This is a friend of mine.
This was a friend of mine.
Well, I say friend…
This is not… He is not…
Sherlock grabbed his hair in his fists and groaned.
Another headache, the tenth or eleventh in the last month.
No, not a headache, not anymore. It used to be, about two hours ago. But now, throbbing, aching, pulsing… Bloody migraine.
„John… John, John,“ Sherlock groaned again, trying to call John in a mild way. The third call of John’s name was like a hammer on his brain and John didn’t hear him anyway.
He tried to sit up on his bed, failing. Ok, different approach, he told himself, and slowly rolled on his side, eyes tight shut.
He was suddenly very cold. His back was somewhat wet – he realized he was sweating. All joints aching, especially in his lower back.
Not migraine, then.
He would roll his eyes on himself, but he couldn’t bother. His eyes were aching as well and it was far better just not to let them move at all.
So. A huge headache, a fever, sweating like a pig.
Maybe he caught the last season's flu after all.
„John,“ he whispered again, hoping for John’s medical instincts and soldier instincts and whatever other instincts he possessed to just kick in and somehow hear Sherlock’s calling.
He moved a bit, crawling to the edge of his bed and looked down on the floor.
A stain of dried liquid, brown. Tea, probably. Oh, yes, there’s a cup, its bottom up. This illness was quite mingling with Sherlock's brain. Thinking was slow. Sight blurred.
He sighed heavily and outstretched his arm, fingertips barely touching the floor.
He shifted a bit, trying to lean on his hand and he collapsed on the floor, naturally. He was so weak, he should have foreseen that he’d end down. He panted, feeling cold sweat flowing down his back on his hip.
And then he felt a light breeze blowing on his face. He couldn’t remember he’d opened the window.
Well, frankly, he couldn’t remember anything at all. How did he get in his bed in the first place?
Obvious, his weak mind whispered, he was here when you had your first seizure. He helped you get off your clothes.
Seizure? What seizure? He was so confused, his mind shattered, nothing made sense. Sherlock opened his eyes a bit and looked at his body.
Naked? Why would John –
Oh, but you do remember, don’t you? The tiny voice continued. It was splendid. I took care of him. And now you can watch your memories.
Sherlock shivered as something in his mind laughed. And then he remembered…
Sherlock gasped as he watched hazy memories of John.
John (pale and sweaty). His beautiful blue eyes (feverish). His hands (shaking) touching gently, yet firmly; suddenly ripping the shirt off Sherlock’s body; his lips (too dry), kissing hungrily –
And Sherlock heard weak muttering inside his head – who's that, who's making that noise, when he’s watching those intriguing memories?
Never mind, something whispered again, never mind and watch.
John, licking and biting and grabbing and… Oh… Taking. Taking Sherlock –
And at that time Sherlock recognized the dull ache in his lower body and he shivered again, from lust and shame.
He'd had sex with John and he almost didn’t remember.
This couldn’t be just an ordinary flu, no.
And regarding John’s state at that time, he's probably in his own bedroom, as feverish as Sherlock.
Sherlock swallowed and his throat ached like he hadn’t drunk anything in a month.
He took his gown from the bed, put it on, and slowly crawled across the room to the door and decided he needed to rest a bit. Wheezing, panting, aching everywhere.
Better to get to his Doctor as soon as possible.
He opened the door shakily and shivered as he felt light draft blowing through the flat. The windows in the living room must have been opened too. This was probably the first time in several months when the 221B was being properly ventilated, but it wasn’t particularly the best time for doing that. Sherlock got up on his feet and, trembling violently, made few steps forward.
„John? John, are you… There?“ he swallowed again. It was like having knives in his throat, cutting deeply.
Actually, if he thought about that, he hadn’t heard anything at all, and now…
A low creak from the living room.
Alright, John is in the living room, possibly can’t speak because of some reason. Sherlock shakily went forward, and it seemed it took him ages to get there.
He leaned to John’s chair from the back, slowly surveying the room. It was empty.
John wasn’t there, no.
Nor the furniture.
No sofa, tables, other chairs, Sherlock’s chair. No books, no papers nor documents anywhere.
Just the carpet on the floor, John’s chair and there, on the mantel, two skulls.
Sherlock shook his head and blinked for several times.
Two skulls? No, that must be the fever, his eyes are probably just really tired.
He stared at the mantel, and the image didn’t change. Two skulls. He sat down on the carpet and leaned his back to the armchair.
He suddenly remembered the first day with John in 221B, when he pointed with his cane at the skull and then Sherlock said, „Friend of mine. Well, I say friend...“ The memory was quite clear.
It was true, then. The skull – the original one, not the other – used to be his sort of friend, most of his life. There was an old case, when he was thirteen. Old family case, to be precise. He solved it, got this skull like a reward, and during the time of his dreadful teenage became friends with it. With her. It was his ancestor’s skull, his grandaunt, actually.
So she sits on the mantel peacefully and now she has a friend.
Sherlock pressed his hand to his forehead and tried to concentrate. Important questions: what happened? Where is John? Whose is the second skull and why is it here?
„It’s mine.“ A whisper.
Sherlock looked around, looking for the man who said that. It was definitely a man.
„Who’s that?“ he asked weakly.
„A friend of mine.“
Sherlock blinked few times.
„John? Is it you?“
„Right here, next to Aurelia.“ The whisper again, quite sad. It sounded like John’s voice, but Sherlock couldn’t quite believe what he’d heard.
„John, did you call help? Because I’m really in need of... Medication, at least. You’re ill as well, as I can hear.“
„You don’t need any medication. Just sleep now. Soon you’ll be ok. I’ll take care of it,“ said another voice.
Sherlock fell asleep right there on the floor, shivering, but so very, very tired he barely noticed.
And he dreamt of shadows and bright colours and shadows again.
And then he woke up.
Sherlock lay in his bed. Naked. Sweating. Aching.
He blinked several times and tried to sit up, but failed. He sighed, rolled on his side and looked at the floor. A brown stain. Tea, probably. Yes, there’s a cup, its bottom up.
It was a bit familiar, those thoughts, but he couldn’t think clearly, his head was a mess, all his joints were aching and he was sweating like a pig.
He touched the floor with his hand, leaned on it and fell on the floor. He felt a light breeze on his face and shivered.
„John? John...“ he whispered, his throat was burning.
He took his gown and crawled slowly to the door, hoping that John would be right in the living room and that he would hear him calling.
But then, the memories came back to him like a huge wave. Hazy, lustful, oh so lovely memories of one night, when they made love, when John took him.
Sherlock shook his head. He had a feeling that he’d thought of something similar before.
„John?“ He needed to find him. John would help him.
The flat was so quiet – but there was a creak somewhere in the living room. He got on his feet and slowly, step by step, went there.
It was empty, but now it isn’t, Sherlock thought idly and paused. Echoes of memories were nagging in his head, but it really hurt to think, so he dismissed it as something his tired brain had produced.
A flash of light and a translucent image of a human figure apeared near John’s chair. Sherlock frowned, leaned on the wall and tried to understand what he was seeing.
„No, it’s fine. It’s just... I’m a bit off, recently.“
Sherlock looked around, trying to find who was talking.
The voice... The voice! It was like John and yet it was somewhat different...
„Twenty three years. And yet I have a feeling he’s here, with me.“
The voice was so sad. And... old.
„John?“ he whispered and made few steps forward, getting in the living room, which was again full of furniture, but he didn’t recognize it. John’s chair, yes, and there, on the mantel, there were two skulls, one of them was like a blurred stain.
Two skulls? Sherlock blinked. He had only one skull, whose was that second one?
The translucent figure sat down on the chair, and Sherlock had to go round to see it again. He stood several feets from the odd figure and utterly forgot about his ilness for a while.
It was John. It had to be.
„Bye, Molly. Have a nice evening.“
The shapes were getting sharper and clearer, colours becoming brighter, the translucent figure changed into someone far too familiar to Sherlock.
Sherlock gasped and stepped back.
„John,“ Sherlock mouthed, not able to speak out loud.
John sighed, looked at the mantel and smiled ruefully. His face was full of wrinkles – on his forehead and between his eyebrows, around his mouth. He was old.
Sherlock was confused.
Surely a flu couldn’t cause anything like that. He looked at his hands, which were paler than normally, but other than that quite fine. No unexpected wrinkles there, no freckles or anything.
„John?“ he whispered. „What happened to you?“
John didn’t answer. He shivered slightly and rubbed his hands together, as if he were cold.
„Oh, Sherlock. How I miss you...“
John felt cold again. Eventually he had got used to those odd moments when the whole flat became weird, all those creaks and whispering. This flat was just old, that was all.
Sometimes he just hoped that the flat was haunted. He imagined Sherlock was still there with him.
He sighed again.
Mrs Hudson and Molly had helped him with Sherlock’s things, packing them and taking them away. He kept several things, the skull among them. Sometimes he had bad dreams, where he had two skulls and they were talking to him, but he kept it anyway. It was something Sherlock had kept, so John wasn’t the one to throw it away.
„John? I found this in my kitchen and I am not sure if it was you, who had borrowed it to me, or Sherlock and so I didn’t want to... You know. Put it in the bin before I ask you -“
John looked at Mrs Hudson, who held a herbarium in her hands.
„It’s mine.“ He didn’t feel like talking to anyone right now.
„Oh,“ Mrs Hudson sighed in relief and looked around. The flat was nearly empty, there were just few boxes near the walls. John wanted to renovate the flat. Her eyes stopped at the mantel, where the skull was still placed. She frowned a bit. „What about the skull?“
„Friend of mine,“ John said lowly.
„All right, dear,“ Mrs Hudson said warily. „Were should I put the book, then?“
„Right here, next to Aurelia.“
Mrs Hudson left. John was glad he was alone, his shoulder was aching again and he really needed a quiet moment just with himself. He went to Sherlock’s bedroom, which stayed just as it had been, except for the bed – there were new bed-clothes, of course. He sat on the bed, bowed his head and tried not to cry.
Sherlock woke up in his bed, sweating, aching; migraine... No, not a migraine, a fever...
„John?“ His throat was on fire.
Memories of another fever, but far more pleasant one – John touching him, kissing him, loving him...
Sherlock remembered. He remembered almost everything – even the things about aching all the time, being alone most the time, everything in a loop which hardly changed, and only slightly.
He groaned and slowly got up, trying not to fall again on the floor. Right, that’s it, just rolled to your other side. He put on his dressing gown, not even trying to call John again, and headed to the living room.
John sat there in his armchair, sipping a tumbler of a whiskey, probably. Sherlock sat down, suppressed another groan (his joints were realy aching and the headache... God, the damn headache!), and observed John. His old John, who lived alone. Another deep wrinkle, right there on his forehead.
Sherlock understood what was happening.
It hurt, the knowledge. It was dreadful. It was his biggest nightmare – to be alone.
That wasn’t accurate.
It wasn’t about being alone, if John were alive somewhere. Sherlock dreaded the moment when John dies first and Sherlock stays alone, without any possibility to be even in the same town as John.
This kind of loneliness was quite horrifying.
But it was all vice versa. John outlived Sherlock.
It should be better this way.
Molly visited him frequently. She didn’t let him be alone and he hated her for it. And he loved her for it. Because she understood, that one has only enough strength to see his best friend die once. Not twice.
So she called John from time to time, she visited him often, she took care of his dinner from time to time. She knew that if she didn’t do all that, John would just fade away, like an old photograph, until finally he’d die from loneliness.
Of all possible days, she chose this one to come over.
John nearly threw her out of the flat. But she was so kind and she brought a take-away. They ate sillently, watching stupid telly, which was turned on only because of Molly. John was used to silence. Once they finished their meals, John thanked her and she put on her coat.
„John?“ she asked before she left. „Are you ok? I mean... Is there anything I could... Have I done anything wrong? You are a bit...“ She babbled and sighed, frustrated with her incapability at expressing herself properly.
„No, it’s fine. It’s just... I’m a bit off, recently.“
Molly was quiet for a while and John looked at her with a slight frown.
„I know you think I don’t remember,“ she started slowly. „But I know this is the day.“ She blushed. „Actually, I am not sure how long -“
„Twenty three years. And yet I have a feeling he’s here, with me.“ John waited for the pitiful look, but she just smiled at him and nodded.
„I understand, John. I really do. Good night, John,“ she tightened her scarf and left.
„Bye, Molly. Have a nice evening,“ John said to the empty flat.
He sat quietly, listening to sounds from the street muffled by new windows. Sometimes he imagined he heard the violin again. Or the humming of Sherlock’s laptop.
The flat was cold again. John shivered and sighed.
„Oh, Sherlock. How I miss you...“
„John,“ a voice whispered.
John smiled and shivered again, suppressing an urge to rub his right arm which was aching numbly. His heart ached sharply, but he ignored it. He could be crazy, but these were the moments worth for staying alive another day, another minute. John closed his eyes and felt utter and infinite content.
„John?“ Sherlock’s voice, now clearer and louder.
„Yes, Sherlock. I am still here,“ John said quietly, eyes still shut.
„What happened...“ It was like Sherlock was with him in the same room, standing near him.
„You had a flu. It was quite severe and... You...“ John opened his eyes, blinking the tears away. He ought to repete that fact over and over again, and it was supposed to help him, but it didn’t. He was blaming himself for not being a better doctor to the one person who needed it the most.
„I outlived you. I am sorry.“
John felt something cold touching his shoulder and he looked up.
„Don’t be,“ Sherlock said and smiled at him. And John didn’t feel cold anymore.
He was fine. He was absolutely fine.