You can only complain so many times, John thinks as he pushes open the fire door and walks out onto the roof of Bart’s. Only so many times rail at the universe: Why did you take him? Only so many times plead with Sherlock: Please don’t be dead.
When you are broken, sympathy crowds around for a week, for a month, for three months if you’re lucky. John has been, and he appreciates his friends. But two years on, the care and the vigilance have slackened. The ashen pressure in his head has not.
The thought of his body smashed and ruptured is the only thing that still makes sense. He is that way already, inside. Most of him went with Sherlock, and he does not trust the part that is left.
His friends trust it. When he tells them he’s better, they smile, look pleased, and accept. They will hate him for his suicide. He should endure. But if John’s pleading could not save Sherlock – which has never made sense, but after two years of wondering there is no answer – how can John survive on silence?
He is walking across the concrete roof. It’s breezy and cool, and all around are the landmarks of London. Perhaps that comforted Sherlock. John has always looked for comfort more in human faces. But none of the faces are his any more.
So soon he’s at the edge. Heights have always made him dizzy, and he sways back – he cannot do this, it’s so far from the adrenaline rush of combat. He’s sick with fear, with fear of death so strong he could vomit. He wants to plead again, for his own life this time, to barter with the pain, because hasn’t he been a good man, in his way, doctor and soldier? What he wants is not death, god no, it’s Sherlock. Laughter, redemption and broken rules.
What he’s doing is wrong. Others will grieve. He hesitates. Prays, last-ditch, to empty names in which he does not believe.
Sherlock’s absence draws in like a noose, blankets him like napalm. He walks forwards, away from the pain.
Bart’s is not a particularly tall building. John dies in agony six hours later.
It is the date of Sherlock’s monthly rendezvous with the anonymous go-between, this time in a dismal hotel at a regional airport. He has been watching for two days at the terminal, waiting for a particular individual whose time is up.
‘I’ve come in person,’ says Mycroft, stepping through the door.
To see him, in this place, is to know everything. What he means is, John is dead.
‘That is a statement of the obvious,’ replies Sherlock, rising from the chair at the desk.
And what he means too is, John is dead. The knowledge enters his body at the same time as it does his brain. It binds to his red blood cells in place of oxygen. And yet he is alive.
‘How?’ Sherlock asks.
‘From the roof of Bart’s.’
Sherlock’s world splits curiously. Like an oak struck by lightning it falls in ruin, and yet in absolute silence.
Sherlock has been living in the aftermath for an hour and thirty-seven minutes. The very air is different now. Light itself is new and gelid.
He has not shot himself full of cocaine, or destroyed the room. He is hunched over, in the plastic chair, and his hands laid out on the scratched desk contort, as if they would express the thing that possesses him. In every vein, in every corridor of his mind: John is dead.
It is Sherlock’s doing. He could have found a way to send a message, and trusted John to be discreet. Worked quicker and harder to hunt down the remainder of Moriarty’s network. Simply returned to John and died with him. Anything, anything, any thing.
Asinine fantasies of homecoming skip through his head. They have kept him alive; now they gouge at his lungs from the inside. Intellect is no match for the hindbrain’s wishes to make it not so, to think it into unbeing. He is as helpless as a half-witted child. And infinitely more culpable.
Mycroft is long gone; banished. John was all, even in absence.
Sherlock does eventually move; he requires the toilet. He could piss where he sits, he’s done that when out of his head on drugs, but John would not like the mess. That thought gets him to the bathroom, and from there to the bed.
For eight hours and eleven minutes Sherlock clutches a pillow. Full-body embrace, the way he never held John.
The morning is coming. He still has a job to finish, for the sake of Mrs Hudson and Lestrade. John would not want them endangered.
Sherlock’s path stretches out in front of him and if there is now nothing at the end of it, still it’s his path. The world is split irretrievably and his mind is in the lost half but his brain is here and in spite of him it runs over his plans for today; the likely trajectory and timetable of his long-time quarry.
John is dead.
Soon Sherlock will pass that favour on to someone else. Or he will stand still, spread his arms wide and let Moriarty’s hireling stab him. He doesn’t yet know which.
Yes he does. John would have him keep fighting.
‘Without you?’ Sherlock pleads, last-ditch, against the sheets.
There is nothing to hear him. John is dead.
Sherlock gets up and walks forwards, into the pain.
My main fic (complete with much happier ending): Points of Light