John climbed the narrow stairs slowly, one step at a time, metal cane clacking one ahead of him. He stopped to catch his breath and looked at the closed door to his apartment. His eyes fell back to the cane after a moment; with a heavy sigh, he realized what had become of him. He still didn't quite understand why that one event had bothered him so much. He'd bore witness to countless deaths, many overwhelmingly more gruesome. Perhaps it affected him so deeply because the victim had brought it upon himself or the fact that the victim was his flatmate and best friend.
John shook his head. No matter how personal, how tragic, he'd gotten over the other losses (granted, he'd had a little bit of help and a lot a bit of distractions), and he could get over this one too. He trudged into the flat and slammed the door behind him, as if to emphasize the point to himself. He eyed the couch against the wall, right under the spray painted smiley face and bullet holes he'd refused to patch up. Leaning the cane against the arm, John reclined on the sofa as he had done so many times before.
He stared out the window at his feet for a few moments before pulling his military pistol from his pocket. It had grown stiff from disuse. Any given person wouldn't have noticed, but in the hands of someone familiar with one, someone who relied on one on a regular basis, someone like John, it was an unmistakable and extremely disconcerting feeling.
John rubbed his thumb over the grooves in the barrel idly in thought, almost affectionately. As much as he tried to fight it, his thoughts continued wandering back to that day, to what happened, to why it happened. He'd been left with more questions than emotions, but those questions only served to make those emotions even stronger.
Why had he done it? He'd known the crimes and their solutions to be legitimate. After all, he'd been living in the same room as the man accused of committing them, talking to him every day, forced to watch him almost constantly by proximity alone. Nothing had seemed amiss...surely he wasn't that- He stopped himself before finishing the thought, knowing he wouldn't like the answer. No, there was no fraud. That was certain. Something else must have happened. John lifted the gun with a sigh and leaned his temple into the nose.
"Hello, John." Before the second syllable was out, John was on his feet with the gun pointed at the source of the noise. It took him far longer, however, to register what was happening. A man was standing before him, or rather, leaning on the corner of the wall between the living room and kitchen. He was dressed in a black casual suit, neatly tailored.
"Sh-Sherlock?" John kept the gun pointed at him, though any number of things could have happened before he would have the presence of mind to pull the trigger.
"Yes. If you could put the gun down, please, I-"
"No" John cut him off. "No, you're dead. I saw you, that day on the sidewalk. You were dead. I checked your pulse. I've never been wrong, Sherlock, and I wasn't then either."
"No, you weren't." Sherlock pushed off the wall and gestured to himself. "But I assure you, I'm alive now. This is really me, and if you'll let me explain-"
John cut him off again. The gun hadn't moved. "Prove it."
Sherlock eyed him for a moment, then nodded with a quiet sigh. "The gun in your hand is the one you've owned at least since we first met, but considering it's a military-issued model, I always assumed you've had it longer. However, judging by the way it's sitting in your hand, you haven't been using it very much. It's rather awkward, like your hand isn't as comfortable holding it as it used to be. On top of that, your hand is shaking. Normally I would assume it was from the shock of seeing me alive, but your hand only ever shook when nothing exciting or dangerous was happening, and considering this is quite exciting, it must be from falling out of practice. Assuming that is true, you've completely left the criminal justice business and have probably devoted yourself completely to the medical field; judging by the small nick on your left index finger, a surgeon. Even if you weren't putting yourself at the crime scene, you weren't comfortable staying too far away from blood." He stopped and watched John's face for a moment. "Satisfied? I can go on."
John shook his head and slowly lowered the gun, eyes never leaving Sherlock's. "You could have just said I shot the cabbie."
Sherlock smiled. "That wouldn't have been very much like me, now, would it?"
John gave a snort that was probably intended as a substitute for a laugh. The two silently held each other's gaze for a moment before he shook his head again. He approached Sherlock quickly, limp gone almost immediately and eyes lowered to the floor. Before Sherlock had a chance to escape, John's arms were wrapped tightly around his ribcage, pinning his arms to his sides. Sherlock's eyes widened slightly, not expecting such a display of affection from John, even considering the circumstances. When he realized the hug wasn't going to end any time soon, he lifted one hand as best he could and patted his back gently. "Oh come now, it's alright. Everything's fine."
The words drove John to break the embrace more than anything else. He gave Sherlock a strange, unreadable look for a moment before turning away and shaking his head. Sherlock let him be for a few seconds before speaking up again.
"You weren't really going to do it, were you? It's just...you never seemed the type, considering what you'd already been through, I didn't think-"
He was interrupted by a sudden crack to his jaw. He staggered back a few steps until he fell back against the wall, blinded momentarily by shock. It wasn't that he didn't expect a punch to the face at some point; in fact, he would have been disappointed if it didn't happen. He just wasn't expecting it to come at that exact moment, with John silent and turned away. Rubbing his slackened jaw, he looked up at the other with a quizzical look.
John pointed the gun at him again, hand no longer shaking, his expression hurt and angry. Sherlock held his hands up slowly. "John..."
He moved the gun to his own temple instead, expression unchanged.
He pulled the trigger.
The gun hit Sherlock in stomach and settled in his lap. He looked down at it, then up at John.
"No, I wasn't going to do it. I've stopped loading it."
Sherlock breathed a sigh of relief, but he made a point to keep it inconspicuous. "Right. I should have known. You'd want to do to me as I did to you. John, I'm s-"
John cut him off yet again, his voice suddenly raised. "No, shut up! Just shut up right there!" He pointed a finger angrily at the detective on the floor. "Absolutely not. I am not going to let you apologize when you don't even know what you've done wrong!"
"No, John, I know what I-"
"I said shut up!" He paused to make sure Sherlock did as he was told. "No, you don't know! You left me, Sherlock! You left me! I had to completely start over, again! Do you have any idea how difficult it's been? How...how hard it is to suddenly go from that exciting, fast-paced life we had to a screeching halt and dead silence?" Sherlock inwardly cringed at his subconscious word choice. His eyes followed John as he began to pace back and forth in front of him. "I haven't slept through the night in months, when I do get some rest, it never lasts long because of all the horrible nightmares, I've lost almost ten kilos now that my appetite is almost completely gone, I can't even sit in my own damn flat for more than an hour or two without feeling like I'm going absolutely insane! How could you do that to me, Sherlock? How could you put me through that?"
Sherlock had remained silent and straight-faced through the entire tirade, and for a short while afterward. "I'm sorry, John. Truly, I am."
John shook his head, a little out of breath. "That doesn't matter." He took a deep breath and rubbed his temples in frustration. "I stopped loading the gun, first of all because I didn't trust myself alone with it, and second because if someone tried to kill me, I wouldn't have bothered trying to defend myself even if I could." He paused again. "You have no idea how...how much it hurt. How much I...I've missed you."
Sherlock finally stood, brushing himself off and setting the gun on the table. "Yes, I do."
"How? How could you, of all people, understand that?"
"Firstly, you've stopped limping again since I've returned." He gestured to the cane, and John's eyes followed. When he turned back, Sherlock was standing in front of him. He felt the detective's hand resting on his shoulder.
"But more importantly, because I have missed you just as dearly."