Chapter 1: Surprise
Sherlock is four and a half years old and entering Year One at school.
He looks down at his timetable, trying to figure out the layout of the school, when a group of three older boys stops in front of him.
“Are you just starting?” asks one of them. Sherlock nods. “You look so small! You must be quite intelligent, then, eh?” says another, smiling at Sherlock.
Sherlock smiles back at him. “I suppose I am,” he says, and for some reason that makes the other boys laugh.
“Do you want a chocolate? I know James here has some,” says the center boy, indicating the first speaker.
“Why yes,” says James. “I do!” He fishes into his pocket and finds a piece of chocolate, handing it to the boy in the center.
“Go on, then,” says the center one. “Take it – it’s yours.” He sticks his hand out.
Sherlock looks up trustingly and reaches his hand forward to take the piece of chocolate. His mouth curves up into a smile, and his eyes crinkle happily—
The other boy quickly moves his hand away, bringing his other one up to slap Sherlock hard across the face.
The sheer shock of it – the sheer, unexpected, cruel shock of it – momentarily stuns Sherlock, and he staggers back as his curls fall forward. For a second, he doesn’t quite understand what has happened, but realization dawns soon after.
Before he knows it, hot tears are streaking across his cheeks, and he wipes at them angrily, shaking his head and trying to regain his composure. He is looking down, hiding his face, but he can still hear the boys laughing as they walk away.
He looks around, but the boys are gone, and Sherlock is left standing in the middle of the hallway, surrounded by a hundred other students who either didn’t see the incident happen or simply don’t care. None of them stop on their way to class.
That is the first time Sherlock cries in front of another human being.
He decides it will also be the last.
Chapter 2: Betrayal
Mycroft is leaving.
Mycroft is leaving.
Mycroft is leaving.
How could he do this to me? The words have been echoing in Sherlock’s head for about a month now, ever since Mycroft announced over dinner that he had finally chosen where he was going to go for university. Their mother had gasped in happy surprise and given him a hug, his father had nodded with a hint of a smile on his face, and Sherlock – well, Sherlock had just looked on in silence.
Mycroft is packing his last few things in the other room now, and Sherlock is in his own, attempting to read Candide and thinking that this is definitely not the best of all possible worlds.
Sherlock thinks about Monday, when he will have to go back to school. He hates Mondays. Fridays are his favorite – for, on Fridays, Sherlock knows Mycroft will be waiting for him when he comes back from school, holding a piece of paper in his hand with a different activity for them to do every weekend. “Let’s determine how many different types of fish there are in the pond by the school,” he would say. “Let’s attempt to reason whether both of us see the same colors as ‘green’ and ‘blue’ in our heads, and how we would know if we didn’t.” “Let’s—”
Sherlock hums softly to himself to drown out the overlapping voices in his head as he thinks about the past few years. His breathing grows shallower. He tries to convince himself to think about the situation from a more detached perspective.
He mostly fails.
It is completely reasonable for Mycroft to leave, he tells himself. Obviously, university would just be the next step—
A colder voice cuts through his thoughts sharply. You’re not like him, it says. Mycroft can survive without you – he did for seven years, didn’t he? – but you can’t survive without him. You need Mycroft to tell you what to do, what to say, how to live. You can’t just blend in like he does. You’re not normal. You’re a freak—
I am NOT a freak! The voice roars inside his own head, but it’s just loud, not convincing.
Sherlock closes his eyes and recites the digits of pi to two hundred places. He does it again, and a third time, and a fourth.
An hour later, there is a knock on his door. “Come on, dear!” Mummy says. “This is your last chance to say goodbye to Mycroft!”
He looks at himself in the mirror and forces his face into the blankest expression he can manage, then walks down the stairs slowly.
Mycroft is standing by the door, and looks him up and down quickly. Mummy pushes him closer to Mycroft; Sherlock tries not to grit his teeth or clench his fists.
He simply looks blankly at his brother, and winces slightly as Mycroft attempts to ruffle his hair. Mycroft looks down at him and stops almost immediately, stepping back and picking up his trunk.
“Well, then, Sherlock,” he says, and Sherlock can see that he’s not quite sure how to proceed. “I hope—”
“Goodbye, Mycroft,” Sherlock says, the blank expression never leaving his face. Mycroft barely has a chance to respond before Sherlock has turned around and is heading up the long stairs to his room.
Sherlock sits down on his bed and opens the window. Quiet tears roll down his cheeks as he sees Mycroft’s car pull away from their – his, he corrects himself angrily – home. His expression is still blank.
Chapter 3: Relief
When his mother finishes speaking, Sherlock takes a deep breath, then runs back to his room.
The only sounds for the next hour are those of heaving sobs and whispered ‘thank you’s.
Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace…We rejoice in your promises of pardon, joy and peace to all those who love you. In your mercy turn the darkness of death into the dawn of new life, and the sorrow of parting into the joy of heaven… intones the pastor.
Sherlock looks over at Mycroft, who seems just about as pleased at the prospect that their father would receive a pardon for his sins in ‘the joy of heaven’ as he does.
Their father had been sipping a brandy in the study – his usual pastime after dinner, and one which their staff would have been loath to interrupt – when he had simply keeled over. The doctors had definitively stated that it had been a heart attack.
Sherlock had had his suspicions.
Three days before his father’s death had been the worst since Mycroft had come back to visit from university – his father’s drunken rage, the violent beating, the incessant throwing of everything in the kitchen. It still rings in Sherlock’s ears.
It had been the only time Sherlock had ever seen his brother completely, viscerally out of control. He had been lying in his room, trying to ignore his mother’s screaming in the study and trying to determine if his ankle was broken from the fall down the stairs, until a sharp shout had interrupted his reverie. He had watched from the entrance to his room as his brother fended off his father with a hot poker.
I swear, Father, I will use it. Do not ever make the mistake of assuming that I care even one whit what anybody besides Sherlock and Mummy thinks.
Mycroft meets his eyes calmly as the pastor finishes the prayer and the coffin is lowered.
They walk back to the house together, Sherlock limping slightly as his twisted ankle twinges with every step. He does not look back, and never visits his father’s grave again.
Chapter 4: Anger
The secretary at Scotland Yard generally tries not to eavesdrop on all the conversations happening within earshot, but this one is being fairly broadcasted throughout the office, what with the screaming and shouting and all. She shakes her head. People are beginning to gather around the office now, listening. What the hell, she thinks, mentally shrugging. May as well join them – it’s not like I’m getting any work done anyway.
“You cannot do this to me!”
“I can, and I will.”
There is desperation in the first voice now, and something like fear. “You cannot, Lestrade. You cannot make me go back to the way I was – you know how I was when you met me – hell, everyone in this office knows how I was when you met me—”
“Shut up, Sherlock. You’re high.”
“It was a distraction, Lestrade! That’s all it was. I swear. I wasn’t meant to be coming to a crime scene today – you hadn’t mentioned that there were any cases, and I was bored. When you called with a case, I was taken rather by surprise.”
“Then why did you do it? Why did you come to the crime scene even though you were high?”
“Well, the case was interesting, obviously…” Ooh, the secretary outside thinks, probably not the best approach to take.
A surprised huff of air, like the other speaker wasn’t expecting that response. “I don’t know what to do with you, Sherlock, I really don’t. I let you accompany me on cases because you’re a known quantity, most of the time at least, and I can usually trust you. You betrayed that trust today.”
“This is UNFAIR!” the first voice cries. “You know I’m not like those other idiots – Sally, Anderson –” There is a slight pause at this point, which everyone outside uses to look pointedly at the two. Sally and Anderson stare back defiantly, as though daring the audience to join in. “I’m not like them! Do you have any idea what hell it is inside my brain?” A quick ironic chuckle. “Oh, who am I asking? You’re just as bad as the rest of them –”
“Now who’s being unfair, Sherlock?” asks the second voice. “I gave you a chance when no one else would, I understood you when no one else would, and you promised me that life was over. You lied to me. You disappointed me. I trusted you, Sherlock, and you let me down, and you have to face the consequences. No more cases. You are not allowed back at Scotland Yard, and I will NOT be stopping by Baker Street anytime in the near future.”
“I’m sorry.” There’s a questioning tone to the words, as though the speaker isn’t quite sure how to use them.
“I’m sorry, too. Now get out, Sherlock, and I don’t want to see you again for a while.”
Angry footfalls approach the door, and the small crowd outside disperses in a second or two.
The secretary turns to look at the scene again, then shakes her head and gets back to work.
“Where to, sir?” he asks.
“Baker Street,” replies the man, then stonily looks out the window.
In the rearview mirror, the cabbie can see the man quietly crying into a handkerchief all the way home. As he drives away from Baker Street, he sees a black car with tinted windows take his parking place.
Chapter 5: Hopelessness
Lying on the sofa with his eyes closed, Sherlock registers that his flatmate seems to be shouting at him. “Hm?”
“I said, I hope you go die in a hole, you arrogant sod! When was the last time you did the dishes, huh? When was the last time that you did anything around here—”
Oh. Well, then. Dull. Delete.
Two minutes later, Sherlock registers that his flatmate seems to be shouting at him. “Hm?”
“I seriously hope you’re joking, Sherlock. It was you playing the violin at God knows what hour last night, wasn’t it? I thought so. I woke up in the middle of the night only to hear you wailing away on your violin in the living room, and I can’t do it anymore, Sherlock, I can’t—”
Two minutes later, Sherlock registers that his flatmate seems to be shouting at him. “Hm?”
“Oh, for God’s sake. That’s it. I’m leaving. I have had it with you and your mess and your patches and your comings and goings at all hours of the night—”
Sherlock closes his eyes again. Boring, boring, boring! Del—”
“LOOK at me when I’m talking to you, you little piece of—” William is yanking him forward by his shirt collar now so that Sherlock has to sit upright on the sofa. Sherlock opens his eyes. Interesting.
Sherlock hears William’s shaky breath, sees his fisted hands – signs he has seen from three (no, four) of his flatmates over the past two months. Sherlock makes eye contact with William and lets out an imperceptible sigh of disappointment. And here I thought there was hope for this one…
“Listen to me, Sherlock, and listen to me well.” William is pacing the floor of their living room in anger, and his hands are still fisted. “You are a miserable flatmate, you know that? Just…the worst. You’re messy—”
He’s wrong. My affairs are organized in a perfectly logical order, if one would just THINK.
“You intrude on my privacy at all hours—”
I have my reasons, and they’re important reasons.
“But most of all, you’re just a selfish, cold-hearted, narcissistic bastard. You’re a psychopath, a weirdo, a maniac, you’re INSANE.”
He’s— There is a dull silence inside Sherlock’s brain, almost deafening.
“Oh, I finally have the attention of His Majesty, then? I’ll tell you this now, Sherlock, and make it kinder for you in the long run – you’re broken, and you need to be fixed. There is something seriously, seriously wrong with you. You have no friends as far as I can see – and let’s be honest, who would want to be friends with you, anyway? Just living with you for the past two weeks has been like hell on Earth – you’re a drug addict who comes home with blood on his shirt all the time, like some sort of grotesque murderer, and I’ve yet to meet someone who was not immediately put off by you. You have no conception of what it means to be normal, and you’re not. Normal, that is. You’ll never fit in, and you’ll never figure out why you don’t, either. You’ll just be there, alone, for the rest of your life, and everyone else will continue to despise you just as they always have, because YOU. ARE. INSANE.”
“Get out of my house.” They’re the first words Sherlock has said all day.
Two hours later, William is gone, the echoes of his suitcase being dragged along the staircase fading away into complete and utter silence.
Two hours after that, Sherlock is still sitting on the couch. Delete, delete, del—
He hangs his head and ruffles his curls as the tears fall onto the carpet.
Chapter 6: GRIEF
PLUS ONE: GRIEF
John looks at Sherlock out of the corner of his eye. Sherlock is hanging his head, every part of him absolutely still, as the words of the pastor wash over them.
We therefore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth…
They had been the first to find out, of course. John had meant to go down for tea with her, but what with one case and another Sherlock had kept him thoroughly distracted, and John had only remembered at seven o’clock that night that he had meant to meet Mrs. Hudson.
Strange, he remembers thinking. Why didn’t she come up to see what was going on?
It’s still hard to believe he will never have tea with her ever again.
…ashes to ashes…
John remembers falling to his knees in shock at the sight of Mrs. Hudson on the floor – unmoving, so ridiculously, absolutely, deathly still. More tears – it seems he has an endless supply – run down his cheeks at the memory, and he looks down to hide his face somewhat from the other attendees at the funeral. Beside him, Sherlock has still not moved.
…dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life…
Later, after the funeral, Mycroft tells them that they now own 221B, according to Mrs. Hudson’s will. The revelation sets John off again, but Sherlock merely blinks twice and shuts himself up in his room for an hour. John wonders if Sherlock is crying. After a few minutes of worrying, he presses himself against the door as silently as he can in an effort to hear what is happening inside. All he is able to sense is absolute silence.
He remembers the last words Irene Adler ever said to him. I don’t think so, do you? He gives up and goes to bed.
A day later, Sherlock still hasn’t said anything of substance. “Tea, John,” he says once in a while. For an hour, he plays the violin while staring out the window mournfully, and John notes keenly that Sherlock’s reflection still has dry eyes.
Another couple of hours of silence pass, with John trying to read the newspaper – he gets about halfway through a paragraph before his eyes get too teary to continue – and Sherlock sprawled on the sofa with his eyes closed.
John finally looks up.
“You know, it’s okay if you want to…express some grief, Sherlock,” John says uncertainly. Inwardly, he shakes his head at the thought that he has not even the slightest idea how Sherlock processes grief. Mrs. Hudson would know, he thinks sadly. Mycroft would, too, I suppose, but he’s Big Brother. Mrs. Hudson…oh, Mrs. Hudson… She had been different. She had been an ally in John’s quest to navigate the choppy waters that were Sherlock Holmes.
He suddenly registers the silence that had greeted his last statement.
“Yes, yes, thank you, John,” says Sherlock absently. He does not open his eyes.
John bites his lip, wondering if he should push further. He remembers a day – how long ago it seems, now! – when Sherlock had declared that “England would fall” if Mrs. Hudson ever left Baker Street.
“Sherlock, I just want you to know – that – if you need – well, if you need to talk – about anything, mind you, not just…recent things – if you need to talk about anything, I just want you to know that you can. Talk. To me. If you like.” Oh, great job, he tells himself. That sounded completely well thought-out and inviting.
Sherlock opens his eyes for a moment, and his gaze softens slightly as he takes in John’s newly tear-stained cheeks. “Yes, thank you, John,” he says.
He doesn’t say much else for the rest of the evening.
John enters with the shopping a week later, trying to regain some semblance of a normal routine, and drops the bags at the door to run to Sherlock as soon as he sees him.
Sherlock is sitting on the sofa with his head in his hands, sobbing. No, wait, John corrects himself, Sherlock isn’t sobbing – his eyes are dry – but he’s…heaving? Sobbing without tears? John finds himself at a little bit of a loss at the sight of Sherlock Holmes crying without actually, well, crying.
“Sherlock, Sherlock,” he says, his eyes welling up with empathetic tears, “I’m here.” He puts an arm around his friend and holds him as Sherlock’s body shakes.
Sherlock looks up at him and stiffens slightly. His eyes meet John’s, and John can see a mix of the surprise, anger, hurt, frustration, and sorrow he has felt himself over the past few days. “It’s okay, Sherlock,” he says. “It’s okay if you need to cry.”
“No, I can’t,” says Sherlock, shaking his head.
“It’s okay, Sherlock, I’m here, and I know this past week has been difficult for you – Mrs. Hudson was like a mother to you – I know I’ve been cut up about it and she meant so much more to you than to me—”
“No, John, you don’t understand,” says Sherlock. “I can’t.”
John isn’t quite sure how to respond. “It’s…okay, Sherlock,” he says. “Whatever you need.”
John and Sherlock hug their respective best friends, and John wishes – as he does fairly often – that Sherlock came with a manual. He is sure that there is something he could say that would make Sherlock open up, but he also knows he’s not even close to a flicker of an idea of what that might be.
He finally settles on the truth, or something close to it.
“Sherlock,” he says.
Sherlock looks up at him. His eyes are still dry, but his sobs have quieted somewhat, and his body isn’t shaking quite so harshly anymore.
“Sherlock,” John says again, like the repetition of his name would magically conjure up the rest of a speech, “Sherlock, I want to be here for you, okay? I want you to know that. I want to be here, with you, comforting you in a time of stress and need and pain, and I want you to trust me because I know I’m your best friend and you know you’re mine, and I want you to feel like you can always tell me anything. I’m not going to walk away, I’m not going to call you names, and even if it’s something that I have no idea how to deal with I promise you this, Sherlock, we can deal with it together. I know we can. This past week has been hard on the both of us, but I think only one of us has actually grieved for the loss of Mrs. Hudson, and I want you to know that no matter when, where, and how you decide to remember her, I will always be here to support you. I love you, Sherlock, and I’m your blogger and colleague but most of all your friend, and I want you to be happy. It’s killing me that you’re not, but it’s killing me even more that you’re suffering through this alone.” John stops to clear his throat. “Please let me help, Sherlock. I want to.”
“John,” says Sherlock, and breaks down completely. Tears run down his cheeks, and his curls are going haywire as he sobs into his hands.
A few minutes later, as John holds him tightly, Sherlock begins to speak again. “You know," he says, "the first time I met Mrs. Hudson was at a crime scene – she had come to speak to Lestrade about a ‘friend’ of hers who needed help getting out of an abusive relationship—”
They reminisce about Mrs. Hudson until Sherlock, still whispering quietly, falls asleep on the sofa. John looks at him with affection, puts a blanket over him, and goes up to bed.
The next morning, when John comes down for breakfast, he sees a cup of tea on the table with a small note next to it.
Thank you, John, it says, for everything.