. There were too many people, too many hands all over John's body, poking and prodding.

"He-" Sherlock chocked out. "He thought he was hallucinating..."

Sherlock could feel the overwhelming shock followed by pity emanating from the D.I. beside him and Sherlock hated it. This was his fault, he knew. His fault and he didn't deserve anyone's pity. If he'd just been more aware, more prepared...

Sherlock pulled himself to his feet just as the gurney was wheeled in. He stayed and watched as they put the body on the cold metal and pushed him away. Then before Lestrade or anyone else could voice their consolations, Sherlock strode out of the room, down the stairs, out the door, and called for a cab.

Mycroft was waiting at the door when Sherlock arrived. Sherlock didn't have to look at his brother's slightly dipped eyebrows or protruding lower lip to know that Mycroft had already heard. To be perfectly honest, he wouldn't have cared if Mycroft had been told or not. All he cared about was that Mycroft was there to catch him when he broke down into sobs.

A/N: I love reviewers and live for constructive criticism.