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The Day Air Went Mad…

Chapter Text

Perhaps we go to the forbidden door or window willingly because we understand that a time comes                                                                                                              

when we must go whether we want to or not... and not just to look, but to be pushed through. Forever.                                                                                                                                                                                                            

- Stephen King, Danse Macabre

 

                                                     

There was air, so much air floating all over the place.

He was sniffing it. Putting it into invisible pockets, wildly tearing big chunks off it and chewing on them until they turned into melting liquid in his stomach.

It wasn’t hollow or empty. It was scary. So flexible in his hands, so soft – it made those disgusting swallowing noises that pained his ears and kept sending shooting pain through his forehead.

Then he’d wake up, and the nightmare would start all over again.

***

John just sat there starring into the window. His mug has gone cold a long time ago but he couldn’t bring himself to refill it. He didn’t even think he wanted to.  

Autumn was grey and cold this year, with no rains and slushy roads. John didn’t really mind. He had enough water as it was.

He got up, poured the spoiled tea into the sink and picked up some book.

The title looked familiar, and so did the bookmark with some weird symbols on it. John thumbed through a couple of pages, reading or just peering at words – he wasn’t really sure. His eyes went back to the window as he left the pages alone. The bookmark slipped through his fingers and fell on the floor.

He didn’t care.

***

“No cases. No running around looking for trouble. Do you think he’ll be fine?”

He heard a sigh and a doubtful noise to back it up.

“Doesn’t sound like it.”

Another sigh and some muffled, as if shushed shifting.

“No John.”

No John? How can there be no John?

“Yeah. That’s about as bad as it can get.”

A quiet agreeing noise held something mocking in it. Or was it just a piercing whistle of a kettle that mixed in and made it all lopsided somehow?

He never liked the thing. And he definitely wasn’t the one putting it on.

Who needed any water when there was so much air around? You could literally bathe in it, and there still would be plenty.

He took a look at his drink and shivered. It was cold now but nevertheless threatening.

The kettle started screaming, and he wished he could cover his ears.

“No tea for me!”

He wasn’t sure if they heard him – or if there was anyone at all to hear. It didn’t matter because he had so many things to do. So many important, tricky things to look into. Fun didn’t even begin to describe it as far as he was concerned.

The walls started screaming at him but he found an “off” switch and tuned them out. There will be time for that later – for all the imperfections and all the little deductions they could come up with.

Sherlock was always at the top of his game, but would he be there this time, when he would the one making the rules?

***

John rubbed his eyes and thought that he ought to struggle a bit more.

The pages smelt, and he found it oddly calming. At least, it didn’t remind him of gunfire and sweaty skin after a maddening chase or no less maddening argument. He had enough of those and Sherlock, apparently, did too.

Sherlock.

Over the years they spent together his name never sounded like this. John wanted to take a pen and write it down until there was no ink left, until letters lost their shape and his hand memorized every single motion, every fraction of impact, every thought that crossed his mind whereas.

His fingers brushed over the pages and he inhaled once again. It smelt like escaping, like mercy.

The evil is always out to get the good but it never intends to defeat it because one can’t exist without the other. But there is something much more dangerous in this fight, something that has never been seen or recognized. Something that kills without ever being caught, something whose whisper is forever intertwined with the wind’s tales…

John exhaled and squeezed the bookmark in his hand. It didn’t look vicious enough to give him a paper cut and John found himself regretting this for a moment or two.

Look what happens when there is no Sherlock to entertain you.

John lifted his head and closed the book. There was no way in hell he was going back to it today.

She looked tense and unemotional, as if some recently finished picture, unfamiliar and sharp, in need of much more than one look to get used to.

“Nothing happens.”

His voice matched her posture and it wasn’t at all calming.

That’s the point, John.

“Nothing ever happens to me.”

John swallowed. That book he was holding looked much better on the shelf, exactly where he should put it. And then he’d probably make himself a cup of tea.

And then you’d pour it into the sink as you did with the previous two. That’s one awful waste, don’t you think?

John remained in his chair.

Open it, John. Open and read.

“Why?”

Mary blinked and her eyes softened for a bit.

Because it’s right. There is good and evil – always will be, and it’s not a threat, John, not to you.

“What is the threat then?”

Open and read.

***

The place was spinning too much, he thought. And he hadn’t even had any drugs in his evening cup. He wasn’t even sure he had any cup at all for that matter, which was completely unacceptable. Really, what was John even thinking?

He groaned and let his head rest for a while. Air didn’t seem like a suitable ground for it, but recently he started noticing that space around him stopped being dull and predictable. It became mad instead and he couldn’t help but like it.

Others weren’t too keen on the idea, though. Mrs. Hudson gave him a strange look, and when he hugged her – he wasn’t really sure why he did it – there was something wet on her face.  Lestrade dropped him some stupid thing he referred to as a “case” and made some annoying inquiries. Why would he even need a “case” if he had John with him? Unless they were going on a trip, of course – then they’d both need a pair of cases. He tossed the thought around his mind and discovered that there were too many bumps to deal with before they could make a decision. He tried to report this to Lestrade, but it got him nothing but even more annoying inquiries and some hushed gossiping with Mrs. H afterwards.

He got bored and tried calling John but no one answered. It wasn’t a big deal, though – he was used to John behaving this way. All that mattered was that he was here – misplacing furniture, making small shuffling noises at night, coming up with riddles for him to solve.

Sherlock looked around the flat. There was no light, but he could see everything so clearly. The corners were curved and covered in a cobweb with adhesive threads repeating the pattern all over the place and making it into a windowless prison in his mind. He closed his eyes trying to get it out, but the image sunk into him and started to drink. It sounded hungry, and it wasn’t satisfied. Sherlock doubled over and nearly threw up. It made an ugly gurgling noise, and spinning in his head made him fall to the floor.

His head touched the cool surface and he closed his eyes.

“John?”

Too quiet. He tried once again but this time he wasn’t sure anything came out at all.

Even if it did, what was the difference?

John in the chair smiled at him mutinously, and Sherlock quickly turned his head away before the falseness of that smile imprinted in his mind and shot pain through his body.

He couldn’t deal with it. Not now.

He knew that he didn’t deserve any of those great things John was, he never did.

Strong, as if steel-made threads covered his face blocking his breath. He didn’t fight it.

Breathing is not boring, Sherlock. It keeps you from dying. I think even you can appreciate that.

John’s voice was just like he remembered it – scolding and soothing at the same time. Was that even possible?

A faint ticking of the clock in his mind faltered for a moment and then went backwards. Sherlock made a fist trying to build up some distraction, but the pain was too weak to hold onto. Fake light blinked for the last time and went away leaving him a dark room with a layered smell of dust and suffocation.

You’d like to lick it, Sherlock, wouldn’t you? Taste of your own death?

Moriarty. Moriarty who never said those exact words, and yet his mind recorded them somehow, put them on the tape and saved them.

It’s what you do, Sherlock, damn it! You breathe, you live – do you hear me?

There had to be enough pain. Had to be. He felt it when John was slapping him, when he felt blood on his face and knew that it was the beginning of something much more terrifying, something he could never shut off – didn’t want to shut off.

Something that would keep him alive whether he liked it or not.

John was surprised you could see me. Were you?

“It isn’t real, is it?”

No. But it doesn’t mean he didn’t say that.

Sherlock chuckled. The pain was there all right. Mary was excellent in that sort of thing after all.

Wouldn’t say that, you mean?”

Mary smiled.

Maybe both.

He took a breath and screamed. The room stayed silent. And it wasn’t until later when he realized that he just repeated its whispers – recorded them and wrote them down to create a new story, one where he talked and John never answered, one where John never came back.

Sherlock tried to even his breathing and lifted his head.

Mary was gone.

 

Chapter Text

Do you remember, John?

He didn’t.

The dark night cooled his skin through the open window. He didn’t breathe, nor did he see.

All senses were lost to him. And still, he never felt stronger in his life.

Sherlock’s skin wasn’t this cold yet, it was warm from the last minutes when his heart was still beating.

He remembered that beat reflecting in his breathing and burning him from the inside, leaving a thread of painful “remember” which popped into his mind and then tortured him.

But that wasn’t the truth, none of it was.

It was somewhere else, maybe even in that cloudy sky with foggy chunks of dark-blue covered in painfully bright stars with a sharp smell of burning. John had to close his eyes not to look at them.

Not to remember that there wasn’t anything in this world he loved more.

***

John did remember, Sherlock was sure of that.

That “remember” would pulsate through his whole body, making him set his jaw tight and close his eyes.

Sherlock was dreaming of never having to look at it again and kept waking up with an image of air, made not for breathing, but for chocking. It wasn’t even a nightmare; it was a jar with spiders* long forgotten by everyone on earth.

It was an eternity without a purpose. It was a place where John’s hand never found his, where he never wished for it to linger a bit longer and at the same time prayed for it to disappear. It was a dead world: one which never had that piece of star-sprinkled sky John was looking at, one which had no them.

And for the second time in his life, Sherlock prayed for John to remember.

***

Stars played with each other – or it was only John’s dream, no one knew for sure.

He woke up when the clock ticked two. Drops on the tips of his fingers tasted salty, so John poured himself some water. It felt wrong, though, so he just licked his lips and left it at that.

The window looked weirdly big.

John licked his lips once again. They still tasted like salt.

He squeezed something cool. It didn’t seem to want to accept the heat, so John turned his attention to the wildly turning pages of the strange book on his lap.

He was supposed to read something there, wasn't he?

Somehow it didn’t feel important, so he just closed his eyes and let the book fell on the floor. It landed with a puffy thud and closed.

John looked at the stars. They weren’t painful anymore.

He squeezed the coolness under his fingers, as if to remind himself it still was there.

His head was too heavy to lift or even turn, so he waited.

An answering motion was tiny, just a brush of a knuckle that made his skin itch and his eyes water.

He blinked, as if releasing a ready-to-burst spring, and gulped for air.

Was it? Could that be?

He squeezed once again, while someone seemed to squeeze his throat cutting off his air.

The cool fingers curled and grabbed his hand with something close to panic.

John laughed and looked at his own fingers covered in grotesque-looking drops. When he lifted them to his lips, they felt warm.

***

Yellow light jumped on the dim, round surface and made it bright.

Fragile dust shook to the core and fell, so slowly and calmly that one would think it was a dance.

The sleepy Moon yawned and touched deliciously dark sky, drinking greedily from its infinite color.

Today air was to be cut with a big knife.

The Moon rubbed its eyes and smiled. Was there even bigger fun?

A small particle of dust outran the cheery circle and fell on something warm and at the same time cool, tied together into a surprisingly tight knot. It felt nice and soft.

The air huffed and whistled that night like never before, and yet there wasn’t a more peaceful sight on the whole earth.

 

* the reference is from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment

Chapter Text

Dust was gathering around his head. It tickled his throat and stuffed his eyes. It was melting into giggling air and disappearing in its dark blue mouth without a trace. The seconds ticked by, forming unsteady alliance with the ticking inside his head. It was as if it was having its own time, neither longer nor shorter – just different.

Dust didn’t make him feel uncomfortable. It was a part of him now. His lips formed sounds but nothing came out. He tried it once again and saw the crooked smile inside of him. The smells were gone as well. It was quiet, so deliciously quiet – he wondered why he never did it before. All those terrible distractions were in the past now. His eyes shot wide open and glanced at the dumb curly head hitting the floor. He only had to get rid of that damn air in his lungs. Dust needed no air, and neither did he.

“Breathing is boring, John, didn’t you know?”

He didn’t before. But now… now he was inclined to agree.

Sherlock would be so happy with him. And if not, he’d find a way to convince him.

***

John had a strange dream. It had left him with a foggy, drunken head and silently went away. He gulped a chunk of cool air and listened to its buzzing excitement.

There was an aftermath of lukewarm, slightly wet touch on his skin he couldn’t quite remember. It felt alive and genuinely real, as if painted by a careful but hesitant hand.

John sighed and clenched his fingers trying to get rid of the sensation. He slept all damn night long but felt as if his eyes hadn’t had any rest in ages.

They burnt and hurt, as if the very air meant to squeeze them out, to fill them with emptiness.

John made a low sound at the thought – one that could have been laughter in some other universe – and cleared his throat, fighting the urge to try his voice. To see if it still fit. Anyway he wasn’t going to do much talking today, so it didn’t feel that important. In fact, he didn’t feel like doing anything at all.

The solution was hovering over him like a purple nimbus, heavy with unshed liquid which smelt like drowning.

He cast a quick look at the sky, it was grey with muffled shades of dark blue, hidden under the sprayed grains of creamy-white. It was like a picture on a bandbox – perfectly shaped and colored yet dead.

He wanted to turn away from the sight, so he closed his eyes letting the sleep take over.

The picture seemed to cling to his pupils and get stuck there. 

He yawned and put a hand over his eyes. The darkness finally settled and took him away.

The dream was even closer this time.

***

The street was dimly illuminate. It left bizarre circles of various shapes that kept overlapping each other, making snowmen with enormous bellies and flat faces.

John smashed them, bitten into them and made them frostless yet more slippery with his every step. Windy powder filled the air teasing his eyes and his nose with prickly touches. His throat got all cranky, as if stuffed with sleet. He tried a few words out, but instead came the low-pitched whistle.

And, oddly enough, this time the snow wasn’t to blame.       

***

Sherlock tugged on his scarf loosening it up a bit. The cold wrapped around his neck and squeezed it as he kept talking in a hurried, edgy pace of his, piling up deductions and making mental notes.

He didn’t need to turn his head to know that John was looking at him. Always looking at him.

His feet felt light and quick. John’s were another matter entirely. Measured, reserved steps, yet with a hint of something… satisfied? Content even.

Small dimly-looking puddle made a crunching noise, just like a pack of crisps they were eating this morning, or more like, one thinly looking chip John forced into him by the means of offensive manipulation.

It was good, though – he had to admit it. Greasy and salty, with a pinch of pepper, just enough to burn his tongue a bit but not enough to leave aftertaste.

When Sherlock look switched back to the puddle, it was already cracked – a thin, uneven line which pointed back. Or forth? The case wasn’t moving too fast, so Sherlock couldn’t say for sure.

There was ice underneath, a lot of it. The sky seemed ice-ish as well, just a few stars here or there that didn’t make any difference. Not really.

"Yes, brother dear. But it shouldn’t have made any difference to start with, should it? Stars and romance? I’m getting positively frightened.”

Sherlock scowled and switched the voice off. Where did it even come from? He had work to do. They had work to do.

***

“They look as if they’re ready to fall.”

“John, don’t be stupid. If they really were to fall…”

“Okay, don’t spoil it, please. Just for once.”

“Have you made a wish then?”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me perfectly.”

“Do you…?”

“Of course, I don’t. What do you think?”

“Well, I don’t know. We seem to have gone an awfully long way from “it’s just transport”, haven’t we?”

“Shut up.”

“Not nice, Sherlock.”

“Should I have added please?”

“Okay, Sherlock. Just shut up now.”

“I’ll have you know that you’re terribly inconsistent, John.”

***

What are you dreaming about, John? Tell me. Wake up and tell me.

John’s dream was broken into pieces as he sat up fighting for air. A glass of water. He just needed something to drink, and then he’ll be all right.

Will he really?

Falling stars – really, John? Who would have guessed you were such a romantic?

He could see her smiling behind the curtains. He blinked and realized there were no curtains. Mary smiled at him, and the air once again cut his throat.

“But you know, he is a romantic.”

“It was just a dream,” he tapped his fingers and pinched the skin on his thumb. “And I really should stop talking to you.”

Mary was looking as if she was trying to stifle a laugh.

Why don’t you then?

John closed his eyes. It felt like bitter, relentlessly draining tea washing over his stomach, like sunrise after the sleepless night.

“You know why.”

Mary didn’t say a word afterwards, but John knew exactly what she was doing, and it made him afraid. The light swept into room, reflected in the mirror and touched Mary’s hair. Beige, grey, and dim watery orange.

The expression on her face made him stop and really look for a moment. It wasn’t the Mary he was so used to seeing – cheerful, adventurous and dangerously mercurial. Now she wasn’t any of those usual things, and it made his skin itch with lopsided remembrance.

Sherlock. She hugged Sherlock. She shot him, threatened to kill him again and then just hugged him. No comebacks. No hard feelings.

John breathed through his nose. In and out. That should help – or more like “used” to help. A lot of things did.

She looked neither guilty or hesitant, nor false. John would have expected pretense, hypocrisy, hostility – any sane individual would have in his place – but not this.

Mary was never one for taking breaks, though – that very thing John was quite aware of. There were times when stopping meant surrender, and he would have given anything to go on fighting. The trouble was – so would Mary.

She was fighting now. She was showing him the upside down of what he knew, breaking his understanding of life, turning his answers into more questions and making black holes of uncertainty out of them.

She was watching him now, fully aware of his attack and his defense, knowing his every movement.

“I know how to run, John. You’d have never caught me.”

“Why would I want to catch you?”

“Well, I don’t know. Suppose I was a criminal?”

“Then we’re damn lucky you aren’t because I quite like catching you.”

He looked at her and tried not to give anything away but failed every time – every time but one.

“You made me stop, John. And when you stop running, you stop noticing danger, or anything for that matter.”

He forgave her and then they started running together. Not in the same direction, though – those times were long gone, and now that John thought of it, he wasn’t even sure they were there to begin with.

“She shot you, and then you hugged. How is that for a riddle, Mr. Holmes?”

That would be quite a case for him to bite into. Then he would make all the stunning, equally super-clever and annoying deductions but would get stuck on one single moment, like he always does.

“Sentiment?”

“Sentiment.”

Then John would explain to him the basics of the human nature while boiling water and putting tea bags into cups. Sherlock would frown at him and pretend he figured it out himself.

But he did, didn’t he?

John swallowed feeling the familiar trembling somewhere in his chest. It was singing and crying out, making his breaths come into hitches and greedy gulps.

Yes, he bloody did, and now John was the one having troubles figuring out human nature – that very thing he was so very good in, a little showing off of his own.

He’s quite a learner, isn’t he? Just needed a bit of practical experience as it turned out.

"Shut up, Mary. Just please… shut up."

And he was so right about you. Adrenaline, danger – a perfect fix. I’d have given that to you, but I don’t know much about proportions. And proportions are vital, John – you know that better than anyone.  

"Well, I suppose assassins aren’t so bad at measuring a doze, either."

Not in your case.

"How so?"

I’d have killed you with it.

"And he wouldn’t?"

No. Not just “wouldn’t”. He won’t.

"Why?"

Because you’ll go to him and see for yourself.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t yet the time to wake up, but it felt too stuffy to get lost in the next dream. There was half-dreaming of course, but it never seemed like that much of a fun.

The Moon opened one eye and, after a long, shamelessly satisfying stretch, opened another. It was quiet around. So quiet you could make a whisper your only reality, could shape it in any way you liked as if you were building a castle from the long gone toy bricks. Were they ever gone, though? In some realities, they were. Some were so co-dependent that you couldn’t form a thought without going back in time and remembering. So the quiet was okay.  

The Moon sighed and tried to whisper herself a friend. It never happened before, no matter how hard she tried, but the effort alone was still oddly comforting. The first letter reached the air and bounced back. The Moon frowned and tried the letter out, this time with more force to it. It bounced harder and landed somewhere she couldn’t reach. It neither melted, nor dissipated – it just wasn’t there. The quiet seemed to take a new turn.  

“It’s not just quiet, is it?”

The Moon’ s eyes widened and fell on the voice.

“Don’t be silly. You can’t see me.”

The voice wasn’t just filling the air, it was coming directly from the air. The air was… speaking? Could that even be possible?

The low chuckle was the only answer, at least a visible one. The Moon suspected there were more answers, but none of them seemed even remotely plausible.

“Just don’t tell me you’re my long gone friend, I wouldn’t believe it anyway.”

The voice sounded hushed now.

“You don’t have friends, dear. None of us do.”

The Moon lifted its heavy head and smiled into nothing.

“You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. I don’t have enemies, you see,”

The voice sounded even more hushed now.

“And what about others?”

The Moon let a chuckle of her own. It was a funny conversation they were having here. But wouldn’t that be even funnier if she could trap that insolent creature? Trap and locked inside. Then they could be friends forever. And she missed forever so much. Things were so disgustingly short these days.

“There are no others, dear. I’m absolutely alone.”

“Are you? Friends or others – you’d be amazed how blurred the line can be.”

“It’s not just quiet,” the voice said again, as if dismissing a small attempt at levity. And it wasn’t the whisper this time. Whispers were long gone.

The Moon shook her head and leaned forward.

“It’s not. It’s deadly quiet.”

The voice let out a mocking whistle and cracked.

“There is no death here. You know that better than anyone.”

Indeed, there wasn’t. Something as passionate as death would’ve been a relief, but eternity didn’t allow that much of a leeway. It was possessive to a fault.

Sometimes rare flickers of life shot through her mind and left her breathless. She saw lives. Short, miserable lives. She saw endless running, enveloped into one undeniable truth. The truth about endings.

“Just a figure of speech.”

Her reply didn’t even have enough strength to touch the air. It was just hanging there, waiting mutinously for any reaction, and getting none.

“Please don’t do that.”

This time the air was clearly cut. It groaned in pain and almost stumbled. Another taunting whisper caught her breath turning it into hot, melting liquid and gluing her tongue, “Let me go.”

“You came by your own will.” she whispered, enjoying the last remnants of familiar, deliciously flexible words which still possessed those endearing faults she came to enjoy. Cracks, shifts, nervous changes of the pitch – each of those little pieces was carved deep within. Sometimes this depth scared her, but she couldn’t feel fear, so it just translated into the painful tightening of the air. It was a good friend. It could talk to her and be silent at the same time. It drank her expressions – drank them like poison and sprayed them everywhere, right into the hollow, unfeeling void. Then it guarded her while he slept, and slept while she was awake. Everything was right.

The voice cracked once again, and stumbled. She almost felt pity.

“If the agony of a dying creature could be called ‘a will’…”

The chuckle escaped her lips before she could stop it.

“I can’t be that frightening.”

“You’re not. Not to me at least. Just poisonous.”

This time, the crack hit too close to her memories and stabbed them. Pity turned into remorse and stabbed back, creating a small pool in her mind. A pool of fresh blood.

“Yes. That’s how you do it. You release your other side – dangerous and murderous, with a clear intent to kill. But it disappears before it gets the chance. It always does – your servants are incredibly rigid in following orders. But now… now they’re nothing but rebels, and their rebellion is just as poisonous.”

Rebels. The last crumbs of soft dust escaped her convulsively extended hand and fell to the ground where she could no more see them.

Mere rebels. Well, she was a queen after all. The pieces of puzzle clicked together making their hesitant way towards her sour, untangled memories.

“Are they my enemies? Are you one of them?” she whispered, and her words shifted into the boiling air.

“No.” The voice grew in strength, expanded and roared, until it reached every corner in her mind and enveloped it into the thick fog.

“You know the deal, my dear. The tragedy never stops, for it is your meal and drink. That’s a golden rule – a riddle, if you wish. Care to figure it out?”

The silence has never been so desirable, and it was even more so when the voice subdued to the gentle, strikingly familiar murmur which she started to recognize so inevitably. It rang through her, poked at her tortured memories and ran away before she could fully grasp it.

“Remembering is hard, isn’t it?”

“Go away.” The harshness in her voice was no match for the relentless compassion of that stranger who threatened to strip her of the last bits of power.

“That’s a wrong answer.”

The memories were ticking like a badly repaired clock.

“And you know why?”

The clock quickened up, the lopsided hands quickly turning and switching, as if they were having a seizure.

“Because …”

The hands turned into burnt-out wires, thin and dim even in the brightest light.

“Because you are…”

Her heart wasn’t beating steadily anymore, it was running – escaping the foreboding gates of admission and failing all the way through.

Her world shrank to one small moment and stopped, trapping the cold, unfeeling eternity inside.

“Because you’re my friend.”

She didn’t hear explosion, and she didn’t hear the answer.

The only thing she heard was a soft, murmured whisper, muffled by her taunting, poison-filled words.

The tragedy never stops – and neither does remembrance.

Friendships turn to dust. Betrayals take their place, shoot holes that never heal and fill them with poison. It doesn’t kill, but prolongs the pain. It doesn’t take a life, but takes the soul, making it a weak shadow of what used to be.

The air fills with that very poison and alters the time. Black and white change places – just to reappear in their natural state and make the contrast even more deadly.

“Friendship needs an eternity to develop, and just as much to be destroyed.”

“So what would it be for us?”

It takes her a moment to force out the question, and she’s not sure how long it should take to answer it. To ever answer it. She is prepared to wait for another eternity when a gentle breeze touches her wary face.

“Everything we wish for.”

The air stifles and releases its greedy hold. It mellows under her careful touch and mends overlooked holes, sprinkling them with crumby dust.

The tragedy never ends – and neither does remembrance.

Chapter Text

The book felt heavy in his hands – good, solid burden that could be quite exciting under different circumstances, or frightening – depending on the purpose of reading. John still remembered hasty, caffeinated nights before exams, and piles of monstrous textbooks that filled them so relentlessly. The books usually had hard covers and a lot of promising-looking bolds, more often irritating than helpful, and sometimes just bloody impossible to get through.

There was another kind of reading, though. Sherlock called it a ‘two finger’ method, referring to John’s typing pace. John simply called it ‘looking through’, and made it known for Sherlock that he didn’t have the ability to gulp 500 pages of scientific text a day. Sherlock was more often inclined to agree than not, even though John’s refusal to put milk in his tea probably helped a great deal with that. Not that he made good on his promise, but quite frankly, Sherlock’s constant experiments were by no means an effective way to get to the end of the month with at least some money intact. Bills were the worst. They did get paid eventually, but Sherlock didn’t seem to understand what was the point, which always led to the ‘where are those damn things?’ bickering.

How many times, Sherlock? Those were bills, not litter-bins.

Calm down, John. If you’re referring to the ‘mud incident’ from a week ago then I really fear for your…

Don’t. If I hear the phrase ‘observational powers’ one more time…

Doesn’t mean you don’t have to improve them.

Okay. Fine. Just tell me.

As I already said, the bills are still readable.

You didn’t say that.

I do now.

What does exactly ‘readable’ mean?

Later, John discovered that ‘readable’ was pretty much relative term when applied to Sherlock’s understanding of stuff, or rather, misunderstanding.

So now it’s wrapping paper?

I haven’t put any ‘presents’ there.

I wish you did. Human remains are hardly ‘presents’ indeed.

Well, where should I’ve put them, John? Those things are stupid anyway. Who even needs heating? It’s only 3 months, not to mention that I’m planning to be out most of the time.

That was basically the gist of it, even though some colorful details could still be added. When John didn’t feel like arguing any further, he’d just sit in his armchair and get busy with his favorite kind of reading – and one that provided Sherlock with most entertainment.

The paperback. Flexible, a bit scratched cover which seemed to memorize every owner, every curious glance, every impatient shuffle. They felt like nothing else. And today… today they were the only thing that could compete with the painfully sharp memories, the mere presence of which turned his reality to ashes.  

Novels, John! They’re not even useful.

Neither is lying on the couch and pouting all day.

I’m thinking!

Yeah, that’s a good one, but I know you well enough to tell when you’re not.

Don’t flatter yourself, John. Not even Mycroft is up to the task.

You always bring up Mycroft when you’re in a foul mood.

It doesn’t prove anything. I still can be thinking. I’ll have you know that I’m quite capable of doing several things at the same time.

Like cleaning the flat?

That was one thing, and a low one. Really, John.

I thought you were also ‘thinking’.

And I thought that a literary person would be able not to use so much tautology in one sentence.

Okay, Sherlock. I’m going to get back to my novel now. Happy sulking.

That was usually it, add or take a few remarks on the impossibly dull world and stupid lack of criminals. The later sometimes made John agitated, and they landed into a more forceful bickering which usually ended up with him storming out of flat and writing a few mean phrases in his blog drafts (not that he ever considered publishing them, but it helped to blow off steam).

That time, though, the room was bloody freezing – even despite the paid bills – so he didn’t have that much of a choice but to settle down with a well-worn gingham rug and wrap it around his shoulders in a fruitless attempt to keep the warmth. The thing was grey, with occasional touches of beige and dark red flowing into one another and creating a complicated pattern he couldn’t quite get the hang of. The fabric felt smooth and a bit prickly, but far from the woolen intensity. It’d be a decent warm-up for a rainy summer night, but not at all suitable for his still shivering limbs. He sighed.  However ridiculous it was, arguing with Sherlock provided quite a distraction – from cold, as well as from common sense.

Common sense. He didn’t have much of that left now. He didn’t think. There was no Mary to keep him company – which was a relief, and at the same time puzzling, unrecognizable torment. She could easily evoke both those feelings in him, that particular rule didn’t change much since she died.

Killed herself basically. John’s tongue dried out in his mouth. It was summer, but the cold never seemed more prominent and inevitable.

Open and read, John.

And so he did.

***

She didn’t come afterwards. There were seconds when he felt like he forgot about her to never remember again. In the next second, a tiny fraction of his consciousness would awaken and blind him with a heap of questions he could never answer. Still couldn’t.

“I can’t explain it to you either, John. I only know that the answer you’re looking for is that you should’ve never forgiven me. Then you’d be at peace. And so would he.”

Sherlock and peace? Life would be way too dull if it were to ever come true. John halted for a second – the same one that sent his head spinning – and finally, after a sharp sound of keys opening the lock, came in.

Room didn’t look much different. There was his armchair, his favorite cup with dried out traces of tea in it. And there was Sherlock with no balloon in sight.

“So, it didn’t work then, did it?”

Sherlock gave him a cautious grin.

“I told you you’re too hard on yourself, John.”

“Did you indeed?”

John, in turn, didn’t think he could keep the corners of his mouth from rising – not that he tried too much, though.

“So how is stuff then?”

“Stuff is boring, as always, but cases do keep coming from time to time.”

“Do they?”

“Why wouldn’t they?”

“Well, I don’t know, I mean…”

“That I’d be lost without my blogger?”

John coughed and sat in the chair. This kind of conversation required a good amount of well-brewed tea for a start.

“I would indeed be, John.”

The evening went on, fine and tranquil, and neither of them was really bothered with the fact that the heating bills were left unpaid. Or, to put it in more detail: there wasn’t a thought on the matter on Sherlock’s mind, and John’s mind was far too much occupied with other things to make a ‘scold Sherlock’ plan. Not that he intended to let it go altogether, that would be an extremely irresponsible thing to do, but for now… ‘for now’ was just too damn pleasant to give up.