Sherlock took a deep breath and held up a hand to the door of 221B Baker Street. His pale fist shook in anticipation. It had been three years since he'd jumped off the roof of St. Bart's, and he'd come to believe that it was safe for him to return. While he was still a fraud in the eyes of the public and he'd never be hired by Scotland Yard again, it would be worth it just to see his friends again.
With a defeated sigh, Sherlock let his hand fall to his side and set to pacing again. It had taken him all morning to work up the courage just to catch a cab to the address. But once he had finally arrived, his resolve had disappeared, and the task of revealing the fact that he was still alive suddenly seemed impossible. He had no idea of how John would react, and there was a small part of him that was almost afraid to find out. Look at that, he thought to himself. Sherlock Holmes is afraid again. The only other time he'd ever been scared was when he thought he'd seen an enormous hound in Baskerville, something unexplainable and terrifying. Being frightened was a new sensation, and definitely one that Sherlock didn't like.
Mostly, Sherlock was afraid the John would be furious with him for leaving. He knew that he had hurt John in ways that even he couldn't imagine. It had hurt Sherlock to, having to leave everything he knew and yes, everything he loved, behind him. But he didn't have a choice. They would have died if he hadn't "died." He had trusted Molly to get him out of the mess Moriarty had put him in, and Molly hadn't failed him. She had been sworn to secrecy, and in the months that followed, Molly had never revealed his secret.
It had pained Sherlock to watch his friends suffer. After he staged his death, he hadn't abandoned them, instead keeping a close watch on all of them, making sure they were all right. Mrs. Hudson had mostly remained in her flat, and for that, Sherlock was thankful. He didn't want her exposed to what the rest of the world was saying about him, and he certainly didn't want her swarmed by paparazzi as Lestrade had been. The whole Scotland Yard department had been torn to pieces by the press, called "useless" and "unreliable" at best, and "a completely crooked lot of misfits unsuitable for defending London's citizens" at worst. Sherlock had wished desperately that he could do something about it, but unfortunately, he was dead. There was nothing he could do to help.
But the worst part of all was what happened to John. Sherlock had watched the activity at 221B every day. John got up at 7:00 in the morning, made himself tea, and went out to fetch the morning paper. After about a week of silence, the reporters had left John alone, deciding that they would get nothing from the retired army doctor. John sat in his flat all day, either blogging, watching telly, or just sitting. At 5:00 in the evening, the takeout truck would arrive from Sal's and deliver John's dinner, a cup of chicken noodle soup and a Reuben, comfort food no doubt. John would eat his dinner in the kitchen, and the light would go out at 9:00 every single night without fail.
Over the months that Sherlock was gone, John had continued to get thinner and thinner, more pale and sickly looking, hardly himself. The knit sweaters began to look big on him, swallowing his small, pathetic form in an ocean of cloth. John had stopped going to see his therapist about two weeks after the Fall. Sherlock had almost left a note on his doorstep telling him that talking about it would help, give him an outlet to get through the difficult time, but it was too soon. It wasn't safe yet.
Sherlock, still standing on the front doorstep of 221B, thought for a moment about John. He realized, with a sinking feeling in his gut, that John needed him, and that he couldn't put it off any longer. Clenching his jaw firmly and spinning around on his heel, Sherlock lifted a fist and pounded on the door.
His heart pounded with anticipation. He'd actually done it. He'd actually alerted whoever was in the house to his presence. This was his last chance to turn and run, to pretend that the knock at the door was just some kid playing a prank. But John needed him too much. Squaring his shoulders, Sherlock lifted his head and waited.
It took only a few seconds for Sherlock to hear movement upstairs. It was John. He was coming down to answer the door. Sherlock straightened his scarf and waited.
Slowly, the door creaked open, and John winced at the intrusive sunlight. He held up a hand against the bright afternoon glare to see who was at the door.
Sherlock cleared his throat. "Hello, John."
John rubbed his eyes deliriously, trying to discern reality from hallucination. "It can't be..." he whispered incredulously.
Sherlock smiled. "It is."
John reached out to touch Sherlock, making sure he was really there. Sherlock allowed John's hand to trace the collar of his coat, the folds of his scarf. When John's hand reached Sherlock's face, he took it and grasped it tightly.
"I'm really here, John," he said, holding John's hand inside both of his. "I came back." He looked down at the concrete. "I came back for you."
Sherlock closed his eyes, waiting for John to start yelling at him for making him believe that his best friend was dead, for claiming he was a fraud when John knew he wasn't, everything. Sherlock knew John would blame him. Patiently, he waited for the outburst.
Sherlock was suddenly tackled, and his eyes flew open. John's arms were flung about his neck, and his head was buried into Sherlock's chest. Sherlock stood frozen, unsure of how to react. John held him tightly, sobbing silently. Gently, Sherlock put a hand on his shoulder and hugged him back.
John sniffled. "I thought I'd lost you. I thought I'd never see you again."
Sherlock smiled down at his friend. "I know. And I'm very sorry. But I'm back." He paused. "You... aren't mad at me?" he asked hesitantly.
John drew away from him. "Mad at you?" His eyebrows furrowed together in confusion. "Why would I be mad at you?"
Sherlock clasped his hands behind his back, ashamed. "I know I hurt you John. I'm sorry. You have a right to be upset with me."
John shook his head. "I could never stay mad at you, Sherlock. Besides," he continued, smiling with tears in his eyes, "how could I be angry when I have you back?"
Sherlock looked up and into his eyes. John looked sincerely happy, more so than he'd ever been. His smile lit up his face like a Christmas tree, and Sherlock couldn't help but smile back.
John stepped aside and gestured for Sherlock to step inside. "Welcome home, Sherlock."
Sherlock laughed and wrapped an arm around John's shoulder and walked inside with him. As the door to 221B closed behind them, John asked, "Now, really, Sherlock, you've got to tell me how you did it..."