Thanks to patster223, sakoratay, and musicalluna1 for their encouragement on this and for constantly reading it over in the months it's taken me to write this story.
Warnings: Character death. Major angst.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock.
Sherlock chooses not to remember his life before John, let alone what it would be like without him. Sometimes he's not sure if that's for the best, but he's not about to change it. John just is, and always will be.
He has to.
The wind has picked up, blowing the lingering mist into Sherlock's eyes as he walks side by side with Lestrade down a dark, soaked sidewalk, away from the brighter city lights. Soft murmurs, questions, float through from bystanders and echo off the buildings surrounding the crime scene tape that is stretched from one end of the street to the other. The police cars' lights reflect in the rain puddles, blurring the street, making everything around him blend and bleed into one.
"I'll go see what this is about, then you and I need to get back to that double murder." Lestrade looks pointedly at Sherlock, who is hardly paying attention to the Inspector, instead focusing on the new crime scene. "I need you on this, Sherlock, don't get sidetracked. Please don't make me beg."
Sherlock glances sideways towards a broken bottle and waves the detective off. "I'm guessing a simple mugging, anyway, hardly worth my time. There's a pub over there, he was probably drunk and never saw it coming."
Lestrade lets out an irritated breath, choosing to just walk away. Sherlock is grateful. There are more pressing matters he needs to keep his mind on at the moment, more interesting puzzles, like a double murder in an upscale London flat.
Much more interesting than a boring mugger case, anyway.
Sherlock, looking up at a cracked window that glistens from the earlier rain storm, takes his phone from his pocket and opens his recent contacts. John is number one.
Double homicide. Much less boring than whatever else you're doing. Meet me at the Yard in 15. SH.
He presses send, only to hear a familiar chirping sound seconds later. Sherlock straightens, taking in a deep breath as he hears Lestrade's voice, hushed, cracked, "Cover the body, cover the damn body!"
He has to have gotten that wrong (not that he would admit it to anyone but himself). Plenty of people in London have the same message tone, it was hardly worth the little fright-no, slight concern he suddenly feels in the depths of his subconscious. Lestrade obviously wants to cover the body because of the persisting mist, to preserve the evidence. Of course, that's what it is.
Yet, Sherlock can't seem to feel his feet enough to turn around and test this theory.
Don't be ridiculous, get a hold of yourself, he scolds, letting out the deep breath he had taken in just before. He replaces the phone inside his pocket and walks not unsteadily, just wearily, towards the body.
"Sherlock, I don't-" Lestrade begins, cut off by Sherlock's sharp glare.
"Don't what?" Sherlock asks, his tone frustrated and low. The way Lestrade is looking at him, like he is vulnerable, makes his annoyance level jump off the charts.
"I think you should sit down," Lestrade offers, his voice soothing, as it would be to some sort of idiot child who has lost his mum.
Sherlock stares at the sheet, at the small circle of blood that's soaking through the fabric, growing on it like the growing lump inside the pit of his stomach. "Take the sheet off," he demands, aware that his voice can only manage a whisper.
"Sherlock, please," Lestrade practically begs, putting a gentle hand on Sherlock's shoulder.
"TAKE IT OFF!" he cries and reaches down, ripping the sheet off the body with an intensity that frightens everyone within viewing distance.
The sheet floats down behind him as Sherlock stares at the body before him. Blond hair wet and matted to the forehead, eyes and mouth open like he's shocked, so obviously it came as a surprise. Blood stains his knitted jumper, the wound long from a knife. Killed, not a mugging. Murdered.
Somewhere behind him Sherlock can hear unimportant voices trying to drown out the more important thoughts that actually matter. He blocks them out, focusing on the information, on the pieces that will somehow fit the puzzle once everyone just shuts up!
He keeps his concentration on the scene, goes over all the details that are now more important than they were just a few minutes ago. On his knees, Sherlock shakes off the heavy hands trying to pull him up without uttering a sound. His nose sits mere inches from the wound, staring at it, burning it into his mind and storing it under "critical importance" with a dozen other pieces of information from this horrifying crime scene. Hand locks, unnoticed, around the damp mobile which is lying next to the body and he holds it so tightly that his fingers might very well break from the stress of his grip.
A voice nags in the faintest corners of Sherlock's memories, too new to be old, but too old to remember life without it.
Go home, Sherlock.
He lets the hands around his shoulders finally stand him upright and he turns to Lestrade. Poor, distraught Lestrade, his face the color of the now wet sheet underneath their shoes.
"Sherlock?" he questions, ready to recoil.
Sherlock rolls his shoulders back, out of the Inspector's hands and takes a few steps to the side. Leave, he thinks. Just leave. With one more sweep of his eyes over the scene for any missed evidence, Sherlock Holmes lifts his head and walks back up the street towards those brighter lights, away from the flashing cars, the crime scene tape, and the body now framed before his eyes for eternity.
Shattered. The world has shattered.