"Say that again, please," John said, his teeth gritted, his hands clutching the backrest of the chair he was leaning on. Greg wasn't sure whether he'd ever seen John this angry before. Annoyed, yes. Tense as well. But angry? No. Least of all at the man sitting upright in the hospital bed, his pale skin even more pasty than usual and his dark locks hanging onto his forehead limply as if it hadn't got the message yet that Sherlock Holmes had beat the odds once again and woken from a three-day coma.
Sherlock didn't seem fazed by John's dangerously low voice. He just raised an eyebrow. "I don't think that's necessary."
"Oh!" John replied with a bitter laugh. "I think it is. I want hear it again. And maybe punch you."
"Now, take a deep breath," Greg interrupted and raised a hand, more to try and calm John down than to appease Sherlock. He knew that John was strung tight, utterly exhausted and had spent the last few days pacing and battling the overdose of drugs in Sherlock's bloodstream. It hadn't been easy and only the fact that John had found Sherlock in time, leaving work earlier than he'd intended to due to an appointment being cancelled, had saved Sherlock's life.
John had been worried sick since and Greg had to admit he'd been too. Finding the syringe with residues of the drug that Sherlock had used had helped John and the hospital to find a suitable treatment, but still, Sherlock had spent three days unconscious. Three days they'd succeeded to avoid talking about the elephant in the room - that Sherlock had willingly overdosed, that he'd tried to kill himself ... and now this.
Greg sighed and rubbed his tired eyes. "John, why don't you go home? I think you need some sleep."
John glared at Sherlock in a way that promised some form of retribution. Greg didn't want to know what these two got up to in their flat when they had what his colleagues mockingly called "lovers spats". Somehow, though, Greg doubted that it was that bad. Sherlock had an explosive nature and the mindset of a pouty child sometimes, throwing insults every which way, but John was quite the opposite. He probably just needed some sleep to find his ability to endure Sherlock again. John didn't look at Greg while he straightened, his hands balled to fists at his sides. He just gave a sharp nod. "Yes. I really do." With that, he turned and stiffly left the hospital room.
Sherlock sighed and looked at the clock. "When will a doctor be around to release me?"
Greg cleared his throat, finding it easier to breathe now that John had left and taken his anger with him. "I'm not sure you will be released today."
Sherlock's answering look could only be described as scandalized.
"Well," Greg tried to explain, "Sherlock ... you overdosed. You almost died. You were unconscious for three days. I just don't think they want you out of their sight just now, especially since there was mention of a therapist coming to see you." Not that Greg thought that would ever happen. Not with the explanation Sherlock had just given them. Even though ... he didn't exactly think that overdosing in order to solve a case was proof of a sound mind.
"You overdosed ...," Greg repeated patiently, "... willingly."
Sherlock answered just as patiently, but with a mocking undertone. "And I just explained to you that I didn't have any other choice if I didn't want him to realize that I was trying to make a case against him."
"You practically tried to commit suicide!"
"If I hadn't, he would be out of the country by now! This way, you get to arrest him because he thinks that aside from a small hiccup, he's safe!"
"Jesus, Sherlock! You realize that you almost killed yourself for a case? I think it would be good for you to talk to somebody. A professional."
Sherlock shrugged and crossed his arms. "I knew John would be coming home in time."
"John was home early purely by coincidence. If his last appointment hadn't been cancelled ..." Greg swallowed, not being able to finish the sentence. He still remembered John's voice when he'd called from the back of the ambulance. Saying words Greg had never thought he'd hear. 'Sherlock' and 'suicide' just didn't fit together, for some reason.
Sherlock looked to the side, away from Greg. It was an avoidance tactic Greg had come to recognize by now: Sherlock grudgingly realizing that Greg just might be right.
"He could have been too late," Greg said to make his point again, "and you'd be dead. That was quite a risk you were taking. Did you even think about it for one minute? Think about the repercussions?"
"And you deemed them worthy of killing yourself?"
"Oh, do stop saying that! I wasn't committing suicide."
"Well, it certainly seemed like it to John! You hurt him, Sherlock." Greg left out how it had seemed like it to all of them. How even Donovan and Anderson had dropped by with guilty expressions and snacks for John that went ignored.
Sherlock looked like he wanted to argue further but Greg had heard enough and raised a hand. "Yes, all right. Don't answer. I don't want to hear it." He shook his head and turned towards the door. "I'm going to see what I can do about releasing you." He left the room before Sherlock could say anything else, not looking back. Really, the git deserved it for letting all of them think the worst.
Sherlock was bored. The Baskerville case had been interesting, a wonderful distraction while it lasted despite the unexpected issues he'd had with John concerning their friendship. And even though John had told him several times on their way back that everything was all right between them, Sherlock knew that wasn't true. The case was over ... the issues, though, were still on-going it seemed. John worked a lot, didn't join Sherlock on any of the three uneventful and rather dull cases he solved and was generally quiet and uncooperative. So Sherlock did something he hadn't done in a long time: He spent time in the library, going through archived newspapers to find crimes that had been falsely classified as accidents. It wasn't the most interesting way to pass the time but he'd been forced by John to promise Mrs. Hudson never to damage her walls again and all his experiments needed time alone before he could study the results. So he studied newspapers.
And that was when he found it.
When Sherlock finally arrived at Baker Street several heated arguments with three doctors and a therapist later, it was early afternoon, the sun shining through the windows and illuminating the clutter they both tended to leave behind everywhere they stood or sat. Sherlock just paused in the door for a moment, looking towards their chairs at the fireplace, remembering what had happened there three days ago ...
He'd seen the connection in several death notices of families and next of kin, all of them thanking a Dr. Oscar Travis for his support in difficult times. Sherlock hadn't quite known at first what had irked him abut them, until he'd realized that all those obituaries mentioning Travis had always occurred in the same months over a span of ten years. Always one in December and one in June. He'd been mentioned in other obituaries as well, but always as one of many of those working for the hospice. The mentions of him in December and June seemed much more intimate. Further research had brought more connections to light. All the deceased had received treatment at the same hospice, were beyond saving and had attended a group counselling sessions helping them through the last phase of their lives. A group headed by Dr. Oscar Travis. Instinct had told Sherlock that he'd found the solution to something, even if he hadn't quite known yet what exactly. That came later.
He shook himself from his reverie, taking comfort in the knowledge that Dr. Travis was under arrest now. If he was honest with himself, the situation had left a deep impression on him. When he'd said that he'd been well aware of the risk he'd taken, he'd told the truth. That didn't change, though, that he'd survived. And that was what he focussed on now. He'd survived and it was time to catch up on what had been going on around London during his absence. He wanted to grab his laptop, sit down and bury himself in work. That would take care of the residual tiredness weighing his body down as well. All he needed was his couch.
On which John was sleeping.
Even asleep, he looked cross. Sherlock admitted he'd made the wrong decision in trying to get Travis alone, but he hadn't paid much thought to that when he'd talked to the families, trying to find a reason why his instinct told him these occurrences were important and interesting and found another vital connection: All the families praising Travis in their obituaries had juggled high debts when their loved ones died (all of them alone at home) and every family had received money from life insurances following the deaths.
To say that Sherlock's interest had been piqued was an understatement at that point and he'd decided to meet Dr. Travis in person. So he'd joined the group. Sherlock even went as far as to contact Travis and ask for a few private sessions, pretending to become more worried and tired of life the more often they met up, making sure to mention his life insurance, debts, a loving mother and husband (a cover story was always more believable when one stayed as close to the truth as possible, but a landlady and a flatmate hadn't been good enough – a husband and a mother on the other hand ...).
All in all, it only took Travis a month to offer him a deal.
“What are you saying?” Sherlock asked carefully, slowly, and leaned forward in the comfortable chair Travis had offered him in his office.
Travis folded his hands on his desk. He was a tall man, athletic, handsome, with deep brown eyes and a shock of curly blond hair. He was the kind of person people trusted easily. People, not Sherlock. He could see something linger behind the gentle gaze Travis kept trained on him. Something dark and predatory. Travis gave him a wide smile. ”I'm asking you whether you are contemplating suicide. It's a valid question, Sherlock, considering your situation.”
”No, that wasn't your question,” Sherlock said with a shake of his head. He leaned back again and made sure that Travis noticed his hands shaking before he buried them in the pockets of the baggy hoodie he was wearing. ”You asked me whether my life insurance covers suicide.”
Sherlock swallowed, ducked his head and bit his lip. ”No.”
Travis let the answer hover in the air for a moment. He was good, Sherlock had to admit. Playing his cards right, not being too hasty but not wasting time either. ”And I can see that you're thinking about it. That you at least gave it a thought.”
Sherlock raised his head with a glare. ”And why wouldn't I?” he asked angrily. ”Why would I want to be a burden to my mother … to John?”
”All that's stopping you is your life insurance not willing to pay if you kill yourself. You would need the money now, though, to pay off your debts,” Travis said. ”Debts that will just get worse again as long as you're alive, needing care your health insurance is unwilling to pay for.”
Sherlock let his shoulders slump and closed his eyes. ”Could we talk about something else?”
Travis smiled in understanding and leaned forward, conspiratorially asking, ”What if I told you that there is a way out?”
Sherlock looked at him sharply.
Travis shrugged. ”I could provide … help. Make it look like the cancer won. All we need is a few hours alone in your flat.”
Sherlock mulled that over, then he straightened in his chair. ”Assisted suicide?”
”You can call it that.”
Sherlock pretended to give that some thought, making sure to look a bit appalled … then he shook his head. ”They would find out.”
”No,” Travis replied. ”I promise they won't. With your medical history, they would quite possibly not even do an autopsy.”
Sherlock cleared his throat. ”But if they should find out … it's illegal.”
Travis shrugged and relaxed into his chair. ”Nobody will suspect that I helped you.”
”They'll suspect John helped me. Or my mother.”
”Make sure they have alibis then.”
Sherlock frowned. ”You sound like you've done this before?”
Travis gave a short nod.
Sherlock couldn't sit still any longer and got up to pace the office. He'd been right. Dr. Travis was behind all this. Now there was only one question still to be answered. ”What do you want?”
Travis smiled wolfishly. ”Who's the beneficiary of your insurance?”
”John and my mother.”
Travis shook his head and pointed the pen in his hand at Sherlock. ”Don't tell your mother. Mothers don't understand. Tell John. Make sure he understands what's going to happen. Prepare him for it. Carefully. Nobody but him is to know I'm involved. And once we've set a date, don't tell him that, either. We're looking for as close to a natural reaction as possible. Just make sure that he supports your decision and I will give him information for a bank account. I ask 30% of the money, to be transferred three months after your death.”
Sherlock looked at him for a very long time. ”Twenty-five,” he finally answered.
Travis smiled. ”Deal.” He paused for a moment, then he spoke again as if adding an afterthought, but Sherlock could see that the short hesitation had been very much on purpose. ”Just one more thing. Make sure that your family expresses their gratefulness to me specifically in the death notice.”
Sherlock frowned. ”Why?”
Travis folded his hands.”Let's just say it makes a good impression on the hospice.”
When Sherlock broke into Travis's office that night, he found the album easily. Page after page of obituaries, cut out of the newspapers ... acting as a list of Travis's victims. Trophies. It made Travis officially a serial killer … and someone Sherlock needed to stop.
It had been a dangerous game to play, Sherlock knew. It could have gone wrong, he knew that as well.
It could have gone wrong.
Nevertheless, it didn't and he didn't quite understand why everyone was so keen on dramatics. All he wanted now was to rest for a bit, but John was sleeping on the couch. Something he'd never done before. He always slept in his bed or took naps in his chair at the fireplace. The couch was Sherlock's space. If there was some subtle message in this behaviour, then Sherlock didn't want to see it.
He glared at John for a full minute, then moved a few things around rather noisily and finally texted John's mobile, thinking that the noise would wake him.
After five texts and three calls, though, he gave up. John was sleeping. A tad too deeply for a soldier, really. Sherlock knew that he could have just woken him the old-fashioned way, but he refused to shake his shoulder or call his name, because that would be begging and … despite his annoyance, concern edged its way into Sherlock's thoughts.
John never slept that deeply.
Sherlock should know, he'd woken him in the middle of the night plenty of times. He also noticed now that the wrinkles that concern, bitterness and sadness had left in John's face had deepened, and there were dark smudges under his eyes.
Sherlock buried his hands in his coat, closed his eyes and pulled his shoulders up before he turned in a slow circle, really looking at their flat for the first time since he'd walked in here.
And he didn't like what he was seeing.
Sherlock called Travis into their flat on the following Monday afternoon, two days after their talk. He had to wait almost all day to place the call, though, because Mrs. Hudson had chosen this day to clean out the kitchen, muttering on about boys and how this really wasn't part of her duties. Sherlock ignored her, way too busy distracting himself by leaving comments in John's blog and drafting a new entry about nicotine for his own website.
When Mrs. Hudson finally left the house, John wasn't due home for another two hours. Sherlock could have waited for a better day, tried again tomorrow, but he was becoming fidgety and a bit bored with the case and really just wanted to get it over with and present Lestrade with the drug Travis was using to kill.
So he called and Dr. Travis came, his smile sad but charming, an air of authority and kindness about him. Again, Sherlock was impressed by how well Travis played the good Samaritan, how good he was at manipulating.
They sat in the chairs at the fireplace and Travis pulled something from the pocket of his leather jacket that was wrapped in a handkerchief. ”This is it,” he said and leaned forward in John's chair, showing Sherlock a syringe with a clear liquid inside.
Sherlock noticed that he didn't touch it, careful enough not to leave fingerprints on it. He accepted the syringe slowly, holding it up to have a closer look. Then he glanced at Travis and gave a weak smile, folding his hands around the syringe and resting them on his lap. He'd changed into his pyjamas and wrapped himself in his bathrobe before Travis had arrived, slipping back into the role of the terminally ill patient. ”How long until …?”
Travis smiled and shook his head, answering gently, ”Not long until you lose consciousness. It's like falling asleep, really. Death takes about an hour.” He glanced at the clock on the mantle. ”Which means you should probably get started soon before John gets home from work.”
Sherlock saw the greedy gleam in Travis's eyes and it strengthened his resolve to stop him once and for all. Personally, he didn't care what others did with their lives and whether they decided to end them, but during his talks with the next of kin, he'd found out that all of them had ended up being blackmailed to pay more than agreed on.
And that, he couldn't accept. John probably started to rub off on him.
”Yes,” he said. ”Thank you.”
Travis nodded. ”I trust John has the relevant information?”
”Yes,” Sherlock answered. ”Twenty-five percent.”
Travis smiled, but Sherlock saw it … saw his mask fall for just a second. He would ask for more than what they agreed upon. “I will send the bank account information when it's time to pay.”
Sherlock looked at Travis with an answering smile, keeping it tight and sad but timidly grateful.
Travis leaned back in his chair. ”Well?” he asked.
Sherlock looked at him quizzically, thinking their business was finished.
Travis raised his eyebrows. ”Would it be easier for you if I injected it?”
Sherlock shook his head. ”No, I'll be fine. You can go.”
Travis laughed. ”Go?” he echoed. ”I'm not leaving just now.” He smiled fondly and leaned forward to put a hand on Sherlock's wrist. ”After all, I'll have to take the syringe with me when it's over … or they'll know.”
In that moment, Sherlock wondered if he was actually starting to slip. ”The syringe …”
”Yes,” Travis replied. ”The syringe with the drug residues. The syringe that could let this whole plan fail should anyone find it.”
The bloody syringe! Sherlock swallowed. He'd read all those reports about how the victims were found, the death certificates and he hadn't even stopped for a minute … hadn't even realized … there had never been even a single word about a syringe being found. Because that would have tipped somebody off. Of course! Outwardly, he remained calm. ”John can get rid of it.”
Travis shook his head slowly. ”Now, I wouldn't want to burden him with something like that, would you? It's best if he isn't connected to this.”
Sherlock closed his eyes, swallowed … and made a decision. His word would have to be enough to get Lestrade started. He held out the hand with the syringe. ”I … I think I have changed my mind,” he said softly, tentatively, keeping his head lowered.
”Did you now?”
He heard a gun being cocked and raised his head, staring into the barrel of a compact little revolver.
”I don't think so.” All pretence had fled Travis's face. His smile was cruel now, his eyes hard. ”Well, if you insist, we could just wait for your husband or your mother. Does the life insurance of any of you cover murder?” The threat was clear. Travis's face turned serious. ”Don't get me wrong, I'm just helping you out here. I kept my end of the bargain. Now it's time you keep yours.”
Sherlock glanced at the clock. An hour until John was due home, an hour until he'd die. Travis certainly wouldn't risk staying until the very end. He would possibly leave as soon as Sherlock lost consciousness. If he pretended to do so as soon as seemed reasonable, he might be able to call for help. He swallowed. A risky plan but Sherlock had unexpectedly lost control over the situation and this just might give it back to him while keeping Travis unaware that he'd walked into a trap. He would keep the syringe, though, no matter what the price. Travis would want it, of course, but in the end, his fingerprints weren't on it and he would give up and leave, count this case a loss … and ponder how to react to the police, should they want to talk to him about the patient who'd committed suicide. Meanwhile, Sherlock – the witness who'd survived – would give Lestrade a full report.
Sherlock took a deep breath and positioned the needle against the vein in his arm. One little prick and it would be over. He'd done this plenty of times, he knew how to do it but … it was surprisingly hard. Maybe because there was a part of him raging against the very idea of doing this, because it could go wrong. So, so wrong. And it could be the last mistake he'd ever make.
Though, looking at Travis's manic smile, he didn't have much of a choice, really.
He injected the drug.
Travis smiled indulgently. ”You see? This isn't that bad, is it? I'm just helping you.”
”You're helping yourself,” Sherlock replied angrily.
”Now, there's no need to get personal,” Travis said. He reached out a hand. ”The syringe, please.”
Sherlock tightened his grip around it. No. He'd given too much in this game already, he would keep this piece of evidence.
Travis gave a sigh. ”Don't be silly.” He got up and stepped towards Sherlock, reaching for his hand. Sherlock, though, raised one of his legs before Travis could reach him and pushed him backwards. Travis stumbled and lost his balance, falling back into John's chair and then to the floor, taking a pile of books with him. The gun fell from his grip.
Getting up, Sherlock shoved the syringe into the pocket of his bathrobe and headed for the coffee table … for his mobile. He'd started the fight, now he had to to continue until he could pretend to lose consciousness. A bit of resistance would make this more believable and keep Travis from assuming there was a trap involved. Travis's hand closed around his ankle, though, and pulled him off-balance, enough so that Sherlock fell to the floor, close to the gun. He reached for it but Travis was faster, grabbed it and turned Sherlock on his back easily, raising the gun to hit him … and paused. He chuckled, as if all of this was incredibly amusing, and leaned down, hissing, ”I'm not leaving bruises.” With that he got to his feet and pointed the gun at Sherlock. ”Now … where's the syringe?”
Sherlock thought it was pretty stupid to threaten a dying man with a gun. He would have told Travis so but felt his chest tighten and his head started to swim. Swallowing against a wave of nausea, he curled up on the floor. Travis started to look for the syringe, muttering softly to himself. Sherlock turned his head, staring at the coffee table.
“Tell me where it is!” Travis yelled.
Sherlock shook his head. He felt like he couldn't draw in air. An attempt to stand up resulted in him crumbling to the floor again. Breathing was becoming a real challenge now. This wasn't peaceful. Travis had lied.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Travis right the pile of books and John's chair … he was preparing to leave. Had he found …? No. There it was, right, he remembered. Sherlock's shaking hand only brushed the syringe he'd put in the pocket of his bathrobe. Then he disguised the movement by trying to push up off the floor and slumped back down yet again, closing his eyes. He heard Travis curse as if from far away and everything went dark …
Until he gasped and jerked, trying to draw in air … but it was so hard. His eyes threatened to close again but he realized suddenly that he couldn't spot Travis. And when he looked around carefully, he was nowhere to be seen. Had he left? Possibly.
Sherlock had the absurd thought of scratching Travis's name into the hardwood like the lady in pink … just in case … the lady in pink … he couldn't remember her name … and it didn't matter anyway … because the world tilted out of sight ...
The flat had barely changed since Sherlock had invited Travis over. Every book, every print-out, every magazine was where they'd left it a few days ago.
As if nobody had lived here since then.
Sherlock noticed the lingering scent of Mrs. Hudson's lasagne in the air – comfort food she offered them in abundance whenever she thought it was necessary, but there were no other dirty dishes in the sink than the ones John had left after breakfast three days ago, so nobody had eaten it. He found three dishes with the lasagne in the fridge, untouched. A bit of dust had accumulated on both their laptops. Clearly, they hadn't been used in days.
In fact, the only things that had been moved since Sherlock had last been here were the phone and a few coffee mugs.
He turned back to John, searched for clues and found them easily. He never had any trouble reading John. He was a simple man. Which didn't mean he wasn't smart – Sherlock wouldn't be able to stand him if John was just as stupid as the likes of Anderson. However, Sherlock knew that John indeed was very smart … but still simple because he was open … honest. And right now, Sherlock's talent at seeing everything told him that John was exhausted, worried, hadn't got any proper sleep in three days, had only showered and shaved haphazardly, had barely eaten, and the fact that he had not had enough water had apparently caused a headache he couldn't get rid of, judging by the empty packet of aspirin on the coffee table and a newly-opened one right next to it.
Sherlock swallowed. He had done this. This was down to him.
John had been worried sick, had only come here in the last few days to clean up and have a decent coffee … and now he was tired and angry and Sherlock hated when John was angry at him. It made for tense, overly polite conversation and needle-sharp, hidden jokes at Sherlock's expense.
It caused loneliness.
That had never bothered Sherlock before he'd met John. It was strange how much the thought alone grated on him now. The Baskerville case had been his first inkling that he might quite possibly have come to care too much for John. Or … if he was quite honest with himself, the incident at the swimming pool had already hinted at it, had started to sow that thought in his mind the very second Moriarty had threatened to burn his heart right of him and all Sherlock could think of was that it was a threatening finger pointing right … at … John.
Sherlock turned away from the couch with a huff. Sentiment … he closed his eyes. He'd succeeded in keeping it at bay his whole life and one meeting with an ex-soldier looking for a place to stay and insisting on calling Sherlock a friend no matter how often he was disappointed by him made him feel … like he could settle down for once. Like, no matter who he chased after, in the end, he could always run home and would be welcome. Even with the awkwardness between them that the Baskerville case had caused.
He grimaced, didn't like the thought. Caring wasn't an advantage, because it made him vulnerable and with the likes of Moriarty trying to find a chink in Sherlock's carefully crafted armour, being vulnerable was disastrous.
John woke with a stiff neck and an insisting ache in his back and wondered when he'd become too old to take a nap on the couch. He sighed and turned on his side before blinking his eyes open. Sherlock was his usual dark and broody self, staring at him from his chair at the fireplace, his fingers steepled under his chin. The only thing amiss were his clothes – not the usual shirt and pressed trousers, but the jumper and old jeans Mrs. Hudson had brought to the hospital one afternoon, stating that she thought Sherlock would wake up soon and want comfortable clothes to wear.
"You slept the day away," Sherlock said as if nothing had happened. As if he'd never been gone. As if John hadn't come home and found him passed out and barely breathing on the carpet.
John didn't know if Sherlock disapproved of his nap; his face was unreadable. He didn't really care, if he was honest with himself. "Yeah, well," he answered, "I was tired." He sat up carefully and rubbed his face. Then he looked at Sherlock, his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hand. His brain caught up with the situation and he sighed. He remembered being very angry at the hospital but that had quite possibly been down more to the tense situation finally turning out well, and his exhaustion crashing down on him as a result, than real anger. "They released you."
"Obviously," Sherlock answered.
John rolled his eyes and got up to find one of the lasagne Mrs. Hudson had left in the fridge. "Be that way, then."
When he passed by Sherlock, his wrist was grabbed. John stopped.
"Are you still angry?" Sherlock asked.
Surprised, John looked down at him. "Are you apologizing?"
"Evaluating the situation."
"So ... not apologizing."
Sherlock let go of him. "Just answer the question."
"Just don't be a twat." John opened the fridge. "I'm knackered, Sherlock. And hungry. And worried. Anger doesn't play that big a role at the moment." He set one of the full dishes down on the table in-between a microscope and a book about mould. He peeked at Sherlock from the corner of his eye while he got a plate. "Even though I am angry ... a bit. I've got every right to be." He shovelled a serving on the plate and put it in the microwave.
Sherlock looked at him like he was an especially complicated crossword puzzle. The kind even the great Sherlock Holmes had to brood over. "You want me to apologize?"
"I want you to mean it when you do," John answered. "So don't bother." Sherlock looked a bit taken aback at that and John sighed, having mercy. "You don't get what happened, do you? You don't understand at all what the last few days were like."
Sherlock got up and approached the kitchen slowly. "You were worried about me because I was in hospital."
John closed his eyes and crossed his arms. "You know, until you woke up, we thought ..." He swallowed and shook his head, unable to voice it.
Sherlock's answer was soft. "You thought I tried to kill myself."
John opened his eyes and stared at him, only the cluttered kitchen table separating them. They'd thought exactly that. It had been a logical conclusion at the time.
The microwave binged into the silence.
John shook his head and huffed a breath. "Yes."
Sherlock sat down slowly. "And that made the situation somehow ... worse?"
John used getting his meal from the microwave as an excuse to turn away, to gather his thoughts for a sharp answer, but only found it in him to put his plate down with more force than necessary and answer, "Yes, Sherlock, it did."
"You know I would never do that," Sherlock scoffed. "That was what I was counting on. That you'd see through Travis's stupid ploy and ridiculous implications and that you would find out what I had been up to."
John dropped into his chair. "How should I have made that connection?" He poked his lasagne with a fork, suddenly not feeling overly hungry anymore.
"Sherlock ..." John dropped his fork. "I had no idea what you were doing the last few weeks."
"And whose fault is that?"
Irritated, John replied, "What are you saying? That you have a reason to be angry at me?"
Sherlock crossed his arms.
John shook his head. "I admit I was preoccupied with work," he conceded, "but in case you haven't noticed, I need to earn money to make a living."
"We earn money."
"No, we don't. You turn it down most of the time. If it wasn't for me, you would work without payment all the time, which isn't exactly fair considering how brilliant you are at what you do. We have enough clients who can afford to pay." John stopped and cleared his throat, reminding himself that this wasn't the issue. He gave Sherlock a moment, then he repeated, "I was preoccupied with work and I know I said that you were seeing a case where there was none, but you could have told me that you've found more evidence. You never mentioned it again so I thought ..." He shrugged.
Sherlock crossed his arms. "That I'd given up on it?"
"Why would I do that?"
"Sherlock ..." John shook his head. “Doesn't matter. Be it as it is: I didn't make the connection."
"Because it was more logical to believe that I would kill myself?"
"Do we have to talk about this?"
"Because it turned out to be wrong. I was wrong. All of us were wrong. Just ... gloat and get it over with."
Sherlock was quiet for a long moment and John waited. He didn't know what for, really. Something between Sherlock and him had been off since they'd returned from Dartmoor. John could admit – at least to himself – that he'd withdrawn a bit, using work as an excuse. The thought of Sherlock using him for an experiment and scaring several of his years off him in the process had smarted quite a bit. By pulling away a bit, he'd wanted Sherlock to realize that, to notice that some things just weren't okay, to actually see things from John's point of view. He didn't know why he'd expected that to work. It wasn't that he doubted Sherlock cared. He knew that Sherlock cared a lot about him, about Lestrade and Molly and Mrs. Hudson. It was just that his mind constantly kept him on the run, jumping from conclusion to conclusion and he tended to overlook things that were harder for him to understand. Things that were difficult to predict and quantify. Like emotions.
"Why would you think I'd kill myself?"
The question was asked with such earnest and bewilderment that John couldn't help but smile, a bit helpless. He wasn't that good at tapping into his emotional side, either. "Who can tell what's really going on in that brain of yours?"
John put down his fork and shoved his plate away. "I don't know, Sherlock. I can't really explain. It's just that you don't really fit in and people don't get you most of the time and you're ..." He looked for words that wouldn't sound too harsh. "... closed off. Are you happy? Are you not? Who can tell?" Sherlock just stared at him and John ducked his head, avoiding his eyes for a moment. "You push people away."
"I don't push you away."
"Yes, you do."
"I told you you're my friend. We share a flat, we share cases."
John folded his hands. "You don't share anything about yourself. I realized in the last few days - again - that I barely know you. And I wondered if that was the reason why ... you did it." He'd blamed himself for a while there. For not seeing that something was wrong ...
Sherlock seemed curious. "Is it important? To know my past?"
"Jesus, Sherlock ... you took one look at me and knew immediately where I came from. By now, you could know every single thing about me."
"You feel at a disadvantage," Sherlock said with a nod.
"No." John shook his head. "I feel sad."
Sherlock stared at him, opened his mouth and then closed it again. He turned his head to look at the wall.
John shrugged but didn't say anything, feeling he had revealed enough to last a lifetime. He got up and put the lasagne back in the microwave. "I'll eat this later. I need to get more sleep first." He walked past Sherlock on his way towards the living room and put a hand on his shoulder in passing. "Don't worry, it's all right," he said softly.
He was grabbing is mobile from the coffee table when he noticed several texts and missed calls from Sherlock. He was just about to ask him about it when Sherlock said, "I wouldn't."
John turned around to him, frowning questioningly.
"Kill myself," Sherlock elaborated.
John gave a weak smile. "No. You wouldn't deprive the world of your sparkling genius."
"I've got enough to care about," Sherlock replied. He looked at John. "Just so you know that, if this should happen again ... I certainly didn't do it out of my own free will."
John swallowed. "Okay."
"I'm fine," Sherlock said and smiled fleetingly. "Stop worrying. You're a good friend."
John didn't know if Sherlock was just humouring him with these words but it felt good to hear them anyway. "You could show your appreciation from time to time," he answered, trying to steer the conversation back onto safe territory.
"I take you to crime scenes."
John rolled his eyes. "Whoever will end up being married to you will be one lucky individual," he sighed and settled on the couch, intending to nap for a little longer.
"Wait," Sherlock said, stopping him before his head hit the pillow.
"I want the couch."
John raised his eyebrows but got up again, having learned a long time ago that arguing was pointless when Sherlock had that determined expression on his face. "Very lucky indeed," he said while he settled in his chair and relaxed properly for the first time in days.