Sherlock wasn't fond of the dark. It brought on visions that didn't exist in the light. The dark was mysterious - a mystery where anything was possible and his cocaine-riddled mind ran with it until the shadows grabbed at him and the eyes that hid in them laughed. He was coming down, but that only made it worse and the eyes laughed louder. He needed more. His body craved more of the sobering substance like he'd never craved anything else. It sent shudders through his body and caused spots to appear before his eyes.
No. Wait. That was rain. It was raining. Sherlock scowled, looking up just enough to view the dark sky between the sky-scraping brick walls. Water splashed into his eyes and he looked down again. He straightened his ratty, wet, muddy coat to cover himself a little better, but it made no difference in the moist cold. The icy rain soaked through his jacket and pooled around where he sat. He wasn't sober enough to think of moving to a warmer place or even to try finding shelter from the increasingly larger droplets of rain even if part of his brain told him he’d catch his death if he stayed out here much longer. It would be a poet’s death.
Then it stopped. Or rather, something blocked the freezing water from reaching him. Sherlock turned foggy, pale blue eyes to view the obstruction. He wasn't entirely confident in what it was but it appeared to be some sort of angel. A blond wing shielded him with long, plush feathers that the rain droplets gathered on and slowly slid off. The man they were connected to grabbed Sherlock around his upper arm and hoisted him off of the ground. Sherlock stumbled over his own feet, but the creature held him steady. A strong arm came around his waist and the wing folded over him protectively. For whatever reason, Sherlock trusted him. They walked down the dark street and no one bothered them. No one tried to attack them, or mug them, or even seemed to notice his angel's wings. Perhaps they knew better. More likely, Sherlock decided, he was imagining the pedestrians. Not his angel, though. His angel wasn't imaginary. He could feel the soft feathers against the back of his wet neck and the strong muscle that hovered over his head. He couldn't be imagining that.
They walked straight out of the bad part of town, through the crowd of the city, and straight to the door of his brother's flat. Sherlock supposed it wasn't a great feat for his angel to locate Mycroft’s flat even with the government's paranoia. The creature settled him against the door gently and stretched his wings to their full extent and shaking the water off of them. Sherlock had never seen anything so beautiful. Perhaps it was the drugs still coursing through his blood, but it was almost as if the angel had been made especially for him. He had eyes forged straight from the sandy beaches and hair brushed right out of the wheat fields. His skin was just touched by the sun and his wings held no comparison to anything Sherlock had ever seen. This was his angel. The twin fans folded back up and instantly, Sherlock noted that one of them didn't close properly. He wanted to ask why that was, but he didn't. The angel rapped firmly on the door. Then the same way he had come, the angel disappeared into the dark and out of Sherlock's sight.
The door opened and Sherlock couldn't hold himself up, instantly crashing downward only to be caught by a hair's breath. He could hear Mycroft's scolding, but worried voice in the back of his mind but he couldn't be arsed to answer. He was cold and his mouth numb, making it a much too vapid task to answer his brother.
"Sherlock? Sherlock?! Goddamnit, stay with me you bastard!"
Sherlock absently wondered if he'd ever see his angel again. He hoped so. Through the cold, the cocaine, the feeble understanding of life, something in Sherlock's very being told him that he wanted to make his angel happy. He'd probably have a wonderful smile.
Sherlock smiled as he fell unconscious.
Sherlock, reluctantly, was put through rehab. He honestly didn't want to attend the clinic or their therapy or anything else Mycroft insisted on. He could get clean on his own if he really wanted to. That, he decided, was the reason Mycroft forced him to sign into the clinic. The security was ridiculous, though nothing Sherlock couldn't get out of, but he decided to stay. If it got Mycroft off of his back, then fine. Withdrawal was a bitch and it wasn't long before Sherlock lost his resolve.
He didn't need much. Just a single hit, that was all. Just enough to get him out of this tedious, boring, eye-gouging process. Was that too much to ask? It was, apparently. Sherlock made plans to sneak out that night. A week of group therapy, one on one therapy, art therapy, white gowns, and strictly organized schedules left his mind reeling for more. When nightfall came, he climbed out of his bed as quietly as possible and approached the door.
It opened on its own. A familiar face appeared, the same sandy eyes Sherlock wasn't so sure had even existed before. He took a step back and his angel entered without a sound. It was real. Sherlock's angel was real. He hadn't been so sure after he sobered up. It tilted its head in a bird-like fashion and puffed its feathers out in a way that made it look soft and fluffy to the touch.
"Where are you going, Sherlock?" it asked. It knew his name. Of course it knew his name; it was part of him. The voice made Sherlock's mouth run dry. It was so ordinary and yet, it was everything.
"I was leaving," Sherlock answered firmly as if he weren't intimidated by the huge creature. It placed a hand on his shoulder and gently guided him back to his bed. Sherlock went without a fight and laid back down. His angel brought the blanket over him and tucked him back into the stiff bed softly. It pulled up the spare chair, fluffed his wings out, and sat beside him.
"You have to hold on, Sherlock,” his angel said, grasping his hand tightly. Sherlock frowned unpleasantly.
"I don't see the point. It's boring here."
"Would you like to play a game with me then, Sherlock?" the angel suggested. Sherlock glanced over its wings minutely, still curious about its wound but still knowing better than to ask. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to make his angel upset.
"I suppose," Sherlock agreed with a patient sigh.
"You're so smart, Sherlock. You have a gift." The angel ran his thumb over the back of Sherlock's hand, stroking the soft skin there comfortingly. Sherlock felt the weight of sleep draw over him. "I'd like you to tell me something. Something interesting every night about someone here. About the nurses, or the other patients, or their visiting family. Any of them as long as it's interesting."
"McKenzie's wife is having an affair while he's getting clean," Sherlock murmured softly.
"That's not interesting,” the angel hummed back.
"June's daughter is pregnant." He continued, slowly drifting into a lazy stupor.
"Mm. Try again,” said the angel.
"Nurse Kennedy thinks he's getting a promotion, but he's not." Sherlock closed his eyes, focusing on the soothing sensation of the thumb on the back of his hand.
"Not even close. You can try again tomorrow. Goodnight Sherlock,” said the angel. Sherlock felt the creature press a kiss to his hand. It remained there until he completely gave into sleep and in the morning, there was no sign of it. Sherlock wouldn’t admit it, but he actively searched for his angel most of the day but it never showed. It was only after night had come and everyone had gone to bed that the feathered creature appear again. He sat beside Sherlock’s bed and gently groomed his hair and listened to Sherlock’s deductions.
His angel seemed to care more about the boring little things that Sherlock could find out just by asking. He explained about one of the nurse’s sons winning his rugby tournament and one of the other patients and how their grandmother knitted her a blanket. Fortunately, his angel was also interested in his actual deductions. He told the creature about the nurse’s missing ring, and another patient’s untreated kleptomania, as well as one of the visitor’s acting career and his own brother’s increasingly irritating love life. His angel just listened. No matter what it was about or if it was invading that person’s privacy or even if it was complicated and hard to follow.
Sherlock adored the attention and his angel only left once he had fallen asleep. It was entirely possible that his angel wasn’t real, but he didn’t want to believe that. Not yet, anyways.
Through his entire detox, his angel helped him. The very fact that he had succeeded in his detox was completely credited to his angel. Without him, Sherlock wouldn’t have made it. He wouldn’t admit that to anyone, even his angel, but it was true. He would have fled and gone back to the drugs and the street, but he didn’t. He didn’t and he was -even as tedious and boring as detox had been- thankful for it. After he was released, he didn’t see much of his angel. It was unfortunate, but Sherlock didn’t think about it too much. Clearly his angel was imaginary. He didn’t even know its name which he blamed on it being part of his own imagination. He hadn’t thought to ask its name and therefore, didn’t give it a name. Simple.
After his detox, his time was filled with better things to do. He consulted with the Yard for his living money and took personal cases when his interest began to dwindle. Overall, though, it was painfully boring. All of his cases were solved within a week, if that, and his experimentation could only keep him entertained for so long. Not to mention his landlord got very upset when things went sour. It wasn’t like Sherlock intentionally melted a hole through the third story floor, down to the second story and into the first. He had paid for the hazmat team, anyways, so what did the man care?
So, when life slowed down to a crawl, Sherlock began to think about his angel again. Maybe he would come back if he got high. That was how it worked, didn’t it? He imagined his angel best when he was under the influence or in distress. Sherlock could still clearly remember the blond wing caressing his neck and the pair of them stretched out above him like a bird in mid soar. Perhaps he should try distress, first. Mycroft would get onto him if he went back to cocaine. Distress was harder than he thought it would be. It wasn’t something that just happened and as much as he tried to fake it, his angel remained absent. Even as he stood on the ledge of his building’s rooftop, there was just something missing.
It was finally a nightmare that brought his angel back to him. Sherlock didn’t dream often, usually because of the unconscious state he drove himself into by ignoring the need to sleep for days on end. His brain wasn’t going to amuse him with dreams after neglecting its needs. Nightmares were even more unusual since Sherlock had no irrational fears. All fears were irrational, of course, but Sherlock could argue that he had a logical reason for what few fears he had. Being alone was a perfectly rational fear that people suffered from on a daily basis. Sherlock didn’t consider this a fear, though, but rather a constant in his life.
When he awoke from his nightmare in a cold sweat, the false images slipped from his mind in a hurry. Sherlock couldn’t be thankful for it, though. He knew he’d been alone in his dream and he was alone now and the demented fear clung to his heart and mind like a wet blanket, suffocating him in the dark. Sherlock tried to push it away, tried to sober himself with his thoughts. He wasn’t alone. He could never actually be alone. His neighbor lived beneath him and his landlord under that. Mycroft was still his brother and Mummy still pestered him constantly. Lestrade would always need his help and his clients would too. None of his supposedly comforting thoughts worked.
Sherlock pressed his palm into his eyes desperately, trying to stop the abundance of tears at the source. It only made his hands wet and his eyes puffy. A hand touched his bare shoulder softly and Sherlock jerked out of the way instantly; danger overwhelming his fears. He hadn’t heard the door open or the floor creek and it startled him.
“It’s okay,” the voice said softly. Sherlock couldn’t see in the dark, but he would know that voice anywhere. The hand brushed against his back and around his shoulder and Sherlock visibly relaxed. “It’s okay Sherlock. I’m here,” his angel assured him comfortingly. His large wings folded over the bed and curled around Sherlock in a natural curve. Sherlock grasped at the edges with fingers that still trembled, touching the delicate feathers and allowing them to ground him. It was amazing that they could feel so real; that something that only existed in his mind could ground him so easily. The angel lowered him back into his bed and Sherlock let out a slow sigh of comfort.
“Go back to bed,” his angel whispered, stroking his hair with a loving touch. Sherlock nodded even though he knew that meant his angel would leave again. “You’ll have a new case by the end of the week. This one’s good.” He closed his eyes slowly, evening out his breath and relaxing completely.
“Three serial suicides. It must be Christmas.”
Sherlock could understand his angel knowing where his brother lived. He knew where his brother lived therefore that knowledge naturally moved on to his imagination, but for it to know something that hadn’t happened yet was startling. It was all he could focus on in the lab at Bart’s. Lestrade was clearly wrong, they weren’t suicides, and he had gladly let him and all of the press know, but that didn’t explain how his angel knew that. It wasn’t deja vu, as much as Sherlock would like that to be the answer, and he didn’t believe in the likes of false predictions. If he was being honest, he shouldn’t believe in his angel, either, and he knew that, but it was easier said than done.
The door to the room opened and Sherlock naturally looked up. Mike Stamford entered and an unknown guest limped after him.
“Bit different from my day.” It was his angel. Sherlock might have been imagining him, but he knew that face anywhere; the unnaturally pale eyes, touchable blond hair, and sun-kissed skin. The wings clearly weren’t there, but it hardly made a difference. It was his angel.
“You’ve no idea!” Mike bellowed cheerily. If he was real, then he had to have strings attached. There had to be something keeping the angel human. Sherlock would take anything to prove that he wasn’t imagining him or, at least, he wasn’t anymore. Mike had left his mobile in his coat pocket, which currently resided in his classroom, so didn’t have it on his person.
“Mike, can I borrow your phone? There's no signal on mine,” Sherlock asked casually.
“And what’s wrong with the landline?”
“I prefer to text,” he rebuffed easily. Mike checked his pockets and sure enough, turned up empty handed. He murmured an apology and the angel, or not so angel, checked his pockets. He retrieved a little mobile and Sherlock’s heart lurched. He wanted him to be real a few seconds ago, but if he was real- then his angel probably wasn’t.
“Here. Use mine,” his angel offered politely, limping close enough to hand him the phone. Sherlock examined the tan line at his wrist. His angel hadn’t had that. The skin underneath was too pale. His angel didn’t limp, either. His wing was wounded, though. Perhaps it had something to do with that? He didn’t seem uncomfortable when he stood, so his leg wasn’t actually wounded.
“Oh. Thank you.” Harry Watson. A drunk with loving wife Clara. Could his angel have a wife? Sherlock supposed it was possible, but unlikely. He didn’t know a lot about angels, but he doubted many of them had wives. Or phones.
“This is an old friend of mine, John Watson.” Not Harry, not a drunk, and not married. Better, but still not his angel. Sherlock suddenly wished he would have asked the angel’s name. He put it out of his mind quickly. This man wasn’t his angel. Instead, he took a proper view on the situation.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?”
“Which was it? Afghanistan or Iraq?”
“Afghanistan, sorry, how did you- know?” His angel- John, asked wearily, but curiously none the less. It didn’t help that it was the exact same voice of his angel. That was simply uncanny. Even if he’d somehow seen this man before and contributed it to his memory, it was unlikely that he would have been able to match his voice so perfectly. John glanced to Stamford curiously.
“How do you feel about the violin?” Whether it was his angel or not, Sherlock wasn’t so keen on letting him escape. His mind had made up the image for a reason and whether the man knew it or not, he had saved Sherlock.
“I’m sorry, what?” He certainly apologized like an angel.
“I play the violin,” Sherlock informed as if the angel- John- as if John didn’t already know. “When I’m thinking. Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end. Would that bother you?” he mused. “Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other.”
“I-” John appeared confused for a moment. “Why do you assume I’m looking for a flatmate?”
“I told Mike I was a difficult man to find a flatmate for and now here he is with an old friend clearly back from military service in Afghanistan.” Was it possible his angel could fly such a distance? Sherlock absently noted to do the calculations later. “Wasn’t that difficult of a leap.”
“How- did you know about Afghanistan?” John questioned again, more curious than the last.
“Got my eye on a nice little place in central London. Together we ought to be able to afford it. We'll meet there tomorrow evening, seven o'clock.”
“That’s it?” the angel nearly laughed.
“That’s what?” Sherlock answered.
“We just met and we’re going to go look at a flat together? We don’t know anything about each other.” So, maybe Sherlock was kidding himself. It was unlikely this man was his angel and he would just have to admit that.
“I know you're an Army doctor and you've been invalided home from Afghanistan.” At least, Sherlock thought to himself, that was what the information said. His heart was telling him that there was something wrong with that. That John couldn’t have been there. His mind was telling him that John wasn’t an angel, though, and he always listened to his mind.
“You've got a brother worried about you but you won't go to him for help because you don't approve of him, possibly because he's an alcoholic, more likely because he recently walked out on his wife.” His angel having an alcoholic brother was even more unlikely.
“And I know that your therapist thinks your limp's psychosomatic, quite correctly, I'm afraid.” His arm was probably wounded, then. If his wing was hurt, then the corresponding arm had to be. Sherlock wanted to test the theory, poke John in his shoulder and arm, but he didn’t. Not yet, anyways. “That's enough to be going on with, don't you think? The name's Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221B Baker Street.”
John stared at him with an intrigued, and amused expression.
“Then I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” John smiled. Sherlock was right. His angel had a lovely smile.
Sherlock had to give it one last chance. John had to be his angel. It was purely impossible that his angel and John had the same face. Once he left, Sherlock followed him. He wasn’t sure what he was hoping for, but he just had to prove it to himself. This was a coincidence and he could move on. He followed John straight to the grave.
Once he was in the fence, John reached back to undo the supposedly decorative buttons on the back of his jumper. Two plush, blond wings spread out, sending a few feathers fluttering away. In the daylight, they were different, almost surreal.They matched the color of his hair and extended past his arm length and appeared to be lighter than they actually were. They fluttered once or twice, naturally shaking out the crooked feathers and fluffing them out carelessly. He took a slow pace over the graveyard and kneeled under a tree.
Sherlock approached him.
“So. You’re name’s John,” he said in a voice that came out much more smug than he wanted it to. It was hard to help. Sherlock was right about John- about his angel. John glanced up to him, but he wasn’t surprised at all.
“You never asked,” the angel said in a soft hum.
“No. I didn’t think it was important,” Sherlock admitted.
“I wouldn’t have told you,” John murmured, looking away again. “Or I would have lied.”
“Why?” Sherlock asked curiously. He touched one of the wonderfully soft wings, running his fingers through the feathers and listening to John’s small sigh of pleasure. He moved a little, shifting where he had settled himself to expose the grave he had been perched atop. Sherlock saw the name instantly.
“Because I’m not real, Sherlock,” John smiled sadly at him. He ran his fingers over the cool marble slab softly and traced his own name. “Because I died and now I have to find something to anchor me to life.” He looked up again with those lovely pale eyes and smiled a little more.
“You anchor me here, Sherlock. I don’t know why, or how, but you do. I need you.” He didn’t come when Sherlock wanted him to, but if Sherlock had, in fact, stepped off of the ledge, John would have had to come. When he was dying in the street, when he had given up, when he was honest to god afraid; John had come. Sherlock wasn’t sure how to respond. He couldn’t- wouldn’t tell John that he might need the angel just as much as it needed him.
“Some people believe that angels are born when the other half of the whole dies. Some people believe angels are the work of god. Some believe angels are guardians of the earth and its people. We’re not. They’re not. We’re just ghosts with wings.” John spread his wings out to illustrate his point. “I won’t put the weight of my existence on you, Sherlock. If you’d like, I will stay.” He ran his hand over the marble plate again, wiping his name away as if it were words on a page.
“But if you’d like me to go, I will.” With another brush of the hand, he put his name back. Sherlock already knew his answer, of course. As much as people would like to believe, he wasn’t ungrateful. He owed John for everything he had done and the least he could do was return the favor. He would have died in the rain, he would have overdosed, he would have given up and John prevented those things. Even more so, with John around, Sherlock didn’t feel so alone.
“Of course,” Sherlock said proudly. “What would I be without my guardian angel?”
John smiled at him. He picked himself up gracefully and fluttered his wings closed against his back where they disappeared easily and his jumper fell closed.
“Thank you, Sherlock,” he said warmly. Sherlock smothered his grin.
“You’re welcome, John.” Thank you, my angel.