Title: Icarus Burning
Author Name: CumberPatches
Spoilers: The Reichenbach Fall
Genre: Romance, Angst (and some Hurt/Comfort down the line)
Main Character(s): Sherlock Holmes, John Watson
Ship(s): (Eventual) Johnlock
Summary: When John learns that his late best friend is not as dead as he'd thought; he sets out on a mission to find him. Meanwhile, Sherlock finds himself in over his head dealing with what remains of Moriarty's crime ring.
Disclaimer: No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: This story is going to have several chapters, and I am planning on updating (at least) once a week. Any reviews are appreciated; I value your input!
Just a Dream
"You haven't been keeping up with your blog, Doctor Watson."
The doctor shifts uncomfortably in his chair across from the psychiatrist, who is fixing him with a concerned stare, a look that he has become accustomed to receiving from all those who know him. Always concern; as if he will someday spontaneously combust from the pain of living in a world without Sherlock Holmes.
"No – no I haven't been," he concedes, clearing his throat and casting a sidelong glance at the degrees on the wall as if he has just now noticed them.
"Is there a reason you've stopped?"
John's right leg begins to bounce slightly in agitation and he bites the corner of his left thumbnail, bringing his dark blue eyes back to the woman whose hand has stilled on her clipboard. He feels instantly angry with her and then, just as quickly, ashamed of this resentment for someone he knows is only trying to help. She knows why I've stopped, he thinks bitterly, but she's going to make me to say it.
"I've been having a spot of trouble finding something worth writing about," he says simply. He clasps his hands together and leans forward with his elbows on his knees in order to hold his leg still. "Ever since Sherl – since then, I haven't been doing anything but work, really."
"Even so, it would still be a good outlet for exploring certain feelings you might be having –"
"I just don't have the time," John interrupts. He knows it is a lie. Moreover, he knows that she knows it is a lie. The truth is; he's just not ready to think about how he feels. Ever since he finally moved back into their old flat, it's been the same old routine. During the day he's been throwing himself into his work to distract himself, yes, but he's also been throwing himself into bottle after bottle every night at Barney's Pub down the street. Anything to keep from feeling.
Because he's afraid they might all be right and the pain might just burn him alive.
He's having the dream again.
After he had returned from Afghanistan, his nights had been wracked with images from his service and he would wake up in a cold sweat, the sound of gunfire ringing in his ears. It wasn't long after he had moved into 221B Baker Street that the nightmares had faded, giving way to restful, uninterrupted sleep.
But in the several weeks since Sherlock's death, a new nightmare has replaced the old, familiar one. And it is even more terrible.
In the dream, he is standing across from St. Bart's; staring up at Sherlock's silhouetted form against the grey London sky. As he watches, Sherlock lifts his face towards heaven and slowly raises his arms out from his sides as mighty black wings unfurl from his back.
John screams his friend's name with such force that his chest reverberates from the effort, but no sound comes out. Sherlock does not look down as he lifts up from the roof of the hospital in a graceful arch.
And then his wings catch fire.
John is frozen in place as he watches his friend plummet towards the earth, a silent scream caught in his throat and terror gripping his heart in an icy fist. His eyes follow Sherlock's rapid descent until his body, completely ablaze, collides with the pavement.
Finally able to move again, John rushes forward to his aid, but it is too late. All that remains of Sherlock Holmes is hotly glowing ash.
"I thought I'd find you here."
John Watson does not look up from the glass clenched in his fingers as the Detective Inspector slides onto the stool next to him. The bartender, Joe, shuffles over to take his order and Lestrade asks for a ginger beer. While Joe goes to retrieve the drink, the inspector casts his eyes around the bar, taking in the sparse clientele before settling on the doctor beside him.
He looks thinner than Lestrade remembers, the hollows of his cheeks are slightly more pronounced. He notes the dark circles under his eyes that peer out from under his sandy hair, staring at the bottles lined up behind the bar. He's wearing a thin jumper, even though it's early August, and the detective can tell that he hasn't shaved yet that day. Joe returns with the drink and Lestrade drops him a nod.
"You do realize that it's only 3:30, right?" he asks, tipping the ginger beer to his lips and trying to keep his tone as light as possible, but unable to keep the obvious worry out of his voice.
"It's my day off," John mutters in reply. He hasn't taken a sip since Lestrade entered the pub, but he can tell from the spots of pink on his cheeks that it isn't his first drink of the day.
The doctor's slumped, defeated posture stirs up many emotions in the officer; sadness, pity, concern, but most of all, guilt. He had heard from Anderson that some of the boys down at the Yard had run into John repeatedly in this very bar, always this one. It had taken a while for Lestrade to work up the courage to come see him, afraid of what he might find.
He'd always liked John Watson. His easy-going grins and compassion stood out in stark contrast to Sherlock Holmes' austerity and severity. But Lestrade couldn't think of Sherlock too much before the guilt would over-power him. It was his fault, he felt.
If only he had believed in him.
Less than a week after the suicide, evidence of Moriarty's fabricated identity as Richard Brook had been provided by Mycroft's people. Further investigation proved the evidence to be sound. Mad, impossible Sherlock Holmes had been the genuine article.
Lestrade is stirred from his musings to find himself fastened under the scrutiny of the doctor's dark eyes. He knows that he hasn't even been trying to keep the emotions from his face and that John must have read them all. He feels that he should say something, but before Lestrade has the chance to open his mouth, John slowly lifts his glass out to Lestrade.
With an exhale of grief, Lestrade clinks the bottom of his bottle against John's glass.
To the late Sherlock Holmes, Lestrade thinks as they both down their drinks. When Joe returns, he decides to order something stiffer.
Someone knocks gently on the door of the examination room. John glances up from the paperwork he is just finishing as Sarah opens the door slightly and peeks her head inside. She raises and eyebrow in question and he motions for her to come in. Shutting the door behind her with a soft click, she turns to face him slowly, her hands balled up in the pockets of her lab coat. She's wearing that look: The "I know you're barely keeping it together but I'm not going to mention it" look.
"We need to talk," she says carefully, flipping her long brown hair over one shoulder with a nervous flick.
"What, breaking up with me again?" he asks with a half-hearted smile. She winces. It was a cheap shot, and he understands why it didn't work out between them, but the piteous look in her eyes has put him on edge.
"John, I think you need to take some time off."
The smile leaves his face in a flash. Time off is not an option. Time off would mean too much time on his hands. He must keep busy, as busy as he can. Fighting down the rising panic in his chest, John sets down the chart and breathes in deeply through his nose.
"No, Sarah, I need to keep working –"
"It's been over a month since Sherlock died and you've done nothing but work and, frankly, I'm seriously worried about you," she says, biting her lip. At the mention of Sherlock's death, his eyes become remote and hard and she wishes she could take it back. But it's too late.
"I've been taking care of and keeping up with all my patients," he says coolly, drumming his fingers against his thigh. She shifts anxiously from one foot to the other.
"Your work has been excellent, as always –"
"Then just let me do my FUCKING job, ok, Sarah?" he snaps. She flinches and his face immediately crumbles with remorse, but his outburst cements her decision. When she finally speaks, her voice is firm and brooks no argument.
"A week, John. I'll see you in a week."
How on earth did I get here?
This is the question he asks himself as gazes down at the dark headstone before him.
It had been the longest week of his life. Without work to distract him, John took to strolling around London during the day, despite the resurgence of his psychosomatic limp. He grabbed his cane in hand and hobbled around, exploring all the shops he'd never bothered to stop in before.
He never set out with the intention of heading anywhere in particular and this day his feet had carried him automatically to the graveside of his late best friend. He remembers nothing of the journey, just the blur of the faces that passed by and the sound of his heat racing in his ears.
He hadn't been there since he'd said his goodbyes to Sherlock after the funeral. Now, standing in front of Sherlock's grave, he can no longer set aside the feelings he'd been more or less ignoring over the last few weeks.
They hit him with the force of a boxer landing a blow to his stomach and he finds himself kneeling in the grass, gasping as his body is wracked with sobs. A couple visiting a grave a few aisles over throw startled and then sympathetic looks his way before discretely heading back towards the entrance of the cemetery. He feels as if he has been adrift in a haze, fading in and out of existence ever since he watched Sherlock die. His trembling hands run over the familiar name and his tear-filled eyes spill over silently.
How on earth did we get here?
When it happens, it is a complete accident.
On his way home from visiting Sherlock, John stopped by Tesco to buy the necessary alcohol. He had considered going to the pub, but his wallet had been taking a beating from the tab he ran down at Barney's. Also, he didn't want to run the risk of seeing any Yarders as he planned to get fully, pissing drunk.
Curled on the sofa with empty beer cans littering the floor around him, John blinks a few times in an attempt to focus his eyes on the glow of the telly. He's not sure what time it is, just that the sun went down a short while ago and his eyes are heavy with want of sleep. But that might just be the alcohol. He allows his eyelids to shut for just a moment and is immediately swept up in the nightmare.
In reality it is only minutes, but when the doctor jerks awake, sending another can rattling to the floor, it feels like it's been hours. When he looks at his shaking hands, he's sure he'll find the smudge of Sherlock's ashes on his fingers. But they're bare and he presses the heel of his palms against his eyes, sitting up and feeling slightly dizzy with the movement.
He gets unsteadily to his feet and the world tips and spins around him as he shuffles toward the bathroom, putting a hand firmly against the wall to right himself. Upon reaching the loo, he grasps the sink firmly and stares at his own reflection in the glass above it. In that moment, looking into his puffy red eyes, he hates himself. He'd thought he was stronger than this.
Then he remembers the pills. For a moment he forgets everything he should know, as a medical man, and thinks only of sleeping without having to watch Sherlock burning.
They'd been prescribed to help him sleep back when he'd first returned from Afghanistan. He had taken them once, but he'd slept so deeply that he couldn't wake up the next day and he'd decided that it wasn't worth throwing off his entire schedule. But now… he needs them.
He finds them in the cabinet where he'd stored them after moving into the flat all that time ago and takes them roughly in hand.
And that's the last thing he remembers.
When he comes to, he's not sure where he is. His eyes feel as though they have been glued together and his head as if it has been filled with sand. Slowly, his vision begins to clear and he takes in the unfamiliar ceiling. The familiar sounds of a hospital play out in the background as his mind tries to piece together what is happening.
His head lolls to the side, and beside him sits his sister, Harry. Dark blonde hair swept up in a ponytail, no makeup, bloodshot eyes, a sweatshirt that her frail frame practically drowns in, and all John can think is that he's never seen her venture out of her house looking so sloppy before. She is staring at him, not with the usual pitying look, but with an intensity that recalls their fights when they were children.
"You fucking arsehole," she spits with venom. "Don't you ever, ever do this to me again!"
He feels the unfamiliar tug of an IV in his arm when he goes to move the oxygen mask from over his mouth. His first attempt at speaking fails: his throat unnaturally raw. When his voice finally does come, it is a low rasp.
"What… happened?" he manages. Her eyes flash dangerously.
"What happened? You fucking overdosed, you sodding git! They had to pump your stomach! Your goddamn heart stopped! If your landlady hadn't found you," her voice hitches on a sob and she buries her face in his arm and lets the crying take over.
He watches her shoulders shake and tries to remember the events preceding this, but isn't able to actually remember taking the pills. He has no doubt, though, about what must have happened. Most likely he took some pills and, in his drunken stupor, forgotten he'd already taken some and then took more. He lets his sister cry in silence, feeling progressively more detached from everything the longer she sits blubbing against his side.
Finally the tears subside and she sits back, dragging a sleeve across her eyes. The hiccups that inevitably accompany crying jags of this magnitude cause her words to come out in a staccato.
"You're – coming – to stay – with me," she says quietly. John considers shaking his head, but decides that this fight can wait until later. He can feel want of sleep gnawing at his brain and all he wants is to pass out again. Instead, he fixes his face to look as apologetic and sympathetic as he can, giving her hand a squeeze.
"You've been out – for a while," she sniffs, her voice evening out. "Someone named Greg came by and left his regards. Also…" her voice trails off and he can tell that, whatever it is she has to say, he won't want to hear it. His stomach clenches; he somehow already knows what's coming.
"John, Sarah came by. You can't go back to work. You'll be lucky if you don't lose your license."
John feels the words settle coldly in his chest. He knew it was procedure under such circumstances, but he can't help the despair that twists his already twisted heart. Medicine is all he has left.
"You'll be going to AA with me," she says more gently. "And your therapist is going to talk to you about the steps you'll have to take so you can keep practicing medicine. She'll be by tomorrow, but for now you should probably rest."
She places a kiss on his forehead before pulling out her phone to step outside in the hall to place a call to her girlfriend. John allows his head to fall back on the pillow, overwhelmed by everything. When sleep tugs on his consciousness again, he doesn't even try to fight it.
When he wakes again, there's another crying woman at his bedside. At first, he thinks it is Sarah with her long brown hair falling forward to obscure her face, which is buried in her hands. He's oddly touched that she still feels so deeply for him, even after all that had happened between them. He reaches out and runs a finger down her forearm. She starts and yanks her hands away, revealing that it isn't Sarah, but Molly Hooper. Now he's confused.
"Oh, Doctor Watson!" she exclaims, brushing the tears from her cheeks with the palms of her hands and shaking her head. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to wake you."
He doesn't even get to ask her why she's there before she barrels onward.
"It got around the hospital that you were here and I had to come see you, you see. I feel so absolutely wretched about the whole thing. He cared so much about you, Doctor Watson; he'd never wanted this for you."
He doesn't need to ask who "he" is, and the mention of Sherlock sends pain shooting through to his core. She doesn't notice; she is too busy looking around as if to make sure they are alone, her eyes wide and a little wild.
"He made me promise not to tell anyone, not even you," she whispers urgently. Her eyes search his as if she's trying to come to a difficult decision. "But I don't think he took into consideration how deeply this would affect you."
She leans forward out of her chair then and presses her lips close to his ear. What she whispers into his ear almost makes his heart stop… again.
"Doctor Watson, Sherlock Holmes is still alive!"