Whereas other people—normal, sensible people—run away at the sound of a terrified scream or a splash of blood, John Watson goes straight towards the source. It is this predilection toward "danger" and "helping" that drove him into the Army and later into Sherlock Holmes' orbit for 18 incredible months.
But Sherlock isn't here anymore. All that remained is John and his recklessness.
After all, what good is a soldier without his war?
While staring down the impossible, a jolt of color finally bleeds through the edge of his grey world.
The first few months post-Sherlock drags on and John soldiers through the fog that descended over his life. He goes back to his therapist (incompetent), works part-time at the surgery (dull), and runs through all the other motions of ordinary civilian life (utterly hateful). He can't help with cases even if he wanted to. The Met is still dealing with the fallout, and Lestrade is quickly transferred out of the public eye and away from his regular duties.
Not a week after the funeral, Anthea and some movers sweep the flat clean of Sherlock's belongings, boxed them, and takes them to God knows where. John just stands by the window and watches as the last remains of his flatmate's life is scrubbed away—the violin, chemistry equipment, books, ludicrously expensive and well-tailored suits... He's already taken his own mementos, the skull and the jack knife that used to affix correspondences to the mantelpiece. When Anthea finally leaves without so much as a glance away from her Blackberry, John breaks down but doesn't cry.
He's out of tears at that point. And he hates the way every little noise echos through the sitting room without Sherlock's junk to muffle sound.
He moves out of 221B not long after that. He can't afford it on his own; he doesn't want another flatmate and refuses to touch any of the money Sherlock left to him. John tries stalwartly to ignore the paperwork that would finalize the inheritance (and really, what kind of man leaves that much money to his flatmate after just over a year of living together?), but he's not at all surprised when the money turned up in his account three weeks later.
He moves the money into a separate account and doesn't touch any of it.
When media scrutiny finally dies down around September, John trades his part-time locum for shifts at Royal London's A&E (not Bart's, he can't go back there, maybe never again). Sometimes it feels like he does nothing but spend days elbow-deep in blood. It's exhausting work that cuts bone deep, but he'd take anything to be able to drop off into sleep without dreams of Afghanistan or falling—without the urge to contemplate and prod the gaping Sherlock-shaped wound in his life.
But it isn't quite enough. John isn't sure if anything short of Sherlock himself would do anymore.
John isn't sure what to make of the scene before him. There's a body slew on the ground, lying in an ever expanding pool of blood. Already dead, his mind helpfully provides with a sharp medical detachment, already bled out too much. He can't tell much else in the dark of the alley. His eyes darts quickly to the strange figure with its stranglehold on a gasping woman, thrashing and flailing.
He wishes he had his Browning with him.
"Let her go!" he orders and charges forward.
The assailant drops the woman like a stone and lunges to meet him halfway. All he can see through the stripes of light coming from a window overhead was a row of insanely sharp fangs and slanted eyes. He realizes belatedly that the assailant is also a woman. Her tackle sends them both flying into a wall, and John can even feel the brick give way against his screaming back when he collides. He tries to throw her off, but she presses in harder and closes her hand around his neck in a vice grip.
This is all wrong: the inhuman strength, those monstrous teeth... Not human, can't possibly be human.
"Shouldn't have turned your back to me," someone piques.
The assailant goes stiff and looks down at herself. John followed the path of the gaze and sees the silver tip of a blade now protruding out of her chest, where the heart would be. The body jerks back and shudders when the knife tip twisted counter-clockwise. John's mind is still frantically spinning on its wheels when the body crumbles like dust. He looks up into the blue eyes of the woman he had been trying to rescue, his gaze then flickering to the bloodied dagger held in her trembling right hand. His and her chest heave simultaneously while the only sounds is their heavy breathing.
She wipes the blood on a handkerchief she draws from her pocket. Her eyes are still locked in her examination of his face.
"What was that?" he asks, his tone is steady rather than numb.
"Vetala, we should go. They usually hunt in pairs. The other one will be here soon." Her voice has a melodious lilt to it, pleasant and calming. She speaks like she is soothing a flustered school child.
"She wasn't human. Human beings don't just crumble into ash."
"No." Good humor bleeds in her words.
She grabs a knapsack off the ground and slings it onto her back. "Come on, we have to go." She extends one hand forward, clad in supple leather and wet with specks of blood.
All John can think about is the last time his palm had been cradled by another leather gloved hand, racing through the back streets of London. There is the image of Sherlock's handcuffed wrist superimposed over her hand.
Take my hand.
His body moves without thinking, prompted by adrenaline and habit. She threads her gloved fingers through his and pulls him further down the alley into an adjoining one. They run; she leads and he follows as they weaved through the darkness.
"What's your name?" she shouts as they flee.
"Hullo, John," she turns her head and tosses him a wide smile full of pearly white teeth. "I'm Mary."
Her eyes are so blue—like aquamarines sparkling in the dark. He can feel his own heart hammering away for the first time in what feels like an eternity. Within another two hours, they manage to draw the other Vetala to a remote location and dispose of her with the flick of a silver knife.