Title: Lost and Found
Author's Name: Laura Sichrovsky
Word Count: 7269
Warnings: Angst and Sherlock/John kissage
Spoilers: For Reichenbach.
Summary: After Sherlock dies, John copes by fighting crime on his own. One night, the criminal he finds is someone very familiar.
Disclaimer: This is where I put the statement saying that I do not own John or Sherlock, (Heh! I wish!), or anything relating to the show or books. No one is paying me to do this and if you feel the sudden urge to send me gifts, you might want to talk to someone about that. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat own all things Sherlock and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle owns Holmes and Watson. None of them have given me permission to use these characters as I have so if you have problems with the story, please send the pretzel bombs to me, not them. (Though if you could actually send a pretzel bomb to ACD, I'd be impressed.)
Author's Notes: I wrote this for the Sherlock ReBang Comm. I was given a lovely piece of art and I wrote the story for it. Hope you like it. Thanks need to be given, and here is where they go. Thanks to Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat for giving me a Sherlock I can get behind. Thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman for making this Sherlock and John so amazing. I tried to fight it, but they were just too remarkable not to fall for. Big, huge, giant thank yous to Gemma for the super-fast beta job and the helpful suggestions. I owe you so much! Thank you to Elin for reading this over for me and her support. And my biggest thank yous to my guiding influence and my best friend, Ann. She's the best beta ever and the Sherlock to my John. Without her, I am nothing. (Couldn't do it without you, love. Wouldn't want to try.)
Lost and Found
The night air is slightly chilly and damp as John walks out of 221. He pulls his coat tighter around himself and winces, his shoulder protesting the movement. This sort of weather wreaks hell on John's old war wounds and his first inclination is to stay indoors and make liberal use of a heating pad. But John finds nights in 221B unbearable now and he'd rather deal with physical pain than the suffocating loneliness of his empty flat. It's been six months since Sherlock…left, and while all the textbooks say that John should be finding it easier to cope by now, he discovers that this is decidedly not the case.
The sounds of the city around him are somewhat soothing, the dull rush of traffic and the muffled conversations, edging in on the emptiness of his heart. John doesn't consciously choose a destination, taking rights and lefts at random. He isn't concerned about getting lost; over the last six months, John has come to know the city almost as well as Sherlock did. Sometimes he thinks that Sherlock would be proud at how quickly John acquired this knowledge, but thinking about Sherlock brings back all the dark, unmanageable grief and John desperately pushes those thoughts away. He cannot let himself fall back into the black depression that marked the first month Sherlock was gone. John spent all his time either drunk or staring at the walls and neither option was going to end well.
The second month wasn't much better. After everything John had been through before meeting Sherlock, one would think he'd have developed better coping mechanisms, and yet, when his world was torn asunder again, he'd had nothing to hold onto and the emotional fall had just about killed him. Terrified of ending up like Harry, John had dumped all the alcohol down the sink, but that left him with nothing to stand between him and the breath-stealing pain of losing the person who meant the most to him. There had been many dark nights when he'd come so close to pulling out his gun and joining Sherlock in the afterlife. In the end, it had been his concern for Harry and his mother that had kept him from doing it. Well, that and Mrs. Hudson. He knew she likely wouldn't deal well with losing both her boys. And that was when the idea of his nightly walks was born.
At first, these walks were a way to get out, to distance himself from the lingering Sherlockness of the flat; just a way to clear his head and shore up his heart. He'd walked for hours, letting the reaffirming life of the city wash over him, trying desperately not to feel like an outsider, a dead man walking, watching the world go by. Then, one night, about two weeks into this project, John had come around a corner in a back alley to see a man, pushing a struggling woman against a wall. As he heard her begging the man to stop, something in John snapped and before he could think about it, he was rushing in, battle ready. The man hadn't seen him coming, and John was far more skilled in combat; it wasn't much of a contest, but it was enough to get John's heart beating and for the first time in months, he felt alive. He knew that he should worry that he'd just traded one addiction for another, but somehow, this small connection to his old life, to his best friend overrode his better sense.
John thinks about all the good people he's known and how he's lost most of them to senseless evil. Madeline Hayes gave up a fledgling career as a model to be a nurse. John met her on his first A&E rotation in medical school. She said helping save lives was worth the cut in pay and John fell a bit in love with her that day. Four weeks later she'd been raped and stabbed on her way in to work. She died while doctors who knew her worked frantically to stop the bleeding and John held her hand, watching her life slip away. Sean Parker, a promising medical student who was John's assistant in Kandahar. He was funny, compassionate, and a quick study. He died when a bomb went off while they were pulling children from a burning school. John could only watch and wonder what type of bastards kept explosives in a school. And of course there was Sherlock, brilliant, crazy, and undeniably a force of good in the world. Once more John was forced to stand on the side and watch someone he cared about die, this time as a man John was sure was in league with the devil drove Sherlock to jump to his death.
All these people were amazing and made such a difference to everyone around them. Maybe John made these midnight patrols as a way to level the playing field. He moved quietly in the dark and they never saw him coming. Hell, most of them never saw him at all, unless they noticed as they were being loaded into a police car. Maybe this was John's way of balancing the weight on the scales of justice. Or maybe it was the only way he could cope with losing yet another brilliant friend in a pointless war. Justice? Revenge? It was a fine line and John worked hard to stay on the proper side of it. Some nights it was damn tempting to just shoot the scum and be done with it. After all, they hadn't had mercy on the people John cared for.
But John didn't want to disappoint his friends, especially Sherlock, by giving in to that urge. So, he uses his fists and his phone, saving the gun for when he has no choice. In some ways, that in itself feels like a victory. John isn't stupid, he knows he has other motives, he just chooses not to look at them too closely. It's bad enough when they haunt him at night and he has to deal with being alone and selfish. That's when he has to face what he's becoming.
John isn't really sure when he realised that he was actually looking for trouble. It was such a smooth transition from just happening across crimes to actively seeking them that he barely noticed. It wasn't until he found himself in a bad part of town, gun tucked into the back of his pants, prowling the streets, all his senses on alert, that he began to wonder exactly what he was doing. He worried for a few days that he might actually have a hidden death wish, that going down fighting was less cowardly than eating a bullet. And maybe, some part of him did feel that way, but after a bit of soul searching, John was ready to admit that when he was in the heat of battle was when he felt the closest to Sherlock and the life he'd lost when his best friend died. He tried to tell himself that it was wrong, but if this was the only way he could be close to Sherlock, then John would take it.
As John turns a corner, the wind rushes past, making him shiver, and he sinks a bit further into his coat. It's been so easy to slip back into soldier mode and though the terrain is different, this is just like dawn patrols in Afghanistan. This part of the city is a bit darker, a touch quieter and John feels his defences go up. He hunches in, making himself a smaller target. His senses are sharper, his mind putting a name to the muted sounds around him; cat in the bins, rat in the alley, car two streets over. Nothing to worry about yet. His eyes adjust easily to the shadows, his mind automatically looking for something or someone that doesn't belong. He might not have Sherlock's powers of observation, but John has found he knows when something just isn't right.
John frowns as he realises that he's thought of Sherlock again. He's tried so hard to go on with his life, but everything he does, everything he is, seems to be tied up in Sherlock Holmes. John doesn't really believe in ghosts, but sometimes he feels positively haunted by his best friend. It's slightly unnerving when he recognises that everything from his word choices to his tea preference is dictated by someone who has been dead for six months. And yet, the idea of banishing Sherlock completely from his mind and heart leaves him breathless with anguish and panic. It hurts to think about Sherlock, but it would be worse to live a life without at least some tie to him. All this runs through John's head in a matter of seconds and he pushes it aside quickly. This is not the time to be distracted. He'll let himself think about Sherlock when his patrol is over and he's safely back home.
John has just decided that there is nothing for him in this empty alley, when he hears a noise that his mind can't put a name to. He closes his eyes, picturing the area, assessing the quality of the sound. It's slightly muffled, though not too far away, so it must be coming from inside a building. Yes, that would account for the lack of volume. It came from his right, likely the deserted warehouse about twenty meters away. John nods. That fits. But what was it he'd heard? It wasn't an animal or a mechanical sound. He's still rerunning it through his head when he hears it again. It's a crashing sound, though too forceful to be a cat knocking something over. For it to sound that loud, someone had to be throwing something. And for that to be coming from a supposedly empty building, it must be someone who doesn't belong there.
John crouches low, moving slowly, blending with the shadows around him. He comes to the back of the building and is unsurprised to find an open door. Pulling out his gun, he slips in, pushing himself against the wall to protect his back. John moves swiftly down a deserted hallway, coming to another open door that leads into the storage part of the warehouse. He's about to go in, when he hears voices. They are muffled and indistinct, but he can hear the animosity between the two parties from here. There is another crash and John risks peering around the doorframe. All he can see are two shadows, backlit by a streetlamp from outside, but it's enough for him to understand that they are in the middle of a physical fight. He pulls back, thinking of the best way to handle this. He has no idea who these men are or why they are tussling and it wouldn't do to come in on the wrong side, but he can't just let them beat the hell out of each other. Maybe if he gets closer he can figure out what it's about. If it turns out it's something like a drug deal gone wrong, he can hold both parties at gunpoint until he can get Greg Lestrade to come and arrest them. With a plan firmly in mind, John moves back to the door.
The downside to a well thought out plan is that it usually only works if all people concerned know what's happening. Having spent so much time with Sherlock and his make it up on the fly attitude, sometimes John forgets this. Usually, the only ramifications are a bruised jaw or a scraped knuckle when John has to improvise. But sometimes, things will go so off kilter that John has to take a minute to regroup. Such is the case right now, when the taller of the two figures picks up a long plank of wood and starts to mercilessly beat the other man. John is startled by the violence and it takes him a second to realise that if he doesn't step in and do something, he's likely going to be a witness to murder.
He takes a deep breath, bringing his gun to shoulder level, preparing to enter the room. The man on the offensive suddenly comes around, knocking his opponent to the floor and bringing the board up over his head to deliver a blow that would surely split the other man's skull. The move is fluid and before John can even make his presence known the sickening sound of splintering bone fills the room. John gasps and the taller man turns his direction, his face still hidden in the shadows of the room. He seems startled to see John in the doorway, tossing the plank to the side and pulling himself to his full height.
As the man goes into motion, John hunkers lower, locking his shoulders and wrists, preparing to defend himself and is caught off guard when the man slides to the right and easily skirts around John, making for the door. John takes one look at the bleeding man left on the floor, knowing he's likely dead, and calls 999 as he rounds, following the aggressor out the door. He quickly gives the address of the warehouse and hangs up, shoving his phone into his coat pocket along with his gun and focusing all his attention on catching up with the would be fugitive. He's surprised at the effort it takes. Most criminals are neither fast nor agile, but this man is both, moving with a grace that doesn't suit his height. John finds himself dodging around fences and throwing himself over short walls, as they dash through the night. From his time keeping up with Sherlock, John is able to match the man, move for move, though he's surprised how easily it comes to him, how he's still following muscle memory from a lifetime ago. He honestly hasn't moved like this since Sherlock died and he quickly tamps that thought down as he pulls himself up a fire escape to a roof. He cannot let himself get lost in memories now.
As they jump from one building to the next, John realises that this criminal knows the streets almost as well as John does, choosing rights and lefts that should leave John far behind, but don't, as he knows where they'll come out. Logic dictates that John should give up about now, as he's not really getting any closer to catching his quarry and the thought does fleetingly cross his mind. But for reasons that he can't really name, he keeps up the pursuit. Maybe he just can't admit defeat, or maybe the thought of taking another murderer off the street just makes things a bit more bearable. Whatever his motive, John puts on another burst of speed, closing the gap a bit.
As John reviews the map in his head, he recognises that they are turning into what has recently become a blind alley. Apparently his target doesn't know about the construction. John slows down, pulling his gun out as he moves to block the only exit. The man is standing rigid, his back to John, his shoulders full of tension. John takes a deep breath.
"I don't want to hurt you, but I'm not letting you go, either. I'm going to call the police and we're going to wait here for them."
John puts as much authority in his voice as he can, reaching in his pocket for his phone with his free hand, keeping the gun trained on the criminal. Before he even gets the phone free from his coat, the man turns to face him and suddenly everything seems to tilt as John looks on the face of his best friend. It can't be him and John knows that, which makes this moment all the worse. Some nights he worries that he might actually go crazy from his grief, but he never honestly thought it would happen. Yes, he always feels like Sherlock is with him, like if he just reaches out, he can touch him, can bring him back, but he knows that's just a fantasy and he's never actually seen him before. For a wild moment, John wonders if jumping rooftop to rooftop brought on some kind of PTSD psychosis, and he violently shakes his head, trying to clear away the ghost of his friend. When nothing changes, he swallows hard, doubt rocking him to the core. How can he face down a criminal, when his mind is playing tricks on him? What if he accidentally shoots this man? But if he puts his weapon down, there's every chance this man will kill him. He's still locked in his mental debate when a soft deep voice breaks into his thoughts.
John blinks and gasps, taking a step back. There is no mistaking that low baritone and it further serves to convince John he's gone more than slightly mental.
"No…I…you aren't here."
The man in front on him takes a step closer and John locks his grip on his gun.
"Stop! Do not come any closer."
The man stops, tipping his head, those grey eyes boring into John. John feels his hand shake and looks down in confusion. It takes him a second to realise that it's not just his hand; his whole body is trembling and tears are running down his face. He can hear his voice, though he really has no idea what he's saying.
"You can't be…I'm…you're dead…he's dead. He left me behind and he's dead."
John tries to pull himself together, to concentrate on the man in front of him, some part of his mind waiting for the criminal to take advantage of this weakness and use it against him. But the man is still just standing there, watching John, and as John focuses through his tears, he sees concern and guilt in the man's expression.
"John, I am so sorry." The voice is just above a whisper. "I had no choice."
When Sherlock steps closer, John realises if this is indeed a hallucination, he is a dead man, as his defences are not just down, but gone. At the first gentle touch on his shoulder, John feels his legs go out from under him and he's falling to his knees. The sting of the pavement, the painful shock up his hips, does nothing to dispel the spectre in front of him. To the contrary, Sherlock sinks to his knees as well, moving forward and carefully wrapping his arms around John. John's instinct is to fight and for a second, he tenses, but he's overwhelmed by the familiar roughness of Sherlock's coat and this hallucination even smells like Sherlock, and he finds himself collapsing against the man holding him, praying with everything he has that this isn't just another cruel dream. He wonders if he's finally reached his limit of crazy and pain as everything starts to go dim.
His head begins to clear and he realises that he's lying on the couch in 221 B. There's a stab of disappointment so profound that it pulls a small broken sound from John. He berates himself for daring to believe, knowing how deceptively real his dreams involving Sherlock are. Of course. He didn't even go out tonight. He must have fallen asleep much earlier on the sofa. John's breath hitches as he fights his despair. It isn't the first time that he's dreamed he got his miracle, that Sherlock had somehow survived. But it is the first time in a while that he let himself be taken in by it. John sighs, closing his eyes, fighting back the urge to scream out the hollow feeling in his chest. His eyes sting and his breath catches; he swallows hard, not sure he has any tears left.
"I made tea."
The sound of the familiar voice so close to him makes John jump and let out a very unmanly scream. He opens his eyes and feels the air leave his lungs as he looks up at Sherlock, who is holding out a mug.
"It's likely not very good, but it is hot," Sherlock supplies, watching John. After a minute, he frowns. "Are you feeling any better? You aren't going to faint again, are you? It was rather awkward getting you back here without anyone noticing us."
He's talking so matter of factly, looking so normal, just so Sherlock, that John has to fight back hysterical laughter. He wonders if he should call someone, Harry or Greg, someone who can ground him in reality and he only feels mildly alarmed when he realises that he doesn't want to, that he doesn't want this fantasy to end. Sherlock is still frowning at him.
"John," Sherlock says, putting the mug down. "I need you to focus here."
John wonders if he has some control over this dream. Can he make Sherlock do what he wants or will he just have to ride it out and see where it goes? He furrows his brow in concentration and is startled when Sherlock snaps his fingers right under John's nose.
"John. Focus, now. This isn't a dream and you aren't crazy."
John stares at him, knowing he must look confused as he tries to process what Sherlock is saying. Sherlock sighs, that customary impatient expression on his face, like he's disappointed that John can't keep up. And just for a second, everything feels so familiar, so right, and John's heart lurches and he has to shut his eyes against the sensation. Sherlock, as is typical, doesn't notice and keeps talking. John opens his eyes and frowns at him. Something is off.
"Your accent is different," John says, feeling puzzled.
"Yes John, it is. I've spent the last six months overseas. Now, please, I need you to pay attention."
"Why would I change your accent?" John asks, more to himself than the imaginary Sherlock. In all the times he's pictured Sherlock, his accent has always been the same.
"You didn't," Sherlock says, sighing with impatience. "I did. I had to blend in Eastern Europe and I think it's going to take a while for me to lose that."
Now John is really confused. Why would his brain change Sherlock's accent and then create a story like this to explain it.
"John, please, I know you think this is all in your head, but it isn't. I really am here and I can explain everything."
He's moved closer to John, standing just on the other side of the coffee table. John slowly leans forward, reaching out and taking Sherlock's hand. He marvels a bit at how real this seems, running his thumb over the skin, feeling the softness and heat, the shifting of the delicate bones of Sherlock's hand. Some part of his brain screams that this is too solid not to be real, but John just cannot let himself believe. He looks up at Sherlock, wondering which theory his mind will choose this time. Last week he dreamed Sherlock came back after having lost his memory from the fall. The week before that it was that Mycroft whisked him away to protect him from Moriarty. Of course, none of them were even close to this realistic. Sherlock gestures to the couch.
"Of course," John says, but he doesn't release Sherlock's hand.
Sherlock doesn't seem to mind. He carefully steps over the table, not even making John loosen his hold and he sits down, facing John.
"I had to do it, John. I had to fake my death. Moriarty said if I didn't, he would have you killed. The snipers had orders to shoot you if I didn't jump. I had to make them think I died and then I had to eliminate them to keep you safe. That's where I've been and that's what I was doing tonight. Moran was the last. He worked for Moriarty, John. He was his second in command and he kept the organization going after Moriarty died. He was the one who was supposed to kill you and I just couldn't let that happen."
John blinks, taken aback by what he hears. Even his mind at its most tortured couldn't come up with such a completely mad story that would only make him feel more guilty than he already does. All his senses are telling him the same thing; Sherlock really is alive. He takes a deep breath, daring to believe it. John processes this information, feeling a surge of hope and happiness, but it's quickly tamped down as his mind goes further and a realization hits him. Sherlock frowns, looking at him.
"What now, John?"
He wants to tell Sherlock, but in the light of everything, it seems so petty, so he tries to push it away.
"No, really, it's nothing."
"We both know that's a lie," Sherlock says and something in John snaps.
"You're one to talk about lies." The words are out before he can stop them and if he's honest, he's not sure he wants to. He takes a breath and keeps going, all his despair and pain of the last six months finally finding a vent. "You made me think you died. I thought it was my fault. And then you ran off into danger and left me behind. You didn't trust me."
"I didn't trust them," Sherlock quietly corrects him. "And I wasn't willing to gamble with your life, John. You are too important to me."
"Really?" And now John is fighting anger, struggling to pull in his emotions and failing. "If I was important to you, you'd have told me what was going on."
"I couldn't risk it," Sherlock says, his voice rising a bit. "They were watching you, monitoring your phone. If I contacted you, they would have killed you."
"You have no idea what I went through, Sherlock," John says, wanting to scream at him. "I watched you die. I failed you and that just about killed me. I know that for you this is all just stupid sentiment, but you don't understand how hard it was."
"No, you don't understand, John. Don't you think I knew exactly what this would do to you? I worried that it would bring your PTSD back or that it would be too much for you. I knew that it would hurt you, John, possibly more than you could forgive, but at least you'd be alive to hate me."
John knows he should see the logic in that reasoning and in truth, he does, but after six months of hell, he's not feeling very charitable.
"What you really mean is that it would have spoiled your game."
John regrets it as soon as he says it, especially when he sees the look on Sherlock's face.
"Is that what you think?" Sherlock asks, his voice just above a whisper, his eyes wide. John sees sorrow and regret in them, an expression that looks wrong on Sherlock's face. "That this was a game? That I enjoyed it? That I wanted to leave my life and go into hiding? Do you think I had fun living in alleys, sleeping in barns? Do you really think that I wanted to kill people, John? To become everything we fought against? It was the last thing I wanted, but I had no choice. If I hadn't I would have lost the only thing of any value in my life. I don't expect you to forgive me, but I need you to understand."
John sees the honest anguish on Sherlock's face and he realises that this isn't the need to be right or to best Moriarty, it's not just part of the game. Sherlock had acted on his emotions and no matter how hurt John is, the motives came from his heart. He sees that Sherlock is prepared for John to reject him, to be so angry that he cannot accept Sherlock back into his life. Sherlock has figured this possibility into the equation. But John can also see past the impassive mask and he's startled by the depth of pain that this idea causes Sherlock. It must have taken so much resolve for Sherlock to go through with his plan, knowing what he might lose, and yet, he was willing to endure it, all for John.
He's still hurt and part of him wants to stay angry, but the better part realises that Sherlock suffered too, possibly more than John. And he did it all without any thought of gratitude or even forgiveness. John sighs, looking down and realising that he's still holding Sherlock's hand. After a few heartbeats, he looks up, gently squeezing Sherlock's fingers.
"You found them all? Moriarty's people, I mean."
"All the important ones," Sherlock says, sighing. "Most of them are in prison. But the three who were going to kill you, Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson…I made sure they won't come after you again."
Sherlock winces when he says this and John can see the pain behind his eyes. He adds this to the list of things he's going to have to help Sherlock work through. Gently he runs his thumb across the back of Sherlock's hand.
"And now it's over? Does that mean you're home now?"
Sherlock looks at him, his expression guarded.
"I suppose that depends on whether or not you'll let me move back in."
His voice is neutral, but John can hear the unspoken anxiety in it.
"Why wouldn't I?" John asks.
Sherlock frowns, taking his hand from John's. After a minute, he gets to his feet and starts pacing the room. He looks back at John, confused, like he's trying to decipher some hidden subtext in John's question.
"Oh, I don't know," he says, his voice barely controlled. "Because I lied to you and I hurt you? Or maybe because I'm a murderer now. You've moved on and have a new life? I can think of many reasons, John."
"Yes, you did hurt me." John is calm now, his voice steady. Something about seeing Sherlock so agitated and hopeless brings John to centre. He needs to be the stable one right now. "And I am still a bit upset about it, but you say you had no choice and Sherlock, I trust you. We'll work this out just like we always do. As to the rest, technically, I'm a murderer too. I shot the cabbie to protect you and now you've killed to save me. I don't think that makes us killers, Sherlock. We did what we had to."
Sherlock looks at him, shaking his head.
"You've gotten away from me, John. If you're smart, you'll stay gone and keep me out of your new life."
"What new life? Do you think I just went out and replaced you?"
"You could get the same thing from other people that I gave you," Sherlock says, shaking his head. "Danger isn't really that hard to come by."
"Is that why you think I stayed?" John asks, frowning. "Do you honestly believe you were nothing but a way for me to get an adrenaline fix?"
"What else could there be?" Sherlock asks, his voice harsh and his posture defensive. "I am not the type of person who has friends."
"Yes, I know," John says with a smile. "You only have one."
Sherlock turns, his body rigid and for one minute, John thinks he's going to run off into the night again. John takes a deep breath, feeling like he needs to convince Sherlock, make him see that John can forgive him before he loses him.
"No, I understand," John interrupts. He stands up and steps in front of Sherlock, stopping his pacing. He reaches out, putting his hand on Sherlock's shoulder. "But Sherlock, don't forget that I was that one. And you were…are my friend too. Do you really think I have all these new friends and hobbies? Sherlock, you are my life. Without you, I was lost. No, our world isn't normal or safe, but you are my best friend and I never want a life without you. Of course I want you back."
Sherlock stands there for a minute, staring at John and then something in him just breaks. With a trembling sigh, he sinks to his knees, his whole body shaking. John blinks, confused. Then suddenly he understands that whatever Sherlock was prepared for, John's forgiveness and acceptance, weren't even on his radar. He'd had his armour set, ready to protect him from the harsh words and rejection that he knew were coming and John's willingness to take him back has thrown him completely off kilter. John sinks down next to him and in an unintentional role reversal of their meeting in the alley, takes Sherlock into his arms. He holds him, feeling Sherlock's sobs vibrating against John's chest. He tentatively rubs his hand across Sherlock's back, absently making soothing noises. After a few minutes, Sherlock pulls in a gasping breath, leaning back to look at him.
"I'm sorry, John."
John isn't even sure what he's apologising for any more, but he nods. Sherlock frowns.
"You can't just accept this so easily," he says, shaking his head. "I upset you, caused you emotional pain. How can you just…you should be more upset."
John looks at him for a moment, then he laughs.
"I thought you'd be pleased that I wasn't making you jump through hoops."
"I would be if I thought it was truly helping. But something like this, you can't just forget it. I don't want you angry at me, John."
"I'm not." When Sherlock arches an eyebrow at him, John shakes his head. "No, I'm not. I never really was. I was frustrated and hurt, but I'm getting over it. And I was never angry."
"John, what I did to you…" Sherlock trails off, seemingly at a loss for words. "I…there was no good choice, but losing you, letting them kill you, that was never an option. I suppose I thought you'd get over the shock rather quickly and move on."
John looks at him questioningly and Sherlock sighs.
"I…John, I've never been important to anyone who wasn't related to me and not even to all of them. What would make me think you'd be different?" John feels his eyes go wide and Sherlock shakes his head. "No, that's not…of course you mean everything to me, John, more than anyone else ever has. But I would never presume to think you feel the same. No one else ever has."
"Of course I feel the same, you idiot," John says, trying to make Sherlock see. "Don't you get it? Why do you think I was hurt so deeply? I missed you so much and I thought I'd never see you again. I need you to know that the thought of a Sherlock-less existence was too much to bear. My world was dark and empty; I was dark and empty."
"John, I'm so sorry. I…"
"Sherlock, I'm not berating you. I just need you to understand why this affected me so much."
"I know, John." Sherlock's voice is solemn, his expression serious. "I was your friend and I hurt you. I am so sorry."
John smiles at him, reaching out and taking his hand.
"Sherlock, if you had just been my friend, it would have hurt and I'd have moved on. You were my best friend and honestly, you were my world. When you left, I had nothing."
"What are you saying, John?"
"I'm saying that you thought I could easily move on. You were wrong."
Sherlock is studying his face and John isn't sure what he hopes to discover. He finds himself looking back, noticing the man behind the mask, surprised at how easy it is to find him. There is something in Sherlock's expression, something just under the surface that he is struggling to keep hidden. It takes John a minute to understand what he's seeing and when he does, he questions it, sure he has to be wrong. But then Sherlock is looking right into his eyes and John knows what he's seen, even though Sherlock doesn't want him to. He sees affection and something more, something that he wasn't sure Sherlock was capable of feeling.
The expression on Sherlock's face tells John that he's realised that he's given himself away and Sherlock looks down, a man waiting for the blow to fall. All John can think is how did he not realise this before and how could he not see how much he feels for this man? He likes to buy into the myth that Sherlock is horribly selfish, and to some extent, he is, in matters such as keeping body parts in the freezer and ruining John's dates, but when it counts, John knows Sherlock will come through putting aside his needs and wants for John. If he never believed it before, the proof is in Sherlock staging his death to save John, knowing he might lose him in the process. He's always loved Sherlock in some way, even at the very beginning. But this deep need to take Sherlock in his arms and protect him, to show him how much he's worth and wanted, this is new, though not unwelcome.
He thinks he should worry when he finds himself picturing kissing Sherlock, but quickly dismisses that. It's not the first time he's thought about it, but he's always pushed it off, pleading "not gay," sure that Sherlock couldn't reciprocate. But right here and now, with both of them stripped to the emotional bone, worrying about his sexual orientation is the last thing on John's mind and Sherlock needs to know that he isn't the only one who feels this way. So John decides to take the easiest course and leans in, gently pressing his lips against Sherlock's.
For a minute it's perfect. Sherlock kisses him back and it's everything John hoped it would be. Then John worries that he's completely misread the signs when Sherlock pulls back so violently that he almost knocks them both over. He looks at John with huge eyes.
"Why did you do that?" His voice is bordering on panic.
"Because I wanted to," John says softly. "I have for a long time, but I wasn't sure you would appreciate it."
Sherlock looks at him, shaking his head.
"Don't say that, John."
"I don't understand. What's wrong? If you don't want me to kiss you, that's fine, but…"
"Please John, you can't…" Sherlock closes his eyes and John can see the effort these words are costing him.
"John, don't. I…" His voice breaks and he takes a deep breath. "I'm not good enough for this, not good enough for you."
John sees himself as broken and damaged, flawed and not nearly on the same level as this amazing man. Funny that he didn't realise Sherlock saw himself the same way. They really do belong together. He wraps his arms around Sherlock and pulls him closer.
"You are more than good enough," he whispers. "You are everything to me."
"I don't deserve you, John."
Something about that hits a nerve in John. To see Sherlock so unsure, so hopeless pulls at something inside him. He shakes his head.
"No, what you didn't deserve was for some lunatic to try to force you to kill yourself. You didn't deserve to have to risk everything to save me. You've never deserved to be treated like there's something wrong with you and you don't deserve to be alone for the rest of your life, just because no one can appreciate you. I am damn lucky to have you as my best friend and if you feel like I do and this becomes something more, I will make sure you know exactly how much I think you're worth."
Sherlock is staring at him, his eyes wide and shining, looking like he can't quite believe what he's hearing. He blinks and swallows, looking down and John reaches out, putting his finger under Sherlock's chin, tipping his head up. He smiles and slowly leans in, giving Sherlock every chance to pull away, but this time, Sherlock leans forward to meet him. This kiss is different, slower, more deliberate and in it John feels happiness and hope for the future. They break the kiss and Sherlock looks at John, his expression serious.
"John, if you ever change your…"
"I have no intention of doing that," John says, interrupting him. Sherlock still looks unsure, so John pulls him closer. When he speaks, his voice is just above a whisper. "I just got you back. Every day, I made the same wish. 'Please, just one more miracle, just let me have him back', and now I do. If this is what you want, then you better get used to having me right against your hip, because I have you home and I'm not ever letting you leave me again."
Sherlock leans in, lightly kissing John's neck and wrapping his arms around John's waist.
"This is what I want, John," he says, quietly. "This is what I've always wanted. It's why I left in the first place. Do you think I would have voluntarily given up everything for anyone but you? But I couldn't lose you, I just couldn't. And now that I know you want me too…"
Sherlock trails off, like he doesn't know how to end that sentence and John snuggles closer.
"You won't have to live without me, Sherlock. Not ever again."
Sherlock makes a contented noise, his breath warm against the skin of John's throat, and John suddenly realises that his world was turned inside out, yet again tonight, though he supposes that technically it was just righting itself. It's going to take a few days to adjust to all this, he's sure, but as long as Sherlock is back and finally his, John is pretty sure that he can adapt to anything. He stifles a yawn and Sherlock pulls back to look at him.
"We should go to bed, John."
John can't help the image that comes to his brain and his eyebrows go up to his hairline. Sherlock rolls his eyes at him.
"I meant to sleep. Not that I'm opposed to…well…we can get to that later. It's been a long day and I'm tired too. Would it be out of line…that is..." Sherlock looks at him, suddenly unsure and John smiles encouragingly at him. "I missed you so much, John. Could I hold you while we sleep?"
"I'd like that very much," John says, letting Sherlock go and standing up. He holds his hand out, helping Sherlock up when he takes it. "Let's go to bed."
Later, as he's drifting off in the dark, Sherlock's arms around him, feeling him warm and solid against John's chest, John thinks that he can finally breathe again. After six long months of darkness, he's finally gotten his light back. He had thought his life was over, but he not only has his best friend, he's gotten so much more. He'd never dared let himself acknowledge his love for Sherlock, but he knows now that it was there all along and he also knows that Sherlock feels the same. It was a hard six months, but if this is the end result, it might just be worth it. His last thought as sleep claims him is that his grey empty life has colour again and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Art can be found at: http_:_/_/_nothing-wise-to-say_.tumblr_.com_/image_/25503963542 (Remove all the underscores)