+ 15 minutes
John was stood next to another doctor, nodding as she told him, ever so gently, that Sherlock was dead. He felt her gentle grip on his arm, but ignored it. He already knew⎯he’d seen him fall, felt the lack of pulse under that grotesquely still-warm flesh.
But still, it was protocol.
He looked up at the doctor, really seeing her for the first time.
“I want to see him.” His throat was sore, his lips dry and cracked.
“Doctor Watson, let us get him…”
“Now. I want to see him now.” He licked his lips. “Please.”
Her eyes flicked down, and then she nodded.
+ 21 minutes
He looked so much smaller, somehow, lying on the gurney. They hadn’t undressed him yet, but his shirt was torn from where they’d cut it open. His coat and scarf were tossed carelessly over the chair. The white sheet that John had had to pull away from his face set off the pallor of his skin far too well.
He was cold now, but John kissed him anyway. He didn’t hold his breath for a miracle⎯Sherlock wasn’t just sleeping, waiting for a kiss to wake him. He was…dead.
John clutched at Sherlock’s sleeve as he leaned over and finally retched, splattering bile on the spotless tile floor. He dropped into a crouch, still clinging to Sherlock’s shirt, pressing his free hand to his mouth, his eyes, as he let loose the wrenching cry of anguish that had been locked in his chest since Sherlock fell and didn’t change.
+ 28 minutes
There were loud footsteps clattering down the hall. John’s knees creaked as he shifted his weight, still in his crouch, still clamping one hand tightly over his mouth in a vain attempt to keep himself from howling his grief.
“I’m an Inspector at the Yard, I’m his friend, goddammit, let me through!”
Lestrade shoved the door open and froze at the scene in front of him.
“Jesus,” Lestrade breathed. He moved then, suddenly, and without faltering as he strode over to the bed and hauled John up, pressing the smaller man into his chest and holding him close. John moved his free hand from his mouth to Lestrade’s back, clawing into his jacket and letting the fabric muffle his sobs.
Lestrade reached down and gently brushed his hand across Sherlock’s forehead, down a cheek. His hand was shaking as he gripped Sherlock’s shoulder for a moment. Turning his attention to John, he started rocking back and forth gently, murmuring, “I’m so sorry, John” over and over until John started to quiet and sagged against him.
He brushed a dry, quick kiss over John’s hair and said, “I’ll take care of getting his things for you. Let’s get you cleaned up and home, yeah?”
“But Mycroft⎯” John straightened a little, pulled his mouth away from Lestrade’s jacket. “Mycroft needs to know.”
“He knows,” Lestrade said gently. “He’s on his way.”
“Don’t want him to see him like this.”
“Okay.” Lestrade nodded at the nurse who had appeared in the doorway. “I’ll have the staff hold him off until they’ve got him cleaned up. Okay?”
John nodded, pulling away completely from Lestrade, finally letting go of Sherlock’s sleeve. He scrubbed one hand across his eyes before he huffed out his breath. “I want his coat and scarf now, though.” Lestrade nodded.
John faced the opposite wall for a moment longer, then pulled his back and shoulders almost painfully taut as he executed a military-precise spin and kissed Sherlock again. “Soon, love,” he whispered as he stood up and brushed his hand over the matted curls. He nodded briskly and then scooped up the coat and scarf, clutching them tightly as he left the small room.
He didn’t look back.
+ 70 minutes
“Where is John now?”
“At Baker Street. I got him situated on the sofa, gave him a good shot of whisky. I searched the place, took his gun for safekeeping. There weren’t any kind of pills I could find. When I left, he was just lying there with Sherlock’s coat and scarf pressed up to his nose. Mrs Hudson said she’d keep an eye on him.”
Mycroft nodded, eyes still slightly wet. Greg’s heart broke again. “I’m so sorry, love,” he said, hating that that was the only thing he could say.
“I know. I’m sorry, too. He was your friend.”
They sat, pressed together from thigh to shoulder, and watched the fire die down. Neither of them spoke for over three hours, each lost in his thoughts.
Greg shifted first, placing his glass on the small table. He stayed there, elbows on his knees, as he said, “Moriarty’s body was not recovered. Eyewitnesses said they saw a man matching his description up there, and they heard a gunshot. But there was no body, no blood.”
Mycroft cleared his throat. “My team found trace evidence of a sniper in one of the buildings opposite Bart’s. No powder residue, so there was not a shot fired. They’re finalising their results, but a preliminary search pulled up one Sebastian Moran. Ex-military, top of his class in sniper training.”
Mycroft’s teeth gleamed in the dying light. “We’ll find him. We’ll find all of them.”
“John will be kept safe. It’s what Sherlock would have wanted.”
“He’ll want to help.”
“I am aware. I⎯” Mycroft cut himself off. His mobile had buzzed. He opened the message and read it, eyes growing wide. “There was a recording.”
Greg sat up straight. “Of what?”
“Apparently, Ms. Hooper found a recorder in the morgue. It is Sherlock’s last words, his conversation with Moriarty, his goodbye⎯” His throat, inexplicably, closed off. Greg gently took the mobile from him, turned it off, and pulled him in close.
“Tomorrow,” Mycroft agreed, and released a shuddering breath, finally allowing himself to cry.
+ 458 minutes
John sat up, dislodging Sherlock’s coat and scarf.
So. That was what almost 8 hours without Sherlock was like. Right.
He’d missed lunch and, after a glance at the clock, tea. He swung his legs over until his feet were on the floor, but he didn’t want to risk standing just yet.
He felt desiccated, as if he’d cried so much all of the salt that dried onto his skin had sucked all of the life from him. He cleared his throat, then shifted the coat and scarf reverently to one side. He balled up his fists and then stood up, willing his shaky legs to hold him as he stumbled into the kitchen. Now that he was awake, all of the cold, empty parts of him were screaming again, making him ache in places he’d not known could ache⎯places deep inside that no one but Sherlock had ever known.
Food was not an option⎯John knew it would come right back up again, even if it did taste like anything other than ashes in his mouth. He poured himself a glass of water, drank it in three gulps, and then noticed the whisky on the counter. He debated for a moment, thinking of Harry and how easy it would be to just slip into a bottle and never come back out. He held the bottle in his hand for a minute before he poured himself one shot and then resolutely dumped the bottle out in the sink.
He took his shot back over to the sofa and sat back down, sipping at it while he stared at the bloodstain on Sherlock’s scarf. He’d have to get that clean before too long⎯Sherlock wouldn’t have any compunction about wearing it, bloodstain or no. He caught himself, running back over what he’d just thought. He’d have to get used to referring to Sherlock in the past tense, now.
He threw the glass across the room, but instead of shattering into a million pieces, it merely bumped off of his chair and rolled to the floor, completely intact.
John dropped his face into his hands, feeling his eyes burn with unformed tears. Apparently, there was a limit to how many tears the body could produce before they no longer formed. Sherlock would have been fascinated.
There. That wasn’t so hard.
He dropped his hands and let out his breath in a carefully controlled exhale.
Fifteen minutes later, John realised he’d been staring at the door ever since he’d dropped his hands, waiting for Sherlock to come sauntering in and tell him how he’d accomplished this magic trick.
Four hours later, he was still waiting.