Title: Thirty-six months
Author: fanficwriter101
Pairing: gen
Fandoms: Sherlock
Disclaimer: The characters from the show aren't mine, they belong to others. No copyright infringement intended. Any characters you don't recognize are mine. Feedback would be nice, positive feedback would be nicer. Enjoy!
Category: Sherlock (BBC 2010/12 version) fluffy angsty hurt/comfort post-ep fic with a touch of bromance.
Rating: Adult/R for safety
Characters: Ensemble - everyone drops in
Series: No
Spoilers: Specifically The Reichenbach Fall but anything (including the unaired pilot) might get a mention.
Summary: If you haven't seen Episode 3 of Season Two, stop reading now. If you have, you'll probably understand this: John moves on. For three years, he moves on. Then he stops. Suddenly.
Archive: Just tell me where it's going.
Additional 'stuff': Not sure how much I've been influenced by the original ACD text and the Granada adaptation. Unusually for me, I've written 'Greg' as Lestrade's first name and Lestrade as a recently-divorced man. I was a teeny bit disappointed the BBC version showed Sherlock at the end. Clearly very much alive. Season Three beckons then?
WARNING: Spoilers for season two and an OFC(ish) death!! AU now that Season 3 is out.


Three years earlier...

John and Mycroft had reached a sort of uneasy truce by the day of Sherlock's funeral. They stood side-by-side, emotions barely under control while the vicar intoned the service. John declined Mycroft's hesitant offer of company as the gravediggers moved in to cover the coffin and walked off, alone, leaving a tearful Mrs Hudson and a grim-faced Lestrade to leave together.

John didn't know or care where Mycroft was headed. Of course, Mycroft knew, even if he didn't care, exactly where John ended up.


Two years, eleven months and three weeks earlier...

John couldn't go back to Baker Street again. He had tried, even getting as far as the end of the street, but as he crossed he could see the front door of 221 and he stopped in mid-stride and turned around. "Yeah, Sherlock, I know it's stupid, okay...yeah...I should go up to the front door and open it and go into the flat and...no...I can't. Not yet."

Passers-by stared at the clearly mentally ill man who was having a conversation with an invisible companion. Most either crossed over the road or gave him a *very* wide berth.


Two years and eleven months earlier...

John queued for coffee at the new Starbucks on his route into work. He was staying - temporarily he promised himself - with Mike and his flat was within walking distance of Barts. He was due to start a new job the following week and he'd agreed with the Consultant he could observe for the day to get used to the layout and other things he'd need to make him efficient in his new post.

As he exited the building, a car - a Daimler with darkly-tinted windows - drew up beside him and a man climbed out of the passenger seat and opened the rear door. John didn't even bother protesting, climbing in, sipping his coffee as the car moved through the heavy rush-hour traffic.


A short time later...

John looked around. The flat was smaller than Baker Street - a flat for one not two - but more modern and John was tempted. Very tempted. But still...

John sighed. "They'll want a deposit and I don't start my new job until..."

Mycroft opened his jacket and took out a small padded envelope. "The twenty-fifth. And then it will be a further four weeks before your first salary payment."

John no longer bothered asking how Mycroft knew...anything and he watched as Mycroft drew a package from inside his coat.

"I trust this will be sufficient to...tide you over...in the meantime."

John took the envelope and opened it, looking into it without pulling out any of the several bundles of fifty-pound notes. "Sherlock once tried to pay for a roll of sellotape with one of these. The shopkeeper wanted to call the police. He was certain it was a fake."

Mycroft smiled, a little relieved John appeared not to be offended by his gesture. 

John folded the envelope flap closed and shook his head. "Mycroft, I can't...I mean...I know you're...I know why you're..."

"I understand...it's a matter of...pride."

If John understood Mycroft had chosen his words with great care, he didn't show it. "Oh, it's not but I'm not sure I've forgiven you enough to take money off you. Not yet."

Mycroft acknowledged the hurt and anger behind the softly-spoken words with a sad nod. But he made no move to take the envelope from John's outstretched hand. "Keep it for...emergencies. The flat has a small safe behind the bookcase..." Mycroft pointed to a three-shelf mahogany bookshelf in the far corner of the room "...and I'm sure there's room both for your gun and the envelope."

John smiled. "I don't have a gun anymore. Gave it to Lestrade a few weeks back."

Mycroft pretended he hadn't known and pulled his coat on. "Well, I'll leave you to settle in. Goodbye John. Oh, and...er...good luck in your new role."

As the door closed, John sat on the brown leather sofa, hands shaking, the envelope's dull yellow surface darkening in those spots where his tears fell. As he always did, in between sniffs this time, John said: "We both know your brother had a hand in that. What do you mean? I mean my new job. I'm going to be working at Barts. I wasn't sure I wanted it but Mike's still there, and Molly...yes, she's married, and pregnant. And anyway it's time I got promoted. I'm good enough...yes Sherlock, I am."

As he spoke, his face reflected his reactions to his words and the imagined responses of his former flatmate.


Three months earlier...

As Senior Registrar, John usually took the lead in serious emergency admissions leaving the consultant to oversee the team, demonstrate techniques and train the less experienced staff in the controlled and often bloody chaos of the main Resus room off the main corridor.

John barked brief and concise instructions at the various people around the steel table as the blood-covered blonde in her late forties was transferred from the stretcher to the table. "Maggie, is there any ID? Find something that will tell us her name!"

"Karen Lesstrayde." The young doctor, ponytail swishing, held up the blood-stained green paper driving licence and tried to pronounce the foreign name. "There's a diary...um...in case of emergency call Greg Lesstrayde. Must be her husband."

"Take this! Give me that!" John handed portable x-ray remote control to the Registrar beside him and snatched the diary, recognizing the telephone number beside the name. "Christ! Dan...are you ok to take over?"

The red head nodded. "What's up?"

"She's the ex-wife of a friend of mine."


John checked the number in the diary against his own phone. Then he dialed. After two rings he heard: "Lestrade."

 "Greg, it's John Watson. Karen was in a car accident. She was in the back seat. She wasn't...um...wearing a seat belt."

"Oh God is she...she isn't..."

"She's alive. She has some pretty serious internal injuries. She seems to have been using a laptop in the car. It pretty much...crushed her chest. There's a team working on her, stabilizing her for surgery. You should get here as quick as you can."

He headed back into Resus, whispering softly: "Please don't let her be dead."


The taxi driver slammed on the brakes and shouted angrily at his passenger as the door was wrenched the car door open and, throwing a tenner at the driver, Lestrade jumped out as they neared the A & E entrance.

John heard the familiar voice at the desk, Lestrade shouting, demanding to know where Karen was and he headed into the waiting area.


"John! Where is she?!"

Nodding to the area behind him John put a restraining hand on the DI's forearm, holding him back from the curtained-off cubicle. He knew it was against hospital policy to deliver bad news in a public area but he knew it couldn't wait. "I'm sorry...her injuries were so severe, she died a few minutes ago."

John was used to delivering bad news but always to strangers. Never to a friend. And he felt the pain of the grief of losing Sherlock all over again when he saw the horror and anger and sorrow and pain in his friend's face. Only the tight grip he had on Greg's arm prevented him from dropping to his knees.

John called Anderson who promised to leave immediately to pick the DI up and take him home. Needing some fresh air before heading back inside, praying silently his beep wouldn't go off for a few minutes, John walked out of the automatic doors and into the ambulance bay. "They were back together...I mean, I don't think it was working out but at least they were trying...yeah, I know, once a cheater, always a cheater, but I'm just glad I didn't have to tell him who Karen was in the car with. You were right...yes, I know, he wouldn't have found out if this hadn't happened."

Forcing Sherlock's 'I told you so' face from his mind, John returned to the department. As he entered the building, his phone rang and he walked back outside, frowning as he read the caller ID.

"John...I have some paperwork I need your signature on. Perhaps we might meet this evening? Say eight-thirty...that should give you sufficient time to shower and change after your shift. I'll have a car sent."

"Uh...okay...yeah...look...there was a car accident..."

Mycroft's soft voice interrupted him. "Yes...Detective Inspector Lestrade's estranged wife...a dreadful accident."

John wasn't in the mood for Mycroft's smugness. "I have to get back. Eight-thirty, yeah?"

Mycroft frowned crossly as the line disconnected.


Later that day...

John stared out of the window, watching the scenery change from London concrete to rural greenery in the hour it took to pull up outside the gates which opened as the car approached. John looked out at perfectly manicured lawns, hedges and ornamental ponds which lined the gravel drive.

As the car stopped outside the house which John was certain he'd visited as a child with his parents on a National Trust outing Mycroft appeared in the doorway. John tried to hide his thought that Mycroft actually looked exactly like the Lord of the Manor had probably looked a century earlier standing framed in the stone entrance porch, changed from his usual charcoal grey three-piece suit into a green tweed jacket and brown cord trousers. "John...good to see you."

John followed Mycroft into the house and sat on the shiny brown leather sofa Mycroft waved at before leaving the room.

"What paperwork?" John was keen to get home and get into bed after a hellish day and he tried to hurry things along.

Mycroft returned wearing a coat and holding an umbrella. "I thought we might take a short stroll down to the gamekeeper's cottage."

John got to his feet. "Look Mycroft, while you've been sat behind a desk all day I've been dealing with..." If he noticed he'd shouted, he didn't seem to care.

Mycroft's facial muscles twitched but he took a deep breath and said smoothly: "This won't take long."

John sighed deeply but got to his feet and followed Mycroft out of the house, down the path and waited while he unlocked the door to the small stone cottage which looked out over a huge lake.

Mycroft turned as the door opened. "I must ask you to keep your voice down."

John huffed crossly and he hissed: "Paperwork, you said, Mycroft. I'm really tired and..."

Mycroft crossed the room and opened a door, eyebrows raised expectantly while he waited for John to follow him.

John looked into the room. Lying in the bed, apparently fast asleep, limbs sprawled, outlined under the bedclothes lay...

"Sherlock." John whispered the name, staring, eyes fixed on the dark curls, chest rising and falling with each breath. A second later he was running to the kitchen and vomited in the sink. Head down, gasping for breath he saw a glass of water in his blurred vision and reached for it, rinsing his mouth, spitting, leaning heavily on the white enamel sink edge, knuckles white.

Mycroft left John's side and closed the bedroom door.

John stared at Mycroft, eyes wide, chest heaving. "He died. I saw him fall! His head...it was...I SAW IT MYCROFT!!"

Mycroft let John rant until the doctor fell silent, bending over, shaking hard, hands on his knees.

When he stood, Mycroft said gently. "We should let him sleep. He's had a long journey."

John laughed bitterly. "I saw him...over and over...at the beginning. In the supermarket, when I was working, at the cinema. And every time, I *knew* it wasn't him. Because he was DEAD!! Why couldn't you have told me...you could have trusted me." Shaking hard, he walked back to the bedroom door, standing silently, shoulder resting on the doorframe. "Why now?"

"It's been three years John. Long enough..."

"LONG ENOUGH FOR WHAT, MYCROFT?!" John heard himself shouting, the sound echoing around the room.

"Long enough for you to have forgiven me."

John spun round at the familiar voice behind him.

"If I wake up in a minute and this was..."

Sherlock walked over and stood in front of John. He waited while John swallowed hard, reached up, hand shaking and ran his hand over Sherlock's face, neck and chest, his palm stopping to rest on the t-shirt covered area over Sherlock's heart.

Sherlock managed not to show how uncomfortable he was with the unfamiliar intimacy of the gesture and smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry John."

Neither Holmes brother was quick enough to catch John as his knees buckled and he dropped to the tiled floor.


John sipped the brandy and stared at Sherlock, still terrified he would wake up and be alone in his new flat. He was still a bit shivery but he felt a little better than he had five minutes earlier.

"I moved into a new flat. The fridge didn't have any body parts or poisonous fluids. No-one tried to kill me or arrest me. I worked in A & E, saved more than I lost. I went on dates. Just me...and...whoever. I remembered their names. I didn't insult their figure or their intelligence or..."

"I missed you too John." Sherlock interrupted.

Mycroft crossed the room, picked up his coat and umbrella and paused turning back to glance at his brother who smiled a little. 

"Don't think this lets you off the hook Mycroft." John said shakily.

Without looking back Mycroft walked out, closing the door quietly behind him.


Later that night...

John got out of the car and walked to the front door. His hand shook a little as he pushed the key into the lock and opened the door.

Sherlock followed him into the flat and looked around appreciatively. Aside from the empty kitchen table and the smell of polish it was as if they'd been away days not years.

John walked around, re-familiarizing himself with the flat he hadn't been in for almost three whole years.

Mrs Hudson had been into the flat every week to dust and hoover and Mycroft had paid the rent and settled all the bills in Sherlock's absence. She had assumed it was because he couldn't bear to see the flat let to someone else and, because she felt sorry for the man, and she wasn't out of pocket, she left the place unoccupied.

John closed the curtains and called into Sherlock's room. "I'll put the kettle on then shall I?"

"Tea for me." Sherlock said, emerging and dropping onto the sofa, kicking his shoes off as he reclined.