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My Light, Your Shadow

Chapter Text

There are too many types of tea. When did options like this become overwhelming? He stands in the aisle, his eyes flicking across the multi-coloured little boxes, each one blurring and morphing into the next until he can’t tell one from the other. He tries to recall the appearance of his usual brand – just regular PG Tips; it shouldn't be hard to find, but he just feels lost. Placing the basket carefully at his feet – disregarding the milk and bread already in there – he abruptly turns, flexes his fingers and walks straight out of the shop.

He walks with purpose, past 221 Baker Street and on to Regent’s Park, avoiding eye contact with anyone, avoiding any contact with anyone. He walks until his limp threatens to unbalance him and when he reaches a bench he sits, staring blankly at nothing.

He is seven years old and playing in the playground at the end of their street. The boys from next door invited him to come and play, but they've gone off to do something by themselves. Harry, the little monkey that she is, is clambering about in the big old tree at the other end of the park.

She calls out to him from the upper branches.

"John! Bet you’re too chicken to climb this high!"

He starts to walk across the playground. He can’t let a challenge like that stand. She’s hanging from a branch, one leg and one arm wrapped around it, waving at him with her free hand. He looks down to check his footing on the uneven ground and then she’s screaming, falling and hitting the ground with a sickening crack. He runs. She’s crying. He doesn't know what to do.

Later, after a trip to the hospital, x-rays, a sling and pain killers, Harry has been tucked up into bed and John is watching television with his mother in the sitting room.

"I want to learn how to fix people when they’re broken," he tells his mother. She looks over at him, notes his determined expression, and turns off the TV.

"When I grow up, I'm going to be a doctor, so I know how to help people when they’re hurt," he clarifies.

"Darling, I would love to see you become a doctor. You’d be an excellent doctor."

She turns more fully towards him and takes his hand. "But you know that since Daddy was hurt, he can’t work anymore. I'll do what I can, but it’s important for you to understand that we might not be able to support you at university."

A child’s scream jerks him back into the present and he glances around. There are children playing Tag; one child has just been tagged and is apparently unimpressed about it. He tries to find their antics amusing or endearing. They’re just intrusive. He stands and walks back towards Baker Street. There’s another bench, closer to the water but also in a less trafficked area of the park. He sits again, gazing at the water where the ducks are paddling and slips back into memory.

He is thirteen and meeting Harry after school so they can walk home together. She’d told him to meet him at the fence line past the playground, so he’s headed there when he hears yelling. He turns a corner and Harry is on the ground curled around herself, her school dress torn. Two of the boys she’d dated last year are fighting with Amy Farrow who is slapping, punching and kicking anything she can reach. John supposes three years of being bullied and harassed as a ‘lesbo’ must have given her plenty of practice in defending herself.

"Hey!" John yells, running over, "Get off!"

Both the boys run off upon seeing him, obviously not keen on even odds. Amy brushes herself off while John helps Harry to her feet.

"Okay?" Amy asks Harry, who nods, turning to John.

"Let’s go home, John."

Amy frowns. John shrugs at her. "You okay, Amy?" he asks. She nods, picks up her bag, and walks off in the opposite direction.

As soon as they get home, Harry shuts herself in her room. John looks up boxing classes, promising himself again that he will learn whatever is needed to help others.

The sun is starting to go down and he shivers. The park will be closing soon. He should go home before his shoulder stiffens, but he’s not quite ready to be alone in his dingy flat. He hasn't thought about Amy Farrow for years. He wonders how she got on and what she’s doing now. Hopefully, she’s doing better than he and Harry.

He’s nearly fifteen and the Career Fair is on. He’s already spoken to the representatives of all the universities present which offer a medical degree. They've all offered him the same pamphlets on available tuition loans, maintenance loans, scholarships and other forms of financial support. He’s slightly heartened that such assistance exists.

He turns to leave, pamphlets and university information in hand, when his eyes light on the Army recruitment stand. He wanders over, curious, and explains his interests and financial situation. The recruitment officer smiles, asks him to sit down, and explains how studying medicine through the Army works.

He takes all his pamphlets home and pores over them in his room. It occurs to him that joining the Army will allow him to study medicine and also learn to protect and fight.

He remembers that his acceptance into the Army’s medical training program had been the greatest moment of his life, then, and it was the first of many times when he would charge right through disappointment and other people’s expectations to reach his own goals.

He’s been a man so driven and so focussed for so long. How is this now his life? He’s essentially just run away from tea bags. Sherlock has been…gone…for four months now, and rather than pulling himself back up on his feet and striding purposefully forward, he’s allowed himself to get sucked into a vortex of self-loathing, guilt and depression.

He suspects he knows why. He’s spent years of his life learning to always know what to do, how to help, how to spare his loved ones from as much pain and anguish as possible. But when Sherlock stood on the edge of St Bart’s rooftop and told him to believe that he was a fake, John had understood what Sherlock was about to do and he’d gone blank. He’d fumbled his way through that phone call, trying to reach him, and he’d forgotten everything his one unit of psychology had taught him about suicide. He’d done everything wrong. And now Sherlock is buried beneath a simple black stone, John’s life is purposeless again and he feels broken.

It feels like his churning emotions are crawling up his throat and he realises what Sherlock must have been feeling up on that roof. He feels like everything he values has been stripped from him, he has no goals to strive for, nothing he wants to achieve. The blank nothing that his life has become yawns ahead of him, unending, and it terrifies him.

He pulls out his phone and dials a number he’d hoped never to need again.

"Hi, Ella, it’s John Watson. I think I need some help."

Chapter Text

There is a crack in the corner of the window. A small, almost unnoticeable fracture in the glass, down near the bottom where people are unlikely to look. His gaze keeps returning to it, unbidden. It feels like a metaphor for his life.

That’s morbid.

He turns his attention back to her, trying to focus on what she’s asking him.

“Tell me why you called, John,” she says, softly.

“I…” He stops, his eyes returning to the crack in the window.


“I suppose…I thought I understood. Why, I mean. For him…” He stops again, his tongue flicking out to wet his now-dry lips. His hands are trembling, so he clasps them in his lap.

He looks at the crack again.

“What did you understand?” she asks.

She’s leaning forward in her seat; her legs crossed one over the other, her ever-present notepad on her knee. He wonders what Sherlock might have deduced from the way she does her nails, or the tights she’s wearing, or the way she lets her shoe fall from her heel.

The sole of the shoe is like a passport.

“John,” she calls, gently but firmly, bringing his attention back to here, to now.

“I…” he swallows, tries again, “I thought, for a moment, that I understood why he’d… I thought - I thought maybe he felt…”

Again, he stops. The words are building up, crushing against his ribcage, tripping over each other in his throat. He can’t breathe around them.


His hands are shaking, the room is shifting out of focus and he can’t breathe.

“Tell me about the window, John. Why do you keep looking at the window?”

He looks at the window. Outside it’s started to rain, the droplets of water travelling down the glass to the windowsill, where they pool before overflowing out of sight.

“There’s a crack,” he finally answers, hoarsely, “in the glass, in the corner.”

They are both quiet for a few minutes while he watches the rain.

“I couldn't choose tea,” he blurts, the words erupting from his mouth without his conscious decision to release them. She sits back and waits for him to continue. She’s giving him space. He doesn't want it. He knows he needs it.

“I was in the shop and I couldn't choose. I walked out. Just left, bought nothing.” His fists clench and unclench on his knee. He’s thirsty, but he knows he won’t start again if he stops now.

“When I called you, I’d walked to Regent’s Park and sat on a bench. My leg’s been acting up again; has been since…since…” He pauses again, memories of darkness falling against light, a ringing in his ears and red on black on grey.

“Since when, John?”

Since the light dropped out of my world, he doesn't say. Since the man I’d built my life around gave up on his own, he doesn't say. Since I panicked as a doctor and failed as a friend, he doesn't say.

“John, you need to say it,” she says again. Just like before. This time he’s not sure she’s right.

“Since he fell,” he manages, swallowing around the words and licking his lips again. He can’t say ‘died’. He said it once, last time he was here. Now, it feels as if speaking the word aloud will make it irreversibly true. He knows it is irreversibly true, but logic doesn't seem to apply.

“Okay,” she says, “we'll work on that. You were in the park, what happened?”

“I'm a doctor,” he almost whispers. “A soldier. I've seen mates who lost focus after the war. They couldn't find a path to walk when they got back home. I know what it looks like when a person is thinking about…that.”

He blinks, breathes, swallows.

“I think… When I was on the bench, I looked like that.”

o O o

The seat creaks every time the bus goes over a bump in the road, which is often. The suspension probably needs looking at. The constant stop-start-stop of traffic, bus stops and pedestrian crossings is making him feel nauseous. The creaking of the seat and the ceaseless noise of people is giving him a headache. He leans his forehead against the glass and watches the city streets lurch by.

He is both ashamed and relieved at what he’d revealed in the session. They’d spent the remainder of the time working through a safety plan even though he’d assured Ella he had no intention of harming himself. Now he feels drained. Diminished.

Ella’s office isn't far from Baker Street but his leg is aching, he’s exhausted and he really can’t afford a cab fare. He’d forgotten that the bus route takes him past the graveyard where Sherlock is buried. On an impulse, he gets off the bus there.

He stands on the pavement, momentarily irresolute, bouncing on the balls of his feet and flexing his fingers. Drawing himself up and giving himself a sharp, decisive nod, he turns and makes his way through the gate.

He picks his way along a barely discernible path to the familiar and loathed black marble headstone beneath an old pine tree. The grass has started to grow back where the earth was disturbed; the flowers Mrs Hudson had left are long gone. He hasn't been back since that day.

Blowing out a breath, he sits on the ground with his back against the tree, staring at the gold lettering of his best friend’s name.

“I don’t know why I'm here, Sherlock,” he says, idly plucking blades of grass in his fingers. “I don’t think I deserve to be here. If I were a better friend, a better doctor…just better, you wouldn't be here either. I would have…” he stops, his throat closing as his grief and guilt rise up to choke him.

A memory surfaces of Sherlock’s voice breaking whilst he claimed to be a fake, that the newspapers were right all along. Did he genuinely think John could ever believe that of him, especially after their conversation at the flat on the day of their arrest?

Sherlock had known that Moriarty’s plan was to destroy his reputation and have the world believe him to be a fraud. He’d practically screamed it at John.

Can’t you see what’s going on?

How had he gone from defiant to suicidal overnight? How had John not seen what was happening? Sherlock’s extraordinary brain was putrefying in the ground and it was John’s fault.

He should have been thinking! In retrospect, the paramedic call was obviously fake. Why would they summon him to Baker Street, rather than tell him to meet them at the hospital? Why would a paramedic be phoning him at all? He’d been so stupid, especially as he’d known that Moriarty was out there, fixated on destroying Sherlock. He’d been taken out of play with such a simple ruse, and Sherlock had been…what?

John’s thoughts froze as he realised he was drawing connections that didn't exist. Moriarty had had nothing to do with Sherlock’s suicide. Well, he’d obviously driven him to it, but he hadn't been involved in Sherlock’s decision to jump from the roof of St Barts. Had he? No.

Moriarty had played Sherlock like the detective had played his violin, plucking just the right strings to create the tune he wanted. He’d broken Sherlock, planting doubts not only in everyone else’s mind but in Sherlock’s as well. Somehow, Moriarty had convinced Sherlock that suicide was his only way out. John knew that could only have happened if Sherlock believed everyone, including and especially John, had given up on him or soon would. And John hadn't been there to show him that wasn't true.

He closes his eyes, his head resting in a divot in the bark of the tree. His mind circles back around to the fateful, and fatal, phone call. He relives it every other night in dreams and nightmares. Dreams, where he says the right things and is able to talk Sherlock down and bring him home. The nightmares are the ones where things play out exactly as they had on that dreadful day outside St Barts.

In many ways, the dreams are worse. For a few brief moments when he wakes he believes the dream to be true and he expects to hear the sounds of another life in the flat. Then reality blinks back into focus, knocking the breath out of him as he stuffs his fist in his mouth to keep the fresh grief inside.

Sitting on the cold ground and staring at Sherlock’s headstone, John gasps for breath as the grief and guilt well up inside him. When he can breathe again, he straightens, stands, bows his head and whispers, “I'm sorry, Sherlock. I am so very sorry.”

o O o

The trip home passes by in a blur of faces, voices, noises and motion, none of it registering as he makes his way to his front door. For a moment, like every other day since… he has to brace himself in the hallway and remind himself that he won’t be inside.

Mrs Hudson doesn't seem to be home as he makes his way down to 221C. He’d moved down to the basement flat two months ago, when he realised he couldn't live in 221B without Sherlock but couldn't bear to leave either. Besides, his Army pension isn't enough to cover the full rent and, despite her protests to the contrary, he knows Mrs Hudson needs the income.

A young couple have moved into 221B, loud with their joy in life and each other. Part of him is pleased for them and their happiness. Most of him hates them for it.

He thinks of nothing as he removes his jacket on auto pilot and hangs it on the back of his cheap desk chair. He’d brought down only what he’d had when he moved in to 221B, along with the skull and the violin. He and Mrs Hudson had put the rest into storage, neither of them quite ready to tackle the job of sorting through Sherlock’s belongings. Mycroft had shown no interest in doing so either.

John hasn't heard from Mycroft. The last time they’d spoken was when John had accosted him at The Diogenes Club after he’d worked out the part Mycroft had played in Moriarty’s game. He failed to see why he should tolerate Mycroft’s interference in his life now that it didn't have Sherlock in it, so he’s relieved the other man hasn't attempted any. At least, not to John’s knowledge.

Shuffling into the kitchen, he puts the kettle on. Only when it’s boiled and he’s fishing in the cupboard for a clean mug does he remember he has no tea bags after his attempt to buy more two days ago had ended with his abrupt departure from the shop. He pours the water anyway, the warm mug a comfort in his hand.

The mug grows cold as he stands in the kitchen staring at the grimy window over the sink. Eventually, he puts it into the sink. He’s tired. He’s tired, but sleeping holds no interest for him. Regardless, he slowly takes off his shoes and climbs onto the bed fully clothed.

Maybe things will look better in the morning.

Chapter Text

It’s another month before the abyss that his life has become starts to show a little colour amongst all the gloom. It comes from Harry, who is the most unanticipated source of good news that John can imagine.

She calls him out of the blue to announce that she’s been three months sober and would he come to her meeting to celebrate with her? He doesn't want to. He doesn't want to go anywhere, with anyone, to do anything. But this is Harry, who’s been an alcoholic (whether she admitted it or not) since they were teenagers, and she’s never managed three months sober before. He decides he can show a bit of encouragement, even with how he’s feeling about his own existence right now and despite how she’d spoken to him the last time he’d seen her.

Somehow, he successfully manages a shower, a shave, a change of clothes and gets to the tube station on time. When he arrives at Harry’s, she’s so pleased to see him that she practically launches herself through the door.

“John! I didn't think you’d come. How are you?”

“Tonight’s not about me, Harry. You wanted me here, and I'm proud of you, so here I am.”

She smiles at him and drags him to the car. When they arrive at the meeting, she’s greeted warmly by several other people.

“Everyone, this is my brother, John.”

Several people shake his hand and introduce themselves. John forgets their names before his palm has grown cold but it doesn't seem to matter. They go inside and John finds a seat towards the back. Several people speak of their recent challenges, what they’re struggling with and what has been working for them. Then it’s Harry’s turn.

“Hi everyone, I'm Harry – many of you know me by now. Today, I am three months sober.”

There are whoops and cheers at this from the others at the meeting. John smiles at her.

“Tonight I want to tell you about my decision to face my problems with alcohol and get help.” She takes a deep breath, looks at John and seems to be speaking directly to him.

“Five months ago, my brother’s best friend jumped off a building in front of him.”

John stills. It feels like a punch in the gut to have her blurt out the most painful event of his life to a room of strangers. He almost gets up and leaves, but her gaze tells him she needs him to hear this. He wraps his arms around himself and nods at her.

“I never met my brother’s friend, Sherlock. My drinking drove my wife away just over two years ago. She and my brother were close, so when she finally left me he was angry and disappointed. John and I have barely spoken since then, so meeting each other’s friends wasn't something that we did.”

“When Sherlock died, I was drunk. On the day of his funeral, I was at home and I was drinking. When John rang me, desperate for someone to be there for him, I offered him my sofa because he didn't want to be at home alone. I was drunk by the time he came around. I said some dreadful things to him that night, and when I woke in the morning he had already left. I tried to apologise, I called him several times but he never answered. I knew I deserved that. He’d come to me in pain and needing his sister and instead he got drunken abuse and old arguments that just don’t matter anymore.”

“I think that’s when I hit the proverbial ‘rock bottom’. Alcohol had destroyed my relationship with my wife and put a wedge between my brother and me. Now, on top of that, it had caused me to be entirely selfish and horrid to him when he was in pain and needed me. I cried for a long time that night and swore I’d never drink again.”

She took a deep breath. She wasn't looking at John anymore, but he was captivated. He had no idea she’d realised how badly she’d hurt him and how desperately he’d needed her.

“It didn't last. I got through the hangover, and then I think I managed almost two days before it was all too hard. I’d drunk a bottle of wine before I could consider the consequences. I spent the next two weeks alternately drinking, or hating myself for having done so. It was a vicious cycle, since the only way I knew how to cope with all that self-hatred was to drink.”

“Sherlock had been gone almost six weeks, and I hadn't heard from my brother in four, when I finally accepted that this wasn't something I was going to be able to do on my own. I knew I couldn't ask John for his support. That wouldn't have been fair at the best of times, considering how I’d treated him, but especially not when he had so much pain of his own. Finally, I went to see my doctor and discussed options. I decided to try SMART, and here I am.”

“You guys have helped me in so many ways and I am proud of myself for reaching the three month mark. I know I have a long way to go, and I know it will be a day by day thing. But tonight, I really just wanted to tell my brother that I'm sorry. That I'm doing this for myself, but also for him. I want you to know,” she looks over at him again and holds his gaze, “that I'm okay now. And I can be here for you. I'm so sorry that I wasn't before. I just hope that you’ll let me.”

By this point, Harry is openly weeping. When she finishes speaking, she walks up to John and stands awkwardly beside his chair, as if unsure of her welcome. He reaches his arms around her waist and buries his face in her belly and for the first time in a long, long time, he lets someone hold him while he finally, finally, allows the tears to fall.

o O o

By the time they arrive back at Harry’s, the silence has gone from accepting to awkward. John knows there are things he needs to say to Harry and also things he needs to hear. The frequent and increasingly frustrated glances she’s throwing his way suggests she feels the same. It seems neither of them really know how to start the conversation.

“Tea?” Harry asks him.

“Sure. Yes, please.”

John sits at her kitchen table while she starts the various steps necessary to make tea. Kettle filled and switched on. Clean mugs from the cupboard. Tea bags. Sugar. Milk. His mind fills with a kaleidoscope of images from the immeasurable number of times he’s gone through this same routine at 221B, making cups of tea for himself and Sherlock. Something about tea, both the routine of making it and the enjoyment of drinking it, was now indelibly linked in his mind to Sherlock. He couldn't make or drink a cup of tea now without the memories. For that reason, he’d forgone the pleasure more times than he could count.

Harry puts a mug in front of John. It’s white ceramic with the word “I'm” on one side and “Hers” on the other. He raises his eyebrow at her. She smirks.

“Sorry. You know I was never much for subtlety. And I can’t say I've been drinking much tea, until recently, so these are the only pair I have.”

John smiles and looks down at his tea, trying to find the words to start the conversation they need to have.

“I am sorry, John,” Harry says, also staring into her mug.

“For which part?” he asks.

“For Sherlock, of course, but mostly I mean for the way I've not been there for you. I don’t think I've really been a big sister to you since we were kids. You didn't come to me when you got back from the war. This time you did come to me, and I fucked it up. I'm mostly sorry for that. I needed you to know that. It’s why I wanted you to come today.”

“I'm proud of you,” John says with a soft smile, giving her hand a brief squeeze. “Three months sober is a big deal. I'm…well, I guess I'm glad that something positive came out of all this, I suppose. I’d prefer to have Sherlock here and you being sober, but...” he shrugs.

“Do you…are you okay?” Harry asks.

“I'm…” he starts, and then grimaces. “Well, no. But it’s…better. Than it was. At first.”

For a few minutes, they both sit in silence, drinking their tea. The silence is comfortable again. When his tea is finished, John starts to speak but stops several times. Eventually, he makes a decision.

“Thank you, for what you said today. I am proud of you. I've said that, and it’s true. I just…I can’t talk about it with you. About Sherlock, I mean. Not yet. I'm sorry.”

Harry nods and smiles in that way people have when they’re sad and disappointed but not wanting to show it. “I understand. That’s fair.”

John blows out a breath, tension dropping from his shoulders. “Okay. That’s good. So um…how have you been going, with all this? It’s been hard for you, yeah?”

She laughs loudly. John can’t remember the last time he heard her genuinely laugh. It makes him smile.

“Hard. Yeah, understatement of the year right there. But it’s worth it. I've already been getting more responsibility at work. I'm hoping I can go for a promotion soon.”

“Wow, that’s great! Still at the same company then?”

“Oh no. I got fired from there a few weeks before…well, a while ago now. The drinking, you know. I'm at a new place now. It’s smaller, with more private clients than government. I'm still just a secretary but the company is growing so I think I can get back into a more active marketing role, working with actual clients. Sobriety is good, apparently.”

“Imagine that.”

They both laugh.

“And…have you spoken to Clara?”

“Yeah. Well, not as such. I sent her an email about two weeks ago, just to let her know that I was getting better. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was, but that ship has sailed I think. She never replied, so I dunno. Don’t know if she even read it.” She sighs. “You back at work?”

“Sort of. I'm picking up some locum work here and there. I don’t really know what to do with myself now, to be honest.”

Harry stands up and refills the kettle. “Well, you should work it out. You've always needed to have some kind of goal or purpose. Although really, when you think about it, it’s always been the same hasn't it? Help people, protect people. That’s always been your thing. Remember that time at school with Amy Farrow? You kept on at Mum and Dad about wanting to go to boxing lessons for weeks.”

John laughs. “I was only thinking about that a couple of months ago. I wonder what Amy ended up doing.”

“Another?” Harry asks, lifting the kettle.

“Actually, I need to head off if I'm going to catch the train.” John stands, grabbing his jacket and cane.

“I’ll drive you to the station,” Harry offers.

In the car, Harry cranks up some terrible pop radio station, poking him and trying to get him to sing along. By the time they reach the station, he’s laughing.

“Thanks. Really, thanks. I'm glad I came today. To be honest I didn't want to, but I'm really glad that I did.”

“Me too,” she replies. “And John… I’d like us to be better. Like proper siblings, you know? So…don’t shut me out, okay? Call me any time.”

He hugs her tightly before he heads up the platform.

Chapter Text

Draft - Private

So Harry is three months sober. I went to a meeting with her last night. She talked about Sherlock, which was a bit of a punch in the gut to be honest. Apparently, to have a sober sister, I have to have a dead best friend.

That sounds bitter and angry.

I am bitter and angry, today. I don’t feel that way every day. Each day is a bit of a lucky dip upon waking – is today going to be a sad day? A lost day? A blank/numb day? A productive day? (Those are rare, but less so than a few months ago). Apparently today is a bitter and angry day. With a fairly large dose of confused, guilty and sad thrown in just for variety.

There are some things I need to think my way through and I do that best through writing, apparently. So Ella tells me anyway. Sherlock would disagree, my two-finger typing drove him up the wall. (I have actually become reasonably proficient at typing, but I made sure to continue the two-finger pecking if Sherlock was at home. The result was always entertaining. I miss that. One time he actually offered to type it for me if I dictated it, just to stop the “incessant arrhythmic woodpecker noises, you make it impossible to think, John!”)

Anyway, so, yesterday Harry pointed out that I don’t do very well without a purpose. She’s right about that. I suppose I need to figure one out. First it was medical school, then the Army, then I was lost for a bit and then it was solving crimes with Sherlock. Now I’m lost again.

It’s just hard for me to focus on anything other than the merry-go-round of the same thoughts. Always the same questions, memories, second guesses and wishing so very, very hard that I could change the past.

The thing I’m really struggling with is how completely out of the blue it all was. I lived with the man, worked with him. Those last few days we were virtually inseparable (literally for a while, thanks Scotland Yard). I thought I knew what was going on. Well, as much as I ever do. Sherlock loved to hoard all the puzzle pieces until he could show off the completed picture. There were so many times he dragged me off in one direction or another, providing me with absolutely zero context or information in search of yet another piece of the puzzle. There were times I wondered if even he knew what he was doing. He always got results though. (Well, almost always. There was that rather memorable (and hilarious) time when Anderson solved the case, finding evidence Sherlock had missed1. He was sulking for days over that one. (“I do not ‘sulk’, John!”))

Anyway, those last few days we knew that Moriarty had an agenda. We knew that agenda was to destroy Sherlock, in some way. His ‘final problem’, whatever that meant. As events unfolded we realised what that was going to look like – shredding his reputation, manipulating those who worked most closely with him into doubting his motives and his methods, calling his innocence into question. It became fairly clear that destroying Sherlock in the eyes of the public and the Yard was the end game. Apparently, he succeeded in also destroying him in his own eyes as well. That’s the bit I can’t wrap my head around. How did I miss that?

I was in his company almost constantly. There were a couple of times when we were not together – the cab ride where I came upon him and a dead assassin in the street was a rather notable example – but mostly, I saw what he saw. Well, I thought I did. Did I miss something? Was there more going on that I didn’t know about? How did Sherlock become suicidal overnight and I didn’t notice?

I just can’t make any sense of it and it’s destroying me. I am a doctor. I was a soldier. I’ve seen people driven to suicide by the pressures of war. I’ve seen people driven to thoughts of suicide by a chemical imbalance in their brain. I’ve seen it happen through extreme trauma, or grief, or loss. I’ve lost patients to suicide. I’ve had patients (and friends) who’ve lost friends or family to suicide. It’s a fucking pandemic in our society, frankly. Rather terrifying.

Anyway, my point is I know what that looks like. Or I thought I did. Granted it’s been many years since I’ve done any study in anything that might vaguely be related to counselling or psychology, but the grounding is there. It has to be if you’re going to operate as a doctor in a war (or as a GP these days). You have to know how to recognise when your comrades are losing their grip, how to help them get it back, or when to intervene and send them home.

From Sherlock there was just nothing. I mean nothing unusual at all. Talking about death in our line of work wasn’t unusual (obviously), nor was risk-taking behaviour. Chasing criminals around the greater London area can hardly be considered a safe past-time. He never once spoke of suicide or his own death, never said anything to indicate he expected not to be here in the near future. No signs of depression – certainly not whilst he was in the middle of a case. No thinly-veiled goodbye messages or giving away his treasured possessions. No sudden withdrawal from the people around him (that would require him to first be connected with someone other than Mrs Hudson or me). He most definitely didn’t lose interest in the things he was passionate about. He was completely engrossed in the ‘game’ with Moriarty. I mean there was literally no sign.

And yet somehow, in the time it took me to get to Baker Street and realise Mrs Hudson was fine and I’d been deliberately diverted, he went from being engaged (and frustrated) with solving the puzzle, to calling me whilst standing on the bloody roof. I mean, how the fuck did that even happen? And how did I miss it?

(I’ve moved on from bitter and angry. Now I’m just desolate. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all.)

I’ve replayed the conversation in the lab when I was called away to Baker Street umpteen times. Is it my fault? Was me calling him a machine some kind of final straw for him? (Why, WHY did I do that? I knew better!) He did get very riled up when he thought I was doubting him back at Baker Street. Was he in so fragile a place that my thoughtless and frustrated words were enough to crack him wide open?

I keep replaying that phone call from the rooftop too. Something feels entirely off about it. I just can’t put my finger on it. But then I think, well the whole bloody phone call was off – he threw himself off the fucking roof!

I don’t remember the rest of that day. Not in any detail. I remember blood on the pavement, through his hair, across his face. I remember checking for a pulse and finding nothing. I remember being dragged away. I remember fragments, until I was back at Baker Street in a flat that already seemed devoid of life. God, Sherlock filled a place just by walking in the room. His absence was palpable immediately. It feels like one of those photos where the shape of a person has been cropped out, leaving a big white person-shaped hole in the picture. I still feel like that. Like I’m living in a world with a huge chunk missing, all the time.

I don’t know how to make sense of it. I don’t think it’s something I can make sense of. And I need it to make sense. I’m not sure how to reconcile that.

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1. I wrote a little fic about Sherlock's reaction to Anderson solving the case for the #noshameficathon called I Should Retire, if you're interested go check it out. Back

Chapter Text

John stands patiently on the platform waiting for the last train home, a few drinks in him and an enjoyable night behind him. Ella had been on at him to re-engage with people, so when Lesley had invited him to join them for Doctor Harris’ birthday drinks he’d agreed, and then had had quite a fun night, much to his surprise.

The station is virtually deserted at this time of night. There’s a young couple wrapped around each other on a bench to his left, and a man not far to his right who seems nervous and twitchy. He keeps looking around and checking his watch. There’s something off about his behaviour that has John on edge.

The sound of the train approaching draws John’s attention briefly to the left, but a movement to his right has him turning back again. The man is striding rapidly and purposefully towards the edge of the platform, his intention blindingly, painfully clear. John has only a single thought in his head – No, not again – before he’s running toward the man.

It all happens so quickly. The man goes to jump onto the tracks and John launches himself at him, tackling him to the side and rolling him back away from the edge. The man struggles, kicking and yelling incoherently. John rolls once more, his arms a vice around the man’s chest until he’s face down on the concrete. He tucks his knee into the man’s back, grabs his wrists and pulls his arms behind him.

The train pulls into the station and the man goes limp, obviously realising that he has no way now to achieve his objective. He crumples, weeping into the concrete. The young woman who’d been wrapped around her boyfriend earlier is talking animatedly at the Help Point, obviously asking for assistance, so John stays where he is. He releases the man now that he’s no longer struggling.

“Hey, mate, listen…” he starts, and then pauses unsure what to say.

“Look, what’s your name?”

The man says nothing; he just curls around himself on the concrete.

“Okay, I get you don’t want to talk. You probably hate me right now. I just want you to know…look, trust me when I tell you that the people in your life would rather help you with whatever is going on than lose you like this.”

The man shows no sign of having heard him. John sighs, realising he’s not going to get through right now. Instead, he just sits with him silently while they wait.

When the transport police arrive only minutes later, they quickly and efficiently move the man off somewhere private.

“Thanks for your assistance, sir. We’ll take care of it from here,” one of them says, before following after the others.

John is hesitant to leave. He knows he hasn’t got any responsibility to the man – he doesn’t even know his name – but the impulse to ensure his safety is still strong. He tells himself he’s done as much as he can and the staff clearly know what they’re doing. The train has long since departed, so he heads up to the street to find a cab.

o O o

On the way home John wonders what it is about him that has people attempting to take their own lives right in front of him. He’s aware, professionally, of the high suicide rate, particularly for men. Until Sherlock though, that fact had little relevance to him personally. Now another man has sought to take his own life in front of John.

He can’t help the flash of bitter disappointment that he was able to save this nameless man but not his best friend.


“Yes, I know.”

“What’s that mate?” the cabbie calls back to him. John just waves a hand in a vaguely ‘don’t worry about it’ gesture.

Now he’s talking to himself; or more correctly, talking to the memory of someone long gone. Brilliant.

He resolves to think of nothing for the rest of the trip, in case he starts to look like he’s entirely lost his mind.

As soon as he gets home, he pulls out his laptop and looks up suicide and suicide prevention. There is no way he will ever really come to terms with the loss of Sherlock; he’s come to accept that in recent weeks. The knowledge that if he hadn’t acted as he had tonight someone else could be experiencing the same crushing grief sits heavily on his chest. He wonders if there’s some way he can help prevent other suicides and thereby spare others that pain.

He’s been floating in this non-life ever since Sherlock jumped; failing completely to find that spark he needs to make him feel connected and alive. Ella, Harry, Mrs Hudson and Greg have all at some point in the past month or two tried to remind him that there’s more to life than traipsing to and from work. And he’s been trying.

He keeps circling back to the conversation he had with Harry on the night she celebrated three months’ sobriety and the idea that he is lost without a goal or a purpose. It’s unlikely that he’s going to find another like the Army or Sherlock. He had those and he lost them; the first through no fault of his own, the second the same, although it’s taken him a long time to accept that. Sometimes he can’t help feeling the pinch of guilt, but it’s better now. He’s better.

He’s not going to solve anything at 2am, though.

He’s not ready to sleep so he makes his way into the bathroom. He tosses his clothes into a corner and hops in the shower; turning it up as hot as he can stand. He stands under the spray until the tension in his neck and shoulder eases and his mind stops whirling. Then he dries off and climbs under the covers.

He doesn’t expect to sleep, but the next thing he knows the sun is streaming through his wide-open curtains. He checks his phone – 8.17am. That’s a much more reasonable time of day to solve his existential crisis.

Got time to catch-up? Want
to run something by you – JW

Sure. Doing paperwork. Swing by
and save me – Greg

John throws some clean clothes on without really noticing what he’s chosen and heads up to the station.

He’s only been back to Scotland Yard twice in the last few months. The first time was to deal with the charges for assaulting the Chief Superintendent. Given the circumstances, the Chief agreed to drop the charges if John apologised and John did so, even though he actually wanted to punch him again.

The second was to witness the press conference when Sherlock’s name was cleared and all his case reviews proved that he was not a fraud after all. He and Greg went out and got thoroughly plastered that night; grief and relief warring for dominance, but it was the relief that won. Greg was reinstated to his previous position the following week.

He stops at Starbucks to get coffee for them both and makes his way up to Greg’s office.

“Bought you a gift,” he says with a small smile as he walks through the door.

“Mate, you’re a legend,” is the relieved response, and Greg takes the coffee, indicating with his free hand that John should sit.

“So what’s up?”

“Well, last night I was catching the last train back after drinks with my colleagues and ended up crash-tackling a guy about to jump on the tracks.” John shrugs and takes a sip of his coffee.

Greg abruptly sits forward in his chair, his gaze fixed on John.

“Bloody hell, is he okay? Christ, are you okay?”

“Surprisingly, yeah, both of us are just fine. Or well, he was when I left; I guess I don’t know how he is this morning. It just made me wonder though, if maybe I can do something. Anything. To help people make a different choice.”

“What, you mean like psychiatry? Are you going to change careers?” Greg’s smirk indicates he knows that’s not what John means.

“Ha, yeah, more studying that’s what I need. No, I was thinking…maybe Samaritans or something.”

“Samaritans would be good, yeah. Are you thinking of volunteering with them? I know they have volunteers on their phone line. Is that the kind of thing you mean?”

“Yeah, I could maybe do something like that. I don’t know about the phone thing, I prefer talking to people face-to-face. I was thinking about looking into it though. I just wanted to know what you thought of the idea.”

“It’s good to see you animated about something,” Greg replies, trying to sound light but not quite succeeding.

“I know. I’m working on it.”

“Honestly, mate, the Samaritans are a good bunch. They’re always in need of more people to volunteer. The world’s a pretty messed up place and there are a lot of people needing someone to talk to. We used to refer people to their helpline all the time when I worked the beat. If that’s something you think you could do, it sounds like a brilliant idea to me.”

He pauses, and then continues, “Just as long as it’s not going to…I don’t know, set you back or something. You were in a pretty bad way for a while there.”

John smiles and nods. “I was, yeah, I know. I honestly don’t know if it will be right for me or not, but it’s worth looking into, I think. I guess I just…I need something positive to come out of all this, you know? I need to find a way to use it and to be better for it. I don’t know if that makes any sense.”

“It does. Well, go for it. Let me know how it works out.”

“Sure, okay. I’ll talk to them today. How are you doing anyway, is it good being back?”

“It is, yeah, it’s brilliant. I’m even finding all this,” Greg indicates the stack of papers on his desk, “tolerable, if not actually enjoyable. I’m sure it’ll wear off soon though.”

John grins. “Right, I’ll leave you to it. Thanks for the chat.”

“Thanks for the coffee!” is Greg’s parting remark.

In the elevator on the way down John looks up the nearest Samaritans branch on his phone. There’s a branch only two stations away, but he decides to walk. He’s been barely limping since the incident last night and for the first time in six months he’s actually enjoying being in amongst the frenetic activity of the city.

He’s greeted at the Samaritans branch by a petite blonde woman around his own age who introduces herself as Mary. An entirely different part of his brain notes the absence of a ring on her finger, and that she’s the perfect height to tuck in below his chin. She smiles warmly at him and for the first time in months, he smiles just as warmly back at her.

Maybe he can get his life back on track in more ways than one.