(John's wearing that damned jumper again. Last time I saw him wear it...)
Sherlock closes his eyes behind his sunglasses, takes a deep breath through his nose (one, two, three, four...). He holds that breath until he can feel the burn start in his lungs (pressure in the pleural cavity). Then he exhales slowly, watching John round the corner at the end of Baker Street.
And then he follows.
It's been nearly three years (three excruciating years) and he still isn't able to come home yet (close, so close) and all he wants is to come home. He wants to come home (smell Mrs. Hudson's baking and John's tea) and surprise John (he would be surprised, would probably punch me again, too) and he wants; he wants to let John scream/rage/cry/anything as long as he can come home (I just want someone, one person, to come home to...) and be home for good.
Sherlock watches, carefully concealed (wish you could just see me, John, I'm so close to you) so that he can see John without being seen. John goes into the coffee shop (you called it our coffee shop once, do you remember, John?) and Sherlock can recite his large/coffee/black/plain donut order by heart still (because I never want to forget these things that are important to you, John) and he can almost hear it, the moment the girl behind the counter (large brown eyes, short blonde hair, upturned nose, freckles) flirts with John (my John), asks him about his boyfriend/partner/friend and he'll smile sadly and say that it's all very tragic (of course) but that he never stopped believing in him (you've stopped correcting people about us).
John walks out of the shop with a small paper bag and a large travel mug of coffee. Flash of metal in the unusual sunlight, small/thin/gold/ring and Sherlock's heart skips a beat (you're wearing that ring, really?) and he has to remind himself not to move (close, so close, soon). John walks by, sipping his coffee.
And Sherlock follows.
His phone beeps in his pocket - loud enough that only he can hear it (obviously). He pulls it out and swipes his thumb over the screen.
[He wears our father's ring well, doesn't he? -M]
[Your doing, no doubt. -SH]
The phone is quiet a moment before the reply comes. [That leather jacket does not suit you at all. You look like you've joined a biker gang. The boots don't help. -M]
[It's a disguise, you prat. -SH]
Sherlock shoves the phone back in his pocket (stupid, he doesn't understand) and dashes off to catch up a bit (distance, leave some distance) and watches as John keeps walking (where are you headed, John), his donut still in the bag.
The answer should have been obvious (stupid, stupid, John's so much smarter than I ever told him) and Sherlock watches as he hands the bag (fifty quid tucked into the roll of the paper at the top, nicely done, John, my John) to one of the homeless network. Sherlock can't hear the conversation (can't get closer, it would compromise everything) but he has a feeling the situation being discussed is himself (focused, so focused, John) and he can imagine it when John will inevitably hear no/sorry/no idea/can't help, and John will smile and thank them and leave his number (just in case of course) and tell them they know where he is.
John hails a taxi.
And Sherlock does the same, offering double to keep a discreet distance while following that cab. The cabbie will smirk and make jokes (jealous husband, yes yes, fine) and he'll do it.
John gets out at New Scotland Yard and Sherlock waits across the street, setting himself into a seat at a small cafe. He rattles off an order coffee/black/two sugars and nothing to eat (digestion slows me down) while he waits. He pulls a book out of one of his pockets and pretends to read, occasionally running a hand over his short (nearly shaved) hair, all prickles/softness/strange textures under his fingers and palm, a feeling he's still not entirely used to (I actually miss my hair, John, you'd never believe it if I told you).
John comes out about twenty minutes later, with Lestrade (Greg) walking next to him. They're laughing, talking, and Sherlock frowns (jealousy, how kind of you to show). They start to walk towards the cafe, and Sherlock feels that moment of fight/flight and flight is about to win when he sticks his nose in his book a little farther, throws one leg up onto the seat next to him at the table.
They walk by without a second glance.
They get a table not far from Sherlock, just out of view but well within earshot, and his heart is pounding (John, you're so close, I can't, I don't, I just want to...) and he hears Lestrade. "So what's that on your hand, then? You run away and get married without tellin' any of us?"
John chuckles (it almost sounds real, right, but not quite, and I'm sorry John). "Nah, nothing like that. It's... sentiment." (Sentiment? My father's ring?)
Lestrade is quiet a moment. "It was his, then?"
"His dad's. It was left to him when his dad died, apparently. And..." Sherlock can hear it (sentiment, stop it John, I can't) "I just, I feel better, wearing it. I feel like he's still alive when I wear it."
"Interesting finger choice, mate." Sherlock has to force himself not to growl at the accusation in Lestrade's voice.
John laughs quietly, just a little. "Yeah, well... consider me married to my work these days." Sherlock closes his eyes and takes a deep breath (John, you were part of my work, John, don't you see?) and flips a page in his book.
"John, you're gonna see yourself in an early grave if you don't take some time off from this... crusade."
John sighs (is there any sound I would rather hear every morning?) and Sherlock can see his face, the frown/narrowed eyes/creased forehead and Sherlock wishes he could stop this (just stop this).
"Greg... I need this." His voice is low and Sherlock reaches out to grab his coffee. It's good, and he thinks back to John's coffee at 221B (Sunday dinners with Mrs. Hudson and talking to the skull when you'd left without me realizing it) and he squeezes his eyes shut tighter and tighter.
"You need to go grab a drink with me after my shift's done tonight."
"No maybe about it! You need a night that doesn't involve Sherlock."
Sherlock's eyes open wide and he almost turns. John's already there, though.
"You don't understand, Greg. Sherlock wasn't just my flatmate. He was my best friend. He was..."
"Christ, you really were in love with him, weren't you?"
Sherlock sets his mug down harder than strictly necessary (too hard, they'll notice, please let them not notice) and flips another page in his book.
"No, no, o'course not. How can you ask me that, John?"
"It's easy when you say things like that."
"John." Lestrade sounds desperate (for what?) and John sounds annoyed and Sherlock is sitting there shocked/confused/scared because he's just heard John nearly admit to being in love with him (I don't deserve love, John, you should know that). "John, calm down, I didn' mean anything like that. I just... I always wondered, ya know? You two were so close... I mean..."
"No, we never..." John takes in a sharp breath. "We never slept together, or even talked about... us being an us. After a while, you get dumped over and over because your girlfriends all assume you're in love with your flatmate, you just sort of realize that they might have a point."
"And you never told him?" Lestrade's voice was quieter now (soft and understanding, I shouldn't be surprised at Lestrade's acceptance of this idea).
"How was I even supposed to bring it up?"
Sherlock turned his head to look at the street between the cafe and NSY. If this was going to work, he'd need to make it happen now, before John returned home.
He reached into his jacket pocket, slapped a tenner on the table, and got up, leaving quickly. He didn't look back, and no one called to him. (Perfect.)
He hailed a cab once he'd rounded a corner (221B Baker Street, hurry) and used his spare key (never changed the locks, it seems) to open the door quickly. It was Monday. Mrs. Hudson would be at the supermarket.
He dashed up the stairs (I miss these stairs, miss John's footsteps on them) and into the living room. His heart wrenched as he took in the flat (three years gone and it feels like yesterday, John, why would you keep it all like this?) and he finds a pen and spare piece of paper.
He settles in at his desk (nostalgia, so like sentiment, I've missed this more than I want to admit) and begins to write.