Disclaimer: Not mine!
Characters, Pairings: Sherlock/John.
Warnings: Grief, angst, kissing.
Spoilers: The usual.
Summary: When Sherlock Holmes dies, John Watson's world goes grey. Literally.
When Sherlock Holmes dies, John Watson's world goes grey.
It doesn't happen in one great rush; there isn't a sudden shock, an unexpected lack of colour and sound, no it's gradual, it's a gentle bleeding out, a soft dimming of light. John just wakes up one day to find the sun a little duller in its shine, and for the next three years everything just gets darker and darker.
Red is the first to go. It's the loudest, more violent, most active of colours, so John isn't really surprised when he digs out his red jumper one morning to find it isn't red anymore, but a sort of oatmeal grey. He tells this to no one, he just puts it on and starts another day, another day filled with a silent nothing.
Then there's yellow, orange, all bright colours. And then green. A walk through Hyde Park becomes a walk through colourless trees with washed-out leaves. Visiting the cinema is like he's gone back into the 1940s. Eventually even the pinks and reds and flesh tones of people's faces fades into patterns of blacks and whites and greys. When he looks up at the sky one day and finds it has melded into a sort of slushy beige colour, he knows he's in trouble now.
Sound goes a little after that. When he found Sherlock's letter by the Falls, this sort of ringing sounded in his ears, and it hasn't stopped since. He hears voices, sounds, music, but none of it is as loud as this ringing, or the steady thump thump thump of his heart. Holding his breath to stop the pounding rhythm doesn't help. His traitorous heart keeps going regardless. On and on and on.
He doesn't tell anyone, because there's clearly nothing wrong with him, and anyway, this change never felt unnatural. There's no Sherlock so there's nothing. Somehow that works. Somehow that makes sense. There's no point giving any of it voice. It's a universal truth.
At some point, he moves out of 221b. At another, he moves in with Sarah. Four walls are four walls, there's no change anymore, there's nothing that matters, no special significance to anything when everything is the same. Sometimes he'll dream about a roaring fire, or the scrape of a bow on violin strings, but it's always through a mist or smoke, it's always the past, it's always unreachable. He dreams of another sort of fog, and gas lamps, and horses tramping down cobbled streets, though he doesn't know why he does. This, too, doesn't matter.
He marries Sarah. He thinks. He's not sure when. He remembers her dress was white and his suit was black and he kept thinking black and white makes grey, a grey world, a grey life, a grey everything.
Sarah leaves him. He thinks. He's not sure when, except that when she's done so, he's left with nothing, so he goes back to 221b. If anything has changed since his departure, he doesn't notice it, nor would he notice it. Mrs Hudson's anxious tones are the only loud noises that day, and even those he doesn't care about.
He falls asleep in a grey void.
He wakes up in a black world tinged with blue, and he has woken up because he heard something moving downstairs. He sits up in bed. The curtains are framed with a blue-white light from the streetlight below his bedroom. It's the first time he's seen blue for three years. It looks alien to his eyes.
Another sound from below, a sort of crunching, a rustling of paper. John reaches into the drawer of his side-table, where his gun lies. It's never been far from his fingers since Sherlock left. It has always remained a steady black, a steady weight. Sometimes, when there were no reflections in anything, he would still be able to spot a gleam of light along the gun's barrel. Sometimes, it soothed him. Others, it made him angry.
He puts his feet on the floor, listens again. There are more sounds. He stands up and goes to the stairs.
The banister is made of wood, it looks like wood and it feels like wood. The rest of his surroundings are black and grey, but the banister is brown, like toffee, like treacle. John pats it like it is a long lost friend, even though he can't imagine why this has happened.
He peers down the staircase. He thinks he can see light under the closed door of the living room, amber notes hitting the landing carpet, playing a little melody to tempt him down. Amber into grey into amber, it's confusing, it's strange, he sneaks down the stairs silently, gun in hand.
The doorknob - when he touches it - turns from white into brass under his fingertips. He twists it, pushes the door violently, pointing the gun into the room.
The intruder has his back to him, is bent over some papers on the desk, and doesn't turn around when the door swings open. John levels his gun at him.
"I'm armed," he says, suddenly hearing his own voice more clearly than he has done in ages - when did it get that hoarse, that rough? "Stay still."
The stranger's fingers briefly touch the wood of the desk, and from his touch, the desk suffuses with colour, like a blushing bride, tendrils of chocolate and sap leaking across its surface, entwining their way down the table legs. The stranger's fingers stay pale and white, colourless, but for some reason that's okay, that's fine, and John doesn't know why.
His hand is perfectly steady. He says, "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for something." The voice is muffled, like they all are, but once again it fills John with memories. He thinks of blue-grey eyes, he remembers what blue is, why does he think of this, he doesn't know.
"Actually, that's not precisely true," the voice continues. "I was looking for someone."
And the stranger turns around.
There are blue eyes in a colourless face, as colourless as the fingers, there are curls and curls of black hair, there is a dark coat and a grey scarf around a pale neck. There is Sherlock.
The ringing in John's head stops, but he can still hear his heart, like it's hammering directly in his ears, and now he wonders if feeling is the next thing to go, because he can't feel the weight of the gun in his hand anymore, and when it drops from his fingers he barely notices.
The wall behind Sherlock is alive with colour, pulsating, like blood throbbing out through a stabbed organ, the carpet around his feet is blooming like it is growing flowers, and a frown is furrowing Sherlock's pale face.
"John," he says hesitantly, and his deep voice is louder than anything John has heard in years. "John, are you quite - "
John's brain decides to sacrifice this confusion of a colourful and colourless world by sending him somewhere else entirely - dark, black, blissful unconsciousness.
He wakes to the feel of cool hands on either side of his face and doesn't open his eyes. His eyelids have clearly flickered though, because Sherlock's voice says softly, "John, can you hear me?"
Sherlock's voice is low, gravelly and purrs, like some primal beast, like the whisper of a bow against violin strings. There's no more ringing, there's no more thumping, John can hear traffic outside, the faint murmur of voices very faraway on the streets outside. It's like he's been flying all this time, flying in a plane that has been roaring inside his head, and now he's just landed and all the engines have been turned off and the real world has come back, it's all come back.
John, with his eyes still resolutely closed, moves his hand to the source of Sherlock's voice and his fingertips land directly on Sherlock's lips.
He opens his eyes. Sherlock's lips are pink and warm, and behind his face - still his face, nothing has changed, maybe a few lines but otherwise nothing, nothing - the ceiling is being painted a yellow-white by invisible hands.
Sherlock frowns at him. "Did you hit your head when you fell? I didn't think you did, but you're not really acting - "
Which is when John - because now he knows what to do to get the colour back - leans up and kisses Sherlock with his mouth, in place of his fingers.
He doesn't close his eyes, so he witnesses the exact moment when their lips touch, and when the world trembles and then explodes into full, vivid colour; reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, browns, and yes, white, yes, black, yes, grey, it hurls itself back into John's world and he clings onto Sherlock and kisses him like all the colour in the universe is Sherlock's fault, like it all comes through Sherlock, which it does, of course it does, because Sherlock is everything that is interesting and without him there is nothing left, just grey, grey, grey, grey.
When Sherlock pulls back, his usually colourless face - colourless since the beginning of time - is also suffused with colour, and that's red, because he's blushing.
Red, the colour of excitement, the colour of violence, the colour of danger. John touches it, welcoming it back, and Sherlock leans down again, and the rest of the night passes in a flood of heat and colour, and it never quite vanishes again.