Author's Note: Forgive me - I, too, am cashing in on the great emotional trauma that was The Fall. It's the only thing that makes me feel better! Anyhow, this is just a one-shot, but I'm sure I'll have a few other post-Fall fics coming around sooner or later. This one, in particular, is dedicated to Har33m, who personally requested it. So ... please enjoy, and review - this fic does not feature any type of romantic relationship between John and Sherlock - at least not one explicitly stated - so all of you slash AND nonslash folks may be appreciative, ha. Enjoy!
Despite what he'd told Mrs. Hudson, Doctor John Watson did indeed return to Baker Street after … the fall. His therapist had told him again and again not to do it – that he'd be better off getting a new place, meeting some new friends, getting back to work. Sod that. That's what normal people did after normal losses. Had Sherlock Holmes been a – a normal man, and had their relationship been … normal, then perhaps John could have taken his therapist's advice. But he wasn't … and it wasn't … and John Watson needed the comfort and the pain that 221B brought him in equal measure.
An observer might note that John's routine did not change much after the fall. He still spent the great majority of his time in his chair – still read the paper there, drank his tea there, held important conversations from that exact spot. But … the only paper he read was the one with Sherlock's face on the front page ("Suicide of Fake Genius"); the tea he boiled was poured into two cups and one was placed on the coffee table in front of the chair across from him; and, of course, the conversations he held were with dead men, with ghosts.
After the fall, Doctor John Watson gave up life. He called his sister – pride be damned – and she made frequent deposits into his checking account. This enabled John to quit his job so that he might spend more time in his chair. Mrs. Hudson cooked his meals for him, put the kettle on for him, took him to bed when it was bedtime and helped him back to his chair when it was morning. Then she would leave him alone, and John would sip his tea and look across the room and chuckle "Wonder how long she'll put up with me acting this way, eh?" No one would answer – no one was there, but John would continue: "Looks like rain today," or "Double homicide in Mayfair yesterday, sure you'll be hearing from Lestrade any time," or "We need milk, Sherlock…"
Of course, John did occasionally leave the flat. Lestrade, Molly, and Mike Stamford made sure of it. They'd try and take him to the theater, or to dinner, or any other number of respectable activities, but John always declined anything but the pub. The doctor supposed his newfound fondness for getting drunk in the middle of the day was just a way of compensating for never having experienced that phase in college. In fact, John Watson discovered he had never really been drunk before Sherlock's death. Sure, he'd had a few at weddings, been out with Stamford enough times to know the familiar light-headedness and slurring of speech that always came with over-indulgence. But the level to which John now imbibed was a bit frightening, at least to those who cared about him. He could go through four bottles of red wine in a day, could hold more whiskey than Lestrade twice-over, could kick back enough rum shots to try and take Molly home one ill-fated and never-mentioned-again night.
No amount of alcohol, however, could ever have prepared our dear Dr. Watson for what awaited him the night of September the 27th, exactly three years after the fall. Lestrade and the others, as they did every year on this date, took John out. It was half remember-Sherlock, half babysit-John, and completely miserable, as far as the doctor himself was concerned. This year, apparently, Molly had drawn the short straw, and so it was her responsibility to see John home safely. They sat in the taxi, knee-to-knee. John was watching the houses pass outside, and Molly was watching John. She cleared her throat suddenly.
"Don't," John managed to croak out, "I don't want to talk about him."
Molly smiled uncomfortably and looked at her knees. "Right… Sorry."
But then John did something rather unexpected. He began to cry. Didn't even bother covering his face. Just let his chin drop to his chest, let his jumper catch the tears. Then John wiped his reddened eyes miserably with a sleeve: "I know what you all think of me," he whispered. "Don't worry. It's what I think of me too. You don't deserve this, not any of you …"
"I should move, shouldn't I?"
"Somewhere far away, where you needn't worry about me anymore."
"John, I don't want you to go anywhere."
John scoffed. "You've all got on with your lives, I can tell – I'm the only one holding everybody back from just being bloody normal again."
Molly reached out to take John's hand, but he pushed her away, clamped his hands into fists, and pushed them against his eyes until he saw spots.
"Don't leave Baker Street, John," Molly murmured. "Sherlock wouldn't want-"
"Sherlock," John growled, "is dead."
"Even so," Molly maintained firmly, "Just … don't. Don't leave. It'll … be good again."
"I promise," Molly reached over to pat his knee awkwardly.
"It's been … three years."
"Yes," Molly agreed. "And I promise you, soon, it will be better."
John laughed again, but they were home and John let Molly half-carry him up the stairs to his room. "No," John objected, "I'd like to sit in the living room, thanks."
Molly looked concerned, but she did as she was asked.
"Can I get you anything before I go?"
John shook his head.
"Okay … Goodnight John. Try-try to sleep, won't you?"
John ignored the question.
"Right. Bye, John."
John sat for a moment, watching the stars dance outside his window, before getting up again. Then he paced for a few minutes. Went to the kitchen. Poured a glass of wine. Stared at it for a while. Poured a second.
"Just tea for me, thanks."
Doctor Watson stood still as stone, staring at two glasses of Shiraz on the counter. Yes, he thought morbidly, definitely time to move. Then he picked up both glasses and moved to the living room. He set one glass in front of Sherlock's chair, and took the other between trembling fingers and sat back in his chair. There was a moment of silence… and then footsteps approached from the kitchen.
"I said, 'Just tea for-'"
John moved quicker than Sherlock had thought possible with that much liquor soaking his brain. But move he did – set down the wine, pulled the pistol out of some nearby hiding spot. He was alternately pointing the gun at Sherlock and then back at his own head, clearly unsure which would more effectively dispel the apparition before him.
"Put the gun down," Sherlock commanded in a steady voice.
John breathed heavily and let the barrel rest against his temple.
"Put the gun down," Sherlock insisted again, a little more anxiously.
John let the tears come, let them run down his cheeks. His breathing was now too erratic – perhaps he was having a panic attack? He kept the gun in place.
"Give me the gun, now," Sherlock asked, holding out his hand. "Please, John."
At the sound of his name, John relaxed slightly. But he did not let go of the gun. Rather, he waved it in Sherlock's direction again. "You're dead!" John accused.
The corner of Sherlock's mouth twitched. "I don't … think so."
John raised an eyebrow.
"As ever, John, you fail to see what is right before your eyes. Do I look dead to you?"
John shook his head. "No… no, but I – I saw you die. I saw that, Sherlock. I have seen that … every night for-"
"John, I need you to hand me the gun now."
John sighed, closed his eyes, and put the gun resolutely back against his head.
Sherlock took a step forward, reaching out both palms in a steadying gesture. "Please, would you like me to prove it to you?"
John opened his eyes suspiciously. "Prove? Sherlock, how could you possibly-"
"The kitchen," he began, pointing, "is scrubbed clean. Clearly Mrs. Hudson is more present in your life than she used to be. Brings you your food, makes your tea, does your washing – if the fully stocked refrigerator and the neat creases in your trousers are anything to go on. You – you haven't worked in ages, as your medical journals are all here, buried beneath all this other rubbish. Trying to distract yourself, then, with crosswords and silly novels. Tut-tut, John, Hemmingway indeed. But here," Sherlock indicated John's nametag from the clinic. "You don't go to work but you keep your nametag out on the desk… Do you wear it often, when you go out? Pretending to have just come off the job must be a great way to pick up women – more distractions, then: a soldier and a doctor. What a catch…"
"Your bloodshot eyes and unsteady hands tell me you've taken up drinking, as if I couldn't have guessed that from the number of empty bottles in the bin. And you were just out with Lestrade – how kind he's given you his jacket to wear home – and Molly," Sherlock sniffed the air, "Yes, that's her perfume, indeed. Must have dragged you upstairs and put you to bed? Ah, but you don't sleep in your bed, anymore, Dr. Watson – you may have fooled Mrs. Hudson, but you can't fool me. You've removed your favorite comforter from the bedroom and brought it here – so you've been sleeping on the sofa for three years. How childish. Afraid of the dark, John, or does the frankly alarming amount of alcohol in your blood simply prevent you from making it to your bed each evening?"
John set the gun on the coffee table beside the untouched Shiraz. "Anything else?"
"Yes," Sherlock narrowed his eyes. "You're wearing my scarf."
"You've missed me."
John let out a deep sigh. "Yes."
Sherlock watched the doctor carefully.
"Yes," John repeated quietly. "I've certainly … missed you. Why-"
"Not now, John, I've given you somewhat of a shock with my unnecessarily dramatic reappearance. Besides ... you're snockered."
John let the insult go. Sherlock watched him get to his feet, rather unsteadily, and stood silent and still as John approached him. The doctor came close enough so that Sherlock could smell the liquor on his breath. Centimeters away, John squared his shoulders and visually took in every inch of his friend. Started with his shoes, moved along to his long legs, bony fingers, the pale, pale skin of his throat, and finally looked up into the taller man's face.
"John, I understand that this is all a bit-"
Sherlock cut himself off immediately when John reached out his hand. He held his breath while John took his face between his solid hands.
"You're not … dead?" John asked, holding Sherlock's head steady.
Sherlock released his breath, slowly. "No."
"You're not dead." The question had become a statement as he held eye contact with the detective.
"I'm here, John."
John dropped his hands abruptly, picked back up the gun and – just as Sherlock took a frightened step forward – let off seven frustrated shots into the wall. Each shot was punctuated by an angry word: "Damn-you-Sherlock-Holmes-You-selfish-ass."
Sherlock chuckled and reached a hand to steady John. But John would not accept a mere pat on the shoulder...
Sherlock held him rather rigidly while the doctor cried into the collar of his coat. It had been three years, after all, and John was very drunk.
When finally John had steadied himself, wiped his tears, and pulled away, Sherlock looked down on him fondly. "Now, my dear Dr. Watson, I must insist on getting you to bed."
"Please, John," Sherlock sighed, "I must admit that I, too, am looking very much forward to a good night's rest back … home."
And now that John looked at him, he realized that, yes, Sherlock looked very tired indeed. Bone-weary, in fact. So he reluctantly conceded. "But in the morning-"
"I shall answer any and all of your questions."
"Have tea, yes, of course."
"And you won't-"
"I'll be here when you wake, John."
John let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. "Promise."
"Promise me, right now, that you won't go again. You'll be … here, in the morning. Here in the flat. With me. You'll be here."
Sherlock's eyebrows creased in concern. "I promise, John. Of course I'll be here."
John cocked an eyebrow.
"Here in the flat … with you … I swear it."
John nodded, once, decisively. "Right. Off you go, then."
Sherlock smiled a bit at being dismissed in such a fashion, but retired all the same. And even though it was not his custom, he left the door slightly ajar. Sherlock Holmes was no idiot – he knew John would not sleep that night.
And indeed, John Watson watched Sherlock carefully as he went. He sat in his chair and watched his friend's shadow undress and climb into bed. Then he sat back, pulled his comforter about his knees, took up his glass of wine, and stared unblinkingly at the long mass of blankets that was Sherlock Holmes until well past the sun had risen. John watched, and made sure, that Sherlock kept his promise.