According to the most recent statistics, roughly 7,825,180 people live in the Greater London area. Sherlock was looking for one, possibly two. He was following the trail of evidence as it led him back and forth across the city, and he was getting closer. He walked swiftly and surely through the Camden Market, ignoring the scent of food and its attempt to entice him. It was more of a struggle than usual and Sherlock remembered that outside of the tea Mrs. Hudson continued to bring him, he hadn’t had any sustenance in almost 8 days. He sunk his hands deeper into the pockets of his coat and trudged on. Transport.
That’s when he heard it, a voice he hadn’t heard in years. The warm tenor of a former army doctor, and it was calling his name. He whipped around, his narrow eyes scanning the crowd, and there he was. Dr. John Watson. A man he hadn’t laid eyes on in almost four years. Of course, that was his fault.
It was finished. Moriarty’s web was nothing but a memory. Having finally tracked down the sniper Moran, Sherlock was on a plane home. He had been away almost three years. He missed London. The sights, the sounds, the smells. And he missed John.
“Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” he heard his mother’s voice say in his mind.
He would roll his eyes, annoyed with himself for thinking in cliché, but there was truth to this statement. He had first hand experience, veritable proof, and he didn’t argue with facts.
When the plane landed there was a young woman holding a sign with his name on it. He walked over to her and she turned and walked away silently, not even glancing up from her Blackberry. He followed her and was unsurprised when she slid into the back seat of a sleek black car.
His phone beeped.
Welcome home, little brother. –MH
Yet, here he was, looking once again at the good doctor. And John was smiling.
“Sherlock, it really is you.” Slightly breathy, most likely due to recent weight gain.
John’s smile grew. There was unexplainable pain in his chest. “Well, you’ve lost none of your charm. God, it’s good to see you again. How have you been?”
“Bored. Lestrade’s men seem to get less intelligent every day, and the criminals more mundane.” He sighed. “You’re doing well though. You’ve gained a stone and a half at least since the last time we met.”
“And you’ve lost about as much.” John said with a cheeky grin. “Have you eaten at all this month?”
“What’s today?” He asked, unable to resist teasing.
John frowned slightly. “Sherlock…”
Sherlock’s fingers ran through his favorite sonata on his knee. He was getting impatient. In his mind the driver was being intentionally slow. He huffed and wriggled in his seat. He was not comfortable. It was impossible to be when his mind was in this state. His head fell against the cool glass of the window a bit harder than he had intended.
He planned the reunion with John in his mind. He would walk into the flat. John would be sitting in his ridiculous chair wearing a ridiculous jumper pecking at the keyboard on his laptop in that ridiculous way of his. He’d look up, his jaw would drop. Sherlock would insult him; most likely call him an idiot. He might even point out how ridiculous John really was. John would get angry. John would punch him. They would hug. John would cry. Sherlock would wipe away John’s tears with his thumbs and look into his eyes.
The car finally pulled up to 221. He didn’t bother with thanks as he practically leapt from the vehicle. He rushed up the front steps and rang the bell. The door opened and he hugged Mrs. Hudson and ignored her startled cry as he ran up the stairs. He burst through the door and stopped.
The incoming data was not consistent with his hypothesized scenarios. His mind struggled to analyze.
Sherlock rolled his eyes, “Relax, John. You needn’t start worrying about me again.”
“Who said I ever stopped?” Sherlock’s throat tightened and he looked away. A silence formed that was neither awkward nor comfortable. It was merely waiting. “So, I was shopping a few weeks ago and I came across a window display of deer-stalkers. The sign said, ‘For the Detective in You.’ I almost bought one.”
Sherlock glanced back, his eyebrow raised severely. John’s mischievous grin actually caught him off guard and he couldn’t help himself. He laughed. John was always full of surprises.
And then John pulled him in, hugged him, arms tight about his waist, and the laughter died in his throat as his lungs struggled to remember their function. His heart was thudding in his chest and he gingerly wrapped his arms around the shoulders of the smaller man.
“Mmmm, Sherlock. I’ve missed you.”
Sherlock tightened his arms almost convulsively. John’s head tucked itself neatly under his chin. He sighed in relief at how well they fit together.
Sherlock stood in the middle of the almost empty flat, while Mrs. Hudson watched him sadly.
John had apparently moved out of the flat within weeks of what he was now deeming “The Incident”. His own things were stuffed into boxes and pushed up against walls. Sherlock tried not to break down.
Mrs. Hudson clicked her tongue.
“Come on down, Sherlock. I’ll make you some tea.”
The knot in Sherlock’s throat prevented words, so he nodded and waved his hand over his shoulder at his landlady.
She turned and headed down to her flat. Sherlock cleared his throat and attempted to blink away the moisture in his eyes before following her. As he walked down the stairs, he heard a key turn in the lock. He stopped on the landing. The door opened and he heard the soft timbre of John’s voice.
“Mrs. Hudson. It’s just me, popping in for a visit.”
John closed the door and walked further into the foyer. His eyes flicked up the stairs and he froze. His jaw clenched and Sherlock cringed mentally.
A throat cleared behind them and Sherlock released John. A petite blonde woman was watching them with her eyebrow quirked.
“Should I be jealous?” She asked with a smile. John laughed and gave her a kiss.
“Sherlock, this is my wife, Mary. Mary, this is Sherlock.”
“Ahh, the ever impressive Sherlock Holmes.”
Sherlock snapped his mask back in place. It didn’t matter that his heart had shattered. It didn’t matter how well they fit, how comfortable they still were together. John was married. John had a wife and he loved her; that much was evident.
“Charmed, I’m sure.” Sherlock struggled to keep the contempt out of his voice.
John rolled his eyes at Sherlock’s demeanor, and opened his mouth to comment on it, when Mary interrupted.
“John, we really have to go.”
John checked his watch.
“Oh shit. Sorry Sherlock. We have reservations. It was great to see you, really it was.” He pulled him into another quick hug and they walked away.
“Three years Sherlock. You let me believe you were dead for three years!”
“34 months and 8 days, to be precise.”
John punched him in the face. He’d been expecting it, but when the pain bloomed across his cheek, he had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out.
“You are an absolute tosser. Why Sherlock? Tell me that. What was the point?”
Anger surged through Sherlock. This was not going to plan at all. He kept his hand pressed to the side of his face as he spat back.
“There was work to be done.”
“Work?” The small laugh that John let out was not one of mirth. “I should have known. It’s always the work. Forget food, and health, and the people at stake, and the ones who care about you. Solve the puzzle, never mind who it hurts.” John’s mouth snapped shut and his eyes closed. His back straightened. “Have a nice life, Sherlock.”
John turned and walked out barely whispering his last remark, but Sherlock heard, “I should’ve known you never gave a rat’s arse about me.”
And he let John leave. He could have chased the man down the street shouting that John had been the only reason for his last three years of work, that John was the reason his work had any purpose, that he had sacrificed everything to insure John’s safety. He could’ve done, but he didn’t. John would never know the depth of the emotion Sherlock held for him.
The world had stopped turning. That was the only possible explanation, the only conceivable reason that Sherlock could posit for the way the world was diminishing around him. Colors were losing their vibrancy; sounds their clarity; smells their potency. Sherlock couldn’t move. His brain was fighting to keep him from spiraling into despair. He felt an ache in his chest. The ache of loss refreshed after all these years. As he watched John exit his life again the ache consumed him, informing him, reminding him. So much time had passed. Days, and weeks, and months, and years, and yet, he loved John Watson. He loved John Watson. Still.