He watches as they wheel him – Sherlock – away, standing on the sidewalk in the spot that Sherlock...that Sherlock fell. John couldn't seem to form a coherent thought, words blurring into each other. He watches, stunned and in silence – except that he was pretty sure his mouth was moving – but the thump of his heart is overwhelmingly loud in his ears, and he couldn't hear anything else. No one notices him, anyway.
Time had seemed to slow down before – as if someone had taken it and stretched it out as far as it would go. Yet, now, it seemed as if the aforementioned someone had abruptly let go, time snapping together like a metal spring. Life was whirling around the army doctor like it always did – unaware of what it had just lost – while he alone was feeling an overwhelming dose of emotions. And yet, he feels so numb.
John watches as the ambulance turns the corner, carting Sherlock away in it, and the people slowly disperse. He stands in the middle of the puddle of blood. They're all so...mechanical. He realizes then what the last thing he said to Sherlock face to face was.
The horror must register on his face because a few strangers give him their condolences as they pass him, continuing with their lives, unaffected.
What must it be like to live blissfully unaware of death? he wondered absentmindedly. He stands there stoically, unmoving, in the blood, pretending that it isn't Sherlock's. Or, rather, it is, but he had simply dropped it while he was heating up his...Bunsen burner...or something. Dammit, Sherlock, clean this mess up, you wanker.
He looks up, to the roof – the roof where Sherlock fell – and crumples, sinking onto the bloodied sidewalk, collapsing. He is crying, but he is also laughing, at himself, at his insanity. He laughs at himself for seeing – for imagining – the yellow mist – or is it light? – on the rooftop. He laughs at himself while crying for Sherlock, for himself, for life that is unbearably cruel; he doesn't know what he is doing. He is both painfully aware of the present, it ticking away, another second since Sherlock di – fell – gone, and painfully unaware of the present, time slurring together, the people and cars around him moving so fast.
No one approaches him now. No one approaches the madman, the sad man, weeping for his best friend, sitting in an unsightly large puddle of blood. No one gives him their condolences now or even informs him that his best friend's blood is seeping into his trousers. Disgusted mothers are pulling their scared daughters away from him, shooting him dirty looks. Passing pedestrians all walk around him, in a circle, as if they were all afraid of catching his grief.
He watches the dazzling rays of yellow dance on the rooftop through his tears until Lestrade arrives to escort him away.
Sherlock is on the news that day. John blankly watches them talk about his best friend, neither truly hearing nor seeing them, but at the same time, he does. Mrs. Hudson makes a few disgusted remarks at the telly and then falls silent, watching him worriedly.
They don't mention Moriarty. They don't mention any of the good things about Sherlock. They don't even show him sobbing on the sidewalk where he fell.
The funeral is the next day; Mycroft is anything if not efficient. John promises to himself in the taxi that he won't cry. He, of course, breaks that promise.
He also punches Mycroft in the face. He feels the blood on his fist before he sees it. Mycroft just lets him, doesn't fight back, and walks away, cupping his nose. Lestrade has to pull him away and tell him to stop shouting obscenities at a funeral.
Later, when he breaks his promise and cries in front of Sherlock's grave, he realizes that he just met Sherlock's mother for the first time. Or, rather, she met him while he was busy attacking her other son and spouting expletives. He wonders how Sherlock would feel about it.
John shakes his head and walks away from the grave. He notices a dark figure in the corner of his eyes, and a quote from...somewhere drifts into his head.
“Look. Exactly where you don't want to look, where you never want to look. The corner of your eye.”
He can't remember where the quote is from, and he racks his brain for an answer, but it doesn't come. It's understandable; after all, he didn't sleep all night, channeling Sherlock with his insomnia. No, Sherlock didn't have insomnia; he always chose not to sleep. John wonders if Sherlock's dreams made sense, or if they were as crazy as everyone else's.
Nevertheless, he turns, but there's nothing there after all. No tall detective in his black trench coat with the collar turned up to his cheekbones. John's disappointed, but he doesn't know what he expected, anyway. He wonders if Sherlock was buried in his coat, or if Mycroft had him buried in something else; the funeral was closed casket. It wouldn't be right for Sherlock to be wearing something else besides the coat, anyway. John wants to call Mycroft and ask, but he thinks of how difficult the rest of the conversation would be and decides not to.
He joins Mrs. Hudson and returns to the flat.
John goes back to counseling. He doesn't want to, but he knows he needs to. He is consumed with grief.
“Why today?” his therapist speaks, as if she doesn't know already. John wonders how much training she had to do to master the calm, emotionless mask that all therapists had. Well, the therapists on the telly, anyway; they all had the same mask that she had. John wonders if they teach it in therapist school, or wherever the hell they go. He considers becoming a therapist to learn how to hide his grief that was clearly etched in every line in his face.
As he speaks the words, he knows. He knows that he doesn't believe them himself. He knows that he doesn't believe that his best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead. Ella, his therapist, reads this clearly in his face. She asks him if he really believes that in her bland therapist voice. He decides to help her out by trying to help himself and answers honestly.
“I know he's dead,” he tells her, “I saw it for myself. I felt it, the absence of his pulse. I know he's dead, but I don't believe it. And I know I'm crazy, and in grief, and that denial is probably one of the stages of grief, I think, but I can't help but feel that he's still alive. And I've hallucinated yellow mist on the roof where he fell, and I see him out of the corner of my eye, and I know that he won't be there when I turn, but I can't help but feel like this is just another Sherlock Holmes case.”
Ella finishes writing something in her notes on him. “But John, you have to accept that he's dead.” she says gently.
“I – right.” His jaw swings shut, and he remains quiet for the rest of the session, save for the occasional noncommittal hum at her questions.
He decides, at the end, that he doesn't want to be a therapist after all because he doesn't want to ever have to deal with patients like him that are so far gone and beyond help – that just sit there, an empty shell of a person. The thought of Sherlock being a therapist and being forced to put up with those people makes him smile, his eyes crinkling, and Ella looks at him inquisitively, but he doesn't tell her. He just gives a small shake of a head, and she presses her lips together tightly and bids him goodbye.
He goes to St. Bart's to see Molly. More specifically, he goes to see Molly about his trousers. John is sick of people telling him that they're sorry for his loss, but he listens to Molly's because he knows she's being sincere and not just polite. He can tell that she's cried, too; he could tell even if he didn't see her at the funeral.
There is an awkward pause, and then John presents her his folded up jeans. They're the pair that he wore when Sherlock...fell, the pair with all the blood. She looks confused, and he hastily explains.
“They – look, I know this is stupid, and that I should be handling it better, but I can't accept it. This isn't fair to you, but I need a favor, Molly. I need to know, if the blood's...his.” He can't say his name; he has difficulty even saying the last word as is, but Molly's eyes widen in understanding. She looks like she wants to say something or perhaps cry, but she simply takes the folded up trousers and bids him well.
Later, Molly calls him back to the lab, only to confirm that the tests showed that the blood is, indeed, Sherlock's. She looks at John the same way that everyone looks at John now, like he's fragile and made out of glass. He might as well be, these days.
He thanks her, and somehow, it leads to him consolidating her that “It wasn't your fault” and “You just did me a favor, Molly, I asked for you to do this” and even, “Yes, I'm going to be fine, Molly, no I'm not – I just don't know what I expected out of this, that's all.” He leaves the hospital feeling guilty for making her cry.
John still can't believe that Sherlock isn't alive anymore. He can accept it, but he can't believe it.
Mycroft calls some days after the meeting with the therapist. John lets it ring twice before sighing and punching the green button.
“Yes?” he asks, tense and unforgiving, going straight past the hello.
“I've been in touch with Ms. Thompson,” Mycroft begins. John mentally snorts.
“Read anything of interest?” he prompts.
“Yes, yes, indeed.” John is slightly surprised; he wasn't aware that he said anything of value; he barely said anything at all.
“You allegedly said that you saw yellow mist on the rooftop of St. Bart's?” John's shoulders slump; he doesn't want to talk about his hallucination and how increasingly mentally-unsound Sherlock's death was driving him.
“Yes,” he grudgingly confirmed. More than anything, he does not want to talk about feelings with Mycroft Holmes, the Ice King.
“Could you please describe it?”
“Mycroft, what's this about?” Irritation leaks into his voice. He is a broken man; he doesn't have time for this.
“It's a matter of national importance.” This time, John does snort out loud.
“You always say that, but what does that mean? How could an imagined yellow light caused by excessive grief be 'a matter of national importance?!'”
“Light? I thought it was mist?” John ignores him and remains silent, waiting for an explanation. He hears a sigh at the end of the line and smiles to himself. He could picture the disapproval on the elder Holmes's – the only Holmes's – face right now.
“There are circumstances behind Moriarty's death...” Mycroft hesitates, “that might not be what they seem.” John's breath catches, and he almost drops the phone.
“Like what?” he hears himself ask, his voice hollow.
“You tell me.”
John sighs. “I don't know,” he finally says. “It was bright yellow...I don't know what it was more like – light or mist. It was hard to tell, you know, through the tears.” He pauses and adds, “No one else noticed; I'm not even sure that it was real.”
There is a pause from Mycroft's side of the line.
“Thank you,” he finally says. The conversation falls into an awkward silence. John mentally debates between apologizing for punching him and not. He knows it's the mature thing to do, but he isn't sorry for doing it.
“My nose is fine, by the way,” Mycroft says as if he could read John's mind, which isn't entirely implausible. You never know with the Holmes brothers. “Nothing’s broken, or anything. Mummy won't be pressing charges.”
“Oh.” John leaves it at that. More silence. “Is that it?”
“Yes, I do believe so. I'll phone you if I need anything else.”
“Yes, and keep me updated on it, will you?” John requests, even though they both know he won't. Matters of national importance and all.
Mycroft humors him. “I will. Best wishes, Doctor Watson.” He pauses. “And communicating with your therapist verbally will help with your grief.”
“Goodbye, Mycroft,” John says irritably between his gritted teeth and hangs up.
Speaking with Mycroft is tiring. Not only because he is Sherlock's brother, and he sold him out to Moriarty to begin with, but also because he's nearly as intelligent as Sherlock, which means he knows. He understands. If he wanted to, he could rattle off all the things John is feeling and the reasons why, Sherlock style.
John hates him for that. He hates him for being another link to remind him. Sherlock never knew what to say – or rather what not to say – when it came to delicate matters such as emotions; Mycroft, however, always knew what to and what not to say – being the British government and all. But Sherlock was always genuine; he never said anything he didn't mean. Anything that Mycroft could say to John would just anger him even more, so he doesn't. Which only serves to infuriate John, as if he's acknowledging his cold-hearted insincerity and doing nothing about it.
John wonders if Mycroft was the one who taught Sherlock that caring is not an advantage. More so, he wonders if Mycroft's the one who taught him that alone protects him. Alone didn't protect Sherlock; alone killed him. Sherlock didn't die because he jumped off of St. Bart's; he died suffocating on all his aloneness. Stepping off of the roof was just a side effect. He died, thinking – always thinking – he was alone, but that's not true; he had John. He would always have John. Even now.
Like Sherlock, Mycroft was condescending. It was a Holmes family trait to be naturally condescending. The difference was Mycroft was a pompous condescending whereas Sherlock was contemptuous. John prefers Sherlock's contemptuous to Mycroft's pompous. He misses him. He misses the spontaneous violin concertos at three in the bloody morning. He misses the creative mutilations of John's favorite jumpers. He misses the great – albeit misguided – extents Sherlock went to to atone for the mutilation of his favorite jumpers on the rare occasion that he noticed John's displeasure. John misses his brutal honesty. He wishes Sherlock is still here, beside him, possibly ranting irately about Mycroft, his archenemy.
Mycroft may be the closest thing the world still has to Sherlock's massive intellect, but when it comes to brilliance, Mycroft could never come close.