John stares out the window in his therapist’s office, eyes distant and unseeing. The world outside is bright and warm, a truly lovely day in London, and John wishes that it weren’t.
It was a lovely day outside when Sherlock’s skull was crushed against the sidewalk.
John hates these kinds of days. He hates a fair amount of things, lately.
His eyes flicker twice, and in between he almost thinks that there is a silhouette amidst the trees, tall and imposing, but when his gaze steadies the figure is gone. His fingers push against his mouth and he shifts in his chair, the tears he’s been suppressing for months and months and months biting at his eyelids.
Ella says nothing; Ella just watches.
She observes, but all the wrong things. She believes that John is in the throes of grief, that John will work through this maelstrom of emotion, eventually. She gives him a prescription for strong sleeping pills to help him cope with the night terrors he has—visions that dance behind his eyelids of a black blur against a stark beige building.
She believes that Sherlock will fade into a fond, never-forgotten memory.
John hates her for it, too.
The desperation simmers at the edges of his mind, driving impulses up his every nerve and he swallows the manic giggles rising in his chest. The idea that he will ever numb this ache Sherlock has left behind is incomprehensible.
The flat remains as it ever was. Mrs. Hudson doesn’t dare move anything more, once she’s disposed of the body parts and donated a majority of Sherlock’s chemistry equipment to local schools. She tries to move the armchair Sherlock always occupied so that she can fit the Hoover beneath it, and John’s certain he scares her with the force of his objection.
He apologizes, later, for raising his voice at her. He will not apologize for attempting to sustain the belief that Sherlock’s coming home.
She wrings her hands and blinks at him, tears in her eyes and a weak smile pulling at her tired face, and offers to make him tea as he sinks back into his seat with his head in his hands.
His shoulders shake with the force of his sobs, but his eyes stay dry. He clings to Mrs. Hudson when she rushes over and pulls him into her arms. “Why did he have to be so stupid,” he gasps, pulling at the hem of her jumper when he pushes his forehead further into her side. “Didn’t he know that I…that I-”
Mrs. Hudson doesn’t answer. She runs a hand over the top of his head and hugs him only as a mother would, but she lets the silence dominate and he has never appreciated this gentle woman more than he does when she just lets him grieve.
Every second that ticks by is a reminder of the deafening quiet Sherlock has left behind. John feels his soul slip out of his fingertips, inch by inch, with every passing day.
At some point, he stops trying to hold on.
In the first few weeks following Sherlock’s death, Mycroft tries to contact John no less than three times a day. The texts come like clockwork, every eight hours. He has no desire to speak with the man who sent his own brother to his death. He has no wish to interact with a Holmes without wildly curling hair and painfully light eyes.
John doesn’t want anything. Not anymore. You have to be able to feel in order to want, he thinks, and John Watson’s heart bled and seeped into the concrete outside St. Bart’s a few short weeks ago.
He deletes the text messages from Mycroft; he resolutely ignores every darkened car that follows him. He systematically goes through the flat one day and, without misplacing too many of Sherlock’s things, finds and destroys the cameras Mycroft planted in the flat when Sherlock first moved in.
He leaves one, just above the front door, but not before standing at the bottom of the stairs and staring at the nearly invisible camera, a dark promise in his eyes. Interfere again, they say, and I will not hesitate to kill you.
He checks the flat every once in a while for any new cameras, but finds none. The text messages slowly filter off to once every few days, to three times a week, and then finally his phone remains blessedly silent every day except for Sunday.
John accidentally opens a message one day and reads it before he can help himself, and a brief spark of anger strikes in his chest before numbness dampens everything once more.
He would not want you to be this way.
His fingers fly over the keys before he can help himself.
The response is almost immediate.
Neither of us are fools, John. We both know you
are destroying yourself.
John doesn’t answer for seven hours, and when he finally does—
does it matter
He waits. Then:
It would to Sherlock.
The noise his phone makes as he hurls it against the wall brings him no sense of satisfaction. There is only John Watson, whose sanity is starting to chip away, scattering among the broken pieces on the floor.
Mycroft sends him a new phone every week. John eventually stops making the effort of throwing them against the wall, or smashing them with a hammer, and instead just throws them in the bin.
Nothing Mycroft Holmes can give him, short of bringing back the dead, will make anything better.
John buys himself a new phone, eventually. It’s very basic and intended only for calls, and he doesn’t mind because the only person to ever text him is gone, gone, dead and buried. The mobile remains silent most days, occasionally startling him out of the quiet with a jarring ring as Lestrade, Mike Stamford, and occasionally (rarely) Harry calls him.
He sits in his armchair and stares at the empty seat across from him, feeling his phone buzz against his elbow until it slips from the small table and falls onto the floor. His eyes shine with tears he never cries, and his leg and mind ache for someone who will never be there again.
He’s always known that Sherlock Holmes could overwhelm a room once he had swept in. Sitting in a room once filled to the brim with SherlockSherlockSherlock and every trace of the man slowly fading, John feels smaller than ever.
He sits in the dark, streetlamps flickering through the windows, and digs his fingernails into his palm so hard it bleeds.
John stumbles to bed, bloody hand pressed against the wall and leaving smudges, and does his best to ignore that with every step he takes, that with every thumping heart beat, his soul slips further out of grasp.
You may think you’re being noble, but it would
be in your best interest to finish this mission
of yours as soon as possible.
The man is distraught.
I will return when Moriarty’s web has been
We may not have that long.
He will be fine.
Are you so sure?
Mrs. Hudson calls Lestrade two weeks after Sherlock’s death and he comes barging into the flat the same way he used to when he had a case. John is sitting on the couch, freshly showered and wearing the same jumper and denim jeans as the first day Sherlock and he met, and he holds a lukewarm cup of tea in his palms.
John hears the heavy footsteps on the stairs, sees the shadow fall across the floor, and squeezes his eyes tightly shut as he hopes, irrationally, to open them and see Sherlock once more.
Lestrade’s voice permeates the air. John’s eyes blink open and he turns his head just so, allowing the DI’s figure to enter his peripheral vision. His hands tense around the mug, but he gives no other acknowledgement of Lestrade’s presence.
“John, you need to leave the flat.” Lestrade’s voice is quiet, cracking from pressure at the edges. John wonders if Sherlock’s death has meant anything to him, if it has ruined his world the way it’s ruined John’s.
Mrs. Hudson comes to stand in the doorway. John turns his face away from the both of them.
“I have left the flat,” he says into his mug, voice steady and soft. He has—it’s not a lie, he’s left the flat, he just doesn’t do so often.
“Recently?” Lestrade asks.
“Monday. Went to Tesco.”
There is a pause, and John assumes that Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade are sharing a look. “It’s Sunday, Detective Inspector,” she whispers, and she sounds unsteady and on the verge of tears. Sunday, John thinks with disinterest, and takes a sip of nearly cold tea. He hadn’t noticed the week going by.
And that, he supposes, is the fault that they have found with him.
“John, mate,” Lestrade begins, and John’s shoulders tense almost immediately. “It’s been two months. I know…I know you miss him. I miss hi-”
John stands abruptly, and sends his mug soaring across the room to slam into the mirror above the fireplace. The ceramic shatters and tea sprays across the wall, over the bookshelves, and drips onto the carpet. John, shaking with something he vaguely remembers calling ‘anger,’ turns to face the pair of them.
Mrs. Hudson is crying, hand pressed against her mouth and tears rolling down her cheeks. Lestrade looks thin and pale, dark circles beneath his eyes and a mottled red spoiling his complexion. They are the very picture of two grieving friends.
They know nothing of mourning Sherlock Holmes.
“Don’t,” John says, pointing a trembling finger at Lestrade. “I swear to…If you had just put your foot down, if you hadn’t listened to those spiteful idiots and just believed in him, the way I did, the way I always had, then maybe he would still be alive!” He’s shouting now, at the top of his lungs and he can feel the blood rushing to his neck and cheeks as he does so. “If you had just…if you hadn’t…” He cuts himself off, pushing his lips firmly together as he breathes heavily through his nose.
Lestrade lifts his chin and forces himself to meet John’s gaze. He is enduring this abuse because he needs it, John realizes. Lestrade feels guilty, as well he should, and John suddenly can’t bring himself to give him the satisfaction of any sort of emotional release.
He laughs, a short manic burst of noise, before he lifts his hand to his mouth and squeezes his nose between his thumb and index finger and tries to contain the hysteria writhing around inside the hollow of his chest. Lestrade’s face is pinched and ashen, and misery has created lines that break the smooth expanse of his face. Mrs. Hudson’s makeup is smearing down her cheeks and she looks frail and tired and heartbroken at being forced to watch the downfall of Sherlock’s only friend.
“Get out,” John says, the smile on his face unnatural and unwanted. He can’t control the pull of muscles in his cheeks any more than he could control anything in his life. Thankfully, the fairly grotesque approximation of a grin leaves him quickly, and he’s staring at the DI with barely concealed grief and contempt. Lestrade makes no attempts to move. John picks up a stray book and throws it into the kitchen, where it collides with the refrigerator and slaps against the floor, open. “Do you have any bloody idea how it feels…get out. I can’t even look—get out, just go!”
Neither of them move.
Mrs. Hudson turns away with a sob and hurries down the stairs as best she can, leaving John to stand in the middle of the living room, empty chest heaving with breaths that he doesn’t know why he bothers to take any more. Lestrade looks at him with glittering brown eyes and a somber expression.
“He was my friend, too,” he says, eventually, gritty and low. “You may have brought him roaring back to life, made him human, but I saved him first, you know. Where were you, when he OD’d to make the boredom disappear?”
“I was in Afghanistan,” John shoots back, shoulders drawing tight and chin lifting like the soldier he will always be. “Bleeding to death. You know that. Where were you when a good man’s name was dragged through mud? When my best fucking friend jumped off of goddamn building and-” His throat closes.
The wilt of Lestrade’s posture betrays his defeat. A sob shakes his shoulders and he pulls his fingers down on either side of his mouth and bows his head. Tears fall into the folds of his coat, soaking in and darkening the fabric. John watches, still breathing heavily, and feels nothing other than the desperation to have Sherlock in this room with him instead.
“I’m sorry,” Lestrade chokes out, and when he looks up at John he is wrecked. “God, John, you have to believe me. If I had known what he would do, I would have never listened to Donovan and Anderson. I’m so sorry.”
Lestrade looks so desperate, and memories flit into John’s brain: late nights at the pub, sharing jokes about Sherlock, text alerts about Danger Nights, offering support when his wife left him for good and John was there to buy him a pint. There are no emotions connected to these memories—they are merely pictures of thoughts inside his head, something he knows should hold some sort of sentimental value, but everything has grown so much colder without Sherlock there to brighten the very world around him.
John turns his face away and feels the fight leave his body. “Please, go,” he demands softly, rubbing at his eyelids. “Lestrade. Greg. Just…go.” He offers a sickly approximation of a smile. “I’ll…I’ll call you Tuesday, yeah?”
It’s as much of an olive branch as he is willing and able to extend, and Lestrade grasps onto it greedily, nodding his agreement and opening his mouth as if to speak once more, before turning on his heel and leaving 221B Baker Street.
John sets about cleaning the shards of broken mug up from the floor, and cuts his hands on sharp edges more than once. The blood wells and flows, escaping him steadily and staining the floor, but he makes no effort to truly stop it. He stands at the sink and sticks his hand beneath warm water, watching with a tilted disinterest as pink swirls down the drain. He stays there until Mrs. Hudson, timid and small, comes back into the kitchen and sees the red stains on the back of John’s head from where he’d gripped his hair.
She ushers him away from the sink and shuts off the water, and coaxes him into a chair. He sits there, watching the diluted trickle of blood, and can’t tear his eyes away from the cuts that run deep through into his skin. Mrs. Hudson daubs antiseptic on the wounds and wraps them delicately, and sends him to bed with some paracetamol, which he doesn’t take.
It’s strange, he thinks to himself as he lies in bed, flexing his hands above him, how he doesn’t feel the sting and pull of freshly split flesh.
He doesn’t feel a single thing.
John doesn’t get drunk very often, not since it became apparent that Harry had a serious problem. He sees men and women who have no problem polishing off a bottle of wine on their own and the thought makes his stomach roil.
That being said, he’s not in the mood for human interaction, so he pulls the bottle of whisky Mycroft had once given Sherlock for Christmas out of the cabinet and pours himself three fingers worth. The first glass is slow to drink, burning its way down his throat and making him choke on the taste. The second glass, he finds, is easier to stomach, as is the third and fourth and fifth.
Head spinning, he can almost feel his long-forgotten heart lurching in his chest, so he grabs his keys off the counter and sloppily pulls on his coat, uncaring of the fact that half of the collar is turned under, and walks out of the living room. He makes it down the first half of the stairs without a problem, but on the last three steps his foot turns beneath him and he struggles for balance.
He stumbles into the wall, leaning his shoulder against the solid structure, and only just feels the twinge of his ankle as he puts his weight upon it.
For the first time in almost two years, John Watson limps out onto the street. He misses Sherlock so horribly in that moment, that even though he left the flat with no idea in mind as to where he was going, he hails down a cab and slurs out directions to the cemetery where his friend is buried.
He pays the cabbie after they arrive, probably too much, and falls to the ground once he opens up the door.
“Alright, mate?” the cabbie asks, voice gruff.
“Fine,” John says shortly, and staggers to his feet. “Just fine."
He disappears into the darkness of the graveyard, using his cheap little phone as a makeshift torch that he doesn’t really need because he’s memorized this pathway by now. He stands before the sleek, shining black of Sherlock’s headstone and purses his lips, inhaling sharp and deep.
John’s face crumples in on itself and the hurt that’s been rattling around between his bones suddenly erupts into a painful bloom, and he falls. Sherlock Holmes, even in death, remains the only man capable of bringing John to his knees.
He digs his fingers into dirt and grass and he sobs, tears eluding him still even as he desperately wants nothing more than to cry; to experience some kind of feeling other than this constant ache that Sherlock has left behind. He used to believe that a piece of his heart has gone missing, but now, as he presses his cheek to the cold etching of Sherlock’s name, he knows that’s not the case.
Sherlock didn’t just take a piece of his heart that day. He tore away the whole damn thing. It lies with him, pumping weakly and slowly losing blood in the ground below.
John falls asleep this way, with his arms wrapped around a polished rock and his soul still leaving him ever so steadily. He lays there, in the cold and dark, shuts his eyes and thinks of what could have been.
The air swirls around him, cold and biting, and the left side of his face is cold from where it has been exposed to the strangely chilling wind. He is curled into a feeble ball at the base of Sherlock’s grave marker, jacket tucked as firmly around his body as he can manage in an effort to preserve some body heat.
He shivers so hard his ribs ache.
He is in danger of being killed by a wayward thief. He is in danger of catching his death of cold.
He is in danger of not particularly caring what happens to himself anymore.
John shuts his eyes, pushes his nose into the crook of his elbow, and digs his fingers further into dirt. Maybe, just maybe, if he pushes into earth far enough, he can reach Sherlock again.
He convulses and his throat tightens from the pain of it. His head aches and throbs from the sorrow mounting inside of him, and he opens his eyes gently, and stares into the darkness.
“Sherlock,” he whispers, nuzzling into dirt and grass. He envisions that he fabric covering his own elbow is the heavy cloth of Sherlock’s coat. “I miss you.”
The wind whispers through the trees, between gravestones, and it nearly sounds like his name.
“Why did you have to die?” he moans in response. His shoulders jolt once, twice, hard. “I can’t…I can’t do this without you.”
“Do what?” the wind wants to know, curling the question into his ear.
John’s breathing goes ragged and he chokes on spit and his desperate inhalations. “Everything.”
The air grows warm, suddenly, and there is a pressure on his neck that he can almost imagine is a hand. A small but heavy breeze sweeps over the line of his jaw, almost like a finger caressing the bone. When the wind whispers to him again, its voice is lower than before and he could almost swear it sounds like—
“It will be fine,” it says. “It’s all fine.”
The pressure, warmth, and voice all remain as blackness seeps into the edges of John’s vision and suddenly there is nothing but the feeling of being carried in the wind.
John wakes up in his bed the next morning, dirt in his hair and an ache in his shoulder. Something deep within his chest feels more vacant, as though its tenant had come back for a brief time but left him yet again. He skims his fingers across the edge of his jaw.
The last vestiges of happiness that he can remember clinging onto are fraying at the seams, threatening to split apart entirely.
He doesn’t quite know what will become of him when those few threads are broken.
Nothing, he suspects.
Do you believe me now?
He will be fine.
He has slept at your grave eleven times this month.
John will survive.
Such confidence. But the question, little
brother, is for how long?
He will not wait forever.
Even now, his sanity is wearing thin. It has
been four and a half months, Sherlock. How
much longer do you think his ordinary mind
will be able to endure your lie?
Do not ever refer to John as ‘ordinary’
Do not contact me anymore.
I would heed your request if I believed
you truly meant it. Yet, how else would
you know what your doctor is up to?
Honestly, brother, it’s enough to make
one wonder if you ever cared for him
Sorrow settles into John’s bones like that’s where it’s meant to reside, and he feels nothing. He’s been a doctor long enough, been in therapy long enough, to know that society expects him to be living an approximation of the life he had before Sherlock died, so he pretends for a while. He doesn’t talk often, but when he does he forces himself to smile around the words.
He thinks of Sherlock crying at a crime scene to fool a scheming wife, thinks of Sherlock buzzing up to a stranger’s flat and asking to be let in, and John thinks of Sherlock asking to be punched in the face so that he could try and pull one over on Irene Adler. So, John pulls back his shoulders a small amount and makes believe that he is happy, even though a while has passed since he could last remember what happiness felt like. Sherlock would be proud; he must be doing a good job, because the pitying looks and unsubtle monitoring of his behavior slowly die away.
He’s still a faded, jagged version of the man he was when Sherlock kept him awake to all hours of the night playing the violin, but there’s enough of a difference in his persona to fool those who are important.
He updates his blog, occasionally, with menial and unimportant facts about his day. Just so those who still read it will know he is alive.
He tells himself that for now, it is enough, and he doesn’t dwell too much on the fact that soon, it won’t be.
John isn’t sure he cares at all.
He thinks about moving out of Baker Street, just once, and quickly finds that once is all he needs for the idea to white the edges of his vision and choke his own throat shut. He cannot fathom losing more of Sherlock than he has already, cannot bear to think of erasing what remains of his incredible consulting detective from the world. The whole of London still hums with the perceived betrayal of their hero, though Moriarty’s carefully constructed alias begins to crack at the edges.
John wonders if the madman had planned it that way—if Moriarty was waiting for Sherlock to die, for Sherlock to be shamed and blackmailed into suicide, and for the city he lived for to turn against him, and for it only to be after his death that the truth was revealed and those who had revolted were left to think on how they defamed an innocent man.
What sweeter game could be played than to engage mental warfare on the whole of London?
John vomits in kitchen sink and then sinks to his knees on the cold tile. The world fades away.
It doesn’t matter. Everything else is transport.
The days pass in a blur of blessed nothingness, and John wakes up one morning to realize he hasn’t been to the surgery in nearly a month and a half. He doesn’t call Sarah to see whether or not he still has a job. He truly doesn’t see the point. His bank account has stayed at a constant number ever since the funeral. John suspects that it’s Mycroft’s doing.
He doesn’t object or make accusations about Mycroft considering him something to be charitable towards. Once upon a time, maybe he would have, but that was before the bastard bargained his way into Sherlock’s death. All that matters is that John has enough to stock up his meager supply of groceries every once in a while and he can pay Mrs. Hudson the full rent, even though she has tried on multiple occasions to refuse him.
Mycroft also takes it upon himself to alter John’s phone plan to include unlimited texts, and even though John has vehemently demanded that they remove the feature, all he receives in return are reassurances that it is all taken care of and he will continue to be charged only for his phone calls.
He spends an hour arguing with a representative over the phone, and eventually hangs up out of sheer frustration.
The first thing he does is send a text to Mycroft.
Kindly fuck off.
You will thank me one day.
I can almost guarantee you that
I will not.
He places the phone, screen down, on his lap and winds his fingers through his closely shorn hair. He takes three deep breaths, and picks his phone up once more, finds a number long since out of use.
I can’t stand the world without
you in it. If there was ever a thing
you could do for me, Sherlock…
He dreams, but never feels the warm touch upon his skin in quite the same way he had that night in the graveyard.
He wakes with desperate cries caught between his lips and a burning ache between his ribs. He goes to see Ella once a week, and at the end of every month she gives him a new prescription for a sleeping pill.
The bottles remain full and he tucks them neatly into the drawer of his bedside table, winding the bottles around his Browning.
He’s always been a man to appreciate his options.
Occasionally, John sees the silhouette of a tall, lean man and allows himself a brief moment of delirium where he believes that Sherlock has returned. But then he blinks, and they are gone.
A tight and tired smile begins to pull at his lips whenever this occurs. These sightings were far and few between at first, but now they are becoming more frequent.
He fiddles with the chip and pin machine at Primark, where he’s gone to buy Harry a scarf for Christmas, and steadfastly ignores the dark figure standing outside the shop. Its presence is fleeting and only visible in the corner of his eye, but it is enough.
John purses his lips and tries not to think of how unbearably kind madness has been in its descent upon him.
On December 20th of that year, he sits in his chair and watches a report on the telly concerning the supposed apocalypse that’s coming the next day. John thinks about how Sherlock probably would have been able to predict, down to the second, the events that would occur should the world implode upon itself.
Mike had invited him out for an ‘End Of The World’ pub-crawl, but John had waved him off and said, “Maybe another time.”
So, he sits in the flat and watches news reports about riots in the streets, publically drunken idiots who seem intent on burning the earth down before the apocalypse can have a chance. Mrs. Hudson perches on the arm of his chair with a small glass of brandy in her hand and she nudges his shoulder.
“Oh, I hardly know what to make of all this nonsense. Surely they can’t really believe the world is going to end?”
John stares down at his beer bottle, rubs his thumb over the label. “What if it did?” he asks, voice pitched low and wavering.
“If the world ends tomorrow,” John says, and looks very intently at his hands. “Would it be the worst thing?” A weak grimace pulls at his lips. He thinks it’s meant to be a smile. “I don’t really think I’d be too bothered.”
Mrs. Hudson gets the same look on her face that she used to whenever Sherlock would say something terribly offensive or disgusting but she didn’t have the heart to chastise him.
“D’you think if it did, that I’d get to see him again?” he whispers. “It wouldn’t be so bad, the end of everything, if it meant I could see him again.”
Mrs. Hudson hugs him firmly to her, and doesn’t let go for a good long time.
Harry shows up to the flat on the morning before Christmas Day, looking tired and just this side of haggard, but it isn’t from being drunk. Rather, she tells him she hasn’t had anything to drink for two months now. John knows that the damage done to the human physique by alcohol is long lasting, that the vaguely sickly hue to her skin will never fully fade, but she does look happier and more lucid than he has seen her in a long, long time.
She carries a box into the living room, and when John raises an eyebrow at it she sets it down with a smile and they watch as it begins to shake all on its own. The lid lifts, and a small, wet nose emerges briefly with a snuffle. The box continues to rock from side to side until it tips, and a small, wrinkled body spills onto the living room floor.
The English Bulldog puppy wriggles up onto its feet and waddles towards them, snorting at their shoes with curiosity. Harry’s watching John with something like nervous anticipation, so he pulls his lips into a smile and crouches down to run his hand down the small animal’s back. It nuzzles its face into his touch, tongue slithering between his fingers, and the smile on his face becomes a bit more genuine.
“He’s yours, if you want him,” Harry says, and he can’t quite bring himself to say no when the tiny beast is looking up at him with large, imploring eyes. John just nods and curls his fingers into the extra folds of skin, hefting the puppy into his arms.
He gets Harry a glass of lemonade and listens to her chatter mindlessly, talking about her new job and Clara and being off the bottle, and he speaks rarely and makes non-committal noises and wishes to be left alone.
Mrs. Hudson joins them after she returns from Mrs. Turner’s, and falls in love with the pup almost immediately. She and Harry discuss possible names for the tiny, snoring creature that sprawls over John’s lap and John simply runs his fingers over the short fur and thinks of what Sherlock would say if he saw the animal.
“Gladstone,” John interrupts, voice soft and cracked with disuse.
Mrs. Hudson and Harry stop speaking immediately at the sound of his words, and Harry’s brows furrow.
“Sorry, dear,” Mrs. Hudson says, full of her unwavering patience.
“Gladstone. As a name. He was, um.” John swallows and rubs the silk of the puppy’s ear between his fingers. “A chemist in the nineteenth century.”
Harry looks confused and opens her mouth, probably to berate his reasoning, but Mrs. Hudson just gives a slow, sad smile and says, tears in her eyes, “Well, that’s just lovely. Sherlock would have loved that.”
Harry’s mouth snaps shut with understanding.
John nods once and turns all of his concentration on the living, breathing thing cradled in his lap. Mrs. Hudson sees Harry out at some point, but he couldn’t possibly tell you what time.
When it is well past midnight and nothing in the world remains except the whirr of London after dark, John slowly lies down on the sofa and settles Gladstone on his chest. The little dog licks its lips with a messy sounding smack and roves its eyes across John’s face.
“Sherlock wouldn’t have loved you,” John whispers. He trails fingers down the little beast’s belly. “He wouldn’t have understood the sentiment of keeping a pet. He probably would have resented you for taking up any of my attention. He was like that, you know.” He bites at the inside of his cheek and tightens his lips. “But he wouldn’t have made me get rid of you. You probably would have barked circles around him and demanded his attention, and he wouldn’t ever give it to you when I was looking. He probably would have waited until it was just the two of you before he showed you any sort of affection.”
The smile he gives the dog is watery.
“He was so mad,” John whispers, and tilts his head against the arm of the sofa. “So brilliant and wonderful, and I…”
Gladstone’s eyebrows twitch at the catch in John’s voice.
His next words disappear into the dark of 221B Baker Street like a prayer told in secrecy.
“And he was…he is loved.”
The dog says nothing in response, merely drifts into a slumber against the empty thrum inside John’s chest. There is no judgment in Gladstone’s eyes, and John feels somehow compelled to make a confession into the stale air around them.
“I love him.”
Lestrade comes by to see him one evening and invites him to a New Year’s get together at Scotland Yard. John thinks about turning him down, but there’s still a haunted edge to the DI’s eyes and while John knows it’s too late to help himself, he can keep others from slipping as well. So he agrees, and gives a very small, genuine smile when the other man’s face nearly cracks with relief. Lestrade claps him on the shoulder (his bad one, why can no one ever remember that he’d been fucking shot once) and promises to call and give him details.
Gladstone stumbles around on the floor and paws at the hem of Lestrade’s trousers and the DI laughs and smiles and scoops the pup into his arms. Gladstone wriggles desperately in the same manner he uses whenever anyone but John is holding onto him. Lestrade’s fingers find the spot between Gladstone’s ears and the little dog relaxes so quickly it’s actually quite humorous.
John doesn’t so much as smile.
Greg sticks around for a little while and makes small talk, but eventually gets a call through on his mobile. He puts Gladstone on John’s chair and speaks in low, hushed tones, and it doesn’t take John long to figure out just who it is that’s on the other line.
“Donovan?” he asks as Greg hangs up. The silver-haired man looks vaguely guilty as he nods.
John’s lips tighten and his shoulders draw back. He will never forgive Donovan and Anderson. “I assume she’ll be at the New Years do.”
“Yeah, well, slightly unavoidable at a work party,” Lestrade says, and brushes his hands down his trousers to rid them of some of the hair Gladstone left behind. “I’ll do my best to keep the two of them away from you, mate.”
John tilts his chin down towards his chest and his eyes darken. “See that you do.”
Lestrade leaves with a promise to call and a goodbye to Mrs. Hudson, whose smile follows the DI but John can feel her worried eyes tracing along his profile. She shuts the door after Lestrade walks through and approaches John with caution, laying a fragile hand on his tense shoulder.
“Are you alright, dear?” she asks him, eyes wet and anxious. He deflates a little at the tone of her voice and lays his own hand atop hers. “I know how hard the holidays can be, the first year after you lose a loved one.” She attempts a smile. “Even if Sherlock did make Christmas somewhat miserable.”
John squeezes her hand and tries desperately not to think about how the sounds of Sherlock playing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ won’t echo through the flat this year.
Of all the people to be unable to fool, John certainly hasn’t expected Molly Hooper to see through his façade. She watches him all night at Scotland Yard (Greg invited her, too) and her eyes are wide and worried, blinking rapidly every time he comes to stand near her. He tilts his head at her reaction each time, which only sends her, flushed and stammering, in the other direction.
He knows that he hasn’t been the easiest person to be around since Sherlock died, but Molly had always been the type to approach him when she thought he was looking downtrodden. Ever since she’d stepped out of the morgue, looking small and weak and pale, and lifted trembling eyes to John’s face and pronounced Sherlock dead with a choked whisper…well, he supposes he knows why she’s acting strange, after all.
Donovan and Anderson clear a wide berth from John, as well they should, so his night is utterly lacking in drama or unwanted conversation. No one at the Yard, save for Greg, knows quite how to act around him anymore. He can’t blame them—more than half of the people present rallied around those two idiots in their attempt to damn Sherlock’s good name. John has no interest in conversing with any of them.
The only reason he’s even at this party is because, quite frankly, he thinks that if he were to stay in the flat and away from society for a few days more, Mrs. Hudson was going to have him committed. She had taken one look at his unshaven face and the wreck Gladstone had made of one of his old medical textbooks (shredded into pieces all across the front room and kitchen floor) earlier that morning, and her face had grown pinched and worried.
John had thought about how Sherlock was willing to kill for Mrs. Hudson, thought about the increasing upset he was causing her, and cleaned himself up just to see her brighten up a touch.
He suspects Sherlock would have done the same, just to see her smile. The stupid bastard may have claimed not to understand sentiment, but he certainly had acted upon it enough in the last few months of his life.
John pretends it was his influence.
He heaves a sigh and stands, making his way towards the table full of alcohol with his head ducked down. As he reaches for a bottle of beer, he knocks his elbow against someone’s back. “Sorry,” he mutters, lifting his eyes up briefly.
He hears a sharp intake of breath. And then, “Hi, John.”
His hand tenses around the brown bottle in his palm. “Molly.” He meets her eyes and gives a short nod. “Hello.”
Her eyes dart back and forth across his face and her lips stretch into an uncomfortable looking smile. He steps back and takes a look at her, noting that she still looks beautiful, as ever, but there isn’t the concentrated effort in her look as there had been the year prior. Then again, there’s no mad genius to try and impress.
They stand there in a stunted silence, John pursing his lips and staring at the table, and Molly alternating her gaze between the bottles of liquor set out in front of them and the gaunt, hallowed edges of John’s face. She seems to steel herself to say something, the way he’s seen her do when she’s about to do something she’s turned around in her head over and over.
“John,” she begins, and when he looks at her he can see that her eyelashes are wet with tears. He frowns at the sight of them. “I just…I…you haven’t been around to the morgue lately, and—not that that’s a bad thing! Not at all, it’s probably for the best, all things considering, but I just wanted to let you know how,” she takes a deep, shuddering breath, but never breaks eye contact. “I just wanted to let you know that I am so, incredibly sorry for…for everything.” Her chest hitches.
John feels nothing.
“I need to apologize,” she says, flushing and upset. “John, you have to know how sorry I am, for what I’ve done.”
He assumes she means proclaiming Sherlock dead, assumes she means walking out into the bleak hall and looking up at John with large, haunted eyes as she tells him Sherlock is gone, gonegonegone and never coming home—
“Molly,” he interrupts, mostly because he can’t stand here and listen to her struggle through her emotions while he can barely even feel hunger or the ache of being tired. “How would you like to get fantastically bloody drunk tonight?”
She looks startled at the proposition, and then a fair bit sad, but her shoulders lose some of the tension they’ve been carrying for some time now. She nods her head.
John swipes a bottle of whisky that sits, tucked away on the table in an effort to preserve the liquor, and pours them each a plastic cup full. She sips at it delicately, wincing at the burn in her throat and worried eyes tracing the bob of John’s throat as he swallows down mouthful after mouthful.
That’s the last thing he remembers fully and clearly from that evening.
These are the things that he will never know, but that burn a pathway into Molly’s mind:
She has dreaded being alone with John Watson, or rather, the shell of a man that Sherlock Holmes has left behind, ever since she pulled a sheet over Sherlock’s watering eyes and heaving chest and proclaimed him dead. She has been too frightened of the possible destruction that the detective left in his wake to try and ask John if he was all right.
Molly sees the tremors in his hands, sees the way John sometimes stumbles because his limp rises to the surface on particularly bad days, and she notices the bruising circles and red rim of his eyes when he’s gone a few nights without sleep.
Molly watches, she worries, and she sends Sherlock updates once a month (and always, always, always lies and says John is slowly getting better when really he is quickly getting worse), and she prays that these two idiots get their acts together, and soon.
Sherlock is running across Europe, never in the same place for more than a week at a time, and is slowly ripping apart Jim’s…Moriarty’s underground kingdom of crime. He has entrusted her and Mycroft to assuage John’s mental health and physical safety and to act how they deem necessary. He has placed his world on their shoulders, and while his brother may be better suited for such tasks, Molly is struggling not to crumble beneath the knowledge that should anything happen to the increasingly intoxicated man before her, Sherlock will set the world on fire.
It has been apparent to her for some time now, ever since she washed the blood from Sherlock’s hair and said nothing as he shed silent tears from too-bright eyes, that Sherlock Holmes would kill men and tear apart his own life just to keep John Watson safe. She knows that most days, the knowledge of John’s maintained well-being is the only thing spurring him forward in his mission.
She watches from a distance whenever John manages to leave the flat long enough to come to St. Bart’s, bearing witness to the increasing hollow in the doctor’s cheeks as he loses two stones, and the return of his uneven gait. Bile rises in her throat one day when she looks at John, really looks at him, and realizes she’s seeing a man waiting on death.
It’s not that she thinks he’s suicidal (because quite frankly she can’t bear the thought, can’t bear to think of what it would do to Sherlock) but rather that he’s tired of living in a world where his mad love doesn’t.
The two best men she’s ever known, dying without each other.
It hurts to watch.
She skirts around him at the party Greg was kind enough to invite her to (and who is she to say ‘no’ to such a warm-hearted, handsome man? Detectives are apparently her weak spot), and watches as those few who are willing to approach John try to coax him into eating something. Anything. Most of the time, wide blank eyes stare back until he’s left alone, but sometimes he makes the effort to simply wave a hand away. Greg seems to be the only one he truly interacts with, which is why it’s a downright shock when he speaks to her at the drinks table.
Molly watches him, guilt and sadness and fear clenching at her heart and refusing to let go as he swallows drop after drop of alcohol. The cup he’s poured for her goes mostly untouched and eventually warms between her palms, and when it becomes apparent that he needs to be taken to a quieter area, she gently shepherds him towards the door.
They make their way down the halls of Scotland Yard, slowed by alcohol and John’s increasingly horrible sense of balance. She does her best to support his weight, but he shoves away from her once and ends up careening into the wall. He slides down, back against glass, and giggles. The sound echoes all around them, high pitched and terrible and not John at all, not the one Molly knows.
She crouches down next to him and holds his head in her hands. “John, are you alright?”
He continues to laugh even as he shrugs his shoulders, eyes blinking up at her with incomprehensible sadness. “I don’t know,” he chokes out, pressing the curve of skin between his thumb and index finger against his eyebrows. “I don’t…I can’t…feel anything.”
Panic rattles down her spine, cold and sharp. “Well, you’re very drunk, John,” she tries, and her voice doesn’t sound quite as lighthearted as she’d hoped.
“Not now,” he says. He scrubs a hand violently over his face. “Not just now. Always. I—Fuck, I don’t even feel sad ‘nymore.”
“What do you feel?” she whispers.
John’s eyes are wide and terrifyingly blank. “Nothing.” He starts laughing again and draws his knees up to his chest. “Isn’t that odd? I should feel something, shouldn’t I? Angry or…or bloody sad at least, but I feel…” He balled his hands into fists on either side of his head before splaying his fingers wide. “I don’t feel anything.”
“John,” she says, tears slipping down her cheeks. “Oh, John. What’s happened to you?”
“D’you think,” he begins suddenly, lifting his chin so quickly that his neck seems to lose all its strength, and his head goes lolling against the glass behind him. “D’you think that…that if I were ju—if I had…were dead. Instead of him.” John’s lips purse and he closes his eyes. “Bastard probably wouldn’t have cared.”
“You can’t mean that!” Molly snaps quickly, and grabs John’s head between her hands even more firmly. She presses her thumbs in at his temples and forces him to open his eyes and meet her gaze. “John, please tell me you don’t believe that.”
“Dunno,” he mumbles, and his impossibly blue eyes flicker shut. “Dunno. Doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, it does,” she says, still rubbing circles against his skin. She can feel her eyelashes clumping together with wet mascara as she cries for John, for Sherlock, and all they’ve lost without each other. “Don’t ever say that again, do you hear me? He would care, John. He would go mad with it, madder than usual.”
His mouth pulls down in an exaggerated frown and he begins shaking his head back and forth in an erratic motion. “No,” he says, and the word is almost swallowed at the end. Denial. She’s heard him like this once before. “No.”
Pulling the sheet over Sherlock’s head, walking through the door to see John standing tall like a soldier, tries to put ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, so sorry’ on her face as best she can because she is and always will be, will always hate that she helped Sherlock do this to John, who’s always been such a good man, she will never forgive herself or Sherlock for the way John’s face crumbles and his shoulders hunch and his legs give way and he goes crashing to the floor—
John’s eyes open, and for all he claims not to feel the abject misery coursing through his veins, he is extremely adept at projecting the feeling through dulled blue irises. She realizes that it’s not that he isn’t feeling anything, it’s that he’s been so consumed in grief that John doesn’t even know what it is not to feel broken anymore.
This agony has become the norm, and she has aided its onslaught.
Molly feels ill.
John closes his eyes again, but this time he leans into her touch and knocks their foreheads together. He breathes out through his nose and pushes his lips out ever so slightly, trying to calm himself down. “You know what’s funny?” He whispers. Molly feels the slight wind of his breath against her mouth. She doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t know if she wants to hear the answer.
He opens his eyes, lashes fluttering on the apples of her cheeks. John smiles, but it’s more of a grimace. She immediately hates the look.
“I was in love.”
Molly enters her dark flat at quarter to two in the morning, after she’s seen John back to Baker Street and helped him into bed along with Mrs. Hudson’s assistance. She leans her head back against her door, letting her eyes rest. They are itchy and red-rimmed from crying and exhaustion, and she barely can find it within herself to stand.
She doesn’t know how to face John ever again in the wake of his confession. The taxi ride home was spent with him blubbering out half coherent sentiments for Sherlock, interspersed with comments on all the things that made him fall in love with the world’s only consulting detective. When she and Mrs. Hudson had tucked the poor man beneath his blankets, he’d pushed his cheek into his pillow and extended an arm to the empty side of his bed. His fingers had clenched into the mattress and whispered, “Sherlock.”
Molly cries the whole cab ride home.
So she takes respite in the dark, letting the sounds of London on the freshly minted New Years Day drift into her ears, and lets herself silently break. After a few minutes, she swipes away the tears on her cheeks and flicks on the lights in the front room.
She nearly screams.
Sherlock is seated on her sofa, head tipped back and palms pressed beneath his chin as if in prayer. “Molly,” he greets, voice low and gruff. “How was the party?”
The shock of his appearance in her apartment wears off, and anger comes swiftly on its heels. She grinds her teeth together and drops her purse onto the ground; she is much too tired to care when it tips over and spills its contents onto the carpet.
She goes into the kitchen and fills a glass with water from the tap and toes her shoes off in front of the refrigerator. Molly turns her back to Sherlock and plays with the bottle of Fairy soap that stands next to the sink. “Why are you here?” she asks, once she can trust her voice.
“A lead,” he says. Of course.
She stays quiet a moment longer. “Are…you going to try and see him?”
Sherlock doesn’t answer. She thinks of John, drunkenly pouring out the vestiges of his heart to her, eyes flickering from blank to heartbreaking and back again, and of the shell of a man he has become. She stands in Sherlock’s silence and it infuriates her
Molly slams her glass down and is thankful that it is made of durable plastic. “What do you want, Sherlock? Food, clothing, a warm bed?” He still doesn’t answer. “Well, you’re welcome to them. You know that. But this is the last time, I swear. I can’t…I can’t do this anymore.” She begins to cry again and her shoulders hunch inwards. Her fingers curl into the granite bench around her. “You have no idea,” she says, loud enough so that he can hear her but quiet enough for it to be a confession. “No idea, Sherlock, what it’s like to lie to everyone. I…I was so flattered when you came to me, and I wanted to help you so badly that I didn’t think about the ‘after’ of what you were doing.” She turns her head and rests her chin on her shoulder, careful not to look at him. She doesn’t think that she can manage it at the moment, anyway.
“I go to work, and I see them all—some more than others—and I remember the way they looked after you…went away. And I think about how I never had to feel that way because I knew, I’ve always known, that you were alright. Perhaps a bit bruised, but alive. And John…”
She breaks off with a sob, buries her face into her hands.
“God, John. He—”
Sherlock’s voice is sharp and it resonates around her. This is the only topic of conversation that has always demanded his full attention. “What about him, Molly?”
She opens her mouth to speak and chokes on the words. Molly cannot breathe through the guilt and sadness that she swims in.
When Sherlock speaks again, his voice is quiet and wary and closer than before. He must have moved from the sofa. “You said he was fine, Molly. That he was getting better. He’s a soldier. He will persevere.”
Molly shudders. “I’m so tired, you know. I don’t think I have it in me to be a liar.”
“Because that’s what you’ve made me into, see. A liar. I look at their faces and see their grief and I lie to them about you, and I lie to you about John and I am tired, Sherlock. I can’t lie to you anymore, so don’t ask me to by pretending he’s alright when we both know that he isn’t.”
Small, timid, “He’s not?” It is as afraid as she has ever heard him.
“Of course not!” she explodes. “Obviously he isn’t, Sherlock, it’s apparent to anyone with eyes that he’s—he’s…oh, God, every time I see him, he’s so tired and pale, and he looks like a…a dead man walking.” A sharp inhalation of breath. “He’s lost so much weight and he’s so unhappy it hurts, and every day I worry that I’ll pull open a drawer in the morgue and see his lovely face, blank and gone.”
Molly turns around, both of her hands firmly woven in her hair. She lifts her eyes to Sherlock.
He is ruined.
His cheeks are gaunt and bruised looking, for all the weight he’s lost since he’s been on the run. His hair is tangled and hanging over his forehead in stringy clumps, and the barest beginnings of a beard are appearing on his face. He seems to have abandoned his grand coat for a ratty looking hoody and leather jacket, and a pair of dark blue denim jeans. He looks so unlike the man she is used to that it’s hard to believe it is truly Sherlock Holmes in front of her. Worst of all is the look in his eyes. They are distant and pained, flicking around her apartment without really seeing anything.
She can see ‘John’ written across every panicked aspect of his countenance, and regrets opening her mouth to those hateful, terrible things. There’s a defeated slump to his shoulders that she has never seen on him before, but when he realizes that she’s watching him, he snaps back into the cool, ethereal man who had broken into her morgue all those years ago.
“I’m…I’m so sorry, Sherlock—”
“Don’t be,” he says, voice pitched low and dismissive. “You were only telling the truth. I can appreciate honesty.”
Molly blinks at him. She picks up her shoes from where they’re discarded on the floor and brushes by him, suddenly too tired to endure this conversation any longer. She pauses in the doorway to her bedroom. “You’re welcome to have a shower and some food, Sherlock. I won’t turn you away, not when you’ve asked for my help. But you’ve made a liar out of me for months now, and I’m sorry if I hurt you with what I said, but I just can’t lie anymore. Not to you.” She looks back at him once more, but he isn’t facing her. “Whatever you’re doing out there, I know it’s for the best, but please…come back soon. John is…sad. Without you.”
Molly walks into her room and turns to shut the door behind her. Through the gap before it closes, she whispers, “Devastated.”
The stricken look that consumes his profile is the last she sees of him. When she wakes up the next morning, there is a small piece of paper on the kitchen table. Sherlock’s spiked chicken scratch promises her:
John dreams for the first time in months.
The walls of his bedroom are shifting and ever changing around him, distorting the scenery so greatly that how can this be anything other than a dream? He huffs a breath out through his nose and turns onto his back, intent on shoving his jeans down his hips and—why is he wearing jeans in a dream?
A movement, black on black, at the foot of his bed and he lifts bleary eyes to see what’s appearing before him.
Sherlock stands there, tall and pale and so beautiful, and John forgets to breathe. “Oh,” he whispers. He’s so happy to see his friend again, even in his own subconscious, because for the time being he can pretend that Sherlock is truly seven feet away. “You’re here.”
Sherlock’s lips tighten and he steps closer, fingers twitching at his side like he’s trying not to touch the duvet. “Your ability to state the obvious is impressive, after all this time.”
John giggles and struggles into a sitting position, and nearly falls off the bed in his efforts. He throws a hand out in time to stop himself and regains his (impaired) balance, and when he looks up at Sherlock the other man has moved closer, a hand extended outwards as if to catch John. “I miss you,” he sighs, dropping his head back onto the pillow. He rolls his neck and stares at Sherlock. “Why’d you go?”
Sherlock swallows and looks away. His fingers brush against John’s leg. “It was for the best.”
John hummed and shook his head back and forth. “Mmm, nope. You’re wrong. It’s. It’s awful without you.”
Sherlock’s fingers hover over his knee.
“Everyone thinks I’m going mad,” John whispers, leaning forward as if in confidence. A smile pulls at his mouth, though he isn’t feeling particularly amused. “They won’t say it but I can tell. I deduce it, Sherlock. Isn’t that clever?”
Sherlock pulls his hand back towards him and leans forward. “John,” he mutters, light eyes searing into John’s dreaming and disoriented gaze. “Stop this. You’re being boring; predictable in your sentiment. It’s time for you to move on.”
John frowns deep, contorting his face in displeasure. He pulls away from Sherlock and scrabbles to the other side of the bed. Sherlock’s face is impassive but his eyes are pained. “Why…why would you say that? Do you know what you’ve bloody done to me?”
“I’m so—alone. I need you here, with me.” Sherlock’s mouth tightens and John feels panic rising in his chest. “Sherlock. Please, one miracle. For me, just for me, your only friend.” He lurches sideways and tries to grab the lapels of Sherlock’s jacket in his hand. “Come back.”
Sherlock steps away before John can make contact and shakes his head. “I can’t. Not now. You aren’t a total idiot, John. You know that I can’t.”
His hand falls to his side, weak. John nods, miserable, and sinks back down into his pillows. He turns his body so that he’s facing Sherlock. The world is still tilting and spinning and warping around him, and he is so bloody tired…but he’s asleep, how can he be so tired—
“Will I see you again?” John hears himself asking, eyes drifting shut. “When this is all over, will I—” He chokes.
“Yes,” is Sherlock’s response, quiet and reverent. “I promise you, John. You will see me again at the end of this.”
A smile, the first genuine smile that John has felt since before he watched Sherlock jump off of a rooftop, grows on his face. “Good. That’s, um, good. To know…that. Makes it easier not to care about everything else.”
“John.” Harsh, biting, scared. “Don’t be stupid. Stop talking like this. Of course you need to care. That was always your job, between the two of us.”
“Nope,” John says, opening his eyes only briefly before sliding them shut again. “You’re gone now, and I…I don’t care for anything, not the way I cared for you.”
A moment of silence stretches between them, thick and palpable but John is far too tired to feel it. He’s tired of feeling anything at all, come to think of it. The backs of his eyelids swirl against his vision and his head seems to be revolting against his body.
He’s not too sure he likes this dream.
“Which is how?” Sherlock asks, and he’s suddenly so very close that John can almost imagine he feels the other man’s breath ghosting over his face.
John’s hand clenches into a fist by his head. “More than anything,” he confesses. His fingers bloom outwards, reaching for Sherlock. Always reaching for Sherlock. “And most of all.”
John Watson wakes up the next morning, and feels nothing except for a throbbing in his head.
He swings his feet over the side of his bed and palms his temple, feeling at the tender spot. He reaches over and slides open the drawer to the bedside table and grabs a pack of paracetamol. The papers that he has shoved into the drawer shift and expose the cluster of prescription bottles stacked inside. John lifts one into his hand and rolls it against his fingers.
He sits there for an hour, thinking long and hard, before placing the bottle on the top of the bedside table. Gladstone whines and yips at his feet, wanting to go out.
With a sigh, he stands and makes his way into the kitchen for a cup of water to wash down the paracetamol. The world is blurred around the edges now, and everything is dulled and gray. John stands by the window and stares out into Baker Street, watches the monotony of London life without Sherlock Holmes.
He thinks of the excess of pills in his drawer as he hooks Gladstone onto his leash and wanders outside.
Alright, then, he decides.
Not much longer.
And how is the good doctor doing?
My, aren’t we sensitive. Was your visit
not to your liking?
Why didn’t you tell me that he was
How quickly you forget, dear brother,
that I have attempted to do so since the
very beginning of your little adventure.
‘Please?’ Oh heavens, this must be urgent
if you’re making an effort to be polite.
I am asking for your help in finishing
this endeavor. Stop being an arse and
just say you will.
And why would I ever do such a thing?
You aren’t really going to make me say
Because I want to come home.
I will give you all the information I have
to help you find Sebastian Moran, Sherlock.
End this, once and for all.
Keep an eye on Doctor Watson, would
you? I fear he may do something…
You say that as if I haven’t been looking
out for him since Sherlock died.
Would I be asking you if I didn’t believe
something truly terrible were to happen
to the good doctor?
I don’t know, you’re an awfully meddling
Bloody hell, Mycroft, I’ve known you for
a long time, but I’m not your damn
messenger boy, or your brother. So stop
trying to order me around and ask *nicely.*
You are insufferable.
DI Gregory Lestrade, would you please look
out for Doctor Watson to ensure that the man
doesn’t kill himself?
I’ll do my best, mate. God knows I don’t want
him to do something that fucking stupid.
This is going to sound awful when I say it,
but…would you really blame him?
No. And therein lies the problem.
John doesn’t dream of Sherlock anymore.
The first fortnight into the new year, he dreamed of Sherlock every single night. Sometimes they talked, and sometimes John was content to hazily watch the phantom of his friend as he sat by John’s bedroom window. Daytime became tedious, a waste of energy, because he began to live for the nights when he could hear Sherlock’s voice as it soothed the cracks in John’s psyche.
He could hardly ever remember what they spoke about, just that they talked, and it was more than what he could have possibly ever asked for. He vaguely recalls Sherlock’s reaction to Gladstone, which was confusion and indifference, even as the dog ran circles around the detective. John doesn’t understand why he includes Gladstone in his dreams (perhaps it’s because the pup sleeps at the foot of his bed every night) but doesn’t question it.
He’s too happy to see Sherlock to mind.
Abruptly, on a dreary Wednesday morning, he wakes to realize that he hadn’t dreamt of Sherlock the night before. John is anxious and on edge for the rest of the day, wondering what could have happened to his subconscious to suddenly rip his only source of happiness away for the second time. He is shaking and cold when he ducks under his bedcovers that evening, feeling like an addict in the first stages of withdrawal. John fills his mind with thoughts of Sherlock in an attempt to force his dream’s hand. He thinks of their first meeting, of the way the world slowed down and all that was left was the brilliant madman in front of him. He thinks of how he killed a man for Sherlock, and how he would do it again. John thinks of all the quiet moments around the flat, when Sherlock’s mind was resting and John could gaze at him without judgment.
He thinks of all the moments when Sherlock invaded his personal space and brought their faces close, and how John had fought the urge to kiss him every time. He wishes that he had.
He drowns himself in the memory of Sherlock, and hopes he can carve the pathway that his dreams will take.
It doesn’t work. Neither does it work the night after that, nor the night after that. Time begins to trickle by until John slowly loses all concepts of reality and drifts through London like a ghost.
Every day the rattle of pills in the drawer next to his bed reminds him, soon.
John’s making bacon sandwiches in the flat one morning and has the news playing on the telly when it happens.
“…Sherlock Holmes at Piccadilly Circus this morning.”
John abandons his food in the kitchen and moves into the living room, staring at the television in disbelief.
“Authorities say that the IBISH movement, short for ‘I Believe In Sherlock Holmes,’ began not long after the detective’s suicide. The PI,” John snorts a bit, because Sherlock would scowl and fume at the term, “took his own life after evidence was brought against him, citing that Jim Moriarty was a criminal of his own creation. Months later, after thorough investigation, it was determined that all documents certifying Richard Brook’s identity were falsified, and forensics proved that James Moriarty committed suicide prior to Holmes’ death. Ever since, works of graffiti such as these have appeared in alleyways and underground. The movement seems to have taken on another level, as the words ‘I Believe in Sherlock Holmes’ was seen scrolling on the screens at Piccadilly Circus for five and a half hours this morning. Technicians were baffled as to how this happened, and despite encountering a computer virus whilst trying to amend the situation, eventually returned the screens to their regular advertisements. Ten months have passed since the death of Sherlock Holmes, and while many questions remain unanswered, the most prominent has come back to light: Do you believe in Sherlock Holmes?”
John sinks into his armchair and begins to laugh. He drags his palms over his face, over and over, and giggles helplessly into his hands until he begins to sob with relief.
This…this is what he’s been waiting for. This is his sign. He has been fighting for months, denying his involvement in the graffiti whenever Lestrade asked him about it (and he was telling the truth; he doesn’t feel like having another ASBO) but he had always felt a surge of pride that Sherlock had faithful followers. And now…now it’s been broadcast to the whole of London that there are people out there who still believe in his mad genius, who will fight to clear Sherlock’s name even after nearly a year has passed.
It’s time, he thinks, and stays motionless in his chair.
Gladstone starts barking and snuffling around his ankles.
The bacon burns.
John sits in front of his computer, fingers laced in front of his lips, and stares hard at the blinking cursor. He has been sitting in this chair for hours, typing up his final entries into his blog. He has barely updated the damn thing since Sherlock died. Nothing of interest happens to him, not anymore. He’s sure that his readership has long since tapered off, if not disappeared completely, but he knows that Harry, Mrs. Hudson, and Mycroft still check it from time to time. Ella’s encouraged him to continue writing, but until now he’s had nothing of importance to say.
These are his goodbyes.
There’s one for Harry, one for Greg, one for Mrs. Hudson (whom he will entrust Gladstone unto—she loves the little dog dearly), and one for Sherlock. He knows the latter will never be read, not by its intended recipient, at least, but he was compelled to write down everything he never said.
John rolls the bottle of sleeping pills around in his palm, listening to the gentle rattle from within.
He queues the posts so that they aren’t going to be published until an hour from now, when he’s certain that it will be too late for anyone to try and resuscitate him. John Watson doesn’t want to be saved.
He just wants to be free.
John twists the cap off of the bottle and listens to the sounds of London as they quiet to a murmur. He’s got a glass of water next to him, and he shakes the pills out into his palms. Thirty stare back at him, but he certainly won’t need that many. He decides to swallow as many as he possibly can. He’s certain he can manage more than five, which seems to be more than enough to accomplish what he desires.
John puts approximately half of the pills back into the bottle, shuts it, and then tosses the rest into his mouth. The taste is awful, the pills are gritty and lumped, and even as he takes a gulp of water he winces at they work their way down his throat.
He shuts his laptop, no longer wanting to look at the screen, and walks slowly into Sherlock’s bedroom. He pushes the door open and surveys its contents—the periodic table, the bookshelves, the random bits and bobs that are strewn about and John allows himself to believe, just for a moment, that Sherlock will be coming home. That he will thunder into the apartment, coat swirling around him, and demand that John drop everything and follow him to the ends of the earth.
John would, too. He would go with Sherlock anywhere.
He sits on the edge of Sherlock’s bed, head in his hand, and waits for the end. Gladstone trots into the room and whines, pushing his head against John’s knees as if to beg him nononopleasedon’t—
John drops a hand onto the bulldog’s head, rubbing at the shorthaired fur.
Not long now.
After all is said and done, it is a blessing in disguise that John is technologically inept and doesn’t know how to properly postpone his blog entries.
Paris, France. 14:21, local time. It is done.
Oh? So quickly? I was unaware that
Colonel Moran would be so easy to
Never underestimate what a man
is capable of when properly
motivated, brother dear.
Even so, I do require proof.
File Sent: IMG_097
I suppose it goes without saying that
your return is imminent?
Don’t state the obvious, Mycroft.
It doesn’t suit you.
Mycroft Holmes has made a habit out of carefully monitoring every aspect of Sherlock’s life ever since his brother, as a precocious young man of twenty-three months, careened into an ornate table in their childhood home and came away with a bloodied gash. Mycroft was nearly nine years old, at the time, and when he encountered his wounded brother and realized with a jolt that he had failed to keep the infant safe, he vowed not to make the same mistake.
He thinks that he has done a fairly adequate job, thus far. His methods may be what some call “immoral” or “invasive,” but they are effective, and that is what matters. When Sherlock indulged himself in that hateful business with cocaine, Mycroft found no qualms with uprooting his little brother and sequestering him in the East wing of his summer manor. Sherlock needs constant supervision, lest he lose his way once more, and Mycroft has access to the means.
When John Watson came into his brother’s life, Mycroft had no expectations of the doctor. He found himself pleasantly surprised at the quick loyalty to Sherlock that Dr. Watson developed, and made a note with Anthea to keep an extra eye on the both of them.
Through the aid of CCTV and a few monitoring devices strewn about 221B Baker Street, he has thus far succeeded.
James Moriarty may have out-maneuvered him once before, but Mycroft was not about to let it happen again. He and Sherlock have suspected since the beginning that Moriarty would not go down without Sherlock beside him, and a contingency plan was born.
John Watson was never to know.
Sherlock disappears, a pint of his blood (always on hand, obtained every few months) on the sidewalk, and Mycroft bears witness to John’s stumbling steps and blankly shocked face. He keeps tabs on the man as the ghosts of Baker Street threaten to overwhelm him, and allows him his privacy when a dangerous soldier locks eyes with the only camera left in the flat and promises, silent, that there will be hell to pay if Mycroft invades his privacy any longer.
He allows John the delusion. He owes the man something, after all; John is convinced Mycroft sent Sherlock to his doom. Mycroft wonders what it’s like to have a brain so simple that it is malleable to even the simplest of tricks. Neither of the Holmes’ have a tolerance for ‘magic,’ but what they have performed is nothing less of an illusion.
Sherlock disappears unto the ether with a request, halfway muttered over his shoulder. “Look after John, won’t you?”
Mycroft smirks. “Quite.”
Sherlock scowls at him, though his eyes are appreciative, and walks away.
Mycroft has known Detective Inspector Lestrade ever since Sherlock was released upon London following his third year of sobriety and wandered into a crime scene. Within fifteen minutes, he had figured out not only who the murderer was (the victim’s best friend), but how and why (crowbar, jealousy and unrequited love) they had done it. Lestrade had gaped after him, attempted to rid the Yard of Sherlock’s presence, and threatened (with follow through, several times) him with arrest.
The numbers were undeniable, however, and it became apparent that Sherlock was an indispensible asset to the police force. Fortunately for some, homicides were not a daily occurrence in London, and when Sherlock went into withdrawal, he compensated by scrounging around in alleyways for a supply of cocaine.
And that, Mycroft assured DI Lestrade from the shadows of an abandoned warehouse, was simply unacceptable.
They developed a system that worked in both of their favors: Lestrade was lauded for his division’s successes, and Mycroft had a member of the police force with reason to talk to Sherlock and who would do what Mycroft asked, whenever he asked.
Sometimes, occupying a minor role in the British government truly did have its benefits.
An alert appears on his mobile as it vibrates next to him in the Diogenes Club, and he tilts one corner of his newspaper down and arches an eyebrow. Long fingers reach out and pick up the phone, thumbing along the buttons until a message fills the small screen.
14:53. 10 APRIL, 2013.
DR. JOHN H. WATSON’S BLOG UPDATED.
4 POSTS – SUICIDE LETTERS.
IMMEDIATE ACTION RECCOMMENDED.
Message Received: 15:07. 10 April, 2013.
Mycroft stifles the pale knot of anxiety that rises in his throat, quickly followed by anger with how his intelligence operatives have clearly been lacking on the job, and excuses himself to one of the private rooms so that he may dial a familiar number.
“Bloody hell, Mycroft, this better be important. I was in the middle of questioning a suspect.”
They both know it’s a ridiculous thing to question—Mycroft never calls Lestrade unless it is something of grave importance.
“I need you to make your way to 221B Baker Street, post haste. It appears Doctor Watson is attempting to commit suicide.”
There is a jumble of curse words down the other end of the line before the DI hangs up. Mycroft sniffs at the dismissal, but considering the circumstances, he supposes that he can let it pass. He swiftly gets into contact with his acquaintances at St. Bartholomew’s and quite firmly suggests they get an ambulance to Baker Street at once.
As a Holmes, his suggestions are always heeded.
Surveillance footage, only of the entrance and foyer to the flat Sherlock used to occupy, is streamed live to his phone, and he watches with a disinterested expression as the door flies open and Lestrade goes barreling up the stairs. Not long after (two point seven three minutes, to be precise), four medics take the stairs two at a time, emergency kits and stretcher in hand.
Only forty-nine point one seconds after that, the unconscious body of John Watson is carted carefully down the stairs. It’s easy to see, even from the grainy footage, that the man is covered in sweat and his brow is bunched with pain. Vomit stains the front of his jumper. Mycroft wrinkles his nose with distaste.
Satisfied that John is in capable hands—hands that Mycroft will not hesitate to personally remove should any harm befall Sherlock’s only friend—he scrolls to his text messages and hesitates for only the briefest of moments before selecting the unlisted number.
It is imperative that I know your current
I’m in no mood for your games, Mycroft.
Sherlock. I assure you this is no game.
Fine. Am currently in London Heathrow.
Soon will be en route to Baker Street.
You may want to reassess your destination.
St. Bartholomew’s would be more reasonable,
Mycroft’s phone vibrates in his hand a scant few seconds later, and he can practically hear Sherlock’s anxiety as his brother’s low baritone growls down the line.
“Mycroft, what the hell are you on about?”
The elder Holmes thumbs at the bridge of his nose and heaves a sigh. “Sherlock, you must promise to behave rationally.”
This is, apparently, the wrong thing to say.
“John,” Sherlock croaks. “Oh, God, John. That bloody idiot, I did all this to keep him—Mycroft, what’s happened? Sniper, poison, knife wound—”
“None of the above, incidentally. It seems your doctor’s been hoarding his prescription sleeping pills for the past ten months. I regret to inform you that he has, quite intentionally, overdosed.”
The only thing that shatters the silence on the other end is Sherlock’s ragged breathing.
“Oh, Sherlock, have a little more faith in me, if you would. He’s currently in hospital. I do believe he was retrieved in enough time to purge his stomach of the drugs before any fatal damage was done. I believe most of his trauma will be emotional.”
It’s meant to be a reassurance, but Sherlock hardly takes it as such.
“You were supposed to watch after him!” Sherlock bellows, and Mycroft can tell that he is sprinting through the airport. “Damn you, Mycroft! If he dies—”
Mycroft, for his part, is tired of all of these emotions. He has a fair few more important things to attend to, now that he knows Sherlock is in London, physically safe and sound. “Well, then, you had best get to the hospital before such a thing occurs,” he says, and hangs up.
Mycroft shakes out his newspaper, and resumes his reading.
He has no time to savor the London air as it burns in his lungs. He does not care for the skyline as it blurs past him. He doesn’t listen to the sounds of the city as they fill his ears for the first time in nearly a year.
All he can hear is the rush of blood through his body and the beating of his heart, crying out for John JohnJohn John JohnJohn.
He should not have been away so long.
Sherlock clenches his hand into a fist, crumpling the fifty pound note.
Can’t this damned hateful cab go any faster?
John rises slowly from the blurry recesses of his mind. The world is tinted bright at the edges, white and fuzzed, and he has a brief, slurring thought that he’s in heaven. He inhales through his nose, registers the familiar touch of an oxygen mask upon his face, and a deep, scratching ache in his throat. The steady beep of a heart monitor reaches his ears, and his breathing increases in his mounting panic.
The last thing he recalls is—oh. Oh.
A handful of pills, bitter and foul in his mouth; the colors of Sherlock’s room fading into blackness as the drugs work their way into his system; Mrs. Hudson’s sobbing cries of his name; Greg shaking his shoulders and shouting in his face; his mouth crusted over and tasting of vomit—
He breathes through his nose because his throat feels bruised and rough—intubation, he thinks, to help pump his stomach of the sleeping pills he’d ingested—and slowly opens his eyes all of the way. Ah, he thinks, blinking up at the fluorescent lights. Definitely in hospital, then.
Shame spikes through him hot and heavy, and he turns his head into the pillows as his face contorts. John feels like a failure; he has been defeated by so many things, and could not even properly kill himself, and it all hurts far too much.
He muffles his gasps and moans into the synthetic, standard-issue fabric beneath him and wishes that the tears would fall for once. He needs a release of some kind, but peace seems to be eternally elusive for John Watson.
John stays that way, fingers clenched into the blankets and eyes tightly shut, until the tilting behind his eyelids has calmed enough that he can open his eyes once more without feeling as if he’s going to be ill.
The first thing he sees is the tip of an expensive black shoe, connected to a slender ankle. It’s Mycroft, John tells himself, even as his breathing hitches. It’s Mycroft becomes his mantra even as his gaze goes up, up, up, and eventually he’s staring into pale eyes that he last saw circled by blood.
Sherlock stares back at him, hands pressed palm to palm beneath his chin and eyes sharp and calculating. The barest hint of a tremor rattles the bones in his slender fingers as he regards the bedridden doctor.
“John,” he says. His voice is low and shaken, and it rattles around in John’s ears and oh, God, oh God he is awake and Sherlock is still here—
The door to his hospital room creaks open and Molly stands in the doorway, looking frightened and small, and she rushes to John’s bedside. Before the door swings shut, John sees the swinging of an umbrella and the back of Mycroft’s head as the eldest Holmes stands vigil.
“John,” Molly sobs and reaches for his hand. He recoils. She winces, hard, when she takes a good look at his eyes. They are wide and red and bruised and so afraid. Molly does her best not to cast her eyes in Sherlock’s direction. “Why?”
“Molly,” he croaks, and each syllable hurts his throat like nothing has before. There’s the burn from the intubation and the sting of Sherlock sitting beside him, because John doesn’t know what to believe. “Can you see—” He turns his face towards Sherlock’s profile. The man doesn’t move. John’s head swivels back to Molly, desperate.
Her eyes flicker with something, and he doesn’t know what it means, but she gives him a horrible, fraudulent little smile and blinks rapidly against the tears rising in her eyes when she raises them to where Sherlock sits and back down to John. “Do I see what, John?”
Panic claws against his ribcage, freshly agitated and screaming at him to leave, get out, get out get out get OUT, and his chest rises and falls too quickly with his gasping breaths. “No,” he mutters, rolling his neck backwards onto the pillow. “No. No.”
“No!” he shouts, and sits fully upright. In one swift movement, far better coordinated than he should be capable of in the moment (though he supposes adrenaline has a fair bit to do with it), he pulls the IV out of his hand and swings his legs over the side of the bed. Molly steps back, looking tremendously startled and not a little scared, and the apparition of Sherlock comes abruptly to his feet. Both watch him, wary of what he may do next.
John tries to stand, and his legs feel far too unsteady as his thigh twinges with agony. He backs slowly away the pair of them, watching carefully. Molly’s eyes are large and pleading in her face, and Sherlock’s are cool and blue. They still do not acknowledge the other’s existence, and John is losing his bloody mind. Molly holds a hand out to him and he stumbles backwards, towards the door. His eyes are manic and he shouldn’t be moving around this much, not so soon after what he’s tried to do, but he needs to get out, needs to get away from the ghost of Sherlock that watches him silently, long fingers clenched by his sides.
John turns on his heel.
He barrels out the door to his hospital room, jolting an irate Mycroft out of the way, and ignores as Molly calls out his name and Sherlock’s image bellows. If there’s one thing that John has learned, it’s that no one stands a chance in the way of a particularly motivated soldier. He dodges around doctors and nurses, running through the hospital halls, clad only in the paper-thin robe wrapped around him. His bare feet pound against the cold floor, and when he hears the sound of footsteps swiftly approaching, he veers left and crashes through a door that says it leads to the staircase.
He takes them two at a time, darting around the people he encounters, and ignores the way his lungs are burning and his legs feel as though they’re about to give beneath him. Up he goes, winding around and around until he can’t go any further and pushes through the last door possible.
The empty rooftop of St. Bart’s greets him with cool intent. The fresh air is sharp in his abused throat and his feet grate and scratch against the concrete as he walks slowly forward, eyes locked on one spot in particular
John comes to stand by the ledge, not yet climbing up, and looks down at the crack of sidewalk where Sherlock’s skull was crushed inwards.
The wind ruffles John’s hair.
The door slams open and footsteps shuffle behind him.
He closes his eyes. “You’re not real,” he calls out, voice shaking. He lifts his chin and balls his hands into fists, resolute. “Leave me be.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Sherlock’s ghost snarls, and the voice is getting closer.
John steps to the ledge until his toes are snug against it, and he spreads his arms outward. He thinks of Sherlock, clad in black, saying his goodbyes down the telephone line before falling so grotesquely. There’s a poetic beauty in what he’s about to do, and Sherlock would surely mock him for it.
“Stop!” John flinches, noting how much closer the voice seems to be getting. “John, God, why are you doing this?”
“I…need to be with you—him, again. I failed utterly at killing myself before, but this method seemed to work well enough for him,” John says, closing his eyes against the breeze. He needs to ready himself for what he’s about to do. Peace starts to wash over his mind.
“You fucking idiot,” a voice snarls, suddenly infinitely closer than before. John’s eyes fly open and he spins on his heel. He begins to over balance and tip backwards, but two large hands grab him around the tops of his arms and haul him ten feet away from the edge.
Sherlock is pale and shaking before him, eyes wild and desperate. John can feel the bones of Sherlock’s fingers where they’re pressing into his skin and he realizes that in all of the dreams he’s had since Sherlock died, not once have they touched, except for that hazy night in the graveyard, and that’s when it hits him that the Sherlock standing in front of him is flesh and blood and so very blessedly alive.
John sways. “It’s you.”
Something in Sherlock’s expression breaks, almost imperceptible, but then the detective is sinking to his knees and pushing his face into John’s stomach. Large, gasping breaths dampen the fabric of the gown, and John pushes his fingers through Sherlock’s dark curls with reverence. “It’s you,” he says again.
For the first time in so very, very long, tears build behind his eyes and slip between his lashes. It’s the release he has been craving ever since he saw Sherlock, broken and bloody, lying on the sidewalk. Every single emotion and every wave of heartbreaking pain that he has suppressed, crashes into him all at the same moment, and his knees finally give way.
Sherlock’s arms and hands cradle John as he collapses, handling him gently until they are pressed from knees to chests, and their foreheads knock together. John is crying, gasping for air, and wetting his cheeks and gown with his tears. “You stupid bastard,” he mutters, tugging firmly at the hair by Sherlock’s temples. John pulls his head back only slightly and cracks their skulls together once again.
“You goddamn stupid bastard,” he says again, and lets go of Sherlock’s hair long enough to run his hands down Sherlock’s back and across his shoulders, grasping at the suit jacket and crumpling the expensive fabric. “I hate you so much,” he gasps, but pulls Sherlock closer. “Don’t you bloody ever do that to me again. Christ, Sherlock, don’t leave me.”
“No,” Sherlock says, cradles the back of John’s head in his palms. His lips press against John’s forehead, not kissing the skin, but brushing breath and words there instead. “Not again.”
“Sherlock,” John sobs out, burying his face into his friend’s throat.
“John,” Sherlock whispers in return. His lips wrap around the name like it is a prayer and the man in his arms is Sherlock’s only deity. “John.”
The stay there, holding onto each other for dear life, until the night air becomes too cold for John and they are forced to retreat back to the hospital room. Sherlock helps John back into bed (his legs are too weak by now and he needs to rest, for God’s sake) and covers him with the extra blankets that have mysteriously appeared in a pile at the foot of the bed.
John rubs his cheek against the pillow and extends his right hand over the barrier, trying not to wince as a nurse inserts an IV back into his arm. Sherlock’s fingers twine in his, long and thin and just this side of being too cold.
Sherlock’s grip on him tightens as John’s hand goes slack, the drugs dripping into him pulling him down to sleep.
They don’t let go of one another.
When John wakes for the second time, it is to the sound of Greg’s loud, angry shouts and Molly’s pleading. His fingers feel cold and strange, like there had once been someone else’s warmth laced between them, and he frowns and shifts on his bed. His eyes blink open.
Molly has both of her hands on Greg’s chest, looking up at him with tear-filled eyes. Her cheeks are flushed with blotchy red, and her lips are forming words that seem like begging. Greg, for his part, is practically steaming in his anger, one arm extended outwards and pointing at someone. He seems to be the epitome of rage, and John follows the line of his arm to see what’s warranted such a reaction.
Sherlock stands there, one hand covering his left eye and his face an otherwise impassive mask.
There’s a jolt in John’s chest at the sight of him, panic mixed with anger (and overwhelming both of those emotions there is sheer joy), and he pushes himself to a sitting position.
All four heads—Mycroft is sitting in the chair at the far side of the room, watching the events unfold with his usual disdain—swivel towards him at the movement, and the confrontation seems to drain from Greg’s face. Sherlock’s mouth is pursed and tight, eyeing John with concern when he falls heavily against his bed.
“Oh,” John breathes, tilting his head. “You’re…here.”
Sherlock’s mouth seems to twitch into a smile, despite his best efforts to prevent the movement. It makes for an amusing grimace.
“Really here,” John says, gripping the guardrails in his hands and pulling himself upright. “You arse. Fuck. I’d be kicking right off if I weren’t doped up.”
“Probably for the best,” Mycroft drawls, eyes not moving from his paper.
John’s still feeling blurry enough to narrow his eyes at the Holmes brother nearest him and snarls out, “Oh, bugger off, would you?”
Mycroft arches an eyebrow, which is as close to ‘shocked’ as he’ll ever look, and Sherlock smirks at the two of them with something akin to pride crinkling at the edges of his eyes.
“Now, then,” John says, pinching the bridge of his nose between his index finger and thumb. “I was enjoying a nice bout of unconsciousness before you lot came along. Care to tell me what’s with all the shouting?”
Ire mottles Greg’s coloring once again and he gestures angrily at Sherlock, trying to take a step towards him but impeded by Molly’s presence. “That son of a bitch faked his death and shows up like nothing happened! Do you have any idea what the fuck you did when you left?” he demands, and it’s directed at Sherlock now. “You sparked a bloody surge in vandalism, and do you have any idea how many serial killers have probably walked free without you here? Not to mention you damn well nearly killed John."
Sherlock flinches backwards as if Lestrade has struck him again. He flicks his eyes towards where John sits, slouched and pale, on his hospital bed.
“Greg,” Molly begs, and her voice sounds tight with the effort not to cry. “He had his reasons, believe me, he wouldn’t have done it otherwise—”
The room comes to an utter standstill. John’s breathing goes a little funny, and Greg is looking at Molly as if he doesn’t know her at all, suddenly, despite having been on a handful of dates with her the past few weeks.
“You knew?” John asks, looking at Molly, whose face has gone pale and stricken. “You…Molly. How—you, I trusted you.” He looks from Molly to Mycroft and finally to Sherlock. “I trusted all of you.”
Molly lets out a soft sob as John’s eyes turn on her and Greg steps away. Sherlock’s head swivels away for a brief second and his shoulders draw back. John’s fingers become listless on the rails of his bed and he falls sharply to one side.
Both Sherlock and Greg make an aborted movement towards him, as if to aid him back into bed, but John extends an arm and turns his palm towards them to halt them in their tracks. “Get out,” he whispers, breathing harsh and feeling moisture biting at his eyes. “All of you, except for Lestrade. Get the fuck out, and don’t bloody bother coming back here anymore.” Sherlock and John lock eyes and the detective’s eyes are unnaturally bright and vaguely pleading.
John can’t stand the sight of him suddenly, knowing how horribly Sherlock has fooled him and how damn embarrassed John is that he almost took his own life. Twice. A hot wave of betrayal crashes over him and he pushes himself up into his bed and turns on his side, eyes shutting tightly.
He doesn’t want to see any of their faces; he doesn’t want to look at three people capable of so badly abusing his trust.
“Leave,” he pleads once more, tears slipping from between his eyelids to pool together and dampen the fabric of his pillow. “Please.”
No one says a word. There is only the hush of a door opening, the shuffle of footsteps, and the scent of Greg’s aftershave as he collapses into the chair previously occupied by Mycroft.
Sherlock is alive. Heart pounding, blood pumping, brain churning out deductions, and so very, very alive.
Nothing is the same.
John spends a few more lonely hours in the hospital before he’s finally cleared to return to Baker Street. Ella stops by to see him for a few minutes, face stern, and she insists that they change their sessions to twice a week due to “this recent development.”
John nods his head and makes non-committal noises, and has absolutely no intention of going to therapy ever again. Sherlock’s back, and though things are far from perfect and won’t be for a good long while, John won’t need therapy as long as he has his madman back in his life. He’s still infuriated with Sherlock, hurt by Molly, and generally doesn’t give a fuck what Mycroft does or thinks (John’s almost expected this sort of betrayal from him, so it doesn’t sting too horribly) but he’s so goddamn happy at the same time, happier than he has been in far too long, to make too much of a fuss when he walks into 221B and finds Sherlock sitting in his armchair as if he never left.
It’s still a shock to the system to be in Sherlock’s presence. “Oh,” John says, blinking. He shifts on his feet; he’s still vaguely unsteady from the drugs he’d been intravenously subjected to at the hospital. His voice is low and rough, catching in his throat where the intubation scraped it raw. His stomach cramps uncomfortably. “Hello.”
Sherlock raises an eyebrow and goes back to smoothing rosin over the bow of his violin. “You’re back later than I expected,” he says, and only someone who knows Sherlock as well as John does would recognize the faint, underlying tremor of worry in his friend’s baritone voice.
“Hmm,” John says, and begins to move slowly towards the stairs. “Just moving a bit slowly, I suppose. Everyone’s got kid gloves on around me these days. Suppose they’ve got reason to, now.” He grips the banister and pulls himself up the stairs, still sluggish and in a bit of pain. There’s the quiet rustle of footsteps behind him and then there’s Sherlock, real and alive and warm, wrapping an arm around John’s waist and pulling him back down the stairs. “What—”
“Trust me,” Sherlock murmurs. John turns his head, but Sherlock’s eyes are downcast.
“Not quite,” John says gruffly, but moves with Sherlock. The fingers around his hip tighten convulsively but Sherlock says nothing, simply guides John into his bedroom and turns on the light. The rug at the foot of his bed has disappeared (and John knows why, but tries not to think of it; he doesn’t want to think about his vomit and the excess of pills his body expunged in this very room) and Gladstone is asleep on one of Sherlock’s pillows.
The tubby dog’s ears perk up when he hears the footsteps getting closer, and when he opens his wet brown eyes and sees John’s familiar physique, he wiggles to his feet and starts shaking his stump of a tail as hard as he can. Another wave of guilt crashes into John because this ugly, wrinkled beast loves him unconditionally, and John tried to take himself out of the world when he’s the only world Gladstone knows. It’s bizarre that this is what brings John to his knees, but he suddenly collapses and shuts his eyes tight, waiting for the impact of his knees against hardwood flooring.
It never comes.
Sherlock pulls John more firmly into his arms and breathes heavily into the hair at the crown of his head. His grip is tight and his arms are strong and his body far too thin and John can feel the sharp angles of Sherlock’s skeleton digging into his body, but John sags into him, grateful. Sherlock eases him into bed, arching a disdainful eyebrow at Gladstone as the bulldog snuffles happily against any part of John that he can find.
John rubs a hand down the dog’s back and settles against Sherlock’s pillows. “Why your room?” he asks, quietly. “Could’ve easily made it back to mine. I’m not that incapable, you know.”
Sherlock stands next to him with his hands behind his back, spine stiff and straight. From this angle and in the dim lighting, John can see the hollows of his cheeks and how starkly the bones of his face stand out. “I’ve been told that you attempted to overdose in this room,” Sherlock says when he finally speaks. “I would…prefer it to see you alive and in my bedroom than to imagine you dying inside of it.”
John’s heart drops. Sherlock’s eyes flicker briefly downwards, and the glimpse is enough for him to see that the pale blue eyes are filled with tears. Oh, Sherlock, John thinks, and shifts to the other side of the bed as to free up space. You’ve missed me just as much.
Sherlock inhales sharply through his nose and looks down at the sheets, rumpled and creased from where John has just been laying. His fingers press into the fabric as he sits down upon his bed, tentative and as though he’s waiting for John to shove him off for trying.
“Sherlock,” John says, firmly. “I’m very, very tired. I would like to sleep, and I know that you certainly need to. So climb under the bloody quilt and go the fuck to sleep.”
Sherlock’s entire face pulls up into a smile and it’s so damn awkward on him that John can’t help but laugh at the sight of him. “Come on then, you mad bugger,” he says, and slips his legs beneath the quilt. He holds the other side up just enough that Sherlock’s long limbed body can slide underneath. “We both need a bit of a kip.”
The light is turned off and they lie, side by side, in Sherlock’s bed. The only sound in the room is Gladstone’s heavy breathing and the faint echo of sirens through London streets. An hour passes, maybe more, but neither are any closer to sleep than they were when they’d climbed into bed.
Suddenly, John moves. He turns on his side and pillows his head on his arm, facing Sherlock and letting his eyes rake desperately over the other man’s profile. Slowly, Sherlock’s face turns towards him.
“I can’t forgive you,” John whispers into the dark. Sherlock’s mouth tightens. “Not yet, I can’t. But…someday, I will. I’ll well and truly forgive you for doing something so utterly stupid like leaving me behind.”
“I had to,” is the quick reply. “John. Isn’t it obvious?”
There’s a faint growl of frustration from the other side of the bed when Sherlock rolls away from John with a huff, and it makes John smile. “Explain it to me someday, yeah? When I’ve forgiven you, when I can trust you again, you’ll explain it to me.”
He pushes his palm into the center of Sherlock’s back, just beneath the jutting shoulder blades. He feels the ridge of spine beneath his hand, the gentle thrum of a heart Sherlock’s always insisted he doesn’t have. Even through the fabric of Sherlock’s shirt, John can feel the reality of him as warmth seeps into his skin. Sherlock’s head shifts, his upturned nose peeking over his shoulder.
“I missed you,” John admits, pushes his thumb into a knot of muscle. Sherlock arches his back. “Like a bloody limb. It was as though I couldn’t think properly without you nearby.” His fingers dig into Sherlock’s muscles, massaging gently as best as he can with one hand.
“I felt your absence rather keenly,” Sherlock says after a time. “Though not like a limb. That hardly seems an adequate analogy.” He presses back into John’s touch.
John shifts forwards, bringing their bodies closer together. “What would be an ‘adequate analogy,’ then?”
Sherlock’s breath comes through his nose, soft and slow. “I missed you,” he begins, “like the rush of blood in my veins. John…don’t you know I’ve no heart without you?”
Their bodies press together, front to back, and hold.
Things are not perfect.
They hardly were before, but with Sherlock’s recent resurrection and John still waking up each morning drenched in sweat and reaching for a falling man, there is an underlying tension to their interactions that won’t seem to fade. John still starts when he turns the corner and Sherlock is there, staring at a map or glaring at the deerstalker that he’s stabbed to the wall. Sherlock, for his part, is still too thin and pale, despite Mrs. Hudson’s best efforts to fatten him up at every turn.
It takes a month for Lestrade to stop being so angry that he allows Sherlock to crime scenes, and only does so because John meets him for a pint one night and mentions how being suddenly surrounded by Sherlock after months of nothing is taking a toll on his already fragile sanity.
Greg calls them both out to a crime scene the next day.
Sherlock stands in the door, his figure imposing and familiar, and waits for John to join him. Gladstone, from where he lies slovenly on the couch, watches them with twitching eyebrows. John shakes his head and doesn’t look at Sherlock. “Not this time.”
The whirring of Sherlock’s brain is nearly audible a majority of the time, and John can hear the exact moment when it begins to slow. Sherlock blinks at him with those devastating eyes, and he forces himself to look away from the consulting detective.
Sherlock asks, “Why not?” like a petulant child and oh, John’s missed the sound of his impatience.
John focuses on his laptop and types a mundane query into Google. He doesn’t look at Sherlock. “Maybe next time.”
Life goes on. It’s all a bit duller at the edges than it was before Sherlock jumped off a building like a bloody great moron and sent John into a tailspin of misery, but John can feel happiness again; he can feel irritation and anger and the ache in his bones when he is far, far too tired, and he is better for it. He thinks that he can handle the world blurring at the seams, if it means he has Sherlock in his life, even marginally.
The routine is, more or less, the same.
They fall asleep in Sherlock’s bedroom every night, pressed back to front with Gladstone smothering their feet (Sherlock doesn’t care one whit about the dog, but Gladstone can’t seem to get enough of those long fingers pressed against his belly and positively harasses Sherlock when he’s perched in his chair, attempting to navigate his mind palace). John orders take away and turns on bad telly and has nightmares every night, wakes up gasping and sweating and clutching Sherlock far too tight.
Sherlock still pauses at the door when he has a case, waiting on John.
John keeps his gaze averted and always says, “Maybe next time.”
Sherlock’s mouth tightens and he sweeps out the door.
John never follows.
On a too-bright morning in mid-June, Sherlock starts awake and reaches backwards for John, only for his hand to grasp at a person who isn’t there. The sun rises unfathomably early this time of the year, and when he looks at the clock on his phone he sees that it is only quarter to eight. It is not unusual for John to be awake and moving about at this time.
What is unusual is that Sherlock has slept, undisturbed, until nearly eight in the morning. John’s night terrors usually thrash them both awake anywhere from half past five to quarter past six, and the fact that no such thing has happened on this morning does not bode well. His hands smooth along the spot where John had been and he feels nothing but fabric long since gone cold.
Something heavy drops into Sherlock’s stomach, and he stumbles out of bed and slips on his shoes. He must look a bit ridiculous, clad in thin cotton pants and a threadbare tee and Italian leather shoes, but as he pulls his coat over his shoulders and shouts to Mrs. Hudson that he’s off out to find John, he has never cared less about his appearance.
John, it seems, has disappeared without a trace. He must have woken up hours before Sherlock could notice, leaving him without any visible clues as to where the doctor may have gone. Sherlock tries all the usual haunts, including the pub across the street from St. Bart’s and the small café near Lestrade’s flat. He even contemplates phoning Harry (blasted woman) to see if she could give him any indication as to just where John has disappeared himself to, and that’s the moment when his phone blinks and vibrates with a new text.
Leave the poor man alone.
Eloquent as always, Sherlock. Do give
Doctor Watson a bit of space. The man
certainly needs it, today.
Sod OFF, Mycroft.
Come now, brother. Surely you haven’t
forgotten what day it is?
I hardly think the date is of any
Perhaps you would not think so, if it
were the anniversary of the day you
thought you watched your friend die.
The human mind is a fickle thing.
Isn’t it always, brother?
John stares down at a grave that holds no body, slides his hands into his pockets, and frowns at black stone. The names glint up at him, white and taunting, and he still feels the familiar roll of grief deep in his belly. He holds a single carnation in his hand, red and blooming, and starting to wilt from the way he’s been holding onto it for hours.
He has been awake for hours, wandering the streets of London and thinking of how, months ago, he’d been so certain that he would never live to see the anniversary of Sherlock’s death. But he stands on the corner of a busy street, the sound of early morning humming through his body, and the knowledge that he left Sherlock alive and breathing beneath a warm quilt just that very morning.
Sherlock lives, but the ache remains. No amount of mornings spent listening to Sherlock’s heartbeat, or nights spent pressed against his long-limbed body, will be able to keep John from feeling the pain of Sherlock’s fall keenly on this day.
He heaves a sigh and bends down, slowly, and lays the single flower down at the base of the grave.
John straightens up and doesn’t bother with feeling surprised. He’s known, ever since he crawled out of bed, that Sherlock would come looking for him.
Their elbows brush together.
“Sorry?” John murmurs. His spine straightens, his chin lifts, and his hands clasp behind his back. “What’s interesting?”
“A red carnation,” Sherlock says, and John turns his head to look at the other man. His eyebrow rises with amusement, as he takes in the odd combination of Sherlock in his grand coat and expensive shoes and the clothes he wears for lounging about the flat.
“A red carnation,” John repeats, tone neutral.
Silence settles between them, and Sherlock is practically vibrating to inundate John with whatever anecdote about flowers that he has stored in his vast, infinite memory. John doesn’t need Sherlock to tell him, though—he’s got a computer, uses Google, and spent the better part of the past year placing varying types of flowers on Sherlock’s grave.
“Go on,” John murmurs, and pushes his elbow gently into Sherlock’s side. “I know you want to tell me all about it.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrow, fully aware that John is indulging him, but speaks nonetheless. “Carnations themselves are believed to be representative of fascination, though them meaning of each flower varies along with the hue. You’ve placed a dark red flower down, which has been known to symbolize both heartbreak and…” he pauses, and his voice goes softer. “…and deep love, and affection.”
John nods his head and faces the grave once more. “I thought it was appropriate.”
“Is it?” Sherlock asks, stares hard at the side of John’s head. “For the heartbreak, I presume?”
“That,” John concedes, “and all the rest.”
Sherlock is rather emotionally stunted, at times, but he is not a stupid man. He observes, makes great leaps of logic, and sees what others cannot. When John Watson speaks, though sometimes his words are unexpected, Sherlock most assuredly listens.
“Oh,” he says, lips forming around the word. He feels rather dull, in this moment, but when John turns and smiles at him, the world brightens up quite drastically.
“Oh,” John repeats, his tone mocking but kind. His head tilts a bit to the right (Sherlock’s left) and his eyes are soft around the corners. His perfectly imperfect face smoothens into a small, secret smile, and Sherlock finds himself looming nearer to it as if a closer inspection will give him insight as to what John knows that Sherlock doesn’t. The list of possibilities is short, but it exists, and Sherlock doesn’t know if he wants to spend the rest of his life figuring out John Watson until he knows every wrinkle of his mind, or if he wants to spend the rest of his life never solving all of John’s mysteries, because that would be so much more interesting.
Something on John’s face flickers, and his eyes drop briefly to trace over the curve of Sherlock’s mouth, and he says, “Lunch at Angelo’s? My treat.”
“John,” Sherlock says, because he doesn’t want to leave this moment in the graveyard (and also a bit because John’s a fool if he thinks Angelo would ever accept their money).
“Shut up, Sherlock,” John mutters, but the words have no bite. “Just…shut up.”
And then his hands are reaching out, sliding calloused fingers into Sherlock’s dark curls and he is bringing their mouths together, and soft skin pushes against soft skin and Sherlock can hardly stand under the influx of new data.
There are so many things he wishes to learn; the way a tongue feels as it slides against his own, the way a thumb feels as it drags across his jaw, the flutter of eyelashes against his cheek and the way it makes his stomach swoop, the heated press of one body against another, and though he has spent thirty-five years in a sense of suspended disbelief in regards to love, Sherlock wants to feel it, wants to fall into it. Above all else, he wants to experience these things with John.
Only ever John.
No one in the world has ever appealed to Sherlock as thoroughly as John Watson does. John is intelligent enough to follow Sherlock’s thought process easily enough, but not so intelligent that he is boring. He is a soldier, steady in combat, and a doctor who will come to crime scenes with Sherlock and not flinch at the sight of a corpse.
John is enduring. John is worth nearly a year spent travelling in and out of England to keep his friend safe. John is home.
John is constant, and everything else is transport.
Their lips separate with only the slightest bit of sound, and John exhales slowly through his nose as they pull apart. Sherlock is still cupping the back of his head in one large hand, and John’s hands remain firmly buried in Sherlock’s hair.
Sherlock licks his lips, feels the brush of John’s breath against the moistened skin. “Will you accompany me to crime scenes, then?”
John recognizes the question for what it really is: do you forgive me yet?
The startling thing about standing in front of Sherlock’s grave alone, reflecting back on the man whom he’d loved and lost and found again, is that John realizes that he has already forgiven Sherlock. From the moment the bastard pulled him back from the roof at St. Bart’s, John has forgiven Sherlock. He’s been waiting for some grand revelation, for the lifting of his spirit as a sign that their relationship could finally get back on track. There’s been no such moment the past few weeks because it’s already happened.
Sherlock Holmes is an enigma, but John is damned if he doesn’t absolutely need the man in his life. The past year has proven as much.
John presses another soft kiss to the corner of Sherlock’s mouth, noting the way that the other man moves his head just slightly into the touch. It isn’t a particularly passionate kiss, just the touch of their lips against the other’s, but it is more than John had ever imagined. Sherlock’s hand tightens its hold on his head, and John pulls away with a breathy laugh. “Alright,” he says, smoothens a hand down the collar and lapel of Sherlock’s jacket. “Alright. I’ll come to your bloody crime scene. Don’t think I’m not still angry with you, though. What you did, Sherlock…you can’t ever do something like that again, yeah? Because I will leave next time, and there’ll be no coming back for me.”
Sherlock’s face is dark and unfathomable and his eyes trace over the lines of John’s face. He nods, once, to indicate his understanding. “I can’t promise that something won’t happen to me, John. But I can tell you I will never deliberately fool you in such a way again. As it were, I do not plan on losing you, in any capacity.”
John smiles at him, soft and sweet and happy. Sherlock returns the favor, and pulls him into another slanting of lips.
Dark blue eyes roll around in their sockets, fighting against the urge to slide tightly shut and never open. John licks his lips because they feel dry, though his eyes are overly wet and leaking, and feels his breath rattling around every bone in his body.
He’s managed to forget how much being shot hurts.
It’s a lousy shot, made from about ten feet away, and he’s certainly very fucking lucky that his attacker was such a poor shot because a few inches to the right and John would probably be a dead body in an alleyway. There’s no fragmentation of the bullet because it’s still buried inside of his left shoulder, an inch or two below the starburst of a scar he acquired in Afghanistan.
He presses his hand into the wound and does squeeze his eyes shut this time, if only to steel himself against the pain. Fuck but he hopes that Sherlock will happen upon him, soon.
They’d been chasing a suspect through the back streets of London, darting around skips and dodging taxis, together, together, always together these days (together in bed, together making breakfast, together in the shower pressed against each other and kissing) until they’d come to an impasse. A brick wall stood in front of them, pathways going left and right, and with a look to one another, they split up.
John, as evidenced by the fact that he’s slowly losing blood to the dirty ground beneath him, chose the street that would lead him to their (apparently armed) suspect.
“Fuck,” he gasps, turns his own hand into a claw and digs his fingers into his ruined jacket. “Oh, God.”
Sherlock’s voice is all together far too loud and booming as it echoes against the walls of the alley, and John nearly weeps with relief at the sound of it. He can’t quite muster up enough energy to call out in return, however, and the world is starting to go a bit dodgy at the edges.
“Sherlock,” he mutters. He licks his lips and swallows, and his throat feels thick and clogged. “’m over here.” He kicks his foot out and manages to strike a stray glass bottle, sending it spinning into the brick beside him. It clatters loudly, and he can hear the moment when Sherlock’s footsteps turn towards him.
Knowing that help is on its way, he shuts his eyes tight and allows himself to turn all of his attention towards his own body.
A shadow falls over his face as something blocks out the light flooding in from the street, and he feels five fingers clad in leather push at his jaw. Sherlock’s voice is deep and biting as he talks to someone on his mobile, barking orders down the line. John opens his eyes to see his friend, and lifts a surprisingly steady hand to Sherlock’s cheek. He only realizes, as dark red smears over the sharp edge of Sherlock’s cheekbone, that he’s used the hand previously pressed down on the bullet wound.
“Hello,” he says, and feels oddly calm. He is John Watson. He lives for danger and Sherlock Holmes, and both things are startlingly present in this moment and though his mind has gone white with pain he is strangely glad to have Sherlock kneel beside him as he pumps blood out of the brand new hole in his shoulder.
Sherlock doesn’t hang up his mobile as much as he throws it somewhere further down the alley, and then he’s unwinding the scarf from around his neck (light gray, cashmere, gift from Mrs. Hudson) and pushing it against John’s injury. The pain slams John’s body back down to earth and the strangled grunt that leaves his throat is almost inhuman.
“Jesus, Sherlock, careful,” he slurs, watching as red soaks into gray and saturates the scarf. He watches his blood begin to trickle through the spaces between Sherlock’s fingers, and it isn’t until Sherlock’s fairly shouting in his face that he can look away.
“John, you idiot,” Sherlock hisses, and his eyes are bright and wet and with his hair falling in sweaty clumps across his forehead and panic wrinkling his eyes, he looks downright feral. “What have you done?”
John laughs a bit, because the question is so utterly Sherlock even under the circumstances. “Erm, wandered into a bullet, apparently.”
“This is not funny,” Sherlock bellows, and he looks frantically towards the mouth of the alley, eyes catching on the flash of sirens.
John hums and closes his eyes, suddenly feeling so very, very tired. He’s a doctor, he knows that this is a bad sign. He shouldn’t be closing his eyes, he should be fighting to stay awake, but he’s losing blood quickly and he has a bullet inside of him and quite frankly, he can’t be arsed to try and keep his eyes open.
Sherlock, it seems, has other plans. He slaps John in the face, hard, then grabs the other man by the chin and forces their eyes to lock. “John,” he says, and his baritone is cracked. “Listen to me. There’s an ambulance here, now, and you’re going to go to St. Bart’s, and you’re going to get this damn thing out of you and you’re going to have a brand new scar for me to memorize, and you are going to live so that I may do so. Do you understand me?”
John nods his head, slowly. Apparently this is not a good enough answer. Sherlock scowls. “Do you understand me?”
“Yes, all right,” John agrees, eyelids drooping shut once more. Sherlock isn’t having any of it though, and jerks John’s chin roughly.
“John Hamish Watson,” says Sherlock. His voice is absolutely wrecked and his hand is still pushing a blood drenched scarf into John’s bullet wound, his eyes are manic and bright, and he looks so completely frightened that John forces his eyes open wide and clings on tight to every word. “If you do something as disgustingly boring as die on me tonight, I will never forgive you.”
A set of medics appears on John’s other side, and they force Sherlock to remove his hand so that they can access the injury properly. Sherlock simply moves his hand so that his bloody palm curves around John’s jaw and holds, thumb smoothing over the skin of his cheek. He’s going to look like a fucking fright when this is over—he’s completely soaked and smeared in blood.
“Well, that’s a lovely sentiment,” he jokes, trying to take that terrible, awful look of fear from Sherlock’s face.
It doesn’t work.
Sherlock is actually crying, tears pooling in his lower eyelid and dripping gently onto John’s face. He grips John’s face desperately even as he’s loaded onto a stretcher and strapped in. It’s beginning to scare John, badly. Sherlock looks like he’s choking on words and air, and this is something that John would usually be able to help him with but he’s so tired he can barely breathe. Sherlock’s mouth opens and shuts a few more times before he swoops down and pushes a kiss into John’s mouth. It’s hard and desperate, and before John can even think about summoning enough energy to kiss back, Sherlock is pulling away.
“I…I love you,” Sherlock tells him with determination.
John’s lips part in astonishment and his heart flutters. “Sherlock,” he says, and tries to reach out for the other man and finds his hand is far too heavy.
“I love you,” Sherlock repeats.
“Love,” John agrees, eyes finally too sore and tired to stay open. His heart gives a little kick, and then a bigger one, again and again. “Too. Love you, Sher—”
Which is precisely the moment he goes into cardiac arrest.
The last thing he hears is Sherlock’s frantic shout of his name.
He’s getting really tired of waking up in hospital beds.
John blinks up at the ceiling and inhales deeply from the oxygen mask on his face, and takes a few moments to assess the situation.
His stomach feels as though it’s been turned inside out, which means they placed him under general anesthesia (it’s a reaction that he’s always had), and when he breathes he can feel the stretch and pull of bandages all across his chest. Ah…the defibrillator pads left burns on his chest from the electric shock, then. Uncomfortable…but not overly so in comparison to his shoulder.
“Christ,” he mutters, the word muffled by the mask on his face and slurred by morphine.
He can’t muster up the energy to turn his head but manages to splay his fingers apart. His shoulder begins to ache, all the way down to the bone, and a sound rips out of him that doesn’t sound entirely human. He’s becoming conscious of the pain firing through his nerve endings, and the onslaught is too much to handle. He shuts his eyes and grits his teeth, uses his open fingers to tangle and fist at the hospital sheets beneath him.
The voice, deep and familiar and achingly dear, sounds far more urgent than before. John wants to respond, wants to call out in turn, but his own voice catches somewhere between the burns on his chest and can’t escape. He feels as though he can’t breathe, and lifts a hand up to shove the oxygen mask down and off his face.
His chest is heaving, choking on breaths he can’t seem to complete, and his shoulder jars nastily with every shudder and inhale. Black and white spots begin to dance in his vision until he’s so dizzy all he can do is turn his head to the right and vomit onto his pillow and shoulder.
The lovely voice is shouting now, barking orders at some unknown person, and John shivers once, twice, before blessed unconsciousness takes him in once again.
When John wakes again, the results are vastly improved.
He takes deep, measured breaths beneath the oxygen mask and allows his closed eyes to adjust to the light before he opens them. It seems to be early morning, the sunlight just barely breaking up the night, and the lamp to his right is lit on its dimmest setting.
John licks his lips and slowly, slowly, turns his face.
Something in his heart grows heavy with affection.
Sherlock is curled up in the surprisingly lush wingback chair, great black coat pulled tight around his body. His arms are crossed over his chest and his chin is pushed down, leaving gravity to pull his dark, curly hair over his forehead. He looks tremendously uncomfortable; he looks as though he’s been sitting there for some time. John lies there and looks at Sherlock until everything is clear again, until his head isn’t feeling quite as muffled and the sunlight outside streams in a bit stronger.
John’s eyes drop, and he finds himself unaccountably amused by the sight of Sherlock’s bare feet. He lets out a little huff of laughter, and the slight noise is all it takes for Sherlock’s head to snap up so quickly John momentarily worries about whiplash. “You’re awake,” he says, and his eyes goes from filmy with sleep to bright and alert in a startlingly short amount of time.
John nudges the oxygen mask off of his mouth and murmurs, “Excellent deduction.”
“Shut up,” Sherlock growls, and his long limbs extend and he rises to his feet. He begins to pace (four steps one way, turn, four steps the other) and clasps his hands behind his back. John is still feeling a bit out of sorts and is content to just watch the madman wearing a hole into the floor.
He’s just beginning to drift off again when Sherlock suddenly stops his pacing, comes to stand at the side of John’s bed and grips the rails in both hands until his knuckles turn white. “This marks the second time in three months that I have had to endure the sight of you being swallowed alive by this…” He shakes the rails and jostles John’s bed, and his face draws tight. When Sherlock looks back up at John, his lips are pulled back and his teeth are showing. John suddenly feels ten times more alert, recognizing the signs of Sherlock verging on a breakdown. “…this infernal excuse for a bed.”
“Sherlock,” John says, voice quiet. He is universally ignored.
“Three days ago you tried for the second time to leave me, you allowed your damn heart to stop beating for even the barest of seconds, and it is completely unacceptable. Three days you’ve been here, and the last time you were conscious you tore your stitches and vomited all over yourself. I cannot breathe or think or do any of your idiotic, basic human needs when you lie in a bed that isn’t mine and try to die.” Sherlock is breathing hard, his eyes are ice blue rimmed with red, his face is gaunt and pale and drawn and John’s heart hurts at the sight of him looking so distraught.
Sherlock lets go of the bed and drags a hand through his hair, breathing hard. John takes a moment to memorize the contours of his face before he lifts a hand and pulls the oxygen mask down so that he may speak.
The morphine makes him a bit mean.
“It’s not nice, is it?” he asks, voice quiet and searching. Sherlock breathes heavily through his nose and fixes John with those intelligent eyes. “Thinking I was hurt; imagining me dead?”
Sherlock barely flinches backwards but John might as well have struck him. His already pallid face loses even more color and his breathing becomes erratic, eyes blown wide. He stays this way for a minute or two, unwavering in his expression, until his knees bend slowly and he sinks back down into the armchair.
One hand, long-fingered and trembling, reaches out to grip tightly at John’s hand, and Sherlock’s hold is so bone crushingly desperate that there is no mistaking the emotion behind it. Sherlock looks ill; looks as though his entire world has just been tipped sideways, or stopped revolving entirely and everything around him has been thrown about at speeds exceeding several thousand miles per hour.
“No,” he says, eyes still cast down to where their hands are connected. “Not nice. Not at all.”
John squeezes Sherlock’s hand the best that he can. “It’s alright,” he says firmly, because Sherlock needs to be told these things. “Look, what I just said…wasn’t on. Alright? I shouldn’t have said it, and I’m sorry that I did. But I’m here, love. I’m right here.”
The tension leaks out of Sherlock’s spine, vertebrae by vertebrae, until his back has curved and stooped low enough to allow him to press his forehead against the back of John’s hand. His breaths are steady and calculated, the textbook amount of time in between inhalations that will calm his body. His bare toes curl against the cold hospital floor.
“I do not care for anything,” Sherlock says eventually. He echoes words back to John that have long since been forgotten in a dream. “The way I care for you.”
John smiles. “And how would that be?”
Sherlock passes his trembling lips over the spot where their palms are pressed skin to skin. “More than anything,” he confesses, burrowing his forehead further into John’s hand, as though maybe if he tries enough osmosis will occur and Sherlock will be John and John will be Sherlock and they will be one, which would be so much easier because they are not whole without the other, so people should stop trying to tear them apart.
“And most of all.”
It isn’t perfect.
John is drowsy and numbed by his pain medication most days, and after his shoulder has fully healed he knows he has physical therapy to endure. He thinks that such an activity, while necessary, will bother Sherlock because it is taking up John’s time that could be spent listening to Sherlock, which is why it’s a shock, albeit a pleasant one, when Sherlock wordlessly accompanies him to each PT session (and reduces the trainer to tears during his fifth appointment when she accidentally presses down too hard onto John’s shoulder and he cries out in pain).
He feels rather useless, but Sherlock uses him as a sounding board whenever possible. Sherlock will pace through the flat, utterly silent, before grabbing his coat and swirling out the doors of 221B without a single word, and sometimes John won’t see him until supper the next day. There’s usually a bit of a row between them whenever Sherlock does this, because he’s being reckless and John can’t come after him if he gets his stubborn arse in danger.
They both know the real reason John is so tightly wound after these outings is because sleeping without Sherlock by his side is nearly impossible, and when its managed, the night terrors are so traumatizing he doesn’t sleep for days after.
Sherlock possesses no filter, and the one time John feels well enough to accompany him to a new crime scene (jilted lover, seduced her former paramour with the promise of ‘one more time’ before strangling him in bed) Sherlock rather graphically illustrates just what use he’d made of his own mouth the night before on John’s body. He claims it has something to do with whatever sexual acts the murderer and victim engaged in before death became involved, but John’s face goes very pale and then very, very red as Sherlock begins to detail the way John looks mid-orgasm.
John ignores the disgusted and amused glances and immediately goes out into the street, grabs a cab, and returns to the flat. He fumes by himself for a few hours, because it is likely that Sherlock hasn’t even noticed that he’s gone. The anger dies down to a simmer, and he sighs and slowly makes his way to Angelo’s for dinner because there’s nothing in the fridge (and as awful as he feels to take advantage of the man, Angelo’s food is superb and always free of charge). He orders pasta primavera and eats it slowly, glaring at the flicker of the small candle as though it has done him a great deal of wrong.
Afterwards, he walks slowly through the streets of London, ignoring the slow turn of every CCTV camera that he passes. Eventually, the evening chill becomes too much and he slows down enough to allow the black car (trailing him for the past seven blocks) to pull up beside him. He climbs in without a word, nods at Anthea even though she never looks up from her damned phone, and sits in silence as the driver takes him back to Baker Street.
When he walks through the front door, Mrs. Hudson scurries out of her flat to meet him. Her eyes are large and wet, and she looks so bloody relieved to see him he wonders just what it is that has happened. “Oh, thank goodness you’re here,” she says, rubbing her hands over his forearms. “He’s been an awful fright all evening without you.”
John sighs and climbs the stairs, and he hasn’t even had an opportunity to sit down in his chair before he and Sherlock are having it out, properly, and shouting at one another until they’re both red in the face and they’ve forgotten what they were so angry about in the first place.
John asks (demands) that Sherlock not detail what John’s cock feels like when he’s sliding it against his tongue, and to not ever detail John’s cock to Scotland Yard at all, and Sherlock snarls that John’s embarrassment is baseless and irrational. It’s a vicious cycle of shouting abuse at one another until John’s shoulder twinges painfully when he attempts to throw his arms up in exasperation, and then Sherlock is standing beside him and looking so concerned as he peels John’s jacket and jumper off of his body that the fight leaves John almost immediately.
Sherlock steals the covers at night and snores when he sleeps on his back. He’ll talk in his sleep as well, sometimes, but it’s usually in French and John pays it no mind. He figures a bit of natural oddness during sleep is the least he can put up with, after the one night when his night terrors were so horrible he woke up screaming and promptly vomited onto the ground.
Sherlock doesn’t like Gladstone, but resents the fact that the dog loves John so very much. He doesn’t have any fondness in his heart for the beast (he’ll shove the bulldog off of his bed and lock him out of the room, ignore the sounds of Gladstone’s whimpering until John fixes him with a look and he sighs and lets the dog back into the bedroom). Not until the moment an irate criminal breaks into their flat, incapacitates Sherlock and threatens John, and Gladstone growls and bites into the man’s Achilles tendon so hard that their would-be assaulter collapses like a ton of bricks, howling in pain.
When Lestrade arrives to cart the injured man away, Gladstone’s tongue rolls out of his mouth and he breathes wetly up at John and Sherlock as if to say, Look at what a good job I’ve done, chaps!
Sherlock decides the mongrel can stay.
The sex is phenomenal, when it occurs, and the slide of their bodies against one another is so devastatingly real that John’s bones ache with it. Sherlock is surprisingly gentle, almost worshipful, with John’s body when he lays out his soldier on the bed and drags his teeth along each sinew until he swallows John’s cock down, or pushes a finger inside of him and presses—there, Sherlock, God yes, there!—or slides to the hilt inside of John and fucks him until they both feel raw and open and so very, very lucky.
Occasionally, Sherlock will clamber into John’s lap and kiss them both into arousal, grab John’s lube-slick hand and press those wonderful, medical fingers inside of him until he’s been stretched so sufficiently that it’s no trouble, no trouble at all, to sink down onto John’s cock and wrap his long, thin legs around John’s waist and grind and writhe and press hard kisses onto whatever piece of John that he can reach.
John still has momentary lapses where he will wake up and think that Sherlock is dead, and has shattered at least seven mugs in his surprise when he turns round in the kitchen and Sherlock’s peering down a microscope. Those days are usually spent curled up in the silence of Sherlock’s bedroom, with John dragging calloused fingers over the pale expanse of skin laid out before him and eyes desperately trying to memorize every single pore that the other possesses.
John is to Sherlock as Sherlock is to John: necessary. Fundamental.
They are a single entity of Sherlock&John or Detective&HisDoctor, never one without the other. They are midnight rows that keep Mrs. Hudson awake with all their shouting through the thin walls. They are Sherlock’s deductions at inappropriate times and John’s frustrations and apologies and endless admiration for his lover’s utter brilliance. They are Lestrade’s constant headache and Thursday nights at the local for a pint. They are seven serial killers caught in the course of one year, an unheard of accomplishment, and they are celebratory sex on every surface of the flat to commemorate their successes.
They are crime scenes and car chases and dinners at Angelo’s.
Things are far from perfect, it’s true, but as John lies in bed and sweeps his eyes over Sherlock’s profile, lit up gently by the screen of his phone as he texts with one hand (the other is curled loosely by his head, twitching as John runs his index finger over every line and crease of his palm) and thinks about how he could have never had this; he thinks about how he would never know what it feels like to have the long planes of Sherlock’s body pressed against his own, holding, grasping, feeling, fucking, loving unconditionally; he thinks of the broken shadow of a man that he was once before, and compares it to the man he is now—the man who has all the ingredients to basic happiness stretched out and languidly texting beside him, and John smiles.
It’s not perfect, certainly. Perfect would be droll. Perfect would send Sherlock careening and swooping in a different direction. Perfect would bring back the tremors in John’s hand.
‘Perfect’ is the antithesis of John and Sherlock. It is too inadequate a word to describe the circumstances that brought them together, the adventures they have been on, and the days still stretching endlessly ahead of them.
Sherlock’s fingers twitch downwards and hold John’s hand in place, fingers pressing down and meshing in between. Luminous blue eyes flick sideways towards John, and Sherlock’s full lips quirk into a small smile when he catches the other man looking at him so intently.
John stares at the man in bed beside him, eyes focused and warm and bright blue with affection. The world outside is bright and warm, a truly lovely day in London, and John knows he won’t feel the sun against his skin today because he has no intentions of leaving this bed, no matter how lovely the weather.
It was a lovely day outside when Sherlock came back to him; when he was made whole once more.
John is happy on these kinds of days.