There's a radiant darkness upon us
But I don't want you to worry
- The National
John's fingers have gone tingly from the freezing wind. He sticks his hands into the pockets of his parka, and turns his head to gaze across The Thames.
They're in Hammersmith, where a homeless man has been found dead under a bridge suspension tower. John certainly cares about the homeless, especially if they become murder victims. John just doesn't get why Lestrade has decided that Sherlock should be interested in the plight of this particular one.
John has already told all the medical details he had been able to derive to Sherlock, who is still frantically poking around the corpse and their surroundings on the Hammersmith Bridge. Sherlock doesn't seem to the slightest bit put off by the icy sleet that's pelting down on them. Most officers on the scene have already retreated into their patrol cars. There's just Lestrade and John seeking shelter in a bus stop, watching Sherlock dart about the place.
Sherlock's movements are slightly uncoordinated, and he doesn't go through the scene as methodically as he usually would. He appears almost absent-minded, making monosyllabic exclamations over even stranger things that usual and every once in awhile he seems to begin animatedly arguing with himself. He seems completely oblivious to the presence of others, which isn't unusual in itself, but lately he's begun completely ignoring John as well. John has always been the exception.
Lestrade nudges John with his elbow, hands wedged into his coat pockets as well. "Look at him," he tells John, "He's been like that for weeks now. I've been meaning to ask if--- If---" he pauses, purses his lips as though having second thoughts about approaching the subject. Lestrade has known Sherlock longer than John, and has likely seen all this before.
John draws in a breath, eyes downcast. "Yeah, he's using again."
"We'll be fine," Mary had assured John when he had been preparing to leave their apartment that morning. She had run a gentle hand across her expansive belly. "Go play with Sherlock," she had urged in a light tone.
John had flashed a smile that hadn't quite reached his eyes. What Mary had said was likely just a well-meaning joke, but it had felt belittling. It had felt as though Sherlock was merely someone John met up with once a week for a game of squash and a pint out of some nostalgic obligation.
How does one go about telling the missus that every moment spent away from your best friend is fraught with a pressing sort of guilt, a crippling worry and something else, something.... selfish? A selfish desire to be somewhere else than in your comfortable home with your pregnant wife.
It was clear that Sherlock was using again. After they had taken Sherlock back to Baker Street from his short-lived flight to exile, and he'd fallen asleep in one of the dining room chairs when the cocaine high had finally evaporated, John had been sat down for what was essentially an interrogation by Mycroft. The subject line: trying to gauge when this relapse had begun. Keeping in line with the ongoing theme of interacting with the Holmes brothers, the discussion had made John feel like the greatest of idiots. An idiot who had failed to spot signs which in hindsight weren't all that subtle.
It had started on the wedding night.
Sherlock had lied to Mycroft about when he'd actually left the party - 'I stayed until the end and made sure no one nicked the wedding presents, bestman's duties'.
It only took one phone order from Mycroft to survey CCTV footage from that evening and they had their answer as to the exact moment that Sherlock turned back to old habits.
While John had been carrying his beaming bride over the threshold to the bridal suite, Sherlock had tied a tourniquet around his arm and began a slow spiral into self-desctruction.
Whenever John thought of this, a stab of guilt twisted his insides.
It wasn't his responsibility. It shouldn't be.
What could he have possibly done to prevent it? Not get married? What did his marriage even have to do with anything?
Likely just a sad coincidence.
John couldn't for the life of him understand why this was happening now. Sherlock had returned from his desperate mission in one piece and gotten his life back. They were no longer flatmates, but they still spent a considerable amount of time together. Soon there would be another Watson for Sherlock to play with and get to know. He had even seemed to bury the hatchet with Mary - surprisingly enough this feat had proven more difficult for John than for the man Mary had almost murdered. There were cases again, and the promise of a grand puzzle from Moriarty loomed in the distance. All in all, from John's perspective there was no plausible reason for him to fall back into this now.
Why now, after staying clean during times that had seemed much more trying?
John could have sympathized with Sherlock dosing himself up for just the flight - it was, after all, practically a suicide mission he was embarking on. Any sane man would have weighed the options - get killed and possibly tortured in the hands of terrorists, or make a more pleasant departure from this Earth.
Because that's what it had been, hadn't it?
This was the worst part, the part that woke John up at night in cold sweat, tormented by the sudden impulse to grab his coat and go to Sherlock.
Sherlock Holmes doesn't give up. He doesn't try to kill himself out of fear and resignation. It doesn't happen. It can't happen.
John hasn't broached this subject with Sherlock and he doubts that he ever will. He probably should, but broaching emotional subjects with Sherlock always seemed like a fool's errand. Such efforts were usually met with angry, mute refusal.
Despite the cocaine and the heroin and god only knew what else, Sherlock had seemed.... borderline alright lately. Giddy. Excited about cases. Excited about seeing John. Excited about the baby, even? The more John tries to parse the walking contradiction that Sherlock has been lately, the more confused he gets.
John is shaken out of his reverie when Sherlock walks up to them, stops in front of John and clasps his hands behind him back, practically bursting with anticipation of getting to spout out his theory.
"What have we got, then?" Lestrade asks and gets ignored, because lately this part of the show has been only for John. What used to be Sherlock's moment of victory has become a strange dance for John's attention, tinged with desperation, 'look at me, I'm here'. It tugs at John's heartstrings.
Sherlock flashes a grin that's supposed to be triumphant, but the way he's fingering the edge of his coat sleeve dilutes the effect. Sherlock has been doing that a lot lately, making John wonder if it's a nervous tick caused by the cocaine high.
'Just look at him and stop fooling yourself', the disappointment-dripping voice of Mycroft Holmes tells John in his head, 'It's a front and something is very, very wrong. '
John always worries about Sherlock when they're out on cases. The man has the self-preservation sense of an armless shark wrestler ('Who the hell would ever wrestle sharks, John? Preposterous!'). The problem isn't his tendency to hatch elaborate, reckless plans to catch the murderer of the day, but the mishaps that take place when he doesn’t stop to think at all. A good example is his habit of taking off after armed suspects like a whippet chasing a rabbit.
When something only moderately bad happens to Sherlock as a result of his recklessness, John hates how he instantly remembers so many of his prophetic speeches about being careful and leaving the pursuing and arresting to the actual police. He hates the part when he vocalizes these, and Sherlock dismisses his concerns off-hand - 'This is what we do, John, you and me! Would you rather we ran a bloody bridge club or took up golfing?'.
After Sherlock announces that there is only one plausible suspect and only one likely murder weapon, a search is conducted in the bridge suspension towers.
Sherlock turns out to be right - 'I'm always right, John, what do you take me for' - the culprit had, indeed, hidden in the observation area of the tower, posing as a tourist in order to watch the police sweep the scene.
Before John gets a chance to protest, Sherlock is running down the stairs in pursuit. He's faster than any of the NSY officers and soon gets out John's yelling range.
John curses colourfully and hurries down the stairs.
When he gets back down onto the pedestrian lane of the bridge, it takes awhile for him to spot Sherlock and the suspect. They're headed towards the end of the bridge on the Hammersmith side.
John springs back into a run. The foot traffic isn't very heavy since it's late Saturday afternoon, and Sherlock's tall figure is easy enough to keep an eye on.
After recovering from his gunshot wound and its complications, Sherlock is now as fast as he used to. John knows he can't possibly keep up, but he jogs after Sherlock anyway to keep on eye on what's happening. Behind him he can hear Lestrade barking orders to his subordinate officers.
Sherlock is gaining on the subject and is nearly within grabbing range. Suddenly there's some sort of a scuffle and John can only make out a flurry of inky blue coat.
The scene is then hidden from John's view by a gaggle of teenagers walking past. John's steps hasten as he pushes past the group.
When he gets to the spot where he last saw Sherlock, there's nobody there.
John quickly swivels his head towards where Rutland Grove meets Hammersmith Road, and he can make out the suspect running across the zebra crossing.
John turns back towards the bridge, chest heaving from the jog. He can see a couple of officers hurrying towards him. He raises his arm to point towards where he'd last seen the suspect and the officers veer off from the bridge, heading across the road.
Sherlock would probably insist John continue pursuit, but right now John has a much more pressing matter at hand.
"Sherlock!" he yells, so loud his voice breaks a bit. He gets no answer.
The railing on the part of the bridge where it connects with the Thames shore is missing a section next to where John is standing. The small parallel road next to the bridge lies about three metres below.
John stares at the missing railing, breath hitching in his throat. He steps closer and peers over the edge of the bridge.
There's a pub located right by in an old Victorian building, its parking lot at the end of the parallel road, right beneath the bridge. When John looks directly down he can see a row of bicycles parked at the edge of it at the edge of some thick bushes.
And right there, where the grass begins and three bicycles have been knocked over, lies an unmoving heap of blue coat and dark hair.