A/N: So this chapter is just tacked on at the end to quickly illustrate that River's not dead.
John lay awake in his bed aboard the TARDIS (a bunk bed because his father had insisted) thinking of how different his life had become, without changing at all. He had gone from a damaged soldier with no war to fight to the sidekick of a consulting detective on the battleground of London to the most dangerous man and yet the kindest in existence to one of many travelling the stars. He had left behind sun and sand and blood and gunfire, noise and bustle and streets filled with strangers and mystery, and traded it all for stars and planets far away and love. And yet he hadn't. He could still find noise and strangers and mystery, there was still sun and sand and blood, all while running with the Doctor.
Although his father had removed the thoughts that weren't really his, John still felt their ghosts. He still knew that every second of every day was filled with loss and pain and remembering everything. All the friends he had lost and loved and known. The family he would never hold again. The countless enemies he had fought, and had killed, in an attempt at peace. The civilians who had done nothing more than be in the wrong place at the wrong time, who had simply been in the way, who had died because they existed. And most of all, all the people he couldn't save. The people who wouldn't let him save them. Those people who had sacrificed for him, for the ones they loved, for the world. The faces that haunted him at every turn, that never tightened their grip on his hearts. John knew how much his father suffered their fates, how he relived their last moments in the quiet and the calm, in those moments when there was no more noise, no more distractions. How, without anyone to keep his attention, the demons came screaming up his spine and gnawed at his heart and dug their claws into his brain. The screams that filled his ears until he wasn't sure if they were memories or his own voice begging it to stop. That when the moment arose, he would gladly accept his own death as a blessed gift. John knew that his father was tired. That he wished only for sleep, and to dream without waking. But he also knew that as long as the universe needed him, as long as there was something wrong that needed fixing, or someone needed help, the Doctor would come. Whenever a child cried, the Doctor would be there to help.
Sherlock brushed his thumb, the one from his real hand, along John's lip, eliciting a startled gasp from the man. "You were quiet, John. Is something wrong?"
"No. Not really. I was just thinking."
"About what?" Sherlock asked, curling further around John.
"Everything really. But mostly about how different it is." John murmured.
"You do like it though? You are happy?"
"Yes, I'm happy. I have you after all."
Sherlock grinned. "Good."
The two leant closer, lips millimetres apart. They were just about to kiss when a god-awful, ear-splitting racket began. The two pulled away, Sherlock clambering over John to pull on his robe and pyjama bottoms, John lying back for a moment and taking three deep breaths. Sherlock glanced at him, smirking. "You know, we can get back to this later. After we investigate the noise."
John chuckled, pulling himself up. When he was suitably dressed, the pair strolled into the control room to find the Doctor and a woman with very curly hair having a shouting match about how to correctly drive the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Amy was fighting Rory to be the first one to give River a bone-crushing hug, which was quickly becoming an all out brawl. "What the bloody hell is going on?" John shouted over the din.
There was an immediate lull in River and the Doctor's argument as the pair whirled to face him, and Rory paused long enough for Amy to break free from his arms and wrap her arms around River. River patted her mother on the head, beckoning to John with the other. "Oh, John. Look how much you've grown."
"Um, are you…?" John trailed off, looking uncertainly to the Doctor.
"Yes, John, it's me. I'm your mother." River said.
"You took the pocket watch from me… why didn't you ever come back? I thought you were dead." John asked quietly.
"I'm sorry, John. The Silence needed to think they had won. I couldn't let them get to you, I couldn't let them take you away. And... I always came back. I was always there, watching you grow up. You were my son, John, and I couldn't just let you go." River replied. River's eyes flicked towards Sherlock, running over him carefully. Her eyebrow arched as she turned back to John. "And who is this?"
"Oh, this is, ahem, Sherlock. He's my…" John trailed off awkwardly, unsure of what he and Sherlock were exactly to one another.
"He's John's special friend." The Doctor burst out, bustling over to the console. "Which reminds me, we have to go pick up Jack from wherever he is and find out what's wrong of the Planet of Maraken. I keep getting corroded messages over the psychic paper."
"Sounds interesting." River said, drawing John into a tight hug and whispering, "nice choice, my boy. He's a pretty one."