5 July 2012
This was the first time John had been up here since Then. The wind was buffeting his sleeves, ruffling through his hair. He stood at the edge, not on it, not like he had, and looked out, not down. From the roof, he could see over a few of the smaller buildings; if he looked up, he could see the small puffy clouds that hovered directly overhead.
Finally, gathering his courage, he bent over the edge and looked down, vertigo twisting in his guts and in his ears, making them buzz in displeasure. His fingers gripped the hot concrete, knuckles whitening where the bones pressed against the skin. At first, his glance skittered over where he really wanted to look, and his eyes locked onto the small spot of pavement where he had been standing, waiting and watching helplessly as Sherlock breathed above him.
John closed his eyes.
If he let himself, he could still feel the hard plastic of his mobile biting into his ear as he pressed it harder and harder still, as if the closer connection would draw Sherlock back down safely to the ground.
If he let himself, he would realise that he was beginning to forget the exact timbre of Sherlock’s voice.
He opened his eyes, blinking against the harsh light of the sun. John took a deep breath, held it, and then let it out in a long slow gasp as he finally forced himself to look down where he had landed. Even though he knew there was no chance of a stain left, he could still see in his mind’s eye the puddle of blood where Sherlock had lain, still warm but far, far too still. John’s gaze roved desperately over the landscape below him, looking for anything, anything that would have let Sherlock survive the fall, stage a bloody magic trick.
It’s a trick. Just a magic trick.
John had never wanted to believe in magic until now, but he could see no way that Sherlock could have done anything to save himself.
His mobile beeped, and for one wild, breathless moment as he fumbled it from his pocket, he thought that when he looked at the display, the text would be from Sherlock. But it was Mycroft, the nosy git.
Mrs Hudson is waiting for you. Do please make sure you keep your appointment.
John sighed, allowing himself one last glance over the edge before he turned back to descend into the land of the living.
12 May 2013
John never knew why his feet led him to the rooftop. (Well, he did, but he didn’t want to admit it out loud or even in the privacy of his own mind.) But every few months, he’d blink and suddenly he was on the roof, standing in the same place Sherlock had, and find himself looking down to where Sherlock had died.
He still didn’t believe in magic tricks.
Normally, no one ever found him up there. Most of the time, he’d sit with his back to the low wall that surrounded the edge of the building and would simply breathe, feeling the air shift through his lungs. On rarer occasions, he’d stand and grip the concrete and let the wind buffet him. Usually, Mycroft would text him after he’d been there for an hour and bring him back to reality.
But today, Molly Hooper found him sitting on the edge, feet dangling over the empty air where Sherlock had fallen.
She approached him timidly, making sure he heard her before she spoke to him. John had to suppress a grin as he thought about how carefully she was treating him, as if he were some small mouse that could be frightened into dying if she scared him.
Dying didn’t scare him. No, what scared him were the things that waited for him in the night as he tossed and turned and did everything he could to stave off sleep so that he would simply drop off and not dream⎯what waited for him in those dreams were what terrified him.
He let himself be coaxed off the edge and even let Molly loop her arm through his, guiding him gently back towards the stairs. He didn’t look back, and his mobile remained stubbornly silent.
5 July 2013
Normally, when John found himself on the roof, he was silent. He wanted to hear Sherlock’s voice speaking to him, the current of the unspoken I love you buried deep in the tremble of his voice as he had stood here and said goodbye. John replayed those words over and over and over again every time he came out here, hoping that one time, they would hurt a little less. He had been on this roof over a hundred times since Sherlock fell from it, and those words hurt a little more every time.
John sat on the ledge and planted his feet firmly on the concrete. He drummed his fingers on the edge and looked up at the sky, squinting into the sun. There were no clouds, not today. He huffed out a breath and swung himself around, letting his feet dangle over thin air.
He did not look down.
Instead, he closed his eyes and leaned forward just a bit, enough to feel gravity start to work on his balance. He had debated standing, as Sherlock did, but he was not as brave⎯he didn’t have the heart to face death like an old friend.
Just as he thought he would let gravity take over and pull him down, down, down, his mobile chirped. John kept his eyes closed and let his chin drop to his chest. He debated not answering it, but it chirped again and again, and so he sighed and dug it out of his pocket.
He stared at the message, almost dropping the phone as his fingers went numb.
John paused, then added: And I don’t believe you
You don’t have to believe me, but how will you know if I’m lying if you’re not here?
What do you want? John typed wearily. His heart was thundering in his chest.
Just wait a little while longer. Believe.
A pause, then:
John looked down and saw a black car sitting in nearly the same spot he had been standing when Sherlock fell. As he watched, he saw a brief glimpse of Mycroft’s moon-pale face in the window. John nodded a bit and swung his legs back over the edge. After his legs and hands stopped shaking, he stood up and made his way back downstairs.
When he walked out the door, Mycroft’s car was gone.
10 August 2013
The sun was nearing the edge of the rooftops that evening when John went out to sit on 221’s roof. There was an advantage to having the attic bedroom⎯he could slip out and Sherlock wouldn’t notice. Not that that was likely tonight⎯after Sherlock had returned (and punches were thrown and he gave hugs so tight he was worried he’d left permanent bruises on Sherlock’s ribs) John had hardly been out of his sight. John found that he couldn’t bear to let Sherlock be more than a few metres away from him either, but tonight, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be found.
After he’d been sitting on the slate tiles for about fifteen minutes, Sherlock’s head poked out of the attic access. John looked over his shoulder and nodded at him, a faint smile crossing his face as he patted the tiles next to him in wordless invitation.
Sherlock crawled out and joined him, arranging his legs so that their thighs were touching. This was new, too, this touching and some fleeting glances. John wasn’t sure what to think of this new development in their relationship, but for now, he was happy to think that perhaps someday, one of them would screw up their courage and move them forward and turn them into what they were supposed to be.
But now, they sat in silence on the roof of their home, which John had never thought Sherlock would be in again, legs pressed together, watching the sun set. John let the silence settle between them, warm and heavy as the summer air.
Sherlock was the one who finally broke the reverent silence with a soft, “Why the roof?”
John snorted. “Why do you think?”
“I apologised for that. I will never stop apologising for what I did.”
“I know. But I’ve forgiven you, and eventually, you’ll have to forgive yourself.”
They fell silent again, and the sun set a little lower.
Finally, John cleared his throat and said, “You called it a magic trick. I used to go up on Barts’ roof and look to see how you would have pulled it off.”
“And I never figured it out. It was never a trick to me, Sherlock. It was reality. It was my life. I went out there over a hundred times, and every time, I told myself that this time was the time that I would figure it out. Until the last time I went out there.” He stopped and looked out at the skyline. Sherlock seemed to be holding his breath, waiting for John to continue. And when he did finally speak, his voice was creaky with suppressed tears. “The last time I went out there would have been my last. I had my legs over the edge and I was leaning over and waiting for gravity to take over when I got this.” He fumbled in his pocket and thumbed through his texts until he found the ones Mycroft had sent him that day. He handed the phone over to Sherlock, who was staring at him as if he had never seen him before.
Sherlock took the phone and read the messages, mouth pressed in a thin line. “I never realised it was this bad,” he whispered. “I never knew you were doing this. I never dreamed that you were like me.”
John stared at him. “What do you mean, ‘never dreamed that you were like me?’”
“It wasn’t a roof for me. It wasn’t drugs, either. I just…stopped. I stopped eating, stopped caring about anything other than getting my job done so I could come home. I nearly died more than once just from neglect. And then, for a few months, Mycroft wouldn’t give me any updates on you, and I thought that he was afraid to tell me that you had died. And then he told me you knew I was still alive, and so I let him take over so I could come home. He sounded worried about you when he told me you knew, so I hurried home as quickly as I could.” He glanced over at John and then murmured, “And I may have tried, just once. It was in Russia, and I was so cold and alone and I thought you were dead and I had a blade to my wrist. But Mycroft texted me then, with more details on the man I was chasing down, and so I stopped before I got too deep.”
“Show me,” John said thickly.
Sherlock unbuttoned his cuff and slowly rolled up his sleeve. John sucked in a breath at the scar that ran neatly up Sherlock’s wrist. He reached out and traced up it with a finger. Sherlock watched him, eyes hooded. “Look at me,” Sherlock commanded.
John tore his eyes from the scar and met Sherlock’s eyes.
“John.” Sherlock reached up and gently brushed a hand along his temple.
“It was never about jumping,” John admitted. “Me going up there. Not until the end.”
“It was too cold and quiet alone.”
“I know. I couldn’t bear it either. Hence this,” Sherlock gestured to the scar on his arm, hidden now by his partially unrolled cuff.
John reached out and covered Sherlock’s hand with his own. Sherlock turned his hand and tangled his fingers with John’s, gripping on tightly.
They sat on the roof and let their feet swing over the edge, watching as the sky darkened as the sun finally fully set.
“Do you ever think about it now?” Sherlock asked into the silence.
“Think of what?”
“Sherlock, I⎯I don’t know. Do I right this instant? No. Will I in the future? I can’t really say. Depression like that doesn’t always go away completely.”
They looked away from each other⎯Sherlock out to the streets he thought he might not see again, John down to their entwined hands.
“Do you think about it?” John asked.
“Sometimes. Not so much now that I’m home.”
“Promise me something,” John said urgently. Sherlock turned his upper body a bit so they were facing each other straight on. “Promise me that if you ever think of doing something, no matter what it is⎯running away, jumping, anything⎯that you tell me and we can go together.” His throat closed off as he whispered, “It’s too empty without you, and I never want to feel that way again.”
Sherlock reached out and tipped John’s chin up, looking deeply into his eyes as he answered. “I promise. I swear to you, John, that if I ever think of leaving you again, I will tell you so we can work it out. But you have to promise me you’ll do the same. I can’t be without you again. A year nearly destroyed me⎯I can’t imagine what a lifetime would do.”
John looked at him. “I thought that’s what I was facing⎯a lifetime of feeling lost and empty and cold and so alone. And, well, you know what happened.”
“I am sorry, John.”
“I can’t say I won’t do it again, not if it will keep you safe.”
“Discuss it with me first. We’ll face it together.”
“John Watson,” Sherlock shook his head, cupped John’s cheek in his hand. “You are a marvel.”
John just smiled, eyes shining in the reflected streetlights as Sherlock leaned in for a kiss⎯their first. He met him halfway, still smiling as their lips met. Around them, Baker Street was quiet as they broke apart. Sherlock stood first, offering John a hand up and tugged him inside, shutting the little door to the roof with a quiet click.