"What's the point?" Sherlock sighed one day.
John peered over at him from behind the newspaper, the consulting detective sprawled on the couch in his housecoat.
"Of what? Because if you're asking about breathing again, we've been over this far too many times for you to say you deleted it."
"Of course not," he scoffed. "Of life. What's the point of life?"
"Oh, don't start that. And please do enlighten me if you've got it all figured out."
John only shrugged. "I can't tell you. There is no single point to living. You have to figure that out along the way."
Sherlock glared at him. "And how can you be so sure about this? It's not like you've found some higher purpose."
"No, I haven't," John admitted.
"So what's your big secret? Why am I, the highly intelligent one, questioning the point of life, while you, with your brain full of jumpers and poetry, are perfectly content with how you are?" he sneered.
John looked at Sherlock and chose his words carefully, before lifting the paper back up to hide behind. "Getting shot changes things."
Sherlock frowned for a second before it hit him.
"Oh!" he breathed, clasping his hands in front of his face like he did when he reached an important deduction. "Oh that is brilliant! You're saying that by getting shot, essentially having a near death experience, puts things into perspective."
John lowered the paper again and scratched his head.
"Well, sort of I suppose."
Sherlock's face lit up with that, a sign that John was justified in truly dreading the next words to come out of Sherlock's mouth.
"Shoot me John!" he insisted, gesturing to himself.
John just looked at him. "Are you completely mad?"
Sherlock glared at him like he was the mad one, gesturing to himself again insistently.
"I'm not going to bloody shoot you!" John exclaimed. "That's ridiculous."
Sherlock rolled over to throw himself onto the couch.
"That's rather unfair," he pouted.
John gaped. "You not getting shot is unfair? In what world? Since when is anything fair?"
Sherlock only scowled.
"Sherlock, that is the stupidest idea you've ever had, and I'm including the time you thought we should cover a duck in honey to see if it could still swim!"
Sherlock frowned. "Is that a no?"
"I am not shooting you," John said, and that was final.
Sherlock moped for the rest of the day, and probably would have for much longer if Lestrade hadn't come along with a case the next morning.
Sherlock deemed it an eight and actually got dressed to drag John out of the flat.
John couldn't see what was so exciting about it, but Sherlock went on about some sort of new bullet, and John just trailed along behind with the gun, trying to keep up with his long legs and leaps of deduction.
The case seemed to be going well enough, John had been able to keep up, got Sherlock to eat a piece of toast, kept Lestrade up to date, and it was looking like they would be able to finish up that night, allowing John to sleep for a day or so.
Of course, that's when Sherlock got himself shot.
He should have expected it. How could he have been so stupid? That was how Anderson was supposed to be, not Sherlock.
It was like the universe heard him telling John to shoot him, and filled his wish for him.
Although really, if any wishes were going to be granted, why the hell was that one chosen?
Of course, he didn't believe in any of that.
He had to admit, it wasn't what he expected. He'd been shot before, of course, but once was through the leg, and the other barely grazing his abdomen, only causing him pain and profuse bleeding, but not damaging anything.
Sherlock knew this time was worse. And not just worse because it was different, but actually worse.
Like 'maybe not going to make it' worse.
He catalogued the damage as he staggered backwards and fell. Right side of the chest, did it make it through? Can't tell, can't reach, oh god this hurts, why the hell is it hurting this much? Hemothorax likely, collapsed lung, blood loss. Trouble breathing is starting. I wonder if I'll drown or bleed out first?
He could taste the blood, where ever it was coming from, probably bubbling up from his lungs with each breath. No one liked the taste of blood, it was like licking dirty coins that other people had touched. But there it was on his lips, where he imagined John would see it when he found him, pale from the blood loss, spatters of blood on his lips standing out like the crinkles in John's jumper after he came home from a date.
And John was there, hovering over him, blocking out the minimal light that there was.
He was fretting, of course, because that's what Johns did best.
Sherlock's throat erupted in a cough, and he knew that he must have managed to spray John's jumper with blood that wouldn't come out, not if he didn't wash it right away, because John always moaned about Sherlock doing that when he went to do the laundry. Sherlock did listen. He always listened.
He tried to reach an arm out to wipe it off.
"You should wash it," he tried to say, but it must not have made sense, because John only grew more concerned and hushed him.
And there may have been more, of course there was, there's always more, more than even you can see, but he was a little occupied with his fading vision and the empty nothingness that enveloped him not long after.
Because that wasn't all there was, not just something then nothing. He was crawling, hands and knees, the ground trying to suck him back in, reclaim him, but he knew that wasn't right, that he wasn't ready for that yet. It wasn't time yet. He had to keep crawling.
And there was a part of him that felt like he'd done it before, climbed out of the primordial ooze and shaken the mud off, naked and dirty but evolved.
But then that part of him vanished along with all the other parts, because he was gone.
And then there was nothingness.
Before Sherlock was even fully conscious, he knew he was in hospital. Before he opened his eyes he knew that he'd been there for at least two days and John had been there through all of it. Before he even looked down to check he could tell there was a chest tube and rows of stitches in the right side of his chest. And before he even moved he knew it hurt like hell.
After he had regained consciousness and opened his eyes and looked down to check and moved, causing him to gasp in pain, which only made it hurt more, prompting John to push the button that administered pain medication until Sherlock was comfortably numb, Sherlock realized what had really happened.
He'd been shot, just like he wanted.
But nothing had happened. He didn't feel any different, or have any answers, or even feel blessed to be alive. He was mostly annoyed with John for making it seems like getting shot would be something life changing, and angry at himself for getting shot. Not to mention fury at the bastard who shot him.
Sherlock hoped Lestrade had caught him and locked him up. It was the least he could do, especially considering all the evidence and leads Sherlock had spoon fed him.
But nothing had happened. He refrained from sighed, but looked at John.
"Perhaps..." he began.
"Perhaps you were correct," he finished. "That being shot is... not so good."
John, and Sherlock had to give him credit for this, didn't say it. Didn't even smirk, like he was thinking it. He just nodded solemnly.
"Almost dying changes nothing. Dying changes everything."
"But... what about you then?"
John smiled sadly.
Sherlock must have still been fogged from the drugs, because he didn't know what that meant. Or maybe it was just that he didn't want to know.
"I don't..." he trailed off.
John didn't say anything, just kept looking at him with that sad face and Sherlock just sorted through the thoughts in his head. His mind palace was a mess, all sorts of new data scattered about, needing to be sorted yet. But there was no time for that now, because John.
John was what was important at the moment. Especially what John had said, and what it means.
But he didn't want to believe it, even though there was only one thing he could have meant. (Unless he was lying. Or saying )
"Are you saying..." he began, then trailed off, frustrated with the lack of words that fit. Why weren't there words that fit here?
"Did you die?"
Sometimes, the simplest way was the best.
"If you're talking about the clinical definition of death, meaning no heartbeat, then yes, I did die."
Sherlock furrowed his brow. "How did you not die?"
From what he understood of the little John had told him about his time in Afghanistan, most of it while he was drunk and not making much sense, medical treatment was mostly scoop and run, hurried bandages to stop hemorrhaging and the occasional shot of pain medication with most of the medical treatment not taking place until they were back at the camp or whatever it was. John tended to trail off during bits of his story. Sherlock really hated that, especially now when it was needed.
Meaning if John's heart had stopped while he was bleeding out where he lay slain, there wasn't much chance of getting him back, not with him being the medic.
"It wasn't then," John said, knowing what Sherlock was thinking. "It was when I was in hospital. Got an infection, of course. Septic shock, heart stopped briefly... but I'm fine. It really didn't change anything Sherlock. I died, but it was only for a minute at most. That is a world of difference from being actually dead, holding a funeral and everything. I suppose I just couldn't commit." He half smiled at that, like he found it amusing, but Sherlock couldn't understand why.
Sherlock gave up on the near death experience idea after he suggested that John shock him to make his heart stop, then shock him again to restart it, and John threatened to have him committed.
John was the more experienced one of them after all.
As Sherlock stood in the graveyard that day, watching John speak to his gravestone, then nod before walking away, he realized something.
John was wrong. He was so very wrong, and Sherlock felt awful for having to experience and demonstrate that first hand. Because he would return to John, and he knew that it would not go well, even with his relief of Sherlock not being dead.
Because dying really did change everything, and you couldn't just come back from that. Even if dead didn't really mean dead.