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A Real Deal

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The man looked exactly like Sherlock.

John set his cup of tea aside and clenched his fists. His hands were shaking only slightly. Well, that was good. That meant he wasn’t totally panicking.

The man in Sherlock’s armchair turned to look him in the eyes and he took a few sharp breaths.

He had known this was a mistake. Obviously, someone said in a familiar, low voice somewhere deep inside of him. It is… he had begun telling Mycroft on the phone, uncertain how to finish even though must have been a lot of perfectly adequate possibilities. Too weird, he had first said. Mycroft had laughed at him and perhaps he had been right. John had happily put up with a lot of weird over the years.

Wrong, he had said next and Mycroft’s laugh had turned softer. John had looked at the gun in his lap, the gun he was still keeping hidden in his dresser, the gun he didn’t need any more since he was just a regular doctor with a regular job and a deepening alcohol addiction. Certainly it was wrong. He put the gun carefully back into the dresser.

I don’t want it, he had said aloud. John, Mycroft had answered, clearly not bothering to hide the pity from his voice, you are a middle-aged doctor who is slowly killing himself with work, insomnia and huge amounts of alcohol. It’s been six months. Just try it.

It won’t work, though,
he had said and Mycroft had kept quiet. It’s not the same thing.

That’s what he kept thinking now. It’s not the same thing. It’s not. But the man looked at him and he stood there, numb, considering whether his hands were steady enough to hold the cup of tea again.

“John Watson,” the man said in a deep, low voice.

Oh my God. I can’t do this.

“Yes, you can.”

John froze. “I didn’t say that out loud.”

The man watched him, looking exactly like Sherlock, with narrowed eyes and a glare that seemed to question his state of mind. “You might as well have. It was quite clear on your face.”

He swallowed and then made himself turn around and walk to the kitchen. There was no way he could actually feel the man’s stare on his shoulders. Shit. It was ten o’clock in the morning. Mycroft had told him to take a day off, and when he had refused, he had been firmly told he wouldn’t be expected in the hospital until tomorrow morning. A matter of national importance. Had he not been so terrified, he would have laughed. And then there had been a knock on the door and he had just stood there, in the doorway, holding his breath as the man with Sherlock’s face and Sherlock’s fucking coat had walked upstairs and sat in the armchair. Sherlock’s armchair. Like he had known.

It was ten o’clock in the morning and John was supposed to spend the whole day with the man. At least there was no reason to stay sober, since he wasn’t going to work.

“Really?”

He bit his lip and watched over his shoulder. The man was frowning at him.

“If I understand right,” the man said, “it’s considered quite pathetic to drink alcohol in the morning.”

“Let me guess,” John said, “you deduced what I was thinking from the way my shoulders tightened.”

“You glanced at the cupboard, the top shelf more precisely, the place where humans keep things they don’t want to be too reachable. The glance was very short, half-unconscious I would say, so you clearly tried to hide it even from yourself. Judging by the data I have and also what I’ve seen of you so far, you like to be in control but also can’t deal with emotions. So, alcohol.”

“Fuck off.”

The man frowned at him. “Is that your usual response? I may have some disinformation –“

“No,” John said. “That’s not my usual response. But you aren’t you either.”

“John.”

He bit his lip and tasted a hint of blood. “Stop fucking using his voice. It’s too… I can’t... Just stop.

“I trust you know the safe word.”

Too much. It was definitely too much. He grabbed the bottle of scotch from the top shelf. He had to stand on his toes to get it, which was a bit embarrassing with the man watching, but not embarrassing enough to stop him. His hands trembled just a little as he poured the liquid into a glass. If he had been alone, he would have drunk it straight from the bottle.

But the thing is, he said to himself as he felt the liquid burning in his throat, you are alone.

“Yes,” he said, turning to face the man again. “I know the safe word.”

“Good,” the man said, watching him with an expression he knew too well. “So you also realise I won’t stop using his voice unless you tell me to. With a safe word.”

“I realise,” he said.

The man waited.

John tried to breathe. One day. He would try this for one day. Then he would say the word and call Mycroft and tell him to fucking get that thing away from him - it wasn’t real, none of this was real, and he needed it to be real so badly it hurt in his chest. Mycroft couldn’t tell him he hadn’t tried.

“I’m sorry,” the man said with Sherlock’s voice and Sherlock’s posture and Sherlock’s stare. “About. You know.”

He nodded. “Fine. It’s not like it’s your fault.”

“It kind of is, though.”

He closed his eyes. I’ll be fine, Sherlock had said. Stay here. I’ll be fine.

“Yes.”

You aren’t going to leave me behind, he had argued. It’ll end badly.

We can’t let the murderer get away, Sherlock had said to him, looking him straight in the eyes, left hand raised like he was going to touch John’s shoulder. And someone has to make sure the victim isn’t going to bleed out. I need you, John.

I need you, John.

I need you, John.

That was usually when he woke up at night, grasping at his sheets, breath stuck in his throat, skin covered with sweat, heart drumming madly. And he was crying, always crying, until he went downstairs and drank a little and was able to calm himself down, so that he could sleep a few more hours, so that he could go to work in the morning, so that he could try to distract himself to get through the day, so that he could keep living even though there was no point in it.

I need you, John, Sherlock said in his dreams and touched his shoulder, but it wasn’t a light touch, it was the shaking hand of a dying man. There was blood in Sherlock’s mouth and in his eyes and John was kneeling over him, holding his face in his hands, and every night after he woke up he told himself firmly that’s not how it happened. It didn’t help. Not at all.

“You’re thinking about him.”

“Of course I’m fucking thinking about him,” he said, watching the man who was dressed in well-suited clothes, certainly ridiculously expensive too, like that kind of thing mattered at all to John.

“If you want to be alone for a moment, I could go to my room.”

“You won’t go in there,” he snapped and frowned at his own tone, sharp and tense and absolutely terrified. “You will never go into that room unless I say so.”

“Fine,” the man said in a bitter tone that was far too familiar, far too well programmed.

“And I am alone,” he said, turning to stare at his own hands, “because you aren’t here.”

“So,” the man said, and John closed his eyes, “what would we normally do? On a day like this. You aren’t going to work and we don’t have a case.”

John cleared his throat. Later, he would kill Mycroft Holmes for making him do this. The British government would probably eliminate him right after but he didn’t exactly care. “I would complain about you not eating breakfast.”

“Fine. Go ahead.”

“It doesn’t really matter now, does it?”

“John. I eat. Occasionally, I think. You are welcome to complain about my eating habits.”

He swallowed. “No. That’s absurd.”

“Well, then,” the man said, ignoring him, ”what is next? What would we do?”

“We would -,” he said, and this was weird and wrong and hurt far too much, “- sit on our armchairs and watch TV.”

The man frowned at him. “Really? That’s not –“

“You probably deleted it. But that’s what we’re going to do now. We’re going to sit and watch some stupid detective show and you’re going to comment on the idiocy of the characters and insult me, and I’m going to sit there and take it because I know it’s just you. Even though it isn’t.”

“Fine.”

“Fine,” John said and sat down in his armchair. His knees trembled a little.

“Will you pick the show?” the man asked, when they had been sitting in silence for something like three minutes.

“Yes,” he said, “I fucking will, ‘cause you know nothing about anything.”

The man didn’t answer, probably because John was trying very hard not to cry.


**


“You couldn’t have known it from his socks,” John said and then realised who was sitting in front of him.

“It was obvious,” the man said, eyes still fixed on the screen. “The boy wore different socks for the dinner even though his outfit was otherwise the same. The crime had been committed outdoors and it was raining. Simple deduction, John. So, another?”

John bit his lip. He was trying to breathe, he really was. When he didn’t answer, the man turned to look at him and he quickly drew his eyes away.

“Something wrong?”

He shook his head.

“Oh,” the man said and John pressed his eyes shut, “you thought I was him.”

“Just for a second,” John said. His voice didn’t tremble, which was rather surprising at this point. “I’ve been drinking. That’s why I forgot.”

“It’s okay, you know,” the man said, frowning. “It’s kind of the whole point.”

“No, it’s not. It’s going mad, that’s what it is.”

“I don’t think you have much to lose. You seem to be coping with it quite poorly anyway.”

John bit his lower lip. “You can’t judge that.”

“I have memories of you,” the man said, watching him closely, “for the ten years we knew each other. And I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of you. I’d estimate that seventy-five percent of everything I have has something to do with you, which is quite impressive since I only knew you for approximately twenty-five percent of my life. I have detailed information on your habits, your expressions, everything you and I ever did. Obviously there’s a four month gap in my data, which is unfortunate but can’t be helped. All in all I think I’m rather well equipped to evaluate how you are coping.”

“But surely you don’t remember. That’s just information that you have. Ones and zeros. It’s not like you think you were actually there.”

He was there,” the man said, almost softly, and John pulled his shoulders back, “and that’s exactly what I have.”

“I’ll go mad.” Well, now his voice was trembling. He grabbed his glass but it was empty. “I’ll go fucking mad. I can’t do this, it’s too…”

“Eat something,” the man said. “And perhaps you’d like to read the newspaper after that. I have a lot of memories of you reading a newspaper. You sometimes mouth the words you’re reading, which I find both very frustrating and kind of fascinating.”

John froze. The man froze too but kept staring at him.

“I wouldn’t have told you that, would I?”

“No,” he said and swallowed, “you wouldn’t have.”

“I apologise. Just forget about it. You might also want to go for a walk, but if you do, I’d prefer to come along.”

“Absolutely not,” he said and rose to his feet. Newspaper. He was going to read the newspaper. That was a sane thing to do. “You aren’t going to go anywhere. No one can see you.”

John. It doesn’t matter what people think. And your friends know that you’re a mess. They won’t mind if you have me.”

“I don’t have friends,” John said, grabbed the back of the armchair with both hands and tried to force his voice to stay calm. “At least not, close friends. I only had you. And now I have no one.”

The man was watching him. “Because I’m dead.”

“Yes,” he said, “because you’re dead, Sherlock. You’re fucking dead.

He turned around, took the newspaper and walked to the kitchen, where he sat on the floor. He couldn’t see the man from here, so probably the man couldn’t see him either. He placed his hands over his face and breathed in and out.


**


“John.”

He touched his own cheek. It was dry. Well, that was good. He hadn’t been crying on the floor, then.

John.

“I’m here,” he said and cleared his throat.

“I know you’re there,” the man said with the exactly same voice John kept hearing in his dreams, “obviously. I’m bored. Fetch me your gun.”

”You aren’t going to shoot at the wall.”

”That’s pretty much the only thing I have catalogued under fun,” the man said, “besides –“

John waited for five seconds and then stood up. His knees cracked and he had to hold onto the kitchen table. The man was still sitting in his own armchair, now watching him somehow warily.

“Besides what?” he asked. “Tell me.”

“Besides watching your face. You make funny faces when you try to think.”

Oh my God. Sherlock, that’s not –“

Shit. The man stared at him with wide eyes. He straightened his back. There had to be a way to fix this, had to, because the man sitting in front of him wasn’t Sherlock, it was just a thing that looked and sounded exactly like Sherlock. He had to remember that. He couldn’t forget because then he would go mad. He would. He would close the doors and never go out and sit here for the rest of his life thinking Sherlock had never died.

“We have to find you a name,” John said. His voice was hoarse, his knees were trembling, he had had his ration of alcohol for today and he desperately needed more. “A name. So that I can call you something.”

“I have a name.”

“Really? And what’s that? R2-D2?”

“Sherlock Holmes.”

John took a sharp breath. Oddly, it resembled laughing. “No. Just… no. You don’t get use his name.”

“That’s the name in my system,” the man said, his voice incredibly low and quiet, and John tried to steady his knees. “I have three hundred and seventy-one memories of you calling me Sherlock. I think he kept them all.”

John shook his head and then shook it again. He tried to speak but it seemed very difficult.

“You don’t have to call me anything if you don’t want to,” the man said, “but please don’t call me by an ordinary name. It would be very inconvenient for both of us.”

“Bill,” John said and cleared his throat.

The man glared at him.

“I’ll call you Bill.”

Sherlock looked so utterly devastated that John wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“You can’t do anything to me,” John said and swallowed, “because I can always switch you off.”

Sherlock stared at him. “John.

He took a deep breath and then coughed. Scotch, he needed more scotch. He wouldn’t get through the day otherwise. Sherlock was sitting in his armchair and from the look in his eyes he had been terrified at the thought of John switching him off, for real, like his heart had been beating a bit faster, except that the man didn’t have a heart and he wasn’t Sherlock, he was just a good copy.

“Just breathe,” John said, “if that’s what you do, anyway.”

Sherlock opened his mouth. His chest rose and fell. John stared at it and blinked.

“You do breathe.”

“Of course I breathe,” the man said, but he was still watching John like he had been worried. “I’m made of cells. Human cells.”

“A very good copy,” John said without meaning to. “So. So. You have a heart.”

The man frowned. “That’s what you were worried about? That’s so… sentimental.”

“Just shut up.”

“Yes. I have a heart. One that was made in a laboratory, obviously.”

“So it’s not real.”

Sherlock sighed. “Oh, John. Real is such a controversial concept.”


**


“Sherlock,” he said and then bit his lip.

The man looked up from the article in his lap and said yes? in a very familiar tone. John wasn’t certain what was worse – that it had been so easy to let the name slide out of his mouth, or that the man had responded so quickly, like he had really thought he was Sherlock.

“You don’t remember it, do you?” he said, trying to steady his voice. “How you died, I mean.”

“Obviously not,” the man said, eyeing him like he was some averagely intelligent human being who had no idea what was going on around him, and he grabbed the armrests and tried to breathe, because it was so convincing. “He copied his mind four months before his death. That’s what I have. Everything before that day.”

“But they told you.”

“Yes. Mycroft told me. I had surprisingly few memories of him, considering that he is supposed to be my brother. I must conclude that I have knowingly and repeatedly deleted him.”

“You would have.”

“He was quite irritating,” the man said, frowning. “But since you asked, he told me how I died. I hear that you found me.”

“You were already gone. He had shot you in the chest. Clearly a professional. The bullet had pierced your… your heart.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not… I was so angry with you. I wanted you alive so that I could yell at you and punch you.”

The man looked slightly worried. “Is that why I’m here? I should tell you, I can feel pain.”

John blinked. “You can?”

“Obviously.” The man swallowed. “Are you going to, then? To hit me?”

“No, of course not, you idiot,” he said, perhaps a bit too quickly. “So, those four months before you…”

“Before I died.”

“Yes. They are gone, then?”

The man frowned. “Did I miss something important?”

“No,” John said, and it was true. They had been an almost boring four months. There had been nothing special, nothing extraordinary. He hadn’t told Sherlock that everything good in his life began and ended with the man who seemed eager to share his apartment, work and life with him. He had only complained about the body parts in the fridge. And now it was too late. “Nothing at all.”

“You could think of it as if,” the man said and paused, like he was trying to decide whether it was safe to go on, “as if those four months are just for you. No one else knows. They’re yours.”

John bit his lip. “They weren’t just mine. They weren’t supposed to be just mine.”

“I know,” Sherlock said, still sitting in the armchair but now leaning towards John. If John had chosen to slide his feet across the floor, he could have touched the man’s leg.

“I hate that it’s like this,” he said, frozen in place, “that you are sitting there and not him. He wasn’t supposed to die like that. I never really thought he would die.

“He didn’t either.”

“Well,” John said, shit, he was going to cry again, like he hadn’t been crying enough these past six months, “you would know.”

“Yes,” Sherlock said, “I know. He didn’t do it on purpose. He never would have left you here. I’m sure he’s sorry.”

John closed his eyes. “I’m a mess. I’m grieving for a man who was my fucking flatmate and colleague, not, like, a wife or child or whatever it is that normal people grieve for. And I’m losing my mind over it anyway.”

“A flatmate,” the man repeated, “a colleague. John. John. You’re missing information.”

“Shut up,” he said, “really, be quiet. I can’t take this now.”

“You were everything to him,” Sherlock said, “to me. This morning, when Mycroft brought me here, it was the most bizarre thing. I knew I was going to meet you, for the first time, and I already knew you from all the memories I have. And there’s a lot. It’s like he saved little else.”

 “I’m drunk. It’s not even afternoon and I’m already drunk.”

“Your conversation skills never were too brilliant, anyway. I’ll make you tea.”

John laughed. The sound of it was weird and unfamiliar, and it definitely didn’t sound like he was amused. “You would never make me tea.”

Sherlock had already risen to his feet. John let his head fall against the back of the armchair and watched as the man looked at him. Everything was in place. The hair, the nose, the mouth, the chin, the light skin on the man’s neck, next to the collar of that ridiculously posh shirt that was so like him. They had got everything right. It was infuriating. He was going to yell at Mycroft, really, he was. How could Mycroft ever have thought this would be a good idea?

“The last memory I have of you,” Sherlock said, hovering in front of him, a bit too hesitant perhaps but otherwise far too familiar, “is you standing on the pavement, by the front door. You’re watching me, frowning, with your arms crossed in front of your chest. You look so concerned and you’re trying to hide it and failing. And when the taxi stops, you say Sherlock, that’s just nuts. You aren’t going to take a copy of your brain. And I say watch me and get into the taxi.”

“And you went,” John said and cleared his throat, “and in the evening you came back and said that it hadn’t hurt at all and that I was an idiot for asking about pain, I should have been asking about the science of it, how it was possible, what kind of a code they would use to store someone’s mind. And I was just relieved you were back home.”

“But I don’t have that,” Sherlock said, watching him, “because that’s not me anymore, that’s just him. I remember closing my eyes on the operating table, all those machines around me. I was excited and perhaps slightly scared even though I would never have admitted that. And that’s where it ends. The next thing, I’m lying on another operating table, and I know something’s off, and then I realise that I’m the part that was copied back then.”

John swallowed. One more glass of scotch. Then he would get through the rest of the day, and in the morning he would go to work like anyone else.

“The last thing I have of you,” Sherlock continued, “is you being perfectly fine. And then I get back and you’re like this, drinking in the morning, not eating, not sleeping, trying to hide how sad you are, even from me. It’s terrible. Let me make you some tea.”

“Yeah,” he heard himself saying.

He closed his eyes and listened to the footsteps as Sherlock walked to the kitchen and put the kettle on. Heartbroken, Mrs. Hudson had told him. That’s why you keep walking in circles in the living room, all night long. I hear you, John. I can hear you perfectly well through the ceiling.

I’m not heartbroken, he had said firmly, wondering if he could take a sip of scotch before work without anyone noticing. For the last time, it wasn’t like that. I wasn’t in love with Sherlock Holmes.

Oh, John, Mrs. Hudson had said and patted him.

“Where do we keep our tea?” the low voice came from behind his back.

“You wouldn’t know,” John said. “You never cared about that kind of things. You wouldn’t even have found the biscuits without me here.”

“I know. Now tell me or you’re only getting hot water.”

“I’m not sure I’d know the difference. Sherlock, I’m a total –“

“Come on, John, it’s tea. You would know.”

He bit his lip. “Yeah. Perhaps I would. Check the cupboard on your left.”

“This might not be as good as the tea you make,” Sherlock said a minute later, placing the cup into John’s hands. “I’ll have to find a good article on the subject.”

“You’re mad,” John said and took a sip of his tea.

“Yes,” Sherlock said, sitting down in his armchair, “probably. So don’t you be afraid of going insane. I’ll keep you company.”

“That’s not something you would say.”

“But I just did.”

“It wasn’t –“, he began, you, it isn’t you, it’s the man Mycroft sent me to keep me calm as I slowly go mad. Or drink myself to death. Or both. It isn’t you. But the man was looking at him with Sherlock’s eyes.

He swallowed and kept quiet.


**


John was sitting in his own armchair, in front of the fireplace, his feet on the rug he knew so well. Sherlock was reading something on John’s laptop, clearly something interesting because it seemed as if the whole flat could fall down and Sherlock wouldn’t notice. It was comfortable, it was familiar and it was most obviously a dream.

John blinked but Sherlock simply stayed there, reading, breathing, and then he remembered.

Fuck.

“John?” Sherlock said without raising his eyes. “Don’t panic. I’m in the middle of something.”

“I’ll panic whenever I want to,” he said, a bit short of breath. “You can’t be here. This isn’t real.

Sherlock sighed very deeply and turned to look at him. “Seriously? I was reading about how social norms influence the diagnosis of mental illness. It was fairly interesting.”

“You aren’t here,” John said, “you aren’t really here. You’re just a… a…”

Sherlock raised his eyebrows.

”I need a drink,” John said and stood up.

“Really?” Sherlock frowned at him. “Again? It’s four o’clock, John. You could also, like, eat.

“Fuck eating,” he said.

“You behaved so much better when you were asleep,” Sherlock said, looking rather disapproving, and for some reason that made it even more important for John to get his drink right now. He had to show this very good copy of the man he had lost that he didn’t care about him, that he knew he was fake, that he knew none of this was real. He went to the kitchen and found that his bottle of scotch was gone.

“I watched you,” Sherlock said, as John quietly counted to ten. “While you slept. Your expressions were sadder than I remembered but I enjoyed it anyway.”

Eight, he thought, nine, Sherlock had no right to take away his scotch, and what the hell was that about – “You watched me?”

“Obviously. I missed ten months.”

“I want my scotch back.”

“Make me food,” Sherlock said. “I’m hungry and I want to eat and I don’t know where we keep our biscuits. Please.

“You’re trying to distract me,” he said, pushing mugs and plates aside on the shelf. The scotch had to be there somewhere. Sherlock wouldn’t have thrown it away. “You’re playing mind games to make me forget this is all false and you died, you fucking died on me. Again.

He drew a deep breath. Twice. Fucking twice he had seen Sherlock dead. Twice he had mourned for Sherlock, and now Mycroft was trying to trick him into believing that it was over, that he could stop being sad. That was what the Sherlock-shaped robot was here for. But he wouldn’t be tricked, not this time. He wouldn’t believe he had got Sherlock back, only to lose him again.

He probably realised Sherlock had stood up. He heard the footsteps in the otherwise quiet 221B but didn’t make sense of them until someone grabbed his arm. He tried to break free - army reflexes and all that - but he had been drinking since the morning. Sherlock was faster and stronger than him.

“Do you want me to let go?” Sherlock asked, near to John’s left ear, holding John’s arm behind his back. “I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have done this but you tried to push me against the table.”

“You grabbed me.”

“I touched your arm. Do you want me to let go?”

John bit his lip. His arm hurt - Sherlock had bent it very efficiently and the pain was only going to get worse. It was good. It made more sense than anything else today. “You’re going to break my arm.”

“Of course not. Don’t be an idiot.”

“You can’t just touch me.”

“You were babbling about me playing games on you and dying on you and all that. You seemed distressed. I was merely trying to comfort you.”

“You never comforted me.”

“You are lying.”

“Let me go,” he said, even though Sherlock’s grip on his arm had already loosened. “Let me go, Sherlock.”

Sherlock took a step away. John tried to breathe but it was harder than it should have been. His breaths came out uncontrolled and his hands were shaking.

“I’ll make you dinner,” he said. “Something that’s... eatable. And we’ll eat. And then we’ll watch a few more shows, and in the morning you’ll show me where the scotch is.”

“And you’ll call Mycroft to take me away.”

“Sherlock,” John said and bit his lip. His wrist hurt and he tried to concentrate on that. “I need him. You are a… copy.”

Sherlock turned around and walked into the living room, sat down in the armchair, fixed his eyes on the article he had been reading earlier and pressed his mouth tightly shut. John stood there, watching. You will never have him again. That’s what Sherlock should have said. He’s dead and I’m here. But the man sitting in the armchair kept quiet, and John kept quiet and finally found a can of tomato sauce and a box of rice. He didn’t know how they had got into the cupboard, nor did he care.


**


“Your hand was warm.”

“Excuse me?”

“Earlier. When you grabbed… when you touched my arm. Your hand was warm.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “What did you expect? You’re a doctor.

“You aren’t human.”

Sherlock leaned forward. John pressed his back firmly against the armchair. Sherlock was holding out his hands, palms up. When John frowned at the man, Sherlock barely nodded.

“It’s human skin,” Sherlock said, when John kept staring, “made in a laboratory, of course, but regular human skin anyway. You can handle it, doctor.”

“There’s nothing regular about this,” John said, took a deep breath and then pressed their palms together.

Sherlock’s hands were warm. John kept his gaze down, focusing on their hands. His own were shaking, again. Sherlock’s thumb moved slowly on his skin, and just as he was going to withdraw his hands, Sherlock grabbed them.

“I don’t remember this,” Sherlock said, keeping John’s hands in between his own. “This never happened. I wouldn’t have deleted this.”

“This never happened,” John admitted and cleared his throat. “Sherlock, your hands. They feel like… like…”

“Human hands.”

“I don’t understand how you can be so… They just managed to clone a sheep a few years ago.”

“That was twenty years ago, John,” Sherlock said in a soft voice, “and I’m not a clone, not exactly.”

“This is impossible.”

“Copying someone’s brain should have been impossible,” Sherlock said, “that was why it was so fascinating. The rest of it is just… simple. Making new human cells in a lab, that’s not a problem.”

“It can’t be legal.”

“Of course not. Not yet. But this is for matters of national importance.”

John bit his lip. “Right. Of course. So, the rest of you –“

“You want to find out.”

“I’m a…” he said and swallowed, “a doctor.

“Well,” Sherlock said, pulling his hands away and opening his top button, “go ahead. What do you want first?”

Sherlock. I didn’t mean to –“

“Yes, you did.”

John swallowed. “Yes. So. Your heart.”

“My heart,” Sherlock repeated, glaring at him, “always the heart. It’s an organ, John. What matters is my brain.”

“Yes,” John said, but he wasn’t actually listening. The man pushed his shirt aside, and he was right there, all that skin, and it looked exactly like… “Can I?”

Sherlock sighed and leaned forward. John placed his hand on Sherlock’s chest. There was a steady heartbeat under his palm.

“That’s not how you’re supposed to do it.”

“I know. I’m not taking your pulse. You are like… you have everything.

“Yes, check my liver and my stomach too, please. Poke at my ribs.”

“I’m not doing that,” John said. He was doing exactly that.

“What’s next? Do you want me to take off my pants? So that you can check that I have everything down there too?”

John froze. His palm was resting against Sherlock’s stomach.

“Not good?”

John swallowed. “I kind of deserved that.”

“Well, you are a doctor,” Sherlock said and breathed in, and John stared at his chest, rising and falling. “And you’ve never seen anything like me. You’re curious.”

“Yes,” he said.

Sherlock placed his fingers around John’s wrist. John let his hand be pulled away and placed back onto his own lap. “It’s getting dark.”

“Yeah. Can you… Are you able to sleep?”

“It’s not that dark,” Sherlock said, “and yes.”

“Fine,” John said. “Then we can sleep at night. We don’t have to sit here and talk.”

“You’re having nightmares. That’s why you’re nervous about sleeping.”

“I’m not –“, John started, but Sherlock rolled his eyes. “It’s usually you. You keep dying. And I can’t save you.”

“This time,” Sherlock said, straightening his back, “I’ll be right here. You can stay awake if you want. You can keep staring at me and you can touch my chest and feel my heart and see me breathe.”

“But you aren’t really –“

“Stop that,” Sherlock said quite sharply, “just stop, John. It’s not helping.”

John closed his eyes. “Sorry.”

He heard a woman laughing, and it took him several seconds to realise Sherlock had switched the television on.


**


The first thing going through John’s head when Mrs. Hudson dropped by was I have to hide Sherlock.

Then he realised he was sitting in his armchair and Sherlock was sitting in his own and Mrs. Hudson was already there, watching them with a weirdly calm smile and holding a tray with a pot of tea. There was no way Mrs. Hudson could have missed the fact that dead Sherlock Holmes was sitting in their living room, in a state that very closely resembled being alive.

“Boys,” Mrs. Hudson said, “I’ve brought you some tea. Have you eaten? I’m not your housekeeper, but I might have some leftovers –“

“We’ve eaten,” John said and cleared his throat.

“Great,” Mrs. Hudson said, placing the tray on the kitchen table. “So, Sherlock, how are you feeling?”

Mrs. Hudson.

“Oh, John,” Mrs. Hudson turned to look at John, “don’t go using that tone of voice. I know you’re sad but don’t blame him.

“But,” John said, glancing between Mrs. Hudson and Sherlock, who were smiling at each other. “So. You know that…”

“Of course I know,” Mrs Hudson said and patted John’s arm. “I called Mycroft when you were getting out of control. I told him to do something, but I have to admit, this was much better than I imagined.”

“Better?” John blinked, eyeing Sherlock. “Better? That’s not… Mrs. Hudson, that thing –“

John Hamish Watson,” Mrs. Hudson said, quite firmly. “You will not talk about your friend like that. I won’t stand for it, not under my roof.”

“But,” John said, weirdly out of breath, and also apparently weak in the knees, “he’s a robot.

“I kind of am,” Sherlock said.

“Shut up, both of you.” Mrs. Hudson crossed her arms in front of her chest and narrowed her eyes at them. “John, apologise. Right away. You are a stubborn man whose heart was broken not so long ago, but it certainly doesn’t give you the right to insult him like that.”

John took a deep breath. It didn’t help at all. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Sherlock said, watching him rather warily. “You aren’t exactly wrong.”

“He is,” Mrs. Hudson said. “So, drink your tea, boys. And please, eat something. If you starve yourselves, I’m going to call Mycroft and I despise calling him.”

John tried to slow down drinking his tea, he really did. He had a slight headache, probably because Sherlock had hidden his scotch almost six hours ago and possibly also because Sherlock wasn’t Sherlock but rather a very human-like robot that had a backup copy of the real Sherlock’s brain in it. And a pulse. John narrowed his eyes and watched the muscles in the man’s face moving as he smiled at Mrs. Hudson.

“So,” Sherlock said, “apparently it’s been ten months. How is Mr. Waters?”

“Oh, dear,” Mrs. Hudson said, placing her hand on Sherlock’s shoulder. John blinked but couldn’t stop staring. “He went back to Scotland to raise those cows ages ago.”

“And that charming lady friend?”

“Alice is still trying to teach me how to knit. We went through some hiccups, though. She thought I was just having a late mid-life sexuality crisis.”

“Oh, Mrs. Hudson.”

“She was probably right of course, but we got through it, so don’t you worry, dear. I’m relieved - I thought you might have deleted how to be nice to people and then we would have been in trouble, John and me.”

“You would have done a splendid job,” Sherlock said, “like you did the last time.”

“Yes, well,” Mrs. Hudson said and glanced at John, and he quickly raised his cup of tea to his mouth only to realise it was empty, “it would have been more difficult this time. Losing you was quite hard, Sherlock. And this was the second time.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It wasn’t your fault. John isn’t blaming you, either, dear, he’s just grumpy. To be completely honest, I’ve been very worried about him, and at my age that’s so inconvenient. If only my hips were working properly, but they aren’t. So all in all, I’m so happy you’re back.”

“He’s not back,” John said into his empty cup of tea.

“He’ll come around,” Mrs. Hudson said to Sherlock with a warm smile and then shot a sharp glance at John. “If he’s being too much trouble, just come downstairs. I’ll make you tea.”

“Thank you,” Sherlock said.

“You’re welcome, dear.”

John opened his mouth, but Mrs. Hudson narrowed her eyes at him. Perhaps it was safer to keep quiet. He went to get more tea and when he came back, Mrs. Hudson had gone back downstairs.

“She likes me,” Sherlock said, looking a bit smug.

John sat down in his armchair, crossed his arms in front of his chest and breathed in.


**


“John. John. You have misplaced my toothbrush.”

“It was just… there. Staring at me. I couldn’t stand it.” He blinked. “Surely you don’t brush your teeth.

Sherlock glared at him. “Surely you realise I have teeth.”

“Fine,” he said, “fine.


**


“What are you doing?”

“You said you wanted to sleep,” Sherlock said but pulled his hand slowly back from the door handle.

“Yes,” John said, clearing his throat, “but not in there. I told you. You can’t go in there.”

Sherlock narrowed his eyes. “What did you do to my room, John?”

“Nothing,” he said and closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them again, Sherlock was still there, breathing and frowning and looking so alive that he could have fooled anyone. “I’ve done nothing to your room. Literally. I haven’t opened that door.”

“Are you mad?” Sherlock snapped at him, and he had to press his hands against his knees. He probably wasn’t even drunk anymore. If Sherlock could have just stopped being so Sherlock, then John would have had a chance to pull himself back together, and then perhaps he wouldn’t have had to worry about starting to cry. Shit. “That’s dangerous, John. I might have been doing an experiment in there before I died. Something with chemicals. It’s certainly possible. You should have at least checked.

“No,” he said, and Sherlock took a clearly reluctant step away from the door. “I won’t go in there. No one will.”

“Until the whole building falls down one day.”

“Yes,” he said, “exactly. Until then it will be kept the way it is. Like he might just come back.”

John.

“That’s an order.”

Sherlock sighed and turned to face him. “John. Mrs. Hudson said your heart had been broken.”

“Yes. It’s only… Surely you know what you meant to me.”

“No,” Sherlock said, “I know what you mean to me.

John swallowed. Sherlock turned to look away from him and that should have made it easier to breathe but it didn’t.

“So, where do I sleep, then?” Sherlock asked and then glanced at the sofa. John followed the man’s gaze. Yes. That was practical. That was safe. John would have nightmares and wake up sweaty and panicking and probably also crying, since this hadn’t been a very calm day for him. Having Sherlock in his room would be weird, uncomfortable and utterly insane.

“You’re too tall for the sofa,” he said. “You can sleep in my room.”

Sherlock flinched. “What?”

“But I warn you,” John said, pulling his shoulders back, “I’m probably going to wake you up. And that won’t be pretty.”

“Oh,” Sherlock said, “John.

“Fine,” John said. “Can you sleep in your pants? Because all your clothes are in your room and you aren’t going in there.”

“Yes,” Sherlock said, “I got that already. I can sleep in my pants.”

“Great,” John said and cleared his throat, “just great. So we’re doing this. We are going to sleep.”

“Apparently.” Sherlock was watching him. He should probably have moved but he couldn’t make himself take a single step.

“I might punch you, though. In my sleep. If there’s a particularly bad nightmare. I sometimes wake up tangled in my sheets.”

“That’s –“, Sherlock said and took a deep breath, “John, I’m… Look, I can take care of you. If you become violent. In your sleep.”

“Good to hear,” he said. “I’m going to walk up those stairs now. Just give me five minutes to… adjust. Then you can follow me.”

“Fine,” Sherlock said.

John’s feet felt like they had been sunk into a pool of cement. The stairs creaked. He knew Sherlock was watching him. He knew he was going to crack, but perhaps there was no way to avoid it. Perhaps that was why Mycroft had brought him the robot. Perhaps Mycroft would come over in the morning anyway, to pick up whatever was left of John Watson.

He took off his jumper and his jeans. His fingers felt clumsy. The zipper was especially difficult, and by the time he was finally sitting on his bed with only his pants on, his heart was beating far too fast and his breathing had gone unsteady. Oh, God, he thought, and then he heard the footsteps on the stairs.


**


The wisest man I’ve ever known, he had thought, standing in front of Sherlock Holmes’ gravestone. The best man I’ve ever known. The most irritating, obnoxious, careless asshole and also the only person in the whole world with whom I could be myself. That’s what you are. Were.

The wind had been cold. He had pushed his hands deep into his pockets and swallowed repeatedly. At the funeral, he had kept his back straight and his mouth shut the whole time. Mrs. Hudson had hugged him and he had said um. And later he had been alone, he and Sherlock’s gravestone, in the cold of a late autumn evening, and he still hadn’t been able to say a word.

And why is that, he had later thought many times, usually when he had had too little sleep, too many nightmares and too much scotch, why is that you couldn’t talk to him when he was alive and you still couldn’t talk to him when he was dead? Why is that? You could have just fucking told him that he’s the best thing you have. Was. Was the best thing. He wouldn’t have been surprised. He would probably have said ‘obviously’.

Why is that,
he had thought in his bed, when the world behind his window was getting lighter and he was still awake, that you never told him?

Told him what, he had asked then, and the sounds of morning traffic had drowned his answer out.

There was nothing to tell, he thought now, as Sherlock closed the door behind him and took a few steps towards John’s bed.

“Where do I go?” Sherlock asked in a low voice.

“Here,” John said and bit his lip. His voice was shaking. Fuck. “Mrs. Hudson will kill me if I make you sleep on the floor.”

“Probably,” Sherlock said, frowning slightly. “I have to undress first.”

“Yes.”

“You’re staring at me.”

John dropped his eyes to his own hands. They were shaking, too, but well, all of him had been shaking for the last six months. It was nothing new, unlike the man whose breaths he could hear in the quiet room.

Sherlock sat down on the bed beside him, near enough that he could have placed his hand on the man’s thigh if, for some unknown reason, he had wanted to. Near enough to lean against Sherlock’s shoulder if he had chosen to.

“So,” John said, “we should go to sleep.”

“You first,” Sherlock said.

John lay down, careful not to touch Sherlock. He breathed in and out, then did it again and closed his eyes as the mattress shifted. He could feel the warmth of another human body but Sherlock didn’t touch him. He bit his teeth together. His left arm was tingling.

“Sherlock,” he said, when they had been lying there for what felt like hours but was probably something like five minutes, “do you know the difference?”

Sherlock took a deep breath. If John had placed his palm on Sherlock’s bare chest, he could have felt Sherlock breathing.

“You know you aren’t real.”

“John.”

“You said you realised when you were lying there. When they… switched you on. You realised you were the copy he made of his mind.”

John. Don’t do this.”

“I have to know,” he said, “I have to. You’re so close that I could touch you.”

“Then touch me.”

“Tell me. Tell me you know you aren’t him.”

“I know,” Sherlock said in deep, steady voice, and John took deep breaths and placed his palm against his mouth. “But it’s not…it’s not that simple, because I am here, I am, John. I know something is off. I know I’m not the Sherlock Holmes you knew. I know I’m missing a lot and that I’m filling the holes with new things, like right now. This never happened. He would have been different if it had. And I know I wasn’t actually there, back then, I know I wasn’t there when I told you to watch as I jumped off that roof, but I have his memories and I know how much it hurt him to do it to you, and…”

John had his hand over his mouth, don’t cry, just don’t cry –
 
“And it felt real.”

Oh,” John said against his palm, voice shattered. “Fuck.”

“Don’t cry,” Sherlock said, “please don’t cry.”

“I don’t think I can –“, he began, “help it.”

“Tell me what to do. I have to do something, John, please let me do something. I can’t just lie here and listen when you cry.”

“Bring him back,” he said, “please, Sherlock.”

He was sobbing and Sherlock was quiet and he felt so heavy, like he had gone under a long time ago and would never come back up.

“Or you could touch my arm.”

He breathed in. Sherlock’s fingers were warm on his arm - terribly, terrifyingly warm - and he opened his fingers and Sherlock placed his own in between them, to hold his hand. That was what it was called. John bit his teeth together and tried to cry as silently as he could, but he was sober and his heart was broken and Sherlock was holding his hand.


**


He held Sherlock’s face in between his hands and the blood was everywhere, everywhere. It was dripping from Sherlock’s mouth and from the huge hole in his chest, and it was on the ground.  Sherlock was lying there and the grass was red and John kept kissing his mouth but he only tasted blood. This isn’t what happened, he thought. Sherlock was watching the sky with blind red eyes.

John.”

He touched Sherlock’s cheekbones, but the skin under his fingertips was already growing cold. It wasn’t real, none of this was real anymore, and Sherlock’s mouth had dropped open but he kissed it anyway.

John. John, wake up –“

He closed his eyes. Sherlock was grabbing his shoulders now, shaking him, but it did no good because Sherlock was already dead. He had been shot. He had been shot in late October in the narrow street John remembered every detail about. He had been lying there on the pavement when John had finally come. There was nothing to be done. John had been late, late, late -

Fuck,” someone said with Sherlock’s voice, “you have to wake up –“

John opened his eyes.

Sherlock was staring at him. There was no blood. Sherlock took a sharp breath and John placed his fingers onto Sherlock’s neck that was warm and felt heartbeats against his fingertips. Sherlock slowly let go of his shoulders and he breathed in. He had absolutely no idea what was real anymore.

Then he remembered how Sherlock had shaken him despite being dead, and how a little earlier he had kissed Sherlock’s mouth.

“I didn’t,” he said, “surely I didn’t –“

“John –“

“I didn’t kiss you,” John said, “it was the dream.”

“You did,” Sherlock said. “Obviously, it’s fine.”

“I couldn’t have kissed you,” John said, placed his hand on Sherlock’s neck and kissed him.

Sherlock froze under his touch and then kissed him back.

This isn’t real, he thought, this isn’t happening, but Sherlock was running his fingers over John’s neck and bare shoulders, placing his thumbs on his collarbone, on his chin, on the back of his head, everything at once, and Sherlock’s palm was so large, warm and right there. John gasped for breath and then kissed more firmly, more desperately, and Sherlock opened his mouth and let John lick his upper lip, and it was insane.

He didn’t know how it should have felt. This had never happened.

“Kiss me,” he said against Sherlock’s mouth, “please just kiss me –“

“Yes,” Sherlock said, “whatever you want, John, anything, just tell me –“

Please be real, he thought and pulled Sherlock closer.

It had to be wrong but he didn’t care. The dim light came through the curtains. Sherlock moaned against his mouth and he climbed over him, straddling the ridiculously skinny stomach, pinning the man down when he tried to move. This time John wouldn’t let him go. This time Sherlock wouldn’t run off and get shot and die. This time he would be right here, right now, panting and gasping under John, grasping for John’s arms as he bent over to kiss that neck, and then chest, and then stomach, and he imagined he felt Sherlock’s organs through the skin, blood vessels and nerves and all that, everything. Sherlock writhed and kept calling his name, as he placed his fingers under the waistband of Sherlock’s pants and tugged them down.

“I don’t have this –“, Sherlock said, but John was already holding him in his hand, and he was warm, almost hot, and already leaking, “– filed.”

“No,” he said, “me neither. Tell me to stop. Tell me to stop, Sherlock.”

“Keep going,” Sherlock said, “please. I always loved you, all the way through, my every memory of you is filled with it, it’s catalogued under love: John Watson, love. I loved you and I didn’t know what to do with it, and I died, I died on you –“

“Shut up,” John said, moving his hand faster, tightening his grasp. He wasn’t going to make it slow, he was trying to stop all this. Sherlock was holding his arms now and it kind of hurt, it felt like Sherlock was holding onto him, trying not to drown, but surely John was gone too, he had been gone all along. He watched Sherlock’s head fall onto one side and then the other, he watched Sherlock’s chest rise and fall, he watched Sherlock’s cheeks flushing and eyes failing to focus.

“John,” Sherlock said, “John,” and then he came.

John stopped.

There was come on his hand and on Sherlock’s stomach and chest and on the sheets too, and he realised absently that he had asked whether Sherlock ate and brushed his teeth but he still hadn’t asked about this.

“Sorry.”

“No,” Sherlock said, turning onto his side and watching John as he climbed off the bed, “don’t apologise, don’t go, come back here, let me touch you –“

John walked to the stairs and closed the door.

In the bathroom, he sat down on the floor and let his head fall against the cold wall. When he wrapped his fingers around himself, it felt like cheating. He tasted blood, his knee hurt and it took only a few tugs before it was over.


**


“John. I’m coming in.”

“It’s not locked.”

Sherlock pushed the door open. He had his pants on but nothing else, and then his eyes swept over John’s still sticky hand and the mess on his thighs.

“You have blood on your lips,” Sherlock said.

“I bit my tongue.”

Sherlock walked towards him and knelt down on the floor. John wondered if he ought to have been more concerned about covering himself, only it seemed that there was no point. He stared at Sherlock and Sherlock stared back.

“Do you want to know?” Sherlock asked.

“No,” John said.

“I loved you. I loved you right from the beginning and never knew what to make of it. And in a way it didn’t matter. That was something I filed constantly, it doesn’t matter, because the most important thing was to make you stay. No matter what. Because if you went away, I wouldn’t know how to go on living.”

John closed his eyes. “I don’t know what to do without you.”

“I know you don’t.”

“I did it once. I can’t do it again.”

“Come to bed. Sleep next to me.”

“I can’t do this, Sherlock.”

“Or don’t sleep. Whatever you want. We could stay awake. We could watch TV. You’d like it. I’ll make you tea.”

“I wish it had been me,” John said, grabbing Sherlock’s wrist. “It should have been me.”

“I’ll do whatever you want. Just name it. Anything.”

“You weren’t supposed to die.”

“John,” Sherlock said and bent over him but didn’t pull his hand back, “John. Stand up. Your knee is going to hurt.”

“I don’t care.”

“Fine. Just fine. There’s a perfectly good sofa in the next room but we’re going to sit on the bathroom floor.”

“I’m done,” John said, “I can’t take it anymore.”

“Lean your head against my shoulder,” Sherlock said, crawling next to him, “and just try to breathe.”

“I miss you like hell,” he said. Sherlock’s shoulder was a bit sharp but also warm, and he could smell sex and sweat. He closed his eyes. Sherlock grasped his hand and held it.

“I miss you, too,” Sherlock said.


**


When he woke up, he was cold and uncomfortable and his neck hurt more than a little, and he was still leaning against Sherlock’s shoulder.

“Hi,” Sherlock said.

“Hi,” John said. Shit. Just one glass of scotch. Then he might have forgotten exactly how crappy he felt.

“You slept two hours and twenty four minutes,” Sherlock said, “with no more nightmares, I think.”

“No, we would have noticed. Did you sleep at all?”

“A little.”

“Fine. Tea. We need tea,” John said and tried to stand up. There was something wrong with his knee, and that was why he grabbed Sherlock’s shoulder. He was just trying to keep his balance. “You’re cold.”

“Yes, well. You wanted to stay here in the bathroom. I’m freezing.”

“How does that feel?”

“How do you think it feels, idiot,” Sherlock said and stood up, and John’s hand dropped. “Now get me tea.”

“Right,” he said.

He walked to the kitchen and put the kettle on. The scotch was still missing. He clenched his fists and unclenched them and repeated the whole thing. The traffic was getting busier outside but the light coming through the windows was still dim. He sat down, pressed his elbows to the kitchen table and heard Sherlock flushing the toilet.

He thought about calling Mycroft. I had sex with the robot you brought me, or perhaps he has hidden my scotch, please tell him he can’t do that, or he feels so real I’m losing my mind. He heard the footsteps going upstairs. I kissed him, he might have said to Mycroft, and he told me he had loved me. I think I already knew.

So, you idiot, he thought as he stared at his own hands, you blew it. It’s too late. He loved you and now he’s dead. You loved him and now there’s nothing you can do about it.

“John.”

He turned around. Sherlock was standing in the doorway.

“I need more clothes,” Sherlock said, looking slightly concerned. “If you won’t let me go into my room, I’ll have to go shopping.”

“I have to call Mycroft.”

Sherlock froze. John stood up, took the kettle and poured hot water into two similar cups. His hands were steady.

“I fell in love with you,” he said to his own hands. “I don’t know if it happened before you died or after that. Perhaps it was always there and I just couldn’t see it. You were the best thing that ever happened to me, Sherlock. And the worst.”

“Let me go shopping,” Sherlock said in a low voice. “I can buy you something, too. A new jumper. A tea collection. Anything. And then I’ll come back and sit in my armchair. You can read the newspaper. I will glare at you when you say something particularly stupid.”

“I can’t do it,” John said, holding his cup of tea. It seemed he’d forgotten how to drink it. “I love you and you’re dead. It’s too much.”

“We can find a way,” Sherlock said. “I could change something if it makes it easier. I could dye my hair.”

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“John, don’t do this,” Sherlock said, staring at him with wide eyes and mouth half-open, as he set his cup of tea aside and grabbed Sherlock’s shoulders instead. He laid his hand on Sherlock’s neck and felt Sherlock’s heart beating. He heard Sherlock holding his breath as he caressed the man’s lower lip with his fingertips.

He kissed Sherlock and Sherlock called his name.

Vatican cameos,” he said.

There was something in Sherlock’s eyes and then it was all gone. Sherlock fell down and John tried to grasp him, to hold him, but he couldn’t. He heard Sherlock’s head hit the floor. He dropped to his knees and placed his hands on Sherlock’s cheeks. Everything had gone quiet.

This time there was no blood. There was only a man who looked exactly like Sherlock, and John held him and kissed him and saw his eyes staring into nothing.

You switched him off, he thought, you only switched him off, but it felt more real than anything else for a long time.


**


**


**


Three weeks later, he came home in the early afternoon. The traffic had been bad and the weather had been worse. His knee was hurting and he had to bite his teeth together as he climbed the stairs. There was music coming from Mrs. Hudson’s flat, and a woman he didn’t recognise was laughing loudly.

He pushed the door open.

“Anything interesting?” Sherlock asked. “Leprosy?”

“Just flu,” he said, “all day long. How about you? Anything interesting?”

“I have made a system,” Sherlock said, nodding at the pile of papers that looked nothing like a system. “I’m going to rate every one of these unsolved crimes Greg gave me according to their interest level. Obviously, I’m going to solve the most interesting ones first. So far the winner is the case with the loose head.”

“But you can’t actually go to crime scenes.”

“Not yet,” Sherlock said, frowning at a piece of paper and then dropping it onto the floor. “You’d be surprised how much can be done on the internet, though.”

“Not yet,” John repeated, taking off his coat and sitting down in his armchair. “You said not yet.

“One day,” Sherlock said, not meeting his eyes, “you’ll have had enough time to get over me, and then I’ll dye my hair blue and you’ll get a new boyfriend. Someone who looks surprisingly like Sherlock, only his hair is blue, and no one dares to mention the incredible resemblance out loud because well, you almost lost your mind when I died.”

“They’ll recognise you, Sherlock. You’ll have to change more than your hair.”

“Don’t underestimate my hair, John. So, how would you rate a bicycle that ran over a man by itself?”

“That can’t be real,” John said.

Sherlock looked up from his pile of papers and smiled.