AN: Serious angst ahead. I can't sleep. This is my only excuse. There has been no beta-ing so I'm sure that grammatical errors are lurking. Again, I can't sleep and grammar and insomnia do not make good bedfellows.

It's too much for John, in the end, after Sherlock comes back from the dead. There were the expected emotions: joy, relief, anger; and John could handle those, could feel them properly and then file them away. He could forgive Sherlock for what he did, for what he made John feel. But after the immediate reactions John was left feeling bereft. Sherlock had returned to him and everything had gone back to the way things had been before.

John couldn't go back.

Something had broken in him when Sherlock had stepped off that roof; something that couldn't be mended the detective's miraculous return because John knew that it could happen again; would happen again. Sherlock would die, actually die, to protect him and John was finding it harder and harder to live with that realization. Sherlock's devotion wasn't simply a matter of, 'I would die for you', no he meant it. In Sherlock's mind the option of him dying, or pretending to die, was always going to be on the table when it came to John's safety. And John knew, after only a few weeks of Sherlock being back, that he couldn't live with that.

The first time John tried to leave Sherlock he only got as far as Speedy's. If Sherlock had noticed that he had taken a small rucksack out with him he never said anything upon his return. John sat on the floor of their loo and cried for what seemed like hours with the faucet on to cover the noise. It may have been his imagination but he thought that Sherlock had held him tighter that night. It probably was his imagination.

The second time John tried to leave he got as far as Heathrow. There was a problem with his ID and he was pulled aside and led to a small room. He knew at that point that it was over. He wasn't even remotely surprised when Anthea appeared a short while later and led him off, explaining that a discrepancy had occurred and that Mycroft would be happy to take care of it but it would take a few days. Then she drove him back to Baker Street, back to Sherlock who would not speak to him or acknowledge his presence. John slept alone that night.

John had tried for a while. No one can say that he hadn't. He had continued working at the clinic. He helped Sherlock on cases. And in between cases (never ever during) he and Sherlock were lovers. Sometimes he was blindingly happy. On a morning after a good night of sex, while he and Sherlock sat at their cluttered table eating toast and drinking tea John would think, 'Yes, yes I can be happy with this.'

Only he couldn't.

It was always there, the idea that Sherlock would leave again, it haunted John's heart. It wasn't even an idea really, an idea implies that it may or may not happen and John knew that it would. It wasn't a possibility that Sherlock would leave again, it was an eventuality. He would leave John to protect John. It wouldn't matter to Sherlock that the danger was what drew John to him. Sherlock was selfish, an overgrown child really, and it was his heart that he would choose to protect instead John's. As long as John was alive, even if it was a miserable half-life, Sherlock would sacrifice himself. Sherlock wouldn't care that John would rather die than live on without him.

John knows, knows the way he knows that the sun will rise in the morning and that tea is the best part about being English, that he cannot possibly survive the loss of Sherlock Holmes again. And he knows that it is going to happen, probably sooner rather than later. He can feel Sherlock pulling away from him. He can feel the other man preparing to do something drastic. And John finds that he can't think sometimes, can't breathe, with the sense of loss that he feels when he thinks about Sherlock leaving. If only Sherlock would let him go first, John thinks that he might be able to accept it. If John could get away for a bit, get some air and a fresh perspective, he could put some distance between his dwindling Sherlock and his aching heart. But Sherlock won't let go. Like a child clutching a baby chick so tightly that it smothers, he holds onto John. Not with his hands though, Sherlock stops coming to John's bed, but he watches John constantly.

He is aware of John's comings and goings. The CCTV cameras follow John as he walks to and from the clinic. Dark cars follow closely behind him. John can almost hear Mycroft whispering threats at him from silent phone booths, warning him not to hurt his brother. But it's not John who does the hurting in this relationship. Despite how it looks it's not John that does the leaving either. It's always Sherlock.

And when John comes home to grab a jumper during his shift at the clinic he isn't even surprised to find Sherlock with a bag packed. The detective is surprised when John enters the flat and a little nervous when the doctor sees the satchel.

"I am coming back." Sherlock says quickly. "I am just going to Dublin, for a few days, I am coming back."

John supposed that his expression made the reassurances necessary. "A case has popped up, has it?"

Sherlock is nodding, his worried expression smoothing away at John's nonchalant reaction. "Something for Mycroft, it's going to be dreadfully tedious but I do owe him a favor. I was going to stop by the clinic on the way out, explain everything."

John is nodding, feeling so calm, "It's fine, really, take a few days. Have fun."

"You do not need to stay here, in my absence." Sherlock waved one hand around to indicate the flat. "Mycroft suggested that you stay with him while I was gone."

"Are you afraid that I'll take off again?"

Sherlock frowns at John's blunt question. "John, I know that none of this has been easy for you. I cannot tell you how sorry I am for what I put you through. I can only swear that it was the only way to keep you safe, to protect you, and I would do it again if it was necessary. I just wish we could get past this."

John sighed. "I know, Sherlock. I know that you'll do anything to keep me safe." And that's the problem.

He was swept up into the detective's arms and kissed in a way that he hadn't been kissed in a while. "I will see you, when I get back." It was a statement and a question.

John nodded and Sherlock was gone with a sweep of his coat. John stood for some time studying the floor and wondering how someone so brilliant hadn't deduced that he was lying.

The third time that John tried to leave Sherlock he didn't pack a bag. He simply returned to the clinic after Sherlock left for Dublin and completed the rest of his shift. He replied to Mycroft, who had texted about their upcoming sleepover, that he was seeing a couple of late patients and not to send a car for at least another two hours.

John left all of the lights on, he was sure that the clinic was being watched, and then locked himself in his office. From his drawer he removed an aged bottle of scotch and a single glass. From his pocket came a prescription bottle of sleeping pills. Ella had prescribed them to him when Sherlock had taken his little tumble off the roof of St. Barts. But John had never taken any of them. John had preferred to stay awake than dream of Sherlock always falling, always away from him, even though John was on the ground.

John poured the scotch and swirled the amber liquid around the glass. He had been saving this for a special occasion. He laid out the pills in sets of five. He didn't want to end up choking to death on sleeping pills which was funny if you thought about it. It took him awhile, to take them all, going as slowly as he was. Five pills, drink, swallow, and savor the smooth burn of the alcohol.

He had thought about using his gun. That had a sort of poetic ring to it; an invalided soldier using his own side-arm to end his life. But it wouldn't have been true. This had nothing to do with the war. And it would have been messy. John has seen gunshot wounds to the head and he has always sympathized with whoever had cleaned it up.

It would have been more comfortable to do this at home but then it would have been left to Mrs. Hudson to find his body or possibly Sherlock. He wasn't doing this to punish Sherlock. John loved Sherlock.

This was definitely the best way. There won't be much of a mess to clean up. His body would be discovered by Anthea or some other minion and then Mycroft would take care of everything. That was one nice thing about Mycroft; you could always rely on him to handle the more unfortunate parts of life. Hell, the man would probably plan John's funeral, may already have it planned. Nothing would surprise John.

John couldn't let Sherlock leave him again. He just couldn't.

It was his turn to be selfish.

It was his turn to jump.