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Like Life, Like Death

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Love is like Life---merely longer
Love is like Death…
Love is the Fellow of the Resurrection
Scooping up the Dust and chanting “Live!”

-Emily Dickinson

 

His mobile rang again.

The first two times it happened, Sherlock had just ignored the sound, because he was in the middle of explaining to Lestrade and his [barely] trained idiots just how the gypsy fortune teller had ended up dead inside the vegan bakery. It was not really a complicated tale, but, as usual, everyone was so irritatingly stupid that…

And then the ringing started again.

Sherlock swore under his breath and gave up. “Find the organ grinder!” he shouted. “And don’t forget the monkey!” Then he stalked out of the bakery, grabbing his phone as he moved. The number was not one he knew. “What?” he snapped.

“Sherlock?”

His name was said in a raspy whisper and came from a voice he had not heard it in over two years, but Sherlock recognised it immediately, of course. Oddly, he felt a bit dizzy with the realisation of who the caller was. After a moment, he ducked into the alley and leant against the brick wall, sliding to the ground, careless of his tailored black trousers and his coat. “John,” he said with a sigh.

“Oh, thank god,” John said. “I wasn’t sure of this number…” His voice dwindled off uncertainly.

There was a low rumble of background noise---voices, the beeping of machines---but Sherlock ignored all of that as irrelevant.

“What’s the matter?” Sherlock asked and it was only the first of his questions. Too many questions. Years of questions. “Where are you?”

He barely remembered their last conversation, when he’d been at his lowest point in the grip of the drugs. He had a vague recollection of being under a bridge, waiting for John, but instead it was Mycroft who showed up and his next awareness was of being held under lock and key in a facility next to a waterfall somewhere in Switzerland. As far as he knew, John never called again and because Sherlock thought that it was best to let his friend go, to let him be free of the disaster that was their relationship, he did not call either, even after he was out of rehab. No matter how much he wanted to. Yearned to. “You sound terrible, John,” he said now.
.
“Well, I’m at Selly Oak,” he replied. “Waiting to go into surgery.”

Someone, a woman standing very close to John, said, “Here’s the needle, Captain Watson. You’ll be getting drowsy very soon.”

He’s a doctor, Sherlock wanted to say to the stupid woman, he knows what an injection is. But, instead, he just said, “Surgery? What happened? I thought you were off in Afghanistan being shot at.”

“Yes, well, I got shot, didn’t I?”

Sherlock swallowed down the taste of sick that was rising up his gullet. “Oh, god, John. How bad?” John couldn’t die. Any world that didn’t have John Watson in it, even a John Watson that he could never talk to or see or touch, was not a world in which Sherlock wanted to exist. He wanted to say that, too. but he didn’t.

“They say I ‘ll be fine…I’ll be fine…just a shoulder wound, but…well, there were complications. So here I am.”

“John,” he said again, helplessly.

“It’s okay,” John soothed, which was ridiculous under the circumstances. “But, Sherlock, I had to talk to you. I made the hospital contact Mycroft and he gave me this number.” There was a pause and Sherlock could hear a muffled groan. Then he heard John take a deep breath. “I wanted to tell you…how are you?”

Sherlock realised that the fingers of his free hand seemed to be trying to dig their way through the brick. He stopped and gripped his knee instead. “I’m fine...really…I’m clean, John, I promise you.”

“That’s good.” John’s words were starting to slur a bit. “I’m so glad.”

“I miss you,” Sherlock said desperately, needing to say it before John was gone again.

“You never called. The last I heard, you were going into rehab. No one ever told me anything else.”

Sherlock shook his head, even though he was alone in a dark alley. “I wouldn’t let them. I thought it was better for you to…just get on with your life,” he said hoarsely.

It sounded as if John tried to chuckle, but it was a poor effort. “Such an idiot.”

“You never called me either,” Sherlock pointed out, trying to sound bitter rather than hurt.

“Didn’t say…I wasn’t an idiot, too. But I’m running out of time here, Sherlock…when I was bleeding out in the fucking sand, all I could think of was you…that I never…that I never told you.”

“Told me what?” Sherlock whispered.

“Oh, Sherlock, that I love you. I have always loved you…so stupid not to tell you…”

Sherlock bent forward as if someone had kicked him in the gut. “Me, too,” he gasped. “I love you, too.” Those words had been waiting for so long to be said and once they had been, it felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his heart. [So, apparently, he did have one after all.] All he could think to do was say them again. “I love you, John.”

“Thank you.” It was scarcely more than an exhalation of air, barely audible as actual words.

The background voices were becoming louder and more pressing.

“They’re here to take me into the operating theatre,” John said. “So goodbye, Sherlock.”

“For now,” Sherlock replied fiercely. “Just for now. “I’ll be there soon and you better be there waiting for me.”

“I’ll try.” Then John was gone.

Sherlock stayed as he was for a long moment, staring into the darkness. He could still hear the police activity at the bakery, but he didn’t care about that. Finally, he raised his phone again and slowly punched in a familiar number. “Mycroft,” he said. “You know that helicopter you’re so proud of?”

***