|For All the Ghosts
Author: cliffrose-acetone PM
Based on a post I found that wondered what it would be like if Sherlock returned after the Fall out of the blue, and it took John a while to really process what had happened.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort - Sherlock H. & John W. - Words: 2,666 - Favs: 1 - Published: 08-09-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8412354
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It was four days before the second year. John kept track of the days- knew by looking at the date every morning how long ago it'd been; knew that when his nightmares started to get worse and his limp more painful, that the day was close. He was doing fine, he told his therapist, told everyone; it didn't matter that he barely slept (because no amount of medication could lessen what he felt at the images he saw when he was forced to close his eyes), or that he barely left the flat because he was ashamed of how badly he'd taken it, how unstable he really was, or that whenever he called in sick, it was because he didn't have the strength that day to even get out of bed, never mind pretend that he'd gotten over it. Sarah asked him once if he as all right after four months of not speaking to him- the smile he'd given her was so agonizingly fake that he had to look away from the horror she tried to hide in her expression.
It wasn't a huge surprise to John then, when he came back from the clinic one day and found him standing by his old chair, his fingers trailing along the strings of his violin. It was exactly where he'd left it almost a year ago- John hadn't dared to touch it ever since his hand had brushed against it once and the sound of that single accidental note left him curled up by the window trying and failing not to give in to the millionth realization that his best friend was gone- just waiting for him to pick up the bow and play again. The wood had grown darker- or maybe that was just John's observation- miserable without it's owner to play it. He didn't notice John in the doorway at first- silently staring with a mixture of wonder and horror- and as the doctor watched, the figure picked it up and plucked an experimental note, tutted at the tuning, and paused to fix it.
John didn't dare to move. He waited until the figure really started playing, waited to see what he could remember, holding on the last, meager strands of hope he had left-
Sherlock seemed a little different- his hair was slightly longer, and he seemed thinner, but other than that, he was the same as John remembered. John hesitantly walked into the room, took off his coat and kicked off his shoes. By the time he'd reached his usual chair (without pausing to try and remember exactly how Sherlock had looked in his- he didn't need to any more now), the violin's song had faded and Sherlock had turned to look at him. John frowned at the guarded expression on Sherlock's face- he looked as if he was waiting for John to be angry, as if he had a reason to be.
"What's wrong?" John asked. He couldn't exactly remember Sherlock ever looking guilty, but he supposed that anything was possible in the state he was in. If this stopped the limp and the nightmares and the insomnia, he didn't care. Maybe now he could give up pretending.
For a moment it looked like Sherlock was actually...confused? "You're not..." he cleared his throat and turned his eyes somewhere above John's head. "I expected more of a reaction."
John laughed, once- it was awkward and humorless, but it was considerably less cold than the few that he'd forced out in the past two years. Sherlock glanced at him anxiously, putting his violin on the head of his chair but still not sitting down. "Aren't you going to ask where I've been?"
If felt like something snapped somewhere- some part of the temporary peace he experienced at seeing Sherlock again broke, as if it'd been hit by something, something intangibly heavy. His smile faded slightly, and he looked away.
"No," he said softly, his voice suddenly loud in the weighted silence between them. "It doesn't matter."
Sherlock said nothing after that. He stayed for another minute before he drifted off in the direction of his room and didn't come out again before John went to bed himself.
Sherlock was still there when John woke up. He the stopped halfway towards the fridge, just noticing that the old science equipment was beginning to be strewn all over the table again, taken out from the boxes that Mrs. Hudson had, in the end, never given away. He took a few hesitant steps towards the table, just to get a closer look. His hand hovered over the microscope, the papers, the phone that Sherlock had left precariously balanced on his stack of books. He didn't dare touch it in case...and he could hear Sherlock shuffling through his room, looking for things probably, judging by shifting sound of him moving things around. John was still hovering by the table by the time Sherlock came back with another box in his arms. He stopped suddenly- hair ruffled and cheeks slightly flushed- and just stared at John for a moment before he put the box down. It was like he'd forgotten that John was around, forgotten that when he rounded the corner, there'd be someone else tottering around the flat too. John could've cut the tension in the air with a knife, but didn't dare break the silence first. That would be admitting-
It was the weekend, which was good, because John didn't think he would've been able to go to work in the state he was in. He could feel Sherlock watching him as he made tea (two cups instead of one now- and after taking all that time to remind himself to only make one, too), his eyes boring into the back of John's head, but he ignored it for the sake of keeping his hands steady with the boiling water. He only turned back to Sherlock to put the tea next to his hand, before he took himself to the living room and his favourite chair (he'd sat in Sherlock's chair once, but it had felt strange, like he wasn't in his own house anymore). He turned on the TV for the sake of filling the tense silence, but he didn't watch it. The images flickered in front of his eyes, but he was entirely focused on the subtle sounds from the kitchen- Sherlock's slight movements, the turning of pages, the tiny blips as he checked something on his phone. It was as if nothing had happened in-between the last two years and this day- there was just a gap that John didn't want to remember, a time period of gray nothing. But it still felt like that gray period of nothing even now, because there was something about Sherlock's presence that bothered him. He knew what it was- or at least he thought so- but every time the answer presented itself, he quietly pushed it aside. He wanted to hold on to this, as strange as it felt. It didn't sit right with him, but it was better than not being able to move some days because he realized that he was missing-
There was a story on the news about some ridiculous thing the prime minister of Italy had said, John noticed, and he focused on that instead. It was easier that way.
They didn't talk much for the rest of the day. They stayed out of each other's way. As soon as John retreated to his own room, he heard the familiar song of the violin in the living room. He lay for a long time on his bed, staring up at the ceiling and wishing that he could get past the heavy feeling in his chest like something was wrong-
Later in the evening, when John had exhausted his patience on all four walls of the room, he got up to find Sherlock at the table with his laptop. John asked if he was hungry, and Sherlock looked at him for one, long second, before he said yes. John thought that his face almost looked concerned, but John put it down to being a projection of his own imagination.
The next day was as quiet as the next, and John went out for a walk after work to clear his head. He turned off his phone and went to the park for a bit; for a moment he thought he saw the end of a familiar dark coat round a corner on the path ahead of him, and there was another instance where he felt like he was being followed, but he didn't really trust himself to believe that it was more than his own paranoia. It unsettled him enough though that he went home soon after, but found Sherlock exactly where he'd left him, at the kitchen table again with his microscope. Although, John noticed, Sherlock's shoes weren't where he'd remembered them being- he knew that he only noticed that because he'd started to notice things, subtle things that Sherlock used to notice in an instant, and it had rubbed off on him at some point- but it didn't matter now, not like this.
John made himself go to work again the next day, but he lay awake a least an hour before he was supposed to get up first, trying to force himself back into the same semi-normalcy that had been his life since-
The kitchen was empty, and the door to Sherlock's room was closed- as it had been for the past two years. The past two years this day, John realized with a jolt as he sat down with a cup of coffee and noticed the date that flashed up on screen next to the time on the TV. He'd be fine, he told himself, even though by the time he got back from work last time, he'd lain on the couch for hours, painfully remembering everything he missed, everything he never thought he'd see again (the scratchings on the violin at ridiculous hours in the morning, the target practice on the graffitied wall, the experiments that found their way into the food sooner rather than later).
He seriously wondered how he'd been able to function for the past few months if he'd let the grief take him over like this. It'd taken people like Sarah a good few months to realize that something was wrong, and that had only been because of a slip on John's part. Others who know him better- Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, even Harry- obviously saw that John wasn't coping well, but knew better than to pry. It took him a while to start going out again, but even those nights dwindled into rare occasions eventually. Everyone seemed to forget once his act got better, and eventually he found himself feeling just as, if not more alone, as he had been before Sherlock left him.
Left him- a note, a phone-call full of lies, a goodbye without a proper explanation- and then he'd just waltzed right back into John's life as if nothing had happened. Maybe that was what he wanted after all, John thought, to pretend for a bit longer that the months of just holding himself together hadn't happened. It was easier to forget than to try to deal with it like he had before. Without Sherlock, he was reminded of just how hopeless he'd felt then, and it was only multiplied by his grief. If the bastard just hadn't left-
He started breaking things. That night, when he got home, he went straight to his room (almost diverted to the kitchen, but then just barely forced himself away). The anger and frustration had culminated to a fever pitch, and before he knew it, he had a picture frame in his hand and was hurling it at the opposite wall. The glass shattered and the wood split, the shards cutting the faces of the people in the picture.
And it felt good.
He did notice- in the middle of throwing a mug, another picture frame, a photo album-that Sherlock stood by the door and watched him break things for a while. John didn't turn around to acknowledge him. He pushed the lamp off his bedside table and ripped the curtains down with enough force to take down the rod too, and then fell on his knees and just stared at the crumpled fabric trying to fully process what he'd done.
He heard Sherlock leave, but he still didn't turn around.
He had the next morning off, so he was just in the kitchen when he heard vaguely familiar footsteps on the stairs to the flat. He paused in the middle of putting the dishes away to listen and try to place them. It didn't sound like Mrs. Hudson- who was out for a week to visit her sister- and he knew it wasn't Sherlock, because he was still in his chair in the living room-
"I did tell you," he heard Sherlock say, irritatingly smug as usual.
John opened his mouth to ask what he meant, and turned around to find Lestrade standing in the middle of the living room.
"There's a witness this time," Lestrade said. He hadn't noticed John staring at him from the sink, suddenly pale. "Thought you might want to take a look at it."
Sherlock smiled in that annoyingly triumphant way of his as he steepled his fingers over his lips. He started to say something, but then glanced and John and stopped. "John?"
Lestrade turned at the concerned note in Sherlock's voice and looked a little startled by the look of horror on John's face. "What's wrong?"
John swallowed once, tried to speak, cleared his throat and tried again. His voice was almost childishly small, but it carried in the funeral silence.
"You can see him too?" he said.
Greg's eyes widened suddenly. "You thought-" He turned to look at Sherlock and then back to John, his expression so pitying that John had to look away. "You didn't think he was..." Greg trailed off, and the silence swept back again for another painful second.
"I'll meet you at the Yard," Lestrade said stiffly, and quickly left after a small, awkward nod in John's direction. John wished he could follow him out the door to another place that was less impossible and complicated, but he knew that he couldn't run away from this forever.
He didn't look at Sherlock as he walked out of the kitchen. He turned in the direction of his room, but Sherlock was already there, blocking the way.
"I'm really not in the mood for this," he said, keeping his voice low to hide the fact that it was shaking, like his hands, his knees, the whole of his body. "Just let me go."
"Let me go."
"No." John jumped as Sherlock grabbed his shoulders, shaking him until he looked up. "John, look at me. I'm not dead, all right? I never died, I'm not some figment of your imagination, you know that.."
They're glasz eyes, John finds himself thinking, which is why they're green now in the weak morning light from the window. Gray sometimes, then almost blue and occasionally brown. Those are Sherlock's eyes. John looked at them, and finally acknowledged the fact that he was aware the whole time that he wasn't imagining it. But trying to believe it now was all too much.
Sherlock let him go. John could feel the blankness of his own expression- the cold, expressionless mask that he used to hide his most painful emotions- but he couldn't do anything to stop it. He could only walk past the immobile figure of his friend and retreat again to his room.
He could remember crying like this only once in his life, but he'd forgotten the reason for the first time by now.
Someone knocked on his door at some point, but John never got up to open it.