They tell him to wait, but he doesn’t listen. They’re too slow, and the thief leaves his flat – which Sherlock did not enter, so he listened partially, at least, though mostly that was because John’d insisted on just standing vigil outside (“For once, Sherlock, let the police be the ones to break into the criminal’s flat”). The thief – Alan Henrickson, he’d been clever, but not clever enough – is obviously not planning on returning, and Lestrade and the others are much too far away, so Sherlock follows him. And of course, John follows Sherlock. The thief seems to have been expecting someone, though, because he notices them quickly, and the chase is on.
It ends in an alleyway, a dead end, with no sign of Henrickson and yet nowhere else he could have gone.
“Are you sure he came down this way?” John asks.
“Of course I’m sure,” Sherlock snaps. “He must be hiding somewhere.”
John looks down the alley with a frown. “I called Lestrade and updated him. Don’t suppose you’ll wait until they get here?”
Ah, so that was why he had slowed down slightly a few moments earlier. Sherlock gives John a look that expresses exactly what he thinks of that suggestion.
“Didn’t think so. Shall we, then?” John asks.
They step into the alleyway, searching cautiously. Sherlock scans everything, every possible hiding spot, for signs of occupancy.
“Look, mate, you might as well come out,” John says. “You’ve got nowhere to go, and it’ll make things easier for everyone.”
“Easier for you, you mean,” Henrickson says from behind Sherlock.
Sherlock whirls around to see him, less than half a metre away. Far too close for comfort.
“Prison isn’t exactly the easier path for me, is it?” the thief asks, something gleaming in his right hand.
Sherlock’s eyes are drawn to it, a large, wickedly curved knife. “John,” he says.
“I see it,” John replies.
The thief takes a step towards Sherlock and Sherlock instinctively takes a few back, until he’s almost up against the skip he’d been investigating.
“You don’t want to do this, Henrickson,” John says in his understanding, sympathetic doctor voice.
It’s not all faked, Sherlock knows. John had been sympathetic toward the thief. Dying of an illness caused by poor working conditions and unable to pay for expensive, experimental treatment because his employer, who should have been held accountable, wasn’t. Henrickson was the only one who’d gotten so sick, and the official determination had absolved the company of any responsibility.
“You’re right, I don’t,” the thief says. “You could just let me go. No one got hurt that didn’t deserve it.”
“The people you stole from were victims just as you were,” John says softly. “I understand the need for revenge, but why go after your colleagues?”
“None of them got sick like this,” Henrickson says bitterly. “They still have their jobs, don’t they? They were supposed to be my friends, but they turned against me. When I needed them most.”
“They were scared,” John says. “But some of them are willing to testify, now, you could-”
“It’s too late,” the thief interrupts. “They had their chance. Now this is all I’ve got left.”
“You’re not a killer,” John tells him. “You didn’t even want to be a thief.”
Henrickson hesitates, though he doesn’t shift his grip on the knife.
“That necklace you took from Bill Stevenson? It was his favourite aunt’s. It’s all he had left of her. Andy Picken, you called him your best friend? Turns out that money was for his niece. He’s paying her school fees, how’s she supposed to have a future now?” John asks.
The thief sags a bit. “I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to live.” Then he straightens. “No. They earned this. And you won’t let it go.”
“Think this through,” Sherlock says. “Right now, it’s just stealing. If you give it back, some of them won’t press charges. If you do this, it’s murder.”
There’s another hesitation, this one longer. “My sister’s waiting for me. We’re going out of the country, where I can get treatment. If I kill you, there won’t be any charges at all.”
He lunges, before he’s even done speaking, so quickly that his earlier hesitation must have been a ruse. And Sherlock missed it, he missed it, his eyes had been flicking back and forth from the man’s face to the knife. Sherlock barely has enough time to know to expect pain from the knife before something slams into him. He crashes to the ground, bruised, but – no stabbing pain. He’s been stabbed before; he knows what it feels like.
Sherlock twists around to see John and the thief fighting each other, where Sherlock had been standing moments ago. He stands, ready to assist, but John lands a sharp left hook under Henrickson’s chin, and he goes down.
“Well done,” Sherlock says with a smile. Another criminal caught, although now comes the boring part where they have to wait for the police. The part he’d take out, were his life a movie, and cut directly to their arrival. This is always his second-favourite part, after the chase: revealing the solution to the Yarders. They would be astounded and John might call him ‘extraordinary’ again, and it all had the potential to be rather interesting. He hopes the police don’t take too long.
John staggers slightly, and Sherlock stops smiling.
“John?” he asks.
“He’s out,” John replies, voice shaking. “Should be for long enough, until Lestrade gets here, but I’m not sure, I can’t-” He takes a few steps towards Sherlock, stumbles on the last one, but Sherlock’s there to keep him upright.
“Thanks,” John says, then glances down. “I think I need to lie down, actually.”
Sherlock follows his gaze, and fights back a moment of panic. The hilt of the thief’s knife is sticking out from John’s chest, just under his right pectoral; blood is leaking sluggishly from the wound, staining John’s jumper. The hilt’s trapped between John’s hands, and bunches of John’s jumper are caught in his fingers as he presses the fabric hard around the knife.
“He was going to stab me,” Sherlock says quietly.
“Yes, but he didn’t, did he?” John replies. “I can’t – can you help me down?”
Sherlock sinks to the ground, slowly, then, when John tries to sit up a bit, shifts to lay John’s upper body in his lap.
“Thanks,” John says again, and Sherlock fights the absurd urge to tell him, ‘wrong.’ Wrong, John was the one who saved him, John should be the one being thanked.
“You need to go to the hospital,” Sherlock says, pulling his phone from his pocket.
“Yeah,” John agrees. “But it’s deep, Sherlock, I can feel it, it’s – moving stimulates blood flow, I need to stay still, I need to-” He pauses, takes a few shaky breaths. His face has gone white, Sherlock notes.
Sherlock’s fingers fly across his phone’s keypad as he texts Lestrade.
John’s been stabbed. Bring help. Hurry. SH
Then he drops his phone, unwinds the scarf from his neck, and reaches for the knife.
“Don’t take it out,” John warns. “It’s too deep, it’ll bleed too much.”
Sherlock looks affronted. “I’m not an idiot, John. I do pay attention to you.”
He pries John’s fingers out of his jumper, and presses the scarf around the knife, trying hard to ignore that the person the knife is stuck in is John.
“A little more pressure,” John says, covering Sherlock’s hands with his own and pressing them harder. “Don’t be afraid to hurt me, it’s fine.”
Fine. That’s easy for John to say. John isn’t the one applying pressure to a knife in his best friend’s chest.
“What else?” Sherlock asks.
“Nothing,” John says. “You told Lestrade to bring help, right? Then just stay there. It’s deep, and I think-” He pauses to take a breath, and it sounds wet and ragged. “Never mind. I’ll stay still, keep elevated, keep pressure, it’ll-” Another breath. “It’ll be fine.”
Sherlock forces himself to pay attention to John’s hands over his, to ignore the slide of blood – blood, John’s blood – to concentrate on applying pressure, not to listen to John’s difficulties with breathing.
“This is my fault,” Sherlock murmurs.
“Probably,” John agrees easily.
Sherlock’s startled away from staring at John’s wound, and looks at his face. John is smiling at him, though since his lips are pressed together so tightly they’ve all but disappeared, it’s more of a pulling the corners of his mouth in a vaguely upwards direction.
“Be horrible if that was the last thing I ever said to you, wouldn’t it?” John asks. “And you know I’m not the kind to say horrible things with my last breath. So there you are, then. Now you know I won’t be dying.”
Sherlock would believe that speech more if John hadn’t had to pause numerous times to draw sucking, ragged breaths. “Stop talking, John, you’ll only make it-” He cuts off as he hears a groan from behind him.
The thief. Obviously starting to wake up.
“John,” Sherlock whispers urgently. “I need you to apply pressure yourself for just a few moments.”
John moves his hands, then replaces them on the scarf after Sherlock lets go.
“I’ll be right back,” Sherlock says, gently moving John from his lap and standing.
When he turns around it’s to the sight of a fist flying towards his face. There’s a burst of pain as it connects, and then nothing.
Sherlock comes to on something much softer than the ground, though not as soft as a bed. He forces his eyes open, pausing to adjust to the pain and brightness. Blinking a few times clears his vision, and he sits up. He’s in the back of an ambulance.
“Welcome back,” he hears an unfamiliar voice say. “How’re you feeling?”
Sherlock stares at the concerned paramedic. “Like someone punched me in the face. Where’s John?”
“Not surprising,” the paramedic replies. “You’ve got a concussion, and you’ll have a nasty bruise for a bit, but no permanent damage.”
“Yes, fine, I don’t care,” Sherlock says, getting up. “Is John all right?”
The paramedic frowns at him. “All right, fine. I should be keeping you here, but Lestrade told me not to bother. He said to send you to him when you got up. He’s over there.”
Sherlock leaves the ambulance without responding, making a bee-line for Lestrade. Lestrade is talking to another officer, but he doesn’t care. “Where is he?” Sherlock demands.
Lestrade looks at him, then nods at the other officer, who leaves. Without the officer blocking his view, Sherlock can see behind Lestrade. Can see the vague form of a body on the ground. Sherlock shoves past Lestrade, ignoring his name being called, and stumbles towards the body.
No. No, it can’t be him, it can’t, but there’s the knife hilt, and – Sherlock gets close enough to see the body’s face, and stops. It’s the thief. He lets out an unsteady breath.
“Sherlock,” Lestrade says, putting a hand on Sherlock’s shoulder and turning him around.
“What happened?” Sherlock asks.
“John said he jumped you while you were trying to help him. Knocked you out cold. John had to pull him off you.” Lestrade nods towards the body. “He got the bastard with his own knife.”
Sherlock frowns. “The last time I saw that knife, it was in John’s chest.”
Lestrade smiles, a bit, and it’s one of admiration. “Son-of-a-bitch pulled the damn knife out of his own chest to save you.”
“John,” Sherlock murmurs, because there’s a tight, confusing affection muddling his thoughts, and he doesn’t understand. Why did he have to use the knife? “Where is he?”
Lestrade’s eyes flick to the left, very briefly, but Sherlock catches it. He turns that way, and sees an ambulance, not the one he was in. Sherlock starts for it, once again ignoring Lestrade calling for him.
John must not have been hurt too bad, if he’d been able to take out their attacker, but the knife wound had been deep. Sherlock needs to see if –
“Sherlock.” Lestrade grabs his arm, stopping him forcibly. “Will you listen to me for one second?”
“What?” Sherlock snaps impatiently, trying to pulls his arm from Lestrade’s grasp.
“John-” Lestrade starts, then falters.
Sherlock goes still. No.
Lestrade releases his arm and straightens, shoulders squared. His jaw is set tight, mouth soft and sympathetic, eyes unsuccessfully trying to mask grief. Sherlock knows this version of Lestrade. He’s seen him talking to the husbands, wives, siblings, parents of a fallen fellow officer. Sherlock never thought he’d meet him. No.
“I’m sorry, Sherlock,” Lestrade says, voice soft, gravelly with suppressed grief. “They tried everything, but we just didn’t get here in time. John didn’t make it.”
For the first time in Sherlock’s life, without the aid of any form of substance, his world completely stops. It doesn’t black out, or white out, or even go gray, it just stops. He doesn’t see, can’t hear, doesn’t feel, can’t smell. He can’t feel his heartbeat, or hear his breath, and he doesn’t think – doesn’t think anything. Doesn’t even think no, not John. There’s just nothing.
Then it starts back up again, everything at once. A hundred conversations, a thousand smells, the wind tugging his hair, Lestrade standing in front of him, the ambulance beyond that. And thoughts, thoughts, dozens of thoughts running through his head like always, except instead of observations cataloguing little details, all of the thoughts are screaming, muttering, crying, cursing. John.
Sherlock shoves Lestrade away and runs for the ambulance. He doesn’t believe him. It isn’t possible; there isn’t a force on this earth that could take John Watson away from it if he didn’t want to go. Not even death.
He makes it to the ambulance and jumps inside. There are no paramedics. Sherlock considers yelling for them to get back inside here and do their damn jobs, but he stops when he sees the gurney. John’s lying on it – it must be John, even though there’s a blanket covering him and it’s been pulled over his head.
“Idiots,” Sherlock mutters. How is John supposed to breathe that way? He was having enough trouble breathing before, he doesn’t need some idiot paramedics leaving blankets on his face. These paramedics should be fired. Or perhaps shot.
Sherlock leans over and rips the blanket off. Underneath is John. His eyes are closed, faint signs of bruising, there’s a cut on his mouth that wasn’t there the last time Sherlock saw him. It’s proof. John isn’t dead, he can’t be dead if he’s changed like that. Dead people don’t acquire new injuries, not unless Sherlock’s been at them.
The knife’s gone. Sherlock’s hands go automatically to where they’d last been, over John’s wound. His jumper is stained with even more blood now. But it’s ripped down the middle. Not ripped. Cut. The paramedics. Cut it down, peeled it back. To bandage the wound, but then they’d replaced it afterwards. Strange. Like they’d wanted him to look just the way he’d been. But they’re wrong, this is wrong. John won’t want to wake up to a torn and bloody jumper. He likes this jumper. He’ll be upset. It will impede his recovery. Better to delay telling him.
Sherlock pushes back the jumper, intending to take it off, but he stops when he notices there’s no bandage on John’s wound. Anger fills him, sharper and deeper than anything he’s felt before. He puts his hands over John’s wound, pressing down hard, keep it closed, keep the blood from –
There’s no blood.
He lifts his hands gently and looks down. There’s no blood flowing from the hole in John’s chest. He stares, for a long time, as long as Sherlock can hold his own breath and longer, but John’s chest doesn’t move. Sherlock puts his hand down, on the left side of John’s chest, leaves it there for longer than he’d ever dare to, were John alive – awake – but there’s nothing. He checks both wrists, his neck. No pulse. He leans in, ear pressed to John’s lips, but there’s no breath.
Sherlock moves back, looks down. His hand trembles as he reaches for John’s face, opens his eyes.
It’s only then that he believes. John has never looked at him like that. Would never look at him like that. There is nothing in John’s eyes. He looks away quickly, because meeting not-John’s gaze is making his chest hurt. He looks back at the wound instead, running his hands over it.
Deep. John said it was deep. Sherlock sticks his fingers in it to measure, because he has to know how deep, how many centimetres were enough to take John from him. Before he gets an accurate measurement, it starts to feel like someone’s watching him. Sherlock looks up, and sees John’s eyes, still open.
John’s watching him, and Sherlock’s got two fingers inside him.
Sherlock shudders and pulls his hand away. He’s had that thought before. Not in this context, but during one of the few times he’s allowed himself to fantasize. He forces his thoughts onto a different track. He can’t associate those words with this moment. If it ever goes – if it’d ever gone – beyond fantasy, it can’t be like this.
He closes John’s eyes again.
“You lied to me,” he says. His voice sounds strange, but he doesn’t know why. “You said the last thing you said to me wouldn’t be horrible, but it was. Well, technically it wasn’t, because the last thing you said to me was an explanation for saying the horrible thing. But that doesn’t count, because your explanation implied that you considered the thing you said before to be the last thing you’d ever say, should you die, and then you did. Even though you said you wouldn’t. That’s twice, then. Two levels of lying. You said you wouldn’t die, and you said the last thing you’d say to me wouldn’t be horrible. You did. It was.”
When he stops talking, he realizes Lestrade is standing at the door to the ambulance, listening to him. Sherlock hadn’t noticed.
There’s a long moment of silence.
Then Lestrade asks, “What did he say?”
Sherlock doesn’t know why, but he doesn’t even consider not responding. “He’d been stabbed. I said it was my fault. He said probably.”
Lestrade looks at John. “It’s not your fault, Sherlock.”
It is. Sherlock knows it. Lestrade likely knows it as well; he’s just not the kind of person to say it.
“I want to take him home,” Sherlock says.
“You can’t,” Lestrade tells him gently. “He has to go to the morgue. We have to notify his family.”
Sherlock scowls. “He doesn’t have family. He has a sister who was too drunk to pick him up from the hospital the day he was discharged and thinks a phone and a few messages on his blog will fix things. I am his family.”
Lestrade reaches for him. “Sherlock-”
Sherlock pulls away. “It’s in his will. I’m to arrange everything.”
Lestrade nods. “Do you want help?”
“I can do it myself,” Sherlock snaps.
Lestrade flinches, just around the eyes, barely noticeable, but still there. He’s holding his hands in front of him, right hand gripping the wrist of his left, and the grip tightens briefly. Then he asks carefully, “Will you let me help?”
Sherlock sees him differently, then. He doesn’t see a man heaping pity on someone who doesn’t want it, who doesn’t think Sherlock can handle taking care of everything. He sees a man who wants to grieve but can’t right then, who wants to do what he can for a fallen comrade, who lost a friend and wants to help another.
He’d forgotten, that John was friends with most of the Yarders. He hadn’t known, that Lestrade considered Sherlock a friend as well.
“You and John were friends,” Sherlock says.
It’s not a question, but Lestrade responds immediately anyway. “Yes.”
Sherlock is silent for a moment. “Are we friends?”
It’s definitely a question this time, but Lestrade takes a minute to answer. “I like to think so.”
“Then yes. You can help.” Sherlock climbs out of the ambulance. “Do you need a statement?”
“I will eventually, yes,” Lestrade says.
Sherlock looks around, on either side of the street and down the alleyway. Donovan and Anderson are standing next to the killer’s body, watching the coroner work. Donovan’s eyes are red and puffy. She’d been crying. Anderson’s are, too. Not enough that anyone else would notice, but Sherlock does.
John calls them both by their first names, because they’ve asked him to. Sally. Dave. He goes to the pub with them sometimes, them and some of the other officers.
There are four more officers there. Two, a man and a woman, are standing close to each other, holding back tears. He recognizes them. John flirts with them. They call him doctor, soldier-boy, never his real name. It’s not serious, none of them mean anything by it. They all think it’s funny. The other woman is standing away from them, staring at nothing. She and John are nice to each other. John patched up her daughter when she fell in front of Scotland Yard, and is now her daughter’s doctor. When she flirts, it’s subtle, and she means it.
The last officer looks uncomfortable. He doesn’t know John, not beyond a vague knowledge of what he does. It’s likely just another body for this officer.
Called. Went. Flirted. Called. Wasn’t. Meant. Thought. Was. Were. Was. Flirted. Was. Meant. Didn’t. Did.
Past tense. John will never do anything of those things again.
“Sherlock?” Lestrade prompts gently.
“I want to go with him to the mortuary first,” Sherlock says.
Lestrade nods. “I’ll meet you there.”
Sherlock climbs back into the ambulance.
Molly does the examinations. They don’t want her to, because of her connection to John, but she asks for it and they reluctantly agree.
Sherlock would suspect Mycroft, but – no, he does suspect Mycroft.
Sherlock watches. He tries to tell himself that it’s not John, that John’s gone, but when he looks at John’s body, John is all he sees. He finds himself wondering why John won’t just come back.
“Come back,” he whispers without realizing.
Molly doesn’t hear him.
Halfway through, she bursts into tears. When she hugs him, he doesn’t know what to do, so he stands there and lets her cry with her arms around him.
“It took you six months to remember his name,” Sherlock says.
She lets him go. “I remembered it eventually, though.” She wipes at her tears. “He used to bring me coffee. Whenever you sent him for some, he’d get me one, too. He said you never noticed, because the first time you asked him to go get you some while you two were here, he took seven minutes longer than he actually needed, and you thought that was just how long he took. Didn’t take him any longer to bring me some, so you wouldn’t know what he was up to. Did you?”
Sherlock stares at John. “No.”
Molly sighs, strokes a hand over John’s hair. “Guess that’s another reason why you notice him, like you never notice me. When you could still notice things, anyway.”
That seems like a strange thing to say, so Sherlock ignores it.
When Molly’s done, and John’s ready to be released to his family – to Sherlock – Molly turns to him.
“Do you want to say anything?” she asks.
Sherlock takes one of John’s hands, tangles their fingers together, then shoves it away. “No. He lied to me. I’m not talking to him until he apologizes.”
It rains the day of John’s funeral. That isn’t surprising; it rains often in England, but Sherlock hates it. It feels cliché, as if it’s a cleverly-planned scene in a film, and will cease to be important after the film ends. John deserves more.
Sherlock surprised himself by feeling grateful for Lestrade’s help. Between the two of them, they managed to track down enough of John’s army friends and rugby mates to get the word out. There’s a lot of them there, more than Sherlock expected. With half of the Yard, a lot of John’s colleagues from the surgery, and some of the staff at Bart’s, the cemetery is crowded.
Some of the mourners are using umbrellas, and some are just letting the rain hit them. It looks like a film again. There should be a lover standing next to John’s casket, under the tarp and out of the rain, but obviously one of those too grief-stricken to use an umbrella, hair soaked and arranged artfully.
But there’s no lover there for John. Sarah’s there, of course, but they’d realized they were much better as friends a while ago. John’s dated since, but not seriously. He says – said – that Sherlock takes up more of his time than a girlfriend or boyfriend ever could.
The funeral is open casket. Sherlock keeps coming back to look at John. He knows other people want a turn. He doesn’t care. John is – was – his.
He fixes John’s tie six times. On the seventh time, he notices a stain on John’s shirt that wasn’t there before. Sherlock touches it. His fingers come away red. He tastes it. Blood.
The stain is growing.
“Someone,” Sherlock says, but his voice is a croak. He clears his throat.
John sucks in a breath.
“Someone get over here! Quickly!” he calls.
John’s eyes open. Panic.
“I need a doctor!” Sherlock yells.
He gets fourteen. Twelve back away, letting the two best attend to John. There’s shouting, crying, disbelief. Everything’s moving so quickly, they’re being rushed to the hospital, and John is holding his hand.
John is hurried into surgery, and Sherlock has to wait. Normally he thinks while waiting, but now he doesn’t want to think. John was dead. Both he and Molly examined the body. There are toxins that can induce a death-like state, but John couldn’t have taken one. And with modern machinery, it’s unlikely that John had vital signs too low to be detected but high enough to be alive, and there’s embalming to consider –
Sherlock cuts off. John hadn’t been embalmed. Sherlock hadn’t understood why, but maybe – maybe Moriarty slipped him toxin, maybe Mycroft knew, maybe, maybe –
There’s a doctor standing in front of him. “He’s awake,” she says.
Sherlock looks up. “Can I see him?”
“Follow me.” She leads Sherlock into a private room, then leaves.
John is sitting in the bed, smiling at him. He has his own eyes again.
“Sherlock,” John says.
Sherlock is frozen. “You died.”
“Apparently not.” He winces. “They still don’t know what happened.”
Sherlock listens to the heart monitor beeping, but it’s not enough. He takes John’s pulse again, three times, puts his hand over John’s heart to feel it beat, to feel his chest rise and fall.
John lets him, smiling patiently, and when he’s done, asks, “Satisfied?”
“No,” Sherlock says. He doesn’t think he’ll ever be satisfied again, not unless John is right next to him, always, and he can check any time he likes. “You can never leave my side again.”
John raises an eyebrow. “Never? That might make some things awkward.”
“I don’t care,” Sherlock tells him. “You don’t have anything I haven’t seen already.”
John sighs. “Suppose it won’t be much different from you bursting in on me whenever you feel like it, anyway. All right. You can follow me around, on one condition.”
Sherlock smiles, finally, finally feeling like everything might be all right again. “What condition?”
“You have to wake up,” John tells him.
Sherlock frowns. “That’s a ridiculous condition. I am awake.”
“Come on, Sherlock. You don’t want to make me a liar, do you?” John asks.
“What? You’re not making sense, John,” Sherlock says, beginning to feel alarmed.
“Please,” John says. “Wake up.”
Sherlock does, and he’s alone, on the sofa in their flat, where he passed out the night before John’s funeral. The lingering feeling of happiness from the dream fades, making the despair feel worse than before. He stares at John’s empty armchair for a long time. Then he gets up, and goes to put on something black.
It’s not raining at John’s actual funeral. Sherlock hates it. He doesn’t feel as though the sun has a right to be out when they put John in the ground.
The people are the same as in Sherlock’s dream. Most likely because most of the people had been faceless then, and as far as Sherlock’s concerned, they’re faceless now. Sherlock doesn’t see Mycroft, but he knows he’s there. Somewhere.
Lestrade, a few army officers, give speeches.
Mrs. Hudson and Molly cry most of the funeral.
Sarah and Donovan try not to, but they dissolve into tears a few times as well.
Anderson cries once, when he thinks no one’s looking. He calls him Sherlock for the first time since they met.
Mike Stamford sobs, claps him hard on the shoulder.
Some of John’s rugby friends are drunk. They talk loudly about how only Johnny-boy could take out the man who killed him, all on his own.
People in uniform, desert camouflage, keep coming up to him and telling him how John saved their life, what John taught them, how John could shoot better than anyone.
A lot of people, in uniform and out, tell him they’re glad John found someone who made him so happy, even if only for a little while.
Everyone tells him how wonderful John was.
Harry slaps him. Yells at him for taking over her brother’s life, for getting him killed, and now for taking over his death. She’s drunk. Angry drunk. People Sherlock doesn’t know drag her away.
Sherlock says nothing, the whole time. He dislikes speeches. Crying makes him uncomfortable. He knows John was a hero. He didn’t make John as happy as these people seem to think. He knows that John was wonderful.
Harry is right.
Sherlock is out walking when he sees him. He’s walked a lot, in the four days since John’s funeral. He can’t sleep, can’t focus enough to do anything. The flat just reminds him of John; he can’t stay there for long. So he walks. It’s work, anyway. Has to keep his mental map of London updated. He’s gotten behind on that.
He sees him in Soho, standing next to a bookshop.
“There you are,” John says, like Sherlock was the one who wandered off.
“What are you doing here?” Sherlock asks him.
John shrugs, falling into step with him. “You were the one who decided it was a good day for a walk.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrow. “You’re dead.”
John laughs. “You’re threatening me because I questioned your decision to go for a walk? Come on, we both know I can take you,” he teases.
Sherlock is offended. “You absolutely can’t. I’m smarter than you.”
“This is going to turn into a brains over brawn argument, isn’t it?” John asks, then grins. “It’s pointless, anyway. I only use my brawn for you.”
“You do not,” Sherlock says, though he can’t help feeling ridiculously pleased. “You use your brawn to help lots of people. And for – other things.”
“Most people would disagree with that disdainful look on your face when it comes to those ‘other things’ I do,” John replies.
Sherlock rolls his eyes. “And most people would consider that a pick-up line.”
John raises an eyebrow. “Who says it wasn’t?”
Sherlock frowns at him. “You can’t hit on me. You’re dead.”
“You keep saying that and I’m going to get a complex,” John says. “Think you actually want me dead.”
Sherlock grabs his arm. “The last thing I ever want – wanted, was you dead.” He hesitates, then admits what he’s hidden from everyone else. “I think it might kill me too, John.”
John covers Sherlock’s hand with his own and squeezes, but looks at him like he hasn’t heard what Sherlock said. “I got you something,” he says. “It was supposed to be a surprise, but-” He shrugs. “It’s dumb, but you might like it. I had to hide it at work, so you wouldn’t find it. Only Sarah knew where it was. I’ll let you have it, but you have to promise me something.”
Sherlock is suspicious. “What?”
“You have to wake up,” John says.
This feels familiar, but before Sherlock can figure out why, he jolts awake. He’s on the floor in the living room of their flat, where he must have passed out when his body gave up after too long with no sleep.
“It’s a dream,” Sherlock tells himself. “A stupid dream, just like the funeral. Not real.”
He makes it an hour and a half before he takes a cab to John’s work. Where John used to work.
Sarah’s in, and when he walks up to her, she looks at him with concern.
“Sherlock?” she asks, reaching out to put a hand on his arm. “Do you need something?”
That’s a ridiculous question to ask. Of course he needs something. He needs John to be alive. But Sarah can’t give him that, so her question is hollow, ringing with a false sense of friendship. She thinks because someone they both love is dead, they’ve bonded. They haven’t. She’s horrible, to want to use John’s death to bond.
That’s cruel, Sherlock knows, but John isn’t there to tell him not to think like that.
“John,” Sherlock starts, but doesn’t know how to finish. He can’t say that he dreamed of John, and dream-John said to come here. That’s ridiculous, sentimental. It’s something idiotic grieving lovers do, placing stock in meaningless dreams because they have nothing else to cling to.
Sherlock is only one of those things. He has, however, nothing else, so he finds a way to phrase it. “John got something for me. He was hiding it here, you’re the only one that knows where it is.”
Sarah smiles, fond and sad. “He said you’d find it in two seconds if he kept it at your flat. He got it a few days before-” She stops, then stands up. “Come on. I’ll show you where I’ve kept it.”
He follows her numbly, his mind busily informing him that this was not possible. ‘Stop theorizing,’ he orders it. ‘We’re still collecting data. Remember, no matter how mad-’
“Here it is,” Sarah says, stopping in front of a cupboard. She opens it and pulls out a medium-sized brown box. “Don’t know what it is, but he wanted you to have it.” She hands him the box, asks, “How’d you know? I didn’t think he’d gotten the chance to tell you.”
“He didn’t,” Sherlock says, running his hands over the cardboard.
“Figured it out, then?” she asks. “He was so sure you wouldn’t.”
He leaves without answering, because he can’t say anything to that when he’s too busy trying to get things to make sense.
Sherlock takes the box home, sets it on the coffee table and stares at it for a long time without opening it. When he finally does open it, his hands tremble slightly. Inside is a teddy bear. It’s a very light brown in colour, incredibly soft and fuzzy to the touch. Sherlock pulls it out, confused, though a small part of him notes that it seems perfect for hugging.
Then he sees the top of the bear’s head, and is instantly intrigued. The top is completely gone, as though someone has lifted it off. This reveals the bear’s brain, which, it turns out, is a replica of a human brain, so perfect, and so perfectly unique, that it must have been modelled after a real brain.
Sherlock spends twenty minutes examining every detail, and then turns his attention back to the box. There’s nothing else in there.
“I need more data,” he tells the bear, stroking a hand over the back of its head.
He lays back on the sofa, hugging the bear tightly to his chest.
“You found it, then,” John says.
Sherlock opens his eyes, and sees John sitting in his chair. “Yes.”
“Do you like it?” John asks, sounding hopeful.
Sherlock smiles at him. “Yes.”
John smiles back, the one that lights up his whole face. “Good. We’ll have to be careful with the claws. I didn’t even notice they were there until I handled it a little too roughly and snagged myself on one. Bit sharp, for a teddy bear. Then again, suppose that’s not your average teddy.”
“Where did you get it?” Sherlock asks.
“I found it in this little shop by a pub we were drinking at. Pete’d forgotten his girlfriend’s birthday was soon, so he dragged us in to look for something for her. I saw it, and apparently drunk me thought it would be a good idea to get it for you.” He laughs, glancing away. “I remember thinking that I knew how the bear felt. That’s how it feels to be me around you, sometimes, like you can cut open my skull and see into my brain just by looking at me.”
Sherlock looks uncertainly at the bear. “Does it make you uncomfortable?”
“I don’t mind it, you know,” John says. “No one else I’d rather be in my head but you. And even you don’t see everything.”
Sherlock runs his fingers over the folds in the bear’s brain. “I’d like to.”
“There’s another reason I bought it for you,” John says. “But it’s – even stupider. I’m not going to tell you it yet.”
“Why not?” Sherlock asks.
“You have to do something for me first,” John says.
Sherlock clutches the bear tighter, because he thinks he knows what’s coming. “No.”
“You have to wake up,” John tells him.
“John,” Sherlock pleads.
“Wake up,” John says.
Sherlock does, on the sofa, still holding the bear, and resists the urge to throw it in frustration. Instead, he takes a closer look at it, examining its paws carefully. There are indeed claws, buried in the fluff. They look strong, and when Sherlock presses his finger against one, he doesn’t have to push very hard to draw blood.
“Hidden danger,” Sherlock murmurs, then looks at the bear’s face. “Come on, John. We have a rugby player to find.”
He locates John’s friend Pete easily enough. He has John’s phone, and he texts all the Pete’s in John’s contacts to see if any of them played rugby with him. Only one did, and this Pete agrees to meet Sherlock in the park.
Sherlock and John-bear are there within the hour. Pete shows up not too long after. He looks tired, eyes bloodshot, smells vaguely of alcohol. He’s been drinking.
Pete looks him over. “You’re Sherlock Holmes, right? Johnny’s partner.”
“Yes,” Sherlock replies, because he is, though not in the way Pete’s meaning.
Pete nods. “I saw you at the funeral.”
“I remember,” Sherlock says. Pete had been one of the ones who was drunk; not offensively so, but enough that he kept repeating himself, saying, “Johnny was the best mate a guy could have,” and “Doctor Johnny Watson: experience with women and men across three continents, took a bullet for England, out-drank everyone he met, avenged his own murder.”
Pete had suggested putting the second one on John’s grave marker eleven times.
“Been meaning to call you,” Pete says. “Me and the boys. Take you out for a few drinks. The way Johnny talked about you. Said you were hell to deal with and you’d be the death of him one day-”
Sherlock flinches, very visibly, but Pete doesn’t even notice.
“But Christ, he thought the sun rose and set on you. Any idiot could see how much he loved you, even if he’d never tell us as much. You were the most important person in his life, you know? Seemed only fitting we at least meet you. Johnny would’ve liked it if we did right by you.”
Sherlock is starting to regret coming. He doesn’t want this, doesn’t want John’s friends to “look after him,” because they miss John. Sherlock doesn’t know these people, and he doesn’t care. He’s only here to collect data on –
On whether or not John is speaking to him in his dreams? Lovely.
“I shouldn’t be using past tense with you, should I?” Pete asks. “Johnny – well, it’s not the best thing to do, is it?”
Sherlock considers telling him that, no, what’s not the best thing to do is tell your dead friend’s partner that your friend said they’d be the death of them the last time you spoke to them. Past tense, while uncomfortable, is appropriate.
But he doesn’t, because he was the death of John, and he deserves to hear things like that.
Instead, he holds up the bear. “Do you recognize this?”
Pete tugs on the sleeves of his jacket. “I don’t know what I’m doing here. You don’t even know me. How am I supposed to help? I’m just here for Johnny.”
Sherlock squeezes the bear in frustration. “Yes. I know. The bear?”
Pete laughs. “Christ, I can’t believe he actually gave you that. He was plastered when he bought it, you know. The rest of them mucked about, breaking crap they had to pay for and bitching to me about making them go in there. It was a weird shop, mate, couldn’t find anything for my girl, but Johnny found that and said he had to get it for you. Spent most of the money he won off Mark in that drinking contest on it.”
Sherlock stares at the bear. Dreams are not real. And yet – yet – he hadn’t known any of the things John had told him, and they’ve all been true. He can’t see another explanation, and he doesn’t know if that’s because there isn’t one or because he doesn’t want there to be one.
It terrifies him.
Pete leaves at some point, muttering something about keeping in touch, but Sherlock isn’t paying attention.
Somehow, he gets home again. Collapses on the sofa, wills sleep to come. But it won’t. He keeps going over everything, everything, the bear, the claws, the shop, Pete. The chase, the alleyway, the knife. John said wait. Sherlock said no.
The one person that had meant – everything, John had meant everything – taken away, and it’s Sherlock’s fault.
“My fault,” Sherlock says aloud.
John-bear’s claws dig into his arm, and he sits up.
“You’re right,” he tells it. “This isn’t working. New strategy.”
He gets up, carrying John-bear with him, and goes to the kitchen. Under the floorboard, behind the fridge, there it is. Morphine. He doesn’t normally use it – makes him sluggish, the opposite of what he wants when he’s bored – but he keeps some on hand for experiments.
It’s perfect for what he needs right now. It’ll slow his thoughts down, let his body take over and get what it needs, and it’s sleep-starved, it’ll –
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” John says. “It’s dangerous.”
Sherlock looks up. John’s in his chair again. Sherlock smiles. “I couldn’t sleep, but I had to see you.”
“I hear Pete talked to you.” John laughs. “Bet that was an enlightening conversation.”
“You have – odd friends,” Sherlock says, wrinkling his nose.
“I have odd friends,” John agrees. “But you’re the oddest. And the best.”
The last little bit of guilt melts away at John’s smile. No one’s ever called Sherlock their best friend before John, not and meant it like John does.
Sherlock holds up the bear. “I’m calling him John. At least until I find you again. Then you can name him something different.”
“Finally figured out I’m not dead, have you?” John says.
“It seems to be the only explanation of the facts,” Sherlock replies. “I don’t know how, but you’re out there, somewhere, and somehow you’re communicating with me. When you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how mad-”
“Must be the truth,” John finishes. “I know, I’ve read your website, remember?”
Sherlock feels the familiar surge of affectionate irritation he only gets around John and has to resist the urge to cry. He hasn’t felt it in so long. “I’m going to find you, John.”
John nods. “Good. There’s cases. Interesting ones. You’re not the type to lie down when there’s work to be done. The world needs you, Sherlock Holmes. And so do I.”
“I need you, too, John,” Sherlock says.
“That’s why you need to wake up,” John tells him.
Cold dread settles at the base of his spine. “No, John, I can’t-”
But he can. When he wakes up on the floor again, alone save for John-bear, tears prick at his eyes. He gets himself under control quickly, because –
“John’s right,” he tells John-bear. “We have work to do.”
Sherlock and John-bear take a cab to Scotland Yard. Sherlock feels a bit dull and tired – the morphine must still be in his system. No matter. He didn’t use much. It’ll be gone soon.
He walks straight to Lestrade’s office when he arrives. Donovan stops him.
“I need to speak to Lestrade,” he tells her.
She looks him up and down, then sighs, bites her lip. “Wait here.” She gestures to a chair. “I’ll go get him.”
He sits. His legs were tired of standing, anyway. His head wants to droop down, so he lets it. It’s easier to stare at John-bear that way. Sherlock likes looking at John-bear. It reminds him that John’s still out there somewhere, that Sherlock didn’t get him killed.
“Lestrade will be here soon,” John says.
Sherlock looks up. John is leaning against Donovan’s desk. “Must’ve fallen asleep,” Sherlock murmurs. “I’m dreaming.”
John frowns at him. “I’m not a dream.”
“Yes you are,” Sherlock says. “You can only communicate with me when I’m asleep. Technically, you’re a dream.”
John rolls his eyes and takes John-bear from his lap, sets him aside. Then he grabs Sherlock’s hands and pulls him out of the chair.
“What are you doing?” Sherlock asks.
“I told you. Lestrade’ll be here soon, but we’ve still got time for a few things,” John says.
“Like-” Sherlock starts, but John interrupts him.
“I’ll take you to that museum in the States you keep wanting to go to, the one with all the brains of murderers and the giant colon and the things people’ve swallowed,” John says.
Sherlock lights up. “And the assassin’s thorax?”
Scotland Yard fades away as he speaks, replaced by the very museum. It’s better than Christmas, and Sherlock keeps hold of John’s hands, pulls him around while John compares him to a kid in a sweets shop.
“Or to that church made of human skeletons in the Czech Republic, the one we watched a documentary on and you spent half the time sighing wistfully,” John says.
The museum gives way to the church, but they’re there for only a few moments before John’s talking again.
“Or, hell, I’ll take you ice skating on the bloody moon.”
They’re there, stars bright in the sky, Earth glowing blue and white above them. Sherlock’s breath catches, his feet skid for a second before he adjusts to the surprise of wearing skates and being on ice. He’s still holding John’s hands, so he begins to skate backwards, pulling John forwards.
“Why ice skating on the moon?” Sherlock asks.
“You love ice skating,” John says. “And I love watching you skate. God, Sherlock, you’re so beautiful. And the moon – why not? I’d promise you anything at this point.”
“This is marvellous, John,” Sherlock says, spinning them on the ice. “But it does lend credence to you being a dream.”
John doesn’t reply, and they skate in silence. Sherlock doesn’t care that it’s a dream. He’s – happy. John’s alive, and it’s Sherlock he’s reaching out to.
After awhile, John stops them. “You look cold.”
“I left my coat back in Scotland Yard,” Sherlock says, and he is shivering a bit.
“Here.” John shrugs out of his jumper and drapes it around Sherlock’s shoulders.
It’s warm, and it smells like John. Sherlock pulls it close. “Now I know it has to really be you.”
“Why?” John asks curiously.
“My dreams aren’t like this. This has to be you,” Sherlock says. “You’ve never treated me so – romantically. You’ve never looked at me the way you are now. I’ve thought about it, wished for it, but my dreams aren’t that kind.”
John pulls him close, so close the tips of their ice skates touch. He runs a hand through Sherlock’s hair, brushing it off his forehead. “There’s something I need to tell you. Something important.”
“What?” Sherlock asks, dizzy from John’s near-ness.
John shakes his head. “I can’t tell you like this. I want to, so badly, but I can’t. Not when I’m not even sure if you can hear me.”
“I can hear you, John, of course I can hear you,” Sherlock says, and his voice sounds a little desperate.
“That’s why I need you to wake up,” John says.
Sherlock reaches for John’s hands, tries to cling to them, but it’s too late.
He wakes up, at Scotland Yard, sitting in Donovan’s chair, with John-bear in his lap.
Sherlock never wants to hear the words “wake up” again.
There’s something warm around his shoulders. Sherlock grabs for it, and his fingers meet soft wool. He pulls, tugs it into view. It’s John’s jumper.
“Oh, God,” Sherlock murmurs. Proof. Actual, tangible proof, more than just Sherlock’s word. He didn’t come in with the jumper, half of the Yard saw him walk in, and he spoke with Donovan. So where else could it have come from, if not John?
“Sherlock,” Lestrade says from in front of his office.
Sherlock starts, then jumps to his feet and strides over. “We need to find him, Lestrade.”
Lestrade frowns. “Find who?”
“John,” Sherlock says impatiently.
“John is dead, Sherlock,” Lestrade says quietly, gently.
Sherlock waves a hand dismissively. “That’s what he wants us to think. It’s Moriarty, it has to be. He’s holding John somewhere. But John, oh, he’s clever. Not the way I am, so he thinks I don’t see it, but I do. He’s figured out a way to communicate with me, somehow. In my dreams.”
Lestrade blinks, slowly, like he doesn’t know what to say. “It’s perfectly normal to dream about him.”
Sherlock scowls. “I’m not just dreaming about him. He tells me things, things I couldn’t know. He said he got something for me, told me where to find it, and there it was. Told me how he got it, with a friend, and the friend corroborated the story. I never knew any of it, how could it all have been true unless John is out there?”
Lestrade fidgets slightly. “Dreams are funny things. He probably told you all of that when you weren’t really paying attention, but you remembered it subconsciously and your grief caused it to surface.”
Sherlock sneers. “You’re a detective, Lestrade, not a psychoanalyst. Keep it that way. And besides, I’ve got proof. His jumper. He gave it to me in the dream and I woke up wearing it, that’s it on the chair over there. I didn’t come in with it, how else do you explain that?”
Lestrade is silent for a long time. Then he says, “Sherlock. That’s not John’s jumper on the chair. That’s your coat.”
“Oh, come on Lestrade, you can’t be that-” Sherlock turns. “-blind.”
It is his coat. There’s no sign of John’s jumper, just Sherlock’s coat in a heap next to John-bear.
“But it was there,” Sherlock murmurs. He’d seen it, touched it, it’d still been warm and smelling of John, as it would if John’d given it to him only moments before. “Someone’s taken it,” Sherlock says, turning back to Lestrade. “Someone must have taken the jumper while we were talking. There’s a plant in Scotland Yard, why didn’t I realize it sooner, look at how easily Moriarty got into Bart’s-”
“Will you listen to yourself, Sherlock?” Lestrade shouts. “Do you have any idea how insane you sound? I know you miss him. You’re not the only one. I know you feel guilty, but this – whatever it is you’re doing, it won’t bring him back.”
“I will not leave him in Moriarty’s hands just because you have too much of an ego to accept-”
“Why couldn’t you just wait?” Lestrade asks. His voice sounds completely different now, soft and filled with regret. “We told you to wait for us. John asked you to wait. This wouldn’t have happened if you’d just listened for once. You wouldn’t be here right now, would you? You two would be back in that flat of yours, doing – whatever it is you two get up to in there, God knows, but I certainly don’t want to. And I wouldn’t be here, either, talking to you like-” His throat catches, like he’s swallowing back tears. “Like anything I say is going to make a difference.”
Sherlock can’t breathe. He’s to blame, he knows he is, it’s all he can think of, all he can feel when he’s awake, but it’s different hearing it from people like Harry and Pete than it is hearing it from Lestrade. Especially when John – John’s still – “You think it’s my fault.”
“He misses you. We all do,” Lestrade says. It comes from Donovan’s lips.
He stares at her. “What?”
“I said no one blames you,” she says. “No one but yourself.”
“Not even John would blame you,” Lestrade adds, like he hasn’t just said none of this would have happened if not for Sherlock.
“He made his own decisions,” Anderson says. Or rather, Anderson’s voice comes from the large tree that is currently where Anderson had been standing.
Sherlock sits on the ground. Hard. “I’m not insane,” he murmurs. “John is there. He has to be.”
Lestrade sighs. “You look exhausted, Sherlock. Just – wait there. I’ll get my keys, take you home.” He goes into his office.
“It is his own fault, isn’t it?” an officer asks.
Sherlock looks at him. He looks familiar, but it feels – wrong. He shouldn’t be wearing that uniform.
“Shut up,” Anderson says viciously.
“I just-” the officer says.
“You’ve no right to be saying that, do you?” Donovan asks. “Not to him.”
“Not when he’s like this. Not ever,” Anderson says.
“Get out,” Donovan tells the officer. “I wouldn’t try coming back in here. We don’t even like him, imagine what those who do’ll have to say.”
The officer leaves, and Sherlock can’t stop staring at Donovan and Anderson.
Donovan crouches down next to him. “It’ll be okay,” she tells him, then sings, “All you need is time.”
“Isn’t that ‘love’?” another officer asks.
Anderson glares at her. “Yes, but ‘all you need is love’ isn’t exactly going to cheer him up. Go on, Sally.”
“Thanks, Dave,” Donovan says, then sings again. “All you need is time. All you need is time, time. Time is all you need.”
“Time, time, time,” Anderson chimes in helpfully.
“Time, time, time,” the other officers echo.
“Time, time, time,” they all sing together.
“Time is all you need,” Donovan finishes.
They all go back to their work.
Sherlock stares again. “Was – was anyone singing just now?”
Donovan frowns. “Singing? No. I said, ‘you just need some time.’”
Sherlock begins to reconsider his sanity. By the time Lestrade ushers him into his car, it’s obvious. Obvious. The only logical explanation of all of the facts. Sherlock is having difficulty coping. His mind is playing tricks on him. The morphine likely didn’t help. He’s never felt grief like this before; he didn’t know what it was.
John is dead. John is dead, he’s not out there waiting for Sherlock to save him because Sherlock is the one who killed him.
He’s crying now. It’s upsetting. He hasn’t cried this whole time, and he doesn’t want to now. John will–
John won’t do anything, because he’s dead. Sherlock can’t keep forgetting that. He can’t.
The next time Lestrade stops at a traffic light, Sherlock jumps out and runs.
He’ll go to the cemetery. He’ll exhume John, prove to himself that John’s dead. And he’ll keep him in his room so he can’t forget. “Then I won’t be crazy,” Sherlock says, to himself, because he’s forgotten John-bear in the car.
Sherlock finds a shovel in the caretaker’s shed when he gets to the cemetery, and he starts digging. It takes him awhile, but eventually he reaches the coffin.
“John is dead,” he tells himself, because it hurts much less to think otherwise, and Sherlock doesn’t deserve to hurt less.
He opens the casket.
Hope burns in Sherlock’s ribs, sticks in his throat. He leans closer to make sure, and falls.
He lands – no, doesn’t land, sits up. He’s in their flat, on the sofa, clutching John-bear.
“You killed John,” a voice hisses.
Sherlock looks towards it, and sees the skull glaring at him.
“You killed John,” the Union Jack pillow agrees.
There are echoes from all around him, and Sherlock can’t take it anymore. He rampages around the room, destroying anything that dares speak, until there’s nothing left but the heavy sound of his breathing.
“I really am insane,” Sherlock says absently.
He eyes the morphine.
“You don’t want to do that,” John says.
Sherlock turns towards him. “Yes I do,” he says calmly. “I told you it might be kill me, too, didn’t I? I can’t tell what’s real any more, John. Do you know what that’s like for me? All I have is my mind, and it’s stopped working. The only time things make sense is when I’m with you. If I have to sleep forever for that to happen, then I will.”
“You don’t want to spend the rest of your life as a vegetable. Trust me, I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty. You’ll go insane from boredom,” John says.
“I’m already insane!” Sherlock shouts. “Look at me, I’m yelling at the ghost of the man I-”
“You’re Sherlock Holmes,” John tells him. “You’re the best man I know. You can do anything.”
“I couldn’t tell you how much you meant to me, before it was too late,” Sherlock says bitterly. “I couldn’t save you.”
“You have to beat this, Sherlock. Because if you don’t-” John’s voice drops to a murmur, so low that Sherlock shouldn’t be able to hear it from this distance, but he does. “I think I might follow you.”
Terror fills Sherlock. He doesn’t understand why. He’s the one trying to follow John, he shouldn’t be worried about John trying to follow him. But all he knows is that he can’t let that happen.
“But it won’t come to that,” John says confidently. “The Sherlock I know wouldn’t let something like this stop him. You have to fight.”
“How?” Sherlock demands. “I don’t know what you want me to do.”
“Just wake up. Please.” John chokes back a desperate sob. “Just wake up.”
Sherlock’s never heard John make that noise. It takes only a second for him to realize he’ll do almost anything to keep John from ever making it again. “I don’t understand,” he admits finally. “What does that mean?”
“I need you. You know I do. Come back to me, so I can tell you how much,” John tells him. “Please, Sherlock, come back to me.”
That, oh, that, Sherlock can do. He doesn’t know what’s real, but he knows he will always come back to John.
He reaches for John, stumbles, blinks.
And then blinks again, because he’s not in their flat. He’s in a hospital bed, hooked up to far too many machines for his liking. John-bear is tucked under his arm, John’s jumper is around his shoulders, and John – John is sitting beside him.
“John,” he says. It comes out a croak, and his throat feels strange, as though he hasn’t used it in awhile.
John’s head jerks up. “Sherlock! You’re awake!” His voice sounds strange, too, but in the opposite direction – hoarse from using it too much.
Sherlock scowls. “Of course I’m awake. You wouldn’t stop waking me.” He pauses and looks around. “What happened?”
John is smiling at him, beaming, but instead of answering, he asks, “What do you remember?”
Sherlock frowns. “We were chasing Henrickson. He attacked us. You knocked him out, but you were stabbed. He woke up before help came, knocked me out. You fought him again.” He glares at John. “Pulled the knife from your chest to kill him.”
John winces slightly, but looks unapologetic. “That much is true. But how’d you know? You were unconscious for that last bit.”
“Lestrade told me later,” Sherlock says.
John frowns. “Yes, but you were unconscious then, too.”
Sherlock shakes his head. “No, it was after I woke up. In an ambulance, at the crime scene. You didn’t wake up. They’d come too late, you’d lost too much blood. You were gone and I – I kept dreaming of you. You insisted you weren’t dead. Told me about the present you’d gotten me, where I could find it, to be careful of the claws, how you’d gotten it. It was all true. People thought I was crazy, but I knew, I knew you were out there.” He smiles slightly, remembering the last good dream. “We went to the museum, the church, ice skating on the moon. You gave me your jumper.” His smile fades. “Things got strange. I thought – maybe I was insane. But then you showed up, and told me to come back to you. So I did.” His voice turns smug. “I was right. I found you.”
John’s staring at him like he’s in shock. It’s making Sherlock uncomfortable. That’s not a good response, is it, just to stare at someone who’s just told you everything was insane but they still believed in you?
Finally, John says, “I was never dead.”
Sherlock feels a prickle of fear, because that’s just what dream-John had said, but it fades quickly. He can tell that this is real in a way that was absent from the dreams. In a way that was absent in all of what happened since he woke up at the crime scene, actually.
“You were the one who didn’t wake up, Sherlock,” John tells him. “I couldn’t get to him fast enough, to get him off you. He – he did a lot of damage. You’ve been in a coma. I’ve been talking to you. There’s speculation on whether or not that helps, but it doesn’t hurt, and I was desperate.”
Things click into place now. Everything makes sense, the dreams, the strange conversations, the hallucinations. “Fascinating,” Sherlock breathes. “I’ve never been in a coma.”
John laughs, sounding half amused and half exasperated. “No, no you hadn’t. Well done you, another novel experience under your belt.”
“You talked to me,” Sherlock says, slightly amazed. “The dreams, you really told me those things.”
“Yes,” John says. “I gave you the bear, told you about it. So did Pete.” He laughs a little. “Started promising to take you places if you’d just wake up. Gave you the jumper when you kept shivering.”
“We were on the moon,” Sherlock mutters. “It was cold.”
John giggles, just as much in relief as in amusement, and Sherlock giggles helplessly along with him, because he can’t do anything else when John is giggling and looking at him like that. Like there’s nowhere else he’d rather be than right there.
“Other people talked to me, too?” Sherlock asks, even though he thinks he knows the answer.
“Yeah,” John replies. “I made it a rule, anyone who visited either of us had to talk to you. I didn’t know what would help. I was this close to forcing Mycroft to come here for longer than a few minutes at a time and just talk at you, so you’d have to wake up to avoid listening to him.”
Sherlock makes a face. “I wouldn’t have come back for anyone but you,” he says absently. He thinks he can sort it out, now, which parts were complete fiction and which were bits of what people had said to him.
Then he frowns. “There’s something I still don’t understand. You could most likely have incapacitated Henrickson without using the knife. You had before. Why did you risk it?”
John looks at him. “He put you in a coma, Sherlock. I thought he might’ve done worse. I wasn’t thinking about incapacitating him.”
“You killed him for me,” Sherlock says, a bit wonderingly.
“Yes. You needn’t sound so surprised, we both know it’s far from the first time, and it won’t be the last,” John says.
“But I almost got you killed,” Sherlock says.
“You almost got yourself killed, too. Guess which one I’ve been more upset about?” John asks.
Sherlock frowns. He still doesn’t quite understand, but he’s close. “Why?”
“Same reason I put up with people yelling at me for impeding my healing process so I could sit here and talk at you for the past two weeks,” John replies.
Hmm. “After you mentioned ice skating, you said there was something important you needed to tell me, but you couldn’t do it until I woke up,” Sherlock says.
John looks away.
Ah. There it is. Sherlock estimates that he can be 96% sure.
“You still don’t have to tell me. I think I’ve figured it out,” Sherlock tells him.
“Have you then?” John asks, his tone forced casual.
“One question first,” Sherlock says. “You said if I didn’t beat this, you’d follow me. Did you mean that?”
John jerks, then winces. “You weren’t meant to hear that.”
“Did you mean it?” Sherlock asks.
John says, very quietly, “I think so.”
Sherlock smiles and reaches out to twine his fingers with John’s. “I’ll follow you, too,” he says, in the same tone other people say ‘I love you too.’
John stares at their hands. “Sherlock – I don’t understand.”
“The only time anything made sense was with you. So I was going to follow you; sleep forever. I’m glad I didn’t have to, of course, but I would have,” Sherlock tells him.
John blinks at him. “I’m still working on becoming fluent in Sherlock, so cut me some slack if I misinterpreted that, all right?” He leans forward to place a gentle, warm kiss on Sherlock’s lips, then pulls back a little bit to look at Sherlock.
Sherlock’s not sure what to say. He can’t begin to describe what he’s feeling. The world makes sense again, everything has clicked into place. Perhaps it can be summed up in: John’s alive, and he’s looking at Sherlock the way Sherlock’s thought of, wished for, and only ever dreamed of once.
He settles for, “You interpreted correctly,” and kisses John again.
He tries to pull John closer, but John stops him with a hiss of pain.
“Sorry,” John says. “Just – not quite healed up. Gently, yeah?”
Sherlock scoots over, and they manage to manoeuvre John onto the bed so he’s lying partially on his back and partially on his good side, turned slightly towards Sherlock.
“Probably shouldn’t be lying down,” John says.
“Why not?” Sherlock asks.
“I’m exhausted,” John replies. “If I stay lying down, I’ll probably fall asleep. And I should be calling everyone. They’ll want to know you’re awake.”
“Mmm,” Sherlock says, burying his nose in John’s hair and breathing in. “Just ten minutes.”
John-bear is still tucked under Sherlock’s arm, and John reaches over to touch it.
“You said I gave this to you in your dream,” John says. “Did you like it?”
“You asked me that before,” Sherlock says.
“Yes,” John says. “But I never did get an answer.”
“I like it very much,” Sherlock tells him. “I’m glad you don’t mind feeling like the bear around me.” He looks at the bear. “I called him John. I told you it was just until I found you, and then you could name him something different, but I suppose you didn’t hear that part.” He looks back at John. “I found you. What do you want to name him?”
John chuckles. “You don’t want me naming it. I’ve a bad history with coming up with names. I’m terrible at it. Called my goldfish Commodore Puddles when I was a kid. Harry mocked me for ages.”
Sherlock frowns at the bear.
“I didn’t tell you everything about the bear, you know,” John says.
“I remember,” Sherlock agrees. “You said you wouldn’t tell me the other reason you bought it for me unless I woke up.”
John smiles. “I wasn’t sure I was ever going to tell you. I figured you’d be much more receptive to knowing you had constant access to my brain than, well.” He fiddles with the bear’s paw, reaching under the fluff and twisting something.
A small compartment on the left side of the bear’s torso pops open. Sherlock reaches inside, pulling out a tiny heart. Like the brain, it’s a perfect replica. The detail is extraordinary.
“I wonder who made this thing,” John says sleepily. “Probably someone else in love with a nutter like I am, who figured some other nutter like me would buy it for him in a misguided attempt to say ‘you’ve got me, mind and heart.’” John nuzzles at his neck. “They forgot soul, though, didn’t they? No matter, you’ve got that, too.”
“The bear is the soul,” Sherlock murmurs.
“Hmm?” John asks.
“Never mind,” Sherlock says, putting the heart back in the compartment and closing it. “People don’t actually love with their hearts, John.”
John opens one eye to glare at him. “Must you ruin the romance?”
Sherlock raises one eyebrow at him. “We’re both injured, in a hospital bed, as a result of chasing down a violent criminal. I’ve been in a coma for at least two weeks, most likely longer, considering it would have been a bit before they allowed you to sit in here, even if, as I suspect, you started before you should have. We’re discussing a stuffed animal with remarkably detailed exposed human organs. That’s your idea of romance?”
“When I’m around you? Yeah,” John says. “You’re rubbing off on me.”
“Not the way I’d like to,” Sherlock mutters.
“What?” John asks.
“Nothing,” Sherlock says.
“Oh, no, I’m not letting that go,” John tells him. “I’m reasonably sure you’ve just made a suggestive remark towards me. I feel the need to respond appropriately.” His hand had been resting on Sherlock’s stomach, but now he slides it lower. “I could-”
“You could pop more stitches than you already have,” Sherlock snaps. “Stop that.”
John’s hand stills at his hip. “It wasn’t really serious,” he mutters. “Neither of us are up for that.”
It’s true, but Sherlock’s reasonably certain that if he’d said yes, John would have found a way. The thought intrigues him, but not enough to risk John.
“How’d you know I popped a few stitches?” John asks.
“Statistical probability,” Sherlock says. “As I said before, knowing you, you were in here before you should’ve been moving about.”
“I was,” John admits.
“These chairs are not designed for someone recovering from a stab wound,” Sherlock says. “With you moving about, and not maintaining a position conductive for healing even when you were sitting still, upsetting your stitches was highly likely.” He frowns. “The real wonder is why the staff allowed you to do this. Isn’t it their job to ensure you heal? They should be fired.”
John chuckles. He’s nuzzled back against Sherlock’s neck, now, and his breath huffs against Sherlock’s skin. “I didn’t give them a choice. And one did get fired.” His eyes close. “Wish you could’ve seen it. One of your nurses, hated coming in here. Think he had you as a patient before. Think it was also partially because I was here, and he was one of those nurses that hates having doctors watch them work. Could see why, he was just doing the bare minimum. I was going to ask for him to be transferred, but then he mouthed off about you. Almost punched him, but Sally and Dave took care of it. Lucky for me they happened to be here, or I might have lost my ability to charm the other nurses into letting me stay in here.”
Sherlock frowns. “And they fired him for this?”
John yawns and shifts closer. “What? Oh, no, he was fired because it was found he was fudging his break time and work hours, but I’m pretty sure Mycroft only told them about that because Lestrade mentioned what happened to him.”
Sherlock stares at him. “Lestrade and my brother are talking?”
“Mmm-hmm,” John murmurs. “They’ve been here as often as they can, which isn’t much, you know, with their schedules, and it coincided a lot. They cornered me the other day, together, to force me to leave long enough that they could each have five minutes alone to talk to you. Terrifying. Longest ten minutes of my life.”
“My brother and Lestrade did something together?” Sherlock is vaguely horrified.
“We really need to call them, Sherlock, they’ve been so worried,” John tells him, but as his eyes are closed and his breathing is slowing, Sherlock doesn’t feel the need to act immediately on his words.
“I’ll call them soon,” Sherlock tells him. “Go to sleep, John, I’ve got you.”
John does, and Sherlock spends a long time listening to John breathing, feeling his heartbeat, basking in the warmth of John snuggling up to him. He never wants to move.
Except no, not really, he doesn’t want to lie there forever, even though the prospect is much more appealing than lying there alone. He shifts slightly to press the call button for a nurse.
Sherlock’s got a lot of people to thank, he thinks – though he’ll likely only ever actually say it to one of them, and he’ll wait until he convinces a nurse to give him painkillers so he can blame it on them, should Lestrade ever bring it up again.
There’s also, of course, the person he needs to thank so much that he isn’t even in the same category as the others. The one curled up next to him. While he waits for the nurse to arrive, Sherlock presses his lips to the top of John’s head. “Thank you, John,” he murmurs. It’s a cop-out, Sherlock knows it is, but maybe he’ll be able to say it again, one day, when John’s actually listening.
But later, much later, after John’s woken up and everyone has come and gone and only John is still there, John looks at him and says, “You’re welcome.”
And Sherlock doesn’t have to say it again, because John’s already heard.