A/N

I really needed to write something with a heartwarming ending after "Helpless" and my darker Doctor Horrible stuff. Plus, I hadn't really explored the relationship between Sherlock and John. I've been wanting to do a really good dialogue study for ages, and I'm quite happy with the way this turned out (for now, at least...I'll probably come back tomorrow and go 'what was I thinking?'). Anywho, hopefully you can hear Martin & Benedict's saying all the lines in your head!

This is my version of the Big Moment in The Empty House (which I haven't actually read. So don't expect very much ACD canon...)

The simple idea that prompted it was that when BBC Sherlock does this scene, I want two things to happen:

1) John faints, and

2) John socks Sherlock right in the kisser.

Warning for a bit of drinking, and two (er, maybe three) cuss words, but they're quite justified (I feel), and all have been used in the show, so I Regret Nothing! :D

Not my characters! Enjoy!

/

"Oh God. Oh, G- Holy Mother of Jesus...no...n- you can't -"

John's face was white as a sheet - he looked as though...well, as though he was seeing the ghost of his best friend. Which sort of happened to be the case.

Sherlock knew he ought to have expected such a reaction, but it still made him feel slightly ill as he watched John pass a hand over his eyes, trying to ward off the tormenting hallucination.

"John..." he said. John winced at the sound of his name being spoken aloud by the still all-too-familiar specter.

"...I'm back."

John's hands were shaking, and when he spoke, so was his voice.

"No, you're not." he said, breathing raggedly. "You're not. You fell. You're dead!" he spat. He shook is head, trying to clear it. "He's dead..."

Sherlock looked on in horror as his friend covered his face with his hands, rocking back and forth and muttering to himself.

"He's not real...'s not real...not real...not real..."

He glanced back up to check with bloodshot eyes, and made a sound halfway between a weak laugh and a frantic sob when the vision still didn't disappear.

"John, listen..." Sherlock said steadily. He had to get through.

"I staged the fall. It was a trick," he said. "I had to - I did it to protect you. I'll explain everything, just -"

"Stop it!" John snapped wildly, grinding his teeth in distress. "Shut up - just stop. You're dead." His voice cracked as he tried to convince himself.

"Leave me alone."

A flicker of pain flashed over Sherlock's face, but he regained his composure quickly.

"John -"

"No." John squeezed his eyes shut.

"John, please -"

"No...no, no, no..." The word was a pained moan.

"John, listen to me -"

"NO."

"JOHN!" Finally his patience snapped. John shut his mouth and opened his eyes. Sherlock took a calming breath.

"I'll prove it to you," he said with as much conviction as he could muster. He took a step forward, intending to pace right across the room and verify his existence through physical contact. It was the most obvious solution...Truthfully, though, he had no idea whether he ought to hug John or give him a good shake. Sherlock rather thought he deserved both.

"No- DON'T!"

John's panicked shout halted him in his tracks.

"Don't you dare. You stay away from me." His voice was deadly, but his body was quivering with barely suppressed rage, or terror.

He looked half mad. A deer in the headlights. He wanted to bolt but he couldn't move.

"All right," said Sherlock quietly, putting his hands up in a conciliatory gesture. He racked his brain for another option.

"How's this?..."

Moving carefully, he reached into his coat pocket and procured his mobile phone. John just stared at him, hopelessly paralyzed. The conflicting desires etched into his face looked painful.

Sherlock held the phone up so John could see it clearly.

"I'm going to call you. Right now. I want you to answer it."

John opened his mouth dumbly, a sudden glimmer of doubt in his eyes. He watched with bated breath as Sherlock typed in a speed-dial number and hit the call button.

For a second, there was an unbearably tense silence. Then, they both heard the muffled buzzing noise of John's mobile, coming from the side of his jacket, and John started in shock. His hands shook violently as he fished the ringing phone out of his pocket. He stared at the screen for a long moment, stricken.

Caller Unknown

Then he pressed a button to answer, and, keeping his gaze fixed on Sherlock the whole time, raised the phone slowly to his ear.

"H..." He had to swallow and try again to get the word out.

"...hello?"

"John, " said the Sherlock standing on the other side of the room, and after a momentary delay John heard the same voice - slightly tinnier, but unmistakable - come through the speaker.

"I'm here."

"Sherlock," John breathed. His eyes widened as he slowly let everything sink in. After so many months spent trying to convince himself otherwise, he could now hardly dare to let himself believe it.

"...You..." He gulped. "You're...Oh, Christ -"

Suddenly his right knee buckled. And then - for what was to be both the first and last time in his life - John Watson fell to the floor in a dead faint.

Sherlock started in surprise. He took an uncertain step forward.

"John?"

No dice. His best friend was out cold.

"...Shit."

/

When John came to, he found himself propped up against the side of the couch. His eyes flickered open groggily.

A familiar face swam into view. The realization came flooding back to him, and he gave a startled yelp.

"Jesus! Sherlock - you're alive!"

Sherlock looked at him dryly.

"Quite."

"How...how did...? Auugghh..." The adrenaline shock wore off quickly, and John suddenly realized that the whole left side of his face was throbbing. His head started to ache as though it had recently been smashed and reassembled. He gasped in pain, raised a hand gingerly to his forehead, and winced as he felt congealing blood.

"Ah - right. You hit your head. When you, er..."

"Yeah, thanks, no shit." John let out a short chuckle that sounded somewhat hysterical, and then it quickly dissolved into a grimace.

"Here."

John felt something cold being pressed to the side of his face. He sucked in a sudden breath through his teeth, but then the pain began to numb, and he relaxed a bit.

"Hold this there," Sherlock instructed him. He took his hand and placed it against the cold compress.

"Thanks..." John muttered, closing his eyes. He felt suddenly drained.

They both stayed there for a minute, John leaning against the couch and Sherlock kneeling next to him. John's thoughts were racing as he attempted to wrap his mind around the enormity of this sudden shift in reality. How was it possible? What would it mean? It was almost too much to handle. He felt like he might pass out again.

After a while, he'd gathered himself enough to meet his friend's gaze. He was still breathing rather heavily. His eyes fought to stay focused on Sherlock's face, which was frowning in mild concern.

"Explain..." John demanded. The word came out slightly slurred.

"Perhaps you should be checked for a concussion..."

"Youu...you jumped...off a sodding building..."

"Yes, and I landed in a strategically-parked recycling truck,"

"But..."

"Your view was partially obstructed by a low brick garage in the Bart's car park. I told you to stand behind it and to stay where you were. Do you remember?"

John stared at him.

"I...checked your pulse..."

Sherlock smiled wryly.

"It's a little-known but well-documented fact that, by holding a rubber ball under the arm, one can cut off circulation in the brachial artery to such an extent that no pulse will be detected."

John's head was reeling.

"So...you cut off your circulation...by putting a rubber ball under your armpit?"

"Correct."

"But...but then..." John's tone was still incredulous; his mind was working furiously to find a hole in the logic. Then he winced again as the side of his face throbbed painfully. It was definitely starting to bruise.

"It's quite lucky you didn't break your nose, or bite through your tongue," Sherlock observed.

"Yeah, I feel so much better..." John quipped cynically.

"I see your sense of humor is still intact."

"Well, thank God for that..."

He took a deep breath.

"I definitely I need a drink." He made to get up -

"Woah -" and immediately had to sit back when his head began to spin again. He looked sideways at Sherlock, who was eying him warily.

"Um...bit of help, here?"

Sherlock stood and proffered a hand. John pushed himself halfway up using the sofa for leverage, then he grasped Sherlock's wrist and together they pulled him upright.

He swayed a little on the spot, then found his balance.

"Thanks," he said again.

"Don't mention it."

/

Two shots of whiskey later, John felt a lot saner. His head also hurt less, which was a relief.

Sherlock had noted that the amount of alcohol being kept in the fridge was troublingly excessive, but he wisely chose to file that fact away for later.

John paced back and forth across the kitchen floor, glancing at Sherlock every once in a while, evidently to make sure that he hadn't dissolved into thin air.

Sherlock watched him without saying much. For once, he seemed slightly unsure of what to expect. He decided that the best course of action would be to wait it out, and to try his best not to confuse the poor man any more than necessary.

Eventually, John stopped walking. He bowed his head in his hands, and his shoulders started to shake. Sherlock couldn't tell if he was laughing or crying. It may well have been both.

"John?..."

John pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.

"My God, Sherlock..."

Then, without warning, he whipped around and punched the detective in the face.

"Uouff!"

Sherlock winced and rubbed his jaw. His lip was bleeding.

"Your aim has improved..."

"You...You complete arse! You let me think you were dead! I went back to therapy for you!"

"I have confidence that you'll recover."

"That I'll -...Sherlock, it's been eight months! Why couldn't I have known sooner?"

"I had to take precautions! I had to make sure Moriarty's remaining followers wouldn't come after you."

"Precautions?" John clenched his jaw angrily, but didn't argue. It was a testament to their friendship that he didn't protest the point any further.

Instead, he asked, "Who else knew?"

Sherlock spoke carefully. "Several of my homeless network were...recruited," he said, "to make sure the plan went off without a hitch."

"Okay. Fine." John supposed he ought to have guessed that much.

"Anyone else?"

"Mycroft."

Sherlock saw John's eyes flash.

"Mycroft?" he demanded. "You told Mycroft before me?" His tone was full of disbelieving fury.

"You hate him!" he spat viciously. (That wasn't quite fair, but he couldn't bring himself to give a damn at the moment.)

"He'd have found out on his own. It was a necessary -"

"Richard Brook was his fault! Did he tell you that?"

Sherlock set his mouth in a stern line.

"John, it wasn't all that difficult for me to deduce the informant," he said tersely. "And as a matter of fact, he had the decency to apologize."

"Right," John said shortly. He was glaring to the side, stubbornly avoiding Sherlock's gaze. A small act of defiance.

Then he blinked. A thought was suddenly nagging at him.

"So...what did happen to Moriarty, then?" he asked, a bit grudgingly, his curiosity winning out.

Sherlock relaxed slightly, relieved that John had decided to quit shouting at him.

"Dead, so far as I can tell," he told him. "The man put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. If he can figure a way out of that, then I've once again woefully underestimated him."

John looked up, in spite of himself.

"So, you didn't-?"

"No."

John hesitated, shifting his feet uncomfortably. He felt a bit childish asking a question he knew the answer to.

"Then...you're really not...you never...?"

"I never paid an actor named Richard Brook to commit crimes so that I could prove how clever I was by solving them, no."

"Right..." John said again. He exhaled softly. For some reason, he'd needed to hear it.

"Right. Is that it, then?"

"No," Sherlock said. "Molly Hooper."

"What?" That one caught him off guard. John had only seen Molly a few times since the Reichenbach incident. It had seemed like she was avoiding him, and now he realized that she must have felt guilty.

"She helped me pull it off," Sherlock explained. "She forged the autopsy report, and took a blood sample beforehand to use at the scene."

God, the blood...

John fought a momentary wave of nausea as the unwelcome memory rushed back to him. It was still crystal clear in his mind's eye: all that red, pooled on the pavement...streaked across Sherlock's staring face...soaked in his hair...He jerked his head slightly, trying to clear the image. Suddenly another memory clicked into place.

"Hang on - a sample...wasn't that the trick from the Janus Cars scam? Ian Monkford?"

"Yes, precisely. You have a vivid recollection."

John's eyes darkened. "Too vivid, at times..." he muttered, half to himself.

Sherlock didn't know what to say. He could only watch as his friend's eyes glazed over, haunted by memories of blood and numb horror.

John took a deep breath through his nose - in, out - and clenched both his hands into fists, digging his nails into his palms. It helped him snap back into focus. The memory mercifully began to recede. Nevertheless, a painful feeling kept tugging at him. He realized...he was jealous. Jealous of Mycroft and Molly Hooper; that they had apparently been deemed trustworthy confidants for Sherlock's grand scheme, while he was made to suffer in the dark.

Why?

"Why what?"

John looked up in surprise, realizing he must have spoken out loud.

"Why...didn't you tell me?" he asked. "I could have helped!" He wasn't sure whether that was true, but it seemed unjust that he hadn't even been given a chance.

"You should have trusted me."

"John...It was never a matter of trust."

"Then what, Sherlock? What was it, exactly?"

Sherlock took a breath and then, to his own surprise as much as John's, he hesitated. His eyebrows furrowed in what seemed to be puzzled confusion as he struggled to come up with a response.

When he finally did speak, his voice was unusually measured. Almost tentative, in fact.

"I suppose...I didn't want you to get hurt."

His lip twitched, just for a moment.

"I - cared too much."

John stared at him. He opened his mouth but Sherlock cut him off curtly.

"Don't ask me to repeat myself. You heard me perfectly well."

In the tense silence that followed, John tried and failed to think of an adequate refutation, and Sherlock felt both chagrined and strangely satisfied. Then, gradually, the moment passed; the atmosphere in the room became oddly resigned, but not in a way that felt unpleasant.

Something had fallen back into place. They were on the same side again. A team. Just as ever. It went unspoken, but they both felt it equally.

Just as ever.

"The world still thinks you're a fraud," John said eventually.

"It would seem that way, yes."

"But...you've really decided to come back? For good?"

"Again, that would appear to be the case."

"What are you going to do now?"

"...I don't know."

The statement lay heavily in the air for a long moment. Finally John spoke up again.

"I never gave up on you, you know," he said, staring determinedly at the counter-top. "I kept believing. Even after everything..." His voice was very quiet, but the words rang clearly in the stillness.

"...I had to."

Sherlock didn't say anything. But somehow, he understood. He truly did.

/

A/N

D'aaawwwwww... *hugs them both*

R&R, as ever!

The cell phone bit was totally mine! I'm quite proud of it. (And so was the blood sample - no one's used that yet, that I know of.)

I couldn't resist throwing in a sneaky little "No Shit, Sherlock" joke. :)

Also, can someone tell me if the "Watson fainted for the first and last time in his life" thing is canon? I sort of thought it was, but I may just be imagining things.
EDIT: Apparently, it's totally canon! Cool. :)
EDIT II: Fixed a few British-isms. Thanks for the reminder! :)