He was a bloody wreck.
Oh, he could cope. Barely. His life was falling apart around him in various ways but he was trying to hold it all together as best he could. Sally had given up on him, his wife had left him, and to be honest he didn’t really blame either of them. Sally especially; he could barely stand the sight of himself and he was honestly surprised she could stand to be in the same room with him, work cases with him. And when it came to cases, well, he was surprised he still had a job. The inquiry at the Yard had cleared him of any wrongdoing but that wasn’t to say he didn’t have sideways glances given to him every time he entered a crime scene to process it. That wasn’t to say there weren’t rumours flying out about how he’d been suckered in by the cock and bull story laid out for him by James Moriarty. It wasn’t as though it wasn’t said he hadn’t helped lead Sherlock Holmes up to that roof and convince him to jump with his absolute certainty he was a criminal mastermind.
He didn’t need to know that was what people whispered behind his back. God knew it rattled enough in his own head.
But he was trying to keep it together, keep the guilt from eating him alive. He was managing, somewhat. Kind of. Most days he managed well enough. Some days he might have a smidge more to drink than others, but he wasn’t drinking himself into a stupor, at least. He wasn’t burying himself in casework and he wasn’t sinking into a depression. He was just...drifting like a ghost, day to day, keeping his head down and shuffling along and trying to get through each day to move on to the next. One day it would get better. He had to hope for that. One day it would all get put behind him and one day he could move on and things would be okay.
That had to be the way things worked. If it wasn’t...what was the point?
Today was a day where at least he wasn’t at the Yard. He had managed to get the chance to go to Barts for a while, work around Dr. Hooper. It was something he’d been doing with increased regularity to escape the stares and whispers at the Yard, at the behest of his superiors, and he was grateful for it. It was easier to work with Dr. Hooper than his old colleagues. He wasn’t as close to her as Greg was or Sally was, but she was a professional acquaintance who had treated him with kindness it the time since Sherlock’s death. Oh, it had hit her hard. He’d known she’d fancied him, Sally had told him that, and he had known she’d been the one at Barts that day that he’d jumped and she’d been the one to do the autopsy and sign the death certificate. He couldn’t imagine what that had been like, to be honest. She’d seemed to move on, from what he’d heard. Met a bloke of some sort who was a copy for Sherlock but an actual decent human being.
Lucky her. At least someone could.
He knew he wasn’t pulling his weight as much as he should, but he was trying. It was part of the “barely keeping his life together” aspect of things. It was a miracle he’d managed to keep his job, to be honest, he knew that. He also knew that if Dr. Hooper gave up on him, he might lose his job permanently. This post at Barts was where the problematic members of the Yard were shunted off to while they sorted themselves out, and if they didn’t...well, they either stagnated at Barts or found themselves made redundant. To be honest, he wasn’t sure what he preferred. Perhaps if he was made redundant, he could help in the off the books investigation he knew Greg and John Watson were running to try and clear Sherlock’s name since Scotland Yard had no interest in doing so.
He wanted to help. He wanted to put time and resources to doing that more than he wanted to slave away at solving homicide cases for a system that had failed Sherlock, a system that had allowed James Moriarty to manipulate them all and convince so many people that an innocent man was guilty that he went up on a roof and took his own life. The fact that it had failed so badly had shaken him to the core and to be honest he wasn’t sure what the point of continuing to be a cog in its wheel was. But he stuck with it because Greg and John had no interest in his help. Whatever it was they were doing, they were doing on their own, and that was the way they wanted it to be.
His head snapped up at Molly’s sharp exclamation. He looked at her and saw she was glaring at him, her arms crossed and her head tilted. He then glanced at the samples to his side and saw that he’d almost knocked them off the worktop with his elbow while he’d been lost in thought. “Sorry,” he said, moving his elbow and then moving the samples further onto the worktop so they’d be safe.
She shook her head and then uncrossed her arms, placing her hands on her hips. “I swear, you are more of a nuisance and a hindrance than a help. You’re worse than the interns. You’re supposed to be a professional! You’re better than this, Anderson.”
He nodded, taking her rebuke without complaint. She had every right to make it because it was true. He was better than this. He used to be a consummate professional. Before Sherlock’s suicide, he would have been exactly like her, or worse. He would have given anyone in his position a verbal lashing. Perhaps even humiliated them for good measure. “I’ll try and be better.”
She was quiet for a moment, and then moved closer, leaning against the edge of the worktop next to him. “Anderson...” Then she stopped and reached over to place a hand on his shoulder. “Philip, you need to get your head together. You can’t keep letting your work suffer. Ever since Sherlock left your work has gotten worse and you’re going to get sacked if you don’t straighten up. You could lose everything if you’re not careful.”
It took him a second to register her words, but then his eyes widened. Left. She said “ever since Sherlock left.” Not “died.”
What if...what if all of this was a hoax?
What if Sherlock was still alive?
What if all of this was an elaborate plot to bring down the criminal empire James Moriarty had been accused of running, that they hadn’t been able to prove was true?
He looked up at Molly and she gave him a strange look. “Philip?” she asked. “Are you alright?”
Oh, if Sherlock was alive, if he really, truly was alive...then there was no reason to feel guilty. He hadn’t killed him. There was no blood on his hands. He had to cling to that idea, cling to that hope. While John and Greg could be content with clearing Sherlock’s name he would try and track down Sherlock. Perhaps see if there was a way to help, find out if there was a way to let him know that he knew now he was innocent, that he was not what James Moriarty had made him out to be.
He had to find him.
He had to find Sherlock Holmes, and tell him he believed in him.
“I’ve never been better,” he said, giving her a small smile. It was the truth, after all. He never had been because now he had something he hadn’t had since that dreadful day six months prior: hope.
Sherlock Holmes was alive, and he would do whatever it took to prove it, come hell or high water.