A year and a half is a long time when measured in days without sunlight and the filth that accumulates beneath torn fingernails. Longer still when measured by how long you’ve been dead, how long it will take those left behind to begin to move on without you when they don’t know to wait.
Sherlock has mastered the art of navigating the underbelly of the world - if only he were allowed to use that skill to return to Baker Street. Back to Mrs. Hudson’s homemade biscuits and Lestrade’s easy grin and John’s never-ending patience and – God, John.
His eyes slide shut on their own accord as he crouches amidst the refuse that litters the small back alley – just another piece of the trash himself, going unnoticed by the world and preferring it that way.
He almost misses the way the blue police call box materializes farther up the alley, a faint breeze stirring the otherwise stagnant air and brushing gently across his face. Sherlock looks on with calm indifference – suddenly the tiny mark the needle had left on his skin feels new and raw and tender.
The door to the police call box opens, a man sticks his head out with bright eyes burning with curiosity. His gaze passes over Sherlock huddled in the dark, slides over him entirely without pause. He purses his lips petulantly.
“This isn’t where I wanted to be,” Sherlock can hear him say. The man scans the alleyway again, gaze alighting on Sherlock and focusing there, brows furrowed. He takes a step out of the call box and Sherlock stands, limbs tense and prepared to flee.
The man’s face twists, a strange expression of grief and understanding and, of all things, joy. Sherlock finds himself rooted as the man approaches, arms fidgeting at his side as if he wants nothing more than to reach out and embrace the disgraced detective.
He has not gone by that name in nearly eighteen months. He prepares to run, but the man makes use of his twitching fingers, reaching out to grasp at the hem of Sherlock’s shirt desperately. He does not flinch when Sherlock spins, lips curled and teeth bared in a feral snarl.
“John will forgive you.”
The threatening look falls away immediately. The man is watching him with a heartbroken expression. He gives a sad sort of smile.
“Just make sure you aren’t too much longer. He shouldn’t be made to wait forever.”