Almost a year to the day since Sherlock’s death, John’s walking slowly along the southbank. It’s cold and raining and John trudges forward with his head down. The world is not right without Sherlock and it’s almost too much to bear. John feels unbalanced, disorientated; Ella keeps telling him that the rawness will fade, that in time it will be easier to manage. John can’t imagine how Sherlock not being part of his life will ever be easy to manage.
John doesn’t take much notice of his surroundings until he passes the National Theatre. The brightly coloured flags bearing the logo catch his attention. He stops for a second, staring upwards. He never came here with Sherlock which was a good thing really; he could never have imagined Sherlock sitting still for two and a half hours to watch a play. Even if he did sit still he’d keep muttering and pointing out everything that was wrong.
John is just about to continue walking when a poster for the current production of Frankenstein catches his eye. John’s breath catches in his throat and he is frozen to the spot. He blinks fervently.
That’s… that’s… Sherlock? No. Don’t be stupid.
John forces himself to move, all but runs over to where the poster is displayed next to the main doors. He ghosts a hand over the actor’s face. The actor bears a striking resemblance to Sherlock, yet he has a fuller face and slightly shorter coppery hair. But his eyes are the same; slightly slanted haunting grey green eyes. John would recognise Sherlock’s eyes anywhere.
Trembling all over John reads the rest of the poster to find out the actor’s name. Benedict Cumberbatch. John barks out a laugh. Only Sherlock Holmes would fake his own death and choose a new name more ridiculous than his own one.
John scrambles for his phone and hastily punches in Lestrade’s number.
“Hey, John. What can I do for you?”
John barely lets Lestrade finish speaking before he jumps in, the words tumbling over each other.
“It’s Sherlock. He’s alive! He’s in a play at the National, God knows why, he’s got a new name now. Benedict Cumberbatch. Look him up, Lestrade. He’s fucking alive!”
There is a long pause.
“John… Mate, you saw the post mortem report. Molly verified everything herself. Sorry, but I reckon this actor just looks like him, yeah? And it spooked you.”
John balls his fist and slams it into his leg.
“Damn it, Lestrade, it’s him. Google him, get a picture up on your computer. His eyes…” John lets out a shuddering breath, willing Lestrade to see.
“Oh, John. Sherlock is dead. It’s been a whole year, it’s understandable you’re willing it not to be true, but this guy is an actor who has a resemblance to Sherlock. I can even look him up on the police database, not that I’m supposed to, and see for myself that his details are legit.”
“No, Lestrade. You’re wrong. It’s him. It’s fucking him.” John spits out the last three words and hangs up, trembling.
He takes one final look at the poster, closes his eyes briefly, then turns around and marches back to Baker Street.
John flips open his laptop and types Benedict Cumberbatch Frankenstein into Google.
John watches the trailer five times in a row, his heart hammering in his chest. He clicks on a few links; they all say the same thing. Benedict Cumberbatch is an unknown actor, cast into the joint lead opposite Jonny Lee Miller. The press were speculating about Cumberbatch, wondering where he’d sprung from and if he would be good enough to hold his own on stage. However, reports from the press night had been stellar. Cumberbatch was fantastic.
John clicks onto the ticketing area of the National Theatre website intent on buying a ticket. He has to see for his own eyes if it really was Sherlock. John has spent enough time patching Sherlock up that he’d recognise the upper half of his body anywhere.
John growls in frustration as the website tells him that tickets are sold out for the rest of the run. Fucking damn it to hell. As the adrenaline begins to wear off, John realises how he sounds. Hysterical and making up wild theories. Lestrade was right; he’s seen the autopsy report. He’s heard everything from Molly. He saw Sherlock fall with his own eyes.
Sherlock is dead.
John closes his laptop, climbs the stairs and gets into bed, fully clothed.
The niggling feeling isn’t leaving John alone. As he walks to the surgery for his early shift his mind keeps wandering back to Frankenstein. If only he can get a ticket he can see for himself that this Benedict person isn’t Sherlock and then he can just get on with his life. Maybe make an appointment with Ella again.
John’s shift passes by in a whirlwind of coughs, colds and upset stomachs. As the clock finally ticks around to 1pm he hastily tidies up the consulting room, gathers his things, and leaves. He hails a cab and tells the driver to go to the National.
John read on their website that sometimes return tickets become available for a particular show, but that you have to turn up and see on the day. John is hoping he isn’t too late to get a ticket for the 7pm performance.
John leaps out of the cab and makes his way to the ticketing office. He sees that a queue has already formed and his heart sinks. He joins the back of the queue and settles himself in for a long wait, wishing he had thought to bring a book to read.
Four hours later he finally reaches the front of the queue and to his amazement he is able to secure a ticket. It’s not a particularly great seat, but at least he’ll be able to see the performance. He wanders over to the foyer where the programmes are being sold and he buys one, flicking through it hastily to read the actor biography for Benedict Cumberbatch.
Benedict Cumberbatch studied drama at Manchester University, then trained for one year at LAMDA. His work in theatre includes After the Dance at the National; The City, The Arsonists and Rhinoceros at the Royal Court.
Was that it? John turns the page. Jonny Lee Miller’s bio fills the entire page, and yet Benedict’s is a mere few lines. The papers got it right when they said Benedict was practically an unknown quantity.
John stares at the photograph. He can still see the resemblance between Benedict and Sherlock, but at the same time he knows that Sherlock died a year ago. He shuts the programme and heads for the bar in search for a drink. Scanning the cocktail list he opts for The Experiment and is served a green, smoking drink from a grinning bartender.
“Hardly anyone goes for that one! I think they’re wary about drinking something called The Experiment! I love making it.”
John smiles and takes a deep sip of his drink. Butterflies have exploded into his stomach and he needs to calm his nerves. The clock ticks closer to 7pm and John is getting increasingly nervous.
It’s just a play. It’s just a play.
John downs the rest of his drink and sits on his trembling hands.
He suddenly decides that he can’t bear to know if it’s really Sherlock or not. He’d rather carry on with this nice little delusion that Sherlock’s alive and swanning about as an actor than to believe that he’s dead.
John stands up and calmly walks out of the theatre and doesn’t look back.