It was raining outside. It always seemed that way, when he was here. That it was raining. He was made of stone and all the grief was outside his body. Easier that way.
“Tell me about your morning,” said Ella Thompson, her tone warm, not without sympathy, but not too warm, too sympathetic. John liked that about her. “Start from the beginning.”
“I woke up,” said John. He sat in his usual chair in the usual room saying the usual things, which was not much at all.
“How did you sleep?” asked Ella.
“I didn’t,” he said. “I don’t.”
“You just said you woke up.”
“I stopped lying down.”
“Of course alone.”
“What about Rosie?”
“She’s with friends. For a while. I can’t always cope. Last night wasn’t good.”
“That’s understandable, John.”
“Is it? Why? Why does everything have to be understandable? Why can’t some things be unacceptable, and we say that? We just say that. I'm letting my daughter down.”
“I only meant, it’s okay. It’s human.”
John sucked in air through his teeth and huffed it out, angry. “It’s not okay. Nothing’s okay.”
“Sherlock isn’t with you?”
“I haven’t seen him. Since the funeral.”
“You told me that the three of you were very close.”
“We. Yes. Were.”
“The Three Muskateers, you said once.”
John barked a harsh laugh. “Only if they were shagging.” Then he blinked and stared at Ella. Ella, professional as ever, just waited patiently for him to continue. “Did you guess that about us? That the three of us were. Shagging.”
"You've always spoken very lovingly of both Mary and Sherlock," she admitted, "I wondered if there was more to your friendship than you were saying.”
“Was it ... just shagging?”
John chewed at his lip. Looked out the window. Was it always raining when he came here, or did it just feel like that?
He looked back at his therapist, waiting patiently. Tried to find any sign of her finding this admission disgusting or immoral or risible, somehow. Funny. These three people in love. Some kind of sex cliche.
“It wasn’t just shagging,” he said. “We were. Together. The three of us. Poly. You know? Kept two houses, but we all lived in both of them. Mary and me at Baker Street, with Rosiet too, after she was born. Kept a cot there for her. Sherlock came to our flat other times. The three of us. The four of us. We’re. Were. We were. Family.”
“Is it… unacceptable, that Sherlock should be with you now that Mary has died? Is that why you haven’t seen him?”
“What? No. No, that’s not. It’s. That’s not why. It’s just. He’s struggling. Mrs Hudson says. And he’s. He won’t. Can't. She says he. Won't leave the flat. He hasn’t come to me. I haven’t gone to him. It’s just. What it is.”
“What is it, John?”
“Suffocating. Airless. There's no air. It's. Vacuum. Nothing. All of this. This. How I. Feel. I can’t breathe. I’m not… not always.” He flexed a bandaged hand. “I can’t always cope with Rosie. I don’t cope with my own. With my own. I’m angry. I’m. I’m. I’m not.”
“Who are you angry with?”
“With Mycroft. With that bitch Norbury. With Ajay. With myself. With. With Mary. With everybody. I can’t. I can hardly manage myself. I haven’t got… there’s not enough of me left to deal with Sherlock too. With his. How he feels. I don’t know how to. Deal. With my own.”
“Are you angry with Sherlock?”
“I. I don’t know.”
“Do you love him?”
“Yes.” Unequivocal, that, but then, “But… Mary brought us together. She was. She was the bridge. She made us us. I don’t know if. If there’s an us without her.”
He pulled in a hard breath and pressed a closed fist against the bridge of his nose.
“She wrote me a letter,” he said softly. “After we were married, before we were…. Musketeers.”
“What does it say?”
“I don’t know. I can’t. Read it. It’s. Greg stuck it on the fridge. It’s still there.”
Ella asked him to tell her about the letter: how he received it, why he hadn’t read it. He told her about her old job, the Black Box. That there was a mission, but not who or why. Then fell silent.
“I hear her, you know,” he said after a moment, “Around the flat. Other rooms that I’m not in. I go looking for her sometimes. I. Talk. Talk to her. Sometimes.”
John stared at his hand on the armrest. It was shaking. Back again. Like the limp.
“I’m not crazy,” he said.
“It’s a stress reaction,” said Ella, “Grief, so soon after fatherhood. Responsibility and loss. Do you have anyone to talk with?”
“Apart from Mary?” A harsh laugh, self-deprecating, full of despair.
“They leave me,” John said. “They all leave me.”