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The Ones You Leave Behind

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Calloused fingers worked their way over the body of the handgun with a practiced ease; checking the clip, chambering a bullet, clearing it, and then chambering it all over again, pulling back the hammer only to let it click back into place again with a hollow thk. Doctor John Hamish Watson, Army war veteran and former consultant to the New Scotland Yard police department, stared down the barrel of his own service weapon for the twelfth time that week, daring himself to finally pull the trigger and put an end to it.  

It had been two months since Sherlock had called in his note. Two months, five days and seven hours since he’d seen the man he’d loved in secret throw himself off the roof of a building. Two months, one day, and eleven hours since the closed casket funeral had left the most brilliant man he knew six feet under the loamy soil at the St. Agnes cemetery as John and the other attendees took turns dropping handfuls of dirt down into the hole, and John had had to fight every instinct shouting at him to throw himself in after it. Let himself be covered by the dirt as he pressed his face against the smooth, polished mahogany of the casket, the only thing to separate him from the man he’d given himself to both body and soul barely a week prior. 

Three days before Sherlock had taken the fall, he’d pressed John against the kitchen counter and stole the breath from his lungs before the two of them had stumbled into Sherlock’s bedroom, articles of clothing trailing behind them until there was nothing left and they were falling together onto the mattress. Sherlock had taken him apart slowly that night, leaving John a trembling pile of flesh and muscle on the bed, lax and lethargic as he’d curled himself around the lean body of his lover. He’s woken alone the next morning as the sun crept through the cracks in the curtains, and there hadn’t been time for them to discuss it before Moriarty was threatening every last person Sherlock cared about. And then Sherlock had fallen and there had been nothing left to discuss. 

John stared down the barrel of his service piece, hands as steady as the night he’d shot the cabbie and saved Sherlock’s life. Barely known the man forty-eight hours and he’d killed for him. Nausea was rolling in his stomach, pushing the sharp tang of bile up to the back of his throat and threatening to choke him. He tried to swallow past the hot coals and metallic tang, but it remained persistent, pushing at his jaw and threatening to break past the bone and enamel cage of his teeth. Clasping one hand over his mouth in a desperate bid to not spew all across the hardwood floor, he made a mad dash for the toilet, gun falling harmlessly to the mattress in his wake. 

As John stared down at the swirling, yellow tinged bile floating like oil in the porcelain bowl, body shaking and sweaty from the exertion and throat raw from stomach acid, he tried to catelogue what would have him emptying the non-existent contents of his stomach at this time of night. He hadn’t been eating much since the funeral, reverting back to a similar pattern he’d found himself slipping into after he’d been invalided home from Afghanistan, and nobody at the surgery had come in with any flu-like symptoms as of late… as his thoughts swirled and he fought to regulate his breathing, a single notion clawed its way up his spine and into the forefront of his mind. No, it couldn’t possibly be that… could it? 

Two hours and a bottle of water later, John found himself back in his bathroom, staring down at the tiny little indicator screen, breath caught in his throat as color began to appear, only to leave him in a lung-emptying rush as he found himself staring down at a little blue plus sign. Well then, he thought, dropping his gaze from the small white stick to his admittedly probably too thin stomach still hidden under the wooly jumper, I guess we know what that means, don’t we… 

**************

Sherlock stood across the street, close enough for keen blue eyes to make out the fine lines around John’s eyes that had not been there nearly four years ago, but not close enough for those same hazel-toned eyes to see him. Not that John would have recognized him even if he did see him. Gone were the short curls and the familiar trench coat, not that Mycroft no doubt had it hanging pressed in a wardrobe somewhere just waiting for the need. Instead, Sherlock had let his hair grow long and admittedly a little shaggy and covered it with a rather unattractively brown stocking cap, a ratty coat covered in patches and an equally ratty pair of jeans allowing him to blend in with his homeless network and avoid attention as he tracked down the remains of Moriarty’s network. 

He’d managed to track down and dispatch of the last member just over a week ago. The next day he’d caught the first lift back to London he could. His only thoughts had been of John, of seeing him again, of holding him and pretending like the last three years had never happened, but now as he stood watching, he wasn’t so sure he could bring himself to cross the street. 

John looked older than just three years should have made him. Silver streaked through the dirty blond of his hair and fine lines creased around his mouth and eyes. He still wore his customary jumper--this one a lovely dove grey that looked soft and comfortable even from a distance--but the way it hung over his frame told Sherlock that he’d lost weight. Then there were his companions. John was exiting the library, one hand tucked into his pocket while the other was being clutched tightly by a small child. Sherlock deduced their age at about four or five, judging by their height; male judging from the cut of his blue jeans and the dark green jumper depicting a cartoonish Tyrannosaurus Rex and Stegosaurus holding a conversation. He had the same dishwater blond hair as John and his round baby face was angled toward the ground as he hopped down the library steps, shoes flashing red and blue with each impact. The hand that wasn’t tucked protectively into John’s was clutching a rather large scientific children’s book. 

John looked up and to his right, a smile breaking across his face as a blonde woman roughly three inches shorter than himself walked up to the two, embracing John with a hug and a peck on the cheek before before pulling the child into an equally friendly hug. So John has formed himself a family, Sherlock thought to himself, feeling a pang somewhere in the region of his heart. Would have to have been a premade family, judging by the age of the child. Likely someone John met through the surgery. The child seems comfortable around him, if John is taking him to the library… 

Across from them, the child was showing the newcomer his book, handing it over upon her request, now freed hand waving about as he explained something or the other to her. The woman smiled indulgently, listening intently and occasionally exchanging familiar looks with John over the little boy’s head. Eventually the child trailed off, John picking up the conversation and carrying it on to other topics. Sherlock was about to turn away, the sight of the happy little family only reminding him of what all he’d given up when the little boy turned his attention away from the adults and across the street; catching directly on Sherlock. The ex-detective felt his breath catch in his throat. Even from across the street, there was no mistaking the clear, icy blue-grey of the little boy’s eyes as they caught and landed on the raggedy figure Sherlock portrayed. It was the same color he’d found himself staring into in the mirror that morning. Neither John nor the woman he was talking with had eyes that shade of blue, which could only mean… 

Sherlock’s heart was still thudding erratically behind his ribcage as he watched the boy with his eyes and John’s hair hold his gaze for a long moment before lifting one small, chubby hand and offering Sherlock a wave. Unable to resist, he raised his own pale, lean hand in a returning wave. A wide smile that looked exactly like the ones John used to give him broke out across the child’s chubby cheeks as he waved a little harder. Now that Sherlock could really see him, he began to note similarities. The little boy watching him was tall and lanky beneath his baby fat, skin tan like John’s, with a smattering of freckles across his small buttoned nose. His face was still round and chubby with baby fat, but tapered to a pointed chin that even this early told Sherlock he’d likely grow into a lean face, possibly with just the slightest roundness in his cheeks to mirror John. His hair was just long enough to curl at the ends, and Sherlock was sure that if it were allowed to grow just a couple inches more, it would look much the same as Sherlock’s did when properly groomed. 

The child’s ecstatic waving had drawn John’s attention, the former surgeon looking down at the child before following his line of sight across the street and straight to Sherlock. The dark haired man froze, hand still in mid-greeting as he found himself met with an all too familiar pair of green-brown eyes. John’s smile melted from his face as he stared at Sherlock, shoulders suddenly stiff and features a mask. There was a slight tremor in the hand not still clutching his son’s. I suppose the time for avoidance is over, Sherlock thought to himself, swallowing hard. 

 

**************

S.J. Watson may only have been three and three quarters years old (a fact in which he would quite happily inform you about should you ask him), but he was brilliant for his age, which allowed him to skip nursery school and go straight into kindergarten. He was tall for his age, fitting in well with his classmates, and could speak fluently, though he preferred not to as talking tended to border on tedium when not something interesting. Despite the drastic age difference, none of his classmates judged him for being young and smart. His Grandma Hudson told him he got his papa’s smarts, but his daddy’s kindness and way with other people. He was always willing to help when someone was in trouble, but he often got into trouble for sassing anyone who treated him too much like a toddler. 

He liked robots and bugs and science experiments, and helping his daddy out at his work whenever his Aunt Mary or Grandma Hudson let him go visit. Just yesterday he’d gotten to go visit his Aunt Molly, and she let him look at cool things under her microscope like blood and hair and a butterfly wing he’d found in a spiderweb at recess. His absolute favorite times, though, were days like today. His daddy had managed to get off work early enough to pick him up from school and take him to the library! The librarian had told him on their last visit that they’d be getting in some new scientific books soon, and that she’d put a couple on hold if he wished. Daddy had told him he could only pick out one, so that other little boys and girls could have the opportunity, so after listening diligently to the librarian as she listed off the new ones, S.J. had decided that the one titled “All About Bees”, since they’d started talking about them in school and one of his classmates had shared with them that his uncle had found a giant hive in the walls of his old barn, and that if his uncle let him he’d bring the class some honey to try. 

As they were leaving the library, Daddy holding his hand as he hopped down the steps and made his new racecar shoes light up, S.J. had been thinking about getting home and getting to show Grandma Hudson his new book when Aunt Mary had come up and given them a hug. He hadn’t seen her in a couple days, and immediately showed her his new book, explaining to her all about how bees communicate by shaking their butts, and how some bees made free hanging hives like you always see in cartoons, but how other bees make their hives in hollow spaces like tree trunks or walls, like the ones in his classmate’s uncle’s barn. As he handed his Aunt Mary his book to look at, he told her all about how his class might be getting to try some honey next share day and how when he got bigger, he wanted to start his own hive and that way he could have all the honey he wanted. 

Aunt Mary had laughed and rubbed his head, telling him how impressed she was with his knowledge and made him promise to save her some honey from his new hive before looking up at Daddy, the two grownups going off on their own conversation about boring grownup stuff. Boring quickly with listening to them, S.J. turned his attention across the street to where he could feel someone watching them. He’d felt it since they’d left the library, but he’d been so preoccupied with the idea of getting home and getting to read his book that he hadn’t really paid it much attention. Now, though, with nothing better to distract himself with, he decided to see if someone really was watching them. 

There were a lot of people bustling to and fro across the street, talking angrily on their phones or thumbs flying as they texted unknown recipients, narrowly avoiding collisions with lamp posts or postage drops or other pedestrians, but one person stood out clearly against the rest of the London city-scape. Even with the distance and the ratty exterior, S.J. knew who it was. He’d seen the old pictures Daddy and Grandma Hudson kept, had heard the stories from his aunts and grandma would tell him; about what kind of man his papa had been. Some days his daddy would sit him down with an old photo album and show him pictures, other days it would be hidden away when the sight of them was too painful for his daddy to look at. He’d asked Uncle Greg once about the skinny man with dark hair and trench coat, about what had happened to him and why it sometimes made his daddy sad to talk about him, but all Uncle Greg had been able to tell him was that he’d been a good man, he could have been a great one, but that something had happened; a very bad man had forced him to make a very bad decision. 

Some nights S.J. would wake up to his daddy’s cries, soft shouts that he never knew were loud enough to wake the little boy up, and S.J. never told him they woke him up; he didn’t want to see the sad look on his daddy’s face or hear his apologies. Instead on those nights S.J. would pretend he had a nightmare and crawl into his daddy’s bed, curling up with him until they both fell asleep again. 

Once, when Uncle Mycroft had been visiting and Daddy had gone down to get some tea and biscuits from Grandma Hudson, S.J. had asked for the truth about his papa. Daddy had taken him to the cemetery once, introduced him to the gravestone and let him put some flowers down, but S.J. had never been able to fight the feeling that something wasn’t right, that someone who’d loved his daddy that much could just go and die like that. He’d never told his daddy or his aunts or uncles about his suspicion, but Uncle Mycroft was different. Uncle Mycroft worked for the government, and he had a way of smiling sometimes that made S.J. think he knew all kinds of secrets about his papa. So that day, left alone with the man in the suit, S.J. had asked for the truth about his papa. He’d told Uncle Mycroft that he knew his papa wasn’t dead, even if everyone else thought he was, and he’d asked if one day his papa would come back. 

Uncle Mycroft’s fake smile had disappeared as he stared at S.J. for a long moment before sighing, another, realer smile pulling up one corner of his mouth. “You are absolutely your papa,” he’d said, patting S.J. on the head. “You are right, your papa isn’t dead, but he is on a very secret mission to stop some very bad people from hurting anyone else. When all the bad people are stopped, he may come back, but you mustn't tell anyone, especially your daddy, just in case.” S.J. had nodded solemnly before returning his attention to the cartoon playing on the telly. He’d never brought it up to his daddy, but that night when he’d said his prayers, he’d asked God to let his papa stop the bad guys soon so that he could come back and his daddy wouldn’t be sad anymore. 

His papa didn’t look very much like his photos, but S.J. didn’t really mind. He bet it was all part of his super secret disguise so the bad guys wouldn’t recognize him. But if he’s here now, I bet that means the bad guys are all taken care of! Just like Uncle Mycroft said! Excitedly, S.J. raised a hand and offered the raggedy looking man a wave, watching with joy as his wave was returned. He was just about to motion him over to join them when he heard his daddy suck in a breath, hand tightening around S.J.’s as his whole body got tense. S.J. looked up in confusion to see his daddy’s face had gone all pale. What was wrong? Was daddy not happy to see that papa was back? Maybe he was just upset with how raggedy papa looked, compared to the handsome man in all of the photographs. Before S.J. could say anything, though, Daddy’s lips parted in a small gasp. 

“Sherlock?”

**************

John felt the blood rush from his face as he stared across the street. How many times in the last three years had he looked up, had sworn he’d just seen Sherlock across the street, or stepping out of a shop, or enjoying a cup of tea at a sidewalk cafe, only to blink and find him gone? How many times had he looked into the eyes of his little boy and had to turn away before his heart threatened to choke him? S.J. had saved his life in so many ways, and to not be able to look his little boy in the eyes had hurt so much worse than the idea of pressing a gun to his head and ending it all. So he’d locked it away. He’d come to terms with Sherlock’s death, told himself he’s gone, he’s not coming back so many times he’d almost managed to convince himself he believed it. 

But now there he was, the phantom who haunted his dreams, who haunted him in the eyes of the child they’d created, standing across the street dressed like a bum, one hand frozen in a half wave. John blinked once, twice, rubbed at his eyes with the hand not clutching his son’s, but still the bum wearing his best friend’s face remained. 

A hand on his shoulder almost had him jumping out of his skin, but when he turned it was only to see Mary looking at him with concern written across her pretty features. “John? Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” She chuckled softly, trying to defuse the tension, but when John tried to return it his own came out rusty and choked. “No, I’m-I’m alright. I think.” He swallowed and cast a glance across the street again, fully expecting the bum to be gone but no, he was still standing there, hands shoved into his pockets in a way that could almost be called nervous. “Um, Mary? This is going to sound so stupid but do-do you see that man across the street?” 

Mary cast a glance across the street before turning her blue-brown eyes on him. “The bum? Yes, why? John, what’s going on?” John took a deep breath, trying to steady the racing of his heart. “It sounds so silly, really. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but I swear he looks just like Sherlock. I mean, I know it can’t possibly be, he’s dead, I came to terms with that a long time ago, but it just, I guess it just threw me for a loop for a minute.” 

This time when he forced a chuckle, it was almost believable. “I suppose I’m just tired. I;ve got this little rascal keeping me busy twenty-four seven!” He ruffled S.J.’s hair, earning himself a huff from the little boy. “Come on, buddy, let’s head home. Grandma likely has the tea on by now, and I bet if we ask extra politely, she may even give us some of her fresh baked chocolate biscuits.” S.J. threw up a little cheer, hugging Mary goodbye and accepting his book back while John pressed a kiss to her cheek and made her promise to come by for supper soon before they parted, S.J. skipping along beside him as they made their way back to Baker Street. 

He tried to push the thoughts of the bum from his mind, and the thoughts of Sherlock that they dredged up. Instead he tried to think about Mary, how good it had been to see her again, and how much he wished they’d been able to make things work between them. If S.J. had saved John’s life, Mary had saved his mind. He’d met her through his Obstetrician; she’d been the assisting nurse when he’d gone in for his monthly checkups, and the two of them had gotten to talking. He’d liked her; she was funny, smart, kind, and as far from Sherlock as it was possible to get. She would bring him food when she could tell he wasn’t eating, and let herself be a shoulder to cry on when the memories and the hormones conspired to turn his days into nightmares. After S.J. had been born, they'd gone on a couple of dates just to see if they could make things work, before ultimately deciding they were better off as friends. 

When they were close enough to 221B, S.J. let go of his hand and took off running, eager to show Mrs. Hudson his new book and share with her all that he’d learned. As John put his hand to the door to step in and join them, he felt a prickling on the back of his neck, like he was being watched. Glancing over his shoulder, he let his eyes rove over the crowd passing up and down the street, but saw nothing. On a hunch he glanced up, just in time to see a CCTV camera shift away from his direction. Shrugging, he stepped into Baker Street and closed the door behind him. As he neared Mrs. Hudson’s flat, he could already hear S.J.’s excited chattering. Smiling, he let his son’s voice flow over him as he stepped into the warmth of his landlady’s kitchen, thoughts of the bum who looked like Sherlock put aside for now as he joined two of his favorite people for a cup of tea. 

**************

As soon as John and the little boy had disappeared down the street, Sherlock had pulled out his phone and sent a quick text. Not even a minute later, a sleek black car pulled up, the passenger door opening for Sherlock to climb in. Mycroft’s assistant didn’t even look up from her blackberry as Sherlock climbed in and pulled the door closed. “It’s about time,” she said, thumbs flying over the keys. Sherlock kept his mouth shut, staring out the window as London blurred past until they came to a stop in front of a nondescript hotel. Not nearly posh enough for Mycroft’s tastes, but it was the kind that wouldn’t necessarily look twice if a bum walked in and a gentleman walked out. “Room five,” the woman told him, pausing her typing just long enough to hand him a key card before going back to her phone. “You’ll find everything you need in the closet.” 

As Sherlock went to climb out, he was stopped by a soft clearing of the throat. “Oh, and Mr. Holmes? Might I suggest a shower while you’re at it?” Sherlock cast her one more look before climbing out and closing the door and walking up to the front doors of the lobby. The young woman behind the reception desk spared him the briefest of looks before turning back to the computer screen. Searching for a better job, he deduced before stepping into the lift, blessedly empty as he rode it up to his floor. The hall was likewise empty as he found Room 5, swiping his card and stepping into the sterile, unused feeling of the room beyond. 

The first thing he did was shed his disguise and step beneath the scalding shower; the thrumming of the spray relaxing muscles he hadn’t even realized were tense. He used up the entire little bottle of complementary shampoo and conditioner before deciding that before it dried, he was going to cut it. The length had served its purpose, there was no need for it anymore. Turning off the spray and wrapping a towel around his waist (no telling where his brother hid cameras, no reason to give the British Government a show), he wiped a clear patch onto the mirror before picking up the scissors that had been conveniently left next to a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste. Picking up a clump of waterlogged curls, he began to cut. 

Flushing the handful of dark curls down the toilet, Sherlock made his way out into the bedroom and pulled open the closet. A dark green dress shirt and a pair of charcoal trousers hung fresh and pressed next to his trenchcoat. A pair of black wingtips rested on the carpet beneath them along with a bag of what Sherlock assumed to be pants and other toiletries. He glanced at the clock on the nightstand before dressing quickly, leaving his wet towels and disguise in a heap on the bathroom floor. He would have felt a little bad for the housekeeper were it not for the fact that he knew Mycroft’s people would be the ones coming in to clean up. He left the key on the nightstand. If all went well tonight, he wouldn’t be needing this room again. 

He waited outside 221B until he saw the light in Mrs. Hudson’s flat go out, letting him know that the landlady had gone to bed and wouldn’t be a worry. He gave it an extra ten minutes, just to be safe, before striding across the street and up the steps to the front door. His key slid into the lock as easily as though he’d just done it yesterday, rather than three years ago. Pushing it open, he stepped silently inside, making sure to lock it back before staring up at the suddenly daunting flight of stairs leading up to the flat he’d once shared with John. He’d thought about this moment more times than he could count over his absence, about how he’d bound up the stairs and into the flat like nothing had ever happened. John would look up from his paper with a familiar “where have you been?” before getting up to fix them both a cup of tea. Sometimes he imagined there’d be tears, John falling into his arms and sobbing about how he’d always known Sherlock would come back. Other times there would be fighting; John lashing out in anger and striking at Sherlock, wanting to make him hurt the way he’d made John hurt all those years. 

Swallowing against the lump in his throat, Sherlock mounted the stairs, stealing himself against the inevitable. He avoided the squeaky ones with practiced ease, not wanting to draw attention to himself any sooner than necessary. As he reached the landing, he found himself having to force his hand to grip the knob, half expecting it to burn him, but the metal was cool and smooth beneath his palm, turning easily under minimal pressure as he pushed the door open and stepped inside. 

The sitting room was empty, but every surface held signs of life. Sherlock’s papers and boxes and experiments had all been cleared out, replaced instead with childrens toys and a playbox. A small table covered in drawings and a child’s science kit sat where Sherlock was sure had once been a stack of case files and possibly some experiment or the other, and the bottom three shelves of the bookshelf had been cleared to make way for legos and childrens books. His chair still sat in its usual place, and the skull still rested on the mantel with photographs depicting the growth of the little boy with John, Mrs. Hudson, the blonde woman he’d seen them with earlier, and even Molly and Lestrade. Stepping over an abandoned toy train, he glanced into the kitchen, not the least bit surprised to see his chemistry set missing and replaced with alphabet placemats and the remains of dinner in colorful, cartoon character bowls. He turned his attention back to the mantel, studying the photographs. A majority of them were of John and the child; John in a hospital gown holding the tiny, ruddy faced bundle, John and the same child in party hats, a small frosted cake with a single candle sitting in front of them. There was one with the child sitting on Molly’s lap, looking through a microscope with an excited smile on his face, another of the child wearing Lestrade’s uniform cap and holding a magnifying glass, a serious pout on his lips as he stared at the photographer. 

Frowning, Sherlock leaned a little closer. There was another smaller frame half hidden between that one and a framed picture of John, the woman, and the child at the park feeding ducks. Careful not to knock the rest out of alignment, he plucked the photo from its place. It was a photo of John and Sherlock dressed in suits, John with a Santa hat sitting askew on his blond head, a flushed smile crossing his face as he wrapped an arm around Sherlock’s waist. It had been taken at the Yard’s annual Christmas party a few months before the debacle with Moriarty had caused Sherlock to have to fake his death. Going to put it back in its place, Sherlock’s fingers caught on the edge of something. Frowning, he studied the frame, finding that the corner of a secondary photograph had been tucked into the backing of the original photo. Carefully prying the newly discovered photograph from its hiding place, he felt the air in his lungs grow stale. 

It was the little boy, dressed in a nice little suit, his dirty blond hair carefully combed with his arms folded atop a gravemarker. His head rested on his folded arms, almost like he was sleeping, but his clear blue eyes were staring out at Sherlock, a small, angelic smile curling his lips. At first Sherlock couldn’t understand why John would have taken such a photograph, until he looked at the name on the marker. Sherlock Holmes and an incorrect date were carved into the smooth marble of the headstone, a fresh bouquet of flowers spread out beneath it. Trembling fingers turned the photograph over and there, written in John’s familiar, cramped handwriting, was the answer to Sherlock’s questions. Father and son, it said, the date marking just over a month prior. The little boy was his? 

The sound of a door closing had him spinning, nearly dropping the photographs in his haste. John emerged from the hall that led to Sherlock’s old room, a smile on his face that quickly melted as he looked up to see Sherlock standing in the living room. Sherlock watched as John froze in place, blinked once, twice, before a look of terror and resignation deepened the creases on his face. “God, not again…” he whispered, rubbing his hands harshly over his face and through his hair. “I thought I was through with you, I thought I had convinced myself that you really were dead. I was done with this! And now here you are, all because of that stupid bum on the streets.” 

John was still tugging at his hair, as though he could pull out the memories, the image of Sherlock he believed he was hallucinating. “John,” Sherlock spoke, taking a hesitant step toward the doctor. “John, you aren’t imagining anything. I’m here, I’m real.” Watery green eyes looked up at him from behind freckle-dusted fingers before the hands were slowly lowered away from John’s pale face. Sherlock wanted to come closer, to take the shorter man into his arms and hold him until all the hurt in his eyes went away, but he knew John had to be the one to initiate contact, to realize that Sherlock really was there, so he waited patiently as the ex-army doctor studied him, taking hesitant steps forward until he was in touching distance of Sherlock. 

The blond reached out with one hand, pausing just a fraction of an inch from Sherlock’s face before, with a deep breath, he closed the gap, warm fingers meeting Sherlock’s much cooler flesh and drawing a shiver from the detective. “Oh my God,” John breathed, hand flattening against the smooth plane of Sherlock’s face. “You’re real… you’re here…” Sherlock let his eyes close, the warmth of John’s palm seeping into places he’d never thought would warm again. He’d hated what he’d had to do, but it was over now. And if John would keep touching him like that, it would all have been worth it. The mood was broken by a sharp slap, heat and pain blooming across the flesh that just moments ago had been so tenderly held. He opened his eyes to see John’s brow furrowed in anger. “What the hell, Sherlock!” He growled, visibly trying to control his volume. “I watched you die! I mourned for you! Three fucking years, Sherlock! Explain why you had to make me believe you were dead for three fucking years!!” 

Sherlock swallowed, knowing this was coming and bracing himself for another blow. “Moriarty,” he started. “He had men with guns trained on you, and on Lestrade, and on Mrs. Hudson. If I didn’t jump, he would have given the order and killed all of you one by one. So I faked my death, and I’ve spent the last three years tracking down his network and eliminating the problem. I had to make sure you were safe, John. All of you.” 

While Sherlock spoke, John remained stiff, hands hanging by his sides and eyes studying Sherlock’s face, as though he could detect if the taller man was lying to him. As Sherlock finished, the two of them fell into an awkward silence for a long moment before John nodded. “I take it they’re gone, then? I mean, are you going to turn around and leave again for another three years? Or are you back to stay?” He tried to sound casual, but Sherlock could detect the apprehension hiding in his voice. John was terrified; terrified that this wasn’t real and that Sherlock was going to turn around and walk away. 

Closing the remains of the gap between them, Sherlock drew John into a tight embrace, burrowing his face into the dirty blond locks and breathing in the smell of John and shampoo. “I’m here to stay, John. I’m not going anywhere, not ever again. I’m so sorry I couldn’t reach out, couldn’t let you know the truth, but I couldn’t risk one of Moriarty’s men finding out and killing you, killing our child…” His words trailed off as a question more than a comment, reluctantly pushing John away far enough to show him the loose photograph he’d discovered. John wiped at his face before looking down at it, a small smile bending his lips as he stared down at the oddly angelic image. “John…” Sherlock breathed, tilting John’s head up with a finger under the chin. “Is it true? Is this my… our son?” John nodded, taking the photograph from Sherlock, but before he could say anything a small voice spoke up from behind them. “Daddy?” 

John turned, Sherlock looking over his shoulder to see the little boy rubbing sleepily at his eyes. He was dressed in a pair of footie pajamas covered in robots, his sandy hair mussed but blue eyes surprisingly clear when they focused on the two men. Not as sleepy as he wants us to believe , Sherlock thought, a flare of pride warming him inside. “Hey buddy,” John said, voice dropping to a tone typically used with small children. “I’m sorry, did we wake you up?” The little boy shook his head walking up and letting John lift him up into a hug. “No, but I heard voices.” John turned them back to face Sherlock, and the taller man found himself once again surprised with the intensity in which the little boy was watching him. “Sherlock,” John began, shifting the child onto one hip, “this is S.J.” 

S.J. Sherlock thought, a smile appearing on his face as he studied the small boy. No need to ask what it stands for. “Pleasure to meet you, S.J.,” he replied, holding out one hand for the boy to shake. S.J. met his handshake without hesitation, small grip firm as he shook the detective’s hand. “S.J.,” John began, eyes shining for the first time in a long time. “This is your Papa. The one Grandma tells you stories about.” 

Sherlock felt his heart skip a beat when John introduced him as his Papa. He’d never really imagined himself as a father, had never thought he’d make a good one, yet here he was with the man he loved and the child he hadn’t even known they’d had. 

S.J.’s smile was a mirror reflection of John’s. “Hello, papa. What took you so long? Did you catch all the bad guys like Uncle Mycroft said you were doing?” Sherlock noted John stiffen slightly, and knew that they’d be having that conversation when the little boy had gone back to bed, but for right now he just wrapped both his blonds in a hug. “Yes, S.J. I got all the bad guys. I’m just sorry it took me so long.” He could feel S.J.’s smile pressed against his cheek as he wrapped chubby little arms around Sherlock’s neck. “That’s okay, papa. I’m just glad you’re back and daddy doesn’t have to be sad anymore.” 

Sherlock pressed a light kiss against a sleep warm cheek before smiling down at his lover. “Me too, sweetheart. Me too.”

~END~