I didn't plan on writing this at all when I wrote Falling. But a reviewer asked for a new chapter and I started thinking about the possibility and I eventually thought of this. This is technically a sequel; you can read this without reading Falling first but it'll make a lot more sense if you do read the other first. I apologize if Sherlock and Irene's voices are off. Sherlock especially is hard to write. A little bit of Sherlock/Irene in this? And more bromance, of course. Hope you enjoy. I love reviews. :)
Sherlock checked the blog every day.
He wished John would post. Something. Anything more than that one sentence put up the day after Sherlock left. Anything that let Sherlock know John was doing okay.
He was my best friend and I'll always believe in him.
Damn it, John. You never listen, do you?
The tiny flat Sherlock rented under a fake name in the outskirts of London felt cramped. Uncomfortable. He wanted Baker Street back. But he knew he couldn't have it. Not yet.
He tried not to think about them. Lestrade. Mrs. Hudson. John. He tried to focus on what he had to do. The sooner it was done, the sooner he could go home.
It wasn't that simple, though. It hadn't been that simple since Sherlock first realized that, for the first time ever, the thought of losing someone scared him.
He was my best friend and I'll always believe in him.
Friend. A word Sherlock had only begun to get used to.
He couldn't look at things the same way anymore. Detached had been the norm, now it was an impossibility. He couldn't look at the problems in front of him like a puzzle to solve because John's feelings were involved, and that made it personal.
Guilt. An emotion Sherlock rarely succumbed to.
But in all his frustration and anger, at Moriarty for setting this up; at Donovan, Anderson, and Lestrade for doubting him; at that journalist for publishing lies; at John for holding on when Sherlock all but told him to let go; he knew who he blamed the most. Whose fault it really was. Who hurt John the most.
Push it all from you mind, Sherlock.
He couldn't even do that anymore.
Nearly a month in, he received his first contact with his old life.
The ringtone, familiar as it was, caught him off-guard. He thought for a second he must be hearing things, but when he looked at his phone he realized he hadn't.
I know you're not dead. Let's have dinner.
Despite himself, he smiled for a split second. A month ago, he wouldn't have responded. But things were so different now.
The response came only a few seconds later.
I thought you'd never ask.
A busy little café in downtown London, surrounded by other businesses. A convenience store. A doctor's office. A a candy shop. Sherlock sat at a booth next to the window overlooking the street. He was halfway through his second cup of coffee when he heard the familiar voice.
"I almost didn't recognize you."
He looked up to see Irene Adler sit down across from him. She smiled and called the waiter over, ordering herself some coffee as well.
"You cut your hair," she said.
"So did you."
She smiled again and twisted a few strands of her hair, which now fell just above the shoulder. "I needed a change. I like the stubble, by the way. Not crazy about the contacts. Brown is so boring. You had the prettiest blue eyes."
"I'm not me right now," he said.
The waiter brought Irene her coffee. She took a sip as he walked away, then said, "Of course. We have that in common now. That we're both dead."
"It's not exactly a trait I'd like to share with you," Sherlock said.
"You don't have to," Irene said, "So why are you?"
Sherlock paused and Irene filled in the silence. "Moriarty's men."
"Have to make sure they won't show up again," Sherlock said.
"So this is about John, then," Irene said, her voice teasing. "You're worried about him."
Sherlock didn't answer, so Irene moved on. "Tracking down those men may take a long time."
"Yes. It probably will."
"You're going to let John think you're dead for that long?"
"Can't be helped."
"But he misses you, Sherlock. Didn't you see his blog?"
Sherlock didn't answer again, mostly because he knew he didn't have to.
"I'm not really all that concerned about it," he finally said.
She smiled. "We both know that's not true. Or we wouldn't be eating here, would we?"
She looked out the window then, and instinctively Sherlock followed her gaze. John walked out of the doctor's office across the street, putting his coat on. He hailed a cab and drove off.
"Come on, Sherlock," Irene said. "You really thought you could bring me to a restaurant across from a doctor's office and I wouldn't put two and two together?"
Sherlock's eyes left the sidewalk where John had been a moment before and met Irene's gaze. He said nothing.
"How often do you eat here now?" she asked.
"It doesn't matter."
"By the way the waiter acts around you, I'd say you're quite the regular."
Sherlock took a sip from his cup. "I like their coffee."
"The coffee's terrible. You miss him, too. It's alright, you know. It's normal. Imagine that. Sherlock Holmes with normal feelings."
There was a long pause before Sherlock spoke. "I can't risk telling him. I don't know who's watching. If the cost of his safety is him missing me, he's going to have to live with it."
"You don't have to explain yourself to me," Irene said. "I understand. Just don't expect John to. Not right away."
Sherlock knew John wouldn't take his sudden reappearance well. But having Irene say what he already knew made it impossible to deny it to himself like he'd been doing.
"Don't worry, though," she added. "He'll come around. He cares about you too much to be that mad."
Sherlock nodded. The best he could hope for, really.
"So," Irene said. "Tell me all about your new life."
"Nothing to say," he said, sipping more coffee. "I wake up. I chase assassins. I go to bed. Except for the nights I stay up. Very boring, to be honest."
"Oh, right. I forgot. That's a shame."
"Yes, it is. It's so unbearably quiet all the time."
He stopped, then and realized what he'd just said. Before, he'd preferred quiet. Easier to think. But he'd grown so used to a flat mate…
Irene smiled at him, knowingly. "A bit different now that you're alone?"
"I lived alone before John, you know," he said.
"Like that matters now. Maybe I should stop by sometime. Keep you company."
"I'd prefer you didn't."
"I could wear your favorite outfit. You know, the one I was wearing when we met?"
At the startled look Sherlock couldn't stop himself from making, Irene laughed softly and reached out her hand, placing it on Sherlock's. Sherlock raised an eyebrow but didn't pull away.
"Do you know what else we have in common?" Irene asked.
"We both love Sherlock Holmes."
Sherlock stared at her for a few seconds before answering. "Shall we order?"
The topics at dinner were surprisingly normal. As if they were two friends, getting together for the first time in a while, and not two people who, as far as the rest of the world knew, were dead. Looking back, none of it was important. But with Irene, it always seemed important. She never bored Sherlock like others did. And their conversation was just what he needed. A few hours away from Snipers and IOU and I'm a fake and Don't be dead, could you do that, just for me, just stop it, stop this…
Irene read his mind.
"You know," she said, as Sherlock realized he'd suddenly gone very quiet, "If you really want to see John again, just make sure he won't recognize you."
"It's John. Why wouldn't he recognize me?"
She leaned forward. "You're Sherlock Holmes. I bet that head of yours can figure something out."
She looked down at her plate then. Only scraps remained.
"I think we're done here. Don't you?"
Sherlock nodded as Irene scooted out of the booth.
"It was good to see you," Irene said. "Alive, I mean."
A flicker of a smile from Sherlock. "Likewise."
She smiled. "I enjoyed our date."
"This was a date?"
Irene leaned over and kissed Sherlock on the cheek. "Good luck. And be careful."
Sherlock didn't move through all of this. And he didn't move as Irene began to walk away. Finally, just before she walked out, he called after her. "Irene?"
She turned to look at him, and suddenly he didn't know what to say.
"I just..." He trailed off and restarted. "I wanted to say…"
"You're welcome, Sherlock," Irene said, smiling.
And then she was gone.
A few days passed, and Sherlock found himself tailing John through the streets of London, wearing a disguise. A blonde wig and a fake beard had been successfully borrowed from a costume shop, and they'd have to be back before the store opened tomorrow. He still had his contacts in. He slumped over as he walked, trying to hide his height. He went over in his head how to raise the pitch of his voice. He dressed in itchy college-boy clothes that didn't suit him. That was one of his least favorite things about being dead. He missed his coat.
He'd been following John ever since he left Baker Street that morning. He wanted to call out, but something held him back. Fear? Maybe. Of John recognizing him almost as much as of one of Moriarty's men doing the same thing. He wasn't ready to explain. He couldn't explain yet.
It just never felt like the right time to say something.
But when John stopped at an ATM, Sherlock knew it was now or never.
He knew what he planned on doing. If he succeeded, it would make his life that much more miserable. But it would help John. And Sherlock was already being selfish enough.
He spoke up.
"Hey. You're the blog Guy. John Watson."
John turned around, and Sherlock saw no spark of recognition in his friend's eye. So far, so good.
But no. It wasn't good. Because John hadn't slept well the night before. He'd had a rough morning…make that a series of rough mornings. He was worried about how much money would be in his account when he checked. He was worried about the rent, and what to do with Sherlock's belongings, and what to do with himself…
And his whole demeanor was that of someone lost and confused. Alone.
Sherlock almost ripped off the ridiculous wig. He almost dropped the fake high voice, he almost took out the uncomfortable contacts, he almost broke down and took john by the shoulders and shook him and blurted out you stop it, you stop this, it's not your fault and it isn't fair to you and I hate that you're doing this to yourself, because I'm not worth it.
But he didn't. He kept control.
And then he gathered his thoughts.
John hadn't answered. He looked on with mild confusion.
"Yeah, that's you, all right," Sherlock said. "I was a big fan, back before…you know." He put on his best sheepish expression.
Pain. Evident in John's face. And Sherlock had caused it again.
"Thanks," John said.
Sherlock braced himself for what had to come next.
"I am curious," he said, before John could turn away, "about your last blog post."
"I think it's pretty self-explanatory."
Impatience. John didn't want to be having this conversation.
"What I don't understand is why. Why keep on believing?"
A brief frown. John probably didn't realize he'd made it.
"It's hard to explain," he said.
"That's not good enough," Sherlock said. "It doesn't make sense. Wouldn't it be better to move on?"
John shook his head. "No."
Sherlock didn't want to do this anymore. It hurt.
For John, he told himself. It's what's best for John.
"It's not healthy to dwell," Sherlock said. "Especially on a bastard like that. He never did anything for you. He lied to you."
John's jaw clenched. Anger now.
"And what if I don't believe that?"
Sherlock didn't mean to say it. He got caught up in trying to make John let go, in his stupid stubbornness, and it slipped out.
"Then you're an idiot."
The emotions flashing through John's face happened so fast that Sherlock struggled to catch them all. Surprise. Remembrance. Hurt. Anger. And finally, dejection.
"Yes, well," he said, "Practically everyone is."
And he pushed passed Sherlock and walked away.
Sherlock had the distinct feeling he'd just made things worse rather than better.
A long taxi-ride brought Sherlock home. Well, not home. The new flat. He entered, discarded the beard and wig, took out his contacts, and changed out of the awful clothes. Then he threw himself on the couch.
It could've gone worse. But not without one of Moriarty's men showing up.
Best friend, indeed. He didn't know why John stuck by him. All he ever did was lie to him or yell at him or hurt him.
He laid there for a long time, then sat up and grabbed for the laptop he'd borrowed from Anderson's office.
He didn't expect anything new on the blog, but he checked anyway.
This time, he was surprised.
Curious, Sherlock clicked.
He read the post twice. Every word, carefully. And when he finished, a strange combination of flattery and guilt was growing inside him.
As much as he hated the fact that John's loyalty made his friend hurt more than he should, he wouldn't pretend he didn't appreciate it.
He read the last few sentences again.
He was my best friend, and still is. I cared about him, and still do. And he meant a lot to me, and still does. I just hope he knew that.
He couldn't resist.
The comments weren't disabled this time.
He had to say something.
So he posted a reply, anonymously, short as he could make it, then closed the computer.
There, John. Rest assured. I just hope you know I feel the same way about you.