Spoilers for The Reichenbach Fall
The Lonely Flat of 221B
Stairs were the biggest issue. And some of the higher curbs out on the street. They required just the right movement that always sent jolts of pain up John Watson's leg. Besides that, the discomfort usually remained at a lower level of aching, but John refused to go back to his reliance on the cane. He couldn't bring himself to take it back out of the closet he had stored it in a little over two years ago, at the time being overwhelmed with a feeling of relief that he no longer needed it.
It had been seven months since John had started to doubt that. Seven months since he had spoken with his best friend for the last time. Seven months since the fall of Sherlock Holmes.
The first month had been a blur of phone calls and random reporters trying to get an interview with the good friend of the famous detective turned fraud. All the days, faces, and questions ran together indiscernibly in John's mind. He couldn't recall specifics; if told he had punched a number of the enquirers, John wouldn't try to dispute the matter.
After awhile, the press quieted down and left John alone to do whatever it was he might do in his alone time. Which, it turned out, was not much of anything. When friends came by to see him, he wouldn't deny them or be impolite, but outside that, John's interaction with people was limited to Mrs. Hudson and when he went out for the occasional groceries. Then there was the weekly appointments he held with his psychiatrist, every Wednesday 4 to 5 P.M. And seven months later was a Wednesday.
John pushed open the glass door of his psychiatrist's office and walked out onto the bustling streets of London. He walked more stiffly now than with a limp, but he could manage. As he walked along, John went over in his head what he and his psychiatrist had just discussed. It was practically the same as always: the progress of his blog, what he got himself up to these days, and Sherlock. Always, Sherlock. Hardly an hour passed when John did not think about him. Though he had to admit, the pain was starting to ease a little. Never to say that John did not still miss his friend desperately, the weight of it was just getting a bit easier to bear.
John stepped up to the edge of the curb and raised an arm to hail a cab. One pulled up next to him and he opened the door.
"Doctor Watson." John turned around to find a young man dressed in a crisp black suit looking back at him. Anger started to burn dully in the pit of John's stomach. His hand gripped the cab door tightly.
"No." John shook his head. "No." He got in the cab and shut the door. The man in the suit ducked into the open passenger's side window.
"Mr. Mycroft Holmes would like to see you."
"Drive," John prompted the cab driver. He looked out the window, refusing to further acknowledge the suited man.
"I will give you five hundred pounds if you keep this cab exactly where it is." John looked over as the man handed the cab driver the promised amount. The cabbie took it, shrugging his shoulders at John in the rear view mirror.
"Sorry, mate. That's more I make in a week."
"For the love of-!" John threw open the door. "Fine. Christ." He got out of the cab, his leg protesting a little at the quick, jerky movement. The cab drove away and John advanced on the man.
"What does he want? What could he possibly have to say to me?" John's voice raised to a yell. The suited man's face remained impassive.
"There is a car waiting just-"
"No! No black car! No more taciturn employees! You-" John closed his mouth tightly around what he was about to say, instead simply turning and walking back to the curb to hail another cab.
"He'd like a word," called the man.
"Piss off. That's two. Be sure to relay the message, would you?" John turned away from the man and got into the cab that had pulled up, slamming the door behind him.
"Go. Go, go, please," he urged in a tight voice. His heart was racing, his chest tight with anger. John braced one arm against the back of the seat in front of him and ducked his head, puffing out deep, steady breaths.
He had not spoken to Mycroft since the night before Sherlock's death. It was because of Mycroft Holmes that Moriarty's scheme to bring down Sherlock had even been able to come to life. Mycroft had betrayed his own brother and perpetuated the suicide of his own best friend. And for that John would never forgive him.
He dropped his hand from the seat finally and leaned back, still trying to urge his emotions under control.
"What's your destination?" asked the cabbie after a moment.
"221B Baker Street," recited John. He hadn't yet worked up the nerve to look for a new flat. A single. Not again, not yet.
Tears sprang to John's eyes, the sudden wave of emotion betraying him.
"Christ," he whispered tightly, wiping hastily at his eyes. He brought his arm up to brace it against the angle of the window, rubbing his fingers harshly across his mouth.
The event had caught John completely off guard. While his sadness was becoming slightly less of a burden, John realized he still had a ways to go in overcoming his anger and resentment. Towards Mycroft and towards anyone who had read and believed what Richard Brook had to say about Sherlock. The best man John had ever known: framed. And there wasn't a single thing he could do or say to anyone that could prove the lie and reveal the evil brilliance of Jim Moriarty's plan. That was what continued to eat away at John.
He hugged his arm into himself and lifted his hand to his face, hiding behind it. John remained there for awhile, breathing, thinking, feeling more broken than he had in awhile. Finally he lifted his head, looking out the window onto the streets of London. Finding that he was in a completely different part, well away from the direction of Baker Street. Abandoned warehouses and buildings went by out the window, each one looking more forlorn than the previous.
"Excuse me." The cabbie didn't answer. "Excuse me, but where the hell are we going?" John elaborated loudly. Still the cabbie did not answer. John tried his door but found it locked, same on the passenger's side. The cabbie turned into a lot with a large, decrepit-looking factory on it. John stilled as the potential of the situation settled over him. He would have given anything for his hand gun.
The driver pulled the cab into an opened door of the factory and stopped the vehicle in the middle of the large, empty room. John sat perfectly still, suddenly calm as he looked at the cabbie in the rear view mirror, the sunglasses reflected there neither looking at or away from him.
"What do you want?" John asked evenly. The man in the front seat didn't move or say anything, then after a moment he reached up and took off his glasses. Clear, bright eyes now looked back at John, keen and piercing in their rare, striking shade of blue. John felt the muscles in his face relax, his jaw dropping a little and parting his lips. His mind went blank, now a vast, empty page with a single word written on it.
"Hello, John." Now undisguised, the voice was so familiar, deep and pleasant in its timbre. John's hands slowly reached up and clutched at the back of the seat, his eyes never leaving the ones looking back at him in the rear view mirror.
"Sh...Sherlock." John's voice was barely above a whisper. The driver put his arm across the back of the seat and turned. In that moment, John found himself looking into the face of Sherlock Holmes.
The dark curls of hair had been cut, shortened enough that they now lay flatter on Sherlock's head and his clothes were more casual than he had ever been seen in, but there was no doubt it was him. Sherlock. John's best friend, staring right at him with a slight but genuine smile curving up one side of his mouth. Alive.
The air in the cab was suddenly too close. John's rapidly beating heart finally got his attention, his breathing quickened and he just had to get out.
"Sher...I can'-" John fumbled for the door handle, finding it unlocked this time. He pushed the door open and stumbled out of the car, hearing the driver's door open behind him. John made it a few steps before bracing his arms against his knees and dropping his head forward. How had Sherlock pulled it off? He was brilliant, no question there, but not even brilliance could have saved him from falling four stories. Seven months. Seven months Sherlock had been alive. Seven months John had mourned him, thinking him to be dead. Without another thought, John turned to his friend, took a couple unsteady steps forward and punched him in the face.
The hit didn't have much power behind it, but nevertheless it stumbled Sherlock back a step and sent John into a further tailspin.
"You were dead!" John shouted. " I took your pulse, there was nothing! There was no-" John's voice trailed off to a breathless whisper and he once again found himself struggling to stay on his feet. He braced himself against his knees again.
"Oh god," he breathed out. His best friend, back from the dead, and the first thing John did was punch him.
"Sherlock," John started apologetically, straightening up. His knees immediately buckled, feeling like jelly. Hands caught him under his shoulders and he grabbed back at the outstretched arms. They moved with John as he sunk to the ground.
"Breathe slowly, John." John pulled in deep breaths, puffing them out of his mouth shakily. God he was real, he was there. John tightened his hold on Sherlock's upper arms, just above the elbows. He allowed himself a single sob before lifting his head up to look at his friend.
"I saw you, I saw you," John said, suddenly angry again. "You jum-...jesus, Sherlock."
John leaned forward and embraced his friend tightly, anger melting into relief. He felt Sherlock's arms gently, purposefully wrap around his shoulders.
"People will talk." John could feel the hum of Sherlock's deep voice and he smiled. He leaned back and looked at him for a few moments. John shook his head.
"What...?" he started, his mouth trying to form words, but he couldn't seem to pose a question sufficient enough to accommodate the amount of confusion he felt. Sherlock stood, looking so strange in his blue jeans, simple, white, v-necked shirt, and navy blue coat. Except the shoes. Those, John noticed, were the same black leather that Sherlock had always frequented.
John got his feet under him and accepted Sherlock's offered hand, his legs feeling a little stronger as he stood.
"Are you alright?"
John nodded and huffed out a deep breath. "Yes, I think." Sherlock nodded lightly, his eyes still keenly trained on John. The long fingers wrapped around John's hand tightened a little.
"I...apologize for these past seven months, John," Sherlock said softly. John looked into his friend's face. Regret pressed against the placid surface, making it taut, while a warm lightness in Sherlock's clear eyes expressed obvious gladness at their reunion. And John knew: it had not been an easy seven months for either of them. He shook Sherlock's hand. A smile turned up the corners of John's mouth, riding on another sudden wave of elation at seeing his friend once again.
"Yes, well..." John cleared his throat quietly, his eyes filling a little. He released Sherlock's hand. "You're here now, so...back to Baker Street then?" It would be so nice to have the flat at 221B feel like a home once again.
"No," Sherlock replied immediately. John blinked at him quizzically. "That was my reason for choosing this moment to confide in you. 221B is no longer safe."
John opened his mouth to protest, but Sherlock closed his eyes briefly at John's alarm.
"Don't worry. Mrs. Hudson is safe, I've made sure of that."
John visibly relaxed. "Good. What's going on then?"
Sherlock breathed out a deep sigh, the cold air turning it into a swirl of fog.
"The fiction of my death was commonly believed for the most part of this year." Sherlock paused, his eyes gazing pensively at seemingly something just over John's head. "To put it briefly, that changed quite recently. I've been found out by a colleague of Moriarty's."
John stood a little taller and squared his shoulders, already preparing for the battle he felt stretching out ahead of Sherlock and him.
"Who is it?" Sherlock zipped up his coat, putting his hands in the pockets against the cold.
"That still remains to be seen. I've learned he was Moriarty's right hand man. And he is an expert marksman, known only by a code-name."
John raised his eyebrows at his companion. "Do you know what it is?"
Sherlock nodded. "The Colonel.