A/N: Oh my gosh! How exciting, the beginning of the sequel! I to anyone reading this who hasn't read the first story, please check it out because this really won't make sense if you don't.
Disclaimer: I only own Clara.
The hazy yellow glow of the gas lamps cast a somber light on the cluttered room. Outside, it was a clear spring night in London; the stars glimmered brightly in the distance against their dark, velvety backdrop. Inside 221B Baker Street, three people sat together in a room; two men and a woman, an odd combination, especially so late at night. It was clear that the three knew one another well, but an air of sorrow hung around them. One man sat in a chair, and the other knelt in front of him. The bond between the two was almost tangible – they were the closest of the group. The woman was flustered, for some reason. She stood behind a sofa, choosing to observe the scene rather than participate in it. Upon closer inspection, the three could be distinguished as Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and Clara Barker.
"What happened," the kneeling man, Sherlock Holmes, asked in concern.
The sitting man, Dr. Watson, couldn't bear to look at either of his companions, so, he closed his eyes. "It's Mary," he replied hoarsely.
Holmes glanced back at the woman. She held his gaze for a few moments, before snapping her eyes back to Watson. A million thoughts and assumptions were running through her head, and it was enough to make her dizzy.
"She," Watson stuttered, his voice rough with emotion, "She's dead, Holmes." The poor man put his face in his hands and tried to hold himself together. However, he failed, and soon he started crying against his will.
Sherlock Holmes blinked twice, trying to process the information his friend had just given him. Clara weakly took a seat on the couch, tears of sympathy silently streaming down her face. She hadn't known his wife well, but the sheer despair that emanated from her friend's body was too much for her to handle.
"How?" Was all Holmes could manage to get out.
He placed a hand on Watson's shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. He'd never seen his friend in such a state of emotional agony and he didn't quite know how to handle it. He himself was not an emotional man, and therefore it was difficult for him to empathize with others. However, this was Watson – his best friend, his closest companion, hisbrother. To see him in such misery made Holmes wish he could bear the pain instead.
"She – she – I don't – she fell down the stairs. I couldn't – if I just – Oh God, Holmes, if I'd just gotten to her in time –" he stammered.
"Shh, Watson, shh," Holmes soothed, rubbing his upper arms as if to warm him up.
"She broke her neck," he said, looking at the ground, his face contorted in sorrow. "I was out – I'd gone to the grocer for her. When I came back – the maid – the maid tried to move her, Holmes. If I'd just been there – I could have saved her!"
"Watson, don't you blame yourself, do you hear me? You and I both know that a broken neck can lead to immediate death – it's likely that you couldn't have done anything…" Holmes said.
"Can lead to immediate death. What if – what if it was asphyxiation that killed her? If she hadn't been moved…" Watson choked.
"And that's not even the worst part," Watson continued, letting out a half-laugh half-sob. "She was expecting," he murmured. "We were going to have a child, Holmes," he said, finally looking at his friend.
When Holmes saw the look in his friend's clear, blue eyes, he had to blink rapidly to stop himself from getting teary-eyed as well. They were so full of sadness, so broken; it was unlike anything he had ever seen before. He'd dealt with death on a regular basis, but, right now, Watson was letting him see inside his very soul; no one else had ever allowed him to do such a thing. All Holmes could think to do was embrace his friend.
When Clara heard his words, she covered her mouth and nose to muffle her crying. No one deserved such pain, especially not Watson. Why was he being punished in such a way? He was one of the kindest, noblest people she knew; why did such a terrible thing have to happen to him? He was on the verge of having everything he wanted – a wife, a child, a family, and now it was gone – just like that.
"What am I going to do?" Watson mumbled into Holmes' shoulder.
Holmes pulled back and studied Watson's face. "I don't know," he replied, shaking his head.
"I can't – I can't go back there. The memories – " Watson began.
"You'll stay here, of course," Holmes interjected resolutely.
"Come," Clara said gently. It was the first time she had spoken since Watson's entrance. "I think it'd be best if you get some sleep," she stated, helping Watson over to the sofa.
He nodded and went to lie down, barely acknowledging her. Clara took a blanket off of Holmes' bed and spread it over Watson. When she had finished tending to him, she stood beside Holmes and hooked her arm through his. Together, they watched in sadness as their friend drift into an uneasy sleep.
The funeral was…well, it happened. And Watson held up well enough, his steely-blue eyes fixed on the ground for most of the ceremony. Mary's father held his wife as she cried in woe, and the tears of all the church goers could have been used to fill the Trevi Fountain.
Watson's condition was improving as time went on, though, and he had moved back into 221B Baker Street. Because Clara was living in his old room, he stayed in Holmes'. The thing about Watson was that he was not a brooding man, unlike Holmes. If such a tragedy had occurred to Holmes (although, it is unlikely Holmes would ever place himself in such a position to begin with), he would dwell on it for quite a while; years, even. His repressed emotions would consume him from the inside. Watson, on the other hand, by opening himself to emotion, allowed himself to recover faster. He didn't resort to alcohol or other vices, and therefore was able to keep his thoughts clear. Luckily, as a doctor, he had a natural sense of what was healthy, both physically and mentally.
But, that isn't to say he didn't have a difficult time. Many a night, he would awake in a cold sweat, quietly mumbling Mary's name, and Holmes would try to comfort him to the best of his not-so-extensive ability. Holmes was completely out of his element in such situations; if you asked him to do something analytical, something that required science, he would have no problem, but affairs of the heart were a different story entirely. He'd often been criticized for being mechanical, robotic, and he could see the truth in such complaints.
It wasn't so much that he was incapable of emotion; it was just that he refused to succumb to it. In his opinion, emotion was for the weak-minded. Sensitivity, to him, was one of Watson's greatest and only flaws. But, Watson was his foil – where he went left, Watson went right; that's what made them so compatible. As clichéd as it may seem, they completed one another; Watson was the heart and Holmes was the brain. And, now, what had once separated them had brought them together again, making closer than ever.
Watson only wanted to see Holmes. Clara had tried to help, she tried to support him, but the only person he would listen to was Holmes, which caused her to feel utterly helpless. She was hurt and confused as to why he didn't want to have anything to do with her, but she tried to be understanding and respected his wishes.
When her thoughts weren't with Watson, they were with Holmes. She wondered more than anything what he thought of her. When she had kissed him that night, he'd kissed her back – that had to count for something, right? But now, Watson was back. She didn't want to be the Mary of this situation – she didn't want to break them apart (I shouldn't flatter myself with the notion that I actually could even if I wanted to, though… she thought wryly). Why did she need someone, anyway? It was companionship that she wanted, not necessarily marriage. Perhaps things could just stay as they were – however, that was unlikely. Nothing ever stayed the same – a lesson she had learned long ago. But, she'd approached him about it (which, in hindsight, was probably a mistake).
"Holmes, where does this leave us?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" he countered impatiently.
"You know what I'm talking about. The other night…" she trailed off.
"Clara, right now, our primary concern is Watson's mental health," he said coldly.
She bit her lip, slightly hurt. "Yes, I understand that, of course. But, I just want to know where we stand. I mean, I have these feelings for you… and I – I don't know – just tell me this: am I wasting my time?" she stammered.
He looked at her, his gaze softening. "Don't be like this… The reason we work so well together is that we don't bother each other with such trivial matters. Emotions are superfluous – they hold absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Matters such as these are the only things I choose not to analyze, and I suggest you do the same," he replied.
"Please, Holmes. I know you're not just some machine, like everyone says. I know you have a heart – I've seen it! With John, the way you treat him – I can tell. Why can't you just give me a chance to show you…" she said.
"Clara, in my extensive dealings with mankind, I have found that people, when given the opportunity, will always betray you. Always. So, please forgive me if I'm not willing to make myself vulnerable to a barrage of irrational emotions," he said, spitting the last word in contempt.
"John hasn't betrayed you," she countered bravely, her voice trembling with sincerity.
Holmes faltered for a microsecond. "He ran off with Mary. For love; and just look where that's gotten him now," he replied quietly.
"How do you know you can't trust me, though? I've never given you reason to doubt me! What do I have to do to prove to you that I'm trustworthy?" she pleaded, "Just tell me. I'll do anything – whatever you ask."
Holmes let out a sigh of frustration. "What do you want from me, Clara? Some profession of love? Is that what you're looking for? If that's what it is, then you are wasting your time. It's been nearly a year, don't you know me at all?" he questioned.
"Do you think me a fool? I've seen how fickle you are – nigh a month ago you were pitching after Watson," he added quietly.
Clara was at a loss for words – he had a point.
"You know that I am right," he continued, "Why on earth would I subject myself to the torments of such sentiments as love?"
"Because, Sherlock," she began passionately, "it could make you happier than you've ever been before."
"I suppose I'd rather not know what I'm missing, then," he said coldly, turning away from her.
"Plus," he added, "you don't love me. You've been exposed to an array of emotions lately, and this is just your way of dealing with it. You feel like you should love me, but that doesn't mean that you actually do."
Again, he had a point. But now, the rejection was overwhelming. She'd been pushed away by not one, but two of the men she'd cared about.
"How can you be so cruel?" she choked, "Maybe you are as cold and heartless as they say." She'd meant for her words to hurt him, but she didn't stay around to find out if they had; the door slammed loudly and Clara was gone.
Holmes sighed and leant his head against the wall. This was the last thing he needed in addition to caring for Watson.
"Women," he muttered irritably.
It had been almost a month since Mary's passing. Watson had taken to burying himself in work to deal with the pain, and Clara and Holmes had begun to act normal around him as to not remind him of the predicament. He was improving – he would get over it, Holmes could tell, which relieved him greatly; he had feared that his friend might never be the same. But, that wasn't to say that he would be back to normal anytime soon. No, Holmes judged it would be at least six more months until his friend was even the shadow of the man he once was. The best thing he and Clara could do for him now was distract him.
However, at Baker Street, things were strained. Together, Holmes and Clara tried to support Watson, but it was difficult for them to remain civil with one another. Also, they didn't want Watson to pick up on any tension between the two, for it would only serve to further trouble him. Needless to say, the atmosphere in 221B was a dark swirl of sorrow, anger, and desperation. Even Mrs. Hudson tried not to interact with Holmes, Watson, or even Clara unless it was absolutely necessary; negativity simply radiated from the top two rooms of the house.
And thus began a steady routine of forced small-talk, emotional breakdowns, and exasperated seclusion. Clara grew apart from the two men of the house and became even more withdrawn and introverted than she was before, and the worst part was that neither of them seemed to care. This monotonous, depressing fog was not broken until a beautiful sunny day in the beginning of June.
Holmes had just returned from the tailor's – he had been picking up some new dress shirts. When he returned to Baker Street, Clara was shut in her room, as usual, and Watson was nowhere to be found. Shortly after he set his package down on his dresser, he heard the front door slam – Holmes' suspicion that it was Watson was confirmed when he heard the tap of his walking stick.
He was about to greet his friend, when a white handkerchief lying on his desk caught his eye – it hadn't been there before. Slowly, he picked it up and recognized it immediately. The initials "I A" embroidered in the right hand corner gave the owner away.
A/N: Please review and let me know what you think!