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Fade To Black

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John can't exactly remember when it all began. It's difficult sometimes, trying to recall his memories. Painful flashes of colour and grey, of light and dark.

Part of his difficulty stems from it being that not all of his memories are his own. Disconcerting black spots, they litter his existence and leave him wondering. Like a target littered with bullet holes, they bleed into his mind and paint over events in time. He cannot remember a time any longer when those dark spots didn't exist, because they started when he was very young. They followed him from childhood, when his family when taken from him in a horrific car crash that is blotted out by the black and inky darkness and he was left an orphan.

 

They all told him it was a terrible accident, caused by rain and heavy traffic. John recalls nothing. Not a single breath of a honking horn, and not the screech of the brakes as his Father slammed down on them, sending the car into a skid and then a flip. He doesn't know if he cried or not then, but by the time he does remember waking up in the hospital, he no longer had any tears to shed. It felt like he had sobbed for an eternity, and yet he cannot recall a single drop hitting his cheek.

His chance to be hysterical was stolen from him, leaving only a numb and aching grief.

 

Then the nightmares came for him.

 

Clawing their way into his head and poisoning his dreams. Leaving him screaming and thrashing in the dark as nurses tried to hold his tiny shuddering body still. John remembers that, the feeling of waking up and not knowing where he was or who he was, of looking blankly at the hospital ceiling and wondering why on earth he was screaming.

Then he would remember, and the screeches would become louder still.

 

At first they disregarded it as PTSD.

Reasonable.

Sane.

His nightmares were the only proof to John besides the cuts and bruises littering his skin that he was in the accident at all. They plagued him, vague images that made no sense. A screaming face, wide blue eyes as everything was tilted sideways. The vaguest of dreams.

The dark stalked him when he joined the army.The black spots earned him a title, “Three continents Watson” when he couldn't recall the faces of his apparently numerous lovers.

Worse they erased what exactly happened so that he cannot recall how he wound up in a hospital bed, layers of bandages wrapped about his shoulder and bearing a psychosomatic limp that would bring his military service to a harsh end.

 

When he was younger, he called them 'Sleep Moments', as if his childlike mind thought he just needed a good nap to recharge.

Now he knew them for what they really were, as the orphanage that raised him brought him to a therapist after he apparently called himself by another name and had no recollection of how he came to their care.

Dissociative identity disorder.

The shadowy monster of his nightmares now had a name.

Something to grasp onto. He was not just John. He was many others. And he spent many a long night staring into the mirror of his little room unblinkingly, trying to see a trace of someone else in the depths of his deep blue irises and ash-blonde hair. Wondering what the other versions of him were like.

Questioning if they missed their big sister Harry as much as he did, or if they were even aware of what they had lost.

Maybe it was this curiosity that got him into medicine.

He began to study hard and late into the night, trying to find an answer for as much his own problems as the problems of others. He poured over books and heavy medical documents, putting his mind to better use than just sitting and wondering. Waiting for things was useless after all. As he got older, he wondered if all of the other versions were complete personalities, or if they had separate functions. Base duties. His therapist Sarah told him that often the other personalities would have been created under extreme levels of stress. She also told him that despite her attempts at hypnosis to try and bring some of the other personalities out, he had 'trust issues' and couldn't fully relax under her control.

It was to be expected though, because John didn't even really trust himself. Or at least, he did not trust the other versions of himself. It was especially disconcerting as he got older.

He would wake up in someone else's bed having no recollection of ever talking to the woman (and sometimes on rare occasions, man) that lay next to him, yet it would be obvious what had gone on the night before. And though he had lied his way into the army and managed to convince them that he was stable, he still woke up with half of his shoulder torn apart and no recollection of the bullet that had entered him. That had been the first time he had ever been truly frightened of a black spot, because there had been the shrieking sound of sirens, and then only inky darkness.

For just a moment, John's mind had blanked and his last thought in that dusty, hot desert before he thought he died was

Please God, let me live.

Even though John wasn't really religious. Even though he didn't feel like he had the right to beg to God for anything. For the first time, he considers taking the Browning that had served him so well over the years and turning it against himself, pressing it to his forehead in the dingy place he's rented and his fingers closing about the trigger.

Safety off.

Just like it was with so many of the people he had shot. The blood sometimes comes to him in his dreams, spattered illusions in which he is himself and yet not. Haunting him because he can't properly feel sadness over them, because he's not the one who killed them. Yet he is. That's what brings him to tears in the darkness, not the guilt. Not the sadness. The fact that he's still responsible, and he can't let go of that responsibility because it's still his hand that closed about the trigger.

He tries.

Tries so hard to blow his brains out that the muzzle of his gun trembles cold against his temple and he's left gasping and sobbing quietly into his free hand. And in the end the darkness comes and when he wakes up again all the bullets have disappeared from their cartridge. Vanished as if they never existed in the first place. Apparently, his Others' just thought it was the wrong day to die.

 

 

*****

 

“Afghanistan or Iraq?”

John blinks, blue eyes widening then narrowing as his grip adjusts on his cane. For a moment his thoughts turn, wondering if maybe he's met this strange man with dark curls and snow-white skin before. It's happened once or twice, when someone recognized him from a place he can't recall ever visiting.

Called out a name he didn't associate with himself.

Mike Stamford mistook the look on his face for confusion, smirking just a little as his beady eyes glinted with mirth.

John notes the way the man before him is seated, hoping to glean some kind of information as to where he might have seen him before. What he sees is an odd countenance. The man doesn't look like a soldier, but then again he doesn't really look like a scientist either, despite the fact that he's bent over a microscope. John's medical degree puts him around his thirties, the younger end of it. That makes it unlikely that he knew him in military service. Not to mention the paper-white pallor. Almost translucent under the sick medical lights. High and hollow-looking cheekbones held pale eyes of ever-shifting colour, unblinking in nature as they glanced over at him.

The barest of glimpses, but it gives a good view of his obviously attractive features.

His coat is of deepest black and mysterious, the kind you might see in a bad detective film. It trails to his ankles, sweeping outwards in cape-like fashion.

Dark.

Dangerous.

Shit.

He really hoped he hasn't slept with this man.

He also really wished he hadn't offered him his phone.

The souring ripple of emotions leaves a metallic taste of panic on his lips, and he croaks out a distressed

“I'm sorry.....H-How did you-”

The man snorts as if the question is horribly dull in nature, cutting him off as deft fingers twirling the modules of the microscope even as his dark baritone rumbles.

“Ah, Molly. Coffee, thank you.”

John twists about and sees a rather high-strung looking girl smiling nervously at the doorway, her hair tied away from her face in a severe-looking ponytail. What the soldier didn't notice is in that instant Sherlock risked a peek up at the new man standing before him, eyes narrowing in silent calculation.

…..Odd.

 

He bites the inside of his cheek in thought.

 

In truth John doesn't really know why he's here. When Mike Stamford had called out to him on the street, he had cursed his limp because it meant he couldn't even outrun the man's chubby legs and make it to a cab. He had been forced to smile in a strained way as he was accosted into having a cup of coffee on a bench, his fingers curling and uncurling his hands against his knee as he his old army buddy chatted at him rather than with him. Since his discharge from battle John didn't really talk much. It felt strange now when he opened his lips and murmured sarcastically

“Who would want me for a flatmate?”

Somehow, he had ended up here.

Conversing with someone he wasn't sure if he actually knew, and beginning to sweat because he had no idea what the relationship might be between them if he did know him.

He watches closely as the man before him seems to thoughtlessly insult the woman before him without even hesitating, taking a sip of the coffee and lips turning downwards at it's taste. He notes how the man seems to be rude if not downright arrogant, how those bow lips heartlessly pierce the people around him with callous observations and comments.

Cold would be a proper word.

Possibly harsh.

When he looks at you, he gave the impression that he knew everything about you, and yet nothing at all. Like he could see facts but not the person, see the life but not necessarily the experience. John found himself wondering when those eyes landed on him just what Sherlock saw.

If he saw John Watson, or someone else.

If he was really the true personality, or if he was just another shade.

An illusion. Would he shatter and turn to dust one day?

Would someone else take over his body, become John Watson?

He could never be sure, and he could trust no one with these private fears. Yet he feels like in that moment, that if anyone could tell him, it would be this man. It's what causes him to listen. To pay attention for a change to what is being said to him. To realize that Sherlock is perhaps brilliant, if not mad. He learns that even though he doesn't know Sherlock, he might as well be his closest friend.

Because the man can look at a person and see their deepest secrets, their desires and their wants.

Their habits.

It's frightening, but it's at the same time fascinating.

Because despite the odds, John soon also recognizes that Sherlock doesn't know.

John is enough his own person that the Detective doesn't even suggest he might not be real. Does not look at him and see a freak, like his therapist did. Like people looked at him when they found out.

John feels....

John feels normal.

Painfully ordinary next to Sherlock Holmes.

It's blissfully relieving.

 

 

 

Which is why he doesn't tell Sherlock his secret, even when the man asks if he wants to share a flat with him.

Or rather, demands.

He is mute to his private struggles, because in the end he found himself liking the strange and arrogant man who flipped his dark coat collar up against the wind and clicked his tongue in greeting.

He could almost trust him, if John ever trusted anyone.

And he privately feels that soon, soon will come the time that he will fade. He is searching for a final resting place, not a permanent residence. A gravestone, not a gift.

What better place to disappear than under the wing of someone who would recognize when he no longer was himself?

What better way to spend his last days than to partake in something uncertain, something exciting and laced with danger and adventure?

Yes.

He would tell Sherlock, but not now.

He barely knows him.....

Not now......

 

After all, John is a soldier. He knows how to keep himself solid, strong.

There is that at least.

He hopes that if he ever becomes swallowed by the Others, that trait at least will remain.

His jaw tightens, and Sherlock has left him even after telling him the address of the flat he wants to check out.

If nothing else, let his strength remain.