I'm a fake, Sherlock said on the phone, in John's ear, in John's head, over and over again, Sherlock cutting the world out underneath him with that word fake and falling, but John should have been the one falling. Falling is what one does when the ground underneath disappears, after all.

I'm a fake said Sherlock and all John can see now is Sherlock's face in instants; Sherlock's face at the pool the moment he thought John was Moriarty (could he act that? Who could think up such a nuance? He could, that was the beastly beautiful thing, but who was that subtle an actor?) Sherlock's face when Moriarty walked into That Bitch Reporter's flat carrying groceries and a look of terror and shredding reality by the second, that look on Sherlock's face for just a moment of what nightmare world, what other universe have I awakened to?

Moriarty loved to make other people speak his words, be his puppets. Sherlock never did; he wasn't concerned with manipulating people unless it was important to some primary cause, a case or desire. Was it possible Richard Brook was just one more of Moriarty's puppets? That Sherlock didn't manipulate in John's sight because he was running the whole game? Or no: for Moriarty to make Sherlock his puppet and the whole city too, that would be the ultimate victory.

John tosses and turns in his bed in the grey world that is what has been left over. In Baker Street because as much as it hurts to see Sherlock's life spread out all around him with the mind that was key to it all hinted at but never all there, leaving hurts more because leaving means admitting that it's over. Leaving is moving on and John can't move on because how can he leave Sherlock behind, Sherlock who was always so far ahead?

Besides which, one never leaves a man behind. John believes this.

John wants to believe (like that stupid American show, with the aliens) that Sherlock is alive (and in his crazier moments he thinks, wasn't that man on the show right in the end? So I should believe, if I believe I'll be right too and someday he'll come back, or I'll wake up).

This is called magical thinking but if there was real magic (It's just a magic trick) it could bring Sherlock back. This is a thing for which John would sell his soul if he could.

And why shouldn't this be a nightmare? It feels like one, has felt like one for a long time, since that bitch reporter's flat; the nauseous uncertainty, the organs floating suspended inside you, everything gone the wrong way round.

I'm a fake. Nothing compared to those words, to the this isn't real this can't be real could everyone please for a moment stop the joke this isn't funny anymore this isn't funny at all John felt when Sherlock said that into his ear. So unlike Sherlock to joke. So unlike Sherlock to cry. So unlike Sherlock to do what anyone else said, to lack a plan or at least a defiant clever word or two. Moriarty was the only one to have ever forced him into a corner, and he forced back. When he and Moriarty fought, they both lost. But Moriarty was gone now, too, it seemed.

I'm a fake.

John sat bolt upright. He heard Sherlock in his head, listening to a client, leaning forward in his chair, fascination in his eyes. What was that? Say that again.

I'm a fake.

One word sometimes. One word was all it took.

A gigantic hound!

Say that again.

Who says hound?

Fake. I'm a fake. I am a fake.

Not I am a fraud, not it was a fake. I am a fake. Now, right in that moment: I am a fake.

A fake what?

A fake painting.

A fake death.

A fake aeroplane crash.

A fake suicide?

I am a fake.

The Sherlock who jumped wasn't the Sherlock who landed. I'm a fake.

That's what you do, to sell a big lie. Wrap it up in a truth to make it more palatable.

Just a magic trick. Tell Lestrade, tell Mrs. Hudson, tell Molly. Molly. Unusual of Sherlock, to count her among those he most valued in his last moments. Unless…

Without stopping to think that it was half two in the morning, John rang Molly Hooper.