I woke in the middle of the night. I had a feeling that something was wrong but I couldn't place the feeling.
I glanced at the clock on my bedside table, groaning when I saw 2:21am in glowing, luminous figures. John's side of the bed was empty so I assumed he had just nipped to the bathroom.
But the flat was eerily silent. Nothing to be heard except the shallow sound of my own breathing. 'John?' I called. No answer.
I took another glance to the clock. 2:22am.
It was then that I noticed the scrap of paper on the table beside me. I reached out and picked it up. I saw a rushed scribble written across it so I flicked on the nightlight.
Sherlock, I've just popped out. I beg you to stay in the house and to not follow me. Please. I love you. John.
The ink was smudged, like he'd tipped a cup of water over it. But I knew better. I knew my John. He'd been crying. I sniffed the paper; the note was recently written, most probably in the last hour.
I sat up. Something was wrong. Something was really wrong. And I was determined to find out what was happening.
First I needed to find out where John was. I picked up my phone for the night stand and switched it on. Nothing from John. No indication.
I decided to call him. I speed dialled his number, holding the phone to my ear.
After eight rings, I heard John's hoarse and broken voice on the other end of the line. 'Sherlock.'
'John, what's wrong?' I asked, my fright and worry growing.
'Nothing, Sherlock, I'm fine.' He sniffed.
'You, Mr Watson, are certainly not fine,' I announced. I tried to swallow back the lump in my throat. 'Please, tell me what's wrong.'
He gave a throaty chuckle. 'Sherlock. I'm fine. Go back to bed. I love you.'
I smiled, despite the fear eating away at my insides. 'And I love you. Which is why I am not going to sleep until I can securely assure that you are safe.'
Another half laugh. 'Sherlock, I'm safe. I can tell you that.' He muttered something I couldn't comprehend.
'What was that?'
'Oh, nothing, nothing. Sherlock, please.' His voice caught in his throat. 'Sleep. You sound tired.'
'And you sound afraid,' I countered. 'What's wrong? Or at least tell me where you are so I can make my own judgement as to whether you're safe.'
There was a pause and I waited patiently for him to answer.
John sighed. 'Promise not to follow me?' he whispered.
I hesitated. 'We'll see. It depends.' I shrugged.
'Sherlock…' he warned, but his cracked voice didn't pose a threat to me at all.
'Please, John. I'm worrying about you.'
'Don't. I'm OK. I promise.'
I heard the chattering of teeth. I let out a shaky breath, one that I didn't know I had been holding.
'Come on, John. Please?'
'… Fine. I'm at Bart's,' John said gently.
'OK, it's a start,' I said, getting up off the bed.
I was starting to figure out what was going on. I had to get to John fast. But first I had to keep him talking.
'What are you doing there?'
I left my phone on the chest of drawers on the speakerphone while I slipped on and buttoned my purple shirt over my white t-shirt as fast as I could.
'Just… Molly asked me to help her with a late night autopsy. Didn't… didn't want to wake you up, see?'
'Alright.' I knew that wasn't the case but I had to play along for this to work. 'And how's Molly?'
'She's… she's good. Bit disgusted, but yeah. Good.' I heard him shiver.
I put on my black trousers over my cotton pants and my suit jacket over my shirt.
'What can you see?'
I put on my Belstaff and my shoes. I stuffed my leather gloves into my pocket; I had a feeling John would need them.
'Blood. Lots of blood. Dead people.' His breathing grew rapid.
Dead people, not a dead person. John described nothing about what the room looked like. I confirmed what I knew.
John was having a flashback. Of when he was the war. A minor panic attack. He had managed to keep himself under control enough to answer my phone call and to talk to me. But his restraint was slipping. Slowly but surely, his mind was taking him over.
And not before long, John would jump.
I ran out of the flat after picking up my phone.
'Alright. Just breathe, John. Breathe really slowly. It's OK.'
He didn't try to deny that he wasn't OK anymore. Another sign that if I didn't get to him fast, I was going to lose him.
'John?' I queried.
He was still here with me. Phew.
'I love you.'
'Yeah. Me too.'
As I sat in the cab, I checked my watch. 2:45am.
'There's… there's so much blood, Sherlock!' he said.
'Ignore it, John. Pretend it's not there. Just focus on breathing, OK?'
I saw the cabbie peering at me through the rear view mirror.
'I'm… I'm…' John took a breath. 'I'm sorry.'
'Don't be. I love you.'
2:48am. I was getting closer to the time.
The cab driver dropped me off at Bart's and before I went in, I looked up to check the roof. John couldn't see me. Good.
'I… love you, too.'
John's control was starting to come back. I could hear it. His voice was becoming more stable, his breathing even.
I went round to the back gate. I knew the front doors would be locked and I had no time to unpick the lock. At least I could climb over the gate to get to the roof.
From hear I could hear him clearly. I put my phone in my pocket but didn't hang off.
I climbed onto the roof, and the sight nearly brought a tear to my eye.
John was on the edge of the other side of the roof. His phone was lying a metre away from him.
He was in nothing but what he'd went to sleep in: a short sleeved t-shirt and trousers. All that he'd added was his shoes.
I walked closer, slowly, so as not to alert him of my presence.
'Sherlock… so much… so much blood…'
He inched closer to the edge so I made a run for it. I held onto his hand.
He turned around sharply and scowled when he saw me behind him.
But he didn't protest. I knew that the John I was used to was gradually slipping away.
'Hey,' I whispered in his ear as I turned him around and wrapped him in a hug.
He was freezing. His arms felt like icicles. I wrapped my coat around him, bringing him closer.
'Hey, it's OK. Shh…'
As I spoke, I started stepping back in tiny footsteps.
'I have to go! I need to get away from this!' he protested. 'I need to jump; it's the only way out.'
I kept on retreating from the edge and soon we were in the middle of the roof. 'No, love, it's not,' I whispered in his ear. 'It's not the only way out.'
John started struggling. I held him tighter. 'No,' I said again, softer this time. 'John, you have me, don't you? I can help you get through this.'
He's knees gave way and he fell. I kept my hold on him and I crouched. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my gloves.
'Here, put these on. They'll warm you up.'
I watched him struggle with his icy fingers. 'I told you not to follow me. I thought you wouldn't care.'
That shocked me. John thought… I didn't care about him?
'Of course I care,' I said as I moved to help him put the gloves on. 'I love you.'
'I know… I know… but you're always so… so…'
John slumped against me, his energy and adrenalin fleeing. I put my arms around him protectively.
Give it a few more moments to let him steady himself, and then we would go.
'Sherlock,' John muttered.
'No need to thank me, John. It's what I'm here for.'
Finally, John stopped shivering. 'Come on. We're going home.'
I carefully stood up, gently pulling him with me. I started taking off my coat. 'Here you go. Extra warmth.'
'But what about you?' he asked.
I smiled. 'You are my extra warmth, John.'
He smiled and took the coat. His hands were still shaking. When he'd slipped into my Belstaff, I took his hand, squeezing gently.
When I looked at him, he reached up and pecked my lips. I smiled.
I really couldn't believe I was so, so close to losing him. To losing the man that I loved the most in the world.