There was a flash of movement before John found his face encased in pale, trembling hands. Fingers pressed, prodded each scar and wrinkle, smoothed out skin, scanned the events that happened in the three years he disappeared from this man’s life.
John let Sherlock deduce the changes his war made. All that he needed to see what changed in Sherlock was right in front of him.
There was worry, there was anger, there was shock, joy. Grey hairs peeked at the curls around his ears. His cheeks were fuller, yet still so grey, and the tip of the scar that started at his temples faded just at the corner of his jaw. His eyes were manic, looking everywhere at once, as if it can’t- won’t - believe what it was seeing.
He was done. John did everything he can to rid the world of Moriarty. He’s spent enough time as a memory, and with nothing to destroy this (Baker Street, and everything it contains), Sherlock has all the time in the world to read his life.
John closes his hands on Sherlock’s wrists. The effect is immediate: Sherlock freezes and holds his breath as he waits for John to melt away- just another memory to remind him that the only one who mattered was gone. A slow smile breaks across John’s lips, and it jars Sherlock out of his steadiness.
This smile isn’t a smile a dead man would make.
"I’ll- make tea," Sherlock says slowly, waiting for John’s approval to move. John lets go of Sherlock’s arms and steps away, still smiling, too worn and overwhelmed by the genuine offer of drink given to him to do anything else.
In the kitchen, John hears as he sunk into his armchair (it was warm, like someone has sat in it before he came in), Sherlock managed to break three of their mugs before he could even put the kettle on. He’ll break another two, drop the tin of biscuits, and hastily change the water in the kettle once he finds out where the toenails he’s working on went. Mrs. Hudson would come in an hour later and shriek; she’ll call Lestrade, who’ll punch him, and Mycroft, who would nod at him knowingly and gratefully. Sherlock, when everyone is gone, would hold him, and they’ll stand motionless in front of the fireplace until their legs wear out and John moves for his old bed.
For now, John closes his eyes and falls asleep.