John Watson went to his therapist one single time after That happened. He knew before the session was half over that this would be the last time, that this wasn't helping. Perhaps nothing ever would. He managed a polite 'thank you' afterwards, but didn't bother with a 'see you next time', because he knew he wouldn't.
He walked out into the street. The sounds were dull, somehow. Life in London went on as usual- How dare they, he caught himself thinking- but the sounds that reached his ears seemed slow and lifeless, as if he was underwater. Lowering his head, he hailed a cab.
He entered 221b. He exchanged a short greeting with Mrs Hudson, but any sort of small talk was beyond him, and he hurried up the seventeen steps to his flat, feeling her sad, worried gaze on his back.
His flat. He hated calling it that. It wasn't just his, it was Sherlock's, too.
When Mrs Hudson had suggested, that one day at the graveyard, to give Sherlock's science equipment to a school, John didn't see anything wrong with it. After all, he himself was no good with such things, so the delicate glass instruments would just sit there, gathering dust, and what good was that? He had even let Mrs Hudson contact a school and make some arrangements. Then he had sat on the couch, looked at the instruments and imagined them gone, and found that he couldn't do it.
"But John, they're not going to be used. They might as well do some good for the students-"
"They're staying where they are, Mrs Hudson." He knew he was being unreasonable. But he couldn't let it be any other way. The thought of them gone, being handled by adolescents and quite probably eventually broken, was unbearable. They weren't just instruments of science. They were Sherlock's. As was the flat, which still looked the same as when it had two occupants. John had neatened up the table and the kitchen (as far as was possible without moving the glass instruments that sat in the middle like a whimsical centrepiece- mostly he just cleaned out the fridge) but that was it. All the books were still there. The files, the two armchairs, the too-big couch.
The closet, which John didn't touch at all. He didn't think he would ever manage to. So it remained undisturbed, with its perfectly spaced hangers and shirts and vests and trousers.
The flat was too big for him. Everyone knew this, including John. He had reason to believe that Mycroft had found a smaller apartment for him, probably out of guilt. He had seen him once after That. They had hardly spoken. Mycroft had inquired as to what would happen to Sherlock's things, and John put across quite clearly that they would be staying exactly where they were. Mycroft seemed surprised, but didn't question him. John himself didn't know what he would do to pay the rent, now that he was alone, but at the end of that month Mrs Hudson had come and told him that Sherlock's share was taken care of, and he needn't worry. That was how it had gone from then on.
His limp was coming back. At Sherlock's funeral, he had felt a twinge as he laid down his bouquet of white carnations, but had thought little of it. After all, he had run across London with Sherlock on his own two legs, and never had the old wound bothered him once. But now it came back with a vengeance. A month after the funeral, he had his cane with him everywhere he went. He didn't want to be hobbling around and falling on his face.
Especially not at the graveyard, where it already took so much effort to maintain some sort of composure.
He was there again today, at the smooth black gravestone. There were no flowers, but it was perfectly clean. Not a speck of dust to be seen.
"I see Mrs Hudson has been here today as well, Sherlock," he said softly, and sighed. He could already feel the lump forming in his throat. "She misses you. So do I. So very, very badly." He sank to cool ground, leaning heavily on his cane, and sat beside the gravestone. "She worries more than she ought. She baked three times this week."
It was silly, this. Talking to a stone. He always made sure he was alone before he started. He liked to imagine that Sherlock could hear him, though, somehow, and was actually interested in what he was saying. This brought a small smile to John's lips, even though he wasn't feeling the least bit happy. Really now, John. Have you only come here to tell me how you're moping and Mrs Hudson's cooking habits? Shame on you.
"Shame on me," he quietly agreed. "The truth is still the same though. I miss you terribly. I wake up every day and it looks like you just popped out to get coffee and will be back any minute. Ready to take on a case. It kills me, Sherlock, but I can't have it any other way. The flat is all I have now. I can't change it or leave because it would feel like really letting go, and I can't do that. I can't. Not now, not… n-not ever." He wiped his eye with his sleeve. "It's like I can feel you sometimes, you know. From the books and the walls. Like you're still there, waiting, breathing." He inhaled shakily, and sat in silence for a while longer. He was preparing to leave when he remembered something. "I had a dream. You were in it. You were alive, and I was bringing you flowers again, and you were laughing at me and guessing who they were for. They weren't even white carnations anymore.
And you told me to get my coat because we had a case to solve, with that smile of yours, like old times. And I'd just follow you out the door. Whether we'd be gone for an hour or four days, it was always the same. Always-" His voice broke and he stopped. He waited for the lump in his throat to disappear and the burning behind his eyes to fade, but in vain. "Jesus…" He curled in on himself, leaning slightly on the black marble for support, and let the wave roll over him. The tears burned down his face and left dark patches on his jumper. The day was wearing on and it was getting colder, but he knew nothing of this. Behind his eyelids he could see Sherlock, triumphantly solving a crime, Sherlock, eyes twinkling with mischief as he passed a sarcastic remark, Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock.
Dear God, how was he going to go on? Would he keep coming here, to this grave, recounting his dull life to dead black marble, wishing on fairy dust that one day he wouldn't find the grave but Sherlock, alive and well? Just how more broken could he become, when it felt like he was waiting to die?
He really should get going. He manoeuvred his cane around to help him stand, and as he did so, out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone's shadow behind him. Great, some bloke waiting to shower the invalid with pity and condolences and help to cross the bloody street. I can bloody walk by myself-
He turned around, about to say as much to this intruder upon his deepest, most private thoughts, but he never got past opening his mouth. He could only stare. And those brilliant, beautiful blue eyes stared back, full of sadness and something else.
"John." God, that voice. John couldn't think, couldn't react. This wasn't real. He had fallen asleep at the gravestone and his brain was playing tricks on him. He was dreaming. None of this, the eyes nor the voice nor the entirety of the familiar figure before him, could be real. "John."
"I saw you fall,"he whispered. He wasn't going to break down, even though his subconscious was doing whatever it pleased. "I took your pulse. You're dead."
"I faked it." Again that silky rumble, exactly as he remembered it. He wished this wasn't a dream. "John. I'm real, I'm here. I'm sorry." And then the ghost of Sherlock was stepping closer, slowly and carefully as if afraid of the distance between them. John remained where he was. He knew how this went. The ghost of Sherlock would come close, would almost touch him, but then he'd either wake up or the hand would go right through him.
When instead of emptiness from the hand he felt steady human warmth, the shock made him stumble and put his weight on his bad leg. His knee buckled and he was falling, but there were arms around him and a blue woollen scarf against his face and all he could think was Sherlock. His heavy black coat, the smell of his aftershave, his breath against the top of John's head. A hand, rubbing smooth circles against his back while the other hugged him close. The voice that he had missed so much.
"I am so sorry, John. I had to do it. For those I loved to live, I couldn't. It was Moriarty." He explained how he had used the truck with the sandbags, his numerous contacts to pretend to be passersby and paramedics, how Molly had given him a drug to stop his pulse. How he watched John from afar, how he had put an end to the threat against John, Mrs Hudson and Lestrade. How he had missed John.
"I am going to hit you in a bit." John muttered into his coat. Sherlock hid a half-smile and pulled him closer, pressing his lips to the blond curls.
A/N: I couldn't help it, I had to throw some emotion out after Reichenbach. Tumblr is wonderfully cathartic and incredibly emotionally frustrating at the same time. I will get back to the long-overdue update of Water Under The Bridge (also, Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek! Eeeek! -happy flail-). I'm having some exams now, Christmas and New Year's was lovely, so a very late happy holidays and best unto the new year for everyone! It is likely that I will edit this piece somewhat because it was written at one go. Suggestions and comments are very welcome!