Chapter 1: Sherlock: The DNA Trail
“...so you can clearly see, it’s so obvious! They can change their face, their name, their address - but never their DNA!” Sherlock was exclaiming, as he had a piece of hair trapped in his tweezers, held carefully in his latex-glove-covered hands.
“I’ve finally cracked the code, John-” Sherlock’s voice stumbled over the name, fading from it’s excitement in the space of one syllable the way one falls off a cliff; getting smaller and smaller until rendered invisible by the distance.
He was getting better, but Sherlock still caught himself speaking to John every so often. It had been a year. He should remember that John wasn’t there. It hadn’t taken him very long to get used to John’s presence, why was it taking him so long to get used to his absence? Sherlock shook his head, waking him from his reverie. He would ponder John’s presence/absence later. Perhaps he would conduct an experiment on rodents for how easily they got used to the presence versus absence of a companion. Or a tree with the presence versus absence of a supporting pole. But he was getting sidetracked. Sherlock needed absolute focus to track down Moriarty’s cohorts.
Sherlock’s phone buzzed, just as he had put the hair samples in a test tube. He straightened, and was promptly reminded he hadn’t slept in three days by a wave of exhaustion, then sank heavily into the chair. He picked up the phone. It was John. Almost as though he’d known Sherlock was thinking of him. Almost as if there weren’t several countries and time changes between them. John had texted him constantly from one week after the fall. Sometimes John told him he was sad or angry. Mostly he just sent small descriptions of a moment in his day. A case John was working on. Sherlock almost felt proud of him, for how much his observation had improved.
“Saw Lestrade today. New case. You would have gotten it in two seconds. Still working on it - JW”
Sherlock scrolled through the messages lazily.
“I know there’s a connection. You’d know it right away. I just can’t put my finger on it. - JW”
“I made tea. Put out two cups before I remembered you weren’t there. - JW”
“Made you tea again. It’s still here, if you want it. - JW”
The amount of times this man felt it relevant to text the deceased about tea! The corner of Sherlock’s mouth turned upwards, despite his disapproval of sentiment.
Within minutes he was asleep, the ghost of the smile still on his mouth, his limbs sprawled over the tiny wooden chair. It was the only piece of furniture in the room, other than the table covered in test tubes filled with DNA samples of the people he was tracking. There were maps and bits of paper covering the walls and the floor. John would have been livid.
Chapter 2: John: Knowing v Believing
John couldn’t seem to help texting Sherlock. He knew he was dead - he’d attended his funeral, listened to the speeches, cried a bit, and cried a lot when he got home (John wasn’t a crier, but what the hell it was a funeral and he’d seen the man die. He was entitled to some tears). But John couldn’t help feeling as though his flatmate was just out of the country on some case, around the corner, getting his violin fixed at some special place in Switzerland. Mycroft hadn’t cancelled his brother’s phone number, so John always felt as though he got it. It made John shudder to think that perhaps Mycroft was reading them. He tried not to think of that. Mostly he just thought of Sherlock looking at them briefly before rushing off to track down some murderer.
Somehow a majority of his texts were about tea. John always made the mistake of making more tea than he could drink, and setting out two cups, as he always did for Sherlock. Sherlock had never really been one to sit and drink tea, so John wasn’t always surprised to find it sitting there later in the day.
“I made tea - JW”
“Guess you didn’t want any - JW”
“Not going to work today, stupid flu - JW”
John never really told the truth in his texts - he didn’t want Sherlock to worry.
See, he knew Sherlock was dead. But knowing is so far off from believing, and he just couldn’t believe it. Some days he was too sad to go to work. As time went on he went more often. Sometimes Lestrade would ask him for help on cases. He tried, he really tried, but he couldn’t help thinking every so often “I’ll just tell Sherlock and he’ll know what to do.” John texted, but he never got a reply.
Chapter 3: Sherlock: Two Years, Eight Months
It took Sherlock longer than he’d expected to track down and eliminate Moriarty’s web of criminals. The DNA trail had gone cold for a month and Sherlock had almost torn himself apart trying to find it. He visited barber shops and dove into dumpsters and broke into doctors’ offices, and eventually it picked up again. There were more people, too, than he’d anticipated. But they had to be stopped. They had to be put down. They had to be destroyed. John might’ve protested. But, perhaps not, as Sherlock knew he’d never had any sort of regret for shooting the cabbie. This was more of the same, just more difficult than finding and shooting one man. Years more of difficult. Although, Sherlock had to admit, he was rarely bored.
The only times he regretted his state was when he saw John’s texts. They caused an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach, although perhaps that had something to do with his tendency to not eat for a few days while on a lead. He sometimes wished John was with him. As hard as it was for Sherlock to admit, he wasn’t as good a shot as John, and he’d let some of them get away more times than he’d like to admit because of his inaccurate shooting. It required months more of frustrating tracking to sort out, and it was a mistake that could have been avoided by the presence of his flatmate.
But other times he wished John was there for other reasons. Sherlock had passed out at inopportune moments from hunger and fatigue - John would have made him eat and sleep. They could have shared watches; Sherlock would have rested easier knowing a trained soldier would kill an attacker in the night. And having someone respond to his deductions was always helpful. John usually had some little comment or other that would spark an idea. Also, Sherlock had to admit, a “fantastic” would have made each discovery and victory a bit better.
He had kept his old phone, though he’d planned on canceling it so it wouldn’t be traced. Once John started texting him, he couldn’t bring himself to. He told himself it was to keep an eye on John, know if he was safe, know if any of Moriarty’s people were targeting him. At first he had been in London, and had been able to keep track of John himself. But now he was in Italy, and soon he’d be in China - Moriarty’s web extended farther than he would have imagined.
It took two years and eight months to track them all down. Sherlock still hadn’t stopped talking to John. John hadn’t stopped texting him. He hadn’t slept for a week when he was absolutely certain all of Moriarty’s people were jailed or dead. On a whim he texted John
“Put the kettle on - SH.”
So many of John’s texts were about tea, it seemed fitting.
Chapter 4: John: The Start of a Long, Irrational Fear of Kettles
John stared at his phone. Like always when it buzzed, his heart leapt a little. It was less, after so long, but still - that tiny twinge of hope that wouldn’t die. ‘He’s alive!’ his subconscious whispered. But quieter, quieter. He took a breath. ‘Just Harry. It’s just Harry, asking how I am. Again.’ he prepared himself for disappointment in the usual way. His therapist had told him to toss the phone. “Get a new number so you won’t expect it.” He told her he had. He wasn’t a good patient.
He had taken up Sherlock’s’ old hobby of shooting the wall. Though he preferred to punch it (he disliked wasting bullets), sometimes he just wanted to visualize the bullet going straight through Moriarty’s laughing mouth, exploding the liar into tiny pieces. Only when Mrs. Hudson was out, though. He didn’t want her to worry any more than she already did. Despite her assertions she wasn’t a housekeeper she would always pop up to ‘see if he wanted a biscuit’. He knew she was checking up on him. He loathed it, but forced himself to smile and play along. He saw through everyone these days. Their faked grief at Sherlock’s funeral had almost driven him to blows. The false tears dredged up somewhere from remembering a TV show or something. The false condolences. It was hateful.
Most people had forgotten by now; everyone seemed to move on at a ridiculously high rate (they only sparsely mentioned Him, perhaps Lestrade wishing he was on a case so they could go home, or Donovan reading aloud ‘fake genius’ stories to Anderson with laughter), but he saw through everyone just the same. Petty disagreements, guilt, and yesterdays clothes; they seemed outlined in blue, glowing almost. As though He was with him. John understood so much now. The fear of boredom was acute. He couldn’t let himself remember. It was intolerable. He focused intensely on others to rid himself of the thoughts, and the blue outlines - connecting dots, spelling things out - they grew brighter. He was almost useful, but never the original. Never Him.
John picked up his phone. He looked at it once. Blinked harshly, squishing his eyes so he saw stars. He looked again. He threw the phone from him, too hard - it hit the wall and broke. He flinched. It was some sick joke. Donavan had hold of the old number. Some 14 year old terror had found it in a bin and read the old messages and decided to give this pathetic sentimental a heart attack. “Sentiment is a chemical compound found on the loosing side.” John shook himself, as if to free him from his thoughts. He got up to do something, anything, a mindless chore to settle him. He put the kettle on.
Realizing what he had done, John fled from the flat. Desperate to flee from his thoughts, his ghost, his grief; Him.
Chapter 5: Sherlock: The Irrationality of the Human Mind
Sherlock, of course, couldn't be back for tea. There was travel, things to get in order with Molly and Mycroft. There was as much, if not more, paperwork for coming back from the dead as faking it. He had to make his dead-self disappear. Although perhaps it was easier to disappear a thing as to create it. “That would make a lovely experiment! Destruction versus creation: a comparison of general items. Of course, in today's mass market creation was a complicated process, with little to no difficulty on individuals but more individuals involved (i.e. gas, transport, factory workers). Destruction, really, all you had to do was set the thing on fire!” A life was more delicate. More Mycroft’s speed, although even Mycroft admitted Molly’s work on the fake Sherlock cadaver was virtually indistinguishable from the man himself. And he'd thought her stalking him served no purpose.
But he was sidetracked. The sooner he was home John could re-sort his reality and get his post-traumatic thing sorted. Again. The human mind was an odd thing. Not easy to experiment on. (Sherlock quite liked the idea of setting various things on fire, but you couldn’t very well reach inside a mans skull and set a nerve on fire and see what happened). The mind was so...delicate. Untouchable. Irrational, imprecise. It was often dull to Sherlock (as motivations almost always followed the pattern of lust, love, jealousy, greed, power, reputation), but then it would surprise him delightfully. A twist in a case, or a reaction of Johns or Mrs. Hudson.
Even his own mind surprised him sometimes, though he didn't like that as much. He felt out of control when those things happened. Sherlock liked control. ‘Although,’ he pondered, ‘I wouldn’t nearly enjoy solving a case so much if I controlled it to begin with - that’s why Donovan was wrong and I’d never be the one putting bodies for them to figure out. That’s much too dull. There’s no surprise! Just waiting for them to find you and appreciate you. Bor-ing! No wonder Moriarty was no match for me.’ Sherlock smiled smugly, enjoying his victory over the ‘consulting criminal’. He wasn’t him. He was so much more.
It was four more months before Sherlock could get to the flat. Some reporters didn't want to be bribed to destroy their 'death of fake genius' stories. They had to be...persuaded with more effective means. The human mind, to care for reputation over life! Phah! Nonsense. Eventually the paper trail of his death was gone, and he could escape from under his brothers’ nose. All but the blog of a doctor by the name of John Hamish Watson (if one was looking for baby names, Hamish was not to be considered unless the child perfectly despicable, which would not be difficult to tell from birth - for Sherlock).
Sherlock returned to a spotless flat. His things gone from the living room areas. His room cleaned, professionally, by the looks of things. He supposed John hadn’t wanted to face his things. Sentiment and all that. Sherlock rolled his eyes fondly at the man he had found himself talking to constantly over the past few years, despite his absence. Oh, all the lost experiments! ‘That’s what happens when you fake your death, they throw things out!’ Sherlock thought with a frown. ‘Although perhaps they’d been getting smelly. Interesting.’
Everything was minimal, as you would expect from a war veteran. And slightly smelling of disinfectant, as you would expect from someone who cleaned frantically when they couldn't sleep. All his things were piled carefully in his room, coated in dust. All but the violin, just inside the door, cared for perfectly. Sherlock reached out and stroked the strings, almost, he thought ruefully, with sentiment.
Chapter 6: Mae: The Healing Powers of Laughter
Four months earlier, when John had fled, spooked, from the same flat, he ran headlong into a blonde woman by the name of Mary, or Mae as she preferred. Not May like the month, but with the ‘ae’ she so loved. She had many odd little quirks that she could recount with frank honesty and humor whenever someone needed a little cheering up. She analyzed herself to odd places, from her toothbrush colour to her childhood dolls. Deducing turned inwards, and always lighthearted. She had a perpetual glint in her eye of joy and mirth.
"Oy, watch yourself, mister," she chided as this strange man righted himself after barreling into her. "A girl might think you were taking a feel - or her purse." The man didn't laugh, as she expected. Rather he didn't seem to quite hear her. He looked frantic, almost, with wild eyes and a neck turning this way and that.
She coaxed him to sit by her on the bench nearby. He breathed easier as she engaged him, slowly but surely in a wild tale involving shoes, malfunctioning undergarments, and the subconscious parental influence. Soon he was laughing and relaxed. He told her his name was John. She told him the quip about her name, connecting it to a fondness for faerie stories growing up.
They started seeing a lot of each other, Mae and John. She never found out why he had looked so panicked that day. He still looked sad every so often, but she could usually bring him back. It got easier every time. She never asked why, thinking it intrusive and ‘not very relevant anyway, so why bother him?’
He didn't have a mobile, which was odd. He said he found it impersonal and flighty. He could be reached at his home messages, but preferred face-to-face. He preferred letters to emails and would rather look something up in a book than online. She had no complaints. Mae liked to tell stories, so describing exactly why the video on YouTube of the cat attacking a high heel with vigor was so hilarious to her was half the fun. The quirks seemed rather new and born out of fear rather than a desire to be interesting, with a hint of embarrassment whenever one was revealed. She enjoyed this man, so fascinating, so layered, all wrapped up in a preference for jumpers and the name John.
One day she discovered his middle name, Hamish. She teased him mercilessly, but admitted to preferring the name, it seemed more outlandish. She called him Hamish when they were alone. Little by little, it became more frequent.
Chapter 7: Sherlock: Sentiment, For Fuck’s Sake!
Sherlock climbed the stairs to see Johns room. He knew he wasn't there, but...oh for fucks sake! - sentiment. He wanted to know how his friend was. He figured he could deduce more than obsessive cleaning, insomnia, and care for his violin from the bedroom.
Sherlock didn't know what he'd been expecting, but it was not this. The room was as clean and empty as everything but Sherlock’s bedroom. The barest minimum of bedding and one change of clothes in the drawers. Had John become a monk? No, monks lived together...his mind wasn't working right. (This was more alarming for Sherlock than for most people, as you can probably imagine).
Chapter 8: John: Follow the Light
At first, John had been wary of Mae. She was too bright, too cheerful, and he couldn’t adjust. He had been dazzled by Sherlock’s brilliance, than left in the dark for years. He recoiled from her advances, finding it all too much sometimes. But she persisted kindly, letting him go home in the middle of a date, not asking silly questions like ‘are you okay?’ and letting him know he hadn’t ruined things by leaving a voicemail on his home phone about something funny she wanted to share.
John knew he was being difficult. At some level, he felt like he was betraying Sherlock. Not that they’d ever been together - he wasn’t gay. But, as Irene had said, they were a sort of couple. They had been close to the exclusion of everyone else - Sherlock had been the ruin of every one of John’s relationships. So much so he had given up trying to date after even he forgot details, like whether or not his girlfriend had a dog. John hadn’t really minded, because with Sherlock he was never bored. Sherlock was always doing some experiment that needed chiding, or they were off on a case and that consumed them both to the exclusion of everything else. It was a miracle he’d kept his job at Bart’s so long.
Only John didn’t know why he was taking Sherlock’s death so hard. He thought it through, over and over, but he couldn’t pinpoint it. ‘Maybe it was how Sherlock had died, disgraced?’ But that wasn’t it. ‘No, I’ve seen good men die begging for mercy at the invisible hands of an enemy, when days ago they’d taunted courageously, tongue loosened by a pint or two. Men who had given out military secrets while held in captivity, begging for mercy without the courage to withstand torture. Sherlock wasn’t that disgraced,’ John thought. No, that wasn’t it. His death wasn’t even all that violent; John had seen soldiers blown up, limbs torn, nerves exposed, still alive for days with nothing but pain. He knew the exact nerve endings that would be affected, and the rage of pain they experienced. So why couldn’t John move past this death? For crying out loud, he’d known Sherlock less than half the time he’d known some of his friends that he’d seen die.
He'd chalked it up to grief, the nights he hadn't slept, and had cleaned the flat from top to bottom. Then he had been just too damn tired to make it up the stairs to his own room. And if the pillow smelled like Him, well that was just coincidence. His tears were born of exhaustion and grief. Even if they were much, much longer than he'd stopped crying for his friends who died in the war. Actually, he'd rarely cried for them more than once. Perhaps this had been the last straw. An amalgamation of all the grief before this. That must be it. He felt a bit better about the nights he'd spent in His room, wracked with sobs, pleading with God, the Devil, anything that was out there at all - to bring Him back to him.
Perhaps this is the sort of thing his therapist would tell him if she were any good. If he cooperated. She mostly wanted to 'explore' things that happened before...just before. Her soft, insistent voice irritated him beyond belief. Sometimes he left in the middle of a session, sometimes just as it started. Sometimes he didn't show up at all. Sometimes he stayed, but couldn't bring himself to speak, just listened to her soft, kind, insistent questions, knowing they would drive him out of his bed at one am with no hope of sleeping, to clean, punch the wall, make tea - anything but try to answer them.
But every day with Mae was easier. She was kind and attentive where Sherlock had been harsh and careless. She made him laugh with her stories, making him not quite forget, but not remember any more. Soon enough he stopped resisting.
The relationship progressed smoothly. After a month they were kissing and holding hands, progressing much slower than he ever had in other relationships. In two more months they were sharing childhood stories, embarrassing moments, fears about family and friends, even his nightmares about the war. He felt like she knew everything about him. Everything but Sherlock.
She never came over to his flat, even after they began sleeping together. He didn’t want her to see Sherlock’s room. Eventually, she asked him lightly if he had a secret wife (although her tone was lighthearted, John knew this was a real fear from how she wouldn’t meet his eye for long). He laughed, and said his flat was just barren of anything of interest. She asked him lightly if he wanted to live with her.
“You spend most of your time here, anyway, and if you’re telling the truth about your flat, most of your things are already here! They like it here, too - they’ve told me.” She was kind about it, trying hard not to pressure him. He was touched by her carefulness. He said he had to think about it. She was fine with that, nothing fazed her. That’s what he loved about her.
John thought about it. He thought long and hard. He spent a few nights back at the flat to make up his mind. He cleaned Sherlock’s violin. He cleaned the whole flat, top to bottom, as he hadn’t in months. He remembered fleetingly he used to do this every night, before Mae. Mae was the only thing that kept him sane. She made him smile. She made him whole again. She made him make peace with boredom; he could sit with her for hours and just read side by side. He felt real again. He was no longer the exposed nerves Sherlock had left him. His nightmares lessened when he slept in her arms. John had made up his mind.
The next morning, he went down to see Mrs. Hudson. He explained about Mae, and that he might be moving out soon.
“I’m going to ask her to marry me.” Mrs. Hudson gasped and said her congratulations. He knew she was truly happy for him, and he smiled, proud of himself, as Mrs. Hudson fluttered about.
“What about Sherlock’s things, John? Will you sell them?” He grew grim.
“I can’t face them, Mrs. Hudson. But I can’t stand to see them thrown out. I don’t know what to do. I can’t take them with me. I can’t move them.” He lost his excitement, his mouth a thin line as he realized his limitation.
“Oh, well, it’s a problem for another day. Go get your girl - and take out your garbage, I’m not your housekeeper!” she chided fondly.
Chapter 9: Mae: She Loved Him, He Knew
Mae had been certain John wasn’t going to move in with her. She was moving too fast for him, he was still fragile. About what, she wasn’t sure. She knew he’d been to war, but it seemed more than that. He’d told her mostly everything about Afghanistan, anyway. A bad break up, she supposed, in addition to war that would mess somebody up badly. And she was right, if in a roundabout way.
When she saw him next, the last thing she expected to hear was “Would you like to, ah, get married? I mean, not at some unforeseeable time in the future, but - to me?” but that was exactly what he said.
“Oh, of course! Yes! Yes I’ll marry you!” He hadn’t gotten her a ring because he didn’t know what she wanted, so they went out and bought one together. It was simple, a slim gold band with a small diamond prominently set, glinting in its brilliance and beautiful for its delicate size. It suited Mae, as warm and bright and gorgeous as she. He told her so when she picked it out, and she blushed. They took it. John slid it on her finger to the deeper reddening of her face. She flung herself into his arms, hugging him fiercely. She loved him. He knew.
They had to part for the afternoon to tell their respective family members.
John didn’t like the notion of telling Harry, but he supposed it would be cruel to keep it from her. She responded as he’d feared, lecturing him on how Mae would leave him like Clara had left her and everyone was better off alone.
John interrupted her bitter tirade tersely, “You know what, Mae makes me happy. I haven’t been happy in years. So be happy for me, or fake it, because you’ll be invited to the wedding and I expect you to be civil.” Harry had no response, so he left it at that. He loved Mae. She knew. That’s what mattered.
Chapter 10: Sherlock: Empty
Sherlock couldn’t, with all his deductive skill, figure out why the flat was so barren. He had been planning on telling John of his arrival first, but John was nowhere to be found, and Sherlock needed answers. He took the stairs two at a time, then knocked sharply on the door. “Yes, I’ll be with you in a minute! I guess you’ll be here about the flat!” came the response, through the door.
Chapter 11: Mrs. Hudson: Look at the Mess You’ve Made!
Mrs. Hudson opened the door to a ghost. Her eyes widened in fear, she gasped, then fainted. She awoke to a cool washcloth on her head, and the smell of bath salts she kept in her bathroom.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, dear,” she said, eyes still closed. “You only look a lot like an old friend who passed away, poor soul.”
“Oh, I do, do I?” replied Sherlock. Mrs. Hudson gasped, eyes flying open to see the ghost standing over her with the bath salts.
“No, no don’t faint again. I was never dead, just had to fake it so you and John wouldn’t be killed. Stay awake,” Sherlock commanded, gripping her arms and looking her square in the eye.
“I’m - I’m awake, Sherlock,” she stuttered, “but you’ve got to give an old woman some time. These things are hard enough to process in the regular speed.”
Mrs. Hudson sat up. She had been lying on the table, all her tea things strewn across the floor, tea soaking into her carpet and a cup had broken into two.
“Oh, look at the mess you’ve made!” She exclaimed.
“That’s what you want to focus on? The mess? And you claim you’re not a housekeeper,” Sherlock said kindly. He had actually missed the woman. “What I really want to know is,” he continued, “why the flat is so empty of things.”
“Oh, well, John’s moving out” Mrs. Hudson started carefully.
“Out! Why out?” Sherlock said crisply.
“Well, it’s...” she paused to try to find the right words, “...it’s been really hard on him, having you...gone.” Mrs. Hudson continued, only to be interrupted again by Sherlock,
“Yes, yes I know about the insomnia and the cleaning and the making tea for me. It’s written all over the flat.”
“Well, he’s been sort of...antisocial. Until lately,” Mrs. Hudson ventured. “He’s met a girl and they’re to be married,” she said quickly, with the air of ripping off a particularly painful bandage.
“Already?” exclaimed Sherlock.
“You have been gone a while, dear,” Mrs. Hudson said gently. “And I thought he wasn’t with you, he certainly repeated it a lot,” she continued by accident, saying her thoughts aloud, then inwardly cursing her wayward tongue.
“What? Oh, no, I mean don’t people normally date a while before marriage? You said he only met her lately,” Sherlock enunciated, nitpicking.
“Yes, well,” Mrs. Hudson tried again, “I mean lately as a fraction of the time you’ve been gone. He spent the first two years doing nothing but work and cases with Lestrade. Didn’t even go out with his work buddies. Then he met her, and now he’s proposed. He seems much better.”
“Ah, I see,” said Sherlock, revealing nothing. Mrs. Hudson didn’t know what to make of this, but she never quite knew what to make of Sherlock anyhow.
“I suppose it’s good you got back today, no one knew what to do with your things. But we’ve no new offers on the flat, so you can have it back.” Sherlock nodded distractedly. He swept from the room leaving Mrs. Hudson to sink heavily into an armchair, pondering the meaning of it all.
Chapter 12: Sherlock: “I was a soldier! I killed people!” “You were a doctor” “I had bad days!”
John. Getting married. The idea seemed preposterous. Sherlock couldn't imagine him with a wife and kids. Well, maybe boring John, with his jumpers and tea and 3 meals a day. But John who killed people on bad days? John who trailed after him, and, from his texts, seemed to be doing his own deducing work these days? Would John give up the danger for a family? Would he still come with Sherlock, even if inconvenient, when he was required in a case? Sherlock didn't know. Phah! The human mind, so indecipherable!
Sherlock picked up his well-cared for violin, and started playing the song he'd composed after Irene Adler faked her death from memory. Three years and four months and it still fit him. He hadn't thought coming back from the dead would be so complicated.
Chapter 13: John: A Twisted Parallel
Mae knew about John’s job at St. Bart's, and that he helped out the local police force. She assumed it was forensics, because he was a doctor. He didn't correct her. But the day after they were engaged, she was with him when Lestrade called. It was a Saturday, and neither of them had work. John figured she would have to come along sometime, and now was as good as any. She was rather excited, babbling on while they got dressed.
“Oh, don't worry, darling, I won't keep this up when we get there. I'll just watch. Ooh, this is so exciting! No wonder you always perk up when you're needed.” John hadn't known he had. Hm.
"Who's this?" asked Lestrade.
"She's with me," John said, swallowing at the twisted parody of the first time he'd been brought along.
"Yeah but who is she?" Lestrade pestered.
"If you must know, she's my fiancé." The room went quiet. Mae was busy putting on the suit of crinkly plastic, and wasn't really paying attention. She didn't hear the exchange, nor Donovan's whisper to Anderson that carried so;
"Well well well, looks like he wasn't gay for the freak after all. Pay up." John swallowed hard again, clenching and unclenching his fists. It would make a bad impression on Mae if he strangled them, he reminded himself. He turned away from the fiends and asked Lestrade a bit too loudly,
"So what's the case?"
It was pure business from there, analyzing the murder scene and the victim. It turned out to be rather easy, after they cracked the password on her phone. He worked more with the team than Sherlock had, forcing himself to be civil even with Donovan. He figured (he would not say deduced. What he was doing wasn't even close - but the blue outlines made everything much clearer to him than to Lestrade, somehow) she had been lured out on a date, had eaten at a specific Chinese place he knew from the residue on her hands, then cornered, raped, and murdered by a gang of four men who owned a moving van (paint chips on her coat). He didn't look at Mae the whole time, but felt her gaze on him. He put that information on the back-burner, so he could focus. His mind was much more organized now, to do that, then it had been before... That thought was shoved even further down.
When they got it worked out, John had sent them to the docks; a warehouse with a moving van inside, no furniture, and coal dust was their target. He didn't go with. He knew they were there. They weren't all that smart. He had Mae to focus on, now.
"That was really amazing, you know" she said. He smiled and swallowed again as the familiar phrase squeezed his heart and throat painfully.
"Thanks" he hoped to stop the parallel that was putting him so on edge. Mae didn't notice how tense he was, thankfully, and was chattering on in the cab home.
He relaxed a bit, with her voice swirling around him like waves, holding him upright out of the pit of anger and despair that awaited him, holding him up, clutching him to her. He supposed she was his buoy. He chuckled, then kissed her mid-sentence. She was surprised, but pleasantly so, and she kissed him back. Once they broke away she picked up her story, words swirling around him. John smiled, thinking how lucky he was.
Chapter 14: Sherlock: He’s Not Here Anymore
Sherlock didn’t understand why John hadn’t come to the flat. Mrs. Hudson had said he was ‘moving’ out - not that he had ‘moved’ out. Then he recalled John’s staying at his then-almost-girlfriend’s place overnight and realized that, while John mightn’t have moved yet he wasn’t staying at the flat anymore. At least not with any regularity. Sherlock put down his violin. His fingers were sore - he was out of practice.
He was more perturbed by this unexpected turn of events than he wanted to let on, even to himself. But it was seeping in slowly. He had expected John to be the same when he returned. Perhaps with his psychosomatic limp, perhaps with some anger issues. But the same John he had said goodbye to from atop the roof. The John he could predict, the John he could manipulate; the John who thought he was ‘fantastic’ and ‘brilliant.’ Sherlock had the feeling that John wasn’t here anymore.
He didn’t ask why. He was more about the what than the why. Or at least, not his why. He was determined to find out exactly what had occurred in his absence. What had made John so different. He was going to have to go back to his brother.
“Mrs. Hudson?” he called out as he moved swiftly down the familiar staircase, his limbs recalling every time he’d done just this. She opened her door and peeked out, holding a tea-soaked rag.
“Yes, Sherlock, what is it?”
“Don’t tell John I’m here, I have more business to attend to.”
“Oh, alright, dear, but you should really tell him soon - I’m sure he’ll be angry, but that’s no reason-” and he was out the door.
It was business. He hadn’t lied. For four months he had been about the business of returning from the dead - this was just some loose ends he hadn’t considered.
Although he had thought he’d considered everything. He wasn’t enjoying this unpredictability of the human mind - almost as much as he disliked his own mind not being in control. It was odd that he would give John’s mind his own standards, although it was significantly more ordinary than his. Sherlock hailed a taxi, then pulled out his phone.
“Coming by. Urgent. -SH”
As Sherlock looked down at his phone, he opened his messages from John on a whim. He realized they had stopped 4 months ago. Around the time he’d sent the ‘put the kettle on’ message. Actually, as he checked the timestamp on it, there were no messages after that one. That must be a relevant clue. Noted and filed. He scoured the previous messages for signs of anything other than a fondness for tea and a wish that Sherlock were there, alive again, so John could punch him. He was very thorough. Perhaps he lingered too long on them, but it was only because Sherlock wanted his deductions to be without doubt. That was all.
Chapter 15: Mycroft: Family Ties
“So what is the...urgent problem, brother dear?” Mycroft said, mockingly, as Sherlock thrust open the door to his office so hard it bounced, the doorknob causing a chip to fall from the wall where it hit. Sherlock was still staring at his phone intensely, as though the next message he scrolled past would have all the answers. Still not looking up, he addressed his brother
“I need data! Everything you have on John Watson. Preferably within the last four - better make that five - months.”
Sherlock was snippy, still not looking up from his phone. Mycroft got the impression he hadn’t looked up from the phone for some time. An image of the tall man weaving about in a crowd, riveted to the phone caused Mycroft to smile ever so slightly. His smile was more of a smirk, as he was still mocking his brother, although just in his mind this time.
“And why, pray tell, should I do that?” Mycroft leaned back in his chair, still smirking, as his brother paced before him, rather frantically fixated on the small screen in his left hand.
“Family ties?” Sherlock said dryly.
“No,” said Mycroft, taking absolute pleasure in refusing his demanding younger sibling. Sherlock looked up, shocked, and stopped pacing, staring at his brother with wide eyes.
“It’s for a case. I need data! No deductions can be made with the gossip of old women,” Sherlock spat impatiently.
“Oh, no? And here that’s what I thought you based your career on,” Mycroft stated, still smirking faintly. He was entirely amused by his baby brother, who seemed to be quite off his rocker. The seclusion while he was tracking down Moriarty’s web hadn’t seemed to have changed him four months ago when Sherlock had come to him to destroy his death’s paper trail. But perhaps Mycroft had missed something.
Sherlock gave him a withering glare. He finally put the phone away. He sighed with impatience, but seemed resigned that he was going to have to pander to his brother’s interest in order to get his information. Mycroft knew his brother knew there was no point in putting on his false face with him. So Mycroft knew he was going to get the truth. This would be interesting.
“John Watson is a different person. I need to know how. For that I need data. Which you have access to.”
“Can’t you just look at him and read his past like a novel? Or are you loosing your touch, brother?” Mycroft was having a very good day, yes indeed. And earlier this morning he’d thought he was going to have another boring day of online power-plays and bribes. Nothing beat the in-person option, and nothing beat beating his brother.
“I am not loosing my touch, brother!” Sherlock spat tensely, enunciating every word as though it had personally attacked him - which, Mycroft realized, eyes dancing, it probably had.
“So then why can’t you read this man, hm? What makes him so special that he escapes deduction under your...massive intellect?” Sherlock was positively rolling his eyes at his brother. Everything with Sherlock was juvenile. Always the baby, always the attention-seeker.
This display of childishness was about John Watson. The blogger. The flatmate Sherlock didn’t need, if he’d only make peace with Mummy and accept his inheritance instead of fighting their family every step of the way - and then crawling back to them when he wanted something. Hm. This was the man who, along with Sherlock’s landlady and (for lack of a better word) boss, Sherlock faked his death for. It seemed an awful lot of effort on Sherlock’s part, for only a few lives. Very out of character. Although Mycroft recalled conspiring with Dr. Watson to watch over his willful, impulsive baby brother. To keep him safe from himself. John wasn’t just anyone, although for Sherlock to realize that... Perhaps his brother really was loosing his touch, or, heaven forbid, being...sentimental? Oh, my, was this interesting. And Sherlock did seem so...worked up.
Sherlock hadn’t answered Mycroft’s last question, other than to roll his eyes. Mycroft employed another tactic.
“So, if it’s data you want, what data do you have? You said he’s ‘a different person’ - so what does that entail? I’m sensing you don’t want his credit scores.”
Chapter 16: Sherlock: Sherlock Holmes Doesn’t Miss Things
Sherlock opened his mouth, then snapped it shut. He could do this case alone. Of course, Mycroft’s help would have made things easier, but since when was that ever the point of a case? He spun on his heel, turned out of his brothers’ office and slammed the door so hard it rattled. He stalked out the door and hailed a taxi. He didn't know what his brother was implying. Mycroft’s head games always tended on the side of the ridiculous, though. Once Sherlock recalled his brother convincing the entire fifth grade class that a shy boy was in fact a robot. Of course Sherlock had known different, even though he was only in first grade at the time, but the argument was rather convincing. Always the child, Mycroft.
So, on the problem of Johns change. He would need an insider to relay information. He would not interact with the subject to circumvent his feelings of anger and betrayal. (Sherlock noted briefly, as if writing footnotes on a paper someone else was to read, that by 'him' he meant the subject, not himself. Just to be clear.) John would most certainly be angry with him for faking his death, and while Sherlock had expected this, he hadn't expected the rest, so he felt it wiser to remain impartial to conduct the study, so as not to influence the results. For example, if John were angry with Sherlock, every time he was there it would appear John had become an angry person, when in fact he was only reacting to Sherlock’s presence. However, Sherlock knew he couldn't rely on other people’s observations.
So this would take Molly Hooper, a wireless webcam, and some very, very good acting. He told the taxi where to go, rechecking over his text messages for any hints he might have missed the first, oh, 13 times. (there were none there - Sherlock Holmes doesn't miss things) (shut up).
Chapter 17: Molly: Some Fleeting Fondness
Molly Hooper had found the past few years horribly taxing. She still worked at the morgue, still assisted Gregory Lestrade, still interacted with John Watson. But the lies - oh, the lies were eating her up! She had never been a good actor. She knew her feelings for Sherlock had always been written all over her face, no matter how hard she tried to hide them. So every time she saw Lestrade or John she panicked. Her heart was in her throat and she was extra-aware of her actions. She spilled coffee on an important cadaver, earning her stern looks that made her resemble a fire truck. She rushed off as much as she could, going for coffee, going to the loo, pretending she had a text. She was a nervous wreck.
She knew John would be furious if he knew she had helped his flatmate and best friend fake his death and keep it from him for years. She was so scared at the funeral that she had cried harder than anybody out of nerves. She’d had to excuse herself to go to the loo to calm herself down.
No matter how long it had been, although it had been years, she still intensely feared being found out. The time passing made it worse - if they found out she had lied for so long...She felt faint just thinking about it.
After Jim turned out to be an insane murderer, and Sherlock used her affection to help him fake his death and hide from that same insane murderer, Molly was off dating. Probably forever. She couldn’t even read her old romance novels, the ones she had sobbed to, picturing her and Sherlock in the main characters roles. No, she was growing to be afraid of everything and everyone, apart from the deceased. She had terrible nightmares of being thrown in jail, and of kissing a man who broke off with a maniacal smile, a gun to her temple. It was exhausting, being so scared. But it wasn’t like she could turn it off.
Molly was feeling relatively calm as she puttered about around a cadaver. No police investigation on this one. Just regular work. No one to talk to, no one to lie to, no one posing a possible danger. It was nice. She mentioned this to the dead body before her, as she had started to do. It really wasn’t as weird as you’d think. It was like talking to pets, really. They couldn’t talk back, but she felt some fleeting fondness towards them.
“You are aware he is dead,” came a familiar voice from the doorway that sent shivers down her spine, and caused her to gasp and drop her scalpel. The man responsible for her nightmares and terror was leaning casually against the doorway like he didn’t single-handedly destroy her life. She knew, even after she helped him with this, she didn’t really count to him. She didn’t matter. He only used her as he needed, and then tossed her aside, and to hell with her nerves. But try as she might she really couldn’t hate him. She felt relieved to see him standing there, which she chided herself for. At least she didn’t have to lie around him. She needn’t be terrified of being caught - unless someone else walked in. She tensed again. There was no end to this fear.
“I require your expert assistance, Molly.” Sherlock said, shortly.
‘Of course,’ she thought with resignation.
Chapter 18: Sherlock: Some Fleeting Fondness
He explained the experiment to her in his short, factual way. He was pleased to see her, trusted her help, and thought of her as his ally in this - where Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft would refuse. He knew she could be counted on - mountains of evidence pointed to this conclusion. She had lied for him for three years, after all. Mycroft had, too, but that was Mycroft’s way anyhow, but it didn’t come naturally to Molly. These thoughts passed briefly through Sherlock’s mind as he spoke clearly and quickly, but he deemed them unimportant, and dismissed them from his mind to focus on the task at hand.
Chapter 19: Molly: Nerve-Wracking But Worth It
Molly had her orders. She knew the plan backwards and forwards. She felt calmer, though, knowing the script, knowing Sherlock would be watching. Calmer than she had for three years. She didn’t understand herself, sometimes. But she understood him more than he knew. She’d had to bite back a grin as she realized this was about loosing his friend. It wasn’t an experiment on the human mind’s progression after three years of emotional trauma - it was a friend trying to asses whether he’d be welcomed back or shunned.
She would help him, of course. She always did. She had little else. It was nice to see he was human, too, a reminder of those moments when he hadn’t known his ‘fate’ and had confided in her in his moment of uncertainty and weakness. This was another moment of uncertainty, and here he was. Trusting her. She knew he wasn’t the healthiest interest for her, knew she wasn’t as important to him in the least, but this was something, and she was glad. She was never bored, with him.
She wasn’t to do anything out of the ordinary, so as not to spook John. Just wait for him to need her help, which shouldn’t be too long, and then text Sherlock, who would activate the small camera disguised as a broach, and asses his data as she inquired on the topics rehearsed. She knew she couldn’t say them as Sherlock had, such clinical language would be silly coming from her. She smiled, thinking of this funny man who was so brilliant, but had no idea how to relate to people - thinking of spying on them before talking to them. This would be nerve-wracking, but it would be worth it.
Chapter 20: Sherlock: Of Dissatisfaction and Boredom
To Sherlock’s despair - ‘dissatisfaction’ - okay, sorry! To Sherlock’s “dissatisfaction” it seemed John had begged off cases to focus on Mae and getting a more “stable” position at St. Bart’s. According to Mrs. Hudson (who, despite Sherlock’s assurances that cases aren’t solved on the gossip of old women, was his primary John informant) Mae and John wanted to afford a honeymoon in Hawaii. Lestrade agreed, with the exception of really difficult cases.
So no encounters on the Molly front. Sherlock had used this time to drill her over and over on her script and different incidents (like the broach-camera falling off, John refusing to talk to her, etc) that could get in the way of the success of his experiment.
He pondered his experiment intensely. This didn't fit with the John he knew, who had a new-girl-every-week dating approach. Sherlock had assumed the relationships were carried out more for their relations than how well they could relate, anyhow. Something drastic had happened for John to crave emotional closeness. But what? What? He was certain it wasn’t grief. Although John had expressed a long period of grief over his death, longer than Sherlock had pieced together that John had mourned the friends of his who had died in Afghanistan, John hadn’t shown any inclination for an amorous relationship in any of his text messages. None. No ‘I met a girl today, Sherlock,’ nothing. The data just wasn’t complete.
Sherlock was getting restless. With Mrs. Hudson’s tendency to not know the right information and her flat out refusal to be his fly on the wall (“I am not going to spy on the man, he does get his own privacy! Why don’t you just talk-” Sherlock didn’t hear the rest of her monologue because that’s when he usually left) Sherlock had little to occupy his time.
He sat around the flat for days, always aware he might have to leave out the window at a moments notice - in the case of John and Mae having an argument in which he was kicked out. Sherlock thought this was a possibility. The few times John came to talk to Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock had ample warning as John had called ahead and she had warned him to go. Sherlock had wandered about, deducing things about the people on the street, the people at the park, the people on the tube. It was all so boring! He didn’t have anyone to tell his observations to, and they were all worthless. No one was committing crimes of a large nature that would even interest him in the slightest.
It was mostly relationship secrets - cheating wife, cheating husband, cheating girlfriend, cheating boyfriend, secretly gay, secretly straight (now that one was a head-case and would be in therapy for years), secretly addicted to substances, secretly homeless, secretly a millionaire, secretly bored of their friend/girlfriend/boyfriend’s constant stream of chatter - the tedium went on. Everyone’s secrets were so dull! How could they cope! He could barely cope knowing them, every silly fear after the next. It barely kept his brain from rotting all at once.
Chapter 21: John: Introductions (Are Not For the Deceased)
John noticed Mrs. Hudson had taken down the advertisement about the flat. He frowned, thinking she couldn’t have gotten a tenant that soon, and he was fairly certain she knew his marriage was for real. He made a mental note to go visit her - and to bring Mae along. Mrs. Hudson had become like a grandmother to him, and he wanted to introduce the woman that he was going to spend the rest of his life with to her.
“Mae,” he started, tentatively, “so I was thinking you should meet my landlady. She’s been a bit like a grandmother to me, and she would love to meet you.” John didn’t know why he was worried about this. Nor why he had put it off so long - the first thing Mrs. Hudson said, after fluttering about being congratulatory, was when she was going to get to meet ‘the lucky girl.’
He supposed it was the same reason he’d kept Mae out of his flat - he didn’t want to have to confront Sherlock with her. They were two separate parts of his life that would never meet - it seemed a sick joke to stage a fake introduction. He knew Mae thought he’d been suffering since Afghanistan, and he didn’t have the heart to explain the whole, sordid tale. Especially when he didn’t understand it himself. He had to be content with just thinking about it less - which Mae helped with considerably - since even after all his years of pondering he couldn’t figure out why it affected him so strongly.
But introducing Mae to Mrs. Hudson was not introducing Mae to Sherlock. Sherlock was gone - his ghost was not going to dictate John’s entire life. The man himself might have, but his absence would not.
Mae agreed and he called Mrs. Hudson to let her know they wanted to meet. They made plans to go out to dinner tomorrow at a restaurant Mrs. Hudson liked far away from the flat. John still had no inclination to let Mae near his old flat and the room piled high with Sherlock things, which he really didn’t want to have to explain. Ever.
He was starting a new life with her, and he could just forget the old one ever existed. He no longer even saw his therapist - there was no reason, as Sherlock no longer existed. While Mae was in the bathroom, John gave Mrs. Hudson whispered permission to toss all of Sherlock’s things - and reminded her not to mention him to Mae. Mrs. Hudson started to protest at the lying, but he cut her off with a pointed, louder-than-necessary “Goodbye, Mrs. Hudson, we’re looking forward to seeing you tomorrow” as Mae came out of the bathroom, and he hung up, Mrs. Hudson spluttering at the indignity of it all.
Chapter 22: Sherlock: For Clarity
Sherlock’s life of late wasn’t much more interesting than those he saw, deduced, and judged on the tube. He couldn’t tell Lestrade he was back or John would find out. For a detective inspector, Lestrade couldn’t lie for his life. So no cases. He couldn’t do any other experiments or it would be apparent to John when he visited Mrs. Hudson. Haunting the tube and caffeine patches just weren’t working anymore. There was no other option. He could not go on like this!
Sherlock rose from his hunched thinking position on the couch that felt both intensely familiar from his old days in the flat, and completely foreign from his years away, bringing an unsettling sense of deja vu. He snagged his coat and rushed down the stairs and out the door, while putting it on. He could have hailed a taxi, but chose to walk briskly, coat collar up the way John had said made him look cool. Or made him think he looked cool? He wasn't sure. All this uncertainty! It was intolerable. There really was no other option, he had to do it.
Sherlock turned a corner into a dark alley, clambered up a rickety fire escape, pulled a wad of cash from his pocket, named his 'poison' as they so crassly put it, pocketed his purchase, and clanged back down the fire escape into the chill fall London air. His heart was racing from the exercise, the anticipation, and a hint of guilt. John would be disappointed. If John were still the same John he'd left nearly three years ago. Which he didn't know.
Perhaps this new John would be glad. Perhaps he would indulge himself. Perhaps he would call the cops on him. Perhaps he would just not care one way or the other. Sherlock didn’t know why the last seemed to cause a tension in his stomach. He didn’t know, he didn’t know, he didn’t know! He was completely sick of it.
He slipped up into the flat, threw himself down on the couch, and emptied his pockets. He started at his purchase, suddenly uncertain. Thinking the word, however, drove him to the edge. He had no patience for uncertainty, for not knowing, for all this caring, all this sentiment. They were hateful things, distractions, disadvantages. But without a focus, without a case, he had nothing else to think on. This uncomfortable swirl threatened to consume him.
As a child he had read a book on critical thinking stolen from Mycroft’s room. There were two types of arguments - one that could be proved without doubt, and the other that could not. Appeal to Emotion was a fallacy, a failure to argue effectively. He concluded that emotion was always a failure. It clouded the mind. Memories were made hazy. He knew there were people who existed without emotion - he read about them in Mycroft’s psychology text. Sociopaths. The word entranced him. They seemed a cut above, evolution at it’s finest. What made humans separate from animals was their reason; sociopaths had naught but reason. He researched them, searching the word in the news. The word ‘psychopath’ came up, almost interchangeably. The only difference he noted was that the psychopath was always aligned with insanity, and sociopath with power. He wanted that power.
Over the years Sherlock had convinced himself he had it. He had no emotions. He had no heart. He had no weakness. But as soon as he’d met Moriarty he knew he was different. They might have had the same intellect, but Moriarty had no interest in the lives he destroyed and made with a careless flick of the silk in his tightly woven web. Sherlock was fascinated by him, envious, and a little afraid. He knew he wasn’t quite him. He put on a good face, but when Moriarty said ‘we both know that’s not quite true’ when Sherlock had tried to drive home that he had no heart, Sherlock knew he had failed. He was not, in fact, a sociopath. He was not the epitome of the evolution of the human race. He was ‘ordinary.’
He’d thought he was going to die at the hands of this psychopath - Moriarty earned the title, for he was truly insane. He had proved this by killing himself in order to foil Sherlock. The instinct of self-preservation was said to be the strongest, and for a man of his power to give that up...Sherlock could not understand.
That’s when it had began, this not-knowing. With the appearance of Moriarty. Since then it had only grown. He really had no other option, unless he wanted to follow in the psychopath’s footsteps. But it was silly to kill himself over this. It was just emotion. Nothing important. But it felt important. And this was even more terrifying than being betrayed by his own senses when the drugged fog had made him see the giant hound.
After being instigated by the man without emotion, Sherlock found this uncertainty continued by the man driven by emotion - John. He couldn’t understand John. He couldn’t understand his response to John...
Sherlock shook his head violently, his neck cracking with the tension, as though to toss these ridiculous thoughts from his mind. Really, enough was enough. He grabbed the needle and stuck it in his arm, pushing the liquid clarity into his veins.
Chapter 23: Mrs. Hudson: As a Conductor of Light He was Unbeatable
Mrs. Hudson was tired of lying. She was tired of the head games, and she was tired of the secrets. It felt like living with her late husband again. His death sentence was the best thing that ever happened to her. But this silly convoluted web of hiding things from other people? She had had enough, thank you very much. It was difficult to keep straight what she was and was not aloud to say to whom. John hiding things from his fiancée? Yes, very healthy. Sherlock hiding from John, letting him think he was dead while he was living in his flat? That was even worse! These boys, thinking lies would make things simpler. She shook her head at the preposterous situation.
It was only Sherlock’s consistent fleeing from her whenever she mentioned him talking to John that kept her from telling John anyway, or forcing them in the room together and locking the door. Sherlock seemed terrified - of what, Mrs. Hudson couldn’t imagine. Of course John would be angry, he had every right to be! But John wasn’t unreasonable. He would understand in time. He had always put up with Sherlock’s insanity before, and although this would be the greatest test, Mrs. Hudson had no doubt he would forgive him. But she knew Sherlock saw otherwise. So she lied through her teeth.
“Oh, yes, someone has rented the flat. No, I haven’t seen them, we’ve only communicated by email, but their check worked well enough.” (Not that she’d actually gotten a check from Sherlock - Mycroft had been paying her to stay out of the press since Sherlock’s web-fame. She was insulted, as if she would spread gossip about them! But it paid the bills just the same).
So she headed out to dinner where she would meet John and Mae, her enjoyment of their happiness marred almost completely by her knowledge of all that wasn’t being said. They were running a bit late, so Mrs. Hudson snagged her favorite table by the window and tried to think of nice things. When the happy - ‘happy? ...yes, happy,’ Mrs. Hudson thought to herself, ‘just ...unaware? deceptive?’ she hadn’t the right word - couple walked in, Mae was practically glowing.
“Well she does light up a room, doesn’t she?” Mrs. Hudson whispered conspiratorially to John as she gave him a hug. She felt him laugh gently, as he broke away to look at his fiancée with a faint smile and love in his eyes. ‘Yes, happy. But...there’s a but.’ Mrs. Hudson decided.
“Mae, meet Mrs. Hudson, my landlady and good friend.” John was starting the official introductions.
“It’s nice to meet you” the girl said brightly. Everything about her really seemed to hold light. She literally seemed to have a ‘sunny disposition’. Exactly the opposite of Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson thought, who would almost blind passers by, harshly pelting them with his brilliance, as though he had too much of it and couldn’t see a way to get rid of it other than siphoning it onto others in snide comments and withering looks.
“It’s wonderful to meet you too, my dear, I’ve heard so much about you - you’ve really lit up this ones life. I swear I’ve never seen him smile like this before you came along.” And sure enough, John had this big grin on his face like he couldn’t believe his luck, despite his clear embarrassment at being talked about.
Mrs. Hudson still saw sadness in him, though. Where, she wasn’t quite sure. She thought she might just be projecting her thoughts onto him, but she knew no one could be perfectly happy hiding things from someone they loved as much as he clearly loved Mae. But Mrs. Hudson reminded herself she had no reason to dictate his life - thinking of what she married, she most certainly had no right to dictate his relationship. Disconcerted, she kept her opinions quiet, and let herself be washed away in the light, easy, and engaging chatter Mae seemed to radiate wherever she went.
Chapter 24: John: Remade into Something Unrecognizable
John felt the meeting went better than he had dared hope. Mrs. Hudson was sweet and Mae was charming and he hadn’t put his foot in his mouth at all. Mae hadn’t asked too many questions - questions he had predicted with fear in his heart the night before as he’d laid awake. “So how did you meet? Can you show me his old flat?” and many more scenarios had haunted him, leading to horrible accusations and her storming into the old flat to fling open Sherlock’s room of things - images that left him sweating. He knew Mrs. Hudson had thrown out Sherlock’s things - she told him so.
“You don’t have to worry about the old stuff in the flat, it’s all been taken care of,” she’d said on the phone a few days ago. He felt better not being there. He planned to never go back to the flat, especially now there was a new tenant. He remembered he’d left a change of clothes there, but figured it wasn’t important. They weren’t anything special, and he never needed too many clothes anyway. Perhaps the new tenant had taken them, or more likely thrown them out.
That night John found himself lying awake, thinking about the new tenant. How were they changing the flat? Would they paint the walls? Would they use wall paper or a painting to cover up the smiley-face and bullet holes? He went through the possible changes in his mind. John got choked up thinking of the familiar rooms, full of memories and memories of memories. But the mental act of redressing the flat to something unrecognizable was therapeutic. John felt himself let go of some more of the sadness he had been carrying around with him - each time this happened it surprised him, because he had thought it mostly gone because of Mae, but there was always something left to let go of. Yet with each new letting go came an increased lightness, and John couldn't comprehend how he had ever survived feeling so heavy.
Chapter 25: Sherlock: Confusion Claimed Him
Sherlock didn't know if he was going to survive this. He had not eaten in days, only drank water when he went to the bathroom - which was becoming less and less frequent. Every time the drug had worn off he had taken another dose. Until he was out. It had felt just like old times, but more frantic. He had lost all the tolerance he had once built up, but had boughten the same amount. People died from doing this. "That's what people DO!"
He had felt immensely relieved at first, his mind clearing, as though he had peeled a layer off the world. The layer of confusion and uncertainty had gone, and he could think again! By God, could he think! He had a thousand ideas for experiments, he wrote them all down in a frenzy. He picked up a newspaper and laughed, because he saw through all the biases, he could tell which writers had cheating problems, financial issues, would loose their job; he could tell exactly who had stolen things, why and how the countries would respond, why the stocks had fallen - it was all so clear! He had to get to the morgue and ask Molly to keep an eye out for the body parts he wanted, in the right state for his experiments. And he needed black widow spiders, orange juice, and poison ivy! And more! He sat down to make his list, jumping up as he had a new idea.
But then he began to fade. It had been half an hour. Half an hour of pure clarity, no clouds, no confusion - just - his - mind. But it was going, fast. He could feel the confusion knocking on it’s door, demanding to be let in. It was close, so so close. Too close! He grabbed another needle. Aaahhh! Relief!
AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!! This one hit him differently. He sat bolt upright. What if Molly had told John? What if Mrs. Hudson had? What if they all hated him? What if Moriarty was alive? What if Mycroft was in on it all? What if John was? It was all so clear! How could he have been so God Damn STUPID?! He had trusted them! And they were all working together! Those texts weren’t the grief-addled musings of a man suffering loss - they were a false trail by Moriarty! John would never have written them! Or maybe he did! They were a false trail by Moriarty in cohorts with John!
This went on, alternating between the two extremes. He didn’t sleep, he didn’t eat, just raced around the flat like a madman, making maps of the plot against him, seeing just where Moriarty would be hiding, how Mae was his sister and John was marrying into the family tradition! “Of course John would be on the criminal’s side, think of all the suffering he had had at the hands of the government? How he would want to retaliate? Make everyone else suffer? Make Sherlock suffer?” Then he would race around with a joyful, euphoric energy (that grew more and more frenzied and manic as time went on), writing down ideas for his experiments, conducting experiments on the sofa cushions, on the woodwork, on the microwave, on the sparse contents of the fridge.
Sometimes he thought John was there, Molly, Mrs. Hudson, the mysterious Mae - even Moriarty himself. He shouted and struggled, trying to gain the upper hand with his most fearsome foe. In his euphoria he triumphed, winning. But in his paranoia, try as he might, all his specters defeated him, one by one, leaving him in a worse state of turmoil each time.
Until he ran out. His last needle. All gone. And the confusion claimed him, coiled in John’s bed with the change of clothes spread around him. Dehydrated, starving, sleep-deprived, his thoughts whirling out of control, he faded into fevered dreams that followed the pattern of his hallucinations.
When Sherlock awoke, he noted grimly he was still alive. He didn’t know if it was a good thing or not. He didn’t know, he didn’t know, he didn’t know. He went to the bathroom, drank about a liter of water, then threw his coat on. He scoured the place for more money, then dragged himself out the door. He was haggard, unkempt, and had a pinched look from not eating for almost a week. Food was unimportant. Everything was unimportant. Nothing mattered. Nothing but clarity - he had to know!
He arrived at the same place as before, had the same exchange, as he impatiently waited for his purchase. He had only enough for one more needle, but he thought if everything would just be clear once again he could figure it out. Things would matter. He remembered just days ago, rushing around the flat with ideas for experiments. He wanted to care about them again, to save him from boredom, to save him from uncertainty. Once back at the flat he assumed his position from before, sitting on the couch, hands clasped, staring at the needle. It was the last. The only one. He had to savor it, it had to give him what he needed. It would save him. He took a deep breath and pushed the needle into his arm.
Everything was good. Clear. Beautiful. Clear.
Chapter 26: Molly: Making Decisions
Molly was concerned when she hadn't heard from Sherlock in a few days. She knew the plan backwards and forwards, but there had been no chance to put it into action. No new cases. Nothing. Just the usual dead people. Some suicides and overdoses had made their way into her morgue - the young always made her a bit teary. So she had just been having a cry when she checked her phone and saw nothing. Sherlock had previously been texting her on the hour to see if any new cases had come in so he could prepare, and drilling her on the plan when there wasn't. It had been 6 days since her last text from him 'any cases?' 'no, I'm sorry, nothing new yet,' she had replied. Molly knew that if she disturbed anything in one of his experiments or other she would never be forgiven. So she'd put off checking up on him as long as she could.
She still had some nagging suspicions that something was wrong, though, so she caught a taxi and headed up to “221B Baker Street, please” she asked the driver sweetly.
“Sure thing, hon,” he responded, good-naturedly. Molly had never taken a taxi again after she read John’s blog post about the taxi driver who killed people, but she felt this was an exception. She sat there, tense, until he pulled up in front of the flat.
Molly knocked lightly on the door, to have it opened by Sherlock’s landlady Mrs. Hudson - one of the people he had faked his death to save from Moriarty’s gunmen.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Hudson, I was looking for-” Molly broke off, uncertain now if Mrs. Hudson knew he was back. Then she remembered he had mentioned Mrs. Hudson refused to spy for her, so she whispered, after looking around “-Sherlock.”
“Ah, yes, dear. It’s nice to be around someone else who knows. All the secrets!” Mrs. Hudson shook her head, then continued, “I don’t know if he’s in or not, I’ve been out to see my late husband’s family. It was the anniversary of his death yesterday, you know.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss” Molly said kindly.
“I’m not,” Mrs. Hudson quipped. “Come in, come in, don’t stand out there in the cold! I’ll make you a nice cup of tea, and you can see if you can get Mr. Experiment up there to answer the door.”
“Thank you very much, Mrs. Hudson, but I’m actually in a bit of a hurry.” Molly didn’t say why, she didn’t want to upset the woman if there was nothing wrong.
“Alright, knock away, dear” Mrs. Hudson said, walking back to her room as her kettle piped.
Molly knocked and knocked and had begun to think maybe he wasn’t there, when the door was flung open from the inside to reveal the man himself - a painful looking grin spread on his face, eyes wide to the point of bursting, teeth clenched; he looked like a madman. Or, much more so than normal. He looked like he should be restrained in a straightjacket. And perhaps that would have dimmed the impression, as he was hopping and gesturing and dashing about - Sherlock had darted about the room twice before Molly had even registered the sight before her eyes.
He wasn’t speaking coherently, just franticly. The sentences flowed together and he would break off to say
“Oh, don’t you see? it’s clear, so clear! soclearsoclearsoclear!” Molly could only stare. She had no idea what had happened to him, just a vague sense that he’d broke.
“Oh, but you!” Sherlock addressed her directly for the first time. “Youyouyouyouyouyou You!” Okay...maybe not. “Yooooouuuu - you told John I’m back! You did! I have it all mapped out! Yooouuuu’re working with Moriarty!” The grin on his face spread even wider, she realized his bottom lip was cracked and bleeding, dried out. Molly realized he looked ill - not just mentally ill, but feverish, dehydrated, and like he hadn’t eaten in a while. She didn’t like the grey pallor to his skin. The beads of sweat on his face made the overall effect rather terrifying.
Sherlock was running around the flat, pointing to what must have once been maps, but were so covered over in lines and crossings-out they were impossible to make out. “Yooouuuu and Jooohhn and Moriii-aaarrr-tttyyyy! And Mae, Mae, Mae - Maemaemaemaemaemaemae!” He was practically singing. It was frightening. Molly had no words. No words for the sight in front of her. She visualized that this had been going on since she’d seen him last and felt sick. She should have checked on him earlier. But how was she supposed to know? She didn’t know what was wrong. She figured he needed a hospital, but was he still considered ‘dead’? She didn’t know. She didn’t know who knew he was there. But something had to be done.
She called Mycroft. Or rather his assistant. He had come to see her shortly after she had helped Sherlock fake his death. He’d nearly given her a heart attack, telling her he knew about what she had done, that Sherlock was his brother, and that she was to call his number “if anything were to go...awry with Sherlock.” He hadn’t specified, but she figured if anything classified as ‘awry’ this was it.
“H-hi, uh, I-I’m looking for M-Mr. Mycroft,” Molly stumbled, “I-I’m Molly Hooper, he said to call a-about his brother?”
“Yes, I’ll let him know. Thank you, have a nice day,” came a cool, female voice. The woman on the other end had hung up on her. Molly figured she was being ignored, so she needed to find another solution.
The obvious choice was John. He was a doctor, he cared about Sherlock, he wouldn’t rat him out. But Sherlock had been so adamant not to let John know he was back. Then Sherlock promptly fell over in a dead faint. Luckily he had been next to the couch, and had fallen, if face-first, onto the only thing in the room that wouldn’t injure him. She rushed over to check his pulse. He was still going strong, but Molly was concerned.‘ Well, damn,’ Molly thought, ‘he might hate me for this, but there is really no other option. I don’t know what else to do!’ And with that she dialed John’s office at St. Barts.
“H-hi Dr. Watson? I-it’s me, it’s Molly Hooper - from the morgue?” Molly swallowed, wiping her sweaty palms on her thighs.
“Oh, hi Molly, what can I do for you? Is there a case?” John asked calmly, with concern in his kind voice. Molly had never called him at work before, usually Lestrade left a message for John to come at his earliest convenience or, very rarely, sent someone over to get him, if it was urgent.
“N-no - well - sort of? Uh, I-I’m at...” Molly took a deep, shaky breath. John interrupted her.
“Are you alright, Molly?” he sounded so kind, so concerned. Molly knew this would throw him back into the chaos that was Sherlock Holmes.
“I-I’m fine, I...” her phone started beeping, she had another call. “I’m sorry, c-could you hold on a minute? I’ve got another call.”
“Sure, Molly, I’ll be here.” John’s voice was calm, reassuring, concerned. It steadied her.
“Hello?” Molly asked tentatively as she switched lines.
“Yes, Molly, this is Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. I understand something has...happened, regarding my brother. I would appreciate it if you would keep it between us, and not spread around his whereabouts. Now, please cancel your call to Dr. Watson, make your excuses - I’ll trust you to make them believable. I will be at Sherlock’s flat in a few moments. Thank you for contacting me.” With that, Mycroft hung up, leaving Molly gaping. How had he known where I was? Or who I was calling? Well, he was Sherlock’s brother, after all.
Molly knew she had to return to her phone call with John, but she had no ideas on how to dissuade him from his concern. He had always been kind to her, if not overly attentive, and had rebuked Sherlock for his more nasty comments towards her. She didn’t want to lie. She was a terrible liar. Molly had already lied so much to this man, she didn’t know what to do. But she was running out of time.
Chapter 27: John: The Battlefield
John was concerned when Molly didn’t come back right away. He’d figured she was just going to say she couldn’t talk now and come back. He didn’t know what was wrong, but she obviously seemed spooked, and it took a lot to spook someone who spent long days with dead people. She got nervous easily, sure, but this wasn’t nerves, this was fear. John didn’t think he’d actually seen Molly Hooper afraid. She was very brave, actually. She braved Sherlock’s rudeness while she’d had a crippling crush on him. She looked unflinchingly at the victims of violent murders, and helped analyze them so the perpetrator could be caught. Her response to discovering her ‘boyfriend’ was in fact the consulting criminal Jim Moriarty was ‘oh, that’s why he never called me back.’ She had confessed to John that she had only been using him to get Sherlock’s attention, to try to make him jealous, so she was just glad Jim hadn’t hurt Sherlock. ‘Until he did,’ John’s mind thought, unbidden. He frowned, realizing that in his reverie, Molly still hadn’t returned to his call.
John had patients waiting, his lunch break had just finished when Molly had called. He put his coat on, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. John had visions of Moriarty kidnapping her, a bomb strapped to her, having her tearfully relay a message - as he had done to so many other ‘expendable’ people, John included. John knew Moriarty was dead, but that didn’t mean there weren’t others in his circle, who knew of his crimes, or just thought along the same lines. He still saw the battlefield, even more so now he was trying to extricate himself from it. Mae wasn’t forcing him, but he wanted things calmer for her. He didn’t want to...to leave her, like he’d been left. John still knew the warring parties. He knew their game, and what they were capable of. God, did he know what they were capable of. And he knew he was capable of taking them down, if he had to. For Molly, if it were the case. For Mae, for sure. For Mrs. Hudson.
It hit John suddenly that this must have been what Sherlock had felt on the rooftop that day. He knew Sherlock wasn’t a fraud, so something must have happened for him to fall. Somehow he had taken Moriarty with him. A footnote in the articles, “Richard Brooke, actor, took his own life after being framed as a criminal by Fake Genius Sherlock Holmes.”
John had been getting better. He had been thinking of this less and less. Mae. Mae had lit him up, filled this emptiness inside him, but in a matter of moments it was back. He sank heavily into his chair and wept quietly, shaking with repressed sobs, struggling to control himself. He had not cried in months. He had barely cried at all, and never before at work.
“J-John?” came Molly’s voice from the phone. John swallowed, forcing back the lump in his throat, tears still on his face. He swiped at them, as though she could see him through the phone lines.
“Molly, yes, is everything alright?” his voice was slightly hoarse, but intense - he had to know if she was being forced to say anything against her will.
Chapter 28: Molly: Collapsing
“Yes, everything is alright now. I was just...” Oh, God, she couldn’t think of what to say! “I-I was j-just...” Think! Think! “I had thought something was wrong, but I was wrong.” Oh that was so conspicuous, he’s not going to fall for that!
“I completely understand,” came the calm, caring voice over the phone.
“You do?” she asked, shocked, then “good. Good. Well, I’ll be off now, tata!” Tata? What was she, four?
Molly slumped down the wall, covered in sweat. There was a curt knock on the door, and Mrs. Hudson opened it - Molly didn’t move from her wall. She was terrified it would be John - but that was too soon. He wouldn’t come over, he didn’t know where she was! But her fear, though irrational, stayed with her until she heard Mrs. Hudson exclaim “Mycroft! Whatever are you doing here?”
“I’m here to see my brother. We have business to attend to. Why don’t you go out and do some shopping, or other household tasks?”
“I’m not his housekeeper!” Mrs. Hudson exclaimed, but she got her coat, saying “I was on my way out anyway!”
Mycroft climbed the stairs to see Molly huddled in a heap by the doorway and his brother face-first on the couch, not moving.
“He’s alive - I checked,” Molly said, heavily. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him, though, he was running around and talking very fast until he collapsed.” She didn’t even have the energy to be nervous anymore. Mycroft could take it from here. She never wanted to move from this spot - the very idea made her light-headed.
Mycroft started looking around the flat while Molly just stayed where she was. After a time he said “Ah, I’ve found them,” and showed her the garbage pail. There were a bunch of needles in it.
“It’s probably cocaine, but could you test it?”
“Of course,” she replied. There was a moment or so before her limbs responded, but then she was up and getting set up in the kitchen, where Sherlock had set up all his chemicals. After a few minutes she was certain it was in fact cocaine, and informed Mycroft, who had stood over her the whole time, which would have made her nervous if she hadn’t been so bone-weary.
Chapter 29: Mycroft: Caring was Truly Never an Advantage
So his brother was back on his drug of choice. This had happened before, of course. One of his ‘experiments’ (apparently there was a murder case where the murderer had claimed ‘not guilty’ because of being on cocaine at the time), then it became a habit. A particularly bad habit, as Sherlock treated it with the same intensity he’d given his cases - focus to the exclusion of all else, including food and sleep. Mummy had never quite forgiven Sherlock for pawning her grandmother’s gold watch for drug money. He had been disinherited for that.
Of course, Mycroft knew Sherlock could get back in their mother’s good graces with some good acting (as he himself had done many a time) but Sherlock had felt it beneath him. He was always so antagonistic. Never knew when to just let things go and work quietly. That’s when the string of flatmates came and went. John Watson was the only one who’d stayed beyond a week. The others would pay their rent, move half-way in, then leave at Sherlock’s first ‘experiment’ in the kitchen. Sally Donavan was one, Anderson another, and many others had cleared out of town after being too close to Mycroft’s baby brother. He’d had to bribe a few to keep from the police, and Lestrade had ‘misfiled’ a few reports that had come his way. If Sherlock knew about their hand in making life easier on him, he never revealed it, not to mention thanked them, and life went on.
Mycroft knew this episode wasn’t just an addict’s reverting, wasn’t just being cooped up and thought dead - if it were that, at some point in the last three years Sherlock would have done this already. But he hadn’t. Not until he had returned to find the only person who could stand to live with him, the only friend Mycroft could recall him having, different somehow.
Mycroft didn’t claim to read people as well as his brother. He knew people in politics, in business, in stocks. But not as people. Well, Sherlock didn’t know them as people, either - he knew them as victims and criminals, boring and not-boring, but he could attempt to fill in the gaps with evidence on their person.
Although Mycroft could usually predict his brother, he didn’t claim to understand him. Mycroft didn’t understand why now, why it had something to do with John Watson, and why the ordinary-seeming man had any impact what-so-ever on his brother. Sherlock hadn’t had any friends until John, but Mycroft had never had friends, and still didn’t - he had colleagues, allies, people that it suited him to make nice to - unlike Sherlock - but no friends. The term seemed juvenile. Silly, childish - like his brother, perhaps. So perhaps this was his brother’s reaction to having a friend. Caring was truly never an advantage.
Mycroft sighed, then typed a swift text message to his assistant to reschedule his day. He knew the drill all too well. He was getting too old for this - he had hoped John would take over the annoying requirements of associating with Sherlock Holmes, fragile and unstable “sociopath.” Mycroft knew his brother wasn’t one. He knew it suited him to be feared that way, but there was no psychoanalysis to back up his description. Sherlock cared about what people thought of him just the same as every ordinary person he despised, just in a different fashion. And he was delusional about it. At least Mycroft knew all his put-on faces. Perhaps this was a reaction to a destroyed delusion - Sherlock’s care for John finally obvious to his conscious rather than just his subconscious.
Mycroft looked back down at his phone, his unsent message, and saw Molly Hooper in the corner of his sight, checking Sherlock’s vitals. He really was too old to take care of his brother. He had important business today. If Sherlock refused to take care of himself, and had effectively cut out John Watson from his life, perhaps this person would be of service.
“Molly,” Mycroft began, her head snapped to him, still clutching her clipboard and Sherlock’s left wrist. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave. Duty calls,” he waved his phone and smiled, unconvincingly. “I’ve seen this before, the recovery is always the same. I’m going to ask you to see to it, you will be compensated handsomely for your efforts, I assure you.”
Chapter 30: Molly: An Ordinary Genius
Mycroft smiled again, thinly. ‘Did he know how his face never looked like an actual emotion? It always looked like a mask, a stiff, false representation of an emotion, hiding the truth in his eyes?’ Molly wondered as she listened intently - she knew what he would say was important. She could see in his eyes he was actually concerned. The bribe was to ensure his brother would be cared for. He hadn’t gotten a text on his phone, so he was leaving for other reasons. He was trusting her, Molly realized, her eyes widening at the thought.
No, Molly wasn’t a genius to see through Mycroft’s armor. She wasn’t a Holmes. She was ordinary, but good-hearted. Those caught up in thousands of schemes and plots and generally concerned with the nastier side of human intention (like the Holmes brothers), no matter their intelligence, forget that to the ordinary, good people - ordinary, good intentions are most obvious. And to people like them (so above everything, so intelligent, so controlled, detached, and powerful) ordinary, good intentions were most hidden from them - even their own.
Chapter 31: John: “She would have done anything for your brother, anything.”
John was having what felt like a nervous breakdown. He wanted to crawl under some covers and sob. But he was at work. He had patients. And more than anything he had to find Molly Hooper. John didn’t know what was going on, but he knew it wasn’t good. He knew only one man (alive) who stood a chance of finding her - Mycroft Holmes. In a manner that reminded him acutely of his university days, John climbed out his window and down the drainpipe. Now, Mycroft was hard to track down himself, so just to cover all his bases, John dropped in on the morgue. No Molly.
So John would try the office he’d found Mycroft before, without high hopes of finding him, but he knew he had to try. But there he was, sitting at his desk, head in his hands. John felt as though he’d stumbled into something he didn’t particularly want to disturb - he’d never seen Mycroft (the man who didn’t cry at his own brother’s funeral) express any sort of emotion before. Although it could have just been a headache. But John didn’t really have time, so, ignoring the man’s rather unnerving display of fragility, he cleared his throat to announce his presence.
Mycroft looked up slowly. He looked tired.
“Ah, Dr. Watson, what can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for Molly Hooper.”
“So why have you come to me?” Mycroft seemed distracted, though he was peering at John intently, as though trying to see into his soul while ignoring his words. It was unnerving, but John was a soldier, so he took a breath and kept standing upright under that piercing gaze.
“She called me recently and I got the impression she was in trouble. I have to know she’s safe.”
“I’m afraid I can’t help you. I’m terribly busy at the moment.” Mycroft gestured towards the computer on his desk. John lost it.
“You weren’t doing anything when I came in. You just don’t care, do you! She would have done anything for your brother, anything.” John leaned across Mycroft’s desk and looked squarely into those cold, sharp eyes of his, speaking softly in a voice hard with anger,
“So you are going to call in your resources, no matter what it takes, and you are going to find this woman, and help her. Do you understand me?”
Mycroft heaved a sigh. “I don’t know what to tell you, John.”
“Do you know something already? Do you have something to do with this?! Are you the reason she’s so scared?” John drew back in disgust, eyes widening as he tried to align this new information with what he knew about Mycroft Holmes. Sherlock’s older brother, more in control, very, very powerful, though perhaps not as smart as his brother, though perhaps more, if it served him to be thought less of - John had always thought him a good man, like Sherlock, just very distant. John knew he’d cared about his brother - what else he didn’t know.
But could the power have driven him out of his good ways? Did the death of his brother destroy the last shred of good in him? And what in heaven’s name would Mycroft need from Molly?
“In short, I suppose, Molly is doing a job for me. She was uncertain that this was the case until I called and cleared it up. She is perfectly safe, and does not require your assistance. I suggest you go back to work, now, Dr. Watson.” Mycroft had leaned back in his chair, still staring intently at John, frowning slightly as though he was a problem he couldn’t identify. He still looked very tired.
“Oh. Well,” John said shortly. He wasn’t relieved. He didn’t know what kind of job required Molly, and would make her so scared until Mycroft called her. But he left the man’s office, having no more ways to get him to speak. John had no intention of going back to work, though. He was too rattled. He considered going to Mae and telling her all of this, just for the comfort, but decided against it. This is why he wanted to protect her from this part of his life. It wasn’t safe. People got hurt. People got scared. People got killed. He was fine doing it for himself, but he wasn’t about to put her in the middle of it all. But he needed to talk to someone. So he went to see Mrs. Hudson.
Chapter 32: Mrs. Hudson: A Study in Background Noise
Mrs. Hudson was coming back from the store, still rehearsing what to say to Mycroft, when she saw John about to knock on the door.
“John! John!” she shouted as loud as she could, as a warning, as a deterrent, anything. John turned, hand half raised, and saw her walking with groceries. He ran to help her.
“Hello John” she said as he took the larger of her two bags.
“Hi Mrs. Hudson, do you need help getting these inside?”
“Oh...no...I’m-I’m perfectly alright to go from the door, was there something you wanted?” She wanted him to go away! How could she warn her household about John’s presence?
“I just wanted to talk, maybe have some tea,” John said in a light tone that was clearly forced. Something had happened. Perhaps she could whisk him into her rooms quickly without anyone seeing or being seen? Well, she would have to try.
“Oh, alright dear, just carry that in quick, alright? I think the bread might be getting squished.” They carried the groceries in quickly, Mrs. Hudson right on John’s tail, yammering loudly about meeting his finance the other day.
“Oh and John I enjoyed meeting your fiancé the other day! She’s positively delightful! Such a conversationalist!” Then they were finally in her apartment, to Mrs. Hudson’s relief, no voices were audible.
“Oh, I’m glad. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.” John said, clearly more at ease to be speaking indoors.
“Well I’ll make some tea and we can sit down and have a nice chat,” said Mrs. Hudson, who busied herself with the tea things, humming along with the radio for some background noise, just in case.
Just as Mrs. Hudson had taken a large sip of her tea, John spoke up.
“I’m concerned about Molly and Mycroft.” She choked on her tea and had to be patted on the back to regain her breath.
“Are you alright, Mrs. Hudson?” John asked kindly.
“Yes, yes, just went down the wrong pipe,” she reassured him.
“Well Molly called me at work today, and seemed positively terrified, then she got a call, said everything was fine, and hung up. She wasn’t at the morgue, so I went to talk to Mycroft, and he said she was ‘doing a job for him’ but ‘hadn’t known she was’ but ‘it’s all sorted now’ and the bastard wouldn’t tell me anything!”
“Well, you know how Mycroft can be,” Mrs. Hudson said, trying to be calm. She’d thought they’d just been visiting Sherlock, but perhaps they were working on a case of sorts? Poor John, being left out of all the fun. Oh, why wouldn’t Sherlock just tell him he was back?
Chapter 33: Molly: Prep Work
Sherlock, it seemed, would be out cold for a good long while. Molly had her instructions from Mycroft. She had to stay around until he woke up and after he went through withdrawal. She had first thought the bribe was ridiculous and insulting, but after Mycroft’s explanation she wasn’t going to fight it. She would help Sherlock anyway, but perhaps her initial reaction would be to summon a medical professional - or at least someone with more physical strength than her.
Apparently, when he woke up he would still be tired. That she could deal with. She had to make him eat and drink, because he had gone so long without it. But the most worrying part was that the paranoia would continue.
“Sherlock will be suspicious of everything you do,” Mycroft had sighed, explaining as she took notes. The usual Sherlock was easily agitated. A Sherlock in withdrawal would be enormously irritated and beyond grouchy.
“Think of it as him being bored exponentially increased - nothing will hold him, not a case, nothing. Not for a while, at least. He will want to get more cocaine, of course, to alleviate the intensity of his boredom. I suggest you remove all money from the premises, and inform Mrs. Hudson to do the same when she returns.”
Molly had looked up from her notes as Mycroft was preparing to leave. “Good luck, miss Hooper. And thank you.” He was gone before she could respond to his display of gratitude. It was out of character but entirely genuine. She appreciated that briefly before scouring the place to dispose of any and all loose change.
Molly collected a small bag of coins and a few notes when she heard Mrs. Hudson come in - with John! How was she to tell her Mycroft’s message while he was there?! Oh, if only she had been more convincing on the phone!
She set up a glass of water on the table next to Sherlock. He was still face-first in the couch, and she feared he might suffocate, so she tried to turn him over. Molly wasn’t the strongest person in the world, and although he was unconscious, Sherlock was true to form and was completely unhelpful in this endeavor. His limbs flopped about, long and heavy. Molly managed to whack herself in the face with his left arm a couple times, but eventually got him off his face. He was now mostly on the floor, but she wasn’t about to lift him up again. Molly was breathing heavily, pleased with herself, when she realized belatedly that she might have been making some noise. She got herself a glass of water and sat down to fret, knowing she couldn’t really do anything about it now, and everything would be much more difficult when Sherlock woke up.
Chapter 34: Mrs. Hudson: One Last Try
“uh...hhuhhhhfff...BANG! Ow! uhhh...” John cleared his throat at the rather conspicuous sounding noises.
“So, ah, I see the new tenant has...moved in?”
“Yes. Yes they have.” She tried not to use a telling pronoun.
“They? So there’s two of them? Ah...”
“Yes, there is,” said Mrs. Hudson, making things up on the spot now. It felt like old times, ‘no, nobody hit me. I tripped and fell into a doorknob. Silly me!’ and old times weren’t something she wished to repeat.
“So if that’s all you wanted to talk about, I’ll see you another time, then dear?” Mrs. Hudson hoped very much he’d leave.
Unfortunately at that moment her phone rang, and John made no move to leave, so she went to answer it.
“Hello? Mrs. Hudson?” It was Molly, whispering.
“Is John still there?”
“Ah, Mycroft wanted me to tell you it would be in your best interest to remove all your money from the building - Sherlock, well, he’s not particularly himself at the moment. Well he’s not conscious right now, but when he wakes up he won’t be himself...”
Mrs. Hudson couldn’t make head or tail of Molly’s frantic whisperings, but she was affronted at the mention of Mycroft’s name, so she began;
“Well you can tell him-” She broke off suddenly, aware that John was looking at her. “Y-you can tell him I’ll be right there.” Mrs. Hudson promptly hung up the phone, she had an idea on how to get rid of John Watson.
“I’m sorry, dear, it seems I’ve got to go. Quite promptly, I’m afraid.”
“What is it, Mrs. Hudson?”
“Oh, family business. Nothing to be concerned about, just urgent. Now I’ve got to go.” She ran about, collecting money like Molly had told her to, hoping John would get the hint and leave.
He did no such thing. To Mrs. Hudson’s horror, the doctor actually asked “Well would you mind if I stayed here? I kind of dipped out of work, and I don’t want to worry Mae by going home early. It would only be for an hour or so. I wouldn’t ask, but I don’t really have anywhere else to go.” Well that was it. There was no way she could say no to that, not when he looked so forlorn and weary. Not when he still mourned his friend who was actually alive. Not when he thought Molly was kidnapped or in danger and he couldn’t help. Not when she had lied to him so much. He didn’t deserve this. Mrs. Hudson cast fate to the wind, ‘I will have no more of this ridiculous deception’ she told herself.
“Of course, dear.” And with that, she walked out the door on her fake mission, washing her hands of her involvement with the Holmes’ schemes.
Chapter 35: Sarah: Covering
Although John had left work, the work hadn’t disappeared. His patients were getting restless. After an hour, Sarah figured he’d fallen asleep again and took some of his patients. But she didn’t have that much space in her schedule, either, so she asked the receptionist to reschedule some of them.
“Dr. Watson wasn’t feeling well, so he’s gone home sick.” He was down to his last few sick days. He had used up a bunch chasing after criminals with his flatmate, and after his flatmate died he used up a few doing who knows what. He was always tired, and fell asleep often. She didn’t want him to get fired, so she covered for him when she could, but it had been three years - he had to get back into life.
She had noticed he’d seemed better lately, more regular at work, saying “good morning” cheerfully for the first times in three years. But she supposed what goes up must come down. She was tired of taking care of him. They barely talked anymore, and it seemed a bit excessive as monument to a few dates and a faint friendship. But Sarah had never been a malicious person, and she knew John was a good doctor to have on staff. So she covered for him.
When she was preparing to leave, she saw his door was still closed. She went in to check on him, wake him up, get an apology. But there was no one there. Now this was too much. He had left her to deal with his patients on purpose?! He was taking her for granted! She resolved not to cover for him any more. She picked up his prescription pad and scrawled on it “This is the LAST TIME, Dr. Watson. I’m not cleaning up your messes any more! - S”
Well, that was that. No more watching out for Dr. Watson. It felt rather liberating. Only her own work from now on. So there.
Chapter 36: Molly: The Glass was Unfortunate
Molly was drinking a glass of water and trying to figure out how to best prepare for Sherlock’s awakening. Irritable and suspicious. Hmm. She recalled him going on about her and John working for Moriarty before he’d collapsed, so she’d have to warn against that. Moriarty was dead, but Sherlock seemed to have convinced himself the man was alive - probably because if he could do it, why couldn’t Moriarty? She wasn’t sure of how to keep him in the room, but if she could convince him that John was downstairs still, that might work. She knew he had left already, but he had been there, so perhaps she wouldn’t have her normal block when it came to lying.
Then Sherlock gave a large snore and fell over sideways, knocking over the contents of the coffee table. With a loud crash, the glass of water Molly had set out for him, mugs, pencils, books of maps, and papers unceremoniously fell to the floor. It startled Molly so much she dropped her own water glass, which also broke against the floor. She rushed to check if Sherlock was alright, the bits of glass crunching under her shoes.
He seemed to be fine, but a piece of mug had cut his forehead near his left temple and was bleeding quite a bit, as head wounds do. He was still asleep - or was he now unconscious? He needed a doctor, fast. Molly got a dishtowel to try to stem the flow of blood, applying pressure. She picked up the phone to call Mrs. Hudson.
Molly didn’t wait for Mrs. Hudson to ask what was wrong, she just launched into her distress call.
“Mrs. Hudson there’s a problem - Sherlock’s hit his head and there’s glass everywhere and he just keeps bleeding, and I don’t know what to do. He needs a doctor - I’d get John but he’d probably kill me when he wakes up, and Mycroft said not to expose who he is, but maybe if we take him to another hospital they can patch him up without knowing his name-” her frantic problem-solving was cut short as a voice that was very much not Mrs. Hudson’s said;
“Molly? Is that you? Are you alright - wait - did you say Sherlock?!”
“Ah..yes..look, John, I know you’re mad, and you have a right to be, but can you put it on hold for a second? Just check if he’s got a concussion and help me stop the bleeding, and then we can talk, okay? Please?” There was a pause.
“...I’m on my way.”
John was up the stairs in a minute. He opened the door, and saw the mess and the man he’d thought was dead until five minutes ago.
“Oh, God...” were the only words out of his mouth before he took over, putting more pressure on the wound.
“Get a broom, clean up the glass as best you can” he said hoarsely. Molly rushed off to obey.
Chapter 37: John: The Army Doctor’s Wedding Vows
Soldier John was here. A bit rusty, but he still knew how to avoid looking at the face of someone he knew and cared about and focus on the wound. He checked the patient’s circulation and breathing, holding the dishtowel to their head.
“It’s probably not a concussion, but we can’t be sure until he wakes up,” he told Molly, who was picking up the large pieces of glass and brushing the small ones into a dustpan. She nodded, then said
“Oh I shouldn’t’ve moved him! I was just concerned he would suffocate, face-first on the couch.”
“Why was he face-first on the couch?” Molly hesitated, so he continued “It could be medically relevant, if I don’t know everything I’d be honour-bound to get him to a hospital where he can be tested.”
“Oh, no, Mycroft said not to do that if it can be avoided! Okay, he’s sort of gone on a drug spree.”
“Cocaine. Mycroft had me test the needles. I know the chemical compound, I’ve seen it in some of the overdose cases.”
John knelt by the unconscious Sherlock. The bleeding stopped, and when he took the towel away his soldier-self left him to feel the world without protection.
"Thankfully he didn't overdose, although he's come quite close. He was always reckless, though, about his health. God, I can't believe he's alive. I couldn't believe he was dead, either, so there's that. But I really can't believe you kept this from me, Molly. I always thought I could trust you."
"You can. I just...” she took a deep breath, “it's him."
"I get it.” John replied, miraculously calm. Hyper-calm. Perhaps it was shock. “I suppose if we were reversed I would have done the same, lied to you if he needed it. But, my God, why didn't he tell me?" It was a rhetorical question, he wasn't really asking Molly, but she answered him anyways.
"I-I think he was going to. But he seemed to think you were, well, different somehow."
"Yeah well thinking your best friend was dead for three years will do a number on you," he said, trying for sarcasm but stopping at bitter and genuine.
"No, I think it had something to do with...something to do with your fiancé. He kept muttering 'a fiancé!' when he thought I couldn't hear him."
"Mae?! What's anything to do with Mae?!" John was shocked, this he hadn't expected at all - even Sherlock’s return didn't surprise him as much as this. He’d never really believed he was dead, anyway. So somehow he was responsible for Sherlock keeping it from him that he was back, and possibly even for his cocaine slip? No. That can’t be right. He was only a footnote in Sherlock’s life. The ordinary blogger who followed him around in cases and tried to make him eat and act like a human being so people wouldn’t hit him so much. And what did Mae ever do? She was innocent of this life, a regular person who never saw the battlefield.
“I think - I think, and I can’t be sure, so don’t hold me to it - but I think maybe he’s a bit possessive. You know, he ‘died’ to keep Moriarty from killing you and Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade. He spent the last three years chasing down Moriarty’s people and either getting them locked up or killed. And he comes back and it looks, well, it looks like you’ve moved on, maybe he thinks you wouldn’t want to see him.” Molly said this all in a rush, her head down, blushing furiously, as though she were embarrassed of her opinions.
“Well. Huh.” John had to pause, this wasn’t anything he’d thought of. Of course, he’d only had about ten minutes to process the fact that his friend wasn’t dead - and most of that was concerned with making sure he wouldn’t be soon.
“But I’m not over it. I’ve mourned him for three years. I’ve only just been able to get a decent night’s sleep! Mae’s the only reason I, well, to be frank she’s the only reason I didn’t go jumping off a building myself.” John was surprised by the words that came out of his mouth, and he was even more surprised to find they were true. He was really in the worst place he’d ever been when he’d found Mae, and she had saved him. He had a sudden urge to run to her and hold her and tell her what she meant to him. He stayed where he was and made a mental note to save that feeling for their wedding vows.
Chapter 38: Sherlock: Unfinished Business
This post was inspired by the song Unfinished Business by White Lies. I'd like you to listen to it before you read the chapter, if you can, because I think it helps to set the tone.
Unfinished Business by White Lies
Just give me a second, darling, to clear my head.
Just put down those scissors, baby, on the single bed.
The sand in the hour glass is running low,
I came through thunder, the cold wind, the rain and the snow,
To find you awake by your window sill,
A sight for sore eyes, and a view to kill.
I broke down in horror at you standing there,
The glow from the moon shone through cracks in your hair.
I shouted with passion “I love you so much”,
But feeling my skin, it was cold to the touch.
You whispered "Where are you?", I questioned your doubt,
But soon realized you were talking to God now.
You got blood your hands and I know it’s mine,
I just need more time.
So get off your low, let’s dance like we used to.
But there’s a light in the distance, waiting for me,
I will wait for you.
So get off your low, let’s kiss like we used to.
I looked in the mirror, but something was wrong.
I saw you behind, but my reflection was gone.
There was smoke in the fireplace as white as the snow.
A voice beckoned gently “Now it's time to go”.
A requiem played as you begged for forgiveness.
“Don’t touch me!” I screamed,
"I’ve got unfinished business."
You got blood your hands and I know it’s mine,
I just need more time.
So get off your low, let’s dance like we used to.
But there’s a light in the distance, waiting for me,
I will wait for you.
So get off your low, let’s kiss like we used to.
You’ve got blood your hands and I know it’s mine,
I just need more time.
So get off your low, let’s dance like we used to.
Moriarty looked Sherlock in the eye. “So you survived, did you? Pity you took out so many of my people. No matter. I can always get more. So ordinary. They always fall for the same ...tricks. Just like you. Do you even know how easy it is to fake shooting yourself in the head? Make a noise! Fall over! Pool of blood! Haha, you flinched, I win.” Sherlock was silent as the psychopath danced around him with something like glee. “We could have been so good together, you know. We could have ruled this earth, mortals none the wiser. But you had to be on the side of the angels.” He was rolling his eyes, always so theatrical. Sherlock followed him with his eyes, quietly taking in the madman’s ranting. “You let them domesticate you,” he said, growing louder, the disgust dripping from every word. “You got yourself fixed.” He spat the last word, drawing a breath to continue, when Sherlock interrupted him. “They didn’t domesticate me. I asked for them,” he enunciated quietly, intensely. “Well that just makes it so much WORSE doesn’t it? Oh, you’re even WORSE than the ordinary people! You could have been great, like me, and you chose them! YOU MAKE ME SICK!” “So why don’t you kill yourself again. I’ll make sure it...sticks, this time,” Sherlock retorted. The madman broke into laughter, ringing and joyful in his insanity. He stopped as abruptly as he started, ever the chameleon, shifting his spots. He gazed into Sherlock’s eyes, smiling faintly, eyes wide. Sherlock’s vision was blocked out by those huge eyes. Moriarty leaned in. Sherlock couldn’t pull away. The madman kissed him harshly, then punched him, knocking him over. Sherlock wiped his mouth, disgusted, and brought it back bloody - his teeth had cut his cheek on impact. “Isn’t that what you want? Don’t you feel alive? Or are you purely ordinary now? Is there nothing at all left of you? You’re loosing your touch, sexy. Do you believe in fairytales, now? Did you think you’d beaten the bad guy, and everyone gets to live happily ever after? Well think again.” He gestured behind them to the wall. Sherlock turned and saw, to his dismay, a row of people tied up and gagged. “Maybe if I cut your ties you’ll come back to me. We can still rule, dear.” A wide grin split his face without warning. Sherlock gasped and felt his heart beating wildly, his palms slick with sweat. He recognized their shapes. From the right, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, Donovan, Anderson, Sarah, Molly, Mycroft, Mummy, and John. “Caring is not an advantage. Sentiment is the chemical compound found on the loosing side.” The madman was quoting him. Had he been bugged that whole time and never known? “Well I see it on your side, so LOSE ALREADY!” Moriarty nodded to a tall man with a rifle. Sherlock couldn’t see his face. The man barely moved, but a shot rang out and Mrs. Hudson crumpled. He screamed involuntarily, but found himself tied to a pole. He had no control. He could do nothing but watch Moriarty dance with that hateful grin on his face while the tall stranger coldly shot all the people he cared about in the world, one by one. As Molly was shot, Moriarty leaned into his ear so Sherlock could feel his breath on his face. He tried to squirm away, but he was tied too tightly. “I won’t make that mistake twice. See, your little stunt with Miss Molly made me realize you don’t even know who will help you, who’s domesticated you to care. I’ve been sure to get them all this time. Once they’re all gone, there’ll be nothing to tie you down! No one to bind you to the petty world of emotion. You’ll be free...” Sherlock wanted to wipe his ear, clear it of the hot spittle that had flown, clear it of the words that had been hissed into it. But he couldn’t move. Mycroft. Sherlock was crying. His brother had always protected him, and he couldn’t even return the favour. His mother. John. Sherlock felt as though he’d been gutted. “They’re all dead.” The awful voice whispered, the voice of the devil himself, in the same ear as before. Wouldn’t he just pick the other ear! But no. Sherlock’s skin crawled in revulsion, he was wracked with sobs. “This is emotion. This is what you chose. What you’re feeling isn’t my fault - it’s yours. You picked this. You’re the reason they’re dead.” The voice came from the pits of hell, warm and burnt with the fires of the underworld. Sherlock had never believed in anything beyond earth, but at that moment he was convinced the devil was real and was speaking in his ear. He wished desperately that there would be a counter to this evil, that there was a God that would wrap all these lovely people in its arms and hold them in love and care and peace. He could do nothing but sob. After a while he was untied from the pole. “Now, don’t we feel lighter,” danced the devil, the madman, the psychopath. He charged at him - just in case there wasn’t a God, and there wasn’t a devil, and this was just a man who could die, he pushed him over the edge of the roof - for there they had been, just as before - and he saw the ground rush up to meet him. John.
“John,” Sherlock gasped hoarsely, sitting bolt upright. It was dusk, shadows falling oddly. He was on the couch, a blanket over him and a plastic cup of water on the floor beside him. The man in question was sitting in what used to be his chair, snoring quietly. Sherlock groped for the water, gulped it down, then watched the doctor snore. He looked vaguely troubled, but very much alive and well. Sherlock remembered his dream with vivid clarity. It was then he vowed never to touch cocaine again.
Chapter 39: John: Whole Again
John woke up stiff and uncomfortable, with his head still resting on his left hand which had long ago fallen asleep. He knew it would take a long time to get the feeling back, and groaned at the thought of the effort. Molly was curled up in the other chair, looking at least slightly more comfortable than he felt. He smiled slightly, remembering everything he’d learned yesterday - his friend was back. He felt whole again.
He started to stretch, and felt every muscle and bone in his body complain, and winced at the effort. John looked around, and his heart almost stopped when he saw Sherlock perching on the couch, watching him.
“Jesus, Sherlock,” he said, not unkindly, but gruffer than he’d intended.
Then John remembered what Molly had told him would happen after Sherlock woke up - irritability, suspicion, and desire for more cocaine. He berated himself for sleeping ‘I was supposed to keep watch!’ He shook Molly frantically, “He’s awake, get up!”
Sherlock rose from the couch disdainfully and stood tall, hands clasped behind his back. Good God, he was taller than John remembered. It had been so long!
“Don’t worry, John, the cocaine has passed through my system. I seem to have surpassed most of my paranoid delusions in my sleep. Give me some credit, John, I do have some self-control. I have done this before. I know what is and isn’t real.”
Chapter 40: Molly: The Whole Point
“Not from where I was standing,” Molly muttered sleepily and she rose from her curled position on the chair. “He’s right, though, John. The withdrawal will have passed by now, Mycroft said. He just needs to eat and drink so he doesn’t starve to death.” She gave Sherlock a withering glare. The effect worked quite well with her hair standing on end and a red line from the chair cushion down her face. Instead of fighting them as he was expected to, Sherlock surprised them all and grimaced, saying “something to eat would be appreciated.”
His stomach chose then to growl in agreement, and Molly and John broke into laughter. It was equal parts relieved, exhausted, and hysterical. Even Sherlock joined in, after a beat. Once they had run out of breath and their smiles began to fade, Sherlock said “There’s no food here. We’ll have to go out.”
“Uh, anyone have any money?” Molly asked timidly, the laughter still in her voice. “Mycroft had us take it all away so this one-” she jutted her thumb at Sherlock, “-wouldn’t go off on another idiotic drug escapade!” The exhaustion, added to her frustration at lying for three years, and her fear for his safety had taken a lot of her inhibitions, and she was speaking her mind without hesitation.
“I...I’m fairly certain I won’t be doing that again,” Sherlock said quietly.
“I have some cash,” John said, “I suppose I’ll treat us to breakfast. But you’ll owe me Sherlock,” he said darkly, trying for humor but landing on an unreadable tone, “you’re the one who let me think you were dead.” And with that he lead the way to a nearby restaurant that served coffee, eggs, and toast. Molly had thought John would have more questions, but both men attacked their eggs with ravenousness reminiscent of wild animals. She tried to tame her hair slightly, but gave it up as a lost cause. No one cared what her hair looked like, and she didn’t particularly either.
“Mmm!” John exclaimed, sitting upright. “I’ve got to call Mae, she must be worried! Oh, what do I tell her?” Molly saw Sherlock tense. He put down his fork with meticulously careful precision and swallowed his mouthful of eggs as though it had personally affronted him. John was still preoccupied trying to think of an explanation and missed his friend’s reaction. Sherlock was watching him intently, limbs arranged quietly, carefully, his hands pressed against each other, lightly touching mouth as he did when he was thinking, in some strange parallel to prayer. He looked dangerous and holy, puzzled and strong. Molly could almost feel his mind churning - where she had imagined most people’s mind as rusty gears that shifted slowly to accept new knowledge, clanging as a new idea fell into place, she pictured his as swiftly churning, gleaming steel, moving faster than eyes could follow, whirring softly as the delicate pieces worked in perfect unison.
“Can I borrow your mobile?” John asked Molly, ripping her from her meditation.
“Yeah, yeah of course,” she replied, frantically digging through her purse. She located the small, silver device that was significantly outdated but served her purpose. That was why Sherlock never used her phone - he preferred to text, and it didn’t do that easily. John walked outside to make his call, or rather stare at the phone and try to figure out what to say, muttering to himself. Molly rolled her eyes fondly - she knew he was only worried because he cared so much about Mae. They were good together, she thought. Although she had never met his fiancée, Molly thought something about her was good for him.
She looked back at Sherlock, who hadn’t moved from his thinking position.
“What are you so afraid of?” The question tumbled from her mouth, unbidden.
“I’m not afraid. I’m uncertain,” Sherlock spat as though it were a swearword. He didn’t look at her.
“Everyone is, always,” she replied.
“Not me,” he said, curtly.
“Everyone,” she insisted, still keeping her voice gentle. “So what are you uncertain about?”
There was silence, then in quiet voice he said “He’s different. I don’t know why. And it, it seems that I...” He trailed off, shivering slightly. They watched John through the window talking animatedly with Mae on the phone. He was smiling, it had worked out. Molly smiled faintly, glad for him.
“I...care about him. Isn’t that enough?” Sherlock practically whispered the words, as though if he said it quiet it wouldn’t be true. Molly knew that from Sherlock, admitting to caring was huge. She was floored, but kept on.
“No. It might have been...before. But not now. She saved him. You saved him before, too, but when you left...he needed saving again.” There was a pause. “You’re still his friend, you know.”
“I know. Now. But...it’s not the same.”
“People change, Sherlock. It’s what they do.”
“I know that, seeing as he changed me. Caring!” he spat the word like a curse, slamming his fist on the table, making her jump slightly. “It’s not an advantage.”
“No, Sherlock, it’s not an advantage. It’s the whole point.” She reached out and covered his fist with her hand. He flinched away, but she stayed, and he relaxed.
“It’s so ordinary,” he muttered, disdainful, but softer.
“So is living,” she laughed softly. They stayed like that for a while, not talking, not moving.
Molly knew Sherlock wasn’t really seeing her. He was speaking his thoughts, and she was the voice that should be in his head, but wasn’t - a kind voice, telling him emotions were okay, that he wasn’t weak, that he could never be typical. She figured he sort of thought of her as an extension of himself - in the lab, and now. She felt honored to be privy to these thoughts he probably rarely let himself think, let alone speak aloud.
He trusted her, so much more than she would have anticipated. First he had trusted her with his life, with his secret when he faked his death, and now he was trusting her with his life, with his secret, with his heart.
She wasn’t sure if Sherlock was admitting to being in love with John, or just that he cared about him as a friend and didn’t want anything to change. Both emotions were clearly just as foreign to him. She wasn’t sure he would know the difference in himself. But she knew John’s engagement and marriage would be hard on Sherlock, either way, and she planned to be there for him through it all.
John was closing her phone and moving towards the door. She gave Sherlock’s hand a squeeze and then removed her hand from his. Sherlock snapped back into being, eating his eggs and toast as though nothing had happened. John handed Molly back her phone, saying “Thanks,” then sitting back down to his breakfast. He had a mouthful of eggs when Molly saw an idea slide into place, the rusty gears of us normal folk.
“Mmm,” he swallowed. “She’s amazing - nothing fazes her. I just said, ‘well my old flatmate is back from the dead and we had to make sure he didn’t go back’ and all she said was ‘well I’m just glad you didn’t fall asleep at work again and spend the entire night sleeping at your desk!’ Isn’t she great? Oh, you two have to meet her!”
As John prattled on about his fiancée, Molly reached for Sherlock’s hand under the table and gave it a squeeze. He returned it, and she sensed his panic, completely undetectable in his blank face. She knew he knew she was there for him. And she always would be.
Chapter 41: Sherlock: An Ordinary Genius
Sherlock’s hand felt cold where Molly had taken her hand away. It puzzled him, because her hand hadn’t felt too warm when it was there. He tried to ignore John’s incessant chatter about his fiancée, thinking about an experiment he wanted to conduct. At least his recent dalliance with cocaine had been useful in that sense, if it had been thoroughly traumatizing in every other respect. Now he was aware of how much it had affected his mind - thinking Moriarty was alive! Phah! - he was convinced it was unhelpful for brainwork and he would stick with his nicotine patches thank-you-very-much.
Then it hit him - now John knew he was back, Lestrade could know, and he could get a case! He jumped up, said “I’ve got to go, very busy,” and swiftly exited the restaurant. He knew John and Molly were laughing at his brusqueness, and smiled softly. So, things had changed. But they wouldn’t necessarily be awful. However he had made up his mind to dislike this ‘Mae’ - something about her seemed awful for John. Really, he seemed so much more ordinary with her around. And trying to do less cases! Phah! Not if he could help it! Now, he had cases to solve.