Chapter 16

Mrs. Hudson seems to hate me when I arrive back. Although it does end in hugs and a relieved Mrs. Hudson. I don't understand; surely she is used to this type of thing by now.

It's odd being back at 221B knowing what I will come home to.

When Mrs. Hudson finally leaves I find the flat completely empty. I dare to check John's bedroom and find it empty as well.

The realization is clear: He's left.

That's it. Perhaps John will go off to get married with Mary again. Good for him. A nice, normal, settled down life without me. Of course. I was so foolish to think he was going to stay here forever.

I'll simply retire in a few years, he'll have kids of his own, and that will be that. Because that's how it always was going to be.

Still, I feel angry, upset, and disappointed. As if I didn't know this was coming.

I need a smoke. Or something. Anything that can take my mind off what has happened.

I will try to delete John once more tonight. It's the only reasonable thing.

I will start with the first time we met. That memory had been kept for reasons that do not matter anymore. When your life story was there for me to read. It was so easy, yet so fascinating. Then, that crime scene. The one with the lady in pink. You were so astonished, John. I thought you were mocking me. Who would be so impressed with my deductions? You, apparently. It still surprises me, though.

Sally. Sarah. Whatever your date was named. Why didn't I delete that yet? Was it because she had to do something with you?

And then back to him. Moriarty. Always worming his way in here and there. When there was a bomb strapped to your chest. When you were willing to give your life for me. I thought about that for the longest time, you know. Surprised me again.

Irene Adler. She thought we were a couple. I didn't think we were then. I had my suspicions, though. I simply didn't think too much about it. You were straight; you dated girls. The evidence was clear enough. Yet Irene insisted. That was interesting.

The Hound. We were going to share a room. That's what they implied.

And then what happened three years ago. I'm sorry.

Hold on.

What's that?

There are footsteps. Some voices. Recognizable ones.

Then, the door opens.

You.

It's you.

John.

For a moment, I don't speak. I can't. John, you are the only one who can render me speechless like this.

You don't seem to be speaking either. Are you all right? Are you angry at me? Do you still get angry at me when I put myself in danger?

The memories I had just been thinking about come rushing back at the same time. So much for attempting to delete you yet again. It seems that I will never be able to delete you.

I shake my head in an attempt to bring myself back to reality. No use speaking to John in my head, after all.

"Sherlock," he says. It's simply my name. Only my name, with so many things said within it. Where the hell have you been? What were you thinking? Did you have any idea how worried I was about you? It is okay, though. It's all right. You're here now.

I'm here now.

Before I can stop myself, I step forward, and suddenly John's hand is gripping my arm. I look into his eyes once more.

And then John Watson leans forward and kisses me.

I break the kiss as quickly as it begins. It is all too sudden - too much.

My heart is beating too rapidly, my breathing too ragged. I can feel my heart against my chest as if it is going to burst out any second. It feels as though my soul had been sucked through my lips.

Perhaps I am exaggerating. But no. That is exactly how it feels like to be kissed by him. It wouldn't feel that way for him, though, would it? He's done this many times. He's even gone further. Do you feel this way with me, John? Or am I much too in love with you?

For a moment millions of thoughts burst through my mind. The next second I could not think.

I could not think at all.

"John -"

"Sherlock... just relax. It's okay now."

"I -"

He silences me with another kiss, and this time I find myself not pulling away. Instead I allow it to happen, and it is both the best and most frightening thing.

Soon, however, I succumb to John's lips and I simply allow it to happen. Kiss me, John. Kiss me like I've always wanted to kiss you. This is the time.

You're so warm. I always wondered when I would be able to come this close. My heart is beating rapidly but so is yours. Had you wanted to do this to me just as much as I had? How long?

Why didn't we do this sooner?

Are you nervous? I know I am. I won't admit it, but it's true. You make me so nervous. You make me feel a lot of things I would have never felt without you. Why do you do this to me?

We're on the couch now. How did we even get here? It doesn't matter. Not really. Not now.

Your body is on top of mine. The edge of the couch is digging into my back. I would have been uncomfortable, but for some reason I feel as if I want to stay here forever anyway. If it means being able to kiss you and hold you like this, then I would gladly stay here forever. You're amazing, John. You're fantastic.

Wait.

There's always something.

"Mary," I say, pulling back just a little, catching my breath. "She's -"

"Don't. Don't worry," he says, sitting back. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath before looking at me again. "She's left."

I stare in disbelief. "What?"

"You heard me," he mutters, looking away.

Oh.

He chose me.

For a moment I don't do anything. The realization of truly having John back here with me has not settled just yet. How and why?

"John -"

"Is it really that surprising?" He asks, turning back to face me.

I am quiet for a moment. "Did you love her?"

He looks at me and I feel my heart sink at the hint of sadness in his eyes. "Yes," he admits. "But..."

But what?

"You. It's always been you, Sherlock. I suppose it always will be. I loved her, but I wasn't in love with her. There's a difference. To me, at least. It's just... I can't bear the thought of leaving you forever. No matter what I do, I can't get you out of my head. When you left before, I couldn't live. Mary helped me sort of recover but... it was never the same. I saw you everywhere. You were in a restaurant, or across the street. Was that really you, by the way? Because I ran for you, but then you were just gone the next second.

"I couldn't sleep; I couldn't eat. You didn't even give me a small hint that you were alive. Was it that difficult for you to just give me one sign? Do you even understand what you did to me?" John finishes, suddenly looking quite upset.

"I'm sorry, John," I say after a moment, my voice almost a whisper. "But I had no choice. Moriarty -"

"I know. I don't want to talk about it," he says. "That's over. That's the past, yes? He's gone. We're still here. There are still others like Moran and whoever the hell decided to shoot you this time, but it's still the two of us, right here and now. Unless a bomb decides to go off or someone else decides to shoot at us right now, there's nothing to worry about. Not now."

I look at him for a moment more before nodding. "All right."

"Good," he says, smiling in relief. "That's good."

We stay there for a while, neither of us quite sure what to do next. What do friends do after they kiss each other? After years of wanting to do so? I am not sure, and I probably never will be. Though John has most certainly done this before. He should know what to do.

But it seems that he doesn't. So this is as different - or special - for him as it is for me.

Good.

That's good.

"John," I begin again, licking my lips nervously. "I can't... explain."

He chuckles. "Well, that's something new."

"With you, it's always new," I say. "I wish I could tell you or show you how much you mean to me." Why couldn't I just say everything that I think? You're my best friend. There's no one else like you. You fascinate me more than dead bodies and serial murders. More than mysteries, more than bees, and more than anything. I can't live without you. You're my universe, John. I'd happily spend the rest of my life with you. Perhaps I sound obsessive, but it's true. I honestly hope you feel the same way, but I'm not sure. Because I'm so in love with you.

No more words come out of my mouth, however, but John seems to understand. He always does.

"I'm sorry," I say again. Why do I continue to apologize? I've never apologized that many times before.

John doesn't reply, instead leaning forward once more to press our lips together. Sparks go off and the new, warm feeling blooms inside of me. I don't want to leave. Ever.

"You're sorry?" John says in a sort of disbelief once he pulls back. I yearn for his touch again, but allow him to speak. "I should be the one saying sorry. You went out and got yourself shot for me, didn't you?"

"So you did notice."

"You're an idiot!" John laughs, failing to seem stern. "How could you do that? You could have talked to me about it. We could've stayed here, safe, which was the original plan."

"You don't understand," I say, looking away.

"What? Is getting shot a new hobby of yours?"

I sigh. "I couldn't risk it."

"Couldn't risk what, exactly?" He continues.

"I couldn't risk you getting hurt." I turn back to face him again.

He looks shocked. Was it that unexpected? He truly seems to underestimate his meaning to me.

"What?" He finally asks, still in disbelief.

"I don't like repeating things. You know that."

"Right. Sorry. I just... Sherlock?"

"Yes?"

"Do you love me?" He asks seriously. It is such a serious question, after all. One that could only be answered truthfully. A question that I always had expected me to be the one to ask. Apparently not, then.

The words are still repeating in my mind long after he asks them. I realize I am probably hesitating too long, but he should understand.

Without another wasting second, I nod.

"Yes."

The wave of relief that washes over John makes me smile. He smiles back.

"Sherlock, you are so... ignorant of these things."

I don't question anymore on that subject. I didn't ask how long, when, or why he felt the same way. Because I couldn't explain it either if I had to.

Though there was still one more thing.

"John?"

"Mm?"

"Do you... love me as well?" A while ago, the word would have been pointless and irritating. Now, it means everything.

"Yes," he replies without hesitating. "Of course."

It is my turn for relief to wash over me. I was not alone, then. I was not convincing myself he loved me back. He did. He really did. Although it was already quite clear, I needed the confirmation, that yes that made it official in my mind.

And that was the best thing.

The next thing that happens is something I cannot comprehend into words. Because what comes next is something unfamiliar and alien to me.

Passion, truth, and intimacy. There's never enough of each other. There isn't enough touching, skin, and feeling. Clothes are an obstacle, though we both know we shouldn't rush for something we're both not ready for. Perhaps next time, then. Soon. I'm willing. It's John.

When it's over - though not really over, more like a break - we had already retreated to my bedroom. I look over sideways at John, whose hair is disheveled and messed. His clothes are roughed up a bit too after being grasped and fumbled with. I must look the same. It's so new and so interesting, this level of physical contact. Could I get tired of this? No. It's John. How could I ever get tired of John?

We don't speak for a while. We simply look at each other, giving the occasional small smile that explains everything we want to say. We can sit in silence and still understand each other. I don't exactly believe in fate or soul mates, but if they were real, I am certain John is who I've been waiting for all my life.

Then, the worrying returns. The dreaded questions that I must ask return now.

"You're not going to leave me, are you?"

The words do not sound like they came from me, but they did, and I know it. The look on John's face confirms it.

"Never," he says, planting a gentle (but equally passionate as before) kiss on my lips. "Why would you think that?"

"Because everybody leaves." And it's the sad truth.

"I'm not leaving."

I take a deep breath. "Even after... I left?"

He nods and then breaks into a sad sort of smile. "Even after all that. Like I said before: after you left me there with no reason to live anymore. I still can't let you go now. So if you try to leave me, then we'll have a problem."

I pause. "Why?"

He looks at me questioningly. "Why...?"

"Why me?"

John moves closer and then holds me close. I bury my face in his neck, breathing in his scent. I feel his heart beating softly against his chest and he speaks to me gently.

"No matter what happens, just know that I love you. You can take that in a friendly or real way, by the way."

"I don't deserve you," I whisper. And it's true.

"You deserve more than you think," he says as he kisses my forehead.

I am silent after his words are spoken. Not too long later, I find myself slowly drifting off in John's arms. Finally, it is over. The suffering and the wait was worth it. I won't let anything happen to us. Not now. Because we are together, and that's all that matters.

Then, and forever.

My John.


A/N: First of all, I forgot to mention that I changed my username (previously Laurie-Winchester Holmes) because it was too long.

Anyway, I want to thank you all very much. This means you, reading this now, as well as anyone who followed, favorited, reviewed, or even clicked this story. Especially to the ones who kept reminding me to keep on writing and who gave me helpful criticism. You all have no idea how much you have all had an impact in my writing life. The truth is I stopped so many times. But your reviews and support made me do the only thing I could do for you: Finish the story.

Phew.