|When I May Cease To Be
Author: Schrodingers-Cat-Paradox PM
It happened so quickly. One minute John and Sherlock sat in the back of a cab, hands inches away from touching, and the next minute the truck was slamming into them. Johnlock, One shotRated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Sherlock H. & John W. - Words: 13,155 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 83 - Follows: 8 - Published: 04-18-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8037909
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
When I May Cease To Be
"When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charact'ry…
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love – then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink."
-When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be, John Keats
John Watson freely admitted he was in love with a complete and utter madman.
It happened so quickly, but it seemed as though it was always there, building itself up for the right moment to present itself. One minute John was admiring Sherlock's quick, mind-boggling skills, the next he found he was admiring everything else about him, until finally he couldn't contain it and kissed him.
It was just right. It always had just been right. How could John not have seen? From the moment he met Sherlock, he had to have known there was something.
But he was in no hurry to think about the logistics of things. He just appreciated where he stood with Sherlock. Hugging him, kissing him, running his hand through his hair when they slept together. Simple things, really.
It had only been going on like this, slowly but surely, for roughly six months, when the accident happened.
It happened so quickly. One minute John and Sherlock sat in the back of a cab, hands inches away from touching, and the next minute the truck was slamming into them.
John doesn't remember much about the accident. He vaguely sees Sherlock being thrown forward into the seat in front of him before ricocheting backwards again and hitting the back window. He sees the cab driver slamming his head against the steering wheel. And he feels a sharp pain in his forehead as glass shatters over it before blacking out completely.
The familiar smell of latex is the first thing John recognizes as he blinks open his eyes. Bright hospital lights beam down on him, blinding and causing his head to throb. He squints, lifting his hand to shield his eyes from the brightness, and sees bright pink wounds on his hand, bound by a few stitches.
He remembers what he's there for immediately after seeing his hand, and, ignoring the searing pain in his head, bolts upright in the hospital bed.
He isn't alone. A ginger haired nurse and a bespectacled doctor are with him, watching him as though waiting for him to wake up.
"Hello, John," the doctor says softly.
"Where is he?" is the only thing John can think to say; the only words his brain seems able to form.
"You were in a terrible accident, Dr. Watson," the doctor continues evasively. "Terrible collision….the cab driver is expected to make a full recovery. As are you. Just a few cuts. You're very lucky."
"Sherlock. Where's Sherlock?" John's voice has become stronger, more demanding.
"He's….He's still in recovery mode. He hit his head pretty hard. Been unconscious since we brought him in here a few hours ago."
The doctor hesitates before nodding stiffly. "Yes. We don't know how badly the head injury is….he may need surgery, if-"
"I need to see him," John cuts him off abruptly. "Can you take me to him?"
"John….you can't –"
"No. I need to see him." John has already begun to move his legs from the bed to make to stand, but the pain is excruciating.
"We promise, you can see him the minute he wakes up-"
"You don't understand. I need to see him. Now." If the pain weren't so terrible, John would consider running out of there, but he can barely put pressure on his feet to stand.
"John, you're still in pain, and you need to settle down and –"
"I need to see him!" Frustration over his condition and the doctor's refusal has made John shout. "If you won't take me to him, I swear I'll-"
"You cannot even stand. You need to rest. I promise, we'll let you know when-"
"I need to see him. You don't understand. I need to see him. If – If I'm not there when he wakes up –" John trembles, suddenly very exhausted. Shoots of pain still rocket up his legs, his arms, his spine….his whole body is sore from the minimal movement he's attempted.
"I promise, John, the minute he shows signs of waking you'll be the first to know."
John knows the doctor has won, not by reasonable argument, but by knowing he can't move more than a few inches. He has no choice but to settle back into the bed, cringing.
They tell him he needs rest. They tell him it will ease his pain. But John can't even close his eyes, not when he knows Sherlock's in a room just like this, unconscious, with God knows what ailment. He could be dying…..
The thoughts don't ease the pain, only make it worse.
Maybe he sleeps. Or maybe the sun really did suddenly come up in the sky. John doesn't know. He doesn't know a lot of things, actually.
He sits up in his bed, the pain in his limbs much more controlled. He looks up at the IV bag that's connected to his arm. He can't help but think of Sherlock. If this serum that drips into John's veins drips through him, only at a much heavier flow, keeping him alive. Once he thinks of that, he's suddenly seeing tubes and machines monitoring the consulting detectives every bodily function. A vegetable. Waiting to die.
Fully convinced Sherlock went from being perfectly alive to a vegetable over night, John hits the CALL button on the remote by his bed. In less than a minute, the ginger haired nurse is back again, looking slightly anxious.
"Dr. Watson, is everything all right?" she asks, already checking every monitor and vital sign.
"Have you heard anything about Sherlock's condition?" John asks, and the nurse gives him a sharp look.
"Is that all you called for?" she asks annoyingly.
"What do you mean 'is that all?' I want to know how he's doing. He's my best friend, my colleague." My love. "I want to see him. I can hardly feel the pain anymore, I can probably walk. I –"
But the nurse has no chance of continuing the conversation. The hospital room's door slowly opens, and John's doctor is slipping through it. John wishes he could read the emotion reflected in his eyes, but that's not something he's good with. That's more Sherlock's specialty.
"John, you can see Sherlock now. He appears to be waking," the doctor says steadily.
At once John's feet are on the cold hospital floor, his stiff legs straightening. It's painful yet, but not nearly as bad as it was. Now he would've run from the room, had it not been for the IV still stuck in his arm.
Within a few excruciating seconds, John is following the doctor down the bland hallway of the hospital, rounding a corner and approaching Sherlock's room. John doesn't hesitate in stepping through the door, but freezes just at the foot of Sherlock's bed.
His forehead and cheeks are stinted with stitched cuts; some appear to be swollen. His curly hair is plastered to his face with sweat, probably because his body convulses randomly, refusing to settle down to rest. He's not as bad as John had thought, but he doesn't look good, either.
Sherlock mumbles something, probably in his sleep, but nonetheless it's a sign he's coming around. John's prepared to wait as long as he is allowed until he's fully awake. Until they can both go home. John can already see the two of them sharing a cup of tea together, politely disregarding Mrs. Hudson's worried sentiments, while telling her not to worry about them, that they're fine…. Maybe, if they can go home tonight, they'll sleep soundly, Sherlock's arms wrapped around John, sharing body heat, not sleeping alone in different hospital beds.
John forces himself out of his all-too-perfect fantasy, and moves soundlessly over the side of the bed, sitting down slowly. The movement makes Sherlock turn a little, mumbling some more. Without thinking, John takes his hand, his thumb tracing circles in his palm.
Sherlock's hand flexes suddenly, and finds John's wrist, holding on tightly. John blinks, looking up into Sherlock's deep gray-blue eyes.
"Sherlock. You're –" But John stops, flinching as Sherlock's grip gets tighter on his wrist. "Sherlock-"
"Who the hell are you?" Sherlock snarls, his voice patchy, but the sentiment is clear. John feels as though a weight has been placed on his heart.
"What do you mean? Sherlock, it's me. John Watson," John whispers, flinching again as Sherlock's fingernails dig into his skin.
"Why am I here? Why are you here?" Sherlock snarls again. His eyes find the doctor, who has just hurried forward. "What the hell happened?"
"Sherlock, let go of John's wrist. He's not – we're not – trying to hurt you," the doctor says soothingly. "You've been asleep for a long time. You were in a car crash, remember? You hit your head."
"I would think I'd remember if I was in a bloody car wreck!" Sherlock shouts venomously, not releasing his grip on John's wrist. John wishes he would let go, and, suddenly, that he would knock himself back out. He doesn't like this Sherlock.
And how can he not remember me?
"You've suffered some brain trauma, Sherlock. You were in a car wreck. You hit your head. John was there." The doctor looks at John, hoping for some encouragement. So John nods slowly.
"You were. It was pretty awful…..don't you remember? Coming home from Angelo's?" John prompts hopefully.
But no recognition dawns on his face. He still looks distrustful. Angry, even.
The doctor's eyes dim, and he looks very sullen. That emotion John can read clearly.
"Sherlock, what do you remember?" he asks softly.
"I haven't forgotten anything!" Sherlock snaps exasperatedly. "I know my name's Sherlock Holmes. I know I live at two-two-one-be Baker Street. I know my mother, my father –"
"Do you remember your brother?" John asks suddenly, and Sherlock fixes him with an angry stare. "Do you? Do you remember Mrs. Hudson, or Lestrade, or Molly….do you remember me?"
"I haven't got a brother," Sherlock states, now looking confused. "And those other people…I've never met them….I've never met you."
The weight on John's heart seems to increase by one hundred. Everything suddenly hurts again, his head pounding, his legs stiffening with pain.
"Sherlock, you work with those people. You're…You're a detective. A genius. A madman, but a genius."
"A detective?" Now Sherlock looks extremely confused. "Why would I be a detective, of all things? Bit gruesome, don't you think?"
It's hearing this that seems to shut John's body down. He almost mechanically tears his wrist from Sherlock's grasp, and whips out of the room. He feels numb, his head a heavy, unnecessary weight on his body.
He doesn't fucking remember anything! The phrase repeats itself over and over in John's collapsing brain. In yet he doesn't understand. So the phrase continues on a loop. He doesn't remember he doesn't remember he doesn't remember HE DOESN'T REMEMBER.
The numbness suddenly turns to fire, a raging and furious fire. John pounds his fists against the wall, feeling no pain, just a tickling, pins and needles sensation. He does this until he has to be restrained and pulled back into his room. He thinks he may have screamed at them. Vulgar things. Things he would surely regret. But as he's screaming and pounding and feeling his whole body lose control, a needle pierces his skin and in seconds he's rendered unconscious.
Traumatic brain injury. Memory loss. No telling how long it could last. Could be forever, could be a few months. Very common head injury.
The words don't make sense. John can't will them to make sense, because once he does, it would mean accepting. Accepting Sherlock's condition. Accepting the fact the brilliant man has no clue who he really is.
He thinks about Sherlock's injury often. When the hospital finally releases him, he doesn't leave. Instead, he sits by Sherlock's bed, thinking, wishing he could read Sherlock's thoughts.
Usually he only does this when Sherlock is asleep. Because when he's awake, he usually thinks John's trespassing and orders him out.
The others find out about Sherlock's condition shortly after it was diagnosed. They aren't allowed to see him. Not again. Mostly because Sherlock is genuinely, overwhelmingly frightened by people he perceives to be strangers. It hurts them, but none more than Mycroft. John knows he would never admit it, but he thinks Mycroft sneaks in to Sherlock's hospital room when he's asleep, just as John does. It must hurt him. Sherlock always said he didn't have a brother, because of his dislike of Mycroft, but now it was true in his mind.
Three days after the accident, Sherlock is allowed to leave, which means John is free to start thinking about how life will be different with him now. He just barely managed to convince him that they should take a cab together when Sherlock was checking out. He doesn't know how he'll convince him that he needs to live with him, too.
The cab ride is quiet. Awkward. John looks out the window, occasionally stealing glances at Sherlock next to him. Sherlock stares straight ahead, lips tight, scars prominent, hair in an array.
It's almost by instinct that John's hand inches across the seat, on the frustrating gap between them, just so that it's a few centimeters away from Sherlock's own hand. And before he knows he's doing it, his fingers find Sherlock's.
Instantly Sherlock snaps his hand away, turning to stare at John as though he's lost his mind.
"You're a strange man, you know that?" Sherlock says, shaking his head.
"Yeah….Yeah, sorry," John mumbles, slowly moving his hand away. "I just….wanted to try something."
Sherlock arches an eyebrow at him, and for one fleeting second, John sees the Sherlock he knew before the accident took everything away from him. But it's gone quickly as the deductive stare turns into a blank one. It's all John can do to not bury his face in his hands in dismay.
When they finally reach the flat, John feels another dull blow to his stomach as he climbs out of the cab after Sherlock, who looks perplexed.
"Are you purposely trying to follow me home?" Sherlock asks.
John frantically searches his mind for some story – an answer Sherlock will believe. "Er, no….I, uh, you don't know this but…when I was released from the hospital I took up a roommate position. At two-two-one-be Baker Street."
"I don't recall wanting a roommate."
"Well, it was…the new landlady. She set it up, I guess so…." John shrugs, hoping his story would at least give him a place to sleep for one night.
"Hm. New landlady, you say? Well. I guess this is just something I'll have to work around." Sherlock turns abruptly and begins walking down the street in pursuit of the flat. Unable to believe that his story won him over, John hurries after him.
His 'new landlady' story goes well with Mrs. Hudson. The landlady plays along like she had known John's plan, greeting Sherlock and introducing herself, and confirming that John is Sherlock's new flatmate. Sherlock seems to be smitten with her, for he is smiling for the first time since the accident.
Is that all it takes to fix everything? John wonders desperately as he climbs the stairs after Sherlock to enter the flat. Lie to him? Make up stories so he'll remember everything?
He doesn't want to lie. But he recognizes he may have to, if he ever has a chance of bringing Sherlock back.
Sherlock takes in his surroundings, and John doesn't miss the air of familiarity he gives off while doing so. He remembers the entire flat. But he doesn't remember who he shared it with.
"Oh, is this my violin?" Sherlock says suddenly, noticing the case on the mantle.
"You remember your violin?" John asks, walking over to sit down in his usual spot.
"How could I forget my –" Sherlock suddenly stops, looking over at John with suspicious eyes. "How did you know I played violin?"
Make it up. It's the only thing you have to go on. "Mrs. Hudson mentioned something about it….She must've seen the case while cleaning one day when we – you – were in the hospital. Generous lady, Mrs. Hudson."
"Very generous of her." Sherlock slowly opens the violin case, taking out the instrument and its bow.
"Wouldn't get used to that, though," John continues, mostly to make conversation. He watches Sherlock's long fingers slide along the violin's bow, and tries not to feel the prickling in his hands as he longs to touch them. "Mrs. Hudson is not our housekeeper, after all."
Sherlock doesn't even seem to notice John is talking. Instead, he's slowly begun to play the violin, sending eerie, unearthly sounds echoing around the flat. John can only watch him, listen to the music. He remembers a time Sherlock played the violin for him when he had trouble sleeping. He remembers Sherlock attempting to teach him how to play, nimble fingers guiding John's own. So many memories with that dratted instrument.
And Sherlock remembers none of them.
All too soon the music has stopped, and John blinks out of his trance as Sherlock lowers his violin.
"Amazing," John says softly, and Sherlock smiles slightly.
"Yes, well…an old ancient talent my father taught me." Sherlock puts the violin in its case, and lets it rest back on the mantle. He turns to John and slowly sits down across from him.
"I think it's customary for roommates to know about each other," Sherlock states, leaning back and pressing his hands together in a familiar fashion that makes John lightheaded.
"You're probably right," John agrees. "Why…why not start with you?"
Sherlock pauses for a moment before launching into a story of who he is. John can clearly see where the pieces are missing. Nowhere does Sherlock mention Mycroft, or his battle with drugs, or becoming a consulting detective. In fact, a large part of Sherlock's life is completely omitted.
"Funny thing is, I can't really remember what happens after university," Sherlock concludes, pondering. "Can't have been that important for me to forget, can it?"
John inwardly cringes at the words, knowing that that period of Sherlock's life was important. If he hadn't been hit by a truck he would know that.
It's then that John knows he has to make Sherlock see just how important everything he forgot was. How important he was to him.
So when he tells Sherlock about serving in Afghanistan and becoming a doctor, he adds a new tidbit at the end, "Sometimes people will come by and ask me about a criminal case. A man named Greg Lestrade usually delivers messages….or Mycroft Holmes. But….but that shouldn't interfere with your daily life too much."
"So you're a detective of sorts?" Sherlock asks.
"Uh, yeah, sort of. Just….Just minor cases, usually, except there are some bigger ones." John pauses for a moment. "There….there was this one case, brilliant case, actually, where…this guy named Moriarty, who has a network of people all around London who do his bidding, was sort of creating a muddle….it was almost like a game, leading up to a big confrontation, and…."
He can't finish. It feels so wrong for John to be taking credit for what Sherlock accomplished. But nonetheless, Sherlock seems to buy it, his eyes wide. John can only hope he's remotely interested. Maybe the memory will come back to him, and the next thing he'll say is "You've left out such crucial parts of that case, John."
"Sounds like you live an interesting life, Dr. Watson." Once again, John's hopes are crushed like glass under spiked boots.
"You….you could come along, if you wanted, to an investigation," John suggests hopefully.
"I'm not sure crime investigation is really something I'd be interested in," Sherlock says passively. More crushing.
John can't help but feel hopeless. It seems as though Sherlock will be stuck like this, never remembering anything about anyone.
Then you'll rebuild it. Of course he'll try. If it's the only option, he has no choice.
How short a time ago was it that the two of them were actually confronting Moriarty by that pool? To John it feels like it happened only days ago.
To Sherlock, it never happened at all.
Life moves slowly for the next couple of weeks. Sherlock adjusts quickly – but then again living in the flat is nothing new to him. Slowly but surely Sherlock begins to recover fully. The cuts on his face heal over to scars, leaving almost no indication he had been in the accident.
Except his memory, everything is almost back to normal. But things are 'normal' in a way John can't understand. He doesn't understand why Sherlock doesn't spend his days mixing different toxins together or dissecting tongues. He doesn't understand how Sherlock can sit in his familiar spot, reading or watching the telly, without a single proclamation of "Bored!" He doesn't understand the emptiness in his bed every night.
But John finds out that, while you can take the tiger out of the jungle, you can't take the jungle out of the tiger.
He's slowly trudging upstairs after a dull, tiresome day at the hospital when he halts on the landing. An overpowering aroma chokes him. The smell of smoke.
John bursts through the door of the flat, and immediately the smoky, burnt smell overwhelms him.
"Sherlock?" he shouts. "Sherlock, is everything all right?"
There's no response, and John is seized by sudden panic. He hurries around the flat, calling Sherlock's name, before bursting into the kitchen.
The smell here is absolutely horrid. John coughs, and his eyes widen as he notices the oven, propped open, emitting smoke. Something sits on the counter – John guesses it's food, but it's so charred it's impossible to distinguish specifically what.
Sherlock hovers by the sink, cradling his hands, running water over them. Even from a distance John can see the angry burn marks all over his palms.
"Sherlock, what happened?" John asks, shutting the oven door and hurrying to turn it off. He's opened two windows and tossed the charred food before Sherlock answers him.
"Cooking is difficult….I don't remember it being that difficult," he mumbles into the sink, flinching as the cold water scorches his burned flesh.
It's a serious situation, but John can't help but smile slightly. Finally some presence of Sherlock's old self is coming through.
"But it's only chemistry, don't you know?" John asks, moving closer to Sherlock.
"Bloody difficult for being 'only chemistry,'" Sherlock scoffs, turning off the water and examining his hands.
"Let me look at them," John orders, and Sherlock raises an eyebrow at him suspiciously. "I'm a doctor, aren't I? Let me look at them."
Sherlock hesitates, but reluctantly let's John take his hands. John examines the burns, running his fingers over them – more for his pleasure than medical purposes. The burns aren't terrible, but nonetheless they must be painful.
"Well? Am I going to lose my hands, Doctor?" Sherlock asks, and John smiles.
"Not today. Just hold on; I've got something to ease the pain," John informs him.
A few minutes later, Sherlock and John are sitting across from each other at the kitchen table in silence. Sherlock's hands are stretched out while John applies the cooling burn cream to his injuries.
It's not much, but it's something, to be doing this. It's the first time in weeks John's gotten to touch Sherlock, to feel like they care for each other. Like everything is the way it used to be.
When John's finished, Sherlock flexes his fingers, sighing in relief.
"That's much better," he says.
"I hope you've learned something from all of this," John tells him, and Sherlock smirks.
"If that something is to burn myself just to experience all of this," he responds, a bit of a playful edge to his voice, "then I've learned all I need to know."
"Have you got any significant other in your life, John?"
John chokes on his tea, looking up at Sherlock with wide eyes. It's not his fault, but John hates how innocent the question is. How nonchalant Sherlock can ask it.
"Why do you ask?" John retaliates, clearing his throat.
"Just standard roommate procedure. Making conversation. That's usually what roommates do, don't they?"
Blunt as an unsharpened axe. So typically Sherlock it hurts as though the axe has swung straight at John's knees to take him down.
"No, I haven't, then," John says tightly.
A short pause. "Boyfriend?"
"No, Sherlock." The words taste bitter on John's tongue. He hates the lie. He'd rather just scream out at Sherlock It's you, you bloody idiot! But he figures now's not the proper moment for that. He wonders if the moment will ever present itself. "I haven't got anyone, all right?"
Another pause before Sherlock says, as if in attempt to make John feel better about the predicament, "I haven't anyone either."
John can't help it; he snorts, in a rather bitter way, because the whole situation kills him. Sherlock tilts his head in confusion.
"No offense, Sherlock, but someone would have to be mad to want to be with you," John states, and again the words are bitter tasting.
"You must be a complete psychopath, then, for wanting to live with me."
John doesn't reply. Because he knows Sherlock's right.
It's been nearly a month since the accident that took Sherlock's memory when Greg Lestrade finally shows up at the flat. John doesn't recall him ever looking so lined with stress, as though losing Sherlock Holmes as a correspondence has been tougher on him then he imagined.
"I'm sorry, John, to bother you," is the first thing Lestrade says as he enters the flat. "But it's….the Yard has been so lost without him. Don't dare tell him that if his memory ever comes back but….damn it the bloody git did more for that place than even he would admit."
John casts a short look over to where Sherlock now sits, reading the morning's paper, occasionally peering over at them.
"Why come, then?" John asks flatly. "He can't help, not until he's recovered fully and I don't-"
"Believe it or not, I came for you. And him, I suppose." Lestrade's eyes dart over to Sherlock, almost uncertainly. "String of thefts. Four prestigious London families have already been burglarized. Precious heirlooms, coins – you name it, it's probably been taken. The only lead we have is that they may be connected. There's just nothing else – nothing – and we don't know how to proceed."
"Greg, I'm not him." John's tone is still painfully flat. "I never will be. Why would-"
"I came for you, John," Lestrade interrupts, his voice slow and deliberate as though he's hinting at something John should catch onto.
It only takes a moment for John to fully read into what Lestrade is saying: he's trying to help Sherlock's recovery. Like Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade seems to have caught onto a plan John didn't even know was in effect.
"Oh. Right, yes." John looks over at Sherlock again, who has finally set down the paper and taken heightened interest in the pair's conversation. "Sherlock, I'd like you to meet someone. Detective inspector Gregory Lestrade. The one I mentioned a couple of weeks ago."
Sherlock stands and walks up to Lestrade, whereupon the both of them shake hands. Another strange occurrence John isn't sure he'll ever get used to.
"John mentioned you would sometimes come by," Sherlock says. "With investigations of sorts."
"Exactly that, actually. I was just telling John about a particular case we can't seem to crack. Might need his help with it," Lestrade explains easily.
"And what are the conditions of this case?"
"Quadruple theft. Priceless items. More than likely connected."
John watches Sherlock take this information in, but he doesn't seem interested by it. In contrary he looks….well, bored.
"Don't let me hold the two of you up," Sherlock says eventually. "Just promise I'll get my flatmate back by the end of this escapade?"
Lestrade smiles. "I can't exactly promise, but I will tell you he's in good hands. Been doing this for a long time. He's a natural, you won't have to worry too much."
When Lestrade finishes speaking, he flashes a look at John. A look that clearly says "You're on. Don't mess it up. Make him want to come with you."
John clears his throat, and Sherlock fixates him with that bloody stare again. "Actually, you might consider tagging along."
"I thought we've established it's not exactly something I'd be interested in," Sherlock replies bluntly.
"Yes, well, I thought I wouldn't be interested in sharing this flat with you, but here we are. You may as well try it. You haven't been out doing much in such a long time – it might do you some good."
Sherlock takes a moment to think about this and shakes his head. "I couldn't intrude-"
"Sherlock Holmes, worrying about 'intrusion,'" Lestrade interrupts him, laughing once. "Never thought I'd see-"
"You might even enjoy yourself, you know," John cuts across Lestrade hastily, as Sherlock is looking confused again by the outburst.
Sherlock doesn't speak for a moment. When he does, it's followed by a small sigh. "I suppose. Getting out of this flat could do me well. And I will admit, I am slightly interested in what exactly this field deals with."
Having leaped another hurdle, John allows himself one hopeful, joyous smile.
"Richardson family, priceless tea set with family crest emblazoned in solid gold, family ring. Carpenter family, set of silver cutlery with family crest, at least a pocketful of old coins. Fredrickson family, set of Chinaware, again with the family crest. And Donahue family, set of glass, silver stained plates, family crest."
John listens as Lestrade listlessly recounts the four thefts, crossing his arms over his chest as he looks around at the home of the first theft. The Richardson's stand a little ways away, well to do, though looking anxious. They were the last family the trio – John, Lestrade, and Sherlock – had been to question. Their answers were as vague as the other three families, and John begins to see why Lestrade was so stressed with the case.
"Sounds like your theft was prepping for afternoon tea," Sherlock muses, standing with his hands in his coat pockets, examining the atmosphere of the place.
"Pretty damn elaborate 'afternoon tea,' to need all of that," Lestrade counters. "The only indication they're related is the fact that all four stolen items are prestigious family heirlooms. They've been in the family for years in all four cases."
"It's puzzling, isn't it?" John looks over at Sherlock, surprised to hear him say the words. "From what I've overheard, all four families have said these things aren't the only objects of family value they have locked away. So why take tea sets and cutlery?"
John is actually relieved to see how perplexed and thoughtful Sherlock looks about the whole affair. We'll get him back to solving mysteries yet.
"And Lestrade, I assume you noticed this, but at all four houses something has remained similar, linking all four of the thefts together in another way." Sherlock nods at the front door of the Richardson's home, and Lestrade pretends to know exactly what he's talking about. John, however, is eager to hear Sherlock deduce something for the first time in a month.
"What would that be?" he asks genuinely.
Sherlock shows a ghost of a smile before moving over to place a hand on the door, near the doorknob. John moves closer to him, hoping to see something there, but he sees nothing, and starts to feel a little downtrodden.
Sherlock, however, doesn't seem shaken by the door's plainness.
"I noticed this at every house, on the same doorknob of every door." He points a long finger at the painfully clean doorknob. "The color's obnoxious, no doubt, but it gives an indication that the culprit is definitely female."
John looks at him, eyes wide. "What are you talking about?"
Sherlock rolls his eyes and grabs John's wrist to pull him down at eye level with the doorknob. "You have to look. I'm sincerely astonished you didn't notice it."
And at long last, John finally sees what he's talking about (not that he would've ever initially). It's bright orange, almost neon, polish. A small, almost insignificant speck that only a clever eye could pick up.
"Where have you seen that shade before? Awful, really, doesn't really suit –" Sherlock stops talking so suddenly, and whirls around, his arm extended in the direction of the Richardson family.
"But of course it makes sense." Sherlock's voice is soft, icy. Lestrade catches John's eye and smirks, as if to say "Now we've got him."
"Not really a Richardson. Never would truly inherit anything – not the tea set, surely – " Sherlock blinks, pausing his speech again. Surprisingly he looks at Lestrade, and says, almost apologetically, "My apologies. I'm sure this is your case and something you'd probably bring to the open, but –"
"By all means," Lestrade interrupts him, fully smiling now, gesturing for him to continue. "Any sort of evidence you have is evidence we can use."
"Not evidence; more like a guilty party." Sherlock is clearly beyond any doubt. "But why would she stop there, at just the tea set, when she could have so much more, many more valuables? So she didn't, but didn't take enough care to make sure not to leave a trace of neon orange nail polish behind."
Sherlock raises his eyebrows at Lestrade, who looks over at the quite terrified Richardson family. It's then that his eyes widen in realization, he hurries forward, and grabs a middle aged woman by her arms.
Even now Lestrade doesn't question what Sherlock so-called guesses.
John only sees a quick flash of neon orange on the woman's clawing fingers as Lestrade takes her away for further questioning.
"Well, John, I have to say that…..that was amazing." Sherlock smiles in the darkness of the cab, his enthusiastic face illuminated by the passing lights. John smiles at how exhilarated he sounds and looks – a goofy, crooked smile he can't seem to erase.
"You're a natural," John tells him. "We'd barely been there a few hours and you already had it figured out. Sure is a hell of a lot better than I could ever do…. You might consider keeping up this detective stuff. Take my place – I'm not sure anyone would really complain."
John halfway expects Sherlock to tell him he's "not interested" again, but he only continues to stare ahead, clearly pondering the suggestion. His response is actually the opposite of what John expected. "I might consider it. I thought it wouldn't be something I would ever fall for, but it….it reminds me of something that I can't place. Makes me happy."
He pauses, deep in thought, trying to recollect the memory, but John can see it's not working. Sherlock's memory is too far damaged to be able to retrieve it.
"The name could use revamping. Detective. Sounds….dull," Sherlock continues, speaking as though he hadn't stopped.
"Quite dull, for what you'd be doing…. How about something like….consulting detective?" John suggests.
"Bit prestigious, don't you think?" Sherlock smirks, and, before John is fully prepared for it, reaches out his hand and seizes one of John's. He's almost too stunned by this to fully catch the rest of Sherlock's sentence, "But I think I'll go with it."
For the rest of the ride back to Baker Street, their hands remain linked. And though only his hand is being touched, John can feel his entire body tingling.
It only takes one small, almost pointless case to bring Sherlock back. Almost completely. Almost. There's still a huge part that only John knows is missing, a part that Sherlock just can't seem to bring back to him.
But it's not like John can complain. Sherlock is back as the world's only consulting detective, taking cases from Lestrade that are as unique as they are mysterious. John is back to having the flat filled with strange bits of evidence – from pieces of string to playing cards – and to having a Sherlock who stays up at all odd hours in the night, refuses to eat, and ignores the world until a case is solved.
That's the Sherlock John had always known, had fallen in love with.
But of course, Sherlock doesn't know, hasn't realized, the "love" part of their relationship. To Sherlock John is still just his partner, tagging along on cases and recording them in a blog (a blog that John only recently started updating – before it seemed silly to keep it up, but when Sherlock had stumbled upon it, he had actually insisted John start writing again).
Sherlock's ignoring food, sleep, and any sort of simple task when John arrives home from the hospital, at least three months after the accident that John has almost managed to forget about. He walks into the flat to find Sherlock in the same position that he had left him in – sitting in his chair, fingers folded, eyes staring ahead of him.
"Hand me a pen," is the first thing Sherlock says, holding out one of his hands.
John does as he's told – more like demanded – and for the first time notices the heavy shadows under Sherlock's eyes.
"Sherlock, when was the last time you slept?" John asks, watching Sherlock write something down on a notepad.
"Monday. Maybe Sunday. The night before Lestrade gave the case. The one with the murder of the woman, with the cats. Lestrade texted today while you were gone – another woman, gunned down. Already been to the scene, nothing seems to connect them but..." Sherlock rambles, looking down at the notes he's written down.
John blinks, counting the days in his head. "Sherlock…you haven't slept in four days?"
"Has it been four days?" Sherlock sounds disinterested, scribbling on the notepad. "Four days….four days, and I can't get it. John. I can't get it. The murder of the woman with the cats, and now the woman Lestrade just told me about….I thought the cats had something to do with it – there was something on one of the cat's collars, did I mention that? A bell. The other two cats didn't have it. But this second woman doesn't have cats, just-"
"Sherlock, you're rambling about cats. You need to sleep. And when was the last time you ate?" John interrupts him, examining the consulting detectives physique. Shadows under the eyes, hallow cheeks, dull, sleep deprived eyes, and a shake to his hands that clearly indicates Sherlock has been starving himself.
"But the cats are everything, John!" Sherlock throws his pen down, eyes moving rapidly over the notes. John can see the words "cat" and "bell" and various lines that John doesn't know how Sherlock could find impertinent. "The bell, there was a bell! The second woman, there was a bell….oh, but not an actual bell, a bell. The ringing….the ringing, why didn't I see that?"
Sherlock snatches up his pen, eyes alight, and scribbles something else down. John has seen him frantic like this before, but it frightens him, because he's likely talking nonsense. Not even a brilliant man like Sherlock Holmes can go long without sleep before his brain needs recharging.
"The bell on the collar, the bell outside," Sherlock mumbles, and, just as he opens his mouth to speak again, a wide, gaping yawn escapes instead.
"That's it; you're going to bed," John commands him firmly, snatching away the notepad and the pen.
Sherlock looks at him as though he's just sprouted antennae and turned purple. "John-"
"No excuses. You clearly need sleep. And food. You're not getting this pen and paper back until you've eaten something and slept for at least two hours."
Sherlock stares at him for a long time, and pulls his best but-John-I'm-so-close-to-cracking-this-case face, a face John doesn't buy for a second.
"Bed," he says as Sherlock opens his mouth again, pointing up the stairs. "Go. Now. I'm bringing you some tea and bread."
Sherlock doesn't move, still looking at John in a way that no grown man should. So John takes the initiative and takes Sherlock's arms and pulls him out of his chair. He sways slightly on his feet, but doesn't budge, so John has to literally drag him up the stairs and into his room, where he pushes Sherlock onto the bed. Sherlock still looks childlike, crossing his arms over his chest as he lays on his back on the bed.
"Do I at least get my paper and pen?" he asks irritably.
"No. I told you, not until you've eaten and slept." John feels like he's telling a three year old to go to sleep, and feels a familiar irritability creeping inside of him. He almost welcomes it, because it's familiar, and reminds him of everything that he had before Sherlock's memory disappeared.
Sherlock lets out a huge, loud sigh, frowning. John returns the sigh before hurrying downstairs again to get Sherlock something to eat.
A pot of tea and buttered bread later, John is trudging back upstairs to give Sherlock his first meal in four days. But as he steps into the room, a small smile creeps onto his face. Sherlock's knocked out completely, sprawled out in bed, even snoring slightly. Shaking his head, John sets the tea and bread on the nightstand beside the bed, all the while watching Sherlock sleep. His chest slowly rising and falling, his snores oddly musical.
Maybe….Maybe I'll just make sure he doesn't wake up. John knows the only reason he doesn't want to leave is because he wants to be sleeping next to Sherlock, his hand in his hair, legs formed together, every curve matching one another's. Vaguely he wonders if Sherlock would even know if he did so. But again, he decides reluctantly against it, instead choosing to sit down on the bed as far away from Sherlock as he can be, watching him.
John's not even sure how much time has passed that he sits there. An hour, maybe two. It doesn't feel like that long. Not when John is so intrigued and captivated by Sherlock's sleeping form.
Sherlock's hands suddenly start to move, his long fingers almost grappling at the space next to him. John watches as his fingers flex and feel the empty place, finding nothing but air and sheets, wondering what is going on in his dreaming mind for him to be doing such things…Does he expect something to be there?
John jolts suddenly as Sherlock starts mumbling – moaning, more – under his breath, riddled by sleep. His hands continue to flex at the air, only at a more frantic pace, and his whole body starts shaking.
"Sherlock," John whispers inaudibly, recognizing the first signs of a nightmare from the many he has seen and experienced himself.
The small whisper makes Sherlock freeze for a split second before his hands continue to grab, frantic, and his shaking grows violent. John moves by an instinct to calm him down, closer to Sherlock, extending an arm….
A cold hand finds John's wrist, and at once Sherlock stops shaking. His other hand finds John's, long fingers running over each of John's own. John expects that to be as far as it goes, but he gasps in surprise as Sherlock quite literally pulls him down on the bed, filling the empty space he had been grappling at. John lies frozen in shock as Sherlock's arms wrap around him, and his head fits into the nape of John's neck.
Still in shock, John just lies there, feeling Sherlock's breath on his neck as he snores. He wonders if he should move, but he realizes he doesn't want to. Even if he did, it's not like he could. Sherlock's hold is so strong on him, and only increases in strength if John so much as twitches.
So instead, he stays with Sherlock, staring at the ceiling. Sharing body heat, bodies forming together. And he smiles, closes his eyes, and drifts off into a dreamless sleep.
John wakes to find the space next to him empty, and his body overtaken by cold. He turns over, and is surprised to find the bread and tea he had left last night gone, with a crust and empty tea cup remaining. Smiling to himself, John stretches, and is surprised to see little indents in his skin, like if he were to dig his fingernails into his arm and keep them there.
Sherlock always was a little possessive. Some things just don't change. Again with the tiger out of the jungle.
John finds Sherlock scribbling away at his notepad again when he walks downstairs. He sits at the kitchen table, in his dressing gown and pajamas. For once he actually acknowledges John's appearance, looking up at him with excited eyes.
"It came to me when I was asleep," he says, as if he'd been talking to John the whole time. "I was thinking all wrong. Well, not completely, really. But what if the bell has nothing to do with the actual murder, but who committed it?"
He holds up his notepad and continues on with melodramatic gusto, talking of cats and bells and tea parties and book clubs and jealous women and the last name of Bell. John only catches parts of it, still a little preoccupied with thinking about last night, and busies himself by putting a kettle of water on the stove for tea.
"It's the perfect crime, really," Sherlock concludes with vigor. "No trace, not a thing, except for the bell. Wonderful. Beautiful. Crafty. Just enough to give the police a lead. But it's so vague…so brilliant! But the only question is which Bell could've done it…."
More scribbling, and John clears his throat, wanting to talk about last night, what had happened, why it had happened, what could have possibly been going through Sherlock's dreaming mind…. Maybe Sherlock doesn't even remember. It would explain all of this…. How could Sherlock not be thinking about it like John is?
"Sherlock-" he begins, but Sherlock's rambling cuts him off as soon as he's started.
"There were few women in this prestigious organization – but were there any Bell's? But of course there was, three of them, in fact, from what I gathered from the head of the whole thing…Miranda Bell, Louise Bell, and Carolee Bell…. One of them. It has to be, it all fits." Sherlock taps his finger on the notepad. "The cat's bell, the ringing at just the precise moment –"
"Sherlock," John tries again, and Sherlock side-glances at him.
"What is it, John?" he asks distractedly, examining his notes, his forehead creased in concentration.
"About last night-"
"Yes, you were quite right about sleep, John, for once," Sherlock interrupts again. "Everything seems to be fitting together…."
"Yeah, well….about 'fitting together…' Last night, did you dream….do you remember anything….specific about last night?"
Sherlock stares down at the table, concentrating. John can only hope he's trying to remember instead of –
"Yes!" The outburst is so sudden John jumps a little when Sherlock flies out of his chair. "Yes, yes, yes! Louise Bell, that's her! She had the same bell when I saw her at the organization leader's home! That same bell that was on that cat's collar – silver, slightly tarnished, and hanging from her wrist like some sort of bracelet! Oh, God, why didn't I see it before? John, I hope you don't mind, but I've got to see Lestrade, he'll want to know-"
"No, no, don't let me hold you up." John's voice is flat, disappointed, even. "Go ahead."
Sherlock, for once, doesn't even notice John's tone. The excitement of finally cracking the case has taken him over, and he flies out of the flat before John is even aware of what's happening.
John doesn't notice the whistling of the kettle on the stove, nor does he realize his fists are clenching, his nails digging into his palms just as Sherlock's own fingers had dug into his arms.
Every time. Every time he feels like he's getting Sherlock back, and it slips away. The fight doesn't even seem worth it to John anymore. Why is he trying so hard? It's hopeless. Sherlock is in every way the way he was three months ago. Why is John still so empty and cold, and trying so hard?
He takes the kettle off the stove, but doesn't bother furthering the process. He needs air, something that will cleanse everything from his body. Every thought, memory, or otherwise he wants to erase. He wishes, for once in his life, he had Sherlock's power of deletion. To pick his thoughts apart and get rid of the things he found he didn't want.
John throws on his coat and trudges out of the flat, into the bright, mid-morning streets of London. The city is alive with morning commute, and birds off in the distance sing a mournful sort of song. London is so much more beautiful in the daylight. John turns up the collar of his coat and sets off on an aimless walk.
He remembers a poem he had read at medical school. Really, it was insignificant, but it had stuck in his head.
"When I have fears that I may cease to be..
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love – then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink."
John looks down at the sidewalk, a sort of numbness filling his body. How the poem reminds him of Sherlock now. How he has, in a sense, ceased to be. Since the cab had been hit he has ceased to be.
He's still Sherlock. Of course he is; that much is obvious. But the lines of the poem relay in John's head, reminding him that Sherlock isn't all he used to be. Never have relish in the faery power of unreflecting love – then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone….
Of course Sherlock doesn't love John.
All those kisses, caresses, embraces….they never happened.
Should they have happened in the first place?
If Sherlock could forget them, with a single head collision, how important could've they been?
How could one single head collision tarnish such an amazing mind, such an educated, memorizing, calculating, evaluating mind?
And why did the poem's essence have to come true in, of all people, Sherlock Holmes?
John feels his eyes sting, and he blinks them furiously, refusing to let the tears form. It's not worth crying. It's not worth the tears. Three months he has suffered through everything without a single feeling of outright sadness. He's not about to start now.
He manages to carry out the rest of his walk without another thought of the poem or of Sherlock. When he finally returns to Baker Street and the flat, it's nearly midday – how could've he been out for so long? – and Mrs. Hudson greets him as he walks in.
The kind old woman must see something in John's eyes, because her kind smile vanishes so quickly, and she says softly, "John, dear….is everything all right?"
"Fine." John is surprised by the crack in his voice, and clears his throat hastily. "It's all fine, really."
Mrs. Hudson obviously doesn't appear to buy that at all, but to her credit, she doesn't push it. But she does have one last thing to say as John makes his way to the flat.
"Don't you dare give up on him, John. He still loves you. Don't give up on him."
It's that final sentence that rings in John's ears as he slumps against the closed door in the flat, only replaced by the final line of the poem.
Till Fame and Love and nothingness do sink.
A single tear. That's all John Watson will allow.
Don't you dare give up on him. Don't give up on him.
John rests his cheek on his hand, propped up by his elbow on the table, and his eyes staring ahead. The dawn light filters in through the window, but it's the only source of light in the whole room. John, for once, is the only one awake in the flat. Plagued by insomnia, he finally gave up on any hope of sleep for the third night in a row, and instead chose to sit alone here.
He was fighting an internal struggle to go up to Sherlock's room, to watch him sleep again, and – he didn't try to deny it – maybe hope for another night of Sherlock next to him. John is fairly certain it's why he can't sleep. He is only aware of the painstaking emptiness next to him, and the thought keeps his eyes open until he can't take it any longer.
When I have dreams that I may cease to be.
A ripple of pain shakes his entire body at the single line of the poem. Why is it not possible for John to remove thoughts from his mind? If there was such a process, he would have done it by now.
"You're up early."
The baritone, sleepy voice literally shakes John out of his thoughts, and he looks up at Sherlock, who has just emerged from his bedroom.
"Couldn't sleep," John responds vaguely, trying not to hungrily take in everything that Sherlock is, like he usually does. Curly hair, long limbs, protruding cheekbones, gray eyes –
Stop, stop, stop!
"Again?" The fact that John hasn't been able to sleep for a few nights hasn't escaped Sherlock.
When John doesn't respond, Sherlock, instead of dropping the subject like any normal, empathetic human would, switches into deducing mode. "Something's bothering you. Judging by your rigid posture and the fact that it only worsened when I came down, it has to do with me."
Why deny it? Is it even worth the struggle? What has denying everything for the sake of Sherlock's memory done? Nothing to improve it, nothing to worsen it.
"Sherlock, that night, when you were sleep deprived from the Louise Bell case, do you remember dreaming anything, or doing anything, while you slept?" John's words are rapid, urgent, as though if he doesn't get them out right now he never will.
Sherlock doesn't even have to think about the question. "Just a vague dream. Not important, surely."
"It….It is to me," John urges, and Sherlock blinks.
"Well….it was just about a car wreck….It felt familiar and strangely terrifying, and real, as though it had happened before." Sherlock pauses, brows crinkling in an effort to remember. "You were there, sitting next to me, and I watched you being thrown from your seat. I think I may have tried reaching for you, to stop the momentum, but I don't recall succeeding."
The casualness with which Sherlock can speak. As if he's just looked outside the window and discovered the sun is coming up.
He had tried to hold onto John in the dream, but he panicked when he didn't find him.
At least until I was next to you in bed….
It's a sign. A clear sign, to only John. It's a sign that something – something – is coming back. The hope John has quenched for weeks is suddenly sparking again. It's not all lost. He still remembers. Deep in that thick head of his he still remembers.
John is just opening his mouth to speak again – God knows what, he isn't even sure himself what he's planning to say – when there comes a loud knock on the front door. Sherlock glances in the direction of the door before looking back at John.
"You don't suppose that's Lestrade?" he asks.
The spark is gone that quickly, and John can only let it die. "I suppose it could be. Crime doesn't stop just because it's a Sunday."
Sherlock ponders this for a moment, before he heads to open the door. John begrudgingly gets to his feet to follow, and halts mid-step as he recognizes the man standing in the doorway. A man Sherlock clearly doesn't know at all, because his eyes are narrowed in only-heard-of-never-seen confusion.
The appearance of Sherlock's older brother is enough to make John's heart stop for a split second. Mycroft hasn't been by since the accident, hasn't bothered to fix what everyone else has been trying to. Sherlock's own brother, who had just dropped off the face of the planet when Sherlock needed him the most.
The shock in John's body slowly turns to rage at the thought. He actually wants Sherlock to snap and slam the door in his face.
But it's so painstakingly obvious Sherlock doesn't know Mycroft, and has no reason to hate him yet, no reason to slam the door and forbid him to come by again. So naturally, he does the complete opposite.
"I don't believe we've met," Sherlock says as Mycroft steps into the flat. "Well, not formerly. We may have been acquainted in the hospital a few months back."
"Mycroft," says the other Holmes elusively, formally.
John hates him. Absolutely hates him.
And at that moment, Mycroft's gaze finds John's own cold eyes, and attempts a fake, stoned smile.
"John," Mycroft says passively.
John doesn't speak, just fixates Mycroft with a deadly, why-the-hell-do-you-choose-to-come-by-now stare. Mycroft's dead smile doesn't fade, and he meets John's eyes evenly and daringly.
It's Sherlock, who has started to notice the tension building in the room, who speaks next. "You two have met?"
"Yes," Mycroft responds curtly. "Through Lestrade. I'm sure you're aware of DI Lestrade?"
"Of course. He sent you, then, I presume?"
"You could say that."
Mycroft's smooth, almost condescending tone infuriates John even more, and he has to grit his teeth to prevent his next words from sounding ravenous. "Mycroft, could I speak to you privately for a moment?"
"I came to see Sherlock," is the only excuse Mycroft can offer.
"Three bloody months too late, you bastard," John hisses so only Mycroft will catch it.
"Has it been that long?" Mycroft's voice is even, absent of an emotion.
"Yeah, yeah it has. No thanks to you things are traveling swimmingly, in case you had the audacity to care."
"I feel like I'm missing something," Sherlock says loudly, interrupting the tirade he has no reason to understand.
"Nothing at all." Mycroft doesn't take his eyes off of John. "Your flatmate here would just like a word with me, if that's all right by you."
Sherlock's eyes reveal only a moment's confusion and bewilderment, but John and Mycroft don't wait to hear what he has to say next, if anything at all. They've both just migrated to the secluded kitchen – well, John more stormed into the kitchen with Mycroft trailing behind.
"What the hell are you even doing here?" John snaps at once, rounding on Mycroft. "Three months, Mycroft, three fucking months, and suddenly you decide to show up?"
"He's my brother; I have a right to come whenever I so please," Mycroft responds coolly.
"Three months, Mycroft! You didn't think to come three months ago? You must not have cared that much to not even bother showing up for three months!"
"There was never a proper time –"
"To see your brother? To maybe try to fix what Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, me….everyone, has been trying to fix for ages? He was in a bloody car wreck, for God sakes! Anderson has done more to help him than you have! Do you even care about him getting better?"
"Caring," Mycroft says quietly, though there's a slight shake to it that almost goes by unnoticed, "is a dangerous disadvantage, John."
"Dangerous disadvantage? Then why did you go into Sherlock's room at the hospital when he was asleep? That must be a terribly dangerous disadvantage in itself! He's your brother. Brother. And even though he doesn't remember you, you remember him. And don't even tell me you don't care about him, because I bloody well know you do after everything I've seen you do for him."
Mycroft doesn't speak, and so John continues on angrily. "The awful part, Mycroft, is while you've been ignoring him, ignoring everything, I've been here, in this flat, for three months, trying to make things better. And you – you think you get to just walk in here unannounced and suddenly decide to give a damn. You don't have to live with him. You don't have to know what he's like – what it's been like since that truck hit him. And maybe you don't care, it wouldn't surprise me, but as long as you don't, I don't want you here. And I'm sure Sherlock wouldn't either."
"You're just going to order me away?" Mycroft's voice is slightly amused, and John wants nothing more in the world than to lunge at him and strangle him.
"You could've showed up. Three months ago you could've come by. But you wasted your chance. And if caring about him is such a disadvantage as you say it is, you'll have no problem getting out of here and never coming back."
"John, will you listen to me? There was never a time that I could come by." John would believe him if the amusement in his voice would dissipate. "I'm not leaving until he wants me to now that I'm here."
"Trust me, if he remembered anything about you, he would not want you here," John snaps bitterly. "And don't even start with the 'there wasn't a chance.' You're his brother. You should've made a time. And unless you can somehow make up for all of that, I don't think it's beneficial for you to be around here."
"I am obviously missing something here."
The voice isn't Mycroft's, and by the power of elimination John knows whose voice it is. Mycroft raises his eyebrows, and John steps aside to allow Sherlock to come forward.
"You heard that entire thing, didn't you?" John asks him irritably.
"You don't seem to know the definition of 'private,'" Sherlock says dismissively. "But you were saying something about Mycroft being my brother?"
Instantly John feels his blood turn to ice as he looks at Mycroft. Mycroft himself is smiling slightly again.
"You would think I'd remember if I had a brother," Sherlock muses.
"Actually you preferred not to," Mycroft says. "Before the accident, anyway. I guess it's not all a terrible loss to you, like the others were. Anderson and Donovan I would argue for, but –"
"Mycroft." John frowns at him, feeling like Mycroft possesses none of the smoothly crafted plotting the others had – the way they could craft a lie to convince Sherlock and make him see what he had forgotten. Mycroft, like Sherlock, is blunt and to-the-point, choosing not to sugar coat it. Quite oppositely, the words may just as well be doused in salt.
"But I can prove it, if it matters to you," Mycroft continues swiftly.
Sherlock raises an eyebrow at him. "I don't see how –"
"Mycroft Holmes. That's your first indication," Mycroft cuts across him.
"Pretty petty, if that's the only evidence you have."
"Only evidence?" Mycroft smiles fully, and from inside jacket he pulls out a tan folder, handing it over to Sherlock. "You don't know, but I ordered for a DNA sample while you were in the hospital. You were asleep when they drew the blood. Results came back about three weeks ago. You can question their credibility, but I have a whole floor of doctors who will vouch in my favor."
John gaps at Mycroft, who doesn't seem at all concerned with the breach in privacy he has committed. Sherlock, however, doesn't apparently care. Of course, why would he? A Holmes knows little about personal space.
There's a moment of silence as Sherlock views the papers, which John recognizes as official, medically issued papers from his days at the hospital. After this brief moment, Sherlock looks up at Mycroft, and tucks away the papers.
"While I do doubt, the fact that these are official leads me to offer no alternative," Sherlock says evenly.
Another short period of silence, until Sherlock suddenly thrusts the papers back into Mycroft's hands.
"Now, if you would be so kind," he says, and offers one last dramatic pause before uttering words that are like music to John's bewildered ears, "get the hell out of this flat."
Mycroft's stony smile drops instantly, and looks at Sherlock with confused eyes, as if trying to decipher if he's being serious.
Clearly he can find no evidence to the contrary, because in the next moment, he's bidding a hurried farewell and disappearing through the front door.
John can't help it; he smiles widely at Sherlock, who notices and smirks.
"You seemed pretty adamant on him not being here. And, brother or not, he is a bit mad, isn't he?" Sherlock says.
"Mad? Sherlock, if he's mad, you're surely his brother," John replies.
Sherlock smiles crookedly. "There's nothing wrong with me, John."
And for the first time in three months, John is willed to believe it.
When I have dreams that I may cease to be.
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain.
Never have relish in the faery power of unreflecting love.
Then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone.
The space next to John is too empty again. He lays his hand on the place he wishes Sherlock would occupy, but instead he sits downstairs, refusing to sleep for God knows what reason. John's entire body is cold with a common loneliness.
He knows sleep will elude him. So he slowly rises out of bed and reenters the living area.
"Troubles sleeping again, John?" Sherlock says from his spot on the couch, immersed in nothing but his own thoughts.
John doesn't bother telling Sherlock he's right once again. Instead he chooses to sit down across from Sherlock, legs outstretched, staring blankly ahead. The two men sit in silence for a long time, John counting shadows and Sherlock counting thoughts.
"'When I have dreams that I may cease to be, before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain." John blinks as he hears Sherlock reciting the poem, so smoothly and effortlessly and beautifully.
"You know that?" he asks.
"It was a poem I studied in university. I don't know why I bothered remembering it. It's only recently come back to me. I can't figure out why."
"'Never have relish in the faery power of unreflecting love, then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone,'" John recites, much to Sherlock's surprise.
"'And think till Love and Fame and nothingness do sink,'" Sherlock finishes. "Reminds me of something."
"A lot of things lately do," John points out flatly. Another pause. "Have you been having anymore nightmares about the car wreck?"
"A few," Sherlock answers shortly. "They don't resonate long, though, the nightmares. Usually the most terrifying part of them is losing you. I'm okay when I wake up and you're here."
John has never heard Sherlock say something so….well, so damn romantic. As far as romanticism can go with a man like Sherlock Holmes.
"Sherlock, you know the first night you had one of those nightmares, you…you actually did find me and hold onto me. In the waking world," John blurts out, unable to find a more proper moment to say so than now.
"I'm aware," Sherlock agrees, much to John's shock. "I…I don't suppose now's a time to tell you I wasn't really asleep?"
"Well, I was. But not fully, at least. I was…consciously aware of holding you."
"Oh." It's the only thing John can think to say.
After a few brief moments of nothingness, Sherlock pushes to his feet, determinedly looking down at John.
"Let's go for a walk," he says, and John blinks in bewilderment.
"It's got to be what, two in the morning?" he points out, but Sherlock isn't fazed.
"Let's go for a walk," he repeats, holding out his hand.
He must be crazy, but John only has to see Sherlock's empty hand outstretched for a split second before he seizes it.
A long walk later, and the two of them are sitting in a cab again. Sherlock was complaining about having to walk all that way back to the flat and John decided it wasn't a good time to remind him the bloody walk had been all his idea.
The walk, however, was nice. Soothing. Familiar. John was glad Sherlock had suggested it. John had pointed out certain stars that were illuminated due to the city's utter darkness. Sherlock didn't particularly take interest in this, but was happy to pretend he did.
"You never used to care about the solar system. Thought it was a waste of knowledge," John had told him as Sherlock's eyes glowed with the starlight.
"It does seem pretty dull. Useless. Doesn't mean I can't choose to appreciate it," Sherlock had responded.
Now John is once again looking out at London's desolate darkness, with Sherlock beside him. He can't see the stars as clearly as he could while on the walk, but the fact that they're there, everlasting and bright, is enough. You don't have to be able to see something to know it's there.
John's hand and Sherlock's hand are on the empty space between them, but neither of them even notices how close they are to touching. Only when John looks away from the window does he realize that his hand has been acting on its own accord. And apparently so has Sherlock's.
"'When I have dreams that I may cease to be.'" The poem seems to have become a sort of motif for the both of them. Sherlock looks over at John, and then down at their hands.
"Familiar," he says simply.
"You actually took it after the tea party theft a few months back," John dares.
Sherlock doesn't respond, nor does he move to take John's hand.
"I feel this awful sort of familiarity around you, John. But I don't know why," Sherlock says, switching the subject. "When you were the first one I saw when I woke up in the hospital, I had no idea who you were. But I felt like I knew you. Or maybe I wanted to know you. I'm glad you were the first I saw, even though it terrified me at first. I thought you were some angelic spirit I don't believe in, coming to take me to death. But you weren't. You may have been the opposite."
John isn't sure how to respond to this, but luckily, he doesn't have to, because Sherlock is continuing.
"I don't know what this is, or why it all feels…right, normal….When you tried to take my hand when I came home from the hospital, I didn't….want to take mine away. I only did because….I didn't know you. I didn't know you, and assumed you didn't know me. I didn't know if that's what you wanted. You showed no indication of it, when I burned my hands and took the small pleasure of you essentially caressing them. When I asked if you had a significant other…I shouldn't have, really. What was I trying to imply? What if…." Sherlock trails off, clearing his throat. "You were familiar to me in a way that nothing else was, but I didn't know if you felt the same. If me wanting to hold you every night, wanting to hold your hand in the cab, wanting you, was something that you wanted as well. I took an interest in you when you were just a stranger to me."
Sherlock ends his speech, narrowing his eyes as though he's embarrassed by it.
But to John, it's perfect. He almost has the urge to laugh. How many times has he held back from saying essentially the same thing that Sherlock did? When all he's wanted to do is tell Sherlock exactly everything he felt before the car accident. But he's held back, when it's been exactly the thing Sherlock has been feeling the entire time.
"Sherlock," John says, his hand already connecting with Sherlock's own. "Oh, Sherlock. You know, I always figured the reason that poem resonated with us so much was because it represented exactly what was going on with us. You had, in a sense, just ceased to be, everything that you were was gone. And I stood in this empty world with nothing. But how wrong that poem was….you haven't ceased to be at all, have you? How could I think all of that was gone? How could I think you forgot?"
John is talking more to himself than to Sherlock, the corners of his lips twitching as if to smile.
"You hit your head on that window, and you forgot, but you never really did," he continues. "I looked familiar to you. I was your saving grace in that hospital room. How could've everything gone, when you looked at me and your feelings hadn't changed. And….and I was waiting for a moment to tell you. Me, a bloody idiot if I ever knew one! To think, all this time, you….these feelings that we had before, they never changed. Oh. Oh, I do see it now. Asking about a significant other, the comment after you burned your hands. But you weren't sure, because you didn't remember. But you did."
Now John is smiling, and Sherlock, who is beginning to see where John's rambling is heading, starts to smile too.
"And now, here we sit, in the exact position we were in four months ago. Nothing has changed. How could've I thought things had changed?" John chuckles to himself, as if sharing some private joke. "Sherlock, you may not remember anything about you and me. You may never remember. But you will never forget, will you?"
"John," Sherlock interrupts softly.
"I know, Sherlock," John says.
Four months of angst, dismay, hope, frustration, anger, and glory, all leading up to the one moment that should've ended that cab ride. Sherlock's lips pressed to John's, hands connected and holding on for what they had and have to come.
Usually they're about losing you, but I'm okay when I realize you're here.
John's hand tightens on Sherlock's.
If he has it his way, he'll never let go.
Because he can never be sure if this cab ride will be their last.
But even if it is, nothing will truly cease to exist.