Sherlock had always tried to imagine his reunion with John. He wasn't one for daydreams or anything of the sort, but John was the exception. John seemed to be the exception to everything. It wouldn't have been anyone else who he'd fake his death for, not even his own brother. Sherlock never wanted to hurt John in this way and every moment without him lacked warmth.
He often thought of John alone. Perhaps there would be an occasional girlfriend, someone to look after him, but Sherlock yearned to comfort the John he imagined so sad. That was something Sherlock had never felt before.
Sherlock's heart started getting jittery as soon as the prospect of returning to John seemed possible. One day he almost came too close, longing to see him. Their eyes had met for the briefest moment, before Sherlock passed into the shadows. John thought that it was his mind playing tricks on him like it always did.
The day had come. After visiting Mycroft to ask if John still lived at Baker Street Sherlock snuck past Mrs Hudson and arrived at the flat. Slowly, he walked up the stairs. He could hear nothing above quite yet. Sherlock's hand reached out and he opened the door, looking through. John was sitting in his arm chair reading the newspaper, a cup of tea in his hand and Sherlock could only see the back of his head.
A small glance around the room told Sherlock that barely anything had changed. All his belongings were still there, his skull still on the mantelpiece. Only John's things had moved around. Life seemed to have gone on as if he was still there.
Sherlock cleared his throat, smoothing out his coat. John turned around, noticing a figure in the doorway. He sighed, thinking he knew exactly who it was and turned back to the black and white of his newspaper.
"John?" said Sherlock. His name tasted like honey.
He heard another sigh come from across the room. "I told you not to come here."
"John, it's me, it's Sher-"
"Sherlock, I told you to go away! Damn you Sherlock." John yelled, throwing the paper to the floor. His outburst was similar to when he once complained about his leg. He still did that now, his limp had come back.
Sherlock was surprised and momentarily hurt. He moved inside, after all this was still his flat. He sat in the leather chair opposite John who was trying his best to look away. He always did that when Sherlock came into his world again, always trying to believe that the figure was not there. But he could never look away; his imagination could remember Sherlock so clearly this way. Today it seemed an exceptional image of his pale, smooth face. If he tried picturing him only in his head, it was just a blur. Sherlock was too brilliant to stay inside of John's mind; any remembrance of him had to come alive.
"John," Sherlock said again, a soft whisper. It felt so good to say his name to his face. John looked up, his face was tired, and it had grown ten years older in three. "I promise you I'm back."
"You say that every time, Sherlock. You don't fool me," was all he said.
Frustration was beginning to arise in Sherlock, why, he only expected anger from John, and if he was lucky it would've been joy. Not the crippled version of John that lay before him. The John that didn't realise that he was here. His death had affected him more than Sherlock could've anticipated and even though Sherlock had been warned by Mycroft the extent of John's grief, he hadn't believed that anyone could care for him that much.
"You don't think I'm real?" asked Sherlock.
John shook his head sadly. "I want you to leave. This isn't healthy for my mind, I need you to leave. Or, or, my mind will be, it'll be poisoned, Sherlock." His voice broke when he said his name. John told everything to this Sherlock, this Sherlock knew everything that was going on in his head anyway; they were both from the same mind, it just felt better to say it aloud. The words, "I know, John, I know," despite being a figment of his imagination were some comfort to John.
The real Sherlock reached down suddenly and lifted the piece of newspaper. A picture of St. Bart's was on the back page. They both looked at it, and inside John died a little all over again. "If I wasn't real I wouldn't be able do that John, would I?"
Sherlock was leaning forward his voice insistent, shaking the piece of paper now.
"I can make you do anything," John said honestly. "I made you solve that case for Lestrade last year. I know you remember everything. Will you leave now, please?"
Sherlock stood. "I will leave now John, but I will be back tomorrow at dawn, in this room, in this chair," he said pointing.
John was ignoring him again, trying to convince himself that he was sane. In a fluid motion Sherlock left 221B Baker Street, and to the offices of John's therapist.
He had to wait until it was dark; he watched carefully to figure out how the security system worked. Now it was raining, the air gloomy. The state John was in killed Sherlock. He had noticed the crutch resting against the chair and Sherlock had never thought that he would need to get rid of that limp again.
Rummaging through the files he finally found John's. The dates went back to before they had met. During the time they had been together there were no entries, it was just when he was seemingly dead. Sherlock read them all; he hadn't observed John long enough to know the extent of this issue. This was the fastest way even if it breached John's privacy.
The problem, he found, had been going on for the last year and a half. John had been scared to tell his therapist but finally he had to tell someone. Sherlock's shadow followed him wherever he went. The advice from his therapist said to tell the figure to leave, firmly and without giving reasons. It had worked. But John had obviously missed Sherlock enough that when it was the real, living, breathing Sherlock that came through his door he thought that it was the shade of his best friend that had come back again.
Sherlock did return when he said. John wished that he wouldn't be there; he could feel his mind slipping away. His therapist didn't find it very surprising after the war and the crime scenes and the murders and then the fall. John loved seeing Sherlock but he was ashamed that he did this to himself. Sherlock never liked sentiment. John loved Sherlock more than he thought either of them would like.
"Good morning John," said Sherlock.
John said nothing, walking to the kitchen.
"I noticed you didn't sleep in your own room."
John's heart felt heavy, he wondered what Sherlock would think if he had known that he had gone to the lengths of sleeping in his bed. He had his hand resting on the open cupboard door, staring at the bowls. John heard the small sound of someone inhaling, it felt so real. Sherlock was right by him, watching him with worry. "Let me get that for you," said Sherlock.
It was nice pretending that he was being looked after by his friend. It was similar to the rare coffee Sherlock had surprised him with. Or that time Mrs Hudson told Sherlock to make him a cup of tea when he was feeling sick. Sherlock had stayed with him all night that night.
Eggs on toast made its way to the table in front of John. It tasted delicious. He congratulated himself on what a good cook he was. "I'm bloody brilliant!" chuckled John, "some dill, who knew?" His chest heaved with each laugh, struggling to swallow. "Yeah, good one John," he said to himself as his chuckles turned into soundless sobs.
Sherlock watched from the opposite end of the table. He deliberated going over to comfort John but he didn't want his touch to frighten him. Before he could so anything though, John stopped. He had pulled himself together and was now reaching for the phone. There was a flashing red light indicating that a message had been left. It was from Mycroft.
"John, I just want to make sure that with Sherlock's arrival that you haven't done anything too upsetting-" John slammed the phone down.
"Do you see?" said Sherlock, his grey eyes staring directly at John. "You can't have faked Mycroft's voice. I am alive, I survived the fall. The threat that was Moriarty and his puppets does not exist anymore. I made you breakfast. I am certain that you have never added dill before; I don't think you even own any, I brought it myself. Besides, why would you suddenly change your mind now?"
John's gaze was on the ground. "Stop it, just stop it."
"John, I'm alive," said Sherlock, his eyes wide, almost pleading. "Here, touch me, hold my hand."
The extended hand, Sherlock's long fingers, they almost made their way to John.
"I have to go to work, if I miss another day I won't have a job," said John standing up.
Sherlock brought his hand back in. "What do you do instead?" he asked.
"I visit your grave, you know that. Stop asking questions," snapped John. Sherlock would've smiled; it seemed like something Sherlock might have said in the past. Had he really rubbed off on John that much?
"Well that was hardly wise," said Sherlock.
John turned around. "I go to your grave to remind myself that you don't exist. I go to remind myself that you're not actually with me in every second. It doesn't matter that I can hear your voice so clearly, or feel you breathing, when I was in the army I could hear my sister's singing at night. Those notes echoed in my head as if she was right next to me. My memory is so clear. When you were here I could barely take my eyes off you, I know you so well, Sherlock, that I can convince myself you are alive. I go to your grave to stop that. If you think it's unwise that I risk my only job for that, leave me now and don't come back."
His speech left Sherlock frozen in his chair. He had never felt so moved emotionally like this before. He knew coming back would be hard, but not as hard as this. John licked his lips before he left down the stairs as Mrs Hudson came up. Sherlock still stayed in his seat, his mind at work. He barely noticed Mrs Hudson, his mind focussed entirely on John, even though he loved her in his own way.
"Sherlock!" uttered Mrs Hudson, "you're here!" She tugged her cardigan around in her in some sort of shock. Mycroft had told her, no one wanted a heart attack on their hands, but she was still surprised. "Why has John left?"
Sherlock's gaze snapped towards Mrs Hudson. Her expression of motherly love stopped him for the moment and made him smile. "Let me make you a cup of tea," she said with affection.
"Thank you," replied Sherlock. "About John, though, Mrs Hudson. Please do not mention me at all in front of him he is having trouble grasping the fact that this is all happening."
Mrs Hudson nodded, backing her way into the kitchen. Sherlock picked up the phone, hoping desperately that his farfetched plan would work. He was given the cup of tea, and Sherlock kissed her cheek, giving her another rare smile. But it was tinged with the worry he felt for John.
He had gotten hold of all the people's co operation he needed, now all he had to do was wait for John to arrive from work. We he did, although he was tired, he felt slightly better. John hadn't seen Sherlock all day, not even on his lunch break. Mrs Hudson had called several times, making sure that he was okay, and that was enough to keep him going.
"John." His voice was quiet, a whisper. John froze, despite his pleading the voice had not gone away. He turned and saw the figure hadn't either.
"Shall we go visit my grave?" said Sherlock.
John didn't say anything; he just stared for a few seconds. It seemed like the figure was helping him to stay sane, and maybe that meant that this Sherlock had no choice but to stay. With this thought John no longer felt anger towards his dead friend, the blame dissipated, all it was were two people clinging onto each other.
He nodded and Sherlock lead the way, and stepped into the already waiting cab. Before Sherlock could open his mouth John told the driver their destination. Whenever Sherlock said anything John ignored it. He didn't want the driver to think that he was talking to thin air. After a while Sherlock stayed quiet, his thoughts becoming more determined into making John understand that he was alive.
It was just beginning to get dark and John still followed Sherlock to his grave. It felt strange because normally Sherlock never accompanied John here, he had never watched the cool wind fiddle with Sherlock's curls.
"When was the last time you visited here?" asked Sherlock once they were alone, hoping that now he would get an answer.
By the nearest tree was a spade and Sherlock picked it up, swivelling it around in his hand. John watched him, eyes slightly creased in confusion. "What are we doing?" asked John.
"Digging up my grave, isn't it obvious?" said Sherlock, stabbing the ground.
"Why are you making me do this?" yelled John in exasperation. "I don't want to see your body!"
Sherlock licked his lips, getting ready for the hard work he was about to do. "You John, don't have to do anything. This will surely give me blisters on my hands and you will see that you have none. You will then know that it was not you who dug up this grave, but that it was me. I am no figure of your imagination, John. You can't fake not having wounds; the evidence is right before your eyes."
John glared at Sherlock and sat by the tree, his arms folded. He didn't want to help and Sherlock didn't make him. This act did fall under the category of absolutely ridiculous and did seem like it was something Sherlock was capable of. God knows he wouldn't have thought to do this himself. Now a part of him, as small as a tiny seed, was starting to believe Sherlock's death hadn't been real.
But John Watson thought that reason was not on his side. He could easily be tricking himself into thinking that it wasn't Sherlock doing what he saw him doing now, but himself. But John felt cold, almost shivering, and a bead of sweat ran down Sherlock's face. He didn't feel that heat, the sore aching of his muscles, or the slow forming of blisters on his hands.
It took several hours before Sherlock had finished. By this time his coat was off and John could see him breathing heavily from the rapid rise and fall of his chest beneath his shirt.
"Come," said Sherlock between his breaths. He wiped his forehead with the back of his arm.
John stood up and walked to the opposite side of the grave that Sherlock was on.
"Is that the coffin you buried?" asked Sherlock. "The one I heard you insisted on."
Looking down, John did see the same, unfortunately familiar coffin. It had been covered in dirt for three years, but it had lasted well. The same carvings were around the edge, the silver plaque, now dirty, could still be easily read as Sherlock Holmes.
John nodded slightly, and with that gesture Sherlock climbed down to try and get the lid off. It was attached too firmly so he got the spade and ran it through the coffin.
"Are you mental?" yelled John once again that night.
"I'm so glad you think yourself above grave robbing, John. Now you know that you're not the one doing this."
"Is that what we're doing then, grave robbing?" asked John sceptically.
Sherlock ignored him and worked the lid off. "Look, John," he said. "Tell me what you see."
John stared at Sherlock before he did, his face set in a grimace. Then his eyes travelled downwards and he saw nothing. Nothing was there apart from the splinters and shards of wood from the coffin Sherlock had just destroyed. The silk was not as perfect as it once was, but there was no body. John bent down to run his fingers along the cushion where he thought his friend had been. Nothing.
John felt his throat dry up. He tried to speak, but the words never made their way out from his mouth. The two men's eyes met and Sherlock allowed himself the smallest of smiles. John just looked all over him, the eyes, his hair, his skin, his arms, his cheekbones, his neck, his body; he needed to touch his body. He didn't return Sherlock's smile, he was too in shock for that.
"Now you see," uttered Sherlock in his deep voice. "I'm back, I'm here."
"You're here," choked out John. "To stay?"
Sherlock nodded and John's arm reached out across the gaping hole in the ground. He wanted to feel him but he was too far away. After a few moments Sherlock reached out too, and their fingers only brushed. A whisper of touching after three years was not enough for both of them. Sherlock moved around the edge of the grave, to John, and finally their hands clasped.
With those words Sherlock hadn't realised how much he had missed John. Every day he had thought of him but it was now that he knew that it had been every single moment John had been on his mind. John's other hand went out to feel Sherlock's chest, the body was warm from the hard work, his heart was beating. Inside this man held life.
Sherlock dropped to his knees, sorry that he had been gone so long. Sorry that he had put John through hell. John's fingers ran across Sherlock's features, down the side of his face, across his lips. Their eyes never left the other and now John dropped down too. He felt Sherlock's long arms make their way around his body, holding him tight. Sherlock buried his head into John's neck, breathing in his warm scent.
Their pulses moved with fever, John kissed the fabric of his shirt, Sherlock feeling every movement. He made his way up till he was kissing his neck and relaxing their hold on the other only slightly, John held his fingers under Sherlock's chin and gently pushed his head up so that he could lay his lips on every inch of his face, his eyelids, Sherlock holding in his breath. Finally John reached his lips and Sherlock brought him even closer. They sighed against each other.
"How did you do it?" whispered John between kisses.
"I had help." Now Sherlock was imprinting his own lips on the little skin of John that was exposed.
"Yes. But I am not as bad as Moriarty," said Sherlock.
"Don't talk about him, please," asked John quietly. Sherlock pressed his lips together and promised himself he would not utter another word on the subject unless necessary.
"You've seen me at my worst now," said John after a few moments. "I'm sorry I never meant for you to see that. You never liked sentiment, but you've seen now that I could never live a day without you. You'd always creep into my mind somehow."
"Surely the real me is better?" asked Sherlock.
"Apart from all those experiments," said John.
"What? I was just doing my job."
"And ruining the kitchen is your job then, is it?" retorted John. Sherlock didn't say anything and John sighed. "Look at your hands."
"Yes, didn't I tell you that would happen?" said Sherlock but he barely finished his sentence as John pressed his lips softly on the edge of the harsh red on his hands.
"God I missed you," murmured John.
"John?" asked Sherlock, his voice naked. John looked up at him. "Tell me that you have all those silly chemicals floating around your brain too," he ordered.
"You're an idiot."
"Answer me, John. I need to know if you'll stay with me."
"Are you sure you won't suffer from intense boredom?" asked John.
Sherlock averted his gaze very aware that John was teasing him. He didn't like it, nor did he like the fact that John could probably see the faint blush on his cheeks.
John only smiled, leaving Sherlock as frustrated as ever. The sun was coming up now and Sherlock -after grudgingly accepting that he would get no answer at this point - suggested coffee. John nodded, and here they were, leaving death at last for this one simple day, a day not full of murders or miracles, but just Sherlock and John.