Of Being Caught
Sherlock finds himself drawn to heights, after the fall.
He rents a creaky, rickety, about-to-fall apartment near the Seine in Paris, and he immediately moves all his things to the attic. He stands at the window, gazing down, and a combination of his fierce and grief-filled stares and his striking coloration draws attention. Soon, there are ghost stories about that apartment, stories about a man whose one true love is dead.
No, no, no, Sherlock thinks as he packs up his things again. They have it all wrong. Clearly, it is not my lover who is dead – I am dead.
Sherlock buys a run-down house perched on the crumbling edges of the craggy cliffs of Wales. In the mornings, just as the rosy fingers of dawn carefully crest the horizon, he stands with his toes hanging into thin air. Far below, slate grey waves with undertones of shifting blue hues thunderously crash into solid rocks. The lonely Londoner watches, the tide pulls in and out, and the sun traces its golden arc across the heavens. All is indifferent to him, and he is as indifferent to it as he always was. Rain or shine, there he stands, the man who tried too hard to be a god and lost it all instead.
His thoughts swoop to new depths. Steady in the background, a protective older brother and a nurturing land lady had once stood waiting, like the safety net beneath a tight-rope act. Sherlock supposes that's all his life ever was: a series of dangerous treks, thinking himself so clever for a simple feat of balance, a series of falls that someone was always there to break. Though Molly caught him that once last time, if he jumped now there would be no one left. No one left waiting, no one left to help him to pick himself up.
He leaves Wales, and moves far away. Hong Kong, he says to Mycroft, his voice distorted heavily by electronics and weighted differently with sadness. The government imagines the face of his younger brother, which used to be more familiar than his own, and he thinks of how smooth that pale face was. He imagines the downturned lines around the mouth, the way deep frowns have carved shapes in his flesh like glaciers through a valley. He thinks, with great despair, that there will be no laugh lines, no crow's feet where Sherlock's eyes crinkled up from such smiles that his face could hardly contain them. Without John, there are probably no smiles at all. No light in those blue-grey-green-black eyes. Glasz, Mycroft thinks. Glasz eyes. But that's beside the point.
The line is secure, says Mycroft, you can speak openly. What he means is that Sherlock could speak as brothers should, but he holds no hope. He and Sherlock had never been like other siblings.
No, I can't.
The city's lights drown out the stars in a haze of violent brilliance. John loved – loves – the stars, Sherlock remembers, and he realizes something that really, truly frightens him. I'm beginning to forget, he sees, and he is shocked. How could his memory fail him, at all, ever, much less on something as important as John?
See, for so long, John was all Sherlock could think of, but these days it's like there's a fog. A curtain, if you will, falling between the acts in the great play of the great man's life. Sherlock had assumed it was natural, just the way the human psyche copes with trauma (like the loss of your only love, the person you first thought of in the morning and last at night) but when things get bad, bad enough that Sherlock can't recall the color of John's eyes, he visits a doctor.
He is calm when they tell him, but as he exits the clinic he reels back in horror, searching for a hand to hold, but there's no one there. He's dying, dying of a tumor in that most beloved of spaces, the palace where brilliant deductions were made and oh how they shone. But above all, he's dying alone. And he thinks that will kill him before anything else can.
Words are running through his head, like the murmur of a river on a hazy summer afternoon, when the rush of the snowmelt has long since faded. Inoperable. Deep. Intracranial pressure. Aphasia. Difficulty speaking and walking. Impaired cognitive processes and vision. Nausea, vertigo, pain, and weakness.
But above it all, screaming over the stream of clinical jargon, is one simple thought.
I need to go home.
John, Mycroft has informed Sherlock, is still staying at their flat in 21b Baker Street. The good doctor has become listless, Mycroft says, and a pang of guilt pricks at Sherlock's cold heart. He had never meant to do this. He had thought to become a bee-keeper in a cottage in the countryside, but instead fate hands himself this. And being the selfish git he is, Sherlock knows that he will indeed inflict the pain and grieving process upon John yet again.
I'm sorry, Sherlock thinks, and his knocks echo hollowly through the night. Heavy footsteps approach the door, and the world's one and only consulting detective braces himself
I'm so sorry.