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the sensation of falling as you just hit sleep

Chapter Text

1 : 16 June 2012-24 June 2012

♫ Picastro - I Can't Fall Asleep

 

As soon as they let him, John goes back to the flat. It's the middle of the afternoon. He takes off his shoes and turns on all the lights.

 

17:08 Missed call from Harry Watson

17:08 New voicemail

 

17:19 Missed call from Harry Watson

17:19 New voicemail

 

17:25 Missed call from Sarah Sawyer

17:26 New voicemail

 

17:27 Missed call from Mike Stamford

17:27 New voicemail

 

17:29 Missed call from Harry Watson

17:29 From: Harry Watson
Pick up your phone

 

17:31 Missed call from Greg Lestrade

17:32 New voicemail

 

17:37 From: Harry Watson
John? Are you okay?

 

17:40 Missed call from Harry Watson

17:41 Missed call from Harry Watson

17:43 Missed call from Harry Watson

17:43 From: Harry Watson
Pick up your phone you bastard

 

The next time John's phone rings, he turns it off.

 

"John."

John opens his eyes. He says, "You're—you're dripping on me."

"It's been raining for an hour and a half, you berk," Harry says, pushing a tangle of water-darkened hair away from her face. She says, "Thanks for dragging me all the way out here in this, by the way. It was just what my weekend was missing, watching the news and wondering if my brother's about to follow." Her eyes are kind.

John looks away.

"Christ," Harry sighs, then picks up his phone as she pushes back up to her feet. She turns it on again, then puts it down on the arm of his chair and walks away. She says, "Thanks, Mrs. Hudson." John hears the door close behind him. He closes his eyes again.

If he thinks about it hard enough, he can hear—sounds. Footsteps, mostly. If he waits long enough, he thinks, there'll be a crazed mutter or two—ah, right there, just on cue. He wonders how long it'll be before he hears the violin.

"All right," Harry says, and John half-jumps, head jerking up in surprise. She throws his duffle into his lap, then shifts his overnight bag around in her hand to get a better grip on the handle. She says, "Come on. We're done here."

 

John wakes up with an aching back, wondering what he's doing on Sarah's lilo. He always takes the sofa. Then he remembers that it's Sunday, and it's not Sarah's lilo at all. He closes his eyes again.

 

"So," Harry says.

John opens his eyes.

"I got a fun call," Harry says. She's got her arms crossed over her shirt, which today is a blue that Clara always tried to get him to wear, too (it brings out your eyes). "A Dr. Hooper. Said I was listed as your emergency contact, which I would have laid money wasn't true. Asked after you. Asked about your concussion."

"M'fine," John tells her. He closes his eyes again.

"Funny," Harry says. "I said, 'Really? He didn't tell me he had a concussion!'"

"I didn't tell you anything," John mumbles.

"Yeah," Harry says. "I remember. I found out about it on the news."

John rolls over to face the wall.

"Are you even allowed to be sleeping?" Harry demands. "I thought you weren't supposed to sleep if you had a concussion."

John sighs. "I'm fine," he tells her. "Really. I'm a doctor, remember?"

Harry punches him in the arm, hard. Then she says, "Thai all right? I haven't anything in."

John doesn't reply. When the food shows up, she gives him half a bowl of rice with green curry, so he eats it, without really thinking about much of anything. He can't even be bothered to chew with his mouth open, even though that's always driven her absolutely round the twist.

 

When he wakes up, he has four more messages (Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson, Molly, Bill), and too many texts, most of which he can't be bothered to read. It's half eleven on Monday morning. He thinks for a while about dying, but he can still hear Harry banging about in the kitchen, so it's probably not worth the effort.

 

"All right," Harry says, on Tuesday. "Up. C'mon." A towel hits him in the face.

"Aren't you supposed to be at work?" John mumbles.

"Yeah, I am, so, thanks, really," she says. "Shower. Shave. Now. You look like you're homeless and you're starting to stink up the place."

John can't really come up with a pithy reply, so he goes to shower. She's put his shampoo on the edge of her bath, neatly lined up along with his razor and Sherlock's bar of special extra-strength anthrax-killing antibacterial bath soap. John turns the light off and showers in the dark. Harry's prodigious collection of bath products are all fragranced with gardenias. He has to turn the light back on to shave, but it doesn't matter so much at that point; he can't smell anything but flowers, anyway.

When he opens the door, towel wrapped around his hips, Harry's standing there holding a clean pair of jeans, new shirt, fresh boxers. He bares his teeth at her, but takes the clothes and ducks back into the bathroom. He's doing up his flies when she calls through the door, "By the way, I made you an appointment with your therapist. Thursday at one."

John exhales through his nose, but he can't think of anything to say.

 

John's voicemail's filled up, so he's stopped getting new messages, which is a relief.  Mycroft finally gives up on calling and texts him the details late Tuesday night. John glances at it for maybe a tenth of a second before hitting delete.

 

On Wednesday, John keeps his eyes closed for most of the day, and tries not to listen to the clock.

 

In the end, Harry goes with him and waits in the lobby, because, as she puts it, "I've known you for four decades, you think I'd trust you alone?"

John suddenly remembers that he disliked her well before she started drinking.

"You didn't go to the funeral," Ella says, near the end of the session.

John looks out of the window.

"John?" she asks.

"Yeah, no," John says. "It. Mrs. Hudson texted me to say it was a media circus."

"But that's not why you didn't go," she persists.

"No," John says, and presses his hand over his mouth.

When the session ends nine minutes later, Ella's still quiet.

 

On Friday night, Harry makes him shower and shave again, then takes him down to her local. The barmaid, a pretty blonde in her late twenties with broad, lush hips and an elaborate tattoo framing the tops of her ample breasts, calls out, "Harry, love, it's been ages!" and pours out two shots of whiskey without asking. Harry settles John in a corner and then goes up for their drinks, coming back with the whiskey and something clear and fizzy, with a lime and a cherry and a slice of pineapple and a little umbrella. She gives John the whiskey.

John takes it and nods at her drink. "That's a bit," he says.

"Fruity?" she says, mouth quirking as she puts the pineapple on a cocktail napkin. "Meg's idea of a joke, I'm afraid. I told her I was off it, so she decided to liven up my mineral water."

"Christ," John mumbles.

"I know, right?" she says, but she does eat the cherry.

Halfway through his third whiskey, John's getting a little fixated on the tattoo. When the barmaid laughs, it moves like a wave. He asks, "Did you fuck her?"

"Who, Meg?" Harry asks, looking up from her growing tower of pineapple.

"Yeah," John says.

"Oh, well," Harry says. "You know."

"No," John says. "I—I do not know."

"Oh," Harry says. "Um. Well, we didn't date, or anything."

"I can't ever get girls who look like that to go to bed with me," John admits.

"But not for lack of trying," Harry says, mouth twisting up at the corners, and John says, "I will—I will drink to that," and raises his glass. Harry taps hers against it, and John asks, "Seriously, are you not going to eat your pineapple?"

She pushes it over to him.

"Another?" she asks, tapping at his glass as he starts on the last slice.

"Cheers," he says. His stomach feels warm. She gets up and carries their glasses up, and he finishes off the pineapple right as she sets a fresh whiskey down in front of him. She hands him the pineapple off her fresh drink without a word, but John's less hungry than he was, so he sets it down on the napkin.

"I didn't think this'd go like this," she tells him, halfway down.

"Mm," he agrees.

"I thought I'd get you drunk and then you'd cry into my hair," she adds.

He looks up at her face, at her kind eyes—Christ, that's annoying. He says, "I'm not actually fifteen anymore."

"You didn't go to the funeral," she tells him.

He turns his glass, left, right. He swallows and says, "There haven't been any reporters outside your flat."

She shifts. "No," she says.

John nods. "Were there at Baker Street, when you came for me?" he asks, and then takes another long drink.

She's quiet for a long moment. "No," she says, voice low.

"And this pub, this pub, here, which is almost empty, at half nine on a Friday," he says. "No one. Not. One. Person. Has so much as looked at me. Which, I mean. I'm not anybody important, of course, except the last possible source on the biggest scoop in London. Unless—I mean, it's been almost a week; you think they've already forgotten?"

Harry rubs at her mouth, twisted oddly to one side.

"Right," John says, and tosses back the last of the whiskey. "So. I'll—tomorrow, I'll—I'll go to a hotel."

"John," she sighs.

"He killed him," John says, in a tight, aching rush. "He—if I had, if that night, after uni, if we had—if Clara hadn't made it—"

"We're not talking about Clara," she says, tight.

"Well, we should be," John says. "Would you have—"

"Clara's fine, she's got a boyfriend," Harry spits, "and you two weren't even—"

"You never would've spoken to me again," John says. His voice doesn't even shake. "Never. Not after Dad, not after Afghanistan, you wouldn't have—he killed him, Harry. If he had stood behind him and pushed, I don't think he could be more responsible, and you. You just let him—"

"He wants to help you," she says, low, "and I don't know how."

"Right, no." John laughs. He grabs his coat. "Just—God save us all from the help of Mycroft Holmes."

He's not ten steps out when he hears her footsteps, jogging a little to catch up, her low heels tap-tapping behind him.

"You're coming back to my flat," she tells him, a minute after she's matched her pace to his.

"No," John says.

"I stole your wallet days ago, you know," she tells him.

John's hand comes up to his pocket before he can think to stop himself; it's empty. She smirks at him. John looks straight ahead and keeps walking.

It's raining by the time they get in. John strips off his jacket and then digs through the things Harry packed for him on Saturday: both of his suits, his least worn shirts, his stack of jumpers, his work trousers, the two pairs of jeans Sherlock had given him at Christmas and always made him wear when Sherlock wanted him to manipulate a witness. Socks, boxers, pajamas, dressing gown. Laptop. Phone charger. His mug, wrapped in newsprint and tucked into a corner. The two fat paperbacks from his bedside table, only one of which is actually his.

When Harry pads back out, toweling her hair, John's sitting on the edge of the sofa. He's still staring down at his lap. She pauses, watching him.

"The Pears was mine, actually," he says, shaky, "and I've never liked Russian novels."

Harry's still for a moment. Then she heads into the kitchen.

John presses his thumb and forefinger to his eyes and breathes. A few minutes later, she slides the book out of his lap, and when he looks up at her, she hands him a cup of tea.

John takes a sip.

Harry sits down next to him. After a minute, she tips her head over against his shoulder, and John exhales, slow.

 

John wakes up at two in the afternoon, with a splitting headache and a taste in his mouth that reminds him of that time that he and Sherlock spent the better part of a Monday in the sewers. The thought is sharp, hot, and John finds himself gasping, like something's pressing too hard against his chest. He swallows and swallows, blinking against the light, until the feeling dulls enough that he thinks he can stand.

He drinks a glass and a half of water and takes two paracetamol and eats a whole piece of toast, dry, because Harry only ever buys fucking apricot jam. The flat is quiet; Harry's left him a sticky note, Tesco's, text if you need anything, but he doesn't, so he heads to the bathroom and turns the shower up hot enough to make his skin flush lobster red. Sherlock's soap has vanished in the night, but John still knows where it was, right there on the edge of the bath, next to his shampoo and his razor. The thought twists something deep in his gut, so he fixes his eyes on the taps instead and breathes through his nose and washes his hair and doesn't, thank God, throw up. He stares at himself in the mirror while he brushes his teeth, then shaves carefully, making sure to get all the spots that he's been missing.

It takes him fifteen minutes to turn on his phone, and another ten to dial.

"Hullo," he says, when Mrs. Hudson answers.

"Oh, love." She sighs. "Are you all right?"

"No," he tells her, and swallows.

There's a long and aching silence.

"I was wondering," he says. "Since I didn't—I couldn't, for. On Wednesday. So. I was wondering if you could."

He swallows again, his throat suddenly impossibly dry. He rubs at his jaw which is smooth like his jaw and then at his throat which is sore unlike his throat and then at his knee which is covered by the jeans Sherlock made him wear when Sherlock wanted him to manipulate a witness. He's still out of words.

"Tomorrow," she says, after a minute. "Tea. And then we'll. Stop by."

John rubs at his face and nods, even though she can't see. He says, "Could you come by my sister's, though, for the tea?"

 

That night he and Harry stay in and eat take-away and watch four deeply forgettable films on DVD. She falls asleep halfway through the last one, but John stays up to finish it and then steals her cigarettes and goes out onto her balcony, because she's not got any booze in the flat, and he needs something to help him through the next bit.

It's half three before he's finished, and he's smoked half the pack and his throat burns and his stomach aches, but he's listened to and deleted all but four. Greg's is simple, and heartfelt, and mentions nothing but John, and John can't make up his mind yet whether or not to forgive him. Two are from Mycroft, and he can't—he just can't listen to them, not yet, not for anything. The last one must've been an old one, misdirected, somehow, somewhere far down in the system, to be delivered so late; John doesn't really ever understand how any of this stuff works. It's not really relevant anymore. He saves it anyway.

 

Mrs. Hudson brings flowers. Harry sticks the ends in her old margarita pitcher with water, to stay fresh while John makes the tea and digs out some biscuits. They're lilies; the smell makes John feel sick. Harry chats about nothing with Mrs. Hudson while they drink their tea, but she declines, very politely, any suggestion that she ought to come along. Very proper, John thinks; Sherlock never could stand her.

"I'm angry," he tells Mrs. Hudson, and he is, but not for any of the reasons she thinks. He's angry because Sherlock tricked him and shut him out and left him, and he's angry for Sherlock making him do this, for making him do any of it; for making him watch his coat flutter and his arms windmill and his blood spreading out through his ears and his hair, for making him touch him, his hand, his cold hand, his hand going cold in John's hand while the world tilted and spun and—God, John hates this, he hates all of it, he hates that he's standing here alone with cold stone (his cold hand) under his fingertips and saying, I was so alone and I owe you so much, like he's the one going into the ground and it's his last chance to say it, his last chance to thank him, his last chance, his last chance, when it isn't a chance at all. There isn't an inch on John's body that doesn't hurt, anymore.

In the end, John goes, because there's no point in any of it, because he said it and out loud it was foolish and hollow and it didn't hurt any less, because he can hear himself begging for an impossibility and it doesn't make a difference, none of it makes any kind of difference, because Sherlock is dead and still will be tomorrow, because John isn't, yet, and he still won't be for a while. John swallows and straightens and from there, his spine reminds him what he's supposed to do.

He doesn't go back to Harry's flat. Instead, he goes to her local, and sits down at the bar and watches the blonde barmaid with the tattoo laugh with two men, obviously regulars, down at the far end. When she comes over to him, smiling, to take his order, he suddenly remembers that Harry still has his wallet, which he'd already remembered once today (painfully, when Mrs. Hudson had had to pay for the cab), and then promptly forgotten.

"What'll it be, then?" the barmaid asks.

"Fuck," John says, and she grins and says, "You couldn't afford me, love," and John can feel his cheeks heat up as he says, "I—Christ, no, no, I don't have my wallet."

She looks at his face intently, for a moment, then says, "You're Harry's brother, aren't you?"

John swallows, then nods.

She reaches under the counter and pulls out a glass, reaches for the whiskey.

"On the house," she says.

"You don't have to," he starts, but she shakes her head.

"On the house," she repeats, and when she pushes it over to him, she touches the back of his hand, once, light.

John drinks his whiskey. The barmaid—Meg, John thinks—brings him another, so he drinks that one too. When she brings him a third, he mumbles, "You can't keep giving me free drinks," and she raises an eyebrow and says, "As a matter of fact, I can do anything I want to do," and John stares at her, and then swallows, and tells her, "I like your tattoo."

She studies him for a moment, then nods at his drink and says, "Finish that. I was supposed to be off ten minutes ago, and the other girl should be almost done with her dinner."

"You slept with my sister," John reminds her, and she puts her elbows up on the bar and leans over and touches her tongue to his ear. John's fingers tighten on his glass.

"All right?" she murmurs.

John knocks back the whiskey. "Yeah," he says. "All right."

 

When John unlocks the door to Harry's flat, it's past midnight, but Harry's still up, sitting on the sofa and chewing on her thumbnail. She doesn't move, just sits there while she watches him slide off his jacket.

"Listen," he says, hanging it up. "I need my wallet back."

"John," she says.

"No," John says. "I can't—you can't stay home from work for another week and I'm actually not planning to off myself, so you should give me my wallet back and let me go back to being an adult."

"John," she repeats, and then nods, and John notes it all, too late, too slow: two cups, and Harry's always taken hers like he does, milky; the other's black, and from the umbrella resting against the arm of the sofa, John would be willing to bet no sugar, too.

"Hullo, John," Mycroft says, stepping out from the hall, and John stares at him, because he can't believe that Mycroft Holmes is in his sister's flat drinking her tea, and it's actually genuinely unthinkable that he has just finished using her loo.

"I really don't want to talk to you," John tells him.

"I need you to," Mycroft says.

John smiles at him. "Oh, good, so, if you need me, we're fine, then."

"John," Harry says, shifting.

"No, really," John says, not looking at her. "I guess I'm just confused as to—do we have anything in common, now, Mr. Holmes? I'm just—I'm a little uncertain, why our paths should cross, since—"

"I have a job for you," Mycroft interrupts, and John flinches, because he's heard that before, he's heard that so many damn times, but it's the first time he's ever heard it directed at him.

"And what sort of job," he says, low, "could you possibly have for me to do?"

"Moriarty," Mycroft tells him, and John stills. Mycroft smiles, a little tight, and says, "I want him dead, don't you?"