Lying in the middle of London Olympic Stadium, Sherlock Holmes clutched his dying friend with desperation. Despite the massive blood loss, he could see that the bullet wound wasn't deep. Rather, the bullet had grazed John's right temple and above his ear, probably cracking the skull, but not penetrating the brain. The problem was that it had nicked the artery that ran from the neck to he head, supplying a large portion of necessary blood and oxygen to the brain. The pressure Sherlock was applying to the wound was helping to stem the flow, but John needed a blood transfusion and he needed it now.

Sherlock heard the sirens grow louder, car doors slammed and police entered the Stadium. It would be a matter of seconds now, until they found him and John. Long seconds, as Sherlock contemplated a future without his best friend and flatmate. For a year and a half, Sherlock had been in hiding, all the while working toward what he hoped would be a happy homecoming. Now that would never be. He knew the paramedics would pull him away from John the moment they got on scene. And they'd try to pump blood into John's body in a desperate attempt to save his life, but somewhere on the ride from the Stadium to hospital, John would slip away, surrounded by no one who knew or loved him. Sherlock would rather that John died here, in his arms, treasured and admired, and desperately loved, than in a cold, impersonal ambulance.

Sherlock choked back a wrenching sob and whispered to his dying friend, "John, you fought so hard. You won, you really did. I'm so proud of you and I…love you with all my heart, what there is of it." His fingers brushed the hair from John's forehead, thumb trailing along John's brow. "If you want to leave, John, I understand," Sherlock said, his voice cracking with the words. "You're so brave and strong, but if you want to let go, I'll hold you and keep you safe, alright?" He pressed his lips to John's forehead, kissing him goodbye. Sherlock didn't know if any part of John's consciousness could hear him, or if John could feel any comfort from Sherlock's touch, but in these final seconds of John's life, Sherlock vowed to wrap his friend in as much peace and love as he could muster, until John slipped away.

But John Watson did not slip away. John Watson clung to life and when the paramedics finally reached him, there was a fluttering pulse that was not yet extinguished. The pulse continued to flicker throughout the breakneck ride to the emergency room and throughout the hours long surgery to repair the delicate damaged arteries and the shattered bits of skull. That same pulse stayed steady throughout a week where the body of John Watson lay in a medically induced coma while doctors struggled to contain swelling of the brain. And the pulse grew stronger when it felt the comforting presence of Sherlock Holmes at the bedside.

There was chaos at the Stadium when the police and emergency workers first arrived. Sherlock remembered the horrified look on Lestrade's face as he took in the scene - Sherlock holding John's lifeless body, both men saturated in blood. But John was alive and whisked away in seconds, torn from Sherlock's arms. Sherlock remembered the terrifying feeling of absolute emptiness as his friend was ripped away and he was left behind, alone. Lestrade tried to get Sherlock to explain what happened, to tell him where Moran had gone, but Sherlock was so grief torn he was unable to speak. It was Lestrade who finally realized that Sherlock had been injured, stabbed in the back of the leg. Getting the man into an ambulance was a nightmare, until Lestrade told Sherlock he was going to be with John.

Sherlock had a deep wound, but no arteries were damaged, so it was done up with stitches. It was painful as hell, particularly when he was sitting, but still he sat by John's bedside day and night, watching in wonder as his friend grew stronger, came out of the coma and, one glorious sunny day, opened his eyes.

"Am I alive?" he asked Sherlock, unsure if the bright, white hospital room was real.

"Very much so, John. In fact, I'm no longer certain you're capable of dying," Sherlock responded. "You lost more blood than seems feasible, and yet here you are."

"Did I kill Moran?"

"No."

"You killed him," John said, believing it impossible that Moran would still be alive.

"I did not," Sherlock said, shaking his head.

"Then…how are we not dead?"

"I…explained how valuable you are. That you're the best man I've ever met and that the world would be a much less…beautiful place without you in it," Sherlock explained, trying to keep his emotions in control.

"You talked a killer out of killing," John said in awe.

"I merely reasoned with him."

"You weren't using reason, you were using sentiment."

"Well, it is a useful tool on lesser minds."

John laughed. "You saved me, Sherlock," John said, looking deeply into Sherlock's eyes.

"Barely."

"Alive is alive."

"Yes." Sherlock smiled, his heart buoyant. "Yes."

The homecoming was for both John and Sherlock – John for getting out of the hospital and Sherlock for being back from the dead. Mrs. Hudson was thrilled to have the boys back at 221B Baker Street and had made a nice little spread. Molly and Greg were there to celebrate and several toasts were made, though John wasn't able to drink any alcohol due to the medications he was taking.

At some point when Molly and Mrs. Hudson were plying John with another canapé, Lestrade pulled Sherlock aside. "Sorry to talk about business, but you're going to have to give a statement on the whole Moriarty/fake suicide thing tomorrow. The Super is dogging me hard on this, Sherlock, and I can't put it off any more."

"I'll be in, Lestrade. I just wanted to make certain John got home safely," the detective said. "If you need to arrest me, I'll understand it's nothing personal."

"Arrest you? You just saved a decorated war hero. You're the darling of the press. If I arrested you, I'd be run out of town on a rail," Lestrade smiled. "I'm not going to arrest you, Sherlock, and I'll make sure no one else does either. But come down to the Yard and help me make it look good, alright?"

Sherlock nodded as Lestrade went to refresh his drink. Sherlock walked to the window, peering out and wondering where Sebastian Moran might be tonight. One thing he was certain of, it was nowhere near 221B Baker Street. And he couldn't have been happier for that.

After the goodbyes had been made and the guests had returned home, John began shuffling about in the kitchen, making a pot of tea. Sherlock heard the kettle whistle, the cups rattle, the water splash into the mugs. John left the kitchen for a moment and Sherlock heard him rummaging around in one of the hall cupboards. Now with a long object clutched under his arm, John collected the teacups and brought them out to the sitting room.

"Here you are, Sherlock."

Sherlock reached up for the cup, but was more curious about what John had under his arm. "What's that?"

John held it out to Sherlock. "My old cane. I noticed you limping and I thought with your leg injury that you're the one who needs it now, not me," John said, a bit cheekily.

"That may be, John, but it's several inches too short for me," Sherlock smiled. "Unless you think I should stoop?"

"It can be adjusted," John replied.

"I think I'll be fine without."

"Suit yourself," John answered, sitting down to enjoy his tea.

This was the first happy, quiet moment the flat had seen in far too long to remember. Sherlock took in the cozy room, the crackling fire, the scent of the steaming tea and the content face of his flat mate, nestled into his favorite chair with a cup of tea. Everything was right with the world, once again, so Sherlock didn't quite understand why he felt on the cusp of tears. Mid-sip, John noticed the strange expression on his flatmate's face and asked, "Sherlock, are you alright?"

Sherlock cleared his throat, put his hand into his trouser pocket and pulled out an object. "Actually, John, I've got something for you, too." He opened his fist and sitting on his hand was the blue ball. John reached out and let his fingers curl around it.

John smiled, "I never thought I would be able to follow a trail from this little blue ball all the way to you, Sherlock. I guess some of your detecting skills have rubbed off on me."

Sherlock shook his head. "If anything, John, you're the one who's altered me."

"What do you mean?"

Taking a ragged breath, Sherlock collected himself to speak. "Most people would look at my life and think, 'oh, he hasn't got much to live for.' And maybe they'd be right, in some regards. No wife, no children, no house, not even a dog. But I have a friend, the most loyal, unwavering, caring friend in the entire world. I know in the past that people have thought that I'm the remarkable one, John, but they don't see how utterly amazing you are. If you had been anyone else in the world and I would have walked away to a new life far away and never returned to London. But I couldn't walk away from you, because I knew you would never give up on me. So, thank you, John. Thank you for being boring, predictable, wonderful you. Because you saved us both. You're not just the reason I'm still alive, you're my reason for being alive. Thank you."

John Watson had probably never been as happy as he was at that moment. He let the emotions wash over him as if they were healing agents. They made the ache at his temple feel better, repaired the damage to his shoulder and closed the wound that 18 missing months had carved into his heart. John nodded at Sherlock, taking a deep breath. "Right," he said, in his very understated British manner, and took another delicious sip of tea.

The end.