Summary: John died. It's not that bad. And, apparently, there's a solution to that, too. Crack-ish?
Disclaimer: I don't own Sherlock in any of his incarnations.
A/N: I don't know what this is. Just an idea.
Death and Other Small Inconveniences
John probably should have expected this.
Still, there hadn't been a whole lot of time to consider the consequences in anything resembling a rational manner. He had rammed into Wellesley, who had been about a second away from shooting Sherlock in the head – that was a perfectly logical and damn near habitual course of action in his world. Then he had realised than any ramming done that close to the edge of the roof was going to carry them over, and then he had hit the ground, without even the chance on a decent epitaph, which, as it happened, was going to read: "Geddown, you pillock!"
On second thought, that pretty much summed up his life. With bonus innuendo.
He was still kind of surprised about the Hell.
"What ya in for, mate?" asked the man sitting next to him on the hard bench (with rusty nails sticking out of it, very picturesque, really).
John shrugged. He wasn't entirely sure. It could have been the shooting-people part, even if all of them had been either in war or in self-defence. It could have been the fact that he hadn't set foot in a church in close to twenty years.
But, most likely it was the being-in-love-with-a-man thing.
"Sucks ass, man, sucks ass," the other inmate said world-wisely, nodding to himself. He wiped his running nose on his sleeve. "Me, I knifed my buddy Matt for a hit. I don't… I didn't… it just happened. Lil' Matty, you know? 'e was, what, sixteen?"
John slowly turned away to stare straight forward.
The waiting hall was huge, and there were rows upon rows of benches, and most of the people crammed on them were talking, one over another. A few shouted, but the great majority seemed to have settled into a fairly rational frame of mind.
Far in the distance, John thought he saw someone stepping into what looked like office door. A chime sounded, eight red digits blinked red over the door, denoting the number of the client that was going to be admitted next, and John settled in for a long wait.
John's number was called out of order.
He was torn between raging at the injustice of not being treated like every other ordinary bloke, and the wry amusement that he came to regard life with after all the time he had spent as Sherlock Holmes' blogger. Eventually, he settled on zen-like equanimity laced with the slightest bit of resentment, because he couldn't completely ignore the many hateful slurs shouted at him by the other condemned.
The room behind the door was a quintessential office. It was, in fact, the very essence of what made an office. There were bookcases, shelves, a desk, an old computer, a wilted potted plant, and a clerk with a plastic smile that disappeared as quickly as it had appeared when John crossed the threshold.
"Hello John," Mycroft said in a tone that implicitly commented on the weather.
Admittedly, that was one feature most offices didn't have.
John just didn't have the words. His mouth was parched, his throat dry, and if he had tried to speak he would have coughed himself to – well, not to death, he had already been there, but perhaps to – utter embarrassment. More of an embarrassment than Mycroft having to 'pop downstairs' to bail him out.
There was something hilariously funny about the imagery, only John had just spent a chunk of eternity listening to druggies and rapists and child-murderers bemoaning the unfairness of their fate, and watching abusive parents and drunk-drivers being let go for feeling remorse… he didn't feel like laughing.
"Quite," Mycroft agreed with effected sympathy, and John briefly considered stuffing the umbrella into one of the smarmy prick's orifices – it was a toss-up which orifice, there were some interesting possibilities – before he decided that he couldn't be bothered.
John turned to look at the clerk sitting behind the office desk. He was beyond thin, bony to the point of insectoidness. He had dark hair full of dandruff that snowed down to the shoulders of his washed-out shirt; his wide, watery-blue eyes were emphasised by round glasses that reflected the blue light of the screen – the computer looked like it was older than Bill Gates. John had imagined demons differently.
"Budget cuts," the demon explained, and stuck a blue pen in behind his ear – the kind of pen that came in a ten-pack. He blearily eyed Mycroft. "Take him and get out of my office. I've got a full waiting hall of clients." He pecked at a few keys with his index finger, and the reflections in his glasses changed shapes and colours. "And next time at least carry a lute or something."
"Yes, yes," Mycroft agreed easily, obviously not intending to actually comply with the request. "I am aware how much your boss dislikes giving the impression that he can be intimidated."
The demon sneered and pointed his typing index finger – tipped with a black talon – at the door.
"Do give your boss my fondest regards," Mycroft replied, clasped John's shoulder and effortlessly shanghaied him out.
"…fucking hate it when he does that," filtered from the office in the tinny sound of a subpar phone connection. "I don't care if he nukes an orphanage, that arse's going Up. I'm not dealing with him for the rest of the eternity!"
"Sure thing, boss," answered the bored voice of the demon clerk.
The voices were abruptly cut off, and John noticed that a heavy door was being closed behind them, secured with a bolt and with a series of anvil-sized padlocks. He let himself be nudged into a lift and tacitly watched as Mycroft closed the decorative – as far as woodcarvings of brutal torture could be called decorative – grille.
The lift shuddered and started moving upwards, with the pulley moaning and screeching in protest.
"Don't feel obligated, John," Mycroft said after an interminable time listening to the sounds of cats being repeatedly trod on, "I didn't do it for you. Sherlock has been quite inconsolable – you will best thank me by pulling him out of his ridiculous strop."
The umbrella was just there, John mused. Within reach. And there were several orifices to choose from.
He blinked, slowly, as though he were just waking up. Or maybe falling asleep.
The lift came to a rapid halt, jerking and swinging from side to side. Mycroft waited for a while, then pulled the grille to the side and gestured John to precede him out, into what looked like daylight. After another while, Mycroft sighed and shoved John forward, forcing him to stumble out onto a lawn if he didn't want to land on his face and possibly take a tumble down some steps.
John turned his head to the side; his neck cracked loudly. He was standing in a front garden indeed, in front of a house, looking up a road that seemed familiar.
"Downing Street?" he whispered hoarsely, and coughed. He shook his head. He was not surprised to find British Government's private entrance to Hell in this place.
"Water, John," Mycroft said almost kindly, and then not-Anthea was there with a plastic bottle, and John didn't even try to protest.
"Do I want to know what you've done to the fridge?" John asked, dropping down onto the sofa. The action resulted in creaking of strained furniture and a raised cloud of dust.
John hoped that Mrs Hudson would be willing to listen to apologies. She was far too indulgent with Sherlock, but then, death in the family tended to make kind-hearted people sympathetic. On that note-
"If your re-emergence doesn't cause Mrs Hudson to die of myocardial infarction, she will clean it out." Sherlock's voice was too quiet, too unsteady to support the illusion of unflappability.
"No," John replied, perplexed by the lack of anything he felt. He hoped that numbness would go away, else they might have had a problem. "You will clean it yourself, and not poison anyone."
"Poison is in the teakettle, John. Nightshade." Sherlock skulked closer from his shaded corner, akin to a deranged boggart. He looked like one, too – quite probably not even Mycroft had had the power to force him to wash and brush his hair or shave. He radiated nigh-on fatal doses of guilt; the look in his eyes read like 'I got you killed'.
"Bugger," John grumbled. "I'd brain a man for a cuppa."
Sherlock cut himself off. He skulked yet closer, then flung himself down next to John and grabbed his arm in a double-handed vice grip.
John let him be – this one time they both needed a moment to reorient themselves, to internalise the new and shocking rules reality turned out to have (rules that made a mockery of Sherlock's life's work, but better not say that out loud, he might not have realised yet).
After a long, long while, when the sun had sunk low on the horizon and the distant sound of horns alerted everyone to the impending traffic jam, Sherlock burrowed deeper into the upholstery and made like he was falling asleep.
John really wanted that cuppa now.
"What's Heaven like?" Sherlock whispered into his shoulder.
John's shoulders shook in silent laughter. The shock was receding, and he was suddenly terribly frightened, awed, and desperately amused by his friend's assumption. He ruffled Sherlock's hair and ignored the whine of protest.
"You'll find out when we get there."
No reason to sour their second chance with too much truth.