|If I Die Young
Author: Spirit the Fire Dragon PM
John first thought he was going to die in Afghanistan. After he met Sherlock, on some harebrained case, in a dirty back alley, or at the Pool. But he never imagined he would die like this.Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy/Hurt/Comfort - Sherlock H. & John W. - Words: 4,674 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 41 - Follows: 4 - Published: 06-28-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7127340
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
John really should have seen it coming, in retrospect.
Really, he should have. Him being a doctor and all, he should have known. He should have seen. But he didn't, he had been as thick headed as Sherlock complained he was, and he knew it was his own fault for not seeing it sooner.
It first started with a certain pain in his gait. Sherlock had noticed it as well, a flicker of unease in his eyes one day as John had stumbled and nearly fallen in their flat. He had only just caught himself on the arm of the couch, knees buckling under him and the only reason he had stayed off the ground was from his upper body strength and the death grip on the couch arm.
It should have been nothing. Really, it was only a slight weakness in his psychosomatic leg and he had stepped on it wrong while turning. But it was something, he should have seen it, but stupid John forgot about it by the next day.
The tingling had been alarming. Like his left hand had fallen asleep, and it traveled all the way up to his elbow. His foot was tingling too, on the same side, but John put it off as a vitamin deficiency and started taking supplements.
Sherlock noticed the decrease in hearing before John did. It was more than slight, enough to be distressing, but not enough to get it checked out. After all, many male Watsons had gone deaf in their later years, and John resigned himself to lose his hearing earlier than his father and grandfather.
Headaches came next, along with night sweats more viscous than his disappearing nightmares. But what had really worried him was the change in vision and the memory loss. His vision hadn't decreased, per say, but he couldn't see hues and vibrant colors as well. It was like the world had suddenly dulled to grays, whites, pale colors and blacks. No more blood red, no more cashmere blue.
The memory loss was what really irked him enough to get him to go to a specialist. Well, as much as Sherlock appreciated his medical skills and knowledge, he had all but forced him to a doctor. It was, in truth, Sherlock's fault that he went to the doctor.
He returned home later that evening—too late for a clean slate checkup, enough time for a CT scan and a few blood tests—looking pale and, well, haunted.
Sherlock was off the couch before John could say a word from where he was standing, frozen two steps from the door and in front of him in an instant.
John just looked up at him, blinked, looked down and closed his eyes.
It was all Sherlock needed to know.
John answered without opening his eyes. "Malignant brain tumor. He ran tests. He's unsure if it's cancerous, but I think it is."
A week later, Doctor Jeffrey Laurence called John and gave him the worst kind of news: it was a malignant brain tumor, grade three and very much cancerous.
Sherlock knew right away, because John told him. He knew he would have found out either way—through him or Mycroft or somehow bribing a nurse—but he didn't tell anyone else. Not Mrs. Hudson, or his blessed mother, Lestrade, or God forbid any of the Yard officers.
Mycroft hushed up the news of his surgery and made sure he had the absolute best doctors—that on the account of Sherlock—and then made sure he could recover in a safe, undisclosed location. Moriarty had been quiet for many years now, but that didn't deter Sherlock or Mycroft from being extra careful.
He was given the life expectancy of ten months. Even though the bulk of the tumor had been removed, many tendrils and pieces had been left behind and were stubbornly not shrinking. Though Sherlock was obviously panicking—he had the wild look in his eyes whenever John insisted on doing something he should not be doing!—that didn't stop John from insisting he go on cases with him still.
He wanted to keep his routine the same, like he wasn't dying, he didn't want the Yard to know because then he was to be tiptoed around because he had a brain tumor. He was Freak's John Watson, not Sherlock's John-who-was-dying-of-a-brain-tumor-Watson.
Chemotherapy was working, but not as well as his oncologist had hoped. His hair was already graying at the roots, so before it would fall out he gave the excuse of not wanting to feel too old—like that mattered to him, but the everyone bought it—and shaved his head.
He felt weak and sick, all the time. He was pale almost always, and slept more and more, trying to keep up strength. But the halfway point rolled around—"Five months, Sherlock, and I'm still fine,"—and that was when he finally came to the conclusion he was, in fact, going to die. He came to terms with this very easily, but he knew Sherlock would not. So that was why he drafted his will in relative secrecy.
Everything he owned—except for a few choice items to his mother and a very elderly Mrs. Hudson—went to Sherlock. He had nothing of value to give to Harry, besides a singular picture he had drawn of her and Clara (he had a knack for drawing with ink and drew it on their wedding day) and that went to her. He carefully placed the will and a lengthy letter to Sherlock in his safe at the bottom of his wardrobe.
The next day he quit his job at the surgery, quite suddenly but not so surprising to his boss, Sarah Dimmock. He told none of his coworkers why, or of his brain tumor, and simply never turned up at that clinic again.
Sherlock didn't take as many cases as he used to when he had been younger. Now being forty nine, he lacked the sporadic energy of his youth, and after he had solved many murders and cold cases over the years, he found that they repeated often and only took the devastatingly interesting ones. Since John was not in the best health, he rarely took any kinds of cases anymore. He kept himself amused by small problems that were presented to him by citizens looking for a missing person, thing or animal. They took up no more time than two days, five at max.
He wasn't forced to more than one nicotine patch, less than normal sleeping patterns, and most definitely not as much leg work and running than before. He was satisfied to be able to walk around London, mostly with John on his daily exercise, mulling over the problem and giving the clients a satisfactory answer without having to leave John's side for more than a few hours.
One night after a particularly interesting missing Navy treaty case, John was leaning sleepily on Sherlock, eyes drooping and breathing heavy, when he said, "In August it'll be ten years."
Sherlock blinked. Ten years? How fast they had gone. In truth, Sherlock hadn't expected to live past his mid-thirties. But here he was, going on fifty, with his husband falling asleep on his shoulder and not expected to live to their ten year anniversary.
He leaned his head delicately on his bald head. He never had gotten used to his John bald. "I haven't anything to give you."
John huffed a few laughs and then groaned a bit—laughing made his constant headaches worsen—and said, "I think this year you'll be off the hook."
Sherlock blinked back the stinging tears in his eyes. He would not cry. "No, John."
But John had fallen asleep.
Not a year after John had moved in with Sherlock—oh, so long ago it seemed—they had had a quiet revelation after both John and Sherlock had nearly died once again at Moriarty's hand. Neither of them was willing to leave the other for anyone else, but Sherlock was not interested in sex. That didn't matter, because John didn't care, and not a month later a civil union united them in the eyes of the law.
At first, only Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson knew—they had been the witnesses—but Mycroft sent them a wedding present and Mrs. Cecily 'Mummy' Holmes called to congratulate her son and his husband. She was not at all fazed that her son was gay, but just ecstatic that he had found someone.
John called his own mother, with something more than a little trepidation. His mother hadn't taken well that her daughter was a lesbian, and their father had cut her off completely. But, bless her heart, she was very happy for him, if a little disturbed, but saddened that she would never have any grandchildren. He needed not worry what his father's opinion was, because the spiteful old man had died a few months after he had returned from Afghanistan.
As both of them had suspected, the officers at the Yard had been shocked—no, flabbergasted—that the Freak and his pet had married. Anderson was decisively homophobic, and Donovan was beyond herself. Though to couple never kissed, held hands or showed any kind of affection in public besides a warm smile here or there, the occasional confidential whispering, Donovan and Anderson taunted them mercilessly.
One day—John and Sherlock remembered it well—Anderson was being particularly rude and John had finally had enough. He interrupted Anderson's rant about how gays were freaks in and out of themselves, but when the Freak himself was added—
"Anderson, for God's sake, shut up!"
A shocked silence had descended over the crime scene and everyone, including Sherlock, turned to stare at that tiny solider boy standing with his shoulders back and eyes smoldering like two black embers. He continued with a much scarier, calmer voice.
"You understand that Sherlock has done nothing to you over all these years he has helped you all save countless lives and solve murders to give their families closure? You're always the one to attack first, and he simply rebukes the taunts. He does your job for you with nothing in return, no money or glory or fame, he does it because he can, Officer Anderson. If I were you, I'd be a lot more grateful for what he does and not some spiteful homophobic arse. Next time you do it, you'll answer to me, the husband of the man you dubbed 'Freak' and a trained, experienced combat medic who toured Afghanistan three times."
No one spoke and Anderson had paled considerably. Donovan never said another hurtful word to Sherlock—though her dislike to him was obvious—and Anderson was suddenly transferred because a very high authority demanded it. Lestrade, Sherlock nor John had to guess who that was.
Times mellowed out, besides Sherlock losing his pinky and ring finger on his right hand to gangrene. He had been kidnapped by a very mad and horrible criminal that broke all his fingers on that hand and several torturous cuts—Sherlock still has the scars. His other fingers had healed, but the two had had to be amputated because the flesh had died.
He was glad he could still wear the silver ring John had given him on the second year they were married as a late wedding ring. Even to this day, just a short few months before John was expected to die, he had never taken it off.
John might not strike you as a travel hungry sort of man, but he had always wanted to see the world when he had been younger. Instead of becoming a simple doctor, he had traveled far overseas to Afghanistan and it still made him a bit giddy. Though it was one of the stupidest things he ever did, it had eventually led him to Sherlock, and that was fine.
So two months before his ten months was up, in May, he mentioned to Sherlock he had always wanted to see, of all places, the rolling hills in Switzerland. Not three days later they were on an aeroplane with plans in a barely mentioned where-is-it-on-the-map? town. His oncologist was very much against the idea but that didn't stop Sherlock or John.
The fresh air in the mountains near the Reichenbach Falls greatly helped John's headaches. He was positively amazed by the Falls themselves but found the place morose but beautiful. He couldn't quite pinpoint the feeling and Sherlock made sure he stayed quite a ways from the edge.
Even after they left Switzerland, they journeyed for a month, all over Europe and as far off to India. Mycroft was sure to schedule chemotherapy treatments for John no matter where they were. John was grateful that he was away from the stuffy atmosphere of London and felt very much content on the road with his husband.
They ended their trip to a weekend stop in a cottage near the coast in Sussex. Sherlock was delighted by a nearby bee farm and John was content to sit on the pebbly beach with the water lapping up at his toes.
When they returned home, no one asked any questions why John didn't come with Sherlock on the rare case anymore. Lestrade knew something was very, very wrong but didn't have the heart to ask.
John knew Scotland Yard would eventually find out. Sure, he had kept his lethal brain tumor to himself, but he would die within a few more months. Either they would be informed after he was dead or not too long beforehand.
He had personally hoped he could inform Lestrade quietly, without making too much of a fuss, and then he could tell his officers after he had died to spare Sherlock the pain. But he had stupidly—stupid, stupid John—had gone with Sherlock to a crime scene. "It's what we always did, Sherlock, and this is the first murder case you've had since I was diagnosed."
He felt queasy in the cab ride. Sherlock seemed to sense his discomfort and was about to have the cabby turn around for home, but they arrived before he could and Donovan was hounding him. John gave him a weak smile, holding his stomach and his face paling considerably, and nodded him on. Sherlock stalled Donovan—was that her name? John couldn't remember—by paying the cabbie and gave John time to slowly climb out and stand, gathering his meager strength.
But he was a soldier and marched on bravely beside Sherlock. He couldn't hide his weakness in his left side, though, and he was forced to rely heavily on either Sherlock—which was not an option in public—or, in this case, on a damned cane.
John paid very little attention to the scene and mystery itself. Sherlock, a few pale wrinkles in his otherwise ageless face and grey at his roots and the occasional streak in one of the curls, seemed to not pay that much attention either, because he was carefully watching John to make sure he wouldn't keel over.
John looked him in the eye and gestured with a jerk of his head—painheadachepoundingcan'tthink—towards the body in a silent order: Pay attention, I'm fine.
Sherlock blinked at him and tuned in to the wizened Lestrade's explanation and facts of the case. He glanced occasionally at John, but once he started examining the body the glances came less and less often.
It seemed the glances were the only thing keeping John upright. He felt the headache pounding behind his eyes, blurring his vision, a high pitched whistle blowing in his ears, and his weak left knee buckled from under him and he toppled to the ground.
He didn't come back to awareness for a few minutes, but the first face he saw was that of an older man with salt and pepper curls with quicksilver eyes that were wide and only a little less than panicked. Hands were cupping his face but he didn't fight to get them away—he couldn't, anyways, he felt so weak.
He heard the words the man was speaking—he felt like he should know this man above him, but no name came to mind—but it didn't process in his mind. Eventually, words made sense and he could understand what he was saying.
"John! John, can you hear me? Blink twice if you can."
Blink? Blink…the movement of swiping the eyelids over the eye to retain moisture in said eye. Good. Yes. He could hear…so, one blink, two blink.
The man smiled a bit at him and John, for some reason, felt more relaxed.
"Good, John," he said. "Can you move? Wiggle your fingers for me."
Wiggle fingers? Ah, easily done. Move the fingers. Move…fingers…moved. Done. Good. Smile.
"Can you speak? What's my name?"
Speak? Speak…to use language to communicate to others through use of the vocal chords. Good. Yes. He could speak. But…what was the name? A name in and out of itself is what someone or something was distinguished or known as apart from other things or people. But the specific name for this man was…was…
That seemed right. Yes. Good. Sherlock. Friend. No, more. More than friend. Husband. Yes. Better.
Sherlock smiled, rubbing his thumbs over John's cheekbones. "Good, John. How are you feeling? Queasy? Anything numb? How bad is your headache, one to ten?"
Queasy? A bit, nothing bad. Numb? Left foot a bit tingly, but nothing bad. He said this to Sherlock with halting words. Headache…bad. Not the worst.
Sherlock nodded to him. Another voice reached his ears, one that had an immediate name attached to it: Lestrade.
"Is he okay?"
"He should be okay," Sherlock answered.
"What happened? He just…fell over. No warning or anything."
"His left knee buckled and he fell unconscious. I knew you shouldn't have come, John," Sherlock added, meaning to scold but it came out as an affectionate, weary tone, not unlike John's when he said much the same to Sherlock.
John blinked and turned his head a bit—headache worsened with the movement—and said, "B-brain cancer. I'm supp-posed to die this m-month."
It ended up that John didn't die in June. His oncologist said it was probably the good attitude and fresh air of that month of traveling that kept John alive past the ten month mark, but Sherlock thought it was John's iron desire to live to see his ten year anniversary that kept his body going.
A month before August 17th, their anniversary, John and Sherlock came to the agreement to move out of Baker Street. They had meant to almost two years ago, but Mrs. Hudson had a breast cancer scare and the boys decided to stick it out with her and then never got around to moving out once their landlady was cancer free.
Sherlock, if truth be told, didn't want to move out of London. But after he had seen what fresh air could do for John's health, was adamant about moving to the countryside. John, being a retiree, wanted somewhere calm and without a lot of people to be put off by two married elderly men.
Sherlock remembered his fascination with the bees in Sussex, John remembered that peaceful coast, and it was decided. Mycroft put the money down for a quaint cottage on the coast and Sherlock researched how to keep bees, and then started his own colony in the vast expanse of their property.
John loved to sit out on the patio and watch the ocean, sometimes going on walks with Sherlock to check up on his bees. He became friends with the closest neighbor to their right—in truth, their only neighbor within two kilometers—a Mr. Jonathan Adler and his wife, Mrs. Irene Adler. John knew Jonathan knew something was wrong, and eventually told him he was expected to die anytime soon because of a malignant brain tumor.
Irene came around often on walks to have tea with John and go on walks with Sherlock—they were old friends, it surprised John to learn—and Jonathan didn't treat John much differently than before. John appreciated this more than anything.
He added an amendment to his will and gave Jonathan and Irene a small antique vase that he explained had been in his family for centuries, passed down through all the male Watsons, and since he and Sherlock would never have any children he would appreciate if the Adler's could do the same in his stead.
Other than that, the will remained untouched until Sherlock would read it and the lengthy letter to him after John had died.
John was getting weaker by the day. His headaches never dropped below a six, and his left side had become all but useless. He could barely walk anymore and forgot Sherlock, Jonathan, Irene and the occasional Lestrade's face often. Whenever he would stand, dizziness impaired him from taking any steps for at least ten seconds.
His eyesight continued to deteriorate and even though he continued to get chemotherapy, he knew it did nothing besides make him ill now. He was dying, and probably sooner than later he would die. The thought didn't worry him as much as it had before, but the only reason it made him sad was because he knew he would leave Sherlock behind.
Mycroft was still working in the government, even though he was fifty six years old, with the ever faithful Anthea—real name Leala—at his side. She was older now as well, didn't text as much, and seemed to only grow lovelier with age.
So when John called him in late September, requesting he come to their Sussex home the next day or if he could that night, he knew it was about his impending death and cancelled all appointments that day and made a metaphorical beeline to Sussex. He was there three minutes before five and John looked relieved at his early appearance.
Sherlock had taken a walk to check over his three colonies, and John spoke quickly but with a lisp—the left side of his face was weaker than the right and his left eye and lip drooped more than the right. "I'd like to die here, Mycroft. Not in shome hoshpital, pleashe."
Mycroft was quick to agree. "Of course, John. I can make arrangements. Do you wish to continue your chemotherapy?"
John shook his head. "It'sh not doing anything for me now, beshides making me ill."
Mycroft silently agreed, but didn't voice it. "Of course," he agreed. His stoic, wrinkled face softened a considerable amount. "How long to you suspect you have?" He would never admit it, but John Watson had grown on him. At first he had been heavily skeptical he would just run at the first irksome trait of Sherlock. But he stayed, he grew on both of the Holmes boys, and never left Sherlock's side. He quite liked the man now, and he had kept his baby brother in line.
John shrugged and grimaced. Headache, Mycroft's mind supplied. Certain movements worsen them. "A week, two at mosht."
Mycroft had to forcibly keep himself from cringing. That was much sooner than he had suspected. "Yes, well," he said, clearing his throat and looking away from John's almost serene face.
"Mycroft," John said, almost lovingly, "Look after Sherlock when I'm gone, eh? He'sh going to need it. Make shure he doeshn't do anything shtupid."
Mycroft smiled, tenderly, and nodded to John. "I will," he said. "I fear it's going to hurt him more than Mummy's death did."
Three years ago, Cecily had died from a sudden but not startling heart attack. All three Holmes's had suspected her weak heart would give out on her sooner or later. Sherlock had taken her death to heart and had only recently recovered.
John nodded, looking down. "I know," he said quietly. He looked pained as he stood up, and had to lean very heavily on his cane to take the few steps towards Mycroft. He reached up his arm and patted Mycroft on the back, the way brother's do. Mycroft, the stoic, emotionless figure of a typical Politian, smiled, with tears rimming his Holmes eyes, hugged John Watson with the care of cradling a baby bird and bid him a heavy goodbye before leaving with a sad drag in his step.
It ended up that John died on October 3rd, just as the sun was setting, a full four months after he was expected to die. He had defied odds of living past the ten months, let alone past a year.
But he didn't celebrate his victory, because he was still losing his battle with the malignant brain cancer that was growing again, in a different part of his brain and on his spine, rendering his left side completely paralyzed.
His death was not pretty, nor serene or quiet. He didn't whisper "I love you," to his husband the moment before he passed, nor did he die in his sleep, curled against Sherlock's chest. He lay in his bed, spit rolling down from the corner of his lips—the left side—the ocean breeze rolling over him from the open window.
Sherlock was laying on the bed next to him, then and again wiping away the spit from John's mouth with a tiny cloth and reading through a book for the thirty fourth time that had published all sixty three of John's case blog entries since the very first, 'A Study in Pink.'
It was called Through a Blogger's Eyes.
John didn't necessarily feel it coming. He just felt tired, like he always did now. But he had learned from his first mistake of not noticing the tiny things, and managed to slur out, "'Lock, I'm tired."
Sherlock understood immediately. John had started calling him 'Lock since S's were hard for him to speak. He dropped the book and wrapped his wiry arms around John's pathetic, prone frame and held him there, stroking his bald head and letting John listen to his strong, if pounding, heart.
John breathed in deep for a while, not really thinking, but when he felt Sherlock's body shaking just a bit—he was finally crying—he said with obvious difficulty, "I'm shorry."
Sherlock sniffed loudly. "Wh-what?"
"I'm shorry," John repeated. "I should have known. We should have been able to grow really old together. I'm shorry I'm leaving you behind."
"Don't be," Sherlock whispered, holding John tighter against him. "You shouldn't have regrets."
"I don't," John said heavily. "I got to shpend the besht yearsh of my life with you. With my idiotic, inshufferable, impulshive, shyrupy hushband." He laughed and didn't regret it, but spit dribbled from his lips and his arm was tingling, the headache pounding behind his nearly blind eyes. He blinked blearily up at Sherlock, saw his teary smile—the last thing he would ever see—and heard his deep voice—the last thing he ever heard—and closed his eyes.
EDIT: I've taken out the lyrics to this now, so it's a proper fic and not some ridiculous thing.
Sorry for any mistakes, Americanisms, or whatever.
Thanks for reading, and please review!