There was a rush of sound, white noise, and John felt the familiar cushioning of the seat under him, his shoes brushing softly against the carpeted floor.
Not again, please, not again.
He sat in the back of the cab, staring at the seat in front of him, unwilling to move. His phone felt heavy in his jacket pocket. He could try to call someone, but he knew it was useless. Everything was frozen. People outside were rooted to the ground, mid-stride. Birds hung, still, in the air.
Except him. He was the catalyst.
The scene wouldn’t play until he opened that fucking door, and then his world would come crashing down.
He bent over, placing his head in his hands. His breath came out with a whimper. Hot tears rolled along this side of his nose, down to his open mouth, his dry lips.
"Please,” he said hoarsely, “God, let me die."
His phone started ringing.
He had tried ignoring it. Oh, he had tried everything.
But that’s not how this worked. This twisted, fucked up dream wouldn’t leave him alone. It would keep ringing, and he wouldn’t be able to move until he answered it. The door was locked until he hit that fucking “Answer” button. And as much as he tired of the sound of ringing, he couldn’t bear what came next.
John barely remembered how he’d gotten here. He thought there might have been an altercation outside the Tesco, where he’d run for a few late-night provisions, and he remembers vaguely the sound of gunfire….
He couldn’t be dead, though. Death would be sweeter than this.
His phone was still ringing.
God, he fucking hated that sound.
Back in the first few repetitions, John had struggled vainly to understand what was happening. His adrenaline-fueled mind had come to the conclusion that he must be lying somewhere, hooked up to wires and life-support systems, suspended in a comatose state.
What had Sherlock always said?
When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
It was the only plausible explanation that John could muster.
He had tried just lying in the back of the cab, crying himself into a deep sleep, but the second his consciousness drifted into dreams, he was jolted awake, sitting upright, and his damn phone would start again.
He’d tried killing himself, too. He thought maybe it would wake him.
That had been a painful, and fruitless, experiment.
He really, truly had used to wish he’d wake up. He had pleaded for it, to some merciless God who must be somewhere, laughing at him, hitting rewind every once in a while to watch John fall to pieces again.
Now he didn’t even want that.
He was raw, and he was tired, and he knew with almost complete certainty that even returning to a warm, painless reality wouldn’t heal this slow, scraped, scratched cavity in his chest.
John reached over and pulled the lever that opened the door. His feet touched the familiar concrete, and he reached into his pocket and lifted his phone to his ear.
Oh, how that voice still drove a thousand nails into his heart.
“Stay where you are,” Sherlock pleaded.
His voice always the same. A little bit panicked, a little hoarse, but assured.
“I know what you’re going to do, Sherlock.”
A slight pause.
“John, I –“
“Listen, Sherlock,” John said. “I know I can’t prevent it. You’ve got your reasons, but you never tell me what they are. You’re an idiot and you never let me in, because you’re selfish and you think keeping me in the dark will protect me. Well, it doesn’t.”
There was silence on the other end as Sherlock listened, as he sometimes did, which was good, because John couldn't stop if he tried. He never got tired of this moment. If there was a silver lining in this hell of an existence, it was that John had a million chances to say goodbye.
He craned his neck to look up, to that tall shadow in the billowing coat, stark against the white clouds. His chest tightened painfully.
John used to cry, here, too. But he decided it got in the way of talking.
“I love you, you fucking genius,” he spat out. He wasn’t bothered that he sounded angry – he could be softer about it next time. “And I think you love me too, in your own fucked up way, or else why would you even bother calling me? Worst suicide note ever, by the way.”
He heard a noise on the other end, something between a laugh and a choked sob. John waited for an answer, standing stock-still in the cold.
“I never thought it needed saying.”
“Well, you bloody thought wrong, you idiot.”
For a moment, all John could hear was his own breathing, and Sherlock’s, echoing across the distance between them through the telephone speakers.
Then, a short intake of breath.
“You know I do, John.”
Bloody git would never give him a straight answer.
Everything afterwards unfolded as it always did. He watched Sherlock hurtle through the air, disappearing behind a nearby building. He ran, dutifully, to the place where he crashed. By now he knew the biker was coming behind him, and usually managed to dodge him. This gave John enough time to arrive at the scene early enough to push through the crowd, and actually see Sherlock properly for a few moments.
The sidewalk pressed painfully into his left shoulder as he lay down, stretching his arm and leg across Sherlock’s still-warm body. He heard voices protesting, but he promptly ignored them.
He always wished for that lithe chest to rise, just once, betraying Sherlock’s trick and giving John the evidence of life he wanted so dearly. It never did.
He pushed his nose against Sherlock’s scalp, burying his face in the blood-drenched curls. He felt the sticky wetness on his face, and blood was seeping into his left ear, which was rubbing painfully against the cement as he dragged his head even closer to his flatmate’s, as close as he could get.
He started shaking again, and whispered onto Sherlock’s skin.
“Please, just please, God, let me die.”
And so he closed his eyes, hopeful.
His heart sunk as heard the familiar beginnings of white noise.