John first saw Sherlock twenty one months after he fell, at, all places, the Yard. He'd been doing some consulting, which he thought preposterous, but it seemed some of Sherlock's brilliance had rubbed off on him, and he could pick up on things others couldn't.
Or perhaps Lestrade was just pitying him. It was hard to tell.
So there he was one day, attempting to explain a series of crime scene photos to Lestrade and his team, when he saw Sherlock, casually leaning against the back wall of the room.
He trailed off mid sentence while explaining a boot tread, prompting the rest of the team to look at him worriedly, even glancing at the back of the room to see what had caught his attention.
They didn't seem to notice the man who was supposed to be dead.
Sherlock shook his head slightly at John, warning him not to say anything.
"John?" Lestrade said. "Alright?"
"Yeah," John muttered, returning to explaining about the boot print, eager to get the hell out of there and figure out what was going on.
Ten minutes later the team filed out of the room to follow up on some leads John had proposed, leaving him alone with the dead man.
Sherlock strode over to him. "Not bad," he commented. "Although you did miss the bit of sand in the track, which would indicate it's not the one suspect you have."
John only stared at him, attempting to find the right words.
"What. The. Hell."
Sherlock blinked at him.
"Sorry, I suppose this is rather difficult for you."
"You are dead. I watched you die," he hissed.
Sherlock noted his expression. "Perhaps if we go back to the flat-" he began.
"The flat? How do you know I still live at the flat? How the hell do you know anything, and how are you even here?!"
Sherlock glanced around nervously. "John, keep your voice down. You're going to make a scene."
John spotted some officers gaping at him through the door. "Right. Whatever. To the flat then."
He tore off through the door, Sherlock following behind him.
"Can they not see you?" he muttered as he stalked off down the stairs.
"I don't think so. I don't want them to."
John shook his head as he hailed a cab.
"And if you wanted them to?..."
Sherlock shrugged. "I haven't tried yet. I don't care for anyone else."
John sighed as he shoved over to make room for Sherlock in the cab. "Well, just don't show yourself to Mrs Hudson yet, alright? You'd probably give her a heart attack."
Sherlock hummed in response.
The rest of the cab ride was silent, John not wanting to speak to Sherlock for fear of looking mad, and Sherlock seemed to understand that.
"I didn't think you'd stay here," he commented, referring to Baker street once they were safely inside the flat. He looked around, noting that many of his things hadn't been touched.
"I didn't for a while," John admitted. "I couldn't handle living here right after. But I came back. For Mrs Hudson."
Sherlock examined John's face, and he thought for a moment he would say something, but Sherlock remained silent.
John sat in his chair.
"So. Tell me. From the beginning."
"I died John," he repeated.
"I know you died. I watched you fall."
Sherlock shook his head. "I didn't die then."
John blinked. "What."
"I did not die that day. I survived much longer."
Sherlock explained for John, in detail, how he faked his death and why.
"I was nearly finished taking down Moriarty's web. I was back in London, disguised of course, but I was here. I even watched you one day."
John just watched him speak with a blank face, which was rather worrying Sherlock. He continued.
"Things went wrong, so wrong, all at the same time. I ended up collapsing and going into a coma due to intercranial swelling." John's face showed no signs of emotions. Sherlock continued. "I was comatose for three weeks," he said carefully. "I was aware for most of it, until near the end, when I developed pneumonia. That's what finally did it."
John blinked. They great Sherlock Holmes, the man who survived a swan dive off a building, amongst other things, was felled by something so simple as pneumonia?
Sherlock obviously saw his confusion and scowled. "Don't be like that. I was run down, severely underweight and malnourished, and to top it all off, I had a major head injury. It was the hump that broke the camel's back."
"Straw that broke the camel's back," John corrected.
Sherlock glanced at him like he was insane, which was debatable, especially considering his current situation.
"That makes no sense," he scoffed.
John shrugged. "That's just the way it is. It doesn't always get to make sense..." he trailed off.
"You're not talking about the saying anymore are you?" Sherlock noted.
John shook his head sadly. "No," he smiled at Sherlock. "No I'm not."
"That much is true anyway," he mused. "It doesn't make sense. I died. I'm still dead, more or less. I don't know..." he trailed off helplessly. "I don't know John. For the first time, this is something I can't figure out. I'm like Schrodinger's cat. Alive and dead at the same time."
Finally, John'd had enough. "No. No, no, no, no." He paced around the room. "You died. I saw you fall. We buried you!" he bellowed. "I stood at your grave."
Sherlock nodded sadly. "I know. I saw you. But that wasn't when I died."
"You- what?" John gaped. "Actually, no, it doesn't matter." He waved a hand at Sherlock and resumed pacing. "Okay, so you didn't die when I thought you did. You were alive and well." He looked to Sherlock, who nodded, and continued. "Don't think you're off the hook for that. I just have to figure this all out, and then I will get properly pissed at you." He rubbed his face as he paced. "Okay. You didn't die then, so when did you die?"
"What's the date?" Sherlock asked.
"February 21st," John told him wearily.
Sherlock scrunched his face up for a minute, thinking.
"I can't be sure exactly, as I told you, I was comatose for three weeks, and unaware near the end of it. So it was probably around... the 19th that I died?" He shrugged. "You can always ask Mycroft."
John's face went an interesting shade of red.
Sherlock figured that might not have been the best thing to say. Or even a good thing. In fact, it was probably something best left for weeks from now, when everything had calmed down immensely. It was a bit late for that now.
"That bastard... knew? He knew all this time, that you were alive, and he didn't tell me?" John choked.
Sherlock shook his head. "No, not at the beginning. He worked it out though. He has a way of doing that," he huffed. "It was glaringly obvious to him when I showed up at his door with multiple injuries. It was the final proof," he spat.
John shook his head. "I can't even punch you, or hug you, you twat," he said bitterly.
John looked at him. He seemed sincere enough.
"So... you were dead for two days. Actually dead. What happened? Where's your body? Does Mycroft know that you're..." he trailed off, gesturing to Sherlock. "What was it like? Being dead I mean. Do you remember any of it?"
"Oh heaven?" Sherlock asked, with a raise of his eyebrows. "Heaven was boring," he declared with a wave of his hand.
John laughed bitterly. "Only you would say something like that."
Sherlock sighed dramatically. "The angels were so dull. They never understood any of my references."
John raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"No," Sherlock huffed. "They practically knew nothing about current events." He threw himself dramatically on the couch.
John snorted. "Right. You're one to judge." He shook his head. "Whatever. I don't really want to know about that."
Sherlock picked his head up. "Really?"
"Yes, really," he repeated. "I'd rather find out for myself than hear it from you, one of the world most pessimistic people."
Sherlock huffed, but didn't say anything further on the subject.
"So... how does it work?"
"Does what work?"
John stared at him pointedly.
"Oh, you mean my not-death? I'm unsure. Need to experiment more."
"More?" John choked. "What do you mean more?"
Sherlock only grinned. "Nothing important."
He found out over the next couple of days what Sherlock meant by experiments. They were interesting to say the least, but not terribly informative or revealing. In fact, the results were inconclusive.
He wasn't an angel, that much was sure.
It was true what he'd told Moriarty. Sherlock may have been on the side of the angels, but sure wasn't one of them. He didn't have wings, didn't have any sort of angel-y powers, and in general, was not at all angel like.
But he wasn't a zombie either. There was no craving for brains or flesh, unless it was to perform an experiment on. From what John understood, zombies were visible, and couldn't choose when to appear. Sherlock also had his mental faculties intact, which pretty much ruled out zombie altogether.
John's mental list of possibilities was growing worryingly short.
And he most definitely wasn't a ghost. He still had a solid presence, no walking through walls or floating down stairs, nothing like a typical ghost. He didn't make the room cold, couldn't make lights flicker unless it was from an experiment involving tapping into the electrical wiring, and sure couldn't haunt worth a damn. John crossed ghost off his mental list. That was everything. No more options left.
He was just... Sherlock.
And that was strange enough.