John thought he was coping well.
It had taken him a bit but he had finally managed to bring himself back to Baker Street. Admittedly, he’d had to stand in the door for about ten minutes before he dared to venture over the threshold, but he’d done it.
And it was fine.
He was fine.
It was all fine.
He hadn’t broken down upon seeing kitchen table cleared off in the first time for months, years, centuries. The sight of the plain cardboard boxes filled with science equipment hadn’t completely destroyed him, though the only boxes he’d actually managed to bring himself to touch were the ones he could tell contained chemicals.
He wouldn’t have even touched those but then he’d just happened to notice Mrs. Hudson had put the ammonia right next to the bleach. Which had caught his attention instantly with a frown (because wasn’t that something everyone and their dog knew not to do?) before it occurred to him that she probably hadn’t been in the best of mindsets while packing this away.
An extra layer of guilt settled into his stomach at the thought.
She’d lost Sher-him just as much as John had.
To John, he’d been flatmate, best friend, danger, and safety all rolled into one.
To Mrs. Hudson, he’d been the son she never had.
They’d both lost him as much as the other but while John had (temporarily) allowed himself to drown in his grief, Mrs. Hudson had been where she had always been: Baker Street. Packing away his best friend’s things because John hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it.
The guilt twisted uncomfortably deep in his gut so he settled himself down to sort through the boxes.
There were a few more chemicals next to each other that made him cringe but a good majority of the more dangerous ones were missing. Mycroft’s doing, he supposed, (though he still refused to talk to the man, so there really was no way of knowing for certain). At least he hoped it was Mycroft’s doing and not that Mrs. Hudson had simply dumped them down the sink. He’d hate to think of what that would do to the plumbing this time, if she had.
The last time, chemical’s were dumped down the sink it was because Sherlo-he had forgotten (Deleted, John. I deleted it.)-
John’s eyes roamed the kitchen for a distraction from a memory that would... for a distraction.
Tea! Yes, tea. Tea was good. Tea was a nice, safe subject for his thoughts, he decided and dragged himself to his feet and away from the boxes to the safety of the food cupboard. The one that he’d threatened, on pain of dea... The one that he’d put his foot down and told him, in no uncertain terms, that this cupboard (and everything contained therein, John made sure to be very specific even if he knew his flatmate wouldn’t listen) was off limits for his experiments.
Oh, but he hadn’t listened, had he?
The first time John had gone to use the kettle after that conversation he’d found it full and (rather foolishly, John now realizes) he’d assumed Sh-his flatmate had simply gone to make tea at some point, forgotten the kettle was on, and left the water in. However, as it turned out, it was, in fact, not water in the kettle that time but some combination of chemicals that became slightly explosive when heat was added.
It had damn near given John a heart attack as well as completely destroyed the kettle.
John had pitched a fit and received an oddly specific promise not to put chemicals in the tea kettle anymore. The next time it was blood.
John had put his foot down that time. The tea kettle is for tea only. The detective told him he was being ridiculous and to simply wash the kettle then curled up on the sofa with his back to John in one of his usual sulks.
There had been two very distinct looking kettles on the kitchen counter the next morning.
One already filled with blood.
One labeled Tea Only.
John had smiled but he still checked the kettle every time he used it. Better safe than sorry and you never know when, in a fit of inspiration or boredom (both were equally dangerous to John’s health and sanity), Sh-he might decide to reclaim the Tea Only kettle.
The memory sprang up on John unbidden as it occurred to him that he didn’t have to check anymore. He’d never have to check the Tea Only kettle for blood or body parts or chemicals ever again. He didn’t need a Tea Only kettle anymore. He could just have a kettle.
And he hated it.
It made his eyes sting and his vision go blurry.
John closed his eyes and took several deep breaths to ward off the tears from falling. It could have been ten minutes or ten years for all he knew before Mrs. Hudson came in and found him standing there, clutching at the counter top like it was his last lifeline.
“Oh, John,” she whispered, resting a bony hand on his and gently prying it away. The moment it left the counter, it shot to cover his eyes.
“I’m fine, Mrs. Hudson,” he told her, though even he could tell it was unconvincing. His voice was thick and he was trying his damnedest to choke back the sob that was trying to escape. “It’s all fine.”
But she didn’t call him on it. Didn’t ask him what had set him off or give him useless platitudes. She just maneuvered him to the sofa and wrapped her spindly arms around him. She held his head to her shoulder and let him sob, petting his hair in a way that probably should have been embarrassing for a man of his age but quite frankly felt soothing and he couldn’t bring himself to pull away.
And when both of them had cried every drop of tears they possibly could, they just sat there. Staring at the empty kitchen.
And John finally admitted, in a raspy and broken voice, “Its not fine, Mrs. Hudson,” and buried his head in his hands, choking back another sob. Because, apparently, he wasn’t out of tears.
Because Sherlock was gone.
Because the kitchen was empty.
Because it wasn’t fine.
Nothing was fine.
And he wasn’t sure it could ever be fine again.