Prompt: Because I want angst galore and a really sad ending: Sherlock returns. No disguises. John sees him, freezes in the middle of the street and yells out his name. Sherlock sees John just as he's hit full force by a car. John is in a coma and on life support. Sherlock is always with him. Though not brain dead, doctors don't expect him to wake or live without life support. Though she never visits him, Harry makes the decision to take John off life support. Sherlock does everything he possibly can to change Harry's mind and tells her he'll pay for the best fulltime care. Harry orders John off life support. John never wakes and Sherlock is the only one there when John dies. No crack.
It had been more than a year since John had seen that face. Thirteen months in fact.
He'd seen it before, but it was only a ghost calling to him from around corners, or whispers of days long since passed. At least it seemed they were long ago, each day stretching out impossibly long.
But there it was.
Just standing there.
And John blinked. And it was still there.
And it was smiling at him.
"Sherlock!" he called, in disbelief.
Sherlock's smile fell, and John didn't know why until he remembered he was standing in the middle of the road.
Sherlock managed to avoid speaking with Harry for the first day.
The second day, she cornered him, quite literally. This was the first time he'd met Harriet Watson, up close anyway, and she was larger than Sherlock had expected, considering John's size. Her size combined with the maternal instincts that had emerged when her younger brother was gravely injured, were almost daunting, even to Sherlock, so he stayed put and listened.
"You left him," she hissed, glowering at him.
Sherlock stood tall.
"I did what I had to," he said quietly. He knew she wouldn't listen.
"No, you were a selfish bastard and left him. Do you even know how broken he was? How many times he called me, more drunk than I was, and moaned for hours about his stupid friend who was only too human?"
Sherlock did know in fact, but wasn't willing to let her know that.
"I had to stay. So get out."
He returned, of course, the next day.
He didn't have to; Mycroft had enough connections that Sherlock could remain updated on John's condition without setting foot in the hospital, even watching him on the CCTV cameras.
But it wasn't the same, and he sure wasn't going to let Harry scare him away like that.
After all, he was Sherlock Holmes.
He remained by John's bed in the intensive care unit as much as he could. It reminded him of days Before, when it had been reversed, and he'd been the one in the bed after getting shot, and John was the one worried sick.
John's condition wasn't improving. That much Sherlock could gather on his own, seeing as how none of the machines took their leave in the next week. There was a quiet desperation lingering in the room.
The medical records he procured through Mycroft said much the same thing. Head trauma, severe enough to require ongoing life support.
John wasn't brain dead, not completely, but he wasn't exactly just sleeping either.
Sherlock's stupid brain kept reciting facts about brain injuries and recovery at him. He tried to ignore it.
He was largely unsuccessful.
He wasn't invited to the meeting where the doctors discussed Harry's options with her.
Sherlock hacked into the cameras, and was a silent observer.
He wasn't sure if that was better or worse than not knowing, because it nearly killed him to not be able to say anything, especially when Harry decided.
He waited in John's room for her to return.
She didn't acknowledge him was she came in and sat down at John's bedside.
"I know what you decided," he told her. Harry didn't seem surprised.
"So?" she asked.
"It's wrong," Sherlock replied. "John could recover. If you'd listened to the doctors, you'd know that."
Harry was quiet for a moment, clutching John's hand.
"No," she said finally. "This is what's best. John wouldn't want to live like this."
She traced lines on his palm, and Sherlock hated her for it.
"He could recover," Sherlock repeated.
Harry only glared at him. "You are not his family. You do not get to make decisions about his life. I do."
"I can get him the best care in the country, the world even. You can't give up on him like-"
"Give up?" Harry hissed, standing up abruptly.
Sherlock winced as John's hand hit the bed less than gently.
"I am not giving up," she told him, looking him in the eye, her voice surprisingly steady for someone nearly shaking with anger. "I'm not giving up," she repeated, more for herself. "He never gave up on you," she whispered. She collapsed back into the chair. "All those months, he still believed in you. Couldn't believe that you were a lie, a fraud. Hell, he was one of the only people. But he got more. Started a ridiculous movement. Believe in Sherlock Holmes." She smiled slightly. "Right up until the day you came back, he never stopped believing in you. He never gave up, even though everyone told him it was hopeless."
"Is this not just as hopeless?" Sherlock asked.
She didn't turn to look at him.
"That's exactly why. One hopeless thing happened. Two?" She shook her head. "Never."
She stood up and looking him in the eye.
"I'm signing the papers in the morning. You can stay with him if you want."
Harry left, and Sherlock took her place at John's side, how it was meant to be.
He realized later that Harry never explained how that meant she was not giving up.
Perhaps it was more of the look where the attitude of never giving up got him.
He crossed his fingers that Harry would somehow die before making it to the hospital the next morning, or at least changed her mind, but there was no such luck for him.
Doctors and nurses came in to remove John's breathing tube, disconnect the feeding pump. They left the IVs in for pain relief. They didn't even know if John was in any pain, but Sherlock was grateful for the sentiment, however misguided it may have been.
Everyone was surprised when John took a breath. They'd assumed he wouldn't, that it would be the end, just like that.
But it wasn't.
So they put him on oxygen to make it easier, and left. They told Sherlock to call them if anyone needed anything.
Sherlock deleted their names. He didn't want to have to kill them later.
"I can't be here... when he..." she broke down sobbing.
Sherlock couldn't understand that. How could she not be there?
People were so strange.
John had always been a stubborn man.
Somehow, he held on into the night, his breathing sporadic at best, and non-existent at worst. And yet, there always seemed to be another.
Sherlock couldn't let himself believe it would always be that way.
Because it wasn't.
Sherlock was there as John took his last breath.
John's family was not.
Sherlock figured that was best.