They say that in moments of extreme duress that your life flashes before your eyes. For one more time of many, Sherlock cursed his ability to see everything. He can replay over and over in his mind the very second the explosion started, how many pieces John split into, how far he spread.
He can see John’s face right before the explosion enveloped it, surprisingly serene. There is no blame in his eyes, though Sherlock knows there should be. He was the one who dragged John into this, got him involved. He needn’t have been involved at all, neither of them needed to be if Sherlock could just…let go.
He can still smell the burnt hair; feel the heat on his face. He can feel the splatter against his entire body, remnants he has tried many times to scrub off of himself and yet can still always feel. He feels the coolness of the pool as the blast knocks him off the deck and into the chlorinated water. He can hear himself screaming John’s name.
Though now this is all he can remember, these few moments where he feels he could have done something, stopped it somehow, for those split seconds when his eyes met John’s he remembered something else entirely. He remembered life.
He remembered the cups of tea that John brought for him when he relapsed so many times, an anchor in the storm of his boggled mind. He remembered waking in the middle of the night to John’s hands on his neck, a shooting outside their flat having triggered his memories of the war. He remembered holding John in the bathroom as he sobbed and vomited and apologized, and wearing scarves for several weeks afterward.
He remembered watching John nap in the afternoon sun, and arguing over whose turn it was to do the dishes. He remembered John underneath him, trembling and touching him as though he couldn’t believe Sherlock was there. He remembered the tenderness of his lover, and the affection he had returned. He had never felt that way before, for anyone.
Though he remembers every smell, the placement of every piece of shrapnel, every molecule of John that was released into the air that day, what he remembers most is one single moment. It is what he thinks about at night, when he is sitting at home alone on the bed he used to share with John, with the shredded mass that used to be his lover’s shirt.
What he remembers most is the moment between remembering the life of John and his death. John looked at him with those clear eyes that said it’s not your fault but what he said in words was far more memorable.
As he stood there waiting to die, the explosion already blossoming across his chest in slow-motion there was a moment of calm where he locked eyes with Sherlock and said those three words he had waited so long to hear.
“I love you…”