"Why don't you tell me what this is all about, Mr Holmes."
Sherlock was struggling. Struggling for the one word that was so omnipresent it felt as if it had merged with his very flesh. Yet it still wouldn't let itself be pinned down. Or perhaps that was the reason he couldn't pin it down. It was everywhere. Everywhere.
"It's taken us four sessions to get to this point," Ella Thompson said calmly. "But now we're here, Mr Holmes. Tell me what insights you've gained."
"John." The word came so haltingly and softly from Sherlock's mouth that it was almost inaudible.
Ella Thompson nodded and waited. Waited for him to continue. But Sherlock didn't have any words other than that one. That single one which took so much effort that he suddenly felt exhausted and adrift.
Four sessions. That was how long he'd talked about Eurus, explained what had happened, spoken of his parents and Mycroft. Victor. Redbeard. Everything he'd suppressed and only rediscovered recently. Sketchy memories. Fragments of happiness and light. Along with a deep awareness of a darkness. Confusion. Fear. A disturbing realisation of being alone. Abandoned. Betrayed. Lied to. Lied to by everyone. The decision never to trust anyone, never to believe anything again. And the crystal-clear knowledge that he needed to be strong all on his own. To lift himself above things on his own power in order to survive. The need to be good. Better than the others. "My mental superiority protects me," he'd said. With utter conviction.
It had taken four sessions to arrive at the point at which they were now. The point that hurt. That hurt so much Sherlock didn't want to see it. That sucked all the strength out of his body when he looked at it.
"Tell me about him," Ella said.
The brief illusion of having been a family. Mary and John and he and the baby. A sense of home. Broken in his hand like a piece of fine-spun glass that shattered when you tried to hold it, its shards piercing the skin and boring into the flesh, making it hurt and bleed. Scabby, infected, pus-filled, unable to heal because tiny splinters were still embedded.
"I liked Mary," Sherlock said in a low voice.
Ella waited. Gave him space, allowed him time to think, to reflect. Silence spread in the therapist's office, bonding with the light that flooded the room through the large window. Outside, it was summer.
"You reconciled with John after the blow-up," Ella said. She sat there so calmly in her big chair, relaxed, her notebook on her lap.
"Yes." Sherlock closed his eyes. He felt tired and dull. They hadn't really talked, he and John. Hadn't cleared things up. They'd apologised to each other, after a fashion. Decided to be friends again. Then Eurus had involved John and they'd gone through hell together. Afterwards they'd resumed their lives. His at Baker Street, John leading another one somewhere else.
"He was with you when everything happened with your sister and your memories returned of your childhood friend."
"Yes. Yes, he was with me." That bottomless sense of fatigue. It settled over Sherlock like a heavy blanket. He sat slumped down in the comfortable armchair, and for a moment he was afraid he would fall asleep if he didn't focus. "He was the one who found Victor's bones. In the well. He's a doctor. He saw that they weren't dog bones."
"And he told you as much."
"Yes. He told me right away when he recognised them. He was still in the well, chained down."
"What was going on with you at that moment?"
Sherlock ran his hand over his face. That moment. He didn't know anymore. He couldn't remember what he'd felt. All he remembered was the fear. The awful fear for John that had seized him after Eurus had talked to him, after the shock. The panic that he might lose John too. And the superhuman effort it took not to simply break down and give up, but to solve the puzzle. To stay focused. To save John. To do everything, anything, to save John. John, John, John. It was always John. Always.
"I'm quite tired," Sherlock said. His eyes were still closed.
"You're emotionally exhausted, Mr Holmes."
"Talk to John."
Sherlock slowly shook his head. "He has enough going on with work and the baby."
"Do you still see each other?"
"It simply doesn't come up."
"He doesn't help you with cases anymore?"
"I haven't taken any cases I might need him for. Just small things I can solve quickly on my own."
"He has a daughter who needs her father."
It was quiet for a long time; absolute silence in the therapist's office. Just the sound of Ella's pen on the paper as she took notes.
Then Ella said, "You take the time to fly to that island twice a week to play music with your sister. With a woman who interfered in your life in an extremely destructive manner."
"She's my sister. And she needs me." Sherlock's reaction was brusque.
Ella Thompson didn't follow up, simply let the statement hang in the room. No comment. She simply fell silent.
Finally, Sherlock muttered guiltily, "I know. I should get in touch with John."
"Why don't you?"
Sherlock didn't answer. The bottomless fatigue for one thing. The time that slipped away between meetings with Eurus. He simply had no strength left to see John.
"What happened between you and your friend, Mr Holmes?"
"I don't know."
There was just that painful void. The ground was gone beneath his feet. He was living an empty life, without really participating in it. He wasn't even taking drugs anymore. He was functioning like a robot. He was functioning, but something wasn't right. He didn't know what it was, or why. He didn't even know whether he'd lost John or not.