“Please, there’s just one more thing, one more thing, one more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don’t...be...dead.”
Of course John knew it was impossible. Yet saying the words brought a little hope, despite the extreme improbability of actually being heard by his best friend. Sherlock is gone, and this is what he began to accept, though not fully comprehending it.
In 221B, behind closed doors and curtains, he stared at Sherlock’s chair for what seemed like hours and choked back tears.
“Just one more miracle,” he would whisper.
He knew he was being ridiculous– no one could hear him or answer his request. But he kept pleading with the vacant seat in front of his own. Every day he fought to keep his head above roaring waters. He tried to focus on his title, Dr. Watson, and bury himself in work at Bart’s. Molly would stop by every day and give him a lovely smile. He wished it helped, but every time he just felt worse. Everyone pitied him. He didn’t want to be treated like cracked glass, needing to be handled with great care. For God’s sake, he’s been through worse! He’s watched so many friends die right by his side on the battlefield, the worst part being that he couldn’t save them. He was even wounded in action and forced to return home, not knowing where home might be. He ended up in London with a psychosomatic limp, searching for anything, anyone. He was broken, and it showed through his nightmares that constantly disturbed his sleep.
Until he met Sherlock.
Therefore, he didn’t need to be treated delicately, because he’s been through much worse! Or so he told himself.
Saturday nights were the worst. He didn’t have work to distract himself, so he turned to the pub. Sometimes Lestrade would tag along, which was good, so he could have someone to make sure he didn’t tip over the edge. But when he was alone, he would drown himself in whiskey and fight the memory of blood on pavement.
Tonight he was unaccompanied. He knew if he kept this up, he would soon spin out of control; but the aching deep inside his chest overpowered his guilt. He lost track of his alcohol intake and was well over tipsy when he stumbled out of the pub doors a quarter past midnight. He mumbled “Baker Street” to a cab driver and nearly passed out in the backseat. It took eleven tries for him to get his key inserted into the keyhole, and by that time, Mrs. Hudson heard him scrambling and opened the door for him. She gently helped him upstairs into his room, and he collapsed into bed. As soon as his head hit the pillow, the world went black.
John Watson awoke to the sound of soft violin playing, emanating from downstairs. He slipped out of bed and stepped quietly down the steps, trying not to interrupt the sweet music. He peaked around the corner, and there stood with his back facing John–
For a moment his heart lifted and he felt alive again. Then the curly hair turned, and the detective wore a bright smile on his face. As suddenly as the image appeared, it faded to emptiness.
John sat straight up in bed, his heart pounding in his ears. He had a splitting headache and he was terribly hungover. However, he ignored the sick feeling because his main focus was the tears that threatened to fall down his face. He couldn’t control a sob as he buried himself back in his quilt, and he felt more alone than he ever did before.
After his breathing slowed and he settled, he forced himself to get up and start his day.
This is where it began.
John travelled downstairs, and the first thing he wanted to do was open the forbidden violin case and not touch, but just look at the neglected instrument that used to fill the flat with melody after melody. The doctor looked in the black armchair that sat across from his own, and he nearly panicked. He always, always kept the violin inside it’s case, not to be touched by anyone, on top of Sherlock’s chair. The instrument was not only no longer in the chair, but also nowhere in sight.
“Mrs. Hudson!” He practically screamed her name and ran downstairs to 221A.
“Oh, sorry dear! You startled me! Hello–“ John cut her off quickly and said, “Sorry, hello, this is important. You know I always keep Sherlock’s violin in his armchair, and it isn’t there. Did you move it? Has anyone else been up in the flat recently besides you and I?”
“That’s odd. No, I haven’t laid a finger on it. Hmm...I don’t remember anyone else coming up there, not since that nice detective inspector dropped you off here that night awhile ago,” she replied. “Are you sure you didn’t move it without thinking? Did you check everywhere? You never know.”
“I couldn’t have moved it, Mrs. Hudson. I told myself that it would always stay in that chair, and no one, not even myself, can touch it. Nothing can happen to that violin. If something did, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself. Sherlock would be furious!” He rubbed his hands over his face and sighed heavily.
“Oh dear, I’m sure it’s somewhere up there! Just check around a bit more and we’ll see if it doesn’t turn up. I’m sorry, love! If you need anything, just call me!”
“Ta, Mrs. H,” he said unhappily.
He somberly made the climb back to 221B. What on earth could have happened to that violin? He knew he would likely have no luck searching the flat, but it still couldn’t hurt. He checked in the kitchen, the bathroom, his bedroom, and his closet, until there was only one place left to search.
He dreaded it. He absolutely despised entering that room. It hurt too much. Before he could overthink it, his hand was on the handle, and it was turning. He took a step inside. It was so lifeless, so very empty. Except it wasn’t completely empty. There on the bed, laid outside of its case with the bow set on the strings, was Sherlock’s violin. It was inside Sherlock’s bedroom, on top of Sherlock’s bed, outside of the case, looking like it had just been played. How ironic that he had just dreamed of hearing it play. Thoroughly confused, he gingerly replaced the instrument to the case and returned it to the armchair.
“Someone took that violin and moved it. What bloody idea would make someone go through the trouble of doing that? Who has been in my flat?” John angrily thought to himself, more than a little disturbed by the thought of a stranger in his dwelling, fumbling around with such a precious item.
“What is the purpose of this? Some cruel joke? They could be arrested for breaking in. I fully intend to find the perpetrator,” John told Lestrade the next day at Bart’s.
“Do you remember seeing any sign of someone breaking in? The door handle broken or anything?” The DI inquired.
“Well– come to think of it, no. The only thing different was the violin,” John answered.
“Then wouldn’t that mean it has to be someone who has a key to the flat? Because if all the doors were locked, and there’s no other way in, they’d have to pick the lock or break something to get in.”
“But you didn’t see any tampering with the lock whatsoever, did you?”
“None at all.”
“And the only people who have keys are you, Mrs. Hudson, and...”
Before the fall, John and Sherlock had their own separate keys to their shared flat. John was certain Sherlock carried his key with him the day of his suicide, but there was no trace of it on the body. He had just assumed it fell out of his pocket when he jumped and was lost on the street. There is a possibility someone could have found it and picked it up, but the odds of them actually knowing the lock that the key belonged to were extremely low. Therefore, there was only a handful of explanations:
Someone knowledgeable or powerful got ahold of the key and was able to trace it back to Sherlock.
Someone had seen the key fall out of Sherlock’s pocket, and knew where he lived because of his fame.
The most improbable explanation was that it was Sherlock himself. Obviously that wasn’t possible. He always said to eliminate the impossible. The easiest solution to the bizarre problem was to call Mycroft and see what he could dig up. Maybe even some surveillance on the flat for Mrs. Hudson’s safety more than his own.
“Obviously Sherlock doesn’t have the key, Greg. I’ll just call up Mycroft and see what he can find. I’m sure it’s just some bored sod trying to toy with me,” John tried to say confidently.
“Alright, John. I hope he can help you. Take care of yourself,” Lestrade sincerely told him.
“Thanks. I will.”
That night, John called Sherlock’s brother. Mycroft promised to look into the situation, but his tone sounded oddly neutral, more than usual. It gave John a strange feeling, like the man already knew something. He brushed away the thought and thanked Mycroft when he said he’d have around-the-clock eyes on Baker Street. Feeling more relaxed, he showered and afterwards slipped into much needed sleep.
A few days after the whole incident, with no word back from Mycroft, he sighed and went downstairs for a morning cuppa. He didn’t have to go into work til the evening, so he would have to find a new distraction. He couldn’t turn to more alcohol. When he entered the kitchen to get the kettle boiling, he found the paper on the table.
How did this get here? Mrs. Hudson is visiting her sister, so who brought this up?
He scrambled downstairs only to find 221A empty, like he suspected. The front door was locked. No tampering.
This again? What is the point of this?
He grumbled and went back upstairs, frustrated by the mystery.
“What is so special about today’s paper that someone would get in here and bring it to me, just so I would see it?” He thought out loud.
He looked at the newspaper’s date and realized it had been exactly two weeks since the fall. He shuddered and pushed away the thought. Just as he was about to turn away to start the tea, small text on the bottom of the newspaper caught his eye.
The Cherries-Gunners game!
Fun, it is!
Give up never!
It’s almost over!
John stared hard at the italic print.
It didn’t make much sense. Why was this here at the bottom of the newspaper, when the rest of it mentioned nothing about a game, and it wasn’t even football season? He tossed the paper aside momentarily while he boiled the water. When his tea was made, he sat down in his chair and let the hot drink warm him while he pondered the words. He thought back to his days in Afghanistan, when he used many codes to warn and inform others of important information. Maybe—his eyes grew wide and he almost spilled his tea.
“Skip code!” He shouted. He was turning into Sherlock, yelling things to himself in triumph. He quickly deciphered it and...
It couldn’t be. It had to be some trick. Someone did this to play with his head. He looked at the coded message again, first word, then every third.
The Cherries-Gunners game!
Fun, it is!
Give up never!
It’s almost over!
The game is never over.
It can’t be, it just can’t. He grabbed his coat and sprinted for the door. He had to find another paper to see if everyone else saw what he did. He went inside Speedy’s and saw a man reading the same news he had, and tried to calmly ask if he could see it. The man smiled and handed it to him, and John nearly gasped when he found the bottom of the page completely empty, with no skip code on it. Someone had wanted only him to see it. They were trying to tell him something. Either they were messing with his mind, or they meant what they said.
He hoped for the latter.
John was losing his mind. He shouldn’t even be considering the possibility of Sherlock being alive. But he couldn’t help hoping just a little bit. Who else would be able to do all this? Or even think of it? If it wasn’t Sherlock, what would be the purpose of doing this except to tell him that his best friend is actually alive? It all seemed impossible. He couldn’t do anything except wait.
The doctor did just that.
Two nights later, Mrs. Hudson returned from her sister’s, and John quietly sipped just a little bit of whiskey from a glass. Enough was enough. He had to get as far away from Baker Street as his job would allow. This place brought up too many painful memories. Just as he began to retrieve his laptop to search for a new dwelling, the bell downstairs rang out a short, abrupt note. Feeling too sorry for himself to go down, he waited for Mrs. Hudson to answer it.
“John, dear! There’s a package here addressed to you!” Out of the silence came her voice.
He grunted and dragged himself out of his chair to collect the package. It wasn’t until he opened it that he realized he was never expecting a delivery. The box was completely empty, except for a small piece of paper that read, “You’ve got questions. They will all be answered soon. In the meantime, carry on with your normal routine. Do nothing different. Trust me. SH”
John’s jaw dropped, along with the paper that was now floating to the floor. He went straight upstairs and collapsed into bed, thinking it must all be a dream, yet again.
When he awoke the next morning, he felt terrible. That dream he had was one of the worst ones yet. Sherlock is dead, and that is that. Why can’t his mind just accept that? Arriving in the kitchen, his eyes fell on the small cardboard box on the table—and the note on the floor.
It’s real. It’s all real.
An unwanted sob escaped his throat, and his whole body ached. It ached to see him again. Just once. If this was real, which he so desperately wanted it to be, then things could be better. They would be better. Every fiber in his being vibrated with adrenaline and want. He wanted his best friend back. He wouldn’t tell anyone about this. If it wasn’t Sherlock, it could be dangerous. He had to do whatever this person asked. But please, please, please let it be him. There was so much good in his life before. Drying his tears, he looked at the clock. 7:45 AM. He had to be at the hospital at 8:00. He’d have to skip breakfast as usual and hope he wasn’t late.
It took everything in John not to release all he was feeling during work. Every second, tears threatened to spill over and run down his face. He had to make several trips to the loo to contain himself. It couldn’t be him.
Stop hoping, John Watson! It isn’t possible! You saw him die.
“Just this once, God. Let me see him one more time, please,” he begged, knowing it was foolish to ask.
When his shift was about to come to an end, his boss swooped into the room and asked if he could do a double. Just his luck. He so desperately wanted to return home and release the pent up emotions of the past two weeks. He said yes anyway. He was late so often now that he needed to get back on his boss’s good side.
After a grueling fifteen hour day, he clocked out at 11 PM. Just as he stepped outside, it began to rain.
He wrapped his coat around himself and began walking down the street, in search of a cab. Every one he waved to passed him by. He grumbled about how if Sherlock was with him, he would’ve gotten a cab within ten seconds. They always seemed to be magnetized to him. But Sherlock wasn’t there, his mind so cruelly reminded him. That’s when salty tears mixed with the cool rain, and he trudged along the side of the road, getting chilled to the bone and shaking with emotion. It hurt. It really hurt. He couldn’t stand it. He had so much before. How did he take it all for granted? He should have savored every moment, every adventure. Now everything was so empty, and he was left with nothing.
The scenery began to change, and the street quieted. Not a single car was in sight, but John didn’t notice. He was so lost in his own misery. The space between the buildings grew, and he was passing by numerous alleys. The darkness about him grew as the rain picked up. All he could see was his best friend’s bloody corpse on the pavement. His mind would replay him falling over and over again.
Please. I miss you so much.
Then– a force tugged him into the empty alleyway next to him. At first he thought he was going to be robbed, and frankly he didn’t care if anything happened to him; but he suddenly felt a familiar presence. A strong hand curled around his wrist and forced him to look up. When his gaze lifted, he found a pair of crystal blue eyes and a mop of wet, black curls.
“John, before you question everything, you aren’t hallucinating. I’m here. I don’t have much time. I’m sor–“
Sherlock Holmes was interrupted by a head burying into his coat collar and arms wrapping tightly around his waist. The detective slowly brought his own up around his blogger and his hand rested on the back of John’s neck. The smaller man was shaking.
“John, it’s okay. I’m sorry. I’m here. I promise I’m here,” Sherlock gently told him.
After what seemed like an eternity, John let go to stare up at the seemingly resurrected man.
“You died. Sherlock, you left me. What could possibly justify that?” He was angry, but he could finally breathe again now that the detective was here.
“I’ll try my best to explain this quickly, because I can’t stay. On the roof of Bart’s, Moriarty gave me an ultimatum. Either I had to commit suicide, or you, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade would all die. There were three snipers, one for each of you. If they didn’t see me jump, you would die. I had to stop Moriarty and protect you. After I faked my death, Mycroft immediately sent me away, and ever since that day I have been fighting to dismantle Moriarty’s network. You must be kept safe at all costs. Mycroft didn’t want me to tell you because he thought you wouldn’t keep the secret that I’m alive, but I trust you. He doesn’t know that I’m doing this, all he knows is that I gave you those clues that I’m alive. Those were all set up by my homeless network. I gave them specific directions and my key to the flat. Yes, I still have it. You can’t let my brother know I was here. I’m not supposed to come back to London until every trace of Moriarty is destroyed. But I came back for you, John. I can’t stay, it’s not safe for either of us. But I promise I will return. It could be months, or even a year, but I will come back. Do you understand?”
The entire time Sherlock was talking, John was gripping both of his friend’s forearms, trying to ground himself because of the shock.
“I–I understand. I don’t like it at all, but I understand. There’s so much I want to say...will you be safe?”
“I can’t say for sure. It will be dangerous.”
“Can’t I come with you? We can do it together, we can–“
“No. I’m not going to risk you getting hurt. Besides, your life is here, in London.“
“So is yours, Sherlock! You belong here! I don’t want to live alone again, I don’t know if I could bear it...”
“I know. I was alone too. I have to do this, though. I’m sorry, I wish it didn’t have to be this way,” Sherlock’s voice got lower and quieter.
“I know, John.”
“I really missed you.”
John pulled him in for a hug again, just to make sure he was still real and breathing. He could feel the warmth radiating from Sherlock, overcoming the biting chill he had. He couldn’t believe he got his wish.
“I asked you for one more miracle, and I got it,” John told him.
“I was there. I heard you.”
“Do me one more favor and come back alive.”
“I will try the best I can. I can’t stay here any longer. I’m sorry. Please forgive me for all of this. I will come back, John.” Sherlock started to step back. John swore he saw tears in his eyes, but he couldn’t see them fall, for the rain concealed them. Just as he began to turn around and walk away, he swiftly strode back to John one last time and engulfed him in a tight embrace.
“You’ve saved me in so many ways,” Sherlock whispered, his voice almost lost in the roar of thunder.
“No, you saved me. You are the best friend I’ve ever had, and the greatest man I’ve ever known,” John returned, tears now flowing freely. Illuminated by a flash of lightning, the doctor could see Sherlock’s face fill with emotion. More than John had ever seen.
“Goodbye, John. Thank you for never giving up on me. Don’t stop believing,” and with that, he quickly turned and John watched as his long coat disappeared into the night.
That was the last time John Watson was in contact with Sherlock Holmes for two years.