This story was in response to a prompt I saw on livejournal: the Sherlock BBC Kink Meme. I have no idea how to post it there, and if someone would like to have a go at explaining to me how, that would be lovely. But I REALLY wanted to write this one, so here it is. Dom!Sherlock and Sub!John, pet and master separated for three years by the miserable events of The Reichenbach Fall. Graphic smut warning!

Here is the original prompt:

Sherlock is a Dom. John is a sub.

Sherlock comes home 3 years later to find John still wearing his collar.

John took care of himself just fine before he meet Sherlock and he took care of himself after Sherlock died. But he couldn't bring himself to remove the collar. He promised Sherlock he never would.

The collar was all he had left of him, now.

Sometimes, when he slept, John's mind would take him back to the day Sherlock had presented him with his gift. He didn't sleep well any more. During the night, through the haze of drowsy sleep-encrusted fog, his fingers would slide beneath the warm leather of the collar he wore to remind himself that his friend had really lived once-that his friend had really once given him this, and that their physical relationship had been real.

Sherlock's absence was so hard to bare, it was like missing himself. In the beginning of this dreadful period, he had described it to himself as missing a limb of sorts, but the stretching time only worsened his agony. The love he'd shared with Sherlock had been something indescribable by words. They'd never needed to say it. It was simply known in every touch, and in every glance they shared. The grandest gesture of affection Sherlock had ever shown John was the purchase of his collar.

As Sherlock's limber fingers affixed the band around John's neck, the shorter man shivered. "There you go, pet," Sherlock whispered, letting his lips brush John's ear as he fastened the buckle into place. "It's perfect." His eyes gleamed deviously. "You're mine." The kiss that followed the sentiment was deep, and intense. John's heart soared. Sherlock broke it very suddenly though, and John was left aching. "Promise you'll never take it off, John." He took a fistful of John's hair into his palm and held on tight, demonstrating his power (as though John needed reminding).

John moaned at this assertion. "Yes," he sighed eagerly. "Yes, of course, Sherlock. I promise." Excitement bubbled in him at the feel of the stiff leather around him. It was just barely constricting his breathing. Being asked to leave it on always? Why, nothing had ever turned him on more. He grew hard. "Anything you ask of me, I'll do. How could I refuse?"

"Good boy," Sherlock rumbled, scanning his doctor with his hawk-like eyes. His smirk was delicious. John wanted to lick it clean off his master's face, but he knew better. "I could have you right here on the floor until you found yourself begging me to hurt you just a little bit more," he growled in a deep baritone. John shuddered excitedly. "Shame Lestrade just texted. We've got a case!"

"Damn." John was hard beneath his trousers. He was anxious to have his needs fulfilled by satisfying Sherlock, but he couldn't now. He knew Sherlock's priorities would always lie with a good mystery to be solved. "And you expect me to wear this out now, do you?" He gestured to the thing around his throat.

Sherlock squinted at him. "You don't seem to understand what a promise is, John. You are not only wearing it just now," he maintained with little feeling. "But always It is never to be removed. Allow it to be an accessory, like a ring of sorts." His expression flickered for the faintest of seconds before he turned on his heel and flew from 221b without another word. John sighed. He buttoned up his shirt as far as it could go to cover up his new gift, before following his friend, colleague, and master dutifully.

The memories made his heart ache painfully. He would writhe in his bed, desperately missing Sherlock, needing the warm body beside him to feel whole again. He was so empty, and the dreams of that day never helped any. Frequently, he would rouse from those dreams expecting to feel Sherlock's deep breath on his face. Every time, however, his disappointment was horrific. The repeated reminder of why he no longer shared his bed tore through his psyche every night, and it drove him madder with every passing day.

The agonizing weeks turned into months. John lived alone in a shitty old flat, and kept up his doctor's practice. He received visits from Molly frequently, and almost every time, she burst into tears. Lestrade came too, sometimes. He would always eye the collar with a little incredulity, but never said anything. He looked very haggard. John supposed this was because he no longer had the brilliant sleuth to consult. The concerned texts from Mycroft were the very worst. They always gave him the most unnerving suspicion that he was being surveiled. John considered many times switching his number, but he knew it would do no good to avoid Mycroft.

Months became years. Time had never moved so slowly, or felt so heavy on John's heart. Every ticking second had John slowly leaving Sherlock further in the past. He felt like he was being forced unwillingly away from where his friend lay bleeding. Every time the image of Sherlock's blood-stained face swam to the front of his mind, John grasped his collar by its loop and tugged slightly. He did it unconsciously, as though trying to jerk himself out of that memory and back to the times when his friend and lover was still alive. All it ever did, though, was bring him back to the reality in which Sherlock lay beneath the earth, his decomposing body being hollowed out by insects. That thought drove him to the toilet every time. He would throw up everything from the day, and he didn't even care. What did food matter anymore? What did anything matter, when his master lay dead?

Three years of this torment went by like a bad dream, but every second of it seemed to slowly drain John's confidence. In his worst states, he tightened the collar a little, choking himself just barely enough so the feeling was constant. He wanted to always feel his lover's presence, but he never would again. The collar was all he had left. He never once took it off, in all that time. It had become, as Sherlock had said, a ring he never removed. In John's mind, after Sherlock's death, the collar had become his twisted version of a wedding band. He didn't know if that was how Sherlock had intended it to be, but all the same. It said "I belong to someone," and isn't that what a wedding ring is for, anyway? John didn't care what people thought of it. He loved it. He needed it. He needed the ever-present reminder that he still belonged to Sherlock, and always would.

Alone and slowly fading, John had taken to his bed for three days. The last three years were killing him, he thought. He could barely stand for the pain in his leg that had returned full-force. It was agony to move. He lived off the bag of pretzels in his bedside drawer, and he was very weak. A knock on the door on his third bed-ridden night sent his head reeling. No one had called for him in days. He had barely moved in all that time, and was very stiff and unwilling to do so now. He ignored the knock and rolled over, feeling a horrible turn in his stomach as he shifted. The knock came again. Louder.

"John." The voice was unmistakable. His heart leapt. John grappled with the bed sheets, and dragged himself off the bed. The shooting twinges in his thigh caused him to keel over uncontrollably. He hit the floorboards with a resounding thud. "John!" came the voice again-that voice! Deep, silky, rumbling: like a volcano of melted chocolate.

"Sher-" He couldn't. There was no way it could be him. His friend, his colleague, his master, the love of his life was dead. He had seen his blood-stained face and his crushed skull! Felt his pulseless wrist! How could this be? The only explanation was that it couldn't be. John had clearly lost it. He groaned loudly, pain dancing in every nerve. Resigning himself, John heaved himself towards his bedside table. The revolver he kept hidden was carefully stowed beneath some papers. "Yes," he whispered, as the thuds on the door kept coming. The weapon was cold in his palm. This was it. It had been a long time coming, and now this was the last straw. He was hallucinating Sherlock's voice. It was painful enough to dream of him each night, but to imagine him really there in his waking hours? That was too much. His heart pounded in his throat.

There was a slam. The lock snapped clean through the doorframe, and there stood the unmistakable and harrowing silhouette of the great Sherlock Holmes.

"You can't be real," John shouted, frightened out of his mind. He dug the nose of the gun under his jaw. "You can't, you can't, you can't," he muttered. His vision spun. The figure was running to him. His finger trembled, hesitating over the trigger.

Very suddenly, he found himself lying flat. There was no gun in his hand anymore, and Sherlock was leaning over him. He must have fainted. The pale face loomed over him like a gorgeous moon swimming in black, hopeless sky. John's blood ran hot with terror. "Are you real?" he choked. "You can't be. Sherlock-my Sherlock is dead. You can't be you. You can't be him. You can't be here."

"I am, John," he said, and his spindly fingers came to rest on the faint man's cheek. "I'm really here. I'm still your Sherlock, and you're still my John." His thumb touched the collar. "I never died. Your master lives, John. Really. My dear, dear John." Sherlock's eyes glowed brilliantly overhead. John felt dumbstruck. His world was spinning. His heart felt like it would crack a rib, it was surely beating inhumanly fast. This was unreal, and yet... there he was, with his hand on his face, and his warmth radiating over him. So alive. There was no way it wasn't real.

"Sherlock," John sighed, feeling faint again. "Sherlock... you're... really..." He forced himself to sit up, and Sherlock assisted by offering his long white hand as a support. As John pushed himself up, he reveled in the feel of that palm in his. He gave it a good squeeze, checking its solidity. "Oh god." He threw his arms around his old friend. "This is... I mean... how can this be? Sherlock, you're... you're not dead!"

The detective laughed deeply. "I'm not dead," he reassured. "I have been ensuring that Moriarty's ties have all been cut. I snipped every string of his web that I could see, right at the root. Moran was the last. And now I've come home to you." He drew his face very near to John's. John flushed. His mouth was aching from not having felt Sherlock on them for the last three years. He wanted to be whole again.

When Sherlock pressed his lips against John's at last, for the first time in years, the world clicked back into place. It was as though he'd never left. There was still a dark void (still hopeless and consuming) in John's heart, but his soul felt complete again. This touch, this lightest touch, was all he needed for now. Tears started to fall without shame. He sobbed heavily onto Sherlock's neck, clutching the taller man to him. His fists were tangled in the fabric of Sherlock's long coat. All John wanted was to morph with him, to meld and become a single entity with his friend, his lover, his master. He wanted to be owned again; to relinquish all control and be taken care of as Sherlock's pet, the way he had been before Sherlock's disappearance.

"Oh god," John cried. "I've missed you, Sherlock. I've really missed you." He was barely coherent through his great heaves. His shoulders shook against his friend, who held him steady. "I might have... I mean... God, Sherlock, I wanted to die without you."

"Stop it," Sherlock growled. His spidery hands grabbed John by the hair, forcing him to look him in the eyes. "I am sorry to have hurt you," he said, and his voice was surprisingly soft for someone whose expression was so cold. "It was all for your protection, John. Don't you even think about dying after all I did to keep you safe. Is that understood?"

John crumbled. "Yes, sir," he sighed, only wishing to sink back into his submissive nature, to fall into Sherlock's warm, dominant embrace.

A few minutes passed of silence. Sherlock's expression was as unmoving as ever. "You kept your collar on," he noted a little faintly. His brow crinkled and his lips pursed with gratitude that he clearly didn't know how to properly express.

The limp army doctor's mouth twitched. "Of course," he breathed. "I promised, after all. How could I... how could I break a promise to you, Sherlock? My devotion to you has never wavered these three years." A flash of pride glinted in Sherlock's blue-white eyes. "I am yours."

Sherlock purred, quite like an animal. John was breathing heavily, still weak in his lover's arms. "John." The sleuth's voice was so low and husky, it sent a chill of desire through John that he hadn't felt in a long time. The last time he'd felt any sort of arousal, it had been shortly followed by violent illness as he remembered that the man who owned him was now dead, and he could never become excited again. But here he was, hard and eager, with his partner alive and warm, encompassing him in his long arms.

As those perfect lips made contact with John's, the submissive man melted. He breathed him in, as though trying to literally inhale Sherlock and make him part of himself. Sherlock's deft tongue sank deeply into his mouth. It was magnificent. John moaned against him as his master devoured his mouth with that long tongue of his. His entire body gave an uncontrollable shudder, but Sherlock held him in a tight grip to keep him steady. "You're still mine, John," he sighed, finally releasing John's mouth. His fingers slipped beneath the collar, and he tugged, choking him a little. John's funny little sound brought an intense shock of need to Sherlock's groin, and he hissed excitedly. "Yes, John. I love that you've stayed mine all this time."

"How could I not?"

"Come," Sherlock ordered, standing quickly and dragging John to his feet with him. The pain in John's leg seemed to have lifted miraculously. He circled his finger into the loop of the collar, and turned John around, pressing his erection against John's backside. Sherlock then leaned very close to his friend's ear. "Have you still got our old toys, pet?" John nodded. "Good. Lead me to your bedroom."

John marched on. Sherlock followed closely, keeping John in his power with his hand at that lovely collar. Oh, how he'd missed this ownership when he'd been away. John would not admit it out loud (away from the bedroom, at least), but they both knew that the doctor belonged to Sherlock-that Sherlock owned him, body and soul.

They entered the bedroom, and Sherlock led John to the bed very calmly. The blonde man was trembling, but Sherlock had him totally under control. "Yes," he sighed, pressing John down on his stomach, so he lay flat. He tugged John's trousers down a little, just to see that arse again. He'd missed it so. "Gorgeous." He tutted in a pleased sort of way, and slapped one of John's pale buttocks sharply so he drew in a breath of shock. "Where do you have our old playthings, pet?" John pointed a shaking finger to his closet. Sherlock left him for a minute to scrounge through the unfamiliar closet. It was so empty. He had expected that, of course. That's what people do when they are depressed, or when they lose someone; they forget to take care of themselves or their belongings sometimes. Sherlock swallowed down a sudden pang of regret that had risen in his chest. He had to clear his throat before continuing his search. He found what he wanted quickly enough: His leash, his rope, and his riding crop.

He walked back over to John where he lay with his arse exposed but the rest of him still fully clothed. He placed the toys on the bed beside him, shook his coat from his shoulders, and rolled his sweet pet over onto his back. "Oh, John," he said quietly, running his hands over John's clothed thighs. "I have missed this time together." He leaned over John then, breathing in the smell of his hair. Fumbling a little, he clipped the leash onto the small metal loop on the collar. "That's right," he sighed. "Good boy." It came out like a purr. He grinned against his shuddering lover, rolling the leash around his palm to keep John on a short reign.

Very slowly, he undid John's shirt. Both of their hearts were pounding wildly. He missed this contact. Both of them had. Sherlock felt his normally cool and collected mind go suddenly hazy with desperation. Their erections were pressed hard against each other. It was all so mad. As soon as his shirt was open, Sherlock tugged the leash violently, making John lurch. It was how Sherlock expressed his love. The shorter man let out a moan. His eyelids drooped; his breathing became unsteady; his pupils dilated. Sherlock felt his insides twist madly at this evidence of his lover's arousal. He wanted him so badly, had missed that closeness over the last three years. Sherlock lunged. He kissed John roughly, his lips demanding submission. It was so wild a kiss, he felt John clutch the sheet beneath him in surprise, then soften as his body gave in to him. It wasn't long before John was moaning from the pressure of Sherlock's long tongue, for he was positively fucking the man's mouth with it. The thrusts were long and hard and deep, and John loved it. Sherlock had become so hard from this, he had to stop. He dragged his mouth away from those perfect lips and placed wet, eager kisses along John's jawline and neck.

His teeth then sank deeply into the soft part of John's shoulder. The doctor writhed, biting his lip and whining like a wounded dog. The sound went straight to Sherlock's groin. It hurt, struggling not to explode right then and there. John's squeals sent Sherlock into a rage. He began to claw at the man's chest, leaving gorgeous little red marks down his friend's torso. John looked beautiful like this, totally under the power of his master. He tugged the shorter man upward. The collar pinched John's skin, and he flinched. Sherlock's cock throbbed. He groaned, pulling his pet down to the floor and onto his knees. John's eyes shone, looking up at him, questioning. He pulled him forward so he was forced onto all fours. He crawled after his master, who had a perfect grip on his leash. This helpless submission felt incredible. John was tingling all over. He reveled in his crawling poise, until Sherlock yanked him back up into a kneeling position at the foot of the bed and turned him to face away from his master. "Stay," Sherlock commanded. John did as he was told, his heart thudding rapidly. "Good boy." John closed his eyes, listening to Sherlock's gentle movements around the room.

Suddenly, he felt Sherlock's cold hands on his arm, bringing it up over his head. He hissed excitedly as the gritty texture of the rope encircled his wrist, latching him to the bars of his bed frame with a quick tie. He tightened the knot so his hand pulsed. Sherlock then moved onto the other wrist, and John felt a rush of joy as the powerlessness overtook him. His cock ached. He was so happy to have his master back, to know he had never really died, that his visions of Sherlock rotting underground were not true. He was here. Nothing else mattered. Sherlock was alive and here and he knew his cock was bulging against his well-tailored trousers. All John wanted now was to have Sherlock shag him. He needed it. He needed to take his master into him and hold him there forever so he could never leave.

But Sherlock was not like that. He loved to tease. He got off on the process, the way he did in every respect. He liked to make John squirm and shout and even bleed sometimes before giving in to his carnal pleasures. He needed to make John beg for his cock before he would ever give it to him. That was how he liked it. He needed John to be in a frenzy of pain and desperation in order to orgasm. John took deep breaths, uncertain of what was to come. He waited patiently, his backside feeling flushed from its exposure. His trousers were bunched just under his buttocks, but Sherlock had not bothered to pull them off. A minute passed of no contact. John pulled against his confines. He felt anxious for Sherlock's touch again. He needed him. He loved him. He missed him so much it hurt every inch of him to be apart from him.

Then it happened. The riding crop hit his buttock so suddenly, John could not help but shriek. He heard Sherlock's sharp, eager intake of breath, and smiled to himself. He had almost forgotten how much Sherlock got off on this. "Oh, John," he sighed. "That is a gorgeous sight, indeed." The slap came again, and John wriggled. The sting befell him again, and again, and his cock was throbbing so hard he didn't think he could stand it.

"Oh, please," John said. "Please, Sherlock, master, please have me."

Sherlock whipped him again-hard. John was reduced to whimpering. "Oh, don't cry, pet," he said coolly. "Shh, that's it. Good boy. You need this. Don't you?"

"Yes, I do, master, yes."

Sherlock actually moaned in time with John as he hit him again. The resounding smacking sound combined with John's flinch just undid his defenses, and he couldn't help it. He really moaned. He was aching with the urge to hurt John, to hurt him the way he loved being hurt, to make him feel good via the pain he craved. He wanted to prove to John that he was still the Sherlock he'd known-that he never wanted to leave him. That he was still his master. The next whip came harder. Oh, John's buttocks were growing a gorgeous pink color, now. His sweet pet was bucking wildly. He'd never seen anything so beautiful. The crop came down again, Sherlock throwing all his strength behind it.

John screamed. He didn't just cry out a little, moan, squeal-he really screamed. "Please, Sherlock!" he shouted. It sounded like a pleading sob. "Please just take me. I need you."

"Not yet," Sherlock said coldly, but his voice felt strained. His mind felt fuzzy. He was so eager to fuck him, but no... he wanted to torture his darling pet a little longer, to show him just how much he loved him, really. At the next slap, he yanked the leash, forcing John's head back and choking him slightly with the collar. That seemed to do it.

"Please," he cried, his voice so high pitched and desperate that he barely sounded like himself anymore. "I will come, I really will, please, Sherlock, my master, please."

That was the sort of begging Sherlock longed for. "Where do you keep it?" he growled into John's ear. He didn't need to specify. John understood.

"Side table," he breathed, trembling. Sherlock fetched the lubricant swiftly, and returned, ready to use his pet for his needs, to fuck him to the very edge of sanity.

Sherlock prepared the way with the stuff, and drove two of his abnormally long fingers into his lover. John squealed for a moment, then let out a sigh as Sherlock sheathed the whole length of those fingers in him. Sherlock tightened his hold on the leash that held John. The bound man's back was arched. Sherlock imagined it was uncomfortable, but that thought made him even harder. He moaned as he slid his fingers out and then back in roughly, fucking him with his hand, enjoying the feel of John tightening around his knuckles in pleasure. He fucked him slowly this way, and then suddenly fast, holding him steady with his grip on the leash as he did this. John sputtered and moaned in a raspy voice racked with ecstasy, and then his orgasm hit him. Sherlock could feel John's release through the shudder around his fingers, which he buried inside the man as he came, stroking deliberately to enhance his lover's pleasure. John cried his name out, and that did it for Sherlock.

He let his fingers slip out (which they did with much ease), undid his trousers, aimed, and plunged his cock into John's body. The good doctor writhed. He was ready, and eager, and he bucked furiously against the ropes that bound him. Sherlock's thrusts were steady at first, but he knew he couldn't keep that up for long, not when he ached for release this badly. "Oh, pet," he moaned, pulling almost all the way out and then shoving himself back in, as deeply as possible. "Oh, my goodness, John, my sweet pet. I've missed you."

It was not long before the motion of his hips became erratic. He fucked him hard, and deep, and roughly. He knew his friend would burn later, and that made him grin cruelly. He knew John loved it when he could feel it the next day, a lovely reminder of the good pounding he took. He loved to be fucked, and Sherlock loved to oblige.

John was forced to his blissful peak three more times before he could come again, and Sherlock felt those dry orgasms shake around his cock like a gorgeous earth quake. He growled, pleased with himself, every time he felt another one overtake his darling pet. It was after this second ejaculation that Sherlock started to spank the already very pink arse wrapped around him. John cried out with every slap. The pain was incredible. His buttocks grew excruciatingly red, and just looking at it drove Sherlock out of his mind. He was making inhuman grunting sounds at this point, like a beast in heat as he shagged his pet senseless.

When he came at last, it seemed to go on for ages. The orgasm tore through his body like something unnatural, like a warm light dancing through every limb. During this pleasure, John shuddered to yet a third orgasm, and they came together. Sherlock's violent pleasure entreated him to pull the leash as hard as possible, so John remained silent and breathless while Sherlock grunted in his ear. When he finished, finally, Sherlock let go, and John gasped for air wildly. He was shivering.

Sherlock retreated, and kissed each of John's buttocks gently before untying him. He unhooked the leash from the collar's loop and tossed it aside in a hurry. When John turned round, Sherlock lifted the man into his arms in the tightest and most desperate hug he could ever remember being part of. "I love you," he said quietly, his voice unwavering. "I really, really love you, John."

John's tears came fast, and Sherlock tensed, though he was not surprised by the reaction. He wasn't really even sure when he had made the conscious decision to finally say those words to him. John had said it before, but all Sherlock had ever mustered was "I know." Their three years of separation, as well as the sight of John with his revolver at his throat, had really pushed Sherlock over the edge. He had always loved John, but it never felt necessary to say. Now, though, it felt right. John had to know. What if something happened to the good doctor, and his beloved pet died without ever hearing it from his own lips? What sort of horrific agony must he have put John through, being under the impression that Sherlock was dead all this time and thinking he had never said it-thinking Sherlock might not have loved him. That terrible thought was too much for Sherlock. It needed saying now. "I love you."

He stroked John's hair as the shorter man sobbed violently against his shoulder. "You were gone," he said. He was barely audible, as his voice was muffled in Sherlock's shirt. "You... were gone, and I thought that you... I thought you'd never..."

"Shh," the detective cooed. "It's okay now. I'm alive, and I do love you."

They stayed like this for a very long time, simply kneeling on the floor at the foot of the bed, wrapped in each other's arms. It was beautiful.

The minutes passed, and Sherlock's hold on John never faltered. "You are... really still mine, aren't you?" he asked, breaking the silence at last.

John pulled out of the hug, and gave Sherlock a look that actually pained him. It was one of shock, disgust, horror, and deep offense. "Of course, damn it! Why do you think I've been wearing this all this time?" He took Sherlock's hand in his own, and brought it up to meet the soft leather of his collar. "I never took it off. Not once in three goddamn years. I wore it like a brand, hoping everyone would see, hoping that no one else would ever want me because I would always belong to you. I cried after you for a long time. Sometimes I still cry! Half of the time, I wanted to die without you." John gulped. "I... I talked to you. I left you flowers at your grave. I left you notes sometimes, too."

"I know." Sherlock's eyes shifted. "I read all of them."

John began to cry again, though much more quietly. Through his noiseless sobs, he spoke, and deep feeling was etched into every syllable. "I... love you... Sherlock. I have always been... and will always be... completely yours. You will... always... be my master, and my friend, and I... I will follow you anywhere."

The kiss Sherlock planted on him was deep and intense. His long white fingers held John's head still while his mouth made love to John's soft, moist lips. At some point, he brought John's luscious lower lip into his own mouth, nibbling it a little so his friend moaned. Their tongues loved one another, caressing and tasting. As they kissed, John placed a delicate hand on Sherlock's chest. Sherlock knew that he was feeling how alive he really was.

When he at last needed air, Sherlock broke the kiss. John's mouth was gorgeously plump from the passion of the kiss. He couldn't stop staring at it as he spoke. "John," he said, in his lowest and most intensely concentrated voice. "I will never leave you again. Ever."

John sighed, smiling. Ah, that mouth, Sherlock mused. He could watch the way it moved for an eternity. "I miss Baker Street," John breathed.

"It is ready for us," Sherlock said quickly. "Come away with me. Come back to 221b with me and let us have adventures until our deaths. Let us live the life we did before and never stop, and let us do it all together. Forever."

"Mrs. Hudson!" John said suddenly. "You'll need to tell her you're alive."

"I'm sure she'll take that well," Sherlock said with a great indifferent sniff-but John could tell that he felt regret at having hurt poor Mrs. Hudson, sweet Mrs. Hudson, who had always been there for them.

"What about Mycroft?"

"I'm afraid he found me out a long time ago. It was the notes." John looked taken aback, but Sherlock continued. "He spied on my grave. Well, I suppose the proper term is visited-he visited my grave in the dead of night, and I was there. I was enjoying your messages and imagining you were there with me. He saw me. It was quite a confrontation. He has been texting me horrible things since that night, about how terrible you've been and such."

"Hang on... how has he known I've been terrible?"

Sherlock raised his eyebrows. "How do you think?" John shrugged it off, supposing the worst. "John," he said, and his voice had suddenly grown surprisingly quiet and gentle. "I... I never wanted to hurt anyone. I had to leave, though. I had to be dead. Moriarty's men had to think I was, or else..." He grabbed hold of the collar round John's neck, and the doctor gasped. The feel of the tug sent an immediate pulse to John's groin. "You would have been killed. Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade, too, but you..." He tightened his grip on the leather. "I couldn't stand to lose you. Ever." His gaze dropped, and what little color was in his face drained from it. "When I saw you tonight with your handgun, the fear struck me so tight in my chest it was painful." He suddenly glared, and his demeanor became icy. "Never, ever threaten to take yourself out of this world again, John. I would never forgive you."

John sighed. "Well, now you know what that feels like, a little. But for three years I suffered thinking you'd actually done it. That you were really dead, had really killed yourself."

"I know." Sherlock swallowed, looking pained. He clung to John even tighter. "I'm so sorry. I can't imagine you will ever forgive me."

"Perhaps not," John said, cocking his head. "But tonight was a good start." He smiled, and the corners of Sherlock's mouth twitched. "I love you, Sherlock. We're together again. For now, I'm just gonna try and be happy. I'll wait for the rage to hit me later. Right now, I'm just glad you're back."

They embraced, hearts beating heavily beside one another, and for a moment it really felt like not even skin separated them. To both men, it felt like they had become one. Then Sherlock spoke.

"John?"

"Yes, Sherlock?"

The tall man fingered the collar around his lover's neck. "Thank you for keeping your promise, John."

"Always, Sherlock."

"I love you, John."

"And I, you, Sherlock.

"Forever? Please."

The deepest affection for Sherlock struck John like a chill. He was touched by how pleading his ordinarily stony detective sounded now. He smiled into the fabric of Sherlock's shirt, and breathed in the scent of him. With that, he surrendered himself totally with a word: "Forever."