Title: The Death of Me
Author: cathedral carver
Word count: 3,100
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Warnings: Character death. Of a sort.
Summary: I was enjoying myself immensely until I died.
One regret dear world, that I am determined not to have when I am lying on my deathbed, is that I did not kiss you enough.
I died on a Tuesday.
A Tuesday afternoon at 2:14 p.m., to be precise. September 17, 21 degrees, sunny and clear, winds travelling from the east at six mph. A perfectly lovely day, in all respects, and a fine day to spend chasing suspects around the city, and I was enjoying myself immensely until I died.
The bullet didn't even hurt, at first. To be honest, I didn't even know I'd been shot until I looked at John's face and saw everything before he spoke a single word.
That's all it took. It was something about his eyes, I suppose, or how pale he'd gone in the cheeks. No, come to think of it, it was the set of his mouth. It had gone completely slack and loose, as if he couldn't make his lips shape the words he needed to say. But, it didn't matter, because by then I already knew. An odd burning/numbing sensation had bloomed in my chest, and my shoulder and arm felt peculiarly wet, which was odd, because of the previously detailed pleasant weather conditions.
I could see he wanted to run, he wanted to grab me, perhaps, and do things a doctor should do in such a case, but he had lost not only the ability to move his lips, but his limbs, as well.
I have to add I did it for him, you know. Of course I did. I saw Nepperton with the gun, saw him aiming, aiming right at John, and saw immediately that John did not see. I could have yelled, I suppose, but what if that had startled Nepperton unduly? Or what if John, filled to bursting with adrenalin, didn't hear me, or didn't understand? And turned to me, requiring clarification, and in that very same split second Nepperton fired? And hit—
You can see my dilemma.
So, I did the only thing I could do, the only thing that made sense. I shoved John out of harm's way and I heard the gun go off and I watched Nepperton run away and I looked to see if John was fine (he was), and I saw the look on John's open, beautiful face, and the rest, as they say, is history. My history.
Hi face was last thing I saw before I closed my eyes. I swayed. I felt the ground tremble and dip and swoop out from beneath me.
I always knew he'd be the death of me.
When I next opened my eyes I was looking down on two extremely familiar figures. They were perhaps 20 feet beneath me, one dark-haired, one light, one sprawled on the ground, the other sprawled over top, hands pressing down, blood everywhere. So much blood. People were starting to gather, and there was a lot of noise, but I couldn't make out what anyone was saying.
It was all very—
"Interesting, isn't it?" Someone was talking to me. It was a boy, on my right, also observing the scene below. He, too, looked oddly familiar, but I couldn't place him. It seemed rude to ask, and since I didn't really care to know, I simply nodded. "Puts a whole new perspective on things," he added.
"It does, indeed."
We watched for a moment. The people were gesturing, yelling, getting very excited, pulling out mobiles and doing other vaguely useless things people do when they have no clue what to do but don't want to look useless. But the light man still had his head bent over the dark one and the dark one hadn't moved a bit. I wondered if he was seriously injured, or even—
"Happened to me, too, when I went."
"Really?" I glanced at him without turning my head. I was trying to be polite, because he was just a boy, and chatty, and didn't seem to be a hurry to go anywhere. He nodded.
"Yeah. I watched for a long time while they worked on me." He paused. "But, see, they got it all wrong."
"Ah. Yes." I sighed. "People get it all wrong quite a lot."
"They thought it was water in my lungs, you see, but that's not what did me in."
I nodded again, because I really had no idea what he was talking about, and the scene below was really much more interesting. There was a terrible amount of blood now, pooling around the dark man's body, which seemed to be making the light man rather hysterical. I wondered if I should offer some kind of assistance, but at the moment I really didn't know what to do, and I seemed to be having trouble moving at all.
"People do get it all wrong," the boy continued, and I suppressed an irritated sigh. "I mean, I know that now. But I also know some people try very hard to make it right."
He was looking at me very intently. It was starting to make me rather nervous. Below us the scene was quickly turning to utter chaos. The light man was yelling something about hospitals and an ambulance, but something else, too.
"Sherlock! Sherlock—" I started. He was calling my name. It felt odd to hear it yelled like that, so desperately, like he was calling me back from somewhere. But back from where, I wondered?
I looked at the boy. He looked at me. He smiled.
"Carl," I said, knowing at once. "Carl Powers."
He nodded, pleased that I remembered. But, then I also remembered that Carl was—
I looked down. Dark and light. Still and frantic. Down there, up here.
Sherlock and John.
Carl was nodding. "Doesn't look too good, I know."
He seemed genuinely upset, but I was thrilled.
Well, now this was the most interesting thing that had happened all day. All week! This made all the test tubes and potions and foot races and severed heads look like child's play! I felt a sudden rush of euphoria. Carl, however, was shaking his head.
"This isn't one of your experiments, you know," he insisted, and I realized that's exactly what I'd been thinking. The most exciting experiment of all, really.
"It's not that simple."
"What could be more simple than death?"
"It's not like that. At least not for you." He chose his words carefully. He wanted just the right words, I could see. "You've left too many things unfinished. You have too many…things to go back to."
"Yes, yes, the work, I know."
"I'm not talking about the work," Carl said. "Well, not just the work, anyway."
"Well, what else, then?"
"Look. Really look," Carl insisted. He seemed most intent about this. I looked. I really looked down at the mangled, broken, bloody, frenzied scene below. My body was not looking hale and hearty. It looked like it had definitely not survived the gunshot, and I couldn't even imagine the wretched pain it must be enduring at the moment. Why, why would anyone want to return to that?
On the other hand, up here, I actually felt quite excellent, all things considered. My shoulder, my arm, the nagging back pain and nasty chemical burn I'd endured for weeks on end — all fine. Plus, I wasn't bleeding from a hole in my chest.
"Don't look away," Carl said. "Please."
I didn't look away.
People were trying to help now, but John — who was escalating into barely controlled panic mode by this point — was having none of it. No one else standing around would notice, but even from up here, I could tell. The set of his shoulders, the angle of his head, the jagged edge of his voice as it alternately barked orders and pleaded with the empty shell of my body.
"See? See that?" Carl pointed.
I was missing something, obviously. Something vital.
I placed my hand over my chest. I waited. Nothing. I pressed harder. Silence. I slid my fingers into my shirt opening. No sound, no thump, no beat.
"He loves you. He loves you. That's why you need to go back."
John? John loved me? Carl nodded.
"See?" He grinned. "Not simple at all, this dying thing."
"But, I think I'm already dead," I said at last.
"That's what you call…a deduction, right?" Carl said. "I know you're good and all, but this time you may not have all the available evidence."
"What do you mean?"
Carl smiled. He really was an attractive boy. It made me sad, realizing he'd been dead so long, that he never got to grow up, never got to fall in love, or have his heart broken. Did he ever kiss a girl? Or, a boy?
"Your doctor, he's a good doctor. And, you have an amazingly strong constitution. You can pull through this." He paused. "Besides, you haven't even kissed, yet."
I started. I wasn't sure I'd heard him right. "Pardon?" And then, "Who?"
Carl sighed, clearly exasperated. We moved closer, the two of us, closer to the real world. I felt the first stirrings of panic. It was decidedly unpleasant.
The scene was growing clearer, and louder. For the first time since I died, I actually felt real pain, and it didn't feel good. My chest, my arm, my heart.
"It's time to go back," he said.
I nodded, not entirely in agreement. My chest was on fire.
"Why are you even here?" I asked him then, stalling.
Carl looked at me. His eyes were very bright and very sad. He looked at me for a long time. Finally, he said: "I owe you."
We stared at one another.
"Go on," he said, giving me a little push. "You can do it."
"Sherlock…Sherlock please." I could hear it now, clearer, coming from just below. His voice, the one I knew so well, the one I heard even in my dreams, was hoarse, desperate, pleading. With one last look at Carl, I turned and I moved closer to John.
"You…you can't do this—" His voice broke, and he kind of collapsed over top of me, and when some idiot tried to pull him off, John snarled at him.
He leaned back over me, his face at my neck. His mouth moved. He was…saying something, very quietly.
I moved closer still. I had to know what he was saying. Everyone standing around was talking gibberish, and it was hard to hear the one voice I needed desperately to hear. His hands were pressed tightly on my shoulder, but I could see his arms were shaking and he was almost incoherent (stay calm John you are a doctor after all an army doctor and you must have seen much much worse that this in the war why is this little death upset you so much) and I moved as close as I could. I saw at last his cheek was on mine, his mouth beside my ear.
I listened, very carefully.
"I love you. Sherlock. Please. You can't die. You can't. Don't—leave—me—"
And my heart exploded as sirens filled the air and air filled my lungs and my eyes snapped open and I stared directly into John's eyes, and really, really, how could I possibly have even though of leaving now, when we hadn't even kissed yet?
It took a considerable amount of time to recover, of course, and it's common knowledge that I'm a horrible patient. But, who can blame me, especially in this particular situation? Apparently, I was in shock when the bullet first hit me, because I barely felt a thing, but after the operation was over and the medication wore off, I was no longer in shock and, you know what? Getting shot really fucking hurts. I plan to never let it happen again.
The hospital was dull, the doctors mediocre, the visitors tedious. Well, most of them. Lestrade came, once, but said the smell of antiseptic made him nauseous and I agreed, wholeheartedly, and told him not to come again. I wish not to speak about Mycroft, who came more times than I cared to count and wouldn't bloody shut up, and Mrs. Hudson, bless her heart, knit me a pair of slippers that were not only a dreadful shade of orange, but three sizes too small. Molly came once, but I was asleep, or mostly asleep, and Sarah —Sarah! — sent flowers, and John.
I've seen him worried before, and I've seen him scared once or twice, but this incident seemed to have sucked some of the very soul out of him. Pale and twitchy, almost translucent about the edges, thin and wild-eyed, he prowled about the perimeter of my room like a feral cat that might bolt if I clapped my hands, which hurt to do, by the way.
Whenever I caught his eye he started. Whenever I smiled, which I did spontaneously, when I saw him walk in, he blanched and looked like he might vomit. I wondered if he had contracted some horrible stomach ailment in my absence. I quickly realized I needed to get out and get home and put things to right so we could resume Life As We Knew It before all this ridiculous dying nonsense changed everything.
Well. Almost dying nonsense.
He was my doctor, of course, the only one I really trusted, so when the discharge nurse insisted someone else come round to help change my dressings, I may have gotten a bit irate. I may have insulted her sensibilities, and she may have muttered some rude words under her breath. Regardless, I emerged triumphant. John would change my bandages and John would clean my wound and I would keep complaining to a minimum. That last part he wrote down and made me sign.
He was quiet on the drive home, but I was too giddy with relief to be leaving the wretched hospital to give it much thought. He was quiet as he helped me up the stairs, and quiet as I surveyed our (mysteriously tidy) flat. He barely spoke as we both picked at our meals, and finally he informed me, briefly, that it was time to change the bandage.
"We match now," I said. I was watching our reflections in the bathroom mirror as he worked with swift and steady hands. The wound was not attractive but certainly interesting and I liked that it was on the opposite side from his. Mirror twins. This pleased me immensely.
He chose not to reply.
I puttered about the flat, picking up familiar objects and putting them down in different spots, until my arm ached and my chest hurt and John realized how exhausted I was and told me to go to bed. He said he had a right, as he was My Doctor, and when I started to complain, he pulled the signed agreement out of his pocket and waved it at me.
He hovered at my doorway, half in, half out, arms crossed tightly across his chest. I watched him look at my walls and my ceiling and my (mysteriously tidy) floor, while I attempted to find a comfortable position to lie. On my back, apparently. Damn. I closed my eyes.
"Glad you're home," he said at last, but his voice didn't sound quite right.
I looked at him. He looked at my (mysteriously organized) bookshelf.
"John," I whispered.
"What?" He closed his eyes.
He sighed and looked right at me. Ah. Now I could see the problem. John was crying. Why? Why was he crying? He'd just said he was glad. Not sad. I was no longer in imminent danger of dying. I was home. I was — almost — whole. So, if he was not worried and not sad—
"John," I said again, a bit louder. An invitation. Would he realize? And, more importantly, would he accept?
He expelled a long, shuddering, wet breath and swiped his sleeve over his eyes. I waited. He looked at me once more, and I nodded. Then, he nodded and sort of stumbled into the room and lay, or rather collapsed, on the bed beside me in a soft, disheveled heap.
Ah, my John.
It took some doing, but I managed to roll onto my good side and move my arm enough to touch him. Well, touch the front of his jumper, anyway. My fingers tangled in it, pushed against the comforting solidity of his chest. It was, apparently, enough to undo him completely, because he covered his face with his hands.
"I couldn't do anything," he said. I could barely hear him. "I…I couldn't do anything. I was…paralysed. You were lying there…god. You were dying and I just — Some fucking doctor."
"But, I'm fine." I was truly puzzled.
"Yeah. No thanks to me."
I almost laughed.
"All thanks to you, in fact."
He made a noise of disbelief.
"You have no idea," I said.
He took another deep breath. He was trying to calm himself.
"I frightened you," I said.
He took his hands away and gave me a look that cut through to my bones.
"You have no idea."
It was very quiet then but for the sound of our breathing. I lifted my arm a bit more and let my hand land in his hair. It was very soft. He inhaled sharply, then relaxed and closed his eyes. We lay like that for some time, and I thought he may have fallen asleep, when I felt him move slightly beneath my hand. He looked at me through damp eyelashes.
"I think I'd like to kiss you now," I said, because it was true. I really did.
John looked at me, blinked slowly. "Yes. I think that would be all right."
So, I did.
Just once — at least for now, I promised myself — very softly, on his mouth, hardly any pressure at all, just our lips touching and our breaths whispering across each other's skin and my hand on his hair and both of us very much alive and in love with one another.
When I pulled away, his eyes were closed again, as if he was trying to memorize and catalogue what just happened. Sometimes people need to close their eyes to do that, I've learned. So, I lay there and watched him process. It was quite fascinating. After a bit, he opened his eyes and smiled a little.
Yes. All right.
He sighed and took my hand. He kissed the palm. He put it under his cheek. He looked at me — All right? — and I swallowed and nodded — Yes. All right. He sighed once more, closed his eyes and fell asleep.
See? See what I would I have missed!
So, I died on a Tuesday. My heart stopped and I went away for a bit, but then John brought me back home. A great experiment, to be sure, but not nearly as great as what was to come.
It was a small death, after all. There would be others.