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Don't. Be. Dead.

It was a prayer at this point, still said faithfully months after Sherlock had left him. Every morning in that half-awake time John could imagine that the other side of the bed wasn't cold, could pretend that Sherlock was in the sitting room lying on the couch or had been out all night on a case. Until he opened his eyes and remembered that he was alone again in the small bed in his old room upstairs.

"You're not happy here," Harry had told him, two months into his self-imposed exile from Baker Street.

"I'm not going to be happy anywhere," John replied flatly, but he knew she was right. Harry had never been able to beat her addiction and it had been ages since she'd made any real attempts. John no longer had the energy to try to save her from herself, he was completely mired in trying to keep himself afloat. Dealing with her problems on top of his own grief was impossible and living together was straining their already tenuous relationship.

"Yeah, but too much more of this and we're going to kill each other. Go home."

It wasn't home but there was nowhere else to go. Leaving their flat would be the final betrayal of Sherlock and their life together, even though it had been Sherlock who had left him. One step off the edge, arms outstretched as if reaching for John, begging him to break Sherlock's fall even as he commanded John to watch. John would have held him there if he could, caught him, stopped him, protected his friend because that's what friends do, what Sherlock had apparently done in sending John away.

For all that Sherlock listened to John in ways that he never listened to anyone else, he had lied to John in the end. Lied about being a liar, and left John alone and unable to sleep in the bed they had shared.

All he saw in his dreams was falling, endless falling and if he didn't see Sherlock hit the ground, then he wasn't dead but in limbo, falling and falling and falling, over and over again. It was as if Sherlock had been trapped in a burning building with no other choice but to jump or be consumed by the flames, smoke choking the life out of his lungs, certain death one way or another. John trusted his friend and somehow knew that Sherlock had made the only choice he possibly could have, even if John would never know why. And John had seen him hit the ground, had seen him die, had seen his empty eyes and desperately searched for a non-existent pulse. And hundreds of repetitions of don't be dead was never going to change the fact that Sherlock was, in fact, actually dead.

And with his friend gone and nothing else left to do John wrote. He had managed one final blog entry two weeks after the funeral. It had been too short to contain all that Sherlock was but there was no containing Sherlock anyway. It didn’t seem proper to be updating his blog when it was Sherlock's story, but for all that Sherlock treated John's personal property as his own, it didn't seem right for John to post on Sherlock's Science of Deduction website either. He'd disabled comments on both sites, unable to deal with the flood of condolences and the equal if not greater amounts of vitriol.

He'd worry about making the stories public later, maybe he could lean on Mycroft to get them  published or simply start posting them on a neutral site. But for now, John wrote because he couldn't not write. John was writing to someday make others believe Sherlock's story but he knew he was also writing to convince himself. Not that Sherlock wasn't a fraud because John knew that deep his soul and no one, not even the bastard liar himself, could make John believe otherwise, but to convince himself that the past eighteen months had happened. He needed to always remember that this brilliant man had existed, that Sherlock had shown him the battlefield of London through his eyes, and that they had loved each other.

Don't. Be. Dead.

John had already gotten one miracle in Stamford's fateful introduction, what the hell made him think he deserved two in one lifetime? But he still kept praying, long after it was clearly hopeless.


This month's deposit has been credited to your account. Do let me know if you require anything else. MH

John ignored the text, just as he had the other identical ones that had arrived on the first day of the previous months. He had seen Mycroft exactly twice since Sherlock died, once when he tried to stop John from identifying the body at the morgue and again at the funeral. John had pushed Mycroft out of his way the first time and avoided him completely the second. Aside from the monthly texts, the only other communication from Mycroft Holmes had been a letter that arrived by registered mail informing John that Sherlock had left him everything.

Everything turned out to be the contents of 221B and a sizable trust fund to be paid out in instalments, more than enough to ensure that John would never have to work again. He would trade it all in heartbeat to have Sherlock back.

John's watch alarm beeped reminding him that it was nine-thirty and time to leave for his bi-weekly appointment with Ella. He silenced the alarm and turned back to his current manuscript. This one had a simple name, just The Hounds of the Baskervilles. It had been so much fun teasing Sherlock with the most absurd titles for their cases, but his heart was no longer in it. It was a semblance of a life these days, functioning but not feeling. John didn't want to think about what would happen when he ran out of stories.

On one of the few occasions he had bothered to show up he had told a half-truth to his therapist; his best friend was indeed dead, but the love of his life was also. No one had known that, their mutual admission of love was too new. Fledgling but not fragile and now that was dead, too.

Two hours later, John heard steps on the landing, but they weren't the ones he still couldn't stop himself from listening for. He was tired, so tired of everything, and as usual these days, wasn't up to having company. The expected knock didn't come, but John sighed and opened the door anyway. He was completely unsurprised to see Lestrade in the hallway.

"You weren't answering your phone. Or your email. We're worried about you."

"We?" John asked.

"Yes, you still have friends at the Yard and we all are actually worried about you."

John was still standing in the doorway, unable to muster up the energy to respond. Lestrade gestured toward the living room. "Can I come in?" he asked, sounding tentative and very much unlike his usual self.

"No," John answered, firmly but without heat. He couldn't bring himself to snap at Lestrade about police cars and handcuffs. Lestrade looked tired too, old in a way he never had before,

but John still couldn't stand the thought of Lestrade in their sitting room when the last time he'd been there had been the last time Sherlock had been there as well.

"Fair enough. Just, call somebody okay. I'd like it to be me but I understand that it can't be. But, just please call." Lestrade turned to go.

Something in his voice made John believe he was sincere. "Wait."

Lestrade stopped and turned back.

"I'll walk down to the pub with you, if you've got time," John said. It wasn't as if he had anything else to do. As angry as he'd been with Lestrade, he was still a good man and John had few friends these days.

"Time's the one thing I've got plenty of," Lestrade replied. John grabbed his jacket and they headed out into the humid August night.

Lestrade offered to get the first round and John found a table in the back corner of the Allsop Arms. They tried to ignore the crowd around them, the inebriated group celebrating a birthday in the corner, the boisterous pub quiz at the bar, and the persistent smell of spilled ale and too many people in close proximity.

The two men clinked their glasses in a wordless toast to Sherlock and John had to resist the urge to put his head down on the table and just hide. It had been his idea to come out with Lestrade and he knew the other man wouldn't push, so after a few minutes he asked, "So how bad is it? The review I mean."

"They suspended me for a month and then stuck me on cold cases. Damned lucky I haven't been demoted. The review board's still going through my files. I've heard from several sources that everything except the kidnapping is going to clear and that might just 'go away', whatever that means. Someone's pulling strings, has to be, but I'm almost afraid to ask. It's about time we had someone on our side."

"Our side?" John asked, unable to keep the frustration out of his voice. "Leaving the case unsolved so it looks like Sherlock is guilty is not exactly being on our side. He didn't kidnap those kids. Or arrange it or anything like that." John made sure to look Lestrade straight in the eye as he spoke, so desperately did he need Lestrade to believe in Sherlock.

"I know that, " Lestrade said, softly but firmly. "And if  I'm reinstated, I might be able to do something about it. Going to try my best. But I'm not him. Nobody is."

"You don’t believe he was a fake, that he orchestrated all the cases you called him in on." Even though Lestrade had pretty much just affirmed that, John still needed to hear it.

"No. He was arrogant and rude and a right bastard at times, but he was brilliant and proud of it. It wouldn't have meant anything to Sherlock if it wasn't real. There wouldn't have been any point to it." Lestrade took a long swallow of his lager and thought for a moment. "I think I got to know him better in the time since you showed up. You changed him, you know. More than anyone else. I always wondered why he was the way he was, but I never doubted his intelligence. Not once."

John nodded. "I have to admit I wasn't sure. It didn't seem like you trusted him at all, especially towards the end."

"I was pushed into a corner and you know it. I did what I could to help you guys in a horrible situation. Why do you think you were able to escape? That no one found you at Bart's? I bought you some time, but that was all I could do. And I know damn well that it wasn't enough and I am so, so sorry."

"I know, I just wish… it wasn't supposed to end like that."

"It was up to Sherlock to come up with the miracle and I thought he was going to pull it off. He always did and after a while, he almost seemed superhuman, you know. Sometimes I forget, I go to text him to ask him something, and it hits me all over again that he's gone," Lestrade said, the anger from earlier evaporating. Now he just sounded as sad as John felt.

If John started talking about how he kept expecting to hear explosions in the kitchen or see Sherlock lying on the couch when he comes home from work, he wouldn't get through the rest of the night. "Time for another round, I think," John said instead, and carefully navigated his way across the crowded room and back, barely missing being upended by a young woman enthusiastically celebrating a win at darts.

Lestrade accepted his glass with a quick thanks. John had downed half his drink before the other man spoke again, and while the silence wasn't the comfortable kind he was used to with Sherlock, it didn't weigh all that heavily either. He supposed that was progress. Even though he tried, it was difficult to stay angry with Lestrade when John knew that if it wasn't for him, Sherlock most likely wouldn't have survived long enough for John to have even met him. It was probably true of Mycroft as well but John wasn't there with him yet and wasn't sure that he  would ever be able to forgive the man. Lestrade had at least tried to give Sherlock and him a fighting chance when everything was crashing down around them.

"It was worth it you know, worth all of it. He was smarter than the rest of us put together and he was well on his way to becoming a good man," Lestrade said quietly.

"He is," John said, then corrected himself, "was a good man. What he did, that was the bravest thing I've ever seen."

"John," Lestrade said gently, "he committed…"

"He had a reason, and it wasn't to save his career or escape the destruction of his reputation. I don't know how to get into his head, nobody did, but I know," John stopped for a minute, took a deep swallow of his beer and forced himself to refer to his friend in past tense. "I knew him well enough to know that he had a reason.  Even if we'll never know what the bloody hell it was."

"He always was a dozen steps ahead of us all," Lestrade agreed and they clinked glasses again. Then they spent the next hour arguing the merits of Arsenal versus Tottenham and it was as close to normal as John had felt in months. The feeling lasted until he walked up the stairs into  the living room and automatically called out Sherlock's name to an empty flat.


John knew he had to get out of the rut he'd fallen into, find something beyond the routine clinic work and do something exciting that would jumpstart his moribund life. He sat in his chair and stared at the empty one in front of him, as he did every night now. He would reenlist if they would have him, but he knew the army would never take him back. He was entirely too scarred physically and mentally, not to mention being far too old now. It took all his energy just to leave Baker Street these days, he was deluding himself if he thought he could actually leave the country. The limp had been one of the very, very few things he could control in the aftermath of Sherlock's death. It had flared up shortly after Sherlock's death and John had resorted to using the cane for a week or two before finally forcing himself to stop. He couldn't will Sherlock back to life but he was not about to let his body take one of Sherlock's gifts away from him.

But he had to do something constructive, connect with someone, anyone. Get the hell out of the flat, get Sherlock's story, the true story, out there. Put his damn medical degree and trauma experience to some actual use.

Right then, he would contact Mycroft and start the process of getting his stories published. Tomorrow he would go to the park and join the weekly pickup football game. Monday he would start calling about an A&E job. Get in touch with Stamford too, see how the wife and kids were getting on. And maybe next weekend he'd take Angelo up on his standing offer of anything he wanted, anytime he wanted it.

No, that was too much. Angelo was good man but he couldn't go back and sit at their table all alone. Three things on the list was enough to be getting started with.

Of course he never actually did any of those things. He went to work and he wrote and that was all. The weeks passed and nothing changed.



John was lying on his back in their bed, the faint light from the street outside just enough to outline the room and the activities within. He looked down, couldn't help it because the sight of his cock in Sherlock's mouth was never not hot. John wanted to run his hand through those lovely dark curls, he was so hard and so close and it felt like it had been ages since the last time he'd come.

He closed his eyes for a brief second to concentrate on the feeling, only to open them again to see blond hair. John's body jerked reflexively at the disconnect, at how utterly and completely wrong it was. The strange man looked up at him and growled as the bed underneath him turned to dirt. John was sinking down into it, being pulled underground as the dirt covered his face and choked him. He could taste the dust, it tasted like death, and the man was gone and he was alone.

When John craned his head back instead of the familiar ceiling it was Sherlock's headstone, the engraved name upside down front his vantage point and John's panicked face reflected in it. Everything went dark as he scrabbled fruitlessly for a handhold on the gravestone as he went under.

He woke up gasping on the couch in the bright sunlight, hands fisted into the cushions. John sat up and stared at the skull on the mantel for a long time before he finally felt steady enough to get up and take a shower.


Sherlock had been gone for almost half a year now and John still kept expecting to see him lying on the sofa or standing by the window holding his violin, surveying the street below. John would give anything to hear his voice, even if John walked into the conversation midstream because Sherlock hadn't noticed he hadn’t been there for the beginning of it. Every time John walked into the flat he saw Sherlock's books, scattered papers with his distinctive handwriting, and the chair that would always be empty now.

Mrs Hudson had packed up the chemistry equipment ages ago and left it in boxes in the kitchen. John tried hard not to look at them, there was a path to the fridge and the stove and the table had long been ceded to Sherlock's experiments, so it was fine that it was stacked two layers high with boxes. He didn't dare use the microwave since Sherlock wasn't around for John to ask what had been in it last. Mostly he made tea and subsisted on take away.

One rainy Wednesday when he'd gotten off shift early, he had a sudden burst of energy and decided to pack up the rest of Sherlock's things. For safekeeping, that was all, until…

Right, then, where to start? Mrs Hudson had tried once, right after the funeral, to pack up the sitting room, but John had shouted that he wasn't ready and she'd left. John had spent the next week apologizing until she finally told him to stop, that he'd clearly just been channelling Sherlock. "He never wanted me messing with his things, don't see how his being dead would stop him from having an opinion." They had shared a fragile laugh at that and never brought it up again.

John got as far as filling up half a box when he stopped and looked around the living room again. He leaned his forehead against the wall next to the kitchen. "Damnit Sherlock, I'm so tired of picking up after you and you aren't even here for me to yell at you. Come and get your own fucking crap." His shouts met with no reply and slumping to the floor, John realized that he could not do this alone. He couldn't ask Mrs Hudson for help after the way he'd reacted before. Molly or Sarah maybe, he still had tentative friendships with both women, but neither tie was strong enough to ask this large of a favour.

He thought about leaving it but John Watson was nothing if not determined, so he dug out his cell and called Lestrade instead. They hadn't seen each other since the night at the pub six weeks ago.

He did not have the energy to spare for small talk and as soon as Lestrade answered, he asked, "Did you mean it, when you said if there was anything you could do?"

The reply was instantaneous, "Offer's still open. What do you need, John?"

Lestrade arrived in 40 minutes with a half dozen rolls of packing tape, a take away bag of bacon sarnies, and an ancient radio. Accompanied by loud classic rock, and an impromptu sing along/game of name that tune, they made rapid progress. Lestrade had a crap voice but his enthusiasm more than made up for it. Any distraction was a good thing and John would take the company over the silence, at least for now.

They were cleaning out the kitchen when Lestrade held up a half empty bottle of whiskey.

"Found this behind the toaster, next to a bag of what I think are diseased toenail clippings but I really have no desire to find out. What do you want to do with it?"

John sighed. "I thought I'd got rid of it all. Toss it or take it, I don't care."

John had gotten absolutely shitfaced drunk twice since Sherlock left him, the night Sherlock died and the night of the funeral. The night of the funeral he had been at his sister's place and although he'd technically had his sister's company, he had felt very much alone.

"I don't want it in the house. It's not safe."

"John, you don't have to explain yourself. And you certainly don't have to feel obligated to drink when we go out. Wouldn't hurt me to cut back a bit, too."

"You're a good friend, Greg, " John said, and meant it. "I have a few pints out now and then but that's it and only when I'm with someone so I can't let myself get smashed. And none of the hard stuff, I don't trust myself with it anymore. Go on, take it."

Lestrade looked at it thoughtfully. "I'm guessing Sherlock was using it for something, probably the toenails, which means that no one should be drinking it anyway." He poured it down the sink.

Two and a half hours of hard work later everything, including the boxes from the kitchen, had been safely stored in Sherlock's old room. The only traces of him left were the skull and jack knife on the mantel, and Sherlock's chair. John would never use it but he couldn't bring himself to get rid of it either. Thankfully Lestrade was smart enough to give it a wide berth.

"Is that everything?" Lestrade asked, wiping the sweat from his forehead and dropping down on the couch.

"Almost," John said, walking back toward the door of Sherlock's room. He kept telling himself that he could do this, the hard part was almost over. He'd been in and out of Sherlock's room hauling boxes all day, managing only by concentrating on the music and Greg's company. He could manage this too. "Can you help me move my clothes back upstairs?"

John wasn't about to admit that he'd gone out and bought new things rather than go into their room to get his own. Harry had offered to pack a bag for him but John couldn't bear to have anyone else in the flat, let alone that room. Lestrade thankfully did not offer a fresh round of condolences or even comment at all, just picked up an armload of clothes and headed out the door. Moving his clothes out of Sherlock's room seemed so final. At first John had spent nights in the living room about half the time and his old room the rest, but John had practically stopped sleeping on the couch since that one vivid nightmare that stood out in a sea of nightmares. He might as well make the move back to his old room official.

While waiting for Lestrade to come back downstairs, he surveyed the living room. The flat hadn't even been this empty when he'd first moved in as Sherlock had already put his own stamp on it. He'd had a year and a half with Sherlock, the best months of his life, and couldn’t help but think of all the years they wouldn't have. His friend had already been dead five months, in a little over thirteen more Sherlock would be gone for a long as John had had him. It was impossible not to mourn all of that lost potential even as the memories of his voice, his face, that smile he had just for John were starting to fade- no matter how hard he tried to hold onto them.



The chilly October wind went right through John's jacket as he quickly walked through the London streets, almost oblivious to his surroundings. He'd picked up an extra shift at the surgery and when that had ended he was too restless to go home and watch tv or read, completely wound up for absolutely no reason at all.

Apparently his subconscious decided to take over and he found himself rounding the corner onto Baker Street an indeterminate period of time later. He made it home just before the rain that had been threatening all day started to fall in earnest. Warmer and somewhat tired from his brisk walk John had his key in his hand and his back to the street when he felt a prickle on the back of his neck, the unmistakable sensation that someone was sneaking up on him. Resisting the urge to drop to the ground, he instead backed up against the door and forced the key through two of his fingers as it was the only makeshift weapon he had.

The once ubiquitous black car screeched to a halt in front of him. Mycroft hadn't tried that trick in months and even when he had, it had always been executed with dignity. This was different and a burst of adrenaline, the likes of which he hadn't felt since running through London streets hand in hand with Sherlock cuffed to him, surged through him.

John tensed himself for a fight.

He never had a chance.

Six figures dressed in black erupted from the vehicle, and oh John could hear Sherlock's snide commentary on how clichéd that was. They descended on him and even in the midst of his fear there was a deep joy in hearing Sherlock's voice again, if only in his own head. He was terrified of the day when he'd forget it altogether.

No words were exchanged before they started to attack. John's instincts kicked in and he fought back with all he had. The one saving grace was that none of the assailants appeared to be armed. John elbowed one in the stomach and managed to punch another in the jaw, earning the satisfaction of hearing it shatter. He found to his surprise that he wasn’t ready to die but couldn’t help thinking that if they killed him, at least he’d get to see Sherlock again. Or if there wasn’t any life after this one, at least he’d never know. Neither of those thoughts stopped him from fighting back with all he had. But he was out of practice and missing his partner and all too soon went down under the onslaught.

He barely had time to wonder why he was being targeted after all this time before a well-timed blow to the head knocked him out.


John opened his eyes gingerly, his head was pounding and he had no idea where he was or who had taken him. He was very careful not to move, the longer he could feign being unconscious the better, even though the advantage was probably small at best. 

He quickly took stock of his surroundings. Having woken up in hospital entirely too many times he knew that the bed he was in was too large and too comfortable to be institutional and there was no smell of antiseptic in the air. John flexed his wrists and ankles as unobtrusively as possible and found that he wasn't restrained. Someone had changed him into a t-shirt and sweats though. The room was almost dark but he could see light around the slightly opened door. So either his captives had the building locked down so well that they weren't worried about him leaving the room or he had managed to sleep through being rescued. Lestrade would never let him live it down if that were the case.

The reconnaissance, as short as it was, drained the last of his energy. Satisfied that he wasn’t in any immediate danger and lacking the physical and emotional resources to do anything else, he closed his eyes and carefully laid back on the pillow. He knew he should be planning an escape but he was just too tired to care. Halfway between awake and asleep, he thought he heard Mycroft's voice in the hall. But it sounded entirely too agitated to be Mycroft, so it had to be a dream, and he couldn’t make out the words anyway. Something about knowing you'd rather have him hurt than dead and another voice, farther away, saying that he didn't know anything at all anymore. The voices fell silent and John gave into the urge to sleep.

It wasn't so much nightmares, more like snatches of mixed up memories in his dreams, a long black coat and the sure dreamlike knowledge that it was late fall and Sherlock was walking beside him in the cemetery, but they were going to visit Sherlock's grave, so none of it made sense. The kind of dream where everything is just wrong enough that it takes you awhile to shake it off after you wake up. John reached up to turn on the bedside lamp, he'd long ago stopped being ashamed of needing the light to chase the bad dreams away. As he rolled over towards it he realized that the sheets smelled like Sherlock even though his scent had faded from their bed months ago. The dream was dissipating on its own and although he had a vague feeling that things still weren't right, he allowed himself to drift off to sleep again.

He was almost there when he felt a weight on the bed next to him and instinctively reached out and grabbed the person's arm. "Sleep, Sherlock," he mumbled.

"It's alright, I'm not going anywhere," said a beloved voice in reply and John was so tired that he would take this hallucination over the dreams of Sherlock falling to his death or walking next to his own grave anytime. John pulled Sherlock down to lay beside him and felt warm arms wrap around him as he finally fell into a deep sleep.


When John next woke the pounding in his head had faded to a dull ache and although he could have sworn someone else had been pressed up against him, no one was holding him. He repressed a sigh at waking up alone again but, keeping his eyes closed, couldn't help thinking Don't. Be. Dead. Be on the other side of the bed, be downstairs, be halfway across London or even the world but don't. Be. Dead.

John couldn't quite face opening his eyes so he rolled over and buried his face in the pillow instead. A pillow that most definitely smelled of Sherlock. And now he was imagining he could hear Sherlock snoring lightly. John had always loved how it made him seemed more human on the rare occasions when Sherlock slept deeply like that.

Everything felt wrong, not like the wrong of his nightmares but the room felt bigger and the light seeping around his eyelids brighter. John was cold so he reached behind him to snag the blanket he'd apparently managed to kick off during the night. He couldn't find the blanket but the bed was warm. He reached a bit further and felt his hand hit a solid lump. That something- someone- twitched, and John didn't dare look.

He felt a hand close over his own and a sleep roughened voice saying what was probably his name, although John couldn't hear it over the rush of blood through his body. It subsided quickly enough that he could make out the next words though.

"I didn't mean to fall asleep," and it was pure reflex that made John reply, "You probably didn't mean to steal the covers either, you never do." And then it finally hit him and John forced himself to roll over and open his eyes.

The man lying next to him had blond hair, a few shades lighter than John's own and so utterly wrong, that it took a second for the features to snap into place. The long jagged scar on his lightly tanned face standing out on an impossibly sharper cheekbone spoke of a badly lost fight but the beautiful blue-gray eyes were the same.

"Sherlock?" John asked, gently, tentatively, so very, very afraid that this was yet another dream. Hope was the worst thing of all sometimes. Don't be dead. Oh please give me this one thing, this one miracle. He carefully reached out, avoiding the scar in case it was still painful, and place two fingers flat on Sherlock's neck. He could feel Sherlock's pulse pounding under his fingers. John exhaled in relief, closed his eyes and just counted. For once, he did not see Sherlock's broken body on the ground and he just revelled in the life next to him.

Then Sherlock moved, wrapping his arms around John and pulling him tightly against him, burying his head in John's shoulder and saying John's name over and over again.  And John found himself rubbing his back and consoling Sherlock, "it's alright, I’m here, we're both here. We're safe." He had no idea if the last was even true but they were together and that was more than enough for now. He'd happily hold Sherlock as long as he wanted to stay in his arms. There would be time to demand answers later.

Eventually Sherlock moved out of the embrace and backed away just enough to study John with all the care he would give the most complex murder case. "John," he said again, as if John were the only thing that mattered in the world and then kissed him, long and deep and sweet. John poured everything that he hadn’t been able to say for the last six months into that kiss and felt all of Sherlock's love and longing and sorrow and apology in return. Sherlock was kissing him as if he needed the very air in John's lungs to survive, which was fine with him because John already knew he couldn't survive if Sherlock wasn't breathing.

Eventually they broke the kiss and John found himself lying on Sherlock's chest in a perfect position to hear his heartbeat. He didn't ever want to move but he knew they would have to talk. He also knew Sherlock well enough to know that John would have to be the one to initiate such an emotional conversation but he just didn't have the energy for it quite yet. For the first time in a long time the lack of energy wasn't due to apathy but from the rush of joyous emotion, along with a healthy dose of confusion. Somewhere buried in there too was anger at everything Sherlock had put him through. Not to mention having fought off half a dozen ninjas a few hours before. He would enjoy telling Sherlock about that eventually.

John had absolutely no intention of falling asleep but found himself drowsing a bit anyway.

"I love you." Those words coming from Sherlock were enough to shock John completely awake and he sat up to stare at Sherlock who just calmly took his hands in his own.

"I know I've never said it before, and I can't promise I'll be able to say it again anytime soon, but it's been true for a long time. I almost told you up there on the roof but I didn't want to burden you with that. Not with everything else I was about to put you through."

"No, it's o…" John started to automatically deny it but it wasn't okay. Nothing that had happened in the last six months had been anything even remotely close to okay. John had loved Sherlock for a very long time as well. He'd almost said it himself once or twice early on but stopped himself as he hadn't wanted to push Sherlock. All he'd had to go on was the hope that Sherlock had loved him back, or if it turned out Sherlock was incapable of it, that what they already had together would have to be enough.

But for some reason hearing the words now made him feel cheated. It should have happened in their bed in their home, not here and not after John had been mourning him for six goddamn months. John pulled out of Sherlock's grasp and stood up, pacing the room angrily.

"You don't get to come back into my life like this and tell me that. Not after the absolute hell that you put me through." John stopped near the doorway and closed his eyes. He ran his hand over his face as he remembered Lestrade's words about all of them having made the best of a terrible situation. John found that he couldn't bear to keep his eyes closed for too long and opened them to drink in the site of Sherlock waiting patiently on the bed. He wondered how long it would take for this manic joy to wear off and wished that the mood swings would just fucking stop. Then again, he wouldn't trade the contents of this room for anything.

"I've hurt you badly John, and I know I don't have any right to ask anything more of you. But I would very much like the chance to at least explain." Sherlock looked almost as terrified as he had on the roof, like he was expecting to be hit or for John to turn and walk away from him for good.

John desperately wanted to know everything Sherlock had to tell him, but he was distracted by the terrible shape Sherlock was in. Sherlock was thinner then John had ever seen him, oh so thin, and he'd had very little extra to spare to begin with. John moved back to the bed and reached over to stroke his hand over Sherlock's head. Sherlock arched into the touch but didn't say anything


"Can I?" John asked carefully, ghosting a finger near the scar. It shocked him, but then again it really shouldn't have given the other man's talent at disguises, when Sherlock reached a fingernail underneath the top of it and pulled the prosthetic away from his skin, wincing as he did. His jaw was bruised and John figured that was real since Sherlock didn't touch it. He was wearing only pyjama pants, dark blue but entirely too large for him. They were probably Mycroft's and now John was sure he had heard his voice earlier too. The git had a lot of explaining to do as well, but John would deal with him later.

The pants were slung low on Sherlock's hips and while that normally would have enticed John to remove them entirely as a prelude to other activities, his attention was caught by the angry red slash on his left hip that looked like it had been inflicted by a serrated knife. There was a gunshot graze on his right arm, deep but almost healed, what looked like a burn mark on his right abdomen and clear defensive cuts and scratches on both hands. The facial scar might have been fake but all of these other battle scars were real. John hoped that was the extent of Sherlock's wounds but he had yet to see his legs or his back.

John let out a low gasp. "My god, Sherlock, what the hell have you been up to? And why the hell were you stupid enough to go it alone?" He was angry at both Sherlock and his nameless assailants, but since Sherlock was the only one there,  he got the brunt of John looming over him in anger.  "And don't say you did it to protect me."

Sherlock didn't say anything but gave John his typical stop being an idiot and notice the obvious already look. John refused to give into it. 

"Really.  That's the best excuse you can come up with?"  John asked incredulously.  The arrogant bastard, but that was Sherlock all over.

"Moriarty had snipers trained on you,  Mrs Hudson and Lestrade.  He blocked every attempt I made to thwart him.  Jumping was the absolute last resort,  John, I swear, " Sherlock said quietly but so intensely that John didn't press him on it,  especially when Sherlock pulled him down to sit next to him on the bed and entwined his hand with John's.

"Where have you been?" John asked instead.

"Entirely too many places that weren't home. Nowhere that matters now," Sherlock said, his voice rough with emotions that belied his words.

"It matters, it matters to me,  Sherlock," John insisted The physical evidence of what Sherlock has gone through was written on his body but that didn't even take into account the emotional toll of having to leave everything behind.  Nor did it give John any ideas of the details and that was starting to drive him crazy. 

"I've got roughly a third of his organization dismantled."

"Moriarty?" John had his suspicions seeing as the man hadn't been heard from since Sherlock's "death", especially since Moriarty was not the type to keep quiet when there was something to gloat about. Suspicions were one thing, but John needed to know for sure. 


"Good. Although I'll want all of the details later." There was a more important matter at the moment as it was obvious to John that there was something else Sherlock wasn't telling him. Something even more important than what he'd been up to over the past few months.

"You look even guiltier than you did before.  Out with it," he said, a shade lighter than his Captain Watson voice although he wouldn't hesitate to use it if necessary.

"He might be buried in my grave," Sherlock admitted. He wouldn't look at John but he hadn't let go of his hand either.

"You mean....  Damn.  Not that it matters now but all of the things that I said." John let go and stood up to pace the room again. "Damn.  And there's no might about it, I know you. Moriarity's in a grave with your name on it.  That is so completely messed up." He paced some more but never very far from where Sherlock sat.  "Thought it was you though and I guess that's all that counts.  Doesn't mean I've forgiven you for it."

Sherlock had been uncharacteristically quiet throughout and John turned to check on him.  "Oh god, there's more isn't there.  You've still got that look and you might be able to fool the rest of the world but like I said, I know you.  Especially when you're not trying that hard to hide it.  I'm already mad, might as well give me the rest.  Although I really can't imagine how this could be any worse," John told him, standing in front of Sherlock and rubbing his forehead again. Sherlock always did have a talent for giving him headaches.

"I saw you in the cemetery that day, right before I left London for good."

"I should have known," John murmured. Just he was getting close to thinking about maybe eventually forgiving Sherlock for his deception the man went and told him something else that made him mad all over again. But to be honest, this feeling wasn't anything really new when it came to dealing with Sherlock on a daily basis.  It's just that the stakes were so much higher this time.  The mood swings weren't abating but John always had had a hair trigger temper, so he might as well ride it out.  And he wanted to know everything.

"Seeing you was almost enough to keep me here."

Some of the hurt John felt at almost being enough must have shown on his face because Sherlock said, "it's not like that, John," and then fell silent again.  John waited, although it wasn't easy. Sherlock didn't elaborate but for once he didn't have the haughty look of figure it out yourself.  It was more that Sherlock might not have the actual words for once. He looked so lost and John's heart ached.

After a long moment Sherlock whispered, "Please, John.  Leaving you behind was the hardest thing I've ever done."  Sherlock reached his right arm up towards John with his palm up, wordlessly asking John to come to him like he couldn't on the roof.  John did the only thing he could do, the only thing he wanted to do since the phone call- he took Sherlock's hand and pulled him up into a tight embrace.

They held onto each other for a long time before John leaned back slightly in Sherlock's arms to ask, "Please tell me you didn't go to your own funeral. "

"Mycroft wouldn't let me," Sherlock said and he sounded so forlorn that John had to laugh a little. 

"Thank god for small mercies." And then a beat later, because he couldn't get the image of Sherlock in his coat with his collar turned up and scarf wrapped around his neck lurking in the shadows next to his own grave out of his mind, he said, "So you were standing there watching me talking to Moriarity's grave." The idea was so absurd, so annoying and yet so very much Sherlock that John couldn't help but laugh.

"Technically, it was my grave," Sherlock said solemnly, right before bursting into laughter himself.

"We are so very fucked up," John declared and they both fell backwards on the bed in each other's arms, laughing hysterically. Their laughter subsided and Sherlock rolled them so that John was underneath him.

"I really have missed you," Sherlock murmured, kissing him deeply, the kind of kiss that started out sweet and quickly turned passionate. He took his time, moving from John's lips to his neck and then licking that spot right behind John's ear that never failed to make him shiver. It was almost as if Sherlock hadn't been gone from his life and his bed for six months.

Sherlock let John sit up just enough to slip his shirt off and quickly pressed him back down to the bed again, Sherlock's bare chest up against his own. John imagined he could feel Sherlock's heart beating as he relished the slide of their bodies moving together and the taste of Sherlock in his mouth.

Sherlock reached down to push the sweatpants off of John and John rested one hand on Sherlock's head, stroking the hair that was so short that it barely curled, still not used to the light colour. He could feel Sherlock's hardness through the thin pyjama pants and reached down to stroke him through the fabric.

"Let me do this for you, please," Sherlock asked in a low voice, and John acquiesced. Sherlock slowly worked his way down John's body, relearning him with such care that John felt worshipped. John couldn't wait to do the same in return but he knew that Sherlock needed this absolution first.

Sherlock continued his explorations and the sensations were intensified for John after going for so long without being touched. Eventually, just when John was getting ready to beg for more, Sherlock sprawled between John's legs and with one hand carefully guided John's cock into his mouth, placing the other on John's chest. John rested his own hands over it, just resting although he had to stop himself from gripping too hard, as if he could anchor himself with Sherlock's body.

It felt wonderful, Sherlock's hands, his mouth, touching John with no other intent but to pleasure him but bittersweet all the same because he had started to forget what Sherlock felt like. John badly wanted to get lost in the sensations but couldn't close his eyes or he knew he'd find himself alone in their bed again. At the same time he couldn’t watch because the man didn’t quite resemble Sherlock even though John knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it really was him.

But somehow it still wasn't enough, Sherlock was too far away and it felt too unreal after so long. This had to be just another product of his desperate imagination. John forced himself to look down but when he did, he saw the blond hair. Even though he knew it was Sherlock's mouth on him and Sherlock's hand tangled in his own, it was all so very wrong. John's body hitched involuntarily but not in pleasure and he felt hot tears stinging his eyes. Trying not to jostle Sherlock, he ran his hand roughly over his eyes, unable to stop the silent tears. He cried the way he hadn't since the day Sherlock died. Sherlock was alive and there wasn't any reason to cry but John still couldn't stop.

Sherlock quickly caught on to his body's lack of interest and John wanted to tell him it's alright, 

keep going but couldn't force any words past the lump in his throat. John felt Sherlock pull off and lift his head but John couldn't look at him.

"John, what's the matter?" Sherlock asked, and the gentleness of the question on top of everything else just made John feel even weaker.

Still hiding his eyes, John shook his head. "I'm …" but he didn't get a chance to finish the thought. "Don't apologize," Sherlock growled, gathering John up in his arms. "Don't you dare apologize," he said again as John held onto him for dear life and Sherlock clutched back just as tightly.

"Oh, John, what have I done. I never thought you'd be so affected."

And that almost killed John, that Sherlock should doubt his love, not after his loss had almost devastated John.

"You didn't think about any of this did you," John said, voice roughened with the grief that he still couldn't shake, even now with Sherlock in his arms. "How could you possibly understand how this," and that word this encompassed oh so very much, "has affected me," and he put as much punch behind those words as he could as if he could try to force Sherlock to understand the hell he'd been through. 

"Damn, John, no,  that's not, " and John had been right, for once in his life the words weren't tripping easily off Sherlock's tongue and John was glad he wasn't the only lost one in this relationship.

"I've never, no one's ever loved me that much before. To stay the way you have, to mourn, to make me want to be better, to drive me to come back because I can't do this, any of this without you," and Sherlock spoke with such conviction that John believed him.

"I didn't think it would affect you the way it did me and clearly I've underestimated you once again." The frustration was obvious in Sherlock's voice.  "I don't understand it and words are so very inadequate."

"There is no understanding it, you just have to live it. And love me as best you can. That's all I can ask of you."

Sherlock's arms tightened around him.  "I do love you. And I always will, even if you can't forgive me."

"I know. You came back for me. Just give me some time, okay."

They lay there wrapped in each others arms for a while until John's stomach rumbled. Sherlock sat up. Being Sherlock, he avoided stating the obvious and asked instead, "Can you let me out of your sight for a bit? I can get us some sandwiches. Mycroft's always got a fully stocked kitchen." That last statement confirmed John's suspicions that Mycroft had been involved in all this, even if he wasn't sure to what extent. At the least they were in a safe place for the moment and that eased some of the tension that John still carried with him.

"You’re actually offering to get me food, you must be feeling guilty."

"Does this mean you've forgiven me?"

"No, I’ve not quite forgiven you yet but I’m sure I will eventually," John said, laughing at the eagerness in Sherlock's voice.  He wasn't playing with Sherlock, the events of the past few months were still very raw.  "Just don’t stop being you, okay.  I wanted my Sherlock back, not somebody else,  and even though I'm still mad at you,  I'll never stop being grateful I got you back."

Sherlock graced him with one of his rare real smiles and John grinned back.  "Doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for getting me food. And get enough for two, you’re eating something." Sherlock hesitated and John decided to make it easier on him. "I need a shower anyway, go on then," he said, making shooing motions with his hands and Sherlock, for once, obeyed. 

A shower and a few minutes to catch my breath and try and process all this, he thought as he stripped and turned on the taps.

The water was hot and felt good on his abused muscles, although as fights go his most recent kidnapping was far from the worst one he'd been in. Everything he needed was thoughtfully provided and he reached for the bottle of body wash that probably cost more than John would spend on soap in a year. He closed his eyes and tried to enjoy the feeling of being clean but the doubts started sneaking in. He hadn't really just been talking with Sherlock, it was impossible since his friend had been dead for six months. It had to be yet another wishful dream. The feel of Sherlock in his arms was already starting to fade, even though he knew Sherlock really was just down in the kitchen. But he'd fooled himself with that thought so many times before and had never stopped expecting Sherlock to come bursting in full of excitement to pull him from his shower naked and dripping to drag him to another crime scene.

"Oh, the hell with it," John said out loud, leaving the shower running and wrapping his soapy body in a towel, and then "this is crazy," as he rushed back to the bedroom. The rumpled bed didn't prove anything and John was almost frantic, until he saw Sherlock's watch on the nightstand. The same watch that John had given him for his last birthday to replace the one Sherlock had destroyed falling into a swimming pool on the Speckled Blonde case, the very same watch John had seen him wearing in the lab right before the fall and, since it hadn't been returned with the rest of Sherlock's effects, the one he assumed had been buried with him. It was enough to prove to John that he hadn't imagined any of the past few hours. Evidence, John, it tells you everything if you just observe, and this time he smiled at hearing Sherlock's voice in his head.

Glancing around almost in shame to make sure he wasn't being observed, John brought it back into the bathroom with him, cracking open the shower curtain just enough so that he could see it on the counter. The thing was waterproof after all.

He was just reaching for the high-end shampoo when Sherlock did come bursting in as he had so many times before. "Are you alright?. It's obvious by the water on the floor and the steam pattern on the mirror that you ran into the other room."

"I'm fine, Sherlock. Planning on joining me or are you just going to stand there and watch. Either's fine with me, as long as I actually get to finish my shower this time," John said with a grin that only widened at how quickly Sherlock got undressed.

"My watch, John?" Sherlock asked, the teasing evident in his voice.

"Sherlock, you were dead. Your mocking privileges are revoked for the foreseeable future."

Sherlock thought for a minute. "Fair enough."

"Come here, you," John said, turning Sherlock around so he was under the spray of the water. As he worked the shampoo into Sherlock's thick hair, he asked, "How long is that dye going to take to wash out."

"The box claimed it was permanent, although nothing actually is. The roots will start showing first and I'll need to redo it, maybe just brown this time."

By the time John was washing out the last of the conditioner, Sherlock was practically boneless. "You're a total hedonist, you know that right."

"Been ages since I've had a proper shower, so I intend to enjoy it."

John had gotten used to rare and quick showers while in the military and he knew that the luxury of a long and hot shower after so long without was something to savour. John kissed Sherlock and then, because he could, kissed him again and leaned forward to press his body against Sherlock's, moving him toward the back of the shower.

"Are you up for this, John?" Sherlock asked as seriously as John had ever heard him and John bit back a laugh. There was no point trying to explain just how badly he wanted this, so John just moved Sherlock's hand so it was covering his cock.

"You've got a lot to make up for Sherlock, feel free to start now," John told him and when Sherlock lunged at him, John most decidedly did not yelp. With a quick kiss to his neck Sherlock spun him so he could hold John against his own body. He then reached across John to fill his palm with the liquid soap and John could not help the excited shiver that ran though his body at the knowledge of what was coming next.

Sherlock holding him was heaven, and even though John couldn't see his face he knew it was Sherlock; knew his hands, his touch, his breath, his voice. Sherlock kept up a steady stream of words which anchored John just as much as the arms wrapped around him did. "I've got you John, I'm right here and I've got you."

Between the angle and Sherlock's larger hands, it was so much different than the way John touched himself. Sherlock had one arm solidly across John's chest, fingers idly toying with a peaked nipple and the other on his impossibly hard cock, driving him to such heights. It had been so very long.

"This isn't the last time, I swear," Sherlock promised and John knew it was a promise he had no way to guarantee he could keep. But the sentiment, especially coming from Sherlock, was more than enough. John sure as hell needed to hear it and maybe Sherlock needed to believe it, too.

The steady hand on his cock never flagged, even as Sherlock changed up the rhythm and the pressure enough to have John gasping for breath. John getting very close even though he never wanted it to end.

"Come for me, love," Sherlock commanded in a sultry tone that tipped John over the edge to  spill into Sherlock's hand. He was safe against Sherlock's body and he let Sherlock take his weight. It barely registered that this was the first time Sherlock had ever called him love and he would savour it later after he caught his breath. He suspected those times would be few and far between.

Sherlock didn’t let him go, just patiently waited for John to recover even though John could feel Sherlock's insistent need pressed up against his back.  A short time later, John turned in the circle of his Sherlock's arms and kissed him deeply, part reward and part promise of things to come. He took his time running his hands down Sherlock's chest, deliberately skipping his cock and moving down his thighs, lightly ghosting over the scars. John badly needed to hear the stories of how Sherlock's pale skin had been marked but it could keep for now.

He then knelt and teased the tip of Sherlock's cock with his mouth, enjoying the moans from above. He loved the evidence of how hard Sherlock had gotten just from making John come and John had no doubt that it had been just as long for Sherlock as it had been for John. Taking pity on Sherlock, John finally took him all the way in.

Sherlock slumped back, one hand against the shower wall but the other he kept protectively over John's damaged shoulder. Sherlock had spent what seemed like hours the first time they'd properly gone to bed- as opposed to only making it as far as the wall or the couch or John's chair- mapping the scar with his fingers and tongue. Ever since then he often spent at least some time worshipping it before moving on to other things and even now, caught up in his own bliss, he was still aware of John's body.  

"John please," Sherlock gasped and John rewarded him with a bit more pressure around his length, just enough to keep Sherlock on edge. "Don't tease me, please" and two pleases from Sherlock Holmes was quite the accomplishment.  John grinned around the cock in his mouth and oh, how John wanted to keep him on edge for ages, if only to see what else he could elicit from those lips. He looked up to see Sherlock's head thrown back in wild abandon, and that, too, was rare.

They had still been finding their way as lovers when John had lost him and although they had made love as often as they could, it still hadn't been enough. Another moan from Sherlock spurred him on, and John decided to hold onto Sherlock's promise that this would not be the last time.

John grabbed Sherlock's arse and tugged, encouraging Sherlock to thrust. He wanted to really feel Sherlock in his mouth, and the other man readily took the cue. As much as he would love to swallow Sherlock's release, to take something of Sherlock inside of him, he couldn't quite manage the texture yet. Sherlock was too shaky from his orgasm to notice and John had enough time to quickly rinse his mouth before Sherlock recovered enough to put his hands under John's shoulders and guide him back into his arms.


John reached over to the nightstand and snagged one of the sandwiches Sherlock had brought, knowing from experience that getting Sherlock to eat after sex was almost impossible. Ham and cheddar cheese, not bad. He was washing it down with a bottle of water when Sherlock asked drowsily from where he was lying curled up against John's side, "You're not going to start crying again, are you?"

"No, I think I'm done for a while. Just don't give me another reason to," he ordered, reaching over and hitting Sherlock lightly on the shoulder.

"I'm actually rather surprised that you haven't punched me yet."

"Thought about it but one doesn't punch a miracle in the face. It just isn't done," John said in his best attempt at imitating Sherlock's poshist accent.  It was apparently good enough to earn him a laugh. "Besides, I'm betting Lestrade will. Happy to let him do it as long as I get to watch."

Sherlock frowned up at him and John leaned down to kiss him. "You've been punched plenty of times, just be grateful that's probably the worst that'll happen.  If you're lucky, he might not hug you for too long after." Sherlock looked horrified at the idea and John smiled as he laid back down again. Lestrade had been a good friend to both of them and he was looking forward to seeing his reunion with Sherlock.

John's next thought sobered him up fairly quickly though. He wrapped his arm around Sherlock again and asked, "At Bart's, before you got me to leave, did you know that was going to be our last kiss?"

"I thought it might be."

"And all that bullshit about being alone, you were just trying to drive me off?"

"Yes," Sherlock said, with no emotion but John could see right through him. So you could face off against Moriarty and jump to your death alone, John thought.  It was a miracle he'd made it back in time. The only thing that would have been worse than that last conversation with Sherlock would have been to have gotten too late only find his cold body lying on the ground.

"I owe you an apology," John said, carding his hand through Sherlock's hair.  He was still getting used to the colour, but the texture was the same silk and it was still Sherlock, like he'd said earlier, in every way that mattered, "Never should have called you a machine,  I know you better than that," John said. He been carrying that guilt since Sherlock had jumped and it was one of his biggest regrets.

"I gave you every reason to think that it was true."

"I never should have left you alone. You have got to stop lying to me about the important things. And you need to realize you're not in this by yourself anymore."

They lay there in silence for a while just holding onto each other until Sherlock got restless and carefully slipped out of John's grasp. John let him go but he only wandered as far as the window.

John was still had so many unanswered questions. "You left me everything. How did you know I wouldn't sell it all?"

"I know how sentimental you are. And even if you had, it would be no less than what I deserved. Mycroft would have bought the violin if you'd sold it, family heirloom and all that. There's very little else material that I care about." John wasn't surprised, as much as Sherlock loved his clothes and his science equipment, in the end those were all things that could be replaced if one had enough money. Apparently Sherlock did, to John's surprise when he learned the terms of his friend's will, but none of the material items changed who Sherlock was.

Sherlock hadn't turned to look at John but he was answering questions, so John figured he'd push it a bit more. There was so much he'd been wondering about for so long, never imagining that he'd ever get the chance to actually ask.

"Why did you tell me you were a fraud?" John tried to keep his voice level but the anger was creeping in again. "Why was the last thing you told me a lie?"

"I didn't want you to mourn me, it was better to destroy the image and let you get on with your life. I underestimated you, as I always seem to do." And, John realized with a start, he had never actually told Sherlock how much he loved him. He'd shown him, in every way that he could, and Sherlock must have known, but John had never actually said the words. Not even earlier tonight, when Sherlock had told him. But somehow the time still wasn't right, it would seem too reactionary right now. But he would. And he knew that Sherlock would wait for him.

Something else occurred to John, as he remembered Sherlock's words from the roof that had seared into his memory. The bastard had actually tried to tell him.

"Oh my god, you tried to tell me. You said it was a magic trick and you meant the fall...." John sat up on the bed. "You made me watch you die but even then, you were trying to tell me it wasn't real."  John was still angry and knew it would be a while before he could let it go but it was still a balm to know that Sherlock had, in his own way, tried to let him know what the plan had been.

"I shouldn't have done that, it was dangerous and stupid."

"The whole thing was," John started to say and Sherlock finished for him, "Dangerous and stupid, I know."

"And most likely inevitable. Since the pool really, I knew we'd gotten out of that too easily. Moriarity wanted a bigger audience.  Tabloids and tv news and all that," John said, shaking his head. All of this heartache to feed one psychopathic man's ego.

"I didn't want to leave you like that, didn't want to leave at all, so I tried to tell you, even though I couldn't really."

"You had to have had help. Mycroft obviously."

"And Molly," Sherlock said quietly, and John could see his back tense as he braced himself.

"It's alright," John said quickly, and he truly wasn't angry this time. "I'm glad that she was able to help you. Glad that Molly is, well, Molly, although that explains why should would barely talk to me."

"John, it's not that I didn’t trust you." Sherlock started to say, still not facing John, and then stopped and started twice more before John took pity on him.  He'd never seen Sherlock so speechless in their entire acquaintance as he'd been in the past few hours. It spoke volumes as to his mental state and to how much all of this had cost him, too.

"It's alright," John repeated, "but no more, not ever again. I wouldn't… there were times I barely held on." His voiced dropped to almost a whisper and it was a good thing he was still lying on the bed because he didn't think he could stand just now. "Sherlock, I won't be able to survive this again."

"Neither would I," Sherlock said fiercely, turning to look John in the eye but not moving from his spot across the small room. "It's why, why I came back now. Even though it's too early. But I found that I can't do this without you."

"I kept expecting you to be there. I'd turn around to ask you something or explain why we had to keep going and you weren't there.  Someone would sneak up on me and I'd realize you weren't there to watch my back." Sherlock was pacing again, hands waving in front of him in clear frustration.

"But it's more than just that. It's better when you're around, you help me see things better. Somehow you always ask the right questions, or the wrong ones that show me what the right ones are. I can't be me without you anymore and that terrifies me."

"It scares me, too, Sherlock," John admitted. "We both found something that neither of us knew we were missing. I believe that you really were trying to protect me but you can't do that anymore."

"I can't promise that any more than you can," Sherlock said softly.

While John completely understood the sentiment, it wasn't enough. "You have to give me something more than that, Sherlock. You can't come back and apologize and then think you've got the right to do it again."

"I can promise not to leave you in the dark ever again. I do promise you that John, that if I have to leave again, you'll know as much about it as you want to."

"I'm holding you to that," John said. "I will hunt you down if you do this to me again."

"This," Sherlock waved his hand around the borrowed bedroom, "was the second time I made a decision for you. The first was so utterly wrong and yet, I would do it again simply because there was no other way at the time. This was so completely selfish and yet…" Sherlock sounded so lost and it tore at John's heart. John got up and quickly crossed the room to take Sherlock's hands in his.

"I'm fine. Mycroft's ninjas," Sherlock quirked an eyebrow at that but didn't comment, "didn't do any lasting harm. I'd rather be here than anywhere else. And you were right at the time, right in the sense that there was no choice but to jump. I told Lestrade that was the bravest thing I'd ever seen, even not knowing why, simply because it was you and I knew you had a reason. And that kept all of us alive."

"I wanted," Sherlock trailed off.

"What do you want, Sherlock?" John asked gently.

"It isn't fair to you," Sherlock said, pulling his hands out of John's to run them through his hair in frustration.

"Damnit Sherlock, we passed fair months ago. None of this is fair to anyone. What Do You Want?"

Sherlock paced in the small area in front of the window and spat, "I want none of this to ever have happened. I want you and Lestrade and Mrs Hudson and Molly and so help me even Mycroft to be safe."

And then softly, "More than anything I want to go home. With you."

Stopping in front of John he said, "But that's not possible, so it doesn't bear thinking about."

"You missed something in that list," John said, with the bare hint of a smile, reaching out to grab Sherlock's hands in his own as if he could hold him in place. "You want me to come with you."

"I'm a selfish bastard, John, of course I do. But there's no maybe about it. It will be dangerous." But Sherlock didn't pull away.

John gently touched the healing knife wound on Sherlock's arm. "Nothing new there. Dangerous or not, you clearly can't be trusted alone."

"You have to be sure, John, really, really sure. You have a decision to make now and there are really only three options. Go back and keep quiet, go back and tell everyone or ….

"Go on the run with you and we take out the rest of Moriarity's crew together," John said.

"Yes," Sherlock replied. "And I don't need to tell you how dangerous it will be. You'd be giving up everything. You have every right to go back to your life and never speak to me again. I certainly wouldn't expect you to wait for me if you chose not to come. But it would be in your best interest to keep quiet about my continued survival. For now, my death is the only thing keeping you safe. After everything is over, well, I never could control your writing," Sherlock said with a tight smile, "and my reputation doesn’t matter."

Sherlock might not be worried about his reputation but John had spent the better part of the past months writing about Sherlock's successes. There would be plenty more to write about once this was all over and John wouldn't miss this adventure with Sherlock for the world.

"I'm not going home without you," John told him, pulling him in for a kiss. "And I love you, have done for a very long time and that didn't change even when I lost you. And it hasn't changed now. I'm still angry but I do love you and I always will. And I will always, always come with you."

Sherlock smiled, "It's inadequate, but thank you, John. For everything." And for once John knew exactly what Sherlock meant. And it was enough.

"Now, you're going to tell me in great detail, exactly how you did it, the whole magic trick of how you made me watch you die and yet I've got the miracle of you here alive in my arms. And then we're going to figure out what's next." John led him back over to the bed and sat with his back against the headboard. Sherlock stretched out his full length and laid his head in John's lap. Without saying a word, Sherlock tilted his neck so it was bared to John's touch, closed his eyes, and steepled his fingers into what John always thought of as his thinking pose.

Smiling, John took the implied invitation and laid his fingers on the pulse point on his neck and listened to the man he loved tell him exactly what insanity they were up against this time.