John Watson saw it all happen. He watched his best friend, his truest friend, his only friend fall. The moment Sherlock fell, John Watson fell, too.
His feet left the ledge, and then there was nothing but air beneath him. He took his swan dive, his coat flapping in the wind, and the air rushed around him, blocking any sound but the wind from reaching his ears. He was suspended in the air from a moment, and time seemed to stop as he stared down at John and up at Sherlock. Then he fell. Sherlock was falling, falling through the air until the eventual splatter on the pavement below.
Falling is just like flying except there’s a more permanent destination.
John lived this moment dozens if not hundreds of times in the war, watching good men (Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and I think one day, if we’re very, very lucky, he might even be a good one.) fall down in combat, never to rise again. He’d watched their blood pouring out, their eyes glaze over. He heard their last wishes and their last goodbyes. Goodbye, John. He’d tried to save them all, and he failed. Just like he’d failed Sherlock.
John stood in shock for just a second before springing into action. John was always a man of action. He’d run just a few meters, until he could finally see past the building obscuring his view, and caught sight of Sherlock, painted in red on the floor. It can’t be. Not like this. Not him.
And then the bicycle hit him, and he was on the floor. The rider didn’t even stop to se if was okay, but he was too dazed to see the significance of this. Facedown on the rough stone ground, he heard people running toward where Sherlock was, but no one screamed. Only he had screamed. Sherlock!
He’d hit head quite hard and didn’t have control over his body just yet. There was pain, so much pain: worse than the bullet wound that brought him home. Almost none of it was physical.
He pushed up and saw the gathered crowd; he couldn’t see Sherlock. Another second to get his bearings and he was running again. Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock.
“I’m a doctor; let me come though. Let me come through!” Get out of my way! Can’t they see what’s happened?
But they were doctors, too; they worked at St. Bart’s for Christ’s sake. “Please, he’s my friend. He’s my friend, please.” He needs me; I need him.
There was blood on the pavement, speading outward from Sherlock’s head; there was no way a normal person could survive that. But Sherlock wasn’t a normal person. Still, John had to be sure. The people in the crowd were holding him back, but he pushed forward, grabbing Sherlock’s hand. Take my hand! It was cold, too cold. That’s important. Why is that important?
There was no pulse. Sherlock had no pulse, and any hope John had left was gone. He was over the edge, falling and falling with no ground in sight.
He saw the other doctors flip Sherlock over. There was blood collected in his hair, plastering his curls to the side of his head, and blood streaked across his face. He was beautiful, even in death.
His eyes were open; his eyes sent a shiver down John’s spine. His eyes were open, but they weren’t Sherlock’s eyes. John had never seen Sherlock’s eyes so vacant. Sherlock was always observing; now he wasn’t even seeing.
“Oh, Jesus, no. Oh, God, no.”
That flat was not home without Sherlock there. Strangely, there were no perishable body parts in the fridge or the microwave. The sitting room was incongruously tidy; none of Sherlock’s papers or science equiptment was strewn about as they usually were. Even Sherlock’s bedroom, though normally neat, was suspicially clean. All of his laundry was done, filed away in their various indexes perfectly. It was as if Sherlock had known what was coming and gotten his affairs in order so John wouldn’t have to.
But that was a ridiculous though. How could he have known? John laughed humorously. That was a question John had asked himself every day since he met Sherlock Holmes at St. Bart’s. How could you possibly know about the drinking? And Sherlock always had an answer. Shot in the dark; good one though.
What was Sherlock’s answer now? Sherlock was dead. There was no coming back from that.
John sat barefoot on the chair in the sitting room. This chair had always been his. It was where he watched Sherlock play the violin. It was where he read when Sherlock wasn’t there. It was where he watched Sherlock when he was thinking. I need to go to my mind palace.
In the back of John’s mind was a constant repetition of his name. It pressed against his other thoughts, invading his memories, but then, nearly all of his other memories included it. Sherlock.
Sherlock had wormed his way into John’s life. Sherlock was John’s childhood friend – all of his friends. He pointed out the things John had never noticed before: which girls liked him and which girls liked Harry. He even vaguely remembered a word; pulled somewhere from the back of his mind. Carl Powers. I made a fuss. I tried to get the police interested, but nobody seemed to think it was important. John thought it was important; John believed Sherlock. John would always believe in Sherlock.
Even during the time in his life when John was most alone, Sherlock was there, stroking John’s hair at night as he muffled his sobs into his pillow. Sherlock was there the first time he killed a man, whispering in his ear, “It’s okay John; this was necessary. I still love you.” Sherlock was with John all throughout Afghanistan. Sherlock was what gave John the strength he needed to survive the war. Sherlock was what made him brave. The bravery of the soldier. Bravery is by far the kindest word for stupidity, don’t you think?
Sherlock was what pulled him out of the nothingness that was his previous life. He didn’t have to be his soldier-self when he was with Sherlock; he was instead a man with a past that no longer controlled his future. He could be open with Sherlock. Sherlock helped get rid of his limp. Sherlock made him feel needed, important. Sherlock was exciting. Sherlock was home. Sherlock was life. Now there was no life left in Sherlock or himself.
John shook his head and wiped the familiar tears from his cheeks. New ones replaced them, but he let them fall, knowing that they wouldn’t stop for quite some time. He wasn’t sure why he was crying, really. John was nowhere near as intelligent as Sherlock, but he’d had time to look at the facts surrounding the death and think. To observe and make connections.
He wasn’t sure how, but he knew, he deduced that Sherlock was not dead. It just didn’t fit with the things that he had seen. There were simply too many events that, when looked at together, didn’t fit with Sherlock being dead. John wasn’t sure how Sherlock had done it, but he survived that fall.
So when John went to Sherlock’s grave the next morning, it would be his first and last time. This was not a goodbye. John could grieve all he wanted for the absence of his friend, but he would never accept that Sherlock was dead. Because he wasn’t. So this wasn’t goodbye. John would never say goodbye.
Sherlock would be back someday, and John, a little bit broken, would be waiting for him. Waiting with a punch and an embrace.
Sherlock had always looked upon emotions with derision. All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock. He’d never felt much of anything as a child, and his parents’ busy lives kept them from doting on him and Mycroft. Not that he minded; it was much easier to slip past a nanny who had long given up on him that a mother who actually cared.
Sherlock had left uni with no friends, not that he wanted or expected any. He did, however, leave with a drug habit; he’d take anything that kept him from being bored – cigarettes, MDMA, Ritalin – but had a special fondness for cocaine. I need something stronger than tea; seven percent stronger. You could say that he did leave university with a friend: cocaine, Sherlock Holmes’ best and only friend.
Years went by, and no one, save Mycroft, knew about the small packages stashed about the apartment. Sherlock thought it was because he was so good at hiding them, but it was more likely because no one ever visited Sherlock’s home. I don’t have friends. His flat was not 221B Baker Street, but a smaller one with only one bedroom. He paid with it using his parents’ money, devoting his time not to a job, but to snorting cocaine and observing everything. He’d always had an impressive mental collection of observations, but it was equal to Mycroft’s. Sherlock needed to be better than his older brother. The years with cocaine as his only companion allowed him to build his set of observations to an unprecedented level.
And then his world fell to his feet. Sherlock had a suspicion that his brother was behind the arrest, and if he was, then Mycroft either covered his tracks exceptionally well or Sherlock was too high to be effectively observant. Whatever the case, Sherlock was arrested; it was the first and last time he rode in a police car.
His stay in jail was short, but not without incident. Detective Lestrade came to visit Sherlock just hours after he was taken from his flat. Sherlock expected the detective to shout abuse at him, that his wife was not cheating on him, but Lestrade was calm. “If you’re half as good as you seem to be, I could use your help.”
It had been nearly a day since Sherlock had last snorted or injected any cocaine; he had been arrested with an elastic band around his arm and a needle halfway to his bulging vein. He was tired, so tired, and couldn’t be bothered listening to Detective Lestrade blather on. “And why should I help you?”
“Because you could put a murderer behind bars.” Seeing Sherlock’s blank face, he continued with, “I could pull some strings and keep you out of jail as long as you stay clean.” Still no reaction. “It would keep you from being bored.”
Sherlock’s eyes widened; with a comment like that, Mycroft was certainly involved. His lip quirked with a not-quite smile. “If this is about the murder the men who arrested me were talking about, it wasn’t the man she was having an affair with. It was her son. I must warn you, Detective, I won’t take well to you lying to me. If I am not ensured the things you promised me, I will be very cross. After all, if I help you, you’ll be promoted to Detective Inspector within six months.”
“What—How did you…?”
“Well, it’s simple, really.” With those words, Sherlock Holmes became the world’s only consulting detective.
But it wasn’t for Lestrade that Sherlock was hiding in a cemetery. No, he did that for John, and John alone.
John was at the tombstone, a reflective black slab bearing the name “Sherlock Holmes”. Sherlock was too far from John to know what he was saying, but John was the person that he knew best in the world. He could tell by the shape of his shoulders that he was going to cry. He could tell by the look on his face that John did not believe that Sherlock was dead. He could tell by John’s fingers that he was not saying goodbye. These things were all easily observed if one knew where and how to look; Sherlock was not surprised by these revelations. He was, however, shocked by what came next.
John straightened up, looking just like he had when they first met. Afghanistan or Iraq? After a moment, John turned on his heel and marched away.
John was a soldier again. Sherlock liked to think he knew little about the workings of emotion, but when he saw that, he knew everything. John may not think he was dead, but he was still hurt. He was more upset at Sherlock’s “death” than anything he had seen in Afghanistan. He put on his brave face, the same one he’d worn when they’d met.
John was a soldier again, because, despite any personal hardships or doubts, a soldier does their job. They may not like the situation they are in, but they can see the necessity of it, and they do their jobs. They keep moving on.
John was a soldier again, and Sherlock hated himself. He was friends with John; he didn’t want to see him hurting. He didn’t want to see him like this, closed away and keeping himself locked up. Sherlock prized himself on being emotionless. I’m a high-functioning sociopath, do your research. But Sherlock did feel; he’d successfully blocked them for most of his life, true, but he felt things. Sherlock loved John, and John was in pain. Sherlock was in pain.
What might we deduce about his heart?
Sherlock had a job to do: make the world safe for his friends. Sherlock didn’t like leaving everyone behind, but he knew his job was necessary. He had to do this; he had to move on.
John had always been a soldier for Sherlock. You’re looking for a man, probably with a history of military service and nerves of steel…
Sherlock would be a soldier for John, and rid the world of evil so they could once again be reunited. Until then, he would fight.