Title: For Afterwards

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Implied S/J.

Summary: My winning darkfic for thegameison_sh . Sherlock and John deal with some unexpected bad news.

Warnings: Character death.

A/N: Thank you to absolutely everyone who voted for this and made it the winning entry. I never expected it at all. I've made a few changes where the word-limit made the writing a little awkward.

A mournful violin note fills the empty flat. There's a tinge of thoughtfulness to it, perhaps even worry. It's only an echo of its owner's restless mind and, as thoughts speed up and change, so do the notes. Sherlock switches to a sharp, falsely jaunty tune, which becomes frustrated - even angry - as his sudden burst of energy dies.

He flicks between the two – jaunty and mournful - as John comes into the flat and moves around emptying shopping bags. When John sits down Sherlock tosses the violin aside and jumps to his feet.

"I want your medical opinion."

He drops a file onto the coffee table and John picks it up. When John reaches the CAT-Scan there is an intake of breath.

"Well?" Sherlock prompts.

"From this report? Cancer. Perhaps a year at the outset." John replies.

Sherlock scrubs at his face with his hands. "My thoughts precisely."

He can see John's mind trying to work it out and for a second he curses the man's slowness. He doesn't want to talk; he wants action.

"I didn't know we had a case," says John conversationally.

"We don't."

John waves the file. "Then what are these?"

Sherlock flops down onto the sofa and looks at the ceiling rather than John.

"They're mine."

There's silence for a while, and when John next speaks his voice is husky and unsure. "How long have you-"

"I got the lab results back today. You confirmed my diagnosis."

"I want this over with sooner rather than later," he continues imperiously. "There is nothing more tedious than the idea of counting down the last days of life. I've known for an hour now and it's excruciatingly dull let me assure you."

John gives a humourless bark. "You're telling me that you even find dying boring?"

"Dreadfully. So I want you to... well, end it."

"You want me to...euthanize you?" John's voice is high and quaking now.

Sherlock turns around to face John. He expected John's irrationality and has planned for it.

"You are a soldier John, I would have thought you'd be practical about this."

"I'm also a doctor!"

"Then you know better than anyone what the last few months will be like for me. I considered suicide, but despite knowing four-hundred methods I found them all to be...unappealing."

John gives a hysterical laugh. Afterwards he is silent for a long time. Sherlock looks away again as he notices tears streaming down his friend's face.

"It's not fair," John says thickly. "You're brilliant. I expected you'd end up being...legendary. I thought you'd – we'd – have more time."

Sherlock nods, because he'd thought so too.

"It's up to you John," he says softly. "Do it when you're ready. If you don't, we'll wait it out together."

Nothing happens for two weeks, which is enough time for things to fall apart. Sherlock has stopped doing crazy experiments and John has stopped cleaning. It's like the period in between Christmas and New Year's when no one feels ready to face normal life and go buy milk.

Sherlock already knows John will go ahead with his request. He can see it in the way John looks at him, speaks to him, and in the marks on his fingers from having cleaned his gun. Mrs. Hudson has even asked Sherlock if John is ill.

He is surprised at himself. He isn't worried about death, he isn't even bored. He has calculated his will to carefully offend his brother, he has warned the police of no less than two hundred things to watch out for in the future, and he has even found some details of new tenants for Mrs. Hudson.

What obsesses him is writing the note John will read afterwards. So far there have been forty-three re-drafts.

I'm sorry.
I'm sorry I made you...
I wish we'd...

The right words come to him shortly before sleep and he hastily writes the note and leaves it by his bed. They aren't comforting. They aren't meant to be. He finally understands what doing this will mean for John.

He is asleep at 4.25 when John opens the door and ends it with a final and unexpected shot.

The blood has splattered the envelope by the time John picks it up. He sits next to the face-down body and opens it with quaking hands.

It rattles and John shakes the contents out onto his hand. A single bullet nestles coldly in his palm. Next to it is a scrap of paper.

For afterwards.

Please let me know if you liked it.