Don't be dead. Don't be dead. Don't be dead.
It becomes John mantra after the funeral. He hears it everywhere. Wake up in the middle of the night. Don't be dead. Get out of bed. Don't be dead. Go downstairs, into that room that they both shared with everything still in its place. Don't be dead. Put water on to boil. Don't be dead. Make two cups of tea before remembering that only one is needed. Don't be dead.
Stop it. Stop this, Sherlock.
John spends his days sitting in his chair, looking out the window and waiting to see the swish of Sherlock's coat and the scarf and the curly mop of hair being pushed in the wind like it was the last time that he saw his friend alive. Harry comes by in the afternoons, tries to talk to him, but John just ignores her until she goes away. Sometimes Mrs. Hudson comes up and keeps watch with John in the early evenings. She's hurting too, John knows, but he can't bring himself to care very much. All he feels anymore is desperation and loneliness and emptiness.
Please, for me, Sherlock. Come back for me.
Every evening, when Sherlock hasn't shown up in 221B, John gets angry. But more than angry, he becomes murderous. He shouts and screams and rages because that damn bastard hasn't come back to him, hasn't sent a sign that he's alive, hasn't come home. John throws anything unfortunate enough to be in his reach, sending it shattering against the wall or the floor. He screams and screams until he sinks to the floor and sobs.
Is this what you wanted?
Losing Sherlock has been worse than anything before. John has never lost a family member or a girlfriend. Of course, he saw men die—killed them with his own hands—in the war, but that was different. There is anonymity to a uniform. John has lost patients on the surgery table, but he has never felt this crushing grief before. Losing Sherlock was losing a partner and a lover—even though they had never been that way in reality, John still had hoped that in the end they would be more than friends. So losing Sherlock also meant losing that possibility, losing the future.
Is this funny to you?
John remembers those hazy moments after watching Sherlock open his arms and embrace swirling winds and gravity and death. He remembers making it to his friend, remembers seeing the blood, remembers grabbing Sherlock's wrist and feeling his friend's body warm for the last time. John remembers placing those two fingers, searching for a pulse he knew couldn't possibly be there. And the worst part is remembering how he couldn't find it, couldn't feel Sherlock's thundering heart, couldn't see the mad genius spark in his eyes.
From then on, it didn't matter anymore. Because when Sherlock's heart had stopped, so had John's. It had been weeks, but it had felt more like the longest day of John's life. He was tired of not seeing Sherlock. He was tired of making two cups of tea. He was tired of people trying to talk to him, trying to get him to talk.
Breathing is boring.
John just wants to talk to Sherlock. He wants to see his friend smile again, hear his small chuckle, chase after him at night. He wants to ask why. Why did Sherlock leap? John doesn't understand. Their last face-to-face conversation had been harsh. John doesn't know how Sherlock could have gone from apathetic to suicidal in less than an hour. But the worst part is that John just wants to apologize for being cruel to Sherlock, for shoving him away. John wants to hug Sherlock and sob in his shoulder and feel the detective's pulse race again.
Lestrade makes the mistake of coming to the flat after his shift one evening.
"John, I'm so sorry," the Detective Inspector starts. John continues to stare out the window, barely listening. "I didn't think that Sherlock was a fraud. The Yard wanted me to bring him in. I just helped to drag his name through the mud and I—I can't—I'm sorry. I wish I could tell him that."
That's when John snaps. He feels a coldness wash over him as he turns slightly to look at Lestrade, look at the man responsible for Sherlock's final act. "You wish you could tell him that," John says, a harshness in his eyes that reminds the DI that John is a soldier. John, on the other hand, is surprised at his voice. He hasn't spoken to anyone since the funeral—was that three weeks ago?—and he can never tell at night if he actually screams or if he's just so used to hearing it in his head that his mental voice is drowning him out already. "You want to tell him sorry. You want his forgiveness. Is that what you came here for?" Lestrade nods, just a fraction of movement. "I don't know what Sherlock would tell you. He isn't here to say it anymore. You could go back to his grave and ask him there, since you're the one that shoved him in a box and buried him and his mind."
John pauses for a moment, narrowing his eyes. "But I want to tell you that I will never forgive you. You made him lose his final grip on sanity. You played into Moriarity's hands even though Sherlock warned you not to. You lost faith in the man that helped you for six and a half years. His track record didn't matter to you in the end. All that mattered was finding a scapegoat and finding a place to put the blame. You killed him. You killed my best friend. It's your fault that he's not here, not sitting in his chair yelling at the telly or solving crimes or conducting horrible experiments. You're the reason why the world doesn't go around the sun anymore. You're the reason that none of this matters," John has kept his voice steady throughout his speech, even though he can't believe that Lestrade had the audacity to come here. John can see the hurt in his eyes but he doesn't care anymore. The soldier turns back and looks out the window, a clear demand to leave.
"John, I--" but Lestrade doesn't get to finish his sentence because he made the mistake of putting a hand on John's shoulder. And before John knows it, he has the D.I. pinned against the bullet hole smiley face, one hand around the throat and another around the wrist of the hand that dared to touch him. Lestrade's eyes are wide and John clenches his jaw.
"Get. Out." The words are sharp and cold. John is done playing civilian, and he would absolutely kill in this moment because nothing could make him feel worse anyway. John takes several deep breaths and then manages to relax his grip so that Lestrade can slip away. The detective hurries out of the room, but John is too fast. He has a book in his hand and has pitched it at Lestrade before John can even think that it might not be a good idea. But the book hits the wall by Lestrade, which just makes the D.I. hurry up. John hears the door slam seconds later, but he doesn't stop throwing and smashing and making his life crumble around him because fuck it it's already in ruins anyway.
John doesn't stop the tirade that night. He can't—the loneliness and the grief and the sheer pain of it all is just too much. He can't stop it or control it, just like he couldn't stop or control Sherlock. He feels like an outsider watching the destruction, just like he was an outsider watching Sherlock's final minutes. It doesn't matter anymore. None of it matters.
When dawn comes, John does the only thing he can think of. He goes to Bart's, looks up at the hospital that took Sherlock's life. He stands where Sherlock had him stand and watch. He remembers seeing his friend up there, so small against the sky. John walks across the street to where Sherlock landed against the unforgiving pavement. He sees the blood as it had seeped out of Sherlock's head in a pool, stuck the curls to Sherlock's forehead. And then John goes into the hospital, bypasses security since they know him anyway, and climbs up each and every step. There's no easy way out, there's no comfort in the world with Sherlock gone.
I have seen the battlefield, Sherlock. And it's become too much.
John's on the roof now, the sounds of his footsteps loud in the distant silence. He steps up onto that ledge, not feeling one bit of fear. John's heart thunders in his ears, reminding him that he's alive in this moment, that it would be wrong to waste the beats he has left. Did Sherlock's do the same? John hasn't thought of leaving a note, but really, who would he address it to? Sherlock was the only person who mattered to him. John tips his head back, breathing in the hot city air.
Of course. Of course, Sherlock. If this is what you want, I'll give it to you.
John stretches out his arms and his heart speeds up. It doesn't matter now. He hasn't been alive since Sherlock was standing here. Was it hard for Sherlock to look down at him? Was it hard to say goodbye? It won't be for John. After all, he's the one who is going to Sherlock, because wherever Sherlock is, John's supposed to be by his side.
John leans forward, feeling the morning sun hit his face for the last time. Just a little more now, just a bit, and he'll be falling. John breathes deep, and then his feet are off the ledge. He closes his eyes, seeing Sherlock, hearing Sherlock call out his name as he falls, feeling the warm air rush around him.
I love you, Sherlock.
John doesn't feel himself hit the ground. Instead, he feels himself fall into Sherlock's waiting arms.