Work Header

Death's Sting

Chapter Text

People bore me. They are always so fixated on their own absurd existence. They know nothing; see nothing. And even when they do see, they do not understand what they have seen. They are incapable of analysis. Their thought processes are simplistic and predictable, and they act accordingly. It is quite incredible, actually, that such a banal principle has succeeded through the course of evolution.

I do not like people. I only liked one. An exception. But he has left.

I have not accepted any cases for quite some time. Lestrade has made several attempts to consult me, but I have refused. No interest. Well, there might be one or two murders of particular interest, and a few cases approaching a complexity with which one might have tempted me earlier. Watson would likely have succeeded in motivating me. He with his philanthropic bent and sense of justness. He always knew how to shed light on matters and make them palatable to me. But Watson is gone. He has his Mary now.

Dr John Watson was my claqueur. He admired me. He idolised my sharp mind. He was taken with my ability to observe and see connections. I was able to astound him. He loved me for it. He rejoiced when we succeeded in apprehending a thief or murderer. I took pleasure in his joy, and in being the object thereof. Well, perhaps there was much that I did for his sake. For our sake. For both of us. It gratified his desire for justice and my thirst for approbation. And so we joined forces to solve crimes. Not that I ever concerned myself with justice. That was Watson's motive, and his alone. I abhor people, and far be it from me to do anything for their sake, unless it might contribute to my own entertainment and satisfaction.

My life has become cold and empty. I have no more ambition since he left. Yes. I admit it. Things are hollow without him. Life. Even more hollow. Even more trivial. A skeleton counting down the hours, its bones picked clean, the seconds chasing through it in stormy gusts. Minutes. Hours. Days. Meaningless. Day-to-day existence nothing more than tedium and disinclination. One day identical to the next. Worthless. One night identical to the next. Senseless. Disposable goods.

And then these unspeakable dinners from time to time. The O'Gradys had extended an invitation to their country estate. I only attend such events because they allow me to dine for free. In exchange, I put on a smile and make small talk with ghastly, inane guests who bore me to tears. My presence is requested because I am Sherlock Holmes, a certified genius. People want to stare at me like an animal in the zoological gardens. The great Sherlock Holmes! An odd fellow, unapproachable, foul-tempered, but quite brilliant. I used to receive invitations for myself and Dr Watson. We were the odd couple, back then. Watson distributed his charm amongst the ladies, breaking many a heart. It was a game. We would enjoy a pleasant evening, eat well, and enjoy excellent conversation. Since he left, I attend these affairs alone and sulk. That is the state of things. I cannot deal with people without him. I feel myself at their mercy. I am insufferable. I won't try to sugarcoat it. It's the truth. I am unbearable without him.

That is the part of the iceberg which is visible.

It lies within me, cold and sharply angled. Every move causes its keen, icy edges scrape against the open wounds of my soul. The iceberg reaches down deep into my groin, where the main body can be found. It sometimes cracks open, splinters into daggers that thrust into my body when the mountain turns, pushing new masses of ice downward and digging the shards deeper into my flesh. Sometimes I find I can barely breathe.

Sometimes I no longer wish to breathe.

The only reason to breathe would be for him. His skin. The familiar scent of tobacco and lye soap, the tang of his sweat and the sweet bitterness of his arousal. The combination, its components constantly changing when we made love. But his mere presence would suffice for me, the smell of him beside me, his body, the joy of his attention, his smile. That alone would be worth breathing for.

The whole of the flat used to smell of him. Everything, even the curtains. Now nothing smells of his briskness, his laughter, his gaze. The flat on Baker Street is sinking in the fug and stench of dust and ashes. The musty putrescence of pointless loneliness seeps out of the wallpaper, and the walls exhale the mildewy humidity of unfulfilled longing. Stagnant grief cowers in the nooks and corners and rises from the carpet as soon as one sets foot upon it. The rotting corpse of a lost love. Everywhere.

Sometimes... sometimes I fancy he is returning home of an evening. His footsteps on the stairs. He hangs his hat and coat on the hooks behind the door, cheerful, unhurried. He enters the living room, approaching me and placing his hands on my shoulders from behind as I continue to peer down my microscope. Then he says, his voice affectionate and sweet, "Good evening, Holmes," and presses his face into my hair for a long moment. His breath warm. And I close my eyes and lean back against his body, lay my hand over his. Sometimes the dream continues for hours. Then I retire to my bed and apply my own hand to myself, seeking release, an escape from the pain for a short time, a self-deceit. Afterwards, I feel filthy and alone. I find myself more lonely than ever, and sometimes... sometimes I weep. Weep like a godforsaken, injured child. As if the emptiness could be filled with tears.

I would not have accepted the invitation to dinner at the O'Gradys – never – had I known what awaited me there. I had been seated between a professor of mathematics and a young, well-educated lady, apparently in hopes that I would be able to amuse myself. That I would either be drawn into the complex thought processes of higher mathematics, or fall victim to the lady's charm and wit. I ate what was offered, listened to the conversation around the table with half an ear, and replied sullenly to any questions directed my way. I know I performed an injustice to my neighbours at table, the highly intelligent and kindly professor as well as the extraordinarily savvy and quick-witted young lady. They could not help it that they were not Watson, that they were unable to fill the painful void; indeed, they only served to make me feel it more keenly.

It was winter, and accordingly dark, and the O'Gradys had only caused a small number of candles to be lit in the banquet hall, in order to provide a festive atmosphere. I had turned to the mathematician. Perhaps that is the reason why I did not see him until the meal was underway. He sat on the opposite side of the long table, only a couple of metres away from me. He looked tired and drawn. Pale. His hair unkempt and dull. His eyes were reddened and the smile he made an effort to bestow on the lady beside him came across pained. He looked ill and maltreated. It was Dr John Watson. He seemed to have aged several years. Mary had not accompanied him.

I must have been staring at him, and he must have sensed it. He turned his head and our eyes met. I saw his eyes widen. He was startled, just as much as I, clearly having as little expected to see me here as I him. We watched each other through all the people, dishes and glasses, through coiffures and hats, all the chatter, blather, and laughter. We stared at each other like two strange wolves who have caught each other's scent.

He turned away first, made his excuses to the lady beside him, stood up, and left the table and the room. I sat there like a dog that had been left out in the rain. I stared at the table, into my plate, but my hand refused to lift the fork. My body refused to swallow. My head refused to formulate a single thought. John. John was here. I closed my eyes and made an attempt to master the tumult in my heart. Something stung like acid, burning me from the inside. I forced myself to remain seated, but failed. I could not pretend nothing had happened. And he had left as soon as he'd seen me. He had left, just as he had the last time. Without saying a word, leaving nothing behind but this searing pain. I needed to go to him.

Oh yes, I was well aware how wrong that was. I stood up and went looking for him. I was a fool. A hopeless fool. I wanted to see him, to smell him. I wanted to hear his voice, to look into his eyes. I was gasping for his attention, to have it turned on me for a moment at least. A meeting. A few words. He was the man who had vanquished everything in me, conquered all, consumed me entirely. My thoughts were with him day and night, even now. I wanted to see him. Even if it might be painful to stand before him, it could not surpass the cruelty of the torment I suffered without him.

And so I went after him. Mindless. Driven like an animal by agitation and instinct.