After the return, after the shards of ceramic from the mug dropped in shock are swept up and the initial pain of John’s punch fades into a dull, pulsing ache that will mottle into a purple blossom across Sherlock’s cheek by morning, they talk: about what they’ll do now, about the things that Sherlock has done over the past three years (there’s no need for him to mention the people he’s had to dispose of- John can see those stories in the unusually still set of his face), about how John has been doing (and when he presses his lips together in a short, thin line rather than answer, Sherlock is forced to look away, at the window, at the floor, not at John, at anything but John), and about how John feels now (angry, he says, very angry, but he says it with a broken sort of relief that hangs in the air between them).
They talk for hours, sitting in their chairs (and oh God, what a relief it is that these are their chairs once more rather than just John’s and the unoccupied one reserved for someone who may never arrive to claim it again), John with bruise-like shadows under his eyes from nights filled with too many nightmares and not enough sleep, Sherlock’s cheekbones too prominent, even for him, skin and bones really, an imitation of life. They talk in shouts and whispers until the warm afternoon sun fades away to darkness, which slowly softens into gray morning light.
They don’t talk about the kiss.
They don’t purposely skirt around it (or maybe they do in their own way of choked off sentences and avoided glances) but they never touch on it. They stick to the simpler emotions: John’s simmering anger at being deceived, at being left behind, Sherlock’s guilt, expressed only in the worried pull of his eyebrows and in the cups of tea refilled without a word, and the relief they both feel that after even after three years, there’s no need to get reacquainted with each other. They slip easily back into the roles of detective and his doctor, gratefully casting off the grieving mourner begging for justonemorethingonemoremiracleSherlock and his lost friend, six feet under and worlds apart. And they wonder silently to themselves how they could’ve ever thought that they wouldn’t be able to fit back together again.
(They wonder too about it. About the shattered look on John’s face when he opened the door, the way that Sherlock had rushed forward, a quick swirl of pale skin and dark coat. About the feeling of John’s hands carding through Sherlock’s inky curls as his lips pressed and moved over his mouth as if searching for confirmation that yes, this was real, not another one of the hallucinations that made everyone around him watch him with worried eyes that seemed to be already mourning him, but rather real, flesh and blood Sherlock, the best man he ever knew, his one more miracle, here with his arms crushing him to his chest, lips soft and warm on his.)
The sun has been up for hours now and the sudden rumble of a stomach breaks the conversation. Strangely enough, it’s Sherlock’s, not John’s, and they both chuckle quietly at it, a shared, silent joke.
Over dry, slightly stale toast, they continue their talk, dropping their crusts down onto their plates when they’re done, but not bothering to wash up, balancing their dishes carefully on their laps.
They still don’t talk about the kiss.
But that’s alright somehow. Because when you lose someone for three years, you realize things that you might have never been able to had that person been right in front of you all along: what that soaring feeling in the chest was that you got whenever he called you brilliant with that smile on his face as if you were some rare and precious thing, as if he was watching the whole world come alive all at once, or why whenever you think about that night (the last night, although you didn’t know that at the time), the thing that stands out clearest in your memory is the feeling of his hand entwined with yours as you ran together through the streets- cool and soft, save for the rough calluses on the fingers from years of playing violin.
You realize how much you missed them (so much, too much, as if all the best bits of you were scooped out and thrown away when you watched him plunge from the roof that morning), how much you cared for them, how much you loved them (and there’s another little joy- being able to say love in the present tense, as a possibility, as a hope, rather than as a jagged wound yet to heal).
And so it’s alright that they don’t talk about the kiss. Later, after the dust has settled and life as they knew it starts up once more, there will be time for walks through the London streets where their hands brush and John wraps his hand around Sherlock’s and catches a quicksilver flash of a smile.
There will be time for whispered confessions and uncomfortable talks about where all of this is going (which they’ll realize are unnecessary midway through. They both knew where all of this was going the moment that John’s bullet flew through the window and into the cabbie’s heart on that first night) and lazy Sunday afternoons with Sherlock’s head in John’s lap, John’s hand idly tangling in his curls as they watch crap telly together.
And there will be time for more kisses.
But for right now, sitting in the living room picking over the remains of their breakfasts as the midmorning light streams in is enough. It’s both strange and familiar, exhilarating and comfortable at the same time. It’s slow and quiet, fragile and wondrous.
The peace of the moment stretches out, into the afternoon, into the next day, into the rest of their lives.