by elfin

'Thats what magic is, an illusion.  It doesn't make the illusion magic.' - Jonathan Creek

He returns to Baker Street after a couple of weeks.  Nothing particular happens in order to prompt it, he just forgets one day after spending a miserable lunch with Harry and finds himself standing outside the old address rather than his new one.

He stares up at the windows of the first floor and imagines Sherlock lounging in his chair, hands pressed together into a steeple, the nails of his index fingers leaving tiny dents in his bottom lip.  He imagines opening the door and Sherlock asking to use his phone because his is in his coat pocket, or in his bedroom and both of those locations are too far from his chair to reach, far easier to wait for John to get home and lend him his.  He's probably asked the empty flat a few times, knowing that when John returns he'll hear and hand it over.  All he needs to do is wait.

Why couldn't he have waited?  ''s my note... It's what people do isn't it?  Leave a note?'

For a few minutes John isn't sure if he can face actually going inside.  During the time they'd lived there the flat had always been so full of energy; albeit the pent-up, nervous kind that accompanied Sherlock's unique brands of boredom and excitement.  Mycroft's paying the rent for now, so he knows everything will have been left exactly the way it was.  It's not change he has to be wary of, it's a thousand memories just waiting to overwhelm him.  He even turns away once, but then he changes his mind, fetches out his keys and unlocks the front door. 

There's no sound once he's inside, Mrs Hudson is out it seems, away for a few days judging by the way the mail has piled up on the other side off the door.  He could find the earliest post date, add two days for second class, one for first and deduce when she left but he doesn't.  He puts the varying sizes of envelops on the hall table without even reading the addressees and with a deep breath heads up the wooden stairs, pushing open the door at the top.

"Ah, John, can I use your phone?  I left mine on the roof...."

Sherlock's voice is quickly drowned out by the sound of blood rushing around his head.  It all goes black and slightly sickly before he faints.

"John, you haven't been eating...."

He opens his eyes.  He's lying on the floor of the sitting room and impossibly Sherlock Holmes is crouching next to him with wide palm of his left hand under John's head, tapered fingers on his right wrist taking John's pulse.

"Your heart-rate is escalated...."

"Of course it's bloody escalated!  I've had one hell of a shock!  In fact, I think I'm still having it as I seem to be hallucinating my dead flatmate talking to me and... stroking my hair."

Sherlock's hand slides away from the back of his head as he sits up.  "Sorry.  But clearly I'm not dead -"


"-and you're angry."

"Getting angry, yes, brilliant deduction."

"Why?  I thought you'd be happy, you wanted me to be alive, you said so at my grave..."

"Oh, God...."  Tears start, unbidden and unwanted but he knows by now that his emotions rule him on this subject and not the other way around.  "You... how could I have missed you so much?  Why did it hurt every moment that I realised I would never see you again when you're such a stupid, arrogant... bastard?" 


"You had to know what your death would do to me!  You're my best friend, Sherlock!  And I know you don't have many but friends don't lie to one another -"

"That's all friends do!"

"Not about this!  Not about something so... so.... You faked your own death!  To... for what?  And why?"

"To protect you."  He sits back on his ankles, feet bent back on the hard threadbare rug.  "I did it for you.  Moriarty's men were going to kill you.  And Lestrade and Mrs Hudson.  The three people closest to me, he said.  That was a joke in itself; my landlady and a policeman I pickpocket for entertainment!  Why not my brother?  Why not fucking Stamford if it's coming to that?"

He's babbling, not making sense but then that's about normal.  Everything's normal apart from the fact that he's supposed to be dead. 



Hesitating, John reaches out a hand and puts it deliberately on Sherlock's taut thigh.  He's warm, alive.  He's really there.  "I'd really like to know how.  Because I saw you jump, I saw you fall and I saw you... dead, on the pavement."  He swipes at his eyes with his other hand.  "But obviously, I didn't....."

"Illusion," and Sherlock's voice catches when he rubs his thumb across the back of the hand resting on his thigh, "John... I'm sorry.  I jumped and I fell but I landed on an airbag.  There was a truck, remember?  It drove away before you got close.  The blood wasn't mine.  It had to look good and you had to believe it or you'd have died right there in the road."  It seems to John as if he shrinks back, becomes smaller somehow, more vulnerable, more fragile, right before his eyes. 

"You always said that caring was a disadvantage, that sentiment... was a chemical defect found in the losing side."  Sherlock didn't respond.  "You did all this because you care, about Greg and Mrs Hudson.  About me.  But you're not on the losing side.  Moriarty's dead."

"And I may as well be if you don't... if you can't forgive me."

He doesn't quite believe his own ears, or maybe the part of his brain that translates Holmes to English isn't working.  It's the shock.  He's still in shock.  "Can I have a drink?"

"Of course."  Sherlock lifts his hands, rises gracefully to his feet and suddenly he's Sherlock Holmes again, the great detective, the riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma, larger than life and with an ego to give God a run for his money.  "Tea?"

"Brandy."  Besides, there's no milk, at least he doesn't think there is.  "How long have you been here?"

"A week."  He goes into the kitchen and John hears cupboards being searched.

"A week...."

"I didn't have my phone.  I was waiting for you...."  A brandy is placed carefully into his hand.  "Where have you been?"

"I thought you were dead...."

"I know."

"I couldn't face the flat...."  Suddenly Mycroft paying the rent makes sense, because of course he's known what his brother's been up to.  "Why didn't Mycroft tell me?"

"Because he's torn between thinking you're good for me and needing you not to be."

That doesn't make sense either.  Very little does, he thinks, but he isn't sure he needs it to.  He sits up, throws back the brandy in one gulp then puts his arm around Sherlock's neck and hugs him tight, mostly to convince himself he isn't seeing things but also because he actually wants to welcome Sherlock back to life before he punches him so hard....  "If you ever do that again...."

"I'm hoping it won't be necessary.  How many nemeses can one man realistically have?"

"Most people don't have any," John points out, and eases back even though Sherlock's arms feel nice wrapped around him and he doesn't really want him to let go.

"Where's Mrs Hudson?" because it's an easier subject to talk about than anything else he can think of. 

"At her sister's in the country."

"You've spoken to her?  She knows...?"

He shakes his head.  "No.  I broke into her flat when she wasn't answering the door.  She packed a suitcase and her walking shoes have gone but not her best dress...." 

"Stop."  Sitting back on his heels, John leans forward until his forehead rests against Sherlock's, whose hands remain loosely at the base of his spine, "Why are you so maddening?"  His brows furrow.  "It's all right, you don't have to answer that."

He nods.  "Thank you."

"I need to move, Sherlock, my knees...."

Sitting side by side on the couch, John can feel Sherlock literally trembling, a subtle shudder running from shoulder to knee.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm out of cigarettes."

John chuckles.  "Have you checked under the skull?"

"Actually... no."  Getting up, John fetches the last pack of cigarettes, tapping one out into his fingers and picking up the matches from beside the fire.  Sherlock opens his mouth to say, something, and John balances the filter on his bottom lip, lighting the tip carefully.  Sherlock's eyes close briefly as he inhales, and his voice is slightly deeper when he says, "I thought you didn't approve."

"I don't.  But you jumped off a fucking roof because a crazy psychopath threatened the people you care about.  I think, if I'm being honest, Sherlock, cigarettes are probably the least of your worries."

It's still too soon to be thinking straight.  There are people to tell, the media to talk around, the nightmares to be chased from John's mind.  But these things can happen with time.  For now, there's Sherlock to deal with, to shout at, to listen to, and eventually to settle back into domestic strife with.