This is the sequel to Bodies and I recommend you read that first. Both occur post-Reichenbach and contain spoilers up until there.
John knew it wasn't normal to still feel this way, so many months after. He hadn't grieved like this when either of his parents had died. He had mourned them of course, but not this sick dreariness that seemed to drag on forever.
Other people were getting back to their lives. John saw a national political scandal averted in a way that more all the marks of Mycroft's handiwork. Mrs. Hudson was looking for new tenants, albeit half-heartedly. Greg Lestrade had lost more than John in some ways – he had lost his career at the same time they lost Sherlock – but he was picking things back up, too. He had taken a job tending bar at a little local club. John thought that was a little humiliating, a little beneath a detective inspector of Scotland Yard, but Greg just smiled and said that the 'brooding' look was in. "If I wear a black turtleneck and periodically stare off into the distance, I make good money on tips."
John could almost laugh at the joke. Almost.
His name was called. He grabbed his cane and he limped into his physician's office.
"I was able to get in touch with your counselor." Dr. Hunt absently tapped the orange consent form John had signed last week. "And she certainly agrees that you're having trouble with sleep."
"I was able to diagnose that one myself, oddly enough."
"John, you know how I feel about benzodiazepines. We've discussed it before. They're dangerous medicines, especially for someone with your genetic background. You know there are a lot of shared genetic influences between propensity for alcohol addiction and for addiction to sedative-hypnotics."
"I just want to sleep. I'm exhausted."
"I would much rather start you on a trial of antidepressants." Hunt managed to not be condescending when he said this. One of the reasons John liked him.
"I'm not depressed. I'm- I feel exactly how I'm supposed to feel. How am I supposed to feel? I watched my best friend commit suicide." John stopped, realizing that this was the first time he had actually spoken aloud the word 'suicide' in relation to Sherlock's death.
"You and I both know it's not about what you're supposed to feel. It's about managing your life in the real world. A few days ago, an elderly man came in here for a refill on his antidepressant prescription, just like he does every three months. His wife has Alzheimers. He cares for her at home because that's what he wants to do and that's what he thinks she wants, but the situation is depressing. He says if he didn't have the medicine, he might have to put her in a home and he couldn't forgive himself for that. So he takes the pills. Do you see anything wrong with that?"
"How about amitriptyline?" asked John. "It's an antidepressant with sedative properties."
"I'd rather start you on an SSRI. Or SNRI if you prefer."
"You've been talking to my therapist."
"She thinks I'm suicidal? Because I'm not."
"That's a question you'd have to ask her. I certainly think that you've lost someone very dear to you in a particularly terrible way."
"I just want to be able to sleep. Write the scrip for just a few pills at a time if it keeps your liability insurance low." And damned if that didn't sound more cynical and miserable than John had intended.
"I'm glad you're talking to a therapist," said Dr. Hunt. "I'll make you a deal. I'm going to write you a prescription for an SNRI. They act a bit faster than the older models. You try it for a month and if you still can't sleep, we'll revisit benzos and I'll consider prescribing them."
"You know I could just go to a walk-in clinic with a lazy doctor and get the benzo prescription today."
"But you didn't go to a walk-in clinic. You came to me and I'm going to write the prescription that I think is best for your health."
John looked at the prescription paper for almost a minute. "Does this act on dopamine?"
"There's been times when I've…thought I've seen him. In a crowd, on the tube. Or I hear a voice that sounds like his and I think it's him for just a moment. I don't think it's a hallucination, not really, just wishful thinking, I suppose."
"I agree, you're not hallucinating. There's nothing wrong with wishful thinking."
But there was something wrong with wishful thinking. John spent the afternoon riding the tubes back and forth, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sherlock. He finally limped back above ground almost two hours later. He couldn't get a signal on the Underground, so his phone started receiving messages as he ascended the stairs. Harry knew had a doctor's appointment and had sent a 'thinking of you' text. (Since the funeral, she had really been making an effort to be supportive, even if her efforts were more annoying than helpful.) And a message from Greg, inviting him over for pizza and beer at his flat. John didn't feel like it, because he didn't feel like doing anything, but he knew that Greg was expecting to hear a final ruling on his status at Scotland Yard any day now. Maybe Lestrade was looking for a pal.
John turned around and began slowly making his way back down the steps. Greg's flat was only two stops north of here.
They absently debated the purpose of the little plastic table in the middle of the pizza and John tried not to count to the number of beer cans in Greg's recycling bin.
"I'm…I'm really not trying to bust your balls here, and I know people used to tease you about it, but I guess no one ever really knew what to think. Were you and he, um, boyfriends?"
"A lot of people have asked me that since he-" John skipped the verb, "not as teasing either, and I want to scream at them, why does it matter? Like I can't be this sad if we were only friends? Like sex had to be part of the mix to justify my feeling this way."
"Nobody's saying that. Well, I'm not saying that anyway. Just honestly curious because most people find him a bit difficult, and you've been so loyal."
"It's weird, though. I've been thinking about it. I really don't feel that way for men. I've never thought of myself that way, but after a few months of Sherlock, I tried to reconsider it and – as he would say – test the hypothesis. And you know what? I'm still pretty damn sure that I'm not gay. But I loved Sherlock Holmes. I used to be able to keep a girlfriend for more than just a few bloody weeks, but after I met him, whoever the girl was, she would get the feeling that he was more important to me than she was, and she'd be right. Nobody is as interesting as him. Nobody draws me in the way he does. And I just don't know how to have a life without him in it. So was I in love with him? I have no fucking clue."
Greg was usually pretty competent when it came to social situations, but he wasn't sure at all what to say here. So John was in love with Sherlock, in love in a way that precluded dating anyone else, but without any kind of sexual interest, at least none that John would admit. Maybe he should say something reassuring? Like, there's no need to put labels on things, but seeing as Greg started the conversation by trying to put a label on things, he couldn't imagine it sounding sincere. Other possible responses quickly formed and were just as quickly discarded. Nothing sounded right in his head.
On impulse, Lestrade blurted out, "I did six months in Felton Prison."
"I'd appreciate if that didn't get around, mind you. Though I suppose it might not matter anymore."
"Do you mind if I ask what for?"
"Oh, something stupid. I was nineteen. A bloke shorted me on a bet and I may have gone out to his car and, uh," Lestrade looked down and mumbled into his fist sheepishly, "slashed the tires and busted the windows."
John chuckled softly. "Six months seems long for property destruction, but I guess I don't really know the legal system that well."
"I had juvenile priors. Petty stuff, really. While you were playing rugby, I was stealing car radios. I was a right punk."
"I can't picture you breaking into cars."
"I stole a bike once."
"Bike as in bicycle?"
"Bike as in about worth at least six thousand pounds. I rode it for about two months before I wrecked it. Never got caught." Lestrade smiled nostalgically. "Got myself straightened out eventually, obviously. Cecelia always used to say that former criminals make the best coppers, just like people who had problems in school always make the best teachers."
"What made you turn around?" John was interested despite himself. It was good to think about something besides Sherlock for a change.
"Oh, it's not a very exciting story. I ran with these three other blokes: two brothers named Miles and Avery, and this posh rich kid named Maurice who was really just in it to piss off his parents. Avery was off his head; he ended up serving time for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon – in for at least a decade – so Miles decided he had better shape up and behave himself. Which left just me and Maurice. Him and me had a bit of a falling out and-"
"Uh, well," Lestrade reached around behind his head to scratch the opposite side of his neck. "It seems that Maurice had a sort of a crush on me and I might not have let him down very easy. I felt bad about it years later; I'm a more enlightened man these days. Wrote him a letter and everything. But anyway, with no Maurice, it was just me, and it turns out getting blitzed and causing trouble isn't nearly as much fun without an audience."
"So you figured, why not join the police?"
"That's about right. Told you it wasn't exciting. But I don't like people there knowing about it. It's not exactly state secrets, but it's not any of their business."
"Of course," John nodded.
"Oh, I guess that was my point: you don't have to feel so awkward about it. I know something about you and you know something about me. We each got something on the other one. I was hooked on trouble, Sherlock was hooked on coke, and you was hooked on Sherlock. Fair's fair."
John noticed that the longer Lestrade was out of Scotland Yard, the stronger his accent and the worse his grammar became. That was the sort of thing Sherlock would have noticed.
John didn't make it back to his own flat until nearly midnight, which he supposed qualified as staying out late now that he was no longer having weekly adventures with Sherlock. His leg was hurting a bit less and he was hoping that he would be able to get some sleep.
He stepped off the elevator, and there was Molly Hooper sitting on the floor outside his door. She stood up when she saw him.
"John," she said, "I, I need to talk to you. It's – oh, I'd be furious if I were you, I know, but I had to. And now I need your help. He's missing."
"Molly, come inside. What's wrong? Who's missing?"
She stared at him a moment, eyes wide before looking away. "He's not dead. I mean, he wasn't dead. I helped him. But now, now he's gone missing and I need your help."
"Who?" John was trying not to yell at her, but he just couldn't have this sort of hope. He just couldn't.