In which Sherlock comes back after pretending to be dead for two years, finds John moved out of Baker Street and nearly engaged. He’d deduced two possible reactions… but not this.
Of all the outcomes Sherlock had prepared himself for, this was not one of them. There had been two scenarios in his head, two ways John’s emotions could play out. Shock was, in both scenarios, naturally the primary stage. That is logically what happens when a previously thought dead person presents themselves. It was the stages that came after the shock is where it got tricky, given that Sherlock had to take into factor that they were surrounded by the public eye, in a very crowded, very upscale restaurant. It was where the road split. Road one: Shock would be followed by disbelieve, perhaps tears, but most likely not with John. No, it was more likely disbelief would lead to laughter, the slightly bitter kind that Sherlock could picture on John’s face, the kind that would melt into relief, maybe even a slightly uncharacteristic hug. It might be a briefer display of emotion due to the public eye but at least Sherlock would know it was alright now.
The second road was not preferred but it ended the same. On this path anger followed the shock, maybe John stormed out of the restaurant, maybe delivered Sherlock a rightly deserved punch… But they were together in the end. Sherlock was forgiven in the end.
He never thought, however, that the stage of anger would be so prolonged. He never imagined that John wouldn’t eventually get along to embracing his lost best friend. Sherlock never pictured John leaving him standing alone on the curb of a dumpy fish and chip place with a bloody nose.
Ms. Hudson, on the other hand, had had exactly the reaction Sherlock had predicted when he walked into 221B. She’d screamed, cried, screamed again when he placed a gentle hand on her arm, and proceeded to alternate between the two for the next hour. Sherlock could barely focus on her however, only being able to think about how, as she wrapped him in a very tight hug, he would do anything to have experienced this reaction twice that night.
“Oh Sherlock,” Ms. Hudson patted his cheek fondly, a smile brightening her face, “I take it you’ve seen John?”
Sherlock tense, “Yes. Yes, of course.”
She laughed delightedly, squeezing his hand before bustling into the kitchen, “I’ll get the kettle on for you two, then.”
Sherlock unknotted his scarf, hanging it on the familiar coat hanger, taking note in the back of his mind the relief that filled his chest at being, well, home, “Sorry?”
Ms. Hudson looked over her shoulder, “Well, I gather he’ll be around shortly, yes?”
Sherlock froze half way through shrugging out of his coat, the thought hitting him harder than he expected. Would he?
“Yes.” Sherlock said stiffly, dropping his coat over a chair—John’s chair—with a flourish, “Yes, of course. Tea would be lovely, thank you.”
Ms. Hudson gave him another firm kiss on the cheek and a Oh Sherlock, do play some violin for me tomorrow. I can’t tell you how I’ve missed it, and left him to “get settled.”
Sherlock had prepared the tea with shaking fingers. Of course John would be around. He wouldn’t let the night end like it had would he? He’d want to see Sherlock. Definitely. John was a man of answers, and he had two years worth of questions to ask. Sherlock had poured the water into the tea pot, set out two cups (he’d looked for John’s favorite mug only to find it no longer in the cupboard), milk, and sugar. He’d put it all on a tray, set it rather too harshly onto the coffee table, fell into his chair…
And the waiting had begun.
Sherlock was very good at sitting still usually. He could go days on end without speaking, without moving. But he couldn’t seem to manage it tonight.
He paced, drummed his fingers, watched the clock. By the time he decided to change into his pajamas, it was nearly two in the morning and he had already retuned his violin and stabbed the fireplace mantle approximately 57 times. The tea was cold and he hadn’t had a drop. He hung his coat up from its place on John’s chair, fluffing the flag pillow and smoothing the velvet out.
It was two thirty and Sherlock listened to Ms. Hudson’s bedroom door close downstairs. No doubt she had been waiting up for John. She’d given up. He wouldn’t.
Sherlock kept his phone in hand. John may call rather than come over now that it was so late. He had a…fiancé now, after all. Sherlock swallowed hard at the thought, checking his phone again. Another outcome Sherlock had not expected. Of course, he felt foolish now, thinking John had—thinking John could ever feel… whatever Sherlock had felt. Whatever Sherlock feels. That it was John and him, him and John. He never dreamt that there could be any other version of either of their lives, he never thought…
Sherlock pressed his hands over his eyes.
But perhaps he should not have left for two years. For a so-called genius, he seemed to have a habit of realizing things too late when it came to John Watson. Maybe one could only be a genius in one aspect of life, one field. Sherlock considered this. If that was the case, he’d gladly trade his knowledge of chemistry, of crime, of anything, for an upstanding understanding of John. Just John. It may not be more useful in his line of work. But he would be happier. Emotionally. Sherlock blinked at the realization. He was surprised, but it felt… true.
It was approaching four in the morning when Sherlock resigned to his bed. He couldn’t stare at the empty chair across from him any longer. If he did he was worried he may throw something, or miss the mantlepiece and stab himself instead with the amount he’d been at it. He let his phone rest on his chest, fingertips to his chin.
He didn’t want to admit it, but his hopes were crumbling around him. John was not calling. John was not coming up the stairs. John had left him on the curb after hitting him once, twice, three times. He found that his chest hurt more than his cheek or nose.
Sherlock was just beginning to resign himself to a few more hours of sitting completely still until it was considered a socially acceptable hour to rise and start a day in the life of the living, when his phone buzzed against his ribs, shocking Sherlock’s eyes open.
The screen said John.
Sherlock had barely picked up before he was saying his name.
He was met with a few beats of silence and then, slowly, “You’re awake.”
Sherlock felt pinned against the mattress, “You don’t sound surprised.”
The response was more immediate this time, “I’m not.”
Sherlock nearly closed his eyes at the familiar scoff, “Yes, of course I’m awake.”
“I… I’m not surprised… either.” Sherlock had never struggled for words so much in his life.
Silence followed and Sherlock thought he heard John pouring himself tea, or maybe a drink.
“Jesus,” A chair scooted back over the line and John sighed as he sat now, “I’ve not a clue what to say. How’s the nose?”
Sherlock felt himself smile a little at the comment. This was the most normal he had felt in two entire years, “Not as bad as the ribs.”
John chuckled softly, the way he did when he was confused, “What? I didn’t hit you in the ribs.”
“No. You didn’t.”
Silence followed again. Sherlock heard John’s breathing stop and restart, “Sherlock-“
“Don’t worry, I’m okay-“
“No, that’s not the point, Sherlock, the point is that you let me- You let me knock you around when someone else had been doing god knows what god knows where.”
“Don’t worry, you’re much gentler than Serbian interrogators.”
He heard John set his tea down too hard, “What? I- Oh my god, I swear, if you’re joking-“
“I don’t joke.”
Another laugh, this time disbelieving. It sent another shock of relief through Sherlock, “Yes you do, Jesus, Jesus-“
“John. I’m okay-“
“Well, you were dead this morning!”
John’s breathing was harsh over the phone. Sherlock could picture him rubbing his eyes. Sherlock just listened for a moment to the familiar sound. He didn’t know how to start. Sorry was nothing, not what was needed, it wasn’t enough.
“John…” Sherlock let out a breath, “I-“
“Don’t you dare say you’re-“
“I wanted to tell you so many times-“
“God, did you now?” John was nearly fuming again, “That’s the first time you haven’t given into one of your impulses.”
Sherlock closed his eyes. Hardly, John. Hardly.
Sherlock breathed deeply through his nose, “You’re right. I should know better.”
Sherlock heard a clatter that sounded like John throwing his cup in the sink, “Yes. Yes, you should.”
“Maybe I’ll give into one right now.”
A beat of silence, “What?”
Sherlock was already halfway to the door, “I’m coming over.”
The laugh was back, nervous and relieved this time, “Sherlock it’s nearly five-“
“I’m giving into an impulse, John.”
“Right…” A chair scraped back, “Yes, okay. Alright.”
“I’ll catch a cab. Text me the address, would you?”
Sherlock thought he heard a hitch in breath, a small sniff maybe. It made his chest ache, “Yeah.”
Sherlock shrugged half way into his coat, “Okay-“
“Right, can we not say goodbye?”
Sherlock’s brows furrowed, “John?”
“’s just the last time you said…” John couldn’t seem to finish but he didn’t have to.
Sherlock understood. He understood and he knew he’d never utter the word ‘goodbye’ to John Watson again.
“See you soon, John.”