Title: Strange News from Another Star [3/3]
Summary: Part Three. Wherein Sherlock isn't really a sociopath, John reaches out and a trip to Edinburgh occurs.
Characters: John, Sherlock, Harry, Clara, Lestrade & OCs
Pairing: Harry/Clara, John-Sherlock
Rating: T (just in case)
Notes: Continuation of the story 'Topical', in which John has lunch with his sister and Sherlock is the topic of conversation.
Warnings: Discusses bi-polar disorder, alcoholism and general gore and blood and death (later), plane crashes and suspected terrorism. bMentions suicide/b.
And when John scrabbled for something – anything – to ground him, Sherlock didn't say anything when John's hand wrapped around his wrist.
John was deep in his armchair watching Cash in the Celebrity Attic with Mrs Hudson when Sherlock's unusually slow tread on the stairs had him turning his head towards the door to watch the detective emerge through the doorway.
"Sherlock, dear, be a love and-" Mrs Hudson began but when she turned and saw the image Sherlock portrayed she stopped, glanced towards John before standing and manoeuvring around Sherlock to get out of the door.
"Sherlock," John began, taking in the tousled hair, the paler than usual skin, the way Sherlock stared at him with that deep, heavy interest with confusion. "Are you all right?"
Sherlock stepped into the room, his gaze flicking to the floor for an instant before he moved to the window and looked down to the street below. Confused, John stood and followed him – standing closer to Sherlock's back than was perhaps strictly necessary – and peered around his shoulder. Outside Baker Street was the not unusual sight of a police patrol car and John raised his eyebrow slightly. He had only heard one car draw up outside and with Sherlock's appearance he had assumed it was a cab but the evidence presented to him led to the assumption that Sherlock had in fact been transported to Baker Street in the back of a police car.
"Your sister," Sherlock said suddenly, his voice loud but wavering and John stepped back as Sherlock turned, his gaze skittering across John's face before settling on his collar. John felt a tangle in his stomach, deep and twisted and he knew, he iknew/i what Sherlock was about to say and a chilling coldness settled in his chest. "She killed herself."
John let out a long, low breath and pulled his lips between his teeth, squeezing his eyes shut. No. No. Because despite knowing what Sherlock was going to say, hearing it was anything but easy.
"H..." He began but the words trailed off along with his voice, along with the ability to speak and think and reason and... and...
"Lestrade..." Sherlock began but stopped, cleared his throat and John opened his eyes at his friend's uncharacteristic hesitation. In the background, Aled Jones and Jennie Bond cooed over a large, ornate trumpet. "Lestrade is waiting outside to take you to the morgue, to identify the body," he continued, his voice stronger and John looked up to his face but Sherlock was stoic, staring at something over John's head and he hated the distance, both physical and emotional, that Sherlock was able to create. "I already identified her but you are her next of kin-"
"Sherlock," John interrupted but Sherlock continued.
"Sergeant Donovan has gone to inform Clara."
"I offered to inform you-"
"Look at me, damn it!" John shouted, his hands reaching out to grasp onto Sherlock's upper arms. Sherlock, startled, looked first to the hands gripping him and then to John's face and what John saw there only served to further shatter any composure he had left. His knees buckled, his vision blurred and a sound – primal, animalistic – tore from his throat as strong arms gripped him from his armpits, as his body was led to the floor, as his fists contacted with thin, threadbare carpet. "I knew... I knew... and I..."
Sherlock didn't say anything, didn't try to offer any comfort and John was both glad and unsurprised. Pain ripped through him, throbbing at his shoulder and his leg and he knew than when he did eventually try to stand, his leg probably wouldn't hold him. Something in his chest burned, painful and searing hot and it licked at his throat forcing him to gasp for air that seemed far too fleeting in the suddenly too small living room. He pushed away from Sherlock's loose grip, pushed himself against the table leg and let his chest spasm as he fought for air, pulling at the neck of his Aran knit jumper.
He felt like he was suffocating.
"Will you come with me?"
Sherlock formed the word 'why' in his throat but John was already out of the room shrugging into his jacket. He followed silently behind.
John almost broke down again at the sound of Clara's voice, the sheer raw agony grating across his overly sensitive nerves. He didn't reply with words, didn't reach out to offer comfort to his sister-in-law, even though he knew she was practically begging for human contact. He watched as her eyes flicked over his shoulder, registered the slightest hint of surprise there and then John felt Sherlock at his back – close enough for heat to pass between them but far enough that they didn't touch.
"All right," Lestrade said quietly, glancing between the trio and John flicked his eyes to the DI for an instant before he concentrated on the grey swinging doors that led to the room he knew his sister's body was. "Shall we?" Lestrade had tried to offer platitudes and condolences in the car on the drive to the hospital but Sherlock had silently shaken his head and Lestrade had nodded, turned back to the road and driven in silence. He didn't try to re-offer the condolences and John was glad.
John stepped forward, falling into step with the much slower, more lethargic Clara. Lestrade pushed the door open and stepped in, taking his place at the door as John paused just outside of it. He turned to Sherlock who was still standing a few feet away.
"Are you coming?"
Sherlock paused again, the question forming but he clamped it down and nodded.
"I'll be right behind you."
John stepped through the door and it swung shut behind him, the rubber edges flapping against one another. He stood beside the gurney, stared down at the shrouded figure. He'd seen dead bodies before – far, far too many – and as he stared at the one in front of him, his mind instantly began categorising relative height, size and-he switched that off. He was not on a case. He was not Sherlock Holmes.
He looked up then at the thought of his friend but he wasn't in the room and John crushed down the instant stab of disappointment.
He looked down again, to Lestrade's hand as he peeled back the sheet, to the face that appeared beneath it and he closed his eyes. Clara gasped, sobbed and muttered,
"Harry, oh God..."
Lestrade took a breath and his voice was directed at John.
"Is this Harriet Watson?"
John nodded and Clara gasped out a strangled 'yes' before she fled the room, the doors banging against the wall in her haste to leave. John knew how she felt; he wanted to leave but his feet seemed to have sprung roots and fastened him to the spot and his eyes were rebelling against being held shut.
"I'll give you a few minutes," Lestrade said and John nodded, swallowed and tried to keep his breathing even.
When the doors flapped against one another again at Lestrade's departure John slowly opened his eyes and stared down at the body below him. Her face was slightly swollen, her blond hair damp and swept away from her forehead. He shifted the sheet; dark, purple bruises ringed her neck.
He sucked in a breath and re-covered her neck with the sheet.
"How long ago?" He asked and looked across the table to Sherlock, whose presence he'd felt the instant Lestrade had left the room.
"Five days ago." Sherlock moved, coming around to John's side and covered her face, too. John stared at the sheet instead. "The flat's cleaner found her this morning."
"How...?" Sherlock didn't say anything and John closed his eyes and felt the twisting snake coil tighter in his gut, the fire in his chest reignited. "Tell me, Sherlock."
There was a long pause, during which John turned his head slightly to Sherlock.
"She used a scarf tied to the clothes in her cupboard. There was an empty bottle of anti-depressants and bottle of gin on the bedside table."
All very dramatically morbid, he thought but shook the thought away and turned them instead to Sherlock's words. There was a lot he hadn't said, a lot that John could infer if he chose – and God did he infer. He could imagine Harry, almost totally out of it as she fumbled with a scarf, as she let herself fall forward. It would have been long. And painful.
"She could have stopped." He saw Sherlock nod and he bit back on the sound that wanted to escape his throat. "She didn't want to."
John felt his leg begin to throb, felt his hand tremble but instead of clutching it into a fist, he reached out, scrabbling for something – anything – to hold onto. His hand closed around something solid and warm - Sherlock's wrist - and he just held on.
"I'm not... entirely surprised," Clara said as she huddled around the cup of tea Mrs Hudson had so graciously made them on their return to Baker Street. "She'd talked about it before – you know, when she was at her worst. But... but it was only ever in that abstract sense that... that Harry talked about anything." There was a heavy silence during which John could think of nothing to say. "Or, at least, I thought it was abstract."
She dropped her head forward, propping it up with a hand to her forehead and John looked around the room for tissues. There were none, of course, so he didn't move. The whole house was quiet; Sherlock had made himself scarce almost as soon as they'd stepped out of the morgue, even the quiet murmur of Mrs Hudson's television was gone. The gas boiler in the kitchen flickered to life and the heating pipes groaned beneath the floorboards, filling the silence for a long while.
"Your parents..." John closed his eyes. "Should we..."
John really, really did not want to call his mother. Last time they had spoken, she had been less than pleased that he was going off to Afghanistan when he should be staying at home trying to fix his marriage. He'd never really gotten on with his dad.
"Yeah." He swallowed. "I'll phone them now."
Need the bank card, Sherlock
They were at King's Cross Station at entirely too early in the morning the day before Harry's funeral. His parents wanted Harriet buried at home and since the divorce had been finalised before Harriet had killed herself, neither Clara nor John could convince them otherwise.
When he'd phoned them, his mum had cried so much that his aunt had had to take the phone off of her to find out what had happened. His dad had phoned him (the first time such an occurrence had happened in nigh on five years) back later that night and insisted that his little girl wouldn't do that, and then insisted that it was a product of her sexuality. He'd never really understood that Harry's bi-polar was a real illness and not just one of those things made up as an excuse for her dysfunction. Dysfunction. John snorted at the memory of the word, spat at his sister years before when she'd announced that she was gay.
John had barely seen Sherlock since the day at the morgue but it was not entirely surprising. He'd been busy with sorting out the legalities with Clara and helping his parents organise the transport of Harry's body back up to Edinburgh and Sherlock, he assumed, was tying up the last case. Sherlock was making up for the absence with his incessant complaining.
"I really don't see why we couldn't have flown."
John and Clara shared a look before John rolled his eyes tiredly and turned back to Sherlock.
"And I told you that Clara and I aren't particularly enthralled with the idea of flying at the moment."
Sherlock huffed and tucked his chin down.
"Statistically speaking, there's more of a chance that the train will derail than a plane exploding-"
"Thank you, Sherlock. I did offer to drive."
Sherlock huffed again.
When they were allowed on the train, Sherlock took the seat opposite John, flouncing into it before pulling his legs up and resting his head against the window with his eyes shut. John wondered if he would actually sleep. Clara took the single chair across the aisle from John's and smiled sadly at him before pulling a small travel pillow from her hand bag and laying her head awkwardly on the table. Neither of them had slept properly since they found out about... He couldn't remember when he'd last strung two hours of consecutive sleep together. He sighed, glared at Sherlock and then hefted his and Sherlock's bags into the overhead area and then Clara's before copying Clara's position and dozing off.
A couple of hours later, somewhere in the midlands, John looked up from his iPod when Sherlock jerked awake. He watched as Sherlock blinked a few times out of the window before turning to John.
"York?" John didn't ask how he knew, only nodded and pulled the earphones from his ears. "The midlands are dull."
John huffed out a laugh as he wound the wire around the iPod.
"You think breathing is dull, Sherlock, so I'm not entirely surprised you think so."
Sherlock hummed in the back of his throat and then glanced across to the still sleeping Clara. The first class carriage they were in had remained relatively empty so far and John could only imagine it was because of the god-awful hour the train had passed through the first of the cities. There was a long moment of silence and John watched Sherlock watching him, the sun casting half of Sherlock's face into shadow, the high cheekbones on his right side disappearing against the white-hot glare.
"What?" John asked quietly after four minutes of sustained staring.
"Are you... all right?" Sherlock asked, shifting his shoulders slightly and John bit back the little smile that threatened at the sight of Sherlock's discomfort. He could only imagine the thought process that had led to the question – because John knew Sherlock didn't ido/i emotion, and that somehow, somewhere, Sherlock's reasoning and logic had inspired him to ask the question.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Sherlock frowned and John joined him, half glaring at his companion. "What?"
Sherlock sighed loudly, though John couldn't decipher if it was his usual disdain or if there was... something else underneath it. He decided to concentrate on that, rather than the swirl that started in his stomach at Sherlock's question.
"You say that a lot."
"That you're fine."
"Because I am."
Sherlock pursed his lips and turned back to the window.
Clara had woken up just past the border when they'd gotten their complementary tea and snacks, and they were all staring out of the windows in silence when Sherlock turned to John and stared at him again.
"You're not Scottish."
"No, I'm not." He looked over to Clara, whose red, puffy eyes were the only indication that she'd been doing something other than peeing in the bathroom. He smiled over to her but it felt tight and false and the one she returned wasn't much better.
"When did your parents move to Edinburgh? There's no trace of an Edinburgh accent in your voice, nor in your sister's."
John pulled his lips in between his teeth at the mention of Harry and stared pointedly at Sherlock, who, while doing better with emotions and everything accompanying them, didn't understand the glare.
"They moved when I turned nineteen, when I got a flat in London to go to medical school." Sherlock made an 'ah' face and John looked out the window, fighting with the lump in his throat. "Harry went with them to start with but she only lasted four months. She visited me in London and never went back."
He could see Sherlock glance towards him, thought he saw something akin to empathy on the other man's face but it was gone before he could be sure and John closed his eyes against the passing hills and traffic.
"Oh great, a houseful of queers."
John closed his eyes and shook his head, pushing passed his dad – he wasn't entirely certain the note of affected amusement in the statement was completely honest.
"Mum," John said as he stepped up to the chair his mother was sitting on, kneeling down beside her to look at her tear streaked face.
"Oh, John." She pushed away from the chair and threw her arms around John's neck and he almost fell backwards at the force of it. "It's so good to see you," she sniffed into his neck and John nodded, gripping her tighter to him for a moment before moving for extraction. She let him go and he pushed himself to his feet, shifting awkwardly from side to side as his mum wiped at her eyes with a scrunched up hankie. "Oh!" John turned at the sound of Sherlock and Clara finally making it to the living room and situated himself beside his mother's chair. "You didn't tell me you were bringing a guest," she half hissed at him, though John could hear something light behind it. "Clara, dear, come here."
John moved away as Clara stepped into his mum's open arms and felt Sherlock settle beside him. He turned to look at his friend, who was busy scanning the room, his eyes calculating and perceptive. John watched as his eyes paused for a moment and John followed his gaze, felt his cheeks heat slightly at the sight of his graduation photo. He's told them to take it down, years ago. Beside it (on John's 'side' of the mantelpiece) was his wedding photo, the one of just him in his tux and he heard Sherlock let out a small puff of air as his eyes settled on it.
"Who's your friend, John?"
"Sherlock Holmes," Sherlock said as he stepped forward with an extended hand. His mother grasped his hand lightly and there was a long pause where Sherlock stared at her and John wondered what he came up with. "My condolences."
"Sherlock, this is my mum, Grace Watson."
Sherlock smiled and pulled his hand back, stuffing it awkwardly into his trouser pocket and John couldn't help the small smile at his friend's awkwardness. Grace turned to John then, a frown on her face.
"You should have told me you were bringing your friend, John. Your auntie Sandra has taken up the other spare room." She glanced between the two of them. "Unless-"
"It's all right, mum, we're staying at a hotel."
John closed his eyes and sighed at Sherlock's words. He knew he shouldn't have left him in charge of booking hotel rooms.
"Yes, Sherlock, I am. I told you to book rooms."
Sherlock paused for a moment and when John did eventually look at him, he looked genuinely confused.
"I had assumed you would stay here."
"And leave you in a hotel on your own? No."
Sherlock looked offended.
"What is that supposed to mean? I can stay in a hotel room by myself perfectly fine-"
"Remember what happened last time you went to France?" Sherlock grumbled something under his breath and John raised an eyebrow. "Exactly."
When he turned back to his mother to apologise, she and Clara were staring at him in slight astonishment but by now he was used to such stares and simply shrugged.
"Clara, you can stay here if you want and I'll take your hotel room, if you want."
Clara started, her eyes widening and she had already started shaking her head before John had finished his sentence.
"No. I... I can't. I... No."
Grace turned to the woman then and laid a calming hand on her arm.
"It's all right, dear. I understand."
"Sherlock," John said and Sherlock hummed in response. "Call up and book another room, would you?"
"Pass me my phone."
John narrowed his eyes.
"Here, use mine." Sherlock smiled the fake smile that John detested before he twirled out of the room with John's mobile in his hand.
"He's..." His mother began but trailed off and John sighed.
"Yes, I know."
Grace smiled with half of her mouth then but it didn't quite reach her mouth.
"I was going to say 'handsome'; I'm glad you agree John." He didn't bother to reply, even when Clara snickered. "Now, have a seat and tell me... tell me everything."
John closed his eyes and took a breath as he slid into the overstuffed armchair in front of the faux fire. He didn't even know where to begin. The room was warm considering the sun was shining in the rooms at the back of the house, and appropriately dull for a house in mourning. He opened his eyes when someone walked through the door and he saw his dad carrying a tray with tea and biscuits on it. He picked at a loose thread on the arm of the chair, the faded pink strand fraying beneath his fingertips and he looked up when his dad passed him a cup.
"How does your friend take his tea?"
"Black, no sugar."
David nodded and set a separate cup at the side of the tray. Once he was done, he settled in beside Grace and took her hand between his before staring intently at John. He wondered why he was the one who had to tell the story.
"What do you want to know?"
"How could she..." his mother broke down just as Sherlock came back in. John turned to him, indicated the tea but Sherlock shook his head and slipped back out of the door. "How could she do this to us?"
"Shouldn't you... I don't know, be with your family?"
John lowered his arm to the bed he was using as a couch and turned to Sherlock, who was slouched in the less-than-comfortable-looking chair at the desk.
"Probably. But you saw them – I can't..." He thought back to the house as it was when they'd left, with people pouring in and out – some of Harry's friends who'd travelled up from London to pay their respects, the family and the extended family – and he remembered the warmth and the noise and the crying. "No." Sherlock didn't say anything but he nodded, his lips tight as though in thought and John turned back to the TV, staring blankly at the images flashing before him. The minutes stretched on, the shadows in the room getting longer as the late evening sun lowered into the horizon. John watched the shadows for long, long minutes silence before he sighed and shook his head. "Do you think I should have known?"
Sherlock started slightly, turning his eyes to John for just a moment before he reclaimed his thoughtful pose in front of the window.
"Hm? Known what?"
John picked at the bed cover with his nail, watching as his hand trembled slightly. He bit back the frustration.
"About Harriet. About... what she was going to do." Sherlock sat straighter in his chair, shifting his focus from the world outside of his Holiday Inn Express room to John and John sighed under the weight of it. "I mean... suicidal people show signs of what they're thinking right? Should I have seen something? Should I have inferred more from things she did, things she said? I mean... she told me she loved me. Harriet doesn't tell people she loves them, especially not out of the blue. Especially not out on the street when she's perfectly sober. That's one of the signs, isn't it? Spontaneous expression of love."
"Yes. It is. There are other signs, too. Attempts to say goodbye, tying up loose ends, letting the people around you know that you care for them." John closed his eyes, the guilt clawing at his chest like a rabid cat, desperate to get out and infect the world. "All of which Harriet did – she finalised her divorce, for example."
"She told Clara she loved her."
Sherlock nodded slightly, steepling his fingers in front of his lips.
"But she was making contrary decisions. She chose to attempt to stop drinking, she wanted to come off her anti-depressants."
John nodded, half a smile tugging at his lips.
"She asked you to be her sperm donor."
"Yes. Thank you for reminding me of that." Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Though I still don't understand why."
John half smiled again, swallowing the lump that was climbing up his throat.
"I'm just glad you said no – the world is glad you said no," he said with half a laugh, that sounded empty and hollow even in his own head.
"How so?" Sherlock queried and John looked up, startled at the sound of genuine curiosity in his tone.
John snorted, his eyelashes dampening from ridiculous tears at the memory of Harry laughing into her hands after asking Sherlock to father her baby.
"The child of a claimed sociopath and someone suffering from bi-polar?" He scoffed. "Kid wouldn't stand a chance." John swiped at the tears on his face. "Should I have seen something?" He queried softly, and he knew his voice sounded broken even to his own ears.
There's a long pause, and then Sherlock's voice,
John's comforted by that.
Blog Update: The funeral was hellish. I want to thank everyone for your kind words and for your thoughts. My family are coping with it as well as can be expected. Home tomorrow, I think. Sherlock's getting a bit stir-crazy.
John had been hiding in Sherlock's room again for nearly an hour – though who he was hiding from, he wasn't sure. Everyone who he had been trying to avoid were back at his parent's house for the 'small gathering'. He'd taken one look at the room before Sherlock had steered them towards a lingering taxi.
The weather had been appropriately dismal – though they were in Scotland, it should have been expected, summer or no – and everyone had worn black. Even Sherlock, though that, too, was unsurprising but the detective had managed to dig a black shirt out of somewhere (John had never seen it before and he was pretty sure he would remember if he had) and he'd even held the umbrella over them when John's hands had shaken too much to keep much of a grip on it.
"It's still early, we could get food?" Sherlock turned from his position at the window and John had to hide his yawn behind his hand. He was exhausted, emotionally, physically... all of it. He just wanted to go home.
"If you'd like."
John thought about it then nodded.
"I'll phone Clara and see-"
"She's gone out with her sister."
"How- never mind," he muttered not questioning. He turned back to the TV, flicking the channels.
"I'm going to shower and change before we go out."
John turned to Sherlock and nodded, taking in his slightly bedraggled state. "I should probably go back to my room and change too."
Sherlock appraised him and John shifted under the gaze, suddenly feeling pinned to the bed with the stare.
"Yes. You look like you've been to a funeral."
John laughed but Sherlock was already in the bathroom, one of his suit-carriers with him. He heard the shower turn on and he settled back against the pillows he'd propped up against the headboard and closed his eyes for a moment. Just for a moment.
When he opened his eyes again, the room was still bright but with a different light. He shifted and something moved over his shoulders; a sheet had been pulled up over him and his head was nestled in between two pillows and he was lying flat out on the bed.
"I took the liberty of retrieving your bag and checking you out of your room." He jumped at the sound of the voice, flipping onto his back and blinked at the still bleary image of Sherlock standing at the bottom of the bed, a small smirk on his lips. "Good morning."
"Yes, morning. Now get up, we have a train to catch."
Somewhere just passed the border, Sherlock turned to John.
"Are you all right?"
John sighed and looked up from his paper (who knew there was a Scottish version of the Daily Express?).
"Yes, I'm fi-" Sherlock glared at him at the first utterance of the word and John bit it back. He licked his lips and looked away from Sherlock's imploring eyes. He tried to remember how to breathe and after a few seconds, he looked back up and met Sherlock's eyes. "I will be."
Somewhere just outside London, John turned to Sherlock and touched his fingertips to the other man's wrist.
"Sherlock?" The other man hummed but didn't open his eyes. "Thank you."
The eyelids slid upwards and John met the grey stare, matched it's warmth and smiled slightly. Sherlock hesitated a moment before nodding once and looking out the window.