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Alone with Your Ghost

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Sherlock’s hair has grown out.

It looks ridiculous, John thinks, and the thought ends up sticking in his head like a bad song lyric and he distantly he knows it’s the sudden shock of seeing Sherlock standing in the living room of 221b that’s got him stuck on a loop but he can’t shake himself. He stares. He opens his mouth. Moves past Sherlock to sit on the couch with his tea.

“Your hair looks ridiculous,” he says as he picks up the paper, and doesn’t look back up at Sherlock.

Sherlock stares at him now, feeling a bit deflated.

“Is… is that all?”

“Mmm. You look odd in that hoodie as well. Doesn’t suit you at all. But I guess they—”

destroyed your overcoat, the big black one you used to wear with the upturned collar so you’d look so cool but then you ruined it with all that blood you idiot. The sentence has died in John’s mouth and he washes it away with a sip of his tea.

Now watching John warily, Sherlock takes a seat beside him on the couch.

“John, are you… are we okay? I don’t know what the protocol for this… situation is. Is this alright?”

John chuckles and glances over at Sherlock for a moment “This situation? You mean you sitting with me in our flat when I think you’re dead? I don’t think there is any protocol for that. But. We’re fine. We’re okay.”

Just. Dont. Leave me here again. It was so hard to come back at all and I knew being surrounded by memories of you would rattle me and I don’t even care anymore what may be happening to my mind I just miss talking to you. I will take you however I can and as long as it doesn’t hurt me and you don’t leave me again we’re okay.

Sherlock doesn’t like what he sees on John’s face, the casual cheerfulness, the apparent lack of surprise at Sherlock’s return, but he’s so tired and John has not yelled or tried to hit him and Sherlock knows there is no gun in the room and so he puts his worries aside and leans against John sleepily and he doesn’t see the way John’s jaw clenches because John thinks that the warm weight settling against him is only imagined.

———

Mrs. Hudson presses a plate of biscuits across the table to Sherlock with a sad smile and he picks one up because he knows by now she would not only nag at him until he did but she would start to look sad if he continued to refuse and Sherlock is growing surprisingly tired of having people look sad at him.

He’s been back to Baker Street for three days. Each day he has visited Mrs. Hudson for tea without having to be asked because when he first returned and the old woman saw him walk through door, he’d had to catch her when her knees gave out on her and spent entirely too long in her kitchen trying to calm her when he had just wanted to go upstairs to see John. John, who was also not very good company to be around.

“He still won’t come down with you then?” her tone is concerned and she is right to be.

Sherlock nods the affirmative. John has declined all invitations to leave the flat with him. Even with the promise of danger or an interesting case from Lestrade (and oh god Sherlock wishes John had at least accompanied him to the Yard to help explain things to Lestrade because Anderson had to come snooping around and opening his mouth and really Sherlock can’t be blamed for hitting him, John knows all about the mad desire to punch idiot Yarders but now he’s not allowed back until Lestrade specifically calls for him and so Sherlock WILL blame John for that one.)

“He told me this morning that he fears people will think he’s…crazy if he’s out with me now.” And Sherlock can’t look at Mrs. Hudson when he tells her this, can’t look anywhere but where his long fingers are reducing his biscuit to a pile of crumbs because it had hurt when John told him that and Sherlock realized that maybe John actually had decided that staying away from him now was the safest thing for him, that he’d had a little too much of Sherlock Holmes already thank you and oh god what if he wishes that I had stayed dead and Sherlock is sure that is the reason John acts so coldly towards him now.

Mrs. Hudson purses her lips and reaches across the table once again, and covers Sherlock’s fidgeting hands with her own.

————-

John is laying across the couch the way Sherlock used to, with his forearm draped over his eyes and his mouth working as he absently chews on the inside of his cheek.

Nervous habit, does it when he’s troubled about something, or when he’s depressed. Often when he’s had a bad date.

Sherlock is standing in front of the window playing his violin, though he is more focused on the study of John than the music coming from his fingers. It flows through the room organically all the same, Sherlock doing this small thing to try to sooth whatever has been bothering John.

It’s late, and Sherlock has changed into his robe and a worn tee-shirt he has found in a box of his clothes (found the box in Johns room, under his bed and I shouldn’t have been snooping but I asked him what he and Mrs. Hudson had done with my clothing and he just smiled and said he had held onto it but didn’t offer it back himself so I had no choice but to go find it). John too, is wearing one of Sherlock’s shirts, one of the more loose fitting ones and when he saw John wearing it Sherlock wanted to grin and wrap John in his arms but then he saw John’s face, the slump of his shoulders and it was enough to make Sherlock recoil. 

So instead he plays for him, trying to draw out some sort of interaction from John even if it’s just John yelling at him to stop, to leave again, to go jump from another roof.

John lays on the couch, covering his eyes and doing a good job of acting as if Sherlock is not even there.

Just as it runs through Sherlocks mind to end the music in a jangled discord and stomp off to bed early, their front door abruptly swings open and a furious Mrs. Hudson marches into the room, glaring at John.

John nearly jumps out of his skin at her entrance, and fears he may piss himself when he sees the look she’s giving him.

“John. Hamish. Watson.”She is upon him now, standing over him and John is startled further to see she is blinking back tears in her fury. “How dare you act this way. I know it must have been a shock, but I will not allow you to stay here if your behavior is going to hurt us this badly.”

“Mrs. Hudson I… I don’t know what—”

He is spluttering and trying desperately not to look where he believes Sherlock is standing though he badly needs some sort of reassurance in the face of this small, yelling woman he is suddenly confronted with. Suddenly she points to Sherlock as well.

“I have been listening to the most heart breaking music all evening and if I have to put up with it a moment longer I feel like I may want to die as well. So stop being a child and forgive him.”

John’s heart stops and then tries to claw its way out through his throat, a feeling that apparently also drains the blood from his face because now there is a momentary shrill whistling in his ears and he is a doctor he recognizes the symptoms of going into shock, preparing to faint. He sways on the couch and would have fallen to the floor already if he hadn’t been seated, and suddenly Sherlock is there, his hands on his shoulders to steady him and John feels,really feels the warm, solid weight of them and he is slowly brought back around.

“She can see you too.” he chokes out as he raises shaking hands to grasp at Sherlock’s shirt. “Mrs. Hudson, you can see him. Please. Don’t be lying to me. I can’t…” His eyes dart between them, and across Sherlock’s face, really studying him now, seeing how it’s really not the face he would have imagined, realizing now there are new scars that weren’t there before, a slight bend in his nose where it had been broken and not set just right and his fingers clench harder into Sherlock’s shirt and robe.

Mrs. Hudson looks terrified now and she stammers to find words. 

“Of course I can see him dear. He’s been by every day this week hasn’t he? Only you won’t come with him and he’s so lonely with you ignoring him like you have,” and she’s rambling now but John is not listening.

He springs from the couch, still clutching at Sherlock, and the momentum brings them both up and the backs of Sherlocks legs collide with the coffee table and he fights for a moment to keep them balanced and he is speechless and heartbroken now that he understands why John has been treating him so coldly. He can’t find words, but it doesn’t matter because now John is yelling, shaking with his own words, with accusations and pleas and so many questions. Sherlock has explained everything already, of course, during their days of quietly sitting together while John says nothing and nods when he feels it appropriate. And Sherlock let John’s anger wash over him and it felt so good to finally have John speaking to him, knowing he was real and alive and with him again.

Gradually the shouts diminish as John’s voice grows hoarse and Mrs. Hudson excuses herself quietly until Sherlock is left with John leaning into him, his face pressed tightly against his chest and he can feel John’s mouth still moving, still saying all the things John had wanted to say when he returned and Sherlock holds him as Johns words slowly bring him back to life.