There were so many things he should say. So many things he should have already said, but had never felt the need to say. There had been no need, and all the time in the world.
Well, that no longer held true. It was too late now. And yet he had to say the words.
Even if doing so hurt like hell.
"You told me once" he hesitated, cleared his throat, but only for a moment. He had to say it. "That you weren't a hero."
He shifted his weight, searching for the continuation, searching for a way to make the words come out right.
"Umm…There were times when I didn't even think you were human. But let me tell you this: you were the best man and the most human…" he almost smiled at the phrasing, "human being that I've ever known and no one will ever convince me that you told me a lie. That so. There."
They were the right words. They were good words. But they were not enough.
Perhaps if he stood closer. Perhaps, if he touched the stone, it would be easier.
It was not.
"I was so alone and I owe you so much."
Those words were so big. They were words he would never have said to any other person, because no other person would be worthy of them. He owed Sherlock his life. Sherlock had given him something to do, something worthwhile, without feeling sorry for him or treating him like anything else than a regular, capable person. There had been the cases, of course, sleepless nights and long chases, but also companionship. TV-nights. Someone to talk with over tea. Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, Molly – they were all people he would never have met or gotten to know if it had not been for Sherlock. Everything he had, everything his life consisted of, was in some way thanks to Sherlock. Only… Sherlock was no longer there.
He turned to go. Mrs Hudson would be waiting for him.
But he could not go. Not just yet. The grave was still there. Shiny black stone, clear letters spelling out the all too familiar name. It made him feel sick.
He felt the words clotting together in his throat.
"There's just one more thing, one more thing, one more miracle, Sherlock, for me- Don't… be…" his voice broke over the last word. "Dead."
Tears were threatening to well up and he had to breathe, had to try and push them down again. His voice came out a whisper, like something small and wounded.
"Would you do that? Just for me? Just stop it. Stop this."
He could say no more. It hurt. Everything hurt, but still he could not force himself to say the words that would have encompassed all his feelings because somehow, admitting those feelings would make everything even worse. He had lost the single most important people in his life, and if he acknowledged even to himself just how important Sherlock had been, John did not think he would ever make it out of the graveyard.
So he collected himself, drew himself up, saluted, and marched away.
It hurt. Every step hurt like stepping on burning coal and still he felt cold all over, as if he was somehow in the grave he left behind. Perhaps he was.
The feeling did not cease. He knew it would, probably. That every hour and every day would help him to shake of that cold. But he did not want to. That cold was the only thing he really had left now, the only lingering feeling of Sherlock. The only thing to hold on to.
So even though it hurt like hell – he held on to it.