Chapter 1: Open Mic
No need to be nervous. You once played a festival, on two weeks’ notice, in front of two thousand people. This is a walk in the park. A piece of cake. Nothing to it.
Four acts to go, until John’s up.
There’s still time to run away. His name’s on the running sheet, but he could just leave. Pick up the guitar and slide away into the dark while the spotlight is on someone else. He’s not ready. Or he is. Or he’ll never be. Or…
Whether you sing or not, he’s dead. Whether you go up there or not, Sherlock will never stand beside you with his violin again. Whether you play tonight or not, he’ll always be there, in the music, with you. He gave you that. He gave that back to you.
It’s been three months.
John still sees every moment of that fall. He can hear the sound of Sherlock ‘s body crushed into the ground by gravity and inevitability and Fucking Jim Fucking Moriarty. He was going to burn the heart out of Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty has certainly done his best to burn the heart out of John Watson. John can’t decide if it’s good or bad that his heart seems to be made of sterner stuff.
Sherlock – brilliant, clever, stupid Sherlock – recorded it all, and left his phone to be found, and it was. All those words, and the impossible choice he’d been given. Live, and watch his friends die. Die, so they can live.
It is no kind of palliative to John’s grief to know what Sherlock chose. But grief is nothing new to John Watson, and he knows how it goes.
He knows, for example, that when his mother died, smashed beyond saving in a car accident, the aftershocks rippled out for years after and smashed an entire family beyond repair.
He knows that no matter how hard he’s worked, no matter the lives he’s saved, nothing will take him back in time to save her.
He knows that grief pulls you apart, fragments you, and that when you reform, if you can, you are different.
The other thing John knows about grief is that it’s the price you pay for the great gifts love gives you. He knows that if you don’t let the grief burn you alive, then after the grief is gone, you keep the gifts, no matter how fragmented you’ve been. Love and loss both change you, after all.
Three acts to go.
I can still get out of here. He’s seen Greg come in, but he’s almost certain Greg hasn’t seen him. He shouldn’t have said anything to the DI. It just slipped out, about the open mic night. It seemed a shame to never play again, he’d said, since Sherlock had gone to so much trouble. It seemed churlish to refuse to make music just because his muse had gone.
Did I say ‘muse’ to Greg? Did I say that? Does it matter if I did? No. It’s the truth. Every song I’ve written since Sherlock found out about the band is about Sherlock and me. Every single one.
Love has given John many gifts. His mother had given him patience, compassion, determination, courage. She was the first one to give him music, too, singing to him in her soft Scottish lilt, teaching him to play his first guitar when he was twelve years old. It was because she’d given him so much that her death had devastated him so entirely for so long.
When John watched Sherlock step off the roof, he felt himself shattering to shards as he watched, and he knew almost instantly how much Sherlock had gifted him these last years. Comradeship, purpose, exhilaration, new worlds to see, new eyes with which to see them. Sherlock had given John back to himself, after an enemy bullet had made John dead for forty-three seconds in Afghanistan. He’d grieved a long time, on returning to London, all the things he wasn’t any more. Sherlock had found him in fragments, and helped to rebuild him.
Then there was the music. Sherlock had given John the music back, too, and honestly, John thought he’d lost it for good, having locked it away when he got into medical school. (As though the music had been to blame for his rage, instead of just being the only way he could manage it.)
And then Sherlock had walked into the air, and fallen, and smashed beyond repair. Of course John was devastated. Grief-stricken. So many gifts Sherlock had given him; of course the grief was overwhelming.
In the end, though, it isn’t the grief that messes with John’s head. Grief is familiar, and he knows in time his fragments will reform, and he’ll still have everything he owes to Sherlock in some rebuilt part of himself.
No. What messes with John’s head is the phone call.
I’m a fake.
Two acts to go.
Greg’s seen me now. Oh, and there’s Bailey, the saxophonist they’d helped, who had recognised John from his Gladstone’s Collar days. She smiles and waves, waggling her smartphone at him. John nods back.
John really, really hopes that isn’t Anderson coming in late to skulk by the bar. If it is, and he’s brought Sally Donovan, he will definitely leave. John vaguely remembers Greg saying something about Donovan transferring, after the recordings revealed the truth. But it’s only Anderson, looking bereft. John can’t really work up the ire to be outraged by that.
No Molly. Never Molly. He never sees her any more. Greg speaks of her, but really, John hardly sees Greg any more either.
You told me you were a fake. That was a lie.
It wasn’t the first time Sherlock had ever lied to him. Sherlock lied rather a lot, truth be told. But John knows several things with absolute certainty.
For the most part, Sherlock had been a brutally honest person. Even when it would have been better to lie, or at least shut up.
Sherlock only ever lied when a lie served a purpose.
Sherlock always confessed to the lie afterwards, because he always wanted to show off how clever he’d been in testing his theories or getting the data he needed.
Sherlock had been disturbing good at the lie of putting on crocodile tears.
John always knew when Sherlock was lying. Always.
Sherlock was lying when he said he was a fake.
But the tears were real.
Conclusion: Sherlock had lied for a vital purpose that cut to the heart of something true.
And that was the sort of thing that would have set Sherlock to jumping around the flat like flea, or pacing back and forth, whirling on the turn like a demented dancer, because a contradiction like that wasn’t merely a paradox. It was the space in which the disparity suggested alternatives. It was a clue.
John recognises that much, even if he hasn’t the first idea what the clue means.
If it wasn’t for that irreconcilable lie, John might be able to cope with the ferocious aching loss of Sherlock. But that lie – that clue – keeps him awake in the cold, dark hours. Keeps him distracted at work. Keeps him fretting and haunted and in fragments. He keeps trying to unravel it, his mind dwelling on scraps of data that don’t fit the pattern.
Who called to tell me Mrs Hudson had been shot? Moriarty, or was that your doing? Where did you go that day, those missing hours? What were you up to? Who did you see? Anyone? No-one? Who were all those people on the footpath, who kept me away from you? Was the cyclist who knocked me down some random bloke, or someone Moriarty sent, or someone you sent? What were you doing, Sherlock?
Irene Adler faked her death. Could you have done it? Of course. You were much cleverer than she was. But I was there. I saw you fall. I saw the body. I can’t see how you could manage it. This is just denial. Stages of grief. I know that.
But the lie, Sherlock. What does it mean?
If that call was from you, why did you send me away? Why the fuck did I go? I’d have gone with you. Anywhere. I’d have brought you back from the edge, or gone down with you. In it together. Like always.
But no. They were not in it together, and Sherlock gave him an indecipherable clue and then stepped off a roof and fell, fell, fell to his death. John is grieving, and he’s confused, and he’s angry, because he’s missing something, but he just can’t sort the mind-fuck confetti of detail that could tell him what to think if only he knew how to look at it.
Sherlock would know. Sherlock could always find the notes in the white noise. It’s all cacophony to me.
One act to go.
When this duo is done singing, it will be John’s turn to take the stage. He feels a bit queasy.
He’d felt queasy, one month ago, venturing back to 221B to get his guitar. Half of his stuff was still at the flat, and most of Sherlock’s. Mycroft (That Bastard Mycroft is how John thinks of him now) has paid the rent for six months, and avoids the place. He is not coping perhaps even more spectacularly than John is not coping.
Three more months and John will have to decide what to do. For now, he’s living out of a duffle bag in a spare room at Mike Stamford’s place.
He can’t go home. Whenever he walks into that empty kitchen, that silent living room, he imagines he hears one of two things.
One. Sherlock. In the kitchen, messing about with some appalling experiment before snarling with exasperation or leaping about with fevered glee because he’s just cracked the case.
Two. A melody – violin and guitar – but it’s always Empty House.
All the spaces in the kitchen have shapes that look like you
All the silences sound like you are gone forever
And it’s an empty house
If you can't come back why were you ever here
In this empty house?
John wrote that song for his mother, but now it’s for Sherlock too, and it makes John physically ill. But he wanted to reclaim the music that Sherlock had given him, so he had to go back for the guitar.
The sight of Sherlock’s violin case on Sherlock’s armchair had made his heart hurt. He’d gone to it anyway, opened the case, looked inside. He had run a finger over the wood, the strings, and remembered that madman throwing his goddamned priceless Stradivarius across a stage at him, trusting John would catch it, while Sherlock hurtled offstage to see to the nasty piece of work that had just tried to shoot them.
God, that had been good. And fun. And it hurt to think of it, and it hurt to not want to remember it. That stage, that show, had been another gift of Sherlock’s, and when John’s 90 and grumbling alone in a council flat, John wants to remember it all. The running, the squabbles, the biohazard that was 221B, that music, all of it. He wants it all. Even the pain.
The duo is done, but there’s going to be a break. Ten minutes. John doesn’t want to leave any more, but he has no idea what he thinks he’s doing tonight. All he knows is that it’s important.
Four songs. For you, Sherlock. All of them.
One of the best gifts Sherlock gave to John was to see him. To see all of him. All those aspects of John Watson: doctor and soldier; good citizen and breaker-in of houses and military research facilities; upholder of order and face-puncher of gits; loyal follower and fearless leader. Most people only saw the parts of John Watson they wanted to see, that they thought he ought to be. Sherlock saw it all, and accepted it all.
It was absolutely true that John Watson would have done anything for Sherlock Holmes, because Sherlock Holmes had taken a man who was still in fragments, after the grief of being unmade by a bullet in Afghanistan and made him a whole person again.
That’s what John wrote about, when he started writing songs again. How Sherlock saw all those parts of John and made it okay to be all of those things at the same time.
John would have died for Sherlock, but he hadn’t, and couldn’t. The very least he could do was to sing for him. Those songs he’d locked away and not allowed to be heard outside their flat and their two voices. The songs that revealed all of John Watson, and what he owed to Sherlock Holmes.
And this new song.
At 18 John had put all his rage, grief and confusion into his music. He put it outside himself and made it bearable. At 38, John needed to make it bearable again, to put the questions and confusion outside himself.
This song doesn’t explain Sherlock’s clue, or even try, but it asks some questions and it sends a message. When it comes down to it, John has a feeling, which Sherlock would mock; he has suspicions that make no sense; he has a hope that is ridiculous.
John believes in Sherlock Holmes, and if his feeling has foundation and his suspicions are real, there is more going on than meets the eye, and whatever it is, it’s dangerous. Or it’s futile.
John really has no idea what it is. But the stage manager has called him up, and he’s on stage, just him and his guitar and the ghost of Sherlock Holmes playing a violin counter melody in his head, and he doesn’t know if that’s a comfort or not.
John takes a stool and says: “Good evening, folks. Thanks for coming. I wrote these songs for a friend of mine. He used to play these with me. He doesn’t any more.”
Except he does, that ghost of Sherlock, so naturally, John starts with This Ghost. John is sitting curled around his guitar, but he’s set the mic a little high so he has to stretch his throat a little to sing into it. It feels vulnerable, but it makes for a better timbre and keeps his voice steady when he’s shaking with emotion like this. His fingers are plucking out melody and complex chords. Sometimes the fret board squeaks as he moves his fingers. Once or twice his voice trembles, but that stretch he’s forced on his throat keeps it right, keeps it together.
Part of him thinks it’s ridiculous that he wanted to keep these songs from his other friends. If they can’t accept the whole of him, well, screw them anyway.
But alone is not a trophy
And lonely isn't strong
Why can't anybody see
A ghost, a ghost in London
Who used to be me?
And he’s more than half ghost again now, but screw that too. He’s not going to squander the things Sherlock gave him. John had never felt more real than when he was with Sherlock. He couldn’t make himself not-real now. He wasn’t a ghost any more. He wasn’t sure what he was. A haunted house maybe, for Sherlock’s ghost. But real.
There’s applause before he begins Battlefield without introduction. Bailey is recording on the smartphone and giving him a cheery thumbs-up.
And now we're hounding hell
Snapping at the devil's heels
You're not the only one who knows
And embraces how it feels
To soar on knowing that your home’s
inside the battlefield
Christ, that had been a life worth living, hadn’t it? That had been really something.
Illuminated comes next, and John sees Anderson sitting forward on his stool, mouth open, like he’s tasting the sound. John remembers how Sherlock played this song back to him, one rehearsal for that mad undercover gig, even though he’d promised not to, but John had been too stunned and too… was flattered the right word?... to hear his song about Sherlock become somehow Sherlock’s song about him. That had been weird. And perfect. But weird.
If I’m conducting light
What is it makes my darkness bright?
Because I am, I am, I am illuminated.
John had no idea why Sherlock thought John illuminated him somehow, but he’s so glad that Sherlock decided it was true. John likes to think he gave gifts to Sherlock too, though he can’t think for a moment what they might have been. Maybe it was friendship. Just that.
And don't tell me that you don't know
Whose side you’re on
Because angels have swords as well as wings
And I know angels are such terrifying things
More applause, and Anderson looks like he might cry, the twat. Greg raises a beer and nods, like he gets it, and maybe he does. But now it’s time for the new song.
“This last song,” says John quietly into the microphone, “Is for you, Sherlock.” All of them are, of course, but this is the one song Sherlock hasn’t heard. He wants to make it very clear who he wrote it for, as if there could be doubt. But best to be utterly transparent. John doesn't know or care how many in the audience recognise the name. This song isn’t for them.
Telling me you lied
Is not the only lie you told
But it’s the only one
I won’t believe
I still believe in you
What happened to Sherlock only makes sense from a distance. Up close there’s the lie, and the hidden meaning, and all the other questions.
I don’t understand why
But there’s a story to unfold
I can’t work it out
But I know
I still believe in you
And if this insane feeling and this ridiculous hope are, as is most likely, without foundation, well, this song won’t matter much.
And when I close my eyes
You’re flying, not falling
And when I dream at night
You’re not crying, you’re calling
The tears that were not a lie; the lie that was a fake. Whatever that all means.
I don’t really care
Who decides I’m crazy
None of them were there
You said my name
I still believe in you
Now the dark has come
Your light is growing cold
But I’m holding onto
I still believe in you
John does not want to look at Greg, or Anderson, because he knows what he’ll see in those eyes. He doesn’t particularly want to look at Bailey either, so he looks into that little phone she’s holding up.
And when I close my eyes
You’re flying, not falling
And when I dream at night
You’re not crying, you’re calling
Telling me you lied
Is not the only lie you told
But it’s the only one
I won’t believe
I still believe in you
I still believe in you
And that’s it. Set done. John has sent his message, which his friends think is a lament, and it’s both.
He thanks the audience, picks up his guitar and leaves the stage. He escapes the pub through the back door into the alley. He doesn’t really want to talk to anyone. Most especially not to Greg or Anderson.
The DI has followed into the alley and waits. Neither of them can think of anything to say.
“Molly says hi,” says Greg, eventually, “She couldn’t come. Work.”
“Give her my best,” John says quietly.
“Will do. You were good tonight.”
“He… he’d be pleased, you were up there. Playing again.”
Greg stares at his feet for a moment, then up. “I miss him too, you know. He… did that… that thing, for me as well.” Greg frowns. “I’d like to catch up with you sometime. For a beer. We don’t have to… talk, if you don’t…if…”
“Yeah, Greg. That’d be…”
“I miss you too, John,” Greg says in a rush over the top of John’s obvious reluctance, “You’re my mate as well. IT’s like you both…” The last word doesn’t come.
Unexpectedly, John feels like there’s a light shining on him, showing him how much he’s crawled away from the world, and that other people are grieving and rebuilding themselves as well.
“Yes,” John says, more firmly, “I have to… not now, but tomorrow? After work?”
Greg smiles in relief. “At the Drum and Whistle? Sevenish?”
“I’ll be there.”
And the next day, at sevenish, he is, and John feels a little more whole than he had the day before. To judge by Greg’s quick, flashing grin, he does too.
Chapter 2: Message in a Bottle
One month ago, John sang at an open mic night - all the songs he wrote for Sherlock that no-one else has ever heard. He has a feeling which will probably come to nothing, but on the other hand...
Thirty six days later, Mycroft sends a car for John. He and Mycroft haven't spoken since they tried to tear each other to shreds after Sherlock's funeral. Perhaps John's getting an answer to his message after all.
For a month, nothing else happens. John catches up with Greg once a week for a drink and to talk music, work, rugby, bullshit, the way mates do. John also starts visiting Mrs Hudson more regularly. He doesn’t go into the flat, but he takes Mrs Hudson to lunch the next Saturday, and each Saturday thereafter. He feels a bit bad about how lonely she’s obviously been, but she doesn’t accuse him of anything. She just seems very glad of the company.
The four recordings that Bailey made of the open mic gig are on YouTube, garnering likes and abusive messages in fairly equal measure. Bailey deletes the worst of the flames and trolls. She thinks she’s doing her bit for a possible Gladstone’s Collar revival. Her footage of the festival concert is popular, after all, especially the punch-up.
John’s glad that the footage exists. Bailey gave him the whole unedited concert video. One day he might even be able to watch it.
Twenty five days after the gig, he manages. He cries from start to finish, except for the five minutes of the brawl. He's actually laughing and crying simultaneously for that whole stretch. There's Sally Donovan, cuffing the injured terrorist and sending him off while she stares, gobsmacked, at the stage. John remembers Sally calling him Dr Sex, and he's briefly burning with fury at the woman, but then he remembers how hard Sherlock had laughed at him over that. Prat. Glorious prat.
On day thirty six after the gig, John is walking back to Mike’s place from the surgery when a black car pulls up alongside him. He thinks about ignoring it. He thinks about scoring a vicious scratch into its surface with a ten pence piece. He thinks about standing in front of it and mouthing ‘Fuck. Right. Off. Mycroft.” at the driver, knowing the message will be passed along faithfully. Verbatim.
The last time John and Mycroft spoke was a week after the funeral. Mycroft played him the recovered recording of Sherlock’s last conversation with Moriarty.
Then, John and Mycroft had fought. Quietly, with words, with body language, with eyes burning with loss and rage, with the intent to damage one another as much as possible
The fight could be boiled down to this.
Mycroft blamed John for Sherlock’s death. John had compromised Sherlock with sentiment. Caring was most definitely not an advantage and caring had led Sherlock to self-sacrificing suicide. A great mind had been lost because of frankly dull, frankly mediocre, frankly lesser people. None less than Doctor Watson, who had abandoned Sherlock at the hospital, who had failed to be there for the man he had claimed was such a good friend. If John had cared, he would have been there, and if Sherlock hadn’t cared, he would still be alive, and the death of the three people who mattered to him would have been regrettable, of course, but Sherlock was worth ten times more than the rest of them combined.
More simply still, Mycroft was angry because Sherlock had chosen John, Greg and Mrs Hudson over, well, Mycroft. Who had not even rated a mention. And because he had loved his brother, and his brother was dead.
John’s reply was made with words as precise as a scalpel. Mycroft had handed Moriarty the armaments, a whole secret service supply of deadly weapons and the absolute capacity to lay every booby trap, every minefield, every gun position of data that had led Sherlock to that rooftop and thence to the blood-soaked pavement. Mycroft Holmes had killed his little brother by choosing his own twisted, controlling machinations, over Sherlock.
Mycroft, John had said, could frankly screw himself sideways a hundred ways to Christmas with his own fucking umbrella until hell froze over before John would ever find another three words to say to him that weren’t a repetition of Fuck Right Off.
And now one of Mycroft’s cars is crawling alongside John as John walks home, thirty six days after Bailey posted his new songs on the internet. It may not be related. If it isn’t, John can always reiterate the Fuck Right Off sentiment and walk out.
The car takes him not to a warehouse or a disused factory or a gentleman’s club, but to an underground garage which leads to a lift which leads to the upstairs parlour of an elegant Jacobean building very near Westminster.
John waits in the parlour, calm, still, hands clasped behind him. Waiting.
Mycroft stands with his back to John, hands resting on the desk in front of him. His head is tilted to look at a monitor positioned on the wall. One of the videos from the open mic night is paused on the screen.
Then Mycroft reaches to swipe his finger across a tablet on the desk below the monitor. The footage begins to play.
John listens, spares a glance for the video – slightly grainy, sound quality imperfect, but not a bad job – and watches Mycroft’s ramrod-straight back. When the song is over, Mycroft taps the control screen and the picture on the monitor freezes.
John blinks at himself, frozen in pixels, and wonders how that expression got there. Defiant. He had expected… other things. The sad lines he was used to seeing in the mirror each morning. The defiance makes him feel… hopeful, and fragile, and, looking at Mycroft’s unyielding stance, vulnerable.
But there's something about that footage. Something isn’t right.
“This,” says Mycroft acidly, not turning, “Was sent to me this morning.”
“So you’re bringing me in to complain about my singing now, are you?” John has never let Mycroft Holmes rattle him and is not about to start.
“Why was this sent to me? From the Ukraine, no less? Through the most top secret channels. You. Singing. About my brother. To my brother.”
It’s like Mycroft’s afraid to say Sherlock’s name. John can’t be bothered to analyse that. It’s probably not that difficult to deconstruct though, is it? But it’s not important. What’s important is the thing that’s not right.
John takes four brisk steps, leans past Mycroft to tap the replay command and turn up the volume.
“What are you doing, Doctor Watson? What is this? Who sent it? Why?” and more questions, in a tighter and tighter voice, words bitten out in a clip that should make the air bleed.
“Can you hear that?”
“Your appalling caterwauling?”
“Stop being a prick. Listen.”
Mycroft looks about ready to call in the secret service to shoot John Watson between the eyes. “Doctor Watson, you will…”
“No. Shut up. Listen.” John grabs Mycroft by the elbow and drags him to the speaker at the back of the desk, forces him down, pushes both their ears to the fabric. Mycroft would never deign to struggle, but his latest speech is more cutting than the last. John presses his four fingers hard against Mycroft’s mouth, his thumb tucked in tight to his hand. It’s like he’s gagging Mycroft with a salute.
“Listen, you idiot. You’re smarter than this. Can’t you hear it?”
Mycroft is so shocked he not only listens, he looks. He studies the doctor.
John Watson is extremely still. Stock still, as they say, but not as though he is shocked or has seen a ghost or any of those tired clichés. John Watson is still like a hunter is still, like a soldier is still, hearing a distant and tell-tale sound from No Man’s Land. John Watson is holding his breath, not from excitement, but to kill any other sound but the one emitting from the speaker.
Mycroft stops breathing too. He can hear… something.
“Hear that?” breathes John.
“Your dreadful wailing. That awful guitar.”
“Pay attention, Mycroft.” John sounds the way Sherlock used to sound. It’s strange. Mycroft pays attention.
“Fine. Your wailing, the guitar and a violin.”
“And what do you see?”
Mycroft is offended at the way Sherlock’s words keep coming out of John’s mouth.
“A seedy little pub…”
“For fuck’s sake, Mycroft, you are smarter than this. Stop being angry and think.”
Mycroft thinks. And then…
There is no violinist on that stage.
“Was there…?” begins Mycroft.
“No,” says John, “Just me and my wailing and my awful guitar.”
The recording stops. John taps replay. They listen again. It is unmistakeable now, the violin accompaniment.
“It’s a message,” says John.
“How can you know?” Mycroft is barely breathing. He’s listening with his whole body now.
“How can you ask? You know how he plays. You know… wait. Listen.”
The violin, a faint counterpoint, a harmony, a ghost of music in the background, plays an odd melody in the bridge. It doesn’t quite fit. The musician has made a mistake.
“That,” says John, “Is from another song. This Ghost. Sherlock wrote that. He and I are the only two people who ever heard it.”
John puts his hands out to steady Mycroft as Mycroft… wobbles. The older man’s knees lock again, and he is leaning against the table for support. John keeps his hand at Mycroft’s elbow, as much for himself as for Mycroft.
“He said he was a fake,” says John, his voice low and fervent, “It make no sense. Sherlock never lies without a reason. Moriarty’s plot wasn’t reason enough. He could have just jumped. The tabloids had already done their work. There wasn’t any point to him saying that. He knew I’d never believe it.”
“And you never did.”
“No. And you know it was a lie.”
“Yes. I thought… I thought… I don’t know. I didn’t understand.”
“Do you understand now?”
Several moments, breathing in, breathing out, two men tense, listening to the call from No Man’s Land.
“His life wasn’t a fake,” says John, because he wants to say it out loud, because there’s proof, however fragile, that there was foundation for his hope. “His death was.”
Mycroft taps replay again. He shudders, his face in his hands. John watches the elder Holmes brother fall apart and rebuild himself in a matter of minutes. When Mycroft looks up, he’s different.
John’s already been through this, a few moments ago. The reforming after the shattering. They are new-made men.
Mycroft and John simply look at each other, a little stunned, because this is a message that they perhaps both wanted to wish for, but only one of them was crazy enough with hope to send a signal into the abyss, and wait for an answer.
“Your brother,” says John, and he smiles, “Is smarter than you.” He laughs, but there’s a tremor in it.
“If I agreed with you,” says Mycroft, his mouth failing to resist the urge to smile back, and there’s something failing to be firm in his voice, “Would you promise never to tell him I said so?”
“No.” A broad grin.
“Of course not.” An answering grin, that Mycroft initially tries to school into a laconic smirk, but he fails spectacularly.
Somewhere in the world, Sherlock Holmes is alive. He is watching John Watson. He has downloaded and remixed a video with an additional track, and sent it back. The secret message in a very secret bottle, which John had to throw first into the sea before it could come back, full, so full.
The missing piece of the puzzle is in their hands now. All the other things that don’t make sense can wait. He knows that with this one piece, everything else will make sense eventually. “So, what now?”
“We must be careful. He has gone to a great deal of trouble to let us know. We must be more careful still not to betray him. His life must be in considerable danger. Your life, Mrs Hudson’s, Greg Lestrade’s, may depend upon it too.”
Well, John’s not about to start skipping down the street with flowers in his hair. Sherlock is alive. It’s the hope he barely dared to have. But Sherlock is still missing, still in danger, and he thinks they are still in danger too. And he’s alone. Or… he was.
For his part, John will still be a sorrowing, deeply troubled friend, because god knows, that’s still true. Time, though, to be a friend who is accepting the truth. Who is moving on. There doesn’t seem to be anything else he can do.
“Then all we can do is wait?”
“For now. But he knew how to get this to me. I may…” Mycroft considers saying more then changes his mind, “Leave it with me. I have resources.”
John nods, because obviously, Mycroft has resources.
“Count me as one of them,” he says, “Whatever you need. Whatever I can do.”
“I’m aware of your… skills, Dr Watson. Your marksmanship, to start with.”
They share a sly smile over that one.
John nods at the screen. “I’ll need a copy of that.”
“Of course.” Mycroft doesn’t ask what John needs the video for. John doesn’t volunteer a reason. He doesn’t need it for anything. He just needs it.
“You know where I’ll be.”
“And where’s that?” Mycroft tilts an eyebrow up, as though the answer is not a foregone conclusion.
John smiles. He grins. He damn near laughs. He is going to write music again. More songs, messages in bottles, to throw into the vast sea, and wherever he is in the world, Sherlock will add his music and send the message back. Still alive. Still fighting. He’ll be home, as soon as he can.
“Home,” says John, “221B. Where else?”