Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock. This particular iteration belongs to the Beeb, Moffat, and Gatiss. Over-all it belongs to the public Domain, and ACD's head.
Author's Note: Wrote this at 4am this morning while attempting to write something for a different fandom. Purely self-indulgent Reunion!fic.
THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR SERIES 2 OF SHERLOCK SO BE WARNED.
It's much harder than he expected, though to be honest he never really factored something like this into his 'things I'll have to learn to live with' list. He's a soldier, after all; what good is a soldier without a battlefield?
John is no good at civilian life, but he pretends for the friends Sherlock left to him. God knows they're all full of grief, and guilt, and a hundred other emotions that John himself knows too intimately. It's like a bullet to the shoulder, an ending and a beginning all at once; a trembling hand, and a psychosomatic limp that he just can't shake. This hurts a little worse, centered deep in his chest, and he wonders if it's possible to have a psychosomatic heart condition; he doesn't know why it's so painful.
Sentiment, and all that.
I need you to do something for me.
His life is disrupted, the debris left after the storm has passed, and John finds himself fiercely wishing for the thunder, and lightening; the unstoppable force of disaster on the left side of a hurricane. Except it wasn't so unstoppable, after all, was it, and John doesn't know what to do, now. Everything is in shambles, scattered; he's overwhelmed, and in shock, and he doesn't like this calm feeling that threatens to swallow him.
The air smells heavy, promising an end to it, and this is John's only hope, traitorous feeling though that may be. His heart refuses to let go of the brilliance, and Sherlock never lied to him except for when he did; John remembers well the sight of him falling like the tears they've both cried. There were lies, and truths, and once John got over the shock enough to listen he couldn't stop the hysterical laughter in front of the bathroom mirror, the way he stared at the skull on the mantle for hours, so full of something he still can't name with no idea what to do with it.
"You're an utter bastard," he says aloud, stands in the middle of the flat, and still doesn't know what to do with any of it. If you live through something that changes you, that alters your life so much, how do you go on without that piece of you that's missing?
John doesn't, because he can't, but also because he doesn't want to.
You aren't going to like it, and you shall likely think it hypocritical and unfair of me to ask, but I need you to live.
Sherlock never cared if he was asking for impossible things. Then again, there is little that John wouldn't do for him.
He starts going to work again, dealing with the common cold, and flu, and small children with broken bones because they think they're invincible. It's all so normal; John doesn't quite hate it because he's a doctor, too, but it's been a long time since he's been this bored.
It still takes weeks before he answers the phone when Lestrade rings, and even then the conversations are terse at best. It wasn't all the Detective Inspector's fault, and John doesn't really blame him, but there's anger aplenty to go around, and he's far from rational. He refuses to speak to Mycroft at all, though the man is clearly still keeping tabs on him, and the rent at Baker Street is never in need of paying, no matter how many times John tries.
"Not to worry, dear," Mrs. Hudson tells him, smiling too kindly, and John wants to tell her that he isn't that fragile; that he won't break.
It's a lie of course, or maybe partly one. He's already broken, but the pieces will find their way back to each other eventually, or someone will come home, and put them together again. He doesn't bother to argue; it never does any good with the landlady, and the money would only end up back in his bank account anyway.
"Right, yes. Okay, Mrs. Hudson," he gives in with a sigh, and she fusses over him, ushering him inside to feed him tea, and biscuits until he can escape back upstairs.
He thought of leaving, briefly, right after it happened. He wasn't sure he could stand the loneliness of the flat, the memories of Sherlock that haunt the place, but the idea of leaving seemed worse, somehow. He doesn't want to lose whatever pieces of his life he has left, and sometimes at night in that place between awake, and asleep, John swears he can hear the teasing strains of violin music on the edge of the air.
He's probably going mad, waiting on a ghost simply because he fancies there was a message in the lies Sherlock told him from the rooftop. It's not the worst way to go, and he's never had to work at believing in that ridiculous madman. Surely it's better than drowning in grief, trying to claw his way out, and back into the light.
John's no therapist, and he hasn't been to see his own in months. Not since 'say all the things you didn't get to' because he couldn't, and he won't; not until Sherlock is home safe where John can force him to eat, and sleep, and remember that caring isn't always a disadvantage.
sThere are many things/s
sI am sorr-/s
I only hope you can forgive me for this, knowing that I did only what I had to in order to keep you safe. Surely you know now that there is nothing I would not do for you.
If there is one thing John could ask for, one single wish to be granted by some cosmic power, he would only ask for one thing.
He has only asked for one thing, standing in front of a black headstone, with a cracked voice, and tears already leaking from his eyes.
He didn't ask it of God, or the Universe, or any sort of higher power. He begged it quietly, painfully, and he wouldn't take it back if he could because it was honest.
"One more miracle, Sherlock," he says again, to himself this time as he stands at the window of the flat, staring down at London. "Just one more miracle, for me; just for me." He smiles this time, and it hurts, but not in a bad way because he knows, one hundred percent, that his best friend is still out there, burning down the underworld.
He probably shouldn't be comforted by that, by knowing that Sherlock is killing people, and putting himself in danger, and all sorts of other unpleasant things. John has never professed to be normal, though; he giggles at crime scenes, and chases Sherlock Holmes through the dark London streets just for the Hell of it, and he doesn't regret a minute of it, ever. He wants it back, wants his life back; he wants to prove to the world once, and for all that Sherlock's bright brilliance could never be faked.
John wants a lot of things.
I want to come home.
The limp is back, of course, the phantom pains in his leg almost debilitating some mornings when he first wakes up, and realizes it's another day of being lonely in a crowd. He doesn't go back to the cane, refuses to use it as a crutch again because the ability to go without it was a gift freely given to him, and he isn't willing to throw away the things that Sherlock did for him. Instead, he limps through life, and ignores the stares after the whispers inevitably die off; the press always find something newer, more shiny, to play with and ruin once their old toys are dead. John isn't interesting anymore, save for the odd tabloid reporter with a headline speculating on a relationship he's long since stopped denying.
What business of it is anyone's? John's mad enough to love a madman, and he's grown tired of pretending to himself with a string of girlfriends he can barely remember enough of to tell apart.
"I think," he tells Lestrade one night, their first pub night since they started talking again, and they haven't really been talking at all. "I think I love him," he says, half-laughing into his beer. It comes out a little bitter, because it's taken him this long to realize it, but Sherlock's not here, and John can't tell him. He has to tell someone; it isn't something he can keep inside, and he doesn't want to, besides.
Lestrade just snorts, doesn't call John out on the present tense because he never calls John out on anything. He takes a sip of beer, and rolls his eyes. "I think you an him were the only ones who didn't know that, John," he answers casually, like it's no big deal because apparently the whole Yard already knows.
"Only we could be in a relationship without realizing it," John agrees, though whether Sherlock knew is anyone's guess. He probably did, the git; it seems like something he would do, falling for John, and dragging him along for the ride. He almost laughs aloud at that thought, borderline hysterical because if it's to be believed then Sherlock did fall for John.
It's too bad he didn't drag him along for that ride; he would have gone willingly. It's times like this he wishes Moriarty were alive so he could be the one to put that bullet in his brain. That probably isn't something he should say to Lestrade, though, and the rest of the night is spent on small talk that has nothing to do with Sherlock, or suicidal falls, or John's apparent madness.
He knows they think he should be more…Something. Sad, maybe, or mad with grief. He can't tell them what he knows, what he believes in the core of himself because they'll never know Sherlock the way John does, and they don't believe. He contents himself with living through this, through the days when he absolutely does not want to get up, and face the gaping Sherlock-shaped space in his life; he lives through the times when he's convinced he's lost all claim to sanity, and loses grip on the fragile hope that flickers, unprotected, inside of his heart.
He lives through it all, and he absolutely doesn't look back, only forward because the view is so much more promising than the bleakness behind.
Do you forgive me?
His mobile beeps in the middle of his shift, just as he's checking the tonsils of a seven year old girl, and proclaiming them swollen. It's her third outbreak in two months, and it might be time to take them out, and he doesn't bother with his phone for the time it takes to prescribe the right medication, and let her mother know that they should look into the option once she's better.
She's been a good patient, and John doesn't hesitate to slip her a lollipop from the container on the way out, matching her smile with a conspiratorial wink while her mother pretends not to see it. Once they're gone he pulls out the mobile, and checks his messages. His hands don't start shaking until he sees the familiar unknown number, the same one he's been getting texts from sporadically for three years now, and he swallows hard before he scrolls down to read the newest message.
"John? John, are you-" Sarah's voice barely penetrates the static in his head, and he can feel himself shaking all over, knows he's probably gone pale given how concerned she sounds.
"Christ," he mutters, staring down at his name in text, a simple question that could mean anything, but John knows. "I have to," he starts, looking up finally, and she's hovering nearer, worry written in the lines of her face, but he barely registers it. "I have to go," he finishes vaguely, already heading for the door limp-free because he knows, and he has to get home, and oh bloody fuck, is this really happening?
He doesn't stop to hear her asking if he's alright, or whatever else she says because he can't; he physically can't, and he's trying to breathe while half-running down the sidewalk. It's a mess, he's a mess, and he nearly drops his phone when he fumbles it as he's trying to reply.
Stay there. Just. Stay right there.
It's the first time he's ever replied, but he doesn't sign it because he doesn't have to, just wants to get home before Sherlock changes his mind, and leaves, or disappears, or ends up really dead. It's been nearly three years since the rooftop, the lies, and the tears; John has no idea what he's going to do when he walks in that door, but that isn't going to stop him from doing it.
Leaping head first into the unknown is what he does.
His hand doesn't shake, and his leg is perfectly fine, and he takes a deep breath as he pushes the door to the flat open, barely remembers climbing the seventeen steps, and he can't help the wild fear that he's not going to find a single thing but empty space, and the ghosts that have been haunting him all along.
There's a long moment where he just stands in the doorway, trying to breathe, and closes his eyes so he doesn't have to see the emptiness.
The mobile beeps again. He nearly drops it, manages to get it open to read
Got your breath back?
In here, John.
"You insufferable-" he can't finish the words, cuts them off with semi-hysterical laughter as he pushes his way into the sitting room, and stops dead. "Oh God," he whimpers, staring at the figure standing in front of the window. There's the coat, and the scarf, and the bloody upturned collar, but Sherlock is thinner beneath it all; he looks haggard, and worn, but his eyes are clear when they meet John's.
"Not quite," Sherlock murmurs, and his voice is hoarse from something; disuse, or maybe all that dreaded sentiment. "You never answered my question," he adds, every line of him tense, and straining like he wants to reach out to John, but doesn't dare.
Like there's even a chance that John would ever do anything but forgive him.
He huffs, takes a few steps closer, and tries to get a hold on the reaction inside of him. It's like stepping into the range of an electrical storm, like finding his orbit again, twin stars whose paths were never supposed to diverge. Or maybe Sherlock's the sun, and that's why John's world has been so dark of late. He doesn't say a word, at first, just swallows hard, and reaches out before he can talk himself out of it.
Maybe once he would have punched Sherlock in the face for the lies, for making him watch, but he's had a long time to think about things, about why's, and how's, and all the reasons involved. Or maybe he just doesn't care anymore; John has no interest in looking back.
"You're an utter, complete bastard," he finally manages after a long minute of resting his hand over Sherlock's heart, wants to close his eyes to focus on the feel of it beating beneath his palm, but doesn't dare because he doesn't want to miss a thing.
"John-" Sherlock starts, shutting up the moment John holds up a hand, and looks up at him. They're so close, now, barely any space between them at all, and Sherlock's hand has somehow managed to sneak it's way over to John's wrist, wrapping around it with his fingers resting on the pulse point. He's never forgotten that he wasn't the only one suffering; there's three years' worth of text messages to prove it.
"You're an idiot," he tells Sherlock, lets himself be tugged in, and wraps his arms around his too-thin friend. If they cling just a little too tight, neither of them mention it. The hug lasts far longer than it probably should, but John doesn't want to let go, and Sherlock isn't showing any signs of wanting to release John anytime soon, and hell, he can't believe this is actually happening. "You're an idiot, and I love you, and if you ever do this again without me I'll kill you myself," he mumbles into Sherlock's shoulder, doesn't even know if the man can actually understand him, but he probably can if the sharp intake of breath is any indication at all.
John is a mess, and there's probably a breakdown somewhere in his near future, but he knows what he said, and he means it, and he has somehow gotten a second chance; people don't get second chances, and he damn sure isn't going to waste his by not saying the things he should have been saying all along, and surely Sherlock already knew?
He has no idea what to expect from Sherlock, isn't really expecting anything at all, and he's surprised when his flat mat pulls back far enough to look at him, to study his face, and John has no doubt that he's reading everything there. He doesn't try to hide it, wouldn't want to even if he could, and Sherlock makes a desperate sort of noise, and wraps himself back around John like he doesn't plan to let go, ever.
"I missed you," he confesses, like it's torn from him, and he hides his face in John's neck because God forbid Sherlock Holmes ever admit to having some kind of sentiment. John though, knows the secret the rest of the world doesn't: Sherlock has a heart; he's more human than anyone knows, and he cares more than he'll ever admit. John just holds on tight, breathes through the wave of too many emotions to even try to untangle, and slips a hand into Sherlock's hair to run his fingers through it.
"I mean it, you know," he tells him quietly. "All of it, and God, Sherlock, there were times I thought I was going mad, believing you were still alive, and you sent that bloody text telling me to live, and I had no idea how to do that without you." John doesn't really mean to say all of that, can't seem to get his brain-to-mouth filter working properly, but he doesn't care because Sherlock is here, and alive, and John's.
They lived through it.
Now, he smiles as Sherlock rests his forehead against John's, and they're breathing the same air, so close, and not letting go.
Now they can live.