A/N I suppose I just wasn't happy with the ending to that other one. There was so much potential for even more lovely angst... XD So have a sequel-ish thing that came out of nowhere. :D This is meant to be similar in structure to the original piece, by the way, just to emphasize how Sherlock and John are really two sides of the same coin. :3 Please review! Sherlock's POV this time around, if that wasn't obvious.
Disclaimer I don't own Sherlock or any associated characters, events, etc.
He jumps, and everything shatters.
I don't process it at first. It's a backwards analysis, a desperate, pathetic scramble for escape that floods my mind, something that, were I thinking clearer, I'd probably be able to identify as denial. But the very concept of clear thinking is a joke—I can't recall ever in my life being more frozen, more useless as I stare at the small, bright screen in front of me, the time and date blinking in the right corner, numbers that I know will be burned into my mind forever, but that I can't quite manage to process right now. Everything escalates for the few seconds that he's suspended in the air—he's still alive, right now, in this moment, and if I have a way, some insane way to pause time, I can fix it, hold him there, cling onto the blazingly bright presence of life and refuse to let it slip away. There's still hope—never mind if it's impossible, illogical, fantastical, because it's there, because, if only for one more moment, we're both alive.
I can almost hear the thud as he hits the pavement.
And then, suddenly, I can't breathe anymore. My head throbs violently, and the image before me seems to burn black and white, sepia, and then too bright, far too bright with the horribly violent display of scarlet that's spreading over the pavement, the pavement where I lay six months ago, tricking him, saving him—an action that, quite suddenly, has been rendered entirely useless. I might as well have let John be shot for all the good I did—it would have been better, in fact. I know at least that he would have been happier if things had ended quickly, thoughtlessly for him. But now such a thing is useless to even imagine, because I can't reverse the reality of having watched him struggle, spiral into depression and near-insanity for half a year before… before this.
I hate my own mind, absolutely detest it for this unspeakable crime: that it can keep on working, its gears kicking up and resuming their well-oiled spin mere moments after the world collapsed in on itself. It should be petrified—if the stupid damn planet won't stop turning, then at least my own consciousness should, at least I should be upset,because I deserve upset, I deserve all the upset that I could never so much as dream up and a thousand years of agony beyond that. For letting this happen. For letting myflawless plan leave such a massive hole torn through it.
And yet I'm still functioning. Calmly, evenly, I look down at the phone lying in my palm—an almost surprising sight; I'd nearly forgotten about its presence there. Slowly, I press the center button, bringing the tiny screen to life, watching as it illuminates a text that I don't remember sending, the four letters—all capital—burningly black against the white background.
WAIT, it says.
A last effort, a final attempt to stop the thing that I had inevitably set up. I killed him. Me and my actions were inarguably responsible for his death, and all I could do to try and stop it was send him one last text message.
Back on the CCTV screen, people are beginning to flock around the body that's suddenly the opposite of familiar, just another corpse, one of the so many I've had all too much experience with. Some crying out though I can hear nothing, one shaking his shoulder, several others just staring in horror. Like the ones around me had… but they had been setups, actors, their only job had been to hold him back, so that he couldn't find out the truth.
There's no question to the truth this time. The tiny bit of denial that I had allowed myself to be taken captive by has slipped away. The fact is right in front of me: it is over. It is absolutely and completely over, and I can't change that.
I lean back into the swivel chair that I'm sitting in, staring penetratingly at the nightmare of a sight as though I can smother it, suffocate it into nonexistence, kill his death and bring him back.
Death. Such a stabbing, brutal, final word.
I wonder if he ever had any of these thoughts, back when he saw me fall, all those months ago. Perhaps he went through exactly what I am, now. Perhaps worse. I can imagine that it might have been worse. I'm not in that much pain, not really. This isn't numbness. Numbness is insulating, a cunningly warm blanket of false reassurances. But there's nothing warm about me right now. Not warm, and not burning, either, not agonized.
I'm ice-cold instead.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
I lean back into my stiff wooden chair, letting out a long, irritated sigh as my eyes shift upwards, fixate on the towering, curved ceiling of my brother's mansion, my home for the past six months. He sits across from me, elbows on the table, his chin resting on his contemplatively folded hands. I let my silence do the answering for me, feeling his eyes on me and not caring a bit. Three hours, sixteen minutes, and forty-two seconds since he jumped. I don't try to keep count, but it's another frustratingly automatic function of my brain that I can't seem to turn off.
"He meant a lot to you, Sherlock. I'd imagine that you'd be… upset, now. And if you need to talk to someone, I will listen."
"I deserve to be the one who died," I explain clearly, mildly pleased at how normal my voice sounds, low and steady. "He shouldn't have had to do that. He was a better person than me. He always has been."
"Then again, I suppose the dead one gets the best deal. Him deciding to head out certainly leaves me in a bit of a fix."
"Had it coming, didn't I? All along, really. Should have realized how idiotic it was to not go back to him as soon as Moran was dead… I did it to be safe, remember? To make sure that there weren't any more of them out there. Any more waiting for him. Look how safe he ended up."
"What?" I straighten up finally, glaring at him. His face is carefully blank—he's not affected by John's death, he cares even less than I do. "If you're just going to sit there repeating my name a thousand times over, I don't have and reason to stay here."
His mouth half-opens for a moment, then settles closed again. My eyes flit up and down his figure, trying to discern if he has any intentions of speaking. It would be easy enough to read on any other person, but Mycroft is rather remarkable at concealing his thoughts from me. I allow him ten brief seconds, and when he doesn't make another move, I stand up abruptly, pushing the chair in harshly so that it screeches on the marble floor. He squeezes his eyes shut in protest to the noise, but I don't apologize, don't acknowledge his frustration. Instead, I turn around and stalk off, without any intention of going anywhere.
It's laughable that he expects me to eat. Enough so that I might even allow it a genuine snort of amusement, if not for the fact that such an action feels ridiculously absurd at the present. Happiness is foreign. I can't quite remember what it's like to be happy, because my only experience with such a thing always involved John, and John's absence now seems to have torn the atmosphere of the memories with it. Recollecting times with him is like reading a colleague's biography. The events echo some reflection of an emotion, but can't quite manage to link back to the real thing.
Hunger is almost as difficult to imagine as happiness. The thought of food isn't necessarily repulsive, but it does manage to carry an unappealing air to it—my body feels fine how it is, a pleasantly hollow state, and I don't want to set that off-balance with something like the tray containing some sort of sandwich that Mycroft has had sent to my room. I can imagine his voice—if you don't eat now, it will start up a habit. Neither of us can afford you to starve. There's nothing that you need your mind to be sharp for, Sherlock. On the contrary, I daresay you'd be pleased to slow your thoughts down a bit right now. Go on, eat the food.
I don't want to. That's the best answer I can summon, the most truthful one. And I don't want to, I want anything but. I'm lying on the wide frame of the four-poster bed in the room that's been assigned to me, fingers steepled in front of me, letting my mind wander. However, my thoughts can't start down as loose a track as usual—instead, they're tied to John, like he's a solid iron post that I'm chained to, unable to wander more than a few yards from. He's somehow managed to integrate him into every bit of my life, every side of my mind, and that previously sweet flavoring to my thoughts has suddenly become poison.
Damn you, John. Damn you for somehow managing to become everything to me.
It's only early afternoon, too early to sleep, especially for me, but I'm tired, somehow. So I stand, pace over to the tall windows lining the room and draw the curtains shut on each of them, one at a time, slow and steady. The drapes are a deep, rich color that's suspended between black and maroon, and every time I tug one closed, a new cloud of dust is released into the air. My nose tickles vaguely, but I don't sneeze, just continue to block out all the light, up and down the room, until it's cast completely into darkness. I perch on the edge of my bed again, fingers wandering vaguely along the thick comforter, tracing its stitches. The exhaustion has left me, the syrupy lack of light seeming to stimulate my brain rather than calm it. My thoughts gain energy, spinning wildly, darting back and forth across the surface of my conscious thought, until a slow ache begins to tug at them, growing into a splitting sensation that shoots down my forehead.
It's like I'm restraining something, but I can't imagine what.
Hours later, the sky has deepened its shade appropriately, so that the curtains are no longer necessary. I keep them pulled tight anyways, not wanting a single bit of starlight to come into the room. Thoughts of John have been stewing over the time I've spent locked in my room, and now they're literally all that's left in my mind, so that my mind can't so much as function properly.
Even I'm not feeling any sadness, the guilt is still there, the waste, the… despair, of a sort. He was such an amazing, brilliant man, and now he's gone. The world is a million times blacker without Dr. John Watson to light it. I'd never have thought before meeting him that the absence of a single, insignificant man could destroy me so utterly and thoroughly. I'm broken, really—empty. And yet not sad. Not miserable. I've made a massive mistake, I've played out my cards wrong, I've lost my most valuable piece in the game of life—my only piece, really. I can't quite adjust to the fact that there's nothing to return to, anymore. Everything I've done has been for him. And now it's wasted.
Everything has gone to waste.
I've envisioned going back to him so many times, imagining the look on his face—I'd considered the fact that he might hit me, might be angry. At first, the concept was painful, but I grew used to it, decided that I'd deserve whatever he might have in mind for me. Or perhaps he'd faint, succumb to shock—that was the most natural of reactions provoked by seeing a dead man appear on your doorstep, standing and breathing.
I hadn't dared to let myself truly imagine the idea of him being happy to see me. That would be setting my expectations too high, and I didn't want to have to let them fall again.
Fall, fall, fall.
It's useless now, in any case, because he's dead. Because my mistakes killed him.
John is dead.
It hits me in the chest, as solidly as any punch, and I freeze, my form completely still on the bed, stiff as though I was the corpse and not him.
I've somehow managed to hold true acknowledgement of such a fact at bay thus far, but now that I've made the mistake of allowing it in, it consumes me, overtakes me in a huge flood, and all me is hurting, hurting so much worse than I would have imagined possible. There's the most bizarre physical pain in my chest, gripping my heart and lungs and twisting them until I can't breathe. Chills inch down my body, and I feel myself shaking, but I'm disconnected from it, hidden in the depths of my own mind. I stay like that as the minutes creep by, drowning, waiting desperately for the end of the agony to come.
But it doesn't. And I suddenly realize that it never will.
Not a single shadow of sleep has come anywhere near touching me by the time morning dawns. I can see the sickly, syrupy puddles of yellow light forming around the base of the floor-length curtains, illuminating a thin blizzard of dust motes that twist and dance despite the lack of anything resembling breeze. I envy their ignorance, their unknowing. My insides still feel as though they're imprisoned in a fierce steel grip, and my breaths come out shallowly, so as not to aggravate the stinging pain any further. If I stay like this, on the bed, not eating or drinking, everything will go away eventually, fade into nothingness. I think that's my plan, in a way, my subconscious last resort.
John's face flashes far too clearly before me, and I stare hard at the ceiling above me, focusing on the darkness until it manages to erase the reflection of his short blonde hair and hazel-blue eyes.
My phone beeps from the bedside table. I reach over and lift it, grateful for a distraction to focus my immediate thoughts on, and hold it a ways away from my face, squinting to focus on the letters. I try to ignore the pale, emaciated forearm in my peripheral vision, instead letting the phone's screen consume my attention.
Have you eaten or slept?
I deem to ignore the prying inquiry from my brother. It's apparent that Mycroft sees no need to sign it, which makes sense—after all, there's no one else who could be texting me…
Except for John. John used to—I was worried when he first began doing so, thinking that perhaps he'd cracked, but Mycroft's cameras in 221b proved otherwise. He was as sane as he'd ever been since I'd jumped—which is to say, not very. Without wanting to, I find myself clicking to them now, that long list of messages, scrolling through them and answering each of them in my head.
Why did you do it? –JW
To save you. I never killed myself, John. It was an act. And I was going to tell you that, eventually.
I miss you. –JW
God, I miss you, too. I miss you so much. I'm sorry… I can never begin to express how sorry I am. I let you do this… I just want you back. More than anything.
I wish we could have had a little longer. Or maybe a lifetime longer. –JW
I would love that. A lifetime, for the two of us, solving crimes in the flat. I would be happy with that, John, to just have my work and have you. That's all I could possibly ask for. Far less than some people would demand for a satisfactory life. Why does have a simple wish have to be so impossible?
It's empty without you. –JW
If only you could see how many empty rooms there are in Mycroft's house. They're all full of dust and relics. It never bothered me before you were gone permanently. Now I can't imagine anything lonelier.
The hit counter on the blog is fixed. It just sort of happened one day. No one visits it anymore, though. I guess we were just a passing fad. –JW
Good. I hated the popularity.
No one remembers you anymore, Sherlock. –JW
It's meant to be that way, John. That's what I always intended.
And, of course, the last one, that causes me to throw the phone across the room, the one that I can't possibly deal with right now because it has too much tied to it, too many memories, too many… emotions.
I'm sorry. I love you. –JW
I don't know what motivates me to look at the blog. I haven't for ages, not since the very first few cases were published on it. I didn't see any purpose to doing so, after all—they were only details of my own ventures, which I'd already experienced. No need to clog up my memories with John's badly written, crime-novel style retellings. I'd only pop up occasionally to leave him an impulsive comment, usually when he was out of town, when I missed him.
I always knew he'd come back, then. I'd lie on the couch and try to imagine that he wasn't gone, look forward to when he'd return. That feels like a different lifetime now, before I became trapped in this cave-like mansion for all of the foreseeable future, my only companion being the constant ache in my head and chest. An ache that's only going to be intensified by reading his old posts, but for some reason I can't help it.
It's a terrible mistake, because the first thing I see is his name, big white font across the generic green background—John H Watson, large, mocking, words under which dates belong now. 1976-2012.
The second thing is his face.
It's not even a particularly good photograph, small, black-and-white, but it's still his face, his stupid, grinning face, his eyes and his mouth and his everything and it tears at me for some reason, to see that tiny, pathetically preserved bit of him, to know that his body looks nothing like that now, not after a week, know that it's falling apart at this point, coming undone, cracks splintering off from the place where I broke him.
I can't do this. Can't bear to stare at him, to read the words that my brain's already processed without my permission—I am an experienced medical doctor recently invalided from Afghanistan—or, even worse, to see the glaring title of the latest post, the final post that must be the last thing he could bring himself to write.
He was my best friend and I'll always believe in him.
That's it, that's all that there is. A video is underneath it, one that I recognize without having to click it—it's a news report, that's all, a news report on my death. I've seen it before, laughed at it, even, at the reporters' idiocy… I never imagined John having to see such a thing on the television every time he turned it on, for the first week or so, at least.
There are lots of things that I never imagined he'd go through.
He was my best friend and I'll always believe in him.
Something's building up in my throat, and I cough loudly to clear it, a sound that comes out too-deep and overly strangled. An odd sort of clenching tingle sets in around my eyes, but I refuse to think about what it could possibly be, instead choosing to scroll down, look over all the ridiculous titles that he assigned his reports of our cases.
The Speckled Blonde.
The Geek Interpreter.
The Great Game.
The Blind Banker.
And, of course, that first one, the very first, where it all began…
A Study in Pink.
When I first met Sherlock, he told me my life story. He could tell so much about me from my limp, my tan and my mobile phone. And that's the thing with him. It's no use trying to hide what you are because Sherlock sees right through everyone and everything in seconds. What's incredible, though, is how spectacularly ignorant he is about some things.
I slam the laptop lid down as harshly as possible, a gasp drawing its way out of my throat. My shaking arms fold together on top of it and I slowly lower my head down, pressing my forehead to the hot plastic and squeezing my eyes shut, stomach writhing and fingernails digging into my forearms hard enough to draw blood, a desperate attempt to root myself with physical pain, anything to detract from the gaping sickness wrenching inside of me.
The day is mockingly sunny, and the heat beats down on my coat, sinking through the dark fabric and burning my skin underneath. Despite it being an absurdly warm spring day, I never so much as considered wearing lighter clothes. These were my mourning garments, one could say. I never wore anything else when I went out with John, so it's only logical that I should don them for my final moment with him.
It's a horribly plain grave marker, about two feet high, dismally rectangular, and made of pale marbled stone that catches the light, washing it in subtle glitters. It's pretty, I suppose, but I can hardly appreciate something like that. His name is carved onto it, the letters standing out clearly against their pale backdrop. John H Watson. Always that middle initial, for no apparent reason. I stare hard at it, eyebrows lowering over my icy glare, paying no mind to the warm, damp breeze gusting in front of me, pulling slightly at my scarf.
Mycroft would undoubtedly think it unwise of me to come here, but I truly don't think it's possible for me to care less. Anyone who recognized me in public would mistake me for a trick of the light, a ghost, even. People will believe all matter of things before the truth, especially when the truth is fighting to conceal itself from them, which I certainly am. To the public, I'm still dead. And my gravestone is in here, too—just next to John's, in fact, though I don't give it so much as a glance. The earth underneath it holds an empty coffin. Whereas that below John's…
My stomach twists at the thought, and a tiny, whimper-like noise tears itself out of my mouth unwillingly. I grit my teeth, pulling my lips back and trying to keep my jaw steady. My hands wrap themselves into fists, and I let the headstone burn its image into my mind—it's oddly satisfying to attack myself so fiercely with the pain, because, when directly applied, it works like acid—tearing straight through my defenses, penetrating to the heart, completely wrecking it all. I'm left a pathetic mess, just barely managing to scrap together enough control to maintain a carefully cool exterior.
I open my mouth to say it, say the words to the invisible presence that I can't help but foolishly hope is still lingering here somehow. But no sound comes out. I can't force a single one of the two words from my lips, no matter how hard I try. My throat is bone-dry.
I give it another minute or so, then give up and leave the graveyard.
I don't cry, because I never cry.
Tears are weak.
There's no one left.
That fact comes to me a couple of days later, dark, cobwebbed days that I've spent walking in a seemingly drugged stupor around Mycroft's house, looking in all the most shadowy corners, hiding there, pretending that I can't see his downward-turned, coldly disapproving gaze every time we cross paths—which is rarely, in a mansion the size of his. Hours of light and dark have merged into a single, continuous time stream, a blurred canvas of a million different watery shades of gray.
No one left to care.
Mycroft is the only one who knows I'm alive, and everyone else has surely moved on by now. At this point, my return would cause more distress than it would relief. They all would blame me for what he did, though no one can as much as I do myself. Lestrade wouldn't know what to do with himself. The shock Mrs. Hudson would receive couldn't be healthy for her age. And who else was there, really? The only other one I'd jumped for had been John.
And he was really all that I ever intended to return for.
If not for him, I'd have no reason to assume my normal life once more. I'd take on a different identity, become someone else, start up a new, safer existence that ensured Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson's safety from Moriarty's cohorts.
John was all that was dragging me back, and now he's gone.
His last words come to me then, those that he'd sent to me in the text message, suddenly too flamingly significant to be ignored.
I love you.
John, stop it. Don't do this to me. I know I deserve the pain, but I can't handle it anymore. I just can't handle it.
Mycroft comes into my room a day later. I'm sitting up in bed, my knees drawn to my chest and my arms wrapped around them, gazing calmly ahead. I don't react to his thin figure approaching me, don't so much as flinch at the faint thud that sounds as he sets a small bottle on the bedside table. My eyes move, though, flicker down and bring it into focus—crystal clear glass behind which sits a single smoothly cylindrical, pearly white pill, speckled with vivid magenta. It's all too recognizable, and I can't help but wonder vaguely how he managed to procure this particular variant of poison, one which carries such a heavy memory with it. I slowly raise my head, meeting the shadowed eyes of my brother. He doesn't return my gaze, but rather stares at a point over my shoulder, his chin high as usual, arms stiff at his side. My fingers strike out, curl around the bottle, bring it closer to myself. It's warm against my icy fingers, sleek and almost slippery.
There are so many things I could say. Murder, really, Mycroft? Prompting your own brother to do such a thing, Mummy would be ashamed… angry, even… I hope you realize that this is all sorts of illegal…
But only a single syllable comes out, my voice dry from disuse—I haven't spoken a word since the day John died. "Why?"
"I can't stand it any longer, Sherlock. Can't stand to see you like this. You've been dead ever since he jumped, you know you have. No use to wait until your body rots."
I stare at him for a few more seconds, wondering if he'll ever sum up the courage to look back at me. Thirty seconds tick by, a minute, two. He barely blinks.
"Thank you," I say simply, and remove the cap in one swift motion.
I can see the slight shift in his expression, conveying that he had some small hope that I wouldn't go for it—that I'd push the pill away, scoff, tell him that I'd recover eventually and that there was no need to waste my life. I'd act as though I'm sorry to disappoint him, but I'm not. Not in the least.
I give the bottle a small shake, tip its contents into the palm of my other hand and bring it up to my lips without hesitation. They brush against it, and I meet his eyes one final time, a thought suddenly occurring to me.
"I want to be buried in the fake grave," I tell him quietly. "The one next to him. I don't care how you do it, just make sure that we're beside each other."
"Of course, Sherlock."
I allow myself a tiny nod, a deep breath. There's no farther need for delay. Without giving myself time for any farther consideration, I slip the pill into my mouth and bite down.
My brother, Sherlock Holmes, was a man admired by many. His death was devastating when the world first learned of it—what they didn't know, though, is that he hadn't truly been killed in his plunge of the rooftop. Far from it. In actuality, it had been a trick, a spectacularly elaborate trick used to save the lives of the three people in the world who he truly cared for. I was not on that list, nor would I ever expect to be. Sherlock meant much more to me than I ever did to him. I believe it was that way for most people who knew him.
The most important person in his life was undoubtedly Dr. John Watson. I never expected that much when I first met the man destined to be Sherlock's flat mate, but their bond ended up much stronger and deeper than I could have imagined.
I didn't think Sherlock capable of love before John came along.
It's only natural that he should be torn apart by the poor doctor's death, and suicide nonetheless. Never before have I seen my brother in such utter distress. And it's for that reason that I have no regret for my actions. When I gave him the means to end his own life, it was a purely sympathetic gesture, and I believe he appreciated it for that reason.
The words that I sit here typing now will never be published, or even read by anyone other than myself. I was the only one to whom Sherlock entrusted with the secret of his faked suicide, and even now I don't intend to betray him. He was originally going to return after a period of three years, but that date is now meaningless. The affair has come to a close, and I will take the true story with me to the grave.