What we leave behind
Sherlock opened the door to 221B Bakerstreet, the tension in his body left him at once. Finally he was home again. Even though Sherlock didn't really value sentiment, he preferred his flat over any other place he was forced to sleep in for the past two years nevertheless, not to mention the company of his favourite blogger, which he had to miss until today. After he had closed the door, Sherlock stopped in his motion, as if petrified he listened into the silence, it was eerily quiet. This could only mean that John, as well as Mrs. Hudson, had to be out, although Sherlock had made sure when exactly John used to leave the flat. Sensing a new exciting chance to get to know more about John's life whilst Sherlock's absence. He became gleefull, even though surely there couldn't have been major changes- the game promised to be fun- energeticly he swung himself up the stairs and strode with determination into their living room.
Sherlock let his fierce gaze wander throughout the room, every detail was carefully filed away in his mind palace. A haunting atmosphere hung over the whole scene, like it had never moved on from the day Sherlock fell, still stuck in the past while the presence only left ghostly traces. Sherlock felt the rush of the game tingling in his fingertips- maybe this would be even more interesting than he had thought- careful not to destroy any clues, Sherlock moved through the flat, like a long dead visitor of a nebulous past. A breeze of the unknown.
Sherlock observed the living room, his belongings were nearly untouched, his books were stacked in a mess on the desk, just like he had left them there. A thick layer of dust layered itself above them obscouring the lettering on the covers. On the contrary the opposite side of the table seemed to have been used more frequently, the dark wood shimmered in the twilight of the London sun in early autumn, which glowed between the gaps of the heavy courtain and refracted in the new scratches while the mahagoni shimmered golden. Maybe John accustomed himself to eat here and the light abrasions resulted from the porcelain of their dishes. Besides his own possessions, Sherlock couldn't make out anything that could belong to John, not that there had been much to begin with, but still, the presence of another person in the flat was hard to surmise rather than the absence of Sherlock himself.
The only thing that still lingered was the faint smell of John's aftershave. An invisible trail that lead through the flat and was lost in itself, as if John had become a ghost, that haunted his own apartment.* Sherlock on the other hand enjoyed the familiar scent immensely, it was one of the things he had kept close while disassembling Moriarty's underground network. By now Sherlock was fairly sure that John had not made any major changes to their flat, since he had jumped off the roof. Even his knife was still stuck deep into the mantlepiece. All the while the fireplace seemed to had been cleaned out. So John had not used it either. On the other hand he must have spend an extensive amout of time on the couch and in his arm chair, since both looked a bit squished and less dusty. Sherlock switched on the TV curiously, eager to know what his Doctor Watson had chosen to entertain himself with, but instead of being presented with the standart fatuous soap opera, the screen just showed image noise. - Why would he have set it to an empty channel? Or didn't he use the telly anymore after all?- Sherlock switched it off again and put the remote back into place.
One glance in the direction of their armchairs confirmed Sherlock in his next assumption, for two years, nobody had used his armchair, unlike John's. The question if anyone at all had visited him in the last few months hung heavy in the air, suffocating Sherlock with it's most likely answer. At the recliner's foot stood an old cassette tape recorder, one Sherlock himself had used every now and then, scattered around it were several tapes. Only one look at them told Sherlock that these tapes had to contain the records of his current compositions. They were nothing Sherlock would brag about, they were just a byproduct of a process, he mostly used them to reflect on and improve his compositions, which were rather short and emanating from random moods, that Sherlock tried to capture and understand, Sherlock surely preferred to play his music instead of listening to it. But if he thought about it, without John, the flat was filled with an opressing silence in which Sherlock's solitude echoed even louder, maybe it could be helpfull as well to let the tape play in the background, just to determine what John had heard last. Sherlock bend down gingerly and pushed in the chunky button deeply, the button locked with a noisy click and in the next second his violin chimed, obviously in the middle of the song. Sherlock continued to stroll through the half abandoned, half haunted flat.
There was no one of Sherlock's intellect necessary to interpret the sight of the kitchen the right way, because their dinner table definitely hadn't been used, since every laboratory equipment he had set up there still mingled around, dusty from neglect without the presumed dead chemist. John's refusal to deal with his stuff, had reached an overblown level, at least he threw away the experiments on body parts Sherlock had left. The consulting-detective looked around further in the kitchen, here too, the most seemed untouched. The dishes were, exept of a teacup, put away neatly in the cupboard, apart from that next to no food could be found, the milk in the fridge had expired two days ago and the cereals were still half full, everything else was either long-living or bordered on being alive. The cup in the sink showed traces of earl grey, without milk or sugar, John must've used it for several days, without cleaning it out, this meant that if John had not gone out to eat something, the lack of any other dirty dishes proved that he had neither eaten nor washed up.
-even though John seemed to live in utter neglect of himself, the flat was suprisingly clean.- thought Sherlock, who had expected to expose John's last few failed relationships or the bad decision to grow a mustache, instead of growing more and more worried about his friends well-being. Getting even more nervous he decided to go into John's bedroom, his composition for Irene Adler reached through the walls in a whisper, the notes muffled by wallpaper and bricks. The melody was beautiful but heavy-hearted, it was like a mirror for Sherlock who had been fascinated by the dominatrix but also saw himself hurled in a deep depression. Even though he only reluctantly wanted to admit it but The Woman had beaten him in every way possible. But in opposition to Mycroft's assessment, Sherlock didn't think of her as a dragon he was bound to strike dead. This he had proven and therefore payed the price, but even though their twisted love was mutual, it was obvious to both that the other won't be their last. Sherlock had made his peace with it. Shaking off the old memories he tried to focus on the situation at hand: The game, the first game since he was back in London: John. John he handn't seen for two years, John who watched static on TV, John who didn't eat and listened to his tapes, John he didn't recognise, John before their first case. It was John, always John, everything revolved around him, it was him Sherlock fell for.
And now he stood in his empty bedroom, where everything had it's designated place, but John was still missing. Not often did Sherlock have had the chance to poke around undisturbed, but it was not like there had been much of interest to begin with. His furniture was modest and practical, he didn't possess many personel items either, only the open shelf on the left side of the bed gave an insight into the ex-soldier's character, there were a few folders and books lined up, inbetween gathered a small collection of keepsakes of childhood and university as well as his time at the army, nothing of which would be new to Sherlock, moreover did nothing attract his attention too, exept maybe for the overall petty tidiness of the room. - maybe an old army-habit- On the plywood desk were his mobile phone, his laptop and some personal documents, on top of it all the last bill from his therapist dated six months ago- why didn't he attend therapy anymore?- everything was neatly arranged with a precision that usually just fit Mycrofts obsessive compulsive behaviour. Sherlock picked up the mobile phone and switched on the display, the batteries were still charged, but it was overflowing with messages and missed calls: Mike Stamfort, Lestrade, Harry and Clara, even Mycroft left him a message. But if John was out and about, then why didn't he take his phone with him? Even for John, who didn't stress a lot about it, that was suspiscious. With shaking hands did Sherlock reach for the knob of the desk drawer and pulled it open agonizingly slow, terrified to have his concerns confirmed. The drawer revealed a thin envelope. Sherlock, struck with panic, gave a short whimper and held his breath, when he dared to move again he took a sharp intake of air, before he nervously fumbled for the drawer again and tore it out with a rough motion, he scanned the underside of the desk to no avail.
Now the colour was completely drained from his face, his intense stare fully concentrating on the envelope, which peeked out a little rumpled from under the drawer. Sherlock carefully pulled it from under the wood, as if the words inside were semtex and with great reverence towards their destructive force did he not dare to open it. Not as long as there was a chance that John was alive. Instead he flipped it over a few times while examining it swiftly.
Flat mailing: at most two pages letter paper, which means not many addressees.
Some stray traces of use: The letter must have been kept for a longer period of time which is an indicator for a planned suicide.
Yellowed paper: It was exposed to the sun for a long time too then, which confirmed the deduction that there hadn't been visitors.
But the most pominent was that it totally lacked labelling: John had kept the letter for a long time out in the open in the flat, without ever having the intention of sending it, there wasn't even a name written on it. Therefore he assumed that it would be found, from whom was irrelevant. The context of the screed arose inevitably: It was a suicide note.
Sherlock wanted to scream, but instead he gasped for air like a fish out of water. He has to focus, he's losing control.
From one second to another the grey walls of the room vanished and were replaced with his brother's cold office:“focus, Sherlock!“ he ordered unmoved.
Sherlock untangled his pale fingers from his curls and the light pain in his scalp faded, his face pallid and distorted into pure horror he looked at his brother, who had leaned over the desk with the indulgent sternness of a mother hen.
“What did you deduce about John Watson?“ he continued and provided Sherlock with an anchor point.
Between them floated the evidence, Sherlock's breath was getting steadier now, as he could concentrade on the facts in front of him:“spoiled milk, cereals, tapes, dust everywhere, the envelope, the mobile phone...“ Sherlock hesitated.
“That's right Sherlock, you're missing something, remember, or shall John end up like redbeard did?“ Mycroft confirmed his doubts gleefully.
Sherlock went deeper into his mind palace, inspected the rooms once again, until he realised: the last clue was not inside the flat, but in the hallway.
“John's jacket! He left his jacket.“ Mycroft nodded.
“John planned his suicide for today.“ To say it outloud let the game become an urgent reality, settling smotheringly on his chest.
“And where?“ His brother asked condecendingly, as if the answer was obvious.
Sherlock pondered about it,- It can't be the flat, John would have already heard him, if he were in a room Sherlock didn't already sift through. But where? Where could you use a gun undisturbed? Where would John Watson want to die? Why would he want to die?!-
“Think Sherlock! Are you stupid? You have always been a disappointment, what should mummy just think about it?“ mocked Mycroft.
With that he left his mind palace. If he didn't know where John could be, then he needed to ask someone who'd been in contact with him for the past two years. While Sherlock fished for his mobile phone in his pocket he was already bolting out the door again, unsure where to go first, he rushed down Bakerstreet, while dialling Lestrade's number.
“Who's there? Where did you get this phone?“ Lestrade's voice greeted irritated.
“Lestrade, I need your help!“ Sherlock explained instead of answering.
“For the last time, this is not funny, who are you?“ the detective inspector remained stubborn
“Who should there be? Here's Sherlock. Where's John?!“ He was panicking again and could barely tolerate Lestrade's evasive replies.
“What?! No, you can't. Impossible. Sherlock passed away, believe me, I carried the coffin.“ He stammered incredulously.
“Obviously I didn't, Lestrade get yourself together, where is John?“ Sherlock was inches away from screaming at the man.
“That's a joke, isn't it? For the last time, Sherlock Holmes is dead, he killed himself and you won't be able to change it either, now stop it, before I get you arrested.“
Frustrated Sherlock ended the call, the detective was absolutely refusing to believe him, meaning he had no other choice than prove to him that he was in fact as neat as ninepence. Sherlock hurried determined to the next cab and drove straight to Scotland-Yard. His time was running out.
Ignoring all other officials he was running directly to Lestrade's office. The only thing keeping him upright while doing so, was his anger towards Lestrade's incompetence and the despair over not reaching John in time. When Sherlock bolted through the door so violently that it hit the wall, Lestrade stared at him like he had seen a ghost, but Sherlock kept ignoring the unspoken questions that were written all over his face and grabbed him by the collar, repeating his burning question with urgency:“Where. Is. John?!“
This pulled Lestrade from his paralysis and he held up his hands placatingly:“We have been out of touch since months, I don't know what he's doing.“
Sherlock slumped down discouraged and was now rather clinging to Lestrade's jacket than dragging him around at it. Lestrade on the other hand clutched him decisively by the shoulders and raised him up again.
“Sherlock, what happened?“ Lestrade raised his eyebrows questioningly and looked him in the eyes.
“He took his gun with him and I can't find him.“ Sherlock now sounded completely pathetic, like a child whining to it's mother. But when even Lestrade had no clue to John's whereabouts, then it's just as possible that he's long dead.
“But if John's neither at work, nor at the grocery store, then isn't it obvious where he is?“
Sherlock stared his eyes wide and glistening, Lestrade's face all the while looking perplexed.- obvious?- then again his motor skills were back and he began running, Lestrade's wrist in his solid grasp, who incessantly was trying to bring him back to his senses, which he ignored consequently.
“We have to get there, as fast as possible, if necessary turn on the sirens.“ Sherlock ordered- they had meanwhile reached the patrol cars- he left no room for discussion and Lestrade obeyed.
Only when Sherlock couldn't do anymore than waiting for them to arrive he decided to speak again:“John left his mobile phone at the flat, if you want to know.“
He kept quiet until he could be sure his voice would not quaver:“Where are we heading?“
“To the cemetery.“ Lestrade retorted dryly.
Sherlock struggled to process this new information. After all his deductions, he had never expected this. John had been unstable, before they met, but how could he have guessed that he would relapse? Ultimately they had admittedly been flatmates, colleagues and maybe even friends, but Sherlock couldn't believe anyone was capable of truly missing him. Him, a self-righteous, narcissistic Freak.
The car suddenly came to a halt and tore him from his thoughts, Lestrade and he jumped simultaneously out of the car and were running blind. The last time Sherlock had been here, was at his funeral. Many didn't attend it, on the one hand because they knew he had faked his suicide and on the other because he hadn't really known many people who favoured him.- It's not like he could blame them, Sherlock did not take pride in his charm.- Back then he had thought seeing Mrs. Hudson grief, would be the worst impression he had to witness that day, but Sherlock will never forget what John said there at his grave and he realised that it had beared way more meaning than he had first assumed, something he should have taken to heart earlier. Because now it could already be too late and John cannot come back from the dead. There was too much left unsaid, things he could not postpone any longer. What would happen if he were not able to save John Watson, Sherlock didn't want to imagine, presumably he wouldn't leave the cemetery this time too.
Sherlock and Lestrade turned around the next corner and Sherlock found that London's graveyards were certainly too big and that next time he wouldn't make it that easy for John. Next time he would have to drive far off to the countryside, to the smallest graveyard Sherlock would be able to find. Ideally he would prevent John from even thinking about something like that ever again. His chest began burning and his breath rattled after the sprint over the cemetery grounds, nervertheless they finally arrived. Expecting the worst, he fixed his view on the position where is black tombstone stood and was met with the figure of John right in front of him, motionless and silent. The weapon firmly in his right hand and resolutely pushed against his jaw. Sherlock's ears were filled with static that drowned out anything else. He tried to form a sentence, opened his mouth to speak without having decided on what to say yet, just to hear a loud bang with wich the noises descended upon him again, only then did he realise that the sound which had broken the deafening silence was his own voice.
As John noticed Sherlock's voice, he turned around not believing his own ears and lowered the gun of which it's barrel had been pressed against his chin only moments ago. He wasn't even able to grasp what he thought to see at first.- This couldn't be true, he must be imagining.- John was paralysed. He was overwhelmed by the whole situation and his emotions were drowning him. He should be relieved, but everything he felt was anger and bitter, pure desperation- what should he do with himself? The ground was ripped from under his feet again, just now, when he decided to bring an end to it all, Sherlock really must be the most cruel human-being, John knew. How was he supposed to learn how to live again, when all he had done for two years was to convince himself to die?- With every second that passed and he remained standing there, unmoving, he was awaiting the inevitable downfall, that everything would collapse above his head, every moment was streched into days and above it all was John swaying on the slim line between life and death. He was completely empty, like the coast before a tsunami. Like an abandoned city before a horrible catastrophe. But he just stood there and watched himself drowning.
Lestrade reached John first and disarmed him immediately. Sherlock for his part pressed John's narrow form against him like a lifeline. Sherlock was feasting at the sudden contact, like he was dying from thirst and had just found water. With every sensation, he embraced the most intimate emotions that shot through him. A wistful happiness, that tried to show relieve and utmost worry at the same time. But John's breathing was the only sound Sherlock could make out and his heartbeat reverberated in his bones, engraved it's traces deeply in everything Sherlock could ever hope to be and let him know that he was save, that he was not too late. John was alive and Sherlock was alive and everything from here on could only lead them upwards. A weak whimper cut through Sherlock's thoughts and he held John tighter, while the both of them sank onto the damp ground. Tears were quietly running down his cheeks, Sherlock's face buried in the greying hair of his beloved friend. The aftershave's smell was now lucid and prehensible and all-encompassing. John had clutched his fingers into Sherlock's coat with an iron-grip, his body petrified with fear, as if Sherlock could disintegrate at any given moment, before a shattered sob broke down all the walls that had remained between them, and John was struck with the wave that broke right above him, the saltwater poured out of him at once, but his voice was through it all just a quiet whisper, filled with questions, accusations and simple pain. Sherlock responded with a careful susurrus, a timid stream of apologies, promises and everything else that came to his brilliant mind to hold John above the water.
Only a few feet away stood Gred Lestrade, weapon safekept and phone in hand:“Please send an ambulance.“