Mycroft had offered to break the news to John himself but Sherlock declined, knowing it was best if he just did it himself. He knew that John was no longer living at Baker Street, but Mycroft had stayed quite mum about exactly what John’s life was like these days, much to his annoyance.
Anthea, however, was another matter.
Anthea had mentioned that there was a woman in his life, one that had pulled him up from the depths and helped heal deep wounds that, frankly, no one had been sure could be healed. And he had even managed to get a name: Mary. With that in mind, Sherlock had begun to plot exactly how he wanted to approach John. Did he want to go to John’s new home? Did he want to go to the surgery? Did he want to go to neutral ground?
In the end, the choice was made for him.
Irene had gotten a craving for fresh cherries, and Mycroft and Anthea were off at their offices so it was up to him to fulfill it for her. He could have gone the delivery route, he knew that, but truth be told he needed to experience London again. He had been trapped in Mycroft’s fortress for three days and he needed to breathe London in, experience it in person so to speak. So he had said he would get them for her, and he ignored the knowing look that Irene gave him, as though she realized it might be hours until he returned. Frankly, he wasn’t entirely sure she was actually craving them or just giving him an excuse.
He managed to slip his security detail fairly quickly, as he had known he would, and it didn’t take long to drift towards old haunts. And it was with great surprise to see John walking out of a coffee shop, holding a steaming cup and heading towards the surgery. Sherlock stood stock still as John did the same. Even with the disguise Sherlock wore, it didn’t matter. John simply knew, it seemed, and he slowly lowered the cup before he had taken a sip. Sherlock moved until he was in front of John and spoke softly. “Hello, John,” he said.
“Bloody hell,” John replied. Sherlock could see his hand holding the coffee begin to shake. “I should throw this in your face.”
“As is your right,” Sherlock said, inclining your head. “But before you do, perhaps we should go somewhere in private and talk.”
John stared at him, then nodded his head towards the nearby gardens. “Let’s find a bench.”
Sherlock relaxed as he realized John was not going to lose his temper. Good. The two men began to head towards the gardens, and Sherlock could tell John was keeping a tight reign on his emotions. They walked there in silence, John keeping a tight grip on his cup, and as soon as they had gotten to a bench they sat down. Sherlock glanced at his hands, not sure who was going to speak first, and as the silence stretched on he supposed he should break it. “I am...sorry...I had to put you through what you’ve been through,” he said quietly.
“What you put me through was hell,” John said quietly. “But you had a reason, I suppose?”
“People were set to kill those I cared for most,” Sherlock said. “I know at the very least there were assassins set on you and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson. Perhaps there were some on Molly and my brother and one or two others as well; I’ve been unable to determine that in this time. But Moriarty was waiting for me on the roof at Barts. He informed me there was no way to escape the predicament he had put me in except with my death. And then, to ensure I followed his sick and twisted plan to the letter, he blew his brains out in front of me. Only he miscalculated. My brother and I were well aware that that was what the meeting on the roof would be about. We just...we just hadn’t planned on your presence at Barts. That had been the only fly in the ointment.”
“That was why you had acted so callously at the labs,” John said.
Sherlock nodded. “I wanted you as far away from Barts as possible. I didn’t want you to be involved in the plan. I didn’t want you to be part of what I had to do. It was bad enough Molly had to be intimately involved.” He looked over and saw John’s jaw clench. “Her expertise was needed, John. Do not be angry at her for keeping it a secret. She had the body that Moriarty had disposed of, the man who had pretended to be me for the kidnapping. If she had not alerted my brother to its existence there would not have been a ploy that would have been half as successful.”
“But she knew this whole time,” he said. “She knew and she lied to my face.”
“And if she had told you the truth, would you have been able to keep it to yourself?” Sherlock asked, tilting his head. “It was imperative that no one know what I was doing these last few years. It was bad enough that Anderson somehow figured it out and started his damnable ‘I Believe In Sherlock’ tripe. That caught on like wildfire and made my job harder.” He looked down at his hands again. He knew he needed to eventually tell John about Irene, but he wasn’t sure how, or when.
John was quiet for a moment as he processed what Sherlock had said. “No, I suppose if I’d known the truth, I would have gone looking for you,” he said. “And you couldn’t have had that, could you?”
Sherlock shook his head. “Not if I was to keep all of you safe.”
“And are we safe?” John asked.
“Safe enough,” Sherlock said with a nod.
“Is that why you’re back?” John asked, tilting his head.
And here it was, the moment he was looking for. Sherlock clasped his hands together and then took a deep breath before shaking his head. “During my travels, I ran across an old acquaintance. Someone else who had faked her death. Someone else who knew the importance of hiding from enemies.”
When Sherlock looked back at John, he saw John’s eyes had widened. “Irene Adler?” he asked.
Sherlock nodded. “We had a dalliance. And that dalliance resulted in Irene becoming pregnant. In roughly four months, I will be the father to a son.”
John’s mouth opened slightly, and if it was at all possible, his eyes had widened even more. He knew the types of thoughts running in John’s head. To those that knew him well, he was not the type to have sexual desires about anyone, male or female. To know he had had sexual intercourse with someone and to hear he had fathered a child would be surprising enough news to anyone, but to his closest associates, it would be enough to stun them into silence. Finally, John closed his mouth and leaned back into the bench. “Are you two...together?”
“We’re still considering the type of relationship we’re to have, but at the moment we will be cohabiting and sharing a bed,” he said. “I have not been in a romantic relationship before, and she is not particularly prone to them, so if we embark on one I doubt it will be a very typical one by society’s standards.” He paused. “I’ve been informed you are currently in a relationship with a woman named Mary?”
Despite the shock the mere mention of his girlfriend’s name caused a smile to form on John’s face, and Sherlock felt a sense of happiness at that. He cared for John, as John was one of the few friends he had, and seeing that this woman made him happy in turn made him happy. John deserved happiness more than anyone he knew, to be quite honest, after everything Sherlock had put him through. John nodded. “Yeah. Mary Morstan. She’s a nurse at the surgery. We’ve been together about eight months now. I’m going to ask her to marry me soon.”
“Congratulations,” Sherlock said.
John looked at him with the grin on his face getting wider. “You really mean that.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Sherlock asked. “She appears to make you happy, and you deserve happiness.”
John chuckled slightly. “Just seems different than how you used to be.”
“I suppose I am a different man these days,” Sherlock said.
“Hopefully not too different,” John said. He was quiet for a moment. “When can you come out that you’re alive? To the whole world, I mean?”
“When Mycroft has finished presenting the evidence to Scotland Yard that clears my name,” Sherlock said. “I know Lestrade has worked on the case off the books, and Mycroft will give him the information he needs and he’ll try and make it an on the books case. If Scotland Yard is not interested, Mycroft will go above their heads and make it a matter of the Crown. Once that’s settled, then Irene and I can miraculously come back from the dead.”
“When it’s settled, you should meet Mary,” John said. “Both of you. I mean, it’ll be strange, all things considered, but...I need to get used to her, I suppose, and she’s going to be in your life. Plus Mary would be quite interested in the fact I know a dominatrix.”
“Though not intimately,” Sherlock said.
“Thank God,” John said with a chuckle. “So...does that sound good?”
“I think that sounds quite acceptable,” Sherlock said with a nod.
“Okay, good. Good. Then...I’m sure your brother knows how to reach me. I’ve got to get back to the surgery. Got patients and all. This was supposed to be a quick cup for Mary. She’s probably going to rip my head off for taking so long, not that I blame her. I kept her up late last night.”
“Tell her you ran into an old friend,” Sherlock said.
“I’ll do just that,” John said with a grin as they both stood. After a moment, John embraced him, and slowly, Sherlock embraced him back. “God, it’s good to see you again.”
“It’s good to see you too,” Sherlock said. They let go and Sherlock nodded to him. “I will talk to you soon, before all of this is sorted out.”
John nodded back. “Look forward to hearing from you.” With that, John made his way out of the gardens, and after a moment Sherlock made his way in the other direction, heading towards the nearest place to buy cherries before returning to Mycroft’s fortress. He did not need to soak up any more of London today, he realized. He had recovered something so much more precious. He had recovered a part of himself that he hadn’t been sure he’d be able to get back, and for that, he was grateful.