Not Any Less Upsetting

Three years, five months, sixteen days. Three years, five months, and sixteen days is how long Sherlock Holmes has been "dead." He admits to himself it is one year, five months, and sixteen days too long.

He just has not been sure how he can come back.

Filthy coward. He shoves his hands in the pockets of his coat, which is worn and dirty from three years, five months, and sixteen days of hunting down Moriarty's men, with nearly zero down time. Sherlock doesn't think he's had a proper meal in three years.

Molly's been a wonderful help. Sherlock knows this. He knows he would probably not be here if it were not for her. Even Mycroft has stepped up to help him.

But he needs someone else, apart from those two. Someone who does not know, yet, that he is not dead. Someone who has had to go through three years, five months, and sixteen days with believing he is dead. Someone who will no doubt hate him for lying.

Sherlock doesn't expect anything to be easy with John after this. And maybe that's why it is so hard for him to go back to Baker Street. Before this, it was so easy to be around John. So easy for Sherlock to open up to him. But with such a large event as Sherlock's "suicide" hanging over them, how can things be that easy again?

He sighs heavily, looking down at the gravestone where he stands in the cemetery. The gravestone with his name etched on it.

He knows John has visited this place many times. Sometimes, Sherlock has watched him at a safe distance, wanting to jump out and tell John that he wasn't dead. But it would not have been safe for John. He had to stay dead. For John. And for everyone else. Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, and John. They couldn't stay mad at him long, when he'd only tried to protect them.

They couldn't, could they?

Sherlock is strangely haunted seeing his own gravestone before him. A fake plot, a fake burial, a fake stone, and a fake dead man. He really is nothing more than a fake. He'd said to John that's what he was, but only to lead him away. To maybe make John angry at him, to want nothing to do with him, so somehow he'd be safe.

But even then, he knew John would have none of what he was saying.

"No one could be that clever."

"You could."

An unsurprising grip of pain seizes him, and he turns away from the gravesite, trying to focus on the other parts of the dark cemetery. His eyes find someone kneeling in front of a gravestone a short ways away from where he stands. Sherlock had thought he was alone here, but apparently he is not.

He carefully examines the young woman. First, he notes the rigidness of her body. Not slouching, or her head hanging down. Just her weight balanced on the balls of her feet, her back erect and arms tight. He then notes her face. Absent of tears. Not trembling from sobbing.

Perhaps she's come to terms with this particular death, but it still shakes her... He notices the other more trivial parts of her appearance. Her shining wedding ring, visible even in the darkness. Her clothes are also rather elaborate and expensive, meaning that she probably has a decent share of money to her name.

He intends for his staring to go unnoticed, but in the next second the woman is looking up, locking eyes with him. He hastily turns away, shutting his eyes in exasperation when she shouts at him.

"Can I help you?"

Sherlock slowly turns back to face her, just as she straightens herself from her crouched position. She crosses her arms, a slight wind brushing through her fiery red hair.

Sherlock instantly fakes a tight smile and responds, "No. I was just on my way out."

The woman tilts her head, and when Sherlock doesn't move, she steps closer to him.

"You were watching me," she says, in a tone of voice that clearly intends the question of "Why were you watching me?"

"I only saw you. I saw you, and I observed," Sherlock says, slightly annoyed.

"So, really, you were watching me." The woman doesn't seem to want to let this go, and Sherlock wishes she would.

"Observing is different from watching. For instance, I observed the way you held yourself at your loved one's grave. A posture that I've seen often in a frequent griever. Someone who has gotten over the initial sadness of the death, but that doesn't make it any less upsetting for them, because instead of sitting strong and steady it's rigid and tight," Sherlock says, unable to help himself, his voice monotonous. "And, I also observed your wedding ring, still perfectly polished as if it were new, which means it can't have been long ago that you were married – my guess is two weeks ago. And your clothes suggest you are either very successful in your career choice or you somehow won the lottery and seeing as the latter option is highly unlikely..."

He shrugs, and the woman kinks an eyebrow at him, looking suspicious.

"You'd better watch it," she warns.

"Why?" Sherlock snorts. "Am I wrong?"

She pauses for a moment, glancing back at the gravestone she's just left. "No. No, he died nearly three years ago. Doesn't make it hurt any less."

Sherlock knows she probably expects him to say "sorry" but before he can even open his mouth to say the monotonous reply, she looks back at him and says, "You don't have to apologise or anything. He was rather old. It was probably his time... He was my grandfather," she adds, as an afterthought. "Wilfred."

Sherlock says nothing, honestly unsure of how to respond to what she's saying.

"I'm Donna, by the way. It seems awfully rude to interrupt your vigil without giving you my name." She looks at Sherlock expectantly, and he rolls his eyes, knowing exactly what she is implying and feeling a bit annoyed by it.

"Sh – Sherringford," Sherlock says swiftly.

The name must seem so odd to Donna. Her eyebrows are raised, her look a bit judgemental. But she has the decency not to say anything about it. Instead she only mutters a slow, "Right..." before turning away.

She looks down at the gravestone Sherlock still stands in front of. A small bit of recognition dawns on her face.

"What're you here looking at Sherlock Holmes' gravesite? Isn't he that fake detective?" Donna asks.

"He happens to be my brother," Sherlock snaps without thinking. Donna looks up at him, not even looking guilty for what she said.

"I'm just telling you what I've been hearing," she says defensively.

"I keep up with the news, thanks," Sherlock counters coldly.

Now Donna rolls her eyes. "I'm not saying that it's true. Blimey, you're touchy, aren't you? There's been plenty of news to the contrary, if you've been keeping up with that. Officials call it the 'I believe in Sherlock Holmes' movement. There've been posters and graffiti and everything."

Of course Sherlock knows this. He hasn't been blind to the London atmosphere since he jumped. He's seen graffiti artists painting in bright yellow I BELIEVE IN SHERLOCK HOLMES. He doesn't know how the movement got started. But this only makes it even more difficult for him to go back to his normal life. The media will go haywire reporting Sherlock Holmes' great magic trick.

"Honestly I think he's a coward," Donna says derisively. "Did you see the news coverage of it? Of that man he left behind? I don't remember his name... John something?"

"Watson. John Watson," Sherlock adds tightly, not fond of being called a coward by strangers.

"Right. He looked devastated. What kind of coward would jump off of a bloody building and leave his best friend alone?"

"But what if he had to? What if there was no other way?" Sherlock finds himself saying, trying to defend what he did to a woman he's just met.

"There's always another way," Donna says conclusively.

"Oh, and you know so much about leaving people behind," Sherlock snaps.

"I've had enough people in my life leave me. So you could say I know how this John bloke feels," Donna says coolly, leaving Sherlock temporarily speechless. "I'd give anything to have my grandfather back in my life. And there's always a sense of emptiness there, once you lose someone. It's like all those memories are gone with them, even though you know they're there. Like you're missing something vital. And if this Sherlock character is faking being dead...then he's a coward for not going back to him."

Still Sherlock is speechless. Hearing Donna say those things about Sherlock Holmes – about him – makes him feel like a coward. Why has he left John for longer than he needed to? That's not what John would have done for him. Why is he still standing here, arguing with a stranger, when he could be back with John, apologising and trying to make things better for John. What has he been running from? A few nosy reporters? A little bit of anger and frustration? That was worth the agony he'd caused?

"You sort of look like him," Donna continues, looking at Sherlock with intense, knowing eyes. "Except your hair is longer...that's probably to be expected, though. You look to be in some rough shape.

"Yes, well...we were nearly twins," Sherlock says, coughing slightly. But the look in Donna's eyes tells him his disguise has not worked in his favor. "And yes, it has been...rough."

Donna smiles for the first time. "You know you're not fooling me with this 'brothers' thing...Sherringford. And it's amazing to me how you're still here after all I've said."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Sherlock finds he's smiling slightly, too. For the first time in nearly three years, five months, and sixteen days, he's smiling.

"I think you do. And if that's the work here is done. Go back to him." Without another word, Donna nods a farewell to Sherlock, and turns to walk away. She's halfway across the cemetery when she stops and turns back.

"I did win the lottery. I opened up an office," she nearly shouts. "And it wasn't two weeks ago. It was sixteen days. Your deduction skills have gotten a bit spotty...Mr Holmes."

As Donna turns and walks the rest of the way out, Sherlock, while musing over the fact of how he turned sixteen days into two weeks, laughs slightly, straightening himself.

He hurries from the cemetery, not surprised to find Donna gone completely from its premises. He hails a cab as soon as one crosses his path.

He recognises the late hour as he hurries to the door of 221B, but smiles to himself. As if John would expect anything different of him.

He takes the nineteen steps up to the flat four at a time, reaching the landing and the door in literally seconds.

He does not think about how difficult things will be. He does not think about the anger John will more than likely feel. He only thinks about how they will get through it together this time. How they'll be together once again, fighting criminals and solving crimes. He only thinks about how John will not have to feel devastated any longer.

He knocks on the door (this is no longer his flat to control – he has been gone far too long). He almost doesn't expect an answer.

But he hears footsteps, and a hand on the doorknob. Tired footsteps, broken by a dull thumping sound, shaking hand on the metal of the knob. John hasn't slept much. His tremor is back, and as is his limp.

But this is all Sherlock is able to deduce before the door slowly opens, revealing John to him. John's tired eyes glance up to meet Sherlock's eyes. John's eyes grow huge almost instantly. He looks frozen in place, mouth slightly agape, his body rigid.

A posture that I've seen often in a frequent griever. Someone who has gotten over the initial sadness of the death, but that doesn't make it any less upsetting for them, because instead of sitting strong and steady it's rigid and tight.

Sherlock does the only thing he can think to do. He smiles, extends his arms slightly, and says, "Hello, John."

A/N: I have no idea how this story came to be. I just...wrote it xD So...yeah. I hope you enjoyed it xD