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John's Homework

Chapter Text

Sergeant Sally Donovan is finally confident at her job. It's been two weeks since the fall of Sherlock Holmes. She feels confident on the job more than ever. She never wanted him dead, but at least she can concentrate now.

She's at her desk when one of the new officers, Jones, knocks on her door.

"Sergeant Donovan, you have someone to see you."

"Right. Sure. Send them through."

Jones blinks. "Don't you want to know who it is?"

"You cleared them through. So I'm sure it's not an axe murderer. Probably a witness." Sally is very secure in her thinking. She isn't afraid of anyone.

She sees Anderson turn his head toward her. She wishes he would just divorce his wife already. "Don't you want to know who is seeing you?" He mouths from his desk. She walks over to him as the officer goes to collect her guest.

"We work for a police department. It could be anyone," Sally says. There is an edge of excitement in her voice. She stands by the door as it swings open.

"Or it's not just anyone." Anderson whispers back. Sally Donovan ignores his comment the best she can. She instead, stares back into the eyes of her visitor.

It is not an axe murderer, she can proudly say, but the excitement also drops from her voice. It is Doctor John Watson who stands before her. She notices that he looks on the edge of death. The only thing she can think of is to nod and welcome him in. She had been expecting a visit, but hadn't known when it would happen.

"Doctor Watson."

"Your office is that way, correct?" John's voice is pleasant enough she decides, but that's about it. He doesn't say hello or use any pleasantries. It's odd because John was always the more pleasant one. He always nodded to her and Anderson after Sherlock insulted them. John Watson and Lestrade were the buffers between the Scotland Yard and the Consulting Detective.

John is still standing there in front of her, waiting for an answer. She answers by pointing to the open door and he starts to walk in that direction.

Sally is glad Lestrade is not in right now. She's confident her boss would side with her, but sometimes she knows John Watson is not to far from his mind. Sally notices that the doctor is taking great strides to walk, he has begun to drag his one leg slightly. She remembers their first meeting and that metallic cane. She often wondered where his limp had gone.

Anderson leans over as Sally begins to follow the Doctor. "Sally, I'd be careful. You want me to come in?"

She shakes her head and laughs in her head. Anderson defending her? Thanks, but she's the one with the gun. As she closes the door behind her, she notices John Watson is not sitting. He leans against the wall, staring out her window.

"Would you like to sit?" She thinks his leg must be bothering him.

John shakes his head as he stares at the window. She wonders what he has come for.

"What can I help you - " She stops upon seeing John not listening. "Doctor Watson," She tries a different tactic. "What have you come to see me about?" A little more assertiveness might get his attention.

John still does not answer. Sally notices that John zones out like Sherlock, blocking everything from his mind. She can't figure out of it's still rude now that instead of Sherlock, it was coming from John. Sally is about to ask again, but then he starts to speak, coming out of his trance.

He still stares out the window. It is a rainy day in London, no surprise. The streets are extra packed since there is a parade today. She can't quite remember why there is a parade. It doesn't matter because John Watson is finally about to speak. "You told me he was a freak and to be careful."

Anderson is right, she thinks. She better be careful. John's past army career and his days with Sherlock are not to be taken lightly. Now she isn't so sure if John isn't an axe murderer.

"I'm sorry for your loss."

John chuckles to himself. "You aren't sorry. You're glad." He speaks still looking out the window, gazing at people on the balconies. Sally eyes John. What is he thinking, she wonders. Has he seen anyone since the fall? She heard he was cooped up in 221 B Baker Street, not having any visitors. She hopes she isn't the first one he has come to see.

She wants to speak up, to defend her statement. She does feel bad that the freak offed himself because he left behind people like this. She knows John Watson is a decent person. She doesn't speak because he speaks again, still staring at the people.

"It's such a shame too because I've noticed your crime rate have risen rapidly. Not doing your job very well, are you?" There is a pause in his statement. "You said he was a freak," he repeats.

She no longer has pleasantries for this man. "You're his mate through and through, huh? Going to defend him still? Haven't the papers destroyed him enough? Go home, Doctor Watson." She feels sorry for this man. He fell so low, an army doctor to the pet of a sociopath.

She sees John squeeze his cane, tightly. She decides he must have seen a professional because he is doing a very job of not getting angry. She remembers how he hit Chief Inspector after Sherlock was arrested.

John continues to talk in his pleasant tone, but this time he turns to face her. His eyes bore into hers and she can see that there is a scary intensity beneath the tiredness and the sadness.

"Sher-lock," Sally notices a slight hitch as he says the name. She notices this is the first time his name has been spoken by either one of them. He doesn't look away, but continues to stare at her. She realizes this must be the real reason he came to her, not to her boss or his friend, Lestrade. He has something to say to her.

As he opens his mouth again, she feels the weight of her gun. She would never shoot the doctor, but as a form of protection, she always feels safer feeling the weight of her gun against her back.

"Though you might not have liked him, he knew what he was talking about. He knew you." She wants to look away from those eyes. She feels like John Watson has stolen the glare of Sherlock Holmes, the glare that was always searching people.

"He knew you had low confidence especially the fear of losing your job. You were afraid of him - not because he would end up crazy, no…." He shakes his head, breaking eye contact. It's not more than two seconds before he finds her eyes again. He's not finished. "The number one reason why you were afraid of him was that he would run you out of your job."

All of sudden, John relaxes, he's finished. Just like that, he's finished what he came to do. He nods to Sally Donovan who is now the silent one. What difference a visitor can make, she thinks. He starts to walk toward the door back to the darkness of 221 B Baker Street, but turns around, leaning on his good leg. Just for good measure, he has one last comment. "Even with him gone, Lestrade believes him and you sent his consultant to the grave. Sergeant, does my friend still scare you?"

Sally does not answer. Instead she tries to keep her one hand from shaking and to not let the doctor see. Instead she focuses on one last question to ask him.

"Why did you care I called him a freak? He never did."

"But I'm different," John says. She knows he sees her trying to hide her hands, one slightly shaking under the other. She can't let him see what his words have done, but it's to late for that. His eyes show that he knows he broke her. He is now the confident one. "Because like Lestrade, I believe in him too."

John turns and pushes the door open leaving her standing for the whole department to see, hands shaking, just like she was on the first day she met Sherlock Holmes.

Chapter Text

Sally Donovan stumbles on the train. It's not happy hour, but she can barely stand straight. She keeps slightly falling into people.

"Drunk at two in the afternoon." An old lady gossips to her friend. Sally shakes this question off. She's not drunk. She's stunned.

She's stunned by what John Watson had said to her in the office. Not more than five minutes after his "talk" with her, she excused herself. Anderson had tried to stop her, but she walked right past him. She couldn't be by anyone.

She closes her eyes as she hears the conductor announce the stop. She has eight more stops to go. She wishes she could sit, but she can't.

She has no right to. She is not old. She is not pregnant. She is just sick with what John Watson had said. She hangs onto the pole for support as she remembers the first time she meet the freak.

"God, who's this tosser?" Sally whispered to Anderson as she walked into the crime scene. A young man, no older than twenty-five is talking with her boss, DI Lestrade.

Sally could only see the back of his head as Anderson continued to talk. It's shaggy with this brown matted hair. He was taller than Lestrade and yet wore a coat that swallowed him up. 

"No idea. Holmes I think. Sherlock Holmes." Sally wanted to laugh. If Anderson had no idea, why did he say a name?

The man's head gave a little shake as he heard his name being spoken. He turned around. Sally could see that this man slightly resembled one of those male models that they used for fashion week. Strong, harsh features with those penetrating blue, gray eyes. He walked over to her. She stuck out her hand to introduce herself, but he did not comply.

He stared for a brief second. His mouth twitched at the corners. He turned back to Lestrade. "She's your partner?" His voice was very low, almost Sally hates to say it - sexy, but that hardly mattered since he sounds like an idiot - rude.

"Yes, I am. Sally Donovan. And you are?" The man did not turn around.

"You already know who I am. Your little friend told you so." Sallly opened her mouth, but Lestrade sent her a look that saved her and the man from an argument.

"Donovan. This is Sherlock Holmes. He is a consultant detective. He's very good at what he does."

"Never heard of him." She muttered.

Sherlock began to speak, but did not turn around to face her. Apparently she was not interesting to him. "Well, I don't need a badge or a warrant to show my authority in this - "

"Sherlock." Lestrade intervened to draw the attention back to the real problem. "If you would get on with it."

Sherlock stopped and observed the body on the floor. "Male 47. A gun shot to his feet, but," His hands point to the chest with the second bullet hole. "Obviously not good enough, so let's aim for the chest, right?"

"Suicide," Sally said as she got closer to the victim. She went to school for this. She didn't need an amateur coming in telling her how to do her job. She noticed Sherlock's mouth twitched again. It must be a sign of amusement.

"No." He said, like he had more authority than she and Lestrade put together.

"How can you say it's not?"

Lestrade shook his head. "Continue…"

"If you were committing suicide, why would you shoot for the foot first? Clearly, not the way to go. Someone," he said pointing to the gun on the floor. "Wanted to inflict pain. They realize however getting shot in the foot wasn't nearly as bad when you were already paralyzed."

"What?"

Sherlock ignored her. "They, now angry that the first wound didn't cause him pain, went straight for the chest to cause the most damage. Probably look at the caretaker that left around 6 P.M. The wounds are still fresh. Is that all?" Sally can see the excitement oozing out of the man as he rattled off the scenario before the detectives. He looked back to Lestrade, "I'm bored. Text me next time, will you? I hate calls."

He turned up his collar and walked out. Lestrade shook his head, but there's a sense of amusement in his face that someone could figure it out so quickly. "Donovan, get the name of the caretaker." 

"That man - he's - "

"Brilliant," said Lestrade, matter of factly.

"No, not exactly what I was thinking. Sir, do excuse me when I say this, but I don't think we can trust him. There's going to be a body one day because of that man."

Lestrade ignored her comment. "Donovan. Just do as I ask."

Sally is jutted awake. A young man accidentally knocks into her and his appearance is really what startles her. He has this mop of brown hair and blue eyes that remind her of the late consulting detective. She is happy her stop is next.

x-x-x

As she opens her apartment door the first thing she does is find an alcoholic beverage. She screws the top off as she listens to her messages. There are three.

One is from her mum, something about her dad's birthday.

The next is from Anderson, being worried or something stupid. She ignores it.

The third is from Lestrade. She leans against the wall as she listens. She can't rightly get rid of it right away since in fact he is her boss.

"Sally, I got word from the office that John stopped by. Why? Could you call me back? I've been trying to get in contact with him."

Sally deletes the message and sinks to the floor, beer still in her hand. Lestrade calls him John. Are he and John Watson still friends after what the Scotland Yard did to Sherlock Holmes? She rubs her eyes. She can't call Lestrade back. She can't. It's just too much right now. She doesn't want to explain what the doctor said to her because what if he's right?

"Even with him gone, Lestrade believes him and you sent his consultant to the grave. Sergeant, does my friend still scare you?"

Shit. Sally thinks to herself. Shit. Shit. She remembers the television that day.

She had been sitting in at her desk, reading through his files trying to figure out how the freak did all these crimes when she heard the office start to get loud, chatting about something.

"Jesus…" She heard one of the desk sergeants say in a hushed tone to another.

"Is it a terrorist attack?" She heard someone ask him. Her ears perked up. What were they were talking about? What happened? She saw the two officers, MacDonald and Demetria staring at the television screen.

Her eyes follow to what they were seeing. She stopped what she was doing. The headlines were large. No, it was not terrorist attack. It-

"You aren't sorry. You're glad."

FRAUDULENT DETECTIVE DEAD read the bottom of her screen. She saw the reporter talking in front of St. Bartholomew's, but Sally's brain wasn't working.

She pushed away from her desk straight to Lestrade's office. She didn't knock.

"Greg, have you-?" He wasn't sitting. He was standing by the window. He had already seen. She could see that much.

"Should we do anything?"

She saw his head shake. She heard him say, low. "No. We're partially to blame." She had to listen closely. She couldn't see his face, she did't know what he was thinking. "You know what? Station two cars outside of Baker Street just in case."

"I'll do it myself," Sally said. She didn't know if she felt guilt, but she felt something.

"Donovan, do not set foot on that street. Do you hear me?" He turned around and Sally is surprised to see her boss look nervous, shaken for the first time she had been working with him. She had been around dead bodies and crime scenes, but her boss looking like this, it scared her worse than bloodied bodies.

"Not doing your job very well, are you? You said he was a freak."

"Do you need to go St. Barts?"

Lestrade shook his head again, his voice more firm this time. "We're staying as far away as possible from this. Unless the Chief Inspector marches me down there himself, I am not going down there. We caused this." He shook his head. Sally took this as her cue to leave.

"Even with him gone, Lestrade believes him and you sent his consultant to the grave. Sergeant, does my friend still scare you?"

Sally takes the now empty beer bottle and chucks it at the wall. Shit. She thinks again looking at her hands, shaking. John Watson is right, beyond the grave, Sherlock Holmes frightens her so much.

Chapter Text

"So…" Lestrade said, staring straight ahead, moving the phone around in his pocket. Sally still hadn't called him back. He can't help but wonder what John wanted.

"Do you know what he wanted?"

The person he speaks to does not answer.

"Yeah, well you wouldn't have told tell me anyway. Said I would have deserved it."

He pulls his phone out and groans at the blank screen. "I wish you would just bloody text me. One more time." He shoves the phone, back into his pocket. He scratches his head, not sure of what else to say. "Well, see you." He looks around awkwardly.

No one is listening to his conversation for which he is glad.

Before he goes, he decides a spur of the moment thing. He crouches down, balancing on his toes, looking face to face or the closet thing he can get to the face, the words Sherlock Holmes, "If you don't mind, I'm going to bring my case work sometimes around here. To see if you can help me out."

"I don't think he would mind." A voice speaks behind him.

Lestrade stumbles. He didn't think anyone was listening. He wants to say mind your own business, but first he has to find his balance again. He places his hand down and then cranes his neck. What he sees, almost makes him lose his balance again.

John Watson is standing before him, leaning on a familiar cane. He nods. "Hullo."

"John," Lestrade rises off the ground and is eye level with the familiar face. "You don't mind that I'm here do you?"

"No." John is staring, just beyond Lestrade, never fully meeting the DI eye to eye. His eyes reach just beyond, right to the gravestone. It's been two weeks and John looks old.

"So…uh. I heard you talked with Sally." Conversation is never Lestrade's strong points, especially in cemeteries.

John's mouth twitches to the side, reminiscent of Sherlock. He picked up a couple things from his roommate.

"Yeah, I did. Listen, Lestrade," Not Greg. He can feel a barrier happening between the two former friends. "I want to talk to you, but not here." He gestures to his friend's final resting place. "He might have enjoyed listening in, but I'm old fashioned," John shrugs. "Cemeteries are quiet places where we talk to those we miss. Not about work related things."

Lestrade wants to say it is the perfect place, but he thinks about it… it's only been two weeks. He did bring John's roommate in for murder charges. "Right, where do you want to go?"

"McMarick's, all right?" Lestrade knows the place, it's where he watches a rugby match once in a while. He didn't know John was familiar with the place.

Lestrades stretches his legs before he leaves. Kneeling really did a number on his legs. He wasn't twenty-one anymore. "Really kills the legs you know. Old age," He laughs. "Stress."

John since 'the fall', cracks a smile. Not a big one, but a gentle, real smile. He taps his cane. "Yeah, I think I know what you mean."

"You coming?" Lestrade says pointing to the walkway. There's about twelve inches between he and John. He wants to clap him on the back and ask him how he has been, but it's obvious how he's been.

"I'll meet you there, all right? I have a couple things to do." He points his cane toward Sherlock's grave.

Lestrade flushes immediately. He really was quite stupid especially being the Detective Inspector. The cemeteries really mess him up. Of course, John wasn't coming right away. "Right. Sorry." He rubs his hand across his forehead. "So sorry, John."

"Sorry about what?" John says lowering himself to the ground on his knees, still resting his hands on the cane. He knows he has a couple things to talk to Sherlock about and he too rather see him eye to eye. He doesn't want to tower of his friend because Sherlock was supposed to do that. The detective was the taller one as he loved to point out.

"About everything John. For interrupting your visit. For getting him arrested. For leading to his death. God, John I'm sorry."

John, sighs, muttering to himself. "Clearly, the pub is unnecessary now since you are doing all of my hard work. Jesus…" John grumbles, still facing the grave and apologizes to the name on the stone. "Not you." He turns to face Greg, " I want to speak to you face to face, but I'm not getting up now. My knees just won't do it. I didn't expect to get up so soon. You were leaving." Lestrade shrugs.

"Anyway," John sighs again as he leans against Sherlock's tombstone. "You don't mind, do you?" Lestrade is about to shake his head, no, he doesn't mind, but stops himself. He realizes that John is not talking to him, but he still listens. "Even though you know my limp was psychosomatic. The cartilage in my knees is not." He doesn't think John is crazy, just lonely. John starts to speak again to Lestrade, now in a somewhat comfortable position.

"I know you're sorry, Greg. I think he kinda knew too, at the time, but after him being gone, I am still so angry with the Scotland Yard. So angry. That's why I avoided you initially. I was angry at your place of employment, but only slightly toward you, you did try to warn us." He shakes his head. "I don't understand though, all those cases solved and now they turn on him."

"Yeah, well that isn't quite true..." Greg says, now feeling guilty, remembering what was said in front of the Chief Superintendent.

"W-what do you mean? What isn't true?"

"They didn't know he had been helping me and others solve the cases so frequently. Maybe I should've spoken up earlier to explain Sherlock." Greg rubs his hand through his greying hair. "Then maybe they wouldn't have gone after him in this witch hunt fashion. So uh...sorry for that too."

"Oh." John says.

Another silence occurs between the two of them. During this silence, John pats the gravestone. "Well, no matter who says what, I still don't think you're a fraud, no matter what you said. You just can't be." He laughs. This laugh is not meant for Lestrade to hear. It's for Sherlock and John. Odd. Greg feels like he walked into something private. Greg wants to leave now, but he doesn't quite understand one thing John has said.

"What do you mean- he thought he was a fraud? He,The Sherlock Holmes, thought he was a fraud?"

John nodded again. "H-he spoke on the phone before he died - on the rooftop. He was c-crying." John's voice is cracking and Lestrade feels even worse for asking, but he needs to know. John will not meet his eyes now.

"Sherlock doesn't cry." Lestrade pointed out.

John closes his eyes as the inspector tries to untangle this web of information. "He was. I know he was. Please let me finish. This is hard, very hard." Lestrade wonders if John has spoken about this to anyone and this answer is no, probably not.

John presses on. "Sherlock was crying, unstable. He wanted me to tell you that he was a fraud and that he made Moriarty up. I know he didn't do that so that's why I didn't tell you. Telling you would be like me believing what he said was true and not for a second, do I believe it to be true. He could tell my whole life from the back of my phone." John laughs again. Lestrade isn't quite sure John is talking about in regards to the phone, but understands the phenomenon that John is describing, how Sherlock could see all of the world in one blink of the eyes.

"So - I still don't understand - is that what you told Sally? She thought he was a fraud anyway. Why go to her first? You didn't admit this to her?" Lestrade asks hesitantly, still trying to guess why John was at the Yard this morning if he hated it so much and imagining the glee Sally would have had if John had admitted this. Thought he can see that in John, beneath the tears, a form of quiet rage is brewing, that he most likely did not admit this to her.

"Leave her out of this." He waves his hand to the side as to say to drop that matter. "She and I had a different manner to attend to." He shakes his head and clears his throat. "Greg, you were his friend so in the end, you are still my friend."

Greg stands awkwardly again. John's hand is trembling on the gravestone and his eyes are still closed. Greg doesn't know what to do. Should he leave? Should he help John up? He wants to ask more questions, but he's knows he's gone too far.

All he says is, "John, thank you." John doesn't look up. His hand is still shaking and Lestrade decides he must leave, but not before he says one last comment. " John, I think we were very lucky."

John blinks, reluctantly showing his face, "What?"

"I always said Sherlock was going to be a good man," Lestrade puts his hands in his pockets. Lestrade never once believed the lies the papers told and the rumors in the office. "I'll give you some time with him, but I still want that pint with you."

Chapter Text

The door chimes sound as Greg Lestrade walks into McMarick's. It's still early in the afternoon. It's quite ghostly except for a few regulars scattered around the bar, nursing their drinks.

"Hey Greg!" says Liam, the bartender.

Greg nods. He's not a regular, but he could be well on his way.

"How's the wife?"

"Good." Greg lies. He can imagine Sherlock shaking his head. He continues talking to get rid of the image of the late detective. "Meeting a friend in a few. Not sure how long he'll be." He pulls up a stool at the bar.

"All right. Nothing like one drink to hold you over while you wait for another. Scotch on the rocks?"

Greg shakes his head. It's a little early for that. "Just a beer."

x-x-x

Ten minutes go by and Greg is afraid to say that half of his beer is already gone. John still has not come. It's not like he can rush the army doctor.

He wanted to tell you….

He made Moriarty up….

"Liam." Greg calls, but the bartender is in conversation with another. Greg waits a moment to make eye contact. Liam sees him within a minute.

"You want another already?" Liam is laughing, walking down to face Greg now leaning on the bar.

"No. I have a question for you." He paused. "Do you personally believe Sherlock Holmes was a fraud?"

The bartender leans a little more forward on the bar, looking at Greg Lestrade in the eyes.

"You tell me, you're the cop. I just read the papers. Kitty Riley - "

"Right thanks." Greg nods as he brings the beer to his lips as Liam begins to awkwardly wipe down the area he was just leaning on. Liam stops thankfully after he hears a man at the end of the bar calling his name.

"All right. I hear you. You don't have to scream." He shrugs at Greg and continues to the other end of the bar. Greg is left alone to remember the first time he knew that Sherlock Holmes wasn't a fraud.

x-x-x

It was almost ten years ago. Greg had just become a Sergeant. He called his mum that day to tell her about the promotion when his call was interrupted by his boss on the radio.

"Drug Bust on 33rd and Addison. Four guys. You're closest as well as Neilson."

Neilson and he had found them in broad daylight. The one in the middle was handling out small packages to the other three. One with dark hair did not accept his package. His hands were in his pockets, staring at the two new additions to the group.

"Drugs bust boys," Lestrade called.

The three scattered including the one the middle. Neilson rushed after them. Greg instead walked up to the one young man that was left, the one that did not accept the package. The young man was maybe twenty-two, twenty three years old, tall and gawky with a mess of curly brown hair, staring silently back.

"Show me, mate. If you're caught in the possession of -"

The young man yawned.

"Did you hear a word of what I just said to you?"

The young man blinked and realized that someone was talking to him. He blinked again and then began to rattle off odd chemical names. Later that night after researching the names, Lestrade would come to find that the man had been reciting the components of cocaine.

Neilson had returned by this point, out of breath with no one following behind in cuffs.

"What's with this one?" Neilson muttered to Greg. Greg had no idea what to say. However, the young man did. He stopped reciting the chemical names and instead quickly flitted his eyes back and forth between the two officers.

"Sergeant Lestrade. Just promoted. Mazal Tov." The man remarked dryly and then continued onwards. "Married for one year. Your wife favors the weekends while you favor the weekdays." Greg could feel his ears getting red at the tips, but the boy had moved on to Neilson who was staring at the boy with an open mouth. "Neilson. Unlike your friend here, you are new to the job entirely. Slightly out of breath. Unlike the Sergeant, you won't be promoted. You will leave the force soon."

Neilson tensed, ready to pounce on the kid, but Greg still fascinated, holds his colleague back. Neilson pulled away and reached for his cuffs, but the young man tutted at him.

"I wouldn't do that."

"Why – not?" Neilson said through gritted teeth.

"Because your boss doesn't care anymore. Anyway," he muttered, "you didn't seem me take any drugs which would mean I'm not part of this said drugs bust. Just an innocent bystander.

Neilson growled. " We can still search you - "

"Search away, Officer."

Greg is about to remark that they could also arrest him for harassing them and is about to search him but is interrupted by the buzz of their walkie talkies. A robbery has happened at the bank down the road. Back up needed immediately.

The young man cockily smiled, placing his hands in his pockets. "Don't keep them waiting. Bank robbers are so much more enticing unless you still want to search me. Also I'm not disrupting the peace, Sergeant. "

Neilson snarled, but Greg held him back. The young man was right. Their boss needed them.

x-x-x

His beer really is empty now. Thirty minutes had gone by. He wants to text John, but he knows that should be the last thing he does to the army doctor. It's rude since he already interrupted him once. Greg Lestrade knows where he ranks in relation to Sherlock Holmes according to John Watson so he goes ahead and orders another round.

x-x-x

The second time he met Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock was almost dead. Sherlock wouldn't remember the meeting, but Mycroft Holmes would and how it would save his little brother.

Greg was in the hospital getting stitches for a chase that had gone a little wrong. Mathewson sat next to him. Mathewson had been his partner for the past four years. The young Sherlock Holmes had been right; Neilson had quit three months after the drugs bust on Addison. Greg knew the comments had affected him greatly, a chink in the armor.

Glancing around, the emergency room, he saw the EMT's bring in a man with mass of curly brown hair, thrashing wildly on a table with panic in his eyes. A taller gentleman strode in behind the stretcher. He had an umbrella in one hand and a phone in the other, talking rapidly on it, clearly annoyed, but not too bothered.

"I know that man." Lestrade remarked to the nurse and Mathewson as the nurse continued to stitch his wrist up.

"What?" The nurse asked confused, turning her head to look at the stretcher that went past them. Lestrade winced as the placement of the needle in his wrist goes where it is not supposed to go. "Sorry Sergeant. Try not to move."

Lestrade did not remark that she was the one who moved to swivel her head to see whom he was speaking off.

"That man who just came in," Lestrade reverted his discussion to Mathewson, who did not have a needle in his hands and thus could not inflict pain.

"Yeah?" Mathewson mumbled, thumbing through a bag of crisps. "A friend?"

"No." Greg wasn't sure what to call him. "He's –"

"Sherlock Holmes, stop thrashing about! They are trying to help you, you insufferable child!" A voice barked in the direction of where Greg's acquaintance had gone.

Greg didn't finish. He now knew the man's name… Sherlock Holmes.

The nurse smiled, done with the stitches. "Well you're all done. Except for this." She handed him a little bit more paperwork.

"I'll be right there," He told Mathewson. "Just a little more paperwork."

Mathewson laughed. "Just a little? Meet you at the cafeteria, all right?"

"Yeah, all right."

Lestrade did not fill out the paperwork right away. He instead headed off to find his acquaintance.

He came face to face with the tall man who he saw previously walking behind the stretcher. The tall man was standing outside the door of a room. Greg coughed and the man looked up from his texting.

"Yes? This is a private room."

"I know. I'm a friend of Sherlock's."

The man eyed Greg and knew he was lying. "No, you're not. Sherlock doesn't have friends. You are a Sergeant. My brother is definitely not friends with a Sergeant. Please go and amuse yourself in some other way. Catch a criminal or - " He glanced the paperwork Greg is holding with his good hand. "Fill out that paperwork. That's what police officers do best."

Greg opened his mouth and then closed it and then opened it again. He changed the topic. "He was taking drugs, wasn't he?" He was not surprised that's it true. He wished he had searched him four years ago.

"This is a private matter."

Greg shifted the papers in his hand. "Hell of a smart kid. Hope he makes it through. Anyway, tell him he was right."

"That would only inflate his ego, but I might as well ask," The man sighs, clearly bored, "right about what?"

"Neilson. And tell him, Gregory Lestrade has something better than drugs."

"And what would that be? My brother is not easily amused. "

"Ask him how he feels about murder scenes?"

x-x-x

He glances at his watch. Another twenty minutes have gone by. He has already had two beers. One more can't hurt. He signals Liam and remembers his last encounter with the consultant detective.

x-x-x

Greg had been stuck as his desk even since Sherlock had escaped in handcuffs.

His boss told him. "No chase for you. Back to the office. Look through the cases you put him on and God help you if he messed up on any of them."

So that's what he had been doing since late last night, going through cases Sherlock worked on. In the back of his mind, he wanted to prove that he himself was not wrong enlisting Sherlock to help solve the cases. Let's face it, Greg thought to himself, more cases were solved because of him.

His phone vibrated across his desk. He flipped it open.

It's happened. –M

Greg blinked. He didn't have to think. He knew what it meant. The older Holmes brother had warned the detective inspector that one day it would happen. Sherlock Holmes would cause his own death whether in a high pursuit chase or knocking back a bottle of pills. In one way or another, Sherlock would cause it.

Still unsure of how though, Greg turned on his computer and started searching. The newsfeeds were slow. He turned up his scanners. A man had jumped from the roof of St. Barts. Lestrade shook his head. Not Sherlock. Sherlock wouldn't do that. It seemed so pedestrian. Anyway, Sherlock was still on the run. He hadn't been found. It would be so unlike Sherlock. He refreshed his newsfeed. Nothing. He flipped on his television on his office wall. He stopped breathing for a split second.

Footage was playing. A tall man was standing on top of the building. It's not Sherlock, he told himself again. The man was wearing a long coat. It's not Sherlock. The figure moved to the edge of the building, gripping something in his hand, a mobile. The figure put a foot over the edge and Greg couldn't watch anymore. He knew it was Sherlock and now he could watch no more especially if he didn't want to be sick all over his office floor.

He shook his head to clear the image. He went and stared outside the window. He barely heared the knock at the door.

x-x-x

"Greg?"

Greg is woken awake from his too real of a dream. He rocks on his barstool, trying to find balance. It almost feels like falling, which Greg does not want to feel. It is not Sally Donovan waking him up, telling him that Sherlock has fallen to his death - again. It is not Liam who is down at the other end of the bar. It is his long awaited guest.

"Took too long, did I?" John Watson says.

"No it's all right." Greg says groggily. He glances at his watch. Another thirty minutes had gone by, but it's only six thirty. The bar has started to get more crowded, but somehow John manages to procure a seat next to him.

Liam is there within a second. "Doctor Watson, a pint for you and Greg?"

"Just John, Liam. And yes, the pints sound great."

Greg looks at John as Liam walks away to get their drinks.

"You come here a lot?"

"No."

"How does Liam know your name?"

"Everyone knows my name, Greg." John laughs. " At this point, I just care about how you go about using it in person. People I don't know, the ones on the street are the worst, but," He pauses and thinks for a second "Actually I take that back. They are no better than the journalist writing the stories they read. Journalists peg me on the street with whatever they fancy. They use John, Watson, the blogger, hey you! It's never Doctor Watson, however the copy they write begs to differ." It suddenly becomes Doctor Watson says this… Doctor Watson denies this blah blah..."

He waves his hand in disgust. "They pretend to have respect for me - but they don't. At least with Liam," He jerks his head in the direction of the bartender who is filling their pints, "has a sense of decency and knows that it matters to me. It keeps me sane…almost."

His eyes drift off for a second like they did in the cemetery. "At the same time it kills me." He waves off his moment of doubt, his eyes returning to Greg's. "I'm still a human being that deserves some sort of respect after all the shit I've gone through. It's why I only come here to drink. It's has to be the same way with you and that Detective Inspector title."

Greg thinks about it. No one takes him seriously, not anymore.

He also wonders when John comes here for a drink. He has not seen John up here when he was there, or maybe he and John had been there at the same time, just unwilling to talk or meet each other face to face. He's not sure. Anyway it doesn't matter.

Instead he remembers one night when John and he had dragged Sherlock to the bar after a particularly gruesome case of a triple murder. The image of an intoxicated Sherlock, flailing about appears and leaves his mind within seconds as Liam reappears.

Lestrade does not bring up this memory to John who gives a tight smile to Liam. The bartender hands him their pints and moves back down to the other end of the bar. Greg leans in closer to John to tell him what he was discussing with Liam earlier. He ignores Johns question of his title.

"But John, he believes that – "

"I already know." He takes sip from his pint. "In the end he still calls me Doctor Watson."

"What if he is taking the mickey out of you? John, We are in a bar."

"No." John says adamantly. "It makes me angry he doesn't believe, but Liam doesn't go about spewing that 'the fraud's friend comes here, let's not serve him.' He knows that Sherl-" Greg waves him on, he knows who they are talking about. John continues. "Liam knows I lost a friend. It's one of the few places I can find a bit of peace." He takes another sip. "I can't change everyone all at once. However, more importantly," He looks at Greg, "have you changed your mind Greg? "

Greg looks at him sipping his pint. This is Doctor John Watson. This man had fought in wars and been shot at. This man had run around with a mad man and listened when no one else would. This is a man who had watched his friend fall and could not save him.

Greg looks at the bottom of his glass. He is beginning to understand John Watson's war. There are two people who John Watson is protecting, trying to gain respect for: his best friend and himself.

Understanding John's pain is like an iceberg. Lestrade can only see the tip now, but knows it so vastly larger below when John is alone in his apartment. John is a doctor that could not save a life that mattered most to him. Greg picks up his glass and takes a long swig. He, himself could not bear to watch the video, let alone imagining it in person. No one deserves to see that. No one.

Greg was the first to believe, to give Sherlock a job, to save him from the hellhole of addiction, but what happened? Greg rubs his head remembering what Sherlock had said to him during the madness of that evening.

"You're going to have to be strong to resist. You can't kill an idea, not when it's made a home there... It is a game that I'm not willing to play."

However it was a game that Lestrade played and it cost him. It cost him one consultant detective and one army doctor. It also cost him his title.

He clears his throat and speaks.

"I got a call on my way from the cemetery to here."

John looks over at him from the top of his pint glass.

"Yeah?"

"It was my Chief Superintendent." Greg brings his glass to the mouth. John does not point out that Greg is now just drinking the dregs of the beer. Greg puts the glass down.

"I'm just a Sergeant now."

John raises his eyebrow. He doesn't say anything so Greg continues.

"I kept on trying to defend his cases ahead of the other cases that were coming in, 'my real work' that I was supposed to be doing."

"Shit." John runs a finger through his short hair. "Is it temporary?"

Greg shrugs. "It might be." A pause, but he doesn't continue. Greg thinks the higher-ups have been thinking about this for a while. He just let's his last words hang in the air and rocks his empty glass back and forth in his hands. John signals another pint for Greg. They are silent as they wait for the glass.

"Cheers," Lestrade says mock raising his new glass. John raises his.

"Greg?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks. He wouldn't say it, but thanks."

Greg is happy John hit his boss that night. The bastard deserved it.

"It's odd, in it? Him saying he was a fake. That's not the man I knew." Greg says to John.

John looks him. "Yeah I know. It doesn't make sense."

They both raise their glasses and drink, thinking over Sherlock's last words.

John speaks, clenching his fist as he brings his drink back to the bar. "Greg, you need to prove Moriarty was real. There's only so much I can do. I'm just his blogger." John tries to make a joke out of the situation, but Greg doesn't respond. John continues onward in his request. "Will you try to get your title back?"

Greg thinks for a second. It will be tough to prove Moriarty at this point. He scrunches his nose, thinking about the time in the hospital and the man wielding that umbrella. "What about his brother? Doesn't he have some minor position in the British - "

He stops seeing a pointed glare coming from John. A topic that should be avoided Greg realizes.

" - Or not. First thing tomorrow, I'll see what I can do."

Silence. Then John nods in agreement, a thank you. Greg decides to move to a lighter topic for both of them.

"Did I ever tell you how I first met the cocky bastard? Not his brother mind you, that was a different story, though he was a bit of a pain when I first met him."

John chokes on his pint while Greg continues to ramble.

"I knew he couldn't be a fake after he told me about my wife."

John snorts. "Always one for tact."

And with this Greg begins his tale. He knows he and John will return days later to recount tales of the great idiot that they missed so dearly. He and John have a long way to go to make people believe what they know nothing to be less then the truth.

Chapter Text

John is sitting on the tube after a very stressful day at the clinic.

Four cases of strep throat, one child throwing up, (John had been thankful that he kept a change of clothes in his office just for that sort of thing) three hypochondriacs and two belligerent parents. Yes, it had been a long, stressful day.

The events in the day had certainly been enough to engage a debate at length in his mind whether to make time to hail a cab and make small talk with the cabbie or walk like a zombie, sit on the tube and zone out without the small talk.

Unfortunately at this time, John wishes he had chosen the earlier option. He has forgotten it was rush hour.

His phone buzzes. John is about to reach in his trouser pocket to grab it when he notices a heavily pregnant woman entering the train car.

"Take my seat." John said.

The woman smiles, undoubtedly grateful. John nods as he gets up and picks up his cane lazily. The woman frowns, not sure if she should sit. John shakes his head.

"No. Don't worry about it. I don't really need it as much as I used to. I'm perfectly good on my legs." He pats it and she seems slightly okay with that answer.

He almost wants to add. "My friend says it's psychosomatic so please take my seat." He doesn't, he just slowly makes his way through the people.

The car is very crowded, another problem John has failed to notice. His mind has lately been preoccupied with other things. As he reaches into his pocket to check his phone, someone says something to him.

"That was very nice of you, John."

He turns and looks into the familiar face, and suddenly the accompanying voice made sense. He realizes he could just nod and move on down the car, but he can't.

He removes his hand from his trouser pocket and instead moves closer to the figure. He says the next few words so low that she has to learn forward to hear on the train,

"You disgust me."

Kitty Riley blinks, but smiles all the same.

"I see the press aren't treating you well."

"I don't expect it to be, with you still writing it." John notes, looking at Kitty.

She stares at him. He stares back. The conductor announces the next stop. People move in. People move out. They are still locked in this contest of who will give in.

She blinks and stares him back in the eyes, "You honestly believe he was real."

"Yes I do. Richard Brook was never real. Sherlock is."

"Your friend is dead- "

"Your Richard Brook is missing. What happened to your star?"

Another long hard stare occurs between the two of them. Kitty has gotten tougher, but so has John.

"I write what I know."

John snorts. "That isn't journalism then. You need facts -"

"I had facts."

"Let me finish." His voice had suddenly gotten louder since the start of the conversation. John notices another man sitting across from them who is nudging his friend to listen to the conversation. John counts to three in his head to finish his point at the same quiet level he started at so only Kitty can hear.

"Journalism is all about having the facts and laying out both sides and letting the reader decide what they want to believe. You, Miss Riley are a tabloid journalist, making up lies, deciding on the side that will get you the most readers."

Kitty parts her lips to speak, but John ignores her.

"You should've asked for a comment before printing that shit you call news. You should've tried harder. If Shelock said no which we both know he obviously did, you should've have gone to the people he works with. You should've have contacted the Scotland Yard. You didn't. If you had done your research and not just on this story that "Rich Brook", he puts in the name in quotes "told you, you would have known about Moriarty and lies that are so easy for him to weave. I had to wear a bomb-laden vest and watch a man fall to know what is real and what isn't."

The tube dings for the next stop, his stop. He breaks eye contact.

He ignores Kitty Riley's still half opened lips and stares from other passengers. He also ignores the fact that he talked about Sherlock in the present tense. He limps out of the train door.

It happens. He tells himself. He had a very long day.

Chapter Text

"I'm looking to speak with Greg Lestrade?"

"Please hold."

She waits.

Kitty Riley has done nothing for the past two weeks; nothing in relation to John Watson's words.

She had gone to work and written a story on a socialite who fell to her death, falling off the roof of her penthouse apartment.

"Just like that detective you did that story on," said Jeannette, the astrologist for the paper, leaning over her cubicle to talk with Kitty.

Kitty didn't even think about that. Happy all a minute ago, typing on her keyboard and now all of sudden she felt trapped, congested, anxious. Kitty smiled, underneath trying to stay calm in front of her friend. "Yeah. Both drama queens."

Jeannette and she shared a laugh. Jeanette disappeared behind her cubicle, continuing with her work. Kitty tried to, but couldn't. Instead she pushed away from her desk, computer and the fake smiles and laughter. She walked calmly to the bathroom and splashed cool water on her face.

She tried to make herself feel better, but in her conscience she knew that wasn't right – her head was too full of other sounds: the train door closing, the uneven sounds of the doctor's feet limping out toward the door, mutterings between the other passengers and the words, the words between the blogger and the journalist, all reverberating in her head.

The phone beeps.

"Lestrade. Who am I speaking to?"

"Kitty Riley from The Sun," she says, hoping it won't end in a dial tone.

There isn't a hang up, but a pause. She decides to continue.

"I'm looking to request the police files on Richard Brook and Sherlock Holmes."

Another pause.

"Ms. Riley, what more could you possibly need? You've already had quite the success with your little expose.

"John told you about me, didn't he?"

"John?"

"You know who I mean."

"First, I don't need anyone to tell me who you are, Ms. Riley. You did a good job of that yourself with that byline and headline. Next, onto the topic of Doctor Watson. I'm pretty sure he only let's his friends call him John and I am quite sure you and he don't grab a cuppa in the morning before work. So for you he's Doctor John Watson because he earned the right of being called a Doctor and he deserves just that little bit of respect. Just a little. Don't you think?" A pause. "Goodbye Ms. Riley."

A dial tone occurs. She waits and picks up the phone again, frustrated, but determined.

"Greg Lestrade, please."

"Please hold," said the secretary again, clearly not aware of what went on in the previous conversation and that Lestrade wanted nothing to do with her.

His irritable voice picks up.

"Ms. Riley, I advise you to stop calling. I have nothing and I mean nothing more to give you then a 'no comment'. I know that's not enough for you journalists- "

"- I don't need a comment." She snaps back. "I need someone from the Scotland Yard. It's urgent."

"I can send-"

"Let me rephrase that, I need to speak with you. It's about Doctor Watson, Richard Brook and Mr. Holm-

"-McMaricks, all right? 143 Browning Street. Eight o'clock?"

"Thanks."

x-x-x

She arrives at McMaricks and looks for the salt-and-peppered detective or whatever he is now. He is sitting in the corner with a second person.

Kitty immediately feels claustrophobic. She hears the train doors, the mutterings –

"Lestrade and – Doctor Watson." She tries to say it respectful and warm, but obviously it comes out flat.

John does not speak. He just lifts his pint glass and stares off into the distance. Lestrade coughs.

"Ms. Riley, you may not ask Doctor Watson any questions. He is here by my request since you said you had some urgent matters in relation to him. I thought he had a right for once in his life to know what is going on in the media." He says the last word through gritted teeth. "What is so urgent?"

"Richard Brook -"

John snorts into his glass, clearly unable to hold back. Greg looks at him. "John?"

"Greg, honestly this woman," he gestures as her. " She destroyed him and now she's just looking to save herself. What could possibly be so urgent?"

"I want to clear Sher…"

John eyes her with a dangerous intensity in his eyes which leads her voice to drop off. It's the perfect opportunity for him to launch off into a tirade. "Now, you've done quite enough for my friend. Even with your newfound words, you can't bring the dead back. Anyway, I quite think he would rather remain dead especially if he knew you were speaking in his defense." He turns back to Greg.

"Sherlock's still gone and she's still screwed. Her boss won't print a retraction. It's too late to do real journalism." His eyes flit back to hers. "Anyway the paper you write for is nothing more than a glorified tabloid. You know that, don't you?"

Kitty looks at him. She can feel her palms sweating. She can't breath. She feels her face draining of color. "No. I-" She lies to try to maintain composure, but his laughter is what does her in. She knows John can see that she is losing the battle.

She looks away as John picks up his and Greg's empty glasses and all the while still laughing, gets up to go to the bar to get another pint to help release his frustration.

Now alone with her, Greg rubs his fingers through his hair. "Ms, Riley here's my advice to you," he sighs. "If you can live with what you've done in words, then keep your job by all means. If you have a problem with what you have written, resign. John has a point. Your paper won't care for the new truth.

"But you didn't lose your job and you believed in Sherlock Holmes."

Greg looks at Kitty. "Yes, but I'm not a detective inspector anymore. I know what it cost me." He leans in closer. "However, how much is your title worth to you? I've already laid out the two choices you can choose for yourself."

Kitty frowns. Writing another story with Richard Brook's gossip about Sherlock would bring in more revenue and more praise from her boss. It would be another front page for Kitty Riley, lead reporter.

Greg blinks. "You paused too long. What should matter to you is the truth, but instead it's your reputation."

Kitty glances up to the bar where the army doctor is leaning, talking to the bartender. "Doctor Watson told me Richard Brook was missing on the day of the train. I d-didn't believe him not until, my boss wanted me to follow up with Richard and his phone was disconnected. I can't get in touch with him."

"Make it up. You already did that once." He shrugs like that is the easiest solution, like her work means nothing.

That's it. She's had it. She gets up abruptly leaving Greg Lestrade staring at her as she walks past John and out of the bar.

x-x-x

Back at home, staring at her files on Richard and on Sherlock, she tries to type a whole story about Richard's reaction but finds she can't.

Instead she writes her resignation letter and after a second pause, pulls up John Watson's blog on her computer. She finds the "send a message to the moderator". She clicks on it and writes one sentence.

Richard Brook is a fake.

She hits send and almost immediately the mutterings, the train door and the words of the blogger start to fade.

Chapter Text

Anderson is sorting through a couple of lab reports as he hears the key door swipe and the door open.

“Sally, I told you I have to finish.” He smiles, thinking he is about to look into the eyes of the lovely Sally Donovan with her crazy curly hair and that relaxed smile she shows after a long day of work. However, his excitement dies quickly. Doctor Watson has just entered his work environment and looks like he is planning to kill someone. Anderson grimaces, but remains calm. It’s just a slight annoying problem. John didn’t kill Sally when he came to talk to her, but his brain chimes in that incident was over two and half months ago. John Watson could be a very different man now, a very different man.

“John. H-how-what do you need help with?”

Real confident, his mind remarks sarcastically.

John ignores him as he walks slightly off balance towards Anderson and leans on the counter that he is at. John still doesn’t speak.

Anderson swears under his breath. How did John get in here anyway?

John looks up and gives him a frightening grin like he knows a secret. Anderson hopes the secret isn’t: he is alone with John Watson while everyone else has left.

“How’s your wife?” John questions. His voice sounds slurred and unsteady, just like his walking.

“I don’t seem to think that’s any of your business,” Anderson says in very monotonous voice, so as not to anger the man in front of him.

“Really?” John drawls out. Anderson scrunches his face. He can smell the alcohol on John’s breath. He realizes that anything he is likely to say in whatever tone he says it in will not alleviate the situation. So, he doesn't say anything. Instead he looks around for his mobile. He should call Sally or Lestrade, they are better at this. Not him.

“Because everyone knows that you and Sally still haven’t given up on your Wednesday night meet ups.” John says leaning a little too proudly on the counter. The papers in front of both of them spread out and some fall onto the floor. John doesn’t move. Anderson is not sure if he should move to pick them up. He decides against it because John is still glaring at him with such fierce intensity.

His one hand fumbles in his pocket. He finds his mobile. Now, was Sally the speed dial one or was that his wife?

“No answer?” John laughs and the laugh is even worse than the frightening grin.

“John, I think you know – I can call you a cab.”

“No cab is necessary, Anderson.” There is a pause as Anderson avoids John’s gaze yet again as he slowly slips his phone out of his pocket and into his palm hidden by the counter.

“You want to know a secret?”

Not particularly. “Only if it’s good.” He tries to chuckle at his joke, but the chuckles dies in his throat.

“It’s the best.” John beckons him forward and he hesitantly agrees, he’s not sure why. John is in a balancing act with his own body. He uses one hand to stabilize himself on the counter and the other hand that beckoned Anderson is resting on Anderson’s shoulder. He breathes out his next words with great delight. “Sherlock is still smarter than you and he’s dead!”

Anderson tenses under the name and repeats again. “That cab, John - ”

John shakes his head and seems giddy with enjoyment.

“You heard me, right? A dead man is smarter than you!” John laughs again and his hand trembles.

Anderson takes this an opportunity and breaks away. John’s hand on his shoulder slams on to the counter. While John stands a little stunned, Anderson hits speed dial one and prays it’s not his wife. “Right. You still live at 221B?”

John blinks.

Anderson asks again, just in case John didn’t hear. “221 B, right?”

John shakes his head.

“You don’t live there?”

John scoffs, shaking out his hand that slammed on the counter. “I don’t need any help from you. Not from you, not from Sally. Not from any of you sick bastards who did this.”

“Listen your sociopa-”

John’s hand shoots out and grabs Anderson’s wrist and grips tightly, letting the phone clatter to the ground. Anderson is praying the person who picked up the phone on the other end can hear everything that is going on. “Don’t. You dare. Insult. HIM.” His face is inches away from Anderson, but he can’t move. “You have no right - not what you and Donovan did to him.”

“But that’s what he wanted to be called!” Anderson snarls at John, annoyed. “He was like an overgrown child- a bully on his worst days. Couldn’t you see that?”

This is the first time John avoids Anderson’s eyes. Anderson continues.

“He was always deducing and calling us names.”

John retorts back. “But how old are you? You could have done your job better to prove him wrong. Not insult him right back. ”

“But he-”

“Listen to me, Anderson, you wouldn’t have solved those cases without him,”

“Yes-I-we-”

“No,” John shakes his head definitively. “Not in time. What harm was he doing? So he insulted you, but at least he was helping solve the cases you were solving at a sloth’s pace. ” John’s grip tightens on his wrist. “What harm was he really doing to you, huh?”

Anderson is breathing hard. It hurts. “John, please let go-“

“No.” His wrist feels more pressure. “You deserve a tenth of the pain he felt falling off that damn building.”

Anderson tries to wrench his wrist free, but John is a very strong man. “I thought you were a doctor. Doctors don’t hurt people.”

John’s grip doesn’t let go. “I am having a very, very bad day.”

The key door scanner is heard and the door opens, but John doesn’t let go. He can’t see who is walking through the door as his head faces away from the door, but Anderson can. He’s a little relieved and John can see it. He hisses at Anderson with disgust. “Oh, calling for help, are we? Be a man-”

“Easy John.” Anderson feels the pressure loosen as the man’s voice speaks. Greg Lestrade is slowly peeling John away from his forensic. “Come on mate, easy does it.” John breathes, gaze never wavering away from Anderson.

“He deserves to feel it. He’s a coward! Can’t admit that he helped a man kill himself.” John spits out in anger. “Can’t tell his wife what he’s doing behind her back. Sherlock might have been a prat, but he’s twice- twice the man that’s standing there.” He tries to lunge at Anderson, but Lestrade pulls him back.

“Right. Well, he still needs to finish that report for Dimmock and I don’t think he can, if you decide to slug him.”

Anderson looks at Lestrade, helpless, annoyed, and a little terrified, but Lestrade isn’t watching him. He has his hands on John’s shoulders guiding him toward the door. Anderson flexes his fingers, letting the blood flow through them again. He tries to shake off the look of rage John had. He can still hear them talking as the door opened.

“Jesus, John, how did you even get in here?”

“Sherlock. The code.” Anderson sees John dejectedly gesture.

Greg laughs nervously. “Yeah, he would know. Listen, I’m a bit low for a cab ride home and it’s starting to rain. You want to split it?”

“Yeah. All right.”

The door closes and Anderson is standing alone behind the counter with all his papers still scattered on the floor.

Chapter Text

“So are we still on for tonight?” Sally says over the phone. Anderson has the phone up to his ear, but he isn’t really listening, he is looking around the office feeling a little paranoid after his run in with John last night. He hasn’t spoken a word of it to anyone. Not even when he ran into Lestrade in the break room if that counted. They had just exchanged a quick hello while both getting their coffee.

“Hello?” She asks again.

“Yeah, I don’t know.” Anderson scratches his chin. “Milly wanted to do something.”

The door to her office is closed, but he’s sure that if it was open, there would be frustration written all over her face. It’s evident in her tone.

“Yes, but you bailed on her before.”  He knows she trying to make him change his mind.

“Well-” A pause.

You coward.

“Nope.” Anderson shakes his head. “I really can’t. Not again.”

A pause.

“Did something happen?”

“No. No. Don’t worry, definitely next week, we are on. I think she has a girl’s night out or something.”

“Okay.” Sally hangs up the phone, but Anderson notices that she didn’t sound too convinced.

Anderson flexes his hands and takes a deep breath. He’s going to tell Milly tonight about what’s been happening.

x-x-x

Milly is chattering away about the latest customer at her boutique, but Anderson is hardly listening. He doesn’t know how to tell her, but he doesn’t want to be a coward because John Watson can’t be right.

“Milly, I-um,” Anderson fumbles his words.

“Can you pass the salt?”

“What?”

“The salt.”

“Yes all right.” Anderson passes the salt. He remembers her laughing on their wedding day and how her simple view on the world made him happy most days and on the rare occasion when it doesn't, he tells her that’s why he has Wednesday nights to watch football matches with people from work. It’s not a total lie. He does meet with someone from work.

He doesn’t say anything. He cuts into his chicken. He doesn’t want to ruin her evening.

x-x-x

Anderson corners Lestrade on his lunch break the next day when they are both in the canteen. It’s pretty quiet except for a few others at another a table.  “Can I speak with you?”

Lestrade looks up from his sandwich. “Now? Really?” He points at the sandwich in his hand.

“Yeah.”

Lestrade sighs. “Fine.”

Anderson sits down awkwardly next to his former boss. Lestrade is still a Sergeant, his position is still pending. Anderson knows Lestrade still has a stack of case files on his desk that he needs to go through before the Chief Superintendent will even consider changing his position.   “So-er, you said when you first hired me… if I had any problems, job or private, and I know how much you hate problems, but…”

Lestrade raises an eyebrow. Anderson has a feeling Lestrade knows where this is going.

“Like last night?”

Yep. Anderson thinks. He knows exactly where it is going.

 “Yeah okay, like for instance last night.”

Lestrade wipes his mouth from his sandwich and takes a sip from his water. Anderson waits.

He trusts Lestrade. He has always respected the man- for the most part. He doesn’t have a father anymore to ask for help and his older brother is a moron if every there was one. He needs someone with Lestrade’s thinking. It also doesn’t hurt that Lestrade has a similar relationship problem. Not that Anderson has asked first hand, but the people in the office are idly ever quiet.

Lestrade sighs. “I love my wife still. I don’t leave her because I just don’t. We fight. We make up. She cheats again, but I still love her. Our relationship is different from yours.”

“Well I love mine too.” Anderson supplies, but Lestrade shakes his head.

“Look Anderson,” Lestrade looks around the empty break room and toward the door, which is slightly open. He leans closer to Anderson, just in case someone might walk in in the next few seconds. “I can put in a transfer for you if you know you want it.”

“Wha-Why?”

“It’s not really my business, but since you are sitting with me for advice, here it is, I’d choose Anderson. Because Sally doesn’t deserve this and neither does Milly.”

Anderson gulps down the Sprite he is holding. “Right, well, since this is advice hour what about this, you heard what he said, do you think I’m crap at my job?”

“No. I don’t think that’s what John meant.”

“Really? Because he - I thought he sounded pretty clear.”

“Relax, Anderson, you’re good at your job, but-”

Anderson knows what he is going to say. “Everyone can’t be Sherlock.”

Greg nods. “Exactly. As long as you know that, you are good to go.”

Anderson nods and gets ups. “Sorry I disrupted your lunch.”

x-x-x

Anderson tries to throw himself into work to avoid the idea of choosing between two women he loves.

 It still takes him just as long to analyze the blood splatter. The woman is still dead. He can’t bring her back. By the time he figures out who it was, Lestrade already has the manicurist in handcuffs.

He tries to do double the amount of lab work to try to help with the caseload. The problem is he takes on too much and misidentifies the fingerprint on one sample.

Lestrade comes up to him while in the lab the day after this accident occurs.

“Anderson, we need to talk. You know I’m not D.I. anymore, but-”

“So why are you here? I didn’t misidentify the fingerprint on purpose.”

Lestrade holds up his hand to stop Anderson from trying to reason his way out of the problem. “Yeah, I know you didn’t, but here’s the thing. You did.  You can’t make mistakes in this field. You know that. I know that. That’s why I am here. I’m trying to save your ass before Dimmock replaces you.  Remember what I told you the other day.”

“Yes.” Anderson says not looking at Lestrade. “We all can’t be the great Sherlock Holmes.”

 “Stop.” Lestrade places his hand on the microscope that Anderson is working on. “Stop what you are doing. Sit.”

Anderson sits and Lestrade sits next to him.

“Anderson, I know you didn’t like him. I know he didn’t like you. That’s in the past.”

“But-”

“Anderson. What about your other problem?”

Anderson looks up at his boss. “I thought you didn’t like personal business.”

“Yeah well it is an issue-”

“It never was an issue-“

“Anderson! Enough. Things have changed.  I didn’t say this before, but I’m telling you now and this is for your ears only, I’m not, I repeat, the only one under investigation.”

Anderson stares blankly at Lestrade, failing to hear his words. “What?”

Lestrade nods his head back affirmatively.  “You heard me. The higher ups are going through Sherlock’s case files and everyone and I mean everyone who worked with Sherlock is being investigated and if they find out if you and Sally were to busy doing what you two were doing while you could’ve been stopping Sherlock, well,”

“That’s not fair!”

Lestrade chuckles and Anderson doesn’t quite know why he is laughing. “ It’s not really funny, but well, I’m sure John would tell you there are worse things that are not fair.”

“Well if you excuse me.” Anderson doesn’t need to be reminded anything about John Watson.  “I need to -”

Lestrade gets the idea. “I’m off. Just remember, what I said.”

x-x-x

Anderson avoids Sally for the next two days. He takes Milly out to dinner to show how much he appreciates her.  She is none the wiser. Sally however is.

“What’s going on with you?” Sally corners him by the water cooler.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” Anderson mutters, leaning down to get the water. When he gets up, he sees Sally’s fierce gaze.

“Sally - I really can’t talk about it.”

“About what?”

He can’t tell her that he has to choose between her and his wife because Sally thinks Milly is a weak dainty flower, but he did have something else to discuss with her.

“We. Are. Being. Investigated.” Anderson mutters under his breath.

“What?” Her voice screeches and Louis, a police constable gives her a funny look. Anderson ignores the look and continues to speak in a hushed tone.

“Me. You. Lestrade too. Everyone who worked with Sherlock.”

Sally grumbles.  “We were forced to work with Sherlock.”

“Yeah well - Lestrade warned,” He glances toward their former boss’s office door down the hallway. “That people might rat us out that our ‘relationship’ could be a reason why Sherlock slipped by us some many times.”

“That’s crap.” Sally scrunches her water cup. Anderson nods back, finally seeing the silver lining in what Lestrade has given him.

“Yeah well that’s the business. So uh-I-think we should stop seeing each other for a while.”

Sally’s eyebrows raise high into her hairline. “Why? No one knows about Wednes-”

Anderson thinks about John and Lestrade and what they had said or seen. “Yes, yes they do. Sally….”

“Fine!” She walks away in a huff. Anderson relaxes, smiles for a second and then tenses when Lestrade walks by talking with another co-worker.

Lestrade glances back at Anderson who says. “I told her the fingerprint was not a match.”

Lestrade gives a non-committal shrug but Anderson is sure he understands what that meant. He and Sally are through, but his mind also says quietly to himself, you never have to tell Milly.

He goes to get another cup of water triumphantly, but lets his cup overfill when he hears Lestrade mention to their co-worker on their way back from the copy machine about, “John Watson and needing to schedule some interview with the Chief inspector to be on the record for past cases.”

Coward!

Anderson sighs as he cleans up the mess. At least, he wasn’t the one who jumped off a building. Now that’s a coward.  Anyway, he’s working on it. He is taking Milly out to dinner tonight again and the night after that. Maybe, he’ll tell her then.

Chapter Text

“John, how are you doing?”

John gazes out the window of Ella’s office. He think’s it’s a pretty drab view. He wishes there was a city scene he can just get lost in watching. Instead, there is tree and that is about it. A very lone tree surrounded by nothing.

“John, you called this meeting.” John stops thinking about the dull tree and looks at Ella.

Fire Her. She’s got it the wrong way around.

John snorts to himself, remembering that night, looks at his left hand. It hasn’t stopped twitching on and off for the past five months. When had it stopped? Well, chasing the mad cabbie, meeting Mycroft and that damn umbrella and the Chinese afterward. Now that was some good Chinese with Sherlock poking chopstick at his own dumpling. He feels a chuckle escape.

“It’s nice to hear you laugh, John. You look better, are you feeling better?” She asks again.

John doesn’t think he looks better. He has dropped one stone in the past three months. He thinks he looks like hell.

x-x-x

He had woken up yesterday with a massive headache. There had been a buzzing sound that John couldn’t place. He racks his brain. He laying on the rug below the couch. He wasn’t prone to headaches except of course when he drinks. He glanced around, but couldn’t seem to find a bottle nearby. The buzzing had continued. He had listened for a few seconds and turned his eyes to under the couch. His mobile was lighting up the bottom of the couch. He had went to grasp for it but failed.

“Short arms,” he grunted. He dragged himself closer to the couch. The phone had continued to buzz.

“Hang on!” He shouted at the noise.

He had stretched his fingers and pulled the phone out from under the couch.

“Hello?” He answered, sounding a bit frustrated.

“Well hello to you too.” It was Lestrade.

“Sorry, but did we have a night of drinking?” John sat up slowly, resting his back against the couch with one hand still holding the phone.

“No. You just did. Still, glad you’re alive.”

“Thanks for that. How bad was I?” He questioned.

“Not terrible-” A pause. “Well, not if you think going into Scotland Yard and almost breaking Anderson’s wrist is a bad thing.”

“What?” John had now pushed himself onto the couch, which his body had now thanked him for doing.

“Jesus, really?”

“Yes don’t worry about it.”

“But?”

“I would avoid the Yard for a little bit.”

John had laughed, letting his free hand drag through the cushions of the couch. “You think?” He then groaned. “Shit. Greg, I still need to do that statement you-I mean the Yard- wanted for on the record.”

“Yeah, you’ll get around to it.” A laugh from the other end of the phone. “I think we might need another recreational activity.”

John’s free hand had hit something hard. He pulled the item out. A bottle of scotch. John had scrunched his nose. He hated scotch. However his old flatmate did not. He gazed at the empty bottle.

“I agree.”

x-x-x

“You honestly think I look better?”

Ella nods. “Yes, yes I do.”

He laughs and he knows she doesn’t get why so he elaborates. She doesn’t know about the Scotland Yard incident. John hasn’t seen Ella in about three months. He had been avoiding her, avoiding the truth that he indeed had a problem and if ever he needed an indicator, this was it. As much as he disliked Anderson, his goal in life was not to cause physical harm to people.

“You know, he said I should I fire you.”

Ella taps her pen against her paper, looking at him. “Who?”

“His brother, Mycroft.” The words are dipping with disgust just at saying the name.

“Whose brother?”

“Sherlock’s.” He says as fidgets in her chair. It’s nothing like his chair back in Baker Street where he sinks into the comfort. This one looks comfortable, but it is actually hard and firm and it makes him sit straight, unable to slump and feel safe. It feels like he is awaiting punishment like he had in grade school in those wooden chairs by the headmaster’s office.

“And why should you fire me?”

“Because-” he squirms again. “Because you think I have PTSD. I don’t.” She raises her eyebrows at him, but he continues onward. “You think I had trust issues. Well how about this? I trusted a man who was brilliant and dangerous.”

“Well that does seem to be a trust issue.” She murmurs and then says a little firmer and clearer this time, “John, you do have PTSD.”

“No I bloody don’t.” He doesn’t elaborate, but flexes his left hand that he had been clenching. Ella questions his defiance.

“If you think I’m bad at my job, why don’t you switch-”

“Because the only person who actually knew what was wrong with me is dead-”

“I don’t believe his brother is dea-”

“Not who I am talking about,” John says through gritted teeth. He shakes off his anger and continues.

“I might as well pay you to listen to me. Talking to a person makes me look less insane than talking to a skull.” He feels his mouth turn upward, remembering Sherlock saying the same thing to him when they first met. “Anyway,” He lets the smile disappear, hoping Ella didn’t see it. He looks to the lone tree outside. “You don’t tense, you don’t cry or shout at me when you hear his name. You are just like a skull. Nice and empty. Except now I look a little more sane.”

She doesn’t move to write anything down on her paper. She just intertwines her fingers together and gazes as John.

“Well -”

“Well what? That’s all you can say?”

“I’m glad you can express this with me.”

“Forget it!” John grumbles. He springs out of the chair, but Ella watches him. “I hate those fucking chairs too!”

John storms out, wanting to find the nearest place to throw a punch. 

Chapter Text

Ella listens to her patients, day in and day out: how they complain about their wives and husbands or how they think someone is stalking them. She has an elderly woman who rearranges her furniture every third hour of the day, but swears it isn’t OCD. She also has a man who is petrified off taxicabs which is understandable after that one serial killer. She has other Army veterans who actually admitted to having PTSD, but she also has a housewife with a vendetta against her maid. As patients talk and talk, she has to focus on the patient in front of her and not on the one that is always in the back of her mind, the angry army doctor with the sadness in his eyes.

Of course what they discuss with her, is all patient confidential, but sometimes over dinner she sometimes slips after a couple glasses of wine with her wife.

“So one of my patients,”

Norah raises her eyebrow over her own wineglass. “Are you sure you can discuss this?”

Ella waves it off. “We are in our house. It’s not like you are stranger on a street corner.”

“Definitely not!” Norah giggles.

“Well then just keep it a secret all right. Can you do that?”

“Fine.” Norah crosses her legs comfortably, getting in a position to listen intently. “So this patient you were saying,”

“Oh right, well he told me that I’m shit at my job! Well he said that he should fire me? Can you believe that?”

Norah frowns. “Well that was a bit of letdown. Don’t most of them say that anyway?”

“No!”

“Oh,” Norah says, trying not to laugh when she sees the shocked look on Ella’s face, “I’m sorry! I just thought most therapists go through that. Well he’s a moron to say that.”

“No. I actually don’t think he is.” Ella looks down into her wineglass, hoping the answer to John Watson’s problems are in her wineglass.

“Ella, what do you mean?”

Ella shakes her head because out of all her patients, John Watson infuriates her but at the same time she’s desperate to help him.

“I just think he’s frustrated at the world and takes it out on me.”

“Oh. That sounds entirely safe.” Nora takes a sip from her wine. She touches Ella’s shoulder. “Honey, look at me.” Ella looks up. “Is he safe to be around?”

Ella nods. “Definitely.” Well, she isn’t sure about that, but she doesn’t want to worry Nora. “He says he pays me because he tells me I’m like a skull - whatever that means.”

Nora still doesn’t look convinced. Ella changes the subject. “I think I’m going to order some new chairs.”

She reaches to grab her laptop sitting on the coffee table in front of them with her free hand. Her other hand is still cradling her wineglass.

Norah laughs, closes for her laptop and reaches for the wineglass.“ I definitely think you’ve had too much to drink!”

x-x-x

John returns in two months. It’s a little longer than she would’ve liked but she’s happy that he called to make an appointment.

She notices that he’s put back some his weight back on and has gotten a haircut. It’s short like he had when he first saw her before this whole Sherlock situation. She sees him look confused with eyebrows furrowed as they walk through her office and he finally notices the two red chairs.

“New chairs?” John says touching them tentatively.

“Yes because well you did say ‘I hate your fucking chairs.’ So you can think this as part of your pay to me. You get new chairs.”

“Ah…thanks.” John sits in them and Ella watches his expression. He tries to smile. He seems embarrassed. “They feel nice.”

Ella smiles. “I tried.” She too sits in a new chair, the one directly across from him. “Well, how’s everything?”

John eyes her and sighs, his left hand tapping on the chair’s armrest. “I’m probably your craziest patient.”

“No,” She says thinking about the housewife and the maid. “But you are very memorable John Watson.”

“Great. Well, I went to the Yard for the last time a month ago.”

“Scotland Yard?”

“That’s the one.”

“Why?” She thinks she knows, but part of her job is to ask the questions.

“I had to - ” He stops. She follows his eyes out the window.

“John?” She doesn’t understand what he sees, what needs his constant attention. The yard is empty.

“The tree.” His voice has gone suddenly very low. “It’s gone.”

“Yes,” She said, vaguely remembering it was taken down a month after John had seen her. “It wasn’t doing well. I think they are planting a new one the next month.”

“Oh.” John goes quiet for a few minutes, still looking at the empty spot. Ella clears her throat.

“So the Yard?”

“Yeah,” His eyes break away from the window and look back to her. “I had to go in and give my statement about the cases I worked on with him.”

“And?”

“I told them that he was the best damn consultant detective they ever had and I’m not changing my word.”

“Your word?”

“They asked me maybe I thought with what I said initially was misguided in belief. They wanted me to admit that that he was a fake. That he tarnished their department.” He looks down again, mashing his hands together. “Bloody idiots if they think they can make me say that.”

“Good for you.”

John blinks and looks up at her. “What?”

“I said good for you.”

“Thanks?”

She really wants to continue and say:

You never asked my opinion on Sherlock Holmes. I’m sure everyone has given it you, but here is mine: I read your blog as part of your therapy and honestly, I don’t believe your friend faked it, all those deductions and observations and then be right in those cases. No one can be that lucky. Anyway, you said you were his friend, his only friend. So if he did ‘fake it’ well that’s cruel and that’s not a friend worth having. Once again though let me reiterate, I don’t think he faked it. I think from your words, you paint a very a very different man then the one in the paper.

She can’t say this. She of course can’t say any of that. Her job isn’t to give her opinion. This is about how John feels and how he has to deal with those feelings.

“Do you still believe yourself to be Sherlock’s friend?”

“Yes.” There is no hesitation.

Ella nods. “There’s your answer. People might hate you for your opinions or beliefs, but the thing is, they still won’t be able to change it. Only you can so if you believe him that’s your own opinion. They can’t force you to change.”

“Right…”

“Have you spoken with Mycroft? What’s his opinion on this whole thing?”

John pushes himself out of the chair. It squeaks and Ella raises an eyebrow, but John doesn’t see this gesture. He is too busy pacing back and forth (in military precision she might add) shouting. “Why do I care what Mycroft-fucking-Holmes thinks? The bloody man… he could-could have…”

“He could have what?”

John turns on his heels and fixes his gaze on her. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

“Yes.” She looks at her watch. John makes a sound. She looks back at him.

“Yes?”

“Have somewhere to be?”

“No. I’m here to listen to you. Please take a seat again, John.”

“Fine.” He sits back in his chair, letting the cushion slowly engulf him.

She watches John. His eyes are closed and he appears to counting to steady his breathing and shaking wrist. She waits a few more seconds and then asks.

“How’s the blog?”

John’s eyes flicker open and his lips turn up. “Were you surprised I actually did it?”

“Yes, I was pleasantly surprised. What fantastical cases you and Sherlock Holmes had. I particularly like the Speckled Blonde.”

“He was furious that more people read my blog than his and how many types of tobacco ash there were.”

“And how many is that?”

“243.” The number just rolls off his tongue and then his hand comes off the armrest and is now covering his face. His head is shaking. Ella can’t tell if he’s crying.

“John? Are you all right?”

He pulls his hand away and he is chuckling, an actual chuckle.

“I was his blogger. He solved crimes and I wrote about it. That’s the thing…” He intertwines his fingers. “Being a doctor just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.”

“You could still blog about medical discoveries or things that interest you.”

John shakes his head. “I could, but that’s not what I want. I want the chases back. I want the mystery. I want to solve crimes, but I’m not the detective. I was crap at doing that bit, but the chases. Oh the chases. They were wonderful.” He sighs.

Ella ventures forward. “You miss him?”

John pinches his eyes shuts, takes a deep breath and speaks. “Every day.”

They sit in silence again. John’s eyes are still closed and Ella continues to watch him.

“John?”

John opens his eyes begrudgingly. “Yes.”

“Do you wish you had died in Afghanistan so you wouldn’t have to face this pain today?”

He shakes his head, finger to his lips.

“No? But these past couple of months have been difficult for you?”

He opens his eyes and they are staring at her. He removes the finger from his lips.

“If I did, there would just be another dead body in the ground.”

Ella isn’t sure what he is referring to, but she doesn’t have to ask because he continues.

“Sherlock Holmes and myself.”

“But you wouldn’t have known him?”

“And what a shame that would have been.” He pushes himself from the chair. He glances out the window again, looking for that missing tree and speaks, but not facing Ella. “We saved one another, even if just for a little while.”

“John, I need to ask you before you leave, you have people looking out for you?”

“I have Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, Sarah, I guess, though not really.”

“What about your sister?”

“We don’t speak much.”

“Try. There must be others who care.” She glances at her watch. “Next time come back with those names and how they are helping you. You need them.”

He says something under his breath, about to open the door, but Ella calls out to him.

“What was that?”

“Friends protect people.” John mutters. “It’s just something I said to him, once.” He shrugs, gives somewhat of a nod and is about to push open the door once again, but pauses.

“The chairs are nice.” And then he walks out the door and it closes behind him. She gets up and straightens the chairs for the next appointment.

Chapter Text

"Doctor Watson, my name is Douglas. I'll be conducting the interview."

John looked up. "Chief Superintendent didn't want to see me?"

Douglas tapped his one finger on the table. "Just a couple questions."

John raised an eyebrow. "Regarding an event from almost six months ago?"

Doug coughed, but nodded.

x-x-x

Footsteps are heard overhead. Mrs. Hudson can hear her lone boy pacing back and forth. She holds her breath as her kettle whistles. The pacing continues.

x-x-x

"The reason why we asked is some people are under investigation." John knew who he spoke about. Lestrade. He gripped his hands tightly together, trying to remain calm. “People who have ties to Sherlock Holmes."

"Right well, ask your question. I have a surgery to do later."

He didn't, but Douglas didn't know that.

"How long did you work with Mr. Holmes?"

"A year and a half."

"Okay. Right." Douglas wrote it down even though he was recording the whole conversation between them. "Did Mr. Holmes disappear at times during the cases?"

"Yes." He wanted to explain about Sherlock and his mind palace, but he didn't want to say more than he had to.

"Did he ever call DI Lestrade up for cases?"

"Yes."

Douglas noted. John sighed, rubbing his hand through his hair, trying to find the right words to explain Sherlock to a stranger. "You don't understand. He would get bored. The cases kept his mind busy."

x-x-x

As she pours her tea, she hears a knock and scratch across the floor. John had probably knocked into one of the chairs. She continues to listen, waiting and hoping would find some sense and head up the other flight of stairs and into bed.

x-x-x

"So what you're saying, Doctor Watson, is that Sherlock Holmes would call up the former DI for cases and then miraculously solve them?"

"Yes"

"Doesn't that sound suspicious to you?"

"No. It sounds like a man with a brilliant mind eager to work."

Douglas leaned and asked. “Why didn't Mr. Holmes who had, as you put it such a brilliant mind continue for a PHD and figure out some disease or solve world hunger?"

John brought his lips inward, biting them, trying to refrain himself from answering nastily, but again, he couldn't help it. "Are you asking me why a man chooses a profession? Or are you saying that only ignorant people work on your force? Only brilliant people should be in schools? Why did Mr. Holmes choose this profession? Because it's what he wanted. He was using his brain to help the city he loved."

John would be damned if he admitted that besides helping London, Sherlock liked doing odd things such as dissecting toes in their kitchen or wearing disguises to get the right answer from a witness. John knew that this man wouldn’t understand.

x-x-x

The pacing stops after a couple of seconds. Mrs. Hudson inhales and exhales deeply. She settles into her soft floral armchair and turnes the telly on low, watching the news, but still listening carefully.

x-x-x

"Right, Doctor Watson. I have one more question for you. In regards to the day of the St. Bart's incident."

"Incident? My best friend swan dived off a building to his death."

John looked at Douglas with a blank stare. Douglas looked quickly down at his notepad to avoid the stare. John had faced mortar shell blown up. He had survived the death of his friend. He can survive this silly questioning.

"You gave us a statement a month later. I know you were under a great deal of stress."

"Do you, now?”

"Sir, you said and I quote 'Sherlock Holmes was not a fraud, you imbeciles. He solved more crime than the lot of you and he put those criminals behind bars. Leave him alone. To think this is what the Scotland Yard has become. Maybe I should just ship myself back to Afghanistan.'"

John nodded affirmatively. "Lovely little statement I think."

Douglas asked. "So this is your word, after you had time to think?"

Empty chair. No violin No chases. No body parts in the fridge.

"Yes. Yes. Douglas. That is still my answer." He looked at Douglas. "And what are you doing about Moriarty?"

Douglas gave him a quizzical look.

"He's not part of this investigation. Should he be?"

John laughed.

x-x-x

SMASH! Ms. Hudson looks toward the ceiling, gripping her armrest a little tightly. Please John, she thought. Please go to sleep.

x-x-x

"I'm not changing my statement to make you look better."

John got up and Douglas as well. "That was never our intention Doctor Watson. We are just looking to make sure we have all the facts."

"Well you are severely missing facts. You can't make my friend worse than you lot are looking. How many cases have you solved recently?”

x-x-x

SMASH! SMASH! Mrs. Hudson puts down her tea and gets out of her chair. She opens the door and heads up the stairs toward the sounds of her upstairs tenant.

x-x-x

"Doctor Watson. I'm sorry you feel that way. Sherlock Holmes was on a lot of cases, we are just trying to put some pieces together. We just want to make sure he wasn't behind any others. If it helps, we don't find you as an accomplice. We believed he worked alone. So no worries there."

John put on his coat ignoring these words full of lies and headed out the door.

x-x-x

Mrs. Hudson goes up the stairs as quickly as she can even with all the hurt her hip is giving her these days. She opens the door and sees broken mugs and papers scattered around the floor. John is standing in the middle, fingers in his hair, pulling on it with ferocity that it may just come out at any second. A tear is running down his cheek. His eyes are closed. He doesn't see her staring at him. If he had, he would have wiped the tear away.

"John?" She asks nervously.

x-x-x

John left the building. People were watching him. They probably were whispering to themselves.

'There goes John Watson. He's friends with that detective. I wonder why he was there."

"I knew he was always involved.'

John grimaced as he felt his leg acting up. He had to go home. He was so tired of everyone.

“I'm living my own life sentence of four walls that are always changing but it's always the same, he thought. No one will ever understand."

x-x-x

John turns to face her.

"Oh… Mrs. H."

He releases his fingers from his hair, rubs his face to wipe away his eyes tearing and walked over to her.

"I'm sorry, if I made some noise. It was-" He looks around at the mess he made. "It's just the stress of today."

She comes up to him and gives his shoulder a squeeze. "No it's all right dear. To be honest, it was nice. It sounded-" She bends down to pick a paper by her feet. He joins her.

"Almost normal?"

She laughs. "Yes. Isn't that strange what we consider normal-"

"Others would call it absurd."

She nods back and then looks at the paper in her hand. "I'm not your housekeeper, but I'll help with this."

John blinks and shakes his hand as he looks at Mrs. Hudson.

"Mrs. H you were never our landlady or housekeeper. You were our family. You are still my family." He wraps his arms around her.

"Oh John…"

He whispers to her still in the embrace "I know he was an idiot at times, but he loved you, he cared for you so much." He pulls away, thinking and muttering to himself. "I should known something was wrong when I got that call? He would've come."

"Call?" She asks questioningly.

John shakes his head. "It's all right. I'll go get a bag to put this mess in."

"Oh all right." She stares at the black leather chair as he walks away. He returns with a bag to see her still staring at it.

"You can sit in it. It's funny. I think you were the only one he let sit in it."

She smiles and does sit down in it as he takes the rubbish away from her. He places the bag by his feet as he takes a seat in his own chair.

"John, you don't have to say here if it's too much. I don't mind."

John shakes his head with disbelief. "Leave 221b Baker Street? I could never."

She looks at the moose head and the Cluedo board still nailed to the wall.

"As long as you are still here. I won't abandon this place."

"What if you find a lovely lady who doesn't want to come here?"

"I already have a lovely lady and she's quite content with this place."

Mrs. Hudson raises an eyebrow at John and he returns the gesture.

"John Watson, you look after yourself. And you will start eating again."

"Yes Ma'am." He nods back like a son who knew he had been misbehaving.

"Go on a few dates."

"I can't make any promises. I'm damaged goods."

She reaches forward and gives his hand a squeeze.

"He would want us to be ourselves."

He looks at her in the eyes with such sadness. "Then why. Why did he do it?"

"I don't know John. I don't know."

They look around the flat and let the empty sound of 221B fill their ears.

Chapter Text

 

"You're family, Mrs. H. I know he cared for you."

Martha Hudson smiled as she scrubbed her kitchen for its weekly cleaning. She had left John last night, asleep in the chair. She always liked when people slept because they looked like children with all their worry lines disappearing off their faces. They look brand new with no troubles yet to harden them. 

She had put a blanket over him and cleaned up a little more around him before heading back downstairs.

When Sherlock died, Mrs. Hudson had grieved and Mrs. Turner couldn't understand why.

"Martha, he was always a bit of an odd boy. Clean up the place and find a new tenant. Or is that other, tiny man, still living there?"

Even though their tenants were grown men, the two ladies always referred to them as boys because, well, they were compared to Martha and Eve’s ages.

Mrs. Hudson scrunched her face and put down her card. They had been trying to play one of their regular card games, but Mrs. Hudson could see now that it wouldn't work out today. "Eve, you don't understand Sherlock. He was a good boy. He saved me from my horrible husband."

"Which I totally understand Martha, but the press has said some things that I can't believe aren't true."

"Goodbye Eve," She pushed away from the table.

"You aren't upset? I'm just telling you my opinion. They seemed all right, but the funny ones can always hide things people don't want them to see. Are you sure those two weren't a couple?"  

"Yes. They weren't a couple." She picked up her bag. "John can stay as long as he likes. I'm not kicking him out. They are my boys after all." 

She, like John, couldn't understand why Sherlock had done it. He was always a troubled individual but the last year running with John, he had seemed so sure of everything. She wondered what had gone wrong.

Now during the week, she would have the urge to go upstairs to their kitchen to tidy, but there was nothing to tidy. No body parts. No chemical spills. Last night upstairs, it looks as though nothing was touched except for the things that John had thrown on the floor.

She had gone into Sherlock's room a couple weeks after he died. It was so odd. It had felt so cold like a museum exhibit. All his designer suits that she had always sent out to be dry-cleaned still hung there ready to be worn. She remembered putting her fingers on the fabric and feeling the urge to cry. She hadn’t gone back in since. 

"Mrs. Hudson leave Baker Street? England would fall!" 

She is getting too old for this. She had already lost a child in her early years. Lost her first husband to grief and the second one was because he was a bad man. She had never expected to lose another.

She opens her door and throws out the rubbish. The sun is so bright, but Sherlock is still dead.

Didn't he realize what would happen if he left Baker Street?

She doesn't know how long she can keep smiling because John is right: she hadn't just lost a tenant, she had lost one of her boys. 

She lets the sun hit her face and then she waves to Mr. Chatterjee who too is putting out his rubbish. 

Then she remembers, she still has John and John still needs her.

Chapter Text

The Christmas lights are all twinkling. John is nauseated but also fascinated by people's happiness around the holidays. He would have loved to stay home, sleep and wake up to find that it was just another day and not a requirement to be cheerful or merry.

He is currently in Epping surrounded with Mrs. Hudson's sister and her sister’s husband along with their three adult children and their respective children. Mrs. Hudson hadn't wanted to travel alone, but John knew that she had felt sorry for him. He didn't disagree. He had needed to get out of London.

Claire, Mrs. Hudson’s niece is sitting next to John and they are chatting about her daughter’s recent bout of allergies.

“She just keeps sneezing all the time, but I can’t seem to figure it out. I’ve taken her to about four doctors,”

Joanna, Claire’s sister, sits down next her and places a hand over Claire’s mouth. “Claire, John didn’t come to help diagnose Mel’s allergies-”

“I don’t mind.” John says hastily, but Joanne ignores his comment.

“Now Aunt Martha,” John can’t help but grin because he is not used to Mrs. Hudson being referred to as Martha let alone Aunt. “Tells me, you’ve got a sister. Do you think she’s a good mix for old Dennis over there?” She gestures to their brother who is currently playing with little Mel on the floor. She had also removed her hand from Claire’s mouth to let her sister add to the conversation. “He’s the only one who’s single.” She supplies.

John shakes his head. “Yeah well Harry isn’t really looking…”

“He’s a really nice guy.” Claire adds.

“I’m sure that he is, it’s just that my sister is -”

“A bit rough around the edges? Because Denny could do with that.” Joanna then says.

“Well that’s true,” John begins to say but is interrupted again by Claire.

“He really just needs to try and get out there and you seem like a stand up guy so I’m sure your sister is fantastic.”

John laughs. Both of the women look at him, confused as why he had laughed. “I’m sure he is. My sister and men don’t really get on.”

“Dennis could change that.” Claire tries again but Joanna seems to understand.

“Right. Well has she found anyone?”

Claire looks incredulously as her sister. “What are you doing? I thought you wanted to get Denny with someone!”

“I do, Claire, but I think John is implying that his sister doesn’t quite fancy Dennis either way.”

“What?”

John decides to help out. “She’s gay, Claire.”

“Oh.” Claire says a little defeated and John laughed again.

“It’s all right, but” He turns to Joanna. “I don’t know if she’s with anyone because I haven’t spoken to her in a while. We don’t really get on.”

Joanna looks a little sad for him as does Claire. Claire finally speaks. “You really should try and talk with her. She’s still family.” She thinks for a minute and then whispers. “Is it because she’s ‘gay’ ? ”

Joanna hits her sister. “Claire!”

“What?”

“You just don’t ask people questions like that.”

John shakes his head. “No that bit’s quite all right. She’s got a few ah- other unpleasant qualities.”

“Don’t we all.” Joanna says.

John nods. He knew they weren’t wrong about that. The two sisters shift the conversation to their mother who refused to admit that she needed glasses to drive now. John was looking around at the room at Denny throws his niece up in the air and Mrs. Hudson and her sister smile and laugh.

“Not to high, Denny!” says Grace, Mrs. Hudson’s sister.

“Yes mom.” Denny says back as he tosses her up.

John watched the little girl, Mel, go up in the air and come back with a squeal of laughter. It was just now that he realized how lonely he really is. He always knew that his only family left was his sister. They didn’t get on. He had admitted that to Ella, but now to Claire and Joanna, people that he had just met. They must think he was a horrible brother. John sighs, realizing the only solution. Maybe he should try to call her. It was Christmas after all, he thought.
“Excuse me. I’ll be right back.” He tells Joanna and Claire. The two women nod and let him get up from the couch. He is not so lucky as he approaches the door and Mrs. Hudson shoots him a worrying look.

He places a hand on her shoulder. “Just need to make a quick phone call.” She squeezes his hand back.

“All right, just grab a sweater. It’s a bit chilly out there.”

John nods and grabs his coat resting by the door. He puts it on and with a swift pull of the door excuses himself from the party.

Outside the noise of the party is extinguished and the only thing heard is the gentle breeze. He takes out his phone from his pocket and dials the number he wishes he could forget.

He leaves footprints in the snow as he listens to the phone ring and ring. The voicemail will pick up soon. Probably one more ring, he thinks as he starts to prepare himself for the message he would leave.

“Harry. It’s-” John mutters to the phone.

“Hello?”

John almost drops the phone after hearing his sister’s voice. It must have been ages since they have last spoken.

"Err Hello Harry.” John says awkwardly.

The voice doesn’t answer for a second but then, his sister’s voice rings through the phone like a comet in an empty sky. It was always loud and quick, but always full of excitement.

“Hey Johnny!"

It was the voice that had woken him in the morning and dragged him from bed to make sure she had someone to play with. Sometimes she would have gotten a pillow in the face because she had been so loud.

"Hi Harry. Happy Christmas."

“Happy Christmas!” She replies and John can’t quiet tell where she is or how’s she’s doing because drunk Harry and sober Harry share the same loud voice. He had gotten so used to the same tone of the voice that it will take me a couple more sentences to gauge how she is.

“How you’ve been?”

“Better than you.” John lets it go as she continues. “You should come back and share a flat with me. It would be good to have the last Watsons together.”

John thinks that would be a very bad idea. “Yeah?” He says absent mindedly, listening to his sister. She sounded pretty good.

“We could make a pretty good flatmates. You can probably make some good money with that famous face of yours.”

There, John says to himself. Her drunkenness rearing its ugly head. When Harry had a few, she was always rambling about how to scheme to make money.

John rubs his forehead. "I'm not."

"That's not what the papers said!" She says it a sing song voice. “Imagine a great big flat and ooh a nice car I bet if you get the right person to do a profile piece on you as a grieving boyfriend’s…”

"Harry. He was not my boyfriend.” John growls angrily in the phone, trying not to raise his voice. That wasn’t the case because if he had turned his back, he would have seen the blind of the window opening and a few eyes peering out.

“Johnny, don’t get so angry. I know it hurts to admit things, but…”

“Harry.” John says adamantly. “It’s Christmas. Please just drop it. Just for tonight.”

"Oh Johnny, I didn't mean it." She says.

"Harry, you never meant it. That's what you always say to me. It's what you used to say to mum or dad. ‘I'm sorry I didn't lock the door and Moxie got out. She was never a smart dog. She was old too.’ ‘I'm sorry I didn't pick John up from school, I swear I was there. John just didn't know how to look very hard.’ ‘John, Clara and I are divorcing. It was her fault anyway. She's a commitment-phobe.’ You constantly make excuses for yourself."

"I do not-"

"Harry."

"Johnny, don’t yell at me!"

"I’m not. It’s just-” John sinks to the step by the door. He wants to fight back, but right now all he feels is empty. He wants the laughter and squealing from Mel or the comical bickering from Joanna and Claire, not the yelling and arguing from his only family. “I just wanted someone to talk who knew me like family… like Sherlock did-”

“-He wasn’t family.” Harry barks back.

“I know that.” John says tiredly. “But Harry, you haven’t known me for quite some time and I don’t know you either. The only thing we know about each other is how we hurt each other and I don’t need anymore of that. So Harry, please stop drinking or at least for tonight. It’s Christmas. Please Harry. Let’s try again another day. It's Christmas. Just stop for tonight. Please.”

No voice answers back so John just hangs up the phone and puts it back in the pocket. He gets up and opens the door. A bloody happy Christmas for him.

Chapter Text

Harry wakes up the next day as she always did with a night a drinking, an urge to throw up in the bathroom.

The next step was to check her phone to see whom she might have upset last night. She hopes to God it wasn’t Clara. She had deleted Clara’s number but she still remembered it very clearly when she’s had a couple. Odd, how the mind works.

She looks at the phone.

John.

She called John? Why would she do that? They rarely called each other. They called each other on their birthdays and that was about it. She had known yesterday was Christmas. She had gone done to the little pub around the corner from her flat but had returned to place shortly after. She paces around her tiny flat, trying to think. Is it worth to call him and ask what she said?

She decides that yes it was because it was her brother after all. She couldn't completely cut him off because then that would be it. She and John, though the barely talked, knew they had each other at the end of the day. Without John, she would be alone in this world. She sits on the edge of her bed as she hears the phone ringing. The phone latches on, but John didn’t speak. Harry takes a deep breathe and starts the conversation.

“Hey John.”

“Harry," Even the way John says her name sounds annoyed. "Please tell me that you are not in need of medical attention."

"I-"

John continues to barrel onward, "Because I can’t. I asked you to stop last night. And-”

Harry jumps up from her bed. "I’m fine. Just yeah, I stopped drinking last night."

He pauses in the conversation and questions it. "Did you?"

Harry honestly didn't know the answer. She remembered leaving the bar, but she also didn't remember answering her phone. She could have been bad before he had even called. She decided to lie because it could be true that she had stopped drinking when he had called. "Yeah. Just can't remember what we talked about last night." That was a truth. "Did I just call to wish you a happy Christmas?" She asked hopefully.

John laughs on the other end. It was a bitter laugh that Harry knew well. It was the sort of laugh that her mother had used on her father many times when she had found nothing funny of his appearance or attitude. "No, I called to wish you a happy Christmas. And you... you asked if I wanted to use my boyfriend's death to my advantage."

A pause. No answer.

“I didn’t mean-”

“Harry, you said the same thing last night that you didn’t mean it,"

“John-”

Harry had never known what she had wanted out of life. Currently she was holding down a bore of an office job, but it did finally allow her to have a place of her own. To be honest, she didn’t even like alcohol. She just mimicked what her father had always done. The only thing she was ever good at was making excuses because with excuses she never had to be at fault. She realized that John didn’t need her excuses anymore.

“Sorry John."

"I'm sorry?" John says surprised. "You, Harriet Watson, are sorry?"

"Yeah." Harry smiles. She can tell her brother joking, at least a little bit. "Yeah your big sister is apologizing for once in her life. I hope you're recording it. John... I really am sorry for whatever happened to your friend. It’s a shit way to die." She continues onward. "Last job, I quit. Didn't even work there for long because one of the girls I worked with, Jill her name was, did it with a gun."

John made a muffled sound on the other side of the phone. Harry pushes through it.

"Turns out she was mentally ill. Really lovely girl who was always bringing cakes by. No one saw it coming. Just don't do it John."

"What?" He says startled.

"Kill yourself."

"I never said I would."

Harry holds the phone tightly to her ears. "I know but it must have been hard. Jill, I didn't really know her, but you and that blog of yours... you were so happy and I'm sorry that that feeling and that person were taken from you. When bad things happen, I drown it with alcohol. I quit jobs. I try to move away from things like that, but I don't know what you would do now. Hell knows, you're pretty good with a gun."

"Harry-"

"Johnny, you mean too much to me. I love you little brother. Happy Christmas."

She wished she could see his reaction. She hadn't admitted it the longest time that she had actually cared for him.

“Love you too Harriet. Happy Christmas.”

Chapter Text

Sarah is clicking away on the computer. Sipping her coffee before her first patients arrived. It is well into the New Year. Spring was around the corner but that didn't stop the straggling winter colds from coming in. Her phone rings.

"Hello, Sarah speaking."

"Hey Sarah," says the voice with an air of familiarity. Sarah is still typing when she tries to put a name to the voice.

"John?" She takes a guess.

"Yeah," The voice confirms. "It's me."

She stops typing and rests her elbow on her desk. "How are you?"

"Do you think I can stop by for a chat sometime soon?" He avoids the question and instead asks his own.

"Sure." She glances at her calendar for the day. "I don't know if it's too soon, but I don't have an appointment until 10." She checks her watch. It's 8:30 AM. "If that's too soon,” She looks at her calendar again. “I’ll be free tomorrow afternoon.”

"Today sounds fine.” A pause. “Thanks Sarah."

"No problem." She is very curious to hear what John has to talk about. She figures it has something to do with a job. She is willing to listen.

x-x-x

There is knock on her door.

"Hey Sarah," John says awkwardly. Sarah smiles, but at the same time, stares at him intently. He’s standing in the doorway. He looks so lost, as though he doesn't belong here or anywhere.

"Come on in, John."

John sits in a chair in front of her desk. His left hand taps on his leg nervously.

"Coffee? Tea?"

John shakes his head. "Fine Sarah, thanks."

She sits in her chair. She looks at him and laughs. "It's like déjà vu. No CV this time, though, right?"

John shakes his head. He doesn’t smile or give that half giggle. He is just silent. They were friends, but they haven't talked in a very long time. Sarah smiles for him.

"It's been a while John. How've you been? You look good."

"Better than what you saw in the paper, right?" He tries to joke but it comes out flat.

Sarah nods. "They're awful. He seemed a decent sort. I'm sorry the press was horrible. Never imagined they had kept hounding you for so long. They had no right."

"Thanks. It's not your fault they're who they are."

Sarah thought back to the night of Chinese acrobats and cracking codes. "No first date every compared to it by the way."

For the first time, John's eyes glint with amusement when looking at Sarah. "I think you surprised him. You were a nuisance to him, getting in the way of a case, but you still surprised him."

"Yeah." She rests her chin in her hands, leaning forward staring at him. "What about you? You know I was dating you, right?"

John chuckles, running his hands nervously through his hair. "Sarah, you were amazing. That night you could have bolted, but you didn't. We stayed together for what, six months?"

Sarah nods. He is correct in that fact. It was a good six months initially, but then, it really was a culmination of mixing work and pleasure that just didn't work.

"Why didn't we stay together? We were good together. It was Sherlock, wasn't it?"

"John-"

"No, but Sarah…"

She lets him finish. She wants to see the answer he came up with because she knew why it ended.

"You put up with him. You came up to Baker Street and tried to one up him. Thinking out of the box, so I don’t think it was him that bothered you, not really… but then the only other option is me? You dumped me.” He laughs. “Never really thought about it because it was always Sherlock’s fault when it came to others but now, I don’t think it was. Was it because I cancelled so much? I wasn't there for you?"

Sarah feels that John is tearing himself about, trying to figure out what he had done to Sarah if it hadn’t been Sherlock who had driven her off. She has to clarify her reasoning for him.

"It wasn't that. It was never about that. We wanted two different things. You were a bit complex, John. An army doctor coming here to Willows Practice?”

“I told you I needed the money, to just get myself in order.”

“Yeah I get that, but the thing was I just couldn't understand was when you came in for the job and you were saying you would be happy with just that, just a doctor who went home at night, rising with the alarm clock and leaving when your shift ended. You wanted normal, but I don’t think that was true.

"What? Sarah, I don’t need you inspecting my every action of my career. We just said the press a fairly good job of that.”

“I’m not trying to be them, John. Remember, you came here to see me so please don’t get angry at things I’m saying.”

John huffs a little but nods in agreement. “True. Continue.”

“Right, well here’s the reason why. Running around with Sherlock Holmes made you happy.”

“Sarah, I told you I’m not-”

“I know John.” She rests her hand on his hand that is resting on her desk. “I didn’t believe all those rumors.” She grips his hand.

“It was just bad for our work lives. I knew you needed the money. I had no legal reason to fire you so I just decided it would be easier on our personal lives than our bank accounts. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun those six months.”

"Well this is a bit awkward, then,” John pulls his hand away, straightens himself up and tries to look professional.

“Sarah, I need a job. I didn’t want to come back and grovel for a job, but I have too much baggage, too much bad media presence and no one will touch me. You're the only person who knows the truth: that Sherlock is who he was and I am who I am. We are not frauds.”

Sarah laughs and John looks uncomfortable now. "Does that mean I can't have my job back? Cause I’ll just see my way out then." John starts to get himself out of the chair but Sarah extends her hand again, her faced softening.

"Sorry I laughed. You were just selling yourself so hard. Don’t worry, I know you. I'll give you a trial run. What are friends for, right? At least we ended amicably. It would have been worse if you ended our relationship. No way would I have given you a try.”

John takes Sarah’s hand and somehow rearranges their hands into a semi-handshake. "Well, I'm not going to say no to you. Don’t worry, it's not like I’ll be falling asleep at my desk anymore." John said. "Thanks Sarah."

Sarah eyed John. It really must be so hard for him, she thought. He had to come back from another war to pick up the pieces and try to start again. "It's what I’d do for anyone."

"Yeah?"

It wasn’t pity, Sarah told herself, and I know he can do the job since he’s done it before. After all, it’s just a trial run.

"Well all right, not anyone."

Chapter Text

John starts work two days later and true to his word, he really does want to work. Sarah watches him take the difficult patients that no one wants. He takes a late shift when Maria had to leave for a party she had forgotten about, but her husband had not.

"Hey Sarah." He would grin every time they passed one another in the hallway.

"Hi John."

Sarah doesn't find it hard to be around John. She's dating a bloke who's a chef. She had to stop in the restaurant to look over a sprain in his wrist. He asked her to dinner that night. She liked him. He made her feel good and comfortable. He’s okay with watching movies on the couch and going to the pub for a pint.

Like she told John, they just didn't work out because of work getting in the way. The truth was that she hadn’t told John was that during the six months that had dated, Sarah could always see that anxious look he always had on his face when his phone buzzed and it was Sherlock asking him to disappear on an adventure. He would apologize and catch her up with his wonderful stories that didn't seem real, but she knew they had to be. She had been involved with the Chinese acrobats, guns and Sherlock as a chaperone. His stories enthralled her. His smile, his laugh drew her in, but the way his eyes lit up when talking about a case. They didn't do that when he talked about her or work.

Sarah Sawyer knew in her heart that it wasn't fair. She was too normal for John at that time and normal wasn't what he needed or wanted. Now normal is exactly what John needed to survive and she was happy that she could help give him that. She still cared deeply for him and to see a person suffer is never something she wants to see or aid in. She wanted John to be at least get back to being okay. She wasn't sure if happiness would ever return to his eyes.

Chapter Text

"Sir, where to?"

John stands outside of Ella's office. He has flagged down a cabbie to head home after a somewhat okay session. It was pretty boring, now that he had admitted months ago to all the feelings he had harboured. Now he just keeps Ella in his life to be consistent.

"Hang on," John says as he fumbles around in his pocket to see how much cash he has on him. He shows the cabbie the amount. "This won't get me to 221b Baker Street will it?"

"Nah." The cabbie shakes his head. "I'll take you as close as possible."

"Yeah all right. That will do."

John doesn't know how he forgot the exact amount today and today of all days. He knows he left the house with the right amount. He couldn't be bothered with the tube because he just didn't want to look at people all day and make eye contact with strangers. He wants to be left alone.

He reclines in his seat. How far would it get him? Hopefully to a bank. How much money did he have left in his account? At least Sarah is keeping him on and he is getting money into his bank.

"Here we are."

John looks out his window and frowns.

"Are you sure you can't go a few streets farther?"

The cabbie shakes his head. "You're going to go beyond the point."

John looks out his window again, desperate not to be dropped off here. "Please I'm begging you. I'll go to the ATM on the next street."

"Like I haven't heard that one before."

"You don't understand."

"What's your problem? You afraid of hospitals mate- hang on you're that bloke John-"

John chucks his money at the cabbie, throws open the door and gets out as quickly as possible. The cab didn't move. The window eases down. "Come on I'll take you to 221B Baker Street."

"No thank you" John no longer wants to be around this man. He didn't know what kind of cab ride he would endure home. It could be silent but it could also be twenty questions about Sherlock. Knowing his luck, it probably would be the latter.

The cabbie looks at him and shrugs. "Was trying to do you a favour." Then he drives away.

John stands in front of the building and closes his eyes. It was all coming back.

"John this is my note,"

Deep breath. Deep breath. Keep moving, John Watson.

"John?" His eyes snap open.

"Jesus!" He yelps leaping backward, right into the path of Molly Hooper.

“Molly?" He doesn’t quite recognize her. She looks different.

"Hi John." She says, both hands awkwardly holding her purse, "How have you been?”

"Good." He says focusing on her, trying to figure out what’s different about her. It’s not her clothes or her face. It’s her hair, he finally realizes. Her hair isn't in a ponytail. It is cut in a little bob. "Your hair, you've cut it.” He hopes it doesn’t make it sound like an insult. He then adds. “Uh-it looks nice."

Molly beams at him. "I did. A while ago, actually."

"I'm sorry.” He says sheepishly. He really didn't keep in touch with her. He had literally shut everyone out of his life and Molly had always been so kind. She moves her purse so she has one hand free. She puts the free hand on his arm.

"You're shaking John. Are you all right? Why are you even here?" She too glances at the building where his eyes keep shifting too.

"Short of cab fare," John laughs miserably, still glancing at the roof. There is no figure in a long coat standing on the roof today.

"John I'm on break. Do you want a cup of coffee?" His eyes don’t leave the building. He can still hear Molly talking to him like an echo in a cave. He knows his arm is still shaking.

"I really should go home."

She grabs at his coat as he moves to pull away. "Please John. I haven't seen-"

"Me in a year. I know."

To John's disbelief, she proceeds to drag him into Bart's. She explains that all the coffee shops around here are expensive and why shouldn't they use the coffee she keeps in her locker. They go through a couple of pairs of doors and walk right to the doors that led into the lab. John would prefer not to go in.

"It's this or the morgue, John. My access can't take me anywhere. The cafeteria's too busy."

John knows what she means. Too many eyes to watch and too many ears to hear.

"Err-"

"Let's just do the lab. It's right here." She says as she keys into the door to open it.

"You're very different," John mutters as she opens the door and turns on the lights.

"Hmm?" She responds as she clears off a counter.

"You Molly Hooper, you've changed. Not just the hair. Your whole attitude."

Molly flusters for a second and drops a jar, but John catches it.

"Well almost different." He places it back on the counter.

"Why do you say that? That I'm different?"

"You, well, you were always quiet and awkward, like how a baby sister is supposed to be." John says admiringly.

"Thanks John?”

“Seriously, Molly. Always a treat when you were around. You were always there for us. You came to our flat for Christmas, bringing gifts." As John continues to speak, he suddenly feels like a horrible person again. "Molly, shit I’m sorry. I should've called. I was such-"

"It's fine." Molly pulls over a chair and then another. "It's all fine."

John's ears prick up. The way she phrases her last words. It sounded almost like she was Sher-

"Molly," He grabs her arm as she is mid motion of moving a chair. "He's dead, right?"

Molly eyes widen, John notices, but then she says pretty definitively. "Yes John he's dead. I did the autopsy."

John cringes, thinking of all that blood and Molly cleaning him, rearranging his curls so he looked presentable for Mycroft. "That was horrible of me.” He feels like he’s going to be sick. Molly helps him into a chair. “I'm sorry, Molly. It's just the way you said it. It just sounded like him. Just a memory."

"John, don't be sorry. Coffee.” She says patting him gently on the arm. “We need coffee. Stay here, all right?"

She dashes away and John is left alone in the room that used to be a second home. He's quite sure Sherlock had a key swipe somewhere in their flat just like he had multiple DI Lestrade badges. Oddly enough, Molly was always there to lend a hand. A few minutes pass by and the door opens again with Molly balancing two cups as she pushes the door open.

John jumps up and takes a cup. "Thanks Molly."

"I hope I got it right. No sugar, right?”

“Right.” John says thankfully.

They both settle down and sip their drinks. John then asks, "We're okay right?

Molly removes a spoon from her coffee, then takes a sip of her coffee and replaces the spoon and begins to swirl it in her cup again. "Did I ever tell you why I become a forensic pathologist?

"No." he says in all honesty.

"Guess I wouldn't." She smiles still swirling her spoon. "I loved fairy tales when I was child. Princesses and knights and dragons and elves but," She stops mid-swirl. "I realized this happy ever after, that was just their story… an imaginary story."

"Is this about Sherlock treating you horribly? I always wanted him to apologize."

Molly looks as though she might cry. She's swirling her spoon again.

"No, no. It's about seeing reality for what it is. My dad died when I was young and I couldn't understand why. Everyone is supposed to live happily ever after, aren’t they? He wasn’t supposed to die when I was young. I swore for days that he would come back, walking through the door. Well, with being a pathologist, a body not breathing means it’s the end of their story. Opening a body and seeing the cause makes its understandable. There's no make believe. This man had a tumor. This woman had a nerve disorder, etcetera. Fairytales are fantasy but organ failure and strokes are easy to see and prove. That's reality.

She stops swirling it again. "And no, John. Sherlock wasn't horrible. He was just funny in the way he showed how he cared."

"Molly, Sherlock told me he was a fake. He wanted me to tell you-"

"Why would he do that?"

"I don't know why. I still don’t know a lot of things why he did them. Telling me he was a fake… it has to mean something.” He’s annoyed at himself. Even a year later, he still couldn’t figure out what made Sherlock do it. The press couldn’t have bothered him that much because Sherlock had always learned to brush people and their opinions aside. He then realized that maybe he had been missing something.

"Was Sherlock's phone ever recovered? Greg always told me that you gave his coat to the police, but the phone… you would have seen it, right?"

Molly falters. "I-I don’t know. I-it wasn't on his body. I'm sure the police..." Her voice drifts off.

John pulls out his own phone as she speaks and waits for her to finish. He then dials Lestrade’s number. "Greg, it's me. Hey, yeah I'm good. Anyway, did you guys ever recover Sherlock's phone?" A pause. "Not as you know of? Thanks."

He scrambles out of his chair and pushes the door open. He goes straight to the staircase. Molly is quick on his heels. The thrill of running was back on. He throws open the door to the roof. However the feeling of being unable to breathe comes rushing back. There's air surrounding him, but it's not entering his lungs. He pushes through it. Because if the phone is here- there might be a reason to why everything had happened. The phone was never returned. It was a vital part of Sherlock’s process. If there was anything that Sherlock might have known, he would have left it on his second brain, his phone.

"It's got to be here." He keeps saying it over and over again and Molly like before steps forward to pull him back, but he moves away, still pacing. "John..."

John walks around the roof pacing as Molly's own phone vibrates in her pocket. He's too busy to notice it. She takes it out.

PLEASE ESCORT DR. WATSON OFF OF THE ROOF. MY BROTHER WOULD NEVER FORGIVE ME. ESPECIALLY FOR A PHONE.

She's not surprised. Sherlock's brother's eyes are everywhere. He was the one who replaced the CCTV footage so Sherlock's dispute was never seen. The CCTV camera was down that day for repair as he told her. Now it seemed to be working.

"But where would it go?" John ran his fingers through his hair. "It can't have just disappeared. If it wasn’t in his coat, he would’ve thrown it to the side to protect it. That’s what Sherlock would’ve done. With the phone, we will know why he did it."

“John. The phone wouldn't even work.” She makes a grab for his arm, but misses. He’s pacing too quickly, almost manically. “We’ve had terrible rain. It would be ruined.” She pleads.

“We could get someone to fix it.” John says reasoning to himself more than anyone.

“The battery, John. It wouldn’t work.”

“We could get it to work. There’s always a way.”

Molly is trying to have a conversation with him, but he’s too busy ferreting around on the roof looking for the hidden phone that doesn’t exist. Molly wants to take him back to the ground floor where he is less likely to get hurt but John keeps avoiding her. Molly watches John as her phone beeps. She glances at it quickly, afraid for John.

MS. HOOPER THE ROOF IS NOT JOHN’S ONLY DANGER.

Molly looks up at John on his hands and knees now looking so desperately for a phone that doesn’t exist. Molly wants to cry. She wants it all to end. She crouches down and places a hand on his back.

"John." She whispers softly.

John keeps on muttering to himself.

"Sherlock, where would you put it?" He whips his heard around as if Sherlock is on the other end of the roof ready to give him an answer. Instead he only sees her.

She chokes back her cry. She gets down her hands and knees too and inches toward him. He just looks at her blankly. She eventually comes to him and she wraps her arms around him and says to him quietly as to not startle him. “John, maybe we can check back downstairs. Maybe I-I placed it somewhere by mistake in all that disaster.”

He pulls away and looks at her. “Yeah?”

She knows it wasn’t true, but she is so worried for him. She has never seen John so completely different, so utterly hopeless and broken. It seemed he desperate for almost anything. She had heard he was getting better from Mycroft’s watchful eyes. If this was better, how was he then a year ago? She should have tried harder.

“Yeah. Let’s go check.”

She helps him up and they both head toward the stairs. As he heads down first, she looks back and sees the empty ledge. She can only imagine what John had seen that day. That long coat whipping behind Sherlock and then him, just falling and falling with the coat flapping behind him like the wings of a bird. She remembers when she was 10 , she had found a bird when it fell from its nest. It was the saddest thing she’s ever seen. She looks back at the ledge one more time.

"It's just been a very, very bad day." Then she closes the door and heads back to the lab.

Chapter Text

The cat meows as she opens the door. Molly locks the doors and immediately pulls out her own phone. She had searched frantically through her lab for a pretend phone and eventually she had escorted John home after thoroughly explaining to Mrs. Hudson that he should not be left alone that night.

 She mulls around her kitchen for her favorite mug as she dials the number that she was told that is should only be used for emergencies. Today was definitely an emergency. The number rings and then patches her through.

"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" The voice says.

"Sieben, Vier, Drie, Sieben, funf, sechs, zwei, funf.” She rattles off the passcode she learned as soon as it had been given to her.

A calm but bored English voice trickles over. "Is this really an emergency, Ms. Hooper?"

"Yes." She says definitively. "I need to speak with him. He needs to know something."

"My brother is well aware of the ah-situation."

You seem so sure of yourself. You've changed.

It's because I've learned to lie and protect, John. I've learned to lie and protect things that are important to me and I’ve forgotten about you, John. You’re important to me. You’re both important to me because Sherlock without John and John without Sherlock is something so horrible. She hadn’t imagined it to resemble anything like it had today.

"Mr. Holmes, speaking with Sherlock is of the upmost importance."

"I can relay the message. It's a very time sensitive case he is on. He shouldn't-"

Mycroft was still explaining to her why she couldn’t talk to Sherlock and all she could think was that she was so tired. She helped too much to be stopped now by Mycroft Holmes.  Mycroft with all his government, only had grainy images today and grainy images couldn’t show John’s hand trembling as Molly held desperately on.

“No.” Molly interrupts him.

Mycroft sounds flummoxed when he responds. “I’m sorry Ms. Hopper?”

She took a deep breath and begins again.  “I’m sorry Mr. Holmes.  Sherlock, he, he needs to hear it from me.” When she closes her eyes while talking, she can still see John’s crumpled form. She thinks he must keep living the same day over and over again. She thinks of the bird falling out if its nest and hitting the hard ground and how she picked up the crumpled form and wanted to put it back together and couldn’t.  It must hurt so much.

 There was an exasperated sigh then a click and finally a dial tone. Molly paces her apartment.

You've changed. He can't just be gone.

John he's dead. I did the autopsy.

"Mycroft, I've told you I don't want to be-" says yet another bored, but irritated voice. It was the voice of the younger Holmes brother.

"Sherlock." She breathes thrilled to hear that deep voice.

"Molly!  Why are you on the phone? What happened? Is it John?" She could hear his frustration. "Mycroft said-"

"Sherlock. He was at Bart's today on the roof." She's not quite sure why she phrased it like that.

Sherlock's breath hitches. "Please don't tell me- Please Molly, tell me he’s all right.  I need him to be protected."

"He's fine. He is home. He's back to working with Sarah.” She’s rambling now. She’s not telling him anything relevant and she knows he knows that.

"Molly…"

Finally she gets to her point. "He is as fine as you or I am and that's saying something."

"Molly," He seemed to have regained his tone of voice. "Why was he at Bart's?"

"It was a mistake." She collapses into a chair. She's tired of pacing. Her mug sits on the counter. No tea had been made through this whole process. Toby comes and curls onto her lab. "He was short on cab fare. I brought him inside because I didn't want to be in a shop with people staring. I wanted to talk with him in a safe surrounding. We were only ever supposed to be in the lab, but he ran up the roof-"

"What?"

Toby tilts his head at the sound of Sherlock's voice ringing through the phone.

"He was convinced he could find a phone - your phone. To give reason as to why you jumped. He thinks maybe you left him a secret message.”

Sherlock doesn’t answer. Molly has to ask then.

 “Is there something on your phone? Mycroft did say he has it."

"Yes, but there's nothing on it.” He sounds irritated.  “There should have been but when the phone was thrown, it got damaged. Mycroft has other information that will help me."

"Sherlock, you need to finish-”

“I know that.” Sherlock bites back.

“I know, but Sherlock, John's face today… I don't know if he be able to handle it when you come walking through the door.”

“John is a soldier. He’ll be fine.”

 “But Sherlock, I told him the dead couldn’t come back. Sherlock, I am afraid for him."

The phone is silent and then he speaks.

"He will understand why I did what I did. Even what you had to do. He will understand."

"But what if he doesn't? You didn't see him today."

"However, I can imagine Molly. Thank you for being there again. If he doesn't understand me, he will understand you because after all, you are Molly Hooper. Goodbye." The dial tone returned.

She couldn’t fix the bird when she was ten. She had put her baby bird in a little cardboard box. Then her dad had gotten sick. She buries her head into her cat's fur. She’s tired lying. She's tired of being fine.

 

Chapter Text

It’s been six months since John had been on the roof of St. Barts. That was a bad day. He knows it, but he knows it will always be a bad day. It’s okay, he tells himself every morning and every night because he knows now he’s in a better place. He’s keeping busy. He’s works at the clinic with Sarah. Molly and he meet once a month at a café by his job, not hers for obvious reasons. He’s even dating - again. Her name is Mary. She’s good for him. If he was correct, he has been seeing her for four months.

Tonight they are at a local pub, just chatting over a couple of pints. Everything seems to be going great until someone calls his name.

“John? John Watson?”

Mary sees the person first and John can’t read her face. He doesn’t know that many people and the people that claim to know him are either nutters or random journalists. He cringes internally and turns around. He immediately feels okay because who he sees is Mike Stamford who is smiling at him.

“Hello Mike.” He extends his hand and they shake hands. Mike is loosening his tie as his speaks to John. He must have just gotten off of work, John thinks because Mike hates wearing ties.

“Good to see you out and about.”

John’s smile falters for a second, but he knows Mike means well. He’s about to answer when he hears a cough. He turns to Mary who smiles at him.

“Sorry Mary.” He turns to Mike. “Mike, this is Mary. My girlfriend.”

Mary laughs. “Am I now?”

John gulps, now a little nervous, he was still so new with the dating, but Mike extends his hand and shakes his with Mary’s. He then nudges John. “Haven’t discussed it that far, have you John?”

“Er-I-well. Mary this is Mike, a colleague from St. Barts.” He then remembers the second time he met Mike and how it was a wonderful happenstance that they ran into each other and how Mike arranged that fateful meeting of flatmates. “He also introduced me to Sherlock Holmes.”

“Nothing more in making the rent cheaper.” Mike pats John on the back. “He was a good man.”

John nods. “Yes. Yes he was.”

John feels his hand being squeezed by Mary. He continues. “Sherlock er-actually helped me meet Mary.”

“Really?” Mike looks intrigued. “Did you know Sherlock?”

“Case.” John mutters, taking a quick sip for his pint. Mary continues for him.

“I had emailed the Science of Deduction about a missing piece of jewelry, but then I was in the States for a bit for work and I didn’t know about what happened with Sherlock so,” John knows what she’s going to say so he takes another sip from his pint. She doesn’t say it though. She continues onward. “John eventually called to let me know that Sherlock has solved the missing amulet necklace and was just too preoccupied to ever respond. It was in their flat, all ready to be returned. ” She pulled out a necklace hidden underneath her blouse. It was circular with a blue stone in the middle. “Here it is. It was my great grandmothers. ”

“Beautiful.” Mike nods examining it. He looks at John. “Still at 221B are you?”

“For the time.” John nods. He knows it has been more than a year and a half. He probably should move somewhere else. It would be better for his health. Ella has told him that multiple times. However, he can’t imagine someone else living in ‘their’ flat. “The amulet was a lucky find. I think he meant for me to send it out to the post months and months ago before well… everything. He just forgot to tell me. He probably told me when I was away or something. He used to do that.” John trails off. He feels Mary squeeze his hand again, reassuringly.

There’s an awkward silence for a minute. John sees Mike looking around at anything and anyone and not at him. He composes himself and then clears his throat.

“Mike.”

Mike acknowledges his name by looking John again in the face. “Sorry, just looking for Mel,” He then adds to Mary. “My wife and speaking of which, there she is!” He waves a woman over.

A short curly haired woman walks over and swoops John in a big hug. John remembers meeting Mel once or twice and she always gave the same greeting even if she just met you. The introductions go around again and Mel engulfs Mary into that same hug. They start chattering about something, which leave John and Mike alone which is good because John has something for Mike to hear.

“Mike.”

“Yeah?” He says after he asks the bartender for four more pints of what John is drinking. He turns to him.

“Thanks.”

“Thanks for what?”

“Just for being there. Just talking to me when I didn’t want to be bothered when I returned from war. Instead of letting me go, you stepped forward and helped me out. Not everyone would have done that. Most would have spotted me, but let me go on my way. Wouldn't even bothered to chat. ”

Mike looks embarrassed. “It was just a flatshare. It’s nothing-”

“You know it wasn’t just that.” John gave a look. “Fine. You’re right. It was just that at first, but you - you gave me my best friend.” He reaches over to the bartender as he comes back with the drinks. “I’ll pick up the tab.”

“John!” Mike protests and tries to stop but John already has his hand in his pocket for his wallet.

“Mike. Please it’s the least I can do. Please.”

Mike looks at the bartender, to Mel and Mary who have both now looked up at the commotion they were causing with the tab and then back to John. Mike sighs. “Just this time Captain Watson. Just this time.”

Chapter Text

Mike and Mel are in the cab, riding home after their lovely evening with John and Mary.

“I like her.” Mel says as she leans on Mike. Mike hums back in agreement.

“She’s good for him.” She continues. “Everyone deserves happiness.”

Mike Stamford knew Mel was right. Everyone deserves happiness in one form or another. He knew it from the way his daughter Brianna sang or the way his son Julian laughed at the dog chasing its tails. In the way his wife smiled or the way she danced. That was happiness and everyone had his or her own brand of what made them happy.

He never would have imagined in all his years that an army doctor and a consulting detective would have become best friends. He thought they would just pay their rent on time and carry on in their on individual ways. He actually had half expected John to weeks later rant to him about how could anyone on earth could be a flatmate with that man.

Instead it was the opposite. John had said his best friend and Mike couldn’t believe he had done that for John with just that simple meeting. He helped a man back from war with a new happiness. A little bit mad with the chases and cases but once again, everyone was different.

Little occurrences like setting up John and Sherlock was a just an act that Mike thought would help two people out. When he was younger, his parents had always taught him about how acts of kindness whether big or small were appreciated. His mother had always taught him to hold the door open for ladies and his father had always told him to listen to your heart as much as you did with your ears. The world was an easier place to live in if you were helpful and kind. That's what Mike knew to be true.

He looks out his window and sees the streets of London whiz past him. Mel leans into him. Mike squeezes her hand. It was a nice night that he and Mel had had. He hoped John and Mary had felt the same way.

“Everyone deserves happiness.” He murmurs. “They really do.”

Chapter Text

John is standing outside, staring at a CCTV camera. He had just left Molly and Mike at Christaen's Restorante just off of Harewood’s Ave. They had dinner, chatted and laughed. John told them about how he and Mary were getting on. Mary hadn't joined them because she has believed tonight John needed to be out with is friends. She had the patience of a Saint, which made her understand John during his sullen moods.

Today he was in one of those sullen moods. He had been so good at hiding it, he had told Molly he was fine and that he could get home by himself, but the finality of what today was had hit him especially hard when he had felt the CCTV camera move with him which was why John was now talking to the camera.

“I know you are watching my every move, Mycroft Holmes. I have known for the last two years with the black cars and the subtle shifts in the cameras. You've left me alone with no visits from you yourself, but I feel your presence. It's not a kindness you are doing to me. It's still a reminder of what I have lost." John says calmly.

Last year he remembered being on that roof, searching for the phone and just feeling so hopeful for an answer. This year he was wiser. He knew Sherlock had left no message.

“He’s never coming back." He scuffs the floor with his shoe. A couple walks by him. He looks back to the camera. "Do you feel you failed? Big brother, all alone?"John moves closer the camera and stands right under it. He probably looks so small with the camera so high. “Mycroft Holmes, you could have saved him. You could have squashed the stories that Moriarty spread. Instead you help feed the fire." He's not angry as he speaks, he's just disappointed in the outcome. "I hope everyone in the government from the man behind the camera to the person delivering the file to you in your office chair knows how you've failed. I don’t forgive you. Actually, I feel sorry for you. I have Mary now, but what do you have? I hope the government keeps you busy. Sherlock was a berk, but he was still your brother. You said you cared. How much?”

He glances once more at the camera, kinda hoping he will hear an answer or a ping from his phone. He waits and then nothing. " I don't think you cared at all." He mumbles as he walks away. Mycroft would never admit to anything and John feels a fool for trying to provoke an answer out of him. He walks away, back to apartment he shares with Mary on Preston Road. It wasn’t quite Baker Street, but he couldn’t ask his girlfriend to live there. She probably would want to repaper the flat and get all new furniture and then it wouldn't be the Baker Street where Sherlock lived and then it would like Sherlock hadn’t lived at all. It would be a form of torture for both of them. He still visits Mrs. Hudson at least once week. She completely understood and was positively thrilled about the new lady in his life. Mary promised to start coming and swap recipes with her.

Elsewhere in London there is a knock on the door of a very powerful government official working late at night.

“Come in Anthea,”

The woman walks in carrying a file.

”That’s the latest surveillance of John?”

“Yes, but sir, this might interest you.” She hands him a flash drive along with the file. He puts it into his computer and watches the video start up. John was seen calmly talking to a CCTV camera.

His eyes perk up. The video was silent but John kept talking.

“He knows I've been watching. It’s seems to be a difficult day for him to relive again and again. Much better than last year. No roofs."

Anthea nods.

“Sir, I thought you would like to have his lips read. As always, it would be under the strictest confidences. “

Mycroft nods with pleasure. He has never quite had such a loyal assistant as Anthea.

Chapter Text

Caring is not an advantage. He once told his brother after that stupid woman's pretend death, but it wasn't true. Not at least when it came to Sherlock. Sherlock is the exception. He is always the exception.

x-x-x

"I need to die." Sherlock had told him as they sat in the Diogenes club in a side office. His scarf had hung limply on his neck.

"Oh Sherlock, don't be so melodramatic. James Moriarty can be put away again. Just give me a day."

Sherlock snarled. "The damage is done. He is now out for people I care about."

"He doesn't seem to be after me."

"Ha-Ha." Sherlock circled around Mycroft at his desk. 

"I told you not to care." Mycroft countered him. "We can protect-"

"No. I have a plan. I know what he wants. It's between him and me." He stops and collapses in the chair facing the desk.

"Fine. How can I help your greatness?"

"Dont be snide with me. You owe me a favor for that stupid stock case back in November."

"Fine. What is it?"

"Watch the CCTV footage at Saint Barts. Make a copy. Then Erase it."

"Just that?"

Sherlock shook his head as he knotted his scarf around his neck. It had reminded Mycroft of a noose. "No that's the easy part."

"The easy part? You flatter me Sherlock."

"Protect John. Whatever happens protect him from the truth. To know the truth will only cause him a death I am trying to prevent." Sherlock then explains of what he plans to do. It involve that pathologist from Barts, a lorry, blood and a John Doe. Mycroft just listened.

x-x-x

Mycroft stands at the door of 356 Harris Street. He sighs as he knocks on the door. Some things are so tedious to do, but this must be done in person by he himself.

A petite woman with short blonde hair answers the door. "Hello. Can I help you?"

Mycroft smiles and extends his hands. "My name is Mycroft. I work with John at Willows Practice. He left some paperwork and it just can't wait until morning."

Mary frowns. "John's in the shower right now."

"I don't mind waiting."

"Maybe I can take the papers and -"

"That would be lovely Ms.-"

"Morstan."

"Lovely," He already had known her name, but he couldn't tell her that. "But I am afraid that I and John and are the only ones who can see them. Confidential and all."

"Really?" Mary doesn't seem to believe what Mycroft is saying. She's not a dumb woman, Mycroft thinks to herself. Definitely one of John's better picks.

"Yes." Mycroft puts his hand into his pocket and extends an ID that Anthea has looked up for Willows and made one just in case Mary was more of a curious individual then they anticipated. "I am not lying Ms. Morstan." He allows her to examine it. "I would just hate for John to get in trouble."

That's the right phrasing Mycroft tells himself as he sees Mary's eye go wide. He too can play this deduction game that Sherlock think he knows so well. It's obvious to Mycroft that this woman cares greatly for Doctor Watson.

"Oh! Well I'm sure he won't be long. Come in," She says holding the door open. Please let me get some tea for you while you wait for him."

Mycroft gives a courteous smile and grips his umbrella. "That would be lovely."

x-x-x

Mycroft observes John and Mary's living room with it's striped walls and beige furniture. Very different from what he has witnessed of John's past comforts.

Mycroft smiles to himself as Mary goes into the kitchen and he sits in one of the chairs by the window. John Watson is getting out of the shower. He does not know that Mary, his girlfriend of a year and a half has opened the door to a person he does not want to be seeing.

"Hello John. Mary's just gone to get a cup of tea." Mycroft says as John wanders into his living room wearing his robe and toweling is hair, clearly making his way to the kitchen, unaware of the visitor. 

"M-Mycroft?"

At that time Mary walks out carrying a cup of tea, almost colliding with him. She recovers quickly. "John!" She calls. "Why don't you get dressed? Mycroft says he has some important files for you from work and you're just standing there in your robe."

"Work?" John asks curiously, ignoring the comment about the robe. Mycroft is amused. He is always amused by couples and their little chats.

"Willows. Am I wrong?" Mary looks confused as she looks to Mycroft. " I thought you and John were colleagues from Willow. You showed me an id."

John and Mycroft lock eyes and Mycroft gives him a look he's used countless times on Sherlock. It was the look of 'you really want to pay attention to me because I have something you are interested in.' He knows John has seen this look before and he knows what it means.

"No." John quickly says. "Ah-He's not wrong. I just remembered I did leave a file." John says. "Mary is there any tea left in? I'd love me a cuppa."

"Lazy," She says, but turns back into the kitchen.

John’s glares at Mycroft. "What have you come for Mycroft?"

“I’ve got your message.”

John crosses his arms, glaring at him. "Yeah? Then why have you come? I have no pity for you Mycroft."

"You made that quite clear, John." His hands tap on the umbrella handle. “Mrs. Hudson tells me that though you moved out, you still pay.”

“As do you.”

“It’s as though 221B resembles a living memorial to my brother.” Mycroft muses.

“Your brother… is Sherlock?”

John tenses. Mary comes back out at the probably the worst time for John, but Mycroft doesn't mind. He continues onward.

“Yes, sadly we don’t bear much of a resemblance. I am sorry to tell you Ms. Morstan, that John and I do not work together. We have a difficult relationship." Mary stands looking at the two of them, holding the teacups, unsure of what to do.

John snorts. "You could say that." He goes to Mary and takes his cup. She won't let him. "Mary, please sit or leave. It's up to you."

"John you just told me..."

He rests his hand on her wrist. "I know I told you I worked with him."

She pulls away. "He had an Id! What's wrong with the two of you?"

"Mycroft works for the government." 

"So what? You lied. Both of you!' She says in almost tears. The teacups are rattling in her hands. "I don't know what you take me for John Watson."

He carefully walks over and removes the cups from her hand. He tries to touch her but she shrinks back away. "Please sit Mary." He pleads with her. "I'm sorry. It's just that Mycroft and I don't get on. I thought it would be easier if I didn't say what our connection was.

Mycroft sips from his teacup and adds. "Ms. Morstan, your boyfriend and I do have a difficult relationship. Please do sit. If you had known who I was, John would not have let me in. He'd rather hope that I was dead and Sherlock was alive."

"John. I-" She looks at John with sadness in her eyes.

"Mary, that's not true." He turns on Mycroft. "I never said that. I said you could've stopped it."

"Stop my brother? John..." He sighs. "I thought you understood him better."

"Jesus!" John screams. Mary puts her head in her hands. Mycroft just sits and waits for it to blow over. "I can't Mycroft. I can't. I've been so good and here you come making me get so angry. Why-why did you come here?"

"Please sit John. You to Ms. Morstan."

"I don't want to sit." John says. "I am not a child."

Mary stretches her hand over and places hers in his. "Come."

They sit on the chair across from Mycroft. John sit uncomfortably on the edge while she rests a hand on his back.

"Thank you." He says to Mary. He then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a phone. Sherlock's phone. John's eyes jump to it immediately. Mary doesn't say anything. She just watches.

John gasps.“I knew you had it. “

“For sentimental reasons, you understand. His phone has been deleted of emails that came from nasty business I had him deal with. I have had it for so long because I too looked for messages from Moriarty.” He extends the phone in his palm. John reaches for it, examines and the finally cradles it like a tiny animal hurt and found in the woods.

"Anything?" He says it like a child.

Mycroft shakes his head. “Unfortunately, nothing.” Sherlock had been livid that Mycroft wasn’t able to retrieve the conversation between he and Moriarty.

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. Feel free to have it. I have no further use for it."

"What do you want in return."

Mary speaks from behind John. "I think he just wanted you to have something."

John shakes his head and turns to face her. One hand still clasps the phone, the other on her leg. "Mary, you don't know Mycroft. There is always an exchange."

"Very good John."

John turns back around. "And what do you want in exchange for giving me a phone that is stripped of its properties."

"Again my apologies for that." He taps his fingers again on the umbrella handle. "I told you I went to 221B Baker Street."

John doesn't speak so Mycroft continues. "I went to collect an item but apparently the item could not be found. Mrs. Hudson however believes you might be watching after it."

John get up, walks over to him and hands the phone back. "Keep it. I don't want it."

Mycroft does not accept it. He puts his hand over John's hand with the phone in it. He locks eyes with John.

“The violin John, please.”

“Why?” He says trying to pull away from Mycroft's hand.

“Because you asked if I cared and I cared- care," he corrects himself, "care greatly to this day." He loosens his grip on John's hand.

"John you understand. Mary can vouch for you I am sure. You never stop caring for someone even if they are gone." John lets go and clutches the phone as though it will speak to him.

This is only a glimmer of truth. There is still a whole story that Mycroft did not care to tell. That is Sherlock's burden to tell how he died and survived. It is tedious and it is not his job. He is just here for one thing. Another favor that he didn't mind doing. "If there was one thing that was my brother, it was his violin. A little difficult to tune, but beautiful when the right person knew how to work with it.”

x-x-x

The black case sits next to Mycroft on his drive home. He lays his hand on the case, protecting it and knowing what it meant to both of the Holmes brothers.

Mycroft remembers his brother unsheathing the violin bow with a wild glint in his eyes when he first received it and found out about the pitch of the E string. The nannies had cringed.

The violin like Sherlock was temperamental. It needed to be tuned and the bow had to be rosined. It needed to be cared for and when cared for, it could be played beautifully.

Like the night of his fathers funeral. Sherlock did not speak the whole day. He dressed mutely, he carried the coffin without a word. He let Mycroft do the eulogy. However late into the night Mycroft heard a beautiful heartbreaking sound while he studied in his bedroom. He had been excused from classes but the books calmed his brain with the future of his life. He had creeped down the hallways to follow the sound. It had been coming from Sherlock's room.

The door was shut but that didn't stop the sounds from coming out under the crack below the door just where the light shone. The notes quavered and sang with such tenderness and longing. He knew now how his brother had felt as the coffin was lowered into the grave. After that night, Mycroft learned to dispose of his feelings. They would not help him. He never wanted his emotions to sing like that violin.

x-x-x

"Why couldn't you save him?"

x-x-x

Mycroft pinches his nose as he remembered 15 years ago. He had just started working in the government low ranks when his phone had buzzed. He excused himself from a meeting, seeing the caller.

"Sherlock?" He had not spoken to Sherlock in three months.

"Who's Sherlock," said a woman's voice on the other hand. "Names Maureen. I didn't meant to call you. Must have hit a wrong button or something. Looking to clear this phone." She mumbled more to herself than to Mycroft. 

"Do not hang up." Mycroft growled in irritation. "This phone belongs to Sherlock."

"Oh him? The curly haired boy?" "Yes." "Well, he said I could have it - if I could something lovely in return."

Mycroft walked quickly out the door and into the nearest cab. "Where are you?"

"You can't have the phone." Maureen quipped back.

"I. Don't. Care. About. The. Bloody. Phone. Where is my brother?"

x-x-x

"Oh Sherlock," He sighed upon reaching said location that the horrid woman Maureen had given. Sherlock grinned like a fool sitting on a street corner as people walked by him with mixed expressions of pity and pretending he wasn't there.  He was like a beggar. It was disgusting. Mycroft hated those people. He hated it even more that he knew this one. His brother, brilliant, could have been solving world hunger or the Goldbach Conjecture. Instead, high as as kite. His pupils blown wide.

"Myc! Have you come to tell me off for being a naughty boy,"

Mycroft towered over his brother who was grinning like a loon. He looked so happy and sad at the same time. "Sherlock, let's go home."

"Home is boring." He drawled and pouted like a child. "It's no fun."

"And this is?"

Sherlock looked cross. "You don't care. You just don't want your little brother messing up your next step toward greatness." He stretched his hands wide. "The next Prime Minister can't have a drug addict for a brother. You could just lie and say that you don't have family." A pause. "Oh... that's a perfect idea."

"I can't do that." He sighed. "Mummy will be cross."

"Mummy doesn't care. She is currently in Morocco have tea with a prince or something."

"Is that true?" Mycroft questioned. He was busy with work. He didn't have time to trail after his mother. Sherlock had said he had been studying abroad. He believed him because he couldn't be bothered. He should have cared more. After his father's death, Mycroft jumped to push his career forward and went back to University and Sherlock looked to disappeared into the confines of their estate and then to boarding school. He always told himself it was the age difference that kept them apart.

"You don't even know?" Sherlock laughed. "I only gave that woman my phone so I could have sweet sweet release. If it doesn't effect you moving up in the world, you don't care."

"Sherlock-"

"You know it's the truth."

At that point, devoid of feelings and more disgraced than upset by Sherlock's state, Mycroft knew he was right. Something had to change. He had to open his heart again.

He had knelt down, dirtying his new suit pants. "Let's go home." He extended his hand and Sherlock took it reluctantly. 

x-x-x

"Sir. We'll be arriving in a minute."

Mycroft opened his eye to see the wrought gate protecting his home. He gets out his phone.

I have your prize possession.
I believe it's out of tune. -M

Don't touch it.
I'll be home to tune it shortly.

For good? -M

Yes.

Mycroft had been working very hard these past 17 years to keep his brother alive and these past two years were no exception. He had made countless favors to others in order to get Sherlock out of countries safely or money to keep him living. Not because it was a favor to Sherlock or his mother or even John, but because he knew like he had told John, he cared greatly. He didn't have to parade it around to strangers with hugs and admiration. He himself knew. That's all that mattered. Anyway, he told himself as he puts his phone away and his car door opens, it would all be over soon. It might not be the most welcome home coming, but it would all be over soon.

Chapter Text

The Watson family had always been very superstitious. His father never crossed under a ladder and his mother always threw salt over her shoulder. Harry carried a rabbit’s foot wherever she went and John, well John was always told black cats would cause bad things. No one ever told him about the effects of black cars following him. Over the past two and half years, the number of them have considerable slowed down but every now and then when he’s being extra vigilant, he sees one.

John wonders wasn’t it enough that he had relinquished the violin? He wonders why he was still being tailed. He had told Mycroft it was not doing either of them any favors.

He is with Mary walking back from the park when he spots one. After her encounter with Mycroft, John was more honest about his past with the Holmes brothers and their mysterious and stubborn ways. He drags her over and knocks on the window.

“You can’t just knock on windows of random cars!” She shouts at him. “You don’t know who’s behind that window.”

“Mary, you can see that I can.” He does it again. “Wait.”

The window rolls down and Anthea stares back with the same blank look she always greets John or Sherlock with.

John smiles. “Hello Anthea.”

“John.” She nods. “Mary.”

Mary frowns. “I don’t know you.”

“You don’t have to know her. She already knows everything about you. Isn’t that right Anthea?” John says smugly.

No response comes from her mouth, which isn’t unusually. John can see Mary twitching with annoyance. He can already tell Mary doesn’t seem to like this woman. She asks, “How is he?

This does not get an answer from Anthea. It does get answer from John. He laughs. Anthea then proceeds to roll the window up.

“Well that was rude.” Mary says to John.

The car starts again and goes down the block.

“Nope that was Anthea. Come on she’s probably in front of the flat.”

x-x-x

 

There is a black car when they came back to their flat. John knocks on the window again. The window rolls down.

“What have you come to tell me?”

“Mr. Holmes sends his regards.”

“Oh she speaks!” Mary gasps with a mocking tone. Anthea’s facial expression doesn’t change.

John leans on the window and stares at her and the blackberry resting in her lap. “I see you haven’t changed much.”

“I have a very time consuming job.”

“Yes. Tailing me is always consuming. If you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty consistent now. I go to work 5 days a week. I’ve got a steady girlfriend. I’m not in danger anymore. I’ve already told Mycroft this six months ago. It’s not worth your time to-”

She cuts him off. “Working for Mr. Holmes is more than just tailing you Doctor Watson.”

“Glad to hear it because if you want I could have worn a tracking anklet just to make it easier.” John hears Mary shuffle up next to him on the car. She is leaning against the passenger door. Anthea’s blackberry buzzes. John snorts. “You can answer it. You’re not the only business type I’ve seen that is literally connected to their phone. It doesn’t take one to look far. Men in their suits, phones glued to their ears. Women in heels with giant purses loaded down with important documents. I’ve told patients time and time again with neck pains and bad backs that the world will keep spinning if you take a day off from answering the phone.

John wants Anthea to bite back and give a reason, but she ignores him. She instead answers the call. “Hello.” A pause. “Yes. No. Yes. Goodbye.” She closes her phone. “Sorry to cut this short. Urgent matters.”

“Mycroft needs his pillow fluffed?”

She ignores his insult. “I will let Mr. Holmes know your request on less surveillance.”

“Here's the thing, I don’t want any surveillance.”

“A charming notion.” Anthea says as she types on her blackberry. She continues, “Please back out of the window. Good bye.” John gets out and she rolls it up.

John turns to Mary, “Watch out, She’s leaving.” Mary gets off the car quickly. Anthea had the decency to wait to make sure they are safely out of the way before the car starts up.

Mary and John watch the black car disappear. Mary turns to John. “She doesn’t seem very nice.”

John shrugs and wraps his arms around her. “I don’t really know, to be honest. She‘s Anthea. That’s the point. You’re not supposed to know.”

Chapter Text

Anthea sits in the car as she pulls away from the Watson flat and directs the driver, Sam, to her next appointment. It is very low of John to think that all she did is tail him. She had lost many friends who didn’t understand what she did. Her friends told her to stop being a secretary. Be something. It was so hard to tell them that she was something because she couldn’t actually tell them what it was she did. It wasn't enough just to believe that she was important. They had always needed proof.

She types on her blackberry answering an email marked urgent as Sam stops at a traffic light.

It is very hard to have a job in secrecy and expect anyone to understand it, let alone not belittle it. What people fail to realize about her job is that Mycroft Holmes and she needed each other. No, they aren’t lovers. She had dropped another friend who thought that. She and Mycroft just understood that without people like them who put their jobs first, England would fall.

Fall to people who are obsessed with the perks of position and not more concerned with the job that they were assigned to do. Sure she enjoys a nice wardrobe and Mycroft enjoys a good glass of wine, but they never leave work early to go the polo math or leave negotiations on the table because they just aren’t in the mood and would prefer to take a private plane to Belize. In actuality, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are minor blips on the larger problems at hand

The car brakes and Anthea looks out her window. She’s almost at her destination.

In her spare time when she has it, she has hobbies she wants to tell John Watson. They aren't football or knitting, but she does have things she cares about.  She works in research and diplomatic discussions about how to better the education of women in third world countries. She finds the literacy rates in Afghanistan horrifying. Everyone deserves a chance at something.

She didn’t have family. She was an only child and her parents; they had died in a car crash when she was very young. She had no immediate family and was thrown into foster care system.  She worked very hard at school and was very pleased with herself when she had accepted a job in the government as a private secretary. She knew it was possible to push herself further now that she had her foot in the door. Many of her superiors saw nothing more in her than her just being a secretary, but Mycroft, Mycroft had seen her initiative and drive. When he was promoted, he had personally asked that she move up wit him.  Her technical title was still private secretary, but it was so much more than that.

 “M’am,” Sam calls.

 She looks up and sees a townhouse, one of the properties that Mycroft owns. She and Sam gets out of the car. He hands her bag. “I’ll wait for you?”

 She accepts the bag. “That would be lovely. Thank you.”

She goes up to the door and puts the code 0106 into the door. There is no physical key.  Once inside the door and inside the foyer, she flicks on the light and places the bag on the table. She then takes out her phone and types

 Bag on table. Everything you requested.

 She waits a few seconds. A response comes back.

  Do you like being at my brother’s beck and call? –SH

 It’s funny your other half said the same thing.

 She smiles to herself and doesn’t wait for a response about how is John. It’s not her duty to coddle the younger Holmes. She knows he is holed up in the house doing one last task, but that’s all she cared to know about his plan.

 When she had been brought in on his whole death charade, Sherlock had been infuriated. Mycroft had laughed as he told her at the next morning meeting that Sherlock had actually thrown a little tantrum. Mycroft had responded that she had more important things she was concerned with than about his Houdini trick.

 As she opens the door and closes it behind her, she knows Sherlock and John are once again, only minor blips in the grand scheme of working with Mycroft Holmes.

 If people think she is just an errand girl, fine by her.  She knows what she is doing and she knows she is damn good at what she does.

 Her phone rings and she answers it right away. Foreign Affairs don’t wait for voicemail.

 

Chapter Text

John and Mary are standing in the front of the door to 221B Baker Street. They had just finished with work and were there to make their usual visit with Mrs. H.

"You sure she’ll like these tarts I made?" Mary asks clutching the tin in her hand.

"She will. She always does love what you bake."

For three years, he’s been back every week to have tea with Mrs. H, but never back upstairs. He had always refused. It felt better just knowing it was there. Mary comes once a month with something new to swap with Mrs. H. She never asked to see upstairs as well because she understood.

As he puts his key in the door, Mary pulls him by the arm. She's gazing up toward the second floor.

“John, look.” She points to the window. “That’s your old flat, right? The lights are on.” There is a faint glow in the window.

John frowns. "Maybe Mrs. Hudson is cleaning upstairs. She can't help herself sometimes." He opens the front door and calls, “Mrs. Hudson! I brought Mary here. We’ve brought some treats.” Mrs. Hudson pops her head out of the door across from him.

“John, Mary!"

Mary kisses Mrs. Hudson on the cheek. Mrs. Hudson goes to give a kiss to John, but he does not make a move to reciprocate it. He is still concentrating on the light upstairs. If Mrs. Hudson is here, then there shouldn't be a light.

“John is everything alright?” Mrs. H asks.

Someone is upstairs. In his flat. In his dead roommate’s flat. He doesn't respond. He instead feels for his service arm he carries on himself still after three years (whether it was Lestrade or Mycroft who has allowed him this, he wasn‘t sure) and dashes up the 17 steps, leaving Mary and Mrs. H at the bottom. At the top, he has his gun poised as he approaches the door.

He’s about to kick open the door when he hears the haunting sound of the violin. That doesn’t make sense. He gave it back to Mycroft a year ago. He has to lower his gun because his hands are shaking.

Dead things don’t come back.

He turns his head around the corner of the door.

Dead things can’t come back.

A man is playing the violin.

John sinks to the floor slowly. His feet can’t move.

“This is my note John.”

He hears quiet feet on the stairs. He feels a warm hand on his shoulder. He jumps slightly.

“John, What is it?”

Mary comes up behind him. John doesn’t move his head to look at her. He instead says. “Tell me, Mary. Do you see a man,” He jerks it toward the noise. “In there?”

Mary raises her head just above John's. John knows Mary has seen him in pictures. She would know what he looks like if it is him. 

“I-Is that-” She sounds like she has seen a ghost.

John nods his head yes then shakes his head no. “I don’t know. Mary, I need you to go back downstairs. I have to do this on my own. I need to know the truth.”

Mary grips his shoulders tightly once and slowly he hears her feet going down the stairs. John takes a deep breath and slowly crouches into the room. He avoids the left floorboard right by the door because he remembers it always creaked. He still has his gun ready, just in case.

“John.”

That voice! John gasps. The voice should have never been heard again and yet he is hearing it.

John’s voice speaks, preparing himself that it can’t be who he thinks it is. The only other answer is that it’s an intruder. “I’m armed.” His voice does not quaver. It is a hollow sound with no feeling.

The voice laughs a deep baritone chuckle. “As you always were.” If John could see the face, a smile lingers on it, but then again, he doesn’t. He’s too afraid to stare it in the face because, because what had Molly Hooper told him two years ago when he was trying so hard to regain his body and soul again?

“Dead things don’t come back.” He whispers, but the man hears him.

This figure doesn’t speak which is fine with John. He must use all his energy to walk forward and stand in front of the mirror to see two faces staring back. Two faces that are completely there. The one is not imaginary.

Both are tired. Tired for similar but different reasons.

One has bags under his eyes.

One is gaunt and tired.

John blinks.

Both are still there.

John is so used to the other face disappearing into a haze. John sees in his periphery vision that the curls are short and cropped. The hair is auburn, not shocking black.

Eyes straight, soldier. Don’t give into temptation.

John looks forward.

He looks at himself. Three years. Three years with new lines on his forehead and crows feet cropping up. Ella says they are signs of happiness. John calls it stability. It took him three years to finally bring it back into his life. This man isn’t going to destroy it.

“You’re standing right there next to me and every time I blink, you’re still there.” John laughs bitterly. “I don’t know how it’s possible.”

Sherlock doesn’t speak.

“You jumped from a roof,” He wants to scream it out. He doesn't because there’s no point. Sherlock probably wouldn’t understand. He just says it as though he's stating a fact. “I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“John, I thought you would be pleased, relieved-”

John shakes his head back and forth. “Even with all your tricks, you don’t understand one thing. It’s how death grates on the living. How it tears you apart and you feel like you’ll never see the world again as you had when that person was here with you. The world is devoid of color. You feel dead,” He remembers his sessions with Ella and that lone tree; riding the metro alone, walking the streets as people passed by, “But you can’t escape it. Not like some people.” He blinks and than stares forward again. Finally he nods like he did at Sherlock’s gravestone, turns and walks away.

Before he turns the corner and out the door, he glances back to see Sherlock, still staring into the mirror.

“I’m sure you want to tell me how you survived and you hope that I will listen with rapt attention, but not today. I can’t, not today because you’re standing there and I took too damn long to build a life where you weren’t part of it. I can’t let you destroy it in a second because in the end, we both know I could and would.”

He then turns and he’s out the door.

Chapter Text

Down the steps John goes and Sherlock isn’t quite sure what he should do.

The world is devoid of color.

He swings the violin bow back and forth in a slight pendulum motion just to keep his hands busy.

He always knew that John would have a reaction, but not that. There was no screaming, no cursing and no abrasive hugs. He had stared at him like a ghost and then he just walked away.

He stops swinging the bow and walks over to his chair, picks up his phone where he left it to rest and dials a number.

“My flat’s empty. My fridge is empty.” He says to the voice on the other end.

The voice sighs into the phone and says,

“Are you sure Mycroft didn’t put anything in your fridge?”

 Sherlock doesn’t answer. The voice continues.

 “I can’t come over tonight, but tomorrow morning. I’ll be right over with some milk. Don’t leave.”

 No answer.

 “Please don’t leave.”

 Sherlock finally answers. “I won’t.”

x-x-x

 

Mrs. Hudson didn't come upstairs after John disappeared. Sherlock was sure she would come bounding up to see him, but she didn't. He wonders if she is afraid to see him, afraid to see a dead man walking. Sherlock groans in his chair. They should be glad that he's back. He tosses his phone up in the air, annoyed, but then a memory whirs to life in his busy mind. It is linked to another death.

When he had first met Mrs. Hudson, he had been examining her pictures when he had been in her house.

"You have no older pictures of this boy. This boy should be in his thirties b now. This is the oldest one you have," He pointed at a twenty-year old boy smiling with his arms around a younger Mrs. Hudson. "Died at a young age? Doesn't seem the type to stop talking to his mum.”

Mrs. Hudson voice quavered. "He always called me in the morning and at night."

Sherlock nodded his head. "He had not called you one morning?"

"He had called me that morning. T-That night he did not. " She swallowed and spoke more bravely. "He got into a car accident coming back from meeting a friend. He wasn't pissed, mind you, but accidents, they happen."

Sherlock had ignored the pointless information except for the main fact. "I was right then. You have no son anymore,"

"Mr. Holmes-"

"Sherlock,"

"Sherlock. Mind your tongue." She pointed an angry waggling finger at him. "I will always have a son. He won't come walking through the door again or the phone won't ring again with his voice, but I'll still have him." She handed him a tin of biscuits. "Have one.”

"I'm not-"

  She shoved it at him. "Have one. I insist."

 Sherlock had reluctantly shoved one in his mouth. They were quite good. He knew not to mess with this woman.

The phone clatters to the floor. He doesn't remember why he saved that memory. It was his first meeting with Martha Hudson. She had been strong and determined, but also there was tenderness and a kindness to her.

He sighs and picks up his phone and begins tossing it again. 

She'll come up when she's ready, he tells himself. Mrs. Hudson is allowed that. 

 x-x-x


Sherlock is pacing back and forth when there’s a knock on the door. He jumps to the closed door, but waits for the voice behind to speak. He has been pacing all night.

“It’s me, Sherlock.” It's not Mrs. Hudson. It is the voice he had been expecting to hear after his phone call. He swiftly opens the door. 

Molly Hooper walks in and hands him a bag with milk and sandwich she picked up from Speedy’s. He looks at it and eventually reluctantly takes it from her as she shrugs off her coat and leaves it on the couch.

"Mrs. Hudson let me in. She did say you were very naughty for sneaking into her house. She says not today, but soon she'll come up. I think she was crying. Happy tears, mind you."

“John always bought the milk.” He says dejectedly, completing ignoring the information given to him. He is still concerned about John's departure.

“I know. Tea?”

“Please.”

She busily opens the cabinets as Sherlock puts away the milk and leaves the sandwich on the table like he’s not sure where it belongs, like it’s a foreign creature.

“Molly,”

“Yes?” She twists her head around to look at him.

“Not that mug. That’s-”

“Johns.” She nods, understanding and puts it back in the cabinet. She takes a plain one for her and a striped one for him. She goes to open the fridge for the milk he had just put away.

“Sherlock, the fridge is full of food.”

Sherlock turns. “Is it?”

Molly chuckles as she takes the milk out. “Oh Sherlock. I don’t know how you did it for three years.”

“I am a grown adult. I can feed myself. I have done it before.”

Molly cradles the milk and stares at him. “I’m very happy you’re back in one piece.”

Sherlock looks away from her gaze and leans against the wall of the kitchen. “John came to see you.”

She nods as she moves toward the kettle. 

"He came to see me yesterday after leaving you I assume. I opened my lab to find him, panting. I think he ran from Baker Street to Barts. I didn't think that was possible. He had to speak to me urgently, he said.”

“Go on.”

“He just asked if you were real because he was tired of believing in things that weren’t there. Reality verse make believe. I told him yes. Then all he said was that he was sorry for me that I had to lie. He said that must have been a lot for me and,”

“And?”

“Then he just left.” The kettle whistles. “Tea’s ready.”

                                                                                                 x-x-x


Molly cups her tea in her hands while she curls in John’s chair and Sherlock sits in his own, legs long with his feet crossed at the bottom, hands in his thoughtful steepled position. The tea sits next to him, not being touched. Both are quiet and then he speaks.

“Do you think he’ll come back?” Sherlock wants it to go back to the way it was. There is no more Moriarty or the webs he had woven to trap he or his friends in.  He and John can just go back to solving cases.

Molly looks at him thoughtfully. “I wish he could see you now.”

“Why?”

“Oh Sherlock because it- this is what people do when they know they’ve hurt someone-”

“I didn’t hurt him. I was protecting him. He would be dead. As would Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson.”

“I know, but Sherlock,” He glares at her. “You left him alone for three years.”

“He’s still alive.” 

Molly picks up her tea and curls back in her seat. She swirls her tea. Sherlock doesn’t know why she does it. It does nothing to the tea as she doesn’t put milk or sugar in hers. She speaks, still swirling the spoon. “It can’t be an overnight miracle like you want it to be. I think when you died, a large part of him thought he was at fault that he couldn’t save you.”

“That’s ridiculous.” Sherlock brushes aside that silly notion.

“He’s a doctor. And now seeing you back, alive, it’s another blow. You abandoned him. You had adventures and you left him here as though he wasn’t good enough for you.”

Sherlock looks affronted.

“I did anything and everything for him! Doesn’t he see that?” He jumps up waving his arms in a fit. Molly puts her tea down and tries to cajole him back into his seat.

“He does, I know he does,” She easies him back into his seat, ”But it doesn’t make up for the pain of being abandoned. I know that feeling and it’s not fun especially when you can’t get an answer for why? You start to hate yourself, trying to figure out what you did to make the other person leave you.”

Sherlock jumps up again, refusing Molly’s calming hands. “I need to speak with him.” He insists. “Where do you think he is? He only moved out recently, with that Mary woman he was with. I could smell her perfume on him.” He turns his nose up at this fact.

“Please Sherlock, you can’t leave." She calls as he starts to make a dash for his coat. "Your brother said not for another week. John has had enough of the press.”

He stops midway putting his scarf on. “The papers have been largely empty. That much has been obvious.”

“That doesn’t stop people from pestering.”

“John can handle them.” He’s almost out the door, but Molly has dashed to the entranceway. Hair is flying free in front of her face and Molly is trying to look vey stern in protecting the front door. Her teacup lays spilled on the floor in her run to meet him at the door.

“No Sherlock. No. It’s not the kind thing to do.”

“Kindness?” He scoffs. “Who said anything about being kind?”

“Sherlock, no. John and Lestrade, they have been working through your old cases.”

“Why? That’s silly of them.” He tries to get past Molly, but she won’t budge.

“They were trying to clear your name.”

Sherlock ponders this thought for a minute. He remembered what he told John on the roof at Barts. I’m a fake…

He unwinds the scarf from his neck and shrugs off his coat. He heads back to his chair. “Tell John I would like to see him. Tell him what I’ve told you.”

Molly’s eyebrows rose. “What would you precisely like me to tell him?”

"The day you cleaned me up three years ago.”

Molly’s eye flashed back to Sherlock sitting in the morgue with Molly and her gauze cleaning up a cut above his eye when he landed in the garbage truck.

“Post traumatic Stress Disorder develops in 11 to 20% of soldiers returning form war.”

  Molly let him ramble as she cleaned him up.

“John loved war and I ended it for him. He hates the aftermath of it. The cleanup of it all.”

She continued to clean him up. The shock of carrying out his plan is now just hitting him, she realized.

“Sherlock?”

Sherlock’s eyes locked onto hers. “He looked sad. No one has ever looked sad at me like I would be missed. I have only been met with people and their looks of disappointment.  He looked terrified but he also looked sad.

Molly didn’t say anything. She cleaned him up while Sherlock closed his eyes and tried to compose himself, knowing the task ahead of him.

 Molly reaches for her coat that she too had tossed on the couch from entering earlier.

 “I’ll tell him. I don’t know if he’ll come, but I’ll tell him.”

 Sherlock nods his thanks as Molly’s out the door. Once she’s out he looks for his violin, picks up it up and begins to play. The milk sits on the counter, forgotten.

Chapter Text

"Does it look infected to you?" Mrs. Doyle asks showing a deep cut on her arm. John examines it and shakes his head. The cut isn't fresh or red or developing any odd colours or smells.

"No. It looks like it is healing perfectly."

"Are you sure?" She points at it again.

John nods. "Yes. Just go home. If you are still concerned, come see me in a week."

She nods and totters off through the door. John slumps in the chair behind his desk and sighs.

The haunting blue grey eyes.

The violin's melodious song.

His hand shaking with the gun.

Sherlock can't be back. He just can't be.

John holds his head in his hands and just tries to breathe. It doesn't last long. He hears a knock on the door.

"Come in." He says, gathering himself together.

Sarah pokes her head in. She's covering the last patients straggling in. Their secretary had to run home. Something about her children exploding a blender.

"All right?"

"Yes."

“Good because I've got someone to see you.”

"No more little old ladies." John jokingly begs. "Please."

She laughs and shakes her head. "It's not. It's not even someone who is sick."

John’s head jerks up. “Not Sherlock?” He lets out bitterly, forgetting that no one knows that he’s alive. Mycroft hasn't been answering his calls, but he's sure Mycroft was in on it as well. Bloody Holmes brothers.

Sarah gives him a patronizing stare. She's noticed his sudden change in attitude. “John. I told you whenever you want to talk.”

“No. I’m all right." John forces a smile. "Who has come to see me?”

“A woman.” She says consulting the name she scribbled on a post-it. “Molly Hooper.”

“Oh, yeah?" John brightens and tells Sarah. "Yeah, she’s an old friend. Tell her to come in.”

A couple seconds later, Molly comes in looking like old Molly, a little shy with her hair tucked behind her ears. Sarah nods at John and closes the door. John gestures at to one of the chairs in front of his desk, but Molly stands.

“Molly, you can sit. I’ve told you the other day. I’m not angry with you. I completely understand why you lied, how he persuaded you.” John comes forward and sits in one of the chairs he pointed to.

Molly follows suit and sits in the empty one. She twists her hands in her laps.

“John, he didn’t persuade me. He needed help.”

John barks a laugh, "Sherlock never needs help. He's bloody Sherlock Holmes."

"He needed it this time." Molly frowns as she watches him. “He wants you to know-”

"Molly," He holds his hand up to stop her. "Please Molly, stop. Sherlock, he knows how to twist words to get what he wants."

"John…"

"No Molly. I can't hear it anymore. All the things he does are only to his advantage. That's who he is." He rubs his head in tired frustration. He gestures at a stack of paperwork on his desk. "I'm sorry Molly. I really have to get it done."

"Oh." Molly says. She gets up quickly as does John. He moves to give her a hug. "I didn't mean any of my anger toward you."

"I know." Her eyes are shining. "It's just-ah-he hurts too."

 "W-what?" John’s eyes flicker as he watches her. "Sherlock, he-"

 He lets go out of the hug and collapses back into the chair, confused by her statement. Sherlock was always an enigma, but especially with feelings and emotion. John still never quite understood how Sherlock truly felt after the death of Irene Adler. Was he sad about her death or was he more annoyed that he never got to complete the game between the two of them? Sherlock always put how he felt into little boxes to concentrate on the task better, but usually he forgot to unpack them later. Eventually they would get covered in dust.

"When I cleaned him up," Molly still stands a little taller this time. "He was so distraught by your sadness in your eyes."

"Me?" 

Molly laughs. "Oh John, you both don't understand how important you are too one another.

“I -" John fumbles for what is trying to stay.

“John," She kneels to where he sits and looks him in the eyes. "He did it to protect you.”

“Protect me?”

Molly hesitates in her answer. “I-I can‘t tell you why because it’s not my place. Please John, please talk to him. He wants to explain badly.

"I-"

"Mycroft can't keep Sherlock cooped up there much longer. He isn't Rapunzel."

John arches an eyebrow. "I don't think Sherlock would get that reference."

"But you do. You know what I mean." Molly gets up and brushes off her knees. "He going to get out and when he gets out, you'll lose your chance. The press will find him and interrogate him. Everyone will come. Those fans, the cynics and those obnoxious reporters. They will come to you and ask you how you feel."

John snorts. "I'll just say Sherlock is a berk."

"John.” Molly glares at him. “Yes, he can be like that. I won't say he isn't, but think about it, why hasn't Sherlock stormed out looking for a case yet? Why is he sitting in his chair like a child put out?"

"Because that's who he is.” John says, but he knows it is only partially true. Sherlock would have announced his return by now so he could get cases again. He would be itching to solve the Winters murder that was three months old if he hadn't already solved it when he was away. The internet is available everywhere.  Sherlock loved to keep busy and the best way to keep busy was with cases. And then John gasps. He knows what's changed.   "He's waiting for his blogger."

Molly smiles. "He's not just waiting for his blogger. He's waiting for his friend. His best friend."

"I can't go tonight." John murmurs. It wasn’t a lie. 

"W-why not?" Molly frowns. "You just seemed so eager!"

"I have dinner with Mary. Paperwork."

"Mary would understand. Paperwork can wait." Molly is bouncing on her heels. He knows she just wants him to say yes to ease the past three years of her tailing after Sherlock, but John can't say yes that easily. He too is a stubborn man.

He shakes his head. "No. He can't think I can drop everything. Soon though, all right? In the next day?"

She nods in defeat. "All right." She hangs around the door "You promise?"

"To ease your worries more than his." John says walking to the door to let her out. He gives her another hug." Molly, I will speak to him and Molly,"

"Yes?"

"Thank you." He hopes she understands what he means by just these two words.

"I-" She can’t seem to finish so instead she just nods. He knows she understands. For him, there will never be enough thank you’s to properly thank her for all that she has done and continues to do.

x-x-x

 

"You first." 

John sits twiddling his fork, unaware of his guest and their statement. He's thinking about Molly and what she said.

“You don't realize how important you are too each other.”

"John!"

"Ah-what?" He looks up at Mary who nudges the hot plate toward him. Their appetizer had arrived and he hadn't even noticed.

Mary sighs. "John, you need to sort it out."

"What?"

She leans in and clasps his hand. "I can see it's tearing you apart."

"Mare, I made a life without him and then he waltzes back in thinking it can go back to the way it was. No." John shakes his head definitively.

Mary laughs. "Fat chance I'll let you go back to bachelorhood, but I also know something about leaving things behind. Sometimes you have to go back and look just to make sure you are absolutely sure you can live without it."

"I think I can. I did it for three years."

"No you haven't."

This is something that he loves about Mary. She is never dishonest.

"I've seen it. I saw it when you spoke to Mike or Mycroft and Anthea, but especially with Lestrade or Molly or Mrs. Hudson, people that knew him with you. People that silently or not so silently grieved for the loss of their friend. You moved on you say, but John you didn't see how you looked when you saw him."

"And how did I look?" Johns leans his chin on his and her hands, listening to her.

"Haunted at first, but when you came home, you looked like someone whose wish had been granted. Like someone who had found happiness that they didn't know they still could find."

"That's not true." He squeezes her hand back. "I have happiness with you."

"Thank you for that, but John, don't deny yourself that feeling of happiness.  Those three years have made you to be a better and stronger man, but maybe not wiser."

"Hey!"

"Listen," She rubs his hand affectionately. "I've known you for two of them and it's no secret that you've faced many demons, but love," She squeezes his hands one more time and looks at him with her deep blue caring eyes. "Give Sherlock a chance."

x-x-x

 

John tosses and turns in his sleep. Mary sleeps soundly next to him.

"Even with all your tricks, you don’t understand one thing. It’s how death grates on the living."

John leans against his pillow and stares up at the ceiling. Sherlock didn't understand what it was like those three years. When ‘his death’ had happened, John had not been prepared to start all over again, but he had had to. He worked back to a job, to looking healthy, to a relationship… to a life. Even when he saw past echoes of the detective, he learned to appreciate it and move on.  John had told himself as well as Ella that that was what you were supposed to do when someone died.  He was proud of himself that he could see how far he had come. However…

"I can’t let you destroy it in a second because in the end, we both know I could and would.”

The truth is, as he tosses in his bed and looks at the alarm clock, he knows he could throw it all away and that’s what scares him because he did miss how the world looked when you were friends with Sherlock.  Could he just forgive Sherlock like that?

No. He knows that would be the hardest part.  He tosses again in his bed.  Could he really keep living knowing that Sherlock still roamed the streets, terrorizing the Scotland Yard with that stupid turned up collar of his?

"Sometimes you have to go back and look just to make sure you are absolutely sure you can live without it."

Maybe forgiveness could be possible when weighed against everything else that he could lose. John sighs and tries to close his eyes to catch some sleep.  Tomorrow, it's time to walk back into the firing line and see if he’s willing to get shot or if he will run for cover.

x-x-x

 

He puts his key into the familiar 221B slot and pushes the door open. He hears the telly in Mrs. Hudson's flat. He pokes his head in to see her flicking through the paper as the news played. He coughs.

"Oh John. " She says softly. "I can't believe. I-I saw him yesterday. A little thin for my liking, but," She holds onto John's hand. "He's alive. He wonderfully alive. Isn't that something?"

John smiles. "Yes. Yes it is absolutely something."

She lets go. "Don't be too hard on him."

John tilts his head in confusement. "That seems to be what everyone keeps on telling me. Why would I be hard on him?"

"Because he did a thing that wasn't very kind. Give him a chance to explain."

"You know why?"

She nods and John sighs with frustration. It had to be one hell of an explanation that no one had even tried to explain to him.

He excuses himself and goes up the steps, curses to himself for being back here and then finally pushes the door open.

Sherlock is sitting in his chair, thinking.

It’s like time hadn’t gone by and John had just returned from work to find Sherlock thinking about the latest case, except that’s not true because no one in the world is aware of the marvel that is Sherlock Holmes still existing in the world, let alone in this flat.

Mary is right… he did miss this. He missed feeling alive, this buzz. His mind drinking in the image of Sherlock Holmes breathing made his heart beat wonderfully. The chase could go on. Albeit a little different, but there is now a chance to run in the streets with a madman again. There never used to be.

“Well I only came back because you owe me an explanation. Molly and Mrs. Hudson even Mary say I owe you a chance."

"You don't think you owe me one?"

John shrugs. "I haven't really made up my mind."

Sherlock’s eyes open and then he looks at him, deducing him.  There in that moment, John knows he can't live without Sherlock, no matter the answer, he knows he can't live without him. 

“Moriarty wanted you dead.” Sherlock finally says.

John walks forward and collapses in his chair that forms to his body. It's like he has never left.  “Yeah? He’s wanted that before and you still let me help.”

“He had a sniper on you and Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade. People that I cared about.”

John lets this sink in. He thinks back to the pool with the red laser sights on his heart and on Sherlock's brain.

“You’ve shown your hand there, Doctor Watson.”

“Still, I could have defended myself.”

“John,” and there is this pleading in his voice that John has never heard. “I didn’t know where the sniper was. So many obstacles and with just one little call and he could have snuffed you all out like a candle. I hated him for that. He killed himself on the roof, that idiot.” Sherlock sounds a little annoyed if anything now. There would be time to ask him about this later. Sherlock continues.

“The only solution was to become dead because then, then they would leave you alone...”

“Well yeah, good on you. That's what happened. ”

“John, stop it!" John looks at him. He can feel a Sherlock tantrum coming. He’s out of practice from them, but he still knows them well.  Sherlock gets up from his chair and waves his arms madly. John notices a scar on the back of his neck. This wasn't the time to ask. "Stop harboring this hate for me! Scream at me! Hit me! Stop trying to keep it all in."

“I won’t do any of those things.” He says calmly from his chair.

 “So why won’t you do them, John?”

“Because you were gone for three years and I still don’t why? Fake being dead for a month, sure.  It was just a couple of snipers after all. Shouldn’t be a problem for you?"

Sherlock sighs like he used too when John couldn’t see the solution that was right under his nose. He crawls backs into his chair and curls to face him.  “Because - because I took down Moriarity’s entire network so no one, no one could ever hurt the people I care about again. Well,” He pauses.  “I can’t say that for the rest of the world of criminals."

“Well that’s great.” John shakes his head, half relieved and half annoyed. “Except, let’s hear my side of the story. My story doesn’t have gun chases or international mobsters, but mine is just important for you to hear as well. Just to be clear. You have to know what I went through.”

Sherlock’s lip twitches and John feels alive seeing something he never imagined to see again. Sherlock nods and John continues.

“I was so distraught the first year.  I was quiet, lost a bit weight. It made me look unhealthy and quite frankly, I just didn’t care. I sat in this chair, wasting away; just staring out the window, hoping you’d come back.  Then I grew angry and miserable at people who were jerks that continued to destroy you. Then I drank a bit.  I almost broke Anderson’s wrist,” He saw a flicker of a smile on his friend’s face. “And that wasn’t me. I didn’t want to win a war with curses and punches. I didn’t want to become new tabloid fodder. It just made me tired.  I then decided that I knew the truth that I wanted: Sherlock Holmes was never a fraud. I have been working quietly with Lestrade to prove you were never a fake. Quietly, because Lestrade and I aren’t supposed to be focusing on a dead detective when there are real illnesses and murder afoot. Actually we were sill working because let's be honest, most of the world still thinks you're a fake.”

He rubs his chin thinking. He can see Sherlock sitting in his chair, hands steepled under his chin again.

“Good thing you're back, should make things easier or not," He pauses thinking about one person's reactions, "Because if I don't kill you, I'm sure Lestrade is going to." John laughs and finishes his thought.  "See, I made peace with people who’ve helped me or hurt me and I moved on.”

Sherlock smirks. “John Watson’s War. My brother called it.”

“Yeah he would say something like that.” John rolls his eyes and Sherlock snorts.

"Stupid isn't it?"  Sherlock says. "He does love a good cliché." He nods to his violin case. "Thank you for taking care of it."

John scratches his neck and shrugs. "How could I not?" The violin was Sherlock. Mycroft had been right two years ago. If anything was Sherlock it was his violin. That night when he had given it to Mycroft, it had killed him. Mary would never admit it, but once in a while John had been known to listen to classical music to fall back to sleep to when he had  awoken from nightmares of bodies falling.

"You said you were angry. If you truly were, you would have let it be donated to some ghastly child who would have destroyed it. Or let someone use it as kindling." Sherlock muses to himself in horror while John just watches him.

"Come here." John sighs as he gets up from his chair.

"What?" Sherlock tilts his head, brought out of his discussion with himself.

"Come here you giant idiot."  Sherlock gets up and faces John, towering over him. John laughs again. "I've missed this height difference." He embraces Sherlock suddenly, which catches Sherlock off guard who tenses. "I thought you didn't forgive me."

"Shut up."

Sherlock hums a little approval. "My brother always kept me updated."

"Yes I'm aware of that. He an Anthea never did let up on it."

"Because if they did, you would have done something stupid. It would have all been for nothing if you did something stupid."

"Like killing myself?"

Sherlock tenses again, but says, "Yes. Yes that would have been extremely stupid."

"When one is angry or sad, we humans tend to do extremely stupid things." John lets go, “Just tell me. How did you do it?  How did you survive the fall?”

Sherlock’s eyes twinkle. John knows he's been dying to tell someone and not just anyone. “You really want to know?"

“I'll damned if the press finds out before your best friend does." John heads away from Sherlock and he can feel the detective following him like a puppy, "I'm not leaving," John calls, "but I'm gonna need something to drink. Tea?”

He turns around to see Sherlock smiling. “But of course. There's milk in the fridge.”

The streets of London hum below as John Watson busies himself by making tea and Sherlock Holmes takes the violin out and plays.