I don’t have friends. I’ve just got one.
John aches to replay his entire relationship with Sherlock, over and over: Every frustratingly brilliant leap followed by a dash out the door. Every infuriating insult borne of arrogance and honesty plus a childishly short fuse. Every half-smile that spread into a full laugh, making the team at Scotland Yard seem to wonder when Sherlock had become almost human.
John doesn’t have a Mind Palace to keep everything Sherlock has ever said and done. He wishes, wishes he could remember it all instead of a few too-short, crystallized moments.
Just got one.
In the war, John lost people. Nothing this bad, obviously.
Tuesday is his night off from surgery.
Sherlock had the skull to talk to, to think at. Then he had John. Without Sherlock, John needs something like the skull – fitting, really.
Sherlock would tell him to shut up if he rambled like this. The black stone marked with gold letters doesn’t tell him to shut up, and it’s all wrong, but John’s loneliness threatens to grind him into nothing.
So he visits. He doesn’t tell his therapist, Ella, about it, knowing she would insist on talking about his obsession with Sherlock and how John can choose to make healthier choices.
John still hasn’t spoken some things aloud, even here. He can’t even think one thing (he taps it in his mind sometimes, by accident, like stepping into an icy pothole puddle in a pair of trainers, and he shuts his eyes and jerks away. All pointless now, isn’t it?)
John doesn’t tell Ella about these visits. He doesn’t tell her about things that are sacred to him and Sherlock. If John doesn’t understand – and he never has – how can she?
Seventy-three interminable weeks after That Day, John arrives to find a dark-haired man sitting on his best friend’s grave, wearing a baseball cap and jeans, his gangly legs crossed casually in front of him.
The intrusion makes John’s stomach roil. He holds himself back from punching the stranger and is halfway through telling him he can go straight to hell when the trespasser looks up and—
“John, you’re late.”
I’ve gone mad. I’ve finally gone.
“I’ve been bored waiting. I’d welcome hell for the excitement.”
As soon as John is able to shut his mouth, he hauls off and clocks Sherlock right on his gorgeous cheekbone.
Sherlock ends up sort of tangled like a baby deer in the dirt, and John starts to giggle a bit hysterically, and Sherlock stumbles to his feet, rubbing his cheek in an oddly self-conscious manner. “I had to trick them. Had to protect you.” He waves his hand in the air vaguely. “And Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson.” Sherlock's lips quirk, and there is something questioning and nervous about it.
John looks him over. He’s thinner than before, more muscle but no fat, his cheekbones painfully sharp. Scratches crisscross his face, a new scar divides his left eyebrow, and his cheeks, always immaculately shaved despite his disdain for self-care, are covered with stubble. His cupid’s bow is split on the right side – from a punch – a few days ago by the looks of it. And he’s wearing a rather stupid orange polo shirt.
John realizes his arm is hovering in front of him, reaching. He drops it to his side. Questions tumble about, pushing each other out of his head, and he can’t choose which to ask.
Sherlock is ahead of him. “Moriarty,” he says tiredly. “Spider at the centre of the web. Cutting strands – very bloody – wasn’t safe till now. God.” He rubs his cheekbone again. “You punch hard.”
John blinks. “I thought you were dead,” he states.
“Obviously.” Sherlock’s voice is gentle and warm and oddly rough.
John kneels in the grass. His hands have stopped shaking, at least.
“If you’d known I was alive you’d have stopped grieving. They’d have known I was alive.” Tentatively – so unlike him – Sherlock touches John’s face and wipes away a tear. John looks up in surprise. “You’d be dead.” Sherlock says it as if John dead is the most unacceptable thing he’s ever heard, worse than boredom or religion.
“Oh,” John says dumbly. Sherlock drops to his knees, and he is right there in front of John.
Alivealivealive and suddenly John lets out a sob and clutches at Sherlock, grabbing anywhere he can reach – shoulders, hips, back, neck, face – knocking the stupid cap off his stupid head to card his fingers through too-short curls. He inhales Sherlock, exhales, presses a quick kiss to Sherlock’s neck. Sherlock has never been much for hugs, but now he clings right back.
John keeps whispering thank you into Sherlock’s skin. “Thank you for being alive.”
“Don’t be an idiot." His voice cracks on the last word. “Dying is even more boring than living.”
John laughs thickly at that, relieved and elated that things are right again. “Missing me is your fault for leaving, you git.”
Sherlock doesn’t contradict him.
They don’t move until fat drops of rain begin to fall. Only then do they pull apart, their arms still brushing, and hail a cab home to 221B – smiling at each other like the first time they cheated death.