This circus is falling down on it's knees
The big top is crumbling down
It's raining in Baltimore fifty miles east
Where you should be, no one's around
I need a phone call
I need a raincoat
I need a big love
I need a phone call
Even Sherlock was surprised that Moriarty’s crime ring led to the United States. Even more surprising that the entire operation seemed to centered around the innocuous sounding town of Waldorf fifty mile outside of Baltimore, Maryland. There was nothing remarkable about Maryland, Baltimore, or Waldorf, except that Moriarty’s devious nature had chosen it as his center of operations. Sherlock couldn’t help but compare the entire operation to some sort of evil circus, with Moriarty acting as the deranged ringleader, orchestrating all the sordid deeds carried out by his associates for various clients. He knew it was something that carried over from reading and rereading John’s blog and his painfully obvious metaphors, but once he had made the connection he couldn’t help but apply it to all parts of his quest. Sherlock had tracked their various traveling acts across the globe and taken out each performer one by one. As he shadowed them and plotted their demises, he gave them the monikers he knew John would assign them. First there had been the Lion Tamer, a small Russian woman who excelled at seducing and dominating powerful oil tycoons. She had been apprehended in Abu Dhabi, but not before she tried to seduce Sherlock, who was less than impressed by her attempts. It seemed that after The Woman, he was even more impervious to lesser examples of the fairer sex then before.
In Warsaw, he took out the Tightrope Walkers, who turned out to be more Chinese gymnasts. It was disgustingly simple to identify how the supposedly impenetrable government building had been entered when he saw the broken transformers and abandoned repair truck beside the power lines that extended over the walls of the building.
Indeed, rounding up Moriarty’s minions after his death was almost boring. It seemed that without the consulting criminal to organize their efforts, these criminals were tragically mundane. True, there had been a close call with the Clowns, but he had recognized the poisonous gas being emitted by the gentleman’s carnation boutonniere just in time. For the most part, the tedium of his mission left Sherlock with too much time to draw parallels with old cases and to imagine what John’s reactions would be to each new incident. When he found himself indulging in sentiment, he would take on a new identity and throw himself into creating a new back-story or investigating new leads.
Finally, he gleaned enough information from the low level performers he had captured and interrogated to discover the whereabouts and identity of Moriarty’s second in command. The whereabouts were, strangely, Waldorf, Maryland and the man was one Sebastian Moran, a decorated American soldier and sniper, the newest ringleader of Moriarty’s circus of crime. Sherlock had come to think of him as the Knife-thrower for his deadly accuracy with just about any weapon. But Sherlock had plans in motion to take Moran and the rest of the network down for good. All he had to do now was wait. In the rain.
He would swear that it rained more in the Baltimore area then it did in London. However, he suspected that could be because he lacked the overcoat he favored. He couldn’t very well wear something so trademark Sherlock Holmes while he was undercover and no other raincoat seemed to keep the damp away as well. Some part of him, one he was loathe to examine closely, also suspected that his necessarily self imposed isolation- once so much a part of his life- also contributed to his gloomy outlook on the weather. The space beside him, which usually held a short army doctor grumbling about the wet and smelling of clean, damp wool, now held no one. And Sherlock was beginning to feel that emptiness keenly. He glanced at the screen of his mobile, half hoping for a text (he still hated phone calls) from Mycroft about his latest leads in the case, or perhaps an update on John. Nothing.
He turned up the inadequate collar on the canvas camouflaged jacket he had taken to wearing. While it suited his current guise as a homeless man, he needed a better raincoat and wished this one didn’t remind him so much of his flatmate and partner. He settled into the alley to wait.
These train conversations are passing me by
And I don't have nothing to say
You get what you pay for
But I just had no intention of living this way
I need a phone call
I need a plane ride
I need a sunburn
I need a raincoat
And I get no answers
And I don't get no change
It's raining in Baltimore, baby
But everything else is the same.
Everyone said John should talk about it. And he had. There had been that one painful session with his therapist Ella, where he had put into words everything that had happened and all of his feelings about it. He had talked to Sherlock’s tombstone too, which had been both less and more helpful. He had spoken to Sherlock, said things that he knew would have made him scoff and roll his eyes before giving John a piece of his mind, but he received no reply. Yet he had felt Sherlock’s presence there. That somehow made it worse.
Since that day in the cemetery, it had been hard to interact with other people. Conversations would start out stilted before picking up steam and soon he would find that the other person had been talking for several minutes and the entire conversation had passed him by while he tried unsuccessfully to come up with something to say. In truth, he had nothing to share. Nothing happened to him. Not anymore.
If he was honest with himself, Sherlock’s death hadn’t really come a surprise. That he had died had, of course, but not the way in which in happened. The very night they became flatmates hadn’t Sherlock almost killed himself? His very near suicide had been foiled by John’s own hand aiming a gun through two windows and an alley in between. That night, their very first night together- well not together- John had seen just what kinds of lengths Sherlock would go to to prove a point or to escape boredom. And yet he had signed on for all of it. Despite the practical part of him that argued that the dangers Sherlock Holmes presented went further than the physical; the adventurous part of him that he’d felt sure was still lying in the dust in Afghanistan refused to let him go. So he supposed he was getting what he paid for. But he must not have thought it through completely because he hadn’t counted on living the way he was now. If you could really call it living.
He still felt the phantom vibrations that signaled a text from Sherlock, even when his phone was on the other side of the room and he incessantly checked his screen though he knew any messages found there would mostly likely be from Mike or Lestrade, sometimes Molly and even Harry but never from the one person he really wanted a message from.
During their last conversation, Harry had told him he needed to get out of the city.
“Just the thing you need! Jump on a plane and go to some remote island where you don’t know a soul and no one knows you or-Sh-” here she faltered before recovering with a cough “sorry. What was I saying? Just get out there on the beach and meet some ladies, relax, have some drinks with those little umbrellas in them, get a sunburn!”
He told her he would think of it, but he knew he wouldn’t. It didn’t matter where he went, he would forever be seeing that flapping coat out of the corner of his eye. The coat that had been delivered by Anthea the day after Sherlock’s funeral, freshly laundered and free of blood. It now hung on a coat rack in 221B, a reminder of what used to be. As if he needed reminding of how much he needed the man who had once worn that raincoat. Needed him to make life interesting again, needed him to clutter up the kitchen with experiments and the vegetable crisper with body parts, needed him to answer all of his questions. Most of all he needed him to not be dead.
He still pressed Mycroft for reasons whenever he saw him, which was surprisingly often considering they had no reason to be in contact now that spying on Sherlock was no longer an option, but Mycroft was as inscrutable as ever whether it was residual guilt at revealing so much information about his brother to a criminal mastermind or something else. Whatever it was, he never had answers that satisfied John. And until he had those answers he knew nothing was going to change for him. And now it was raining again and everyday just seemed to be the same as the one before it.
There's things I remember and things I forget
I miss you I guess that I should
Three thousand five hundred miles away
But what would you change if you could?
I need a phone call Maybe I should buy a new car
I can always hear a freight train Baby, if I listen real hard
And I wish, I wish it was a small world
Because I'm lonely for the big towns
I'd like to hear a little guitar
I guess it's time to put the top down
I need a phone call
I need a raincoat
I really need a raincoat
I really really need a rain coat
I really really really need a rain coat
I really need a raincoat
Sherlock had long ago perfected the art of retaining helpful information and purging unimportant information that would clutter up his mind palace; but he had been unwilling to delete any information about one John Hamish Watson in the three long years since he had seen him. Every piece of data still seemed relevant, despite their tendency to overshadow his concentration when studying clues and evidence. Sherlock would wander from room to room in his mind palace, reveling in memories of John making tea or the sound of John’s breath as he picked up his pace when running alongside Sherlock’s own loping gait, John’s expression when amazed by one of Sherlock’s deductions. He found that he still missed John, something he had never experienced before their chance meeting at St. Bart’s, but it made sense that he should. John was not the first person to be blown away by Sherlock’s brilliance, but he was the first who refused to be pushed away by his coldness; the first to insist that Sherlock own up to his heretofore absent conscience. To the very end, John had believed in Sherlock, despite all evidence to the contrary. The distance Sherlock had to keep between them was not merely for his mission to track down all of Moriarty’s associates, it also served as a buffer. If Sherlock were to see John in person again before he was finished, he doubted he could stop himself from trying to change their circumstances. For now he could change nothing between them, just hope that one day John could forgive him.
In the meantime, he waited for a phone call from an informant and pondered ditching his current car in favor of something new, to avoid recognition. He cocked his head to the side as he heard the whistle and low roar of a freight train approaching. Just like circuses of old, Moran’s operation moved along rail lines, making it remarkably easy to anticipate where they would move next. They were moving from small town to small town, and Sherlock wished the world were not quite so wide. He missed the stimulation of a big city. There were very few people to observe in these towns and they all seemed similar after a while. It was positively stagnating. In the absence of his violin, he had taken up the guitar, a much less conspicuous instrument for a hobo, and he was able to supplement his vagrant lifestyle by panhandling. Some days he played so much that he heard the twang of the guitar strings in his sleep. It was turning cold and rainy again. He really needed his raincoat. It wouldn't be long now. The noose he had crafted was slowly, but surely, tightening around Moran’s neck. Then he would be able to safely return to London and recover his raincoat and the life it reminded him of. He really, really needed a raincoat.