What’s most ironic about this; is that it feels like he is the one who has travelled back in time; back to when he was first invalidated home, before he met Sherlock. Because really, without Sherlock, John’s life isn’t anything much at all.
Just another grey locum doctor, plodding through life, week by week. Everyone says it’s not true, but they’re lying through their teeth.
So in some ways it’s selfish that he wants Sherlock to remember, because John likes who he is with Sherlock, the excitement of their lifestyle.
He doesn’t want to go back to being nobody. To waiting around doing nothing, fingers twitching at the sound of sirens. Useless. He used to keep a loaded gun by his bedside, just in case; and there’s no reason for a civilian to be doing that. No good ones anyway.
John wants to giggle at crime scenes. He wants to reminisce about a case, or make a dig at Anderson. But every time he goes to do it; he just feels empty. Because Sherlock won’t understand the joke.
Because Sherlock has retrograde amnesia.
Of all the hundreds of ways John could lose him, one thug with a fist is all it took. Just some idiot in a moment of panic. Sherlock’s skull hit the ground hard. John can still hear the crack.
One hit. That one moment, and years vanish like smoke.
It shows in the most basic of ways; how Sherlock reacts to John, their body language, the misinterpretations. Their wires are somehow always crossed, and it’s just so wrong, so out of sync. Like perfect strangers.
When John is relaxed, Sherlock is suspicious, When John is concerned, Sherlock gets angry. He’s constantly shifting, and John just can’t keep up. It affects everything. That tension has become their life now, or rather; lives. Because whatever it is they are doing, the only thing that John’s knows for certain is they’re not doing any of it together.
John walks into a room, and no matter what the angle or intentions he brings, Sherlock is already bracing for a fist fight. He pretends not to see it, but he knows Sherlock doesn’t want this. John catches him staring, looking at him with something close to resentment in his eyes. Sherlock is hostile, and John is unwelcome. But Christ, he can’t let him go.
Occasionally Sherlock will say something clever and John can’t help but laugh, because though people don’t seem to know it, Sherlock has a wicked sense of humour. He’s funny. It sounds so domestic to say it, but hearing him grumble about idiots, curse so imaginatively at the telly that it’s unbelievable; these were the highlights of John’s day.
He can be so furious at him, so done with all his shit in that moment that he could swear blind that he’s finished. But one fantastic insult, muttered under his breath at some poor unsuspecting sod; and it’s all worth it. Sherlock makes him laugh so hard he’s shaking.
Everyone knows that Sherlock Holmes is not a nice person; he can tear you down to nothing in a single sentence. John’s seen him do it. It’s mad, but there’s still no one else he’d rather talk to.
The person Sherlock is in private can be so different to the dark anti-hero the public sees. It’s not just for show; he is that dickhead, but there’s so much more to him than that.
He’s childish; he whinges, sulks loudly, and is just generally incapable of looking after himself. He takes Cluedo ridiculously seriously and indexes his fucking sock drawer. But his good moods, they’re a whirlwind, and he is absolutely, undeniably, irrefutably brilliant. Sherlock’s eyes shine so brightly when he’s happy.
People never knew that; how they laughed together, the delighted mischief in Sherlock’s grin.
He never lets others get to know that side, the human parts. But John was allowed; he saw it every day. They solved murders, played games with Cluedo and with psychopaths, and god help him; it was fun.
Sherlock can make him so unbelievable happy, but he can also tear his world apart.
Now Sherlock’s casual sarcasm catches John off guard, because he’d almost forgotten what it used to be like. It’s as much a comfort as it is a painful reminder.
Sherlock is still funny. But he’s not doing it on purpose anymore; he doesn’t say it for John, he doesn’t expect him to laugh. When John laughs now, he doesn’t look pleased or self-satisfied. This Sherlock only looks up in alarm, and clams up; like John has caught him out.
Sherlock is still Sherlock, but he hides it now; John’s not allowed to know he’s human anymore. And Sherlock is not allowed to be happy.
He treats John like you might some stranger trying to make conversation on the tube.
Sherlock has forgotten him, and John isn’t really coping very well with that. Every morning he wakes up and just wants to go back to sleep, to stay that way until it’s over. Because it has to end sometime; he completely rejects the possibility that this isn’t going to go away. It has to. Sherlock’s memories are still in there somewhere.
Spontaneous recovery; John clings desperately to those two little words. He’s a doctor, he knows it’s possible. One day, Sherlock will wake up and be Sherlock again; thinking the whole thing was nothing but a dream. Time, that’s all they need. Just a few more days.
He keeps telling himself that, even as days threaten to tick into weeks.
The power balance is going to be a problem. Because while John has never met this part of Sherlock, the Sherlock from before; he does know him. At times, it feels like John knows more about Sherlock than Sherlock does. What foods he hates, which Bond films that he actually does like, and that he’d rather die than have an android. Because Sherlock hasn’t learnt these things yet; he had a bloody Blackberry when they first met.
Sherlock is surprised by things John wouldn’t have thought to question; like the contents of his wardrobe. It never even occurred to him that Sherlock hadn’t always worn suits.
This old Sherlock is sharper and raw. That, coupled with what he must be going through means the doors of communication are firmly shut. John knows that he gets angry when he sees these things he doesn’t understand, and at John for understanding them. But the gap is too far to bridge.
He can never tell what Sherlock is thinking, but he suspects that now; he wouldn’t want to.
Sherlock hasn’t allowed himself to relax since the moment he returned from the hospital. John can tell that he’s acting every second, judging how to react, altering his behaviour and emotions accordingly.
It’s full censorship. No experiments, no tantrums, nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever. He says as little as possible, carefully maintaining a formal distance between them at all times.
Uncomfortable in his clothes, his sheets, his skin, even his brand of toothpaste; it’s not just the world that changed, he just doesn’t know who he is anymore. It's 2007 Sherlock, living in his 2014 life.
He’s wearing Sherlock Holmes, and it’s every bit as unfamiliar to him as a 300 quid suit.
And Sherlock seems to know absolutely nothing about John.
A total stranger, one whom everyone he meets insists that he knows. And the worst part is; they’re convinced that he still must, like John should be an exception. ‘But surely you remember John!?’ They’ve seen too many films to know it doesn’t work that way.
It’s cruel to expect anything of Sherlock right now, and it’s not fair to blame him for forgetting. But even though he knows better, John feels it too. A tiny part of him can’t help but think that maybe it’s because he just wasn’t important enough to remember.
Without his memory, Sherlock has no way of confirming what people are telling him. Everything is hearsay. It must be bizarre to be led into a room and be told it’s your home, or introduced to people who are supposedly your oldest friends; a space you do not recognise, filled with people you have never laid eyes on before.
Imagine meeting someone who already knows everything about you, all the parts you thought you’d locked away. Details they have no right to, an intimacy you can’t even imagine. That’s a horrifying thought for anyone. But Sherlock doesn’t let people in. Not ever. He’s spent years building that fortress around his heart; he’d thought it to be impenetrable.
John Watson must terrify him.
There’s so much he must be feeling, and John wants nothing more than to get through to him, to have an honest conversation, but he knows Sherlock can’t do that. Just like he couldn’t when they first met.
He doesn’t even complain. At all. That part John would never have expected. In his situation, John would be angry. He would get upset and frustrated. He would shout and break things, taking his pain out on the world around him.
John can see that he is angry; catches glimpses of so much pain. He tries, but Sherlock won’t hear it, not from anybody, and especially not from John. He has all this knowledge, without ever having earned the privilege. That makes him the absolute last person Sherlock trusts.
John is angry too. Some of it is grief. Most of it is frustration. Because if Sherlock would just fucking speak to him. He tries to be patient, to remember that it’s not Sherlock’s fault he doesn’t trust John; but it’s not easy.
They barely speak, and still somehow manage to argue constantly. It’s not heated; just passive aggressive silences and simmering resentment.
John doesn’t want to have to fight Sherlock at every turn. He just wants it to be over.
How long until he grows tired of playing nice for everyone else’s sake? Until he stops conforming to what he believes is expected of him? John suspects he’s biding his time until he can escape.
Sherlock isn’t a patient man, and he doesn’t tolerate confinement well. If seven years haven’t done the trick, John very much doubts that either of these things have changed in the past eight days.
The simple truth is; Sherlock could choose to leave tomorrow, and there wouldn’t be a damn thing he could do about it. Sherlock has every right to walk away, John’s not his keeper; he doesn’t even know him. John could stand right here in the living room, palms sweating, sick to his stomach as he watches Sherlock striding out the door like he couldn’t give a toss. And he probably wouldn’t.
Because without his memories, what really is there to keep him here?
John doesn’t know if he could watch that, if he could let him leave. But it’s not like he could make him stay.
Eight days ago
His eyelids are gritty, and the ceiling above him is white.
These are the first two observations he has upon waking. Gritty and white.
Others begin to follow, as the room slowly fades in; upon closer inspection, the ceiling is a stark white; cheap mass-produced plasterboard framed by a (too sharp, too small) skirting board. It connects to a simple utilitarian dry wall, equally as cheap; clearly designed for rapid construction rather than quality. Floating wall; blasphemy.
Basic and utilitarian yes, but (thankfully) too clean for a prison cell, but definitely not his flat.
There’s only so much data you can get staring at a ceiling. Especially with a mind so alarmingly fuzzy.
The bed beneath him is too narrow for a hotel, boasts an uncomfortably thin mattress, scratchy, low thread count sheets, and the harsh aroma of industrial cleaning products.
As he becomes more aware of his surroundings he notes that the room is not quiet, it’s positively brimming with sound; a constant metronome of repetitive noises emanating from the small army of machines and equipment about his head.
Ah. Of course; hospital. How dull.
He stares at the plastic railing around the bed, tracking the minute aberrations and distortions; too close, and too blurred. His focus is scattered. Did he overdose? Get stabbed, hit by a bus? He scans his memory for some sort of explanation as to where he is and how he got here, but comes up disturbingly blank.
He is somewhat reassured to find that he is still in possession of both his faculties and his limbs, but something is off about this. Even his transport feels different, very unlike himself, he just cannot place how. It’s maddening.
Judging by the lack of itching in his veins, he has been here for merely a matter of hours at most. Or at least this is what he chooses to believe, because the alternative would be far more sinister. It would have taken weeks to completely detox at his current consumption rate. And this is definitely not a rehabilitation facility. It’s not even a local detox bed, though the private room reeks of Mycroft’s involvement.
But…he feels like he’s clean, healthy even, more than he’s been in a decade, but that cannot be possible. His whole body feels…changed somehow, so he can’t be sure of anything.
He doesn’t know where he is and that worries him; the vulnerability only too present. He must regain control and concentrate; what is the last thing he remembers?
He was at the flat, soaking up the last of the adrenaline high from the Monroe case. He was bored, trying to stretch out his last few milligrams to make it ‘til Thursday. And that’s it, nothing else, nothing remotely interesting, dramatic, or at all helpful.
Finding the remote for the bed, he tilts himself up, closes his eyes, and waits. Hands clasped in his lap, he focusses on controlling each breath, time measured only in the sharp pings and tones of the monitors. He waits for a long time, projecting calm, willing it to come back to him. He consciously tenses and relaxes every muscle in his body, twice.
Nothing comes. There’s nothing there. He doesn’t even know if the coke lasted to Thursday. His eyes snap open. Something is seriously wrong with him.
He feels like he’s losing a war against the onslaught of so much nothing. This tiny room, with its too-white ceiling and noxious disinfectant, that’s it; this is his life, set to the maddening tune of a hundred mechanical noises.
They tell him its retrograde amnesia. That he’s lost a bit of time is all. They won’t say at first, quite how much time. When they finally tell him, he’s speechless. He never thought he’d make it to thirty-six. He can’t bring himself to believe it.
They ask a lot of questions, trying to determine exactly what he doesn’t know, to carbon date him.
They interrogate him about social media platforms he didn’t know existed, people he’s never heard of, events in history that haven’t happened. The verdict is bad. He can tell from their faces; these are things that everyone should know, background information you can’t help but pick up.
They pity the man the world has left behind.
Scans say the trauma was isolated to the right frontal lobe. It suggests that the amnesia is specific to autobiographical events, rather than the more fundamental aspects. He is still a chemist, and his fingers will remember every note on the strings.
He ignores trivia for the most part, like the prime minister, or crap telly, which football team has won the league; pointless things that don’t matter. He doesn’t need to know them. This is very, very different, because now his lack of knowledge is a disability.
So much he’s missed, advances in technology, science, human achievement…These are important things, things that have shaped society and left their mark; influencing words, people, opinions, and actions. He lacks all context.
How much can the world change in seven years? The possibilities are endless.
He waits until they leave the room before he loses it. It’s been only hours since he woke, and so much has happened. Literally happened. It doesn’t begin to sink in; it yanks him back like a seatbelt, airbags smoking and smashing him in the face.
Within a minute his heart rate has increased by 20bpm, and breathing is becoming increasingly difficult. He didn't know he was capable of panic like this.
The confusion frightens him. Because it’s not just the amnesia, it’s something else, something deeper. His mind is different. Chemically, it’s like he’s a completely different person.
He feels more emotional than he’s ever known himself to be, and less in control of what he does feel. Suppressing it is proving to be much harder than he remembers. It’s like every point of reference has moved. His moorings are gone and without them he’s incredibly unstable.
All the scans showed no change in brain structure, no real traumatic injury, there’s no reason for this to be so extensive. What is happening to him?
Sherlock Holmes is losing his mind; losing who he is on the most fundamental level.
At the worst possible time; the door opens. If he were left alone, he might have been able to curb it, but now someone else is seeing this. Just when he’s on the verge of full blown hyperventilation, someone has come to gawk.
The man who comes through it, his face changes instantly upon registering Sherlock's distress, exaggeratedly so. Too much. He practically lunges across the room.
Which isn’t very helpful. Frankly alarming actually; someone hurtling towards you in a moment of weakness. This man is agitated, and Sherlock’s own agitation only plays off that further. His anxiety hits the roof.
He’s far too close, far too quickly. Hands are touching him, with the voice of a doctor, but without the façade of calm. Short, 5’8” or there about; well educated, but street smart too, if a little out of shape. And flabberghastingly out of line. This is a medical professional, but…
Sherlock goes stiff.
"You don't work here."
The imposter stares at him. "Well, no?"
"Then get the hell off of me!" It's less of a command than he'd have liked. In fact it's 67% shriek. But apparently full-blown hysterics aren't enough of a hint, and the arms he'd dropped come back to both of Sherlock’s shoulders.
He pushes him, shoves as hard as he can manage. Which as it turns out, is quite impressive. Sober literally does mean stronger, not that he can really appreciate that right now with his heart trying to pound its way out of his chest.
"No. The fuck...I- you...no."
A panic attack in full swing. But then he has just been practically assaulted by someone impersonating one of his doctors. Who is probably an ex doctor, because he’s certainly not here in any official capacity, malpractice case perhaps, but he’s still arrogant enough to think he has the right...
This is not helping.
With difficulty, he calms himself.
The imposter is still here. Still sitting on his arse exactly where Sherlock left him, absolutely dumbstruck. He looks like he's about to cry. More than that, his face looks much like he imagines his own did when Victor told him he was leaving.
Sherlock pants. They stare.
He goes, practically runs from the room, but he most certainly does look back.
He finds out later that the imposter is actually his best friend. Or so they say.
Sherlock doesn’t remember who he was, or how he had grown in the seven years he’s lost. The only tangible proof that any of this is real, is found in his reflection. The man staring back could only be him, and yet, time has made its changes. He finds himself adorned with new lines and wrinkles, aberrations that tell a story of expression; pain, laughter, frowning…joy?
He does not recognise this face, or what shaped it. Sherlock does not have friends, and he most certainly does not work with the police. He doesn’t want to believe a word of it, but his reflection…his reflection does not lie.
He wants to break the mirror with both fists, to scream with rage, get the fuck out. But something stops him, and that’s new, because previously he wouldn’t have hesitated.
Mycroft looks older as well, and (annoyingly) far slimmer than Sherlock has ever known him to be. He’s also strangely less…Mycrofty, in the sense that Sherlock can bear to be in his presence for extended periods of time. It comes as a disturbing shift in their relationship, but Sherlock will take it, because Mycroft Holmes is the first face he’s encountered that is familiar to him.
Seeing his brother walk through that door…he nearly wept with relief. He hasn’t gone insane. Whoever would have thought Mycroft could be a comfort?
But it also means that he’s not going to wake up. That knowledge is far less reassuring.
He’s been clean for nearly six years. Two thousand, one hundred, and ninety days of his existence; and he doesn’t remember a second. Apparently Martha Hudson is his landlady now. He hasn’t thought about her since Chicago; but then, that was only eight weeks ago.
Overnight he’s been thrust straight from his run down flat on Montague street, to some hospital bed seven years into the future, with absolutely no recollection of the journey taken to get there. Nothing feels real about this, and he finds himself still clinging to the desperate hope that none of it is.
He slaps himself six times in front of the mirror until his eyes water and his skin smarts; and still sees thirty six year old Sherlock Holmes staring back at him, just with a slightly reddened cheek.
Sherlock Holmes looks like he’s in agony.
The disorientation threatens to overwhelm him.
Parts of it scrambled and incomplete, others so terrifyingly empty; his mind has been rewritten. The Palace is much larger than he left it, and in significantly better condition, but the interior is incongruous, never quite in full focus. He can see that extensions had been made, but once inside there is no evidence to suggest it, no connecting doors or stairwells, no form of entrance at all.
It’s the type of thing that once you’ve noticed the discrepancy, it becomes impossible to ignore; like discovering a hidden panic room after measuring the walls. You can see something is there, but lack the means to access it.
So much has disappeared, erased from his head in an instant, so much data, experience, knowledge. All gone. Memories are all we have in the end, they are what shape us, influence our decisions, our likes, our dislikes. They make us who we are, and without them?
You hear stories about people who have dementia or transient global amnesia, where they have no short-term memory, and are forced to live the same 12 or so hours over and over again for the rest of their lives. Faced with that prospect; he’d rather throw himself to his death.
Sometimes there are moments in life where logic leaves a person seemingly without cause. People break, it happens. Everyone likes to think themselves strong, but the human psyche is a fragile thing; one crack too many is all it takes.
His mind is brilliant yes, but weak. Oh, he’ll deny it to his last breath, but he’s always known. He is reckless, and has little to no impulse-control to speak of. He has always been more…affected, than others. Sherlock Holmes is a lot more delicate than he would have the world believe.
It had taken years, but he’d learnt to control it, to keep his heart in check. He became logical, disciplined; pushing down all that sentiment and holding it there by brute force. He’s proud of that strength, he’d worked hard on it. Only now with a snap of a finger he finds it all to be undone, all that weakness so much closer to the surface.
All that effort. How could he let that happen?
This whole predicament feels like a rush of blood to the head. Paranoia and fear dominate his thoughts, and he’s only too aware of it happening. He’s not sure he can do this, but where would he run?
He doesn’t know these people, doesn’t trust them; can’t bear the staring. Sherlock feels their eyes on him, always watching with their big, sad eyes, begging him to remember them.
Yet he is helpless but to rely on others to provide details of everything, to fill him in on his own life.
And who is this man they thought they knew, the man they claim he was? Sherlock doesn’t know the first thing about him. And what if he doesn’t want to be that man anymore? Would he even like him, choose to be him if he knew?
He doesn’t want to care about these people, these strangers who keep staring, keep touching him. But the way their faces fall when they find only incomprehension staring back…it almost feels wrong to disappoint them.
They still have hope though, that their Sherlock will come back to them, they can’t hide it. But what will happen if he doesn’t ever remember, if he is stuck this way; world without end?
Because these people; they don’t want him. They want the other one, the one he stole from them, the one he should be; the man whose face he wears. They must hate him a little, looking at him day after day, knowing that he is not the man they knew and loved, but an imposter; unfinished.
They look at him like he is sick, like he has lost something, like he is damaged. The man he is will never be enough.
And then there is John Watson.
An ordinary looking, boring locum doctor; just another ex-soldier who just happened to get himself shot in the war. What makes him so damn special? Why is he always there? What was John Watson to him? Colleague, friend…lover? There’s no evidence to suggest the latter, there are no rings (thank god), they sleep in different beds, and he’s not even what Sherlock usually likes.
They’re just flatmates, two vastly different people inexplicably sharing the same roof. That’s all. So why does everyone speak as if they are one? He doesn’t like it.
He doesn’t want this man, this enigma anywhere near him.
The idea alone is absurd; that this man has somehow gotten so close. He knows too much, genuine details that no one else could have told him. So Sherlock must have. But why? Why would he do that?! It’s so deeply personal, so exposing. Sherlock does not trust him, he thinks he might even hate him, and wants to run. But he can’t, not yet. Because of the puzzle.
Because John Watson is impossible, and that; is fascinating.
He still hasn’t gotten used to his new resting state. He’s calmer, but he finds it so much more difficult to concentrate. He hasn’t the slightest idea what to do with all these emotions. Loud noises startle him, crowds and cars make him jumpy. It’s irrational, and he knows there’s a reason for it, but the answers evade him.
Changes in society are pronounced. He could get married now if he wanted. He doesn’t of course, he just never thought he’d have the option, and it gives him an odd sort of feeling. He wonders if Victor is married now.
Phones are the size of houses, half of London has been knocked down and rebuilt, and America has gone properly insane. But the biggest and most alarming change is that somehow, everybody seems to know who he is. Literally everyone. It’s not just John and Mrs Hudson; now half of London is staring at him too.
People address him by name in public, walk up to him in the supermarket, try to take secret photos on the tube. He’s never sure if he’s supposed to know them. Most give him an unnecessarily wide berth, or a few choice words, which is not unusual exactly, it’s just that he hasn’t even said anything to deserve it.
The same can be said for the opposite side of the spectrum. A child runs up to him on the street, sprinting after him along the pavement. He asks for his autograph. Sherlock is so stunned that he signs the boy’s fourth grade mystery novel without a word. The mother thanks him again and again, beaming from ear to ear.
“You’ve no idea what this means to him; really. We always believed in you.”
They leave him frozen to the spot, still reeling. Because a nine year old just hugged him. Yesterday he saw graffiti that believed in him too, and what can he possibly have done to deserve that? He never wanted anyone to believe in him; he’s not even sure if he ever has.
It feels like he’s bacteria on a slide, with the whole of London staring down the microscope; waiting for him to move.
The police come to the flat, and Sherlock is immediately suspicious. But they’re not here to arrest him; they’ve come to ask for advice. He almost throws them out, but the look on Doctor Watson’s face makes him humour them.
He watches the Detective Inspector’s heart break in front of him. They first met in 2008; he’s forgotten Gregory Lestrade by just a matter of months. They were close, you can see it in his face, and John Watson may have lost a friend, but at least in his eyes; this man lost a son.
Lestrade is not his father, and he doesn’t share his pain. Sherlock has never seen him before in his life. But it’s difficult to see him cry. It’s baffling how much these people care.
The case at least is interesting, and he solves the whole thing in twenty minutes. And this. This is interesting, because now he’s got something of a challenge; he finds that he may actually be more intelligent than he was.
The police consult him now, they want to work with him; he’s a recognised professional, he has colleagues. He’s…successful? Sherlock tries to ask the sergeant, Donovan (?) if there are any more cases she needs help with, but she just mutters something nasty under her breath. He is startled, not quite knowing what he did wrong;
Turns out the police haven’t really changed that much at all, in fact they seem to have a completely different opinion on what he’s really like. And from what Sergeant Donovan tells him, it’s a much closer fit to the man he recognises.
John finds him crying once, which is concerning in and of itself, because he doesn’t cry. Sherlock hadn’t even noticed that he was. John Watson actually tries to hold him, and Sherlock nearly breaks his jaw. It’s not that he intended to hurt him, but God, he’s so scared.
There are some memories that he is even afraid to recover. Because it would be impossible to avoid the fact that he has suffered. That at some point, his life has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Their stories are gone, but the wounds left behind remain, inside and out. There are the emotions he can’t explain, and then there are the scars. The first time, just the barest glimpse was so frightening that he hurled himself across the room in shock, and lay panting on the bathroom floor. The nurses thought he was having a fit.
That sort of trauma…has he the strength to live through it again? He wonders about the sort of life he’s led that makes him the recipient of so much love, and such vicious hatred. What exactly is he inheriting from this sad, battered man?
He’s never known pain like that, nor the fear and humiliation that comes with it. He knows in his very core, that the story those scars tell is not one he could survive. Sometimes his dreams, they leave him skittish for days after, jumping at the slightest sound, sweating and desperate. And he doesn’t remember even them.
One night John comes to him, eyes wide as Sherlock whimpers, hyperventilating in twisted sheets.
“Who am I? Who the hell is this person?!”
His voice is shredded, and John is at a loss for words. Sherlock shakes his head because he is afraid to know, and in a moment of weakness; “I can’t do this. Please.”
Just make it stop.
John says nothing, frozen in shock, perhaps because he is realising now that he too does not know.
He may not remember what he sees, but how he feels is enough. He only knows that it hurts and that he cannot bear for it to get any worse.
It’s not his pain, he doesn’t want it.
John didn’t know that Sherlock had nightmares. He’d never shown signs of it before. He’d try to write it off as part of the amnesia, but something feels wrong about that. Just like something has felt wrong about Sherlock ever since he came back. He couldn’t place it before, but this feels exactly the same, his intuition screaming there’s a connection.
‘Who the hell is this person?!’
That suggests the dreams are inherited, that subconsciously he knows they’re real, that they belong to him. But John hopes to god that’s not true, because if they are, then they’re not just dreams; and Sherlock was keeping them from him.
John has never heard Sherlock scream before. And he’s watched him being stabbed.
Sherlock gets up one morning, looks around the bedroom and hates everything.
John is at work and it pisses it down all day. He hates the rain, he hates John not being here, but he hates John even more.
His laptop hasn’t been opened in days, because what should he do with it? Reading is impossible. He reads the same paragraph three times, places the book neatly in the kitchen sink, and turns the faucet on so hard the pipes bang.
He trashes the laptop, grabs it by the screen and smashes it into the coffee table until it snaps in two.
It’s all building up in his head, the confusion. He’d describe it as a nightmare, but he already has quite enough of those. There is just so much shit. And he just can’t do it anymore. He can’t.
He’s tried playing this sick game, but he’s had enough of being a piece of fucking furniture. He’s angry, and he wants to fight back.
He finds a few other things to annihilate, and then cleans it up quickly before John gets home. He sits on the sofa for twenty minutes watching out the corner of his eye, as John methodically searches for the book. It was a present from his sister.
When asked, Sherlock shrugs. John looks at him for a long time and stops searching. The next day, the book is back, with the handwritten message forged to perfection. The exact same condition of use, coffee stain placed perfectly. And yet, he still senses John knows it’s not the original.
He walks out into the rain and runs to exhaustion, then walks until he physically cannot take another step. He lasts four hours. He’s never been in better shape in his life. It’s barely morning, he’s wearing dress shoes, and is visibly struggling to stay on his feet. The cab driver is understandably suspicious.
John is angry when he gets in; Sherlock is just impressed he made it up the stairs.
“Where have you been?” John’s hands are actually on his hips. It would be funny if he had the strength to care.
“I went for a walk.”
“You left at 2am!” John glares at him, not having it for a second.
He stares back coldly; John has been checking up on him. The most annoying part is that it’s not even a lie.
“It took longer than expected.” Also true, “It’s none of your business where I go.”
“Oh I’ll tell you where you can fucking go, I was worried sick!” John is glaring like a jealous wife, and his audacity has Sherlock angry again.
Trying to get in his face backfires, when his thigh muscle cramps so spectacularly that he hits the floor after a single step. It’s bad, and he can’t seem to stretch it out. John looks horrified as he goes down.
John steps forward and roughly grabs his leg, whilst Sherlock does his best to kick him, swearing furiously under his breath. John Watson is the bigger person; he forces Sherlock’s leg into place and holds it there until the muscles relax.
Sherlock groans in relief, until John abruptly drops him and walks away without another word, storming down the stairs.
He gets halfway down before Sherlock swallows his pride, calling after him;
“Where are you going?”
“Go fuck yourself!”
Seems John Watson is a man of his word, and despite everything; Sherlock laughs.
He laughs less when he tries to drag himself to bed. Typically, his calf takes example from his other leg, and it takes a good 5 minutes of moaning on the floor before it goes away. If he hadn’t chased him off, John could have fixed it in seconds; bastard.
When John comes home, he’s not in a foul mood, but he’s definitely still upset. It’s total silence, and Sherlock can’t ignore it. He tells himself it was John in the wrong, but feels deeply unhappy all the same.
“Sherlock. What are you reading?” John’s tone says he already knows.
Tensions are still high from the previous night, and Sherlock has decided to be petulant.
He doesn’t look up; “Your blog.”
He hadn’t known there even was a blog, found it completely by accident. Or rather, while he was loitering on social media and Google in equal measure, hoping to learn as much about John Watson as possible.
What do they need a blog for? He’d tried to wait for it to come on its own, avoiding the temptation of the internet in all its unreliable glory. But after the autograph incident, and the man who tried to throttle him in the biscuit isle…well, that’s enough to make anyone curious.
The floorboards creak with the uncomfortable shifting of weight. It’s irritating.
“I’m not sure you should be reading that.”
If he’s not sure then why does he say it? People rarely say what they actually mean, and what John is saying, screaming actually; is that he doesn’t want him to. But Sherlock doesn’t give a single shit what John wants. It’s his life; he has a right to know.
“I like it.” That should shut him up, flattery usually does.
“No you don’t.” The response is immediate. Clearly a sore spot.
Sherlock glares at him, “It might jog my memory.”
“Or, it will give you a summarised, second hand version of mine. ‘Sensationalised drivel’ I believe you called it.”
John gets up from his chair, snatches the laptop out of his hands without warning, slams the lid shut, marching back across the room. “Use your bloody own if you want, I know you know which one it is.”
What is left of Sherlock’s laptop is currently residing at the bottom of Mrs Hudson’s bins.
“Mine is in the bedroom. Yours was closer.”
John laughs at that. Until he’s not laughing. He’s crying, he’s crying a lot. And it’s terrible. What the hell is he supposed to do with this?
Sherlock sits, watching uncomfortably as John sobs into one hand, and clings, white knuckled to the computer with the other. It’s loud, it’s messy, and completely involuntary. Everything John has bottled up comes pouring out. Sherlock really wishes he’d stop. Because it bothers him. It’s unnerving to see John cry, it’s not just inconvenience; he doesn’t want him to be upset.
And he hasn’t the slightest idea what to do to stop him. Usually when Sherlock brings someone to tears, it’s either deliberate or irrelevant. Sometimes he’ll do it just because they’re speaking. Their pain is either informative or revenge. This time, he never saw it coming. Sherlock didn’t mean to make John cry, and he never expected he’d actually care.
“John. I’m sorry.” The words are foreign to him, and it ends up sounding wooden, but he does mean it.
John shakes his head, subtly trying to wipe the snot on his sleeve. He won’t look at him, and Sherlock hasn’t felt guilt like this since childhood.
“I won’t read it.”
He surprises himself; because until John got upset, he’d had every intention of ignoring him. Before he wouldn’t have even bothered to lie. But really, what would be the point? John is right, there’s nothing to be learnt from a potentially conflicting account.
But it’s been weeks. John held his breath for the first 72 hours, because statistically, they’re critical. After that it becomes less and less likely that the memories will return. John is crying because he’s giving up. And Sherlock doesn’t want him to.
Sherlock likes John. And it’s surprising because he hadn’t intended to care about the stupid little soldier. He tried to hate him, to push him away. But despite his efforts, Sherlock has grown used to having him around. John is somehow always there to fill in the blanks, and it had never occurred to him just how helpful that would be.
John has answers to stupid things, like how to fix the hot water when it goes iffy (there’s a very specific order you have to jiggle the taps), or why his damn phone won’t do what he wants. People keep saying words on cases, at crime scenes; concepts Sherlock doesn’t understand, questions he doesn’t know how to answer. He’ll freeze, treading water on dry land; hopelessly out of his depth.
Then John’s voice will whisper low and calm into his ear, and just like that, Sherlock is back on his feet. John Watson is better than Google. He sees Sherlock struggling, so he just shows him. And he does it all in a way that doesn’t make him feel stupid for not knowing. So, after a while, he started to just ask.
John isn’t just interested in fixing the amnesia problem either, with that he’s hardly pushed at all. It’s other things that don’t even come across as deliberate. John makes dinner every night, regardless of whether or not he eats it. He makes Sherlock tea before he even thinks to want it; the perfect amounts of milk and sugar, every time. He takes care of the bills, does the shopping, makes sure the flat is nice and warm at night.
It gives him the room to think about other things, to try and sift through the chaos in his head, and just generally makes everything a hundred times easier.
At first it seemed too good to be true, but eventually, he realised that there were no special allowances; it was just something John did. It’s very hard to mistrust someone when they genuinely are acting only in your best interests.
Living with John in the same space everyday gives his life some semblance of a routine. There is always a point of contact if he needs it, an interpreter to make sense of the world. That stability is something he has come to rely on so much more than he’d expected; to the point where he honestly wouldn’t know what to do if he wasn’t around. He trusts without meaning to.
Please don’t give up on me.
“Yeah you will Sherlock.” He’s weary, just as much as tired of this as Sherlock is, probably more.
“I promise,” he blurts out. He’s never promised a damn thing in his life. But he’ll do his best to keep it if it will stop John Watson from crying.
He looks up at that, surprised, really surprised. “Why?”
“I like you.”
John’s face does something really strange, and he’s worried he will cry again, but he doesn’t. He makes the tea, and Sherlock doesn’t read the blog again. He never got more than two lines into it anyway. He doesn’t even know if he liked it or not.
“How did we meet?”
John has literally just walked in from work and he’s tired, but Sherlock has been going mad with boredom, and he’s asked the question at least six times today. For some reason he’d assumed that John was here the whole time, when in fact he has been gone for over seven hours, which is ridiculous; he notices everything.
It’s not something they’ve discussed yet; he still knows practically nothing about what happened during the past seven years. He’s heard snippets and whispers, but that has barely scratched the surface. Sherlock hasn’t asked so John hasn’t offered.
Sherlock has done his research. Retrograde amnesia is a difficult condition in terms of recall, in the sense that the so called ‘reminder effect,’ has been proven largely ineffective. For post-traumatic retrograde amnesia, the majority of cases resolve themselves.
Sherlock has never in his life been classified as part of the majority, and as time goes on, the chances for spontaneous recall begin to diminish. If no memories have surfaced after two weeks, that can indicate a recovery time of months or even years. After that, a full recovery may never be possible. His age, and history of substance abuse are added variables.
Time is no longer on his side.
He’s resisted it so far, because he wasn’t sure if he wants the life he doesn’t remember; he’s still not. But he’s given it a lot of thought, and he thinks he might like to at least know. No one is forcing him. He chooses to know. And he’s comfortable enough now that he trusts John to give an accurate account.
“Er, I was looking for a flatmate, so were you. A mutual friend introduced us. Mike-”
“Stamford,” Sherlock’s mouth finishes before his brain has a chance to catch up. He stops, eyes wide, and looks to John for answers.
“I don’t know anyone called Stamford.”
John just shakes his head. Disappointed in him.
“You read the blog.”
Disappointed, but not surprised. John is clearly used to Sherlock’s lies. But Sherlock didn’t read anything about a Mike Stamford. Sherlock kept that promise damn it.
“I never got that far. How did I know that?”
John looks quite cross now. It’s been a long day at the surgery, and he thinks Sherlock is toying with him. But Sherlock is excited; he’s remembered something.
“Ask me something else.”
“Come on Sherlock.”
John sighs, but he thinks very carefully before he says anything.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?”
Two countries, two wars. John fought in Afghanistan; he was shot. Sherlock already knows all this.
No, but wait. There is something. A tugging sensation in his forehead, like something is being literally pulled out of his brain. The metaphor is so ridiculous it’s annoying.
Who knew Sherlock would be a people person?
John goes white as a sheet. Was that the right answer? Dumping his work bag unceremoniously, and shucking his coat, John sinks into His Chair. They stare at each other, and for the first time since the blog argument, John dares to look hopeful. Oh and Christ, how Sherlock doesn’t want to let him down.
“Jade dragon pendant.”
“Nine million pounds.”
It’s all just word associations, just fragments, but it’s proof that the memories are still in there. They’re smiling now, because after weeks, they’re finally getting somewhere. They run through a few, and Sherlock comes up with an answer to each, they don’t make any sense to Sherlock really, but John looks so happy it’s infectious.
The word rolls off his tongue automatically; “Snipers.”
And that is where everything goes wrong.
He’s on the floor scrambling back.
They’re going to die, they’re all going to die, and it’s going to be his fault. No no nononono.
The music stand clatters down, papers flying around his head. The bookcase stops his momentum dead, and he cowers in the corner behind his chair. He doesn’t remember leaving it. Not this again.
John has no idea what’s going on, he’s jumped to his feet after him, and looks extremely disturbed.
“Sherlock? Christ, are you okay?”
His chest is heaving. Something just happened to his brain and whatever it was it was very bad. Images flash through his mind, overwhelmed by so many strong emotions. But they’re just fragments, too much but not enough.
“What do you remember?”
Oh god. It makes sense now. No; it doesn’t. It makes even less sense. He pleads with his eyes, begging for John to explain this mess.
“I know how I lost my memory. I know.”
John looks very confused.
“How did I survive? I killed myself! How am I alive?!”
The knowledge nearly stops his heart. He tried to commit suicide. Is this what no one would tell him?
The most disturbing part about this is that he doesn’t even remember why. Because Sherlock knows depression, he knows what bad looks like. And he’d be lying if he said there hadn’t been times in his life where he’d been tempted. Staring at the needle, he’d think about how all he had to do, is push just a little more. The slightest bit of pressure, and everything would go away.
So of course he’s thought about it. But never seriously. Not once had he actually intended to take his own life. He’s never been so hopeless that he saw death as his only option. So it terrifies him to know that yes, he did reach that place, that things really did get that bad.
It’s made all the worse, because he remembers very clearly that he didn’t want to die.
Why would he commit suicide if he wasn’t suicidal?!
It doesn’t make sense. And it just keeps getting worse; because he doesn’t understand why he isn’t dead. Because he absolutely should be. He meant to do it. He threw himself off a fucking six story building; no one survives that.
He remembers falling, flailing through the air, plummeting to his death. He remembers how it felt, the cold wind stinging his face, the pavement below getting closer and closer; god he was so scared.
The impact should have killed him instantly, shattering his skull, severing his spinal cord, causing massive internal trauma. His lungs should have collapsed as his chest cavity caved in. His face should be unrecognisable; mandible, maxilla, nasal cavity; all shattered. Joints should have been crushed, organs pulverised. It’s just not possible that he is breathing.
John crouches next to him, eyes calm and gentle. Both of them very aware that Sherlock is having a severe panic attack. That’s three in as many weeks. He’s cracking up.
“You didn’t kill yourself.” John’s voice is soft and sad, hand stroking Sherlock’s shoulder blades in an attempt to sooth him.
But what he’s saying isn’t true. He remembers it vividly, the memory more intense than anything happening now.
“I jumped, it was raining, and everyone was going to die. Someone was singing, a man with dark eyes.” That part makes it feel almost like a fairy-tale, one of the original ones.
John’s hand on his shoulder tightens in surprise.
Moriarty. The word makes ice creep along his bones. So many associations that he doesn’t understand; excitement, pain, appreciation, hatred. But mostly the fear of such terrible consequences. The scars on his back begin to ache, ‘Moriarty’ making his mind spin, such a visceral response. What is Moriarty?
Sherlock nods frantically, eyes fixed on John’s.
“He was on the roof with you?”
Sherlock realises it’s another name. Moriarty is a person; the storyteller with dark eyes.
Sherlock’s right hand tingles, and he stares at it. He can actually feel the other man’s hand in his, holding it, shaking it? His hand is warm, and his grip is firm. Then blood. Blood everywhere, and panic like he’s never felt before.
He was left handed.
“He shot himself in front of me.” And Sherlock may have hated him, but he hadn’t wanted him to die. Not at all; it was important that he kept him alive.
“Wait; He’s dead?” John didn’t know that. It honestly shocks him.
“He took my hand and then blew his own brains out with the other. He killed himself. And then so did I.”
A suicide pact?
But why would this man’s death mean his own? He didn’t love him, didn’t even feel grief particularly for his loss. It was a terrible waste, but somehow also a death sentence? He just can’t seem to get that context back.
Once he composes himself, John is incredibly sad. He shakes his head.
“That was two years ago Sherlock. It wasn’t suicide; you faked your death.”
Faked his suicide. This isn’t a film. There are only a handful of people in history who are known to have successfully faked their own deaths, most being caught and arrested after only a few days. Five minutes on Wikipedia will tell you that. He could probably make a pretty convincing job of it if he tried, but jumping from a rooftop in the middle of central London? Too many people, too many cameras, too many variables; it’s impossible.
“Why would I do that?”
He stares at John, but he won’t answer, god, why can’t he remember any of this? How could he possibly forget this? Why won’t John just explain it to him?
“I don’t know,” John whispers, “You never told me.”
It clearly kills him to admit it. And why doesn’t he know? Surely of all people he would, they’re supposed to be best friends. John knows about his drug addiction, his mind palace, his danger nights; even that he wanted to be a pirate as a child. They’ve lived together for years, practically inseparable. Sherlock liked him, trusted him more than anyone in the world. Why has he never told him?
“I didn’t even know. I thought you were dead for two years. You only came back about a month and a half before you... I don’t know where you were or what you were doing. All you would say was that you were dismantling Moriarty’s web.”
Two years. He doesn’t want to believe it, because that is such an unnecessarily cruel thing to do to your best friend. How could he do that to John? That doesn’t feel like something he’d do, but he cannot escape the facts. John Watson would not make this up; John Watson would not lie to him.
They stop talking for a while; John makes something delicious with peas that they both barely touch. They have tea, sit in their chairs, and they brood. John wants to ask him something else, but he’s afraid Sherlock will react badly again. Sherlock is inclined to agree on both counts.
“Look, don’t answer if you don’t want to,” John licks his lips nervously, “but do you know what you meant when you said that everyone was going to die?”
Sherlock gets up and starts pacing like a maniac, trying so hard to remember.
“That’s what I was thinking. On the ledge. That you were all going to die.”
Sherlock doesn’t notice the extra piece of information that slips out; too busy remembering how it felt. But it definitely strikes a chord with John.
“That’s what you said; ‘you were going to die,’ not they.” John is looking at him very seriously now, “Sherlock. Who was going to die?”
He can hear it chanting over and over in his head; everyone, everyone-
The word triggers his memory again, and suddenly everything switches. His mouth is moving, but it’s another man’s words that comes out; “Three bullets; three gunmen; three victims. There’s no stopping them now. Unless my people see you jump.”
He blinks, and he’s back in the flat, only to find that John has moved away from him, taken two large steps back. He looks frightened.
“You sounded just like him.”
Ah. So it wasn’t just in his head then, he’s always had an ear for accents.
“Exactly like him.”
John still looks disturbed hearing that voice from his mouth. There’s context somewhere there too. He was more than just an enemy clearly, is John afraid that he’s like him? Does he worry that he will become him?
No, he realises, that’s not John’s fear at all; it’s his own.
“You, Lestrade, and Mrs Hudson. The three people I had to save. He killed himself to force my hand.”
John is about to throw up.
“What about the scars?”
John’s head snaps up, looking slightly less green.
“I’m covered in them. I think I dream about them sometimes. But they’re not right for an impact. If it didn’t happen when I fell, then where did they come from?”
John has gone from very green to very pale. He didn’t know about them either.
“You didn’t have them when you left.” John’s voice is very quiet. He looks deeply troubled by this; “What sort of scars?”
“I think I was tortured.”
John inhales sharply.
“You never said.”
Sherlock is angry that this is happening to him. John says it was all for a punch to the head.
He lost himself for one swing of a fist.
Walking around the city, he’s not striding as he used to. Nothing has come back since that night, such is the cruelty of life. Just as the decision had been made. Sherlock wants to reclaim himself, he truly does.
There’s no point in trying to go back to the life he knows; to forget about any of this, find the nearest drug den and get as wasted as physically possible. No. Sherlock is sick of drugs and resentment, and for once, the world is on his side. There’s an opportunity here, a real life he’s made for himself. But that life just won’t have him.
Not paying attention, his legs take him where they like. The scent of pasta from a restaurant makes him feel unwanted; disappointed and relieved at the same time. A graffitied skate park, the museum; they tell him no advise in the world could ever help. The library feels exhausting when he thinks of all those books, and in China Town; everyone is watching him, even the waving cats.
At a local swimming pool, he stares at his shoes, and waits, with absolutely no idea who or what for. But the anticipation keeps him waiting, his right pocket suddenly so much heavier.
A dog growls, and it makes him feel like he’s done something wrong, something cruel. He feels like he’s going out of his mind.
Walking past a hospital makes him wonder how many people died, just outside the walls; the ambulances just seconds too late to get the patient through the doors.
He wonders when London stopped making the least bit of sense.
His brother goes to all the right places, but the eureka moment never occurs.
It’s what he’d hoped for; one second and it all comes rushing back. He supposes it’s the moment they’ve all been waiting for. Sensationalised by Hollywood, these moments do happen. It’s the quick fix.
Sherlock may never remember, and frustrating though that is, it seems John has again nudged him back onto a path of good choices. Something Mycroft has never managed.
Relapse was always a possibility, and psychosomatic cravings are something he’s looked for with eagle eyes.
Thankfully, Sherlock shows no symptoms of sliding down that particular slope. It’s also encouraging to see that at least some things are coming back to him, even if only delivered by his subconscious.
The biggest concern, as Mycroft sees it; is Sherlock’s work regarding Moriarty. When it comes back is when things will get messy. There are already signs, but his brother does not remember the dreams. By his calculations, they have only days before the flashbacks kick in.
The problem with warzones and the human psyche, is not the conflict itself. Human instinct and self-preservation can carry people through even the worst of traumas. After the fact, matters are entirely different; the immediate threat is gone, and those automatic defences won’t shield you anymore. The most damaging impact, often comes in the form of safety.
It’s very common in refugee victims forced to flee their home. It’s when the individual is settled that the issues really start to come out; sometimes it can take as long as two years for symptoms to present.
With the luxury of time to reflect, the mind begins to process the trauma. When you have known nothing but war, being introduced to a life of peace shows you everything you did not have. Hindsight tells you just how bad it was, and just how good life could have been; the comparison that brings on the nightmare.
Before the accident, the worst had only just begun to settle in, and though the amnesia acts as a reprieve, Sherlock’s past will not wait forever.
Mycroft only hopes that all this can soften the blow.
There’s a towel on top of Sherlock’s dresser, and another on the floor. He tries to wash his sheets as often as he can without John noticing.
He wakes soaked to the skin. The first time, he was horrified, convinced he’d wet himself in the night. But his t-shirt was sodden too; no one’s bladder is that impressive. Diagnosis; night sweats. Actual droplets of sweat roll down his limbs, drying on the surface of his skin. They make him feel so cold.
Those hopeless hours in the night; everyone feels them at times. The powerlessness hurts more than any nightmare.
He’s tried only using the top sheet, shivering until he can get to sleep. But it’s nothing to do with how warm he is. Sleeping naked has the same result, only exacerbating the cold. Exhausted, and desperate, he gropes for a towel; one laid out underneath, and one covering his torso; too tired to change the sheets. John gets annoyed when he can’t find a towel.
It happens about two to three times a week. He still tries sleeping without the duvet, trying to convince himself that this time; it will work.
Tears of humiliation are his only reward.
The experiment could not have better results. It’s perfect, and the last thing from satisfying. Because he knows in his bones; he’s done it before. Spite makes him hope he’s had more success this time around.
He’s competing with history.
Unceremoniously; he shoves a scalpel directly into a power socket.
The shock is less than he’d hoped for, and it shorts out electricity to the whole building.
He’s in more pain than he should be; not all of it real. History just can’t stop repeating itself. He wonders how it happened last time. He already knows the result; evidence of electrical burns fused into his skin. Sherlock just wants to know why.
Electrocuting himself fails to bring the memories back. He’s going to have to think bigger.
He stands on the fire-escape, balanced on the railing, and tries to recreate the fear.
I don’t want to die.
Oh, he’s going through with it; in order to recreate the fear, one must also recreate the intent. Cause and effect. The landing is calculated of course, and it’s only one story, but there’s still margin for error. Then again, if he hits his head hard enough, it might just do the trick.
His only concern is that the fall time may be too short to trigger the memory. He may not have enough time in the air to replicate the flailing limbs and rush of air as gravity draws him down. He doesn’t want to hit the ground too soon, but two stories would be pushing it, so he’ll have to make do. He closes his eyes, and imagines an eighteen metre drop in an attempt to trick his brain into panic for his mortality.
John is standing at the window, and his whisper is almost enough to make Sherlock overbalance.
“What are you doing?” There’s barely concealed panic there.
Sherlock grits his teeth.
“Trying to remember.”
No. All right, stop it now.
Sherlock closes his eyes. “This phone call.”
“Sherlock for fucks sake get down from there,” he tries to climb through the window, and Sherlock feels very far away. So high above John’s panic, hand tight around the phone that isn’t at his ear.
“Stay exactly where you are. Don’t move. It’s my note.”
Sherlock sees John agreeing, and standing down, and he’s too absorbed in the conversation, that he doesn’t notice when John refuses to make the same mistake twice.
He steps clean off the edge.
John times it perfectly, lunging forward just as Sherlock begins to fall, catching him under the armpits, each on different sides of the hand rail. Crushing Sherlock’s ribs, he hurls him back over the railing.
Being dragged vertically by your armpits over a metal bar is not fun. Neither is the jerk when something abruptly stops your fall, slamming your hip against a fire escape. How John even manages to catch him is a mystery.
He finds himself being dragged, half standing, as far away from the drop as is possible, and being held against the wall by force.
John is screaming in his face, shaking his shoulders violently, and standing with all his weight on Sherlock’s foot just in case he wriggles free.
“I just wanted to remember,” he mumbles, still slightly stunned.
John slaps him as hard across the face as he can, Sherlock’s cheek stinging in the cold air.
“How fucking dare you! You think you have the right? Fuck you Sherlock Holmes. You’re a machine, you actually fucking are!”
It all changes so quickly. His head doesn’t spin, there’s no explosion, and he doesn’t black out. One blink, and when his eyes reopen; there’s so much more. The fall didn’t wake him up; John did. Of course he did; John is Sherlock’s everything, and Sherlock was a fool for thinking it could happen any other way.
It’s all there.
He remembers what it’s like to be him, and he remembers what it’s like to have forgotten, to have done the things he’s done, acted the way he has. What John has been through. Oh god.
The screaming descends into tears, and John is sobbing into his chest. Sherlock immediately cups the back of his head, face in his hair, rocking them gently.
John’s knees give out, and he drags Sherlock down with him. They’re both in a heap on the metal walkway, cold seeping in through their clothes. John still hasn’t let go of Sherlock’s chest.
It only gets worse. John’s legs curl up into a ball, crying louder.
Sherlock stares up at the stars, his whole body shaking with John’s grief.
“John, I’m back. It’s over now, shhh; I’m here.”
But John isn’t taking it in, he just keeps crying, and Sherlock realises he’s given up on this a long time ago; resigned to bits and pieces. For the second time, his best friend believes that he is dead.
Sherlock grabs his face.
“Look at me John; look!”
John only flicks his eyes up for a few seconds before turning away, still shaking with the sobs.
“Your name is John Hamish Watson, Captain of the 6th Northumberland Fusiliers. Your sister is a raging alcoholic, and she hates me. I know Lestrade’s first name is Greg and I always have. Mrs Hudson wanted me to wear antlers for Christmas, and I need you to look at me right now, because for weeks I’ve been looking, and I couldn’t see you.”
John stares at him, chest still heaving and hiccupping softly.
“I know you John Watson.”
John doesn’t say a word; he starts kissing him instead.
Sherlock almost cries, because the human mind is so cruel. Memories are one thing, we can make plenty more of those, but we don’t think about the other things they take with them when they go. The chemicals released when we look at those we know.
Sherlock remembers what it was like to forget; he remembers when his closest friends were strangers, and doesn’t know if he can ever begin to forgive himself for that.
Sherlock tangles his fingers in John’s hair, and kisses the man he forgot to love.