Chapter 1

John couldn't think why something as unremarkable as a smiley face in yellow spray paint should stop him in his tracks.

He'd simply been walking along, holding a polystyrene cup full of hot tea in one hand, on the way from the bus stop to the surgery, when his eye had caught on that particular bit of graffiti. And here he was, two minutes on, still standing stock-still and staring as a nagging feeling of sadness swelled in his gut. Déjà vu, he thought. I'd swear I've seen this somewhere before. Instinct told him it was important, that he needed to work out why it was so familiar, but the part of his brain that worried about the rent was telling him to hurry up, he was going to be late.

Reluctantly, he listened, and turned away from the graffiti, but not before taking a picture with the stupidly sleek phone Harry had given him. He'd have a think tonight, if it was still bothering him.

-

When John was safely ensconced in his tiny flat for the night, bad leg propped up on a footstool, he pulled out his phone. On a whim, he'd saved the photo of the yellow smiley face as his wallpaper, a reminder of the strangeness. Where had he seen something like that?

There was a flash of a wall with bold, fancy-looking wallpaper, adorned with a yellow smiley face and bullet holes, but when John tried to examine it, it slipped away. Ridiculous, he told himself, you don't know anyone who has wallpaper like that – or who would put bullet holes in a wall. But at the same time, the image was too clear to be from a dream.

When you've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how mad it might seem, must be the truth. Harry had told him that, once, and it had stuck fast in his brain.

The uneasiness niggled at him again. Harry didn't say things like that. But who else could it have been?

The image had to be real somehow. It wasn't as if he didn't forget things.

But this felt important. He strained at the corners of his mind, trying to remember where that wall had been, but all he could figure out was that he thought it had happened sometime after his return from Afghanistan. After he had started the blog, even…

Well, that was the solution, wasn't it? Pull up the blog, see if that turned up anything.

He limped the few feet to his desk and opened his laptop. A few clicks brought him to his blog, and he went through the entries, all the way to the beginning. Several posts that simply said things like "nothing" and "pointless"…drinks with the rugby lads…serial suicides.

His pulse quickened and he looked for the next one, certain for one shining second that it held something riveting, life-changing, only to be puzzled by a short and boring post about bumping into Mike Stamford in the park.

He was sure now that he was missing something important. More had happened that day. He'd bumped into Mike, and he groused about his tiny flat, said he'd wanted to move but had no idea where to find a flatmate…

And Mike said he knew someone in my situation.

It came, in a flash, and suddenly John remembered.

Sherlock Holmes. The murderous cabbie John had been forced to shoot. The business with the jade hairpins. Finding in Sherlock a flatmate, serial source of bafflement, and something that went beyond best mate. The game…

The pool.

Moriarty.

-

It was Mycroft who had saved them, though how he had known where to find them and what he would find was still a mystery to John. Just as Sherlock had leveled his gun at the bomb, the red lights had disappeared and a shout had come, "The snipers are down, don't shoot!"

Men in suits had taken Moriarty away in cuffs, and Mycroft's car – sans his PA, for once – had taken Sherlock and John to what turned out to be Mycroft's lavish lodgings. Sherlock had disappeared with Mycroft, and in the days they'd spent at Mycroft's John had seen little of either of them.

On the fifth day, the PA cornered him as he enjoyed a breath of fresh air outside, her BlackBerry hidden away. "I hope you understand, Mr. Watson, that this is a matter of national security. It would be best if you didn't mention this case in your blog."

She spoke directly to him, and the full force of her regard flustered him so much that he found himself stammering, "Of course. Of course, I-I'll forget it ever happened, I'll forget any of it happened."

And then he had sort of wandered off, feeling blank and peculiar and lost, wondering how he had come to be where he was. This memory wasn't one of the newly dug-up ones; his "normal" memories seemed to resume after that, smooth and uninterrupted by mention of Sherlock. John wondered how he had gotten the flat; in his normal memories he had moved into that flat the same day that the other memories said he'd moved into 221B Baker Street.

The surgery with Sarah had been in his normal memories too, though without his having ever asked Sarah out. His normal memories said he'd been fired from there on the day the Baker Street and normal memories converged, and subsequently found a job at a different surgery.

Where was Sherlock? The last night John had seen him had been at the beginning of April; now it was nearly the end of October. Nearly seven months had passed, with no sign of him. John began to have his doubts. What if it was all, somehow, an uncharacteristically vivid dream? Or what if he'd had some sort of – break with reality?

He scrambled for his phone. He'd call Harry. Maybe she'd know something.

She answered on the third ring and said, "This had better be an emergency. I was sleeping."

"Sorry, sorry, it's just, do you remember my flatmate? The tall one, kept dragging me off after him while he did detective work?"

Silence on the other end of the line. "What the fuck are you talking about?" she finally asked, her voice flat.

"Nothing, sorry, ignore me, I just…ignore me." John pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers, embarrassed.

"You're mental, you do know that?" Harry said, and before he could decide whether he agreed or not, she hung up on him.

Harry didn't remember Sherlock. She'd commented on the blog plenty, he remembered, and called him more than ever after he had moved in at 221B Baker Street. She was always looking for gossip, Harry, and her little brother's life had taken a sharp turn for the interesting after meeting Sherlock. Except that it was looking likely that the recently-discovered memories were, in fact, complete fiction. After all, it was one thing for one person to forget, but two?

John got up and paced, and realized after a moment, with a start, that he was doing so without his cane without any trouble. "Well there's some evidence in favor," he said to himself, and yawned so widely his jaw cracked.

"I'll worry about this in the morning," he decided. "Maybe go to see Lestrade, see what he has to say."

A/N: I've got the pool incident down as happening on April 1, and people posting on John and Sherlock's websites up till the 6th of that month wondering what's become of them, then nothing more - something to keep in mind. This fic is for the Sherlock BBC kinkmeme on LJ; someone prompted a Fire and Hemlock fusion kind of thing – basically in this case Sherlock is Tom and John is Polly and so on.

*almost directly quoted from Sherlock's website, The Science of Deduction