John would probably tell Sherlock that he was being a drama queen, choosing the graveyard for his return from the dead. Sherlock can concede the point, but there’s also logic in his choice, a double logic, in fact. One, there is the straight line of juxtaposition between death (the graveyard) and life (Sherlock). Two, there’s the perfect full circle the journey has travelled through. Its starting point was the moment Sherlock stood here eleven months ago and watched John say goodbye, watched him touch the stone, cry; imagined him implore a dead man to stop being dead. The same moment in which Sherlock, silently and without any spectacular exhibits of theatricality, realized that through John Watson his life had just acquired a new purpose. Bringing down James Moriarty’s network and clearing up his own name suddenly became not just goals in and of themselves, but the means to an end. This end, here. This is where the circle closes, with Sherlock seeking John’s gracious permission to protect the one thing that makes Sherlock’s life worthwhile more than any public service and any puzzle would ever do: their friendship.
In his mind’s eye Sherlock revels in his visualisation of the circle’s perfection, shining in platinum gold. He can picture the curve start from that moment eleven months ago and end only now. The graveyard is both the beginning and the end, but also the circle’s fixed centre.
The last segment before completion is still waiting though, black like the dot of a question mark. So yes, John would probably tell him that he was being a drama queen, but it’s logical that of all places Sherlock should be here. His choice is beautiful like geometry.
John will probably tell him that he is being a drama queen. John will roll his eyes and— No, maybe not immediately; maybe he’ll want to punch Sherlock first. No, no. First, he’ll probably try to get away, thinking he’s hallucinating. Hopefully he’ll hug Sherlock, or cry, or both. It doesn’t matter much. What matters is that he will do any, or all, of those things to Sherlock’s face. Today.
Sherlock swallows. His body hums. His thighs and buttocks tense. The delicate bones in his hands feel as if they’re crackling. His heart tries to move south in his chest, and oh, Sherlock really has to get moving.
He starts walking towards the hunched figure by his gravestone.
Sherlock can’t say that he understands what John’s been through. He’s tried to, but what with his fierce focus on the job and his general lack of empathy he hasn’t been very successful. He suspects he’d have known if he were truly successful. He also suspects something subliminal in his psyche has been at play stopping him from finding this success. Mycroft, always the Eminent Psychologist, suggested a level of disassociation on Sherlock’s part as means of survival. “You are not equipped for this sort of emotional experience, Sherlock,” Mycroft murmured. “John, for his misfortune, is.”
It is the only time when Sherlock didn’t feel the need to have the last word. Because Mycroft knows about this sort of thing more than Sherlock does and because he was the only person with whom Sherlock could talk about John. Well, if the equivalent of teeth pulling they do can be called that.
Also, because Mycroft was probably right.
There is one simple reason why Sherlock could never understand John’s experience. Sherlock has never lost sight of the fact that John is alive.
Sherlock watched John, circumstances permitting: safety, timing, location. Rarely “live”, mostly through surveillance footage. He watched John move out of Baker Street and straight into the past, with John’s newly rented bedsit punishingly reminiscent of life before Sherlock. (That one, Sherlock didn’t need Mycroft to figure out.) Sherlock made an anonymous transfer to Mrs. Hudson’s bank account, keeping their flat if not inhabited by the two of them, then at least uninhabited by anyone else. On those occasions when the rabbit hole got too frightening, too disorientating, the vision of him and John back at Baker Street was the only marker that gave Sherlock a sense of his bearings.
He watched John at work. Sherlock’s skill in disguise was never more self-serving or more useful. Once, he took a big risk, coming dangerously close to John. But impulse control has never been Sherlock’s strong suit and being away from John was too much to bear on that day. The day when three months of planning and exertion led only to a thoroughly empty net.
It was a stupid risk, not just big. Sherlock could have thought this through before choosing the busy canteen for his one time, his one time to be near John. The place reeked, for God’s sake. Sherlock could barely trace the faintest hint of John’s deodorant, his detergent, John, under the smells of fried, baked, and melted food.
Still, it was a calculated risk, too, for all of Mycroft’s unambiguous opinions on its folly, delivered with crisp vowels. John was so absorbed in his dissatisfaction with his job that Sherlock doubted he would have noticed anything around him. He certainly didn’t seem to see what he put on his own tray. Sherlock knows the feeling. When a pushpin, wedged in someone’s oesophagus, is the most exciting thing to happen for weeks, you stop paying attention to the food you eat. In Sherlock’s case, you stop having any food and start shooting cocaine. Thankfully, Sherlock might have been many things at that point of his life, but bored wasn’t one of them. John was, though, and Sherlock felt his belly-button turn into the centre of a twisted, dark bow of gladness for finally being able to share something with John, to share a rare understanding.
Sherlock watched John’s naïve, passionate struggle to clear Sherlock’s name. He watched John’s conflicted struggle to keep his connection to Sherlock—meeting Lestrade, yet recoiling every time the memory of Sherlock became too real.
He even watched John’s confused struggle to try to have a love life, or at least a sex life. This attempt wasn’t half-hearted for all the abortive results. There was desperation in John’s need that was authentic—Sherlock can’t relate to that through experience, but he knows John better than he knows himself. John didn’t really do much. He sat there, in the middle of his life’s wreckage, looking drawn and lost, a good, strong fist in a fragile glove. And he attracted them all: men—Wasn’t that novel?—women, the good sort, the stupid sort. John let himself being taken to places, let himself being coaxed into the unfathomable intimacy ordinary people crave so much. But there was something that sabotaged John’s efforts, or rather, the efforts of the swarm of individuals who had John-detectors built-in. None of them managed to make him climax; only a few managed to get him erect, before losing him to flaccidity. All of them kissed him; John kissed them all back. Sherlock should have known John was a kisser.
Sherlock should have also known that John could turn him into a kisser. A kisser in his daydreams only, but a determined, breathless one nonetheless. Because somewhere along the line Sherlock became the lips on John’s mouth, the yearning droop of half-closed eyelids. The tongue against John’s fleshy, wet tongue. What would it be like to touch another person’s tongue with yours? What would it taste like? What would the sensation be? Sherlock had asked himself these questions in the past, his interest cool, detached and academic. The detachment was still somewhere in there, but the idea of John being the other’s tongue sent Sherlock jolting up in the darkness of his remote bed, neck straining with the intensity of need that had nothing to do with theory.
Sherlock still doesn’t know where the need came from. It could have been latent all along. It could have been something newer—a manifestation of Sherlock’s general longing for John’s company, or even for his old life, before James Moriarty came along and offered Sherlock the biggest toy with one hand, while tearing apart his life with the other.
It doesn’t matter. At the time Sherlock had more important things on his mind than to allow himself to be distracted with the examination of why and when. Given his track record he was bound to fail to get to the bottom of it anyway. He found that he would rather keep his concentration on the goal, using whatever available mental space he had left to keep daydreaming, to keep kissing John.
Still, he always allowed himself a moment to shake with relief each time nothing came out of John’s attempts to be close to other people.
The only times when Sherlock came close to understanding what John was going through were when John visited Sherlock’s grave. It was then it hit Sherlock that there was someone who had loved him, and not just out of obligation. It was for Sherlock that this man, this singular man, was grieving—for John’s only successful attempt at being with someone was that of being with a ghost.
Finally there are two points in the middle of the circle.
Sherlock may not be vocal like John, who keeps saying his name over and over again, but there is one thing that exists in Sherlock’s mind, too, and that’s the perpetual loop of John John John. On John’s part, there was the half-incredulous, half-frightened stumble backwards—a step of denial. There were tears. Sherlock is certain there’ll be yelling, too, and a punch is still not out of the question. There’s also the drama-queen comment pending, but Sherlock can’t wait for that, not with John’s breath damp and warm and too far away. Sherlock will probably fast-forward to the punch with what he is about to do. Thankfully, being hit by John right now only equates to more physical contact with him, scorching and solid, with a bruise that would be Sherlock’s souvenir to keep for a while.
John’s mouth is hanging slightly ajar—he has gone momentarily silent. And stupefied no doubt, as the reality of the situation begins to sink in, as Sherlock succeeds in rendering John amazed once more. God, Sherlock would do crimes—has done crimes—just so that he could keep seeing John’s mouth slightly ajar. It’s the best mouth on John.
He leans in and kisses it.
Then there is a torrent of new data incoming and Sherlock might have to re-evaluate his opinions. There is a new, responsive, nimble mouth against his; solicitous mouth that promises Sherlock one more shred of precious understanding: This doesn’t have to be examined or analyzed. It can be left to claim the entire physical space behind Sherlock’s ribcage, the entire mental space within his head that’s finally freed up.
They must have stopped kissing because Sherlock can see John’s face properly now—he is smiling. It turns out that in Sherlock’s mind there is a shortcut between that smile and Baker Street. The world sways in front of Sherlock’s eyes at the sudden split-second rush of images of the future to come: the unpacking of his things, the archiving of the last eleven months, he and John on the sofa, the smell of tea, seeing all of John’s jumpers again, cleaning the lenses of the microscope, maybe kissing John more, maybe trying some of the other things that—
John’s smile is radiant and a touch condescending.
"Come home, you idiot," he says.
John hasn’t changed in essence, no matter how Sherlock feels about him. He is still not exceptionally bright; he is still prone to focus on matters of little importance. Yet one thing is now obvious to Sherlock as it should have been all along—John is not Sherlock by any means, but he knows Sherlock better than Sherlock knows himself.
"Yes, John. Yes," Sherlock acknowledges.