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The Vicar and the Bird

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John Watson has come unstuck in time.

He starts awake in a hospital bed. He's not waking from a rest while on call; he is a patient. Which hospital? When? He feels for the injuries — the primary difference among his various stays except the time he shattered his right forearm when he was six. He feels pretty shattered right now.

"Back with us, Dr. Watson? You’re due to start physical therapy in half an hour."

Ah. That time.

He allows himself a hint of a smile as he reaches for the glass of water that will always be on the bedside table when he is now. Until he woke up in this hospital 3 days before, he wasn’t sure he’d survive Afghanistan. The memories stopped at the flash of searing pain and his collapse in the desert sand. Now, he was getting brief flashes of new memories — a future he hasn’t lived yet. There is a man in all of them who he hasn’t seen yet but he knows will be his greatest friend.

He lets the orderly help him sit up, change to a new hospital gown, and get his legs in some lounge pants.

“How’s the novel coming, then?” he asks.

“I’m having a bit of trouble with the Tralfamadorians this time…” The orderly natters on while he finishes dressing John and walks him out the door.

Outside the window, the last robin cries:

Poo te weet!

For all the times he’s watched it happen, Sherlock’s dive off the roof of Bart’s still wrenches him. The grief burns through him, a wildfire of loss as he collapses—

He’s seven again, standing motionless on the playground amid a horde of running, laughing, living children. He blinks slowly, then breaks for the bushes where he is violently sick. He’s out of sorts for the rest of the day, going through afternoon lessons in a daze and picking absently at his supper. Mother gives him a worried kiss goodnight, the first in a year since he insisted he was a big boy and didn’t need them.

He wakes up in Afghanistan at 0300. A transport hit an IED. He grits his teeth and prepares for a long morning of surgery.

He’s four years old. His aunt is upset, angry. She’s shouting at him, but he doesn’t understand why. The sutures weren’t quite straight, but the gash in his cousin’s arm would heal fine now.

A funeral, sparsely attended. The vicar says a few words. No one else can bear to say anything. Mycroft hangs his head, Molly sniffles, and Mrs. Hudson rocks silently in the pew. The rain has stopped for the occasion. The four men bear the ornate casket out, the two women trailing behind.

He’s kissing Sherlock Holmes. Kissing him. And the man with the beginnings of a wicked black eye is kissing him back. He pushes Sherlock onto the sofa and sits astride him, lips never losing contact for more than half a second. Sherlock mounts a counter-offense and swiftly but carefully flips John to be underneath, laying him down.

He starts awake. His eyes are sore and he can feel the salt crusted on his cheeks. The union jack pillow is clutched to his chest, still damp. He relaxes his grip and lets out a deep breath. Alone in the sitting room, John smiles faintly. He sinks further into the ancient sofa, wallowing in Sherlock’s scent before it fades. Outside the window, the first robin cries:

Poo te weet!